Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Paul Krugman on The Consciousness of a Liberal: The Cult That Is Destroying America

"Watching our system deal with the debt ceiling crisis — a wholly self-inflicted crisis, which may nonetheless have disastrous consequences — it’s increasingly obvious that what we’re looking at is the destructive influence of a cult that has really poisoned our political system.

And no, I don’t mean the fanaticism of the right. Well, OK, that too. But my feeling about those people is that they are what they are; you might as well denounce wolves for being carnivores. Crazy is what they do and what they are.

No, the cult that I see as reflecting a true moral failure is the cult of balance, of centrism.

Think about what’s happening right now. We have a crisis in which the right is making insane demands, while the president and Democrats in Congress are bending over backward to be accommodating — offering plans that are all spending cuts and no taxes, plans that are far to the right of public opinion.

So what do most news reports say? They portray it as a situation in which both sides are equally partisan, equally intransigent — because news reports always do that. And we have influential pundits calling out for a new centrist party, a new centrist president, to get us away from the evils of partisanship.

The reality, of course, is that we already have a centrist president — actually a moderate conservative president. Once again, health reform — his only major change to government — was modeled on Republican plans, indeed plans coming from the Heritage Foundation. And everything else — including the wrongheaded emphasis on austerity in the face of high unemployment — is according to the conservative playbook.

What all this means is that there is no penalty for extremism; no way for most voters, who get their information on the fly rather than doing careful study of the issues, to understand what’s really going on.

You have to ask, what would it take for these news organizations and pundits to actually break with the convention that both sides are equally at fault? This is the clearest, starkest situation one can imagine short of civil war. If this won’t do it, nothing will.

And yes, I think this is a moral issue. The “both sides are at fault” people have to know better; if they refuse to say it, it’s out of some combination of fear and ego, of being unwilling to sacrifice their treasured pose of being above the fray.

It’s a terrible thing to watch, and our nation will pay the price."

AN INTRODUCTION Ruth Weiss, Chicago, March 2002

Ruth Weiss's family fled Nazi Germany

for Austria in 1933, but was forced out of the country within five years. In "Single Out," weiss describes her family's 1939 escape from Austria -- on the last train permitted to cross the border -- in words that evoke the terror of their flight, but that also reflect her lifelong interest in the music of words:

one woman slips in the mud . . .
shotssinging above our heads
not really meant to hit us (the swiss sharpshooters) --
the warning realenough --
go back we can't take any more.
we couldn't either.
the three of us penniless in the innsbruck trainstation --
obvious unaryan.

The "shotssinging" of "swiss sharpshooters" evokes a terrifying rhythm laid down by bullets, and broken only by the "one woman," like weiss an "obvious unaryan," who "slips in the mud." The grammar is deliberately erratic, and matches the "realenough" disorientation of the family's flight. weiss and her family arrived in Holland, where they embarked by ship to the United States; most of her family remaining in Europe died in the concentration camps. In 1946, after seven years in New York and Chicago, weiss's family returned to Germany, and she attended school in Switzerland. She eventually moved back to Chicago in 1948. According to Beat biographer Brenda Knight, weiss "gave her first reading to jazz" in Chicago in 1949, and she spent the next year hitchhiking around the country -- from Chicago to New York, to New Orleans, to Chicago again. She eventually made it to San Francisco, living briefly in 1952 at 1010 Montgomery Street, which would be Allen Ginsberg's home three years later, in the summer of 1955, when he composed the first draft of "Howl."

These nomadic experiences help shape a sensitivity in weiss's work to border crossings of all kinds. weiss's poetry blurs boundaries between text and jazz, autobiography and history, page-poetry and performance-poetry.

Much more at link: http://voices.e-poets.net/weissr/intro.shtml