Martin Luther King Would’ve Been Resisting the Shit Out of the New Regime

It’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the day on which far too many people vigorously whitewash a great social justice warrior’s legacy. See, we all know he was a good man, even a great man. We all know that opposing him shows you’re a disgusting, bigoted asshole. But he’s no good for the status quo warriors unless he’s been cherry-picked to oblivion.

They try to pull his fangs, folks, and then they demand we be more like their false idol of him. Fuck that.

Firstly, read the entirety of his Letter from a Birmingham Jail to see how he dealt with the don’t-let’s-rock-the-boat allies and the status quo warriors. If you don’t think he’d have been out there blocking freeways with Black Lives Matter activists and making the comfortable very uncomfortable indeed, you haven’t heard a word this man has actually said.

Secondly, here’s a selection of quotes that should leave you in no doubt that non-violent didn’t mean non-confrontational. His insistence on love didn’t mean asking the oppressors quietly and respectfully to please if it isn’t too much trouble to maybe consider stop oppressing people. He was out there making the comfortable damned uncomfortable. He was there to confront, not conciliate. He demanded justice. And he kept demanding, even though many people wanted him to just STFU. Listen: Continue reading “Martin Luther King Would’ve Been Resisting the Shit Out of the New Regime”

Martin Luther King Would’ve Been Resisting the Shit Out of the New Regime

It’s Up to Us Now

The electoral college has abdicated its responsibility and elected a fascist who is appointing the worst cabinet in history, and has already begun destroying America’s standing in the world. By the end of this – and there will be an end – countless people will be dead, our democracy damaged possibly beyond repair, our rights set back by 50 years or more, racists empowered as they haven’t been since the KKK ruled, the Supreme Court will be ruined for at least a generation, and we may never earn back the esteem we lose in the international community.

It’s not going to be an easy time. Not by any measure.

The next several years, probably the next several decades, are going to be tough, people. We have a hell of a fight ahead. We didn’t ask for this. We didn’t want it, and we tried to stop it, and all we can do now is deal with it.

Image is a screenshot of Gandalf from Lord of the Rings. He is facing the camera, but looking somberly off to one side. Beside him is the caption, "All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us."
So I need you to do some things with the last days of this year. Continue reading “It’s Up to Us Now”

It’s Up to Us Now

Condemned to Repeat


History is a living thing.

I first saw it come alive in Roz Ashby’s and Ken Meier’s hands. On the first day of Western Civilization I, they handed out a quote and asked us to date it. It was a typical “kids these days” rant, full of complaints about their manners, their dress, and their stunning lack of respect toward their elders. Most of the class guessed it had been written in the 1950s or 60s. Professor Meier revealed, with a delightfully sardonic smile, that we were all wrong. The rant had been delivered by Socrates more than two thousand years ago.

I still have the handout they gave us that day: “The Value of History” by Robin Winks. I’d signed on as a history major because I love the past. I hadn’t, until then, thought of it as something of urgent importance. But the professors’ prank, followed by their impassioned lecture on the vitality and relevance of history and Winks’ case for its value, changed my perception entirely.

History wasn’t just curiosity. It wasn’t simply tradition and heritage, important to preserve for its own sake. It was also essential in order to understand the present, and to navigate the future.

Image shows a painting done in dark colors. Three faces, two in profile and one centered, are above a wolf, lion, and dog who are likewise facing in the three directions, with the lion centered. An old man with a white beard wearing a red cap gazes to the left, above the wolf. A man with black hair and beard stares out from the center, above the lion. A young man with reddish-brown hair wearing a red tunic dotted with white gazes out to the right from above the dog's head. Above them are inscribed the words EX PRAETERITO/PRAESENS PRUDENTER AGIT/NE FUTURA ACTIONẼ DETURPET, barely visible in dark brown ink against a slightly lighter brown background.
Titian, The Allegory of Prudence.

“From the past the man of the present acts prudently so as not to imperil the future,” Titian inscribed on his famous painting. We should chisel that saying into every monument. Those who don’t take the past seriously, who treat history as a trivial handful of facts, interesting stories, and events that have no bearing on today, won’t have the wisdom to create a better future.

“Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it,” George Santayana wrote in The Life of Reason. Too many of us refuse to listen to that warning. How many times have we weathered a crisis only to discover that we’re repeating prior mistakes? Individuals, organizations, entire nations have rushed themselves over cliffs that others fell from before, when a safe way down had already been discovered.

It’s true that things change, and no situation is exactly the same as another. Some people seem to believe those cosmetic differences mean there’s nothing to learn. And so, mistakes get repeated. Safeguards get torn down because no one seems to remember why they were put in place to begin with. Blinded by the present, looking toward the future, we don’t see what history is trying to show us. We strip away the protections that people made wise by the events of their own day put in place in order to protect the generations to come. We’re seeing the effects of that now, in a myriad of ways: our failed imperial experiment in Iraq, the erosion of our Constitutional rights, the crisis in our banking industry brought on by the repeal of regulations enacted to prevent another Great Depression, the rise of a despot and the fall of a democracy. That was another age, those who disregard history say. Things are different now. We are different. And they plunge in, believing they’re blazing new trails when they’re traveling down well-worn roads.

The past is never truly past. “Great events have incalculable consequences,” Victor Hugo said in The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Some of those consequences echo down through ages. You can’t understand what’s happening now if you don’t understand what happened then. The effects are still being felt. What we do now will impact generations to come. What our ancestors did centuries ago set the conditions for our time.

“This black page in history is not colourfast / will stain the next,” Epica warns in their song “Feint.” We can’t prevent that stain, but history can give us advice on how we might limit its spread.

Some things, perhaps, we’d rather forget. But as Chaim Weizman knew, “you cannot deny your history and begin afresh.” History comes with us, whether we will it or not. Denying it gets us nowhere. Embracing history, knowing it, allows us to accommodate its effects.

Image shows a painting in warm golden colors, showing an old man naked except for a strip of red cloth flowing around him, holding a scythe. A woman with angle wings, wearing a harvest orange dress, is floating in the sky behind him, resting a heavy book on his shoulders. She holds a pen in one hand and is looking over her shoulder.
Andrea Casali, The Personification Of History Writing On The Back Of Time

History is of great practical value, then. But that’s not the whole of its worth. It offers perspective and proportion. Knowing what others survived gives us hope for a future in dark times. It can put current events in context, just like your old dad giving you the yarn about having to walk to school barefoot in the snow uphill both ways as a kid. I often take comfort from that when the world seems like it’s coming apart at the seams. It has frayed, often torn, before. Not all of us make it. Things get worse before they get better. But we always manage to patch it back up somehow. Civilization has been through hell a thousand thousand times. As long as we avoid following the same paths that led other societies to grimmer outcomes, we’ll probably do just fine. I tell myself that a lot these days, and I have plenty of history to prove it. From history comes hope. Sometimes.

And sometimes, there’s delight in seeing ancient people behaving the same way we do. We tend to get only the broad brushstrokes of history in school. We don’t get the enchanting, everyday bits, the ones that tell us people are people everywhere. Read Socrates griping about the durned kids in ancient Athens, or Abu Nawais looking for his next drink, and you realize that they were people like us. There were fart jokes in the cradle of civilization and risque graffitti in Pompeii. The more you learn of history, the more you realize that the things we consider larger than life arose not from some golden age of supermen, but from mostly ordinary people doing their best to deal with times that were no more or less challenging than now. The best days are indeed behind us – but they are also now, and they are ahead. How much easier it is when we can pick the brains of our ancestors, pluck up their best ideas, and avoid their worst mistakes. It’s practically cheating!

“He who cannot draw on three thousand years is living from hand to mouth,” Goethe once said. When we neglect our history, we risk ourselves. History gives us a chance to live securely. When we can draw on thousands of years of knowledge and experience, we’re no longer condemned.

A version of this post appeared in En Tequila Es Verdad’s past.

Condemned to Repeat

Adventures in Mental Health Care

You may have noticed from the fact I’ve flaked recently, but Wellbutrin stopped working in a big way. It did a great job removing depression at first – which unmasked an underlying anxiety that increased and increased and increased. Then it stopped working on the depression. Sigh.

My day job has spent the past several months jabbing the rage, depression, and anxiety buttons nearly constantly. It’s got to the point where I have nightmares about it, which added insomnia to the list. Double sigh.

And my doctor is on sabbatical so she can spend time with her kids. Triple sigh.

Image is a cat collapsed face-down on the back of a sofa. Caption says, "I love you, couch. You understand me."

It’s really hard to cope with change when you’re super-depressed and anxious, so it took me a while to work up the courage to go through the process of getting a new doctor. Luckily, a friend at work went from all storm clouds all the time to near-blissful happiness, and her doctor was accepting new patients. I saw her Tuesday. I bloody love both her and the new clinic. She was a lot more prompt and thorough than my previous doctor. She found me something that will, with any luck, destroy both the anxiety and the depression in one go. We’re phasing out Wellbutrin. I’ve got some Xanax to fill in the gaps while the new stuff gears up to full effect. She listened to me when I told her my tiny little body burns through ordinary doses of drugs in a flash, and dosed accordingly. And she also sent me down the hall to the lab to get my thyroid tested, which I’d meant to ask for and completely forgotten. I love docs who actually look for other underlying causes rather than just assuming you’re mental. Continue reading “Adventures in Mental Health Care”

Adventures in Mental Health Care

Grab Some Tissues and Watch This. Then Take Action.

JT Eberhard, my darlings. One of the bravest fucking human beings I know. Watch his Skepticon IV talk and read his post.

I’ve got nothing much to add to this. I wrote up a whole big post on it once and then never posted it, because honestly, my occasional tussles with depression are stubbed toes compared to what others go through. It may not always be like that. Bipolar disorder runs in my family right alongside the heart disease and cancer and Alzheimer’s. I’ve learned to watch the highs and lows with minute attention, because it’s off to the doctor the instant they cease to be within normal range. I refuse to go through what my mother did, descending into a hell we didn’t know enough to rescue her from until it was almost too late.

Continue reading “Grab Some Tissues and Watch This. Then Take Action.”

Grab Some Tissues and Watch This. Then Take Action.

Spines Developing Among Dems

I don’t know about you, but this comes as an absolute fucking shock to me: Harry Reid’s apparently located his spine somewhere deep in the detritus of his garage, and he’s gingerly trying it on:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has “ordered Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) to drop a proposal to tax health benefits and stop chasing Republican votes on a massive health care reform bill.” Roll Call reports:

According to Democratic sources, Reid told Baucus that taxing health benefits and failing to include a strong government-run insurance option of some sort in his bill would cost 10 to 15 Democratic votes; Reid told Baucus it wasn’t worth securing the support of Grassley and at best a few additional Republicans. …

Good on yer, Harry. Keep that spine on – it becomes you.

Meanwhile, Arizona’s got at least one pol it can be proud of:

Update: And the progressives in the House weigh in:

The Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United States
1600 Pennsylvania Aye, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President,

I read with alarm and dismay the article in the July 7th edition of the Wall Street Journal, “WhiteHouse Open to Deal on Public Health Plan”. In particular, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel stated in the article that one of several ways to meet your health care reform goals is a mechanism under which a public plan is introduced only if the marketplace fails to provide sufficient competition on its own.

I want to be crystal clear that any such trigger for a strong public plan option is a non-starter with a majority of the Members of the Progressive Caucus (CPC). As the CPC has repeatedly stated, its Members cannot support final passage of any health care reform bill that does not include a robust public plan option, akin to Medicare, operating alongside the private plans.

Public opinion polls show that 76° o of Americans want a robust public plan option and I will stand in solidarity with them. Moreover, I consider it unacceptable for any of the cost savings that you are negotiating with hospitals and other sectors of the health care industry to be madecontingent upon a robust public plan option not being included in the final legislation.

Thank you for your thoughtful consideration.


Raul Grijalva

And Raul has Rahmbo running for the hills:

After initially indicating his support for a public plan “trigger,” White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel reassured House Democrats tonight that he strongly backs a public plan. Progressive Caucus Co-Chairwoman Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) said she told Emanuel that support for a “trigger” would cause health reform to lose Democratic votes:

“We have compromised enough, and we are not going to compromise on any kind of trigger game,” Woolsey said she told Emanuel. “People clapped all over the place. We mean it, and not just progressives.”

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) said Emanuel reassured him that he “doesn’t stand by that trigger.”

Nice shooting, Rep. Grijalva and fellow progressives. Nice work, AZ’s 7th. Keep that fellow around, would you?

Spines Developing Among Dems

Encouraging Developments

I might as well just tip the shot glass to Steve Benen right here – he finds the bestest stuff. Both of these links came from him. Thanks for some good news floating happily in a sea of stupidity, Steve!

First up, science gets some champions in the Obama administration:

The Senate on Thursday confirmed an expert on global climate change as President Obama’s top adviser on science and technology policy.

John Holdren became the president’s science adviser as director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. He has advocated sharp government action on climate change policy and is a former president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the nation’s largest science organization.


The Senate also confirmed former Oregon State University marine biologist Jane Lubchenco to head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which oversees ocean and atmospheric research and the National Weather Service.

Lubchenco, who specialized in overfishing and climate change at Oregon State University, is the first woman to head NOAA. A member of the Pew Oceans Commission, Lubchenco has recommended steps to overcome crippling damage to the world’s oceans from overfishing and pollution and had expressed optimism for change after George W. Bush’s presidency.

Don’t know about you, but I’m feeling pretty optimistic just now meself. These two folks were spectacular choices, and I’m glad to see they’re now able to get to work.

And Attorney General Eric Holder’s taking a step very much in the right direction:

The Obama administration advised federal agencies yesterday to release their records and information to the public unless foreseeable harm would result.

Attorney General Eric Holder issued new guidelines fleshing out President Obama’s Jan. 21 order to reveal more government records to the public under the Freedom of Information Act, whenever another law doesn’t prohibit release.

The new standard essentially returned to one Attorney General Janet Reno issued during the Clinton administration. It replaced a more restrictive policy imposed by the Bush administration under which the Justice Department defended any sound legal argument for withholding records.

“We are making a critical change that will restore the public’s ability to access information in a timely manner,” Holder said in a written statement.

And Holder did it in a timely manner himself – Obama said he had until May to get this done. Here’s hoping this is a sign of even better things to come. I wouldn’t mind a bit if the woodshed fell into disuse.

Not that it’s likely to with so many Cons clamoring to get in, alas. But you know what I mean.

Encouraging Developments

Science Hero

I know all of you have probably seen this in one form or another, but I just want to point out that our new President is a champion for science:

As expected, President Obama today reversed Bush-era restrictions on stem-cell research, but that’s not all he did today. While hosting a White House ceremony to announce the change, the president also explained a new memorandum addressing scientific integrity itself.

“Promoting science isn’t just about providing resources, it is also about protecting free and open inquiry,” Obama said. “It is about letting scientists like those here today do their jobs, free from manipulation or coercion, and listening to what they tell us, even when it’s inconvenient especially when it’s inconvenient. It is about ensuring that scientific data is never distorted or concealed to serve a political agenda and that we make scientific decisions based on facts, not ideology.”

He said his memorandum is meant to restore “scientific integrity to government decision-making.” He called it the beginning of a process of ensuring his administration bases its decision on sound science; appoints scientific advisers based on their credentials, not their politics; and is honest about the science behind its decisions.

Alex Koppelman noted that this carried with it an “unsubtle … repudiation of the Bush administration and its attitude towards science.”

Good. The previous administration’s efforts to subvert science were unprecedented, ridiculous, and kind of dangerous. Melody Barnes, director of Obama’s Domestic Policy Council, told reporters yesterday, “The president believes that it’s particularly important to sign this memorandum so that we can put science and technology back at the heart of pursuing a broad range of national goals.”

It feels so good to have a President who wholeheartedly supports science again. Now if we can just usher the fundies, Cons and other assorted lunatics out of the way, America might once again become a country on the cutting edge.

Thank you, President Obama.

Science Hero

Thankees and Spankees

I dream of blogging. Seriously. I took a nap this evening, and dreamt I was reading a very interesting post by Steve Benen (aren’t they all?), and writing several posts of my own. I wish I could remember most of them.

One I do remember, though, was a thank-you letter to President Obama. And even in the dream, I was thinking, “Yeesh, isn’t that a little much sap?” After all, I have concerns. Some of his DOJ’s arguments recently have been concerning. I’m not at all sure over his Treasury Department. But, of course, every time I go to haul him to the woodshed, he does something that mitigates the concern, and then a little more. So I save my smackin’ for them as deserves it more richly.

But a thank you letter? Oh, for crying out loud. I refuse to be that mushy-gushy.

However, I may have to rethink that position:

The establishment media, never one to turn down an easy story controversy slap fight might be focused on Limbaugh—they are the ones that have asked questions of Gibbs, Emanuel, etc., after all—but “Team” Obama seems focused on fixing the fucking the disaster left to them by “Team” Bush-Cheney. The Recovery Act, the budget fixes—hell, the whole damn budget—today’s healthcare summit, Clinton’s Mideast initiative, the initiative to cut military waste, the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, this week’s release of the OLC memos. . . that’s what the White House is focusing on.

Where is the Republican “loyal” opposition focusing? They are busy fearmongering about “socialism,” saying “no” without proposing any implementable alternatives, and seeing who can kiss Rush’s butt closest to his anus.

And how’s that workin’ for ya’? As the latest NBC/WSJ poll will tell you, not very well:

President Obama’s favorability rating is at an all-time high. Two-thirds feel hopeful about his leadership and six in 10 approve of the job he’s doing in the White House.

. . . .

By comparison, the Republican Party — which resisted Obama’s recently passed stimulus plan and has criticized the spending in his budget — finds its favorability at an all-time low. It also receives most of the blame for the current partisanship in Washington and trails the Democrats by nearly 30 percentage points on the question of which party could best lead the nation out of recession. [emphasis enthusiastically added]

Really, the kid’s not doing a bad job. When you kind of put it all together like that with the little NBC/WSJ Poll cherry on top, it’s kinda eye-popping. So, y’know, Mr. President – thanks. And keep up the good work.

That work, o’ course, would be easier if it wasn’t for the abundance of assclowns he’s having to deal with:

Via TPM, Bloomberg:

“President Barack Obama’s economic advisers are increasingly concerned about the U.S. Senate’s delay in confirming the nominations of Austan Goolsbee and Cecilia Rouse to the White House Council of Economic Advisers.

Without Senate confirmation, the two economists are barred from advising the president as the administration tackles the worst financial crisis in 70 years and tries to advance the spending plan Obama submitted to Congress last week.


You know what’s coming, don’t you? Oh, yes, you do:

“There are some objections on the Republican side that we are trying to deal with,” said Jim Manley, a spokesman for Reid.”

As Josh said: Please Grow Up.

Meanwhile, Sen. Robert Menendez and other anonymous Senators have blocked two of Obama’s science advisors. This isn’t just bad for science, it’s bad for the economic stimulus package, which contains a lot of science funding:

“The holdup could slow timely science and environmental policy work between Congress and the administration, particularly the spending of roughly $21.5 billion dedicated to science in the economic recovery package.”

Now mind you, Obama has managed to accomplish all of the amazing things highlighted above and more in a political zoo where Cons obstruct everything in sight and a good chunk of the Dems can’t figure out whether they’re supposed to be Democrats or not. (New Dems, Blue Dogs, a word if I may: fiscal conservatives are typically Republicons, you dumbfucks. How’s about we hold off on the concern trolling until after the economy has recovered, eh? Or you can join the ranks of the outrageous idiots over on the other side of the aisle. Good luck getting reelected with that.)

So, once again: Thank you, President Obama, for managing to do so much in so little time while navigating so many obstacles. And for not mangling innocent English sentences every time you open your mouth.

That, together with all the other stuff, means a lot to this writer.

And, Senate? I’m carrying Josh and Hilzoy’s motion, here: Grow the fuck up.

(Update: you know what they say about great minds thinking alike… or at least on related grooves. What was I saying about the Treasury?)

Thankees and Spankees

Another Noxious Bush Reg Bites the Dust

A few months ago, I alerted you to Bush’s little scheme to allow healthcare providers to redefine birth control as abortion and then refuse to provide the service. At the time, I gave you what I considered wise advice:

We can’t rely on Obama’s ability to roll these rules back. Better for the country if they’re never implemented at all.

It’s nice to be half-wrong sometimes. Looks like we can rely on Obama after all:

Today, the Obama administration plans to rescind the controversial “conscience rule,” which “allows healthcare workers to deny abortion counseling or other family planning services if doing so would violate their moral beliefs.”

That’s my President, that is. He’s not got a perfect record in rolling back Bush abuses – in fact, if a few things don’t change over the next week, a trip to the woodshed will be in order – but he’s doing a tremendous amount of good very, very quickly.

This is why I find it rather difficult to apply the Smack-o-Matic in his case. Every time I pick the damned thing up, he does something that makes me put it right back down. Y’know, little things like, oh, I dunno,

Ending the war in Iraq.

Restoring Superfund, making polluters pay, and ending tax breaks for the fossil fuel industry.

Planning a budget even Paul Krugman can love.

Going for healthcare reform.

Delivering a kick-ass speech that helps prepare the country for progressivism.

And that’s just a few items from the last few days.

It’s a good thing the Cons have been such raging idiots, or the poor Smack-o-Matic would be gathering dust. We can’t have that.

The following illustration describes the situation precisely:

Our President is practically MacGuyver. I’m loving this.

Another Noxious Bush Reg Bites the Dust