Saturday, December 31, 2011

2012 phenomenon

From Wikipedia:

The 2012 phenomenon comprises a range of eschatological beliefs according to which cataclysmic or transformative events will occur on December 21, 2012. This date is regarded as the end-date of a 5,125-year-long cycle in the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar. Various astronomical alignments and numerological formulae have been proposed as pertaining to this date, though none have been accepted by mainstream scholarship.

A New Age interpretation of this transition is that this date marks the start of time in which Earth and its inhabitants may undergo a positive physical or spiritual transformation, and that 2012 may mark the beginning of a new era. Others suggest that the 2012 date marks the end of the world or a similar catastrophe. Scenarios suggested for the end of the world include the arrival of the next solar maximum, or Earth's collision with a black hole, passing asteroid or a planet called "Nibiru".

Scholars from various disciplines have dismissed the idea of such cataclysmic events occurring in 2012. Professional Mayanist scholars state that predictions of impending doom are not found in any of the extant classic Maya accounts, and that the idea that the Long Count calendar "ends" in 2012 misrepresents Maya history and culture. Astronomers and other scientists have rejected the proposed events as pseudoscience, stating that they are contradicted by simple astronomical observations.

More here.

Right. So no Cthulhu-like monsters digging their way up into the world, no Jesus and Buddha oriented good vibes depositing themselves in our souls, no blockbuster spectacular disaster flick-as-reality coming to life outside your front door. Just another year. But, hey, that ain't so bad. Stability is very desirable these days.

So happy New Year. Here are a few celebratory videos:

And, of course, this...

Happy 2012!


Friday, December 30, 2011



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


Why the White South Is Still in Denial About Slavery

Really, this ought to be titled "Why America Is Still In Denial about Slavery," but whatever. From AlterNet:

When the Civil War ended, there were no truth and reconciliation commissions formed to process memories, no Nuremberg Trials to enable reflection, no Great Emancipator to free the future from the past — only ghosts and the ravenous politics of memory. The need for national reckoning was quickly subordinated to the political imperative of reunification, and on both sides of the Mason Dixon line, forgetting became more valuable than remembering.


Instead of beginning a period of reflection, the South spent the late 19th century dressing up in old uniforms and comforting itself with revisionist stories.

The Reconstruction-era South didn’t invent dishonesty, but its response to America’s defining trauma has become a foundational lie, supporting an ever-growing edifice of false history. It’s a lie so big no one will forcefully challenge it, a lie that’s too big to fail. In the sesquicentennial year of the Civil War, the “stars and bars” fly over state capitals, proclamations are issued that honor the Confederacy without mentioning slavery, and commuters drive to work on highways named after white supremacists. And appeals to wounded pride and the lost values of imagined pasts are an everyday part of our political culture.


If America is a family, it’s a family that has tacitly agreed to never speak again — not with much honesty, anyway — about the terrible things that went on in its divided house. Slavery has been taught, it has been written about. There can’t be many subjects that rival it as an academic ink-guzzler. But the culture has not digested slavery in a meaningful way, hasn’t absorbed it the way it has World War II or the Kennedy assassination. We don’t feel the connections to it in our bones. It’s hard enough these days to connect with what happened 15 minutes ago, let alone 15 decades, given the endless layers of “classic,” “heirloom,” “traditional” “collectible,” “old school” comfort we’re swaddled in. But isn’t it the least we could do? What is the willful forgetting of slavery if not the coverup of a crime, an abdication of responsibility to its victims and to ourselves?

More here.

Here's another question: what does it mean that "the greatest country in the world" spent half of its history forcing an oppressed people to work in slavery? Here's a quick and brief answer that hardly exhausts the topic: it means that America isn't "the greatest country in the world."

I mean, maybe we could be "the greatest country in the world" if we ever came to terms with our slaver past in a repentance oriented way, in a way that made human rights and the dignity of each and every individual around the world the most important concern for ourselves as Americans, in a way that makes us always, always, always search for methods to pay for our deep national sin until Kingdom Come. If we, as a nation, were always sorry for such an unpardonable crime, if redemption were a national imperative, part of who we are as Americans, then, well, maybe we could start thinking about being "the greatest country in the world." But not until then. For now, we continue to have blood on our hands that we refuse to wash off.

And this isn't simply some abstract exercise in morality (as if that would make our crime less grave): the above linked essay goes on to observe that Civil War revisionism created the cultural template for how we, as a nation, deal with our many crimes: Vietnam, Iraq, and many other debacles and atrocities committed by the US over the years don't make us feel bad at all. We just change history around and focus on whatever myths and lies make us feel good. This allows us to go on sinning forever because we never acknowledge that we are sinners. Consequently, we never learn from our mistakes. Ever.

You see a similar dynamic with how the US establishment deals with the plight of African-Americans. It's like, why don't black people just go get jobs, or get an education and then go get jobs? Slavery was in the past, not now, why are they still bitching? Of course, the past isn't the past: the past is right now. Indeed, if you consider the Jim Crow era as simply the continuation of the slavery era, but with a few social and legal modifications, slavery didn't really end until the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964, three and a half years before my birth. That's just a few decades ago. White and black America alike are literally reeling, to this day, from the unrepentant, sink-or-swim liberation of a people who were once held in bondage.

I mean, how do you just make the transition from prisoner-for-life, from "inferior" species, to free and equal? How do you do that within a cultural context that doesn't recognize at all the enormity of such a change? How do you do that within a cultural context where many are openly hostile to such a transition?

Slavery is our original sin. It's written all over everything we do, everything we say and think. But we ignore it, and such dishonesty about who we are leads us again and again to folly and failure. And one day, perhaps, our doom.


Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Real Reason the GOP Primary Is a Pathetic, Incompetent Clown Show

From AlterNet, civil liberties lawyer and blogger Glenn Greenwald on how the long term shifting of the political spectrum has fucked the GOP pretty badly:

In fairness to the much-maligned GOP field, they face a formidable hurdle: how to credibly attack Obama when he has adopted so many of their party's defining beliefs. Depicting the other party's president as a radical menace is one of the chief requirements for a candidate seeking to convince his party to crown him as the chosen challenger. Because Obama has governed as a centrist Republican, these GOP candidates are able to attack him as a leftist radical only by moving so far to the right in their rhetoric and policy prescriptions that they fall over the cliff of mainstream acceptability, or even basic sanity.

In July, the nation's most influential progressive domestic policy pundit, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, declared that Obama is a "moderate conservative in practical terms". Last October, he wrote that "progressives who had their hearts set on Obama were engaged in a huge act of self-delusion", because the president – "once you get past the soaring rhetoric" – has "largely accepted the conservative storyline".


Indeed, when it comes to the foreign policy and civil liberties values Democrats spent the Bush years claiming to defend, the only candidate in either party now touting them is the libertarian Ron Paul, who vehemently condemns Obama's policies of drone killings without oversight, covert wars, whistleblower persecutions, and civil liberties assaults in the name of terrorism.

In sum, how do you demonise Obama as a terrorist-loving secret Muslim intent on empowering US enemies when he has adopted, and in some cases extended, what was rightwing orthodoxy for the last decade? The core problem for GOP challengers is that they cannot be respectable Republicans because, as Krugman pointed out, Obama has that position occupied. They are forced to move so far to the right that they render themselves inherently absurd.

More here.

For the entire history of this blog, I've been relentlessly pushing the notion that conservatives have been agitating so intensely for so long that the center of the American political spectrum has essentially been pulled well into right-wing territory. So today's "liberals" like President Obama are, in fact, conservative, while today's "conservatives" are what we would have thought of as far right-wing psychos thirty years ago. Guys like me, who are well within normal non-radical liberal territory, historically speaking, are no longer counted as part of the ideological spectrum--it's like every point of view even slightly to the left of conservative Obama is tantamount to supporting Chairman Mao or Stalin, which is, of course, bullshit.

Usually, when asserting this notion, I'm talking about the Democrats, and how disappointing they are to actual liberals in this day and age; I've long assumed that this spectrum pull has been nothing but beneficial to conservatives. But if Greenwald's analysis is to be believed, and I think there is definitely some truth here, the chickens are coming home to roost.

Noam Chomsky recently said flat out that the Democratic Party is now in essence the Republican Party, and that's pretty accurate if you disregard the so-called "social issues." But what does this mean for the party that's actually called "The Republican Party"? Apparently, it is now a party of crazy people, which is fairly obvious when you listen closely to what they have to say. So I'm now wondering how long the Crazy Party can continue to have any actual relevance on the American political scene. I mean, they're crazy people, after all, and why vote for crazy Republicans when you can just as easily vote for the sane Republicans who now run the Democratic Party?

Is it possible that decades of hard core conservative propagandizing will soon drive the GOP into total irrelevance? Silver lining, I suppose.


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

'Abstinence-plus' emerging in more Texas schools

From the Houston Chronicle:

A shift is occurring in Texas as more school districts move from abstinence-only programs to a comprehensive approach that teaches about condoms and other contraceptives, according to an advocacy group's study of state data.

In 2007, about 4 percent of the state's school districts used comprehensive programs, according to a study by the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund, a research group that supports the comprehensive approach known as abstinence-plus. A more recent analysis, based on data from a Texas Education Agency health education survey, found that nearly 25 percent of school districts had abstinence-plus programs in 2010.

"That's a huge increase in a three-year period," said Kathy Miller, president of the education fund. "The quiet revolution is taking place at the local level."


National studies, including a 2007 study mandated by Congress, have shown that abstinence-only programs do not stop teens from having sex, research center director Susan Tortolero said. But federal funding over the past decade has supported abstinence-only programs, and Texas has led the nation in receiving those dollars.

That might change under President Barack Obama, who has poured more federal money into evidence-based, abstinence-plus programs.

More here.

I'm not sure, but I think "abstinence plus" is just a Puritan friendly moniker for comprehensive sex education, or more simply, sex education. And I say that because "abstinence based" sex ed isn't really much more than wishful-thinking oriented anti-sex propaganda when it comes to teaching teens how the real world functions in terms of sexual behavior. That is, "abstinence based" sex education isn't sex education at all, and was an extraordinarily bad idea from the get-go.

It's good to hear that we may very well be moving beyond this really stupid chapter in the culture wars, and toward some semblance of responsibility and ethics when it comes to teaching youth about sexuality.

For that matter, why are people so disturbed by the notion of teens doing exactly what their parents did when they were teens? I'm not joking about this, either: for decades now, virtually all Americans have lost their virginity by the time they turn eighteen, which means that nervous Puritanical parents who support this abstinence bullshit are totally taking the "what's good for me, but not for thee" line with their kids. And I call bullshit on that. Seriously. When I was getting certified to teach, I remember a class discussion on exactly this issue, and among my fellow teachers-in-training were several who just straight up asserted that "teenagers have no business having sex." They were very emotional about the topic, so I didn't really try to mix it up with them, which is something I've regretted for years. I mean, what could they say? That teens are immature? Well, sure, but so what? We let them drive, for god's sake, and that's dangerous for society, not simply for teens themselves. Indeed, we let teens, who are the worst drivers out there, run the roads because it is convenient for their parents, and no other reason. By the same token, we have adopted this dangerous abstinence shit for essentially the same reason: parents worry about their little baby teenagers getting it on in the back seat, so we teach them abstinence to calm parental fears.

It is ironic, indeed, that we give teens access to automobiles, the best place by far for teen sex, while tut-tutting them about sex in school. It's all so fucking stupid.


Tuesday, December 27, 2011


From Paul Krugman's blog:

Today Joe once again goes after the Big Lie — the claim that Fannie and Freddie caused the crisis — and drives home the point that the people advancing this story aren’t just wrong but are acting with intent, engaged in deliberate deception:

In Wallison’s article, he claimed that the charges brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission against six former Fannie and Freddie executives last week prove him right. This is another favorite tactic: He takes a victory lap whenever events cast Fannie and Freddie in a bad light. Rarely, however, has his intellectual dishonesty been on such vivid display. In fact, what the S.E.C.’s allegations show is that the Big Lie is, well, a lie.

...what’s going on in the discussion of economic affairs (and other matters, like justifications for war) isn’t just a case where different people look at the same facts but reach different conclusions. Instead, we’re looking at a situation in which one side of the debate just isn’t interested in the truth, in which alleged scholarship is actually just propaganda.

More here.

So, of course, the whole "Fannie and Freddie were forced to give out loans to people who couldn't repay them is what caused the financial crisis" story line is a total lie: the two hybrid federal/private lending institutions dealt with mortgages in the hundreds of millions; the financial meltdown dealt with toxic mortgage securities in the tens of trillions. How could a few hundred million dollars worth of mortgages, many of which weren't even bad loans, result in trillions of dollars in junk securities? Answer: it couldn't.

Indeed, Fannie and Freddie were relatively minor players in the toxic mortgage security scam. Instead, it was the private banking industry, which had found what it thought was a veritable philosopher's stone in mortgage backed securities, that created massively huge demand for what ended up being what economist Duncan Black, who blogs as Atrios over at Eschaton, has been calling for years the "Big Shitpile." Actually, lots of these banksters knew at the time that what they were buying and selling was worthless shit, which is why they bought buttloads of credit default swaps, financial instruments that essentially served as insurance policies against their lousy bets on lousy horses, in order to protect themselves if they weren't able to find a chair in this high stakes cake walk before the music stopped.

So the banks went wild with these mortgage backed securities, literally demanding that more and more and more mortgages be granted to as many people who would sign up for them, whether they were good risks or not, and lenders gave the financial sector what they were screaming for. And then the insurance industry fucking insured these securities for their full purchase value, which, needless to say, had very little to do with their actual value. A bubble worth trillions grew up very quickly. And then it burst.

But that's not nearly as easy to understand as "liberals forced Fannie and Freddie to give home loans to poor people," which is a lie that fits very neatly into the right wing's preexisting narrative about how poor people, poor black people, really, are destroying the country with their shifty and lazy fraudulent ways.

Note to Democrats: in this day and age it is perfectly acceptable, preferable actually, to call Republicans, to their faces, big fucking liars. Because, you know, that's what they are, big fucking liars.


Friday, December 23, 2011


I'm going off the grid for a few days here, so that I can return to the egg for family obligations and such. Back Monday night probably.

In the meantime, here's It's a Wonderful Life:

Merry Christmas!!!


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christopher Hitchens and the protocol for public figure deaths

Glenn Greenwald finally chimes in:

When someone dies who is a public figure by virtue of their political acts — like Ronald Reagan — discussions of them upon death will be inherently politicized. How they are remembered is not strictly a matter of the sensitivities of their loved ones, but has substantial impact on the culture which discusses their lives. To allow significant political figures to be heralded with purely one-sided requiems — enforced by misguided (even if well-intentioned) notions of private etiquette that bar discussions of their bad acts — is not a matter of politeness; it’s deceitful and propagandistic. To exploit the sentiments of sympathy produced by death to enshrine a political figure as Great and Noble is to sanction, or at best minimize, their sins. Misapplying private death etiquette to public figures creates false history and glorifies the ignoble.

All of this was triggered for me by the death this week of Christopher Hitchens and the remarkably undiluted, intense praise lavished on him by media discussions. Part of this is explained by the fact that Hitchens — like other long-time media figures, such as Tim Russert — had personal interactions with huge numbers of media figures who are shaping how he is remembered in death. That’s understandable: it’s difficult for any human being to ignore personal feelings, and it’s even more difficult in the face of the tragic death of a vibrant person at a much younger age than is normal.

But for the public at large, at least those who knew of him, Hitchens was an extremely controversial, polarizing figure. And particularly over the last decade, he expressed views — not ancillary to his writings but central to them — that were nothing short of repellent.


Hitchens was obviously more urbane and well-written than the average neocon faux-warrior, but he was also often more vindictive and barbaric about his war cheerleading. One of the only writers with the courage to provide the full picture of Hitchens upon his death was Gawker‘s John Cook, who — in an extremely well-written and poignant obituary – detailed Hitchens’ vehement, unapologetic passion for the attack on Iraq and his dismissive indifference to the mass human suffering it caused, accompanied by petty contempt for those who objected (he denounced the Dixie Chicks as being “sluts” and “fucking fat slags” for the crime of mildly disparaging the Commander-in-Chief). As Cook put it: “it must not be forgotten in mourning him that he got the single most consequential decision in his life horrifically, petulantly wrong”; indeed: “People make mistakes. What’s horrible about Hitchens’ ardor for the invasion of Iraq is that he clung to it long after it became clear that a grotesque error had been made.”

More here.

Yeah, I have to admit that I wasn't too terribly saddened by Hitchens' death.

I used to kind of like him. I mean, I only ever read two or three of his essays: it was his appearances on television, usually championing socialism in some way, or attacking God-believers, that gave me my impression of what he was about. I remember thinking that he was an excellent debater, really good at thinking on his feet and on the fly, masterful at spontaneous turns of phrase. And that proper British accent had more than a little to do with my good feelings about him. I also thought he was something of an asshole. But, hey, he was our asshole. And conservatives almost never looked good when he was in the room.

All of that changed, of course, after 9/11.

My sense at first was that he went a bit insane, thoroughly traumatized by the devastating attacks, and transitioned overnight from being a liberal darling attack dog to a conservative firebrand. My insanity defense for him evolved over the years, though, and it occurred to me that his intense disdain for religion of all varieties might have been the linchpin for understanding his Saul-to-Paul conversion in the early 2000s. That is, coupling his preexisting anti-religious attitudes with the death and carnage wrought by Al Qaeda might explain it all--he just really, really, really hated religion, and the notion of Muslims with nuclear bombs might have been too much for him to bear. Crazy, to be sure, but with a method to his madness.

Lately, however, I've been wondering if I've been completely wrong about all that. Perhaps Hitchens didn't go around the bend at all. Perhaps he was in full command of his emotions and intellectual faculties the whole time. Hitchens' came from an old school socialist background, and old school socialists, unlike with my own particular variety of leftism, are just fine with violence as a means to accomplish political ends. And this is where it gets interesting: American neoconservatism, which was the driving intellectual force behind the US invasion of Iraq, has its roots in Trotskyite socialism, which is exactly the brand of socialism to which Hitchens subscribed as a youth. That is to say, Hitchens made the same ideological leap from left to right that many American socialists had made decades earlier. He became a neoconservative, himself, and found that he was very much at home on this new warmongering side of the street. For the original neocons back in the fifties and sixties, it was the evil of Stalinism that provided motivation; for Hitchens, it was the evil of Al Qaeda.

But, whatever the cause of the Vanity Fair writer's stunning change of heart, it is certain that he became a bloodthirsty bastard during the last decade of his life, and a champion intellectual apologist for that which cannot be defended. I'd say these years he spent promoting war and hatred pretty much erased anything and everything he ever did that was good. That's because, as Mark Antony said in Julius Caesar, "the evil that men do lives after them."

People continue to die violently in Iraq, and Christopher Hitchens bears some small responsibility for that.


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Left Right Paradigm is Over: Its You vs. Corporations

From the Big Picture, courtesy of Occupy Wall Street's facebook page:

For those of you who are stuck in the old Left/Right debate, you are missing the bigger picture. Consider this about the Bailouts: It was a right-winger who bailed out all of the big banks, Fannie Mae, and AIG in the first place; then his left winger successor continued to pour more money into the fire pit.

What difference did the Left/Right dynamic make? Almost none whatsoever.

How about government spending? The past two presidents are regarded as representative of the Left Right paradigm – yet they each spent excessively, sponsored unfunded tax cuts, plowed money into military adventures and ran enormous deficits. Does Left Right really make a difference when it comes to deficits and fiscal responsibility? (Apparently not).

What does it mean when we can no longer distinguish between the actions of the left and the right? If that dynamic no longer accurately distinguishes what occurs, why are so many of our policy debates framed in Left/Right terms?

In many ways, American society is increasingly less married to this dynamic: Party Affiliation continues to fall, approval of Congress is at record lows, and voter participation hovers at very low rates.

More here.

Well, that's what I've been saying for years now. More or less.

The reality is that there continue to be vast differences between liberalism and conservatism, as far as political and economic philosophies go. But the above linked essay is absolutely correct in that the two terms, liberal and conservative, have, to a great extent, divorced themselves from any real connection to such philosophy in common usage. It's all about tribalism now, us and them, and apologetics for what Chris Hedges accurately calls "the corporate state."

That is, for decades now we've been hearing rhetoric, from both the left and right, that very much sounds as though it's liberal or conservative, but actually lays the intellectual groundwork for rule by corporations. Conservatives, for instance, are always going on about business, and how the government needs to get out of the way so the economy can flourish, and that's fairly run-of-the-mill philosophy for conservatism, dating back to before the American Revolution. But this pro-business rhetoric has ultimately been used to allow corporations to gradually increase their control over the government, doing an end run around the Constitution and the electoral process in order to exercise power indirectly, by way of lobbying and campaign contributions: real conservatives, the ones who actually admit what's happening, are outraged by this...because real conservatives greatly value the Constitution and the electoral process!!! Somehow, though, most Americans who self-identify as conservative won't allow themselves to see how their centuries old pro-business stance has been warped to usurp the very democracy they love.

And you get the same bullshit from liberals. They support the Democrats no matter what they do to empower corporations while disempowering individuals. A couple of years ago I played an open mike night at New Orleans' Neutral Ground coffee house. It was a few days after Obama politely asked the bankers to start lending again now that they had been bailed out with trillions of tax payer dollars. In between songs, I asserted that this was disgusting behavior: when you essentially own the banks, you do not ask politely; you fucking dictate terms. An aging baby boomer hippie type engaged me in discussion after my set. Actually, it was more of a dressing down. He told me that the President had so much on his plate after the Bush era that it was totally unreasonable for me to make such assertions. He was a patronizing asshole, and totally loyal to President Hope And Change, all in spite of the fact that I was completely right and he was completely wrong. I didn't even try to argue with him. But his behavior is fairly typical of liberals. You know, Bush was my fault because I voted for Nader.

We now live in an era when we can read essays by conservatives such as Paul Craig Roberts or Andrew Bacevich that come off very much like something that Howard Zinn or Noam Chomsky might have written. We see the Tea Party, a right-wing social movement motivated by outrage over the bank bailouts; we also see Occupy Wall Street, a left-wing social movement motivated by outrage over the bank bailouts. Everyone's confused. Everyone's angry. Everyone's getting fucked over. And neither the liberal party nor the conservative party appear to give a shit about anything but being reelected.

I don't know if all this really means an end to the liberal/conservative dynamic, but it may very well signal an end to these terms being hijacked and redefined by the corporate state. If so, democracy in America might have a snowball's chance.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011


From CounterPunch:

What’s So Great About Efficiency?

The claim that Professor Mankiw makes (see his New York Times editorial responding to the student protest), but that is endemic to Western economics in general, is that his economics is a methodology rather than an ideology. But a methodology is a means of accomplishing a goal. Whose goals are accomplished with the methodology of his economics? Why would a generic methodology be better at accomplishing specific goals than specific methods? And most pressing to readers, why does a purported non-ideological methodology always come to such ideologically loaded conclusions—why are there winners and losers if in theory everyone benefits? And why are the winners always the already rich and powerful and the losers always the already marginalized?


The goal of economics always given by Western economists is to maximize economic efficiency. Who could object to getting the most out of society’s economic efforts? If free trade agreements drive a few million peasants from their land through the destruction of their indigenous economies, don’t a few capitalists getting rich from hiring the newly “freed” labor that results mean that efficiency has been served? Lest one think this tale improbable, take a look at Mexico following implementation of NAFTA. If capital is globally mobile while labor is embedded within national boundaries, linguistic and cultural difference and the accoutrement of complex social life, how do economic models that assume that none of this embedding has economic content maximize anything?

More here.

Yeah, just what the hell is "economic efficiency," anyway?

Years ago, when I was a senior in high school attending what was ostensibly a public speaking seminar hosted by the Rotarians, but was actually a far right-wing neoliberal indoctrination camp, an economist told me that economics is not concerned with morality or altruism; rather, he went on, economics is about finding the most efficient allocation of goods and resources. Well, okay. Who can be against "efficiency"?

It wasn't until I was approaching my thirtieth birthday that I learned to start asking the question "efficient for whom?" That's the trillion dollar question. And the answer to that question, if you're an economist, is "efficient for the capitalist class" because that's who they serve. So, necessarily, the concerns of the entire field of economics reflects the relatively small group of people who can afford to pay them.

I mean, can you afford to have an economist working for you? Has it ever even occurred to you to hire an economist? No, of course not. Economists don't work for labor; they work for capital, and it is capital with which they concern themselves. Yeah yeah, I'm aware that many economists work for universities, but they get paid way more than, say, English teachers because economists routinely move back and forth between academia and the business world, and can command much higher salaries in the Ivory Tower because they are so in demand in the corporate sector. Bottom line: economists almost always are working for business, helping business, justifying business, intellectualizing business, always about business and what's good for business, but never working for you and people like you.

This is justified, very poorly, with the worn out assertion that what's good for business is good for the nation at large: numerous events over the last five years or so, however, have proven far beyond a doubt that business can do just fine, excel even, when everyone else is going to hell. Indeed, half of America is now in poverty or very near poverty, while corporations continue to post record profits.

As usual, I'm not saying that the field of economics is without value. Far from it. But economics is not a science. It does not deal entirely with facts. It definitely serves a propaganda function benefiting the wealthy plutocrats who own and operate the United States. It is concerned with the economic "efficiency" of business and only business.

But when half the nation is in dire economic straits, I'd say economists need to look at other kinds of economic "efficiencies." You know, like how the fuck are people going to pay their fucking bills.


Monday, December 19, 2011

Vaclav Havel, dissident playwright and former Czech president, dies

From the Washington Post:

Václav Havel, a Czech writer who was imprisoned by his country's former communist rulers, only to become a symbol of freedom and his nation's first president in the post-communist era, died Sunday morning at his weekened home in the Czech Republic, the Associated Press reports. He was 75.

More here.

I first encountered Vaclav Havel back in 1989 when I saw a production of his play Temptation, a reworking of the Faustian myth aimed vaguely at communist totalitarianism, performed by the Vortex Repertory Company in Austin. This was a new theater company, so the show was a bit clunky, but Havel's weirdness and honesty shone through. I was definitely intrigued by this dissident writer from behind the Iron Curtain, which was falling apart the very year I first heard of him. Later, I learned that Havel had become president of the newly democratic Czechoslovakia, a post which he retained when the two nations split thereby creating the Czech Republic. During the 90s, as the Bohemian and artsy reputation of Havel's nation became legendary in the West, I heard fun stuff about the playwright: he rode a tricycle around his office from time to time; he appointed Frank Zappa, whom Havel loved, to be the minister of foreign culture.

During the late 90s, when I was teaching high school theater, I found a copy of his play Largo desolato, in our department's play library. It blew me away and I decided then and there that I would direct it some day. That opportunity came only a few years later, with the now defunct dos chicas theater commune in Houston, and it took on special significance for me in that the tale of the dissident writer who is driven to anxiety-induced isolation from his friends and family by his government's constant harassment matched my own sense of social isolation that had been waxing during my teaching tenure.

In short, Havel was a great playwright who personally affected me, and I mourn his passing, if only because I love his work. But he was also the real deal. He always said he didn't care for politics, but his role as an artist in an oppressive country gave him no option: he had to create, and this necessarily pitted him against the powers-that-be; increasingly, his plays became political simply because his art reflected his life. And, in the end, he became leader of the nation that had imprisoned him multiple times. Really, people who don't crave power are the best leaders. They lead because it is their civic duty, and for no other reason.

Farewell, Vaclav Havel.


Sunday, December 18, 2011

The U.S. withdrawal from Iraq marks the end America’s great expectations

From the Washington Post, historian, West Point grad, and a Vietnam veteran who retired with the rank of colonel, Andrew Bacevich, on the meaning of the Iraq withdrawal:

Launched in 2003 amid assurances of a rapid victory, the war is ending nearly nine years later with the United States settling for considerably less. Undertaken to demonstrate our supremacy, the war has instead revealed the stark limits of American power. It has laid waste to the post-Cold War era of great expectations once thought to define the future.


Back in 1945, the United States had accrued vast stores of moral and political capital. Thanks to Iraq, those stores are now all but depleted.

After Iraq, the future no longer bears the label “Made in the USA.” In places such as China, alternatives to liberal democracy stubbornly persist and show no signs of flagging. Where demands for democracy sound the loudest — as in the Arab world — the outcome may not favor liberal values. Across Asia, Africa and Latin America, the American model, today damaged and more than slightly tarnished, is only one among several.

Confidence that globalization will (or should) define the economic future has taken a nose dive. While we’ve been making war, rising economic powers have been making hay, frequently at American expense. At home, meanwhile, deference to the market has produced corruption, recklessness and the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Furthermore, even if globalization works for the some, it’s by no means certain that it works for the many — a point to which Occupy Wall Street protesters insist on calling attention and one that political leaders ignore at their peril.

Only in the realm of military power has American dominance remained unquestioned, as politicians and generals constantly assert. Yet after years of fighting in Iraq, and with the Afghan war and other “overseas contingency operations” continuing, the value of that claim is fading. No doubt U.S. forces have matchless combat capabilities. Yet the sad fact is that they cannot be relied upon to win. Merely avoiding defeat has become a staggeringly expensive proposition.

More here.

I've been following Bacevich for a couple of years now, and, as tickled as I am that he, a conservative, comes to many of the same conclusions I reach as a liberal, what's important about his writing is that he has one of the more compelling arguments out there right now about the state of our nation.

In brief, Bacevich's overall argument, in his books and essays, asserts that post Cold War triumphalism allowed capitalism to run wild, morphing what Bacevich calls the "production economy," which made the US economically powerful for decades, into a "consumption economy," which is all about credit and financial maneuvering: this transition has, in effect, hollowed out our domestic economic infrastructure, dissolving jobs and prosperity alike for most of the nation, while enriching the connected few. Meanwhile, vague fears that America is no longer relevant on the world stage have prompted the ruling class to look to the still strong military as a substitute for our former economic might.

The meaning of Iraq is that the military is not a substitute for economic might. Indeed, trillions of dollars later, such aggressive adventures are the exact opposite of a substitute for economic might.

So America is an empire in steep decline. The only real question for our future is how we're going to handle it. Will we admit our situation and intelligently plan for a soft landing that puts us as a nation in the best position possible given the circumstances? Or will we continue to delude ourselves that we're the greatest nation ever, fucking ourselves over, again and again, trying to prove it? There's a lot more than dignity on the line here.


Friday, December 16, 2011



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


'Dismal' prospects: 1 in 2 Americans are now poor or low income

From MSNBC courtesy of Eschaton:

Squeezed by rising living costs, a record number of Americans — nearly 1 in 2 — have fallen into poverty or are scraping by on earnings that classify them as low income.

The latest census data depict a middle class that's shrinking as unemployment stays high and the government's safety net frays. The new numbers follow years of stagnating wages for the middle class that have hurt millions of workers and families.

"Safety net programs such as food stamps and tax credits kept poverty from rising even higher in 2010, but for many low-income families with work-related and medical expenses, they are considered too 'rich' to qualify," said Sheldon Danziger, a University of Michigan public policy professor who specializes in poverty.

"The reality is that prospects for the poor and the near poor are dismal," he said. "If Congress and the states make further cuts, we can expect the number of poor and low-income families to rise for the next several years."

More here.

This is worth repeating: "prospects for the poor and the near poor are dismal." Now go back to the excerpt's first paragraph and note that the poor and near poor now comprise half the country. Half the fucking country has "dismal" prospects. Because they are poor. Meanwhile, politicians from both parties wrangle about how to dismantle the social safety net.

A few days ago, the New York Times' Paul Krugman decided that we should just straight up call this a depression. Not quite as bad as the Great Depression--I mean, the unemployment rate hasn't hit twenty percent yet--but still pretty fucking bad. Indeed, this is a severe crisis. Half the country is in poverty or on the verge of it, with absolutely no prospects for improvement.

And conservatives dismiss the Occupy movement as a bunch of stupid hippies trying to reinvent the 60s.

Anybody, anybody, who argues that we should do nothing, or that the government should cut social spending, or that we should cut taxes on the rich, or that the way out of this is to give business whatever it wants, is an enemy of the United States. I don't give a fuck if they wave the stars and stripes like it was a big enormous penis; I don't give a fuck if they've served in Congress for twenty years, or fought in the Big One, or make the greatest apple pie ever. If you're opposed to helping the poor, you know, half the fucking country, you're the enemy.

And you'll end up like the French aristocracy did, circa 1793.


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Rush Limbaugh's Ratings Have Fallen 30% In The Last Six Months

From Business Insider courtesy of Daily Kos:

With a lull in ratings since November, Rush Limbaugh had a 3.0 share of listeners for his radio time slot, which is a 33% slide from October and from last April, reports Crain's Business.

Meanwhile, The Sean Hannity Show was reported to be down 28% from its peak numbers in the fall.

More here.

This might mean nothing. On the other hand, it might also mean everything.

After all, it is impossible not to note that this ratings slide coincides with the rise of the Occupy Wall Street movement, which has altered favorably the mainstream news media's overall narrative regarding economics. That is, for the first time in decades, there is now out there in America a compelling and alternative story line that makes the standard right-wing version of reality problematic: "go out and get a job, you welfare mooching lazy parasites" just doesn't seem to bear the same gravity it used to have when we've got five unemployed people out there for every job opening, when we've got corporations and investment banks working elected officials for every dollar they can squeeze out of the crony capitalist system, and when the entire political establishment seems more intent on cutting essential services than it does on creating jobs. In short, what Hannity and Rush have to say, what they've always had to say, no longer has the appearance of addressing the nation's economic problems. And even their listeners are starting to notice.

At least, I think that's what's going on. It could just be a coincidence. Either way, it's a good thing.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Bigoted Conservative Fringe Group Pressures
Advertisers of Program Featuring Law-Abiding Muslims

From AlterNet:

How else to explain the fact that dozens of major companies promptly pulled their ads from TLC's innocuous new reality show All-American Muslim, thanks to an extremist Christian group's concern about its depiction of the titular citizens living normal lives in front of the lens?

Apparently episodes about Muslims in Dearborn, Mich., doing frothy things like planning weddings, sending their kids off to school, and occasionally facing discrimination was so offensive to the Florida Family Association (whose mission is to "educate people on what they can do to defend, protect, and promote traditional, biblical values") that this fringe group launched an energetic email campaign targeting advertisers. And according to a statement they gave the Washington Post, the campaign worked


The reason the FFA objected to the show? It didn't show any terrorists. Really: "The show profiles only Muslims that appear to be ordinary folks while excluding many Islamic believers whose agenda poses a clear and present danger to liberties and traditional values that the majority of Americans cherish." In perhaps one of the most poorly worded press releases I've ever encountered, the group continues, "Many situations were profiled in the show from a Muslim-tolerant perspective while avoiding the perspective that would have created Muslim conflict, thereby contradicting The Learning Channel’s agenda to inaccurately portray Muslims in America." Umm, what? With fail-proof logic like this, it's obvious why dozens of advertisers agreed to pull their advertising — not.


Now, after all, a politician is threatening a Lowe's boycott, 13,000 Facebook comments on the company's psuedo-apology, and most declaring it to be bigoted, while a new, fast-growing online petition at is directed at the CEOs of all the companies named by FFA. At some point, Lowe's may have to backtrack even further to avoid really having a bad brand.

More here.

Okay, this is going pretty well, I think.

On the one hand, I don't really see this so much as a free speech issue as it is an activism issue. I mean, there is, indeed, free speech on the line here, but the speech that concerns me is what's coming from these right-wing activists and the left-wing backlash they've created by opposing this reality show. That is, television is big business, not a platform from which concerned citizens pontificate about important issues: TLC's All American Muslim is simply a vehicle by which the cable network's owners make a whole lot of money.

Sure, it disturbs me a bit that these Christian bigots are pressuring the show's advertisers in this way--while I don't at all care for reality television, I certainly approve of portraying American Muslims as regular, ordinary people who are not terrorists, which is, in fact, what the vast, vast majority of American Muslims are, regular, ordinary people who are not terrorists. But there is nothing sacred about business ventures that kinda sorta appear to be like "free speech." So I don't like FFA's activism, but they're totally free to do it.

I mean, remember the whole Imus "nappy headed ho" controversy? Some of his defenders cried "censorship" when the shit hit the fan and he was suspended for a few weeks, but it was never about censorship. It was, from the very beginning, a coldly calculated business decision to take him off the air. For his network controllers, it was all about the money, and how the negative public reaction to his on-air racism might cut into the bottom line. In short, the entertainment industry doesn't give a shit about free speech; they give a shit about money, which is the only thing that gets them to do what you want.

Okay, they care about the government, too, but that's not what's going on here.

The bottom line for me is that even though I don't like it when conservative groups gather and shoot what Noam Chomsky has called "flak" at entertainment companies, I fucking love it when liberal groups do the same thing. And I don't want citizens to lose the ability to affect and alter the programming we endure simply because it seems to be a free speech issue. The proper way to respond when conservatives pull shit like this is actually what's happening right now: fight flak with flak.

Lowe's is in a real pickle at the moment. In order to escape a potential boycott from the American Jesus set, they've withdrawn advertising from All American Muslim, and that very act has made very real the potential for a boycott from Americans who support pluralism and religious tolerance. And I think the other companies that have done the same thing may very well be hit by liberal activism, too. In the end, I think the good guys will win this.

And that's democracy.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Film Tha Police

From Hullabaloo:

There has been a nationwide move to restrict the people's right to film the authorities in the course of their duties and I would expect there to be much more of that as the culture of dissent explodes across the country.

In one of the most pointed opinions yet, the U.S. First Circuit ruled unanimously against the police in one of these cases:


"Naturally, the police officers moved to dismiss on the basis of qualified immunity, but Judge Young was having none of that, denying the motion from the bench and ruling that 'in the First Circuit . . . this First Amendment right publicly to record the activities of police officers on public business is established.' The police officers then appealed to the First Circuit, but they have now struck out on appeal as well, with the First Circuit ruling that 'Glik was exercising clearly-established First Amendment rights in filming the officers in a public space, and that his clearly-established Fourth Amendment rights were violated by his arrest without probable cause.'"

More here.

I've written on this topic fairly recently, about how extraordinarily important it is that we "watch the watchers," as it were, and compared the need for doing so to the reasons that the founders adopted the second amendment. That is, our founding fathers believed so strongly in counterbalancing government power with an armed citizenry that they made the ability to keep and bear arms a foundational right, on par with freedom of speech and freedom of worship; recording video of the police while they work fulfills essentially the same function as an armed citizenry.

What I didn't realize the last time I visited this topic is that there is, apparently, an abundance of case law that makes recording public police actions an activity protected as free speech under the first amendment. So perhaps my call for "civil disobedience" in my last post was premature. If recording the cops falls under the first amendment, any and all laws and ordinances against it are unconstitutional from the get-go. I mean, that doesn't stop states and municipalities from passing anti-recording laws, and you may need to get an ACLU lawyer or something to point out to asshole prosecutors and cops that they're breaking the law by putting you on trial, but, in the end, you're rock solid when you shoot video of the police.

Really, in addition to being a civil right, filming the police is your civic responsibility. Checks and balances, and all that.


Monday, December 12, 2011


...because an audition for tomorrow dropped into my lap earlier today. So I'm prepping tonight. Here's a little something to tide you over, though, the Beatles' Christmas recording, originally released only to members of their fan club, for 1968. It's fun and weird:

Wish me luck!


Sunday, December 11, 2011

Bailout Total: $29.616 Trillion Dollars

From the Big Picture courtesy of Eschaton:

The researchers took all of the individual transactions across all facilities created to deal with the crisis, to figure out how much the Fed committed as a response to the crisis. This includes direct lending, asset purchases and all other assistance. (It does not include indirect costs such as rising price of goods due to inflation, weak dollar, etc.)

The net total? As of November 10, 2011, it was $29,616.4 billion dollars — (or 29 and a half trillion, if you prefer that nomenclature). Three facilities—CBLS, PDCF, and TAF— are responsible for the lion’s share — 71.1% of all Federal Reserve assistance ($22,826.8 billion).


The amount of overnight lending reflects how broken our financial system really is. A well capitalized, moderately leverage system does not require this massive liquidity from a central bank — interbank lending should be sufficient. What the data reveals is that the financial sector remains dangerously under-capitalized and overleveraged.

More here.

Let's put this massive number in perspective: the US debt, that is, the amount of money owed by the federal government, is only fifteen trillion dollars. To be fair, my understanding is that most of this bailout money is considered to be loans, which would mean that it's not counted as part of the debt, which I suppose is obvious, given that the bailout money is nearly twice what the US government owes. But just because it's not on the official ledger in red ink doesn't mean it's not a big fucking deal.

Some questions.

How the fuck are the banks going to pay back all this money? I mean, it really does sound like the only thing holding the banking system together is a veritable mountain range of government cash. Indeed, it sounds as though the banking system essentially is government money. So the banks have nothing except government money with which to do business. Is it even possible to ever make enough on loans and investments to pay back the principle? How long will it take? Decades? And if the banking system is, in fact, all government money, why the hell doesn't the government just take all these banks into receivership, fire all the crooked assholes who got us into this mess, and start making very low cost loans to individuals and businesses in order to jump start demand?

It is now clear that the financial crisis of 2007 was far, far worse than anybody was letting on at the time, and at the time it looked pretty fucking bad. And now the banks have tied up an amount of money worth twice the national debt in their system, a rather significant percentage of the GDP, and all those dollars don't appear to be doing a damned thing to get the economy going again--of course, executive bonuses continue to be big, big, big.

This is just too fucked up for me to even really comprehend. Politicians quibble about how to cut Social Security and Medicare while the bankers sit on twice the national debt, partying down on Wall Street like it was 1929. Can it really be this bad?


Friday, December 09, 2011



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



From the Washington Post:

On the small screen, Mr. Morgan was best remembered for “M*A*S*H,” a long-running sitcom set during the Korean War, and for which he won an Emmy in 1980 as Col. Potter, a crusty cavalry veteran.

In the part, he took a seen-it-all approach to his aide, Cpl. Maxwell Q. Klinger, who wore women’s clothes in his quest for a discharge for psychological unfitness. “Soldiers, I’ve seen every dodge in the book,” Potter tells Klinger in one episode. “We had a man who pretended he was a mare — carried a colt around in his arms. Another thought he was a daisy and insisted on being watered every day. Get out of that frou-frou and back into uniform, soldier.”


As a hobby, he found work with Washington theater troupes and by 1937 was part of the Group Theatre in New York, which included Elia Kazan, John Garfield and Karl Malden. With that company, he appeared several times on Broadway in minor parts, notably in two Clifford Odets plays, “Golden Boy” and “Night Music,” as well as Irwin Shaw’s “The Gentle People” and Robert Ardrey’s “Thunder Rock.”

More here.

In addition to being a really fabulous character actor who was all over the place when I was a kid, Morgan's biggest role was, of course, as Colonel Harry Potter on M*A*S*H. Even though the show was ostensibly set during the Korean War, pretty much everybody understood that the whole thing was about Vietnam. And it was just about as anti-war as anything I've ever seen on television. It was totally obvious that Morgan was fully on board with the program's political sentiments. I mean, you could tell just from how he played the role--for that matter, it was obvious that the entire cast fully supported what the show was about; this was important work, and they all knew it.

For his M*A*S*H work alone, Morgan gets my respect and reverence as a practitioner of Real Art, but I had no idea until I read the above linked obituary that he started out with the Group Theater. And lots of those guys were communists. That is, Morgan came out of a politically radical scene, and no doubt carried some of those politics with him for the rest of his life. He really was the real deal.

Farewell, Harry Morgan.


Thursday, December 08, 2011


...Dr. McCoy, Captain Kirk, and Mr. Spock!


Wednesday, December 07, 2011

The Muppets Are Communist, Fox Business Network Says

From the Huffington Post:

Last week, on the network's "Follow the Money" program, host Eric Bolling went McCarthy on the new, Disney-released film, "The Muppets," insisting that its storyline featuring an evil oil baron made it the latest example of Hollywood's so-called liberal agenda.

Bolling, who took issue with the baron's name, Tex Richman, was joined by Dan Gainor of the conservative Media Research Center, who was uninhibited with his criticism.

"It's amazing how far the left will go just to manipulate your kids, to convince them, give the anti-corporate message," he said.

"They've been doing it for decades. Hollywood, the left, the media, they hate the oil industry," Gainor continued. "They hate corporate America. And so you'll see all these movies attacking it, whether it was 'Cars 2,' which was another kids' movie, the George Clooney movie 'Syriana,' 'There Will Be Blood,' all these movies attacking the oil industry, none of them reminding people what oil means for most people: fuel to light a hospital, heat your home, fuel an ambulance to get you to the hospital if you need that. And they don't want to tell that story."

More here, with video.

Oh god, where do I even start with this?

It's tempting to put this in the same category with the gay-baiting of Tinky Winky, or the accusation that Mighty Mouse snorted cocaine during his 80s revival. I mean, this Muppet thing is easily as absurd. But there's a bit more going on here than with the standard psychotic fundamentalist penchant for seeing Satan in the shadows.

For starters, Hollywood is not anti-corporate or anti-business. Hollywood is corporate. Hollywood is business. And it will do anything it can to make a whole lot of money. If that means bashing capitalism, fine. If it means glorifying capitalism, that's fine, too. Just as long as it makes a whole lot of money. So to assert that Hollywood consciously pushes any sort of anti-business agenda at all is ludicrous. They're just trying to make money, and, to be fair, I have my own problems with that, but from a leftist perspective. The long and short is that it is impossible for Hollywood to be anti-business.

But wait, there's more!

The way these Fox guys spin it, if you're going to criticize negatively the oil industry in a movie, you also have to present the other side, the pro-oil side, as though Muppet movies were trying to adhere to some journalistic standard. Of course, that's fucking stupid. Muppet movies aren't CNN or ABC News projects; they're entertainment vehicles. But getting outside the movie business and into general argumentation, the whole notion of having to include praise with your criticism is just patronizing bullshit: why the fuck should I make your arguments for you?

I'm reminded of a discussion thread for a post I made here at Real Art a few years ago about Vidor, Texas. In it, I pointed out Vidor's longstanding Klan presence, and a few commenters took great issue with my characterization of the town's problems with racism. It got to the point that I was being strongly urged to point out that racism exists everywhere and that not everybody in Vidor is a racist. Finally, I was, like, must I always dilute my arguments in this way just because you're uncomfortable with your town's racism? Indeed, to point out that racism exists everywhere automatically takes the focus away from the point I was trying to make. And that's pretty fucking stupid.

Same thing with these Fox people discussing the new Muppet movie. They offer totally invented rules for argumentation that do nothing to make an argument better, and everything to make it confusing and less effective. If I'm trying to make people aware of how the oil industry is destroying the planet, I'm not going to go into a fifteen minute diversion to talk about how oil helps us all, and is actually a good thing. I mean, oil helps us all only because we've constructed the entire economy to depend on it, not because it's the magic substance that helps us all live better lives--we could just as easily base our economy on solar and wind.

And this Muppet movie apparently doesn't even go into any real issues concerning oil; all they did was make the bad guy an oil baron.

I guess the lesson here is that you should never accept conservative rules for debating: such rules are always stupid, and are created on the fly for the express purpose of undermining their opponents. But that's no real surprise. If the situation were reversed, with liberals condemning a movie with some sort of conservative message, conservatives would be insisting on entirely different rules, which, of course, would benefit their position, and only their position.


Monday, December 05, 2011


From the AP via the Huffington Post, in an article published before the bowl games were announced:

Alabama Or Oklahoma State For No. 2 Spot?

A rematch between LSU and Alabama in the national title game seemed almost a foregone conclusion heading into conference championship weekend.

But with Alabama idle, Oklahoma State made one last, strong push by beating Oklahoma 44-10 to win the Big 12 title.

Now, instead of Sunday being a coronation there's another BCS controversy: Should Alabama get another shot at the only team that beat the Tide, even if that means an all-SEC title game and a matchup that will surely play far better in the South than anywhere else? Or should the Cowboys, who beat five teams ranked in the last BCS standings and whose only loss was a double-overtime upset on the road to Iowa State, get the nod?

More here.

Let me get this out of the way first. Texas lost, which was not unexpected, but still gets to go to the Holiday Bowl, where they've gone several times before, but with much better records. LSU won the SEC championship in grand style, and Tyrann Mathieu played so well that he made it into the Heisman final round. So, of course, LSU gets to play for the national championship now that they're 12-0 for the first time in team history.

That's where they'll play a team that they've already beaten, that lost its conference, as well as its division, and had fewer victories against top 25 teams than the BCS number three squad, whose only loss was immediately after the school suffered the devastating deaths of two well known basketball coaches.

In short, the BCS system is way fucked up.

It really ought to be Oklahoma State versus LSU. And it really should have been Texas versus Florida for the 2008 season national championship. I'm getting sick of this shit. I mean, a playoff system may very well have achieved the same result, a rematch between Alabama and the Tigers, but, at least, we would have known that the Crimson Tide earned its berth without a doubt. Indeed, a playoff system would shut everybody up, except, maybe, for the university athletics departments that make millions off the entire bowl game institution. After all, that's why we have this big fucking Frankenstein mess: none of the powers-that-be want to risk all that money coming in from all those December and January bowl games, and fuck the fans, and fuck the teams.

How much more football bullshit must we tolerate? How bad does it have to get before the outrage outweighs the greed? I have no idea. But this pisses me off.



From the New York Times, conservative boy-wonder Ross Douthat on Occupy Wall Street relative to institutional liberalism:

The Decadent Left

But there’s a sense in which the pipeline protesters and Midwestern unions are exactly the people that the O.W.S. crowd should not learn from, if they aspire to appeal to a wider audience than left-wing activists usually reach.

Yes, Occupy Wall Street was dreamed up in part by flakes and populated in part by fantasists. But to the extent that the movement briefly captured the public’s imagination, it was because it seemed to be doing what a decent left would exist to do: criticizing entrenched power, championing the common good and speaking for the many rather than the few.

The union rallies and the Keystone demonstrations, by contrast, represented what you might call the decadent left, which fights for narrow interest groups rather than for the public as a whole.

More here.

Setting aside for the moment such catty barbs as "flakes" and "fantasists," and observing that blocking the Keystone pipeline and crusading for worker rights does, in fact, speak for the many, right-wing Douthat makes an extraordinarily good point: the decades old liberal penchant for chasing single issues within an institutional framework has left liberalism, as a big tent, addressing the big questions, to atrophy utterly.

I remember arguing with a liberal friend years ago about how I had voted for Nader. I told him I was voting my conscience. He told me that the Greens were in no position to get anything done. I responded that the Democrats weren't, either, that they were all about rearguard action, defending (poorly) liberal victories from long ago, while allowing liberalism itself to be chipped away incrementally--in effect, I argued, the Democrats were doing less than nothing in that they had ceded the overall narrative to the conservatives, which is why dramatic change, however hopeless it seemed to be, is the only hope we have. He was unconvinced. The only liberal show in town, he thought, was the Democratic Party, so we might as well throw our lot in with them, instead of some lefty upstarts who had no hope of getting any legislation passed, ever.

OWS has shown a third way. Fuck the liberal institutions. Fuck the Democratic Party. Fuck the political system. Fuck legislation. Fuck elective office. Instead, change the rules of the game. Change the way people think. Change what people expect from the government. Redefine the conflict. Show the true oppressors in all their sordid opulent decadent glory. Change the whole fucking culture. Once that happens, once we pass a certain as yet unknown threshold, legislation becomes just a formality, a ratification of what the people already want.

Politics, as practiced by the Democrats, have become an insider's game, something those other people over there do, but not us right here. OWS is about us right here. It's about the people. And it's very nice that even conservatives are starting to understand this.


Saturday, December 03, 2011

Pat Robertson: What is mac and cheese, a black thing?

From the Houston Chronicle:

"A confused Robertson, who grew up in Lexington, Va., acted like he had never heard of the culinary dish, a popular American staple for generations and absent-mindedly singled out the meal as a food reserved for blacks. Smithsonian Magazine notes that Kraft Foods first introduced its boxed macaroni and cheese in 1937.

'It is a black thing, Pat!' exclaimed Watts. 'Listen! And you guys! The world needs to get on board with macaroni and cheese. Seriously, I just– Christmas and Thanksgiving, we have to have macaroni and cheese and it just trips me out that you just don’t.'"

Video here.

It's tempting to just shrug this off as Robertson slipping into senile dementia, or stupid Southern racialist thinking, something that's just about the fundamentalist preacher and one time GOP presidential contender as an individual. This bizarre gaffe,
however, fits into a much wider pattern of total conservative cluelessness about not only racial issues, but all kinds of stuff. I mean, we've got Rick Perry's racist-named hunting lodge out in West Texas. We've got Herman Cain's "Uz-becki-becki-beckistan." We've got Newt Gingrich wanting to turn poor children into sub-minimum wage janitors. Sarah Palin thinking that Alaska's proximity to the Bering Strait makes her an expert on diplomacy. And, of course, there's the global warming denial. And creationism.

I mean, it really looks like conservatives are just as droolingly stupid as people can get. But these people are also capable of mounting very successful propaganda campaigns and winning elective office. They're also pretty good at business. No, they're not stupid. So what gives?

Frankly, I don't know. I mean, obviously, it's some kind of self-imposed ignorance on some subjects but not others, and it's clear that a lot of this bullshit has something to do with how certain facts render key conservative beliefs inoperative--for instance, the financial implosion of 2007 proves beyond a doubt that markets are not self-regulating; acceptance of man made global warming means embracing governmental regulation of business. But not all right-wing cluelessness is about protecting foundational assumptions about the way the world works. I mean, a lot of it appears to be just straight-up ignorance.

At any rate, it seems that conservatives see ignorance as some sort of strength. Maybe it has to do with this nation's traditional anti-intellectualism--book smarts aren't too helpful out on the frontier when you need to kill Indians and harvest the crop. I don't know. It's all very maddening.