Archive for Philosophy and Logic
The cattle barons are nervous and getting reckless.
The United States has come to resemble those iconic westerns with a Wild West economy in which cattle barons rule, politicians and lawmen are on their payrolls, and struggling settlers are either compliant or prey.
But after the 2008 crash and bailout on Wall Street, one after another Occupy, the Consumer Protection Bureau, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Moral Mondays and now Pope Francis have put the cattle barons on notice that their grip on power is weakening.
“America’s descending into madness,” writes Henry Giroux in his latest book. The author appeared on Bill Moyer’s program Friday as the nation observed the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination. Since the Reagan-Thatcher era, Kennedy’s calls to public service and national aspiration have been systematically supplanted with an ethos of radical self-interest and tawdry appeals to men’s basest instincts. It is a world, Giroux asserts, in which elites consider that “survival of the fittest is all that matters” and that “democracy is an excess.” Giroux is appalled.
… the notion that profit making is the essence of democracy, the notion that economics is divorced from ethics, the notion that the only obligation of citizenship is consumerism, the notion that the welfare state is a pathology, that any form of dependency basically is disreputable and needs to be attacked, I mean, this is a vicious set of assumptions.
Damn. I mean, damn.
Throughout the interview, Brand repeatedly dodged Paxman’s efforts to trivialize his message — at one point Paxman literally called Brand a “very trivial man” — until finally, even the entrenched newsman appeared to relent against the rushing tide of Brand’s valid arguments.
The poison pills are piling up in Washington. Now a “conscience clause” has been added to the Continuing Resolution:
To the laundry list of demands made by House Republicans fighting health care reform, with the shutdown of the government and default on the national debt in the balance, add this last-minute item: limiting contraceptive coverage.
Multiple sources are reporting that Republicans have added language to the budget bill before the House that would allow employers and insurers to opt out of preventative care for women if the employer or insurer finds that care objectionable on moral or religious grounds. Obamacare rules require all insurers and employers except for religious nonprofit organizations to offer contraceptive coverage. This language would remove the contraceptive coverage requirement.
On the surface, this appears to be just a bone thrown to the religious right among other ransom demands in a bill that will go nowhere. It is. But the impulse behind these sorts of rules isn’t just religion. It’s about power.
The Republican Party is acting out one of those dreary murder ballads with America. You know the ones, where the rejected suitor declares, “If I can’t have you, then no one can!” Then he murders the woman to put her out of his misery.
America, how we loved ye!
The Republican-led U.S. House voted last week to throw 4 million Americans off the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps), largely on party lines. Then it voted 230-to-189 to shut down the government if Obamcare isn’t defunded. Then Republicans threw a party.
At the National Review, Henry Olsen threw up his hands:
The conservative war on food stamps is the most baffling political move of the year. Conservatives have suffered for years from the stereotype that they are heartless Scrooge McDucks more concerned with our money than other people’s lives. Yet in this case, conservatives make the taking of food from the mouths of the genuinely hungry a top priority. What gives? And why are conservatives overlooking a far more egregious abuse of taxpayer dollars in the farm bill? [Emphasis by Jonathan Chait]
“It’s not baffling,” writes Chait, nor a stereotype. “Indeed, it’s the only analysis that persuasively explains the facts.”
On that note, a recent Facebook posting linked to yet another article attempting to explain how poor, conservative, white voters can vote Republican against their best interests. It’s a common complaint on the left and bad messaging. As if liberals seriously want Americans to vote what’s best for No. 1.
Conservative voters don’t vote against their best interests anyway. Because they don’t vote their interests. They vote their identities. (Lakoff’s Second Law.) The problem for the left is that many poor, white, red-state voters don’t identify with Democrats.
There are plenty of reasons why on the Democratic side of the aisle, many rooted in social rather than economic issues. Still, it baffles the liberal mind that struggling red-state voters don’t see how the Republican Party and its policies are screwing them and destroying the American middle class. Besides, how can working-class voters possibly identify more with plutocrats and corporate interests?
Perhaps because at heart some are simply royalists?
Historian Robert Calhoon explained the proportions of loyalists and rebels during the American Revolution: “Historians’ best estimates put the proportion of adult white male loyalists somewhere between 15 and 20 percent.” As many as 500,000 loyalists among a population of 2.5 million colonists. They were particularly numerous in the South.
More militant tea party types promote the idea popularized by Mike Vanderboegh that only three percent of colonists actually fought against British tyranny. This makes self-styled patriots feel special. They even have Three Percenter arm patches and t-shirts to display along with their AR-15s.
Yet there are signs in the tea party movement that the royalists are still with us – both on the streets and in our legislatures.
Ironically, the Tea Party Patriots and other corporate-sponsored tea party groups take their name from a famous act of vandalism against the assets of the largest corporation of its day. The British East India Company ran whole British colonies and raised its own troops. It was so in bed with Parliament that it got tax subsidies that allowed the East India Company to undercut the price smugglers of Dutch tea offered to American colonists. The Tea Act protected the East India Company monopoly and Parliament’s investments. This ticked off smugglers and, combined with a nifty anti-tax slogan, colonists too. It resulted in a memorable destruction of company property.
Now try to imagine the contemporary tea party participating in anything like that against the East India Company’s modern-day equivalents. Nouveau tea party members carry signs like, “Got a job? Thank a rich person.” They suggest that only landowners should get to vote. They advocate the elimination of corporate taxes. Like their East India Company forebears, today’s elites have raised their own army – no oath of fealty needed. Among its members you’ll find some of the staunchest defenders of a business model crafted to shield Wall Street barons and corporate princes from personal responsibility for their business dealings. Because personal responsibility is for little people, not financial royalty.
For all their patriotic bluster, the tea party dresses like colonists and acts like royalists. They’re more Tory than tea party. And they vote that way.
Historians estimate that perhaps only 20 percent of the King’s loyal supporters emigrated from the United States after the British lost the war. The rest stayed.
Two hundred-plus years later, their children are still with us. They have found a home in the Republican Party. It’s where corporations can order custom-tailored legislation and where a tradesman can dream that if he emulates his betters – or wins the lottery – he might find acceptance among them. Or failing that, maybe touch the hem of their garments as they pass. (Just last week. Pope Francis warned about the worship of money.)
Conservatives don’t vote against their best interests. They vote their identities, and some identify most with moneyed royalty. Perhaps that’s not so baffling.
(Cross-posted from Crooks and Liars.)
BILL MOYERS: We are so close to losing our democracy to the mercenary class, it’s as if we are leaning way over the rim of the Grand Canyon and all that’s needed is a swift kick in the pants. Look out below.
The predators in Washington are only this far from monopoly control of our government. They have bought the political system, lock, stock and pork barrel, making change from within impossible. That’s the real joke…
Don’t know about you, but often I feel as if instead of holding the leash, I’m wearing the collar.
Moments after Gov. Pat McCrory left the stage, former Secretary of State Colin Powell took aim at North Carolina’s new voting law Thursday, saying it hurts the Republican Party, punishes minority voters and makes it more difficult for everyone to vote.
“I want to see policies that encourage every American to vote, not make it more difficult to vote,” said Powell, a Republican, at the CEO Forum in Raleigh.
“It immediately turns off a voting block the Republican Party needs,” Powell continued. “These kinds of actions do not build on the base. It just turns people away.”
In one comment, he seemed to rebuke McCrory for suggesting that voter fraud likely exists but is hard to detect. The governor had compared it to insider trading.
“You can say what you like, but there is no voter fraud,” Powell said. “How can it be widespread and undetected?”
Powell, who served under President George W. Bush, also said the new sends the wrong message to minority voters. “What it really says to the minority voters is … ‘We really are sort-of punishing you,’” he said.
Has America – and the American Dream itself – gone into retreat? Once the largest, most prosperous in the world, the American middle class is faltering, crumbling like our nation’s schools and bridges.
Flag-pin-wearing, American exceptionalists tell crowds this is the greatest nation on Earth, and then repeat “we’re broke.” They hope to dismantle safety net programs, telling Americans working harder than ever – at jobs and looking for jobs – that they don’t have enough “skin in the game.” Wake up and smell the austerity. America can no longer afford Americans.
Some of us remember a time when America’s dreams were boundless.
Recently I spoke with someone who suggested that Democrats should boycott working at polling places in 2014. That is, let the GOP screw up the election so royally that people will throw them out in 2016. This was the same sort of liberal who thought the left should express its displeasure with Obama and the Democrats by staying home in November 2010. That worked out well in North Carolina. For Art Pope.
Once again, that sort of liberal was recommending that we express our displeasure with the North Carolina Republicans by staying home in 2014.
So when will you actually show up?, I thought. When will you stand up and fight for the constitutional rights and interests of the people you think you represent? When do we show them that liberals are leaders worthy of their support, and good for doing something besides doing nothing?
Let’s all take a (much deserved?) breather from the muck-a-muck of local (politics?, no. Vindictiveness? That seems more accurate…) whathaveyou, and have ourselves a read from the blog of The French Broad Brewery. They have a blog? Why yes, yes they do.
Tim Kreider is a cartoonist who last June wrote a much-quoted column for the New York Times about “busyness” and its glorification. “A boast disguised as a complaint,” he said of the quick, thoughtless reply (“Busy!”) to any question of how one is doing; something not often heard from the working poor dead on their feet from double shifts and routinely from them who’ve staffed-out their precious hours to a multitude of tasks taken on out of “ambition or drive or anxiety, because they’re addicted to busyness and dread what they might have to face in its absence.” As is probably pretty clear, among these frantic doers Kreider does not count himself. ”I am not busy,” he says. “I am the laziest ambitious person I know,” going on to describe an idyllic daily regimen comprising a few hours of morning work, long bike rides and errands done, evenings consumed in watching movies with friends, having drinks, et cetera et cetera. Reading this, you–if you’re me–surround all of a sudden a feeling in your belly like a pinch and a punch and a warm glow of covetous pleasure all at the same time, because you, like me, are, if not a deeply lazy person, at least someone who places a steep premium on leisure time, who has somehow gotten off track, veered into a lane where the traffic is faster and tailgating rampant and highway noise loud enough to disrupt one’s train of thought. (Although, to be honest, it is usually less a “train” of thought than a listless, colorful regatta, or a twilit-sky-filled-with-hot-air-balloons of thought.)
“It’s not as if any of us wants to live like this,” Kreider goes on, brilliantly, “any more than any one person wants to be part of a traffic jam or stadium trampling or the hierarchy of cruelty in high school — it’s something we collectively force one another to do.”
To pick one nit, it does seem sometimes to happen all by itself–independent of a person’s anxious desire to be occupied. Day follows day follows day, a box of To-Do appears behind this door, which, son of a gun, was that even there yesterday? And what about this list in my hand? Who put that there? Hold on, wait, I have to answer this… You rise sore into the day that keeps you on your feet and going until you collapse into the night’s sleep equivalent of a Megadeath concert however many hours later, then rise sore into the day… And you (you, who like sitting) didn’t ask for it. The days were longer, before…idler, more free…less productive.
Well, boxes of To-Do have indeed been proliferating around our rickety old barn by the stream, lately. There’s a crate with a canning line in it, a newly leased space, a just-installed mother of a brite tank that, freshly packed with IPA, sprung an alarming leak, a swirl of roster changes around which we’re all learning to dance (with new partners and the tune unknown)…this on top of the gradual incorporation of the grain augur that’s redeeming the elbows’ and backs’ of our brewers from their many batches of toil (though not without its hiccoughs) and the systemic alterations made front of house that necessitated last month a three day furlough for the Tasting Room. Commerce, we disorganize and rebuild ourselves around you.
Also: listened day before yesterday to an excerpt from a keynote address given by the late David Foster Wallace to a class of college graduates. I forget what college, but I feel enormously envious and protective of their experience, ’cause this excerpt flat knocked me down. Click the link, please! I will not demean those nine plus minutes with summary, but will say that they involve consciously practiced thought. They involve the lame truth that our default mental state is woefully small and self-interested. It speaks to the intelligent person’s capacity, however, to substitute for this automatic childishness a wider, more adult awareness: the world does not exist for me; the people in the world do not exist for me; neither my comfort nor my convenience are the point of the human day. This is good!
So let this be a quality of the busy season: that we occasionally sublimate ourselves to the great, shifting abundance of folks and needs and places that clutter the day and the unseeable vectors of cause and effect that put us where we are, next to who we’re next to, doing things. Let our engines churn but our minds find time to idle.
I’ll take mine with a pint, if you please. And how are you, after all?