[I]f the Republicans really are against any bailout based on their (cough) conservative principles, that would seem a non-starter. And any substantive concession to them seems impossible, or at least deeply stupid: proposals like "suspend the capital gains tax" paint the conservatives as more interested in privateering for the rich than actually helping solve the situation. We're not seeing class riots yet, but if the primary result of this Wall Street meltdown was that Wall Street got out of paying their taxes, I think the pitchfork and torch industries would see a banner Christmas.
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Sunday, September 28, 2008
Friday, September 26, 2008
My older brother, Mark, died on September 11th, 2008, of complications from a bladder infection that turned into sepsis. He was 47, and would have been a first-time Democratic voter so that he could vote for Barack Obama. I presented the following as a eulogy at his funeral.
If I had to impose a unifying theme or narrative on the life of my dear brother Mark, I would pick a passage from the Gospel according to John:
A Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
Mark was born in Kaiser hospital in Walnut Creek on April 23rd in the hours before dawn, and in that moment a light came into the lives of my parents, the first of six.
My earliest memories of Mark are sharing a room with him in our house in Richmond, California. We would lie in our beds and talk, two kids in their PJs, sometimes late into the night, and share our fears and hopes with one another.
There was one night when we were talking, and I noticed his voice sounded kind of strange. Mark had a talent for throwing his voice, and he was creeping towards my bed, while making it sound as if he were still across the room in his bed. He reached up and grabbed me and went, "RRAAAARRRR" and I went streaking out of the room, screaming at the top of my lungs. I still laugh thinking about that.
Mark’s adolescence was troubled and stormy, and matched the wider tumult and upheaval that marked the decade of the seventies in the United States. Things had reached the point that he and my dad were barely on speaking terms, when Mark had the auto accident that left him permanently paralyzed and changed his life forever.
That was a dark time in the life of the family, but I want to say again –
A Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
Or, from JRR Tolkien, whose tales Mark loved: Among the tales of sorrow and of ruin that come down to us from the darkness of those days there are yet some in which amid weeping there is joy and under the shadow of death light that endures.
The wake of his accident was an occasion of Grace for the family, a time when we were immersed in Love – people from the church came together, and my parents didn’t have to cook dinner for the four months Mark was in the hospital, because someone from the Church would bring food every single night. Mark himself never went a moment without prayer during the difficult days after his accident, and during physical therapy in Kaiser: people from the church were praying literally around the clock for him.
One of the nurses in the Kaiser Rehab program was a woman named Marilyn; Mark and my family came to enjoy her very much - she grew up in a rough area of Boston, and was both plain spoken and very devout, in an earthy way (she was the first person I ever heard use the term, "lower than whaleshit," which still makes me giggle). She went to our Catholic parish in Benicia.
She eventually revealed that her husband, Bobby, was the drunk driver who had paralyzed Mark.
Bobby was an alcoholic, and in the wake of what he'd done was swimming in shame - he could not bear to face my parents or the rest of my family. My parents were obviously livid when Mark was first hurt, but came to a place before too long where they could forgive Bobby, and not carry around the burden of a poisonous grudge. They had Marilyn relay this to her husband, but he still could not bear to face them.
One day, my family came out of the church, and saw Marilyn, and greeted her - "Hi, Marilyn!" - and she greeted my parents by name. Bobby happened to be with her - and suddenly everyone realized who everyone else was - Bobby realized he was facing my parents, and my parents realized that this man with Marilyn was the man who had paralyzed their son.
Bobby turned to my father, his face dark with shame, and said, "I don't know what to say."
My father went to him, and hugged him, and said, "It's ok, Bobby. In a way, you gave me back a son." Bobby wept in my father's arms.
A Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
Indeed, something miraculous happened: In the wake of his accident, the troubles of his adolescence faded away, and in their place was the beginning of the phase of Mark’s life in which God took the raw materials of Mark's life and circumstances, and from those made of him something of a saint.
The crosses Mark bore were heavy indeed, but he bore them with great love. Of all the children of the Family, my father’s final illness and death 12 years ago were hardest on Mark. Dad was sick with cancer for a long time before he died, and all of us kids pitched in to help, staying with him and looking after him. We, however, could leave, get some air, take a break and re-charge; Mark was there the entire time, and bore the burden with immense strength and patience. He was never bitter, always attentive to the rest of the family; never angry but always available to talk to and comfort us as we comforted him.
You know, one of Mark’s regrets is that he didn’t get a chance to tell our Dad he loved him before he died; I think there is, as I speak, a joyous reunion happening in Heaven where my Dad is letting him know that he knew Mark loved him, and that they can express their love now without reserve or hindrance.
Mark spent the last few years of his life in increasing physical pain. Pain can blind you to others, and keep your focus on yourself: with Mark, though, he reached out and became more giving, both of his time, his prayers, and sending us things unasked for and unannounced; things he bought online and just arrived out of the blue on our doorsteps; things we might have mentioned in long-forgotten conversations that we might need or want, and he remembered and got it for us. I expect that in some way he will continue this tradition, sending us things that we didn’t know we needed from where he is now.
Mark had a curious, seeking, intellectually hungry mind, and he never stopped learning until the day he died. His latest project was teaching himself calculus. He was very, very widely read – on an astonishing variety of subjects, from cryptography and codes to history and mathematics. He had pretty extensive knowledge of history, especially military history. I remember when I was in the Army, when I came home on leave he would grill me on what military life was like, and enjoyed the stories I told of the places I’d seen and the people I’d met.
You know, I never got Mark back for scaring me all those years ago when we were kids. And even today, I half expect him to come bursting up beside me, just for the joy of watching me dash out of the Church in terror. He was that kind of guy. I am praying for you today, Mark. Pray for us, too, Mark. Pray for us.
A light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
Digby's asking pertinent questions - when are Democratic Politicians going to stand up to reprobate Republicans and just say, "enough!"
The Republicans started a war for no good reason. They literally killed a whole lot of people for their own political and ideological agenda. Why in the world would anyone doubt for a moment that they'd play politics with an economic crisis?
At what point to progressives put away the kumbaaya and recognize that we are not dealing with people who act in the nation's best interest?
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Interesting post at Hullabaloo by Tristero, defining "Christianism" as distinct and separate from Christianity per se:
There is a huge difference between Christians, the followers of a large number of separate, often mutually antagonistic, religions, and christianists, political radicals who use the symbols of Christianity in order to gain secular power. Christianists deliberately confuse the two.
Worth a read.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
I’m by no means an expert in economics, but isn’t the larger story of the financial crisis, the underlying story, something like:
1. The median wage hasn’t kept up with the median home price, or anything else, for 30 years, because the benefits of economic growth have pretty much (aside from a brief two or three years in the late 90s) all gone to the top of the income scale;
2. Rather than address the median wage problem by, you know, raising it, the Powers-That-Be instead;
3. Came up with ever-more-exotic ways to saddle the median worker with ever-more-crushing amount of debt until;
4. The Median-wage-earner-who-hasn’t-had-a-raise-in-years is finally, in fact and predictably, crushed by his ruinous debt?
And now we need to bail out Wall-Street, enablers and cheerleaders of the ones who haven’t given their workers a real raise in years, because otherwise they’ll ruin the economy? Am I missing something or is that about the size of it??
The Bush administration hasn't done much in the last eight years to inspire confidence in their ability to handle this -- the concern is that it will function as a corporate giveaway of historic proportions, but in the end do nothing for the economy except propping it up a little while longer. Likewise, there's little stomach for bailing out what essentially turned into a Ponzi scheme backed by the largest players in the financial industry. Yes, they say they need a massive, trillion-dollar influx of cash to patch the crisis they themselves caused via irrational pricings of mortgage-related derivatives. But when someone has proven to be utterly financially incompetent, giving them a trillion dollars in the hopes that they merely don't blow it all too quickly is not confidence-inspiring.
Saturday, September 20, 2008
Archbishop Favalora has made it clear he is not going to be playing along with the religious right and endorsing candidates: good for him. There is a whiff of desperation coming from the righthand side of the political divide these days. Favalora:
A group called the Alliance Defense Fund is urging pastors across the country to join their Pulpit Freedom Initiative by preaching a sermon "that addresses the candidates for government office in light of the truth of Scripture."
The group's goal is to challenge the Internal Revenue Service's restriction on tax-exempt organizations "by specifically opposing candidates for office that do not align themselves and their positions with the scriptural truth."
Needless to say, none of our Catholic churches or priests will be participating in this initiative. For one thing, we can do a lot for our communities with the money we save by being tax-exempt. That is why we accept that status and agree to abide by IRS rules that ban religious organizations from becoming involved in partisan politics.
Posted by Matt Talbot at 11:26 AM
Friday, September 19, 2008
Thursday, September 18, 2008
My dear brother Mark's Mass of Christian Burial was yesterday; a friend of the family who is a Deacon gave the homily, and after communion invited me up to share some thoughts about Mark. I'll post that later, but I wanted to use my first post since I've been back to thank everyone who has been praying for us. I and my family have truly been floating on prayers since last Thursday.
Glory be to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. AMEN!
Thursday, September 11, 2008
I just learned that my older brother, Mark, died tonight from complications of a bladder infection. He was quadriplegic, from an accident almost exactly 30 years ago.
I will probably write an appreciation or elegy later on my blog: right now the following people need your prayers:
My Mom (his primary caregiver)
The rest of my family.
I've known for a couple years that his days were numbered: in a way, that helped my family and me prepare for the inevitable. That is a blessing. He lasted about twice as long as quads usually do; this too is a blessing.
May God be merciful to him...and to me for the ways I failed him.
To Dr. Stockpole's reaction to my abortion post, can be found here, and is worth reading. An excerpt:
The fundamental problem with Stackpole's analysis is the following statement: "[to support Obama] you would have to show that McCain supports equivalent intrinsic evils, at least the moral equivalent of Obama's support for abortion."
This would only be the case if voting for a person who supported intrinsically evil acts. To vote for a person who supports an intrinsically evil act while supporting that position oneself is always formal cooperation in evil. But if you do not intend that evil, then you can apply the principle of double effect and vote for that person for proportionate reasons. This is spelled out quiote clearly in the Faithful Citizenship document.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
So this is what they meant by "Drill, baby, drill!" -
The reports portray a dysfunctional organization that has been riddled with conflicts of interest, unprofessional behavior and a free-for-all atmosphere for much of the Bush administration’s watch.
The investigation also concluded that several of the officials “frequently consumed alcohol at industry functions, had used cocaine and marijuana, and had sexual relationships with oil and gas company representatives.”
The investigation separately found that the program’s manager mixed official and personal business, and took money from a technical services firm in exchange for urging oil companies to hire the firm. In sometimes lurid detail, the report accuses him of having intimate relations with two subordinates, one of whom regularly sold him cocaine.
Tuesday, September 09, 2008
Hunter at Daily Kos is amusing as always - today's subject is the tendency of Republicans to lie, and the tendency of the Traditional media to ignore the fact that they lie:
There is absolutely no penalty for lying, in politics. None. Zip. Nada. Sarah Palin could stand atop a stage and declare herself moon-goddess of Endor, and it wouldn't make a bit of difference. Yes, the papers would correct her. There would be a few cable stories on how there was no prior record of her being declared a moon-goddess. In the end, however, it would not matter, and it would not matter because Republicans have decided that it does not.
Ignorance must really be bliss. How else, over so many years, could the G.O.P. get away with ridiculing all things liberal?
Troglodytes on the right are no respecters of reality. They say the most absurd things and hardly anyone calls them on it. Evolution? Don’t you believe it. Global warming? A figment of the liberal imagination.
Liberals have been so cowed by the pummeling they’ve taken from the right that they’ve tried to shed their own identity, calling themselves everything but liberal and hoping to pass conservative muster by presenting themselves as hyper-religious and lifelong lovers of rifles, handguns, whatever.
Anyway, the Republicans were back at it last week at their convention. Mitt Romney wasn’t content to insist that he personally knows that “liberals don’t have a clue.” He complained loudly that the federal government right now is too liberal.
“We need change, all right,” he said. “Change from a liberal Washington to a conservative Washington.”
Why liberals don’t stand up to this garbage, I don’t know. Without the extraordinary contribution of liberals — from the mightiest presidents to the most unheralded protesters and organizers — the United States would be a much, much worse place than it is today.
There would be absolutely no chance that a Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton or Sarah Palin could make a credible run for the highest offices in the land. Conservatives would never have allowed it.
Civil rights? Women’s rights? Liberals went to the mat for them time and again against ugly, vicious and sometimes murderous opposition. They should be forever proud.
The liberals who didn’t have a clue gave us Social Security and unemployment insurance, both of which were contained in the original Social Security Act. Most conservatives despised the very idea of this assistance to struggling Americans. Republicans hated Social Security, but most were afraid to give full throat to their opposition in public at the height of the Depression.
“In the procedural motions that preceded final passage,” wrote historian Jean Edward Smith in his biography, “FDR,” “House Republicans voted almost unanimously against Social Security. But when the final up-or-down vote came on April 19 , fewer than half were prepared to go on record against.”
Liberals who didn’t have a clue gave us Medicare and Medicaid. Quick, how many of you (or your loved ones) are benefiting mightily from these programs, even as we speak. The idea that Republicans are proud of Ronald Reagan, who saw Medicare as “the advance wave of socialism,” while Democrats are ashamed of Lyndon Johnson, whose legislative genius made this wonderful, life-saving concept real, is insane.
When Johnson signed the Medicare bill into law in the presence of Harry Truman in 1965, he said: “No longer will older Americans be denied the healing miracle of modern medicine.”
Reagan, on the other hand, according to Johnson biographer Robert Dallek, “predicted that Medicare would compel Americans to spend their ‘sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was like in America when men were free.’ ”
Without the many great and noble deeds of liberals over the past six or seven decades, America would hardly be recognizable to today’s young people. Liberals (including liberal Republicans, who have since been mostly drummed out of the party) ended legalized racial segregation and gender discrimination.
Humiliation imposed by custom and enforced by government had been the order of the day for blacks and women before men and women of good will and liberal persuasion stepped up their long (and not yet ended) campaign to change things. Liberals gave this country Head Start and legal services and the food stamp program. They fought for cleaner air (there was a time when you could barely see Los Angeles) and cleaner water (there were rivers in America that actually caught fire).
Liberals. Your food is safer because of them, and so are your children’s clothing and toys. Your workplace is safer. Your ability (or that of your children or grandchildren) to go to college is manifestly easier.
It would take volumes to adequately cover the enhancements to the quality of American lives and the greatness of American society that have been wrought by people whose politics were unabashedly liberal. It is a track record that deserves to be celebrated, not ridiculed or scorned.
Self-hatred is a terrible thing. Just ask that arch-conservative Clarence Thomas.
Liberals need to get over it.
Posted by Matt Talbot at 12:41 PM
This hunting season's Federal "Duck Stamps" have a phone number printed on them. The number is supposed to connect you to a place where you can order more stamps. Due to a mis-print, it actually connects to a phone sex line.
Sunday, September 07, 2008
Via Angela in the comments, Dr. Robert Stackpole posted a series of essays...
...which contain his thoughts on how Catholics ought to vote, given Obama's unreserved support for abortion rights and McCain's problematic positions on other issues.
I come to a different conclusion than Dr.Stackpole, but I respect his decision and don't question the sincerity of his arguments.
As one of the commenters to part 3 said - there is plenty of reason to be skeptical of Republican's true commitment to opposition to abortion, leaving aside the notion that opposing abortion does not, in and of itself, make one "pro-life." They've had 8 years: remember the big push to pass a constitutional amendment protecting all life from conception until natural death? Neither do I.
For that matter, after Roberts and Alito took their seats on the Supreme Court, why didn't the Republican-controlled Congress itself pass a law outlawing abortion, so that the "Pro-Life" Bush administration could then send the Solicitor General to argue for it in front of the Supreme Court? Republican Congress, Republican Administration: why no real action?
I'm convinced it's because they don't want to actually settle the abortion question - firstly because there is (unfortunately) a clear majority of public opinion that abortion should be legal in at least some circumstances, and thus actually outlawing it would present huge problems for them in terms of a backlash ( I have read some of the contingency planning the pro-choice movement has done for the event that Roe is overturned; the backlash would be absolutely massive, trust me); and secondly because that would deprive them of an issue they can use to get elected. "Just give us the chance to nominate one more justice, and then - then! - we'll finally be able to outlaw abortion. I know you Pro-Life liberals hate our other policies, but you're morally obligated to vote for us because of this one over-riding issue."
Disingenuous in the extreme, in my view.
Ponder this: It occurs to me that real and substantial progress might be made on the abortion issue if pro-lifers did more outreach to Liberals (beyond just telling them to vote for Republicans - an obvious non-starter.)
Pro-lifers don't have a lot of growth potential with Republicans and conservatives: the ones who can be convinced, have been. So, why doesn't the Pro-Life movement reach out to liberals? You know, have a fellow liberal explain opposition to abortion in a way that makes sense to the world-view of your typical Democrat, using progressive world-views and framing. I do this myself: there is lots of growth potential here, believe me. (Note the link to the right to Democrats For Life.) Support for abortion is pretty soft among lots of the rank and file Democrats I'm acquainted with.
Conservatism unleashed has proven skilled in exactly two things, in government: coming up with creative rationales for ignoring existing law or gutting its intent or enforcement, and at staffing every nook and cranny of government with more conservative cronies. It is superb at the machinery of destruction; it has never built a single thing, and mocks the very premise.
I just finished Thomas Frank's new book, The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Rule, and Frank says that this is the very heart of the matter.
The premise of contemporary conservatism is that government doesn't work; the response to Katrina was, from this perspective, "good" because it "proved" that government is ineffective.
Peel away the cynicism and Christianist pandering, and you discover that contemporary Republicanism has become the enactment of the belief that governments only purpose is to help rich people make money, and protect the interests of the powerful; anything that interferes with that agenda must be defunded and destroyed.
I highly recommend Frank's book.
Friday, September 05, 2008
MJ Rosenberg, in an essay at TPM Cafe, describes something that's been eating at the edge of my consciousness:
You would never know it from the media coverage but John McCain is not one of America's greatest war heroes. He is a former POW who survived, heroically. He deserves to be honored for that heroism.
But one thing distinguishes McCain from other war heroes, the kind whose heroism changes history rather than their life stories.
America's two greatest war heroes were Ulysses Grant and Dwight Eisenhower. Grant saved the union. And Ike saved civilization.
And neither one ever bragged about their experience. (Can you imagine Ike smacking down Adlai Stevenson by saying that while Adlai ran a nice medium-sized state, he was the Supreme Allied Commander who ran D-Day, defeated Hitler, and liberated Europe?).
Impossible. Like Grant, Eisenhower did not brag.
Obama was raised by a single mother who was occasionally on food stamps, is black, and went to college on scholarships. Cindy McCain wore an outfit and accessories that literally cost more than the average American home…but Obama’s the elitist. Got it.
Tuesday, September 02, 2008
Republicans define “elitism” with cultural signifiers: If you like latte, live on the coasts, eat organic food, drive a car made in northern Europe (Saab, Volvo, VW…) hunt birds rather than deer…etc.
Democrats, back in the days of Harry Truman and FDR, defined elitism in economic terms - “Malefactors of great wealth,” “economic royalists,” “the rich, lolling obscenely in opera boxes…” (actually, that was Mencken).
A reporter asked Sherrod Brown a couple years ago why so many rural and poor whites were voting for Republicans. His response: “Because Democrats stopped talking to them.”
A big piece of that has to do with the Civil and Voting Rights Acts, and their political aftermath. LBJ said that “we’ve lost the South for a generation” due to those Acts, but he lost more than the south: Racist whites everywhere were alienated from the Democratic Party. Part (at this point, only a small part, I hope) of the “elitist” charge is lingering resentment against urban northeastern Democrats for overturning the structures and privileges of Southern Post-Reconstruction society. The “outsiders” who tore down a system that had worked (for whites, anyway) for a hundred years were the original targets of the charge of elitism.
I am far to the left of most democrats these days because I’m an old-fashioned economic liberal - I’d love to see a far more progressive income tax, tilting the playing field in favor of union organizing, government regulation of public goods, single-payer health care, and so on.
Monday, September 01, 2008
I just sang this with my guitar, and I couldn't sing the final verse without tears interrupting.
As I was walkin' - I saw a sign there
And that sign said - "no tress passin'"
But on the other side .... it didn't say nothin!
Now that side was made for you and me!
This land is your land, this land is my land
From California, to the New York Island
From the redwood forest, to the gulf stream waters
This land was made for you and me
In the squares of the city - In the shadow of the steeple
Near the relief office - I see my people
And some are grumblin' and some are wonderin'
If this land's still made for you and me.
Obama has told his campaign that anyone who discusses Palin's family is going to be immediately canned.
Part of his statement:
"I have said before and I will repeat again: People's families are off limits. And people's children are especially off-limits. This shouldn't be part of politics. It has no relevance to Gov. Palin's performance as a governor and/or her potential performance as a vice president. So I would strongly urge people to back off these kinds of stories. You know my mother had me when she was 18 and how a family deals with issues and teenage children, that shouldn’t be a topic of our politics."
Can you imagine a Rove-advised candidate issuing a similar statement? Neither can I.