FRIDAY CAT BLOGGING
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"It's a lonely life out here on the fringe."
Ah, facebook, I love you!
My current fb profile pic shows me wearing my Che Guevara t-shirt, which nobody ever says anything about at all. Until today. An old friend of mine from high school who went on to do really well, got into Harvard Law School with Obama back in the day, took issue, as a liberal, with the shirt via private messaging. We went back and forth a bit, with me joking around because I was getting ready for work and didn't want to get too involved. I told him it was mostly for annoying people and that I don't really support violent communist revolutionaries.
But his response to that got me serious: he told me it's easier to tear things down than to provide solutions. So I gave him an earful:
But for the moment, my take is that there are already lots of reasonable solutions out there, but most of them are dead on arrival when it comes to implementation in that the political apparatus is so dominated by wealthy interests. So single payer health care becomes this corporate chewing gum and baling wire monstrosity called the ACA, and on and on. Unless by solutions you mean cracking the political code.I haven't heard back from him yet, but I'm hoping he takes up the challenge. He's a good guy, but I don't think he had any idea where I'm coming from politically, and came off as sort of lecturing me. But now I've opened it up somewhat, laying out some foundational ideas for my own ideology and political strategy, and I'm very curious to see his take on some real argumentation from a point of view with which I imagine he is unfamiliar. I mean, Real Art readers are familiar because I go on and on about this shit, but if he's anything like my older brother, also a lawyer, he's probably been too busy over the years to really dig deeply into left-wing political philosophy, or any other philosophy for that matter.
It was weird, actually, with a conservative friend commenting on a Richard Wolff lecture I posted the other day--Wolff is a Marxist economist. My friend rejected a lot of it and then turned around and suggested a sort of hybrid system. I think most Americans would be pretty keen on Northern European style social democracy if they understood what it was about, and this conservative friend serves as a nice example of that.
Another thought. I've personally given up to some extent trying to persuade anybody of anything. Democrats don't listen because they're all about winning, and they continue to creep ever rightward thinking it's the only way to win--ah, the shit I've taken for voting for Nader! Republicans don't listen because they're in a completely different universe. So I've taken to attempting to get people to think, to reconsider what they understand to be normal or the way things ought to be. I mean, this is the situation today: conservatives have effectively won as far as the cultural narrative about economics and government is concerned. Indeed, the Democrats are in fact conservative now when you exclude the so-called social issues--signature policy programs like ACA or cap-and-trade were originally hatched in conservative think tanks. So how do you fight an omnipresent narrative? I don't know. But like I said, my strategy is to try to put some chinks in that narrative, to try to get it to not make so much sense. I mean, because lots of it doesn't make sense.
This brings me back to Che. While, of course, I'm not a communist, the very notion that someone would brandish such a Cold War icon in this day and age makes no sense. So what's going on? My assumption is that some folks would just think I'm stupid, but that's fine. It's a visible symbol that at least one person disagrees with all this "end of history" claptrap. It's a symbol that something's not quite adding up. It makes people pause, if only for a moment, in order to ask "what's up with this?" Just as you have done.
Of course, like I said, most people don't care one way or the other. But that's what the left has left at this point, attempting to jar people's thought process in a sort of Brechtian way. Because there's not really anything else to do. Labor is a joke. The Democrats effectively purged any association it once had with the far left and is now bereft of its own ideas, a handicap the right does not suffer.
It's a lonely life out here on the fringe.
Posted by Ron at 11:29 PM
PREPPING FOR YET ANOTHER AUDITION TONIGHT...
...so once again no post. The upside is that I've finally got an agent who seems interested in sending me out on auditions. I'll be back tomorrow night.
Think "break a leg" for me.
Posted by Ron at 12:25 AM
The Millennial Generation: Our Liberal Future
From New York Magazine courtesy of BuzzFlash:
How doomed are conservatives? Pretty doomed, if you look carefully at the Pew Research Survey’s close analysis of the youth vote in the 2012 elections. The Republicans’ long-term dilemma has generally been framed in racial terms, but it’s mainly a generational one. The youngest generation of voters contains a much smaller proportion of white voters than previous generations, and those whites in that generation vote Republican by a much smaller margin than their elders. What’s more, younger voters supported President Obama during the last two election cycles for reasons that seem to go beyond the usual reasons — social issues like gay marriage and feminism, immigration policy, or Obama’s personal appeal — and suggest a deeper attachment to liberalism. The proclivities of younger voters may actually portend a full-scale sea change in American politics.
I tentatively agree with this glimpse into the future, but, of course, I've got my own take.
First, throw out the so-called social issues because nobody except for the weird right-wing xenophobic, racist, misogynistic, homophobic fringe, which is decreasing in numbers year after year, really cares about them anymore. That leaves us essentially with economics and foreign policy. At the moment, without the global communist menace from the Cold War years, and now that we're not nearly so frightened of guys in turbans coming to Islamisize us while we sleep in our beds, nobody really knows anything about foreign policy, so it's by and large run of, by, and for the corporations, which most Americans don't realize or understand at all. So throw out foreign policy, too.
That leaves us with economics. And the "liberal" Democrats are, these days, just about where the Republicans were in 1989 or so on economics, not psychotic extreme far right in the way we understand the term "conservative" today, but pretty conservative nonetheless. So I'm not about to endorse a view that says an uptick in youngsters supporting the Democratic Party means that the nation is headed back toward the left.
But these are significant numbers.
Really, what I think this shows is that the Republicans have ridden their ideology into political irrelevance, rather than indicating some sort of major nationwide ideological shift on the horizon. That is, the GOP is now a cartoon parody of what a functional conservative party is in reality. But on their lemming-like path in that direction over the years, they managed to pull the entire American ideological spectrum with them. The Democrats filled the vacuum left behind by the Republicans, and, presto, the only functional conservative party left on the block, really, the only functional party left at all, is the Democrats. No surprise that people are flocking to them. There is no real voice for the left in the US anymore, so the only game in town is the Donkey Party if you're serious about your politics. And I think that's what young voters understand much better than their set-in-their-ways elders.
Sure, we call them "liberal," but that just doesn't make it so. For now, however, I'll take it. More Republicans would definitely be very bad news, indeed.
Posted by Ron at 2:58 AM
MORALITY AND RELIGION
WAS MOTHER TERESA REALLY A BIG BITCH?
I got a really thought provoking comment on yesterday's Life of Brian post, which I adapted for facebook:
Chris OK, I started watching anyway, and I have a couple responses to Muggeridge's first points:Like I said, thought provoking. It got my gears turning:
"Iif you were to make a list of all the greatest works of art in all the fields, ...you would find this scene of the incarnation, ...has played the greatest part."
It's kind of silly to presume that had we not had Jesus, we would not have had these works of art. We may not have had these *specific* works of art, but without a doubt we would still have great works of art. The subject matter is not what moved the progress of artistic techniques.
He also says that Mother Teresa said herself that social workers help fellow men for an ideal, and she does so for Jesus, and if Jesus was gone, or discredited, then her work is gone.
Am I the only one who lost respect for Mother Teresa with that statement? I have MUCH more respect for people who help others just because it's the right thing to do than people who only do so because JESUS said it's the right thing to do.
Ron Christopher Hitchens made a related criticism of Mother Teresa when she died, which, of course, pissed off people around the world.Here's the original Hitchens essay that provoked calls for his head. And here's some info about Hitchens, who sadly ended up being a right-wing tool in the "War on Terror," but no one can doubt that when he was on, he was definitely on.
Here's the long and short. Teresa became famous and influential but continued to do the same kind of work with the poor she had been doing for decades. She could have used her influence to actually make a difference in the lives of the people to whom she gave only temporary and limited comfort, if even that. That is, it really was within her ability to affect the circumstances that make people poor, at the UN, with various governments, with corporations, with NGOs. It wasn't a sure thing, of course, but she didn't even try. She just continued to change the dirty bandage even though she had a real shot at healing the wound.
Hitchens called it glorification of poverty, rather than actually helping the poor, essentially using the poor to shine her own pious star. Actually, given her coziness with wealthy donors, Hitchens called her a complete fraud.
But yeah, you make a really good point about Christianity and morality. I, for one, have some real problems with the notion I was taught as a Southern Baptist that only accepting Jesus as savior makes one want to do good things: I have known numerous "saved" people who are total assholes, who embrace ideas and ideology that would make Jesus vomit for days were he still alive. By the same token, I've also known "saved" people who are truly good souls, but I've got a strong sense they would be like that whether they were believers or not. Clearly, morality comes from within, not from some supernatural force that possesses us and alters our desires.
Posted by Ron at 10:40 PM
PYTHONS CLEESE AND PALIN DEFEND LIFE OF BRIAN ON 1979 BBC TALK SHOW
This is both fun and educational. Fun because parts of the hour long program are extraordinarily funny, as you might expect. But it's also educational in that this is a really good discussion, the kind of thing we just don't get to see much on television these days here in the States.
One of the most interesting aspects of this debate is how congenial everybody involved is. I mean, they're talking about some pretty heavy stuff, blasphemy, free speech, Christianity's historic failures, how non-believers should or shouldn't show respect to a religion with which they disagree, and on and on, the kind of stuff that often results in shout-fests in 21st century America. Indeed, the participants are quite passionate in their rhetoric at points, clearly doing some very serious business. But moments later, they're smiling warmly at one another and cracking jokes, everyone showing respect for each other. This is a lesson on how to discuss extreme differences in a civilized society.
I would like to say that the Pythons won the debate hands down, but I just can't. At several moments their opponents are just wiping the floor with them, which isn't so surprising, I suppose, because the anti Life of Brian participants are professionals, a Church of England bishop, and an outspoken Christian veteran broadcaster. Cleese and Palin do hold their own overall, though, which is definitely worth noting, given that the two are actors and comedy writers, rather than polemicists. But clearly, they're pretty smart guys. I mean, after all, Palin went to Oxford and Cleese went to Cambridge. So no surprise there.
Having said that, though, I was frustrated by a point I wish they'd made, but didn't. The influence of the Bible and Jesus Christ on Western civilization is so profound and long lasting that not a single Westerner can claim that Christianity has played no role in their intellectual development or understanding of reality. In that sense, Jesus belongs to everybody in the West, as a cultural and philosophical concept, whether one is a believer or not. Consequently, asserting that Jesus is beyond criticism, or unfavorable artistic representation, or satire, or lampooning, makes plain a severe misunderstanding of the role that Christ plays in Western democratic nations. That is, Jesus, like all cultural concepts, must be discussed vigorously, in every way possible. Or we're just not doing democracy correctly.
Ah well. It's still a good debate. Check it out:
Posted by Ron at 2:54 AM
Posted by Ron at 2:25 AM
7 Anti-Materialist Quotes From Christ
From the Huffington Post:
Black Friday has now officially invaded Thanksgiving and pretty soon it will just be Black Thanksgiving -- a holiday when Americans will give thanks for bargin prices.
Seeking wisdom to staunch the "shop till you drop" stampede, HuffPost Religion offers these quotes from Jesus and the New Testament in hopes that they might remind us of the importance of spiritual gifts and communal well being.
From the earliest days of this blog, going all the way back to 2002, I've pushed the idea that Jesus would not have approved of our capitalist, consumerist, materialist way of life. I mean, you know, I never really felt like I had to prove such a notion. Because it's true. Just read your Bible. Strangely, many in the churches who actually worship Jesus, rather than simply looking to him for good philosophy as I do, don't seem to understand the contradiction between their careers, lifestyles, and politics, and the person they believe to be the son of God. Actually, I guess, it's not that strange; mindless lip-service is something that goes back to the Nicene Creed, if not earlier.
It's just that it seems so very widespread in this era.
Anyway, the HuffPo link takes you to one of those clever slide show thingies with which I always lose patience. So I copied and pasted it all together into a single list, which I'm posting below. All the verses are from the New International Version, for anybody who cares about that sort of thing.
Luke 12 16-21Just remember these verses when you're out shopping on Friday. Or, better yet, don't shop at all.
Then he told them a parable: ‘The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, “What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?” Then he said, “I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich towards God.’
1 Timothy 6:6-10
Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.
A certain ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honor your father and mother.’” He replied, “I have kept all these since my youth.” When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “There is still one thing lacking. Sell all that you own and distribute the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”
Matthew 6 19-21
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Come now, you rich people, weep and wail for the miseries that are coming to you. Your riches have rotted, and your clothes are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have rusted, and their rust will be evidence against you, and it will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure for the last days. Listen! The wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.
Now the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things which he possessed was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles feet; and distribution was made to each as any had need.
"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.
Posted by Ron at 11:57 PM
Here, have some intellectual property rights violating fun:
Posted by Ron at 1:25 AM
The Fall of My Friend Dinesh
Poor Dinesh D’Souza. He was hoisted on his own “petar,” Shakespeare’s little joke in Hamlet, substituting the old word for flatulence in place of petard, the spear. There he was on Rick Scarborough’s windy conference call pillorying President Obama for “attacking the traditional values agenda.” It was the typical stuff: Gay Marriage and Abortion are bad, Obama like them, so ergo “Obama doesn’t like traditional Christianity because he identifies it with colonialism.” This is all material that appears in his soporiferous movie, 2016: Obama’s America. It is not new. It is a cliché.
Then, from World Magazine, the Christian publication that tries to be “salt not sugar,” came a story on October 16 that D’Souza arrived at a conference in Spartanburg, South Carolina in late September, and checked into a Comfort Suites motel with his partner, Denise Odie Joseph II, a right-wing blogger. Joseph, it turns out, is not D’Souza’s wife, and nor could she be his fiancé. Not only is D’Souza married to someone else (although he says they are separated), but that Joseph herself has only recently been married. In any other planet, this would be a non-story: two consenting adults should be allowed to do what they like. But the world of conservative Christianity is not that planet.
Like the writer of the essay linked above, I don't give a rat's ass who D'Souza is sleeping with. But I must admit being extraordinarily pleased with his downfall. He's the worst kind of conservative, or, rather, the kind of conservative who gets under my skin the most, the pseudo-intellectual that I'm supposed to take seriously because he's an "intellectual."
This is the guy who came up with what many conservatives consider to be the Rosetta Stone for understanding President Obama's deepest and most personal motivations, that he is, above all else, powerfully influenced by his father's socialist "anti-colonialist" philosophical views. Never mind that this is completely unsupported with actual facts: to me, as an actual socialist in the Bernie Sanders tradition, this is just plain offensive. Obama is a neoliberal, a corporatist who is just about as far away from socialism, and the mid twentieth century developing world's sense of "anti-colonialism," as one can get without moving into bizarre xenophobic right-wing psychopath territory.
In addition to offending actual socialists around the world, D'Souza's thesis insults pretty much everybody's intelligence, too. I mean, really, Obama rolls like Che Guevara? Just because he idolizes his departed father with whom he had almost no contact at all? This is like saying I support a return of the Confederacy because my father supported George Wallace for president back in 1968. Needless to say, I do not support a return of the Confederacy, nor do I even look to my father these days for political philosophy.
So yeah, I'm dancing on D'Souza's political grave. He's a piece of shit scum bag who deserved to go down in flames. The only bad aspect of this is that he might make a comeback someday, given the nuttiness of contemporary conservatism. All he has to do is beg forgiveness and talk about Jesus; it's been done before by his ilk countless times.
Posted by Ron at 3:00 AM
5 Ways America Enables Israel's Atrocities
Israel’s assault on the besieged Gaza Strip has entered its sixth day. At least 58 civilians have killed, and the toll is likely to rise. Hundreds of Palestinians, the majority of them civilians, have been injured as well.
And if you’re an American, it’s your money that is being used to pay for these atrocities. As Glenn Greenwald wrote in The Guardian, “Israeli aggression is possible only because of direct, affirmative, unstinting US diplomatic, financial and military support for Israel and everything it does.”
So it’s no surprise that those outraged at the latest Israeli assault on Gaza would also blame the U.S.
Like most Americans, I like Israel. Quite a bit, in fact. For starters, they're just f'ing cool. I mean, wiping out the Egyptian Air Force in only four hours during the Six Day War alone gets my respect. As does the famous raid on Entebbe. As does the arrest and trial of Nazi war criminal Adolph Eichmann. But it's not just that they're badass warriors. The United States and Israel have a lot of culture in common. And then there are all those fabulous Bible stories that take place in what is now modern day Israel.
But that doesn't mean I support everything they do. Case in point: their treatment of the Palestinian people.
If you rely on US media coverage alone for your understanding of the Palestinian issue, then you can only conclude that that the people living in the occupied territories are all crazy, filled with religious hate, filled with the desire to wipe the nation of Israel off the map forever. And, indeed, there are certainly some Palestinians who feel this way. The reality, however, is much more complicated.
Israel occupied the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in 1967. The problem was, however, that once occupied, Israel had absolutely no idea what to do about the Palestinians living there. It is a recognized war crime to expel a population from its homeland, so that option was dead on arrival. The Palestinians didn't want to be controlled at all by Israel, so cooperation with their occupiers was a non-starter. But Israel, fearing for its existence, and rightfully so at that point in history, didn't believe withdrawal was in its best interests. So they stayed, without a plan for ever resolving the situation.
And that made the occupied territories into ghettos. Indeed, ghettoization became the de facto policy of Israel toward Palestine. Israeli war hero and leader Moshe Dayan articulated the stance: "We don't have a solution, and you will continue living like dogs, and whoever wants will go, and we will see how this procedure will work out." But there was nowhere for the Palestinians to go. Other Arab nations already had their fill of refugees and wouldn't take anymore. The United States certainly wouldn't take them in. So the Palestinians continued to live "like dogs."
And this was and is a damned shame. After the Camp David peace treaty between Egypt and Israel in the late 1970s, there was no longer an existential threat to Israel. All their enemies were either defeated or had agreed to peace. While something of a nuisance from time to time, with a few terrorist attacks here and there, Palestine no longer represented the threat it once seemed to Israel. But the Palestinians continued to live "like dogs," with no constructive solution on the horizon especially because Israel's greatest ally, the United States, continually blessed the oppressive ghetto situation.
And that's essentially where we're at today. Whatever started the conflict, it now perpetuates itself. I don't know about you, but if my people were continually held under the specter of martial law by an invasive force, if I had been born into that situation, and if it appeared that it would never end, I would probably take up arms against the oppressor myself. That is, this is no longer about Israel's existence: it's about a locked-in occupation that the major players involved don't want to end.
It is to our national shame that we Americans don't do everything we can to stop this intolerable situation. It is to our further shame that we Americans actually enable the oppression with billions of dollars in foreign aid earmarked for military spending, and by providing cover again and again at the UN. We're not doing the right thing.
Posted by Ron at 2:27 AM
The Twinkie Manifesto
But the ’50s — the Twinkie Era — do offer lessons that remain relevant in the 21st century. Above all, the success of the postwar American economy demonstrates that, contrary to today’s conservative orthodoxy, you can have prosperity without demeaning workers and coddling the rich.
Strange to say, however, the oppressed executives Fortune portrayed in 1955 didn’t go Galt and deprive the nation of their talents. On the contrary, if Fortune is to be believed, they were working harder than ever. And the high-tax, strong-union decades after World War II were in fact marked by spectacular, widely shared economic growth: nothing before or since has matched the doubling of median family income between 1947 and 1973.
Okay, yeah, I posted on exactly this topic, the liquidation of Hostess, just last night. But I was simply making the point that it wasn't organized labor that caused the end of the confectionery corporation, but rather Wall Street assholes who would just as soon dine on a company's corpse as it would turn that company around. Krugman, however, places the whole incident into the proper historical and economic context.
That is, this whole multi-decade shift we've undergone, from a society that allows the people on the ground who create America's prosperity to share its gains with the captains of industry, to a society that ever funnels that wealth toward the top, is simply not how things have to be. It's not destiny. It's not good for the economy, especially when you consider that, under the current arrangement, "the economy" means the rich, and only the rich. Instead, it creates a shitty society, where the vast majority live in constant financial insecurity, while the wealthy live opulently.
As Krugman says, "economic justice and economic growth aren’t incompatible." And, I would add, a society without economic justice isn't much of a society at all.
Posted by Ron at 2:20 AM
'Hostess Brands is a microcosm of what’s wrong with America'
From Daily Kos:
These union members had faced a slow bleed for years. The only question for them was whether to accept an accelerated bleed and hope it would stop in a few years—but hope that in the knowledge that that was not a priority or even necessarily a desirable outcome to Hostess' private equity owners—or to fight for what they earned. We're hearing, and can expect to keep hearing, a lot about how it's so unreasonable of union members to expect to get the pay and benefits they negotiated and worked for, the pensions they've planned their retirements around. Because this is coming after a generation-long war on pensions and unions and middle-class wages. As AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said in a statement, "What’s happening with Hostess Brands is a microcosm of what’s wrong with America, as Bain-style Wall Street vultures make themselves rich by making America poor."
Greedy unions cause a bedrock American company to go out of business? Not even close.
It strikes me as great luck that Romney's Bain Capital became a focus in the recent presidential election. We all got a lesson in how these venture, or, if you prefer, "vulture," capital firms function. That is, Hostess wasn't owned by mom and pop: rather, it had been bought by Wall Street investors who, as usual, were treating the company as an ATM for the purpose of lining their own pockets. To them, it doesn't matter if they turn the company around and make it profitable or if they have to liquidate it and feast on the carcass. As long as they make a good return on their investment, all is well. Employee pay, health care, and retirement don't matter. Jobs don't matter. The overall economic health of the nation doesn't matter.
I mean, seriously, these guys will buy a company, take out massive loans in that company's name, pocket the cash, and leave their new purchase holding the debt. And that's just one strategy for bleeding their victims. Another is to squeeze the workforce, demanding concession after concession, taking back retirement money that has already been earned, turning good jobs into McJobs. Again, profitability just doesn't matter: if the vulture capitalist can get a return on his investment with a company that ends up being solvent, then fine, and if not, as long as there is a return, then that's fine, too. That is, as far as I can tell, Hostess didn't have to tell its workers to go to hell in order to survive. This happened just to make some fat cats rich.
Blaming it all on the unions is just icing on the cake. Profit and a propaganda triumph. Makes me sick to my stomach.
Posted by Ron at 12:58 AM
Top Georgia GOP Lawmakers Host Briefing on Secret Obama Mind-Control Plot
From Mother Jones courtesy of AlterNet:
President Obama is using a Cold War-era mind-control technique known as "Delphi" to coerce Americans into accepting his plan for a United Nations-run communist dictatorship in which suburbanites will be forcibly relocated to cities. That's according to a four-hour briefing delivered to Republican state senators at the Georgia state Capitol last month.
On October 11, at a closed-door meeting of the Republican caucus convened by the body's majority leader, Chip Rogers, a tea party activist told Republican lawmakers that Obama was mounting this most diabolical conspiracy. The event—captured on tape by a member of the Athens-based watchdog Better Georgia (who was removed from the room after 52 minutes)—had been billed as an information session on Agenda 21, a nonbinding UN agreement that commits member nations to promote sustainable development. In the eyes of conservative activists, Agenda 21 is a nefarious plot that includes forcibly relocating non-urban-dwellers and prescribing mandatory contraception as a means of curbing population growth. The invitation to the Georgia state Senate event noted the presentation would explain: "How pleasant sounding names are fostering a Socialist plan to change the way we live, eat, learn, and communicate to 'save the earth.'"
Okay, this is my third post this week about the ongoing right-wing freakout over Obama's reelection. No, I'm not getting obsessed with this. At least, I don't think so. But this is all definitely worth noting: if you didn't think the inmates are running the asylum called "conservatism," then, at this point, you'll need to explain why. Because this shit's just too rich.
I mean, really. UN takeovers, mind control, communist dictatorships. It's the 90s black helicopter stuff on crack and steroids. Except, of course, that back in the 90s these ideas were, to some extent, considered to be on the far fringe of the right wing, embraced by paramilitary "patriots" running around out in the country wearing fatigues. In contrast, this event in the article linked above took place in the fucking Georgia state legislature, with the entire Republican caucus in attendance. It doesn't get much more mainstream than that.
If you continue to believe that the GOP is a sane organization, this ought to remove any doubt in your mind. If it doesn't, you're probably one of the crazies. Seriously, this shit could have come straight off of AM radio's Coast to Coast program. Absolute tinfoil hat kookiness. That's the Republican Party.
Posted by Ron at 3:31 AM
The 6 Most Bizarre Freakouts Over Obama’s Re-Election
From Talking Points Memo courtesy of BuzzFlash:
The re-election of President Obama last week was just too much for some conservatives to handle. Although the doomsday pronouncements of the past four years have yet to materialize, some Americans couldn’t help themselves from freaking out over the news that the president will be here for one more term.
TPM has compiled the six most bizarre reactions to Obama’s victory.
And this is quite a fun list, including the spiteful revenge firings I've already blogged about, bizarre investment moves by the wealthy, racist student riots, and more. Right-wing nuttery continues to be alive and well.
Indeed, I've got a sense that it's going to be around for the foreseeable future. I had a friendly argument on facebook with a liberal friend who was pointing to conservative establishment figures starting to do a bit of soul searching as evidence that the tide might be starting to change. I shot back with history: the exact same thing was seemingly happening in the first few weeks after Obama was first elected back in 2008. But then Rush Limbaugh gave his infamous "I want Obama to fail" speech, followed very quickly by CNBC business reporter Rick Santelli's on-air live rant which lead to the birth of the Tea Party movement. In spite of the electorate's rejection of far right conservatism, in spite of the financial crisis laying conservative economic assumptions to waste, conservatives doubled down on their bullshit, and have ridden it all the way into yet another devastating defeat.
And that's what they'll do again. They have to. How on earth can they reevaluate their most sacred notions? If they moderate themselves on gay marriage, if they change their tune on immigration, if they start to question their cherished slogan that "government is the problem," then what are they? Well, they're Democrats, that's what they are. And deep down they know it. That is, this is about identity. These ideas are deeply intertwined with who they believe themselves to be. They can't abandon them. To do so is tantamount to mass suicide on a psychic level.
That's why they're going to triple down on discredited conservative values. Just wait and see. This is a runaway freight train on a collision course with the brick wall called reality. It's going to take a lot more than just a Democratic Electoral College smackdown to change conservative minds. It's going to take something spectacular. Like the specter of large scale armed insurrection. And even then, lots of them will probably go down fighting.
It won't be pretty.
Posted by Ron at 2:49 AM
FAREWELL REUBEN MITCHELL
I liked Reuben immediately.
We met when we were auditioning to get into LSU's MFA acting program back in the spring of 2004. In the lobby of the school's Music and Dramatic Arts building, we had a friendly argument about the movie Scarface. I took the position that the film is radically misunderstood in that it is actually a comedy; he took the point of view that young wannabe thugs look to Tony Montana as a screwed up role model. We were both right, even though he had the better point, and it was the beginning of an important friendship, based on mutual respect and excitement about art, politics, culture, and ideas.
For my money, Reuben was the absolute heart and soul of our graduate school acting class. All seven of us were talented, dedicated, ethical people, but there was just something about Reuben that put him in the middle of everything, which was where he belonged. His passion, kindness, talent, optimism, and general good nature are definitely worth noting, but he was just so much more than a list of uplifting adjectives. He was one of those people who touched lives, which would never be the same, which would always be improved, just for having known him. One in a million. One in a billion.
He particularly impressed me with his determination. During the second semester of our time at LSU together, he and I worked on a scene from Chekov's Uncle Vanya. Chekov is one mother as far as acting is concerned, and our teacher just kind of threw us all into the deep end to see how well we could float. Reuben and I put something together and brought it into class, but John Dennis didn't like it, so we went back to the drawing board. JD didn't like that one either, so we reworked it again, about which JD observed, "I think this scene might actually be getting worse." I think that was it for our Chekov scene; the class had to move on. But I'll never forget how, even as I became more and more depressed about the work, even as our teacher pronounced it to be a failure multiple times, Reuben never lost heart. Each and every reworking was an opportunity to get it right. His determination alone, his drive to succeed, propped me up and got me through it all.
Reuben and I shared some passions. Hip-hop, of course, was his first love. But he was in high school band, and his father is a big jazz fan, so Reuben also loved jazz. I remember his excitement about the Duke Ellington Shakespeare tribute album, Such Sweet Thunder, I brought in when he had some of us on his Sunday morning radio show. I made some comment to Reuben once at one of those awkward and boring theater/LSU reception things in the lobby of Swine Palace about some relatively obscure jazz player. Reuben told me that he had only ever heard his father talk that way, "He would be, like, 'who's that cat that played with Art Blakey?'" I loved how Reuben consciously used the word "cat" to describe people he liked or admired, hearkening back to a much more groovy era, when beatniks and jazz musicians spoke in unsquare lingo, the same way I've trained myself to say "groovy."
And Reuben loved cats. In fact, I think it was at LSU when he got his first cat, and we would trade stories about the bizarre but loving dealings of our respective felines.
Of course, there was the politics. Reuben was a strong liberal like me, and like me, as an artist, he had a very particular perspective on politics, coming at it from a cultural point of view, understanding better than most of the political establishment on the left that Americans are moved much more by stories and images than they are by policy and dry argumentation. He and I had numerous deep discussions on politics that made us both wiser for the exchange.
He was a teacher. When we first met, I had left the field in disgust; Reuben was looking forward to teaching, and his excitement about it was the beginning of my reevaluating for the better my experience as a high school drama teacher. We had many conversations about education, and what it means to teach, what it means to learn. I never got to see him in action as a teacher, but I'm certain he was great.
And he loved Star Trek. Indeed, he went through most of the run of Star Trek: the Next Generation while we were in school together. We talked excitedly about Patrick Stewart's acting, and how f'ing cool Worf is. I remember talking with him about how kickass the Klingon death ritual is, the looking into the fallen warrior's eyes, the howling toward the heavens. As the Captain and his second officer observed:
"Data: I believe, sir, that was the first time outsiders have witnessed the Klingon death ritual.
Picard: I can understand them looking into the dying man's eyes. But the howling?
Data: It was a warning.
Picard: To whom?
Data: They are warning the dead, sir: 'Beware, a Klingon warrior is about to arrive.'"
Reuben was no warrior--in fact, he was decidedly anti-war. He was an artist. But the kind of respect, the kind of honor, the kind of mythologizing embraced by the Klingons toward their warriors is how I feel about Reuben now that he's gone. Indeed, if I understand correctly, Reuben died the same way that the intellectual and writer-warrior T.E. Lawrence did, a motorcycle crash. That is, Reuben was and continues to be larger than life to me. And this disturbs my ongoing agnosticism. It is extraordinarily difficult for me to accept that Reuben's powerful soul could ever be extinguished, by anything at all. If anyone is deserving of residing in Valhalla for eternity, it is my friend Reuben. My intellect tells me that the afterlife probably doesn't exist: my friendship with Reuben, however, tells my heart that the afterlife has to exist.
He was a better man than me.
I'm linking below Charles Mingus' "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat," his soulful elegy on the occasion of legendary sax player Lester Young's death. Reuben would have understood the significance.
Farewell, Reuben. I loved you.
Posted by Ron at 10:07 PM
PREPPING FOR ANOTHER AUDITION...
...so no posts tonight and tomorrow night. It's a bit tricky, but I really want to do well. I'm reading for a video game producer character for a Stallone and DeNiro comedy about aging boxers. Even if I don't get the part, it's a good chance for me to endear myself to a casting director because I feel like I've got a good handle on the part, and that helps in the long run.
So tell me to break a leg. Yeah yeah, I know, comments are broken and I haven't gotten around to fixing the problem yet. Well, think "break a leg" for me, will ya?
Okay, back to work.
Posted by Ron at 3:04 AM
Medicaid Expansion To Poorest Southerners Denied By Republicans
From the Huffington Post courtesy of a facebook friend:
States that refuse to cover more poor people will do so despite the fact that Uncle Sam will pick up most of the tab. From 2014 to 2016, the federal government will pay 100 percent of the cost of covering newly eligible people, after which the share will gradually go down to 90 percent in 2022 and later years.
Even that small share is more than some states are willing to bear, considering that Medicaid eats up more and more of state budgets every year. The Texas Health and Human Services Commission projects the expansion would cost the state $15.6 billion over a decade. The Urban Institute contends estimates like these are off the mark because they assume too many people will sign up, and don't consider how much states will save by scaling back programs currently serving the poor, however. According to the institute's analysis, the net cost to all states for expanding Medicaid is just $14 billion over the first six years.
But money isn't the only reason states may forgo the Medicaid expansion. Texas' Perry and other Republicans object what they see as to federal encroachment, on principle. Meanwhile, governors may try to extract concessions from the Obama administration on other issues, such as increasing costs paid by Medicaid recipients, in exchange for expanding the program.
So they're just being dicks.
Seriously. This is a damned good deal. And I'm not simply talking about the altruism and social responsibility: uninsured people do, indeed, get medical care, but necessarily wait until their health issues are acute, when it costs a lot more, and then hospitals get stuck with the bill. Indeed, I've heard more than a couple of pundits asserting matter-of-factly that these asshole states will ultimately give in simply because they have to, simply because their in-state health care providers will demand it. This Medicaid expansion is good for local health care economies, an investment in the overall system that lowers overall costs for everybody, which also makes it good for state economies in general. And the cost to state tax payers is chump change.
So they're just being dicks. Fucking over both hospitals and the poor because of ideology. Or something. But that's where the Republican Party is in the twenty first century: extremism in the defense of capitalism is not a vice. And the real irony is that this would help capitalism! Of course, I keep forgetting: conservatives long ago dispensed with irony. Good thing they just got smacked down, or we'd be seeing much more of this shit.
Posted by Ron at 10:53 PM
Small Business Owner Fires His Workers Because Obama Was Elected
Posted by Ron at 2:40 AM
THE ELEGANT UNIVERSE
From the website for PBS's Nova:
One of the most ambitious and exciting theories ever proposed—one that may be the long-sought "theory of everything," which eluded even Einstein—gets a masterful, lavishly computer-animated explanation from bestselling author-physicist Brian Greene, when NOVA presents the nuts, bolts, and sometimes outright nuttiness of string theory.
Also known as superstring theory, the startling idea proposes that the fundamental ingredients of nature are inconceivably tiny strings of energy, whose different modes of vibration underlie everything that happens in the universe. The theory successfully unites the laws of the large—general relativity—and the laws of the small—quantum mechanics—breaking a conceptual logjam that has frustrated the world's smartest scientists for nearly a century.
Watch all three parts of this documentary here.
In addition to a brief history of physics since Newton, as well as a very nice explanation of string theory, here are some things I learned from watching The Elegant Universe.
* Physicists might have finally figured out how to unify gravity with the other three forces in the universe.
* There might be eleven dimensions.
* There might be an infinite number of universes.
* God might exist, which the video doesn't come right out and say, but the implication is obvious. Unicorns, too.
If that's not enough to grab you, then I'll say this: to me, as a forty something man, this show is as meaningful and thought provoking as Carl Sagan's Cosmos was to me when I was twelve. Sure, I'm no scientist, but you don't have to be in order to get a grip on what's happening in physics. And trust me, it pays extraordinarily well to have a handle on what scientists are telling us is the nature of reality. Well, what they were telling us a decade ago; it was produced in 2003, but, holy hell, this is some truly mind-bending shit.
Go watch it right now!
Posted by Ron at 2:43 AM
TEN YEARS OF REAL ART!
From Real Art (and politics and culture) back on November 7, 2002:
You know, I wonder how it felt in 1930's Germany when the Nazis came to power. The House is Republican; the Senate is Republican; the White House is Republican; the majority on the Supreme Court is Republican. Maybe if we're all lucky this is the deathknell of the Democrats leaving the way open for a true people's party like the Greens or something. But I'm not feeling too lucky right about now...I don't even feel like the trains are going to end up running on time.
That's the entire post, but click here to see it by itself.
I wrote that very shortly after the midterm elections during W's first administration. Obviously, I was depressed. The sabre rattling leading up to the Iraq invasion was in full swing at that point, and the quiet hush that had descended over the land in the wake of 9/11 had me watching my every word in my capacity as a high school theater teacher. Blogging allowed me to speak out, even if nobody was really listening, during a time when I simply needed to speak out. And, actually, it's been playing that role ever since, an entire decade.
Things have changed greatly of course since those dark days. I mean, we just reelected Obama, after all, a Democrat, and our nation's first African-American president. And Democrats held onto the Senate, which is also quite nice. But we continue to be in that rut, of course, that has had our nation heading slowly, under the Democrats, and quickly, under the Republicans, toward absolute corporate rule. So we're moving slowly now, which I guess I prefer--it's not so frightening. But I continue to need to speak out. Even if nobody's listening.
In addition to the political changes, we've also seen internet changes that have made the once faddish concept of blogging into a bit of a relic. I mean, there are still blogs that people, sometimes large numbers of people, continue to read. But it seems to be much more about facebook at the moment. My buddy Matt, who runs The Warzone website, and who hosts a podcast in which I sometimes participate made the observation that facebook is where people are now, so facebook is where people who have a lot to say ought to go. With that in mind, and with the inspiration I've gotten from science fiction writer David Gerrold, who makes what are essentially blog posts on facebook, I've been experimenting with adapting Real Art posts for the popular social network.
And I seem to be having some success with that. Lots of discussion in the comment threads. Lots of emotional reinforcement via the "like" button. Indeed, I'm getting the sense that, if I'm not actually changing minds, I'm getting conservatives to listen, to see that things are more complicated than they might have believed. And, of course, my liberal friends seem to have their feelings and thoughts reinforced by my writing. It's a win/win situation at the moment, even if it means my actual blog languishes in a cyber-backwater.
But Real Art is where I go first. It's where I learned to really write, on a regular basis, where I articulate my thoughts and ideas before going to the wider facebook audience. That is, Real Art is here to stay, if only because I continue to find it to be immensely valuable to me. Another ten years? I have no idea, but I do know that I have absolutely no plans to stop what I'm doing. I'm having too much fun. And so what if nobody reads the damned thing?
Actually, I know that a few people do. So thanks for your support. And happy birthday to Real Art. It's ten years old.
Posted by Ron at 2:40 AM
Sandy Versus Katrina
For the response to Sandy, like the success of the auto bailout, is a demonstration that Mr. Obama’s philosophy of government — which holds that the government can and should provide crucial aid in times of crisis — works. And conversely, the contrast between Sandy and Katrina demonstrates that leaders who hold government in contempt cannot provide that aid when it is needed.
The point is that after Katrina the government seemed to have no idea what it was doing; this time it did. And that’s no accident: the federal government’s ability to respond effectively to disaster always collapses when antigovernment Republicans hold the White House, and always recovers when Democrats take it back.
And I just had to include this:
The best line on this, I have to admit, comes from Stephen Colbert: “Who better to respond to what’s going on inside its own borders than the state whose infrastructure has just been swept out to sea?”
I started saying this as a result of Katrina: when your most central ideological concept is that "government is the problem," you automatically disqualify yourself from holding office. I mean, of course, you can still run for office. But such a notion signals that, if you win, you are not there to do the job for which the office calls. You're there to do something else. You're there to dismantle government, destroy it, render it ineffective. You're certainly not there to make government better.
For all my problems with the Democrats, this is something about them I like: their ideology allows them to make good faith efforts to do their jobs. I mean, you'd think that "they try really hard" is tantamount to a consolation prize or a participation ribbon for field day in elementary school. You know, awards for losers. And, of course, that's absolutely the case. But that's the situation into which the Republicans have forced us: in twenty first century America, simply attempting to play the game becomes downright patriotic compared to doing everything you can to obliterate the field of play.
Keep that in mind when you vote on Tuesday.
Posted by Ron at 1:47 AM
BAD CONSERVATIVE ARGUMENTS
From Slate, courtesy of a facebook friend who asked me to pick it apart:
The Case for Price Gouging
The basic imperative to allocate goods efficiently doesn’t vanish in a storm or other crisis. If anything, it becomes more important. And price controls in an emergency have the same results as they do any other time: They lead to shortages and overconsumption. Letting merchants raise prices if they think customers will be willing to pay more isn’t a concession to greed. Rather, it creates much-needed incentives for people to think harder about what they really need and appropriately rewards vendors who manage their inventories well.
Posted by Ron at 2:52 AM