What We Talk About When We Talk About Politics

I feel like people are turned off to the idea of “politics”, because it makes them think of red vs. blue arguments, polling percentages, talking heads on television using dronespeak to discuss policy, and a certain nitpicky squabbling that’s become the de facto standard for how political discourse is conducted in America. But I think they wouldn’t be turned off if we remembered we were supposed to be exchanging ideas on how we should govern ourselves, and our foundations and philosophies which is what we should actually be doing. It seems like in America we don’t even get into those things when it comes to governance– how we do things, why we do things, if there’s a better way to do things, what our goals are, etc. If you don’t have a solid foundation of principles, how can you be sure anything you are doing is the right thing?

I feel like the media has successfully shifted the nature of the dialogue from “How can we best govern ourselves?” to “What’s wrong with those people governing us?” A subtle difference, maybe, but a significant one.

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Wait a minute, I think I almost got this

I was researching Catharine Macaulay for my 18th century British Literature class when I came across this.

“Macaulay argues that it was the failure to guard against the growth of inequalities in wealth that led to the downfall of the Roman republics.

Had the Agrarian been ever fixed on a proper balance, it must have prevented that extreme disproportion in the circumstances of her citizens, which gave such weight of power to the aristocratical party, that it enabled them to subvert the fundamental principles of the government, and introduce those innovations which ended in anarchy. Anarchy produced its natural effect, viz. absolute monarchy (Macaulay 1767, 35).”

“Failure to guard against the growth of inequalities in wealth”… Hmm… Why does that sound familiar?

HSBC pisses me off

Matt Taibbi has the story.

This is why we’re fucked. Because giant banks and the wealthy elite are allowed to continue to amass wealth by any means necessary, no matter how illegal, unethical, or immoral, while they turn the rest of the world into wage slaves that live in fear of stepping out of line and pissing off the military-police force that exists to intimidate them. They use that wealth to buy off politicians, who in turn do everything they can to make sure these people are allowed to continue to vacuum wealth out of the hands of ordinary people though fraud, criminal activity, and byzantine financial transactions made deliberately impossible to understand so they can tell you a nickel is a dollar and sell it for a dollar. Make a joke about a bomb in an airport, get whisked away. Launder money for someone who is building bombs to use in airports, get told that, hey, you should probably stop, or the fourth or fifth time we catch you we might really do something.

You want a revolution? Start right here. Blow up HSBC headquarters. Line these fuckers up against a wall. Don’t vote for a politician who has a track record of rolling over for big banks. Vote for people who promise to break up these criminal enterprises, who are not willing to let these people destroy the world economy just so they can invent and hoard wealth for themselves. And while we’re at it, let’s end the War on Drugs so that these murderous enterprises they finance can be put out of business. Honestly, at this point I’m convinced the War on Drugs mostly exists as an excuse to militarize police and to drive up profit margins for fuckheads like the ones at HSBC.

Honestly, we might be too late. My entire lifetime has seen the capitalist system that worked so well to generate wealth in this country deliberately broken by radicals who are trying to concentrate that wealth into their small cabal at the expense of everyone else in America, if not the world. We need to repair this shit and we need to stop the trend of wealth concentration in the hands of a very few.

Links of the Day, Election-Rigging Edition

Harper’s with an article on election-rigging, with some historical tidbits, some examples of how dangerously insecure our electronic voting machines are, as well as some examples of highly unusual results in the electronic voting era:

Symbolically speaking, this era was inaugurated by Chuck Hagel, an unknown millionaire who ran for one of Nebraska’s U.S. Senate seats in 1996. Initially Hagel trailed the popular Democratic governor, Ben Nelson, who had been elected in a landslide two years earlier. Three days before the election, however, a poll conducted by the Omaha World-Herald showed a dead heat, with 47 percent of respondents favoring each candidate. David Moore, who was then managing editor of the Gallup Poll, told the paper, “We can’t predict the outcome.”

Hagel’s victory in the general election, invariably referred to as an “upset,” handed the seat to the G.O.P. for the first time in eighteen years. Hagel trounced Nelson by fifteen points. Even for those who had factored in the governor’s deteriorating numbers and a last-minute barrage of negative ads, this divergence from pre-election polling was enough to raise eyebrows across the nation.

Few Americans knew that until shortly before the election, Hagel had been chairman of the company whose computerized voting machines would soon count his own votes: Election Systems & Software (then called American Information Systems). Hagel stepped down from his post just two weeks before announcing his candidacy. Yet he retained millions of dollars in stock in the McCarthy Group, which owned ES&S. And Michael McCarthy, the parent company’s founder, was Hagel’s campaign treasurer.

A Popular Science bit about just how easy it is to hack an electronic voting machine today.

This Youtube video comes in today from someone who claims he tried to vote for Barack Obama, but the machine kept selecting Mitt Romney instead. UPDATE: Per MSNBC, the offending voting machine has been removed.

The Culture of Extraction; or, What Scares Me Most About Mitt Romney

I’ve made no secret that I believe Mitt Romney would be a disastrous President for a number of reasons: He would be completely regressive on the major social issues of our time, he thinks foreign policy largely consists of being belligerent and insulting other countries, he seems to completely lack empathy for other humans, I wouldn’t trust him in a crisis, and his inability or unwillingness to release any specifics of his tax plans or his own tax returns suggests a mendacious prevaricator who will say anything to get elected and then enact an agenda that could easily have little to nothing to do with anything he’s campaigned on.

The one thing that seems to be rarely discussed these days is just what that agenda might be, economically. Continue reading

Links O’ the Day

There isn’t much to say about the polling or the candidates at this point– you know how I feel, and if you aren’t worried that Mitt Romney completely refuses to explain himself, his history, or his plans for office, is making claims about his tax plan that can’t be verified with any real math, and that in areas where Obama was genuinely disappointing or wrong, he will be even more gung-ho, then I don’t know what else to say to you at this point.

But here are a few good reads from the day:

From Salon, an excerpt from Aaron James’ Assholes: A Theory: How Fox News created a new culture of idiots, with this trenchant analysis on the narcissism and :

In a culture of narcissism, you don’t need any special reason to lay claim to the attention of others; you simply get attention as you can, as anyone else of course would (“if you don’t flaunt it, you don’t got it,” to reverse a familiar saying). On the other hand, if we find our current zeitgeist mistaken, on the grounds that laying claim to the attention of others does require good enough reasons — whether for the sake of modesty or just for the sake of not adding to the deafening contemporary media noise machine — then we can view narcissistic attention seeking as a way of acting like an asshole. Our narcissistic age thus might help explain why assholes seem to be everywhere of late.

I’d never heard of Dylan Byers before today, but apparently he’s a conservative hack, as he uses his ignorance of statistics and math to attempt a hatchet job on Nate Silver that doesn’t even stand up to the thinnest intellectual scrutiny.

And I couldn’t help but commemorate the rare occasion where Thomas Friedman makes sense, as he finally gives voice to an idea we’ve held dear for a while now: You can’t call yourself “pro-life” if you only care about bringing fertilized eggs to birth and then stop caring after that.

Last but not least, Joss Whedon endorses Mitt Romney… as the candidate most likely to bring about the zombie apocalypse.