Sunday Afternoon Open Thread

I’ve had this song stuck in my head for days — God only knows why. I used to think the arrangement was odd — that the horns were out of place with the 60s pop flavor of the rest of the song. Now I think it’s genius. YMMV.

Something I’ve discovered this week: it’s breathtakingly expensive to send a kid off to college, even if the tuition is already paid. The price of books is just fucking outrageous! Stupidly, I thought maybe books had become cheaper since I went to school, what with mobile devices and the internet and all. Nope.

Also, stuff like parking permits — ridiculous! And setting up a human being in another household, even if you make use of thrift stores, etc., when possible — absurd! I find myself admiring my parents’ gutsy call when I graduated from high school, which was to wish me luck and wash their hands of me financially.

Now that the mister and I are the sole occupants of our nest, I have decreed that 2:30 PM Eastern time on a Sunday is an appropriate time for a cheap champagne brunch. I went to the store a while ago for supplies, forgetting that the hideous mega-church down the street had just let out.

All the congregants had streamed into the grocery store ahead of me, and I had to fight cart traffic in every aisle to acquire mimosa makings and biscotti baking supplies. Now I’m just waiting for the champagne to get cold so I can follow its fine example and chill the fuck out myself. You?








Long Read: “Soul of A New (Political) Machine”

I am personally pro-machine, both out of filial piety (my Irish grandparents owed their livelihoods to Tammany Hall) and because the known alternatives are so much worse. Perhaps the concept is due for revival, as the retro vintage artisanal alternative to the kleptocrats of our Second Gilded Age? Are we sophisticated enough, technologically or socially, to harness the machines’ benefits without the corruption for which they were infamous?

Kevin Baker, in TNR — “Political machines were corrupt to the core–but they were also incredibly effective. If Democrats want to survive in the modern age, they need to take a page from their past”:

How is it possible for Democrats—seemingly the natural “majority party,” on the right side of every significant demographic trend—to suffer such catastrophic losses? Explanations abound, most of which revolve around the money advantage Republicans derived from the Citizens United decision. Or the hoary, self-congratulatory fable of how Democrats martyred themselves to goodness, forsaking the white working class forever because it passed the landmark civil rights bills of 1964 and 1965. Or how the party must move to the left, or the right, or someplace closer to the center—Peoria, maybe, or Pasadena.

But there’s a more likely explanation for these Democratic disasters. While 61.6 percent of all eligible voters went to the polls in the historic presidential year of 2008, only 40.9 percent bothered to get there in 2010, and just 36.4 percent showed up in 2014, the worst midterm showing since 1942. What the Democrats are missing is not substance, but a system to enact and enforce that substance: a professional, efficient political organization consistently capable of turning out the vote, every year, in every precinct.

What they lack is a machine.

New York’s Tammany Hall, the first, mightiest, and most feared of the political machines, went online on May 12, 1789—less than two weeks after George Washington took the oath as president in the same city…. [T]he man who turned Tammany into a full-fledged political machine never actually joined the society: that murky intriguer, Aaron Burr. By 1799, Alexander Hamilton and his Federalists held a virtual monopoly on banking in New York, frustrating smaller businessmen who wanted to start their own banks and “tontines”—investment companies that would not only make them money, but also get around property requirements that kept even most white men from qualifying for the franchise. Burr marched a bill through the state legislature that created the Manhattan Company, which promised to slake the island’s thirst for a dependable water supply. But Burr slipped a provision into the bill that allowed the company to invest any excess funds however it desired—which was the legislation’s main purpose all along.

The upshot was that the Manhattan Company laid down a lot of water pipes that were little more than hollowed-out logs. They leaked badly and absorbed sewage, thus contributing to the city’s constant, deadly epidemics of cholera and yellow fever. But Burr’s company used the money it made from the scheme to found the Manhattan Bank (later to become Chase Manhattan, later to become JPMorgan Chase). The Hamilton banking monopoly was thus broken, and new banks and tontines proliferated, allowing financial speculation to run wild, and untold numbers of middle and working-class New Yorkers to gain the franchise for the first time. In this one coup, Burr established the defining characteristics of political machines for all the years to come: They would be first and foremost about making money, no matter the cost to the general good; they would supply significant public works, no matter how shabbily or corruptly; and they would expand the boundaries of American democracy in the face of all attempts by conservatives or reformers to contain it…

… Republicans have always been, for better and for worse, the truly radical party in this country, from the abolitionists and Lincoln’s “Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men” platform, to Progressivism and Teddy Roosevelt’s “New Nationalism,” to the right-wing conservatism of Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan, to the Ayn Rand utopianism of Paul Ryan. By contrast, machines made Democrats—again, for better and for worse—the party of compromise and inclusion…

***********
By the 1960s, even the mightiest machines were grinding to a halt. The Tammany tiger finally ran out of lives in 1961, put down for good by a coalition of Greenwich Village rebels, whose ranks included Eleanor Roosevelt, Jane Jacobs, and Ed Koch. Even Daley’s notorious Chicago organization, the last one standing, was no longer a machine in the old sense, surviving only on a combination of ruthless efficiency and ethnic resentment. The turmoil at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago completely unhinged Daley, who was caught by the cameras screaming “you fucking kike!” at Senator Abe Ribicoff on the convention floor, a previously unimaginable violation of machine etiquette.

Its death, however, did not stop politicians from continuing to rage against the machine. The silliest example of all is the fervent Republican contention that Barack Obama brought “Chicago politics” into the White House, as if the president learned his trade at Dick Daley’s knee. What they really mean by “the machine” is whatever clique of state legislators or local pols have figured out some new means of boodling public funds or soliciting bribes. But that’s simple theft. Today our politicians don’t steal because the machine helps them, but because we have ceded them the entire political system—as reflected in our miserable voter turnouts.

So the machines died, their demise hastened by the sweeping social revolutions of the 1960s and ’70s, which made them look reactionary and ludicrous—pudgy gray men in gray suits and hats, holding back the future. Good riddance. But what was to replace them? For a short time, it was constituent groups: disparate organizations fighting for civil rights and liberties, environmental causes, the poor and the dispossessed, community empowerment, and above all labor, which provided the bulk of the party’s funding and its ground troops. But this new arrangement soon began to unravel as well. As Thomas Frank points out, “Big Labor” was viewed as suspiciously by the Democratic left as the machines were, scourged for its cultural conservatism and support for the Vietnam War, caricatured as hopelessly mobbed-up and resistant to progress…

With the traditional pillars of their party crumbling, the Democrats turned to that balm for all political wounds in America: big money. In the process, they further abandoned their traditional populism, as well as their appeals to working people—appeals that, however imperfectly, stretched all the way back to the start of the machines. And those few leaders in the party who weren’t pandering to corporate and financial interests began to think in idealistic terms that have nothing to do with “practical politics,” habits that prevail to this day. For many years now, liberal/left campaigns have rarely revolved around specific bills or policies, but instead around broader and more abstract demands: climate change, say, or racial equality. The Occupy and Black Lives Matter movements have proven to be balky, fitful vehicles for social change. They lack the ruthless practicality and organization of their right-wing counterparts. Occupy invented the human microphone. The Tea Party took Congress.

Democrats need a Tea Party—less delusional, less hell-bent on destruction—that can do what the machines did…

Baker argues — and I don’t think he’s wrong — that the oligarchs and kleptocrats have bankrolled the Republican “machine” because it’s been a good investment for them. If we’re going to compete with them, Democrats need an equivalent structure that can nuture activists starting at the lowest levels of government (school boards, county commissions). We’ve gotten into the habit of assuming that the “public service” of running for office will mostly be funded by the would-be office holders, which — barring corruption, or outside financial support — means relying on the independently wealthy or the voluntarily penurious. And while we have sometimes been extraordinarily lucky (as when a patrician like FDR or a once-in-a-generation leader like Barack Obama decides to compete) it’s demonstrably not working as a process to keep this messy nation on an even keel.



How We Got Here: A History of The Development of the Alt-Right and Trumpism

Following on several of the posts today, but to step back a bit from the campaign issues a bit, The Guardian has run a long read, long form report on the roots of Trumpism, or perhaps more accurately, what is being called the alt-right. Here’s a taste, but as a student of socio-cultural identity and its powerful effects, I highly recommend you click across and read the whole thing.

Conservatives tend to portray their cause as the child of a revolt against the liberal status quo that began in the aftermath of the second world war, gained momentum in the 1950s when a cohort of intellectuals supplied the right with its philosophical underpinning, attained political consciousness in Barry Goldwater’s 1964 presidential campaign, and won vindication with Ronald Reagan’s election to the White House. Ideas have consequences, they proclaimed. Just look at us.

But there is another way of interpreting the history of the American right, one that puts less emphasis on the power of ideas and more on power itself – a history of white voters fighting to defend their place in the social hierarchy, politicians appealing to the prejudices of their constituents so they can satisfy the wishes of their donors, and the industry that has turned conservatism into a billion-dollar business.

This is the explanation preferred by leftwing critics, who typically regard the Republican party as a coalition fuelled by white nationalism and funded by billionaires. But this line of attack also has a long history on the right, where a dissenting minority has been waging a guerrilla war against the conservative establishment for three decades. Now the unlikely figure of Donald Trump has brought in a wave of reinforcements – over 13 million in the primaries alone. Their target is the managerial elite, and their history begins in the run-up to the second world war, when a forgotten founder of modern American conservatism became a public sensation with a book that announced the dawning of a civilisation ruled by experts.

The Managerial Revolution: What Is Happening in the World was the most unlikely bestseller of 1941. The author, James Burnham, was a philosophy professor at New York University who until the previous year had been one of Leon Trotsky’s most trusted counsellors in the US. Time called Burnham’s work a grim outline of “the totalitarian world soon to come” that was “as morbidly fascinating as a textbook vivisection”…

… But Burnham quickly moved on to new territory. His true subject, he concluded, was power, and to understand power he needed a theory of politics. Marx had been his guiding influence in The Managerial Revolution; now he turned to Machiavelli, constructing the genealogy of a political theory that began with the author of The Prince and continued into the present.

For a Machiavellian, Burnham wrote, politics was an unending war for dominance: democracy was a myth, and all ideologies were thinly veiled rationalisations for self-interest. The great mass of humanity, in Burnham’s dark vision, would never have any control over their own lives. They could only hope that clashes between rival elites might weaken the power of the ruling class and open up small spaces of freedom.

Burnham’s newfound zeal for defending freedom led him, in 1955, to a conservative magazine called National Review, and to the magazine’s charismatic young founder, William F Buckley Jr. Buckley’s goal was to turn a scattered collection of reactionaries into the seeds of a movement. His journal set out to make the right intellectually respectable, stripping it of the associations with kooks and cranks that allowed liberals to depict it as a politics for cave-dwellers who had not reconciled themselves to modernity. Burnham was there at the start, one of five senior editors on the masthead of the first issue.



Big Ol’ Slice of Velveeta

Found when helping a friend clean out a parent’s home after said parent had moved on (to snazzy new senior digs, not the Great Beyond):

8 track edit

Note to self: Time to go through boxes stashed on closet shelves, etc., and get rid of old Nirvana and Pearl Jam CDs, etc. All my shit’s on digital already, so those artifacts aren’t useful to me today and will only invite derisive laughter from closet purgers during the Malia Obama administration.

Open thread!








Louisiana Flooding and Donation Information REPOST and UPDATE

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Photo from MG Miller Facebook post 

Reposting this from last night. And adding this update to the mix.

From Nola.com

As New Orleans and North Shore residents look for ways to help those affected by the historic flooding in Baton Rouge and across Acadiana, Louisiana State Police are still asking for roadways to remain clear. So, as we wait for the water to continue receding from local roads and highways, here’s a list of places online and around New Orleans and Baton Rouge where you can make donations.

From there, the organizations can arrange safe transport for donated items.

Looking for ways to help pets? You can find those specific needs by clicking here.

Out-of-state and looking to mail items? Get that info here.

Volunteer Louisiana is another source for those looking for state-wide opportunities to volunteer or donate funds. The state-run website includes links and information on a variety of organizations.

Reposted from last night:

Photo from Jeffrey Major Facebook post

My Facebook page has been full of tragic photos, so I asked Louisiana commenter jacy if she could put together information on donations and general information.

Photo from MG Miller Facebook post

From jacy:

While the news is preoccupied with Hillary’s emails and Donald Trump’s racist world salad of the day, Louisiana is drowning.  I’m here in the middle of it, and I’m telling you that this is a genuine, epic disaster that is still unfolding.  It’s hard to describe the scope of it, but here are some numbers:

11 confirmed dead.

40,000 homes destroyed

30,000 people rescued by boat, helicopter, and high water vehicle

20 parishes (that’s a county if you’re not in Louisiana) have been so far declared federal disaster areas.

Denham Springs (pop. 10,000) 90% underwater.  More towns, large and small, devastated.

There are more than 20,000 people in shelters across the area. (That doesn’t count people who have been displaced and have been taken in by friends, relatives, strangers with an extra cot, or are staying in hotels)

Uncounted business, large and small, completely flooded or damaged enough that it will be weeks before they reopen.

4 days of closed Interstates, so no movement of supplies or people in or out of the area.

30 feet above flood stage for the Amite and Comite Rivers, which has no historical precedent.  Some of the rivers will not crest until Wednesday. Smaller tributaries won’t crest until the coming weekend.

The Baton Rouge metro area is home to 830,000 people – and it has been brought to a standstill.

Tens of thousands of displaced critters – the Lamar Dixon Expo Center, which has a giant livestock barn, is full to the seams with dogs and cats and other animals plucked from the flood waters, stacked in kennels awaiting a reunion with their owners.

I’ve heard it said that the this hasn’t come to the forefront of the national consciousness because it was a storm that didn’t have a name. No hurricane, not even a tropical storm. But in many ways the fact that it wasn’t a recognized storm system increased the scope of the disaster. You see, it was just some rain. But it didn’t stop. It didn’t stop for days, just sat over Southern Louisiana and inundated it. Nobody was prepared. Nobody saw it coming. They’re calling it a once-in-a-thousand-years event. And because it’s flooding places that have NEVER flooded, a lot of people didn’t have flood insurance.

And on the national news, the few minutes dedicated to it almost make it seem like a passing human interest story.  Charming little stories of the “Cajun Navy” out in their bateaux, paddling up and down what used to be neat residential streets and plucking people and pets out of the water.  What you don’t know is that these people, and a lot of the first responders, are out there with little or no sleep, without eating or stopping, because their homes are already lost and they don’t have any place to go back to. So they just keep going forward, ferrying more lost people and animals to the nearest patch of dry land.

It’s overwhelming. If you want to help, there are a couple things you can do. First of all, spread the story.  This is a major disaster – close to a Katrina-level disaster. (And I lived through Katrina too, so I have a reference point.) If you are anywhere close, volunteer.  If you want to donate, the Red Cross is one way.

My suggestions:

  • If you want to find a way to volunteer or donate visit http://volunteerlouisiana.gov/
  • Second Harvest Food Bank does good work: https://give.no-hunger.org/checkout/donation?eid=91189
  • This happened just as school was about to start and many classrooms were destroyed or damaged. I have several friends who belong to the Associated Professional Educators of Louisiana, and they have a disaster relief fund here to help teachers throughout the area replace their supplies: https://apel.site-ym.com/donations/donate.asp?id=14775
  • The Denham Springs Animal Shelter is the only municipal no-kill shelter in the area. Their facilities were totally destroyed, and it was only through the efforts of their staff that they got the animals out as the floodwaters were rushing in. They have a Go Fund Me page here: https://www.gofundme.com/2jdh3xg4 (You can also visit the website of Louisiana SPCA for more suggestions on how to help other critters throughout the area.)

I was very fortunate to be located in one of the few areas in Baton Rouge that did not flood at all, but there are tens of thousands of people who are devastated. The extent of the loss of life, loss of property, damage, and destruction won’t be clear for a week or more, when the flooding stops and the waters recede.  Keep the people of Southern Louisiana in your thoughts.

Devastating photos, if you click on the photo links you should be able to see many more without a FB account. Meanwhile An Inconvenient Truth is streaming on both HULU and Netflix. But hey, Al Gore is fat, so it doesn’t matter, right?

I’m in meetings most of the rest of the day, but I’ll check back and see if you need any other information. Add any updates to the comments as you get them.  – TaMara



Trump’s Wisconsin Rally – Now a Policy Speech on Law & Order

Apparently the rally is now a teleprompter driven policy speech on law and order. Live feed embedded below:



Louisiana Flooding And Donation Information

Photo from MG Miller Facebook post 

Photo from Jeffrey Major Facebook post

My Facebook page has been full of tragic photos, so I asked Louisiana commenter jacy if she could put together information on donations and general information.

Photo from MG Miller Facebook post

From jacy:

While the news is preoccupied with Hillary’s emails and Donald Trump’s racist world salad of the day, Louisiana is drowning.  I’m here in the middle of it, and I’m telling you that this is a genuine, epic disaster that is still unfolding.  It’s hard to describe the scope of it, but here are some numbers:

11 confirmed dead.

40,000 homes destroyed

30,000 people rescued by boat, helicopter, and high water vehicle

20 parishes (that’s a county if you’re not in Louisiana) have been so far declared federal disaster areas.

Denham Springs (pop. 10,000) 90% underwater.  More towns, large and small, devastated.

There are more than 20,000 people in shelters across the area. (That doesn’t count people who have been displaced and have been taken in by friends, relatives, strangers with an extra cot, or are staying in hotels)

Uncounted business, large and small, completely flooded or damaged enough that it will be weeks before they reopen.

4 days of closed Interstates, so no movement of supplies or people in or out of the area.

30 feet above flood stage for the Amite and Comite Rivers, which has no historical precedent.  Some of the rivers will not crest until Wednesday. Smaller tributaries won’t crest until the coming weekend.

The Baton Rouge metro area is home to 830,000 people – and it has been brought to a standstill.

Tens of thousands of displaced critters – the Lamar Dixon Expo Center, which has a giant livestock barn, is full to the seams with dogs and cats and other animals plucked from the flood waters, stacked in kennels awaiting a reunion with their owners.

I’ve heard it said that the this hasn’t come to the forefront of the national consciousness because it was a storm that didn’t have a name. No hurricane, not even a tropical storm. But in many ways the fact that it wasn’t a recognized storm system increased the scope of the disaster. You see, it was just some rain. But it didn’t stop. It didn’t stop for days, just sat over Southern Louisiana and inundated it. Nobody was prepared. Nobody saw it coming. They’re calling it a once-in-a-thousand-years event. And because it’s flooding places that have NEVER flooded, a lot of people didn’t have flood insurance.

And on the national news, the few minutes dedicated to it almost make it seem like a passing human interest story.  Charming little stories of the “Cajun Navy” out in their bateaux, paddling up and down what used to be neat residential streets and plucking people and pets out of the water.  What you don’t know is that these people, and a lot of the first responders, are out there with little or no sleep, without eating or stopping, because their homes are already lost and they don’t have any place to go back to. So they just keep going forward, ferrying more lost people and animals to the nearest patch of dry land.

It’s overwhelming. If you want to help, there are a couple things you can do. First of all, spread the story.  This is a major disaster – close to a Katrina-level disaster. (And I lived through Katrina too, so I have a reference point.) If you are anywhere close, volunteer.  If you want to donate, the Red Cross is one way.

My suggestions:

  • If you want to find a way to volunteer or donate visit http://volunteerlouisiana.gov/
  • Second Harvest Food Bank does good work: https://give.no-hunger.org/checkout/donation?eid=91189
  • This happened just as school was about to start and many classrooms were destroyed or damaged. I have several friends who belong to the Associated Professional Educators of Louisiana, and they have a disaster relief fund here to help teachers throughout the area replace their supplies: https://apel.site-ym.com/donations/donate.asp?id=14775
  • The Denham Springs Animal Shelter is the only municipal no-kill shelter in the area. Their facilities were totally destroyed, and it was only through the efforts of their staff that they got the animals out as the floodwaters were rushing in. They have a Go Fund Me page here: https://www.gofundme.com/2jdh3xg4 (You can also visit the website of Louisiana SPCA for more suggestions on how to help other critters throughout the area.)

I was very fortunate to be located in one of the few areas in Baton Rouge that did not flood at all, but there are tens of thousands of people who are devastated. The extent of the loss of life, loss of property, damage, and destruction won’t be clear for a week or more, when the flooding stops and the waters recede.  Keep the people of Southern Louisiana in your thoughts.

Devastating photos, if you click on the photo links you should be able to see many more without a FB account. Meanwhile An Inconvenient Truth is streaming on both HULU and Netflix. But hey, Al Gore is fat, so it doesn’t matter, right?