Odds and Ends Vol 2

Odds and EndsWell, here we are with another collection of odds and ends. Rather than just do the old stuff, I’ve thrown in a few things from today and yesterday. I begin and end with some discussion of revolution. Perhaps it is because when you get right down to it, I’m not much of an ideologue, but I don’t dig on revolution. Unless there is just no other way forward, incremental change is best. Violence is almost never the answer. And in America at this time it is most definitely not the answer. Those who think that we are on the verge of tyranny (and that includes people on the left) are crazy. I am all for doing battle, but only in the metaphorical sense of that word. We need to fight with ideas and community, not knives and guns. And if that makes me sound like a new age hippy, so be it.

  1. The very great Chris Hedges thinks that the time has come, Let’s Get This Class War Started. He quotes Aristotle as saying that there are two possible ways forward for an oligarchic state. Either those in power repress the masses or the messes revolt. He says we have the first and it is time to do the second. I would put it a bit differently. I think that the masses are repressed, but not so much in the way they once were. We have a system that fools the masses into thinking that they are free. So they keep voting into power different members of the oligarchy. This is doubly constricting because if the masses ever decide that they will simply vote in people who do what is best for the 99%, the oligarchs will just go to Plan B: direct repression. I’m assuming here that Hedges is talking about a peaceful revolt. He’s seen too much war to want to start one. I’m ready for a peaceful revolt. But it will take a long time, because most Americans have been thoroughly indoctrinated into The American Lie of equality of opportunity and all that jazz. That’s no more true than Santa Claus or Thor, but people hold onto it and it is hard to get them to give it up. But we have two whole generations now who have lots of evidence to counter The American Lie. There may be hope—even in my lifetime.
  2. This is from Raw Story (via Digby). Pope Francis continues his charm offensive on my heart. And it is working:
    The faith passes, so to speak, through a distiller and becomes ideology. And ideology does not beckon [people]. In ideologies there is not Jesus: in his tenderness, his love, his meekness. And ideologies are rigid, always. Of every sign: rigid.

    And when a Christian becomes a disciple of the ideology, he has lost the faith: he is no longer a disciple of Jesus, he is a disciple of this attitude of thought… For this reason, Jesus said to them, “You have taken away the key of knowledge.” The knowledge of Jesus is transformed into an ideological and also moralistic knowledge, because these close the door with [their?] many requirements.

    The faith becomes ideology and ideology frightens. Ideology chases away the people. It creates distances between people and it distances the Church from the people. But it is a serious illness, this Christian ideology. It is an illness, but it is not new, eh?

    He might as well have said, “If your Christian faith is easy, you are doing it wrong.”

  3. Two important points from Dean Baker. First, Problems With Signing Up for Obamacare Was a State Choice. It appears the reason the exchanges are so screwed up is that the administration wasn’t expecting that 34 states would decide to spite the federal government and their own people by choosing not to set up their own exchanges. As a result, the administration did not initially allocate enough resources to properly do the over-large exchanges.

    Second, Europe and Canada have a tentative trade agreement that eventually will expand the UK economy by 0.08%. Remember this when people talk up a US-Europe deal. These deals do very little good for our country. But they very much increase enforcement of copyrights and other rents that help the rich and hurt the poor. So unless you own a bunch of stock in Disney, don’t buy the rhetoric.

  4. Alec MacGillis wrote a good article, Obama Beat the Hostage-Takers. Now He Has to Fight the Fiscal Scolds. It’s about the Peterson brigade, best represented by Simpson-Bowles. They are continuing their full-court press to balance the federal budget. But it does miss the most important element about these people. They don’t care about the deficits. They want to cut entitlements. They are also keen on raising taxes, but mostly on the poor and middle classes. And in a practical sense, their plans will always decrease taxes on the rich. This is because their plans always start with cutting the marginal tax rates. This is paid for by closing loopholes. But as we all know, new loopholes are created as quickly as old ones are plugged. So for a year or so after the Simpson-Bowles plan was adopted, the rich would probably pay higher taxes. And for the decades after that, they would pay less in taxes. So MacGillis is right: Obama needs to fight the fiscal scolds. But they are worthy opponents in the sense that they are a bunch of liars that want to hurt the poor and help the rich.
  5. There is a narrative about the Heritage Foundation that goes like this: in the past, they were a real think tank; sure, they were conservative but they did real work; now they are just a bunch of hacks that do nothing but create propaganda for the conservative movement. There is perhaps a little to this narrative. The Heritage Foundation did, after all, put together what we now call Obamacare. And once Obama was in office and he decided to use their policy recommendation, they dropped it like a socialist potato. But as Jason Stahl wrote in Salon, The Heritage Foundation Has Always Been Full of Hacks. He provides an excellent history of the group. It was specifically designed to push conservative ideas—just as it does to this day:
    In the spring of 1971, [Heritage founders] Feulner and Weyrich were working with their bosses on supersonic transport legislation. Both men and the officials they represented favored continued federal funding for the plane but lost the final Senate vote by a slim margin. After the vote the men received an [American Enterprise Institute (AEI)] study on the issue. Weyrich confronted AEI president William Baroody Sr about the tardiness, to which Baroody supposedly replied, “We didn’t want to try to affect the outcome of the vote.” Feulner argues in the official Heritage institutional history, “It was at that moment that Paul and I decided that conservatives needed an independent research institute designed to influence the policy debate as it was occurring in Congress—before decisions were made.”

    What I find especially interesting here is the policy that started all this: supersonic transport. Socialism is just fine with conservatives as long as it benefits the wealthy!

  6. This is a very famous photo from the weekend before the government shutdown ended:
    Man Waving Confederate Flag in Front of White House

    I’m very taken with the two flags together. The one flag is for the US Marine Corps. I’m not sure what the message is supposed to be. “This time the Marines will support our treason”? And then there are the signs that the people are holding, “Impeach Obama.” Fair enough. That’s working inside our political system. But the confederate flag is a symbol of treason, pure and simple. See, for example: NASCAR Culture and Sport. And: No More Confederate General Bases! I have zero tolerance for the confederate flag. As I wrote before, “Germans manage to show their pride without waving Nazi flags around.” And I don’t think that’s hyperbolic in the least.

That’s all for now. Slowly I’m getting the backlog out. The problem is that good things just keep coming in!

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