« Positive trend lines | Main | Inflection points »

April 06, 2011


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Since our choice is aways between two devils, there really is no choice. I'm with Christopher Hedges -- I'll vote for anyone who is NOT a Repub or Demo. I don't care what goodness/evil spews forth from their campaign. My vote is already worthless.

It's fascinating how a nation can become apoplectic about deficits - during Democratic administrations, that is - and their long-term consequences. But is climate change not a long-term problem, too? Yeah, but scientists made it all up! All those e-mails!

I'm not merely talking about the hysterics in the GOP base, either. It's virtually the entire punditocracy, wringing its hands about revenue shortfalls decades in the future. Can we raise taxes? NO! Can we cut defense? Off the table, sweetheart. How about all those subsidies to GOP-coddled industries in energy and agribusiness? How dare you attack producers! If we're an idiocracy, it's not simply a function of low-information TV citizens. Our best and brightest are stumbling over themselves applauding the earnest Ayn Rand devotee, Paul Ryan. It's a who's who of the smart and "serious", from David Brooks to Andrew Sullivan to Evan Bayh.

I'm not sure we can win this fight and it's evident Obama doesn't want to fight it on our behalf. The Democratic Party has morally collapsed as a functional champion of the working and middle classes. I applaud its boutique liberalism and scarcely know anyone who isn't a lifestyle liberal himself. But the nation cannot survive if it simply cuts off its less fortunates. They're too many of them for one thing and you can't count on their docility in a Dickensian America.

I'll vote for Obama because it buys us some time. I'm not sure the time is worth buying or if the contradictions don't really need to be heightened. My fear is that we'll never recover from complete Republican/Tea Party control of the government. Most people have little understanding of the scope of our problems, let alone the ear-splitting dissonance of our political noise. It's hard enough to reach people who feel adrift in this panic-struck nation.

If we, in fact, need a revolution, I have no idea how we'll overthrow the triumphant oligarchy that now controls both parties. Jim Kunstler has kept predicting angry mobs descending on the Hamptons demanding their money back from the banksters. But the truth is that the rubes don't hate the rich. They hate the "others" they think are threatening their status as Real Americans, deserving and good. Policy, economics, or atmospheric physics hardly matter since they're much too complicated.

The Republican advantage is that their message resonates because it's simple: once there was a beautiful country and liberals ruined it! Obama in his own biography enables and amplifies this message. He understands this and hopes his own Vulcan lack of passion will mollify the center. But there's no learning here because people's own lives have not been reconciled to the harsh new reality of post-crash America. Obama promised them the good times would return. They won't. And win or lose, Obama will suffer their rage.

It may seem far-fetched, but does it not seem like the Republicans and Tea Partyers have pushed too far, and now comes the push back? I may be making too much of little things here, but Glenn Beck was kicked out of Faux (FOX) News in lieu of his growing extremism. His attacks on President Obama received more and more viewer (Fox News' viewers!) complaints. His ratings dropped 30% this year.

People, including those that went along with the Tea Party and gushed over Ryan, may now be thinking twice about their choices. Perhaps more Americans are realizing their doltishness and thus, will turn off the TV for a few hours a week? I'm holding out for a more progressive Obama in his second term; after all, he has nothing to lose at that point.

Holy. Shit.

(Pardon me.)

Most strident, impactive, hair-raising, *exciting* of your sane posts ever!

Excellent Jon. Without a doubt the start of a revolution.

Political capital, personal standing, be it infinitesimal, is always something to lose. Blue dog Obama is apparently very comfortable in the 'middle zone' wherever that is. Congress is not coming back for the Democrats and they're not good at using that mandate when it does. Therefore candidate Obama is the most progressive that we will ever get - it's "Death of the Liberal Class".

Obama&Co should have done / do a lot more but the crisis has been cooking for decades and no "progressive governance" can overcome it. Beyond competent governing (it can always get worse) there is still an important role for political leadership to play as commentators like Kunstler and Kevin Phillips demand: to tell the truth. The common inability to take the truth will show that the failure is not one of politics alone but also of deficient citizenship. What comes after that should be very interesting.

Obama has done nothing to deserve reelection. I don't recall if it was Roger Hodge or someone else, but the truth is that Obama did not come to rescue liberalism, but to bury it. He's done a wonderful job. If we're going to have a president who willingly destroys a century of social progress, it's best that he not nominally be a Democrat. Can anyone point out a policy outcome that is different because Obama is president than would have been the result of W with at least one house of Congress held by Democrats? Because I can't.

I have made it a point to never berate the mentally challenged, so I was always mad at W's parents for letting him out of the closet. But I really get upset when a brilliant and beautiful mind does not use their intellect and abilities to benefit the planet and "manunkind." Clinton couldn’t get his brilliance out of his pants and Obama can’t bring his brilliance to the stage of "The Art of War." John Galt is back.

The President has little real power it seems, unless you run the office like former President Bush who had henchmen do his illegal deeds. The real power is with the Senate and House whose bought and paid for occupants play political games, not to help the middle class and their constituents but to keep themselves in office via the flow of money from corporate America. The public is constantly misinformed as to the details of our nation's budget. With these problems and redistricting, its all over but the prison planet.

You have captured my thoughts. I am disappointed and demoralized. The entire country has become Phoenix.

I always hear people say that Obama "should do more". He has "called" for just about every progressive agenda item I can think of from public health care to clean energy to high speed rail (!) to taxes on the wealthy to loophole closing.

Yes, he has had some mixed results. But he has accomplished a great deal with new regulations on health insurers, banks and major investments in renewable energy. Yes, we escalated the war in Afghanistan - exacty what he said he was going to do, over and over, during his campaign.

Obama has been all over the media. We have been barraged with speeches, day time talk show appearences, cool websites, social media, press conferences. The guy is setting records for bully pulpit use.

So, could it be that WE, not he, are the problem?

Yet another unclothed emperor of foreign adventures; while at home a blind, hamstrung gelding barely outpacing the pack of glue factory rejects stumbling headlong towards the very wrong precipice of the Right. Enough. Please.

Kevin, of course we're the problem. We would be with or without effective leadership. Obama is obviously a scapegoat for the right wing but he's a scapegoat for the left, too. We wanted a "fierce advocate" and got a punctilious arbiter instead.

This nation veers rightward in its moods and anger, and leftward in its policy preferences. Obama is surfing this wave but not challenging it. If we demand deficit reduction on the backs of the poor, he'll probably deliver.

You can't disconnect the catastrophe of a suburbanized - and disconnected - nation from its political dissociations. We're politically feral because we're socially isolated. When I talk to people about politics, I'm quietly amazed how liberal most are in their cultural norms but how reactionary they are about fundamental social obligations. There is no nation without a social contract of some kind. That's why Paul Ryan's proposal is so horrifying. It not only shreds that contract, it assumes the moral high ground while doing it. And, of course, he's "serious".

You go to war with the army you have, not the one you might want, pace Donald Rumsfeld. We're that army. Or you can call us a herd of cats. Regardless, we're mostly neutered so we won't spray the oligarchy's furniture.

I still rather amazed at how close the WI judges' race was. I know the Walker clone outspent the Demo 2 to 1, but the razor-thin victory is no triumph of democracy. Money nearly bought an election of someone who hates the working man and there are enough others out there that will cut there own nose off to vote against their own best interest. A victory of the people would have been double digits, rather than 1/1000s. So the rhetoric and mean-spiritedness will continue (even if your own mandate is a mere 2%)!

Jon, I keep rereading this piece as it is a great piece of art work. And I have pushed it on along to a bunch of folks including some of my red neck republican friends. So far I have got all positive comments back.

Cal, did your redneck Repub friends enjoy Jon's insert of Koreyel's comment concerning global warming, science, and his blast against Repubs who believe in talking snakes? I wonder, will rednecks, poor southerners, and racists support Trumpism and a refocus on the birther issue?


Phxsunfan, most them dudes are OK with the science and somewhat OK with the economics but they will probably go to their grave being racist and homophobic. Thus I am not allowed to bring a gay minority with me to their celebrations. Interestingly when I took a female friend that appeared North European (to them) with me every thing was OK until it came out she was an American Indian. Even now when I take mi Hispanic amiga with me she gets a slightly cold shoulder. I have met the snake handlers. Once while backpacking across America in 76 I ended up in a small church near Artesia NM in the mountains. The church was ministered by a convicted armed robber. First we had rock and roll music, then prayer, then some folks broke out in tongues, well you can see where this is going... But even before then, 1940's I met the Elmer Gantry snake people that traveled in tents and stole and molested most everything.

Well said Jon!

Maybe after Obama is re-elected for not challenging the white right he'll show a backbone. By then, unfortunately, it will be too late for middle wage earners.

Looks like the WI judges race is worse than I thought...



Great column, Mr. Talton. I really miss this blog.

In reporting on Obama's new fundraising efforts, The Washington Post notes that Obama is turning increasingly to big money donors.

For purposes of comparison, note that 2/3 of his donors in the 2008 race donated more than $200 -- scarcely the definition of Main Street, though the Post dutifully notes that this represents a "notably larger proportion" of 'small' donors (less than $200) than in previous races.

Now, it seems, even this reliance on big pockets isn't enough to win, now that support has softened among grassroots supporters.

"His refusal to fight Republicans or Wall Street corporations has left small-dollar donors much less inspired than in 2008," said Adam Green at the Progressive Change Campaign Committee.

Obama has also "formed a group of 'bundlers' who collected checks from their friends and earned special access to him and his staff, just as previous candidates of both parties had done before, and he declined public financing to avoid spending limits."


Sounds like he knows who butters his bread, and it isn't Floyd the Barber.

Obviously this is a feature of American political economy rather than anything intrinsic to Obama, and will continue to be as long as private money governs public political viability. That said, it's clear that he is looking increasingly far from his political base for financial support.

As for votes, it's true that disenchanted progressives would rather vote for Obama than for Mitt Romney or another Republican competitor, but that assumes they will vote. Apathy from the Left can only benefit the Right: and as Mr. Talton points out, a further decline in participation among already under-represented youth and minority voters is unlikely to carry the day, particularly when the tepid economic recovery is popularly associated, rightly or wrongly, with the plan and programs of the Chief Executive.

Obama simply doesn't have the force of personality and personal opinion/will to defy the national leadership of the Democratic Party and the advisors they have recommended -- those who surround him, give him constant "context", and form his cabinet and other political nominations: if, in fact, it was ever his intent to be his own man.

Perhaps, as Bertram Gross wrote, the president "would neither ride the tiger nor try to steal its food; rather, he would be part of the tiger from the outset." (Friendly Fascism, p. 190)

Regarding Mr. Talton's reference to Republican obduracy and biblical injunctions, there is Matthew 25:41-46.

"Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:

"For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:

"I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.

"Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?

"Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.

"And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal."

I'm holding out to see who survives the bloody GOP mill over the next year, all the while continuing to lobby the Obama administration hard from the left. I'm pragmatic that way. I'd love to see a Paul Wellstone presidency, but, alas, to follow the frame, we advance into the fray with the ones who are able and willing to serve. Russ Feingold? Hasn't said he's interested. In the realm of if-she-ever-asks-for-my-vote-she'd-have-it: Naomi Klein. If we don't fix the money problem in politics (both on the revenue and cost sides - i.e., implementing real campaign finance reform and a new, improved version of the fairness doctrine, to keep media costs down) , we'll never, ever, ever have a good pool of leaders and candidates.

Mr. Talton wrote:

"Indeed, the book of Acts tells us of Christians living pretty much as communists."

While confirming this ("And all that believed were together, and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need." Acts 2:44-45), I came across another biblical passage (Luke 4:24) which struck me as apropos for the Rogue Columnist:

"Truly I tell you, he continued, "no prophet is accepted in his hometown."

There are two parallels here: one is the parallel between Republicans in Congress (especially those in control of the House) at the federal level, and those dominating state legislatures such as Arizona's; another is the comparative absence (again, both in the national media and in local newspapers of record) of trained journalists -- whether or not functioning in whole or in part as columnists -- who advocate on behalf of the politically underrepresented: typically the poor or otherwise downtrodden in a political system dominated by money and influence.

Some remarks recently sent to E.J. Montini at the Arizona Republic seem equally apropos for Mr. Talton, while bearing on the general theme of the "shattered social compact"; I include them below for whatever they might be worth.

* * *

Dear Mr. Montini,

I've been enjoying your columns a bit more of late, particularly those involving the transplant patients. As you note, it's incredible that the state legislature can give corporations and wealthy individuals hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks -- more than that really since such breaks continue indefinitely in practice -- and yet obdurately refuse to restore $1.2 million in annual funding for medical treatment which can save lives, though this amount is only a small percentage of the state budget.

In reading these and other columns by you recently, I was on more than one occasion reminded of prose from a short story by Anton Chekhov:

" 'I look at this life and see the arrogance and the idleness of the strong, the ignorance and bestiality of the weak, the horrible poverty everywhere, overcrowding, drunkenness, hypocrisy, falsehood. . . . Meanwhile in all the houses, all the streets, there is peace; out of fifty thousand people who live in our town there is not one to kick against it all. Think of the people who go to the market for food: during the day they eat; at night they sleep, talk nonsense, marry, grow old, piously follow their dead to the cemetery; one never sees or hears those who suffer, and all the horror of life goes on somewhere behind the scenes. Everything is quiet, peaceful, and against it all there is only the silent protest of statistics; so many go mad, so many gallons are drunk, so many children die of starvation. . . . And such a state of things is obviously what we want; apparently a happy man only feels so because the unhappy bear their burden in silence, but for which happiness would be impossible. It is a general hypnosis. Every happy man should have some one with a little hammer at his door to knock and remind him that there are unhappy people, and that, however happy he may be, life will sooner or later show its claws, and some misfortune will befall him -- illness, poverty, loss, and then no one will see or hear him, just as he now neither sees nor hears others. But there is no man with a hammer, and the happy go on living, just a little fluttered with the petty cares of every day, like an aspen-tree in the wind -- and everything is all right.' "


You are a bit like the man with the little hammer. True, you do not knock at every door and disturb one's tea at every hour -- well and good, for it is inhuman (and counterproductive) to destroy every trivial and transitory happiness simply because someone, somewhere is unhappy -- but neither should those in authority be left to ignore needless tragedy that they themselves created and have the power to prevent.

So, congratulations to you for bringing to mind such cogent prose: and I think you will agree that it remains both powerful and relevant even though it was published more than a century ago and half a world away. Please remember this when the state's legislators and governor -- and perhaps others -- are berating you for your audacity in daring to speak truth in plain terms, not merely once, when it can be forgotten, but repeatedly.

Perhaps someone will suggest a Silver Hammer award and nominate yourself and Laurie Roberts (for her columns on the probate system) as possible recipients.


E. Pulsifer

and on todays reading list, "Desert visions and the Making of Phoenix."
I was one of 6 that showed up at Poisoned Pen for ASU professor Philip Vandermeer's new book. Nice cover, lots of footnotes, I'll get back to you.

I don't put as much blame on President Obama as Mr. Talton does, but I see his point and share his disappointment. Our individualistic society's tendency is to elevate the power of the rugged individual to shape the world, but I think we're making a cognitive mistake in doing that. Nixon is now regarded as a moderate, centrist Republican (though in his day he was a mainstream conservative), but today he'd no doubt be shouted down as an America-hating socialist at any of the screamfests that now pass for public discourse in our country. Comrade Eisenhower and his 91% top marginal tax rate would be denounced by today's Democratic party.

It's going to have to get worse before we can look forward to things improving. The tea party shut-ins collecting age-based socialistic benefits, the fruits of a more enlightened era, will not vote for any party or plan that acknowledges the awful truth of our low-energy, high-cost, high-debt future. Why should they sacrifice? They see the finish line in sight, and there'll always be politicians who say they don't have to. Their younger cohorts, seeing the remnants of a once great middle class in terminal decline and facing pressures on both income and expenses (esp. gas), desperately cling to myths of high taxation and government intervention as the source of our decline. These people will keep voting for the politicians that offer easy solutions, until they can't.

Investors have an adage about "Market trends continuing, until something forces them to stop." Hoping our misguided society comes to its senses, absent a true, earth-shattering crisis, is wishful thinking. Someday, the Wall Street house of cards will come tumbling down. Or more frighteningly, ripped down violently. The question is whether we'll still have a civil society in place capable rebuilding a stable, peaceful consensus.

Cal, I'll be interested in your book report. Almost every history of Phoenix I've read is lacking. Particularly:
1. A deep look at the power of the LDS, how it's changed and grown.
2. The behind-the-scenes of how we really won Arizona v. California and prevailed with the CAP.
3. Deep insights into such powerful but opaque entities as the SRP and APS.
4. Phoenix's growth, politics, policies and their consequences after World War II. The personalities who shaped it, too.
5. Crime, from land fraud to mobsters to the Don Bolles killing to the crony world that set the stage for the Fiesta Bowl scandal now.
6. The beginnings and growth of political extremism.
7. Challenging the prevailing narratives, such as "Gene Pulliam stopped the freeway," etc.
8. Phoenix in the '20s, '30s and '40s -- to often doesn't get the in-depth examination is should get. As part of this, was the old guard as corrupt as the Charter Government winners portrayed it.

I could go on an on, but if he just goes from Swilling's Ditch to a celebration of growth, it's a waste of trees.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)