Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Storm and Stress

Sturm und Drang: a romantic artistic movement in which subjectivity and, in particular, extremes of emotion are given free expression in reaction to the perceived constraints of rationalism. In other words, Eternal Presidential Campaign Theatre. 

In the latest episode, President Obama portrays the rational adult character who calmly "addresses" Hurricane Isaac, pretending to negotiate with yet another irrational force of nature. According to the White House, he is taking the usual balanced approach. Choosing between a Category Five monster and a wimpy tropical storm, the president will split the difference, and proclaim victory when Isaac makes landfall as a Category Two. So eat your peas, Gulf Coasters. He has a three-day campaign swing ahead of him. As the New York Times tells us today, it's hard out there for a philosopher king.

Meanwhile, the irrationalists of the GOP are in full lunatic mode as they cavort in Tampa. Dueling coverage of the hurricane and the convention will exhibit the schizophrenia of the Republicans in all their split personality glory. TV screens will be literally split between the latest updates from the big-government evil National Weather Service and the big-spending deficit hawk anti-government hoarding phonies. New Jersey Gov. Chris "Incredible Hulk" Christie will be overshadowed by the ghost of Katrina. He will be upstaged by George W. Bush in absentia, as an audience of 16,000 corporate media stenographers (three per delegate) looks on.

And then there's the ultimate split personality: Mitt Romney. At this stage of play, there is simply no putting him back together again. Binyamin Applebaum surmises that he is being pulled in two different directions. But it's more like a hundred.  He is a living bundle of contradictions collapsing under the weight of his own flimsiness.

But forget all that. RNC Chairman Reince Priebus reminds us that it's all bullshit anyway. As long as they're "nimble" about it and take that vaunted balanced approach, what with Isaac and all, fooling some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time is the best one can hope for.
"We have the ability to make alternative plans if we have to, but right now we feel that our message of the American dream and fixing this economy and putting ourselves on the right track for the future of this country — I think it’s a positive message and it’s a message that will always be good. When we’re optimistic about the future and how we’re going to fix this great country and put people back to work, it’s a message that works all the time."
Incidentally, the Google search for NimbleMitt brings you to an ad for an arthritis glove. It deadens pain with a combination of heat and snake oil.


Will said...

Random thoughts:

I can't stand anyone or anything even remotely associated with the Republican convention. (I'm sure I'll feel the same when the Democratic version rolls around.) You know what's the worst part? The headlines segments of Democracy Now are only about half as long as usual due to extended coverage of this boring shitshow. Can't wait till Amy gets back to NYC.

Interesting comment from "d" in the last thread about the new Jim Crow. (d is for Denis, right?) Here's Michelle Alexander with a fascinating hour-long lecture on the subject:


P.S. The only thing more fun than running across "Sturm und Drang" in your reading material once in a while is looking it up later just to hear its pronunciation. Enjoy:


Denis Neville, aka 'd' said...

Extraordinary turpitudes of US politics and politicians and pundits on display today…

“Hatred is active, and envy passive dislike; there is but one step from envy to hate.” - Goethe

May they all live to a ripe old age, and may the only people who come visit them be Mormon missionaries.

And may they all live to a hundred and twenty without Social Security or Medicare.

Tired of Sturm und Drang?

The Francis Perkins Center has collected stories in which Social Security beneficiaries describe, in their own words, the critical role the program has played for them:


One-sided framing and misleading use of accurate statistics has characterized almost all of the reportage on Social Security. A steady diet over the years of falsifications and distortions, calculated and incessant propaganda, make a certain impression in one’s mind and often misled it. Politicians and pundits have been shamelessly pitching lies of various sorts about Social Security.

• Lie: Social Security is going bankrupt.
• Lie: Social Security is contributing to the federal deficit.
• Lie: We have to raise the retirement age because people are living longer.
• Lie: Benefit cuts are the only way to “fix” Social Security.
• Lie: The Social Security Trust Fund has been raided and is full of IOUs.
• Lie: Reducing the cost of living allowance (COLA) is a fair way to make sure that the Social Security Trust Fund is “there” for our grandchildren.

These lies have obscured the story that needs to be told: the story of Social Security’s enormous importance in the lives of many Americans. Precisely because of this role we need to strengthen, not reduce, its benefits. Social Security works and provides a crucial form of support to many Americans.

Denis Neville said...

Let’s make the poor suffer more for their own good.

“We don’t want to turn the safety net into a hammock that lulls able-bodied people into lives of dependency and complacency, that drains them of their will and their incentive to make the most of their lives.”- Paul Ryan

Bill Black responds:

“As an Irish-American I was struck that Ryan’s argument repeated the arguments that Britain’s leaders made when they decided to allow a million Irish to starve to death and another million to emigrate on the coffin ships. The British argued that providing free food (or even food in exchange for brutal work) was unacceptable because it would spur ‘dependency.’”

“As with their British predecessors, they are hostile to providing the unemployed with the opportunity for respected employment. Their model of government employment is the gulag – a model in which the unemployed are shamed, denounced, and demeaned. The British designed their work program to be punitive and to fail. The British structured their minimal relief efforts to protect private businesses rather than to protect the poor from starvation. Their workhouses deliberately paid a grossly inadequate wage. The British elites, as a matter of policy, insisted that the workhouse labor not be constructive, hence the ‘famine roads’ to nowhere, the breaking of rocks, and the digging of holes followed by filling them back in.”

“Allowing a million Irish to die and forcing another million to emigrate to try to escape starvation is so self-destructive an economic policy that only quack ideologies would fail to see that it must harm trade and the economy. ”

“It is disturbing that Paul Ryan, a Catholic of Irish descent, would embrace the policies and prejudices that led to the mass deaths and emigration of the Irish and drove his ancestor out of Ireland. An economic dogma should be conclusively discredited when it kills a million people, demonizes the victims, and honors the authors of the mass murder.”

There were exceptions even among British elites, and their views of the dominant elites were scathing. “Lord Clarendon, the British viceroy in Ireland during the famine, saw the situation more clearly. He wrote to Prime Minister Lord John Russell: ‘I don’t think there is another legislature in Europe [other than the British] that would coldly persist in this policy of extermination.’”

- William Black, An Gorta Mor (the Great Hunger)


Both my maternal and paternal great-grandparents emigrated from Ireland to the United States during the time of the Great Hunger.

James F Traynor said...

If you want to throw up read Douthat's column in today's Times. Noblesse Oblige for Chrisakes! What Ryan, Romney need is a good kick in the ass!

Anonymous said...

Karen, I wish you'd spill some ink on the shoddy treatment dished out to Ron Paul this week at the convention. And we're all eagerly awaiting your review of Mrs. Romney's speech last night.

Meantime, in response to Mrs. Romney's reference in her speech last night to the hard living ("tuna and pasta") that the Romneys endured as young marrieds, there was this from a commenter on Salon.com:

"When I was young we didn't HAVE tuna and pasta. We had to eat dressage horse meat."

Had to laugh.

Denis Neville said...

Dean Baker, "Poverty: The New Growth Industry in America," writes:

“Recent trends in poverty rates should have the country furious at its leaders. When we get the data for 2011 next month, we are likely to see yet another uptick in poverty rates, reversing almost 50 years of economic progress. The percentage of people in extreme poverty, with incomes less than half of the poverty level, is likely to again hit an all-time high since the data has been collected.”


Yet both political parties remain committed to deficit reduction no matter what the hurtful consequences of their austerity may be.

Just imagine Erskine Bowles as “Foaming the Runway” Geithner’s replacement at Treasury in Obama’s second term. Bowles is the “liberal” half of the Bowles-Simpson Catfood Commission and sings the praises of Paul Ryan, “I always thought I was OK with arithmetic. This guy [Ryan, aka ‘Little Lord Bootstraps’] can run circles around me.”


Far better for the American character for the poor to “pull themselves up by their bootstraps.”

Just as the English elites claimed that God wanted to teach the Irish “a lesson,” Ryan sides with the callous philosophy of Ayn Rand and her contempt for altruism.

spreadoption said...

"What Ryan, Romney need is a good kick in the ass!" - James F Traynor, above.

Fully agreed, and I'd add a punch in the nose and a kick in the shins. Then how about pilloried in the public square until they recant their treason?

But of course what we really need is somebody with authority to stand up to their damaging nonsense and tell the American people what these guys are doing to them. Obama should be the one to do it, and he has the oratory for the job ... but he hasn't done it and he won't. The entire Democratic Party should do it, they have the means to do it ... but they haven't done it and they won't. We have Gore Vidal's one political party with two right wings.

Nobel economist Paul Krugman has knocked himself out for years trying to be heard. I can't imagine where he finds the energy to do as much as he does for us. Despite his Herculean efforts, however, he remains mostly shunned, as if he were some lunatic. Our course was firmly set 30 years ago.

It seems certain that whatever happens on November 6, as Dr. Krugman says, our nation is doomed.

spreadoption said...

Speculation on Bloomberg this morning: who might be RMoney’s treasury secretary? The academics Glenn Hubbard (Columbia; featured notoriously in the Oscar-winning documentary, Inside Job), John Taylor (Stanford), Greg Mankiw (Harvard; he’s the one whose students walked out of his class last November) - like Niall Ferguson, all Wall Street shills - along with Judd Gregg and a couple of other Washington insiders with clear Wall Street connections. But then came the name… Jamie Dimon! I actually laughed out loud (LOL). This is so bad. I need to give up. For my own sanity.

Now I just read that Obama was considering that same Mr. Dimon to replace Geithner, way back in 2009. Even more laughing out loud.

Let’s face it: as much as we need Dr. Jill Stein to be the next President of the United States, she has no chance in hell, now or ever. We’re going to have either Nobama or RMoney-Ryan. RMoney will run the country like you run a private equity business. It’s a game played for the benefit of only the owner-investors, who expect to win no matter what happens to the bought company (our nation). The workers (us) will lose, either a lot or everything. These guys play a zero-sum game; they win what we lose. Keep the investors (the plutocracy) happy. Do whatever it takes.

To keep the workers (us) subdued, Obama gave us his NDAA on New Year's Eve, and now we taxpayers are buying millions of bullets for various government departments and agencies… to use against us if we disobey too much. (Oh, I forgot – they’re good guys and would never do that).

With Romney-Ryan it will get very ugly very fast. Let’s hope the Democrats find the balls (and the brains) to at least slow them down. With Obama it will continue to get uglier as he operates with stealth from the right wing, while the American people remain unaware as to what’s happening to them, his vast herd of apologists like sheep led unwittingly to slaughter. We have to cut Social Security? Oh, okay. We have to buy expensive insurance for our healthcare, as much as we can afford, and hope to not get ripped off, and hope to not have to choose between death and bankruptcy? Oh, okay. We have to bomb Iran to protect democracy for the world? Oh, okay.

Not a day goes by when I don’t anguish about how I’m going to vote. A few weeks ago I reported being thrilled to find Dr. Stein and thinking that big votes for a third party would send a message of disgust to Washington. Nah! If the big boys pay any attention at all to the third parties, it’s only to laugh at them in scorn. I will probably vote for Jill Stein, if only to assert my principles and refuse to compromise with fools who are wrong; if only to set my position in future conversations with anybody; if only to stand up in a tiny way against the bully stupidity that’s dragging our economy and our well-being in the wrong direction.

A few months from now, though, we’re going to have one of those two guys running the United States of America. It’s going to be business as usual. It’s going to be bad for us. It’s going to be bad for the rest of the world. Nothing will move, nothing good will happen. Our incredibly enormous potential as a nation is simply going to waste. We the people are being cast adrift to deal with the mess as best we can. From now on we’re on our own.

So, what can we do about it? Really.