Why Has the Democratic Party Abandoned Barbara Buono?

Barbara BuonoI just saw a segment on All In talking about why it is that the Democratic Party hasn’t gotten behind Barbara Buono for governor of New Jersey. Steve Kornacki was guest hosting and he was on with E J Dionne. I admire both of those men and usually agree with them. But I thought they both demonstrated the problem. Democrats just don’t seem to give a shit. They are so used to dealing not just with extreme Republicans, but politically clueless Republicans. Chris Christie is an extremist but he is anything but clueless. Most Democrats mistake this for being reasonable.

Both Kornacki and Dionne talked about how the Obama administration didn’t want to attack Christie because they were grateful to him for the nice things he said during Hurricane Sandy. There are a couple things they’re missing. First, Obama was leading Romney during the entire general election. I believe the nadir of his campaign was when he had a two-thirds chance of winning and Romney had a one-third chance. That was the worst that Obama ever did. By the time of Sandy, he was doing far far better—he was almost certain to win.

The second reason this narrative is ridiculous is that Christie didn’t do any of that for Obama; he did it for himself. What’s more, he likely enjoyed poking Romney in the eye. As I reported right before the election, Christie did want to be Romney’s VP, so he was probably a bit angry about not getting picked. But more to the point, I’m sure that Christie (who is not an idiot) understood that Romney was going to lose. He used Hurricane Sandy to look good on the national stage. And that was mostly about getting along with Obama and not seeming like some ideological dick.

In general, when a very popular politician runs for re-election, it is hard to find good candidates of the opposing party to run against him or her. But in this election, the Democrats got a great candidate: Barbara Buono. She is currently only a state senator, but she has the polish of a national politician. And she’s run a good campaign. No one expected her to win. It would have taken a major error on the part of Christie to allow that. But it is absolutely unconscionable the way the state and federal Democratic Party have abandoned her. “Unconscionable” but hardly surprising.

In the modern Democrat Party, overrun as it is with New Democrats, standing for anything really is an uncomfortable notion. And it’s not a party that rewards loyalty. You know the old saying: Republicans fear their base and Democrats hate theirs. Well, that’s not just true of the base. Where is Obama in New Jersey? I guess we liberals can add it to our long list of things the president has done to show his contempt for us. What does it matter if the Republicans take the White House in 2016 as long as Obama has his “legacy” as a bipartisan deal marker? The whole party disgusts me.

Rand Paul’s Pathetic Plagiarism Excuse

Rand PaulI’ve been more or less on Rand Paul’s side in the whole Wikipedia plagiarism scandal. From a legal standpoint, there is nothing because Wikipedia is not copyrighted. And from an ethical standpoint, it just isn’t that big a deal. The obvious (And correct!) reaction would have been for Paul to admit that one of his speech writers screwed up. But now he is claiming that he did not plagiarize and that this is all about footnotes. No! You lifted exact sentences from Wikipedia and pretended they were your own work. That’s not that big a deal, but pretending that you didn’t do that very much is.

One of the great things about this is that Rand Paul is supposed to be this good old fashioned politician who really believes in things. Well, I never bought that load of crap. But one thing I am constantly impressed with is just how slippery Paul is. He is one of the very best at avoiding questions and, as in this case, finessing questions so that they sound like something wholly other than what they clearly are. He is the most corrupt of politicians and he is every bit as dangerous as Ted Cruz.

Here is The Rachel Maddow Show on the latest:

Update (1 November 2013 9:58 pm)

Now it appears that Rand Paul plagiarized copyrighted material from the Associated Press. If he had just admitted to error in the first place, none of these new bits of plagiarism would have been uncovered. What it looks like to me is that Paul has an extremely lazy staff who aren’t good at their jobs. But then we’ve long know that he doesn’t have the highest standards.

Odds and Ends Vol 5

Odds and EndsIt’s only been a couple of days since the last Odds and Ends and I already have stuff piled up—a lot more than I talk about here. There seems always to be too much good stuff to get to in any depth. As it is, these articles take long enough to write. This time, we have stuff on the filibuster and how it must die; 60 Minutes outsourcing its work to the RNC; a study that finds that libertarians aren’t so much (should have been its own article); Michael Lind shares my disdain for New Democrats; and Ron Fournier contains to do his false equivalence thing.

  1. Ryan Cooper wrote a great article about one of my favorite issues, The Filibuster Must Die. It follows off Lindsey Graham’s totally ridiculous tweet Monday, “I’m going to block every appointment in the US Senate until they are made available to Congress.” When I read that, all I could think of is, “This is why we need filibuster reform!” The whole idea that the Senate doesn’t need reform is shown in this case. Anytime some asshole Republican decides that some pet issue is important, the detente is over. A deal is not, “You behave as long as you want to.” As Cooper puts it:
    So Graham is blowing smoke. But this is not remotely surprising. All the recent shenanigans over the House GOP have rather overshadowed the fact that during President Obama’s first term, especially the critical first two years when he had huge majorities in both houses of Congress, the Senate was a block of Portland cement in the windpipe of his domestic agenda. Republicans filibustered almost every single piece of legislation that came up for discussion. A few gulps of air managed to sneak past (after literally months of straining), but all kinds of great stuff passed through the House and died ignominiously on the Senate’s calcified procedural blocks. Seriously, take a look at this list sometime and try not to weep. We could have had a climate bill. And let’s not forget that before the filibuster (which means “hijacking,” by the way, and is a complete historical accident) evolved into an all-purpose election-cancelling device, its main purpose was blocking civil rights legislation.

    And he totally nails what the real problem is, “The real issue seems to be various Democratic foot-dragging. Harry Reid and other Senate Democrats don’t seem like they’ve come to terms with the nearly total-dysfunction of the Senate confirmation process…” That’s right, because the old-timers in the Senate think that comity is more important than doing the people’s business. But you have to ask, “How could it get worse?” All I can think of would be armed rebellion in the committee hearings.

  2. In a related article, Kevin Drum wonders what 60 Minutes was on about last Sunday, Sigh. Benghazi Again? He notes that there was nothing new in the report, and yet Lara Logan made a big deal as though her story were a “scoop.” He asked two questions, “That took a year of reporting?” and “Did you just outsource the whole script to the Republican National Committee?” I think he’s onto something in his second question. As I discussed in Odds and Ends Vol 1, the week before 60 Minutes did a disability story that was nothing more than Tom Coburn’s old spurious complaint that loads of people are gaming the disability system and driving it bankrupt. So I think yes, 60 Minutes is ineed outsourcing scripts to the RNC. Are you shocked?

  3. Public Religion Research Institute put out a fascinating study this week, 2013 American Values Survey: In Search of Libertarians in America. What it shows is what I’ve long known. Libertarians are a small percentage of the population. They are overwhelmingly white and male and young. But most tellingly, 45% of them self-identify as Republicans whereas only 5% of them self-identify as Democrats. Why would that be? As I argued in the comments of Why the GOP Can’t Criticize Itself, the Democrats have a stronger policy-based claim to libertarian ideals than the Republican party. What the Republican Party has is libertarian rhetoric. So either the libertarians are clueless, or their libertarianism is just a delusion and they are little more than simple conservatives.

    Of course, the methodology is a bit slippery. A person’s libertarianism is determined based upon 9 questions that skew heavily toward a Republican framing of issues. Only 2 of the 9 questions would appeal to the “bleeding heart” libertarians. One is about same-sex marriage. The other is about drugs, but it is vague, “It’s not the government’s business to try to protect people from themselves.” I think they might have gotten a lower score if they asked, “It’s not the government’s business to stop people from doing heroin.” Or, “It’s not the government’s business to make sure airplanes don’t run into each other.” In fact, fully 30% of these libertarians don’t even think that doctors should be able to prescribe life ending drugs to terminal patients. And 59% are against same-sex marriage. In addition, 43% of these libertarians think abortion should be harder to get. Freedom lovers all!

    Regardless, even these Republican leaning libertarians don’t think of themselves as being part of the Tea Party movement (61%). This goes along with another of their findings: 52% of the Tea Party are the same old Christian Right movement. This explains why the Tea Party is far more associated with anti-choice politicians than anything else. But it’s all about degree. The libertarians are willing to hold their noses about drug policy perhaps, because they support the low taxes and “fuck the poor” policies of the Republicans. I would say they hold their noses regarding same-sex marriage, but these libertarians don’t even agree with that in large numbers!

    In the end, I think that the moniker “libertarian” doesn’t mean much. Even when I was a libertarian, I preferred to call myself an anarchist. I didn’t feel that most libertarians shared my views. I thought they were just a bunch of (not to go all Holden Caulfield on you) phonies. And this study really brings that to light. These are conservatives (Often social conservatives!) in libertarian clothes. They like the idea of dressing up like Thomas Paine, but they would be shocked to learn what he actually wrote. Of course, so would the people I call real libertarians. The truth is that the modern idea of libertarianism is just that: a modern idea. Paine and Madison were not libertarians. No one was. Not ever.

  4. I think I’ve found a kindred spirit in Michael Lind. I don’t know the last time I’ve read anyone so quick to fall off the liberal deep in. In an article in Salon he wrote, Here’s How GOP Obamacare Hypocrisy Backfires. That headline is the most misleading one I’ve seen in a long time. His argument is that liberals’ embrace of Obamacare will lead to later calls to get rid of Medicare and replace it instead with Lifelong Obamacare. The conservatives will argue, “Why have a government program when it can be outsourced to the private sector?” And he is quite right that the New Democrats will love that because they love it now; it’s how we got Obamacare in the first place! But I think he’s wrong, because most liberals think exactly what I (and Lind) think, it is an “essentially conservative program that is better than nothing.”

    But I really like Lind’s focus on the betrayal of liberalism that the New Democrats are. And too many liberals are willing to support the Democratic Party above liberal principles. You know how I feel about that: it has allowed the Republican Party to drag the nation far to the right. Our disastrous Overton Window is not the fault of Republicans but of New Democrats. And if we liberals allow them to maintain control of our movement, we might as well throw in the towel and vote Republican.

  5. And finally, Ron Fournier delivered a doozy:

    This is what happens when the two parties ruling Washington lose touch with America and pander to their crazy-extreme bases: President Obama’s competency and personality ratings are nose-diving, according to a new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll; barely a sliver of the public thinks highly of the Republican Party; and two-thirds of Americans want to replace their own member of Congress.

    Jonathan Bernstein cuts him to pieces. But the one thing that cannot be said enough is that false equivalence doesn’t just distort reality; it rewards extremism. It sets up an ethical framework where, for example, there is no downside to lying. If every Republican lie will be matched by a Democrat who slightly distorted the truth, then one might as well just lie. As I discussed on Monday, no one is perfect. So equating usual human imperfection with outright efforts to deceive and push extremist positions only helps the mendacious actors.

See you next time!

Johannes Vermeer

Johannes VermeerHalloween is my favorite holiday. Its iconography is the best of any holiday. Oh the things you can do with some balloons, sheets, and a body suit! And what could be better: you get to give out candy to kids! My raison d’etre is to corrupt children in the way of The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. Unfortunately, where I now live, I get exactly one trick-or-treat kid. And as always, I give out totally awesome candy! What a waste.

On this day in 1795, the great Romantic poet John Keats was born. His technique was brilliant, but as usual, I do have a problem with what I see as the affected obsessions that the Romantics had with nature. Still, this “Sonnet VII” is quite pretty:

O Solitude! if I must with thee dwell,
Let it not be among the jumbled heap
Of murky buildings; climb with me the steep,—
Nature’s observatory—when the dell,
Its flowery slopes, its river’s crystal swell,
May seem a span; let me thy vigils keep
‘Mongst boughs pavillion’d where the deer’s swift leap
Startles the wild bee from the fox-glove bell.
But though I’ll gladly trace these scenes with thee,
Yet the sweet converse of an innocent mind,
Whose words are images of thoughts refin’d,
Is my soul’s pleasure; and it sure must be
Almost the highest bliss of human-kind,
When to thy haunts two kindred spirits flee.

Other birthday: English diarist John Evelyn (1620); poet Natalie Clifford Barney (1876); painter Marie Laurencin (1883); chess grandmaster Alexander Alekhine (1892); the “Green Grocer” Joe Carcione (1914); Dan Rather (82); actor Michael Landon (1936); actor David Ogden Stiers (71); football player Brian Piccolo (1943); marathon runner Frank Shorter (66); comedian John Candy (1950); filmmaker Peter Jackson (52); and two actors are 50: Dermot Mulroney and fucktard Rob Schneider.

The day, however, and by a mile, belongs to the great Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer who was born on this day in 1632. He was a fabulous artist but during his lifetime, he was not thought to be anything special. When he died at 43, he left his family in debt. It was not for another two and a half centuries that anyone started to notice him. Until that time, many of his paintings where credited to other painters like Gabriel Metsu, Frans van Mieris, and Pieter de Hooch. I can understand the problem with Metsu, but not really the others. It shows how thoroughly Vermeer was dismissed that people just threw his work into the catalogs of painters that really weren’t all that similar.

It’s easy to wonder why such a great artist would not have been heralded throughout the known world. He was, after all, well known locally. So it must be that the beau monde just didn’t think there was anything special about his work. But that is often the case with artists. It isn’t that bad artists are acclaimed. But who exactly is considered a great painter or singer is usually a matter of the tastes of the time more than the absolute quality of the artist.

At this point, there are only 34 (some would say 35) paintings that we are certain are Vermeer’s. There are an equal number of paintings that are disputed but may be his. That’s not many paintings, even for his short life. Assuming his career lasted 22 years, that’s at best about 3 paintings per year. But his work does show a great deal of care. Look at the wonderful use of light in Girl with a Pearl Earring (and pretty much anything else he ever did):

Girl With a Pearl Earring - Vermeer

Happy birthday Johannes Vermeer!

GOP Still Has No Healthcare Ideas

HealthcareJonathan Chait makes a good point today, The Republican Health-Care Plan: Repeal and Cackle. He quite rightly notes that while the Republicans having much fun with their faux outrage about the Obamacare exchanges and the fact that some people are going to have to give up their terrible insurance plans for something that will work, their own healthcare reform ideas are far less popular.

Republicans, of course, do have healthcare reform ideas. I went over them in some detail recently. Pretty much all of them are things that they want to do anyway. Big on the list is always tort “reform,” which is just another way of setting up the law so individuals can’t get justice when the rich and powerful harm them. But Chait is right to focus on their really big idea of providing tax credit for people to buy health insurance while making employers pay taxes on the health insurance they provide to employees.

This would have the effect of throwing huge numbers of people off employer plans and onto the terrible private insurance system that we used to have (and still do to a large extent). He writes:

The single most salient fact about Obamacare to conservatives is that it is unpopular. This is true. What conservatives have never fully acknowledged is that its lack of popularity reflects not a broad agreement with the right’s ideological critique but a deep aversion to change.

So if people hate Obamacare because of the fairly modest changes it has made to their policies, the tens of millions with employer provided healthcare would be furious with the Republican plan.

Marketplace Magic: And Then a Miracle OccursOf course, we would never get a Republican plan. Obamacare is the conservative plan. When the Republicans decided their best strategy was to pretend it was a communist conspiracy shat from the decaying corps of Stalin, they effectively yielded the entire healthcare debate. They couldn’t get Social Security privatized, there is no way they would be able to pass a healthcare law that threw the whole system into chaos while simultaneously costing the poor and middle classes more than they were paying before.

So once again, we come to this point where the Republicans themselves don’t know what to do. In this way, they are lucky that Romney lost. If they were in power, what exactly would they have done? Repeal Obamacare, of course! But after that? Nothing would have been done. They might have passed a law or two that would stop parents from suing when some doctor killed their kid. But that’s about it. Because Republicans have no healthcare ideas. It’s all wish lists and magic thinking like in the cartoon above.

The Sad Reality of Duck Dynasty

Duck DynastyAs I’ve discussed before, there is very little “reality” in Reality TV. For example: Reality TV Not So Real. And: More Proof Reality Shows Are Fake. So I was quite interested to see a headline, “Duck Dynasty” Is “Fake”! Star Phil Robertson Confesses How TV Editors “Arrange The Scenes” & Rewrite His Reality.

Even under the best of circumstances, I would have filed the article under “No shit, Sherlock!” And indeed, it did talk about how the editors distort reality. But there’s a reason for that: reality is boring. What’s more: reality is long. How exactly do you condense a week’s worth of boring life into 22 minutes of proletarian-nip? But that wasn’t the reason why “patriarch” Phil Robertson went bitching to The Christian Post. He went there because Jesus told him!

You see, according to him, the editors were beeping out nonexistent expletives when the Robertson’s were talking. That might be. Or it might be that like most people who curse a lot, he has no idea just how foul mouthed he is. I don’t know nor do I care. I can well see the editors saying, “You know, this isn’t an interesting backwoods family; this is just yet another rich industrialist who inherited everything from daddy. How are we going to make these people interesting?”

But Robertson’s real reason for coming on was that he was angry that the show kept editing out “In Jesus’ name” from their prayers. As he said, “You gotta remember, it’s spiritual warfare.” So in addition to all the money that the head ducky gets paid and all the free advertising that his company gets, he wants to use the show to push his own pathetic idea of God on the nation. He also goes out of his way to vilify the editors as depraved heathens possessed by “the evil one.”

What is most interesting about this is there is no conflict on the show. The interview itself was clearly as real as the show. Robertson may play a backwoods idiot on television but in reality (the real one), he’s a millionaire owner of a multi-million dollar business. In other words, Robertson is a sophisticated guy who is every bit as worldly as those depraved editors. But it’s good for ratings. Think of Andy Kaufman’s Hollywood elite bad guy wrestling character, and his battles against the all-American good guy Jerry Lawler. That’s what’s going on here. Notice how the “editors” are to blame and not the “producers.” Of course, the editors do what the producers want. But if the producers were the godless heathens, why wouldn’t Robertson just quit to protect his family from the evil one? Since those editors are back in Hollywood, his family’s safe.

The real reality on Duck Dynasty and many other reality shows is that if you are already rich (pretty much always because of your daddy), there will be people begging to make you rich and famous. Eventually, people need to wake up about this. What Americans most admire is what is destroying them. But that’s not a reality that people want to watch on the television.

GOP Needs No Mother and Child Reunion

Charles PierceThis morning, Charlie Pierce wrote, The Reign Of Morons: Absurdity In The Senate. It is about a remarkable bit of political posturing in the Senate. The 27 Republican senators who voted to reopen the government and lift the Debt Ceiling just voted to repudiate the vote. In other words, “We voted to raise the Debt Ceiling, but we now disagree with that vote.” Except: not really.

At the last minute of the Reid-McConnell negotiations, the latter put into the bill some language requiring this subsequent vote. So from the very beginning, the the Republicans in the Senate were planning to repudiate their votes. In other words, “We voted to raise the Debt Ceiling, but we always disagreed with the vote.” I’m not exactly sure who they think they are fooling. Do they imagine that moderates are only going to look at the first vote and extremists are only going to look at the second?

Pierce notes that John Kerry was widely criticized “from hell to breakfast” for his comment about the Iraq War funding bill, “I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it.” That, of course, was typical conservative molehill mountainizing. Congress generally votes on major bills any number of times and that’s all that Kerry was talking about. Forced ignorance is a common conservative tactic, “I just don’t know what you’re talking about!” The situation with yesterday’s vote is entirely different. It is the Republicans’ attempt to have things both ways.

I think that Pierce gets it wrong when he talks about the need of the non-crazy Republicans to show some backbone and stand up against the extremists. I just don’t buy this narrative. Sure, the John McCain wing of the Republican Party wants to placate the crazies. But this is very much like a mother placating her overeager child. The mother is also excited about going to Disneyland. But it is a thousand miles away. It doesn’t matter how much mother and child would like to be on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride but there are reasons why it just is not possible right now.

The current state of the Republican Party is that the extremist mothers are trying to calm their overeager extremist children so they can all get to the extremist promised land. There is no need for a mother and child reunion. They are in union right now. And as he matures, even Ted Cruz will understand that. He and John McCain are separated by 35 years, but absolutely no ideology.

Tom Bodett Jokes

Tom BodettSince 1986, humorist Tom Bodett has been the spokesman for Motel 6. You have undoubtedly heard the commercials with Bodett’s unique midwestern drawl ending each one, “We’ll leave the light on for you.” He’s a very funny guy as you will hear if you listen to NPR’s Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! And it’s got to be a good gig, so great for him.

In 1990, Accor bought Motel 6. It is a French company that owns hotel chains all over the world. (In 92 countries!) At that time, I heard a late night comic announce the news with something like the following. “French-based Accor has acquired Motel 6, but the company says that nothing will change except that Tom Bodett will now be known as Tom Bodette.” Funny stuff.

On Sunday, Paula Poundstone—who works with Bodett on Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!—tweeted the following:

That just killed me.

This article has been another in a long series of attempts to provide enough information for people to get what are great but obscure jokes. You may now go back to your general ignorance about what is really funny. But please, do not tell me that I should really see The Hangover XVI. Unless, of course, it has a new Tom Bodett joke in it.

Fox News Exists Game Show

Fox Not NewsIt’s time for lying with graphs! In fact, it’s time for lying generally! That’s right, it’s time to play everyone’s favorite game show, Fox News Exists!

This episode is brought to you by the fine folks at Media Matters. They monitor Fox News so you don’t have to.

On Monday’s episode of Fox & Friends, the “news” channel presented the following graphic. It’s a comparison of the total number of people who work with the total number of people who are on “welfare.” Your task is to name everything that’s wrong with it:

Fox News Fake Jobs vs. Welfare Graph


I’m sorry, but our time is up. We were looking for:

  1. The numbers are almost identical, but Fox News graphed them to make it look like there are 5 times as many people on welfare as are working.
  2. The number of non-farm civilian employees is over 140 million people, so at least many of those people on “welfare” are also employed.
  3. They counted people being on welfare if they lived in a house where anyone received any welfare at all; but employment only applied to the individual; nice statistical consistency!

That’s all we have time for. See if you can find more Fox News errors at home. Until next time, so long from Fox News Exists!

The Difficult and Beautiful Ezra Pound

Ezra PoundOn this day in the 18th century, two very famous early Americans were born. The first was John Adams who was born in 1735. I loved him in 1776, but as an actual man, he wasn’t all that great. In particular, although he was against the British aristocracy having power in America, he really very much wanted a native aristocracy. And guess what? He got it.

Also born on this day was Martha Jefferson, Thomas’ wife. Again: she was great in 1776. But as far as I’m concerned, Betty Buckley in the original cast was far superior to the mousy Blythe Danner. Anyway, Martha was not the first lady Martha Jefferson—she died almost two decades before he became president. She is thought to have suffered from diabetes, which was not made better by having popped out six kids. All but two died in infancy. One of the remaining only made it to 25. The eldest, Martha, lived to the ripe old age of 64. She, and not her mother is who people referred to as the First Lady Martha Jefferson. Here is Buckley killing “He Plays the Violin”:

Normally, I’d just shuffle the following man off to “other birthdays,” but his story is too interesting. Georges Gilles de la Tourette was born in 1857. He is the first person to document what he called “maladie des tics” (You don’t need me to translate, right?) but what was eventually known as Tourette Syndrome. In 1893, one of his former female students shot him in the head, claiming that he had hypnotized her against her will. This is most clearly not possible and I figure that what she meant was that he seduced her. The wound did seem to turn Tourette into a manic-depressive and eventually killed him, but he still managed to live another 11 years—most of it quite productively.

One of the great talents behind the Jefferson Airplane, Grace Slick is 74 today. Much of her solo work is very good. But I only mention her here to show this:

Henry Winkler is 68. I very much like his acting work, especially in Arrested Development. And my sister says he does great work for people with learning disabilities and he “writes” clever children’s books. That’s all great. Still, he will rot in hell for hocking reverse mortgages on every cable channel in the known universe. I accept it from Fred Thompson. He’s an asshole. But Winkler is supposed to be a good guy. Don’t get me wrong; if Winkler were in financial difficulties, I wouldn’t mind at all. Everyone’s got to pay the bills. But that clearly isn’t what he’s doing. So it is just completely unacceptable. Sit on it, asshole.

The comedian Kevin Pollak is 56. I like him very much as an actor and comedian. He is also a fine impressionist. But again, I have only one reason for listing him above the “other birthdays,” and that is Rob Pearlstein’s excellent short film, which he starred in, Our Time Is Up. If you haven’t seen it, you owe it to yourself:

Other birthdays: playwright Richard Sheridan (1751); English impressionist painter Alfred Sisley (1839); actor Ruth Gordon, who was a total honey when she was young (1896); musician Clifford Brown (1930); and actor Jessica Hynes (41).

Okay, let’s all take a deep breath. Ready? The day, however, belongs to one of the greatest poets of the 20th century Ezra Pound who was born on this day in 1885. He was a very interesting guy and I do love his work. If it weren’t for all that fascism, he would be just perfect. Look, I don’t want to harp on it. Go read about him if you must. He came by the belief honestly and he was an Italian style fascist, not a German style one. And people are allowed to be wrong. And difficult. Anyway, he is largely responsible for anyone knowing of a lot of the great 20th century poets, most importantly (for me, anyway), Charles Olson. And then there is his work, which was always wonderful—pretty much from his early days to his last. The Seven Lakes canto (Cantos #49) is reproduced after the fold. Wikipedia writes of it, “Canto XLIX is a poem of tranquil nature derived from a Chinese picture book that Pound’s parents brought with them when they retired to Rapallo.”

For the seven lakes, and by no man these verses:
Rain; empty river; a voyage,
Fire from frozen cloud, heavy rain in the twilight
Under the cabin roof was one lantern.
The reeds are heavy; bent;
and the bamboos speak as if weeping.

Autumn moon; hills rise about lakes
against sunset
Evening is like a curtain of cloud,
a blurr above ripples; and through it
sharp long spikes of the cinnamon,
a cold tune amid reeds.
Behind hill the monk’s bell
borne on the wind.
Sail passed here in April; may return in October
Boat fades in silver; slowly;
Sun blaze alone on the river.

Where wine flag catches the sunset
Sparse chimneys smoke in the cross light

Comes then snow scur on the river
And a world is covered with jade
Small boat floats like a lanthorn,
The flowing water closts as with cold. And at San Yin
they are a people of leisure.

Wild geese swoop to the sand-bar,
Clouds gather about the hole of the window
Broad water; geese line out with the autumn
Rooks clatter over the fishermen’s lanthorns,

A light moves on the north sky line;
where the young boys prod stones for shrimp.
In seventeen hundred came Tsing to these hill lakes.
A light moves on the South sky line.

State by creating riches shd. thereby get into debt?
Thsi is infamy; this is Geryon.
This canal goes still to TenShi
Though the old king built it for pleasure


Sun up; work
sundown; to rest
dig well and drink of the water
dig field; eat of the grain
Imperial power is? and to us what is it?

The fourth; the dimension of stillness.
And the power over wild beasts.

Happy birthday Ezra Pound!

Politicians Are Not All Frauds and Liars

Russell BrandI just got a chance to read Alex Massie’s article that I referenced before, Russell Brand: an Adolescent Extremist Whose Hatred of Politics Is Matched by His Ignorance. In it, he quotes Brand as writing, “Like most people I regard politicians as frauds and liars and the current political system as nothing more than a bureaucratic means for furthering the augmentation and advantages of economic elites.” Massie admits to sometimes feeling that way and I very much do too. But it is extremely dangerous to allow such thinking to rule a liberal.

It is common. How could it not be when most of our federal elected officials are millionaires? One of my favorite websites is Crooks & Liars. But the name does bother me. It feeds into the conservative idea that all public servers are crooks and so wouldn’t we just be better without the government given that it is all corrupt.

But even more important than that, false equivalence is the last line of defense with conservatives. I can get just about any conservative to give up their side of any argument. But they also retreat to, “Oh, the whole system is screwed up. You can’t trust any of them!” And it is pretty much impossible to counter that argument. The reason is that in general, the Republican Party is made up of people who are proudly corrupt. (You can find easy conservative rationalizations for corruption!) But the Democrats are not perfect. No actual person is perfect. And in politics, one has to make concessions. For example, I really like Bernie Sanders. But he’s done stuff I’m not pleased about. So you can always say both sides do it. And conservatives do.

What is especially terrible about the “everybody’s corrupt” argument is that in a fundamental way it is not just the last refuge of conservatives, it is their first refuge. It justifies absolutely everything that they want to do. Why support the food stamp program when it is just administered by a bunch of corrupt political appointees? So the argument we should be making is that public servants are not corrupt. (This has the advantage of being mostly true.) While many and even most Republicans are corrupt, that’s because of their ideology that wants to destroy the government. That isn’t a reason to abandon government; that is a reason to abandon the Republican Party.

Massie’s focus is on the fact that it ever was so—the Dickens Lament. And that’s absolutely right. I would even go further. What’s wrong in this country is actually pretty small compared to what’s right. Mostly, we have one big problem: income inequality. Pretty much all of the other problems stem from that: prisons, global warming, and on and on. And we can do a lot about that. If only…

Election day is 4 November 2014!