17 May 2013
15 May 2013
So I guess scandal season is upon us, as once again Republicans try to disrupt a Democratic President's electoral victory through a combination of legal action and press manipulation. Benghazi has been a big success with the Republican base and a nonstarter with anyone else because there's just no there there; like a lot of lefties, I cannot even tell what the scandal is supposed to be on that one. The Department of Justice getting Associated Press journalists' phone records, on the other hand, is a legitimate scandal that I'm upset about. I expect to post about again, but it hasn't quite caught fire yet, in part because it's a continuation of the ongoing development imperial executive in the name of national security which has been an uninterrupted process whichever party has held power.
Then there's this IRS thing. That one's legitimate but not actually all that big a deal; hence “mini-scandal”. I have a couple of helpful commentaries.
The first is from the Rude Pundit, who lays out what obviously happened.
Look, we know how this went down: Post-Citizens United, the Internal Revenue Service was flooded with applications for tax-exempt status for whatever organization a couple of fucksacks with a tricorner hat wanted to start. “Social welfare” groups, they were called, and they could not be involved with specific political candidates or advocacy (although, you know, c'mon). So the IRS told its low-level drones who had to look at all the fucksack applications to flag ones that looked hinky. So the low-level drones, who are overworked to begin with because Congress won't give the IRS the funding it needs to do its fucking job, used some search terms.
It's 2010 and who are the fucksacks who are everywhere? The “Tea Party” groups. So, sure, fine, let's fuckin’ search that. Low-level drone 1 tells low-level drone 2 (and for god's sake, they live in the dull, dull, boring, dull city of Cincinnati, so give ’em a little break), “Hey, just use ‘Patriot’ as a search term and you'll get your job done faster because if there's one thing we know, it's that a whole bunch of these applications are from crazed fucksacks applying for tax-exempt status because they hate them that black guy in office.” Low-level drone 2 might have said, “Oh, shit, that'll get us in trouble.” But low-level drone 1 had a convincing argument by saying, “You wanna get to the bar sooner?” By the way, chances are that LLD 1 and LLD 2 have been LLDs forever, under at least one GOP president.
Does this narrative need to be completed?
Digby offers a quote from Josh Micah Marshall which explains why this trivial thing is such a big thing.
If you wanted create a scandal to have maximal appeal to GOP base freakout, this is it. And it has the additional advantage of not creating the same sort of off-putting crazy as hitting other bugaboos beloved by base Republicans. It’s not about Obama’s ties to the Muslim brotherhood or his foreign birth. It’s about taxes, something everyone has an experience with and understands. And it’s at least rooted in something that’s true. Something really did happen. And it’s not good. It shouldn’t happen. It even has unexpected knock-on effects like the IRS’s supposed connection to the dreaded ‘Obamacare’.
14 May 2013
So I go to see Iron Man 3 and there are a bunch of action movie trailers before the movie starts. Including this one for White House Down. I want to say something serious about it.
Hang on a second before you watch that trailer. I'd already seen an earlier trailer, cut rather differently, playing up the classic Bruckheimer stuff: explosions, crowds of people running, explosions, the US military's expensive toys, explosions, famous landmarks, and explosions. Since Independence Day opened big on the strength of an effects shot of aliens blowing up the White House, here we get the White House and the Capitol Building on fire. Jerry Bruckheimer and Roland Emmerich sure know how to hook a certain deep part of the American id.
The newer trailer, which I posted above, is more character-driven. We meet Channing Tatum as the big dumb lunk who's going to have to save the day, a failure who will be redeemed by his standing up as a hero when his moment comes. Add some rifles and terrorists and running around in corridors and our hero wearing an A-Shirt with a few scratches on his face and we've got the Die Hard formula: it's Die Hard in the White House, a perfect set-up for a big dumb action movie.
And then we meet his co-star, Jamie Foxx, who will be his action-comedy buddy, a reluctant hero who has to overcome his discomfort with violence to pick up a gun and save the day. Check them out. Does Foxx look like a dapper badass or what?
Foxx is the brains of this team, right? Of course, because This Is America, that just means that he has a lot to learn from the big dumb lunk. Still, remember that back when Emmerich did this in Independence Day, to have Will Smith as the hero we needed to give him a Jewish sidekick to figure out the brainy stuff, because racism with racism sauce. So this is progress, sort of.
Foxx is the smart one in a nice suit because he's playing the President of the United States, following in the footsteps of Action Hero President Harrison Ford from Air Force One. Because Obama. Now I don't want to be one of those White guys who's all now that Obama is President racism in America is totally solved because obviously not. But. Something's happening here.
And I cannot help but notice that the image of a black guy running around the White House with a gun ... because he's Action Hero President ... is quoting one of the most powerful propaganda images of the 20th century.
What do you want to bet that there's a shot in this movie which mirrors that photo exactly?
We've gone from the same image signifying Malcolm X deliberately stepping into the role of White fears of Black political violence to it signifying we need a heroic Black leader with a gun to save America.
God bless America.
05 May 2013
Driftglass offers a thumbnail sketch of paranoia and deceit entangled in pseudo-libertarian politics.
For them, the world makes only makes sense as a Philip Dick novel in which everything the government does at virtually every level is suffused with monstrous intentions and dark designs. For them, the world is The Matrix: a massive scam built on top of a web of far-reaching and apparently infinite number of conspiracies in which everyone who is not 100% on their side is either a co-conspirator or a somnolent dupe.
Of course, when the mundane realities of the business of government — even government during a crisis — falls short of proving their specific brand of vast and terrible plots, they have to back-fill or pave over all bits that don't fit — all the chuckholes and logic-chasms and tire-shredding facts — with, well, bullshit.
He provides a tidy example in the form of a clip about Rand & Ron Paul.
04 May 2013
Another item for the “Naomi Wolf is not too bright” file: she's allowed LewRockwell.com to post several articles of hers.
Lew Rockwell is almost certainly the author of Ron Paul's old racist newsletter and his site is a hotbed of goofy crackpottery, predictions that a civil war is coming when the government sends former gang members to confiscate our guns and put us in FEMA concentration camps, and other craziness. No responsible person should allow their byline under his masthead.
02 May 2013
30 April 2013
24 April 2013
Andrew O'Hehir has an good screed in Salon, How Boston exposes America’s dark post-9/11 bargain, which says that the events around the Boston bombing indict pretty much every sector of the Republic as having failed in the wake of 9/11: the press, the government, the commentariat, the polity, the whole thing. Not anything anyone who's reading me doesn't know, but still: a good screed. So check it out.
I want to focus on how, near the end, this jumped out at me:
In America after 9/11, we made a deal with the devil, or with Dick Cheney, which is much the same thing.
The supposed tradeoff for that sacrifice was that we would be protected, at least for a while, from the political violence and terrorism and low-level warfare that is nearly an everyday occurrence in many parts of the world. According to the Afghan government, for example, a NATO air attack on April 6 killed 17 civilians in Kunar province, 12 of them children. We’ve heard almost nothing about that on this side of the world, partly because the United States military has not yet admitted that it even happened. But it’s not entirely fair to suggest that Americans think one kid killed by a bomb in Boston is worth more than 12 kids killed in Afghanistan. It’s more that we live in a profoundly asymmetrical world, and the dead child in Boston is surprising in a way any number of dead children in Afghanistan, horrifyingly enough, are not. He lived in a protected zone, after all, a place that was supposed to be sealed off from history, isolated from the blood and turmoil of the world. But of course that was a lie.
Well of course it was a lie. Again, not anything anyone who's reading me doesn't know.
But while I understand why O'Hehir is saying that Americans don't really think our children's lives are more important than other children's lives, we sure act like it. And that reminded me of a blog post from Mia McKenzie of Black Girl Dangerous that I've been meaning to blog about, Hey, White Liberals: A Word On The Boston Bombings, The Suffering Of White Children, And The Erosion of Empathy.
Your constant prioritization of the lives of white people over the lives of people of color is taking a serious toll on my psyche and those of many in my community. And by that I don't mean what you might expect. Most of us already know that racism and its BFF white privilege have detrimental effects on people of color. Racial oppression leads to any number of unhealthy conditions, including high blood pressure, depression, heart disease, diabetes and even asthma. But what I’m talking about is something different. Something I’m going to call DSWP: desensitization to the suffering of white people.
O'Hehir is nosing around the foothills of that mountain whose slopes McKenzie is climbing — because after all, when he says “Americans” he's mostly talking about a mediasphere of White people — and I have to admit that there are moments where I feel like I'm drifting toward the altitude where McKenzie finds herself with the DSWP. White people beating their breasts about their misfortunes is starting to feel very, very unseemly to me ... and I am a White person.
This means that this is an even worse moment for the Republic than O'Hehir says, does it not?
23 April 2013
These words were published by a well-known radical feminist in 1974. (Note that at that time, “transsexual” was used where today one would more politely use “transgender”.)
There is no doubt that in the culture of male-female discreteness, transsexuality is a disaster for the individual transsexual. Every transsexual, white, black, man, woman, rich, poor, is in a state of primary emergency as a transsexual. There are 3 crucial points here.
One, every transsexual has the right to survival on his/her own terms. That means every transsexual is entitled to a sex-change operation, and it should be provided by the community as one of its functions. This is an emergency measure for an emergency condition.
Two, by changing our premises about men and women, role-playing and polarity, the social situation of transsexuals will be transformed, and transsexuals will be integrated into community, no longer persecuted and despised.
Three, community built on androgynous identity will mean the end of transsexuality as we know it. Either the transsexual will be able to expand his/her sexuality into a fluid androgyny, or, as roles disppear, the phenomenon of transsexuality will disappear and that energy will be transformed into new modes of sexual identity and behavior.
Can you guess who? Seriously, guess. Then go see; there's more.
22 April 2013
I keep referencing this cartoon and having to track it down again, so I'm posting a copy of it here for my convenience. It makes the point beautifully.
At the Climate Summit we see a man giving a presentation, showing a slide saying:
An angry man in the audience asks, “What if it's a big hoax and we create a better world for nothing?”
- Energy independence
- Preserve rainforests
- Green jobs
- Livable cities
- Clean water, air
- Healthy children
- etc., etc.
17 April 2013
I don't know if this story is true, but I know that it's plausible.
I am a feminist. I have marched at the barricades, subscribed to Ms. magazine, and knocked on many a door in support of progressive candidates committed to women's rights. Until a month ago, I would have expressed unqualified support for Title IX and for the Violence Against Women Act.
But that was before my son, a senior at a small liberal-arts college in New England, was charged—by an ex-girlfriend—with alleged acts of “nonconsensual sex” that supposedly occurred during the course of their relationship a few years earlier.....
On today's college campuses, neither “beyond a reasonable doubt,” nor even the lesser “by clear and convincing evidence” standard of proof is required to establish guilt of sexual misconduct.
These safeguards of due process have, by order of the federal government, been replaced by what is known as “a preponderance of the evidence.”
It's trivial to notice that the criminal justice is horrifically ineffective in protecting women from nonconsensual sex, largely through dismissiveness about women attesting to their experience. But a standard which assumes that women would never lie is terrifying.
In a discussion of this story on Facebook, a male friend observes
Women have tremendous power over men.
I replied at length.
On balance, men as a class still have power over women. It's categorically less skewed than it was fifty years ago, but the bottom line is unmistakable: society advantages men and disadvantages women.
But this is the sum of a system of injustice which also creates meaningful injustices for men. I think we can recognize that the injustices against women are categorically greater while still objecting that the injustices against men need correcting. (Indeed, because these are interlocking systems, I suspect that one cannot fully correct the injustices women experience without also attending to the injustices that men experience.)
The model of the civil rights movement against racism adopted by feminist rhetoric proves misleading in this respect. Racism doesn't have significant injustices which cut the other way, but sexism does.
And the forms of power women have over men are largely threats that men face from extraordinarily unscrupulous women exploiting systems that serve typical women. This is very different from the way that injustices women encounter come from the exercise of power by typical men unconscious of the effect that they are having.
The flawed analogy to racism, the overall condition that women are treated less well by society, and the power that women do hold over men being largely a threat from atypical women makes men's vulnerability to the operations of power from women invisible to most women.
The story I linked is an example of a form of power that women don't notice because it would not occur to them that it could be used for ill. Women's sphere of experience is the pervasive threat of being coerced into sex through social pressures and violence. Saying that women making false accusations of rape is a threat to men sounds absurd to them, like a denial of the very real rapes that happen horrifyingly routinely.
But men have commonly had the experience of an encounter with a woman who was more unscrupulous than they realized at first and think to themselves, there but for the grace of God ....
I just discovered that Blogger has mislaid my post about what may be my favorite news story ever.
He was walking toward the stairs when a teenage boy approached and pulled out a knife.
“He wants my money, so I just gave him my wallet and told him, ‘Here you go,’ ” Diaz says.
As the teen began to walk away, Diaz told him, “Hey, wait a minute. You forgot something. If you're going to be robbing people for the rest of the night, you might as well take my coat to keep you warm.”
You know what happens next, right?
16 April 2013
Jesse Walker at Reason has a good overview of things to know about crises like the Boston bombing. This snippet stood out for me:
Movies and TV shows have given us a deeply misleading picture of how people behave after incidents like this, one where the folks at the scene of the crime lose their minds while those who have the benefit of distance keep a steady head. This is backwards. Sociologists have shown that people tend to behave very admirably under the pressure of a disaster; panic and anti-social behavior are fairly rare. We saw that pattern play out again in Boston, from the bystanders who instantly rushed toward the blasts to help the injured to the locals who opened their homes to stranded strangers.
This is a striking contrast to this quote from Rebecca Solnit, provided by Cory Doctrow at bOING bOING.
The term “elite panic” was coined by Caron Chess and Lee Clarke of Rutgers. From the beginning of the field in the 1950s to the present, the major sociologists of disaster — Charles Fritz, Enrico Quarantelli, Kathleen Tierney, and Lee Clarke — proceeding in the most cautious, methodical, and clearly attempting-to-be-politically-neutral way of social scientists, arrived via their research at this enormous confidence in human nature and deep critique of institutional authority. It’s quite remarkable.
Elites tend to believe in a venal, selfish, and essentially monstrous version of human nature, which I sometimes think is their own human nature. I mean, people don't become incredibly wealthy and powerful by being angelic, necessarily. They believe that only their power keeps the rest of us in line and that when it somehow shrinks away, our seething violence will rise to the surface — that was very clear in Katrina. Timothy Garton Ash and Maureen Dowd and all these other people immediately jumped on the bandwagon and started writing commentaries based on the assumption that the rumors of mass violence during Katrina were true. A lot of people have never understood that the rumors were dispelled and that those things didn't actually happen; it's tragic.
But there's also an elite fear — going back to the 19th century — that there will be urban insurrection. It's a valid fear. I see these moments of crisis as moments of popular power and positive social change. The major example in my book is Mexico City, where the '85 earthquake prompted public disaffection with the one-party system and, therefore, the rebirth of civil society.
Doctrow talks about why this is important.
In crisis – in the horrible, slow-motion, global economic/environmental catastrophe that we inhabit – we form theories about how everyone else will react and plan accordingly. When Katrina hit, people nodded when soldiers and mercenaries shot “looters” in New Orleans, convinced that looting was the sort of thing that transpired after disasters. That was news. Hardly noticed, months after the fact, was the truth that there was practically no looting in post-Katrina New Orleans, and that those shot – particularly those shot by Blackwater mercenaries – were innocents who’d been killed in the service of a lie: the lie that human beings are bad, and that the first thing we do when the veneer of civilization falls away is kill, rape, and/or eat one another. This lie was a racist lie, and it was a speciest lie, too.
This is the worst kind of lie: the lie that makes itself true. When enough people believe the libel against the human race, the vile calumny that “human nature” would have us all at each others’ throats were it not for coercive force, it becomes a truth. If you are sure your neighbor will kill you when the lights go out, the natural thing to do is kill him at the first flicker – and even if you’re more reasonable than that, you still won’t want to let a potential killer into your shelter; you won’t want to share your food with him; you won’t want to take in his children when they need it.