Thursday, October 31, 2013

This explains a lot.

h/t Commenter Cervantes over at Balloon Juice. From an interview Saul Alinsky gave Playboy a long time ago.

ALINSKY: Sure, they’ll be suspicious, even hostile at first. That’s been my experience with every community I’ve ever moved into. My critics are right when they call me an outside agitator. When a community, any kind of community, is hopeless and helpless, it requires somebody from outside to come in and stir things up. That’s my job — to unsettle them, to make them start asking questions, to teach them to stop talking and start acting, because the fat cats in charge never hear with their ears, only through their rears. I’m not saying it’s going to be easy; thermopolitically, the middle classes are rooted in inertia, conditioned to look for the safe and easy way, afraid to rock the boat. But they’re beginning to realize that boat is sinking and unless they start bailing fast, they’re going to go under with it. The middle class today is really schizoid, torn between its indoctrination and its objective situation. The instinct of middle-class people is to support and celebrate the status quo, but the realities of their daily lives drill it home that the status quo has exploited and betrayed them.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

From the Remainder Table

Parisians: An Adventure History of Paris by Graham Robb.

I doubt if we will ever go to Paris again but ever since reading Paris: The Secret History  and Paris to the Past I have been assailed with a desire to create a database of interesting histories of particular physical locations in Paris.  I dream of an iphone app which will sync me with a GPS and a page of Angelique as I pass through what is left of places mentioned in the text.

Just Say Nu by Michael Wex. I bought this out of a sentimental attachment to the author, whose book Born to Kvetch was a surprisingly brilliant study in ethno-linguistics or, to put it another way, the underlying world view behind an embattled language.  No mere collection of colorful terms Born to Kvetch is a philosophy, an anthropology, and a tone poem devoted to a negative, fearful, creative, bombastic, and often backwards way of expression.  I consider it a very fine ethnographic study and I am using it now to re-write my Haggadah.  The second book was just lying there on the remainder table, begging to be taken home qua dictionary.

Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel. Needs no explanation. I've been waiting to have some time to read it and now I've decided that since it was there at a reduced price I should just go ahead and get it and make time.

The Frozen Rabbi, by Steve Stern.  This is not my sort of book at all. I generally read either straight up sci-fi/fantasy, dystopian novels, murder mysteries, or non fiction. But there it was, lying on the table, begging to be taken home.  The topic? From the back of the book "...the story of how a nineteenth-century rabbi from a small Polish town ended up in a basement freezer in a suburban Memphis home at the end of the twentieth century.  What happens when an impressionable teenage boy inadvertently thaws out the ancient man and brings him back to life is nothing short of miraculous....the voracious pace lets Stern spill a hundred years of vivid Jewish history onto the page..."

I looked inside the book and it is, indeed, very funny. But I don't think that is why I bought it. I am also in the middle of reading Andrew Solomon's book "Far From The Tree" about children who are different from their parents or what their parents expected.  Right at the start he draws a distinction between horizontal and vertical forms of heritage and places ethnicity/language/religion among the "vertical" forms that our parents transmit to us without question and without fear and compares that to the "horizontal" identities that our age/sex/gender orientation and politics often create for us among our peers.  Of course within two pages of offering us this definition he undercuts it, seemingly without noticing, by describing his mother's fraught relationship with her Jewish Identity, an identity that her father attempted to renounce in order to fit in to America's anti semitic landscape, that she attempted to renounce by marrying out, and that she was driven back into by the fact that she couldn't pose as non jewish for the purposes of marriage.  Its as though being Jewish--what it is and the fact of it--was a frozen Rabbi raised, scolding and hectoring, from a freezer inside Solomon's own house.

Monday, October 28, 2013

BTK for Evangelical Youth

Who am I kidding, BTK was the BTK for the christian youth set. But still, this does sound very familiar (from Wonkette, of course! Thanks Doktor Zoom!)

Nathaniel teaches Josh how to bind dark spirits with cords of light and banish them to the moon, and to call down angels to drag demons off to the Eternal Prison. This constitutes most of the “action” and “adventure” in the novel, again and again. Multiple set-pieces go like this: Josh wakes in the middle of the night, sees an unholy presence of some sort, and calls on God to help him banish the Evil Thingy. Then he goes into another room and does it again, only maybe the Evil Thingy is a gargoyle this time. And then another room. And then, God help us, the friggin’ dog house. At one point he has to Cleanse his parents’ room, and there’s the brief hope he might walk in on them fucking, XXXXing, but no such luck, just more Summon and Banish. He thinks he’s cleared out the baddies from his older brother’s room, but God tells him to check under the bed, where there are two
“Spirits of Lust, very evil female spirits. They cannot be allowed to be entertained for even a second. They must be shackled and chained and sent away quickly. They are almost as evil as vampires.”
Summon, banish. And presumably big brother loses his erection and dreams about Jesus instead.

Bonus Anti Obama screed that is visible only if you have eyes:

...the Prince of Lies offers Josh a pile of gold and gems from Scrooge McDuck’s vault if Josh will help convince people to worship him. Spoiler Alert: Josh refuses to go to the dark side, cookies be damned:
“No soul shall hunger under my rule. Nobody will be without. And I will make them all obey me so that the whole world will be saved.”
“That sounds like Socialism to me, Satan. Under your plan, we all suffer together. That is why you have been a liar from the beginning. Leave me, Satan, I will not follow you.” Josh held up his bright sword as his light shown around him.
“You will worship me!” growled the dark man as he paced beside the circle …
“I am a Son of the Light,” cried Josh holding his sword in the air. “I will only serve the Almighty God of Heaven!” Upon those words, a powerful blast of light exploded from the circle surrounding Josh and the Dark Creatures of the other Realm retreated until nothing was left except a small dark spot in the sky.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

How Can Obama Run A Country Like Ours?

So today we have this report from Dick Durbin, via The Hill.

A top Senate Democrat said that a leading House Republican told President Obama that they could not 'even stand to look at you' during negotiations over the government shutdown.

And a Kos diarist explains what happens when the Republicans in charge of particular states and localities decide to stab their constitutents and the ACA in the back:

My wife is an obstetrician/gynecologist working in North Carolina so I know the difficulties of delivering health care to pregnant women here. When the great recession hit, the state cut and delayed Medicaid payments, causing financial problems. She closed her practice and found a job in a larger town. Doctors and hospitals delivering care to lower middle class and working class women have been hit hard by the recession, just like their patients. That's why infant mortality is rising. Rural and community hospitals in North Carolina are struggling to survive. Big city hospital systems bring in high revenues from insured patients for specialized procedures. Urban hospital centers put the profits back into improving their facilities and investing in new equipment. Rural and community hospitals are struggling to replace obsolete equipment at present revenue levels. I interviewed the CEO of Onslow Memorial Hospital, Ed Piper, about the need for Medicaid expansion to learn the details.
Ed explained to me that hospitals made a deal with the federal government to accept an end to federal payments for unreimbursed care because the Affordable Care Act would expand Medicaid coverage for the working poor and provide subsidized insurance coverage for lower middle class Americans who weren't covered by employer provided insurance plans. His hospital's revenues are now running barely above costs, a 3.5% margin, barely enough to replace failing old equipment. But, because McCrory is rejecting Medicaid expansion, his hospital will be in trouble next year when the federal reimbursements for unreimbursed care cease. Onslow county has one of the best infant mortality rates in rural eastern North Carolina. Smaller hospitals in poor counties with out military bases will be in deep trouble. And these counties already have third-world-level infant mortality rates as high as 20 deaths per 1000 births.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Department of False Equivalencies Alert.

Our Baby

Sure it isn't my health plan, but it is, for better or worse, the current "liberal agenda." When the pentagon lights a trillion dollars on fire in order to build a plane that doesn't work, it isn't a failure of the liberal agenda. When the health care plan isn't working as promised, that is. We own it.

Oh, its "Our Baby" but we should throw it out with the bathwater?  Look: we don't "own" it--ownership of anything is always up for grabs, negotiable, and a matter of propaganda and dirty fighting. You know why they say "Success has a thousand fathers but failure is an Orphan?" Hint: its not because either thing has any kind of real paternity. Its because what you say after the event is as important as what you say before the event.

 If a potato is hot jump backwards, don't catch it. You don't find the Pentagon and the Lobbyists leaping forward when they have a massive public failure and ripping their uniforms open and falling on their swords. Why not? Because they are not fucking morons. The name of the game is staying in the game. The way you deal with the failures of the mere roll out of an online enrollment app --and remember, thats what we are talking about--is--you appropriate more money and you fix it. 

And here's another clue: you don't do your enemy's work for him by letting him off the hook. Obama and the dems should shrug their shoulders and say "look, if you don't like the system then roll up your sleeves and do the work necessary to fix it. Carping and wailing and bitching never bailed a boat or fixed a board. We're doing what we can to insure 44 million people and you are doing nothing but moan."  And thats true, damn it. Get off the god damned sidelines and stop kibbitzing already. To the extent that public opinion about the experience of using a website during the first month of implementation matters at all this is a public opinion question, not a real thing. So stop adding to the public opinion fallout by whining about it.  This is Jon Stewart level ridiculous. At least this huge, government level, cock up has the bizarre side effect that 10 percent of the uninsured in Oregon have already been covered in a two week period. Can you point me to any Pentagon failure that has ever resulted in 56,000 people getting better health care instead of, you know, dying?

Sholem Aleichem knew more than Ayn Rand and Alan Greenspan put together.

Brad's smackdown of his own interpretation of Greenspan is a noble attempt but it fails to grapple with an essential element of the shonda that is Greenspan--Ayn Rand is not a better sociologist or historian than Sholem Aleichem.

From Menakhem-Mendl in Odessa to his wife Sheyne-Sheyndl in Karilevke
"To my wise, esteemed, & virtuous wife Sheyne-Sheyndl, may you have a long life!  Firstly, rest assured that I am, praise God, in the best of health.  God grant that we hear from each other only good and pleasing news, amen.  Secondly, the market has been hitting fearsome lows.  I've bought another batch of Londons and covered myself with 8 orders for 17 shorts.  If I can shave a few points, I'll buy more.  If only you understood, my dearest, how business is done on a man's word alone, you would know all there is to know about Odessa.  A nod is as good as a signature.  I walk down Greek Street, drop into a cafe, sit at a table, order tea or coffee, and wait for the brokers to come by.  There's no need for a contract or written agreement.  Each broker carries a pad in which he writes, say, that I've bought two shorts.  I hand over the cash and that's it--its a pleasure how easy it is!  A few hours go by, the Berlin closings arrive, and back comes the broker with 25 smackers.  The next morning the openings arrive and he has 50 more--and don't think God can't make it 100.  300 is no big deal either.  Why should it be?  We're talking about the market!  Its a game, like roulette...And as for your not believing in Uncle Manashe's promissory notes, I have news: I've made a tidy sum from them already.  Where else would I get the money to buy so many futures on spot?  The market is not, as you seem to think, a place that sells fruit and vegetables.  You're only called on futures when they're due.  That means, you're a free agent.  If you want to buy, you buy, and if you want to sell, you sell.  Now do you understand what playing the market is?  If God is out to boost Londons, he starts a war scare in the papers, the ruble drops, and Londons shoot up faster than bean stalks.  Just this week there were rumors that the Queen of England was ailing: the ruble plunged again, and whoever bought short made a killing.  Now the papers say she's better, so the ruble has rallied and its time to buy long.  In short, my dearest, never fear!  Everything will be "tip-top," as they say in Odessa....Give my greetings to the children and my fondest wishes to everyone.  Your husband, Menakhem -Mendl.

And, wait for it, five minutes later:
"To my wise, esteemed, & virtuous wife, Sheyne-Shenyndl, may you have a long life!  Firstly, rest assured that I am, praise God, in the best of health...Secondly, the market has crashed just as futures, God help us, were being called.  I'll see the Messiah before I see my money again.  Bismarck, they say, caught a bad cold and all politics went into a panic.  No one knows what tomorrow will bring.  Londons are worth more than gold, the ruble has hit rock bottom, and futures have fallen through the floor.  But where, you ask, are the shorts I bought.  that's just it: the shorts aren't short, the futures have no future, and call me a monkey's uncle!  The small-time operators I entrusted my shares with have been wiped out. Odessa has been hit by a whirlwind...

And, wait for it, five minutes later:

From Menakhem-Mendl in Yehupetz to his wife Sheyne-Sheyndl in Kasrilevke
To my dear, esteemed, and virtuous wife Sheyne-Sheyndl, may you have a long life!
Firstly, rest assured that I am, praise God, in the best of health.  God grant that we hear from each other only good and pleasing news, amen.
Secondly, stocks and bonds are not what you think. They come from Petersburg.  Putivil, Transport, Volga, Maltzev, etc.., are manufacturers.  They deal in rolling and floating stock--that is, railroads and 100---ruble shares that go for 300--.  That's because of the dividends.  The more dividends, the more they're worth.  But since nobody knows how many there'll be, you buy blind.  That's called a bull market; all the Jews are cashing in on it and so am I. You would not believe, my dear wife, how small-time investors have become millionaires!  They live in huge dachas, travel to Europinian spas, drape their women in silks and satins, speak French, play the piano, eat jam, and drink jewlips all day long.  Their children have governors and ride icicles.  A ruble means nothing to them.  They live high and the sky is the limit.  And it's all from stocks & bonds!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

One of These Things Doesn't Belong

One of these Assisted Living Facility names is real.

Elysian Fields

Add your own in the comments. Bonus points for offering a sample menu.

My Favorite Line From a Movie, Ever.

"I know Ducks Can Dream." Sweet Land.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Hell Hath No Fury Like A Wingnut Scorned

Fallowes's lengthy interchange with his would be Galtian gives you the flavor of a fine whine, bottled some time ago, that is just now being uncorked for our delectation.  There's quite a bit of it about as this article about a Colorado gun manufacturer makes clear. (h/t TaMara who comments over at Balloon Juice).  This leads me to observe that there are two kinds of wingnut rage--the first is expressed by the assertion that the speaker is Going Galt. This is the equivalent of the Goodbye Cruel World diary on Kos and the gesture of the child who runs screaming to their room and sobs angrily "you'll all miss me when I'm gone."  The point of the gesture is to hurt the other--in fact the Galt Guy explicitly says he is going Galt in order to hurt the country and the liberals by deleting the jobs he is responsible for creating.  When enough attention is not paid, your true Galtian comes back for several more bites at the apple, demanding Fallowes pay attention to him, re-engage, listen to his arguments, respect his authority, and maybe have lunch at a quiet little spot? The one thing he doesn't do is follow through on ending his symbolic life as a businessman by shutting up shop. Just as your child doesn't have the ability to hold their breath until they drop dead.

There's another kind of wingnut warrior and would be Galtian hero though--its the variety "lets you and him fight" or as they used to say in the Penninsular war a "go on" and not a "come on." These are the greater masses of wingnuts who enjoy the thought of a vicarious Galtian punishment of the enemy--as long as they don't get hurt in the process.  They don't threaten to remove themselves from society but they enjoy thought of society, or a tiny town (say) being hurt when someone else goes Galt.  And when their new best friend and Galtian exemplar fails to follow through and cut off their own nose to spite their own face?   They get really pissed off. As in Colorado where Magpul, a gun manufacturer, tried to hold their community and their jobs hostage until the state of Colorado gave them the laws they wanted.  Inside Colorado the threat to take the business elsewhere seems to have been viewed with a bit of nuance but outside, in the gun community, it was a winning proposition.  A normal person might see a corporation holding its worker's futures and its community ties hostage until the corporation gets special consideration from the state as a form of anti-democratic extortion, even a terroristic act.  Not the second amendment heroes from outside the state.  They approve of the use of the power of the purse and a corporate boycott as a way to bring unruly liberals to heel.  But there's many a slip!

The company's seeming inability to once and for all pull up stakes and exit Colorado has gone from a point of curiosity among gun enthusiasts, who loudly backed the company's decision half a year ago to move, to a source of annoyance that threatens to hurt Magpul's reputation and business.
On the company's Facebook page, some comments in the last few weeks have turned ugly as customers begin to question whether Magpul truly walks the walk when it comes to defending the 2nd Amendment or simply issues "empty threat(s)."

"Hmmm. I hope I am wrong, but I'm starting to feel dumb for buying a bunch of your stuff to support your company during your move and beyond," Michael Franklin, of Arizona, wrote last week. "What happened to the principles you were passionate about?"
Steve Allen, of North Carolina, also expressed his impatience with Magpul's lack of progress in leaving Colorado.
"Still waiting for the move. I'm a business owner -- I know how difficult a move is," he wrote. "You drew a line and the Colorado legislature crossed it. I sure hope your line means more than Obama's line in Syria."

But alas! Talk is cheap! When they lost the legislative battle they then discovered that its a little harder to pull up stakes and move to punish the liberal elites. You might put this under the heading of Econ 101: capital flight is a whole lot easier than labor and industrial flight and running away from home because you don't like the dinner mom is serving is not exactly a cost free endeavour.

Slowly, bitterly, the customers learn that a stiff prick has no conscience and that Magpul wasn't really all that determined to lose money in defense of a principle when they can just keep making money selling stuff to people who want stuff.  It might not be the same people as before, but it will still be money. As for their principles? Could it really be that a capitalist producer of stuff just wants to sell stuff? 

"In the beginning they would post comments and have rallies in support of the 2nd Amendment," said Steven Power, of Texas. "As time has gone on you have heard less and less from them on the move. With the lines of communication dead, it looks like a marketing ploy."

All that end of the world talk was just for show and, like the Republicans in the House, in the end you have to compromise with reality. But this isn't the end of the story--again, like Boehner and the Tea Party Reps, Magpul has gotten its customers riled up and now can't satisfy their desire to see someone hurt. So the natural progression (as from hurting Federal workers to hurting the world, from shutdown to default) is from hurting the State of Colorado to hurting Magpul.  Now the customer base decides to start going Galt itself. Some decide to stop buying what Magpul is selling

"like Ronny Johnson, of Texas, [who lost]  any hope that Magpul intends to stick to its principles. He now calls himself a former customer..."I do think they will see a loss of business. They have lost mine.",
But others, the second variety, merely resign themselves to hoping someone else does the punishing and effectively ill wishing rather than acting: "Power said he is still hoping for the best, but bracing for the worst.
"If this all turns out to be nothing but a way to sell guns and gun accessories, then I hope they go out of business," he said.

 Its like the Zeno's paradox of going Galt. At every step towards fleeing this vale of tears some percentage drops off, and some percentage turn their ire on their former comrades or communities.  Talk about fewer but better Russians! There's a Nepali locution seems apt here "As for doing X, so do X."  As for going Galt, so go Galt already. Its going to be mighty lonely when you get to that Gulch.

Politico Throws Some Shade

Do you remember this ?

It goes with this.

“John, what happened?” Obama asked, according to people briefed on the Oct. 2 conversation.
“I got overrun, that’s what happened,” Boehner said.

Friday, October 18, 2013

This is not good for my Wa, but it needs to be said

I'm bouncing back and forth between the homey task of making dinner and a discussion of "rapenado" over at LGM.  This is not healthy because Rape and Challah don't belong together. However, they go together in this world. Something which has not been said yet over there but which needs to be said is that there is a reason that the moral panic about drinking and girls and rape comes together with a clap of thunder, like matter and anti matter, annihilating all reason. Its because rape has to do with consent, and the way our culture thinks about alcohol and drunknness influences the way we think about consent. Thats because drinking and being drunk is gendered, like everything else--like our ideas about sexuality, responsibility, agency, and desire.  Basically, and I won't bother to go into my analysis i'll just put it out there--sex is something men are seen as needing, something which they "take" and which augments their masculine power. The more sex partners, the more powerful while, for women, the opposite is (largely) true: the sex is something that is taken from a woman, or that she gives up, and the more sexual partners she has, or the more sex acts she has, the more she loses socially.

What does alcohol have to do with this? Well first of all American culture has a very fraught relationship with drinking and with public drunkenness dating back before prohibition and bringing on prohibition. Thats to put it mildly. Drinking is seen as a valorized social act, a well loved social lubricant, that allows people (usually men) to blow off steam and relax and socialize.

Whats so bad about that? Why is alcohol the moral panic of the moment? Admittedly there have been several high profile cases of very young girls who were raped and videotaped while they were too drunk to protest or escape. But there have been some pretty damned high profile cases of girls who were kidnapped and raped and held prisoner for years and that has not produced the same moral panic and cries of "we must warn our daughters."  The drinking seems to be thought of as a form of contributory negligence on the part of the girls even though they were in the instant case definitionally too young to consent to the sex, and even too young to have gone to the party in the first place and done the drinking.

In addition to the hysterical cries that we must warn our daughters, but only our daughters, against the dangers of social drinking and the society of men there is a huge amount of pushback, amounting to some kind of deep seated psychological need on the part of (some) (male) commenters, to insist that it would be both wrong and unnecessary to lecture men about the evils of drinking to excess. Sometimes this is because of a cultural myth that it is merely deliberate predators who rape--its not the drunk guy who doesn't know what consent is and is not able to distinguish between a sleeping woman and a willing partner its some fanged, serial rapist, a nearly separate category of guy.  Sometimes its because of an incohate belief that drinking is a natural and normal part of being a guy but is something women have only lately adopted, possibly because of some stupid feminist equality shtick, and so women should be discouraged from drinking while men should be left alone with their culturally valued social practice.  Myself I put drinking shots and drinking to excess under the heading of "stupid cultural practices that social media encourage" like owning and playing with guns under the impression that because in the movies none of the important people ever die from being shot.

But something else, it seems to me, is going on in some of these arguments. And that is that society is still deeply suspicious of women and women's free enjoyment of public space and their own sexuality. Drinking, and drinking to excess, is seen as sloppy, disgusting, and dangerous. But its also seen as culpable, as though it reveals, beneath it all, a person who wants what happens to her. Meanwhile, for men, drinking to excess is seen as harmless fun--even the violence and property damage that results from a lot of male binge drinking is still put down to "boys will be boys."  Its as though the consequences of drunkeness for women are seen as the fault of the women, while the consequences of drunkeness for men are seen as the fault of the drink.  And you can see that in the way women who get raped are held partially at fault for having "put themselves at risk" and having been too drunk to save themselves from the actions of the rapist, while conversely the rapist himself is excused because the alcohol he has consumed has made him less responsible for his actions.

I'm not talking about the law here--the law in many places in the US has shifted so that it is classified as rape or sexual abuse to have sexual contact with an unconscious person regardless of the intent or capacity of the person who is initiating the sex. But I think thats a pretty fair analysis of the underlying cultural tropes and beliefs that enable rape cases to be dismissed because a drunken 13 year old is thought to have, in some sense, given consent or egged her abuser on while a drunken 17 year old is represented as helpless in the face of his own drinking and sexuality to avoid raping her.

This Guy Knows From Splittsville

Oh, this guy should know from splitting.

Remember this?

The day after Labor Day, just as campaign season was entering its final frenzy, FreedomWorks, the Washington-based tea party organization, went into free fall.
Richard K. Armey, the group’s chairman and a former House majority leader, walked into the group’s Capitol Hill offices with his wife, Susan, and an aide holstering a handgun at his waist. The aim was to seize control of the group and expel Armey’s enemies: The gun-wielding assistant escorted FreedomWorks’ top two employees off the premises, while Armey suspended several others who broke down in sobs at the news.
It resulted in this:
The coup lasted all of six days. By Sept. 10, Armey was gone — with a promise of $8 million — and the five ousted employees were back. The force behind their return was Richard J. Stephenson, a reclusive Illinois millionaire who has exerted increasing control over one of Washington’s most influential conservative grass-roots organizations.
It is remembered on the Tea Party side this way:

“There was a coup during the election, and it was powerful,” Beck said.  “They were trying to get rid of the libertarian, Tea Party-minded power players, and first and foremost on that hit list was Matt Kibbe and his allies. They didn’t like the fact that FreedomWorks was cleaning house in the GOP…that they were targeting people like Orrin Hatch.  It didn’t sit well with the Karl Roves of the GOP world…”
This may explain why Dick Armey was willing to go on record making fun of the Tea Party and its lack of foresight during the shut down.

I will predict this: When they agree on a spending bill, it will speak not at all to Obamacare and it will be at budgetary numbers higher than the sequestration level. And so in the end, the Republican conference will lose ground on the budget, they will lose ground on health care, they will lose ground politically, and they’ll be in a worse position than where Boehner had them going into this process. And they’ll all blame Boehner, bless his heart.


Before this goes down the Memory Hole I'd like to point out that whatever this sauced goose is having ought to remind us that the right wing vortex routinely spits out stuff that it condemns madly in Democrats. I mean, this is no more than to repeat "Its OK If You Are A Republican" but come on.  The original accusation, which circulated madly in right wing circles at the time, was that Hillary Clinton was no true Methodist but a crazed, satanic, holder of seances in the White House.  I can't find any links to those stories and sermons but they were always served up in a Janus faced format: for the true believers, the kind of people who morphed into the Tea Party, you would hear about this in sermons, jokes, and hate radio as a well known "fact."  Hillary herself admitted it, so it was true in some existential sense, but the gloss that was put on it was quite toxic and formed part of the generalized attack on the Clintons as alien/liberal/satanic products of an alternate and unamerican history in which Eleanor Roosevelt was admired and invoked as a patron saint.  For people interacting with a non evangelical or moderate audience the entire thing was offered up as a sign that she was kooky and fringey in a lefty kind of way. It wasn't asserted, there, that she was actually holding a literal seance or invoking ghostly spirits but more that she drew inspiration from the wrong people in a creepily liberal way.  So pervasive were both attacks that the Providence Journal, in a link that is now broken, had to report the rumors in this fashion:
Hillary Clinton says imaginary talks just ‘intellectual exercise’, The Providence Journal Bulletin, Tuesday, 6/25/96, p. A3. “Hillary Rodham Clinton said yesterday her imaginary conversations with Eleanor Roosevelt were merely an ‘intellectual exercise’ … Trying to douse what she called ‘sensational’ speculation, the first lady rejected inferences that psychic researcher Jean Houston, who led her in several White House sessions, was her ‘spiritual adviser’.”
“In a written statement, Mrs. Clinton was firm in her denial that there were any psychic or religious overtones to the sessions. ‘The bottom line is: I have no spiritual advisers or any other alternatives to my deeply held Methodist faith and traditions upon which I have relied since childhood.’ ”
“Mrs. Clinton met with Houston several times from late 1994 until March of this year, according to a new book [by Bob Woodward, 'The Choice'] that says Houston led the first lady through imaginary conversations with her hero, Mrs. Roosevelt and Indian leader … Ghandi … Mrs. Clinton said she engaged in hours of ‘freewheeling discussions’ with Houston.”

A Clean Kitchen Is Like a Blank Page

I am working on a long post about Andrew Solomon's "Far From the Tree" and, what else, right wing anxiety about the future of a multi cultural America in which our "descendants" and "heirs" don't look like us or sound like us or want what we thought we wanted.  But first I see before me, ready to my hand, that most delectable of places: a clean kitchen. And naturally I want to detour through it and make it rich and warm and happy and messy so I'm off to prep a sabbath dinner.

Chicken in milk and sage with stuffing
kale and dried cherries
tarte tatin or another version, maybe small open faced carmelized apple tarts.

Will my chicken come robed in a "chasuble of golden skin" like Francoise's? I hope so.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Your Evening Chutzpah

He also alleged that President Obama was the one willing to crash the federal debt ceiling to win the fight, saying the White House was banking on the media blaming Republicans if a breach occurred.
"I think that's something our leadership has been pretty naive about. They think they're negotiating with somebody who's unwilling to breach the debt ceiling," Labrador said. "I think he has wanted to breach the debt ceiling because he knows that the media will blame the Republican Party."

Well Isn't That Special? WSJ's version of "Thanks Obama."

So far so good. The WSJ explains it all for the Congressmen who can still read:

This is the quality of thinking—or lack thereof—that has afflicted many GOP conservatives from the beginning of this budget showdown. They picked a goal they couldn't achieve in trying to defund ObamaCare from one House of Congress, and then they picked a means they couldn't sustain politically by pursuing a long government shutdown and threatening to blow through the debt limit.
And then, all of a sudden, its Obama's fault for letting the crazies go their limit.

President Obama called their bluff, no doubt in part to blame the disruption on the GOP and further tarnish the party's public image.
Begin comparisons to the inequeties of the Treaty of Versailles in Oh, I'm sorry, Lindsay Graham has already gone there with a pre-emptive self pity lightning strike.

Been Wondering Where They Got Their Notion that the Default Was No Big Deal

Might have guessed the fell hand of Harvard was at work.  Townhall slips us the mickey with this quote of a letter supposedly written by Feldstein to Greg Mankiw:
However, not everyone is as concerned about an imminent default as Lew.
Martin Feldstein, Harvard University economics professor and President Emeritus of the National Bureau of Economic Research, wrote that despite cries from the Wall Street Journal, Financial Times and politicians, a default is very unlikely:
 “The US government collects enough in taxes each month to finance the interest on the debt, etc. The government may not be able to separate all accounts into "pay" and "no pay" groups but it can certainly identify the interest payments. An inability to borrow would have serious economic consequences if it lasted for any sustained period but it would not have to threaten our credit standing.” 

What the writer of the Townhall essay and, one sees, our Tea Partiers fail to grasp is the precise meaning of the words "concern" "default" "unlikely" and "identify the interest payments."  You might also look back up and see the phrase "The government may not be able to separate all accounts into "pay" and "no pay" groups but..." and marvel at the work that "may not" does.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Am I The Only One Who Imagines They End Up Voting In their PJ's?

I've been following the back and forth pretty closely. As far as I can see the only way the government re-opens and the debt ceiling is lifted is if Boehner waits for his caucus of angry tea partiers to leave town and then he and Cantor about face, quick march into the House and with the help of Pelosi hold the vote while 40 or 50 of his most intransigent caucus members are simply not present. I presume that they will do this as though no one will notice, because up until now that has been their modus operandi--to say and do the stupidest things in public and in private and then look surprised when they are queried about them afterwards.  Boehner seems to have all the stealthy grace of the permanently potted so he is used to knocking over the furniture while lurching up and downstairs at night and probably thinks no one notices.

Small, but Huge

Charlie Pierce on Income Verification:
Take, for example, the tougher income-verification standards for the people seeking to qualify for subsidies under the Affordable Care Act. This is almost universally described as a "minor tweak" to the health-care law, usually by people that it never will affect. In real life terms, it opens up a whole universe of cruel, low-level political mischief similar to that being played out (again) with the Social Security disability payments. If standards can be tough, why can't they be tougher? And tougher still? Waste! Fraud! Abuse! (I can see the 60 Minutes report now.) People who get caught in this mill are going to have their lives made worse. They are going to be strangled with paperwork. This may be the price Democrats have to pay to get a deal, but let's not pretend that this is going to be minor to anyone who has to cope with it in their daily lives.

I have a friend who used to do trauma therapy for teens and their families in Lowell. The amount of paperwork these families, frequently immigrant, illiterate, and in crisis had to fill out was just staggering. She told me that she couldn't keep doing the work because she couldn't face forcing some sobbing woman to fill out and refill out hours of paperwork, neverending, kafkaesque, intrusive and demeaning paperwork that took the hours she could have spent treating them and turned them into a nightmare of bureaucratic indifference.

Albion's Fatal Seed

I always misremember the title of this book ( Albion's Seed) as Albion's Fatal Seed.   After you read this excellent, comprehensive, diary from "Geenius at Wrok" on  Dkos  you will see why. This is one of my favorite books and I've been meaning to re-review it here during this Tea Party induced debacle. But this morning I found a really excellent review and rundown of exactly why this book of history, sociology, and linguistics about the founding of the country still matters and still explains what is going on today better than almost any other book you could read. This diary is so good that I'm just going to excerpt part of it here and link to it because it really took a ton of work to do and it deserves to be read in its entirety. If the excerpt seems a little overblown I can assure you that he nails both the book (which is highly detailed and well written as an ethnohistory) and the follow on history of the modern US.  Charts, graphs, and demographics galore.  I'll wait right here if anyone wants to discuss it.

Four years ago, reading the agenda of the 2009 Values Voters Summit, I hypothesized a connection between the agenda of the Republican Party base and the values of one of America's four founding subcultures, the northern English and Scots-Irish "Borderers" who settled the Appalachian "backcountry" and highland South, as described by the historical anthropologist David Hackett Fischer in Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America. I wrote about this theory in a Daily Kos diary titled "Yo, Pundits! Here's What's Up With the Republicans.""The more we study the Borderers' folkways in Britain and in America," I wrote, "the more we see how thoroughly the Republican Party has adopted this culture's worldview and purged itself of incompatible elements."
That was in the first year of President Barack Obama's administration. Four years later, it's become even more apparent -- as has the party's monomaniacal hostility toward the president.
I suspect that too many people continue to believe either that Republican opposition to Obama is either a simple ideological difference or rooted in straightforward racism. These explanations tell only a sliver of the story.
Obama is viewed a threat by Borderer Republicans because his ways are antithetical to theirs on so many levels: He advocates cooperative partnership and brotherhood, brushes off insults, proclaims a desire to sit down with enemies and talk rather than fight, and projects tolerance and trust. He's highly educated and sophisticated in his speech and has never been in the military. He's in a partnership of equals with a strong, professional wife. His Christianity is of the inner-light variety. And his ambiguous ethnicity can only be a source of frustration to anyone accustomed to seeing the world divided into neat opposites: he looks black, but he's only half-black, and he doesn't sound black or act stereotypically black, and he's also financially successful. Yet looking black, in America, has always been enough to mark one as black -- besides which, his father was Kenyan, which makes him not only black but foreign.Yet he was born in Hawai'i, which is American, but sort of foreign at the same time . . .
The point is, the opposition to Obama doesn't come from just one thing. Even if he were straightforwardly, obviously white, the other aspects of his personality would be more than enough to generate intense hostility among Borderers. (Recall the right's hostility toward Bill Clinton, who had the same cool temper and intellect, the same preference for cooperation, and a similar marriage of equals with a strong, professional wife -- despite being a Borderer himself.) It's the fact that Obama is all these things that elevates Borderer Republicans' antipathy to apocalyptic fear -- and that has led to the emergence of the Tea Party as an opposing force.
It's now four years later. We're in the midst of a government shutdown precipitated by Tea Party Republicans seeking a showdown with the man they've inflated into a towering nemesis of Führeresque proportions, and we're coming up on yet another Values Voters Summit. What can these things tell us about the size, force and nature of the Tea Party bloc and where America can go from here?
The Republican Party is the party of the South, in culture if not in literal geography. It represents the descendants of the Borderers and the Cavaliers -- but the only vestige of Cavalier influence is the whiff of aristocracy surrounding the party's coddling of the financial industry. . . . In other respects, the Borderers are running the show, and they won't yield an inch to anyone, even their own allies.

Fringe Benefits and Liabilities

Jay Ackroyd  over at Eschaton says:

By a couple orders of magnitude, the biggest national security threat to the United States is climate change. And while it is happening incredibly quickly in geological time, it is happening incredibly slowly in human lifespan time, not to mention election cycle or quarterly earnings time. It's really hard to convey to people living their daily lives that we're looking at a once in 60 million years event,  the equivalent of massive asteroid strike. 
It would help if our fiction writers and producers would help convey the magnitude of the threat.

But I'm not so sure I agree that this is how people grasp the fictional accounts of things.  I've become a devotee of Fringe and I've been wanting to write about why that is for a while.  Now is not the time but Fringe, it seems to me, speaks to these issues--issues of climate change, human agency, hubris, destruction on an epic scale. So how does it, or any fictionalized account of these thing,  affect its viewers--how does it enable us to recognize and deal with the threat of climate change? I'm not sure it can, or not necessarily in a good way.  I'm a huge fan of S.M. Stirling's dystopian alternate future (and past) work as well.  Both Fringe and S.M. Stirling's work are quintessentially American takes on disaster in which the reader is terrorized and, at the same time, reassured, by the fact that even in the midst of destruction a canonical hero and heroine survive, meet, and thrive.

In the case of Fringe while fictional millions or billions or so people die, or will die, horrible and tragic deaths in several alternate universes and our hero and heroine are cockblocked an epic dozens of times the viewer's angst is always assuaged by the overarching storyline: there are authorities who are working to fix things, science can help and will help, and our main characters will continue (sometimes even after death!) to be integral to the lives of the people they love.  Fan Service will continue despite open wormholes, grotesque biological harm, radiation poisoning, and mysterious dead zones swallowing up Harvard University and even coffee production.

In S.M. Stirling's "Emberverse" series, before it falls off into faux celtic woo, the actual consequences of something as simple as the disappearance of gunpowder and electrical energy is fully explored. What happens when a civilization loses the ability to power itself using fossil fuels and modern batteries and is thrown back on pre-modern forms? Inquiring minds want to know--the answer is that while, again, millions die in a population crash that takes out every city in a matter of days a few heroic people, people that we identify with, survive.  Our anxiety is assuaged by our identification with the heroes.

And it really needs to be that way since, of course, stories in which everyone dies including whoever the author allows the reader to identify with, are not exactly empowering.  Not that I'm all about things that are empowering but if the argument is that we need to know how bad things could get in order to start doing something about it I tend to think that even dystopias need to have a silver lining or else the readers simply crawl under the bed and refuse to come out.

Of course when you see the success the right has had with The Late Great Planet Earth and the Left Behind (1) series you have to figure that any fictional pushback against fatalistic religiosity and anti-scientism is a good thing.

(1) In case you aren't familiar with Fred Clark's brilliant series of literary and moral critiques of the Left Behind books here is one of the introductions to his work at the Left Behind link under "Left Behind Is Evil." This is a rather alarming but merely factual pull quote. The series, which he began in 2003, is filled with the most astonishingly beautiful insights into the way agency, morality, love, and even mere genre writing is distorted and deformed in this pseudo Christian crank series.

Millions of your fellow citizens are reading these books. Millions. If you're wondering what that means for you, read the following, from Glenn Scherer in E magazine:In his book The Carbon Wars, Greenpeace activist Jeremy Leggett tells how he stumbled upon this otherworldly agenda. During the Kyoto climate change negotiations, Leggett candidly asked Ford Motor Company executive John Schiller how opponents of the pact could believe there is no problem with “a world of a billion cars intent on burning all the oil and gas available on the planet?” The executive asserted first that scientists get it wrong when they say fossil fuels have been sequestered underground for eons. The Earth, he said, is just 10,000, not 4.5 billion years old, the age widely accepted by scientists.Then Schiller confidently declared, “You know, the more I look, the more it is just as it says in the Bible.” The Book of Daniel, he told Leggett, predicts that increased earthly devastation will mark the “End Time” and return of Christ. Paradoxically, Leggett notes, many fundamentalists see dying coral reefs, melting ice caps and other environmental destruction not as an urgent call to action, but as God’s will. Within the religious right worldview, the wreck of the Earth can be seen as Good News!
Some true believers, interpreting biblical prophecy, are sure they will be saved from the horrific destruction brought by ecosystem collapse. They’ll be raptured: rescued from Earth by God, who will then rain down seven ghastly years of misery on unbelieving humanity. Jesus’ return will mark the Millennium, when the Lord restores the Earth to its green pristine condition, and the faithful enjoy a thousand years of peace and prosperity.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Somewhere In A Word Cloud

The entire bloggosphere is trying to make sense of what we are seeing unfold, and what we are hearing as the excuse for it.  First the government must be shut down before Obamacare destroys it, then Obamacare can merely be delayed and fixed, then the fix itself is to be something that the Republicans themselves champion (inequality), then we are on to simply holding the debt ceiling hostage until Obama himself is forced to "cut government spending back to 2001 levels" or raise the funds himself and then be impeached.  The thing which strikes most normal people is that all of these goals can't be met simultaneously--some conflict with each other. Destroying or delaying Obamacare raises the deficit and creates more inequality in access to health insurance.  Refusing to raise the debt ceiling and pay our bills on time does not, in fact, increase world confidence in our ability to pay our bills. Etc...etc...etc...

I'm not surprised, however, at the general illogic and mushy thinking. I encountered it before during the run up to the invasion of Iraq. My sister-in-law, a lifelong Republican and daughter of that double threat an ex military man who worked in the insurance business, bought every single weaving, incoherent, dodge of the Bush government hook, line, and sinker.  The more illogical, the more obviously made up, the more spurious, the more manipulative the better.  Talking to her about it was a real life lesson to me. I explained to her what bombing a major city, filled with innocent civilians, would look like and she told me, with hands clasped across her bosom in the age old gesture of empathy and sincerity, that she believed that Bush's motives were "humanitarian"--that his goal was to free the Iraqi people from the control of a tyrant.  Especially the women.

They don't see the contradictions in their arguments because they just don't think that way about history, or society, or motivations--we were having this discussion the other day at Alicublog and I wanted to lift out part of it here:

LookWhosInTheFreezer  Bethany Spencer 

They love contradictions. Obama is: a femme weakling/most powerful ChicagoThugDictator ever, teleprompter-reliant moron/evil genius, antibusiness hippy/Wall Street fellator, lazy vacation-lover who also works 24/7 to destroy Democracy etc.

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    reallyaimai  LookWhosInTheFreezer 

    I don't think they love the contradictions. I think they are just very, very, very, confused about agency and causality and, you know, stuff. They don't connect--and yes, Howard's End is one of my favorite books--neither the past to the present (like what they said yesterday) nor the act to its results (like what is the harm of shutting down the government and refusing to pay our bills?) or their actions to the actions of their future enemies (what do you mean this is a tactic that will be used against us later?) nor person to person (thanks to god's grace I can never be in the position of that other person.) There's nothing connecting their two visions of Obama because they don't require there to be a connection. They areunaware of the contradiction.
    I was trying to describe this to someone IRL the other day and the best I could come up with is that they don't think linearly or causally at all but rather with a kind of word cloud of possibilities that are always moving around, getting bigger and smaller, and potentiating each other by proximity. So its more true that Obama is an evil person because he has done something strong and something that appears weak at the same time. Two events that happen close together must be related by an overarching theory not of mind but of nature/will (good or evil) while events that happen far apart can be isolated and seen as separate--even if the same person is doing them or if the causes and connecting institutions are obvious.