Monday, January 22, 2018

Cool, Cool Centrist Men

One of my favorite movies of all time- and one of the perishingly small number of musicals I endorse wholeheartedly- is 1776. The core conflict in the story, of course, is John Adams trying to rant, rave and bullyrag his fellow Congressmen into declaring independence, against the firm opposition of the conservative John Dickinson. There's even a musical number (cut out of the original release, happily restored on DVD) called "Cool, Cool, Conservative Men" in which Dickinson leads the conservatives of the Congress in celebration of their opposition to change.

Today, of course, we are often led to believe that Adams and his allies Franklin and Jefferson are liberals and Dickinson conservatives in the modern stripe.

That's not true at all.

In the context of today's politics, the conservatives are Great Britain. They've rejected all compromise. They demand total submission or total destruction. And even though not a single redcoat appears on screen (never mind Bug-Eyed George), the constant ratcheting up of pressure by the upcoming British invasion of New York is a constant feature of the story.

All the characters you actually see in the Broadway play or the movie are the opposition to the conservatives- Dickinson and Adams alike.

You see, Dickinson was a moderate- or, as we'd call him today, a centrist. He objected to the excesses of Parliament's acts to try to coerce the colonies into accepting Parliamentary rights of taxation, regulation of commerce, and even revocation of colonial charters in favor of direct rule by appointed officials. The Letters from a Pennsylvania Farmer were a mighty influential step on the road to independence, encouraging active resistance to England and helping to topple Joseph Galloway, the Royalist and political party chief who effectively ran Pennsylvania for a decade.

But the thing is, Dickinson was also a staunch defender of the status quo. All he wanted was for things to remain as they were- even if "how they were" was intolerable and unsustainable in the long run. He sought compromise and reconciliation where none was on offer, and then demanded his colleagues keep seeking it. Dickinson worshipped compromise like an idol, and even after hostilities broke out, he believed that one or two military victories would be all that was required to bring the crown to the negotiating table for a mutual settlement.

Adams, on the other hand, was a liberal, if a reluctant one. He recognized that the status quo could not hold and that the other side of the conflict was never going to offer any good-faith deals. Under the circumstances independence and reform into a republic, as radical and revolutionary as those ideas were, were absolutely indispensable. The only other option was eventual capitulation.

So in the movie Adams is always saying, "Independence! Independence!" And Dickinson in turn accuses him of being an irresponsible rabble-rouser, a leveler, a malcontent and radical. Dickinson insists that stable, responsible, experienced leaders need to demonstrate their responsibility and goof management of government by seeking compromise... again.

Today we have the Republican Party, which is almost entirely conservative of the most radical, reactionary, monarchical, tyrannical sort.

And we have the Democratic Party, which is still dominated by 70- and 80-year-old alumni of Bill Clinton's Democratic Leadership Council, centrists-leaning-conservative, with a small number of liberals tacked on for lack of anyplace else to go. Both groups claim to oppose Republicans, and the Republicans would quite gleefully see both groups hung up in the streets by their ankles and their blood drained by slitting the wrists.

But the difference is, the liberal Democrats know that Republicans never negotiate in good faith. Republicans take hostages. Republicans break deals. Republicans offer temporary concessions at best while demanding permanent gains. In short, the liberal Democrats know that no true compromise is possible with the Republicans- only eventual surrender.

But centrists haven't got the message. They worship compromise, even if it means compromising away absolutely everything they claim to stand for. Again and again they fall sucker to Republican tactics- when they're not beating the Republicans to it in an attempt to look like "the responsible people in Washington", as happened with reauthorization of FISA warrantless searches recently.

The result has been a constant, consistent string of victories for conservatism, with Democrats often racing to claim credit for things like Clinton's welfare reform, privatization of prisons and public facilities, using public school tax money for private school vouchers, etc. The only long-term victories liberals have been able to claim have come not through Democratic action but through the courts.

Liberals realize that radical change must happen, and that the status quo is unsustainable.

Centrists believe that, if only they can "change the atmosphere," "show bipartisanship," and "come together with Republicans for the common good," no radical change will be required.

And Republicans smile at the centrists, because it's nice to have a mugging victim who not only keeps coming back but actively assists with each new mugging.

Andrew Hickey sees something similar in Great Britain, and I like some of his phrasing:

At its heart, centrism is a conservative ideology. In fact it may as well be another name for Burkean conservatism — the idea that the status quo is more or less correct, that no radical changes are necessary, and that basically all that is needed is tweaking around the edges. .Reforms may be needed, but they should be as minor as possible to avoid unforseen negative consequences.

...

Centrism is fundamentally about keeping the existing power structure, and retaining existing privilege. It’s Panglossianism as political philosophy, the idea that all is for the best in this best of all possible worlds, and it’s generally a philosophy that can only be seriously held by immensely privileged people.

. . .

Now liberalism and centrism both have, in reactionaries, a common enemy. When you’re in a tolerable-but-not-great situation, and you have someone trying to make it much, much, worse in power, the people who want things to stay the same and the people who want things to get much better both have, as a short-term goal, stopping things getting much worse or at least slowing it down.

. . .

And when you have an enemy that just wants to destroy things to see them burn, liberals and centrists have a common cause, at least in the short term. But fundamentally it’s an unstable relationship. The tenant and the landlord both have a common enemy in firebombers who want to set fire to the flat the tenant is living in, but once the arsonist has gone it’s still in the tenant’s interest to get their own home and not have to pay rent, and it’s still in the landlord’s interest to charge so much rent the tenant can’t save for a deposit.

. . .

Think about that for a second. Let that sink in. Really understand what that means. There will be a generation of voters coming up who have no memory at all of the system working, even to the extent it did work for some people in the past. People in their twenties at the next election will have been in primary school for (British ex-PM Tony) Blair’s last election and for the financial crash. Hardly anyone much under thirty, by the 2022 (British Parliamentary) election, will have any real memory of what the “normal” that centrism is based on was like.

. . .

Right now, liberals and centrists share common cause in stopping the damage getting any worse, but centrism isn’t a viable solution to the underlying problems. And it’s not something that’s going to appeal to younger voters.

Centrism as an ideology is only coherent when there is a coherent centre. Right now there isn’t... they (centrists) have neither answers nor political appeal. They should be part of our big tent, but they shouldn’t be the tentpoles holding it up.
Right. For far too long the centrists have said, "Liberals, leave the driving to us. But you must keep voting for us, because otherwise you're just as evil as the conservatives." And look where thirty years of centrist Democrats have brought us.

The last time the American economy worked for the American common man or woman, the ordinary line worker, was 1980. And on those rare occasions when Democrats have returned to power, they have routinely said, "We don't dare rock the boat, things are too unstable, we have to be the responsible people." And thus the damage conservatives have done continues to accumulate, while the centrists cheer their band-aid minor accomplishments and deny their blatant failures.

Don't talk to me about experience. Don't talk to me about "responsible people in government." All I see are a series of smug rich white men and women shrugging and saying, "Oh well, we tried, guess they win again, but vote for us because we're all you have."

Today Chuck Schumer is congratulating himself on having got the exact same deal he turned down on Friday plus an empty promise of a vote on DACA, in much the same tones John Dickinson might have used congratulating himself on the Olive Branch Petition of 1775. All we need is bipartisan compromise, a little tweak, and everything will be fine.

Bullshit. It's long past time to put the liberals back in charge. We may lose some fights regardless, but at least we won't be handing the cosh to our elephant-masked muggers and saying, "Thank you sir, may I have another?"


Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Link Bundle #6

A new version of Firefox looms, so I need to whittle down more tabs...

Paul Ryan (again) spreads the lie that anybody can have health insurance if they want it. (Hint: not having the money for insurance makes not having it NOT A CHOICE.) Of course, the truth is that Republicans would be perfectly happy to see poor people die- and are doing their best to make that happen.

Yet another detailed list of Trump's self-dealing. From back in March.

Yet another example of Trump demonstrating himself to be an idiot and a liar every time he opens his mouth. Of course, we knew this for certain when he fired James Comey at the worst possible time, ensuring he would look as bad as possible and piss everyone off in the bargain. But he's not entirely to blame. We have to also blame the Republicans who keep covering for him out of blatant self-interest.

Of course, getting rid of Trump will be no easy feat.

I'm white as Wonderbread, and even I won't go overseas anymore for fear I won't be let back into the country. For Muslim Americans today, it's worse.

White supremacy and fascism is much more widespread, and much more insidious, than you might realize.

But his freedom of speeeeeeech!

Neil Gorsuch, let me remind you, is the most radically conservative to be seated on the Supreme Court in living memory. He's even more of an asshole than Scalia.

A reminder that conservatives want to make it possible for big corporations to do anything they want to their disposable employees, and that said employees are to have no power to resist.

I attended two of the protests against Trump's Muslim travel ban in January. Black Lives Matter and the Socialist Party of America were the main organizers. The Democratic Party was conspicuous in their absence. Yet despite the Democrats' hatred of grass-roots action and their cowardice in general, they're more than happy to take credit for and claim the benefits of the actions of others.

And if Democrats want to shed their well-earned image of cowardice in the face of evil, they need to begin taking firm stances on popular positions like single-payer health care.

A reminder that yes, there are MULTIPLE Christian versions of ISIS.

Conventions, and fandom in general, have a long record of protecting molesters and other creeps. But as subsequent events have proven, that trend appears to be shifting at long last.

Cons are even turning against the idea that absolutely everybody, even Nazis, must be made welcome. To which I say: GOOD.

Conservatives are coming out into the open to admit they're only doing it for themselves, and that they feel no obligations to the people they supposedly represent.

 And, furthermore, that the rich need more money and the poor less money.

And that's all I have room for for now.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Link Bundle #5

Onwards.

"What you’re looking at here is a directed campaign of information warfare."  - True, and we now know a large part of that is a coordinated global destabilization campaign directed from Russia. But Russia is only one part, not even close to the main part, of a steady campaign of paranoia and conspiracy theory deliberately spread by the right in America. Limbaugh, Hannity and the like spread it. The Religious Right spreads it. Hell, this has been a thing since slaveowners claimed northern preachers were coming south to encourage violent slave revolts. There's a large part of America primed to believe in any conspiracy if the theory comes from the right source... and our president, as Mr. Wright points out, is one such person, easy for anybody to manipulate.

Quod erat demonstrandum.

Republicans know Trump's racist, fascist followers are the true GOP base voters. That's why they're running scared.

Since this article ran, you can add a #7: all Republican incumbents (except Ted Cruz).

Trump leadership in action. (Bonus points for having Isaac "Girls Ruin Comics" Perlmutter as an advisor.)

More leadership in action. (Nothing seems to have come of this yet.)

One of many consequences of Trump's victory: a new FCC chair who seeks to dismantle Net Neutrality, remove all regulation from telecommunications, and prevent any effective enforcement of regulations not yet removed. Of course, he has allies in Congress.

We already know about Steve Bannon, Sebastian Gorka, and Stephen Miller, (more on Miller) among others. Now meet Michael Anton, yet another racist and bigoted White House inner advisor. What does it say about Trump himself that he routinely and consistently gathers people like this to him? (To say nothing of his supporters, who are openly and shamelessly racist.)

Here was the first sign that the Trump administration didn't give a rat's ass about cybersecurity- especially not its own. Far from the last.

How Trump's America looks from outside the US and from the perspective of European history.

 Yet another observation of a basic truth: back in the 1980s we had all sorts of dystopian futures warning us of the consequences of conservative economic policies. And the conservatives took those movies and books as HOW-TO guides.

Conservatives are cowards. Evidence. Evidence.

A very rare case of justice. (And this sort of thing is why Richard Spencer tells his lie that he advocates "non-violent" ethnic cleansing.)

Another rare case of justice. If Kennedy retires while Trump retains power, we can kiss this kind of justice goodbye in favor of Roberts and Gorsuch's white supremacy.

I've read many Democratic Party fans saying that Bernie Sanders is nothing but a glory hog, finding any pulpit he can to extend his fifteen minutes of fame. Possibly. But what he's doing, EVERY GODDAMN DEMOCRAT OUGHT TO BE DOING, here and here and elsewhere. A politician unwilling to fight for what he or she believes in is worthless.

And that's all for today.







Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Link Bundle #4

A computer crash didn't lose all my tabs, so while I'm waiting for my replacement computer, here's me clearing out more tabs with the laptop...

Republicans, when they lose an election, do everything in their power to obstruct the winners. When they win an election, they demand that they be allowed to enact their full agenda without dissent.

Pro-Trump vandalism and terrorism, example Nth.

Charitable giving peaked in 2006. It was never sufficient to meet the needs of the poor and sick. It's even less so now.

One of the reasons Trump won: although Obamacare is better for some than what came before, it's still a crappy system with a LOT of people who lose out because of it. Here's one example.

Don't expect the Israeli peace process to advance one inch while Trump's in power, if this is the kind of diplomat he wants.

Remember: Republicans only support freedom of speech if it's the freedom of straight white Christians to persecute people not of their own kind.

Another example of Republicans eager to block free speech if it challenges white supremacy.

Seriously, Jeff Sessions is so blatant about it that he calls for free speech for conservatives while denouncing blacks attempting to use it... IN THE SAME SPEECH.

This article references Chuck Coulson, the Nixon aide who went to jail as part of Watergate, got religion, and then used his religion to advance the same politics he supported under Nixon. His foundation today is the principal funder of Rev. Donald Wildmon's American Family Association and Bryan Fischer's American Family Radio, with their motto of "muscular Christianity." In the end it's all the same thing: using God's name to justify hate, bigotry, and fear.

Thesis for three books: the single greatest political disaster of America's 20th Century was the day Ford pardoned Nixon. Since then, accountability in high office has been a dead letter, and conservatives have felt no compunctions about breaking both the spirit and letter of the law ever since.

The free market creates poverty traps- in fact it ENCOURAGES poverty traps like, for example, mobile home parks. Only by people working together for a common good, and taking power away from unaccountable landlords, can they reclaim control of their own lives.

Republicans try this every year, because they believe women and children should be property. They also try things like this with much more success.

Tom Price, Trump's secretary of Health and Human Services, wants to make it easier for medical corporations to bankrupt elderly Americans. He also wants to push people out of group employer plans and into more expensive, less comprehensive individual plans, because even voluntary, market-based collective action is intolerable to him when there's medical profits at stake.

Quote:
“No people ever recognize their dictator in advance,” she reflected in 1935. “He never stands for election on the platform of dictatorship. He always represents himself as the instrument [of] the Incorporated National Will.” Applying the lesson to the U.S., she wrote, “When our dictator turns up you can depend on it that he will be one of the boys, and he will stand for everything traditionally American.”

Yet another example of how useless the Democratic Party is, with a quarter of its members in Congress supporting Trump's ignorant nativism. These Congresspeople need to be thrown out.

This cartoon pretty much sums up the modern Democratic Party; ignore or stifle the little people until you need to fundraise.

Reminder: Trump is using the Presidency to add to his personal wealth.

Seriously, a lot. Probably illegally, but Trump and the Republicans control the machinery that would (or won't) prosecute.

After Trump refused to mention Jews in his Holocaust speech, Democrats tried to get Congress to pass a resolution correcting the matter. Republicans blocked it, because they know they need to obey the racists they've been encouraging for forty years.

This is the kind of thing that goes on when a mentally lazy person becomes President.

"Why don't they come here legally?" Because most of them CAN'T.

A reminder that, for all the logjams in Congress, Trump is still making a lot of major changes to America. This is the damage he did in his first two weeks.

OK, time to get back to work...


Sunday, September 10, 2017

Link Bundle #3

Clearing out yet more old tabs on the browser.

Cop catches his supervisor on video demanding to know why he hasn't arrested enough black people. 

Different cops beat the hell out of a black man, then claim self-defense, not knowing surveillance cameras would prove their lie.

North Carolina Republicans were working to systematically make it difficult if not impossible for Democratic-leaning people to vote.

North Carolina isn't alone in working to disenfranchise voters. Republicans are using wild claims of illegal voters to justify voter purges- despite the fact that the people making the claims are known liars and con men.

A concise description of what the alt-right is. Short: cowardly fascists. 

Another reminder: the alt-right is not about free speech. It's not about tolerance. It's not about anything else except racism, bigotry, and evil. To say "alt-right" is the same thing as to say "KKK", "White Citizens Committee," and "Nazi." It's all the same thing, just wearing a fancy suit and waving a Kekistan flag.

And Trump, let it be always remembered, is their man. He's proven it by his words, his deeds, and the company he keeps. (Note: Ben Rodriguez, a former creative collaborator of mine, has become an ardent follower of Castalia House publisher and Rabid Puppies fascist troll Vox Day, the man quoted in the first linked article for saying, "There is no more Republican vs. Democrat. It is now whites vs. non-whites and white quislings.")

Speaking of Kekistan: How alt-right trolls took an obscure, poorly drawn cartoon and made it the face of hate, racism, and sadism on the Internet.

A common tactic of abusers is to tell their victim, "What's the matter with you? I'm just playing with you!" It's a common lie, and the alt-right uses the "I'm joking" defense for the exact same reasons. The idea is to get the victims to let them continue, to let them grow stronger, to get a tighter grip on them, until escape becomes impossible.

 Written a year ago, before Trump's election, this article is a lot more sympathetic than most would be today. What I take from it: the well-off despise those with less than they have, and the poor whites generally despise non-whites who appear to get government help they themselves are too proud to accept. Oh, and both sides are fervent believers in conspiracies.

Short version: when wealth concentrates, it ceases to circulate, choking the economy. The more concentrated the wealth, the more it tends to concentrate even more, squeezing everyone else.

Short version: self-control is a total myth. Any system that relies on it to function WILL fail.

I must remember to seek out and buy some Penzey's spices.

A thorough coverage of the history of Presidential disability in office, and how government coped- or failed to cope.

A reminder that the world has seen rich businessmen elected to executive office before. The trend is, the richer the businessman, the MORE corrupt his administration.

We are in a new cold war with Vladmir Putin's Russia, even if few in Washington want to admit it. Putin is deliberately spreading misinformation to influence elections around the world. His end goal: to discredit democracy, weaken Russia's enemies, and bring about a world order of totalitarian, white-supremacist regimes. And Putin's support of Trump's campaign, about which more facts come out every day, was part and parcel of that.

And I think I'll stop there for now.







Monday, August 28, 2017

Mass Link Bundle #2

Not getting better using this. Let's see how many tabs I clear from my browser this time, beginning with the oldest.

In the south, and especially in Harris County, if you have no money, you have no justice.

The next time a Republican tells you that conservatives support equal rights for women, tell him about this. Or tell him he's full of shit. Both are true. (By the way, this story is from 2015, but Strickland still holds office.)

If you live someplace in Texas with a homeowner's association, or with a deed restriction, you may find out the hard way that you don't own your home at all- and that you have no legal rights worth respecting to try to keep it. HOAs in Texas are insanely powerful- and unaccountable.

Thanks, Bill and Hillary Clinton. Some of us remember.

Cutting taxes only boosts wealth for the rich. It doesn't make the economy stronger. Also, water tends to be slightly damp.

Remember, hard work does NOT equal success. If your boss can get away with paying you less than you're worth, he WILL- and he'll pat himself on the back for doing it.

The next time a conservative says, "You socialists just want stuff for free! I paid for mine!", point out that they could be getting what they're paying for for a LOT cheaper- by socializing it. That's how Scandinavia does it.

Responsible (white) gun owner pulls gun on black man because he's scared of black people.

Three victims of the CIA's torture program sued the doctors who designed the torture methods. And they won.This is the first, and so far only, victory for those seeking justice for the Bush administration's crimes.

(Paywall) Kansas gutted taxes; California hiked them sky-high. Now Kansas is sinking economically while California is soaring.

An excellent argument, with studies cited, against universal gun ownership, but my favorite bit is the simple response to the insane notion that the Second Amendment preserves the right to armed resistance against our elected government.

The Atlanta Braves got a special law passed for their new Cobb County stadium to give them a monopoly on expensive parking spaces- with no public transit option- all in the name of "safety." Riiiiight.

That's all Blogger will let me do for now...



 

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Mass Link Bundle

I really need to use this blog more often.

One of the problems with Facebook is that it makes it easy to just "share link", say a little bit about a thing, and then forget about it... and Facebook's magic makes it impossibe to find that link ever, ever again.

Another problem I have, not connected to Facebook, is that I will often read a link, think, "I want to say something about this, but I need to think about it," and then... just... let it sit there... in the tabs on my browser...

... which, at the moment, are up to something like a hundred tabs.

So, this is me, clearing out some (not all) of those tabs, and at the same time archiving the links in a place where they can be found. Some of these go back quite some time- they've been building up.

Starting with the most recent and moving backwards through my tabs row:

On how direct cash aid to individuals is the most effective means of ending poverty and boosting the economy, but envy and hatred of the poor sabotages it.

I like parts of this proposal, but I agree more explanation needs to happen.

Democratic leadership is still pro-business, anti-worker, and deaf as a post to what people are actually asking for- specifically, that corporations be reined in and that people get a decent wage and conditions at their jobs.

Of course, mechanization is on course to eliminate most human jobs, leaving the majority of mankind unemployable unless we do something about it.

White people forget that the Detroit Riots were a reaction to decades of police brutality and public segregation against black people.

This guy was the first: as of this week, three or four other top cybersecurity people have bailed out of executive-branch departments. Wonder why?

Brian Babin, my Congressman, wants to make it illegal to extend civil rights protection over transsexual people.

If you were wondering how Donald Trump won (despite the ten kazillion opinions on that subject expressed since the election), here's one clue: Hillary Clinton is even more disliked than he is.

Re: Trump-Russia collusion: How much more smoke does there have to be until we can safely assume there's a fire?


... and, well, I've run out of room in the tags. Guess I'll do more of this tomorrow.