Friday, October 2, 2009

Replay of 1994 next year?

Ezra Klein seems to think not. The early 1990s were a different time. The demographics were more favorable to the GOP, with the exception of the White House the GOP had been out of power for a fairly lengthy time, white Gen-X-ers were rebelling against anything that resembled the 1960s and 1970s (and let's face it, old Bubba was an easy target for all that was bad about that era), and the GOP could act as if it were an alternative. These days, we're all (or mostly all, with the exception of the ultra-ultra-rich) paying the price for near absolute GOP rule, the white folks most likely to favor the GOP are increasingly concentrated in one region of the US (predominantly the US south, in particular the Appalachian and Ozark regions), and this generation of young voters are probably about as fed up with us Gen-X-ers as many of my peers were fed up with the boomers. So for the purposes of next year's horse race, don't expect a repeat of 1994.

What would be interesting (though so improbably that I will bet my last nickel against it) is if a viable third party presence emerged - my fantasy would be something genuinely from the left. My guess is by the end of 2010, the status quo will be mostly in place.

Best blog post title I've seen in a while

Adorno is an Idiot Egghead. The author takes on Adorno's writing on popular music versus "serious" music, and offers up some selections as a useful counterpoint. Regulars here know I'm no musician, nor am I a musical expert. I merely know what I like, even if I can't usually explain in any technical sense why it is that I like it. All that said, by all means take the time to listen to the selections by Alarm Will Sound (an ensemble that created some wonderful acoustic covers of Aphex Twin songs, including "blue calx") and contemporary jazz/jam band Medeski, Martin and Wood ("Bloody Oil"). I really haven't followed Bjork's career much since the early 1990s - I mainly remember her from her old band Sugarcubes, but know that from what little I've heard, she's still a creative voice to be reckoned with in the pop world. Anyhoo, check out the various selections - you might find something there that you never heard before, and I can guarantee that there is plenty of creative, interesting, and good-sounding pop music out there to be heard if you're just willing to open your mind and open your ears.


What's wrong with muddling through (or escalation, for that matter)?

I always love these columnists who ask such questions. Here's a quick answer - about all I have time or patience for these days: a lot of civilians get killed in the process. And for what? A natural gas pipeline?

Thursday, October 1, 2009


A guy walks up to me one day and says, 'what's punk?'
So I kick over a trash can and say, 'that's punk.'
So he kicks over a trash can and asks 'that's punk?'
I look at him and say 'no, that's trendy.'

--Billie Joe Armstrong

Boo fucking hoo

The rich get poorer, supposedly. I'd say welcome to my world, except these folks still have no clue how life is like for those who actually do live either on the borders of poverty or below the poverty line. When Bill Gates has to get payday loans to get by til the next paycheck, then he and his ilk will get my empathy.

I guess Greenwald won't be wearing a "Free Polanski" t-shirt

However, he does make some salient observations about what is wrong with WaPo's editorial folks:

But more broadly, just look at the sort of things that are routinely defended by the Post Op-Ed team -- everything from torture, illegal eavesdropping and imprisonment with no trials to brutal Latin American dictators and unprovoked, devastating American military attacks on countries that haven't attacked us and aren't close to doing so. As Scott Lemieux put it this week when noting that, until Applebaum's second Polanski posting, the competition for most repugnant Polanski defense had been a close call: "Never count Fred Hiatt's crew out of any competition for the most immoral and fact-challenged argument!"

For every brutal, lawless and amoral act, there is a defense of it to be found on the Washington Post Op-Ed page. That's what makes it so unsurprising that two of Polanski's most ardent defenders are employed there. It's nonetheless bizarre to watch their bosses pretend that such views are found only among easily demonized Hollywood celebrities and the European pseudo-intellectual class. The Post Op-Ed page is Ground Zero for defending every corrupt and destructive act that plagues the country. No defense of "basic facts, or even simple decency for that matter" is possible without targeting them first. Washington has the hometown newspaper that perfectly reflects what it is.

Given the above, there's no real surprise when some of the WaPo op-ed columnists come rushing to the defense of an individual celebrity who admitted to drugging, raping, and sodomizing a 13-year-old girl, and then fled the country to escape serious prison time. If there is something indefensible, leave it to a WaPo columnist to defend it (and perhaps a WaPo editorial board to feign outrage on rare occasion).

Make what you will of Gore Vidal's latest statements

but he did manage to more or less nail this one:
Obama believes the Republican Party is a party when in fact it’s a mindset, like Hitler Youth, based on hatred — religious hatred, racial hatred. When you foreigners hear the word ‘conservative’ you think of kindly old men hunting foxes. They’re not, they’re fascists.”
I can flash back to about a quarter of a century ago when the term "conservative" meant something a bit different in the US. Things have sure changed. I've been witness to the devolution of the GOP from a predominantly economic conservative party (with a few undercurrents of Cold War paranoia and theocratic reactionaries in the margins) to one in which the paranoids and reactionaries run the show. I'm either close personal friends with or related to some of those economic conservatives who left the GOP (or as a few have expressed to me in recent years, the GOP left them) in recent years. I'm not yet convinced that the GOP has much future long-term beyond that of a regional partisan presence, but in those parts of the US where it does hold some tangible power, its foot soldiers can still do some damage - at least to the extent that it is now embraced by the same folks who only a decade or two earlier would have just as soon joined ad hoc militias, and maybe blown up the occasional Federal building. So, one area of agreement between me and a few friends is that the GOP is largely populated by bad apples in a bad barrel. Another area of agreement is that the Dems have themselves shifted to the right in recent decades (or shall I say their primary movers and shakers) - at least enough to where one can much more easily find avowed economic conservatives identifying with it.

As for the rest of Vidal's blurb in the Times, make of it what you will. I'm not convinced that the US is headed for dictatorship in the near-term - the government was never terribly democratic to begin with, but the crackpot talk of coups and such are in all probability nonsense at this point. Flash forward a decade or two, and maybe we'll find sufficient devolution in the political and economic situation to make such talk more plausible to those of us who are much more skeptically minded by nature. For now I'm much more concerned about the US getting even more bogged down in the unnecessary quagmire in Afghanistan, perhaps expanding into Pakistan or Iran. I'm much more concerned that neoliberal orthodoxy (which became Beltway dogma in the Reagan era) will continue to impoverish more and more of us, taking with it the very mindset needed to sustain whatever civic commitment and discourse still remains. And of course, I'm concerned about self-appointed "patriots" who seem to think that showing up to public events packing heat is an appropriate form of political expression, to the extent that such folks have a tendency to do much harm in the name of their twisted ideal of righteousness.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Kitchy kitchy coup

Apparently the latest wingnut fantasy is for a military coup in order to overthrow the Obama regime. I guess the original column, which appeared on Newsmax, was too over the top even for that organization, and the column was yanked, and the usual backtracking has begun. Thing is there is nothing radical about the Pope of Hope, contra whatever the black helicopter crowd might think. The dude portrayed himself as on-board with the project of American hegemony and has behaved accordingly since assuming the throne.

Musical Interlude: 23 Skidoo

Whatever else one might say about early industrial music (from the mid-1970s through the early 1980s), it was unique. Probably most folks will recall Cabaret Voltaire and Throbbing Gristle (with good reason) as standouts from that era, but 23 Skidoo bears mention as well. These cats were every bit as challenging and arguably abrasive (personally I find the music pleasant, but I'm, shall we say, a bit different) as the aforementioned bands, but broadened the musical palette to include instrumentation (primarily percussion) from all over the planet. Although there are several tunes that I could easily recommend to the uninitiated, "Kundalini" is as good an intro as any. If you can find the album Urban Gamelan, look for the track "F.U.G.I." It's a personal fave, for the bass line alone:

F.U.G.I. would later be re-recorded as "Coup":

There was some great music from the post-punk era.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Just call it a hunch

I'm not the only one noticing that there aren't any "green shoots" to be found in what is supposedly our "recovery". Nor am I entirely convinced that a depression has been averted. Nor am I entirely convinced that any of our politicians from either party are willing or able to "nut up" and face up to the fact that three decades of Reaganomics must be abandoned pronto. In fact I'm much closer to being convinced of the exact opposite. I'm no economist, nor will I pretend to be. I'll merely note that I have this gut feeling that something just isn't quite right.

On the job front, I get that employment will look bad for a while. But have we really hit the proverbial bottom or are we merely awaiting the next crash? In my field, we're in a catch-22 situation. People flock to junior colleges and four-year colleges and universities during economic downturns, and the last two years are no exception. However, since the state's coffers are empty-ish, the institution that employs me actually gets less money. If the economy improves, which would be a good thing, we might or might not get more funds from the state legislature (always iffy since there is some lingering hostility toward higher education in my state), but will lose on the enrollment front. Seems like no matter what, we can expect to suffer (hiring freezes, wage freezes, workload increases which amount to de facto pay cuts, budget cuts, etc.). Happy days are here again.

Racism rears its ugly head

Or I should say, racism continues to rear its ugly head, whether directly or slightly less directly. I'm pretty attuned to dog whistles, given my own ethnic and cultural background, and see Neiwert's point:
The bigger question is: Why target African Americans when there are are hundreds of vendors at these things? And why assume that they have anything to do with ACORN?

Because, to the teabaggers, ACORN is synonymous with scary black people. The kind who, in the minds of Glenn Beck and his followers, are lurking, waiting to overthrow America when Obama orders them to. (Even if they later turn out to be a dance troupe.)

As Susie says, ACORN is just the new wingnutspeak code for the 'N' word. It's now become an epithet -- one you can chase black people around with and accuse them angrily. Just what America needs right now.
As far as the prior article, I'll add this: in my current community, I'm aware that my kids have been hearing all manner of racist and threatening remarks (not aimed at them, but rather at Obama and "socialists") in recent months. Now, let's keep in mind where this comes from - it's not from the kids themselves, but rather their parents and other adults in their lives, and it's usually the same folks who go around parading themselves as holier than thou "good Christians". I'm really not all that surprised that a bunch of white kids would go out and gang up on a lone black kid all the while spouting wingnut rhetoric. The example was set for them at home, possibly church, most definitely on the television and talk radio ravings that in all probability make up the background noise in their respective households. At a more distal level, there is the organizational and cultural racism that has permeated US culture for centuries.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Australian town rediscovers tap water

I loved this article, The Australian town that kicked the bottle. Bottled water is a waste of money and the disposable plastic bottles are a hazard to the environment. Glad to see one community recognizing this and trying to make a difference. Actually I've been a somewhat lonely advocate for rediscovering tap water for many years, ever since about the mid-1990s. I'll occasionally buy a bottle in travel situations (since I can't bring my own water on to airplanes these days, there are some necessary exceptions), but otherwise, stick to bottles that are reusable. By the way, since I went back to tap water (usually fluoridated in most communities), I have not developed any new cavities. During the late 1980s and early 1990s my mouth was, shall we say, becoming a bit of a mess. Just something to consider if saving the environment is not a sufficient motivation - perhaps saving your smile might be.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The answer is "underwhelming"

The question is, "how well did the Fed perform for America?" As a watchdog, the Fed did squat as the subprime bubble inflated and then burst. In fact, Calculated Risk offers a line from an old Sherlock Holmes story that aptly sums it up:
"Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?"
"To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time."
"The dog did nothing in the night-time."
"That was the curious incident," remarked Sherlock Holmes.
While the dog did nothing, the looters made off like bandits, and we'll be paying for ages to come. Then again, that was part of the plan, right?

Too young

Boehner constituent dies of swine flu - she was 22 and uninsured.

Well, it sure wasn't natural causes

If nothing else, it should be obvious that the recently deceased census worker, Bill Sparkman, did not commit suicide. The actual motive for his murder is of course a matter of speculation. Paranoid meth manufacturers? Right-wing extremists influenced by fearmongers and propagandists? Perhaps a chance encounter with a lone psychopathic killer out in the woods? There's just not a lot to go on from what I gather - or if there is, authorities are keeping that pertinent information as much under wraps as possible. A good point by Andrew Sullivan worth mentioning:
If this was a revenge murder for stumbling upon a meth lab or pot plantation, it's hard to understand why such a big deal would be made out of his census identification card. It's possible, I suppose, that anger at the feds in general could make a drug dealer murder a census worker. But the most worrying possibility - that this is Southern populist terrorism, whipped up by the GOP and its Fox and talk radio cohorts - remains real. We'll see.
If I had to hazard a guess, I'd err on the side of right-wing extremism given the rather odd details that we've learned about the crime. The fact that the killer or killers made such a deal about Sparkman's census ID card makes it seem like there was more motive than merely a drug-related killing. As the saying goes, stay tuned...