October 19, 2009 archive

On An Ethnic Slur

When it comes to cluelessness, a characteristic demonstrated repeatedly in rightwing politics, the world record always seems to be harder to reach, always seems to be harder to match.  The goal posts just seem to move further and further away. And now we have two South Carolina GOP County Chairman entering the South Carolina division of the clueless sweeps to defend Jim DeMint (R-SC) by invoking an antisemitic stereotype in print, in an guest editorial.

How’s that for stepping up to the competition?  A breathtaking feat.

Writing a guest editorial for the South Carolina Times and Democrat, Edwin O. Merwin Jr., Chairman, Bamberg County Republican Party, and James S. Ulmer Jr., Chairman, Orangeburg County Republican Party, give us these pithy bon mots:

There is a saying that the Jews who are wealthy got that way not by watching dollars, but instead by taking care of the pennies and the dollars taking care of themselves. By not using earmarks to fund projects for South Carolina and instead using actual bills, DeMint is watching our nation’s pennies and trying to preserve our country’s wealth and our economy’s viability to give all an opportunity to succeed.

Nice.  Real nice.  No, they are not saying Jim DeMint is a Jew.  That’s not their point.

And I don’t know who might be taking credit for being the source of this “saying,” or who might have said it when he wasn’t wearing white sheets and a pointed hood and standing before a flaming cross.

But you do have to admit that this writing shows a remarkable degree of cluelessness.  These guys actually wrote this down, and then they had it printed in a newspaper with their names on it.  

Predictably, this flourish of profound cluelessness was lambasted in the editorial of the conservative Palmetto Scoop:

Umm… who in mainstream America thinks it’s a good idea to write something like that in a guest editorial? Especially in light of the racially-motivated attention garnered by South Carolina Republican activists over the past few months.

It’s people like Ulmer and Merwin that make many folks fear for the future of the once Grand Ole Party.

Lest you forgot, the “racially-motivated attention,” referred to, had to do with the remarks of one Rusty Depass that an escaped gorilla was an ancestor of Michele Obama.

That, I thought, had set the previous South Carolina mark for cluelessness.  And I expected that remark to keep the title for decades.  What an error on my part.  Evidently Ulmer and Merwin want to contest the record.

Can we expect the powers that be in the GOP to condemn this remark?  More when I stop laughing.

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simulposted at The Dream Antilles

If Obama Won’t Be FDR, We Will Get a Hitler

Discuss.

Change Quakes

WARNING: This essay contains meta.

Change is a funny thing.

You can work for it, court it, try to nudge it along, seduce it, try to bludgeon it into existence, etc…

But when it comes right down to it, we have very little effect on the BIG changes of the world. They seem to come out of nowhere, and often seem to make no sense at the time. And, quite often, we do not even know they have in fact occurred until much later. We only know them by their effects, and then look back and seek causes for those effects.

When the big changes come, when a Change Quake happens that affects the whole world….ripples and aftershocks follow, spreading out from whatever the epicenter is this time….and spreading all around the world ….and into our lives.

Everybody’s lives.

Until the historical evidence is in all we can do as mere humans is try to understand it the best we can, analyze what is going on, see how it affects us, and try to adjust.

My analysis of what is going on in the world? I firmly believe we are in one of those times. In fact I believe we are in a veritable swarm of Change Quakes and ripples and after shocks. The main effect of which we can see at this time goes back to the utter fascism of Bush being replaced with….well whatever Obama turns out to be.

But those are just surface effects….signs, if you will…of a time that is without a doubt going to change all of our lives. The actual changes occur on a deeper level, one that we are ill-equipped to understand.

Change Quakes occur. They take time to ripple out, for the effects to be felt and sort themselves out…and then the results of those effects, the reactions cause change in and of themselves. Which of course, cause more changes and the chain reaction is on.

We may have had one of those effects of change here last night. Living in the hyper time of blogging, we feel the effects of such things relatively quickly, compared to most of the humans on the planet.

McChrystal’s “Chaosistan” plan calls for “Somalia like haven of chaos” managed by US from Outside

Crossposted at Daily Kos

War is Peace.

    The Military Industrial Complex meets the Terroism Industrial Complex.

     In his widely reported London speech earlier this month, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, described how people constantly offer him ideas for fixing that country’s problems. One of the more unusual recommendations, he suggested, came from a paper that advocated using a “plan called ‘Chaosistan.’ ” McChrystal said it advised letting Afghanistan become a “Somalia-like haven of chaos that we simply manage from outside,” but there was no further explanation of its origins.

Newsweek.com

Bold added by diarist

Much more below the fold

The Great Unicorn Flu Panic of 2009

Truth, Lies and Ridiculous Hyperbole

I admit it. I’ve been sneaking over to the GOS occasionally to keep up with the Novel H1N1 scuttlebutt amongst so-called Liberals/Progressives, just to see how much hypocrisy they would reduce themselves to spewing. Sort of like NASCAR, where people really go to see the spectacular, firey crashes more than to watch rednecks in souped-up tin cans go around in circles all day long.

First, I’ll say that in my region the Unicorn flu was already “widespread” (according to CDC) more than a month before any of the vaccines were available. All that’s now available is the live virus nasal spray. And seriously at-risk people can’t take the nasal spray, so it may be over FAPP. No schools have closed. No hospitals ended up with patients in tents in the parking lot. I think there have been one or two deaths, but there’s no readily available figures on that. CDC’s advice at this point is if you’re sick, stay home and don’t bother your doctor or hospital unless you’re really in trouble. Oh, and if you have flu, it’s Unicorn, not regular seasonal – which hasn’t hit yet.

Oh… and adverse reactions from vaccines aren’t reported either. Probably won’t be because it’s not something they want you to know.

Helen Caldicott’s “If You Love This Planet,” 2nd ed.: a review

This is a book review of the new edition of Helen Caldicott‘s “If You Love This Planet,” released this year.  It will examine the extent to which Caldicott can synthesize the great quantity of factual information presented in her book to help readers attain a wholistic view of “the metabolism between man and nature.”

(Crossposted at Big Orange)

Slouching Toward Dystopia



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In America one in nine are on Food Stamps. Around the world one in seven are Starving to Death.

The Meritocracy Myth

I’ve recently relocated to the Washington, D.C. area. In so doing, I’ve recognized the vast amount of good that can be accomplished with a combination of concentration of wealth and an educated populace situated in one precise location.  The all-important achievement of critical mass proves itself essential yet again.  Still, I have to say that I won’t ever be inclined to take these gifts for granted, like so many in this town seem inclined to do. Growing up where I did, even in the suburban South, I was raised without certain benefits and expectations upon which residents in this city would pitch a fit in protest if they were ever not provided.  For example, I did not have the ability to utilize adequate public transportation. Nor was I inundated with places to purchase organic produce or earth-conscious consumer goods.  I was never reminded to bring my own reusable grocery bags to the supermarket. Walmarts were never banned, instead they were embraced. Republicans were the people one lawn over, not someone miles away far removed from the hustle and bustle of the city.  Likely some family in the neighborhood refused to celebrate Halloween, leaving two bowls full of untouched religious literature instead of candy, thoroughly disappointing trick o’treaters in the process.

Every day on my way back and forth to do daily errands, I wade through a stream of college students whose parents must overwhelmingly well-off.  I know the parents must be, because these students never seem to have to work and I doubt they could afford the things they have on a waiter or waitresses’ salary.  Their privilege shows plainly, down to their expensive clothing, high-priced accessories, and nonchalant, dismissive attitudes.  Despite my best intentions, I admit with no small discomfort that I find it hard not to resent them.  In my own college days, admittedly still not that far in the rearview mirror, I recognize some slight similarities between them as they are now and the person I was a few years back, though the differences are far more glaring.  In seeking to avoid building my own personal mythology upon a foundation of smug superiority or paternalistic moralizing, I instead share my own story.

Though I was a scholarship student, my full college tuition was awarded on the basis of my being disabled.  Though there had been ominous rumblings ever since my birth, namely that I was a frequently sick child, the proper onset of my illness did not arrive until midway through high school.  After frequent, lengthy hospitalizations and other disease-related distractions, my grade point average plummeted.  Until then, I had been on track to go to more than a few schools whose very names themselves connoted mystical respect and unquestioned prestige.  However, by the time college appeared on the horizon and emerged from my latest pleasant hospital stay, I only qualified for in-state offers.  As such, I made my final decision purely on the sensible basis that I ought to stay close to my doctors, since it was highly likely I’d need extensive treatment in the near future. In hindsight, it was a wise decision, and one that proved to be correct, but to this day I have a hard time choking back my bitterness.  How I would have loved attending a prestigious school in a solidly blue city!

At the time, I didn’t realize that often the quality of instruction and educational merit of colleges and individuals isn’t vast, especially since college success is directly proportional to what one puts into it, but what cannot be discounted in the least are the networking opportunities that arise from attending a well-connected school.  What has made my recent job search difficult is that I simply did not have the opportunity to attend a noteworthy college or university.  I do recognize that this fact is due to external factors upon which I had absolutely no control and, as such, it’s not like my own laziness or academic underachievement are to blame.  Still, in this abysmal job climate, who you know, or who you know who knows someone who will go to bat for you is much more important than achievement or merit.  This is especially true in politics and probably has always been.

For example, my tenth grade English teacher became Laura Bush’s press secretary based on having been in a sorority with someone’s daughter, whose father happened to be a well-connected Republican.  On the Democratic side of the ball, I note that this past weekend I attended a huge house party held not far from Capitol Hill. Most of those who attended were Hill staffers, and though it would be a vast oversimplification to state that most of them clearly had not gotten their jobs based on their intellectual prowess alone, they did give every impression of being of the former frat boy persuasion.  One could also safely wager that they had achieved their positions in much the same fashion as my former teacher.  I need to point out here that those of us who believe in government’s inherent capability to skillfully, and competently solve a multitude of problems might have emerged somewhat less certain of it after spending a few hours uneasily rubbing shoulders and listening to conversations.

Andrew Jackson was the first President to advance the spoils system without any apology for the procedure, but I doubt he was the first to utilize it to reward supporters and well-connected constituents.  A rather large and glaring discrepancy exists between the system as it is and the one upon which we place our full trust.  Over the years, a multitude of reforms have been passed to level the playing field, which include everything from Affirmative Action to campaign finance reform, but regardless of intent, interpersonal connections or the lack thereof circumvent our best intentions.  To some degree, it’s understandable that we function in such a way. Anyone in a management position will feel more comfortable hiring someone whom he or she knows he or she can trust or whose good name can be reliably vouched for by someone he or she knows personally.  Even so, it’s people like me who never had the ability to make those sorts of connections in the first place who end up shortchanged.  Nor is this a system that leaves out purely the disabled.

Many highly-qualified candidates get shuffled to the bottom of the deck automatically. If they do not have an in to the established network, then they are much less likely to make it past the very first step.  Nor is this regrettable situation solely applicable to job seekers. It wasn’t until I moved here that I realized how overwhelmingly the Northeast corridor shapes so much of our national discourse and our national identity.  I have observed that those in the news business at times express a justified consternation at the kind of unilateral narratives that are advanced by the Washington-to-New York pipeline at the expense of the rest of the country’s news agencies.  Sometimes these mini-narratives hold water but often they prove themselves to be not quite as notable, nor as important as they’d like to believe.  Even as a child, I recognized how even the stories and historical anecdotes found in the textbooks I read in elementary school focused heavily upon the cities of the East Coast, as though by implication they themselves were all of America.  If the South, by contrast, was ever mentioned, one either read of a romanticized notion of chivalry and gallantry nearly a century out of date or as an invocation to hear again of the shameful history of a racist past—a past never allowed to be forgotten.  At times I feel a sort of kinship with modern day Germans, since I imagine they are never allowed to forget about the Holocaust, either.

As for the problem between the favoritism we have and the meritocracy we believe we have, this is a disconnect that will not change so long as the existing power structure does not recognize the problem and does not make the needed internal reforms.  Much like the entitled rich kids I file past every day, I doubt most even contemplate their own complicity in a system that, if they ever were questioned about it, they would wholly justify by saying that they were merely the latest to inherit it.  Like so many institutionalized and enmeshed inequalities, few feel any compulsion whatsoever towards reform because few give it serious contemplation.  If you’d like my unvarnished opinion, I think that until we get this particularly unfortunate discriminatory practice under control, we’ll run into complication after complication in every other reform measure we push.  It has been my experience that the most virulent ills are not the ones we can plainly see, but the overarching underpinnings and framework that are common to everyone, regardless of identity group or leaning. The basic premise of preferential treatment is not necessarily unjustified, but when we assume that brand name, family name, or college name trump everything else, then we run into massive problems.  The clothes do not make the emperor.

Docudharma Times Monday October 19




Monday’s Headlines:

Energy Firms Deeply Split on Bill to Battle Climate Change

India’s carbon fighters must wait

Top aides to Obama upbraid Wall St.

Inside the Islamic Emirate

Copenhagen climate talks are last chance, says Gordon Brown

Berlusconi’s TV channel stalks anti-bribes judge

India offers Sri Lanka funding to speed Tamils’ return home

Taleban militants put up stern resistance to South Waziristan offensive

Rumours of Western support for Iranian dissident militia groups have broad backing

Failed Iraqi asylum seekers ‘fear for lives’ in Baghdad

Mandelas, not Mobutus

Brazil vows Olympic security after Rio violence

Muse in the Morning

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Muse in the Morning

Liquid Fire:



(Click on image for larger view)

The muses are ancient.  The inspirations for our stories were said to be born from them.  Muses of song and dance, or poetry and prose, of comedy and tragedy, of the inward and the outward.  In one version they are Calliope, Euterpe and Terpsichore, Erato and Clio, Thalia and Melpomene, Polyhymnia and Urania.

It has also been traditional to name a tenth muse.  Plato declared Sappho to be the tenth muse, the muse of women poets.  Others have been suggested throughout the centuries.  I don’t have a name for one, but I do think there should be a muse for the graphical arts.  And maybe there should be many more.

I know you have talent.  What sometimes is forgotten is that being practical is a talent.  I have a paucity for that sort of talent in many situations, though it turns out that I’m a pretty darn good cook.  🙂  

Let your talent bloom.  You can share it here.  Encourage others to let it bloom inside them as well.

Won’t you share your words or art, your sounds or visions, your thoughts scientific or philosophic, the comedy or tragedy of your days, the stories of doing and making?  And be excellent to one another!

Late Night Karaoke

Open Thread

How to Change the World: Yell Louder (and DON’T Take Power)

You say you want to change the world?  Or even some small part of it?  Everyone says to do that you must take power.  State power is the appropriate tool for making change we’re told, on all sides, by parties and politicians of left, center and right.

But if the world is run by people chasing after power to remake the world in their own image by taking power, then how does pursuing power to change things and remake them in our image introduce any true change in the system?  That’s the question John Holloway asks in his book Change the World Without Taking Power.

In the beginning, he advises, we must take an action every DDBlogger knows quite well: yell louder.  In fact, scream.

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