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Monthly Archives: April 2009

don’t have time to comment on this, but it’s worth a read (and a forward to anyone who might still believe this crap).

oh, one quick comment about that picture: these people show an ASTOUNDING lack of sense of irony (or sense at all?). how exactly do we spend on defense without raising taxes?

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i’m creating that damn tag now, thank you very much. why, you might ask. what finally sent me over the edge? this:

Next week [Oakland mayor Ron] Dellums is supposed to present a balanced budget, one that includes epic job cuts to close an $83 million shortfall.

Every single city department will face cuts, not to mention furloughs. Yet Dellums is demanding a substantial pay raise and, along with City Councilwoman Desley Brooks, flatly refusing to take a voluntary 5 percent pay reduction to help defray the city’s whopping budget deficit.

seriously? seriously?????? in the time he’s been in office, Dellums has been largely absent. he’s presided over scandals (last summer’s set-to over the city manager), a sanitation worker strike that dragged on throughout the previous summer (my window is right about my building’s trash area, and let me tell you, that is not something you want to let drag on in july), and various other crises. and he hasn’t done much to speed them to hasty resolutions, either. half the time he’s not even in town. earlier this year, when four Oakland police officers were killed in the line of duty, the families requested that the mayor not speak. that’s how little respect he’s got among city employees and the rank and file. 

and in a time of great economic problems, a time when budget cuts mean oakland’s already-stressed public institutions are going to be further called upon to do more with less, he’s not only refusing to take a pay cut, he’s demanding a raise? ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME? the fuck has he done to deserve a raise? 

people complain that the world of David Simon’s masterpiece, The Wire, is too bleak. from where i’m standing, here in oakland, it’s looking like Simon was an optimist.

oh yeah, i should totally find some links for those claims up there, but i am too pissed off. search the archives at SFGate if you want more details.

so one of the more interesting aspects of politics in the past 3o years (for me, anyway) is the way that the modern Republican movement managed to merge old-school wealthy elitists, libertarians, and social conservatives. in particular, i’m interested in the ways in which these various groups have sometimes misled themselves (and each other) in order to make the marriage of convenience work. for those on the outside looking in, at times this willful manipulation and blindness seems completely ludicrous, although the fact that most liberals seem to prefer mocking it to actively trying to understand it certainly does our society no favors.

anyway, from gawker this morning comes an absolutely dead-on summation of this conundrum, in a far more pithy and concise formulation than i could ever come up with (i’m wordy, you see):

For some reason, supposedly smart conservatives think most “regular Americans” are unlikable idiots, and so they prop up unlikable idiots as party spokespeople.

Like Joe the Plumber! He, like all regular blue-collar guys, is a lazy moron who is oddly obsessed with a fantasy about Barack Obama hating Israel. His name is not Joe and he is not a plumber. He is proudly misinformed and works as a perfect representative of what rich conservatives think of the working classes.

(emphasis mine)

now let me just say, i come from a working class background, and i know plenty of people–the kind that politicians would call “real americans”–hell, even socially conservative ones (hi, mom!), and though we have our differences of opinion, they are neither bad nor stupid. and yet look at the people the Republican party brings out in an attempt to relate to the “common people.” honestly, i’d be pretty offended if the people in charge of the party supposedly representing me thought that buffoonish caricatures would be sufficient to placate me into voting for them.  

i think maybe i got off track here. i kind of forgot what point i was trying to make, and i have to actually get some work done now, and this rant would probably have been more appropriate last fall, and also sorry for all the parenthetical statements in this post.

during the run-up to the election last fall, i (like everyone else) watched SNL for tina fey. but in doing so, i managed to catch seth meyers and amy poehler doing their “seriously?” routine as part of weekend update.

this has stuck in my head. in fact, as i’m reading this article, i can hear them like psychotic voices in my head, screeching “seriously?????”

i swear to god, i want to start tagging these posts just so i can have one called “you have got to be fucking kidding me.”

so late last week i cleaned out a bunch of old emails that had been languishing in my inbox, and found a link to this blog, which then led me to actually reading said blog, which led me to reading this post.

the second half of it kind of doesn’t make sense to me, but i am admittedly not that fond of philosophy and theory, so it’s probably just that i’ve never read the thinkers in question. but the first half is what i find most intriguing:

In graduate school I read a book whose author claimed that John Rawls was the font of liberal thought in America and I said to myself, “John who?” Until then I’d thought the font of liberal thought in America was probably this chap named John Locke. Because of course I’d read Louis Hartz’sLiberal Tradition in America, which argues

One of the central characteristics of a nonfeudal society is that it lacks a genuine revolutionary tradition … that it is “born equal,” as Tocqueville said. And this being the case it lacks also a tradition of reaction: lacking Robespierre it lacks Maistre…. Its liberalism is what Santayana called … a “natural” phenomenon…. [A] society which begins with Locke, and thus transforms him, stays with Locke, by virtue of an absolute and irrational attachment it develops for him, and becomes as indifferent to the challenge of socialism in the later era as it was unfamiliar with the heritage of feudalism in the earlier one. It has within it, as it were, a kind of self-completing mechanism, which insures the universality of the liberal idea…. [W]e have only the American Way of Life, a nationalist articulation of Locke which usually does not know that Locke himself is involved….

Or, as one of my former colleagues explained when teaching the American Revolution,

Remember litmus paper? Imagine political litmus paper. Dip it into Robespierre and it turns scarlet. Dip it into Maistre and it turns blue. But dip it into any American, or anyway any non-fringe American, and all you get is a kind of mauve.

Without getting into why this is true, it’s pretty nearly always true: there are limits to the scope of American thought. Me, I don’t think they’re kept in place by a “self-completing mechanism”, I think they’re actively reproduced generation after generation. But they’re there. No matter how the oppressed financier classes scream, there are precious few socialists in American public life. Nor are there quite fascists, or at least not out in the open.

i find this an interesting commentary on the same issue i brought up a while back – is revolution possible in this country? at a time when it seems like blood should be flowing in the streets, are we really just too complacent to revolt? or is it less that we’re complacent and more that our country lacks a philosophical and ideological basis for revolutionary thought and action (ironic, considering our founding)? i kind of think the answer lies somewhere in the middle (shocking, i know).

i think a lot of people are complacent; but i think that the ideological and political structures in this country reinforce that complacency – and i don’t necessarily mean that in a bad way. our country is founded on principles of democracy; it stands to reason that if we never have a totalitarian government (and regardless of our horror over the torture memos and the civil rights infringements of the past 8 years, we are not exactly in stalinist territory yet), if the populace is always somewhat in control of who’s in charge and how those leaders act, then the resulting society will be palatable to the masses (at least most of them). essentially, our systems of thought and action have ensured that things never quite get bad enough to provoke open revolution. even with our current economic and social problems, the majority of americans still have homes to live in and food for their families. they don’t have to worry about being hauled off for show trials and exile to siberia. things are just good enough to keep us fat and happy. and maybe that’s not a great thing, but honestly, it’s not that bad a thing either.

of course, none of this stands as an excuse to just sit idly by and let the world go to shit around you. people should care about politics and their elected leaders and what’s going on in the world around them. after all, there’s still that old truism that hitler was elected. bad things don’t always happen suddenly; frequently they are the result of that ol’ slippery slope. so we are probably more complacent than we ought to be, but that probably won’t change in the foreseeable future.

(sorry for the crazy layers of quotations in this.)