Wednesday, December 29, 2010

La Resistance

Remember the wannabe rapist from the beginning of THELMA AND LOUISE? Sure you do. Remember how he asks Thelma, when he's first coming on to her, if she's got a 'funny uncle', because if she does, then he has something in common with him?

I've got a funny uncle. Occasionally, he sends me email forwards -- raving right wing/conservative crackpot stuff, usually with the latest Limbaugh/Hannity/Coulter lunatic distortions or outright lies emblazoned front and center in all bolded full capitals bullet points. Stuff about all the people Bill and Hillary Clinton have had assassinated to cover up her lesbian love affairs, and how the New World Order is going to steal your baby and raise him up to be a liberal Muslim suicide bomber, and all that shit. You know the drill, I'm sure.

Yesterday, he sent me an email that linked to this page, advising me that he had joined The Resistance, and he hoped I would, too.

I... you know, it's... they... you couldn't...

There are no words. Really. The English language isn't adequate to express how I feel about this. But, what the hell, I got a blog, and like Gene Kelly, I gotta dance:

12 years of Republican dominance in Congress (1994 to 2006), with another two years (the last two) of a nominally Democrat controlled Congress where Republicans still managed to obstruct, stall, and filibuster any and all meaningful reform Democrats tried to enact. The stolen Presidential elections in 2000 and 2004, the insanely triumphant cackling and self righteous "Iz you a patriot or iz you ain't" shrilling of the far right blogosphere, the far right 'intellectuals', the far right talking heads on FOX and MSNBC and CNN, the far right whatever. Watching Karl Rove smirk and Ann Coulter strut and Rush Limbaugh posture and Bill O'Reilly preen, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year.

18 years of Gingrich, DeLay, Hastert, Foley, Santorum, Craig, any number of Bushes, and Cheney, Cheney, Cheney, relentless, ubiquitous Cheney, who somehow managed to be everywhere at once and nowhere at all, from his 'undisclosed location', with a smoking shotgun over one shoulder and a great big F bomb perpetually rolling off his oily, evil tongue.

Was it all worth it?

Is this, at long last, our reward, for gritting our teeth and putting our heads down and somehow trudging our way through the last near-20 years of systematic corruption and corporate/government abuses like a farmer up to his chest in chickenshit and pig vomit? Did we go through all that just so we can watch as the entire conservative movement goes into a screaming shrieking spasm of Cheyne-Stokes respiration, as they undergo a complete and utter meltdown when finally, irrefutably, inarguably, a wearied, disgusted majority of the American people catches up with the rest of the civilized world by unequivocably standing up and saying "You know what, we're really tired of your stupid bullshit"?

Three ruined nations, a shattered world economy, a wrecked and poisoned global biosphere, a destroyed public education system, a thoroughly corrupted and debauched media, a body count of innocent victims running into the millions... these are just some of the costs of doing business for the last two decades of grotesque Republican fearmongering, profiteering, and assets plundering. Watching from the sidelines as our Republican leaders and their avid, barking, jackel-like cheerleaders Search and Replaced "truth and justice" with "spin and corruption", "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" with "depraved indifference to human life"... as they turned the American dream into an American nightmare, as they sacked two foreign countries and gutted our own, slaughtering millions and smearing our national psyche not only with blood, sweat, and tears, but also with pus, snot, and shit... a million or more shattered lives, exchanged knowingly for a few hundred bloated, smirking plutocrats, cackling as they dive into their vaultfuls of gore-stained, bomb-blackened, bulletholed greenbacks. Hell, what's a little... or a lot... of innocent viscera spattered across a great big mountain of currency? In the end it all still spends. Hold your nose, wipe it off on the shirt you stole off someone else's back, and stuff it in your wallet. Nothing wrong here. Move along.

It is worth it, now that we've finally emerged on the other side of that long, long tunnel?

Of course not. Nothing could make the non-stop parade of corruption, slaughter, and degradation the Republicans have enacted for the last eighteen years worth it, but sure as Bill O'Reilly loves him some loufahs, it's fun to watch the little sonsofbitches running in circles frothing and foaming and pawing at the air now.

It's not worth it, by no means is any of it worth it, I'd give it all up in a heartbeat for a chance to go back to Florida in 2000 and cast a different vote... but, in the absence of that option, well, I'll sit back and enjoy what I see spread out before me at the moment. Which is to say, the magnificent vista of 55 million right wing nutjobs who voted for McCain, flopping around in the bottom of the boat like stunned, asphyxiating trout, eyes popping, gills heaving, tails flapping in furious indignation as suddenly they realize that the out of control executive powers they happily bestowed on one of their own are about to pass into the hands of a goddam socialist liberal Democrat... who isn't even Caucasian.

Which brings us back to my 'funny uncle', and the funny, funny stuff he emails me sometimes.

So, he's joined The Resistance.

The Patriotic, Resilient, Conservative Resistance.

As an American citizen, while he will show respect to President-elect Obama, (yeah, right) he still opposes the far-Left and socialistic elements that comprise the centerpiece of President Obama's agenda. He recognizes that it will take a patriotic and resilient Citizen Resistance to block implementation of this agenda and he joins with others who oppose these threats to our liberties.

Proudly, no doubt. Head held high, eyes feverishly gleaming in the dawn's early light, modern day musket-equivalent (probably an XM-8, if he can come up with the scratch, or a Vietnam era surplus Kalashnikov, still readily available virtually everywhere, if he can't) belligerently brandished before him. Ready to fight, shoot, kill, and die... or, at the very least, to type viciously into his DSL connection and forward a whole lot of really idiotic spam while clenching his teeth heroically and patriotically, to protect America from President-elect Obama's far Left and socialist agenda.

And what, exactly, is this far left, Socialist agenda? Well, let's check it out together.

Specifically, my crazy ass uncle resists:

Socialistic wealth redistribution including any and all tax increases and big-government welfare programs.

Here's what I love. When rich motherfuckers increase their already insanely bloated personal bankrolls by cheating and robbing and bilking and scamming the poor desperate working folk whose toil actually produces the wealth that the super-wealthy so avidly and avariciously enjoy, we call that free market capitalism, and the rabid right wing worships it as something near-divine, an inspiration handed down from on high by Almighty Jeebus himself.

When somebody comes along and says "Let's straighten out the tax code so that the wealthy pay something kind of remotely approaching what should be their fair share for the ongoing upkeep of this country, and let's make sure that instead of most of those taxes going into some wealthy private defense contractor's pockets, we put a good chunk of it into public entitlement programs, and public education, and other things that would benefit the non-wealthy working class", well, jesus christ! It's time to posse up; the commies are comin' for our guns and our wimmen-folk.

The rich perpetually picking the pockets of the poor? That's okay, we like that just fine. The poor getting some of their money back from the rich? Insanity! Take to the streets!

Silencing conservatives through the Fairness Doctrine and other efforts that restrict free speech.

The Fairness Doctrine says, if you're using a public trust like the public airwaves, which the government regulates and licenses in the name of the people, then if you're going to spend a certain amount of time promulgating one extremist point of view, you have to give those who wish to promulgate opposing viewpoints equal time. Will this ruin conservative talk radio? I can only hope. In all honesty, though, I can't see why it should. If a radio station wants to give Rush Limbaugh 4 hours of airtime a day, then they'll have to turn around and give, say, Michael Moore or Howard Stern 4 hours of airtime a day. So half the time their audience is raving right wing nutjobs, and the other half it's slavering left wing moonbats. You don't think advertisers want to sell products to either market demographic?

Beyond practicality, the Fairness Doctrine is, well, fair. Radio stations don't own the airwaves, they just lease them. Objective truth may be beyond our capacity to find in the emotionally charged political atmosphere, but at least we can require media outlets to present more than one point of view. It may not get us all the way there, but it's a damn good start.

Beyond all this, President-elect Obama apparently doesn't support its reinstatement, which makes me sad, but which makes the whole argument kind of moot.

Open border anarchy including amnesty for illegal aliens and promotion of multi-nation “unions”.

I personally find it laughable and hilarious when some dipshit whose parents, or grandparents, or great grandparents, or great great great grandparents, came over here from Europe back when immigration control was virtually nonexistent, gets up on a stump and shakes their fist and pisses their undies and sprays spittle all over themselves because they're afraid that different, darker skinned people who weren't born on this continent or different, darker skinned people who actually WERE born on this continent are going to, like, overrun America and snatch up all those great lettuce picking jobs and hump everybody's daughters, or somebody's, anyways.

America is now and always has been a nation built on the hard work of immigrants seeking a better life for themselves and their descendants here than they would have if they stayed where they were born. (It is also a nation built on the slaughter of the indigenous population by technologically superior invaders, and if the universe was an inherently just or decent place, an armada of highly territorial aliens would be landing all across America right now, slaughtering the majority of us with their deathrays and herding the survivors into the swamplands of New Jersey. But never mind that now.) That America is a great melting pot, and a place where anyone can come, work hard, and prosper, has been in the past and should be again one of our greatest cultural values.

Those who feel that they are more entitled to a piece of the American dream than others who were born elsewhere are blind to the true historical virtues, such as they are, of the United States of America, and cannot truly be considered patriots by any thinking American.

Government-run health care that weakens our system and imposes more tax burdens on citizens.

As opposed to privately run healthcare that is contributing to the destruction of our economy and causing hundreds of thousands if not millions to live in poverty, sickness, and despair every day of their lives. But that's okay, because our current system isn't 'socialist', and really, that's all that matters.

Weakening of our military through rapid pullback from Iraq, defunding our troops and overall disarmament.

You know what weakens our military? Let me count the things that are currently weakening our military --

* Sending them off on badly planned, poorly executed missions which result in several thousand of them being killed and several hundred thousand of them being maimed, disfigured, crippled, and ruined for life. Also, overstocking our military with criminals, sociopaths, the emotionally unstable, the borderline retarded, the socially dysfunctional, and the desperately poor, because decent, law abiding, intelligent, sane Americans with enough money to choose anything besides the military don't want to get sent over to the Middle East where they will be killed, maimed, disfigured, crippled, or otherwise ruined for life.

* A shitty, corrupt, Republican-controlled Veteran's Administration.

* Young, fit, avidly pro war, conservative American 'patriots' who will not join the military, and who will not let their children join the military, and who vehemently oppose allowing us to withdraw other people's children from an illegal, immoral conflict that is devouring our armed forces the way a chickenhawk war blogger slugs down Twinkies and microwave popcorn.

* Americans who think 'supporting the troops' means slapping a magnetic ribbon on their bumper, instead of getting them out of harm's way.

These are things that weaken our military, and given all of these things, how getting our asses out of place we never should have gotten into in the first place, along with spending less money on guns so we can spend more money on healthcare, education, and infrastructure, really factors much into it. Bush, Cheney, and their Republican lackeys have all but DESTROYED our military, while pocketing billions in illegal, immoral war profits. If all Obama does is 'weaken' our military, it will be a vast improvement.

Social liberalism including radical pro-abortion agenda, the end of marriage and the homosexual agenda.

Nobody is 'pro abortion', and abortion would be much, much less frequent if conservatives would allow easier access to contraception for those that want it and better, saner, more useful sex education in schools for those that need it most. Beyond that, though, an individual's right to choose to have, or not have, whatever medical procedures they desire, or do not desire, on their own bodies is a fundamental one, whether the medical procedure in question strikes you as morally dubious or not. (For the record, I despise abortion, but that's subjective, and I don't believe my subjective hatred of something should necessarily be legislated, because it's not my body, and therefore, not my decision.)

What was the middle thing... oh, yeah, the 'end of marriage and the homosexual agenda'. Heh. Letting more people get married is hardly 'the end of marriage', and the 'homosexual agenda' is, essentially, enforcing Constitutional guarantees of equal access to and protection under the law of the land to every American citizen, not just the ones whose sex lives you happen to approve of.

And, again, President-elect Obama has stated many times that he isn't in favor of gay marriage. I can only hope that, now that he's actually been elected, he drops his waffling and says what he should -- marriage is part of the law, and the Constitution guarantees all Americans equal access to the law. But he's probably hoping to get re-elected, so I imagine I hope in vain.

Liberal court activism that undermines faith, family and liberties while expanding government control.

With Democrats in at least nominal control of both Congress and the White House, I fully expect and anticipate that within the next year, we'll see this talking point quietly dropped by every conservative pundit. Why? Because a substantially Republican appointed judicial branch will become the right wing's last, best hope of staving off the widespread enactment and enforcement of liberal, leftist, progressive policies, that's why. Suddenly, judicial activism will no longer be a terrible thing, it will, instead, become the patriotic duty of all decent, right thinking judges everywhere.

Having predicted that, I will also say that faith and family are private matters that should (ideally, anyway) never be touched on in any way, positive or negative, by the government. As to 'liberties', just for one example near and dear to the rabid right, celebrating Christmas is, indeed, a basic human right. Forcing everyone who doesn't want to celebrate Christmas to pretend to anyway in every aspect of any possible potential public display and over every public airwave, on the other hand, is not a basic human right and is, in fact, a grotesque invasion of the basic civil liberties of many other people who may prefer to celebrate some other form of Midwinter Solstice holiday, or, for that matter, none at all. So celebrate Christmas if you want to (I certainly do) but, y'know, shut the hell up about it, and especially shut the hell up about what other people choose to celebrate, or not, their own damn selves.

That's liberty... liberty for all, not just spoiled white male Christians who can't get over the fact that they don't control the world any more.

Post-American globalism that diminishes our global role and threatens our national sovereignty.

In other words, a world where Americans actually have to deal with the negative consequences of their arrogant, idiotic, and immoral actions and attitudes towards non-Americans, is not a world my uncle, or any of his fellow Resistance members, wants to live in.

Environmental extremism, the CO2 tax,undermining coal and nuclear, and bans on

Because we all know the Rapture is coming soon anyway, so fuck the environment, we want our big gas guzzling Humvees and ginormous flat screen TVs and Jesus wants us to have them, too. So THERE.

I would take the Resistance more seriously if I did not know that these people are Americans, like me. And Americans, like me, don't do anything that requires us to get up out of a comfortable chair, put down our beer or our soda, and make any effort whatsoever beyond reaching for a kruller, or a remote control.

It wouldn't surprise me if The Resistance hits or exceeds its target of a million registered members by Inauguration Day, 2009. Why shouldn't they? 55 million people voted for McCain, and to join the Resistance, all you have to do is sit on your ass and type some stuff into your computer.

When it comes to actually doing something, though, well, I suspect the Resistance won't amount to much.

Although I imagine the group will very quickly be able to put together a truly astonishing array of Photoshopped Sarah Palin porn...

Saturday, June 21, 2008

And he doesn't look a thing like Jesus

Over at TPM, I put the post below up at 7:59 this morning.

As of 1:38 this afternoon, I have 22 comments on it.

Interestingly, I also have only 4 approvals.

To put that into perspective, my most popular post to date has 18 comments, and THIRTY FOUR approvals.

So this one is generating a lot of buzz, but hardly anybody likes it.

Story of my life, really...

* * *

You sit there in your heartache
waiting for some beautiful boy to
save you from your old ways
you play forgiveness, watch it now, here he comes
he doesn't look a thing like Jesus
but he talks like a gentleman
like you imagined when you were young...
-- The Killers, "When You Were Young"

During the primaries, Barack Obama talked to us like a gentleman. He may not have looked like Jesus, but nonetheless, he walked on water, healed the lame, drove the moneylenders from the Temple, and raised the dead.

But that was during the primaries, when this political season was young. Now the primaries are over, and Barack Obama wants all of us to know that he doesn't look a thing like Jesus, and if we're looking for a Messiah, we need to look elsewhere.

Obama took us all badly aback when he recorded a radio ad supporting U.S. Representative Jack Barrow of Georgia, a white conservative Democrat much despised by the more liberal-progressive wing of the Democratic Party. Obama's support for Barrow was especially hard to take given that Barrow is being strongly challenged for his seat by Georgia state Senator Regina Thomas, a strongly liberal-progressive black woman running in a district that is predominantly African-American.

Disappointment is perhaps inevitable when a mass of people look up to any political candidate with as much hope, admiration, and respect as we have showered on Senator Obama. Even the best of us are only human, after all. And it is a supposedly inevitable truth of how our political system works that a candidate cultivates the fringes of their own particular political base while seeking the nomination, and then moves back to the middle once they have it.

Yet Senator Obama was supposed to be the candidate of change, the politician who was writing a new book, finding a new path, and forging a new political truth. This was the package we were presented with, and that half or more of us bought eagerly and enthusiastically throughout the primary season. Obama was the Prince of the Rising Tide, the King of Wishful Thinking, the New Hope.

Well, now the Empire is striking back.

There can be little doubt that Obama's support of John Barrow, as conservative a Democrat as any Democrat has ever been, over Regina Thomas, is an act of the most cynical political calculation. Barrow is going into his third term in the House of Representatives, and his IOU is going to be worth more to President Obama than that of a freshman Representative with no seniority.

Yet there's also a message in Obama's method here, and that signal is a strong one. He's saying to all of us who consider ourselves to be his constituency and his base, especially those of us out here who may share his ethnicity -- don't count on me just because you think I'm one of you.

This is, perhaps, a reassuring dog whistle to many white moderates -- Obama will not necessarily put the interests of an African-American first simply because they are African-American, like he is. But it's a savage disappointment to those of us who were hoping for transcendental decision-making from this man who would be President.

Hard though Obama's decision to support Barrow over Thomas may be for all of us, it's easy medicine to swallow compared to Obama's even more recent announcement of support for the travesty of a FISA bill that has just passed in the House. At this point all those of us who, like Fox Mulder, still want to believe are clinging desperately to Obama's assurances that he "will work in the Senate to remove [retroactive immunity for the tel-coms] so that we can seek full accountability for past offenses".

Yet those of us with any kind of ear for political parsing can already smell the weakness of this non-promise. If Obama truly meant to do everything in his power to keep retroactive immunity from becoming law, he would have at the very least thrown in a 'hard' or a 'diligently' after the word 'work' to signal that intention. As it is, it seems obvious that this promise is an empty one, intended only to provide political cover to Obama later on.

Anyone can run the numbers and see why Obama has made this decision. With a majority of his own party backing this contemptible law for contemptible reasons of their own, hard opposition to it would only leave him vulnerable to accusations from the McCain campaign of being out of step with even his own base... something that might well hurt him, perhaps mortally, with those key moderates and undecideds that inevitably seem to decide every national American election in a nation as continually polarized as ours is.
And yet, again... we were led to believe we could expect more than this from Mr. Obama of Illinois. New directions. Real leadership. Change We Can Believe In.

Endorsing an undesirably conservative incumbent over a solidly progressive challenger in order to secure a political IOU is not change we can believe in. Weak, blustering non-assurances regarding lip service opposition to yet more utterly odious incursions into American civil liberties is certainly not a new direction or any sort of real leadership. This is nothing more than coldly calculated compromise, and nothing less than rank capitulation to the worst and basest elements in our current political discourse.

It's failure, pure and simple... which is, sadly and grimly, politics as usual for the Democratic Party. The politics as usual that Senator Obama of Illinois keeps telling us we are leaving behind, once and for all... but apparently, not right now, and not real soon.

Maybe Change We Can Believe In means no real change at all.


Or maybe there will be a new era of post partisan politics and government transparency, of new directions and real leadership... in a galaxy far, far away.

I still think Senator Obama was a better choice for the Democratic Party than Hillary Clinton, and is a better choice for the American people than John McCain.

But I'm starting to wonder if there wasn't, or isn't, a better choice than Senator Obama still out there somewhere.

They say the devil's water
it ain't so sweet
you don't have to drink right now
but you can dip your feet
every once in a little while....

Monday, February 18, 2008

Support the troops

Apparently, the government is now offering $40,000 enlistment bonuses to high school graduates who join the Army. And noted liberal journalist Fred Kaplan thinks it's a crappy idea.

I think being in the military, especially the Army, especially the Army during wartime, is a crappy, crappy job, and I think people who do it should be paid very, very well. So the idea of this kind of bonus (which is meant to be applied to college tuition or buying a house, anyway, as opposed to just being a dufflebag full of twenties) doesn't bother me a bit. However, here is what I think may be a better idea for combat veterans, and which might also solve a few other problems we're having:

a) How about the government buys up every house currently on the market anywhere in the U.S., and then gives them to combat veterans after they complete their enlistments?

b) How about the government spends a couple of billion dollars tearing down the old, crappy VA hospitals and putting up brand new ones?

Just off the top of my head, these both strike me as fabulous benefits to offer our combat veterans once they are no longer in the service -- a free house, and free, top flight medical care for life.

Call me a starry eyed dreamer, I guess.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

No taxation without forced copulation

Jim Henley's blog is a fine one indeed, but should you choose to roll over there, try to keep one eye cocked towards the high grass. Henley's an avowed libertarian (whatever that means these days) and if you were to hack your way into the wilderness that is his blogroll, you might very quickly find yourself well past the tangled, overgrown foothills of unreason and deep into the very mountains of madness themselves.

Case in point, as Rod Serling might crisply intone: Some guy named Ted Frank, of a blog called Overlawyered:

Police more likely to sleep with than arrest prostitutes

The Venkatesh-Levitt paper on the economics of prostitution in Chicago shows that prostitutes are arrested about one out of every 450 tricks—but are forced to give "freebies" to police for about 3% of their tricks to avoid arrest.

On the one hand, I'm appalled at the utter corruption exhibited by law enforcement here, and wonder to what extent this illegal "perk" acts as a public-choice rationale for law enforcement to oppose legalization and regulation of brothels.

On the other hand, that 3% of labor extorted by the police is a heck of a better rate than the 30% or so tax rate various governments make me pay...

Libertarians don't exactly represent; put any eighteen of them in the same place at the same time and you'll quickly end up deluged and besieged with eighteen entirely individual iconoclastic visions of a The Way Things Ought To Be In A World Without Authority. Still, it bemuses me to imagine that 'sieur Frank might speak for a majority of his fellow surly reprobates with the above assertion. I mean, nobody likes taxes, and nobody HATES taxes like de libertarian mon, but, still, this is the first time I've seen one come right out and say that a forced face fucking from a random gendarme or two a couple of times a month would look good to him compared to paying a 30% tax rate on his income.

You wonder what the trade off ratio is there. Would the average libertarian pay 20% if he/she only had to take cop-dick up the ass once or twice every thirty days? Would he/she blow six or seven officers of de law a month if they could get their taxes all the way down to 6%? Would they take a flatfoot in every orifi twice a week if it let them live gloriously tax free? And would the built in advantage this would give male libertarians over female be acceptable to the libertarian community en masse?

These questions may be stupid, and they're certainly rhetorical, but, like the guy in the Styx song, I've got too much time on my hands.

Quote of the day

...well, yesterday, actually:

When Americans can no longer run their cars on a whim, they will simply go apeshit and you can kiss normal politics goodbye.

Jim Kunstler is someone I frequently quote and/or refer to on this blog. He strikes me as having a lot of expertise, in-depth knowledge, and wisdom (not to mention basic writing talent) and that's a combination I find hard to shrug off. Still, he's been dry-washing his hands together and cackling in barely repressed glee over the imminent death of what he calls America's Happy Motoring Utopia for years now and none of his predictions have come true as yet. I have to imagine he wonders why, and here's the answer I would give him, from the far reaches of my own inexpert, completely shallow, utterly non-wise (and not particularly well expressed) foolishness:

Mr. Kunstler, the world people live in is largely subjective, and while I know the merest thought of this drives you crazy, so, too, is the 'science' of economics. Things are largely what people think they are, and while markets may go up and down and businesses may thrive or fold, nonetheless, if the majority of people in the world do not really believe we are having a crisis, then we are not really having a crisis.

People understand that times are hard when they can't feed their kids any more, or they have to choose between necessities -- you want food on the table this week, you have to short the landlord and hope to dodge the deputies with the eviction notice, or not pay the utility bill and live by candlelight for a while. THAT's when times are hard, THAT's when people start to panic. I don't think the majority of Americans are living that way yet; at the very least, I don't think a significant number of Americans who have been managing to pay all their bills and still eat pretty well have seen that status drop precipitously to this point.

Yeah, everybody is hearing rumblings, and everybody is wondering what comes next... but for now, most people still have money coming in and can still cover their nut.

Times are bad, but what you do not seem to get, Mr. Kunstler, is that most Americans (the Great UnWealthy Class, as it were) honestly believe that times have always BEEN hard for them. You and I know this isn't true, but that's what most of us believe anyway, largely because we have never been able to go out and purchase all the toys that we see our more affluent co-citizens enjoying on TV. So the current coughing and rattling we're hearing in the economy doesn't trouble us much, cuz we think we're tough. When the banks all close and our debit cards don't work any more, when gas hits $4 or $5 a gallon, when the lights go out, when the deputy sheriffs show up to put our shit out on the curb... this is when the American people will finally understand that times really do suck, and all we ever were, really, was rough, tough cream puffs.

Until then, though, most of us will just continue with business as usual, because what the fuck else are we supposed to do? Buy gold? Stock up on emergency rations, guns and ammo? Become insanely religious? Fuck. As long as the TV works and there's something crappy to watch on it, the American Way of Life will remain non-negotiable.

I'm not really being as snarky as I sound; I kinda half believe that the average American's obstreperous capacity to ignore the bugling sounds of impending crisis all around him/her and just keep on truckin' may be our greatest resource for getting through the no-doubt impending calamity. If we continue to just rock on with our bad selves regardless of what tries to tip the boat over, who knows? Maybe our arms will yet hold us safe from a rolling sea... or some shit.

Having said all that, let me hasten to add -- when Americans really can no longer fill up and go wherever the fuck they want whenever the fuck they want in their private automobiles, they (we) will INDEED go apeshit... unless, of course, someone has schooled them (us) to the necessity of embracing other options prior to that point.

I have to hope that, however much they do not want to raise the possibility now (because truth-speaking doomsayers never get elected President), our front running Presidential nominees are aware of this necessity, and making plans to address it once they achieve their desires.

Otherwise, all the wishful thinking in the world will almost certainly not avail us.

Still, I think it can put off the crisis for a little while yet.

Or so I wishfully think, at this point.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

State of the primary

Bopping around the usual poli-blogs I pay attention to (Washington Monthly, Unqualified Offerings, Talking Points Memo, This Modern World, and a few others I'm too lazy to type in right now), I'm getting a sense that the liberal/progressive blogosphere is sharply divided as regards the potential role of superdelegates in deciding who the Democratic nominee for President is going to be.

One group is outraged, outraged at the notion that the Democratic Party's convention superdelegates might possibly swing the nomination to a candidate that the majority of voters in Democratic primaries and caucuses did not vote for. Mind you, the superdelegates have been part of every nominating process since the 1980 election and they haven't seemed to bother anyone to date, but, well, we haven't had a Democratic primary this close in all that time, either, so the superdelegates weren't really a factor. Now that they might be, a great many people are extremely upset about the possibility.

The other group is pretty much complacent about it -- yeah, the superdelegates can vote for any candidate they want to regardless of how the various votes in the various primaries and caucuses came out, but, y'know, don't sweat it, that's what the whole superdelegate idea was formulated for in the first place; this is the system, just sit back and relax and let it work itself out.

Here's what I'm noticing, though, and maybe it's just me, but, still, so far, this seems a reliable observation --

If you're deeply, deeply upset that the superdelegates might vote for a candidate who did not win the majority of the primary votes, then, well, you're an Obama supporter.

On the other hand, if you feel that all is copacetic and the system is fine and the superdelegates should be free to vote for whomever they think would make the best Democratic nominee for President, well -- chances seem pretty good you're wearing a Clinton button on your beanie.

Funny how that works.

It's ridiculous to think that this has anything to do with any sort of completely unfounded yet deep seated, nearly instinctive foreboding that the Clintons have long ago sewn up the superdelegate vote... right?

Yeah, that's just silly.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008


Hilzoy over at Obsidian Wings goes all plaintive over those who criticize Barack Obama on the grounds that he's all talk, no action:

I came to Obama by an unusual route: as I explained here, I follow some issues pretty closely, and over and over again, Barack Obama kept popping up, doing really good substantive things. There he was, working for nuclear non-proliferation and securing loose stockpiles of conventional weapons, like shoulder-fired missiles. There he was again, passing what the Washington Post called "the strongest ethics legislation to emerge from Congress yet" -- though not as strong as Obama would have liked. Look -- he's over there, passing a bill that created a searchable database of recipients of federal contracts and grants, proposing legislation on avian flu back when most people hadn't even heard of it, working to make sure that soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan were screened for traumatic brain injury and to prevent homelessness among veterans, successfully fighting a proposal by the VA to reexamine all PTSD cases in which full benefits had been awarded, working to ban no-bid contracts in Katrina reconstruction, and introducing legislation to criminalize deceptive political tactics and voter intimidation...

...Imagine my surprise, then, when I heard people saying that Obama wasn't "substantive". It was exactly like my experience in 2004 when, after hearing Wes Clark for the first time, I went and looked up his positions on a whole host of issues of concern to me, and only then started reading media accounts of him in which I "learned" that no one knew what his positions were.

As some of my students would say: I was like, wtf?

I've been making the point in conversation (it's not original to me, and I'd credit wherever I saw it first if I could remember it right now) that Obama is the Ronald Reagan of the 2008 election season -- he's all about emotionally stirring, even inspiring rhetoric that, unfortunately, seems to have little or no actual semantic value. "Yes we can!" and "Change we can believe in" strike me as little more than liberal/progressive flourishes rung on Reagan's "It's morning in America".

And, okay, I can see that Obama has some substance to him, even given his relatively short career in politics to date. What I can't see, though, is how he's using the enormous media attention generated by his Presidential campaign to address any of the truly urgent, truly global issues confronting every living being currently drawing breath or in some way processing energy on the planet today. Just one example of this is Obama's energy policy, as explained in this speech he gave in 2006. Dewey scholar/ecoblogger "David Roberts" advises that he thinks this is a 'pretty ballsy' speech and rejoices that "That man's got a pair, you gotta give him that" (perhaps underscoring the huge fundamental perceptual disadvantage Hillary Clinton has in this election, but never mind that for now)... but in point of fact, as an energy policy, this is all worthless feel-good Hollywood happy ending bullshit.

Obama calls for a much more marked increase in the fuel efficiency of American manufactured motor cars. He wants more hybrids, and he especially wants to see more production of alternative biofuels. Which is to say, this is more of what James Kunstler might call Happy Motoring horseshit.

Like every other ambitious politician out there, Obama is paralyzed by the thought of trying to tell the truth to the American electorate. The simple, brutal, horrible, unacceptable, unavoidable truth is, we have to change our way of living, because the cheap energy is running out. America uses up a massively disproportionate amount of the world's available consumables, especially petroleum derivatives and natural gas. And we are going to have to stop. If we don't, the rest of the world will do its level best to make us, and if it turns out they can't (and global civilization survives that eventual determination), well, eventually (not far in the future, at the rate we suck it down) the oil is all going to run out, anyway.

I can certainly understand why Obama is all style, no substance when it comes to, well, substantial issues. And, certainly, a Reaganite circa 1980, confronted with someone criticizing his or her candidate on the basis of what seemed like a lot of high falutin', pretty soundin', but ultimately empty rhetoric, might well shoot back that Reagan's two terms as governor were full of substantial political accomplishments -- Reagan legalized 'therapeutic abortion' in California (something he claimed forever afterward he regretted), he sent in the Highway Patrol and the National Guard to break up student protests in Berkeley, resulting in one student death and hundreds of injuries, he spoke out strongly in opposition to what he saw as excessive Federal tax rates and social spending, and in favor of capital punishment.

Yet what Reagan did not say when he was running for President in 1979 was, "I'll cut your taxes, eviscerate social spending, and, at the same time, run up historic deficits by increasing America's defense budget 40%." The first two would have sounded very good to both economic and social conservatives; the last one, however, would have probably lost him some votes among everyone but service members, their families, and defense contractors. Had Reagan also admitted that there was a very good chance his economic policies would result in the national unemployment rate rising from an unpleasantly high 7% to a staggering 10.8%, he most likely would have lost the votes of everyone in the country making less than $40,000 per year... and with them, the election.

Similarly, there is a reason Obama does not specifically and substantively address extremely serious problems like the global energy crisis, preferring instead to focus on stirring sounding but still essentially trivial microissues like weapons regulation, government corruption, and the welfare of our military veterans. And there's also a reason why, when he does address energy issues, he does it with half truths and half measures. Just as with Reagan, if Obama were to tell the whole truth about these issues, and what measures will really have to be taken to deal with them, it would cost him votes... in fact, were Obama to ever publicly state "Here's some change you can believe in -- if we want to survive as a species on this globe, Americans are going to have to give up our private automobiles, rebuild and substantially expand our mass transit systems, and stop wasting so much of the world's irreplaceable resources. Which means we have to eat healthier, exercise more, and stop using so much electricity" it would certainly cost him the election.

So I can understand why Obama prefers high flown elocution to talking about the actual nuts and bolts of tough policies that will not be even remotely popular with the American people.

Nonetheless, whether I understand it or not, whether it's justifiable or not, it's still valid to say that Obama avoids talking about substantive policy by substituting stirring rhetoric... and pointing to his past legislative record and saying "Look, look, he really has done stuff" isn't going to change that.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Thinking out loud

McCain is the presumptive Republican nominee.

Okay, what does this mean?

For Big Money, this is a big frickin problem. Big Money's most reliable ally in controlling the U.S. government has been, for the past century or so, the Republican Party. And Big Money hates McCain. Hates hates HATES him.

What does this mean?

It means that Big Money now has a choice. It can pull a complete 180 and start trying to build up McCain as a more palatable option to the conservative base. Unfortunately, they have to date spent millions making him completely unacceptable to that same base, and it's been money well spent, too. Do they really want to throw that investment away, when most people think McCain can't win the election anyway?

Conversely, Big Money can start investing heavily into someone it likes better. However, to justify that investment, whoever Big Money chooses as an alternate has to have a reasonable chance of winning the Presidency.

Big Money is sending conflicting signals right now, which indicates to me that a final decision has not yet been reached. On the one hand, one of Big Money's most powerful media voices, Ann Coulter, has come out and stated on Sean Hannity's FOX program that if John Cain becomes the Republican nominee, she will actively campaign for Hillary Clinton, because Clinton is the more reliably conservative candidate than McCain.

On the other hand, Mitt Romney has announced he's quitting his campaign:

Romney is as big a shill for 'the innerests' as Coulter ever will be, and if he's marching offstage, it's because someone bigger than him cut the marching orders. Romney himself says that he's doing this to shore up conservative support for McCain, and, yeah, I can see that. Within my admittedly limited understanding of the power dynamics here, that makes as much sense as anything else.

But... again... Romney is a shill for Big Money, and Big Money hates McCain. HATES him. So Romney stepping down is a pretty strong indicator that Big Money is giving serious thought to swallowing its intense dislike of McCain and getting behind his campaign.

Coulter's statement of support for Clinton over McCain, though, is an equally strong signal that Big Money is considering supporting someone else in this election. And when you can't find a Republican candidate you like well enough, where does a worried plutocrat go?

Straight to the nearest viable candidate named Clinton, that's where.

Right now, right this moment, The Innerests must be in a frenzy of frustrated indecision.

You're not even supposed to be able to get on stage nationally if you're not safely bought and paid for long in advance.

The most valuable thing any national campaign can have going for it is that mystical word 'viability' -- the perceived ability to win the election. As a general rule, viability is granted (or withheld) by the media -- if the media says a candidate has a good chance to win the election, then, as if by magic, that candidate does.

If, on the other hand, the media declares a particular candidacy to be non-viable, then that candidacy is dead in the water. Tell the electorate often enough that a vote for such and such is a wasted vote (worse, it will work out in actual effect to be a Vote For This Other Guy You Really Hate) and most people will swallow it hook, line and sinker. The candidate's positions, past record, and actual character become entirely moot once the public has been convinced that this candidate CANNOT win the election. It becomes a self fulfilling prophecy.

The media, of course, by and large, works for Big Money. In effect, this means that for a candidate to be anointed as 'viable', Big Money must approve of them. Otherwise, they are 'crackpots', they are 'from the fringe', they are 'extremists' -- they 'cannot be elected'. And, guess what? They won't be.

Sometimes, though, candidates make their way through the cracks in the system. McCain has built a national, even an international reputation around being a maverick, an outsider, somebody who is willing to slap iron for the little people against the big movers and shakers in the Republican Party. Whether this is actual fact or not doesn't much matter; the point is, a lot of people believe it. McCain appeals to moderate Republicans and to independents, enough so to make him electable... if not in a general referendum, then, at least, at a Republican nominating convention.

More importantly, the press loves McCain. They want to see the guy become President, or at least, they want him to get a good shot at it. This is something political analysts often times overlook. Yes, there's a machine, and yes, the machine runs nearly everything... but the machine is made out of cogs, and sometimes, the cogs spin unpredictably. For whatever reason, the media has largely failed to embrace any other Republican candidate this year. They've gone, by and large, koo-koo for McCain puffs. That, combined with McCain's already noted appeal to moderates and independents, has made McCain's candidacy very 'viable'.

At this point, Big Money can still crush McCain like a bug. The press may love McCain, but the press can, ultimately, be brought to heel. Spend enough money on enough opposition ads, throw enough dirt around, form enough 527s, fire a few reporters who won't fall into line fast enough and promote a few others who will... Big Money will have no real problem tearing McCain down.

If they want to.

The problem is, who else have they got? Yeah, the Ann Coulter thing is a test balloon, but you have to figure it's a desperate long shot -- I don't honestly believe there is enough money in the universe to convince any significant percentage of the conservative base to vote for 'Hitlery'. That doesn't mean Hillary couldn't win with enough money behind her, but it's risky. If McCain takes the independents and the moderate Republicans, then Big Money has to somehow position Hillary to somehow be made appealing to conservatives who won't vote for McCain -- and, y'know, all the Democrats. Money and media can forge some weird coalitions, but that one stretches even my imagination to the breaking point.

Plus, Barack Obama has proven to be a dangerous monkey wrench in the works over on the Democratic side. It's very possible that Hillary may not even be nominated... in which case, Big Money has to go back to McCain. Who else are they going to buy up on the Republican side? Well, nearly anyone, sure, but again, I doubt there is enough money out there to simultaneously demolish McCain and build up, say, Huckabee or Paul to the point where either is 'viable'. Not that either of them much appeals to Big Money, either.

Here's how I'm figuring it, right now: the 2008 elections were supposed to be safe elections for 'the innerests'. After 8 years of rampant Bush/Cheney corruption, the Great Unwashed would be happy to vote for whoever wasn't a Republican, and Big Money was reasonably certain that would be Hillary. Yeah, the conservative base hates her, but 2006 shows that the conservative base is no longer in a position to decide elections. So let the 'other side' have one for 4 or 8 years.

Hillary has always been a reliable watchdog over big corporate interests. Bear in mind, her 'universal health care plan' is nearly entirely comprised of the Federal government forcing everyone in America to buy health insurance -- a gigantic economic windfall for The Interests, as it will directly profit the zillion dollar health insurance industry, while indirectly giving a big shot in the arm to every other U.S. company that currently pays substantial portions of their workforce's healthcare costs. Net winner, Big Money. Who takes it up the ass yet again? You and me.

So Big Money figured they had '08 locked down. They'd put up someone they could count on -- Rudy, maybe, or Mitt -- on the Republican side, and maybe he'd actually win, but even if Mr. Rich Guy lost (something all the smart money was predicting) well, they'd have another Clinton running on the other side, and could use their media mouthpieces to make sure that any other candidate who wasn't safely bought and paid for was pronounced 'non-viable'.

But McCain has royally screwed things up on the Republican side. Big Money can't stand him, but they haven't been able to tag him as 'non-viable', and he's picking up enough votes to make him a real pain in the ass for them.

Meanwhile, over on the Democratic side... well, we know who's been fucking things up for Big Money on the D side of the ticket.

So, once again... Big Money has a big problem. Suddenly there are way too many variables and things are getting wildly out of control.

What's going to happen next? It depends.

The next big signal will be who McCain picks as his VP. If it's Huckabee, or, worse, Paul, that's the end of him with Big Money. They'll go elsewhere for satisfaction. Look for 527 funded attacks on McCain to ratchet up to insane levels, and for some other candidate to start raking in big contributions.

On the other hand, if McCain picks Romney or Rudy or (more likely, for reasons I'll get to) some other corporate fat cat politician to run with, that's another signal -- he's telling Big Money that regardless of his history, he's their guy, and if he should get into office, he'll protect their interests. In that case, look for all the conservative media mouthpieces to suddenly turn on a dime and start up with the 'John McCain, a True American Hero' bullshit, and most if not all of the really nasty 527 attacks on McCain to get dialed way back, while, at the same time, the mud starts to be slung big time against whoever is running against him.

I have no faith in McCain's essential integrity, and he's pretty clearly a smart guy with a lot of self interest. If I had to bet, I'd bet he'll work very very hard to get Big Money back on his side. On the other hand, McCain has a lot of pride and can be as foolish as the next guy, and he'd hardly be the first to buy into his own self promotion. If he really enjoys the idea of being a maverick, he'll tell Big Money to go fuck itself and try to make himself over into someone who can fuse the moderates and independents together with enough of the conservative base to get him into the White House.

That's a very risky strategy, but who knows? He's a charismatic guy, and let's remember, George W. Bush was, in reality, not someone at all who should have appealed in any way to the conservative base, or to moderates, or to independents -- a spoiled little rich kid, a failure as a businessman, an alcoholic and a cokehead, who pulled strings to get out of combat duty and then didn't even bother to show up for the last year of his Air National Guard tour. When you have the media in your corner -- and McCain does -- you can work miracles. (To an extent, McCain already has.)

So here's how it looks to me right now -- if it's McCain and Clinton, then Big Money will strongly back whichever one of them seems most economically reliable... and I'm going to say that will probably be Clinton, as she's never gone after their nuts with any kind of serious legislative attempt at campaign finance reform. Look for a lot of anti-McCain swiftboating and a big summer-fall roll out of 'I hate to say it but Hillary is actually a better candidate on the issues that matter to Republicans than John McCain' from all the FOX News and conservative talk radio ventriloquist dummies.

Democrats and liberals will stupidly rejoice, Hillary will be elected President, the Bush tax cuts will remain permanent, no recent Republican legislation will be overturned, the rich will continue to get richer, the national security state will continue to become more oppressive and intrusive, and we'll all be offered jobs at $11 an hour working as call center customer service reps for Asian manufacturing firms -- and be assured that we should be grateful for the opportunity.

Of course, Big Money has to be careful to wait until Hillary is actually the Democratic nominee. Once she is, liberals and progressives and most Democrats can be trusted to swallow pretty much anything and vote for her in the general election. However, until she locks it up, Big Money does not want to seriously start flying that 'Hillary is more reliable on most conservative issues than McCain' flag. If they do, it's going to cost her the nomination. I'm surprised Ann Coulter jumped the gun the way she did... but it's important to understand that she did it a few days BEFORE Super Tuesday, and she was probably trying to throw those primaries to Romney. Now that it hasn't worked, don't look for this particular line of dialog to be repeated until when and if Hillary is finally coronated as the official nominee.

If it's McCain and Obama, and McCain has picked a pro-biz candidate like Rudy or Mitt as his VP, then I'm going to guess Big Money will swallow its pride and support McCain. Look for a lot of Osama Hussein Obama crap from the 527s and conservative talk radio, along with the usual 'John McCain, Greatest American Hero' nonsense. However, I wouldn't look for either Rudy or Mitt to be McCain's VP in this instance. Big Money knows both of them carry too much baggage to appeal to the theocons. They'll want to go out and find someone who can thump a Bible, rant a little bit about gay marriage and school prayer, and who is still rich enough to be willing to protect his own when it comes to economic policy. I don't know who that guy is, but I'll bet that if Big Money wants to bad enough, they can find him.

If, on the other hand, it's McCain the Maverick (running with someone like Huckabee or Paul as his VP) against Obama, well... things could get very interesting indeed. Big Money won't want either of those tickets in the White House. That, I suspect, is when we'll see Michael Bloomberg come out of the shadows with a whole lot of cash in his pockets.

Or it might be someone other than Bloomberg, but whoever it is, I guarantee you this -- campaign finance reform will not be part of their platform. And if they get into office, the first thing they'll push for is to repeal the McCain-Feingold Act... just to spit in John McCain's face.

I suppose this means I've finally talked myself around to supporting Barack Obama more or less unequivocally in the election. Yeah, I hate the way he panders to the Democratic religious base, but, well, I guess that's better than pandering to the Republican religious base, or to Big Money. I'm not crazy enough to think he can get into office without owing a few favors, but I am pretty sure he's not as completely sold out to high finance as everyone else. And who knows? He may be willing to put his boot up a few Congressional Democrats' asses, once he's in the White House.

At the very least, I don't think an Obama Administration will be 'business as usual'. Which is, I suppose, really the best we can hope for.