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The New Year and a Change of Direction

First, let me apologize for the weird Call to undefined function tribune_menu_load() some of you were getting yesterday; I spent a few hours last night upgrading all the site modules to their most recent versions (the site itself comes next) and the tribune module was on the list of those that could not be upgraded. Unfortunately, when I uninstalled that module, it left little bits of itself lying about in caches and the database, and even though I killed it off in the database, it somehow rose from the grave. All should now be well.

More centrally, I apologize for going walkabout. I think I complained about the food poisoning, and then about the poison ivy and (I am convinced) subsequent cellulitis on my right (typing) hand and arm, but as it turns out I boasted prematurely about dodging the hacking cough, because of my clever purchase of a bellows. In fact, I got the worst hacking cough ever -- the kind where, typing, one feels that little chunks of lung are spattering the screen -- and had to go back to the Helen Hunt clinic again, for more pills of a different kind and an inhaler. I can't remember having been to the doctor twice in one month! I couldn't talk for days. My lack of comfort with this sighting shot from mortality aside, I wonder if I was telling myself something with all those photographs of rot and decay I had been taking, beautiful though they are; specifically, I wonder if all the insulation I installed had the unintended side effect of forcing me to breath fine dust and micro-organisms that would otherwise have been blown around and away by drafts!

Even more centrally, I'm not really claiming a medical exemption. One of my many character flaws, which has gotten worse with age, is that when I figure out I don't want to be doing something, I stop doing it immediately. And I haven't been all that happy with my blogging at Corrente because I don't want to be writing, here, about the general news flow any more, and specifically not about the horse race of 2016.

On the horse race, "my work here is done": In 2008, Democratic suckitude, let alone Obama suckitude, was a view shared by a lonely minority; now it's conventional wisdom, at least among the sentient (and not just due to me, but all of us). So as far as 2016 goes, having armed and triggered the device, I don't feel the need to wait around for the shock waves and the reverberations. Time to move on!

On the general news flow, the level of gaslighting, and fear-mongering, and manipulation, and sheer bullshit is so great I'm not sure it's worth trying to shovel back the tide; for example, I'm sure I could write eloquently and even insightfully here on Charlie Hebdo, but do I really want to? No. Frankly, Charlie Hebdo feels like a forced card to me, forced not so much by a few of the Shing consciously plotting in secret, but forced as the sort of crisis the system we are enmeshed in would emit; a bright shiny bauble, albeit one, like the best of all baubles, covered in blood and triggering hate. And batting baubles around isn't the sort of work I want to be doing. Life is too short.

Time for a cat video:

That is, and most centrally of all, I don't want to be reactive any more. In fact, what I want to do is what I've been saying I want to do: I want to write up the 12 Point Platform and the associated 12 Reforms, item by item (though with plenty of working drafts and supporting posts). So I am going to start doing what I want to do; I want the political class to react to the 12 Points as policy, and I don't want to be reacting to their fear mongering and strategic hate management.

Now, I tried to gear up for this project by saying to myself "I'll just do a few posts to keep the balloon in the air" -- blogging is a lot like flying a hot air balloon -- "and then go on to the 12 Points". Except that kept on not working, because those few posts would turn into four hours of work, and if you think about it, justifying each of the 12 points, and each of the 12 reforms, is quite a project: It's certainly as much work as a book, and I have to study up on a lot of subjects; it's not a matter of banging out blog posts. So the peripheral was eating up the central.

So henceforth the 12 Points and 12 Reforms will be my focus, though I may start posting garden pictures when I start working the soil in April. You, readers, are free to post what you like, with an exception I'll get to in the NOTE, on topics of your own choosing. In fact, the more variety the better! I'm making plans for how to invest my time, not yours!

* * *

NOTE I learned two hard lessons in 2014, one minor, one major.

The minor lesson is drive-by comments; Corrente is my workplace, among other things, and I'm not investing time dealing with what I believe are called micro-aggressions; again, life is too short me to walk in to a hostile workplace every day. Maybe I should invent a type of paid account with that privilege!

The major lesson is that given my level of investment in blogging both here and at Naked Capitalism, it's possible for a really committed bad faith actor to throw more bullshit here than I can process. I never would have thought it possible, but it's true!

So over the past few months I've purged both categories of account (and the purge is over, so don't worry). Draconian, perhaps, but Corrente is my rice bowl; it costs money to run, and it takes an immense amount of time, and I depend on it to pay some of my bills. So people who try to break my rice bowl get whacked. That's how it is, and that's how it has to be.

A corollary here is that until I say otherwise, I regard the 12 Points and 12 Reforms as "settled law" -- which, again, doesn't mean that you have to post on them! By "settled law," I mean that critiques, refinements, and additions are welcome -- since I have to study up a lot on complex topics where I am not a subject matter expert -- and parallel posts are fine (like letgetitdone's or metamars' recent posts) but that full-on and direct assaults on the foundations of the 12 Points are not welcome; I'm not going to waste time processing them because I have work to do. If you want to post that "Single payer is teh suxx0r" or "The Post Office Bank is a Communist plot," it's a big Internet, and feel free to post your ideas elsewhere.

Average: 5 (1 vote)


nippersdad's picture
Submitted by nippersdad on

January and February are just the worst for illnesses of any type; to feel badly and then to look out the window at the greyness of it all...well, I'm glad you are feeling better!

Submitted by lambert on

Autumn, as it turns out, is when I write the checks: The property taxes, so the house doesn't go into foreclosure at the town, and house projects, this year for lots of insulation (after last year's cold snap and fuel disaster), as well as lots of electric work left over from last year's insulation project (needed to upgrade some of that there knob and tube).

So in essence I'm putting all the poker chips for the year on the table in a very short time, and the stress is and was massive.

nippersdad's picture
Submitted by nippersdad on

utterly minute and surrounded by bamboo and privet, I can empathize. It is all just ENDLESS and can easily get overwhelming.

Liquidating the pension far, far too early to pay for a new HVAC system. Selling the silver to pay for a new county water line after a failed lawsuit to protect our well from a developers' unsanctioned landfill. $25,000 borrowed for a new roof, among other things, demanded by the insurance company with no notice. Selling the nineteenth century marquetry library table (attributed to Herter Bros.!) at a loss to fix a twenty year old rusty, unheated truck after the Wife totals her new car. Again.....etc., etc., etc.,......

Six hundred bucks due next month for our termite letter! (Do you know how many Irish tweed hats, made by Irish people in Ireland from Irish wool off of Irish sheep one can buy for six hundred bucks!) I have deferred doing what I wanted with my life for thirty years in this (joint?) effort of seeking middle class security and the American Dream (TM). I could be in Ireland right now! last year it was Tibet, and a decade ago it was the Karakorums (My Wife: "It is cold there and they don't have bathrooms in the Hindu Kush. You would hate it." But, one will now just never know. Om.)...... The opportunity costs of having, defending and maintaining ones' own "castle" can be massive.

All this shit and the house, the life, isn't even "all that", much less the bag of chips. It might have been worth it for a Neel Reid, or a Palladian villa in the Veneto, but one can never know. I have simply checked out from it all for the past two years. Not worth it. Let it all rot and do something that is actually personally empowering, for once, while I still can. Now I have just that much more bamboo to clear and not much to show for the time lost.

The number of times I have seriously (and I mean SERIOUSLY) considered burning it all down and moving to France (or somewhere)(anywhere else) are uncountable. It is still an option....after I get all of "my stuff" out of harm's way, of course. I'm not even sure I would make a claim from the insurance company. One just wants to write it all off and leave. But then, what to do with "the stuff"? The dogs, the cats and the goldfish? The Wife? Philosophical question: Can one live a meaningful life without the 1812 Roxbury? Notable line in Howards' End: "We have become a nation of baggage." So true. I think I would have liked her. I would have liked her income even more.

These places are stressful, to say the least, but at some point they are paid off and reasonably well fixed up. One has to hope that it was ultimately all worthwhile. My one takeaway from this life is that planning for the future is a fools' errand; there are just too many variables that tend to go wrong, and one cannot repine about it or it will take over and embitter the only life you will ever get (being married to a devout Catholic makes that last point particularly interesting sometimes). One just has to do ones' best with what one has, snaffle the best deal you can find, tax the imagination and be resigned to the outcome (Ex: I may be cold and starving, but that is a damn fine clock! And who needs running water when you have such nice specimens of eighteenth century blue and white Chinese porcelain to go to the bathroom in? Chamber pots, they are all the rage these days and they even have a double happiness symbol on them! So what's your problem?).

That, however, is really hard. Much more easily said than done. There is no easy way of getting around the fact that shitting in a vase, however pretty, is a sub-optimal solution to the problem at hand.

But you are smart; smarter than I. You prolly have a better read on it than I do, but if all of this helps in any way.....You are not alone.

Submitted by lambert on

Your gardening ideas are better than mine. I'm lucky that the fabric of the house is sound. If I want a new roof (and I do) then its probably letter of credit time with a bank, if I can find one (ugh, ugh....)

I'd like to make it through to Gore Vidal's 86, and that means I have over 25 years to go. My plan is to write 'til I drop. But it's very clear to me that ultimately I won't be able to afford living in the US. If I can't write at my current level, then Social Security won't be enough, and then of course there's the horrible prospect of getting trapped in a "nursing home." Europe is, I think, too expensive for me. I need a place that is half the cost of the US. Always assuming the dollar doesn't collapse of course. My trips to Thailand have not been for vacation, but to scope things out.

Submitted by lambert on

"Is the house working for you or are you working for the house?"

For me, right now, just barely the first, and for a long time the latter, until I finally got enough insulation in to make a difference.

nippersdad's picture
Submitted by nippersdad on

You have kaleidoscopic range, a great memory, a firm grounding in what it is to be an average American in the early 21st century and the communication skills to express the needs of virtually all of the political demographics necessary to win political campaigns. These are things that are rare; this is a surprisingly mediocre world. The definition of a good education is that you don't need to know everything, just how to find out where to look; in the same vein, you have all of the resources to supply any wants you may have in these respects.

An eclectic array of talents such as these could easily command the resources to give you whatever you needed to supply your wants. I have suggested your working as a consultant (speech writer?) to political campaigns before, and think you could work marvels at it. You would just have to get outside your comfort zone. As an eccentric myself I can certainly understand the aversion, realpolitik can get real, but roofs don't get on houses (or a lucrative writing career in one's eighties is not achieved) by sublimating reality to one's preference.

I specialize in finding the undervalued and underappreciated; It is, quite literally, my only gift. I am by no means trying to say that you are undervalued or underappreciated, just that you may not have marshalled your talents to full effect.You can do anything you want, but you may have to get outside your comfort zone to do it.

In answer to your friend, I would say that we are all working for the house to one degree or another, some of us are simply better at it than others; more effective. You could be great at it.

Submitted by lambert on

Well, this is nice to hear:

An eclectic array of talents such as these could easily command the resources to give you whatever you needed to supply your wants.

But I'm not sure how far outside my comfort zone I'd have to go. Politics is not for me, as a practitioner. And in a good deal of discomfort post-2006, I tried being technical; lucrative, but no go. I'm strong, but not that strong technically, but the real issue is that I hate clients!

Right now, I want to write the 12 points, maybe turn it into an e-book.

The only plan I've bee able to come up with is "Blog and grow rich" and that hasn't worked out in the rich part, although my life is rich. Do what you love and the money will follow ain't necessarily so....

UPDATE That's interesting, you're saying you're a talent spotter; it's like something out of William Gibson...

nippersdad's picture
Submitted by nippersdad on

People can be very trying and good judgment often trumps idealism in the real world. Unfortunately, that is how we got to this place....frankly, in my experience, the only people who want to lead are often the very ones who should be out back turning the compost.

mitzi muffin's picture
Submitted by mitzi muffin on

I've been worried. Very glad you're feeling better. Isn't it funny that when something like an illness happens, we humans get quite focused on what is important in our lives. I look forward to following this, Lambert!

Submitted by jcasey on

Very sorry to read you have been so under the weather. I hope all that gets behind you soon. I'm eager to read what you're going to write about the 12 Points and 12 Reforms.

jo6pac's picture
Submitted by jo6pac on

jo6pac's picture
Submitted by jo6pac on

I thought the below is me for sure. I went through a battle with some new medication and lost 2 weeks right when I should have been harvesting fruit.

One of my many character flaws, which has gotten worse with age, is that when I figure out I don't want to be doing something, I stop doing it immediately.

I hoped that you might have escaped to Thailand for the winter but good to hear you're on the mend.

JoeInSF's picture
Submitted by JoeInSF on

Thanks for the update, and your new direction sounds great. I don't want to poo poo your illness, but the long-term hacking cough has struck many. It feels permanent while it's happening, but it does get better.
Good thoughts to you!

Alexa's picture
Submitted by Alexa on

having found that 'Twitter' can be a pretty effective means of communication--not to mention that it is far less time-consuming. I've also been encouraged by the fact that several pretty high-profile writers have actually answered my Tweets!


(Mostly, I'm attempting to pass on info/links to liberal writers in hopes that they might consider writing about the issues that I champion.)

BTW, I heard the other day that lawmakers, or their staffs, actually do pay quite a bit of attention to what goes on in the Twitter universe.

Anyhoo, I look forward to your posts on the 'The 12-Point Platform.'

Submitted by lambert on

... and yes, along with Facebook, social media has sucked away a lot of users, which is one reason to refocus. I use it for link-gathering, and a tripwire for big stories.

Ultimately, however, there's no way to do the long form in twitter. And there's no way to do serious analysis, to which I aspire, on twitter. In a way, twitter is parasitical on blogs the way blogs were said to be parasitical on the press. (We get, for example, Cory Doctorow tweeing a link to his tumblr, and then only the tumbler linking to the original, which is, of course, what's ultimately of interest.)

metamars's picture
Submitted by metamars on

In a general sense, I definitely approve of evolving beyond a purely "reactive" mode. I would say, though, that I don't have a warm, fuzzy feeling about about the pragmatic value of fleshing out the 12-Point program. Isn't there, in fact, more of a need for the demos to develop the political muscle to actually attain anti-plutocratic goals, such as "Tax the Rich" and "Debt Jubilee"?

While I haven't studied it, my understanding of the Powell Memorandum is that it not only articulates the cooptations of political power structures, and also organs of civil society, but also describes the means by which the plutocracy will attain those goals. (Some other references, about how plutocratic interests have coopted the media, churches, etc., can be had from Chomsky and Michael Parenti, but I don't want to go digging for them.)

I would respectfully suggest that a better use of your talents is to create an "anti-Powell memorandum". I've thought of doing so myself - reformists who oppose the plutocracy not only need to seek and make allies, they also need a unifying vision of what it is they are after, and HOW to go about that.

So, considering that you are aiming for a comprehensive agenda, I would instead suggest that you ASSUME that the 12-Point platform's desirability is self-evident, and needs only, say for example, a page of elaboration per point, say with a page of references. (Well, you might also consider whether or not a purely anti-plutocratic agenda is the way to go, initially. That is what I always recommend.)

You can then devote your energies to flesh out
A) what sort of power centers, as well as peripheral sources of political power, are required to have attained your 12-Point platform. Let's call this the "Nirvana state". What power structure supports your vision? What are the attendant manpower or buying requirements? What alliances must exists, what priorities must exist? What existing institutions must serve the demos, via what laws or other means of political power?

can you define the above in terms of precise (even quantitative) goals and sub-goals? (See the book Nine Things Successful People Do Differently)

(IMO, it's self evident that in order to achieve any sort of people-first Nirvana state, the Democratic and Republican parties must either be severely reformed AND/OR their candidates need to be driven out of office, in favor of different 3rd party candidates.)

B) how do we get from here (a more or less completely disempowered state, with respect to the plutocracy; including the internalized disempowerment that follows from being demoralized; hence, psychologically speaking, one of "learned helplessness") to there - the Nirvana state?

Again, I strongly believe that you want to define precise sub-goals so that we can KNOW when we've succeeded or failed at them.

I suspect that one reason that the activist class tends NOT to define precise subgoals is because they don't want to deal with the potential (or is it likely?) pain that admitting multiple failures - even assumedly "stepping stone" type failures - that that would entail. I have criticized activists in the US for a "feel good and accomplish nothing" tendency.

I think, though, that if you believe something is definitely worth pursuing, it's worth failing at multiple times. We shouldn't make things harder than they have to be. (To which end, I've criticized American activists for being strategically incompetent - just the opposite of the shrewdness one would expect in even an average guerrilla fighting in an asymmetric conflict.) But, if pursuing a noble civic goal does, in fact, have to be hard, we need to have an even harder will, no?


IMO, the need for an "anti-Powell" memorandum is so vital, you should even invite other parties to supply their own versions. I mean, even have a separate website for this purpose. You could invite, e.g., Ralph Nader to supply his version/vision, Noam Chomsky, Chris Hedges, etc.

Submitted by lambert on

I'm not going to get into things I'm not good at. I am going to do the things I am good at.

In addition, I just think you're wrong on the merits. Politics is about values and interests, and interests above all in terms of concrete material benefits, and that's what the 12 Points will define and justify.

Somebody else can write the definitive refutation of the Powell Memorandum; to me, it's way less important to find out how we got to this place than to create a real vision of where we want to get to.

So, no, I don't plan to be diverted.

metamars's picture
Submitted by metamars on

My main point about an anti-Powell Memorandum was not so much motivated by concern about how we got here. Rather, it was motivated more by the fact that (at least to the limits of my understanding of something I haven't actually studied :-) ) , it gets into the HOW of attaining its goals. An analogy has been brewing in my mind, which I'll now commit to public blog. An adult may help their child memorize the Gettysburg address, repeating it's sections out loud, as many times as their child stumbles to repeat them. However, the adult, not making an effort to actually memorize what he/she is reading, will not memorize the Gettyburg Address, at all.

There seems to be little INTENTION, little EFFORT, and little THINKING, by the proprietors and main blog contributors, about how all of the information dispense via, e.g., FDL and can actually be BEST used to resolve issues in their community's favor.

My (limited) understanding of the Powell Memorandum is that he didn't just say, "Oh, my, we don't control the discussion in universities and the media. And isn't it terrible that millions of the "little people" are using historically high prosperity to threaten our status as elites?" RATHER, it went into steps that should be undertaken to put the democratic/populist genie back in its bottle.

You can get a sense of how different this is from what I observed in the film "South of the Border", by Oliver Stone. He's told that "there's a new actor here, the social movements". You'd think he'd be intrigued, and then pick the brains of the successful lefty Latin American leaders for some details, with the hope of importing some lessons into America. But NO! The net/net is that Oliver Stone tantalizes us, and entertains us. But he doesn't lead us, and he doesn't organize us. He doesn't even much challenge us to lead and organize ourselves.

So, I find Oliver Stone,, and firedoglake big on hope, but fuzzy and ineffective as serving as change agents. Hope is not a plan, and one of the lessons from "Nine Things Successful People Do Differently" is that successful people have concrete goals, and subgoals. Now, it does happen that there will be a large, reasonably concrete end goal stated, but with no attendant, sufficiently ambitious (and equally unambiguous) subgoals. Which still leaves us with hope, and a lot of information, but not much else.

Now, I happen to believe that the Powell goals (and subgoals) need to be considered as targets to be reversed. So, yes, there will be an increased awareness of "how we got here".

I don't have any problems with the modern blogosphere/alternative media outlets doing analysis of "how we got here". My huge problem with the current state of same is that that's mostly ALL they do. From my perspective, their priorities are screwed up. Even when there's a "call to action", it'll typically be "call or fax your Congress critter". And even though there's an implicit assumption (or so it seems to me) that raising awareness of an issue or point of analysis will almost magically lead to some amelioration, there's not even a lot of effort given to increasing the reach of the memes to the public at large (the "unblogged masses", one might say), so as to give the magical memes a little help.

When I was living in highly educated Princeton, I took a small (and therefore, statistically insignificant, unfortunately) poll of locals, asking if they knew what the TPP was. Nobody did. At the local health food store, the was a sign supporting anti-GMO legislation in NJ, but nobody seemed to grasp that TPP could well make whatever legislative triumph the anti-GMO movement achieves extremely short lived. (There, or online at the Facebook page of the NJ anti-gmo activists. Thankfully, the latter has come around, but that is still a relatively small victory.)

So, I observe a deficit not only of strategy and vision (including the scale of the problem - systemic rot + control by a plutocracy, basically). I also observe that information that can be readily found in places like fdl and is not being successfully propagated outside their narrow domains.

At the very least, I hope you'll give some thought to propagating the fruits of your 2015 bloggerly efforts to well beyond your usual audience. Indeed, well beyond a "progressive audience". (Preferably with your usual audience aiding you.)

albrt's picture
Submitted by albrt on

I agree the 2016 election is not worth writing about or even thinking about unless: (a) you are getting paid handsomely to occupy your thoughts with how much both legacy parties suck, or (b) a completely different type of candidate unexpectedly emerges.

Hope you feel better.

okanogen's picture
Submitted by okanogen on

Regarding knowing your enemy, and the enemy being superficial, reaction-inducing bullshit, and playing on my love of puns, and the meta-meta-meta of "know your meme" and "know your enemy", I hand you the mash-up "Know your memeny".

And what are the memenies? They are the little tools used for strategic hate management, identity politics, "class warfare" (not real class warfare, but the two-party kind), gas-lighting, boogieman-ing, fear-production.

I'm glad you are turning your attention to the long game. The 24-hour news cycle, like violence (coincidence?) are tools of power, which like Sauron's works, are always their playing field and inherently corrupting.

Submitted by lambert on

Ha. I was worried it was a typo, from me!The long game is a ton of work, though. That SOTU thing probably took 16 hours. Of course, it's laying in footings. Anyhow I hope I can keep the airplane, or rather the hot air balloon, in the air with less frequent postings. Either that... Or invent something like "12 Points in the News" or something. The idea being that "Of course, this wouldn't happen....

quixote's picture
Submitted by quixote on

Health problems are horrible. Focus the mind, but on all the wrong things. I hope the New Year brings healing!

About your quest, I've been on a similar one. If you want to take a look, there might be some ideas there you could use. The 12 points -- which need enumerating! -- can be derived from one: that all people are to be treated equally, that there are no double standards. For example, environmental pollution can only be "legal" when some people have rights others don't. If we all have an equal right to pollute, the maximum any one person could dump would be minute. The problem wouldn't arise to begin with. (How to get from here to there is a different question. Frowny face goes here.)

Anyway, I wanted to mention it in case it can help. "Re-imagining Democracy" it's called since, really, Thomas Paine and John Stuart Mill, Rawls, Walzer, Ostrom, and plenty of others have already said everything that needs saying. In practice, though, we (the country, humanity) have drifted so far away that a few examples of where we'd be if we had an actual democracy are still useful.