randy_byers: (obama)
I'm not sure why I feel the need to post this. Probably it's because so many of my friends are Bernie-supporters that I feel compelled to say that I'm no longer part of the club. That is, I've been saying since the campaign began nine hundred years ago, or whenever it was, that I would vote for Bernie in the primary and Hillary in the general election, because I didn't think Bernie had a prayer of becoming the Democratic nominee. I still don't, but as push has come to shove and people have started making passionate arguments for and against the two candidates, I find that I have changed my mind and decided to vote for Hillary in the primary too.

The reason for my change of mind has been the realization that many, if not most of, Bernie's supporters, including very much Bernie himself, are the left-liberals who have found Obama weak, disappointing, and basically a closet Republican. I feel, and have always felt, that this is pure horseshit. For me, Obama is the best president in my lifetime, which goes back to JFK. This is what a transformative, progressive presidency looks like in our age, unless, like FDR, you have 69-75 Democratic senators out of a total of 96 and 313-333 Democratic House members out of a total of 435. That's what total control of the government looks like, and that's what allows pretty radical changes to happen. Our system of checks and balances is otherwise rigged against rapid change, and even FDR was slowed down by the Supreme Court, much to his annoyance. If you are impatient with Obama, it's because you are impatient with the American political system, and obviously a lot of Bernie's supporters think the whole thing is hopelessly corrupt and needs to be swept away in a revolutionary tide and replaced with something more perfect.

I believe that's highly unlikely to happen, and that what's more likely is what we've seen under Obama: painfully slow and imperfect change against fierce, grinding opposition. Yet Obama embraces the system, and I think the results under his leadership of the Democratic party have been utterly remarkable. As for the idea that he's basically a moderate Republican, show me the moderate Republican (John McCain? Mitt Romney?) who would have stood up to the frothing reactionaries in his own party to kickstart the Green Energy Revolution by investing stimulus money in solar and wind power, or who would have massively expanded Medicaid (single payer insurance!) as in Obamacare, or passed the Dodd-Frank financial regulations, or who would have done away with Don't Ask Don't Tell and the Defense of Marriage Act, or who have negotiated a nuclear treaty with Iran, or normalized relations with Cuba, or regulated coal plant emissions with the EPA, or, leveraging the reduction of carbon emissions from that and the Green Energy Revolution, would have concluded a carbon emissions deal with China and India and all the major industrial nations, again in the teeth of raging right wing opposition. It's impossible to imagine any Republican doing any of that. Instead they would have cut taxes, further deregulated Wall Street, probably continued to cut back on social spending rather than increase it, and probably started a war with Iran instead of negotiating a treaty.

All of these accomplishments by the Democrats are BFDs, for those of us who believe in progressive change, and if you think it's not enough, you know, you're right! The system really is rigged for the haves and against the have-nots, and it's rigged to make it hard to unrig it. But if you think Bernie is going to completely transform the American political system, which by the way would require completely rewriting the Constitution, you are a dreamer. If you think that what has been accomplished in the past seven years is a disappointing failure by somebody in over his head, then we are not seeing the same world. If nothing else I have a number of good friends who now have health insurance because of the Medicaid expansion. It's not great health insurance, but they are getting treatment for pre-existing conditions, and that will very likely prolong their lives. That's real progress.

My biggest problem with Hillary has always been her association with Bill, whom I hated while he was president. I never voted for him, voting for small third party candidates both times. But you know what, I was a lot more idealistic then, and I really had no clue how constrained presidents are within our system. I didn't really understand that he was signing bills that the Republican Congress wrote, at least during his second term, that's how ignorant I was. That said, I believe he really was an inferior president to Obama, because he didn't get much done while the Democrats had control of Congress in his first term. Partly that was because the Democrats still had a lot of conservative Dixiecrats (hello, Sam Nunn, hello, Don't Ask Don't Tell) in their ranks at the time, but partly it was because Clinton made a lot more rookie mistakes than Obama did, maybe because he was unwilling to use any of Carter's staff in his own, which left him with an inexperienced staff. Certainly Clinton muffed his own attempt at health care reform, and Obama was able to learn from that when his own time came and he staffed his administration with people from Clinton's.

In any event, I have no idea how good a president Hillary will be, if she wins the presidency, but I do know that she's embracing Obama's legacy, while Bernie is saying it ain't good enough. Bernie is right that it isn't good enough, but I believe it's the best the system will allow. Revolution isn't on the agenda, and it certainly isn't going to be fomented from above by a sitting president. So I'm voting for the woman who embraces incrementalism (What do we want? Change! When do we want it? Real Soon Now!), and my 25 year old self is shaking his head in sad disbelief. Sorry, 25 year old self, but I see things differently now. On the bright side, I see that some things are improving and that hope for even better is not lost. It will just come slowly, as it always has.
randy_byers: (2009-05-10)
Nothing profound here, but just an odd coincidence that yesterday -- the day before China announced the end of the once-child policy -- I was at a three-hour divisional presentation about the experience of international students on campus. Part of the presentation was a half hour documentary about international students at Michigan State University that focused on Chinese students, and somehow this was the first time it struck me what the one-child policy could mean emotionally and psychologically. There was a lot of stress put on the fact that the parents of Chinese students are sending their only child to a foreign country, and how much is riding on that single child, both hopes and fears. They also interviewed a Chinese student who had an older sister (her parents had paid a fee to have a second child), and she talked about how unusual that was amongst her peers and how antagonistic her relationship with her sister had been until she came to the US and got some distance from her. Of course the latter experience isn't all that unusual in families with multiple children, but I was struck by how unusual it seemed to her. It was probably something her friends had a hard time relating to.

It does make me wonder how much the experience of being a single child permeates Chinese popular culture. It seems like something that might be explored in Chinese films, and that makes me realize how little I've seen of mainland Chinese (as opposed to Hong Kong) cinema.


Mar. 13th, 2015 09:14 am
randy_byers: (2009-05-10)
'Second, the letter was drafted and signed with maximum haste and a total contempt for planning or serious thought of any kind. “It was kind of a very rapid process. Everybody was looking forward to getting out of town because of the snowstorm,” confessed John McCain. “Many of the 47 signatories reasoned that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s endorsement was vetting enough,” notes former Bush administration speechwriter Michael Gerson, disgustedly. “There was no caucus-wide debate about strategy; no consultation with Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who has studiously followed the nuclear talks (and who refused to sign).” Most people who signed on did so because they assumed somebody else had thought through the details. It was the Iraq invasion of foreign-policy maneuvers.' (Jonathan Chait, "The Republican Iran Letter Is the Perfect Neoconservative Fiasco")


Nov. 6th, 2014 08:51 am
randy_byers: (small randy animal)
If there's anything more dreary than the results of Tuesday's elections, it's all the useless pundits, of all persuasions, grinding their axes in the aftermath. Good thing I'm heading out to the peninsula next week, where I will listen to the ocean for a while.
randy_byers: (2009-05-10)
I know that some people like Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) because of his fiery populist rhetoric, but I've always found him a self-important blowhard in the mold of Keith Olbermann. Somehow I recently ended up on his email list, and when I clicked the unsubscribe link, this is what the unsubscribe page said:

"I agree with Alan Grayson, but I just get too many emails."

That's understandable. You want to see someone in Congress with courage, and passion, and guts. But your inbox is getting crowded.

You know, most politicians have the courage to actually ask you why you're unsubscribing. Not Alan Grayson! He doesn't need your feedback, because he already knows you agree with him and think he has courage, passion, and guts. What a pathetic asshat.
randy_byers: (blonde venus)
A lot of people suspect that South Carolina's Repulican Senator Lindsey Graham is a closet case, or at least like to joke about the possibility. Here's Americablog making the case for speculating on the topic without any actual evidence. Now it's certainly not the case that Graham is alone in this kind of treatment. Anderson Cooper of CNN was long a subject of speculation, and hey, it eventually turned out to be true! Former Florida Governor Charlie Crist is another one whose sexuality is a frequent subject of speculation.

This kind of speculation always makes me slightly uncomfortable, because a lot of people have assumed that I was gay for similar reasons: a long time bachelor who doesn't appear to be dating women. The fact that I've lived with a gay man for almost thirty years seems to seal the argument. Looked at objectively, I can't really blame people for drawing this conclusion, but it has bothered me from time to time to be misunderstood in this way. (It was particularly maddening at one point to discover that the entire staff of the Big Time Brewpub assumed I was lovers with a male friend with whom I frequently drank there, even though the reason I was always drinking *there* was so I could pine after one of the female bartenders.) To my mind it demonstrates the limitations of how we understand sexuality and its many variations. At various times I've tried half-heartedly or humorously to come up with terms to describe my own sexuality: autosexual (or wanker), perhaps, or maybe closet heterosexual. The fact that my sexuality is hidden or difficult to discern makes people project assumptions onto me, and while I haven't really suffered any kind of discrimination or ostracism as a result, it can be a lonely feeling to find that people don't see me for who I really am.

Because of this personal experience, I always feel a pang when people make jokes about Lindsey Graham (or Charlie Crist) being a closet case. On the other hand I do agree with the argument that Graham invites this treatment with is own vicious homophobia. It's a kind of quid pro quo or revenge. Nonetheless I think it narrows the range of human possibility to engage in this kind of counterattack. In an ideal world there would be room for closet heterosexuals (and asexuals) in the social imagination. Meanwhile, we deal with the reality we are served.


Dec. 6th, 2012 08:28 am
randy_byers: (2010-08-15)
As of today, gays and lesbians can get married in Washington State, and marijuana is legal. There are complications around both laws (partly, in both cases, because of Federal law), but there are complications around all laws. As far as I'm concerned, the world is a better place today, and so I say: Huzzah! Hooray! I'm proud of my state.


Nov. 11th, 2012 10:36 am
randy_byers: (2010-08-15)
Yesterday I read an article about Petraeus' resignation, and the little thing that jumped out at me was that in US military law, adultery is still a crime. Seems archaic, doesn't it? The article said that a retired general is unlikely to be tried for that crime, but it makes me wonder if any military personnel have been tried for adultery in recent history.

There's a lot of discussion going on about whether Petraeus has been knocked down by his enemies, either within the military or elsewhere in the government. There's a lot of talk about him as a self-promoter full of naked ambition. I guess the other thing that caught my eye in the article I read is that he applied for the job of head of the CIA when his path to further promotion within the military was blocked. What higher role did he want within the military? Who blocked him? I can't help but wonder if this is the final move in a game that started when he became the public face of Bush's policy in Iraq. It always seemed to me pretty tawdry (and fundamentally anti-American) that a Commander-in-Chief would use a general in such a political way, and I wonder if there weren't people in the military who felt it was tawdry for a general to allow himself to be used in that way.

Well, how the mighty are fallen. Something rather operatic about it all.
randy_byers: (obama)
Well, Obama's re-election is hugely significant along a lot of different vectors, but one thing that struck me last night was the claim by a newscaster that the House Democratic caucus will for the first time be majority female and racial or ethnic minorities. This would seem to reflect the composition of the new Democratic coalition that has elected Obama twice. Is this the end result of the identity politics of the '60s and '70s? The fact that racial polarization has distorted class politics in the US is perhaps another driver.

In local races, the governor and marriage equality are still too close to call, although currently trending in favor of the Democrat Jay Inslee and for approval of marriage equality (which was also approved in Maine and Maryland). Marijuana has been legalized in Washington (and in Colorado), so we now get to see how the Feds will respond. Public universities have already said they won't tolerate pot because it might jeopardize Federal grant money. Still, I'm beginning to feel that same thing I felt in Germany in 1992 when we smoked on the upper deck of a tourist boat on the Rhine, just because we could.

All in all, a great night for someone of my political and cultural beliefs. It seems, even more than it did in 2008, that we are turning a generational corner. I think back to the utter horror of Reagan's enormous landslide re-election in 1984, and I think we've come a long way, baby.


Oct. 21st, 2012 11:50 am
randy_byers: (obama)
Well, I've filled out my ballot. There are a number of interesting/important initiatives, referenda, and propositions on the Washington ballot this year. The two highest profile measures are Referendum 74, which would preserve the legislative bill that legalized same-sex marriage this year, and Initiative 502, which would legalize marijuana. I gave the thumbs up to both of those. There were also a number of economic/taxation measures, including another Tim Eyman anti-taxation measure (1185) that got the thumbs down from me. I also voted no on charter schools (Initiative 1240), even though I don't feel strongly on the issue. Likewise I approved the proposal (8223) to allow the UW and WSU to invest public funds, even though I have mixed feelings about it. The latter two votes had a lot to do with my anger at the cuts in state funding for public education.

It looks as though we're in for another close governor's race, and I voted for Democrat Jay Inslee over former UW student body president Rob "the Winsome Weasel" McKenna. (And fuck you too, Seattle Times.) I couldn't bring myself to vote for Lieutenant Governor one way or the other. Maybe I should write somebody in? I voted for Democrats in every other contested race on the ballot (including Frank Chopp over socialist Kshama Sawant for the state legislature). I approved the proposition to fund the rebuild of the Alaskan Way seawall (City of Seattle Proposition 1).

Lots of important business in all this. I'm feeling optimistic about both marriage equality and legalized marijuana (despite the shameless opposition of the medical marijuana industry). We shall see.
randy_byers: (2010-08-15)
Fascinating backgrounder on the politics around birth control going back to the FDR administration. What's most fascinating to me is that the recent Komen misstep and now the war around the birth control provisions in the ACA seem to be a signal that supporters of reproductive rights are starting to push back against the conservatives in effective ways. I suppose it's no accident, then, that I recently felt compelled to start donating ten bucks a month to Planned Parenthood. It feels like this is an issue that could blast a hole in the Republican coalition. Oh yeah, and improve people's lives, too.
randy_byers: (2010-08-15)
I've been watching the debate over the contraception provisions in the ACA with a horrified fascination. Denys will attest to the fact that last week I got pretty livid watching liberal Lawrence O'Donnell and Mark Shields attack the administration for trying to make institutions that were affiliated with religions but were not strictly religious institutions themselves cover their employees' contraception. The very next day the President announced the new policy that would make insurance companies cover the cost of contraception when employers exempted themselves for religious reasons. The political blogs I read, like Balloon Juice and Booman Tribune, saw this as very fine political jujitsu, and most high level reproductive rights organizations, like Planned Parenthood and NARAL seemed to agree. The Seattle Times, however, ran a headline describing the President as backing down. The Catholic bishops and Republicans continue to scream bloody murder, which seemed to indicate they thought they could still make political hay from the issue.

One argument I've seen for why conservatives are still jumping up and down on this one is that they are trying to push Romney to the right on the issue. I still tend to agree with those who say that this will be a Pyrrhic victory if they succeed. But however it plays out in the general election, I'm still appalled at where some Catholic male liberals came down on this. I mean, et tu, E.J. Dionne? Joan Walsh, whom I typically find pretty uninteresting as an op-ed columnist, has a column up today about Catholic tribalism that's worth a look in which she points out that men dominated the debate on the cable shows.

I guess part of what's interesting about this is that the line of analysis that says this was a good move on the President's part is that women, and particularly single women, are an extremely important part of his coalition. Yet all these yapping men are sure that he's shot himself in the foot with this move. And others, like Charles Pierce, think he caved. How is it a cave when contraception will be covered for all women? Because he didn't kick the bishops in the teeth and say, no, you WILL pay?! I keep going back to mistermix's post at Balloon Juice: This Is How It Feels to Win. This is good policy and good politics. I am confounded that anybody who isn't an anti-contraception conservative fails to recognize it. Why are any liberals still yapping their trap on the topic? I really don't get it.


Apr. 8th, 2011 10:32 am
randy_byers: (2010-08-15)
'It's probably the nicest letter written to the foreign leader who's bombing you that I've ever seen.'

-- Jonathan Chait, "A Humble Foreign Policy"


Mar. 4th, 2011 09:38 am
randy_byers: (2010-08-15)
'I have heard that it is an ironic joke in Kenya that it was easier for a Luo to become President of the US than to become President of Kenya.'

-- comment in an excellent thread about Huckabee and Kenyan history on TNC's post: Proud of Being Ignorant
randy_byers: (small randy animal)
I hadn't known until last week that Obama's mother once took classes at the University of Washington. I didn't know until today that the fucking Birthers have been clamoring for her UW transcript, because she started taking classes a month after Obama was born. Googling the current Registrar's name takes you to this pathetic piece of "research" parsing an e-mail exchange with the Registrar that decisively proves that Obama's mother started classes at the UW in September 1961, not, as has widely been reported elsewhere, in August 1961. This is very important, because Obama was born in August 1961. I made the mistake of clicking through to the home page of this site, which is a sea of Birther sewage. "Live free or die," my fucking ass.

What's amazing about the paranoid mindset is how the profusion of "facts" just manages to confuse it even more, because the facts don't comport with the paranoia. So we must have more facts! Surely if we have more facts the truth we desire will emerge! The earnest attempts to piece together "what really happened" is almost heart-breaking in its intentional blindness.

Ultimately I think Birtherism is a distraction. They're not going to change anything with their beliefs. They're not going to force Obama out of office. They're not going to cause anybody who might vote for him to not vote for him. They will only appeal to the committed minority of True Believers. And yet it still infuriates me. And I think that might be my problem, not theirs. Let the nuts be nuts. They only do damage to their own ability to shape events.
randy_byers: (2010-08-15)
So now the Department of Justice has said it will stop defending Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act in the courts. Between multiple budget crises, Wisconsin (and Indiana and Ohio), Libya (and Bahrain and Yemen, etc), and now this, I can't keep up with what's going on anymore. It feels like something tidal is going on. And where it's goin' no one knows.


Dec. 29th, 2010 11:21 am
randy_byers: (2010-08-15)
"In the late 1960s, George Bush Jr was at Yale, branding the asses of pledges to the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity with a hot coathanger. Michel Foucault was at the Societé française de philosophie, considering the question, ‘What is an author?’"

-- Eliot Weinberger, "'Damn Right,' I said" -- a review in London Review of Books of Dubya's new memoir, well worth reading in its entirety (the review, that is)
randy_byers: (2010-08-15)
Ta-Nehisi Coates has been documenting the evolution of Virginia's Republican governor, Bob McDonnell, who since provoking controversy last year by promoting Confederate History Month (which also provoked a string of brilliant posts by Coates about Civil War history from the perspective of slaves and freedmen), has made a real effort to turn himself around on the issue. TNC wrote a few days ago about the latest sign of this: "Virginia will preserve a Richmond burial ground that holds the graves of slaves and free blacks from the 18th and 19th centuries in time for the 150th anniversary of the Civil War next year." TNC explains why it's a big deal that this is happening in Virginia.

As usual, comments on this post are also worth reading. Two of my favorites:

Plummeting_Sloath: 'I should say though, Gov. McDonnell, if you're going to go fix up some Richmond black landmarks, could you please fix the Arthur Ashe monument so it doesn't look like he's beating a bunch of children to death with a tennis racket?'

sansculottes: 'Wasn't it about ten or twelve years ago they found a centuries-old slave cemetery underneath Wall Street in NY? I remember thinking the headline should be "Historians excavate metaphor."'
randy_byers: (2010-08-15)
David Cole has a very interesting defense & critique of the Obama administration's record on national security, civil liberties, and counterterrorism. It's well worth reading the whole thing. He praises the administration for breaking with Dubya's worst flaunting of legal constraints on executive power while criticizing them on various issues of transparency and accountability (e.g., failure to prosecute torturers).

(Via Adam Serwer, who notes, while disagreeing with some of Cole's argument, that Cole is "a lawyer who represented torture victim Mahar Arar and fought the administration in Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project".)
randy_byers: (2010-08-15)
'Gay and lesbian soldiers will not stop fighting and dying on foreign battlefields all over the planet as a result of this vote. They will simply do so in secret. ... Those who voted to prevent a final vote on the Defense Authorization Act claim to honor the sacrifices of America's service members while demanding they bleed to death in the closet. They voted to ensure that the partners and families of those who have committed to giving their lives in service to this country receive no recognition, financial or otherwise, of what they have lost.'

-- Adam Serwer, "DADT Repeal Fails"


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