Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Moonlight and hate songs...

... never out of date. Apparently, we must remember this.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


Okay, not really. Just another I-told-you-so from Paul Kassandra. From his mouth/pen/keyboard to Gallup's/Silver's/Pew's ears.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Good polls

This is most encouraging. Of course, it may not only be because people "see through the lies," as Sirota chooses to emphasize. It may also simply be that these pension plans are familiar and trusted. But it's heartening, at the very least, that teachers aren't demonized by a large majority. Bodes well not only for public pensions but also for a pushback against education deform.

Also, it's nice to see Pew called out -- especially at the moment Andy Kohut is going on NPR pushing the meme that the problems with Obamacare's rollout are the political equivalent of Hurricane Katrina. Right.

Saturday, September 28, 2013


I haven't done any Shakespeare here, but the "Great Performances" broadcast of Henry IV Part One, in their "Hollow Crown" series (the second quartet of history plays, Richard II through Henry V) prompts a brief and rueful note.

This production does neither my nom de plume nor us any favors. Simon Russell Beale (as the corpulent knight) and director Robert Goold have drained most of the energy and joy from this most exuberant figure in world literature. No longer witty in himself, he is barely the cause that wit is in other men.

Perhaps they decided that there was no way to outdo Orson Welles for sympathetic theatricality, and sought to go small. Perhaps they were single-mindedly focused on the titular kings of these plays, and needed to reduce Falstaff to a bit player in order to let Hal own the action. Whatever their motivation, however, the result is neither the play nor the great improvisatory genius Shakespeare wrote. We get instead a nervous, petty, plangent hanger-on, more fearfully introspective than expansive and free. This is the story as it might have been dramatized by flacks for the shape-shifting political animal Henry V, not by sweet, kind, true, valiant and therefore more valiant, being, as he is, old Jack Falstaff. 

They have banished from Harry's and our company the Life Force of Eastcheap... and so have banished all the world.

Sunday, September 22, 2013


Robert Reich puts it pithily: "The Republican Party is no longer capable of governing the nation. It's now a fanatical group run out of right-wing states by a cadre of nihilists, Know-nothings, and a handful of billionaires."

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Breathless - updated

Norm Ornstein is a sane person, and therefore is a bout de souffle about today's Repugs. Honestly, how can anyone look himself or herself in the mirror today while Republican? Even when you understand why, maybe none dare call it treason, but it sure is cruel and unusual.

Update: Maybe the mirrors are too dusty. Or, more likely, we're on the other side of the looking glass.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Go global

This plea for moderation is well-meaning, but misses the key point. If simply pounding one's six-point fist of values on the table were enough to produce a modern society, today's Middle East would be a very different place.

The underlying problem is that the region has been addicted to a drug -- oil money -- and has to break its habit. Its economy has to make the difficult shift to a multi-industry, global base. Both the Isamists and the legacy dictators are seeking to own the oil money -- this is a boardroom struggle for control of OPEC. Neither is a friend of a more diverse economy, because that requires skills and legitimacy neither possesses or is capable of acquiring. The deeper irony, of course, is that they're fighting to have the best deck chairs on the Titanic -- but that only increases the desperation of their struggle.

The only hope here is for the new generations of the Arab countries to embrace globalization, like their age cohort in Asia and Latin America (and now like those to their south in Africa). This struggle cannot be resolved by one abstraction ("modernism") defeating another abstraction ("traditionalism" or "fundamentalism" or "extremism"). That way "Wars on Terror" lie. Such struggles are inherently irresolvable -- they are struggles between Good and Evil, God and Satan. They are, in fact, built not to be resolved; their subtext is the impossibility of resolution or progress, period. (Adam Curtis shows this kind of meeting of the fundamentalist minds nicely in his famous documentary, The Power of Nightmares.)

Of course, there are problems inherent in globalization. Its critics on the Left believe it to be nothing more than the propaganda of corporatism, and they think that embracing it is just another form of slavery. I disagree. The unreconstructed Marxist Left is as much of a religion, with as cardboard a Satan, as any of these other traditional cults. To become one planet is not inherently corporatist, any more than it is inherently religious or proletarian. If it has an unquestioned belief, it is the belief in the science of complexity, emergence and networks. I'm sure we'll eventually figure out what's wrong with that paradigm -- as we have with those of Ptolemy and Newton. But for now, I'll stick with it, and I'll maintain that the politics and economics it implies are inherently global and inherently liberal and progressive. I'll therefore further maintain that putting chips down on that square -- e.g., embracing free trade... taking a whole-earth view of production, as well as of the natural environment... focusing attention of the emerging global cities of the urbanizing planet... and more -- holds out the best hope for actually building and sustaining modern, tolerant, innovative, equitable societies.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Strange days - Updated

I have no idea how things will play out in Egypt, but one can't help but be struck by the deep strangeness of the military's ultimatum to Morsi. A Middle East country's military is requiring that its Islamic-led government, heretofore a proxy for "the Arab street," "satisfy" the demands of masses of protesters or be ousted.

Update: Again, it's early to draw any conclusions, but the most striking thing in the wake of the coup in Egypt is the absence of major outcry from the Islamic jihadis of the world. I would guess that most Egyptians feel good (or neutral) about the ouster of Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood -- in large part because they were shown as not being ready for prime time. They couldn't run a country. But in a hyper-theologized culture, such mundane concerns are secondary. When everything is framed in terms of good and evil, the point is entirely which side you're on. So how come they're not giving up a good geshrei about their side being thrown out? Maybe it's because of factionalism or sectarianism -- and maybe the whole thing will devolve -- perhaps into some species of Sunni-Shiite warfare. Still, I would have expected louder denunciations from around the Middle East.

Update 2: Well, it certainly was early to jump to conclusions. Watch out below.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The new Democratic era

I've been expecting this for awhile, in my conventional, Schlesingeresque way. Of course, there are many 'externalities' that will affect how the era rolls out -- including the lingering impact of GOP gerrymandering. But more and more, the key political battles will be fought within the Democratic Party, not by it.

Monday, March 18, 2013

"The past isn't dead; it isn't even past."

Dick was trickier than we knew -- sabotaging a chance to end the Vietnam War in 1968, and providing a very different explanation of Watergate. Tin soldiers and Nixon's coming, indeed.

Saturday, March 9, 2013


Piercing the veil again. The American Moneyed Taliban marches on.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

I knew he'd be happy

George Lakoff, that is. Happy that Obama, at long last, is using a progressive frame -- and that it seems to be taking.

The only thing Lakoff misses is the full import of Obama's "They deserve a vote" litany. It's not only moral shaming on the issue at hand -- though surely it is that. It's also a direct attack on anti-governmentism in general. It frames legislating, per se, as a moral responsibility -- and by extension, governing as a moral responsibility. The GOP has become the NOP(E), the Party of No, of nullification, of Grover Norquist's bathtub. And the delicious irony is that the attempted drowners have become the drownees. Just as the Dems rendered themselves basically unelectable in the 70s and 80s by rejecting the exercise of power, so now the Republicans have rendered themselves unelectable by rejecting the functioning of government.

We wuz framed, and now they iz framed.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Wedge issues - Updated

What if Newtown hadn't happened? Would we be seeing this battle royal move out of the wings and take center stage? Almost certainly not. And yet it might be that this is exactly the kind of political fight Obama and the Dems need. Because what it will do -- what it has already done and will continue to do -- is bring the deepest, darkest parts of the Republican soul out of the woodwork. It's Pavlovian -- their most lovingly fantasized bait. And that will be the political gift that keeps on giving.

These nutjobs are already threatening impeachment, secession and armed insurrection. Another few months of this, and the GOP will be lucky to hold onto the House in 2014 -- in spite of a decade's worth of gerrymandering. And you just know the next few months will not simply be a gusher of paranoia porn. There will be incidents. There will be a Ruby Ridge or two. There may even be assassination attempts. In fact, if it were to be announced tomorrow that one had been uncovered that was planned for the Inauguration, would a single person be surprised?

What Obama has done by going strong at gun control here is to make the political calculation to play offense, to drive a wedge issue, rather than avoid it. He's making the bet that Cuomo made with gay marriage -- that the game is about to change, and the winning play is to catch that wave. For a generation we have accepted the omnipotence of the NRA. Taking them on was simply unthinkable politically. And yet here Mr. Compromise is doing just that with flags flying.

Yes, I do believe he was personally affected deeply by Newtown -- you could see it in his statements. He's not a good actor, and he wasn't faking that. He really does love his daughters. (And, btw, how cringe-worthy was the NRA ad linked to above that makes them the focus of anti-Obama rage? The political instincts of these new death-wish (pun intended) crazies are perfect. They can't help saying the most offensive things imaginable.)

Still, time has passed since Newtown, and I would not have bet a couple of weeks ago that he would go to the mat on this. The fact that he is doing so tells me that he is seizing a political opportunity, arguably for the first time, to deliver a fatal blow. He is laying the bait, and they will take it, and they will scare the shit out of the majority of American voters. The GOP will get indelibly linked to James Yeager et al. And yes, they will continue to carry 30 percent of the vote and maybe 40 percent of the counties, but they will drop from a minority-Congressional party to an interest group.

I used to think the GOP would spend a decade or two in the wilderness and then come back. I now wonder whether they are on the way to being the 21st century Whigs.

Update: And speaking of 19th century political analogies, how about 18th century political origins? This history of the 2nd Amendment is fascinating.