Apr
22

Friday Open Thread

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Discuss.

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Apr
21

Drowned in the bathtub

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Final scene from short film by Jeremy Helal

Why yes, we really do mean to drown the government in the bathtub.

Thanks to Congress slowly drowning the U.S. Postal Service in the metaphorical bathtub, the form I put in the mail to my doctor last week traveled 90 miles south and across a state line for sorting before delivery to his office four miles away. Slow death by mandated prefunding of its retiree health benefits means USPS closed the local mail processing facility last year to save costs, worsen service, and keep government from competing with private firms in the delivery business. Article I, Section 8, Clause 7 be damned. The Market demands human sacrifice. (Strange, but its name appears nowhere in the U.S. Constitution, unlike the Post Office. Must remember to look for The Market in the colonial apocrypha.)

It appears The Market now has turned its attention to mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, both government-sponsored enterprises, or GSEs, with a “utility-like mandate to keep credit flowing in the housing markets.” Matt Taibbi examines why the Obama administration is invoking executive privilege to keep secret 11,000 communications covering federal conservatorship of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The administration claims the release would harm financial markets. The federal judge that ordered last week’s release says the government simply doesn’t want to be embarrassed.

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Categories : Corporatocracy
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Something Gaius wrote on Monday grabbed me:

In the FDR-liberal world, the function of government is to provide services to citizens and protection from predators in the private sector. In the neo-liberal world, the function of government is to manage government services so the private sector is given the most profit opportunities possible.

Going back over some notes from the weekend, I recognized the echo of George Monbiot’s critique of neoliberalism in the Guardian. His How Did We Get into This Mess? was released yesterday. Neoliberalism, like many political enthusiasms, morphed from philosophy to religion with its practitioners hardly noticing. Not so for working people paying for neoliberal hubris. They noticed:

Neoliberalism sees competition as the defining characteristic of human relations. It redefines citizens as consumers, whose democratic choices are best exercised by buying and selling, a process that rewards merit and punishes inefficiency. It maintains that “the market” delivers benefits that could never be achieved by planning.

Attempts to limit competition are treated as inimical to liberty. Tax and regulation should be minimised, public services should be privatised. The organisation of labour and collective bargaining by trade unions are portrayed as market distortions that impede the formation of a natural hierarchy of winners and losers. Inequality is recast as virtuous: a reward for utility and a generator of wealth, which trickles down to enrich everyone. Efforts to create a more equal society are both counterproductive and morally corrosive. The market ensures that everyone gets what they deserve.

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After spending several post-college months riding trains around Europe, I took the train from New York to Washington, D.C. where I’d left my car with my sister. Compared to the silky ride of the Deutsche Bahn, this sucker was rocking, rumbling, and lurching all the way. Thought I was going to die.

The experience gave me a gut-level appreciation for well-maintained infrastructure and the unsung people who keep things working so smoothly one only notices when they don’t. “Hail the maintainers,” write Lee Vinsel and Andrew Russell for Aeon. “Innovation,” they believe, is overvalued:

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David Neiwert is “celebrating” Confederate Heritage Month at Orcinus with posts on aspects of the War of Northern Aggression southern heritage buffs would prefer to forget (contra the lyrics to “Dixie”). His latest installment looks at “carpetbaggers” and “scalawags,” both Reconstruction-era pejoratives. The first for newcomers from outside the old Confederacy (many of those northern teachers offering literacy programs to freed slaves), and the second for southern whites who collaborated with the freed slaves in post-war governance. Being branded with either term was no mild smear. It essentially put a target on your back, according to Neiwert. (Scroll to the bottom of his page for links to earlier installments.)

At Buzzfeed, Adam Serwer debunks the history of an infamous tintype (above) now in the Library of Congress of two Confederate soldiers, one white man named Andrew Chandler and his black slave, Silas:

… an astonishing tintype of the two men, armed to the teeth in Confederate uniforms, taken in 1861. The image has helped bolster the claims of the community of amateur historians, hucksters, and Confederate sympathizers committed to defending the Confederacy from the charge of racism, who insist that thousands of black men fought and died for the rebel cause. “Ever since the SCV posthumously honored Silas,” Levin wrote in 2012, “accounts of black Confederate troops have surged in popularity.”

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Categories : History
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Apr
17

Legislating conformity

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Because conservatives have trouble coping with ambiguity….

North Carolina continues to receive fallout and national opprobrium for its legislative freakout over transgender rights. Americans celebrate personal freedom and people going their own way, don’t we, unless it involves gender and sex? I have already written about how North Carolina’s HB2 is a Trojan Horse for a crackdown on workers’ rights. But some coffee urn jokes this week about bathrooms and people’s chosen “lifetyles” got under my skin.

Just as despite everyday observation, the Earth is not flat, neither are sex and gender binary. What laws like North Carolina’s HB2 demand is legally enforced conformity to a binary standard in a world built upon natural variance.

When I was a child, an aunt, uncle and cousins lived next door to a family of albinos. To a kid, they appeared pretty odd. Weird even. But after a few visits and a few neighborhood cookouts, they were just the O’Shaughnessys (not their real name). Both different and the same. They weren’t sequestered in a remote neighborhood of the city, told they had to use a special restroom, or treated as potential criminals. At least, not by us. And albinism is far rarer (1 in 20,000) than the kind of sex and sexual identity variances North Carolina just tried to make disappear through legislation. Disappearing what makes us uncomfortable has become a thing here. The legislature already decreed that the sea level is not rising.

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Apr
17

Sunday Morning Music

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Digby long ago dubbed it Cokie’s Law after newswoman/commentator Cokie Roberts: “It doesn’t matter if it’s true or not, it’s out there.” That’s all the justification the press needs to keep reporting a falsehood until “unsubstantiated gossip masquerading as news” becomes something “everyone knows.” But the press is late to the game. This has been the M.O. of the right regarding voting for decades.

Cokie’s Law is the essential justification for big gummint haters requiring voters to present state-issued identity cards before they can exercise formal power in this country. Because “everyone knows” voter fraud is a problem. It doesn’t matter if it’s true or not, it’s out there. I’ve been writing about this technique for some time:

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Categories : Vote Suppression
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Apr
15

Derp from above

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As the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill makes its way through the Senate this week, Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) have been arguing for new rules that would limit cargo pilots’ flight time to nine hours between rests. We don’t want any accidents.

“Fatigue is a killer,” Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, the pilot who executed the 2009 emergency airliner landing in the Hudson River, told a press conference. Then again, if you are a drone pilot in the business of deliberately killing people, working six or seven days a week, twelve hours a day is not a problem.

The drone program remains controversial and has its detractors and defenders. Al Jazeera English this week published the confessions of former Air Force drone technician, Cian Westmoreland. He and three other former operators last year called on the president to stop the program, calling the strategy “self-defeating,” one that propagates anti-US hatred. Not to mention his own nightmares:

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Apr
15

Friday Open Thread

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Did North Carolina make any late-night comedy shows this week, or what?

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