Okay, if June was the DVD's month (thanks to B&N's Buy-Two-Get-One-Free sale), then July was Either 'One Last Splurge' Month, thanks to the fact that I quit B&N and had to take complete and total advantage of the employee discount I'd never be getting again...or it was Oklahoma Month, thanks to the inordinately high number of Oklahoma musician-related products on the list. So without further adieu...
Staring at Sound: The True Story of Oklahoma's Fabulous Flaming Lips, Jim DeRogatis
The Mysteries of Pittsburgh and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Michael Chabon
Mind Game: How the Boston Red Sox Got Smart and Finally Won a World Series, Baseball Prospectus "Team of Experts"
Promethea (Books 1-4) and Top 10 (Books 1-2), Alan Moore
I'd resisted the call of the Flaming Lips for as long as possible. I knew they were entertaining and quirky, but I'd never really thought about purchasing any of their cd's until May, when At War With the Mystics came out (see review here). There's a review coming on both this book and the DVD listed below, so I won't say too much here, but what a rewarding trek it has been discovering the Lips. You find role models in strange places, but that’s all I’ll say for now.
As for the others, I've been looking to incorporate more fiction into my book rotation, and I randomly came across Chabon when I saw that a) Mysteries of Pittsburgh is to be made into a film, and b) he wrote Wonder Boys, which ended up being one of the quirkiest and best movies I've seen in the last decade. So I'm giving these a shot. But the waiting list is huge...I haven't even gotten started on any of the three Hornby books I bought last month.
Meanwhile, Mind Game just continues my pursuit of deeper and more meaningful baseball nerddom. In hiring Bill James as a consultant and hiring a young, non-“old school” GM, they became the organization I most wish the Pirates would become. They’re not afraid to think outside the box, and that’s lovely. Meanwhile, thanks to the amazingly putrid trading-deadline efforts, this blog tomorrow will be taken up by one of the more epic Tuesday Pirates Rants™ of all-time.
As for the Alan Moore books, as I've said before, I finally (at age 27) began to dip my toe into the waters of graphic novels recently, and I've been pretty impressed so far. It'll be a while before I get to them, but with the B&N discount, I figured I might as well snatch up all the books (sans Vol. 5 of Promethea) at once. It’s what I do.
The Fearless Freaks: The Wondrously Improbable Story of the Flaming Lips
As I've said before, I go through phases with musicians...I discover them at random times and don't stop until I own all their albums...and possibly an impressive collection of live recordings too. While finishing Staring at Sound, I couldn't pass up this lovely 2004 documentary...where I'd basically get to listen to and watch all the things I've been reading about for the last couple of weeks. And it's a strong, stirring documentary. Again, more to come later this week (hopefully).
Feedback, Jurassic 5
Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, Flaming Lips
Drowaton, Built on Squares, Dreams that Stuff Was Made Of, Starlight Mints
One Afternoon, Striving Toward Harmony, Hannah Wolff Band
There is also a review of Feedback coming soon, hopefully before I leave for Chicago. Jurassic 5 (as I mentioned here) change shape every few years, going further back in time for their song stylings, and what they do always seems to work nicely. A highly recommended cd.
Yoshimi continues the buy-one-a-month trend of Lips cd's I have going recently. It also began another trend this month. Six of this month’s seven cd's come from Oklahoma artists. Which is interesting since, in the 16 years I lived in Oklahoma, I officially bought 1 album from an Oklahoma artist (Garth Brooks’ No Fences...I guess it would be 2 albums if you count Color Me Badd...yeah, shut up).
You can check out my initial review of the Mints' cd's here, and I will take this opportunity to say a couple of words about the Hannah Wolff Band as well. Hannah's an old high school friend of mine, and The Butterfly and I had the opportunity to see her play when we were in OK a few weeks ago. Think Jewel with a rock band, though I might only be comparing her to Jewel because I saw her sing "Who Will Save Your Soul?" in a hotel ballroom about 9-10 years ago. Damn, it's been 9-10 years. Ouch. Anyway, you can check her out at MySpace or at her official website. It's a shame that the venue at which she was performing was pretty shoddy (absolutely dreadful acoustics), but she's a strong performer. And her bass player is really really crazy.
So there you go. I actually didn’t do as much damage this month as I thought I had. Most of it was Lips-related, which proves that when I get into a band...I really get into a band.
Monday, July 31, 2006
Posted by The Boy at 7:23 PM
Sunday, July 30, 2006
We'll take a break from our series of posts on the works of the incredibly insightful in incredibly few words Albert O. Hirschman to do a quick review of the book that seems to have everyone's attention right now, John Dean's Conservatives Without Conscience. Along with his earlier Worse Than Watergate, this book will likely serve as the starting point for future historians (maybe in other nations than this one) who try to understand what happened to the promise and the legacy of the United States. A self-professed Goldwater conservative who will live rightly or wrongly in the shadow of Watergate in the minds of those of us of a certain age, Dean spells out in short but telling passages the history of real American conservatism and how it was highjacked by the reactionaries who always are in their midst. He also outlines the characters and plots of our current Shakespearean tale as written by the Onion and Jonah Goldberg. It really does bring together those threads well for those late to the goings-on and details the dangers that have been obvious to many of us from the beginning.
Dean's treatment of authoritarianism is getting a lot of the buzz from other reviewers, and his description of the research, including Stanley Milgram's experiments in the '60s and Bob Altemeyer's work since the '80s, will bring people up to speed quickly. What interested me, though, in his forthright depiction of his prior ignorance of this material was his prior ignorance of this material. Look at the dates of those studies. We've known everything he tells us for 40 or more years. And he still apparently is unaware of other very important works of the same type and results, such as Zimbardo's "Stanford Prison Experiment" in 1971 or the 1968 work of Jane Eliot, a third-grade teacher in Iowa featured in a Frontline documentary. We know the authoritarian personality, have known it for decades. We know its dangers and delusions and deceptions, and yet we allowed it to be installed not once but twice (actually, counting Nixon and Reagan/Bush (who were part of it all, no matter their current reputations) 6 times). Dean is holding up a mirror years after the disfiguring surgeries have been done.
I guess my point here is just a sense of wonder once again about our own ignorance as to the research and studies that should have enlightened us and made our current dangerous future impossible. Dean tells us nothing, warns us of nothing that wasn't spelled out 25 years ago by Bertram Gross in Friendly Fascism: The New Face of Power in America. Why is he so late coming to the party? Why are his readers acting like he just turned on a lightbulb (or cigarette lighter, depending on the person) over their heads? Why are we as a nation, a nation built on the ideal of opposition to authoritarianism, a nation that defeated two authoritarian nations in one war and another in a cold war, so unknowledgeable about the causes and consequences, the personality types and their actions, of something so poisonous to the American Legacy?
Much of it has to do with the failure of academic political science and history, their practitioners warped into silly specializations that can tell us everything we need to know about probabilities of victory for incumbents in primaries who get more or less than 50% of the vote but don't educate students well on why we have primaries to begin with. (That lesson might still be useful to a guy named Lieberman and his venal toadies in the permanent minority hierarchy.) I have a full-scale rant on my former profession still stored up, but Dean's book and the reaction to it proves that we have a couple of extraordinarily well educated and accomplished generations now who have gotten where they are without adequate training in what the threats to democracy are and what it takes to maintain it. That, as much as the unsurprising power-grabbing and cheating (but let's not worry about how the votes get counted, right, Kos?) of the current authoritarians destroying our Constitution, will be determined to be the proximate cause of the failure of our democratic republic when those historians, wherever they may be, find Dean's books and realize they hold in their hands the basic explanations for how what was once the great United States with all its promise for human history failed so badly, and predictably.
Even if it's a little late, it's good to have John Dean on board. He gets an audience, and maybe people will start putting 2 and 2 together themselves without our leaders and media providing a "balanced, bipartisan, unbiased" presentation of all the possible answers. One way you can help is to buy the book. Another way is to act on it. Just don't expect the Constitution to protect you anymore.
Posted by berlin niebuhr at 9:42 AM
Saturday, July 29, 2006
Picked up a copy of Steven Freeman and Joel Bleufuss' Was the 2004 Presidential Election Stolen? Exit Polls, Election Fraud, and the Official Count today. More to support them and the cause than to learn anything new, especially if you caught RFK, Jr.'s Rolling Stone article before it disappeared into the vapor. But the book goes into more technical detail and was co-written by the first stat guy who got a paper out on the Internet about the obvious questions and earned villification and comments about his sanity as a result. It will be important in future years to have a hard copy at hand of what should have been the Dems' and our side of the blogs' talking points in taking the legitimacy of that election and the corruptability of the voting full-throttle at the Repubs for the last 21 months.
I've said all I'm going to say about the idiocy of falling for the "oooo . . . conspiracy theory" crap that Kos and his minions have dispensed. It is fundamental to politics, to the obtaining and retaining of power, that, if votes can be manipulated without record or fear of being caught, they will be. It's not "conspiracy theory"; it's common sense, it's reality, proven time after time. Look no further than the careers of LBJ, Richard Daley, Boss Tweed, and the guy who beat me for a fifth grade office to get your confirmation. When Howard Dean referred to Katherine Harris as another Stalin the other day, he wasn't talking about her genocidal tendencies, which at least metaphorically exist for her campaign staff. He was referring to the famous quote Stalin (allegedly) made about it's not the person who votes who counts, it's the person who counts the votes. (And how alternately funny and depressing was it that so few people seemed to catch the allusion?) When the history of this period of American life is written, it will be the shame of people who could have brought the vaunted power of the blogs to this overriding issue, whether the 2004 election was stolen or not, especially when there will likely be legitimate questions about some of the 2006 elections and when the Repubs are already preparing to challenge the legality of Dem win after Dem win to prevent either house of Congress from going Dem. The people who stopped the Social Security privatization could have laid the groundwork for far more oversight and security of the 2006 voting rather than leaving the political ground once again to the Repubs on Wednesday, November 8.
There will be no excuse, nowhere to hide. The people who pooh-poohed this stand to hold the same position as the liberal warhawks who derided those of us who opposed the Iraq adventure because we understood power and politics and needed more than illusion and insult before we hopped aboard a belief that had very shaky evidence to support it. Believing that the 2004 election was up-and-up, with all the questions still out there that, as this book points out, have not been answered, the MSM and the MSbloggers notwithstanding, is of the same cloth. And the long-term effect on this country will be just as damaging.
Buy the book. Help them keep the message out. Make it impossible for them to say they couldn't have known. And have plenty of alcohol nearby as you read it.
Posted by berlin niebuhr at 5:50 PM
Friday, July 28, 2006
There will be no blogroll next Friday. Instead, I will be here...
Chicago rules. But anyway, that's next week. This week, I'm still here, and once again, the blogs were pretty top-notch. It's a pretty easy connection to make, really...the worse and more dramatic the week, the better bloggers write.
"How is it that the response of CNN to our failure in Iraq and Israel's continuing failure in Lebanon is to wonder if Revelations is coming true? (Dana Blankenhorn)"
"No one gets a pass from me on the basis of their 'race', ethnicity, or nationality. Governments aren't 'a people', they're governments, and they all do bad things from time to time. Jews and/or Israelis are no different from the rest of the human race (Avedon...well freaking said)."
"How convenient for all of us then that the Israelis are fightin' 'em over there so we don't have to fight 'em over here. No wonder we rushed in those delayed missiles. We can't let "world terror" win fergawdsake! (Digby)"
"In recent days, Roger L. Simon, co-founder of Sickbag Media, has linked to a site purporting to show that 99% of Beirut has been unscathed in the recent bombing. I wonder how big a percentage of New York City was hit on 9/11; yet the impact was, to put in mildly, considerable (Wolcott)."
"Say it!! Say you love Israel!! (Alicublog)"
"If it breeds more terrorists through its actions than it eliminates and/or deters, then it's not helping its security, but engaging (unwittingly or not) in collective punishment, which is both illegal and morally unjustifiable (Demosthenes)."
"As a political discussion about Israel grows longer, the probability that a defender of Israel will level accusations of anti-semitism against the critics of Israel approaches one (Interesting Times)."
"Welcome to the Pessimists Club, David. You're going to love the initiation rites (Billmon)."
"If you want to know what the U.S. should do about the new Middle East war and any other complex, grave national security matter, you have to talk to Bill Kristol and Fred Barnes and Stephen Hadley and Peter Beinart and Joe Lieberman and John McCain and Tom Friedman and Rich Lowry and Newt Gingrich and all the other "serious" tough guys who might have been wrong about every single thing they said about Iraq but, for some reason that is impossible to discern, are supposed to be the only ones with any credibility on these questions -- still. But whatever you do, just don't listen to Howard Dean or anyone of his ilk, no matter how right he might have been about Iraq (Greenwald)."
"While all those so-called panderers like Howard Dean were opposing the launch of the Clusterfuck formerly known as Iraq, what was brave, brave, prime fightin' age Beinart doing? Oh, yes, decrying people like Howard Dean who were opposed to the invasion of Iraq as being not just a mistake but counterproductive to fighting terrorism. Guess who turned out to be right Petey? (Rising Hegemon)"
"I'm not sure what to do with the endless parade of articles talking about plans to start a war with iran. it seems self-evident that any such war would be incredibly stupid and make an even greater mess out of the country and region.and yet, i also realize there are people surrounding this president who are not really living in the same reality the rest of us are (Upyernoz)."
The American Dictatorship
"Bush seems to have created a dictatorship by exploiting a national tragedy, by manipulating a wave of fear, by fanning the flames of racial and religious prejudice. He divided the world into two opposing camps: us and 'evil-doers' and declared that if you disagreed with him, then you, too, were an 'evil doer'. Declaring that he did not do nuance, Bush made stupidity a virtue (Existentialist Cowboy)."
"Just a reminder that this happened on Bush's watch, as did the 9/11 attack, the failed response to Katrina, the loss of $9 billion by the CPA, the erosion of Constitutional protections, and the fake war that has resulted in thousands of needless deaths while creating a training ground for terrorists. Did I mention that the Vice President shot an old man in the face? (blogroll newcomer TBogg...no idea why TBogg wasn't on the blogroll...especially after many Quote(s) of the Day...major oversight)"
The Decider's Lapdog
"Dogs simply love you, and will do whatever you want, no matter how much you mistreat them (AMERICAblog)."
The Shrill One
"Who would have imagined that history would prove so easy to rewrite in a democratic nation with a free press? (Atrios)"
Bush Foreign Policy
"In South Korea, traditionally a U.S. ally, two-thirds of people under 30 said in a recent poll that if there were war between North Korea and the United States, they would side with North Korea (Great Society...how disgusting is that???)."
"Frankly, after reading all of this, "Grrr, Arrgh" pretty much sums up my mood (Firedoglake...by the way, the "Grr, Arrgh" is the single best part of The Butterfly's love of Buffy. We own all the episodes, and we've made our way to Season 4...that's a lot of "Grrr, Arrgh"'s, but it has yet to get old. Oh, and Christy...she very much thanks you for the link to the pilot. I, on the other hand, am a little too pissy from the Newsweek article to actually enjoy it.)."
Bubba and Joementum
"Days after Bill Clinton stood next to Joe Leaverman and he and Hillary expressed their support for his reelection, the Big Dog came out yesterday and told Israel that their Lebanese campaign is disproportionate and a cease-fire is necessary to stop the killing. What will the Big Dog do when Joe sticks it to Clinton and continues to side with letting Israel do whatever it wants for as long as it wants? (Left Coaster)"
"Both parties are defending a different branch of 'traditional marriage', branches which once were seen as harmonious but now have been revealed to be in conflict (Debate Link)."
"There is a widespread view of marriage in this country which sees "the family" as a sacred institution and expects real living people to mold themselves to fit this sacredness, even if it hurts like hell (Echidne)."
"In this ever-changing world, it's good to know there are things we can count on, and pro-lifers assuming that women who obtain abortions are entirely devoid of agency is certainly one of them (Lefarkins)."
"As we’ve covered before, it’s one of the inconvienent facts about the abortion debate that you cannot make an argument against abortion rights without either turning your back on the American ideal of equality and/or resorting to religious nonsense (Pandagon)."
Lame Bob Casey
"Casey is a step up from Santorum. Of that there is no doubt. But he is no friend of gays. Or women. Never again are we going to allow them to clear the field for a candidate like Bob Casey in a state like Pennsylvania. We'll go all Lamont on their ass (BooMan)."
"It’s okay to vote for Bob Casey because he won’t vote to put assholes like this in charge of the environment (Susie Madrak...I don't love this logic, but I guess she's right...plus, I'm a sucker for any mention of the Dumbest Senator in US History)."
"Those with good insurance plans--a decreasing fraction of the population--get good, life-extending health care. The rest must make do. And the result is that enough people fall through the cracks to place us at the bottom of the rich country life expectancy tables (Gadflyer)."
Missouri Politics (a.k.a. Let Them Eat Cake!)
"Earlier this week, Senator Jim Talent made news by calling for an investigation into AmerenUE and their handling of the power outage in St. Louis. But later in the same day, after getting pressure from his major political contributors, he backed off that statement (Fired Up! Missouri)."
One More Reason Why Chicago Rules
"Of course, Wal-Mart is hinting that this will mean that they won't be gracing Chicagoland with any more Wal-Marts and may close the ones that they have. To which the Chicago city council says 'Tough. Costco already meets our wage and benefit requirements. Why can't you?' (Mercury Rising)"
"Mannion. Lance Mannion. (For the record, I most resemble Gene Hackman. The Butterfly most resembles Heidi Klum. As has been said many times, I outkicked my coverage.)"
Posted by The Boy at 8:26 AM
Thursday, July 27, 2006
Via Steven D. at BooMan, we find another great investigative work (this one by James Bamford) published in Rolling Stone.
When [Manucher] Ghorbanifar called Ledeen in the fall of 2001, he claimed, as he often does, to have explosive intelligence that was vital to U.S. interests. "There are Iranians who have firsthand information about Iranian plans to kill Americans in Afghanistan," he told Ledeen. "Does anyone want to hear about it?"
Ledeen took the information to Stephen Hadley, the deputy national security adviser at the White House. "I know you're going to throw me out of the office," Ledeen told him, "and if I were you I would throw me out of the office too. But I promised that I would give you this option. Ghorbanifar has called me. He said these people are willing to come. Do you want anybody to go and talk to them?"
Hadley was interested. So was Zalmay Khalilzad, then the point man on Near East issues for the National Security Council and now the U.S. ambassador to Baghdad. "I think we have to do this, we have to hear this," Hadley said. Ledeen had the green light: As he puts it, "Every element of the American government knew this was going to happen in advance."Seriously, RS can’t have done more to impress me in the last few months. They’ve (for the most part) stopped putting worthless hacks on the front page of their magazine, they’re giving attention to serious artists again, they’ve stopped giving 5-star ratings to awful albums, their anniversary issue was an amazing piece of work, and most importantly, they’ve published a number of phenomenally-written, hard-hitting investigative reports. They’re doing the work that every major media outlet should be doing, and major kudos to them for it.
Posted by The Boy at 6:43 PM
As always, I’m behind on all the blogs again. Here’s a Digby post from Tuesday, linking to this article and talking about possibly the most pressing issue in the country, debt. It isn't taxes that are keeping American up at night and it probably isn't jobs, at least on a massive scale. It isn't even terrorism or the war. It's debt. People are going to be looking for some help with this problem and one place to start would be to rein in these avaricious credit card companies who got a nice handsome payoff with that heinous bankruptcy bill. This is an issue to which average Americans can relate: greedy credit card companies who can literally raise your rates for any reason at all causing your debt to cascade from manageable to overwhelming overnight. It wouldn't be hard to fix. There used to be laws against usury --- we can just dust them off. This would require, of course, going up against the banking and finance lobby. The votes are waiting for the guy or gal who has the nerve to take a populist stance on this. Who out there has the juice to do that?
One of the best qualities of The Butterfly is her outright phobia of debt. Not that others don’t have it, but the decisions we’ve made since getting married last April have mostly revolved around avoiding debt while we still can. We moved in with her parents last summer (that was actually my decision, not hers) and we’re making double and triple payments on my car (congratulate us: we’ll have my car paid off next week instead of June 2008 when the last payment was to be due...WOOHOO!). Now, thanks go also to my parents...because of them I’m not saddled with student loans, and that’s positively huge. But nonetheless, we’ll be debt free in a week, which puts us in the 1% or so of the population that can say that. Part of it was luck and circumstance, but part of it was conscious choice.
Friends of mine in St. Louis have car payments, house payments, and loan payments...working 3 jobs despite the fact that their full-time job is quite nice. And they don’t even have kids yet. This is going to be a huge deal, and digby’s right—Democrats (led by the ever-principled Joe Biden) whore themselves out to credit card companies just as badly as Republicans do, and that’s extremely unfortunate. I’m hoping my mostly-pampered generation produces politicians who are much more realistic about dealing with the present tense, but that hope isn’t all that strong at this point.
(And while we’re on the subject of Digby posts...and, for that matter, nightmares...remember berlin niebuhr’s posts about defining the extremes of the debate? Well, some Democrat politician/spokesperson...any Democrat politican/spokesperson...needs to speak up and define the extreme left perspective, and stat. Neocons—who, as Digby has always said, have been wrong about every single prediction for the last ten years—are succeeding at defining Condi as an appeaser. That should frighten everybody to the left of center into immediate action. But, of course, it won’t.)
It isn't taxes that are keeping American up at night and it probably isn't jobs, at least on a massive scale. It isn't even terrorism or the war.
It's debt. People are going to be looking for some help with this problem and one place to start would be to rein in these avaricious credit card companies who got a nice handsome payoff with that heinous bankruptcy bill. This is an issue to which average Americans can relate: greedy credit card companies who can literally raise your rates for any reason at all causing your debt to cascade from manageable to overwhelming overnight. It wouldn't be hard to fix. There used to be laws against usury --- we can just dust them off.
This would require, of course, going up against the banking and finance lobby. The votes are waiting for the guy or gal who has the nerve to take a populist stance on this. Who out there has the juice to do that?
Posted by The Boy at 6:38 PM
We've started getting enough comments (thanks!!) to our updates on "Betty La Fea Mas Bella" and the coming (name for now) "Ugly Betty" that we think it might be interesting to start an open thread and see what profound and enlightening conversations we can have. Pick your topics. Feeling sorrier for Marcia than Lety lately? Cringe every time Alicia approaches Omar? Simon should get a clue? How long can Fernando's liver hold out? Should Tomas contact Catherine Zeta-Jones to upgrade his cellular? Is calling the US show "Ugly Betty" really better than calling it "Betty the Ugly" . . . and is there a planet on which this would be a meaningful question? What eternal life lessons can we draw and publish as a best-selling self-help book?
You decide where we want this to go. It's become your blog, too, at least where Betty/Lety is concerned. Have at it and have fun.
Posted by berlin niebuhr at 6:14 PM
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
On a late flight last night, remembering why air travel has become my second least favorite thing to do, and thinking that James Howard Kuntsler's The Long Emergency might have some positive aspects. Mainly I was thinking that I was very glad that, years ago, we had put a lot of money we didn't have (and thus ended up borrowing roughly a new Mercedes, a very nice one, for The Boy's college) into the travel that we (mainly he and his mother) did when he was growing up. The price of fuel and the course of international relations will likely make such travel much rarer for the foreseeable future for most of us, and we would have missed out on memories and experiences that a Mercedes would not have made up (there goes my chance at being the car's spokesperson). And I felt badly for the young people and the old ones who won't have the same chances now, not for a while anyway. I know it's just other countries and peoples and ways of life, and why would we want to know about them anyway, but still . . . .
Just one of those things that crosses your mind if paying attention to the world as it is today.
Posted by berlin niebuhr at 6:40 PM
Not a full-fledged blogroll, but a few of notable posts that you might have missed yesterday and should not have.
Avedon Carol again alerts us to the likely decline of our current political system and to other writers who explain why it's likely and what might follow, good or bad. I know bloggers on our side understood, if Dem leadership didn't, why beating back Bushnev's Court of Appeals and bureaucratic horrors, long before it got to Alito and Roberts, Bolton and Norton was important, but I don't think even they had the full comprehension of the long-term debilitation of our democracy occurring because of the full range of Politburo/Supreme Soviet appointments that have happened. As Tristero notes, the ABA's recent disapproval of Georgi's assumption of royal powers would have been seen as Onion material 5 years ago, but where were they at 2004 election-time? Will it take a new Constitution to recover? Would that open the door to more lunacy? We know that social systems with scarce resources are heavily prone to authoritarianism even with enlightened leadership. What happens with what Bushnev has put in place? (And Lou Dobbs seems to agree with me. I need a bath.)
Let's move on to happy thoughts . . . .
Well, maybe not. Digby admits puzzlement over Senate Dems calling out the Iraqi Prime Minister to condemn Hezbollah activity during his visit. I just see it as more proof of the venal whoring that that group represents. I know they're better than the Repubs, but we're really expecting anything more than mediocrity in a time of transcendent need from these characters? The times call for transformative leadership, the kind Dean and Hackett brought before party "leaders" asserted their superior wisdom. Maybe the Lamonts, Testers, and Browns will bring it (if they win), but it's hard to see it right now, especially when no major Dem is calling out (or can call out) the Israelis for the blundering that Billmon again nails (please don't go on a hiatus!!!). If this indeed is an historic shift on a "Serbia in WWI" scale, then the Dems will have only demonstrated again their cluelessness and vacuousness (which is why I haven't been a Dem in 35 years despite my fear and loathing of Repubs--see Exit, Voice and Loyalty on the left column there for why that's good). This party will bring us safely to the Second Republic Avedon links to above? Not seeing it. (And Nancy Pelosi seems to agree with me. I need a drink.)
And, finally, as further confirmation, Steve Soto does another masterly analysis of Hillary and, by association, her venal husband, now selling out the American Legacy stumping for Vichy Lieberman. I only supported Clinton because of his enemies, a point I believe I share with many and which "wiser" Dems (see above) have never clearly understood. We voted on the man twice and, with alternatives, never gave him a majority despite one of the "best" economies in our history. As Avedon notes,
Someone really needs to alert these people that the real reason the DLC "won" with Clinton in 1992 has more to do with the fact that the right-wingers hated George H.W. Bush and stabbed him in the back than it does with middle-of-the-road voters being enraptured by Bill Clinton's triangulated politics.
Yet, the wiser heads still cite him as a supreme vote-getter, just like Reagan was a "great communicator." Bullshit. I'll vote for Hillary over any Repub running, but she knows that and abuses all of us as a result. She's not an answer, any more than her "split the baby and watch me feel your pain" husband was. Like he was, she's just another pause that doesn't even refresh, a waste of air at an historical time.
But at least she's not Lieberman. Uh, . . . not completely. Yet.
(I need a new planet.)
Posted by berlin niebuhr at 5:30 PM
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
Via Atrios, we find good old Senator Coburn (R-OK) trying to tell us that 97% is actually 50%. It's kind of nice having something you can count on in life...even if that something is an insane Senator who continues to get elected and kill this country, one brain cell at a time.
During today’s Senate debate on S. 403, a bill on abortion parental notification laws, former physician and One Who Should Know Better, Sen. Tom Coburn, argued that by distributing condoms in schools, we were rationalizing risky behavior to teenagers. “You know, the moral rationalization is if you make a mistake there’s no consequences. I’ve seen the consequences. Condoms and teenagers work about 50% of the time, if you count all the studies up,” said Coburn.
The actual rate of condom effectiveness in pregnancy prevention is closer to 97 percent. According to the “INFO Project” at Johns Hopkins University, “Among people who use condoms consistently and correctly, pregnancy rates are fairly low—about 3 pregnancies per 100 women in the first year of use.”
Posted by The Boy at 9:14 PM
Quick summary for you. My all-out Rant™ To End All Rants™ has been put off another week due to the fact that Dave Littlefield hasn't made any awful trades yet...actually, he hasn't made any trades period. There are still rumors about a couple of trades that would produce something worth having, but those rumors will turn out to be false, I'm sure. In the meantime, let's quickly catch up.
* After starting 5-2 after the all-star break, the Pirates have lost 4 in a row, 3 to the Florida "Cheaper than A-Rod by Quite a Bit" Marlins and one in last night's 12-8 debacle to the Brewers.
* Things have gotten to where Bucco Blog is starting to post profiles of potential #1 picks in next year's draft.
* One of the best blog posts ever about the Pirates was written by Where is Van Slyke's Pat this week, in which he spells out everything a certain Pirates General Manager is lacking. Just a wonderful (and totally depressing) all-around post. And yes, all signs really did point to the Pirates trading Kip Wells for Ryan Howard last June, but Littlefield didn't pull the trigger. That's 2006 Home Run Derby champion Ryan Howard. For Kip Wells.
* Zach Duke, the Tom Glavine-like future-ace-wannabe of the staff, posted the worst start of his career last night, giving up an Oliver Perez-like 8 runs in 2 1/3 innings. His ERA is now a cool 5.51. At 23, Glavine's ERA was 3.68 (though at 24, it jumped to 4.28, so maybe Duke can make up ground in '07).
In summary, under the tutelage of new pitching coach Tom Colborn, Zach Duke's ERA has gone from 1.81 in '05 to 5.51 in '06. Oliver Perez' has gone from 5.85 to 6.63. Paul Maholm's has gone from 2.18 to 5.02. Though on the bright side, Tom Gorzelanny's has gone from 12.00 last year (in one start) all the way down to 7.13 this year!! That's a 41% improvement!!
And it goes without saying that the man who hired this lovely coaching staff...got a contract extension a couple of months ago. Until next week, when I'm driving to Pittsburgh to carry a protest sign...
Each July, you can count on baseball front-office people griping that some executives live in a parallel universe. This year Pittsburgh general manager Dave Littlefield, one of the game's few bona-fide sellers, is the focus of lots of carping for what colleagues perceive as unreasonable expectations.
"It's one thing to aim high," said an executive whose club recently inquired about Pirates reliever Roberto Hernandez. "It's another to scare people out of the conversation."
Wonder why Littlefield hasn't made a trade yet? Because what he's asking for in return for his retreads is prime, A-caliber talent. Jeromy Burnitz for Melky Cabrera (the Yankees' #1 prospect)? Yeah, sure. Sean Casey for Humberto Sanchez (the Tigers' #1 pitching prospect)? Uh huh. Craig Wilson (who he's spent most of the last four years crapping on) to the Angels for a top-caliber starting pitcher AND a top prospect? Right...let me know how that goes. It's a rite of passage, really. In 2003, he offered Kris Benson for all-everything third baseman David Wright, and in 2005 he offered Mark Redman for Baseball America's #3 overall prospect, Jeremy Hermida...he kept asking for way too much, then settled for crap in the 11th hour. It happens every year, and the "ask for the moon" strategy has yet to actually work. Guess what's going to happen come trading deadline?
Posted by The Boy at 8:41 PM
It appears that news and analysis of the Mexican election over the past week or so has been centered around...why there’s not more news and analysis. Beyond Chron compared the Mexican election and subsequent protests to last year’s Ukranian election and subsequent protests. In one sentence: the media focused for quite a while on the fraud and protests in the country that has almost no strategic significance to the United States but has said little to nothing about the country with which we share a border.
What is astonishing about the media silence about Mexico is that America has recently had millions take to the streets over immigrants’ rights, and both the left and right are focused on the issue. People on all sides agree that there is a connection between Mexico’s internal politics and increased immigration.Shouldn’t this make a challenged Mexican presidential election an important ongoing news story? If America views increased immigration from Mexico as a national crisis demanding action, shouldn’t the media examine how the perception of election fraud---in the wake of the 1988 presidential election that even conservatives agreed was stolen from the progressive candidate-- might heighten the future exodus of Mexicans to the United States?While coverage definitely hasn’t rivaled that of the Ukranian election (for whatever reason), that’s not to say that nobody in the mainstream media has covered it. The TV media seems to have forgotten about it (as have major news websites like cnn.com), but the print media has not. Here’s an article from Sunday’s Baltimore Sun. It centers around a family arguing about the election instead of just giving straight facts, but it’s something.
When it comes to an alleged kidnapping in Aruba or an alleged rape at Duke University, the American media hits every conceivable angle of the story. But massive protests occurring in our neighbor to the south is covered like a crime or accident story, with reporters not covering more than the who, what and where of major events.
At the Morales family home, there is one point of agreement: No one wants to see the recount controversy spin out of control.Probably the most mainstream report recently came in the most recent TIME Magazine.
"I want them to recount the votes," her grandmother says. "But I want it to be done peacefully. There shouldn't be a war with the other side."
The standoff leaves three scenarios for resolving Mexico's political deadlock:What does seem to be happening is that people are succeeding in labeling Lopez Obrador as “unhinged” (That he apparently ended up very wrong in claiming voter fraud with the infamous “guy in the blue shirt” video definitely helped that image set), which shouldn’t play a role in whether or not there ends up being a recount, but public opinion is still obviously very important. If nothing else, it could affect the voting if the unlikely Scenario #3 above actually happens. This New York Times profile does help somewhat in painting him more as dedicated and defiant than obsessed and crazy, but it definitely paints him as intense (and the part where he refused to condemn the vandalizing of Calderon’s car definitely wasn’t a positive).
* The electoral tribunal could simply ratify the provisional results it released earlier, and name Calderón as winner. That would be legal, but might lack legitimacy in the eyes of much of the population, whose skepticism is fueled by a longstanding tradition of electoral fraud. Calderón would therefore take office under the shadow of suspicion, and might struggle to find the support necessary to govern effectively from a congress in which he lacks a majority. Also, Obrador's supporters have taken to the street in the hundreds of thousands, and appear in no mood to accept a defeat they insist was fraudulent.
* The TEPJ could accept Obrador's challenge to the process and order a recount. Obrador has said his alliance will accept any outcome as long as the process is transparent. But if the recount makes Obrador the winner, there is a danger that PAN would resort to "civil disobedience," as it has done in the past, like closing federal highways or organizing sit-ins in public offices, and make it difficult for Obrador to govern. The center-left candidate won't find it any easier to win a congressional majority for his policies than would Calderón.
* The tribunal could nullify the election, which would require Congress to appoint an interim president and schedule new elections within 18 months. That, too, would restrict governance, and simply usher in another long season of campaigning.
There’s one quote from him, though, that gets to the bottom line:
"If he is sure of having won, he doesn’t have any reason to refuse a recount," Mr. López Obrador said. "Because if he should win, it would strengthen him, he would obtain legitimacy that he doesn’t have because of the unfair way the election was carried out."So what are blogs saying now? Well, not much. Here’s a blurb from the most on-top-of-it-regarding-Mexico blog, Mercury Rising, but the biggest write-up recently comes from a BooMan diary (recently promoted to the front page of the BooMan Tribune). I can’t really take a blurb from it...the whole thing (graphics and all) are worth reading.
Stay tuned. Nothing is going on at the moment, but the story can't be allowed to fade.
Posted by The Boy at 7:48 PM
Monday, July 24, 2006
...when something pisses you off and makes you laugh really hard at the same time? From Salon's War Room last Friday:
When George W. Bush acknowledged in his NAACP speech Thursday that "many African-Americans distrust my political party," several men in the audience took to their feet and shouted epithets. As the Washington Post's Dana Milbank reports, NAACP chairman Julian Bond approached the podium to help the president; Bush said, "Don't worry about it, I'm almost finished"; and Bond said, "I know you can handle it."
On the White House Web site, the incident is described this way. "AUDIENCE: Yes! (Applause)."
Posted by The Boy at 9:37 PM
Sunday, July 23, 2006
Watching the end of the British Open this morning, watching Tiger Woods come apart after tapping in his winning putt, the whole world knowing that this intense and authentic gusher of emotion was based on a love for a lost father who propped him and prepared him to be the very best in the world at something very hard to do. This famous and wealthy beyond dreams young man felt a power that defines the very best part of being human and it brought him past control for a few moments to a place that I hope he realizes how lucky he was to be. Everything indicates that he does.
Those are the rare moments, and, while I agreed that the cameras should back off as he hugged his wife and drenched her shoulder with his tears, we were blessed to see it. We don't get to see it for real much, as drenched as we are in the artificiality and inauthentic blare of our culture. I still get choked up thinking about the purest display of it I think I've ever seen. I don't remember the Olympics and I don't remember the guy's name but it was a track event and one of the runners came up lame well before the finish line, falling to the dirt in such pain that I felt it through my screen. And yet, after a few moments, he struggled to his feet and started hobbling to finish the race that he had trained for, dreamed of all his life. But he couldn't make it. It was clear he couldn't, and the whole stadium, the whole viewing audience just sat there in that stunned, confused paralysis that hits when you know you should do something but nobody knew what.
Except his father.
The older man suddenly appeared at his son's side, put his arm around him to brace him, and together they finished the race.
I'm choking up just typing this.
I haven't said much about what's happening in Lebanon yet again or lately in the civil war disaster known as Iraq. I don't have anything meaningful to add to the analysis you can find on other blogs, and I've expressed my outrage in other ways at other times. There comes a point when you just pass. Billmon has a picture of a US soldier holding a headless baby out in front of him that I advise you not to view but which symbolizes Bush's effect there as well as the fireman/baby picture caught what happened to us in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995. Walcott provides the words, or actually quotes the words for the caption if there were one:
But it is not enough to blame Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Blair, Lieberman, the neocons, the liberal hawks, and other useless idiots. By our actions in Iraq, and our complicity and collaboration with the Israeli assault on Lebanon, American citizens are culpable for letting 9/11 turn them/us into passive accomplices. "The complicity of the American public in these heinous crimes will damn America for all time in history," Paul Craig Roberts rages at Antiwar.
As I think about the human who is Tiger Woods today, I think about all the people who have died in this continuing misadventure of idiocy, superiority, and greed, all the people who will not be there to support their children, all the children who will not be there to be supported, to love and honor their parents in their lifetimes, who will not see their children's accomplishments, who will be grieved for and unforgotten, all in our name, all for the illusions and egos and self-exalting, self-important, self-satisfied dogmas of people who clearly have never felt for one moment what Tiger Woods felt today as that ball dropped into that cup.
What we have done as a nation, this unjust, unnecessary, and ruinous war, global warming, eating our children's seed corn, will take lifetimes to recompense, if we ever can. There are times when history explodes and great nations implode, and everyone is caught in their wake. I'm left just weary and beaten. If these things are not evil, then the word has no meaning, and they are on my head.
But then . . . .
Tiger Woods breaks down in tears in front of a global audience. And I can remember that squat, heavy man coming out of the stands and onto the track to be his son's crutch.
There is hope. It may not, probably will not, come from us as a nation anymore, but it's there. And it can win. We saw that today.
Let's pledge ourselves never to forget.
Posted by berlin niebuhr at 1:36 PM
While linking below to Digby's post entitled "Sustainable" below, I looked at the trackback links and found something pretty funny. Two of the four (there should be five, but for whatever reason Haloscan wasn't letting me add my post to the list...oh well) links are from right-leaning blogs rolling their eyes at Digby throwing yet another baby fit and...blah blah blah. My initial reaction was, well, confusion because it takes a bit of extra work to actually use the Trackback feature in the first place...and the main reason you use trackback in the first place is to get the attention of a blog's writers/readers. Guess this is one more way that righties go out of their way to make sure you know that they're glaring at you. Ooh. So scared. But I digress.
I mentioned in Friday's blogroll post that most blogs are officially blocked from my place of work (but FoxNews isn't, of course), and because of that I've been playing catch-up on what really has been a quality week of blogging from the lefties. I also mentioned that it had been an especially strong week at Hullabaloo. I was going to take this time to comment on a number of posts, but I've been distracted by the strongest post of the week, one that was made after my blogroll post went up on Friday.
But before there, allow me to at least link to the four posts whose links I'd saved for comment:
Crazed Secular Base
Anybody who thinks that they can woo Republicans by publicly slapping down this atheist straw man is a fool. If the [Democratic] party insists on going in this direction the social conservatives will insist they show their good intentions with something real. They always do. The death penalty is off the table. So are guns. The uterus is next on the list.It Could Be Worse
When you have this level of "intellectual" discourse being taken very seriously in newspapers and on television, I look at this foreign affairs panel and just breathe a sign of relief that Newt Gingrich wasn't on it. This is, of course, the problem. The spectrum of opinion is always restricted by the fact that the right blasts the atmosphere with gaseous rhetoric so inane and outrageous that they define the perimeter of the debate.May I Puke?
What a sick and confused bastard.So Much For The Indispensible Nation
The neocons have achieved the opposite of what they set out to achieve. Instead of an empire their failed experiment is turning the American public isolationist. There was a time not so long ago when it would have been assumed that the US would play an active role in solving any serious foreign policy crisis. After the cock-ups of the last few years, people are no longer so sanguine that we will actually help the situation rather than make it worse.Now that that's out of the way, let's bring our attention to something of an optimistic post. It's good not only because it's optimistic, but as I grow more pessimistic by the day, I latch on to whatever hope I can find. I'll forgive Digby for being extremely late to the Dixie Chicks party on this one because the points he makes are so good (and because he linked to a performance of theirs that I hadn't seen yet...though the youtube link appears to be down now).
I've blogged plenty about the Chicks in recent months, but I'll take this time to reiterate why they have become as important as they have. Just as Natalie Maines' "We're ashamed..." statement three years ago was refreshing because they were the only ones saying what millions were thinking, "Not Ready to Make Nice" was refreshing in that somebody on the left side of the ledger actually didn't capitulate to righty scare tactics for once. Maybe this shouldn't be refreshing, but it is. The media coverage of "Will they apologize?" and "Do they regret it?" instead of "Can you believe they got death threats for this?", on the other hand...
Anyway, on to Digby's post:
I take it personally when a propaganda industry makes millions spreading lies that liberals are terrorists or traitors. Yet the political establishment, including the media, doesn't seem to think I should care about such things --- even as I've seen my party and my country degraded and humiliated for years by this virulent strain of rightwing politics.This, too, was a pretty refreshing post. It's been so easy to move into defeatist mode recently, both about politics and world affairs, and if history's any indication, it's pretty realistic to do so. But in this case, 'realism' doesn't accomplish much if you're not trying to do something about it. I could respond to Digby by saying "Democrats lost their nerves a long time ago," but for now I'll just say, Amen. As soon as Dems choose--or are forced--to recognize that there is a large population of the Voting Left who really does have their backs and will fight for them as soon as they realize we're a positive force, then well, it's time to fight for them.
I was driving the other day and the announcer of the pop station I was listening to said that their most requested song was "I'm Not Ready To Make Nice" by the Dixie Chicks. I realized I had never closely listened to it before. As I drove alongside the Pacific Ocean with the windows open and the stereo blasting I think I finally understood -- or admitted to myself -- that much of this netroots and grassroots energy and emotional committment is coming from the simple fact that we've just reached the rope of our ends with these malignant Republican bullies and the people who would protect their privilege rather than stand up.
I think this song expresses how many of us feel after 20 years of a non-stop assault from the right --- and the eager capitulation of those who find us a convenient strawman from whom they can distance themselves.
Don't lose your nerve Democrats. I know you hate to be "unseemly" and loathe the idea that anyone will think you are "unreasonable." I understand that having Rush say you are in thrall to the lunatic left fringe brings on a 60's flashback that leaves you dripping in a cold sweat. But get a grip on your subconscious fear of being a feeling and breathing human being and recognize that this is a good and necessary thing for your country. (You might even come to "kinda like it" like those Dixie Chicks have.) You don't have to be neutered farm animals anymore. If you're ready to take it to them we're here to get your backs.
Posted by The Boy at 11:07 AM
I'm torn. I'm disappointed that Dubya used the word "shit" while on candid camera the other day because if he hadn't, the media would have been forced to analyze his analysis of the situation, not just run around and snicker that he dropped an S-bomb; however, I know that it just doesn't matter because the story wouldn't have received 1 second of press coverage if not for said S-bomb. Nobody would have grasped that what Dubya and Blair were saying was hideously simple-minded, and they just would have ignored the story. So all that's come of the world's most powerful dope being caught on microphone was...
a) The rest of the world is even more sure that The Decider is just 60-year old white trash who chews with his mouth open; and...
b) Juan Cole is trembling.
As Juan put it on Monday:
It is an astonishingly simple-minded view of the situation, painted in black and white and making assumptions about who is who's puppet and what the Israeli motivations are. Israel doesn't appear as a protagonist. It is purely reactive. Stop provoking it, and it suddenly stops its war.And as Digby put it yesterday...
Since Israel is just being provoked and has no ambitions of its own, in this reading, it is useless to begin with a ceasefire. That treats the two sides as both provoking one another. Here, only Hizbullah matters, so you lean on Syria to lean on it, and, presto, peace breaks out.
I honestly think that last is part of what's motivating the warmongers. As with their last epic failure, Vietnam, they believe their hands have been tied by a bunch of liberal generals and a pansy-ass populace who refuse to let them fight the way they need to fight. They see the Israelis as their personal Rottweilers and they want to let them off the chain.I am, by nature, something of an idealist/optimist (how else could I go through life rooting for Democrats, the Missouri Tigers, the Pittsburgh Pirates, and the Portland Trailblazers?). I immediately take what I see and try to spin a happy ending out of it. Maybe that's why my brain has just been short-circuiting when I try to wrap my head around just how bad this is. As berlin niebuhr put it to me the day after the '02 midterms, "It's going to be even worse than you could imagine." Talk about an all-encompassing statement...
The Israelis should ask themselves if they really want to do George W. Bush's dirty work for him. I continue to suspect they did not expect that the US would give them the green light on this (it is insane, after all) and now they have no face saving way out. America did not do its job and now things are deteriorating beyond anyone's control.
But, you know, we didn't want to waste time with a cease fire that might not last longer than nine or ten months. Hey, all those kids might as well die today as next year, right?
So how does this end? As Billmon said the other day, I'm unfortunately not the only naive optimist at the table at the moment:
I mean, how much more out of touch with reality could the killer Bs possibly be? Their own wishful thinking about the consequences of their own pathetic follies appears to have left them with some wholly fantastical ideas about what motivates their enemies in the region. Either that, or they've completely bought the sugar coated lies being spoon fed them by their subordinates. My guess is that it's probably a bit of both -- creating a perfect, impenetrable feedback loop of flattery, deception and wish fulfillment.
Juan Cole says reading the transcript left him "shaken and trembling." I guess I would be too, if I hadn't already come to the conclusion that we're completely fucked. Pessimism does have its advantages.
I think that's a lesson berlin's been trying to teach me for years.
I'm learning, but it's still a bit hard for me to end posts on a snarkily pessimistic note...so I'll leave that to HuffPo's Cenk Uygur:
Can anyone now credibly claim that Bush is secretly working on a master plan behind the scenes and that he's just playing cowboy for the cameras?
In the old empires, there would be a lot of marriages between the royal families. And from time to time, these inter-family marriages would produce a mentally challenged son who would inherit the throne. This would set the empire back for hundreds of years. I'm not saying anything, I'm just saying. Russia is big and so is China.
Kerry should have embarrassed Bush, made people feel sorry for him. It would have hurt in the short run and given him a temporary downward blip in the numbers, but in the end, when people went into that voting booth, they would have felt pity for Bush - in that scenario, Kerry wins easily. Nobody votes for someone they pity.
Unfortunately, right now we are in the position of being pitied by the rest of the world. We have third grader for a President. And worse yet, the Vice President has him convinced he is the second coming of Winston Churchill. Scared yet?
Posted by The Boy at 9:56 AM
Saturday, July 22, 2006
Glenn Greenwald has a typically thoughtful post up today on the zealous course our Neo-Conservative leadership pursues in the Middle East and notes how everything happening there fits their vision of "success." I have only one thing to add. We should not forget how "neo-conservatism" got its start in the post-WWII intellectual battles among communists/socialists and their "I can be as bad-ass as you" academic opponents. Who we call Neo-Conservatives were actually in both camps but came together through disillusionment, hubris, and, from both camps, enormous egos that God couldn't lift. Their rhetoric and tactics are straight from the pages of Lenin, Trotsky, and lesser lights, and their authoritarian/totalitarian bent would be a dream come true for the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks alike. Democracy and separation of powers? Nyet. Power concentrated in a small executive council composed of men (men) who know better than anyone else, whom history will judge as seeing more clearly, lionized by a Pravda media spouting the day's party line, even if it's 180 degrees opposite what it was yesterday or supports something they condemned opponents for the day before that. I taught Soviet government and history for over a decade. Little these guys have done has surprised me. (That's why I have no confidence in any vote tallies that they can influence at the source or negate once counted in November. Voter participation was always 99.9% in the USSR.) Little they will do will surprise me. And we'll end up the same way the Soviet Union did. The Marxists will end up beating us by supplying us with the means for our own suicide. That's called reality, something neither the Soviet leadership nor our leadership had much acquaintance with. But don't worry. It won't make our history books.
Posted by berlin niebuhr at 4:00 PM
One of the disappointing things about the progressive blogs' reactions and responses to the other (dark) side over these few years of contest has been the virginal nature of the perspective. The sense of history and of how similar contests have played out that would allow us to see and move several steps ahead has been severely lacking, and far too often too many of us have gotten caught back on our heels by Bushnev and his Politburo, the Pravda media, and the Repub cast of indictable characters. We've gotten so fixed on particular trees that we not only don't see the forest, we don't even know how well it's all been mapped out for us by others who have studied and spelled out the repeating patterns and consequences. Only Digby has ever referred, to my knowledge and I've been a blog reader since back when Ted Barlow had his own, to Robert Reich's four archetypal tales at the heart of all our political stories and motivations, spelled out in his should-be-a-classic- and-standard-reading Tales of a New America (1987). Virtually every narrative put out by us or them in American politics can be fitted to and understood as one of these four frameworks--The Mob at the Gates, The Triumphant Individual, The Benevolent Community, and The Rot at the Top. They're pretty self-explanatory, and all our anguish and debate over "framing" and how to connect disparate groups together into a winning coalition would never have occurred if we had just listened to him and incorporated his ideas into campaign and policy planning and implementation . . . almost 20 years ago.
I've started this series of short reviews of Albert O. Hirschman's books for precisely the reason that the material that we need to fight back effectively does not have to be invented, is not waiting for some genius to explain it all to us in the nick of time. It's already there, in works like Reich's, Eric Hoffer (who will likely be my next author focus), and George Lakoff, who laid it all out years and years before Don't Think of an Elephant. Clearly, the folks pressing our case just have not been aware of the wealth out there, much of it in the form of Hirschman's writings. In my first two posts on him, I went through his best-known work, Exit, Voice and Loyalty, and its understanding of and implications for much that ails us today. At the end of both posts, I promised to turn to his detailing of the predictable and therefore defeatable responses of the dark side to the arguments we put forth in defense of our values and the courses by which we wish to pursue them. So let's do it.
In 1991 (yes, 15 years ago) he published a short book (all his books are short, as are Hoffer's) titled The Rhetoric of Reaction: Perversity, Futility, and Jeopardy. His basic point is that, as progressives/liberals/believers in human betterment since at least our and the French Revolutions have put forward their agendas for social action, their opponents (and we know who they are) have shot back with three common stories to derail us, to undermine our logic and support. You can tell what they are from his subtitle, as he spells them out.
According to the perversity thesis, any purposive action to improve some feature of the political, social, or economic order only serves to exacerbate the condition one wishes to remedy. The futility thesis holds that attempts at social transformation will be unavailing, that they will simply fail to "make a dent." Finally, the jeopardy thesis argues that the cost of the proposed change or reform is too high as it endangers some previous, precious accomplishment.
Sound familiar? We've all probably used them ourselves when resisting some change, but they are especially prominent historically in the rhetoric and analysis of conservatives and reactionaries. Hirschman does a really nice job relating each story to particular periods and writers (if you don't have time to read Isaiah Berlin's essays on these guys, Hirschman can be your Reader's Digest versions). For the most part, the technologies, players, and specific contexts have changed, but the framework of progressive proposal/conservative reaction has gone unchanged, making application of historical analogy much easier and useful. He helpfully throws in a table that links time periods and rhetorics, and you may note a kind of time sequence to their use, with "perversity" coming early in debates, "futility" coming on as proposals gain ground, and "jeopardy" more last ditch, although this sequence is certainly not absolute. He then describes how the three reaction stories can interact in elaborate and impressive sounding counter-arguments. But, again, the point is that we already know what three basic arguments our opponents will make to anything we propose (notwithstanding the always fun and anywhere/anytime/anyplace/anyone applicable Swiftboating) and therefore should go into the fray much better prepared for the coming battle. It would almost be worth it just to hire someone to sit around responding to anything we propose, using Reich, Lakoff, and Hirschman, to test us in advance, our own Devil's Advocate, before dealing with the Devil and his acolytes on the Right.
What's also interesting about The Rhetoric of Reaction is that Hirschman spells out in his penultimate chapter the three predictable stories we use in our rhetoric, counterbalances to the reaction side. Ours are The Synergy Illusion (all reforms mutually support each other), The Imminent Danger (policy is needed to fend off a coming disaster), and History Is on Our Side (history is on our side). He concludes that a "mature" view of reality would bring the two competing sets of knee-jerks together:
(1) There are dangers and risks in both action and inaction. The risks of both should be canvassed, assessed, and guarded against to the extent possible.
(2) The baneful consequences of either action or inaction can never be known with the certainty affected by the two types of alarm-sounding Cassandras with whom we have become acquainted.
If you prefer to think of this as Reinhold Niebuhr's "Serenity Prayer," I don't think Hirschman would hold it against you. He holds that both sides need to back away from their "rhetorics of intransigence" and toward a more "democracy friendly" process (note that this was written in 1991, as your response to people who think this all started with Bushnev or maybe the Clinton Presidency). According to Hirschman's reading of history, democracies like ours haven't been based on the famous "shared values" but on a recognition by parties with power that they were not going to win and thus had to work out compromises and accommodations (think all the early churches competing in colonial America and the eventual move to separation of government from churches and vice versa). In other words, it's not a commitment to democracy and its values that makes it work; it's having no shot at permanent reins. All this "bipartisanship" and "kumbaya" we get from the Broders and Liebermans are based on a completely false view of our foundations, one formed in the aftermath of our greatest common cause together as a nation, WWII. Hirschman made the point more to talk about our need for patience and understanding of other nations then trying on the garb of democracy for the first time after decades and centuries of being at each others' throats. But the point for the US at this particular time should also be clear. To the extent that we are indeed grouped into the different camps that these stories outline, then our system will be maintained not by "finding common ground" but by battling to the finish for the maintenance of our Constitution and its separation of powers. "Democracy" does depend on people holding certain values about the relationship between freedom, equality, and how individuals and their communities interact. But those values really are found in the few who keep them alive. The rest are busy fighting their rhetorical battles (Kos and Hindraker, anyone?), reveling in their abilities, their attacks and counterattacks. Hirschman shows that it's already been done, over and over, even if today's warriors are so conspicuously clueless about the forest around them, or even that there is a forest.
If only our side had a map or a key to the code that the dark side is using so that we could plan our actions accordingly . . . .
Posted by berlin niebuhr at 1:26 PM