Please proceed, dictator

When we last discussed Syria policy, before I went on Summer blog strike, I restricted myself to general observations, but, in the nearly three months since then, the “particular ground” that I had been refraining from trying to analyze in detail has been coming into focus (and target sights, and GPS coordinate databases) somewhat on its own. As for me, having concluded the main or anyway most time-intensive, foundational part of the project that has been absorbing my attention, and having taken care of some other business, I expect soon to publish a longish post on Syria, specifically on East Ghouta and the global security system. I also expect to take up smaller parts of the larger discussion, and I’m not sure which, the big or the smalls, I’ll get to first.

As I further consider how to proceed, and consider the latest 1,000 tweets to catch up on, and consider lunch, too, let me offer a musical prelude, an old favorite cued to a passage that I have lately half-expected to sound from the mouth of Rep. Alan Grayson (D, Orlando) whenever he appears on TV as lead vocalist of the “progressive” opposition to the President:


…and the host on MSNBC or CNN or wherever else he’d shown up, would, I am confident, nod complacently, then turn to the other guest.

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Writing since ancient times, blogging, e-commercing, and site installing-designing-maintaining since 2001; WordPress theme and plugin configuring and developing since 2004 or so; a lifelong freelancer, not associated nor to be associated with any company, publication, party, university, church, or other institution. 

3 comments on “Please proceed, dictator

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  1. Syria, is that corner of hell, that Hieronymous Bosch didn’t get a chance to observed, this is before allied intervention, a bouillabaise of Russians and Iranians on one hand, and KSA and Qatar backed rebels, how can this possibly end well?

  2. Congrats to you , Scott and everyone involved on the new site! Looks very good visually. I think this kind of thing will be very useful for yogis. Look forward to seeing how it progresses

    • Thanks, and me, too! I’m hoping that the project on its own terms or possibly some related projects will provide a way out of a collectibles business that I more or less backed into 10 years ago and am trying to wind down.

      I’m also wondering whether the model we arrived at for a donation-supported non-profit membership site might travel or neo-imperialistically federate a bit. I could even convert this site, or my main effort relating to my own work, into something along those lines.

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TV pundits and op-ed writers of every major newspaper epitomize how the Democratic establishment has already reached a consensus: the 2020 nominee must be a centrist, a Joe Biden, Cory Booker or Kamala Harris–type, preferably. They say that Joe Biden should "run because [his] populist image fits the Democrats’ most successful political strategy of the past generation" (David Leonhardt, New York Times), and though Biden "would be far from an ideal president," he "looks most like the person who could beat Trump" (David Ignatius, Washington Post). Likewise, the same elite pundit class is working overtime to torpedo left-Democratic candidates like Sanders.

For someone who was not acquainted with Piketty's paper, the argument for a centrist Democrat might sound compelling. If the country has tilted to the right, should we elect a candidate closer to the middle than the fringe? If the electorate resembles a left-to-right line, and each voter has a bracketed range of acceptability in which they vote, this would make perfect sense. The only problem is that it doesn't work like that, as Piketty shows.

The reason is that nominating centrist Democrats who don't speak to class issues will result in a great swathe of voters simply not voting. Conversely, right-wing candidates who speak to class issues, but who do so by harnessing a false consciousness — i.e. blaming immigrants and minorities for capitalism's ills, rather than capitalists — will win those same voters who would have voted for a more class-conscious left candidate. Piketty calls this a "bifurcated" voting situation, meaning many voters will connect either with far-right xenophobic nationalists or left-egalitarian internationalists, but perhaps nothing in-between.

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Understanding Trump’s charisma offers important clues to understanding the problems that the Democrats need to address. Most important, the Democratic candidate must convey a sense that he or she will fulfil the promise of 2008: not piecemeal reform but a genuine, full-scale change in America’s way of thinking. It’s also crucial to recognise that, like Britain, America is at a turning point and must go in one direction or another. Finally, the candidate must speak to Americans’ sense of self-respect linked to social justice and inclusion. While Weber’s analysis of charisma arose from the German situation, it has special relevance to the United States of America, the first mass democracy, whose Constitution invented the institution of the presidency as a recognition of the indispensable role that unique individuals play in history.

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[E]ven Fox didn’t tout Bartiromo’s big scoops on Trump’s legislative agenda, because 10 months into the Trump presidency, nobody is so foolish as to believe that him saying, “We’re doing a big infrastructure bill,” means that the Trump administration is, in fact, doing a big infrastructure bill. The president just mouths off at turns ignorantly and dishonestly, and nobody pays much attention to it unless he says something unusually inflammatory.On some level, it’s a little bit funny. On another level, Puerto Rico is still languishing in the dark without power (and in many cases without safe drinking water) with no end in sight. Trump is less popular at this point in his administration than any previous president despite a generally benign economic climate, and shows no sign of changing course. Perhaps it will all work out for the best, and someday we’ll look back and chuckle about the time when we had a president who didn’t know anything about anything that was happening and could never be counted on to make coherent, factual statements on any subject. But traditionally, we haven’t elected presidents like that — for what have always seemed like pretty good reasons — and the risks of compounding disaster are still very much out there.

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