Last night’s episode was a real stunner. The thing about “Homeland” is, it’s so good at building tension throughout each episode that I end up with my neck all in a twist just from watching it! (And just try to go to sleep after that.)

Carrie was right. We knew she was right, but now she knows it, too.

Don’t buy it

I’ve been reading Anat Shenker-Osorio’s new book, “Don’t Buy It: The Trouble With Talking Nonsense About The Economy.” I like it, mostly because it says what I’ve been screaming about for years: The personal is political, use metaphor to make it personal:

Strategic communications consultant Anat Shenker-Osorio has a message for progressives, simple but apparently almost impossible to execute, given the movement’s history: Get personal. Get real. And for heaven’s sake, quit fighting your opponent on your opponent’s terms.
Seems like common sense, but as Shenker-Osorio discusses in her new book, Don’t Buy It, she sees progressives make these same mistakes over and over and over again. In particular, the progressive messaging on the economy—especially the metaphors we adopt in discussing it—have contributed to a massive communication failure.

In a nutshell, when we insist on talking about the financial meltdown and its effects in terms of an unstoppable force of nature–like I just did with meltdown, in fact, or as many, many other well-intentioned liberals discuss it in terms of a crash, an earthquake, a “flood of bad mortgages,” “the perfect storm” of circumstances—all these terms cry out that we must hunker down and pray instead of actively work for change.

Body metaphors are little better—an “unhealthy economy,” a “sluggish recovery”—these too imply outside agency swooping in and destroying us, usually from within, like germs or cancer. But these scenarios are flatly wrong.

The economic crisis was neither an act of God nor a natural disaster, not an attack by microbes or internal organ breakdown. It was the result of choices—bad ones—made by specific human beings who benefitted from human-created policies at the expense of a majority of the population. And if our language does not reflect that this crisis is human-made, it follows that it cannot be human unmade either, which plays into the shrugging, no-fault stance of conservatives.

I think I’ve been pretty consistent: Bankers crashed the economy in a ditch, the Obama administration made matters worse by not pulling the damned car out of the ditch. Oh well!

Hippie punching for dummies

The poster says, “The quotes are real. They came from Obama administration officials, Obama himself, Organizing For America staff, Obama supporters, newspaper columnists, various bloggers, progressive activists, and progressive critics.”

Romney’s tax plan

Ed Gillespie has always been willing to lie for his candidates, so this is not a surprise:

WASHINGTON — For the first time publicly, the Mitt Romney campaign was asked Sunday to defend the six studies it routinely cites as supportive of the candidate’s tax plan.

The studies have been called into question for weeks now, as only one or two of them are actually academic. The rest are blog posts and op-eds, some written by the same author, others by conservative sources. One study cited was actually paid for by the campaign itself, though the campaign has since replaced that study with another.

More problematic for Romney is that a number of them reached conclusions that he would find uncomfortable. Harvard economist Martin Feldstein, for instance, said that Romney’s tax plan could work mathematically if it eliminated deductions and exemptions for individuals making over $100,000 per year. A Princeton study put that figure at $200,000, though the author told Bloomberg News that the figure may need to be brought down to pay for Romney’s 20 percent across-the-board reduction in tax rates.

Still, the Romney campaign continues to cite those studies, including during the presidential debates. On Sunday, Fox News’ Chris Wallace asked top adviser Ed Gillespie whether that was misleading.

Faux objectivity

The sad thing about Martha Raddatz’s performance at the vice-presidential debate is notable in that she appeared to be doing a great job merely because she wasn’t as servile as journalists usually are. That’s good, but as Glenn Greenwald points out, the points that she was so aggressively pushing were wrong. Conventional Village wisdom, but wrong. No, Iran is not the largest threat to America. No, Social Security is not going broke, and any reasonably competent journalist would know the difference between the funding status of Social Security and Medicare.

The other thing is, Raddatz covers foreign policy, and so suffers from “Wise Man” syndrome. This is when a reporter is so very thrilled that foreign policy mavens talk to her all the time — off the record, usually. And so she assimilates their world view. That’s why she pushed so hard against the idea of us actually leaving Afghanistan on schedule.

But the kind of people who seek out and talk to journalists are always unhappy with the status quo. That’s why they do it. The fact is, the military is supposed to do the bidding of its civilian leaders, and not vice versa. Members of the military have always bitched about their leadership — but their isolated experiences is no more valid as a template than anyone else’s. There are always political interests that have to be juggled.

Raddatz isn’t unusual. Police reporters are notorious for falling under the spell of the people they cover. Good reporters know that, see the pitfalls, and navigate their way around it. The rest don’t. But it all affects which access the rest of us get to what news.

Confessions of a former Republican

Excellent piece by Jeremiah Goulkain Tomgram:

I might still have stuck it out as a frustrated liberal Republican, knowing that the wealthy business core of the party still pulled a few strings and people like Richard Lugar and Olympia Snowe remained in the Senate — if only because the idea of voting for Democrats by choice made me feel uncomfortable.  (It would have been so… gauche.)  Then came Hurricane Katrina.  In New Orleans, I learned that it wasn’t just the Bush administration that was flawed but my worldview itself.

I had fallen in love with New Orleans during a post-law-school year spent in Louisiana clerking for a federal judge, and the Bush administration’s callous (non-)response to the storm broke my heart.  I wanted to help out, but I didn’t fly helicopters or know how to do anything useful in a disaster, so just I sat glued to the coverage and fumed — until FEMA asked federal employees to volunteer to help.  I jumped at the chance.

Soon, I was involved with a task force trying to rebuild (and reform) the city’s criminal justice system.  Growing up hating racism, I was appalled but not very surprised to find overt racism and the obvious use of racist code words by officials in the Deep South.

Then something tiny happened that pried open my eyes to the less obvious forms of racism and the hurdles the poor face when they try to climb the economic ladder.  It happened on an official visit to a school in a suburb of New Orleans that served kids who had gotten kicked out of every other school around.  I was investigating what types of services were available to the young people who were showing up in juvenile hall and seemed to be headed toward the proverbial life of crime.

My tour guide mentioned that parents were required to participate in some school programs.  One of these was a field trip to a sit-down restaurant.

This stopped me in my tracks.  I thought: What kind of a lame field trip is that?

It turned out that none of the families had ever been to a sit-down restaurant before.  The teachers had to instruct parents and students alike how to order off a menu, how to calculate the tip.

I was stunned.

That night, I told my roommates about the crazy thing I had heard that day.  Apparently there were people out there who had never been to something as basic as a real restaurant.  Who knew?

One of my roommates wasn’t surprised.  He worked at a local bank branch that required two forms of ID to open an account.  Lots of people came in who had only one or none at all.

I was flooded with questions: There are adults who have no ID?  And no bank accounts?  Who are these people?  How do they vote?  How do they live?  Is there an entire off-the-grid alternate universe out there?

From then on, I started to notice a lot more reality.  I noticed that the criminal justice system treats minorities differently in subtle as well as not-so-subtle ways, and that many of the people who were getting swept up by the system came from this underclass that I knew so little about.  Lingering for months in lock-up for misdemeanors, getting pressed against the hood and frisked during routine traffic stops, being pulled over in white neighborhoods for “driving while black”: these are things that never happen to people in my world.  Not having experienced it, I had always assumed that government force was only used against guilty people.  (Maybe that’s why we middle-class white people collectively freak out at TSA airport pat-downs.)

I dove into the research literature to try to figure out what was going on.  It turned out that everything I was “discovering” had been hiding in plain sight and had been named: aversive racism, institutional racism, disparate impact and disparate treatment, structural poverty, neighborhood redlining, the “trial tax,” the “poverty tax,” and on and on.  Having grown up obsessed with race (welfare and affirmative action were our bête noires), I wondered why I had never heard of any of these concepts.

Great piece, read the rest.

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