Category Archives: a world of progress

Occupy everything

Maybe I was wrong. It’s possible. I’m the first to admit I’m not always right, although I am quite frequently. But this Occupy thing seems to have more legs than I gave it credit for.

Of course, it has those legs because of the utterly stupid response of several mayors and police departments, most notably, and most recently, Oakland.

As I write, New York protesters have just taken New York’s finest on a merry chase through Manhattan, ending up with two groups of protesters, one in Union Square and another back at the occupied Zuccotti Park, which they’ve dubbed Liberty Square. When police arrived at Union Square, the few hundred protesters simply split into several smaller groups, ducking into the subway, leaving the park or simply hanging out together.

And in Oakland, where idiocy ruled Tuesday night when police broke out the tear gas and “non-lethal” projectiles (aka rubber bullets, which are anything but non-lethal), the protesters are back, and so are police.

Oakland’s mayor, Jean Quan, says she doesn’t know who ordered such stupidity, which doesn’t look too good for her, and if she doesn’t, then I wonder if it’s about to happen again. B ut she promised a “low” police presence until she gets it all sorted out.

And someone was using “flash-bangs,” also known as concussive grenades, which emit a bright light and a loud bang to disorient whoever is the target. Oakland police chief Howard Jordan says it wasn’t his guys, and it may not have been. But if that’s the case, then somebody wasn’t doing a very good job of coordinating the efforts.

A former Marine, Scott Olsen, was hit in the head by one of those “non-lethal” rubber bullets. He fell to the street, and within moments, other protesters arrived to help him. But “somebody” — some police officer — tossed a flash-bang into the center of the group. It’s on video, near the end of this KTVU clip.

Olsen, by the way, is in critical but stable condition with a fractured skull.

And that sort of thing, my friends, is what’s going to make a bunch of ragtag protests actually mean something. City governments could have ignored it, kept a small police presence to make sure nothing horrible happened, and eventually Wall Street would have gotten what it wanted and it all would have gone away with nobody paying much attention. Instead, New York started with pepper spray and orange fences. Washington joined in with the pepper spray, and both departments employed some questionable arrests. Denver police, too, got a little heavyhanded. And even Atlanta’s Mayor Kasim Reed, who promised protesters they could stay until November 7, inexplicably changed his mind and sent in the APD just a few hours before the Oakland debacle.

Still, it wasn’t the police state marchers chanted about. Not until Tuesday night in Oakland.

Oh sure, every at every protest there are rumors that the cops are moving in. One day they’re even accurate, when the cops finally do move in. Following the protests on Twitter is an exercise in hyperbole. Until suddenly, like in Oakland, it isn’t.

And that’s why American are taking heed. Because what happened in Oakland isn’t supposed to happen here, not to a bunch of peaceniks beating on bongos and dancing in the streets. Because whatever you think of hippie types, only the most absurd right-wingers really want to punch ‘em.

So, I was wrong. Mostly. I still can’t stand drum circles. And while I much prefer a leaderless society, I have my doubts that it’ll fly in America, at least not for a few more years. And I’m not yet convinced that the old Stiff Records motto — “Money talks. People mumble.” — isn’t still the rule of the day.

But these Occupiers — they’ve got spunk. And unlike the infamous Lou Grant (“The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” kids, circa 1970 — Google it) I love spunk.

On lifestyles, agendas and recruiting

Ever since the extremists have taken hold of the Republican Party for good, we’ve had a new influx of fear mongering about “the gay agenda.” Hey, I’m down with that. Some of what my fellow queers have in their “to do lists” scares the living daylights outta me, too, although none, that I know of, is hellbent on destroying the institution of marriage or indoctrinating children into the gay lifestyle.

And that’s another annoying thing. The gay “lifestyle.” What the hell is that? As comedian Liz Feldman so aptly put it,

It’s very dear to me, the issue of gay marriage, or, as I like to call it, “marriage.” You know, because I had lunch this afternoon, not gay lunch. I parked my car, I didn’t gay park it.

Yeah, and I like to grill out. I don’t gay grill. I also read a lot, but I don’t gay read. I just read. I just grill. I just park the car. I just have lunch. And were I to get married (which, incidentally, is not something I would do), I would just get married.

Maybe that’s why I don’t like nouns. They get adjectives attached to them. I don’t like to call myself a writer, because it too often gets “gay” or “lesbian” or “political” or “bad” attached to it. Yes, I am a lesbian, and yes I am a writer, but the two aren’t very related, you dig? I prefer to say I write, because that’s something I do. I am a lesbian, and I write. Verbs, they get adverbs attached, but it’s not the same. I do, actually, gaily write sometimes.

I’m fine with being a lesbian, because that’s something I am, not something I do. It doesn’t come with a lifestyle or an agenda. It just signifies that I’m gonna find intimate companionship among members of my own gender, if, of course, you buy it that there are only two, but that’s a whole ‘nother column.

A lifestyle tends to be something chosen. You know, like living in a cabin on top of a mountain or living in a cute little house on the beach and all the attendant lifestyle matters that come with those choices. But I could be gay or straight living on top of the mountain or on the beach, and very little else would be different. Oh, sure, maybe I have more k.d. lang on my iPod than the average heterosexual woman, but so what?

Being a vegetarian is another lifestyle choice, as are having an iPod and dressing in drag. So is religion. Yes, religion. Religion is 100 percent a choice, and your choice about that is 100 percent protected by the constitution, unless you’re Muslim. Of course, it doesn’t actually have a Muslim exclusion clause, but it’s the standard interpretation among the otherwise strict constructionist extremists who think the constitution only deals with things that were available and in use in the late 18th century. Except of course for Rick Perry, who thinks the Constitution was written in the late 1500s.

But religion. Man, that’s a lifestyle. This group doesn’t eat meat, that group doesn’t drink coffee, this group doesn’t dance, this group doesn’t drink alcohol. And all the groups think they’re right, and everybody else is wrong.

I happen to think that as well. I’m right, y’know, that religion is quite possibly the source of all our problems, right after money, although religion and money do tend to go hand in hand. For some, money is religion. But the whole idea of an invisible god … well, let’s just say there are an awful lot of contradictions. And then there’s the deification of human beings. That’s a little much in my book. I bet I could get a buncha fools to follow me around and then declare I’m holy if I gave them enough wine and fish. I’m just sayin’.

But religion, man. Those religionists like to say we queers “recruit.” Seriously? Please. But what the hell is proselytizing if not recruitment by an unspellable name? And what about all this religionist effort to impose some arbitrary “moral” code on us all if not an agenda? And don’t even get me started on what’s “moral” and what’s not after the state of Kansas decriminalized “light” wife-beating.

See, I’m thinking all this bullshit about the “gay agenda” and the “gay lifestyle” and “recruiting” is just one big example of projection, because nobody does those any better than unthinking religious fanatics.

Now, I know that not all adherents of religions are like that, nor do all religions require stupidity as a prerequisite for membership. Buddhism, for example. In my limited experience with Buddhism, actually, I tend to think of it as less of a religion and more of an experiential philosophy. There really aren’t any deities to speak of, just as far as I can tell some interesting symbolic characters, some guy who lived a long time ago known as “the Buddha” who told everybody he taught not to believe a word he says until they’ve experienced it for themselves and a bunch of really peaceful, calm practitioners, some of whom have experienced more of what the Buddha talked about than others and spend a lot of their time teaching what they’ve learned. And saying not to believe it unless you experience it for yourself.

Not at all the same as some of the Christianists who encourage others to experience Lord Jesus in their lives and who, in my humble opinion, are just a tad bit delusional about what that experience was.

It is a bit of a lifestyle, although unless you consider peace and harmony with the universe an agenda, there’s not much of one of those. I know, some people do, mostly the aforementioned religionists. Me, I tend to think of peace and harmony with the universe as The Way Things Were Meant To Be before humanity got a little carried away with the free will thing.

I do have a personal lifestyle. It involves reading a lot, watching cop shows On Demand, being outside as much as possible, keeping my car in decent working order, keeping the cats fed and their litter boxes clean, some travel, staying up late because I work late, visiting friends and seeing the Buddhist Girl, who tells me not to believe a word she says unless I experience it myself, as much as possible. Oh, and gadgets. I love gadgets. And coding, which is poetry. I also like flying kites and running radio controlled boats. Very little of that has anything to do with my being a lesbian.

I also have a personal agenda, or, as I like to call it, ulterior motives. Those have nothing to do with you and never will. Some are directly connected to my being a lesbian, but again, not gonna mess with your life.

That whole “agenda” and “lifestyle” idea is just so foreign to me, really. It makes no sense, complicates things way too much. Involves too many people sticking their noses in things that have nothing to do with them. I’m not particularly fond of marriage, so I’m not gonna do that. Maybe you do like marriage, but don’t like gay marriage. Fine. Don’t marry someone of the same gender. Problem solved.

And please, don’t gay park your car or have gay lunch. It’ll just confuse people.

 

 

The chains that bind us

You didn’t really think all that brouhaha over funding the government back in the summer was the end of it, did you? Of course it wasn’t. Super Committee aside, this Republican Party is going to take every opportunity it can find to strangle the government and force it to bend to the will of its rich benefactors.

And Democrats seem powerless to stop it. I suppose that’s only natural, liberals being prone to compromise in a way that conservatives are decidedly not. But what it’s done is leave us with a far right party and a center right party, while the nation as a whole — its people, that is — keep moving forward.

All this talk of a third party, something in the middle, is completely ridiculous. Democrats are already there. What we really need is a truly progressive party. We’re out of balance because we’ve accepted the right-wing meme that they represent the true position of Americans and Democrats are far to the left, when in the opposite is actually true.

Yes, boys and girls, the wishy-washy Democrats are pretty much the party of moderation, the party that represents what most Americans are looking for. The Democratic party we have now — wholly unsatisfying to progressives — is America. But my beloved colleagues are too wrapped up in their beltway bubble to see that or even understand that things might not be as their Republican overlords tell them it is.

This is frustrating. It’s so fucking obvious to most of us and yet so beyond the grasp of those who tell us on the nightly news, and 24/7 on the cablers, what it’s all about.

What they, and conservatives, don’t understand, is that the center moves. It progresses. The center used to be in that backwards-looking, archaic place the Republicans thrive in. It isn’t now, and no amount of wishing it were so will make it go back.

But we’re stuck in this ugly place until my colleagues learn to tell the truth, until they know that the Republican party in general, and the tea party specifically, are behind the curve and will soon be left to the mites of history’s dustbin.

And journalists will be left there too, if they don’t wise up soon. Americans are unhappy with the direction government is going, not because it’s led by Democrats in the Senate and the Oval Office, but because those Democrats consistently forego their positions of power to give an old way of thought fresh power. But in the black and white world of Washington, it’s all an either-or proposition. Either you go with the Republicans or you don’t.

Frustrating, and sickening. How far back will this regressive suction pull us before the line finally snaps and we are jerked into a new world wholly unprepared?

When that happens, and it will, we’d best be prepared to help our new arrivals understand where they are and why. They’ll need it.

It’s hard now, but keep this in mind: The pull of progress has left the Republican Party dragging its heels in the past. It can decided to move itself forward with the rest of us, still representing a conservative viewpoint, but one grounded in reality instead of a drive to survive.

That’s where we are now. Neither Democrats nor Republicans have the leeway to consider the rest of us anymore. Their decisions are wholly based on what they think will get them elected or re-elected. And since our storytellers keep telling an old story that no longer has any basis in reality, too many people remain caught up in that polarizing position. Either-or. This or that.

This is the way things work. Conservatives resist change. They drag their heels. They dig in. They hunker down. And they fight back with the viciousness of a cornered dog, one that realizes its entire world is about to change completely. Liberals and progressive pull us forward. It all works quite well when conservatives inch forward, bringing up the rear and discarding the outworn ideas that no longer have any purchase on the real world.

Right now, though, those outworn ideas are still holding on, and the Republicans are giving them voice. Be gentle with them, my friends. It’s going to be a shock when the change finally comes, as it must.

Republicans are stuck, and Democrats can’t move forward without them. Republicans are entrenched in an extreme ideology that has no place here. Their good ideas are tarred with the bad from the past.

Until they let go of that, we’ll stay right here, caught in an uncivil war of someone else’s choosing.

Attention whore

Anybody besides me take note of Sarah Palin’s sudden appearance in Iowa during the straw poll? Does that girl crave attention or what?

She starts this bus tour. It doesn’t get her enough attention, so she quits. I mean, suspends it. Right before the straw poll, she announced she’s un-suspending it, in Iowa. So there she is, getting attention. And once the cameras are all gone from Iowa, so’s the bus tour.

And now Karl Rove says she probably is going to run for president. I don’t doubt it. It’s the only way she can get the cameras on her steadily. My colleagues will dote on her every word, the way they dote on Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry now. They seem to like the truly crazy.

But Palin’s popularity is so low at this point that there’s really no way she can win the nomination. Unless she has the self-awareness of, say, Moammar Gadhafi, she has to know that.  So it’s all about the attention.

Being governor of Alaska was too hard with too little payback, so she quit. The bus tour, not enough payback, so she quit. Signing her name to ghost written books, OK, but book tours, too annoying. Appearances on Fox, great.

But most of America has wised up on Sarah Palin. They see her for what she is — a petty local official who duped a state into electing her governor and then duped John McCain into selecting her for his running mate. The Alaska part was easy. Big state, small population. John McCain? Apparently, he’s an idiot.

Palin’s left her mark on American politics, for sure. Now it’s no longer necessary to have any understanding of how things work, either globally or domestically, to run for office. Pithy Facebook notes are acceptable ways to communicate weighty ideas. Twitter commentary is the new soundbite.

Ignorance, it’s the American way.

Palin paved the way for Bachmann, and she and George W. Bush set the stage for Rick Perry. My colleagues and the Republican establishment seem to think Mitt Romney’s the eventual nomination winner, but my money’s on Perry. And hey, he can choose Palin as his running mate too. They’re a better match than McCain-Palin, that’s for sure.

But vice president … surely Palin knows that’s the forgotten office. Nobody really thinks about the vice president unless there’s a question about the president’s continuation in office, or a tie in the Senate. Did you know Joe Biden’s in China this week? Outside the United States, it’s pretty common knowledge.

When Palin throws her hat in the ring for president — because she’s pretty much worn out the will-she-or-won’t-she meme — we’re in for months of the same bullshit we had during the 2008 election. Bullshit attacks on Obama, crackpot economic ideas, lies about what’s going on, utter ignorance about the world. Not to mention those pleasant Palin fans who populate her rallies. The real Murikans. You know who they are.

They’re not you and me, or anybody with half a brain or has mentally and emotionally progressed beyond 10th grade.

Because that’s Sarah Palin’s biggest contribution to the process: The sophomorification of American politics.

The downgrade

So Standard & Poor’s downgraded the U.S. long-term debt from AAA to AA+ (with a negative outlook). Ouch. Yeah, it’s a bit of a joke. After all, these are the jokers who declared Lehman Brothers AAA a month before they went bankrupt. They rated junk mortgage securities AAA, leading directly to the financial mess we’re in now. And we can argue till the cows come home about whether S&P oughta be in the business of downgrading our credit rating because our political system is so dysfunctional.

Doesn’t matter. What does matter is that they did. They looked at the recently completed debt ceiling debate and determined that although we haven’t defaulted, and probably won’t in the near future, our idiocy is so complete that creditors should think twice or more about extending further credit.

Now, that would probably suit the TeaPublicans just fine. They seem to relish the idea of the United States becoming a backwater country where the majority of its citizens have little to no access to decent health care or education. And why wouldn’t they? Stupid, sick citizens are much easier to bully into submission. And the handful of others who know better? Just throw ‘em in jail, shoot ‘em if you have to. That’s what they do in places like Zimbabwe, Syria, Yemen and Iran. Never let a little inconvenient truth bother you.

And all of this could have been avoided. We’ve had so many chances. After Reagan put us on this wretched road to ruin, Americans wised up after a term of George Bush Sr. and elected Bill Clinton, at the time branded The Most Liberal Man On The Planet although he was a Blue Dog at best. Never mind, though, he was certainly far better than another four years of GHWB, or, god forbid, one of the other whackos who could have been on the Republican ticket. You know, people like Pat Buchanan and David Duke.

The GOP Noise Machine went into high gear of course, lying and stretching the truth at every possible moment to paint Clinton as Evil Incarnate. It worked to some extent, but it didn’t wholly work because Bill possesses one of those thing the Republicans like in their candidates: He’s Affable. You wanna have a beer with him. So what if he had sex with that woman? I mean — and here’s where the Right Wing Crap Machine worked wonders — look at that bitch he’s married to.

But after two terms and a deficit surplus, the Noise Machine had also done a job on the man who should have been Clinton’s successor, the truly more liberal Al Gore. And Gore was hampered by a tendency to appear rather wooden, plus, it appears that an awful lot of Democrats/liberals/progressives at that time had not caught on to the Republican Bullshit Machine strategy: Lie at every opportunity, and make the other guy out to be in league with the worst things you can think of. And if all else fails, ridicule from the lowest common denominator.

Thus, George W. Bush. Of course, the conservatives needed a little boost from the Supreme Court, but honest to god, it never should have been close enough to go there. The Noise Machine works very, very well, indeed. See Kerry, John – Swiftboating.

After eight years of up is down, black is white and Alice doesn’t live here anymore, it’s a wonder any of us could even walk. But walk we could and unbelievably enough of us had seen through the LSD haze to actually not give the presidency to another Republican. But the Noise Machine had a hand in who did select too. See Clinton, Hillary – Clinton Derangement Syndrome.

Again, we selected a very moderate, albeit black, Democrat who was again portrayed as The Most Liberal Man On The Planet despite no evidence to support that contention. But we, suckers that we are, thought we had a chance. My god, a black Democrat in the White House, majorities in the House and Senate — we’re saved!

Except we weren’t. The right started its anti-anything but them campaign with its most ugly component yet: Racism. Well, they actually tried that with Bill Clinton. Who do you think came up with “the nation’s first black president?” Problem of course, was that Clinton clearly isn’t black.

Barack Obama is, and racism is a ready-made weapon so easy to deny. “Tar baby!” “Oh, I’m sorry if anyone was offended. I didn’t mean that as a racist statement.” And, with our well trained stenography pool ready to bring every utterance to the national media, nobody but us crazies ever challenged the clear bullshit. So while the our so-called journalists bring on birthers to talk about whether or not Obama was born in the United States (doesn’t matter, idiots, his MOTHER was), nobody challenges the racism fueling charges that Obama is from Africa, that he’s Muslim, that he’s anything but a good ol’ boy. Seriously, do you honestly think that conversation would be going on if Obama’s father were named Olsen and he was born in Norway?

But the Machine had done well making sure a natural compromiser was elected president. That’s what community organizers do, yknow. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but when one side deviously plots to suppress the other side and uses good intentions to doom the process from the start, well, that’s another matter.

And then there was the Tea Party, rabidly taken up by my colleagues in the stenography as some kind of populist movement despite the clear evidence that it was and is funded by billionaires and political insiders. Follow the money, my friends. Follow the money.

And the politicians, never ones to take any kind of principled stand (with rare exceptions. See Sanders, Bernie – Socialist, Vermont), bent and twisted any which way the wind blew to make sure they stayed in office.  Then came 2010, and the intentionally ill-informed won big in those places where once more moderate conservatives might have flourished. And now, the stage was set.

A barely Democratic president, a Senate with a narrow Democratic majority, a House full of full-on crazies with little to no understanding of anything beyond Well, sheeit, I’m a US Congressman now! and a House constituency of the ignorant masses who don’t realize Medicare is a “socialist” program nor that their champions have every intention of destroying it.

Oh, and the completely out in the open No. 1 goal of the Republican party: Get rid of the black guy in the Oval Office in 2012 if not sooner.

So despite Standard & Poor’s culpability in the our economic morass, somebody there had the sense to realize that the United States was indeed on a slippery slope and it isn’t one to socialism. It’s sliding into what’s much closer to the corporate-run colonies of the British, Portugeuese, Dutch, Spanish and French empires. Seriously — they were all about profits and coopting some local group to give their corporate rulers some legitimacy. And the corporate rulers, of course, answered to the crown back home.

In America, though, we’re dispensing with the crown. The corporate rulers answer to no one.

And that’s very, very dangerous, something even Standard & Poor’s can’t ignore. The debt ceiling fight, then, was our last chance before someone outside started taking action. Obama must have known. That’s where the Grand Bargain came from. It was the only adult proposal made, one that in all likelihood would have satisfied S&P that we were seriously about fixing the economy. Of course, just lifting the fucking debt ceiling and focussing on a jobs plan probably would have worked too, but the TeaPublicans would have none of that and instead pushed for this showdown, a playground battle royale.

So Obama offered the Grand Bargain and the TeaPublicans, so enamored of their rich overlords that they cannot conceive of taxing them one penny more than they already are, poor over-taxed bastards, said no fucking way. And the pitiful “debate” that followed showed S&P, and every other sane person on the planet, that the lunatics indeed have taken over the U.S. government, and no one is safe.

The reasoning, which people who aren’t TeaPublicans actually note contains criticisms of both Republicans and Democrats, is far more damning to the GOP. Here’s the full report, go read it. You can be sure the TeaPublicans won’t. They were satisfied with the press release. But here’s the key passage. S&P says the recently completely debt ceiling deal is a step in the right direction, but is not sufficient to correct the slide. Previously assessments have given the United States the benefit of the doubt, S&P says, assuming that reason will overcome the pitchfork-bearing masses. No more:

Compared with previous projections, our revised base case scenario now assumes that the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, due to expire by the end of 2012, remain in place. We have changed our assumption on this because the majority of Republicans in Congress continue to resist any measure that would raise revenues, a position we believe Congress reinforced by passing the act.

And there you have it. If those tax cuts don’t expire, S&P says, the credit rating will likely slip to AA. Killing those tax cuts off might — might — “stabilize” the rating at AA+.

So what’s it all mean? Basically, we’re screwed. And the Republicans and Democrats are to blame. The Republicans for all their lying and bullshit and the Democrats for showing their bellies every time the GOP or Fox News yells “Boo!” And that dysfunction, which is what S&P is talking about, isn’t likely to change, because our politicians are too addicted to being in Washington to see what’s really going on in the world around them.

Instead, they’ll take what S&P says and make further cuts into “entitlement” programs, along with things like education, public safety, environmental regulation, banking regulation — basically anything that a civilized society needs to thrive — keeping only enough to maintain the military dictatorship the Teahadists so desperately yearn for.  Austerity times 1000. This is how Saddam Hussein ruled Iraq, and we really do have weapons of mass destruction.

I don’t pretend to know why the rich want it this way (even less why the lied-to masses work so hard to make it happen), but I do know this is how they want it. Follow the money. At the end you’ll find people like the Koch Brothers whose only goal, for some unfathomable reason, is to get richer.

I also know it will get better. But not, apparently, before it gets a whole lot worse.

Stuck in the middle

I noticed during my reading this morning that someone else — maybe Andrew Sullivan? — had beaten me to the punch on this one, but I’m gonna say it anyway.

The purpose of the debt debacle is to gather ammunition for an impeachment.

Frankly, I’m surprised the whackadoodle House hasn’t already done that. Guess they’re setting it all up just in case Obama wins a second term and they get their expected majority in the Senate. #seenthismoviebefore

It’s been clear since the Clinton presidency that Republicans, especially the wackier end of their spectrum — which is about all that’s left now — do not see any Democratic president as legitimate. Look at the crap they pull. Lying about Al Gore’s statement about the internet. Swiftboating John Kerry.

They’ve had a hard time with this president. The Kenya thing hasn’t gathered much traction. He’s not getting blow jobs in the Oval Office. What better to do than trash the economy completely and let him take the fall, right out the door.

Isn’t that what they said in the very beginning? That they wanted him to fail? Nothing about wanting the country to succeed, just wanting this particular president to fail.

That’s just the Republicans in Congress, of course. The rank and file have other ulterior motives, most of which are egged on and stirred by the Congresscritters and their bosses in the right-wing hit media. The rank and file, they’re just rabble, y’know, but rabble can serve a good purpose when you get ‘em all stirred up with lies and fearmongering. The not-even-below-the-surface racism is a sure-fire hit.

Add my beloved see-no-evil-hear-no-evil-speak-no-evil colleagues to the mix and you have the most dysfunctional country in the world this side of Somalia. In the civilized world, the main response has been one big “WTF.”

Let’s make one thing perfectly clear. There isn’t a debt crisis. That’s wholly manufactured by the right, spread by the media and bought lock, stock and barrel by Democrats. Making this Custer’s Last Stand is a little like having a huge argument over whether to pay the water bill while the house is burning down.

So while all this political posturing goes on, Americans are still out of work, have no insurance and are sinking in this morass of an economy launched on the downhill fast track by Ronald Reagan.

See, here’s the thing. Government revenues are down because the rich skate and because unemployment is high. Spending is up because we’re fighting three wars (at least) and unemployment is high.

The rabid see the common denominator there — unemployment — and thinks the answer is to cut social services. The rest of us see the common denominator and think, “We need to raise revenues and cut out these bullshit wars.”

Three percentage points. From 35 percent to 38 percent. That’s all letting the Bush tax cuts for the rich would do — raise the rate three points. And that’s not on all the rich’s income. That’s only on income above $250,000. That’s why it’s called “the top rate.” But the Republicans can’t let go of this “raising taxes” meme — because it works on the rabble, who will never hear that the United States has one of the lowest tax rates in the world.

They won’t hear it because they only listen to the echo chamber that echoes their own views uncritically. Easiest way in the world to control a significant number of voters.

Speaking of echo chambers, I don’t think I’ve ever seen it so finely tuned. For days, it’s been harping on Obama — “where’s the plan,” say all the pundits, the presidential cabinets and the rabble that completely lacks any ability to think for itself because, apparently, that’s socialist. Never mind that it’s the job of Congress to come up with the plan.

When the House passed Boehner’s debt bill the other day, my inbox was full of press releases, by Twitter stream full of tweets — all talking about Obama’s supposed “lack of leadership.” I may actually agree on that one, but not for the same reasons. After all, what do they think all those meetings were?

As I’m writing this, the players announce they have a deal. It pretty much sucks, all the way around. Who’s surprised? Rock, meet hard place. It could be a whole lot worse though, and it could be a whole lot better. And, of course, the echo chambers are in full force. The Republicans are declaring victory except where they aren’t, and the progressives are declaring Obama a complete and utter failure worse than George W. Bush and possibly Herbert Hoover.

Just a little note on that and then I’ll get to my real point: The spending cuts don’t go into effect until 2013, the very same day the Bush tax cuts for the rich are set to expire. Let’s see what happens between now and then.

Now, my real point. Progressives, this is something we are just going to have to learn to live with: We will never, ever, ever get legislation we can approve of unconditionally. Ever. Never. Not. Gonna. Happen. Know why?

Ever heard of the bell curve? It looks like this. And in the case of society, the bell curve is constantly in motion. Moving forward. Progressing. Always. At times the people on the curve move backwards, or regress, but the line itself — forward.

So what you have is progressives out on the forward end of the curve. There aren’t very many. As you get closer to the center, there are more people on the line. Then once you pass over the very center, the numbers decline again until you get to the Tea Party, where, again, there are few.

So, you say, shouldn’t progressives and Tea Parties get their way about an equal percent of the time, seeing as how they are roughly in equal numbers?

Well, no. And here’s why:

Remember, the line is moving forward, into the unknown. Progressives are driving that forward move. The Tea Partiers are back there at the end of the line trying to at least hold it still and if possible pull it backwards. They get more of what they want all the time because of a) inertia and b) fear of the unknown, both products of the vast middle. But, because society does march ever onward, progress happens regardless. Just considerably slower than any of us want. It’s the evolution of humanity.

So, anyway, back to my original premise, that this whole mess is about impeachment or some other way to delegitimize the presidency of Barack Obama. It’s what they do. They hate Democrats, liberals, progressives, progress, change, open society, growth and especially people of color and queers. It’s who they are. Obama may not be much of a progressive, or even a liberal sometimes, but he’s a pragmatist about where we are. And here we are, stuck in the middle.

 

 

The lie of the centrist

Paul Krugman says centrism is a cult that is destroying America, and I think he’s right. Not that the right isn’t doing its part — it is. But it’s this insistence on being in the middle of two “extremes” that is killing us.

Centrists wear blinders that keeps them from telling the truth, from knowing the truth about the right. And the prime offenders: My beloved colleagues.

Think about what’s happening right now. We have a crisis in which the right is making insane demands, while the president and Democrats in Congress are bending over backward to be accommodating — offering plans that are all spending cuts and no taxes, plans that are far to the right of public opinion.

So what do most news reports say? They portray it as a situation in which both sides are equally partisan, equally intransigent — because news reports always do that. And we have influential pundits calling out for a new centrist party, a new centrist president, to get us away from the evils of partisanship.

It makes me crazy. Back when I worked for a big media outlet, we didn’t have execs coming down to tell us we had to toe the party line. We did it ourselves, as if we were afraid to do our jobs. Somewhere along the line — and it started with Spiro Agnew’s “nittering nabobs of negativsm” — we lost the will to tell the truth and instead adopted a policy of stenography. “He said she said” isn’t journalism. It’s minutes of the meeting.

What all this means is that there is no penalty for extremism; no way for most voters, who get their information on the fly rather than doing careful study of the issues, to understand what’s really going on.

You have to ask, what would it take for these news organizations and pundits to actually break with the convention that both sides are equally at fault? This is the clearest, starkest situation one can imagine short of civil war. If this won’t do it, nothing will.

And yes, I think this is a moral issue. The “both sides are at fault” people have to know better; if they refuse to say it, it’s out of some combination of fear and ego, of being unwilling to sacrifice their treasured pose of being above the fray.

No, not blinders then. Blindfolds. With blinders, you can at least see what’s in front of you. But with blindfolds, you see nothing, and that’s what my colleagues — and others who claim to be centrists — see. Nothing that matters, and very little that doesn’t.

At least Krugman tells the truth about the right.

But my feeling about those people is that they are what they are; you might as well denounce wolves for being carnivores. Crazy is what they do and what they are.

Which points the finger right back at the centrists — and Democrats who, what, don’t want to rock the boat?

So, no, both sides aren’t equally at fault. Not in this instance, and not during the 2008 election campaign when racism and ugliness owned the Republican campaign and my colleagues bought the lie that “both sides do it.” No, they don’t. That’s not to say that some left wing bloggers and such don’t get nasty. Hell, I get nasty. But I never advocated shutting down the government to keep George W. Bush from getting re-elected. I never heard one single Democrat say that either, or say that their No. 1 priority in 2004 was to prevent a second term.

What I did see, and continue to see, is constant capitulation on the part of Democrats to Republican threats , just to make something happen. And now, the president has drawn the line.

I just hope he has the guts not to move it — or, worse yet, erase it altogether.

Vertigo

I have little faith in people. Most humans, I think, are profoundly ignorant, unthinking and, in many cases, stupid. That makes it very difficult for a forward-thinking person like me to stay on message — that things will change, it does get better and we’ll get through this.

Some days the best I can do is live with the hair-raising feeling that we’re watching a real-life Alfred Hitchcock movie. Something horrible is going to happen. We may or may not know precisely what it is, but we know it’ll be dreadful. We also know exactly what must be done to stop it, or at the very least the first steps to that. But we don’t know if our story’s hero is capable of the heroics it requires, and beyond that, we don’t know if it’s already too late.

The Liberati pundits have taken to calling this Kabuki, and while it does share the exaggerated and overblown actions with that Japanese theater form, it’s far more frightening because these actions have real-life consequences. Kabuki has never given me the chill up my spine that Hitchcock does. And while some of the players are far more bumbling and obvious than most characters in a Hitchcock film, he always does have a few of those around too.

The gods honest truth though is how much time and energy we’re all wasting on things that don’t matter. The problem we have in this country isn’t about how much money Congress allows it to spend. It’s how well we deal with the crisis its people are experiencing. And that’s not an artificially decreed debt ceiling. It’s a direct result of failed Republican policies that have put so many of them out of work and kept them there was the Teapublicans play their sophomoric games and tease my colleagues to buying the bullshit they’ve been feeding journalists for decades now.

It wasn’t true 30 years ago, and it isn’t now, and it’s been proven time and again. What’s that saying? Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me? What about “fool me three or four times a year, every year, for three decades?” What does that make you?

Low taxes do not create jobs. If they did, we’d have abundant jobs because American taxes are among the lowest in the developed world. But we had more jobs back when the highest tax rate was 50 points above what it is now. And under a Republican president.

But the GOP has gotten the tax rate down so low now that the government can barely function. That’s the plan. Now they can keep it from getting the money it needs with one simple campaign slogan: “No tax hike.”

We all know that. The problem is that the masses don’t, and we are seemingly perfectly incapable of communicating that, and many other things, to them.

I want to tell you this: It’s not our fault. Well, sometimes it is. But for the most part, it’s a little like trying to explain the workings of an electric coffee grinder, in English, to an Amazonian native who only speaks his own language. With no charts, graphs or other images. Just words.

Not gonna work, is it?

Truth is, there is no simple language for what we need, and by we, I mean all humans. And the need for simple language — the conservatives’ native tongue — along with the absolute greed and unconscionable disdain for “the other” among some conservatives spells disaster for real change — real progressive change.

This afternoon I read an explanation of the Affordable Health Care Act written by former Obama budget director Peter Orszag. It was about as wonkie as wonk can possibly be. Words, hundreds of words explaining a very technical bill with very technical processes and very technical strategies for implementation. At the end, I understood it much better than ever before. But even I, a wonk with a bent for history, had a headache when I was done.

If I get a headache coming to some kind of understanding, how will other Americans fare? Especially those who can’t be bothered to read, to understand. Who want someone to come along and tell them “no tax hikes vote for us” and be done with it. The ones who don’t want to hear the Byzantine logic by which they’ll learn how voting for “NTHVFU” will actually achieve just the opposite of what they want, while not threatening to burn down the White House if the AFCA isn’t repealed might actually improve the economy.

Orszag said the bill wasn’t perfect — no bill ever is. But it’s a far sight better than what we have now.

But explain that to people who’d rather be watching America’s Got Talent and Dancing with the Stars. No. Can. Do.

So what do we do? That brings me to another article I read today, and I can’t even remember who wrote it. It was about articulating a grand foreign policy strategy, but something stuck with me. Sometimes, the article said, you’ve just got to do the right thing and forget about the consequences to yourself, then explain the strategy later. It’s the old “better to ask for forgiveness later than permission first” thing.

And in a third article, and again I can’t remember the author, was an example of how that might work. It explained how then-German Chancellor Gerhard  Schröder pushed the economic Agenda 2010 in 2003, got it passed and then lost the 2005 election to Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party. But Agenda 2010 stayed — in Germany, there was no push to defund it — apparently, because in “Old Europe” the politicians are more grown-up and less petty than they are in the United States. And, although it certainly wasn’t perfect, Agenda 2010 is the reason Germany is not sitting on the brink of default.

Where we are.  Schröder lost because he did the right thing. Germany is better for it, but he is no longer in power. the CDU got all the credit, and Merkel is still chancellor.

The danger in doing that here, of course, is that in our inferior two party system, one of the parties doesn’t give a rodent’s derriere about the country’s well-being, let along the citizens. All they care about is power, and for that they need money. Yours and mine, because, in any good feudal system, whatever is yours and mine is really the king’s.

And here’s the really ridiculous part. They probably actually believe they’re working for the better of the country, because they’ve bought their own simplistic explanations of very complex issues, and because they think they’re superior to the rest of us by virtue of having flown in on some big balloon or something.

Which, in my book, makes them delusional and dangerous.

So what do we do? Keep pulling back the curtain. Sooner or later Dorothy will show up and everybody will listen because she’s so cute and can sing. And she’ll point out the obvious, and everyone will say, OMFG, as if it only happened just that moment.

Something will happen at just that moment — true transition. What comes next will banish the current crop of conservative cretins to the nether regions forever and set us up on the path to become the next grumpy old men and women resistant to change.

But that’ll be a few decades off. You and I, we’ll probably miss it. Unfortunately, we may miss the transitional moment too, because I can’t even begin to guess how long it’ll be before Dorothy dumps water on the Wicked Witch and saves us.

We don’t even know who Dorothy is yet. I’m kinda hoping she’s a black, deaf, Latina lesbian in a souped up wheelchair. But that’s just me. I’d be OK if that turned out to be god instead.

 

What kind of fuckery is this

Ah, Amy. Ya coulda been somebody. A talent like yours is rare — so raw and honest — and you tossed it away. But ya didn’t just let it wither and die on the vine. No, girl. You lit it up in a pipe of glass and watched it burn down the neighborhood.

I’m not blaming you for it. Whatever demons that possessed you, I don’t know. But clearly they had you by the throat and neither you nor they were willing to disengage. Clever, that song, “Rehab.” Making your name by mocking the very thing that might have saved your life.

I know only too well, though, that a life can’t be saved unless and until the owner of that life sees the need. You didn’t, that’s clear enough, and that’s what truly saddens me. You didn’t see enough behind those sad, deadened eyes in the mirror to toss off the shackles that bound you. And because of that, the music ends here.

We’ll just have to cherish what we have. But there coulda been so much more. You’ve left us here with the regrets, Amy dear, while you’ve ended the pain that drove you. Sure it was accidental, the official report will say, but you and I both know it was the end result of a slow, desperate suicide.

You were Billie Holiday on crack, Janis Joplin with a beehive, but your name may fade much faster than theirs ever will because you were Lady Day and Pearl on turbo overdrive, your habit and bent on self destruction consuming your creative fuel at a much faster rate.

Ah, but it was brilliant while it lasted. I’m sorry to see you go, but not the least bit surprised. It scares me just a little, though. Brilliance burns hotter and faster than ordinary, and it’s a delicate dance to avoid incineration by the thrust. That’s why Billie only made it to her 40s and Janis, like you, clocked out at 27. But look at that difference. And you, you made it to 27, but squandered more of your fire than we ever saw. I worry that we’ll never see the next one of you at all.

Well, what’s done is done. You’re feeling no pain now, and without the steady diet of mind-altering chemicals you lived on.

I just can’t help wondering what might have been, had you seen more worth when you stared into the foggy mirror through even foggier eyes.

Nightmare in Norway

A bomb explodes in Oslo. A half hour later, there’s a massacre on an island camp. What’s the first thing my colleagues say?

Al aeda. Looking through my reader, I see things like “all the hallmarks of al Qaeda.” “Why does al Qaeda hate Norway?” And that’s just from the progressives.

Really? A terrorist attack in Norway, and the first thing we do is start talking about al Qaeda? Are we that conditioned?

And in Norway, Muslims on the streets are harassed.

Turns out, it wasn’t Islamic extremists. It was a Christian extremist. That would have been, and in fact was, my guess the moment I understood that Norway has a liberal government, and the attacks took place at government buildings and a camp run by the ruling Labor Party.

But not in America. And now that it’s known who perpetrated this vile attack, what are we saying? “Lone wolf.” “Isolated incident.” “Whacko.” The same things we say here when right wing extremists perpetrate terrorist attacks. Because, apparently, we’ve all bought into the myth that only Muslims are terrorists.

A post on Facebook talked about the “terror attack” in Norway. A response to that post suggested reconsidering use of the word “terror” because “it appears to be the work of one lone sicko.” Fortunately, a response to that said it was “one lone sicko terrorist.”

What the hell is our problem? Let’s look at this. Definition of the word “terrorism”:

  1. the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, especially for political purposes.
  2. the state of fear and submission produced by terrorism or terrorization.
  3. a terroristic method of governing or of resisting a government.
Sounds pretty accurate to me. This guy bombed a building, killing seven people, and then went to the camp and started shooting, killing dozens. And creating fear. Terror. Ipso ergo facto, the dude’s a terrorist, and he perpetrated a terrorist attack. Period.
But we don’t want to say that. Easier to attribute the attack to a sicko, a whacko, a lone wolf than to accept that some Christians are just as extreme as any Islamic terrorist you can find. And just as deadly.
That’s just wrong. Anders Behring Breivik is a terrorist. So are Jim David Atkisson, Paul Hill, Scott Roeder, James von Brunn, Timothy McVeigh and a host of other right wing — and Christian — extremists.
And I’ll tell you something else. The same goes for a bunch of fear-mongering cretins in Congress and former members of administrations that used terror to get what they want from the American people. Falls under that third definition up there.
It’s damn time we started calling them what they are.
Fortunately, in Norway, the government doesn’t plan on spreading more terror in response to this act of terror. In fact, Jens Stoltenberg said just the opposite. The answer, he said, is more democracy.