Saturday, September 17, 2005

No scales have fallen from anyone's eyes 

It is crucial that we stop harboring, even as a wistful daydream, the fantasy that some "thing" will "happen"--involving some indeterminate combination of suffering and eruption--that will "change things" and "wake people up." Things have happened again and again and again. And people are in fact awake. They--we--are awake and hopeless. What is there to do? Where is there to look? What is there to hope for?

As of now, nothing. Does it really need to be said that the Democrats are so shallow and weak that they cannot and will not--ever--be able to serve as stable repositories of hope?

If there is hope, it is only in the possibility that some future political organization will exist that will actually be governed by clearly stated and broadly agreed upon principles. There simply is no such organization now in existence. The structures of both political parties are totally divorced from any principle; the principles articulated by both parties are too mixed and contradictory--unformed, liquid--to serve as the basis for any sort of organization. Their principles aren't in fact articulated; they have no formal coherence; and the organization-men, such as they are, pursue their own agendas...

The country is now in the thrall of a dynamic that is larger than either of the two parties. Obviously the Republicans are, to a man, more evil than the Democrats. If the Republican agenda were enacted at once, there would be chaos and then perhaps revolution. But this fact just highlights the Democratic place in the larger process. The Democrats--along with the craven media--cast a veil over the entire ongoing and apparently unstoppable catastrophe, the veil of "procedure" and "discourse" and frightened "moderation." The veil is created by the timorous, reasonable, reluctant, and murderously imprecise language that the Democrats seem unable and unwilling to stop speaking. The result is the televised semblance of legal governmental "procedure." It is this apparent "procedure" that is guiding the country step-by-step towards the cliff. Or have we already fallen? Are we plummeting towards the ground right now? Will we even know when we crash?

Of course one can and should vote Democratic (whatever "vote" means, at this point). Democrats might be able to apply the brake, slightly, to the careening apparatus. But they will never turn it around. Turning it around has to be the goal. And that will require something new and altogether different.

All of this is a way-too-long preface to Adolph Reed's superb article in The Nation. Excerpts:

"I know that some progressives believe this incident [the aftermath of Katrina] will mark a turning point in American politics. Perhaps, especially if gas prices continue to rise. I suspect, however, that this belief is only another version of the cargo cult that has pervaded the American left in different ways for a century: the wish for some magical intervention or technical fix that will substitute for organizing a broad popular base around a clearly articulated, alternative vision that responds to most people's pressing concerns. The greater likelihood is that within a month Democratic liberals will have smothered the political moment just as they've smothered every other opportunity we've had since Ronald Reagan's election. True, Nancy Pelosi and others finally began to bark at the Bush Administration's persisting homicidal negligence. But my hunch is that, as with Iran/contra, the theft of the 2000 election and the torrent of obvious lies that justified the war on Iraq, liberals' fear of seeming irresponsibly combative and their commitment to the primacy of corporate and investor-class interests will lead them to aid and abet the short-circuiting of whatever transformative potential this moment has....

Natural disasters can magnify existing patterns of inequality. The people who were swept aside or simply overlooked in this catastrophe were the same ones who were already swept aside in a model of urban revitalization that, in New Orleans as everywhere else, is predicated on their removal. Their presence is treated as an eyesore, a retardant of property values, proof by definition that the spaces they occupy are underutilized. And it's not simply because they're black. They embody another, more specific category, the equivalent of what used to be known, in the heyday of racial taxonomy, as a "sub-race." They are a population against which others--blacks as well as whites--measure their own civic worth. Those who were the greatest victims of the disaster were invisible in preparation and response, just as they were the largely invisible, low-wage props supporting the tourism industry's mythos of New Orleans as the city of constant carnival. They enter public discussion only as a problem to be rectified or contained, never as subjects of political action with their own voices and needs. White elites fret about how best to move them out of the way; black elites ventriloquize them and smooth their removal.

Race is too blunt an analytical tool even when inequality is expressed in glaring racial disparities. Its meanings are too vague. We can see already that the charges of racial insensitivity and neglect threaten to divert the focus of the Katrina outrage to a secondary debate about how Bush feels about blacks and whether the sources of the travesty visited upon poor New Orleanians were "color blind" or racist. Beyond that, a racial critique can lead nowhere except to demands for black participation in decision-making around reconstruction. But which black people? What plans? Reconstruction on what terms? I've seen too many black- and Latino-led municipal governments and housing authorities fuel real estate speculation with tax giveaways and zoning variances, rationalizing massive displacement of poor and other working-class people with sleight-of-hand about mixed-income occupancy and appeals to the sanctity of market forces.

The only hope we have for turning back the tide of this thuggish Administration's commitment to destroy every bit of social protection that's been won in the past century lies in finding ways to build a broad movement of the vast majority of us who are not part of the investor class. We have to be clear that what happened in New Orleans is an extreme and criminally tragic coming home to roost of the con that cutting public spending makes for a better society. It is a shocking foretaste of a future that many more of us will experience less dramatically, often quietly as individuals, as we lose pensions, union protection, access to healthcare and public education, Social Security, bankruptcy and tort protection, and as we are called upon to feed an endless war machine."

Friday, September 16, 2005

The Animals Need Help 

A message from the Humane Society. Please click on the link; it takes two seconds to have an email sent to all the relevant officials.

On Wednesday, one of our Disaster Animal Response Teams in New Orleans rescued a St. Bernard from a rooftop – a dog they described as the most emaciated animal they had ever seen in all their years of handling animals. The veterinarian who treated the dog was shocked that the animal, who weighed just 40 pounds, was still alive.

Who helped us rescue this animal? It was several National Guardsmen, who heeded our rescuers’ pleas to take them through the water on a tank so they could get up on the roof to save the dog.

But the troops’ actions were not ordered by the National Guard – nor by the White House, the Defense Department, the Department of Homeland Security, or the state of Louisiana. In fact, despite our repeated requests, none of these entities has formally agreed to marshal their ground forces to help rescue the pets and other animals slowly starving to death in the affected areas.

At a press conference just a few hours ago, I implored the federal government to come up with the nation's first animal rescue plan. Now, I am writing to ask you to give them the same message: Please call or email President Bush and other officials today and urge them to help us before it’s too late.

Time is running out for these animals. Every hour that passes means more pets, locked behind closed doors in the disaster zone, will die of starvation. Our teams are working as hard as they can to reach as many pets as they can - and as we reported to you on Wednesday, we’ve rescued thousands. But there are thousands more.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Tom Coburn: Rampant Lesbianism/Free Pizza Lunch 

Yesterday evening, while listening to some of the questioning of Chief Justice nominee and closet necrophiliac John Roberts, I was fortunate enough to catch some of Tom Coburn (R-OK)'s astute and thoughtful questioning. Basically Coburn makes Bush look like Cicero:

But the fact is I've noticed something that I really don't appreciate. And that is this kind of trend to say that you're not a kind, that you're not a considerate person. The fact that you have a wife that's an attorney and a young daughter that's going to be into this world, that you wouldn't believe that they ought to have equal rights; that you don't believe in hiring practices that are fair; you don't believe in treating people fairly -- on the basis of a flimsy record.

And I want the American people to know that that record doesn't hold up to the smell test that has been presented here today. And it's a little bit disturbing to me, because it's this subtle way of trying to say you're not who you really are.
We had today a judge in California say you can't use "under God" in the Pledge; the abortion issue we've talked about; homosexual marriage we've talked about; the fact that the judges have said online pornography is fine, regardless of what the Congress has said; parents who know that their 12-year-old daughter can be given oral contraceptive without their permission -- an IUD, in many places, without their permission, but they can't be given an aspirin?

These very crucial issues, not to say they're right or wrong, but how we got to the decision is causing some Americans to lose confidence.
Then, Coburn engaged Judge Roberts in an edifying dialogue on the history of the law:

So the only question I would have for you is this one final -- and I will finish, I hope, before 10 minutes are consumed. Where'd our law -- would you teach the American public where our law came from? I mean, there was law before the American Revolution. Where did our law come from? Where'd it come from?

ROBERTS: Well, before the revolution, of course, we were under the British legal system.

COBURN: And before that?

ROBERTS: We go back under the legal system in Britain to the Magna Carta and the dispute between the king and the lords there, as they tried to establish their rights against the king or central government, was a key part of the development of English law since that time.

COBURN: And prior to that? But some of the input to that was what some people, these very people who are worried, these very people who have lost confidence, call natural law.

The ideas came from somewhere, didn't they? Like, don't kill somebody. Don't steal from them. Be truthful. Where did those come from?

Those came from the natural tendencies of what we were taught in beliefs through the years that would best support a society. There is a theological component to that to many people.

But the fact is there's a basis for the laws that we have. And it's proven consistent through the years, even as it comes to America, that if we enforce those tenets, we all are better off.

And I just want to tell you that I believe you've been very strong today, just, first of all, to tolerate this and the amount of time.

Final point, and I have 12 minutes and 25 seconds and I'll be through. You also were accused of -- not accused -- you were also questioned about your advice on a speech that the president was going to make on HIV.

We'll just cut that off right there. I guess Roberts didn't need to respond after that point (and he didn't) since Coburn himself had so thoroughly clarified the nature of the law.

There's an article in The Nation today on Tom Coburn, and I'll just leave you with two excerpts for your reflection and meditation:

Most recently, Coburn hosted a "Revenge of the STDs" slideshow in the Capitol basement this May depicting "the ravaging effects" of sexually transmitted diseases.

"A free pizza lunch will be served but attendees should be advised that some slides contain graphic images," Coburn's press release warned.

In his opening statement, Coburn struggled to hold back tears as he exclaimed in a trembling voice, "My heart aches for less divisiveness, less polarization, less finger-pointing, less bitterness, less partisanship."

Supporting the troops is saying "yes" to crimes committed by and against those same troops 

I had to steal and re-print this entire brilliant post by Atrios, which he calls "The Crazy Guy At The Bar." It is an account of the words of a sick person. This soldier is sick. Bush made him sick. The army systematically exploited his vulnerabilities and delusions and turned him into a distorted, stunted person. The soldier is a victim of his own merciless government. But if "supporting" the troops means giving my assent to this barbaric ritualized chanting, this pathetic attempt to use words as a kind of physical barrier against the overwhelming pressure of immediate pain, then count me out.

"Certainly not actually crazy.

Honor, fighting for country, paying the price so freedom is free. On leave. From where? Hawaii, is the first response. From 14 months in Iraq is the real one. There with brother, friends, his second day being legally allowed to drink. Honor, love of country, willing to die. Honor. Fighting. 25 kills, officially. Captured. Tortured. Friend cruises by. Have a beer, tag some pussy. Not tears, but almost tears. Says, in fact, almost in tears. No one understands. Brothers. Fight for country. Honor. No one understands. Fighting for country. 25 kills. Women. Children. Children carrying ammunition. No one understands. Fighting for country. A bit drunk. A lot drunk. On leave, just one week. Where is brother, friends? Women. Children. Freedom isn't free. 21 just yesterday. Was once religious, no longer believe. God wouldn't allow such pain. The war is against religion, must stop it to defend the country. Almost in tears. Knee blown out. Chest. Scar. Fighting for brothers. Fighting with brothers. No one understands. honor. repeat. honor. Fighting for country. Captured. Razor. No air support when needed. Politics. Will fight for country. Children. Killed. Honor. Freedom. Fighting for country. No one understands. 14 months. Honor. Brothers. Dude, have a beer. Tag some pussy. Children. Backpacks. Ammunition. Fought for country, for freedom. Will end up in hell.

How many more like him?"

Necro Airlines 

I guess this was taken after they turned off the "Fasten Masks" sign.

Free AmCop rubber turd bracelet to the reader that provides the best caption.

Analysis at BagnewsNotes.

New Orleans Horror 

Read this column by Bob Herbert in today's Times. It forces you to imagine the extent of the suffering in New Orleans.

UPDATE: See this important post by Josh Marshall. The rebuilding effort is doomed, no matter how much money is spent, for the same reason that the Iraq war was doomed, no matter how many good reasons were adduced in its support: when conscience-free kleptocrats are at the helm, the biggest ships of state can only be Titanics. Period.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Knives sharpened for "Chertoff" 

This is very surprising. The Washington Post, which has up till now given little original reporting on Katrina and has been publishing staff editorials chastising Democrats for being too "gleeful" at the "appearance" of Bush's inadequacy, has now placed a serious analysis under a big headline on the front page of the website. The upshot is that the entity known by the phonemic series "Michael Chertoff" was responsible for the whole government disaster-response plan. The headline, as of 9:20 on Wednesday morning, was "Michael Brown Was Set Up." The Post apparently will not be satisfied with ritualistic sacrifices of scapegoats. (That Brown deserves it is not the point; he is a scapegoat insofar as he is being made to carry the guilt of others in addition to his own.)


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