Thoughts on the Finale of Game of Thrones

I thought it was good. The Stark arc is complete, and Dany’s fate, telegraphed for forever, is done and done. Two things, though, about the ‘choosing of the king’ scene, could have been handled better.

First, the lords never discuss choosing Jon as king, despite having had seemingly weeks to do so by the length of Tyrion’s beard. Sure, Grey Worm wouldn’t have allowed it, probably Yara either, and I suspect once you’ve seen one seemingly “good” person go full Targaryen, you’re not anxious to try another… but since Grey Worm and the Unsullied leave Westeros right after Jon takes the black again, what’s to stop the lords (particularly Sansa) from installing Jon as king anyway? Their word?

Sansa isn’t much for keeping her word in this season alone. This makes her declaration of the independence of the North a bit hollow. Also, Bran could have also pardoned Jon in the same fashion. Now, neither of these scenarios changes Jon’s path much; he would never take the job. All roads for him point north. But it is a strange oversight.

Second, on a related note, while I think the clear implication from the initial dialogue is that of the assembled leaders only Grey Worm and Sansa have an army worth talking about, it’s curious to see Dorne and the Iron Islands not declare independence before Sansa does. In particular, readers of the books are more aware that Dorne was the last of the seven kingdoms to be conquered by Aegon, and at great cost for little gain.

Sansa is in no position to force Dorne to do anything. Why does the new prince, whoever he is, sit passively? Does he not know his legacy? Yara doesn’t declare independence either, when there is no fleet to oppose hers. Sansa does ‘vote’ last, cleverly, after the others have acceded, but they weren’t exactly following Robert’s Rules (again, back to my first objection – the lords can do whatever they want at any time).

These are artifacts, of course, of the accelerated post-Martin pace – oversights that wouldn’t have happened even as late as season 6. Still, I liked the full circle aspect of the finale. It’s not as bloody or sad as my initial predictions, but I’ll take it.

“Electracy”

…is the stupidest word that I have heard in the last ten years. It is only slightly above “synergy.” Ulmer’s atrocity seems to have infected a corner of composition that already is full up on stupid buzzwords like “new media.”

There is nothing wrong with the perfectly fine word “literacy.” Walter Ong used it to great effect. Look up the prefix, people. Fixed in amber, that’s your thought processes.

English does not need a new word when the category is already labeled. Use an adjective. Nouns have been known to tolerate their presence.

Using “electracy” to substitute for literacy is a great way to demonstrate your adherence to fashionable trends. Oh no! Things are going… CYBER! DIGITAL! Maybe even… TECHNOLOGICAL! Prefixes, folks. Follow the prefixes.

Sometimes, I feel like I should take my brain out and sit it on the floor. Why are skulls not water-cooled?

The Problem with Executive Summaries…

…is that it takes some skill to write them, and our Attorney General doesn’t have that skill. I teach report writing, and after thousands of graded reports, I know a dodgy executive summary when I see one. They often are used to conceal relevant evidence that would contradict the agrument in the summary – said evidence is buried in the full report.

This case is curious, though, because Barr did not write the report. Rather than release the report, he ‘summarized’ it – without telling us much at all about what is in it. Most of it is legalese. The evidence and warrant are missing.

Of my earlier predictions, I retract only one – that we would not get to see the full report. I suspect the AG’s tepid opinion, provided by Trump, will not hold for very long. Mueller’s demurral to the AG’s judgment is very interesting…

Report is out

Some predictions.

1) We will not get to see the full report.

2) It will not recommend Trump be charged, impeached, or anything.

3) It will provide enough evidence to convict Trump after he leaves office in more than one jurisdiction. NY at least.

4) Democrats will howl.

5) Trump will announce he is vindicated.

6) It will be damning, regardless of 1-5.

7) It won’t matter to any Trump voter.

Precedent

One of my pet sayings about politics is that Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, is the most powerful person in Washington, more powerful than Trump or Obama before him.

One of the curious things abouut this arrangement, however, is that McConnell’s power does not come from the Constitution, or even the formal Senate rules. McConnell’s ability to determine what bills and nominations are allowed to go for a vote in the Senate is real power, but no legally bnding document grants him that power.

Rather, the Republican caucus allows him that power through something called ‘precedent’ – not legal precedent, mind you, but just an loose array of traditions where the caucus defers to him to be recognized first on the floor and thus control the room. This maximizes their collective power as the majority by having a centralized leader. On paper, all 100 senators are equal, but realistically, Mitch has around 50 votes most sessions, not 1. This subverts the original intent of the chamber where the states would be equals, of course.

A few GOP senators, with a little planning and a lot of guts, could slip past this arrangement if they wanted. A rebellious Senate President (usually a junior senator picked for the day) could choose to refuse to recognize McConnell first and instead choose another more freethinking ally who could, then, move to consider what bill/nomination they wanted. And then the GOP rank and file would have to close ranks quickly to prevent, say, a half-dozen GOP senators joining with the Democrats to pass, oh, I don’t know, a reopening of the government, or something else that would make too much sense.

It would take great timing and luck, certainly. Mitch would exact revenge of course, stripping the rebels of their committee assignments and possibly dooming their seats, but the illusion of his power being ironclad would be shaken. And the Senate might even start down the road to being less of an exercise in vote-counting.

Nah, never happen.

Gillibrand

It is good we have a female Democratic senator that is an avowed feminist and votes on the left. We need more. I just wish Kirsten Gillibrand wasn’t one, and that she wasn’t running for president in 2020.

While she has seemingly always been feminist to some degree, she hasn’t always been liberal. This makes her just another poll-driven pol like her mentor Clinton, and casts doubt on even her longer-held positions.

Her infamous takedown of Franken was not irksome because of its accuracy. Despite all the good he’s done in government, Franken needed to go. It was irksome because he was a ridiculously easy target among countless worse – just in the Senate alone! – who would have not so quickly folded. Denouncing him was no braver than announcing she was against kicking puppies, and served her more than any of #MeToo’s collective goals.

Her New York seat has never been in any risk; she was recently elected with 67%. It was just another career move, and a classic example of the right thing done for the wrong reason. This means she will, eventually, advance to doing the wrong thing in some other matter – most likely by following a poll.

Meanwhile, there are literally dozens, if not hundreds and thousands, of more consistent and trustworthy female liberals in politics. Several are running for President. They are all better choices.

This leads me to my main agrument. A unwise assumption that lurks behind the desire to elect more female office holders is that women do a better job in such offices, and the more there are, the more powerful the collective effect. I suspect that the numbers will continue to improve, but as they so, this assumption will fade and be replaced with cynicism.

The likelihood that a man or a woman will become corrupted by power is, in my experience, identical. This will become more obvious only after something resembling equality in numbers is reached. Roughly equal gender representation in elected office is ideal, but let’s not pretend this, if even reached, will lead to better decision-making. It will lead to a better reflection of the diverse nature of the citizenry, certainly. But as more women gain political office, it is inevitable that many will become like the men already there – corrupt and craven and driven more by ambition than ideals.

This is not to say that Gillibrand is at that point yet. Perhaps she will redeem herself during her campaign. At minimum she would have to attack Trump far more directly than Clinton ever did, with the same condemnation that she gave Franken. She should have an easier time of it now that he has a dismal record to defend, but he will not resign. She, like any female candidate. will have to find a simple, brutal way to weaken him without getting the b-label.

I assume here that Trump will get to the election, of course. He might not. Right now, I suspect he will, no matter what is in Mueller’s report.

Would I vote for her? Doubtful. But let’s see what happens.