Friday, April 30, 2010
1. For those of you who don’t think Dino Rossi can beat U.S. Sen. Patty Murray in November—Rossi can’t get away with dodging abortion rights questions in a federal race; he’s already lost statewide twice, and he’s veering into Robert Rosencrantz territory; Murray’s got ga-billions in the bank ($5.9 million on-hand)—there’s actually a good reason for the GOP to throw Rossi at Murray (and by the way, the Fizz has it from a good GOP source that he’s in next week): A Rossi challenge will force Murray to spend every last dollar of that $5.9 million, preventing her from kicking cash back to her party to bail out other embattled Democrats, like Sen. Barabara Boxer.
It’d be a smart play by the National Republican Senatorial Committee (and they’ve certainly been talking to Rossi). And who knows, he’s definitely got a better shot than State Sen. Don Benton (R-17) and this crew.
2. At Wednesday night’s hearing on the city budget, which faces a shortfall of more than $50 million next year, city council members and Mayor Mike McGinn referred repeatedly to the need for new revenues at the city. Although no one has proposed a specific new tax yet (except the mayor’s multiyear seawall bond measure), here are some of the possibilities:
• An increase in the city’s business and occupation tax, which currently exempts or provides a break for multiple categories of businesses;
• An increase in the commercial parking tax, which parking lot owners generally pass on to customers;
• Higher fees (or new fees) for city facilities and programs like pools, community centers, and sports fields, perhaps on a sliding scale; or
• Reinstating the “head tax,” a $25-per-employee tax, paid by employers, on employees who drive to work alone.
City departments are coming up with menus of potential cuts to solve this year’s $15 million midyear shortfall by June, and the council will sign off on next year’s final budget in November.
3. Speaking of needing money: Mayor McGinn’s plans for light rail to Ballard or across 520 aren’t likely to get the much-needed federal dollars. Sen. Patty Murray and Sound Transit are still trying to get a third full funding grant agreement from the feds for $600 million to help pay for the 2008 measure to get light rail to Lynwood.
McGinn met with Murray in January and Murray’s office tells PubliCola: “[Senator Murray's] advice to him was that he should work with Sound Transit, and they have already identified the corridor that would be most competitive for federal money—Sound Transit II to Lynwood.”
McGinn is on the Sound Transit board although ST reports that they haven’t heard from him in two months.
4. City Council member Mike O’Brien, in the unenviable position of heading up one of the council’s most boring committees, utilities, wrote a refreshingly self-deprecating blog post yesterday about combined sewer overflows—the total amount of sewage that overflows out of the city’s system during big storms.
“On Tuesday, the Seattle Public Utilities and Neighborhoods Committee passed resolution 31201 endorsing the Seattle Public Utilities Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) Reduction Plan Amendment,” O’Brien wrote. “Exciting, right?”
The post goes on to explain that reducing sewer overflows is good for the environment, but could lead to substantial rate increases: The five-year plan is estimated at $162 million.
"Me and my good buddy, Norman Goldman."Howie P.S.: Hannah journeyed over the waters of the Puget Sound from Bremerton to take photos. I am hoping for more pictures and some video of Norm and Nic Licata's brief remarks.
Most of you have seen the picture of Maikoiyo Alley Barnes, taken in April 2005. You may have heard the audio from the police dashboard camera; the unmistakable proof of an innocent man beaten by members of our own Seattle Police Department.
Look at the picture. Ask yourself honestly what you see- what comes to mind? Who do you think he is? What do you think he is like?
If we’re honest with ourselves, and don’t personally know this man- any number of stereotypes or potential scenarios push forth in an effort to explain or rationalize what it is we are seeing; a man used as a punching and kicking bag.
Maybe this guy in the picture is shady. Maybe he’s mouthy and ‘got himself’ into trouble. Maybe he had Bruce Lee-like skills and they had to do that to him in the process of getting him under control.
I’ll tell you what I didn’t see when I looked at the pictures. I didn’t see a father. I didn’t see a teacher or profoundly insightful maker (he doesn’t prefer the word ‘artist’). Honestly, I don’t know if I saw anything at all.
Mainstream media being what it was, we really didn’t get many facts or details about what happened that night. For the general public, the police audio/video was a flash fire that came to light two years after the actual incident. We were outraged by the pictures. He became, literally, a poster boy.
Then it faded away.
Then another flash fire when it was announced he’d settled a case for six figures- again, he was touted in some fashion; it was a ‘victory’ for the ‘cause’. Yeah, words to use loosely.
While his image was being used by others, we didn’t ever actually hear from him. We didn’t see him on local or national television giving interviews, there was nothing in the papers. It’s a rarity, to be sure.
Five years later I received an invitation to a multimedia exhibit entitled To Serve and Protect by Maikoiyo Alley-Barnes and Friends. Here's the whole post.
Thursday, April 29, 2010
Date: Thursday, April 29, 2010Howie P.S.: Norman is promising to talk about I-1068 on his show today (3pm-6pm Pacific) airing live and online in Seattle on AM1090.
Time: 5:00pm - 7:30pm
Location: El Puerco Lloron in the Pike Market Hillclimb
Street: 1501 Western Ave
City/Town: Seattle, WA
Norman Goldman is co-hosting a fundraiser with Seattle City Councilmember Nick Licata benefitting I-1068.
Please join Norm and Nick and support I-1068!
Suggested donation is $100 (fabulous food included!), but donations in all amounts are appreciated. All donations benefit the grassroots campaign that is I-1068.
I-1068 is a homegrown effort to remove criminal and civil penalties for the possession of marijuana. This November, Washington, Oregon and California voters will all be voting to legalize, and polling is very high.
You can RSVP here.
Senator Patty Murray, video (09:49).
Howie P.S.: Michael Hood reminds us that Patty is up for re-election this November AND that the right-wing shit factory is already at work to defeat her.
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Kirk Prindle, with video (00:42)from Michael Oxman:
The abrupt resignation of Seattle parks director Tim Gallagher provides yet another valuable opportunity for all of us to assess civic priorities at this unique time in our great city’s history. As we struggle with the many repercussions of this fiscal crisis, city leaders are beginning to acknowledge an important truth already recognized by so many of Seattle’s informed citizens: Seattle’s economy and unique way of life are intrinsically tied to its natural environment.Howie P.S.: The West Seattle Blog and the Seattle Times chime in.
Seattle’s now-iconic artificial landmarks (e.g. the Space Needle) are worthy of appreciation for their contributions to promoting the Seattle way-of-life to the great benefit of our local economies and community progress. But, for visitors and residents alike, the “Seattle experience” is still defined by its singular natural elements – the Sound, the mountains, the trees – and especially by the intimate integration of a thriving urban community within a truly unique Pacific Northwest native environment.
We foster sustainable local economies and promote a very valuable Seattle civic legacy to the extent that we consider the importance of environmental conservation with every significant community development decision. It is unclear if Mr. Gallagher had the experience and necessary perspective to understand the need to always give priority to this consideration with the loss of his job being only one of the least important significant consequences.
The press has focused on a hyped-up controversy alleging wanton travel expenses as reason for Mr. Gallagher’s blunt departure (although his actual travel expenses for this year remain below the total budgeted for the parks director). But, the press and Mr. Gallagher fail to acknowledge how a specific lack of necessary perspective in Seattle parks leadership resulted in practical on-the-ground decisions that could not continue to be ignored by a community so well-versed in a comprehensive understanding of what true sustainability means for our city.
Tim Gallagher’s parks department had been criticized for relying on an antiquated perspective of “clear-cut and rebuild” on two recent parks-managed city projects – installation of the Pacific Connections Garden in the arboretum and “renovation” of Plum Tree Park in the Central District. (See this and this.) In both instances, the preservation of existing healthy mature trees could have both helped to sustain an important (and economically valuable) civic legacy while also providing specific tangible community benefits.
In the case of the arboretum clear-cut, the simple retention of mature healthy native trees along Lake Washington Boulevard would have maintained one of the few treed arterials existing in our city – with the formidable contiguous tree canopy of the boulevard a consistent draw for tourists and residents alike. In the case of Plum Tree Park…well…it would have been nice to keep the defining plum tree in Plum Tree Park. In both instances, retention of existing trees would have resulted in direct cost savings in terms of project design, installation and maintenance. The fact that the extreme irony of a clear cut in the arboretum (you know, “a place for trees”) and the removal of the plum tree from Plum Tree Park can be conveniently ignored perhaps provides a telling indication of where we are with sustainable tree management decisions in Seattle.
Mr. Gallagher’s departure will not be in vain if it results in a recalibration of priorities informing the understanding of civic leaders on the connection between environmental conservation – here, specifically tree preservation – and comprehensive Seattle sustainability. At this critical time in our history, an informed perspective on the value of environmental conservation to maintaining thriving economies and local communities is needed by leaders in all levels of government and, certainly, by all department heads in the great city of Seattle.
Author’s note: A few weeks ago I mentioned Seattle’s often unknown history of neighborhood segregation in one of my articles, which was read by the editor of My Greenlake. She asked if I would write a guest post outlining how Greenlake was affected, and I agreed; so here it is…Howie P.S.: Please read the whole thing. Does anybody else even write about this?
Many who live in Seattle, Washington -and those who view it from afar- do not think racism and discrimination are issues that minorities have ever been faced with here, yet history proves otherwise; issues of race and discrimination in Seattle are as old as Seattle itself.
My interest in Seattle’s segregated past goes much deeper than a passing glance. My grandparents were subject to the rules of segregation in every aspect of their lives including where they worked, lived, shopped and so on. They’ve been around long enough to remember a city that did everything but celebrate or encourage diversity.
My grandfather, Robert Terry, born 1926, Pine Bluff Arkansas, came to Seattle after Seattle schools offered him a position, making him the first Black male teacher in the state. His wife Francis decided she wanted to attend Seattle University. She ran into challenges when she enrolled in the nursing program, because nursing students had to live in the nurse’s dorm; Blacks were not allowed.
The compromise? A private room.
“When I graduated they advertised it in the newspapers and on the radio, almost any radio station around, I was the first to graduate from the school of nursing, I didn’t want the publicity, I felt like they should have been graduating people in 1930, why did they wait until 1951 to graduate a Black person? I didn’t feel I deserved it, it was just something that I did, and people do it every day,” she told me.
They settled in the Central District with their five children. They say it was impossible to find a decent house outside of the dilapidated areas of town.
“Sometimes we didn’t even make it inside the houses; they saw us and flipped the sign. They had gentlemen’s agreements,” says grandma Francis of local, White home and land owners.
“There were neighborhood agreements all over Seattle; you knew what neighborhood you had no chance of living in, it didn’t matter if you were Black, Asian, Hispanic, most all of the neighborhoods that were majority White, openly kept out anyone else,” says my grandfather.
Greenlake was one of those neighborhoods. Today it is loved for its family friendly community- and of course that famous, beautiful lake which draws an untold number of visitors each year, it is absolutely one of the best places in Seattle for walking, playing with the kids, getting in on a pickup basket ball game, or just people watching. Greenlake has a very distinct vibe you can’t get anywhere else; it’s a fun place to be that attracts people of all ages, races and walks of life.
And yet it used to be segregated. It was one of the many places people like my grandparents heard of, but never dreamed of seeing because it simply wasn’t allowed.
Progressive radio talk show host Norman Goldman will be talking I-1068 a whole lot on his show this Thursday from 3 to 6 pm on AM 1090 in Seattle and elsewhere around the country. We truly appreciate his support.Howie P.S.: They also have this friendly reminder:
In case I haven't mentioned it already, on Thursday April 29th, Seattle City Council member Nick Licata and radio talk show host Norman Goldman will host a fundraiser for I-1068 at El Puerco Lloron at 1501 Western Avenue in the Pike Place Market Hillclimb. Suggested donation: $100. The event will run from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.Howie P.P.S.: See ya there?
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Our investigation in Arizona discovered the real intent of the show-me-your-papers law.
Phoenix - Don't be fooled. The way the media plays the story, it was a wave of racist, anti-immigrant hysteria that moved Arizona Republicans to pass a sick little law, signed last week, requiring every person in the state to carry papers proving they are US citizens.
I don't buy it. Anti-Hispanic hysteria has always been as much a part of Arizona as the saguaro cactus and excessive air-conditioning.
What's new here is not the politicians' fear of a xenophobic "Teabag" uprising.
What moved GOP Governor Jan Brewer to sign the Soviet-style show-me-your-papers law is the exploding number of legal Hispanics, US citizens all, who are daring to vote - and daring to vote Democratic by more than two-to-one. Unless this demographic locomotive is halted, Arizona Republicans know their party will soon be electoral toast. Or, if you like, tortillas.
In 2008, working for "Rolling Stone" with civil rights attorney Bobby Kennedy, our team flew to Arizona to investigate what smelled like an electoral pogrom against Chicano voters . . . directed by one Jan Brewer.
Brewer, then secretary of state, had organized a racially loaded purge of the voter rolls that would have made Katherine Harris blush. Beginning after the 2004 election, under Brewer's command, no fewer than 100,000 voters, overwhelmingly Hispanic, were blocked from registering to vote. In 2005, the first year of the Great Brown-Out, one in three Phoenix residents found their registration applications rejected.
That statistic caught my attention. Voting or registering to vote if you're not a citizen is a felony, a big-time jail-time crime. And arresting such criminal voters is easy: After all, they give their names and addresses.
So I asked Brewer's office, had she busted a single one of these thousands of allegedly illegal voters? Did she turn over even one name to the feds for prosecution?
No, not one.
Which raises the question: Were these disenfranchised voters the criminal, non-citizens that Brewer tagged them to be, or just not-quite-white voters given the Jose Crow treatment, entrapped in document-chase trickery?
The answer was provided by a federal prosecutor who was sent on a crazy hunt all over the Western mesas looking for these illegal voters. "We took over 100 complaints, we investigated for almost two years, I didn't find one prosecutable voter fraud case."
This prosecutor, David Iglesias, is a prosecutor no more. When he refused to fabricate charges of illegal voting among immigrants, his firing was personally ordered by the president of the United States, George W. Bush, under orders from his boss, Karl Rove.
Iglesias' jurisdiction was next door, in New Mexico, but he told me that Rove and the Republican chieftains were working nationwide to whip up anti-immigrant hysteria with public busts of illegal voters, even though there were none.
"They wanted some splashy pre-election indictments," Iglesias told me. The former prosecutor, himself a Republican, paid the price when he stood up to this vicious attack on citizenship.
But Secretary of State Brewer followed the Rove plan to a T. The weapon she used to slice the Arizona voter rolls was a 2004 law, known as "Prop 200," which required proof of citizenship to register. It is important to see the Republicans' latest legislative horror show, sanctioning cops to stop residents and prove citizenship, as just one more step in the party's desperate plan to impede Mexican-Americans from marching to the ballot box.
(By the way, no one elected Brewer. Weirdly, Barack Obama placed her in office last year when, for reasons known only to the Devil and Rahm Emanuel, the president appointed Arizona's Democratic Governor Janet Napolitano to his cabinet, which automatically moved Republican Brewer into the Governor's office.)
State Senator Russell Pearce, the Republican sponsor of the latest ID law, gave away his real intent, blocking the vote, when he said, "There is a massive effort under way to register illegal aliens in this country."
How many? Pearce's PR flak told me, five million. All Democrats, too. Again, I asked Pearce's office to give me their names and addresses from their phony registration forms. I'd happily make a citizens arrest of each one, on camera. Pearce didn't have five million names. He didn't have five. He didn't have one.
The horde of five million voters who swam the Rio Grande just to vote for Obama was calculated on a Republican website extrapolating from the number of Mexicans in a border town who refused jury service because they were not citizens. Not one, in fact, had registered to vote: they had registered to drive. They had obtained licenses as required by the law.
The illegal voters, "wetback" welfare moms, and alien job thieves are just GOP website wet dreams, but their mythic PR power helps the party's electoral hacks chop away at voter rolls and civil rights with little more than a whimper from the Democrats.
Indeed, one reason, I discovered, that some Democrats are silent is that they are in on the game themselves. In New Mexico, Democratic Party bosses tossed away ballots of Pueblo Indians to cut native influence in party primaries.
But what’s wrong with requiring folks to prove they're American if they want to vote and live in America? The answer: because the vast majority of perfectly legal voters and residents who lack ID sufficient for Ms. Brewer and Mr. Pearce are citizens of color, citizens of poverty.
According to a study by professor Matt Barreto, of Washington State University, minority citizens are half as likely as whites to have the government ID. The numbers are dreadfully worse when income is factored in.
Just outside Phoenix, without Brewer's or Pearce's help, I did locate one of these evil un-American voters, that is, someone who could not prove her citizenship: 100-year-old Shirley Preiss. Her US birth certificate was nowhere to be found, as it never existed.
In Phoenix, I stopped in at the Maricopa County prison where Sheriff Joe Arpaio houses the captives of his campaign to stop illegal immigration. Arpaio, who under the new Arizona law will be empowered to choose his targets for citizenship testing, is already facing federal indictment for his racially charged and legally suspect methods.
Ok, I admit, I was a little nervous, passing through the iron doors with a big sign, "NOTICE: ILLEGAL ALIENS ARE PROHIBITED FROM VISITING ANYONE IN THIS JAIL." I mean, Grandma Palast snuck into the USA via Windsor, Canada. We Palasts are illegal as they come, but Arpaio's sophisticated deportee-sniffer didn't stop this white boy from entering his sanctum.
But that's the point, isn't it? Not to stop non-citizens from entering Arizona - after all, who else would care for the country club lawn? - but to harass folks of the wrong color: Democratic blue.
Monday, April 26, 2010
Matt Taibbi (Guardian UK):
So Goldman Sachs, the world's greatest and smuggest investment bank, has been sued for fraud by the American Securities and Exchange Commission. Legally, the case hangs on a technicality.
Morally, however, the Goldman Sachs case may turn into a final referendum on the greed-is-good ethos that conquered America sometime in the 80s – and in the years since has aped other horrifying American trends such as boybands and reality shows in spreading across the western world like a venereal disease.
When Britain and other countries were engulfed in the flood of defaults and derivative losses that emerged from the collapse of the American housing bubble two years ago, few people understood that the crash had its roots in the lunatic greed-centered objectivist religion, fostered back in the 50s and 60s by ponderous emigre novelist Ayn Rand.
While, outside of America, Russian-born Rand is probably best known for being the unfunniest person western civilisation has seen since maybe Goebbels or Jack the Ripper (63 out of 100 colobus monkeys recently forced to read Atlas Shrugged in a laboratory setting died of boredom-induced aneurysms), in America Rand is upheld as an intellectual giant of limitless wisdom. Here in the States, her ideas are roundly worshipped even by people who've never read her books oreven heard of her. The rightwing "Tea Party" movement is just one example of an entire demographic that has been inspired to mass protest by Rand without even knowing it.
Last summer I wrote a brutally negative article about Goldman Sachs for Rolling Stone magazine (I called the bank a "great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity") that unexpectedly sparked a heated national debate. On one side of the debate were people like me, who believed that Goldman is little better than a criminal enterprise that earns its billions by bilking the market, the government, and even its own clients in a bewildering variety of complex financial scams.
On the other side of the debate were the people who argued Goldman wasn't guilty of anything except being "too smart" and really, really good at making money. This side of the argument was based almost entirely on the Randian belief system, under which the leaders of Goldman Sachs appear not as the cheap swindlers they look like to me, but idealised heroes, the saviours of society.
In the Randian ethos, called objectivism, the only real morality is self-interest, and society is divided into groups who are efficiently self-interested (ie, the rich) and the "parasites" and "moochers" who wish to take their earnings through taxes, which are an unjust use of force in Randian politics. Rand believed government had virtually no natural role in society. She conceded that police were necessary, but was such a fervent believer in laissez-faire capitalism she refused to accept any need for economic regulation – which is a fancy way of saying we only need law enforcement for unsophisticated criminals.
Rand's fingerprints are all over the recent Goldman story. The case in question involves a hedge fund financier, John Paulson, who went to Goldman with the idea of a synthetic derivative package pegged to risky American mortgages, for use in betting against the mortgage market. Paulson would short the package, called Abacus, and Goldman would then sell the deal to suckers who would be told it was a good bet for a long investment. The SEC's contention is that Goldman committed a crime – a "failure to disclose" – when they failed to tell the suckers about the role played by the vulture betting against them on the other side of the deal.
Now, the instruments in question in this deal – collateralised debt obligations and credit default swaps – fall into the category of derivatives, which are virtually unregulated in the US thanks in large part to the effort of gremlinish former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan, who as a young man was close to Rand and remained a staunch Randian his whole life. In the late 90s, Greenspan lobbied hard for the passage of a law that came to be called the Commodity Futures Modernisation Act of 2000, a monster of a bill that among other things deregulated the sort of interest-rate swaps Goldman used in its now-infamous dealings with Greece.
Both the Paulson deal and the Greece deal were examples of Goldman making millions by bending over their own business partners. In the Paulson deal the suckers were European banks such as ABN-Amro and IKB, which were never told that the stuff Goldman was cheerfully selling to them was, in effect, designed to implode; in the Greece deal, Goldman hilariously used exotic swaps to help the country mask its financial problems, then turned right around and bet against the country by shorting Greece's debt.
Now here's the really weird thing. Confronted with the evidence of public outrage over these deals, the leaders of Goldman will often appear to be genuinely confused, scratching their heads and staring quizzically into the camera like they don't know what you're upset about. It's not an act. There have been a lot of greedy financiers and banks in history, but what makes Goldman stand out is its truly bizarre cultist/religious belief in the rightness of what it does.
The point was driven home in England last year, when Goldman's international adviser, sounding exactly like a character in Atlas Shrugged, told an audience at St Paul's Cathedral that "The injunction of Jesus to love others as ourselves is an endorsement of self-interest". A few weeks later, Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein told the Times that he was doing "God's work".
Even if he stands to make a buck at it, even your average used-car salesman won't sell some working father a car with wobbly brakes, then buy life insurance policies on that customer and his kids. But this is done almost as a matter of routine in the financial services industry, where the attitude after the inevitable pileup would be that that family was dumb for getting into the car in the first place. Caveat emptor, dude!
People have to understand this Randian mindset is now ingrained in the American character. You have to live here to see it. There's a hatred toward "moochers" and "parasites" – the Tea Party movement, which is mainly a bunch of pissed off suburban white people whining about minorities consuming social services, describes the battle as being between "water-carriers" and "water-drinkers". And regulation of any kind is deeply resisted, even after a disaster as sweeping as the 2008 crash.
This debate is going to be crystallised in the Goldman case. Much of America is going to reflexively insist that Goldman's only crime was being smarter and better at making money than IKB and ABN-Amro, and that the intrusive, meddling government (in the American narrative, always the bad guy!) should get off Goldman's Armani-clad back. Another side is going to argue that Goldman winning this case would be a rebuke to the whole idea of civilisation – which, after all, is really just a collective decision by all of us not to screw each other over even when we can. It's an important moment in the history of modern global capitalism: whether or not to move forward into a world of greed without limits.
WaPo, with video (02:42):
President Obama will declare his stake in the November midterm elections for the first time on Monday as his Democratic Party announces an ambitious strategy to appeal to independent voters in its quest to maintain control of Congress.
Obama plans to issue a call-to-action video message to his supporters on Monday, the first in a series of personal efforts designed to rekindle the grass-roots magic that propelled him to the presidency in service to his party's congressional and gubernatorial candidates, Democratic officials said.
The keystone of the Democratic National Committee's $50 million plan for the midterms is persuading the roughly 15 million people who voted for the first time in 2008 to return to the polls this fall. Although such voters historically do not cast ballots in midterm elections, party leaders think their participation this year could help lift Democrats over the top in close contests.The DNC's plan, which will be announced Wednesday, calls for reaching those first-time voters -- most of whom are registered independents and are young or minorities -- through the same vehicles Obama employed in 2008, according to internal party documents provided by the committee. The DNC is focusing on staff and volunteers in all 50 states, personal communication with the president via new media, and sophisticated voter-targeting technology.
In the video message to his supporters, Obama said his administration's success depends on the outcome of this fall's elections and warned that if Republicans regain control of Congress, they could "undo all that we have accomplished."
"This year, the stakes are higher than ever," he said, according to a transcript of his remarks provided by Democratic officials. "It will be up to each of you to make sure that young people, African Americans, Latinos and women who powered our victory in 2008 stand together once again.
"If you help make sure that first-time voters in 2008 make their voices heard again in November," he added, "then together we will deliver on the promise of change, hope and prosperity for generations to come."
In addition to direct communication with supporters, Obama is stepping up his fundraising efforts and plans to crisscross the country this fall stumping for Democrats, according to DNC Chairman Timothy M. Kaine and White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer.
Kaine said Obama plans to frame the elections as a choice between continued Democratic control or a return to Republican power. "Our story begins with: Democrats are results people and the Republicans are political obstructionists," he said in an interview. "Do we want to continue the direction that sees us climbing out of the recession or do we want to go back to the same policies that put us in the ditch in the first place?"
Kaine and Pfeiffer acknowledged the difficulty of transferring the grass-roots supporters that Obama cultivated over a historic two-year presidential bid to an array of other Democrats. "I don't think the magic has evaporated, but you have to acknowledge that the 2008 election was so historic and cathartic that you just don't hit that pitch in elections that often," Kaine said.
Confounding their effort is a toxic political climate six months before the elections that polls show favors Republicans. There is evidence, including recent high-profile GOP victories, that Obama and his party have lost the support of some of the independent voters who carried them to victory in recent years.
With the unemployment rate still high and deep divisions over health-care reform persisting, many political handicappers have suggested that Democrats could suffer substantial losses in both chambers, with Republicans within reach of regaining control of the House.
Democrats are struggling not only in perennial swing states but also in traditionally blue states, including Illinois and Delaware, where the party is in jeopardy of losing the Senate seats once held by Obama and Vice President Biden.
"Independent voters have given up on that key Obama word, 'hope,' " Republican National Committee spokesman Doug Heye said. "One of the challenges [Obama] faces is that he's not as popular in certain places. We've got a number of Democratic candidates who have to decide whether they want to campaign with President Obama" and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), he added.
The DNC intends to spend more than $50 million, an unprecedented sum for a national party, Kaine said. The former Virginia governor said his "community-by-community" plan builds upon former chairman Howard Dean's 50-state strategy that helped Democrats win majorities in 2006.
"I wanted the plan to be more than 'Here's how many checks we're going to write for folks,' " Kaine said. "It has to build on the grass-roots energy that fueled the 2008 campaign." Kaine said it is critical to draw a "very personal" connection between Obama and this fall's elections.
The plan lays the groundwork for Obama's own reelection bid, as it helps grow the party's campaign infrastructure and keeps his volunteer network engaged and functioning in advance of the 2012 race. The strategy relies heavily on Organizing for America (OFA) -- a 13-million member grass-roots network that remains after Obama's 2008 campaign -- to help congressional and gubernatorial candidates reach new voters.
The plan will not benefit all Democrats equally, as party leaders and OFA volunteers are likely to prioritize lawmakers who cast controversial votes in favor of Obama's agenda on health care, climate change and other issues. "We will do more work with our friends than our sometimes friends," said one party official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The DNC, together with OFA, has been building a robust field operation beyond its Washington headquarters, with nearly 300 staff members in 75 offices nationwide, and 10 million volunteer hours pledged. In the most closely contested races, party staff and volunteers will call or knock on the doors of every first-time voter from 2008 and direct as many as five robo-calls and two direct-mail pieces to their homes.
DNC calculations suggest that if these voters turn out, they could make a difference in tight contests. In Colorado, for example, more than 400,000 people voted for the first time in 2008. If just 8 percent of them cast ballots again this fall, they would make up 2 percent of the total turnout there in the 2006 midterm elections.
Many of Obama's supporters were drawn to him personally, however, and do not have the same connections to their members of Congress or governors. It was not enough, for instance, for Obama to tell his supporters to vote for R. Creigh Deeds, Jon S. Corzine or Martha Coakley. The three Democrats lost recent statewide races in Virginia, New Jersey and Massachusetts.
"This simply doesn't work when the president goes out and says, 'Turn out for Candidate X,' " Pfeiffer said. "There's a special relationship between Obama and his supporters. It was always a two-way relationship, bottom-up and not top-down, which is pretty rare in Democratic politics. We fully understand that it's not automatically transferable to other candidates. It's going to take a lot of work, and that's what we're doing."
Sunday, April 25, 2010
Let’s play a game, shall we? The name of the game is called “Imagine.” The way it’s played is simple: we’ll envision recent happenings in the news, but then change them up a bit. Instead of envisioning white people as the main actors in the scenes we’ll conjure - the ones who are driving the action - we’ll envision black folks or other people of color instead. The object of the game is to imagine the public reaction to the events or incidents, if the main actors were of color, rather than white. Whoever gains the most insight into the workings of race in America, at the end of the game, wins.H/t to John Aravosis.
So let’s begin.
Imagine that hundreds of black protesters were to descend upon Washington DC and Northern Virginia, just a few miles from the Capitol and White House, armed with AK-47s, assorted handguns, and ammunition. And imagine that some of these protesters —the black protesters — spoke of the need for political revolution, and possibly even armed conflict in the event that laws they didn’t like were enforced by the government? Would these protester — these black protesters with guns — be seen as brave defenders of the Second Amendment, or would they be viewed by most whites as a danger to the republic? What if they were Arab-Americans? Because, after all, that’s what happened recently when white gun enthusiasts descended upon the nation’s capital, arms in hand, and verbally announced their readiness to make war on the country’s political leaders if the need arose.
Imagine that white members of Congress, while walking to work, were surrounded by thousands of angry black people, one of whom proceeded to spit on one of those congressmen for not voting the way the black demonstrators desired. Would the protesters be seen as merely patriotic Americans voicing their opinions, or as an angry, potentially violent, and even insurrectionary mob? After all, this is what white Tea Party protesters did recently in Washington.
Imagine that a rap artist were to say, in reference to a white president: “He’s a piece of shit and I told him to suck on my machine gun.” Because that’s what rocker Ted Nugent said recently about President Obama.
Imagine that a prominent mainstream black political commentator had long employed an overt bigot as Executive Director of his organization, and that this bigot regularly participated in black separatist conferences, and once assaulted a white person while calling them by a racial slur. When that prominent black commentator and his sister — who also works for the organization — defended the bigot as a good guy who was misunderstood and “going through a tough time in his life” would anyone accept their excuse-making? Would that commentator still have a place on a mainstream network? Because that’s what happened in the real world, when Pat Buchanan employed as Executive Director of his group, America’s Cause, a blatant racist who did all these things, or at least their white equivalents: attending white separatist conferences and attacking a black woman while calling her the n-word.
Imagine that a black radio host were to suggest that the only way to get promoted in the administration of a white president is by “hating black people,” or that a prominent white person had only endorsed a white presidential candidate as an act of racial bonding, or blamed a white president for a fight on a school bus in which a black kid was jumped by two white kids, or said that he wouldn’t want to kill all conservatives, but rather, would like to leave just enough—“living fossils” as he called them—“so we will never forget what these people stood for.” After all, these are things that Rush Limbaugh has said, about Barack Obama’s administration, Colin Powell’s endorsement of Barack Obama, a fight on a school bus in Belleville, Illinois in which two black kids beat up a white kid, and about liberals, generally.
Imagine that a black pastor, formerly a member of the U.S. military, were to declare, as part of his opposition to a white president’s policies, that he was ready to “suit up, get my gun, go to Washington, and do what they trained me to do.” This is, after all, what Pastor Stan Craig said recently at a Tea Party rally in Greenville, South Carolina.
Imagine a black radio talk show host gleefully predicting a revolution by people of color if the government continues to be dominated by the rich white men who have been “destroying” the country, or if said radio personality were to call Christians or Jews non-humans, or say that when it came to conservatives, the best solution would be to “hang ‘em high.” And what would happen to any congressional representative who praised that commentator for “speaking common sense” and likened his hate talk to “American values?” After all, those are among the things said by radio host and best-selling author Michael Savage, predicting white revolution in the face of multiculturalism, or said by Savage about Muslims and liberals, respectively. And it was Congressman Culbertson, from Texas, who praised Savage in that way, despite his hateful rhetoric.
Imagine a black political commentator suggesting that the only thing the guy who flew his plane into the Austin, Texas IRS building did wrong was not blowing up Fox News instead. This is, after all, what Anne Coulter said about Tim McVeigh, when she noted that his only mistake was not blowing up the New York Times.
Imagine that a popular black liberal website posted comments about the daughter of a white president, calling her “typical redneck trash,” or a “whore” whose mother entertains her by “making monkey sounds.” After all that’s comparable to what conservatives posted about Malia Obama on freerepublic.com last year, when they referred to her as “ghetto trash.”
Imagine that black protesters at a large political rally were walking around with signs calling for the lynching of their congressional enemies. Because that’s what white conservatives did last year, in reference to Democratic party leaders in Congress.
In other words, imagine that even one-third of the anger and vitriol currently being hurled at President Obama, by folks who are almost exclusively white, were being aimed, instead, at a white president, by people of color. How many whites viewing the anger, the hatred, the contempt for that white president would then wax eloquent about free speech, and the glories of democracy? And how many would be calling for further crackdowns on thuggish behavior, and investigations into the radical agendas of those same people of color?
To ask any of these questions is to answer them. Protest is only seen as fundamentally American when those who have long had the luxury of seeing themselves as prototypically American engage in it. When the dangerous and dark “other” does so, however, it isn’t viewed as normal or natural, let alone patriotic. Which is why Rush Limbaugh could say, this past week, that the Tea Parties are the first time since the Civil War that ordinary, common Americans stood up for their rights: a statement that erases the normalcy and “American-ness” of blacks in the civil rights struggle, not to mention women in the fight for suffrage and equality, working people in the fight for better working conditions, and LGBT folks as they struggle to be treated as full and equal human beings.
And this, my friends, is what white privilege is all about. The ability to threaten others, to engage in violent and incendiary rhetoric without consequence, to be viewed as patriotic and normal no matter what you do, and never to be feared and despised as people of color would be, if they tried to get away with half the shit we do, on a daily basis.
Saturday, April 24, 2010
Reuters via the raw story:
Below the perpetual fog that shrouds the redwood groves, green hills and rocky coastline of remote Humboldt County thrives a lucrative but hush-hush industry -- marijuana.Howie P.S.: Similar issues are in play in Washington state, should I-1068 become state law.
Pot pays the bills in this Northern California enclave, home to hippies and good old boys alike who espouse the weed's curative and economic benefits. The expensive trucks, bustling restaurants, escalating rents and plentiful wads of cash all point to profitable pot cultivation in Humboldt.
Now, a state voter initiative on the November ballot that would make California the first U.S. state to legalize and tax this cash crop has locals jittery about losing their dominant market position.
"We've always had a cannabis tinge to our culture," said Kevin Hoover, editor of weekly newspaper The Arcata Eye. "What we have now is a very entrenched industry that's making a lot of money off the fact that it's illegal."
Starting in the 1960's, free-thinkers wanting to get away from it all moved to the area long dominated by the lumber and fishing industries. Marijuana cultivation supported these new residents and newly unemployed blue-collar workers who watched the demise of Humboldt's traditional manufacturing base.
Although the underground pot economy makes for poor statistics, Beth Wilson, an associate professor of economics at Humboldt State University, estimates the area's annual income from marijuana at about $500 million.
The "multiplier effect" of that money circulated to support local businesses -- garden centers do a brisk business and the town of Arcata's sushi restaurant is always packed -- could push that figure to $1 billion annually, she said.
"It's not negligible," said Wilson.
PURPLE KUSH PLEASE
Everyone knows someone who grows pot. In the north county, indoor growing that fetches prices of over $3,000 per pound is popular, while in the south, marijuana is planted outdoors.
The industry has also fueled an itinerant labor force of "trimmers" who make $20 per hour or more snipping the leaves from the more potent dried buds of the plant.
"This vote has become a conflict of interest," said Deniz Farnell, 31, an Arcata hotel worker, who, like the vast majority of locals, supports decriminalizing pot smoking.
"Do you vote for the good of the state or for the next-door neighbor who's a mom who's supplementing her income through trimming? When that law passes, she'll be on food stamps."
That is because legalizing marijuana could turn a cottage industry into Pot Inc. Locals fear big tobacco will swoop in and drive down prices, supplying millions of new, legal pot smokers with "Marlboro Green."
Rumors abound in Arcata that the tobacco giants have already snatched up land and copyrights to the most popular names of weed strains, whether Purple Kush, Big Bud, Headband, Trainwreck or L.A. Confidential.
But at least one big tobacco company, Reynolds American, says it has no plans to move in. "Everything else would be purely rumors and speculation," said spokesman David Howard.
"We better hope it doesn't become legal because this area is going to become a ghost town," one reader wrote to the North Coast Journal in a response to a recent article on how to stay afloat in the post-illegal pot era.
The Tax Cannabis campaign has gained traction in the cash-strapped state of California, historically at the forefront of contentious social issues. It led the nation in 1996 by approving the use of cannabis for medical purposes.
An April 2009 Field Poll showed 56 percent of state voters supported legalizing pot for social use and taxing the sales.
On a statewide level, that could bring in $1.4 billion per year, according to the office that regulates sales tax.
"Think of all the pot smokers out there," said a mid-30s mom who has grown for six years, plans to enter law school, and favors legalization. "They can bail California out of its deficit. Smoke more pot!"
Under the initiative, possession and cultivation of small amounts of pot for personal use would be legal for those 21 and over. The measure allows municipalities to determine how to tax and regulate the drug -- with monies going to local governments -- and does not affect medical marijuana laws.
Pot is illegal under U.S. law but the Obama administration halted raids on medical marijuana clinics last year. It is unclear how state legalization would be affected by federal law, and whether the U.S. government would interfere.
APPELLATION FOR HUMBOLDT BUD?
Those who favor legalization predict it could curtail the seamier side of the industry. The profusion of "grow houses," gutted to accommodate indoor greenhouses, have pushed up rental prices, while robberies of cash and plants are on the rise.
With no real organized opposition to the measure, local leaders in Humboldt say it's time to face up to the future and brainstorm creative ideas to offset any impending slump.
"Here we have an industry with whom our county's name has, quite frankly, become synonymous," said County Supervisor Mark Lovelace. "We've lived with the downside of that name association for the past thirty years. Maybe it's time to capture some of the upside."
Ideas include taking a tip from French champagne, branding the Humboldt name as an appellation and focusing on terroir and tasting rooms. Others say that's a pipe dream.
"We don't need to panic and create weed Disneyland," said one grower, who believes the risk to growers has been overblown and foresees a continuing black market even if the law passes.
The 32-year-old illegal grower, who declined to be identified, predicts connoisseurs will eschew the cheaper varieties in a legal market and pay a premium for Humboldt's best strains.
Pot growers could also harness their know-how for other horticultural pursuits, he said.
"It's easy money right now," said the self-described "average indoor grower" with $40,000 in income every two and a half months. "But these might be the future organic farmers of the area. That skill can be applied to more things than just marijuana."
I’m guessing there were an awful lot of folks who were awfully surprised by yesterday’s KING5/SurveyUSA poll that showed 66% of respondents supporting I-1077’s high earners income tax, and only 27% opposed. That’s a better than two-to-one margin, similar to the last time an income tax measure hit the ballot back in 1973… only in reverse.Howie P.S.: The poll numbers will certainly tighten after Big Money starts its Big Lie(s) ad campaign before November.
Of course, I-1077’s backers wouldn’t have gone forward with the initiative if they didn’t have polling data suggesting it stood a reasonable chance of success, but no doubt even they were pleased by the SurveyUSA results. The poll shows I-1077 passing, not just by an overwhelming margin, but in every single demographic group. 63% of independents, 57% of Republicans… even self-identified conservatives approved by a 50%-45% margin.
Over at Publicola Josh is intrigued that the measure actually draws more support in Eastern Washington than in Western, 66% and 63% respectively. But assuming respondents understand the initiative and who it impacts, such a result makes quite a bit of sense.
After all, the Puget Sound region isn’t just the population center of the state, it is also home to a disproportionate number of Washington’s high earners, so I-1077 doesn’t just tax the rich, it also taxes Seattle. Think folks out in Eastern Washington won’t take a bit of pleasure in that? Well think again.
Yeah, sure, it would be more than a little cynical for I-1077 proponents to co-opt Eastern Washington’s “fuck Seattle” attitude in an effort to win votes from the other side of the Cascades. But hell… whatever works.
Friday, April 23, 2010
The City of Seattle asked the state Supreme Court Thursday to require Attorney General Rob McKenna to withdraw Washington from a multistate challenge to the constitutionality of the health care reform legislation Congress passed last month.
"Mr. McKenna would not have used the name of Washington State if he didn't think it would further the cause of health care reform opponents," City Attorney Peter Holmes told seattlepi.com Friday.
Holmes said he'd spoken to Mayor Mike McGinn, who supported his decision. He also conferred with seven of nine city councilmembers -- Sally Bagshaw and Sally Clark outstanding. Those seven support his actions, and Holmes said he believes "every city councilmember is upset with McKenna's actions.
Holmes said Seattle is the first city to take action against the multistate challenge.
"Mr. McKenna is a good man and a good lawyer," Holmes said. "But he overstepped his bounds because of partisan politics."
Last month, McKenna said he would join 12 other state attorneys general in trying to repeal the new, comprehensive national health care measure Democrats passed the previous night.
"I believe this new federal health care measure unconstitutionally imposes new requirements on our state and on its citizens,” he said in a statement last month. “This unprecedented federal mandate, requiring all Washingtonians to purchase health insurance, violates the Commerce Clause and the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
"I'm concerned that the measure unconstitutionally requires all Washingtonians to purchase health insurance and places an extraordinary burden on our state budget by requiring Washington to expand its Medicaid eligibility standards in violation of our state's rights guaranteed under the10th amendment."
According to the city's petition, McKenna has "only the powers expressly given by the state legislature," none of which "grant authority for (him) to make the State of Washington a plaintiff in the Florida case without a request by the governor or any other state officer."
Gov. Chris Gregoire has since collaborated with three other governors in a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder opposing the lawsuit and saying they "will stand by your efforts to protect this most historic improvement of health care for every citizen of this nation."
Holmes said he didn’t think there was any merit to the lawsuit, filed in Florida. He said health care reform would help urban centers such as Seattle, and agreed with statements in a City Council resolution supporting health care reform.
The city’s resolution also urged the Legislature to restrict McKenna’s budget authority to prevent any state funds from being spent opposing federal health care reform.
“This historic act by President Obama and Congress should in no way be undermined by a partisan political agenda,” stated Seattle City Council President Richard Conlin. “Seattle citizens who lack health care insurance or who are underinsured need this necessary and reasonable step toward providing health care for all citizens.”
Thursday, April 22, 2010
The Good: The president had strong language for backing real derivative reforms.Howie P.S.: I'm listening to Norman Goldman and he just passed along Wall Street's reaction, as delivered by the Senate Republicans: "Go f@#%k yourself."
The Bad: Vague language about the "Volcker rule" will not stop Too Big To Fail; but a plan like this (or even one like this) for breaking up the current mega-banks and limiting their liabilities will.
The Missing: NONE of this matters while our cops still work for the crooks.
Our main form of protection against these kinds of financial criminals, the SEC, remains woefully underfunded. The revolving door between government regulators and the high-paying banks they supposedly regulate remains as fluid as ever. And does it get any scarier than White House Counsel jumping from President Obama's side one day to Lloyd Blankfein's the next? Actually, I guess it does when institutions that should fear the government instead now just declare all-out war.
Meanwhile, the complicit ratings agencies remain a government-sponsored cartel paid by the banks for their favorable grades.
But what is the final backstop that is supposed to protect us next time around under this new plan? Well, Secretary Timothy Geithner explained today on Morning Joe that they would be able to stop the next bailout if only they had the authority to do so. Then finally, they could do things like wipe out equity holders, replace management... you know, kind of like the same steps that they were somehow magically able to do with GM.
But we all know the truth -- no one will do that to the banks until they are no longer Too Big To Fail. As William Black so eloquently told Congress this week, Mr. Geithner and Chairman Bernanke already had that chance to do this to the big banks last time around and they chickened out.
The only way to keep this from happening again is to break up these big banks now and it is up to us to find people with the guts to do so. Hopefully, one of them will be our current President.
In response to a letter from a reader (Joe, why did you crap out on us?), you wrote: "Places like Ecuador, northern California -- all sorts of places -- creating little spots of sustainability as best as possible."
Since the US is the nexus of all the fraud, empire, control, and will thus be the center of the pain in the upcoming financial collapse (AND contains a huge percentage of "useless eaters", i.e. superfluous workers) have you given any thought as to where the best places/countries in the world will be to "hang out" while the Collective Madness and Economic Collapse take over?
Well, I don't think it's possible to "hang out" until the collapse is over. For starters, it could take 50 years. Or it could take five years. If we knew, more people would probably get off their asses, even in America. But I don't think it will be all at once, or even recognizable at any given moment to techno-hybridized Americans on the ground. For example, most Americans STILL do not recognize the irreversible ecological collapse so well underway. More aware thinkers are calling this "denial," but it is not. They are simply experiencing the world they see before them, as honestly as their senses and experience permit. And that ain't much.
Thanks to technology and layers upon layers of mediation by TV, movies, the Internet, etc., gadgets and manufactured imagery, we all live many steps removed from reality. Collapse is symbolized to each of us in different ways. To some it would be the sustained malfunction and lack of access of the Internet, which is surely coming.
Incidentally, this will be capitalized upon by privatizing the net and selling access at a much higher price, just as with oil. Of course they will experience it as "the consumers" they have been reduced to. So they will see it as bad guys charging money for things that used to be free. Given that their consciousness is a product of technology and its false promise of solutions and endless plentitude, they can never understand that everything is a finite resource and that technology itself can reach such a point of complexity as to be unsustainable. Even your laptop and router is made of petroleum and both eat oil or coal.
Others might perceive collapse as banking failure, given their absolute belief that money is the blood of society -- a capitalist hallucination if ever there was one. My point is that many will not even understand that collapse is going on because capitalism will provide excuses and more fake solutions at ever higher prices -- mainly at the expense of the world's poor and defenseless of course -- until it can no longer extract from them through banking, military force, or other means. This slows down the inevitable and helps the western world maintain its disastrous belief systems. None of which answers your question, but I just had to say it.
There is really no "safe place" to run. For instance, the banking system may utterly fail; actually, it already has, yet no one is calling for an entirely new system. This shows you both the thoroughness of indoctrination of the American people, and the astuteness of the overlords who profit from the masses. Gasoline for cars can become nearly unavailable, and energy prices can become exorbitant, as they are becoming in the UK. And again, people will slowly learn to suck it up, and the system will roll on for a while longer. The more perceptive among them will dream, and are now dreaming, of escape.
Escape as they conceive it does not exist. The ongoing collapse manifests itself in the least developed world too, and even harsher terms: hunger, lack of water, warfare, government corruption, infrastructure collapse, crime. It's a planetary problem and no one escapes that. They just experience it in different ways.
The question is not so much where to do it as how to do it. The question is not "Where can I run to to escape?" It is "What sorts of problems can I best deal with?" To my mind, you cannot deal with them alone, despite the romantic imagery of being "off the grid" on some homestead growing your own food. Yes, there are people doing that successfully. But it has been my experience that they are people who've wanted to do that for a long time, and that they are the kind of people suited to deal with the problems that come with that life. I've done it and believe me, it's not for the average American, who is, quite frankly speaking, incompetent in the ways of the earth. It's a very long learning curve, even if you grew up on a farm. You don't just stick seeds in the ground and wait for your food. Every spot on the earth is unique and you have to come to understand the place you are, which takes time, error and dedication.
Not to be a smart ass or snide, but let me ask: How much do you love your fellow man? Or do you merely want to save your own ass? By now you must know the answer. From what I've seen, a person can be honest with himself on this matter, then pursue either route more effectively.
If you have the temperament and character to readily love other people around you, and the willingness to labor solely for sustenance, community and friendship, then there are countless options. Because that's what most of the rest of world's people do every day, if allowed to. So you could do that in any number of places on the planet, especially here in the New World south of the US. You can do it in literally thousands of places, some of which are in the US. I get emails from all over. But I don't give out contacts anymore because I learned the hard way in Belize that human chemistry is a complex thing. And most Americans do not come into approximately sustainable situations with either the social skills or the willingness to sacrifice for the group. Hell, some Americans starting up such communities don't have those qualities.
Yet, believe me, just being in a place where life is more fundamental and simple, if hard, goes a long way toward peace of mind and discovering human normalcy. It's the learning ground. And usually one learns that people who escape at least some of the ravages of our slow collapse, always seem to do it in cooperation with a community of some sort. Either an already existing one, or an intentional one they create between themselves.
There's nothing new in this, of course. Latin America and the world have countless communities hundreds of year old. Governments come and go, rivers dry up, but the people always have tortillas, one way or another. Americans and Europeans usually see these people as poor, thanks to our heavy social conditioning, industrialization and commoditized consciousness -- not to mention the denial of the effects of colonialism by Euro-American culture. We see no connection between our iPods, high speed wireless, and, say, the present condition of the Haitian or Dominican people.
Anyway, to me, this is the bottom line:
There is no escape in the sense Americans and European culture thinks of escape. Which is mainly running away to a place where you will get something for nothing in a new and different way -- in this case, security and safety from the storm -- and also keep some or most of the stuff and gadgetry and ease that has come to represent "quality of life."
Unless you are rich, this is impossible. And rich these days, including here in Mexico, means so fucking well heeled that even a 90% devaluation cannot hurt you. Oh, there are retirees still living down here on the last shreds of the glory days of the empire. They will tell you there is nothing wrong up there, because they are still getting their checks. But I'm not seeing many newcomers join their ranks. Not at that level. Beyond that, the empire never goes away. It always claims you as its "citizen," which is to say its property. And lately the empire has been extending its tentacles toward expats, in order to extract new money for its failed system.
The rest of us, the non-rich who would prefer to take a shot at some different life -- and just about anything will do in the dark of the night when it is gnawing at your guts -- must choose another way to cross the border (the "gringo wetbacks"). But always we run up against the same barrier, the same closed gateway to what we suspect is greater satisfaction and peace of mind, but increasingly cannot afford the price of admission, if we play the same old brainwashed money game.
I have come to think the price of admission anywhere in the world, (except in America and Europe, where enough dough will get your ass kissed in any circles) is service to others. We have been indoctrinated by an earth devouring capitalist system to believe otherwise. Believe that giving only depletes. And that mankind and civilization came about through kings and warriors and "great men." But the essential glue of man the social animal, and society has always been on cooperation and sharing. That an endless stream of elite thieves have always managed to steal the fruits of that cooperation does not matter. And the best that is in man still rests on the same fundamentals -- cooperation for the greater good of all.
So I would suggest that in planning for the future, you first spend many days pondering the question: How can I best go about giving up the world as I have known it -- which, after all, is the root of our pain and of our catastrophe -- and serve others every day and in as many ways large and small as possible. In other words, sacrifice. In truth, the sacrifice will not be sacrifice, but liberation, because Americans are buried under so much material shit and petty notions as to entitlement, that shedding such things is a blessing. A gift.
From that vantage point you can "watch the collapse" while you help put up a pole barn in Oregon or make love in a Patagonian mountain shack after a hard day of well digging, or smoke a joint in utter relaxation after rescuing orphans from the streets of Guadalajara. And chances are that the collapse of the empire will not much cross your mind.
There is no escape, but there is freedom. And if our fellow Americans long ago forgot that, well, one can still get there alone.
But its not for the faint of heart.
In art and labor,
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Everybody is talking about Marc Leibovich’s magazine piece on Politico’s Mike Allen, and I’m definitely a daily reader and a fan of Playbook.Howie P.S.: I wish "everybody" was talking about how Wall Street and the banksters ripped the rest of us off, but they aren't, and won't (with conviction) anytime soon. Jason Linkins (HuffPo) reviews the Liebovich piece ("Mike Allen Profile: We Read The NYT Magazine's Politico Piece So You Don't Have To") and offers this descriptive prose about Politico and by extension, Mike Allen:
But I wanted to flag this particular nugget in the piece, because it encapsulates something that always creeps into discussions of the Beltway media: The bogus notion that there’s a contradiction afoot when Obama officials show disdain for the Beltway bubble even as they do their best to function within it:
Politico today remains a White House shorthand for everything the administration claims to dislike about Washington — Beltway myopia, politics as daily sport. Yet most of the president’s top aides are as steeped in this culture as anyone else — and work hard to manipulate it. “What’s notable about this administration is how ostentatiously its people proclaim to be uninterested in things they are plainly interested in,” Harris, Politico’s editor in chief, told me in an e-mail message.
That Politico has been so vilified inside the White House is itself a sign of its entry into “the bloodstream” (another Politico phrase). It is, White House officials say, an indictment of the “Washington mentality” that the city is sustaining Politico and letting it “drive the conversation” to the extent it does. In early March, Axelrod was sitting in his West Wing office, complaining to me about the “palace-intrigue pathology” of Washington and why he missed Chicago. “I prefer living in a place where people don’t discuss the Politico over dinner,” he said.
This sort of talk tends to ilicit snorts of derision from Beltway media insiders. They say the Obama media team is cynically using the Beltway bubble as a foil to position Obama as an outsider. But I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that Obama administration officials really don’t like the Beltway media’s excesses.
After all, the Obama team, in addition to managing their own careers, are also running the country. And the Beltway bubble’s priorities — the manic 24-hour news cycle, its prioritizing of speed over accuracy, and its obsession with today’s polls and with who’s up and who’s down — really do complicate the act of governing. It’s understandable that the Obama team would come to genuinely dislike the media culture here, while simultaneously trying to do their best to work within it and, yes, manipulate it.
Politico has plenty of virtues — the big picture pieces, the relentless reporting on the internals of Congress, the bloggers who frequently break useful news, etc. — but parts of it really do encapsulate, to a disproportionate degree, the Beltway bubble’s excesses. I doubt its editors would even contest that. Once members of the Obama team leave the administration and start up their own consulting firms, perhaps they’ll be begging for their own Politico profiles. But for now, it seems obvious that they genuinely dislike the influence the excessive aspects of Politico are having on the discourse. It makes their jobs more difficult. And their jobs are pretty important right now.
Update: A colleague points out that the press’ job isn’t to make governing officials’ lives easier. True enough. Just saying that there’s a difference between making officials’ lives harder with aggressive reporting designed to hold them accountable and making them harder by prioritizing speed over accuracy or obsessing over “palace intrigue.”
Basically, Politico takes some crap, shines it up, gets a legion of followers to inflate the empty bubble, bets against it, watches it pop, and then cashes in on whatever micro-transactions they can grub up in terms of pageviews and "influence" (less a verb than the root form of a noun!). Basically, the Magnetar model of journalism!
"The Eradication of Trust" (Eugene Robinson):
Trust might as well be a four-letter word. American public opinion seems to have become an unguided Weapon of Mass Suspicion, and it’s not hard to understand why. But those who would exploit distrust, dissatisfaction and anger for political gain had better worry about collateral damage.Howie P.S.: Kinky Friedman ("Why Democrats Should Blame Themselves for the Tea Party") chimes in:
Today’s Democrats seem very much like—well—Republicans. If the Democrats still had voices like Barbara Jordan, Ann Richards, and Molly Ivins, there might never have been a need for a Tea Party.Right on cue. Norman Solomon asks "Who Let the Blue Dogs Out?"
Harman -- who once proclaimed “I am proud to be introduced as the best Republican in the Democratic Party” -- has been straining lately to present herself as progressive while she tries to fend off the Winograd challenge.
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
David Gregory, the host of NBC's Meet the Press, has painted himself into a strange corner with his assertion that there's no need to fact check what his guests say on the air because viewers can do that "on their own terms." His competitor, Jake Tapper of ABC News, disagrees. Tapper has instituted the after-the-show fact check on This Week. I am a participant in the story of how this happened, as you can see from the time line I have constructed. At the bottom of the post, I offer a brief comment on what I think is going on here.Howie P.S.: What's the big deal? The AP and almost everybody else does the same thing.
May 28, 2008: David Gregory on Hardball says that former Bush press secretary Scott McClellan was wrong to charge the press with insufficient skepticism in examining the case for war in Iraq:
I think the questions were asked. I think we pushed. I think we prodded. I think we challenged the president. I think not only those of us the White House press corps did that, but others in the rest of the landscape of the media did that.
If there wasn‘t a debate in this country, then maybe the American people should think about, why not? Where was Congress? Where was the House? Where was the Senate? Where was public opinion about the war? What did the former president believe about the pre-war intelligence? He agreed that—in fact, Bill Clinton agreed that Saddam had WMD.
The right questions were asked. I think there‘s a lot of critics—and I guess we can count Scott McClellan as one—who thinks that, if we did not debate the president, debate the policy in our role as journalists, if we did not stand up and say, this is bogus, and you‘re a liar, and why are you doing this, that we didn‘t do our job. And I respectfully disagree. It‘s not our role.
Jan. 15, 2009: David Gregory appears on The Colbert Report; the following exchange occurs:
COLBERT: The press got a lot of razzing, from guys like Jon Stewart, for not holding the administration's feet to the fire. Are you proud of the questions the press asked of the administration? Because I'm proud of the questions you didn't ask.
GREGORY: I actually do think that the right questions were asked, and I think -- this criticism is certainly out there of the press corps, and I tried to be thoughtful about it, reflective about it, but I do think the right questions were asked, and I think people view our job through their own ideological prism, and they've made some judgments along those lines.
Dec. 27, 2009: I send a post on Twitter to Betsy Fischer, executive producer of Meet the Press, hosted by David Gregory:
Sadly, you're a one-way medium, @betsyMTP, but here's an idea for ya: Fact check what your guests say on Sunday and run it online Wednesday.
There is no reply.
Dec. 27, 2009: My tweet leads to a longer post, My Simple Fix for the Sunday Shows, in which I am quite acerbic about David Gregory:
The midweek fact check would also give David Gregory a way out of his puppy game of gotcha. Instead of telling David Axelrod that his boss promised to change the tone in Washington so why aren't there any Republican votes for health care? ... which he thinks is getting "tough" with a guest, Gregory's job would simply be to ask the sort of questions, the answers to which could be fact checked later in the week. Easy, right?
The beauty of this idea is that it turns the biggest weakness of political television--the fact that time is expensive, and so complicated distortions, or simple distortions about complicated matters, are rational tactics for advantage-seeking pols---into a kind of strength. The format beckons them to evade, deny, elide, demagogue and confuse.... but then they pay for it later if they give into temptation and make that choice.
The "Simple Fix" post concludes this way:
Soon, This Week with George Stephanopoulos on ABC will get a new host, which is likely to be White House correspondent Jake Tapper. He could institute the midweek fact check in a stroke. And he has the ego to think he could pull it off. Stroke, ego-- hey, maybe we got something here. How 'bout it, Jake?
Dec. 28, 2009: On Twitter, Jake Tapper reacts to my post. "Interesting, thanks." David Gregory does not reply.
Jan. 3, 2010: Howard Kurtz, media reporter for the Washington Post, endorses the simple fix on his CNN program, Reliable Sources:
Brian Williams is a talented anchor and pretty good comedian. But when it comes to Twitter, well, let's just say he's a tad out of touch.
The NBC newsman tells "TIME" magazine that, "I see it as a kind of time suck that I don't need anymore of. Just too much 'I got the most awesome new pair of sweatpants.'"
Now, I learn smart things from smart people on Twitter every day that have nothing to do with what pants people are wearing or not wearing. Here's just one example.
NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen tweeted an idea about improving the Sunday morning talk shows. He says the programs, rather than letting politicians get away with distortions, should offer an online fact check each week of exaggerations and lies. For the guests, says Rosen, the format beckons them to evade, deny, elide, demagogue and confuse, but then they pay for it later if they give into temptation and make that choice. I happen to think that makes a lot of sense toward holding officials accountable.
Jan. 10, 2010: Michael Calderone, the media beat reporter for The Politico, examines the depressed state of the Sunday shows. His piece starts:
A new idea recently surfaced for television’s longest-running show: What if “Meet the Press” fact-checked what its stream of political guests said and ran the results online later in the week?
The suggestion by New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen kicked around Twitter and the blogosphere with such force that the show’s host, David Gregory, said in a statement to POLITICO that it was a “good idea” and his staff is “going to talk about it.”
March 28, 2010. The CBS News Sunday show, Face the Nation, is forced to fact check Republican Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann after a series of bizarre claims about government domination of the economy:
Bachmann offered no facts to back up her assertion that the government owns or controls 51 percent of the U.S. economy.
According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis data since 1929, the highest percentage of government spending as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product was during World War II when government spending was 47.9 percent (in 1944). The lowest level of government spending as a percent of GDP was 9 percent in 1929 at the outset of the Great Depression.
At no time during this period was the United States' GDP 100 percent private.
April 8, 2010: ABC News announces that its Sunday show, This Week, hosted by Jake Tapper, will fact check what its guests say by collaborating with Politifact.com.
April 11, 2010: The fact checking on This Week debuts at Politifact.com. David Gregory tells Howard Kurtz that it's an "interesting idea" that Meet the Press will not be adopting . "People can fact-check 'Meet the Press' every week on their own terms," Gregory says.
April 11, 2010: I point out on Twitter that Gregory must feel that CBS's fact check of Michelle Bachmann was pointless. "Viewers of Face the Nation can do it themselves, right David?" There is no reply.
April 12, 2010: Brian Stelter of the New York Times reports on the news from Tapper and This Week. David Gregory again says there's no need to fact check his guests because viewers can do it themselves.
Critics say that kind of truth telling rarely happens on television. But David Gregory, the moderator of “Meet the Press” on NBC, said that accountability is “in the DNA” of his program. He said he had considered Mr. Rosen’s idea but concluded that people can fact check the program on their own online.
April 14, 2010: Jake Tapper and Bill Adair of Politifact are guests on the Colbert Report with Steven Colbert. David Gregory comes in for some merciless ribbing. Colbert mentions my "Simple Fix" post (calling me "Field Marshall Thesarus" for certain features of my writing style.) "A fact check on Wednesday? Is he really suggesting that David Gregory work two days a week?" Fortunately, Colbert says...
David Gregory has rejected this hare-brained scheme, saying "people can fact-check 'Meet the Press' every week on their own terms." Thank you, David! It is not a Sunday host's job to make sure his guests aren't lying, any more than it's a party host's job to make sure the food isn't poisoned. (applause..) ...The host is there to tell his guests when it is their turn to talk. That is why NBC is currently grooming Gregory's replacement: a chess timer.
April 15, 2010: On Twitter, Alf Sunde tells Gregory: "maybe your focus should be to watch yesterday's Colbert Report, you could learn a great deal, like real journalism?"
Look, I don't think it's fair to suggest I'm opposed to fact checking or accountability or real journalism for that matter. My view is that I just don't think we need a formal arrangement to accomplish that goal.
Interpretation: So... what is going on here? As with his defiant claims that the press did well in questioning the Bush Administration's case for war, David Gregory believes he always and already asks the questions necessary to get at the truth. (So what's your problem?) If the truth does not emerge from his interviews, it's not his fault because he--always and already--asks the tough questions. That's who he is. It's in his DNA. The criticism he gets is therefore partisan chatter. Or it comes from people who want him to go beyond asking the tough questions to the point of conclusion: that man is lying.
David Gregory thinks that is not his role.
I see two other possibilities for his refusal to adopt the fact check: one banal, the other more troubling. The banal: He's too proud to adopt something that a competitor picked up on first; it would look like a "me too" response and he is the market leader, first in the ratings and heir to the chair that Tim Russert held. The more disturbing possibility is that he thinks Tapper's policy may give Meet the Press a competitive edge in booking guests who won't want to be checked so vigorously. (As opposed to competing with an even better fact check, which would probably cause Bob Schieffer at Face the Nation to adopt the same policy, forcing the guests to accept the new rules or flee to cable, which has a fraction of the viewers.)Look at it this way: the Washington politician who's been on Meet the Press more than any other is John McCain. On April 6, Politifact's truth-o-meter rated McCain a pants-on-fire liar for claiming that he never called himself a maverick. See what I mean?