HOT TAKES FOR A DYING PLANET

One of my favorite passages from The Man in the High Castle – in the previous scene, Tagomi has picked up an antique pistol and shot two German intelligence agents with lethal results to protect the life of another man. As a strict Buddhist, that Tagomi is struggling with what happened is obvious to all:

Mr. Baynes, seeing Mr. Tagomi distractedly manipulating the handful of vegetable stalks, recognized how deep the man's distress was. For him, Mr. Baynes thought, this event, his having had to kill and mutilate these two men, is not only dreadful; it is inexplicable. What can I say that might console him? He fired on my behalf; the moral responsibility for these two lives is therefore mine, and I accept it. I view it that way.

Coming over beside Mr. Baynes, General Tedeki said in a soft voice, 'You witness the man's despair. He, you see, was no doubt raised as a Buddhist. Even if not formally, the influence was there. A culture in which no life is to be taken; all lives holy.' Mr. Baynes nodded.

'He will recover his equilibrium,' General Tedeki continued. 'In time. Right now he has no standpoint by which he can view and comprehend his act. That book will help him, for it provides an external frame of reference.'

'I see,' Mr. Baynes said. He thought, Another frame of reference which might help him would be the Doctrine of Original Sin. I wonder if he has ever heard of it. We are all doomed to commit acts of cruelty or violence or evil; that is our destiny, due to ancient factors. Our karma. To save one life, Mr. Tagomi had to take two. The logical, balanced mind cannot make sense of that. A kindly man like Mr. Tagomi could be driven insane by the implications of such reality.

Monday evening's debate, about which there is little I can say that has not already been said or made obvious, was so hard for me to watch that I have a hard time putting words to my reaction. It probably is not apparent in a day and age in which patriotism is conflated with blind jingoism and outward, compensatory displays of masculinity involving guns, trucks, and military might, but…I really love this country. And since I was old enough to talk I've loved government and politics.

In kindergarten and first grade, my best friend and I took turns during recess playing Reagan and Gorbachev having a summit (I was weird). We alternated roles but still fought over being Reagan even when we knew it was not our turn. Before I grew into the eight cylinder bastard engine of cynicism I am today, I looked at elections the same way Catholics look at the Vatican. It was something good, something we could feel proud of. The older I get the more I see the inside of the sausage factory (and choosing to study elections for a living certainly accelerated that process) and the easier it is to be dubious about the motives of the parties involved and the fundamental fairness of the endeavor as a whole. But I haven't given up completely on them yet. Not quite.

What happened on that stage was more than just depressing to me. That inflicted a wound that is unlikely to heal soon and, I'm afraid, may be fatal for the hopes of getting younger people for whom this is their first election to care about this process. Not everyone falls out of the womb humming I'm Just a Bill; most people become young adults and then have to make a choice about whether or not politics is A Thing they will do. How many people checked out last night, and how many of them will never give it another try?

I have a multitude of amusing anecdotes I could tell about the explicit politics of my upbringing, but it was always, always emphasized to me that the process itself was good and had value and that even when your team doesn't win, it's still your country and you still respect that person who holds the office. You can complain about them a lot, but you never really lose. It's just that sometimes you don't win. No matter how vigorously we support Team GOP, the victory of the Hated Democrats was not a life altering calamity. The country is going to be OK because those people also want what's good for the country, they just have a different idea of what that is.

That is not how I felt on Monday night. I saw not only a man with whom I did not agree and who I think would be an atrocious president, but a man with utter contempt for the process itself even as he takes part in it. I knew that debate would be hard to watch; I had no idea it was going to be that hard. By the 60 minute mark I was looking for relief even though I knew damn well there was none to be found. It would only get worse, and the only point at which it would ever get better is when it ended. And now that it's over, everything still feels terrible. The only consolation is that Trump will almost certainly validate my earlier prediction by refusing to do another debate due to "bias" in the moderation.

The part that hurts is not that this is happening even though the people of this country do not deserve it. The worst part is knowing that we do. There is no hated monarch or foreign army to blame for this. We did this to ourselves because we embraced the right-wing fallacy that working toward a common goal will never succeed and instead we've thrown our lot in with nihilism. This goes beyond a statement of displeasure with Politicians and Candidates. This is the first step toward admitting to ourselves that a substantial minority of us see no value in elections and could do without them. Nobody who considers them valuable could watch this and tolerate it.

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45 Responses to “HOT TAKES FOR A DYING PLANET”

  1. other bill Says:

    So what do we do now?

  2. Redleg Says:

    I don't feel the funk the way you do. Hillary Clinton did well while Trump looked and sounded like a fool. It is certain that the hardcore Trump supporters will later masturbate to Trump's "zingers" but I can take some pride that my candidate performed relatively well in terms of both substance and style, especially given the debate format and Trump's bad behavior.

    It is maddening that this debate may have little impact on the polling and frustrating that Trump's flaws are seen as strengths by his supporters. I still have faith that Hillary Clinton will win.

  3. Emerson Dameron Says:

    I now believe that there is a God and He is a hack sitcom writer.

  4. wetcasements Says:

    Nice post Ed, but I'd give HRC a bit more credit.

    I was thinking last night about how, quite frankly, I have no desire to share a planet, let alone a country, let alone a bus, with a Trump supporter. And I'm more than certain they feel the same way about me, someone who's been registered as a Democrat for 20 years or so.

    There really is something rotten in our sense of national identity.

    But I'm gonna go out on a limb and say it started in 92' when the GOP and the right-leaning DC media decided that Clinton was never going to be a "legitimate" POTUS. Rinse and repeat for BHO, with an extra helping of racism. And if HRC pulls it off, she'll forever be that "bitch" who stole the election.

    Sad, but honestly what's the alternative? Without hyperbole I think a Trump victory will give us World War III. So to my fellow Americans voting for the Orange One, get fucked.

  5. Anonymous Prof Says:

    Are you kidding me? This is the "have you no decency, sir?" moment. Donald J. Trump has just been revealed as every weaselly little corporate shit from Hollywood movies since Paul Riser in _Aliens._

    Paul Riser in _Aliens_:
    "Now now now, wait a minute, ok? Wait a minute, there's a substantial… dollar value associated with this facility, ok?"

    Trump at the debate:
    "Now now now, wait a minute, ok? We settled out of court, ok? We settled out of court, and there was no admission of guilt. NO ADMISSION OF GUILT. The Justice Department, right, they were investigating a lot of people- I don't know why, they were investigating a lot of people- and we settled that one out of court, and we never admitted guilt, all right?"

    Trump bloviates about the debt and America losing money. Hillary points out that he pays no federal income tax, and his comeback? "That's because I'm smart."

    Hillary points out that Trump crowed about making money off middle-class people losing their homes. He interrupts her to say, "That's business." Jesus, are you *trying* to sound like the bad guy from an 80's movie? This is going to end up in an HRC campaign ad. People losing their homes? Trump says it's business as usual.

    Hillary starts by saying that you can tune into her website for a live fact-check. Amazing! What a brilliant 21st century maneuver! Then Trump butts in to say, "that's on my website too." But the problem is that his website is down- and when it comes back up, there's no fact-check on his website. Do you hear me? Trump told everyone to go to his website to get a live fact check- and everyone who went to his website immediately saw that he had been out-planned by Hillary!

  6. Anonymous Prof Says:

    My God, I almost forgot my favorite part- his unhinged rant, which devolved weirdly into a declaration that he has the temperament for the job. WTF?

  7. PogueMahone71 Says:

    "This is the first step toward admitting to ourselves that a substantial minority of us see no value in elections and could do without them. Nobody who considers them valuable could watch this and tolerate it."
    I think this conclusion is rather hyperbolic. I usually agree with you, but you leap to an unwarranted conclusion that doesn't follow from the previous paragraph (which lays out Trump's pantomime villainy quite well).

    Of course, I write my post in the immediate aftermath of the debate, which is being characterized as an unmitigated disaster for Trump. If I see enough average citizens saying Trump "won" tomorrow, I'll be more inclined to agree with you.

  8. Aimee Says:

    I keep coming back to this part:
    "…but it was always, always emphasized to me that the process itself was good and had value and that even when your team doesn't win, it's still your country and you still respect that person who holds the office. You can complain about them a lot, but you never really lose. It's just that sometimes you don't win."

    I've taken my daughter with me every time I've voted since she was born. She's four, so she's a little young for politics, but I always tell her how important voting is, and how great it is (and how lucky we are) to live in a democracy. She's heard multiple lectures on women's suffrage. I want her to know what a privilege and responsibility it is to participate in a democracy.
    We may feel differently about politics when she gets older, but I think that would bother me less than her having total disinterest in the future of her country.

  9. Katydid Says:

    Thanks to all who summarized the debate; I didn't bother watching. Morning comes early and I wasn't going to give up sleep to watch the thin-skinned Cheeto bloviate and lie. My mind is made up about who I'm going to vote for, so I didn't feel there was a point in subjecting myself to that.

  10. Lit3Bolt Says:

    The job for defenders of the Enlightenment is to fucking defend it.

    Trump is the proof nobody can take this for granted. We need to stand up to nihilism, white nationalism, and inchoate rage, and recognize Science as the Candle In the Dark . That means being fucking political in the workplace and with family (horrors!).

    My father-in-law and mother-in-law have described Trump as the next Churchill on Facebook. But they will not to my face.

  11. Talisker Says:

    I'd modify Ed's take slightly. It's not that Trump supporters see no value in elections; it's that they see no value in knowledge.

    If anything, that is more terrifying and depressing. Vladimir Putin is a cold-blooded killer and an unspeakable bastard, but at least he knows what the fuck he is doing. He has plans; evil plans, but plans nonetheless.

    Trump has no plans. What he says he wants to do changes from week to week, according to whatever he last saw in the fetid swamps of the internet. Trump doesn't know anything, and he doesn't care that he doesn't know.

    Trump's supporters don't care about Trump's ignorance. In fact they celebrate it. It's something worse than giving up on democracy; they've given up on government.

    This isn't fascism, it's nihilism. Who cares if Trump burns the world, so long as he promises to hurt those Other People who are keeping us down. In the words of Walter Sobchak: "Say what you will about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it's an ethos."

    We're looking into the abyss here. Even if HRC wins, as I wholeheartedly hope she does, we can't un-see the howling void of hate and ignorance that has propelled Trump so close to the Presidency.

  12. Mike Says:

    Lit3Bolt – "The job for defenders of the Enlightenment is to fucking defend it."

    Nicely put.

  13. Tim H. Says:

    Civilization has always been a veneer over something nasty, the trick is "Don't break the veneer". Sociopaths will break the veneer for fun and profit.

  14. c u n d gulag Says:

    That was some shit-show last night!

    t-RUMP unplugged.
    No.
    t-RUMP unhinged!

  15. negative 1 Says:

    I sympathize, Ed. I think the problem is that no matter how you feel about Clinton all we're getting this morning is 'who won'-ism and the rather upsetting view of the dying spasm of Boomer electorate relevance. I honestly thought for about 2 minutes (yes the first question) there could be an actual debate, you know, the kind with ideas as each candidate's first answer was halfway decent and honestly the two didn't contradict each other. HRC's view of what labor force rights should look like (child care, profit sharing being the main points) was good. And I hate to say it but she didn't exactly rebut trump's point that we've essentially decided as a society that we're not going to compete in manufacturing anymore. If it was a real debate, we could have had a real discussion about how HRC's vision fits in with trump's point about other countries subsidizing manufacturing while we subsidize outsourcing. But NOPE. trump came unglued and away we went. The issue is that the coverage today is solely about that. On the one hand, good I guess, but on the other hand I defy anyone to come up with a policy that they heard last night that the press will highlight. Or debate. Or recognize exists.

  16. Dr Robin Says:

    Great post. Perfectly captures my feelings watching the debate and the whole run-up to it during this election. Very disheartening to realize how many fellow Americans just don't have a fucking clue about what government is or how it actually works. I do think that Trump is done for. In this debate alone he uttered ten or more utterly contemptible sound bites which will (or should) be the seed of a 30 second spot. The problem is that the elected government doesn't actually work anymore and there's tons of things to fix in America and the world and no way to do it.

  17. seniorscrub Says:

    From Dan Rather's take on last night:

    "In the end, more than all of the specifics, I was struck by how unprecedented was the overall tenor – matching that of the campaign. We once held certain truths to be "self-evident" – that "all men are created equal" and "they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." These were the lofty ideals that served as a rallying cry for the founders of these United States to choose liberty over tyranny. The man who wrote these words, Thomas Jefferson, and his compatriots were imperfect and in some cases deeply flawed men. Yet their idealism fixed a North Star in our democratic firmament that has guided our ship of state ever since, with some very noted moral detours. Now I fear that the tide of progress is rapidly receding with the fierce undertow of a looming tsunami. "

  18. Tteddo Says:

    My favorite part was after Trump's epic ISIS rant all HRC said was "Whoo!"

  19. Greg Says:

    Science AND the humanities are the candle; the Enlightenment did not differentiate and neither should we. STEM everything is the mantra of the morons too, the people who think knowledge is useless unless a plutocrat will pay to offer it.

  20. Mo Says:

    Talisker –

    Trump's supporters don't care about Trump's ignorance. In fact they celebrate it. It's something worse than giving up on democracy; they've given up on government.

    I think we can thank fucking Reagan and his seditionist crew for 35 years of banging the drum, "Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem."

    Thirty five fucking years.

  21. Katydid Says:

    @negative 1; ask yourself what kind of manufacturing Trump would bring back, when in fact his snazzy new hotel is full of stuff made in China and his clothing and tie lines also all come from China.

  22. negative 1 Says:

    @katydid

    This is my point. None. But that doesn't mean it's not a problem. And we choose not to address it, because our debates have become shows rather than a free flow of ideas. I know; I know I'm naive and it hasn't been that way for years — but where is the forum where we can discuss this stuff? I'm obviously going to vote for HRC and I'll continue to vote democratic, but my question stands.

    To answer your question about trump: none, and none will come back because of changes in tax policy either. My pet peeve is that no one even considers basic math. Per the google the average hourly wage in Mexico (to use trumps example) is $2.43. That's less than a quarter of the ahere in the US. So tax policy, which by definition only affects profits, can change at most 35% of a firm's profits. The wage difference affects about 75% of their dominant expense. And I'm taking about the most generous reading of that gap you can take. So tax policy isn't going to close that gap.

  23. JeffK Says:

    I didn't watch because I knew there wasn't anything new to learn and that, in the end, I would end up feeling like what Dr. Ed said. Right on Ed! But the question that I have is, what is there to learn from this whole election cycle? Is this the best way to vet our national leaders? How do we protect the process from being decimated by an unqualified billionaire maniac? I'm thinking constitutional amendment…possibly requiring more than just being older than 35 and being a citizen. If you were to design a list of necessary prerequisite qualifications for the job, what would they be, and would it have weeded out Trump from the get go?

    I'll also side with Katrina V on the point that the mainstream media is culpable in this fiasco, and the likely drop-out of politics by the younger generation.

    There's a lot of work to do to turn this around…maybe next February, when we are coming to our senses…ice packs on our heads, bruises starting to heal, and hopefully the now constant Trump personality a sad fading memory. Lets hope.

  24. Dave Dell Says:

    What MO said. Only shorter and better than I could.

  25. Skepticalist Says:

    This is what home schooling will look like. I thought we had a little more time but even without making America great, we were shown a few clips.

    We were warned 60 years ago about what corporate TV news would be like. For now all I can do is vote to not shoot myself in the foot or make us look even more ridiculous.

  26. old white person Says:

    Yes, what Mo said.
    It started with Ronnie and continued through Bush 1 wrapped in a flag and attacking Dukakis for belonging to the ACLU; Newt (who said women couldn't serve in combat because they have "infections"); Bush 2; Sarah Palin who encouraged us to believe that all we need to solve large complex problems is "common sense". I could go on and on, but bottom line, knowledge, nuanced thinking, interest in learning and good old hard work are for elites. And god knows elites don't know shit about common sense or the real world.

  27. Khaled Says:

    @Dave Dell, Mo

    What Dave Dell said. And Mo used about 3000000 less words than I usually do.

    @negative 1

    Manufacturing jobs in the US have been on a steady decline as a percentage of US workforce since the early 70s. The raw number of jobs plunged first in the early 2000s and then again about the time of the "Great Recession". (I would link to FRED but that means my comment goes into moderated hell and no one sees it. Look back a couple of weeks, I posted the links to FRED). There are about a dozen reasons why those those jobs went away and a dozen reasons why it's easier to "outsource" now than it ever was, but unless the US makes a fundamental shift in monetary and fiscal policy, those jobs aren't going to suddenly come back.

    For example, the US could take steps to lower the value of the dollar relative to the Euro, so that US exports would be cheaper than European ones, but then people would complain that their imported cars and imported luxury goods would suddenly be super expensive, and the labor cost savings by US corporations that manufacture overseas or buy overseas goods would dry up. So whatever gains the US would have in dropping the dollar value lower would result in a loss in profits for companies, and whenever profits drop, layoffs soon follow, and so it might actually have a negative effect on employment.

  28. skwerlhugger Says:

    Scenario: Trump is finishing his 8th year, elected after a crude but spectacular late-October terrorist attack propelled him into power. Paul Ryan, campaigning convincingly as the Republican operative who turned out to be an effective moderation to Trump's presidency, is the appointed replacement. The Democratic Party, after collapsing in disarray during Trump's first term, has been jabbed repeatedly by the take-no-prisoners anti-Trumpers and ended up with Jill Stein, grown much goofier than 8 years before. It is how the world probably feels today to white reactionaries. 8 years of a black boy, now likely a feminist bitch. So… Stein or Ryan?

  29. Droppy Says:

    @ skwerlhugger

    Wow – optimistic! 8 years of President Trump without nuclear war? Jill Stein and perhaps other non-Trumpians not in internment camps? Utopia!

  30. schmitt trigger Says:

    Negative 1:
    Your statement: "The wage difference affects about 75% of their dominant expense." is incorrect.

    How do I know? Because I am working and have worked in the maquiladora program in Mexico for the last 31 years at 9 different companies.

    I've always been at the managerial level, and have been in countless meetings discussing costs, budgets, EBDITA, you name a financial metric, it has been reviewed.

    Labor content measured in $$, is -depending on the product- between 5 and 9% of the total product cost.
    The largest contributor? raw materials, which comes -by far- from US suppliers. Between 60 to 70% of cost is raw material.
    Transportation, with the exception of the ocean freighters coming from China, is also handled by US companies, and its cost is about equal to that of labor.

  31. Gerald McGrew Says:

    Actually Ed, I'm seeing a bit of the opposite effect. My teenage kids are enthralled by this election, and it's all because of Trump. They were glued to the TV last night with me, and we kept pausing to talk about the human dumpster fire that was being broadcast. They were expecting Trump to crash and burn, and he delivered.

    In my experience it's the "normal" debates with "normal" candidates that tend to turn people who are political junkies away. They're boring and usually offer little in the way of differentiating between candidates. Not everyone is willing to sit through an hour and a half debate over tax policy and the federal budget.

    Also specific to last night, not only was I pleased to see Donald shoot himself in the foot over and over, I was actually quite impressed with Hillary. I've never been one of her big supporters, but I thought she came across as prepared, knowledgeable, collected, strong, and generally in command. I also like her domestic policy proposals. So while I was previously in the "vote against Trump camp", I'm now firmly in the "vote for Hillary camp". While the outcome is the same, it does make a big difference to me and how I feel about my vote.

  32. Gerald McGrew Says:

    Oh shoot…..should be "tend to turn people who AREN'T political junkies away".

  33. Major Kong Says:

    The best analogy I have read about this election:

    You and your friends go out to dinner. Three of your friends vote to get pizza. Two vote to kill you and eat you.

    Even if pizza wins, you've still got a big problem.

  34. Isaac Says:

    @Major Kong, and the vegan friend put in a protest vote for a kale quinoa pumpkin spice smoothie, so he was eaten first.

  35. Katydid Says:

    Queston for Schmitt Trigger; on the way home from work I heard an interview on BBC America from someone in Laredo, Texas. I'm not clear on what exactly his job was (importation?), but he spoke about how many US and even non-US auto manufacturers use factories in Mexico to make various car parts, and the trade between the USA and Mexico coming through Laredo was very robust and profits both sides. I'd love to hear your take on this.

  36. Major Kong Says:

    I know that we fly a lot of freight in and out of Harlingen Texas.

    Harlingen is a very small market (65,000 people) and not close to any large cities.

    The only reason we go there is all the maquiladoras right across the border.

  37. Scout Says:

    Last night's debate was not about substance as much as style. Everyone and their grandmother can look up policy platforms on their smartphones while they wait in line at the grocery store if they want to. But what last night did was show definitively who is prepared, who is adult enough and who actually has the right temperament to be POTUS. And a lot of people were seeing for the first time what we poljunkies have known for over a year – The Donald does not have the right stuff.

  38. gromet Says:

    @skwerlhugger — Fine, I'll play. I have voted Dem for president every election except one, when I lived in a safe state and went third-party. The concerns of the GOP frankly mystify me — it's not only that I think we should do all the opposite things, it's that I can barely fathom why they've decide to make an issue of what they do. But, liberal though I am, I think governance makes some practical demands Stein can't meet. So unless she cracks a book between now and Imaginary 2024, I'm 80 percent likely to go Ryan in this hypothetical, right off the bat. That feels shameful to admit, but I'll admit it — and I have no sympathy for the Repubs I know who are supporting Trump even though he embodies every crass, reckless thing they've stood against for decades.

    Hypotheticals aside, I think President Ryan is a fact we'll be facing in 2020 or '24. A Ryan presidency puts the empire on a timeline to collapse, for sure, but it locates that collapse 40 or 50 years down the line. I probably won't live to see it. And if we make him a one-termer and get another Obama in there, we add another decade or two back on. Stein? Trump? Chaos on that scale is not creative. Nuclear war within the term and/or the end of the US within our lifetime are easily possible results — and I mean in actuarial terms, not hypothetically. Trump people (and Stein heads) are destructive idiots, full stop.

  39. Wayne Ruffner Says:

    That asshole did exactly as I expected and so did she. I'm afraid it won't matter, but I remain hopeful.

    Fuck. I'm too old to wait for the morons to die off. Fuck fuck fuck!

    I'm 99.9% atheist, but Jesus Christ, Mohammed, Buddha, et. al., help us!

  40. Jestbill Says:

    Manufacturing will come back. Manufacturing JOBS will not.
    I don't care whether either of 'em have a sane "policy" about it.

    Just before WWII there was a ship carrying Jews trying to escape from the Nazis that the US would not allow into the country. We've always had a large minority of chimpanzees in our electorate.

  41. John Danley Says:

    If Trump is so anti-government and believes in the atomized power of the unfettered business man combined with free market principles, why is he so desperately trying to ascertain the highest appointed office in government? Answer: He wants the private/business sector to become a direct conduit to legislation rather than merely a subsidizing/influencing agent.

  42. Robert Walker-Smith Says:

    Major Kong, I'm trying to spread that metaphor. I hope that's all right with you.

  43. Major Kong Says:

    @Robert Walker-Smith

    I stole it fair and square. I see no reason why you shouldn't steal it.

  44. Ed Says:

    I don't see a lot of tolerance for diversity in this rant. What happened?

  45. negative 1 Says:

    @schmitt trigger

    Mea culpa, I am counting the raw materials as part of the finished product (like cost of goods sold). The point stands though, because raw material cost is basically unaffected by where you set up your plant. If I was wrong, why would your business have bothered outsourcing? Did they like Cancun that much?

    @Jestbill — any evidence for that, or are we just supposed to take your word for it? If so, what exactly explains Germany?

    For both of you, better written version of my point here: http://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2016/09/trade-trump-and-the-debate#comments