Friday, September 20, 2013

Legends of the Fall

Happy First Day of Fall, Y 'all! (It's not till Sunday, but better early than never.)

The seasons may change for most of us, but the  manufactured fiscal crises dreamed up by our leaders for the sole purpose of scaring us and screwing us always seem to remain the same. Our political system, ruled as it is by the moneyed interests, has all the seasonality of Antarctica: forever frozen in phony bipartisan gridlock, the better to attract the campaign and lobbyist cash while they pretend to fight over war, citizen surveillance, immigration reform and gun control.

Or conversely, (as long as I'm gridlocked into seasonal metaphor mode) another way to look at the American political machine is to compare it to the enervating climate of the equatorial regions, where there are only two kinds of weather -- Dry and Wet.

Dry season just ended. Nothing much happened, because the congress critters were all on vacation, soaking up the sun and the cash, as were the star nattering nabobs of corporate media land. The exception, of course, was War or Not To War. That was then.

Now comes the utterly predictable phony budget crisis deluge. The monsoon of disaster capitalism is upon us once again. The tainted money will flow, the fast-revolving doors between government and corporations creating their own virtual whirlpool of graft and corruption.

The inquiring little minds of the self-important poobahs all want to know: will we sink into the manufactured quagmire, or will we swim toward those happy bipartisan shores, celebrating from afar the continued pleasures of the entitled rich? Will President Obama cave to the Republicans, or will he allow the government to shut down, endangering the treasured family values of the NSA, now "weathering" their own storm of bad publicity? Will Obama pretend to fight back, only to sign his long-desired backroom Grand Bargain deal that saves Obamacare at the expense of Social Security and the rest of the safety net? Do Americans stupidly and paradoxically think that Congress should both refuse to raise the debt ceiling, but also pay the government's bills on time? (unfortunately, that last one is a definite Yes. Forty-four percent of Americans have no idea how the economy works.)

And that reminds me. I've been reading an excellent book on the French Revolution by Simon Schama, called Citizens, and I just learned something rather shocking. I had no idea that the literacy rate in late 18th century France was higher than it is in present-day America the Exceptional. Even peasants and servants, denied the right to vote, could read. Education combined with anger and hunger made that revolution possible. Not to mention their vibrant versions of blogging and social media, composed of a wealth of newspapers, broadsides  leaflets and pamphlets readily available on every street corner. The hurling of invective became an art form. Even the aristocrats were scrambling to save themselves by joining the ranks of the oppressed vocal majority.

So, it's really no wonder that the leaders in both American political parties want to transform our public schools, with their qualified, unionized teachers, into dumbed-down charters run by testing companies and staffed with low-paid freshly minted instructors with an online diploma. The revolution may or may not be televised, may or may not be coming to pass at all. But stay tuned.

In that vein, here are my two New York Times comments from today.

Paul Krugman, The Crazy Party:
If you turned on CNN Thursday, the big news was that the Grand Guignol Party is now eating its own. And not only that. According to Dana Bash, rumors are swirling on Capitol Hill that Ted Cruz has no gonads! That clip was played all day, in between those annoying ads for Norfolk Southern, which keeps America running, hauling all that fracked oil along our crumbling rail lines.
When the corporate media starts mocking the GOP, a faint ray of hope emerges. Unless you're careful, your imagination may start running wild. You picture a time when the "right" will consist of a fusion of repentant old-style Republicans and insipid centrist Dems, strongly countered by a progressive faction of humanists going full steam ahead (due left) and not stopping until we have Medicare for all, expanded Social Security, a huge jobs program, restoration of Glass-Steagall, punitive taxes for profit-hoarding corporations, living wages, a Robin Hood tax on Wall Street trades, strong gun control laws, a drastically reduced military, an eviscerated surveillance state, the repeal of Citizens United, and federal funding for public schools.
In other words, majority rule and people over profits.
Yes, my imagination may be out of control. But not as out of control as the sorry bunch of nihilists in Congress. With their sadistic votes against both Obamacare and food stamps, they are now officially on record as wanting to starve, sicken and kill people.
They've finally gone too far, even for them.
And, in response to an editorial called Another Insult to the Poor (on the $40 billion in food stamp cuts approved by the House yesterday):
Calling the Republican vote against food stamp funding an act of supreme indifference is being a bit kind. When you willfully snatch the sustenance right out hungry people's mouths, it's more akin to pathological hatred.
Rather than simply barring the action from a Senate vote, rather than simply threatening a presidential veto, now is the time for the Democrats to go into full attack mode. The Senate has already done the unconscionable, agreeing to cut a "reasonable" $4 billion from the SNAP program to appease the GOP. They should rescind that pathetic compromise immediately, and insist that funding be increased, rather than cut by a single penny. That is, if they still want to retain their credibility as the party of the poor and working classes.
The time for compromising with the GOP nihilists on anything is over. The time for standing up for suffering people has never been more urgent. The time for strengthening the entire social safety net is now.
We must refuse to sustain luxury for the few by perpetuating poverty for the many.


ste-vo said...

Simon Schama is one kick-ass writer.

Mr.Brown said...

Hello Karen

I am a High School Teacher in NYC. Teaching a 12th grade Participation in Government Class has been exciting so far this year. My students have teamed up with Generation Citizen to work on a civics project. I would love for you to share about being a political activist "blogger" I would like to share the 2010 article about you commenting on the NYTIMES, and your recent comment on the op-ed piece "insult to the poor"..... I would like to conclude the class with a video chat with you, allowing the class to ask some questions and your work keeping democracy in check..... if this is something you are interested in please let me know ASAP..I was hoping of setting this up for 9/30/13 that would give the class a week to prep for the conversation.

My covert goal is to show that the world beyond the classroom will listen to their voices.. I am trying to empower a group of disenfranchised NYC 12th graders

Karen Garcia said...

@Mr. Brown,

Thanks. Will be in touch privately.

Jay - Ottawa said...

Jay - Ottawa said...

More prompted by the mention of Simon Schama. Something by Robert Darnton:

“Possibilism against the givenness of things—those were the forces pitted against one another in France from 1789 to 1799. Not that other forces were absent, including something that might be called a “bourgeoisie” battling something known as “feudalism,” while a good deal of property changed hands and the poor extracted some bread from the rich. But all those conflicts were predicated on something greater than the sum of their parts—a conviction that the human condition is malleable, not fixed, and that ordinary people can make history instead of suffering it.


“But too much hindsight can distort the view of 1789 and of 1793–1794. The French revolutionaries were not Stalinists. They were an assortment of unexceptional persons in exceptional circumstances. When things fell apart, they responded to an overwhelming need to make sense of things by ordering society according to new principles. Those principles still stand as an indictment of tyranny and injustice. What was the French Revolution all about? Liberty, equality, fraternity.”

Zee said...

I've been off camping for several days in the wilds of western New Mexico, so I only just now saw Jay's remarks relative to my criticism of the role of civil libertarians in the “deinstitutionalization” of the mentally ill.

For those still interested--or perhaps just angry with me--I've replied—perhaps too hastily—on the previous thread.

Karen Garcia said...


Thanks for the links to the book reviews. I am about halfway thru "Citizens" (it is 900+ pages long!) and I agree that it seems disjointed in places. But I do like the feel of it. It reminds me of the Adam Goodheart book about the Civil War, about how ordinary people, behind the scenes, were important influences on the outcome. Marie Antoinette is not the main character in "Citizens", for example. (I am just now getting to Robespierre.) After awhile, you get sick of reading histories about the Elites And What They Did. For example, if a hundred years from now somebody writes about he Obama administration without mentioning Occupy, it will be incomplete to the point of malpractice.