HAPPY EASTER AND MOVING HIATUS
As you may already know, my philosophical issues with Easter are so severe that I am essentially emotionally devoid of any holiday spirit.
But I do like this clip from Monty Python's Life of Brian:
Also, I'm moving to another apartment unit this week, and really need to focus on that, so no blogging until sometime in early May. So see ya'll later!
Saturday, April 23, 2011
HAPPY EASTER AND MOVING HIATUS
Posted by Ron at 8:34 PM
Friday, April 22, 2011
The Truth About GOP Hero Ayn Rand
From Think Progress via AlterNet:
The philosophy, such as it was, which Rand laid out in her novels and essays was a frightful concoction of hyper-egotism, power-worship and anarcho-capitalism. She opposed all forms of welfare, unemployment insurance, support for the poor and middle-class, regulation of industry and government provision for roads or other infrastructure. She also insisted that law enforcement, defense and the courts were the only appropriate arenas for government, and that all taxation should be purely voluntary. Her view of economics starkly divided the world into a contest between "moochers" and "producers," with the small group making up the latter generally composed of the spectacularly wealthy, the successful, and the titans of industry. The "moochers" were more or less everyone else, leading TNR's Jonathan Chait to describe Rand's thinking as a kind of inverted Marxism. Marx considered wealth creation to result solely from the labor of the masses, and viewed the owners of capital and the economic elite to be parasites feeding off that labor. Rand simply reversed that value judgment, applying the role of "parasite" to everyday working people instead. On the level of personal behavior, the heroes in Rand's novels commit borderline rape, blow up buildings, and dynamite oil fields -- actions which Rand portrays as admirable and virtuous fulfillments of the characters' personal will and desires. Her early diaries gush with admiration for William Hickman, a serial killer who raped and murdered a young girl. Hickman showed no understanding of "the necessity, meaning or importance of other people," a trait Rand apparently found quite admirable. For good measure, Rand dismissed the feminist movement as "false" and "phony," denigrated both Arabs and Native Americans as "savages" (going so far as to say the latter had no rights and that Europeans were right to take North American lands by force) and expressed horror that taxpayer money was being spent on government programs aimed at educating "subnormal children" and helping the handicapped. Needless to say, when Rand told Mike Wallace in 1953 that altruism was evil, that selfishness is a virtue, and that anyone who succumbs to weakness or frailty is unworthy of love, she meant it.
In short, Ann Rand was a vicious, amoral, barbaric, bloodthirsty, Nazi cunt.
Anybody who takes her seriously, you know, as a philosophical guru, is in the same category. Her vision of humanity and human relationships is dystopian, at the very least, and a man-made Hell at worst. For Ann Rand and her foolish acolytes, if you're not rich, you're dirt. To hold her views up as something desirable is an affront to the human race.
Nonetheless, she suckers in unsuspecting and ill-educated youth, generation after generation, who are seduced by her mythic narrative of the "genius" who is unappreciated by the masses--young artists, actors, and musicians are particularly susceptible to her bullshit, for obvious reasons. Being the first seemingly intellectual material to which these kids are exposed, some of them feel like they've had some sort of epiphany, and become Ann Rand devotees for the rest of their lives. Former Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board Alan Greenspan is one such idiot. Libertarian and Tea Party hero Ron Paul is another, as is his dumbfuck son Rand who bears the Nazi cunt's last name as his first.
Indeed, it appears that lots of conservatives are in her cult. And if they really do believe her pseudo-intellectual and cruel hogwash, they have just as much evil in their hearts as she did. Yeah, that's right, evil. Human beings, even the poorest and most despicable, have innate value simply because they are human. To deny this self-evident truth is an act of evil. That's why so few of her fans in public life are willing to really admit it: they know telling voters that they're worthless scum who should be ground up for fertilizer might backfire.
Of course, there are many conservatives who aren't Ann Rand fans, who simply believe in small government, or old fashioned sexual morality, or that welfare is bad for the economy or individual psychology. But they tend to vote in lockstep with the Randists who want to chew your veins and suck your blood.
And that's a big fucking problem.
Posted by Ron at 2:16 AM
Thursday, April 21, 2011
WHY THE EDUCATION "DEBATE" IS BULLSHIT FROM THE GET-GO
Part of an ongoing series here at Real Art. From CounterPunch:
Blaming the Teacher
Because public school teachers have to play the hand they’re dealt, what are they supposed to do with a classroom full of uninspired, truant, tardy, undisciplined kids who are there only because the law requires it, and whose parents offer little or no support or encouragement? What are teachers expected to do with students as unprepared, and unreceptive as these?
Answer: They’re supposed to play dumb. They’re supposed to pretend that these students’ home life doesn’t matter, that the universe begins and ends in the classroom. They’re supposed to shut up, stop whining, and go about the task of getting these kids ready to achieve high test scores. Get them to behave like “serious” students so that the American tax payer won’t feel cheated by underwriting teachers’ salaries.
Ask any public school teacher, and they’ll tell you that their “dream class” would consist of students who had gotten sufficient sleep the night before, eaten a nutritious breakfast, completed their homework assignments, and are sitting at their desks, bright-eyed and busy-tailed, ready and relatively eager to learn their lessons. The students don’t need to be budding geniuses or Junior Einsteins. They don’t even need to be above average. All they need to be is relatively prepared.
The current public discourse on education focuses exclusively on the teacher. All other factors are ignored. It is assumed that "good" teachers can take any student, from any background, under any social or economic circumstance, and get him to "learn." "Bad" teachers cannot do this. In this construction, the student's willingness to learn is ignored. Non-school impediments to a student's ability to learn are ignored. Culture, economic status, ethnicity, social standing, self-esteem, all these issues are unimportant. Our education "debate" is about one thing and one thing only, the teacher.
It ought to be obvious to anybody who thinks about it for, like, two seconds that this "understanding" of education is deeply flawed. That is, it takes two to tango. You simply cannot teach a child who is unprepared to learn. I mean, sure, you can make some headway, and a few isolated cases might end up with relatively well trained intellects, but you just can't reproduce the kind of results in the ghetto that you get in the upscale suburbs. It's impossible as far as educating large numbers of students go.
It drives me mad that what are essentially social problems, poverty, drug addiction, cultural attitudes that do not value education, hunger, and on and on, are dressed up as education problems and laid at teachers' feet to be solved. And then, when inevitable failure ensues, teachers get the blame. Well here's an undeniable truth for you: teachers can't solve social problems. Only business and government, you know, society, can do that. But society apparently has no interest in doing so. They'd rather blame teachers.
That really pisses me off.
Posted by Ron at 2:37 AM
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Attack on 'blasphemous' art work fires debate on role of religion in France
From the UK Guardian courtesy of AlterNet:
When New York artist Andres Serrano plunged a plastic crucifix into a glass of his own urine and photographed it in 1987 under the title Piss Christ, he said he was making a statement on the misuse of religion.
Controversy has followed the work ever since, but reached an unprecedented peak on Palm Sunday when it was attacked with hammers and destroyed after an "anti-blasphemy" campaign by French Catholic fundamentalists in the southern city of Avignon.
The violent slashing of the picture, and another Serrano photograph of a meditating nun, has plunged secular France into soul-searching about Christian fundamentalism and Nicolas Sarkozy's use of religious populism in his bid for re-election next year.
It also marks a return to an old standoff between Serrano and the religious right that dates back more than 20 years, to Reagan-era Republicanism in the US.
The photograph, full title Immersion (Piss Christ), was made in 1987 as part of Serrano's series showing religious objects submerged in fluids such as blood and milk. In 1989, rightwing Christian senators' criticism of Piss Christ led to a heated US debate on public arts funding. Republican Jesse Helms told the senate Serrano was "not an artist. He's a jerk."
Serrano defended his photograph as a criticism of the "billion-dollar Christ-for-profit industry" and a "condemnation of those who abuse the teachings of Christ for their own ignoble ends". It was vandalised in Australia, and neo-Nazis ransacked a Serrano show in Sweden in 2007.
Oh man, there are so many directions to go commenting on this--I mean, fundamentalist Christians in godless communist France?!? And Piss Christ is something of an old friend to me: the image featured prominently in a political satire theatrical review called A Thousand Points of Light with which I was involved for the Vortex Repertory Company back in 1989, the era of art-controversy mentioned in the excerpt above. I'm also vaguely disturbed by the concept of destroying art, which I consider to be nearly sacred, even when it's not very good.
But I'll keep this short and simple.
The problem here is that religion occupies a weird space in Western civilization. On the one hand, religion is culture, and ought to be respected as such, if only because culture, in all its many varieties, is something that is essentially human, something that makes us human beings while at the same time verifying our humanity. You can agree or disagree with any or all religious points of view, but you are an asshole if you don't acknowledge that many people devote their lives to their religion, build relationships around it, find deep meaning within it.
On the other hand, religion is also a set of values and principles for how human beings ought to live their lives. Generally, that's just fine if you're not seeking to make everybody adhere to your religious views, but in the West, most of us are Christian, if anything at all, and Christianity has a mandate to "go ye therefore unto all nations." That is, a central mandate for Christianity is to convert the entire world to Christianity. Some Christians are fairly mellow about this; others are downright aggressive. And Christian fundamentalists are the most aggressive of all, often wanting to force their values onto the population at large, usually by way of government. In short, Christianity is a player in the marketplace of ideas, right alongside atheism, agnosticism, hedonism, capitalism, and on and on.
Consequently, it is fair game to criticize the church, and if you don't like it, that's just too fucking bad. I mean, I'm of the opinion that such criticism should be respectful, but it doesn't have to be. As small "d" democratic Westerners, free speech, which includes all art, is part and parcel of democracy itself. To deny free speech is to deny democracy, to deny our heritage, to deny who we are as Americans and Westerners.
You are free, of course, to dislike works such as Piss Christ if you want. You are also free to create your own art, or your own political statement, condemning such work. You're a Nazi asshole freak, however, if you fucking destroy art with which you disagree. And you also stand against everything the West has stood for since the Enlightenment.
That this would happen in such a culturally conscious nation as France is disturbing, indeed.
Immersion (Piss Christ)
Posted by Ron at 1:58 AM
Monday, April 18, 2011
DEMOCRATS: THEY'RE NOT ON YOUR SIDE
From Glenn Greenwald via AlterNet:
Why Do We Assume Obama's Actually Trying to Enact a Progressive Agenda?
That's why I experience such cognitive dissonance when I read all of these laments from liberal pundits that Obama isn't pursuing the right negotiating tactics, that he's not being as shrewd as he should be. He's pursuing exactly the right negotiating tactics and is being extremely shrewd -- he just doesn't want the same results that these liberal pundits want and which they like to imagine the President wants, too. He's not trying to prevent budget cuts or entitlement reforms; he wants exactly those things because of how politically beneficial they are to him -- to say nothing of whether he agrees with them on the merits.
When I first began blogging five years ago, I used to write posts like that all the time. I'd lament that Democrats weren't more effectively opposing Bush/Cheney National Security State policies or defending civil liberties. I'd attribute those failures to poor strategizing or a lack of political courage and write post after post urging them to adopt better tactics to enable better outcomes or be more politically "strong." But then I realized that they weren't poor tacticians getting stuck with results they hated. They simply weren't interested in generating the same outcomes as the ones I wanted.
It wasn't that they eagerly wished to defeat these Bush policies but just couldn't figure out how to do it. The opposite was true: they were content to acquiesce to those policies, if not outright supportive of them, because they perceived no political advantage in doing anything else. Many of them supported those policies on the merits while many others were perfectly content with their continuation. So I stopped trying to give them tactical advice on how to achieve outcomes they didn't really want to achieve, and stopped attributing their failures to oppose these policies to bad strategizing or political cowardice. Instead, I simply accepted that these were the outcomes they most wanted, that Democratic Party officials on the whole -- obviously with some exceptions -- weren't working toward the outcomes I had originally assumed (and which they often claimed). Once you accept that reality, events in Washington make far more sense.
Very good advice embedded in the excerpt above: don't listen to what politicians say; rather, watch what they do. And by that measure, it is quite clear, and has been for a long time, that the Democrats are no longer on your side. In this case, "your" includes working people, people of color, immigrants, and of course, liberals, you know, the people everybody thinks are represented by the Democrats. I mean, sure, listen to what they say, if only to compare it to what they're actually doing. But don't believe it unless their deeds match their words.
And Greenwald is right. Politics start making sense when you completely throw out the rhetoric. To be fair, however, as he observes elsewhere in his essay, rhetoric and action are sometimes one and the same, like when Reagan used his presidential bully pulpit powers to literally change the conventional wisdom about national politics. But Obama hasn't done this, and neither has his party. They produce some bluster and invective from time to time, to be sure, but in the long run, it's all weak, amounting to nothing.
For instance, I'm fully of the belief that the Democrats could have gotten a single payer health care plan passed, you know, real health care for everybody. Obama could have taken to the airwaves and returned to the campaign trail, for months, and pounded away at the need for such a plan. Against this backdrop, Pelosi could have brought in conservative Democrats in the House with carrots and sticks, and the Senate could have passed a rule change taking out the Republican filibuster, which means that all they would have needed was a simple fifty one vote majority. I mean, it wouldn't have been a gimme, but it was certainly within reach. The ball was already rolling; everybody already hated the insurance companies, including giant corporations, like GM and others, that have to deal with them. A single payer coalition of powerful interests could have been easily assembled. It would have been a nasty fight, indeed, but winnable for sure.
But it didn't happen. Instead, Obama brokered backroom deals with the insurance and pharmaceutical industries before congressional debate even started, before a single bill had even been drafted. The Democrats started with a Republican friendly bill, essentially using Mitt Romney's plan for Massachusetts, and then started compromising even that away to the most hardcore of conservative Republicans, getting nothing in return. Instead of pounding the bully pulpit relentlessly, the Tea Party arose, and with it myths about "death panels" and "socialism" and fear-mongering about Medicare, which is hilariously ironic because the Republicans want to kill Medicare, not save it.
This is how the Democrats function in the 21st century: talk liberal, but act conservative. Ralph Nader has been frantically warning us about this for over a decade, but for some reason he remains Democrat enemy number one, just for being a real liberal.
Face it, the Democrats are not on your side. In fact, the only people on your side is...you.
Posted by Ron at 10:29 PM
Mystery Illnesses Plague Louisiana Oil Spill Crews
From Agence France Presse via AlterNet:
Robichaux, an ear, nose and throat specialist whose office an hour's drive southwest of New Orleans is nestled on a roadside marked with handwritten signs advertising turtle meat for sale, says he is treating many of the local patients in their homes.
"Their work ethic is so strong, they are so stoic, they don't want people to know when they're sick," he said.
"Ninety percent of them are getting worse... Nobody has a clue as to what it is."
According to a roster compiled by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, a total of 52,000 workers were responding to the Gulf oil spill as of August 2010.
The state of Louisiana has reported 415 cases of health problems linked to the spill, with symptoms including sore throats, irritated eyes, respiratory tract infections, headaches and nausea.
But Bernard Goldstein, an environmental toxicologist and professor at the University of Pittsburgh, said the US government's method of collecting health data on the workers is flawed.
For instance, a major study of response workers by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences was not funded until six months after the spill, a critical delay that affects both the biology and the recall ability of the workers.
"It is too late if you go six months later," he told AFP.
You may or may not recall reports that BP threatened response workers with termination if they wore respirator masks--the thinking of critics at the time was that if BP allowed such a sensible safety measure, it would open them up to lawsuits. And here we are a year later, and workers are sick. No surprise there. What is surprising is that the feds were so slow to start looking at this. I mean, I suppose I shouldn't be surprised: after all, I was the guy who kept saying at the time that it was impossible to tell the difference between the federal government and the oil industry. Foot dragging on the health issue is entirely in keeping with the notion of BP dominating federal action throughout the crisis. But really, we have no idea one way or the other whether there's something sinister afoot with the six month delay in studying possible health effects on all these cleanup crews.
But we do know that some of these people are sick. We do know that the number of workers experiencing mysterious illness may be much higher than the confirmed number. We know that both BP and the feds have sat on lots of information about the spill that was, and still is, considered harmful to the oil giant's reputation. And we know that BP didn't allow workers to take safety precautions.
I'm taking something of a leap of faith here and asserting that this shit is for real. I mean, if it looks, smells, and tastes like dog shit, it's very likely that it is dog shit. People are now very sick because they've been poisoned by both petroleum toxins and oil dispersant chemicals. BP will fight like badgers to avoid responsibility and to confuse purposely public discourse on the issue. The federal government will probably help them. Meanwhile, honest Americans who simply wanted some work, who simply wanted to help clean up the massive mess made by BP, are becoming disabled. We have no idea how bad their health is going to get, but they have been poisoned.
Poison often kills.
Posted by Ron at 3:08 AM
Saturday, April 16, 2011
Who's Serious Now?
From the New York Times, Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman weights in on the President's speech from last Wednesday:
Then people who actually understand budget numbers went to work, and it became clear that the proposal wasn’t serious at all. In fact, it was a sick joke. The only real things in it were savage cuts in aid to the needy and the uninsured, huge tax cuts for corporations and the rich, and Medicare privatization. All the alleged cost savings were pure fantasy.
On Wednesday, as I said, the president called Mr. Ryan’s bluff: after offering a spirited (and reassuring) defense of social insurance, he declared, “There’s nothing serious about a plan that claims to reduce the deficit by spending a trillion dollars on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires. And I don’t think there’s anything courageous about asking for sacrifice from those who can least afford it and don’t have any clout on Capitol Hill.” Actually, the Ryan plan calls for $2.9 trillion in tax cuts, but who’s counting?
And the hissy fit — I mean, criticism — the Obama plan provoked from Mr. Ryan was deeply revealing, as the man who proposes using budget deficits as an excuse to cut taxes on the rich accused the president of being “partisan.” Mr. Ryan also accused the president of being “dramatically inaccurate” — this from someone whose plan included a $200 billion error in its calculation of interest costs and appears to have made an even bigger error on Medicaid costs. He didn’t say what the inaccuracies were.
As much as I like to hear the President speaking this way, I'm very wary. After all, such spirited defense of liberal values coming from Obama over the last couple of years has been, at best, tepid. And I'm just talking about the rhetoric; when it comes to actual deeds, he's thrown liberal values under the bus pretty much every time the opportunity has presented itself.
It is impossible not to observe that he announced his campaign plans for a second term only last week: the cynic in me says that he's now in major damage control mode regarding his relationship with liberals, the so-called Democratic base. I mean, without them, he stands absolutely no chance of winning, and he's trashed them time and again. Time to make nice, I guess.
So I'm not really buying it. He's going to have to make his words match his actions before I'm even going to consider voting for him. As far as I can tell, he's still the same conservative pro-corporate Democrat that he was last month. And his uplifting groovy vibes continue to be, at this point, nothing more than the same campaign strategy he used in 2008 to hoodwink America's left. I mean, he didn't hoodwink me. I voted for Nader, a real lefty. But he did get most liberals on board with all his hope and change bullshit, and I fear that these people are just as susceptible to sweet talk as they were three years ago. I guess we'll see.
Posted by Ron at 11:11 PM
Friday, April 15, 2011
Our Public Schools Are Churning Out Drones for the Corporate State
From AlterNet, the guy with a Master of Divinity from Harvard who is currently the most inspiring writer I'm reading, Chris Hedges, on our deeply flawed educational system:
A nation that destroys its systems of education, degrades its public information, guts its public libraries and turns its airwaves into vehicles for cheap, mindless amusement becomes deaf, dumb and blind. It prizes test scores above critical thinking and literacy. It celebrates rote vocational training and the singular, amoral skill of making money. It churns out stunted human products, lacking the capacity and vocabulary to challenge the assumptions and structures of the corporate state. It funnels them into a caste system of drones and systems managers. It transforms a democratic state into a feudal system of corporate masters and serfs.
Teachers, their unions under attack, are becoming as replaceable as minimum-wage employees at Burger King. We spurn real teachers--those with the capacity to inspire children to think, those who help the young discover their gifts and potential--and replace them with instructors who teach to narrow, standardized tests. These instructors obey. They teach children to obey. And that is the point. The No Child Left Behind program, modeled on the "Texas Miracle," is a fraud. It worked no better than our deregulated financial system. But when you shut out debate these dead ideas are self-perpetuating.
Right, of course. It's like I keep telling people: the public "debate" on education is pretty much the same as being in a flame-consumed house and arguing about what color the carpets and curtains ought to be--the problem isn't the interior design; the problem is that the fucking house is on fire.
That is, virtually nobody is talking about education in this way. It's all teachers' unions, all test scores, all charter schools, all vouchers, all bullshit. These might be valid issues in another reality, the reality where we teach children to think for themselves, to question authority, to develop their own opinions about the nation in which they live, to cooperate rather than compete, and to love and help rather than hate and ridicule. But we don't live in that reality. Instead, we live in a reality where education is little more than training dogs to salivate when they hear a bell. And everybody seems to be so cool with this concept that the "debate," for what it is, is about how to get children to perform better on standardized tests, which provide such a fragmentary picture of a child's intellectual development, that, by themselves, they are almost meaningless.
Should we increase or decrease class size? Do unions prevent school districts from easily dismissing "bad" teachers? What are a given school's graduation rates? Can charter schools develop an educational model that improves "student learning"? Will vouchers force schools to compete against each other, making them "better" just like in the free market? Should we have more standardized tests? These are all pointless questions because none of them actually address the concept of student learning in a meaningful way.
That is, our current educational model, loosely based on a nineteenth century Prussian plan to militarize its population through the schools, is extraordinarily good at indoctrinating children into the culture of obedience and authority, which is the exact opposite of training children to analyze complicated issues and render value judgments about them. With things as they are, it is impossible to improve education. You can't have it both ways. You can't teach people to question their surroundings while at the same time punishing them for questioning their surroundings. Consequently, for most Americans, intellectual development becomes arrested by education's "do as you're told" mentality.
If you've ever had the sense that everyone around you is fucking stupid as all get out, you're right. But this should not be surprising. This is exactly the outcome you get from our approach to education. We teach children to not think. I mean, when your every action is dictated by school authority, all day long, every day of the year, from kindergarten through twelfth grade, you don't have to think. Your superiors do it for you. All you have to do is "perform well" on standardized tests, show up for class on time, avoid dirty words, wear clothing that is acceptable to the dress code.
I rail away here often on the fact that our democratic republic is now a thing of the past. The sad truth is that we may no longer, as a people, actually be capable of anything even resembling democracy. Without an engaged and thoughtful population, democracy must necessarily wither.
And that's pretty much how America seems to be right now, withered.
Posted by Ron at 1:04 AM
Thursday, April 14, 2011
Poll: Tea Party losing steam
From the Seattle Post-Intelligencer a couple of weeks ago:
The percentage of Americans with an unfavorable view of the Tea Party movement has climbed since last fall, according to a new CNN/Opinion Research poll.
Forty-seven percent of Americans view the right-wing populist movement unfavorably, while just 32 percent take a favorable view of the Tea Party. A similar poll, in November, put “favorables” at 38 percent.
The latest poll finding shows that Tea Party “negatives” have reached the same level as those who take an unfavorable view of the Republican and Democratic parties.
Okay, that's good to hear because, you know, the Tea Party is an organization of pissed-off crackpot right-wing extremists who are so deluded that they ought not have any influence on public discourse. I mean, they're the "death panel" people, the "birther" people, the people who are loosely "libertarian" and unconcerned with social issues, except for abortion, and worshiping Jesus-with-a-sword, and brown people who speak Spanish having "anchor babies," the people who aren't racist, except when they're spitting on members of the Congressional Black Caucus, the people who are ethnically diverse, even though virtually all of them are white, excluding the odd recruit-of-color here and there to prove how non-white they actually are.
It's very good to hear that they've devolved into just another American institution that nobody believes in. But if that's the case, whey the hell was this sitting under my windshield wiper when I got off work?
How cute. They recruited a black guy to show everybody how they're not racist.
Anyway, is this what I get for driving a Yaris? I've really got to get some politically offensive bumper sticker to let these people know that they're wasting their paper and time with me. I think it's safe to say that the Tea Party isn't losing steam here in Metairie, which is no surprise because Metairie is very likely the most conservative place I've ever lived. I guess I'll know for sure on Friday: the rally is going to be while I'm at work, which is about a block away from their meeting location. Last time they rallied, we got a little pop at my restaurant when it ended, but that was last year, back when the Tea Party was a roaring engine on the way to smacking the Democrats on the ass in Washington.
Will we get another pop? I hope not; these people aren't very good tippers.
Posted by Ron at 2:14 AM
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
More Black Men Now in Prison System Than Were Enslaved
“Most of that increase is due to the War on Drugs, a war waged almost exclusively in poor communities of color,” she said, even though studies have shown that whites use and sell illegal drugs at rates equal to or above blacks. In some black inner-city communities, four of five black youth can expect to be caught up in the criminal justice system during their lifetimes.
As a consequence, a great many black men are disenfranchised, said Alexander — prevented because of their felony convictions from voting and from living in public housing, discriminated in hiring, excluded from juries, and denied educational opportunities.
“What do we expect them to do?” she asked, who researched her ground-breaking book while serving as Director of the Racial Justice Project at the ACLU of Northern California. “Well, seventy percent return to prison within two years, that’s what they do.”
In a somewhat related development, there are also now more enslaved people in the world than at any other time in human history.
This stinks. Bad. If we lived in a functioning democracy, with functional social institutions, like an actual free press, this news would be dominating the headlines week after week, month after month. Instead, it just languishes on the back burner, drying up like Langston Hughes' "raisin in the sun," waiting for that day when it becomes too much to bear, that day Hughes predicted when it will "explode." Hughes was, of course, writing about another era, the era of Jim Crow and the segregated South, the era of festering ghettos in the North, the era when a black man was an invisible man.
But that's exactly the point: what good have these last fifty years of civil rights advancement done us? Yes, segregation is now illegal, in theory, and we have an African-American man occupying the Oval Office, but so what? Black schools are still black schools, struggling against social and economic impediments with which white schools don't have to deal, but held to the same standard, anyway. And yes, a relative few people with dark skin have moved into positions of political and economic importance, but a very large percentage of black Americans continue to be oppressed by poverty and police.
And official America doesn't give a shit.
I'm totally horrified when I think about all this. The American myth that we've all been taught in the schools is that we did away with this racist shit long ago, that Lincoln freed the slaves, that Martin Luther King forced the white power structure to concede on Southern apartheid, that we all lived happily ever after because America is the greatest fucking country in the world. But it's all bullshit. We didn't live happily ever after. The black man has been forced back into servitude by another name. And America is not the greatest country in the world.
Things continue to get worse, not better.
Posted by Ron at 12:46 AM
Monday, April 11, 2011
This is what fiscal stimulus is all about; helping the economy to recover by generating activity (eg. government spending) when consumers are on the ropes and businesses refuse to invest. The alternative is higher unemployment, lower revenues, falling prices, soaring defaults, slower growth and a reinforcing downward spiral. That said, we could see deflationary pressures reemerge as early as next month when Bernanke's QE2 ends and the flaws in the Fed's strategy become more apparent. Here's Keynes on the topic:
"The way to keep economies booming was by maintaining a high volume of investment and increasing the propensity to consume 'by the redistribution of incomes...so that a level of employment would require a smaller volume of current investment to support it." (Robert Skidelsky, "Keynes; The Return of the Master", page 68, Public Affairs, New York)So Keynes supported redistribution? You bet. He had the foresight to realize that gross inequality leads to flagging demand. When workers no longer have sufficient wherewithal to keep the economy growing via consumption, then the system has to be rejiggered to shore up demand. It's not a question of Big Government "soaking the rich" to create a socialist Utopia. That's bunkum. It's a matter of recognizing the inherent shortcomings of the system and finding ways to make it operate more efficiently. And, that was Keynes strong-suit, transforming an unstable, crisis-prone system into a vehicle for widespread prosperity and wealth creation. That's why he devoted so much time to unemployment, because he knew that unemployment was symptomatic of a deeper problem, an unwillingness of the private sector to invest. When businesses withhold investment--because they see no growing demand for their products--then joblessness rises, spending falls and the economy slips into a deep funk. Keynes realized that this state of affairs (Depression) can last indefinitely unless the government steps in and fills the gap created by the absence of private sector spending. Thus, when consumers have to trim their spending and patch their balance sheets, and businesses cannot find profitable outlets for investment, it's up to the government to run deficits for as long as it takes to rev up the economy and create a self-sustaining recovery.
That is, when the fact that nobody is spending has stalled the economy, or even caused it to contract, the only economic force available that has any chance of making up the gap and kick starting the economy into expansion is the federal government. But I guess hard-nosed economic pragmatism is no longer in style. Voodoo's all the rage these days. Magical capitalism, throwing money at the rich, neoliberalism, whatever you want to call it, the ruling class and a large percentage of the public paying attention to such issues seem to be convinced that Gilded Age economics is all we need to create economic prosperity.
Unfortunately, instead of correcting market imbalances, supply side economics ultimately destroys markets.
I think it's pretty clear that as far as economics goes, I'm a Keynesian. Of course, I say that as though I'm an economist, which I'm not. What I mean is that I've read some Keynes; I've read some stuff by his dark right-wing counterpart, neoliberal guru Milton Friedman. I had a good high school macroeconomics class; I was taught macroeconomics at the college level by a neoliberal Friedmanite. I've read and listened to the economic debates in the news. I've read some other economists like Paul Krugman and James K. Galbraith. I even once attended a far right-wing economics seminar back when I was a senior in high school. So over the years I've cobbled together a decent lay understanding of the field, but of course, I'm no expert.
It just seems that Keynes' stuff is much more associated with what happens in the real world than any of that popular throwing-money-at-the-rich stuff that dominates the political imagination today. I mean, I have to admit that I'm probably attracted to Keynes because he gives us the best of both worlds, functional markets that include the needs of the little guy. But it just so happens that the little guy, when collectively considered with hundreds of millions of other little guys, is absolutely vital when it comes to the actual functioning of markets. That is, if you don't have masses of people wanting to buy shit, you don't have a market.
I mean, that's pretty obvious, right? If you don't have buyers, business can't sell products. But the prevailing view today, the neoliberal view, insists that supply creates its own demand. That is, and you must keep in mind that most of the establishment believes this, if you throw money at the rich, they'll make more products, which (in theory) creates jobs, which (in theory) gives people the ability to buy those products. So, in theory, neoliberalism does an end-run around the Keynes-defined demand problem.
But if only the theory had anything to do with the real world.
At the moment, American business is sitting on top of mountains of cash and buttloads of excess manufacturing capacity. According to the neoliberals, we ought to have a rip-roaring economy right now with rising employment levels, and prosperity for everyone. But that's not happening. Bye-bye neoliberal economic theory. It doesn't work in reality. Sounds nice, but it isn't real. I mean, we can throw more money at the rich, which, in fact, we recently did by extending hundreds of billions in tax cuts from the Bush era. And that didn't work either.
The problem, first observed by Keynes back in the 1920s, is that consumers, being afraid of job loss, or not having jobs, or fearing other economic distresses like foreclosure, are holding onto what disposable income they have. It's funny to hear these idiot pundits talk about business "uncertainty" when the real problem is consumer uncertainty. Okay, fine. Easy solution: let the government make up for the loss of consumer spending which ought to bring the economy into a more desirable state for consumers, which will, in the long run, get them to start spending again.
It's not socialism, or communism, or fascism. It's simple pragmatism. Or, at least, that's how it all seems to my layman's perspective. Unfortunately, nobody in the debate appears to have any understanding of these ideas at all. So most of us don't even know they exist. Most of us don't even know this shit actually worked back during the Great Depression. Of course, it's by design that we don't know these things: capitalists hate Keynes, even though he's really all about making sure capitalism stays alive and kicking, so they do everything in their power, which is vast, to make sure we don't know these things.
If we lived in a functioning democracy, we would have a thriving marketplace of ideas. That we do not is yet more persuasive evidence that we do not live in a functioning democracy.
Posted by Ron at 11:37 PM
ACTUALLY, THEY'RE RIGHT
From Reuters via the Huffington Post news wire:
China Tells U.S. To Quit As Human Rights Judge
The United States is beset by violence, racism and torture and has no authority to condemn other governments' human rights problems, China said on Sunday, countering U.S. criticism of Beijing's crackdown.
The row between Beijing and Washington over human rights has intensified since China's ruling Communist Party extended its clampdown on dissidents and rights activists, a move which has sparked an outcry from Washington and other Western governments.
Its Foreign Ministry on Saturday dismissed the U.S. report as meddling, and its own annual report about U.S. human rights stressed Beijing's dismissive view.
"Stop the domineering behavior of exploiting human rights to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries," it said, according to excerpts published by the official Xinhua news agency.
"The United States ignores its own severe human rights problems, ardently promoting its so-called 'human rights diplomacy', treating human rights as a political tool to vilify other countries and to advance its own strategic interests," said a passage from the Chinese report
I'm certainly not going to get into any kind of discussion about which country honors human rights better because, in the end, I don't really know. I mean, China's bad, sure, but so are we. A decade ago, I would have never even entertained the possibility that our human rights record might be worse than China's, but that was before the Bush administration. Since 2001, we have essentially suspended habeas corpus. It is now legal for the federal government to spy on US citizens. We now openly torture prisoners of war; we are now openly torturing accused Wikileaker Bradley Manning, an American citizen. We have also denied access to civilian courts to US citizens accused of aiding terrorists. It is not controversial to observe that President Obama continues to execute all of these anti-human rights policies.
But even before the Bush administration our human rights record was dubious, at the very least, and all of these violations continue today unabated. We incarcerate an enormous percentage of our population, with extraordinarily high concentrations of non-whites, especially African-American men. We torture prisoners. We encourage prison rape. We enact economic policy that ensures chronic poverty for large segments of the citizenry while enriching a relative few white men. The sex slave trade thrives here. We allow masses of undocumented workers to toil in utterly inhumane conditions. In the name of the people, we murder citizens convicted of crimes. And on and on.
I mean, it didn't look pretty before, but since 9/11 it's a whole lot worse. China's definitely got a point here: the United States can no longer even pretend that we're a just nation with deep concern for human rights. We no longer have the moral authority to tell other nations what to do in terms of how they treat their own people. We are not a credible moral force.
And that's really fucking sad.
Posted by Ron at 1:09 AM
Saturday, April 09, 2011
FEDERAL BUDGET DEAL: YOU DO THE MATH
From Think Progress courtesy of AlterNet:
But a look at those two deals suggests Republicans are not as interested in cutting the deficit as they claim. In both cases, Democrats made big concessions on key Republican agenda items — tax and spending cuts — in the face of intransigent opposition from the GOP. But while the appropriations deal from last night cuts $38.5 billion in spending over the next six months (through the end of the fiscal year in September), the tax cut deal deprives the government of roughly $150 billion in revenue over a similar period of time.
I don't get it. I don't understand how some twenty percent of the population is able to drive the national agenda. I mean, I get it: this all favors the super wealthy, who actually own and operate the country. And the twenty percent of die-hard conservative Americans who consistently vote Republican buy the bullshit ideology asserting that giving the rich everything they want, and more, is somehow good for everybody, which it is not. So democracy is dead. The very wealthy have set up what is in effect a plutocracy, and they have a large fraction of nation's voters supporting it, which gives our corporate overlords some democratic cover. I understand all that.
I also understand that corporate campaign cash and lobbying access has essentially brought most Democratic politicians into the plutocratic fold. They're all on the take.
What I don't get is the fucked up awkward way this shit plays out, the way politicians and pundits talk around what's really going on. I mean, this deficit "crisis" is entirely a construct of the imagination; it doesn't exist. Nobody believes in it. Certainly not the Republicans who just browbeat the Democrats into massive tax breaks for the rich last December. Certainly not the Democrats...well...maybe the Democrats because they're fucking stupid.
But this is all insane.
Why is everybody taking the conservative spin on everything? It makes no sense to freak out over the deficit and then demand massive tax cuts for the rich, which makes the deficit far worse. It makes no sense to cave in to those demands. It makes no sense to cut spending during a giant recession, or during times of mass unemployment. It makes no sense to cut deficit-irrelevant funding for Planned Parenthood, if deficit reduction is your goal. It makes no sense to not loudly point out that none of this makes any fucking sense.
I wish I had a more coherent response to this budget deal, but the absurdity of it all has reduced me to not much more than ranting and raving. I mean, how do you respond when somebody gets in your face screaming incoherent gibberish? More gibberish is as good a response as any.
Posted by Ron at 9:35 PM
Friday, April 08, 2011
Thursday, April 07, 2011
When Workers Blame Unions
A regular CounterPunch reader who’s written me several times—an African American ex-Steelworker from Pittsburgh, now an aspiring playwright—laments that the younger workers he meets not only believe that Ronald Reagan was one of the greatest presidents America ever had, they blame labor unions for our troubles. They blame them for ruining the U.S. economy by driving out so many of the good jobs.
Mind you, this isn’t Wall Street or the Chamber of Commerce talking. These are regular working people. But instead of viewing organized labor as the one institution capable of propping up the middle-class by offering decent wages and benefits, they’ve reached the startling conclusion that America’s unions are a detriment, not an asset. Sadly, this ex-Steelworker said he can’t recall a time in his life when unions were less respected.
As Detroit continues to sink, the South continues to rise. Astonishingly, prior to its opening, in 2009, the Kia plant in West Point, Georgia, had more than 100,000 applications for 2,100 jobs. But in order to keep the union from gaining a foothold (and counter to the law of supply-and-demand), Kia wisely offered high wages and generous benefits. To the folks of West Point, the Kia plant was a godsend, the best manufacturing job anyone had ever seen.
Of course, what organized labor—and, apparently, few others—realizes is that once the American union movement is more or less neutralized, the economy will not only turn into an extravagant and lopsided sellers’ market, the clamps will come down harder and more brutally than anyone could have imagined.
This is difficult.
My whole life the prevailing narrative about unions is that they're bad news. From stories my corporate manager dad would bring home from work in the late 70s about how the union was fucking with him to what quickly became the conventional wisdom for many in the 80s that unions once served a useful purpose in the past but do nothing today but fuck up companies' ability to make the economy prosper, we live in an era when the entire concept of labor unions, the whole storyline associated with them in people's heads, is negative.
Indeed, a few months ago my old pal Matt, not an arch-conservative by anyone's measure, sent me an essay from the right-wing Economist magazine that supposedly dismantled the intellectual concept of public sector unions. I found the essay so full of half-truths, distortions, flawed assumptions, and straight-up lies, such as the "fact" that public sector union employees make more than their private sector counterparts, that I really had no idea where to begin criticizing the article. And that's essentially the problem in microcosm: the anti-union narrative has become so extraordinarily widespread, so extraordinarily dominant, that in order to rhetorically counter it, one must spend an hour or two simply addressing the many ways in which anti-unionism is founded on ideas that just don't exist in the real world.
Take, for instance, the widely believed notion that unions are somehow bad for the economy. On the one hand, there are a few real life instances I know of when union demands literally ran a company out of business--labor strikes at the New York Herald Tribune back in the 60s, during a time of economic uncertainty for the paper, effectively put the nails into that company's coffin. But I don't really know of enough instances of this happening that really add up to making business failure an identifying feature of labor unions. I mean, you're always going to find a few examples of bad things going on with unions that capitalists will hold up as "proof" of their anti-union views, just as you will always find a few examples of folks who have pulled themselves up by their bootstraps to become Bill Gates or whatever that "prove" our economic system's upward mobility. But Horatio Alger stories don't in any way add up to actual economic analysis.
That is, unions do indeed have problems, but they pale in comparison to problems caused by corporate capitalism. And without unions, short of embracing actual socialism, there is absolutely no political force in our nation capable of combating the wild corporate excesses that are destroying permanently the middle class.
How do we create a more reasonable and fact-based narrative on unions that stands a chance of competing in the marketplace of ideas with the currently dominant anti-union narrative? The Democrats are no help: they abandoned the unions sometime in the 70s. It seems that the unions, and only the unions, can be the savior here. There is some activity on the horizon, but is it too little, too late?
Posted by Ron at 10:05 PM
PREPPING, ONCE AGAIN, FOR AN AUDITION
So no post tonight. Well, there is this thing which dropped into my lap (h/t to my buddy Josh at work), from Vanity Fair:
Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%
Some people look at income inequality and shrug their shoulders. So what if this person gains and that person loses? What matters, they argue, is not how the pie is divided but the size of the pie. That argument is fundamentally wrong. An economy in which most citizens are doing worse year after year—an economy like America’s—is not likely to do well over the long haul. There are several reasons for this.
First, growing inequality is the flip side of something else: shrinking opportunity. Whenever we diminish equality of opportunity, it means that we are not using some of our most valuable assets—our people—in the most productive way possible. Second, many of the distortions that lead to inequality—such as those associated with monopoly power and preferential tax treatment for special interests—undermine the efficiency of the economy. This new inequality goes on to create new dishttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.giftortions, undermining efficiency even further. To give just one example, far too many of our most talented young people, seeing the astronomical rewards, have gone into finance rather than into fields that would lead to a more productive and healthy economy.
Third, and perhaps most important, a modern economy requires “collective action”—it needs government to invest in infrastructure, education, and technology. The United States and the world have benefited greatly from government-sponsored research that led to the Internet, to advances in public health, and so on. But America has long suffered from an under-investment in infrastructure (look at the condition of our highways and bridges, our railroads and airports), in basic research, and in education at all levels. Further cutbacks in these areas lie ahead.
The essay's written by Joseph Stiglitz, a former Clinton economist who has seemingly veered to the left since those heady days of the tech bubble and Oval Office blowjobs. It deals with a lot of issues I talk about all the time here at Real Art, but focuses specifically on the very real problems, some as dire as massive civil unrest, associated with economic inequality. And it's not a pretty picture he paints in as much as where the US is right now in terms of the rich getting richer and all of us getting poorer.
Good essay; go read it.
Also, wish me luck!
Posted by Ron at 2:10 AM
Wednesday, April 06, 2011
From the AP via the Huffington Post news wire:
As the economic recovery gains steam, the retail industry is expected to be one of the strongest for job growth this decade. But the quality of jobs selling clothes, computers and other goods has declined in recent years to the point where few can be classified as careers.
Erratic part-time hours often make a second job impossible and complicate the work-life juggle. Pay has shrunk. And the recession created hordes of overqualified job seekers, leaving existing staff with little power to demand better conditions.
With unemployment still high at 8.8 percent, many people feel fortunate to land any job. But not all jobs contribute the same to economic growth. Employers may be hiring more, but they are hiring disproportionately in retail and other service-sector positions with low wages and few benefits.
High-paying fields like real estate and finance accounted for 40 percent of the 8.8 million jobs lost from January 2008 to February 2010 but only 14 percent of the jobs created in the year that followed. Lower-paying industries like retail constituted 23 percent of jobs lost but almost half of the recent growth.
This shift "could make it much harder for workers to find family-supporting jobs," says Annette Bernhardt of the National Employment Law Project, who analyzed the data. Even in the "jobless recovery" after the 2001 recession, high-paying industries accounted for nearly one-third of new jobs in the year after the recession ended.
This just trumps up what is most maddening to me about what currently passes for public discourse on the economy. If it's not straight-up lies, such as "tax cuts always grow the economy" or "we need to slash the budget so businesses don't have to deal with 'uncertainty'," it's distortion and cherry-picking of accurate information, you know, like talking about job growth but failing to mention that all these new jobs are tantamount to flipping burgers.
At least this AP piece is honest, to some extent, in that it notices the writing on the wall with American job creation. But it still dances around the reality: what the article doesn't say is that this is a trend that has been around for at least a couple of decades, if not more. That is, we're all being slowly herded into no-future, low wage, no-benefit McJobs. And what was previously slow is now picking up the pace.
I guess in some ways I'm cool with this. If this is the work that needs to be done, then that's what we need to do. But if our leaders continue to ignore that these jobs are designed for teenagers and uneducated young twentysomethings who don't have to pay rent or bills, but increasingly filled by grownups with college degrees, we, the nation, will have completely devolved into third world status by 2020 or 2030. That is, if we have to do shit work, then so be it, but this shit work really needs to pay, or we're all fucked. Indeed, capitalists will fuck themselves by driving the consumers who buy their products out of the market for lack of disposable income.
This is bad, bad, bad. And the politicians just smile and talk about "job growth" as though that were somehow meaningful. Rome burns while Nero plays...
Posted by Ron at 1:00 AM
Tuesday, April 05, 2011
WHEN DEMOCRACY FAILS...
Why Glenn Beck Is Shaking in His Boots About
a Union Leader's Plan to Go After the Banks
As the financial crisis deepens, unions are beginning to realize the economic power they have through organizing how their members spend their money. With over $6 trillion of workers’ money in retirement plans, pension funds, profit-sharing and stock plans and union reserve funds, workers have the ability to reshape the economy and political priorities of the economic elite.
Lerner's plan calls for something much less common in organized labor— threatening a strategic default on mortgages in order to force banks to negotiate better interest rates on predatory loans. Banks and big corporations do this all the time. They threaten to just walk away from a mortgage and stop paying it all together unless the banks change their rates. Morgan Stanley simply walked away from five office buildings they owned in San Francisco in 2009.
However, workers realizing that they can do this collectively could change the practices of banks—and create a new power dynamic in this country. If the banks don't refinance their loans, they are likely to go out of business, Lerner argues. This is why Corporate America is so scared of what Lerner is proposing and why Glenn Beck has dedicated two whole episodes to portray Lerner as an economic terrorist.
Big corporations and their demagogues like Glenn Beck want unions to abandon any ideas they might have about doing these type of campaigns that could really hurt banks and are willing to do anything to stop them.
The sense I get from the essay is that the right-wing may very well be planning a massive ACORN style smear campaign against this kind of union activism just to scare planners and potential participants off into the hills. You think the bullshit Republicans are pulling in Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan and other states is hardcore? You think getting a black USDA worker fired by misrepresenting her anti-racist statements as being somehow racist was vile and evil? You think outing a CIA agent just to punish her husband for making anti-Republican remarks was the nadir of conservative dirty tricks?
Well just wait for the response to this SEIU proposed action. It's going to be over the top, far beyond anything we've seen thus far.
Republicans, and certainly some Democrats, are absolutely right to be scared shitless on this. They, and the fabulously wealthy campaign donors and corporations they represent, have successfully taken the word "democratic" out of our democratic republic. The government no longer serves the interests of the people. Your representatives no longer represent you. Citizens no longer have a say in the affairs of the land. At least in Washington. But the corporate plutocracy that, in effect, now rules the United States has left its flank open: while safe and sound when it comes to government interference, our wealthy oligarchs have left their flank completely exposed to attack using their own weapons. That is, the plutocracy has no effective defense against massive economic attack.
It had to come to this. Labor, and the hundreds of millions of working people who the movement represents, have been totally squeezed out of all political considerations. They essentially have no seat at the table. Organizing, getting the message out, fighting right-wing propaganda with some left-wing balance, all these things are exceedingly difficult in this era when we are continually blasted with consumer-friendly, pro-corporate, narcissistic mass media messages that virtually drown out all other discourse. The only field of play left available is the one on which the corporations play, the playing field more popularly called "the economy."
They want everybody to play by their rules, on their home field? Okay, fine. Let's play ball. If we really are no longer citizens in a democratic republic, if we really are to think of ourselves only as economic entities functioning in an economy, then so be it. Let's use money to fight money. Screw the politicians. Screw supporting candidates who don't support us. Screw campaign donations that do nothing but bolster the campaigns of professional office-holders who hate you and love the plutocracy. Let's take this fight to the real enemy.
Obviously, I love this.
But, if history is any indicator, this could get really ugly really fast. When the American labor movement first reared its head over a century ago, the initial reaction, from capitalists and politicians alike, was to send in the thugs to bust heads--while not well known, the US labor history is particularly bloody and violent relative to other industrialized nations. Given that strategic usage of union money stands to really hurt key American corporations, I would not be surprised at all to find this kind of activity quickly declared illegal despite the fact that unions are private organizations using privately collected money. I mean, the Constitution doesn't matter. Really, as far as labor/capital relations go, the Constitution has never mattered. If the wealthy powers-that-be want something to happen, the government makes it happen. So if they want union leaders beaten up and thrown in jail, that's going to happen.
But maybe not. Maybe the initial smear campaign will diffuse this. On the other hand, Draconian right-wing economic policies are starting to make people desperate. And revolutions happen when people get desperate.
Posted by Ron at 12:19 AM
Monday, April 04, 2011
The Truth, Still Inconvenient
New Krugman, from the New York Times:
But back to Professor Muller. His climate-skeptic credentials are pretty strong: he has denounced both Al Gore and my colleague Tom Friedman as “exaggerators,” and he has participated in a number of attacks on climate research, including the witch hunt over innocuous e-mails from British climate researchers. Not surprisingly, then, climate deniers had high hopes that his new project would support their case.
You can guess what happened when those hopes were dashed.
Just a few weeks ago Anthony Watts, who runs a prominent climate denialist Web site, praised the Berkeley project and piously declared himself “prepared to accept whatever result they produce, even if it proves my premise wrong.” But never mind: once he knew that Professor Muller was going to present those preliminary results, Mr. Watts dismissed the hearing as “post normal science political theater.” And one of the regular contributors on his site dismissed Professor Muller as “a man driven by a very serious agenda.”
Of course, it’s actually the climate deniers who have the agenda, and nobody who’s been following this discussion believed for a moment that they would accept a result confirming global warming.
This is, by now, a very familiar story. People who are serious and principled about knowledge and inquiry, and who are necessarily not blinded by ideology, defer to the scientific consensus on climate change: global warming caused by human industrial activity is a very real phenomenon that stands to devastate civilization. People who are not serious and principled about knowledge and inquiry, and who are deeply wedded to "free market" ideology, however, glibly dismiss scientific consensus on climate change: the science is just wrong, they insist, or it's all a liberal conspiracy to end capitalism, even though getting enough scientists on board to create a pseudo-consensus strains credibility, to say the least.
Despite the story's familiarity, I continue to be shocked and amazed that this is happening. When scientists tell us something along the lines of "the recent earthquake in Japan was so strong that it slightly altered the Earth's rotation," we don't bat an eye. We accept their findings and go to bed well assured that if we really wanted to do so, we could study up and see exactly what they're talking about ourselves. That is, we Americans generally trust the scientific method as a very good philosophy for making sense of material reality, and leave the heavy lifting in science to the people who have spent decades training to do it, such that we aren't forced to personally verify every assertion coming out of their mouths. That's a good thing. We've farmed out the science to a large community of people who are good at it so we can do other things with our lives, like making society function.
But when what scientists are saying conflicts with deeply held beliefs, all that goes out the window. Whether it's evolution, or the big bang, or weapons of mass destruction, or global warming, if it conflicts with pre-existing notions about the universe and our relationship to it, it's just plain wrong. Unless you've got the intellectual balls to reconsider your cherished beliefs, of course, like this guy Muller. But he's kind of the exception that proves the rule. Whatever his earlier problems with climate change were, he was ready and willing to change his mind when the evidence reached a certain threshold--I guess that's not so surprising when you consider that this guy is a scientist, rather than a pundit or politician. Most global warming deniers don't seem to be able to do this. I mean, they are able to change their minds, but they don't. That is, they're intellectually dishonest.
And it's the sheer scale of intellectual dishonesty on global warming that continues to shock and amaze me. It's like seriously insisting to grown adults that Santa Claus exists, and then getting thoroughly pissed off when people say you're wrong. Except that it isn't one guy pushing the Santa Claus theory; it's millions of otherwise intelligent individuals. Worse, the Santa Claus theory is inconsequential. Global warming will destroy civilization.
Maybe the human race has reached its limit on this. Perhaps this is a biological flaw in our species, that we just can't bring ourselves to do what needs to be done in order to save us all. Maybe we deserve to die.
Posted by Ron at 2:02 AM
Saturday, April 02, 2011
Friday, April 01, 2011
Democrat chastised for saying 'uterus' on House floor
From the St. Petersburg Times courtesy of Crooks and Liars:
They told Democrats that Randolph is not to discuss body parts on the House floor.
"The point was that Republicans are always talking about deregulation and big government," Randolph said Thursday. "And I always say their philosophy is small government for the big guy and big government for the little guy. And so, if my wife's uterus was incorporated or my friend's bedroom was incorporated, maybe they (Republicans) would be talking about deregulating.
"It's not like I used slang," said Randolph, who actually got the line from his wife. He said Republicans voiced concern about young pages hearing the word uterus.
This is hilarious.
I mean, this guy Randolph's quip is pretty fucking funny from the get-go, but the Florida Republicans' response just goes into Monty Python territory: dignified legislators ought not to use the word "uterus" on the legislature floor...because it might upset the tender sensibilities of young twentysomething pages. Fucking hysterical!
Of course, this is total bullshit. It's just fine to say the word "uterus" anywhere, and kids in their twenties will be affected by the word in pretty much the same way everybody else is affected by the word, which is to say not affected at all. Indeed, five year old children can and should hear the word "uterus" without suffering any ill effects whatsoever.
This is so obvious, it's pretty stupid to even be explaining it. But then, Republicans are pretty good at making people have to explain the obvious, over and over until the cows come home. Clearly, what's really going on here is that Florida Republicans got zinged pretty hard by this, and, without any worthwhile comeback, are reduced to stuttering weirdo 1870s grandma style lectures on social decorum.
Irrational philosophy can't help but produce absurd argumentation. Consequently, the Republican contradictory stance on government overreach is defensible only with dumbshit word games, which isn't even really a defense. Just kind of sour grapes. I love it!
Monty Python territory:
Posted by Ron at 1:18 AM