Saturday Catchup 2010-08-14

One of the greats is gone:

Change Watch: "A friend whom I'll call David raised a ton of money for Democrats in 2008 and now tells me they can go to hell. He's furious about the no-strings bailout of Wall Street, the absence of a public option in health reform, financial reform that doesn't cap the size of banks or reinstate the Glass-Steagall wall between investment and commercial banking, and a stimulus that was too small to do much good but big enough to give Republicans a campaign issue. He's also upset about tens of thousands of additional troops being sent to Afghanistan, a watered-down cap-and-trade bill that's going nowhere, and no Employee Free Choice Act. David won't raise a penny this fall and doubts he'll even vote. 'I busted my chops getting them elected, and they caved,' he fumes. 'They're all lily-livered wimps, and Obama has the backbone of a worm.' Tea Partiers are getting all the press. But the anger on the left, including much of the Democratic base, is almost as intense. And it spells trouble for Democrats a few months from now." -- Fire on the Left: Tea Partiers are getting all the press, but it's the anger on the left that spells trouble for Dems in the midterms by Robert B. Reich (The American Prospect 2010-08-02).

Populism Schmopulism: "Since the 1960s, populism has succeeded on the right and has produced few if any left-wing counterparts. The tradition has moved from the segregationist George Wallace, who derided the federal government and pointy-headed intellectuals, to Richard Nixon's celebration of 'the silent majority' and Spiro Agnew's attack against journalists and elites. It has fed on an easy hatred of government and taxes, from the 'I'm Mad as Hell' chants of the California tax protesters in 1978 -- the spirit that helped get Ronald Reagan elected president -- to the Tea Party of today. There's no way to steer this boat back to left-wing shores....'The people' are no more virtuous or incorruptible than elites, and pandering to them won't advance liberal political goals." -- Forget Populism by Kevin Mattson (The American Prospect 2010-08-03).

Here's a ditty that will never go out of style:

But it's what a declining empire looks like: "The world leadership qualities of the United States, once so prevalent, are fading faster than the polar ice caps. We once set the standard for industrial might, for the advanced state of our physical infrastructure, and for the quality of our citizens’ lives. All are experiencing significant decline. The latest dismal news on the leadership front comes from the College Board, which tells us that the U.S., once the world’s leader in the percentage of young people with college degrees, has fallen to 12th among 36 developed nations. At a time when a college education is needed more than ever to establish and maintain a middle-class standard of living, America’s young people are moving in exactly the wrong direction. A well-educated population also is crucially important if the U.S. is to succeed in an increasingly competitive global environment. But instead of exercising the appropriate mental muscles, we’re allowing ourselves to become a nation of nitwits, obsessed with the comings and goings of Lindsay Lohan and increasingly oblivious to crucially important societal issues that are all but screaming for attention. What should we be doing about the legions of jobless Americans, the deteriorating public schools, the debilitating wars, the scandalous economic inequality, the corporate hold on governmental affairs, the commercialization of the arts, the deficits? Why is there not serious and widespread public engagement with these issues — and many others that could easily come to mind? That kind of engagement would lead to creative new ideas and would serve to enrich the lives of individual Americans and the nation as a whole. But it would require a heavy social and intellectual lift." -- Putting Our Brains on Hold by Bob Herbert (New York Times 2009-08-06).

What's in a name? that which we call socialism/By any other name would smell as sweet: "Virg Bernero, the mayor of Lansing, Michigan, just won the Democratic nomination for governor of his state, making a state-owned Bank of Michigan a real possibility. Bernero is one of at least a dozen candidates promoting that solution to the states' economic woes. It is an innovative idea, with little precedent in the United States. North Dakota, currently the only state owning its own bank, also happens to be the only state sporting a budget surplus, and it has the lowest unemployment rate in the country; but skeptics can write these achievements off to coincidence. More data is needed and, fortunately, other precedents are available from other countries." -- What a Government Can Do With Its Own Bank: The Remarkable Model of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia by Ellen Brown (Truthout 2010-08-05).

In the last half century, I've been lucky at being in the right place at the right time, but on few occasions as dramatic as when Bob Dylan went electric at Newport in the summer of 1965:

Who pays the piper, calls the tune: The GOP wants tax cuts for the rich, and only the rich. "...For the last few years, we haven't spent much time debating taxes. And to use a word conservatives like so much when it comes to this subject, it was a relief. However, since the Bush tax cuts will be expiring at the end of the year, we're in for another round of ridiculous arguments, disingenuous talking points, and maddening stupidity. We have already seen the return of the Tax Fairy, the absurd belief, depressingly widespread in Republican circles, that cutting taxes increases revenue. Even Greg Mankiw, chair of George W. Bush's Council of Economic Advisers, called those who believe this fiction 'charlatans and cranks.' But it has become almost doctrine within the GOP." -- The Return of the Tax Fairy: Conservatives gear up to defend the expiring Bush-era tax cuts by Paul Waldman (The American Prospect 2010-08-03).

A conservative stalwart looks at Republican fiscal "policy": "If there were such a thing as Chapter 11 for politicians, the Republican push to extend the unaffordable Bush tax cuts would amount to a bankruptcy filing. The nation’s public debt — if honestly reckoned to include municipal bonds and the $7 trillion of new deficits baked into the cake through 2015 — will soon reach $18 trillion. That’s a Greece-scale 120 percent of gross domestic product, and fairly screams out for austerity and sacrifice. It is therefore unseemly for the Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, to insist that the nation’s wealthiest taxpayers be spared even a three-percentage-point rate increase. More fundamentally, Mr. McConnell’s stand puts the lie to the Republican pretense that its new monetarist and supply-side doctrines are rooted in its traditional financial philosophy. Republicans used to believe that prosperity depended upon the regular balancing of accounts — in government, in international trade, on the ledgers of central banks and in the financial affairs of private households and businesses, too. But the new catechism, as practiced by Republican policymakers for decades now, has amounted to little more than money printing and deficit finance — vulgar Keynesianism robed in the ideological vestments of the prosperous classes. This approach has not simply made a mockery of traditional party ideals. It has also led to the serial financial bubbles and Wall Street depredations that have crippled our economy. More specifically, the new policy doctrines have caused four great deformations of the national economy, and modern Republicans have turned a blind eye to each one." -- Four Deformations of the Apocalypse by David Stockman (New York Times 2010-08-01).

I Want Roosevelt Again*: "A video that made the rounds last summer summed up the problem nicely. Mike Stark of The Huffington Post hoisted a camera on his shoulder, hung out on the streets near the House office buildings in Washington, and asked passing Republican House members: Do you believe that Barack Obama is a rightful citizen of the United States? I don't know how many he asked (there were snippets of several ducking into cars or pretending to take calls), but he quoted 11 in the video he posted. Of the 11, only one, Trent Franks of Arizona, acknowledged straightforwardly that yes, his staff had intensively researched the question and was forced to conclude that a birth announcement in a 1961 issue of The Honolulu Advertiser likely couldn't have been forged. The other 10, mostly not well known, either ducked the question, marching forward in that West Wing, I've-got-important-business way, or gave too-clever-by-half responses, or just came out and said they weren't sure. 'I think there are questions, so we'll have to see,' quipped Charles Boustany of Louisiana -- spoken a touch ironically because he, unlike Obama, is in fact of Arab (Lebanese) lineage, an ethnicity frequently and incorrectly assigned to the president." -- The Right Way to Please the Base: What the left can learn from right-wing extremists by Michael Tomasky (The American Prospect 2010-08-02). *1944 campaign button

In a world of anarchy, the only currency that matters is power: "There are many sources of fear in world politics -- terrorist attacks, natural disasters, climate change, financial panic, nuclear proliferation, ethnic conflict, and so forth. Surveying the cultural zeitgeist, however, it is striking how an unnatural problem has become one of the fastest-growing concerns in international relations. I speak, of course, of zombies." -- Night of the Living Wonks: Toward an international relations theory of zombies by Daniel W. Drezner (Foreign Policy 2010-07/08).

"The first rule of fight club is one never mentions fight club":

Plus ca change...: "Southasian fiction has provided many insights into the persona and conflicts of the exploited-empowered dancing girl. It is not a coincidence that the earliest novels of the Subcontinent dealt with the intense and memorable characters of ‘nautch girls’. Essentially a colonial construct, a nautch girl referred to the popular entertainer, a belle beau who would sing, dance and, when required, also provide the services of a sex worker. The accounts on the marginalised women from the ‘dishonourable’ profession are nuanced, concurrently representing the duality of exploitation and empowerment." My candle burns at both ends by Raza Rumi (Himal 2010-08).

Oh, jeeze. Amid all the chatter about Lindsay's incarceration, Chelsea's nuptials, and the plot to install the Bin Laden Memorial Mosque at Ground Zero, almost forgot there's a war on. Think that's the plan. What about you?

"I'm going to be killing people. I'm actually joining the Marines and will be doing this in real life":  Just because we haven't finished the war we have doesn't mean we can't have another one. "War springs eternal. Compare the words of the 18-year-old boy quoted above by Philadelphia radio station WRTI, as he was wielding a pretend machinegun at a video-game parlor/Army recruiting center at a Philly shopping mall, with those of two neocons, Charles Robb and Charles Wald (retired senator and general, respectively), writing last month in the Washington Post: 'We cannot afford to wait indefinitely to determine the effectiveness of diplomacy and sanctions. . . . Instead, the administration needs to expand its approach and make clear to the Iranian regime and the American people: If diplomatic and economic pressures do not compel Iran to terminate its nuclear program, the U.S. military has the capability and is prepared to launch an effective, targeted strike on Tehran's nuclear and supporting military facilities.' We're running out of time to act, they add, turning the fear crank, ratcheting up the pressure like good used car salesmen. Iran could have a nuclear bomb by the end of the year, they warn, citing no evidence for this assertion. Evidence? They all but cried: 'We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.'" -- The Next War by Common Dreams (Common Dreams 2010-08-05).

Does singing about being president make Wyclef Jean the Mike Huckabee of Haiti?

'Nuff said.

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