Sunday, November 17, 2013

From me to you

Yesterday was the only convenient day for us to have Thanksgiving dinner. The best sysadmin ever also provided the pies. As always, I am grateful to him, and to Mr. Sideshow, and to you. And also to Boopsie, who is the most cutie-pie of them all and makes me laugh and laugh.

Avedon Carol and David Waldman (KagroX) are tonight's panelists on Virtually Speaking Sundays. I'm told we'll "discuss populism; the PPACA as yet another example of technocratic centrist failure; declaring surrender in the drug wars as Colorado passes weed tax and; the Village's slavering for Obama failure in his second term. Jay Ackroyd moderates. Plus today's ridiculous moment from Culture of Truth."
Thursday's guest on Virtually Speaking with Jay Ackroyd was Ian Welsh. CMike was kind enough to transcribe a portion of this talk in comments here. Homework for the episode includes Ian's articles, "Baseline Predictions for the next sixty years", "A New Ideology", and "How to Create a Viable Ideology".
You might also want to save this handy quotation: "After serving his time federal prison, John Ehrlichman granted an interview to author Dan Baum, who reports that Ehrlichman explained the origin of the war on drugs this way: 'The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar Left, and black people. You understand what I'm saying? We knew we couldn't make it illegal to be either against the war or black. But by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.'"

I can't now remember when it was I noticed it, but at some point in the Bush years I realized that there is an enormous group of people out there who don't recognize what I think of as a fairly universal story for English-speaking (and other) people, a story we refer to all the time as the illustration of how some piece of elite flim-flam is occurring and no one has the nerve to say so. A bunch of people who are younger than me simply have no idea what we're talking about when we say, "The Emperor has no clothes." I think that's a shame, because it's not simply a children's story (it sure isn't), but a warning about how con artists exist at every level and can swindle absolutely anyone because humans are too often afraid to speak up and may even believe there is something going on that everyone else can see but them, that the problem is with them. How many people, for example, simply assumed that our leaders talking suddenly about the dire threat represented by Saddam Hussein was based on some demonstrated fact that was not visible to those of us who kept noticing that Saddam simply didn't have the capability to be such a threat? How many people believed that the completely contrafactual "models" and rationales for the economic policies of the last 30-odd years all made perfect sense, that housing prices could just naturally (and harmlessly!) jump to ten times the median annual income of the populace, that Clinton's welfare "reform" of eliminating Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) would improve the condition of the poor rather than having a devastating impact on the poor and the black community, that Social Security is taking money out of the economy rather than putting it in, that private corporations can do a better job than government at running the programs government once manifestly ran more efficiently and effectively, that deregulation was actually a good idea - and so on? How many people hear that these fantasticly complicated-sounding financial facilities are just "too complicated" for anyone else to understand and think it actually makes sense to let the foxes continue to "guard" the henhouse? From the mouths of babes (e.g., cranky old activists and hippie bloggers) we heard that so many of these stories were actually not true, but the grown-ups wouldn't listen, even when the whistleblowers joined in - and instead they just wanted to shoot the messenger.

Among the myriad issues where the emperor has no clothes is one I still find it amazing that members of my own generational cohort seem to have completely fallen for an obvious lie: the crack cocaine story. I remember when it first reared its ugly head how we started hearing the same kind of outrageous claims that we once heard about marijuana and LSD; every issue of Time seemed to be all Reefer Madness on this drug preparation. It should have been manifestly obvious that no drug could instantly addict someone with one dose, for example - it simply makes no sense. And you would have thought a generation that cut its teeth on debunking lies about marijuana would have seen right through it, but they didn't. One of the most draconian drug laws ever resulted from this insanity and a succession of tragically evil drug policies have followed in its wake. (All of which, by the way, has had devastating impact on the black community as a whole, not to mention black activism.) Of course, it's not just my generation that dropped the ball on this - everyone does it all the time, dismissing even what they have seen with their own eyes in favor of manufactured "conventional wisdom" that pours down on them from the elites. Sam Seder did a great interview with Columbia University neuroscientist Carl Hart, author of the new book High Price: A Neuroscientist's Journey of Self-Discovery That Challenges Everything You Know About Drugs and Society, who explained "how we demonize people on welfare, his life experience and academic work, why not all users of Crack Cocaine are addicted, the Rat Park study, the variety of reasons people fall into drug addiction, who benefits from the War on Drugs and who pays the highest price and how we use drugs to avoid addressing poverty and unemployment," on The Majority Report.

Another term that I suspect some people have lost a grip on is one that Atrios keeps using quite accurately to describe the convoluted means "centrists" keep coming up with to do what should be straightforward tasks, is Rube Goldberg machine. He frequently employs the term to talk about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), an overburdened mess that could have bypassed most of its problems by getting rid of the huge complication of the expensive middle-men in the insurance industry, as we have seen. Perhaps that's why he posted this entertaining video Tuesday night.

The Amazingly Articulate Barack Obama gives a presser about a fiasco any smart person should have seen coming.
And an appropriate word from Mike the Mad Biologist

"Can we trade Obama for Nixon? It's difficult to know, in historical terms, how best to understand the monumental catastrophe of the Obamacare rollout. Is it yet another example of the pathological weakness and spinelessness of the Democratic Party, which never seems to get anything right and always prefers to negotiate itself into unnecessary compromise and ideological defeat? Or is it another symptom of our national refusal to pursue a rational and coherent healthcare policy, fueled partly by our bogus mythology of individualism and partly by the machinations of insurance-industry racketeers? Is there, to go one step further, a relationship between those two things?"

Suddenly I am not the only person talking about giving Americans a guaranteed basic income. And this is Business Insider!

Marcy Wheeler on "The Opportunity Cost of the Global Dragnet," or how the NSA is wrecking everything.

Dept. of Worse Than Bush: NSA Whistleblower speaks.
"Americans' personal data shared with CIA, IRS, others in security probe"

"The Rise and Fall of Fast Track Trade Authority [...] Under the U.S. Constitution, Congress writes the laws and sets trade policy. And so it was for 200 years. Over the last few decades, presidents have seized those powers through a mechanism known as Fast Track. Fast Track facilitated controversial pacts such as NAFTA and the World Trade Organization, which extend beyond traditional tariff-cutting to set constraints on domestic financial, energy, patents and copyright, food safety, immigration and other policies."
Why Do We The People Have To Read TPP On Wikileaks?"
Just in case you thought it was any better over here, the Transatlantic Trade Deal is the European version of the TPP, "...a privatised justice system for global corporations", and a direct attack on democracy.

Matt Taibbi, "Chase's Twitter Gambit Devolves into All-Time PR Fiasco."
Stacy Keach, #AskJPM tweets performed by voice of American Greed
Read the Tweets

"Caught in Unemployment's Revolving Door [...] 'I've been turned down from McDonald's because I was told I was too articulate,' she says. 'I got denied a job scrubbing toilets because I didn't speak Spanish and turned away from a laundromat because I was 'too pretty.' I've also been told point-blank to my face, 'We don't hire the unemployed.' And the two times I got real interest from a prospective employer, the credit check ended it immediately.'"

Say what you will about Ralph Nader, but the only way he's wrong about the Democratic Party and Obama is that he's not scathing enough. I don't think he even realizes what Obama really is.

"Vanity Fair editor's crazy conspiracy theory: Former NYT scribe Kurt Eichenwald just knows Edward Snowden's a Chinese spy -- no matter what logic says."

Richard Cohen managed to commit another atrocity, with the open approval of his editor, and a response from Ta-Nehisi Coates.
In honor of the occasion, Atrios linked to this blast from the past at A Tiny Revolution.

As some of you may recall, I learned my way around unpacking pseudo-science and "conventional wisdom" by studying the relationship between sex crime and a whole passel of anti-sex assumptions and anti-pornography "science". And no matter how much time you spend debunking this stuff, there is always more. And it's like that with everything.

"No, This is Not an Okay Tip to Leave." And if the meal comes to less than $25, you might want to consider this. (Well, some of us can only afford to eat in restaurants if we stick to the local tipping conventions, but if you can afford it, why not do it?)

The Original "Occupy": Novel Was Written 100 Years Before Zuccotti Park

How to Be an Atheist Without Being a Dick About It

Google, if the '80s never ended

You can listen to this Beatles at the BBC program until Thursday. It's fun.

5 comments:

  1. For example, I'm curious about the breadth of this part of the article on the Minimum Income:

    "But a minimum income would also allow us to eliminate every government benefit as well. Get rid of SNAP, TANF, housing vouchers, the Earned Income tax credit and many others. Get rid of them all."

    I'm not at all sure that a Minimum Income could allow Congress & the states to eliminate every other government benefit. For example would they also eliminate the PPACA Subsidies and Medicaid? If so then that would/could pretty much eliminate the benefit to the poor and even the middle class. I think that even with a minimum income, there are many benefits citizens should demand from their government.

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  2. ...a story we refer to all the time as the illustration of how some piece of elite flim-flam is occurring and no one has the nerve to say so.

    That Tiny Revolution post reveals how our press keeps the flim-flam going.
    ~

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  3. Sam Seder did a great interview with Columbia University neuroscientist Carl Hart, author of the new book High Price: A Neuroscientist's Journey of Self-Discovery That Challenges Everything You Know About Drugs and Society, who explained "how we demonize people on welfare, his life experience and academic work, why not all users of Crack Cocaine are addicted, the Rat Park study, the variety of reasons people fall into drug addiction, who benefits from the War on Drugs and who pays the highest price and how we use drugs to avoid addressing poverty and unemployment," on The Majority Report.

    Just to put a face to a name... (All that said, I wouldn't recommend crack or crank to anyone.)

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  4. I just started to read Lindy West's bold admonishment to her fellow atheists to stop being dicks. Just as I was about to doze off, I noticed a sidebar to the right, linking to an article entitled "Fuck the Pope." And sure enough, it was by Lindy West, setting an example that will never be topped.

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  5. We dropped the ball, my generation did... we stopped The War!

    Our War.

    Viet Nam.

    But we didn't stop War.

    We forced Nixon to accountability. Whoopee! Nixon quit, The War is Over! Let's finish our law degrees, cut our hair, and buy beemers and half-million dollar houses on the High Desert!

    We stopped The War. Our War. Viet Nam. But we didn't stop War. We finished our law degrees and bought overpriced McMansions, and left the machinations* in place, notably Bush/Carlyle, Cheney/Haliburton and Rumsfield/etal, that led to the Authoritarian State - Fascist State - we are about to, if not have, become.

    We dropped the ball.

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4lKwXwU5iWs&w=640&h=360]

    * "In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together." - Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1961

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