A media battering

They hugged after the fight.

Last night Floyd Mayweather Jr. defeated Conor McGregor in a highly publicized (read: hyped) boxing match.

The result surprised no one, as Mayweather, despite being a much older man and coming out of retirement for the fight, as well as being (at least) twenty pounds lighter, had a record of 49 – 0 coming in, while McGregor had never boxed professionally.

Even the way it played out wasn’t surprising, as Mayweather simply let McGregor tire himself out in the first few rounds (as he has a known tendency to do) before walking him down later. I don’t think we can read much into the result. Though commentators would say after the bell that McGregor “acquitted himself well/didn’t embarrass himself/held his own,” the fight followed the script Mayweather had written, and the script was to put on a good show.

In most respects, then, it was a fight that was a pseudo-event. Though not fixed, the outcome was never in much doubt and everything pretty much went as expected. What really made it a pseudo-event, however, was the fact that it was such an artificial, manufactured spectacle. Despite not even being a real boxing match, and with no title on the line (though there was a gold, jewel-encrusted “Money Belt”), it became, reportedly, the biggest pay-per-view event in combat sports history. In the weeks leading up to fight night the big question sports reporters were asking was what it would all “mean” for the sport of boxing and MMA. It’s significant that they had to ask. The only real answer was that it meant nothing.

Even the build-up was a let-down. Three of the four public events held with Mayweather and McGregor, both legends in the trash talking department, were unmitigated disasters. But for a pseudo-event the hype is everything, no matter how good it is or whether or not it means anything.

McGregor made his usual boasts about knocking Mayweather out in the first round, and how his cardio was up to a full twelve rounds (which, of course, it wasn’t). “Trust me,” he kept repeating. It was all bullshit. Effective, to some degree, at pumping himself up, but how were we in the audience to take it?

That appeal to trust made me think of another supreme bullshit artist: the current president of the United States. “Trust me,” he said throughout the 2016 election campaign. He was going to build a wall. He was going to defeat ISIS. He was going to make America great again. It was going to be beautiful. Trust me.

The parallel points to a depressing truth. There seems to be little society can do to defend itself against such masters of self-promotion. One may criticize them, fact-check them, rail against them even, but it’s all for nought. The sports media rightly called Mayweather-McGregor a cynical money-grab and a joke, but so what? The mainstream news media, including most of the conservative media, rejected Trump right down the line. It didn’t make any difference. Simply by being talked about these celebrity brands and pseudo-events were winners.

This was brought home to me in a recent report done on the media coverage of the 2016 presidential campaign. Remember: the mainstream media overwhelmingly endorsed Hillary Clinton for president. Nevertheless, Trump won the war for the media, getting far more coverage, and it didn’t matter in the slightest that most of it was either (a) clips of his most outrageous gaffes and lies, or (b) negative commentary on the same. It also didn’t matter whether what he was saying was true or offensive. His whole campaign was a pseudo-event, like the Mayweather-McGregor fight. Criticism is pointless. Such people and such events are critic-proof, just like countless Hollywood and publishing blockbusters. Did anyone think 50 Shades of Grey was a good book, or a good movie? Twilight? The Transformers? They were panned by critics and audiences, yet they were all runaway franchise megahits. The power of the brand is truly remarkable.

It seems to me this is a problem. It’s a natural bias in the media that, as I say, society doesn’t seem to have any defence against. In the week leading up to the big May-Mac fight it didn’t just dominate the sports news programs but even took over top spot on the regular news. All of this coverage (promotion, free advertising) for a phony spectacle starring a couple of particularly loud celebrities. It’s assumed that between them Mayweather and McGregor took home close to half a billion dollars for the night’s work. A reality-TV host has become president. I know I shouldn’t be surprised or upset by this, but I don’t know how to be cynical enough not to be.

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You keep using that word . . .

Yesterday morning on CNN New Day co-anchor Alisyn Camerota was interviewing former Governor of New Hampshire and White House Chief of Staff John Sununu about investigations and broader speculations into the possibility of some kind of collusion between the Trump White House and Russia. Throughout the interview Sununu kept insisting on the lack of any evidence of “a veniality.” This is what it sounded like:

CAMEROTA: I’m trying to gauge your comfort level with all of this
SUNUNU: My comfort level? The only discomfort I have is with folks in the media trying to create a veniality without having the courage to specifically tell me what the veniality that I should be concerned about is. I don’t have . . . I have not identified a veniality. Have you?

Is “veniality” really the word Sununu wanted to use? It refers to a minor sin, easily forgiven. I don’t think that’s what anyone speaking about these matters is really interested in. My guess is that what he meant to say was “venality,” which means capable of being bribed or open to corruption. The two words are actually very different, coming from completely different roots. The weird thing is, I’m still not entirely sure what the intended meaning was, or if either veniality or venality were being properly used.

That ’90s show

I was at university in the early 1990s, a period that we can now refer to in hindsight as the crest of the first wave of political correctness. There were even arguments over appropriation of voice and cultural appropriation that were loudly debated at meetings of the Writers’ Union of Canada. For those of you with an interest in such historical matters, Philip Marchand covered the moment in an essay later reprinted in Ripostes: Reflections on Canadian Literature (1998). Then things died down. When Russell Smith sent up the whole matter of identity politics in his novel Muriella Pent in 2004 he was very much looking back on matters that no longer seemed that relevant. Here is the first paragraph from my review of Muriella Pent, which I wrote 13 years ago:

Muriella Pent is a curious novel that could be easily mistaken as prematurely dated. It has, for example, a lot to say about fashions in the arts, about what’s in and what’s out, and it directs its satire toward subjects (like the debates over political correctness and appropriation of voice) that are now very out.

Ouch. In my defence, I did end the review by saying it would be wrong to write Muriella Pent off as “a blast from the past,” and closed with these now prophetic words: “I have a hunch it might be ahead of its time.”

Well, it’s been a while but the once “very out” topics of political correctness and appropriation of voice are now very much back in. For good and ill. Who would have thought in 2004 that in 2016 someone would come along and ride a crusade against the forces of political correctness all the way into the White House? That would have seemed even more preposterous than a President Trump.

Whatever you think of all this, it’s clear we’re now experiencing a second wave. Looking at the dates it’s hard to miss the generational ebb and flow. That may be one explanation anyway for the curious rise and fall and rise again of the same arguments, expressed with the same rhetoric, pro and con (roughly, freedom of speech vs. exploitation and oppression). We even have, in place of Smith’s Muriella Pent, Stephen Henighan’s Mr. Singh Among the Fugitives, a new satire on identity politics in Canadian cultural circles.

It’s déjà vu, but is it progress?

I’ll avoid entering into the arena here, mainly because I think there is a basic disagreement over the terms of the debate (or conversation, as it’s more gently styled). Well-meaning people seem to mean very different things when they use the term cultural appropriation. For some, every work of art necessarily involves cultural appropriation, while for others it is an act of genocide. Both sides have a point to make, but obviously, expressed in these terms, they have no common ground.

But why are these matters becoming so prominent now? Is it because of the generational ebb and flow I mentioned? Or the effect of so many highly publicized examples of the phenomenon in recent years, like the cases of Rachel Dolezal (the former head of the NAACP who was outed by her parents as being white), Joseph Boyden (whose Indigenous heritage has been called into question), and Pepsi’s Kendall Jenner commercial (co-opting the Black Lives Matter movement to sell cola)?

I’m sure that cases like these all provided fuel to the fire, but I don’t think they were the real drivers. For that, I’d point the finger elsewhere.

(1) The media. You can’t exaggerate how much the media plays this stuff up, and the effect that has. After the story broke about Hal Niedzviecki quitting his post as editor of the Writers’ Union of Canada’s magazine due to an editorial he wrote (that began “I don’t believe in cultural appropriation”) there was a barrage of high-profile, mainstream commentary. The CBC ran op-ed pieces, as well as broadcasting interviews and hosting discussions online and on their flagship news programs. I think the National Post had two columns a day for nearly a week talking about it, and other newspapers followed suit. When was the last time, if ever, that anything having to do with writers in Canada received half as much media attention?

(2) Universities. I’ve previously pointed out that matters of identity are now the only subject of interest in English departments. Identity politics now constitute the foundation of any English program, and are of far more importance than the practice of textual analysis or making judgments of aesthetic value. What this has led to is the current critical dispensation, where, for example, the only question we need to ask about Joseph Boyden is whether his voice can be established as authentic.

These were both drivers of the cultural appropriation debate twenty years ago, but they have since metastasized. The media, in transitioning online, is far more dependent on pushing people’s buttons in order to grab clicks and eyeballs, going after immediate responses and snap moral judgments. Meanwhile, universities have limited the accepted terms of critical discourse to include only such matters of identity as are now being re-argued. Working in tandem they have made this time around an amplified version of the same debate we had in the 1990s, but not one with much more to say. My guess is that the conversation will move away again after a while, but I don’t think we’ll be moving on.

Tight right spiral

In the wake of the election of Donald Trump and the British vote for Brexit a lot of pundits fell back on the famous line from Yeats’s “The Second Coming” about how “the centre cannot hold.” Specifically, what they meant by this was the disintegration of the traditional party systems in established democracies. More generally they were expressing a concern over the fate of democracy in our time.

I’m not going to try to predict how all this plays out, mainly because my lack of skill when it comes to political forecasting is a matter of record. I am, however, struck by a couple of things about recent developments.

In the first place, we are clearly seeing a total rejection of the current system. Before Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election he first had to rout an entire field of establishment Republican candidates. You really couldn’t be a bigger political outsider than Trump. In turn, his status as destroyer or wrecking ball was the main reason he was able to defeat Clinton, who was the most establishment candidate imaginable.

This same anti-establishment wave has just washed over France, where the two winning candidates are both fringe figures in terms of mainstream French politics. The candidate with the most votes, Emmanuel Macron, is no outsider, but he is a newcomer to electoral politics who only founded his own party a year ago. His opponent, Marine Le Pen, is usually characterized as “far-right” if not fascist.

I think such a rejection of centrist, establishment politics is, though perhaps dangerous, certainly understandable. Large segments of the electorate now see the mainstream parties as having been unrepresentative, unresponsive, and incompetent during what has been a long downward spiral. And they have some valid reasons for feeling this way.

This leads me to my second observation. What we are seeing as the dust settles on the collapse of the mainstream middle is not political polarization. The new lines being drawn on the political map are between “centrist” politicians, often associated with banking and the financial sector, and the far right. Clinton and Trump. Macron and Le Pen. There is no movement toward the left. Bernie Sanders, Jeremy Corbyn, and Jean-Luc Mélenchon have all been widely derided, if not pilloried, sometimes even within their own parties, as dangerous cranks and kooks. They were either kneecapped by the process (Sanders), left in the dust (Mélenchon), or been assassinated in the press by fire from all angles (Corbyn). Some of this may have been their own fault, but however you want to see it the point remains that “there is no alternative” on the left. Which, in turn, means that the centre is being pulled ineluctably to the right. In a recent book about the failed Hillary Clinton campaign in 2016 the author (a Clinton supporter) admitted that Clinton herself may not have been a true progressive candidate, but she was as close as American politics was going to get. Which, if true, means there is no progressive movement in America today.

In short, the failure of the traditional party system and traditional politics — a politics which has been characterized, I think correctly, as being fundamentally neoliberal in nature — has led not to a rejection of that ideology but rather to a lurch even further down the same road. This is not a move that’s likely to help save a system that is in crisis, but rather one that will only hasten its eventual collapse.

Pointing the finger of blame

Donald Trump has become the 45th president of the United States.

I am in a state of shock as I write those words. Even given my poor record as a predictor of elections, I would have thought this was impossible.

In the months leading up to the vote Trump had established himself as the worst candidate for president put forward by a major party in American political history, running by far the worst campaign. The election itself should have been declared a no contest.

Unfortunately, he was running against Hillary Clinton, herself a historically unpopular candidate. Despite her many failings, however, I still thought Clinton would win, with Trump registering only as the last twitch in the death spasms of a certain strand of American conservatism (a point I’ve addressed elsewhere). Clinton had overwhelming systemic advantages in money, the electoral college (yes, this was thought to be to her advantage), and the favour of the media, while he was . . . well, he was Trump.

Her strengths, however, were part of Clinton’s undoing. Her election came to be seen as a near-coronation, the campaign a one-horse race. This suggests something very damaged in American democracy, and voters rebelled against her inevitability, their sense that they had been denied a choice.

Defenders of Clinton made much during the campaign, and no doubt will continue to do so, of how her enemies were ignorant bigots. They were the “deplorables” who hated women and non-white immigrants (specifically Mexicans and Muslims). Trumpism was only the politics of the white working class, a.k.a. losers. No doubt there was some truth to this, but I think the problem with Hillary Clinton was something simpler.

For starters, every election is about change. This has led to the cult of the “outsider” and the non-politician politician. It’s hard to overstate how essential this branding is. Hence Bill Clinton calling his wife “the best darn change-maker I’ve ever met in my whole life” at the Democratic convention. He had to say that because it was so obvious that Hillary Clinton was a status quo figure. Her own professed desire was for “incremental” change, which may be realistic but is not inspiring rhetoric.

But who could expect anything more from her? She had been in the highest offices of American politics for decades, as much a figure of the establishment as any single person could be. No one could mistake her as representing change, and indeed in her campaign’s final days she appealed repeatedly to the need to continue the legacy of Barack Obama.

The first problem, then, with Hillary Clinton was not that she was a woman but that people were sick of her. They were sick of her twenty years ago, when “Clinton fatigue” was a thing encompassing both her and her husband, and she hadn’t been out of the public eye since!

The second problem with Clinton as a candidate was that she was a political operator. I hesitate to say “politician” because politics, at least of the retail variety, was not really her calling. She would admit on the trail that she wasn’t a natural like her husband at campaigning. That was to put it mildly. Though courtiers built her up as someone likeable in intimate settings, she had difficulty projecting charm or charisma. One felt a weariness, discomfort, and not least paranoia on her part whenever she had to appear in the public eye. It was enough to make even the rank vulgarity of Trump seem human in comparison. The overriding question I had watching Clinton over the course of the past year is why she was even doing this. By all accounts she experienced her husband’s presidency as something of a nightmare. Was her run for the presidency an attempt at some belated validation? Or, worse, revenge?

In any event, her awkwardness as a candidate does a lot to explain her curious political career. She went from being the wife of the president, which in her case was a position of some power, to being air-lifted into a super-safe seat in the senate (Patrick Moynihan retired to make way for her in New York, a state she had little personal connection to). She would go on to an appointment as secretary of state under Obama and then win a Democratic primary against an eccentric figure who wasn’t even a member of the party (and who the party itself plotted against). She then ran for president against an even more impossible figure, with all of the above-mentioned institutional advantages providing a strong wind at her back.

Some critics referred to this career trajectory as “falling upwards,” but it was really just a combination of good luck and skilful operation of the system. She has always carried with her an air of inevitability and entitlement. None of this made her popular. If people want change, and look to outsiders rather than politicians to effect it, what can one make of the ultimate career politician preparing to take the highest office in the land virtually unopposed? And with Clinton there was always a certain odour attached to the label of politician even beyond the usual dislike. “How did Hillary Clinton end up filthy rich?” ran the main television ad for the Trump campaign (titled “Corruption”). It was a question that stuck, to be answered (in the ad) by charges of the “politics of personal enrichment” and “pay for play.” Her defence was simply that there was no “smoking gun” or hard proof of a quid quo pro or criminality. This was weak. No matter how legitimate the sources of “Clinton cash” there is still, I think, a lot of native feeling that people in public office should not be getting rich off of it. As for why people were paying the Clintons up to half a million dollars to listen to them make a speech . . . it just smelled bad.

In sum, the problem with Hillary was not that she was a woman but that she was hard to like, harder to trust, and someone people were tired of. The charge that people who opposed her did so only because they were bigots or ignorant was, however, the first (and often last) line of defence of most liberals – and I say this as a liberal myself (or someone a little to the left of that). It was a defence Clinton herself would adopt in her concession speech, taking on the persona of a feminist martyr cruelly crushed against the patriarchy’s glass ceiling while heroically lighting the way for those who would follow in her giant footsteps. The liberal media — that is, the same media that had enabled her at the expense of all common sense and cast her campaign in the language of a battle against misogyny and for human rights — echoed these sentiments. If Democrats make this their preferred narrative for what happened then they will have learned nothing.

The truth is, Bill Clinton would not have fared any better. Clinton, Inc. had, in the years since his leaving office, become the face of liberal oligarchy. This is an over-class – financial, political, business (most prominently tech), and media – that believes very much in individual freedom and human rights, but also in rule by a managerial elite whose attitude toward democracy is paternalistic at best. It’s no coincidence that many of its leading lights are prominent spokespersons for what’s been called “the new philanthropy.” This is a world not of corporations but of benevolent private foundations.

Such philanthropy meant nothing to the American middle class, who neither wanted nor were in line for a hand-out. What use was the Clinton Global Initiative to Americans? Globalization, they had been told, had lifted billions out of poverty all over the world. But so what? What good had it done for homegrown “losers” aside from giving them cheap shit to buy at Wal-Mart? And was that supposed to be enough?

Well, there are scarier things than rule by a liberal oligarchy, as we may find out. I think Hillary Clinton was a much safer choice than Donald Trump. But I think we would be wrong to write off critics of the elite as rednecks or white nativists only expressing the time-honoured anti-intellectualism of American politics. Clinton was unfairly accused during the campaign of being ambitious, which I think was a clear example of a sexist double standard. Anyone running for president has to be ambitious. Ambition can be a good thing. But no elite or oligarchy can be expected to look after anyone’s interest as well as their own. I have never been one to accuse any government of taking a “nanny state” attitude, and I’m no enemy to government regulation, but I look at the liberal oligarchy and I fear its benevolence.

If you’re looking to lay blame this morning, lay it on both parties. The Republican establishment didn’t want any part of Trump, but all the same he is on them. They created the matrix that spawned him and then couldn’t control the forces they thought to cynically exploit. Even more at fault, however, is the Democratic party, which was so out of touch, so enamoured of its own good intentions, it thought it could ride a deeply flawed candidate who many Americans despised into the most powerful office in the land by wrapping her in a feminist mantle. Trump v. Clinton should never have happened. Never. That it did is an indictment of the system.

There has been much hand-wringing recently over the rise of populism in Western democracies. Populism, in these arguments, is equated with xenophobia, racism, authoritarianism, and nationalism. I don’t think it has to be that way. I think there’s a way for a healthy politics to be more populist. Moving forward, both parties are going to have to find it.

Conflict of interest, again

A while back, commenting on a story involving a CBC reporter, I had occasion to say something about conflict of interest. Here is how my post began

Why is the concept of conflict of interest so hard to understand? True, like any misdemeanour that has certain penalties attached to it, there is some room for debate when assessing culpability. But the thing is, we know it when we see it. And it’s precisely because we know it when we see it that we can say when it exists.

I say “exists” because conflict of interest is not a specific action or event. It doesn’t “occur.” One doesn’t have to actually do anything at all. Conflict of interest is a state of being. You are in a position where there is a conflict of interest or you are not.

I couldn’t help but think of this while watching the cotton-candy accrual of controversy surrounding presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state and the State Department’s relation to the family’s Clinton Foundation. The same issue is again front and center. While acknowledging an unseemly “appearance of impropriety,” Clinton’s defenders point to the fact that there has been no finding of criminality (and that through no lack of investigation). Indeed, Clinton herself has said — in her defence! — that “I know there’s a lot of smoke and there’s no fire.”

Again I am wondering why the nature of the problem is so hard to understand, or if Clinton is being deliberately obtuse. The smoke is the smoking gun. Charles Krauthammer’s column (and this is a commentator I rarely find myself in agreement with), puts it this way

The Associated Press found that more than half the private interests who were granted phone or personal contact with secretary Clinton — 85 of 154 — were donors to the foundation. Total contributions? As much as $156 million.

Current Clinton response? There was no quid pro quo.

What a long way we’ve come. This is the very last line of defence. Yes, it’s obvious that access and influence were sold. But no one has demonstrated definitively that the donors received something tangible of value — a pipeline, a permit, a waiver, a favourable regulatory ruling — in exchange.

It’s hard to believe the Clinton folks would be stupid enough to commit something so blatant to writing. Nonetheless, there might be an email allusion to some such conversation. With thousands more emails to come, who knows what lies beneath.

On the face of it, it’s rather odd that a visible quid pro quo is the bright line for malfeasance. Anything short of that — the country is awash with political money that buys access — is deemed acceptable. As Donald Trump says of his own donation-giving days, “when I need something from them . . . I call them, they are there for me.” This is considered routine and unremarkable.

It’s not until a Rolex shows up on your wrist that you get indicted. Or you are found to have dangled a Senate appointment for cash. Then, like former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, you go to jail. (He got 14 years.)

Yet we are hardly bothered by the routine practice of presidents rewarding big donors with cushy ambassadorships, appointments to portentous boards or invitations to state dinners.

The bright line seems to be outright bribery. Anything short of that is considered — not just for the Clintons, for everyone — acceptable corruption.

It’s a sorry standard. And right now it is Hillary Clinton’s saving grace.

As I said in my earlier post, conflict of interest isn’t an act, it’s a position one finds oneself in. And it is all a matter of perception: perceived conflict of interest (by an objective observer) is conflict of interest. To argue over “exact allegations” of improper behaviour is changing the subject. That may sound harsh, but the reason for having such a hard rule is simple: because in most cases proving any wrongdoing is impossible. The accused can simply respond with a blank denial and that’s the end of it. Short of concrete evidence of “outright bribery” anything goes. And outright bribery isn’t the way corruption works, except at the very lowest level.

Look, everyone in a position of power sells access. When you buy access you get something in return, as the worst-presidential-candidate-in-history Donald Trump testifies. I don’t think anyone is under any illusions about how the system works, which means this is just another one of those things that everybody takes for granted but that can never be admitted publicly. The only danger is in assuming that people are too stupid not to know what’s going on.

American election update: No change

In an earlier post I talked a bit about how the current American presidential election cycle may be marking the end of the conservative road.

A point I brought up was that in the U.S., as in Canada, there is “systemic resistance to change” in the political system that is leading to a desire among a significant number of voters to blow it all up. In Canada, for example, if you’re outraged or disgusted by the Senate or the first-past-the-post election system, both of which the Liberals promised to reform (or end), you should be aware by now that absolutely nothing is going to be done about either. Ever. As I said in that earlier post:

The resulting feelings of frustrated impotence just drive greater anger toward party establishments on all points of the political compass. Perhaps aware of the disappointing results from the “hope and change” presidency of Barack Obama, the Democratic Party this time around is offering none of either. The very best you can expect is more of the same.

Politicians understand this, and so we have Hillary Clinton — the most establishment, status quo politician one can imagine; someone who has explicitly stated her desire for only “incremental” change — being branded at her convention nomination as “the best darn change-maker I’ve ever met in my whole life” (in the judgment of husband Bill). Meanwhile, the (political) outsider Donald Trump’s economic platform consists of nothing but tried-and-true Republican planks (lower taxes, especially for the rich) that are now rotten with age.

I’m afraid this has been the lesson of the presidential election thus far. Bernie Sanders, who clearly never had any reasonable chance of winning the Democratic nomination (the party was working against him), got to play the part of everyone’s nutty granddad. Though popular among some voters, the media as well as his opponents successfully made him out to be “Crazy Bernie,” a flaky socialist and somewhat comic figure. Donald Trump, meanwhile, was a madman on the other side, a ranting demagogue who has become another object of fun and mockery: a stock comedy figure channeling the resentment of the rubes, the bubbas, the losers, and the flakes in the Tea Party.

The fairness of any of this aside, the larger structural message of all this is clear. In troubling times we need to accept the safety of things as they are. Don’t rock the boat. Any thought of real reform is dangerous. Change is bad. As Christian Lorentzen, watching the Democratic convention for the London Review of Books concludes, “the young and the left will have to trade in their revolution for the prospect of some mildly ameliorative technocratic reforms.” And even that they may not get.

It’s clear that the Republican party feels that Trump is a nightmare they’re just going to have to endure before they can get back to business as usual. The Democrats, meanwhile, should walk to victory with a candidate who represents . . . business as usual. I think that while this will be far from the worst of all possible outcomes, it will still be a disaster. So much of the present system is in need of radical reform, especially with regard to environmental and economic issues. But the meaning and message of this election thus far has been to reinforce the notion that any thought of change is impractical folly. As Margaret Wente writes in the Globe and Mail, “the greatest danger in [Trump’s] defeat would be if both Republicans and Democrats decide they were right all along, and don’t need to change. Because if they don’t, another Trump will come along. And the next one might not be crazy.” To this I would only say that if things don’t change then another Trump will have to come along. We can only hope he or she will be a force for good, but I suspect we’ll be past that point by then. We can effect change or have change happen to us. The latter course is going to be ugly.