Admiral Janeway, rest in peace

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Admiral Janeway, October 30, 2017. (Photo added to this post on February 12, 2018.)

I was noticing, this morning, as I turned to get up this morning, how much more spry Admiral Janeway, my cat, seemed than I. As I sat down at my desktop system, I think she brushed my calves with her tail, as she sometimes does, and I would have reached down to offer a pat.

She went outside, presumably, to find a spot in the sun and, having found it, went to sleep. She did not wake up. My mother found her this evening.

Authoritarian populism in the age of Donald Trump

Introduction: An almost willful ignorance on the Left about Donald Trump’s supporters

As I peruse social media, it is evident that there is a lack of understanding and, indeed, a lack of interest in understanding Donald Trump’s base. I can do little about the latter, though I’ve certainly tried.[1] The man is president, and for the time being, his party controls both houses of Congress. Sickening as it is, we have to deal with that reality and the products of that reality.

Which means that understanding the animus that Trump’s base holds for the rest of us is important. At the same time, as all this proceeds, I am gaining a richer understanding of authoritarian populism. Continue reading “Authoritarian populism in the age of Donald Trump”

  1. [1]Recent writings include David Benfell, “What’s the end game?” Not Housebroken, October 2, 2017, https://disunitedstates.org/2017/10/02/whats-the-end-game/; David Benfell, “Failing the test, again,” Not Housebroken, October 4, 2017, https://disunitedstates.org/2017/10/04/failing-the-test-again/

Tragedy for sale, at an eye-poppingly low price

I’m not quite sure why, but somehow I’ve recently started receiving real estate listings in my e-mail for the Sonoma County area. (I don’t view these messages as spam; I have registered with these sites in the past.)

You might have heard about the fires in this area, which were, if I’m recalling correctly, briefly the worst in (recorded) California history, until there were more fires in Southern California, all in 2017. It all seemed apocalyptic around here for a few days until, suddenly, and I’m still not quite sure how this happened, it all started seeming normal again. Continue reading “Tragedy for sale, at an eye-poppingly low price”

On the possibility of a President Pence

Update, January 18, 2018: There is, at this point, little reason to doubt that Donald Trump acts under some form of psychological impairment. But I added a footnote pointing to articles where this is discussed, including one published in the Times (of London) today.

Apparently, a certain Lee Camp shared this on Facebook about four years ago:
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This is, of course, a parody on social and traditionalist conservative opposition to sexuality education and contraception. Which is a timely thing to remember about as Donald Trump stumbles and stumbles and stumbles and because I think the Republicans will find a way to push Trump out by August for fear not so much of a Democratic wave in this year’s midterm elections but rather something more like a Democratic tsunami.[1]

Because if Mike Pence, now the vice president, ascends to the presidency, we might be in for a heavier dose of these attitudes than we’ve seen for awhile. I say that because I’ve tentatively and, it has to be said, more from a gut feeling than an actual compilation of evidence, associated Pence as traditionalist conservative. Traditionalists tend not to be prominent in politics, so this would be unusual, but they punch far above their weight in influence on conservative thought.[2] And of course they oppose abortion and sexuality education. They also oppose contraception and divorce. If Pence is indeed traditionalist, I would expect him to deploy the full power of the presidency toward a patriarchal (in even the minimum sense of that word), sexually-repressive, and misogynist agenda.

Would he be worse than Trump? I would prefer to say, pick your poison: I hardly need to describe Trump at this point beyond speculation that he might be removed by either impeachment or a 25th amendment process.

Pence, on the other hand, seemingly knows how to behave (as long as he isn’t alone with a woman who isn’t his wife), can (I’m being charitable here) be shamed. The shit-show of the Trump presidency would be at an immediate end. We might worry less that a raging delusional narcissist[3] has the nuclear command codes. But in some other ways, it will be an even scarier time to be alive, for down this path lies Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.[4]

  1. [1]Michael Scherer, Josh Dawsey, and Sean Sullivan, “New alarm among Republicans that Democrats could win big this year,” Washington Post, January 14, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/powerpost/new-alarm-among-republicans-that-democrats-could-win-big-this-year/2018/01/13/9be31acc-f8a8-11e7-beb6-c8d48830c54d_story.html
  2. [2]I would suggest citation searches for each of two names: Richard Weaver and Russell Kirk. There are others, of course, but these two alone will begin to offer a sense of the scope of traditionalist conservative influence.
  3. [3]Update, January 18, 2018: George Simon does not name Trump but describes him in an explanation of “grandiose narcissism” in George Simon, “Understanding and Dealing with Narcissistic Rage,” Counseling Resource, July 24, 2017, http://counsellingresource.com/features/2017/07/24/understanding-narcissistic-rage/ while John Gartner labels Trump’s condition as “malignant narcissism” which apparently (a paraphrase) “combines a narcissistic personality disorder, paranoia, antisocial personality disorder and sadism” in Rhys Blakely, “Are Donald Trump’s test results fake news?” Times, January 18, 2018, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/times2/are-donald-trumps-test-results-fake-news-xxzgm6zxf See also Henry Alford, “Is Donald Trump Actually a Narcissist? Therapists Weigh In!” Vanity Fair, November 11, 2015, http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2015/11/donald-trump-narcissism-therapists; Aaron Blake, “The American Psychiatric Association issues a warning: No psychoanalyzing Donald Trump,” Washington Post, August 7, 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/08/07/the-american-psychiatric-association-reminds-its-doctors-no-psychoanalyzing-donald-trump/; Matthew Goldenberg, “A professional opinion: You don’t need a psychiatrist to know there’s something wrong with Donald Trump,” Los Angeles Times, August 23, 2016, http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-goldenberg-trump-mental-health-20160823-snap-story.html; Dan Hannan, “The real reason Donald Trump is unfit to be president,” Washington Examiner, May 16, 2016, http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/the-real-reason-donald-trump-is-unfit-to-be-president/article/2591147; Bandy Lee, ed., The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President (New York: St. Martin’s, 2017); James Mann, “Damage Bigly,” New York Review of Books, December 21, 2017, http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2018/01/18/donald-trump-damage-bigly/; John Noonan, “I was a Minuteman III nuclear launch officer. Take it from me: We can’t let Trump become president,” Los Angeles Times, August 9, 2016, http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-noonan-trump-nuclear-20160809-snap-story.html; Will Pavia, “The psychiatrists’ verdict: Donald Trump is a man incapable of guilt, with inner rage,” Times, May 20, 2017, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/world/psychiatrists-verdict-on-trump-a-man-incapable-of-guilt-with-inner-rage-zsrlt707b; James Poniewozik, “A National Descent Into Trump’s Pants,” New York Times, March 4, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/05/arts/television/a-national-descent-into-trumps-pants.html; David Remnick, “The Increasing Unfitness of Donald Trump,” New Yorker, January 15, 2018, https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/01/15/the-increasing-unfitness-of-donald-trump; Brian Resnick, “Psychiatry’s “Goldwater Rule” has never met a test like Donald Trump,” Vox, May 25, 2017, https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2017/5/25/15680354/psychiatry-goldwater-rule-trump; Jennifer Rubin, “The ‘stable genius’ isn’t even functioning as president,” Washington Post, January 6, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/right-turn/wp/2018/01/06/the-stable-genius-isnt-even-functioning-as-president/; Gail Sheehy, “At Yale, Psychiatrists Cite Their ‘Duty to Warn’ About an Unfit President,” New York, April 23, 2017, http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2016/04/yale-psychiatrists-cite-duty-to-warn-about-unfit-president.html
  4. [4]Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale (New York: Anchor, 1998).

Road rage

Note, December 20, 2017: Due to time constraints, I was unable to edit this posting when I initially published it. That editing is now complete.

I need to begin this with the trivial; road rage isn’t the product of any single provocation, but rather of myriad ‘micro-aggressions,’ which accumulate beyond a breaking point.

Case in point: I was driving through Sebastopol today. Traffic has gotten worse in town lately, and yes, traffic can and often does drive me nuts. But today really and truly was nothing unusual. Continue reading “Road rage”

Ummm, we need to talk. It’s about academic freedom.

No, I thought to myself. Why on earth would I archive this story about some schmuck who intends to launch a rocket as one step in his quest to prove the earth is flat?[1] Continue reading “Ummm, we need to talk. It’s about academic freedom.”

  1. [1]Colin Dwyer, “‘I Don’t Believe In Science,’ Says Flat-Earther Set To Launch Himself In Own Rocket,” National Public Radio, November 22, 2017, https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/11/22/565926690/i-dont-believe-in-science-says-flat-earther-set-to-launch-himself-in-own-rocket

Never again, probably

Like many—probably most—men my age (and older), I’ve had some learning to do about personal autonomy, which is usually cited in arguments for legal abortion, but really applies in all cases where someone, anyone, would take a person’s body for purposes not their own. This obviously applies when conservatives insist narrowly that pregnancy is part of a woman’s “essential nature” and, therefore, she shouldn’t be allowed to exercise any control over her own reproduction.
Continue reading “Never again, probably”

Affirmative consent is still a better idea

In recent weeks, dozens of powerful and famous women have come forward against equally powerful and famous men in industries including Hollywood, publishing, art, comedy and business.

Those accounts have emboldened others with fewer resources to post their own stories using the #MeToo hashtag or in other public forums. Allegations have shaken the leadership ranks at prominent institutions, including National Public Radio, ABC News and several state legislatures.[1]

I have three thoughts on the numerous recent revelations of sexual harassment and assault. First, the sheer volume of reports[2] and the fact that it’s about sex suggests a moral panic. That’s not by any means to say the allegations are false—I’m inclined to credit most of them—but rather that we need to be careful in our response. Cathy Young’s cautions about what conduct we really want to ruin people’s lives over[3] seem warranted and probably should be seen as a minimum. Continue reading “Affirmative consent is still a better idea”

Human lives and rights are only important when Charles Blow says they are

In a column yesterday (November 9), Charles Blow launched a diatribe against “all the Democrats who caterwauled last November about how the party had focused too much on courting women and minorities, and ignored angry white men,”[1] and we can reasonably infer that Blow thinks that the aforementioned “angry white men” have little interest in “recognizing, listening to and trying to satisfy the particular needs of particular groups of people who have very different lived experiences in this country.”[2] Continue reading “Human lives and rights are only important when Charles Blow says they are”

  1. [1]Charles M. Blow, “Resistance, for the Win!” New York Times, November 9 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/09/opinion/resistance-trump-virginia-republicans.html
  2. [2]Charles M. Blow, “Resistance, for the Win!” New York Times, November 9 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/09/opinion/resistance-trump-virginia-republicans.html

Occupied Catalonia faces the boot

Talk about putting the shoe on the other foot:

“The word ‘dialogue’ is a lovely word. It creates good feelings,” [Spanish Prime Minister Mariano] Rajoy said. “But dialogue has two enemies: those who abuse, ignore and forget the laws, and those who only want to listen to themselves, who do not want to understand the other party.”

Rajoy urged the Senate to approve Article 155 “to prevent Catalonia from being abused.”[1]

The charge that Catalan secessionists “only want to listen to themselves, . . . do not want to understand the other party” applies equally to those who would deprive Catalonia of independence. Second, the primacy assigned to the constitution and to law forgets that institutions need to serve people, not the other way around. And that, ultimately, seems to me to be a huge problem: As near as I can tell, Rajoy’s argument collapses entirely to a provision in the Spanish constitution, “which refers to ‘the indissoluble unity of the Spanish nation, the common and indivisible homeland of all Spaniards.’”[2] There is nothing here of any benefits for Catalans in Spain, just nonsense about how “Spain without Catalonia and vice versa is a mutilated Spain and Catalonia.”[3] The origins of this drive for independence apparently lie in “a financial dispute [in 2012, during the financial crisis] over the tax contribution that wealthy Catalonia should make to poorer regions of Spain.”[4]

It is already apparent from the violence waged against the referendum that Catalonia held on independence,[5] which Rajoy defended as his “principal obligation . . . to enforce the law and ensure it is enforced,”[6] that Rajoy has no compunctions about using violence. Despite his appeals to public opinion surveys (a methodology I now treat as unreliable[7]) showing a majority even within Catalonia opposing independence,[8] it is clear that Rajoy is unconcerned with what the Catalan public may think of his use of violence against the referendum. The violence itself, directed against an election, undermines the remainder of his claim that his “principal obligation” is also to “protect and guarantee democracy,” and to “protect coexistence and harmony.”[9]

Further, it is apparent that Rajoy enjoys international backing[10] from elites who, on various rationalizations, nearly always oppose secession, except when a secession movement in another country might work to their own advantage.

So I see no constraint on Rajoy’s further deployment of violence to achieve his ends. Catalonia is occupied territory. Now I fear it will feel the boot.

  1. [1]William Booth and Pamela Rolfe, “Catalonia finally declared independence — but Spain vows it won’t last long,” Washington Post, October 27, 2017,
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/a-day-of-fireworks-in-catalonia-both-spanish-and-catalan-parliaments-are-scheduled-to-convene/2017/10/27/09685d34-ba90-11e7-9b93-b97043e57a22_story.html
  2. [2]Spanish Constitution, quoted in British Broadcasting Corporation, “Catalan referendum: ‘Hundreds hurt’ as police try to stop voters,” October 1, 2017, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-41461032
  3. [3]Pedro Sánchez, quoted in William Booth and Pamela Rolfe, “Catalonia finally declared independence — but Spain vows it won’t last long,” Washington Post, October 27, 2017,
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/a-day-of-fireworks-in-catalonia-both-spanish-and-catalan-parliaments-are-scheduled-to-convene/2017/10/27/09685d34-ba90-11e7-9b93-b97043e57a22_story.html
  4. [4]Raphael Minder, “Separatists in Catalonia Win Narrow Majority in Regional Elections,” New York Times, September 27, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/28/world/europe/catalan-vote-seen-as-referendum-on-secession.html
  5. [5]British Broadcasting Corporation, “Catalan referendum: ‘Hundreds hurt’ as police try to stop voters,” October 1, 2017, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-41461032; Peter Geoghegan, “Catalonia votes amid violent clashes,” Deutschewelle, October 1, 2017, http://www.dw.com/en/catalonia-votes-amid-violent-clashes/a-40770357; Jon Sindreu, Pietro Lombardi, and Marina Force, “Hundreds Hurt as Catalans, Spanish Police Clash Amid Independence Referendum,” Wall Street Journal, October 1, 2017, https://www.wsj.com/articles/voters-turn-out-in-catalonia-for-independence-referendum-1506838287
  6. [6]Jeannette Neumann, Jon Sindreu, and Pietro Lombardi, “Catalans Support Secession From Spain in Vote Boycotted by Opponents,” Wall Street Journal, October 1, 2017, https://www.wsj.com/articles/voters-turn-out-in-catalonia-for-independence-referendum-1506838287
  7. [7]David Benfell, “On a nine percent response rate,” May 28, 2017, https://parts-unknown.org/drupal7/journal/2017/05/28/nine-percent-response-rate
  8. [8]Hans von der Burchard, “New Catalan president wants independence within 18 months,” Politico, January 10, 2016, http://www.politico.eu/article/new-catalan-president-carles-puigdemont-spain-independence/; Jeannette Neumann and Giovanni Legorano, “Spain Poised to Strip Catalonia of Powers,” Wall Street Journal, October 19, 2017, https://www.wsj.com/articles/catalan-leader-fails-to-renounce-secession-push-demands-dialogue-with-madrid-1508401099; Jeannette Neumann and Giovanni Legorano, “Spain Moves to Seize Control of Catalan Government, Call Regional Elections,” Wall Street Journal, October 21, 2017, https://www.wsj.com/articles/spain-moves-to-seize-control-of-catalan-government-call-regional-elections-1508587975
  9. [9]Jeannette Neumann, Jon Sindreu, and Pietro Lombardi, “Catalans Support Secession From Spain in Vote Boycotted by Opponents,” Wall Street Journal, October 1, 2017, https://www.wsj.com/articles/voters-turn-out-in-catalonia-for-independence-referendum-1506838287
  10. [10]William Booth and Pamela Rolfe, “Catalonia finally declared independence — but Spain vows it won’t last long,” Washington Post, October 27, 2017,
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/a-day-of-fireworks-in-catalonia-both-spanish-and-catalan-parliaments-are-scheduled-to-convene/2017/10/27/09685d34-ba90-11e7-9b93-b97043e57a22_story.html; Laura Smith-Spark and Claudia Rebaza, “Catalonia government dissolved after declaring independence from Spain,” CNN, October 27, 2017, http://www.cnn.com/2017/10/27/europe/catalonia-independence-spain/index.html