We have a new "Think Again" column here called "No Dhue Diligence for Bill O'Reilly."
I worry that this economic stimulus will end up as yet another giveaway to the rich. How about this time, forcing the Republicans to do an actual filibuster if they want to filibuster a stimulus package that is aimed by a Democratic Congress at working people? Let the press deal with the fact that they are the roadblock to meaningful reform. Just what the heck Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi are doing in allowing the Republicans to sit on virtually everything while they are in the minority -- when the Democrats gave in on almost everything when they were -- no one has been able to explain.
Speaking of stimuli, conservatives like to claim Adam Smith as their patron saint but the man was a liberal through and through. (For extra credit, find him here.) Anyway, look at this quote of his I found in Paul Starr's Freedom's Power: The True Force of Liberalism (Basic Books, 2007):
Far from being an apologist for the capitalist class, Smith showed his sympathies for workers throughout The Wealth of Nations. In his chapter on "Profits of Stock," for example, he wrote, "Our merchants and master-manufacturers complain much of the bad effects of high wages in raising the price and thereby lessening the sale of their good ... They say nothing concerning the bad effects of high profits. They are silent with regard to the pernicious effects of their own gains. They complain only of those of other people."
Also this one:
"Servers, labourers, and workmen of different kinds make up the far greater part of every great political society. But what improves the circumstances of the greater part can never be regarded as an inconveniency to the whole. No society can be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable. It is but equity, besides, that they who feed cloath, and lodge the whole body of the people, should have such a share of the produce of their own labour as to be themselves tolerably well fed, cloathed, and lodged."
Hell, the guy could have been a speechwriter for John Edwards.
I went to see a few lectures by John Searle a bunch of years ago about the meanings of consciousness, and I recall him talking about deconstructionism and pointing out that that was, on one level, complete crap. No one wants a deconstructionist auto mechanic, he noted, quoting said individual saying something like (excuse my French) "Le problème avec la transmission est seulement dans le texte." I lost my patience with deconstructionism after that. Anyway, if you don't know his work, you might want to read this review essay, which argues that "John Searle's loyalty to common sense is both a virtue and a drawback of his views on minds and power," and I suppose that's true.
Have you noticed that, on the rare occasions when Iraq makes it into the headlines these days, it's almost always in the context of a discussion of, or an argument about, just how much "success" the President's surge strategy has had? Thinking about what to make of this, an image from Tom Engelhardt's previous life, from his earliest days as a book editor, came to mind -- from a moment back in the 1970s when he was "doctoring" truly god-awful textbooks. His image then was this:
The little group of us -- rewriter, grade-level reducer, designer -- would be summoned to the publisher's office. There, our brave band of technicians would be ushered into a room in which there would be nothing but a gurney with a corpse on it in a state of advanced decomposition. The publisher's representative would then issue a simple request: Make it look like it can get up and walk away. And the truth was: that corpse of a book would be almost lifelike when we were done with it, but one thing was guaranteed -- it would never actually get up and walk away.
Lately, Engelhardt has been thinking of George W. Bush's Iraq, of his surge "success" story there, in the similar terms -- "Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker are the technicians the President called in to make Iraq look like it could get up and walk away. They have essentially been Iraq's undertakers, and applying their skills, have indeed managed to give that Iraqi corpse the faint glow of life. But here's one guarantee: the President's Iraq will never get up off that table and walk away. It's a corpse, after all."
In his latest post, in the process of considering that Iraqi corpse on the gurney, that society we functionally dismantled and left in a charnel-house state, he also ponders the most recent news and stats out of Iraq -- from casualties to the use of air power -- and spends a little time thinking about the nature of George W. Bush's real surge "success": He bought a year-plus of free time on the American "home front" and, if all continues to go well for him, will succeed in sticking the next president with his war.
Engelhardt's conclusion: "So, here's a simple reality check: The whole discussion of, and argument about, 'success' in Iraq is, in fact, obscene. Given what has already happened to that country -- and will continue to happen as long as the U.S. remains an occupying power there -- the very category of 'success' is an obscenity. If violence actually does stay down there, that may be a modest godsend for Iraqis, but it can hardly be considered a sign of American 'success'... Folks, it's obscene. We're doing victory laps around, and dancing upon, a corpse."
With all the talk of change coming out of the campaigns, can we expect big money to lose its grip on Washington? Bill Moyers interviews New York Times investigative reporter and Pulitzer Prize winner David Cay Johnston, who says America's system has been rigged to benefit the super-rich. "There's one party in Washington. It's the party of money. It has different wings and factions. But Washington is the party of money. And the wealthiest people in America, the large corporations in America, are busy milking the government for everything they can get," says Johnston. Also on the program, Moyers talks with Harvey J. Kaye, the Ben & Joyce Rosenberg Professor of Social Change and Development and the founding director of the Center for History and Social Change at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, whose book Thomas Paine and the Promise of America discusses the role of whom he calls "the greatest radical of a radical age." And, Moyers sits down with journalist Craig Unger, contributing editor of Vanity Fair and author of the bestselling House of Bush, House of Saud and, most recently, The Fall of the House of Bush, who offers analysis on President Bush's recent trip to the Middle East.
Almost all of Lincoln Center is being redone at a cost of about a half a gazillion dollars, and Merkin Hall seems to be ready, and is getting off to an interesting start, at least from this point of view with the New York Guitar Festival," in which Jorma Kaukonen, Jim Lauderdale, Laura Cantrell, Larry Campbell & Teresa Williams, and G.E. Smith, among others, are playing concerts for the next few Thursday nights devoted to Hank Williams, Merle Haggard, Loretta Lynn and Lefty Frizzell. I'll be there for the first three at least. (Jorma is doing all four. My friend Myra told me the other day that Jorma is also doing a benefit for her friend's synagogue in White Plains, because, well, that's the kind of Jew he is, Mac. Who'd have thunk it?
Pioneers of Television
I see that beginning this month PBS is airing a documentary series called Pioneers of Television. I've been watching the DVD, here, featuring nearly 100 stars from the years when television was in its infancy. It combines interviews, shot in present day with high definition, with archival footage. The series is divided into four categories -- sitcoms, late-night, variety, and game shows -- each an hour long. More information is available here. It's not so great, though. It's entirely uncritical and rah-rah and while the footage is interesting, and I learned something, it's not something that I can justify showing to my class, though maybe a high-school teacher could.
Meanwhile, I could justify showing just about anyone the third season of The Odd Couple, still in the running after all these years for the greatest sitcom of all time, and certainly on network television. Season 3 introduces Miriam Welby, Felix's infinitely patient love interest and we get guest appearances by Howard Cosell, Deacon Jones, and that terrific "Let's Make a Deal" episode. "Me? Miss my boss as a horse? I laughed." Read all about it here.
Sender's name: Jordan
As Boehlert said yesterday, "In today's campaign coverage, what journalists think about unfolding events takes precedence over what voters think." He cites "the open contempt many journalists express for Clinton and her campaign," tells us that "the disdain for Clinton has been openly broadcast by journalists" and quotes Dana Milbank from an appearance on Reliable Sources that "the press will savage [Clinton] no matter what."
We have seen what the press can accomplish when it takes sides. All the fabrications about Gore being a serial fibber when almost every word out of Bush's mouth, from "uniter, not a divider" to "humble foreign policy" was not just a lie, but an important one. It may not be fair, but this is why I am supporting Obama. It's more important that we elect a Democrat than which Democrat we elect. There is already something like 49% of the population that will never vote for Hillary. If the MSM is part of that 49%, and according to Boehlert and Milbank it sounds like it is, we can't afford to let them savage another one of our candidates. Obama seems like the kind of guy you can have a beer with, or at least there are no blue dresses in his past, so maybe, just maybe, the MSM will give us a chance this time.