Friday, May 17, 2013

Under grey skies

Ian Welsh was this week's guest on Virtually Speaking with Jay Ackroyd, and he predicts a nightmare. (I think he's right about that, but I think he wastes a lot of time talking about generations. Lewis Powell was no baby-boomer.) It might be worthwhile to read what Ian says On Bangladesh's Textile Disasters, because this is a case where the people who run the business can't pretend it's not their fault and all some foreign government issue. (Ian's earlier appearance on VS with Jay is here.)

I've never thought much of Henry Waxman as a "great progressive" in Congress. It didn't seem to me that he was exactly keeping his eye on the ball. This week, one patriotic citizen, Kim Kaufman, asked him if he'd sign Grayson's pledge, and he said no, he'd support chained CPI for "things we want". People need to ask him who "we" are and what "we" want.

Matt Taibbi says, "Who Can Stop the Koch Brothers From Buying the Tribune Papers? Unions Can, and Should." Though, the Tribune papers already being pretty right-wing, I'm not entirely sure we'd know the difference if the Koch's did buy them.

Congratulations to Minnesota for becoming the 12th state to legalize gay marriage.

"Upcoming Trans-Pacific Partnership Looks Like Corporate Takeover [...] The TPP process appears to be set up to push corporate interests over other interests. The TPP is being negotiated in secret, so what we know about it comes from leaked documents. Even our Congress is being kept out of the loop. But 600 corporate representatives are in the loop while representatives of groups that protect working people, human, political and civil rights and our environment are largely not in the loop."

Another reminder from Howie Klein that the worst Republicans are only in office because the Democratic leadership protects them.

Senator Al Franklin on banking reform.

"Low-income parents forced to skip work in order to be able to work at all [...] The Post's Brigid Schulte reports that, although subsidies are particularly low in Washington, studies have found that the difficulty of getting and keeping them is similar in most states. Nationwide, just one in six eligible children is covered by the subsidy program, leaving an awful lot of parents with that impossible predicament of needing a job to get childcare but needing childcare to get a job. Then of course there's the kicker - poor women who don't work are stigmatized as mooches or leeches, and poor women who are forced to leave their kids in bad situations while they go to work are stigmatized as bad mothers. America's rotten childcare system is a sign of a nation whose policymakers don't care much about either children's safety or women's ability to make a decent living."

Mike Flannigan wishes the Republicans really meant it about impeaching presidents who commit high crimes.

There's a long piece in the Guardian about Cornel West: "He and Obama, the first-time candidate, talked. And then West attended 65 events drumming up support. 'He talked about Martin Luther King over and over again as he ran. King died fighting not just against poverty but against carpet-bombing in Vietnam; the war crimes under Nixon and Kissinger. You can't just invoke Martin Luther King like that and not follow through on his priorities in some way. I knew he would have rightwing opposition, but he hasn't tried. When he came in, he brought in Wall Street-friendly people - Tim Geithner, Larry Summers - and made it clear he had no intention of bailing out homeowners, supporting trade unions. And he hasn't said a mumbling word about the institutions that have destroyed two generations of young black and brown youth, the new Jim Crow, the prison industrial complex. It's not about race. It is about commitment to justice. He should be able to say that in the last few years, with the shift from 300,000 inmates to 2.5 million today, there have been unjust polices and I intend to do all I can. Maybe he couldn't do that much. But at least tell the truth. I would rather have a white president fundamentally dedicated to eradicating poverty and enhancing the plight of working people than a black president tied to Wall Street and drones.' Unsurprisingly, he and team Obama no longer speak. 'They say I'm un-American.'" Since I don't have a link to the Newsnight interview that will play in the USA, have his Craig Ferguson interview, instead.

Bill Murray on the last time they saw Gilda Radner.

1927 London Shown in Moving Color (Thanks to Moshe for the tip.)

Great musical moments in television: John Cage's birthday surprise, on Ally McBeal.


  1. The NY Times says Obama would love to have a Bulworth moment. So what would such a moment sound like during Obama's Farewell Address in January 2017?

  2. You keep an excellent blog, it's invaluable.

  3. God, that's a great story from Bill Murray.

  4. Yes. The Bill Murray/Guilda Radner Story. And London. Wonderful.

  5. I see from news reports in the UK that the gay marriage law passing throuhg Parliament is being used to bludgeon Cameron. Pass this law, and we lose the next election.

    I've some sympathy for the religious side. They face a conflict between their religious faith, and what the new law allows. And there is a confusion between religious marriage and civil marriage. They overlap, but it's the civil status that matters to the law, even though ministers of religion are granted powers to satisfy the civil requirements.

    But many of the people who are openly against gay marriage provoke me into suspicion of their motives. I know I had to overcome my ignorance. I know the older generation could be very ignorant. But now I am one of the current older generation, and some of the vocal bigots are younger than I am.

    I don't want people like that to be running the country.

    Am I bigoted about the Conservative Party? I think I'd prefer a lizard-woman from the dawn of time to David Cameron.

    1. Quick one-liner: if men are from Mars and women are from Venus, does that make non-gay sex into bestiality?

    2. The sad thing is that all of those bright young things are making the same mistake the boomers made of assuming that once all the old people died off, all the racism and homophobia and anti-drug hysteria would go away.

      As to Madam V, we'd be lucky.

  6. I would rather have a white president fundamentally dedicated to eradicating poverty and enhancing the plight of working people than a black president tied to Wall Street and drones.

    I'd take any color president as long as he or she is fundamentally dedicated to eradicating poverty and enhancing the plight of working people.

    1. Actually, I wish he'd said "the condition of working people" or "the prospects of working people." Although it wasn't always true, the contemporary usage of "plight" is something along the lines of "a condition of extreme hardship, danger" - not something I want to see enhanced. And no one could argue that Obama isn't fundamentally dedicated to enhancing the suffering and hardship of working people.

    2. IMHO, the continued plight of working folks is merely incidental. This administration's stated goals, much like its predecessors, have always been to enhance the position of elites. That non-elites get raked over the coals in the process is admittedly unfortunate but it's a burden we must bear together, shared sacrifice, stiff upper lip ... and I'm sure Obama kicks back with a melancholy pint every now and then before the batphone lights up and he's asked for the go-ahead to bomb someone.

      If his patrons were willing to give up just a little of their lucre, our pols might spread it around a bit, but since they're obviously too greedy and ultimately self-destructive, well, to paraphrase Frank Costanza, "Austerity Now!" Most depressing of all, it's been a constant for well over 30 years now, despite the rotating cast of villains helming the mothership. If we proles could just get our heads around the uniform goals of the ruling class, instead of chasing squirrels, maybe, just maybe, we could smash the fuckers to pieces.

    3. Actually, I think the continued plight of working folks is intentional. It's hard to get good help when they can tell you to take this job and shove it. And after you've made yourself really really rich, you're entitled to be able to go through life without some janitor being able to look you in the eye, let alone be able to give you the finger. People should come to you on their knees to beg you for the privilege of sweeping out your stables in exchange for a few crumbs - and then say, "Thank you, Sir, God bless you!" when you deign to grant such a boon.

    4. Somehow, it makes me think of Darwin:

      "So utterly helpless are the masters, that when Huber shut up thirty of them without a slave, but with plenty of the food which they like best, and with their larvae and pupae to stimulate them to work, they did nothing; they could not even feed themselves, and many perished of hunger. Huber then introduced a single slave (F. fusca), and she instantly set to work, fed and saved the survivors; made some cells and tended the larvae, and put all to rights."

  7. After Gaius and Richard Eskow's posts went around, a friend told me to call Waxman's chief of staff in LA because they were getting a lot of phone calls and emails. :) I dutifully called, left a voice mail and soon after got a call back from someone in the D.C. office. The call didn't work out so well for her. Here are some parts of that conversation (from my notes after, not actual quotes):

    She immediately launched into trying to persuade me how much Waxman really cares and how much he's done and how great his record has been. She started "…since the 1970s…" and I thought, he's old, I don't have time to go through decades of this crap and cut her off with "there's been more income inequality in the last 5 years than in the entire history of the world -- and Waxman's taken every bad vote on this issue."

    Then tried to sell me on all the great things in the ACA.

    Me: He was silent on single payer during that fight.

    Karen: Oh, he's worked for single payer since the 1970s but just couldn't get it through this last time…

    Me: Really? I never even heard him stand up for it. He also stood in the way of changing the ERISA laws which would have let California pass its own single payer.

    she changed subject.

    Karen: Chained CPI - "he thinks it's a terrible idea" Some Medicare protection things [two different items I can't remember] in this budget that he wants to keep in this budget.

    Me: Really? That would be his trade for chained cpi?

    Karen: What if there was single payer in the budget?

    Me: Yeah, and maybe everyone will get a pony. I don't think single payer or a pony will be in the budget. There won't even be any significant tax increases from the 1% which probably wouldn't last longer than 6 months anyway and these benefit cuts will last forever. And many people will suffer. I'll suffer. Many I know will suffer.

    Karen: "I'm sorry you feel that way"

    Me: "I'm sorry you're sorry but that is the way I feel."

    Karen: Just watch his votes in the next two years and you'll see…

    Me: "We've been watching his votes for the last bunch of years and they've all been bad votes. Always votes for war and has voted for every bad economic bill that has been put on his plate by the Democratic party. And that has hurt us. I don't think he has two years. We're looking for someone who will represent us now. Someone like Allan Grayson who will stand up and say no, I won't vote for anything that has chained cpi in it -- which is why we're asking him to sign onto the Grayson-Takano letter.

    Silence; conversation ender. "I'm sorry you feel that way."

    Me: Yes, I know. Thank you for calling. I appreciate the call.

  8. One aspect of politics in the UK is that we have seen over thirty years of the same political themes, from Conservatives and Labour. Both parties such up to the "City", that rather vague thing which is supposed to be so good for the country, but which, when we look at the history and compare with other countries, seems barely competent and only worth having when it was stealing from outsiders. Wall Street and the City are too much alike, a common thread of government which drags both our countries down.

    And they blame the workers for the ills of the economy, even as British companies are blooming as soon as the workers get out from under their thumb. Jaguar and Land Rover struggled, eventually being brought together as part of Ford, but now are a very successful part of the Indian Tata Group.

    The worrying question is whether you have to be good when the competition is do dreadfully bad. And that applies to political parties as well as employers.

    At least we do have examples which challenge the austerity policies. Yet the people who make the decisions respond badly to the obvious challenge of asking is austerity working? Shouldn't things be improving? Nope, the response seems to be that we are not being tyrannical enough.

    Capitalism, as seen from the City and Wall Street seems to be no more than a system of robbery. Back in the days of the British Empire, that often looks to be how the wealth was generated, but the robberies were taking place in distant lands. And there is some evidence that the British thieves were less bad than the natives they supplanted.

    Is the history of the world a history of the success of the lesser evils?