Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Tackling Working Class Racism Head On

Hat tip to Sir Charles at Cogitamus for this speech by Richard Trumka to the United Steelworkers. I have nothing to add to his comments. See and hear for yourself.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Hurricane Katrina, Economic Version

I've scoured the web for commentary by economists and others on the collapse of the U.S. finance industry (and economy in general) so you don't have to:


Brad DeLong: Mark Thoma Is a Leading Indicator

Economist’s View (Mark Thoma): An Overview of the Crisis and What to Do about It (

Paul Krugman: Crisis Endgame

Brad DeLong: Thoughts on the Big Buyout

Thomas Palley: The Liquidation Trap

Econobrowser (Menzie Chinn): Some Observations on the Ongoing Crisis: Causes and Opportunity Cost Again

Brad DeLong: Understanding the Three Ways of Dealing with Financial Crises

Capital Gains and Games (Andrew Samwick): The Ownership Society, International Edition

Paulson’s bailout proposal

Calculated Risk: Bailout Proposal

Objections to the Paulson bailout plan

Daily Kos (gjohnsit): What in the Hell Just Happened?

emptywheel (Marcy Wheeler): No

Glenn Greenwald: The complete (though ever-changing) elite consensus over the financial collapse

Paul Krugman: No Deal

Mark Kleiman: Paulson Channels Cheney

Tyler Cowen: Luigi Zingales on the Paulson Bailout—Kazow!

Capital Gains and Games (Andrew Samwick): Financial Frustration

The Edge of the American West: New Deal or No Deal

Matt Stoller: If a Legal Armed Robbery Happens in Front of Everyone, Does It Make a Sound?


Dean Baker: Progressive Conditions for a Bailout

Matthew Yglesias: Mallaby: This Deal Stinks

Monday, September 15, 2008

Ex Post Facto Weekend Playlist

In the late 1980s, I was a member of the Lehigh Valley Community Broadcasters Association (LVCBA), a non-profit community group that ran a small college radio station, WMUH (Allentown, PA), whenever the students were absent (meaning overnights, summers and holidays). As such, I did radio shows, as we all did. One of the most creative members of the group was an impish guy who called himself Mr. Mark. He did what were nominally rock shows, but which incorporated avant garde classical music, electronics, spoken word stuff, and his own fake news reports, weather reports, etc. into a unique brew. I liked his shows so much that I recorded a bunch of them onto cassettes, which went into storage in a chest of drawers, where they sat for the next 19 years.

In late 2006 (having been out of touch with the group for a while), i learned that Mark had committed suicide in 2001. I responded by digging through my cases of cassettes, and digitizing all of his shows. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. The whole process, which involved digitizing, cleaning up the sound, editing & finally burning CDs, took 7 or 8 months. By the end, I felt as if I’d been living someone else’s life & was more than happy to get back to my own.

In any case, here’s the playlist for one of the first Mr. Mark shows I ever heard, on July 22, 1986. The Modern Mummies was one of Mr. Mark’s groups (he played synthesizer). Some of the others I’ve been unable to identify, but I'm including them in the hope that someone familiar with this show might be able to fill in the blanks. (Incidentally, the intro to this show is one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard.) Mr. Mark was not known to the general public; those of us familiar with his work continue to miss his impish humor, his curiosity and knowledge.

Mr. Mark, Intro/BeatTheHeat/FundExperiments/AvoidYourMower
Los Dominos, Unknown
The Dark, Unknown
Chris & Cosey, Love Cuts
Sparks, Shopping Mall of Love
Mr. Mark, Record Cueing
B-52s, B-52s EP
Sparks, Let's Get Funky
Mr. Mark, Texas Rangers vs. Tornado
Mr. Mark, Shoe Store Story
Mr. Mark, Ralph Cramden Homicide Squad
Mr. Mark, Intro to Severed Heads
Severed Heads, Confidence
Severed Heads, Sam Loves You
Severed Heads, Strange Brew
Severed Heads, Harold & Cindy Hospital
Nina Hagen, Flying Saucers
Chris & Cosey, Send the Magick Down
Mr. Mark, Maxx Foxx vs. Soviet Tanks
Mr. Mark, Vietnamese Blimp vs. UFO Govt
Mr. Mark, Cougars at Methodist Wedding
Unknown, African Music Interlude
Modern Mummies, Unknown
Unknown, Electronic Piece
Kate Bush, Unknown
Sonic Youth, Secret Girls
Chris & Cosey, October Love Song
Lou Reed, Waiting for My Man
Velvet Underground, White Light, White Heat
Skinny Puppy, Far Too Frail
Skinny Puppy, Glass Houses
Lou Reed, Walk on the Wild Side
Lou Reed, Berlin
Unknown, Electronics & Noise
Mr. Mark, Bluebeard
Mr. Mark, WMUH Auto Deals
Mr. Mark, Intro to Frank Tovey cuts
Frank Tovey, unknown
Kate Bush, Unknown
Peter Gabriel & Kate Bush, Mercy Street

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Wingnut Postmodernism Update

Jesse Taylor at Pandagon nails a few points I missed:

1. The inseparability of action, cause & motivation belies Krauthammer & friends’ claims of multivalent meanings associated with the doctrine.

2. The source of the ever-shifting definitions of the Bush doctrine is the improvisational (not to mention utterly unsuccessful) nature of Bush foreign policy. Basically, they had to continually change direction as one plate of spaghetti after another was thrown at the wall, only to sink in a heap on the baseboards.

Character, Pt 2

Courtesy of Jane Hamsher.

Is it unreasonable of me to see a certain continuity between McCain’s behavior toward his first wife and his conduct during this presidential campaign?

Just curious...

Wingnut Postmodernism

Various wingnuts have responded to Sarah Palin’s difficulty in answering Charlie Gibson’s question about the meaning of the Bush doctrine by claiming that the term has no fixed meaning, and that her response was thus correct.

The argument at the heart of Charles Krauthammer’s claims and those of Bill Dyer on Hugh Hewitt’s website are as follows:

Anyone who criticizes Sarah Palin, then, for asking Charlie Gibson to be more specific about the "Bush Doctrine" is trying to mislead you in at least two ways:

They're pretending that the term "Bush Doctrine" has a single clear, unambiguous meaning that anyone who follows national affairs ought to have immediately recognized. It doesn't...

They're pretending that because Gov. Palin didn't immediately try to guess which of several plausible meanings Gibson meant to give that term, but instead asked for clarification, she therefore must have been unprepared to discuss any of them...

If they had bothered to look, even the could have cured Josh Marshall, Greg Sargent, or Andrew Sullivan of their illusion that there's a single, simple meaning to the term "Bush Doctrine.

Let’s look at the first claim—that there’s no single meaning to the term.

First, a chronology of the various pronouncements, culled from the Krauthammer and Dyer posts:

  • Krauthammer, June 2001: unilateral withdrawal from signed treaties and rejection of the Kyoto protocol.

  • Bush address to special session of Congress, 9/30/01: States harboring or supporting terrorists will be treated as terrorists

  • Bush commencement address, West Point, 6/1/02: Rejection of containment & deterrence in favor of preemptive use of force

  • 2002 State of the Union address: Preemptive use of force

  • National Security Strategy paper, 9/02: preemptive use of force

  • Norman Podhoretz in 2006: “a rejection of cultural relativism and a willingness to use terms like "good" and "evil" more assertively”

  • Thomas Donnelly, 1/31/03: aggressive promotion of democracy based on the assumption of overwhelming U.S. global power

Clearly, there are a lot of different definitions here. But Krauthammer’s assertion that he’s an expert on the subject because he was first to coin the term, coupled with the date of the coinage, raised my eyebrows. The Monroe Doctrine was articulated by Monroe; the Truman Doctrine, by Truman. How did Krauthammer become the self-appointed Adjudicator of Things of Historical Importance? By racing to apply a label to an orientation, then making as much noise about it as possible. Similarly, Norman Podhoretz and Thomas Donnelly determine that their own pseudo-intellectual hobby horses are essential parts of this bold new doctrine. Holy presumptuousness, Batman!

Hubris aside, it is true that all of the above are elements of Bush’s approach to foreign policy (and in the case of Podhoretz’s wish list, his other policies as well). But how many of them are unique to Bush, justifying their inclusion in a definition of a specific doctrine bearing the name of that Great Man of History?

The principles above that were articulated by Bush are (1) treatment as terrorists of states harboring or supporting terrorists; and (2) rejection of containment & deterrence in favor of preemptive use of force. The former is novel, prior U.S. foreign policy doctrines having been formulated in contexts not including international terrorism of the sort we experienced on 9/11. The latter, while unique in the fact of its overt expression, was always an implicit part of U.S. foreign policy. Perhaps the most radical thing about it is not so much the statement itself, but the implications attached to it due to the “first the sentence, then the evidence” approach taken by the Bush administration to pre-war intelligence on Iraq. In short, the Bush administration’s contempt for intellectual rigor and its self-righteousness, coupled with their extreme bellicosity, have led everyone but their remaining acolytes deeply mistrustful of their intentions.

As Jules Tygiel and J. Peter Scoblic have pointed out, all the other positions above are consistent with right wing ideology since the 1950s. And contra Dyer, Reagan didn’t engage in rollback. He talked about it, just as Eisenhower had. In fact, as Scoblic points out, Reagan, being deeply ignorant of the nature of nuclear weapons and the strategies of containment, had adopted an aggressive posture towards the Soviet Union that led us to the brink of nuclear war in 1983. It was only after Reagan was informed of what had almost happened (the Soviets believed, based on Reagan’s public statements, massive military spending and changes in U.S. force postures during a massive U.S. global war game that we were about to launch a first strike against them and scrambled their bombers), that he realized the dangerous course he was on and reversed it, leading to the meetings with Gorbachev that led to an agreement to reduce nuclear arms. In short, it was abandonment of the posture dictated by right wing ideology that led to success.

Be that as it may, it is certainly true that most people who follow the news will likely respond, when asked the question posed to Palin, by mentioning the notion of preemptive war. That is because, despite its having long been an implicit part of U.S. foreign policy, the Bush administration made it explicit—and did so in the context of the drumbeat leading to the invasion of Iraq, placing it foremost in the consciousness of the politically engaged portion of the public. But given that the common sense popular understanding of the term is the one, by definition, with the widest currency, and given that the interview with Palin on a major TV network was obviously aimed at the general public, why should it seem unreasonable to anyone that the popular understanding of the term was the one under discussion? Certainly Palin didn’t attempt to reach for more scholarly definitions of any of the other items under discussion during the interview—why expect her to do so conveniently on one for which she so clearly had difficulty giving an answer?

That various wingnuts put forth a shifting collection of meanings for the term (some of which, as previously noted, they conveniently assigned themselves), is clearly a gambit to claim, as they do implicitly, that Sarah Palin’s inability to answer the question posed to her clearly and coherently is not a sign that she might be —heaven forbid that we should notice the obvious, because to criticize her at all is, for some heretofore unexplained reason, sexist—unqualified for the office she seeks. Nice try.

Friday, September 12, 2008

McCain's Ads Are Lies

Brave New Films has catalogued McCain's ads, showing them to be lies intended to smear Obama:

(H/T to litbrit at Cogitamus

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Things I Like

Here's a list of songs, chosen randomly from iTunes. Please feel free to add your own in the Comments section below.

Cassandra Wilson, Solomon Sang
Skinny Puppy, Dig It
The Brand New Heavies, Brother Sister
Joni Mitchell, Night of the Iguana
John Mayer, Bigger Than My Body
The Psychedelic Furs, The Ghost in You
Laurie Anderson, Sharkey's Night
Jean-Paul Bourelly, Awakening
Enrico Rava, John Abercrombie, Jon Christensen & Palle Danielsson, Surprise Hotel
David Bowie/Pat Metheny Group, This Is Not America
Japan, Still Life In Mobile Homes
Ralph Towner-Gary Burton, Icarus
Alice Coltrane, Sita Ram
Cactus World News, Years Later
Me'Shell Ndegeoocello, The Way
XTC, Life Begins At the Hop
Al Jarreau, So Long Girl
King Crimson, Red
Herbie Hancock, Edith and the Kingpin (feat. Tina Turner)
Joni Mitchell, Strong and Wrong
Neville Brothers, Brother Jake
Peter Gabriel, On The Air
Talk Talk, It's My Life
Cassandra Wilson, Love is Blindness
Killing Joke, Change

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Fired Up

Here are some sights and sounds from the campaign trail, courtesy of Barack Obama and Joe Biden (h/t to Brad DeLong):

First, Joe Biden

And here's Obama

There are 60 days (roughly) until the election. The time is now.

If you’re not registered to vote, for God’s sake, please do so now.

Go to the Obama website, sign up if you haven’t already, and volunteer. Donate. Help get other people registered to vote. Donate again.

No one can say any longer that they don’t know what we’re going to get if we let the GOP win this election.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Straight Talk Simulacra

McCain calls his campaign “the Straight Talk Express.”

McCain has completely reversed his position on almost every issue except support for the war in Iraq and opposition to abortion:


He has deliberately and systematically misrepresented Barack Obama’s views on a multitude of issues.


Having campaigned on a claim to experience far superior to that of Obama, he has chosen as his running mate a person with absolutely no relevant experience or expertise for the position. A heartbeat away. With little or no prior vetting, apparently.

His chosen running mate gave a speech at the Republican National Convention on Wednesday in which she repeatedly misrepresented Barack Obama’s record and attitudes, as well as her own.


Now it turns out that even the photographs of black people used by the McCain campaign as part of the backdrop at their convention were purchased stock photography.


I’ve long marveled at the expertise with which the GOP obscures its agenda and distracts voters from the nature of its governance. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, many in the GOP railed against the supposedly sinister influence of postmodernists on college campuses. By now it should be obvious to everyone that the GOP is the true party of postmodernism. How anyone can believe anything they say is beyond me.