Saturday, November 08, 2008

On Hope

In light of Barack Obama's victory on the wings of rhetoric that contained much use of the term "hope", and the right's dismissal of such talk as empty, this seems like a good time to talk about Ernst Bloch's The Principle of Hope.

As a practical matter, Obama's speeches may not have spelled out in detail of what our hope should consist, although I think this is misleading. All one had to do is check out his campaign website, or listen carefully to his acceptance speech at the Democratic Convention, and we had all sorts of policy proposals, sometimes in excruciating detail. Those who insist his talk was as empty as his suit simply refused to do their homework.

Bloch was a Marxist, perhaps the most important Marxist philosopher beside Vladimir Lenin. Hardly doctrinaire, however, he pursued his Marxist philosophy in a spirit that ended up with him out of a job in East Germany, spending his last years in exile in Tubingen, where he became active in the student protest movements in West Germany in the late 1960's. He was also a huge influence on theologian Jurgen Moltmann, whose The Theology of Hope Karl Barth denounced as baptized Marxism.

The central thesis of this massive work - three volumes of lyrical, sometimes near-indecipherable poetic prose - is that "hope" is the most important practical tool human beings have. It is hope that drives us, it is hope that keeps us going in the face of a past and present that should drive us to despair. Hope is nothing more and nothing less than the real future pulling us toward us, driving us towards its realization. Hope makes itself known in dreams, in art and architecture, in religion - in all those social and cultural spheres in which we attempt to do something new, to make real what cannot even be imagined. In its most pregnant form - politics - it is the pursuit of justice in the face of reactionary forces that insist the world cannot be other than it is. It is the force that keeps people pursuing the goal of justice and equality in the teeth of a violent status quo that refuses to relinquish its perquisites.

Thus, hope is hardly empty. Indeed, it is the most full notion we have, keeping us going when all the odds, all the experts, all those forces of inertia tell us that we cannot achieve what we need to achieve to make our world, and our lives, better.

I do not know if Obama has ever read Bloch. Nor do I care all that much. His attraction for me is that it reminds me that, sometimes, hope is all we have, yet it just might be everything we need.

Saturday Rock Show

I did a post on these guys a long time ago. I've decided to redo it, after finding a much higher quality video, plus adding some different commentary. If you don't like repeats, all I can say is, "Oh, well".

Before there was Nirvana, around the time Red Hot Chili Peppers, Sonic Youth, and other "alternative rock bands" were just beginning to be heard, there was Faith No More. Their first major label release, The Real Thing, managed to do well thanks to a popular video on MTV for the song "Epic", complete with a flopping goldfish out of water. Musically, however, this band had so much to offer. I think they were the best band to emerge in the late 1980's, and had radio, MTV, and the public paid attention to their second release (Angel Dust), they might have ushered in the end of crappy music far sooner than early 1992. Their mix of rap, heavy metal, funky grooves with a reggae-inspired drummer (complete with dreadlocks!) kept the music jumping and the listener guessing. Lyrically, their songs were far more intelligent than anything else that was "popular" at the time. Even their most popular song, "Epic", was an enigma to most listeners, even asking "What is it?" in the chorus.

The title track to the release is the most powerful description of heroin addiction I have ever heard. The music works with the lyrics, the opening bass glissando mimicking the insertion of a needle and the injection of drugs. It is not a "pro-drug" song by any means; it is just clear in its description of what it is like to be a junkie, including the constant belief that someday the monkey will leave one's back, and the final truth that it ends in death. Not cheery stuff, but the source of one of my favorite songs of all time. If you are interested, the lyrics appear below the embed.

I know the feeling
It is the real thing
The essence of the truth
The perfect moment
That golden moment
I know you feel it too
I know the feeling
It is the real thing
You can't refuse the embrace...
It's like the pattern below the skin
You gotta reach out and pull it all in
And you feel like you're too close
So you swallow another dose
The pinnacle of happiness
Filling up your soul
You don't think you can take any more
You never wanna let go
To touch the roots of experience
The most basic ingredients
To see the unseen glitter of life
And feel the dirt, grief, anger and strife
Cherish the certainly of now
It kills you a bit at a time
Cradle the inspiration
It will leave you writhing on the floor...
This is so unreal, what I feel
This nourishment, life is bent
Into a shape I can hold
A twist of fate, all my own
Just grit your teeth, make no sound
Take a step away and look around
Just clench your fist and close your eyes
Look deep inside, hypnotize
The whisper is but a shout
That's what it is all about
Yes, the ecstasy, you can pray
You will never let it slip away
Like the sacred song that someone sings through you
Like the flesh so warm that the thorn sticks into
Like the dream you know one day will come to life
Try to hold on just a little longer, stronger
It's the jewel of victory
The chasm of misery
And once you have bitten the core
You will always know the flavor
The split second of divinity
You drink up the sky
All of heaven is in your arms
You know the reason why
It's right there, all by itself
And what you are, there is nothing else
You're growing a life within a life
The lips of wonder kiss you inside
And when it's over the feeling remains
It all comes down to this
The smoke clears, I see what it is
That made me feel this way...
This is so unreal, what I feel
Flood, sell your soul, feel the blood
Pump through your veins, can't explain
The element that's everything
Just clench your fist and close your eyes
Look deep inside, hypnotize
Yes, the ecstasy, you can pray
You will never let it slip away
Like the echoes of your childhood laughter, ever after
Like the first time love urged you to take it's guidance, in silence
Like your heartbeat when you realize you're dying, but you're trying
Like the way you cry for a happy ending, ending...
I know

"Baroque Plans And Rococo Dreams"

In the world of punditry, there are few more tiresome in their pursuit of uniqueness than George Will. Will first rose to prominence in 1980 when, as a fledgling columnist for The Washington Post, he also worked for the Reagan Campaign, serving as a debate coach for Reagan, using the purloined papers from the Carter team to keep Reagan from repeating his oft-stated insistence that trees caused air pollution and that Poland wasn't really a sovereign nation. This should have disqualified him from being taken seriously as a "journalist" forevermore. Yet, in the world of Washington, working for a politician who wins, and is popular, is taken to be a sign not only of wisdom, but of defense of the city's values. He thrived during the 1980's, with his team of interns searching for obscure quotes from Burke and Montesquieu with which to pepper his columns.

As the era in which he thrived comes to and end, the dim memories of Reagan's triumphal march probably feeding his feelings of sorrow, he writes in today's Post of the irony of the heirs of Reagan giving away hundreds of billions of dollars to big business, as if Republicans had never even thought of such a thing before this fall. In fact, far more has been given in corporate welfare in the age of "small government" than could ever be seriously be considered for the truly needy among us. Even as members of the Reagan, Bush, and Bush Administrations sought to gut programs for the poor and children living in poverty, corporations as diverse as Chrysler, Raytheon, and IBM received largess from the government in order to stay alive, and even thrive. Will can write seriously about the irony of Bush's giveaway to investment banks not because he doesn't know of the pattern of corporate welfare; he can write it because such was SOP for the Republican Party. Now, however, this pattern is broken because a light if finally turned upon the practice of handouts to big business.

The title of this post comes from the following section of Will's lament.
September's financial storm probably sealed Obama's victory by raising the electorate's anxieties while lowering its confidence in Obama's opponent. John McCain's responses -- suspending, sort of, his campaign; ratcheting up his rhetoric about Wall Street "greed and corruption" -- suggested a line spoken solemnly by the Capitol Steps' Bush impersonator: "Uncertain times call for uncertain leadership." But the storm's aftermath -- $1 trillion or so of government resources siphoned away -- will severely constrain Obama's presidency. So, this year the conditions conducive to the election of liberals, with their baroque plans and rococo dreams, have put a polar frost on most such ambitions.

In other words, he is attempting to paint a picture of liberals constrained by our current economic woes. Alas for George, he doesn't really give an example of what he means by "baroque plans and rococo dreams" so he has no idea that, or chooses to ignore, they revolve, as President-elect Obama made clear in his news conference yesterday, around reviving the economy. Yes, it means reprioritizing budgetary outlays - and most probably a modest tax increase on the wealthiest Americans even as there is tax relief to free up money for consumer spending - toward in such a way that actual human beings receive some kind of benefit.

I would note, for the record, that I think it odd Obama didn't mention Iraq in this context. Surely he must be aware that our multi-billion dollar spending on this debacle is a source of our economic woes. While this is hardly a time to seriously restrain our military spending - we do have the little problem of Afghanistan with which to deal, as well as the general problem of al Qaeda - one would think that part of redrawing our budgetary priorities would be a plan for withdrawal and redeployment, including stopping the arterial hemorrhaging in Iraq. Returning to the status quo ante bellum, although not in Saudi Arabia, and sending some of the quarter million troops in Mesopotamia to the mountains of Afghanistan might just be of help. Returning guard and reserve units back home where they can return to their regular jobs and help contribute to economic activity seems a sound plan. Providing for opportunities when they return home in the form of all sorts of infrastructure investments - with direct assistance to Iraq veterans seeking employment in such ventures - would be promising as well.

Yet, Will wishes to paint a picture of liberals boxed in by grim reality. Except, of course, these same grim realities are actually a grand opportunity for a creative, thoughtful, experimental group of policy wonks. Will thinks them Baroque and Rococo. I tend to think of them as po-mo and pragmatic. Rather than wedded to some imagined past of convoluted schemes (I really don't know what, exactly, Will means using such a description of liberal policy), this is an opportunity to try stuff and see if it works. If it doesn't work, keep trying until something else works. The best of America has always been this way. We aren't an ideological nation so much as we are wedded to the idea that what is best about us is our ability to set principle aside when it is necessary to do what needs to be done. Obama represents the best of this tradition. If that is baroque, well, I'll settle for that rather than the truly antiquarian plans and schemes of Republicans.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Getting Philosophical About Taxes

Ah, the election is over and we can return to more mundane things like, what is the proper level of taxation the state should demand of its citizens, individual and corporate?

It seems that the question has a hidden assumption, which is that there is a level of taxation above which the state should not pass due to untoward consequences for our national economic well-being. While it might be said that a totally confiscatory scheme would surely be bad, as bad and anarchic in its own way as an end to taxation, this idea that there is a "natural" level of taxation that limits what the people's representatives in the Legislature can or should do is nonsensical. Economic activity is a human activity. It is the sum total of the choices, conscious and unconscious, wise and foolish, and has so many moving parts as to be beyond serious comprehension except in some vague sketch. Taxation in all its forms - sales taxes and income taxes; value-added taxes and capital gains taxes; windfall profits taxes and wealth taxes and tax-deferrable certificates and accounts - is only a small part of the whole scheme of economic activity. It should be noted, as it was long ago by this guy named Keynes, that the money taken out of the private sector through confiscatory taxation in whatever form it may take does not disappear. It re-enters in the form of infrastructure investment and teacher's salaries; research grants to scientists, which is another way of saying a paycheck and money to buy supplies and keep labs open; corporations like CPB and TVA, which are not holes in to which money is poured but corporations that produce products, pay employees, have overhead costs to be met, etc., etc. Even the dread welfare payments, which are known as "transfer payments" in the lingo, show the way this works most directly, by providing individuals who do not, for whatever reason, have the ability to earn a living, have enough money to purchase goods and services they need.

In other words, the entire issue of taxation, if considered solely from the perspective that sees the government as rapacious, taking from hard-working individuals and hiding it in a series of bell jars buried on the Ellipse misses the other half of the equation. The money taken in by the government then goes back out to keep government functioning.

Now, it is true that too much taken in would, indeed, stifle economic activity to the point that the exchange of goods and services would cease. On the other hand, that amount - the definition of "too much" - is not some sacred number, the pi of the economy, to which we must adhere or face losing our economic souls. Our current economic downturn would seem to indicate we need to do two things at once - reduce the tax burden on those hit most hard by the immediacy and suddenness of what has happened in the past two months; and yet both reduce our public expenditures and find sources of revenue to replace those lost by the tax relief offered to those who most likely wouldn't be able to meet their tax bills anyway. This is a delicate balancing act indeed, and I doubt it will be done right the first, second, or even third time. Because it seeks a middle that is always - by always, I mean minute by minute - shifting, we cannot determine what would be the right level of taxation. All we can do is guess, and trust that our guess is the right one.

See, that's the beautiful thing about democracy. If we screw up, we can keep trying things until we get them right. Even if we get them right for one day, or one year, or a couple years, it might turn out to be not as right later on, forcing another round of trying to figure out what is the new right answer to this question. As long as we refuse to consider the idea that there is some "natural" tax level, whether dictated by God, or by the Constitution to which we must adhere.

The person who put this question to me added that we should end spending on "unconstitutional items" or some such thing. I guess I want to know what these might be, in his best Constitutional-scholarly opinion.

Defining Stupid Downward

Focus On The Family Action invoked the right's two favorite non-American politicians, Winston Churchill and Adolf Hitler, in a post-election fund-raising letter.
Dear Friend,

The spirit of Winston Churchill was alive and well on Tuesday night at Focus on the Family Action headquarters.

You may recall that in the most desperate days of World War II – when Great Britain was being pounded daily by Hitler’s Luftwaffe – that Winston Churchill called on his countrymen not to despair from danger but to rise to the challenge.

So, Barack Obama winning an election is like Adolf Hitler bombing Great Britain during the Second World War . . . how, exactly?

Or is it, rather, that the right, like Churchill, will drink heavily, run out amidst the bombs and falling debris, risking his life for the thrill of being at the center of the action? Since, in looney-land, liberalism and fascism are the same thing (as is communism, which only shows how truly stupid these people are), it is apparent that a liberal politician winning the White House is, indeed, exactly like Hitler killing thousands of Britons.

I'm surprised I didn't recognize the similarities myself.

As for the whole anti-family, pro-abortion thing, I think Barack Obama will divorce his wife, marry Monica Lewinski, and retroactively abort one of his daughters. It is all becoming clearer. The pain-killers must be working . . .

These people left anything resembling reality long ago.

Dangerous Fantasies

Yesterday, I noted a couple examples of our local variant of right-wing nuts who really seem to exist in some parallel dimension to ours, in which Barack Obama is a Marxist cult-leader who will destroy religion, freedom of speech, and cart all right-wingers and other real Americans off to re-education camps. Probably (in their imaginations) in Harlem and Southeast Washington, DC. And the South Side of Chicago where they will be forced to attend Barack Obama's home church.

On the one hand, it seems easy enough to make fun of these folks. Immune to evidence or reason, they seem cocooned in a fantasyland in which they are the only sane person. The main character of a novel of wisdom, courage, and strength they continually write in their heads, they keep coming out ahead, even as they continue to lose.

Yet, the roots and pieces of narrative these lesser beings without any sense pour forth is also fodder for a far more insidious, and I daresay dangerous, brand of fabulism. Courtesy of Sadly, No! comes a review of various right-wing nutjobs reacting to Obama's victory on Tuesday. One in particular caught my eye, not because it is funny, well-written, insightful, or even self-mocking. It caught my eye because it is, in a word, frightening. Read with careful attention to the imagery invoked.
So now that we’re all done hyperventilating, where do we go from here?

Well, remember how we all talked about in the past how if that sumbitch commie, terrorist-sympathizing usurper really managed to pull it off and buy/cheat/steal his way to the White House, we’d all buck up, assess the situation on the ground and transition into the decidedly disloyal opposition?

It’s not an ‘if’ anymore. Welcome to the jungle. You’re now behind enemy lines with all odds against you, everyone is a potential enemy and you’re facing a long, uphill, seemingly hopeless battle. Welcome to dissent in a socialist country. It’s a fucked up mission, but it’s winnable. More importantly, we can’t NOT win it, because we’re just not wired that way. Defeat is not an option. Death might be, but defeat isn’t. Because that would be worse.

Feeling cheered up yet? I didn’t think so either, because you shouldn’t be. It sucks. Embrace it. It ain’t gonna change unless you make it so. Now you know how I and people like myself used to feel, which is something I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy, much less my friends. But we’re still around, and so will you be, if you buck up and bring it.

So let’s quickly summarize the extent of The Suck, shall we? We’re now looking at the reign of an illegitimate usurper who has made a joke of the election process in this country. He has feloniously gathered hundreds of millions in illegal contributions, he has used his arm, the so-called ‘press’ to do his business by refusing to do the people’s business which is to vet people and ask questions, he has used uniformed thugs to intimidate voters at polling stations, he has used corrupt organizations and willing accomplices in state governments to illegally register ineligible people (quite a few of them dead and/or imaginary) to vote, and those are just some of his crimes against our Republic.

So where does that leave us?

Well, there are a LOT of us. We may be scattered, we’ll have to work on that, but there are a lot of us. We’re also quite committed to the ideals upon which our Republic was founded, to the point where we really don’t give a shit whether we survive, we care only about what our ancestors fought and died for, and long may it live.

We know our neighborhoods, we’re intimately familiar with every nook and cranny of them. We know our enemy and we know how to identify him if he tries to hide. And, most of all, we know that we’re right. Because we have the truth on our side.

Assessment of the enemy? We know that he controls the media, so don’t ever trust a word coming out of them. Never talk to a journalist and never listen to one either. They’re the enemy. We know that he controls the school system, because we were idiots enough to let them take it over. Work with your children and teach them well. De-programming is a bitch, but you have to do it. They’ll be continuing to do what they’ve done for decades while we were complacently letting them, which is ‘getting them when they’re young’. And we know, but we already knew that, that government is NOT your friend. It’ll get even worse now, but just keep that in mind. They’re the enemy. They long ago betrayed their oath to our sacred Constitution, and they’re not to be trusted. In any way.

And here is the good news: At the top of that hierarchy, they have a neophyte empty suit now. A clown who, while capable of reciting every word that Bill Ayers ever wrote from memory, has absolutely zero experience in how to run a country. Or a hot dog stand, for that matter. Unlike his ideological forefathers, the National Socialists and Soviet Communists, he doesn’t have a solid machinery and the experience already in place to run it. He’ll fuck up so bad every day that it’ll almost be too easy to skewer his ignorant ass. That dumbass fuckhead is in so far over his head that it’s not even funny.

It’s going to be nasty, but it’s going to be short. If we all buckle up and get ready to fight that usurper, Reichsf├╝hrer Hussein, every step of the way. Now get up and fight, dammit. Against tyranny and for liberty and justice. I will never take a knee to a tyrant and cheat.

I would rather die.

These people are more than simply low-info-types. There is some kind of brewing psychosis here, along with a serious delusion of one's own self-importance, along with an almost palpable desire for the shedding of human blood. We have lived with the results of this kind of thinking. More than something worth mocking, there is something here we should not only be concerned about, but fight against.

There is sick hatred brewing in the hearts of those who seriously believe what was written above, or some variant on it. I think we need to turn over every rock, uncover every slimy thing that scampers from the light, and expose them for what they are.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

On Prop 8

Maybe I should apologize for my silence on California's Proposition 8, but as someone who lived through Oliver North's run for the US Senate in VA back in 1994, I am wary of outsiders messing around in state business. North received zero support and funding from inside VA - it all came from the national Republican Party and outside sources. As I couldn't effect the outcome, why comment?

Yet, I feel a bit guilty, because I could have lent my voice, even my own tiny voice, to fight that horrible bit of legalized discrimination. I am sorry for not doing so, even though I think my reasons for not doing so were sound.

While many on the right consider this a "victory", I think they are sore losers. Consider the following. Neil cuts and pastes an article quoting commenters who write the following in the wake of the passage of Prop 8:
“Burn their f—ing churches to the ground, and then tax the charred timbers,”

“I hope the No on 8 people have a long list and long knives.”

“While financially I supported the Vote No, and was vocal to everyone and anyone who would listen, I have never considered being a violent radical extremist for our equal rights. But now I think maybe I should consider becoming one. Perhaps that is the only thing that will affect the change we so desperately need and deserve.”

While the talk of violence is disturbing, I would only add that people like Neil insist that legalizing same-sex marriage would spell the death of Western Civilization as we know it; that gay people are inherently evil and beyond the grace of God; and that we liberals should accept their hatred and fear of gays and lesbians. This last one is why I do not consider myself a "tolerant" person. I have no time for bigots.

I think being told, over and over again, that the way one loves and lives one's private life is a threat to society would be enough to spark a bit of anger. Having a state enshrine in its constitution the principle that not all people are created equal under the laws might just cause some to react with hostility. In other words, no, I don't approve of people talking about burning down churches. I do, however, understand why these folks are so angry. Perhaps, were he more self-aware, Neil might understand it, also. His bigotry, his hatred and fear of gay people - as unreasonable and illogical as it is - and his constant drumbeat about the threats of same-sex marriage to the glue that holds our society together might just be one reason, one tiny reason, that GLBT folks are mad as hell right now.

Anyway, we have a lot of work to do to end this kind of thing once and for all, making Prop 8, and other such pieces of legalized discrimination a thing of the past. I do not believe I will, or should, remains silent any more.

Out Where The Buses Don't Run

You know, it's one thing to be upset that one's candidate lost an election. It is also one thing to think, as I and many other Democrats and liberals did in the wake of the 2000 and 2004 elections, that the American people had made a serious mistake in electing a certain candidate President (although, in both cases, I thought the Democratic candidates ran lousy campaigns, very undisciplined and unfocused). It is another thing altogether, in the wake of our most recent Presidential contretemps, to read some of the following:
Mark said...

Racism is far from dead now that Obama is President-elect. If anything, the divide will get worse, only now, the racism will be black against white.

No doubt everytime someone criticizes President Obama the accusations of racism will ensue. This may very well be the catalyst Obama will use to justify the outlawing of free speech. It may soon become illegal to criticize the Government. After all, Obama is a Marxist and that's what Marxists do.

hashfanatic said...

let's face it, this is possibly america's darkest day

marshall, i'd be happy to recite, chapter and verse, all the reasons i hold bush in the lowest regard, but does it all not pale in comparison to the POSSIBLY, more malevolent horror we now are forced to contend with?

obama is not a president, as much as he is a CULT LEADER, which is why dissent is needed, from day one, if there is anything left over for our children

i identified as leftist until this year, i understand the threat that now faces our nation, and i know what could be in store

on the other hand, i know that some that voted for barky got sucked into supporting him, and i understand they have been just as disheartened, for a LONG time, as we are today

i urge you to take at least one day's break from this, so you can wrap your mind around this national catastrophe, and approach this all with an eye toward a somewhat altered future....doing so today has helped me immeasurably, for you should not be moved by your emotions

above all, do not lose faith
November 6, 2008 2:27 AM

Alternate realities abound not just in science fiction. . .

Some Things To Ponder

There are many who are grousing about some of the names bandied about for the top cabinet positions - Larry Summers at Treasury, keeping Robert Gates at Defense - and in these two cases I happen to agree. I would add that using Robert Reich as part of one's Treasury transition team is a terrible idea. He was an awful Labor Secretary, self-promoting and preening, and when he was dumped by Clinton for many good reasons, he got even by writing a tell-all that should have put an "X" by his name for good.

First, I like the idea of Rahm Emmanuel as Chief of Staff. For one thing, it tells me that Obama does not want a bunch of "yes" men, loyal Obamanians . . . Obamies . . . anyway, he values a variety of positions and different types of people over loyalty to himself and his ideas. He is also signaling Congress that they better get their act together and work with the incoming Administration. Also, it gets Emmanuel out of the House, where he is a force for a certain status quo that is no longer tenable.

I like less the idea of mining the Senate for Cabinet officials. Keep them where they are, especially those seats recently won, like Kerry in MA, who has been touted as a possible Secretary of State. There are good people out there to fill these positions who don't hold office already.

As far as the whole Summers at Treasury thing goes, there are many reasons why this is just a bad idea. Ditto Robert Rubin. While it is inevitable that a few Clinton retreads will get the nod, they should be for lower-level cabinet positions, and sub-cabinet offices. Summers is bad, but I'm surprised no one has mentioned Krugman's name in this context. I doubt he would take the job - his position on NAFTA makes him a bit outside the lefty mainstream; plus he's got a good double gig at the Times and Princeton - but even a nod in his direction would give many liberals good feelings.

As for Gates - bye-bye. There are many solid Democrats who would make great Secretaries of Defense, like Wes Clark. While there may be bad blood between Obama and Clark (although I don't really know why), I do not think that should preclude an offer. It is time a Democrat offered the job to another Democrat. Give the Republicans HUD, say, or Transportation.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Choosing Smart

I think Bernard Avishai has it right:
But relief today is not about Americans choosing an obviously black man over a white man, which proves we can come to terms with our past. It is about our choosing an obviously brilliant, reciprocal man over a thick, cynical one--a man who articulates a coherent vision of global commonwealth over someone advancing vague, military patriotism--which proves we can come to terms with our future.


Most of the 46% who voted for John McCain feel deeply anxious about a world in transition, where erudition, open-mindedness and intellectual discipline matter more and more, and their own sheer willingness to labor hard matters less and less. I bet they are more skittish about Obama's supremely elegant mind, his worldliness, than his dark skin; more drawn to the repudiation of "elitism" than to the rejection of "welfare."


Under similar circumstances, not so long ago, some European democracies turned to fascism--something Sarah Palin embodies, but doesn't begin to understand (though she can no doubt see the Wasilla library from her home). Her crypto-fascism is about all that's left to the Republican Party just now. It is also a relief that our kids--who get it, and get Obama, by a 2 to 1 margin--will slowly take command.

We actually did OK, I think. . .

Some Music For The Party

Chuck D, Flava Flave, and the boys, "Fight The Power":


Watching the world wake up from history . . . Jesus Jones, "Right Here, Right Now"

Lee Greenwood says it all, man. Today, I am proud to be an American . . .

Finally, to rock out, Rammstein doing a song about freedom of thought. "Links"

Wrongness Personified

Fire Dog Lake has a post up with quotes from right-wing websites and and interview with Rush Limbaugh, all of which predict a stunning McCain victory. Up to the bitter end, these people actually believed all that "center-right" crap, and had no clue that America was telling them to please go away now. The best, for me, was a quote from an interview Rush Limbaugh did with a British newspaper:
Talk radio giant Rush Limbaugh says that Sen. John McCain will score a stunning upset over Sen. Barack Obama and win the presidency on Nov. 4.

In an interview with London Telegraph correspondent Nigel Farndale published Friday, Limbaugh said the mainstream media has been pushing Obama’s candidacy because “They want to be able to say they did it if Obama wins.”

To which Farndale countered, “Well, he is going to win, isn’t he?”

Limbaugh’s response: “No, I don’t see it Nigel. I think [Obama has] been dead in the water since the primaries."

Did anyone hear his show today? I really would like to know if his head exploded last night.

Some Marks Of Change

From this:

To this:

In living memory.

Sometimes, America lives up to its promise.

Post-Mortem Hackery (UPDATE)

Having elected a moderately progressive President (or, at least, one with a moderately progressive agenda), and a Congress with progressive majorities, the pundits are all insisting that we are a "center-right" nation.

Um, I do believe the voters just told you all to shut the fuck up, people.

You lost. Deal with it.

I, for one, am LIBERAL. In fact, while much farther to the left than Pres.-elect Obama (God, I just love typing that), I will wear that mantle proudly.




Do you get it yet?

UPDATE: How stupid is Tom Brokaw?
Brokaw on Morning Joe cited as evidence for the center-right thesis the idea that a majority of land area in the United States, if you measure it on the county level, voted for McCain.

Yes, one acre, one vote, people.

Don't go away mad. Just go away.

A Tidbit

Our very Republican county, Boone County, IL, went for Obama 51% to 47%.

Good on ya, mate.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Check Me Out At Facebook

I'm "blogging" for want of a better term, live at my Facebook page. Check it out.

Obama's New Theme Song

Courtesy of James Brown, and all the fears stirred up by the bigots:

From Playboy After Dark, no less! All that immorality in one place!

Election Days Past - A Family Story

My parents are older - their mid- to late-80's. My father became eligible to vote in 1942, my mother in 1945. As far as I know, they have voted in every election, local, state, federal, they have been able to do so. That means my father's first Presidential vote was cast for Franklin Delano Roosevelt, resulting in the first Truman Administration. My mother told me that the only election she considered not voting was 1972. She detested Nixon, but thought McGovern an awful candidate; she did what she could, though, and went and voted anyway.

She told me the following story about her first Presidential election, in 1948. She was living in NYC, with her best childhood friend, Mary. The two of them worked at a hospital, and were generally enjoying their early adult years, the details of such enjoyment best left to the imagination of others (she is my mother, you know). She told me that she and Mary thought they were the only two people to vote for Harry Truman in the city and state of NY. Thomas Dewey was so popular, and the air of inevitability around him was palpable. She and Mary voted on Tuesday, went to work (they worked overnights, as auditors in the hospital accounting office; when I was a night auditor at a couple hotels, we used to exchange stories about how much fun it was to make stupid mistakes that took hours to find). They had not been listening to reports of the election - early reports were still running with the narrative that Dewey would win quite handily - and in the morning were feeling pretty glum. As they left the elevator, a man was getting on. He looked at the two of them, and snapped, "I suppose you two voted for that little son-of-a-bitch!" Then, composing himself, he apologized profusely. Mom and Mary were less shocked at what the man had said (even though, as she reminded me, this was a different time, and men did not speak to strangers, especially women, in such a way), as what it meant. One of them asked the man what he was talking about. He said that Truman had been declared the winner of the election in the middle of the night.

I relate this story because it's a nice little piece of family history. Also, to give McCain supporters hope, because Dewey, like Obama, was thought by everyone who followed these things, to have the election sewn up. In anticipation of a sweep not just of the Executive, but of Congress, Republicans were buying property all over Washington, which they would soon have to sell, because they wouldn't be needing it. Anything can happen, and it isn't over until one of the candidates reaches 270 Electoral Votes.

While anyone with a brain cell should know who I support, I would urge anyone and everyone to GO VOTE TODAY!!! I do not care about your politics. I do not care whom you support. Get out there, stand in line, get a cup of coffee and a donut if you need to, and just do it.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Music Monday

In an essay on the influence of Hegel on 19th century philosophy, Hans-Georg Gadamer puts Hegel together with Goethe as exemplars of an age. Their influence on thinkers across a broad spectrum of German thought lasted far beyond the ups and downs of time and political philosophy, with left- and right-Hegelians, and (I would argue) left- and right-Goetheans. They represented Continental Romanticism in literature and philosophy, reacting not only to the various specifics of their particular areas of interest, but to their age. Without a doubt, neither would have achieved so much had they not lived through (and survived) the upheavals of Napoleon. Both of them, in their own ways, were living embodiments of how one takes in the times in which they live and filters it in to their work.

I would add Beethoven to the mix. His Third Symphony, originally dedicated to Napoleon, had that dedication removed when Beethoven realized the little Corsican had no intention of spreading the promise of the French Revolution to the German territories. After surviving the terrible upheavals of his time, he set down his 9th Symphony, including a choral setting for Schiller's "Ode to Joy". What was most remarkable about this particular piece of music was its vastness. Beethoven had already been criticized for writing symphonies longer than the usual ten or fifteen minutes; here he crafted one that was just over an hour long. Yet, it never loses its attraction. It pulls you in from the beginning, where it seems Beethoven left space for the orchestra to tune, but in fact is building from nothing to a bold statement of purpose, the first melodic statement of combined strings and brass. That he gives the listener room to breathe with the quieter moments of woodwinds only shows his genius. He lets the listener breathe for a moment without ever becoming distracted.

The following two videos capture the entirety of the symphony, with a spirit that not only shows the power of this great piece of Romantic orchestral music, but also with the excitement of a heavy metal video. Directed by Herbert von Karajan, the video shows the power of both music and image. von Karajan, by the way, adapted portions of the last movement for the anthem of a united Europe.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

I Wonder If I Will Get An Apology

Brad at Sadly, No! didn't like all my talk of rope-a-dope. Indeed, he did a "shorter" piece on me, in which he claimed that I wanted to lose the election. Now, Brad has written extensively this fall that what liberals and leftists needed to do in order to win was pump up that rage. Not just sarcasm; not just satire; but real, honest-to-goodness anger-infused mockery of everything Republicans hold dear. From top to bottom, the entire edifice had to be held up to ridicule. Only then could Democrats have a shot at winning. One commenter on this particular thread actually nailed Brad's position, saying that Brad had more wisdom and insight in to winning an election than did Obama's campaign staff. Essentially, Brad was criticizing anyone who didn't think his way.

As it turns out, the rope-a-dope thing was a bit misguided. In the end, Obama ran his own campaign. He was negative, certainly - how could any campaign avoid it? - but for the most part he avoided the kind of scurrilous stuff Brad wanted done. There were sarcastic barbs in speeches, which made it on to YouTube; his national ads, however, were far more positive than anything from the McCain campaign. Indeed, even as Obama slid in the polls in the aftermath of the Palin nomination and the Republican Convention, Obama stayed as calm and cool as he did later during the collapse of the investment banking industry. That coolness under pressure, that refusal to buckle to the desire to do whatever it takes to win, is not only impressive; it is Presidential material.

So, Obama ran the campaign his way. He didn't mock McCain or Republicans. He didn't belittle them, or make light of their concerns. Two days out, I believe both his strategy and tactics are vindicated. While I do not necessarily believe the rope-a-dope analogy captures the whole of his approach, I would hope that Brad, who has a very large forum from which to make fun of people with whom he disagrees, would be man enough to step up on Wednesday and admit that he was wrong, I was right, and that by running his campaign his way, Obama managed to get ahead, stay ahead, and win quite nicely.

I'm not holding my breath. . .


I'm quite sure that, in the rush of events on Wednesday - all that tearing down of Western Civilization that we liberals will begin - I will forget to note that it will be the second anniversary of this, my second attempt at blogging. It has been rough at times. I have tried to walk away once or twice. I have also had some great moments, made real friends with people I still haven't met, and on one or two occasions, received attention from folks higher up the food chain, as it were (I'm still most proud of being included, along with Duncan from Atrios and Digby from Hullabaloo in a column by David Frum; of all the bloggers Frum could have chosen, he included me with the two biggest stars of the left end of the blogosphere; as far as I am concerned, that's almost as good as getting paid for doing this).

I will be happy to toss politics aside and start concentrating on all sorts of things I've been neglecting, but have been churning through my mind over this past summer and fall. This election was far too important to simply leave to chance, which is why I've probably bored many people to tears. For that I apologize, yet I think I did the right thing; I am a tiny foot-soldier in the drive to end Republican rule, and get some sanity and balance back in the country. I have no illusions that, should Obama win (as seems likely), we will be ushering in 1,000 years of peace and prosperity. I do think, however, that we will be far better off than if we elected John McCain.

In any event, happy anniversary to me, and here's hoping I can regain an audience after boring them to tears with far too much politics.

Last Election Prediction In Three Parts

Specifically in regards the so-called "toss-up" states - FL, OH, MO, IN, NC - my prediction is that Obama takes OH and NC, McCain takes IN and MO. Florida is still anybody's guess, although polls for the past month have been pretty consistent in giving Obama a small but never disappearing lead. I refuse to guess, however, on the Sunshine State now, even though I did once. At any rate, for those states the pundits still say are "up for grabs", that is my prediction. I doubt Tuesday will be very exciting because the outcome in most of the states is pretty much a lock (although a surprise by either candidate in one of the toss-ups might just give the folks on TV something to get all sweaty and excited about).

The Democrats will probably pick up between 20 and 30 seats in the House of Representatives. Of the three closes Senate races, the Democrats have a good chance in MN, where Al Franken has Obama's coattails to ride, and GA, where Saxby Chambliss' attempt to smear his Democratic opponent (like he did triple amputee and decorated Vietnam Vet Max Cleland) have backfired. I think a Democratic win in either GA or MS would be a surprise, although in both of the southern contests mentioned here (Liddy Dole in NC is history) the Democrats have certain advantages they haven't had before, including a strong national ticket, a national swing away from the Republican Party that has eased southward, and very strong candidates against relatively weak incumbents (I think the last factor is the most important on a day-to-day basis). While I do not believe the Democrats will get that magic number of 60 seats, I didn't think they would retake the Senate in '06, either. But, even if they don't have 60 seats, 57 or 58 seats would be an impressive majority by the standards of recent history, and I do predict that one or two Republicans might just switch parties (Richard Shelby certainly might; he did it the day after winning in 1994 so he could keep his committee chair and other seniority perks). If it were any single one, I might predict either of Maine's Senators, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe. Neither is particularly ideological, and the Republican Party, should it really take a beating, will double down on those who stray from the party line. It seems to me that the Democrats might benefir from some wooing at this point.

The real story of this election will be turnout. My guess is that we will have the highest turnout in a Presidential election, by percentages, in a generation. I doubt it would be overwhelming; Europeans typically have between 90% and 95% turnout, even for local elections. By contemporary American standards, however, I believe turnout will be impressive. There will be much discussion of this, but I think the real reason for this is simple - most Americans, regardless of party affiliation or ideological identification, recognize this is an important election; they are excited by their own candidate, and repelled by the opponent (the feelings are running very strong), and the Democratic Party, at least, has a massive GOTV machinery in place. While the Republicans may try using third parties for this, much as the Democrats have used unions for this in the past, the infrastructure and history would lead on to give the edge to the Democratic Party.

A personal note. This is my last election post. Until Wednesday, I am just waiting, like everyone else, for this stupid campaign to be over. Then, of course, we have to wait for January 20 for George Bush to ride in to the sunset and have his memoirs ghost written so no one will buy them. This has been an ugly, hate-filled campaign, and yet I am sincere when I say: No matter whom you support, no matter what party you identify with, no matter what you believe about the opposition - Vote. Go before work, go on your lunch hour, go before you reach home. If someone you know doesn't have transportation, take them. Better yet, organize a group to take a bunch of folks to the polls. If you have to stand in line, don't complain but rather celebrate the fact that you are a small part of a much grander event, this experiment in governance called America.

Virtual Tin Cup

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