Plaid Adder's Journal
Member since: 2001
Number of posts: 5,518
Number of posts: 5,518
Dear President Obama,
I am always ready with the critique when the occasion arises, so on this horrible occasion, I want to say: thank you for what you said at the Newtown vigil.
I have been, since Friday, attempting to put something into words about this. I gave up many times because I was too angry, because all I wanted to do whenever I saw one of those 30-year-old pro-gun arguments pop up was to grab the person making it, shake that person, and scream, "HOW MANY MORE PEOPLE IN THIS COUNTRY HAVE TO DIE FOR YOUR BULLSHIT?!"
I have been trying to understand this horrible thing that keeps happening ever since Jonesboro, ever since Columbine. I have written about it here and there but of course nothing I write makes a difference to anyone.
However, in your eighteen minutes at Newtown, you finally said some things that I have known for a long time and which I honestly thought I was never going to hear from a high-level American politician. Such as:
1) This is not and cannot be acceptable.
2) Something can be done and something is going to be done. I think we can all guess what one of those things is going to be.
3) Periodic mass shootings at schools, movie theaters, malls, and temples are not a price we should be willing to pay for whatever "freedoms" the second amendment is supposedly protecting.
4) Yes, it is a complex problem with many causes. But we can do better than this.
5) Yes, it is impossible to prevent every act of gun violence. But we can do better than this.
6) Yes, politicians have been afraid to touch gun control for fear of the political and, let's face it, the potentially violent consequences of getting on the wrong side of the gun lobby. Colleagues of mine on both sides of the aisle, get your statesman pants on, because we can do better than this.
7) If we can't do better than this we have just failed as a nation, a government, and a society.
8) The lives and saftey of our children are more important than our guns.
All right, so I'm paraphrasing, and making explicit some things that were only implied. Still. Thank you for implying them.
This is leadership. It is something you are uniquely qualified to do. Unlike the rest of us, you can change things by standing up there and saying all of this. So thank you.
There are many "debates" that we don't have any more because the arguments that were on the wrong side have finally become so patently invalid and so obviously unjust that nobody is willing to make them in public any more. We no longer debate, as people in this country once did, for real, seriously, whether slavery is morally justifiable or not. We no longer debate whether women deserve the right to vote. Someday, God willing, we will no longer debate whether climate change is happening or that action needs to be taken to stop it. And what I hope is that your speech is the beginning of the end of the "debate" about whether or not the fact that our country is awash in unimaginably lethal weapons is related to the fact that these unimaginably lethal weapons kill so goddamned many of us and our children.
I have a five year old child. Her world needs to be better than this.
And you are right. Once you have a child, you are connected to all children. Once you have a child, to hear of the death of any other child is suddenly so much more horrible than it was before. Because you feel, it is not an intellectual or ethical thing, you feel the life being sucked out of you as you imagine yourself as that child's parent. Some people very close to me lost an infant a few years ago and I will tell you that just being in the same room as a parent grieving for a child is enough to burn your heart to cinders. I do not know how they lived through it; I do not now how the parents at Sandy Hook are living through it. I do not know how the parents who lose children to gang violence, to drug violence, to all the ways in which poverty becomes danger, live through it.
And the only thing that will make me feel any better is to be able to hope that after this, something will finally be done to ensure that fewer and fewer people in this country have to live through it.
I know there will be people flocking to the comments to tell me how guns are not the problem. I do not care. For me, the 'debate' is already dead. Water is wet, slavery is wrong, women are equal to men, the climate is changing, and the harder it is for people to get their hands on guns in this country, the less often we and our children will be shot to death.
You will be facing much more serious resistance in the coming months. I hope you are ready for it. I am going to try to believe that you will, and that this will make the rest of our elected officials a little stronger than they have been.
The Plaid Adder
Posted by Plaid Adder | Mon Dec 17, 2012, 12:44 PM (5 replies)
The opening of the annual spending season fills me with extra dread this year.
Over the years I have come to find the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas ever more depressing. It's not because of the demands made on me personally; my family engaged in some crucial talks a few years ago that led to a dramatic reduction in the number of gifts that had to be purchased by each adult member. Basically we do a secret santa with one other person in the family and then buy presents for the kids. It's just the whole climate we enter the day after Thanksgiving--or, now, the evening of--in which it seems like every form of media that exists and every retail outlet on the planet joins forces to compel us all to exhaust ourselves as day after day we trudge to their big boxes to buy their stuff. The rhetoric about "holiday cheer" has gone way past being insincere and hollow to being full-on dystopian. Someone once said of Shostakovich's 5th symphony that it sounds as if someone is telling the orchestra, "You must rejoice, you must go on rejoicing." The animated series Ren & Stimpy had something called a Happy Helmet which, when one of the characters put it on, forced him to emit the most grotesque expressions of coerced glee. I think of both of these things every time I hear someone on the radio or TV orgasming over the "great deal" s/he just got on their holiday shopping.
How did this happen? At what point did the holiday season become a forced march--a test of your ability to endure day after day of compelled consumption? And why is it so difficult for us to refuse to participate? After all, there is no legal penalty for failing to shop. Obviously part of it is the diabolical way in which the act of consumption has been fused with the expression of love and affection. To refuse to buy is to refuse to give and to risk really hurting the people you want to make happy. But since all the people we give to are compelled to do their own buying, surely there is some form of collective action we could take that would liberate us from all this--as my family eventually did when enough members of it decided it was all just getting too crazy.
As a society, however, we are not good at that kind of thing. It's very difficult to pull off a successful boycott, for instance. We are not encouraged to think of our buying power as a political tool, and any attempt to use it that way--even an attempt which is acknowledged as mostly or purely symbolic--typically provokes intense resistance. Back during the BP spill in the Gulf, I posted about boycotting BP, and was unsurprised though still dismayed at the amount of energy people put into explaining why this would be wrong. On the individual level we all make choices about which marketing messages we will resist and to which we will yield. But collectively, it's pretty rare for people to get together and say, as a group, you know what, we're not buying that.
But some kind of resistance is surely called for at this point. Black Friday is now trying to colonize Thanksgiving night; Christmas merchandise begins appearing right after Halloween. The season of compulsory spending seeks to extend itself, chipping away at the time, energy, and money we might otherwise use to actually create the sense of family and community connection that the retail sector promises we can purchase along with holiday door-busting deals.
I know this is all supposed to stimulate the economy. But I guess I am coming around to the idea that this in itself is the problem: the fact that our economic model mandates continuous consumption. It's more obvious during the holiday season because the marketers' appropration of Christmas and its secular penumbra gives it all a weirdly religious aspect; it's as if we're not just servicing the economy, but propitiating some kind of capitalist god. But at all times and everywhere, it's purchase or perish; if we don't buy, nobody gets paid, and if you are not getting paid, there is no place for you in this world any more.
How can it be otherwise, you ask.
I don't know. But I feel like we need to answer this question because the process of turning the planet into crap that can be bought and sold is slowly but surely making the place uninhabitable. If we cannot find the personal and political will necessary to change not just what and how we consume but the structural importance of consumption in our economy, then we cannot address the causes of climate change.
This is a terrifying thing to realize. Conservation and electric cars and solar power and all that are all very important and hopeful; but bottom line, if we want to save ourselves we have to learn how to control what we buy and what we use...and I look around at this time of the year, and I see no evidence that we have the ability or the desire to do this.
See, all y'all who have been asking where I've been for the past 3-4 years? I've been getting less and less sanguine about the possibility of two-party politics enabling us to do the things that we desperately need to do to preserve human life on this planet. Now that we have warded off hte undeniable increase in BAD that would have been a Romney presidency, it's back to this again: winning the horse race doesn't necessarily solve the problems.
Can we talk abotu climate change now? Can we talk about consumption now? Can we push back on commercial control of our lives long enough to find some alternatives? Can we talk about how to make possible the massive changes in human behavior that will be necessary if we are to keep human existence bearable? No? This is impractical? This is not pragmatic? This is idealism and has no place in the world of realpolitik? Well, OK; but then really, what IS the point of politics if we have to give up on getting our representatives to take any of this seriously?
And this is why, now that election season is over, you will probably see less of me. A presidential election you can do something about. But these other things desperately need to be done...and I cannot imagine how they will become possible.
Then again, a lot's become possible in the past 4 years that I would never have expected. So maybe this will change too. Meanwhile I guess I will go dig out all my Christmas music and remind myself that there are some other things that happen at this time of year.
ho ho ho,
The Plaid Adder
Posted by Plaid Adder | Tue Nov 27, 2012, 06:49 PM (2 replies)
And for all the work Skinner, Elad, and EarlG have done over the years building and maintaining this place. There is no better place on the Internet to mourn a loss or celebrate a victory...or gloat over your defeated foe!
all the best,
The Plaid Adder
Posted by Plaid Adder | Wed Nov 21, 2012, 11:37 PM (19 replies)
Obama's campaign stopped Rove from stealing the election. They did it by winning so many swing states that Ohio became irrelevant.
The fact that Karl Rove acted as if Ohio was going to go red any day now doesn't prove that he "knew" the fix was in. It only proves that like many of his lackeys and fellow-travelers he had trouble understanding that 2012 is not 2004.
I believe there was tampering in 2004. I do not believe that Anonymous deserves the credit for a victory that was the product of the collective labor of thousands of people.
That is all.
The Plaid Adder
Posted by Plaid Adder | Tue Nov 20, 2012, 01:05 AM (119 replies)
So I talked to my mother for the first time since election day, and a few minutes in she asked what my "analysis" was.
I said, "Analysis of what?"
The election, she wanted to know.
I said, "What's to analyze? Romney was unlikeable, he contracted himself in public within the limits of the short media attention span, he pandered to the conservatives to get the nomination and then tried to present as a moderate but nobody believed him, he appeared to have no vision of the future apart from making himself POTUS, and he was a jerk, in public, on multiple occasions."
She mentioned the 47%.
I said, "Yeah, that was him being a jerk in private; but when people saw that clip they believed that it was the real him; and there was plenty of public evidence to confirm that."
And she went on to talk about various other things she had heard from the media but I was thinking you know, there is not that much to analyze. For the second time in two Presidential election cycles the Republicans ran a candidate who had absolutely nothing to offer apart from the fact that he was an older white man. OK, maybe Mitt was also offering tax breaks for the rich, though he did deny that several times during the debates. But really. It does not surprise me that Romney lost. It is not a fact which I think requires a lot of explanation. He really had absolutely nothing to offer. Nothing good, anyway.
So the scramble for analysis is kind of funny to watch. The only legitimate reason to be surprised by this result, really, is the fact that in 2000 and 2004, the Republican Party ran a different candidate who had nothing good to offer and was successful both times. But of course they were 'successful' only in that they managed to get their bastard into the White House; and anyway, say what you want about George W. (and Lord knows I have), he and his team did have a vision for America. It was an evil, dystopian, apocalyptic vision; but it was certainly there.
Still they ask: What changed? And I will tell them: 1) Demographics and 2) in 2012, Americans had been reminded by the Obama presidency that they can ask for more from a president. That they can actually get it. That the person in the White House doesn't have to be a natural disaster and an international embarrassment and a petty idiotic tyrant. That the POTUS position can be something other than the office of Looter-In-Chief. That...you know what, I'm not going to keep going, because either they get it or they don't, right? We've had four years of a guy who, disappointing as his first term has been for progressives in many ways (I am one, I feel it, you don't need to give me the list) does at least have the good of the country in mind when he makes his decisions.
We have a real president. So we were not interested in taking on another fake one. Especially not after Sandy.
It's not hard to understand, guys. You lost because your candidate stank. You lost because your campaign stank. You lost because you thought fear of a Black president was strong enough to carry you into the White House all by its lonesome. You lost because you thought that all a President needs to be is white, male, and rich.
And that is not true any more. And till you understand that, you will go on losing.
So don't pay any more people to analyze this debacle for you. If you don't get it now, you never will.
The Plaid Adder
Posted by Plaid Adder | Sat Nov 10, 2012, 06:28 PM (5 replies)
There are a lot of things I love about how this election went down. But there's one particular piece of it that's close to my heart. This is the end of the end for the last of the Mayberry Machiavellis. Romney lost, and of course that's most important. But Karl Rove lost too. And it was a big, crazy, humiliating, awkward, career-ending and damnatio-memoria inducing loss.
Mr. Rove, I have been keeping your political eulogy on ice for years now, waiting for the moment when I coudl finally and definitively say: you are done. And glory hallelujiah, the moment has arrived.
I say the end of the end because Rove has been on a downward slide for years now. His particular brand of evil magic was at its most potent in 2004, when the post-9/11 shock that swept the American media left them peculiarly receptive to his siren song. The 2004 election, as many of us will remember, was "lost" in Ohio, though "lost" under circumstances suspicious enough that it took Kerry and Edwards a while to decide whether or not to concede it. Then, as now, the state government of Ohio was controlled by Republican operatives with close ties to Rove and friends, and then as now it was widely rumored that Rove had arranged with some of his buddies to steal it--one way or another--for George W. If you were not around here, or not interested in presidential politics, in 2004, you can find my account of what it was like watching this disaster unfold here. Briefly, here's what happened, according to the BBC:
Early exit polls quoted by media seemed to give Mr Kerry the edge, but colleagues said Mr Rove indicated right away that they did not tally with his information.
"He used his own data." That tells the sad, enraging, corrupt and gut-wrenching story of 2004 in a nutshell. It's painful looking back on that.
But you know what? I LOVE knowing that in 2012, he sat there on FOX News and tried to pull the same stunt...and nobody listened to him. Not even the delusional bastards at FOX News. Instead, they basically laughed at him...or thought, as one of their newscasters said as they cut back to McCormick Place, "AWKWARD!"
I guess Rove never made it back into the reality-based community after 2004. He was evidently unable to accept the idea that citing his secret Ohio data would not be enough to swing this one. And do you know why, Karl? Because after eight years of Bush and four years of Obama there were just not enough people left in America who were dumb enough to sign up for four years of Romney. No, not even in Ohio. No, not even after voter suppression and whatever other shenanigans your pals organized out there.
Because after Katrina and Sandy and Iraq and Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo and Mission Accomplished the media are finally awakening from their stupor. Corporate owned still, yes, of course. Blind to many long-term disasters in the making, sure. But they have witnessed some of the results of your boy's governing, Karl, and these W-made disasters--Katrina especially--appear to have reminded many of the individuals responsible for producing the news that they were still human and still had hearts and brains.
Because, after four years of a president who has something to offer besides humiliation, greed, and contempt, Karl, the American people no longer love the way you lie.
Because the number of bigoted white men willing to believe any bullshit as long as it makes them feel like they're king of the world is no longer a large enough percentage of the population to swing an election. Or even to swing Ohio.
It's true that I have in the past prononuced Karl Rove's demise somewhat prematurely. He may be back. But he can never be recalled to political life. If he ever returns it can only be as a zombie, as the leader of the walking undead who were buried under this landslide.
So goodbye, Karl. I wouldn't say it's been fun, though it's true you inspired some of my favorite journals. You even inspired my first and thank God so far only rap. But though you generated excellent material, I have always hated what you did to the American public sphere. I have always hated the way you exploited and fomented the absolute worst aspects of human nature. I have always hated the way you used your powers, Karl, and though there is much to celebrate today, I thought I would take some time to point out how much I love what we all got to see last night: That now and henceforth, Karl, you have no power at all.
The Plaid Adder
Posted by Plaid Adder | Wed Nov 7, 2012, 12:50 PM (123 replies)
So, my daughter is 5. I refer to here as PJ, which stands for Plaidder Junior.
She went along with Mrs. Plaidder to vote, so she is interested in the whole thing. She's pleased that Obama won, of course, because both her parents are pleased and she's five. But I did want to share this moment. I was explaining about term limits and how Obama will not be able to run again in 2016. I also mentioned that I didn't think Romney would be running again:
PJ: Why not?
ME: Because he was not a good candidate. He did not do a good job of making people want to vote for him.
ME: Well...there were some things about the way he ran the campaign that were not good. Like he did not always tell the truth about things.
PJ: (with great outrage) That is NOT GOOD!
ME: No, it is not!
PJ: Telling the truth is important!
ME: Yes it is! It's important for the president to tell the truth, isn't it?
PJ: President Obama tells the truth!
ME: Yes. Yes he does. He is a very good man that way.
And I realized, you know what, he does.
It's not that every word that comes out of his mouth is a pearl of wisdom. Like all politicians he uses language instrumentally, and he does a lot of things with language that I deplore. He and his team are very good at using language to equivocate, to avoid stating a clear position, to imply things which they can later back away from, and so on and so forth.
But I cannot think of a time when I was watching an Obama speech or press conference and thought to myself, "He's lying."
We take a lot of shit for granted now. But it was kind of startling to me to realize that. He does not, in fact, lie. And this is important. Especially when you're showing your kid pictures of the guy who just won the election. And you think, this is a president we can be proud of. This is something that can inspire people, something I feel good about showing PJ as something to admire, something to be happy about, something to live up to.
The Plaid Adder
Posted by Plaid Adder | Wed Nov 7, 2012, 08:37 AM (3 replies)
He was in the bathroom throwing up for a while. And then, once he settled his stomach, he was writing out his concession speech on the paper towels.
That was not a 'speech.' It was a list of acknowledgments and platitudes which he ripped through as fast as possible with the object of getting it over with. Talk about ending with a whimper.
A fitting end to a crappy campaign. Sayonara, Mitt!
Favorite moment of PBS coverage so far:
SHIELDS: Does Mitt Romney have a political future?
DAVID BROOKS: No.
The Plaid Adder
Posted by Plaid Adder | Wed Nov 7, 2012, 01:13 AM (3 replies)
Dear Mitt Romney,
Well, it's November 5, and that can only mean that your lifelong quest to become President of the United States will die its death tomorrow night. No, for real. Take my advice and don't try to talk to anyone about starting the war chest for 2016. It's not going to work out any better. You are not going to be President of the United States. Not now, not ever. I know, you really really really wanted it. The thing is, though, really really really wanting something is not enough. You can want shit like crazy, but that doesn't mean you have the power to make it happen. Most of us have already learned this. You've been protected by privilege so long, though, that I suppose you might not have learned it yet. Ah well. You'll have that lesson down by Wednesday.
You were a terrible candidate. You were chosen more or less by default from a field crowded with people whose overt radical-right insanity made them nonviable in a general election. The people who chose you didn't really know why you should be POTUS, and you didn't really know either (except see above, re: really really really wanting it). You spent the entire campaign lurching from one position to another, driven by a purely mercenary and cynical hunger for financial and popular support. All politicians are chameleons to some extent; but you really took it to a brand new place. Most lying politicians at least have an ideologically coherent persona that they are trying to use these lies to maintain. You were so eager to tell the magic lie that would put you over the top that you actually destroyed your own ability to make a meaningful statement. About anything. By the end, your language was so completely evacuated of any verifiable content that you might as well just have stopped talking. During the third presidential debate--especially in the last ten minutes--you could have been reciting Vogon poetry and it would have made just about as much sense.
At the end of the campaign, here are the only things that the American electorate can say for sure are true about you: 1) You are white. 2) You are rich. 3) You lie. 4) You think 47% of the people in the US should fuck off and die.
That's not a winning platform in twenty-first century America, Mitt.
As far as political theater goes, your campaign had its moments. Clint Eastwood vs. Empty Chair. The "charity" photo-ops staged for you and Ryan. Firing Big Bird. Can You Say That A Little Louder, Candy. Horses and bayonets. Binders full of women. I used to really relish this stuff; it provided so much great fodder for political satire and cultural analysis. But I have a five year old daughter, and I no longer find this bullshit amusing.
Because, Mitt, you are also on tape mocking Obama for wanting to "slow the rise of the oceans," and being uproariously applauded for it. I grew up in New York, across the sound from Long Island. Everyone in my immediate family has lived in Manhattan at some point in their adult lives. And to you and all those laughing people, Mitt, I have this to say: Fuck you. Seriously. If you don't think climate change is a real problem, you have no business being near any elected office in this country. We heard so little about climate change in this election, and there's just no political will in Congress or, really, outside of it to push us toward the massive, foundational, infrastructure-altering changes we'd have to make in our daily lives to slow the rise of the oceans. And you want to make stupid fucking jokes about it. I love this planet the way it is. I do not think I will love the planet PJ's going to be coping with when she's my age. It seems even too muhc to hope for, some days, that in 38 years most people in this country will still be able to buy food, and there will be a few beautiful things left.
So no, I do not think it's hilarious that Obama promised to "slow the rise of the oceans." I only fucking hope we can still do it.
And what keeps the oceans rising? A lot of things; but certainly you are one of them, Mitt, with your whole-souled commitment to the worst kind of chew-it-up-and-shit-it-out capitalism, to a rapacity that strives to convert the whole planet into money, to the cynical gaming of an already corrupt system. Certainly you, Mitt, consumer of companies, hoarder of resources, high priest of unequal distribution. So don't let the superstorm hit you in the ass on your way out.
I could talk about what a disaster you are on women's issues; but what's the point? You're done. Get out of the spotlight. Go find George W., wherever the hell the party goons are keeping HIM, and you can lick your wounds together.
I'm sorry. I'm being so negative. I should think of something good to say about you. Well, Mitt, there is one thing I will miss about you:
Without you, Mitt, I probably wouldn't ever have found out about "Gangam Style." And I certainly wouldn't have enjoyed it as much or as often as I have.
Goodbye, Mitt. I would like to say it's been nice knowing you. But that would be a lie so big even you wouldn't tell it.
The Plaid Adder
Posted by Plaid Adder | Mon Nov 5, 2012, 12:30 PM (46 replies)
Back when Ryan first babbled about ultrasounds in the VP debate, I was moved to compose a screed about what an ultrasound does and doesn't mean and how that should affect the way we understand reproductive rights. I was surprised, and very humbled, by the stories that appeared in the comments from people who had lost pregnancies, who had broken their hearts making the decision to terminate a pregnancy after discovering that the fetus would not survive birth, people who understood in a much more visceral and tragic way than I did why conception does not guarantee birth.
Here is a piece by a woman who contracted ovarian cancer during her pregnancy about some of the heartbreaking decisions she had to make:
Be warned that it will gut you. But here is the most direct and powerful statement I have yet found anywhere of why it is crucial to preserve choice for women in this situation:
"Although I do not know whether it was right to forgo the biopsy or what I would have done if I’d learned of my cancer earlier, I do know that both decisions were mine to make. I came to the present tormented and joyful moment in my life with informed consent about the risks I was taking. The full knowledge that both of our lives were in my hands, and that we might not both get out alive, made that consent meaningful. To disregard the impact of my possible sickness and death on my family was, to me, just as problematic as terminating my pregnancy. Had I been a single mother or had my job been a financial necessity for my family, I might well have weighed my choices differently. I might not have been able to take the chances that came along with skipping the biopsy. It is painful to imagine how I would feel, now, if the choice had been out of my hands—or if it had been so sharply circumscribed that it was clear that it was mine only in form, not substance."
I would like to round up every uterus-free jerk who has ever pontificated about how this "health of the mother" exception is bullshit and force them to talk to this woman for ten minutes. But that would put a lot of stress on her, and probably have no effect on them.
The Plaid Adder
Posted by Plaid Adder | Wed Oct 24, 2012, 03:27 PM (13 replies)