Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Does Justice Kennedy swing against the ACA because of fear of Church hospitals having to give contraception coverage?

Justice Kennedy is one of those judges who has a hard time distinguishing his political philosophy from his judicial philosophy. He likes gays, so his jurisprudence on gay rights issues trends in a culturally liberal almost libertine way. He dislikes abortion, so he leads the way in outlawing mid-term abortions. He thinks like a Republican and so on state sovereignty issues, he was one of those who was ready to undermine the 14th Amendment while exulting the 10th Amendment, and then added an interpretation of the 11th Amendment well beyond its text (see Alden v. Maine for one) until he realized he might hurt national anti-discrimination laws.

As I hear bits and pieces of the past three days of oral argument on the Affordable Care Act aka ObamaCare (more properly HeritageFoundationCare or OrrinHatchCare), I am left wondering whether my prediction from the start of a 5-4 ruling may well be realized--but with Kennedy's fifth vote being one to overturn the Affordable Care Act. He may well be one of those folks upset at allowing workers at Catholic hospitals to have access to contraceptives in their health insurance plans, and may therefore want to negate the ACA because it works through employers, including Catholic institutional employers (separate and apart from the individual mandate).

I frankly had not thought of that at the start of this constitutional imbroglio, but I am thinking that now.

I am glad I was not arguing for the government. I'd have wanted to take a bag of broccoli out of my legal briefcase, and say, "If anyone thinks broccoli is health insurance, here, take some broccoli. If you're a doctor, you can say, 'Take two broccoli and call me in the morning.' If you're a consumer, you can pay your co-pay with broccoli. You can eat it instead of that heart medication. It's all the same, Paul Clement wants us to believe. But we see how ridiculous that is when we realize broccoli is not an insurance policy. For a principle based upon theory, not reality--not practicality--is not a principle at all. It is a delusion based upon cynical ideology."

And then I'd want to pull out a Hot Wheels car and say, "Is the problem that not enough people of driving age have cars? If that is not the problem, then how could the government rationally tell us we have to buy cars? Is the problem that there are not enough cars on the road? Then, again, why tell us to buy a car? If we want to promote American cars, then how do we deal with the fact--again, fact--that Hondas and Nissans often have more American made parts than a Ford or Chevy? Is it take two Chevys and call me in the morning? Again, what's the deal with ridiculous analogies that don't make sense?"

And then we close with: "So where's the limiting principle, Mr. Clement asks? It's the rational relation test that Justice Marshall set up nearly 200 years ago. And if it isn't rational, then it does not pass the test. And the rational relation test has to have a good deal of deference to legislative majorities if we want to live in a free country. So ladies and gentlemen, it's pretty clear--even if I hate the individual mandate telling me to buy Blue Cross insurance or face a penalty or tax--and I do hate the mandate from a public policy standpoint--it is clearly constitutional."

We live in silly times that the silly constitutional argument against the individual mandate can come this close to tossing major economic based legislation.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

When something does not fit the corporate media narrative, it does not exist

Exhibit 1 Trillion.

budget of the Progressive Caucus.

Maybe if the Progressive Caucus members were on Meet the Press as often as John McCain, one might find this information more easily and we might even debate it.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Well, imagine that. New Deal policies and some socialism worked...

Read about Bolivia under the dangerous leader, Evo Morales, here.

Hmmm...I wonder whether Mexico would have been better off with Lopez Obrador rather than the cold, technocratic banker's friend, Calderon? Ya think?

There's a "what if" for Mexican citizens to ponder...and maybe, just maybe Americans to ponder as they are faced with the cold, technocratic banker's friend, Obama, and no Obrador, just fascist banshees from Romney to Santorum to Gingrich...and then the wacky gold standard bearer Ron Paul. At least Paul is anti-imperialist, but frankly, that is not enough when we deal with the rest of his baggage, particularly on women's issues.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Obama makes a solid pick for World Bank President

Jim Kim, president of Dartmouth, is one of the good guys. To choose him as head of the World Bank is a significant improvement over the usual elitists who don't give two shakes about poverty--and show no curiosity or knowledge as to how poverty increases or decreases, and why it persists in various places throughout the world.

Dr. Kim has a genuine desire to do something about infectious diseases that ravage poor people based upon his own experiences treating people with various infectious diseases including HIV/AIDS. He has worked with people in NGOs on the ground levels and in management levels.

Now if Dr. Kim would only reach out to folks like Darmouth alum John Cavanagh, Lori Wallach and Jose Antonio Ocompo.

While it may be too much to ask the World Bank to get beyond its privitization fetish and overly zealous fealty to extreme capitalist finance theories, one may see an increase in microlending, a better economic analysis as to how to effectively respond to climate change and maybe at least a sympathetic analysis of the sort of public sector success stories that have occurred in places like Brazil, to take one prominent example.

Amusing aside: Kim showed a great sense of humor and a surprising humility to sing and dance--and rap--at a Dartmouth Idol show.

Tired of stupid elite people...

Oh is this a long post....Forgive me for not linking to the various books and writers I discuss below. They are easily found and identified on the beautiful Web.

William Saletan is in love with Jonathan Haidt's stupid book on why "liberals" don't understand "conservatives."

As I pointed out in this post nearly two months ago, Haidt needs a starter course in sociology, and has no understanding of Daniel Bell's formulation of dividing "liberal" and "conservative" into the cultural, economic and political. Haidt attacks people like me as if I'm the same as a tattoo-wearing, ear-pierced gay guy living like Carrie Bradshaw in the city. Sorry, Haidt. Your definition of "liberal" actually fits Donald Trump, Jack Welch and their lifestyles more than mine. And that's the number one problem with Haidt's book.

But let's now move to William Saletan's problem in his NY Times Book Review of Haidt's book. Get a load of the last sentence of one paragraph and the next paragraph from Saletan's review:

"...Workers who vote Republican aren’t fools. In Haidt’s words, they’re 'voting for their moral interests.'

"One of these interests is moral capital — norms, prac­tices and institutions, like religion and family values, that facilitate cooperation by constraining individualism. Toward this end, Haidt applauds the left for regulating corporate greed. But he worries that in other ways, liberals dissolve moral capital too recklessly. Welfare programs that substitute public aid for spousal and parental support undermine the ecology of the family. Education policies that let students sue teachers erode classroom authority. Multicultural education weakens the cultural glue of assimilation. Haidt agrees that old ways must sometimes be re-examined and changed. He just wants liberals to proceed with caution and protect the social pillars sustained by tradition."

If he just left it at Haidt saying that people vote for their moral interests, I can buy that. My argument against the Democratic Party leadership for the past thirty years is they diluted their economic message to a point where most workers don't believe Dems will follow through on their usually last minute campaign rhetoric. So, religious minded workers, of which there are still many, vote for the guy who will stop "moral decay." If that's all Haidt and Saletan want to say, then I'm fine with that, and so is Thomas Frank if one really reads his "What's the Matter with Kansas?" which is really about the corporate takeover of the Democratic Party when Frank talks about what blocks the solutions he proposes.

But no. Saletan and Haidt just can't help themselves. They must buy into right wing nostrums that sociologists (who talk with welfare recipients, follow their lives, and analyze patterns in public policy) knocked down long ago.

Start with welfare. Is it really true that "public aid for spousal and parental support undermine the ecology of the family?" Did it ever occur to these guys that quite a few women used welfare to help escape from bad men? Or even bad Dads? My God, at long last, will these guys read Christopher Jencks and William Julius Wilson? Will they actually pull out a Michael Harrington book or Barbara Ehrenreich's or Francis Piven's books on how poverty programs actually work to protect women and children?

As John Schwarz pointed out, in "America's Hidden Success," the abuse in welfare was actually quite small in the late 1960s and through the 1970s when Republicans like Ronald Wilson Reagan (Mr. 666) led the demonizing of welfare. Three of every four welfare mothers had two or less children, even during the 1970s. The welfare Moms tended to go in and out of welfare depending more on whether their children became sick (a flu or cold kept a poor Mom home from her minimum wage job, that led to her firing because she could not be absent more than three days in a row), or when the Mom's former and more often abusive boyfriend or father may have found her, and she and the kids had to get out of town in a hurry. And let's face this fact, shall we? All of the welfare financial abuse you can possibly add up is nothing compared to one military contractor's scandal and certainly is a microbe scale compared to the looters on Wall Street. Even when Robert Reich, as Secretary of Labor, pointed out that corporate welfare ate up more than the entire welfare (Aid to Dependent Families and Children) budget of the US government, then President Clinton, aided by the odious Richard Morris, laughed at Reich's naive sensibility for even pointing out that fact.

So, Clinton joined Republicans in killing the AFDC program, and as we have seen, poverty did not go down over time, poverty went up. It went down in the first several years after 1996 because of a growing economy. The women who had some skills went to work, and the others faded deeper into poverty without the government money. But a look at the poverty rate this past half decade tells what happens when the economy does not perform so well as a whole for workers. Nice job, Clinton. Nice job, Saletan and Haidt.

But Saletan is not done with his cocktail party assumptions posing as analysis. He writes: "Education policies that let students sue teachers erode classroom authority." As a lawyer who follows constitutional law battles fairly closely, there has never been a rash of students in the US or other civilized nations suing their teachers. Ever. Have students sued school districts? Yes. To end segregation. To enforce anti-discrimination laws. To protect against bullying. Are there frivilous lawsuits, too? Yes, but those lawsuits lose most of the time. How that undermines the authority of a classroom is something Saletan needs to explain. But no. Saletan just wants to re-enforce propaganda and say to those who have studied human behavior and public policy, "If the legend is believed, the legend is fact." No, the legend is still a legend and that's why we have continued problems that we just can't seem to solve.

Saletan then finishes off with the flourish that "multiculturalism" undermines assimilation. Those sociologists, anthropologists and historians who have studied immigrant communities in the US in late 19th and early 20th Centuries, before multiculturalism, would simply laugh at that formulation. Those separate immigrant communities, Jewish, Italian, Irish, Polish, etc., only began to assimilate into the larger American Protestant English speaking culture with the growth of unions, and the growth of economic opportunities. Saletan also seems blissfully unaware about the more recent studies showing marked assimilation among children of foreign born children into what I disdainfully call "Mall culture" and "corporate media advertising culture" where the children are highly unlikely to do what the parents do, which is stand on a street corner on Sunday morning looking for an odd job for a dollar. People assimilate. They will speak the larger group language if they are brought into the larger group. No rocket science there. But it tends to cost money or demand some re-distribution of wealth downwards, not upwards.

Saletan then goes on to say:

Another aspect of human nature that conservatives understand better than liberals, according to Haidt, is parochial altruism, the inclination to care more about members of your group — particularly those who have made sacrifices for it —than about outsiders. Saving Darfur, submitting to the United Nations and paying taxes to educate children in another state may be noble, but they aren’t natural. What’s natural is giving to your church, helping your P.T.A. and rallying together as Americans against a foreign threat.

This nonsense is what really drew my fury. "Conservatives" don't understand anything better than "liberals" and certainly they don't understand "parochial altruism" better. If anything, it is liberals in the Congress (less the pure cultural ones than the economic oriented ones) who have stood tall against trade treaties that beggar American workers while sending jobs to Mexico, India and China, and other destinations--far more than the Republicans. And tell me about the conservative religious people in churches who have actually given money to help those in Darfur. They have done so not as much as the so-called "liberal" churches, but it's sufficient to cause us not to paint with any generality whatsoever in this regard. It's a phony distinction Saletan and Haidt are drawing here, and it is clear they both need to get out more.

But why do they draw the distinction? It's because Saletan and Haidt are Clinton or Obama liberals, after all is said and done. Neither "gets" the New Deal. Neither have read Michael Harrington, and if they did, they were simply too dumb to understand him. Really. Dumb. Lacking in intellectual capacity. And how Haidt and Saletan never came across Bell's formulation is part of why they are dumb. It's not as if they have not been exposed to Daniel Bell. They know who he is. But they have never read "Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism" or "The End of Ideology" (Memo to Saletan and Haidt: The latter book is not what people taught you in college it was about when it was mentioned in passing). If they had, they would not write the drivel they are writing.

Saletan starts to realize how dumb he and his buddy Haidt are when he writes:

Many of Haidt’s proposals are vague, insufficient or hard to implement. And that’s O.K. He just wants to start a conversation about integrating a better understanding of human nature — our sentiments, sociality and morality — into the ways we debate and govern ourselves. At this, he succeeds. It’s a landmark contribution to humanity’s understanding of itself.

So how does one have a conversation if no matter what we say to the "conservative," they won't listen to logic, reason and empirical evidence because they are tied emotionally to hierarchy as a value? Also, if Haidt's proposals are "vague, insufficient or hard to implement," then shouldn't that be a clue that Haidt has not thought out what he is writing? It's not as if he's Karl Marx identifying the machinery of capitalism and then being vague in an earlier separate pamphlet about "The Revolution." Haidt thinks he's solved a problem that he can't even diagnose correctly. And Saletan applauds him.

Sorry. I know I'm angry. But I'm going to be 55 years old--and excited about ordering off the senior menu at Denny's later this year. I've read right wing and left wing articles and books since I was in elementary school as a precocious 11 year old in the year America began to fall, i.e. 1968. I have watched generations of adult writers and leaders fail to grasp the essentials of humanity, the essentials of how wealth is generated and distributed, and how to make changes in public policy that would lead to a better sense of community and peaceful relations among people. And all Saletan and Haidt want to do is restate in a pseudo-scientific garb the Democratic Leadership Council's (DLC) 1980s rhetoric that says the New Deal never worked, and is over, and we have to trade manufacturing jobs for finance and service ones. And just slog through the culture wars as best we can.

Some prescription. Some vision.

And to justify that vision, Haidt and Saletan are reviving that 1980s attack on "liberals" for not "understanding" "conservatives." But note the words are in quotes because those words obscure more than enlighten unless they are qualified and defined with the wisdom of a Daniel Bell right from the start. What makes Saletan and Haidt dumb is they, as intellectuals, should know best that these words are most often empty vessels in which we place our prejudices, not our knowledge.

Still, let's face this reality. Saletan's review and Haidt's book are par for the course for the cocktail party circuit that permeates the NY Times Book Review reviewers. It is par for the course for the contrarian writers at And it is par for the course in the cocktail party circuit and country club set in Maryland and Virginia, who never venture out into the poverty of Washington DC. But it is a frustrating pity how articles and books of this nature re-enforce the ignorance of the power elite in our nation.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Where are our Bryans and Debs to lead us?

Dean Baker neatly summarizes a very important divergence in interests between workers and the wealthy who lead hedge funds and high tech companies.

It also helps us understand the divergence between those who wish to restore our industrial base and those who wish to see us become a nation of beggars.

Where are our William Jennings Bryans who understood that how we structure our economic system is a major issue that should be discussed as an issue of public policy? Lowering the value of a currency to allow regular people to crawl out of debt and to stimulate economic activity is what was behind much of the "gold v. silver" fight during the 1890s, particularly after the 1893 Depression, which was a precursor in degree to the later Depression which FDR faced when he entered office. And where are our Eugene Debses who understood that increasing the power of workers through unions and national economic programs to provide for the needs of workers are most often the optimal way to avoid inequalities of wealth that are exacerbated during economic busts?

If we stay with a choice between Obama and any Republican, including the capitalist extremist Romney, that is actually no choice on this important economic issue. Obama will lie to us and try to make us believe he will stand with workers on tariff issues, trade issues and restoring our industrial base. But he simply does not believe in these issues in the way Dean Baker or I do. More is the pity, more is the pity.

Two ADDENDA to help understand why I am so tough on Obama:

1. Why is it more proper to refer to corporate media than mainstream media? Just read this article about tee-vee reporters who join a country club in Maryland together. And note who they are: David Gregory and a FoxNews guy. We're a long way from Peter Warne, who of course did end up marrying the heiress...:-)

2. Naomi Klein's prescient article about Obama's economic worldview...Read through the end, and her hopeful remark about two economists who were thrown to the side of the road by Obama: As any follower of the Obama White House knows, Jared Bernstein was shunted over to Joe Biden for awhile before realizing he had no influence whatsoever, and James Galbraith was hardly consulted from the start.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Peter Novick: 1934-2012

Peter Novick was the author of perhaps the single most important sociological book about post-war American Jews: "The Holocaust in American Life."

He passed away last month, and only now did I learn of it.

Novick was one of the good guys. We will miss his insight, not merely on the interpretation of the Holocaust among American Jews in the mid to late 20th Century, but also because of his work on historical "objectivity."

His work will reverberate as the Baby Boomers and Greatest Generation before them fade into the sunset.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Now that's what I call fighting back against Class Warfare

The guy from who wrote this long, but knock out piece is not going to get a television pundit job with any regularity, is he?

I'd rather watch that guy and Seth MacFarlane discuss political issues than most of the television pundits on corporate media...

Plus, MacFarlane sings a lot better than Wolf Blitzer. MacFarlane even knows whose charts to use when he hires an arranger to sing standard mid-20th Century pop songs. People like Nelson Riddle, for goodness sakes! Wow, Seth!

Are public school teachers' wages and benefits really a problem?

The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) says probably not. And their analysis makes more sense to me than the rantings of tee-vee and radio commentators...

Peter Bergman: 1939 to 2012: Forward into the past, at last

Peter Bergman of the legendary Firesign Theater died. See this obituary from one of the best obit writers around, Elaine Woo.

Bergman and his fellow jesters represented a moment in technological and satirical history where there was still a sense of the wonder of audio.

My favorites will forever remain "Dwarf" and "Giant Rat," to use the shorthand for the albums.

Here is the opening of "Don't Crush that Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers." The album is largely about George Tirebiter, an old man who watches his life on television. There is a strong sense of nostalgia that permeates the album, the role of nostalgia in comforting our old age, where nostalgia mingles with myth. Along the way is the now familiar (but not then) attack on television preachers, commercials, puns, inside jokes (Pico and Alvarado as soldiers, when those are streets in Los Angeles), the use of scare tactics by governments to control people, and well, I wonder if this can still speak to smart teens who have constant access to full audio and video downloads. I hope it does. I loved the Firesigns...and Peter Bergman especially.

RIP, PB. I hope you are finally meeting Mr. Sennett, Mr. Roach, Mr. Keaton and all the others mentioned at the end of the "Dwarf" album.

ADDENDUM: The end of the "Dwarf" album is here. An astonishing work.

Israeli leaders warming up the region for more war...

I find it interesting when Israeli leaders like Netanyahu suddenly decide to kill Palestinians with significant bombing. See also this article about a targeted Israeli assassination of another Hamas leader and this arrest of two Hamas leaders after breaking into a Red Cross building back in late January of this year.

I searched in vain for any marked increase in rockets being fired into Israel from non-Hamas militants before the latest Israeli barrage began several days ago. Instead, I read about how Hamas said it has no interest in helping the Iranians, who Hamas has been moving away from and toward, for example, Turkey.

So why antagonize Hamas now, other than to create a climate of war--knowing the Israelis can easily kill Palestinians even while engaged in war with Iran.

Netanyahu is certainly wanting war with Iran, in a way that is as nearly apocalyptic as we've seen in some time. He won't get his apocalypse even if he attacks Iran, but there will be mayhem, murder and general killing, and maybe even a blowback event inside our nation. The end result will set back the Iranian nuclear program, but the cost seems ridiculously high. When an ex-Mossad chief goes public with his own view that Iranian leaders are not so daft as to avoid the reality of nuclear weapons and self-destruction when used in the manner Israeli propagandists are saying, that ought to be more noticed.

Again, this latest outbreak of violence in Gaza and Israel is more likely a sideshow or dress rehearsal for a larger war that Netanyahu continues to try to create, but more likely won't get away with creating.

Review of New York Times Book Reviews: 3/11/12

Today's edition of the Review of Book Reviews:

Patrick Cockburn has written a personal, poignant review of the late Anthony Shadid's now posthumous book about reclaiming his family's home in the scorched area known as Lebanon. It's one of those classic reviews that explains something interesting and emblematic for a larger insight, but frankly, I'm not reading that book any time soon, am I?

This is a wonderful review of the history of Hawaii and our nation's colonial adventure there. The first paragraph shows how right wing folks see history and the rest of the review of the new book on the subject shows how those right wing folk see history "distorted" by those who "hate America." It's kind of fun to attack the ignorance of such right wing folk, but that would mean less focu the murder, corruption and so on and so forth...

This review by Douglas Copland is at times wacky and disjointed, and too clever by half, but really and essentially a very wise and profound meditation on the state of our culture at this time. He fails to mention the most important American writer who first understood how to write as if unstuck by time: Kurt Vonnegut. But Copland is right on the spot he needs to be to see how combining fiction, non-fiction and time traveling through a fiction narrative can be a liberating force for critical thinking, as well as historical analysis. I wonder if Daniel Bell could have seen that even as he saw everything around the phenomenon Copland is describing. Certainly Vonnegut would have seen the kindred spirit of the writer, Hari Kunzru.

And here is a smart, sharply written review of an Oliver Saks sort of book, perhaps with less whimsy, about people's habits: How they acquire them, how they may change them. I love when the Times gets it right in choosing a book reviewer who really understands the subject matter of a book, and has no obvious ax to grind. That is one example of a good choice for reviewer, yes? Bravo here to psychologist Timothy D. Wilson for that review.

And finally, a disappointing review from the usually perceptive Leisl Schillinger, on the new Wallis Simpson biography. I simply don't buy Simpson as a victim not really wanting to marry the soon to be ex-King. Her love letters to her soon to be ex-husband, the British-American businessman named Simpson, are just part of her grifting ways in trying to keep a door open in case things did not work out with the ex-king. Giving up the kingdom meant giving up some serious power and money, and that is something that would have worried an American who knew poverty as with Wallis Simpson. I am not calling her a femme fatale, either. I am simply saying she and the ex-king deserved each other and theirs was a relatively equal relationship of two people who knew how to grab what they wanted when they wanted to grab. That both were attracted to Nazi ideology is a more interesting perspective from which to begin to view their conduct before, during and after their courtship led to marriage. I think Ms. Schillinger would have been less credulous had she been more familiar with the politics and culture of the 1930s. At some point, though, their story is simply not that important to anyone of my age or younger. It is a footnote at best. It's time to forget about the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and better to remember, say, Victor Serge.

But I like daylight savings time...

Brad Plumer at the Washington Post explains maybe I shouldn't like daylight savings time.

I like emotionally the idea of seeing the sun at the end of a work day...There is a warmth I also feel at seeing the sun.

Is that enough? Maybe not, but damn, my emotional love for daylight savings time is strong...

Monday, March 05, 2012

Corporate America does not like it when their paid mouthpieces go to extreme levels of women hating

Rush Limbaugh, who made popular the term "feminazi," and has a tendency to call women "whores" when he disagrees with their political views, is finding his corporate sponsors fleeing as he finally went too far in their eyes in his hatred and vitriol directed at women.

Whether Rush becomes marginalized as Glenn Beck was remains to be seen.

And good for George Will. See here.

The horror, Post Office CEO makes as much as 1/30th of UPS CEO

Jon Tester, idiot Democratic Party Senator from Montana, is making an issue that the CEO of the Post Office makes $384,000 a year when the Post Office is running a deficit over several billion.

Instead of pushing to change the ridiculous law that forced the Post Office to pre-fund its pensions for the next 75 years in only 10 years--something no other company or government agency has had to do--and which, if changed, would cause most if not all of the deficit to disappear, Tester is making the noise of a demagogue in attacking the Post Office CEO.

Tester is cynically ignoring the fact that UPS' CEO makes over $10 million a year with less employees, less locations and less oversight responsibilities, or that FedEx's CEO makes $7.2 million with even less locations and less employees and oversight responsibilities.

Shame on Tester. I had such hope for Tester when he was first elected Senator in 2006. He's been a nothing as a Senator, clearly out of his league, and now he's stooping to demagoguery to play on the corporate media drumbeat of inefficient and bloated government--when it is simply not true in the case of the Post Office.

Again, shame on you, Jon Tester. If Tester really had any guts, he'd say:

"Why should the CEOs of FedEx and UPS make 20-30 times as the head of the Post Office when each of them has less employees, less locations and less responsibilities? Why this level of economic disconnect between the top and lowest wage workers at UPS and FedEx? And why should the Post Office fund its pensions 75 years in advance when UPS and FedEx don't have to do that? When we compare the Post Office, which delivers mail for 45 cents anywhere in the USA, Alaska and Hawaii included, and does so much more for less for the consumer, we ought to be proud of our Post Office system and do what's right to change the 2006 law on funding pensions so its profitability will be seen by all!"

But no, Tester wants a gig at FoxNews as the Democratic Party "moderate scold," I suppose...

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Joan Walsh's excellent thought piece on the economic decline of white working class folks

Just read it here. It's long, but it's worth it.

Joan Walsh explains the intersection between the cultural and economic trends fairly well for a corporate media pundit. Still, she shows too much faith in our current president to reverse the economic decline of working class people of all races and creeds. President Obama cares very little about the working class in our nation. He is an enabler of the economic elite, much to his mother's sadness were she alive to see it. But, in an even sadder way, he cares slightly more than the yahoos roaming the Republican Party candidates for president this year. That's why he is a smart banker, not a dumb one.

Still, who knew that white working class folks would become the latest canary in the coal mine for the decline of our nation overall?

Another part of her article I found problematic is her belief that Asian-Americans will become the dominant ethnic group in the US. That may become true, but she misses the concurrent point that there are not enough Asian-Americans to avoid the strife that will accompany that ascendancy. What will likely happen is that the most racially resentful among the white, black and Latino population in our nation will become a coalition, likely finding succor inside the Republican Party, to push an anti-Asian sentiment that gets translated into political controversy. Congressman Pete Hoesktra's (R-MI) ridiculous ad about China a month ago is the harbinger of this anti-Asian sentiment. The Asian-Americans in the US may end up like Jews in Europe: feared, loathed and dissed at the same time.

One question is whether China's government is able to do anything about that...Will they come to the "rescue" of Asian-Americans the way Hitler claimed to be coming to the rescue of Germans in Eastern Europe as he invaded that region starting in 1938? Unlikely, with the first reason being there are not the same geographical realities.

Oh well, Walsh's article is well worth reading for the short term political process analysis, and the politics of racial resentment today.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Wilt and James Q. Wilson...Two giants in their own ways

I loved Wilt Chamberlain, but definitely have mixed emotions about James Q. Wilson.

Still, both deserve to be remembered with awe and to be studied in their own ways.

Here is a great article about Wilt the Big Dipper's amazing 100 point game on March 2, 1962, and some other aspects of Chamberlain's too short, but still eventful life.

Here is a well-written obituary from the Los Angeles Times about Wilson, and his triumph in understanding how cleaning a neighborhood can restore pride and a sense of community, and therefore lower crime, and, on the other hand, his controversial work on race and crime that overstated heredity compared to culture and environment. Corporate media crowned him the king of crime analysis, but I will admit I'll take Elliott Currie overall.

And let's give a hearty cheer to the life of Alex Webster, a tough hombre from the Mesozoic Age of American professional football in the 1950s and early 1960s.

Review of Book Reviews: Washington Post Edition

Harold Holzer, a noted Lincoln historian, has written an excellent review of Jonathan Sarna's new book on General Grant and his "Jewish problem." Holzer beautifully explains the strengths and weaknesses of Sarna's latest insightful book relating to Jewish-American history. Sarna is the leading historian of the Jewish-American experience as many may already know.

Jonathan Yardley may be the best fiction reviewer in the business, and his description and review of Richard Mason's newest novel, "History of a Pleasure Seeker," is a marvelous example. I share the sensibility of those at the end of Yardley's review that Mason's subject for his novel is too pedestrian, but Yardley convinces me Mason's prose is sparkling--and perhaps that is enough. There are Thomas Hardy novels that fit that description, such as "A Pair of Blue Eyes" and "The Trumpet Major," both of which I deeply enjoyed. Perhaps I'd enjoy Mason's novel, and that again is more than enough.

The Post also delivers three drive-by reviews worth reading: One about an alt-history where the Spanish Armada defeats the British--now that is chilling. The second concerns a Jewish psychic who ends up within Hitler's circle in the earliest days of the Nazis. The reviewer decided not to spoil the ending, but I will: The psychic is killed at the time of the infamous Reichstag Fire, probably by the Nazi organized SA. See Wikipedia for the sparse but informative account. The third review concerns the annotated version of Neil Gaiman's insanely ambitious "The Sandman," and is by someone who truly understands the work, which I found too ambitious even for my taste--but which I had respected when it had first arrived nearly twenty-three years ago.

Finally, Rachel Newcomb, a professor of anthropology at Rollins College (a school which has previously eluded my attention, I must admit!), has written the best review I've read of a relatively recent book about two Muslim women who have challenged various aspects of modern Islam. The review is insightful, and serves as an excellent introduction to the two women discussed in the book.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Andrew Breitbart: 1969-2012

This was a shocking and surprising death. I heard he was a hard drinker, but this is still again shocking.

TBogg compared Breitbart to Joe McCarthy. I don't agree for the simple reason that Breitbart was a journalist, not a senator with subpoena power and the power to issue contempt citations.

I would compare Breitbart to Benjamin Franklin Bache and James Callender, two editors of ribald, partisan and reckless newspapers during the 1790s who each died well before each man reached an older age. Bache died of yellow fever at age 39 in the year 1798 (he was born two hundred years to the year before Breitbart, in 1769). Callender died of drowning in 1803 at the age of 45.

Both Callender and Bache were embroiled with either libel or sedition trials at the time of their untimely deaths.

With Breitbart, he's not really a rest in peace person, is he? It's more like, "Breitbart, rattle your chains!" Still, others, mostly on the left, may say to him, "Don't bother wearing warm clothes for your journey..."

But for me, from a distance, I must say I tip my hat to him the way we American history buffs tip our hats to Callender and Bache--with a sense of wariness and fascination.