Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Monday, September 28, 2009

Whose Side Are You On?



Keep the pressure on, push push push from the left, make them do it...

Booman's Take on the State of Play for Healthcare Reform

Read the whole thing:
[Candidates] Obama and Clinton had differed mainly over the issue of a mandate. Clinton said a mandate was needed to make the plan affordable (in the budgetary sense) and Obama said he couldn't see how a mandate would be fair to the buyer if it wasn't affordable (in a premium sense)….

[B]efore Obama took office he started canvassing the Senate to see what kind of support there was for his health care plan. He quickly discovered that there was no Republican support [and] also [that] the Democratic caucus… were more favorably disposed to Clinton's mandate than his own plan, and there were [even] a few Dems who opposed the public option [and hence] that he probably wouldn't have 60 Democratic votes in the caucus…

To get the bill he ran on, he was going to have to make sure that the public option passed on the House side and, since it could not pass on the Senate side, that it be included in the Conference Report…. If the Dems didn't have 60 votes, the Republicans would filibuster and take the blame for obstruction, setting up the argument for using reconciliation… [or, s]eeing the momentum for health care reform, one or two Republicans would vote for cloture and the bill would pass… If the Dems did have 60 votes, they could muscle the few doubters to vote for cloture, even if they opposed the underlying bill.

The Democrats are in good position. Sen. Byrd… misses most votes, but Franken is now a senator, Kennedy has been replaced, and Specter is a Democrat. If the Dems stay united on cloture, the bill can pass with a public option and without using budget reconciliation. Yet, Obama can't say that because we are still in the stage of passing something through the Finance Committee. We're still in the stage… where we need to line up all sixty Democrats in favor of cloture. That means… [t]he administration cannot afford to alienate anyone. If, at any point, the administration had taken the position that the public option absolutely must be in any bill that Obama signs, then the bill would never have passed through the Finance Committee. And that would have put the blame for failure on the Democrats…

So, what we've been witnessing has been a careful dance. What people say is different from what they mean.

This seems about right to me in most of the particulars, and I hope I can be forgiven for such an over-ample over-sampling.

It will depress me unutterably to be told yet again that this kind of elementary strategizing represents "nth-dimensional chess," especially when we observed this sort of head-counting and foresight and patient strategizing throughout the Presidential campaign and subsequently on both budgetary and foreign policy fronts over the last year. Actually co-opting the opposition and divide and conquer strategies aren't exactly rocket science. A generation of mostly Republican dumb-dumbs in the White House seems to have suffused the blogosphere with the bigotry of low expectations where Presidential intelligence is concerned.

I do think, as it happens, that progressive left unity -- made possibly largely through the work of online educators, agitators, and organizers like Jane Hamsher and a few indispensable voices in the more mainstream media like Rachel Maddow and Michael Moore -- has created the necessary pressures and fertile discursive terrain without which such Obama strategizing would have likely foundered and cashed out in outcomes far worse than what we are going to get instead. Insisting that Obama's conduct is perfectly intelligible as left wing of the possible pragmatism from a center-left President (on whose far left you will find me) is not my way of inviting progressive complacency. I just see little point in the ready capitulation to despair inspired by gloom-and-doom "Obama is a stealth corporatist little better than Republicans" purist jibber-jabber, especially when such radicalism is innervating rather than energizing at a time when we have a President who can and must be "made to do it" where progressive outcomes are concerned.

By the way, I also agree with Booman that Krugman's campaign season favoritism toward HRC over Obama sometimes got a wee bit snot-nosed, but I don't care, I still adore him.

Secular Democrats Own the Place

Josh and Atrios among others are expressing befuddlement at the apparent appetite of corporate-media institutions to document ever more and more the arguments and activities of the white racist patriarchal corporate-militarist Christianist-theocratic neo-Confederate rump of Movement Republicanism even as it grows ever more palpably crazy and ever more marginal to the secular center-left multicultural small-d democratic American mainstream.

Of course, part of this is the vestigial trace in the superannuated out-of-step professional commentariat of the unquestionable successes of well over a generation of deceptive and deranging Movement Republican rhetoric, which managed to figure a moralizing minority as a "Moral Majority" in the first place and managed to figure widespread support for social welfare programs and widespread skepticism of military adventurism as "extreme" and "discredited" hippy-talk.

Also, there are of course counter-intuitive structural affinities between the class interests of the secular city-dwelling professional commentariat and the know-nothing patriarchal white-racist feudalists of Movement Conservatism -- since the commentariat consists largely of unqualified gossips who have failed upward into high profiles and salaries they cannot really justify and so function, much as mouthbreathing white-racist Christianist mobs do, as useful idiots megaphoning the opportunistic spin and strategy of moneyed corporate-military incumbents.

As I have mentioned here many times before, though, I do think there is another phenomenon in play in all this, a collective experience, general though of course not universal, that resonates deeply and abidingly in the consciousness of mainstream secular democrats in ways that render us especially vulnerable to self-marginalization as "Less-Than-Real Americans" and overly attentive to the noise of actually marginal reactionaries who declare themselves flabbergastingly falsely as the "Only-Real Americans."

When many of us first left home for college or for life in the cities and emerged there into progressive consciousness, first confronted religious diversity, first grasped the reality and extent of social injustice, came out as gay, rebelled against the strictures of our upbringing, whatever form this development took, in becoming progressive many of us took a measure of distance from "America" as it was embodied in the meaner impoverished parts of the lives we left behind.

What we must grasp is that this is the path the majority of Americans have taken in some form or other over a century of tumult and trial. We did not leave America behind when we grew up and became more tolerant, more critical, more interested, more secular, more progressive.

Most of America grew up with us, most of America came with us. This is what America is now, this is the way most of us do things around here now. We are real Americans. This is not to deny the reality of the Americans who are drawn in their vulnerability and ignorance and parochialism into the deceptive deranging traps of Movement Republican discourse, it is not even to deny the goodness and good sense and enormous potential of so many of these deceived and deranged people in many other aspects of their lives and communities.

But it is to grasp ourselves a reality that the reactionaries know all too well themselves even if we do not seem yet quite to get it... It is their grasp of this reality that fuels their desperate rage, fuels their lock-step discipline, fuels their unquestioning uncritical certainty in asserting any belief, affirming any alliance, investing in any strategy however palpably it contradicts beliefs alliances and strategies they held hitherto or hold still elsewhere so long as this self-contradictory posture confers some momentary advantage in their struggle for position, fuels their anguished panic-stricken cries of "I want my country back!"

They realize as we do not that they have indeed lost their country, a country well lost indeed, that the America of Segregation and of Muscular Christianity and of Petrochemical Futurism is gone forever and that the America that elected Barack Obama President and celebrates its diversity and participates in p2p formations and doesn't believe that greed is good and demands healthcare for all and believes in the possibility of sustainable civilization and expects government of, by, and for the people actually to live up to its rhetoric, that America, that Real America, our Real America has taken its place.

Secular democrats -- among whom number many of the overpaid hacks of the insular professional commentariat -- simply need to get it in their heads that Movement Republicanism is a sad, scared echo of America’s past reverberating into its present, always was but is ever more conspicuously so now, these days, and that center-left tolerant secular pragmatic small-d democrats are truly Americans in America as it actually exists in the present.

Secular social democrats need to stop acting like renters in America -- and certainly stop paying attention to those who declare us to be such -- and realize we actually already own the place.

But It's Easy to Understand, Mr. President: They're Calling You "Hitler" Because They Can't Call You "N*****r"



They're ignorant racist assholes.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

MundiMuster! UC Walk Out Today

ASUC Release:
Support the Walkout --
An Important Message
From Your ASUC Student Government
[this message provided by an email from the ASUC to CAL students]

Dear Fellow Students,

With recent news of a potential 32% fee increase over the next year, we find the quality, affordability and accessibility of the UC system in jeopardy. We need your help, and we need solidarity in our response to those responsible for creating the problems that all Cal Students face.

This past Wednesday, the ASUC Senate unanimously passed a bill in support of the public actions which students, faculty and staff will employ this coming Thursday, September 24. The ASUC bill came on the heels of a meeting in which members of the faculty, including the Chair of the Academic Senate, spoke of the importance of students taking action to support the University in this fiscal crisis. Not even during the depression of the 1930s did student fees rise as suddenly and as much as now proposed. For the University of California and in particular its flagship campus, Berkeley, to maintain educational excellence, we need a change of priorities in state government. When the state spends, as the Governor noted the other day, twice as much on prison operations as we do on student higher education in California, California must rethink and revamp our priorities.

Why a Walkout Now?

California is in the midst of a major budget crisis, and higher education is one primary area most deeply impacted by the state budget compromise. Last semester, we felt the budget cuts in the form of rising student fees, the "restructuring" of departments and the layoffs of faculty and staff personnel. However, never have cuts been so deeply seen and widely felt than when we returned to school in the fall. There are two ways this situation can be viewed: (1) Accept that state funding cannot be relied upon for instructional operations and given that, focus on the future; or (2) Fight and organize on a grassroots level nonstop until the state legislature and the UC Regents hear and heed our demands.
On July 16, President Mark Yudof made a conscious choice to advocate for the former. Yudof created the Commission on the Future of the UC to steer the University toward accepting "acceptable" cuts to higher education funding. That same day the UC Regents granted Yudof emergency powers and passed the furlough plan. This unprecedented UCOP decision produced an immediate response from many stakeholders in the UC system, including students, and the best day chosen to express our public show of unity was the very first day of school for the majority of UC campus units. September 24th is the first day of instruction for all of the UCs except the two UCs on the semester system, UC Berkeley and UC Merced. Organizers recognized the importance of having a single unified action across all of the UC schools. Thus, while this particular day may mean a little less to us, we are standing in solidarity with our fellow UC student victims and find ourselves encouraging active support for the student walk out on September 24.

Why a Walkout at All?
At this point, so many groups have gotten involved with this movement (unions, students, faculty, and staff), and each group has different goals and objectives. In the formal open letter on behalf of the UC faculty, for example, faculty demands consisted of the following:
- No furloughs or pay cuts on salaries below $40,000.
- The immediate institution of the Academic Senate Council's July 29 recommendation regarding the furloughs.
- Full disclosure if the budget.
However, as students have become more involved in this movement, grievances have spanned from salary roll-backs, to fee rollbacks, to mandating no fee increases beyond the rate of inflation and even to fee freezes. It is vitally important, however, that a broader message is communicated to the public, the legislature and the governor. We are walking out on September 24th to show our collective dismay concerning what is happening to the UC as an institution; to stand against the gutting of the UC as a public institution of higher learning; and to show unity among students, faculty and staff as we say that we will not accept the degradation of the UC system without a fight.

Why Support the Walkout?

On September 24th something truly monumental is going to happen on our campus and on other UC campuses across the State of California. On September 24th, together, we will stand in solidarity, students, faculty and staff, and united in the spirit of a defense to the legacy of public higher education, we will walk out. Never before has there been such a large-scale single action across all of the UCs. For the first time, we have seen an alliance being built among students, faculty and staff all taking a strong stand against the erosion of the quality, accessibility and affordability of our UC education. United, we are confident that we can fight these budget cuts, oppose the enormous fee increases being proposed, and preserve the excellence of the UC public education system at this very pivotal moment in time.

How Do I Get Involved?

We urge you to please talk with fellow students, with faculty in and out of the classroom, and with campus administrators to learn about and understand what can be done, given the nature of the California State budget process. The very first part of the "how to" is involvement and engagement. We're all in this together, and we need to save the University of California by taking action. One of the first things you can do is write your state legislator and let them know your grievances. To find them go to: http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/yourleg.html Also, please register to vote and let your legislator know that you are a registered voter who cares about the quality and affordability of a UC education.
Also this week, there will be teach-ins and other discussions on campus addressing the budget issues. Join in those discussions. We support the efforts of all students, faculty and staff who are saying with one voice, we cannot continue down the current path.

The Importance of Unity

This is an issue that affects all UC Berkeley students. Beyond that, what is happening to each student, and their families, touches UC students, as well as all other State College and Community College students throughout California. In association with the Walkout, which the ASUC Senate as well as the University of California Student's Association unanimously voted to endorse and support, the ASUC will be hosting a de-briefing on the Walkout this Sunday, September 27th from 3pm-5pm. Please check the ASUC.org website for more updates and events.

Here is an excerpt from SAVEUC.org on the important events coming up this week that need your support:

"Save the Public University: A Teach-In on the UC Crisis"
Wednesday, September 23
Wheeler Auditorium
7-9 PM

Admission is Free.

Featured speakers include:

Ananya Roy, Professor of City and Regional Planning and Co-Director of
Global Metropolitan Studies Center

Kevin Padian, Professor of Integrative Biology and President of the
National Center for Science Education

Catherine Cole, Professor of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies

Wendy Brown, Professor of Political Science.

Robert Reich, Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy

SAVEUC.org supports faculty, staff, and students who participate in the Systemwide Walkout on Sept. 24. We urge everyone to attend the noon rally at Sproul Plaza. These events, at least, will call attention to the problems of access, the loss of excellence and the shrouding of transparency that is endemic, now, at Berkeley and throughout the UC governance system. Anyone can attend the noon rally without crossing any picket lines.

Included in these events will be analysis of the crisis, as well as a comprehensive description of ways each student can get involved to reverse or mitigate the proposed fee hikes and accessibility cutbacks. Small teaching events within departments, student groups, union organizations, and the like, will be held, as well as a major evening event on Sept. 23rd, in which some of the leading members of the faculty will address the problems facing public higher education at Berkeley and within California.
Again, please check ASUC.org for more updates and events. For more information on the Walkout and how you can fight for the quality and very existence of affordable public education, please visit the following websites:

http://saveuc.org/

http://www.ucstudentwalkout.com/

http://asuc.org/newsite/pressreleases#/newsite/budget-cuts-watch-videos-of-the-faculty-panel-at-the-asuc-meeting/

Please be proactive and stand together to oppose the devastation of higher education in California. Thank you, and let's all become part of a proud Berkeley tradition of meaningful and informed action.

Will Smelko
ASUC President

Dani Haber
External Affairs Vice President

Tu Tran
Executive Vice President

John Tran
Academic Affairs Vice President
9-22-09

Flabbergasting Fact


Columbia Journalism Reveiw: "Katie Couric’s annual salary is more than the entire annual budgets of NPR’s Morning Edition and All Things Considered combined."

The Devolution Will Be Televised

Steve Benen notes (and Atrios echoes his pique) that John McCain is slated to appear this Sunday in yet another of what has come to seem an endless cavalcade of high-profile big media interviews.
[T]he Sunday shows' obsession with McCain… [is] so absurd. The Arizona Republican, after a wildly unsuccessful presidential campaign, is just another conservative member of a 40-seat minority. McCain isn't playing a role in any important negotiations; he hasn't unveiled any significant pieces of legislation; he isn't being targeted as a swing vote on any major bills; and he's not a member of the GOP leadership. He's just another far-right senator, with precious little to say that couldn't have been predicted in advance….

Eric Boehlert… found that John Kerry, in the eight months after Bush's second inaugural, made three appearances on the Sunday morning shows. McCain's total, obviously, more than quadruples that number.

The insinuation here is that corporate media are investing marginal and discredited Republican views and figures with undue weight, while disregarding and denigrating extremely popular and sound Democratic views and the figures who advocate them.

And of course this is surely part of the story here: Given that the bland gossips of corporate media tend not to have much in the way of intelligence, talent, or charisma to justify either their salaries or their influence they have a natural affinity for Movement Republicans who -- however clownish, clumsy, blustering, and hypocritical the spectacle they are making of themselves from moment to moment may happen to be -- are struggling to preserve a world in which precisely such talentless clueless parochial twits can celebrate themselves as indispensable elites.

Our punditocrats never tires of dismissing center-left proposals and figures -- however soundly argued, however widely supported -- as foul-smelling emanations from dirty crazy unserious hippies. No doubt this is in large part because they know in their heart of hearts that however catastrophic and brutal the anti-intellectualism parochialism and intolerance of the Republicans they have incomparably less chance of actually maintaining their positions and perks in a more equitable and diverse secular democratic order (even as they lounge and chatter in the urbane milieus only secular democracy could maintain), than amidst the hicks and hypocrites of stubborn incumbency.

So, yes, I take Benen's and Atrios' point, of course, about the ugliness of the near daily blowjob corporate media gives Not President Grumpy McAncient. However, all that aside, isn't it also true that part of the reason this loser keeps getting so much attention simply because McCain represents something of a gravity well in the current mediated-attention landscape? People do actually know who McCain is, even if they didn't like what they saw particularly, and he is a figure who is now and has long participated in government on the National stage.

While it's true, strictly speaking, that McCain is not "a member of the GOP leadership" as Benen notes, the fact is that the GOP doesn't have anything like a real leadership, certainly not among its actual leaders. It makes a certain sense to treat McCain as a leader in a moment when the leader otherwise is going to end up being Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck. There is a non-negligible sense in which the GOP won't be able to cough up a leader that can pass muster in media terms until a "credible" challenger to Obama for the Presidency claws her or his way out of the pack.

Rather than see this state of affairs as nefarious corporate mediated flogging for Movement Conservatism, then, the prominence of McCain may actually symptomize yet again how utterly devastated the GOP finds itself in the aftermath of its disastrous run of actually getting what it wanted and actually trying to govern on the basis of its "principled" hostility to the very notion of governing.

That means that McCain's visibility is good news for Democrats, not for the GOP. I think Democrats have grown so habituated to everything endlessly going against them however strong their arguments, however popular their positions, however desperate the problems they would address, however flabbergastingly irrational their opponents, that they tend to see and expect the worst in things as they play out. But for the life of me I can't see how the GOP benefits from having Not President McCain on the tee vee every week grumbling Not Presidentially about how much better it would be if we were building more bombs right about now.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Good News in the Struggle for Peer-to-Peer Democratization

From the good folks at Free Press and its Save the Internet Coalition
In a speech at the Brookings Institution, [FCC Chair] Julius Genachowski said the FCC must… preserve[e] Net Neutrality against increased efforts by providers to block services and applications over both wired and wireless connections. …

“If we wait too long to preserve a free and open Internet, it will be too late,” Genachowski said citing a number of recent examples where network providers have acted as gatekeepers: "We have witnessed certain broadband providers unilaterally block access to VoIP applications (phone calls delivered over data networks) and implement technical measures that degrade the performance of peer-to-peer software distributing lawful content. We have even seen at least one service provider deny users access to political content." ….

Genachowski, who was an architect of President Obama’s technology agenda, proposed that the agency adopt new principles that would prevent discrimination and require full transparency from ISPs that seek to manage their networks. The new principles are additions to the “Four Freedoms” endorsed by the FCC in 2005.

Genachowski asked the FCC to adopt all six principles as Internet rules that are “essential to ensuring its continued openness.” FCC Commissioners Michael Copps and Mignon Clyburn have already indicated they support stronger Net Neutrality rules…..

Now the FCC has to actually write the new rules and invite comments from the public and interested parties.

To engage more public participation in the process, Genachowski announced that the agency would hold a series of public workshops on openness. In addition, the FCC launched a new Web site, www.openinternet.gov, so the public can “contribute to the process.”


From a rhetorician's standpoint, I will add quickly here that the figure of an "open internet" here seems to me much better than the "net neutrality" which has come to figure these debates. There is of course nothing in the least "neutral" about the facilitation of peer-to-peer democratization online, it is driven by a commitment to the specifically democratic construal of freedom that values equity and diversity, peer-to-peer, as against, for example, incumbent construals of freedom that favor outcomes preferred by stakeholders over others, outcomes typically stealthfully advocated through the deployment of under-specific terms like "innovation" (in the service of what? by whom?) and "competitiveness" (for what? among whom?). Like "neutrality" "openness" is still tapping into negative as against positive formulations of liberty, which probably cannot be helped given the utterly debased state of public discourse at this point, but it does pay to remember that negative formulations are powerful because they seem in advocating for non-interference rather than for substantial outcomes to be less controversial and hence better able to secure political values over time -- but that this is ultimately a mistaken assumption, since "non-interference" always relies for its force and intelligibility on a constellation of assumptions about substance (figuring the integrity with which one is not to interfere) that differ from positive liberty only in that they are taken for granted, sometimes without reason, treated uncritically, or even disavowed altogether, all to the detriment of sense. Although it is commonplace to figure freedom and liberty as an open space traversed by the free-agent (hence, one is "at liberty," hence taxes get figured in reactionary discourse as "burdens," encumbrances weighing down one's free course through empty space) -- and both "neutrality" and "openness" tap into this figurative commonplace -- it seems to me better by far to figure freedom as a dense filling-up or stage-setting or orchestration of the material world that is richly capacitating (hence, one is rendered "free to" do this or to do that, hence taxes are indispensable investments in capacitation).

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sunday Sermon

Throughout August the Villagers handwaved that Obama's efforts to "stay above the fray" had allowed the healthcare message to get away from him, and now they handwave that his "overexposure" is allowing the healthcare message to get away from him.

These silly gossips don't know what they are talking about. These people are experts at getting on the tee vee, not experts in any of the actual subjects about which they hyperventilate. They just go where the shiny is and the noise is and then pretend that whatever spin incumbent interests put on things to their own benefit constitutes reality.

Obama won the Presidency despite their repeated declarations that this or that drama of the moment doomed him. Remember "bitter"? Remember Reverend Wright? Remember the Reagan comment? No? Why would you? Obama is our President, and America is the America that elected him.

Healthcare reform numbers remained surprisingly steady despite the noise and confusion of August. The progressive left has remained firmer than it has done in over a generation, and the Public Option is not dead, whatever the gossips handwave to the contrary.

The bill we get won't be the one we want and the process will be ugly as these things always actually are (as will be EFCA, as will be the second stimulus, as will be climate change legislation, as will the two or more Supreme Court nomination battles to come) but what we get will be both incomparably better than what we have now and better than what we fear we might get. In the years to come we will build on what we get to get better and better.

The teabaggers, the birthers, the deathers, the tenthers, the gun-nuts, the Christianists, the Randroids keep re-staging the election they lost, because they can't believe a black man was elected President, that they live in an America that would elect a black man President.

These sad wingnuts easily draw the cameras of the silly gossips to the spectacle that they are making of themselves. The gossips want spectacle and few are capable of useful analysis. But all the facts remain as they are, the President is still the President, America is still the America which elected him. Every time the wingnuts re-stage the election, they re-stage the fact of their defeat, they expose their ugly face to the world and the America that elected Obama rejects them over and over again.

They told us who they are in their Palin rallies, and what they exposed was unelectable in America. They lost because of who they are, and what America really is. Even when they sold themselves for so long as a "Moral Majority" they represented a marginal minority, even when they declared themselves a permanent ruling majority the demographic writing was on the wall and only electoral shenanigans (in 2000 actually amounting to a coup, the crime that set the stage for the gangsterism and war-crimes to come) kept the superficial appearance of their prevalence only precariously in place, a mirage their True Believers then indulged to the fatal cost of any palpable connection to reality.

Republicans now have no real leaders who are actually in elected office, their Base is energized by media personalities who not only do not hold elected office but could not be elected by actual majorities. La Palin has actually quit elected office to become a media personality. Limbaugh, Beck, and the rest attract attention but their views cannot win anybody any votes.

The Republican Party is a leaderless, rudderless, ridiculous neo-confederate rump, engaged in a spectacle of suicidal self-marginalization, catering by necessity to a Base that is all it has and which it therefore cannot afford to lose without losing everything in the short term, but which ultimately isn't worth having in America as it actually is and so ensures Republican will lose everything in the long term.

The corporatist and Christianist coalition that drove Movement Conservatism into running things and ruining things never made any abiding conceptual sense. The corporatists and Christianists didn't really want the same things since much that the Christianists disapprove of is profitable and much that the Christianists care about is unprofitable, making their relation essentially one of deception and predation. But both desperately wanted to live in a world that wasn't going where 1968 seemed to say it was going, and the instability and cynicism of the Movement Republican coalition could be hidden and disavowed so long as it maintained its desperate momentum, a momentum that could last only so long in the face of stubborn reality (about which more in a moment).

The "victories" of Movement Republicanism in the aftermath of the New Deal and Civil Rights movements -- whether in its resentful frowny-faced Nixonian visage, its vapid smiley-faced Reaganomic visage, its mean huckster-faced Gingrichian visage, its killer clown-faced Loyal Bushie visage -- always only amounted to petty cruelties enacted on the most vulnerable for the benefit of the most ignorant and fearful of the poor (kept as ignorant and fearful as possible by the policies of the Republicans themselves) under cover of which they looted the inheritance and ongoing work of public culture and the ongoing investment of public works and infrastructure for the benefit of the already rich.

There are and can be no accomplishments the Movement Republicans can point to in the aftermath of their ruinous generational prevalence, theirs was a work of looting and dismantlement in essence. They have no substantial legacy to testify to, their short-term pleasures evaporated at the site of their consumption, their ill-gotten gains can be re-taxed away in a fraction of the time they took in stealing them, their whomping up of ignorance and fear cannot sustain itself in the face of the pressure of planetary peer-to-peer formations educating, agitating, organizing.

America is a multi-racial multi-cultural secular democratic nation... catastrophic climate change exacerbated by reckless petrochemical civilization is really happening and can really be addressed by policy... there are some things that only good legitimate accountable government can do... the Constitution has indicated from the first that promoting general welfare secures the blessings of liberty... markets are neither natural nor spontaneous and far from representing a replacement for good governance they need government themselves to enable what they do well... people cannot flourish unless they feel they belong however many belongings they have... "Defense" is largely welfare for the already obscenely rich... all we are saying is give peace a chance... those who benefit most from civilization should pay their fair share of the maintenance of that civilization in taxes... healthcare is a right and nobody in the countless nations on earth that provide it as a right want to lose that right or feel themselves to live in tyrannies because they have that right... the faithful rarely believe that those who do not share their particular faiths are therefore not good people or fellow citizens... scientific knowledge can and should be acquired and applied to solve shared problems... everybody has sex... women can and do make decisions for themselves... diversity makes the world more beautiful and more interesting... everybody should be able to vote, to speak their mind and own up to what they say, to run for elected office, to have access to reliable information, to make decisions free from threats of force or ruin... people should take responsibility for what they have done... people in trouble should get the help they need to get back up on their feet, because everybody needs help at some point in their life and everybody in the long run is capable of contributing to the world we share, peer to peer...

Republicans are not speaking to these realities right now in even remotely realistic ways: They are caught up in panic and delusion in the face of change, rage and loathing in the face of difference, greed and laziness in the face of the work of public good, moralizing and denial in the face of the planet.

Corporate-militarist dems are dinosaurs and slow-moving slow-witted "centrists" are nudging like snails in the general direction of reality. Some won't change in time, some will do great damage to no good purpose, some will cloak themselves in change without changing themselves and will betray those who count on them.

Politics is ugly, interminable, perilous, and utterly indispensable.

There will always be gossips on the tee vee. Take what they say with a grain of salt, keep your perspective, participate in the struggle for social justice in whatever measure you can and with that participation will come the knowledge you need to protect you from fraud, betrayal, or despair.

Understand that we are at the beginning and not at the end of a progressive epoch and that our efforts will culminate either in a sustainable equitable consensual multicultural planetary democracy with liberty and justice and welfare for all, or in the destruction of human civilization in the bursting of the petrochemical bubble of modernity without making provision for a sustainable successor to it, in the unnecessary stressing or destruction of the planetary ecosystem's capacity to maintain life as we know it, or in an idiotic orgy of war-machines.

Have a good week.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Teabagger Trash

After using Publicly Funded Transportation and Publicly Funded Roads to get to the Publicly Funded sidewalks to walk to the Publicly Funded Parks, at the end of their protest, what did these haters of Government Interference do ? They threw their rubbish down for the Publicly Funded garbagemen & women of Washington DC to take care of. Carrying home all those thin sheets of Cardboard was obviously the task of someone with a larger work ethic.

dKos diarist "oznick" provides a lovely gallery of discarded placards and even a desecrated American flag pouring out of garbage bins and onto the streets of our Nation's Capital in the aftermath of yesterday's unimpressive but plenty ugly spleen-venting of the "Beckers" "birthers" "deathers" "tenthers" and Randroids of white-racist patriarchal corporate-militarist Christianist-theocratic Movement Republicanism.

The Fury of Creation

Telegraph UK
The film ["Creation"] was chosen to open the Toronto Film Festival and has its British premiere on Sunday. It has been sold in almost every territory around the world, from Australia to Scandinavia. However, US distributors have resolutely passed on a film which will prove hugely divisive in a country where, according to a Gallup poll conducted in February, only 39 per cent of Americans believe in the theory of evolution….. The film has sparked fierce debate on US Christian websites, with a typical comment dismissing evolution as "a silly theory with a serious lack of evidence to support it despite over a century of trying." Jeremy Thomas, the Oscar-winning producer of Creation, said he was astonished that such attitudes exist 150 years after On The Origin of Species was published. "That's what we're up against. In 2009. It's amazing," he said. "The film has no distributor in America. It has got a deal everywhere else in the world but in the US, and it's because of what the film is about. People have been saying this is the best film they've seen all year, yet nobody in the US has picked it up."

Given the star power represented in the film (Jennifer Connelly, Jeremy Northam), and the accolades it is already accumulating worldwide, I find it hard to believe that US distributors who witnessed the success of comparably controversial biopics like Kinsey really truly are all going to give this film a miss.

More likely this is at least in part something of a cynical marketing campaign to whomp up controversy to attract wider audiences in anti-intellectual America to a cerebral film, not to mention provide a lingering aura of righteousness to give the vapid narcissistic members of the Academy some reason to think they are doing something noble -- rather than just indulging in the usual incessant self-congratulation -- when they go on to award the film with a string of Academy Award nominations down the road.

I mean, I could be wrong, it may really be that every US distributor is so cowed by the marginal minority of rabble-rousing feudalists in this country that they would pass by a chance to market a palpable prestige project with every sign of turning a nice profit, but I doubt it. Quite apart from all that, I do very much think it would be a good thing for American idiots to find themselves confronted for a couple of weeks with secular and Darwinian themes, even if only for half-minute snippets of prime-time commercial real estate.

Oh, and the film looks pretty good, too. Here's a trailer:

Encouraging

Via TPM: In an interview to be broadcast this evening on 60 Minutes the President says of whatever healthcare reform bill finally finds its way to his desk for his signature:
I have no interest in having a bill get passed that fails, that doesn't work. You know, I intend to be president for a while and once this bill passes, I own it. And if people look and say, "You know what? This hasn't reduced my costs. My premiums are still going up 25 percent, insurance companies are still jerking me around," I'm the one who's going to be held responsible. So I have every incentive to get this right.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Democracy Needs Hecklers

Calls to censure the execrable South Carolinian Movement Republican Joe Wilson (not to be confused with the honorable Ambassador Joe Wilson, also long a Republican, hounded together with his wife for bravely exposing the lies of mighty criminals at a time when few in his position did the same), for heckling the President in his joint address to Congress on healthcare, represent a pointless distraction from the actually urgent work of Congress at this moment.

I wouldn't be displeased at all, frankly, if Presidents were greeted more often with public disapproval and heckling from the Congress -- as have Prime Ministers in the United Kingdom for years and years, to the sharpening of their wits and to the benefit of their constituencies.

Those who fear that toleration of such breaches in decorum would likely unleash the full-on madness of the rancid obstructionists and irrationalists of Movement Republicanism are right to expect that result but wrong to fear it. The country benefits little from a mannerly concealment of their obstructionism and deception and fear-mongering behind courtly declarations of unfelt and unmerited respect.

The country would have benefited immeasurably by more heckling from Democrats of the war criminals and corporate cronies of the Killer Clown Administration.

I do not agree that only hypocritical sufferance of deception and greed restrains the eruption of anarchy in Congress. And I believe that if the liars and thugs of Movement Republicanism were indeed to reduce the Congress to a full-on brawl, they would be evicted soon enough and for good from the People's House by the appalled will of the People themselves -- few of whom, whatever their disagreements with secular democrats, would see such a development as one from which they would be likely to secure much benefit.

Only a marginal minority of Americans truly want to live in a Christianist theocracy, want to dismantle government services and oversight, want to relinquish all power to moneyed minorities driven by nothing but short-term profit-taking rather than a desire to serve public interests. The ugly irrationality of that minority needs to be exposed to the light of scrutiny, not insulated from view by false equivalences in the media or false courtesy in the halls of government.

The Republican bully who barked that our President was lying about healthcare benefits to illegal immigrants in defiance of published facts was himself a liar. Those who love the truth are buttressed when lies are exposed as such, but no one benefits from whomped up faux outrage and point-scoring ritual humiliations that Washingtonians allow to substitute for actual work to solve our shared problems and secure our liberty.

Update: Andrew Sullivan points out that even in the more raucous and contentious House of Commons one thing one doesn't call another is a liar, as the vile bullying dullard Joe Wilson declared wrongly and dishonestly of our President.

Republican Bowel Movement

Movement Republicans continue the self-marginalization of the Republican Party into a white-racist patriarchal theocratic neo-Confederate Rump Party screaming ever more stridently to ever fewer folks.

Washington Post:
Conservative protesters by the tens of thousands crowded outside the U.S. Capitol on Saturday, a massive demonstration aimed at stopping what organizers called the over-expansion of the federal government under the Obama administration….

Estimates of the number of protesters varied widely but about 30,000 people have registered online for the march, according to one of the rally's sponsors, FreedomWorks, a Washington-based group headed by former House majority leader Dick Armey (R-Tex.).

Yes, even with the support of crazy-eyed Glenn Beck's media megaphone and an avalanche of corporate dollars from the phony "grassroots" impresarios of FreedomWorks, all the "teabaggers" and "deathers" and "birthers" and "tenthers" and other assorted anti-governmental nuts were able to muster "a massive demonstration" that exposed nothing so much as their actual utter marginality and irrelevance.

Compare these embarrassingly thin crowds of at most tens of thousands -- more people throng sporting events in every middling to major metropolitan area on a weekly basis -- to the hundreds of thousands and even millions of citizens who March on Washington and fill the streets of our cities to protest our illegal immoral wars, to declare their support for women's right to choose, for lgbtq rights, for working people everywhere.

Just think of the millions upon millions who protested the looming Iraq War even before it was launched (millions around the world who were utterly and immediately vindicated by the still unfolding bloody criminal tragedy to come), only to be ignored by the smug war-cheerleaders of the corporate media, only to be dismissed as an irrelevant "interest group" by the Killer Clown then occupying the White House.

Update: Latest estimates seem to put the anti-government protests at more like sixty to seventy thousand people, twice the numbers I read initially. That's a better showing, but still far from fearsome in my view, and infinitely far from earning these mouthbreathing reactionaries the right to declare themselves the "Real America" and all the rest of that garbage. These anti-civilizational activists are the rancid rump of an ever more marginal Rump Party, exposed as such by their own acts and properly to be treated as such.

Norma Rae Murdered by the Corporate Slaughterhouse After All

Crystal Lee Sutton, the woman who was the inspiration for Sally Field's character in the still-wonderful 1979 movie "Norma Rae," died yesterday after a battle with cancer of the meninges. She was just 68 years old.

From an article last year:
She went two months without possible life-saving medications because her insurance wouldn't cover it, another example of abusing the working poor, she said. "How in the world can it take so long to find out (whether they would cover the medicine or not) when it could be a matter of life or death[?]" she said. "It is almost like, in a way, committing murder."


Indeed, it is like murder, in an incumbent corporate-militarist order that seeks parochial profits for the few over meeting the needs and serving the freedom of all the people who share the world, peer to peer.

Even those heroes who manage stunning victories against the odds for brief, shining moments in the battle against corporate-militarist hegemony eventually fail to hold up under the relentless ramifying intensifying onslaught of death-dealing cost-externalization risk-externalization harm-externalization status-informalization crisis-exacerbation -- the planetary precarization -- through which neoliberal-neoconservative futurological "development," "competition" "innovation" and "free trade" serves the interests of moneyed minorities and incumbency.

Keep Fighting for Every Employees' Right to Join a Union without Termination or Harassment. Keep Fighting for Everyone's Right to Health Care without Delay or Financial Duress. Keep Fighting to Dismantle the Obscenity of Corporate Personhood -- which renders actual persons second class citizens. Keep Fighting to Overturn the Doctrine that Money Is Speech, which renders money all that really talks.

Keep Fighting to Overthrow Corporate-Militarist Hegemony over the Planetary Precariate. Fight Their Future and Reopen Futurity Through the Fight for Democracy, Peer to Peer.

More and More Mama

Governator Will Likely Veto His Only Possible Non-Catastrophic Accomplishment

And it's his own so-called "signature issue," too, according to the vapid glossies.

Here's David Dayen at Calitics with the nauseating details:
SB14, which would set a first-in-the-nation standard that utilities must receive 33% of their energy from renewable sources by 2020, passed the Legislature late last night…. This would make California's renewable energy standard one of the most aggressive in the world. The Governor, feted in magazines and national media as an environmental leader, has vocally backed the 33% standard in the past. But power plant generators have pressured Schwarzenegger to veto the bill. And according to the LA Times, he will…. That would really be the icing on the cake to the worst Governorship in California history. The one issue on which he staked his legacy, and he is likely to veto the bill most likely to drive the lowering of greenhouse gas emissions, mainly because it would keep too many jobs in the state. [There are provisions limiting the amount of renewable energy that can come fom outside California --d] Adding a renewable energy standard and mandating a majority of that energy be generated in state, is probably the only bill passed this year that looks to expand the local economy. And because of that, Schwarzenegger will veto it. And the same magazines will put him on the cover with the slogan "The Greenenator" and talk up his environmental credentials.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Today's Random Wilde

Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess.

So Long As Corporations Are Treated As People, People Will Not Be Recognized As Citizens, So Long As Money Is Treated As Speech, Only Money Will Talk

Dahlia Lithwick is paying close attention to the oral arguments in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission in the US Supreme Court, since there are real signs that this case may be used to overturn McConnell v. FEC (which in 2003 upheld the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law) or Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce. There are real worries that the ever more rightward-leaning Roberts Court will undermine the few fragile scarcely effectual barriers to an outright suffusion of corporate billions into elections already creaking under the corrupting weight of money-grubbing.

Not to put too fine a point on it, the too-possible too-proximate dismantling of campaign finance laws in favor of corporations by the Movement Republican Roberts Court could transform the political landscape nearly as much as the too-unlikely too-distant implementation of Obama's public option to provide a real check and enforcement mechanism on corporate insurance's catastrophic stranglehold on healthcare provision would do -- and yet we hear little to nothing and understand even less about the one as compared to the other.

Liberal commentators cannot be content simply to expose the hypocrisy of corporate-militarist Movement Republicans who rant and rail against "activist judges" and then place market fundamentalist and Christianist fundamentalists on the courts who indulge in the most rampant imaginable activism.

All that's true, of course, but exposing hypocrisies and ironies isn't enough. Not nearly enough.

In fact, it's rather lazy and often utterly ineffectual.

Yes, Republicans accuse others of things they themselves do: They are racists who accuse others of racism, they are authoritarians who accuse others of authoritarianism, they celebrate deadly corporate healthcare rationing and then accuse others of forming "death panels," they revel in death -- via wars, guns, pollution, poverty, executions, back alley abortions -- and then call themselves "pro-lfe."

Yes, they're hypocrites, yes, they're liars, yes, it's always opposite day in Republicanland.

And, yes, liberals keep pointing this out, and assuming the higher ground... and these villains keep on doing it and doing it and doing it.

They will not stop. They do not care what we say, they do not care that we expose them, they do not care that we are smarter and better and more sensible than them (in fact they know this already and their resentment fuels no small amount of their villainy).

Documenting the atrocities is an inadequate check on -- and may even be something of an energizing prompt for -- the project of Movement Republicanism caught up in the global circuit of corporate-militarism, of neoliberalism/neoconservatism.

In political discourse, to expose the lies and hypocrisies of truly vicious or truly cynical or truly delusive opponents without offering up alternate content and proposals is to relegate yourself always only to reaction, passivity, tattling, gossip.

For too long too many liberals have been speaking truth to power always only in the tonalities of elegy. They have been sad or even smug spectators offering up an endless testimony to the senseless ongoing dismantling of democratic civilization.

It isn't enough to expose the hypocrisy of the radical corporatizing activism of the Movement Republican Roberts Court, one must expose the project for what it is and then offer up an alternate vision of the wholesome activism that will animate a liberal court to come.

So Long As Corporations Are Treated As People, People Will Not Be Recognized As Citizens. Thus we must resist and refuse Movement Republican corporatist activism to expand the power of these institution. This activism is indeed hypocritical given their endless histrionic handwaving about their "originalism" and abhorrence of "activism," but the hypocrisy occludes rather than clarifies the actual stakes at hand. Corporate charters must be re-circumscribed (as they have been in many other eras), their functions specified, their terms limited, their public impacts regulated and rendered accountable to more than their accountants, their liabilities re-figured. Institutions providing indispensable public services must be broken up whenever they grow too big to fail (much of what gets described as finance) or too concentrated to suffer competitors (much of what gets described as utilities and infrastructure), they must be subjected to public competition if they provide services that cannot pass muster as commodities subjected to market competition (much of what gets described as healthcare).

So Long As Money Is Treated As Speech, Only Money Will Talk. Thus we must find our way to public financing of elections to ensure that citizens have the power to restrain abuses through recourse to the regular re-election or overthrow of their representatives, but also through our ability to run for office ourselves with a chance of success equal to our qualifications, even if we lack personal fortunes or refuse to be beholden to moneyed interests. But in the shorter term we have to be able at the very least to track the connections between the fortunate few and those who are elected to represent majorities but who have been bought and paid for by moneyed minorities. Further, we need to regain some purchase on the fraud and fabulizing of the few, we need to be able to hold those who lie and deceive in the pursuit of short-term and parochial profit-taking, in their marketing and advertising and promotion and spin.

Yes, they are stupid. Yes, they are vulgar. Yes, they are mean. Yes, they are hateful. Yes, they are liars. Yes, they are deluded.

But it is not enough to endlessly illustrate their limitations to render ourselves otherwise, we must demonstrate ourselves intelligent, sensitive, generous, responsible, honest, reasonable through the alternate substance we offer up in making our own cases and efforts.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Hey, Who Farted?

It is interesting to note that the number of words it takes for a dishonest Republican to say "you lie" compared to the number of words it takes a serious Democratic President to delineate an actually workable and still passable urgently necessary historically unprecedented healthcare reform proposal would appear to be roughly proportional to the number of words the media is eager to spend discussing the proposal itself as compared to the number they devote to the idiotic invective itself.

A Specter Is Haunting Arlen, the Specter of a Primary

TPM
Tweet from Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA): "This U.S. Senator is going to tell him (the President) emphatically that we need the public option."

Monday, September 07, 2009

Max Baucus Plan for Healthcare: Eat Shit And Die

NYT

No Public Option, no co-ops, not even a "trigger" that would never get pulled anyway (if not now, when?)... And because it imposes "fees" on insurance companies in certain circumstances to put some pressure on costs and provide relief for some of the most vulnerable (fees that would in reality be used to justify the usual denials and delays of care that illustrated the urgency for reform in the first place, fees that would surely eventually be cleverly circumvented anyway) the plan will result in no bipartisanship, except possibly the figleaf of Snowe's single vote.

Reform that reforms nothing is worse than nothing when it is expected to cost six hundred billion dollars we don't have. This is the difference between the institution of a popular new program that transforms the landscape of inequity in the United States through signature legislation that places more progressives in power for over a generation of good works, as against a complete failure of vision, nerve, and effort imposing a useless costly universally unpopular program on already overburdened already profoundly vulnerable Americans, a program shifting dwindling hope and treasure to the super-rich and at the same time more risk and cost to the vulnerable, pinning this catastrophe to the Democratic Party, and squandering this historic moment for change from which everybody can benefit and stopping the forces of the white-racist patriarchal corporate-militarist Christianist authoritarianism of "Movement Republicanism" decisively in their tracks.

Now that the waiting is over and Baucus has revealed his shit sandwich at last, it is to be hoped that the united forces of the Progressive Caucus, speaking for the citizen majority rather than for the minority of villains in the corporate insurance industry, will gently consign the thing to the compost bin where it belongs, and shift public attention to one of the incomparably better plans that came out of the House, this time with the White House's seal on it to give it legs, ignore the bad-faith Republican vandals in the Senate, and let the Blue Dogs know that either they get in line or won't get the money for re-elections they will lose anyway if they side with Big Insurance over the People.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Veal Pen

Annoyed by the lack of support for Van Jones? For the endless blowjobs to DINO Blue Dogs? For the promise of real health care reform transformed into the threat of another corporate bailout reforming nothing at the expense of nearly a trillion suffering citizens' dollars? For the crickets chirping while Obama abandoned his promise to repeal DOMA? For the failure to push back on huge executive bonuses larded out at taxpayer expense to bailed-out financial fraudsters?

Jane Hamsher recommends you get to know the new gatekeepers, same as the old gatekeepers, only now with a "D" tacked onto their name-tags.

More Van Jones (Updated)

Brian Leubitz over at Calitics, still supports Van Jones, and so do I.
Van Jones['s] signature on the truther document [was] a mistake. He has acknowledged that mistake. The Republicans as assholes thing seems pretty petty to me. All in all, Republicans have done a lot worse things, illegal things, and stayed in their jobs. But, IOKIYAR, right?

Van Jones made some remarkable changes here in the Bay Area and across the state. That the White House was not there to support him is beyond unfortunate. [emphasis added --d] It hands a scalp to the nearly mortally wounded Glenn Beck and it empowers the right-wing extremists.

I think this last point is probably overstated, if it means to imply Glenn Beck is bolstered in any real kind of way by this result. Advertisers are not going to flock back to Beck because he got the scalp of a minor advisor. I actually think the prompt resignation takes the air out of this particular facet of the endlessly ongoing right wing deceptive distracting deranging phony outrage noise-making project rather than empowering them at the level of news-cycles in which they actually dwell, which is why this resignation was exactly what I expected.

[Updated: Although this does give me pause on the Beck Empowered Or Not issue.]

Of course, the larger picture that the work of the sensible left has been pointlessly deprived of a great public servant and hence is palpably diminished is also true, but that is the way we live now, and will continue to do, so long as Republicans remain a self-marginalizing rump of crazy lying white-racist patriarchal corporate-militarist death-eaters and so long as corporate Democrats demand we pretend this is not so in order to maintain the patronage of moneyed interests devoted to the status quo.

Bondarchuk's War and Peace

I spent over seven hours of this weekend watching for the first time Sergei Bondarchuk's frankly flabbergasting War and Peace. Apparently, I am lucky to have found a version in widescreen and one so long, after all, since many versions available for sale have been reduced to five panned-and-scanned hours or worse.

The music by Viacheslav Ovchinnikov is all very Russian in an early Prokofiev late Shostakovich sort of way, ranging stylistically to accommodate the somewhat wildly ranging levels and tonalities of the drama, but often simply stunning. Oh, hell, everything is stunning.

There were over a hundred twenty thousand people in the Battle of Borodino sequence, for heaven's sake, how could one fail to be stunned by camera sweeps over thousands upon thousands of shattered scattering people in swirling hurricane eddies of fire and smoke and black debris as Moscow burns? Certainly the spectacle of the film instantly gives the lie to those who would declare digital effects remotely the equal of orchestrations of materiality.

But talking about these sorts of things is really facile, and risks the inevitable impression that this film is a white elephant (well, it is something of a white elephant, really, but I don't think it is right to dismiss it as one), since it is the juxtaposition of the spectacular with the intimate, internal dialogue with public struggle, monstrous machineries with fields of stars, flowers, trees, swirling dancers that provides the truly shattering effect of the film.

I can easily imagine critics would declare the battle scenes glorifications of war, but I cannot agree that the dying eye of some tender-hearted man that becomes a whirlpool of smoking-white percussive horse hoofs making foot-fall among exploding shells, a battle formation that shrinks into -- is that a twisting hurricane or a shuddering cell in amicroscope's slide? -- climbing, climbing up impossibly into a cloud bank and then searing across miles of blank wild landscape really finally has the effect of a glorification of war, of all things, especially when the same camera will spend as much time tracking the dispersed moon along the surface of a stream or climbing vines twining a centuries old trunk in a blaze of sunlight broken by a billion leaves while characters declare "human beings were made for happiness!" or "I am all this, I am all these things, you would try to kill or imprison this?"

Of course, I don't think any film really could match Tolstoy's novel, but this one really evokes filmically much that has actually mattered to me personally in that wonderful book, and it is an accomplishment. Give it a week-end and tell me what you thought of it.

The Non-Scandal of the Scandalous, the Scandal of the Non-Scandalous

Words like "asshole" "shit" and "fuck" are used by almost everybody in the world. They are utterly and absolutely non-scandalous.

I happen to think there is something fundamentally crazy-making about laws and norms which penalize everyday people for saying everyday things in everyday language in public places. I think there is something enormously serious and seriously wrong about the investment of the non-scandalous with scandal, especially given the insistent non-scandalousness of the actually scandalous.

The public/mediated world is saturated with images of violence and exploitation offered up as occasions for outright celebratory self-assertion or sentimental self-indulgence. Public figures, clothed in the ritual aura of seriousness, regularly imply that vulnerable American majorities (not to mention precarious and suffering billions of humans in overexploited regions of the world) have somehow earned their terrorizing vulnerability and that fantastically pampered and privileged American minorities have somehow earned their obscene privileges. Efforts to recognize or address in public discourse these palpable and catastrophic realities -- realities that are in fact abundantly suffered and understood as matters of shared concern -- are instantly and conspicuously dismissed as unserious, naive, romantic, emotionalist, disqualifying, meanwhile these most ubiquitous and colloquial utterances of everyday speech and everyday perception (for example, that people say "shit" and "fuck," for example, that women have bodies capable of enjoying sex and are fully capable of taking responsibility for their sexual practices) are invested with surreal scandal, outrage, devastating legal penalties in defiance of sense.

I believe that the utterly pointless and deeply falsifying policing of public discourse and professional discourse to exclude "bad words" that everybody uses and everybody knows everybody uses and everybody knows are as harmless as any number of other words that are in the widest possible circulation (for example: "competitive") functions as an enabling wedge rendering seriousness as such inherently less serious, rendering truth-telling as such less truthful in general -- and always only in ways that conduce to the benefit of incumbent interests, in the service of the essentially deceptive, irrational, immoral, impractical constellation of privileges enjoyed by self-appointed "elite" gatekeepers, professionals, credentializers.

And don't think I don't know that as a PhD. teaching professionalizing college students I am deeply implicated in this crazy-making constellation, however I resist it.

Assholes Hound Van Jones Out of Public Service for Identifying Them As Assholes

Green Jobs Advisor Van Jones resigns to avoid more of the endlessly ramifying spectacle of right wing faux outrage and scandal-mongering associated with his off-hand signing of a petition with which he did not entirely agree and making off-the-cuff comments that are true but contain the word "asshole" which presumably make Aunt Pittypat reach for her smelling salts providing any pretext for further corporate media distraction from actual issues that actually matter to actual citizens like healthcare reform and clean energy policy. The resignation will of course have zero impact on corporate media distraction and phony serial uproars and giggling gossip in defiance of actual issues, meanwhile the same media outlets will continue to ignore actually elected Republicans who condone and celebrate declarations that our President isn't a citizen of this country, that he secretly means to murder senior citizens and install a fascist dictatorship, and so on, without any outrage or uproar at all. When all is said and done, however, this really is a minor position and the resignation doesn't deserve a fraction of the national attention is has gotten or will continue to get, quite apart from the fact that most of the attention it is getting represents the rankest imaginable hypocrisy and stupidity.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

MundiMuster! Yes We Still Can

Another petition -- yeah, that's right. And another and another and another, I say! Make. Him. Do. It.

My personal message to the President this time:
Nothing less than the Public Option will accomplish our shared goals -- healthcare catastrophe is the trigger and it has already been pulled, individual mandates without a Public Option is a corporate bailout not reform! We know better and so do you!

Bill Moyers Speaks for Me (And You)

More Mama

Good

TPM
Congressional liberals are ready to mobilize against President Obama on his calls for troops increases in Afghanistan. "Just because President Obama is our president doesn't mean we don't feel the same outrage we felt regarding Iraq in this same time in the Iraq occupation," said Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA). "Our president doesn't get a pass on this."

Trial Balloon Popped

TPM
President Obama's upcoming speech to Congress… will seek to reach out to Republicans while simultaneously reassuring the left. "This is a case for bold action, not a stick in the eye to our supporters," said an anonymous official involved in speech preparation. "That's not how President Obama thinks. The politics of triangulation don't live in this White House."

Still Worried

I'm feeling a little less angry than yesterday about the stupidity of the health care debate in its present state. But I'm still worried and still pushing as hard as I can from Obama's left in the rather limited ways that seem open to the likes of me. My partner Eric is worried that the Republicans will run David Petraeus against Obama in 2012, a figure who would almost certainly siphon off many of the "independents" Obama counts on ("independents" as a cohort seem to be moved less by particular policies than by a kind of animal attraction to "decisiveness" "resolve" "conviction" -- qualities not much in evidence from Obama these days) and would energize the wingnut Base just because they love a man in a uniform even if he's less nutty than they are. Meanwhile the left, which Obama seems to take for granted in the usual outrageous manner of Dem pols the second they get in office, demoralized by serial capitulations on their promises by the Obama Administration and unhappy at the prospects of a Petraeus Presidency but hardly panic-stricken about it the way they were when they were still in a full-froth of (fully justified) Bush hate, likely would not re-enact the energetic activism of 2008, indeed, might not even show up at the polls. Unless corporate criminals and war-criminals are made to pay a real price for their crimes, and unless new policies and programs to relieve the burdens of vulnerable American majorities are put in place it is very difficult to see how Democrats can seize this moment and take the lead in the urgent struggle for sustainable consensual equitable diverse literate secular democratic civilization, peer to peer. And if Democrats don't seize this moment and take up that work, honestly, what's the damn point of all this exertion and heartbreak?

Krugman Delineates the Next Guiding Economic Narrative

And it is much better than the last one.
[T]he economics profession went astray because economists, as a group, mistook beauty, clad in impressive-looking mathematics, for truth. Until the Great Depression, most economists clung to a vision of capitalism as a perfect or nearly perfect system. That vision wasn’t sustainable in the face of mass unemployment, but as memories of the Depression faded, economists fell back in love with the old, idealized vision of an economy in which rational individuals interact in perfect markets, this time gussied up with fancy equations….

Unfortunately, this romanticized and sanitized vision of the economy led most economists to ignore all the things that can go wrong. They turned a blind eye to the limitations of human rationality that often lead to bubbles and busts; to the problems of institutions that run amok; to the imperfections of markets — especially financial markets — that can cause the economy’s operating system to undergo sudden, unpredictable crashes; and to the dangers created when regulators don’t believe in regulation.

Read the whole thing -- why wait for the inevitable book? -- it is clearheaded, enormously elaborated, scrupulously fair -- and relentless.

Your kids will treat a story like this as completely to be taken for granted. Either that, or your kids will be converting parking lots into vegetable patches, praying their families can survive another year of greenhouse storms and warlord raids and hence will be too busy cursing your generation's ugly idiotic profligacy to talk to you much about political economy.

As a sidenote, it is interesting to discover that the moderate-pragmatic "saltwater" neo-Keynesians who kept the candle of sense burning in the window through the long dark night of the University of Chicago's "freshwater" neo-classical wish-fulfillment fantasies are apparently shocked and appalled to discover that the Big Idea Men who constituted their opposition for thirty years of market triumphalism seem not so much to have disagreed with their politely modulated qualified-Keynesian arguments so much as never to have read or grasped them, while their own towering ideas amounted in the end to just so many silly articles of faith steamrollered into ascendancy less through the force of argument as by the support of powerful and moneyed interests who found in them lovely self-serving rationalizations for their laziness and greed.

In other words, embedded within Krugman's tale we find the fingerprints of the usual story of the last thirty years, the frankly idiotic epoch of the neoliberal-neoconservative discursive circuit, in which con-artists for incumbency bamboozled everybody into confusing their looting of the hard-won accomplishments of civilization for continued and even accelerating progress, bought their own line of self-serving hype, made fun of every sensible and decent intellectual impulse as muzzy-minded effete elitism, lost themselves in some kind of virtual reality of interdependent delusions and turned everything they touched to shit.

Krugman, for his own part, sensibly predicts and advocates a general re-embracing of Keynes (which is certainly music to my ears), but a Keynes refurbished with empirical insights furnished by so-called behavioral economics and elaborated to accommodate global financial practices.

I agree both with the prediction (I see it in the eyes and hear it on the lips of my brightest students already in the present, after all), and with his proposal.

But I do not think Krugman is quite ambitious enough, since it seems to me what is wanted and what is aborning is a solid return to Keynesian macroeconomics, updated to accommodate not only global financial practices but also, far more crucially, the demands of sustainable planetary developmentalism and proliferating p2p-formations articulated in the context of legitimate governance. This rather grand elaboration of a political economy of rational, sustainable, planetary governance, peer-to-peer, will, I believe, be the work and the salvation of this generation and the next.

I also think it is not entirely unrealistic to expect a family of interlocking futurological tropes flogging technoscientific determinism and acceleration of acceleration to circumvent Keynesian rationalism, taking up p2p as a countervailing force to legitimate governance rather than its product and partner, and advocating corporate-miltarist geoengineering as an escapist fantasy for elites refusing the costs of sustainable developmentalism to provide a hopped-up market fundamentalist counternarrative for powerful incumbent interests who will continue to undermine the work of this rising generation in the service of the usual parochial short-term benefits and the indulgence of the usual stupidity and irrational passions.

Friday, September 04, 2009

David Bowie Helps Keep Amor Mundi More Positive

Democratic and Republican Bases React Differently to Getting Screwed

Base Republicans in this epoch for which Base Republicans are overwhelmingly "Movement Republicans," that is to say variations on your basic white-racist patriarchal corporate-militarist Christianist loon are Base Republicans because they essentially hate America as it actually exists, a secular multicultural urbanizing planetarily-aware nation.

Base Democrats are people who really want the nation to solve actual shared problems that are not susceptible of private address (the provision of non-commodifiable services like, say, healthcare and policing), to respect the rule of law and ensure equal access to the law, to ensure through the provision of basic healthcare, education, infrastructure, and public services that individual acts of self-determination are consensual in ways that are actually informed and nonduressed, and celebrates its diversity.

Base Republicans can be counted upon to elect Republicans because they have all the discipline of a desperate defensive militant minority fighting for its life in what they know to be hostile territory.

Base Democrats cannot be counted upon to elect Democrats who don't actually work to achieve the outcomes that make us Democrats.

This is all perfectly rational, because outcome-oriented Democrats actually have nothing to gain from the election of Democrats who don't work to accomplish Democratic aspirations, while defensive tribalist Republicans always gain from the election of even imperfect Republicans so long as the ethos of their Party is shaped by the Movement Republican milieu.

If Obama keeps caving, the Base will stay home, we won't sacrifice our meager paychecks to donate money, we won't sacrifice our meager free-time to make phone calls. We need outcomes (Public Option, EFCA, Green Stimulus, ENDA, repeal of DADT and DOMA, get out of Iraq and Afghanistan, accountability for torturers, war-criminals, war-profiteers, restoration of progressive income taxes).

We aren't a cult of True Believers or an army of Good Soldiers driven by tribalist dog-whistles and secret handshakes.

(Of course, when Movement Republicans accuse us of these palpably ridiculous things they are exhibiting their own dirty laundry in classical projective fashion -- just as when they accuse Democrats struggling to restore the rule of law as totalitarians, just as when they accuse multicultural Democrats as racists, just as when pro-war pro-death penalty pro-pollution pro-fetus anti-child zealots accuse their opponents of being "anti-life.")

Unfortunately, it is not at all clear to me that Obama's corporatist advisors or Blue Dog strategists understand this sort of thing at all.

Obama Wants Progressives To Be "Good Soldiers" and Relinquish the Public Option?

First, "Good Soldiers" have a duty to refuse to comply with immoral orders.

Second, since the present gutless pointless immoral idiotic Obama cave-in was preceded by an earlier gutless pointless immoral idiotic Obama cave-in on Don't Ask Don't Tell, this particular progressive who fought for him, voted for him, celebrated him, defended him, who also happens to be a big faggot second class citizen still living in the fierce urgency of now doesn't feel particularly inclined to be his "Good Soldier" so he can bail out more murderous corporate CEOs while vulnerable majorities of American citizens who voted for him are demanding the change he promised that we believed in.

Do the goddamn right thing, Obama, or you can kiss my liberal faggot ass.

Tell Obama: Don't Abandon The Public Option

Campaign for America's Future

I know you've signed a million of these, now sign a goddamn million more.

My personal message to the President went a little something like this:
You embarked on this difficult political path by choice, and it is too late to turn back now -- There is no way for you not to lose unless you actually win, and nothing short of the Public Option is a win, and no amount of spin or grin can fool anyone about that. Half measures lose you the base who are now behind you, will fail to meet the goals without which none of this effort makes any sense at all, and will be vilified by your opponents anyway. No compromise on the Public Option is acceptable -- and don't think double talk about triggers that will never get pulled or bans on worst practices without competitive pressure to enforce them will fool us into thinking another corporate bailout is real reform or the change we believed in.

Public Option Has Higher Favorability than President Obama Now

I don't think it's a coincidence, Mr. President.

Nazi Futurism

I am currently reading Peter Sloterdijk's important little book Terror from the Air, published in English just this year, about which I will have more to say later, I think, but for now I wanted to note this striking little tidbit, from page 43, calling our attention to the "pseudo-normalizing" Nazi category of Volksschadling, the "public nuisance," which was, rather horrifyingly but unsurprisingly, "a term covering a vast semantic domain, including defeatism, black marketeering, anti-Fuhrer jokes, criticizing the system, and a lack of belief in the future" [emphasis added --d]. Here's why, in a nutshell, I cannot help but find this striking.

Updated from the Moot, Below: In their obsession with speed (think, "acceleration of acceleration") and with the metalization of the body (think, cyborgic-ecstasies and "techno-immortalization"), among many other topoi the Italian Futurists anticipate quite a lot of the quirks of trans/post-humanist futurological handwaving. Like the transhuman-types, the Italian Futurists were mostly just alienated white boys barking and banging into one another, flirting with fascism (think, "optimizing" humans with science, stainless steel technocracy, hostility to "degenerate" humanities, soft-porn and advertising imagery mistaken for art, disasterbatory Götterdämmerung fantasies of bad god AIs and nano-goo). Unlike our Robot Cultists, many of the Italian Futurists at least could write reasonably well -- no doubt due to their dabbling with avant-garde art movements. Most of the superlative futurological writing coming from transhumanists, extropians, singularitarians, techno-immortalists, and digital utopians sounds, to the contrary, something like a pastiche of Ayn Rand potboilers, an instruction manual for assembling a lawn mower, a Fox News broadcast, and garbage-disposal-loud commercials hawking teeth whitening and boner-pills after midnight.

The Non-Innocence of Incumbent Distribution

In a post last week I wrote:
A pattern emerges [among the Movement Republicans who have been ever more the defining force in that Party since the frowny face-smiley face Nixon/Reagan aftermath of Goldwater] -- not just the usual soulless profits over people that lead Republican President Calvin Coolidge to assert that "the business of America is business" back in the 1920s -- but an especial eagerness to disable our solving of shared problems precisely to enable the profit-taking of a few, to deal dirty in Washington so their cronies can steal ugly across the world.


To this, a Reader responded in the Moot:
True but what does one say to people who honestly [the bolding was in the original comment --d] believe that legislating the redistribution of money is not justice and that it doesn't produce equality?


It depends. I happen to think fewer people "honestly" believe this than say they do, and that many who do "honestly" think such things are frankly so stupid or so blinkered it doesn't much matter what you would say to them anyway, and so one simply needs to marginalize them through better arguments directed at better people, or to work to insulate majorities from the harm these honestly wrongheaded people cause in their ignorance and prejudice and stupidity by means of better policy.

But, okay, to that vanishingly small minority of decent intelligent sufficiently critically-minded and argumentatively reachable people who believe for now that something they think of as "redistribution" is unjust, an intervention that may be useful is to ask why exactly it is that so often one tells the story of "redistrubtion" as one always beginning only with the apportionment of resources, authority, capacity and so on that represents the status quo, even though it is easily demonstrable that the status quo is an historically situated state of affairs, depending on any number of factors, many of them complete accidents, that have little to do with earning or merit or use at all.

Why do charges of the "unjustness" that would attend any "redistribution" of wealth, authority, opportunity from very comfortable minorities to very vulnerable majorities assume that "redistribution" is a matter of, say, disowning naturally owned substance from some for others rather than noting that what has come to be owned by some rather than others arises out of an historical re-distribution in which some preferentially benefit from historical accomplishments out of an actually more common cultural inheritance or commons, or some preferentially benefit in their contribution to collective accomplishments of an unfathomably complex functional division of labor through the denigration of other contributions, just as indispensable as an objective but not subjective matter to those accomplishments, from the peers with whom they share and maintain and build the world?

Before we accept the terms of a discussion of "inevitable" and "intolerable" evils of "redistribution" of incumbent distribution -- especially when in the service of widely affirmed goals like maintaining a legal and regulatory framework to ensure equality before the law, and police, defenses, public works, basic health, education, and income, and access to reliable knowledge to ensure that acts of consent are genuinely informed and nonduressed, outcomes that "secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity," peer to peer -- it is crucial to interrogate first any prejudicial framing or figuration or formulation of that incumbent distribution as innocent, natural, or originary in some way and not itself an historically contingent, often altogether arbitrary, distorted, unfair, intolerable redistribution of the commons that demands justification rather than being treated as beyond question.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Close Race? You Need the Base

It is the liberal base of donors and activists that the Blue Dogs will need in those close 49-51% 2010 races in moderate districts we keep hearing so much about.

Conventional Wisdom seems to assume that Blue Dogs are allying with Republicans against their President and the majority of their Party as a matter of electoral expediency, when it seems to me that expediency demands they hold their noses and support the Public Option.

Activists understand that it is foolish to challenge incumbents from the left in districts that are not so left-leaning. We are quite willing to support reasonable and moderate candidates to our right who are willing to keep Party discipline in epochal fights like health care reform -- fights that define the Party and its position in governance in generational terms -- even if they cannot always be counted upon otherwise because they are bound to represent their constituents.

This is not a hard principle for us to grasp. We have plenty of work to do challenging incumbents in our Party whose constituents are left of the voting records of their "representatives," rather than indulging quixotic self-marginalizing efforts to unseat incumbents whose records reflect moderate constituencies or who are even left of their constituencies (if still to the right of the activist left).

But that doesn't really seem to be the logic of the arguments we are hearing now from Blue Dogs and their apologists.

Either they think the Base will support them anyway when it comes down to it, just because they have a D next to their names, even though they are demonstrating here and now why there is simply no reason at all to do so since a DINO majority is not a majority that does anything worth doing, or they think constituents who really want to be represented by Republicans will support a Republican-lite with a D at the end of their names over a real Republican, all appearances to the contrary notwithstanding.

Or maybe they really do want -- I mean, as a matter of principle -- the overabundant majority of everyday Americans to suffer and die so that insurance company CEOs can get even richer while bankrupting the country; in which case this is, you know, like, a principled stance on their parts, just one involving principles that are unfathomably evil and stupid.

If you are a Blue Dog and you face a close race in 2010, you need to look to your base and do what makes us happy, else you can be sure that you will lose without our help. Earn it. Support the Public Option. Otherwise, just quit or become a Republican or whatever. Who the Hell needs your sorry ass, anyway?