Saturday, July 02, 2011

Pause Before Chaos

A little pause for backyard barbecues and fireworks before the oncoming chaos.  The Rabid Right has closed down the Minnesota government, forced a budget balanced on the backs of the poor, mentally ill, students and the middle class in California and in other states, while threatening to bring down the American economy for an even Greater Recession and pursuing a reactionary and anti-democratic social and political agenda, all to please a rabid minority and the greed of their corporate masters.

And that's before the real chaos begins--no NFL football.  Not even NBA basketball.

It is also amidst signs of the future that are happening now: the biggest wildfire in New Mexico history, the flood waters lapping at the edge of a Nebraska nuclear power plant, and the realities the media misses or passes over--the ongoing trauma of shattered lives in Joplin and Tuscaloosa, and all the other flooded and burned out communities.  Or the lonely rooms where the elderly may quietly die in a heat wave this weekend.  The places all over the world that are in turmoil because of drought and higher food prices, depleted fishing waters and barren lands: the Climate Crisis future.

So it's worth also pausing in the patriotic holiday to ask where America is.  Because something extreme is happening all around us.  The news from places like Kansas and Wisconsin is just astonishing.  And Washington--where climate crisis denialists hold a convention to celebrate their suicidal notions.  And a nation is held hostage to extremists, despite what polls say about how very unpopular they and their ideas now are.  We should be preparing for the future by recognizing the significance of what is happening now, but we're mired in this reactionary mud.  Somehow it seems the Founding Fathers would see this clearly.

It's a national mind clouded by fear--that denies the future it really suspects is coming but which it refuses to face-- but we can be more specific than that.  This unrecognized fear is being repressed, which makes what explodes out of the unconscious all the more powerful.  In  addition to the personal unconscious and the personal shadow discussed in the recent Climate Inside posts, Jung posited a collective unconscious, which contains a collective shadow.  There sleeps the tendencies that can drive our lives, which Jung called archetypes.  Often we recognize these forces in the form of mythic figures.

I don't know enough psychology or mythology to suggest which archetypes may be possessing these people now, but one figure does come to mind from the Beatles' Yellow Submarine movie.  It's the Vacuum Monster, who simple vacuums up everything it comes upon, until towards the end of the sequence (a six minute section you can see on YouTube here), it consumes the entire world and finally (seeing its own tail move) it consumes itself. 

How It Ends

As GOPer terrorists in Congress continue to hold the world economy hostage with their non-negotiable and utterly absurd demands, there is great uncertainty about the outcome even among the chatterers who are usually way too certain about their opinions.  Despite the consequences, described by former Obama economic advisor Larry Summers when asked why people shouldn't want to see the debt ceiling maintained. "Because they don't want a version of the Lehman Brothers catastrophe for 2008 on steroids. Because they don't want to see the buck broken on money market funds and the ensuing financial panic. Because they don't want to live with the consequences for their purchasing power of a crash in the dollar. Because they don't want to live in a nation that is no longer a nation of law, that meets its obligations. For those reasons and many more, we all have an enormous stake in doing the elementary and the obvious thing and meeting our debt obligations."

So what are the alternatives?  The most obvious ones now seem among the least likely: there's a deal that nobody completely likes but that everybody can live with that attacks long-term deficits without stopping present recovery and the stimulus and tax policy attempts to get the economy moving faster, with special attention to Main Street and middle class jobs.  But nobody sees that coming.

Will it end with the GOPers or Obama completing giving in to the other side's requirements for a deal?  There's some thought--and some fear--that it's more likely that Obama and the Dems will cave, if for no other reason than Obama is the responsible figure in all of this, and the Rabid GOPers are counting on that.  He won't let them blow up the economy.  But on the other hand, the polls are on his side.  There is very strong support in virtually every poll for doing what the Dems require--raising some revenue by ending corporate jet and oil company tax loopholes, etc, and not touching Medicare coverage or Social Security benefits.  Perhaps even more telling, the latest NY Times poll shows that only 8% blame President Obama for the current economy.  Most blame effects of  Bush spending, and Wall Street.  This suggests that the President has a strong hand...if the GOPers are rational, even as politicians, let alone as Americans.

 So far the GOPers are resisting a deal in which they get almost everything they want, which suggests they don't want a deal.  So to me that means:

Resolution #1: Declare Victory and Go Home.  Both sides announce that a long-term deal is impossible now, because the Other Side is wrong and irrational, and Our Side won't compromise our principles.  So we're passing a clean debt ceiling bill, because after all we are responsible Americans and we don't want the economy to tank, and on all the other issues we're going to the voters in 2012.

  This is so far being proposed by exactly nobody but me.  The other possible solution being floated include:

Resolution #2: By a Thousand Cuts.  A set of cuts agreed to results in a temporary raise in the debt ceiling for a few months, when it all starts all over again.  Some folks think this is the best we can expect.

Resolution #3: The Fourteenth Amendment.  This is getting increasing buzz.  The 14th Amendment to the Constitution states: "The validity of the public debt of the United States...shall not be questioned."  Some say it was created for just this kind of situation.  So the solution is that President Obama simply invokes the 14th Amendment, disregards the congressional debt ceiling, and declares that the U.S. will pay its bills as usual.  Constitutional scholars say it could work, and they aren't sure that anyone even has the standing to take the matter to court.

So far the White House is discouraging the idea, and the Dem's designated firebrand of the moment, Senator Chuck Schumer, says it's a good idea but there isn't time to implement it this time around.  But that's the official word.  There's some feeling that the administration (Treasury in particular) would like to have this out there as part of the discussion--to let the GOPers know that the hostages might just escape.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Happy birthday to Martha, Bruce, Grace Ann and all my other natal twins. (And I'm not committing to this being my favorite movie line of all time--that's the original poster's opinion.  But I guess it's close.)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

California Greeding

The piggishness of the GOPer rich that's holding the world economy hostage in Washington, and quietly turning the states into corporate empires as well as the nation (thanks to the Supreme Corporate Court) has just had another victory in California.

A Democratic governor and Democratic majority legislature apparently could not overcome GOPer resistance to even holding a referendum in which the state's voters could decide on new taxes to balance the state budget.  No--they couldn't face the danger that they couldn't buy results to their liking, and the wealthy might have to pay a fairer share for the government that provides them infrastructure and support.

Instead, the Democrats passed a budget that places all the burden on the poor and the middle class, through cuts in programs for the poor, severe cuts to the state's once proud university systems, cuts in law enforcement that will make the inner cities more dangerous, the closing of 70 more state parks, and on and on.  The only new revenue will come from regressive fee increases (car registration) and applying state taxes to online purchases.

In other words, it's people like me who will pay.  It will not be the wealthy of this state who have seen their wealth nearly double in the past decade while the incomes of everyone else have gone down.  But now the wealthy are safe from paying anything more, while all of the cuts and all of the revenue increases will affect everybody else.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

People of the Lie

"Although I was aware they were illegal, we had become somewhat inured to using some activities that would help us in accomplishing what we thought was a legitimate cause."--Jeb Magruder, testifying about the Nixon White House during Watergate.

 "I didn't like Nixon until Watergate."-- New Right pioneer M. Stanton Evans.

"We ought to see clearly that the end does justify the means."--Evangelist C. Peter Wagner.

"If the method I am using accomplishes the goal I am aiming at, it is for that reason a good method."-- Jerry Falwell, describing his goal to destroy the public schools.

These are statements by some of the founding fathers of today's Rabid Right, quoted by Rick Perlstein in his Mother Jones piece, "Inside the GOP's Fact-Free Nation," with its subtitle: How political lying became normal.

Perlstein begins with examples of past political lies, particularly ones that got the U.S. into wars.  He chronicles the 1970s revulsion against the manifest lying of the Vietnam era, and how GOPers brought lying back but with this new quasi-religious rationale.

Now GOPer politicians lie as a matter of course, up to and including the various Big Lies that affect history big time.  In companion pieces, David Corn analyzes why the Obama White House couldn't correct GOPer lies about  health care reform ("government takeover of health care," "death panels") and another piece examines why the media (and others) are hoodwinked by liars, even when they are repeat offenders.

It's not a pretty picture.  Lies are effective when they are simple, shocking, sensationalistic stories, and new media carries them around the planet with the speed and jolt of electricity, far faster than factual corrections can be made.  I'm not sure these articles really explain why people believe them, and what some of the examples say about people who believe known liars over people they know and work with is pretty disheartening.

On the current GOPer tactic of being against anything and everything that President Obama is for, even if they were on principle for it before, Rachel Maddow said Monday,  "the kind way to explain this is as disgusting hypocrisy."  What's worse, she says, is the possible strategy--to create widespread suffering among ordinary Americans through economic deterioration, just for partisan political gain.  Right now those lies are the basis for action--refusing to honor the country's debts--that may well have nearly instantaneous consequences for every one of us, creating widespread and probably long-lasting suffering.  Update: If this seems an extreme charge, note this statement from a top economist at Moody and former McCain advisor who says that even a brief default is likely to cause a new recession.)

Creating suffering is worse.  But lying as a principle, lying justified as a necessary means to an end, particularly in a democratic society which makes decisions based on shared information, and even justifying it as God's work--that comes close to Scott Peck's definition of evil in his landmark book, People of the Lie.

Though the effects of evil can be sensed and named, naming something or someone as evil risks projection.  But a lie is much more defined.  As I've suggested in the Climate Inside posts, some of what public figures as well as ordinary people say is unconscious projection.  But there's plenty of evidence that many of these lies--and especially the Big Lies--are deliberate, excused in their minds for their political effect.

The effects of these lies are destroying us.  But so are the lies themselves.

Here's Your Tea Party--How Do You Like It Now?

from Squids with Lasers

The Tea Party Republican victories in the states have led to this, as accounted by the Rachel Maddow Show, foremost among those paying attention to this ongoing portion of the systematic destruction of the middle class, the dismantling of the Founder's commonwealth and the final solution of corporate greed creating state-sponsored cruelty:

 In Florida, Republican Governor Rick Scott proposing a $1.5 billion giveaway to businesses to be paid for with $3.3 billion cuts in education.

In Arizona, Republican Governor Jan Brewer signing $538 million in giveaways to businesses over the next decade while proposing almost the same amount of savings from throwing poor people off the state‘s Medicaid rolls.

In Michigan, Republican Governor Rick Snyder proposing nearly $2 billion in giveaways to business to be paid for by raising taxes on poor people and old people.

In Wisconsin, Republican Governor Scott Walker signing $140 million worth of giveaways to businesses just before signing a state budget to raise taxes on poor people to the tune of $49 million."

Meanwhile in Washington, GOPers are so corrupt in the pockets of their corporate masters that House GOPers chose a particular regulation to oppose--one aimed at preventing tobacco companies from marketing cigarettes to children and making cigarettes more addictive--after accepting nearly $300,000 in tobacco company cash.

Meanwhile, the Rabid Right's favorite talk radio hosts not only take the talking points devised by Rabid Right think tanks and publications--they're on the take for major wads of their cash.

But that's nothing compared to what DC GOPers are currently insisting they will do: they will bring down the world economy because Democrats want to close tax loopholes favoring corporate jets

They refuse to consider raising revenue by ending subsidies to their fossil fuel masters. They won't consider requiring the cringingly wealthy to pay taxes a little closer to the proportion non-wealthy actually pay.

And above all, they will not let it be known that the major cause of the budget deficit now is the Bushwars, and the major cause of the budget deficit for the next decade is the Bush tax cut for the numbingly wealthy.  If Congress cuts not a dime of spending, but the Bush tax cuts expire, the budget will be balanced by 2016.   

All of this enriches the already monstrously rich--and not the tricorner hat-wearing saps with their tragic misunderstanding of American political history.  Is it possible that they will wake up to see whose tea party this really is?

This is the "philosophy" that holds the world hostage, threatening to at the very least deeply wound the American economy, and the federal government's ability to respond to the critical needs of the American people, by refusing to raise the debt ceiling so the government can make good on all Bush's debts-- all for partisan political gain.  The conventional wisdom has it that the Wall Street masters will assert their control in time to prevent catastrophe but I'm not so sure--their greed is so great, and they may be willing to take some losses (with their money, not a problem) for the long-term risk of complete power.


For those who demand a neuroscience explanation, there's this piece on the brain waves responsible for climate crisis denial.  Personally I find the Jungian-based explanation more persuasive, but I recognize he's not as stylish these days as the folks with electrodes.

In that same issue of Mother Jones, there's Kate Sheppard's chronicle of  "how climate science became the target of "the best-funded, best-organized smear campaign by the wealthiest industry that the Earth has ever known." 

Here's where things stand around here at Dreaming Up Daily.  The basic science on global heating is settled science: potentially catastrophic and certainly consequential climate change is happening and will continue to happen, as a result of fossil fuel wastes.  The research into past climate change shows it, the models show it, the physics shows it, and very nearly every scientist qualified to evaluate the data agrees.  Some basically fair-minded skeptics fixate on one or two errors or hasty predictions, but the preponderance of evidence is as clear as anything in science gets, short of the law of gravity.

Most of those who oppose this basic conclusion are liars, and the rest are simply wrong.  There are smaller but still important matters of  climate science as well as huge matters of policy that need to be worked on, and that work is delayed by all this defensiveness.  In the end the Climate Crisis simply is, whether everyone believes it or not.  It's time to turn our attention to dealing with it.  And at least around here, that's what the future holds.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Making Progress

A fascinating analysis in the LA Times  on a perceived shift in President Obama's decision-making: after two years experience as President, he's asserting his own judgments earlier and more confidently.  The case in point is the Afghanistan withdrawal decision, which he made quickly and against the advice of the major Generals.

On Afghanistan as well, E.J. Dionne notes President Obama's centered foreign policy decisions, and the move (too slow for some, too fast for others) towards a different way that America relates to the world.

Apropos of the "too slow" folks, Michael Grunwald takes on the chattering left in a funny and pointed critique that even in language (for the blogospheric left, Obama is dad, and for the White House, the blogos are the rebellious teens) supports my "President of Projection" thesis.  Gunwald's examples fit his thesis--major Obama initiatives that the left groused about and considered failures because they didn't get exactly what they wanted, even though what they wanted was politically impossible.   "He’s a politician, not a magician," is Grunwald's takeaway line.  Still, there are other disappointing White House decisions  he doesn't cite that are unexplained.  What he says about Obama and global heating is true; but so is what Al Gore wrote.  On balance though, his conclusion is apt:

"It’s easy for activists to complain about imperfect achievements like the stimulus or Obamacare, especially when they’re not among the 3 million Americans who would’ve been unemployed without the stimulus or the 50 million Americans who would’ve been uninsured without Obamacare. Complaining is what activists do. And bloggers are right that Obama hasn’t made a consistent case for liberal politics or Keynesian economics, allowing anti-government Republicans to hijack the national debate. But making a case is what bloggers are supposed to do. Presidents, on the other hand, are supposed to make progress, whether progressives like it or not."

Meanwhile, just about unnoticed here in North America, the rest of the White House Obamas are in South Africa.  Here they  listen to former resident Noor Ebrahim as they visit the District Six Museum in Cape Town. Ebrahim described the forced segregation that occurred after 1966 when District 6 was declared a "White Group Area." (click on the photo to see the whole scene--I'm not sure why this version cuts part of it out.  I sized it big so their expressions are clear.  Both photos here are White House photos.)