Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Keep Calm and Carry On

When Barack Obama was president, one of the most amusing manifestations of cognitive dissonance in his critics was that they cast him simultaneously as both a bungling incompetent and a cunning, manipulative mastermind. But now I see partisans on the left giving Donald Trump similar treatment.

Don't fall for it!

What's happening is not complicated. Simply apply Occam's Razor (or perhaps Trump's Razor): Trump is a greedy, racist con-man with no interest in or aptitude for government or policy, except insofar as they can serve his pride and avarice. No one expected him to win, but due to the quirks of our system (and a massive assist from the FBI and the media), he did. And now he is bungling through, doing awful but contradictory things on behalf of his various advisers and constituents.

Yes, he has some true villains in his coalition, and they have been emboldened by his victory. And this will have real and horrific consequences for far too many people. Meanwhile, supposedly decent Congressional Republicans appear to be ignoring his aggressive yet fumbling attempts to take executive action. But there is a simple explanation for this as well: Trump is useful to Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, not the other way around. They tolerate him because they need him to sign tax cut legislation and remove financial and environmental regulations. If Trump is unpopular, that focuses more attention on their activities too. This they do not want, because their policy goals are very unpopular. McConnell, Ryan, and other Republicans will distance themselves from Trump the moment it is clear that his unpopularity threatens their goals.

So keep fighting, because it is working. But keep calm and carry on. 

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Forever Fighting The Fight

Remember when we fought British Aristocracy?

Remember when we fought Confederate Slave Power?

Remember when we fought German Nazis?

Remember when we fought Russian Totalitarianism?

None of these villains were completely defeated. Though they may take different forms, now we are fighting all at once.

Maybe total victory against these regressive forces is impossible. Either way, the fight is a marathon, not a sprint.

Gear up.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Ten Years

Maybe writing this blog will make me a better writer. Or maybe this space will become just another bit of litter on the garbage-laden information stupor highway. --Knight of Nothing, January 2007
Ten years ago this week, I hung out my shingle in the blogosphere, and the result lies somewhere between these two predictions. I've split the difference!

Here are the top ten posts as of 1/4/2017, by traffic:

The (Losing) Arguments Against Same-Sex Marriage
Sep 5, 2012; 40 comments; 5348 page views

Far and away the most popular post I ever wrote, this essay was posted on social media and subsequently widely shared and discussed. It was the closest I ever came to going viral. Still pretty proud of this post and what it represents. Hoping to prevent any backsliding now in 2017, and I'll be working to prevent it in the coming year.

Katniss Everdeen: Feminist Icon, or Yet Another Sexist Stereotype?
Nov 22, 2013; no comments; 1706 page views

A quote post. Most of the traffic for this piece is probably due to hot keywords ("Katniss" & "feminism") and a contrarian point of view.

Somewhere In My Soul There's Always Rock And Roll
May 14, 2007; 4 comments; 1300 page views

A snapshot of what was in rotation on my CD player in the Spring of 2007.

From The "Monkey Grabs Woman's Breast" Dept.
Jan 6, 2009; 1 comment; 775 page views

Here we see evidence that lowbrow humor is apparently popular on the internet. Who knew? Fun fact: after "knight of nothing," the top keyword search used to find my blog is "monkey grabs boob." I wish this wasn't in the top ten, but oh well.

Catholics and Gay Marriage
Jul 17, 2012; 10 comments; 748 page views

Another serious post from 2012. In some ways, this essay is better than my more popular post on the subject: it is more focused and personal.

'300' Minus 299
Nov 19, 2007; 7 comments; 698 page views

By the time I wrote this movie review, I was mostly going for humor. Early on, though, I entertained the possibility of evolving into a film reviewer. And why not? Blogging seemed so easy in that first year: after only two months of writing this blog, I was actually contacted by a marketing person from one of the films I reviewed. I thought I might just hit the big time as a writer. Ha ha! Oh, to be so young as that again. (P.S., I liked that film, but the review is a poorly written mess.)

Goodbye, Little Friend
Nov 7, 2013; 9 comments; 505 page views

A post about my love/hate relationship with my dog, who was hit by a car.

Hillary Clinton Is Trustworthy
Jul 26, 2016; no comments; 448 page views

A link post. Wish it had made a bigger impression in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

10,000 Burpees: Day One
Apr 1, 2011; 6 comments; 344 page views

Nuff said.

The Myth of the Self-Made Man, Debunked Again
Oct 21, 2013; 5 comments; 325 page views

Remember when Ted Cruz was everywhere in 2013? God, that guy was insufferable, and it turns out that the apple didn't fall far from the tree, because his dad is just as bad. It is small comfort that he's now on bended knee to President-elect Trump.


I was going to dig through the archives to round up a few of my favorite posts, but I'll save that for another day.

Monday, December 12, 2016

"Get Over It"

In a discussion thread about the potential consequences of a Trump presidency, one commenter offered me this hoary advice:
Get over it. Let a businessman take a crack at it.
I am certain many others have encountered similar admonishments. But what is this really telling us to do? In the interest of saving everyone's time, I have compiled a list of things that we are being asked to "get over":
  • that members of the FBI up to and including its director materially tampered with the election by selectively releasing information about one candidate.
  • that Russian agents hacked one political party with the intent of damaging that party's candidate and influencing the outcome of the election. The beneficiary of this responded to this not by condemning the cyberattack, but by attacking American intelligence services.
  • that the "businessman" in question...
    • has global financial interests and has refused to divest himself from his businesses, release his taxes, or offer any other assurance that he will put the country's interests before his own.
    • has been embroiled in more than 3500 lawsuits, declared bankruptcy on multiple occasions, and in at least one instance, committed outright fraud.
    • bragged proudly and publicly about adultery, sexual assault, and lechery.
    • did no preparation for the job of POTUS.
  • that the "winning" candidate lost by almost 3 million votes, but will be installed as the victor thanks to an antiquated system designed to empower rural white slave-holders.
  • More repugnant than anything else, we are being asked to "get over" the fact that seemingly normal people made common cause with literal Nazis and Klansmen -- i.e., actual villains -- in order to elect a racist, plutocratic, authoritarian degenerate. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Confidence Man

fast-talk (verb): to persuade with facile argument, usually with the intention to deceive or to overwhelm rational objections.
Gish Gallop (noun): the fallacious debating tactic of simply drowning your opponent in a torrent of small, interlocking arguments intended to prevent your opponent from being able to rebut your conclusions in real time.

This is the the way Trump will have the media and his critics chasing their tails for the next four years while he goes about looting the treasury and implementing policy that enriches himself and his cronies: create a fountain of distracting and self-perpetuating bullshit. I'll give him this: when it comes to television, he is a puppetmaster. He's running a clinic on distracting fast-talk while tending to his business interests and assembling an administration which will be run by Goldman Sachs.

Trump will finally become the billionaire he's always claimed to be.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Orange Is The New Darkness

Here's what I can't understand: in this election, people who appear on the surface to be good and decent made common cause with literal Nazis and Klansmen in order to elect a racist, plutocratic, authoritarian degenerate. In this task they were abetted by a Russian dictator and his spies.


A fucking tax cut? Because abortion is icky? Hillary had an email server? Because brown people are so scary? I just do not get it. I do not think I will ever be capable of getting it. Might be time to revisit Viktor Frankl.

The inimitable Driftglass, in July:
The Democratic Party held a brilliantly coordinated, four-day political convention. The Republican Party held a four-day, wingnut Ghost Dance intended to resurrect the Confederacy.
Here's the punchline: it worked.

Long will it be before I can forgive those who collaborated with Trump and his deplorables.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Truth and Consequences

Yesterday morning I felt confident that the country would be waking up today to the election of the first woman president.

I could not have been more wrong. 

So what happened?

This article from last week describes the weakness of Clinton's coalition that I (and many others) missed: from the standpoint of the electoral map, her strengths were over-represented in democratic strongholds and under-represented in swing states. In retrospect, it tells the story: Clinton was defeated by these demographic realities and by the anachronism that is the Electoral College, by lower Democratic turnout, and by an unusually high white rural voter turnout. It's also possible that voter suppression laws had an effect on the outcome, but that is more difficult to measure. 

What seems more pressing are the potential consequences of a Trump presidency. With this upset victory, the Republicans suddenly find themselves with more power than ever before. Despite a policy gulf between Clinton and Trump larger than in any election in memory, these differences went shamefully unreported.

Here's a preview of what we might expect from President Trump, Majority Leader McConnell, and Speaker Ryan:

- an end to environmental regulation enforcement
- a supreme court justice who is against choice, gay marriage, labor rights and voting rights
- a repeal of Obamacare, which will strip 22 million people of insurance
- a repeal of Dodd-Frank, and an end to the Consumer Financial Protection Board
- our National Parks could be sold and/or leased for development and/or mining/resource exploitation
- capital gains and other tax cuts for upper incomes
- increases in fees and other regressive taxes for lower incomes
- Medicare replaced by voucher system
- privatization of Social Security
- block grants to states for everything from education to food stamps

All in all, a pretty grim picture.

Welcome to Kansas, America.

Update: SteveM has more