Saturday, May 31, 2008

Hey Jules, I Found Your Song

Mytwords over at NPR Check notes that, I'll be damned (but you knew that), this week NPR also noticed the passing of Utah Phillips. I'm pleasantly surprised—something I haven't felt re. NPR in a long time. I'm also pleasantly surprised to be pointed to "The Talking NPR Blues," a song that I know my friend jules can identify with (though she's probably already heard it):

They don't give a damn what we want and need
They've all caved in to corporate greed
And sold us out to the ruling class
Well the whole damn bunch can kiss my… …Dot Com!

This is a family show folks
The FCC says watch your language
What's yours?

I got tired of being treated like a veg
So I called up the station and canceled my pledge
In a mighty act of liberation
Sent the money off to my community station

Catch hell from Richard Burton!</zimmerman>

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #1836

Then there was the night Christopher Hitchens staggered in and tried to ram one of their hats down onto the edge of his vodkatini. Good times.
(Image originally uploaded by Upaya; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


Like No Exit With Feathered Hats

I think I'm finally ready to forgive Comedy Central for canceling Mystery Science Theater 3000 back in the day.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #1874

I may be offline again tomorrow, so here's tomorrow's Daily Random Flickr Blogging—today.

Oh, sure, you can talk about your Eraserhead, your Pink Flamingos, your Rocky Horror Picture Show—but the cult film to end all cult films remains Beach Blanket Stonehenge.
(Image originally uploaded by mike138; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


Near Noser

I don't have many commenters on this blog—or readers, for that matter—but damn, the ones I do have are sharp SOBs. My friend jules almost made me shoot liquid out of my nose when I read this thought on the McClellan story mentioned in my ABC rant earlier today:

I'm rather enjoying this; it's like pausing the videotape at the moment the king is discovered to be nekkid.
That's at once disturbing and hilarious. It's disturbulous? Distrabulous? We need a new adjective, dammit.

Speaking of commenters, I meant to thank Christopher Cerf for dropping by a few weeks ago. It's not enough that he's half of the entire Institute of Expertology, oh no. He also wrote songs for Sesame Street, co-created Between the Lions, and helped found National Lampoon. I thought I remembered Bill Moyers mentioning Between the Lions, but—wow. And I see that he's worked with Ray Bradbury. Years ago, when I saw him at a book signing and got his autograph on an ancient paperback copy of The Martian Chronicles, Ray Bradbury blessed me. Six degrees. Anyway, the expertologists have a ripping new piece up at TomDispatch. Go see.

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #4961

Well, the Trekkers will get this one, anyway.

Captain's Log, Stardate 17857.3. The Tholian entry into the campground has caused an interphasic rift, and our access to the cooler has become frustratingly intermittent.
(Image originally uploaded by ndoane; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


Assiduously Burying Complicity

I made the mistake of watching ABC World News with Charles Gibson again last night. I was curious to see that they had a segment with Martha Raddatz reporting on former White House press secretary Scott McClellan's "scathing" new book What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception. Having seen the Politico story on the book, I was also curious to see whether ABC would mention this aspect of McClellan's charges:

He says the White House press corps was too easy on the administration during the run-up to the war.
I mean, jeez, even Elizabeth Bumiller at the New York Times managed to squeeze this into her story on McClellan's book—in the next-to-last paragraph, anyway:
Mr. McClellan does not exempt himself from failings — “I fell far short of living up to the kind of public servant I wanted to be” — and calls the news media “complicit enablers” in the White House’s “carefully orchestrated campaign to shape and manipulate sources of public approval” in the march to the Iraq war in 2002 and 2003.
Surely the World News story would mention McClellan's charges about the news media along with his other important claims, right? Well, no. Nowhere in the segment last night did Raddatz or Gibson bring up what McClellan had to say about their own profession's complicity in the Iraq debacle. I can't find the video from last night, but this other segment with Raddatz is representative. Nor do McClellan's remarks on the media come up in either of these stories on ABC's website. Gibson did find the time last night to tut-tut about the belatedness of McClellan's revelations and to ask Raddatz something like, "If he felt that way, why didn't he quit?" Oh, he seemed shocked, shocked, to find that lying might be going on the White House. Or that somebody from the White House would actually have the temerity to say so in public. Or something.

Like the Howler has shown time and again, there's nothing the corporate media covers like their own tracks.

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #7456

Got caught up in something and couldn't post yesterday, sorry.

Dr. Jane Goodall's recreations of the Kennedy Assassination supported the claim that the kill shot came from the grassy knoll, but critics argued that her team's necessary reliance on feces rather than bullets rendered her conclusions unreliable.
(Image originally uploaded by bigtallguy; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


Pray for Mika

The late great Bill Hicks had a bit wherein he imagined a self-hating Jay Leno, disgusted at interviewing celebrity dimwits and at having chosen to shill for Doritos even while making millions as Johnny Carson's successor, sticking a gun into his mouth and blowing his brains out live on television. I know that's not funny when you see it described, but it is in Hicks's telling, trust me (listen here, definitely NSFW). Anyway, I often think of this bit when I read Media Matters posts about Morning Joe on MSNBC. I don't have cable, and I wouldn't watch Morning Joe if I did; however, Media Matters usually mentions the show several times a week, and from many of these posts, I get the impression that Mika Brzezinski may be similarly contemplating the consequences of her choice to leave more serious reporting at CBS in favor of playing second fiddle to bullying blowhard Joe Scarborough and having to sit, smile, and feign enthusiasm while people like Tucker Carlson say things like this:

Discussing Sen. Hillary Clinton's decision to remain in the presidential race, MSNBC senior campaign correspondent Tucker Carlson, during the May 27 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe, said of Clinton, "Look, she's a trapped animal, there's absolutely no question about it. As I've thought to myself many times, if you've ever tried to get your cat in a box, you know what Hillary Clinton is doing right now." Carlson then imitated a screeching cat, and added, "with all four paws out, all the hair standing up? Look, she is in feral mode." After co-host Mika Brzezinski said, "I don't know what to say," and guest co-host Mike Barnicle said, "Tucker Carlson, ladies and gentlemen," Carlson asserted, "And I say that as a compliment, I admire her tenacity. I do." Brzezinski then said, "I'd just like to point out, I have scars from trying to do that to one of the cats that I own," to which Carlson replied, "OK, then you know how [Sen. Barack] Obama feels." Later in the segment, Brzezinski referred to Clinton as "the cat in a box, as Tucker so aptly put it."

Later on Morning Joe, Carlson also compared Clinton to "the drunk party guest who won't go home, the cab's idling out front, and she's opening a new bottle of wine." He added: "And the hosts of the party, the press and the Democratic establishment, want her to go home, and she won't." At the conclusion of that segment, Carlson's last on that day's program, Brzezinski asked Carlson to "do the cat in the box thing just one more time before you go. Who's the cat in the box?" Carlson complied, again imitating a screeching cat.

Watch the video and tell me you can't see a mounting horror in her eyes. There was the incident last year when she refused to read a "news" item about Paris Hilton, and just two weeks ago I thought I detected a certain spiritual sickness in her voice as she introduced a segment on Tonya Harding. I may be wrong about this, but certainly I hope that, if the snap comes, when it comes, it doesn't take so drastic a form as Hicks imagined. But if, say, it involved Joe Scarborough getting kicked in the nuts on live TV—well, that might not be too bad. Good luck to you, Mika, and if push comes to shove, aim well.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #9939.2

Meanwhile, during lunch break at the Ren Fest: "Wow...that was terrific. Next time, though, leave the greaves on." "Mmm, naughty."
(Image originally uploaded by yogibearpix; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


The Long Memory

Absolutely no disrespect intended to a true and kind individual, but I could almost thank Utah Phillips for dying when he did, 'cause man, I really needed to hear his wonderful interview with Amy Goodman today. Highly, highly, highly recommended. It is indeed helpful to be reminded of the Wobblies and the Espionage Act and the Palmer Raids and the patient work of activists who built the more humane society I was lucky enough to be born into (but which I fear I will not die in) and that freedom means the freedom to say "no," even to Johnny Cash, and that it's possible to take "kill your television" literally:

AMY GOODMAN: Utah, you’re known for telling stories, very—well, really opposite from the mass media world today, where a sound bite is something like eight or nine seconds.


AMY GOODMAN: What do you think that has done to the way people learn and understand?

UTAH PHILLIPS: I think that television has had a serious—we’re thinking differently. I’ll watch television once a year just to get kind of an idea of what is happening to people’s minds, or maybe I want to go see the World Series. The frequency of images is so fast that I can’t track it. If I don’t—I don’t have TV, and I don’t like them, so I can’t understand how people can watch them. The frequency of the images is just too fast. I can’t take it all in. Yeah, it is—you’re absolutely right that we’re thinking differently. Television alters consciousness. If it didn’t, they wouldn’t use it. It’s intended to alter consciousness.

Me, the last TV set I had, I shot. I don’t know what commercial importunement drove me off of the pier, but I hauled it into the backyard. It was up in Spokane, Washington, and I got a—had an old Stevens shotgun. I tied a scarf around it for a blindfold and scotch-taped a cigarette to the front and lit it and let it burn an appropriate amount of time, and then I blew a hole through it with the shotgun. It was out there in the lilac hedge, which grew through it eventually. It was kind of pretty after a while. But I have not—you know, I haven’t owned one of those foolish things since.


I don’t feel pessimistic... There’s simply too many good people right here in this room, too many good people on the street, close to the street, doing too many good things for me to afford the luxury of being pessimistic. I’m going to—I’ll tell people that tonight, damn it. I’m glad it came up. If I look at the world from the top down, from FOX, God help me, or CNN or—there ought to be a CNN Anon to ween people from that idiocy. If I look at it from the top down, I get seriously depressed. The world’s going to hell in a wheelbarrow. But if I walk out the door, turn all that off, and go with the people, whatever town I’m in, who are doing the real work down at the street level, like I said, there’s too many good people doing too many good things for me to let myself be pessimistic about that. I’m hopeful, can’t live without hope. Can you?

Not for long, no, so thank you very much for the simple example of how to find it when I need it, and good luck in the afterlife if there is one. (One Big Union in the sky?)

Weekly Random Flickr Blogging, #6564

Next, mosey over to see what the group is up to this week.

Needless to say, not everyone who came to see Blow Job: The Life and Work of Dale Chihuly was there for the right reason.
The Real World: Manos Country finally gave me a reason to watch MTV.
One nice thing about being a dog is that you aren't consumed with curiosity about whether those are breasts or buttocks.
Oh, that is SO not the look you want if you plan to survive a Motörhead concert.
I got nothin'; I just think this is a charming photo.
(Images originally uploaded by AlbertChen, Josue Casillas, dali137, Mr. Forester, and Hyunsoo; Random Flickr Blogging explained here.)


They Call Us "Moonbats"

Atrios pointed me to this. I made the mistake of looking at the comments. Oy. The general sentiment that the New York Times is some sort of liberal mouthpiece for the Democratic Party is bad enough—are these people ignorant of the Times' relentless coverage of the Whitewater "scandal"? of what the Times did to Al Gore in 2000? of Judith Miller? of the Times' rush to embrace the abortive coup against (democratically elected) Hugo Chavez in 2002? of the Times' reliably neoliberal positions on trade and corporate power? of the presence of William Kristol, David Brooks, and Thomas "Suck On This" Friedman in the Times' editorial pages? of the Times' silence (shared with the rest of the corporate media) on the Winter Soldier II hearings? etc. etc. etc.—but read down a ways and it's kind of like that scene in Jaws where Roy Scheider and Richard Dreyfuss cut open the belly of the shark on the pier and all kinds of sickening, half-digested crap comes pouring out: there are references to "jackass liberal demonRATS," for example, and a war opponent is referred to as a "pink pussy"—oops, sorry, forgot the capitalization, that's "Pink pussy"—and anyone who contests the claim that the NYT is a "leftist" paper is dismissed as a "snooty, skinny, post-modern, self-important, supercilious, Jon Stewart-wannabe ignoramus" (skinny? post-modern?), and, God help me, there are non-ironic references to "ChiComs" and to making the liberals sorry by having all the clever, productive people (such as the ones who spend hours typing semiliterate comments at, presumably) "stop the engine of the world" by doing "an 'Atlas Shrugged'," which in less ranting hands might be a great name for a dance, now that I think about it.

Gah. Interestingly, though, even as they rave at the various liberal/Democratic/media/pacifist/socialist/communist/America-hating straw men that march perpetually through their minds, even the wingnuttiest of wingnuts in those comments seem desperate to distance themselves from George W. Bush. I guess I should take that as a small sign of hope.

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #0311

This is for yesterday. When I first saw this photo, I really did think for a moment that it was a still from one of Godfrey Reggio's Qatsi films.

Y'know what the world needs? A shot-for-shot remake of Koyaanisqatsi, but with a soundtrack by Brave Combo. Think about it.
(Image originally uploaded by ようへい/yohei; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)

Peace Works

I'm sorry, but I was in a foul mood yesterday and just did not feel up to posting. Had I done so, I probably would have just pointed to "Getting Through the Bad Times" by Sam Smith.

We live in a nation hated abroad and frightened at home. A place in which we can reasonably refer to the American Republic in the past tense. A country that has moved into a post-constitutional era, no longer a nation of laws but an adhocracy run by law breakers, law evaders and law ignorers. A nation governed by a culture of impunity, a term from Latin America where they know it well—a culture in which corruption is no longer a form of deviance but the norm. We all live in a Mafia neighborhood now.


By 1961, with Kennedy contemplating involvement in Vietnam, General de Gaulle strongly urged him not to get involved in that "rotten country." Said de Gaulle, "I predict to you, that you will, step by step, be sucked into a bottomless military and political quagmire." The French had lost 55,000 troops there, almost as many as the Americans would.

DeGaulle understood the difference between the illusion and reality of empire. Many years ago some people built castles and walled cities and moats to keep the bad guys out. It worked for a while, but sooner or later spies and assassins figured out how to get across the moats and opponents learned how to climb the walls and send balls of fire into protected compounds. The Florentines even catapulted dead donkeys and feces over the town wall during their siege of Siena.

The people who built castles and walled cities and moats are all dead now and their efforts at security seem puny and ultimately futile as we visit their unintended monuments to the vanity of human presumption.

Yet like the castle-dwellers behind the moat, we are now spending huge sums to put ourselves inside a prison of our own making. It is unlikely to provide either security for our bodies or solace for our souls, for we are simply attacking ourselves before others get the chance.

This is not the way to peace and safety. Peace is a state without violence, interrogations, and moats. Peace is a state of reciprocity, of trust, of empirically based confidence that no one is about to do you in. It exists not because of intrinsic goodness or rampant naiveté but because of a common, implicit understanding that that it works better for everyone.

This state is often hard to come by, but it is still cheaper, less deadly, and ultimately far more effective than the alternative we have chosen.

Oh, you crazy Quakers. I was contemplating this state yesterday, a day devoted to remembering some of those who have paid the price for our choice of the deadlier, more futile alternative. Thus my melancholy.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #1418

The Sushi Council might as well have thrown its advertising budget away for all the good the Sushi: It's What's For Breakfast rebranding campaign is going to do.
(Image originally uploaded by mhuang; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #6638

Sorry, I was busy offline and missed my DRFBing yesterday—first one since Jan. 1, I think. I apologize for the darkness of this one, but I've had fascism on the mind lately; I just read Sinclair Lewis's It Can't Happen Here, for example, and recently saw Watch on the Rhine (highly recommended). And, of course, lurking in the background is the Blackwater Logo Contest.

Sure, all you fancy liberal professor types can cluck about its "totalitarian kitsch" and its "incongruity vis-à-vis the traditional semiotics of fascist iconography," but when you see it on the armbands of the goon squads that come for you in the night, it'll be you who'll be shitting, and not in the woods either, I tell you what. *menacing sneer*
(Image originally uploaded by crabstick; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


Friday, May 23, 2008

The Savagest Weiner of Them All

Rory O'Connor ("with Aaron Cutler") has some thoughts on Michael Savage, formerly Michael Weiner, aka Savage Weiner. This is my favorite passage:

The shift in Savage’s attitudes toward homosexuality may be the most revealing of his complex persona. When he was younger, his father mocked Savage’s sexuality. “Michael would have on tight black jeans and a boat-necked sweater, and his dad would say, ‘I don’t like the way you’re dressed. You look like a fag,’” childhood friend Alan Zaitz has said. In his first and only novel, Vital Signs, the protagonist (a fortyish Jew named Samuel Trueblood who shares many of Savage’s biographical details) says, “I choose to override my desires for men when they swell in me, waiting out the passions like a storm, below decks.” There are Savage’s years with [Beat icons Allen] Ginsberg and [Lawrence] Ferlinghetti, including a note to Ginsberg that read, “Watched a tourist from New Zealand taking pictures of Fijian people in the marketplace [and] thought of inserting my camera’s lens in your A-hole to photograph the walls of your rectum.” These days, his attitude is outright hostility, with, for instance, his continual assertion of a “homosexual mafia” trying to control the state of world affairs. Savage has also said that gay parenting is “child abuse” and that the sight of a gay couple “makes me want to puke.”
I long ago gave up trying to figure out whether Savage Weiner's well-documented nastiness was the result of pitiable insanity or damnable malevolence; mostly, I just worry about the fact that there are millions of people who sacrifice valuable hours of their lives listening to him:
In an interview with the right-wing Web site, Savage said, “I guess people love my show because of my hard edge combined with humor and education. Those who listen to me say they hear a bit of Plato, Henry Miller, Jack Kerouac, Moses, Jesus, and Frankenstein.”
Yeah, 'cause Plato was really big on telling people to choke on sausages. That's somewhere in the Symposium, right?

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #5763

When the pilots are feeling particularly rambunctious, they perform "The Facts of Life," wherein Angel 1 as the sperm wriggles sinuously into a circle of the other Angels as the egg, and the homeschoolers watching below shriek and cover their children's eyes.
(Image originally uploaded by jeffwilcox; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


Autonomy Before Dignity

I forget exactly how this excellent critical essay by Steven Pinker came to my notice—I haven't paid much attention to The New Republic for years—but it really is worth a complete reading. Pinker takes a good hard look at the reactionary-right leanings of the President's Council on Bioethics and its attempts to hide illiberal prejudices and personal pet peeves (see the ice cream example) behind the magic catch-all concept of "dignity," and, with admirable clarity and brevity, Pinker argues that dignity may best be seen as a concomitant of more important ethical values: autonomy and respect for persons. Count me very much in with Pinker here:

A free society disempowers the state from enforcing a conception of dignity on its citizens. Democratic governments allow satirists to poke fun at their leaders, institutions, and social mores. And they abjure any mandate to define "some vision of 'the good life'" or the "dignity of using [freedom] well" (two quotes from the Council's volume). The price of freedom is tolerating behavior by others that may be undignified by our own lights. I would be happy if Britney Spears and "American Idol" would go away, but I put up with them in return for not having to worry about being arrested by the ice-cream police. This trade-off is very much in America's DNA and is one of its great contributions to civilization: my country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty.
To put it bluntly, and to change the topic a bit: If you're the sort of person who can have the vapors over affronts to the "dignity" of unwanted fetuses but who doesn't give a rat's ass about the death toll in Bush's Iraq debacle—and I know that such people exist—then I doubt that it's really concern for human dignity that motivates your outrage. Congratulations on finding a nice, edifying term to hide behind, though.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #7045

"Up yours, peak oil!"
(Image originally uploaded by jr⁹⁸⁶⁶⁴; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)

Man of the People

The good people at FAIR point us to this Newsday piece noting that Sean Hannity just bought a mansion on Long Island for $8.5 million.

Let's all remember that the next time he starts blathering about "elitists."

Weekly Random Flickr Blogging, #1427

I'm in for the group fun this week.

Even Mordechai's burgeoning success at fly fishing cannot overcome his mother's disappointment at his choice of the yeshiva over med school—next on A Rabbi Runs Through It.
This earliest known depiction of a barrista lends support to the controversial theory that Bronze Age civilizations developed the double grande moccachino at least as far back as 1800 B.C.
Even the release of the seizure-inducing new Speed Racer movie could not generate interest in Ook, Bitchez, the debut album from MC Chim-Chim.
You see a tank full of ugly old crabs; I see The McLaughlin Group. "Morton Kondracke!"
Eager attendees at Gallaghonetics: The Sure-Fire Can't-Fail No-Risk Rubble-Strewn Path to Financial Independence seminars soon learned not to sit in the first few rows.
(Images originally uploaded by omiba, Andy.Dean, destinyuk*, breath, and jgsm_photos_2006; Random Flickr Blogging explained here.)


Watch TV, Get Lied To

Don't let the nerdy glasses and the bow tie fool you:

More than four weeks after ABC News commentator George Will, in criticizing Sen. Barack Obama, falsely asserted on the network's This Week that Social Security taxes are levied based on household income, ABC has yet to issue a correction on the Sunday morning show, even though Will has appeared on three broadcasts since making the false statement.
Accuracy is for the little people.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #3785

Yep, this is definitely the place where you wanna make reservations if you plan on gettin' any on Prom Night of the Corn.


Perfect Sense

So: We're going to supply enriched uranium to help along the nuclear program of Saudia Arabia, the country whence came over two thirds of the 9/11 hijackers as well as plenty of financial support for other Islamic terrorists, while at the same time periodically threatening to bomb Iran because its nuclear program might possibly someday maybe produce material that could be used to make a bomb.

And we're supposed to believe that this administration is serious about national security why, again?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #5628

Apocalypse, Like, Whenevarrrr
(Image originally uploaded by you_invented_me; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


Empire or Humanity?

It's a TomDispatch brought to life!

Howard Zinn, voiced by Viggo Mortensen. Rather nice little piece of animation.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #6628

It's a great place to buy throw rugs, provided you go there on a day when Michelle Malkin isn't outside screaming "Appeasers!" and menacingly waving an umbrella at passersby.
(Image originally uploaded by benjaminmyklebust; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


Behind the Scenes

Another lengthy excerpt from Matt Taibbi's The Great Derangement hilariously imagines the planning for 9/11—well, for the 9/11 Truther version of it, anyway. And you are there.

Democracy Incorporated

For a lengthy but worthwhile read, check out Chalmers Johnson's review of a new book by distinguished political philosopher/scholar Sheldon Wolin. The essentials:

Wolin writes, "Our thesis is this: it is possible for a form of totalitarianism, different from the classical one, to evolve from a putatively 'strong democracy' instead of a 'failed' one." His understanding of democracy is classical but also populist, anti-elitist and only slightly represented in the Constitution of the United States. "Democracy," he writes, "is about the conditions that make it possible for ordinary people to better their lives by becoming political beings and by making power responsive to their hopes and needs." It depends on the existence of a demos -- "a politically engaged and empowered citizenry, one that voted, deliberated, and occupied all branches of public office." Wolin argues that to the extent the United States on occasion came close to genuine democracy, it was because its citizens struggled against and momentarily defeated the elitism that was written into the Constitution.

"No working man or ordinary farmer or shopkeeper," Wolin points out, "helped to write the Constitution." He argues, "The American political system was not born a democracy, but born with a bias against democracy. It was constructed by those who were either skeptical about democracy or hostile to it. Democratic advance proved to be slow, uphill, forever incomplete. The republic existed for three-quarters of a century before formal slavery was ended; another hundred years before black Americans were assured of their voting rights. Only in the twentieth century were women guaranteed the vote and trade unions the right to bargain collectively. In none of these instances has victory been complete: women still lack full equality, racism persists, and the destruction of the remnants of trade unions remains a goal of corporate strategies. Far from being innate, democracy in America has gone against the grain, against the very forms by which the political and economic power of the country has been and continues to be ordered." Wolin can easily control his enthusiasm for James Madison, the primary author of the Constitution, and he sees the New Deal as perhaps the only period of American history in which rule by a true demos prevailed.

To reduce a complex argument to its bare bones, since the Depression, the twin forces of managed democracy and Superpower have opened the way for something new under the sun: "inverted totalitarianism," a form every bit as totalistic as the classical version but one based on internalized co-optation, the appearance of freedom, political disengagement rather than mass mobilization, and relying more on "private media" than on public agencies to disseminate propaganda that reinforces the official version of events. It is inverted because it does not require the use of coercion, police power and a messianic ideology as in the Nazi, Fascist and Stalinist versions (although note that the United States has the highest percentage of its citizens in prison -- 751 per 100,000 people -- of any nation on Earth). According to Wolin, inverted totalitarianism has "emerged imperceptibly, unpremeditatedly, and in seeming unbroken continuity with the nation's political traditions."

The genius of our inverted totalitarian system "lies in wielding total power without appearing to, without establishing concentration camps, or enforcing ideological uniformity, or forcibly suppressing dissident elements so long as they remain ineffectual. A demotion in the status and stature of the 'sovereign people' to patient subjects is symptomatic of systemic change, from democracy as a method of 'popularizing' power to democracy as a brand name for a product marketable at home and marketable abroad. The new system, inverted totalitarianism, is one that professes the opposite of what, in fact, it is. The United States has become the showcase of how democracy can be managed without appearing to be suppressed."

What must be done:
Many analysts, myself included, would conclude that Wolin has made a close to airtight case that the American republic's days are numbered, but Wolin himself does not agree. Toward the end of his study he produces a wish list of things that should be done to ward off the disaster of inverted totalitarianism: "rolling back the empire, rolling back the practices of managed democracy; returning to the idea and practices of international cooperation rather than the dogmas of globalization and preemptive strikes; restoring and strengthening environmental protections; reinvigorating populist politics; undoing the damage to our system of individual rights; restoring the institutions of an independent judiciary, separation of powers, and checks and balances; reinstating the integrity of the independent regulatory agencies and of scientific advisory processes; reviving representative systems responsive to popular needs for health care, education, guaranteed pensions, and an honorable minimum wage; restoring governmental regulatory authority over the economy; and rolling back the distortions of a tax code that toadies to the wealthy and corporate power."
I wish I could say that massive Democratic victories in November would be more than a tiny first step in the right direction, but I won't fool myself about that. If you can't even get either of the Democratic front-runners to say the dread words single payer when it comes to health care, then you can't expect either of them to bring much advance on the road to sane, humane social democracy. (And that is the ultimate goal as far as I'm concerned. I know that right-wingers have tried to scare us for years with the horrific thought that, in the wrong hands, the U.S. could become more like one of those awful states in Europe, with their high levels of political participation and their generous safety nets and their high standards of living and whatnot. Oh, the humanity. But something tells me that jokes about parliamentary confusion—the Italian government's like a river: you can't step into the same one twice—and anecdotes about, gosh, having to wait to see a doctor will be less and less persuasive to a population groaning under $4/gallon gasoline, pissed on by for-profit "health care" companies, tiring of an unjustified, budget-busting imperial war sold to them by a corporate government and a for-profit media system, etc. etc. etc. I hold out some hope that the plutocracy may, after all, have been producing nothing but its own gravediggers.)


Don't miss this marvelous collection of Straight Talk™ from Robert Greenwald and company:

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #0021

Say what you will about Craigslist, you can't deny that it's served as a cathartic outlet for every sort of bizarre sexual fetish to be found under the sun. And I do mean every.
(Image originally uploaded by Brad Froehle; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


"The Far Left"?

What, now you're "far left" if you have any concerns about the civil liberties implications of wiretapping, agents provocateurs, email surveillance, and so on? Jeez. Somebody give Matt Lauer another million dollars so he can buy a clue.

I almost wish one of Lauer's guests would proposethis thesis, just to see what would happen to Lauer's head:

Given the current centrality of petroleum to our economy and way of life, in the interests of national security and national stability, we should not institute an excess profits tax; rather, we should immediately nationalize the oil companies.
My guess is that eyewitnesses would report a blinding flash, and trees would be flattened out to a radius of about ten miles or so. It wouldn't put the myth of the liberal media to rest, mind you, but it would be pretty cool.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #3873

Caution: Symmetry May Be Fearful When Wet.
(Image originally uploaded by -Andrew-; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)



Think Progress noted yesterday that the Project for the New American Century, that lusty bunch of imperialists who did so much to neocon America into the Iraq debacle, has apparently vanished from the world wide web. Sure enough, as of, oh, two seconds ago, you still get a "This Account Has Been Suspended" notice when you visit their website. Slink away, boys. Slink away.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #5453

"Y'know, if there really were a tasty ice cream treat called a Blairwich—well, I could really go for one right now." "Mmm hmmm." "I hear that." "cough cough"
(Image originally uploaded by wetfeet2000; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


Double Woo-Hoo

First: There's a new Get Your War On up.


On Thursday night, the US Senate initiated the process of overturning an FCC ruling made in December to allow for greater media consolidation.

The joint resolution (S.J Res. 28) passed by an overwhelming margin in a voice vote on the Senate floor.

The resolution, originally sponsored by Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-North Dakota), was cosponsored by Sens. Hillary Clinton (D-New York), Barack Obama (D-Illinois), Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), and a long list of others.

"Today, the Senate stood up to Washington special interests by voting to reverse the FCC's disappointing media consolidation rules that I have fought against," said presidential candidate Barack Obama. "It is essential that the FCC promotes the public interest and diversity in ownership."


The FCC's decisions in December, and its policies since early in the Bush administration, have drawn a flood of criticism from individuals angered by what they see as an irresponsible and partisan stance of broad deregulation.

Chairman Kevin Martin has been accused of divisive leadership, lacking in accountability and transparency.

Martin has become the subject of a Congressional investigation headed by Congressmen John Dingell (D-Michigan) and Bart Stupak (D-Michigan).

Staff members of the FCC voiced their discontent with Martin's tenure in a memo to Dingell and Stupak. "The bottom line is that the FCC process appears broken and most of the blame appears to rest with Chairman Martin," the memo said.

You might not have thought it was possible to go downhill from Michael "Public Interest Angel" Powell, but Kevin Martin is living proof that with the Bush Administration, all things are possible. How long before he resigns and takes a job at Comcast, d'ya think?

Weekly Random Flickr Blogging, #3392

I've been missing the group fun, including the record turnout a while back. Partial amends are below.

The U.S. Capitol tries to hide from a visiting U.N. delegation. And can you blame it, really, after the last five years or so?
Arnold Schwarzenegger is just not clear on the concept "sport coupe."
"Be that way, then." "I will." "Good for you." "No, good for you." "All right, then." "Harrumph." "Snort."
While the other kids frolicked in the surf, little Joe Lieberman spent hours upon hours making sandcastle Masadas—only to see each one washed away by the rising tide. Explains a few things, huh?
Hey, you Random Flickr Bloggers. I've missed ya. Here, let me buy y'all a beer. *burp*
(Images originally uploaded by Adam Bauer, Ivan S. Abrams, AlainG, mickdansforth, and willsfca; Random Flickr Blogging explained here.)


Cue Taps

Unfortunately, you can't see Mika Brzezinski's face at the right moment in the attached video, but I'd swear that when, upon being informed that MSNBC was about to spend valuable time talking to Tonya Harding "about her place in history and now her infamy within American politics" (apropos of Hillary Clinton supposely contemplating "the Tonya Harding option" in response to Barack Obama), Brzezinski says, "I can't believe that. It's great," you can hear a small part of her die. It's kind of a very, very subtle rip/groan/thud. Listen carefully.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #6619

You can order a charming cobra from Izikwe's Charming Cobras on Wheels, but don't bring your American Express Card—and you'll want to let it sit for a while once it arrives, 'cause the delivery trip tends to rile 'em up something fierce.
(Image originally uploaded by covecommunity; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


I Miss So Much, Not Having Cable

So Chris Matthews thinks that billiards is an elitist sport now—apparently, because Barack Obama was photographed shooting pool. Or something. Not polo, mind you, or croquet, or even lacrosse—billiards.

Something tells me that if Obama were photographed at a cockfight, the next day Chris Matthews would be telling Howard Fineman about how fighting roosters are really big in the The Hamptons, dontcha know.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #1567

One endearing thing about an "everything for sale" society is the fertile ground it offers for incongruity. "Why, yes, thank you, I am interested in saving money on long distance."
(Image originally uploaded by SUN Eric; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #0021

The Mongolian version of Doctor Who travels around in a TARDY: a Time And Relative Dimensions Yurt.
(Image originally uploaded by brianhoffer; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


Fire Season

Bad fires down here since Sunday: fires to the south, fires to the north. The south fires have been particularly scary and destructive; at one point yesterday, a wall of flame marched suddenly toward a school, which had to be evacuated on the run:

Authorities believe that all the fires were deliberately set. Ironically, I have yet to hear anyone use the word terrorism; all the speculation seems to be about pissed-off loners horny for fire, "copycat arsonists," and whatnot. I'm not saying it was terrorists, lord knows—I'm just a little surprised that we could be two days into a multiple-fire arson spree and not be having authority figures muttering darkly about "homeland security" implications. Perhaps my country is saner than I thought.

At any rate, send out your best wishes for the folks who've been injured, lost homes, etc. And your best hopes that police catch whoever did this.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #7566

Suddenly, amidst the Hebraic hubbub and general devout murmurings, Yaakov's keen hearing picked up the unmistakable strains of "My Sharona."
(Image originally uploaded by Gianfranco ( M A Y O ); Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


Sunday, May 11, 2008

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #0021

The Trans-Euclidean Spaniel's n-dimensional mobility makes it an excellent hunting dog, but good luck catching it come bath time.
(Image originally uploaded by robson.sanchez; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


Saturday, May 10, 2008

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #4699

Y'know, once you factor in all the extra ingredients, there's hardly enough booze in a kelparita to make it worthwhile.
(Image originally uploaded by Sam Turner; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


He's a Demon on Wheels

This is one of the funniest film reviews I've read in a while. I've seen some commercials for the Wachowski Brothers' Speed Racer, and I must say that it looks like the sort of thing that would send me fleeing from the theater to seek refuge someplace calmer and quieter, like an Indian casino.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #3171

Sure, Pimp My Darth Vader Helmet has kitsch and pop appeal, but does it really belong at the National Gallery?
(Image originally uploaded by URKOURSUS; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


Thursday, May 08, 2008

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #8199

Unfortunately, there is no Robert's Rules of Common Decency. "Excuse me, but the gentleman can please have an epileptic seizure on his own time. I believe I have the floor."
(Image originally uploaded by waxstyles; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


Some Perspective from Bill Moyers

On the Wright controversy, on yesterday's Democracy Now!:

I know that—look, Jeremiah Wright was in this church for thirty-six years. I had never met him. I belong to the United Church of Christ denomination, but I had never heard of Jeremiah Wright. He was a local pastor. That was his calling. That was his commitment. That was his passion. If Obama had not been in his congregation, we’d never have heard of Jeremiah Wright.

But over the—someone figured out, at Christian Century magazine, figured out that over thirty-six years on the 11:00 Sunday morning services, he had preached 207,711 minutes. And the sound bites that were being looped throughout the mainstream media and the rightwing media were sixteen to twenty seconds. How would you like for your long career in journalism as a broadcaster to be summed up at the end in sixteen to twenty seconds? I understand that anger, that frustration, that he—that was driving him to finally want to speak.

When you think of it that way, it's a lot harder to blame the guy for seizing the chance to speak. It may have given The Daily Show some fodder (why the dancing? why the lame accents?), and it may have inconvenienced Barack Obama, but tough sh*t. I fear that one day we may all come to appreciate the lesson Reverend Wright just gave us in how not to let ourselves be turned into straw men.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #3204

Coming up: Stuff in Main Street Jake's beard has been carbon-dated to the Pleistocene Era. We'll look at some competing theories—next on Explain This!
(Image originally uploaded by gammela2000; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


Shark Encounter

I'm busy as heck, but I finally had a chance to listen to Kevin Phillips on yesterday's Democracy Now! Now I know what chum feels like.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you think is one of the most serious signs of this overall global crisis of American capitalism?

KEVIN PHILLIPS: Well, not to single out just one, I have an approach I use to say that normally when a country is—United States is—heading into a recession, there are one or two, sometimes three, factors that you worry about. But at this point in time, the American economy, you can think of it as being kind of in a shark tank, and there are like six or seven sharks, and you don’t usually see anything like that number.

And just to skim the list quickly, we have a financialized economy in which we don’t make much anymore, and finance is up to 20 to 21 percent of the US GDP, and manufacturing down to 12. Finance dominates the US economy.

The second problem is that we have massive debt, both public and private. It’s gone up about 700 percent since the early 1980s, staggering numbers where there—we basically have $50 trillion worth of credit market debt, which is tradable debt. And people just have no idea of this. It’s not government debts that’s the problem, it’s private sector debt, both financial and corporate and then in the consumer sector with credit cards and then mortgage debt. We just have this extraordinary level of it. 340 percent of the gross domestic product, that’s how big debt is. And the last time something was close to this—and it was less—was in the late 1920s and early 1930s. So it’s enormously a vulnerable, dangerous thing.

Third shark in the tank is the collapse of home prices. They continue to follow the scary trajectory that has people predicting that there’s going to be a 15 to 20 percent decline in home prices, which would be the sharpest since the Great Depression.

Then you can go to shark number four, that’s global commodity inflation. Oil and food, people are as worried now about the price of milk as they are about the price of a gallon of gasoline. That’s a global problem, but it makes a mockery of the administration’s pretense that there’s no inflation.

The fifth shark is, frankly, lousy economic statistics. I don’t think the average American should believe either the inflation numbers, the GDP numbers or the unemployment numbers. And there’s a lot of complexity and technical terminology involved here, but the long and the short is that over thirty to forty years, we’ve seen a kind of Pollyanna Creep, and administrations of both parties have done this. They want the figures to be friendlier, not to get them in trouble. And we’re at a point now where the figures lie enough that foreign investors are starting not to believe them and, I think, with considerable justice.

Now, the next shark in the tank is obviously the price of oil. And it’s not just global commodity inflation, it’s the problem that we see of oil production peaking in the world sometime in the next ten to twenty years. And the advance signs of this are scarcity in peaking in certain countries. And the prediction just came out of Goldman Sachs a couple of days ago that within a fairly short period of time, probably this year, you’re going to see $150 or $200 oil.

And that’s because, partly at least, of the scarcity, but the US dollar has been tied historically since the 1970s to oil, because of a deal worked out when OPEC wanted a price increase. Henry Kissinger and others were involved in getting OPEC to commit that they would sell and buy oil only in dollars and that they would invest their petrodollars in the US, in Treasury debt. So we have a currency that’s profited from the connection to oil, which sustained it in many ways. But now oil has boomeranged on the United States.

We have to spend $400 billion a year to import the oil we need. We don’t have the basis for controlling oil anymore, after the idiocy in Iraq, which was partly put in motion to solve the oil problem, and instead you’ve got oil prices going up 500 percent in five years. So the dollar is on the ropes, and that’s the other shark in the tank.

There has never been a period in anybody’s memory, except very old people who remember the late ’20s and ’30s, where you had so many things converging. And that’s what makes it frightening. And every time the administration says it looks like it’s under control or it’s half-over, you start to get evidence that, no, it’s not under control, and maybe it’s not even a third over.

I think we need a bigger boat.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #5315

Some would say that Ennui is a stupid name for a dog. I'd say that it depends on the dog.
(Image originally uploaded by TheEclecticArtisan; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


Monday, May 05, 2008

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #9318

Chateau Screwtop 2007: What it lacks in bouquet, it makes up for in aggressiveness.
(Image originally uploaded by shopculture; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


Sunday, May 04, 2008

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #1391

Product of an unspeakable ménage à trois between Joan Rivers, Elizabeth Hasselbeck, and Leona Helmsley.
(Image originally uploaded by pietromonti57; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


Saturday, May 03, 2008

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #6610

There are actually several former Ho houses in Hanoi, some large, some small, but you might say that this is the best little Ho house in Hanoi. You might say that, if you have no shame.
(Image originally uploaded by Florence3; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)



Nice segment last night on Bill Moyers Journal with Christopher Cerf and Victor Navasky, aka the Institute of Expertology. Is it satire, or is it sanity? Sixth months of one, a Friedman of another, I guess.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #3311

All are welcome at the First Church of Second Base. Testify!
(Image originally uploaded by Captain Smurf; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


We Could Use Us Some O' That There Reform

Minneapolis hasn't seemed this interesting since Mystery Science Theater 3000 was emerging therefrom.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #7694

It's being a rough week, but Happy May Day! anyway.

Y'all can have the decadent thrills of Grand Theft Auto IV; I'll stick with the passive-aggressive pleasures of Backseat Driver III, thank you very much. (typing) "The exit's coming up; you'd better get into the right lane. Watch this guy in the Caravan. No, not now—pass that Hyundai first; he's going too slow. OK, now, now! What? Don't look at me like that—I'm just trying to help."
(Image originally uploaded by lukewestall; Random Flickr Blogging invented by Tom Hilton.)


Weekly Random Flickr Blogging, #5063

I remembered to join the group fun this week. Check 'em out.

You Know It's Community Theater When: "Let them eat...uh...uh...LINE!"
"Man, my lip tricks are wicked awesome since that plant moved in next door. I don't know why people are always complaining about nuclear power."
"Long story short, what they say about not rubbing habanero peppers into your eye sockets is true, and I wouldn't do it again, not even on a dare."
(Images originally uploaded by wwwes, sk8mama, and G2的小圈子攝攝 ; Random Flickr Blogging explained here.)


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