Friday, December 31, 2010

"Shooting the Messenger"

A commenter from Canada (he says) complains that I was "shooting the messenger" in my last post.  I guess it depends on what that metaphor means.  I always figured that the idea behind "shooting the messenger" was, somebody brings bad news of some kind to a person of power (frequently "the King), and because such news upsets said person of power, he dispenses with said messenger in a fit of pique, such dispensing  being fundamentally unfair and unjust, since the messenger is just passing some information along and might not even have, as Mr. Clinton enjoyed saying, "a dog in the fight." 

So then, having gotten the definition right, did I shoot the messenger when I suggested that the right wing punditry is sort of like Lord Haw Haw invited into the tennis match, where Mr. Haw Haw spills the lemonade and throws cue balls and soccer balls around the court until the party is pretty much over, and Mr. Haw Haw's employers can come in and build themselves a nice shopping mall on the ruins?

What I perceive is a massive stream of political propaganda coming from the airways, 24/7.  A cacaphony of voices, all reinforcing a number of lies and false presuppositions to the point that the "average voter," who hates politics and at best just goes and votes at the last minute, begins to believe many mistaken things about, in the case in point, liberals generally, and the Democratic Party, and the current President.  These mischaracterizations become so commonplace as to be "truths."  Or perhaps "truthies," to cite a pretty good commenter on the scene.  And behind this onslaught of Haw Haws?  Well, there's certainly a lot of money, and monied interests, as usual.

So I'm just drawing attention to this feature of the landscape, and I don't think I'm capable of doing anything more that quoting the Red Queen, since I'm certainly not the king of anything.  I would imagine that people who are "fair-minded," versus those who are engaged in some sort of "culture war," would be concerned about this army of Haw Haws.  It's not the individual arguments that worry me, it's the massive deluge. 

Having stated this worry as clearly as I can, I'll move along.  Y'all have a Happy New Year if you can. 

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Sieve

My impression as this year ends is that each right-wing mouthpiece, mouthing off his or her distortions and mischaracterizations and deflections and defamations as each hour creeps at its petty pace, is like a little hole in the dike that separates chaos from sanity.  We're over here on the dry side at the moment, but we sense that the water is many feet higher than our pathway, and presses relentlessly against the big steel plate wall the engineers erected long ago, before they packed up and left due to budget shortages and pure disinterest.  It's easy enough to plug an individual hole.  Chewing gum will do the job, or a used band-aid.  Put up something temporary, till you can get the torch lit, then do a bit of spot welding, or for a change, try some of that fix-all compound you can buy at the Ace for a couple of bucks.  Comes in a little roll, works like modelling clay.  Nice stuff.

Every day I ride to work, or somewhere, to do some errand, or make some money, or whatever.  Since what's on the radio is usually boring, I turn on some right-wing station just to see what they're saying today.  Here in RTP we have a station actually called "Rush Radio."  Our former "Rush radio," WPTF (used to stand for "We Protect the Family," which was an insurance company slogan, and used to run wonderful live shows of Hank Williams style country music, or live bluegrass), poor old WPTF was AM, and Rush left 'em in a flash after they helped build his tin-pot empire for twenty years around these parts.  Now they're stuck with the old garden show, and the swap shop.  Poor Bart Ritner.  He's still there.  Meanwhile, over on the official Rush Radio, yesterday morning I got to hear J.D. Hayworth, just defeated AZ candidate, ranting about the Mezcans and selling his book, "Whatever It Takes."  There's a title for ya.  I listened for a couple of minutes, then just turned it off.  Then I had to listen to the noises I don't much like coming from my right front wheel, and from the heater motor when I have to run the blower to keep the windshield from fogging.  Coming home it was a black sounding voice, same station, ranting about Obama, claiming black people won't just vote for him because he's black.  There's a little area they haven't worked too hard yet, so they've put someone on it.  This morning it was Mark Steyn, arguing that Republican Mayor Bloomburg was too smart to be mayor of New York City, because the snow didn't get removed on Steyn's schedule.  You think that's stupid?  It's already become some sort of right wing theme of the week, parrotted on our local right wing "bulletin board" before Steyn even got his teeth into it--or to be precise, before he got his auger running properly, like the little cabin boy who sank the Golden Vanity.

There's not much to do about this problem of the crumbling dike.  There was so much going on back in the '80s, when Reagan removed this thing called the Fairness Doctrine.  Who cares, everyone said.  And who is going to be the arbiter of "fairness."  And that's of course a real question.  Oh, it's also a spurious, hypocritical defense--used by people who have no interest at all in fairness, who see everything as a war, down to the core, a battle of opinions with no bottom.  Those people will use that argument, and if it works, great.  It's a bullet among many.   But don't ask them to be fair.  Not when there's a Kenyan Imposter in the White House.  Who might be a muslim, if he's not a born-again parishioner of Reverend J. Wright, who said, one time, from the pulpit: "Goddam America."

What happens is, after a while, riding along under this shower, a whole lotta folks get wet.  The snow's melting here.  The snow itself is proof there is no human assisted global climate change.  Tomorrow some guy down at the Texaco is gonna say, "Looka there, told you it was gonna melt.  It allus does."

Update: And on the other hand, I heard Christine O'Donnell, former failed candidate from Deleware, might actually have some legal problems of consequence coming her ways.  Certainly she's a small fry grifter and Karl Rove deserves the ole Perp Walk more than this almost mentally ill perpetual candidate, but given the damage she's caused, it'd be nice to actually see something legal affect her eventually.  Which isn't to deny, either, that Tbogg is probably right in the following comment:

When it comes to the misuse of campaign funds, I think O’Donnell sincerely believes that the people who gave her money to run for office gave it to her with the understanding that she is doing God’s work no matter how long it takes and a rent payment here and an evening of bowling there are just a place to stay and a thing to do during The Perpetual Campaign of Righteousness, for she is the embodiment of the contributors hopes and desires. They want her to use it as she sees fit.

Sure she’s making a living off of the yokels much like Sarah Palin does, but she lacks the white trash feral cynicism of a Palin. O’Donnell’s no Grifter Grizzly, she’s more Blanche Dubois; spiritually pure,  lost in a fantasy and depending on the kindness of strangers.

Second and final updateCheck out the Col.'s website.  It must be citing Tbogg. 

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


At 5:30 AM on December 28
Venus is a blowsy cheap whore
As high as she ever gets, in the SE
And the snow crunches under my bedroom slippers,
While I hunt through the wood pile for just the right
"Got wood?" she laughs.
It's a drunk laugh.
I've scratched up enough coals
Under a bed of Christmas cedar,
For just the right peace.
And I go back inside;
The sun can chase her all he wants.

--Silk Hope, NC

Sunday, December 19, 2010

N.C. Senators Vote

see note below

Remarkably, Senator Richard Burr (R, NC) cast a seldom seen Republican vote in favor of a Democratic Party sponsored measure, the repeal of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy instituted by a Democratic President, Bill Clinton.  Burr has not been a member of the miniscule Republican "moderate" caucus, which is mostly the two ladies from Maine having a quick bite at the cafeteria from time to time.  He was immediately vilified by many of the commenters at various right wing sites, and was immediately threatened with a primary challenge.  However, Mr. Burr has just won re-election, so really, the primary threat is rather empty.  Six years is, in these days, quite a long time.  Who would even bet a lot of money on there being an election in six years?  Perhaps he calculated that further aggrieving the "gay vote" in North Carolina was a pointless activity, and perhaps the votes were counted and this was a moment when just a smidgen of human warmth being detected from the GOP was judged to be a worthwhile PR move--if the thang was gonna pass anyways.  Or I guess it's even possible, in the metaphysical sense, that Mr. Burr actually believes that the gross injustice done to thousands of members of the military by DADT, and the exclusion from service of thousands of highly qualified potential recruits, was simply bad for our national security, and just plain un-American.  It is possible.  And there's this too--maybe, just maybe, Burr's "defection" from the concrete wall of total opposition to everything Obama which is Republican Policy One harbinges the slight chance that the Senate will next year be slightly more functional--a risk the powers-that-be in the GOP might be willing to take for PR reasons given than they now have the House in hand.

Meanwhile, our Democratic Senator, Kay Hagan, voted against the Dream Act.  What was the reasoning there, pray tell.  My guess is that whereas the gay voters, or at least a good number of them, are articulate, educated, and middle-aged, the children of undocumented people have almost no voice at the polls.  In North Carolina, the undocumented workers have become a wedge issue for the right--the Legislature has already succumbed to pressure and implemented draconian rules concerning drivers licenses which have the practical result of causing far more uninsured drivers to be present on our roads, not to mention created innumerable petty difficulties for people without proper identification as they attempt to navigate their daily lives.   The Right in NC keeps whip in hand on this issue, pushing for more and more assaults on little people brought here in the first place by American industry big and small--construction, landscaping, and around these parts, meat processing are heavily accomplished by Latino labor, much of it undocumented.  Mrs. Hagan knows all this, as of course does Mr. Burr, who unsurprisingly also voted against the Dream Act.   Mrs. Hagan comes up for reelection in four years I believe, or possibly two--sooner, anyway, than Mr. Burr.  Neither of our senators, at any rate, is particularly concerned with the obvious and blatant waste of human potential which defeat of the Dream Act continues.  Not when their seats are at stake anyways.  But Mrs. Hagan can certainly say, next election--"I voted with Mr. Burr on both DADT and the Dream Act."

It is not helpful that the White House, a day after the DADT vote, isn't sure what to do about pending cases in the military which were instituted under the DADT rules. 

Note.  Thomas J. Pearsall was an NC legislator born in Rocky Mount, NC, in 1903 (two years younger than my dad).  His name was appended to NC's "Pearsall Plan," a legislatively devised effort to thwart Brown V. Board of Education without going to the spiteful extreme of actually closing North Carolina Public Schools.  The Pearsall Plan was supported and implemented by Governor Luther Hodges, who also is credited with creating the Research Triangle Park, and who served as a Cabinet member under John F. Kennedy.  After leaving the NC Legislature, Mr. Pearsall devoted himself to the Roanoke Island Historical Association.  That is, he and the missus retired to the beach.   As the plaque indicates, there is a library in Rocky Mount now named for his family.  I'd expect that as the years roll on, both Mr. Burr and Mrs. Hagan will also end up with buildings named after them, or their families.  In any event, the Pearsall plan worked pretty well, from the point of view of them what didn't want any black people associating with white people in the public schools of North Carolina.  I graduated from high school in an all white class in 1961, six years after Brown V.,  and went to a University of North Carolina which had yet to see its first undergraduate black student, not even its first black athlete.  Another ten years or so, and things did change in NC with regard to segregated schools. Think of it.  Ten more whole years.  (Lately the Raleigh School Board has been taken over by Members determined to break down the fairly integrated quality of that fair city's school system, using the tried and true "neighborhood schools" argument.  Suits are no doubt pending.)

Update: In the comments Suzan remarks that Hagan would have been defeated in her next election had she voted for the Dream Act.  I think Suzan might be correct on that, but although it's certainly obvious that NC is succeptible to the wedge issue of undocumented workers, the Dream Act was footed on a very defensible  sense of justice and fair play which Mrs. Hagan might have utilized to blunt the racist blather which was sure to come her way.  Hagan's tack is just the usual "Go Slow, Go Slow" (to quote our great North Carolinean, Nina Simone's anthem "Mississippi Goddam").  If the conservative trend continues up until Hagan's next election, my guess is just being a Democrat in North Carolina will be a millstone for her.  We've actually lost the Legislature to the GOP already--a shocking event that never happened during the Helms era.  I'm just more concerned with the waste to thousands of young people who have been North Carolina residents since they were tiny, who are graduates of our high schools already, who have dreams of a reasonable life in the country they live in.  Not that I don't get the practical political point Suzan makes.  But on the other hand, Pearsall had a long and successful career in NC politics, retired to the beach, got a library named for his family--and his name is historically associated forever and ever with a sly strategy which delayed Brown V. Board for a generation longer--a fact which should never be forgotten.  Mr. Pearsall had choices.  (And, hell, my argument could be made against Mr. Obama's triangulation on the tax bill too--I certainly admit that.  Talk is cheap.) 

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Captain Beefheart, RIP

circa early '70s, via Rolling Stone

I'm not even a fan, but nearly every blog I read has a memorial to the artist/musician known as Captain Beefheart posted in the last couple of days (he died Friday, 12/17).  You might want to start with the excellent Wiki bio.  Tristero at Digby, Driftglass, and Doghouse all have posts.  You'll learn a lot if you just take some time and read some about him.  I'm particularly struck by the various people who say things like "the first several times I heard 'Trout,' I thought it was horrible.  Then it 'clicked,' and now it's the best album ever made."  That's pretty serious cudos in anybody's book. 

As to why it's difficult to follow your own path in this world (the greatest democracy man hath ever wrought, needless to say, and just watch our glorious Senate on C-Span if you want confirmation), see the following post from Jesus General (a guy who is probably the grandson of Guy Grand):

And for the consequences of actually living and working with a genius like the Captain, I give you a paragraph from the Wiki bio, written by one of his sidemen, John French:

If Van Vliet built a house like he wrote music, the methodology would go something like this... The house is sketched on the back of a Denny's placemat in such an odd fashion that when he presents it to the contractor without plans or research, the contractor says "This structure is going to be hard to build, it's going to be tough to make it safe and stable because it is so unique in design." Van Vliet then yells at the contractor and intimidates him into doing the job anyway. The contractor builds the home, figuring out all the intricacies involved in structural integrity himself because whenever he approaches Van Vliet, he finds that he seems completely unable to comprehend technical problems and just yells, "Quit asking me about this stuff and build the damned house."... When the house is finished no one gets paid, and Van Vliet has a housewarming party, invites none of the builders and tells the guests he built the whole thing himself.

While I've never been in a band containing such a genius, I will say that, a couple of times, I've been rather close.  In comparison, I was on Mars while John French was on Mercury.  For other examples of this kind of charismatic genius, see, e.g., the Pogues live concert video featuring the the lead singer who drove the rest of them crazy, Shane MacGowan.  After they "fired" him, however, they all simply became postmen with musical instruments.  A couple of details in the composite bio which jumped out at me:

1.  While recording "Trout Mask Replica," Vliet became unhappy with the progress of the recording (supervised by Frank Zappa no less) and demanded that they go into a studio and "do it right."  Once there, Vliet refused to wear headphones and synced all his vocals by listening to the faint sounds coming through a sound-proof window.  His singing, including the odd out-of-sync aspect, is often noted in reviews of the record, which Rolling Stone lists as 58 on their all-time 100 best albums.

2.  On the Dave Letterman show, Vliet said that he lived in a trailer in the desert.  "Do you like that?" Letterman asked.  "I hate it," Vliet replied.  "Why do you live there then?"  "For the tension."

Vliet left music in the early '80s and became a successful painter.  He had been painting since he was a child. Of two of his records, discs which aimed for more "listenability" and were released in the mid-'70s, he said "they were horrible.  People should return them to the record store and ask for their money back."   (Been there too, in a different way.)

The story of how the stage persona "Captain Beefheart" came into being is pretty funny.

Update (Lud us sing goddam):

Digby reports the following, after congratulating the Congress and President Obama for getting the repeal of DADT to a vote, at long long long last:

Predictably, America was unable to take a step toward equality without sullying ourselves with a blatant act of cruelty and bigotry to balance it out. I guess there's only so much decency allowed at one time. They filibustered the DREAM Act, which would have given a path to citizenship to people who'd been illegally brought to the US as children. Surely the empire would have fallen if young people who've been here their whole lives were allowed to work and contribute to our country.

Oh and by the way, several Democrats helped them do it. When they are losing their next elections to some right wing racist I wonder if it will occur to them that they are going to spend time in hell for no good reason.

Perhaps the Democrats who signed on to this bit of viciousness will offer, as a response, that they "like the tension"?  Of course America has been fine with collateral damage upon the utterly innocent for quite some time.  To the GOP such practices are actually evidence of moral strength, so why wouldn't Red State Dems figure that some moral toughness here will pay off later, in votes.  Not that it won't be child's play for the professional Hard Men to paint these pretenders into the wussy corner.  Probably all they'll need is to say, over and over, that "My opponent is a member of the Democrat Party."    

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Ignorance Isn't Bliss

Hieronymus Bosch, Ship of Fools

1.  I feel like following up on the last assertion I made in my previous post--namely, that keeping the public in the dark is a mistaken strategy for the Democrats, because such an unenlightened public is part of the fundamental character of the Republican base--the Tea Partiers as it were.  The unenlightened public is prey to fear.  Fearful people are drawn to fearful analyses--the sine qua non of the Glenn Beck cult, which takes up four hours of air time each and every day. (With the Beck cult I also suspect a perverse pleasure may be at work--people can certainly learn to love the feeling you get when you lean over the abyss, and Beck in that aspect becomes a mental roller coaster ride for the enraptured attendees of his daily seminars in paranoia.)  Toss in Limbaugh and the loathsome Hannity, who plays the jerk down at the end of the sticky-floored neighborhood bar every afternoon, and a Tea Party is born.  When the Obama Administration colludes in the situation by continuing to feed the forces of suppression and fear, the Obama Administration is just building up the Tea Party that much more. 

2.  I happened to watch C-Span's coverage of the Senate doings yesterday morning, for a while.  I was shocked at the disconnect between real life America and these people who are supposed to be "deliberating" on what to do next.  Some one, or more than one, has noted that one of the problems with our elected government is, these people imagine that they are the middle class.  I think so, yes.  But George Voinavitch doesn't have a clue.  Tom Coburn doesn't have a clue.  Mitch McConnell doesn't have a clue.  And the same is true for many of the Democrats.  What can they be thinking?   And how stupid do they think we are, to assert that since there is a deficit problem, the thing to do is to keep taxes low on people making millions and billions of dollars.

3.  After a dose of this, I went to work.  At work, a young man came in who wanted to buy a scrapped wood stove, which had been sitting out near the fence for several weeks in the hope that someone might want to buy it (rather than simply smashing it flat and sending it on to the shredder).  The young feller is a regular customer of ours.  He scrounges up scrap metal and brings us a pick-up load probably at least once a week--been coming for at least two years.  The boss said to him, "we're just going to give you that stove."  I think the boss's thought was, he was a good customer, it was near Christmas, he deserved a little reward.  The boss is a good guy.  So the kid says, "Thanks very very much.  My mom just left my dad, dad's out of work, I'm out of work except for scrounging, my wife's the only person in our family working right now, and our stove broke."  This wasn't a sob story.  He already had the stove.  This was just real life.  He's a young man, probably between 20 and 25, probably graduated from high school, probably knows car engines and how to cut a straight line on a board.  He's obviously a hard worker--scrappin' is hard work.

4.  I'm hoping he doesn't find the Beck/Limbaugh line of hate and blame attractive, as he rides around looking for some rusting metal or discarded aluminum cans in this early pre-winter winter we're experiencing here in central NC.  This morning there's snow on the ground and freezing drizzle in the air--probably I won't get to work today because of the roads.  But I do have a job anyways.  Obama's argument for passing the Obama/McConnell "compromise" tax bill is that a rise in taxes would hurt the middle class; McConnell asserts with a straight face that millionaires need to keep making every dollar they're making right now because that way they'll create jobs--the ones they're not creating right now.

5.  The kid with the stove most likely has no Federal Income Tax to pay.  He pays the regressive sales tax, of course, like the rest of us.  He pays his county tax on his 1985 Ford Pickup with the primer gray coat and the bad muffler.  That would be probably about $3.27.  (I have a truck pretty much like that, featured in my song "SOB in the Carvel Truck" at an earlier stage in its career, so I know about the county taxes.)  As Tom Coburn expresses for the umteenth time his great concern about the deficit, which according to Senator Doctor Tom requires the Federal Government to cut back on social expenditures before China causes our dollar to be worth less (or even worthless), the wood stove in question is being fixed up a bit (broken door), and installed.  Maybe while the kid's beating on that stove door he's listening to Hannity, who's telling him that there's a Kenyan Marxist in the Presidency. And yes, his wife might have to pay a little bit more in Federal Income Tax when she files in 2012, assuming things go along as they are now. 

6.  Down at the Texaco, the faux conservative intellectual with the DeKalb hat, the one I used to argue with before I gave it up as a waste of breath, has decided that empathy itself is a phony liberal construct aimed at fooling the American people into outright Marxism.  This was one of the reasons I gave up on him.  Mr. Gingrich argues in his many guest appearances on the various right-wing pundit shows, that the Democratic Party is the "party of losers."  It's a perfect circle.  You can probably find it in Dante, actually.   I think Bosch was an avid Dante reader.  Waited with baited breath for each new installment to come out in the Dutch translation, or possibly even read the Italian.

For further reading:

Seems like Mr. Mannion was thinking somewhat along the same lines this morning.  A tip of the Hatlo Hat to ya sir.

Monday, December 13, 2010

See That Man On the Corner..... No, the One Over There....

Sam Ervin, 1974
This article has so much information in it I can only give you the link and hope that you read it several times:

Emptywheel is the most serious part of the Firedoglake conglomeration (well, if you don't count the bassets).  It's hard to read, and I don't, except when I do.  But in most cases, there's something there which is packed with information.  Marcy Wheeler covered the Scooter Libby trial, and the Plame "outing," more in depth, and with more seriousness, than anyone in the mainstream media, or even in the general blogisphere, for that matter.  When things come to trial, we tend to go to sleep, Watergate being possibly the only exception.  But in the case of Watergate we happened to have N.C.'s own Sam Ervin, an old-style Senator who kept things interesting.  When Iran/Contra came around, twelve years or so later, the most riveting character was Ollie North, at which point the truth went quite off the rails. 

With the topsy-turvy world of Bush II politics, the public is now swept along from one thing to the next, with almost no comprehension of what underlying themes are of serious note.  It's just this crisis, that crisis, the next crisis.  Meanwhile, there is a flow of real events.  Marcy Wheeler's article reminds us of that.  Underlying much of where we stand today is a mountain of propaganda.  And apparently the Obama Administration is more concerned with keeping the lid on, than with actually educating the public on what has happened. 

For a Democratic Administration to collaborate in deceit is, it seems to me, a very fundamental mistake of policy.  After all, the Republicans are the ones who have mastered deceit.  For the Democrats to continue keeping the public in the dark is to, basically, enhance the Republican base. 

Friday, December 10, 2010

Nader? Really?

Norman Thomas, probably running

Well yes, I do think Chamberlain is a decent comparison for the situation, particularly if you understand that Chamberlain, at the time, may well have been making the best deal he could make, since obviously the Brits were absolutely and certainly not ready for the German war machine.  That's what Dunkirk proved, right?  So to actually understand Chamberlain you have to understand that.  The name isn't a cuss word.

So now Lawrence O'Donnell has a panel of Alan Grayson, Jane Hamsher, the editor of Tikuun, and Nader?  Nader?  Mr. Nader has certainly over his extensive public authorial life had many intelligent things to say about the American condition.  He was in the forefront of those who recognized that, no, corporations really didn't care so much about the citzen's wellbeing, other than that the citizen had enough money and credit to purchase the Mcguffin of choice.  That is, Ralph Nader understands that corporate power has molded America into a corporate vision of democracy, where "freedom" means the economic freedom to operate.  This corporate molding of America has gone on apace until now corporations are actually citizens, and since they have most of the money, they are in fact, taken as a group, the most influential citizens, owning probably a majority or at least a relevant minority of Senators, and plenty of House members, and quite a few governors, state houses, county commissioners, sheriffs, and justices of the peace.  Nader saw it coming early, and he's been fighting it, with some success, for a long long time.

But back in 2000, let us recall, Mr. Nader managed to accomplish the election of George W. Bush.  This is  a kind of existential proof.  Just like Dunkirk.  So, I understand the frustration, the exasperation, the annoyance.  I would like to see Congress simply let the Bush Tax Cuts expire, and see how things actually shake out after that.  I would like to see the Democratic Party, and Mr. Obama's Administration, make the argument, and forcefully, that if the Bush Tax Cuts expire, this is the last consequence of The Bush Tax Cuts and not current administration policy.  And I would like to see the Administration, and the still-Democratic Senate, then present bills to remedy the problems with the tax code which will follow the restoration of Clinton era rates, hopefully without including new mistakes, such as lowering the "social security" tax rate.  Hell, maybe they could raise the social security tax rate ceiling just a bit?  Who understands why there's a ceiling on that?

But there's two things about Nader, and the idea that Obama needs primary opposition to some how "make" him toe the line.  One is, Nader got George Bush elected.  The other is more from Obama's side of it.  It's unseemly for Obama to be arguing the case I'm arguing, which without mentioning Nader by name, he sure is.  Obama cannot say "look, make a primary fight and it'll be just like Kennedy-Carter, or Nader-Gore, and you know how that turned out."  But Democrats cannot forget that either.

This is exactly the difference between words and events, the demarcation point.  The Democratic Party must attempt to remain in the real world, where events occur, rather than retreating to yet another abstract world, where anything goes.  The Republicans already live on an abstract planet where anything goes.  We don't need another major party to go "there."  Democrats are and must remain reality based.

Mr. O'Donnell, of course, is yet another shrewd journalist/entertainer.  He's fine with bringing Nader into it.  But it's a cynical play, and Republicans and Fox News already own cynicism pretty much.  If he must bring Mr. Nader's voice into the conversation, then Mr. O'Donnell owes us to have a discussion of Don Quixote next week.  The country can't afford another round of George Bush.  Or some gawdawful President Huckabee, or President Gingrich, or President Pawlenty.  Republicans aim to entrench still further, with each turn of the wheel, the America of International Corporate Citizenry.  In this America, its former human citizens, who love, bleed, have children, sing songs, cry, get sick, get well, die--people--are "a means of production." 

We can only hope that at some point the contradictory alliance between vast numbers of ordinary people with simple religious or "small town" values (which sadly include, too much of the time,  unconsidered racial  and minority prejudices--see, e.g., Uganda's "kill the gays" bill, discussed in depth just prior to O'Donnell's show), and a fundamentally materialist philosophy which views those people as fodder; that this contradiction will become more apparent.   At that point, if there is still a vote, the winds may change again.  Meanwhile, we all need to stay in the real world, where there are two parties, and a vote for a "third" choice is nothing but a kind of illusion, making the voter feel briefly better, but doing nothing but most likely the opposite of the hoped for result.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Peace In Our Time

The Rude Pundit makes a pretty good point today:

This may be one of the last chances the Democrats have to blame Bush successfully. Remember: Republicans voted to raise your taxes at the end of 2010. George W. Bush signed that into law. That's a fact. That's history. Anything that's done now is something new.

The President should call the Republicans' bluff. Say he'll veto anything that includes a tax cut for millionaires. And the Rude Pundit doesn't want to hear the bullshit about "What are you going to do about unemployment benefits?" If you make that argument, you are playing with the Republicans' loaded deck. They are the ones who tied the two together (and added in START and DADT). Make them hold up the extension of unemployment checks in order to secure tax cuts for Donald Trump. And, frankly, why should Democrats trust that Republicans would keep any word on a deal? Anyone who pretends that the GOP negotiates with honor or good will is a fucking idiot. Goddamnit, at the very least, make them have to decide whether or not to raise, check, or fold. Don't cede the pot on the deal every time.

(Note: The most pathetic thing? Even with the grand capitulation about to happen, the White House hasn't framed it right. The "Bush tax cuts" are over at the end of the month. Any tax cuts that the President signs on to ought to rightly be called the "Obama tax cuts." But even that slight bit of marketing eludes the messaging buffoons in this administration.)

Down at the Texaco my good buddies were always saying to me, "Give it up on the Bush thing.  He ain't president now, Obama's president.  It's Obama's economy, it's Obama's war(s), it's Obama's Gitmo.  Bush is outa there."  Of course they started saying that at one minute after noon on January 20, '09, when they started counting the hotdog wrappers left by the huge Inauguration crowd as being proof that these hippie liberals were uncouth and messy, just like we always told you.  Limbaugh used to use the falling Dow as an instant poll on Obama's popularity amongst the voters who had the cash to actually "vote" on his policies.  He did that right down to the very moment when the Dow started back up the hill.  Then he was on to the next thing.  But right along, all the critics were seriously put out when anyone said that Bush's various catastrophes were making it hard for Mr. Obama to make immediate headway.  "Stop bringing Bush into it," they'd say.  "Ain't rite."

Well, as Mr. Pundit points out, we are at a moment when an actual Bush policy is passing into history.  It was Bush policy to have these tax cuts expire at the end of this year.  Bush and his Republican Congress made that firm, bright decision back even before there was an Iraq War.  A great many of Bush's fellow Republicans are still leading the Congressional Republican cohort.  Starting in January, decisions concerning our tax policy will be Obama Administration policy (even if there's a divided Congress).

As Mr. Pundit also pointed out in his piece today, one of the lynch pins of the Health Care Reform Act was that it was to be funded in part by the revenue achieved by ending the rediculous top end tax giveaway that the Bush people had put into place--and ordered ended at the end of this year.  With this compromise, Mr. Obama has removed one argument supporting the Health Care Reform Act, and at the very moment when people who have campaigned on the promise of rolling back the reforms come into Congress.

Sheesh.  Is this what it felt like to watch Neville Chamberlain in operation?

Update. More than one viewer of the passing parade seems to have thought of Chamberlain.  (See my comments sec. below).  I'm pleased to note that I thought of it before Keith Olbermann said it last night (of course I can't attest to when the comparison entered his mind).  Watching Lawrence O'Donnell's "The Last Word" last night, I thought he focused the general consternation greatly by noting that if Democrats do call the Republican hand, taxes will rise by a whopping fifty percent on the lowest tax payers, from a current tax rate of 10% up to the Clinton era rate of 15%.  This is what Obama means by "hurting the hostages."  The other extremely important point O'Donnell made was that it must be accepted that the Republican Party is utterly uninterested in the issue of who gets hurt at the bottom--that is, the Republicans are basically unshame-able, and will be delighted to play to their base (some of whom will of course be in that bottom bracket), arguing that Democrats "raised your taxes."  Behind the Republicans in this specious argument (since if taxes go up due to the Bush tax cuts expiring, that is REPUBLICAN POLICY!) is a 24/7 media propaganda barrage devoted to asserting that it was the socialist Democrats and their Kenyan Usurper leader who "failed" to act to avert this tragedy.  So, as O'Donnell I think correctly asserted--this is the lay of the land which Obama faces, and as Obama is a kind man who believes his job is to protect all the citizens, he has acted in that regard, hoping to save the "little folk" from further economic pain in various ways, for at least another year.

I certainly understand this line of reasoning.  I believe the Republican strategy with regard to Mr. Obama, from the get go, has been little short of un-American, and continues to be so.  The Republicans are out to make a very different America, and they are succeeding with each ratchet of the wheel, while the Democrats are a party that is significantly "sold out" to the very same interests, and otherwise shocked and aghast.  The fact that the Republicans are living in a dream world--e.g., the extension of the top bracket tax cut will seriously affect the already serious deficit, which they are also claiming is the top issue to deal with--gives them the same power of argument as possessed by an intelligent lunatic in argument with his psychiatrist.  Moreover, I am not the one deciding whether this collateral damage is to be accepted or not.  Mr. Obama has that weight to bear, and all of us in the peanut gallery always need to keep it in mind.  Talk is cheap.  That all being said, it's hard to see--from here at least--just why this isn't the place for Mr. Obama and the Democrats to take a real stand.  Next year, and 2012, will be worse if a stand isn't taken, in my humble opinion.  This was Chamberlain's mistake.  A good, kind man trying to save lives, set in motion events which led to Dunkirk, and the remarkable and successful retreat of the British Army at Dunkirk might almost be proof that some god, somewhere, really did care about the evil that Hitler was unleashing on Europe.

We should be so lucky.  Or to put it another way, Obama has not rescued the hostages with his "deal."  He's just gotten them some warm soup and a piece of bread. 

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Nina Simone

 I rented "Jazz Icons: Nina Simone: Live in '65 & '68" from Netflix, and got around to watching the DVD last night, after the Ole Ball Coach went down so far with that Hail Mary halftime play that there was obviously no coming back for the Cocks (which is an absolutely prescient nickname for the public university of South Carolina, although the team seemed earnest and made a valiant effort against the Auburn juggernaut).  The first time I heard Nina Simone was on a juke box at Harry's, in Chapel Hill, sometime before 1963.  She was singing some sort of R&B style song.  The next time I heard her was on television, singing "Four Women."  That was probably about 1967 or so.  It's a remarkable song, featuring four black women who each "stand for" a way of being.  The first is an old "aunt" who has worked her life in the field.  The last is a very angry woman who will kill you if you look at her wrong, and song ends with her almost screaming, "Call me Peaches."  It's just reporting, something Ms Simone did, over and over again, all through her wonderful, brave career.  Nina Simone never looked away.  Although the view was so painful that she did move away, to Europe.

So, at the end of this fine documentary of two or three of her European performances, in the '60s, she sings "Why? (The King of Love is Dead)."  It's not long after Martin Luther King was assassinated, and how she gets through the song I just don't know.  The audience is crying, and the song even has a line: "cry, cry, your tears don't mean a thing."  But her sorrow is far beyond tears.  I couldn't help crying, over 40 years later.  There are some versions of her singing "Why?" on youtube, but I couldn't find this one in a cursory search.  All the more reason for you to rent the DVD.  Musically, her phrasing and delivery is just remarkable--the simple poem of the song barely conveys what she puts into it, which is of course true of many songs and one of the wonderful things about the art of singing.  Ms Simone was as good as anyone singing in the second half of the 20th Century.  But she refused to look away. 

Meanwhile, all the people who found Martin Luther King an inconvenience, all the people who today actually presume to deny that there is racism, toiled mightily first to resist all efforts at combatting racism, then, finally, grudgingly created a holiday for the good Doctor which, just like Christmas, is anything but about what he was about.  Not that there's any big surprise here.  After the conclusion of the American Civil War it only took a few years for things to get back to "normal" sans explicit slavery, and many supposedly serious historians still argue about whether the Civil War was "about" slavery at all. 

Lincoln, on the other hand, would seem to have "gotten it."  From his Second Inaugural Address, spoken scarcely a month before he was murdered:

Fondly do we hope—fervently do we pray—that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-man's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether".

"Why?" raises such profound questions as well, particularly in the nuance of Ms Simone's rendering.  Although the country has worked mightily to obscure the truth of King's murder, with endless gossipy irrelevances concerning his life and work, the song has it right.  And speaking as one who was marginally "there," in the sense that I did attend the March on Washington in 1963, and also participated to a very small degree in the efforts to integrate Chapel Hill that same summer (which was by no means as fearful a project as standing against the deadly violence further to the south--spoken to in another of Ms Simone's wonderful songs, "Mississippi Goddam), I still view the murder of Dr. King as the most profound historical turning point in the second half of 20th Century America, the boulevard not taken, the opportunity lost, possibly forever. 

King represented a moment of deep change for America.  He spoke again and again to America's heart.  Instead, even from a President who did succeed in getting very significant legislative advances in the Civil Rights cause, we got Vietnam.  And perhaps from the utter cynicism which grounds Vietnam, much which seemed fundamental has been lost.  The new Senator from Kentucky, after all, holds the view that "private" racial segregation, such as that maintained by all facilities open to the public south of the "Mason-Dixon Line" up until the passage of the Civil Rights laws in 1964 and '65, should still be the order of the land. 

Big historical "events" frequently do not happen in an instant.  I couldn't help thinking that Ms Simone was still exactly right: we're all still "heading for the brink."  I'll paste the words to "Why?" below, but they are only the shell.  Ms Simone fills them with the tragic life they deserve.  They really ought to sing this one in church once in a while. 

Why? (The King of Love Is Dead) 
© Calvin Eugene Taylor and Nina Simone   1968

Once upon this planet Earth lived a man of noble birth
Preaching love and freedom for his fellow man.
He was dreaming of the day, peace would come on Earth to stay,
And he spread the message all across the land.

Turn the other cheek, he'd plead, love thy neighbor was his creed,
Pain, humiliation, death, he did not dread.
Yes with his bible by his side, from his foe he would not hide,
It's hard to think, this great man is dead.

[chorus]:  He had see the mountain top, and he knew he could not stop,
Always living through threat of death ahead.
Tell your parents they'd better stop and think,
Cause we're heading for the brink,
What's gonna happen, now that the king of love is dead?

Will the murders never cease, are they men or are they beasts,
But the people, what do they think they have to gain?
Well will your nation stand or fall, is it too late for us all?
And did Martin Luther King just die in vain?

You know he was for equality for all, for you and me,
Full of love and good will, hate was not his way,
He was not a violent man, so tell me honey, if you can,
Why was he shot down the other day?

It was prejudice, it was hate, bigotry sealed his fate,
Go on cry cry, your tears won't change a thing.
Will my country ever learn, must we kill at every turn?
We've got to know by now what the consequences will bring.

[chorus]: He had seen the mountain top, and he knew he could not stop,
Always living through threat of death ahead.
Tell your parents they'd better stop and think,
Cause we're heading for the brink.
What's gonna happen, now that the king of love is dead?

I don't know about you, but I can't find any lies in that song.  

Thursday, December 2, 2010


If you've been musing about the Wikileaks thing, what it means, how good/bad it is, etc., I'm not sure if you'll get much distance towards your own conclusion by just watching tv or listening to the radio. Here's the best complete picture of the event I've seen. Consider how wonderfully convincing Brooks is (I think you'll find, as I did, that he seems to make a lot of sense). Then consider how, when the point of view is enlarged to include a bit more reality (history in this case), your judgment of the event changes. And consider, too, that this is not just a situation of "bbbbbut they did it too," which is about all I could glean last night from MSNBC. The dangers of collective amnesia are real, and continuing. Thank you, driftglass.

Scott Horton, in Harpers Magazine, also makes a cogent addition to the discussion (via Digby):

"In Spain, the WikiLeaks disclosures have dominated the news for three days now. The reporting has been led by the level-headed El País, with its nationwide competitor, Público, lagging only a bit behind. Attention has focused on three separate matters, each pending in the Spanish national security court, the Audiencia Nacional: the investigation into the 2003 death of a Spanish cameraman, José Cuoso, as a result of the mistaken shelling of Baghdad’s Palestine Hotel by a U.S. tank; an investigation into the torture of Spanish subjects held at Guantánamo; and a probe into the use of Spanish bases and airfields for extraordinary renditions flights, including the one which took Khaled El-Masri to Baghdad and then on to Afghanistan in 2003."

Update. Digby put up the following post yesterday.  Remarkable.

The unconsidered agreement by the mainstream media on certain issues is always worth searching out.  And then considering.  It's exactly the same problem we all encounter in our personal lives, and being open to such consideration is exactly what the Limbaughs work tirelessly to deter people from embarking on.  It's an indication of something (possibly a moment when the radical right becomes so radical that it meets Uncle Joe Stalin coming around the next corner) when Keith Olbermann interviews David Stockton about American economic policy.