Wednesday, October 21, 2009

dry hump days

First, before I lose focus, let me mention the wonderful Arthur Silber, who is again raising funds, and sounds like he's in a tight spot. He's not the only one of course, but if you value his work and are in a position to help him, or even if you just want to help him and can, please consider doing so.


2.I would like to flatter myself(ourselves?) and pretend that Joe Bageant is name-checking Dead Horse here, but it's unlikely:

"Raising Up Dead Horses":

...Somewhere in the smoking wreckage lie the solutions. The solutions we aren't allowed to discuss: adoption of a Wall Street securities speculation tax; repeal of the Taft-Hartley anti-union laws; ending corporate personhood; cutting the bloated vampire bleeding the economy, the military budget; full single payer health care insurance, not some "public option" that is neither fish nor fowl; taxation instead of credits for carbon pollution; reversal of inflammatory U.S. policy in the Middle East (as in, get the hell out, begin kicking the oil addiction and quit backing the spoiled murderous brat that is Israel.

Meanwhile we may all feel free to row ourselves to hell in the same hand basket. Except of course the elites, the top five percent or so among us. But 95 percent is close enough to be called democratic, so what the hell. The trivialized media, having internalized the system's values, will continue to act as rowing captain calling out the strokes. News gathering in America is its own special hell, and reduces its practitioners to banality and elite sycophancy...

the rest is here.

3. I'm sure Michael Lind is a nice enough person, but somehow his essays at Salon often grate on me, even when he observes something that strikes me as true. In "That sound you hear is the social fabric about to snap " he observes that the real unemployment is probably closer to 20 per cent, and I suspect he's right. But his essay makes him seem tone-deaf, as if he's simply talking about a puzzle that needs to be solved, and needs to be discussed in such a way as to demonstrate the cleverness of the writer, but completely disassociated from the human misery involved, and blithely ignoring the corruption that will prevent any of his dainty solutions from materializing.


4. Avedon Carol, "Waiting for Grandma to die"

It's worth remembering that a lot of the people who voted for Republicans because they are twitchy on social issues - still basically racist, still homophobic, still disgusted by hippies and wimmin's libbers - also still love their Social Security and Medicare and think they pay taxes so government can do things for them. They think businesses should not be able to break the law and poison, trick, or rob their customers. They think people who work hard and play by the rules should be able to retire in reasonable comfort and not be treated like dirt because they didn't happen to get immorally rich. They just don't realize that those are the real liberal policies that conservatives hate the most and are trying the hardest to get rid of.

But there's a younger generation out there that, as BDBlue points out, grew up in the Reagan era and doesn't even appreciate what Social Security has accomplished. Young, healthy kids who are now seeing Democrats who were put in power by liberals openly transferring taxpayers' wealth to criminal banksters, and who are about to force them to buy overpriced crappy insurance from the same criminals who've been denying them health care all along.

And the only people who are suggesting in public that these Democrats might be doing them wrong are...right-wingers whose stock-in-trade is bashing the left. And there's no one on TV telling them that it's not "blacks" and "liberals" and "gays" and "illegal aliens" who are responsible for this.

the passage above is of course only an excerpt. Please go read all of it.

Even though I wouldn't say I know her well, I've known Avedon and her writing a lot longer than Arthur Silber or Joe Bageant or any of my co-writers here at DH. In 2005 she discouraged me from going to Iraq as I announced that I planned to in 2007, and I didn't, although it was not because of her advice but the poverty I've experienced for most of the past 4 years. My point, however, is that Avedon has had a strong influence on my thinking about politics and our increasingly messed-up world, going back to when I first discovered the world of political blogs in 2002, and I'd even say she's helped me grow as a writer.

By that same token, her influence on my thought may help you to have a better perspective on my arguments, such as they are. For example, although I agree with Rob about the need to end the US imperial project, I really don't see how it's possible without shoring up the welfare state, and healthcare, and the economy. To me they're tied together, as our whole society seems to be predicated more and more on brutishness, on "looking out for number one," and to me this isn't simply random or culturally driven, but also driven by the structure of government, including the rotten fruits of Reaganism and the deliberate, decades-long project of tearing apart of the New Deal.

(And ironically Bill Clinton did a lot of this, even if he was also more sensible than his successor about paying the bills.)

How are you going to get ordinary people to care about Afghans getting blown up when 800 people show up to apply for just one crummy job as a meter reader? And the lucky schmoes who actually have half-way decent jobs, how do you get them to care about dismantling the empire when they're worried their health coverage may become similarly dismantled, and the press and President Smoke-and-Mirrors tell them the most they may hope for from the current healthcare 'reform' push is a government plan to sell people health insurance, when every other civilized country just provides healthcare-- i.e., allows you to pursue happiness without the fear or need for such insurance? I don't think you can.


Thursday, 22 October, some additional thoughts: I realize as I look at the above words that this argument is significantly incomplete. I don't want to suggest that arresting the US's economic slide and bolstering the social safety-net will suddenly make us a nation of Howard Zinns and Eleanor Roosevelts, but I do think it's a necessary condition for putting us on the right path. There's a lot more that needs to be addressed, from the infantilizing mission of corporate mass media to the amply demonstrated fact that US elites know they can largely ignore the more progressive impulses that popular majorities occasionally have, with no consequences. I was hoping some interesting commenters might leave some interesting comments and further the discussion, but maybe my rude title put them off, or something else... Anyway, I will return to this topic in a few days.

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6 Comments:

At October 22, 2009 10:40 PM, Blogger rob payne said...

Hi Jonathan,

Your arguments sound sound to me, no pun intended. I think that if things were better people would probably pay more attention to all this but we remain powerless as long as we stay in our present mind-set. As it stands there is no magic pill that can stop 100 years of empire, there is a lot of momentum to overcome. I don't even know if it lies in the realm of the possible with the death grip corporate America has on the government. What may mitigate our foriegn policy is the fact that China is becoming a power to be considered and they may well help end America's uni-polar moment as a super power. Not as in war but in the realm of economic influence and the like. This is not to say that the things you mentioned are not important as indeed they are. And better conditions at home would I think lead to more rational thought as well.

 
At October 24, 2009 12:04 AM, Blogger Jonathan Versen said...

Thanks Rob.

I wrote in part as a response to the mystery dinner guests that Mimi refers to, because whenever I hear about people engaging in nativist grumbling, I think they're responding to the sour economy and the more general long-term decline of the US, but that they can't(or wont) see the underlying reasons for their gripes.

Of course I wasn't there that night and I don't really know what they said, but that's how I usually interpret those kinds of arguments when I hear them.

 
At October 24, 2009 8:06 AM, Blogger Charles F. Oxtrot said...

To me they're tied together, as our whole society seems to be predicated more and more on brutishness, on "looking out for number one," and to me this isn't simply random or culturally driven, but also driven by the structure of government, including the rotten fruits of Reaganism and the deliberate, decades-long project of tearing apart of the New Deal.

A few observations...

1) I don't see how they're tied together.

2) Reagan is not the problem. This is an old Democrat talking point that has no legitimacy. The "deregulation" argument is pointless, because under Democrats there is "regulation" that is toothless and inept, emasculated and neutered, where the scheme of "regulation" exists but the enforcement is basically directed by the regulated industry/business/individual in question. The idea that more/better "regulation" is what we need, that's an old Daddy State paternalist government argument. What's needed is something different. The present American mindset is premised on many assumptions that arose out of historical fabrication... i.e. that the "New Deal" was valhalla and not just a giveaway for FDR's pals to profiteer. The "New Deal" was the equivalent of the Reagan-Bush-Clinton-Bush-Obama continued theme of using the Fed Govt as a profit center for those who are close to the POTUS.

The fault in America's society now should be lain at the feet of those who promote victimization. Americans today believe they have no personal power, and therefore they want the Government to exercise power, or they want plaintiffs' lawyers to exercise power, or they want lobbyists to exert influence. They are all engaged in using proxies, whether the proxies are people or entities it doesn't matter.

Personal responsibility is sorely lacking in America right now, and I think that's because people feel powerless, and feel victimized. Naturally people see the Government giving $$$ to entities like Halliburton/KBR and then snap to the conclusion that what's needed is "regulation."

I'm afraid that the idea of regulation is premised on a lot of flawed assumptions, the main of which is that we can expect the Fed Govt to do anything but reward those in power.

More regulation, or more enforcement of regulation, will not change the fact that we're in a fascist state now. If the corporate interests run the government, how will regulatory activity fix that? All this regulation-focused argument says is, let's go through the motions, but get nothing as a result.

That sounds like slow suicide to me.

 
At October 25, 2009 3:10 AM, Blogger Jonathan Versen said...

Hi Charles,
Unfortunately I really don't have the energy to address your points properly right now, although I'd like to, later next week.

For now, I only want to observe that from my vantage point you seem to be saying that nihilism or radical libertarianism are all we have, and any government-based solutions are a priori supect. Is this correct?

I'm not trying to put words in your mouth, just telling you what I'm hearing.

Anyway, I reject radical libertarianism, although like you I mistrust the security state. Also, I reject your dismissal of the New Deal and FDR, and I'm inclined to think a lot of libertarians fail to account for the wealth and comparative comfort that they inherited from the US economic ascendancy of the 1940s-1950s*,
which allow them to hold their libertarian ideals and take a lot for granted.


(*a time when FDR's steeply progressive tax code and most New Deal regs were still in place)

 
At October 25, 2009 8:12 AM, Blogger Charles F. Oxtrot said...

Jonathan --

I'm not sure why you'd assume I support absolute anarchism or radical libertarianism.

I'm not sure why you see those two as the only options beside what we now have.

Like you I don't have quite the time to be exhaustive -- I'm getting ready to head out for a long bike ride out of town. What I'll suggest is that you try to imagine using **parts** or **themes** from various political theories, together in a melange.

What is clear to me is that if we want changes from what we have, we cannot work "within the system" to fix it. All such changes will effect are minor, cosmetic alterations that won't affect enough people. I am confident of this point. I believe anyone else who examines things for as long as I have would agree.

 
At October 25, 2009 8:15 AM, Blogger Charles F. Oxtrot said...

PS to Jonathan --

I would suggest, as a shorthand, that you examine the Articles of Confederation and compare them to the Constitution, and in that comparison, with reference to the Declaration of Independence, you will see what I'm aiming toward.

The Constitution isn't quite what most Americans believe it to be. The problem isn't that we have strayed from its mandates. The problem is that the Constitution has enabled the present situation, both by its clear text, and by the SCOTUS interpreting it and creating case law that becomes a monstrous appendage to the organic laws of the Constitution.

 

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