Friday, July 29, 2011

I Don't Know What Ethics Are, But If You Got 'Em, They Must Belong To Somebody Else

I couldn't figure out whether to post this as a metaphor for what the House is actually trying to do to the country, or as an incitement to actually...burning down the House. Either one seems appropriate:

And while we're on the subject of Sucking Up The Painful But Necessary Compromise, let's see what example Matt Yglesias is using to buoy our spirits:
Adam Serwer reminds us that “During the so-called ‘age of liberal consensus,’ the massive engine of the federal government was devoted to creating an American middle class, but that was only possible because of the Faustian bargain made between southern segregationists and liberals to ensure that black people were cut off from the opportunities being created.”

Ira Katznelson’s When Affirmative Action Was White: An Untold History of Racial Inequality in Twentieth-Century America is a fantastic book on this.

This is something I think about when I ponder the ethics and pragmatics of political compromise. The conventional progressive view sees FDR has a model of strong leadership and the New Deal as a signature achievement. But it’s clear that these achievements were only possible thanks to massive concessions to the white supremacist elements of FDR’s political coalition. Was that the right thing to do or wasn’t it? Something interesting is that it was during the Roosevelt era that African-Americans in started voting Democratic in large numbers. So even though the Democratic civil rights agenda of the era was puny and the welfare state was deliberately exclusionary of black interests, it at least seems to be the case that all things considered, black voters deemed the New Deal agenda to be in their interests. Of course the ideal scenario would be to say that there would have been some way to enact all the famous programs of the era without concessions to white supremacists. But I don’t see any credible account of how that could have been done. So great leadership, or appalling sellout? Most likely both. Most likely, political leadership just demands a level of cognitive dissonance and self-justification that normal people can’t muster.
I have Katznelson's book, and it is not a paean to compromise. It is an contextual exploration of how black Americans, despite nearly 50 years of Civil Rights actions, and 30 years of progressive programs instituted before then, have remained so mired in poverty and so destitute of wealth compared to their white counterparts. The story of the struggle of black families in America post-slavery is riven with obstacles, setbacks, broken promises, and deliberate subversion by a hate-filled Confederacy cohort dependent on free labor. It's the story of how Roosevelt held his nose and allowed the Dixiecracker caucus to maintain hegemony over the lives of southern blacks by excluding their main sources of income from coverage by Social Security, thus bereaving slavery's grandchildren, who had already been betrayed by the Union after Reconstruction, of a desperately-needed assist out of incomprehensible impoverishment. It's about how the crafting of the G.I. Bill allowed local southern administrators the discretion to deny black veterans the benefits that pulled millions of white vets into the middle class. It's about why blacks are still struggling against the odds, while whites rest on the modest nest eggs and safety nets of a wealth gained over nearly a hundred years. It is NOT about how plucky Roosevelt got the best deal he could and, despite the repulsiveness of the original horse trade, everything worked out for the best. As Katznelson stated in his book, the achievements of Roosevelt and Truman were shaped by the pivotal role southern Democrats were able to play as guardians of racial segregation. It didn't work out for the best for a large and important minority of our citizens. The repercussions of the rot of the deal are effects they, and the rest of us, still live with today.

And as an aside, Yglesias' observation that blacks started voting as Democrats during the New Deal had as much to do with how the Dems (on the northern and national level) were evolving from a party of southern rebellion and slavery into a party of social welfare and inclusion, as it did with their admiration for Roosevelt. If Katznelson's book carries any message it's this: such deals with the devil carry consequences not only for those directly harmed, but for all of us, and those consequences may reverberate down the years for many lifetimes.

So it is with the sad little health care Act. So it will be with Obama's economic choices. You can say in his defense that Obama has far greater obstacles in his path than Roosevelt did (you can say it, but it's not true). But even if it were so, Obama has neither the leadership nor the vision of a Roosevelt. Without those, he has no more chance of besting the enemies of the nation than a rat trapped in a maze. And unfortunately, he's trapped us in there with him.

We're on a road to nowhere, baby.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Digging In The Dirt

An arresting image from Scientific American's photo essay on the nascent New York 2nd Avenue subway build:

Ever since seeing this scene from Fellini's Roma, I've been enamored of tunnel boring machines (click full screen--the image isn't great and it's very dark):

Meanwhile, In Switzerland, they still know how to do a public works project up right:

Do Something

The movement to preserve livable environment and the life forms that depend on it is old. Even in the mid- to late-1800s, private groups realized that land was finite. They were given support at the turn of that century by the Theodore Roosevelt Administration, and our nation parks system and species preservation were born. By the late 60s and early 70s, it seemed that we had a real chance to make meaningful change, to halt the damage done by the Industrial Revolution and the developmental ramp-up of the post-WW I years, to curb and neutralize the toxic effluvia in our land, to salvage the remaining wild areas, and to seek a green and sustainable future for ourselves and our kids. In a muscular act of Congressional will that would be considerable inconceivable in today's poisonous political arena, we passed the Wilderness Act (1965); the Clean Air Act (1967); National Trails Act (1968); the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act (1968); and the National Environmental Policy Act (1969). In 1970 a Republican president submitted a plan for an Environmental Protection Agency to successful Congressional vote, and the EPA was born. There quickly followed the Occupational Safety and Health Act (1970), Federal Insecticide, Fungicide & Rodenticide Act (1972), Endangered Species Act (1973), Safe Drinking Water Act (1974), Resource Conservation & Recovery Act (1976), Clean Water Act (1977), and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (1980) which established the Superfund. It would take too long to continue to list the many more that were passed. But it will hardly take the blink of an eye for the current crop of science-hating, life-hating reactionary Know-Nothings, in their blinding ignorance, to undo it all. This is, after all, an implacable group of lightbulb libertarians dedicated to anarchy, not the public health.

So thanks to Elliott at Firedoglake for turning me on to this heartbreaking video on the beauty of our Mother Earth, and our suicidal headlong destruction of the only lifeboat in the sea. As the info paragraph under the video says, the cut was put together by Vivek Chauhan, a young film maker, together with naturalists working with the Sanctuary Asia network.

Wave goodbye to the polar bears. Maybe we can eventually pull ourselves back from the brink, but really...after we murder everything else, would it really be the kind of place you'd still want to live in?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


All right. I've enable comments again. We'll find out how much Blogger has improved spam capture, if at all.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Nyuk Nyuk Nyuk

To break the tension I would like to have put up the video of Rupert Murdoch being attacked by a cream pie today, but the incident wasn't as much fun as I'd hoped. A flying shoe would have been better.

Gang of Sucks

Jesus H. Christ. We are so screwed. These mindless ideologues are going to destroy us. I'm watching my retirement fly off to Wall Street on tattered wings.

And all just so O'Hoover can get his "grand bargain", a big goose to his ego, and a vote that would have gone through anyway. This is what I wrote about the Gang of Six back in April:
That Gang of Six consists of mouth-frothing right-wing extremists Saxby Chambliss, Tom Coburn, and Mike Crapo, and Republican-lite Dems Mark Warner and Kent Conrad. Dick Durbin always gets stuck in there somewhere because his genuinely moderate record gets spun as somehow liberal. But there is not one real liberal in there, not one progressive, and there never is in these circus sideshows. Regardless, I suppose everyone thinks this kind of equivocating worked out so well for health care reform that we'll be stuck with these posturing preludes to bad law for the foreseeable future. After all, the lasting peace of the filibuster solution has been so gratifying, hasn't it?

This is what passes for "getting things done" now. And after Obama's recent display of pride in avoiding the shutdown by giving the hostage-takers even more than they originally demanded and taking even more away from the ones on the bottom, (it's historic!) I suppose there's no sense in hoping he will do anything to keep the upcoming clusterfuck from devolving into further debasement and fiscal ruin.
Name everything we could possibly do to make things worse and hurt more of the wrong people, and like Ragu Spaghetti Sauce, "it's in there". It'll be delicious.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Is The Head Dead Yet?

Give us dirty laundry:
News America was led by Paul V. Carlucci, who, according to Forbes, used to show the sales staff the scene in “The Untouchables” in which Al Capone beats a man to death with a baseball bat. Mr. Emmel testified that Mr. Carlucci was clear about the guiding corporate philosophy.

According to Mr. Emmel’s testimony, Mr. Carlucci said that if there were employees uncomfortable with the company’s philosophy — “bed-wetting liberals in particular was the description he used” Mr. Emmel testified — then he could arrange to have those employees “outplaced from the company.”

Clearly, given the size of the payouts, along with the evidence and testimony in the lawsuits, the News Corporation must have known it had another rogue on its hands, one who needed to be dealt with. After all, Mr. Carlucci, who became chairman and chief executive of News America in 1997, had overseen a division that had drawn the scrutiny of government investigators and set off lawsuits that chipped away at the bottom line.

And while Mr. Murdoch might reasonably maintain that he did not have knowledge of the culture of permission created by Mr. Hinton and Ms. Brooks, by now he has 655 million reasons to know that Mr. Carlucci colored outside the lines.

So what became of him? Mr. Carlucci, as it happens, became the publisher of The New York Post in 2005 and continues to serve as head of News America, which doesn’t exactly square with Mr. Murdoch’s recently stated desire to “absolutely establish our integrity in the eyes of the public.”
You know the guys in the newsroom have a running bet.

Looks Like A Tree, Smells Like A Tree, Tastes Like A Tree, Must Be A Horse

If you give a way to afford medical care to people without money, they will use it, fewer will die, and they'll have more money for other necessities. Gee whiz.

They've been debating this nonsense ad nauseum for weeks. In fact, they needed a "study" to figure it out. And the vultures who want to pull this life jacket off the needy and sell it for chump change to their ventriloquists in the insurance industry are still denying what anyone with an ounce of sense could suss out. If that doesn't exemplify the degraded state of empathy and critical thinking in this benighted and crumbling empire, nothing can.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Try To Remember

God bless the internet...and thanks to Digby for linking to Tiny Revolution's disinterment of an old Time Magazine article referencing the Obama plan of 2009:
When Obama unveils his annual budget in late February or March, Summers promises that the President "is going to describe the kinds of approaches he wants to take to the entitlement problems that have been ignored for a long time." Some options might include delaying retirement, stretching benefits and lifting the cap on taxable earnings...

On that front, Republicans could come to Obama's rescue. Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell has told Obama in person that his party favors entitlement reform and would work for passage if both parties shared the risk.
So sweet. So cozy. This is who Obama is. And if you're looking for him to save you, or the New Deal, you can put that shit on ice for the duration. Meet the new boss, baby; same as the old boss. And you can tell yourself "at least he's not evil" from now until doomsday, but you don't have to be evil to do irreparable damage. You only need to be callow.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Why Can't Johnny (& Barry & Mitchy & Eric & Pauly) Count?

Is it the result of starving our schools for years? Is it because they don't teach science anymore? Is it because subjectivity has been elevated to the sacramental and has slipped, wolf-like, into the sheep herd of public reason in America?

Because how else do you explain this, from Obama's morning presser:
The "shared sacrifice" and "balanced approach" means taking down domestic spending to levels we haven't seen since Eisenhower...
Here's the thing: if you want to reduce domestic spending to the level of the Eisenhower era, remember what the rich paid in taxes during that time, which was 91%, and 25% on capital gains. And remember, that high level of taxation supported and grew (grew!) a nation of a much smaller a population (less than 179 million then compared to more than 308 million in 2010), with many fewer needs and a shorter lifespan; fewer cars, and houses, and schools, and less need for infrastructure. And remember how much newer our sewers were, and our water treatment plants, and bridges, and dams, and roads, and prisons, and gaslines, and waterlines, and electrical lines, and how much further away from failing they were then.

We had money pouring in, and a lot less to spend it on, but somehow these geniuses think we can dial back spending by more than half a century AND stifle revenue, even though we're not even taking in as much total direct revenue now as we were when Dubya took office, and income taxes are producing half of what they did then. These magical thinkers really believe that if we give up our 2008 Honda Accord for an old '53 Hudson our grandfather used to own way back when, we can conjure up the Frank Capra-corn lifestyle none of us had in 1950 and all live in a Lassie episode forever. Things cost money! Things now cost more than they did 10 years ago, let alone when Ike was President. It's beyond ridiculous to insist that we can go backward in time and take our checkbooks with us. But this is exactly what these morons have been pretending we can do, and if it means those suffering or living on a knife edge now are going to have to tighten their belts, well, hell, why not? It's not as if any of these dimwits pushing this ceremonial economic magic will ever have to bear the brunt of their own stupidity.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Emperor has No Clothes Because He's Covered In Something Else

Watching the horror unfold that is the debt ceiling negotiations is like waking up and finding yourself covered in excrement. You're immersed in it; you can't escape the smell; you know it resulted from something totally beyond your control; you're overwhelmed with shame; you can't stop retching from disgust; it feels like the nightmare will never end; and your only respite, the shower, hasn't worked for days because the landlord doesn't want to spend the money to replace the plumbing.

But I'm sure this could all be fixed if we fired some park rangers and closed some public schools.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Power of Positively Not Thinking

Fuck the All Star game. And fuck Arizona. And fuck all the players that thought they just couldn't make it through their mundane forgettable athletic careers without playing there. Seriously...your job employs multiple Latinos and other non-Anglo players, and yet you think you're playing above it all in racist, fascist Maricopa County?

Get a clue.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Because You're Just Too Dumb To Know What's Best For You

Well, here it is at last--the Big Double-Cross by the Double-Crosser-in-Chief:
Mr. Obama, who is to meet at the White House with the bipartisan leadership of Congress in an effort to work out an agreement to raise the federal debt limit, wants to move well beyond the $2 trillion in savings sought in earlier negotiations and seek perhaps twice as much over the next decade, Democratic officials briefed on the negotiations said Wednesday.
Because this mundane, yearly procedure to raise the debt limit, a procedure that has been done regularly for decades under both parties without controversy, has now been seized upon by the New John Birch Society as the latest tool to enable them to enact their lifelong goal--the elimination of government and the elevation of the wealthy in its place--and that's not good enough for Obama. No, Obama has to prove he's also the Hysteric-in-Chief, and he can out-lemming the most self-destructive of the opposition as he leads the whole country off the cliff.

Hah, what am I saying? What opposition? Obama's real opposition are the millions of liberals who got him elected and to whom even now he holds out his hand, pretending he needs the little guys to stick with him and get him re-elected. His true base works on Wall Street, and his real political allies visit him in secret, plotting how best to appease their masters and consolidate the destruction of the middle class.
The president’s renewed efforts follow what knowledgeable officials said was an overture from Mr. Boehner, who met secretly with Mr. Obama last weekend, to consider as much as $1 trillion in unspecified new revenues as part of an overhaul of tax laws in exchange for an agreement that made substantial spending cuts, including in such social programs as Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security — programs that had been off the table.
Forget it, Grandma. Forget it, poor kids. Forget it, single moms and sick people and people without pensions and imminent retirees and minimum wage workers. The New John Birch Society must have its brave new world, and you're just in the way. If you only understood that Obama is selling you down the river for your own good, you'd know what a monumental opportunity this is, what a grand bargain it is, how this is really exactly what you voted for back in 2008, even though you didn't realize it at the time. And after all, he's only one man, and really the Presidency isn't all that powerful, just a figurehead of a position, actually, and he's the grown-up in the room and you're just a spoiled crankypants who doesn't understand how politics works and you never will so STFU and send in your money and pull the "D" lever in 2012 and good luck with the cat food. You never wanted to retire anyway.

Thank you, Herbert Fucking Ohoover.

UPDATE: Glenn Greenwald reminded me of this righteous rant by George Carlin, may he rest in peace, and I wanted to have it on my post, too. Because he nails it, brother: "They call it The American Dream, because you have to be asleep to believe in it".

All that hope we had, all that change we thought was gonna come (ah, I can still hear them playing Sam Cooke), it was a dream, all right. And we were asleep when we bought it.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Independence Day--For Some

From the Harper's blog and the inimitable Mr. Fish, the only person I'm aware of who's more cynical than I am:

It is by the goodness of God that in our country we have those three unspeakably precious things:
freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and the prudence never to practice either of them.

Mark Twain

Happy 4th of July.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

DSK Skates

I only have this to say about the DSK case and the recent turn of events:

Here is the DA's letter to the defense, outlining the areas in which the accuser admitted she made false statements.

Nowhere in the letter does it state that the accuser retracted her allegations about the rape itself. Nowhere does it state that evidence has come to light proving that Strauss-Kahn was innocent, or that the accuser was not raped. The areas retracted by the woman relate to previous issues connected to her attempts to get into the country, remain here, and maintain her residence. The retraction related to what she did immediately after the alleged rape--wait in a hidden area of the hallway, or continue on to clean other rooms--does not really make it impossible or even unlikely that she had been raped. Yes, those retractions of statements under oath are harmful to her credibility. Credibility is crucial in a case of he-said, she-said. But there are other credibility issues, too, related to Strauss-Kahn's prior predatory behavior toward women, and there is the forensic evidence of rape relied upon by the DA after the woman was admitted to the hospital for examination.

In any case, it looks as though a man with a history of assaulting women will go free, possibly because he is innocent, or possibly because he had the juice to pull in fixers, or possibly because the truth is somewhere in the middle. One thing I know: at no point did his defense raise the issue that he had been the innocent victim of a seduction. Because even the French can't be stupid enough to believe that one.