Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Will the "Progressive" Blogosphere Grow Up or Implode?

Hard to say. Right now, things are in flux, and that's always an interesting period, but it is froughtful as well.

Jane-as-Kali seems to have had her meds adjusted, or maybe she wasn't all that interested in HEADS! after all. There is still her smoldering animosity toward Those Who Have Crossed-and-Thwarted Her (Rahm, Hadassah, Holy Joe, among others), but since her alliance of convenience with her Toad Prince Grover Norquist garnered so much attention, she's almost calmed down, and can sometimes be as sweetly rational as ever.

Toad Grover, it seems to me, is looking for relevance in this Neo-Liberal phase, but he's always had a tendency to hook up with anyone who would show him due deference and play his Let's Punch Some Hippies and Destroy the Democrats game. It's just the way he is.

Attendance at the Church of Jane seems to have dropped off precipitously after an initial burst of clamor that attracted hordes of Libertarian zombies. They may still be there, but if they are, they are keeping a low profile. Most of the chatter is by Jane herself, a small core of writer/acolytes, and a couple of dozen regular commenter, some of whom seem to be satisfied with saying "Jane's nuts" every now and then.

But the argument is actually getting much better. Cassiodorus has a knock-out analysis of the Neo-Liberal programs and policies that are being adopted and pushed by the Obama regime, On Anti-Corporatism And Its Critique that should be required reading for anyone who wants to understand what's going on beyond the intercine struggle and get some hints on what to do about it. David Dayen points out that "personalities" have overwhelmed the consideration of policy, The Fannie/Freddie Uncapping: More Important Than the Coalition Questioning It, and Jane Herself gets into a consideration of a defense of Libertarians, Libertarians on Establishment Demonization, all of which tends to add some yeast to the dough and actually start bending the curve (my, how certain phrases just trip off the tongue!) of OUTRAGE!!!!™ back toward what's really gone wrong and what to do about it.

Over at dKos, high dudgeon at Jane's misbehavior still reigns, now with calls to ban her crazy ass and those of her paid minions. I won't link, because to my mind it doesn't further the discussion of what's wrong and what to do about it as it is still based on personality. Oh, and the dKos tactic of banning anyone who strays off the reservation.

What's most interesting to me about all this ferment is that there was no equivalent ferment -- together with calls to overthrow the Powers That Be (let alone identifying what those Powers really were) -- during the Bush years. any hint of such a thing was immediately suppressed, shushed and shouted down. You simply could not talk in crypto-Revolutionary terms with regard to Bushevism in the Lefty Blogosphere. It was considered Rude, but more to the point, it was considered Dangerous. The Stasi was watching everything, and the Gulags were waiting.

Now? Not so much.

Is it because the Regime has changed, or is it something else? Why would crypto-Revolutionary cant and rhetoric be suppressed during the Neo-Conservative phase of Corporate Rule, but be released in full cry during the Neo-Liberal phase? Could it be because there was an unspoken "agreeance" among some of the prominent Lefty Bloggers that the Bushevik Program was pretty much OK with them? And could the hyped up chants of "Revolution Now!" actually be trying to set the conditions to lead back to Bushevism?

Is there really a nostalgia for Bushevism?

The constant through this, now being discussed in public, is the libertarian influence on what passes for "Progressive" these days. Libertarians certainly had their issues with Bushevism, but the overarching Republican themes of Lower Taxes and Less Government (whether or not they were instituted) are very appealing to the Libertarian soul. On the other hand, the more forthright, "You gotta pay for this shit, and follow the rules too," coming from Team Obama is aggravating to Libertarians, sufficiently, apparently, to drag them from their general argumentation to specific calls to Overthrow the System and start anew.

They also tend to think that Bush was strong and to be feared, while Obama is weak and to be undermined (like Clinton or Carter dontchaknow).

Anti-Corporatism is the New Thing these days, discussed openly, though by no means clearly understood. Opposing Corporatism is one thing, what to do about it is something else again, and apart from the Revolutionary act of casting a vote "we" don't have (ie: to stop HCR), there is no common agreement among "Progressives" about what to actually do to thwart the Masters of the Universe who Rule Us with An Iron Rod.

I've said elsewhere that Democracy -- specifically Social Democracy, but other forms of mutual interest->common action work, too -- is Kryptonite to Corporatism and its continual cycling between Neo-Conservative and Neo-Liberal phases of operations, can control and ultimately defeat it utterly. And how very interesting it is that you will not find discussions of Social Democracy or even mention of it in all the Anti-Corporatist yammering going on in the Lefty Blogosphere.

It's the absence of any real Leftism from the Lefty Blogosphere that acts to maintain the status quo -- rule by Imperial Autocracy on behalf of Corporate interests.

Funny how that works.

So here's Jane shaking things up, but doing so in a manner that will, if successful, lead to a restoration of (and who knows, perhaps the perfection of!) Bushevism and all its psychotic Neo-Conservatism.

Jeebus, batten down. We may be in for a real bumpy ride in the New Year.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Re: Corporate "Personhood"

Eugene over at dKOS has a good piece up regarding the true nature of the struggle today vis a vis a mindset among so-called "progressives" that is largely stuck in the 1990s.

It's refreshing to see some commentator refer to some other "stuck on" era than the 1960's! You mean there is something after 1968? Who'd a thunk it?

At any rate, Eugene's point is one I agree with: we're in a Neo-Liberal phase, and for some reason -- based on 1990s precedents, perhaps -- liberals and so-called "progressives" believe they have to compromise their principles (whatever they may be) to accommodate "what can be done" under a Neo-Liberal umbrella.

We did it in the 1990s, we can do it now, and it will all work out in the end.


The Neo-Liberal umbrella under which liberals and so-called "progressives" shelter is of course the umbrella of Corporatism. AKA Fascism back in the misty and poorly understood past.

Neo-Conservatism is the psychotic phase of Corporatism; Neo-Liberalism is the consolidation phase of Corporatism. While one is kinder-gentler (perhaps) than the other, they are both political/economic organizing systems intended to extract the maximum loot from the maximum number in the shortest feasible time. They are both offspring of Corporate Dominionism.

So what do you do about it?

Over on David Atkins' "We Must ORGANIZE! (Again!)" thread, I posted this:

The "ORGANIZE!" mantra has been repeated every few months or so for the last ten year or more. There's now a plethora of "progressive" causes, websites, fundraising appeals, organizations, alternative media outlets, calls to action and on and on and on. Millions of people belong, donate, participate, organize and do on behalf of these many, many causes and organizations.

And still we see the call to start anew. Stop your bickering and start anew.

More Organizations!

Something's out of whack here. The constant call to ORGANIZE heightens the sense of futility and the apparent impotence of the many, many organizations we have. The constant call to ORGANIZE has the effect of further atomizing the so-called Left, to the point where in time nearly everyone on the "Left" will be their own individual organization.

What we need, it seems to me, after more than a decade of ORGANIZING -- and atomizing -- is consolidation and agreement.

And that's where things get really tough. Right now, "progressive" is pretty much a politically meaningless term that serves primarily as a tribal identification. It doesn't mean you're a liberal, it doesn't even mean you're for social justice. "Progressive" means you're a member of a tribe that is in perpetual conflict -- with someone, some institution, some status quo.

It is the conflict that gives your tribe meaning, not agreement on positive political programs or policies. I would submit that's why there is so little progress. Why the call is always to start anew. Organize differently, with different objectives, different struggles, organize around different issues, different conflicts.

But that's not a recipe for the enduring success of a Movement.

It's time for the organizations we've got to agree with one another on a binding set of principles, a manifesto if you will, a stated and comprehensive ideology (oh, shudder!), and learn to consolidate resources and actions, coordinate messages, and stand up united and unyielding for a simple set of principles.

Instead of all this maneuvering for advantage and attention and trying to work the mechanics of the corrupt and decadent political system that wants nothing to do with us. And will happily sucker-punch us and take our lunch money to boot.

Consolidate. Agree. Then fight back.

For whatever reason, the Internet "progressive" learning curve is a Mobius Strip that always gets you back approximately where you started from, and that is, ORGANIZE! -- again. And again and again and again. Declare Victory! over losses (Holy Joe is still in the Senate, and now he's wielding the Imperial Scepter as if it were his very own; but the Internet "progressives" are still crowing their Victory! because he was re-elected by Republicans. Huh?)

Internet "Progressive" Guide to Political Action: ORGANIZE!>Act>Compromise Principle>Lose>Victory!>ORGANIZE!>Act>Compromise Principle>Lose>Victory!

Well. Yes, of course. It's Victory! for the Corporatists who are Our Rulers. I'm sure they have a big ol' party every time the I-Progressives crash and burn. It is a sweet savour unto them.

So what do you do?

Well, recently, the Supreme Court let stand a lower court ruling that essentially allows the President-Emperor to create a category of Un-Persons who have no rights which Americans are bound to respect. Anyone, anywhere, can be so declared, and once designated an Un-Person, these individuals have no recourse at law and anything at all can be done to them at will.

This was one of Cheney's more subtle reorganizations of law and custom to fit his paranoid Imperial designs, one that civil libertarians were certain would be struck down. But come to find out, no. The High Court let it stand.

Well. Now. Think of the possibilities. It's always surprised me that the rabid right wing has never feared Hillary or Obama using this Ultimate Power. It must be tempting to anyone in high office to implement Un-Personhood on anyone who expresses hostility or resistance to the Imperial Will. But Rightists are unconcerned about that. This tells me that their Corporatist Rulers are convinced they have perfectly captured the Government and no one can threaten their vise-like grip.

Back in the Old Days, a clerical error led to the establishment of the Corporate Personhood rule, by which, today, Corporations and Corporatists rule us through their agents in Government. It's quite a cosy relationship, and of course, it is marketed as being "for our own good." It's.... better than nothing.

But if the President-Emperor can legally Un-Person anyone at all, at his sole discretion and pleasure (which is what the lower court ruling essentially said and the Supremes let it pass), then he can do it to Corporations, too.

Which... should make them tremble.

Undoing Corporate Personhood is necessary to relieving the stranglehold of Corporatism on us all.

It's just barely conceivable that the threat of designating Corporate Un-Persons could be enough to at first limit and then end Corporate Dominionism.

Well, it's a thought.

Just the threat of it...

Saturday, December 26, 2009

As I say

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The current crusade by Jane Hamsher and her Toad Prince Grover Norquist to shake up the complacency of the Powerful may or may not lead anywhere. You never know in advance where you'll wind up when you let the Rage get the better of Wisdom.


The shake up is necessary. Regardless of anything else.

The United States has been in an alternating Neo-Con/Neo-Liberal spiral for decades. The People, for the most part, are simply left out of the equation altogether -- except to the extent they can be manipulated by the Professional Persuaders to back one or the other ill-defined set of thieves and mountebanks.

The point is, these are the only choices we are allowed, politically: Neo-Con or Neo-Liberal. Neo-Con governments are suited to smash-and-grab tactics, whether on the economic or the international relations front. Wars, rapine, looting, pillage. That sort of thing. Neo-Liberal governments are suited to the consolidation and institutionalization of the ill-gotten gains of the Neo-Cons. Making permanent, for example, the Imperial Autocracy by which we are ruled -- on behalf of a contracting Plutocracy of inestimable greed and bad intent.

It's a near perfect arrangement. For the Winners.

As I say, the alternation between these two governing philosophies (if you want to call them that) has gone on for decades, and the celebrations of the Peaceful Transitions of Power we've witnessed are celebrations of one faction of the Ruling Class yielding temporarily to the other in a kind of Cosmic Dance. But they are the only two dancers.

You and I aren't even allowed to watch most of what's Really Going On. That's part of why there is such a growing disconnect between the Ruled and their Rulers. "WTF?" is becoming the standard phrase among The People with regard to their Government.

How do you translate that into Action? In fact, what we've witnessed over the years is near total apathy among the public on the one hand and unfocused rage and scapegoating on the other.

Since the collapse of Communism, there really has been no large-scale political/economic force or ideology that can serve as a brake on the worst impulses of a corrupt and nearly unfettered Capitalist/Fascist Globalist Empire.

It's all up to Independent-Minded Individuals.

So, of course, the response of Independent-Minded Individuals to the all-pervading Imperial State is to throw bombs -- or become bombs, whatever. They do it physically or metaphorically, but they do it because it is the only weapon they think they have.

The Star Wars trilogy was all about Independent-Minded Individuals fighting for their "freedom" from the clutches of the Empire...

And of course that's the fundamental mythology of the founding of our own Beloved Country.

Except that it never quite turns out the way the Idealists insist it should.

In our own case, for example, the Intrepid Individualists who founded this country did so on the basis of limited franchise, chattel slavery, genocide, and the extraction of ulimited natural resources. They also did so on the basis of founding a new Empire of their own.

Where we are now is what was built in to the Systems they created.

So it's only natural that people like Ron Paul demand a restart. This is not, at all, the way the Revolution and Founding were marketed. No. No, it isn't. But, anyone who was paying attention back in the day should have been able to see and chart pretty well the course we'd be on.

Jane, et al, are not even at the point of demanding a restart. They don't really know what they want. They have discovered this tool they call "Power" and are eager to try it out on The Devil Himself, Rahm Emanuel.

They have no idea what to do if they "win."

There is no replacement on tap, there is no thought -- at least as far as we can tell -- of an alternate form of government or how it might operate, nor is there any coherent "Progressive" ideology or set of principles by which action and alternatives might be guided.

It's a purely personal endeavor to monkeywrench a governing process they (especially Jane) were not able to affect through advocacy.

Dancing With The Stars (game & dance pad) ScreenshotSee More Dancing With The Stars (game & dance pad) Screenshot at

And it is becoming a cult.

Yes, yes, I know, Obamamania is cultish, too. He's the Good Emperor after all. Dig back in your Roman history, and the notion of the Deified Good Emperor occurs really early in the transformation of Republic into the Empire. And so does the Goddess notion.

While a shakeup in the status quo is necessary, whether these actors can accomplish the deed remains to be seen. So far, the Powers That Be are studiously ignoring the rabble rousers, but then it's a Holiday, and everyone's busy. Snowed in. Whatever.

The notion of Rebellion for its own sake is very appealing to a segment of the population, however -- not just pimple-faced boys, either. And given the success of the Teabagger Rebellion in getting attention, there's now "permission" granted for "Progressives" to give it a shot. The principal first goal being the "attention." For some, I think it's the only goal. But that's my cynical nature kicking in.

As I've said, though, the Rebellion as it stands now is only about the pocketbooks of the bourgeoisie. That's the key to understanding the hookup between Jane and her Toad Prince Grover. They see that the Government is colluding in the private picking of their pockets (Grover has known this for ages of course) and they won't have it!

They're doing it with Health Care (Insurance) Reform, they're doing it with all the financial shenanigans, and they're doing it with Everything.

Yes? And?

Rahm is the Devil.

Yes? And?

HEADS! They demand HEADS!

O. K...

What. Ever.

When these people come up with a coherent "Progressive" philosophy, and reach an agreement widely across the social and some political divides in this country about what "Progressive" means, then I'll perk up.

Until then... Good Luck! Happy New Year!

Just remember. The Dance.

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Friday, December 25, 2009

Kali (Christmas)

Jane Hamsher over at Firedoglake is in full Kali Mode demanding HEADS right and left because she's been thwarted in her unfocused campaign on Health Care Reform.

She started the current phase of her operations with the demand for Hadassah Lieberman's head, and now she's hooked up with the odious right wing toad Grover Norquist to demand Rahm Emanuel's head. She wants Bernie Sanders' head. No doubt she'll go after Barbara Boxer's head. She wants Marcos's head. Arianna better watch her own head. Jane won't be satisfied in her current fury until she has Obama's head as well, you can be sure. And she won't be denied!

The unfocused Health Care Reform campaign turned into an epic "progressive" FAIL. Essentially nothing that "progressives" demanded (even when they could make coherent demands, and the Public Option was not one of them) made it into the Senate bill, and the House bill is so watered down, there's nothing much for "progressives" to crow about in it, either. "Everyone agrees" that the Senate bill, with a few minor tweaks, will be the final bill and Obama will sign it. Yay.


Jane and others have now shifted their campaign from "Public Option Please!" to "Kill the Bill" to complete and utter, scorched earth destruction.

Their issue is their pocketbooks. They have made very clear, just like Jane's Toad Prince Grover, that they don't want to pay for health care or health insurance if it's going to benefit anyone else. It's about the money. It's about their individualism. It's about themselves.

Jane has thrown a lot of chum in the water to attract Libertarians, and it seems she's done a remarkable job of it. Her site is a free-for-all of Libertarian cant and argumentation. And, oh yes, rebellion. "I won't pay! You can't make me!"

Rebellion. Revolt. Revolution! NOW!

Makes me laugh. When the Busheviks were essentially overthrowing the American Constitutional Republic and replacing it with an Imperial Autocracy, there was plenty of grumbling and argument from the Libertarians over the Bushevik program, but there was nary a hint of Rebellion let alone Revolution. In fact, whenever someone said something about it, the proctors would ritualistically shush any mention of active opposition. Now that the Busheviks are pushed to the side -- make no mistake, they're still around -- Libertarians are free to fantasize about any level of insurgency they choose. And if it directly affects their MONEY, they become the most active Rebels you ever saw. It's funny. In a sad sort of way.

The Busheviks were smart about how to handle this: Overthrow the Republic by all means, institute Imperial Rule, no problem. Make war all over the world. Just be sure you cut the taxes of the Rubes so they won't catch on they're being robbed.

And lookit! It worked.

Obama comes along with his neo-Liberal program and says, "You know, we gotta pay for this somehow, how about on the backs of the middle class?" and all holy hell breaks loose.

Of course I would have preferred the revolt to occur on the basis of principles of social justice and community, the Rule of Law, and the Constitution. You know? All the things that the Busheviks were trashing and trying to destroy? But no. Any hint of Rebellion in those days was rigorously denounced or shouted down. The ONLY way to make serious progress against the March of Empire was Incrementally -- and peacefully.

Now that the Imperium is consolidated and institutionalized, the issue isn't even germane. Few care, and those who do are pissing into the wind if they think they're actually going to make any headway against the Empire by hooking up with Grover. Ain't gonna happen.

But then, that's not the issue. The Rebellion is against mandated health care insurance.

You see. Priorities, people.

You'll shoot your eye out.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


The HCR debate has highlighted some real faultlines in American society, politics, and everything, and one of the murkiest faultlines is that between Incrementalism and Bold (sometimes called Revolutionary) Action.

(This oddly mirrors the cleavage between Uniformitarians and Catastrophists in Geology and Planetology back in the day, and we should return to that as a potential model for resolution anon.)

All through the Bush years, Incrementalism was touted on the so-called Progressive Internets as the Only Appropriate Response to Bushevik Radicalism. The very fact that the Busheviks were Radical and (counter)Revolutionary, especially in their foreign policies and their overthrow of the remnants of Constitutional law and so forth, was frequently denied or obscured by prominent Lefty bloggers (I'm looking at a very insouciant picture of Glenn as I write this) so as not to stir up the masses too much about what was going on. Or one supposes the rationale behind the Incrementalist fervor during the Bush years was simple self-protection.

After all, the Stasi was watching, and at any time, so the thinking went, the round ups could begin, starting with anyone and everyone spouting off against the Regime and calling for Revolution Now! There was one incident over at Glenn's that highlighted what THAT was about when Mona freaked over something I said: "Who should be first against the wall when the Revolution comes?"

O. M. G. You'd think the Marxist Cell that is the Greenwaldian patch of the Internets had been discovered. I'd used the quote before (it's from Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, c. 1972, and it has a long history in geeky comic lit. The quote from Hitchhiker's Guide runs as follows:

The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy defines the marketing division of the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation as "a bunch of mindless jerks who'll be the first against the wall when the revolution comes," with a footnote to the effect that the editors would welcome applications from anyone interested in taking over the post of robotics correspondent.

Curiously enough, an edition of the Encyclopaedia Galactica that had the good fortune to fall through a time warp from a thousand years in the future defined the marketing division of the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation as "a bunch of mindless jerks who were the first against the wall when the revolution came."

And this has been making the rounds for decades. Yet both times I used the quote/idea in postings on the internets the proprietors and/or their agents (I've always considered Mona to be Glenn's lawyer -- of course she'd deny it!) have gone ape shit in fear that someone would break down their door at midnight and drag them and their family away to the Konzentrationslager forthwith.

For advocating "Revolution."

Honestly. The mind boggles.

When I explained it as patiently as I could to Mona (who claimed to be familiar with Hitchhiker's Guide, but then she lies), she still didn't get it and was convinced that certain key-words (Revolution, anyone?) would trigger NSA surveillance and shut-down of websites, in this case Glenn's. What was really curious about it to me was that none of these lawyer-types -- including Glenn -- was willing to risk that kind of trouble or oppose the imposition of the National Surveillance State despite their big shows of chest-beating and knuckledragging for blogospheric consumption. When I pointed out that the NSA surveillers were probably laughing their heads off at the stupidity of this exchange and noting well the utter failure of the lawyer-types to stand by the Freedoms they claim are so Important. No, instead, they eagerly serve the State Security and Surveillance Aparat. Ohhhh. Might be a clue there. Well.

At any rate, let's get back to my point, the cleavage between Internet Incrementalists and (What You Call Your) "Revolutionaries."

Nearly all the prominent so-called Progressive bloggers advocate Incrementalism as the only appropriate way to make and hold lasting political or any other change. You do it step-by-baby-step, slowly, bit-by-bit, over however long it takes, and you do not engage in or advocate sudden upheaval revolt or revolution of any kind. It's essentially a moral imperative.

Well. That is until there's Democratic control of Government.

All of a sudden, we have a thoroughgoing incrementalist regime in office, acting incrementally to mitigate the worst abuses of the Bushevik Regime just past, and Internet Progressives are not just dissatisfied, they're openly calling for Revolt -- if not outright Revolution. (Jane has surged to the fore on this front, my goodness she likes the attention almost as much as Holy Joe.)

My goodness. How did that happen?

Such a sudden transformation. Well, certain things are clear: they were literally terrified of crossing unstated boundaries in The Debate during the Bush years. They are fearless now. Apparently they believed there was a Real Threat from the Busheviks to round them all up -- if they said or did anything the State Security Aparat found the least bit threatening to the Program. So they worked overtime not to threaten in any way the Powers That Be, so as to -- one supposes -- preserve their Freedom of Expression. Without, obviously, understanding that their self-censorship put the lie to the whole "Freedom" enterprise.

Now that they believe there is no perceived threat from the State, under the Incrementalist and Mitigationist regime of Obama, they're free to say and advocate whatever they want, including Revolt and Revolution. And so they do. Over something that they fear will impact their pocketbooks negatively -- Health Care Reform legislation.

As one, they cry: "We won't Pay! You can't Make us!"

And Jane, for one, is busy cobbling together Progressive/Teabagger alliances, going on FOX and otherwise sticking hot pokers into the bloated Establishment. Not just shouting from the rooftops but manning the barricades and gathering pitchforks and torches. What a transformation.

When the issue is the pocketbook. And the State Security Apparat is perceived to be weakened.

Good to know.

So all you would-be Revolutionaries out there, strike when the Iron is Hot, bring down the oppressor when the State is weak and Incrementalism reigns on high.

Well, but here's the other thing. This HCR debate -- especially lately -- has brought out the Libertarian troops like I don't think we've seen since the Ron Paul Confederation and Delayed Uprising. They are Everywhere, declaring their fealty to Jane or whomever the Leader of the Moment will be, their adamant opposition to Authority and Convention (only applicable when the Stasi is on hiatus) and so on. It's quite a sight. "We won't Pay! You can't Make us!"

Of course, being Libertarians, they're actually not going to do anything -- except argue themselves to exhaustion, then turn on their putative Revolutionary Leader, whoever it winds up to be, and go back to hibernating or masquerading as Progressives until next they are aroused.

That's what Libertarians DO.

Nevertheless, the current state of Blogospheric hoo-hah does clarify just how deeply interwoven Libertarianism and Libertarians are in the whole so-called Progressive blog matrix. As I say, they are everywhere, asserting wildly and making furious demands, threatening and calling for revolt, resistance, and on the margins Revolution -- because they believe their Sacred Pocketbooks are threatened by Health Care Reform.

And they won't have it.

OK then.

Of course what's happening in the Real World is that the Obama regime is pushing that rock up the hill, step-by-baby-step, just as the the progressives on the net said had to be done for any lasting change to occur, and as flawed and faulty as the whole process is, it is oddly working. Mitigations are occurring. Very gradual Change is taking place. International relations are improving.

And so-called Progressives in the Blogosphere hate it. If they don't, they're obviously paid operatives of the Devil, Rahm Emanuel.

(Note to Rahm: I prefer payment in Gold Bullion. Thanks. You're a mensch.)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Back on topic for a moment, regarding the HCR debacle

It seems the Senate is about to pass some kind of so-called Health Care Reform bill, basically what the Finance Committee came up with, but actually what the Industry (ie: "Stakeholder") lobbyists put together way last March through May.

And Everyone assumes that this is what is going to wind up on Obama's desk for his signature -- and he'll sign it.

More than likely, that's what's going to happen. It was pretty clear way last May, surely by June, what the bill would be: a very lucrative health insurance profit guarantee, much as Medicare Part D was for the pharmaceutical industry, that would essentially mandate the purchase of "health care insurance" by everyone, just as Medicare Part D essential mandates that seniors sign up for the program or pay a penalty. (I know it doesn't work quite that way, but still... the point is the coercion.)

In exchange for mandating purchase of coverage, insurance companies will face some modest restrictions on their ability to deny coverage and to rescind coverage. On the other hand, the coverage they offer doesn't have to be very good, and they can continue to jack rates pretty much however they want to.

It's a good deal for them; not so much for the American People -- much like Medicare Part D.

This was all clear enough last summer. Everything that's happened since has been for show.

And what a show it's been.

The Teabaggers took center stage, which they kept until Holy Joe made his entrance swirling his cape and twirling his mustaches to put the kibosh on anything that the People might actually want or benefit from in this thing.

No public option (which was never clearly articulated anyway); no Medicare expansion/buy-in (which would have been cripplingly expensive for those who might qualify anyway). Limited subsidies for purchase of private insurance by those somewhat above the poverty level; pay through the nose for everyone else.

It's a shitty deal. It's always been a shitty deal. For all the OUTRAGE!!!!™ at Lieberman's star turn as Lizzie Borden (with an ax), it's really what the so-called Progressives didn't do that has brought us to this point.

Progressives do not have a bill that they are united behind. They never have had one. They don't have the corps of lobbyists to write such a bill (or series of bills; whatever) in the first place, and they aren't connected enough with either the People or the key elements of the Health Care Industry to know what would really be necessary to serve the Public Interest and curb the levels of misery and economic catastrophe the current health care system so abundantly provides.

This is true of congressional Progressives as well as the Progressive Movement among the People. They were unprepared, and they continue to be unprepared to lead in this struggle. They are disunited, they don't have a coherent and comprehensive message machine, they don't use media appropriately, and they do not have a clear set of principles to adhere to. They can't rally the People, in many cases, they can't even communicate coherently.

So. Those who do have the infrastructure and ability to ram through what they want have done so. And they've done it very well. These are the Industry Stakeholders and their armies of lobbyists. They were very well prepared, they got right down to business, and they had a bill pretty much solid and close to being sold by May. They were, of course, accommodated fully by the White House and the Congressional Leadership. Clue: the Industry Bill was always what the White House and the Leadership wanted.

"Single Payer" advocates were shut out as not "realistic." Given that the Establishment was pushing for an Industry Bill all along, just how the "Single Payer" advocates would fit in to the program was always a mystery. At that point, they might have just come up with their own bill and flogged it through the alternative media. But look what happened. The so-called "progressive" alternative media (ie: the lefty blogosphere for the most part) slammed the door on "single payer" and spent most of its efforts on trying to suck up to the Establishment and amend the deal to include something amorphous called a "public option."

It failed. Spectacularly. What an awful flameout. When Jane started her campaign against Hadassah Lieberman, it was obvious what a sad joke the attempt to curry favor with the playahs had been. That's right, you want to skewer Holy Joe? Attack his wife. How's that working out for you?

What is emerging is an awful program. There is no doubt about that. It's worse that Medicare Part D, but it's based on the same theory: bad as it is, it's something and people will get used to it and stop kvetching, and eventually nobody will even think about it any more.

And that's probably correct.

And no, it won't be "fixed" later. Oh, it might be tweaked here and there, but not overhauled to really reflect the Public Interest.

I stepped away from the whole argument a good long time ago. Once it was clear what was being proposed and what would likely pass, and once it was obvious that the so-called "Progressives" in and out of Congress were utterly clueless, chasing their own tails, or almost completely passive, I was done with it.

This was not something to become politically engaged in. To do so would lead to nothing but anger and heartbreak.

So. Here we are.

I'm sure that once the dust settles and the program (shitty as it is) gets under way, all the angst and sturm und drang that we see today will evaporate. The rending of garments and gnashing of teeth will abate. People will get used to it, and for some -- at least -- it will be a very good deal, much like the Medicare drug program. So long as a sufficient number are satisfied (and they will be), the malcontents can be dismissed.

And of course most of all, the Industry will be happy. That's been the important thing all along.

Hasn't it?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

OT: The Model Tenement

According to social theory at the time, from the late 1800's to well into the Mid-20th Century and later, the tenement was the primary social problem to be corrected. You can see from plans presented earlier that the typical tenement was very small: a 3 room tenement would run about 340 square feet; a 4 room tenement would be about 420 square feet. These are not unusual sizes for Manhattan apartments today, of course, but in the era in question, space used today for one or at most two people was considered (even by the reformers) sufficient for 6. Or more.

Households, of course, were larger then. But cramming so many people into such tiny spaces, without adequate ventilation or plumbing, was a recipe for public health crises, fiery tragedies, and all-too-frequent mayhem. Crime bred and flourished under conditions of overcrowding and poverty, and there was a real fear among the middle and upper classes that the masses would one day rise and put a stop to the frivolous ways of their betters.

The tenement was said to be the breeding ground and the center of all sorts of public health and socio/political problems. It was sincerely believed that correcting the tenement problem would solve many others.

Social reformers like Mabel Hyde Kittredge -- whom I have periodically mocked in these entries -- saw it as their bounden duty to improve the lives of their social inferiors and to raise them up from their state of abject misery. Their notions of what to do were not always wrong, by any means. On the other hand, placing too much blame on the tenement itself and being blind to the other social, economic, and political issues of the day was typical for many reformers of the day.

That focus on housing pretty much by itself led to the creation of many working class housing projects that were intended to improve the lot of the struggling workers and get them out of the miseries inherent in the tenement.

Many of such projects have since been demolished. For many of those who were transferred from the tenement slums to the Projects found themselves in an even worse situation than before. Their living conditions might have been marginally improved, but their social fabric and way of life was often destroyed, with nothing viable to take its place.

"If only they lived more like us," the reformers' thinking went, "they'd be more like us, and thus... less of a threat."

So Mabel Hyde Kittredge established Model Tenements in order to teach the residents how to live more like her own middle class self, give them something to aspire to, and to provide them with a foundation for living "better" regardless of where they found themselves. She recruited girls from the neighborhood -- and charged them fees -- to be students of her tenement housekeeping and other courses, and she opened her Model Tenements to view to anyone who chose to take a look, providing residents, tourists slumming, and other social reformers points to ponder over the intractable Problem of the Tenement.

Bertha Smith wrote "The Gospel of Simplicity as Applied to Tenement Homes" for Gustav Stickley's The Craftsman magazine in October, 1905. It detailed the efforts of housing reformers, and particularly Mrs. Hyde Kittredge, in their efforts to provide models and training for the dwellers of New York tenements.

And so, we'll let Bertha H Smith open today's lesson:

Uhhh, "the tyranny of things" is certainly a factor in practically everyone's life, but her assertion that house furnishing has led to more crime than anything else is... surprising. Of course narcotics were legal back then, but still...

Of course the point of this lesson is to convince the immigrant hordes that living simply is better in every respect than living in the tawdry and chaotic manner so many of "those people" did.

The problem, though, is that the "tyranny of things" was hardly as acute for the poor immigrant masses as it was for the middle and upper classes -- like Miss Smith and Mrs Hyde Kittredge. If anyone needed to hear the Gospel of Simplicity it was the members of those classes. But then, I think the Misses S and K knew that. Bertha Smith's article, after all, appeared in "The Craftsman," the monthly magazine of Gustav Stickley, and the veritable Bible of strictly simple middle class living even today. In other posts I have gone into some detail about Craftsman houses and the near religious fervor with which their owners regard them.

To be continued...

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

OT: Not done with your Tenement Housekeeping yet!

Oh no. Far from it.

In our last episode, the nature of tenement living in New York was briefly examined, and it became clear that around the time Mrs. Hyde Kittredge was teaching tenement dwellers how to take care of their rude hovels, entire households, from the oldest to the youngest, were put to work making clothes and flowers in their tenement "homes" to make ends meet. Everybody had to work, otherwise the household would be out on the street.

In that era, when corporate trusts had a lock on the economy and the lives of workers, subsistence was about the best that working class people -- immigrants or not -- could hope for. "Struggle" wasn't the half of it.

Yet Mrs. Hyde Kittredge, aware of the facts, still made sure her tenement dwellers completed their housekeeping tasks, regardless of any other duties they may have, like sewing clothes for Campbell Kid dolls and making lace. To Mrs. Hyde Kittredge and the like, the Problem was the tenement and the chaos of the dwellers' lives therein. She would teach them how to order their lives in the tenements with the expectation that making their lives more orderly within the tenement walls would lead to greater order, peace and security outside them. There was tremendous fear -- justifiable -- that the tenements were hotbeds of insurrection. Showing the tenement dwellers how to make their lives better in the tenements was openly intended to defuse the fury of the masses at the abject state of oppression and poverty in which they lived.

Our previous lesson ended with some notes on cleaning your sink. Assuming you had one. Some further notes are necessary:

And kerosene. Don't forget the kerosene!

If there was a sink at all in the tenement unit itself (sometimes they were only in the hall), a rusty iron one wasn't surprising.

In the following view, the girls are cleaning up the fancy Model Tenement kitchen. Laundry tubs are next to the rusty iron sink in the corner:

The Improvised Refrigerator is a wooden box hung outside the window (in the air shaft) which was said to be perfectly fine for keeping perishables in all but the hottest weather. No doubt in cold weather, the contents would freeze solid. But given the incandescent heat of the coal stove, no doubt they were quickly thawed when needed.

Hanging on the wall next to the sink are the sink brush and the sink shovel mentioned previously, and there is an absolute abundance of tubs and basins and pans for various cleanly purposes. There are also two spigots at the sink, leading me to wonder if, surprisingly, this Model Tenement is supplied with running hot water. What luxury if so.

The lesson concludes:

Now wait a minute! You're going to have the students boil their garbage pails every day? You're going to put it on the stove and boil it? For how long? But I suppose if the stove is hot, why not?

Oh, and there's a note about roaches and water bugs:

Roach salt. That sounds like a good product. Of course you do have to sweep it up in the morning (along with all the roaches) before you start to cook.

And now the Review:

You got that last part? How to test the temperature of the oven? "Put ya hand in it, dearie, see if it's hot enough! Heah, lemme count witcha. Onnnnne, teeeewwwwooooo, trrrrrrreeeeeee...." Just cruel. But these were tough times. There were no reliable thermometers or temperature regulators on ovens, not even on gas ones. You either put your child's hand in the oven or you ruined your cake.