Thursday, October 31, 2013

Feel sick and dirty, more dead than alive

We saw this seasonal beer at the pub last week. Too hoppy for my tastes but with a lot of nice flavor, anyway.

Digby and Stuart Zechman were this week's guests on Virtually Speaking Sundays, and discussed the austerity zombie, this time in response to Gene Sperling's remarks about the "necessity" of "entitlement" cuts. Stuart also provided some insight into large software development projects involving multiple participants referring and why the PPACA is such a pig of a project.

Just learned that Robert Silverberg had a heart attack here in London, but he seems to be okay. Nothing on File 770 or Locus yet, but Pat Cadigan is on the scene and John Clute confirms on Twitter.

Good on Atrios for being one of the very few people who all along has been saying that inflation can be too low - and it is.

Ian Welsh's recent post "A brief note on why the progressive blog movement failed" generated some lively discussion among members of the early liberal blogosphere, including a post from MyDD founder Jerome Armstrong that Ian promoted as a separate post, "Jerome Armstrong on the Failure of the Netroots". I'm not sure how Jerome sees a coalition with Libertarians (or the libertarian right) doing any good (assuming it can happen in any substantive way at all), but I don't think it's wise for liberals to automatically discount any action in concert with them when our interests coincide. Alan Grayson and Ron Paul got the Fed audited, which is a very good thing, regardless of how many crackpot ideas Paul may have. I think liberals make a grave mistake when they sneer at Jane Hamsher because she once co-signed a letter with Grover Norquist - a letter calling for Rahm Emanuel's resignation. Is there really any liberal who doesn't think getting Emanuel and people like him out of government is a good idea?

Glenn Greenwald schools Bill Keller: "So yes: along with new privacy-enhancing technologies, I do think that brave, innovative whistle-blowers like Manning and Snowden are crucial to opening up some of this darkness and providing some sunlight. It shouldn't take extreme courage and a willingness to go to prison for decades or even life to blow the whistle on bad government acts done in secret. But it does. And that is an immense problem for democracy, one that all journalists should be united in fighting. Reclaiming basic press freedoms in the U.S. is an important impetus for our new venture." And Keller tries to defend David Brooks.

"The Strange Silence [...] It is pointless to tell these 'fans' [of Obama] that there is nothing wrong with criticizing the president and his policies. It doesn't make you the grand master of the local KKK or mean that you've failed Martin Luther King Jr. In fact, I might even go out on a limb to suggest that the reason Bill Clinton gets so much negative attention from these 'fans', in spite of the fact that his record is more liberal than Obama's, is because these 'fans' are projecting their pent up frustration on a legitimate white target as a proxy. They simply cannot overcome their fear of ostracism if they criticize the president in the strong terms they would like to use. Just thinking about it makes them feel uncomfortable and oogy. This is ridiculous but it appears to be useless to point out that if people on the left don't get over this conditioned Pavlovian response (courtesy of Obama's campaign strategists) they are condemning their side to complete and utter fecklessness and continued perceptions of ineptitude. But I might suggest that this is exactly what the bad guys want. If you don't raise a fuss, no effective regulation gets implemented and ideas that benefit most of the people in America never see the light of day and are considered politically impractical by the savvy people."

Michael Lind is an idiot if he really believes this nonsense about the Tea party. The Tea Party, like the rest of the Republican Party and like the Democratic Party, has two tiers, one led and funded by crackpot billionaires, and the other made up of all of the other people who probably would kill their own leaders in their beds if they ever tumbled to what they are really up to. There is no great distinction in the leaderships (all three of which are in some part funded by the same crackpot billionaires), and the distinctions in the rank and file are trivial compared to their areas of agreement. One group is not distinctly richer or poorer or crazier or saner or better educated or less educated, despite whatever fudging of trivial percentages Lind tries to fan into significance. Right-wing populists believe that "the government" is the problem, while liberal populists believe that the people leading the government (and the rich creeps who bribe them) are the problem, but there is remarkable agreement between most Tea Partiers and most liberals that the government should serve the people, that Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid should not be cut, and that a lot of elite creeps are wrecking our country. Lind's piece is just another sample of Let's-you-and-him-fight crap meant to buttress tribalistic hatreds between the two groups. This is not the antebellum south, and if people don't stop buying this nonsense, trust me, liberals are being just as hateful and unreality-based as their counterparts on the right.

Delicious: "Activist Tweets Former NSA Chief's ‘Off Record' Phone Call On Train." Sometimes, when I'm on a train and some creep in a suit is talking too loud on his phone, I have a little fantasy that he's about to spill some corporate secret in my hearing. This one is even better - Michael Hayden bragging about torture and rendition in the hearing of a guy from

CMike says: "Ordinarily I don't have much patience for prescription-less rants but I listened to this one to the end and then I listened to it again." Jeremy Paxman interviews Russell Brand and proves that Paxman is as fatuous and trivial as ever, but Russell Brand is not. Christopher Goodfellow sees real potential in Brand, and provided the highest praise: "The comedian's appearance before a home affairs select committee about drugs last year was also worthwhile. Amid the humorous comments about chairman Keith Vaz were lucid and informative statements on an issue he takes seriously. It all adds up to a level of engagement by a political satirist/stand up comedian that not even Bill Hicks ever reached."

A bunch of Dems introduced a bill [...] "The proposed law holds the Supreme Court to the same standards required of judges in the federal court system. Currently, Justices on the Supreme Court decide for themselves if they should recuse themselves from cases in which they may have a personal stake or in Thomas' case, his wife has a political or financial stake as a holy roller in the Tea Party." Well, that's closing the barn door after the horses are gone, innit?

David Dayen in The Pacific Standard: "How a Frustrated Blogger Made Expanding Social Security a Respectable Idea: Thanks to decades of stagnant wages and the Great Recession, more than half of American working-class households are at risk of being unable to sustain their standard of living past retirement. Duncan Black is trying to change that."

America: The Best at Being Worst

I sure wish there were a DVD set available of all of the episodes of Steve Allen's Meeting of Minds.

Lion cubs being lion cubs

That neat Honda ad and how they did it

This picture is strangely funny and yet disturbing.

19th Century .gifs

Google Street View and some nice views of Tower Bridge (aka "the one that everyone thinks is London Bridge, but isn't").

"Sunday Morning", live.
And this is the album that we heard from across the hall the night I lost my virginity.

Roz wrote a poem for the occasion, and I knew from the first line when I first saw it sans title what it was about:
"He watched them dance their lives."

"I'm Waiting For the Man"


  1. I think liberals make a grave mistake when they sneer at Jane Hamshire because she once co-signed a letter with Grover Norquist - a letter calling for Rahm Emanuel's resignation. Is there really any liberal who doesn't think getting Emanuel and people like him out of government is a good idea?

    That was just more payback for FireDogLake's original sin: Criticizing President Hopey for his Catfood Commission.

    Furthermore, I'd say this is one of the biggest problems with "The Left" in this country. Their love for the idea of President Obama blinds them to reality: He's a cynical neoliberal who is doing a better job of furthering the interests of the wealthy than any Republican would have gotten away with.

  2. I think a bigger problem is that Liberals have been misrepresenting themselves, for decades, as being of the Left. That's just as bad as calling the U.K. or the U.S. democracies.

    1. I'd say the better clarification would be what's a liberal and nony might have just forgotten his quotation marks

  3. Two-and-a-half years ago, I wrote, in some exasperation, "Must all criticism of a sitting President be treated as lèse majesté?" But I think matters are darker than riverdaughter paints them: identity politics is trumping policy, as always happens in hard times, and people are looking for a good king. It takes great courage to break away from that impulse, it seems.

    BTW, it's Hamsher. And it seems to me she's gone rather deep-end, since. Which is a shame.

    1. Deep-end. What can that possibly mean?

    2. "Extremist," I imagine. You know, like Martin Luther King Jr.

    3. P.S. It's Ian Welsh, not Ian Walsh.

    4. What P-Reader said

    5. I stopped following Jane Hamsher posts about three and a half years ago at the end of the whole Health Care Reform legislative process by which time I had been in the habit of skipping over more than half of the entries by other bloggers at FireDogLake anyway because they struck me as either whines related to identity politics or apologetics for Obama's words and deeds.

      To her credit from what I remember Hamsher usually wrote about policy, the legislative process, to fund raise, her own personal peeves with particular people, and all sorts of institutional failures but she had, with the rest of the A-list progbloggers, lined up to support, first, the public option as originally pitched, then a series of reduced versions of the public option, and, at the end, a token version of the public option, each in turn as a practical route to reform as opposed to what was declared to be a nonstarter, i.e. single payer. She seemed, as the process played out, to have become more contemptuous towards those on her left for not knowing, as she was sure she did, how insider Washington worked.

      Let's face it, after all the expertise, strategy, and pixels progbloggers brought to the debate about process and policy we ended up with the same Romneycare bill, implemented on the same schedule, that we were going to get had McCain/Palin had been elected in '08. Here's Hamsher at the bitter end of the health care reform process in March of 2010:

      >>>>>The country turned an important corner last night when Congress affirmed the moral imperative of providing quality health care to more Americans and passed the President’s sweeping health insurance reform bill. It is to President Obama’s credit that he was willing to commit his office to such a challenge when others before him had failed....<<<<<

      Now Hamsher does zing the Prez with several criticisms in this post but she ends up right back on her original heading [my emphasis]:

      >>>>>...This bill is a first step, not the last. The Democrats must fix this bill while they still have the chance. Before they leave Americans at the mercy of the system they have created, it is imperative that they address the issues of cost control, the dangerously weak enforcement mechanisms, and the anti-trust exemption for insurance companies.

      Even a single, solitary Senator can begin that process immediately by introducing a public option amendment when the Senate takes up the reconciliation bill later this week. Now that the health care bill has passed, there is no need to worry that this move could endanger the overall package. The Senate should also consider the bill ending the anti-trust exemption for insurance companies already passed by the House....


    6. ...continued

      Are we there yet with any of those fixes? Guess not, but no worries, there's always more new serious advice, usually much like the old serious advice, to draw upon as to how to proceed. At Avedon's link to the 10/27 Virtually Speaking Sundays, here's Digby dismissing the unserious:

      >>>>>I think the idea is: look, we are where we are and there are some ways this could be dealt with, that aren't just quixotic sort of mantras that, "We need single payer." That would be great and certainly we can talk about things like expanding Medicare in some ways, there are ways to that but the idea is, I think you're right, that going after something like the [anti-trust] exemption, or the monopoly exemptions and the idea- I mean there's a law that's definitely to be looked at, I mean what the insurance companies have been able to get away with all these years is outrageous and we have some avenues to do it, we have some leadership, people like Elizabeth Warren, people like that who we can probably get to get involved in this as a part of the kind of populist [impetus for?] them and use that as the way to streamline some of the problems of Obamacare.<<<<<

      That's Digby responding to Stuart Z. and agreeing with his proposal that, in the matter of health care reform the next big thing for movement liberals to be rallying around is the cause of repealing the anti-trust exemption for health insurance providers which the PPACA has kept in place. Good luck with that. (BTW, the next House election after redistricting comes up in 2022 so what would be the ETA for this market based solution to make it to White House for some sitting New Deal liberal president to sign it into law?)

      In my opinion political clout on a micro level can only come from buying it or organizing a lot of people around a big idea or two.

  4. And for what it's worth:

    ‘At present nothing matters except winning the war; without victory in the war all else is meaningless. Therefore this is not the moment to talk of pressing forward with the revolution. We can’t afford to alienate the peasants by forcing Collectivization upon them, and we can’t afford to frighten away the middle classes who were fighting on our side. Above all for the sake of efficiency we must do away with revolutionary chaos. We must have a strong central government in place of local committees, and we must have a properly trained and fully militarized army under a unified command. Clinging on to fragments of workers’ control and parroting revolutionary phrases is worse than useless; it is not merely obstructive, but even counter-revolutionary, because it leads to divisions which can be used against us by the Fascists. At this stage we are not fighting for the dictatorship of the proletariat, we are fighting for parliamentary democracy. Whoever tries to turn the civil war into a social revolution is playing into the hands of the Fascists and is in effect, if not in intention, a traitor.’

    George Orwell, Homage to Catalonia, Chapter 5

    Does this line of attack strike anyone as familiar? This was the "communist" outlook on the DFAs (dirty fucking anarachists) during the Spanish Civil War. Recall that they also thought progress could be achieved by partnering with an utterly corrupt capitalist class, that this, mind you, was the trick to defeating fascism. Neoliberal fellationships with the lords of finance, anyone?

    And that string of posts/commentary at Ian's has been great.

    1. That's tricky historical territory there. Five years earlier it had been Stalin and [er, let me look it up] Thälmann, the Chairman of the German Communist Party, who had been the purists and Trotsky in exile who had argued that the German fascists, i.e. the Nazis, were the existential threat to Marxist revolution in that country and, therefore, the German Communists had to work with the non-revolutionary Social Democrats in the short run.

    2. "That's tricky historical territory there." Yes.

      "that string of posts/commentary at Ian's has been great." Yes.

    3. Very tricky. I don't have access to my books at the moment but recall Orwell, having developed some leadership skills as a colonial policeman in Burma, finding the various factions fighting on the Republican side incompetent and the Communists duplicitous and cynical. His "outlook" was always original.

    4. Naturally, I'm aware that Orwell, as well as the Stalinists and Anarchists, had evolving positions. I've been studying the SCW for twenty years. My point, after rereading Orwell's book recently, was that the bludgeon wielded against authentic revolutionaries of the time is nearly identical to the rhetoric we've been hearing for years in the US, that you simply must go along with neoliberal Obamageddon or let the christo-fascists take power. You know, that we musn't attack our party's standard bearer b/c it'd let in Romney, nevermind that their core positions are almost identical, that both are paid hacks for the corporate states of America.

  5. Here's Seth Ackerman on the Tea Party and the American south, the subjects of Michael Lind's piece.

    1. Jesus Christ, that's a good find, CMike. Thank you so much.

    2. My The Movement Liberal's Activist Handbook says to use Cheese 'N Rice, instead.

      (Stuart thanks for the positive feedback. I feel a little guilty I haven't picked up on the habit of thanking you and other commenters from time to time nor, more inexcusably, Avedon for what each of you are posting so, in order to spare myself any further pang of conscience in the near future, I guess the best thing for me to do would be to paste in something about which you're not going to agree with at all. I'll wait until Saturday before running afoul of the word limit here by pasting it in as a reply up in that Raven part of the thread.

    3. CMike, I think your work and perspective is extremely valuable. More people should be publicly thanking you, in my opinion.

    4. I've tried serving this dish half-baked a few times but here it is prepared medium well:

      [BEGIN QUOTE] Male Speaker: Brad, you flirted with this question a couple of times during the panel. So if robots are going to take over a bunch of [inaudible] work, there is a question how do we figure out how to pay the people who no longer have work. Would you be willing to hypothesis, do you have an answer that question?

      Brad DeLong: Well, as I say so far, we have been very lucky that so far we have been granting people their social worth and also granting people their control over material resources depending on what they have been able to concretely add to our collective store of value--what they are able to make. And of course, we also have been assigning people their social worth and their control over resources by what they are able to convince us they out to be able to grab from the common store. Because by now an overwhelming proportion of all of our wealth is our common joint product rather than our individual product.

      After all, put any of us naked out in the Sierra Nevada--even during the rainy season--and our chances of even surviving to make it out of the Sierra Nevada are pretty small. Practically all of what we do is a joint product. So far our system of resource and status allocation worked extremely roughly. But it has been semi-tolerable. At least around here most people get enough to eat. You scratch your head on how it is that Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy [of the 1813 Pride and Prejudice Darcies] is able to consume £10,000/year of stuff, given that he appears to have no social utility at all--except to be occasionally witty but mostly cruel. And yet somehow he has convinced people that this amount of the common store out to be his.

      We are moving forward into a world in which we are going to have to figure out a better way to share out of the common store. We won’t be able to rely on people’s ability to do something actually concretely physically useful in order to get control over the material resources and also to get the validation of self-worth we seem to need to make the system tolerable.

      My friend and coauthor Larry Summers touched on this a year and a bit ago when he was here giving the Wildavski lecture. He was talking about the extraordinary decline in American labor force participation even among prime-aged males--that a surprisingly large chunk of our male population is now in the position where there is nothing that people can think of for them to do that is useful enough to cover the costs of making sure that they actually do it correctly, and don’t break the stuff and subtract value when they are supposed to be adding to it.

      That is a problem that human societies have never faced before. Larry thinks it may be that we are starting to see the thin edge of the technological wedge in male labor force participation trends over the last 30 years--which I point out is not matched at all by female labor force participation trends. Women were even very briefly at a premium on the job market in the last recession--even given the extraordinary extra share of childcare and household production labor that they do.

      It’s plain that the next time there is a recession, there will be more females than males working outside the home again. It's a worry. It’s a scary worry for our grandsons and great-grandsons, and perhaps for our great-great-great-granddaughters as well... [END QUOTE]