Saturday, April 26, 2014

Not a Racist Bone

Rachel Maddow aired this brilliant piece Thursday (4/24/14) night on her show:

Yesterday afternoon on the Hannity radio show, which I'd inadvertently turned to driving home from work (by turning the radio on--Libby had been listening to the radio the night before driving back from Raleigh), Hannity was running some sort of chumly conversation with some other guy he, Hannity, claimed was a liberal radio guy. The guy, whoever he was, said he really hated how the liberals were pickin' on Shawn, cause he knew there "wasn't a racist bone" in Hannity's whole body. Who knew Cliven Bundy was going to come out with all that racist stuff, Hannity said. Later on in the evening, Mr. O'Reilly said Fox's support of Bundy, which wasn't mounted by all of Fox anyways, just a misguided few, was no different than Ms Maddow and the rest of MSNBC "convicting" Governor Christie just because MSNBC wanted to knock off Hillary's most difficult opponent in 2016, see it's all politics anyways.

But the goal, all the time, is to keep these things compartmentalized. This is the Atwater strategy:

Which might be called the Orwell double-speak strategy, if you want to go all classical about it. Nobody wants to be a racist any more, except a few idiots that nobody else wants to associate with. It's got to be some other, chillier, issue. In this case, "government overreach."

Mr. Jon Stewart, just the night before Ms. Maddow's brilliant historical analysis of Bundy's grounding, showed us just how deep the right's concern with the problem of "government overreach" goes. Cue the pepper spray. You can watch the whole thing via this link:

The thing is, the right wing media's "instant history" division wants us to forget yesterday, much less a year ago, or a decade ago, or fifty years ago. The right wing--that is, its funders--want the American voters constantly focused in the present and on the most emotion-laden events of the day. They want us to run, willy-nilly, from one fearsome prospect to the next. If they could run nothing but horror stories of black home invasion-murder-rape, that'd be just fine. Mr. Bundy thinks just like millions of other Fox viewers--he can imagine black people "better off" as slaves and at the same moment justify his own theft of government resources on the grounds that "at least I'm putting food on your tables."

Ms Maddow's piece reveals the real historical context--those people out there surrounding Bundy are the same folks who got so het up in 1995 that a couple of them blew up the Morrow Building in Oklahoma City, another blow against "government overreach." Somewhere there's a video of Mr. Limbaugh's howls when President Clinton suggested that his daily rhetoric of hate had something to do with the bombing.

That's the last thing the right wing media can ever allow to stand. That one thing might be connected to the next. Fox, Limbaugh, and the rest want us to be forever jittering from one crisis to the next. The hard task for people who see more clearly is the leaking dike problem. Tomorrow there'll be a tornado down the road, or hail stones the size of apples, which is pretty damn frightening, but of course has absolutely nothing at all to do with the CO-2 exhaust our magnificent engine keeps pumping into the atmosphere, 24/7.

Once Mr. Hannity put his arm around George Zimmerman, the rest was detail. And what do the right wing media funders want anyways? My guess is, to loot America till there's nothing left but old newspapers blowing down the deserted canyons of our cities, and scared white men with guns watching every crossroads out in the countryside. That's what's going on, when you look more closely.

[photo (c) Yasuhiro Ishimoto]

Thursday, April 24, 2014


These are the four major Republican contenders for the North Carolina Senate seat now held by Senator Kay Hagan. Mrs. Hagan has done a fine job. She's smart, sensible, and hard-working, with a long career in the NC Legislature behind her before winning her seat in the last election. She thankfully voted for the Affordable Care Act.

North Carolina used to have a pretty high reputation in the world of science and technology. Students from around the world attend NC State in Raleigh and take home technical and scientific skills. We have the Research Triangle Park, founded by former Governor Luther Hodges in the late 1950s. That our state could generate such a panel of candidates is embarassing and pathetic. One of these people is a medical doctor, although he sure won't get any business from me.

With such a moment, the argument for Mrs. Hagan becomes, at least she's not one of those idiots. And they all seem to think their responses, and even the simple question, are funny.

Update: the youtube video of the four GOP hopefuls gigglingly denying climate change maybe have been taken down from youtube by WRAL, its source. If it doesn't appear for you, here's another place to watch it. It's very short so click over:

Sunday, April 20, 2014

A Revisit--Double Feature

I watched Double Indemnity a few years ago (I'd seen it at other times too, but my interest in films has grown a good deal in the last decade), and followed it up with James M. Cain's other masterpiece, The Postman Always Rings Twice. I think the cold, hard-boiled style of Indemnity had captured my sensibility at the time, and I found Postman to be nearly unwatchable--and in fact I didn't sit through it. This just goes to show you. TCM ran it the other night and I caught the whole thing, and it certainly caught me as well. Which is to say, Lana caught me just as she caught John Garfield.

Between Indemnity and Postman I've seen a lot of Fassbinder. To watch Fassbinder is to develop an appreciation for the melodramatic mode. Indemnity is essentially a cold movie. We watch it from the outside, so to speak: it is an experiment conducted, unsuccessfully as it turns out, by the MacMurray protagonist. What he's doing, fundamentally, is attempting to defeat his father-figure and boss, E.G. Robinson, after studying underwriting under Robinson for twenty years. MacMurray thinks he can pull of the perfect murder, because he's studied many failed attempts with Robinson. In a way, Stanwyck is MacMurray's victim in this contest, although she certainly is complicit in the murder.

Postman is quite another thing. Postman is emotionally ablaze, and its center is Lana Turner, who is mesmerizingly beautiful and whose emotions swerve and veer back and forth from anger to love to lust to envy to fear with the immediacy of a March day. Garfield, who has no anchor at all--he's the quintessential "drifter" archetype, as captured as Marlon Brando's guitar player in the Fugitive Kind. He is spell-bound by Lana Turner. He is always a step behind her latest emotion. The movie is at every turn driven by her emotions, which are unpredictable (except by Hume Cronyn's lawyer, who gets her far better than Garfield and just for a moment harnesses her inner maelstrom for a rational end). MacMurray is never captured by Stanwyck; he is captured by his quest to create a perfect murder.

Indemnity concludes with Stanwyck and MacMurray killing each other, their crime having destroyed their relationship such as it is. It ends with MacMurray confessing to his father figure, Robinson--the character he was contesting with all along. Postman ends with Garfield inadvertently killing Turner just as they are reconciling yet again, with the hope of somehow escaping their crime intact and creating the dream life they, and particularly she, was aiming for. Garfield is then sent to the executioner by the DA who suspected the crime from the start, but was never able to prove his suspicions. But he will die for a crime he didn't commit--killing Turner. It hardly matters to Garfield, since he has nothing left once Turner's light has been snuffed out.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Clmiate Change; or The Ruskies are a-Commin'

Let's start with a paste from the wonderful blog "I Blame the Patriarchy":

A propos of the globalization of hateriffic American family values, here’s an entertaining game we like to call “Spot The Russian Law.” Of the 3 following actual statutes, one is Russian and the others are Texan and Arizonian. If you can tell which is which I’ll eat a Cool Whip taco.

Law 1

No district shall include in its course of study instruction which:
1. Promotes a homosexual life-style.
2. Portrays homosexuality as a positive alternative life-style.
3. Suggests that some methods of sex are safe methods of homosexual sex.

Law 2

Prohibits distribution of information that is aimed at:
1. The formation among minors of nontraditional sexual attitudes
2. Attractiveness of non-traditional sexual relations
3. Misconceptions of the social equivalence between traditional and non-traditional sexual relations
4. Enforcing information about non-traditional sexual relations that evokes interest in such relations

Law 3

The materials in the education programs intended for persons younger than 18 years of age must:
1. Emphasize sexual abstinence before marriage and fidelity in marriage as the expected standard in terms of public health and the most effective ways to prevent HIV infection, sexually transmitted diseases, and unwanted pregnancies
2. State that homosexual conduct is not an acceptable lifestyle and is a criminal offense under Section 21.06, Penal Code

Answer key:
Number 1 — Arizona. Number 2 — Russia. Number 3 —Texas. Note that in its item #2, the Texas statute references the illegal but still unrepealed law characterizing “homosexual conduct” as a criminal offense. The eyes of Texas are upon you.

Ok, now you also may have noticed that in Congress the GOP is pushing bills to ramp up the exportation of liquified natural gas as well as conventional petroleum, in order to somehow "wean" Europe off of its dependence on Russian energy. And you may also have noticed that in the chronicling of continuing global climate change we have passed new milestones, in particular CO2 is now at 400 ppm in the atmosphere, pretty much constantly. There is also continuing pressure from Congress to ok the Keystone Pipeline. And in many states (including North Carolina), legislatures are pushing to remove all barriers to the fracking process, no matter the consequences known and unknown.

But did you know that fracking releases huge quantities of methane, which is many times more potent as a green house gas than CO2? And did you know that the natural gas industry has been selling itself as a "bridge to a greener future" since the early 1980s. And have you noticed that the natural gas industry is a major sponsor of MSNBC.

I'm hoping to illustrate a larger point here. Do you see what it is? The lies are a flood, too numerous to even manage to counter, one by one. There aren't enough fingers to plug the dike.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Working People's Amnesia

Apropos the to my mind odd outcome of the union vote the other week in Chattanooga, Tennessee, at the Volkswagen plant, you might read this post:

Note that after winning to some extent, the workers at the Toledo factory did not pursue their victory. This must be something fairly basic in human psychology, as it recurs in various iterations. A breath-taking example is the failure of General Meade to pursue Lee's tattered forces as they staggered back into Virginia after the horrible three days at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. To be sure, the Union forces were also tattered, and the battle was not at the time, by either side, seen as a clear victory for one side or the other. Lee, however, was expecting to be attacked as they crossed the river into Virginia, and was surprised when such an attack never materialized. It's the Roman practice, salting the very earth after Hannibal's defeat that's the exception.

At any rate, how many high school, or even college kids know that events like the ones depicted in the labor history post above ever happened in the United States. Yet in fact, they happened all too frequently.

It'd be nice if working people at least knew about our history. But it is in the short term interest of the "makers" to keep the "takers" oblivious. Like the two little pigs said about the farmer, as he poured the tasty slops into their trough, "I don't know, he must just like us." Keep the beer cheap and the ESPN a-runnin'.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Day After April Fool's Day

Guy comes to the pay window yesterday and says, "Have you been watching teevee? They shot Obama. April Fools." This is your rural North Carolina voter. He probably does vote too. Hates unions. Listens to Limbaugh. I thought about obscene comebacks and busied myself with other office tasks while someone else dealt with him.

At Martinsville on Sunday we drove up in snow-flurries, and it was as cold or colder than a few years back, when I got as cold as I've ever been since delivering the Raleigh Times one winter afternoon with only rubber boots and cotton socks on my feet. This time I wore layers and layers, and was not nearly as cold--I thought. But Monday I was still cold all day, and my arms are still kinda cold this morning, with temps heading up into the 70s they predict. Spring came the day after Martinsville. Kurt Busch won the race with a nice piece of driving, beating Jimmie Johnson fair and square. There was a kerfluffle between him and Keselowski over a pit incident. Brad K. called Busch "dumb." There was talk of rearranging faces. I was happy for Busch. He needed a win badly, and Martinsville was a nice place to get it. As he said, Johnson's owned the joint for over a decade, and must own ten or more grandfather clocks--that's the Martinsville trophy. I'd like to see Kurt climb back into some semblance of an even keel. I'm hoping he never runs for office, and can one day stop thinking of himself in the third person. While I'm at it, it'd be nice if Keselowski would stop wrapping himself in the American flag when he wins a race. Kez is a likeable dude, but calling someone else "dumb" is somewhat myopic of him, if you get my drift. The two guys ought to go out for a beer, and not a damn Bud Lite.

The pic is before the start of the race. Look how the flag is standing straight, like it was cardboard. Look how cold the sky looks. It makes me shiver. There's also a freight-train passing behind the stands, sort of "above" those STP signs, though it's hard to see. Martinsville is a blue collar town. I expect they make the grandfather clocks there. It's the only thing of national note that happens there--twice a year, spring and fall. It's a lot of fun, but I do wish they'd push back the date a bit. Martinsville is quite close the the Blue Ridge.

Sheila O'Malley put up a great piece on Christopher Hitchens and Trotsky. Here's the link:

Trotsky's insights on history and the human condition are remarkable, and remain relevant. The implications of electricity remain only skin-deep. As Tyson pointed out Sunday on "Cosmos," simply accepting the fact that the Crab Nebulae is 6,500 light years distant is enough to demolish the literal belief in the old ancient accounts of cosmology. The rest of the "stars" would vanish if the universe were only 6,000 years old. That is as much a fact as gravity, and indeed is part of the same network of facts as gravity. Read the whole O'malley post, and particularly Trotsky's observations on the beginnings of World War II.

Yesterday they reported that in December we will cross the threshold of 400 ppm carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. North Carolina and several other states have passed laws forbidding the consideration of such matters in any legislation. You might want to read the current piece on the West Virginia Elk River chemical spill, "Chemical Valley" by Evan Osnos. The author notes that the Mountaineer State is now solidly Republican, with every county going for Romney in the last election. This is how a several decade immersion in Limbovian propaganda, three hours a day, five days a week with reruns on weekends, slowly eats away the judgment of the electorate. After the spill the Governor said, about drinking chemically enhanced "Adam's ale," "it's ya'll's call."

Thus is the government drowned in the bath tub. A far far cry from those days when people like Trotsky thought they were about to transform the world. Instead, the world--the gravity of psychology and superstition and fear--won hands down. "They shot Obammy." "April Fools!"