Not grand

Not a bargain!

Without an ennobling and constructive set of tasks and a reality-based discourse, the political goal of bipartisanship in Washington is not “grand” at all. A critical problem with the reflexive impulse to bipartisanship is that the two political parties currently are better representatives of two or more segments of economically-privileged opinion rather than of the American people as a whole. It is true that people pull the lever, for the most part, for one or the other major party but real, effective choice is very limited in a “first past the post” electoral system. And, you know as well as anyone, that once you and other lawmakers reach office, the relative power of the voter diminishes even further and the power of wealthy special interests increases exponentially. The current Democratic and Republican Parties are able to compete with each other for attention and “stir up enough dust” to temporarily distract many voters from the essential distance between the concerns of official Washington and Main Street. The mainstream media outlets have been collaborating in creating the appearance of differences between the two Parties but as you have admitted on more than one occasion you share a lot of common positions with your now vanquished opponent, Mitt Romney.

Also, apparently, you are very much attracted to the notion of sacrifice and “shared sacrifice” which also might be meaningfully linked to the notion of national grandeur and greatness: one sacrifices for others to make the nation, the group or the team greater and better. You know, you are probably right that in some areas more public-spiritedness and sacrifice of individual wants and needs may be desirable. Yet you have chosen to praise and seek to impose sacrifice on others in an area where, for ordinary people, for the most part, sacrifice is gratuitous and damaging.

You and your advisors are diverting people’s natural impulses to help other people to a false and actually a counter-productive goal, reducing the budget deficit. It would be far better that Americans would, for instance, sacrifice trips in fuel inefficient vehicles, until such time that they have workable low- and zero-emissions options, than to pay more income taxes to reduce a budget deficit. Or that some Americans choose careers that are not the most remunerative but serve public needs, like teaching school, social work and sustainable agriculture, and yet can get adequately rewarded for their work. These are real individual and group sacrifices for the good of the country not phantom sacrifices for a false ideal.

The notion that it is awe-inspiring or grand to unite the two major political parties around the narrow interests of Wall Street is to make a mockery of the idea of a grand sweep or arc of American history. Or to invoke individual sacrifice and people’s desire to help to address the phantom issue of the public debt is, as you will see below, an outrageous misappropriation of people’s desire to help others. It’s a travesty of grandeur and of greatness, the grandeur and greatness you aspire to as President.

News Corp

What goes up must come down, and it looks like it’s time for News International to fall hard on its ass. Does the U.S. DoJ have the drive to hit them when they’re down? I doubt it. Like the law professor quoted here, I’d guess that we’ll see a settlement that will still leave the Murdoch empire in an influential position:

The new round of criminal charges brought in the UK against former senior News International editors has once again raised the prospect that Rupert Murdoch’s New York-based parent company may be prosecuted under US anti-bribery laws, and complicates the rehabilitation of his son James as a possible successor to lead the global media empire.

The charges brought against Rebekah Brooks, who ran Murdoch’s newspaper holdings in Britain, Andy Coulson, former editor of the now defunct News of the World, and two other former News International employees exposes the parent News Corporation to possible action under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The FCPA exists to prosecute US-domiciled companies for acts of bribery and corruption that they might commit abroad.

An official of the British ministry of defence, Bettina Jordan Barber, also faces trial for allegedly receiving £100,000 from Murdoch’s tabloid newspapers for information that led to a series of published stories. The allegation that money passed hands clearly falls within the legal remit of the FCPA.

Mike Koehler, professor of law at Southern Illinois school of law and author of the blog, said the charges “would be hard for the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission to ignore. We have been hearing allegations for a year and a half now, now we clearly have charges against high ranking officials at a foreign subsidiary,” he said.

[…] News Corp has largely shrugged off the scandal in the US, where its shares have risen over 34% in the last year. At News Corp’s recent annual shareholder meeting in October, Murdoch comfortably saw off attempts to appoint an independent chairman to the company. James Murdoch has recently been tipped to head Fox Networks, the News Corp television division that includes its flagship Fox channel, home to The Simpsons and American Idol.

But the new charges will increase pressure on the company. Koehler said US authorities would be looking to see how high up the chain of command the bribery scandal reached. “The question will be what did James know and when did he know it,” he said. Ultimately he predicted News Corp would reach a settlement with the Justice Department rather than go to trial, but he said that News Corp faced some uncomfortable investigations in the coming months.

Gobble gobble

First of all, I’m thankful for antibiotics. Even though they are causing me severe nausea that makes me wish I lived in a medical marijuana state!

Yesterday, despite my best efforts to avoid the supermarket, I had to go redeem my free turkey coupon (even though I’d already gotten a fresh one from the local butcher). It was a zoo in the supermarket parking lot, but folks were mostly picking up only a few items and heading out quickly, so it was a lot easier to get a parking spot.

I watched the Food Network during this bout with bronchitis (also caught up on the final three seasons of the BBC original “Shameless” on Netflix — one benefit to not being able to sleep more than a few hours) and saw that you can buy those pop-up thingies for your turkey that tell you it’s done. So I did. Then I came home and stashed the free frozen turkey in my landlord’s freezer (for Christmas, I guess).

I’m a little bummed that I had to cancel the big Thanksgiving dinner with friends and family, but grateful that my friend who already had this bug is coming anyway. What a letdown. I really did the Martha Stewart preparation thing this year, too — polished the family silver, ironed and folded the cloth napkins, got out the candles, washed the crystal, all that stuff. It was going to be my first large Thanksgiving in years (I used to host both families when I was married).

I remember last year, when my daughter-in-law made this sumptuous vegan feast and all I could eat of her fabulous food was the mashed potatoes (because I was so sick with diverticulitis). I do not seem to have good Thanksgiving karma lately.

But I am grateful: Grateful that I have health insurance this year, grateful for the support from all of you that made paying for it even possible. Thank you for letting me be myself!

So tell me: What are you grateful for?

Addams family Thanksgiving

Which reminds me: Will Rogers, who was a Cherokee, said:

“I love being down here in pilgrim country. I bet you when the pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock and they had the whole of the American continent to themselves, and all they had to do to get another 160 acres was to kill another Indian, you know, well, I bet they kicked at the cost of ammunition. Now, I hope my Cherokee blood is not making me prejudiced, but it was only the generosity of the Indians that allowed the pilgrims to land in the first place. Suppose it was the other way around. Yeah, my ancestors didn’t come over on the Mayflower. They met the boat.”

And also:

“This is Thanksgiving. It was started by the Pilgrims, who would give thanks every time they killed an Indian and took more of his land. As years went by and they had all his land, they changed it into a day to give thanks for the bountiful harvest.”

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