GRACIAS

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. . . señor Presidente — on behalf of myself and all my countrymen and countrywomen, documented and undocumented

My forebears arrived in this country, at the James River in the Virginia Colony, in 1690, without papers or permission.  In the intervening years we’ve done all right for ourselves.

May this uniquely American story go on, as long as rivers roll.

Look at the picture of the Rio Bravo above and tell me which side is the “American” and which side is the “Mexican”. The lord of creation didn’t really have the time or the inclination to make it clear.

Click on the image to enlarge.

THE PRESIDENT

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Has Obama suddenly grown a pair?  Republicans have been punking him for six years, opposing and viciously criticizing every policy he’s enacted or proposed while at the same time refusing to enact or propose any practical alternatives.  They’ve been like fans in the bleachers thinking they’re players because they’ve thrown beer bottles at the center fielder.

Now the do-nothing Republicans in Congress have grown hysterical at the prospect of Obama using executive orders to try and make some repairs to the broken immigration system — which they think they have a moral right to ignore.

Senate Republicans Address The Press After Weekly Policy Luncheon

They’re squealing like stuck pigs at the very idea that Obama might take action on an issue that they don’t have the guts or common decency to address themselves.  They’re talking about impeaching him — talking about shutting down the government again or refusing to pay America’s debts in retaliation.

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Obama has always bent over backwards to avoid projecting an image of “angry young black man”, and with the Republican gains in the recent midterms they seem to have thought they could get him go even further and address them as “massa”.  But if there was ever a time for the young black man to get angry, it’s now, when he has nothing left to lose.

All he has to do is say “Bring it on, eunuchs” to collapse their whole house of cards, to reveal them as the drunken irresponsible bleacher bums they are.  What fun it would be to watch that happen.

I hate Obama and look forward cheerfully to the day he leaves office forever, but I’d sure love to see him kick some flabby white Republican ass on his way out.

VERA CRUZ

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Ted Cruz is clearly an intelligent man, with many sound ideas, but he has a fatal flaw — he likes to fuck chickens in public.  This draws crowds, of course, and delights many, but there seems to be a rule in American politics that a man who fucks chickens in public, while he might aspire to the Senate or a governorship, can never rise to the Presidency.

That’s the tragedy of the man, not to mention the tragedy of countless chickens.

BOB DYLAN

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. . . resides in America, creates his art out of America, helps illuminate America, but he doesn’t make his home in America.

Like David Crockett, Jim Bowie, William B. Travis, among others, he’s only at home, only himself, on the frontier, in places not yet settled, in places yet to be defined.

It’s hard to get your mind around Texas in 1835, a province of Mexico, officially, but really an experiment in political liberty and entrepreneurial skulduggery — a land of limitless corruption, limitless idealism, limitless possibility.

It was, in short, the heart of the American dream, where the only unforgivable sins were timidity and mediocrity.  Dylan still sings from the heart of that heart.

THE SENATE

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A Republican majority in the Senate, which now seems all but certain, will not change anything substantive in terms of national policy.  It will simply give Senate Republicans a more prominent platform on which to engage in the sort of meaningless political posturing which is now almost the whole business of the House.

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Extremist legislation with no chance of ever passing will make its way to the Senate floor, where it will be killed by Democratic filibusters.  Ted Cruz, who is actually a fairly intelligent man, will probably squander the opportunity to critique Obama’s policies through investigative committees in favor of his fatal addiction to cynical and irresponsible demagoguery.

Rand Paul will probably not be allowed to mount a meaningful offensive against Obama’s Constitutional crimes, because most Republicans endorse them.

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Progressives might take heart at the idea of the Republican clowns having a brighter spotlight in which to disgrace themselves — but they’d be wrong to do so.  Two years of a Senate led by the clownish McConnell and the cynical Cruz will make Obama look good by comparison, and pave the way for the easy Presidential victory of another Democratic spokes-model for the plutocracy like Hillary Clinton.

The prospect of a clownish, impotent Congress and another corporate lapdog in the White House is what keeps the champagne flowing on Wall Street and lets the 1% sleep peacefully at night.

QUARANTINE

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I know one needs to be cautious in the use of quarantines but sometimes it’s better to be safe than sorry — which is why I’m calling on President Obama to use an executive order to quarantine the governors of Maine, New York and New Jersey at the U. S. Naval Base on Guantanamo Bay until the Ebola panic subsides.

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Their hysteria is probably more contagious than the Ebola virus itself.  The governors could be kept in comfortable quarters, given psychiatric counseling and then returned to normal life when they were no longer presenting symptoms of irrational paranoia.

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We have to balance their civil rights against the need for public order — and we have an obligation to the men themselves.

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You just have to look at them to know they need help.

NEWS

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In a fascinating and thoughtful essay for the Brookings Institute, former Washington Post editor Robert G. Kaiser takes a look at the dire future that lies ahead for the traditional news media:

The Bad News About the News

A few thoughts about it occur to me.

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First of all, at the time of the founding of the republic, when the founders determined that a free press was essential to a free state, there were no major news organizations like the ones we’re used to.  There was plenty of press, vast numbers of competing newspapers in the major cities and in the provinces, and occasional broadsheets on every sort of subject published by the thousands.

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These media were typically partisan, highly partisan, and not always scrupulous about the facts — there were no news sources “of record” people could consult for anything like an objective arbitration of the competing voices of the press.  And yet for generations the people, from New York City to the bayous of Louisiana, were able to conduct a more or less rational conversation about national policy, to raise up politicians of skill and even at times genius to conduct that policy.

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Civic engagement at the local level, decentralized as it may have been, translated into national movements and initiatives.  A national postal service, like the Internet of its day, enabled distant people to communicate with each other about politics all over the country, and itinerant political speakers, seeking office or influence, mounted the stump in the most remote frontier settlements.

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It was chaotic, as the Internet is today, but it worked remarkably well.

When the great metropolitan newspapers arose in the second half of the 19th Century, the ones that somewhat resemble the great metropolitan newspapers of the second half of the 20th Century, the ones that are dying today, the modern form of media was created — but there was a crucial difference.

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The great 19th-Century newspapers, and magazines, earned their money directly from readers, by sales and subscriptions.  In the 20th Century, revenues came more and more from advertisers, and the loss of advertising revenue now, in the digital age, is what is killing 21st-Century newspapers.

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Is this a bad thing?  Depending on advertisers makes newspapers beholden to them, unwilling to publish news unfavorable to them.  Depending less on readers makes newspapers less responsive to their wants and needs.  The great newspapers of the late 19th Century were filled with entertaining nonsense alongside the hard news, but also with entertaining and brilliant popular art, in the form of color comics and graphic illustrations.

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The dynamic of traditional advertising-based media worked well when they were the only game in town, but now they’re not.  People are finding their news and their entertainment and their visual stimulation elsewhere, advertisers are following them, and traditional media are being left behind.

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Something tells me that American democracy is capable of surviving with a chaotic, decentralized electronic press, in many ways so much like the press in Thomas Jefferson’s day.  Something tells me that if the modern corporate media have to rely once again on their consumers for revenue, rather than on their advertisers, they will put out a livelier if perhaps less respectable product, but one still capable of delivering hard and relatively objective news.

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Meanwhile, a word about Texas, which in so many areas bucks the trends in the rest of America.  Texas has some of the most energetic, shrewd and entertaining local political reporting in America right now.  It’s aided by the fact that Texas politics and Texas politicians are so eccentric — they must be fun to write about and they are certainly fun to read about.

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[Photo above by Roxanne Rathge]

I got interested in Texas politics through reading Big, Hot, Cheap and Right, Erica Grieder’s fascinating survey of the state today.  Grieder (above), one of the sharpest political reporters in the nation, writes provocative articles for Texas Monthly — a magazine that also has a barbecue editor, a guy who reports only on barbecue.  In other words, it takes a comprehensive populist look at affairs in the Lone Star State.

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The Texas Tribune is a non-profit online newspaper based in Austin dedicated to in-depth coverage of the Texas political scene. It also hosts public events with speakers and panels discussing current political issues of interest to Texans.

I don’t know how local Texas newspapers and magazines are faring financially, but they are fielding teams of journalists who keep a close eye on local Texas politics and report on it entertainingly.  They converse and debate with each other goodnaturedly, from both ends of the political spectrum, on forums like Twitter.  They like to talk about barbecue.

Texas seems to have a healthy free press operating at the moment, in both conventional and unconventional media — a press as healthy as its economy.  Perhaps it’s just an illusion — perhaps the prominent news media in Texas are facing the same bleak prospects as the prominent news media elsewhere — but it sure doesn’t feel that way.

As with jobs creation, is Texas doing something right with respect to its press that the rest of America ought to take a look at?

HORROR

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Every time there’s a new school shooting we get a look at the places American kids are educated these days and they’re always grim — like industrial warehouses, or abattoirs.  They seem more fit for holding animals than people, inhuman pens, purely utilitarian and forbidding.

Soulless buildings built by soulless architects for soulless citizens.  What a message to the young people of America, one they get almost every day of their lives.

SHOCKING NEW REVELATION

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In a press release issued with little fanfare, The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta has confirmed that it’s possible to contract Ebola through reading about it online or watching CNN’s coverage of the epidemic.

Tom Frieden, the director of the Centers, insists there is no cause for undue concern as long as people moderate their online reading and CNN viewing and keep a careful watch for symptoms.

SYSTEMIC CORRUPTION

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If you take a peek inside the N. Y. Fed, courtesy of Carmen Segarra (above) and the tapes she made of meetings when she was working there, you’ll discover a truly egregious breach of public trust by the institution, one which should have criminal consequences for its leaders, past and present, like Timothy Geithner below:

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We the taxpayers pay the members of the N. Y. Fed to regulate Wall Street, to make sure it doesn’t engage in reckless and criminal behavior that might, just possibly, bring down the world economy, as it very nearly did in 2008.

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They take our money and do just the opposite — they coddle and suck up to Wall Street, in essence shielding it from meaningful scrutiny and regulation, all the while knowing that if they do this well they can cash in with lucrative jobs on Wall Street once they leave the Fed.

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This is direct theft from the public treasury for personal gain — those who engage in it should be in jail.  Any president who condones it — I’m talking to you, Barry — should be impeached.

GOOD RIDDANCE

Attn. General Holder Testifies At Senate Judiciary Hearing On Justice Dept Oversight

. . . to one of the most corrupt public officials in American history.  He invented the “too big to fail” concept that kept Wall Street firms intact in the wake of extreme and disastrous criminal behavior and kept their executives out of jail.  His relentless war on the press kept it tame in the face of his boss’s equally relentless war on the Constitution.

He leaves behind a legacy of momentous villainy in the service of the plutocracy and state tyranny.

Click on the image to enlarge.

AN AMERICAN HERO

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Carmen Segarra, the Edward Snowden of Wall Street.  If I were her, I’d be exploring the possibility of sanctuary in a foreign country.

Listen to her story here – for a portrait of the New York Fed as a culture of systemic corruption, like the office of a crooked small-town sheriff working to protect an illegal gambling joint run by his brother-in-law.  The stench is nauseating.

Click on the image to enlarge.

GEORGE WASHINGTON

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America’s first President is usually seen as man easy to admire but hard to love.  In his public life, and to a great degree in his personal life, he mastered a kind of cordiality without warmth, a modest reserve mixed with a forbidding austerity.  He had a genius for silence, for withholding his true feelings, yet when he made up his mind to something he acted with unflinching resolve.

He was a man you underestimated at your own peril.

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If you read Ron Chernow’s brilliant recent biography of the man, however,you will find it hard not to love George Washington — and not just for his services to his country.  Beneath the artfully crafted facade he presented to the world was a man of deep sentiment and emotion and sensuality, sacrificed over and over again to his sense of honor and duty.

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He was not a natural stoic, not a cold self-satisfied prig — he chose service over inclination as a matter of principle, and endured the sacrifices this entailed fully sensible of the pain and personal loss this choice cost him.

Towards the end of his life, after leading the Continental Army to victory over the British Empire, presiding over the creation of the American Constitution, serving wisely and indispensably as the first American President, he wrote a letter to a woman named Sally Fairfax, the wife of a good friend, with whom he’d had an intense and passionate if platonic flirtation in his younger days.

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He said that the times he’d spent with her were the happiest of his life.  She must have represented all he could have had in this world if he’d been willing to overstep the bounds of propriety, violate his honor, and hers, given up his notions of civic and personal probity, the record of integrity that enabled him to spearhead the creation a new country and bind it into a workable union.

He was not the sort of man to second guess the course he chose, but he was human enough to hold on to a longing for something simpler and sweeter and more enchanting.  You have to love him, if only for that.