There’s a simple answer to the question posed in the title to this post. Either he did or he didn’t. The question was raised directly to Julian Assange last summer by a Dutch TV interviewer, and it has become “relevant” (as far as relevancy goes these days) again because of a sputtering non-story that broke on Fox News this week that nevertheless lit a fire under conspiracy theorists on left and right. Continue reading
In an article from the Washington Post on “Tea Party” Congressman Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina, these paragraphs caught my attention:
Mulvaney mostly meets with voters through weekly town hall meetings. Sometimes he brings with him a 30-minute PowerPoint presentation, full of bar graphs and fever charts depicting the growing federal deficit and the surging cost of health care. In January, Mulvaney added a chart on the automatic spending cuts, known as sequestration, which next year will total about $100 billion.
To him the numbers make sense. “In the greater scheme of things, they are not that big,” Mulvaney said.
But, every once in a while, a personal anecdote punctures his certainty. Earlier this month, a friend and former campaign volunteer stood up at one of the town hall meetings to tell Mulvaney…
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“Two parties can never do justice to the diversity of thought in a polity. By restricting virtually all dialogue to false either/or, win/lose dichotomies, they can only ossify the division between the powerful and the people. The actions of a bipartisan oligarchy are necessarily restricted to a very limited palette, the colors of which the ruling class chooses. Thus, we wind up with “health care reform” lacking a strong public option, despite such being very popular among the voters. Robust publicly funded health care, let alone a single payer system, is ruled out out of hand by the leader of the allegedly “progressive” half of the oligarchy.”
I’m in the middle (or hopefully, at the end) of a much more involved debate than I was expecting on Twitter with a fellow named Milt Shook, who operates a blog called, colorfully enough, Please…Cut the Crap. It’s on a topic that is bound to get a reaction from me: the question of whether progressives harm Democrats’ chances with centrists and other purported persuadables by criticizing the party’s standard bearers. He puts his case in a nutshell in the last graph of an article he calls “Stop Complaining About Dems. In 2014, Voters Will Still Only Have 2 Choices: Them or Disaster“:
Voters have two choices every November, and these days, the choice is between competence and disaster. When you trash “the Democrats” mercilessly, the Republicans gain. And if you don’t think we lose when Republicans gain, then you haven’t been paying attention. And we cannot…
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Seems appropriate to repost this, somehow…
A couple of days ago, I accidentally stumbled upon a fascinating American subculture I was not well aquainted with: the prickly, stranger-shy cluster of rightist (though many self-identify as “liberal”) Hillary Clinton voters who were so enraged by the alleged (not to imply falsely alleged) chicanery between Team Obama and the DNC during the 2008 Democratic primaries that they picked up stakes and headed for any hill they felt sure Obama or the Democrats hadn’t defiled with their presence.
In my ramblings on the internet over the last few years, I have encountered many a Clinton supporter of the left who was driven to internet purgatories where other disaffected or disaffiliated Democrats gathered to share solace and critiques of Obama’s America with lefties (Greens, Naderites, Marxists) who had given up on the Democrats as the best hope for progressives long, long ago. Indeed, I’ve lately felt much more…
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My basic feeling about Charlie Hebdo: The crime was committed by a clique of criminals who self-identify as Muslims and identify this crime as being part of a holy war. But the crime is not holy, it’s murder of people for offending with cartoons, which is about as pathetic an excuse to commit murder as can be imagined. So the murderers deserve to be caught and shown only the mercy inherent in the criminal justice system in France and no more. That should be the scope of the discussions around this crime.
Instead, we are being treated to the spectacle–the same-idiotic-old-shit of a spectacle–of incensed white people, mostly, wanting to spread the blame for this murder away from the murderers and all over Islam and believers in Islam. To me, the idiocy of Islam is another discussion, and this red herring of Islam’s “blame” for this murder is just an excuse for incensed white people to behave badly and give full vent to their worst, most bigoted impulses. It’s all beside the point. It accomplishes nothing but spleen venting. It’s tiresome to have to fight it, but I just can’t stand stupidity from any quarter.
I just wonder, what am *I* missing? I have a knee-jerk need to fight the prevailing idiocy. What makes me so smart that I’m immune to it all, though? What am I missing? I don’t know…
I don’t listen to talking heads. I just want the basic facts, not all the bullshit that always comes with them, all the gas spewing out of idiots’ gas holes on TV about them. Of course I found this story irresistible, like everyone else in the world. I was also curious how Twitter was talking about it, so I saw that #killallMuslims had been trending worldwide. Then I saw what the general feel for the story was on Twitter, and it was basically ultramorons over here wanting to #killallMuslims, Muslims and bleeding hearts over here claiming the killers weren’t “true” Muslims because “Islam is a religion of peace” (with a bunch of both types criticizing CH for “provoking” the attacks), and atheists over here jumping on the Bill Maher/Christopher Hitchens (praise be to his name) bandwagon using this as an excuse to piss all over their favorite most-hated sky pixie worshippers of the moment. All so predictable and beside the point.
Last week, in the wake of the People’s Climate March and the #FloodWallStreet protests that followed it, I was tweebating folks of the “voluntarist” persuasion of libertarianism about the alleged hypocrisy (or irony, at least) of environmentalists using the fruits of capitalism to communicate their presumably anti-capitalist ideas. This was something we used to hear a lot in the beginning of the #Occupy movement from Wall Street’s apologist-propagandists in the media and the grandstands they played to. The argument seemed to be, if you use it, you can’t complain about it. Interesting to me, those who take this argument seriously (and assuming anyone really does, it must be these people), they don’t seem able to see that they could be accused of a similar hypocrisy for criticizing the government when they benefit from government infrastructure, public safety and defense.
But that is not my problem with the voluntarists. My problem is with their fundamental stance, which was exemplified for me in a tweet from one “Jack”:
Jack @oaaselect Sep 23
Did you get tricked into buying your device [meaning what I was using to Tweet with] or did you buy it voluntarily? @ChristofPierson @scooterpie61
On its face, this seems like a good question. The problem is, if you dig just a little under the face, the question falls apart. Do we really buy things “voluntarily”–of our own free will? Is it as simple as that? Consider the millions of people who broke records dumping their current phones for the iPhone 6 recently. Did all of those people need a new phone? Did they need the iPhone 6 in particular? Considering they were surviving fine without it until it went on sale, It’s hard to believe they did.. But the question is not did they need it, but did they want it? Did they buy it of their own free will?
Philosophically, free will is still controversial, of course. It’s a popular belief for obvious reasons, but the jury is still out on whether or not it’s fact. The very unpopular determinist position is that we are restricted to a very limited range of behaviors, based on any given stimulus, and the range shrinks the more habituated to these stimuli we become–unless we are insane, in which case, our behaviors can be frighteningly free-ranging and considered dangerous to society. Of course, just because this is an unpopular (because unflattering) point of view doesn’t mean it’s wrong.
I think it’s prudent to wonder, then, if the millions who ran out to buy the iPhone 6 all really “wanted” the phone or were responding as expected to a stimulus (“new Apple product,” or just,” latest gadget”) they’ve become habituated to reacting to in a specific way. There is no easy way of knowing, except maybe by comparing one’s own responses to these kinds of stimuli. Do we always buy what we want? Do we always take the job, or marry the spouse, or buy the house or car or gadget we want? If I were a voluntarist–I mean, if voluntarism were something I thought I wanted to believe in–wouldn’t it be important to know if free will were something more than a wish or hope–in other words, a self-flattering illusion? Wouldn’t it be important to know if it were something more like an objective fact?
If it is more like fact, it certainly is not a simple one. But my conversation with these voluntarists was unsatisfying not just because of Twitter’s limitations as a forum for complex discussion. These voluntarists were not interested in complexities in the least. They were quite content with their received opinions about free will, the nature of “real capitalism’ (which according to them is something, unironically to them, not of this world), or the right (or justice, if you will) of those who critique capitalism partaking in the gadgets the system produces. I have to wonder, who’s less liberated: the person within a system who sees its faults and says what those faults are, or the person whose ideology doesn’t permit more than a shallow understanding of the very thing they think they believe in.
There’s a fascinating, very sour interview on Salon.com with Adam Brandon, a leader of Freedom Works. That organization, somewhat defanged in the wake of an acrimonious split with its former leader, the former Texas Congressman Dick Armey, was nevertheless instrumental in forging right-wing discontent with Obamacare into pockets of astroturf activism around the country. More recently Freedom Works played a role in goading Republicans into following the Tea Party line over the shutdown and debt ceiling debacles. Brandon has ideas about the shutdown and House Speaker John Boehner’s motives during it that are worth considering,
I’m not sure if he’s going to be running for Speaker again. I wonder if that’s part of all of this as well. Why did – I mean the way it was crafted…You needed Democrats to pass this. And what I don’t understand is, if the plan all along was to put just basically a pretty clean CR out there and pass it with Democratic support, Democratic members, why even do it? Why not do this a month ago? Or were they actually trying to embarrass some people, or trying to cause this fight? I mean who knows. I don’t know why these things – if this was the plan all along, he should have started this at the very beginning, and just, “Hey, listen, we’re just going to pass this with Democratic votes.”
All along, observers were wondering what Boehner was up to. He looked weak, terrified of a small group of rabid right-wingers who were insisting on an all-or-nothing fight against Obamacare, which Boehner, being an old hand in DC, had to have known was a big fat turkey that was never going to fly. He would not be Speaker without the rabid right, but he would never be able to accomplish anything worthy of a legacy with them. The Tea Party coalition is the entire reason the Republicans have become the Party of No: No major legislation, no enabling of Obama, no compromise ever. Not much ammo there to stake a Speakership on.
Brandon’s paranoid theory actually makes a kind of sense, then. What if Boehner, realizing his legacy was doomed because of this awful hand he was dealt, decided, having nothing personally to lose, to take revenge on his tormentors on the right by giving them enough rope to hang themselves? What if he was thinking, if they’re going to tear me down, I’m taking them down with me?
Perhaps this is giving Boehner too much credit. But even if this were his intention, and even if it shows him to be more of a master Machiavellian than most had assumed, it doesn’t change the fact that the shutdown caused massive pain, to government employees, to families, to women with infants and children, to cancer patients, to people with disabilities, veterans, to local and national economies. He can’t be forgiven for that. But it would at least make his actions comprehensible. At least we would know, that cruel and heartless though he may be, he wasn’t motivated by sheer insanity.
- ZeroHedge: Obama: “John, What Happened”, Boehner: “I Got Overrun, That’s What Happened” (silveristhenew.com)
- Nancy Pelosi Busts John Boehner for Trying to Sabotage the Senate Debt Ceiling Deal (politicususa.com)
- Pelosi, Reid slam Boehner’s reckless effort to sabotage deal to end shutdown, avoid default (dailykos.com)
- Take a Bow, Mr. Speaker (dannyvinik.com)
- Insight: Budget fight leaves Boehner ‘damaged’ but still standing (reuters.com)
- Conservatives Now Love John Boehner After Dragging Him Into Shutdown Debacle (huffingtonpost.com)
- What if the Tea Party overthrows John Boehner? (salon.com)
Gary Wills has a very enlightening new piece in the New York Review of Books about the debt-ceiling/shutdown crisis manufactured by the Tea Party wing of the GOP. I can’t add anything to it, Please just go and read it. It’s an opinion of the American present deeply informed by the American past.
Here’s a taste:
Republican leaders in Congress are too cowardly to say that the voting restrictions being enacted by Republican-controlled state legislatures are racially motivated. They accept the blatant lie that they are aimed only at non-existent “fraud.” They will not crack the open code by which their partners claim to object to Obama because he is a “foreign-born Muslim” when they really mean “a black man.” They will not admit that the many procedural laws adopted to prevent abortion are in violation of the law as defined by the Supreme Court. They go along with the pretence that all the new rules are “for women’s health.” De facto acts of secession are given a pseudo-legal cover.
Thus we get people who say they do not want the government in control of women’s health under Obamacare—just after they order doctors to give women vaginal probes the doctors do not consider medically necessary. Or that they do not want the government telling Americans what they should do about their health—just before they prohibit “navigators” from even discussing choices about their health. The same people who oppose background checks for gun purchases now want background checks for anyone the government authorizes to explain the law to people. This is a gag rule to rank with antebellum bans on the discussion of slavery.
So we have one condition that resembles the pre-Civil War virtual secessionism—the holding of a whole party hostage to its most extreme members. We also have the other antebellum condition—the disproportionate representation of the extreme faction. In state after state in the 2012 election, there was a large vote for President Obama, but a majority of House seats went to Republicans. In Pennsylvania, for instance, Obama won 52 percent of the votes cast, but Republicans got over twice as many seats (13 to 5), thanks to carefully planned gerrymandering of districts by Republican state legislatures. This advantage will be set in stone if all the voter restriction laws now being advanced block voters who might upset the disproportion.
The presiding spirit of this neo-secessionism is a resistance to majority rule.
(My only comment on all this I said a little over two years ago,)
- Nothing Secedes Like Success (gregmitchellwriter.blogspot.com)
- A Bountiful Harvest of False Equivalence Analyses (theatlantic.com)
- The shutdown probably won’t hurt Republicans in 2014. Here’s what will. (washingtonpost.com)
- GOP Forgot to Line up a Plan B (hispanicbusiness.com)
- Sunday Night Shutdown Reader: Advise, Dissent (theatlantic.com)
Copyright advocates have long (and successfully) argued that keeping books copyrighted assures that owners can make a profit off their intellectual property, and that that profit incentive will “assure [the books’] availability and adequate distribution.” The evidence, it appears, says otherwise.
Rebecca J. Rosen outlines that evidence in an article at the Atlantic, “The Hole in Our Collective Memory: How Copyright Made Mid-Century Books Vanish.” It’s always worth asking ourselves just what use present copyright law is for anyone but the massive copyright hoarders like publishers and entertainment retailers. It certainly doesn’t benefit the public and now it’s even clear that it doesn’t even benefit the author whose “intellectual property’ it’s alleged to protect and promote.
Copyright law does, in any case, provide a good lesson in American civics. It demonstrates loudly and clearly whose interests our government has nearest and dearest to its heart. It’s not the people, of course, but always the intellectual property barons. We can rely on our faithful public servants in government, when given a choice between liberalizing the law (which would have the effect of enriching the creative atmosphere for all) and making it more and more constipated, to always choose the path of most constipation. Call it the trickle out theory of American culture.
- Crowdfunded Contest: What Should Future Of Copyright Law Look Like? (ip-watch.org)
- RT: Will Russia’s follow-up to Snowden be copyright reform? – by Max Kaiser (jhaines6.wordpress.com)
- Merger in Copyright Law (concurringopinions.com)
- Why does Amazon have more books from the 1880s than the 1980s? Blame copyright. (washingtonpost.com)
- THE COST OF INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY OVERREACH: The Hole in Our Collective Memory: How Copyright Made … (pjmedia.com)
- Key intellectual property and copyright Issues (benjiatcollege.wordpress.com)
- Rosen on Copyright and Vanishing Books (lawprofessors.typepad.com)
- How to Protect Intellectual Property (hispanicbusiness.com)