Saturday, December 02, 2017

Suicide of a Nation (with Update)

December second, 2017--a day that will live in infamy.

Senate Republicans voted to increase the federal deficit by one trillion dollars in order to give tax breaks to billionaires.  The bill repeals the individual mandate for Obamacare, predicted to result in 13 million people losing healthcare.  Other provisions within it cripple education from K to college, state and local governments and a lot more.  It will effectively raise taxes on most Americans.  And for no related reason, it allows oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

If this bill becomes law, which is all but certain, remember what it was like on December 1: nearly full employment, low inflation; a deficit and debt greatly reduced by 8 years of the Obama administration, an almost full recovery from the Great Recession of 2008, and a robust economy, with manufacturing--particularly green energy production--robust and still growing.

How like Utopia that will likely look in the near future, as a result of this shameful legislation, accomplished in a manner that violates every Congressional norm.  Without a single public hearing, and with language inserted by lobbyists, it was passed in a partisan rush in the dead of night. For Congress it is its most shameful hour since World War II. This is the moment most feared, when this administration commits the nation to a kind of suicide.

And as has been reported--and Senator Sanders just said--this is only the beginning.  To make up for this massive giveaway, Republicans will be coming for Social Security, Medicare and all other social programs that help people who aren't billionaires or measly millionaires.

Every Republican but one voted for it, and no Democrats  A similar bill had already passed the House with Republican votes.

Thanks, chumps.
It's a temporarily great day for oligarchs.  And for everyone who wants a weakened America--like, I don't know, Russia?

An optimistic update: Jonathan Chiat: Of all the horrors Donald Trump has (and has yet to) inflict upon the republic, a huge tax cut for the rich was the most inevitable. But it is also the most easily reversible. Lifetime court appointments, carbon pollution, the degrading of democratic norms — all of these will prove difficult or impossible to undo, and leave costs deep into the future. The Trump tax cuts will not."

But that works only if and when the Dems take back control of Congress, not nearly a sure thing.  But Chiat is certainly right that Dems should make a major issue of this terrible and also unpopular bill, relentlessly next year.  Meanwhile the damage and suffering will begin.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Homegrown Hitler Before the Bunker

The kind of insanity that Homegrown Hitler is currently exhibiting seems ominously reminiscent of the latter stages of the original Hitler, when his made up reality was imposed on the world.  The difference now is that people in established media are freely saying that he is insane, but the outcome is basically the same: his power is not threatened.  Being crazy without consequence is the proof of dictatorship.

And if you wondered how Germany could follow a crazy man even before his power to destroy anyone who dissented was fully established, just look around.  Insanity is contagious.  There isn't an institution (beginning of course with Congress and its crazed tax bill but including the media) that isn't showing signs of some form of insane behavior.

By now it's becoming clear that we aren't going to get out of this unscathed.  The damage is growing and could accelerate beyond anyone's ability to control it.

But let's find comfort in this sweet old song.  Try to ignore the visuals.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Calling Bullshit

Bullshit abounds, but sometimes there's just enough new about it to merit a rejoinder.  Two recent instances:

1. The Atlantic's article/review entitled What Godless Says About America by Sophie Gilbert.  (I hope this is no relation to the several Gilberts I used to know, cause I'm not going to say nice things about this.)

It's about a Netflik original western (called "Godless") that I have not seen and have no plans to ever see.  Hype usually inflates newness or difference but this is supposed to be journalism.  To be fair however, what Gilbert says about westerns has become cliche.  Problem is, it's not true.

Here's the paragraph:

"Westerns celebrate the heroic individual rather than the well-ordered—but inevitably vulnerable—community. They glorify domination, whether over Native Americans or the treacherous terrain of the frontier. And they fetishize guns, which unfailingly allow heroes to safeguard democracy—never mind the collateral damage of bodies littered in the streets after each epic confrontation."

 Given the reality of settlers subduing the land as any farming, grazing or urban civilization does, I don't recognize any memorable western movie or television series in this description--certainly not from the years when the western was a major genre (which it hasn't been for more than fifty years.)

The classic western plot did involve a threat to the community, but it was posed by outlaws (who might be otherwise respectable businessmen as well as masked bank robbers) and the hero was the hero precisely because he (and occasionally she) defended the community against the outlaws--often enough by identifying and arresting them.  From Gary Cooper and John Wayne to Marshall Dillon.

The first conflict in High Noon in fact was between the man who felt his duty was to stay and defend the community and the woman who wanted him to abandon it.

As for guns, of course western movies often centered on gun fights, as did Eastern urban crime stories, and just as war movies had something to do with guns and bombs, space operas with phasers and light swords, etc. And yes, the spectacle of those battles sometimes mocks any sense of proportion.  But in most, the test of quality was the surrounding story.

I might also mention that the first and really only dramatized examples of gun control I recall seeing were in westerns, where the law banned guns in town.  It was deemed a sign of civilization.

Dominating Native Americans--the cowboys and Indians westerns--was certainly a theme (as it was a reality), but so was protecting Native Americans from greedy whites (a bit more fictional).

All of this was most obvious in television, especially in the 1950s. The very first television western hero, Hopalong Cassidy, often found greedy white men threatening the community, or threatening Indian tribes.  The theme of the first Lone Ranger feature film was uncovering a plot by white men to drive Indians off their land and steal their gold.  Essentially it was also the plot of the second Lone Ranger feature film.

Hopalong, the Lone Ranger and other early western TV heroes fired their guns a lot but they seldom shot anyone dead.  There were more fistfights that fire fights in TV westerns, even in the era of the "adult westerns" of the late 50s and early 60s.

So: bullshit.

2. The NYTimes Nazi story controversy.  Both the story and the controversy have the same problem: reporters and commentators who apparently have never lived in middle America, or more to the point, aren't old enough to remember when overt white racism was normal there.  It helps to have black journalists, and it also helps to have a knowledge of history.  More generally it might help to have those older experienced journalists they sent packing when the staffs shrunk.  No institutional memory, no memory at all.  All bullshit.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Looking for Light

We don't know when America will hit bottom because it surely hasn't happened yet.  All indications are that we are in for a grim month in which the previously unimaginable is at the top of the news feed every day.  So it's time to look at this again, the incomparable Esperanza Spalding, in one of her appearances at the Obama White House.  And to listen to a song written in the depths of the Great Depression.  In a Dark Age we look for light wherever we can find it.