Landfill Harmonic

Landfill HarmonicThe video below is a teaser for an upcoming documentary, Landfill Harmonics. It is wonderful and will make you laugh and cry and become a part of blah blah blah. What I worry about is that these people are left to live and die in poverty—but at least they have imported European classical music! Don’t get me wrong, I would not begrudge these people any small happinesses they may get. What’s more, I haven’t seen the movie; from this clip, I can’t tell what is going on. What is normally the case is that rich western classical music lovers funnel in money for these programs. In this case, it looks like the people are doing it themselves. The makeshift instruments are very cool. Of course, they could all be a marketing gimmick.

Regardless of all this, the clip is awesome. It’s a bit less than four minutes. Check it out:

See also, the fine documentary Waste Land.

And check out my other writing on film and music!

Tax the Rich Fairy Tale

California Federation of TeachersAs agitprop goes, this little cartoon, Tax the Rich: An Animated Fairy Tale, from the California Federation of Teachers is quite good. I disagree with some of it. In particular, it greatly understates how much the middle class self-oppresses. I’m well aware of how the Tea Party was largely a marketing campaign from the rich. But there was lots of grassroots organizing that went along with it. There are still a lot of people who think that the financial crisis was caused by the government forcing Fannie Mae to give loans to poor people. And it isn’t just that Fox News has pushed this canard ad nauseam. It is that there are a lot of people who want to believe it.

The cartoon also implies that the rich are so much richer just because they game the tax system. If that were our only problem, there would be reason for much hope. Unfortunately, the rich are able to game just about every aspect of the government, so they are way ahead long before it gets to taxation. In fact, if we treated capital gains as regular income and raised the top marginal tax rate up to 70%, I think the rich would still be getting a large and unfair advantage from the government.

But watch the cartoon; it’s good. And it’s being attacked by Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson. So there’s that.

H/T The Daily Kos This Week in the War on Workers

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Sheldon Adelson Social Liberal

Sheldon AdelsonSheldon Adelson says, “I’m basically a social liberal.” You better believe it. The only thing that is surprising about this admission is that he thinks this will shock anyone.

Rich people understand better than anyone else that the only thing that matters in life is your own happiness. In fact, I would say that this and luck are 99% of what makes the rich rich. So Adelson is just voting for his own interests. Adelson supports gay rights even as he backs a party that is horribly against them. How can this be? Let’s imagine that Adelson was gay. What would marriage equality mean to him? Nothing. He is too rich and famous to be affected by any of the problems caused by lack of marriage equality. Ditto for reproductive rights.

That’s the thing about our country: social issues only matter if you’re poor. In many areas in the United States, abortion is already illegal in a practical sense. If you are poor. In most places in the United States, gay people have much bigger problems than not being able to get married. If you are poor. And almost nowhere do you have educational choices. If you are poor.

The problems associated with social issues really come down to economics. This is why rich assholes like Sheldon Adelson “support” liberal social policies even while they vote and pay for politicians who are against them. Social issues don’t affect Adelson or anyone he knows. And this is why my focus is on economic justice. Everything flows from it. And without it, no amount of liberal social policy will matter.

But it is logical to ask why Adelson is making a big deal of his social liberalism. It’s because he doesn’t want people to think he’s an asshole. He wants people to think of him as “independent” New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg—the conservative rich asshole who liberals just love. Neither man should get any kudos for their stands on social issues. In fact, we should hate them all that much more. They clearly understand the issues, but they don’t give a fuck about them. And that makes them hypocritical conservative rich assholes.

Going Along to Get Along

Charlie CristYesterday, Charlie Crist made it official: he’s a Democrat. Earlier this year at the DNC, he said, “Half a century ago, Ronald Reagan, the man whose relentless optimism inspired me to enter politics, famously said that he didn’t leave the Democratic Party; the party left him. I can certainly relate.” So now we are supposed to think that he stood still. I’ve been inclined to accept this narrative in the past. Now I think the process works a little differently. Guys like Crist have just been going along to get along.

I could never be a politician. I’m just no good at the bullshit. I can compromise. In fact, I think I am very good at finding common ground with others. What I couldn’t take is all the bullshit within my own party. I couldn’t support the “continuous war” policies of my party. I couldn’t accept “spare change from the rich” economic policies. I couldn’t go along with the policies claiming to “get tough on crime by destroying the lives of drug users.” I’m not saying that this makes me better; we need people who go along to get along—as long as the going along doesn’t involve too much villainy.

Looking at Charlie Crist’s history, it is clear that there was a lot that he didn’t accept about the Republican platform. Let’s face it, it is harder to be a Republican than it is to be a Democrat. It requires almost unimaginable cognitive dissonance. Look at poor Rick Santorum. (Yes, him!) His impulses on economic matters are populist. I rather like him when he’s talking about the economy. But he suppresses all that for the sake of his hellscape dystopia of God’s kingdom on earth. And if he were elected, he would not govern as an economic progressive. He would go along to get along.

When Charlie Crist was a Republican, he was explicitly a pro-choice Republican. And yet, on his website, there was lots of anti-choice rhetoric. But as soon as he turned Independent, he removed all that anti-choice garbage. I don’t think he did this to pander. What we see now is the real Charlie Crist. He was just going along to get along.

The Democratic platform on economic issues is extremely conservative. The Republican platform, on the other hand, is medieval in as much as it is coherent at all. So it just makes sense for economic conservatives to move to the Democratic Party. The truth is that if the Tea Party really believed in economic liberty, they would have fit at least as well in the Democratic Party as the Republican Party. They would have supported Ron Paul rather than Rick Santorum in the Republican primary. They would have elected representatives who cared about economics more than abortion and birth control. But given who they are, they were right to act as they did. Just don’t call them economic conservatives.

So I’m perfectly happy to welcome Charlie Crist into the fold. But this is not because he’s changed or the Republican Party has changed. Who he is is who he’s been. He should have been in the Democratic Party back at the start 20 years ago. If he had been, he wouldn’t have had to go along quite so much to get along.

H/T The Reaction A.M. Headlines

Republican Strategy

Power PoliticsI had a thought tonight about how Republicans see their position. The Republican focus is on ideology. It’s strange, but if you look closely, they are united in a weird kind of thinking that is based on the idea that how things are is almost perfect. From this we get the libertarian talk that keeps the economy stagnant and the Christian talk that keeps social power stagnant. I’m not sure that most Republicans realize this, but this is how you get a party that draws together a religion founded on a guy who didn’t like the rich with a religion that worships the rich.

Democrats have been ideological in the past, but they are a very practical group now. But even at their most ideological, Democrats always depended upon results. We could certainly quibble about the social policy, but when it comes to economics, there is no question: Democrats favor policies that work. There is no doubt in my mind that if Ted Kennedy had not gotten sick and died, we would have got a second stimulus and that the economy would be far better today. (It might even have been far better in 2010 and would have prevented the Republicans retaking the House and so many state legislatures.)

Earlier today, I saw Rand Paul saying that the Republicans should allow the Democrats to have their tax increase. He said that way, they would own it and when the economy goes to hell, the American people would know who to blame. But if Republicans really believed that, they would have done it before. They would have allowed the Democrats to dig their own grave. But they haven’t and they won’t.

The fact that Democratic policies work scares the hell out of Republicans. They know they can’t just let Democrats have their way because if they do, it will be a long time before they are back in power. So they stop the Democrats from doing anything—even things they would normally agree with. We’ve seen this for the last four years, and not just from politicians. Many conservative economists have made the argument against stimulus even as they had argued for it when Republicans were in power. And this is not a case of changing their minds. We know this because recently (when they thought Romney was going to win) they backtracked.

What’s more, every liberal I know hates conservative economic policy because it is bad for the country. But they take a certain amount of solace from political defeat knowing that before long the Republicans will screw up the economy and give it back to Democrats. This is the opposite of what educated conservatives worry about. And so they have no choice but to oppose everything Democratic administrations want to do.


This all makes me wonder about something. If conservatives really do know that their policies don’t work as advertised, why don’t they change sides? I have a few thoughts. First, I think that conservatives see politics as nothing other than a power struggle. They want to keep their power. Second, they see success differently than the rest of society (and frankly the rest of Republican voters). Success is making the rich even richer, it is not making the people generally richer. Either way, I don’t know how they live with themselves.