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October 4, 2013

joan walsh on the racism of the gop

Where does the time go?  It's already the fourth day of the shut down!  I'd love to share with you some little amusement, some piece of wacky, some diverting irrelevancy, but that's what they have Buzzfeed for.

Instead, give a read to this essay by Joan Walsh:

On the day the Affordable Care Act takes effect, the U.S. government is shut down, and it may be permanently broken. You'll read lots of explanations for the dysfunction, but the simple truth is this: It's the culmination of 50 years of evolving yet consistent Republican strategy to depict government as the enemy, an oppressor that works primarily as the protector of and provider for African-Americans, to the detriment of everyone else. The fact that everything came apart under our first African-American president wasn't an accident, it was probably inevitable.

This is the sort of piece that you find yourself furiously nodding your head as you read it.  Walsh posits that not only are we not a post-racial America, but rather that the overt racism of the middle of the last century has turned into something more insidious, and that the boogeymen of the Republican party are not even cleverly-designed appeals to this racism.  To wit, "small government" equals "no safety net for the blacks," and the enfranchisement of minorities is leveraged to win the political support of the jealous, kiss-up kick-down conservative whites.

Though I would suggest that this ingrained racism is no longer purely aimed at blacks.  As the numbers of Hispanics and Asians have increased, the GOP has whole new Others to demonize.

Brushing up on this probably won't win you any friends at dinner parties or at family reunions, but Walsh absolutely nails it.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:58 AM

October 1, 2013

well that happened

Midnight came and went, and now the government's all shut down, just another aspect of that weird 90s nostalgia that's been going around.  And now all of us are filled with complicated feelings!  Mostly rage, but feelings nonetheless.

And of course there's a ton of things to read out there, but start with this, a little bit of perspective on American exceptionalism.

The current rebellion has been led by Sen. Ted Cruz, a young fundamentalist lawmaker from the restive Texas region, known in the past as a hotbed of separatist activity. Activity in the legislature ground to a halt last week for a full day as Cruz insisted on performing a time-honored American demonstration of stamina and self-denial, which involved speaking for 21 hours, quoting liberally from science fiction films and children's books. The gesture drew wide media attention, though its political purpose was unclear to outsiders.

See, the thing was written as if it was an American journalist was writing about, say, Venezuela, or Italy.  Get it?

It's a real good point, and a very good job, to boot.  Now you can go back to the shutdown rage.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:15 AM

September 30, 2013

the death of legislating

I did my bit this morning and scanned the AM radio news stations — 1010WINS, WCBS — to catch what the mainstream take is on the probable government shutdown tonight.  No big surprises there as they both characterize the mess as something along the lines of, "Democrats and Republicans unable to agree on continuing the funding of the federal government," which, if you are emerging from under a rock or a Breaking Bad bingewatch would really put you on a Pox Upon Both Your Houses kind of rage, that miasmic American take on politics, the belief that those bums just don't do nuthin'.

Of course you and I know that this is not the case.  (In fact, of the reams of pages of excellent thinkpieces concerning this situation, let me recommend James Fallows on false equivalences.)  It's incendiary to say so, but the more accurate description would be, "Hostage's family refuses terrorists' demands."  But I can see it from the perspective of the news editors of these networks and stations.  Dare to accurately characterize the situation then you have every last Dittohead (remember those?) clogging your inbox with threats to your family, so best to fudge on the side of equanimity, right?

But I agree with Jonathan Chait that this is all a lot more scary than we're letting on.  This is not just a skirmish over policy or a new extreme of obstructionism, this is an attempt to undo how representative democracies work.  The minority party (no matter how often they invoke "the people," they control one arm of the government out of three) is trying to throw the concept of legislation out the window.

It's not a stretch to look at this as a threat to democracy.  It's presaging a future in which any minority bloc can impose its will by aiming the government (and the economy, really) straight at the concrete abutment and then wildly misquoting Thomas Jefferson.  I hate this shit with every fiber of my being.

Whatevs, right?  See you guys on the other side!

Posted by mrbrent at 10:09 AM

September 29, 2013

The refrain of the sober-minded individuals that want to privatize every last function of government and welfare is, "The Free Market will take care of it."  Conceptually, this means that if you take something like, say, social security, and then open that up for private businesses to administer, competition will result in the most efficient delivery, lowering costs, etc. etc.

Yesterday the NYT broke the news that the private company the government pays to conduct security clearance checks, nearly 700,000 a year and including Edward Snowden and Aaron Alexis, would just clear applications without completing research if they got too far behind:

In interviews this week, former and current USIS employees detailed how the company had an incentive to rush work because it is paid only after a file is marked "FF," for fieldwork finished, and sent to the government. In the waning days of a month, investigations were closed to meet financial quotas, without a required review by the quality control department, two former senior managers said.

And that is the Free Market taking care of it.  The Free Market cares more about making money than it does about completing the task.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:37 AM