Sunday, April 28, 2019

Catching up...

The Mueller Report
As Leon Festinger, father of cognitive dissonance theory, could have predicted, Mueller's report didn't change anybody's mind about anything.  When people make a public commitment to a belief, they are not likely to change their minds just because of a little evidence — and the current level of polarization in the USofA has encouraged a lot of public commitment  That leaves the choice of our next president to the people who haven't been paying attention.  Democracy: ya' gotta love it.

One thing every old person has plenty of is history, some of which one just as soon would forget.  Although I like the way Joe Biden led off by characterizing the 2020 election as a battle for America's soul, it's hard to go into battle carrying 50 years of baggage.  Maybe he's a "decent" guy, but if he did win the presidency, Biden would fill the White House with the same old gang of neoliberal Clintonistas.   I don't know about you, but I've had more than enough of the 1990s.

Elizabeth Warren is right: if there is enough evidence to justify impeachment, the House is morally obliged to open an impeachment hearing. That means House Democrats have to decide between morality and politics — and, so far, politics is winning.

The Democratic Primaries
Did you know Tulsi Gabbard is a Hindu?  Did you even know she's running for president? The major media really have been focusing nearly all their attention on the white male candidates: Kamala Harris got a brief spurt of publicity when she announced, but that lasted about two days — and Beto's tabletop antics get more media attention than Warren's detailed policy proposals.  The unwieldy, overloaded "debates" scheduled for the end of June can't do much to change the situation.  Will the media change their ways?  Don't bet on it.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Julian Assange

The transformation of Julian Assange from classic British twit to old-prospector-with-a-man-bun is amusing, but irrelevant; and his expulsion from the Ecuadorian embassy in London had nothing to do with either his cat or his skateboard.  Ecuadorean president Lenin Moreno, despite his name, is notably less leftist than Rafael Correa, his predecessor.  Pressured by the US, Moreno was willing to make a deal.

Meanwhile, Chelsea Manning has spent the past year back in jail for refusing to testify in secret to a grand jury — although she is willing to testify in public.  One only can hope that Assange's arrest will speed her release.  (Don't bet on it.)  At Manning's trial in 2013, there never was any suggestion that Assange helped her access the CIGINT files published on Wikileaks, but that is the basis for the current charge against Assange.  His real "crime" was embarrassing the US military and intelligence agencies — and they want revenge.

Clearly, Julian Assange is an asshole — but being an asshole is not a crime.  The real question is whether or not Assange is a journalist, and freedom of the press demands that he be given the benefit of the doubt.  That decision may be made in the UK, as Assange faces extradition, but the Brits have plenty of problems of their own right now.  Fortunately, they do have another option: they can extradite him to Sweden, to face charges of sexual assault.  If their government retains any functionality at all, that's exactly what they'll do.

Friday, April 5, 2019

Creepy Uncle Joe

Just wondering: if Joe Biden were Josephine Biden, would he be in trouble right now?

Like most other male persons of Biden's generation, I learned to maintain a substantial "personal space" — for me, it's about three feet.  When I greet another male person, we typically reach across the void to shake hands.  Two women, I've long observed, are not obliged to operate under the same constraints: women who are little more than casual acquaintances may think it appropriate to greet each other with a hug.

Of course, interactions between the sexes are subject to far more stringent restraints; but women still enjoy more latitude than men do.  Biden's "touchy-feely" approach always has violated cultural norms; but those violations never before impeded fifty years of success in politics.  His recent apologia on Twitter leaves one with the impression that he still feels his unorthodox displays of intimacy have "worked" for him.  Perhaps they have, in the past.

I find it hard to believe that Biden's behavior reflects a sense of "male entitlement," nor a propensity to abuse his "masculine authority."  I think it is far more likely that some peculiarity of his brain chemistry or his early socialization made him an outlier on the normal curve; but I also believe that, were he a woman, the current brouhaha never would have materialized.  Sexism cuts both ways.

If his recent problems dissuade Joe Biden from seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, I won't mind at all: I'm hoping for a candidate who is a lot more progressive, dissociated from Clintonian "moderation." Some have suggested that Biden is the victim of a left-wing "hit job" aimed at derailing his candidacy — and if that's true, it certainly violates my sense of ethics.  Still, if it works...