January 8, 2010 archive

Toward a method of activism pt. 1

the following is part 1 of a 2-part diary pulling together some thoughts I’ve gathered from dialoguing on DocuDharma.  I plan to publish part 2 tomorrow (Saturday).

If you wish to read it in its entirety now, it can be found on the Antemedius site.

“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,

But in ourselves, that we are underlings.” — Shakespeare

The overall state of dialogue on the left is incredibly banal.  It is narrow.  It is ahistorical.

Our current condition comes at the tail-end of a long deterioration.  At its best, left politics at the beginning of the 60s was alive and dynamic and creative.  At its worst, left politics by the end of the 60s had the character of the war of all against all.  The life of organizations was nasty, brutish and short.  While the tide of the movement had been rising, everyone had new blood to proselytize, recruit, mobilize, even as they excoriated each other as sellouts, petit-bourgeois deviationists and running dog lackeys.  Advocates of more radical action were successful, an active movement validated them — or bailed them out as the case might be.

Afternoon Edition

Afternoon Edition is an Open Thread

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 US sheds 85,000 jobs, highlighting sluggish recovery

by Rob Lever, AFP

1 hr 33 mins ago

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The US economy lost 85,000 jobs in December while the unemployment rate held at 10.0 percent, the government said Friday in a report highlighting a slow and painful recovery from recession.

The Labor Department report on nonfarm payrolls was a disappointment to those hoping for job growth, which is critical to economic recovery.

The figure was far worse than the consensus expectation for no change in overall employment levels, and came amid a wide array of predictions ranging from steep losses to modest gains.

Yup.  Green Shoots.

Geithner and Summers must go.

And Geithner should be prosecuted as the THIEF he is.

Surprise! You are no longer part of the workforce

  The deeper and longer the recession goes on, the more questionable the numbers get.

Today the headline number was a loss of 85,000 jobs in December and a steady unemployment rate of 10%.

  The market only expected to lose 3,000 jobs, so this was a negative report. However, like most unemployment reports, the Devil is in the details.

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The Coalition of the Comfortable vs Reality

I have said many times that one of the greatest of all of the Bush legacies of destruction, is the destruction of facts.

The iconic quote, via Suskind:

The aide said that guys like me were “in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” … “That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality-judiciously, as you will-we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

The mantle of the reality Based Community was proudly taken up by the Blogosphere as the standard for all argument. Do you have FACTS to back up what you say, or are you creating your reality. This spawned another iconic quote; “You are entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts.”

Combined with he techniques that Fox news perfected when confronted with pesky facts….Deny the fact, make up your own version of the fact, smear the messenger bearing the fact, and then claim that the fact has been debunked and wave away any further discussion of that fact….a new political reality was indeed created.

A reality where Giuliani can claim with a straight face that there were no terrorist attacks on the US under George Bush. But that sort of thing is not the real and lasting damage that I speak of. The real and lasting damage is that a new generation has grown up and become politically active knowing only this technique of ‘debate.’

And so that is the technique these relative political naifs use. To great effect, to so great an effect that then their older more experienced allies who should (or do) know better have adopted it too. It is the faith based argument, the argument of ‘the gut,’ it is the argument of those that have no real argument… except for the one overweening argument that they share with Republicans: We’re right and you’re wrong.

And NOTHING you can say will change that.


1975. Vietnam. Laos. Cambodia. (China). USA

2010. Iraq. Iran. Afghanistan. Pakistan. Yemen?. (Russia). USA

What tangled webs.


I want to ask / urge you dharma bums to go read this 2007 piece I came cross the other day and help me get a handle on this thing that has been lurking and teasing in my mind. This stuff is really out of my league and terribly complex, but … shudder… somebody needs to connect the dots. Are there parallels to be drawn?  This is really bugging me. I’m sorry I can’t explain better, it’s shadows and light still.

EDIT: Consider this an open invitation to venture in to comments below and help me learn and understand.

The People on the Fringe


The other day there was a Kossack who told me that Worker’s Rights were what it (presumably the Democratic Party) all should be about:

My point is that we have taken our focus off the core purpose of the Democratic party by elevating fringe interests above the major problems.

Fringe interests?  Aren’t the people on the fringe also workers?  Although numbers about the “least of us” are often difficult to uncover, one source lists the unemployment rate for transgender people at 35% and claims that 60% of us earn less that $16K per year.  Another source “more generously” claims rather that 40% of us earn less than $20K.

Both are appalling, if you ask me.

Anyway, the truth is that I would much rather be working on issues more central to the human condition, but someone has to stand firm for the people on the fringe.

If not me, who?  If not now, when?

There is a simple way to satisfy those of us who are on the fringe.  Give us equal rights.  Then we can work wholeheartedly on those “more important issues.”

Iceland’s president vetoes IceSave law

Original article, by Jordan Shilton, via World Socialist Web Site:

Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, Iceland’s president, announced Tuesday that he would not sign into law the Icesave bill, which stipulates terms for the repayment of loans to Britain and the Netherlands. Instead, a referendum will be held on the matter, with polls indicating that a substantial majority of Icelanders will reject the latest version of the measure.

Open Sky


America’s Mayor Gets Amnesia (Up Dated)

Mr. 9/11 Gets Amnesia: ‘We Had No Domestic Attacks Under Bush; We’ve Had One Under Obama’ (VIDEO)

The Danger of American Mythology

With the news that unemployment remains stagnant at 10% and that employers have cut more jobs than expected is a fresh blow to the American psyche.  Based on what I have informally observed, the latest stats are a more-or-less accurate portrayal of what I see on the ground.  I might even be compelled to believe that today’s grim news is in fact a bit sugarcoated, particularly among those under the age of thirty-five.  Friends of mine have undergone the ultimate of indignity and shame of moving back home, temporarily, they always conclude.  Returning to the womb does not exactly do wonders for one’s self-esteem, particularly when independence in the form of separate living arrangement are one of the metrics we consider essential to attaining that sometimes elusive construct denoted as “adulthood”.  

Jobs, jobs, jobs continues to be the story line that trumps all others, an issue unlikely to subside for a long while.  Aside from the political repercussions that have been debated extensively for months and will continue to be debated as we get closer to November, I admit I’m more interested in trends often sparsely covered by the major outlets.  We’ve seen the demise of certain industries and businesses that had been hanging on by a thread even in good times.  We’ve noted the strain upon government agencies and the many socialized component pieces that variously make up a bulk of our infrastructure–those which depend heavily on tax revenue.  What we have not really come to grips with as a people is how we best ought to respond to a period of reduced harvest over a protracted period of time.  I have read many pieces that detail that which is wrong, but few which propose a resolute, firm course of action for the future.  These may be unprecedented times, but it would be nice to see someone’s grand unifying theory.  

Alongside the latest doom-and-gloom headlines, the media tries its best to put a micro human interest aspect in play, but these sorts of character sketches at times resemble caricature sketches more than anything else.  While I appreciate a desire to show the personal impact of any massive crisis like the one in which we are still mired, it has always seemed a bit cloying to highlight the The Typical Hispanic Immigrant Family™, The Typical Single Parent African-American Family™, The Typical Asian-American Family™, and The Typical White Working Class Family™.  To be sure, the mainstream boys and girls tend to leave in-depth analysis to print magazines and NPR, but in a crisis this pervasive, one can’t help but wish they’d incorporate some degree of truly thoughtful analysis.  Instead we get two tiresome talking heads from opposite sides, each granted four minutes airtime each to devote to often-meaningless improvisational variations on a theme.    

The noted historian C. Vann Woodward wrote,

In an illuminating book called People of Plenty, David Potter persuasively advances the thesis that the most distinguishing traits of national character have been fundamentally shaped by the abundance of the American living standard.  He marshals evidence of the effect that plenty has had upon such decisive phases of life as the nursing and training of babies, opportunities for education and jobs, ages of marriage and childbearing.  He shows how abundance has determined characteristic national attitudes between parents and children, husband and wife, superior and subordinate, between one class and another, and how it has molded our mass culture and consumer oriented society.  American national character would indeed appear inconceivable without this unique experience of abundance.

A closely related corollary of the unique American experience of abundance is the equally unique American experience of success.  During the Second World War, Professor Arthur M. Schlesinger made an interesting attempt to define the national character, which he brought to a close with the conclusion that the American character “is bottomed upon the profound conviction that nothing in the world is beyond its power to accomplish.”  In this he gave expression to one of the great American legends, the legend of success and invincibility.

Woodward continues,

If the history of the United States is lacking in some of the elements of variety and contrast demanded of any good story, it is in part because of the very monotonous repetition of success.  Almost every major collective effort, even those thwarted temporarily, succeeded in the end.  American history is a success story.  They have, until very recently, solved every major problem they have confronted–or had it solved for them by a smiling fortune.

While on the stump, Barack Obama skillfully appealed to this particular strain of American mythology as a means of direct emotional appeal.  I do not believe that it was a tactic employed disingenuously, but at any rate it sought to advance the idea that our unique character was so high-minded and noble that, despite the struggle getting there, eventually we embrace social progress.  With this assertion came a very American, very unflinching belief in our perceived superiority and our own perceived invincibility.  But, following this line of logic, if we as a country can elect an African-American and seriously consider electing a woman as President, it would then stand to reason that the solution to revive a sick economy would be easily within our capabilities.  One would believe that with abundance would come a corresponding abundance of proposals, each novel and credible in its own way.  However, it should also be noted that casting a ballot and breaking a sweat are two entirely different matters, a notion not lost on Woodward.  One would hope that when this country elects a female President that we don’t inundate ourselves with self-congratulatory talk that the glass ceiling has finally been shattered forever.  It has proven to be quite resilient to even the largest of cracks.        

When the formerly Grand Old Party states its own interpretation of American success, it clothes its own mythology in terms of resolute military triumphs, battles won, enemies vanquished in heroic terms by complete unknowns and by generals who never lost a fight.  America is a magical place where everything is possible, but only to those who embrace a struggle between God and Satan, Good and Evil, dark and light, impurity and purity.  When the system fails, it writes apology after apology for the failures and corruption of capitalism, pointing to the inevitability of its eventual rebirth.  It is as sure of its own infallibility and superiority just as surely as Marx was in thunderously concluding that the bourgeoisie would someday prove to be its own grave-diggers.  If either were any help now, I’m sure we might be seriously considering them.

What we need, then, is to truly act as though we really are what our mythology triumphantly proclaims.  Setting aside irony and cynicism for a moment, we have the power within our grasp to put into place a new American mythology, one that is comprised of more than just jingoistic platitudes or narcissistic back-patting.  But what it will entail is effort and a willful desire to scrape off the rust, even when doing so is uncomfortable and puts us out of our comfort zones.  Now more than ever, we ought to be the country the rest of the world thinks we are.  Now more than ever we ought to live the notion that we really meant it when it was written that all are created equal, that we were a welcome respite and land of promise to our tired, our poor, our huddled masses yearning to breathe free, and that our exceptionalism is not a club quick to bludgeon or a license for arrogance, but instead the source of healing and solution of a sort that is profoundly lacking today.  

Not all that likely to pass

We can only hope because the way the Obama team has booted Insurance Company Bailouts Insurance Executive Welfare deserves defeat.

John Amato has been no radical.

Additional recent news from more disreputable sources (because I never deal in anything except the most scurrilous lies)-

The Difference Between Being Unable To Keep A Promise And Being A Liar

By: Jon Walker Thursday January 7, 2010 10:45 am

It really should not come as news to anyone who has followed the health care debate closely, but President Barack Obama now officially fighting for the inclusion of the excise tax on employer-provided health care benefits in the final bill. Obama expressly campaigned against taxing health care benefits, and even mocked the idea of taxing only "Cadillac plans" on the campaign trail. Clearly, his promise to not tax health care benefits was just a very big lie that he told the American people.

And, you know, anyone who claims they care about Democratic electoral prospects (more and better Democrats) is lying too.

New Arkansas Poll Results Beg Question: Why Did Senate Democrats Make Blanche Lincoln And Ben Nelson Walk The Plank On Health Care?

By: Jon Walker Thursday January 7, 2010 9:12 am

The policy arguments aside, I have a tough time understanding politically why the Democrats did not use reconciliation to pass a big bill labeled “health care reform” (with many of the smaller dropped pieces bundled into a small “insurance regulatory reform” bill, or slipped piece-by-piece into big defense, ag, or appropriations bills). By September, it became very clear that the fight had become very partisan, that the bill labeled “health care reform” would not be overwhelmingly popular, and that there would be no real Republican cover for conservative Democrats in the Senate. The vote for health care has become politically toxic for conservative Democratic senators from conservative states like Ben Nelson and Blanche Lincoln.

Hey, quit your blubberin’.  When I get through with this baby you won’t even recognize it.

Is The Health Care Bill Falling Apart?

By: David Dayen Thursday January 7, 2010 12:29 pm

Ultimately, the bill may not run aground because of financing, or abortion, or the employer mandate, or the public option, or any one thing. But with a combination of these problems, the Rubik’s Cube just might not be able to be put together. It’s interesting that so many people just assume a bill will pass at this stage. There are too many variables in play to assume that right now, based on what I’m seeing.

Open Thread: in which I whine about “winter” cold

Gawd I hate cold! Hate it hate it hate hate it. I am a tropical girl.


I’ll proceed with my Winter Whine is a minute, but for penance, I am also going to link you to one little useful essay over at FDL re dry skin issues/remedies. It’s one of the best I’ve ever seen (and Ive read a lot of ’em!)

There. Okay, now… listen. These are several words that are just not in my vocabulary, or else they have a different definition than you might have:




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