Sunday, January 29, 2017

Geographical base of US protest

The fixation on social media obscures this, but protest in the US is strongly geographically linked. Other than the rare international meetings or major political conventions that activist networks make an effort to bring people to from a wide area, the kind of horizontalist movements that are the main mode of contemporary protest rely on people who don't have to travel a long distance. Even something like the NoDAPL Sacred Stone Camp, which attracts people from far away, is organized around a base of indigenous people who live there.

The airport protests around the Muslim Ban are a case in point. They sprung up quickly, without much leadership. This type of protest is made to order for the left, because large international airports tend to be located near large cities. Just as Occupy started with Occupy Wall St., the airport protests seem to have started at JFK. And the largest ones are near instantly recognizable left strongholds.

I looked at a list of large international airports in the US, and there are about 30 of them. I tried to match them to a reported list of airport protests. There are three large cities -- NYC, DC, and Chicago -- that seem to have an under-protested airport because they have two large airports each and protests focussed on one of them. But otherwise, my impression is that the area with a number of large airports that isn't reliably blue enough to have large protests is Florida.

The geographic base of protests has good elements and bad. It makes it easy for horizontally organized protest to start in NYC. It makes it difficult for protest to spread to the areas of the country that most need it. It means that left-leaning areas can get a lot of media, but makes them less aware of the attitudes of people elsewhere.

But the major problem is that it represents a vulnerability. As with OWS, when a protest in NYC gets repressed, the penumbra goes away -- people outside don't have the ability to sustain a national or international movement. That's something that people have to think about.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

After Langston Hughes

Some swear “America will be!”
What has America been to me?
Parents' parents came here bereft
Found a better place than they left
And here almost a century
We’ve lingered – yet eventually
We will move on. Is this a dream
Better, greater than those we’ve seen?

Should we have stayed in Babylon?
Settled in the empire of Rome?
Converted to the faith of Spain?
Upheld the Tsar, not left again?

Langston says we must redeem
The rotting flower of the dream
The beauty that hides in its bloom
Our Leader and our own rape rooms
Can America be made real?
Hasn’t by now, it never will
Always ahead, that’s what I’ve heard:
What happens to a dream deferred?

This place is mighty crush the weak
A dream is not the world we seek
What our history has made clear
You die for dreams: you aren't here

Thursday, January 19, 2017

About #theresistance

There's a Twitter hashtag / meme / whatever: "#theresistance". At first glance it appears, mostly, to be a vehicle for ex-GOP current Dem people like Frum and Brock to continue to try to keep influential positions by making the alternative to Trump be a neocon one, using the techniques of manufactured outrage that doesn't go anywhere that they learned in the GOP.

But there are some people with similar ideas who are well-meaning and sincere. For instance, here is an article by B Sales-Lee: Keep Calm and Protect Democracy. It has the characteristic combination of two assumptions (or, in this case, what are presented as the professional judgements of a historian): 1) we're close to fascism, or at least close to authoritarian martial law; 2) we best prevent this in the short term by being calm and not breaking the rules. Further characteristics not present in the Sales-Lee article are that the goal of this resistance to fascism is implicitly or explicitly to put things back to how they were, back to "functioning democracy" and "functioning government" and generally back to the neoliberal order as it was under Obama, either because this is good in itself or because it is a lesser evil way station on the way to better things.

I have my doubts about whether Trump is really going to lead us to authoritarian martial law or fascism or however you'd like to describe it. He's a very unpopular and in many ways standard GOP politician, promising to do many of the things that Reagan promised and could not do. As Corey Robin has been writing, it's quite conceivable that plain political opposition will stop him. #theopposition doesn't have the glamour of #theresistance, of course.

But let's say he is. People are then taking the position that fascism is fast approaching and that we'd better be polite about it. This I just don't understand. It only works if you can get everyone to be polite, but of course you can't, so it predictably ends up with liberals as the "peace police": enforcing their standard of behavior on others and finally turning them in to the police or not supporting them when arrested in order to save us from fascism. (B. Sales-Lee, I should note, isn't a liberal, but rather a pacifist socialist.)

I really don't have a problem with the center-left saying that Trump is a very bad GOP pol and that we have to oppose him through normal political methods. There are always some people playing the "inside game" in politics, and that's their role. But if that's really what they are going to do, they should stop presenting themselves as resisting imminent fascism, because they aren't. Or if they do really think there's imminent fascism, then they have to recognize that this will in most people's minds demand actions that they aren't comfortable with. I think that a lot of the lower-level #theresistance talk is from people who are realizing that the Democratic party will not do even ordinary political opposition, so they are trying to ramp up expectations rhetorically.

There is one thing, though -- actual resistance is dangerous. I don't see why anyone should do it if the goal is to, explicitly or implicitly, return to the neoliberal order. That same order created the conditions that made Trump possible as a political leader in the first place, and if we return to it, those conditions will return and we'll get a worse Trump. An actual resistance has to be based around shared values that would not lead to a return to that order. Until people in the center-left are ready to treat the left as serious interlocutors rather than as encumbrances on the way towards putting everything back as it was, those shared values are impossible to work out.

ETA --

Tally of the day

3/4 of National Mall empty, in part due to checkpoint blockades

1 limo burned

1 Nazi leader punched (didn't want to embed the GIF, you can find it easily enough)

0 declarations of martial law

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Buzzfeed leaked document

Buzzfeed has leaked the dossier on Trump supposedly compiled by a former British intelligence person for election opposition research purposes. This document is apparently the ur-source of all of the claims that Russians have compromising material on Trump, that he is a Russian agent, etc. -- the David Corn article, the Reid letter, the supposed FBI investigation, etc. There's just one basic problem with this dossier. Anyone who reads it, rather than summarizing its contents, has to realize that it's crazy. It's not just "unverified" or "unsubstantiated" or "contains errors" or whatever the latest weasel words are: it's kook-conspiratorial and I defy anyone to read through it without laughing, preserving their sense of its credibility to the end. If, as Buzzfeed claims, this is the document that everyone has been looking at, then the system is full of credulous fools.

Here are some of the assertions in the document:

* That the Kremlin has been feeding Trump intelligence on his opponents, including HRC, for years. (Who were his opponents for the years before he even decided to run?) And offering him deniable bribes as real estate deals. But he apparently never used any of this information or took any of these deals.

* People don't go into details of the "golden showers" thing, because they are so ridiculous. The core compromising material that the Kremlin is supposed to have on Trump is that he specifically stayed in a Presidential suite at a hotel because Obama had stayed there and because he disliked Obama, and then defiled it by hiring prostitutes to perform a golden shower show in it (which the Russians secretly videoed). In other words, it wasn't even that he just secretly liked this fetish, it was supposed to be also that he was insulting Obama.

* Trump was supposed to be actively participating in gathering intelligence for the Russians by reporting back on the activities of the families of Russian oligarchs living in the US. Just imagine this for a minute.

* Trump also participated by hiring his own hackers, in addition to the Russian hackers, and by having moles in the DNC. Trump's known associates (his lawyer, etc.) are supposed to have had multiple, personal meetings with Russian agents in Europe. One doc in the dossier is titled "Further Details of Secret Dialogue Between Trump Campaign Team, Kremlin, and Assorted Hackers in Prague".

* Trump's team is "happy to have Russia as media bogeyman to mask more extensive corrupt ties to China"

* There are various tells, within the document, that it comes from a kook right-wing source. It's anti-Semitic -- one assertion is that the FSB is approaching "US citizens of Russian (Jewish) origin" as agents, rather than just any citizen of Russian origin. It says that the Russians are also supporting Jill Stein and *Lyndon LaRouche*.

That last bit is a telling detail. Lyndon LaRouche is utterly irrelevant, and the only people who tend to mention him out of the blue are LaRouchites. LaRouchites have a core skill in making up long tracts about how various world leaders are conspiring and having lurid sex with each other, and they're fascinated with Russia. My best guess is that some LaRouchite wrote this and it's since been circulated by people who know it's BS but want it out there anyways.

The document is full of specific claims, such as that a named lawyer went to Prague for secret meetings in a specific month. The lawyer, of course, denies having ever been to Prague. It is completely not credible that our surveillance agencies, the greatest panopticon ever invented, can simply not corroborate this assertion rather than proving or disproving it.

Laughing at Trump is fine. Actually believing in this stuff isn't, not if you expect people to believe in actual scandals about Trump.