Thursday, March 19, 2009

Thursday, March 12, 2009

It's Only A "Culture War" When They Lose

Steve, with respect to a bunch of social reactionaries being shocked, shocked that Obama would follow through on his explicit campaign promises regarding the abortion gag rule and stem cell research, asks:

Obama has weighed in on some culture-war issues, lifting the global gag-rule, beginning the process to scrap "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," and yesterday ending Bush-era restrictions on stem-cell research. All of these steps, to my mind, were encouraging.

But they were also entirely predictable. Candidate Obama said he would take these steps, and sure enough, President Obama is doing just that. It makes sense for conservatives to voice their disapproval, but why are they shocked?

The answer, of course, is that Tony Perkins et al. aren't surprised at all. Rather, they understand that the Politico is a sucker for stories about how liberals are "inflaming the culture wars." Apparently, there was no culture war inflammation when George Bush enacted his silly (and ludicrously incoherent) stem cell policy, but for Obama to reverse this policy certainly does. It doesn't make any sense, but that's not the point; these cultural reactionaries understand their media audience.

And this is yet another reminder about why talk about ending the culture wars doesn't make much sense. People disagree about issues; that's what politics as about, and glossing over this fact has the distinct tendency to perpetuate existing injustices.

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The Washington Generals scored occasionally, too

Anyone notice Putz's absolute boner for Chris Dodd (try a ctrl-f search for "Dodd" on his front page)? Yes, Dodd is in trouble. Yes, the GOP might actually pick up a Democratic-held seat in 2010. Way to go, guys! One pickup in three Senate elections is great! Read that last sentence in the condescending tone usually reserved for people who finish out of the medals at the Special Olympics.

But seriously, GOP, way to go! Too bad Dodd only holds one seat, or his potential defeat could make up for the fact that you can jam a fork in Specter, kiss Martinez's open Florida seat goodbye, and, well, if there's anything important Richard Burr (NC) wants to get done he might want to do it soon.

Democratic Pickups, 2006/2008: MT, MO, RI, OH, PA, VA (x 2), OR, AK, MN, CO, NM, NC, NH
Republican Pickups, 2006/2008: *crickets*....but Chris Dodd might have a challenger soon!

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Ask Me To Do...Well, Nothing, But Still

Via Hilzoy and Somerby, I'm afraid that this is not from The Onion:

My taste for luxury has evolved somewhat—I'm not nearly as taken with the M&Ms in the mini bar—but on entering a hotel room, I still immediately review the room-service menu, bask in the prospect of fresh, silky sheets, and inspect the bathroom to ensure I have fluffy, clean towels for every possible need. Then I spy one of those little placards, nestled among the tiny soaps or hanging from the towel rack, asking me to reuse my linens: "Save Our Planet … Every day millions of gallons of water are used to wash towels that have only been used once … Please decide for yourself." And, like that, my hotel buzz fizzles.

I'll admit that I sometimes choose not to participate in this program and request fresh towels and sheets every day. Before you write in scolding me for being a wasteful person, let me qualify that by saying it's not the program, in theory, I'm against. I'm all for saving the environment. But I don't want to be guilt-tripped into going green. It's the two-facedness of it that gets me—save our planet! Conserve our resources! It's up to you, hotel guest. Forsake that washcloth (or two!), or those crisp sheets that are your right when you pay for the room, and to what end—so the hotel can save money on laundry? How many natural resources are wasted printing all of these little signs? [Now that's a rigorous and highly plausible cost-benefit analysis! --ed.] Here's an idea: Instead of printing out a placard for every room in the hotel, wash my towel.

Well, it's bad enough that hotels provide the option of not having their sheets and towels washed daily for people who don't want the service. But to note (truthfully) that their interests happen to provide environmental benefits -- I think we can all agree that the managers of luxury hotels are history's greatest monsters.

I was going to ask why on earth Slate would publish such a thing, but, I dunno, it's kind of nice to have a definitive example of "I wish the world was a better place as long as it doesn't affect me in any way and I don't have to do anything or even have my pristine mind troubled by any negative facts" fake-progressivism readily at hand.

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Finally, something more ridicluous than wingnut tea parties

So there's a gathering of climate change skeptics taking place in NY. Since there isn't a plushie convention rivaling for the public's attention, the Times finds the International Conference on Climate Change to be newsworthy. There's almost too much to mock, but this seems to capture the essential foolery of the event:
Many participants said that . . . the global recession and a series of years with cooler temperatures [ahem] would help them in combating changes in energy policy in Washington.

“The only place where this alleged climate catastrophe is happening is in the virtual world of computer models, not in the real world,” said Marc Morano, a speaker at the meeting and a spokesman on environmental issues for Senator James M. Inhofe, Republican of Oklahoma.
Because really -- few attributes establish one's real world bonafides than the qualifying credentials, "spokesman on environmental issues for Senator James M. Inhofe, Republican of Oklahoma."

Looking further at the list of conference sponsors, bemusement is the appropriate response. Aside from the a roster of lobbying groups that corporate media continue to forgivingly describe as "think tanks," we're reminded once more of how pathetic the Congress of Racial Equality has become since Roy Innis decided that ExxonMobil was the greatest corporate friend that people of African descent have ever known. I've been thinking about the history of US social movements, and I can't find a similar example of an organization that descended as far down the well as CORE has over the past 40 years. I realize that it's a stretch to describe CORE any longer as an organization -- unless we define "organization" as "Roy Innis and the crazy people with whom he shares his skull" -- but still.....

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Does Afghanistan Need Its Own Michaelle Jean?


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For donviti and other Americans in hard times: because good writing is good writing wherever you find it....

I don't think we're going into the Second Great Depression, but I know that times are tough for a lot of my fellow citizens, and a lot of them are really scared we'll end up in the crapper.

But even if this is the prelude to a Second Great Crash, it's sort of a three-D technicolor crash, with the same happy plastic people on the TV advertisements offering much the same crap that nobody wants or can afford any more. And the story the other night on NBC News about tent cities springing up across the nation was somehow viscerally less convincing because it was in digitally enhanced color rather than the sepia tones of the faded old photos of the Hoovervilles. I don't say that to be insensitive, but I have come to realize the most people think that history before, say, the 1960s, occurred in black-and-white.

And we've also cheapened the written word, primarily because any yo-yo like me can access the internet and achieve an audience. So it is important, from time to time, to remember what really first-rate writers can do to evoke the feeling of quiet desperation of tough economic times.

Here's Arthur Schlesinger Jr. from The Crisis of the Old Order:

Across the country the dismal process was beginning, ushering in a new life for millions of Americans. In the twenties wage earners in general had found ample employment, satifaction in life, hope for the future. Now came the slowdown--only three days of work a week, then perhaps two, then the layoff. and then the search for a new job--at first vigorous and hopeful; then sober; then desperate; the long lines before the employment offices, the eyes straining for words of hope on the chalked boards, the unending walk from one plant to the next, the all-night wait to be first for possible work in the morning. And the inexorable news, brusque impersonality concealing fear: "No help wanted here" ... "We don't need nobody" ... "Move along, Mac, move along."

And so the search continued, as clothes began to wear out and shoes to fall to pieces. Newspapers under the shirt would temper the winter cold, pasteboard would provide new inner soles, cotton in the heels of the shoe would absorb the pounding on the pavement, gunny sacks wrapped around the feet would mitigate the long hours in the frozen fields outside the factory gates. And in the meantime savings were trickling away. By now the terror began to infect the family. Father, no longer cheery, now at home for long hours, irritable, guilty, a little frightened. Sometimes the mother looked for work as domestic, chambermaid or charwoman; or the children worked for pennies after school, not understanding the fear that was touching them, knowing that they must do what they could to help buy bread and coffee.

As savings end, borrowing begins. If there is life insurance, borrowing on that, until it lapses; then loans from relatives and from friends; then the life of credit, from the landlord, from the corner grocer, until the lines of friendship and compassion are snapped. Meat vanishes from the table; lard replaces butter; father goes out less often, is terribly quiet; the children begin to lack shoes, their clothes are ragged, their mothers are ashamed to send them to school. Wedding rings are pawned, the furniture is sold, the family moves into ever cheaper, damper, dirtier rooms. In a Philadelphia settlement house a little boy of three cried constantly in the spring of 1930; the doctor examined him and found that he was slowly starving. One woman complained that when she had food her two small children could barely eat; they had become accustomed to so little, she said, that their stomachs had shrunk. In November the apple peddlers began to appear on cold street corners, their threadbare clothes brushed and neat, their forlorn pluckiness emphasizing the anguish of being out of work. And every night that fall hundreds of men gathered on the lower level of Wacker Drive in Chicago, feeding fires with stray pieces of wood, their coat collars turned up against the cold, their caps pulled down over their ears, staring without expression at the black river, while above the automobiles sped comfortably along, bearing well-fed men to warm and well-lit homes. In the mining areas families lived on beans, without salt or fat. And every week, every day, more workers joined the procession of despair, The shadows deepened in the cark cold rooms, with father angry and helpless and ashamed, the distraught children too often hungry or sick, and the mother, so resolute by day, so often, when the room was finally still, lying awake in bed at night, softly crying.

That is what a master does with words, and why some sets of words are worth far more than a thousand pictures.

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OK, now somebody explain this one to me....

.... the greed of the wealthy is cited as having caused the Great Meltdown, and the best that the Obama administration can come up with is subsidizing the risks of hedge-fund investors to underwrite the recovery (while continuing to demonize them publicly for making too much money):

From WaPo:

The government is seeking to resuscitate the nation's crippled financial system by forging an alliance with the very outfits that most benefited from the bonanza preceding the collapse of the credit markets: hedge funds and private-equity firms.

The initiative to revive the consumer lending business, outlined by officials this week, offers these wealthy investors a new chance to make sizable profits -- but, thanks to the government, without the risk of massive losses.

The idea is to entice them to put their huge cash piles to work to stimulate the financial system. They would be invited to buy up recently issued, highly rated securities. These securities finance consumer lending, such as credit cards and student and auto loans.

The program, which could involve the government lending nearly $1 trillion to these investors, exceeds the size of every other federal effort to address the crisis so far. The initiative's approach could be the model for future federal efforts to aid the credit markets, sources familiar with government planning said. Officials call this strategy a "public-private partnership," but in essence the government is offering good deals to private investors to draw them into its rescue efforts.

I can't wait to see Paul Krugman, Mark Zandi, or Robert Reich explaining this one.

But I'm not holding my breath to see my liberal and progressive friends in the Delaware blogosphere dealing with this one.

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New Majority vs. Glenn Reynolds


Just sitting here watching a tape of Cantor on CNN this a.m. w/ John King, I have to say, I think the GOP is being foolish in using the stock market woes to hammer Obama.

Sure, his policies or lack thereof are part of it. But there are numerous other factors too (one being the tidal wave of redemptions hitting hedge funds which the media is either unaware of or loathe to mention).

But here's the thing. Putting aside the fact that the 21% decline in the S&P-500 since Obama's Inauguration isn't that much bigger than the 18% or so back in 2001 from Bush's Inauguration to this same point in time, what is the GOP gonna say when the market inevitably bottoms, turns and rallies with a vengeance (even if it's only a counter-trend move of several months)? Are they then gonna say, well ok, it looks like the market is showing that Obama's policies are the right ones and are instilling confidence?

And contrast.

Guess who looks like a putz today?

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Republican Congressman Ron Paul on CNN with D.L. Hughley

Overall, Ron Paul is a consistent well-reasoned voice in the Republican Party today.

You don't have to agree with everything to understand his overall message on most key issues is right-on.

We should listen to him and take up his cause.