Saturday, November 26, 2011

Two Days After T'giving

Surely one of the most absurd
ideas to have surfaced during this brief season of feasting is the Pam Geller rant about halal turkeys. Here's some info, if you find stupid interesting:

I think the best "response" might be Marcy Wheeler's, and it isn't really a response at all, just a good formula for making a good turkey (I think we'll try it at when Xmas arrives; we decided to have salmon fillets for our big meal this year. That way our elderly kitty could sit at the table with us. Anyways, here's Marcy, from her blog Empty Wheel (listed in my blog-roll):

I’ve had a request to explain how I use bacon on my turkey. As I’ve explained, I think the bacon serves the same purpose as brining (slow application of salt), without the meat losing it’s “bite” as I think can happen with brining. Plus, it protects the breast from over-browning. And best of all, you can pick it off at that point of the afternoon where you start to get really hungry but don’t want to ruin your appetite. And once you’ve cleaned the bacon off, it’ll brown nicely.

As you put the bird in the oven, cover it with bacon. I will use a full pound for a big bird, which is what we have this year (14 pounds).

I’ll tent my turkey for about an hour, then let the bacon brown for about 1.5 hours, and by then I’ll be ready for snacking. Which, after a couple of trips back to the oven to strip the bacon, should leave about an hour for the bird to brown.

In other matters, Doghouse comments today on a mass thievery occurring somewhere in Indianapolis just prior to the advent of Black Friday--seems some people figured out that all the cars parked in a shopping center lot, unattended, to save spaces for when the stores opened for the rush, might be full of good stuff already. This puts me in mind of an idea I had a while back. As many surely know, the price of copper has gone so high (probably due to a combination of demand and speculation) that people in desperate straits (or just plain crooks) are stealing copper right off the electric poles. All one needs, after all, is a boom truck, some insulated snips, and some knowledge about which wires not to mess with.

So, me wonders. Given that the larger problem we face is that speculators have cornered the market on success, and that the "job creators" have moved all the jobs to other corners of the world, why don't these copper coppers be channeled somehow to stealing the particular copper bits which transmit speculations concerning, e.g., copper. That way the circle would be closed in an obvious way to all concerned, rather than there being this convenient disconnect (no pun intended) between the people who drive up the prices and the people who are tempted by the "free" money festooning our environment everywhere they look.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Day Fact

From the National Priorities Project via Digby:

The average Bush tax cut in 2011 for a taxpayer in the richest one percent is greater than the average income of the other 99 percent ($66,384 compared to $58,506).

Thanksgiving Day Extended Metaphor:

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Headline of the Week

From Doghouse:

Nobody Pepper-Sprayed The Dade County Rent-a-Mob

'Member that one? Where this mob of people, a lot of 'em from D.C. it turned out, stopped the vote recount in Florida's 2000 Presidential election. The count stopped as I recall, and that cranked up the amps on the "we have no President" fear being shoveled by nearly all the ordinary media of the era. And that fear brought in the cavalry, in the form of the Supreme Court.

I might also wonder just where all the batons and canisters were when rallies sporting weapon-carrying citizens were blossoming during the big panic over the death-paneled government health care thing.

Well, Happy Thanksgiving, y'all.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Where We Stand

I've gotten into this sort of argument with a poster called (shorthand) Thunder, who makes many excellent remarks in comments sections at several blogs I read daily. The argument circles around a question of perception, which might be phrased as a question: do we really live in a democracy? Yesterday he cited Glenn Greenwald's piece in Salon, which documents the fact (documented in zillions of ways and places, of course) that the Democratic Party is very seriously compromised by money and the monied, creating a situation in which there actually is in far too many instances no one at all to vote for, if you think the answer to Occupy's question is just "trow de bums out."

So to Mr. Thunder (if he ever drops by)--I sure do definitely get your point, my man, I see the same problem you do, and it tempts me daily to just walk away from political solutions entirely. Indeed--been there. I think my generation mostly already did that, in fact. That's the politics of "turn on, tune in, drop out." And of course it's also the politics of finding some sort of direct action answer to the problem of voicelessness. But what can a poor boy do, 'cept to sing in a rock and roll band, cause you see there's just no doubt there's just no place for a street fightin' man.

We're all watching the reaction to powerlessness welling up in the form of the Occupy Movement. None of us know what long term effects will eventually ensue. I'm thinking (as is Thunder) that there are going to be some good consequences.
It's possible that some of the gross brutalities being committed by police in conflict with the Occupiers are going to generate a backlash. Pepper spray dude is going to maybe get fired. Whether Wall Street (or the military-industrial complex if you prefer) is going to get "smashed", well that's another story.

Go watch Harlan County, USA again, it's been a month or two. It takes a striker getting his brains literally blown out to generate a solution to the impasse. We get to see the brains on the pavement, literally. This most profound documentary is the blueprint for the building we keep building, over and over again. Ordinary citizens--gram-mas--will need to start stashing pistols in their bras, and brandishing them now and then. But it's the grandma who gets martyred, which then causes just enough remorse to generate a brief moment of togetherness, where a few things get fixed, somewhat.

How do you keep the circle from just being re-squared is my question? It's clear that, for one historical example, JFK's assassination engendered enough spirit of compromise to get some basic Civil Rights laws passed in the years immediately following his death. But the same years that gave birth to those laws also gave birth to the GOP "Southern Strategy." Which is the same story we already saw a century earlier, when the utter carnage of the American Civil War led to a few relatively brief changes in our culture, but then segregation was imposed--and let us face it--segregation was an act of democracy, at least with a small "d," albeit laced with terrorism and denial.

The principle I have come back to, again and again, when I tire of looking into this abyss, is just good old Robert Creeley's: "drive, he said, fr christs sake, look out where yr going." I find that a workable solution. Perhaps it's just my fundamental psychology. Camus might go shoot some random pedestrian in existential exasperation. The Berrigans might offer you a communion wafer. Drive he said ends up meaning a lot of things, including "write a song," "learn a new tune," or just "play the hell outa the ones you know," or "get up there and fix the roof."

I suggested the other day that some of the Occupy momentum might be successfully applied to specifics--such as kicking Scott Walker, that odious toad--out of office. Mr Thunder responds that such an idea risks co-opting the Movement to the smaller ends of the already corrupted Democratic Party. Maybe it does. The final scenes of Harlan County, USA, are instructive. In the end, after the blood is hosed away, small things have improved, somewhat.

At the same time, Southern Strategies keep being reformulated. In the face of good will, the Right creates a Think Tank and a new Pundit Line for the Xmas Season. And Mr. Obama keeps Gitmo open, and Pvt. Bradley Manning in the slammer. Because Tasers don't kill as much as .38 Specials, they are employed more frequently, and become a comedy prop on ESPN.

Billie Holiday wrote "Strange Fruit" in the early '40s. Michelle Obama may have said she wasn't proud of America till they elected her husband. For that NASCAR fans booed her last Sunday, as she stood with an Iraq War vet and his wife and children to say "start your engines."

Update: I'm delighted to read (via Doghouse) that the police chief at UC-Davis has resigned. One hopes that political pressure will be maintained--that this isn't just a matter of tossing one tasty bit to the wolves in the hopes that nothing at all about the current method of "crowd control" in the US will be seriously changed. This would surely be a "win" for the Occupy. Of course it's not exactly what they are objecting to, but rather a tertiary symptom. Still, have to start somewhere.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

It's Just a Shot Away

(photo via Digby, probably more or less viral at this point)

Yesterday someone being interviewed by NPR at an Occupy site said something along the lines of, "well, either the system is going to change, or we're going to smash them." That's a brave statement, coming from what sounded like a nice young woman of 20-something. Now what? Are we rushing towards Kent State? Four Dead in Ohio. It made a hell of a hook for Neil Young.

It might be argued that Nixon's over-reach at the Watergate is why Vietnam finally ended, and not with a bang but with more or less a whimper. And the military-industrial complex did not end with Vietnam, but went to school. And after a time we got Reagan, and Iran/Contra, and a country uninterested in more congressional inquiries into Presidential illegalities.

One hopes the righteous indignation fueling OWS finds some clear focus. There's no doubt the state efforts in Wisconsin, Ohio and elsewhere are related to the spirit of OWS. But I fear that street battles with police will galvanize no one but a hard Right that already fantasizes new Kent States and worse. People trying to drive home from work, and thwarted in their effort by masses of pedestrians with vague objections to overpaid speculators and bankers will most likely just pound their steering wheels and honk their horns till the jam is cleared. People trying to get home from work are, mostly, in the 99%. The bankers can, if necessary, rent a chopper.

I hope for the best. It seems to me that if there are to be changes for the better, they must come through a revitalization of good government--a government that can push back against this same 1%. The problem is, money is power. It's not a new problem, and the government we built to mitigate money has been systematically destroyed over the past forty or fifty years. There are countless studies of this process, if you care to find them. Our only real choice remains the simple bipolar one our politics gives us--D/R. We need a lot more good Ds. It's that simple. The statistic of the week is an historical one--in the aftermath of the Kent State massacre, most Americans sympathized with the Ohio National Guard.

While the exercise of homespun democracy in the Occupy camps seems to cause joy and wonderment to those who experience it, the fact is that the Occupy Movement needs seasoned leadership and focus. There was a moment in the immediate aftermath of Woodstock when some imagined a new world had been invented. It wasn't that long before Altamont revised that view. I'd recommend a nice Saturday night double feature, before you head out to the barracades: Woodstock, then Gimme Shelter.

In the fall of '69 I headed out to San Francisco. I'd heard about all the fun, the new world awaiting. It was fun, when I got there. At the movies, joints would simply come down the aisles. Same with catching a ride from San Francisco over to Oakland. Everybody was stoned. At the corner of Height and Ashbury, bikers would lounge on their Harleys whispering "acid, speed, pot." People drummed in the park for hours on end. After a winter of poverty, I got on a Trailways and headed back to North Carolina realities. I applied for a job in the Durham County social services system, and was told not to wear "curious shoes" to my next interview. I was also told that I was "overqualified." Kent State was still in the future, and the Vietnam war had 5 years to run. I started playing fiddle in the Fuzzy Mountain String Band, and edited books at Duke University Press for a living. My draft number was 310 as I recall.

Smashing the system, that's the ticket. Thing is, people want order. If you don't take that fact into account, you may run into it on a dark night, unexpected.

Update: The plain fact that we humans can manage to hold contradictory "positions" at the same instance is well illustrated by the Occupy situation, and by the following post:

If voters would just take the small step of noticing the gross inconsistencies which emanate daily from the Right, they could then reach out for opportunities to improve government which come their way now and then in the form of honest, capable candidates and even now and then folks hoping for re-election. Without the endless appeals to cliche, prejudice, illusory class snobbery and down right panic, the Republicans have absolutely nothing to run on in their quest to destroy government. Mr. Romney is their "best" candidate; he could have been drawn by Tom Tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

In the Pit

photo (c) 2003 Bill Hicks

In the GOP, the back benchers (so to speak) still toil on, defending the pretty much indefensible. Tbogg has very little trouble illustrating the problem with the torture defense. But that there is a "torture defense," that illustrates a larger problem, the GOP problem.

There are of course quite a number of illustrations of this larger problem. August bodies such as the New York Times are now writing pieces musing on the almost mysterious fact that the GOP seems unable to field any candidate for President this cycle that can be taken seriously. This is a worrisome fact, because it implies that our system is seriously broken in some kind of structural way. Consider, for example, that it is quite possible that instead of Obama as a re-electable and now reasonably seasoned candidate for the job, there were some candidate who was as patently unqualified as, say, Herman Cain. It's certainly a theoretical possibility isn't it? So what, then? If the electorate is stuck with two dangerously incompetent candidates as their final choice, how is the magic of democracy to save us, in a world where the President can order the deployment of nuclear weapons, submarines, aircraft carriers, and the most powerful military organization ever devised. If the GOP can become this broken, what if Democratic strategists decide to undertake the same strategy?

The corruption of the Republican Party has been a long time coming, of course. For some reason, strategists in that party have chosen, at nearly every turn, to take the dark path of fear and confusion, and this after their last great President, Dwight Eisenhower, warned the nation of the powers and dangers of the military-industrial complex. Joe McCarthy, in the '50s, provided a counter-point to Eisenhower's optimism, stirring the pot of paranoia with fears of a domestic "red menace" beyond all rationality. In the '60s the GOP chose the "Southern Strategy," raking in racist voters who were leaving the Democratic Party because the Democrats had finally and belatedly gotten on the right side of the terrible "race issue" which blights our history in its entirety, from 1776 onwards. In the '70s, after the Supreme Court ruled that women had a constitutional right to medical care which could include abortion, the GOP once again encouraged a "right to life" movement which has on occasion used even deadly terrorist tactics to achieve its ends--the denial of equal medical care for women. Then there's the scapegoating of homosexuals, the endless absurdity of resistance to the very simple idea that people of the same sex can marry, draconian immigration measures (see, e.g., Arizona, Alabama, et al.) which can break up families wholesale, deny even water service to undocumented people. The list goes on I'm sure, but is tiring. I haven't even mentioned the whole tangle of Second Amendment positions which the GOP stands on, or the current attack on historically established labor rights, or the various efforts by Republican-governed states to roll-back voting rights--an effort which may in the end give us a President Romney or Cain via voter suppression alone.

One can generalize for the sake of space. The GOP fear-mongers at every turn. It is supported in this general effort by a body of highly capable paid salesmen--the right-wing commentators, such as Limbaugh, Hannity, Beck, Bortz, etc.--not to mention a whole "news" network, Fox, as well as much of the more "mainstream" media including even NPR, which now cringes in fear of being called "liberal" and in response makes every absurd effort, day in and day out, to "balance" every issue in their reportage. Next weekend NASCAR holds its final race of the season, and a Championship is at stake. Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Biden are attending officially. You should read the bilious consternation voiced by some of NASCAR's worst fans on their bulletin boards. There is even a frequently expressed fear that somehow the "gubment" is going to make NASCAR switch to electric cars. "He'll take away our guns," anyone? This is a symptomatic result of the fact that one whole national political party has, since the 1950s, picked the dark side of every political issue, including some that otherwise wouldn't even exist. If anybody gets their news from RightRadio, it's the NASCAR fan (or at least the bigoted segment of the cohort; some of my best friends are NASCAR fans I have to say).

The overarching GOP strategy has its short term successes. In the long run, it is disastrous for America and may well in the final analysis bring our democracy to an end. It yields in 2011 a list of potential Presidential candidates who are all--every one--deeply lacking in Presidential ability, although one or two might manage to be spokesmen for hidden sources of power. This strategy yields a contradictory governing philosophy which is against all taxation--which is the only method by which our government can do what we want it to do. And of course this anti-tax "plank" is part of the reason all the Republican candidates teeter on the abyss, with Romney, who used to be more attached to realities such as the basic concept of "contradiction", teetering the most obviously, changing his positions like a weather-vane in a hurricane.

Meanwhile, although Mr. Obama is capable enough, on many issues it's not as though he's got the only view. Many of the Bush Administration's erosion of fundamental constitutional rights continue. Guantanamo still exists. New York City can terminate press freedom for the evening while it rounds up, arrests, and expels the Occupy group. Pretty quiet on that one, Mr. O? Perhaps because New York's police efforts are assisted by the Federal Government:

Under Obama's tenure, the military-industrial complex continues to thrive, as does Wall Street. Aside from the inchoate Occupy event, the presidential campaign is not being run on these real issues--issues which might ought to be actually at issue. Democrats and Republicans in Congress and the White House agree, pretty much, that the long-term commitment of the US Government to our senior citizens, embodied in Social Security and Medicare, cannot be sustained as promised. That's a pretty remarkable fact, isn't it. One might even imagine it were an issue free for the taking, if the "out" political party hadn't already decided that it's more effective to red-bait, race-bait, queer-bait, gender-bait, and fear monger. And of course toady to big money--back in the mid-80s it was the Reagan Administration which presided over the income cap on social security taxes which both turns social security into a welfare program, and starves it of the funds required to make it at least a somewhat adequate pension program for Americans who manage to live to an age which they can no longer work.

In such circumstances, and given that there is only, in the end, a choice between the D and the R, people not consumed by fear must end up voting for Obama. Unless, of course, when they get to the polls they are turned away because they didn't know they had to have some special picture ID that their legislature has just edicted.

Update: with regard to the collaboration of Federal officials with various city officials, re expelling the Occupy, from Juan Cole today:

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan let slip in an interview with the BBC that she had been on a conference call with the mayors of 18 cities about how to deal with the Occupy Wall Street movement. That is, municipal authorities appear to have been conspiring to deprive Americans of their first amendment rights to freedom of assembly and freedom to petition the government for redress of grievances.

Likewise, A Homeland Security official let it slip in a phone interview that the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security had been strategizing with cities on how to shut down OWS protests. The FBI is said to have advised using zoning ordinances and curfew regulations, and to stage the crackdown with massive police force at a time when the press was not around to cover the crackdown.

Wonkette suggests that the PATRIOT Act is implicated here, but I’m not sure how that works. Actually the techniques discussed are standard for US police forces in dealing with peaceful protests (the only routine technique missing is that of putting saboteurs among the protesters who cause destruction and create an image of them as violent.

What these two reports show is a high-level conspiracy to deprive Americans of their constitutional right to protest peacefully.

When will we see Occupy Wall Street protesters hooded, dressed in orange jump suits, and sent to Guantanamo for military trials? When you let the government act without regard for the rule of law toward foreigners suspected of terrorism, you open yourself to be treated the same way if the rich decide to sic their police on you (it is mostly their police). This is why a rule of law has to be maintained. Anything less ratchets toward tyranny.

(There are links at his site.)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

You May Find Yourself

As usual, Doghouse nails the problem:

Kneel and pray all you want (hypocrites!). You think a lack of public sanctimony is what ailed Penn State? Jerry Sandusky was all about good works. Maybe one more minute of silence, on top of a decade or more of silence, wasn't exactly the best approach.

On the Right, apparently the "answer" to the problem posed by a ten year cover-up of an extremely nasty sex scandal involving multiple child molestations and one of the top BCS football programs in the country, plus the winningest coach of all time and a major university, is to just blame the "liberals" and the nanny state. Citations to this absurdity abound--you can just surf and find them. Even straight forward sports writers are cringing at the idea of possibly imposing major immediate sanctions on Penn State. Over at CNN the sports guy and the news guy got into an argument over whether the Penn State problem was even NCAA sanctionable, in principle.

There's just too much money at stake. Public prayer will have to suffice.

And same, apparently, goes for the suppression of First Amendment rights which New York City just imposed, in the early morning. There was no official media coverage either. Air space above the park was closed! No cams allowed. Coverage no doubt exists on YouTube. For the moment. Until Congress gets around to dealing with the money problem.

Hopefully New York's greatest band will throw a reunion concert, featuring their most remarkable song. Same as it ever was, same as it ever was, same as it ever was.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

It's Really Always in the Weeds

(c) MGM

Read the article and the comments. Here's a parallel: back in the day, the Beatles just turned the music establishment upside down. After a time, things were back in their orderly places, with business executives in charge. I remember driving down East Franklin Street in Chapel Hill and hearing "Hey Jude" for the first time, on an ordinary radio station no less. My thought was, they just keep doing this, they are really amazing. It felt as solid as the thought that of course property values will keep rising, because of course "they aren't making any more land."

Of course people will "always" be able to say what they want on the internet.

Of course corn will always grow in Iowa.

Today I'm playing a dance down in Greenville, NC. Onward and upward with the arts, I say. Credit to Mr. Shawn of course!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Underlying Concepts


Over at Jack Balkin's blog I ran across the following post:

It's remarkable that this take down of a "philosophy" which seems to dominate the entire Republican Party is accomplished not by some liberal, but by Whittaker Chambers, and in National Review no less. Says the reviewer of Chambers' piece:

While he had no love for the (socialistic/bureaucratic) governing elite, Chambers pointed out that it did little good to simply “plump for” a would-be “industrial-financial-engineering caste” to take their place. These people, fed on Randian fairly tales about “an aristocracy of talents,” would soon imagine themselves to be “living and acting beyond good and evil, a law unto [themselves].”

As the poster points out earlier, Rep. Paul Ryan requires his staff to read Rand. It is no wonder that the fundamental social contract forged by 200 years of American History is being destroyed by the current edition of the Republican Party. What the Republicans propose to replace democracy with is simply pure power, and we all know that money IS power. Mr. Perry cannot even remember which agency he wants to destroy. Mr. Cain's lawyers threaten anyone who dares to come forward. Mr. Romney tells us over and over that corporations are people. Representative Walsh wants to destroy any government job he can. So goes the week.

And the tragic end to Mr. Paterno's career is a lesson in the failure of near-absolute power, the riot by Penn State students a symptom of how thin the eggshells we stand on really are. The Randians want us to stand on thin air.

Saturday, November 5, 2011


(photo (c) Marion Post Wolcott, 1941)

This phenomenon was predicted, over and over again, by people who could see the obvious--that draconian deportation policies founder on the rocks of the plain fact that many undocumented residents are parents of American citizens who cannot legally be deported.

As with many right wing political policies, logic bears little leverage on action (or as in climate change, inaction). And so we find the same people who are trying to pass a life-begins-at-conception amendment in Mississippi arguing for deportation (and electric fences). And probably those same people are fine with drone strikes in far away villages, and the collateral damage ensuing.

Mr. Cain is absolutely the candidate for these folks. Like them, he is uninterested in logic and implication. Mr. Cain is the Right Wing Talk Show Host candidate, and better at the "candidate job" than the last guy who tried it, Alan Keyes. He appeals to "jes folks." He's the guy on the nail keg, down at the Texaco, with a Pepsi bottle full of floating peanuts, on a hot August morning. He's got in all the shingling he's gonna do for the day, started at 5 when it was cool. He's on the way, slowly, to the river, with a pole and a can of worms. Along his route he's gonna visit some with whomever stops to fill up the tank, about whatever he feels like talking about.

"You know ma," the farmer says driving away from the pumps. "I'da vote for that guy if he was running. The pointyheads are just ruining the country. You'd a thought when we fried those two jew scientists for stealing the A-bomb, things would a changed."

9-9-9 is the same way. Polls now show that Iowans believe by a significant margin that Cain's tax plan is going to save them some serious tax dollars. In fact, math shows that for a person with an income below $100,000 it will actually cost them thousands a year more in taxes. But an appeal to math is really an appeal to "elitist thinking." It's the pointy heads again. Them jew scientists were traitors, but they were good at math.

This is where the mystery of poll results meets the political designs of oligarchs who aim to win the Presidency. In Herman Cain they might have got 'em a winner. After a week of "scandal," he's up in the polls, and the voters believe it's all a plot by the Liberal Press.

(I thought this post up entirely independently of Mr. R. Pundit (see his post of 11/1/11), who says it better:
The Rude Pundit )

Friday, November 4, 2011

Hannity, Twisting in the Wind


I'll have more to say, perhaps, on the wonderful and distracting Cain "story," which is now the unfolding rather than the initial Politico piece. For the moment, it being time for work, I'll just rejoice that Mr. Cain's complete arrogance (for such it is) is driving him to leave even his most passionate supporters, such as the odious Mr. Hannity, entirely hanging out. This also goes for his buds at National Review Online, not to mention the Colters of the Right, who are actually now using terminology (thanks to Jon Stewart for this info) like "our blacks" and "their blacks." Yesterday's Hannity radio extravaganza featured a long interview with Cain, who continued to muddle and dissemble, with nary a serious question from Hannity, until apparently the both of them just ran out of air. Then Mr. Rove came on to discuss, and I thought he was some leftist, since his fairly sensible remark hung in the air like the Hindenburg over New Jersey: "why doesn't the National Restaurant Association," Rove said, "just put out all the documentation on these cases, with the names blacked out?" Well golly willikers. What an idea.

Anyways, for the moment Mr. Hannity has been utterly used by Mr. Cain, his credibility sopped up like turkey gravy on white bread. Last night much was made of Mr. Cain's blanket assertion, back in March, that he was pure as the driven snow, that should anyone suggest anything scandalous about him, that suggestion would be, per se, a lie, made up. Apparently Mr. Cain was certain that those agreements of confidentiality were as tight as Fort Knox, and that he could simply brazen things out. That is an expression of arrogance in the extreme. He continues on the path, knocking the pins asunder as he finds them. And of course in the end of this he may find even his book sales have fallen off to remainder bin levels, and his jaunty jive hat knocked to the curb by a reality that is immune to arrogance, if slow to rebound from the initial impact.

Nein, nein, nein, Herr Cain. Tbogg has it right:

What sustains Mr. Cain at the moment is only the almost erotic delight in victimhood which the Teaparty Right swims in, oblivious. I don't think that will sustain a presidential campaign.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

That Dream Press


This excellent piece by Marcy Wheeler exposes the problem with our mainstream media even better than, say, a random half-hour with Shepard Smith. Or perhaps it exposes the depth of the problem I keep making efforts to address herein. That is, one can mitigate the pernicious brain-cell killing effects of Fox News, or ABC News, with counter-doses of MSNBC. But MSNBC has its own issues, which are more subtle but still there. (And this is NOT an invocation of the horrible "balance" mistake yet again--a catch-all sewer which has sucked most of the thinking that used to occur in reportage right down the drain and into the Delta.) Jonathan Alter, for example, is frequently an analyst-guest on various MSNBC shows, and he is a thoughtful analyst and has his insights. But, as Marcy shows in the link, he also has blinders on.

Look at it this way: we're all seeing this phenomenon, the Occupy Movement, as an ongoing news story. But understanding it, that's the hard part. One proffered explanation is to be found on the Fox side of things--it amounts to a prolonged sneer, a Major Hoople snap of the evening newspaper, a hope that Oakland's rubber bullets are but a beginning, perhaps even a nostalgia for those glorious moments when fearful boys in the National Guard started shooting students at Kent State.
Hannity's big lead yesterday was, "Alleged Rape at Occupy Wall Street." That's the Right--the same Right that finds alleged racism in the simple reportage of facts.

But as Ms Wheeler rightly points out, the Obama Administration is also far too cozy with the same One-Percenters that are the focus of the Occupy Movement. Indeed, what the Occupy Movement is attempting, more than anything else, is an end run around the blanket media perception of power and wealth in the United States--a perception which in many ways forms the very field upon which the so-called "left/right" dichotomy plays out. Want an example? Ok. One of the biggest current sponsors of the various MSNBC shows running during prime time is the Natural Gas Industry, which is featuring a series of extremely well-crafted advertisements reassuring all of us that our nation's water supply will not be endangered by the fracking process used to release deep natural gas reservoirs. This claimed fact--that fracking is entirely safe--is (as far as I know) never challenged on MSNBC, not even by Rachel Maddow, who runs frequent stories on other energy industry pollutings. (Last night, between kindly ads about the safety of fracking, she showed pictures of a collapsed coal-ash slurry flood which poured into Lake Michigan.)

Or to put it another way, I have never heard Ms Wheeler's pointed conclusion stated on any MSNBC analysis of the upcoming Presidential contest. I'll paste it here for you:

There are people occupying squares all around this country to protest, largely, bankster corruption. The bankster corruption Obama has enabled. The corruption that caused the lousy economy.

And yet, because Alter doesn’t get that Obama’s coddling of the banksters exacerbated the lousy economy, he doesn’t see that that scandal–Obama catering to his donors the banksters while the biological people of this country suffered as a result–might be the only thing that gives the parade of nutcases auditioning to run against Obama an opening against him.

This is not an arcane bit of analysis. This is where we are at in the country, and this is the framework for our next election of a President.

It is remarkable that to find this analysis I had to dig deep into the blogosphere, to a place a relative handful of people even know about. This is the failure of the media system without which we cannot possibly have informed choice, not to mention a particularly pointed example of how both our national political parties are co-oped by monied interests--by the One Percent, so to speak.

One would almost think a kind of Heisenberg Principle is at work, with the Democratic Process being the moving parts of the atom, and money being the light electrons which affect things we're trying to "look" at. It didn't used to be this way.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Whoo Hooo, Sex Scandal

(photo Jack Delano, 1941, "Backstage at the Rutland State Fair")

Since I was away from the news and the computer for a few days due to the race, I watched a good deal of MSNBC last night--Matthews, Schultz, Maddow, O'Donnell. The primary focus was the Cain sex story, as it might be described. It's a complex "thing," this story. First, there's the Politico story itself, an assertion that Cain has settled one or possibly two sexual harassment accusations out of court, for cash. Second, there's the story of Cain's changing reactions to this assertion of fact, upon being confronted with it. Third, there's the hard right punditry's knee jerk reaction that it's an attack on a black conservative by the liberal press, a kind of accusation of racism. Fourth, there's the mystery of where Politico got its tips, which led to the story.

And there's the fifth aspect or facet of this story. That as is typical with such stories, it obliterated at least for a time the much more significant story that should be required work for the whole realistic American press--that right wing billionaires are successfully distorting our political process to their own ends, and that one of their smaller efforts in this regard is actually the candidacy of Mr. Herman Cain. For amongst the obliterated features of yesterday's news was the story that Mr. Cain received quite a bit of illegally contributed loot in his Presidential bid from groups directly associated with the Koch Brothers.

With regard to the sex story, seems to me that Mr. Cain's inept reaction to it is yet another proof that he has an extremely minimal campaign team, i.e., his candidacy is not serious, but is more like Gingrich's and the collapsed Palin phenomenon--an effort in self-promotion, a "book tour" so to speak. Had Mr. Cain a body of staffers, likely he would not have been personally surprised by the story, which led to his ever changing reactions to it (a feature of himself which isn't new to this story either, see., e.g., how his 9-9-9 plan is being revised on the fly as he runs into successive questions which reveal problems with it in its simple form--problems which actually go to prove the obvious, that a simple "flat" tax is grossly unfair and would be unpopular with almost everyone). Mr. Cain's lack of a body of staffers is in turn proof that his campaign isn't serious, which is in turn proof that the Republican Party finds itself unable to sift out the cranks from the serious candidates--a disastrous problem for an allegedly major party. And, one might also surmise from Mr. Cain's inability to settle on a truthful answer to the factual question he confronts--namely, did you in fact settle sexual harassment suits out of court for cash--suggests his inability to deal with the most important aspect of the job of President--being able to make firm decisions on important matters in real time. (But of course this inability is in a sense moot in Cain's case, since he isn't "really" running. Cain, like Gingrich, like Bachmann, like Santorum, is (as we say at Martinsville) just another Nemachek.

For a disinterested observer, which only means a person who understands that in the end they have but one vote, and that one vote is tho important, not a big fraction when it comes to Presidents, the question is more and more, how broke can this American system really get, before it actually breaks down. In that regard, my guess would be, on the question of who whispered in Politco's ear, Carl Rove. Certainly Democrats have no interest in derailing Mr. Cain, who derails himself with nearly every public appearance and appeals primarily to the people who ache to be derailed and distracted. Like Palin, Cain would be a candidate of choice for Democrats. Moreover, Politico is not a particularly liberal part of the press.

More generally, it seems to me that the de facto oligarchy is clearly of two minds about the direction the Kochs are trying to steer the country in. Last week the Dow went above 12 thousand. Mr. Buffet's editorial flutters on invisible wires in the air above the whole Congressional Republican delegation, a Mission Accomplished reproach to their patently obvious strategy of derailing any recovery in the hope that they will thereby derail Mr. Obama. Old money, such as the Koch family, brings with it a certain myopic perspective not shared generally by successful players, at least not in toto. While the Kochs imagine a stooge who distracts while the real game is played behind the scenes, the Buffets may consider a President of some capability to be of real value, as long as they still have his ear. It's possible that in the real world, yet another war, such as one with Iran or Pakistan, seems as big a mistake to the oligarchs as it does to everyone else living outside the blinders of "true belief," e.g., al qaeda or Palintot.

Nontheless, wouldn't it be nice if the public weren't distracted so often by the folks who are supposed to be windows to the world. It would help if institutions who are supposedly committed to maintaining those windows didn't collapse in the slightest breeze.

I'll repost the link for that sad remark here:

I have to wonder how NPR is "covering" the big Cain Sex Scandal.