Yes, people are worse off than when Obama took office

Aaron Blake indulges in a bit of snark as, apparently, President Obama said,

I can put my record against any leader around the world in terms of digging ourselves out of a terrible, un — almost unprecedented financial crisis. Ronald Reagan used to ask the question, “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” In this case, are you better off than you were in six? And the answer is, the country is definitely better off than we were when I came into office, but now we have to make…[1]

Generally, it seems, people do not feel that they feel better off, as Obama seems to concede. Blake goes on to point out, however, that consumer confidence polls do show more confidence now than in 2008.[2] Read more

  1. [1]Barack Obama, quoted in Aaron Blake, “President Obama just asked the ‘Are you better off’ question. He might not like the answer,” Washington Post, September 29, 2014,
  2. [2]Aaron Blake, “President Obama just asked the ‘Are you better off’ question. He might not like the answer,” Washington Post, September 29, 2014,

Yes, the U.S. is probably a fascist country

Fascism is a slippery word. We generally agree that Hitler and Mussolini were fascist, but to say what it is that actually constitutes fascism is to venture into less well-agreed upon territory. Further, even the approach that would consider labeling the U.S. fascist deserves caution:

Calling the Bush administration fascist promotes a distorted picture of U.S. politics or history. In some versions, the f-word is essentially a scare tactic to rally people behind Democrats such as John Kerry, whose 2004 campaign literature urged that we “keep 95 percent of the Patriot Act and strengthen the rest.” In other versions, the charge of fascism reflects conspiracy theories that the Bush administration itself somehow orchestrated the September 11th attacks.

Even when it’s coupled with a deeper critique of the U.S. political system, the claim of impending fascism lumps together radically different forms of right-wing authoritarianism under one label. This confusion hurts our ability to develop clear and effective anti-right-wing strategies.[1]

Read more

  1. [1]Matthew N. Lyons, “Is the Bush Administration Fascist?” New Politics 11, no. 2 (2007):

System justification and the 2014 election

I’m trying to remember that Barack Obama ran on a platform that included getting the U.S. off a war footing[1] and that labeled the war in Iraq the “wrong war.”[2] I’m trying to remember that he won the Nobel Peace Prize.[3] Read more

  1. [1]Mark Danner, “In the Darkness of Dick Cheney,” review of The World According to Dick Cheney, by R. J. Cutler and Greg Finton, In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir, by Dick Cheney, with Liz Cheney, and Heart: An American Medical Odyssey, by Dick Cheney and Jonathan Reiner, with Liz Cheney, New York Review of Books, March 6, 2014,; Karen J. Greenberg, “The Five Commandments of Barack Obama: How ‘Thou Shalt Not’ Became ‘Thou Shalt’,” Tom Dispatch, February 27, 2014,; Mark Landler, “Obama Defends U.S. Engagement in the Middle East,” New York Times, September 24, 2013,; Barack Obama, “Remarks by President Obama in Address to the United Nations General Assembly,” White House, September 24, 2013,; Michael D. Shear, “Obama Calls for ‘Moral Courage’ at Naval Academy Graduation,” New York Times, May 24, 2013,
  2. [2]Mark Danner, “Rumsfeld’s War and Its Consequences Now,” review of The Unknown Known, by Errol Morris, Known and Unknown: A Memoir, by Donald Rumsfeld, and By His Own Rules: The Ambitions, Successes, and Ultimate Failures of Donald Rumsfeld, by Bradley Graham, New York Review of Books, December 19, 2013,; David E. Sanger, “Rivals Split on U.S. Power, but Ideas Defy Labels,” New York Times, October 22, 2008,
  3. [3]Norwegian Nobel Committee, “The Nobel Peace Prize for 2009,” October 9, 2009,

Gleefully profiting from vast misery

Okay, so I probably shouldn’t just say, “No shit, Sherlock!” when the newspaper of record ends an article with the following:

The details of the policy mistakes differ, as do the political movements that have arisen in protest. But together, they are a reminder that power is not a right, it is a responsibility. And no matter how entrenched our governmental institutions may seem, they rest on a bedrock assumption: that the leaders entrusted with power will deliver the goods.[1]

Read more

  1. [1]Neil Irwin, “In Scotland and Beyond, a Crisis of Faith in the Global Elite,” New York Times, September 20, 2014,

Envying the Scots

Some who know me but have not followed my writings closely might be surprised that I have written in opposition to secession movements because they introduce more borders and thus introduce more differentiations between “us” and “them.” Such differentiations seem to help the ruling elite stay in power and to give them something to fight over—which they have done more or less continuously since the Neolithic. Most profoundly, borders seem to declare that people on one side of a border or the other are somehow less entitled to human rights than their counterparts, based solely on their location.[1] Read more

  1. [1]David Benfell, “Humans Without Borders: A Paradox,” October 15, 2013,

Lydia’s Sunflower Center is closing

It is with some sadness that I note the closing of Lydia’s Sunflower Center in Petaluma. Its final day will be September 20. Fortunately, “Lydia’s Express, a Sebastopol restaurant Kindheart owns separately with a partner, will remain open.”[1] Its name notwithstanding, the Sebastopol restaurant is a real sit-down establishment, a break from Linda Kindheart’s earlier establishments, in Fairfax and Petaluma, where customers ordered at the counter, and then were either called to fetch their meals (in Fairfax) or brought their meals (in Petaluma) after sitting down. Read more

  1. [1]Robert Digitale, “Petaluma vegetarian food maker scaling back operations,” Santa Rosa Press Democrat, September 3, 2014,