Some Mostly Stolen Thoughts On That Old Politics Vs. Revolution Thang

Posted May 25, 2016 by Tom
Categories: good writing, Policy, Politics

Tags: , ,

So this morning I’m reading a diary on the Great Orange Satan about political doings over in Bagdad By The Bay.  Though I grew up in the San Francisco area, I’m not really current on what’s happening, aside from the fact that I couldn’t afford a shack in SF itself anymore — notamidst all those Twitter-, Apple-, and Google-erati.  So I gobble down the story, assume/accept the big-city, big-money corruption narrative, and move on.

Sucker!

I do have friends and relatives back by the Bay, as it turns out, and one of them has worked in city government for a long time.

Turner_-_Dido

He’s got first hand knowledge of San Francisco’s allegedly lost progressive mindset as it works within local government, and he weighed in.

I’ll excerpt his comment below, but first I just want to say this was an object lesson for me, a reminder of how easy it is trip up in the way that I’ve criticized some of the most extreme of the Bernie camp for doing.

That is: there’s a ton wrong with our politics, our society, and our engagement with each other.  It’s so tempting to leap from a clear problem — the impact on middle and low income residents of the gentrification of San Francisco (and elsewhere!) driven by extreme income inequality — and assume that political actors are obviously complicit.

The reality?  Sometimes they are, sometimes they aren’t, and it takes some effort to figure out the five Ws and the H in each case.  Worse yet — if the problem is truly complex, then political action is at best an incomplete tool to deal with the issue.

Which is why, in the end, I think Obama is a truly great president: he gets all of that.  The need for policy and politics; the insufficiency of politics on its own; the agonizing difficulty of addressing any truly major problem — which translates into rage-inducing slowness to see the change take shape; and the need to keep plugging away.

I feel that rage often enough, and I know that I don’t have the qualities of character our president does, the off-the-charts focus and persistence required to make sh*t happen, and to wait — years if necessary, decades — to see the results.

I have high hopes for Hillary on this score.  Not that I’ll agree with her on everything — I don’t and won’t, just as I haven’t always with Barack Hussein Obama.  But I trust her (yes, that word) to pay attention, to know her stuff, to hire good, smart folks, and to soldier on and on and on — as the job and the world requires.

Here the sermon endeth…and an excerpt from my old Bay Area companion’s comment takes over:

I’ve worked on the financial administration side for the City of San Francisco for many years, and the truth is that under successive mayors and Boards, San Francisco has put more money behind progressive goals than almost any other city in the country.

The City spends billions of dollars a year on its amazing public health programs, including a universal health access program for City residents that predates and goes well beyond Obamacare, and many hundreds of millions of dollars on programs to help the poor and homeless, including thousands of units of housing for the poorest of the poor and people with severe mental illness and other health problems.  The City spends hundreds of millions a year subsidizing its transit system and setting aside funds for children.  The City spends hundreds of millions a year subsidizing its transit system and setting aside funds for children. 

Mayor Lee …supported not just measures to attract and keep higher-paying tech jobs but also continued one of the largest and best City subsidized jobs programs in the country…

These are great progressive achievements….

You can read more at the link. The writer goes on to acknowledge that despite all this, the reality is that San Francisco’s housing costs put enormous stress on too many, and argues that the drivers of that are at best barely subject to direct political control — and that policy responses offer very tricky alternatives.  The challenge for progressives, among whom he numbers himself is thus to..

examine what housing policies we should we be pushing for that can help the most people of different income levels that need housing (not just the poorest of the poor).

TL:DR:  electioneering — and definitely punditizing —  is easy.  Governating is damn hard, which is something to be mindful of at this and every season.

Over to y’all.

Image:  J. W. M. Turner, Dido Building Carthage, 1815.

Peter Thiel Makes The Case For Confiscatory Taxation On Billionaires

Posted May 25, 2016 by Tom
Categories: Law, libertarian nonsense, media, Who thought that was a good idea?

Tags: ,

This broke over at Forbes and is bouncing around the ‘nets today:

Peter Thiel, a PayPal cofounder and one of the earliest backers of Facebook FB +0.49%, has been secretly covering the expenses for Hulk Hogan’s lawsuits against online news organization Gawker Media. According to people familiar with the situation who agreed to speak on condition of anonymity, Thiel, a cofounder and partner at Founders Fund, has played a lead role in bankrolling the cases Terry Bollea, a.k.a. Hogan, brought against New York-based Gawker. Hogan is being represented by Charles Harder, a prominent Los Angeles-based lawyer.

Whatever you think of Gawker, Hulk Hogan, or Thiel himself, this is yet one more way in which extreme income inequality destroys civic life. It’s actually worse than many, given the clandestine way it deepens the corruption of the system that could (in theory) provide a check on the damage that purchased legislative and executive branches can do.

Lazarus_in_Heaven_and_the_Rich_Man_in_Hell_LACMA_M.88.91.91

Here’s a take on the poison here revealed from Caterina Fake:

Champerty, as third-party litigation funding used to be called (and should probably be called again!) was formerly a crime, but the commercial litigation finance industry has been growing in recent years.

Fake notes that much of such litigation is actually a form of speculation, in which rich folks gamble on the possibility of significant payout.  One can imagine the “free market” argument that such funding levels the playing field, allows those who’ve suffered real harm to recoup, and thus makes the legal system a more efficient and effective dispute-settling and behavior-changing engine. But Thiel’s pursuit of Gawker illuminates what this leads to in the real world:

Generally, people avoid frivolous lawsuits because it often exposes them to as much scrutiny as those they sue, so what is significant about this case is that by funding Hogan behind the scenes, Thiel could get his revenge, escape exposure, and influence the outcome of the case.

For the very rich, this is a win however it goes, and damn the collateral damage.

Hogan’s lawyers made decisions against Hogan’s best interests, withdrawing a claim that would have required Gawker’s insurance company to pay damages rather than the company itself–a move that made Nick Denton, Gawker Media’s founder and CEO, suspect that a Silicon Valley millionaire was behind the suit.

I leave it to the actual lawyers to weigh in on the ethics (and consequences, if any) for such a litigation approach. For myself, I’ll note that what you have here is an insanely rich guy gaming the legal system to destroy a media outfit that pissed him off.

And with that, one more thought:  Franklin Roosevelt created the social welfare state in the US as an alternative to revolution.  Today’s plutocrats might want to think about that.  In plainer terms: to remain democracies, modern democractic states need to tax polity-buying wealth out of individual hands; income taxes and a levy on inheritances.  A 90% rate that kicks in well below an estate value of a billion bucks seems a good place to start.

A blogger can dream…

Image: Cornelius Bos, Lazarus in Heaven and the Rich Man in Hell, 1547.

Trump’s Supreme Court

Posted May 18, 2016 by Tom
Categories: Election 2016, Things that actually matter, Uncategorized

Tags: ,

William_Hogarth_004

Here’s the list of potential Trump nominees,:

Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee for president, has released a list of 11 potential Supreme Court justices he plans to vet to fill the seat of late Justice Antonin Scalia if he’s elected to the White House.

Trump’s picks include Steven Colloton of Iowa, Allison Eid of Colorado and Raymond Gruender of Missouri.

Also on the list are: Thomas Hardiman of Pennsylvania, Raymond Kethledge of Michigan, Joan Larsen of Michigan, Thomas Lee of Utah, William Pryor of Alabama, David Stras of Minnesota, Diane Sykes of Wisconsin and Don Willett of Texas. Trump had previously named Pryor and Sykes as examples of kind of justices he would choose.

Reading through the TPM comments on the post there on this subject, it seems like we’ve got some cherce* ones here.

Any of our legal types care to chime in?

*Cherce.

Image:  William Hogarth, The Court c. 1758.   I know that I’ve used this before.  But it’s just perfect whenever the topic of GOP jurisprudencerecklessness comes up.

RIP Guy Clark

Posted May 17, 2016 by Tom
Categories: In Memoriam, Music, Uncategorized

Tags: ,

There are some people who become type specimens.  They’re the folks who define the characteristics of the category of folks to whom they belong.  Guy Clark was — or rather, given what remains — continues to be the type specimen of the singer-songwriter.

Charles Pierce has already written his remembrance of this artist, who died today of what sounds like complications of a hard-lived, powerfully felt life:

He was a craftsman in all the best senses of the word–in the way he created his songs, and in the way he told his stories, and in the places the music took you…

That’s exactly right.  And yeah, go read the rest, and listen to Charlie’s picks of the Guy Clark songs that resonate for him.

For me?  Well, the first number I recall was his biggest mainstream hit, “L. A. Freeway” — which holds up OK, but isn’t what drew me back to Clark when I started listening to him with intent a few years ago.  This is the one that got me started, at a time (as I face again this year, dammit) when too many people that mattered in my life were dying on me:

This one got me next, and still does:*

And this is the one I think of on the day Guy Clark left us; he’s taken his place in the room he’s singing us into:

All of which is to say that Clark couldn’t have a good time. He loved a party** — just ask him:

The list goes on. The Hon. Pierce has it right: Clark was a meticulous song writer and a brilliant one (the two modifiers don’t describe the same quality). Dive in anywhere, and the worst you’ll get is fine fun. At his best….

Dammit — it’s been a crap year for musicians here in these United States.

I’ll leave you with one more favorite, one that captures the heart of what I love most about Clark — the way his music inhabits a story and vice versa:

Rest in peace, Guy Clark.

*And here’s a lagniappe.  Check out this tune, the one Clark sends us to in an homage and something of a statement — a recognition of the league in which Guy himself could play.

**In the old days, when it was Clark and Townes Van Zandt and some more bad boys and girls I don’t think I could have come close to keeping up, had I had the amazing fortune to be in the right bar at the right time.  But that’s another story.  If you want to read up  on Mr. Clark — this is a fine and recent profile.

They Are Who We Thought They Were, Part Deux

Posted May 16, 2016 by Tom
Categories: bad behavior, The Way We Live Now, Things that actually matter, tyranny

Tags: , ,

The CIA really, really doesn’t want us to know just how badly it can f**k up:

The CIA inspector general’s office — the spy agency’s internal watchdog — has acknowledged it “mistakenly” destroyed its only copy of a mammoth Senate torture report at the same time lawyers for the Justice Department were assuring a federal judge that copies of the document were being preserved, Yahoo News has learned.

Das_Geheimnis_-_Le_secret

Although other copies of the report exist, the erasure of the controversial document by the CIA office charged with policing agency conduct has alarmed the U.S. senator who oversaw the torture investigation and reignited a behind-the-scenes battle over whether the full unabridged report should ever be released, according to multiple intelligence community sources familiar with the incident. [Via the esteemable Charles Pierce.]

As the aforementioned Mr. Pierce writes

A democracy cannot survive if its people believe they are being played for marks. It can survive for even less time if they turn out to have been right.

Shitty cops are bad enough.  Shitty secret police…

Feh.

Image: Felix Nussbaum, The Secret, 1939

They Are Who We Thought They Were

Posted May 16, 2016 by Tom
Categories: bad behavior, Republican follies, Uncategorized, words mattter

Tags: , ,

Exhibit A, from Trump’s “butler”*

Anthony Senecal told West Virginia newspaper The Martinsburg Journal on Friday—one day after a Secret Service agent called Senecal regarding online comments he made calling for Obama’s death—that he believes the President is a “traitor” who deserves to be killed.

…“I think they (Secret Service) wanted to make sure I wasn’t going to go there with a rifle,” Senecal told the newspaper. “I told them it was too far to drive…

The 84-year-old…told the newspaper that he stands by the comments he made in his Facebook posts.

*I swear that has to be code for some other function. Pharmaceutical grade toad purveyor, perhaps?

And then, there’s this guy, who is actually (attempting) to stake a claim on Washington:

“Unfortunately, for seven and a half years this animal we call President, because he’s an animal, OK — seven and a half years, has surgically and with thought and very smart, intelligent manner, destroyed this country…

Joseph_Mallord_William_Turner_-_The_Shipwreck_-_Google_Art_Project

It’s hard to pick where to start.  Should it be with the backwards-jacket level delusions concerning Obama-the-Destroyer (damn that doubling of the stock market; damn that cut in unemployment by half; how will we survive millions of our fellow Americans gaining access to health care; how wretched it is for our troops not to be on their fourth or fifth deployment and so on).

No: it is with the raw racism — enabled since 2009 (and really, since 1968) by the more “genteel” members of the Republican Party, who have made the fact of a black President such a horror to those who know in their bones that such a event cannot be permitted to happen in any well-behaved universe.

So yeah, while it’s easy to point and laugh at an aging crazy who perhaps sipped too much of whatever it was he brought The Donald, or to slap down Beruff’s vile manners, never forget the story behind the story:  these folks feel empowered to speak of the best president of a generation (or more) as if he were disqualified from the human race by those who trained ’em up.

There are lots of reasons the Republican Party must not merely be defeated this fall, but wrecked, utterly.

This is one.

Image:  J. W. M. Turner, The Shipwreck1805

This Is One For Every Patriots-Hater Out There

Posted May 4, 2016 by Tom
Categories: Republican follies, Schadenfreude, Uncategorized

Tags:

The invaluable Charles Pierce on Donald Trump’s distinct political superpower:

It was Jeb (!) Bush who learned the second-worst thing for a candidate to be if he’s running against He, Trump—which is a humorless, privileged fop. The worst thing to be is what the Tailgunner was—a self-important dweeb with delusions of sacred grandeur. In both cases, you are a big bag of hot air in search of a needle. That is He, Trump’s only consistent political skill. No wonder Tom Brady loves him. Nobody is more skilled at deflating people than He, Trump.

I’d add — it’s hard for me to read this as anything but Barack I’m-So-Going-To-Miss-This-President Obama’s parting gift to that self important dweeb with delusions of sacred grandeur:

The White House is considering the creation of a national monument to the gay rights movement on a small piece of Greenwich Village parkland across the street from the Stonewall Inn, where a 1969 uprising helped inspire the push for equality, advocates said on Tuesday.

I know, I know. Not a done deal yet; just kicking the tires; who thought to get this out there today…

But still, even if it is a coincidence (and I’m really not sure that it is), a fine story becomes that much sweeter juxtaposed with Torquemada Cruz (you can’t torque ’em ada anything) on the occasion of his exit, stage far right.

Pedro_Berruguete_Saint_Dominic_Presiding_over_an_Auto-da-fe_1495

So yeah, while as many have noted, Trump is a terrifying existential threat to the idea of the Republic, I still get at least some naches any day that Ted Cruz gets his comeuppance upside and down.

Open, the thread, it is.

Pedro Berruguete, Saint Dominic Presiding Over an Auto-da-fe, 1495


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 11,090 other followers