Saturday Reads

Dec. 7, 1941: The destroyer Shaw's forward magazine explodes after being struck during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor (LA Times).

Dec. 7, 1941: The destroyer Shaw’s forward magazine explodes after being struck during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor (LA Times).

Good Morning!!

Today is Pearl Harbor Day, “a date which will live in infamy,” December 7, 1941. From the LA Times:

An Associated Press story on the Dec. 8, 1941, front page of the Los Angeles Times reported:

Japan assaulted every main United States and British possession in the Central and Western Pacific and invaded Thailand today (Monday) in a hasty but evidently shrewdly-planned prosecution of a war began Sunday without warning.

Her formal declaration of war against both the United States and Britain came 2 hours and 55 minutes after Japanese planes spread death and terrific destruction in Honolulu and Pearl Harbor at 7:35 a.m. Hawaiian time (10:05 a.m., P.S.T.) Sunday.

The claimed successes for the fell swoop included sinking of the United States battleship West Virginia and setting afire of the battleship Oklahoma.

On Dec. 8, 1941, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt started his famous speech:

Mr. Vice President, Mr. Speaker, members of the Senate and the House of Representatives: Yesterday, Dec. 7th, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy — the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

Within an hour, Congress passed a declaration of war against Japan, bringing the United States into World War II. On Dec. 11, Germany and Italy declared war on the United States.

There are more dramatic photos at the link. There aren’t many survivors of that day left, but at least two of them talked to news outlets yesterday. From the Denver Post:

COLORADO SPRINGS — No one asked Navy Lt. James Downing to hurriedly memorize the names on the dog tags of the dead and injured during the attack on Pearl Harbor.

But Downing, then 28, did it because he could not bear the thought of families not knowing the fate of their loved ones. He wrote to as many families as he could.

The Colorado Springs resident, who celebrated his 100th birthday in August, is the oldest known survivor of the Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese sneak attack that killed more than 2,400 Americans .

Downing fought to save lives that day, all the while wondering whether it was the day his own life would end.
Downing was a gunner’s mate 1st class and postmaster, assigned to the USS West Virginia. The battleship had just returned to base after more than a week on patrol.

His wife of five months, Morena, was cooking Sunday morning breakfast for a few servicemen in the couple’s home near the harbor when they heard explosions in the distance, Downing said.

“Then an anti-aircraft shell landed right outside and blew a crater about 25 feet across,” Downing said, illustrating with outstretched arms.

In those days, there was no way for survivors to let their families know they were okay–it took until Christmas for some to be able to to contact loved ones. Another Pearl Harbor survivor, Richard Pena, spoke to Huffington Post.

It was life and business as usual for Navy veteran Richard Pena until the bombs dropped on Pearl Harbor just before 8 a.m. on December 7, 1941.

Pena was eating breakfast and was about to head out for his morning duty as quartermaster to raise the flag when the attack started, he told HuffPost Live. As far as he recalls, the flags never went up that day, Pena said.

Before the attack, Pena said he and his fellow officers were living “the good life” stationed in Hawaii. Coming from San Antonio, Texas, it was his first time away from home.

“In the blinking of an eye, a split second, your life is turned topsy-turvy,” Pena reminisced. “It’s hard to describe what you’re feeling. People tell you you’ve trained for this all the time, but you didn’t know that it was going to happen the way it did.”

 

Back in December 2013, much of the country is dealing with stormy weather. CNN reports: Power outages, travel nightmare — and snow in Vegas?

More sleet and subfreezing temperatures are predicted to hit areas from Dallas to Memphis until Sunday, and Little Rock, Arkansas, until Monday.

The nation’s capital will not be spared from the cold either. Snow or sleet is forecast for Washington on Sunday.

In the central Appalachians through central New England, snow is expected into early Saturday morning, the National Weather Service said.

In addition to the plummeting temperatures, the drastic swings were startling. Hot Springs, Arkansas, experienced a record high of 75 on Wednesday. By Friday, it was in the middle of an ice storm.

The Dallas/Fort Worth area is among the hardest hit. It will have a high of 27 degrees Saturday, a day after the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport canceled almost 700 flights, about 80% of those scheduled.

And, yes, Las Vegas will be in the 20′s over the weekend.

The bad weather across the South and Midwest came from winter storm Cleon. Out in the Northwest, winter storm Dion is gearing up to rush across the country, impacting the south and moving up into the Northeast. You can get live updates on Dion here. For once, eastern New England could be one of the least affected areas. We got some freezing rain last night and the streets are slippery this morning, but it’s no big deal. The only other impact on us will probably be some sleet and freezing rain on Monday morning. I’m really feeling for those of you who are suffering from these storms. Trust me, I know what you’re going through! Here are some of the records that have been set around the the country:

  • Denver: Record low of -13 degrees on Wednesday beat the old record of -5 degrees set in 2008. Thursday’s low of -15 tied the daily record. Denver dropped to -13 degrees on Saturday morning, tying another record low.
  • Ely, Nev.: Record low of -17 degrees on Wednesday crushed the old record of -5 degrees.
  • Great Falls, Mont.: Record low of on Wednesday topped the old record of 22 degrees below zero.
  • Casper, Wyo.: Record low of -22 degrees on Wednesday beat the old record of -11 degrees set in 1972.
  • Medford, Ore: Record low of 18 degrees on Wednesday and a record low of 14 on Thursday. According to the National Weather Service, this is the coldest air mass in the city since 1998.
  • Portland, Ore. and Astoria, Ore.: Three straight days with daily record lows through Tuesday through Thursday.
  • Spokane, Wash.: Saw its first high in the teens since Feb. 26, 2011 on Thursday.
  • Glasgow, Mont.: Recorded its first subzero high temperature since Jan. 18, 2012 on Thursday.
  • Great Falls, Mont.: Low of -33 degrees on Saturday was the coldest temperature recorded so early in the season. Previous record was Dec. 8, 1972 (-36 degrees).

Some good news: North Korea has released (they say “deported”) 85-year old Korean war veteran Merrill Newman after holding him prisoner for more than a month and forcing him to “apologize.” The Independent reports:

North Korea has deported an elderly US tourist and Korean War veteran detained since October for alleged hostile acts against the country.

The country’s official state news agency Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said Merrill Newman has been expelled on “humanitarian grounds” because of his age and health after he “confessed” to crimes during the 1950-53 war and apologised.

The 85-year-old flew to China this morning where he boarded a flight to San Francisco. Speaking to Japanese reporters at Beijing airport, he said: “I’m very glad to be on my way home. And I appreciate the tolerance the DPRK government has given to me to be on my way. I feel good, I feel good. I want to go home to see my wife.”

[Newman] has been in detention since being taken off a plane on October 26 by North Korean authorities following a 10-day tour of the country. KCNA claimed that Merrill had ordered the deaths of North Korean civilians and soldiers during the war. His family say he was a victim of mistaken identity.

I have some more new and some longer reads for you, which I’ll list link dump style.

MassLive: President Obama’s uncle, Onyango Obama, to face deportation hearing in Boston.

According to a court docket, the case will be heard by Immigration Judge Leonard Shapiro on Tuesday afternoon in Boston Immigration Court at the John F. Kennedy Federal Building.

Onyango Obama is the president’s father’s half brother.

A judge issued a deportation order against Onyango Obama, who is from Kenya, in 1992. But Obama never left the country. The Boston Globe reported that Obama was working as a liquor store manager when the Framingham Police arrested him for drunk driving in August 2011. He was sentenced to probation in that case, and the charges brought renewed attention to his immigration status.

The Globe reported that Obama has been living in the United States since 1963, when he came to enroll in school here as a 17-year-old. He was first ordered deported in 1986, although appeals continued in that case for six years.

For Pete’s sake, why can’t they just let the poor guy stay in the US? He’s been here for 50 years! Meanwhile, President Obama acknowledged that he lived with his uncle briefly in the 1980s. It had been thought that the two had never met, but no one bothered to ask the President directly about it until now.

New research on Toxoplasmosis  gondii, the parasite associated with cat litter boxes, undercooked meat, and other sources, shows that it can have some positive effects on the brain.

New neuroscience research says that Toxo—the cysts in our brains from cats—can improve our self-control. For the 30 percent of people who have this infection, it’s about more than promiscuity, schizophrenia, and car crashes.

I’ll let you read the details at the link if you so desire. I decided not to read about it, since there’s nothing I can do if I have it…

This article in the Atlantic is from September, and it’s long; but I highly recommend it if you like human interest stories and/or true crime tales. Murder by Craigslist: A serial killer finds a newly vulnerable class of victims: white, working-class men. Fascinating and surprising reading–I highly recommend it.

From Technology Review: Identifying Signs of Chronic Brain Injury in Living Football Players

Eight former pro football players learned this year that they have signs of a degenerative brain disorder called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a condition linked to depression, dementia, and memory loss. These somber findings were uncovered using a new method of brain imaging that, for the first time, enables researchers to spot signs of the condition in the living brain. Previously CTE could only be identified after a victim died.

The new method could help quantify the risks of repetitive blows to the head (see “Images of a Hard-Hitting Disease” and “Military Brains Donated for Trauma Research”). It could also help future players avoid the degenerative and sometimes lethal condition by limiting their exposure, and it may help scientists develop better protective gear and treatments.

Two interesting reads from Alternet:

20 Things the Poor Do Everyday That the Rich Never Have to Worry About

This one partially explains why I’m so down on Glenn Greenwald: Why Atheist Libertarians Are Part of America’s 1 Percent Problem

This morning’s stupid right winger stories:

Rick Santorum: Nelson Mandela Fought ‘Great Injustice,’ Just Like Republicans Are Battling Obamacare

Eric Cantor Calls the Police on Children Who Were Singing In His Office

House Majority Leader Brushes Off Young Girl As She Asks Him To Help Her Undocumented Father

The Right Wing’s Campaign To Discredit And Undermine Mandela, In One Timeline

Those are my offerings for today. What stories are you following? Please let us know in the comment thread, and if you are in the path of Cleon and/or Dion, please stay safe and warm and update us on your situations if you can.


Tuesday: Something’s Gotta Give!

greta garbo reading

Good Morning!!

I’ve finally reached a point of such frustration with politics, with the do-nothing Congress, and the mostly unserious media, that I wonder if the bottleneck of corruption, incompetence, and stupidity in Washington DC will ever be broken.

Congress–particularly the Senate–is populated mostly with old, rich white men who work about two days a week at most and take so many vacations that it’s hard to keep track of when they’re actually on the job. When the rest of us have a day off, they get a week. And for major holidays like Christmas, they take a month. It’s sickening.

The Republican House spends its two days a week mostly taking votes to repeal or defund Obamacare or finding new ways to wage war on women’s individual freedom and autonomy. The rest of their time is spent trying to take food out of the mouths of poor children by cutting food stamps and other safety net programs. Then there are the states where Republican governors and legislatures are waging all-out war on women and pretty much anyone who isn’t in the top 1%.

Meanwhile, our roads and bridges are falling down all over the country. Can you imagine how many jobs the government could create by helping to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure? Not only that, but baby boomers like me could be put back to work helping in the schools. The government could create a WPA for the growing ranks of seniors instead of attacking us for collecting the Social Security and Medicare we’ve paid into for our entire lives!

Will the logjam ever break? Will we ever see the slightest focus on jobs and economic equality for the vast majority of Americans?

Back in 2000, after the Supreme Court designated George W. Bush as president, I despaired and ignored politics for awhile. But after 9/11 and the lies that dragged us into two wars that ended up being longer and more pointless than the war of my youth–Vietnam–I began to follow politics closely again. I felt it was my responsibility as a citizen to pay attention to what was being done in our name. And I did.

I had gone back to college in 1993 and got into using computers again. In 1997, I started graduate school, and got my first PC and immediately got my cable company to hook it up to the internet. I joined internet mailing lists where I could discuss issues that interested me.

Around 2003, I heard about “weblogs,” and I set out to find some that discussed politics. Every day I read and commented at Daily Kos, Talking Points Memo, and dozens of other liberal blogs. Most of you know the rest. In 2008, I was driven off DK after I failed to drink the Obot Koolaid. I wrote for a small blog for a couple of years and then finally Dakinkat and I joined up here at Sky Dancing, along with Mona and JJ.

I’m here and I want to keep on writing here. I love learning about new subjects when I research news stories. But Goddammit, I want something new to happen. I want our government to be functional and have positive effects on my life and the lives of other ordinary people.

Back in 2008 I pretty much shut off the TV and focused on getting my news on the internet. But for the past couple of weeks, I’ve been escaping into detective novels and watching old movies on the tube. It’s difficult to find things blog about when the news is the same every day–the war on women and working people and Congress refusing to lift a finger to improve the economic situation for the vast majority of Americans.

As you know, lately I’ve become fascinated by the case of Edward Snowden and his leaks about NSA spying. Previously, I had focused on the bombings that took place in Boston and that had led me to do a lot of research on Russia, where the accused bombers’ roots were. So when Snowden ended up in Russia, I had a little bit of background on the place.

When the NSA leaks first broke, I thought it was possible we might get some real movement on the issue of domestic spying, but once Snowden revealed himself the story became mostly about him and his mouthpiece Glenn Greenwald.

Now the Snowden story has also settled into a holding pattern. The Russians are enjoying playing with their new toy and sticking it to the Obama administration, and Greenwald isn’t even writing about leaks anymore. He just writes long, angry lectures about how Democrats and liberals are the root of all evil.

Speaking of libertarians, have you noticed the Ayn Rand crowd is taking over and brainwashing a lot of so-called “progressives?” Last week there was an effort to pass an amendment that would have prevented NSA from collecting any telephone metadata. Instead of having an intelligent discussion about how to carefully regulate electronic surveillance, we would have simply ended it–and gone back to where we were before 9/11 in terms of identifying terrorist threats.

That bill was named after an Ayn Rand worshipping wingnut from Michigan named Justin Amash whose goal is to remove all power from the Federal government except the power to control women’s bodies! Did you know that Amash wants to ban abortions as of three days after conception? This reactionary who is being called “the next Ron Paul” was actually named “Truthdigger of the week.” Are you kidding me?

Have we finally reached the point where the “progressives” of 2008 are joining with the anti-statist libertarians? Sorry, but I’m not down with that. I believe in government, and I believe we need a strong Federal government. I think the states have too much power over people’s lives right now. I think we need a national equal rights amendment to end the constant ridiculous efforts to control the lives of women and LGBT people!

Now I’ve ranted away much of the space for this post, and I haven’t really given you any news. I’m going to post a few links, and I will put up another post a little later on. And If you have any suggestions for how I can deal with my Political Affective Disorder, I’ll be very grateful to receive them.

President Obama has been trying to put some focus on economics, and will make his fourth speech on the topic today. A few links:

The Windsor Star– Analysis: Obama tries to shift focus to economy, faces withering Republican opposition

WSJ– Obama Economic Proposals Face Long Odds in Congress

Dean Baker– Cruel Arithmetic and President Obama’s Big Speech

The Hill– Obama to propose ‘grand bargain’ on jobs, corporate tax rates

Other News

Fox News– 8 injured, including 4 critically, after dozens of explosions rock central Florida propane plant

Amy Davidson at The New Yorker– Waiting for the Bradley Manning Verdict

Vanity Fair– Anthony Weiner’s Cringe-y New Sexts Reveal Request for “Daily Shoe Update”

USA Today– San Diego mayor wants taxpayers to foot legal bills

So…….. What’s new with you today? Are you frustrated, depressed, or perhaps inspired? What issues are you focusing on today? Please let me know in the comment thread.


Memorial Day Reads

Flag-Flower-Vintage-Post-CardGood Morning Every One!

I hope you’re having a wonderful holiday weekend!

Bob Dole is an interesting man and definitely a war hero.  He was also a Republican who served at a point in time when Republicans were interested in solving problems–not creating them–and had a fairly consistent view of things.  Although I will never, for the life of me, understand how exactly a party that wants to be the party of small government seems to be so interested in what goes on in people’s beds and bodies.

I just remember him now being wheeled to the Senate to pass a really important piece of legislation that the party shot down because of some weird conspiracy theories.  They walked right by a man in a wheel chair that has given a lot to this country and ignored his pleas to recognize his right to have access to life.  He spoke out yesterday and the comments were doozies.

Asked on “Fox News Sunday” if the Senate was broken, Dole responded that “it is bent pretty badly.”

“It seems almost unreal that we can’t get together on a budget, or legislation,” said Dole, who served in the Senate from 1969 to 1996. “We weren’t perfect by a long shot, but at least we got our work done.”

Dole came back to the Senate last December to support a United Nations treaty to bar discrimination against people with disabilities, which failed after a vast majority of Republicans declined to support it.

Dole said in his Fox News interview that he isn’t sure there would be a place for him and other big-time Republicans of his generation, like Presidents Reagan and Nixon, in the current GOP.

“Reagan couldn’t have made it. Certainly, Nixon couldn’t have made it, because he had ideas. We might have made it, but I doubt it,” said Dole, who called himself a “mainstream conservative Republican.”

“I think they ought to put a sign on the national committee doors that says closed for repairs, until New Year’s Day next year, and spend that time going over ideas and positive agendas,” Dole said about the current state of his party.

I thought the comment about Nixon was particularly interesting. He was a man of ideas.  Those ideas also included attracting the Southern Confederates into the party that now are the big problem.  That sure is a bold idea.  Attract a bunch of folks with a history of insurgencies. So, the sorry state of the nation has a lot to do with Nixon’s big ideas and Reagan’s big ideas and we basically have Obama throwing together Dolecare which was a big idea in its time too.  I think we need fewer big ideas and more solutions.

Because people are hurting.9158220-handpainted-vintage-postcard-for-memorial-day-1909-with-text

 The Census Bureau has reported that one out of six Americans lives in poverty. A shocking figure. But it’s actually much worse. Inequality is spreading like a shadowy disease through our country, infecting more and more households, and leaving a shrinking number of financially secure families to maintain the charade of prosperity.

1. Almost half of Americans had NO assets in 2009

Analysis of  Economic Policy Institute data shows that Mitt Romney’s famous  47 percent, the alleged ‘takers,’ have taken nothing. Their debt exceeded their assets in 2009.

2. It’s Even Worse 3 Years Later

Since the recession, the disparities have continued to grow. An  OECD report states that “inequality has increased by more over the past three years to the end of 2010 than in the previous twelve,” with the U.S. experiencing one of the widest gaps among OECD countries. The 30-year  decline in wages has worsened since the recession, as low-wage jobs have  replaced formerly secure middle-income positions.

3. Over half of Americans are now IN poverty.

According to IRS data, the average household in the bottom 50% brings in about  $18,000 per year. That’s less than the  poverty line for a family of three ($19,000) or a family of four ($23,000).

4. 75% of Americans are NEAR poverty.

The average household in the bottom 75% earns about  $31,000 per year. To be eligible for food assistance, a family can earn up to  130% of the federal poverty line, or about $30,000 for a family of four.

Incredibly, Congress is trying to  cut food assistance. Republican Congressman Stephen Fincher of Tennessee referred to food stamps as “stealing.” He added a Biblical quote: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.” A recent  jobs hearing in Washington was attended by  one Congressman.

5. Putting it in Perspective

Inequality is at its ugliest for the hungriest people. While food support was being targeted for cuts, just  20 rich Americans made as much from their 2012 investments as the entire  2012 SNAP (food assistance) budget, which serves 47 million people.

card00411_frWe’re abusing all of our resources.  Here’s research that shows how quickly we’re draining our aquifers.  They are a key source of fresh water.

Since 1900, the U.S. has pulled enough water from underground aquifers to fill two Lake Eries. And in just the first decade of the 21st century, we’ve extracted underground water sufficient to raise global sea level by more than 2 percent. We suck up 25 cubic kilometers of buried water per year.

That’s the message from the U.S. Geological Survey’s evaluation of how the U.S. is managing its aquifers. Or mismanaging. For example: water levels in the aquifer that underlies the nation’s bread basket have dropped in some places by as much as 160 feet.

So, I have an update on the newly found grave of England’s King Richard III.

Researchers from the University of Leicester have revealed in the journal Antiquity that the remains of King Richard III had been buried in an untidy grave, “without any pomp or solemn funeral,” as the medieval historian Polydore Vergil had written. There were no signs of a coffin or a shroud, and the lozenge-shaped grave was too short for his body, which had been placed on one side of the hole. Additional evidence suggests that the defeated king’s hands may have been tied. Other medieval graves in the town had been carefully dug to the correct length and with vertical sides.

So, the world is atwitter with a possible sunrise in Japan.  There’s even a name for it “Abenomics”.  I will try to tackle the whole thing some time this week but I thought I’d mention that Japanese women will still be left out no matter what the outcome.

The World Economic Forum ranks Japan a dismal 101st in gender equality out 135 countries — behind Azerbaijan, Indonesia and China. Not a single Nikkei 225 company is run by a woman. Female participation in politics is negligible, and the male-female wage gap is double the average in Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries.

One number explains why Japan must pull women into the job market and help them achieve leadership roles: 15 percent. That’s how much of a boost that gross domestic product would receive if female employment matched men’s (about 80 percent), says Kathy Matsui, the chief Japan equity strategist at Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

“Japan is lagging because it’s running a marathon with one leg,” says Matsui, who has been churning out “Womenomics” reports regularly since 1999. “It must start tapping its most underutilized resource.”

Abe is acting from fiscal necessity, not from a sense of social justice. Japan’s workforce is shrinking as the population ages and the birthrate declines. That might be manageable if not for a public debt more than twice the size of the $5.9 trillion economy. Politically, increasing the number of women workers is an easier sell than opening up Japan to immigrant labor.

The deal is that some of the Abenomics suggestions to correct some of these issues for women are strikingly patriarchal.

The government is considering circulating “Women’s Notebooks” to warn of the evils of postponing marriage and motherhood. Yes, career-oriented women are selfish. When Abe calls on companies to provide three years of maternity leave, he uses a Japanese expression that a child should be held by its mother until the age of 3. In other words, kids are women’s work. (In fact, knowing that a three-year absence could derail their careers, many women are likely to further delay childbirth.)

Abe’s government should begin by actually enforcing the 1986 Equal Employment Opportunity Law. Japan should promote diversity and offer tax incentives to companies that do, as well. More-flexible work hours would draw women into the workforce. So would offering subsidized or free day care so more families can afford it.

At least Japan is trying to have a discussion.  All we get here are cuts to early child education and care and less access to reproductive health care and family planning.

Pussy Riot band member Maria Alyokhina ha announced a prison hunger strike

A parole hearing in the Russian town of Berezniki has been adjourned until May 23 after a jailed member of the all-female opposition group Pussy Riot refused to continue taking part via video-link.

At the hearing on May 22, the court rejected Maria Alyokhina’s requests to be physically present and to have the judge and the prosecutor replaced.

Alyokhina, who spoke to the Berezniki court from her prison in the Perm region, announced that she was starting a hunger strike.

Her lawyer, Irina Khrunova, told journalists that there were many procedural violations in the parole hearing.

“Masha [Alyokhina] and I agreed [before the parole hearing] that if the court did not allow her to be brought to the courtroom, then she would refuse to participate in the hearings,” she said.

Khrunova indicated that Alyokhina would also not participate in the hearing on May 23.

“She very much wanted to appear in court; she wanted to tell the court about her situation and why she thought she deserved to be released on parole, but since the court refused to hear her personally, she thought she didn’t need to continue [participation],” he said.

Alyokhina and another Pussy Riot member, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, are serving two-year prison sentences after being convicted of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred.”

Alyokhina, Tolokonnikova, and a third member, Yekaterina Samutsevich, were arrested in February 2012 after staging a performance critical of President Vladimir Putin in Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral.

Samutsevich also received a two-year prison sentence but was later released on probation.

Tolokonnikova’s parole request was denied last month by a court in the Russian republic of Mordovia, where she is serving her prison sentence.

Hard to get justice anywhere in the world these days.

No Justice No Peace.

What’s on you reading and blogging list this holiday?


Tuesday Reads: Margaret Thatcher’s “Dark Legacy,” Death of a Feminist Revolutionary, and Mitch McConnell’s Ugly Plans

jason-patterson-hand-comes-out-of-basement-to-get-morning-paper-new-yorker-cartoon

Good Morning!!

The death of Margaret Thatcher is still dominating the news this morning.  It seems she was one of those public figures that inspired varied but passionate reactions–you either loved her or hated her.

Andrew Sullivan loved her it seems.

I was a teenage Thatcherite, an uber-politics nerd who loved her for her utter lack of apology for who she was. I sensed in her, as others did, a final rebuke to the collectivist, egalitarian oppression of the individual produced by socialism and the stultifying privileges and caste identities of the class system. And part of that identity – the part no one ever truly gave her credit for – was her gender. She came from a small grocer’s shop in a northern town and went on to educate herself in chemistry at Oxford, and then law. To put it mildly, those were not traditional decisions for a young woman with few means in the 1950s. She married a smart businessman, reared two children and forged a political career from scratch in the most male-dominated institution imaginable: the Tory party.

She relished this individualist feminism and wielded it – coining a new and very transitive verb, handbagging, to describe her evisceration of ill-prepared ministers or clueless interviewers. Perhaps in Toynbee’s defense, Thatcher was not a feminist in the left-liberal sense: she never truly reflected on her pioneering role as a female leader; she never appointed a single other woman to her cabinet over eleven years; she was contemptuous toward identity politics; and the only tears she ever deployed (unlike Hillary Clinton) were as she departed from office, ousted by an internal coup, undefeated in any election she had ever run in as party leader.

Her policies “inspired” the revolutionary reactions that created a “cultural transformation.”

Thatcher’s economic liberalization came to culturally transform Britain. Women were empowered by new opportunities; immigrants, especially from South Asia, became engineers of growth; millions owned homes for the first time; the media broke free from union chains and fractured and multiplied in subversive and dynamic ways. Her very draconian posture provoked a punk radicalism in the popular culture that changed a generation. The seeds of today’s multicultural, global London – epitomized by that Olympic ceremony – were sown by Thatcher’s will-power.

And that was why she ultimately failed, as every politician always ultimately does. She wanted to return Britain to the tradition of her thrifty, traditional father; instead she turned it into a country for the likes of her son, a wayward, money-making opportunist. The ripple effect of new money, a new middle class, a new individualism meant that Blair’s re-branded Britain – cool Britannia, with its rave subculture, its fashionistas, its new cuisine, its gay explosion, its street-art, its pop music – was in fact something Blair inherited from Thatcher.

Of course Sullivan no longer lives in Great Britain, and he has the means to avoid the worst effects of the elite’s austerity policies regardless of where he lives. Others aren’t so fortunate.

The Guardian reports: Margaret Thatcher’s death greeted with street parties in Brixton and Glasgow; Crowds shout ‘Maggie Maggie Maggie, dead dead dead’ during impromptu events.

Several hundred people gathered in south London on Monday evening to celebrate Margaret Thatcher‘s death with cans of beer, pints of milk and an impromptu street disco playing the soundtrack to her years in power.

Young and old descended on Brixton, a suburb which weathered two outbreaks of rioting during the Thatcher years. Many expressed jubilation that the leader they loved to hate was no more; others spoke of frustration that her legacy lived on.

To cheers of “Maggie Maggie Maggie, dead dead dead,” posters of Thatcher were held aloft as reggae basslines pounded.

Clive Barger, a 62-year-old adult education tutor, said he had turned out to mark the passing of “one of the vilest abominations of social and economic history”.

He said: “It is a moment to remember. She embodied everything that was so elitist in terms of repressing people who had nothing. She presided over a class war.”

Builder Phil Lewis, 47, a veteran of the 1990 poll tax riots, said he had turned out to recall the political struggles the Thatcher years had embroiled him in. “She ripped the arsehole out of this country and we are still suffering the consequences.”

Just as Ronald Reagan did to the U.S.–and we’re still suffering the consequences.

Here’s a video from Brixton.

Hugo Young, Thatcher biographer, writes in The Guardian: Margaret Thatcher left a dark legacy that has still not disappeared. For Young, a positive was Thatcher’s indifference to her popularity with the public.

I think by far her greatest virtue, in retrospect, is how little she cared if people liked her. She wanted to win, but did not put much faith in the quick smile. She needed followers, as long as they went in her frequently unpopular directions. This is a political style, an aesthetic even, that has disappeared from view. The machinery of modern political management – polls, consulting, focus groups – is deployed mainly to discover what will make a party and politician better liked, or worse, disliked. Though the Thatcher years could also be called the Saatchi years, reaching a new level of presentational sophistication in the annals of British politics, they weren’t about getting the leader liked. Respected, viewed with awe, a conviction politician, but if liking came into it, that was an accident.

But this attitude “didn’t come without a price” and “Thatcher left a dark legacy…”

What happened at the hands of this woman’s indifference to sentiment and good sense in the early 1980s brought unnecessary calamity to the lives of several million people who lost their jobs. It led to riots that nobody needed. More insidiously, it fathered a mood of tolerated harshness. Materialistic individualism was blessed as a virtue, the driver of national success. Everything was justified as long as it made money – and this, too, is still with us.

Thatcherism failed to destroy the welfare state. The lady was too shrewd to try that, and barely succeeded in reducing the share of the national income taken by the public sector. But the sense of community evaporated. There turned out to be no such thing as society, at least in the sense we used to understand it. Whether pushing each other off the road, barging past social rivals, beating up rival soccer fans, or idolising wealth as the only measure of virtue, Brits became more unpleasant to be with. This regrettable transformation was blessed by a leader who probably did not know it was happening because she didn’t care if it happened or not. But it did, and the consequences seem impossible to reverse….

[I]t’s now easier to see the scale of the setback she inflicted on Britain’s idea of its own future. Nations need to know the big picture of where they belong and, coinciding with the Thatcher appearance at the top, clarity had apparently broken through the clouds of historic ambivalence.

At least the British media isn’t trying to canonize Thatcher as the corporate media in the U.S. did to Reagan.

A Less Remarked Upon Death: Shulamith Firestone

At The New Yorker, Susan Faludi pays tribute to a feminist icon of the 1970s, “Death of a Revolutionary: Shulamith Firestone helped to create a new society. But she couldn’t live in it.”

When Shulamith Firestone’s body was found late last August, in her studio apartment on the fifth floor of a tenement walkup on East Tenth Street, she had been dead for some days. She was sixty-seven, and she had battled schizophrenia for decades, surviving on public assistance. There was no food in the apartment, and one theory is that Firestone starved, though no autopsy was conducted, by preference of her Orthodox Jewish family. Such a solitary demise would have been unimaginable to anyone who knew Firestone in the late nineteen-sixties, when she was at the epicenter of the radical-feminist movement, surrounded by some of the same women who, a month after her death, gathered in St. Mark’s Church In-the-Bowery, to pay their respects.
The memorial service verged on radical-feminist revival. Women distributed flyers on consciousness-raising, and displayed copies of texts published by the Redstockings, a New York group that Firestone co-founded. The WBAI radio host Fran Luck called for the Tenth Street studio to be named the Shulamith Firestone Memorial Apartment, and rented “in perpetuity” to “an older and meaningful feminist.” Kathie Sarachild, who had pioneered consciousness-raising and coined the slogan “Sisterhood Is Powerful,” in 1968, proposed convening a Shulamith Firestone Women’s Liberation Memorial Conference on What Is to Be Done. After several calls from the dais to “seize the moment” and “keep it going,” a dozen women decamped to an organizing meeting at Sarachild’s apartment.

I well remember reading Firestone’s book, The Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution. It was mind-blowing stuff in those days.

In the late nineteen-sixties, Firestone and a small cadre of her “sisters” were at the radical edge of a movement that profoundly changed American society. At the time, women held almost no major elected positions, nearly every prestigious profession was a male preserve, homemaking was women’s highest calling, abortion was virtually illegal, and rape was a stigma to be borne in silence. Feminism had been in the doldrums ever since the first wave of the American women’s movement won the vote, in 1920, and lost the struggle for greater emancipation. Feminist energy was first co-opted by Jazz Age consumerism, then buried in decades of economic depression and war, until the dissatisfactions of postwar women, famously described by Betty Friedan in “The Feminine Mystique” (1963), gave rise to a “second wave” of feminism. The radical feminists emerged alongside a more moderate women’s movement, forged by such groups as the National Organization for Women, founded in 1966 by Friedan, Aileen Hernandez, and others, and championed by such publications as Ms., founded in 1972 by Gloria Steinem and Letty Cottin Pogrebin. That movement sought, as now’s statement of purpose put it, “to bring women into full participation in the mainstream of American society,” largely by means of equal pay and equal representation. The radical feminists, by contrast, wanted to reconceive public life and private life entirely.

What a brilliant tribute by Faludi. It’s well worth the read.

Mother Jones’s David Corn has gotten his hands on a tape of “a private meeting between the Senate GOP leader and campaign aides reveals how far they were willing to go to defeat” Ashley Judd.

On February 2, Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the US Senate, opened up his 2014 reelection campaign headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky, and in front of several dozen supporters vowed to “point out” the weaknesses of any opponent fielded by the Democrats. “They want to fight? We’re ready,” he declared. McConnell was serious: Later that day, he was huddling with aides in a private meeting to discuss how to attack his possible Democratic foes, including actor/activist Ashley Judd, who was then contemplating challenging the minority leader. During this strategy session—a recording of which was obtained by Mother Jones—McConnell and his aides considered assaulting Judd for her past struggles with depression and for her religious views….

For much of the Judd discussion, McConnell was silent as aides reviewed the initial oppo research they had collected on Judd and weighed all the ways they could pummel her. The recording was provided to Mother Jones last week by a source who requested anonymity. (The recording can be found here; a transcript is here.) McConnell’s Senate office and his campaign office did not respond to requests for comment.

The aide who led the meeting began his presentation with a touch of glee: “I refer to [Judd] as sort of the oppo research situation where there’s a haystack of needles, just because truly, there’s such a wealth of material.” He ran through the obvious: Judd was a prominent supporter of President Barack Obama, Obamacare, abortion rights, gay marriage, and climate change action. He pointed out that she is “anti-coal.”

But the McConnell gang explored going far beyond Judd’s politics and policy preferences. This included her mental health. The meeting leader noted:

She’s clearly, this sounds extreme, but she is emotionally unbalanced. I mean it’s been documented. Jesse can go in chapter and verse from her autobiography about, you know, she’s suffered some suicidal tendencies. She was hospitalized for 42 days when she had a mental breakdown in the ’90s.

So what? Mitch McConnell is a sick, closeted, hateful old freak who appears to lack any semblance of human feelings.

I’m running out of space, so I’ll add a few more links in the comments. I hope you’ll do the same. What are you reading and blogging about today?


Monday Reads

Good Morning!

The most recent vivisection of Mitt Romney’s political career is in the NY Review of Books and is written by Garry Wills.  It looks at a batch of losers and wonders which path Romney will choose.  My guess is it will have nothing to do outside of the realm of increasing his personal wealth or church standing. Shallow Mitt will continue his life in the bubble.

What public service do we expect from Mitt Romney? He will no doubt return to augmenting his vast and hidden wealth, with no more pesky questions about where around the world it is stashed, or what taxes (if any) he paid, carefully sheltered from the rules his fellow citizens follow.

Barry Goldwater, after his massive defeat, stayed true enough to his principled conservatism that the modern Republican Party was a beneficiary of his legacy—a beneficiary but not the determiner of that legacy. It was Goldwater himself who told the heir to his influence, Richard Nixon, that it was time to cleanse the White House by leaving it. Though Goldwater was a factor in the Southern strategy of Nixon, he was no racist, and no fanatic of any stripe. He was an acidulous critic of the religious right and a strong advocate for women’s rights (like abortion). He had backbone.

What vestige of a backbone is Romney left with? Things he was once proud of —health-care guarantees, opposition to noxious emissions, support of gay rights and women’s rights, he had the shamelessness to treat as matters of shame all through his years-long crawl to the Republican nomination.

Other defeated candidates compiled stellar records after they lost. Two of them later won the Nobel Prize—Jimmy Carter for international diplomacy, Al Gore for his environmental advocacy. John Kerry is still an important voice for the principles he has always believed in as a Democrat. Michael Dukakis carries on as the college professor he always was, with no need to reject or rediscover any of the policies he championed. Robert Dole joined with McGovern in international nutritional projects.

One of the most off-the-wall suggestions was offered on MTP. Historian Doris Kerns Goodwin suggested that  Shallow Mitt should join the Obama administration as some kind of jobs czar.   WTF has she been smoking?  Why would any one want to hire the father of shipping jobs to China to oversee bringing jobs back to the US?  Why would Obama want this race baiter in his administration? The man specialized in stuff that wrecked the country?  What could we possibly learn from him but how to damage the US for personal wealth and gain?

Pulling Romney in as a business czar for the Obama administration is a popular idea being volleyed around among liberal circles. Recently, a CNN panel enthusiastically endorsed Romney for Secretary of Business. Perhaps Romney’s opinion of adding a new office to government was forgotten.

“I don’t think adding a new chair in his cabinet will help add millions of jobs on Main Street,” Romney said while on the campaign trail, adding, “His solution to everything is to add another bureaucrat … I don’t think adding a new chair in his Cabinet will help add millions of jobs on Main Street. We don’t need a Secretary of Business to understand business. We need a president who understands business.” The idea that Romney would accept the position of “another bureaucrat” is as likely as Obama repealing and replacing Obamacare.

Kerns dropped this suggestion right in the middle of a discussion about the economy, the fiscal cliff, the problem of declining growth of business, and a “mandate to compromise.” The host, David Gregory, agreed recent polls indicated a majority favored Romney over Obama to fix the economy, put America back to work and grow business.

Disco Dave’s Dance Party has reached a new level of irrelevance.  I would have never thought that possible.

Melissa Harris-Perry turns the national conversation to poverty and reminds us that ‘Those Aren’t Numbers. Those Are People’.

MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry debut a new regular segment Sunday focusing on poverty, which she noted many people did not want to touch, even as the national poverty rate remained at 15 percent of the population last year, or just over 46 million people, with 21.9 percent of them being minors.

“Let me be crystal clear,” she said. “Those aren’t numbers. Those are people.”

President Barack Obama’s administration, Harris-Perry noted, has already at least broached the subject; days before his re-election, a campaign spokesperson cited programs like Choice Neighborhoods, Promise Neighborhoods and others in a response to The Nation as proof Obama took the issue seriously.

You can watch her panel on the main link.

Yesterday, I wrote a post talking about the crazy fairy tales that Republicans tell themselves and others about trickle down economics.  It’s been shown to be a failure by every empirical study possible and yet, they still won’t give it up.  It’s so bad that they are still pushing the voted-down Romney version of it as the answer to the fiscal curb.

Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA): On ABC’s This Week, Chambliss said, “Bowles-Simpson said, look, eliminate all these tax credits and tax deductions. You can generate somewhere 1 to 1.2 trillion in additional revenue. You can actually lower tax rates by doing that. And I think at the end of the day, what’s got to happen, George, we’ve got to get this economy going again.

Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK): In a Friday column, House Budget Committee member Cole wrote: “However, raising tax rates is not the only way to increase revenue, nor is it the best way. Speaker Boehner has proposed comprehensive tax reform to raise revenue and lower rates. Eliminating inefficient loopholes and deductions will generate economic growth while creating a simpler, fairer tax code.

Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX): In a Wednesday Tweet, House Ways and Means Committee member Brady opined: “Stronger economic growth from tax reform that lowers rates and closes loopholes will generate higher revenue to bring the deficit down.

Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA): In a letter to his Republican caucus, the House Majority Leader wrote: “What would be best is a fundamental reform of the tax code that lowers rates, broadens the base, makes America’s businesses competitive again, and reduces the burden imposed by taxes on work and investment.”

Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI): In a Wednesday press release, the House Ways and Means Chairman wrote: “There is a better path forward than simply increasing tax rates, and one in which both sides can claim victory. We can address both our jobs crisis and our debt crisis by focusing on tax reform that strengthens the economy. There is bipartisan support for tax reform that closes loopholes and lowers rates.”

Rep. Tom Price (R-GA): On Fox News Sunday, House Republican Policy Committee Chairman Price, a member of both the Ways and Means and Budget Committees, said “We can increase revenue without increasing the tax rates on anybody in this country.”

I’m not sure if you waded through my wonk yesterday, but just recently the CBO announce there would be no significant damage done to the economy should Congress let the Bush Tax Cuts expire for the wealthiest Americans.

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office says there will be no significant negative impact on the economy should the lower rates on the wealthiest Americans be allowed to expire. And the notion that lowering rates will magically create more revenue is indeed a right-wing pipe dream.

There’s one more look at how the Romney loss has highlighted differences in the US population.  This break down shows the regional clashes as analyzed by Colin Woodward at Bloomberg.  There’s some interesting looks at why the Appalachia region may not have taken to Obama’s messages.

President Barack Obama explicitly embraced the notion that we are all in the same boat, that we will succeed or fail as a community, that the successful ought to make sacrifices for the common good. On the stump and in his victory speech, he presented these as American ideals, and they are in the sense that they are the central founding principles of Yankeedom, the section of the country colonized by the early Puritans and their descendants. The Puritans believed they were God’s chosen people and, as such, would be rewarded or punished collectively. They came to this continent to create a religious utopia, a “light on the hill,” a godly community to serve as an example for the world. Ever since, Yankees have had faith in their ability to engineer a more perfect society through public institutions. Their culture, more than any other, has prized the common good above individual aspiration, often celebrating self-denial as a virtue.

Many other, equally American cultures look upon this philosophy with skepticism, even revulsion, and none more so than the people of Greater Appalachia. This nation was founded in the early 18th century by wave upon wave of rough, bellicose settlers from the war-ravaged borderlands of Northern Ireland, northern England and the Scottish lowlands, whose culture included a warrior ethic and deep commitments to individual liberty. Here “freedom” is broadly understood to mean having the fewest possible encumbrances on individual action. If Yankee ideology seeks to make a community free of tyrants, Appalachia’s sticks up for each person’s freedom to become a tyrant.

Jonathan Chait says we did in fact have a class war during the election season this year.

The telling phrase came when Obama turned away from the thank-yous and patriotic hymnals into the guts of his remarks. “Despite all our differences,” he transitioned, “most of us share certain hopes for America’s future.” The key term here is “most,” as opposed to “all”—“most” meaning less than 100 percent and possibly as little as 51 percent. He attributed to most Americans a desire for great schools, a desire to limit debt and inequality: “a generous America, a compassionate America.”

Obama then proceeded to define the American idea in a way that excludes the makers-versus-takers conception of individual responsibility propounded by Paul Ryan and the tea party. Since Obama took office, angry men in Colonial garb or on Fox News have harped on “American exceptionalism,” which boils our national virtue down to the freedom from having to subsidize some other sap’s health insurance. Obama turned this on its head. “What makes America exceptional,” he announced, “are the bonds that hold together the most diverse nation on Earth. The belief that our destiny is shared; that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another and to future generations.” Obama invoked average Americans living out this ethos of mutual responsibility (such as a “family business whose owners would rather cut their own pay than lay off their neighbors,” the example of which stands at odds with the corporate ethos of a certain ­Boston-based private-equity executive). And even the line about red states and blue states began with the following statement: “We are greater than the sum of our individual ambitions.”

Presumably more was at work here than mere uplift. The president was establishing the meaning of his victory. Even in the days leading up to Tuesday, clouds of dismissal had already begun to hover overhead. The election was “small,” in the words of one story in the conventional-wisdom-generating machine Politico, and “too narrow and too rooted in the Democratic base to grant him anything close to a mandate,” in the words of another. “I don’t think the Obama victory is a policy victory,” sniffed Romney adviser Kevin Hassett. “In the end what mattered was that it was about Bain and frightening people that Romney is an evil capitalist.”

Like every president, Obama won for myriad reasons, important and petty. But his reelection was hardly small and hardly devoid of ideas. Indeed, it was entirely about a single idea. The campaign, from beginning to end, was an extended argument about economic class.

So, that’s some of the things that I’ve been reading.  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?