Saturday Catchup 2010-05-15

Mad Crowd Disease: "A new strain of populism is metastasizing before our eyes, nourished by the same libertarian impulses that have unsettled American society for half a century now. Anarchistic like the Sixties, selfish like the Eighties, contradicting neither, it is estranged, aimless, and as juvenile as our new century. It appeals to petulant individuals convinced that they can do everything themselves if they are only left alone, and that others are conspiring to keep them from doing just that. This is the one threat that will bring Americans into the streets. Welcome to the politics of the libertarian mob." -- The Tea Party Jacobins by Mark Lilla (New York Review of Books 2010-05-09).

Alone Together (Naturally): A call for more freedom is really a demand for power, "our power to make real choices, about not only our personal lives but about the forces determining the quality of life in our communities." So many of the factors that affect our opportunity, our freedom to thrive -- general access to quality education and to health care, say, or to public transport and libraries and parks, or to clean air and potable water, to say nothing of police and fire protection -- all require a fair and functioning society. We can’t even achieve the state of being “left alone,” alone. -- Why Freedom Should Be the #1 Issue for Progressives by Frances Moore Lappé (AlterNet 2010-05-13).

The (Tea) Party is over: When trouble comes, those who complain the loudest about big government are the first ones with their hands out for federal help. "Until tea partiers are willing to tear up their Social Security cards and Medicare cards, and reject all help from the FBI, Coast Guard, EPA, FEMA, or any other federal agency, they're nothing but a bunch of phonies." -- The Death of the Tea Party Movement by Bill Press (Baraboo News Republic 2010-06-09).

I'd say Что делать?, but that'd kinda be like raising a red flag: Here's a video from a grass roots campaign that is working to "wrest control of our economy from the big banks, crony capitalists and financial elites:"
( Watch on YouTube.) Action: Go to, download their 12-point primer on how to seize a measure of control over our economic lives; join; donate; protest.

Change Watch: "There is nothing inherently good about compromise. The ability to form a good compromise, when it is necessary, is an important skill. But you should compromise only when you can’t completely achieve what you want without it. If you have sufficient votes or support for your position and think it is the best choice of action, then you should pursue it. Compromising in that instance is stupid. The problem with Washington is the fake 'compromise fetish' (which is similar to the 'bipartisan fetish') that turned compromise into the desired goal–without regard to policy value or whether there is a need to compromise in the first place. What is the source of this fetish? Compromise destroys accountability. Politicians hate being held accountable and so they have a vested interest to support this fetish and those who share it." -- Compromise Fetishists: How Secret Deals Obscure Accountability, Subvert Democracy by Jon Walker (FireDogLake 2010-05-08).

Or to put it another way, summer's (almost) here and the time is right for fighting in the streets:

Or watch it on YouTube.

Don't want what they're smokin': "Just days after the White House released their inherently flawed 2010 National Drug Control Strategy (Read NORML’s refutation of it on The Huffington Post here and here), and mere hours after Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske told reporters at the National Press Club, 'I have read thoroughly the ballot proposition in California; I think I once got an e-mail that told me I won the Irish sweepstakes and that actually had more truth in it than the ballot proposition,' the Associated Press takes the entire U.S. drug war strategy and rakes it over the coals. It’s about damn time!" -- After 40 Years, $1 Trillion, US Drug War “Has Failed to Meet Any of Its Goals” by Paul Armentano (AlterNet 2010-05-13).

Recycling Rhetoric: "The term has so widely used that it is in danger of meaning nothing. It has been applied to all manner of activities in an effort to give those activities the gloss of moral imperative, the cachet of environmental enlightenment. 'Sustainable' has been used variously to mean 'politically feasible,' 'economically feasible,' 'not part of a pyramid or bubble,' 'socially enlightened,' 'consistent with neoconservative small-government dogma,' 'consistent with liberal principles of justice and fairness,' 'morally desirable,' and, at its most diffuse, 'sensibly far-sighted'.” -- Theses on Sustainability: A Primer by Eric Zencey (Orion magazine 2010-5/6).

Following up on Jon Stewart's brilliant impersonation of Glenn Beck a couple of months back, Lewis Black brings on a diagnosis of Beck's Nazi Tourette's Syndrome:

Or go to The Daily Show.

Budget whoas: Underpinning Defense Secretary Robert Gates’s speech last week on Pentagon spending is an understanding of what Spencer Ackerman calls the "mutually distorting relationship between unsustainable defense budgets and political courage" (Gates Claims Eisenhower’s Mantle, Challenging Pentagon Overspending -- Attackerman 2010-06-08).

Someday, won't we just run out of places to invade?: The House is about to vote on a $33 billion bill "war funding," a euphemism for legislation that will pay for the Obama administration's escalation of the war against Afghanistan that must have George Orwell spinning in his grave. The White House is asking the House to treat the expanded war as a fait accompli. In an excellent account of how we got here, David Swanson asks "how much money are we talking about exactly? Well not enough, evidently, for the teabagging enemies of reckless government spending to take notice. Clearly not enough for the labor movement or any other advocates of spending on jobs or healthcare or education or green energy to disturb their slumbers. God forbid! Yet it's still a sizeable number by a certain reckoning. After all, 33 billion miles could take you to the sun 226 times. And $33 billion could radically alter any non-military program in existence. There's a bill in the senate, for instance, that would prevent schools from laying off teachers in all 50 states for a mere $23 billion. Another $9.6 billion would quadruple the Department of Energy's budget for renewable energy. Now, what to do with that extra $0.4 billion?" Victory at all costs in Afghanistan by David Swanson (Asia Times 2010-05-13).

With friends like these...: "The British government has estimated that 70 percent of the terror plots it has uncovered in the past decade can be traced back to Pakistan. Pakistan remains a terrorist hothouse even as jihadism is losing favor elsewhere in the Muslim world. From Egypt to Jordan to Malaysia to Indonesia, radical Islamic groups have been weakened militarily and have lost much of the support they had politically. Why not in Pakistan? The answer is simple: from its founding, the Pakistani government has supported and encouraged jihadi groups, creating an atmosphere that has allowed them to flourish. It appears to have partially reversed course in recent years, but the rot is deep." -- Terrorism’s Supermarket: Why Pakistan keeps exporting jihad by Fareed Zakaria (Newsweek 2010-05-07).

You think?: "The notion that the government can, in effect, execute one of its own citizens far from a combat zone, with no judicial process and based on secret intelligence, makes some legal authorities deeply uneasy." -- U.S. Approval of Killing of Cleric Causes Unease by Scott Shane (New York Times 2010-05-13).

Be prepared: "In the raw aftermath of a successful attack, it will be very hard for an American president to shift the debate in a more productive and honest direction. Imagine if, after a fatal attack, President Obama responded by proposing greater outreach to Muslim communities domestically and around the world, in an effort to undercut radicalization. That is precisely what we and other nations should be doing, but it would undoubtedly be decried as a weak, starry-eyed reaction by our commander in chief, especially after an attack that revealed deficiencies in our counterterrorism system. But right now, after a near-miss, there is a better opportunity to adjust than in an emotionally charged period when the nation is mourning. Though a good dose of political courage would still be required, it would constitute a major improvement to our debate if leaders could come together now and agree on a few key points about our efforts to battle terrorism." -- The Times Square bomb failed. What will we do when the next bomb works? by Richard A. Clarke (The Washington Post 2010-05-09).

First it was our boys in Afghanistan doing a cover of Lady Gaga. Now, from Iraq, “Watch: Straight Soldiers Show Their Support for Gays in the Military by Dancing to Ke$ha”:

The future's last half century: "Fifty years ago this Sunday, Theodore Maiman and his fellow scientists at Hughes Research Laboratory shined a high-power flash lamp on a ruby rod, triggering a beam of coherent light: the first laser. It wasn’t long before the Pentagon started dreaming up military applications, and futurists were predicting that our soldiers would all get ray guns. Well, not quite. But lasers have revolutionized the U.S. military — changing the way it targets bombs, scares off insurgents, and, yes, blows stuff to bits." Wired's Danger Room remembers some of the greatest hits (and biggest misses) from the first half-century of military lasers. -- 50 Years of Real-Life Ray Guns by Noah Shachtman (Danger Room 2010-05-14).

Not on our airwaves leased from the American people you won't: Faux News refused this ad from the progressive veterans organization Vote Vets:

(also available on YouTube). What's doubly odd is that only a few weeks ago they were running an even stronger spot by same outfit.

Present Shock: A new report from Brookings reveals that our nation now faces five “new realities” that are redefining who we are, where and with whom we live, and how we provide for our own welfare, as well as that of our families and communities. In each of these five areas -- growth and outward expansion, population diversification, aging of the population, uneven higher educational attainment, and income polarization -- the nation reached critical milestones in the 2000s that make those underlying realities too large to ignore any longer. And large metropolitan areas -- the collections of cities, suburbs, and rural areas that house two-thirds of America’s population -- lay squarely at the forefront of these trends. -- State of Metropolitan America: On the Front Lines of Demographic Transformation (pdf) (The Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program 2010).

Burke's Without Peerage: Sometime toward the end of the last millennium, Jerry Wexler and I, spending a happy couple of hours sharing music we liked, discovered that both of thought that, if there was such a thing as the greatest soul singer of all time, it was probably Solomon Burke. Still is.

Or go to YouTube.

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