SocraticGadfly: 4/12/15 - 4/19/15

April 16, 2015

#TPP — we're officially on a fast track to hell

Sen. Ron Wyden,
corporate whore
Yes, we're slouching yet further toward neoliberal Gomorrah, as both the House and Senate have given President Barack Obama "fast track authority" for the Trans Pacific Partnership.

Ross Perot wasn't totally right about "sucking sounds" in NAFTA, but the TPP appears to be not a lot more than a giant sucking sound for Beijing.

Oh, but there’s this pretty bit:
Senator Orrin G. Hatch, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, had to agree to stringent requirements for the trade deal to win over Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, the ranking Democrat on the finance panel. Those requirements included a human-rights negotiating objective that has never existed in trade agreements, according to lawmakers involved in the talks.
Yeah, right.

Hey, Wyden, remember NAFTA and the environmental provisions? Well, the executive branch is who has to enforce those, and Slick Willie (let alone  Shrub) never did.

And, this isn’t even a provision. You’re just asking Obama to make it a trade negotiating objective, which you know China will never accept, unless it’s even more toothless than the environmental deal it inked with Dear Leader a few months back.

And, once again, people have to actually wonder why I vote Green whenever I have the chance? When the answer is right in front of your face?

Oh, folks, politics may involve compromise at times. It doesn’t require compromise all the time. And “capitulate” is not the same as “compromise,” either.

Labor and environmental standards were also part of NAFTA, too. And never enforced.

And, given that Wyden was in the House from 1981-1996, he knows all this. Mainly because he voted to approve NAFTA.

I mean, this is the same Ron Wyden on the Senate Intelligence Committee who has repeatedly claimed that he's wanted to reveal all about the NSA's snooping programs, but, somehow, despite the Constitution legally allowing him to spill the beans, since:

(F)or any Speech or Debate in either House, (members of Congress) shall not be questioned (as in criminally interrogated) in any other Place.
Wyden just hasn't gotten around to finding any guts in his body. Wyden, like Obama, exemplifies Teddy Roosevelt's dictum about not having the backbone of a chocolate eclair.

And, for the final sardonic laugh in that area, I have to go to the "about Ron" page of his Senate website:
Whether he’s taking on powerful interests, listening to constituents at one of his famous town hall meetings or standing up for Oregonians on the floor of the U.S. Senate, Ron Wyden is an effective leader on the issues that matter most.

He's a sellout to powerful interests. Per Puff Hoes, he's hurting his re-election chances by this, so he's obviously not listening to constituents and he's of course not standing up for Oregonians.

Sidebar to "Democrats first" types: This is why I don't believe what Hillary Clinton says. Why do you?

(That includes Democrats now thinking that Hillz might do differently than Obama on TPP when her husband not only signed NAFTA but pushed for it! I guess I must, once again, tell you to read Doug Henwood. Specifically, on labor issues, there's page 5, detailing how she and the Slickster picked a fight with the Arkansas teachers union; and there's page 8, which details how she was a primary backer of almost zero major legislation while in the Senate.)

You know the answer: Vote Green, or Socialist, every chance you get.

Josh Hamilton and the 'disease theory' of addiction

Josh Hamilton, neither
'good' nor 'bad" but possible
'ugly' of addiction.
Now that Los Angeles Angels former star outfielder Josh Hamilton will officially get no suspension for an alcohol and cocaine relapse, both the moral scolds and the "there, there" folks are coming out in force.

The scolds say that Hamilton just needs to "man up" or whatever. The "there, there" types usually talk about addiction as a "disease" where Hamilton just can't help himself.

The moral scolds? They've been a thorn in the side to addicts long before Alcoholic Anonymous as the first 20th-century addiction recovery support. They're generally off base, and often of the type to selectively apply their "man up" ideas.

That said, note that I called AA "20th-century." I did NOT call it "modern."

Second, for the "there there" folks, outside of 12-step circles, the "disease theory" of addiction does not have universal support.

Given that it came from a non-medical organization, and is also decades old, and that things like the "neurotransmitter theory" has been shown to be incomplete at best on depression and serotonin and, more directyl to this issue, on "rewards" and dopamine, we probably should back off on a broad-brush use of the idea, even more so when you add in that we still don't know a lot about consciousness or free will and volition.

(And, if a person on Hardball Talk thinks that his HMO disagrees with me, and that article, for any other reason than money, namely meds being cheaper than talk therapy, they're stupid indeed. Or, at a minimum, simplistic.)

Beyond that, nobody is "powerless over alcohol," nor over an illicit drug. If so, nobody would ever quit.

Of course, the 12-step movement solves this with the injection of god, then adds irrational insult to irrational injury by claiming it's not religious.

This is like the Lutheran "single predestination," one even more illogical than Calvinist double predestination. People get blamed for their addiction, but not credited for stopping it.

Again, nobody is "powerless" over alcohol or other addictive substances. One may become close enough to powerless after starting addictive use again to never quit for good, but that's why this has more than two sides.

Beyond that, "good liberals" should note what this piece says: promulgating the disease theory may be harmful to addicts. Take that with a grain of salt, though; a BIG grain of salt. It's by Stanton Peele, who pushes "moderation" for and to too many people, in my opinion.

That said, a 20-year-old kid with his first DWI shouldn't be force to attend AA; neither should he be forced to attend a secular alternative. In many cases, moderating one's behavior should be the first approach.

And, on both that issue, and understandings of addiction in general, that's why, once again, we need to quote the Iranian philsopher Idries Shah:
“To 'see both sides' of a problem is the surest way to prevent its complete solution. Because there are always more than two sides.”


Often people want to see only one other side not just because it's easier to think in black-and-white than shades of gray, but also because it's easier to "win" an argument if there's only one other "side." Hey, I can still be like that myself.

Now, the situation at hand, since an arbitrator has ruled Hamilton did not break league drug policy?

I'm not looking for MLB to throw the book at Hamilton. Nor am I looking at MLB or the Angels to treat him with kid clubs. I expect both, beyond their business interests and legal restraints, to treat him in the best way possible for him.

Related to the legal angle, I have to disagree with Craig Calcaterra of Hardball Talk. It's possible that at least part of the leaks in all of this were NOT by the Angels, but rather by Hamilton trying to stay ahead of the story. "Goes to motive," as the old legal saying avers — an old legal saying which Calcaterra, a formerly practicing lawyer, knows. And, with Hamilton, I believe he has the mindset to do that.

That said, it's more likely that the Angels were the leakers. I suspect that GM Jerry DiPoto is "venting" anger he'd really like to direct at owner Are Moreno for pushing for the Hamilton signing. DiPoto, let's not forget, at the time Hamilton was a free agent, wanted to resign then-Angel Zack Greinke rather than letting him walk in free agency. Survey shows that would have been a MUCH smarter move. Sabermetrics shows that, outside of one fantastic year in 2010, adjusting for The Ballpark's hitter friendliness, Hamilton was good to very good, but not great, otherwise, with the Rangers. (That said, Greinke, if we compare ERA+ to OPS+, straight up, has been throughout his career what the non-2010 Hamilton was in Texas.)

Steve Howe, with his seven suspensions and still not "learning," shows that, just like Christians talk about "why some and not others" on "being saved," that addiction is a mysterious issue. It also shows that it's not the business of MLB, or the Angels, to, well, to go beyond business. They will help him to the degree it accords with best business practices first, and true sympathy second. They will cut him off at the pass to the degree they can to the degree it accords with best business practices.

(For those who can't remember, Howe died in a one-vehicle rollover where he was the driver, and toxicology reports show he had meth in his system.)

Speaking of, one person has a good perspective on this: Angels manager Mike Scioscia, who played with Howe on the Dodgers.

Of Howe, at his death, Scioscia noted:
"Clearly, he was a kid who never reached his potential, but for a short time he did. The feeling of regret, he never expressed, as far as I know."

That second sentence, especially, is noteworthy.

Of Hamilton, he said last week
“(A)ddiction is a terrible thing, and he’s trying to deal with that.”
 “I don't know if there is any use looking back, whether surprised or relieved or whatever,” Scioscia said. “I could go either way, but most important is for Josh to pick up the pieces and get himself where he needs to be first with these issues and then we'll see where he goes from there as far as getting to baseball activities. So we’ll see.”
Scioscia may not even remember what he said about Howe. But, the idea is important. Hamilton’s not too likely to be going down the same road if he’s regretful.

As for “problems”? Howe, if not “born to be wild,” was certainly determined to be that way.

Hamilton? I think, per his Wiki page, his car accident, a small determination to be a little wild, and perhaps smothering parents that he wanted to escape, are all factors.

One point in common so far? Evangelical Christianity didn't "save" Steve Howe from his addiction; so far, it's not been a magic cure for Hamilton, either. That's not to claim it's all Christianity's failure, but it is to note above that the 12-step movement's "god deal" ain't so totally true, again.

Meanwhile, back to addiction in general.

Alcohol is not that strongly addictive physically. And, even many illicit drugs, without repeated administration on a regular basis, are less physically addictive than the nicotine in cigarettes.

This all gets back to the medieval "cur alii, non alii?" question. In English, that's "why some, not others?" In other words, whether for salvation or overcoming addiction, why do some "get it" but not others.

As for addiction in general? I still lean toward the idea that, if you've crossed some invisible barrier into "abuse," to use the professional phrase, abstinence is almost surely the best option. But, that's not set in stone yet, either.

And, let me take this as a chance to say that AA and NA, and the 12-step movement in general aren't the best answer for many, and, as we enter into the world of evidence-based medicine, aren't the scientifically proven be-all, on average, for anybody.

There are secular — non-religious but NOT anti-religious — options out there. I recommend one called Lifering Secular Recovery.

(Meanwhile, on the baseball-playing front, Commissioner Corleone, aka Rob Manfred, seems determined to risk a repeat of the 1994 lockout.)

#ClintonEmails — more stonewalling

Are you surprised?

Here's the story.

Nutgrafs right at the top of the story:
Hillary Rodham Clinton was directly asked by congressional investigators in a December 2012 letter whether she had used a private email account while serving as secretary of state, according to letters obtained by The New York Times. 
But Mrs. Clinton did not reply to the letter. And when the State Department answered in March 2013, nearly two months after she left office, it ignored the question and provided no response.

That’s “stonewalling.” Grade A level.

We should also note that the State Department's letter of March 27, 2013 was AFTER Sidney Blumenthal's emails were hacked, which was the first clue that she was indeed using a private email account.

I'll be waiting for David Brock at Media Matters and other foot-shooting Clintonistas to cue up the lies and faux outrage machine again. (Well, to them, the outrage may be real, but, as the New York Times has had good reporting, it's faux outrage because it has no connection to reality. Nor does it have any connection to the proper use of English.)

Instead of taking "Butthurt Neoliberals for $500" on political Jeopardy, the ilk ("ilk," what a lovely, faintly sneering word, speaking of actual proper use of English), I may wind up going to the Double Jeopardy round.

And, don't be surprised for more "drips" to come out from somewhere. Yes, as Doug Henwood noted, she's a feisty politico, but she's got plenty she's trying to keep tarped over.

(Meanwhile, per friend Perry, that feistiness reportedly has at least one wingnut of Arkansas repute ready to vote for her.)

Behind this all remains the "cui bono" question, of course, which I tug at a bit here. Let's get more "tugging" going.

Meanwhile, to do a bit of scattershooting while talking about Hillz, let's look at this butt-ugly logo of hers.

First, here's a roundup of five reactions. I agree that it could be mistaken for "Hospital here" in some places. I do laugh that it might be understood as "Hillary is moving right" (but only because that's where "real America is at, folks). It might be amateurish.

I'll add a few of my own thoughts.

First, it looks a bit "brutalish," as in Soviet Realism brutalish.

Second, it looks "noncommittal." Wouldn't that be about right for her anyway, though?

Related to that, third, it looks vague, even generic. Unless you're a Hillz fanboy or fangirl, you're not going to recognize what it means, and that's not good branding. (Note: I said "generic," not "geriatric." Oops, I guess I just said both.)

Friend Perry has more about not just her logo, but the ones Rand Paul, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio are inflicting on us.

April 15, 2015

#Lincoln150 — In memoriam Abraham Lincoln, in the arts

Many lovers of poetry as well as Civil War and other history buffs know that Walt Whitman wrote two poems of tribute and elegy to President Abraham Lincoln after his assassination.

Walt Whitman, America’s first native poetic genius, wrote two poems about Abraham Lincoln’s death. The first, and shorter is:

Oh Captain, My Captain

O Captain! My Captain! our fearful trip is done;
The ship has weather'd every rack, the prize we sought is won;
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring:
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.
O Captain! My Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills;
For you bouquets and ribbon'd wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding;
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
Here captain! dear father!
This arm beneath your head;
It is some dream that on the deck,
You've fallen cold and dead.
My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still;
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will;
The ship is anchor'd safe and sound, its voyage closed and done;
From fearful trip, the victor ship, comes in with object won;
Exult, O shores, and ring, O bells!
But I, with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

This is a lovely piece of musical art too.


Kurt Weill has this as one of four "Walt Whitman Songs."

That "Captain" had just delivered his Second Inaugural Address. Speaking of that, I have no idea who Walter Trumbull is, and didn't find much on Googling, but he, while having done this half a century ago, has captured well the Second Inaugural:

If you want something a bit more modern, in recording quality, and, a bit more professional than that, perhaps, especially if you think Lincoln's voice may not have been that high-pitched or border-Southern (I do think it was both, myself), here's a presentation of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, his other transcendent speech:

From there, with those interludes, we head back to Whitman.

The second, and far longer, of his Lincoln elegy poems is:

When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd

When lilacs last in the dooryard bloom’d,
And the great star early droop’d in the western sky in the night,
I mourn’d, and yet shall mourn with ever-returning spring.

Ever-returning spring, trinity sure to me you bring,
Lilac blooming perennial and drooping star in the west,
And thought of him I love.

O powerful western fallen star!
O shades of night—O moody, tearful night!
O great star disappear’d—O the black murk that hides the star!
O cruel hands that hold me powerless—O helpless soul of me!
O harsh surrounding cloud that will not free my soul.

In the dooryard fronting an old farm-house near the white-wash’d palings,
Stands the lilac-bush tall-growing with heart-shaped leaves of rich green,
With many a pointed blossom rising delicate, with the perfume strong I love,
With every leaf a miracle—and from this bush in the dooryard,
With delicate-color’d blossoms and heart-shaped leaves of rich green,
A sprig with its flower I break.

In the swamp in secluded recesses,
A shy and hidden bird is warbling a song.

Solitary the thrush,
The hermit withdrawn to himself, avoiding the settlements,
Sings by himself a song.

Song of the bleeding throat,
Death’s outlet song of life, (for well dear brother I know,
If thou wast not granted to sing thou would’st surely die.)

Over the breast of the spring, the land, amid cities,
Amid lanes and through old woods, where lately the violets peep’d from the ground, spotting the gray debris,
Amid the grass in the fields each side of the lanes, passing the endless grass,
Passing the yellow-spear’d wheat, every grain from its shroud in the dark-brown fields uprisen,
Passing the apple-tree blows of white and pink in the orchards,
Carrying a corpse to where it shall rest in the grave,
Night and day journeys a coffin.

Coffin that passes through lanes and streets,
Through day and night with the great cloud darkening the land,
With the pomp of the inloop’d flags with the cities draped in black,
With the show of the States themselves as of crape-veil’d women standing,
With processions long and winding and the flambeaus of the night,
With the countless torches lit, with the silent sea of faces and the unbared heads,
With the waiting depot, the arriving coffin, and the sombre faces,
With dirges through the night, with the thousand voices rising strong and solemn,
With all the mournful voices of the dirges pour’d around the coffin,
The dim-lit churches and the shuddering organs—where amid these you journey,
With the tolling tolling bells’ perpetual clang,
Here, coffin that slowly passes,
I give you my sprig of lilac.

(Nor for you, for one alone,
Blossoms and branches green to coffins all I bring,
For fresh as the morning, thus would I chant a song for you O sane and sacred death.

All over bouquets of roses,
O death, I cover you over with roses and early lilies,
But mostly and now the lilac that blooms the first,
Copious I break, I break the sprigs from the bushes,
With loaded arms I come, pouring for you,
For you and the coffins all of you O death.)

O western orb sailing the heaven,
Now I know what you must have meant as a month since I walk’d,
As I walk’d in silence the transparent shadowy night,
As I saw you had something to tell as you bent to me night after night,
As you droop’d from the sky low down as if to my side, (while the other stars all look’d on,)
As we wander’d together the solemn night, (for something I know not what kept me from sleep,)
As the night advanced, and I saw on the rim of the west how full you were of woe,
As I stood on the rising ground in the breeze in the cool transparent night,
As I watch’d where you pass’d and was lost in the netherward black of the night,
As my soul in its trouble dissatisfied sank, as where you sad orb,
Concluded, dropt in the night, and was gone.

Sing on there in the swamp,
O singer bashful and tender, I hear your notes, I hear your call,
I hear, I come presently, I understand you,
But a moment I linger, for the lustrous star has detain’d me,
The star my departing comrade holds and detains me.

O how shall I warble myself for the dead one there I loved?
And how shall I deck my song for the large sweet soul that has gone?
And what shall my perfume be for the grave of him I love?

Sea-winds blown from east and west,
Blown from the Eastern sea and blown from the Western sea, till there on the prairies meeting,
These and with these and the breath of my chant,
I’ll perfume the grave of him I love.

O what shall I hang on the chamber walls?
And what shall the pictures be that I hang on the walls,
To adorn the burial-house of him I love?

Pictures of growing spring and farms and homes,
With the Fourth-month eve at sundown, and the gray smoke lucid and bright,
With floods of the yellow gold of the gorgeous, indolent, sinking sun, burning, expanding the air,
With the fresh sweet herbage under foot, and the pale green leaves of the trees prolific,
In the distance the flowing glaze, the breast of the river, with a wind-dapple here and there,
With ranging hills on the banks, with many a line against the sky, and shadows,
And the city at hand with dwellings so dense, and stacks of chimneys,
And all the scenes of life and the workshops, and the workmen homeward returning.

Lo, body and soul—this land,
My own Manhattan with spires, and the sparkling and hurrying tides, and the ships,
The varied and ample land, the South and the North in the light, Ohio’s shores and flashing Missouri,
And ever the far-spreading prairies cover’d with grass and corn.

Lo, the most excellent sun so calm and haughty,
The violet and purple morn with just-felt breezes,
The gentle soft-born measureless light,
The miracle spreading bathing all, the fulfill’d noon,
The coming eve delicious, the welcome night and the stars,
Over my cities shining all, enveloping man and land.

Sing on, sing on you gray-brown bird,
Sing from the swamps, the recesses, pour your chant from the bushes,
Limitless out of the dusk, out of the cedars and pines.

Sing on dearest brother, warble your reedy song,
Loud human song, with voice of uttermost woe.

O liquid and free and tender!
O wild and loose to my soul—O wondrous singer!
You only I hear—yet the star holds me, (but will soon depart,)
Yet the lilac with mastering odor holds me.

Now while I sat in the day and look’d forth,
In the close of the day with its light and the fields of spring, and the farmers preparing their crops,
In the large unconscious scenery of my land with its lakes and forests,
In the heavenly aerial beauty, (after the perturb’d winds and the storms,)
Under the arching heavens of the afternoon swift passing, and the voices of children and women,
The many-moving sea-tides, and I saw the ships how they sail’d,
And the summer approaching with richness, and the fields all busy with labor,
And the infinite separate houses, how they all went on, each with its meals and minutia of daily usages,
And the streets how their throbbings throbb’d, and the cities pent—lo, then and there,
Falling upon them all and among them all, enveloping me with the rest,
Appear’d the cloud, appear’d the long black trail,
And I knew death, its thought, and the sacred knowledge of death.

Then with the knowledge of death as walking one side of me,
And the thought of death close-walking the other side of me,
And I in the middle as with companions, and as holding the hands of companions,
I fled forth to the hiding receiving night that talks not,
Down to the shores of the water, the path by the swamp in the dimness,
To the solemn shadowy cedars and ghostly pines so still.

And the singer so shy to the rest receiv’d me,
The gray-brown bird I know receiv’d us comrades three,
And he sang the carol of death, and a verse for him I love.

From deep secluded recesses,
From the fragrant cedars and the ghostly pines so still,
Came the carol of the bird.

And the charm of the carol rapt me,
As I held as if by their hands my comrades in the night,
And the voice of my spirit tallied the song of the bird.

Come lovely and soothing death,
Undulate round the world, serenely arriving, arriving,
In the day, in the night, to all, to each,
Sooner or later delicate death.

Prais’d be the fathomless universe,
For life and joy, and for objects and knowledge curious,
And for love, sweet love—but praise! praise! praise!
For the sure-enwinding arms of cool-enfolding death.

Dark mother always gliding near with soft feet,
Have none chanted for thee a chant of fullest welcome?
Then I chant it for thee, I glorify thee above all,
I bring thee a song that when thou must indeed come, come unfalteringly.

Approach strong deliveress,
When it is so, when thou hast taken them I joyously sing the dead,
Lost in the loving floating ocean of thee,
Laved in the flood of thy bliss O death.

From me to thee glad serenades,
Dances for thee I propose saluting thee, adornments and feastings for thee,
And the sights of the open landscape and the high-spread sky are fitting,
And life and the fields, and the huge and thoughtful night.

The night in silence under many a star,
The ocean shore and the husky whispering wave whose voice I know,
And the soul turning to thee O vast and well-veil’d death,
And the body gratefully nestling close to thee.

Over the tree-tops I float thee a song,
Over the rising and sinking waves, over the myriad fields and the prairies wide,
Over the dense-pack’d cities all and the teeming wharves and ways,
I float this carol with joy, with joy to thee O death.

To the tally of my soul,
Loud and strong kept up the gray-brown bird,
With pure deliberate notes spreading filling the night.

Loud in the pines and cedars dim,
Clear in the freshness moist and the swamp-perfume,
And I with my comrades there in the night.

While my sight that was bound in my eyes unclosed,
As to long panoramas of visions.

And I saw askant the armies,
I saw as in noiseless dreams hundreds of battle-flags,
Borne through the smoke of the battles and pierc’d with missiles I saw them,
And carried hither and yon through the smoke, and torn and bloody,
And at last but a few shreds left on the staffs, (and all in silence,)
And the staffs all splinter’d and broken.

I saw battle-corpses, myriads of them,
And the white skeletons of young men, I saw them,
I saw the debris and debris of all the slain soldiers of the war,
But I saw they were not as was thought,
They themselves were fully at rest, they suffer’d not,
The living remain’d and suffer’d, the mother suffer’d,
And the wife and the child and the musing comrade suffer’d,
And the armies that remain’d suffer’d.

Passing the visions, passing the night,
Passing, unloosing the hold of my comrades’ hands,
Passing the song of the hermit bird and the tallying song of my soul,
Victorious song, death’s outlet song, yet varying ever-altering song,
As low and wailing, yet clear the notes, rising and falling, flooding the night,
Sadly sinking and fainting, as warning and warning, and yet again bursting with joy,
Covering the earth and filling the spread of the heaven,
As that powerful psalm in the night I heard from recesses,
Passing, I leave thee lilac with heart-shaped leaves,
I leave thee there in the door-yard, blooming, returning with spring.

I cease from my song for thee,
From my gaze on thee in the west, fronting the west, communing with thee,
O comrade lustrous with silver face in the night.

Yet each to keep and all, retrievements out of the night,
The song, the wondrous chant of the gray-brown bird,
And the tallying chant, the echo arous’d in my soul,
With the lustrous and drooping star with the countenance full of woe,
With the holders holding my hand nearing the call of the bird,
Comrades mine and I in the midst, and their memory ever to keep, for the dead I loved so well,
For the sweetest, wisest soul of all my days and lands—and this for his dear sake,
Lilac and star and bird twined with the chant of my soul,
There in the fragrant pines and the cedars dusk and dim.

But, people may not be aware, until I was yesterday, that "Lilacs" has been set to music — twice, no less — by titans of 20th century classical music.

The first, on commission from Robert Shaw, was Paul Hindemith:

The second, started years earlier, but only completed years later, is by Roger Sessions:

Go here for my first "in memoriam" post, about Lincoln's assassination, how it affected Reconstruction and more.

April 14, 2015

In memoriam: Abraham Lincoln; and, what if?

Semi-regular readers of this blog know that I’m a big Civil War buff. I’ve been on two vacations where a fair amount of the focus was Civil War battlefields and historic sites. My college minor was in history. And, it’s always been an interest of mine.

And, as the sesquicentennial of the Civil War wraps up, today is, of course, the 150th anniversary of what was arguably the most tragic day in American history — the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. There's no other word for it, given that he was followed by Andrew Johnson, the man many historians consider the worst president in U.S. history.

Here's how papers covered the assassination. The Newseum has a special on the coverage by the New York Herald.

Another interest of mine is alternative history, best exemplified by three books whose titles start with the phrase “What If.” That is, what if “X had happened instead of Y?” Or, as in events like April 14, 1865, “What if X had never happened?”

I’ve discussed this a bit in previous Lincoln posts, such as my recent one calling for a National Appomattox Day, or my second, morecritical critique of the Spielberg’s Lincoln movie.

Namely, it’s the idea that, while Lincoln would have been a better Reconstruction president than Andrew Johnson, he might not have been that great, an arguable issue. He might have stuck with his “rosewater” Reconstruction too long. He might have had some tangles with Congressional Radicals himself — and they might have done, as with Andrew Johnson, and refused to seat Congressional Southerners until the approval of the 14th and 15th amendments.

Lincoln in the famous Gardiner
photograph of Feb. 5, 1865.
Library of Congress 
Would Lincoln have reacted more swiftly, with Army troops, to the rise of the Klan than did Johnson? Although Radicals pushed Johnson, and this was part of the motive for the Tenure in Office Act, designed to keep Secretary of War Stanton in his job, the president is commander in chief of the armed forces, not any member of Congress. So, there was only so much the Radicals could do — or could have done if Lincoln were president and dragging his own feet. It’s an open question.

Johnson’s version of Reconstruction was to make his pre-war Southern “betters” kiss his hand asking for pardons, then, when that was done, be even more racist than many of them. Lincoln, with less regard for social niceties, and living in the North, wouldn’t have had that motive, but he might have somewhat naively believed, for too long, that many upper-class Southerners were more benighted than reality showed.

I discussed this briefly about Lee in my Appomattox piece, noting that he stood idly by at the Battle of the Crater in 1864 when wounded, thirsty black Union soldiers were shot to death. I noted this (linked there) in my review of Michael Korda’s pseudohistorical biography of Lee, that he wasn’t as kind a pre-war slaveowner as Korda would have us believe. Speaking of the Klan, I’ve noted in various blog posts that Lee was the first person to be offered its headship. Only when he said no was Nathan Bedford Forrest contacted.

So, like John F. Kennedy and the Jackie-constructed Camelot myth, Lincoln was probably lucky  to die when he did, especially with Stanton’s epitaph of “Now he belongs to the ages.”

I think he would have been slow to pivot on his Reconstruction plan. I think he would have done little more to help freed black than Johnson did, and certainly would not have extended Gen. Sherman’s “40 acres and a mule” for Sea Island blacks, or anything similar, to the larger population of newly freed slaves.

He might have tried to make economic Reconstruction of the South more orderly than the actual mix of carpetbaggers, scalawags, redeemers and others, and might or might not have succeeded.

The tragic part, besides his own death, his martyrdom, and his apotheosis, is that the wrong Johnson was his vice president, to extend the Kennedy analogy. Lyndon Johnson could have given a fine start to Reconstruction indeed, had he been president 100 years earlier.

Lincoln is arguably our greatest president, but, although not as much dependent on mythos as JFK, he was perhaps, in the historical sense, lucky to have died when he did.

Meanwhile, Lincoln has been commemorated in various ways in the arts, starting with two great poems by Walt Whitman. Here is my follow-up "in memoriam" about that.

April 13, 2015

Presidential roundup: Doug Henwood destroys Hillary Clinton, Julian Castro for what?

Twice, no less!

First, here's Henwood on Al Jazeera, saying the case for her is remarkably thin.

Hillarycare? Yeah, that was a bigger clusterfuck than Obamacare.

Her time as Senator? Yeah, placeholding for a presidential run.

Bottom line? This:
What could we expect from a Hillary presidency? My guess is that it would be Wall Street–friendly, militarized and secretive — though seasoned with mostly empty rhetoric about uplift, community and inclusion. It would do little to address polarization and rot. In fact it would be a perfect embodiment of polarization and rot. There will be strenuous efforts over the next year and a half to argue otherwise, but they will convince no one but loyalists.

Yeah, sounds exactly right.

Next, Henwood, from the pages of Harpers, fires both barrels from last fall's archives. It's a long read, but well worth it. Seriously, it's a must-read.

I don’t want to litter this post with pull quotes, but this one from Page 5 is a must read.
This model of governance (the permanent campaign originated by Dick Morris) also depended on enemies. Bill & Co. — and Hillary was intimately involved with this choice from the beginning — picked the teachers’ union. A court had declared the Arkansas education-finance system unconstitutional: it was woefully unequal, with teachers in some districts paid so poorly that they qualified for food stamps. Raising taxes in any serious manner would be a political challenge. So the Clinton team paired a modest, one-point increase in the sales tax with a proposed competence test for teachers. The Arkansas public was not fond of the teachers’ union, Morris found, so Bill could present himself as doing it all for the kids. And, as Morris noted, it was a politically crafty break from the Old Democrat left.
Bingo. And, that’s carried over, and over, and over.

Her worst real foe, of course, is herself followed by Clintonistas. But, the permanent enemies campaign? 

When the NY Times first wrote about the Clinton email server, David Brock at Media Matters had four strokes, two heart attacks and a grand mal seizure in berating the paper. And basically told lies, half-truths and innuendos. Snake-oil salesman James Carville was at least more direct.

And, speaking of the devil, even as I wonder when we'll have a sighting related to her campaign, on page 10, Henwood ties Morris and Clinton together:

When I spoke to Dick Morris, I asked him how Hillary would differentiate herself from Obama during the 2016 campaign. His prediction: She would say that her predecessor had outlined a beautiful vision, but now voters “need someone who can get things done.” He added that she would criticize Obama for not having armed the Syrians rebels earlier. Two weeks later, in her conversation with Goldberg, Hillary did exactly that, while also suggesting that the president was to blame for the rise of ISIL. (In a revoltingly laudatory Washington Post review of Henry Kissinger’s new book, Hillary distinguishes between the president’s first term, during which they “laid the foundation” for a new approach to international relations — and the “crises of the second term,” as if the world suddenly changed when she strolled out of the State Department.)
Yeah, anybody who likes Hank the Knife is definitely not on my presidential list.


Julian Castro is reportedly in "vice presidential training camp." Yeah, right.

Only way he gets tapped is if Marco (Rubio) Polo or Havana Ted have one of the GOP spots. Otherwise, he makes Hillary Clinton look O-L-D.


Bernie Sanders will announce his plans, one way or the other, running or not running, by April 30. Will the lamestream media swallow his schtick whole, or will they ask him why he's as much a whore for the military-industrial complex as any Democratic hawk?

And, speaking of whoring, given his last fawning quote about Clinton, he must be angling for a Cabinet post. Secretary of Defense so he can get those F-35s in Vermont?

We know Hillary will be a hawkish Prez, as Vox details, so there you go!

"Marco" .... "Rubio"

Like a kids' swimming pool game, we now have three declared GOP presidential candidates, with Marco Rubio now in the race. Well, semi-officially, until tomorrow. (And what's up with that?)

Sure, he's young compared to Hillary and Jeb, but not next to Havana Ted or Squirrel Hair. Nor next to Scott Walker, presuming he enters What else you got for us?

Cuban-American who speaks fluent Spanish? Get in line behind Havana Ted.

Middle ground in the GOP? Oh, far right instead of far far right? (Discounting that you've backpedaled from much of that middle ground.)

So, no, Marco, unlike the kids' game, nobody is gonna tag you GOP presidential nominee.

Nor am I going to tag you right now with your own personalized blog label.

Choice, bad situations, New Ageism, witchery, prosperity gospel

Trust me, as I normally do, I'll wind these things all together.

At a recent presentation about small-town revitalization, the presenter, representing a regional para-government organization, talked about people "choosing" to be in this particular city, with its struggles and all.

I'm sorry, but this is wrong on so many levels.

First, as I noted in an essay at Scientia Salon, with a follow up on this blog, here, this does not take into account issues of "psychological determinism" that constrain our actions to some degree.

Related to that, while not deterministic in the volitional sense, the Great Recession has of course battered the economy, and, as this presenter knows — since that's part of the reason for the meetings she's held in several counties, and has been explicitly mentioned by her — most small towns have had slower recovery, and more incomplete recovery, than big cities.

That said, the presenter mentioned prosperity/success gospel wealth guru Dave Ramsey in the next sentence, so she probably believes we can transcend such things. Of course, the prosperity gospel is just New Ageism with a Christian baptism.

That said, showing how well the Jesus dross works, say something wide-eyed, and attach the name of Ramsey, or Joyce Meyer, or whomever, and lots of Christian folks will swallow it whole. Attach the name of Oprah, and some conservatives might balk, but some more liberal Christians might buy in. Attach the name of the late Bhagwan Shri Rajneesh, and we're in a whole different ballpark. After all, if a place can have people seeing magic as witchcraft, seemingly not so uncommon in this state, dividing lines can be firm, yet still perhaps hypocritical.

Texas Progressive Alliance blog roundup: Clinton, Civil War, Uber and #txlege

The Texas Progressive Alliance revels in the start of another baseball season as it brings you this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff looks at the case to pass a state law that would enable "rideshare" services like Uber and Lyft to operate in Texas cities.

Libby Shaw writing for Texas Kaos and contributing to Daily Kos cautions Latino voters to beware slowly starving Republican wolves that are dressed in sheep's clothing.  GOP Woos Latino Voters While Punishing Immigrants.

From WCNews at Eye on Williamson. As GOP Texas House passes it's budget, taxes take center stage, The Texas Way - The More You Make The Less You Pay, The Less You Make The More You Pay.

SocraticGadfly thinks that creating a national Appomattox Day could be part of dealing with all the political problems that unreconstructed Southerners have caused for America.

To quote Emperor Palpatine: "It is inevitable."  To quote the Borg: "Resistance is futile."  And to quote Yogi Berra: "It ain't over 'til it's over."  PDiddie at Brains and Eggs dissects the 'inexorable' meme that surrounds Hillary Clinton's presidential bid.

Nonsequiteuse says it is time to wear orange and head to Austin (or the internet) to rally against HB 723 as the Texas House of Representatives Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence committee considers little word with constitutional consequences for minors who need access to safe, legal abortion services.

Neil at All People Have Value said that the Houston/Galveston National Weather Service offers useful instruction about life. APHV is part of


And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

Juanita coins a new word for our culture war-infused times.

Dwight Silverman answers your burning questions about cable cord-cutting.

The Lunch Tray explores the ethics of sneaking vegetables into school food.

Better Texas Blog calls for raising the minimum wage.

Texas Clean Air Matters points out that promoting the use of clean energy is a great strategy for conserving water.

The Texas Election Law Blog decries "indignities and tyrannies" in local elections.

April 12, 2015

'Hillz for the Thrills' in 2016? Are there any #ClintonEmails about this?

Well, Hillary Clinton is running, if not for dogcatcher of Utopia (hey, a contested campaign against Kinky Friedman!) then apparently officially for President of the United States, or something like that.

Unlike at least one person on Twitter, I'll have no problems defending Hillary against conservatives, because I won't be defending her in cases where she's been wrong. And, as in every other presidential election this century, should she get the Democratic nod, I'll be voting Green — and loudly talking about it on this blog. All while waiting for Clintonistas to shoot themselves and her in the foot. And again playing on Jeopardy in the "butthurt neoliberal Democrats" column when I point that out!

Contra USA Today at that top link (and, is our lamestream media, in part with ever-fewer non-foxes to guard the public trust henhouses, really getting this bad?):
Hillary Clinton formally launched her second presidential bid today, with a different approach from 2008 aimed at convincing voters through small-group settings that she has ideas for helping the middle class and the skills to govern.
Erm, no, this is nothing new.

It’s her old “listening tours” from her 2000 Senate campaign with shiny new packaging.

And, I'm glad that she has a campaign mission statement, and that she is telling me that she's for America, not Russia or China, and that she's telling the GOP she's FOR America and not against it.

And, probably, shiny new financing ideas, given what she's done in past political campaigns. Let's not forget, way back when, the Slickster and his $2 per pair tax deduction on underwear donated to charities. (No word on whether boxers or briefs are worth the same.)

Certainly, expect her to be a "New Democrat," which means a traditional neoliberal Democrat, as she's already shown on so-called free trade issues.

And on so-called "energy issues," Mother Jones says she became the new Dick Cheney.

Ergo, she won't be close to being Elizabeth Warren on battling Wall Street. Would you expect different, since these financial moguls, whether in the US or abroad, are of the type who cough up big donations to the Clinton Foundation?

Beyond that, let's not forget the magic name of Eric Hothem, former Clinton White House aide, IT guru, and reported general fixer, who's now the Hillz Clinton $25M moneybags at JP Morgan, and the guy running her secret email server.

And, learn here at MoJo about Robby Mook, her campaign manager. Allegedly, he's very buttoned-up, but can he control the likes of Hothem, Huma Abedin and others wanting "access"?

Is she "inevitable"? Poll numbers say yes, but Perry says maybe we should wait and see.

As for money, at least, remember that in various GOP prez contests, John Connolly and Phil Gramm were both "inevitable." Until they weren't.