Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Supporting the Biden/Harris Ticket (but "I Don't Do Enthusiasm")

I'm still plowing my way through Radley Balko's understandably well-documented but way too long Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces (2014) and learning more reasons why I should not be keen on Bill Clinton and Joe Biden as drug warriors.
As I've mentioned in a few places, Biden is the only presidential candidate I've ever really talked with one-on-one so the only one for which "like" or "dislike" is a really relevant category for me. (Biden came a across as a nice guy, and he held his own at a conference on NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR in 1984, among a bunch of heavy hitters, of which I was not one).

I take seriously the etymology of "enthusiasm" — that "possessed by the god" bit — and generally distrust it, along with bringing into politics the celebrity "worship" and passing excitements of fandom, as in sports or SF/F.

I'd have more ordinary people thinking and acting like the rich: voting and supporting candidates as one would hire servants, although with "Leadership" a desired talent. "What can they do for me and my group? What are they likely to do *to* us?"

A fortunately unusual variation with Trump is this:

An individual, except the President, elected or appointed to an office of honor or profit in the civil service or uniformed services, shall take the following oath: “I, AB, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same [...]."

On a handful of occasions I've taken a similar oath (in writing for employment in Illinois and Ohio). The people administering the oath were not serious or sincere, but I take my word and words very seriously (I'm guilty of a kind of Stoical/Book-of-Job loving arrogance here). Donald J. Trump is a domestic enemy of the Constitution and American Republic, and in questioning the peaceful transfer of power an enemy of liberal democracy and civil government. The crucial issue is getting him out of office in as boring a way as possible. Biden is good for that, although in 2016 I supported Bernie Sanders and for policy still prefer him and Elizabeth Warren (my main qualms with Sanders are with him as a candidate and have to do with that kind of political *performance* and what it says about his stubbornness that he won't deal with performance as part of politics even for policy wonks).

I hope Biden (and Harris) firmly renounce The War on Crime/War on Drugs. But I'm supporting him and hoping the election will be all that will be necessary for that "preserve, protect, and defend" bit.


Sunday, August 16, 2020

Lives that Matter


SLOGANS on my mind, and policy:

"A bumper sticker is not a philosophy, Charlie Brown," and a policy statement makes a poor bumper sticker. So let's try thinking of slogans like the 2x4 in the old story from across the political spectrum of the two farmers and the Missouri mule, with the farmer arguing for reasoning with a mule trying his way, after hitting the mule upside the head with the 2x4. Punchline: "Well, first you gotta get his attention."

Don't try this at home. Don't hit helpless animals. Get the joke: Even the best of causes might require some ... non-discursive attention-getting before we can have a useful argument about policy.

ALL LIVES MATTER: As with "All life is sacred," don't tell me this while you're eating a bacon-burger, or a carrot, or using a hand sanitizer. Actually, don't tell me any of these variations since in my brief time in microbiology I destroyed life by the billions and hundred of billions and feel no guilt. I do feel guilty for other lab work, where I killed a lot of rats, a cat, a rabbit or two, and helped kill a number of dogs: it's one of the reasons I avoid eating mammal meat.

What people are talking about is human life and our belief that human life is special. Indeed part of the central myth of American culture is the one early in the US Declaration of Independence where Thomas Jefferson et al. tell us about a creator god making us all equal and endowing us with "certain unalienable rights," including life and liberty. That's a belief, a leap of faith, and either a self-evident "truth," or stupid-human, arrogant b.s.

BLACK LIVES MATTER is centrally about White people's and various political and other systems' recognizing and realizing — as in "making real" — that Black people are people: full human beings, with whatever rights White's legitimately claim for them/ourselves. (People seriously serious about Whiteness don't accept me as White.)

BLACK LIVES MATTER (also) helps provide the Race part of a set of interlocking and overlapping sets of issues on policing in the USA, including the militarization of the police. We need to look at this super-set of issues, and I hope those working for BLM will allow that they've "got our attention" (see mule story above), and that we can move on to policy and wider politics.

And I think moving on a good idea in large part because I'm a Jew who specifies which holocaust I'm talking about and who uses the 11 million figure of total deaths in the Hitlerian Holocaust and not the 6 million figure for Jews: If "the Holocaust" were literally unique to Jews, it would have no usable lessons for anyone else, and only ethics and decency would motivate non-Jews to care. And if you know about the Hitlerian Holocaust, you know the limits of ethics and decency: far better the formula "First they came for" and get others to recognize that they have some potential-lamp-shade skin in the game.

Even so with the militarization of US police, thoroughly documented in Radley Balko's Rise of the Warritor Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces (2013). Blacks are far more likely than Whites to get beaten, maimed, or killed by American cops. "First they came for the Blacks" in using "the Justice System" for social control. But The War on Crime and especially The War on Drugs have had their White victims. Which is a good thing for BLM since they don't have to limit their appeal to the often-limited ethics and decency of non-Black people.

So: BLACK LIVES MATTER, HUMAN LIVES MATTER, The Rights of Americans Matter — and let's talk policy (and by, say, Fall of 2021 get around to restitution, reparations, and reconciliation: a policy slogan I definitely like is "Guilt isn't inherited, but the loot is.")