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Van Jones: Where Is the Titanic’s Iceberg? Who Are the Orcs?

8:31 am in Uncategorized by Scarecrow

When I put up the Van Jones video from NN10 last night — you can open another window with that video — I expected many of the comments would express views ranging from disappointment to anger, and some surprise that Jones remains an ardent supporter of the President. But I was surprised that only one or two commenters picked up on Van Jones’ Titanic and Lord of the Rings metaphors.

Those metaphors reveal a great deal about the large split between patient but concerned loyalists and the disillusioned/disgusted and those beyond. They also help clarify the issue that has been misnamed the "Obama paradox," something I don’t think is the slightest bit paradoxical, though I understand how the loyalists might see it differently. What do these metaphors tells us, not so much about Jones, but about all of us?

In his Titanic metaphor, Jones said something like this,

Remember, Obama volunteered to be the captain of the Titanic, after it hit the iceberg.

. . . and then he used that to express his own more sympathetic portrait of the President and the challenges he and the country face. So let’s take that where it might lead.

I’m fairly certain Van Jones does not believe the end of the real drama called American democracy is that the ship sinks and most aboard her are lost, save for a few rich people who steal the lifeboats. The real Titanic sank and thousands died. In the real and Hollywood versions, the ship was highly segregated between the wealthy class and steerage, the privileges of wealth were beyond counting, the deprivation below decks a different story. The people in charge were fools, the security people’s main job was to enforce the unfair distribution of wealth and privilege, those steering the ship were driven by greed and arrogance to take excessive risks but were asleep at the helm.

Not only was disaster inevitable, its horrors were imposed unequally and unfairly on the poor. The movie portrays this when the villain — a Master of the Universe — saves himself at the expense of others, while his class literally steals life jackets from the lower class and usurps the life boats. There are not enough life boats for those in steerage, so many plunge to their deaths, to freeze, to drown, to be eaten by sharks. Could we ask for a better metaphor for today’s America, the financial crash, the jobless faux recovery and Congress’ response?

What interests me about Jones’ use of this metaphor is what it says about what you or I might think about America’s future. It would be easy to conclude that Van Jones is delusional: we are not fools, no sirree, so we know the real story and how it ends. So when he says Obama volunteered to be captain after the ship strikes the iceberg, then the logical conclusion is that Obama and his supporters too are delusional and doomed — and that may be true.

But Jones isn’t suggesting we are doomed; instead he dares to believe we can create an alternative ending in which the ship does not sink, and thousands of people are actually saved. And after that, they work on fixing all the reckless and unfair behavior that existed before the crisis. That ending is more interesting to me. And if you think Van Jones is a fool for pretending we can create an alternative ending, then ask yourself where you think you are in this metaphor.

I’m willing to bet many of Jones’ critics also believe there is an alternative ending to the Titanic story, but it starts at a different point. They believe we haven’t hit the iceberg yet. That alternative story would have a valiant and wise captain (someone other than Obama) abruptly change course — a hard to port — and prevent the collision from happening or at least limit the damage and keep the ship afloat. And while the captain is doing that, his Administration will change the segregationist rules on board, redistribute wealth and privileges among the passengers, punish those who cruelly enforced the old regime and for heaven’s sake, replace the coal-fired boilers driving the engines and polluting the skies.

The point I take from this is, you have to be an incredibly optimistic person, someone with enormous faith in humans and the American experiment, to believe in either of these alternative endings, to believe we can dramatically change course and alter America’s future under either scenario. Jones speaks of hope, despair, and change. I’m in despair, but Jones says, if that’s where you are, "you’re not helping," no matter which scenario you believe in.

I don’t agree with Jones about the captain — he’s not, and doesn’t appear capable of, or inclined to be, what I believe is needed in a President at this moment — but I’m not certain how much that matters in the long run. Everything Jones works for, everything that needs to change to alter the ending after the iceberg, also needs to happen (and more) if you believe the iceberg is still ahead.

Whether you believe the iceberg is still directly in front of us, or we’ve already struck it, any alternative ending to this story is going to require a very different attitude from a paralyzing despair.

And as Jones notes — when he says an even better metaphor is Lord of the Rings — the Orcs (Fox’s Breitbarts, deniers, birthers, etc) — really are out there and they are being created and enraged to kill you and everything you believe in . . . but that’s another story.

NN10: Van Jones on Hope, Despair, Change, and the Orcs

12:45 pm in Uncategorized by Scarecrow

Van Jones speaking at Netroots Nation 10. There’s a few minutes intro by Howard Dean, followed by Jones’ speech. This runs about an hour, including Jones’ interview with Ari Melber.

Thanks to the folks at Get Energy Smart NOW! for the video.

Sherrod Asks President Obama the Right Question: Do You Believe in My Principles?

6:04 am in Uncategorized by Scarecrow

I guessed this one wrong. I told colleagues early this week I thought Vilsack would apologize and offer Shirley Sherrod her job back, and that she’d hestitate. But I thought President Obama would then call her personally and close the deal — and that this was the WH plan for escaping the political hole they foolishly walked into.

Well, it seems Shirley Sherrod is a better person than I am and definitely smarter than the political disaster-kabuki directors in the White House. This morning, she told the media she doesn’t need an apology from the President, but wouldn’t mind talking to him, to acquaint him with some realities from her life that he may not understand. And she needs to be convinced that he — the President of the United States — believes in, and will fight for, the principles she cherishes and he claims to hold.

The video above is her interview on the Today show, well worth watching (though why is the interviewer giving any credibility to Breitbart, given his proven, serial dishonesty?). More from the AP:

Sherrod said of Obama: "I’d like to help him see some of the things that he could do in the future."

"I really regret what they did. But as I said before, he’s my president," Sherrod said. "When you get it down to where the rubber meets the road, I think you need to understand a little more what life is like. I’d love to talk to him, though, or people in his administration … to help them understand."

"I can’t say that the president is fully behind me. I would hope that he is," she added. "I would love to talk to him."

What an interesting idea. What unusual behavior by a citizen. Ask your President, or any elected official or candidate, "how do I know you care about the things that are important to me? What have you experienced or learned that’s relevant to the real problems I know? Why should I believe you, especially after how badly you’ve behaved?"

Wouldn’t it be something if the President and Congress had to answer those questions from people of color, and women, and working people and the unemployed, . . . or just voters? And letting them know, in public, that you won’t let them off the political hook until you’re satisfied? What an interesting notion for how a citizen relates to her government.

Everyone has underestimated this woman. Shirley Sherrod is asking the right questions, and we should all be demanding better answers.

John Chandley


MSNBC’s Morning Joe, where everyone wants to apologize and offer Sherrod a job.

Ag Sec Vilsack Says He’ll Reconsider Sherrod’s Case, But What About His?

6:57 am in Uncategorized by Scarecrow

Video from MSNBC Today Show.

Update: White House Press Secretary Gibbs apologized to Ms. Sherrod this afternoon.

As David Dayen reported this a.m., Agriculture Secretary Vilsack issued a statement today saying he will reconsider the case that led to the forced resignation of Shirley Sherrod. This comes after he and the Obama Administration faced a storm of criticism for their actions. But she may not want the job now. From CNN:

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said early Wednesday that he will review the case of Shirley Sherrod, who resigned Monday after the video clip first appeared on a conservative website and later on Fox News.

. . .

"I am, of course, willing and will conduct a thorough review and consider additional facts to ensure to the American people we are providing services in a fair and equitable manner," Vilsack said in a statement.
. . .
The USDA’s decision is "bittersweet," Sherrod told CNN’s "American Morning" on Wednesday.

"If they had just taken the time to — even without looking at the tape — to look at me, to look at what I’ve stood for, to look at what I’ve done since I’ve actually been at the department, I don’t think they would have been so quick to do what they did and so insistent," she said. "… To now come back and say, ‘Well, we’re willing to look at this,’ it definitely is a little bittersweet."

Well played Tom, and thanks for taking the hit for what everyone suspects was a White House political call. And if it wasn’t, why are you still there?

Vilsack’s watching the tape is not the investigation of facts we need. What the public needs to know is how he and his Department managed to get played by Andrew Breitbart and Fox News again. And we’d like to know what role anyone in the White House played in making the Administration look like it doesn’t give a fig for fair procedures or the facts and is willing to throw anyone who really cares about people under the bus to avoid conflict. Except you picked on a woman who’s not willing to just shut up and sit under your bus.

Let’s see, Dawn Johnsen, Van Jones, ACORN, Liz Warren, Shirley Sherrod, . . . unions, women, hispanics, LGBT, the unemployed, . . . It’s almost as though there were a White House insider deliberately trying to drive people away from the Democratic Party and discredit this Administration. Does anyone remember "cancer on the Presidency?" From Huffington Post:

As more information emerged the following day, Sherrod began to get backing from a diverse coalition that includes not only the NAACP and Beck, but also Democratic strategists Paul Begala and Donna Brazile. The latter pair have called for Sherrod to get her job back. David Gergen, an adviser to four presidents, echoed those sentiments.

Gergen issued perhaps the strongest critique of all while speaking on "AC 360" with Anderson Cooper. "This has ripped away the veil and shown us all that is wrong with politics today," he began. "An ideologue injects poison into the internet, other people rush to judgment on camera, and an administration gets stampeded and commits this travesty of justice. The NAACP has at least had the courage to come back and say ‘we were wrong’ and apologize. Now the administration needs to to the same thing. The president — tonight — ought to order the Agriculture Department to reopen this case, give this woman a fair hearing, and — if the facts are as they seem — reinstate her with an apology. Indeed, I think she deserves a whole lot more than an apology. I think she deserves honor for her attempts to bring people together."

So now you get lectured by David Gergen and Glenn Beck?

And how long do you think it will take for an inquiring Marcy Wheeler to ask the next question: if you can get so easily played by Breitbart and forced to retreat after losing another slice of the Democratic coalition, why should we think this Administration isn’t getting played daily by someone else?

I see CNN is still showing clips of Andrew Breitbart — he was on John King’s CNN show last night — smearing NAACP. Showing his picture while you explain he knowingly misled everyone about Sherrod is one thing; giving him free airtime to spew even more bile is unconscionable, and it was made worse by John King’s feeble attempts to question him. King got played by Breitbart last night, who got another uninterrupted segment to smear the NAACP, and the foolish King said he’d look into that. Why hasn’t Breitbart been banned by every serious news outlet?