Coming Soon – American History Blogging, the Past is Prologue

Working on some longer pieces about 18th and 19th century American political history. What makes it endlessly fascinating to me is how much of today’s politics mirrors the factions and issues of then. In many ways there is a continuum from the 1790s to today. And then there are the debates over slavery and finance that seem unthinkable today.

The thing I find most fascinating about the 1787-1789 period when the Constitution was written and adopted, is that it was, as we imagine, a kind of magic time. But not for why most of us think. The timing was intensely critical. Many of the signors signed off based on trust, handshake deals between men of good faith. Just a few years later politics had divided the founding fathers so badly that it would have been impossible to imagine the same result.

The key thing to remember is that the founding fathers were not some monolithic group, they did not necessarily like each other, or agree on issues, or even agree with themselves – they changed their minds, evolved on issues over time. They really did think of it as an experiment, and by no means did they consider the product of their deliberations finished or perfect. They knew they couldn’t have gotten it all right, and feared that they got some of it very wrong. The same men created the Articles of Confederation that preceded the Constitution and went back to the drawing board when it became apparent it was a failure.

They were fallible men, not gods. They were no better or worse than the radical politicians of any age. But make no mistake they were radicals, revolutionaries, liberals determined to upset the existing power structure. There was nothing conservative about anyone who signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776. The only conservatives in this story wore red coats.

That some of them became more conservative over time as they contemplated and executed the experiment was a source of endless frustration to others of them and is the wellspring of many of today’s frustrations as well.

A Blackout-Proof, Solar-Powered Smart Grid Please

A Blackout-Proof, Solar-Powered Smart Grid Please

Living where I live, where we wandered a post-apocalyptic landscape without “the juice” for 7 days because of Superstorm Sandy, a blackout-proof, solar-powered smart grid sounds mighty friggin’ nice. The fact that the power lines are not buried, despite two straight years of losing power for significant periods of time, and there are no plans to do so is some fucked up shit. 

Question:  Why isn’t every new house and commercial facility in the country in the futuristic year of 2013 being built with solar panels on it?

I blame Reagan. Jimmy Carter placed solar panels on the WH in 1976 and one of Reagan’s first actions was to have them removed. Sounds like a dick move in and of itself, but the bigger picture is this: where would we be as a country if Reagan hadn’t shit on a legitimate 20th century energy policy in favor of a Saudi favored 19th century one.


The GOP Stupid Comments Can’t Stop if the Opinions Don’t Change – Forced and Unforced Errors

Haley Barbour and other semi-rational Republicans have repeatedly dunned their colleagues (major fail GOP Senate candidates Richard Mourdock  and Todd Akin, specifically) for saying “stupid” and “offensive” things.

“The comments they made were stupid comments, offensive comments and in today’s world when a candidate in one state says something, the negative effect of that can spill over to other candidates”

Yeah, other candidates who share those positions, duh!

Barbour acts as if these were unforced errors and Akin and Mourdock just blurted these things out inappropriately like they were unruly children with an autistic streak.  But these comments will keep coming as long as their position is that abortion, even in the case of rape, is immoral and should be illegal.  That’s the context in which these comments always pop up and send the political world into a tizzy.  The post-election GOP quality control people like Barbour (and where was he during the election?) act as if Anti-Choice men (and women by the way) have not been making these nonsensical statements forever!  Akin and Mourdock were asked questions and they answered them, honestly!  And then the GOP had to wear those answers because that’s the policy they espouse.  They are forced errors.

And they will continue to make them, so long as they espouse these positions.  The press will continue to ask them about it and they are almost duty bound to justify their positions by saying something stupid about rape, abortion, women’s sexuality, even how vaginas operate. 

That men shouldn’t be dictating women’s reproduction choices, no less talking about it authoritatively never occurs to them because they are misogynist moralists who believe that their religious/moral position is the only correct one, and that it is their place to protect women from themselves. And that thinking is an unforced error. It’s their right to think it, but people who think it shouldn’t be anywhere near the levers of power.

And speaking of stupid positions, denial of climate change, deregulation, blindly following the NRA are all just as demonstrably stupid as their lady parts positions. They just won’t own up to that yet and that is a huge unforced error.



Hansel & Gretel, Really? WTF is not nearly strong enough

So “Red Riding Hood” and “Snow White and the Huntsman” were not just a terrible coincidence. “Hansel & Gretel” and “Jack the Giant Slayer” (which I guess is butcher than “Jack and the Beanstalk”) make it a clear Hollywood trend of suck based on the silly fairy tale, nursery rhyme, children’s bedtime scare fests told literally for centuries. Well, what the hell when the biggest movies of the last 10 years are derived from comic books or cartoons or fucking toys! then it just makes sense that this is the road we’re on.

Dios mio they made an actual movie based on fucking Battleship! (No, that wasn’t a dream). This is actually in the script:


A Giant alien robot emerges from the ocean. The Sailors on the Battleship stare, mouths agape disbelieving their own eyes at this alien behemoth rising from the sea.


He sunk our Battleship! I’m getting too old for this shit.

Thank Satan nobody went to see that nasty taint or next summer we’d be getting ready for “Hungry Hungry Hippos-the Reckoning.”

And of course these new movies based on 19th century fairy tales (which were created in a world pre-electricity and indoor plumbing), are not like reverent and imaginitive cartoon versions of these perennial stories like “Beauty and the Beast.” Aw hell nah! They’re testosterone driven, Michael Bay inspired, explosion paloozas chock full of CGI and recorded in Dolby Maxi Plus Plus (we guarantee your ears will bleed) to attract 12 year old males of all ages.

In a world in which people sit in the dark shitting themselves.
Where Giants rule. One small man named Jack will dare to dream of
a magic bean… and gold! And then die of cholera.

If these movies are hits for the studios they will greenlight:

“The Emperor’s New Clothes” with Russell Crowe as a tailor on the edge of fashion and insanity!

“The Three Little Pigs” with Liam Neeson, Jamie Foxx and Russell Crowe as three ambitious pigs with new cutting edge ideas about construction and Javier Bardem as the wolf determined to destroy their empire and eat them.

“Duck, Duck, Goose” an exciting cast of sexy teen actors sit in a circle and one by one run around the circle choosing who is IT next. In this circle, the ducks are young and beautiful but you don’t want to be a goose because when you’re IT, you just might die! Have sex first, and then die… sexy.

Words That Make My Heart Sing: Hillary Turns Texas Blue

Courtesy of Brent Budowsky via LA @laprogressive

Hillary Turns Texas Blue

If Exxon Really Wanted To Help…

RootsAction notes that those ExxonMobil ads that say they think we should invest in education are pretty ballsy considering they should have paid $6.2 billion in taxes between 2008 and 2011.  The Dept. of Education could have used a part of that. (

American citizens get robbed when big business uses their wealth and power to bend the rules to their will and lawfully pick our pockets.  And no it’s not just their well documented efforts to pay as little taxes as possible (30 Major Corporations Paid No Income Taxes…  

The tax code that politicians complain about all the time got that way by being rigged by Congress at the behest of Lobbyists who bought those politicians in what amounts to legal graft. It’s old George Washington Plunkitt’s “honest graft” for the 21st century. (  

David Cay Johnston, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and tax expert has written at length (and most recently in his excellent book “The Fine Print”) about how municipalities use our tax money to the advantage of big business (see professional sports franchises and stadiums in the book “Free Lunch”). And how big businesses (especially utilities) in turn roll us and local governments by overbilling (and other legally sanctioned shenanigans) for essential services that increase the costs for every day goods and services that we can’t do without in the 21st century (gas, electric, cable TV, telephone service, etc.). Often the table is set for us being robbed blind by “deregulation” from “The Fine Print”:

All this was done under the guise of “deregulation,” but the harsh truth is there really is no such thing.  Everything has rules. Deregulation is just a disingenuous name for new regulation, too often under rules that favor corporations over their customers.

So when Republicans (or Democrats) talk about deregulation, hide your wallet.  It helps nobody but the industry that gave them the financial donation they’re paying back when they say it.

As G.W. Plunkitt, Tammany pol extraordinaire said in 1905:

“I seen my opportunities and I took ’em.”

It all comes down to getting money out of the system to level the playing field for the average citizen.  But if you’re happy with the best government money could buy…

God Help Us All – Filibuster FUBAR – UPDATED

The dream is dead. There will be no change, again. Harry Reid had said it was a mistake not to change the filibuster in 2011. What will he say in 2015 about today’s small ball, weak tea changes? Oy!

“I’m not personally, at this stage, ready to get rid of the 60-vote threshold,” Reid (D-Nev.) told me this morning, referring to the number of votes needed to halt a filibuster. “With the history of the Senate, we have to understand the Senate isn’t and shouldn’t be like the House.”

“The only way we’ll get rid of the filibuster is if it continues to be abused,” he said. “Hopefully, what we’ll do here will stop some of the abuse, but what will happen if the minority continues to abuse the rules is we won’t get rid of the filibuster, but we’ll go to something like what [Sen. Tom] Harkin has pushed, where one vote is at 57, and then another vote is at 55.”

It’s so like the glacially paced Senate to look at an untenable situation and incrementally make it just a skosh less unbarable. Makes perfect sense to the world’s second most exclusive club (NFL owners are first). While we’re suffering!

The last change, from 67 votes to invoke cloture down to 60 took 20 years happen. But the intense abuse of the rule wasn’t happening then. It’s like a teetotaler going to AA while his falling down alcoholic buddy keeps insisting he doesn’t have a problem.

Sen. Feinstein put forth new legislation on gun violence today and it went right into the circular file.


Politico is reporting that Reid is still talking to McConnell about a deal on the filibuster. Reid wants to do something that will get 67 votes so as to avoid the constitutional option of a 51 vote filibuster reform. But what kind of substantive reform would Republicans possibly consent to? 

It’s like rioting prisoners negotiating their own punishment.

Alllowing kids to decide their own homework assignments.

Lindsay Lohan bargaining for her own sobriety plan. 

They’ve announced they’ve dropped changing the impetus from getting 60 votes to invoke cloture to having 41votes  to prevent it, which woud have been at least a little more just. It’s not a small change in attitude to put it on the backs of the minority to have a minimum number of objections to stop legislation from going forward rather than forcing the majority to have a supermajority to pass it.

Noise is that even the talking filibuster, the Mr.Deeds Goes to Washington option, which would force Senators onto the floor and actually talking to keep a filibuster going, is being discarded.  Why?  What’s the burden with this? Is it so horrible to ask senators to be open and justify their obstruction, argue their case in front of the American people?

Holy Christ Harry!  You may get your 67 vote compromise, but I bet it’ll mean nothing changes.