Friday, August 04, 2017

I'm Not Worried About Designer babies

It's in the news again, but I haven't taken the time to even think about the implications of "designer babies." The only class able to afford such a procedure if it was to become common, the professional and managerial class, is in the grips of a moral panic not seen since Reagan era "satanic panic" and/or the "repressed memories" scam. (The "repressed memories" thing is less well known, but for a time it became cryptically fashionable for people, usually upper middle class, to explain away how they managed to squeeze the fun out of vices, become drunk bores for example, by saying some poor babysitter buggered them years ago and it was so traumatic they unconsciously hid the memory. A lucrative cottage industry arose digging those memories out, or rather creating them altogether.) 

Anyway, I'm not at all worried because this class has been regularly confusing identity conjuring and oppression seeking with political resistance and a fetus with a "condition" is a prime opportunity to grab hold of a sympathetic identity. ("We don't use the word 'disease' in our household.") Do you really think people are going to use gene editing to cure MS and miss a perfect opportunity to re-brand themselves? Fat chance. This is a ticket to the frontlines of "the resistance." Think of how many twitter followers one could have after the NYT Op-Ed comes out! Regular articles in the HuffingtonPost, maybe a column at  Buzzfeed!! 

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

A ridiculous attempt to sum up Syria or PICK A SIDE ALREADY

I wouldn't lose any sleep if Assad ended up hanging from a street light. But that's not my decision, or yours, unless you are Syrian. Although these things are hard to measure during a war, it appears people in Syria aren't really looking for that. Most people live under government control and have taken it to be the least worst option. That's hardly an endorsement for life under Assad, but it is a recognition that people believe the opposition, at this point pretty well exclusively jihadists, would be worse. It's not difficult to see why, as these same people are setting up slave markets in Libya, a country that quickly went to hell after they lost their despot because of an American regime change project. This is hard for us soft first worlders to comprehend, as we've never had to make such an unclean choice. It doesn't sit well and our moralism demands we pick a side.

We usually only hear about the regime and the opposition. But if we must choose a side, you'd have to sympathize with the Syrian Democratic Forces, a coalition of Kurdish leftists and Sunni Arabs who control a part of northern Syria, if you had any shred of humanity. That's not meant to be an exaggeration. These people, and it's important not to say "guys" here because they have a impressive contingent of Kurdish female fighters, are the only force that hasn't committed a massacre. They are the only force that isn't completely authoritarian or rabidly sectarian and reactionary. They also are good fighters, both the Americans and Russians consider them impressive. This is all fairly amazing given the context, and makes them a pretty easy choice.

The SDF is not a unifying force, however. They don't claim to be, and likely have no desire to be. The introduction of Sunni Arabs was a marriage of convenience and it's surprising it has lasted this long. They have a sort of strategic indifference to Assad's army right now, although they have battled in the past. They are absolute enemies to both Islamic State and Turkey, and (somewhat) allied to both Russia and the United States, which is quite impressive (and says a lot about how disgusting The Turkish regime is).

If the United States decides to oust Assad, the most organized groups within the opposition will take power in Damascus. This means the jihadists. This also means another civil war, certainly between the jihadists and the Kurds, but also between rival factions within the jihadists (e.g., Libya, Afghanistan). This also could very well bring Turkey back into Syria, as they are not one to miss an opportunity to attack weakened Kurds on their border. If the United States doesn't pursue regime change, and Assad is able to solidify power, there is a greater chance of some sort of agreement for Kurdish autonomy in the north. While this is no certain road to peace, Turkey would surely consider this a disaster and fighting could break out between different Kurdish groups and/or between Assad and the Kurds, it's also the best worst option.

Many in Syria understand this, which is why they aren't nearly as caught up in arguments over Assad's character as silly American pundits and much of the human rights industry. It's tough for us not to play hero, but history shows dead bodies pile up the fastest when we start thinking all these complex and murky choices are always ours to make.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

We could do this too

People left of center see Trump as someone doing something illegal, or even plotting a coup, primarily because we haven't really seen political power work for us. We haven't seen someone get elected and actually do what the base wants.

Compare right now to 2008. Dems had congress and the white house. People were ready for change. We could have pushed through a national healthcare system, Medicare for all for, something that would have changed the entire political landscape for generations. Instead a compromise was proposed, right from the beginning. We got "RomneyCare" nation wide. The republicans held fast. Not only did they offer zero support for the ACA, they nominated Romney and he ran against his own program! Now that's discipline. He, of course, lost. But the lesson learned was that he was too moderate. And that was right.

This idea that we shouldn't normalize Trump, that he is extraordinary, means he is a politician who actually does what he says to many people. Why do we reinforce this? Is normal a description we want to own?

Remember when Sanders had all these big ideas? I remember patronizing lectures on the limits of the executive branch. Yeah, yeah buddy. Nice ideas, but time to grow up. We couldn't get anything done even if we wanted to, the republicans won't let us!

There are a lot of liberals who understand rules but have no clue about power, both how to fight it and how to use it. This has to change. This means organizing a left wing within the Democratic Party and outside of it. The limits of electability have shifted and we can use that to our advantage. The centrists had their chance and they couldn't beat Trump. We can't afford to make that mistake again.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

A meeting of the minds

As the station chief readied the parrilla for the next prisoner, he noticed a distant but approving stare from Donald. 

"We got off to a rocky start," he said, summoning the courage to address Donald directly. 

"We did." Donald approached him and grabbed the chief's shoulders in a familiar hierarchical way. 

"I had a feeling we'd become fast friends," Donald said with a chuckle as they both moved toward the exit. 

The piercing screams began but were soon muffled by the door closing behind them. 

Saturday, October 29, 2016

the trumpenproletariat

Yeah, it's rich coming from the national review, but that line about the trumpenproletariat liking him because he makes them feel good (like Oxycontin) has a lot of truth in it. You know this if you've ever met a core Trumpite.* If you work in a factory, or on a farm, or live outside the city, they're hard to avoid. And the core can't shut up about him. Yes, our ideology is ultimately informed by our material situation, but the trumpenproletariat are not giving us a decent critique of NAFTA. They've largely worked out that Trump is completely talking shit when he says he'll "bring the jobs back," like he's some sort of economic necromancer. It's building a wall that gives them a little poke in their pants. "Make the country great again" mostly means you don't wait but five minutes before you send the tanks in for people blocking a pipeline. Of course we still have our brutal crackdowns and state murders, streaming live, but every day one of these protests is tolerated, every football player who takes a knee, is another day where the real world disrupts the ideal one. You have to bring them back in line, so they know their place, like the good old days. Of course Trump could never do this, but it's enough that he isn't afraid to talk about it.

If you actually look at Trump's policy proposals, the ones you can make sense of anyway, they're the same old (bipartisan) anti-government nonsense. His idea to rebuild the country's infrastructure is to incentivize private industry to rebuild the nation through subsidizing them via tax cuts. Wow! What a populist vision! I'll admit I'm thoroughly enjoying watching the neocons squirm and embrace Clinton because of Trump's unwillingness to do what he's told, but this is more a reflection of how awful he is as a person rather than any sort of anti-interventionist ideology. The few times Trump accidentally says something reasonable regarding foreign policy he will ruin it by ranting on about carpet bombing or using nukes against some rag tag group of jihadists.

(That's not to say Clinton's ideas are much better. Clinton is a complete hawk, much more so than Obama, and has been nothing short of awful in regards to Syria. The Democrats are so goddamn tone deaf to the mood of the country right now I can't bring myself to do anything other than ignore them. I thought i'd never see a bigger wasted opportunity than when they pushed through the the ACA, but it appears they will do one better by making us sit through years of Clinton scandals, real and imagined, when they had a historic chance to basically nominate anyone and win.)

Trump is about identity, which is largely but not exclusively white. With that identity comes a romanticization of the past, "memberberries" as South Park puts it. A lot of that has to do with post-war economic security that is no longer here. (It is indeed the loss of that economic security that has allowed Trumpites, and identitarians of all sorts, to flourish.) It is tempting to think Trump ultimately represents a longing for that economic order, albeit in a nasty racist/nationalist rightwing way. That at least gives us hope that we could channel some of that anger for more positive purposes. I don't have that hope. Trump isn't populist enough to stray too from economic orthodoxy, and core Trumpites will openly laugh away Trump's repeated policy contradictions because they primarily care about what he represents, which isn't consciously about economics, and would almost certainly be there even with a more favorable class balance. The Trumpites will need to be put back in their place at some point regardless of whether or not someone is able to conjure up those "middle class" jobs.


*regarding the term "Trumpite" and/or "trumpenproletariat:" I do note a difference between someone who plugs their nose and votes for Trump and someone who is a core supporter. A small difference. It is extremely hard to imagine being able to plug your nose well enough to avoid that smell.