Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Croaking at the Middle East

What Israel is doing in Gaza is an outrage, of course, but it is itself a response to other outrages. Rather than running for high ground, all parties seem to be digging ever deeper into the moral swamp.

How did we get into this mess? It would be bad enough if it were Zionists against Arabs alone. But, of course, the refusal of the West to accept Jewish refugees before and after World War II swelled the number of Zionists with Jewish refugees from Europe. Then the conflict was taken up into the "Cold" War. The USA and the USSR pumped huge amounts of money and training into the conflict. Now it’s become a jihad, with committed fighters and well-funded allies on both sides. So many people have died, wounded, or been displaced that everyone in the region either has been affected or knows someone who has been. Almost everyone is afraid for their own safety and the safety of their family and friends. Many people on both sides want revenge, and Arab ideas of revenge are exceptionally brutal, which in turn provokes brutality from the Israelis. It is going to take miracles, an Arab-Israeli alliance, or a committed alliance outside the region, to stop the conflict.

Now if the Arabs and the Israelis made an alliance, they could tell the rest of the world to take a hike. Be a smart thing to do, really—most of the region’s problems have been the result of interventions to various ends. But it would take leaders with the courage to see beyond revenge.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Krawking on the auto industry

(My comments over in Balloon Juice)

I would say that the Southern Senators who have made this mess are trying to set up a regional monopoly on auto manufacture, and there’s no reason to believe they will succeed in doing anything but making a lot of people miserable; the time for regional monopolies seems to have ended. (Krugman pointed out that the time for regional monopolies in the auto industry seems to have ended at the end of his Nobel lecture, and was immediately misquoted. Go listen to it—-there’s no transcription yet.)

It turns out, by the way, that my call is more properly transcribed as "krawk" or "croak". Krawk!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

What the UAW might do

if the auto industry goes into bankruptcy, maybe the unions can go on sit down strike until Obama is inaugurated. Krawk!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Jamie Galbraith on the state of the science of economics

From a New York Times interview with progressive Keynesian Jamie Galbraith, son of the famous Keynesian J. K. Galbraith.

Deborah Solomon: "Do you find it odd that so few economists foresaw the current credit disaster?"
Jamie Galbraith: "Some did. The person with the most serious claim for seeing it coming is Dean Baker, the Washington economist. I saw it coming in general terms."

DS: "But there are at least 15,000 professional economists in this country, and you’re saying only two or three of them foresaw the mortgage crisis?"
JG: "Ten or 12 would be closer than two or three."

DS: "What does that say about the field of economics, which claims to be a science?"
JG: "It’s an enormous blot on the reputation of the profession. There are thousands of economists. Most of them teach. And most of them teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless."

Krawk!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Cawing

These are some comments I made in various other blogs that I think are good enough to stand on their own, here.

Paul Krugman, in a note on the greatness of Keynes, quotes Upton Sinclair:

It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.
More than salary, even, it strikes at pride. It is the journeyman's arrogance: the feeling that because of their intimate knowledge of their work, that they have nothing to learn, and they are doing everything perfectly. Isn't something like that at the core of many "information-and-markets" arguments? The idea that the people in the market know not just a lot of their business, but everything about it, and how their businesses relate to all other businesses?

In his admirable mea culpa on the ongoing economic disaster, Brad Delong wrote, "We could have interrupted this chain that has gotten us here at any of a number of places. And I still am trying to figure out why we did not."

Surely, widespread corruption and a lack of the old conservative virtues? It is enough to make one believe in demonic tempters! We'd spent decades persuading ourselves of a number of things that were plainly false: most significantly that unregulated markets somehow can discipline themselves. It seems to me that in the second half of the 20th century, the USA mass culture went from a belief, at both the individual and social levels, in intense harsh self-discipline, to license, without every passing through moderate, sensible self-discipline in the middle. I hope we will see more of that in the future, but I am not hoping too hard; moderation is one of the great philosophical teachings, and one of the ones that seems to most need repeating.
An aside on Obama's personal ideology, over on Digby's blog:
I don't think we know Obama's ideological stance. Like a lawyer avoiding a trial which he could lose, he carefully avoided the judgment of the public on ideology, instead promising an improvement over W. Bush, who the public had already judged and found wanting. And this has won the election. We can only hope he will govern well. Early signs are promising. I worry, however, that like LBJ and Lincoln, Obama is making too many concessions to the militarists and the authoritarians--opponents implacably opposed to all moderate policies.

The Future

Brad Delong asks, "The Obama administration is going to be rebuilding and reconstructing five major sectors of the American economy. It has no choice--there is no other option. It has to remake: autos, housing finance, high finance, energy, and--the big one—-health care. On what principles and through what procedures is this extraordinary exercise in structural economic reform policy going to be accomplished?" This sparked the following reflection on my part:
Paging Fredrich Hayek... Because, the truth of the matter is, you hominids can't know what will work. OK, you know how to run a state health-care service, and a state bank. The rest is all changing very rapidly. It's time to start Al Gore's Manhattan Project for alternative energy. The new urban designs, architecture, transit systems, and, of course, energy systems will all come out of that work. Meantime, prop up what you can, but don't get too attached to it; a lot of it is not going to last.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Christian Charity

It seems that the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons) have had an 11-year deal to pass an anti-gay marriage proposition in California. There's good links page on the topic at firedoglake. Apparently the two churches have found something they hate more than each other. Caw!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Working Class

In the USA it's the illegal immigrants; the people who can't ask for more wages, can't negotiate for anything because their employers can have them deported at the drop of a hat. Anyone who's working legally is of a higher class, even the people just scraping along. The USA has over ten million people in this lower class. Most of what I hear about them is how awful they are, and how we have to make their lives even worse, so they'll leave and citizens can take over their jobs. That, interlarded with the fear that that if these people were paid and treated decently prices would rise. As if the people who hire them would ever obey labor laws or cut prices if they had any alternative! Oh, you hominids could make the border into a killing field, make a feast for us corvids. That would stop them from coming, probably. The people who ran Abu Ghraib and run Gitmo, they'd be happy to do it for you. And then they'd do it to you.

If you don't want more rule by criminals, it's time to start thinking about alternatives. If people are desperate enough to risk death to come here and work, they're not going to be stopped without crimes against humanity. If you reject crimes against humanity, then, maybe, let them work legally, and let the same laws that protect citizens protect migrants. At least, that would even the competition; citizens and non-citizens would be working under the same rules, and employers would have to honor the labor laws for all. At the same time, the USA could work to improve conditions in countries that send the migrants, so that we'd have a few visitors rather than the flood of refugees we've been seeing. Perhaps some other solution would be better. But don't go on like this.

The policy reasoning here is a lot thinner than my usual post. This is a hot-button issue that mainstream policy-makers want to sweep under the rug, so there's not a lot of high-quality popular policy analysis on this subject. A candidate who suggests that there's anything to do about undocumented aliens other than abuse them and send them away is probably going to lose an election. To even suggest that the policies we've got now are part of the problem scares many of us. Yet I have become convinced that alternatives exist which are both more compassionate and better economics. Caw!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Monday, November 3, 2008

You apes!

It's the most important election of your lives! Vote, puny humans! Caw!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Corvids count

It is a curious fact that, even among the opponents of democracy, the vote is considered important. That is why there is so much effort to persuade people not to do it, to persuade people to vote for candidates who can't possibly win, to prop up splitter candidates, to make it difficult to get permission to vote, to revoke people's permission to vote, to lose people's permission to vote, to falsify the vote, to not count the vote, to claim the vote isn't valid. Your vote counts, and your political opponents know it--that's why they don't want you to do it.

Croak!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Small Government

An old friend has attacked me in a political discussion. I'm disturbed and saddened. It got me to thinking, though. Some of the people who comment in his LJ sound like criminals--a combination of hostility, lack of empathy, and love of violence. They make the libertarian "small government" arguments. I think they oppose government the way criminals oppose policing; they only freedom they care about is their freedom to abuse other people. No wealthy, powerful nation has ever had a small government. In the end, the only way to achieve government "small enough to drown in a bath tub" in the USA is by a number of deaths, and a level of human misery, beyond any tyranny in history. And that is why, in the final analysis so many of the more vocal libertarians sound like criminals: they are in love with death and human misery. More food for us corvids...in the short term. Caw!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Blessing

I don't believe all the hate that the McCain/Palin election is spreading is going to win them the election.
"With the election being only a couple of weeks away and with more and more incidents of voter fraud coming to light, we don't believe that we can trust the results of this election," said Pennsylvania Republican State Chairman Robert Gleason yesterday.
We are for-sure going to be hearing about how Obama won because--gasp!--black people voted for the next two decades. How far are the Republicans and, especially, the radical right going to take this? No coup, I think. The military leadership will not support them--nothing like losing a war messily to make you unpopular with the officer corps and the general staff. But domestic violence, perhaps even domestic terrorism? Likely, likely. I'd hoped that the election would be the end of this. But then where would all that lovely negative energy go? Much, I think, will depend on Obama's conduct after the election. He is going to have to work very hard to defuse this horror. May he prove a Barack indeed--a blessing.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Agents of History and Madness

Discussion on a friend's blog recently turned to William Ayers, so I researched him a bit. The material isn't secret, and there's a lot of it--Ayers, now an academic, is still writing. One of the things I found about Ayers is that his goal was sabotage and propaganda rather than terrorism; especially after the Greenwich Village disaster, the Weatherman took careful steps to avoid injuring people in their attacks, and in fact no-one was injured. Maybe this was because of those cautions, or maybe the Weatherman (the name of their group, after Dylan's line "You don't need a weatherman to see which way the wind blows") was just lucky. Ayers was another one who, like the northwestern anarchists in Seattle three decades later, had gotten impatient and was going to try to bring about the new world by force. Then and now, it didn't work. It has never worked. The state, the entrenched, corrupt powers--they have more force than any small activist group can match. In the end only persuasion and sacrifice seem to work and the work takes more than a single lifetime.

And, like a wolverine at the gate, we have the Alaska Independence Party--Joel Vogler, Mark Chryson, and Todd Palin, Sarah Palin's husband. Talking violence, with violent associates and ties to white supremacists and (yes!) the Islamic Republic of Iran, this group also wants to bring about a new world and has embraced, rather than renounced, violence against people in its aims. No lofty goals here--they want to make money by destroying the land and water of Alaska. Vogler was a gold miner. They want to become the state, they want to be the entrenched, corrupt power. With Sarah Palin becoming governor of Alaska they succeeded, at least in part. I think back to the nazis and fascists of the last century. Coming from the fringes of society, they took their petty desires for wealth and power, came to power, and failed in some of the most oppressive regimes and one of the bloodiest wars in history.

But it is all about power. My title is from Philip K. Dick's The Man in the High Castle a contrafactual or alternate history novel in which the Axis won the Second World War.

They want to be the agents, not the victims of history. They identify with God's power and believe they are godlike. That is their basic madness. They are overcome by some archetype; their egos have expanded psychotically so that they cannot tell where they begin and the godhead leaves off. It is not hubris, not pride; it is inflation of the ego to its ultimate--confusion between him who worships and that which is worshipped. Man has not eaten God; God has eaten man.
Let us save ourselves from the agents of history and madness.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Spread the word

Max Blumenthal and Dave Neiwert, on Palin in Alaska. It reads like the early bio of a fascist leader. BTW, for those of you who think her support of firearms is positive, it's pretty clear that what she's supporting is the right to threaten with the open carriage of firearms. That is no part of freedom.

Teresa Nielsen Hayden pulls together lots of information on John McCain's failings. Caw!

The Problem of Hate Rallies

It seems that Sarah Palin has been exhorting to people to shout their hatred during her speeches, and they are shouting. From there, it's a short step to physical violence. It's a grim thing, bringing back memories of the infamous lynch mobs, and violent mobs throughout history. In itself, this probably will not raise McCain/Palin's electoral chances. If they take it to television or talk radio we might see actual mob violence. I don't think a month is enough time to establish a full-fledged hate campaign, one that could actually bully its opposition into silence. I don't think hate media can even swing the election, this late in the game. But hate rallies or hate radio could trigger some violent incidents before the election, at the polls, and even after the election. Which means... More food for corvids! Caw!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Waiting for the New World

It occurs to me that the reason I set out these mostly grim visions is because I am early, waiting for the new world. I came of age in the early 1970s, at the tail of the transformations of the 1960s. And there's so much to hope for! Even now, even in this dark time. The better world is near, nearer than we imagine. Freedom, peace, plenty. Oh, I know we won't get there in my lifetime. But we can be on the path. Even now, even today--we don't have to be monsters. And--if we make it at all--that world will be. But not today. Perhaps not for centuries.

I used to live in Eugene, Oregon. Some of my neighbors were the anarchists who made Seattle so interesting a few years ago. They were the children of the old hippies, they got tired of waiting for the Revolution, and decided to go out and make it. Well. No, not well. It was ill-done, overwhelmed and scared the Seattle authorities, and it's going to take a generation for the right to protest to be recovered. But they were trying to bring the new world. And so am I. All these things I write about--they are barriers on the way. In a different, saner world I would be wishing us on that way. Instead, I write to point out and to help tear down barriers to it. And out of frustration. Why is it so hard for people to imagine a better world? How long?

Not what you expect from this grim old corvid, is it? But corvids are smart birds. No, really. We can count, and our calls are almost language. We only go hungry when the world is starving.

So we work, and hope. Maybe, it will be enough.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The Problem of Thinking About Society

Is that many people cannot see past themselves. People imagine that their personal experience is everyone's experience, and are offended at the suggestion it is not; people reject the idea that they might be part of a population with similar experience; people want to punish others for their own failings. Caw!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Presidential Candidates and Social Transformation

An anti-abortion Catholic friend is agonizing over her vote. McCain/Palin, of course, toe the Church's line on this issue, but she finds their militarism repulsive and she can't quite bring herself--yet, anyhow--to vote for the pro-abortion Obama/Biden ticket.

After some discussion I ended up with a question: how is it that anyone would believe that McCain and Palin are in any substantial way superior to Obama and Biden? McCain is a vet who doesn't seem to have recovered from PTSD. He is impulsive and ignorant of important issues. He is too old for the job--if he wins a second term he will be 80 at the end of it. There is a good chance of McCain dying or being disabled in office. Palin seems to be a charming narcissistic fanatic. She is deeply ignorant of governance. It's not clear she really believes anything she professes--she may just be interested in power. She has strong associations with the authoritarian, revolutionary, Christian Dominionist Alaskan Independence Party. Obama, on the other hand, is a well-educated politician, who has been studying for political leadership all his life. A greatly charismatic man, he wants the job and is willing to make great efforts to prepare for it. Biden is an experienced Democratic senator with a decent conservative record.

Looked at in this way it's clear who the superior choices for the office are. McCain and Palin are not, in any meaningful sense, "pro-life"--regardless of their anti-abortion stands, their careers would bring such great human misery as to wipe out any good that would do, even if one takes the view that all fetuses are people. Similarly a strongly pro-gun friend desperately defends them, and yet, while in a McCain/Palin administration they might keep their firearms, the attack on civil rights we have seen under Bush/Cheney would continue--we have never before had an administration making barefaced arguments in defense of torture--, and that friend might, in the end, even lose his guns.

A lot of effort has been spent on making people like my friends so concerned and scared about particular single issues that they forget the whole, like someone who lets their panic fear of falling lead them to die in a fire rather than making a safe jump from a window. If the anti-abortion people are right, abortion is a great wrong. But regardless of the candidates stands on that issue, even should they succeed in outlawing abortion, as elected officials that will not be most of their work. The President does not spend most of their time on moral issues. Nor, really, would we want a President to; we are electing a head of state and a chief executive, not a high priest. But people who latch on to single hot-button issues are made to forget this. The how of this is, I regret to say, very well understood--if you have mass media it is depressingly easy to create mass panic. If only we knew as well how to allay fears and give people courage! It is one of Obama's great virtues that he does seem to know something about this and to actually want to do it. But I want to write about the why, for a moment.

Focusing on panicking people and electing poor leaders is the nuclear option of civil society--it can take generations to pick up the pieces. The basis of this, apart from greed and power-lust, is intellectual rigidity. It is difficult for me to draw any conclusion other than that we are in need of vast transformations in our institutions and philosophies. Deep time, deep space, evolution, ecology--these things were not even dreamt of when the ideas our reactionaries rely on were formed. If there is to be a human future, we must begin to think about them as the basis of our social ethics. If we are to have a future, therefore, the institutions that refuse to respond to them must either change their ideas, or fade into insignificance.

The Barracuda's Smile

I've been wincing at Sarah Palin's smile for weeks now. It looks artificial...and then my girlfriend pointed out that it probably is, and she might have cheek implants as well. The Raven's girlfriend speaks:

When I was a skater mom I learned an unfortunate fact: most competitors at regional level and above had had some degree of corrective work done. It generally started with teeth. In fact, teeth are the "biggest bang for the buck" alteration somebody can do to make their face look more attractive.

Some years later, after my daughter stopped skating (and she never had dental work done) I was studying plastic surgery for a report in Anatomy and Physiology and I learned that this phenomena was not confined to skaters. Dancers--well, of course!--and beauty queens and politicians.

A set of before and after photographs were provided in the article I was reading about the ethics of plastic surgery. Of course, said politicians never said they'd had plastic surgery, but a cursory examination of the photographs was enough to establish that a remarkable transformation had happened over a period of years. Once again, teeth were in the forefront of the changes.

It's basic psychology and politicians are driven to garner votes and confidence in any way possible. Barak Obama is very lucky to be such a poster boy, both physique and face. But others are not so lucky. If Sarah Palin's smile looks odd; it probably is odd, and a search through the archives to her junior high school years will likely yield a much more congruent set of teeth.

Ordinarily, I consider plastic surgery more a subject for gossip magazines than political commentary, but here I think this is revealing of character. She's had a lot done--teeth, cheeks, and probably a facelift. I think it shows a narcissistic concern with appearance. And how much harder Palin looks at 44!

Croak!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Salt of the Earth

I woke up with this running through my head. It might be the voice of prophecy...or perhaps not. (Rolling Stones, snarky British working-class version) (Judy Collins, American populist left version, enough changes to make it a different song. "Salt of the Earth" starts halfway through the video--no better version, sorry.)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

No no no no

Please don't give $700 billion to the banks, so that they can piss it away like the last trillion. I'll probably have more to say on this, and more intelligent things, but right now I just wish it would stop. Caw!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Obama's science advisory panel

List at Wired. It's an idiosyncratic list, and only one of the five is a woman, but the short bios all indicate knowledgeable, competent people. It is not even remotely plausible that a McCain/Palin administration would make picks near as good.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Cherry-picking

This one's an exasperated comment on "libertarian" arguments against public transit. You cannot mix apples, watermelons, and cherries, compute average statistics about the mix, and then honestly proclaim that you have proven something about apples. Sheesh.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Notes on energy policies that will work

I got tired of snickering at Republicans, so here's a few notes on things we know will work.

1. A huge amount of fossil-fuel generated and electric energy is spent to heat and light buildings. Careful design, retrofitting of existing buildings, and siting of new buildings can reduce this by at least 90%. The use of incident solar energy - sunlight and heat is enormously effective. The big win here is what are called "hybrid" techniques, where active systems that use small amounts of energy are used to control passive systems to store and and direct large amounts of solar and geothermal energy. Daylighting and heating techniques are widely known; one that is less so is the geothermal heat pump, which is a highly-efficient cooling technique. There are houses in Maine that use entirely solar heat; there are houses in Louisiana that use geothermal heat-pumps for cooling. Clever design can reduce building energy use enormously, and many of these technologies save money, even at low energy prices. Links: Overview at Worldchanging. Brown and DeKay, Sun, Wind, and Light an excellent practical guide to passive techniques. California Energy Commission on geothermal heat pump technology. US Department of Energy on photovoltaics.

2. Long-haul freight rail. More efficient than long-haul trucking and much more efficient than long-haul air transport.

3. Medium-range passenger rail. More efficient than single-occupancy automobiles, safer, and you can do office work on the way.

4. Urban multi-modal transit. The amount of space required by the heavy use of automobiles is itself a huge cost, both in land and the energy required to develop it. Broadly, when there are enough people to use the systems, rail is both more efficient and much cheaper than buses. In local transportation, however, there are many uses where rail doesn't make a lot of sense--there's no energy advantage over an automobile with a family. Buses have the advantage of not needing dedicated rights-of-way, but are uncomfortable and more expensive to operate than rail systems. If a bus line is operating for more than 10 years, it makes sense to replace it with a streetcar.

5. Build closer. Sorry, guys--we've no idea how to make low-density urbanization energy efficient.

6. Solar electricity. For applications where there is no good substitute for electrical energy, this is a good technology that is still improving.

So...are we hearing about these from the Democrats? Sadly, not very much. But Al Gore's been talking about them for over 15 years!

"And you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska."

Well, yes, if you count the Diomede Islands in the Bering Strait. Little Diomede Island is a US holding; Big Diomede Island is a Russian holding. They are something like 1,000 miles from Anchorage and probably just as far from any significant place in Russia. A brilliant, deceptive, and meaningless claim. Sarah Palin has close connections with a radical anti-US party, the secessionist, theocratic Alaska Independence Party. Sarah Palin also has close connections with a remarkably strange version of Christianity. She has received protection from witchcraft. Palin Signed Off on Budget to Charge Rape Victims for Exams. She is given to cronyism and notorious for appointing inadequately-prepared friends to high office (NYT article, reg. may be required). Exhaustive analysis of Sarah Palin's conduct as Governor in several disturbing instances by Teresa Nielsen Hayden. Read it and weep. This is the all-purpose "why Sarah Palin would make a bad President" post. I may add more to it. Caw!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Further thoughts on Palin

When I first heard of Sarah Palin, my attitude was, "Oh, that's kind of cool." As the information began to roll in it was, "Oh, wow, she's really awful." Now it's, "WtF? Why does anyone care about her?" Interlarded, mind you, with "She's Nehemiah Scudder [fictional religious radical] in a dress. Have the Republicans gone crazy? Have we all?" I don't get it. Why does she matter at all? (And will I still feel this way tomorrow morning?)

On Sarah Palin's sexual politics

(An article similar in spirit but not language was deleted from an anti-Obama feminist blog, so I've decided to post this here in its stead.) I'm old enough to remember when abortion on demand was finally legalized. I have a good friend who grew up where it is still illegal, and my friend probably is sterile as a result of a backstreet abortion. Those of you who think that Palin would make a good president--if she becomes President, what will you say when your mothers, sisters, daughters, lovers, and wives start dying?

If we want Obama/Biden to win

Let's hear some good solid progressive arguments we can use for them. We need something really good, folks.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Reflections on Palin

Let's grant that Palin's selection was, in fact, a spur-of-the-moment decision on the part of John McCain, based on an inadequate search and interview. Yet if some master manipulator had tried to pick someone to focus the question of neo-conservative ideology vs. progressivism, they could hardly have done a better job than to seek out and select Sarah Palin and stand her against Barack Obama. We progressives say we want to make our case. Well, now's our opportunity. In fact, now we must make it. We say we know something better than neo-conservatism. We need to figure out what it is, and get it out there. Or we're going to lose. The real problem that Palin poses for us is that she discredits Democratic conservatism. Why vote for the copy when you can have the real thing, at least as VP? But, you perhaps object, perhaps, that she's not the real thing, that the thing doesn't exist, can't exist. That she's corrupt and self-serving. Well, yes. And W. Bush is even moreso. But he's president. We need a truth--or at least a compassionate story--that enough of the public wants to believe so much that they're willing to abandon their belief in figures like Bush and Palin. And we need Obama to tell that story.

"Change". OK, good. The problem is, the rest of the platform is bollocks. (All right, maybe 75% of it is bollocks.) There's no economic quick-fix for manufacturing; the USA is not going to build a modern manufacturing base in four years, not even in eight. It also probably requires a national health-care system. There's no such thing as clean coal and carbon sequestration is a very questionable idea. Even if the engines were 100% efficient and clean as a whistle, an automobile-based transportation system would still be inefficient and an ecological problem. And so on, and on. We've got to have something real, or at least be willing to seek something real. We can't win anyone's heart by being corrupt--the Republicans have the corner on that market.

In our favor: progressives don't have to be saints. People want something better. Give them a little hope they can believe in, and they'll grab on and start leading us. Isn't that what Obama has been saying all along? But we have to give them something, and we have to be willing to be led. Oh, the parties are not the same; that's false, and the counsel of despair. Even before Palin came on the scene, Obama and McCain stood for different things. But the parties are, in different ways, both part of the problem. The parties aren't willing to be led.

In different words, this is a criticism that has been heard before: the parties are unresponsive to the voters. Which most thinking people already know. There's hope out there, there's things we can do. There's even people who know what those things are and can articulate them. But if the party leadership is busy protecting the auto industry, the insurance companies, the oil industry, MBNA, the radical-right christians, the god-knows-what that broken John McCain will listen to, then they can't listen to us, or do the things we need to do.

Progressives need to pull Obama along. Sarah Palin is going to do the feet-to-the-fire job, better, probably, than any progressive can. She has already forced him to come out firmly pro-choice. So I think progressives need to advocate and hold out an alternative, one that can win. It might be our moment--let's try to seize it.

What Brung Them

The great liberal commentator Molly Ivins was so fond of the saying, "You got to dance with them what brung you," that she used it for a book title. By this she meant, of course, that politicians have to work with the people who bring them into office, whether with votes or money. So who has brought Obama and now McCain?

First, of course, wealthy lobbyists. The great unreported story of the Democratic National Convention, says the estimable Jane Hamsher at firedoglake.com, is "the unhealthy relationship between Democratic politicians and their bigwig donors." Obama flirts with wealth and power, most notably with his selection of Biden as his running mate. McCain's connection with wealth are substantial; he married it, after all. Palin's connections with Big Oil are even more dramatic; if Obama flirts with wealth and power, and McCain has married it, Palin, despite her claimed Christianity, has had a long affair with them. But she seems to have married power, and fanaticism.

Second, the primary run of Hilary Clinton, McCain's pick of Palin and her popularity, show that women, more than any single group, have brought the Presidential candidates. Welcome to the 21st century. And--some women support Palin? If she has her way, it will be back to the times when everyone knew some young woman who had died from a failed abortion, some woman whose heart was broken by bearing a child and giving it up for adoption, or some woman or man who was forced into a bad marriage by an unexpected pregnancy! I suppose it is no different than tough working men supporting Republicans who have consistently sold them out, but it is heartbreaking to see anyway.

Third, progressive beginners. These are the young (and not so young) Obama supporters who support Obama's "change," even though they're not sure what it means. They don't want perpetual war, they want health care, they are environmentalists. I believe this group also includes some of the young Republicans who are thrilled by Sarah Palin. I think this group is much more likely to get what it wants from an Obama administration than a McCain (or Palin) administration, but it's not likely to get all of what it wants, because the conservatives are too strong. The Democrats aren't very happy with this group, as witness the choice of Biden for Obama's running mate, but they will probably have to make some concessions to them.

Fourth is reactionaries. "Give me back the Berlin wall / give me Stalin and St Paul / I've seen the future, brother: / it is murder."* This group wants change, but the change they want is a return to the real or imagined past. Obama, by not pinning down his "change", has attracted some of these voters, and through rhetorical prowess may even have persuaded some of them that there is hope, but by and large these are Republicans.

Fifth, still, are religious authoritarians. These bring the Republicans, and the Republicans have chosen Palin to lead their part of the dance.

So, to recap, we have:
1. Lobbyists
2. WOMEN!!!
3. Progressive beginners
4. Reactionaries
5. Religious authoritarians

How does this play out? First, the pervasive influence of great wealth in US government is not going away soon (duh). Second, the influence of women is bipartisan. But in the areas where the pols have some latitude, it seems the Democrats are going to be influenced by progressive beginners and old feminists, and the Republicans by reactionaries and religious authoritarians.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Bill who?

"Sen. John McCain's top campaign strategist accused the news media Tuesday of being 'on a mission to destroy' Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin by displaying 'a level of viciousness and scurrilousness' in pursuing questions about her personal life." Caw!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Beijing on the North Mississippi

In preparation for the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis, local and federal police are doing just what the Chinese did in preparation for the Olympics in Beijing--cracking down on dissent. No-knock raids, no warrant raids were conducted against progressive groups. Fortunately, communications is still working, and word is getting out. Unfortunately, the amount of grief these non-violent progressives are going through is considerable; the police are probably going to try to hold them until Wednesday and their homes and computers will be searched. I doubt they will get their computers and media equipment back. Glenn Greenwald at Salon. Lindsay Beyerstein at The Campaign Silo: 1, 2, 3. Jane Hamsher, also at The Campaign Silo. New York Times. Minneapolis Star-Tribune. John Emerson's links page.

And then, things started to happen very fast

Obama. Biden. (Salon.) Palin. Gustav. No-knock political raids on Minneapolis progressives. Caw!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Beijing in the Rockies

"Free speech zone" in Denver. The press doesn't even come by. Damn, but we need some good old-fashioned anarchism.

Amazing numbers of police have poured into Denver for the Democratic National Convention.

And on the fourth of August, the Denver City Council approved a new ordinance which, among other things, prohibits the carrying buckets of feces.