Thursday, June 30, 2011


From Krugman's blog, some self-reflection on how well he's done analyzing the Great Recession:

3.5 Out of 4

I’d think of myself as having held, from early days, four main views that were at odds with a substantial number of other commentators. They were:

1. The slump would be very prolonged, with an extended period of jobless recovery.

2. As long as we were in the liquidity trap, interest rates would stay low despite large budget deficits.

3. Also, as long as we were in a liquidity trap, large increases in the monetary base would — as in the case of Japan — matter not at all for inflation or nominal GDP.

4. Sustained high unemployment would keep wages and core inflation low, and quite likely push us toward Japan-style deflation.

On the first three I think I was completely right. On the last, nominal wages have proved much more resistant to falling than I expected...


In short, I read Paul Krugman because he's quite often right.

I mean, of course, I also read him because, for a supporter of economic globalism, he's definitely left-of-center. He's an economist who likes to write about what happens to all the little people, you know, you and me, when all the big people, who don't give a fuck about little people at all, do their big people thing. He's very much, like, okay, this or that is going to help global corporations increase their profits, or this or that will increase trade, but it's going to affect average ordinary workers in a really bad way, which means the government needs to do this or that in order to offset such pain. Obviously, I like that kind of thinking.

As a Nobel Prize winning professor of the semi-science known as economics, however, he's much more than simply a compassionate guy: rather, he has his feet firmly planted in the field in which he works, backing up his observations with hard economic data, easily dismissing the middle school level rantings of politicians and pundits alike whose economic "analysis" dominates the public discourse.

But in the end, like I said, I like him because he usually gets it better than anyone else in the mainstream media. I don't always agree with him. For instance, for all his devastating criticisms of Obamacare, he supported it in the end as better than nothing--my take is that a multi-billion dollar giveaway to health insurance companies that doesn't cover one hundred percent of the uninsured, and without premium cost controls, and which forces everybody to pay their hard earned dollars to evil private corporations, is, in fact, worse than nothing. But I was able to come to that conclusion, the opposite of Krugman's, by reading his own honest and detailed analysis. That is, he's so honest with his writing that it's pretty easy to filter for ideological bias. He's quite a valuable resource.

So really, when you're reading a story on economics in the paper, or watching the pundits duke it out on television, you just don't have the full picture until you've read Krugman's take on it.


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

NRC, Nuclear Industry Rewrite History: AP Investigation

From the AP via the Huffington Post:

When commercial nuclear power was getting its start in the 1960s and 1970s, industry and regulators stated unequivocally that reactors were designed only to operate for 40 years. Now they tell another story – insisting that the units were built with no inherent life span, and can run for up to a century, an Associated Press investigation shows.

By rewriting history, plant owners are making it easier to extend the lives of dozens of reactors in a relicensing process that resembles nothing more than an elaborate rubber stamp.

As part of a yearlong investigation of aging issues at the nation's nuclear power plants, the AP found that the relicensing process often lacks fully independent safety reviews. Records show that paperwork of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission sometimes matches word-for-word the language used in a plant operator's application.

Also, the relicensing process relies heavily on such paperwork, with very little onsite inspection and verification.

And under relicensing rules, tighter standards are not required to compensate for decades of wear and tear.

More here.

This is chilling, indeed. The long and short of the article is that all of these nuclear power plants have reached the end of their design life, but they are being rubber stamp renewed to operate another twenty years, and safety considerations be damned. Okay, I think I am now officially anti-nuke. Whether they're safe in theory has nothing to do with how they appear to be operated in reality. And nukes are nothing to fuck around with. After all, there is absolutely no margin for error once they fail.

I recently watched a massive fifteen hour long documentary called A History of Britain, which is fascinating enough on its own merits, but one episode in particular got me thinking. The slave trade, you know, the economic institution that continues to screw with the American psyche a hundred and fifty years after it ended, was literally started in the early eighteenth century by the British Empire in order to facilitate huge fortunes that could be made growing sugar in the Caribbean. It had nothing at all to do with white supremicism, as far as motivation goes--that came later, as a bogus philosophical rationale to justify retroactively the barbaric practice of slavery. Rather, what drove the entire enterprise forward was the ability to become as rich as European nobility in five or six years time: the only thing lacking was a labor force that would work in the intensely hot and malaria ridden conditions present in the jungle terrain where sugar cane was grown. No self-respecting and life-valuing English subject would even consider doing such work. Actually, nobody would consider such work.

So slavery, which had always been around, but on a relatively small scale, went big time.

Thing was, at the time, everybody knew it was wrong. Everybody. Everyone understood that uprooting thousands of human beings from one part of the world, brutally shipping them across the Atlantic to another part of the world, and forcing them to work in vilely inhumane conditions is deeply immoral. Everybody knew it. But they were making so much money! So the practice continued for decades and decades until social forces slowly rose up to demand an end to it all. In the US we had to go to war in order to abolish slavery, the resistance to abolition was so fierce.

And such resistance was ultimately driven by profit.

So watching this episode about the origins of slavery it dawned on me how the profit urge wasn't ever really questioned. I mean, slavery was questioned, to be sure, and we ultimately ended it, or, at least, we ended slavery in that particular manifestation. But nobody ever really took a deep and penetrating look at how the profit motivation makes human beings do the most vile and wretched things to other human beings, even when we know it's wrong.

I mean, okay, Marx examined all this, but his work never went mainstream in the US in the way resistance to slavery did. Indeed, the profit motivation was and is the source of all anti-communist and anti-socialist sentiment: capitalists recognized right away that if Marxism really took hold in the US, their game would be over, so the barons of industry immediately moved to wipe communism and socialism from the face of the earth. Slavery is evil, sure, but so is communism; why, communism is slavery. An Orwellian thought if there ever was one.

So back to the nuclear power industry. These guys know their plants have a design life of only forty years. They know it. But the plants are paid for. It's pure profit now. And there's no fucking way they're going to give up the gravy train, even while the world watches a large portion of Japan become slowly uninhabitable. They just don't give a fuck. Like the sugar plantation owners of the 1700s, they're making too much money to care. The profit urge, which has created this modern world in which we live, generally a good thing, most definitely has a heinous dark side, too, one that places riches for a few individuals over the fates of millions.

And most of us blissfully ignore it. At our own great risk.


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Has the South Won the Civil War Nearly 150 Years After Its Conclusion?

From BuzzFlash:

But, of course, even the federal government is siding with supporting the plutocracy and enacting policies that result in low-wage labor. Just replace the lack of accountability of corporations and Wall Street with the free hand of plantation owners.

Not that the South believed much in a centralized government that provided a safety net. The poor were poor; the sick were sick; and the wealthy were wealthy; that was the natural order of things.

The South wasn't just built on slavery, as BuzzFlash has pointed out before. Most whites were poor and worked as sharecroppers, indentured servants or plantation hands. Much of their belief in white supremacy came from the feeling that, although the majority of whites were economically poor, they were "superior" to black slaves. But the economy, overall, was built on cheap labor as compared to economic ingenuity and innovation.

Baptist Christianity was central to the South, a deeply religious section of the country. The authoritarian paternalistic hierarchy of the Confederacy was considered sanctioned by divine decree. Plantation owners and their extended "work forces" would be right at home with "creationism," because things didn't evolve in the South. The ultimate value was on preserving "the Southern way of life," not evolving. Progress was, thus, a threat.

More here.

I'm really starting to buy this argument. I mean, there's no way to really establish that the massive political divide of today has its roots in the North/South conflict that eventually became the Civil War, but it sure does feel right. I'm sure you've seen that map comparing the so-called red and blue states to Confederate and Union states in the 1860s. It might be coincidence, but I doubt it.

There's a reason I included the word "culture" in the title for this blog. I remember a few years back talking to a young soldier at a nightclub in Austin, telling him about my internet rantings. He asserted that art, politics, and culture don't really have anything to do with each other, and that I must have a difficult time writing my posts. Fearing a political argument might be on the horizon, I dropped the matter, but, of course, in a parallel universe I told him that he was wrong, that art, politics, and culture have everything to do with each other.

It's a fairly easy connection to make between art and culture; after all, most people recognize that art is a manifestation of culture.
But it's a bit more difficult to establish the connection between culture and politics. Not terribly difficult, mind you; it's just that it takes more than a couple of words to get it going. Here's how Wikipedia defines the word "culture" in a general sense:

Excellence of taste in the fine arts and humanities, also known as high culture

An integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon the capacity for symbolic thought and social learning

The set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution, organization or group
So there you have it. Politics, art, and culture are then, in essence, different manifestations of the same thing. I mean, of course, they're all different concepts. Politics, for instance, deals ultimately with power in society, who has it, who doesn't, and how it is used. But there is massive interplay between these three ideas, art, culture, and politics: we see politics in art; we see politicians freaking out about certain kinds of art; we see cultural values debated endlessly in politics; we see art responding to cultural values. And on and on and on.

That culture has a huge role in both informing and shaping the overall power dynamic we call politics is non-controversial. We know this happens. A lot. It should therefore be non-controversial to postulate that cultural concepts dating back to the Civil War are alive and well today, even if we've forgotten exactly how they've been passed down over the generations, and that they might play a central role in modern politics. I mean, the GOP's infamous "Southern strategy" has payed off well for the Republicans in the years since the Civil Rights era, and that's exactly the kind of thing I'm talking about. But I'm thinking that it's much, much, much bigger than electoral game plans. I think this shit is deeply embedded in the fractured American soul, in ways we only dimly comprehend.

But like I said, there's no way we can really know. I mean, everybody's an individual, right? We can't possibly be at the mercy of historic cultural forces we barely perceive. Or can we? Increasingly, I'm starting to look at this unfinished Civil War model as a decent way to understand our fucked up politics. So far, it has a pretty good track record.


Monday, June 27, 2011

Ann Bradley Accuses Fellow Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice David Prosser Of Choking Her

From Reuters via the Huffington Post:

"The facts are that I was demanding that he get out of my office and he put his hands around my neck in anger in a chokehold," Bradley told the newspaper.

Prosser said in a statement the allegations "will be proven false" once a "proper review of the matter and the facts surrounding it are made clear."

Wisconsin Public Radio and the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, quoting anonymous sources, reported Saturday that the argument occurred before the Supreme Court's decision earlier this month upholding Republican Gov. Scott Walker's bill eliminating most of public employees' collective bargaining rights.

The argument allegedly took place in front of several members of the court.

More here.

Nice move for the conservatives.

Impeachment at the state level, just as with the feds, is an inherently political process, but if this turns out to be true, and I bet it is, if only because Prosser is already on the record as having a very bad-blooded relationship with Bradley, I don't see how Wisconsin's GOP dominated legislature can avoid impeaching the guy--it is important to observe that Prossner is a Republican and Bradley is a Democrat. On the other hand, former President Bush will very likely never see prison time for the war crimes he definitely committed, so who knows where this will go? But if Prosser is convicted for assault, and he's not impeached, it's going to make Wisconsin Republicans look even more arrogant, stupid, and insane than they already appear to be.

But looking at the wider picture, this incident very much reminds me of this 1856 incident related below. From Wikipedia:

Representative Preston Brooks, Butler's nephew, was infuriated, intended to challenge Sumner to a duel, and consulted with fellow South Carolina Representative Laurence M. Keitt on dueling etiquette. Keitt told him that dueling was for gentlemen of equal social standing, and that Sumner was no better than a drunkard, due to the supposedly coarse language he had used during his speech. Brooks concluded in turn that since Sumner was no gentlemen, it would be more appropriate to beat him with his cane.

Two days later, on the afternoon of May 22, Brooks confronted Sumner as he sat writing at his desk in the almost empty Senate chamber: "Mr. Sumner, I have read your speech twice over carefully. It is a libel on South Carolina, and Mr. Butler, who is a relative of mine." As Sumner began to stand up, Brooks beat Sumner severely on the head before he could reach his feet, using a thick gutta-percha cane with a gold head. Sumner was knocked down and trapped under the heavy desk (which was bolted to the floor), but Brooks continued to strike Sumner until Sumner ripped the desk from the floor. By this time, Sumner was blinded by his own blood, and he staggered up the aisle and collapsed, lapsing into unconsciousness. Brooks continued to beat the motionless Sumner until his cane broke at which point he left the chamber. Several other Senators attempted to help Sumner, but were blocked by Keitt who brandished a pistol and shouted, "Let them be!" Keitt was censured for his actions.
So that was a Northern Senator beaten to a pulp, on the fucking Senate floor no less, by a Southern representative who believed he was defending his uncle's honor. But really, it was all about slavery, the most hotly contested issue of the era. Now, this is, of course, a bit different from the situation in Wisconsin. Butler wasn't beaten to a bloody pulp, and the issue was worker rights, instead of slavery, but apart from that, it's exactly the same: a conservative official assaults a liberal official in a formal government space because the former is really really really pissed off by the latter's statements. Apparently, this is all in the American tradition, going back a century and a half.

Now I ask, is there any example, any at all, where the reverse is true, where a liberal official assaults a conservative official because of political differences? I've never heard of such an instance. Further, since the era of the Weather Underground, has there been a single instance of any liberal assaulting any conservative, anywhere in the US, solely for political reasons?

To the best of my knowledge, in the post Vietnam era, liberals do not physically attack conservatives. Ever. But conservatives cannot say the same thing of themselves. Indeed, political violence coming from the right, and aimed at the left, is on the rise. And the latest instance is in a judge's chambers, one of the more sacred spaces in American governance.

What can all this conservative violence mean? My guess is desperation, but conservatives, what with their guns and willingness to allow people to die in the streets and xenophobia, seem to be prone to violence whatever the political situation, so, in the end, it's hard to say.


Saturday, June 25, 2011

White Male Privilege and the Daughter Test

From MOMocrats courtesy of Eschaton:

Steven Levitt of Freakonomics fame recently wrote that he bases his decisions on whether to support government prohibitions on what he calls the "daughter test":

It wasn't until the U.S. government's crackdown on internet poker last week that I came to realize that the primary determinant of where I stand with respect to government interference in activities comes down to the answer to a simple question: How would I feel if my daughter were engaged in that activity? If the answer is that I wouldn't want my daughter to do it, then I don't mind the government passing a law against it. I wouldn't want my daughter to be a cocaine addict or a prostitute, so in spite of the fact that it would probably be more economically efficient to legalize drugs and prostitution subject to heavy regulation/taxation, I don't mind these activities being illegal. On the other hand, if my daughter had good reasons to want an abortion, I would want her to be able to have one, so I'm weakly in favor of abortion to be legal, even though I put a lot of value on unborn fetuses.
That this is utterly ridiculous ought to be so obvious as to need no elaborating. Do we want legislators making laws based on what they would personally want for us as parents, or based on respect for people as human beings with equal rights and autonomy? This shouldn't be a difficult question to answer. Yet a bunch more white dudes similarly privileged as Levitt have since weighed in to debate whether or not his test is reasonable.

More here.

Good essay, go check it out. But beyond the above linked blogger's excellent criticisms of Levitt's "daughter test," it seems to me that this is simply a more sophisticated expression of a dominant American cultural strain that drives me nuts on a regular basis: the desire to child-proof society, which comes from both liberals and conservatives.

Now I'm not talking about sensible child-safety measures for consumer products, about which libertarian idiots like John Stossel and his ilk tend to rant. Rather, I worry about censorship forces from both the left and the right that want to keep depictions of sex and violence cooped up so neurotic parents don't have to deal with discussing such issues with their kids. Bill O'Reilly, for instance, once browbeat a low-key lesbian activist on his show over the issue of lesbian sports fans kissing each other at WNBA games; "What am I supposed to tell my children about this?"

What you tell your kids is that some people prefer the romantic company of others who are of the same gender, and that's the way the world works. You don't have to approve of it, but it's not as though explaining lesbian kissing is going to warp your kid's brain, either. For that matter, I'm extraordinarily annoyed by the patronizing attitude toward children that is often expressed as something along the lines of "Oh, don't talk to them about that; they don't understand."

I remember years ago when I was in fourth or fifth grade, I was attending a parent/son Cub Scout function at the home of one of my den's members. For some reason, I was intrigued by a conversation about President Carter that a couple of adults were having, and I jumped in with an observation that I had heard that some people didn't like his pro-abortion rights stance. The adults involved scattered, and the only one who spoke to me about it disdainfully told me that I didn't know anything about the topic. What a fucking bitch. I mean, she was right in that I really didn't know much about it, but why not tell me? It's not that hard to explain what's at stake for an issue without really taking a side: some people think it's really important for a woman to be able to surgically end her pregnancy if she wants, while others think it's tantamount to murder; both sides have good arguments.

It's not that children are somehow intellectually unable to understand such "adult" issues. It's that adults are squeamish when confronted with explaining the "adult" world to children. That is, lots of grownup Americans project a false and intellectually constructed fantasy childhood of innocence onto kids, a fantasy that serves adult emotional needs far more than it serves children's intellectual needs. In the end, it's insulting. It also stunts intellectual development. All because so many people want childhood, after the fact, to be a waltz through lollipops.

A sort of depraved vicarious existence through offspring.

And don't get me wrong. I cite O'Reilly above, but this bullshit exists across the political spectrum. Lots of Americans, probably a majority, use some form of the "daughter test" for all kinds of issues. It makes society far less interesting, much more dim and gray, and kind of stupid, to boot.


Friday, June 24, 2011




Be sure to check out Modulator's Friday Ark for more cat blogging pics!


Evangelicals See Declining Influence In U.S.

From the Religion News Service via the Huffington Post:

Randall Balmer, a historian of American evangelicals at Barnard College, said leaders of the religious right -- from the late Rev. Jerry Falwell to broadcaster Pat Robertson -- promoted a "cult of victimization among evangelicals" that may have worked at the voting booth but hurt them in the larger culture.

"I think there is some waning of cultural influence," he said, pointing to the politicizing of the movement as the reason for both greater visibility but also cultural decline.

"Like it or not, when you become politically active, you become associated with the politicians you support," Balmer said, alluding to many evangelicals' embrace of the GOP. "Once you begin to covet political power and influence, you lose the prophetic voice."

Researchers found that just 18 percent of U.S. Lausanne representatives surveyed said religious leaders should stay out of political issues, compared to 78 percent who said they should express their political views.

More here.

In ancient Rome, once the ruling elite had embraced Christianity, it was all over for the religion having any real social meaning. That is, for a given society, the moment it becomes socially, politically, and economically advantageous to become a Christian, any sort of sincerity associated Christianity becomes moot: people do it because there are great secular rewards for doing so, rewards that have absolutely nothing to do with spirituality, and everything to do with getting ahead. So the Church became corrupt, and has been so ever since.

Indeed, we've been past that threshold since the dawn of the republic. Politicians all have to pay lip service, at the very least, to Christian ideals and symbols whether they actually believe it or not. They do this eagerly because it helps them get into and gain office. And it's safe to say that, whatever they think is in their hearts, not a damned politician in Washington gives a shit about Jesus.

If they did, they'd actually be deeply concerned, as Jesus was, with people who are suffering. They'd sell all their possessions and give the money to the poor. They wouldn't wage war; rather, they'd be working their asses off to achieve world peace. Not a single one of our leaders even entertain such notions. Thus, not a single one of our leaders can rightfully call himself "Christian."

Christian evangelicals in recent decades, by attempting to gain cultural influence through the political process, have done nothing but render Christianity even more meaningless in terms of sincere spirituality. That is, by making Jesus more of a political object than he had been in the first two thirds of the twentieth century, the whole dynamic I described above has been heavily trumped up. Politics is about power. Religion is about spirituality. By combining the two, spirituality necessarily suffers. And it's looking like average ordinary Americans are starting to understand this.

And that's fine by me. I mean, I'm an agnostic, myself, but most of the values Jesus preaches about in the Gospels are principles I can get behind, albeit from my firmly secular point of view. If Americans really are starting to lose their taste for evangelical Christianity, it will probably mean that the religious right will play a much diminished role in the future, as far as politics goes.

Ideally, this leaves "love one another" open for sincere embrace. Without any political bullshit. Here's hoping.


Thursday, June 23, 2011

Stocks Of Socialized Countries Have Outperformed U.S. Since Reagan Era

From the Huffington Post:

That said, Kirkegaard also dismissed the traditional American capitalist contention that socialism is bad for market growth: "A lot of the finger-pointing we do at these countries is totally misleading. It's a myth."

Kirkegaard says that many socialized governments provide critical support for business growth, including first class infrastructure built by the public sector, retraining of workers and public education systems that result in better-prepared workforces, comparative to the US. "There are a lot of areas where the role of government is a benefit for the businesses in these countries."

"The idea that they are socialists and condemned to living in these bread bin-style housing complexes is illusional," he said. "It's ideological slander."

More here.

For me it all goes back to the day, maybe in 1993, that my economics of the cable industry class had a guest speaker from the local cable company: "any time the government gets involved in the economy it makes things worse," he told us all, very matter-of-factly. I didn't try to argue with him, but I remember thinking to myself, "Really? Any time? How about building roads? That's the government involving itself in the economy."

And there you have it. The cornerstone of conservative economic philosophy, that government intervention in the economy is always bad, is just plain wrong. I mean, my road building example above is generally an exception that most pro-capitalists will grant, but it's the exception that proves the rule. If building roads is good, isn't education good, too? Aren't poverty prevention, health care, housing, and a whole host of social programs that put people in a position to be able to be good workers, aren't these things good for the economy, too?

Of course, it depends on how you design and manage such programs, but apparently the Europeans have this all figured out. And we could, too, if we weren't mired in bullshit pro-capitalist propaganda that makes most Americans believe things that just aren't true.

If we lived in sane nation, I would expect such news to affect the public discourse in a decisive way. Sadly, our nation is not sane.


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Pew Research: Record Support For Afghanistan Troop Withdrawl

From the Huffington Post:

This latest result confirms the findings from four other recent national surveys, all of which indicate majority support for bringing some or all of the troops home. The numbers are bigger when pollsters allow options for returning "some" troops or "reducing" their number rather than implying a total drawdown. But majorities now support troop withdrawal, regardless of question phrasing:

•A CBS News poll in early June found nearly two-thirds of Americans (64 percent) want the number of troops in Afghanistan decreased, rather than increased (8 percent) or kept at the same level (22 percent).
•A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll from early June found even more who want to bring home all (39 percent) or some (35 percent) of the troops rather than keeping their number the same number deployed (18 percent) or send more (6 percent).
•An ABC News/Washington Post poll found nearly three quarters of adults, 73 percent, say the U.S. should withdraw "a substantial number of U.S. combat forces" from Afghanistan, while 23 percent say the troops should not be withdrawn.
•A Gallup poll in early May found a majority, 59 percent, agreeing that "the U.S. has accomplished its mission in Afghanistan and should bring its troops home," while only 39 percent chose the alternative, "the U.S. still has important work to do in Afghanistan and should maintain its troops there."
Both the Pew Research and CBS News polls, which have tracked these questions for two or more years, indicate a big jump in desire to withdraw U.S. forces since the killing of Osama bin Laden in early May. The Pew Research survey shows an eight-point jump over the last month (from 48 to 56 percent). The CBS News survey shows a 16-point jump (from 48 to 64 percent) since a survey conducted in the immediate aftermath of bin Laden's killing.

More here.

Yeah, I actually posted about that Washington Post poll back in March, and I've got the same question now I had then: why the fuck are we still there? I mean, I know why we're still there: it has nothing to do with democracy, which, if it did, would mean that we wouldn't be there anymore, and everything to do with rule by and for wealthy and powerful interests.

To be honest, I'm not quite sure what these special interests are actually gaining by our presence there, but I can speculate, of course. Certainly, the defense contractors want us there because it means lots of defense contracts. The oil industry wants us there because it means the US can directly influence politics in the Middle East, just because we've got a lot of guns and men on the ground. Global corporations want it because it shows that the US is keeping the world safe for capitalistic exploitation. And because the corporations like it, politicians like it, too. Indeed, Democrat honchos want us there because, in their pathetic minds, it means their dicks are as big as Republican dicks. Republicans want us there because their dicks are bigger than Democrat dicks--I mean, there are a few fractures showing now on this because Obama, a Democrat with a big dick, wants us there, but there is still a great deal of support from GOP leaders for fighting Muslims.

And, oh yeah, the military wants us there, too. Not quite the same as a wealthy interest, but the military is a powerful influence on national politics, simply because our leaders have so fetishized the military that they are now like mythological gods, and their opinion counts.

But guess whose opinion doesn't count? That's right. Yours. Your opinion doesn't count. Don't give me that old shit about how in a democracy people's opinions are supposed to be reflected by government action. We don't fucking live in a democracy. We live in an plutocratic oligarchy. Rule by the few, rule by the wealthy. You don't count. So the fighting continues, whether you like it or not.


Monday, June 20, 2011

How the Right Wing's Worldview Is Torn Apart By Climate Change Science

From AlterNet:

Climate change poses a profound threat to many things that right-wing ideologues believe in. Conservatives tend to champion private property rights, small government, and above all else, unfettered industrial capitalism. Industrial capitalism is an economic system predicated on the accelerating extraction and consumption of fossil fuels for energy, which is driving the climate change we face today. To accept this basic premise, one is compelled to question the wisdom of capitalism itself, which is a terrifying notion for conservatives. And it doesn't take long to recognize that conservative values are inherently antithetical to the desperately needed actions to tackle global climate change.


For a conservative whose entire identity is defined by faith in the economics of capitalism and free markets, acceptance of climate change poses a danger to their sense of self, and will be avoided at all costs. Therefore, attempts to persuade this portion of the country with science and logic is a lost cause.

More here.

What's really disturbing about the right wing's total embrace of ideology-over-reality is that it has slowly seeped into many many other major issues. Probably the first and foremost, historically speaking, is rejection of evolution as the organizing principle for the science of biology. So conservatives' strong taste for reality denial is something that goes way back. But it seems that only recently has this dynamic become so widespread that it makes political discourse problematic, at best, and impossible at worst.

And when the public isn't particularly well informed about a topic, the endless chest beating and howls from the right can alter public perception in dangerous ways. Remember those awful days of 2002 and early 2003 when nobody wanted the "smoking gun" evidence of Saddam's "weapons of mass destruction" to be a "mushroom cloud"? Well, countless sources, most of them cited in the independent and foreign presses, were continually observing that there was just no evidence of Iraqi WMD, that the IAEA and the UN weapons inspectors were pretty much in lockstep that Saddam was essentially defenseless. But most Americans never heard about that. Instead, we heard the steady drum beat of Republicans, and cowed Democrats, on the war path. So everybody, not just the conservatives, knew that we had to invade Iraq.

And it's still happening today. All over the place. I mean, see yesterday's post about the "debate" between John Stewart and Fox News' Chris Wallace: the disconnect between their two respective views was so profound that the whole thing was virtually an absurdist performance. Fox really is a conservative ideological apparatus, and insiders pretty much admit this privately, but Wallace stuck steadfastly to the party line--we're just "fair and balanced." Stewart had no way of cutting through this bizarre psychological morass of reality-denial, and had to resort to sputtering frustration.

The right wing can no longer defend its views in a fact-based way, so it spins yarn after yarn to fool both themselves and the public into accepting its harsh and oppressive ideology. Thing is, we now live in an era when technology is so good at creating and mass producing illusion, it is extraordinarily difficult to unravel such bullshit in a gut-convincing way.

This may very well be the worst crisis our nation has ever faced. Illusion is preferable to reality. The Civil War, WWII, the Great Depression, the Civil Rights era, Vietnam, stagflation, presidential assassination, and on and on, none of these crises even come close to this one.

I'm afraid there's no way out.


Jon Stewart LIVE On Fox News, Tells Host 'You're Insane'

From the Huffington Post:

The Daily Show's Jon Stewart entered the proverbial lion's den, appearing live on Fox News Sunday to debate "media bias" with host Chris Wallace.

Early in the interview, Wallace flashed a previous quote of Stewart's calling Fox News a "relentless agenda-driven 24 hour news opinion propaganda delivery system," and asked Stewart, "Where do you come up with this stuff?"

Stewart responded, "Uh, it's actually quite easy."


"The embarrassment is that I'm given credibility in this world because of the disappointment that the public has in what the news media does," he said.

"I don't think our viewers are the least bit disappointed with us," Wallace said. "I think our viewers think, finally, they're getting somebody who tells the other side of the story."

"Who are the most consistently misinformed media viewers?" Stewart shot back, his voice rising. "The most consistently misinformed? Fox, Fox viewers, consistently, every poll."

More here, with video highlights.

Watch the entire segment here.

HuffPo's account of the events is somewhat misleading. Stewart did say these things, but reading the account I've linked above gives you the sense that these were some knockout blows when really it was nothing like that at all. On the other hand, Wallace didn't really score any points, either. Actually, the whole thing wasn't much more than an exercise in frustration. For twenty four minutes.

The gist, as best as I can explain, is that Wallace attempted to defend Fox's bullshit "fair and balanced" slogan while at the same time trying to pin Stewart into the corner as being a liberal ideologue--that is, projecting onto Stewart the same criticism he makes about Fox, but from a liberal perspective. Stewart, meanwhile, attacked Fox for its extreme right wing bias, while continuously retorting that he's a comedian, which simply cannot be compared to Fox's 24/7 demagoguery.

And that's about it. For nearly a half hour.

Neither had any moments of clear victory. Of course, I agree with everything Stewart said, but it was one of those things where you imagine liberals and conservatives watching while counting the points their guy makes but ignoring what the other guy says. In the end, it was all a waste of time.

So why is this important?

The lesson I get out of this is that, when arguing with conservatives, liberals must immediately reject how their opponents frame the debate. Wallace's opening gambit, from which he never really deviated, was dragging Stewart into an argument about media bias, and the Daily Show host totally went for it. Stewart actually did pretty well, but the most he could ever hope for was a stalemate. After all, Wallace was running the interview, cutting his guest off just as he was getting started, jumping in with new pieces of video before Stewart had adequately addressed the previous one--there was just no chance for Stewart to get down to the nitty gritty. Indeed, Stewart should have opened with his best stuff, the numerous studies showing how Fox viewers are wildly misinformed about current events, instead of squeezing it in at the end while Wallace talked over him, and taken it from there without letting up.

In short, Stewart probably should have stayed completely away from the "is Fox really biased?" question and just pounded away at how Fox isn't simply biased, it's just plain wrong, just pounded away at bullshit conservative notions the "news" network pushes day in and day out. I mean, it didn't have to be exactly that, but the point is to immediately figure out how your conservative opponent is setting up the terms of the argument and go somewhere else. Surprise these guys, get them into a talk for which they weren't prepared. Because if you let them tell you how to argue with them, you can't win. Actually, you'll probably lose.

That Stewart didn't lose is testament to how quick the guy is on his feet, but he completely gave up his opportunity to win from almost the very beginning.

Here's another lesson to be learned from this interview: conservatives don't argue in order to arrive at the truth; they argue in order to fuck up rational thinking. And they're very good at it.


Saturday, June 18, 2011

Global Commission on Drug Policy says war on drugs has failed

From the Washington Independent courtesy of AlterNet:

Breaking news: The war on drugs has failed.

The Global Commission on Drug Policy released its report a few days ago, and it isn’t pretty. Drug use of all kinds is up sharply over the last decade, even as governments spend billions to stop it. When one supply chain is interrupted, another fills the gap, seemingly within minutes.

The Commission recommends decriminalizing drugs and ending the stigmatization of users and the marginalization of small time growers and focusing on regulation and health care.

So, who is this band of liberal, drug-loving miscreants? The Commission includes as its members former U.S. Secretary of Sate George Schultz, former U.S. Chairman of the Federal Reserve Paul Volcker, former Secretary General of the U.N. Kofi Annan and a host of international figures of equal stature.

More here.

It's very nice that there is yet another study verifying what anybody with half a brain has known for decades now: behaving as though drug use is a criminal problem, rather than a public health problem, is really, really, really fucking stupid. But I've been thinking of this all as a fact for a long time now. You know, because it is a fact.

The United States figured this all out back in the 1920s and 30s with our failed experiment on alcohol prohibition. The nationwide ban on liquor didn't stop many people from drinking, but it did set the stage for organized crime to develop from penny ante stuff into some serious multi-million dollar enterprises. And without government regulation, lots of people got poisoned by the bootleg stuff. We spent a lot of money trying to stop people from drinking, but in the end it was all a big waste.

Unfortunately, nobody appears to have retained much from this real world lesson.

So it's the same thing with the modern "War on Drugs." Except on a much larger scale. Now organized crime is about multi-billion dollar enterprises. Drug violence is literally destroying Mexico. Millions of Americans who would otherwise be law-abiding citizens are turned into actual criminals by throwing them into prison for incredibly long sentences. And none of this enforcement stuff helps addicts at all.

Meanwhile, numerous industries associated with keeping drugs illegal are thriving, and their lobbying dollars help to keep serious discussion about legalization off the table. I mean, the "War on Drugs" is a socioeconomic force unto itself, regardless of drug realities.

Given that the study mentioned in the excerpt above is only the latest in a long string of studies proving the folly of prohibition, I seriously doubt it will amount to much in the grand scheme. Too many people have gotten rich from the scam. There's no way they're going to sit by idly while their gravy train comes to an end.


Friday, June 17, 2011




Be sure to check out Modulator's Friday Ark for more cat blogging pics!


Weiner Gives Up the Ghost

Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo makes the ultimate observation on Representative Anthony Weiner's resignation:

I've been following congressional scandals for 15 years. And my God in the grand scheme of things this is pretty silly compared to the levels of wrongdoing, thievery and vicious behavior we've all seen. And that disconnect -- the most insistent and open demands for resignation ever compared to one of the silliest scandals ever -- just doesn't sit right with me. Especially when, last time we checked at least, his constituents did not want him to resign.

More here.

This really bums me.

Say what you want about Weiner's stupidity; he didn't break any laws or Congressional ethics rules--indeed, "sexting" is all the rage in numerous sectors of society. Not a good idea for a politician who is hated by his enemies, or even for a married man, to be sure, but his "crimes" are something I and no other Americans are in any position to judge. But Weiner was judged, just like Paris Hilton or Britney Spears, complete with the usual media circus.

I mean, that's what this was, death-by-reality-show. Weiner was "voted" off Big Brother or Survivor, theatrically kicked off The Real World Washington because producers needed something to spice up sagging ratings. Does the corporate media even understand that they've been totally used by scum bag right-wing activists? Probably not. Actually, it probably doesn't even matter. No doubt Weinergate got the networks a nice bump in terms of viewership.

Meanwhile David Vitter, who did break the law, who actually had sex with women who are not his wife, remains a Senator in good standing.

This is all so disgusting. Weiner was hounded out of office by hypocritical conservatives riding herd on a predictable media frenzy that had potential defenders scurrying like the rats they are. And we bomb Libya. And we continue to kill Iraqis and Afghans. And we continue to send American youth to die in faraway nations for reasons unknown. And the rich get richer while everybody else gets poorer. And our infrastructure continues to rot. And the dismantling of our education system continues. And global warming fries the planet. And on and on.

But Anthony Weiner's dick pictures are the most important thing of all. Congress had to do something. The press had to do something. His dick! His dick! His dick! I'm so sad.


Thursday, June 16, 2011


From AlterNet:

Glenn Beck Asks, "Why Would You Get a Gun?"... Then Points to Obama

One would think after the attempted assassination of Gabrielle Giffords, Fox would have done a little something to rein in Mr. Beck, a TV personality known for pondering such weighty questions as whether he could kill Michael Moore (he concluded he could), and pretending to give Nancy Pelosi poisoned wine.

Yet here he is again, blaming Obama again for civil unrest, food shortages, and of threatening to take your guns away. Then he asks his rhetorical question "Why would you get a gun" and guess who pops up on his TV screen but the President and close adviser Cass Sunstein to whom he immediately points with arm outstretched and answers his own question, stating "To prepare for tough times."

More here, plus video.

So we already know that Beck is either crazy or a pandering media asshole, and we also already know that violent rhetoric such as his has probably contributed to a hateful conservative environment that has seen both psychos and cold blooded but principled killers taking shots at liberals everywhere from churches to clinics to political events, sometimes even killing them. But to the best of my knowledge, this is the first time he's actually threatened the President.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't it a felony to threaten the President? At the very least, doesn't such an act usually warrant a disturbing visit from FBI agents?

I don't care if Fox is finally cancelling his show someday. Beck has crossed the line. This really does look like he's calling on viewers to shoot President Obama. And that's a fucking crime. Lock the motherfucker up and throw away the key. This is some bad bullshit.


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Creationist Economics

From CounterPunch, economist Dean Baker on the irrationalities inherent in the bizarre beliefs of deficit hawks:

There is a standard econ 101 story about how reducing deficits can boost the economy. The theory goes that if the government reduces its deficit, and therefore borrows less, it will reduce interest rates. Lower interest rates will in turn give firms incentive to invest more.

Lower interest rates should also cause the dollar to decline, since it will make U.S. government bonds and other dollar assets less attractive to foreign investors. If the dollar falls in value then our goods will be more competitive on world markets. This will cause us to import less and export more, thereby creating jobs.

However is this what the deficit hawks believe will happen now? The interest rate on 10-year Treasury bonds is already down to 3.0 percent. Assuming a 2 percent inflation rate, this translates into a real rate of about 1 percent.

How much lower do the deficit hawks think interest rates will fall if we were to sharply cut the deficit? Furthermore, how much more investment do they think we can induce even if we got a large (e.g. 0.5 percentage point) reduction in real interest rates?

Do they think that this sort of decline in interest rates will send the dollar tumbling and thereby improve our trade balance? Against which currencies will a lower interest rate cause the dollar to fall sharply?

Neither of these stories really passes the laugh test.

More here.

The bottom line here is that the conservative voices driving forward the public discourse on economics are totally incoherent. We're in an ongoing recession with historically high unemployment, so the conservative solution is to take money out of the economy? I mean, that's what cutting government spending does. It takes money out of the economy, which is really fucking bad during an economic downturn because that's the problem already.

Of course, it's much more complicated than that. "The economy" is quite big, and even during a recession there is indeed a lot of money in it, and cutting government spending, coupled with all those wonderful right-wing tax cuts, really just kind of shifts it around. It's probably better to say that people and businesses aren't spending money, which means they're sitting on it, which means the economy doesn't grow. But the government is spending money. Taking government money out of the equation does nothing but make the problem much, much worse. Conversely, increasing government spending, on a scale much larger than Obama's meager stimulus spending a couple of years ago, makes the problem much, much better.

Conservatives, and increasingly a lot of people who think of themselves as liberal, simply don't acknowledge this dynamic. Instead, they harp on the deficit and how horrible it is to keep borrowing money on such a massive scale. Needless to say, the deficit is a problem, but one that is, at the moment, not nearly so dangerous as years and years of ten percent unemployment.

Indeed, one of the major factors keeping the economy from really gearing up is that people who aren't working, or are desperately afraid of losing their jobs, a much bigger percentage of the work force than those who simply can't find work, don't spend their dollars on anything except the bare essentials. Instead, they save their money for emergencies: a big part of the deficit is loss of tax revenue from the unemployed and underemployed. Fixing the economy, and thereby lowering the unemployment rate, is virtually the same thing as fixing the deficit.

So for now, what the government needs to do is to borrow and spend a whole hell of a lot more money than it has been willing to in the recent past. This will jump start the economy, which will massively increase tax revenues, which will, in turn, greatly lower deficit spending.

Instead, we're going in the opposite direction because our leaders are either stupid enough to think that government debt is the same thing as personal or business debt, or are evil enough to see this economic crisis as an opportunity to transform our society into third world feudalism. Either way, we're fucked because the entire fucking establishment is in on the game.

This is one of the things I think about when I consider bringing children into the world.


Monday, June 13, 2011

'Book Of Mormon' Wins Best Musical, 9 Tony Awards

From the AP via the Huffington Post news wire:

The Book of Mormon won nine Tony Awards last night including best musical, best director, and others.

The satiric musical was a Broadway debut for Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the famed creators of Comedy Central's South Park. Parker and Stone met at the University of Colorado at Boulder in the early 90's and have been wrecking hilarious havoc ever since.

More here, with video.

I've heard that, back when the South Park movie was out, famed Broadway guy Stephen Sondheim said it was the best musical of the year. I've always chuckled about that. I mean, it's a good movie, funny, rousing songs and whatnot, uses Satan as a central character, but it's not brilliant or anything, just a whole lot of fun: it seems to me that Sondheim's comment was more about how shitty Broadway musicals have become over the last three decades or so than about lavish praise for South Park.

But here we have Parker and Stone totally dominating this year's Tony Awards, about which I almost never care. Now, of course, I haven't yet seen The Book of Mormon because, you know, it's in New York and I'm in New Orleans, but I imagine it's a good show, probably lots of fun without much pretension, and I'm definitely going to check it out when it finally goes on tour. But the Tonys this year do interest me because a couple of guys who are essentially total theater outsiders just waltzed into that world of upturned noses and essentially bloodied them all. Just by doing their goofy irreverent philosophical thing, which nobody else in bigtime theater land has even thought about doing.

I respectfully suggest that the American professional theater has totally run out of ideas and desperately needs a massive infusion of fresh blood from outside its navel-gazing circles. Couldn't hurt.

Actually, what I mean is that Andrew Lloyd Webber sucks big donkey dicks.


Sunday, June 12, 2011

Rule by Rentiers

The New York Times' resident Nobel Prize laureate Paul Krugman, in discussing why the government does nothing about unemployment and personal debt, but rather freaks out on phantom deficit fears, dances around the awful truth:

What lies behind this trans-Atlantic policy paralysis? I’m increasingly convinced that it’s a response to interest-group pressure. Consciously or not, policy makers are catering almost exclusively to the interests of rentiers — those who derive lots of income from assets, who lent large sums of money in the past, often unwisely, but are now being protected from loss at everyone else’s expense.

Of course, that’s not the way what I call the Pain Caucus makes its case. Instead, the argument against helping the unemployed is framed in terms of economic risks: Do anything to create jobs and interest rates will soar, runaway inflation will break out, and so on. But these risks keep not materializing. Interest rates remain near historic lows, while inflation outside the price of oil — which is determined by world markets and events, not U.S. policy — remains low.


And that explains why creditor interests bulk so large in policy; not only is this the class that makes big campaign contributions, it’s the class that has personal access to policy makers — many of whom go to work for these people when they exit government through the revolving door. The process of influence doesn’t have to involve raw corruption (although that happens, too). All it requires is the tendency to assume that what’s good for the people you hang out with, the people who seem so impressive in meetings — hey, they’re rich, they’re smart, and they have great tailors — must be good for the economy as a whole.

But the reality is just the opposite: creditor-friendly policies are crippling the economy.

More here.

So you know what I think: corporations and too-big-to-fail banks run the US government. Literally. Or, perhaps it's better to say that the formal structure of our republic no longer represents the people's will, but rather serves the interests of the incredibly wealthy. Whatever. One way or the other our democratic republic is a thing of the past, replaced by what amounts to a plutocracy, rule by the wealthy.

Krugman, however, who is a liberal to be sure, which necessarily makes him deeply entrenched within the establishment, just can't bring himself to go as far as I, a radical, or leftist, whatever you want to call it, am willing to go. Instead, he speaks of the assumptions about our government that we're taught in school as though they were somehow still operational. I mean, he spells it out clearly enough: Congressional Representatives and Senators, hell, the President, too, are all far more focused on the interests of their wealthy campaign donors and country club pals than they are on the interests of citizens, which is very, very, very bad. And I agree. But he just won't go there. He just can't bring himself to say it's all over, that democracy is dead.

But deep down, I think he knows, but is afraid to admit it. Actually, I think that deep down lots of Americans have figured it out, but know that once they actually speak the truth out loud, there's no going back. And then what? New territory, beyond the looking glass, and all that shit. Scary.

Personally, I think we're in for a new consciousness about our nation's political and economic arrangements, one that makes the wealthy plutocrats out to be the villains they actually are. It may take a while, but as long as we're suffering such high unemployment, and all forecasts are saying we're probably in this slump for the long haul, people will start throwing out all that "we the people" shit under-girding the corporate political theater and propaganda to which we are subjected on a daily basis, and start demanding democracy.

And that's when the tyrants will be toppled, done in by their own arrogance and greed. It will be glorious.



From the AP via the Huffington Post news wire:

U.S. Congressman Suggests That Iraq Pay Back U.S. For War Cost

A U.S. congressman visiting Baghdad Friday suggested that Iraq pay back the United States for the money it has spent in the eight years since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher spoke during a one-day visit by a group of six U.S. congressman. The California Republican said he raised the suggestion during a meeting with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki that some day when Iraq is a "prosperous" nation it pay back the U.S. for everything that it has done here.

"We would hope that some consideration be given to repaying the United States some of the megadollars we have spent here in the last eight years," Rohrabacher told reporters at the U.S. Embassy after the meeting.

More here.

In a related development, the GOP floated the idea that Native Americans pay for the "reservations" the US magnanimously gave them when Anglo settlers stole what had previously been tribal lands. Also, Republicans began debate on whether African Americans ought to compensate the families of former slave holders for their loss of property after the end of the War of Northern Aggression. And Dow Chemical wondered openly whether Vietnam should compensate the corporation for napalm used there during the war to defoliate jungles and burn civilian women and children.

Is this for real?

The US invaded Iraq on the flimsiest of pretexts back in 2003: it was essentially a war of choice, an invasion against what was already known to be a mostly defenseless nation without weapons of mass destruction. Iraq was left in ruins and chaos, with tens, if not hundreds, of thousands dead. If anything, the US owes the Iraqi people hundreds of billions of dollars, not the other way around. That anybody, anybody, here in the US would even imagine that Iraq owes us money is testament to the deep denial in which war supporters continue to exist.

Just when I think nothing can shock me anymore, something shocks me.


Friday, June 10, 2011

Canine Edition!


Be sure to check out Modulator's Friday Ark for more cat blogging pics!


Thursday, June 09, 2011


My old pal Shane chimes in on my Weinergate post from a couple of days ago:

I agree with your commenter from this standpoint: I'm aggravated with Weiner in the same way I was aggravated with Clinton for being careless. you have to be aware of how the game is played and keep yourself above it, or you won't amount to shit. I don't remember anything useful coming out of Clinton post hummers, and I really dug Weiner and his energy and gravitas, and now he has nothing left of his political career except to be a joke, and it's because he should have had more sense. for me it's not about morals or any of that nonsense, it's you have to be smart enough to keep your job, and keep it effective in a playing field that will stone you right out of town at the first crack of a public fart. damn shame.

And here's a little background for my response. From AlterNet:

The Breitbart Effect

Weinergate, as it has been dubbed by pundits across the political spectrum, must be the lamest (non-)sex scandal to come down the pike in years, yet it seems to be getting as much play as Watergate.

That such trivia as an adult sending relatively benign photos and “racy messages” to other consenting adults should be of interest to anyone besides the Representative's wife – much less the making of a week-long “news” story – is obviously a sad reflection of our shallow, sex-and-celebrity-obsessed culture.

But it's also a testament to what you might call the "Breitbart effect" – the ability of conservative activists to push a news story to the forefront of the national discussion, and hold it there for an extended run. Breitbart, like the Drudge Report and a host of other dedicated right-wing provocateurs, has learned the value of gaming the refs – of hounding the mainstream media with angry and unsubstantiated accusations of “liberal bias” for so long the latter tend to overcompensate and give prominence to whatever story the activists are interested in amplifying.

More here.

Actually, I would add to the "working the refs" dynamic a pre-existing media lust for sex and sensationalism, that is, a non-ideological need for reporters and news organizations to swim in the sewers because it is a cheap and easy way to bring in readers and viewers to look at ads, which is how the news makes its money--there is also a bonus with scandal mongering, unlike real reporting, in that it is highly unlikely to offend powerful interests which might heavily fuck with news organizations. But "working the refs," a love for tits and ass, or explosions and bitch-slapping, whatever causes the self-sustaining political and media sex scandal maelstrom effect, is, at the moment, beside the point. What deeply concerns me is that the maelstrom effect exists at all.

I am very sympathetic to my buddy Shane's anger with Weiner. Apart from the New York representative's blind support for the vicious policies of Israel toward the Palestinians, Weiner is one of the few guys in Congress who actively speaks out against entrenched corporate interests, and unlike, say, Bernie Sanders, who as a socialist has even better rhetoric, Weiner is actually fun and interesting to watch. And he has seemingly thrown it all away. Down goes one of the better defenders of the faith, and he could have avoided it by keeping the little Weiner in his pants.

But it kind of strikes me as terribly misguided to blast someone you support for breaking non-existent, but nonetheless devastatingly powerful, rules that are extraordinarily unfair. And these unwritten rules, which are something to the effect of "public figures cannot be sexual beings," aren't simply unfair; rather, they are repressive to the entire nation. That is, there is absolutely nothing wrong at all, at all, with sending dick pictures to consenting adults over the internet. Millions of Americans do this every day. Millions of Republicans do this every day. And many of those Republicans serve in Congress and are currently demanding that Weiner resign his office for...well, I'm not sure why they think he needs to resign. It's just like "Sex! Bad! Sex bad! Burn the witch!"

Yes, Weiner dicked himself, in a big way. But we have a choice here: we can condemn him for breaking these rules that exist solely for the purpose of scoring political points, or we can condemn the entire unhealthy, anti-sex, anti-democracy dynamic that has everybody in a Scarlett Letter style Puritanical and hypocritical tizzy right now. I mean, what's worse, breaking these fucked up rules, or the fucked up rules themselves?

Further, when, if ever, are conscientious Americans going to put a stop to it all? It seems to me that the best time to call bullshit on this kind outrage is when it is blasting out of TV sets and taking up miles of column space in newspapers. Indeed, finding one's own personal reasons to join the mob - that is, making it not about the sex, but about the realpolitik - makes no difference in the grand scheme: instead, it just makes the mass of torch and pitchfork waving citizens appear to be much larger than it actually is. That is, the DC assholes, politicians and pundits alike, don't care if liberals who are angry with Weiner have their own reasons for it. To them, the more the merrier. That anybody is angry with Weiner at all, for whatever reasons, simply serves as justification for their own sick sense of self-righteousness.

In short, registering anger with Weiner for not being smart enough to keep his job does nothing but feed the fire, making things even worse for everybody in the long run.

I know who the enemy is, and it's not Weiner. Rather, it's this amazingly disgusting practice of castigating political enemies for their perfectly normal sexual behavior in order to advance a repressive political agenda that has nothing at all to do with a Congressman's sex organs, and everything to do with throwing the poor and elderly out in the street to fend for themselves. I won't have anything to do with it.


The Default Specter as Political Theater

From CounterPunch, former Reagan economist Paul Craig Roberts on the debt ceiling and raw power:

However, regardless of whether the debt ceiling is raised, the US government is not going to go out of business. Why does anyone think that the President, who does not obey the War Powers Act, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, US and international laws against torture, or any of the laws and procedures that guard civil liberty, is going to feel compelled to obey the debt ceiling?

As long as the US is at war, the American President is a Caesar. He is above the law. The US Justice (sic) Department has ruled this, and Congress and the Courts have accepted it.

Moreover, the Federal Reserve is independent of the government. In its approach to regulatory matters and bailouts, the Fed has ceased to follow its own rules. Regardless of the debt ceiling, the Fed will continue to purchase the Treasury’s bond issues, and the Treasury will continue to fund the federal deficit with the proceeds. If Goldman Sachs is too big to fail, certainly the US government is.


If the President can declare on his own authority, without statutory basis and in defiance of the US Constitution, that he can assassinate US citizens who he considers to be a threat to national security, he certainly can declare that default is a threat to national security and that it is within his powers as commander-in-chief to ignore the debt ceiling.

More here.

I don't know that Obama actually has the balls to do this, to push back against outrageous GOP demands to dismantle the New Deal and throw the poor and elderly out in the street, to hang tough instead of all that usual bullshit "compromising" he likes to do. What will probably happen is that he'll consent to some godawful cuts in social spending and get the Senate to go along. That's how he's governed the whole time he's been in office.

On the other hand, he really has embraced all the new executive powers amassed by his predecessor as far as "The War on Terror" goes, which is just horrible. But it is nice to know that he could probably get away with what Roberts is suggesting if he wanted to. At the very least, we can sleep easy knowing that the total economic disaster a federal default would cause will most likely not happen.

Either way, though, this is all fucking depressing.


Wednesday, June 08, 2011


One of my former students comments on my post yesterday about Weinergate:

I agree the coverage this story is getting is diversionary, but earlier today I did feel my own political bias. Had he been a righty, I would have called it typical, and reaffirmed the convictions of my political leaning. Truth is, Anthony Weiner is one of my favorite acting congressmen. I feel a little hypocritical for my willingness to dismiss accusations against him last week , and the ease with which I dismissed the whole story as irrelevant to his job and capacity for moral judgment after his admission. After all, the guy did fuck up. To err is human but at the least, accidentally tweeting your dick to the world shows a discouraging level of incompetence.

My response:

I hear what you're saying, but I think my deal is that I just don't take sex scandals where there's no victim too terribly seriously. I mean, I guess you could call his wife a victim, but marital infidelity is so amazingly widespread that it doesn't really seem to be anybody's business to wag the finger at someone over what is essentially a personal issue. Gingrich was at the forefront in going after Clinton, but he did it while he was cheating on his own wife. I don't even think anybody in Washington actually gives a shit; rather, this is all about political opportunism meeting the media's lust for sex and violence. Politicians don't want to talk about issues, but they still want to score points. Sex "crime" serves as a handy surrogate for issues, for both politicians and journalists.

And as for wanting to give Weiner a pass because he's on our side, I certainly feel the temptation myself. But I've been writing about right wingers caught up in sex scandals for some years now, and I've forced myself to be careful about it because, like I said, sex scandals without an actual victim aren't really scandals. So I went after that Senator Craig when he tried to solicit gay sex in a Minnesota airport restroom, not because of what he did, which is a relatively minor crime, but because he's one of those family values assholes: it is really fucking lame to preach Christian sexual morality in the political sphere, but to live your own life in total contradiction of it. What a scum bag. I've railed away against my own Senator here in Louisiana, David Vitter, for essentially the same thing, although in his case it was prostitutes. (Full disclosure: I waited on Vitter and his cuckolded wife a few weeks ago at the restaurant where I work; he's a good tipper and a nice guy, but nonetheless a hypocritical scum bag.) Mark Sanford, however, the former Republican governor of South Carolina who got caught having an affair on his wife, I just felt sorry for. He never really was one of those family values guys; I mean, he apparently used public money to fly to Argentina to see his mistress, which is definitely not cool, but the affair itself was and is his personal business. I don't think I wrote about the scandal at all.

And remember NY state's Democratic Attorney General Eliot Spitzer's fall from grace? He really was one of the good guys, going after corrupt bankers and businessmen on Wall Street when Bush's feds refused to do so. He, too, got caught up in a prostitute scandal. Thing was, he had used his office to crack down repeatedly on prostitution! So I blasted him, too, for the corrupt hypocrisy that is usually the domain of the Republicans. I didn't like doing it, but felt duty bound to hold liberals to the same standards to which I hold Republicans, and Spitzer just didn't hold up.

So bringing this all back to Weinergate, I just don't know what it is we're supposed to be angry about. Yeah, he lied about it for a few days, but I can totally see myself doing the same thing. I mean, I would be freaking out, too. But in the end, he came clean. It's all very human, the fear, the breakdown, and then the recovery and reclamation of dignity. So how does this affect his role as a Congressional representative? It probably makes him look, like you said, incompetent, but that's not a crime, or even a Congressional rules violation; if New Yorkers want to vote him out for incompetence, that's their call.

But sending out pictures of your crotch to people who are cool with it is just fine. I mean, we have such a sexually unhealthy culture that Americans are ready to froth at the mouth about it, but that's all so much misguided latent Puritanism. There may be smoke, but there just isn't a fire. But apparently it doesn't matter. The GOP operatives who pushed this story into the salacious mass media are now toasting their success in bringing down one of their fiercest critics.

And the amazing thing is that these very same operatives very likely have no personal problem at all with Weiner's actions. They just wanted to take him out, and a sex "scandal" is a good way of doing it.