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

Monday, March 29, 2010

"Bride of the Governator"

Continuing the theme of last post, Carla Marinucci takes Meg Whitman's attempted sequel straight to video, comparing the rhetoric of Whitman's and Schwarzenegger's campaign ads.

Deja Ew: Meg Whitman's Rhetoric Re-runs the Recall that Foisted Schwarzenegger on California

San Francisco Chronicle
A tale of two campaigns from first-time candidates for California governor:

Arnold Schwarzenegger, 2003: "Join Arnold"

In Schwarzenegger's first ads, the movie star railed against the political establishment, saying he could bring "big change," fresh perspective and business sense to the state Capitol: "We see an education system that is last in the country. We just see things declining and declining and declining. I will go to Sacramento and I will clean house."

Meg Whitman, 2010: "A New Kind of Leader for a New California"

In her first ads, the former eBay CEO promises that "we can fix California, no question about it. It's going to take a different style of leadership, it's going to take a different approach, but we can make California great again."

On politicians:

Arnold: "The people are doing the job, the people are raising their families, but the politicians are not doing their job."

Meg: "The professional politicians have been fighting in Sacramento for years, and the state is in the worst shape that I've seen in the many years that I have lived in California." She adds, "The professional politicians in Sacramento can't see past their differences long enough to save the state they love."

On spending:

Arnold: "We don't have a revenue problem. We have a spending problem."

Meg: "We have a spending problem of epic proportions."

Secret weapon:

Arnold: "It all comes back to discipline."

Meg: "I am a big believer in focus."

"The Republicans Are In No Condition to Govern"

What BooMan Said:
I haven't heard a Republican make an honest and fair statement in a year now. And I mean that. I haven't seen it in any forum. Privately, and quietly, Republican policy wonks are lamenting the complete lack of seriousness in anything that the party leadership has to say about anything. They know that the Republicans are in no condition to govern.

And, honestly, that is the biggest threat facing this country. Bigger than the threat of terrorism or a nuclear arms race in the Middle East is the threat that the American people will tire of the Democrats and have no alternative but a bunch of Steve Kings and Michele Bachmanns with the temperament of John McCain and the foreign policy objectives of Bill Kristol. That's a recipe for the end of the world as we know it. And you know it.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Republican Meg Whitman Wants to Buy California. Later, You Can Be Sure We'll All Have to Pay

San Jose Mercury News :
[S]everal weeks into the new year… Meg Whitman's statewide TV ad campaign… began devouring the political landscape. The eBay billionaire's campaign for governor has turned into a political phenomenon, the likes of which the Golden State has never seen… Like it or not, the result is indisputable: More than two months before the primary and seven months before the general election, Whitman has grabbed California's attention… In the first 2½ months of this year, the Whitman campaign spent $27.2 million -- more than $4 a second. At that pace, in the time it takes to read this sentence aloud, the campaign will have spent another 50 bucks…. Her face, her voice, her views have become part of the state's zeitgeist and a significant part of the California economy.

I've got a really bad feeling about this…

Of Course It's Not About Health Care

I think in his NYT column this morning Frank Rich is at once a bit over-confident about long-term demographic trends driving a Democratic destiny (the racist notion of a homogeneous cohort of "non-whites" is even less conceptually coherent than the also racist notion of a "white" one, and over the longer term one has to assume that both Democratic and Republican coalitions will change to accommodate the demographic realities Frank rightly documents) as well as a bit under-confident about the short-term (it is everybody's responsibility to reject the violent insurrectionist rhetoric and acts of this extreme right minority of killer clowns and ignorant cowards, very much including our legitimate constituted authorities, not just the responsibility of what passes for the current crop of GOP "leaders" in this hate-media phase of Movement Conservatism). I've got more pointed commentary at the end of my snips, but I do think the whole thing is a good read:
How curious that a mob fond of likening President Obama to Hitler knows so little about history that it doesn’t recognize its own small-scale mimicry of Kristallnacht… The... anger... gathering today is illogical, given that what the right calls “Obamacare” is less provocative than either the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or Medicare… [T]he health care bill is not the main source of [right-wing] anger and never has been... The real source... is the same kind of national existential reordering that roiled America in 1964… [R]ight-wing extremism… predates the entire health care debate. The first signs were… shrieks of “traitor” … at Palin rallies… Rick Perry’s kowtowing to secessionists... in Texas to the... brandishing of assault weapons at Obama health care rallies… to “You lie!” piercing the president’s address to Congress…. The conjunction of a black president and a female speaker of the House -- topped off by a wise Latina on the Supreme Court and a powerful gay Congressional committee chairman -- would sow fears of disenfranchisement among a dwindling and threatened minority... When you hear demonstrators chant the slogan “Take our country back!,” these are the people they want to take the country back from. ... They can’t. Demographics are avatars of a change bigger than any bill… [B]irths to Asian, black and Hispanic women accounted for 48 percent of all births in America in... 2008. By 2012, the next presidential election year, non-Hispanic white births will be in the minority... [And Rich hasn't even mentioned all the happy white hippies, queers, and race-traitors like me! --d] The Tea Party movement is virtually all white. The Republicans haven’t had a single African-American in the Senate or the House since 2003 and have had only three in total since 1935. Their anxieties about a rapidly changing America are well-grounded. If... Republicans... want to replay the petulant Gingrich government shutdown of 1995… as John McCain has vowed… that’s their right... (and a political gift to the Democrats). But they can’t [?] emulate the 1995 GOP by remaining silent as mass hysteria, some of it encompassing armed militias, runs amok in their own precincts. We know the end of that story… A Quinnipiac poll... found that 74 percent of Tea Party members identify themselves as Republicans or Republican-leaning… [and I daresay many others among them like to fancy themselves "libertarians," which means, as it always does in the US at any rate, that they are de facto Republicans lying to others and possibly to themselves about the fact that they are de facto Republicans --d] After the Civil Rights Act of 1964... responsible leaders in both parties spoke out [against the] violence…. Yet no Republican or conservative leader of stature [?] has taken on Palin, Perry, Boehner... who have been stoking these fires for a good 17 months now… Are these politicians so frightened of offending... the Tea Party-Glenn Beck base that they would rather fall silent than call out its extremist[s]...? [I]f GOP leaders... are afraid of these forces, that’s the strongest possible indicator that the rest of us have reason to fear them too.

Perhaps Rich's framing is a bit cynical here?

Of course, it is possible that today's GOP eminences (who only yesterday were better known as complete idiots -- like McConnell -- and hacks -- like Frum -- and scoundrels -- like Rove) really are afraid of Palin and Beck, but it is surely far more likely that the calculation here is that there is no money or energy anywhere on the right except among the whiny white guys and authoritarian bullies of the Teabagger Express.

Fleecing these erratic rubes for cash in the age of Fox Extremism is really only a reductio of what the conservatives have been doing since frowny-faced Nixon told them white-racist patriarchal corporate-militarism was free enterprise for a "Silent Majority" and smiley-faced Reagan told them inflating a delusive petrochemical and financial bubble via North Sea scraps and deregulatory Ponzi schemes was "Morning in America."

Turning against Palin and Beck would actually mean Republicans have to embark earlier rather than later on that long dark night of the soul in which to be reasonable in a secular multicultural America attuned to planetary media and concerned with planetary problems of the biosphere, poverty, and weapons proliferation finally means to be more like Democrats already are -- and hence to face the old Democratic pickle, why would voters chose a muddled Democratized GOPer when they could have a real Democrat instead?

Sure, they have to redefine themselves eventually -- as Democrats, mind you, have begun to do, too, in the face of p2p-democratization -- but it's not like the GOP has ever really attracted particularly noble or intelligent folks into its fold. It doesn't look so much like fear of their extremes as the usual short-sighted opportunistic greed that keeps GOPers from denouncing their only remaining cash cow in the Teabagger mob.

That mob will turn against them soon enough, you know, when they grasp that Rush and Palin are unelectable and actual governing, even at its Republican worst, won't indulge their squalling inner infants to their satisfaction. Things can get very ugly and tragic here in pampered dumb-dumb America but the Teabaggers can't actually win, that ship has sailed with W's killer clown college. I'm more worried personally about Democratic Party corporatists gaining a decisive upper hand over populists before p2p democratization turns the tide because the Republicans have gone off the deep end and won't siphon off enough of the dumb money grubbers for us to bag them for disposal in time.

Grumpy Gus

Cold and flu season has seemed particularly awful this time around. Has that been your experience as well? It seems as if Eric and I have been ping-ponging stuffy noses back and forth practically since Thanksgiving, and I had an awful bug earlier this year that actually caused me to cancel a couple of classes (I can't even begin to tell you how much I hate losing teaching time), but to add insult to injury I got hit with another bug nearly as bad a week ago and if my teaching load hadn't been halved by Spring Break at my two institutions I think I might have had to cancel a class again. I've essentially been sleeping for days in a soup of Nyquil and Theraflu and blue pills, like a squid blundering around in a sea of ink. I feel I could sleep again all day today, but I've got theses to read for my MA cohort in the City and lectures to prep for Cal even if my head's spinning. It definitely seems more of my students have e-mailed in sick this year than usual, but it may be my bug-addled imagination. Classrooms full of sneezing students are like petri dishes anyway, not to mention the mobbed buses and traincars I take between teaching gigs in Berkeley and the City. End of term is something of a trial under the best of circumstances, and this time around I've got four courses spinning like saucers on top of poles here -- here's hoping the season of sick of behind us soon enough to pull off the finale.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

This Week's Presidential Address

Education. Health care. Two of the most important pillars of a strong America grew stronger this week... These achievements don't represent the end of our challenges; nor do they signify the end of the work that faces our country. But what they do represent is real and major reform. What they show is that we're a nation still capable of doing big things. What they prove is what's possible when we can come together to overcome the politics of the moment; push back on the special interests; and look beyond the next election to do what's right for the next generation.

DADT Repeal: Relax Don't Do It

Just before a new generation of LGBTIPQQ folks converged to march on Washington last year President Obama declared yet again -- as he had also had done repeatedly on the campaign trail -- that he fully intended to repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell. Last week officials announced a host of "relaxations" in the implementation of the policy as the Armed Services presumably begin to prepare to make good on the Commander in Chief's promise.

I don't doubt that Obama wants and means to repeal DADT. I more or less do still expect repeal to take place during his Administration. But I suspect that those who are pointing out that the next Defense Appropriation is a logical moment to make a go at such repeal (since it would take sixty votes to nix the language, and it is attached to Defense in the general direction of which everybody endlessly, frankly disgustingly, genuflects these days) are probably being optimists in my view, but I guess I could be wrong.

I do have to say that I find it impossible to be heartened by last week's announced "relaxation" of the policy, since it seems to me this "relaxation" looks more or less like a literal description of how DADT was sold in the first place by Clinton as a "compromise" that wouldn't involve the witch-hunts and betrayals it inevitably has done. As it happens, we expected DADT to be as bad as it turned out to be, and we Marched on Washington in 1993 to say so. I was there in my Queer Nation/Atlanta t-shirt and terribly undignified short pants raising hell on that very topic, among others. And so I hope I can be forgiven if I refrain from offering my usual two cheers about Obama's incrementalism this time around, as the "repeal" slow-march looks so far like nothing so much as a straight up re-run of the initial ugly promises that never satisfied anybody in the first place.

It goes without saying of course that the usual wizened patriarchal pricks still sputtering out their chestnuts about "unit cohesion" and so on are simply straightforwardly stupid and wrong -- armed forces in any number of democratic nations have already demonstrated that openly queer and straight soldiers can serve together, no muss no fuss. And any talk of loss of morale or the need for separate barracks (unless one is spinning porn scenarios) should be treated as the unambiguous bigotry and deception that it certainly actually is.

I daresay that queers serving openly in the armed forces might function as a vital countervailing check on the whole frightening authoritarian Christianist element that raises its ugly anti-democratizing head in the armed forces all too often these days, when fundy yahoos get caught playing out various dot-eyed "Onward Christian Soldiers" "End-Times" "Neo-Crusader" video-game fantasies with real bombs and real bullets and real bodies in foreign climes. That may indeed be one of the chief unstated undercurrents driving the ongoing palpably irrational resistance to repeal for all I know.

But all that aside, I also have to admit that while I am disgusted by the agonizingly slow relinquishment of this homophobic bigotry in the military, it remains as true as it ever was that I really am a faggot of the pinko variety in pretty much every sense of that phrase and so I find it rather hard to batter my emancipatory queer imagination and energies into the mean little wedge of gay marriage, adoption protection, and military service that Human Rights Campaign agenda queer folks seem to have settled for to general applause in this rather sad epoch.

Look, I for one don't much like and certainly do not want to have kids. I actually don't approve of the so-called traditional family as a mode of affiliation. Indeed I am not far from regarding a "conventional" upbringing in a bourgeois heterosexual nuclear family as a form of child abuse in those few instances in which it actually takes place in reality. I actively disapprove of marriage as a legal vestige of slavery usually conjoined to infantile fantasies of "completion" through psychic possession of or by "significant" others misconstrued as magical post-parents or weird New Age avatars.

I am a believer in and teacher of nonviolent revolutionary social struggle. I believe that war and the preparation for war shatters everyone who is caught up in its devastating energies, soldier, civilian, victor, vanquished alike. I worry enormously about the anti-democratizing dangers inhering in military hierarchies and values in the midst of precarious secular democratic republics as stratified and mass-mediated as our own happens to be. And I am enough of a socialist to know that war-preparation and war-making diverts production from the meeting of actual human needs instead to the preservation of authoritarian rule by incumbent interests over democratic majorities.

I'm a vegetarian. I teach at an art school. In San Francisco. As I said: pinko faggot, that's me.

I get it that my exclusion from marriage and military service is a primary register of my second class citizenship and facilitates violence and exploitation of queer folks and so must be fought as such... I get it that it would be an incomparably more powerful intervention to refuse marriage and family and militarism once my participation in these unhealthy and reactionary institutions is secured than it is now when my participation in them is refused by unjust laws and norms...

But don't expect me to get all up in arms about this stuff just because I get the politics, okay? I could be a good soldier (as it were) on HCR because the bill actually helps millions of people in spite of its flaws and it sets the stage for us to push for something much more like a sensible single payer system sooner and easier than we otherwise could have done (that's how I see it, at any rate). But when it comes to this thin gruel of a DADT "relaxation" re-enacting the already false promises of an irrational unjust policy in a political arena already profoundly distant from my own queer values and politics in the first place... well, don't piss down my back and tell me it's raining.

Friday, March 26, 2010

For Me But Not For Thee

Political Wire:
A new Bloomberg Poll finds that more than 90% of Tea Party backers say the United States "is verging more toward socialism than capitalism, the federal government is trying to control too many aspects of private life and more decisions should be made at the state level." At the same time, 70% of those who sympathize with the Tea Party "want a federal government that fosters job creation."

Last August we laughed at the "disconnect" leading so many protestors misinformed and terrorized by Fox News broadcasts to rant in Town Hall meetings about how they don't want a horrible government healthcare program to interfere with their Medicare. Here in California we have grown well-accustomed to anti-tax zealots who scream for government to get off their backs and then demand that their crappy McMansions be protected from wildfires and eroding cliff-faces by first responders and public engineers. Now we discover that Mike Vanderboegh, the anti-government militia-booster who called for people to protest government healthcare services by throwing bricks through windows himself lives off of government disability checks. For generations the most vociferous ideological opposition to the welfare state and "economic planning" has been voiced by those who were always also equally vociferous in their support of ever expanding defense budgets that functionally planned the economy and stealthed endless welfare entitlements to incumbent interests.

There is no anti-governmentality as such, there are simply those whose anti-democratic mentality would restrict public welfare and legal protections to themselves and those with whom they parochially identify to the cost of everyone else.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Hopey Changey

First HCR, and now I hear both 24 AND The Hills have been canceled. Perhaps the tide really has turned.

Eric Cantor: "I Know You Are But What Am I?"

Minority Whip Eric Cantor is accusing Democrats of "dangerously fanning the flames" of violence by noticing all the death threats and the publicly flaunted firearms and the resurgent militias and the violent rhetoric suffusing right-wing gatherings and hate-radio and Fox News and Congressional floor speeches and party fundraising letters. I don't doubt that the long years spent endlessly accusing Democrats of being racists for noticing and decrying right-wing racism and the effects of racism have prepared Republicans well to indulge in such self-consuming hypocritical utterances without imploding.

Back in the Driver's Seat

Libertopian Nano-Cornucopiasts Are Freakishly Stoopid

The good folks at Sadly No! laugh at them. A lot.

A handful of faves to seduce you to click:

"mmy" asks: Wait, is the magazine called “Reason” or “Baseless Speculation About Possible Futures That Aids Our Libertarian Agenda”?

"The Malfunctioning Glenn Reynolds Robot" points out: With ObamaCare, the public will be healthier and we won’t be able to trash the planet while I download my brain into a macho robot that will get it on with sweet cyberbabes. It’s not fair, and we won’t stand for it.

"Calming Influence" helpfully advised: "Seek engineering assistance if your nanobots become implacable and your penis remains enhanced for more than four hours.”

"Gunner" noticed: "Reason Magazine’s science writer is an economics major who dropped out of law school. I can’t think of a better way to describe libertarians."

"Nobody Important" summarized Ron Bailey's argument as: "Health care you can afford now is worse than future medical miracles that you can’t afford later. Biotechnology progress is a function of human misery. Health Insurance Reform directly alters Biotechnology Research, because of pony."

"actor212" proposed: "America hasn’t made consistent and regular radical medical innovations in decades now. Yes, we decoded the genome…mostly on government research grants. These nanotechnologies and biotechnologies and even gene therapies are being done in nations like South Korea, and China, and England and India. India? National health care England? National health care China? National health care South Korea? Transitioning to national health care"

"El Cid" wonders: "Why do we even need doctors and whatnot? Why can’t we simply engage in free market capitalist principles within our own bodies? Why do our lungs just give oxygen away to any blood cell lazy enough to be pumped through those alveolar capillaries? If cells want to take in toxins and not have Big Liver protect them like children from their intakes, they should have that right."

"Whale Chowder" snarked -- and thereupon accidentally characterized neoliberal futurology as a whole: “Don’t judge a policy by its measurable effects, judge it by the imaginary effects I pulled out of my ass, here.”

There are many more. Truths are spoken, Robot Cultists ridiculed, a good time at the expense of stupidity and selfishness is had by all.

Yes, We Can -- Hell, No You Can't! -- Yes, We Can!

Monday, March 22, 2010

yay Redux

Is anybody following the surreal exchange under the post yay?

Keyboard Kommando Krisis!

It warms the heart to witness the impotent rage of grown men in diapers directing imaginary insurrections while immobile in the livid glow of their computer monitors.

Signs of Spine in the Aftermath of HCR Victory

Grampy McSame and other GOP Infant Eminences are pouting and stamping their feet via The Hill:
Democrats shouldn't expect much cooperation from Republicans the rest of this year, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) warned Monday. McCain and another Republican senator decried the effect health reform legislation has had on the Senate, a day after the House passed the upper chamber's bill. GOP senators… caution that the health debate had taken a toll on the institution, warning of little work between parties the rest of this year. "There will be no cooperation for the rest of the year," McCain said... "They have poisoned the well in what they've done and how they've done it." …

"In my opinion, the institution of the Congress has been fundamentally harmed," said Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), pointing to the process Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) used to craft the final health bill.

Observe the response of Harry Reid's office:
“For someone who campaigned on ‘Country First’ and claims to take great pride in bipartisanship, it’s absolutely bizarre for Senator McCain to tell the American people he is going to take his ball and go home until the next election. He must be living in some parallel universe because the fact is, with very few exceptions, we’ve gotten very little cooperation from Senate Republicans in recent years.

“At a time when our economy is suffering and we’re fighting two wars, the American people need Senator McCain and his fellow Republicans to start working with us to confront the challenges facing our country -- not reiterating their constant opposition to helping working families when they need it most.”

Don't be so sure HCR won't help Dems rather than hurt them come November mid-terms, contrary to Villager common wisdom. Success begets success. And all that right-wing nonsense about Dems "ignoring the American people" by struggling to solve problems suffered by the American people (inadequate though the resulting efforts have been so far) has always been less about the American people in fact than about a small shrill minority of assorted white-racists gun-nuts theocrats authoritarians and other loons who like to declare themselves the only Americans who count but who are far from mirroring the "real America" in the least. If Villagers and GOPers fell for that idiotic spin, that's their funeral. They are the ones who need to adjust their flawed assumptions in the face of reality.

Which Dem "NO"s on HCR are Most Vulnerable to Primaries from the Left?

TPM has a handy chart revealing which Dems who were "NOs" on HCR were not just voting the wrong way but voting the wrong way in defiance of the districts they claim to be representing. In the latter instance, there is a stronger case to be made than there otherwise might be that these folks need to be primaried from the left.

"We Live In A Different Country Today Than We Did Yesterday"

What BooMan Said:
[T]he signature of Barack Obama's rallies was the "Yes, We Can!" chant from his supporters… House Minority Leader John Boehner's floor speech opposing health care reform contained the following… “No, you can’t.... The answer is no.... No, you cannot... No, you cannot... Hell no, you can’t!... Hell no, you haven’t!" Yet, once the key votes had been cast, enacting the most sweeping expansion of the social safety net since the passage of Medicare, the joyous Democratic caucus erupted in the signature "Yes, We Can" chant…

Thus, we close the book on an era of endless onslaught on liberal ideology that began on election night in 1980. For thirty years, liberals were on the defensive. Today, we are back on the offensive. Republicans will have to adjust to an entirely new paradigm… [A] huge percentage of what future congresses will do will be to provide oversight and adjustments to the health care system. The government will be constantly looking for ways to make health care plans more consumer friendly and less costly to the budget…

The longer it takes the Republicans to realize this, the more credit the Democrats will get for having passed these reforms. When Republicans complain about the mandate and score political points, the Democrats will offer to create a public option as the only solution to the problem. They are trapped…

We do live in a different country today than we did yesterday. It's a country that has no use for the old Republican Party.

This could be true, this should be true, but we will have to make it so. We'll see how the politics of the Senate fixes play out, that will be key: the usual Republican obstructionism in the Senate when directed at efforts to junk the very kickbacks they have been demagoguing doesn't make much political sense, but neither would seeming to facilitate healthcare reform by approving the fixes. Watch carefully to see how they wiggle from/in the trap. I think Grayson's Medicare buy-in proposal needs our support so that there is a more progressive alternative waiting in the wings just in case the individual mandate (which liberals abhor quite as much for real as Republicans are pretending to do) challenges have legs (which I suspect they do not -- as if Republicans really will fight the one thing their corporate insurance masters actually like about the bill). We will have to be vigilant as HHS actually delineates the regulatory nitty-gritty in the aftermath of the comments period sure to be suffused with industry voices looking to render reform even more meaningless. It will also be interesting to see whether the experience of pushing through historical legislation against a flabbergasting array of deceptive fearmongering incumbent interests will have given liberals a taste for victory and bolstered Democratic spines... upcoming skirmishes over financial reform will be an early tell.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The History Book on the Shelf Is Always Repeating Itself

I was born in 1965, the year Congress passed Medicare, the last truly monumental piece of social legislation before the historic healthcare reform bill passed this evening.

In ten years' time or less, the United States may well have a public healthcare system that compares favorably to France's, Canada's, or Great Britain's.

It's up to us. As always, contentious and compromised though we may be, fighting liberals will build the next piece of the road together that leads the way to a better consensual commonsense commonwealth for us all, peer to peer -- as we built the last piece and this piece, too, tonight.

Justice Delayed Thirty Two Years by Death-Dealing Crony-Capitalist Republican Deceptions and Obstructionism

Obama: "This is what change looks like."

This is indeed what change looks like. Now, let's push for some more.


It's a beginning and not an ending. Have a beer, hug an ally, smile at the thought of the lives saved today, and then start organizing and agitating and pushing to make it better.

More on the Republican's Waterloo

From Republican David Frum:
Republicans today suffered their most crushing legislative defeat since the 1960s. It’s hard to exaggerate the magnitude of the disaster. Conservatives may cheer… they’ll compensate... with a big win in the November… But… It’s a good bet that conservatives are over-optimistic about November – by then the... immediate goodies in the healthcare bill will be reaching key voting blocs…

[T]he blame for today’s disaster attaches to conservatives and Republicans ourselves. At the beginning of this process we made a strategic decision… we would make no deal with the administration. No negotiations, no compromise, nothing... This would be Obama’s Waterloo... [W]e went for all the marbles, we ended with none. Could a deal have been reached? Who knows? …the gap between this plan and traditional Republican ideas is not very big. The Obama plan has a broad family resemblance to Mitt Romney’s Massachusetts plan [and to] Republican counter-proposals to Clintoncare in 1993-1994. Barack Obama badly wanted Republican votes for his plan. Could we have leveraged his desire[?] … Too late now…

No illusions please: This bill will not be repealed. Even if Republicans scored a 1994 style landslide in November, how many votes could we muster to... charge seniors more for prescription drugs? How many votes to re-allow insurers to rescind policies when they discover a pre-existing condition? How many votes to banish 25 year olds from their parents’ insurance coverage? And even if the votes were there –- would President Obama sign such a repeal?

We followed the most radical voices in the party and the movement, and they led us to abject and irreversible defeat. There were leaders who knew better… But they were trapped. Conservative talkers on Fox and talk radio had whipped the Republican voting base into such a frenzy that deal-making was rendered impossible. How do you negotiate with… somebody whom your voters have been persuaded to believe wants to murder their grandmother? … [O]verheated talk… mobilizes supporters –- but by mobilizing them with hysterical accusations and pseudo-information, overheated talk has made it impossible for representatives to represent and elected leaders to lead. The real leaders are on TV and radio, and they have very different imperatives from people in government. Talk radio thrives on confrontation and recrimination. When Rush Limbaugh said that he wanted President Obama to fail, he… omitted to say… what is equally true… that he also wants Republicans to fail. If Republicans succeed –- if they govern successfully in office and negotiate attractive compromises out of office –- Rush’s listeners get less angry. And if they are less angry, they listen to the radio less, and hear fewer ads for Sleepnumber beds…. [T]oday’s defeat… is a huge win for the conservative entertainment industry. Their listeners and viewers will now be even more enraged, even more frustrated, even more disappointed in everybody except the responsibility-free talkers on television and radio. For them, it’s mission accomplished. For the cause they purport to represent, it’s Waterloo all right: ours.

Completely devastating.

From here, activists on the left need to press on to end the anti-trust exemption for insurance companies and fight to extend Medicare to ever more Americans as a way of dealing with outstanding problems in the for-profit system left intact by this bill. We now have a foothold from which to climb that sheer cliff face leading to single-payer. The obvious flaws in this progressive bill are no longer reasons to "kill the bill," but problems to be addressed with ever more progressive legislation by fighting liberals with the wind at our backs.

From here, activists on the right will find themselves on a scorched earth, the free market pieties they have been mouthing for thirty years ringing ever more hollow, the cohort of old white guys that defend them with shaking fists and the racist sexist homophobic war-mongers and gun-nuts who assemble in dwindling mobs to cheer them, appointing themselves "The Real Americans," looking ever less and less and less like the sensible secular multicultural America of actual reality.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

People pay for what they do, and still more for what they have allowed themselves to become. And they pay for it very simply; by the lives they lead.

-- James Baldwin.

"We call upon the Republican Party to say "Shame on You" to these Tea Partiers, for this behavior." Republicans have been playing a far more dangerous game than many have realized. If Democrats push reform through all that obstructionism and no longer look so ineffectual as they have done for a whole year through many underinformed so-called "Independents" will quickly turn from irritation to satisfaction, if these mass-mediated deceptions and fearmongering hyperboles are exposed as such by a sky that fails to fall a whole lot of birther-deather True Believer types will quickly turn from energetic zealotry to bewildered demoralization, and if the losers also happen to look as desperate, ugly, undignified and mean-spirited as Republicans do right now you better believe that a whole lot of righteous anger they thought they had at their commend will turn against them in its full ferocity. America is like that. I won't say that widespread Democratic fears about upcoming mid-terms are unfounded by any means, but I do think there is a way forward from here that does little to diminish their ability to retain control and govern if they manage not to shoot themselves in the foot for once.

Healthcare Reform Is the Republican's Waterloo

That's my take, not Marshall's… he just documents the horrifying scene:
Things are getting pretty heated in the Capitol with crowds of anti-Reform/Tea Party activists going through the halls shouting slogans and epithets at Democratic members of Congress… [A] few moments ago in the Longworth office building, a group swarmed a very calm looking Henry Waxman, as he got on the elevator, with shouts of "Kill the bill!" "You liar! You crook!" ... Just after Frank rounded a corner to leave the building, an older protest[e]r yelled "Barney, you faggot." The surrounding crowd of protest[e]rs then erupted in laughter.

After tomorrow, we will be on the road at long last to providing better healthcare coverage to thirty two million uninsured Americans, allowing young people to remain on their parents' policies until just before they are thirty, to eliminating egregiously immoral practices by for-profit insurance companies like enormous arbitrary rate-hikes, annual limits that expose even insured folks to bankruptcy if they confront serious medical crises, canceling policies when people get sick and actually need the coverage they have been paying for all their lives, de facto denials of treatment to seriously ill policyholders through the bureaucratic limbo of endless deferrals of actual decisions that could legally be protested, or refusing coverage to folks who have any of a number of bewildering endlessly ramifying "pre-existing conditions."

This modest reform in the direction of fiscal sanity and social decency (still far short of the sensible single payer public healthcare system actually demanded by the problems at hand and available for generations in democracies around the world) is what is drawing these "libertarians" of the Republican Party base screaming into the Halls of Congressional representatives. This modest reform, achieved after a year of literally unprecedented obstructionism by Republicans aided by a handful of the most cynically corporatist and socially reactionary Democrats, amidst the storm-churn of endless mass-mediated deceptions and frankly ridiculous fear-mongering, is what is whomping the "tea-partiers" into this frenzy of racist hate, shaking their fists, queer-bashing, howling about socialism.

It is an almost unbearably ugly desolating horrifying nausea-inducing spectacle, to be sure.

Contrary to the pathetic adolescent fantasies of so many Republicans early on in this process that its failure at their hands would prove the symbolic undoing of Obama's election and could somehow obliterate the factual reality of the secular multicultural nation that elected him -- healthcare reform, even in the compromised form of its eventual arrival, has come to represent the Republican party's own Waterloo.

What we are witnessing in the dot-eyed desperation of the ever-smaller ever-louder "Tea Party" Base, of the right-wing's hate-radio stars and Fox Noise squawking heads, and erupting from the mouths of the faux-eminences of the GOP leadership, is the exposure of Movement Republicanism's utter moral, civic, and intellectual bankruptcy.

It remains to be seen if the Republican Party corrects course in the face of this debacle, or splinters into a neo-Confederate rump orbited by white-racist and Christianist-theocratic and Ayn Randroidal would-be Third Parties, none of which can remotely pretend to command the demographic or geographic resources necessary to a party capable of actual National governance.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Now and Then, Helping and Hurting, Life and Death, Democrats and Republicans


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After a year of contentious struggle with Republican obstructionism and misinformation an historic vote on healthcare reform to provide medical coverage to millions of uninsured Americans and ban immoral practices of corporate insurers like arbitrary rate-hikes and rescission of coverage when policyholders actually get sick or the refusal to provide coverage for people with an absurd array of so-called "pre-existing conditions" is scheduled for this Sunday afternoon and is expected to pass.

Seven years ago today:

American War Dead in Iraq: Four Thousand Three Hundred Eighty Five... American War Injured: Over Forty Thousand... Iraqi War Dead: Over One Million... Iraqi War Wounded: Millions... Iraqi War Displaced: Millions...

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Futurological Brickbats

Your wishes are not insights, although they may provide insights for your therapist.

More Futurological Brickbats here.

Futurological Brickbats

The answer to the Fermi Paradox may simply be that we aren't invited to the party because so many humans are boring assholes. As one small evidence in this matter it is noteworthy that so many humans would appear to be so flabbergastingly immodest and immature as to think it a "paradoxical" result to discover the Universe is not an infinitely faceted mirror reflecting back at us on its every face our own incarnations and exhibitions of intelligence.

This is actually an updated variation on an older Brickbat. For more like it, look'ee here.

What Do We Mean When We Say That Taxes Are the Price We Pay for Civilization?

I've updated an old post on the Estate Tax that also ends up meditating on larger questions of properly democratic political economy. It's here. Comments welcome -- I'm thinking of elaborating it into something a bit more formal if folks deem it useful enough or unique enough to warrant that.

Republicans Cannot Be Trusted With Our Money

What BooMan Said:
[W]e can spend a trillion dollars and cover thirty million uninsured Americans and the effect on the budget will be to save $1.3 trillion over the next twenty years… [That's] what the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) says the health care bill will do. According to DCCC chair, Rep. Chris Van Hollen, those numbers mean that the health care bill is the biggest deficit reduction bill since Bill Clinton's 1993 Economic Plan. That bill, known as the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993, didn't win a single Republican vote in the House or the Senate. In fact, the Senate vote was 50-50 and vice-president Al Gore cast the deciding vote. Notice, also, that it was a budget reconciliation bill, which is why it could pass with only 51 votes…. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama are the two presidents to enact major budget reduction legislation… [T]he Democrats have a good record on budgets while, despite their rhetoric and branding, the Republicans have a disastrous record.

And if we dirty fucking hippies ever actually got our way we would have an incomparably more fiscally sensible and morally righteous single payer healthcare system, not to mention all the money we would save not engaging in illegal immoral catastrophic war-adventures of choice that make us less safe while squandering the lives and health of countless people and countless dollars that could be invested in education, infrastructure, scientific and medical research instead. Oh well.

Stupak's Living Hell

The "Highly Principled" woman-hater Bart Stupak is whining that his efforts to make already aggressively anti-choice healthcare reform even more murderous are making his life a "living hell." I daresay all his philandering Republican fundy friends in The Family can be counted on to console him in these troubled times. As will, no doubt, the sinister wizened whites of the US Conference of Bishops in their bishopricks... though those pesky nun ladies who actually have lady parts and deal daily with other ladies and their actual troubles may not be quite so encouraging of Stupak's killer crusade.

Abortion is a legal medical procedure that something like one in three women in this country will make recourse to over the course of their lives. It should be safe and accessible. There are no abortion clinics in any of the counties that comprise Stupak's vast district. None. Needless to say this renders access to a legal vitally important healthcare procedure enormously difficult for many young or poor or working women. You want to talk about a living hell, Stupak, you pampered premodern prick?

The pretzels the feudal theocratic woman-hating anti-choice minority of Democrats are forcing a vastly righteously Pro-Choice Democratic party into through their threats to derail the party's nearly century old signature issue over their patriarchal anti-choice fetish is a frank obscenity. Abortion is a legal medical procedure and healthcare reform is being incessantly framed as a "healthcare bill, not an abortion bill" to accommodate these shrivel-dicked shrivel-souled jackholes, with the consequence that abortion is being incessantly ritually separated from the healthcare it actually palpably urgently obviously is.

I'm glad that Stupak feels his efforts to make life a living hell for so many millions of his fellow American citizens is making his own life a "living hell," though I suspect he's just a whiny white guy for whom the least minor inconvenience gets hyperbolized into a hissy fit. I understand he's already got a primary challenger, and I hope every day for the rest of his life he can revel in the "living hell" of the principled disdain of his sane sensible decent peers for his oh so brave stand for murderous patriarchal theocratic feudalism.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Healthcare History Lesson

Must read for righteous waverers from Robert Reich.

Kudos to Kucinich

Plum Line
Dennis Kucinich just made it official: He’s voting for the Senate bill, making him the first member to go on record flip[p]ing his vote from No to Yes. “In the past week it’s become clear that the vote on the final bill will be very close,” Kucinich, who voted No last time because of the lack of the public option, said at a presser moments ago. He acknowle[d]ged that he’d be voting “not on the bill as I would like to see it, but as it is.” ... “However, after careful discussions with President Obama, Speaker Pelosi” and others, Kucinich said, “I’ve decided to cast a vote in favor of the legislation.” … Kucinich… recognized how difficult Obama’s challenge is. “I left [a meeting with Obama] with a real sense of compassion for our president and what he’s going through,” he said. “We have to be compassionate towards those who are called upon to make decisions for this nation. It’s not an easy burden that he’s taken up." … Kucinich said that ultimately he couldn’t escape the argument that “something is better than nothing.” ... “People are looking for some hope that maybe something can be changed,” he said, suggesting that… passing reform is essential in order to prove to Americans that government is not entirely dysfunctional. Kucinich conceded that… failure would be a threat to Obama’s overall agenda. He said he has “a real desire for our president to succeed,” adding that “one of the things that bothers me is the attempt to deligitimize this presidency.”

Kucinich is doing the right thing and for the right reasons and he is also obviously right about the deficiencies in the bill and the need to direct attention to these deficiencies as part of the effort to move forward to considerably better healthcare reform in months to come.

I was quite annoyed that he (and some others whose politics I tend to identify with otherwise, frankly) seemed nonsensically to be proposing that not passing this obviously compromised bill after a year-long nightmare of effort handing a victory to lying obstructionist Republicans somehow brought us closer to the single payer system every sane informed Democratically-minded citizen wants than passing it would. This is a counterintuitive belief to say the least, even before one grasps that it is a counterintuitive belief held in defiance of awareness of the cost of failure to millions of citizens who will get needed support they are not getting now through passage of the bill, compromised though it surely is.

Kucinich is not saying that stuff anymore.

Credit where credit is due.

A Pattern Emerges: Republican Are Authoritarian When in Power and Instantly Insurrectionist When Out of Power

As BooMan points out today, anybody who thought there was something anomalous about the rise of militias and ready-for-violence hate-groups coupled to the descent into paralyzing Impeachment hysteria during the Clinton Administration must now realize with the resurgence of militias and other militant white-racist anti-Choice anti-tax domestic-terrorist organizations and "isolated" incidents of domestic terrorism under the Obama Administration that this is not an anomaly in the least, but the pattern we can expect to continue interminably to play out so long as Republicans in their unfortunate Movement Conservatism epoch continue to mobilize the most extreme right-wing elements in the country as the best way to organize and fund Republican Party aspirations to gain (or game) control of government.

And, yes, I do insist that even when it's a white guy who does the shooting or flies his plane into a government installation while leaving behind his Rushoid or Randroid anti-gu'ment rant on the intrawebs for everybody to see, this is indeed an act of domestic terrorism: It is not properly described as an "isolated" event or as a "merely criminal" rather than "organized" incident when it was enabled in fact by the interpellation of the white right-wingnut in question into that gooey corporate-funded morass of mass-mediated right-wing hate-speech and insurrectionary wink-wink nudge-nudge on talk-radio and Fox News and dog-whistled in floor speeches and press releases by Congressional Republicans.

And however often complicit news organizations and reassuring law enforcement officials refrain from saying so, their selective reticence on this matter actually cannot manage to change the fact of the matter that these are acts of domestic terrorism: These are acts of right wing insurrectionary terror structurally connected to the loss of Republican control of governing institutions, and that is to say in turn that these are instances of the very acts of terror that go on to function as the pretext for Republican authoritarianism when instead they hold the reins of government. The authoritarianism of Republican governance in power and insurrectionary violence and threat of violence at large when Republicans are out of power are complementary and in fact inter-dependent expressions of Movement Republican ideology and aspirations.

By the way, I am far from denying the isn't-that-special provocation to livid right-wing lunacy connected to the fact that Obama is BL-A-A-A-A-A-ACK!! But I do indeed mean to insist that most of the militant anti-governmentality and the usual cries of socialism ascendant and all the rest would have arisen even had Clinton or a non-philandering (let alone the actually philandering) Edwards won the White House instead. Further, I disagree with BooMan's implication that we have only Clinton and Obama as data points from which to discern this pattern of insurrectionary terror/authoritarian governance -- I think it was already conspicuously in evidence in the Carter Administration, arose in fact in the Goldwater capture of the Republican party from its Eisenhower wing, and was definitively consolidated in the Nixonian frowny-face model and Reaganomic smiley-face model of neoconservative corporate-militarist faux-populist Presidencies.

And so, the pattern will always hereafter be, and has long hitherto been, that when Democrats are elected to the White House -- however moderate and mainstream they may be in fact, however bought-and-paid-for by incumbent interests they turn out to be -- the Movement Conservatives will immediately declare the Democratic Administration illegitimate and discern in its most multilateral and pragmatic policy efforts signs of socialist or fascist or Marxist or persecutorial secularist aspirations, whatever that is supposed to mean.

Violent rhetoric, isolated insurrectionary skirmishes, hate crimes, and acts of domestic terror will pimple the landscape while Republicans still in office will immediately embark on irresponsible divisive and obstructionist efforts (which are properly seen as both continuous with and complementary to the scattered right-wing insurrection and domestic terror) to render Democratic governance non-functional, in both the short term through procedural shut-downs and in the long term through anti-tax initiatives to starve civilization of the resources to maintain itself and deregulatory and privatizing schemes to loot civilization and hand it over to their cronies to eat.

By the way, note that all these wingnut attributions of fasci-homo-socialistic-commie-nazi-satan (you can sing it to the tune of "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" if you like) to sane sensible serious-minded nerdy Democrats will typically meld into more or less the same amorphous Big Bad somehow… which is to say that manifest in these hysterical and absurd charges themselves will be a dangerous ignorance on the part of those making these attributions as to the actual content of such tyrannical ideologies and governmental formations… which is finally also to say that these charges really usually amount -- on the one hand -- to symptoms of feelings of defensiveness and persecution felt by some straight white guys and many Christian fundamentalists in a secular multicultural society that disagrees that they should call the shots or amount -- on the other hand -- to embarrassingly obvious projections onto enemies of their own willingness and even eagerness to demolish civil liberties and impose tyrannical control themselves in the service of their own parochial moralizing political aspirations.

Meanwhile, just as we can surely expect from now on rather than being serially surprised by the instant crystallization of militant anti-governmentality the moment any Democrat occupies the White House, so too we can expect an equally abrupt vanishing act and quiescence on the part of these extreme right-wing factions the moment a Republican is elected instead -- whatever the trickery and disenfranchisement necessary to render this outcome practical.

None of this will end until the Republican Party re-orients itself onto a new Base mobilized by a different set of aspirations more compatible with the secular multiculture America has become in fact and with the planetary rather than national/international terrain in which the technodevelopmental and ecological problems that beset us are playing out in fact. Embarking on this necessary re-orientation (which certainly need not involve turning Republicans into crypto-Democrats, they can by all means still cling to their ugly authentic pro-incumbent anti-democratizing ethos) will marginalize these violence-prone factions and divert them into disorganized grumps shaking their fists at kids these days or at worst into harmless Third Parties. Failing to do so will instead marginalize the Republican Party into a neo-Confederate rump that can no longer pretend to be a National party. (Though I daresay Republicans would hardly credit this, I for one would consider this marginalization of their party injurious to American politics, because incumbent interests and reactionary temperaments actually do exist and a functioning democracy must find a way to give voice to actually-existing stakeholders I disapprove of as well as the ones I approve of, else it is prone to uncritical hubris, dangerously brittle, and actually unjust.) In the meantime, the longer the Republicans fail to engage in this re-orientation the more they will ensure and be responsible for endless acts of senseless violence together with the undermining and even paralysis of governance at a time when only effective governance can save countless millions of lives from the ravages of neoliberal corporate developmentalism, neoconservative authoritarian arms-proliferating militarism, and catastrophic climate change and resource descent (oil, petrochemicals, water, topsoil, effective medicines, and so on).

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Smelling the Stink of Republican Desperation

This is from Josh Marshall's editorial today, follow the link for all of it…
"All liquored up on sake" ... "a suicide run" ... bizarre invocations of assassination. Threats of civil (or perhaps not so civil) disobedience against new Health Care laws. The Republican rhetoric sure is heating up as momentum gathers for a final vote on Health Care Reform. But there's no missing that it's the intensity of desperation… Republicans… have argued that if Health Care Reform is unpopular now (which it is by a marginal and decreasing degree) it's not going to get more popular once the Democrats pass it in the face of popular opposition… [S]ome Democrats probably even believe [that]'s true. Yet the available polling and historical evidence all suggests that it's flat wrong… [S]ince the Dems got back on track toward passing Reform, they haven't taken any hit in the polls. Indeed, support for the Democrats and Reform itself are both rising… [This] confirms the… lesson of 1994. For all the rise in right-wing militancy, discontent over guns and other wedge issues, and even with all the structural threats to Democratic rule, what really killed the Dems was that at the critical moment they flaked. President Clinton bet his whole presidency on grand promises about Health Care Reform. His party controlled the entire federal government (though the control was more illusory than today), and they didn't deliver anything. Impotence isn't just demoralization to supporters and enlivening to political opponents. For a big swath of the public, policy proper in its specifics is always in competition for a more elemental desire for effective and efficient government… [G]iven the choice of an effective manager who we don't particularly like and an incompetent, I think most of us would prefer the former. Passing Health Care Reform won't save Democrats… [t]hey're going to have a very hard November. But there's little doubt that passing will improve their prospects politically… perhaps by quite a lot… Republican leaders get that, which is why they're pulling out all the stops for a final push to stop it.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Release the Kraken!

Eric and I can now be counted upon to say this, loudly, more or less randomly, alone or together, in various rooms of our home, at least several times a day. Never once has it seemed inappropriate, particularly.

The Murder-Suicide You Say You See May Be Your Own

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said "Nancy Pelosi… has got [Democrats] all liquored up on sake and you know, they're making a suicide run here… This makes no political sense [to] take a bill the American people dislike ... pass it along party lines, using gimmickry to get it passed[.]"

Gov. Mark Sanford's (R-SC)… released a statement earlier saying that today -- March 15 -- is the day Julius Caesar was murdered, sometimes known as the Ides of March. The day is usually associated with a sense of foreboding, and Sanford warned the public to be wary of health care reform. Trent Lott agreed today on Fox News: "Shakespeare warned us to beware the Ides of March. That's today, and I have a very ominous feeling about what's fixing to happen on health care votes."

It doesn't take a genius to realize that if Republicans were really so sure that healthcare reform is a kamikaze suicide run on the part of Democrats, if they really thought the American people will disapprove of the reality of healthcare reform as distinguished from all the death-panel and socialist nonsense that will be exposed as nonsense the moment we shift from histrionics on air to policy on the ground, if they really thought this reform would decimate the Democrats for a generation, and all the rest they would be gloating rather than freaking out at the prospect as they are. It isn't hard to grasp what might make Republicans feel "foreboding" in this moment rather than triumph.

We all know that Republicans have opted for unprecedented obstructionism -- even of ideas and bills they themselves have always supported hitherto -- as the only way to turn the tide from the emerging Democratic majority arising out of demographic shifts as well as in the aftermath of the unmitigated catastrophe of Republican rule in recent memory.

They tried and they look to have failed to stop the beginnings of healthcare reform Democrats have been struggling to get underway for generations. They have failed and now they are freaked. It shows.

Whatever the imperfections of healthcare reform -- and as a single payer guy you may be sure that I can list these limitations as cogently as anybody -- to fight for its repeal as the Republicans are claiming they will do will mean to fight for the repeal of protections against denials of coverage for "pre-existing conditions" and arbitrarily skyrocketing costs and a whole host of truly evil and hated obscenities of the present for-profit healthcare non-system being deceptively defended in the name of stopping "socialism" and "death panels."

Rather like the Republicans who fight the extension of any equal rights for lgbtq citizens always claiming plagues of frogs and rivers of blood will ensue if they fail, the moment the rights are extended and the apocalyptic outcomes fail to materialize the idiotic arguments to the contrary evaporate and the bigots and idiots give up and move on to the next crusade of lies in defense of some other patch in the ugly bloodstained patchwork of the status quo.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Yes, Virginia, You're an Elitist

As Virginia Thomas tells it in her soft-spoken, Midwestern cadence, the story of her involvement in the "tea party" movement is the tale of an average citizen in action. "I am an ordinary citizen from Omaha, Neb., who just may have the chance to preserve liberty along with you and other people like you," she said at a recent panel discussion with tea party leaders in Washington. Thomas went on to count herself among those energized into action by President Obama's "hard-left agenda." But Thomas is no ordinary activist. She is the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, and she has launched a tea-party-linked group that could test the traditional notions of political impartiality for the court. In January, Virginia Thomas created Liberty Central Inc., a nonprofit lobbying group whose website will organize activism around a set of conservative "core principles," she said. The group plans to issue score cards for Congress members and be involved in the November election, although Thomas would not specify how. She said it would accept donations from various sources -- including corporations -- as allowed under campaign finance rules recently loosened by the Supreme Court. "I adore all the new citizen patriots who are rising up across this country," Thomas, who goes by Ginni, said on the panel at the Conservative Political Action Conference. "I have felt called to the front lines with you, with my fellow citizens, to preserve what made America great."

I have little doubt that Virginia Thomas would fancy me a paradigmatic "liberal elitist," despite my modest salary, precarious job situation, crappy insurance, monumental student loan debt, and the micro-audience attracted to the writing I do on this enormously edifying but, face it, scarcely mega-influential little blog. I don't know whether or not Virginia Thomas is stupid enough truly to believe her own "just ordinary folks" shtick as she surveys the world from her summit of flabbergasting privilege and wealth and influence. Whatever she thinks on this score, I am here to tell you that if your spouse is a Justice on the Supreme Court of the United States there is simply no sense in fact in which you are "an average citizen," especially not in this age of corporate-militarist plutocracy.

No, Virginia Thomas is no more an average citizen than the misinformed mobs of the Tea Parties whomped up by corporate propaganda into white-racist fascist frenzies over the so-called "socialism" of the palpably not-socialist remains of insurance reform are the "new citizen patriots" she cynically denominates them in any actually legible sense of the phrase, any more than the nearly fatally compromised warmed over liberal policies Obama has sought represent some "hard-left agenda" in any actually legible sense of the phrase.

I guess it is a mark of my "elitism" that I fancy people in positions of extreme privilege and power should at least pretend that their declarations have some remote connection to dictionary definitions of the words they deploy and to the actually constituted facts of the matters at hand. (I leave to the side for the moment the even deeper hilarity that I tend to be excoriated for my "relativism" and "fashionable nonsensicality" by those who would wag their fingers at me for an elite, effete, aesthete.)

Be all that as it may, I for one certainly do not doubt the report that "Ginni" is all eagerness to funnel all that newly available corporate cash her husband's latest anti-democratic Decision has secured for her, the better to "be involved in the November election." Let us hope -- but also let us not count on it -- her "involvement" doesn't rise to the level of her husband Justice Thomas's in that pesky November election in 2000 in which he participated with other Republicans in a Supreme Court Decision which amounted in its substance to a right-wing putsch ejecting the man who was actually elected by the people to be the President of the United States, Al Gore (together with the odious Joe Lieberman whose ridiculous Vice Presidential nod likely demoralized and siphoned off quite as many urgently needed Democratic votes as Ralph Nader's unfortunate campaign managed to do), and selecting instead the single worst most stupid most evil band of murderous incompetents for the White House in the history of this nation.

I still believe that the institutional failure of the Supreme Court in this matter so traumatized this nation that it was profoundly ill-prepared to cope with the opportunistic dismantlement of so many of our other institutions when a major terrorist attack provided the pretext for the host of authoritarian expansions of the Executive and dismantlements of cherished civil liberties long desired by Nixon Administration stalwart Dick Cheney and other architects of the Project for a New American Century who were highly placed in the Bush Administration. To this day, few seem particularly willing to speak plainly about these matters, and even the undeniable war crimes of Bush Administration officials -- conscious deceptions to provide the false rationale for an illegal immoral ruinous war and occupation, illegal surveillance of huge numbers of American citizens, illegal detentions and torture, and so on -- seem little likely to impose the least cost on those criminals who perpetrated them in our names to our perpetual shame.

Virginia Thomas may, like her husband, be a person of at best quotidian intelligence, she may lack reliable standards of civility and taste and basic decency, but she occupies a position of wealth and authority in this Nation that makes her the furthest thing from "an average citizen" or "ordinary person." Behind her populist mask and "her soft-spoken, Midwestern cadence," she is an advocate for brutal oligarchy and an enemy of the democracy that defines what "made America great" in fact -- which she is committed not to "preserving" but to demolishing.

The United States is a democracy, our government is of, by, and for the people. No one who would deny equity to the people of the United States or who would fail to celebrate the actual diversity of the people of the United States can sensibly be called a patriotic citizen.

Virginia Thomas hates the United States and hates the citizens of the United States. She wants to rewrite the United States even more in the image of a corporate-militarist oligarchy in which she and her like-minded and like-situated cronies and friends rule with an iron fist.

Of the many ordinary terrorized misinformed bigots she claims now to adore for their useful idiocy in the service of her authoritarian daydreams I have little doubt that she could survey the misery that would eventuate in the lives of most of them should they accomplish the outcomes to which their politics have committed them with the evil indifference of Barbara Bush surveying the Superdome should it come to that.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Latest Rising Movement Republican Star Marco Rubio Already Being Revealed as the Usual Scumbag

St. Petersburg Times:
Marco Rubio was barely solvent as a young lawmaker climbing his way to the top post in the Florida House, but special interest donations and political perks allowed him to spend big money with little scrutiny…. Rubio's high-roller political spending belies his image as an outsider riding a wave of antiestablishment fervor and gunning to knock off Gov. Charlie Crist for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination… "Having expenditures in the tens of thousands of dollars to pay off credit cards, it's clear to me… [t]he Rubios were living off it,'' said state Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, a strong Crist supporter…. In December 2002, Rubio was a 31-year-old political hotshot set on becoming speaker of the Florida House. Rounding up support from legislators across 67 counties is no easy task for a young lawyer and local government lobbyist with a net worth of negative $103,000…. So Rubio did what many aspiring Florida legislative leaders do -- he created a political committee, Floridians for Conservative Leadership, to "support state and local candidates who espouse conservative government policies," according to IRS records. But for 2003, the committee spent nearly $150,000 on administrative and operating costs and $2,000 in candidate contributions. Over 18 months, only $4,000 went to candidates other than Rubio, while similar political committees gave tens of thousands of dollars to candidates… Rubio's wife, former Miami Dolphins cheerleader Jeanette Dousdebes, served as the committee's treasurer. In reports filed with the state, Rubio and his wife failed to disclose more than $34,000 in expenses over an 18-month period…. "[Rubio]'s playing fast and loose with the rules,'' said Ben Wilcox of Common Cause Florida, a government watchdog group.

Act surprised.

On the Brink of Failed Statehood

Chris Hayes has written a fine little piece called Twilight of the Elites, in which he warns:
In the wake of the implosion of nearly all sources of American authority, this new decade will have to be about reforming our institutions to reconstitute a more reliable and democratic form of authority. Scholarly research shows a firm correlation between strong institutions, accountable élites and highly functional economies; mistrust and corruption, meanwhile, feed each other in a vicious circle. If our current crisis continues, we risk a long, ugly process of de-development: higher levels of corruption and tax evasion and an increasingly fractured public sphere, in which both public consensus and reform become all but impossible.

Hayes is right that such reform is necessary if America is to overcome the urgent distress of our historical moment. But I truly fear that the micro-successes at best of the moderately progressive Obama Administration and compromised Democratic Congressional majorities struggling in the face of belligerent incumbent interests and now mortally-dysfunctional governing mechanisms to manage the trick of the least incremental nudges in the direction of something like sanity suggest that such reform as is on offer is just too little too late given the pace and scope of catastrophe at hand.

Hayes writes that "no single-cause theory can explain such a wide array of institutional failures," though he does genuflect in the direction of criticizing "the concentration of power and the erosion of transparency," both of which are genially unspecific ways of pointing to what is indeed the best candidate for a "single cause" of our failure, as he surely knows as well as everybody else does, and that is the ongoing flabbergasting anti-democratizing concentration of wealth in ever fewer hands in the United States.

If the United States imposes steeply progressive income and property and inheritance taxes on ever-concentrating wealth as a way of funding universal health, education, and public welfare for all, then and only then will we re-democratize and hence re-legitimize our authoritative institutions and invigorate the collective intelligence and effort with which to solve our shared problems.

Otherwise we will absolutely degenerate into a failed post-industrial state up to our necks in ethnic and ideological hatreds, buried under mountains of guns, in the midst of crumbling infrastructure, buffeted by pandemic disease, greenhouse storms, and resource descent from water, topsoil, foodstuffs, to petrochemicals, nothing but a bloated bloviating scarcely traversable, continent-scaled, benighted backwater in a planet almost all the billions of inhabitants of whom despise us, with good reason, as the spoiled despoiling pricks who fucked everything up for the most short-sighted selfish reasons imaginable.

It really is beginning to look as though the United States isn't going to pull out in time.

Republic of Wingnuttia

[T]he Texas Board of Education on Friday approved a social studies curriculum that will put a conservative stamp on history and economics textbooks, stressing the superiority of American capitalism, questioning the Founding Fathers’ commitment to a purely secular government and presenting Republican political philosophies in a more positive light. The vote was 10 to 5 along party lines, with all the Republicans on the board voting for it… In recent years, board members have been locked in an ideological battle between a bloc of conservatives who question Darwin’s theory of evolution and believe the Founding Fathers were guided by Christian principles, and a handful of Democrats and moderate Republicans who have fought to preserve the teaching of Darwinism and the separation of church and state…. “We are adding balance,” said Dr. Don McLeroy, the leader of the conservative faction on the board, after the vote.

Needless to say, by balancing the teaching of truths with the teaching of the pet falsehoods of Movement Conservatism, Texas education becomes little more than the systematic unbalancing of the minds of the future American citizens unlucky enough to reside there. And all the rest of us will remain to the end of our days unlucky enough to live in an America forever encumbered with these unbalanced Texans, weighting down every effort at civilization with the anvil of their bigoted bullying broken brains.

Dilemmas of Political Economy

There has never once been an outcome attributed to the Invisible Hand of the Market in which the Heavy Hand of the State did not play an indispensable part, and in which some are not sure plausibly to discern the Hidden Hand of Conspiracy.

Monday, March 08, 2010

That's Not "Bafflement" Republican Insiders Are Shaking Their Heads In...

Political Wire
President Obama and Democrats [are] betting it all that comprehensive health care reform legislation [will] pass Congress. If it does not, they will be severely weakened. Of course, Republicans are unified in making the opposite bet. Keith Hennessey, a former Bush economic policy advisor, notes he is "struck by the enormous gap between the two parties on the strategic calculation being made by the President and Democratic Congressional leaders. If you set aside your policy views, do you think the current path makes strategic sense for the majority? Almost every Republican insider I meet shakes his or head in befuddlement and says no, I just don't get why they're doing this."

Hennessey is, of course, valiantly lying, as no doubt he is paid to do.

Republican insiders are far from shaking their heads in bafflement, they are apoplectic with panic, and Hennessey is fully aware why.

Democrats have wanted to pass health care reform for over half a century. They have the power to push that generational effort forward and they are doing so. What they are about to pass is nothing like the goal at which they have long aimed, but it changes the terrain in epochal ways, setting the stage for the next, better effort. Millions of real American citizens who are presently suffering under the status quo will suffer less as a consequence of this reform, though hardly as many or as effectively as could be helped by means of the sensible single payer health care system so many Democrats now prefer and have done for so long as a matter of policy but know to be strategically unavailable under the present circumstances.

While it is true that the unprecedented obstructionism and hysteria and mob scenes and mass mediated lies may indeed impose short-term, that is to say mid-term, electoral costs on the Democrats -- especially given the lingering recession Obama was gifted on day one and which no Republican has any interest in dealing with except to find in it occasion for further crony-capitalist looting in their usual manner -- it is unlikely that these costs will yield structural shifts even in the short-term. There has never been, after all, a true Democratic supermajority even though Dems have been endlessly pilloried for failing to accomplish what they could have done with such a supermajority, had it actually been available, and meanwhile the House majority, while it may be slimmer, is almost sure to remain with the Democrats.

And as for the long-term benefits... I expect -- as do the Republicans themselves, else they would not be so hysterical in their easily exposed false claims and hypocritical claims and so absolutely lock-step in their discipline -- that even the compromised mess of healthcare reform in the form soon to arrive will be popular. You'll see what I mean by their popularity when you watch the commercials sure to eventuate should Republicans be true to their promise to run on healthcare repeal, when Democrats ask Republicans why they want their constituents to be denied coverage for "pre-existing" conditions and then Republicans respond with the palpable absurdity of the "death panel" nonsense that rivets the attention of corporate media but seems to provide little to no actually-existing electoral advantage to the know-nothings. Media narratives of malaise will shift to narratives of another historical partisan victory for Democrats, "Independents" who tend not to be so much independent in fact as uninformed will respond to the fact that Government is doing something rather than doing nothing, approval numbers are already rising and Republican gambits have yielded shallow impacts. As health care reform is supplemented with stricter regulations and Medicare extensions -- as fixes to deficiencies in the present legislation are likely to require -- things get better and better for Democrats.

Republicans face some fairly dire possibilties. Either finally to relinquish all hope of being a mainstream continent-scaled party and concede themselves to be a neo-confederate neo-feudalist know-nothing white-racist Christianist rump with little impact but to provide new impetus to gun control and civil rights legislation (no, that's not a contradiction) through their fueling of home-grown hate speech and militia-terrorist skirmishing.

I think the highest profile Republicans -- Palin, Beck, Huckabee, Delay, and so on -- are already jockeying for media dollars and don't much care that they are unelectable. I think party figures actually interested in government (despite their relentless anti-governmentality, a contradiction we can leave them to work their way through) are caught between the rock of either alienating the crazytown base where all the remaining right-wing money and energy is or alienating the majorities one needs to be an actually viable governing party. I do think some of the Republicans have bought their own line of bs given the bleakness of the alternatives, and that they are going to come down hard from that lunatic high some morning after.

Unfortunately, I still remain convinced that all this insanity, obstructionism, deception, ignorance -- not to mention Democratic tendencies to seek the higher-ground so as to shoot themselves in the foot on a regular basis, and not to mention, too, altogether too much vestigial corporate-miltarist weaseling and yuckiness on their own part -- is finally aiming in the direction of a long-term that may indeed be too long to arrive in time given the environmental and corporatist and militarist catastrophies that beset us in their urgency.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Much Ediiting and Re-Arranging of the Futurological Brickbats Today

Have a look.

Futurological Brickbats

The one who sells you force for freedom, the one who sells you the fraud of "The Future" for futurity is one who deals in death and death-in-life, and you will find he has little but money in his mouth.

More Futurological Brickbats here.

Futurological Brickbats

An arrow can open a wound but it cannot open the clearing we fill with our freedom, peer-to-peer. And it does not matter how much you amplify the arrow's force, be it to the force of a bullet or an intercontinental missile or an interstellar probe, and it does not matter how you abstract the arrow's trajectory, be it to the charting of the fluctuation of an electron or to a computer projection of a galaxy's career encompassing billions of years, no arrow will ever provide the way to the substance of freedom. Freedom is lived in fragile, palpable presents, peer-to-peer, in the presence of such equity-in-diversity as is opening in eruption, moment to moment, as appears in interruption, peer to peer.

More Futurological Brickbats here.

Futurological Brickbats

Futurism is not Foresight -- and it is farther still from wisdom -- in the same ways that, and for the same reasons that speculation is not investment… marketing is not deliberation… hyperbole is not critique… a syllogism is not a plan… a scenario is not a story… a calculation is not a judgment…

More Futurological Brickbats here.

No Escape

The flabbergastingly huge openings for Avatar and now Alice in Wonderland should be taken as the second and third episodes in a trilogy that for far too many Americans seemed to begin on the night Obama was elected President. Americans seem sensible enough to want desperately to escape from the corporatized militarized superficialized catastrophized bed they so pointlessly and serially wet in the long years from the smiley-faced ad-man ax-man Reagan to the smiley-faced neoliberal sellout and smooth operator Clinton to the smiley-faced Killer Clowns of W's dumbass debacle, but I really fear we don't seem particularly willing enough or patient enough or capable enough to do the work actually to change the sheets. I do still think Obama is pragmatic and progressive enough to partner in such work, I do still think that his election was and remains a resource for hope in a diverse secular America of potential peers, indeed I still think him the most pragmatic most progressive President since FDR, but in the context of a dysfunctional Congress and a corporate-mediascape and a military-industrial complex and a disorganized populace -- but my hope is fading. If Americans are not up to the challenge of our moment we shouldn't expect the planet of which we are a part to sit idly by while we eat the world for lack of the sense to save it from ourselves -- the world will put us in our place, and the place we find ourselves in, believe me, won't be Pandora or Wonderland. (And, no, regular readers, it certainly won't be Libertopia or "The Future," either.)

Friday, March 05, 2010

Why Can't More People Just Indulge in Insane Denialism About the Fact of Their Mortality Like the Robot Cultists Do?

A very young and palpably foolish transhumanist fellow named Kyle Munkittrick -- who very likely will in the fullness of time, poor mite, grow out of his present foolishness in the way that folks his age who are presently earnestly quoting Ayn Rand novels will also mostly grow out of all that embarrassing nonsense as well -- has written an essay in which he asks a question superlative futurologists of the transhumanist and techno-immortalist sects often like to ask, namely: Why Do We Accept Aging?

There is a very easy answer to the question "Why do we accept aging?" which relates closely to the answers to such questions as "Why do we accept having lungs?" or "Why do we accept the occasional need to pee?" and that is that sane people tend to accept things that are facts, especially when these facts are not seriously under contest anywhere at any time by anybody at all.

It does not occur to many people to ask the question "Why do we accept the breathing of air?" when the air is all there is to breathe. Nor is there any reason at all that such questions would sensibly occur to many people. This is especially so when we recall that there are far more urgent questions on hand that do need asking, such as, "Why do we accept the pollution of the air so that more and more folks are now suffering from life-threatening and quality-of-life-diminishing respiratory conditions?" when the air is all there is to breathe.

Munkittrick writes that "we tell ourselves curing aging will cause too many problems and that aging has a lot of natural beauty to it and creates a lot of meaning and that all of that is good." But of course almost nobody in the world is really telling themselves seriously that curing aging will cause too many problems because almost nobody in the world thinks some kind of blanket treatment of all the conditions we associate with the aging process is remotely on offer and so there isn't really much reason to start rattling off the problems that might eventuate from this non-existing non-proximate aging cure, especially when there are so many actually-existing actually-proximate problems for us to be thinking about instead.

This point has even greater relevance to the question at hand than you might think, inasmuch as many of those actually-existing actually-proximate problems are real-world healthcare problems, problems of getting more people access to available treatments in a timely cost-effective way, or to discover more effective treatments for neglected diseases in the overexploited regions of the world, or providing more public funding for medical research and development, or transforming the intellectual property regime through which multinational pharmaceutical companies increase their profits by restricting access to treatments, and so on.

There is, I suppose, a way in which one could describe any effective medical treatment as "life extension." I don't recommend this pointless reframing, since I think the value of healthcare is the health it provides and since, contrary to silly Robot Cultists, I don't think the value of healthcare really is instead that we can pretend for whatever reasons that it represents some kind of stepping stone along the path toward which human beings are being techno-immortalized into transcendent quasi-gods with sooper-powers (and, to be frank, I think those who think the latter are pretty palpably batshit crazy if they really truly mean what they are saying).

But, the point is that we already grapple with social and political and cultural problems connected with the provision of healthcare around the world, and I can think of almost nobody at all who thinks we should not provide people medical treatment because it "will cause too many problems." I do think a lot of callous rich assholes and awful racists don't much care if poor people or foreign people die of treatable medical conditions, especially if they think such treatment will interfere with their personal profit margins. But even those people rarely say this sort of thing openly. And so -- quite apart from the whole problem of the complete non-existence and non-proximity of a "blanket cure of aging" -- I see no reason why Munkittrick seems to think such a treatment would be publicly disdained for fear of the social dislocations it might cause.

I actually think it would be a very good idea to take such dislocations seriously, to ensure that medical treatments of some conditions hitherto associated with aging were not rendered moot by subsequent death by starvation or the like -- just as I think it is a very good idea to take dislocations introduced by therapeutic interventions like the pill or the overprescription of antibiotics seriously here and now -- but I am quite as sure that the clamor for access to such a treatment (I would very likely be among the clamorers) would far exceed any chorus of prohibitionism.

I really have to wonder why techno-immortalists so regularly seem to think they would be denied access to the aging cures they pointlessly pine for. This is especially weird inasmuch as so many techno-immortalists are educated privileged white guys in relatively democratic societies who are the least likely people on earth ever to be denied any actually available medical treatments at all.

Perhaps this paranoid delusion of some persecutorial denial to them of techno-immortalization treatments involves the belief that the actual factual non-existence and non-proximity of techno-immortalization therapies itself somehow represents a denial of treatment uniquely made possible by the refusal of the majority of people with whom they share the world to share in their delusive hope that techno-immortalization is actually in the developmental pipeline. Transhumanists often seem to resent and decry those who refuse to share in their hilarious techno-utopian faith-based wish-fulfillment fantasies, as if one need only find more techno-utopians to clap louder to bring tech-heaven into fruition.

Munkittrick also implies that anybody who would claim that "aging has a lot of natural beauty to it and creates a lot of meaning and that all of that is good" is somehow responsible for the non-existence of the aging cure the techno-immortalists seem to believe in utterly in defiance of sense. The first thing to say is that there are plenty of foolish embarrassing Boomers so hysterically hostile to the aging process that they throw billions of dollars into cosmetic surgeries that, as often as not, make people look like livid horror masks, not to mention falling for the siren-song of crap creams and pills and exercise-torture apparatuses and so on in the pursuit of the latest anti-aging "science." So, it doesn't seem to me the techno-immortalists are being particularly honest when they paint themselves as a vanishingly small avant-garde minority of folks in brave denial about the inevitability of the aging process. Quite to the contrary, it seems to me that there are all sorts of pampered privileged sad superficial idiots who are very much on board with the whole transhumanist aging-and-death denialist program. Just because futurologists don't want to think of themselves as boner pill hucksters and personal-motivation seminar carnival barkers doesn't mean the rest of us don't know who's who and what's what.

But I do suppose I do have to concede that I am indeed one of those awful people who has been inspired and comforted by what I take to be the beauty of human bodies that no longer pass for teen-aged, that I do indeed think that many people in coming to terms with the vulnerability of their aging bodies have seemed to acquire wisdom they lacked when they were young, dumb, and full of come, as it were, and fancied themselves invulnerable and irresistible. As someone who is probably at least a couple of decades older than Munkittrick appears to be I can cheerfully attest to the fact that there is plenty about the aging process that sucks and the therapeutic intervention into which would be plenty welcome by me -- as by almost everybody I have ever met -- and I can also agree that not everybody gains any measure of wisdom through their experience with the exactions of aging, perhaps me among them.

However, I disagree that it makes any kind of sense for techno-immortalists to pretend that it is somehow because some have been able to find resources for growth and beauty and meaning in the nearly universal journey of living human beings from youth to adulthood to age, that these Robot Cultists don't have access to the toypile of god-goods they think they want so much.

Further, I really do think it is profoundly disrespectful and frankly deeply disturbingly misanthropic to deny the measure of growth and beauty and meaning that human beings -- every single one of whom always has indeed aged and died and is likely always ever after to continue to so age and certainly will die -- have indeed found their way to some measure of wisdom and meaning in living their lives on the terms actually on offer on the earth that actually exists.

In the comments to Munkittrick's piece, prominent fellow transhumanist Giulio Prisco writes:
Aging has no natural beauty, but is a ugly and cruel thing. Have these bioluddite idiots ever seen a loved person age? There is no "meaning" in aging. It is a disease, a biological accident. At this moment in the history of our species, we are beginning to understand that we will be able to cure it, someday soon. And cure it we will. Those who find beauty and meaning in aging, should feel free to age. We will feel free not to.

Needless to say, though Munkittrick and Prisco and their fellow Robot Cultists may "feel free not to" age, they still are aging and still will age and then they still will die, every one.

Denial isn't an immortalization strategy, it is a becoming a crazy person strategy.

People have not and do not age and die because they have perversely "fe[lt] free to" do so. And to go on to deny that there are any resources available in the experience of aging -- as in every universal living human experience -- from which to make beauty and meaning is, in my view, to confess a desperately limited and profoundly troubled state of mind. If mortality is a biological accident, it is no more so than birth, taste buds, eyesight, thinking brains, or orgasms are.

What on earth do such patent recognitions of reality have to do with "bioluddism" or "cruelty"?

As somebody who doesn't believe in God I don't think death is "cruel" any more than birth "generous" on the part of the universe -- I just think these are facts with which sane people come to terms and make what they will.

As for "luddism," I daresay it is quite easy to embrace anesthesia and penicillin and vaccinations and assistive reproductive techniques and medical research without indulging in the extremely and obviously false fantasizing of techno-immortalists that "aging cures" are now or are soon to be actually on offer.

Prisco says that aging cures are just around the bend. Either he is saying something conspicuously idiotic and crazy -- like "we will be popping anti-aging pills within the usual twenty year window beyond which futurological bullshit artists always claim their prophesies will arrive" -- or he is saying something so modest and sensible that nobody in their right mind would ever think you have to listen to kooks in a Robot Cult to hear such things -- like "we will benefit from effective emerging medical treatments of diseases that resist our available therapies now when certain promising medical research comes to fruition as at least some of it should."

Prisco also says -- with a certain strident panache, one notes -- "And cure it we will"! ("it" being aging and death). This leads me to wonder yet again, as I often find myself wondering when I read the screeds of superlative futurologists, whether he imagines medical immortalization is simply a matter of a few Robot Cultists who can't distinguish science from science fiction making a lot of "can do!" noises when they gather together at their Robot Cult conferences when all is said and done.

It is certainly unfair to saddle Munkittrick with the weird ravings of a commenter on his piece -- but it seems to me there is a profound continuity in the spirit of the arguments I am seeing from them both. Munkittrick goes on in his own piece to propose a kind of thought experiment. He writes:
Imagine we suddenly discover we can cure aging. It’s simple, cheap, universal, and we manage to quickly adapt society to deal with an undying population. All of the impacts described by bioconservatives don’t exist, anti-aging is a glorious and beautiful time and everyone lives for centuries. The cost is the realization that every death was preventable. That billions of people have been, in effect, tortured for decades by nature and because we could not change it we described it as beautiful and honorable. The crisis in our collective psyche would be something of unparalleled magnitude.

Munkittrick seems to be claiming that non-Robot Cultists are somehow deliberately restraining the otherwise inevitable emergence of techno-immortalization therapies because we don't want to face the shattering awareness that will come with the arrival of this techno-immortalization that presumably even more folks could have been techno-immortalized if only we hadn't clung so desperately to our foolish idea that all human beings have always been and are likely always to remain mortals and despite this mortality have sometimes managed nonetheless to have beautiful meaningful lives.

Needless to say, that argument is, er, implausible in the extreme. As with Prisco, Munkittrick seems to be lost in a rather fantastic paranoid delusion in which he is being persecuted by those who refuse to indulge the flabbergasting fantasy that "we [will] suddenly discover we can cure aging… [i]ts [cure will be] simple, cheap, universal[ly available], and we [will] manage to quickly adapt society to deal with an undying population… and [a]ll of the impacts described by [current critics of such daydreams simply] don’t exist [by fiat], anti-aging is a glorious and beautiful time [anti-aging is a time? okay, whatever that means] and everyone lives for centuries," and that we who refuse to pretend that all of these hyperbolically implausible eventualities are possible in any relevant sense of the word are somehow through that refusal making the death-denialist techno-immortalist daydream not come true, we are the ones who are snatching the immortality god-capsule from Kyle Munkittrick's mouth just by refusing to join in with the Robot Cultists and clap louder and louder about its perfect plausibility, nay, inevitability.

On a side note, I strongly disapprove Munkittrick's insinuation that the only people who criticize transhumanists are bioconservatives. Bioconservatives disapprove actually existing medical therapies as well as imaginary futurological ones, usually in the name of imposing parochial norms they defend in the name of the "natural." I criticize many of their claims in pieces anthologized here. One of the things I disapprove of in bioconservative discourse is what I regard as its eugenicism. But in that eugenicism, I perceive a profound and pernicious complementarity between bioconservative and transhumanist ideologists, just as there is a complementarity between undercritical technophobia and undercritical technophilia more generally. Transhumanists like to pretend that all those who oppose them are bioconservatives because through this gesture they hope to create the false impression that only the absurdly hyperbolic, usually outright hysterical, and certainly utterly marginal positions at the extremes of medical and technodevelopmental debates exist at all -- when of course the truth is that almost all the actually relevant arguments disregard the facile futurological fantasizing at the bioconservative and transhumanist sub(cult)ural extremes altogether.

In a later comment to Munkittrick's piece, Giulio Prisco really doubles down on the crazy and goes on to confess:
I don't want to live 1000 years as a senile brain in a rotting body. I want to live 1000 years as a smart brain in a healthy body. Or even better, as a software being without a biological body.

It would almost surely be better I daresay to pat dear delusive little Prisco gently on the crown at this point and say, "There, there, dear, of course you want to be software, don't you worry your pretty little head about a thing, the mean bioluddites aren't going to make your body start rotting, sweet pea."

But to Kyle Munkittrick and to all the other impressionable underexperienced youngsters publishing their earnest embarrassing Robot Cult e-pistles at the IEET website I want to offer a friendly word of advice. Even though you aren't making a whole lot of sense in these arguments you're making in this Robot Cult phase of yours, the truth is that almost everybody believes a foolish thing or two when they are young and you do seem to possess at least a quotidian kind of intelligence, and, well, it isn't too late for you guys. Have a good long look at Giulio Prisco and Natasha Vita More and understand where this futurological foolishness is taking you. You really can still enjoy science fiction and be a healthcare policy geek without being in a Robot Cult.