WAITING FOR ISAAC
Well, I'm much too focused on this hurricane coming to really think much about anything else, so I'm just going to post my facebook music for the evening, a cut from Miles Davis' album Porgy and Bess. It's an appropriate entry, given my current circumstances: it's taken from the part of the Gershwin opera when people are sheltering from a hurricane, and saying prayers for their own protection.
In the meantime, I'm going to be fucking around and watching/listening to storm coverage. Here's some good local news radio streaming what's going on in NOLA during the Hurricane.
Monday, August 27, 2012
WAITING FOR ISAAC
Posted by Ron at 10:15 PM
Isaac forecast to hit New Orleans as Category 2 hurricane
Wednesday morning, but models still uncertain
From the New Orleans Times-Picayune's online presence, nola.com:
Tropical Storm Isaac is on a path that will take it up the Mississippi River on Tuesday and Wednesday through the New Orleans area as a Category 2 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 100 mph, according to the 10 p.m. forecast of the National Hurricane Center. On this path, Isaac would arrive at the mouth of the Mississippi River on Tuesday at 7 p.m, and slowly move northwest, reaching a point on the north-central edge of Lake Pontchartrain at 7 p.m., with sustained winds of 80 mph.
Center forecasters warned, however, that there's still significant uncertainty in Isaac's ultimate landfall that will likely remain until the storm becomes better organized and the steering effects of a high pressure system building west from the Atlantic Ocean become more clear.
The forecasters said a number of computer models used to predict Isaac's path have diverged in identifying its landfall, and the present forecast again nudges it towards those predicting a stronger turn to the west. But further changes in the forecast could occur on Monday.
That's the thing. We don't even really know for sure that Isaac's headed here. And we don't even know whether an evacuation will be ordered. It's kind of hard to resign myself to one of two dismal fates, weathering a cat 2 hurricane or sitting in traffic for fifteen hours on I-10, when you don't know what's happening. It might not even come here at all; actually, that's my preferred outcome.
At the moment, my plans consist of battening down the hatches and making sure I've got non-perishable food and drinking water, batteries, cat food, and on and on. I know how to do a category 2 hurricane, and have experience under my belt with Hurricane Alicia back in the day, but I am worried a bit about my car, which sits in my apartment complex's parking lot, rather than in a nice enclosed garage.
I guess we'll see. I'll keep blogging until the power's out, which hopefully won't be for long.
Also, check this guy out; he's my main source for all things hurricane related.
Sunday, August 26, 2012
"ReederNation" is what my young buddy Matt calls his podcast when I am his guest. And tonight, I've got a sprawling two hour edition that we recorded last Tuesday. We start out talking about Todd Akin's "legitimate rape" assertions, and branch out from there. We even end up talking about the famous/infamous urban planner Robert Moses for twenty minutes somewhere in the second hour. Meanwhile, Matt gets progressively drunker as the show wears on.
Click here to listen.
Be sure to check out Matt's site the Warzone!
Posted by Ron at 3:27 AM
Friday, August 24, 2012
Professor Says Students Showed 'Religious Arrogance And Bigotry' In A Letter
From the Huffington Post, courtesy, once again, of a facebook friend:
Some students erroneously believe a university is just an extension of high school, where students are spoon-fed “soft” topics and dilemmas to confront, regurgitate the “right” answers on exams (right answers as deemed by the instructor or a textbook), and then move on to the next course.
Not only is this not the purpose of a university (although it may feel like it is in some of your other courses), it clearly is not the purpose of my upper-division course on Cross-Cultural Psychology. The purpose of a university, and my course in particular, is to struggle intellectually with some of life's most difficult topics that may not have one right answer, and try to come to some conclusion about what may be “the better answer” (It typically is not the case that all views are equally valid; some views are more defensible than others). Another purpose of a university, and my course in particular, is to engage in open discussion in order to critically examine beliefs, behaviors, and customs. Finally, another purpose of a university education is to help students who typically are not accustomed to thinking independently or applying a critical analysis to views or beliefs, to start learning how to do so. We are not in class to learn “facts” and simply regurgitate the facts in a mindless way to items on a test. Critical thinking is a skill that develops over time. Independent thinking does not occur overnight. Critical thinkers are open to having their cherished beliefs challenged, and must learn how to “defend” their views based on evidence or logic, rather than simply “pounding their chest” and merely proclaiming that their views are “valid.” One characteristic of the critical, independent thinker is being able to recognize fantasy versus reality; to recognize the difference between personal beliefs which are nothing more than personal beliefs, versus views that are grounded in evidence, or which have no evidence.
If you click through and read the letter in its entirety, you'll see why this professor felt the need to defend what is essentially the purpose of university education in the first place, but here's the short version: classroom discussion about various religions was disrupted, on two consecutive days, by what are apparently militant Christian students, people who are so into their beliefs that they couldn't even entertain the notion that others see the universe differently. This, in itself, is a bit shocking, but not terribly surprising when you look at the sorry state of civic discourse in the US these days.
Five or six decades ago, such learning was noncontroversial, and most students graduating from colleges and universities came out well equipped to critically analyze the world in which they were operating. And it showed. The United States was a thinking nation, one that was not afraid to examine itself and its trajectory through history. Our leaders were people who read literature, and weren't afraid that they would seem too elitist for doing so--indeed, Robert Kennedy changed his mind on capital punishment simply because he had been reading Camus. There was such a thing as the "public intellectual," academics who stayed out of the ivory tower and mingled with regular ordinary people, engaging them in intellectual conversation, delighted that work-a-day Joes were completely capable of keeping up with them. No, we weren't perfect, but everything was in place for movement toward perfection, or, at least, a better America.
But something happened between then and now. It's hard to say exactly what, but there are a few obvious factors. Universities, following Henry Ford's industrial model, became so insanely specialized that public intellectuals, who understood a little bit about a whole lot, all but disappeared from the national discourse. Meanwhile, the American public began to see university education as job training, an economic investment in an individual's future, rather than an end in itself, which meant the incremental downsizing of humanities programs, the fields dealing with exactly the topics mentioned in the excerpt above, such that liberal arts majors, who once comprised about half or more of all undergraduate enrollment, are now below ten percent. Around the same time, conservative think tanks began to pump out their own brand of "public intellectual" to fill the vacuum created by the disappearance of actual public intellectuals: needless to say, these kinds of right-wing demagogues represent the polar opposite of honest critical analysis. And television began to numb our minds and perceptions.
The net result is that America, as a nation, is now as mind-addled as if we had been hitting the bong, morning, noon, and night, for decades. Facts and fiction have merged. Shouting wins arguments. It is impolite to rock one's world by explaining with evidence and facts that their views are wrong. It may not be as extreme as Mike Judge's Idiocracy, but it's probably about as close as we can get in the real world.
And it seems like there's no way out.
Posted by Ron at 1:32 AM
Thursday, August 23, 2012
Texas official warns of Obama civil war
From the Houston Chronicle:
Judge Tom Head and Commissioner Mark Heinrich told the station this week that a 1.7 cent tax increase for the next fiscal year was necessary to prepare for many contingencies, including Obama's re-election. He also mentioned to the station that the county needs a pay increase is needed for the district attorney's office and more funds to pay for more sheriff's office deputies.
"He's going to try to hand over the sovereignty of the United States to the (United Nations), and what is going to happen when that happens?," Head asked the station during a Monday interview. "I'm thinking the worst. Civil unrest, civil disobedience, civil war maybe. And we're not just talking a few riots here and demonstrations, we're talking Lexington, Concord, take up arms and get rid of the guy."
Head also seems to fear the retaliation of such civil unrest.
"Now what's going to happen if we do that, if the public decides to do that? He's going to send in U.N. troops. I don't want 'em in Lubbock County. OK. So I'm going to stand in front of their armored personnel carrier and say 'you're not coming in here'.
It's not so disturbing, in itself, that an individual would believe batshit crazy conspiracy theory like this. After all, lots of Americans believe in Bigfoot, UFOs, crystal power, angels and demons surrounding us and constantly fighting over the fate of our souls, or that there is some sort of nefarious connection between vaccines and autism. We can handle nuts among the citizenry. No, what disturbs me is that we're starting to see so many nuts in positions of power. These are people who can actually implement policy based on their fantasies, and bring an official veneer of credibility to total absurdity.
I mean, just last weekend we had a sitting member of the US House asserting that women who are raped "legitimately," whatever that means, don't get pregnant. Throw in all the politicians and conservative leaders who believe that evolution is a lie and that the universe is five thousand years old, who believe that avoiding talk of contraception in sex ed programs will result in a lower teen pregnancy rate, who deny global warming, and who think that lower tax rates somehow create more tax revenue, and we have an entire sector of US leadership which is just straight-up out of touch with reality. Yes, leadership. Many of our leaders are insane.
Every now and then, I allow that shiver that's constantly threatening to go down my spine to do its thing. It's good to be scared from time to time. These nuts are for real, and I don't want to allow their seeming normality to make me forget just how dangerous they really are.
Posted by Ron at 12:16 AM
Wednesday, August 22, 2012
Mexico Achieves Universal Health Coverage
From Banderas News in Puerto Vallarta, courtesy of a facebook friend:
Despite periods of economic downturns and crisis, Mexico recently achieved a significant milestone – enrolling 52.6 million previously uninsured Mexicans in public medical insurance programs and thereby achieving universal health coverage in less than a decade.
This effort began in 2003 and occurred in a country of approximately 100 million people.
A paper published online August 16th in The Lancet by a group of public health officials - including Harvard School of Public Health Dean, Julio Frenk, Director of the Harvard Global Equity Initiative, Felicia Knaul, and current Minister of Health of Mexico Salomón Chertorivski - notes that while significant progress has been made, challenges remain as the country seeks to minimize disparities in healthcare quality and ensure that there is effective access to health care services in rural areas that are traditionally underserved.
I don't really have much of a comment because I think this news makes its own statement. But just in case you don't get it, here's the point: Mexico, supposedly the "backward" nation of Latin America, just did something that the United States seems to be utterly incapable of doing. Not even Obamacare attains coverage that could be called universal. But Mexico did exactly that, universal coverage.
Tell me once again how America is the greatest country in the world. Tell me so I can shove Mexico in your face. It's no wonder immigration is down: why the fuck would you come here when you can continue to live in the nation where you were born, a nation that is rapidly turning out to be more civilized than the so-called "land of opportunity"? Maybe we gringos should start thinking about going South. At least we can see a doctor there.
Posted by Ron at 2:28 AM
Monday, August 20, 2012
OUR LIBERAL MEDIA
Krugman Slams Newsweek's "Unethical" Obama-Bashing Cover
It goes on like that, in a piece so glaringly flagrant that even British gossip site the Daily Mail was disturbed by how far it reached. One thing Krugman doesn't note, however: Ferguson makes the stomach-turning assertion that only half of Americans actually pay taxes, whereas the other half, he implies, lives off welfare and other government benefits. Though Ferguson is employed by the most prestigious academic institution in the country, he is spewing unfounded, non-factual numbers that have a direct root in Tea Party hysteria and Fox News "reporting" when in reality, about all of the country's citizens pay about 40 percent in taxes across the board.
And here's the Newsweek cover:
There are lots of good reasons to criticize the Obama administration. Apparently, Newsweek hits on none of them, and opts instead for bullshit right-wing talking points. Krugman, according to the AlterNet essay, nails the blatantly false claims about Obamacare, but that Newsweek would run as its cover story what essentially amounts to Republican propaganda tells us everything we need to know about the "liberal media." That is to say, there is no "liberal media." I mean sure, there's The Nation, and Daily Kos, and ZNet, all that kind of thing that you have to search for awhile before you find it. But the notion that the mainstream media are somehow liberal is just laughable, given how it is so easily refuted--the corporate media, as Noam Chomsky and Edward Hermann deftly illustrated many years ago, consistently favor a corporate and establishment oriented point of view, almost never taking the "liberal" side, unless, of course, it also happens to be the corporate or establishment side.
Of course, I'm not saying that Obama is a liberal, far from it, but he is what passes for liberal in the mainstream these days. If the media really were liberal, they'd be sucking his dick, not running cover stories designed to get him booted from office. Such bias is rarely so obvious, but here you go.
Posted by Ron at 6:09 PM
PREGNANCY DOES NOT RESULT FROM "LEGITIMATE RAPE"
From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:
Senate candidate's comments on rape stir outcry
Missouri Congressman Todd Akin, a conservative Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, said in an interview broadcast Sunday that women's bodies can prevent pregnancies in the case of "a legitimate rape," adding that conception in such cases is rare.
Akin, a six-term congressman running against incumbent Democrat Sen. Claire McCaskill, was asked in an interview on St. Louis television station KTVI if he would support abortions for women who have been raped.
"It seems to me first of all from what I understand from doctors that's really rare," Akin said. "If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down," Akin said of a rape victim's chances of becoming pregnant.
Akin said in an emailed statement later Sunday that he "misspoke" during the interview, though the statement did not specify which points or comments.
Terry O'Neill, president of the National Organization for Women, on Sunday called Akin's remarks "flat-out astonishing."
"That kind of rhetoric re-traumatizes sexual assault victims. ... That kind of talk, I believe, is intended to shame women," she told AP Radio.
Oh god, what a freakin' mess. I don't even know where to start with this one, it's so all over the place and weird. Well, I can start here: I'm slightly sympathetic to the "even for rape and incest" crowd in that theirs seems to be the more consistent position--that is, they're "pro-life," and while rape and incest are horrible, falling victim to such heinous crimes is not a justification for what they believe to be murder. But like I said, I'm only slightly sympathetic, and only because I respect the logic. The anti-abortion movement, whether it is consistent or wishy-washy, is all about controlling women, and not at all about preserving life. And you totally see that in Akin's weird biology assertion.
There is no such thing as "legitimate rape." Rape is rape. Period. Either a person consents to sex or doesn't. There are no shades of grey here. But Akin attempts to redefine the meaning of rape vis a vis a woman's sexuality. Some women may claim to have been raped, but these claims are illegitimate because...what...she wanted it? She was wearing too short a skirt? She's a dirty fucking pagan whore? Clearly, the Missouri Congressman's construction of rape, as an idea, is embedded with a harsh Christian fundamentalist judgment: if you are raped, it's your fault for being a slut, unless, of course, it's my daughter, in which case the rape was "legitimate" because my daughter's not a slut.
But hey! No need to worry about your daughter, Congressman, because women don't get pregnant from "legitimate rape." I'm tempted to attribute such a Bronze Age understanding of biology to the so-called "abstinence based" sex ed programs polluting our public schools, but Akin's too old to have endured such bullshit--no, he probably got a decent understanding of the physical mechanics of sexuality, at least, from his time in school before the rise of the religious right. Actually, I have absolutely no explanation why a grown adult man in 2012 would embrace such utter nonsense. Maybe he gravitated to it because it fits his views about abortion so nicely, sort of picking and choosing flat-earth science to make his argument work, kind of. Or maybe he's an idiot. Hard to say.
But I do find his thinking to be typical, which is a big drag.
Posted by Ron at 12:05 AM
Sunday, August 19, 2012
A Report on the Banana Republic of America
From Hullabaloo courtesy of Eschaton:
This is a travesty for our democracy:
"Analysis of the resulting comprehensive News21 election fraud database turned up 10 cases of voter impersonation. With 146 million registered voters in the United States during that time, those 10 cases represent one out of about every 15 million prospective voters.
'Voter fraud at the polls is an insignificant aspect of American elections,' said elections expert David Schultz, professor of public policy at Hamline University School of Business in St. Paul, Minn.
'There is absolutely no evidence that (voter impersonation fraud) has affected the outcome of any election in the United States, at least any recent election in the United States,' Schultz said."
The obvious conclusion to take from this information, of course, is that there is no need for all these strict voter ID laws being passed by Republican dominated state legislatures throughout the land.
In spite of my continuing despair that our democracy has devolved into a near state of theater without much real consequence, we haven't gotten all the way there yet. That is to say, voters do continue to have some choice over how our nation will be run: the Republicans will take us at teeth-rattling full speed toward economic and cultural collapse; the Democrats will take us there hesitantly, in starts and fits, with a lot of kind words and apology. Personally, I prefer a soft-landing, which is why these voter ID laws matter.
The Republicans would have us believe that voter fraud, that is, people pretending to be other people so they can vote two or more times, thereby giving a false electoral count, is such a dire problem that we need strict identification laws to prevent it. Come to find out, however, that there is no problem with voter fraud--statistically speaking, it just doesn't exist. So these new laws accomplish nothing as far as their ostensible purpose goes. But they do guarantee that hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of voters will not get to vote. It just so happens that most of those among the bureaucratically disenfranchised are within demographics that traditionally vote for Democrats. And a lot of them are also people of color. So what we have here is a nakedly partisan attempt to suppress the vote for Democrats, with a vile and racist secondary impact of essentially re-imposing Jim Crow style marginalization of non-white communities.
I'm not sure how many of rank-and-file Republicans actually understand what's going on, but the elected GOP state representatives who are getting this crap passed are certainly aware of what they're doing: they're rigging the system to maintain power in spite of the collective will of the voters. It remains to be seen whether the racism is intentional, or whether people of color are just being targeted for their voting patterns. In the end, of course, intention doesn't matter. It's a racist result, and that makes it racist.
So the Republicans are literally showing contempt for democracy, and therefore America, while at the same time engaging in blatant racist oppression, something they insist only happened in the past. If you're not disgusted by this, you're not much of an American.
Friday, August 17, 2012
Thursday, August 16, 2012
The ugly presidential campaign
A Washington Post column from Dana Milbank:
The umbrage industry is working overtime this week.
Mitt Romney, the Republicans’ presidential standard-bearer, is so outraged by President Obama’s attacks that he called the president a hater: “Mr. President, take your campaign of division and anger and hate back to Chicago and let us get about rebuilding and reuniting America.”
On Wednesday afternoon, John McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee, re-tweeted an article by The Washington Post’s Dan Balz titled, “A most poisonous campaign.” McCain added his opinion: “I agree — it’s the worst I’ve ever seen.”
That’s the same conclusion that conservative commentator Brit Hume drew for his Fox News Channel viewers on Tuesday night. “This is about as ugly as I’ve seen it get,” he said.
Forgive me, but I’m not prepared to join this walk down Great Umbrage Street just yet. Yes, it’s ugly out there. But is this worse than four years ago, when Obama was accused by the GOP vice presidential nominee of “palling around with terrorists”? Or eight years ago, when Democratic nominee John Kerry was accused of falsifying his Vietnam War record?
What’s different this time is that the Democrats are employing the same harsh tactics that have been used against them for so long, with so much success. They have ceased their traditional response of assuming the fetal position when attacked, and Obama’s campaign is giving as good as it gets — and then some.
This is exactly what I was hitting on last week in my post about Harry Reid "hearing" from some guy that Romney hadn't paid any taxes at all for the last ten years. It's sleazy. It's fucked up. It's definitely unethical. But it's also how the Republicans have been so successful for so long in the post-Reagan era: lie, lie, and smear. And the Democrats have done nothing but bitch and moan about it for a generation now. Of course, nobody really gives a fuck, certainly not the corporate news media, who have always treated Republican lies as though they were just different opinions. So why worry about consequences for lying when there aren't any? At least, no bad consequences. Really, it's amazing that it's taken the Democrats so long to figure this out--you'd think that Swiftboating Kerry would have done the trick, but no.
And now the Democrats are starting to use the lie and smear tactic against their opponents, and seem to be succeeding with it. Of course, the Republicans are outraged, which is something at which they excel, but it's appearing that this dynamic works both ways: the GOP can whine and complain all they want, but the media doesn't seem to care about their objections, either; like Republican lies and smears, Democratic lies and smears are, in the MSM, nothing more than different opinions.
On the one hand, I'm kind of hating this because it represents yet another lurch downward in our continuing fall from grace. On the other hand, after Willie Horton, after the Arkansas Project, after White Water, after the impeachment, after the Iraq Invasion and all its accompanying patriotic blasts at any and all war critics, after the Swiftboating of Kerry, after all the racist anti-Obama hysteria, all the Kenyan anti-colonialist Muslim Nazi Communist shit, it's really difficult not to smile and clap a bit for the Democrats finally growing some balls.
Yes, we're all headed to Hell as a nation for this. But the Democrats, at least, won't be entering the fiery pits as big giant pussies.
Posted by Ron at 11:48 PM
Why 90 million Americans won't vote in November
From USA Today courtesy of Bill Moyer's facebook page:
Even in 2008, when turnout was the highest in any presidential election since 1960, almost 80 million eligible citizens didn't vote. Curtis Gans, director of the non-partisan Center for the Study of the American Electorate, predicts that number will rise significantly this year. He says turnout could ebb to levels similar to 2000, when only 54.2% of those eligible to vote cast a ballot. That was up a bit from 1996, which had the lowest turnout since 1924.
This year, perhaps 90 million Americans who could vote won't. "The long-term trend tends to be awful," Gans says. "There's a lot of lack of trust in our leaders, a lack of positive feelings about political institutions, a lack of quality education for large segments of the public, a lack of civic education, the fragmenting effects of waves of communications technology, the cynicism of the coverage of politics — I could go on with a long litany."
Before I started teaching, I used to think that people who "home school" their children are a bunch of crackpots. Actually, most of them are crackpots, coming, as they do, from the various fundamentalist sects. But after a few years in the field and the new understanding of schooling I eventually developed, I became sympathetic toward these people. Sure, they've come to their conclusions from a different perspective, but I agree with the basics: the schools are fucked up beyond all recognition; teaching at home can't possibly be worse, and is maybe even better.
Same thing with voting. Like most Americans, I had the civic duty thing drilled into me for years when I was coming up in the public schools. We are Americans; this is what we do. Or, if you don't vote, you have no right to complain. I mean, even though I've really come to the conclusion, myself, that voting, at least in presidential elections, is a pointless exercise, I still do it just because I feel naked if I don't.
But the corporatization of the Democratic Party means that effectively there is never a candidate who asserts the views and principles in which I believe. I mean, sure, the Republicans have become Nazi-Lite in the last couple of decades, which means they're pretty much anathema to me, but I'm always voting against them, rather than for the Democrats. And when Democrats receive my vote, it somehow gives them my blessing of legitimacy, which I don't really want them to have, seeing as how they've been slowly moving to the right over the years, just as the Republicans have.
I mean, really, the Democrats are now a lot like the Republicans of the 80s. So the choice for me is the psycho Republicans of 2012, or the sane, but evil, Republicans of 1988. Some choice. I am not at all excited about this election. I don't feel like I, as a citizen, am consequential at all as far as the nation's fate is concerned. And I feel like participating at all in the election gives the false impression that I approve of this sorry state of affairs.
These days, I don't blame anyone at all for not voting. It makes you feel slimy. Because it makes you slimy.
Posted by Ron at 12:27 AM
Wednesday, August 15, 2012
Doped-Up Nation: How America Became a Country of Addicts
Consider the following: Roughly one in ten Americans is currently an illicit drug user; nearly one quarter of American adults engage in binge drinking, many on a regular basis; and the majority of those with problem drug or alcohol use do not seek treatment for their problems.
Now, if we broaden the criteria that we use in thinking about addiction to include unhealthy coping mechanisms and other “ways-to-get-through-the-day”—we face staggering results. For one, most Americans have lost their ability to eat normally, with two-thirds of the nation’s adults meeting the definition of obese. As another example, approximately one out of every five American women is on an anti-depressant. I recently signed up with a new primary care physician. When she found out that I’m a psychologist, she asked me “Why is every kid in New York on Ritalin, and every adult taking Ambien?”
It’s an excellent question.
How is it that we’ve wrapped ourselves in the fuzzy dopamine blanket of substance misuse, prescription medication, compulsive eating, celebrity worship, compulsive shopping, internet addiction, video gaming, and compulsive sexual behavior?
As a society, we tend to think of the "drug problem" as something unto itself, and usually being only about illegal drugs. And we do, indeed, have a drug problem as far as that goes. But expand your understanding of the issue to include legally prescribed pharmaceuticals, to include other kinds of compulsive and destructive behaviors, and it becomes an extraordinarily huge problem, one affecting virtually everybody in society.
Now, add in consideration of what I was saying in yesterday's post about the economically enforced devolution of American society and the undeniable uptick in mass murders and we have what is perhaps the most important problem facing our nation today: capitalism and consumerism are slowly destroying our souls, and we're all behaving in various irrational ways in order to cope.
Of course, the situation causing such irrationality is irrational in itself. One wonders if there's any way out of this downward spiral. Probably not.
Posted by Ron at 1:18 AM
Tuesday, August 14, 2012
Mass Murders and the New Economy
And while it is relevant that Wade Page was unemployed and had recently lost his home, it must be noted that the economic pressures discussed above comprise only one part of the picture. The forces and pressures attending a sped-up, high-tech world of instantaneous communications, as well as the pressures accompanying an increasingly polluted ecosystem – one that is taxing, more and more, people’s immunological resistances – not to mention the pressures of never-ending wars, are stressing our collective psyche to its breaking point.
Of course, most people do not crack from these pressures; most react to the pressures of work, etc., by getting more and more depressed. Indeed, it is not just another coincidence that the little relief people find from these pressures – which shouldn’t be confused with support – is derived from pharmaceuticals. Nor is it a coincidence that anti-depressants are the most highly prescribed drugs in the country. Unsurprisingly, in other fully industrialized countries, where people enjoy between six and eight weeks of vacation annually as a matter of law, there is less stress, less depression, and less murder. In the U.S., by contrast, people are getting less and less rest. Consequently, the pressures increase. That these destructive forces and pressures are systematic, and are integral to the process of profit and wealth extraction and concentration, is not discussed by those who seek to explain these mass murders through appeals to chance, or to morality.
Of course, there's no way of knowing for sure, at least at the moment, what's behind this seeming rise in mass murders. I mean, I'm all for talking about sensible gun regulation, but guns, in themselves, don't inspire people to go on killing sprees. And it's also worth talking about Michael Moore's assertion in his documentary film Bowling for Columbine that embedded in the American cultural genetic structure is a "culture of fear" dating back to widespread continual terror over the prospect of Indian attack and slave rebellion. But I think this uptick in mass murder really is a recent phenomenon, not something that has been going on since before the American Revolution.
Obviously, I agree with the assertion in the essay excerpted above: we have all been forced to participate in a society that, in its valuing of capitalism and its attendant philosophy consumerism, above all other considerations, has dehumanized us to the point of deep despair and/or uncontrollable rage. We're like experimental rats in cages, poked and prodded, forced to perform nonsensical tasks for our cheese, slowly driven insane in our psychic and spiritual state of captivity and torture. American life in the twenty first century isn't living; it's existing. And such an existence becomes ever more difficult and demoralizing.
Actually, I'm surprised there aren't a whole hell of a lot more of these mass murders. They seem inevitable.
Posted by Ron at 1:18 AM
Monday, August 13, 2012
How Wealth Reduces Compassion
As riches grow, empathy for others seems to decline
From Scientific American courtesy of a facebook friend:
Piff and his colleagues suspect that the answer may have something to do with how wealth and abundance give us a sense of freedom and independence from others. The less we have to rely on others, the less we may care about their feelings. This leads us towards being more self-focused. Another reason has to do with our attitudes towards greed. Like Gordon Gekko, upper-class people may be more likely to endorse the idea that “greed is good.” Piff and his colleagues found that wealthier people are more likely to agree with statements that greed is justified, beneficial, and morally defensible. These attitudes ended up predicting participants’ likelihood of engaging in unethical behavior.
Given the growing income inequality in the United States, the relationship between wealth and compassion has important implications. Those who hold most of the power in this country, political and otherwise, tend to come from privileged backgrounds. If social class influences how much we care about others, then the most powerful among us may be the least likely to make decisions that help the needy and the poor. They may also be the most likely to engage in unethical behavior.
Years ago, I somehow found myself at a small dinner party on Christmas Eve at a fabulous house in Houston's richest neighborhood, River Oaks. While I sat at the table with eight or nine other people, all of them wealthy except for my then girlfriend, I listened to their discussion about the city's first black mayor, Lee Brown. Without being directly racist, it was understood by all the participants that electing a black man to the city's highest office was definitely something of a disaster. Just because Lee Brown is black. That is, the whole conversation was clearly racially charged, in a bad way, and you didn't have to be a linguist to pick up on the fact that these people believed blacks to be lazy, stupid, inferior, and out to milk the hard working wealthy for all they could take.
Meanwhile, four or five black domestic servants hovered around the table, refilling our drinks, serving us food, hearing every word uttered. The dinner party participants either didn't understand that their words were deeply offensive to the African-Americans in the room, or they just didn't give a shit. It was hard to tell. Hell, I was deeply offended, myself, but just kept my mouth shut--I was clearly in hostile territory. A little while later, the gathering's hostess told me that she didn't realize Elvis was joining them this evening. It took me a few seconds to realize that she was teasing me about my sideburns. There appeared to be some sort of profound disconnect between not only her and her "help," but also with me.
Here is a short passage from F. Scott Fitzgerald's short story "The Rich Boy" back in 1926:
Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me. They possess and enjoy early, and it does something to them, makes them soft where we are hard, and cynical where we are trustful, in a way that, unless you were born rich, it is very difficult to understand. They think, deep in their hearts, that they are better than we are because we had to discover the compensations and refuges of life for ourselves.I think the Gatsby writer understood intuitively what the Berkeley psychologists who conducted the study in the article excerpted above have managed to establish as scientific fact, wealth cripples the human soul.
I, for one, have never ever felt comfortable around the very rich. I mean, the upper middle class neighborhood in which I grew up had some rich people, for sure, but I'm not talking about them. I'm talking about the really rich. They've always seemed to be in a totally different universe from the one I inhabit. And I'm starting to think that this lack of compassion is what has made me uncomfortable.
At any rate, as the article observes, the ramifications of this are pretty obvious. The rich run everything, but, in a democracy, they're clearly the least qualified to do so. But they do. And we're suffering because of it. In short, fuck the rich. Collectively, they're a bunch of inhuman monsters.
Posted by Ron at 12:12 AM
Sunday, August 12, 2012
Picking Paul Ryan: Weakness in Romney’s boldness
From the Washington Post, liberal pundit EJ Dionne on Romney's pick for veep:
But Romney picked Ryan because he was under intense pressure from right-wing elements of the Republican Party to prove, yet again, that he is truly a conservative. Romney has been trying to prove this ever since he announced his candidacy. Because he has been lagging in the polls, the right felt free to pressure him some more. Now, the right will back the ticket with enthusiasm. This really is the go-for-broke choice that conservatives were looking for. But the cost is that Romney will be unable to make a new appeal to the political center. And by passing on Sen. Rob Portman, Romney gives up an opportunity to strengthen himself in Ohio, a state that he absolutely needs to win and where he has been running behind.
The outcome of this election is now hugely consequential. If the Romney-Ryan ticket wins, conservatives will claim a mandate for Ryan’s radical budget ideas. But if Obama wins, conservatives will no longer be able to argue that the public was given a tepid choice by a philosophically inconstant Romney. A rejection of Romney-Ryan would be a huge blow to the conservative agenda. It will settle the argument over the role of government that we have been having since Barack Obama took the oath of office. This election really and truly matters.
Well, okay. Dionne is both right and wrong here.
He's absolutely right in that choosing Ryan is anything but "bold," as the conservatives were swarming to assert all day Saturday. Paul Ryan is the Nazi who proposed ending Medicare by turning the guaranteed health insurance program for seniors into vouchers to be spent in the predatory private insurance market, that is, destroying the federal program that keeps the elderly healthy in the most cost efficient way possible, without sending them to the poorhouse in the bargain. Bad medicine, indeed, but it's sort of a dream deal for the psychotic right: end all things that make life better if you're not rich. This will very likely not go over well on Main Street, and you can be certain that the Obama campaign now has tons more ammo to use in its blistering assault on the Romney campaign. But shoring up the base is what Romney thinks he needs to do; obviously getting the right wing out to vote in November is now his biggest priority, well worth alienating civilized Americans. I guess we'll see how that works out for him.
But Dionne is absolutely wrong to assert that a Romney/Ryan loss in November "will settle the argument over the role of government." No way, no how, never. The conservatives will never be convinced that government can and should do good things. Consequently, the conservatives will never give up the fight. I mean, if the financial collapse of 2007, which instantly rendered inoperative numerous conservative assumptions about how the economy functions, didn't change any minds on the right, a double far right conservative defeat for the Oval Office will barely register a second glance among the faithful. Because that's what they are, the faithful. Popular will, facts, ignominious rejection by the electorate, absolute failure of conservative ideas in the real world, none of these things can budge opinions based on faith.
So when Romney loses, and I think with this veep choice he just hammered the last nails into his own coffin, Republicans will do what they did after Obama was elected in 2008, double down on their failed philosophy. Or, I guess, at this point, it would be tripling down, but you get my drift.
The psycho right will be with us for the foreseeable future. Only demographic shift and death from old age will end the conservative grip on America. I mean, the GOP's fall is definitely going to happen. But it'll be more like twenty years. Certainly not a few months. But it will be fun to watch as their ticket fails, yet again, due to mass hallucination and stupidity. That's the funnest show of all.
Friday, August 10, 2012
In Brawl Over Romney's Tax Returns, Harry Reid Gets Marquee Billing
From Vermont Public Radio:
Reid pushed the button again when he spoke to The Huffington Post last week:
"Saying he had 'no problem with somebody being really, really wealthy,' Reid sat up in his chair a bit before stirring the pot further. A month or so ago, he said, a person who had invested with Bain Capital called his office.
'Harry, he didn't pay any taxes for 10 years,' Reid recounted the person as saying."
Reid responded to the ensuing GOP cries of foul on the Senate floor last Thursday, saying: "The word's out that he hasn't paid any taxes for 10 years. Let him prove that he has paid taxes — because he hasn't."
That same afternoon Romney was on the radio show hosted by conservative Fox News personality Sean Hannity. When asked by Hannity if he had a response to Reid's accusation, Romney laughed, then replied: "It's time for Harry to put up or shut up. Harry's going to have to describe who it is he spoke with, because of course that's totally and completely wrong."
On the Sunday morning network TV talk shows, the topic was still hot. This time it was Romney's surrogates going on the attack against Reid. On ABC's This Week, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said he wouldn't respond to Reid, calling him "a dirty liar."
And with that, Priebus gave the storyline yet another boost.
This has all been interesting and amusing to me. Amusing because, after listening to countless Romney lies, yes lies, about Obama for weeks and weeks, it's downright hilarious to hear the howls of outrage coming from Governor Mormon's right-wing defenders over Reid's vaguely sourced comment about Utah Olympic Dude's taxes. Delicious irony.
But over the last couple of days, I've become far more interested than amused. At first, it was a bit discomfiting to hear Reid inject such hearsay into the public discourse on the issue. I mean, it's a cheap shot, a low blow: how does one respond to something that someone "heard" from somebody? But whatever, I thought. Probably won't do much harm one way or the other. But the longer this has been going on, with Reid's willingness to stick to his guns, it's just kept the tax return scandal in the daily news cycle. And everytime a Republican steps forward to defend Romney, he must also restate what the issue is for all to hear: Romney is accused by the Democratic Senate Majority Leader of paying no income taxes at all for ten years. So, whether Reid's actually got something on Mitt or not, this thing just keeps on keeping on, slowly seeping into the conventional wisdom, slowly, in the back of the public's mind, becoming "truth" whether it's true or not.
I mean, that's how the news media seem to function at the public discourse level, just a cacophony of words and images and phrases and ideas over the long haul without much specificity, but ultimately congealing into what everybody "knows." Remember Al Gore inventing the internet? He never actually claimed that, but weeks and weeks of Republicans on TV twisting his words turned it into the "truth." And the pundits picked up on it and it became even more "true." In short, conservatives have understood for a very long time how the mainstream media are received by voters, how the mainstream media embrace a sort of unthinking herd mentality among themselves. And conservatives have played the media like a fiddle, much to their success over the years.
Meanwhile, the Democrats offer arguments and evidence. But nobody ever gives a shit.
The reality is that, in the current media environment, truth is totally subordinated to assertions, and the stronger such assertions are, the more dominant they become. I think Harry Reid has figured this out, and is trying the tactic on for size. Don't get me wrong; I'm definitely uncomfortable with it--indeed, it really is pretty sleazy. But the Republicans have been wiping the floor with the Democrats on this since the Clinton era, and the news media have only become more willing to enable the assertion tactic as the years have gone by.
So, like it or not, this is the game board. And it may very well be that the Democrats have finally gotten around to reading the rule book. If that's the case, the political equation in this country could change dramatically over the next few years.
Posted by Ron at 12:36 AM
Thursday, August 09, 2012
War Criminals in Our Midst
What the State Department needs is an office that rounds up American war criminals.
They are in abundance and not hard to find. Indeed, recently 56 of them made themselves public by signing a letter to President Obama demanding that he send in the US Army to complete the destruction of Syria and its people that Washington has begun.
At the Nuremberg Trials of the defeated Germans after World War II, the US government established the principle that naked aggression–the American way in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Pakistan, and Yemen–is a war crime. Therefore, there is a very strong precedent for the State Department to round up those neoconservatives who are fomenting more war crimes.
But don’t expect it to happen. Today, war criminals run the State Department and the entire US Government. They are elected to the presidency, the House, and the Senate, and appointed to the federal courts as judges. American soldiers, such as Bradley Manning, who behave as the State Department expects German soldiers to have behaved, are not honored, but are thrown into dungeons and tortured while a court martial case is concocted against them.
So the point is, and it's become pretty clear to me since Obama adopted his drone-'em-all-and-let-god-sort-'em-out policy, that it's not just a few bad apples. It's not simply the twisted and fucked up Bush administration. It's the entire political establishment and culture. American war crimes are no longer to be considered as an aberration. War crimes are now official policy of the United States, and both political parties, the vast majority of federal elected officials, and the corporate news media, are all in on the act. Amazingly, we continue to hold other nations to the standard to which we once held ourselves. And, as the essay above achingly observes, when Americans of conscience do what the Court at Nuremberg expected German military personnel to do, we prosecute them as traitors, which, unsurprisingly, is exactly what the Nazis did with Germans of conscience.
Yeah yeah, I know. I'm not supposed to compare anybody to the Nazis because they killed six million Jews. On the other hand, how many Vietnamese did we kill, how many Native Americans, how many African-Americans under slavery? Oh yeah, right, we didn't send them to death camps, so it's okay. But you see how absurd all these caveats and conditionals become the deeper you dig. Point is, the US has committed countless war crimes, and the party isn't even halfway over. If it looks, smells, and tastes like dog shit, it is extraordinarily likely that it is dog shit. So yeah. We're acting like the fucking Nazis, and nobody in power, nobody with a voice loud enough to be heard, appears to give a flying fuck about it.
How the hell am I supposed to be proud of my country?
Posted by Ron at 1:46 AM
Wednesday, August 08, 2012
House cats kill more critters than thought
From USA Today courtesy of a facebook friend:
Wildlife advocates say it is a frightening level of feline foul play. Based on a U.S. house-cat population of 74 million, "cat predation is one of the reasons why one in three American birds species are in decline," says George Fenwick, president of American Bird Conservancy.
"The previous estimates were probably too conservative because they didn't include the animals that cats ate or left behind," University of Georgia researcher Kerrie Anne Loyd says.
The cats brought home just under a quarter of what they killed, ate 30% and left 49% to rot where they died.
Cats aren't just a danger to others, they're also a danger to themselves. The cats in the study were seen engaging in such risky behavior as crossing roadways (45%), eating and drinking things they found (25%), exploring storm drains (20%) and entering crawl spaces where they could become trapped (20%).
So, of course, my cats, Frankie and Sammy, who you've seen countless times with my Friday Cat Blogging posts, are utterly useless when it comes to pest control. They know how to get their food in this environment: scream at me and disrupt whatever activity in which I am engaged at the moment until I feed them. On the other hand, I don't really have any pest problems, anyway, so maybe they are good for something other than food oriented love.
But then, this study is about inside/outside cats, the felines who are only partially civilized, the kitties who keep a sort of wild man life on the down low. And they are apparently having an impact on the ecology, which is something of a drag to hear. I don't let my cats outside because, as I've said many times, the world is a death trap, which the study confirms, too, but felines love running around the outdoors. Actually, I've often felt bad about depriving them of this one thing that appears to make their lives worth living. I mean, not too bad, mind you. I don't want them to die or suffer injury when I can prevent it, but it is a cause of sometimes angst. But this news about the declining bird populations is something to ponder. I mean, really, they're saying domestic house cats might be part of the problem. Another reason to deprive them of the most joyous thing they could possibly experience.
At any rate, you should click through to watch the video, which includes footage from the cat-cams used in the study. The world really is a death trap.
Posted by Ron at 12:32 AM
Tuesday, August 07, 2012
Monday, August 06, 2012
NASA rover Curiosity lands on Mars after plummet
From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:
The arrival was an engineering tour de force, debuting never-before-tried acrobatics packed into "seven minutes of terror" as Curiosity sliced through the Martian atmosphere at 13,000 mph.
In a Hollywood-style finish, cables delicately lowered the rover to the ground at a snail-paced 2 mph.
The extraterrestrial feat injected a much-needed boost to NASA, which is debating whether it can afford another Mars landing this decade. At a budget-busting $2.5 billion, Curiosity is the priciest gamble yet, which scientists hope will pay off with a bonanza of discoveries.
Over the next two years, Curiosity will drive over to a mountain rising from the crater floor, poke into rocks and scoop up rust-tinted soil to see if the region ever had the right environment for microscopic organisms to thrive. It's the latest chapter in the long-running quest to find out whether primitive life arose early in the planet's history.
The voyage to Mars took more than eight months and spanned 352 million miles. The trickiest part of the journey? The landing. Because Curiosity weighs nearly a ton, engineers drummed up a new and more controlled way to set the rover down.
I've been blowing off NASA events for many years now, and I fully planned on blowing off this one, too. But I got home from work, logged onto facebook, and a buddy of mine had posted a link to a live stream of mission control for the Curiosity landing at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. So I watched for a few minutes, and the timing for all this was perfect. Not ten minutes or so into my viewing, I heard a voice say "Touchdown confirmed," followed by the traditional mission control applause that I hadn't really seen since I was a kid back in the mid 70s. Then the first image from Curiosity's cameras came online, just a shot of the rover's wheel and some Martian sand.
But it was cool. Very cool.
More mission control applause. Then I looked at my facebook newsfeed and realized that a lot of my friends were paying attention to this, too. Lots of congratulatory messages, celebratory messages. I got in on the act, myself, posting a status report: Back to Mars! I posted Holst's "Mars, Bringer of War." I clicked "like" on every friend's Mars post I encountered. For a few minutes, and even now while I write this, it's dawning on me that not only watching the live stream, but also sharing the moment online with many others, has lifted temporarily my cynicism about humanity.
We humans are great, when we want to be. We can accomplish amazing things. We can build and create at least as well as we can destroy and kill. And we can all be a part of the triumph because of our incredible computer and communications technology. This is the future I dreamed of when I was a boy watching Skylab missions, watching the Apollo/Soyuz docking.
We need a lot more of this shit. It might save us all.
Posted by Ron at 1:14 AM
Sunday, August 05, 2012
QUIS CUSTODIET IPSOS CUSTODES
Means "Who Polices the Police?"
From Crooks and Liars:
Arkansas Police Claim Man Shot Himself in Head Despite Handcuffs
A Mississippi mother is accusing police in Jonesboro, Arkansas of killing her son after he was found shot in the head with his hands cuffed behind his back in a squad car.
A police report obtained by KAIT indicated that 21-year-old Chavis Chacobie Carter had been a passenger in a pickup truck when Officer Ron Marsh found "some marijuana" and plastic baggies in his possession. Marsh also determined that Carter had been wanted on a warrant after he missed a court date for drug charges in DeSoto County, Mississippi.
Marsh then had Carter “exit the patrol unit, placed him into handcuffs, searched him a second time then placed him into the back seat of the patrol unit.”
Jonesboro Police Sergeant Lyle Waterworth told WREG that Carter had been "handcuffed behind his back and double locked, and searched."
At that point, Officer Keith Baggett believed a passing car ran over a piece of metal in the road because he heard "a loud thump with a metallic sound." Baggett said he then heard "several thumps" after Marsh released the two other suspects. Marsh motioned Baggett over to the patrol car and said the 21-year-old had shot himself.
More here, with video.
Gross incompetence or racist murder. Either way, it's just awful. I say "racist murder" for obvious reasons: yet another young black man dies while in police custody. But I can also see it going the other way, especially after experiencing the incompetence of Harris County Sheriff's Deputies many years ago: it is entirely possible that these Jonesboro cops simply missed the gun after two searches, and, while trying to get it out, Carter accidentally shot himself. Like I said, neither option A nor option B look good for these policemen. Personally, I'm preferring option B; I'm really weary of hearing about cops killing people for their racist jollies. But I suppose we'll know the truth soon enough. There is definitely an investigation happening right now, which, I hope, is an honest one.
Posted by Ron at 1:39 AM
Friday, August 03, 2012
Data Shows Certain Doom for the Modern Republican Party
A Daily Kos diarist did a pretty cool demographic analysis of Texas this week and discovered that the Lone Star State is going to be a purple swing state by 2024 and will have a Democratic lean by 2028 at the latest. You can play with the Electoral College calculator to see what this means. But, trust me, is spells certain doom for the current incarnation of the Republican Party. My interpretation of this information is that we can put an expiration date on the current madness we are witnessing. Like milk gone bad, the electorate will no longer consider drinking what the GOP is offering by sometime in the next decade.
I was talking about exactly this yesterday when I was musing on the Tea Party guy in Texas who got the GOP US Senate nomination: unless the Republican Party radically changes itself such that they become more appealing to Hispanics, Texas is fated to become a Democratic state. Sure, it's possible that Republicans can figure it out before then, but, I think, highly unlikely. The Republicans are currently being driven, to a large extent, by Tea Party activists, and the Tea Party absolutely loves to hate on people with darker-than-white skin who speak Spanish. So I just don't see a way out of this for the GOP.
Of course, as the above linked article observes, Texas is so big, and consequently has so many electoral votes, that once my home state becomes dominated by Democrats, it's over for the Republicans as a national party. That all important conclusion simply hasn't occurred to me until now. So I'm a bit awe struck at the moment: the Republicans are doomed to national irrelevancy, and the state where I was born will cause their downfall. I mean, kicking out the GOP is good for Texas in itself, what with its extraordinarily high population of uninsured, its high levels of employment in the shitty low-wage no-benefit service sector, and on and on. But Texas is going to kill the Republican Party.
Can I start being proud now?
Posted by Ron at 12:30 AM
Thursday, August 02, 2012
MY HOME STATE POISED TO SEND REACTIONARY NUT TO DC
Tea Party's Cruz Vanquishes GOP Pick for U.S. Senate in Texas Run-off
Texas is a big, important state in Right-Wing-World, and it's the land from whence Armey hails. No way was Perry going to be allowed to make some namby-pamby G.O.P. establishment pick for U.S. Senate, for God's sake -- not when Armey has laid claim to the U.S. Senate as his own little electoral playground, where he's hard at work, as FreedomWorks spokesperson Adam Brandon once told me, building "a power center around Jim DeMint," the senator from South Carolina. Since the Rand Paul coup in Kentucky, the DeMint cabal has essentially set the Republican agenda -- and, through strong-arm use of the arcane rules of the deliberative body, that of the entire Senate.
Just imagine what DeMint will do with even more like him in the Senate.
As Cruz showed strength going into the run-off, big-name Tea Party and religious-right favorites, including Sarah Palin and Rick Santorum, signed on to his campaign with endorsements.
On the one hand, I'm kind of bummed that the Republicans in Texas have moved even further to the right. On the other hand, this was just the primary, and it might be that the Lone Star State has been pushed far enough. Perhaps, if Cruz's Democratic opponent plays it mainstream, this Tea Party psycho will lose, ushering in the inevitable demographic shift that will move Texas from red to purple, a true swing state, chock full of a new majority-minority of Mexican-Americans who fully understand that the GOP only wants them to work the fields and make their beds. Or maybe not. I mean, this shift is definitely going to happen, but we just don't yet know when.
But this I do know: the conservatives, riding self-righteous indignation and anger, have successfully pulled the US political establishment very far to the right in recent decades, so far, in fact, that they have no one left as targets for their anger and bile. Except, of course, themselves. And for the moment, that's all very satisfying.
Posted by Ron at 12:59 AM
Wednesday, August 01, 2012
FAREWELL GORE VIDAL
From USA Today:
Gore Vidal, celebrated author, playwright, dies
Along with such contemporaries as Norman Mailer and Truman Capote, Vidal was among the last generation of literary writers who were also genuine celebrities — fixtures on talk shows and in gossip columns, personalities of such size and appeal that even those who hadn't read their books knew who they were.
But he was widely admired as an independent thinker — in the tradition of Mark Twain and H.L. Mencken — about literature, culture, politics and, as he liked to call it, "the birds and the bees." He picked apart politicians, living and dead; mocked religion and prudery; opposed wars from Vietnam to Iraq and insulted his peers like no other, once observing that the three saddest words in the English language were "Joyce Carol Oates." (The happiest words: "I told you so").
He adored the wisdom of Montaigne, the imagination of Calvino, the erudition and insight of Henry James and Edith Wharton. He detested Thomas Pynchon, John Barth and other authors of "teachers' novels." He once likened Mailer's views on women to those of Charles Manson's. (From this the head-butting incident ensued, backstage at "The Dick Cavett Show.") He derided Buckley, on television, as a "crypto Nazi." He called The New York Times the "Typhoid Mary of American journalism," labeled Ronald Reagan "The Acting President" and identified Reagan's wife, Nancy, as a social climber "born with a silver ladder in her hand."
Growing up in a conservative household, the very epitome of right-wing class, style, and intellectualism was, to me, William F. Buckley. But then, as an adult, and very unexpectedly, I moved to the left. What would I do without my smart, cool, man-of-letters hero? I discovered Gore Vidal at some point in the 90s, and he filled that role quite nicely. I've never read any of his literary works, only his cultural and political essays, only a few interviews with him. But that was enough. The man was thorough, and eloquent, and devastating to any and all conservative targets and challengers. He really did have a handle on what it means to be an American in the era in which we currently live.
Here he is flapping the almost always unflappable Buckley during coverage of the 1968 Democratic National Convention:
I'm actually pretty saddened by Vidal's passing. He ended up being a rarity for me, a hero. Farewell Gore Vidal.
Posted by Ron at 12:04 AM