My clumsy attempt to talk about wide-scale American politics.


I don’t usually post about large-scale electoral-type politics on this blog. I follow it, but it’s one of those topics that I have more understanding of than capability of writing about. The number of those topics far outstrips the number of topics I actually can write about, giving the illusion that I only know things about a narrow range of topics (the ones I can write about). I can write about parts of my internal workings because I’ve had to learn that one out of necessity. I can write certain things about human rights, particularly about applying general ethical principles to specific situations.

People who know me well know this discrepancy exists. One friend told me it’s like I’ve got all kinds of things somewhere in my brain, but unless you hit on the exact right thing to get them out, they stay in there unless you know what to look for. One thing that might not be obvious is I’ve learned a lot of history, both from books and from people. I can note the general shapes and patterns of things. There’s very few people I generally trust enough to fumble for words about these things around, though. And half the time they have to know what I’m getting at before they understand my assorted fumblings. At any rate, if you think all I am or all I care about is what I write here, you’re missing a lot of my life, some of which I don’t talk about because it’s not relevant to my reasons for blogging, but some of which I don’t talk about because I can’t.

Another autism blogger recently posted this clip (I don’t remember who or I’d credit them). I know some of my readers won’t like the source. But in my view the stuff that’s going on in America right now isn’t about liberal or conservative or other political ideologies — Bush et al aren’t acting on any sort of system of ethics or politics I’ve ever heard of, they’re acting on greed and selfishness, and that should be a concern to anyone. I’m going to do what I usually do when I don’t know all the words for something and pull a Mrs. Who, quote someone else:

(not captioned, but transcript available here)

Anyway, since that clip happened, there’s been even more crap going on in that regard. And I hope enough people are concerned that something gets done about this.

This concludes my clumsy attempt to talk about wide-scale American politics. This is not my typical subject but what’s going on in this country has been outrageous for a long time and I’m glad people who do know how to say things are saying them. I just wish the people in particular positions of power would do so rather than succumb to their own varieties of selfishness.

About Mel Baggs

Hufflepuff. Came from the redwoods, which tell me who I am and where I belong in the world. I relate to objects as if they are alive, but as things with identities and properties all of their own, not as something human-like. Culturally I'm from a California Okie background. Crochet or otherwise create constantly, write poetry and paint when I can. Proud member of the developmental disability self-advocacy movement. I care a lot more about being a human being than I care about what categories I fit into.

35 responses »

  1. I have the same problems with politics. I can see overall trends and patterns, but I feel neither confident nor competant to discuss politics in general conversation because I cannot readily pull up the pertinent data (especially names and events) to describe or support my views. I’m not politically stupid, just not politically able to retrieve nomenclature.

    I also thought the broadcaster’s comments to be apropos.

  2. Yeah exactly. I have the understanding but not the language. And I see people tossing around the language so competently I’m aware any language I would use would make me sound a lot more uncomprehending than I am.

  3. I have too have the same problems with politics – my boyfriend and his family are very interested in politics so sometimes I feel awfully gauche when he is talking about it to them or our friends. It’s the same when it comes to discussing some other subjects. Until last year I was involved with a Buddhist group which held discussion meetings in member’s houses; your second comment, Amanda, sums up how I experienced being among a load of people sitting around talking about the philosophy and practice of Buddhism. It didn’t help that I was one of the few working class people in the group, and quite a few of the other members had classist attitudes; one of the reasons I stopped going to the group. (There were other issues as well, which I have been meaning to write about for a while in response to your “Opening The Spirituality Can Of Worms” post)

    Ditto the last line of andrea’s comment.

  4. I disagree on so many levels with so much of what this particular talking head is saying, although I will admit that his ability to formulate and execute propaganda is quite impressive. I think the important point here is that just as vicious an attack could be made on virtually any president in the history of the United States – and they have been. It is difficult to judge the performance of any president until many years have gone by. Reagan is a great example of this.
    Oh well, I realize that my opinion is in the minority, and I appreciate your letting me express it here.

  5. The Olbermann thing crashed my browser, so I didn’t get to see it. I don’t think much of him, even when he’s right.

    The other two things you linked, I’m not surprised to read. I voted for W twice, not because I wanted him for President, but because I thought the other guy was even worse.

    I live in Florida, and am one of the 500-odd people who put him through the first time. I know how the Electoral College works, and have joked that had I voted for Harry Browne, and Florida gone to Algor by one vote, I’d have had to hide out in the sewers or something.

    In ’04, I had to grit my teeth really hard to make myself vote for W against his fraternity brother.

    Dammit, I want to run as a “faithless elector” in the next Presidential election.

    Y’all will just have to trust me to pick a good man!

    As far as the bunch who are running for President right now, I think they all are mostly unfit for the office,and uh, more or less suck.

    I reckon I’ll vote for Ron Paul, if allowed. (I voted for him the last time he ran.)

    Failing that, I reckon it’s Fred Thompson for me. He’s cool on the Second Amendment, though suspiciously well-connected with the Big Boys Who Have Lotsa Money.

  6. Putting up the clip in this instance was enough for me to get some idea of what was happening. Sometimes if I want to draw people’s attention to something that I won’t be able to articulate well, I put a link up to a news story. Am I right in thinking that the Scooter Libby sentence is connected with the Valerie Plame case? If so it is unforgivable that Bush should interfere.

  7. I’m surprised Mr. Olberman hasn’t met with a thug somewhere in a dark alley. He has dangerous ideas and is not afraid to voice them.

    War profiteering is a Bush Family specialty, going back generations. Although they have done some good, I imagine, they don’t hesitate to belly up to the table of opportunistic profit, by whatever means.

  8. If a nation wishes to remain a democratic nation (in terms of the “for the people”, rather than the political party meaning, obviously), then it is imperative that no person is above the laws of the nation. Scooter Libby, through a wish to retaliate against Valerie Plame’s husband Joseph Wilson’s exposure of the false uranium claims during the build up to the invasion of Iraq, placed not only her, but also the security of others and possibly the USA itself in grave danger. He must have fully aware of the potentially very serious consequences of his actions and yet he still went ahead and did it. It was not a minor infraction, it was a very strong breach of security. For George W Bush to issue the pardon is akin to him saying “the laws of the nation don’t matter, I can override them if I see fit.” A politician is elected into a democratic nation with the agreement that they are elected by the people, for the people and therefore they must uphold the laws of the people.

  9. The thing about politics is that what counts for right and wrong *isn’t* wide scale . . . and this is why so many individuals’ approach to politics is erroneously based on stereotype, vague sensations of being loyal or defiant (whichever seems to be the most anti-fashionable), or the idea that responsibility (for anything) can be attributed entirely to one political figure.

  10. I think I saw this on MOM-NOS’ site.
    When I saw it I had kind of the same reaction- “Thank god someone who’s a lot better at expressing this stuff than me got a (rare) ten minutes to express it on national television.”

    I was fairly impressed with the network that they devoted so much time to a wordy, idea-dense bit with no flashy graphics or sensationalistic threats.

  11. My clumsy attempt at a comment…

    Bush et al aren’t acting on any sort of system of ethics or politics I’ve ever heard of

    Leo Strauss may be where they get their ethics & politics. He was a political philosopher I’ve read referred to as the “father of neoconservatism.” He was a believer in lying to the public — he viewed the world as basically two groups, the ruling elite and the “vulgar masses.” Lying to the masses is ok & even necessary because the masses aren’t smart or brave enough to handle the truth. `Don’t scare the horses.’ And, he didn’t believe in some usual ideas of morality; there’s no right or wrong, just power. He also thought that subjugation of the masses by a small elite was the natural (& best) way of things.

    I’m seriously not making that up.

    It would be easy to dismiss that craziness were it not for the neocon connection via neocons (e.g. PNAC (The Project for the New American Century)) to the U.S. government. Their (PNAC’s) list of signatories reads like a roll call of high govt. officials; i.e. Cheney, Wolfowitz, Libby, Rumsfeld, Perle, Ashcroft, Abrams, etc.^1

    And… ugh, stack overflow (lot of backlogged processing on this stuff before I could ever write it out).

    Article about about Strauss, neocons, Bush:

    U.S. constituional crisis:

    ^1 PNAC associations with Bush administration:

  12. I think some people here have wrong, that is, recent, ideas of what “democracy” means.

    According to Jerry Pournelle, and Aristotle, it doesn’t mean rule by majority vote, it means rule by those who possess the goods of fortune in moderate amounts, that is, the middle class.

    The growing oligarchy is trying to wipe out the middle class, I think. That’s why they’re trying to import lots of Mexican peons, thinking them more biddable than are we native nativists.

    My folks have been here since before the Revolution, that’s long enough to be a native, and a “Pwogwessive” is not an American, and is probably a Republican. If the preceding words confuse you, read some history.

    REAL Democrats are not the least bit “Progressive.”

    To start with, we abhor the Roscoe Conkling interpretation of the 14th Amendment

  13. I actually am familiar with Strauss.

    Not also sure what family being here long means. Some of my family are recent immigrants, some were here before the Revolution. At least one fought in the Revolution. As far as I know we’re all Americans.

  14. Sorry, Ma’am, kinda reacting against the neocons, and the 1965 Immigration Act. I do think having had one’s family live in a land for a coupla hundred years gives one a sense of being at home, and a tendency to resent recent arrivals.

    Think how the Indians felt, when we showed up.

    I think I could maybe put up with slow change, but rapid change gets on my nerves, and our country which we were used to is undergoing rapid demographic change.

  15. And those that immigrated here, lived, worked and made a life for 50+ years don’t have a feeling of home? And how about their offspring? Half my family came to US sometime before 1800, the other half 52 years ago. Should I not have a feeling home? (I do.)

  16. …a relative who is a naturalized citizen, BTW; in case the NSA is using those illegal wiretaps (heya fellas!) to do that illegal data mining they do for maybe “alternative purposes.” (i.e. INS?)

  17. I don’t resent recent arrivals and some of my family have been in America for centuries. Not that their having been here this long creates any particular sense of home.

    I’ve never exactly met any relatives older than my great-grandmother (who was raised in another country and moved here). I certainly haven’t met my ancestors. I didn’t know the ancestor who moved here before the Revolution and fought in it. Any more than I know the purported American Indian ancestors that everyone from the area my relatives are from claims to have. So it’s not like either of those sets of ancestors has a direct impact on how I feel about being American, they’re too long ago. It could be hundreds of years or thousands (and it might well be both in my case) or just many decades and I would barely know any difference from my end, I’m not old enough to have known anyone from back then and I don’t think that my sense of my homeland is transmitted by osmosis over spans of time greater than a very small number of generations anyway.

    And I’m certainly not as territorial about it as a lot of Americans seem to think is fashionable to be. Maybe it comes from having grown up with a lot of people who came from other countries or whose parents came from other countries. I just can’t see that as “abnormal” or “bad”, and I find it kind of disturbing that someone would. Everyone came from somewhere else at some point. Why are some of us supposed to be better than others just based on how long ancestors we might never even have met have been wherever we are? (And what constitutes “wherever we are” too? As far as I know my family history in the USA involves family moving around between several different regions, regions large enough to be countries in most other parts of the world. Where I grew up was not even part of the USA when my ancestors got to the USA, and actually my relatives from Oklahoma and Arkansas probably weren’t warmly welcomed to California when they came either. And now I’ve moved cross-country myself, further than a lot of despised categories of immigrants move to get into the USA. So how far is too far? It just doesn’t make a remote bit of logical sense to me.)

  18. What I always find ironic is that people tend to forget that many of the border states used to BE Mexico. We kind of shamelessly stole it from them.
    So… between people of Hispanic descent living in New Mexico and people of European descent living in New Mexico, I would guess that many of the former have family ties that stretch back much farther.

    Not that I think any of that matters at all. The whole history and culture of this country is based on waves of immigration, that’s part of what I love about it.

  19. I remember Sherman Alexie writing about a white guy post-9/11 pulling up in a pickup truck and yelling “Go back to your country!” at him. Sherman Alexie, who is American Indian, apparently started laughing too hard to give the guy a coherent reply.

  20. I really don’t think it matters how old or recent one’s political ideas are. I think it is more important the effect they have on the population. I like a system based on equality and personal liberty, and quite frankly, rule by the middle class does not strike me as inherently all that much better than rule by the rich. It’s still a system based on class. It still excludes human beings from participating in their own government.

    Pure majoritarianism (as in, the majority always gets it’s way; I’m not sure what the “real” word for it is) strikes me as somewhat dangerous: if everyone wanted the blacks out of town, they could make that happen, and I don’t believe that is right. Similarly, if everyone wanted to turn things over to a tyrant, that could also happen. Nonetheless, government AGAINST the will of the people is necessarily tyrannical and intolerable.

    There must be a system of laws guaranteeing freedom and equality, even if most people want to deny that to certain folks, AS WELL AS a system where citizens–ANY citizen–can participate in the government and help it to adapt. The rest, including what to call it, is specific to the situation.

    I think how the “indians” felt had to do with more than just demographic change. For one thing, Mexico is not taking our land from us. Maybe they’re coming into the country without permission, but it’s not as if they’re on the path to conquest. Whites and latinos (it’s more than just mexico) are not massacring each other. Most of them just want jobs. Far too many conservative commentators are willing to talk of an “illegal immigrant invasion.” Somehow, I just can’t help but think that what illegal immigrants are doing today is nothing compared to what our own ancestors did to the indigenous peoples of north america, and what we today are doing to the people of Iraq. There is no comparing a war of invasion with living in a country without authorization.

    I think listening too much to people who don’t like foreignors maybe inclines somebody to resent newcomers. Unless somebody carries the memories of their ancestors, I really don’t see how else such a thing could happen. Like many people here, I have ancestors from before the revolution, and ancestors from after it. I know of at least one ancestor who fought in the civil war, for the union. The mother of my older siblings (well, technically half-siblings but whatever) was born in Ireland. One of them married a man from Germany. So what?

    It seems to me that nativism is just another form of racism. Nobody is complaining about illegal immgrants from europe (they DO exist, people). It’s just a way for them to hate on brown-skinned people while pretending race has nothing to do with it.

  21. I admire and laud your attempt, Amanda. I have kept Aspie Dad politically neutral except for policy comments, for much the same reasons as you — I lack the vocabulary. But (according to my father in law) I’m ‘somewhere left of Gandhi and south of Nelson Mandela.’ Which to me means that he plots my views as the absolute opposite of his views. Having said that, it is kind of incomprehensible to me that someone who voices that the Constitution should be adhered to is a ‘dangerous idea.’ Heh.

    Tolerance of others whether based on neurodiversity or ethnicity (which is, let’s face it, race) is central to a civil society. I don’t think there can be exclusion or segregation based on one’s biology. I just don’t see it.

    My own heritage should make me at war with myself. There are both orange and green Irish and Scots Irish via my maternal Grandparents. And a Native American (Cherokee) from the Oklahoma generations. while my Father’s side had men landing on Normandy firing at their second cousins in the machine gun nests. We’ve always been undergoing demographic change. The only way to think otherwise is to not be paying attention.

    I’m not deliberately trying to be confrontational, but succumbing to the state of fear and paranoia offered by sectors of the political landscape just seems to impossible to me. Maybe if I was an NT I would understand, but I doubt it.

  22. When I was in Mississippi, back in 1992, I got some weird feelings from looking at the people around me. They were mostly either Scots-Irish appearing, or West-African appearing, with not many in between. I felt a kind of familiar comfort, due, I think, to the people around me when I was aged 0-5. That is, those were the familiar faces I saw when I was a little kid in the fifties, forming my first impressions of humans.

    I tellya, I had some cognitive dissonance, because I was enough of a grownup by then to know that members of those ethnic groups are famously violent, and one must be careful to be polite to them. I have never understood the casual rudeness displayed by yankees, and, dare I say, Californians. Where I come from, that kind of thing would start a fight.

    That said, it was white guys who bullied me in school, and some obviously African-descended folks who gratuitously helped me, from time to time.

    I think what I’m trying to say, is I got used to the society in which I grew up, and learned how to navigate it somewhat, and now everything is changing too quickly for me, and I don’t like that.

    Or maybe I’m just getting old and grumpy, or something

  23. Oh, Aspie Dad, your cousins shooting at each other is what NTs do! They make distinctions about itty bitty differences, and go to war over them. The differences do exist, I think; some itty-bitty, some rather large, between somewhat-genetically-different groups. Being at least (I think) some kinda half-aspie, I kinda think they’re all nuts, and get people violently killed for no reason.

    I reserve the right to decide, at a later time, about getting people violently killed for good reasons. Snerk.

    P.s. Lighten up, folks, the usual gang will put one of their guys in office, and there is not much we can do about it.

    Better to identify people who like us, and have access to the ears of those likely to achieve high office.

    Have them talk to the movers and shakers. Like it or not, that’s how politics work.

  24. when i read the transcript of the olberman speech i was disturbed by the hero worship displayed by some of the commenters (i don’t have any preconceived idea about olberman but i would find this disturbing even about a political/etc. figure i kinda liked -if there were any)… but i do agree that the whole [doing illegal stuff because you are the leader of the free world and noone can touch you] thing, is kind of extra evil.
    and i am sure other presidents have done these sort of evil things as well, but i guess i am more mad when it is done by someone i would have liked to have trusted, because i used to be a republican.

    on another topic, i like to see the demographics changing. not that i have anything against my own culture, or the white and the black southern cultures that were already here when i transplanted into this region, but to me the pace of demographic change here in the southeast is exhilarating. i am trying to think what would it be like if the fastest growing immigrant group were from a culture that i *didn’t* instinctively feel friendly towards… but still i think i would realize that america is a nation of immigrants (even the indigenous apparently came from asia?!), i mean they kind of all are, but USA more so than other countries even. and that people of any origins can settle down here and pretty much be about what america is about. not that i am entirely sure what america is about, but i meant mostly the positive stuff like hard work and living a nice peaceful life and being decent citizens. my immigrant friends, whether here legally or illegally; whether mexican, colombian, ethiopian, french, etc.; they are all about that.

    and plus: you should NEVER EVER underestimate the ability of immigrants to figure out when they are being handed bullshit. the entire immigration process and trying to make it here, is a huge training in BS detection. plus, most ppl who want to leave their country for ours, have been “trained” on governments that have made them extremely cynical about political leaders, so… just get real, ok?!


  25. PS is your blog’s clock on like SL time or something?!
    not that it matters. but i just sent a comment labelled after 2pm today and it’s before 11am really.

  26. As far as loss of community-ness, I think linking that to a lack of similarity in people (whether history, looks, race, etc.) is to hitch that issue to the wrong horse. Or, more accurately, a false one. People with diverse backgrounds (and/or histories, etc.) aren’t inherently incapable of forming communities, I don’t think. I see that as related to human interactions unrelated to… well anything. I’d say more has to do with individual decisions, than other things.

    I.e. the middle-aged woman in Paris who helped me find my hotel when I was lost (total stranger). She and I had no common language, racial background (I’m guessing), nationality, and probably a lot of other things. She had no obligation to help me, but did it anyway –And the US is seen as having a pretty violent culture in many places, or so I have heard. Maybe sort of like those West Africans? Should she have been scared of me?– It might’ve been brief, but for 5 minutes is was sort of a community of two — not held together by history, race, nationality, or anything else like that. Just a human being relating to being lost & being a human, and deciding to help was it, I think.

    I’ve not been to all that many other places, but I’ve had similar things happen in Japan, England and parts of the US distant from where I grew up/live.

    Oh, regarding California: one of my uncles (this was in Alabama) once asked, me “why don’t you say ‘sir’ to your elders?” As I froze in confusion another uncle said “maybe they don’t say that in California.” Uncle #2 was right — a kid saying that in Cali. will be taken to be a smart-a**. Maybe some North/South (or equiv.) seeming rudeness are cross-cultural misunderstandings.

    Well, at this point I can’t remember what the heck I started out trying to say, but hopefully it’s in there somewhere.

  27. Sorry if this is a total threadjack.

    On culture and politeness:

    My mom is English, and I never really noticed the ways this cultural difference influences me until recently, when I travelled some and started observice culture more carefully. I was learning Spanish (and learning English grammar for the first time in the process) and I realized that I use the conditional tense, i.e. “could you” rather than “will you” or “can you” way more than anyone I know… except my Mom. I also one time got all huffy when I was with my friends and they wanted to sneak into line way ahead of a lot of people to get into a movie. I refused and went home, to their total amazement. I think both of those are kind of English behaviors.

    Anyone from across the pond who could corroborate?

  28. Ma’am, please explain what you mean by that word, “scapegoating.” Like Calvin, of Calvin and Hobbes, I dislike being “verbed” like that, or I should say maybe “presently participlicated”, or “gerundified”, or something.

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