Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Triumph of Reason Over Weather

New York becomes an objectivist paradise:
By Wednesday afternoon, three days after the snowstorm began, the city’s snowplows had not visited the block. It seemed the sort of thing that people in Chicago might regard as no big deal — life on an unplowed street. But the snow that covered the street outside these residents’ houses complicated and frustrated their days and their lives. It undermined their faith in the city, but it strengthened their bonds with the people next door.

Garbage trucks had not made pickups in days. Garbage cans that were empty on Sunday were filled nearly to the top on Wednesday. No one had received mail all week. Two residents who rely on Meals on Wheels did not receive food on Monday and Tuesday because the driver could not navigate the thick snow...

By then, Ms. Brickell said, she was approaching her breaking point, uneasy about what could happen, for instance, if a fire broke out. So while her husband worked outside on Tuesday, she worked the phones. First, she called 311 to ask when the street would be plowed. She gave up after an hour on hold. So she called the 105th Precinct station house; a police officer suggested she reach out to the Sanitation Department. She did. The man on the other end of the line told her the plows would be there in a couple of hours, she said.

She and other homeowners expressed a mix of resentment and outrage. They said they felt abandoned by the city and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, whose remarks, they said, belittled their predicament. “We’ve been supportive of Mayor Bloomberg right from the start,” said Mr. Moore, who has lived on the block since 1994. “But it’s really mind-boggling to see what’s happened here. The city really came apart.”
The George W. Bush School of Public Safety claims another legacy. Bloomberg evidently sat on his hands, expecting that his expertise as a financial wizard would enable him to scowl away the storm. And of course it didn't help that, when a few Parks employees were yanked out of classification to run a few plows normally used for tree-clearing, the usual band of clueless hapless schmucks and egotistical assholes were out on the roads getting stuck and causing accidents.

But it's OK because these people waiting around for the nanny-state to change their diapers are just going to have to get used to fending for themselves in the new improved era of drowning in the bathtub. Trust me, honey. When the Peoples' Republic of the Democratic Confederacy gets through with government, you'll never even know it existed.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Christmas Gift

From one of the finest Christmas/Winter programs ever. Wassail!

Blessings to you all, and may peace not come too late.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

They Go Together Like a Horse and Miscarriage

I admit I was amazed that DADT was repealed by the Senate, especially this particular collection of gutless wonders and ignorant bigots. Will wonders never cease? Well, yes; in fact, immediately. We couldn't have the yin of repeal without the yang of segregationist xenophobia, so the DREAM Act went down the toilet, weighted down by the fantasist construct of anchor babies. Sleazy corporations can breathe a sigh of relief that the cheap illegal immigrant labor they so rely on will remain cheap, and dependent on the mercy of employers for their basic human rights.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Just Sick of It

Tired of hearing about what a shit I am because I don't give Obama enough credit for trying.

First, I don't remember getting any credit for trying when my ass was on the line in school or during a work assignment (and I wasn't even getting paid almost half a million to do it). Second, there's a difference between actually, empirically trying to accomplish something, using every available tool, and simply giving in to the opposition's demands and blowing a goal off before you even get to the table (yes, I'm talking about the public option, but also the federal employee pay freeze, and UC extensions, and so many other moments.) I know he's faced intransigence from the legislature, but he has been remiss in providing any substantial leadership to them, as when he spouted off a bunch of progressive agenda items on the campaign trail. and then tossed the health care reform ball at Congress and said, "Lotsa luck, guys. Call me when you come up with something." He did everything but give the Blue Dogs a handjob, those people who stood in the way of his main goals every chance they got, but pisses and moans about the liberals who fought for those goals because they don't approve of his every golden motion.

Second, I'm tired of being tarred as a spoiled sport by media, who seem to think that if I keep my mouth shut, all the good things Obama promised will suddenly erupt fully-formed from the Capitol dome in rainbow coolers, because he will be freed from my biliousness and be able to tame the Republican beast. We're hearing a lot about triangulation again, and Ezra Klein holds up a scene in Taylor Branch's book between Clinton and William Grieder as an example of how liberals are ALWAYS disappointed when a Democratic president gets in. (Clinton reveals himself a real cad in his overblown response to Grieder's appeal to his humanity--looking every bit the emperor whose subject had the bad taste to point out his nakedness. Obama has similarly indulged himself toward his supporters, only publicly, and at a much cooler temperature.)

Even if such perennial disappointment is true, it suggests that progressive goals have been defeated, watered down, or permanently put on the back burner for so many decades that we on the left have nearly reached a boiling point. Every progressive law or regulation that managed to get into the book since Roosevelt has, in the last 40 years, been either rolled back, rendered toothless, or is currently under attack, while the most unconstitutional of laws are promoted or passed quite regularly throughout the land. Even when Obama merely had to do nothing, as when DADT came up for litigation, he erred on the side of the right-wing and let Holder mount a defense of the very law he said he would repeal. (His defense of this action, that he wanted the legislature that created it to make it go away, is the biggest laugh of 2 years, given the political bent and behavior of those august bodies.) So yes, I am angry, and I don't care if that's oh-so-tiresomely predictable from a liberal with a Dem president.

And at this point, in case I can't be dissuaded from treasonous complaining, NPR and John Cole sound the klaxon that I might be treading close to discriminatory animus, and my bile may scare off the black vote. Except that, lo and behold, it turns out there ARE black people who feel very much the same as me, and one of them was friend and advisor to Martin Luther King:
You don't have to be a rocket scientist nor have a PhD in political science and sociology to see clearly that Obama has abandoned much of the base that elected him. He has done this because he no longer respects, fears or believes those persons who elected him have any alternative, but to accept what he does, whether they like it or not.

It is time for those persons who constituted the "Movement" that enabled Senator Barack Obama to be elected to "break their silence"; to indicate that they no longer will sit on their hands, and only let off verbal steam and ineffective sound and fury, and "hope" for the best.

I know politics is the art of compromise. I understand the concept of compromise. What I don't understand is the concept of belly-flopping one's way through the Presidency, and then yelling at the people who point out that you've spent most of your incumbency prone while shaking hands with the people who have their feet on your back.

The Gates of Rashomon's Cable TV Show

Jeeeayzuss. This maroon has to be the sobbiest mope in the House.

If a woman carried on like this, tearing up so frequently that she got a reputation as an ambulatory faucet, her future would be dim indeed. But this is America, where 51% of the population gets an average of 16% of the representation, even though women don't really need any since we have achieved full equality now. So what's the beef?

Well, for instance, here's the post-2010 election response in the Washington Post to Boehner's victory speech:
But neither Obama nor McConnell could hold a candle to Boehner in the emotion department. Last night, when he talked about working hard to achieve the American dream, putting himself through school and "working every rotten job there was...and every night shift I could find," choking up the entire way, Boehner humanized himself. He went from being a faceless leader of the opposition to a real person who has worked hard to get where he stands today. Not every American can reach that plateau. But every American can relate to having dreams and knows what is required to achieve them.
See that? Crying "humanizes" him. As if standing upright on two legs, speaking a language, and using tools wasn't enough.

Or for the Blatancy Award, there's this:
...what a refreshing change compared to the left always trying to feminize males.
The left tries to feminize its males, as opposed to the right, whose males are manly and can do it for themselves.

But let a woman weep just once, and we get this:
Yet, in the end, she had to fend off calamity by playing the female victim, both of Obama and of the press. Hillary has barely talked to the press throughout her race even though the Clintons this week whined mightily that the press prefers Obama.
Or this:
Contrary to popular wisdom, this was not an Ed Muskie New Hampshire moment. When a tall, lanky man breaks down in tears that’s one thing; it’s quite another to see a teary-eyed confessional woman. There is a double-standard, but it’s not the one we’re told: Men always seem to look weak when they tear up; women can look, well, empathetic and sensitive.
Yes, men have come a long way since the days when Ed Muskie's career was immolated by tears. Now, if it's not proof of membership in homo sapiens, it's merely a lovable quirk that's of no consequence in the big picture. But the next time a woman shows emotion, you can bet there'll be no end of speculation on whether she's headed for the loony-bin, or just a cold calculating bitch looking to manipulate our votes.


Friday, December 10, 2010

The Stinking Remains of American Mercy

Why is it that we hear no end of pseudo-horror about Cadillac-buying welfare queens and homeless people with cell phones and single mothers who use food stamps to buy steaks, and all the well-fed punditry and Congressry get up in arms about how it's time to tighten down the screws on programs for the people who have the least, but when it comes to stuff like this:
The Internal Revenue Service has filed a $15.4 million claim against Yellowstone Club co-founder Edra Blixseth for unpaid taxes during the two years leading to the exclusive Montana resort's bankruptcy.

The claim was filed Friday in Blixseth's personal bankruptcy case in Montana.

Blixseth, who lives in Rancho Mirage, Calif., ran the club south of Big Sky with then-husband Tim Blixseth for much of the last decade. The millionaires-only ski and golf resort counts Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and former Vice President Dan Quayle among its members.

...nothing but crickets. What are all those millions when compared to the pennies stolen by the poor? I guess the rich should be admired for ripping off the taxpayers, because the very fact of their wealth gives them the droit du seignieur. Hand over your nubile daughters, peasants, it's The Family Feudal.

Revenge of the South

TPM points out that the incoming House GOP Chairs are overwhelmingly male (all but 1) and exclusively white. True, but what is more telling are the areas of the country from which they come:
  • 9--South/Southwest
  • 4--Great Lakes Midwest
  • 2--California Great Flakes Region
  • 1--Washington State, John McCain Region
  • 1--New York, 7th Richest U.S. County Region 
Note that out of 17 Chairs, more than half come from the southern climes.  They never forgave us for defeating them in what they still call the "War of Northern Agression", and by God, they shall have their revenge!  If they can't secede with guns, they will accomplish it by enshrining politically poisonous legislation until the educated north becomes either irrelevant or exhausted.  Either way, the balkanization of the Union continues apace.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Israel to U.S.: Go Fuck Yourself...

...and cough up the planes, too, bitch.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

The Ones That Mother Gives You Don't Do Anything At All

I'm still confused by what appears to be a contradiction between the recent fainting spells over Social Security going bankrupt and the proposed 2% tax "holiday" from having to pay taxes into it. I also admit I'm not the most educated audience on economics, though I try to keep up, but this does have more of the same stink of cognitive dissonance as the idea that tax cuts to the rich will "create jobs", when the empirical evidence of the last 9 years (and especially since the Great Recession) argues quite the opposite result.

Thus, I find this this Moody's chart, thanks to George Washington's guest post at Naked Capitalism, to be both edifying and infuriating:


As the chart shows, the actions that will help lift us out of this mess made by the rich are the very things they have brought out their big guns to murder, while the actions that will actually drag the recovery back into the sump are the actions the rich are making sure, via their lap dogs in Washington, will most definitely be taken.

As time goes by, I find Kevin Baker's comparison of Obama to Hoover becoming more and more on point. God help us.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Circuses, Hold the Bread

There's a reason why David Chase made New Jersey Tony Soprano's home:
The Livingston school district elementary teacher launched into a list of complaints about drops in municipal aid, increasing NJ Transit fares and tax cuts for those making more than $1 million.

His question: How could Christie sign off on a tax cut for the most wealthy, ignoring the regressive nature of the sales tax, while those at the bottom were getting squeezed with increases like the transit fares?

The two adversaries went back and forth for a few minutes, until Chaudruc, a Republican, interrupted the governor.

"You want to come up here?" Christie shouted. "You come up here ... Let’s have a conversation.."

Chaudruc, who stands 5’6" and weighs about 160 pounds, backed away until the governor insisted "bring him up here," and a state trooper escorted him to the stage.

Christie, a few inches taller and several pounds heavier, loomed over Chaudruc as he launched into a tirade.

"Your wonderful increase in taxes would have killed jobs in this state," Christie said pointing his index finger at Chaudruc. "You and I have different ideas of what being a Republican is all about because I’m not going to raise taxes."

Before he could get another word in, Chaudruc was ushered off the stage and out of the room by a trooper.
I guess he's lucky Christie's muscle didn't usher him into a pair of cement shoes, too. Because this is not the behavior of a public servant, but a mafia don used to bending reality to his will. Would a public servant, elected to help the people of his state, treat them like this?
The oddest moment of the night came when a Haworth woman took the microphone to ask Christie to help her get her house back after being evicted by federal marshals.

Anticipating her question, Christie told her it was a federal matter and to leave the microphone. After she was moved to the side another man approached the microphone and began to shout about the same issue.

The woman and man stood next to the microphone shouting for several minutes until police escorted them from the building.
You want government to help you? Fuggediboutit!

This is what our obsession with entertainment in politics has produced: the election of a person whose main talents are the ability to pitch tantrums and bully the powerless, and whose best moneymaker is knowing how to convert those talents into media circus face time.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Climate Change

In Northern Europe, people are dying of record cold, and schools and airports have been shut down, while in southern Europe, temperatures have been moderate. There is some speculation that it may be the result of the BP oil spill's disruption of the Gulf current. Climate change may also be implicated, if the previous winter is any indication. The Financial Times notes:
The performance in combating ice in some areas seems to have benefited from the lessons of last year.

A new strategic salt reserve has prevented grit shortages so far this year and the Department for Transport is working with other departments to remove barriers to the use of tractors to clear snow-clogged rural roads.

However, the ultimate problem for the UK – and other northern European countries shivering in the severe cold – may be that preparation for severe winters and other extreme weather is growing in importance.

Climate change may be making extreme weather events more common than past calculations have suggested.

Indeed, Mr Muir questions if severe weather is as rare as statisticians sometimes claim.

“The 50-year storm seems to come around every five years,” he says.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Another Dangerous Socialist Strikes A Blow For Evidentiary Standards

Stodgy old James Fallows writes a column, and depending on your addiction to ideology, either proves he is Not A Very Serious Person after all, or applies the Charles P. Pierce argument that:
"If I see a guy walking down the street with a duck on his head, I can write that I saw a guy walking down the street with a duck on his head. I don't have to find someone to say they saw a guy walking down the street with a duck on his head, and I particularly don't need to find someone on the other side who will say, no, what you saw was a duck walking down the street with a guy on his ass."

Update: As if to confirm the very point James Fallows was making, Scott Simon held an approving interview this morning with Ross Douthat, whose original NY Times column prompted Fallows to write the response referenced above. Simon verbally nodded and "yepped" right along with Douthat as Douthat made his lame comparisons again. Not once did Simon challenge him about it, or even play the devil's advocate; it was as though Douthat's flimsy thesis was so self-evident as to render journalistic curiosity moot. This is your NPR "Nazi propaganda". Roger Ailes must be so pleased.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Pointing The Way With An Empty Sleeve

From our Department of Beaux Gestes:
"President Obama announced a two-year pay freeze for civilian federal workers on Monday as he sought to address concerns over sky-high deficit spending and appeal to Republican leaders to find a common approach to restoring the nation’s economic and fiscal health."
Seems he's hoping that throwing a bunch of working people to the wolves will head off a Republican slashfest and...wait for it...:
"Mr. Obama expressed optimism that the meeting with legislators would be a productive and fresh beginning. “My hope is starting today, we can begin a bipartisan conversation about our future,” he said. “Everybody’s going to have to cooperate. We can’t afford to fall back on the old ideologies or the old sound bites.” "
That old chestnut, buy-partisanship, bought with the paychecks of the working class, because for Obama it seems that nothing succeeds like failure. And fail this will, as the impact of the further loss of wages and the domino-effect on the local economies where these people live and work settles over the country. This, even before the next wave of further municipal and statewide layoffs of public workers, when the new fiscal year will require state and local governments to try to close new budget gaps. After all, what's better for an economy sunk in joblessness and plummeting living standards than a good old-fashioned putsch?

In exchange for this hollow and cowardly gesture, he may be able to carve out an estimated $60 million from a deficit of 1.3 trillion over the next 10 years---a move that will impress no one and which will impact neither the deficit, nor the Republican death squads, nor the public at large. Hell, you could get 60 million in one fell swoop by confiscating the 2009 salaries and bonuses of Bank of America's Thomas Montag, Morgan Stanley's Walid Chammah, and Wells Fargo's John Stumpf on some tax dodge charge. They wouldn't miss it, they're eminently guilty of that and more, and it would certainly carry more symbolism than this empty charade, thrown out in a stench of desperation by a man whose head seems to have been, of late, stuffed with straw.

Monday, November 22, 2010

These men are nihilists, there's nothing to be afraid of

Once Upon A Time, in America:

Walter--Alan Grayson
Donny--The Democratic Party
The Nihilists--Louie Gohmert, Spencer Bachus, & Steve King
The Money--The Federal Reserve
Lebowski's Car--The Government
The Girl--The Unemployed of the American electorate
The Dude--Obama
The Big Lebowski--George W. Bush

Walter/Alan Grayson:
Nihilists! Fuck me. I mean, say what you like about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it's an ethos.

[the Dude, Walter, and Donny walk out of the bowling alley, to find the three Nihilists waiting in front of the Dude's car, which has been torched]

The Dude/Obama: Well, they finally did it. They killed my fucking car.

Nihilist/Louie Gohmert: Ve vant ze money, Lebowski.

Nihilist #2/Spencer Bachus: Ja, uzzervize ve kill ze girl.

Nihilist #3/Steve King: Ja, it seems you have forgotten our little deal, Lebowski.

The Dude/Obama: You don't HAVE the fucking girl, dipshits! We know you never did!
[the Nihilists, stunned, confer amongst themselves in German]

Donny/The Democrats: Are these the Nazis, Walter?

No, Donny, these men are nihilists, there's nothing to be afraid of.

Nihilist/Louie Gohmert: Ve don't care. Ve still vant ze money, Lebowski, or ve fuck you up.

Walter/Grayson: Fuck you. Fuck the three of you.

The Dude/Obama: Hey, cool it Walter.

Walter/Grayson: No, without a hostage, there is no ransom. That's what ransom is. Those are the fucking rules.

Nihilist #2/Spencer Bachus: His girlfriend gave up her toe!

Nihilist #3/Steve King: She thought we'd be getting million dollars!

Nihilist #2/Spencer Bachus: Iss not fair!


The Dude/Obama: Hey, cool it Walter. Look, pal, there never was any money. The big Lebowski gave me an empty briefcase, so take it up with him, man.

Walter/Grayson: And, I would like my undies back.
[Stunned, the Germans confer amongst themselves again]

Donny/The Democrats: Are they gonna hurt us, Walter?

Walter/Grayson: No, Donny. These men are cowards.

Nihilist/Louie Gohmert: Okay. So we take ze money you haf on you, und ve calls it eefen.

Walter/Grayson: Fuck you.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Still I Look to Find A Reason to Believe

"Even with most Americans on our side, the odds are long. We learned long ago that power and privilege never give up anything without a struggle. Money fights hard, and it fights dirty. Think Rove. The Chamber. The Kochs. We may lose. It all may be impossible. But it's OK if it's impossible. Hear the former farmworker and labor organizer Baldemar Velasquez on this. The members of his Farm Labor Organizing Committee are a long way from the world of K Street lobbyists. But they took on the Campbell Soup Company - and won. They took on North Carolina growers - and won, using transnational organizing tactics that helped win Velasquez a "genius" award from the MacArthur Foundation. And now they're taking on no less than R.J. Reynolds Tobacco and one of its principal financial sponsors, JPMorgan-Chase. Some people question the wisdom of taking on such powerful interests, but here's what Velasquez says: 'It's OK if it's impossible; it's OK!' Now I'm going to speak to you as organizers. Listen carefully. The object is not to win. That's not the objective. The object is to do the right and good thing. If you decide not to do anything, because it's too hard or too impossible, then nothing will be done, and when you're on your death bed, you're gonna say, 'I wish I had done something. But if you go and do the right thing NOW, and you do it long enough "good things will happen-something's gonna happen.'

Shades of Howard Zinn!"

---Bill Moyers, speaking at Boston University on October 29, 2010 as part of the Howard Zinn Lecture Series. You can watch the entire lecture here.

"Although we have always benefited from the activities of public-spirited individuals, even men and women of great wealth who recognize that greed as a principle of public conduct often leads to perverse outcomes, the United States Constitution was emphatically not founded on the assumption that either citizens or magistrates could be trusted to act selflessly. If my argument can be taken as a call to republican virtue, it is only so within the modern realist framework devised by Madison and his colleagues in 1787, according to whom government is a response to humanity’s inherent wickedness. Men are not angels, Obama notwithstanding. A properly American call to republican virtue is not a utopian exhortation that our citizens cast aside their private and selfish interests and embark on a course of austere political action, with their eyes fixed on some transcendent public good apart from their own. No, what is required is that Americans take a stand on behalf of their selfish material interests and against those of the monopolies and transnational corporations that have captured our institutions of government. The paradoxical character of our popular corruption is that the people have become slothfully selfless, too absorbed by their ephemeral entertainments and petty cultural disputes to assert their self-interest against the plunderers who rule them.

Surely, however, the American people have not become so servile that they will forever submit to the rule of 1 percent. Surely we are capable of recognizing that the perverse corporate regime that has arisen in our country is a usurpation of popular government. Our Constitution unquestionably recognizes the right of a people to alter its mode of government; we have done so twenty-seven times. We may do so again. We may throw off these bonds and provide new guards for our future security."

---Roger Hodge, from Speak, Money, Harper's Magazine, October 2010, from his book The Mendacity of Hope.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Fucked Once More by Mob Mentality

Once again, it's morning in America for the rich white men among us.

Enjoy it while you can, monkey-boys...the demographics of the country are going to look very different in a few years, and what goes around...

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Vote Locally, Weep Globally

Voted after work, around 5:15 p.m., and was told that turnout was around 50%. This is really amazing for this election cycle in my district. What's better is that Dems outnumber Republicans here, so at least, from a micro level, things look much better than nationally. But I have a somewhat depressed take on the outcome anyway. Tomorrow Helicopter Ben will be dumping more money into the economy and a trip to the grocery store will cost even more, no matter who is in power.

But fuck Toomey, and fuck Corbett even more. If they get in they will cut the throats of the poor and middle-class and line the pockets of their kleptocrat friends with the wages of the powerless. I remember watching in horror, after 4 years of murder and idiocy, as my neighbors hoorahed themselves hoarse for another 4 years of Bush. I realized then as never before that there really was no underestimating the intelligence, or the meanness, of the American public. And now, whaddya know? Here we are again, back at the old same place, faced with the prospect that the droolings of these class clowns will once again take the place of public policy and statecraft, and that their oily squirmings under the watchful eye of the robber barons will grease the old wealth re-distribution sewer that flows upward, ever upward, forever and ever, amen.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Arm in Arm Down Burgundy, A Bottle and My Friends and Me

Good news for the self-medicating among us:
Researchers at the Institute for Regenerative Medicine at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center have reached an early, but important, milestone in the quest to grow replacement livers in the lab. They are the first to use human liver cells to successfully engineer miniature livers that function – at least in a laboratory setting – like human livers. The next step is to see if the livers will continue to function after transplantation in an animal model.
This bodes well for those of us who, anticipating a Republican rout at the polls, will be doubling down on our retreat from reality via the bottle. How did they do it? It's the kind of story that makes one cry out passionately for photos and diagrams:
To engineer the organs, the scientists used animal livers that were treated with a mild detergent to remove all cells (a process called decellularization), leaving only the collagen "skeleton" or support structure. They then replaced the original cells with two types of human cells: immature liver cells known as progenitors, and endothelial cells that line blood vessels.

The cells were introduced into the liver skeleton through a large vessel that feeds a system of smaller vessels in the liver. This network of vessels remains intact after the decellularization process. The liver was next placed in a bioreactor, special equipment that provides a constant flow of nutrients and oxygen throughout the organ.

After a week in the bioreactor system, the scientists documented the progressive formation of human liver tissue, as well as liver-associated function. They observed widespread cell growth inside the bioengineered organ.
Wow. And for those of us who despise the animal holocaust of R&D experimentation, there's also this:
Bioengineered livers could also be useful for evaluating the safety of new drugs. “This would more closely mimic drug metabolism in the human liver, something that can be difficult to reproduce in animal models," said Baptista.
Forget the political world for a minute. Because science--you know, that area of human knowledge that has been pretty much shat on and flushed down the toilet of right wing minds--science is so full of wonders happening so fast now that if we don't pay close attention, we are going to wake up one day in a world we don't even recognize, one that our politics will be useless to comprehend.

Have a tall cool one on me this weekend, and don't fret about your liver. It's OK. They'll make more.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Steal the Vote, Take 3

The fools are up doin' it again:
The group is also organizing volunteer “surveillance squads” to photograph and videotape suspected irregularities, and in some cases to follow buses that take voters to the polls.
In the days before the Right broke democracy, the cops used to call that kind of behavior "intimidation" and "criminal threatening" and "conspiracy", and charges would be laid. Now these people have had their way so long that they feel free to curb-stomp liberals without compunction at their masters' rallies.

Just all in a day's work for the useful idiots in the plutocrats' Sturmabteilung.

Massive Attack via Bag News Notes.

Corporate Welfare, Come Hell or High Water

Good news for them that's got:

Ford Posts 6th Straight Profitable Quarter

The Ford Motor Company said on Tuesday that it earned $1.7 billion in the third quarter and that it expected to have zero net debt by the end of December, one year ahead of forecast.

It was the sixth consecutive profitable quarter and the best third quarter in more than 20 years for Ford...

...Ford has been able to accelerate its turnaround, without much help from the economy, by not only selling more vehicles but increasing the average price buyers pay.

And for this they get a nearly half billion dollar tax break from one of the most economically hard-hit states in the union, and the chance to employ 900 workers at the bargain rate of $14 an hour in a state that lost more than 800,000 jobs between 2000 and 2009.

They've got the state pinned to the ground and they know it. Nice of Granholm to help them rape it while it's down there.

Monday, October 25, 2010

To Be Fair

Bitter as I am about what I see as Obama's betrayals of his own articulated principles (public option, DADT, civil liberties and privacy issues under the Patriot Act and Military Commissions Act, failure to hold criminal executive actions under Bush accountable, and expansion of the unitary executive privilege since Bush), I think this, written by The New Yorker's Hendrik Hertzberg, is a fair summation of the current mess, which is not Obama's fault:
Obama is no more to blame for the Great Recession than F.D.R. was for the Great Depression. But the longest and deepest mass suffering has occurred with Obama in the White House and Democrats holding a majority in (if not always in control of) our two national legislatures. That—more than tea parties, more than Fox News, more than the scores of millions of anonymous corporate dollars poured into negative campaign advertising courtesy of five Justices of the Supreme Court—is why, next Tuesday, the Republican Party is overwhelmingly likely to retake the House of Representatives outright and, at the very least, to augment its share of seats in the Senate enough to make its veto power absolute.

From the outset, the Republican legislative strategy has been to reject any hint of compromise in favor of making unprecedentedly ruthless use of Senate filibusters and threats of filibusters in order to thwart or weaken everything the Democrats seek to do, the better to attack them for lack of accomplishment. In this way, four hundred and twenty bills passed by the House (which is fifty-nine-per-cent Democratic) have died in the Senate (also fifty-nine-per-cent Democratic). Even among the small minority of voters who have some familiarity with Senate rules and their baneful consequences, few know that the Democrats had their filibuster-proof majority—sixty votes, not all of them reliable—for just seven of the Obama Administration’s twenty-one months. Under the circumstances, the record is impressive: a health-care program that will cover twenty million of the uninsured while restraining costs; partial reform of the financial industry; the rescue of the American auto industry, saving a million jobs; and a fiscal stimulus—$814 billion of tax cuts, infrastructure projects, and help for states and cities—without which, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, today’s unemployment rate would be pushing twelve per cent.

It is often said that Obama—in 2008, a gifted orator with minimal national experience—has been better, as President, at “governing” than at “politics.” His fitful attempts to present his programs as a coherent, compelling whole have been a failure. He seldom offers the consolation of anger; his instinct for comity can look, to some, like detachment, even weakness. His supporters are worried, sometimes dispirited; his enemies are full of passionate intensity. The Republicans offer plenty of rage and resentment, but nothing of substance beyond fulminations about a deficit that their proposals—more and bigger tax cuts for the comfortable, the gutting of health-care reform—would exacerbate. President Obama and the Democrats kept the Great Recession from becoming a second Great Depression. But the presence of pain is more keenly felt than the absence of agony
That said, his jettisoning of progressive supporters and their goals, which he once pretended were also his, is hard to forgive, and maybe if he had tried as hard to justify their faith in him as he did to mollify his enemies, his party would not be looking down the barrel of Sarah Palin's re-load.

Pity for us all, because the future, should the Right manage their takeover, looks like more of the same.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Thoughts for the Election Season

Via Yves Smith, here's a powerful kick in the teeth: Chris Hedges speaking in Troy, NY on October 15, 2010. You don't have to agree with him. You don't even have to believe him. But you need to admit the truth in what he says. Like it or not, the best efforts of progressive activists over the past 10 years have failed--really failed--to make any appreciable difference. Liberals have lied themselves into believing that they are independent of special interests, when in truth they sold themselves into the bondage of corporate control years ago. When is the last time you heard a Democrat stand up in public for the working class, the weak, the powerless, or the poor? Paraphrasing his quote of Daniel Berrigan, "If voting were effective, it would be illegal."

Thursday, October 21, 2010

This Was Like Finally Lancing A Boil

Everyone's been so busy parsing out the superficial reasons for NPR's terminationof Juan Williams (political corectness! Muslim-bashing!) that they seem to have missed the real one--this tidbit offered at the end of the NY Times article:
Mr. Williams’s contributions on Fox raised eyebrows at NPR in the past. In February 2009, NPR said it had asked that he stop being identified on “The O’Reilly Factor” as a “senior correspondent for NPR,” even though that title was accurate.

Alicia C. Shepard, the NPR ombudswoman, said at the time that Mr. Williams was a “lightning rod” for the public radio organization in part because he “tends to speak one way on NPR and another on Fox.”

Ms. Shepard said she had received 378 listener e-mails in 2008 listing complaints and frustrations about Mr. Williams.
And one of those e-mails came from my household. Williams long ago gave up any pretense of journalistic integrity, and has been talking out of both sides of his mouth and trashing Democrats for years now. In fact it has amazed us in Riggsvedaland how he managed to hang on to his job this long. He layered his own political views over what should have been unbiased reporting so reliably that while he was still a reporter NPR changed his position to "analyst" to let him keep working. Good riddance. And BTW, wingers, the constitution guarantees that the government, not your employer, must allow you to speak your mind. Williams probably belongs to a union, and can grieve the issue if he wishes. If he doesn't, oh, well, that's life in the brave new right-wing free-market world.

UPDATE: Squirrel!! Clearly the problems facing the country pale beside the firing of some talking head that most of the outraged masses wouldn't have known from Eddie Haskell until last week.

UPDATE 2: And please, enough of this. Williams compromised himself and NPR as journalists practically every fucking time he opened his mouth. Everyday in my real life I work on cases where individuals' civil rights have been violated, and this man was in no way a victim of a) hate speech, or b) an abridgment of his right to free speech. There are certain things I cannot talk about, and things I cannot do, because they will violate my employer's standard for ethical employee actions, things that most other people are allowed to do. This does NOT make me a victim of civil rights violations, and if I repeatedly choose to violate those standards and get canned, that does not make me another Emmett Till. The best and most sensible comment yet made about this was by James Wolcott, who wrote:
When the camera is on Poor Juan, he begins to wobble, unsure of himself, trapped in enemy territory and suffering Hamlet indecision. The war was a bad idea--but we can't pull out, can we?--drilling in Alaska--it's gotta be bad for the caribou or whatever's up there--but these conservatives make a lotta sense--I can't see me driving a solar car anytime soon--oh God now they're going to bring up partial birth abortion--I guess I'm against that but I'm also for a woman's right to choose--I wish the other guys would stop glaring--Brit looks like he's about to snap at me again, and Fred--Fred's snickering again--Fred's always snickering at me!--someday I'm going to stuff those snickers down his throat! Then, his eardrums beating from the pressure of the voices in his head that won't leave him alone, Juan often concedes the argument but shakes his head to show he's not fully convinced, his way of salvaging some scrap of dignity. We will know this pressurized process is complete the day Williams walks into the Washington studio as a black man and walks out as a disgruntled honky--then he'll really blend.
Well, clearly that day has come and such a relief it must be for Williams, able to capitulate to conservative middle-aged white men without having to fret about whatever flak he might get back home at NPR. After his craven flying Muslim comments, which originated let us recall with his deferential pandering to Bill O'Reilly's bullying need for validation, his contract was terminated by NPR and Fox News snapped him up for $2 million. Within 72 hours, Williams has gone from a muddled sincere victim of sound-bite to full Bernie Goldberg blowhard apostate. From Talking Points Memo:
Here's Juan from this morning on the events of recent days: "This is evidence of one-party rule and one sided thinking at NPR that leads to enforced ideology, speech and writing. It leads to people, especially journalists, being sent to the gulag for raising the wrong questions and displaying independence of thought."

One-party rule? The Gulag? The gulag of Fox News chat millionaires.
Well, now he can Uncle Tom to his heart's content and feel like he's Solzhenitsyn.
Oh, and as an aside, I'm finally pretty sick of this asshole and his bipartisan fantasy wanks.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Study in Contrasts

In Europe they know how to handle this kind of thing:
Company Head Arrested Over Sludge Torrent in Hungary
Here we would put him in charge of the clean-up, then let him chase journalists away from the spill site and feed bullshit statistics to the government, after which everyone would puff up and brag about how they never let him get away with a thing. Because conventional wisdom in the U.S. would be that the worst possible punishment is to take away the goddamn bonus and do a lateral transfer.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

An Education Omnibus

As the War on Teachers heats up, substituting for real hard discussion about exactly what education and schools should be expected to do, it occurred to me that it would be a good idea to source a number of essays, past and present, from genuine experts (as opposed to pundits and politicians), and bring them all together. As you will find, Harper's Magazine provides most of the material, which only underlines the essential nature of the publication in American life. And yes, I cite myself twice, with no apologies. What's a blog for, after all?


Why Johnny Can't Think by Walter Karp: "The public schools we have today are what the powerful and the considerable have made of them. They will not be redeemed by trifling reforms. Merit pay, a longer school year, more homework, special schools for "the gifted," and more standardized tests will not even begin to turn our public schools into nurseries of "informed, active and questioning citizens." They are not meant to. When the authors of A Nation at Risk call upon the schools to create an "educated work force," they are merely sanctioning the prevailing corruption, which consists precisely in the reduction of citizens to credulous workers. The education of a free people will not come from federal bureaucrats crying up "excellence" for "economic growth," any more than it came from their predecessors who cried up schooling as a means to "get a better job."

Only ordinary citizens can rescue the schools from their stifling corruption, for nobody else wants ordinary children to become questioning citizens at all. If we wait for the mighty to teach America's youth what secures or endangers their freedom, we will wait until the crack of doom."

Still Separate, Still Unequal by Jonathan Kozol: "There is, indeed, a seemingly agreed-upon convention in much of the media today not even to use an accurate descriptor like "racial segregation" in a narrative description of a segregated school. Linguistic sweeteners, semantic somersaults, and surrogate vocabularies are repeatedly employed. Schools in which as few as 3 or 4 percent of students may be white or Southeast Asian or of Middle Eastern origin, for instance-and where every other child in the building is black or Hispanic are referred to as "diverse." Visitors to schools like these discover quickly the eviscerated meaning of the word, which is no longer a proper adjective but a euphemism for a plainer word that has apparently become unspeakable."

The Ninth Circle of Education
by Riggsveda: "And while Bush's experiments in education as governor of Texas were part of his "Education President" election platform that gave rise to the current testing craze fueling his NCLB program, it's worth recalling that the result of the Texas experiment was a tapestry of lies and hokum that relied on cooked data whose underlying fabrications were all too readily overlooked by an administration eager to crow about its success. And it's also worth recalling that the majority of these wasted efforts were aimed at poor and minority schools, whose students remain about as badly off as they were when compassionate George stalked the Austin mansion."

Schoolhouse Crock by Peter Schrag: "Americans are far too hung up on the notion that in some past golden age the schools were better; When was there ever such an age? The people who blame the schools for today's ills are themselves products of schools that were under attack for similar failings a couple of generations ago. Are the schools good enough? Of course not. But then, they never were. And as long as we expect schools to solve every cultural and economic challenge the United States faces in an ever-evolving world, as long as we continue to tinker with them as if they were training facilities for warriors in cold wars still to come, they never will be. Perhaps it is time we thought of schools as places where our children might simply learn something--not just for our benefit, not just for the nation's, but for their own."

Against School by John Taylor Gatto: "Men like George Peabody, who funded the cause of mandatory schooling throughout the South, surely understood that the Prussian system was useful in creating not only a harmless electorate and a servile labor force but also a virtual herd of mindless consumers. In time a great number of industrial titans came to recognize the enormous profits to be had by cultivating and tending just such a herd via public education, among them Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller."

The Creation of a Gamma Class Redux by Riggsveda: "Eliminate meaningful education, eliminate the means to get one, and remove the books and other human communications that could enable one to get an education on one's own. Demonize the mere idea of being educated, and the people themselves will do the rest. The fat cats can sit back and let the money roll in, while the endless supply of coolies keep coming down the pipeline."

From The Death and Life of the Great American School System by Diane Ravitch: "And so it happened that the Gates, Walton, and Broad foundations came to exercise vast influence over American education. These foundations set the policy agenda not only for school districts, but also for states and even the U.S. Department of Education. There is something fundamentally antidemocratic about relinquishing control of the public education policy agenda to private foundations run by society’s wealthiest people. These foundations, no matter how worthy and high-minded, are not subject to public oversight or review, as a public agency would be. They have taken it upon themselves to reform public education, perhaps in ways that would never survive the scrutiny of voters in any district or state. If voters don’t like the foundations’ reform agenda, they can’t vote them out of office. The foundations demand that public schools and teachers be held accountable for performance, but they themselves are accountable to no one. If their plans fail, no sanctions are levied against them.

The foundations justify their assertive agenda by pointing to the persistently low performance of public schools in urban districts. Having seen so little progress over recent years, they now seem determined to privatize public education to the greatest extent possible. They are allocating millions of dollars to increase the number of charter schools. They assume that if children are attending privately managed schools, and if teachers and principals are recruited from nontraditional backgrounds, then student achievement will improve dramatically. They base this conclusion on the success of a handful of high-visibility charter schools (including KIPP, Achievement First, and Uncommon Schools) that in 2009 accounted for about 300 of the nation’s approximately 4,600 charter schools.

If we continue on the present course, with big foundations and the federal government investing heavily in opening more charter schools, the result is predictable. Charter schools in urban centers will enroll the motivated children of the poor, while the regular public schools will become schools of last resort for those who never applied or were rejected. The regular public schools will enroll a disproportionate share of students with learning disabilities and students who are classified as English-language learners; they will enroll the kids from the most troubled home circumstances, the ones with the worst attendance records and the lowest grades and test scores."

Here's an insider's view into some of the worst schools in the country:
"One of the big issues, the teachers say, is dealing with the administration.

“I think I met [my principal], like, twice last year,” says Amanda, who teaches 11th-grade English at a large, high-poverty West Philly high school that’s also regularly on the district’s Persistently Dangerous Schools list.*

Danza met with Northeast Principal Linda Carroll for a few one-on-one chats in his first week alone.

“If this doesn’t work … you’re out,” Carroll says. “With that said, I want to welcome you, and let you know that we’ll give you everything you need to get the job done.”

That’s probably not entirely true considering many district teachers pay for school supplies themselves, a fact not mentioned in the first episode. Amanda rattles off a list of things she supplied herself last year: “A projector, paper, pencils for the kids to write with, notebooks, books, access to computers—I purchased two netbooks last year, one of them got stolen.”

Beth, who teaches 10th-grade English at the same school as Amanda, and Cassidy want disciplinary support. “There are no school-wide consequences for a kid showing up to my class 10 minutes late every single day and not doing a damn thing—there’s nowhere to send her during school time,” Beth says.

For nonviolent offenses, at many underprivileged schools it often falls on the teacher to hold detention and call parents. Cassidy adds that almost anything, short of violence, could happen to her without punishment from above. “They can curse you out, they can call you a bitch, they can walk out, then the other kids start to see that there’s no consequences.”

Which the teachers say is another big problem: the rampant institutionalized indifference—an earbuds-in atmosphere of openly not giving a shit...

The teachers agree that a lot of their students swear constantly—the words pussy, bitch, fuck and faggot are “like prepositions,” Amanda says—but you won’t get proof of that in the show.

And the screening process is even more obvious when the teachers point to a consipcuous lack of pregnancy at Northeast. The three nonmagnet teachers estimate that one out of five girls in their schools is pregnant or has a child, and statistics from the Pennsylvania Department of Health back them up.

Even Danza’s workload vastly differed; he taught only one double-length class of 26 students, when most teachers have five periods and about 150 different students."

Charter schools, on the other hand, can pick and choose their students (even those chosen by lottery can be rejected for cause), and do not have to retain difficult students. Yet they, too, are turning out to be less than the perfect alternative once thought. Studies indicate that they generally fail to make much appreciable difference in the ability of students to perform, even though the kids self-select via their own and their parents' preferences for learning. And now some of the consequences of building an education system along a free-market-corporate-model line are coming into focus:
"Wealthy investors and major banks have been making windfall profits by using a little-known federal tax break to finance new charter-school construction.

The program, the New Markets Tax Credit, is so lucrative that a lender who uses it can almost double his money in seven years...But many of those same schools are now straining to pay escalating rents, which are going toward the debt service that Brighter Choice incurred during construction...Meanwhile, all the Albany charter schools haven't achieved the enrollment levels their founders expected, even after recruiting hundreds of students from suburban school districts to fill their seats.

The result has been less money in per-pupil state aid to pay operating costs, including those big rent bills. Several charters have fallen into additional debt to the Brighter Choice Foundation."
For this we see our public school resources diverted.

No wonder we stopped believing in science.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Jim DeMint Lies Down With Fleas, Gets Up With the Witchfinder General

And while we're on the subject of Christian persection---it appears Jim DeMint is using a Christian Reconstructionist organization to achieve his right-wing political ends:
American Vision is a Christian Reconstructionist organization that publishes books and newsletters, runs a discussion board, a web-based radio show, and annual conferences and engages in other activities to promote the dominionist views of its founder Gary DeMar, as well as those of one of its most well-known associates, Gary North, the son-in-law of Christian Reconstructionist founder R.J. Rushdoony, and a supporter of Ron Paul whose economic writings have also influenced Rand Paul.

The goal is to return America to its Biblical foundations “from Genesis to Revelation” (a postmillennial reading of Revelation, which holds that the Second Coming will occur after an era of Christian dominance). American Vision is a non-profit, tax exempt, educational organization. Like many of these groups, DeMar also has a companion organization that can raise money and promote candidates for elected office: Vision to America.
The group describes its purpose this way:
Vision To America is a division of Christian Worldview Communications, LLC. Founded in 2006 by Gary DeMar and Brandon Vallorani, Vision to America exists to help America return to our Founding Father's vision for a Christian Republic. America was once a light to the world—a place that God blessed with liberty and prosperity. Today, Americans are taught that the Almighty State has all the answers. As a result, our God-given liberties are being traded for a false sense of security. It our Vision to see Americans once again recognize that we are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights and that this Creator is the God of the Bible.
Now, through Vision to America, the Senate Conservatives Fund PAC (Chairman Jim DeMint) is trolling for money to "Take America Back"--to the fucking Dark Ages--and prop up Tea Bagger candidates across the country, including Rand Paul, Christine O'Donnell, Sharon Angle, Joe Miller, and Pat Toomey here in PA.

So what we see here is a direct connection from an extremist theocratic organization that aspires to take over the country and codify Leviticus, to an extremist political organization that seeks to use the adherents of the first group to elect dipshit ideologues of the second group. The essential cluelessness and lack of clarity in the thinking of the Tea Bag candidates makes them perfect for these ends. Once installed in their new offices, they should prove excellent sock puppets for the stone-the-queers-and-fornicators crowd, and we can listen to the theocrats boo-hoo about being victims of religious intolerance all the way up to the day they make jerking off a capital offense and enshrine the Holiness Code into the Constitution.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Liars of a Lesser God

You know, liberals try very hard not to disrespect the sincere beliefs of others. It's one of the defining traits of liberalism. Unfortunately, it's also one the reasons the religious right has been cleaning their clocks at the outraged victim game when it comes to Christianity.

For years we've been hearing how secular humanists are waging a war on Christmas, how Christians aren't even allowed to pray anymore, how the nation is actually a Christian construct and how the founding fathers always intended it to be so, and how the politically correct are destroying the constitutionally-protected right to spew hate from the pulpit. Over time this creeping cancer has overtaken and finally absorbed the entire religious dialogue, to the point that we are treated to the grotesque sight of bawling religious extremists, surrounded by their own kind (84% or more self-identify as "Christian") in a country fairly reeking of Christian dispensationalism, appealing to the heavens for protection from annihilation by the pagan hordes.

Christians are being denied their right to worship, but don't dare let any Muslim try putting up a mosque. Christians are being denied their right to indoctrinate kids into the Old Testament creation myth in high school science class, but don't dare present a program of information on Islam. Christians can't even say "Merry Christmas" anymore, but when was the last time you tried to buy menorah candles in a stange town? And of course, there's no test of religion for public office, which explains why Obama's religious affiliation and church attendance has been such a scandal, and why Christine O'Donnell built a whole campaign ad around denying she belonged to a religion with 3/4 million adherents or more in the U.S.

Now, in the wake of the reports that a fire company stood by and watched a man's home burn down, along with his pets, we get this pristine example of hijacked "Christian" goodness (via Digby):
A controversy has erupted over a decision by the South Fulton, TN fire department to allow a rural home in Obion County to burn to the ground because the owner did not pay the requisite $75 annual fee to secure fire protection...

The fire department did the right and Christian thing. The right thing, by the way, is also the Christian thing, because there can be no difference between the two. The right thing to do will always be the Christian thing to do, and the Christian thing to do will always be the right thing to do.

If I somehow think the right thing to do is not the Christian thing to do, then I am either confused about what is right or confused about Christianity, or both.

In this case, critics of the fire department are confused both about right and wrong and about Christianity. And it is because they have fallen prey to a weakened, feminized version of Christianity that is only about softer virtues such as compassion and not in any part about the muscular Christian virtues of individual responsibility and accountability.

The Judeo-Christian tradition is clear that we must accept individual responsibility for our own decisions and actions. He who sows to the flesh, we are told, will from the flesh reap corruption. The law of sowing and reaping is a non-repealable law of nature and nature’s God.

We cannot make foolish choices and then get angry at others who will not bail us out when we get ourselves in a jam through our own folly. The same folks who are angry with the South Fulton fire department for not bailing out Mr. Cranick are furious with the federal government for bailing out Wall Street firms, insurance companies, banks, mortgage lenders, and car companies for making terrible decisions. What’s the difference?
I'm not going to go into the Christian teachings of my youth here, or the theology I later learned as an adult. I will only say that these people who claim to speak for all Christians, for the "Christian way", and for Jesus himself, have a lot of goddamn nerve vomiting out toxic lying offal like this in the name of their saviour. These walking, talking egos drape themselves in the convenient theological garb of their deluded minds, jabbing at the projections of their own fearful consciences, and finding enemies in all their creator's works. It's time we called them on this, and every time they open their mouths to blaspheme their God, they need to be shut down. They do not speak truth. They do not know what Jesus said. They do not even know what their own religion is about. And until we have the courage to get off the defensive and tell the world this, they will always have liberals by the short hairs, even as they lie in the name of God.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Alert the Media!

Last year's news, a year and a half late:
As many households and small businesses are being turned away by bank loan officers, large corporations are borrowing vast sums of money for next to nothing — simply because they can.

Companies like Microsoft are raising billions of dollars by issuing bonds at ultra-low interest rates, but few of them are actually spending the money on new factories, equipment or jobs. Instead, they are stockpiling the cash until the economy improves.

The development presents something of a chicken-and-egg situation: Corporations keep saving, waiting for the economy to perk up — but the economy is unlikely to perk up if corporations keep saving.
That's my New York Times: All the news that the rest of the world has already figured out, but in a nice, staid format suitable for firelogs.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Yes, I'm Voting

For all my bitching over the past year, there is still no way I will "stand on the sidelines" and let the Insane Clown Car Posse stumble into power without a fight, despite Obama's disdain and determination to set up my cohort for blame should the Dems fall out. No, I want to make sure they stay in office, so I can help kick their cowardly DINO asses into doing doing something about keeping all the progressive promises they used to seduce us into voting for them in the first place. If the ICCP successfully taps the stupid that runs so deep in the electorate, it'll be all deficit all the time, ad nauseum. Between the tax cuts for millionaires and multi-nationals, mass destruction of the New Deal/Great Society programs, and the repeal of the nascent health care plan, we are going to see a double-dip depression and economic misery so widespread that we may never recover in my lifetime.

Not So Fast, Facebook

Malcolm Gladwell threw a Molotov cocktail at the social media mavens in this week’s New Yorker, comparing the civil rights activism of the 60s to the “Twitter Revolution” in Moldova, and its role in the recent Iranian election unrest. He finds the claims of digital impact a little too smug:
Donating bone marrow isn’t a trivial matter. But it doesn’t involve financial or personal risk; it doesn’t mean spending a summer being chased by armed men in pickup trucks. It doesn’t require that you confront socially entrenched norms and practices. In fact, it’s the kind of commitment that will bring only social acknowledgment and praise.

The evangelists of social media don’t understand this distinction; they seem to believe that a Facebook friend is the same as a real friend and that signing up for a donor registry in Silicon Valley today is activism in the same sense as sitting at a segregated lunch counter in Greensboro in 1960.

...the second crucial distinction between traditional activism and its online variant: social media are not about...hierarchical organization. Facebook and the like are tools for building networks, which are the opposite, in structure and character, of hierarchies. Unlike hierarchies, with their rules and procedures, networks aren’t controlled by a single central authority. Decisions are made through consensus, and the ties that bind people to the group are loose...

Because networks don’t have a centralized leadership structure and clear lines of authority, they have real difficulty reaching consensus and setting goals. They can’t think strategically; they are chronically prone to conflict and error. How do you make difficult choices about tactics or strategy or philosophical direction when everyone has an equal say?...

The drawbacks of networks scarcely matter if the network isn’t interested in systemic change—if it just wants to frighten or humiliate or make a splash—or if it doesn’t need to think strategically. But if you’re taking on a powerful and organized establishment you have to be a hierarchy. The Montgomery bus boycott required the participation of tens of thousands of people who depended on public transit to get to and from work each day. It lasted a year. In order to persuade those people to stay true to the cause, the boycott’s organizers tasked each local black church with maintaining morale, and put together a free alternative private carpool service, with forty-eight dispatchers and forty-two pickup stations. Even the White Citizens Council, King later said, conceded that the carpool system moved with “military precision.” By the time King came to Birmingham, for the climactic showdown with Police Commissioner Eugene (Bull) Connor, he had a budget of a million dollars, and a hundred full-time staff members on the ground, divided into operational units. The operation itself was divided into steadily escalating phases, mapped out in advance. Support was maintained through consecutive mass meetings rotating from church to church around the city.

Boycotts and sit-ins and nonviolent confrontations—which were the weapons of choice for the civil-rights movement—are high-risk strategies. They leave little room for conflict and error. The moment even one protester deviates from the script and responds to provocation, the moral legitimacy of the entire protest is compromised. Enthusiasts for social media would no doubt have us believe that King’s task in Birmingham would have been made infinitely easier had he been able to communicate with his followers through Facebook, and contented himself with tweets from a Birmingham jail. But networks are messy: think of the ceaseless pattern of correction and revision, amendment and debate, that characterizes Wikipedia. If Martin Luther King, Jr., had tried to do a wiki-boycott in Montgomery, he would have been steamrollered by the white power structure. And of what use would a digital communication tool be in a town where ninety-eight per cent of the black community could be reached every Sunday morning at church? The things that King needed in Birmingham—discipline and strategy—were things that online social media cannot provide.
And as if to reiterate and illustrate Gladwell’s point, there was this exchange on Morning Edition today, after Borzou Daragahi reported on the recent arrest of Hossein Derakhshan, who was credited with starting the blogging “revolution” in Iran in the 90s, and who, despite his tech svvy with social media, now finds himself sitting in an Iranian prison:
Borzou Daragahi: (I think that it) shows the fallacy that through blogging and the internet and Twitter and so on that you can go up against a powerful state that has so many tools at its disposal, and it suggests that perhaps this idea that using this new media to effect political change is kind of a fallacy, and that you really need a real political organization and not just a bunch of loose-knit activists on the web.

Steve Inskeep: Because the government can come and get you in the end.

Borzou Daragahi: The government can come and get you, can manipulate you, can keep tabs on you.
Using Gladwell's comparison, go on to compare the current (mostly under-the-radar) union organizing being done by and for some of our poorest, most disenfranchised workers to how African-Americans (and whites) were organized during the civil rights movement. Try to imagine doing such organizing via social media instead of by using the sweat and strong-tie commitments needed for bringing such vulnerable populations together in a meaningful way...and then maybe you can understand the problems liberals are having making real change in the political system. We blow off steam on blogs, or Twitter, or Facebook, to others who are no different from us, and think ourselves great citizens for e-mailing a letter or electronically signing a petition. Meanwhile, organized corporate hierarchies continue to call the shots.

The government is going to come and get us in the end.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Politics of Despair

So I guess this is what is supposed to get me excited about voting for my party:
Senate Democrats give up push for pre-election tax cut vote
And this:
Blanche Lincoln, Mark Pryor Side with GOP to Block Repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'
And this:
Justice Dept. objects to ‘Don’t Ask’ injunction
And this:
White House unloads anger over criticism from 'professional left’
And this:
Obama Down on Prospects for Passage of 'Card Check' Legislation
And this:
No Congressional Action Until After Elections on an Unemployment Extension and Tier V
And of course, all this:
Obama's view of liberal criticisms; Gibbs Stands By His 'Professional Left' Critique, Expects Liberals To Vote In 2010; More taunts to the Democratic base
Once upon a time, before Reagan's warm fuzzy brand of corporate hate liberated people to embrace their lowest impulses and call themselves patriots for it, there was a Democratic party that stood for equality, lifting up the underdog, fighting for the common man and woman, and weighing in on behalf of ordinary citizens when corporate interests and robber barons tried to rig the scales. Once there were people in this party who actually stood up in the face of hatred and opposition and fought back, because what they fought for was right, and they knew it.

I know there must still be people like this, but I haven't seen them in the Senate, and seen damned few of them in the House. I see people who have been so completed co-opted by financial interests and the slavish addiction to political power that they can't even form a coherent platform of progressive justice and then fight for it. I see a party that has been utterly poisoned by the Clintonian "Third Way", which was just another way of giving the Right what they wanted with the bonus of the political cover they needed to keep appealing to their reactionary base and playing the ideological victim.

What made the last election different for me was that I made a deliberate decision to abandon my long-standing cynicism about politics to trust Barack Obama, and to believe what he promised. I understand the difficulties he faced, and the toxic environment into which he stepped when he entered the White House, and I know compromise is necessary in governance. But he has consistently disappointed me by his vehement rejections of the very things he promised he would fight for (public option thrown away before even sitting down to the negotiating table? Expansion of executive power? Torture?), rejections so total that he cannot seem to even rouse himself to use his eloquence to TRY to rally the support these things needed. Rejections so total that it makes me think possible what others have already charged: that Obama's comportment and actions since taking office reveal the real man behind the mask of the campaigner.

And even though we are faced with evidence of the complete takeover of the Republican Party by the extremists of the John Birch and Aryan Nation and Michigan Mitlitia varieties, even though we are treated daily to ever wilder conspiracy theories and accusations that would even give paranoid schizophrenics pause, the Democrats and the White House still can't bring themselves to confront these idiocies and call them by their true names, for fear, I guess, of seeming intemperate or harsh.

Yet Robert Gibbs and Barack Obama and Rahm Emanuel have no trouble calling people like ME names, and denigrating our passions and disappointments, because they assume, as have the kept media and the right-wing hatemongers, that we liberals don't count, and couldn't make any difference.

Well, we did, once, in 2008, and we will again if enough of us give up in disgust and despair. They threaten us with a Republican takeover if we stay home, that we won't have a voice in our own governance if we do, but I really haven't felt I've had a voice since November 2008 anyway. I know there are substantive differences between the parties. But if one of them lives in fear of the other and votes accordingly, I'm not sure how much different another 2 years would feel.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

My Hero

I get a lot of static from my near and dear about my irrepressibly foul temper, stoked daily and hourly by just about everything I read and hear. Ok, I know I've lived a life of cortisol-fueled rage and despair; I got the same complaints from friends when I was seventeen. But there's one person who never tries to make me feel bad about feeling bad, godammit:
Lewis Black - Exclusive - Gulf Oil Spill
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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Happy Harvest Home

To find out what's different about this year's autumn equinox, click here.


The Old Gray Nightmare

Used to be, when I needed a good bout of projectile vomiting, my favorite choice among Atlantic writers was Caitlin Flanagan. But the wench has gone soft, and for awhile I was reduced to digging through back issues for old Robert Kaplan articles, until Megan McArdle, blabertarian par nonchalance, sprung up from its pages like the green shoots of a kudzu recovery. Now it seems like every day is Christmas Day:
The latest piece from the New York Times in the growing genre of "Older workers finding it hard to get new jobs after a layoff" has triggered the predictable musings about whether we should raise the Social Security retirement age, and how to combat age discrimination. These are interesting debates, about which I hope to write more later.
Yes, later, like, when you turn 57. 'Cause right now, Wet-Behind-The-Ears, you know less than nothing about age discrimination, (maybe almost as little as you do about economics), and your threat to dip your pen in those waters at some future date feels like foil on fillings to one who does. Your glib prescriptions for handling a devastating life loss (save more! don't spend! plan something! get a job!) run to the typical self-apparent idiocies of a kid who never knew real need, and never cared.

None of her "solutions" reflects the very real problems faced by the older worker or deals with how to handle being rejected out of hand by HR drones when the dates on a resume give away the age of the person who wrote it. Nor does she seem to be aware of the decision of Bush's Supreme Court that overturned the use of a mixed motive prima facie in age discrimination cases. In other words, it is insufficient to show that age was just one factor among others that caused the act of harm, as it is in other types of discrimination. Successful age discrimination cases are rare, because they are held to a higher standard than other kinds, even though They are some of the most common types in existence. Even the most obvious evidence must be laundered through a variety of legal litmus tests, which makes it nigh impossible to prevail. Why? Because business would lose its mind (and some of its profits) if it were otherwise, and since corporations are now recognized as having essentially human and civil rights, the future of such litigation is looking even dimmer.

Good times, plutocrats. Megan will be right there with you, till time converts her working capital into worthless wheelbarrows of aging scrip. But by then, a whole new crop of young smartasses will be around to take her place and dropkick her into history's dumpster. Don't worry, kid. You can always make a plan.