Is Tyrion a Republican?

In my reading of various journalists’ accounts of the Republican National Convention, I came across an article from Vulture/ by guest columnist Liz Meriwether (creator of TV’s New Girl) in which she does various interviews at the convention. In this piece she decides to analyze the opinions of Republicans through the common language of pop culture, specifically through the analogy of Game of Thrones:

I was standing at the Republican Convention having a serious conversation with a man wearing an enormous felt elephant hat with Donald Trump buttons on either ear, and I realized I was having a great time. We weren’t talking about Trump. We weren’t talking about the chaotic, macabre, and mostly boring convention. We were talking about television. Specifically, which Game of Thrones character is the most Republican.

“I know who Hollywood would pick — that awful boy king who was just the worst guy ever. They would make him a Republican. But in reality, the imp would be the Republican. Maybe I’m not saying it the proper way … but he rocks. He’s brilliant. He’s always leading the right way”…

Personally I can definitely see the whole of House Lannister as being Republican, and with some definite similarities to House Trump (the house words: ‘I know good words’) in particular. Oddly similar blond and blue-eyed genetic traits? Check. Treacherous ratfuckers? Check. Reputation for greed and financial wizardry undermined by the reality of constant borrowing? Check. Incest? Uh… maybe. “A Lannister always pays his debts?” FUCK no.

Given all that, I could count Tyrion Lannister (The Imp) as a Republican, of a certain standard.  Fond of luxury (and whores), and cynical about human nature, but he nevertheless believes that he should administer government as efficiently as possible for everyone’s benefit. The problem being that the rest of his family doesn’t share even his pragmatic level of morality, being addicted to power for the sake of power.

And of course fans know that after several years of the family treating Tyrion like a freak and yanking his chain, they ultimately turned against him, culminating in him killing his own patriarch and eventually defecting to the enemy House on the other side of the world.

There’s a lesson there for Republicans, and they keep refusing to learn it.




I Believe, Because It Is Absurd


I missed posting last week, largely because you couldn’t go 3 hours without some sudden and different news event to further decrease one’s faith in the survival of civilization, so there really isn’t much point trying to keep up with current events, at least not directly.  But I had mentioned in an earlier post that I would address the subject of whether it makes sense to vote for a third party in this election (this election in particular, but the question still needs to be addressed in general).

Now if you follow me on Facebook you probably know I am a member of the Libertarian Party. Now that produces some reactions. Like, “Who?” Or, “there’s no point, nobody’s gonna vote for them.” Well, that’s BECAUSE nobody votes third party. Once people do, that’s no longer the case. Saying “third parties don’t win because nobody votes third party” is like saying “Nobody drives in New York, there’s too much traffic.”

Why would I vote for the Libertarian Party (LP) or any other third party, when it doesn’t make any sense? May I ask, doesn’t make sense compared to what? Compared to voting for Trump? Compared to voting for Clinton, who cannot do the easiest thing in the world- convince people she’d be a better president than Trump? One might say, I believe BECAUSE it is absurd. Doing the supposedly sensible thing is what has gotten us to this point. Voting for centrist “sensible” Democrats has not addressed the concerns of “progressives” on labor and trade issues. Voting for “sensible” and respectable Republicans has not stopped them from sotto voce endorsing racist, sexist and anti-intellectual influences, leaving them with no immune system or intellectual response to a demagogue like Trump who can give the target audience the raw meat they want with a less apologetic presentation than (say) Mitt Romney. Doing the sensible thing is not getting results. At least not good results.

This may explain the confusion among a lot of leftists who wonder, with good reason, why Bernie Sanders fans disappointed with his endorsement of Hillary Clinton are thinking about voting for Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson, when Johnson supports the Trans-Pacific Partnership (which Sanders opposes and Hillary 180’ed on), doesn’t support a minimum wage (at all) and doesn’t go along with the economic goals of “progressives.” This is because of the appeal that both Sanders and Trump have to a lot of people who don’t agree on much else- these candidates are (or present themselves as) on the outside of the political system that is allowing their living standards to stagnate or decline. The main thing that Johnson has in common with Sanders (and in opposition to Trump) is antagonism to the corporate-welfare system that Trump profits from as a real estate developer and the Wall Street establishment that made the Clintons rich on “consulting” fees.

It’s also true that (as compared to the leftist Green Party) the LP is able to register on the ballot with all 50 states, so however fantastic or unrealistic it is to vote for something outside what the duopoly is providing, the Libertarian Party is still the most organized and realistic alternative if you just can’t vote for Clinton (or Trump).

Nevertheless, there’s a lot of resistance to the idea of voting third-party, at least on the Left. A huge reason for the fear and loathing of Libertarians and other “third” parties is the idea that they are “spoilers,” that is, that they will take just enough votes from the ‘right’ candidate to make sure that the ‘wrong’ one gets elected (this from the same people who say that third parties will never amount to anything because ‘nobody votes for them’). The primary example that keeps getting spit out is the fact that the number of people who voted for Ralph Nader’s Green Party in Florida in 2000 was within the margin to elect George Bush in that state, and thus win the Electoral College for Bush instead of Al Gore. Except that if the margin that won Florida for Bush was 537 votes, and the vote for Nader was 97,488, Libertarian candidate Harry Browne was 16,415. The vote for Reform Party conservative Pat Buchanan was even more, 17,484. Should we not blame the right-wing candidates for taking votes from Bush when fewer votes were needed to make a difference on the Right than the Left?  Should we not consider that in Al Gore’s home state of Tennessee, Nader got only 19,781 votes, and the margin of Bush over Gore in Tennessee was 80,229 – in other words, not enough for the spoiler to spoil George Bush winning Al Gore’s home state, without which Florida would have meant diddly squat?

I say this because in state races where the Republican lost because there was a certain percentage of Libertarian or US Constitution Party votes on the Right, the talk-radio crowd would always blame us for “spoiling.” That’s what tends to happen when you’re in one of the two parties that have engineered the laws to make sure that you’re the only ones who have a chance of getting elected: You think that you don’t have to earn your votes. So when the people who “should” vote for you don’t, you tend to get snippy (as Al Gore might say).

Given that most of the Libertarian-hate is on the Left, despite the fact that even Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney have made noises about considering Gary Johnson as an alternate vote, despite Trump being so loathsome that numerous Republican insiders have agreed that Hillary is the more sensible choice, liberals and Democrat-aligned “progressives” are pretty clearly broadcasting a fear that the third party vote is going to take just enough votes from Clinton to lose the election for her. In which case I say the same thing to Democrats that I said after Bush vs. Gore: IT’S NOT OUR FAULT THAT YOUR CANDIDATES SUCK AND NOT ENOUGH PEOPLE VOTE FOR THEM. And it certainly wasn’t the fault of Sanders fans that the establishment Democrats did what the respectable cloth-coat Republicans usually do, and voted in the old and dull candidate just cause “it’s their turn.”

There’s also a point that’s not being considered by the Left: It is a net negative when a liberal-left voter who “should” be with Hillary goes to another party or stays home. But it’s a benefit to them if a right-wing voter who “should” be with the Republican candidate votes for Johnson or another third-party candidate. Even if conservative-libertarian dissidents stay home, those are people not voting for the “wrong” candidate.

I’m actually starting to believe that the Libertarians might be a more realistic choice than Trump this year. No, seriously. I mean, yes, hardly anybody knows who they are, and of those who do, half utterly loathe their political philosophy, but unlike Trump and Mike Pence, Gary Johnson and William Weld aren’t going out of their way to actively piss off everybody who isn’t them.

There’s also the overlooked point that to actually join the Libertarian Party, you have to sign a pledge ( saying that you reject the initiation of force as a primary means of achieving political or social goals. To the extent that anybody acknowledges this at all, it might be another reason people don’t join the LP. On the other hand, having a core principle that one has to sign onto is something the Republicans could have used to weed out both a flim-flam man like Trump and the kind of people who vote for him. But then, so would asking people to fill out a form asking “Can you spell your own name accurately?” and “Do you know what the word ‘accurately’ means?”

I frankly don’t think the Libertarians are ready for “prime time” yet. However in a campaign where Donald Trump is the nominee for a major party, it’s clear that being ready for prime time is totally irrelevant to being elected. At the same time, to improve upon the status quo, rather than merely replace it, a party ought to have a plausible plan for what it is going to do when it gets in power, which is questionable in the case of Democrats and not at all true with Republicans.

But back to Mike Pence.

To get back to the question of whether one should vote third-party this year, we need to exercise both idealism and pragmatism, and consider all factors.

First off, if you are voting for Clinton (or Trump, for that matter) understand that you are throwing away all moral considerations in doing so. Whatever Faustian bargain you think you are making for the “greater good” is worthless because Clinton cannot be trusted to hold to a commitment that interferes with her political survival goals, and Trump can’t be trusted because he is both too slimy and too ADHD to understand what a “commitment” is.

Voting for the lesser evil is still voting for evil. At best, it is not stopping or reversing the decay. It is merely choosing to let the decay proceed at a slower rate than it would with the More Evil party. However, this is constructive only if one is trying to develop a better alternative in the long term. If you are not looking for or not working for a better choice for future elections, you’re just lying to yourself.

Having said that, operating on pure pragmatism, between the two major candidates the final question is: Who do you want in charge of the nuclear launch codes- an experienced politico with Machiavellian survival skills and self-preservation instinct, or the spoiled little rich brat who doesn’t know which end of the fork to use?

Thus if one still chooses to operate within the binary logic of the system, Hillary Clinton is clearly superior to Donald Trump- if only in the sense that the country may survive her long enough to flush out the political system. But if that system needs to change, we still need to have a practical means of doing so, and work towards that goal. And thus, we still need to grow support for at least one “third” party.

The strongest criticism against supporting a third-party movement in the United States has to do with the “first-past-the-post” system in most of our elections, federal elections in particular. If there’s no second prize for losing, there’s certainly no third prize. Thus, if you’re not already in one of the big two parties, there’s not any real chance of winning, unless perhaps there was a runoff system where multiple candidates could run in a preliminary election and then a few months later the two top candidates run in the general election.

Changing the election process is something that has to be done in the long term anyway. The problem with that is that it can’t be done in the short term, for the same reason you can’t get term limits: In order to pass the laws to change things in the long term, you have to rely on the same group of politicians who passed the current set of laws, and have no motive to lose the advantages they gave themselves. So running third-party is no less (or more) quixotic than extra-party efforts to change the system overall.

The other thing that opponents of third parties overlook is that while America has always had only two parties able to seriously contend for presidential elections, they haven’t always been the same two parties. At least once, one of the parties has fractured or lost support, allowing a “fringe” or “one-issue” party to take its place, which is what happened in the 1850s when the Whig Party, long in decline, lost its position to the abolitionist Republican Party.

Given that the institution will not allow itself to be reformed outside the vote, and voting will not change the two-party structure, the only way to change within that structure is for a “third” party to replace one of the two current parties. Given the duopoly’s built-in advantages, the only way for a third party to do so is if at least one of the two establishment parties becomes so incompetent, so malicious and so alienating to the population at large that voters start looking around for a more reasonable alternative.

And look, here we are.


So here is my conclusion: Since presidential elections are decided by the Electoral College- that is, state by state- I advise that you keep a weekly or daily watch on to get a view of exactly how close your state is to voting for Trump.  If it looks like your state has a margin within 10 points either way, it’s probably close enough to where you have to vote for Clinton just to make sure. If the margin is wider than that, say if you’re in California and there’s no way that it’s going to Trump, you can afford to vote for someone other than Clinton if you want. Hillary, Jill Stein, Gary Johnson… just, Christ, don’t vote for Donald Trump. And if you’re thinking strategically, what you want to accomplish is not just a “protest vote” but aim towards making Trump not the second, but the third or even fourth-place candidate. And again, he is such a clusterfuck even by conservative standards that this could quite possibly happen. This is also aiming towards hitting the “down ballot” candidates for Congress to punish the POT (Party of Trump) for their decision. This unfortunately has the effect of making Democrats more powerful. But that means we also have to look for third-party and independent candidates who (like the younger Bernie Sanders) who actually have a chance of winning or placing in their races. Even second place means a chance to replace one of the two factions. Keep in mind this is not going to happen this election, or maybe even the next one, but you have to start somewhere. How that down ballot work is to be accomplished, and how the Libertarian Party in particular is actually going to deserve the vote, are subjects I intend to address in the next few posts.






Happy July 4th

On this, our country’s Independence Day, let me tell you a story about America.

Several years ago, my long-lost brother Brad got back in touch with me. Technically, my stepbrother, because he was the child of my Dad’s second wife, but everyone in my family is only half-sibling to each other anyway, so we don’t pick at the technicalities. We had online correspondence for a while and then one year he offered to pay for a vacation for me to see him back where he lives on the East Coast. This was shortly after my Mom died, and I needed something to clear my head, so I said yes. Besides, as it turned out, after Dad and his wife separated, Brad wound up moving to a small town in Maryland not too far removed from where my Dad’s sister and brother (my aunt and uncle) live. How Brad ended up there is a rather odd and involved tale in itself, and unfortunately I can’t remember most of it. But he didn’t even know that Dad’s other relatives were nearby, and this also served as a means for us to meet them, since I hadn’t seen my aunt and uncle in years either.

What does this have to do with America? Well, this part of America is right outside Washington DC, and not too much drive from the Gettysburg battlefields. So in addition to Brad and I meeting my aunt and uncle (and their spouses) we toured the sites. Brad took me to Gettysburg. My Aunt Pat and her husband Joe took me to Arlington National Cemetery. And Brad and I met my Uncle Mark in Washington, after doing a short tour of the Smithsonian.

The last time I was in Washington was as a kid, maybe before high school, when Pat and Joe took me to the Smithsonian then. And I remember seeing the giant flag that was flying over Fort McHenry, during the War of 1812 battle that inspired the writing of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” When I was a kid, the flag was displayed vertically, well lit, in such a way as to convey its size and importance. But as it turned out, being exposed to light that way damaged the fabric of what was already a very old piece. When I went to the modern flag exhibit, that giant wall display wasn’t there anymore. There was a set of dark, walk-through corridors showing the history of the Fort McHenry flag, its public displays and the attempts at restoration. And in the middle of the exhibit, one of these darkened corridors had an angled display of the flag remains they were trying to preserve, under ultraviolet light. And that light made the white of the stripes and stars look more twilight purple, and the field of blue look more night black.

Then one of the last things we did before I had to go home was when Pat and Joe took me back to Washington to see the National Archives, where the originals of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are kept. I’d remembered seeing those too. And when I was younger, those were obviously fragile copies, but they were still legible. But a similar concern with light and deterioration has caused the government to move the documents to a new building, and when I made the tour this time, the room was in a normal, but very dim, light, and it was all I could do to read anything on the documents.

And part of me thought, if it’s like this now, how long is it going to be before these artifacts are so fragile that they have to be taken away from public display? And will that be enough to save them?

It was a sobering experience. I can actually say that I got to see the foundations of my country’s democracy fade away before my very eyes.

Donald Trump: The Jimi Hendrix of Assholery

Having already gone over the real issues with supporting Hillary Clinton, I now turn to the presumptive (and he is nothing if not presumptive) Republican nominee, Donald Trump.

But what else can I say about Trump that hasn’t already been said? What new can I say that will not get me investigated by the Secret Service?

Well- as it turns out, Trump started the month of June with only $1.3 million in campaign cash.   He is apparently so desperate for funds that his family has taken to requesting donations from British and Icelandic politicians, apparently not realizing that soliciting campaign funds from foreigners is slightly illegal.   Trump is touting this bare-bones approach as part of a campaign strategy that has been working through the primaries, and says that he will rely on the Republican National Committee chests for national campaign money, even though a national party in a presidential election usually relies on the presidential nominee and their name recognition to raise funds for the “down-ballot” candidates in other races.

Basically, the Republicans led themselves to believe that Donald Trump and his “TEN BILLION DOLLARS” would be able to cover the costs of a national campaign, and having found out that he has a campaign chest in proportion to his hand size, they are now forced to hold the bag for Trump’s overleveraged and underfunded project.   Like many of his other creditors.  In short, they are starting to realize that Trump will do to their party what he did to Atlantic City.


However, Republicans can’t just admit this, because Trump’s predatory approach to business, like his brazen racism and sexism, is simply a bold embrace of a policy that more tactful and professional Republican politicians have been trying to foist on America by stealth for decades. And if they were to admit that strip-mining an institution until it has nothing left of value is a bad thing to do to their party, they might also have to admit that it is also destructive to both capitalism and government.

But the other reason that Republicans can’t get rid of Trump is that he DID win most of the primaries fair and square, and that’s largely because of that very brazen quality. He’s attracted a following through the old axiom “never apologize, never explain.” Trump’s fans like the fact that he fights for what he believes in, even when Trump himself doesn’t seem clear on what that is. “Trump’s honest!” they say. “He’s not afraid to be politically incorrect! He’s AUTHENTIC!!”

Oh yes, because nothing says authenticity like a circus-peanut tan that never quite reaches your eyelids.

But when the virtue of honesty is conflated with the vice of rudeness – often by a political class who have good reason to fear honesty – the result is that anyone who wishes to sell rudeness can do so by calling it honesty. And thus a population deprived of the virtue will embrace the vice.  It’s like living in the most antiseptic circumstances and then finally being exposed to filth, and your immune system has no experience with it.

Other politicians, especially in the GOP, had tried a similar posture, but they were always limited by a human frailty called “shame.” For instance, Chris Christie had developed a certain level of popularity as Republican Governor of New Jersey by taking positions against conservative orthodoxy and also mixing it up with reporters who disagreed with him. Unfortunately as an elected governor, he was placed in the awkward position of having to govern, and this is the part where he fell down. Nevertheless he decided to run for president even at a point when “Bridgegate” and other domestic issues were bringing his popularity to new lows. Going into the New Hampshire primary, Christie’s campaign had been in a slump, and to revive media attention, he decided to take his East Coast Insult Comic persona and kick it up a notch. Sensing weakness in Marco Rubio, he decided to call him a “bubble boy” who couldn’t take criticism or withstand debate. This turned out to be the case, given that in the New Hampshire debate, Christie accused Rubio of repeating the same speech over and over and Rubio responded with the same talking point he’d used on another question. Unfortunately while this targeting did send Rubio to fifth place in New Hampshire, Christie placed sixth.

But while Christie decided to exit the race after this, Rubio pledged to hang on until the Florida primary. In a late February debate, Rubio picked up on Trump’s sensitivity at being called a “short-fingered vulgarian” long ago in Spy magazine.  This scored him points with the media but allowed Trump to complain that Rubio “hit my hands” and made it rather clear on the debate stage that referring to his hand size was a phallic metaphor. Rubio escalated by making further such references including the implication of Trump’s small “size” and of his nervousness. Not only did this mean he was competing at Trump’s level (something Rubio later admitted he was not comfortable with), Trump escalated further by doing a speech that referred to Rubio’s reaching for a water bottle during a State of the Union response, where at one point the use of the bottle became an even more phallic metaphor. And then Trump won Florida, and Rubio had to drop out.

In the 1960s, both the Who and American Jimi Hendrix were making a name for themselves in Britain but had not yet made it big in the US. They both appeared at the 1967 Monterey Pop festival in California. At the time, the Who made their stage reputation from “auto-destruction” or smashing their instruments on stage. They had to flip a coin with The Jimi Hendrix Experience to see who would do their show first, and the Who won. After the Who set, the Jimi Hendrix set ended with Hendrix picking his guitar with his teeth, playing it behind his back, and then not just breaking the guitar but first pouring lighter fluid on it, setting it on fire and beckoning the flames like he was summoning a pagan god, before finally grabbing it by the strap, smashing it around and throwing the scraps into the audience. And one of the Who roadies looked at Who guitarist Pete Townsend and said, “Pete, he’s stealing your act.”

And Pete said, “He’s not just stealing my act, he’s DOING my act.”

Perhaps that explains why Chris Christie not only suspended his presidential campaign but has ever since followed Trump around with a truly bitchified look on his face.   This is a man who has learned to walk in the steps of the true Master. Donald Trump did not invent the concept of the belligerent asshole politician. He merely perfected it.

The real impact of Trump’s candidacy will be in the long term effects on the culture, just as with any true trailblazer. Your dad or granddad might have been able to say, “I was at Monterey when I saw Jimi Hendrix set his guitar on fire.” Or, “I was in Detroit when I saw Iggy Pop crowdsurf for the first time.” This generation will be able to say, “I was watching TV when I saw Donald Trump accuse Megyn Kelly of being on the rag.”

Years after Hendrix’ death, he is still considered the greatest rock guitarist of all time. He practically built his own genre, and his influence extends even beyond that genre. Nowadays every song you hear on the radio is some teen-idol or EDM neo-disco shit, and yet half of those songs still have wild-ass guitar solos on the bridge even when they aren’t really needed, and nobody thinks anything of it because we’re all basically living in the house that Hendrix built. And so it will be with Trump.

Twenty years from now, college kids will be in the student union building, as some presidential candidate takes questions at a press conference while simultaneously fucking his mistress live on national TV, and the kids will look at the screen, and go, “Eh. It’s been done.”