Posts Tagged ‘Hillary Clinton’

…and still doing dirty tricks to divide progressives and divorce them from their political power, how would it look different from the DNC e-mail hack?

Just asking.

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I feel like I’ve been hearing this question my entire adult life. I think the person who asks it, honestly or not, tends to miss a few things about life and politics.

So let me float another idea just for fun: third party presidential candidacies are amoral. They presume one candidate who embodies a minority position should be chosen to rule over the majority; they do not represent the fullest democratic expression of majority will but dilute it; they ensure that you, the individual, are less responsible for assimilating and subjugating your own reality to those of the hundreds of millions of people who are not like you; they require, in the other countries that do use them, that complicated coalitions be formed so that a person’s political desires are even further abstracted from them.

I argue that there is only one honest third-party approach: the grassroots way, the local elections way. The reason third-party fans avoid this more effective approach is that it asks a lot of responsibility of them. It’s easier to root for the “rock star” far away in a white house.

I’d also argue that third parties in this country have never been suppressed but have mostly died of their own fragility. They are too often based on personality cults or single issues that become less relevant over time. Think of the futility of an anti-Vietnam War party today or a pro-gold standard party. Organized political machines might … just might … know how rugged or fragile these tendencies are and know to abort them once they become irrelevant to daily life. With respect to Bernie Sanders, who has rightly inspired so many people, his movement is a one-issue movement and there’s a reason it has less traction: People care about things other than continually punishing banks (however right or wrong that might be) when we already kind of did that.

What I most dislike about the third party question is that it tends to misunderstand American history. Our founders hoped that the anarchic moods of the public would find their best expression in the Congress. The president as originally envisioned was supposed to act more like a glorified city manager, a bureaucrat doing the executive work while those in Congress inveighed and caviled and spat at each other. People like Teddy Roosevelt gradually turned the job into the personality cult we see today. That was good in a lot of ways, but it’s led to frustration among people who now have pretty ridiculous expectations.

Asking that one person be pulled every which way and stretched like Silly Putty to reflect the desires of millions of people is silly and futile. Being part of a democracy should exact a toll from you: You have responsibilities and one of those is to compromise or if not, to join the game. And you won’t be appreciated if you do. Ask anybody.

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It should be illuminating that we fulminate about Hillary Clinton, “She’s imperfect!” and ask meekly about Donald Trump “How bad could he really be?” The answer for this hypocrisy is so obvious you might not see it for a piece of napkin lodged on your nose. It’s because he’s a man. He’s a tough dad saying the harsh truths, while she’s a disloyal ice queen who, were she to fire somebody or cross them, would be treated like Madame Defarge. We distrust ambition and political skill in a female because we don’t understand the motives, while we don’t think twice about these qualities in a male, don’t think twice about empowering a guy whose signature is regular abuse of people on a TV show (who has extended that abuse to people in real life). An obnoxious and pervasive literary trope of America–that distant, mean and pugnacious dads are that way only for our own good–is so ingrained in the crap we read and watch that we decline to ask whether dad is acting in his own self-interest. We give the female no such courtesy. It comes to the point of satirically perverse abnegation when we ignore the CV of a man who has worked only for his own self-interest, has never shed an ounce of sweat in his life until now fighting for any conservative principle other than his own right to succeed. A man with nothing but conviction of self and belief in his right to wield authority without specific ideas is now parroted by hapless conservatives who insisted for eight years that his type of personality cult is exactly what they were fighting against. Thus you are witnessing a whole party being taken hostage. Meanwhile, lefties, whose distrust of ambitious females is similarly ingrained, though they would dare not admit it, pretend they are better by turning to people who are unvetted and therefore idealized. If you make cartoon saints out of Jill Stein or Elizabeth Warren by not realizing that they would also have become dirty and have had to make compromises if they had actually been playing the game this whole time, you are quietly telling Hillary Clinton (and all girls): “You have no right to play the game.”

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This guy quoted in the Atlantic supports Bernie Sanders but says he will consider voting for Donald Trump if Hillary Clinton gets the nomination for president.

Let me condense his long, rambling speech for you: “If I do not get my way, I will burn everything down.” Why? Because his career in the arts didn’t take off. This is not the first time I have heard this argument: “Democratic Socialist Bernie Sanders is going to make my creative career manifest.”

I myself am an artist, too, dear readers, but I also know one or two things about the economics of art, and the idea of a middle-class or even rich artist is a byproduct of mid-20th century capital formation, not socialism. It was enabled by excess industrial capacity created by a large military industrial complex and cheap gas following WW II and the extra leisure time and spending money enjoyed by a rising bourgeois class. Let’s not forget advances in technology such as recording and film that displaced music publishing houses and theaters that had come before (and do we cry for them?) In much of human history, artists were funded by wealthy patrons or by the church or by selling their art as cheap catch-penny entertainment. Unfortunately, our recent experience has made for a greedy demand among artists that they have a God-given right to money and fans that will validate their choices and identity, even though that whole idea is staked on something the market demand won’t bear.

Sorry it didn’t work out, but it’s your own fault for not having curiosity about a few issues.

I say this as an artist and not a terrible one in my own estimation: If your art doesn’t pay for itself, get a real fucking job until it does. It will enhance your esteem and give you some perspective. When you lack that perspective, the rest of America bears the burden, crossing our fingers that you won’t elect a psychopath out of spite.

Can good countries fund the arts? Of course they can. Up to a certain point. Can they make anybody who wants to be an artist a wealthy artist? No. There is a supply and demand problem. Everybody wants to make art but there are not enough consumers to match all that supply. They only have time for so much entertainment and only so many artists can reasonably make it (for whatever value they bring whether it’s artistic genius or cultural resonance). After the revolution in Nicaragua, everybody wanted to be a poet. You know what the socialist Sandinista government told them? “Pick cotton, please.” Socialism injects a much needed safety net into a mean capitalist system (and the United States is already socialist and has been for a good long time). But the entire idea of our system of capital is that it allocates resources better than centralized planning. Capital gave us freedom to do things that collectivism did not. Like make music in our spare time or even professionally. That’s because we pay people to do things for us that it would be too crushing to have to do ourselves, things that would put us back on farms, selling stuff by a river. You have to be able to eat and wear clothes and find shelter (paid for with capital) before concerning yourself with your Stravinsky-inspired piano piece. Other people need food and clothes before they can hear it.

Bernie Sanders supporters say they have been mocked and scorned. When, exactly, did this mockery and scorn take place? Was Hillary constantly calling Bernie Sanders a “commie” this year? No, she was talking with him substantively up until a few months ago. When it looked like he wouldn’t pull ahead it votes or delegates, the conversation got increasingly stupid. The meaningless phrase “establishment” was used against Clinton next to the other meaningless phrase “corporatist.” Calls went out that the election was rigged. It wasn’t. Bernie Sanders has never had a lead in votes or pledged delegates. Never. To call Hillary Clinton’s election a coronation is to suppress an expression of democracy. It is to be on the fascist side. Geddit?

“Hillary hatred” has been a thing much longer than “Bernie hatred” which means that mockery Sanders supporters feel is largely a product of their imaginations and out-of-control persecution complexes.

LBJ, FDR, JFK, John Maynard Keynes … these were all establishment figures. They all did things that helped our economy and society and they did it in a liberal style and mode. Nobody cares if they were “establishment.” When you call Hillary Clinton the “e” word, you are not impressing anybody that you are engaged in issues as much as that you have low self-esteem and that it’s likely richly deserved. Fact is, Hillary Clinton has done a lot of questionable things (like voting for the Iraq War) but she also has a tremendous amount of accomplishments and a fairly liberal voting record (if you look). If you say she is the same as a Republican–not because you did the due diligence and looked up her record but because you have staked your identity on repeating things you hear from other liberals at picnics and rallies–then unfortunately you are no better than Republicans at barbecues, nodding at their dads as they drunkenly yell “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” You have, in fact, revoked your right to call yourself smarter than rednecks or think of your choices as more reasonable and thought out. You might be just another joiner.

So let me tell you what’s really going on with the kid in the Atlantic piece (and he is a child):

When you are totally impotent; when a changing world baffles you and leaves you feeling helpless; when you haven’t the imagination to think your way out of the mess that false assumptions have led you into, sometimes the only way you can feel a sense of power and facility is by your power to negate and destroy. This is something people on the left and the right can now shake hands on. That and the following idea: “I will not let reason violate my identity.” Kumbaya.


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In the 1950s, as the United States slept, its citizens were subject to a highly complex conspiracy. Millions of items were sold to the U.S. public that diverted our attention and changed our cultural discourse. A small group of people made money off of it. It was called the hula hoop.

Why do I call a plastic toy a conspiracy? Because it was a completely useless invention that won approval through a vast chain of social feedback. You probably didn’t need one, but having one excited your brain and offered you the comforts and privileges of connecting with others in this, our species of social animal. And it’s circular, which makes it a good metaphor for people who chase conspiracies. Today we have Facebook. That, too, is a conspiracy of sorts.

So what does that have to do with the Hadean eruption of U.S. military and state secrets from the bowels of State Department offices onto the Web site Wikileaks? You might say that the site and its founder Julian Assange have also tapped into conspiracies, but if they have, they have also showed us again how banal conspiracies sometimes really are, like hula hoops and Facebook.

Assange’s supporters argue that free flow of information, even secret information, is the most important part of the democratic process. His detractors argue that he’s going to get undercover intelligence assets killed and harm U.S. security. Both sides might agree, however, that a lot of the information he’s released so far is either not new or doesn’t change the conversation much about the big picture. The stuff that has everyone screaming bloody murder is the ugly little details. Horrific sometimes. Embarrassing to certain individuals definitely. And possibly a threat to the lives of intelligence sources, including Afghans, according to Assange’s own former colleagues. Indeed, Assange seems to be the most dangerous to the functionaries. You could argue that he’s not bringing down a big government so much as hurting a lot of little people who participate in it by doing necessary jobs. If a journalist’s job is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable, we have to ask how much of a fourth estate hero this Pynchonesque Australian really is.

Assange, like the Hula Hoop, is now a meme himself. The first three letters of his name will now pull him up first in a Google search, which means he currently bests Julius Caesar, Julia Roberts and the month of July in popularity. His uploads of classified cables about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, U.S. diplomatic spying on the United Nations and perhaps even promised revelations about Bank of America could hand our government its most embarrassing intel episode since the 1970s, a series of revelations that included the Pentagon Papers and the Church Committee hearings. If you remember, this is when we found out that the escalation of the Vietnam War was predicated on an attack that didn’t happen.  When we found out the CIA actually spent money not only trying to poison Fidel Castro but also make his beard fall off using poison cigars (nice Freudian, castrating touches). We also found out nastier things about how often the CIA tried to kill foreign leaders it didn’t like very much.

Wikileaks started with bits of the obvious (Pakistan’s intelligence service is not working very hard with the U.S. in Afghanistan ), then moved on to the useful (the Defense Department finally had to admit how high civilian casualties were in Iraq, which gives us more accurate, if ghoulish statistics) and has now, if you believe some pundits, skirted sabotage (the State Department says the site is giving up U.S. intelligence assets and putting lives in danger). And worst of all, the site has confirmed the dirty little secret everybody over the age of 20 should have already known–which is that our government’s diplomatic corps spies on people. (Actually, I have a 20-year-old book on the CIA that might have told you the same thing.) But knowing it is a far cry from having the specifics of it shoved in our faces. And now we supposedly have even a smoking gun to present to Hillary Clinton, who the leaks suggest asked her team at State  to gain information on foreign diplomats in the supposedly off-limits United Nations, including the DNA, fingerprints and iris scans of diplomats from certain African countries. If that weren’t enough, she wanted their frequent flier miles!

Big government intelligence leaks are the kind of things that send journalists into both pink and green epiphanies and ethical quandaries. When you have material on your desk that could ruin or end lives, you have to think twice about how you use it, and that requires experience, insight and judgment. As much of a hero as the picaresqe, buccaneering Julian Assange might be to some in the fourth estate, he’s a problematic hero for many reasons, and he gives pause to a lot of us who might otherwise want to cheer him on.

I’m not talking about the rape accusations made against him by the Swedes. Those need to be thoroughly vetted and examined with great bias against the accusers. No, I’m talking about his own muddled and suspect political philosophies, his understanding of ethics and the flow of information. Assange launched his site a few years ago with a paranoid rant about systems of control, something that reads like a cross between cyberpunk fiction and anarchist Mikhail Bukunin. It’s too shallow to be considered academic, too clinical to be populist, and too paranoid to be considered a statement of journalistic ethics. It reads, in fact, like the kind of blog post you’d find in the underbelly of a Thomas Pynchon appreciation society on Usenet. The distinction between paranoia and self-importance in time becomes a distinction without a difference, and Assange, who now has arrest warrants and Interpol after him and is supposedly hiding somewhere in Britain, seems to believe that the transparency he would confer on others doesn’t apply to him or his case or his Web site. He has, from the beginning, seemed like a man with a persecution complex in search of a persecutor. Finally, he provoked a few enemies into action and has likely fulfilled anti-authoritarian dreams worthy of either Che Guevara or Willy Wonka.

Assange’s manifesto compares the players of government to little nails with twine connecting them. Not every nail is connected, but the power structure as a whole relies on the interlacing thread. By cutting these ties through exposure, Assange hopes to destroy nefarious systems by keeping the players from working together. This idea is anarchist in the sense that Assange believes information and authority are locked naturally in a constant state of mutual negation. His writing, in this one section at least, is very elegant and populist and disinfected of a lot of academic jargon, so you might be forgiven for not seeing how all completely full of crap it is.

For Assange makes the conspiracy theorist’s eternal mistake–he doesn’t see that the thinker is the one spinning the twine. Making the connections between people who may or may not get along, who may or may not be communicating. The secret conspiracy is very often the subjective creation of a person who personalizes complex information. When you look closer, what you see is often not the man behind the curtain but something a lot more prosaic–a government full of individual, siloed fiefdoms whose dukes jealously protect their own self-interest. That’s why the story of Wikileaks has so far been one of messy, embarrassing details, a few tiny conspiracies, a lot of helpful details for historical color and shading, and beyond that a lot of stuff that was mostly already understood. Not warts and all. Just a lot of warts.

We might, in fact, ask why the U.S. even needs a person like Assange to keep it honest when there are plenty of other people out there every day arrogating that glory to themselves. Four years ago, the New York Times found out that the Bush administration was letting the NSA tap the phones of American citizens, overstepping its authority by not asking for permission from the courts. This sorry fact wasn’t revealed by a buccaneer anarchist zip lining through the windows of skyscrapers like Robert DeNiro in Brazil. It was revealed to the press by pissed off insiders with grudges and fiefdoms they didn’t want stepped on. This monolithic system of power, such as it was, exposed itself.

There are countless books on organized complexity theory, if anyone cares to read them, one of my favorites is “A New Kind of Science,” by Stephen Wolfram. Leave aside Wolfram’s computer experiments, and it suffices to say that no complex behavior can be reduced or understood by the simple behavior of its constituent parts. My personal behavior, for example, cannot be predicted or understood by the interactions of my body on a cellular level. When the body reaches a certain level of complexity, it acts according to different rules.

And yet, if you’re an outsider looking in, and you see the beast somehow lumbering forward, backward, up or down, you tend to see it, first as a monster with a will and second as a monster coming FOR YOU. The yarn spinner forgets the fraud of narrative and only takes the information that tells a story, leaving out the rather humdrum information that does not. Assange may or may not understand his role in what he’s looking at. (For a another good example of this, read Matt Taibbi’s ridiculous story on Goldman Sachs in Rolling Stone last year, which lays our entire financial crisis at the feet of Goldman, much the same way idiot right wingers might lay it at the feet of ACORN or Fannie Mae.)

The fact is, big conspiracies are often very much out in the open, like the hula hoop. As much as Assange might fashion himself a new Daniel Ellsberg, there is no “Gulf of Tonkin” incident that is ever going put the Iraq War into perspective. The most horrifying thing about Iraq has always been abundantly clear: Without any evidence of foul play against Saddam Hussein’s regime against our country or proof of his weapons arsenal, and with many newspapers constantly pointing out these facts, Americans went into the country anyway as revenge for 9/11. No smoking gun is ever going to change that. The conspiracy was out in the open. You can make the same arguments about Hitler. There is lots of evidence from the early days of Hitler’s regime to suggest he was going to do exactly what he said he would. The worst thing about abusers of power is sometimes they tell you exactly what they are doing because they want you to think like they do.

If you choose to believe the narrative, however, that the forces of power are working in secret and as one, you do so at your peril. You risk missing information that allows you to make a better judgment. You hurt innocent bystanders, or narrate them into the guilt. It may or may not occur to Julian Assange that there are people who realistically need to work in secret for the greater good, whether it be undercover narcotics officers, CIA assets, Taliban infiltrators, Alan Turing breaking the Enigma Code or scientists working on the Manhattan Project. The greatest thing about the Pentagon Papers, and the reason they were necessary, is that they exposed the wrongness of the policies and ideas behind the Vietnam War and the deception behind them, not that they tried to stop our intelligence agencies from working properly.

If Wikileaks fans are so gleeful about outing all CIA assets everywhere, putting lives in danger to expose the bigger truth about U.S. control, then I wonder if they would run to the defense of Scooter Libby for outing Valerie Plame. Was his indiscretion any different just because he was part of the power structure? Or was his act defensible because the power structure is actually just a lot of competing smaller units?

Part of me still wants to support Assange (and I have to admit I like reading those tasty cables). His many detractors are going to find themselves sooner or later pitting knowledge versus security, and that’s going to be a losing battle in favor of truth. I don’t think the revelations about Hillary Clinton are going to harm the government (or even Hillary Clinton).

And yet  I don’t feel like Assange appreciates the nuances enough, and I feel like in many cases he may have in fact crossed the line with this new brace of intelligence. It would be a political nightmare to actually throw him in jail and bring him to trial, of course, but that’s a political call to make. So why do I feel like the people who would take him into custody might have a better grasp on that irony than he does? To Assange, it just all looks like monsters.

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(Originally posted Sunday, January 13, 2008 )

Backhanded Compliments Given By The Presidential Candidates To Their Opponents

Barack Obama: “Speaks well and is clean and well groomed and eats with a fork.”

Hillary Clinton: “She certainly does swing a big dick.”

John Edwards: “Cares a lot about the people in the ambulances he is chasing.”

Mike Huckabee: “He’s a very good, caring, altruistic, moral Christian woman.”

Bill Richardson: “He’s undoubtedly Hispanic.”

John McCain: “He’s probably the most moderate, level-headed guy you could expect him to be for someone who was tortured in the Hanoi Hilton for several years.”

Rudy Guiliani: “He was undoubtedly the mayor of New York City on Sept. 11.”

Mitt Romney: “He is probably the hardest working, most sensible and best looking member of the Mormon Cult we have ever seen.”

Ron Paul: “His message of wanting to dismantle the government is certainly appealing to a lot of wildly passionate, iconoclastic, luddite secessionists.”

Dennis Kucinich: “It’s certainly inspiring that a poor, short socialist from Ohio can marry a tall, hot British redhead with a tongue stud.”

Fred Thompson: “A slow, shambling, macho, country lawyer type, he is one of the best character actors we have. And he plays fictional roles, too.”

Alan Keyes: “He serves a very important role in the Republican Party that I don’t think, for the sake of politeness, any one of us has to say out loud.”

Mike Gravel: “He has certainly managed to keep his name on the list of candidates.”

Duncan Hunter: “He is probably the luckiest candidate, because absolutely nobody knows who he is.”

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