Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Austerity Is Bad for Us and No Fun

From Bloomberg courtesy of Hullabaloo, Rutgers history professor James Livingston on the disconnect between history and economic "conventional wisdom":

As British author John Lanchester explained, when the “jet engine of capitalism was harnessed to the oxcart of social justice” after World War II, the lives of ordinary people got better, and the “most admirable societies that the world has ever seen” were born. Everybody knows that “the prosperity of the few is to the ultimate benefit of the many.” To which I say, baloney.

Growth has happened precisely because net private investment has been declining since 1919 and because consumer expenditures have, meanwhile, been increasing. In theory, the Great Depression was a financial meltdown first caused, and then cured, by central bankers. In fact, the underlying cause of this disaster wasn’t a short-term credit contraction engineered by bankers. The underlying cause of the Great Depression was a fundamental shift of income shares away from wages and consumption to corporate profits, which produced a tidal wave of surplus capital that couldn’t be profitably invested in goods production -- and wasn’t invested in goods production.

In terms of classical, neoclassical, and supply side theory, this shift should have produced more investment and more jobs, but it didn’t. Paying attention to historical evidence allows us to debunk the myth of private investment and explain why the redistribution of income has become the condition of renewed, balanced growth. Doing so lets us see that public-sector incentives to private investment -- say, tax cuts on capital gains or corporate profits -- are not only unnecessary to drive economic growth; they also create tidal waves of surplus capital with no place to go except speculative bubbles that cause crises on the scale of the Great Depression and the recent catastrophe.

Robust, balanced growth requires a more equitable distribution of income that favors consumers over investors, with all that implies for public policy, social theory, and, yes, moral philosophy. But to see this last requirement clearly, we have to rid ourselves of the conventional wisdom on the heedless extravagance of consumer culture.

Why do we accept the commonsense notion of how growth happens? The short answer is that the mainstream theories of prominent economists and the conventional wisdom of serious journalists constantly reinforce the myth. But the culprits are not just the supply-side insurgents who stormed the Keynesian citadel in the 1970s, then planted their flag inside the Beltway. The Democratic Party that reinvented itself in the 1990s now shares the same assumptions that guide the Republican Party -- the same assumptions that let the liberal New York Times scare its poll respondents off taxing the wealthy.

More here.

A few observations:

1. Karl Marx asserted as far back as the mid 19th century that one of capitalism's problems, among many, is that it has a tendency to squeeze profits so much that it ultimately robs itself of any real markets in which to do business. That is, there is a certain lower threshold in wages below which capitalism loses its ability to function on a large scale. So if capitalism, in its totality, gets too greedy, it destroys itself. That's one problem, among many, with the lopsided distribution of wealth with which we are now dealing.

2. I've written at great length here at Real Art about how utterly fucked up the public discourse is on economics, and a great deal of that is because politicians and pundits alike don't really know much about the field and rely heavily on "conventional wisdom." But I've also written, to a lesser extent, about how economics itself is a bit fucked up, too. That is, economics as a field of academic study. In brief, people in the profession like to think that the field is a science, like chemistry or physics, but it's not. I mean, it approaches the topic in a scientific way, but relies on so many assumptions for the construction of its models, assumptions which are often flawed, that there's just no way you can compare economics favorably to any of the hard sciences. Don't get me wrong: economics does, indeed, possess a great deal of value as a field of study. But it's faulty in numerous ways. And the herd like behavior of economists described above is only one of those ways.

3. It cannot be understated how extraordinarily significant it is that the Democrats embraced the neoliberal point of view back in the 90s. That's when they became virtual Republicans on everything but the so-called social issues. That actual Republicans twist themselves in knots concocting differences between the two parties on economic issues these days is a source of great amusement, but irrelevant in the grand scheme: the economic affairs of our nation are now, and have been for some years, governed by false conservative economic principles. To call Obama a "socialist" is to make Marx turn in his grave.

4. I have to think deeply about this writer's assertion that heavy consumption is the only way to make the economy function. I mean, it makes sense, millions of Americans buying toothpaste and flat screen TVs. But, as longtime Real Art readers already know, I'm very troubled by the materialism and its component selfish values that necessarily accompany consumerism. How can we consume lots of stuff while at the same time pursuing higher humanistic values?


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Miley Cyrus Releases Song, Video in Support of Occupy Wall Street

From AlterNet:

To pre-empt any criticism: Miley Cyrus may be a teen star who got her start with corpo megalith Disney, but that's precisely why she's possibly the music world's most valuable Occupy Wall Street ally to emerge yet. The 19-year-old has loads (millions!) of young fans whose parents are Red State, Christian, working class or poor, who may be OWS holdouts but who would be served well by the movement. She's incredibly influential for young girls (the song's opening rap seems directed at them), and she's making protest seem cool (which it is). Maybe this song, "It's A Liberty Walk," isn't Bob Dylan, but that's not the point: within the pop landscape, her incorporation of dubstep and techno leanings are right on point, plus the chorus is awesomely singable. Also, if she were seriously trying to co-opt the movement, would she release a video with so many images of it—and of the cops getting brutal on protesters?

Click here to watch the video.

The 2006 documentary film The US vs John Lennon makes a very compelling argument that the reason he was deported in the early 70s is that he was just on the verge of taking big time what had been a fairly low key and artsy peace project managed by him and Yoko.

Indeed, Lennon had been making friends with 60s radicals and activists who had been showing him the ropes, and who were also very optimistic that he would join the anti-war movement for real instead of just kind of cheering from the sidelines. As he prepared to tour the United States, as not only a rock music performer, but also as a radical peace activist, presenting guests such as Abbie Hoffman and others to middle American audiences, President Nixon's Immigration and Naturalization Service presented him with a deportation order, which was ostensibly based on a trumped up pot charge from years earlier in London, but was probably more about Nixon's abject terror that the cute moptop Beatle who everyone loved was about to go into politics. Lennon had to cancel the tour and go to court. He eventually won, and got his green card. But by that time, the Vietnam War was over, John had a son, and he was tired of public life--he went into semi-retirement, and we never got to see just how influential a beloved pop star might be if he took politics really seriously.

Miley Cyrus is, of course, not John Lennon, and it hasn't been the early 70s for forty years. But, thanks to her run as Hanna Montana on the Disney Channel, she has a very similar fan base, clean cut middle American kids who are in the process of coming of age, of defining their identities, of figuring out where they stand on the political spectrum. Her joining the movement may not be as significant as John Lennon doing so, but it is quite significant, nonetheless.

Occupy Wall Street looks like it's going to be around for a while. And it's probably going to grow in ways nobody could have ever expected.


Monday, November 28, 2011


From the AP via ESPN:

Justin Tucker lifts Texas by Texas A&M in likely end of rivalry

Texas spoiled Texas A&M's going away party.

Justin Tucker kicked a 40-yard field goal as time expired to give the Longhorns a 27-25 victory over Texas A&M on Thursday night in the likely end of a more than century-old rivalry.

Texas A&M's last Big 12 game and the 118th meeting between the bitter rivals before the Aggies depart for the Southeastern Conference next season was a thriller befitting one of college football's oldest and most storied matchups.

"Sports can be really cruel," Texas coach Mack Brown said. "I think it was a time tonight where both teams deserved to win."

The Aggies were down 24-19 before Ryan Tannehill found Jeff Fuller on a 16-yard touchdown pass with 1:48 remaining. But the 2-point conversion failed, leaving A&M (6-6, 4-5 Big 12) ahead 25-24.

The Longhorns' winning drive was helped by a 15-yard personal foul penalty and a 25-yard run by quarterback Case McCoy.

More here.

Again from the AP via ESPN:

No. 1 LSU pulls away from No. 3 Arkansas in fourth quarter

Tyrann Mathieu answered the call for a game-turning play when LSU needed one most, and the top-ranked Tigers piled on from there.

Mathieu returned a punt 92 yards for a game-tying score and the Tigers punished third-ranked Arkansas with 286 yards rushing, wiping out a 14-point deficit with a 41-17 win Friday that secured a spot in the SEC championship.

"I could hear my teammates in my ear saying, 'Man, we need you to go make a play,'" Mathieu said. "I was able to help the momentum really go in our favor.

More here.

Oh god, what a great weekend for football.

The Texas game was, of course, something of a nail-biter, especially toward the end, after that Aggie touchdown. But then, there was a little under two minutes left on the clock, which constitutes the circumstances from which legends are made. And, my god, that Case McCoy run, right when we needed it. Amazing, just amazing. I mean, the defense actually won this for us, what with the offense's running corps being decimated with injuries: given that situation, it is amazing, indeed, that we were able to move the ball at all. But we did when we needed to, and the defense, which has turned into a real quality act, kept us in it so we could.

And we beat them at Kyle Field, which to the Aggies is kind of like nailing a nun, or a priest, right inside a cathedral. Winning in College Station is always the sweetest victory of all. And I've read that the Aggies took this really hard, crying in the locker room and all that, which makes beating them even sweeter. Nothing like the delicious taste of sheep-fuckers' tears. I'll be remembering this game for a long, long time.

Also, I had a lot of fun talking shit about the game on facebook, while it was in progress. I quoted the announcers. Stuff like "A&M is melting down right before our eyes!" I taunted the Aggies. Given all my old high school acquaintances with whom I am facebook friends, some of whom went to Texas, and some of whom went to A&M, it was a really nice trash-talk fest. It is especially good that we won in that I didn't end up having to remove my foot from my mouth. I could proudly leave it there while hopping around doing the hook 'em sign. Ha! We won!

And the next day, LSU continued its take-no-prisoners campaign through the SEC. Sluggish start, but Arkansas did come into the game as the number three team in the land, and they have been something of a thorn in the Tigers' side these last four or five seasons. So big fuck that the Razorbacks scored a couple of touchdowns before LSU got it going. In the end, they kicked ass. As usual.

And Mathieu may very well be the best college football player I've ever seen. Playing on what may be the best college football team I've ever seen. So Georgia's next, which ought to be pretty easy, and know, we already beat 'Bama, and I understand that they're probably going to the national championship game in New Orleans because they're the number two team and all, but...we already beat them. A rematch is yet another reason why I hate the BCS system.

Are we ever going to do playoffs?

Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) is tackled by Texas linebacker
Keenan Robinson (1) and cornerback Carrington Byndom (23) during the first
quarter of an NCAA college football game at Kyle Field Thursday, Nov. 24, 2011,
in College Station. Photo: Houston Chronicle, Brett Coomer

LSU's Tyrann Mathieu (7) returns a punt for a 92-yard for a touchdown during
the second quarter of an NCAA college football game against Arkansas in Baton
Rouge, La., Friday, Nov. 25, 2011. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)


Sunday, November 27, 2011


From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

Alleged LA-area pepper-spraying shopper surrenders

The attack took place about 10:20 p.m. Thursday shortly after doors opened for the sale. The store had brought out a crate of discounted Xbox video game players, and a crowd had formed to wait for the unwrapping. Valle says the woman began spraying people in order to get an advantage.

The incident was among those nationwide in which violence marred the traditional kickoff to the holiday shopping season.

In the most serious case, a robber shot a shopper who refused to give up his purchases outside a San Leandro, Calif., Walmart store, leaving the victim hospitalized in critical but stable condition.

Police in San Leandro, about 15 miles east of San Francisco, said the victim and his family were walking to their car around 1:45 a.m. Friday when they were confronted by a group of men who demanded their shopping items. When the family refused, a fight broke out, and one of the robbers pulled a gun and shot the man, said Sgt. Mike Sobek.

Meanwhile, police in suburban Phoenix came under fire when a video was posted online showing a 54-year-old grandfather on the floor of a Walmart store with a bloody face, after police said he was subdued Thursday night trying to shoplift during a chaotic rush for discounted video games.

The video, posted on YouTube, shows Jerald Allen Newman unconscious and bloodied as outraged customers yell expletives and say "that's police brutality" and "he wasn't doing anything."

More here.

I've written about exactly these kinds of Yuletide events here and there for the last few years, not because it's a pet topic or anything like that, but rather because it's happening with increasing frequency. Violence in pursuit of Christmas presents. This is how we now celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace. Okay, yeah yeah, I know. This isn't how "we" celebrate. This is a relative few individuals. But these reports don't mention all the nastiness out there that comes up short of violence, don't mention the sour angry attitudes produced by the whole cattle herding experience of modern Christmas shopping, don't mention the 24/7 advertising bombardment that affects children and adults alike. In short, all that's newsworthy, apparently, is when the whole sick and depraved pile of cultural Christmas shit spews over into something truly awful--the cultural shit pile itself is ignored.

And what do the worshipers of the man whose name is half the holiday have to say about all this? Well, I don't really know; they're too busy confusing retailers' unwillingness to lose non-Christian business, by saying "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas," with a bizarre and imaginary liberal plot to destroy the happiness of Dr. Seuss characters. To be fair, I'm sure that a lot of Christians out there have problems with the rampant consumerism that is now virtually synonymous with the word "Christmas," but the loudest voices are the psychotic fundamentalists, and they think Jesus is totally cool with buying stupid shit.

Listen to me, I sound like Linus. But that's a good point, too. A Charlie Brown Christmas first aired in 1965, and the entire plot revolves around Charlie Brown's disgust with the commercialization of the holiday, and his search for an authentic sense of Christmas. That was nearly a half century ago. And things have become much, much worse than they were back then.



Friday, November 25, 2011


Pumpkin Roi

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


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Black Friday

From Wikipedia:

Black Friday is the day following Thanksgiving Day in the United States, traditionally the beginning of the Christmas shopping season. On this day, most major retailers open extremely early, often at 4 a.m., or earlier, and offer promotional sales to kick off the shopping season, similar to Boxing Day sales in many British Commonwealth countries. Black Friday is not actually a holiday, but most non-retail employers give their employees the day off, increasing the number of potential shoppers. It has routinely been the busiest shopping day of the year since 2005, although news reports, which at that time were inaccurate, have described it as the busiest shopping day of the year for a much longer period of time.

More here.

Black Friday is also very strong evidence of the fact that America has become both narcissistic and hyper-materialistic. I mean, I hope that's changing, you know, what with all the economic troubles and Occupy Wall Street. But I assume that many Americans continue to fall prey to the consumer-conditioning they have endured for many decades, believing that self-satisfaction and happiness can be obtained through the purchase of stupid shit they don't need or really even want. In other words, Black Friday is a day of sadness: America has become a vapid shallow nation, doing itself in with its own irresponsible behavior.

Personally, I greatly prefer this "Black Friday":


A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving

Sorry 'bout the popup, if you get it. Just click on through; this is classic shit.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Fox, WSJ Still Falsely Claiming Lower Taxes Generate More Revenue

From Media Matters for America:

EPI: Bush Tax Cuts "Added $2.6 Trillion To The Public Debt Over 2001-10." In a September 26 article, Andrew Fieldhouse of the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) wrote:

A spending-cuts-only approach is regressive in that it forces the brunt of deficit reduction on the backs of poor and working families while ignoring a prime culprit of the budget deficit: the expensive, ineffective, and unfair Bush-era tax cuts. These top-heavy tax cuts added $2.6 trillion to the public debt over 2001-10 and will add $3.8 trillion to deficits over the next decade if fully continued. [EPI, 9/26/11]
Bartlett: Revenue Has Been Historically Low Because "Taxes Were Cut In 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2006." In a July 26 New York Times blog post, Bruce Bartlett, former policy adviser to Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, wrote:
In a previous post, I noted that federal taxes as a share of gross domestic product were at their lowest level in generations. The Congressional Budget Office expects revenue to be just 14.8 percent of G.D.P. this year; the last year it was lower was 1950, when revenue amounted to 14.4 percent of G.D.P.

But revenue has been below 15 percent of G.D.P. since 2009, and the last time we had three years in a row when revenue as a share of G.D.P. was that low was 1941 to 1943.

Revenue has averaged 18 percent of G.D.P. since 1970 and a little more than that in the postwar era. At a similar stage in previous business cycles, two years past the trough, revenue was considerably higher: 18 percent of G.D.P. in 1977 after the 1973-75 recession; 17.3 percent of G.D.P. in 1984 after the 1981-82 recession, and 17.5 percent of G.D.P. in 1993 after the 1990-91 recession. Revenue was markedly lower, however, at this point after the 2001 recession and was just 16.2 percent of G.D.P. in 2003.

The reason, of course, is that taxes were cut in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2006.


According to a recent C.B.O. report, they reduced revenue by at least $2.9 trillion below what it otherwise would have been between 2001 and 2011. Slower-than-expected growth reduced revenue by another $3.5 trillion.[The New York Times, 7/26/11]
Krugman: After Reagan's 1981 Tax Cuts, "Revenues Are Permanently Reduced Relative To What They Would Otherwise Have Been." In a July 2010 post on his New York Times blog, Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman wrote that "the revenue track under Reagan looks a lot like the track under Bush: a drop in revenues, then a resumption of growth, but no return to the previous trend." He added, "This is exactly what you would expect to see if supply-side economics were just plain wrong: revenues are permanently reduced relative to what they would otherwise have been." [The New York Times, 7/15/10]

More here.

Then the article goes on to quote some five or six more economists who plainly state that tax cuts do not result in increased revenue. And, of course, tax cuts don't result in increased revenue. How could they? When you cut taxes, you're depriving the government of revenue, not increasing it. What's amazing isn't that the right wing would be so brazen to insist for decades that something so obviously false is, in fact, true. What's amazing is that they got so many people to believe it. My Dad, for one, and lots of other rank-and-file Republicans.

The idea is that when you cut taxes, people take that extra money and use it to stimulate the economy; they say this works best with cutting taxes for the rich because they supposedly invest their tax savings, which allows businesses to grow and hire more workers, who then pay taxes, and all this new economic activity supposedly results in even more income for the government simply because the power of tax cuts grows the economy, creating much more income to be taxed.

Except that, in the thirty years that conservatives have been pushing this claptrap, economists have been studying the actual data about what happens to the economy when the government cuts taxes, and what happens in the real world just doesn't match the theory. At all. I mean, no surprise, of course, because cutting taxes fucking deprives the government of income, not the reverse. But it's nice to have some real study on the topic. Apparently, what happens is that the rich simply stick the money into savings accounts where it earns them some interest, but doesn't expand the economy, doesn't create new jobs, doesn't grow businesses.

But when have facts ever had anything to do with Republicans? Okay, once upon a time, Republicans and facts had a sort of passing relationship, but that was long ago. Today, they're happy to live in their intellectually constructed fantasy world where cutting taxes is the solution to every economic problem that has ever existed--you know, sometimes I wonder what would happen if there weren't any taxes to cut; what would the GOP say then?

What really kills me about this is how the corporate media and Democrats don't just scoff at Republicans when they push this bullshit. So yeah, Republicans are lame, but perhaps the Democrats are worse, because they know better for sure, and do nothing to cut these guys off at their knees. I mean, really. The GOP is all tax cuts all the time and nothing else, and it's all based on a concept that is totally false, that tax cuts are good for the economy. If the Dems made a massive rhetorical push on this, made all their campaigns about how the Republicans are in shit up to their ears on the tax cut issue, maybe they'd see some headway.

But no. They're idiots, too.


Monday, November 21, 2011

Why Don't Teens Date Anymore?

From a Psychology Today advice column, presumably written by an actual psychologist:

These "hook-ups" also seem to be replacing dating. It seems that males and females are equally aggressive these days and have embraced a culture of "friends with benefits" the benefits being physical encounters without the strings of relationships attached.

It is both possible and likely that since many teen girls are making themselves available in two roles-that of the "aggressor" and "available" there is less motivation for the boys to ask them to date. The old expression 'Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?' seems to apply here. And, believe me I am not a fan of either referring to females as cows or of this expression. It simply seems to apply to the current teen scene.

My concern is that there has been a move away from relationship-based sex to recreational sex. I am concerned as well that disconnnected sex may be too much for our teens to handle emotionally. Sexual intimacy often leaves teens emotionally vulnerable and at risk for disappointment, embarrassment, and sadness. Perhaps, we have failed to teach our children about the relationship between the heart, the body, and the mind when it comes to physical intimacy. The sorry state of affairs (no pun intended) is that teens are more distressed than they let on to when their Saturday night "hook-up" doesn't remember their name or even the "hook-up" itself on Monday morning in English class.

More here.

"Those damned teens aren't doing it like we did it back when we were teens! Makes me damned uncomfortable! And get the hell offa my lawn!"

It's very tempting to dismiss this kind of bullshit as just another moron, Ph.D notwithstanding, mouthing off the same old generational angst about how youngsters aren't the same as they were back when they were youngsters. In fact, I do dismiss it that way: big fuck if teenagers are into no-strings sex. I hardly think it really ranks up there with poverty or war or even the impending NBA non-season. So what? The kids are alright. Let 'em have sex without romantic relationships. They'll be fine.

What I find interesting about this little advice column upon which I inadvertently stumbled is that it addresses, ever so indirectly, the subject of the ongoing changing nature of male/female relationships, families, too.

Let's recap a bit here. When our nation changed from an agriculturally based economy to an industry based one, it spelled the end of the extended family. On a family farm, big numbers of children and cousins and aunts and uncles meant a larger work force, and made good economic sense. But in cities, where most of these farming families ended up after the industrial revolution, big numbers were nothing but a drain on family resources. This was the rise of the nuclear family as the basic societal unit for the United States. Some decades later we started to see the beginning of the end of the nuclear family: indeed, single parent households are on the rise around the world, and it is apparently a growing trend. There are numerous theories and speculations about why this is occurring, especially among the religious who blame what they perceive as an erosion of sexual morality, but there are also economic and social theories, the kind to which I naturally gravitate, that focus on mass incarceration of males in minority populations, or the devastation of the working and middle classes. But whatever the reasons, there can be no mistake that there are massive social forces at play here, or else the phenomenon would not be so widespread.

So back to teenagers: if, in fact, teens today are far more into "hooking up" than they are into romantic relationships, and I have no reason to doubt Dr. Moron who wrote the above linked column, what social forces are making this happen? I mean, it's not as though teenagers all got together in some sort of online meeting and decided en masse to stop having romantic relationships. Something is pushing this, and I'd like to know what. I'd also like to know if this is our future, if we're doomed as a society to being not much more than strangers in the night with each other. Like I said, I'm totally cool with teens just getting together and banging away instead of getting all mushy--indeed, teen romances aren't terribly substantial in the long run, more like practicing romance than actually having it. But if this is coming from some sort of economic or governmental action, we need to understand it, and perhaps get ourselves organized so as to head it off before the notion of family becomes nothing but quaint.

I mean, my family pisses me off and annoys me, but I love them, and there's value to family if only for that. I'd hate for capitalism, or stupid plutocratic government, to destroy this ancient human tradition.



From the AP via ESPN:

Collin Klein's 2 TDs help Kansas St. slip past Texas

Collin Klein and Kansas State just keep finding ways to win.

A week after a wild overtime thriller, Klein and the Wildcats survived a dominating performance by the Texas defense for a rugged 17-13 victory despite gaining just 121 total yards.

More here.

Again from the AP via ESPN:

No. 1 LSU dominates Ole Miss to remain unbeaten

LSU's domination of Mississippi was so complete that with more than five minutes remaining in the game, the Tigers lined up in a victory formation, content to kneel four straight times rather than try for another touchdown.

It was the only mercy No. 1 LSU would show during the 52-3 rout Saturday night.

"Victory was assured," LSU coach Les Miles said. "There was no reason to take snaps at that point."

Actually, the Tigers had the win in hand much sooner.

More here.

While disappointed with the Longhorns loss, I did like a few things in terms of rebuilding. Texas' defense played great, holding the team that ran up 53 points against the Aggies last weekend to only 17 points against the 'Horns. And we ran the ball well. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough to actually win, but, for the long term, meaning "next season," I'm hopeful. And I continue to be hopeful for beating the aforementioned Aggies later this week, which, in my heart will make this a good season, even without a conference championship, even without a big bowl.

LSU, in stark contrast, is so good that I didn't really watch much of the game. I mean, why bother? It was over by the end of the first quarter. It's nice to note that they got over their sluggishness from last weekend, but, my god, it's like me playing checkers against a four year old. Arkansas, I'm sure, will test LSU this Friday, as they usually do, but I feel pretty sure this is the Tigers' year. Like I keep saying, who can beat them?


Sunday, November 20, 2011

Mayors Who Attempt to End Occupy Protests Are On the Wrong Side of History

From BuzzFlash:

Over the last few days there has been what appears to be a coordinated attempt by many of the nation's mayors to end the Occupy Wall Street protests that have swept the country - and much of the world.

Many justifications have been given: concerns about "sanitation," drug overdoses, the violation of noise ordinances, isolated assaults. But what do you expect? The Occupy encampments involve tens of thousands of people. Those are the kinds of problems that develop when you have groups of thousands of people.

In reality, the Occupy Movement has done a remarkable job coping with these everyday problems of governing large numbers of people in small spaces. In fact, I would bet that the instance of most of these problems in the Occupy encampments is far less prevalent per capita than most places in America.

Of course, there are sanitation issues that have to be addressed - ever see the National Mall after a forth of July fireworks festival? That's the nature of large crowds - so work with the Occupy groups to solve them. But don't use "sanitation" as a pretense to try to end this important movement.

The bottom line is that the Occupy protests are disruptive. That's the idea. That's the idea of any serious protest movement: to be disruptive - to stop business as usual - to force the media and the society at large to focus on a critical, fundamental problem.

More here.

"So work with the Occupy groups to solve them."

That's what these mayors around the country could have done, but didn't. Instead, they sent in the goons. It has been ever thus. As the above linked essay observes, it's only after social movements accomplish their goals that we truly see such heavy-handed government action for what it actually is, oppression. And save your pathetic law and order lectures for some corn-fed American icon idiot who'll believe you: this is democracy, which outranks zoning laws and business concerns every fucking time. Democracy is who we are. That governmental entities from sea to shining sea have actively avoided finding ways to facilitate what is now obviously a broadly based people's movement designed to bring us closer to the national ideals taught to all school children year after year makes plain just how far removed our society has become from those ideals.

Indeed, we're starting to look more like the Occupied Territories of Palestine than the Norman Rockwell paintings we think we look like. And that bodes very, very ill.

Unarmed, peaceful OWS protester gets pepper sprayed in the face by
Portland cops (photo courtesy of the Atlantic).

Unarmed, peaceful Palestinian protesters thrown to the ground by Israeli
soldiers in 2010 (photo courtesy of Gaza Carnage Resources).


Friday, November 18, 2011




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


Europa Water: Scientists Find Evidence Of Lakes On Jupiter's Moon

From the Huffington Post:

According to NASA, scientists have long thought that a huge ocean -- more voluminous than all of earth's oceans combined -- existed below Europa's surface. But since the moon is so far from the sun, the surface ice is thought to be tens of miles thick.

Now, scientists analyzing data from NASA's Galileo spacecraft have found ice blocks on Europa's surface that suggest an interaction between the moon's icy shell and a lake-like body of water under the surface, Discovery reports.

According to Britney Schmidt, the lead author of the study that appears in the journal Nature, this could mean nutrients and energy are moving between the ocean and icy shell.

More here.

Needless to say, if liquid water exists on Europa, there is a very good chance that life exists there, too. After all, not only did all life on Earth have its evolutionary origins in the oceans, but there are also, today, terrestrial lifeforms existing deep, deep, deep underwater, so deep that the Sun's light never shines there, receiving heat from seismic activity which warms pockets here and there, perfectly evolved to the environmental circumstances. Really, all you need is liquid water and carbon. If life evolved on our world under these conditions, why wouldn't the same thing happen on Europa?

I mean, it's probably not intelligent life, but then, why not? Dolphins and whales are highly intelligent. I suppose that's possible elsewhere, too. So this is exciting. We may not have to go very far at all to encounter alien life. Of course, it's also exciting, to me anyway, because exactly this scenario serves as a major plot point for Arthur C. Clarke's sequel to his 1968 book 2001: A Space Odyssey, 1982's 2010: Odyssey Two. Hopefully, whatever life might exist on Europa won't eat China's expedition there like it did in the book.

Whatever you might think about China, we really don't want them to be eaten by aliens.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011


From AlterNet:

Bloomberg's Bibliocide? Update on Confiscated "People's Library" Books

But when protesters returned, they were disgusted, finding trashed books, ruined laptops and much missing:

One of our librarians Zach came up with a partial list of what was taken (see below) and it’s looking like only a few boxes of books and our (destroyed) laptops and one chair were at Sanitation. Our people on the ground report that “A lot is destroyed . . . more may (or may not) be coming out of their giant trashpile at back of building.” But it’s obvious to me that by recklessly throwing the contents of the park into dumpsters, the NYPD and DSNY working under Bloomberg’s orders destroyed what we built. And that their claim that the library was “safely stored” was a lie.
A few hours later, it seemed like less than half the library was salvaged, much in awful condition.

More here.

I've been hearing for the last decade or so that the only way you can compare somebody or some group or some nation to the Nazis is if said person, group, or nation has killed six million Jews. Anything short of that and you're being an asshole.

Fuck that. The Holocaust is only the absolute worst thing the Nazis did, among many lesser, but still very noteworthy, evils. You know, like torturing prisoners. Or waging aggressive war. Or stoking race-hatred. Or burning books. All these things have been done in America in recent years. And all these things bring us uncomfortably close to being very much like the Nazis, minus, of course, killing six million Jews.

Personally, I'm of the humble opinion that if Americans are acting like Nazis, we should condemn such behavior, immediately and harshly. And yes, the word "Nazi" should be used, as frequently as possible. After all, Nazi Germany is understood across the political spectrum to be the most evil regime in human history. We don't want to be like them at all.

Saying that you can only condemn people for behaving like Nazis if and only if they've killed six million Jews essentially absolves the Nazis of all other crimes. And that's bullshit.

So Bloomberg's a fucking Nazi.

What are you gonna do? Sue me? Fuck off.


Does government regulation really kill jobs?
Economists say overall effect minimal.

From the Washington Post:

The critique of regulations fits into a broader conservative narrative about government overreach. But it also comes after a string of disasters in recent years that were tied to government regulators falling short, including the financial crisis of 2008, the BP oil spill and the West Virginia mining accident last year.

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that very few layoffs are caused principally by tougher rules.

Whenever a firm lays off workers, the bureau asks executives the biggest reason for the job cuts.

In 2010, 0.3 percent of the people who lost their jobs in layoffs were let go because of “government regulations/intervention.” By comparison, 25 percent were laid off because of a drop in business demand.

More here.

That's the thing: I'd bet a Kennedy fifty cent piece that the same businessmen who reported in this specific study that they didn't lay off employees because of government regulations would answer in the abstract that regulations do cause layoffs. That is, there is actual economic data that comes from the real world, and that reports what people actually do with their money, and then there is what people believe about economics. Especially businessmen, who think they have a firm grasp of economics, when really all that they understand is their own business or industry. Especially conservatives, who think they've got economics down pat, when really all they know are slogans and anecdotes they've absorbed over the last three decades.

And what's really sad is that the Democrats either believe conservatives when they say they get it better than anyone, or are too afraid to alienate their wealthy campaign donors by speaking the truth. Consequently, a lot of bullshit passes for economics in the public discourse.

Tax cuts, for instance, are supposed to have all kinds of economic healing powers. Just cut taxes, especially for the wealthy, and the economy will boom. Never mind that multiple studies have shown that people tend to put their tax cut money into savings instead of spending it on things that expand the economy. The myth prevails. Or consider the mania for cutting government spending. The idea is that the economy cannot grow when so much of it is tied up in government hands. So we have to cut, cut, cut, and only then will we grow. Never mind the fact that most economists assert, and have reams of data to back it up, that austerity during a recession does nothing but deepen the recession--when consumers aren't spending, when there is no demand for products, only the government can get people to spend again. But again the myth prevails. For Republican and Democrat alike.

I have no idea how to change such lock-step ignorance, but I hope that Occupy Wall Street, at least, will force the establishment to confront their long-held and cherished, but totally false, notions of macroeconomics. You know, I haven't had hope in quite a while. This OWS thing is pretty amazing.


Monday, November 14, 2011

Sasha Grey, Porn Star, Reads To Elementary School, Parents Outraged

From the Huffington Post:

How would you feel if an adult film star read to your seven year old child? Believe it or not, some parents in California are pretty angry that it happened in their kids' classroom.

Porn legend Sasha Grey was a guest reader at Emerson Elementary School in Compton, California earlier this month, joining first and third grade students in their Read Across America day. Grey certainly enjoyed the experience, tweeting, "Spent the am with Read Across America Compton, reading to the sweetest 1st & 3rd grade students @ Emerson Elementary!"

The problem, TMZ reports, is that parents aren't happy -- and that school officials, instead of addressing the issue, are claiming it never happened.

More here.

Well, of course parents are outraged: a porn star, or rather, a former porn star as the article observes, came into their children's school and read to them. On one level, a shallow surface level, that makes complete sense. Porn star! Sex! Bad! But when you dig a bit more deeply, asking why this is such an outrage, it gets more complicated. Is it because porn stars, even when they're just reading children's literature to children sort of exude a sexual vibe that makes everybody in the room immoral somehow? Is it because these children are in danger of being...what...sexually abused or something? Or, more sinisterly, is it simply because certain segments of our society continue to be stuck hopelessly in the Puritan America described so well in Nathanial Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter?

I'm inclined to gravitate toward that last option, myself. I mean, really, the children are in no danger at all in such a situation. Everybody's supervised. It is highly unlikely, given the circumstances, that said porn star is going to jump into some kind of sex-positive rant which may or may not psychically wound her audience for life--I mean, it sounds like Grey was just trying to be a good citizen, which is something the vast majority of US citizens, porn stars and plumbers alike, don't try to do. No, this is good old fashioned Puritanical sex panic. It's about confirming America's underlying anti-sex bias, which continues to exist in multiple forms in spite of the Sexual Revolution and a mass media positively dripping with exploitative sexual imagery. It's a bias that has a religious component, for sure, but is not always necessarily manifest religiously: that is, you don't have to be a Bible thumper to freak out about a porn star reading to children, even though there is no good reason to freak out.

In the end, the real question here is about what we, as a society, think about pornography and sex work, in general. I'm betting that more than a few of those outraged parents consume pornography themselves: so they'll watch this woman getting nailed by five guys on their computer late at night, but no fucking way is she going to read about the little engine that could to their kids in plain daylight.

Such hypocrisy sickens me. And it's not just the hypocrisy: it's also the moral judgment implied; who are you to say that this or that job, or point of view, or personal identity, is too immoral to have contact with your children? I mean, would you be okay if the Goldman Sachs CEO came to read to your children? With Dick Cheney or one of the Abu Ghraib torturers?

Meanwhile, pedophile football coaches and pedophile priests, who, because of their careers being so bedrock American, continue to have access to children who they use for their own vile sexual pleasure. Our culture is so fucked up.



From the AP via ESPN:

Missouri keeps Texas out of end zone for first time since 2004

Missouri's coach didn't seem all that euphoric about ending the school's six-game losing streak in the series and knocking off the only conference school he hadn't beaten heading into next year's move to the SEC.

For one thing, the Tigers likely lost the conference's leading rusher for the rest of the year. Also, they're only .500.

"I don't think off that field, 'Gosh, I finally beat Texas!' " Pinkel said after Missouri's 17-5 upset of the Longhorns on Saturday. "I don't do that.


The previous two weeks at home, Texas whipped Kansas and Texas Tech by a combined 95-20 and topped 400 yards rushing in both games. Leading rusher Malcolm Brown (toe) and Joe Bergeron (hamstring) got no carries and the depth chart got leaner after Fozzy Whitaker left with an apparent right knee injury while making a cut in the first quarter.

More here.

And again from the AP via ESPN:

No. 1 LSU wakes up after half, beats Western Kentucky

Alfred Blue and Kenny Hilliard each scored two touchdowns, and the Tigers overcame a lackluster first-half to defeat Western Kentucky 42-9 on Saturday night.

"I don't think this was in any way an impassioned effort by our guys, but I think they did the things that they needed to do to ensure victory," coach Les Miles said. "The decision made the staff and myself on the quarterbacks, that is a one-game decision and we'll kind of go from there."

One week after playing most of LSU's 9-6 overtime victory at Alabama, Jefferson got the start against the Hilltoppers, hitting 8 of 14 passes for 168 yards, including a 59-yard scoring strike to Rueben Randle.

LSU (10-0) came in favored by nearly six touchdowns, but led only 14-7 at halftime. The Tigers then dominated the second half to reach 10-0 for the first time since 1958, when they won a national championship. The victory also was Miles' 100th as a head coach, his 72nd at LSU.


"I don't think the score represents how the game went," Rainey said. "In the first half, we were up there with the No. 1 team in the country."

Western Kentucky, in contention to win the Sun Belt Conference, kept it interesting throughout the first half, forcing LSU to punt twice, recovering Odell Beckham Jr.'s fumble on a kickoff return and dominating time of possession, 20:01 to 9:59.

When LSU took the lead on Randle's TD catch on the Tigers' second possession, the Hilltoppers responded with a 10-play, 65-yard touchdown drive to tie the game at 7.

More here.

The article quotes Texas coach Mac Brown as saying he didn't want to use injuries as an excuse, but the 'Horns are a running team now and their backfield was decimated. So we lost. But that's okay: we're already bowl eligible, which represents something of a triumph relative to last season's sadness, and we weren't going to win the conference, anyway. No big deal. I mean, a win is always preferable, but hey, our top three rushers weren't playing. I'm cool with the loss. Really, at this point, all I want is to beat the hapless Aggies, who, it was said before the season started, are fielding their "best team in years." Ha! Their loss record is worse than ours. Smacking them would be very, very, very nice, indeed. Hopefully Texas will be healed up by then.

On the other hand, LSU won, but WTF? A shitty Sun Belt team during the first half played them about as well as Alabama did last week. Sports analysts talk about how good Les Miles is preparing his team for the next game, but this kind of weird inconsistency has been something of a trademark of his tenure--I guess when you're number one, they go easy on your blemishes. This is exactly the kind of brain fart that's fucked the Tigers in the past, and I don't mean "fuck" in the pleasant way. Fortunately, they weren't suffering their letdown against Arkansas, who has been the opponent for one or two of those fucked games I mentioned a moment ago.

I sure do hope they've got their shit together for next week.

COLUMBIA, MO - NOVEMBER 12: Foswhitt Whittaker #2 of the Texas Longhorns
is helped off the field after an injury during the game against the Missouri Tigers
on November 12, 2011 at Faurot Field/Memorial Stadium in Columbia, Missouri.
(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

BATON ROUGE, LA - NOVEMBER 12: Rueben Randle #2 of the
Louisiana State University Tigers celebrates after scoring a
touchdown against Western Kentucky at Tiger Stadium on
November 12, 2011 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)


Saturday, November 12, 2011

Politics: How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the OWS Protests

From Rolling Stone courtesy of Hullabaloo, Matt Taibbi on Occupy Wall Street:

You could put 50,000 angry protesters on Wall Street, 100,000 even, and Lloyd Blankfein is probably not going to break a sweat. He knows he's not going to wake up tomorrow and see Cornel West or Richard Trumka running the Federal Reserve. He knows modern finance is a giant mechanical parasite that only an expert surgeon can remove. Yell and scream all you want, but he and his fellow financial Frankensteins are the only ones who know how to turn the machine off.

That's what I was thinking during the first few weeks of the protests. But I'm beginning to see another angle. Occupy Wall Street was always about something much bigger than a movement against big banks and modern finance. It's about providing a forum for people to show how tired they are not just of Wall Street, but everything. This is a visceral, impassioned, deep-seated rejection of the entire direction of our society, a refusal to take even one more step forward into the shallow commercial abyss of phoniness, short-term calculation, withered idealism and intellectual bankruptcy that American mass society has become. If there is such a thing as going on strike from one's own culture, this is it. And by being so broad in scope and so elemental in its motivation, it's flown over the heads of many on both the right and the left.


And here's one more thing I was wrong about: I originally was very uncomfortable with the way the protesters were focusing on the NYPD as symbols of the system. After all, I thought, these are just working-class guys from the Bronx and Staten Island who have never seen the inside of a Wall Street investment firm, much less had anything to do with the corruption of our financial system.

But I was wrong. The police in their own way are symbols of the problem. All over the country, thousands of armed cops have been deployed to stand around and surveil and even assault the polite crowds of Occupy protesters. This deployment of law-enforcement resources already dwarfs the amount of money and manpower that the government "committed" to fighting crime and corruption during the financial crisis. One OWS protester steps in the wrong place, and she immediately has police roping her off like wayward cattle. But in the skyscrapers above the protests, anything goes.

This is a profound statement about who law enforcement works for in this country.

More here.

You know, I've speculated here on multiple occasions about why I ended up so liberal, especially when I started out as a Southern Baptist Republican. I'm sure that the reasons, in the end, are as varied and complex as my life itself is, but the one factor that always pops up when I think about such things is the time I spent in Austin, studying theater and the mass media, hanging out with artists, actors, writers, and musicians, and performing on stage, as both an actor and a singer-songwriter. In Austin, I came to understand and give a damn about culture.

And I don't simply mean highfalutin' culture. I mean, that's definitely a part of it, what with all the arts indoctrination classes I took at UT. But in Austin, I first started to get a sense of grass roots, where the plastic pop culture with which I had grown up became fused with the city's groovy laid back cosmic cowboy style. I got a sense of people in the streets. I got a sense of other races and ethnicities beyond the bland white bread suburban prefab existence I had known all my life. Once you see all that, once you get to understand that there is a veritable tapestry of cultures the human race has created all around the world, it becomes impossible not to value it all greatly.

Like I said above, I was also studying the mass media back in those days, so I also developed a keen awareness of how the entertainment industry, the advertising industry, political machines, and special interest groups are working tirelessly 24/7 to alter grass roots culture, sometimes even eliminate it, or even replace it with mass produced plastic cultural product. Sometimes it's just to make a buck. Most of the time, however, especially coming from the ad industry, but really from everybody, it's about making us all comfortable with materialism and the concept of getting rich. Selfishness, narcissism, conspicuous consumption, dominance by the few over the many, the acceptability of widespread poverty and suffering, and on and on and on.

I learned that the wealthy plutocrats who run the media use it not only to destroy the cultural gems that bubble up from the earth on which we walk, but also to replace it with fucking garbage. It is no wonder that I became a bleeding heart. I've been seeing for years now how the wealthy elites piss and shit on our culture and laugh about it on the way to the bank.

They should be overthrown if only for that. Of course, the great crimes of the so-called one percent go way above and beyond culture destruction: they actually kill people, in great quantities, whether through the wars they push us into or through denial of health care, or through pollution, and on and on and on.

Taibbi has it absolutely right about OWS. It's not a typical political movement; it's a cultural movement. And thank god: political movements can't do anything in this Mammon-dominated culture the elites have constructed over the decades. The whole fucking zeitgeist must change first.


Friday, November 11, 2011


Dash and Reine

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


Rush Limbaugh Admits the Media Is Conservative

Or, at least, not liberal, which is something indeed. From AlterNet:

Diarist JohnKWilson at DailyKos makes a great find: Rush Limbaugh making the admission that liberal voices in the news are hard to find.

The transcript from Rush's own website:

if it weren't for MSNBC we wouldn't have any liberal sound bites. I've told Cookie I'm sick of it, ban MSNBC, and we can't, 'cause there's no other place to get liberal sound bites. There isn't any other place. I mean CNN is just insane over there. They emphasize their hosts, they have guests, but just roll tape on 'em and it's so boring. It's not worth putting anything from CNN on the air.

If it weren't for MSNBC there wouldn't be any liberal sound bites. Now, that has to mean something. That has to mean that they're rare, that they're not everywhere.
More here.

So, while this is significant, it's not earth shaking news or anything. The article goes on to point out how conservatives have been admitting for many years, albeit on the down low, that "liberal media bias" doesn't really exist. And I don't think this is going to affect in any way the rank-and-file's perception that the media are liberal. I mean, it didn't make sense in the first place, so why would it make sense now? For the time being, conservatives will continue to be in lock-step in their tribal assertion that the media are liberal.

But it is nice to know better. It's especially nice to know that they know better, too.


Thursday, November 10, 2011


So Penn State's legendary coach Joe Paterno is out, as is the University's president, according to CNN earlier this evening. Lawyers, Guns, and Money, courtesy of Eschaton, makes an important observation:

These incidents were beginning to put a bit of a dent into Paterno’s previously squeaky clean image. Still in regard to job security, Paterno faced a much bigger problem. Big time college football is, despite the ridiculous battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton nonsense trafficked in by sportswriters who lionize men like Paterno, all about winning. And PSU wasn’t doing much of that at the moment — the team was coming off the worst two-season record the program had endured in 70 years.

Paterno was 75 years old. In the winter of 2002, he was for the first time dealing with genuine discontent in the PSU fan base about the state of the program. There were rumblings that, if he didn’t get things turned around soon, the administration would put serious pressure on him to quit. Then, on March 2nd, he got a phone call from a member of his staff, informing him that he had seen his former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky sodomizing a ten-year-old child in the football locker room (the staff member’s version of the conversation) or “fondling or doing something of a sexual nature” to the ten-year-old boy in the otherwise empty, locked building, at 8:30 on a Friday night (Paterno’s version, which he gave as sworn testimony before a grand jury).

It’s hardly speculative to conclude that, in March of 2002, Joe Paterno was well aware that, if what he had just heard about Sandusky became public, it would likely cost him his job — especially since a full-blown criminal investigation of the matter would probably reveal that Paterno knew about an earlier investigation of Sandusky in 1998, which was inexplicably dropped, shortly before Sandusky’s all-too-convenient “retirement” from the PSU staff. And Joe Paterno has always been better at holding onto his job than anything else.

It’s now clear Paterno did what he had to do to ensure that Mike McQueary’s revelation to his coach and quasi-father confessor, whose team he had co-captained a few years earlier, disappeared down the memory hole. And here we are today.

More here.

This is going to be talked to death for days, in both the corporate news media and in the sports media, so I've just got a couple of points.

First, this is what the Catholic Church should have done as soon as its higher-ups became aware how much cover up was going on. It's good to see Penn State's board of regents doing the right thing and moving to save the university a lot of future grief.

Second, and perhaps more importantly, how the hell could a guy like Paterno, who everybody pretty much agrees is a good man, do something so totally fucked up? How could he participate in covering up a child molestation?

On the one hand, every individual is, in the end, responsible for his own actions. But social context definitely played a role here. A couple of weeks ago, I addressed the notion that corporations may very well be owned and run by human beings, but the organizational imperatives under which those human beings work can very easily allow those corporations to behave in sometimes vile and very inhuman ways. So the questions I ask about Paterno in the paragraph above are very similar to the question "how can good people destroy the environment?" or "how can good people deny life saving medical care to the sick and dying?"

I mean, similar, but not quite the same--indeed, Paterno, as PSU's football god, wielded far more influence over the university than his paper-status as a sort of middle manager, or department chairman, would suggest. But the personal and organizational incentives are pretty much the same as within a corporation. Paterno's career was on the line. The football team was on the line. The university's reputation was on the line. All big time shit. Faced with the destruction of everything he had built, faced with tarnishing the image of the school for which he had worked for decades, I'm sure it was very easy for him to do...nothing. Which was exactly what he did. I mean, okay, he told his immediate higher-ups, who then hushed the whole thing, but he could have gone to the police, or the press, so his actions ultimately amounted to nothing.

This in no way excuses Paterno. He failed, badly. But it does shed some light on the complexity of individual human morality and the pressures it faces every day in various social contexts. We put ourselves in the same situation as Paterno's and it's, like, of course I'd call the fucking police, but we don't really think about weighing that against moving to destroy your own life in the process.

That is, it's really easy to be a moral person in the abstract. What's hard is being a moral person when it ends up putting you at a massive disadvantage in the life you've built for yourself. We'll never figure out how to make corporations behave in an moral way until we figure out how to address organizational disincentives for doing what everybody knows is right.


Wednesday, November 09, 2011

On Western Democracy

From CounterPunch, Former Reagan economist Paul Craig Roberts meditates on what the EU outrage over the Greek Prime Minister's now aborted decision to submit bailout/austerity plans to a nationwide referendum means for our democracy:

If you need more evidence of this mythical creature called “Western democracy,” consider that Western governments are no longer accountable to law. Contrast, for example, the sexual harassment charges that are plaguing US presidential candidate Herman Cain’s campaign with the pass given to high government officials who clearly violated statutory law.

What follows is not a defense of Cain. I take no position on the charges. The real point is different. In America the only thing that can ruin a politician is his interest in sex. A politician, for example, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Barack Obama, cannot be ruined by violating United States and international law or by treating the US Constitution as a “mere scrap of paper.” Bush and Cheney can take America to wars based entirely on lies and orchestrated deceptions. They can commit war crimes, murdering large numbers of civilians in the cause of “the war on terror,” itself a hoax. They can violate US and international laws against torture simply “because the president said so.” They can throw away habeas corpus, the constitutional requirement that a person cannot be imprisoned without evidence presented to a court. They can deny the right to an attorney. They can violate the law and spy on Americans without obtaining warrants. They can send due process to hell. In fact, they can do whatever they want just like Hitler’s Gestapo and Stalin’s secret police. But if they show undue interest in a woman or proposition a woman, they are dead meat.

Very few commentators have said a word about this. The House of Representatives did not impeach President Bill Clinton for his war crimes against Serbia. They impeached him for lying about a sexual affair with a White House intern. The US Senate, which had too many sexual affairs of its own to defend, didn’t bother to try to convict.

This is Amerika today. A president without any authority whatsoever, not in law and certainly not in the Constitution, can assassinate US citizens based on nothing except an assertion that they are a “threat.” No evidence is required. No conviction. No presentation of evidence in any court. Just a murder. That is now permissible to the Amerikan president. But let him try to get a woman who is not his wife into bed, and he is a cooked goose.

More here.

Something conspicuously missing from our national character is the notion that, rather than being simply a form of government, democracy is both a lifestyle and a way of thinking. While it is true that the United States isn't a democracy in its strictest sense--indeed, the US is a "democratic republic," such that elected representatives ostensibly enact the will of the citizenry--the concept of democracy oozes throughout our nation's symbols, our national narrative, and our self-understanding, and is rhetorically prized above all other concepts. That is, the American ideal is that, even though we don't live out the ancient Athenian notion of citizen-legislators, we get about as close to it as we can, given the massive size of our country and complexity of modern life.

But, of course, we don't get as close to it as we can. Yes, we go through all the formal rituals of "democracy." We watch political debates on television. We inform ourselves on the important issues of the day. We vote, in both primaries and general elections. At least, some of us participate in these formal rituals. But, in the end, concentrations of wealth and power call the shots. Our votes are meaningless in the face of armies of corporate lobbyists and massive wads of campaign cash. The political class, which supposedly represents us, in fact, carries out the collective will these concentrations of wealth and power.

If the American self-understanding of its "democratic" nature included the firm belief that we actually have to do something in order to be citizens, that we must both think and behave as though we run the country, there would be a very good chance that we really would become as close to Athenian style democracy as we can get, that we could call America a democracy and really mean it. Instead, we just vote and bitch--high school civics courses, the only kind of democracy-education we get, tend to reinforce this.

And that's exactly how the powers-that-be want it.


Tuesday, November 08, 2011


I got into it again on facebook today with an old friend from way back in my Southern Baptist days. It started with this status update she posted:

The Bible states many times that we are to stand with Israel at all costs. I believe in God's word and will continue to believe that his word is more powerful than any other form of power. This is why our current situation will not stand long.
That's when the fun began (slightly edited for coherence).
How do we know that the modern Israel nation state is the same thing as the Biblical notion of Israel, God's children?

Because it says so in the Bible and I have faith.

I think I'm not getting my point across. What I'm trying to say is that there is a difference between what everybody calls "Israel" today and what everybody calls "Israel" in the Bible. In the Bible, "Israel" means, roughly, the Jews, a.k.a. God's children, the descendants of Abraham. But today "Israel" means the ethnically, for the most part, Jewish nation state in what was for centuries called "Palestine," covering parts of what were once called "Judea" and "Israel."

A couple of notes. First, there are Arabs who are Israelis, a minority, to be sure, but definitely not Jewish. Second, that there were once two nation states that were ethnically Jewish, Judea and Israel, makes it plain that the Bible differentiates between ethnic "Israel" and nation states called "Israel." I think American Christian Israel-supporters, so-called Christian Zionists, have made a fundamental mistake in confusing the two.

That is, supporting the modern nation state called Israel and supporting God's children are not the same thing.

Yes, but just because many Jewish individuals are on Wall Street does not mean that is the modern Israel. There are a ton of regular white Protestants and many Muslims on Wall Street as well. I understand the old Israel and the new, but my point is that regardless of modernization, you still heed what the Bible says.

Right, but the point I'm trying to make here is that the Bible says to support Israel, meaning God's children, rather than a modern nation state with nuclear weapons, which also regularly oppresses its minority Arab population, the Palestinians, and which has been caught, multiple times, spying on the United States. That is, "Israel" is not "the Jews," and "the Jews" are not "Israel."

Well, if Russia and Germany, along with Japan are also not the same countries as before, do we also let them down? We can go on forever about this, but I know what is written in the Old and New Testament Ron and it clearly states the changes we face in Revelations due to our actions in regards to Man vs. Man. I once had a professor in college say the worst act of violence is Man vs. Man and that in our lifetime we will witness more blood shed than in all of our previous wars combined.......I'm beginning to believe this may be the truth.

But it also states in the Bible that the old Jews will be relocated to the land of Milk and Honey...(United States) and that Christians should remain the guardians of the Jewish state. It talks about Abraham vs. David all through the Bible Ron.

Okay, let me try this from a different angle. You know how Jesus speaks of his kingdom being something other than a geographic region with borders and a government? Same thing with Israel. Israel is a people, Biblically speaking, not a government, not a geographic region with borders. I mean, when the Jews were in bondage in Egypt, were they no longer Israel? When they were in Babylon were they no longer Jews? Were they no longer Jews after the Roman-enforced diaspora? Did they only become Jews again after the founding of modern Israel? Is it the nature of Israel to sometimes be Israel and other times be nothing?

No, Israel will always remain Israel regardless of the geographic location of the people. Even in the Torah it states they are the chosen ones....go on.

Well, okay. Here's why this is an important distinction for me.

First, as a democracy, modern Israel has a sizable minority of citizens who disagree strongly with how the nation state treats the Palestinians, with how it deals with the rest of the region diplomatically, and this minority is "Israel" just as the hawks and conservatives are "Israel." Is it God's will that we only support Israel's political majority?

Second, Israel, the modern nation state, has committed crimes against humanity in its periodic collective punishment of the Palestinians--this is a fact, and is not debatable. Indeed, the late Israeli leader Moshe Dayan once described Israel's policy toward the Palestians as making them "live like dogs." I am reminded of the grave crimes of King David in the Old Testament. Would God have us supporting David's adultery and murder, because, as king, David embodied the nation of Israel? Would God have us support Israeli tanks crushing rock-throwing Palestinian teens in the street? Deprivation of much-needed medicines? Artillery attacks on civilians?

The whole Christians-must-support-Israel mandate is far more complicated, I think, than most people realize.
And at that point, she deleted the entire post. Fortunately, I managed to save it because I felt like I articulated some good points. I mean, good points for Christians who think they have to support Israel because the Bible says so. The reality is that once you get away from various interpretations of the Bible, you can start having a rational discussion about Israel, in terms of diplomacy and national interest. But as long as you feel bound to support Israel by an ancient book that was started during the Bronze Age, you have some severe problems in terms of logic and determining exactly what the Bible means when it says believers must support Israel.

The reality, I think, for fundamentalist Christians, is that the Bible isn't really clear on what supporting God's children actually means in this day and age. But Pat Robertson and his ilk just keep pumping this crazy stuff out, day after day, such that their followers are only capable of asserting that they must support Israel, no matter what it does. And when questioned about it, they just kind of start sputtering and then shut down--did you catch the assertion that America is the "land of milk and honey"?

We've really got to start dealing with this in theological terms or the fundamentalist right will continue to push lunatic policies until Kingdom Come. Literally.