Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Renee Ellmers, Symptom

(Rep. Renee Ellmers, R NC, photo from

Got a letter in the mai
l Monday from our new Congressional Representative, Renee Ellmers, who defeated last November a long-time Democratic politician, Bob Ethridge, who before becoming our Representative was NC Secretary of Education for many years. I still don't know anything much about Ms Ellmers, except she ran on a kind of Tea Party platform. She's probably not as crazy as NC's own Virginia Fox.

Anyways, her Monday letter assures me that she will fight tirelessly for a Balanced Budget Amendment in the coming months. That is, she proposes to lock the Federal Government into a financial strait-jacket with the power of Constitutional Law. Certain percentages will be constitutionally invoked to limit government spending, such as a requirement that all budgets be pegged to the GDP. The proposal is supposed to have a "safety-valve," which is a super-majority vote to break the lock in certain special circumstances.

If you want to read about the concept of tying up the Federal Government this way, there's plenty on-line, from genuine economists of note. It is yet another example of the intellectual mess in which this nation finds itself that economists can now be labelled as either liberal or conservative, as though political doctrine has now become the very air in which all decision-making occurs. In fact, it takes little more than common sense to see that hamstringing the Federal Government in this way is simply a formula for paralysis, or for a further gelding of the Government's abilities to react to reality.

Thus the Tea Party comes to my neighborhood. It's a bit like finding a dangerous-looking mole on your arm. And indeed, the actions of the radical Republicans grouped around the "tea party" is pretty similar to a cancer, since they are one and all elected officials who are attacking the health of the very institutions to which they are members. These radicals started out, some decades back, by slowly destroying a main-stream media which was tasked in part with helping the public distinguish between real issues and pseudo clap-trap. The prime historical example: Joe McCarthy. When the Fairness Doctrine was abolished by Ronald Reagan, the emotional power of Joe McCarthy style arguments could again be unleashed upon the typical American voter--a person who has much to do besides pay close attention to politics, and a person who tends to vote on the basis of sound-bite information.

And so it has been unleashed, in the form of Fox News and the endless parade of right-wing pundits who toil non-stop (taken as a whole) on the radio, where people hear them as they drive to and from their jobs. And by 2010 we have a veritable "tea party" election, with numerous new Representatives in the Ellmers pattern--people with no particular credentials who have learned to talk the talking points. People just like the radio pundits, that is to say.

And so comes in my mailbox (which may soon be vanished, like Wittgenstein's ladder), Ms Ellmers' assurances that she will work tirelessly in my behalf for a Balanced Budget Amendment. No doubt many folks, including many seniors, will think Ms Ellmers is exactly right. It sounds so good, it must be true. Moreover, Ms Ellmers is a pretty lass, unlike the gangly, awkward Bob Ethridge, a figure only his mother could love, who had the gumption to counter a right-wing urchin's insubordinate ambush-question with a slight shove of his hand. What Ms Ellmers will not care to tell her constituents is that such an Amendment will be used to defund Medicare and Social Security. "I hate it," she'll say, "but it's just the law."

You don't think, do you, that the Balanced Budget Amendment will be used to defund ongoing military operations, or the development of new weapons allegedly aimed at making us safer still, in a hostile world? No, even Renee Ellmers couldn't sell that, could she. Ironic that the pretty nurse who informs you that yes, it's melanoma, could herself be the very political equivalent.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

La Chinoise

(still from La Chinoise, dr. Jean-Luc Godard, 1967)

'60s Godard
is refreshing in this climate of mind-blowing political cupidity. I watched La Chinoise last night. I think I saw it once, a long time back. The little tidbits that come with a DVD were good too--particularly an interview with the film's leading actress, Anne Wiazemsky, who was Mr. Godard's femme of the moment. She revealed that the film was shot in Godard and her own digs, that she was always having to get everything tidied up early in case a scene might be set in one of the rooms, that it was particularly disconcerting at the time to have to do a scene with her film lover in which a fight she and Godard had had the night before was recreated, line by line. The film also features a wonderful long sequence in which her character discusses the idea of committing a terrorist act with her actual philosophy professor as they travel through France on a train, a discussion made more poignant by the fact that the professor himself was a supporter of the Algerian revolution, and had been tried for terrorism by the French government only a few years earlier. He, by the way, counsels vehemently against her plan of killing a few people to make a point and (she hopes) ignite a revolution. Eventually she ignores his good advice.

Ah youth. Which was part of Godard's point. As a film-maker, Godard succeeds wonderfully in this movie. I hope you'll rent it. It is a portrait of idealistic, confused, youth, of people who have lived very little but read a great deal, who are young, healthy, filled with possibility. Who think that all they need to do is find a small gold key, and the world will be changed. Who know there is a secret garden hiding just behind a tall hedge.

I also tried to watch the Battle of Algiers this past week. It was too sad to watch (for me), too relentless, too true. But when the professor on the train in La Chinoise mentions the revolution which is the subject matter of Battle of Algiers, I was a bit sorry I'd given up.

Of course we live in times when things have changed. On the one hand, a tiny group of young revolutionaries somehow managed to crash airliners into tall buildings and utterly change America. I would imagine that prior to the flights were countless hours of conversations similar to those shown in La Chinoise. Moreover, could any plan be more quixotic viewed in advance than the plan al Qaeda set in motion? Could anyone have imagined that the United States would now be very close to electing a muddled former cheerleader our next President, or that one of the two major parties would hold as a tenent of membership that well-proven scientific positions are a subject for serious doubt. Or that a sitting President could be accused of "class warfare" for suggesting modest tax increases on the top one percent of earners, in a context when the other party clamors for draconian cuts in government programs supported by huge majorities of voters in the name of deficit reduction--a problem which said tax increases would also address, at at far less pain to Americans. Yet "class warfare" surely resonates. Sacre bleu! (Oh wait--that description I just wrote could have been written in 1999. My bad.)

We weren't, of course, privy to the conversations within al Qaeda in the months and years leading up to 9/11/01, We could have, at any time, watched The Battle of Algiers. Or La Chinoise. We were instead too busy watching other things, and anyway, neither movie would have given us practical intelligence. Indeed, even our own more practical intelligence was brushed aside by the Administration of the day. "You've covered your asses," Mr. Bush said. "Now I need to get back out to clear more brush."

It's likely that the people who actually flew the planes on 9/11 were much like the people in Godard's movie. That's what we can know. Things evolved since the days of my youth. In those days suicide bombers were few and far between--bombers, that was a different deal. But even on this fine point, Godard sees deeply into the future, for there is a suicide in his movie, a suicide bomber once removed so to speak. And as I read in a review of La Chinoise, the movie is loosely based on Dostoyevsky's "The Possessed." That book was written in the 19th Century. And probably Lenin would have counseled its protagonists against revolutionary action on much the same grounds as the Algerian professor counsels his former student.

We humans have an ability to see abstract structures, including social and political structures. With this ability comes the perception that if it's built like so, and if you remove these particular supporting elements, why the whole thing might come crashing down. Moreover, with youth comes the notion that sometimes chaos yield a better future. Thus, some can yearn for a "Year Zero."
(Godard sees that, and inserts a brief scene to that point. Rossellini also explores the idea in Germany Year Zero, the companion to his more famous Rome: Open City.)

These days, it is the Right that so yearns. Here's a good piece by Mr. Edroso on the subject:

Today's my 50th high school reunion, and I'm going. I look forward to seeing a lot of people I haven't seen in 50 years. Back then we were all so young. None of us had even heard of the Battle of Algiers. Or Vietnam. I mention this because it certainly can be pointed out that I am hardly being objective, since I'm an old geezer who wants to keep getting his social security check. That is, USA: Year Zero will not be to my benefit, unless the local Padrone happens to like a fiddler at his beck and call. This is of course quite an unlikely possibility. Around here the folks who emerge after a year zero will probably be listening to Skynyrd.

Still. I used to have a pickup in the case, down under the rosin. That's insurance you can believe in.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Paul Ryan, Genius


We went down to Georgia last weekend to play fiddle for a dance. Did not see the devil anywheres, but only some very nice folks who love to shake a leg. I-85 was pretty much as it is, except less construction these days. Surely that'll change once the jobs bill is quickly voted in in a wave of bipartisan cooperation this fall.

Coming back I heard several times Paul Ryan's big new sound bite--that the idea that very wealthy people should have a higher tax rate than at present--was "class warfare." I know he's supposed to be the big Republican genius, but really. "Class warfare" is a cliche. It's tired, stale, and meaningless. It's a phrase that Limbaugh has been dragging out since 1991, when he accused Clinton of class warfare. You'd think Ryan, who is supposed to really understand our economic situation at a level mere mortals can only postulate, would come up with something better. How about "generational warfare"? He definitely gets that one.

It's also strangely ironic, given that Mr. Ryan's on proposed budget is an attack on American citizens who aren't bazillionaires, and who thought that simply doing their best would at least get them to a retirement that wasn't going to be accomplished in a cardboard box, under a bridge, with no teeth. Apparently it turns out that beyond being without any empathy, Mr. Ryan is also simply a dim bulb, a posture, much like his Confederate twin, Mr. Cantor. Surely these people have heard of "projection?" I realize that some day soon all Republicans are going to be graduates of the shadow education system that has been constructed by the far right, but somehow I doubt either Cantor or Ryan matriculated from Regency Law, or Oral Roberts U. Perhaps one can hope that as Ms. Bachmann circles ever downward in flames, the genius twins will follow?

The problem with the Rand position is that it is contradictory in application. Consider that on the one hand the goal is to support and encourage the entrepreneur, the brave citizen who has an idea and just wants the economic space to bring it to fruition, to the benefit of all of us dimmer worker drones. Now and then such an entrepreneur succeeds of course, even when taxes are still above zero. But of course we all know that most entrepreneurs do not succeed, and that their failure (to use a harsh and unfair word) is not due to tax policy, but to the luck of the Irish, the whims of the consumer, the various other entrepreneurs battling in the marketplace, the whims of the Chinese and Indian governments' industrial investment policies, and surely many other factors too numerous to mention.

Now, given that any sensible person in the Randian universe is going to try to invest for their retirement, and given that in the Randian universe there is no public safety net, because there is no such thing in the Randian universe as a "public" or "common" good. Why then should any sensible citizen in the Randian universe dare risk their future on what is by definition a low-percentage investment. In the Randian world, with no safety net, the sensible play is just exactly what parents of the Great Depression told their children--get a job, hold on to it even if your boss is an asshole and plays head games with you every day of the week, keep your head down, survive.

That is to say--in the Randian world it's actually only the small number of successful entrepreneurs who are lauded as examples to follow. The failed entrepreneur is a ruined man desperately in need of a safety net, at least if he's over 65. Talk to the gigantic failed entrepreneur class currently populating the US--that would be the guys who were doing just great building houses until 2008. They were not "wage slaves." In fact, almost all of them, every last nail banger, rock hanger, shingle slapper, pipe fitter, wire runner--the whole kit and kaboodle that made up the housing industry--all of 'em were sole proprietors, hard working entrepreneurs living the Randian dream in a world where housing prices always went up, because that way gravity points.

The reason why Americans built a government that could provide a safety net for its citizens was because Americans who did the building lived through the Great Depression and the Second World War. What has happened since then is that subsequent generations have forgotten that we all shared the load in those very dark days, and that as a result (and of course with some luck) we came out of the tunnel into the light. If you want sensible people to have the courage to try for their dreams, you need to cushion the possibility that they are risking losing everything in the process. Otherwise, sensible people won't take that risk.

The Randian dream is in fact an illusion conjured up by people who are already so rich that they have no risks. What they really dream of is a labor base so battered that they will take whatever jobs there are at any wage offered. This is how manufacturing will return to the US, if the Randians have their way--if Paul Ryan has his way. No safety net--no social security, no medicare, no anything--that creates desperation, not visionaries. The visionaries in that world are people with schemes--people who think they can saw through the gates of the gated at night and come away with their catalytic converters and central air conditioning units. People who figure out how to sell drugs to the children of the gated. Or get elected to sell mind candy to the muddled parents. That's Mr. Ryan's gig.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Oh, That

(photo from

I was home after work last night and watched some of Rev. Al and this and that, chilling basically with a Ranger IPA, considering whether I had enough energy to go out and pick up some branches that are piled up to move to a better place. About quarter to 8 I remembered the Al Gore global warming special on the Current channel and turned that on. There's Mr. Gore in the midst of a summary of the last ten years on the climate front. Science is still in agreement--it's getting warmer. Records are being set at a pace of 50 highs for each one low. Twelve different chains of data, being compiled by who knows how many serious researchers in who knows how many places, all converge. The graph keeps going up.

A couple of weeks ago some spokesman for some Tea Party outfit said that the President was "abusing" his disaster-declaration powers. "We're having too many disasters these days," the guy said. I guess the idea was, you have to pick two of the three from box 2011: North Dakota record flood, Joplin tornado, or Vermont hurricane. Tuscaloosa? Sorry.

Saw a piece on our local bulletin board where somebody posted a long interview with Dean Baker, a respectable economist, concerning the general economic situation. It was a long thoughtful piece. At the end of it some wag had written, "what do you expect from a socialist?" Earlier I listened in a vague way to Michael Steele shout down Chris Matthews as Chris tried to observe that Mr. Perry seems to revel and indeed embellish his credentials as a dumbass, by claiming in a speech that he finished tenth in a class of 13. Chris was trying (in a fairly unclear way unfortunately) to draw attention to the fact that being a dumbass is now a positive credential in many quarters, perhaps hoping there'd be a serious discussion of why that is. Mr. Steele, who of course used to be a big-cheeze Republician, used the tried and true Tea Party tactic of shouting Mr. Matthews down, and on his own show no less.

It was interesting to see Mr. Gore on the teevee. Of course he's been on the teevee a good bit this week. He was on Colbert a couple of days back, promoting the big climate thing he was doing. As I said, I'm sorry I forgot to watch the whole hour, or to check in on the computer to the 24 hour marathon that was taking place--an attempt to remind people that the climate is still here, still evolving, and not in our favor. As Mr. Gore noted in the bit I did see, while there's a possible world out there somewhere where reality might actually be ignorable, it's not this earth we live on.

And it struck me this morning, waking up as I tend to with some sort of idea my mind has constructed out of the rubble of yesterday, that perhaps the very strange singularity that was the 2000 Presidential Election was the most important event of the past decade. November 2000, now so long ago and over the horizon of 9/11/01, which we were told over and over again changed everything forever, was when we first started living in the politics of denial. The first denial was that Mr. Gore had actually won that election, which was apparent to anyone who simply looked at the facts. Yet our supposed free press agreed among itself not to question a Supreme Court decision which the Court itself asserted had no precedent-setting characteristics--itself a patent anomaly. Then, after a muddled few months which are still historically obscure, but which feature a strange and almost single-minded effort to ignore the concerns being raised by our own intelligence resources concerning al Qaeda, came the shocking attacks (and some other enhancing events, such as the anthrax terrorism). Shortly thereafter, we were engaged--locked one could say--in two wars in the oil-producing region of the world.

Over the decade, what had been a more and more pressing issue--global climate change--receded into the mist. Indeed, in Republican quarters the issue of global climate change has been reduced to a "hoax." On MSNBC these days--the "liberal" channel, the one which addresses quite a few of the questions that ought to be addressed at least--a major sponsor is the carbon based fuel industry, in the form of kindly scientist types explaining how fracking is safe and will liberate a 100 years of natural gas, and how we have more oil than anyone else on the planet if you count our vast resources of "tar sands," which only need "liberating" in some complex way only engineers can understand. On every quarter the basic idea is, there will be cheap fossil fuel, and soon, and it'll last far longer than the flow of social security checks.

Mr. Gore's message, that the world should consider actually changing its mix of energy resources in some meaningful way, that we should adopt available and emerging technologies which do not produce green house gases--that idea has in the United States been pushed under the rug. And if you think about it, Mr. Gore and his message, that we need long-term decision-making about our energy consumption and energy methodology before it kills us, is as "denied" today as his victory in 2000.

And one might wonder if there's a relationship, if that November, 2000, wasn't a kind of historical pivot point, at least for the country--the US--that in many ways leads the world. Or did. It's not clear, is it, if denialism can be said to lead anywhere for very long.

My late friend Bob Barrett said that if Rick Perry is elected, we will just get what we deserve. Mr. Boehner said yesterday that industry was "on strike" because of government meddling. Mr. Perry wants to end "government regulations." Presumably that would include pesky pollution regulations, on internal combustion engines and smoke stacks, not to mention those damn child safety seats we struggle with for no good reason. In India whole families ride around on motor scooters. Think of the savings! Mom, dad, and the three kids can all scoot to the factory and get to work. Perhaps some weekend when we get Saturday off we can run the tivo back to Mr. Gore's speech, and all get a good chuckle, before the power goes off at 10 pm. It's for our own good, and the country's. We all need to be fresh for work at 7 am.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Last of Summer

(a photo of the Rhythm Devils from their website)

Last weekend I was up in central Michigan, at a wonderful music festival called "Wheatlands." It was the 38th annual event. I'd played at several of the early ones, back in the '70s, with the band that is not to be named. This time I was playing with the Formerly Knowns, and we even sold some of "their" records, having none of our own as yet. Friday night, up on the big stage, a band called the Starlight Six featured a lead singer who said she'd been to the first festival, when she was but a month old, and had attended every one since. That's pretty neat. There were a lot of fine bands and performers.

I was most taken with the Lafayette Rhythm Devils, who play kick-ass cajun music, and whose young fiddler, Chris Segura, is an intuitive genius. If you care to buy their most recent CD, "Devil on a String," check out cut 7, "Je peux pas dormir le soir." You will never hear more remarkable fiddling, at least not this side of Stephan Grapelli at his finest. The Devils also feature the great singing of Randy Vadrine, who is channelling D.L. Menard and just a little of Mac McGaha, and Yvette Landry, who rivets the attention with her joy in music, plays a great bass line, and knows how to sing. Of course the Devils have a website. The seem to play mostly around home. Too bad for us, and damn the oil companies anyways. It's getting very hard to tour by automobile.

The festival itself was a gathering of like minds. People who care about each other, about the land, about the planet. There was a lot of tie-dye. There was a hint of "the chronic." All weekend I was met with the talsmanic phrase, "Happy Wheatland." These folks were getting ready for a Michigan winter. It was a festival of the countryside. We drove ten miles or so on a straight gravel road, through mostly woods, to get to the entrance to the grounds. I didn't see a fast food joint or a grocery store all weekend, and on the last day a stand called "Bob's" gave away it's last ears of fresh picked corn so they could pack up and get going before the bitter end. It was corn so fresh it reminded me of blues tossed out of the skiff and into the frying pan, down on the Banks.

I had to wonder if all these nice folks are going to go out and vote next year, if they are willing to stand against a gathering tide of full-tilt crazy that's coming at the country like gang-busters. I'm afraid a lot of these people are so disgusted by the Right that they're more likely to just focus on local things--put your head down, get up the firewood, grow the corn for the next hog, deal with the day to day, play acoustic music for the dance down at the grange. Keep your head down.

This was my generation's approach to Vietnam and Nixon. It might not be sensible, but disgust is a hard thing. In the liberal blogs I read there are signs of disgust in reaction to the Republican Debates. One person writes of a Republican party where germ theory is now in question. At Digby's place I find the following:

I must say that my reaction to this from out here in terrestrial paradise has been one of motivated anger, yes, but also gut-wrenching fear. At the risk of violating Godwin's law, never before in my 30-year lifetime, not even during the Bush years, have I felt this country was more keenly teetering on the precipice of totalitarianism than it is today. The people on that stage last night, and more especially the people in the audience, have murder on the mind. They have been whipped into a state of near frenzy against their perceived liberal, "freeloader" and "big government" enemies, and the bloodlust is running at a fever pitch. One of the candidates even openly advocated for eliminating social security based on the model adopted by Chilean mass murderer and fascist Augusto Pinochet.

There can be little doubt that if America were in the hands of these people, the country would already be locked in a pseudo-theocratic totalitarian death spiral. That's not the hallucinatory fantasy of a hysterical progressive blogger. That's just reality on its face. If these people manage to gain control of all levers of American power, it could very well mean the end of our nearly 250-year experiment in representative democracy.
[David Atkins, 9/13/11]

That's pretty dire talk. And I think his perceptions are accurate from what I've glimpsed of these debates, though I certainly don't propose to watch any of them, or to even consider voting for a Republican, now or ever, period. Indeed, I'd rather watch a full night of "Sons of Anarchy," a family oriented teevee show about criminal bikers and their doings, and the womenfolk who love 'em. I started to tivo a few episodes they were rerunning, but Libby said I'd put it on the wrong hard drive and she wanted to watch Jon Stewart, so the tivo got nixed. Nothing was missed of course--but that's a symptom of putting your head down I think, creeping up on me from home tired from work.

As I keep saying, all we have here is a two party system, a binary situation, just like on a computer. It's not something the vaunted Founders gave us, but it's what we have. Libertoonians and Trotskyists are merely political fantasists, pretending to vote for something that isn't there. If you don't vote at all, you're actually voting for the wrong guy. That's how it works here.

Roy Edroso is so depressed he ended a piece the other day with the suggestion that we all consider dual citizenship. What a sad state of affairs. And then I have to remember all those nice folks, having fun in the ending summer last weekend. And the Lafayette Rhythm Devils, who play so good you will find yourself dancing with an astonishment akin to David Byrne's "How Did I Get Here?" There is water on the bottom of the ocean.

Update. Re never voting Republican, here in NC our Republican majority legislature just voted to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot next May which, if passed, outlaws same-sex marriage. The point of this exercise is to use and encourage homophobia to get out the vote in NC for Republican candidates. That is to say, this Republican majority is quite willing to scapegoat real people--real families with real children, their fellow Carolineans all--for the sake of votes. I can think of nothing more craven, small, selfish, and downright evil that this legislative action, thought there are plenty of challengers of course. NC Republicans did it. Let them live with it. Indeed, let them all be voted out of office, every damn one. This is exactly what James Hoffa was saying last week, and why.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Fair Game

A brief movie review. I watched Fair Game last night, courtesy of Netflix. It stars Naomi Watts as Valerie Plame Wilson, supported by Sean Penn as her husband, Ambassador Joe Wilson (not R, SC). It strikes me as an accurate account of the events it aims to portray, namely the two outstanding public servants who were nearly obliterated by the Bush Administration because Ambassador Wilson had credibility when he spoke out against the spurious claim by the Administration that Iraq was embarked on a nuclear weapons program.

The movie centers on Mrs. Wilson's situation. She was clearly and without doubt an utterly innocent victim of the Bush Administration, who leaked her identity to the press simply in an effort to discredit and pay back Mr. Wilson for objecting to the statements about Iraq's nuclear program that he was certain were false. There was collateral damage as well, including a number of persons Mrs. Wilson was connected with in her CIA work, who were exposed in various overseas locations including Iraq.

The movie portrays and centers on the Wilsons' personal trials--on the shock of having to battle with large political forces, on the sense of exposure and betrayal and even physical danger, and on the stresses to the Wilsons' personal relationship, which in the end does survive. It is a movie about character. Nothing gets blown up. No one gets shot.

When it was over I turned on the Republican "debate" for a couple of minutes, then played some chess on the computer. The movie reminded me that this next election turns on the question of whether the country wants these same people--the people who were just fine with starting a war on false pretenses and destroying two American patriots who objected--back in power yet again. That's as fair a way to look at the upcoming election as any.

(Photo from

Monday, September 5, 2011

"Fixing" the System

Gil Scott-Heron, Samir Hussein/Getty Images

Here's an article for your consideration, and be sure to read the comments to the end:

Now do you see how the system is supposed to work?  I particularly like the comment that suggests that a CEO should get 750,000 more votes than an out-of-work practical nurse who used to care for my mother in a family owned rest home while she declined with Parkinsons until she (my mother I mean) was living entirely in her memories of 1920 Wrightsville Beach, NC.  

It really isn't a new thing, this observation that money is power.  It just seems new because it's being made in new quarters, such as Mr. Lofgren's essay of yesterday.  One might observe that back in the 1840s, in a land somewhat advanced at that time on the Industrial Revolution railroad compared to say here, where we were using human labor (albeit mostly as free as slavery could make it for the producers), an economist/philosopher with a bit more on the ball than, oh, Ayn Rand or Glenn Beck, was observing the same things.  This philosopher was of course Karl Marx.  And Marx despaired of making serious changes in the circumstances of working people, although at the same time his own writings aimed at pointing out to those working people who could read some of the illusions under which they labored.

Where did this lead us, oh Israel?  Why to Lenin and Trotsky, who decided that up against the wall red neck muthers was the only way things were going to change for working people.  And of course what Lenin and Trotsky didn't realize was that once the principle that power flows from the barrel of a gun is fully unleashed, the man who is most willing to shoot people can end up in charge.  And thus, just prior to Hitler's invasion of the low countries and slightly more prior to Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union, Trotsky ended up with an ice pick in his brain, down in Mexico, courtesy of Uncle Joe. 

So indeed like old age, embarking on a political career is not for the faint of heart.  But one wonders just how tone deaf the Right must be, to make such arguments as the ones cited here in the American Thinker.  The point of voting, after all, is to give some hope to the voters that they have some voice in the situation.  The expression of hatred and utter contempt for working people (and people who are unemployed, and the elderly, and the poor generally) is little less than evil personified.  The Founders are not remembered for their small-minded, craven, selfish "adjustments" to a principle of universal suffrage which is enunciated full throat in the Declaration of Independence.  Rather, our history can be seen as a progress towards that principle, and one that crept at much too slow a pace for far too many, generation after generation.   Ms Bachmann's efforts to rewrite history are as weak as Uncle Joe's, and come from the same place, and it'll be quite a long time before the Tea Party locks up the Declaration and does not allow entry to the untutored vagabonds (I have heard of efforts by Rep. Joe Wilson to get the thing translated into Latin). 

The Cantors, the Ryans, the Perrys, and the multitude of scribblers and punditeers who lick their boots and justify every perversion of the American ideal, proceed at their own risk, at least in the long run.  Possibly money has achieved such power these days that change is no longer possible.  Possibly the system can be incrementally adjusted towards deeper and deeper injustice, one little state's rights step at a time.  Or, possibly, sad, wracked, destroyed Gil Scott-Heron might be proven right in the end.  Right now we're just in the middle of this journey.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

For Folks Who Don't Pay Attention

This piece comes from a guy who wrote it as he was leaving the GOP.  It is a good analysis, although Driftglass and many others have been saying the same things for many many years.  One also wonders what took him so long--was it just time to retire, and was the beach house now paid for?  Still, it has the value of being in some sense "from the inside."

He's right about the problems the country faces with its political system, that's for sure.  Money is power, and the monied are pretty much all lined up on the wrong side now.  Moreover, they have funded via getting their people elected powerful efforts to destroy organized unions, which not only weakens still further the ordinary working folks who are probably 90% of America, but weakens their voice in politics via union donations which to some degree off sets money from business, in our elections.  Then there's the pathetic "mainstream" media, which does not inform, and the devolution of the Democratic Party into simply GOP lite (which seems to me is due in part to the defection of people like the author of the truth out piece, who will end up being or at least voting Democratic because we have a simple two-party system).

I'm sure people who understand that we have a two-party system will, in 2012, vote again for Obama.  I'm also sure that many of the people who voted for Obama in '08, as a hope of real change in the United States, will now simply not vote.  This has happened before.  The depressing quality of the Vietnam era lead to lower and lower turnouts, and drove one very good President, Lyndon Johnson, out of office. Mr. Johnson, a master politician who makes Mr. Obama look like he is still in knickers, gave up in 1968.  This remarkable fact is seldom appreciated, perhaps because only five years later his successor left office to avoid impeachment.  People, in 1968, voted in Richard Nixon.  The implausability of Nixon's election should also  give pause forever.  Nixon's eventual collapse and forced resignation was no surprise, but almost predictable given his history.  The more abstract fact, that our system of government can become shockingly unstable almost overnight, is little remarked upon. 

Fox, which runs the propaganda arm of the GOP, also televises NFL, MLB, much top college sports, half the NASCAR season, etc.  You think they don't have credibility for their ongoing political distortions among people who don't pay attention?  They have more credibility where it counts than all the MSNBCs combined (and there's really only just one, plus Olbermann over on the hippie channel, bless his heart).

We are at a place in this country's politics where actual facts--truth--simply doesn't matter.  Michael Steele, a fairly thoughtful man and now an MSNBC analyst, said the other day that when a candidate was talking to his base it wasn't appropriate to question any of his statements.  Ed Schultz offered an example of this a couple of days ago, comparing Marco Rubio's recent speech on the theme of how social security and medicare weakens the "moral fabric" of the nation, with other speeches of his using examples of his own parents and their usage of social security and medicare.  As Mr. Lofgren above notes, Ayn Rand received both medicare and social security, without a complaint.  Yet it is without any doubt an effective water torture to press on with the double-speak--e.g., Democrats now routinely refer to social security and medicare as "entitlements," which is a loaded term suggesting that recipients did not in fact pay into these plans.  Moreover, the GOP goal is to turn whatever ends up being called "social security" and "medicare" into welfare programs for folks who are in dire need, dire being solely defined by people who are NOT in any need whatsoever, but in fact have wonderful, government funded health programs and magnificent retirement pensions which they voted in for themselves many years ago.  Once that happens it will be even easier to tighten the screws on people who have passed their "productive" years.  Such people will be merely the "parasites" amongst us.  And this sort of language is already being mainstreamed by radio commentators such an Neil Boortz.

I'm glad Mr. Lofgren decided to have his say.  At the same time, I do have to wonder, what took him so long.  As an insider, you'd a thunk he might have been saying something a couple of decades back?  The horses have long left the barn, and their hoofbeats blend with the distant thunder and flickering lightning beyond the far horizon.  Strange, that lightning.  It's a starry night around here.  We ought to get out the telescope and give Saturn a look, maybe we can see the rings.  The kids don't have to go to bed early--it's Labor Day.  What ever the hell that means? 

And speaking of things astronomical, here's a bit of reality which will of course be lost in all the meaningless blather that passes for commentary and analysis.  As usual, Mr. Driftglass is right on the money.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Weed Eating

Here's a terrific post from the always terrific Marcy Wheeler:

What this analysis of Elliot Abrams' defense of Dick Cheney shows is that Republicans have been consistently dismissive of the law when it suits their "higher" purposes, for decades.  That is, Abrams is surely correct in his assertion that Dick Cheney never changed, from back when he was defending Iran-Contra, right on up to his willingness to forgo bothersome facts when they got in the way of a war he wanted to instigate with Iraq, and on, to his oversight in the outing of Valerie Plame, and even now, to writing this "memoir" which simply asserts his personal vision of reality at every turn, and damn (once again) whatever facts there might be in the other direction.

Perhaps it's a weird blessing that at least Cheney isn't in a position to run for President.  One wonders why he hasn't had a convenient heart transplant, however.  All he needed to do, back when he was Veep, was hang out near the battlefields he created, and a good healthy, brave heart would surely have come along in due time.

Speaking of the lying Mr. Perry, by the way:  for all his talk of making government invisible, here's my prediction.  When and if he's elected President (there probably should be some scare-quotes around "elected", since we know the whole process is suspect and has been so since 2000), Mr. Perry is going to turn into the ole Kingfish, p.d.q.  There will be big job programs for the unemployed, great new public works efforts, and of course a big military expansion (more jobs), including a new Legion stationed along the border with Mexico, and perhaps a wall to rival the Great Wall of China.  Mr. Perry is going to put the country back to work.  Just like Mussolini.  That's what he is.  He has zero principles, and a will-to-power the size of the dearly departed World Trade Centers.  Deficits you say?  The Democrats will be gone, and they are the party of deficit spending.  QED.