Thursday, August 22, 2013

TBGO: Autos de Fe

A "faithful/believer" commentator asked, basically, why can't we--believers and non-believers--all be friends.

Woody tried to answer:
All proclamations of faith in "supernatural beings" in public discourse are ALWAYS intended to win for the proclaimers unearned, undeserved rhetorical advantage and authority. "God says" is a claim to irrebuttable authority. But it is (or should be) meaningless in the secular world, and deserving of  no more acknowledgement that if someone claimed "The Dog says..." The "faithful" would rightly scoff at such a claim about "the Dog," and thus may not suppose "the God" carries any more weight..

Thus: We can be friends as long as you don't insist that your (or ANY) "God" has a "legitimate" place in discussions of public law, regulation or conduct. We STOP being friends when anybody proclaiming your (or ANY) "God" decides their faith entitles "believers" any special status or privilege or standing.
In other words, it's your private business.

Truthfully, I don't want to know that or if even you believe. It doesn't MATTER. Unless you DON'T keep it to yourself and your co-religionists. Indeed, if I DO know your theistic position, then you/folks have, de facto, violated the public space.

For example:
Hassidic Jews in NYC wan the city to legislate certain accommodations to their "traditions."

Since civic government is responsible to ALL the people, no secular authority should ever endeavor to adjust the behaviors or the conduct of the "polis" to accommodate ANY special, sectarian demands from ANY cults or religions. To do otherwise is to force the whole of the People to submit to the "spiritual" whims of a minority--which would, I'm sure, be dreadfully aggrieved if they were forced to submit to antagonistic "beliefs" of some OTHER cult.

Which is why the "public" celebration of (e.g.) "Christmas" (per se), or "Good Friday," or "purim," is unacceptable. A civis may proclaim a seasonal holiday, or a commercial one. But as soon as it labels and locates the event in ANY theistic tradition, it violates the right of others NOT to behave according to imposed sectarian whim.

I'll close with this fervent prayer:

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

TBGO: No Choice (The Meme Bandit Rides Again)

 Caution: Poison

Yer Ol' Perfesser regardz this as one of the most insidious, odious, pernicious, and just-plasin dishonest 'memes' on the Netz. Period!

It's part of the discourse of 'victim-blaming'--and a central tenet of the enormously profitable business of "self-help." Think Dale Carneige or Norman Vincent Peale, or their latter-day avatars like Tony Robbins, Deepak Chopra, Eckhart Tolle, Osho, and their ilk. It is difficult to name a "self-improvement guru who hasn't helped themselves to the life-savings of the poor, miserable, tormented sheep who flock to them for guidance. I've known a few gurus, and their tastes seem universally to run to really GOOD Scotch, fast/blingy cars, and "sweet, young thangs," that groupie-dom provides so profligately. They have "choices."

But the rest of us aren't so lucky. Humans of less than regal means or incomes are HUGELY regimented, limited, and restricted in their options. Indeed, as one of Woody'z 'dichos' has it: "The wealthy make choices: San Tropez or Grenoble, the Porsche or the Merc.
"The poor make decisions: Food or rent or meds."

We ALL may exercise a certain amount of limited, local 'autonomy': who our friends are, where we live (sometimes), what we consume (somewhat), with whom we establish intimacies. But that's about it. So to rag at folks who haven't a pot to piss in about their difficult, possibly even squalid conditions being their own, personal fault/responsibility is to recklessly, and dishonestly, ignore all the social, historical, political and economic forces arrayed against them. Quite purposely arrayed, at least in part, against them, by the machinations of those who DO control the destinies of the millions, and seek to keep them supine and suppressed.

Yes, some people are lucky enough to escape the traps set before them at their birth (by the Oligarchz & Plutocratz intent on preserving their own privilege). There are 300+ MILLION people in the USofA. Laws of probability would dictate that some few of them could be expected to escape their leaden lots and achieve their golden potential. Great skill, great beauty, recognized early and developed can be the key to escaping even the most toxic circumstances, if only temporarily...

But the rest of us?

Well, the biggest choice one can screw up, of course, is in your choice of parents. If you didn't at LEAST catch a tiny break in the birth lottery (a decent door prize, if not the pot-o-gold) then what Thoreau said of our common condition--that "All men lead lives of quiet desperation"--must surely be your lot. The best one can hope for in that situation is to make YOUR desperation as noisy as possible.

It won't CHANGE anything, of course (well, in Wisconsin, it could get you arrested for simply singing), but it adds to the variety and the volume of the chorus.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

TBGO: The Highest Hurdle

Woody'z not a climate scientist. I'm a "social scientist," however, and am not unfamiliar with the rigors of knowledge work: research, development of theory, experimentation, peer review, etc.. So when a significant number of the most highly regarded, independent "minds" in a given field of endeavor agree on the meaning of certain phenomena, I am inclined to accept their verdict. I am therefore pretty sure that climate change is upon us.

Whether or not it is too late to do anything about it, or to ameliorate it to any significant degree, is a hotly debated topic about which I am not sufficiently expert to offer more than a cursory guess; but I am notably pessimistic by nature..

Howsoever it is resolved--if it can be--any effort to actually DO anything so will require an immense, hitherto unimaginable, almost total, GLOBAL effort, with all the political baggage which that entails. The project will be of an order of magnitude 10 to the 50th times greater than going to the moon required. The interdynamics of information, and commodification, and mediation, and commercialization and other instrumental and influential structural conditions of the existing, pervasive social and political arrangements create conditions in which violent antagonisms can be expected to erupt--outbreaks which would interfere with or even obstruct, possibly cripple the levels of international cooperation demanded to effect the changes required to affect the climatic catastrophes which would STILL threaten everyone.

The biggest obstacle I see is that the people who own and control all the machinery and resources upon which we ALL depend to an almost unimaginable degree to supply us with energy now are gonna demand to be paid to stop pumping, digging, refining and mining and burning all the stuff they "own."

Chevron is bigger, financially, than all but about a score or so of NATIONAL economies. Add Exxon/Mobil and BP, and you're up into the TOP 10...They're gonna demand to be reimbursed. Who's gonna buy 'em out? Those people have to be OUT of the game BEFORE any possible remediation can begin. If they're not, they'll screw it up.

And afterwards, who or what's gonna finance the "universalization"--could I say, the "ubiquitization"-- of clean replacements?

That's the major hurdle, it seems to me, and if anybody's talking about it, I haven't heard or seen a word...neither here nor at the beach, hippiez....Paz!!!

PS:  See the TomGram today, by Michael Klare, for further reinforcement of the points raised herein.

TBGO: Cynical Hypocrisy?

Photo: Chart: The U.S. deficit was already shrinking, and it is now projected to shrink even more in 2013. If expectations hold, Republicans will need to rewrite their favorite talking point.

Much is being and has been made over the recent announcements about the phenomenal shrinkage of the federal deficit. According to the punditocracy, the deficit shrunk further and quicker than Michelle Bachmann's husband's libido on their wedding night. It's being plrclaimed one of the highlights of Prez. Lowbar's tenure so far. Obot apologists are beside themselves, and the GOPhux are writhing, since the 'deficit' was one of their signature issues..

This "Obama Defeats Deficit" meme is very durable and persistent and seems to bring untold joy and pleasure to some quarters. It's touted with the same ardor as if it were a cure for economic AIDS.
But I'm curious why this is such a "good" thing. Truly, I wonder if the triumphalist know what they're celebrating?
"The Deficit" is mainly a GOPhux/Grasping Oligarchs & Plutocrats stalking horse/straw-man/whining point. The deficit (or surplus) is the differnce between income and outgo. Deficit means more outgo than income. Every regimes since FDR has run one.

Deficits are reduced when the difference between income and out-go is reduced. As mi amigos en Santa say, it's not rocket surgery, esse!

So: we know there haven't been any NEW sources of income; the GOPhux in the House have seen to that while busily voting 40 times to abolish PPACA (to the tune of $50 MILLION, so far).

Ergo: the deficit MUST have been reduced by DECREASING spending.
Prez. Lowbar has been a demon on restraining Gummint spending by not filling vacant posts in the bureaucracy, reducing the bureaucracy through attrition, and privatization. And the sequester has helped to reduce the deficit, too.

On whom have those reductions most disproportionately fallen?

I'll give you a hint: It WASN'T the top 1-5%.

Which leaves the rest of us, mainly the poor, elderly, young, disabled and forgotten. Former Obot economist Jared Bernstein thoughtfully provided a list. It is fgar from exhaustive, but it is instructive. And the consequences have been painful and palpable, all over the country, where necessary services have been reduced or withdrawn altogether. Real people are being hurt. But for what?

Now, really, somebody, please 'splain to me why the Obots are BRAGGING about this, since it's 1) really a GOP "victory," and 2) been achieved on the backs of the most vulnerable citizens??

One correspondent said the Obots and Dims are using the "fact" to rebut GOPhux talking points. It's a rhetorical win for Prez. LowBar and the Dims.

So in order to "attack the right," what you do is do their bidding, and impose economic pain on the poor, disabled, elderly and young. To score a rhetorical point?

Izzat right?

I feel faintly ill. Excuse me, hippiez, whilst I throw up a little in my throat.

Monday, August 5, 2013

TBGO: David Frum Twists His Pearls

David Frum long-time, "serious" apologist for all excesses Republican, has finally had enough. They've gone too far. He's had enough. They'd better not push him any further:
America desperately needs a responsible and compassionate alternative to the Obama administration’s path of bigger government at higher cost. And yet: This past summer, the GOP nearly forced America to the verge of default just to score a point in a budget debate. In the throes of the worst economic crisis since the Depression, Republican politicians demand massive budget cuts and shrug off the concerns of the unemployed. In the face of evidence of dwindling upward mobility and long-stagnating middle-class wages, my party’s economic ideas sometimes seem to have shrunk to just one: more tax cuts for the very highest earners.....

I can’t shrug off this flight from reality and responsibility as somebody else’s problem. I belonged to this movement; I helped to make the mess. People may very well say: Hey, wait a minute, didn’t you work in the George W. Bush administration that disappointed so many people in so many ways? What qualifies you to dispense advice to anybody else?...

The conservative shift to ever more extreme, ever more fantasy-based ideology has ominous real-world consequences for American society. The American system of government can’t work if the two sides wage all-out war upon each other: House, Senate, president, each has the power to thwart the others. In prior generations, the system evolved norms and habits to prevent this kind of stonewalling. For example: Theoretically, the party that holds the Senate could refuse to confirm any Cabinet nominees of a president of the other party. Yet until recently, this just “wasn’t done.” In fact, quite a lot of things that theoretically could be done just “weren’t done.” Now old inhibitions have given way. Things that weren’t done suddenly are done.
Woody thinks this is pretty much self-serving codswallop.
Bullshit, iow...
The question Frum asks is: When did the GOP lose their shit?
The answer is: The GOP lost their shit in 1992, when a trailer-trash,  philandering, pot-smoking
, ex-hippie, no-class, good-ol' boy, deep South Bubba--with the help of a big-eared carnival barker from Texas who was too wealthy to shut up or to BE shut up--ousted the reigning Brahmin, the annointed successor to the Great Communicator. THAT really stung.

They'd ALMOST lost it in '76, but Carter had at least been an officer in the Navy, and was an Academy grad. And STILL they cheated him out, by negotiating with the Mullahs to forestall the"October surprise."

But Clinton? He made 'em plumb, stone, raving crazy.
Early in Clenis' regime, there were open rumors of military insurreection. Senior officers were openly disrespectful. He didn't reprimand any of 'em, and revealed his weakness. And that weakness became the weakness of the whole political schema. There was a vacuum, and the Bosses' boyz filled it.

Ya see: The Federal State has always existed on a sort of "gentleman's agreement. There were no actual enforcement devices to prevent what the Oligarchz and Plutocratz, through their designated political satraps and avatars in Congress, the GOPhux, did. Which was just to refuse, any longer, to "play fair," and observe the "rules." There was never any way to prevent thugs from taking over if they decided to do so. And they did.

It was as if one team at a baseball game decided to start playing tackle and swinging bats at players, not just the ball: You couldn't STOP 'em...

And there's no way to dislodge 'em, as long as they have the leverage. And I do not see that diminishing any time soon. I think folks who predict Dim gains in the House must be on shrooms. I'm not convinced the Dims can hold the Senate. 

The conservotard "blowback" is barely even visible, yet. There's more to come.