This 2016 vote for who should win

In a few days the world will usher in 2016, and every news outlet in America will chatter about the prospects for the Presidential election.

On November 4 voting will occur to pick the successor to President Barack Obama, and whoever it turns out to be will take office on January 20, 2017.

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Elections today not just in America but in the United Kingdom, in New Zealand and in many other nations are cynical exercises. People step into the voting booth and they think of who is most likely to win. More often than not they vote for that candidate. In New Zealand voters in significant seats do not vote for the candidate of the party they support because they know that by supporting a different candidate who will work in coalition with the government, their government has a better chance of winning power again, and again.

Voting has become a game of chess, a strategy exercise. But it was never meant to be thus. Revolutionary democracies started with the novel idea that voting for the person you want to represent and lead you would furnish society with good government. People would wield tremendous power, but only temporarily, and only with the consent of the governed. Strategic voting erodes this because it furnishes society with mainstream leaders. The kind of career politicians who become adept at surviving in politics through contorting their positions through the years, and perfecting the art of dodging questions and loudly saying nothing of substance.

The more prescient amongst you might realise that I am referring to Hillary Clinton as being one of the career politicians who lives on this kind of subversion of democracy. She has survived through the branding and name recognition that comes with being a Clinton. She has added to this with corporate sponsorship, and a careful building up of her own credentials to create a separation between her and her husband. The result is a powerful one. Hillary Clinton has the power base, the experience, and most importantly the money to be the candidate who will probably win. But I don’t think voters should be voting for who will win. They should vote for who should win.

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Senator Bernie Sanders is a candidate who should win. He is a career politician, but not on the national stage, and his career has been one of fighting for the downtrodden and opposing the nefarious influences that have captured and perverted American democracy. He may not win. But it won’t be for lack of trying, and the more people find out about him the better he does. This his because his long career has been remarkably consistent. Where Clinton has flip-flopped her way to the political Zeitgeist, Sanders has pulled the Zeitgeist to him. He hasn’t changed. A life in State politics, then Congress has taught him that mass mobilisation of people can put pressure on the government to act against the rich influences that hold it back.

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He believes that a society cannot exist while the gap between rich and poor grows and the middle class disappears. More than that he knows that wealth and prosperity are magnified and grown when they are shared. Give the richest 1% more money and it disappears offshore so the taxman can’t get at it. Give the poor money and they spend it. They consume, business and commerce flourishes. Freeing them from the crippling cost of healthcare further allows them to boost the economy by living without the stress of pending illness. Making university tuition free makes for class mobility. People advance through their strengths which can be honed to an internationally competitive level. This is true capitalism. To compete, in a compassionate society that has your back as well as clearing your way ahead.

Hillary Clinton wants to muddle  around with the status quo and enjoy the historical first of being a woman in the Oval Office. People of America, you have millions of women whom Hillary is not worthy to wipe the dust from their shoes. Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin, and Michelle Bachmann are far from the best you can do. Think of Elizabeth Warren, or Justice Ruth Bader-Ginsberg. Don’t rush to get the first woman, get the right one.

I am in New Zealand, so I don’t get to vote for President. I care about this because it affects me, because it is in my interest–if only sentimentally–for America to do well. For American democracy to have a new birth of freedom, and be worthy of the dream behind it.

In 2016 I hope you feel the Bern, and on January 20 a forty-fifth President takes office who is worthy of the responsibility of building a better world.

Refer not to disgusting Bill

When asked about the rise of Senator Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump in the primary season for the Democratic/Republican nomination for president, Bill Clinton pointed to it being a case of reactive politics.

Over the years the GOP has gone so far to the right since the Reagan era, and the Democrats are feeding off a wave of displeasure and pain caused by the intolerable situation left by neo-liberal policy. Democrats are swinging to the left, and this explains Bernie. Clinton positions his wife at the political centre. The only person who can drive forward an agenda that bridges the divide between the parties. Triangulation — that is what the Clinton strategy used to be called. Bill’s assessment of the situation proscribes a solution only deliverable by Hillary. It is self serving, but quite independent of that, I think it is wrong.

Clearly American politics shifted to the right after Jimmy Carter left office. However, the entire edifice shifted, Democrats as well as Republicans. William Jefferson Clinton took office as a new Democrat. He triangulated his way around the economy so as to preserve the system anointed by Reagan, and applied the strategy to social issues like the civil rights of gay people He signed DOMA (Defence of Marriage Act which was finally repealed under Obama before the Supreme Court granted gay marriage across all fifty states) and brought in the infamous “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on sexual orientation in the US military. He was a disgusting president. It is no overstatement to say that Eisenhower was more of a Democrat.

What has happened in America in the last ten years is politics has begun to shift back. There is a new centre, and Hillary has had to contort and abandon her former positions in order to find it. How in the face of a fascistic Republican party can I possibly say that politics is shifting leftward? Didn’t they win last years midterm elections and take control of both houses of Congress? Yes they did. But that was due to extremely low voter turn out. Apathetic and disaffected voters are the bread and butter of Republican success. The GOP still hasn’t woken up to the change after the 2004 election. Obama won Florida, Ohio, and Nevada — all notorious swing states — in 2008 and 2012. He mobilised an immense voting bloc and in the face of that the Republicans were choked from power.

But the movement that was so strong and had so much momentum in 2008 dissipated. It re-emerged just enough in 2012 to return Obama to office, but not the Democratic party in general. The youth form an important part of the movement. And they are more prone to changing their minds and losing interest in things. They aren’t the hard cynics that one sees in the latter portion of the baby boom generation, but they have plenty to be cynical about. Economic mobility is limited by ones ability to afford tuition fees for that high paying job. I think a portion of the vote for change movement in 2008 went on to occupy wall street. And they were devalued and sneered at by the well healed who said that protests needed a sure purpose. The same people in another time canonised Martin Luther King Jr for leading civil rights, and condemned him when he turned to poverty and the war in Vietnam.

So what is to be done? Well for one thing, so long as voter turnout is not lower than 2012 the Republican’s can’t take the White House. Donald Trump does not matter. He shows that the party is still lost, that is all. And what of the Democrats? Well, if Bernie Sanders continues to rise in the polls and secures the nomination then it is up to the movement behind him to stay united and engaged after January 20, 2017.

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He can only succeed as long as he has them putting pressure on Congress to implement his agenda. An agenda by the way which costs a buck and a half a week for most Americans and would make it a worthy place to live and work. Hillary’s response? To pledge to not raise taxes on people earning under $250,000 a year. No raise in social security payments, no universal healthcare, no free tuition, no paid parental and maternity leave.

Bill Clinton is telling people to vote for her. How disgusting.

Lolita

On most people’s bookshelves is a series of works large or small that are unread. Oh we flicked through them at the bookstore, or had them on an ambitious reading list we managed only the first two or three titles of. They are the books that we feel good for possessing. At any time we may take one down and consume it like an exotic food, but if not it furneshes our homes with the badge of higher education. That is one underrated reason why the printed book will weather the erosive power of ebooks and digital media. A thousand books on your ipad is as nourishing to the eye as ice is to the stomach. It cannot compete with a creaking shelf of books–some loved, many neglected–or an intentionally disordered stack on the desk.

The point I am labouring towards with all the speed of a fossil, is that I finished reading one of these books last week. Weary though I am from the effort (I was up till 3.30am on a fecking work night), I cannot resist making an attempt at some rough analysis of the work. It was the best novel by Vladamir Nobokov, and as the more cultured among you will have by now guessed, it was Lolita. Martin Amis wrote that Lolita leaves the reader feeling scandalised, and in awe. I certainly agree with his assessment, and regard with awe the fact that Lolita was published in the 1950s to much controversy, and is still controversial today. It is the story of a heterosexual paedophile who falls in love with a twelve year old girl. People say with bitter contempt (towards other people I will describe in a moment) that it is not a love story. I respectfully disagree. It is a love story AND many other things as well. It is heavy with lust and rape, and the hideous disregard of anyone else’s point of view. But Humbert Humbert (the pseudonym of the main character whose writings from prison forms the basis of the novel (it is from his point of view))  desperately loves Dolly Haze, his stepdaughter, his Lolita.

So we enter the mind of the paedophile. Described in detail are his attractions, obsessions, anxieties, and plans. It is uncomfortable and hypnotic, the way the book demands you to read on and on while it quietly erodes your ignorance of the darkest affairs. For example, the point is made clearly that Dolores Haze at twelve years old has a precocious knowledge about sexual matters. She has experiences and desires, quite independent of Humbert, which is more than parents want to believe of their children. As much as adults want to enforce a stark line between the age of consent, and therefore the age at which it is seemly to objectify people and grant them sexual connotations, the condition before that age is supposed to be one of wholesome, unadulterated fun. Innocent childhood insulated from the odious winds of depraved adulthood. But we know that there is no such stark line. It’s screaming absence makes it’s illusion more potent and desirable. It is also the mark of a persons independence. When they have the right to administrate their pleasure they are across a bridge that collapses behind them. On the other side are parents, forever now removed from certain power.

Humbert is a tyrant. He denies Dolly her right to make decisions, and at the same time traps her with the knowledge that he’s all she has. Her mother is gone (not directly his doing, but he considered it a gift from fate) and she is dependant. He abuses her in the worst way, and he knows it. He is ashamed of it. He even goes as far to say that if he were a judge he would sentence himself to thirty-five years in prison for rape. But he never pretends to be other than what he is, and strives for all his raping and abusing to be a good father. He tries to get Dolores an adequate education, knowing that she is highly intelligent. He attempts to craft a world where she can live as normally and happily as possible, while his pleasure is indulged and maintained.

Where did this come from? The book has a curiously contemporary view of nature verses nurture. Humbert falls in love with a girl when he was a child. She loved him too, and they sole glances and caresses behind the backs of their respective families. This childhood romance fused with the girl dying soon after and thereby remaining forever a child, calibrated the sordid machine which produced the paedophile Humbert. Freudian to its core, all the neurosis and patterns of behaviour have their root in childhood experience. I have never found a comparable work (note that I haven’t looked) which lays bare the mind of a paedophile in such a detailed and arresting way.

This is a love story (as well as an abuse story) because Humbert is hopelessly in love with Lolita. He tries to convince her to be with him after her nymphet qualities have expired (nymphet being a girl 8-14 with a certain graceful and immature body, it is Humbert’s preferred term for the objects who obsess him), because it is love rather than lust that is his ultimate motivator. At first Lolita has her own desires for him too. This is not a strictly active-passive relationship, and throughout their time together Lolita manipulates Humbert, and uses it finally to terminate their torrid relationship. She escapes through an intermediary, and thus does not take power for herself. The vintage of the 1950s sticks heavily to this point, as Lolita is last shown heavily pregnant, drawing on the disgraceful, dispirited Humbert for money. Sex, childbearing, and annoyance. That is the condition of women in Lolita.So on the one hand it is radical in its portrayal of children being sexually active on their own (as well as with Humbert), and on the other hand is locked in the chauvinism and sexism of the middle twentieth century. The hands meet in applause for a book thoroughly worth reading, as well as having on the shelf.

Nabokov was not a native English speaker, and regarded this as a limitation on his work in English. In my experience brilliant writing spills from the pens of those not born with that particular vernacular uttered around their cot. Salman Rushdie is often lauded for his writing (he is from Mumbai), although I find his books overwritten and heavily pregnant with pretence. He had a tough time getting his finest work to print, and movie adaptations have made alterations to avoid the more shocking aspects (increasing Lolita’s age for example, which seems to defeat the whole idea of the book). But no matter what people say in hostility about it, Lolita is a fine work of fiction. Well worth staying up to half-past three in the morning to finish it.

Star Wars Episode VII The Force Awakens

In lieu of having anything useful to do I shall tap out a few unspoiled thoughts on Star Wars VII, which I had the pleasure of seeing last night.

The force did indeed awaken and for the first time since 1983. The prequel trilogy were another genus. Linked, but with  a different soul.

I am beginning to appreciate that episodes I, II, and III were inferior to the original trilogy. I appreciate it because I don’t think I could bear it any other way.

Episode VII is the Star Wars we have waited thirty-two years for. We wanted to continue the story of Luke Skywalker, and in the decades of cinematic denial the literary expanded universe spun off to fill the Alderaan sized void.

JJ Abrams decided to ignore the expanded universe and go somewhere different, yet comfortably familiar. He can do that because the movies are the supreme court of film canon. I am not going to go into the narrative of the film except to say that he does not reuse the Star Trek device of an alternate universe effectively cancelling out the story developed from the original series onwards.

This is, and is not a reboot. It is in the sense that it takes the controls away from Emperor Lucas and restores balance to the universe. It is not in the sense that the characters and style are authentic to the 1977-1983 trilogy. Han Solo and Chewbacca are really there, Leia is piggishly leading a resistance, X-Wing fighters are swooping over exploding Tie-fighters, and the Millennium Falcon is hurtling through space in less than twelve parsecs. This is the mythological space opera that gave generations of teens the protection that science fiction is cool. I cannot emphasise enough the importance of that fact.

I will postpone plot analysis and my predictions for the next movie for another time. Right now I want to leave you, dear reader, blissfully unspoiled. Please go and see Star Wars Episode VII The Force Awakens,and re-discover your childhood passion for a saga set a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

Podcast Movie Review!

Greetings all, I have a very special treat for you. A podcast with my talented sister Therese, who like me is a film major and loves to analyse all things cinema.

Here we have reviewed Spectre and Mockingjay Part 2, and are horrible about that turd of a film The Fault in our stars. Sit back, relax, press play and enjoy!

Mass shooting of disabled people

http://www.stuff.co.nz/world/74683914/LIVE-Gunmen-on-the-loose-after-fatal-shooting-in-San-Bernardino-California?cid=app-android

Today is the 23rd International Day of Disabled Persons, and a mass shooting is unfolding in California with several disabled people dead and many people wounded.

This year some great work has been done in Disability policy and support services. An attitude change is underway to make service provision better serve the evolving needs of people so they can live the lives they choose. I am celebrating that today, with a tear for those affected by gun violence in America today.