October 31, 2009
1: Yesterday I sent in the final version of my Shakespeare paper. It had been causing me some distress, but with that out of the way I think the rest of the semester should go smoothly.
2: Recently I started watching The Prisoner, a classic 1967 tv-series in the tradition of the great dystopian novels: an unnamed secret agent in the James Bond mold is held prisoner by a faceless, bureaucratic tyranny. “I am not a number! I am a free man!” In every episode They try to break his spirit and sense of identity in order to coax from him all his secrets, while he resists them and tries to escape. In fact, a mere two weeks from now in November a pseudo-remake of it will air, in six episodes. The remake stars Ian McKellen as the chief antagonist and Jim Caviezel as the hero. Caviezel is admittedly a bit of a right-wing nutter, but IAN MCKELLEN dammit!
Here is a short trailer for the remake. Supposedly a much longer trailer (nine minutes) was shown at this year’s Comicon, but I can’t seem to find it anywhere. I will be watching it, assuming I can get hold of it immediately, and will let you know how it is.
3: The Birthers, the conspiracy theorists who believe that Barack Obama was secretly born in Kenya and was smuggled into Hawaii as a child as part of a fifty-year plan to destroy America, and is therefore an illegal immigrant and ineligible to serve as President. We saw them previously here, and one of the people in that Jon Stewart clip, Orly Taitz, the Birther Lawyer, remains determined to make a laughing stock of herself before every judge she’s appeared before. After they dismiss her obviously insane rantings as frivolous, she accuses them of treason for not wanting to… overthrow a democratically elected government via extralegal means.
4: Speaking of Jon Stewart. This clip is about the current “debate” about Fox News. Recently Obama’s press secretary astonished the world (or at least the DC press corps) by acknowledging the obvious point that Fox News is not a “news” outfit at all. This was completely unheard of in their little world, and all the other supposedly “liberal” news networks rushed to Fox’s defense, saying that if Bush had ever done anything like that it would have been outrageous and the media would never have stood for it. Well, needless to say Bush DID do that, and there was no media outrage whatsoever (Fox in particular eagerly supported and cheered on what they now call Stalinism), and now they’re all pretending it never happened. There’s a reason the Daily Show’s viewers are far better informed than the viewers of all the so-called news networks.
5: Homophobes are crazy. You all remember Prop 8, the Republicans’ only silver lining of naked bigotry in a sky of distressingly liberal rainclouds preparing to douse the wildfires of conservative policies running rampant through the forests of overextended metaphors. Ahem. Last year in California the voters narrowly citizen’s-vetoed the bill permitting same-sex marriage in the state, thanks mainly to a huge influx of time and money by the Mormons. Right now Maine is in the same situation: in a mere few days a special election driven forward by religious conservatives will decide whether gay marriage remains legal. The pro-equality side in Maine is a hell of a lot better funded and organized than they were in California last year, but it’s still very close. If the law survives it will be the first time a popular vote has ever supported gay marriage.
6: Joe Lieberman, the Independent Senator from Connecticut (the Democratic voters kicked him out in 2006 but the Democratic Party leadership have kept him around anyway, like some senile old woman who remains convinced that the rabid dog running up and down the street searching for more babies to kill is really just an adorable puppy), is making noises to the effect that he won’t vote for cloture for the public option. I’ll leave it at that for the moment because I feel Joe Lieberman deserves a post all to himself.
October 28, 2009
First of all, a Republican President of the US has in fact won the Nobel Peace Prize, Teddy Roosevelt in 1906 for negotiating peace between Russia and Japan in his inimitable fashion.
(Gotta love Kate Beaton)
Secondly, Conservapedia, last seen encouraging the murder of Democratic Senators, has found its new reason for existing: rewriting the Bible to remove “liberal bias”. I am not joking in the slightest. This started some weeks ago, so everyone else has already been there and torn them to pieces, you’ll just have to forgive me for being late on the ball. Things they want to change include removing things like Jesus saying “Forgive them father, they know not what they do” and “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” Basically they want Jackass Jesus, or Ayn Rand Jesus, or maybe Supply-Side Jesus. Oh, and remove all words like “comrade” and “labor”. Again, I’m not joking.
Thirdly, I need to start taking more thorough notes of events as they come along so I don’t run out of links. There is a galaxy of things to discuss out there, but without someplace to start you’ll soon find yourself crippled. Try to remember a hundred things, and you will forget all of them, it seems.
October 18, 2009
I know, I know, I’ve had a turbulent week. Went from an extreme low to an extreme high and am now somewhere in the middle, with two papers that urgently need to be worked on this upcoming week and a third one that I should get started on as well.
I must confess the student life is starting to really get on my nerves.
October 11, 2009
Liz Cheney, daughter of Dick Cheney, believes that the Peace Prize – one of the criteria for which, mind you, is that the recipient “worked to reduce standing armies” – should be given to the largest standing army in the world, with this as the acceptance speech. And Bill Kristol, one of the biggest warmongers in America, who has been urging war with Iran non-stop for many many years, says: “President Obama and I have done about the same amount to bring about world peace, I think.”
There you go. That’s the Republican attitude to “peace”: it’s for liberal wusses, and the fact that there’s a so-called “prize” for it is a personal affront to America.
October 10, 2009
As we all know, Jimmy Carter won the Peace Prize in 2002 and Al Gore in 2007. When was the last time a Republican won it? Has one ever? I don’t know.
Jimmy Carter is sometimes described as “the best ex-president the US has ever had”. He was a pretty mediocre President*, they say, but once he was out of office he started doing great things. Al Gore went on to become an international authority on climate change and environmentalism. Bill Clinton, of course, has also continued working on the International Idealism scene, so to speak, and no doubt Obama will as well once he’s out of office and freed from the need to do stupid and destructive things to attract stupid and misanthropic voters.
Here’s the thing: Democrats win Nobel Peace Prizes because they actually have good, benign, constructive ideals to work towards. Republicans don’t win Nobel Peace Prizes because, well, they’re not in fact interested in peace. I can only imagine that a Republican Plan For Peace would consist of a list of all the countries they want to go to war with, followed by “And once we’ve won all the wars, we’ll have peace!”
The other point is this clip of liberal commentator Rachel Maddow doing her thing.
*: Not that I actually agree. I think Jimmy Carter’s problem was that the right thing to do in response to the oil crisis of the late 70s was horribly unpopular. It was still the right thing to do, and because he lost reelection to Ronald Reagan (“Don’t listen to that meanie who’s telling you to restrain your materialism – so long as you clap your hands the fairies will make everything all right!”) he couldn’t do it, and America’s oil situation has been a 30-year nightmare ever since which continues to wreak havoc with the world economy.
October 10, 2009
October 9, 2009
This morning we all found out two things.
First thing: Barack Obama is the winner of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.
Second thing: the American right has begun pushing for impeachment of Barack Obama.
The impeachment stuff started before the Nobel announcement, so it wasn’t in response to it or anything, but I don’t think it will stop them. When Al Gore won the prize a couple of years ago the right called it a “terrorist prize” because it had been given to Yasser Arafat (shared with Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres, the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Israel, a detail they often seem to forget).
I’m not sure how I feel about it myself. As I’ve said before, I’m not a dyed-in-the-wool Obamaniac: I don’t agree with all his policies, and I think often he plays his cards excessively timidly, sacrificing achievement for an empty dream of comity. He’s started doing a lot of things, but hasn’t finished anything significant yet. And it is, after all, only his first year in office. So why did they give him the prize? This is as good an explanation as any. That, in short, it wasn’t as much for what he’s done, as for what he has promised to do, and that the Nobel Committee wants to encourage him to act on. It’s a bit of a gamble. We’ll have to wait and see if it pays off.
October 5, 2009
Paul Krugman, to be sure, is not best known as a blogger. He’s a Professor of Economics at Princeton University (and other places), a New York Times columnist, and the winner of the 2008 Nobel Prize in Economics. But he does have a blog, at the New York Times homepage, for which reason I feel justified in including him. An outspoken critic of the Bush administration throughout its eight years, Krugman is another highly respected name in liberal circles online. As an academic economist and generally smart person, he looked (and continues to look) at various government policies and lets us all know whether they are founded in reality.He is the prime example of the pervasive know-nothingism of the American public discourse. His tendency to say things that were true but which all the media elites would prefer to ignore earned him the nickname “the shrill one”, as his warnings would consistently be responded to not by arguing that he was wrong, but by declaring that he was “shrill”, uncivil and hysterical, and could safely be ignored, even as his warnings kept coming true.
Krugman, needless to say, writes a lot about economic policy, and is far too heavy for me to actually follow when he does, but he also writes a lot of more accessible material about the general ideology of policies. His book The Conscience of a Liberal is entirely accessible, and very good.
Fall set in for reals this week. I live in a country where it gets cold and then it STAYS cold for a very, very long time, and this is not something that agrees with me. I get crushing depressions interrupted by bouts of narcissistic megalomania. It is my solemn and intense ambition to flee the country come newyear, at least for the winter but ideally forever.
I’m still working on this Shakespeare paper; it’s due on Friday. It’s only a first draft so I will try not to work myself to my grave over it. But it could be going better.
Next on my reading list is Toni Morrison’s Beloved, which I’ve been told is a fabulous book but godDAMN these academics love their depressing novels. It starts with the black family living in the house that is haunted by the ghost of the mother’s baby, who she killed so he wouldn’t be taken away by the then-enslaved mother’s owner. It goes downhill from there.
I still haven’t had occasion to get back to my own novel, but at least I’ve started thinking about it again. For that first month I could not think about it at all, and unfortunately that resulted in falling out of the editing-zone. Getting back in will take some time.
Amarula is delicious. It is in fact the only tasty thing I’ve had this past week. These dark periods are also marked by losing the will to eat. The food just stops tasting good. But as you know, Bob, Amarula is an alcoholic beverage, and I probably shouldn’t drink so much of it. Every night.
This first paper will more than likely be the hardest one. The following papers are about easier things. So that’ll be nice, at least for a while.
I know there haven’t been many posts even after my course ended, which is a shame, and I know apologizing for it and promising to get better is itself a sign of impending cancellation of the entire enterprise, so it’s a little hard for a genre-savvy person to know what to do. But American politics is a strange beast. It’s huge, but it’s really all the same. After the Bush years, every new event feels like a rerun: one party is clinically insane, and the other is spineless and reliably caves in to the first, and “balance” and “compromise” are defined as “half sensible, half insane”, except in reality it’s always more than half insane, and the entire public discourse is dominated by the same people who propped up the Bush machine and are intensely eager to conceal their complicity while trying desperately to avoid the sane party doing any better. Even if I weren’t already prone to depressions then following American politics would get me there. But given that almost every single event falls into that one-sentence formula I just wrote out, it’s hard to know what else to say on any given day.
Have some Alan Grayson. Grayson is a newly elected Democratic congressman who exploded into the public consciousness recently when he went out on the House floor and gave this speech, in which he described the Republican health care plan as this: “Step 1: Don’t get sick. Step 2: If you do get sick, die quickly.” Needless to say, the Republicans (who, you will recall, spent all of August saying that the Democratic legislation included “death panels”) were outraged and demanded an apology. This was Alan Grayson’s response (not very good quality).
Or how about the great cheer that erupted among the right at the news that Chicago would not host the 2016 Olympics? Us non-sports-interested non-Americans don’t really care much either way, of course, but let’s be entirely honest, the American right would rather see America fail than win while a Democrat is President. That’s all there is.
How about the article in a conservative newspaper hoping that military leaders could be persuaded to depose Obama in a coup.
And so on and so on. I think I’ll stop there for tonight.
October 2, 2009
Once I say “the Public Option” is looking probable,” of course, immediately it takes a hit by not being included in the bill out of the Senate Finance Committee.
Here’s the odd thing: different healthcare-reform bills have come out of several different committees, and most of them do include the PO. They could bring any of those plans up for a vote. The Senate Majority Leader decides what bill they vote on. Unfortunately the Senate Majority Leader is Harry Reid, and Harry Reid is, well, a bit of a schmuck. He’s one of those Democrats who loves nothing better than to work hard to weaken his own party and strengthen his opponents. In this case he had declared ahead of time that he would not bring a bill with the PO to the floor, and he did this just before they were set to vote on the PO in the Finance Committee; needless to say because of that a number of Democrats voted against it.
Another twist comes thanks to the undemocratic design of the Senate that I talked about here and here, as final proof that yes it does matter a great deal: the minority of Senators on the Finance Committee that voted for the PO represent far more voters than the majority that voted against it.
But this reluctance of Harry Reid’s to do anything other than what Republicans want brings me back to FISA, the great legislative collapse of the Democratic majority of 2007-2008. I mentioned it here, but didn’t go into much detail. The relevant point here is that Harry Reid actually went out of his way to push legislation favored by Republicans and opposed by Democrats, legislation aimed at covering up criminal behavior by the Bush administration and ensuring that their lawbreaking could continue. Harry Reid did everything in his power to push legislation that his own party opposed. Harry Reid never met a Republican filibuster that he didn’t meekly submit to, but actually pushed back against a Democratic filibuster by Senator Chris Dodd against the FISA amendment. Harry Reid, in short, is a craven, spineless coward. During 2007-2008 he never really achieved anything much, but only whined that merely having a majority in the Senate isn’t enough to get anything done (mainly because he himself refused ever to fight against Republican filibusters), and now that he a filibuster-proof majority of 60 votes, he… spends all his time whining that he doesn’t have enough votes to get anything done.
There’s a subject that demands a longer and more in-depth post than I think I am capable of devoting to it, namely a study of the extent to which the Democratic leadership has tools they could use to push things through, but refuse to do so as a matter of principle. They’ve done it lots of times quite recently. They begin debates by declaring that they will not use this or that tool, and thereby put themselves in a weakened position right off the start, sometimes just plain declaring that they will give the Republicans veto-power over everything. They start off by arguing for a weak position and then compromise on it, making it weaker still (as they did with the stimulus package this spring, where they began by asking for significantly less money than economists said was needed (thus ensuring that the stimulus wouldn’t actually work, allowing the opposition to make the argument that the stimulus was entirely wrong from the start) and then compromising from that). The entire Public Option, you recall, is a compromise, because Obama decided from day one that he would not push for a truly universal system of coverage like single-payer, even though all the experts agree such a system would be cheaper, more effective, and in hindsight would probably have been easier to pass and implement as well. And so on and so forth.