politics

Would Someone Please Slap All These Fools That Like Ron Paul?

i can't believe Ron Paul is so popular. especially with young people.
he:

- is against affirmative action
- he's against the Civil Rights Act of 1964

- he's clearly a racist, despite all the backpedaling and disavowals recently about his newsletters.

- he's basically against separation of church and state.
- he is pretty waffly about same-sex marriage.
- he is "strongly pro life"; he's also said the government doesnt have a right to interfere with abortion, yet he's voted yes on anti-abortion legislation.
- he's pro capital punishment.
- he's against any federal control of education.
- he's against federal environmental protection and wants only the market to protect the environment.
- In fact, he wants to completely scrap the Department of Interior and sell off all public lands to private interests!

- He also wants to get rid of the Energy, HUD, Commerce, and Education departments!


He's basically a classical, hardcore libertarian wingnut, as irrationally committed to a dogma as any demagogue can be.  And I guess young'uns like him for the same reason many young'uns like libertarianism. It seems at first glance to be a good idea, sexy and radical and apparently full of real fundamental change - but only if you don't think about it much or study history much and think of things as occurring in a vacuum, like many young people do.  The problem with Libertarianism is that we're not starting from scratch, we're not rebooting the world from a blank slate. If we were, the policies it espouses might be okay (at least some of them - of course Paul's deep racism would still be a problem). But we live in a world where compensations need to be made for past injustices and repairs need to be made to the defective machine of society while it's still running.  Libertarians rarely seem to get this.

Some of my friends might think I'm oddly hostile to some ideas of Libertarianism that overlap with Anarchism, given my past involvement with anarchist groups and projects.  But indeed, Anarchism is a similar notion with similar problems: The basic idea is great but it's a utopian notion, and those who talk about it are often naive, ignorant of history and sociology, and propose things that just will not work in the current cultural and social context - but young people who don't understand that love it because they mistakenly think it's all about personal freedom and destroying "the system." Most Anarchism is preferable to Libertarianism only because of its optimism about humanity and collectivism and its anti-capitalism, rather than the cryptoparanoia, fear, pessimism, free-market ideology and individualism that are Libertarianism's context. Of course, Utopian ideas are useful as far-off destinations to shoot for, to guide us loosely. But they must never be the only consideration. The real world and its real complications must always be paid attention to while we're on the road.

Basically, I'd love to have no government if we really COULD wipe the slate clean and remove all unequal powers like corporations and people with unfair accumulations of wealth (and heal the psychological damage that infects almost everyone on the planet and causes the greed and hate and fear that engenders so many problems).  But as long as there are power inequities we NEED strong government to protect the poor from the rich - although I admit that too often the government gets corrupted into doing just the opposite: protecting the rich from the poor. Read more>>>

What's Wrong With Obama?

There was a great op-ed in the Times over the weekend that does a convincing job of explaining what Obama's problem(s) have probably been, what has stopped him from being the great president we thought and hoped he would be. It also contains a brilliant idea of roughly the sort of speech that Obama should have delivered on Inauguration Day and kept delivering over and over, but didn't and isn't:

“I know you’re scared and angry. Many of you have lost your jobs, your homes, your hope. This was a disaster, but it was not a natural disaster. It was made by Wall Street gamblers who speculated with your lives and futures. It was made by conservative extremists who told us that if we just eliminated regulations and rewarded greed and recklessness, it would all work out. But it didn’t work out. And it didn’t work out 80 years ago, when the same people sold our grandparents the same bill of goods, with the same results. But we learned something from our grandparents about how to fix it, and we will draw on their wisdom. We will restore business confidence the old-fashioned way: by putting money back in the pockets of working Americans by putting them back to work, and by restoring integrity to our financial markets and demanding it of those who want to run them. I can’t promise that we won’t make mistakes along the way. But I can promise you that they will be honest mistakes, and that your government has your back again.”

And maybe he's just kind of naive, inexperienced, and timid:

Those of us who were bewitched by his eloquence on the campaign trail chose to ignore some disquieting aspects of his biography: that he had accomplished very little before he ran for president, having never run a business or a state; that he had a singularly unremarkable career as a law professor, publishing nothing in 12 years at the University of Chicago other than an autobiography; and that, before joining the United States Senate, he had voted "present" (instead of "yea" or "nay") 130 times, sometimes dodging difficult issues. 

The problem now is, where does the hope come from now? In November 2012 we will only have him to vote for again, because as usual the other evil will be fantastically worse, and 3rd party alternatives will be a waste. Mass disillusion is ahead, which is exactly what I've been afraid of ever since November 2008. Read more>>>

The Pursuit of Oblivion: A Global History of Narcotics

The Pursuit of Oblivion: A Global History of Narcotics

author: Richard Davenport-Hines

name: Steev

average rating: 3.80

book published: 2001

rating: 4

read at: 2011/06/30

date added: 2011/07/03

shelves: politics

Society of the Spectacle

Society of the Spectacle

author: Guy Debord

name: Steev

average rating: 4.22

book published: 1967

rating: 5

read at: 1992/01/01

date added: 2011/02/07

shelves: politics

What It Means When They Talk About Loving Your Country

There were 2 things about Obama's speech here in Tucson the other night that I wanted to discuss. Before I start I should say that for the most part I was impressed and satisfied with his performance. Indeed it was one of the best speeches he's ever delivered, I think, and it was, realistically, about the best thing anyone could have wanted.
But one thing really struck me the moment he said it, and another thing he said got me thinking about it a day later. The first was also wisely noticed and commented on yesterday by Michael Chabon in The Atlantic:

 

as he moved from an invocation of the innocence and immanence of the dead little girl to a call, part admission, part admonishment, part fatherly exhortation, for Americans "to make sure this country lives up to our children's expectations," the speech found its true importance, its profundity. To attempt to live up to your children's expectations—to hew to the ideals you espouse and the morals that you lay down for them—is to guarantee a life of constant failure....

When I heard Obama give that part of the speech I was almost outraged Read more>>>

Assange Moore Olbermann Wikileaks Rape Thing

This afternoon i've expended (not wasted, but, used, when I should have been working) a bunch of time reading tweets and blog posts and news articles all about the case of Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks and alleged rapist of 2 Swedish women, and the larger meta-issue of the people standing up to defend Assange and attack his accusers, like filmmaker Michael Moore and MSNBC personality Keith Olbermann. There have been so many great feminist blog posts about this, and tons of backlash on Twitter against Moore using the hashtag #MooreandMe. I won't go into the details myself but will just link to this excellent and concise little summary on the Feminist Frequency blog, which has links to a bunch of other blogs and stories that you can delve into.  The last link there is to another blog that deftly explains at the end where we're at now, specifically for Olbermann and Moore (and I've sort of written the same on Facebook, though not as well), but also in general for anyone who screws up with these kinds of tricky issues that involve opression and power and social conditioning:

They have the opportunity to apologize. Because being a good progressive? Is all about fucking up.
If we’re ever to break the myth of the flawless progressive hero — a myth that is unproductive, a myth that breaks hearts — we need to start learning how to recover from mistakes. Because they happen; casual racism, sexism, rape apologism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, fatphobia, ageism, classism… Those things happen because we were taught to make them happen. Now we need to teach ourselves to stop them. Sure, we need to expect more. But expecting more doesn’t mean expecting perfection, the first time, every time. Expecting more is about making mistakes, being called out, engaging and learning from them. We learned that shit in pre-school.

So Moore and Olbermann should just fess up and say they're sorry. They didn't think it through quite enough. I don't think they went into it wanting to apologize for rapists. They were blinded a little bit by a focus on other issues, and on the fact that they're white men in a patriarchal rape culture society. They made a mistake. They should have said that yesterday. But they can still say it now. I hope they do. I hope when I make more stupid boneheaded white male mistakes, as i surely will at some point, I'll recognize it fast and apologise right away like they should have. Read more>>>

Maybe Not

I've always liked this song by Cat Power, "Maybe Not."  I first heard it when I got it from the Protest Records website 7 years ago. It seems appropriate to blog about it today, especially because it popped up on my ipod shuffle while running this morning, and i had just been listening to a bunch of Cat Power yesterday.  The song has many interpretations, and many video adaptations by fans, of varying quality, in addition to live renditions, covers, and a really mediocre "official" version. This is my favorite:

The lyrics are worth reading and thinking about:

There’s a dream that I see, I pray it can be Read more>>>

Thoughts About Immigration, and Labor, and Myths in America

Hatch, NM, Chile Capitol of the World - 09
I've been reading an excellent book called "'They Take Our Jobs!' and 20 other myths about immigration", by Aviva Chomsky. It's a really straightforward, easy read, and I've been highlighting key summarizing passages as I go with the intention of blogging at least a couple of times to share them. I will get to some of those soon, but I want to briefly mention one "big idea" from the book and how it relates to some other things I've been thinking about.

One underlying lesson of Chomsky's book is that, as we all keep seeing, history is such a great way to get at the truth or part of the truth that's often been glossed over in many discussions. She looks not just at the immigration situation right now but at the history of labor in the New World to show that immigration is a simply one part in the puzzle of how capital has always fought to provide itself with cheap labor. Cutting labor costs depends on having a population of workers who don't have the same rights as the rest of the people. An underclass.

Palacio Nacional, Mexico City - 10The reason we've always had an "underclass" in our society, whether it was slaves, indentured servants, immigrants, foreign workers in far-away foreign factories, or undocumented immigrants, has always pretty much been because business needs to reduce what it spends on labor. They need to cut costs so they can offer cheap prices to consumers, and so they can increase profits.

Furthermore, the need to reduce retail consumer prices has become especially important in the last half-century, because middle-class workers here, the "non underclass," in other words, the consumers, have had their (real) earnings drop steadily since the 60s. Income inequality has been increasing as money gets funneled from regular people to the upper class. This means things, to put it simply, life has been kind of bad and getting worse and worse for the last few decades, for most people in this country.

To make up for it, rather than offering a truly better, more just and fair life for most people, Read more>>>

Freedom

I look forward greatly to reading Jonathan Franzen's new huge novel, "Freedom," his work of the last 9 years, just out this month.  But until that time, here's something about freedom that I love, from David Foster Wallace's own magnum opus, "Infinite Jest", which I'm nearing the end of (well, I still have about 200 pages to go, but on a 1000-page book that's something!). Here, a Quebecois separatist double-agent is speaking to an intelligence agent from the U.S.:

Always with you this freedom! For your walled-up country, always to shout 'Freedom! Read more>>>

Even the Wingnuts are Believers Now?

So, this is amazing,
Senator McCain evidently now believes in global climate change, according to a
canned reply to a letter i sent recently.   "Human activities, including
the burning of fossil fuels, are the primary source of carbon dioxide
and other greenhouse gas emissions in our atmosphere....As Americans, we
can no longer ignore our significant contribution...The United States
must act responsibly ... It is also essential that we maintain our
leadership role as the world moves toward an international market for
greenhouse gas reductions."

of course, we MUST have a MARKET. of course. At all costs.

sigh.

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