Without Feathers – Tomasky version

Mike Tomasky writes for The Guardian and maintains an excellent blog there. And any readers familiar with the New York Review of Books will have come across his dependably bright, tempered and well-written essays on the US political world.

On his blog today, he responds to a question put to him in the comments section. The question and answer in full  (I’ll comment later):

Commenter ravcasleygera (are you new? welcome) asked me on the last thread:

Just out of interest, Michael: do you ever actually think, ‘I give up?’ Have their been moments in this spectacularly depressing period since about six months into the Obama presidency where you have just thought: ‘American democracy is broken beyond repair?’, or, ‘the slow dismantling of the state is unavoidable?’

I’m not being facetious, I just genuinely wonder. People seemed so convinced the 2006-8 results meant some sort of leftward swing, the end of the Reagan era…. now that energy seems to have been replaced by libertarianism, of all things? Do you think it’s hopeless? Do others?

Well, no, I don’t give up. But my darkest fear goes something like this. Historically speaking, the conservative movement started in the late 1950s. It took a long time but it seized real power in 1980. Results were mixed, it retreated for a bit (Clinton), then roared back to power in 2000.

Living these events in real time, the general view of them, I think, has been, well, those were their two best shots, and now they’re bound to lose steam. You didn’t have to think that the 2008 election signaled a liberal renaissance (and I did not) to think that a 50-year old movement that hadn’t produced a truly new idea in a long time was running out of gas.

But now I think: taking the longer historical view, it may well be that the Reagan and Dubya years were just warm-up acts, and that the conservative movement has yet to behold its triumph. The amount of money corporate titans can now pump into politics, the level of activism, the utter inability of the media to call lies lies, the weakness of the Democrats…we may be in for a 40-year descent, until there is no Social Security and there are no environmental regulations and so on and so on, and it’ll take a couple of generations for Americans to see the grim effects of that kind of country and decide that pension security and regulation weren’t such horrible ideas after all, and America will have to spend 20 years, from about 2050 to 2070, rebuilding an apparatus of state that was built a century before but dismantled. Worst of all, of course, is that according to the actuarial tables, I will die during the descent.

As with Tiny Tim’s empty chair in the corner, it doesn’t have to be this way. But it might. I’m answering the question ravcasleygera asked.


Without Feathers

It is becoming increasingly difficult to imagine how the US is going to avoid further decline, both economically and politically. The gears of governance are being jammed and corrupted, quite purposefully and often quite explicitly, by those who stand to gain in wealth and power from the negation of the institutions which have been constructed for the precise purpose of preventing such isolated and undemocratic accretions of wealth and power as these people now have and wish to increase.

Anyone detached from the mythologies which presume that America will, axiomatically – as a consequence of the perfection and magic of its constitution or as a consequence of God’s discriminating grace or because of some fount of ‘common sense’ – be exempt from frightening internal turmoil or degradation into serious and widespread poverty (or both of those along with oppressive police-state controls which modern technology might so easily facilitate)  can’t be at ease with what we are witnessing.

My argument is not that these things will happen but rather that they could. And that such possibilities are nearer than most suppose.

Over the next while (though time is scarce) I will try to lay out why I’ve come to such a negative perspective here. Can we grant right off the top that I may well have some of this wrong?

Art. I know it when I see it.

h/t crooks and liars

Thank you, Ma’am

GA Woman To State Judiciary Committee: DoD Implanted A Microchip Inside Me

You debate an odd bill, you hear some odd testimony. But this…

The Georgia House Judiciary Committee took up a bill last week that would “prohibit requiring a person to be implanted with a microchip,” and would make violating the ban a misdemeanor. According to a report in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, one exchange from the hearing could have been ripped right from Dr. Strangelove.

The Journal-Constitution reports that things started getting weird when a woman who described herself as a resident of DeKalb County told the committee: “I’m also one of the people in Georgia who has a microchip.” Apparently no lawmaker took this as a warning sign, and she was allowed to continue her testimony.

“Microchips are like little beepers,” the woman told the committee. “Just imagine, if you will, having a beeper in your rectum or genital area, the most sensitive area of your body. And your beeper numbers displayed on billboards throughout the city. All done without your permission.”

“Ma’am, did you say you have a microchip?” state Rep. Tom Weldon (R) asked the woman.

“Yes, I do. This microchip was put in my vaginal-rectum area,” she replied.

No one laughed. State Rep. Wendell Willard (R), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, asked her who had implanted the chip.

“The Department of Defense,” she said.

Willard thanked the woman for her input, and the committee later approved the bill.

Technical term for this device, we presume, is “the Sprite”.

Ill Fares The Land

This is from Tony Judt, a regular contributor to the NYRB, one of the smartest people around and an excellent writer. This is highly recommended.

Something is profoundly wrong with the way we live today. For thirty years we have made a virtue out of the pursuit of material self-interest: indeed, this very pursuit now constitutes whatever remains of our sense of collective purpose. We know what things cost but have no idea what they are worth. We no longer ask of a judicial ruling or a legislative act: Is it good? Is it fair? Is it just? Is it right? Will it help bring about a better society or a better world? Those used to be the political questions, even if they invited no easy answers. We must learn once again to pose them.

The materialistic and selfish quality of contemporary life is not inherent in the human condition. Much of what appears “natural” today dates from the 1980s: the obsession with wealth creation, the cult of privatization and the private sector, the growing disparities of rich and poor. And above all, the rhetoric that accompanies these: uncritical admiration for unfettered markets, disdain for the public sector, the delusion of endless growth.

full piece here


Regardless of all the rest of the cases, there are those instances where a male and female doing a song together just really works magically.  Here’s two.  The second has no visual but that will be easy to ignore.  Both real gems.

The changing times. Or not.

Here’s an interesting comparison of pro-labor posters from 1923 and now.

labor posters

These images are quite rich, really.  The main trope in both is also the same one that Reagan famously used with his “I’t s anew dawn in America!” slogan.  The rolled-up shirt sleeves is typically used by multi-millionaire politicians like Bush Jr. to hopefully draw parallels to da woikers .  And Brownie, of Katrina-failure fame, as he was about to give a televised interview in the midst of that crisis, was advised by the PR people doing the filming to roll his sleeves up for the sake of this imagery.

But an interesting difference here is where the dawn is rising – the city in the first and anywhere-but-the-city-please in the second.

h/t Andrew Sullivan

Addendum: Notice the differing scale of the humans and backgrounds.   The first figure is imposing over the background.  If this guy doesn’t end up doing something heroic, he’ll think himself to have failed (though his wife will forgive him).  The second fellow seems to be hoping that he might be able to turn things around with his new career in real estate sales.  And that second graphic looks rather like a brochure from a bank, don’t you think?  Whereas the first poster is THE visual representation you’d never find on a bank wall.