GLOBAL WARMING: GOOD NEWS/BAD NEWS
From Crooks and Liars:
ExxonMobil CEO: Fears About Climate Change Are No Big Deal, You're Just Stupid
Who are you gonna believe, him or your lying eyes? I feel so much better now, don't you?
ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson says fears about climate change, drilling, and energy dependence are overblown.More here.
In a speech Wednesday, Tillerson acknowledged that burning of fossil fuels is warming the planet, but said society will be able to adapt. The risks of oil and gas drilling are well understood and can be mitigated, he said. And dependence on other nations for oil is not a concern as long as access to supply is certain, he said.
Tillerson blamed a public that is "illiterate" in science and math, a "lazy" press, and advocacy groups that "manufacture fear" for energy misconceptions in a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations.
So the good news is that Exxon, one of the biggest purveyors of the CO2 emissions that are making global warming happen, now acknowledges that global warming exists and that it is man made. The bad news is that they're insisting we can easily deal with it. And that people are too fucking stupid to understand that.
Of course, as the C&L post heavily suggests with a short list of recent global warming associated disasters, we're actually doing an awful job of adapting to it, and there appears to be no hope for a smooth transition into the new warmer era on the horizon. That is, floods, hyper bizarre weather, droughts, all that shit, continue to pick up their already quick pace, and not only are people's lives being wildly disrupted, people are also dying.
So who's too fucking stupid to deal with it? The human race will die of its own self-imposed ignorance. Probably sooner than later.
Saturday, June 30, 2012
GLOBAL WARMING: GOOD NEWS/BAD NEWS
Posted by Ron at 11:10 PM
Friday, June 29, 2012
RIGHT WING RADIO FREAK OUT OVER SCOTUS RULING ON OBAMACARE
From the Houston Chronicle's Houston Politics blog:
Think of Daffy Duck, that unleashed id loved by kids of all ages, and that gives you a sense of Berry’s spluttering fury on KTRH 740-AM this morning. “God, I’m mad!” he told his listeners.
Of course, Berry was only echoing his talk-show cohorts around the country. Here’s Glenn Beck, carried locally on KPRC 950-AM (“Radio Mojo”): “This will make us a better, stronger America. This will ensure that the end of the Obama administration is here.”
Beck put the unofficial Republican presidential nominee on notice: “Mitt Romney, let me tell you something. If you turn out to be one of these mealy-mouthed progressive pieces of crap, I’m telling you right now, you’re in the trouble, brother, because America is not going to sit down. We are tired of getting the same bull crap. We are tired of getting the same bull crap from both parties. You better be a damn conservative that understands small government, none of this bailout bull crap, none of it! None of it! Last call, Republicans! Last freaking call!”
I'll probably have something more substantial about the Supreme Court ruling on the ACA here in a few days, but for now what's most delightful to me about the whole thing are the howls of righteous indignation coming down from right-wing demagogues across the nation. Sure, I have problems with Obamacare, big problems, and I've already written about them at length: this is not a good law, and it remains to be seen if the whole thing comes crashing down upon itself a decade or so after full implementation. On the other hand, it is what it is, and I take it as a baby step forward, and, at least, recognition from the establishment that what we have now is simply not sustainable. So I don't really feel like this is a major victory for the nation, just a little bit of fucked up progress. But, man oh man, the conservative mouth pieces are just tripping the fuck out.
And that's had me in an extraordinarily good mood all day long. It's like Daffy Duck, but in real life. Enough to bring a smile to anybody's face. Anybody who's not a paranoid outraged mallard, that is. Heh. Sometimes it's the little things that make life worth living.
Posted by Ron at 3:19 AM
Thursday, June 28, 2012
The 5 Craziest Policies In Texas Republicans’ 2012 Platform
The Republican Party of Texas released its 2012 platform this month, outlining its policies on taxation, education, and a host of other issues related to the economy. Texas Republicans, according to the platform, support eliminating the minimum wage and the prevailing wage, doing away with the Department of Education and Department of Energy, and “reducing taxpayer funding to all levels of education” — but those aren’t even the most damaging positions.
Do click through to read about the craziness because, well, it's pretty fucking crazy. Included are opposition to critical thinking in the schools and virtually all taxes, as well as support for beating children in the schools and a return to the gold standard, which necessarily freezes economic growth simply because there is not enough gold to cover all the economic transactions you need to grow the economy. This is some fucked up shit.
I've been writing a lot lately here at Real Art about how conservatives have moved away from simply being conservative and toward total delusion and fantasy. And the Texas GOP 2012 platform stands as a quick and easy documentation of that. No, I'm not asserting an opinion: this is reality; conservatives have gone absolutely nuts and are embracing crazy crackpot shit that will destroy the nation.
I mean, really, opposition to critical thinking because it impedes parental authority? We're doomed.
Posted by Ron at 1:13 AM
Wednesday, June 27, 2012
THE RASPBERRIES' "GO ALL THE WAY"
Wherein I use facebook to pretend I write for Rolling Stone. First the status update, followed by the link:
Monday is 70s pop day. Believe it or not this is what Eric Carmen ("All By Myself") was doing before he went solo. Turn up the volume for full effect.
And here's the comment thread the post got:
Lynn never play that song again please.You know, I don't think I would be enjoying facebook as much as I do if I hadn't been blogging for so long before I took the fb plunge.
Lynn I will torture you buddy! Ready for a war of bad music?
Ron I gotta disagree with you, Lynn. Trashy, gnarly biker rock juxtaposed against three part harmonies overlaying smoothly crafted pop mechanics, all as the backdrop to a heavy lyrical dosage of teenaged male sexual angst make this a near perfect song. It was a delightful surprise when I first heard this only a few years ago, well into adult life, and decades after it was on the charts. I was like "where the hell has this been all my life?!?"
Matt I couldn't agree with you more, Ron. For more of the best power pop ever made, check out the Poptopia compilations, which I believe are available on iTunes. There are three discs, spanning the 70s, 80s and 90s. "Go All the Way" is disc 1 track 1. A must have if you're a power pop fan (like me!).
Kim For me, this is a Beach Song :). It's one of those songs I loved and KNEW that we would hear it on AM radio on our way to Huntington Beach :). Good times. I can't believe you just recently found it.
Kimberly I adore this song. Didn't know it was Eric Carmen.
Jennifer I like the sentiment but the song sucks balls....deep.
Ron For you guys who hate the song, I kind of understand, if you hate it for the same reasons you might hate 80s hair bands. And "Go All the Way" kind of comes off like that at first glance. But if you dig a bit deeper, there's some really sophisticated nuance going on. That is, if you take the lyrics at face value, some hot chick begging a rock star to bang her, then sure, it might as well be "She's My Cherry Pie" or whatever. But Carmen's vocal performance belies a face value interpretation of the lyrics. He so throws himself into the role here that it is as though he's the one begging for sex. It's like "Dude, she totally wants me" actually means "Dude, I totally want her." He really does sing "please"; he really does beg in the most desperate way, revealing the same kind of emotional vulnerability that is more fully realized later with his solo hit "All By Myself." So we have this typical rock music cock-strutting going back and forth with this deep hormone driven absolute need for sex driving the narrative voice into pathetic rock bottom desperation. It's like he's trying to be a man but doesn't quite know what that means, like he's in the grip of forces he doesn't understand and it fucking HURTS. In short, this captures what it's like to be a teenaged boy in ways that are only matched by "Rebel without a Cause" and "Romeo and Juliet." At least, it reminds me of how I felt when I was sixteen in a really haunting way.
Kim Damn, Ron. Now I need a cold shower.
Kimberly What's wrong with begging a rock star for a good bang?
Jennifer Bullshit, if you want angst and sex listen to Since I've Been Lovin You by Zepplin....I'm begging for it when I hear that! I think it's more important for a song to make you want to go all the way. Music affects people differently but it's about the emotion that is evoked by listening to a song, to me. This song has the opposite effect of what it's trying to say...to me, that is.
Ron Well, in the end, everybody's an individual. That's just where I'm coming from, and I think that's also why the song has stood the test of time with the critics, who hated it back in the day but love it now. And just to clarify, I don't think it's a sexy song as much as it's an awkward and painful song in as much as the feelings it evokes in me. Also, "Since I've Been Loving You" is great, indeed, but it's a much more mature sexuality, definitely about adult lust rather than the clumsy lust of adolescence.
Also, the Boss loves the Raspberries.
Posted by Ron at 12:46 AM
Monday, June 25, 2012
Thomas Friedman Writes His Only Column Again
From Gawker courtesy of a facebook friend:
This, the paragraph in which several computer-related buzzwords are followed by an elementary conclusion delivered in a tone reverent enough to impress someone whose news diet does not consist of anything more substantial than Thomas Friedman columns, is an absolutely necessary ingredient in any Thomas Friedman column. It comes standard, like the salmonella in a poorly cooked chicken sandwich.
Telling the truth is good, argues Thomas Friedman. Does he also believe that you should look both ways before crossing the street, eat your vegetables, and get adequate sleep? You'll have to keep buying Thomas Friedman's book forever and ever, to find out.
I'm not sure when it happened exactly, but at some point in the last decade or so I had the dawning realization that numerous members of the establishment punditocracy are mediocre intellects, at best. And I'm not talking ideology, either. Indeed, it seems to me that the more wedded to ideology an essayist is, the more of an interesting argument he makes, even if I totally disagree. No, I'm talking much more about the seemingly non-partisan, "neutral" pundits, the ones trying to come out of that journalistic tradition of "objectivity," sort of the defenders of the status quo, whatever that status quo happens to be at the moment.
Friedman is probably the most prominent of these types, and reading their columns and op-ed pieces is like reading nicely polished high school papers for government or English class. It's like, okay, I see your reasoning, nicely done, an A paper. Of course, good high school students aren't establishment opinion makers, or rather, pro status quo apologists; one intuitively expects a bit more, intellectually speaking, from people who are making millions and quoted by other journalists and politicians.
I mean, check out this quick snippet of interview with him:
He goes into this wild explanation of Bush's War on Terror, coming up with a financial world metaphor that absolutely no one else was using, at the time or in the almost decade since, and following that metaphor to the conclusion that we attacked Saddam Hussein in order to say to the Islamic world "Suck on this!" I mean, that really is high school, from the bizarre and awkward "terrorism bubble" construction, to reducing the complex and varied motivations for the illegal and immoral invasion of Iraq down to a school yard taunt. That's how this guy thinks, like a smarmy smart mouthed asshole honors class kid.
I like to think that by the time I was thirty I had outgrown that shit. But not Friedman. His is the epitome of elite centrist opinion. That is, fucking stupid as all get out. I continue to wonder how people like him get work, let alone have a seat at the grownups table for public discourse. It's really no wonder that we're going to hell in a hand basket.
Posted by Ron at 6:47 PM
THE MINIMUM WAGE
From the Huffington Post courtesy of BuzzFlash:
Unfortunately, this overwhelming support for raising the minimum wage does not extend to most of corporate America, which has a tendency to prize the short-term bottom line above all other considerations, including the ability of its workers to make ends meet. The anti-minimum wage gang will "twist itself into knots rationalizing a corporate-backed agenda," John Stoehr observes in The American Prospect. And there is no question that those opposed to raising the minimum wage will prey upon our fears of joblessness and the bad economy to try to convince us that the minimum wage needs to stay where it is.
Corporate lobbyists are busy spreading distortions and outright lies in their attempt to hold back minimum wage increases supported by the vast majority of working people. Here are some of the biggest falsehoods that are going around, along with facts you can use to discredit them.
And I hope you click through to read those myths--it's short, so you might as well.
Indeed, I've been hearing myths about the minimum wage since I was a teenager and trying to start to get an handle on what economics are about. If you listen to conservatives, the minimum wage is necessarily bad for the economy because it makes it more difficult to hire people, which kind of makes sense, even though it's ultimately dead wrong, because you get into your head this notion of a fixed payroll that can only go so far. Sadly, there has been virtually no intellectual counter to the mythology about the minimum wage. Without any competing ideas, the mythology continues to rule the day.
But here's the reality. Increasing the minimum wage gets money into the hands of people who will spend it on a wide variety of good and services. This necessarily increases demand, which, in turn, increases business activity, which, in turn, results in more jobs, not less. That conservatives and business owners don't even consider this is one of the major fallacies of economic discussion today: it's short-sighted, and it's from the extraordinarily narrow point of view of individual business owners and corporate entities; that is, it doesn't see the economy as the massive tapestry composed of multiple threads and strands that it is.
So, sure, if you own a business, it sucks that you have to pay for your labor, and in that sense the minimum wage is bad for the economy. Your economy. But in the sense that everybody having more money to spend increases economic activity across the board, the minimum wage is fucking great for the economy. That is, everybody's economy, or more simply, the economy.
But I guess I'm old fashioned that way: economics ought to serve the people as a whole, not simply the relatively small percentage of the people who own most of the capital.
Posted by Ron at 2:40 AM
Saturday, June 23, 2012
Yes, Iraq Definitely Had WMD, Vast Majority Of Polled Republicans Insist
From muckraker Dan Froomkin:
The poll, constructed by Dartmouth government professor Benjamin Valentino and conducted by YouGov from April 26 to May 2, found that fully 63 percent of Republican respondents still believed that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction when the U.S. invaded in 2003. By contrast, 27 percent of independents and 15 percent of Democrats shared that view.
Jim Lobe, chief of the Inter Press Service's Washington bureau, reported the finding in his blog on Wednesday.
The Bush administration's insistence that the Iraqi government had weapons of mass destruction and might give them to terrorists was a key selling point in its campaign to take the country to war. It turned out to be untrue.
Bush, Cheney and others consistently linked al Qaeda to Hussein in speeches they gave in the run-up to war, and the media rarely pushed back. But neither Bush nor Cheney continued to claim that there were actual WMDs in Iraq once the searches came up empty -- although they both continued to insist that Saddam had the "capability" to produce them.
Rather than a failure of the media, therefore, this latest poll result seems to indicate a refusal -- unique to the modern Republican Party -- to acknowledge facts.
Yeah, I've resorted to just copying and pasting my own facebook statements:
Okay, so mainstream conservative opinion rejects evolution, which is a fact. It rejects global warming, also a fact. It embraces the notion that President Obama was not born in the US, which is not a fact. And it doggedly holds onto those non-existent WMD as though the Bible proved it or something. Also, tax cuts create more revenue than no tax cuts. Never in this nation's history have so many seriously deluded people wielded so much power and influence. We really are in deep deep doo doo.And my buddy Chris commented:
It isn't so much that those in power are deluded as it is that those in power are selling their agenda. It rejects global warming to protect big business. It rejects evolution because it flies in the face of the Bible. And it keeps trying to sell us on WMDs to justify that ridiculous war.To which I responded:
It's just too bad that so many just can't think for themselves.
I think we'd be better off if it was that simple, just a sort of cynical web of lies to support a political agenda. What frightens me is that I think these people actually believe this stuff, for real, and once enough people have effectively divorced themselves from reality, then anything goes. Literally. I mean, there are conservatives out there, namely Charles Murray, who assert that blacks are inferior to whites because of IQ test results, which are seriously skewed for cultural and economic reasons, but are taken seriously by the mainstream media and Washington elites. Playing so fast and loose with facts, indeed, outright rejecting reality, is downright dangerous.Well, there's no need to reinvent the wheel, is there?
Posted by Ron at 11:26 PM
Friday, June 22, 2012
Rachel Maddow Debunks, Mocks Fast and Furious
From Crooks and Liars:
This segment, though long, should be required viewing for anyone who wants to understand how the right's latest made-up scandal came to be. It's essentially the invention of former militia leader and right-wing agitator Michael Vanderboegh.
On December 8, when Eric Holder testified before the House Judiciary Committee about Operation Fast and Furious, the bungled federal attempt to combat gun smuggling to Mexico, his testimony was met with frequent snickers and occasional hostility. The source wasn't Republican committee members, but rather a blogger seated at the press table. Wearing a homemade press pass in a National Rifle Association badge-holder, Mike Vanderboegh had arrived at the hearing toting an Army-issue laptop case that appeared capable of withstanding a roadside bomb.More here, with video.
A large, ruddy fellow with white hair and a mischievous smile, he had played a key role in turning Fast and Furious into a national scandal. From his home in Pinson, Alabama, Vanderboegh writes a little-known, far-right blog called Sipsey Street Irregulars.
And you really should click through for the video. Because if you do, you'll find out just how insane this "scandal" really is. Silly me, I just figured it was the standard GOP agit-prop stuff, smoke equaling fire and all that. But no. This is seriously fucked up.
It seems that what's driving at least some of these House Republicans to go after this Fast and Furious gun-walking operation is not that they're trying to make a case that it's a bad idea to allow guns to get into the hands of Mexican drug lords, even if the purpose is to bust them. Rather, it's because they believe that the real motivation behind Fast and Furious is to...okay, get this...create a massive wave of gun violence that will, in turn, sour US public opinion on guns, which will, in turn, give the Obama administration enough political cover to take away our gun rights. The Maddow video even shows a Republican confronting AG Holder about this in Congressional hearings: Holder, looking a bit bewildered, simply calls the accusation "absurd."
And it is absurd. Totally fucking bat-shit crazy absurd.
Really, this is very similar to left-wing conspiracy theories about Bush purposely causing 9/11 in order to amass more executive power. And it's just as crazy and stupid. The only difference is that Congress never seriously considered or entertained these kooky lefty assertions. But they appear to be dead serious about the Fast and Furious conspiracy theory.
Man, is it possible that the conservatives are getting crazier? Or are they already this crazy but we just didn't yet realize it? We are so very fucked.
Posted by Ron at 12:58 AM
Thursday, June 21, 2012
Republicans’ attempt to hold Holder in contempt is uphill battle
From the Washington Post op-ed section:
Terry’s death is indeed a scandal, part of the “Fast and Furious” operation in which the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives lost track of 2,000 guns it was planning to trace on their way to Mexican drug cartels; two of those firearms were found near Terry’s body. After that, the Justice Department shut down the program (which followed similar “gun-walking” operations during the George W. Bush administration), fired or reassigned several people who ran the program out of ATF’s Phoenix office, requested an inspector-general investigation and handed over about 7,600 pages of records to Issa’s committee.
Republicans want to know whether top officials at Justice or the White House knew about the gun-walking program, which, although they haven’t turned up evidence of this, would be a reasonable line of inquiry. But casting doubt on their motives are the documents they are demanding: only those since February 2011 — two months after Terry was killed and the program was shut down.
Rep. Gerald Connolly (D-Va.) accused Issa of setting up a “kangaroo court” to convict Holder. “If this were a genuine attempt to make sure that the Terry family had closure, we’d have an open investigation,” he said, and call witnesses involved in the program over the past six years. But, Democrats complained, Issa never sought public testimony from people in the Phoenix ATF office who ran the operation, or from the former head of the ATF, who told committee investigators that he never informed Justice Department higher-ups of the operation because he didn’t know about it.
You know, I'd be a lot more inclined to take this thing seriously if we'd already had massive congressional probes into, say, why the entire Bush administration thought Iraq had WMD when everybody who had anything relevant to say about the topic asserted they didn't, or torture programs at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, or the failures with Katrina. You know, really important stuff. I mean, the Fast and Furious failure does, indeed, warrant some kind of investigation or probe or whatever, I guess, but when compared to the stuff that Congress didn't go after, at least, not in the way they're going after Holder, this "scandal" is a joke.
No, this is the same old bullshit highly partisan political theater to which Republicans gravitate when they don't have anything better to do--keep in mind that unemployment remains high and Congress is doing essentially nothing; that is, this Holder contempt thing is not only unjust, but also a complete waste of time, when there are far more pressing issues. And we've been here before. Remember the Whitewater scandal back during the Clinton years? Republicans pushed and pushed and pushed and never found anything. They even insisted that the first special prosecutor, a Republican named Fisk, wasn't good enough, so they managed to throw him out and get Kenneth Starr. Still nothing. But Starr did manage to maneuver Clinton into lying about his completely unrelated affair with Monica Lewinsky, which gave the GOP dominated House an ostensible reason to impeach him. And they were major self-righteous assholes about it.
Here's how it works. Find something that kinda, sorta, maybe has a stink of scandal about it. Hem and haw and freak out and freak out and freak out ad infinitum. And maybe, just maybe, after the multiple fishing expeditions to which they have subjected their Democratic target, they just might find something, anything, to justify some asshole hardball. And that's exactly what's happening here with Holder. They're also trying the same thing with the Solyndra "scandal," but it remains to be seen if it will be successful, and by "successful" I mean find somebody to put the screws to.
As you know, I have very little love for the Democrats. But at least they're serious about governing the nation. The Republicans, as politicians, are out to do nothing but suck blood and destroy the government. We really ought not to put up with such evil. But, for reasons unknown, we do. Again and again.
Posted by Ron at 12:35 AM
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
The Real Job Creators: Consumers
From Forbes courtesy of BuzzFlash:
First, as my friend Mike Norman has pointed out, employees are a cost, usually the most significant one faced by firms (Mike Norman Economics). For that reason, every rational entrepreneur’s goal is to reduce, not increase, the number of workers they have to pay.
Second and more fundamentally, no matter how much you lower costs, if you don’t have more customers, you won’t hire more workers. If the demand for goods and services stays where it is today and we only cut industry taxes and regulations, there is absolutely no reason to think that firms would expand employment. Rather, they would continue to produce at the same level and simply earn higher profits. On the other hand, if we leave taxes and regulations untouched but increase demand, entrepreneurs will happily add workers. And that is the root of the problem today. The bottom line, lost on Mr. Romney and many others, is that the real job creators are consumers. The direct route to reducing unemployment is boosting demand, not reducing costs.
Game, set, and match. Argument over.
Actually, it was never really much of an argument, once you sit down and work your way through it for, like, five seconds. After all, the Republicans have been offering tax-cuts-for-the-rich and deregulation as economic panaceas for many years now, regardless of the economic situation. Inflation? Cut taxes for the rich and get the government off the businessman's back! Unemployment? Cut taxes for the rich and get the government off the businessman's back! High energy prices? Cut taxes for the rich and get the government off the businessman's back! Health care crisis? Cut taxes for the rich and get the government off the businessman's back! You get the idea. And the ironic reality is that we have, more or less, been doing exactly that for a quarter of a century because the right wing has been so forceful and omnipresent in its assertions that it is now the Washington consensus.
You'd think that after thirty years of this shit we'd get some results. But things have gotten demonstrably worse, a lot worse, definitely not better. I mean, the very fact that today a middle class lifestyle is unavailable to most families with a single earner, and to many with two earners, stands as testament to the abject failure of conservative economic ideas. But here we are. People take Republican economic rhetoric seriously for reasons about which I can only speculate.
What really drives me mad is that the Democrats, beholden as they are to massive corporate and financial interests for the campaign contributions they give, are unwilling to challenge this false consensus. So who's more responsible? Republicans for peddling what amounts to snake oil, or Democrats for buying it? Personally, I hold the Democrats more responsible. They know better, but value reelection over what's best for the country. That makes them much bigger scum bags than their opposition, many of whom are just deluded or stupid.
I continue to consider not voting at all this November.
Posted by Ron at 1:13 AM
Monday, June 18, 2012
“I like Sarah Palin,” a woman in Texas visiting New York told me. “She represents me.”
“In what way?” I asked.
“She’s, you know, kind of homey, you know, kind of like a soccer Mom, and with those kids. My daughter could get pregnant, you know and I like that she didn’t abandon her kid or anything. So, I voted for her – oh, and John McCain, of course. He seemed like nice man.”
The woman and her husband earned less than $40 thousand per year, with two kids, and a sizeable mortgage to burden them. He came to New York on company business and “we had those frequent flyer things so I could come too. But those Broadway shows cost so much, you know.”
A Colorado man loves guns, to hunt with and to protect himself, of course. “And damn anyone who tries to take mine away – and you know what I mean.” In case I hadn’t gotten his point, he added: “Obama has betrayed the country with his socialist health scheme.”
A New Yorker thought Obama had “sold out Israel,” meaning “he doesn’t really like Jews.”
“Why should he tell Bibi Netanyahu [Israeli Prime Minister] what to do? Whose business is it if Jews settle more land there? They civilized that barbaric region. Obama has nerve to try and boss Israel around.”
Do people get these notions in synagogues and churches? From Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, or does their “news” come from Fox?
I asked two homeless men in New York and one later in San Francisco if they planned to vote. All three stared at me as if I was a space alien.
I wrote this last week, riffing on a passage from Aldous Huxley's essay "Brave New World Revisited":
This is something I continue to have difficulty in fully grasping, but that Huxley knew all too well five decades ago: modern American politics, at the electoral level, have far less to do with actual issues than they have to do with emotion, symbols, and narrative.The above excerpt serves as an excellent example of what I'm talking about. Of course, it's easy to pick on conservatives simply because their political myth-making machine is way bigger and more sophisticated than anything the left is currently able to offer. Indeed, the right-wing propaganda apparatus is so effective that countless rank-and-file conservatives now believe things that are easily verified as being untrue, which kind of makes them stick out like sore thumbs when you start asking them what they think about the world.
But make no mistake about it, tons of liberals fall into the same category. How many of them actually bought the idea that Obama is anti-war? How many of them believed that Our Savior would go to Washington, work a few magic spells, and amazingly convince conservatives to get with the program? "Hope and change" was an emotional and symbolic storyline from the get-go, a storyline that had very little connection to reality.
Like I said, it's really easy to make fun of the woman who believes Sarah Palin represents her because the former Alaska governor is a "soccer mom." But liberals, who ought to know better, fell into the same kind of thinking with Obama, a black man (which assures that he's a liberal, just like them), who attended Harvard (one of those "liberal" institutions), and a Democrat (the "liberal" party): he's got to be just like me. All they had to do was go to his campaign's website to see that he was, and definitely still is, a neoliberal, that is, very conservative on economics, and that, for him, "anti-war" meant winding down our troop presence in Iraq so he could expand the war in Afghanistan.
American voters just don't think anymore. Sure, they think they're thinking, but the reality is that it's all about feelings and how they identify themselves, projecting whatever they want onto the guy who's just like them. This may sound like I'm wagging a finger of shame in their direction, but I'm not. Indeed, this all just makes me sad because, in the age of mass communications, which directly caters to this vague and emotional understanding of reality, in an era when the schools teach civics and history in the most boring and off-putting ways possible, in a time when the press, long ago bought up by corporate interests which aim to entertain and distract rather than inform and edify, has failed miserably in its role as "fourth estate," this is the inevitable outcome. That is, I'm lucky. I love this stuff. I love to read and write and pontificate and converse about politics. It's my biggest hobby. Everybody else has to make a supreme effort to avoid the propaganda and focus on the issues. And that's really difficult, especially if you're working a fifty or sixty hour week and have a family to care for. Life is difficult enough when it comes to informing oneself about the issues of the day. Throw in some intellectual obstacles and it becomes almost impossible.
And that's just the people who kind of try, who manage to make it to the polls to vote every two or four years. More than half of the country doesn't even fall into that category. Again by design. We're enslaved and we don't even know it. Just like the people in Brave New World.
Posted by Ron at 10:53 PM
TODAY IS PAUL MCCARTNEY'S BIRTHDAY
And my buddy Shane is going nuts on facebook posting Sir Paul songs. So I figured, what the hell, I want in on some of this action, too. Given that we now live in the 21st century, where the technology is fabulous, and illegally uploaded music abounds in cyberspace, why not post three of my favorite highly underrated McCartney albums?
Back to the Egg
The last Wings album. From Wikipedia:
Back to the Egg is the seventh and final studio album by Wings, released in 1979. It is also Wings' first album for Columbia Records after leaving long-time United States distributor Capitol Records in 1978. When McCartney returned to international distribution by EMI in 1985, Back to the Egg and the rest of McCartney's Columbia-era releases moved to Capitol/EMI in the US.
Tug of War
Tug of War is the fourth solo studio album by Paul McCartney, released in 1982. It is the follow-up to the 1980 album McCartney II, and his first official solo album after the dissolution of Wings in April 1981. The recording sessions for the album reunited McCartney with producer George Martin. Tug of War was also McCartney's first album after the death of his former Beatles bandmate John Lennon.
Off the Ground
Buoyed by the critical success of his 1989 album Flowers in the Dirt and the subsequent Paul McCartney World Tour in 1989 and 1990, it seemed a natural extension to record his next album with his existing touring band. Only one change was made to the line-up, with Blair Cunningham joining on drums to replace Chris Whitten. To add to the band's success in the live arena, McCartney decided to record the album "live in the studio", meaning that the band would rehearse the entire song together and then record the song together in one take, instead of recording each vocal track and instrumental track separately. This approach gave a new, raw and direct feel to the work, but was not overly liked by critics.
Fuck the critics. What do they want? "Hey Jude" ever other fucking year? This one's great.
Happy 70th, Paul!
Posted by Ron at 12:40 AM
Saturday, June 16, 2012
What's the Matter With Creationism?
From The Nation, famed essayist Katha Pollitt opines on the intellectual affront that is creationism:
Why does it matter that almost half the country rejects the overwhelming evidence of evolution, with or without the hand of God? After all, Americans are famously ignorant of many things—like where Iran is or when World War II took place—and we are still here. One reason is that rejecting evolution expresses more than an inability to think critically; it relies on a fundamentally paranoid worldview. Think what the world would have to be like for evolution to be false. Almost every scientist on earth would have to be engaged in a fraud so complex and extensive it involved every field from archaeology, paleontology, geology and genetics to biology, chemistry and physics. And yet this massive concatenation of lies and delusion is so full of obvious holes that a pastor with a Bible-college degree or a homeschooling parent with no degree at all can see right through it. A flute discovered in southern Germany is 43,000 years old? Not bloody likely. It’s probably some old bone left over from an ancient barbecue.
I continue to not understand why it is so important for fundamentalist Christians to take on science in such a direct way. I mean, fine, believe that the world is five thousand years old if you must, but don't try to hoodwink yourselves and everybody else into thinking that your view is somehow scientifically valid. Really, it ought to be simple for these people. They believe that the Bible is the final authority on understanding the universe; science uses the scientific method in order to understand the physical universe. These are two mutually exclusive philosophies for determining the nature of reality. Don't be ashamed of your faith, but you make a fool of yourself entertaining the notion that faith is the same as observation, hypothesis, and experimentation. They're not, and it only makes sense that these two wildly different approaches would garner different results.
That is, one can be a creationist without shitting all over science and how it is perceived by the public. After all, scientists don't generally run around telling believers how to interpret the Bible. But that's what the creationists do with science, and because such attempts are so convoluted and absurd, they constantly paint themselves into a corner.
You know, the place where the kid with the dunce cap sits.
Posted by Ron at 11:31 PM
Friday, June 15, 2012
QUIS CUSTODIET IPSOS CUSTODES
Means "Who Polices the Police?"
From Colorlines courtesy of AlterNet:
Police Chief Defends Detaining Teen’s Mother After Neighbor’s Fatal Shot
A 75-year-old Milwaukee man immediately confessed to fatally shooting his 13-year-old neighbor when police arrived but the officers still detained the teen’s mother and forced her to sit in the police car for more than an hour rather than let her hold her dying son or join him at the hospital. Officers also searched through the mother’s home looking for stolen firearms (that were never found) and arrested her other son on a year-old truancy violation.
“None of it makes sense. My sister was treated like she was the suspect,” Simmons’ uncle, Leon Larry told the AP. “And searching the house, it looked like they were trying to give the suspect a reason for what he did, an excuse for what he did. That’s garbage.”
Clicking through a link in the article reveals the money shot: the boy was black; his killer was white. I guess he was "standing his ground." You know, the way you can legally commit murder in many states, like in Florida, where Trayvon Martin was killed, although the jury is still out on that one.
I don't know that this story falls into the corruption or police brutality category--after all, it sounds like the cops have some nice legalese to support their actions. But it definitely falls into the cops-as-dicks category, and very possibly into the cops-as-racists category, too, which may very well bring it back into the corruption category. I guess we'll see. The point here is that incidents like this make me extraordinarily hesitant to call the police for help in situations when I might really need some help: it strikes me that there's a fifty-fifty chance that they'll find a way to bust me instead of whatever potential menace I'm facing.
Of course, I am to some extent protected by my white skin. This kind of harassment is something that African Americans face virtually everyday from the police. But it happens to white people, too, just not nearly as often. But harassment it definitely is. This woman had just literally seen her child murdered in cold blood by an angry white man and the cops fucking detain her while searching her home on a tip from her son's murderer. That's beyond lame; it's oppression.
Kind of makes NWA's classic "Fuck tha Police" seem a bit less hardcore and a little more inspirational.
Posted by Ron at 2:00 AM
Thursday, June 14, 2012
OUR POLITICAL DISCOURSE: THE WRITING'S BEEN ON THE WALL FOR DECADES
For anybody who wants to read it. From Aldous Huxley's 1957 essay "Brave New World Revisited":
The political merchandisers appeal only to the weaknesses of voters, never to their potential strength. They make no attempt to educate the masses into becoming fit for self-government; they are content merely to manipulate and exploit them. For this purpose all the resources of psychology and the social sciences are mobilized and set to work. Carefully selected samples of the electorate are given "interviews in depth." These interviews in depth reveal the unconscious fears and wishes most prevalent in a given society at the time of an election. Phrases and images aimed at allaying or, if necessary, enhancing these fears, at satisfying these wishes, at least symbolically, are then chosen by the experts, tried out on readers and audiences, changed or improved in the light of the information thus obtained. After which the political campaign is ready for the mass communicators. All that is now needed is money and a candidate who can be coached to look "sincere." Under the new dispensation, political principles and plans for specific action have come to lose most of their importance. The personality of the candidate and the way he is projected by the advertising experts are the things that really matter.
In one way or another, as vigorous he-man or kindly father, the candidate must be glamorous. He must also be an entertainer who never bores his audience. Inured to television and radio, that audience is accustomed to being distracted and does not like to be asked to concentrate or make a prolonged intellectual effort. All speeches by the entertainer-candidate must therefore be short and snappy. The great issues of the day must be dealt with in five minutes at the most -- and preferably (since the audience will be eager to pass on to something a little livelier than inflation or the H-bomb) in sixty seconds flat. The nature of oratory is such that there has always been a tendency among politicians and clergymen to over-simplify complex issues. From a pulpit or a platform even the most conscientious of speakers finds it very difficult to tell the whole truth. The methods now being used to merchandise the political candidate as though he were a deodorant positively guarantee the electorate against ever hearing the truth about anything.
Much more here.
This is something I continue to have difficulty in fully grasping, but that Huxley knew all too well five decades ago: modern American politics, at the electoral level, have far less to do with actual issues than they have to do with emotion, symbols, and narrative.
As a college educated citizen, it is extraordinarily difficult for me to abandon the notion that if I just articulated the right argument, if I just appealed to my fellow citizens' sense of reason, using facts and argumentation, we could, in the long run, have a much better nation. But reasoned argumentation is nothing compared to the modern day advertising campaigns, which make full use of irrational human psychology, that envelop and drown us every day in a sea of mass media. Indeed, such an approach effectively reduces us to a sort of herd mentality. And when I say "effectively," I really do mean it. Most Americans essentially vote their feelings, without realizing that their feelings have been heavily manipulated.
Brand Obama: an intelligent guy who's one of us, who will go to Washington to show us how to all get along, creating the American utopia we've always dreamed of. Brand Bush: a regular guy who you can have a beer with, a guy who listens to country music and works on a ranch, a guy who's one of us. The actual arguments are kind of meaningless. I mean, sure, there are arguments, but you already know where you stand on those so why bother working your way through them? My candidate's like me, so he's going to be right on the issues.
I know this is how it works. I know that this is the approach I need to take, myself, if I'm going to persuade people with whom I disagree. But it drives me nuts that this is counter to the entire notion of democracy, drives me nuts that politicians embrace this, rather than attempting collectively to diffuse it. Mass communications have made us take a horrific wrong turn, something that our Founding Fathers could have never possibly foreseen. And we've known about it for decades, but it's only gotten worse.
Is there any way out of this trap?
Posted by Ron at 1:12 AM
Wednesday, June 13, 2012
George W. Bush's Tab
From the Daily Beast, courtesy of an fb friend, former conservative chicken hawk, and current moderate something-or-other Andrew Sullivan lambastes his former Imperious Leader:
When you check reality, rather than the alternate universe constantly created by Fox News and an amnesiac press, you find that Bush had a chance to pay off all our national debt before we hit the financial crisis - giving the US enormous flexibility in intervening to ameliorate the recession. Instead, we had to find money for a stimulus in a cupboard stripped bare - its contents largely given away, by an act of choice. I'm tired of being told we cannot blame Bush for our current predicament. We can and should blame him for most of it - and remind people that Romney's policies: more tax cuts, more defense spending are identical. With one difference: Bush pledged never "to balance the budget on the backs of the poor."
Sullivan is riffing on a NYT blog post written by former Reagan and Bush I adviser Bruce Bartlett that crunches a recent CBO report finding that if we had just stuck with Clinton era budget and tax policies, not only would we not be dealing with much deficit spending, but we would also not be dealing with a national debt. If you click through to the Sullivan piece, you'll find a link to the Bartlett post, just in case you, like me, are sort of blinking and wondering if this can possibly be true. But it seems pretty solid: tax cuts and wars of choice sold us all down the river, and it was the Republicans who did it, not the Democrats--indeed, the Democrats had us poised to pull off what the GOP has been clamoring for since I was a kid, the end of the national debt and deficit spending.
Remember, these figures come from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. It's entirely possible, of course, that the figures are wrong, but it is highly unlikely that there is some sort of political bias at work here.
And this tells us a couple of things. First, the Republicans are not serious about deficits and the debt. They don't care about them and have no problem at all bankrupting the nation. Nonetheless, they continue to have a solid reputation for being the fiscally responsible party, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary. Second, Democrats are serious about deficits and the debt. Historically, and even today, the Democrats have shown again and again a willingness to cut sacred programs and raise taxes to get our fiscal house in order. Nonetheless, they continue to have a solid reputation as the "tax and spend" party, in spite of all evidence to the contrary.
Conclusion: our politics at the national level are not based on reality. Further conclusion: be afraid; be very afraid.
Posted by Ron at 12:58 AM
Tuesday, June 12, 2012
Monday, June 11, 2012
Obama's collaboration with Big Pharma exposed
In order to secure his sweeping 2010 health care reforms, US President Barack Obama's staff oversaw an unusually close collaboration with the pharmaceutical industry, documents show.
Republicans in the House of Representatives have uncovered a trove of emails and other memos showing how the Obama administration coordinated its $150 million advertising campaign with major pharmaceutical companies.
Nearly $70 million was spent through two Super PACs -- political action committees -- organized in part by White House officials, including Jim Messina, Obama's former deputy chief of staff who is now managing his 2012 reelection campaign.
The email was among materials compiled by the House Energy and Commerce Committee as part of a probe to determine how the White House interacted with the drug industry as the health reform legislation took shape.
The panel said the emails confirmed that a decision by PhRMA to fund advertisements was "linked to policy agreements backed by the administration."
The White House, meanwhile, underscored that Obama was clear from the start that he would talk to all stakeholders, including the pharmaceutical industry, in order to pass the reform.
Obama was, indeed, "clear from the start" that the whole shebang was going to be a massive industry-friendly giveaway, which, of course, is what it all ended up being. Other than the devil in the details, which are now apparently coming to the light of day, this is no surprise. Of course, Obama coordinated with PhRMA. He also coordinated with the HMOs and health insurance companies. The Affordable Care Act is their law, not ours. That's why it sucks so bad.
What is surprising is that the Republicans would call bullshit on this. I mean, sucking corporate dick is much more their thing than it is the Democrats'. But that just goes to show you how utterly fucked up politics have become these days. Both parties suck corporate dick--both swallow, too, for that matter. So that essentially leaves the field open for meaningless anti-corporate rhetoric: Republicans can castigate the President for working too closely with wealthy corporate interests because those interests fully understand that the Republicans don't really mean it. Sort of a Nixon going to China thing.
Of course, the GOP isn't really doing the equivalent of Nixon going to China. That is, it's not that they're so pro-corporate that they can be anti-corporate if they want. Rather, it's that they're totally full of shit when they blast Obama's cozy corporatism. That is, as usual, they're big fucking liars. Democrats, too.
Maybe I just won't vote at all this November. It wouldn't matter either way.
Posted by Ron at 1:57 AM
Saturday, June 09, 2012
Terry Jones, Quran-Burning Pastor, Hangs Barack Obama Effigy Outside Florida Church
From the Huffington Post:
The Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Fla., has hanged an effigy of President Barack Obama from a gallows on its front lawn, a move DWOC pastor Terry Jones said was in response to Obama's recent endorsement of same-sex marriage, as well as his stance on abortion and what Jones called his "appeasing of radical Islam."
According to the Broward-Palm Beach New Times, the U.S. Secret Service is currently investigating Jones in response to the display.
The DWOC came under intense scrutiny in 2011 after Jones burned a copy of the Quran, a move which sparked three days of violent rioting in Afghanistan that resulted in the deaths of at least 21 people, including seven U.N. workers.
More here, with pictures.
I don't even know what to say about such people anymore.
No, they're obviously not Christians because their actions do not in any way emulate their Lord and Savior. No, they're not really being effective at persuading anybody to come around to their side because, you know, if you already like Obama, this is just going to piss you off. Yes, they're definitely crazy, and, yes, they're definitely assholes. I suppose I should be happy that they're not actually lynching real live black people, but the whole Koran burning thing did result in twenty one deaths, so I'm not too terribly happy that it's just an effigy. But this kind of thing does pass for what's left of the public discourse these days, so I suppose I ought to take it seriously.
Really, the problem here is that discussion with the right wing these days isn't too terribly far from listening to the crazed rantings of a bath salt addled street person. We are so fucked.
Posted by Ron at 11:03 PM
Friday, June 08, 2012
School Closures and Accusations of Segregation in Louisiana
From The Nation:
Teachers in Louisiana have found themselves on the frontlines of austerity.
First, in an unprecedented vote, the Jefferson Parish School Board voted 8–1 to close seven campuses, four of them traditional elementary schools and the rest alternative programs for students struggling academically.
The board issued more bad news when it announced it was dropping plans to add an art instruction wing at Lincoln Elementary School for the Arts due to cost concerns.
Construction of the wing is a hot-button issue in the area because the proposal to convert Lincoln into a magnet school that would draw students from across the parish was a result of the deliberations leading up to the system’s settling a forty-seven-year-old desegregation lawsuit last year.
The Southern Poverty Law Center filed not one, but two, civil rights complaints against the board.
In the first complaint, SPLC alleged that the school system discriminates against black and disabled students. Part of the evidence presented by SPLC was comments made on Twitter by Mark Traina, a school psychologist in Louisiana.
“Young black thugs” need to be “put down like the dogs they are,” Traina tweeted.
SPLC also claims African-American students are being unfairly subjected to arrests and seizures. The complaint outlined what the center calls a widespread and disproportionate number of arrests of black students for minor school disciplinary matters.
SPLC cited the fact that African-American youth comprise 46 percent of the student population yet 76 percent of all school-based arrests.
Actually, this article isn't simply about Louisiana schools. Rather, it's about the public schools in Jefferson Parish, which is where I live. Nice to know, I guess, that my reading about political, cultural, and economic doings overall in the US has a payoff for me locally. That is, the second excerpt above reflects the rise in overt racism this nation has seen since Obama, our first black President, was elected, combined with the standard other-bashing that historically comes with hard economic times--it's also worth noting that Metairie, which easily comprises the biggest chunk of the parish, is definitely the most racist community in which I've ever lived, so racist, in fact, that it sent a former KKK leader to the state legislature back in the late 80s; that probably has something to do with it, too, latent racism waiting for the right circumstances to once again raise its ugly head.
The first excerpt may also have something to do with the return of overt racism, in terms of how the school board is deciding what to cut, but the fact that they have to cut at all has nothing to do with racism: it's about the shitty fucking economy and the fact that the federal government, which is also facing severe budget shortfalls, but could easily and very cheaply borrow enough to bail out every school system in the country, absolutely refuses to do so. I mean, Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman has been asserting a lot recently that if the feds bailed out the states, which would put tens of thousands of cops, fire fighters, teachers, and other workers back on the job, we would be well on the road to recovery. And, oh yeah, a nice little bonus is that we don't have to close down schools and fire teachers. Or eradicate arts programs, which, according to now numerous studies, gets students to perform better in all academic areas.
I'm pretty sure that the theater arts teaching position I had back in Texas no longer exists.
Posted by Ron at 12:25 AM
Thursday, June 07, 2012
Getting Dazed and Confused With Paul Krugman
Mr. Krugman’s confusion lies in the term ‘investment.’ Companies ‘invest’ by borrowing money to increase production enough to repay the loan and earn a profit. Students take student loans to, with apologies for the terminology, ‘increase their human capital.’ And workers take mortgages to buy houses so that they have a place to live while they work. And workers take out auto loans to buy cars so that they have a way to get to work and back. In an economic sense, borrowed money must be part of the productive process for the system to function.
Because most loans take years to repay, they in a sense draw against future production. If too much money is borrowed against future production, the risk increases that if it fails to materialize, a financial and economic calamity will result. Add outright lender fraud on an industrial scale and this is what happened in the 2000s.
Second, prior to the 2000s the American economy was structurally set up for stable, if cyclical, labor markets as evidenced by the types of loans offered (30-year fixed rate). By setting into motion a long-term decline in wages and by increasing employment insecurity, the capitalist reformers (neo-liberals) set the household debt crisis into motion at least a decade before it became evident in the financial crisis. With existing mortgage payments taking an increasing share of household income, household debts became more burdensome even without the amount of debt increasing.
So, of course, anybody who stops by here regularly knows that I post a lot of Paul Krugman. That's because what he writes generally fits in very well with my admittedly limited understanding of macroeconomics. I also like that he's a well established economist in the top ranks of his field: reading his stuff and commenting on it puts me right in the middle of things, as it were, in terms of establishment economics, that is, the mainstream public discourse on the economy.
But Krugman isn't the only guy I read on economics. Indeed, most of the economics reading I do comes from pretty far out in left field, you know, guys working in more of a Marxist tradition, and the vast majority of that is a pretty harsh systemic criticism of capitalism itself. Krugman, as much as he infuriates the Tea Party crowd, Libertarians, and free market fundamentalists, you know, moronic folk who think he's a socialist, is himself pro-capitalist, and everything he writes is intended to make capitalism a functional, efficient, albeit socially kind, system for allocating goods and resources throughout society. That is, you'll never find Krugman writing the same kind of systemic critique of capitalism that guys like Richard Wolff do.
So how do I reconcile my affection for Krugman with my affection for the Marxists who like to blast him from time to time? Well, I don't; such a reconciliation is beyond my intellectual abilities at this time. I mean, really, capitalism and Marxist analysis of capitalism just come from entirely different universes as far as the underlying philosophy is concerned. A reconciliation between the two points of view may very well not be possible. But Krugman makes some very good observations from within his view of how the world works, just as the Marxists I read do from within their world. I feel intellectually richer for trying to understand both points of view, even though they're both ultimately incompatible. Well, probably incompatible.
The good news, for me anyway, is that I don't have to reconcile these points of view. I mean, I'm not an economist, just a guy with a blog trying to understand the world and bring along anybody who wants to come. So I'm working both an inside and an outside game on economics, and I think that's just fine.
I will say this, though: when I'm recycling Krugman's views in facebook debates and elsewhere, I don't tend to get the same kind of shock and disbelief I get when I'm recycling Marxist views. I mean, asserting that labor is just as integral to any sort of business enterprise as capital and management, and therefore deserves a bigger slice of the pie, recently made a few of my friends think I have absolutely no idea what I'm talking about.
But we know better, don't we?
Posted by Ron at 12:47 AM