Tuesday, November 30

What Is The Corpse Of Zbigniew Brzezinski Doing On My Television?

David Brooks, "The Fragile Community". November 29

SERIOUSLY, what is up with The Newshour's rolodex? I mean, I thought I never threw anything away.

I'm not really sure why I switched over, but there he was, the worst mistake Jimmy Carter ever made, looking, frankly, like someone had shrink-wrapped one of those Reagan masks but sounding as lucid as ever. Though that's setting the bar pretty low.

Yes, what better source to help PBS viewers decide whether Wikileaks is an unprecedented calamity or an unparalleled catastrophe than the man who brought you the Moscow Olympic Boycott, the Mujahideen, and Ronald Reagan?

He's the perfect case study for our present Crisis, by the way: Jimmy Carter's Bay of Pigs, the walking embodiment of the restraints placed on rationality, integrity, and human-heartedness by politics, avarice, and the mentality of the mob, or, put another way, diplomacy.

But we are nothing if not fair around here, so for the opposing viewpoint let's go to the suddenly statist snivelers on the Right:
Far from respecting authority, Assange seems to be an old-fashioned anarchist who believes that all ruling institutions are corrupt and public pronouncements are lies.

And based on nothing more than the incontrovertible evidence of the past two centuries.
The Times has thus erected a series of filters between the 250,000 raw documents that WikiLeaks obtained and complete public exposure. The paper has released only a tiny percentage of the cables. Information that might endanger informants has been redacted. Specific cables have been put into context with broader reporting.

So in other words, it's Old-Fashioned Anarchy vs. Contemporary, "True Press Freedom Lies in Being Government's Handmaiden" Corporate Communications. Twelve rounds for the Heavyweight King of the Shitpile title.
Yet it might be useful to consider one more filter. Consider it the World Order filter. The fact that we live our lives amid order and not chaos is the great achievement of civilization. This order should not be taken for granted.

Y'know what else it shouldn't be taken for? Gospel.

Lemme just ask a couple questions about this civilization, whose very existence hangs on the ability of some House of Saud fuckhead to be duplicitous in absolute privacy. First, how come all its sacred principles operate in one direction only? Why is there one set of ethics for how people are supposed to relate to governments, and no set of ethics for how governments treat people? Where were you, Mr. Brooks, when my phone company turned over my top secret messages to the government, and when the government forgave it for violating my rights in doing so? Where was Zbegniew Fuckink Brzezinski? Lemme jog your memory: on the other side.

It's an interesting thing about Civilization, by the way: like the Church, the teevee networks, and the operators of off-shore petroleum drilling rigs, it gets to be the arbiter of questions of its own value.

Sure, Dave, we already knew that your side's vaunted respect for the rule of law ends when the martial parade begins. Does history have to be a morality coloring book for schoolboys, too? We're leaking blood and treasure in Iraq and Afghanistan. We went there to fight people we put in power, or armed, or both. We wasted 53,000 American lives in Indochina in a war we consciously sold to the public through misrepresentation. We celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, not J. Edgar Hoover Day, and some of us really mean it. We spent hundreds of billions on high-tech gadgets designed to defeat the Soviets twenty years after we knew they were bankrupt. Ask Dr. Brzezinski how word of that never leaked out. Hell, Dave, WWI was in all the papers: 37 million casualties, 7 million civilian deaths, political and economic destruction of Europe, genesis of WWII, and the great Petrie dish of the Spanish flu pandemic, and all directly caused by international diplomacy, without a whistle-blower anywhere around. Somehow a few embarrassing cables aimed at people who ought to be embarrassed all by themselves don't really balance the ledger.

So, y'know, Dave, you'll just have to forgive me if I don't believe that the only thing standing between your iPad and the terrorists who want to smash it to bits is Hillary Clinton's ability to make scabrous cracks about the Chinese, or the government's ability to hide what it's really doing in Pakistan from a public which is disinterested anyway. You'll have to forgive me if I believe the rest of the world looks on this as a minor confirmation of what any sensible and half-informed person already knows in spades, and that, far from it being this colossal hindrance to further Trust, diplomats consider evidence of double dealing and back-stabbing about as shocking as the French considered Bill Clinton's blowjob. And you'll forgive me if next time y'all start blaming State for another in your series of mis-directed, lied-about, and ultimately futile military advertures I don't believe you. Not that I ever have.

Monday, November 29

Politics Make Strange Bedfellows. Political Whoredom Doesn't Improve The Selection Process.

George Eff Will, "Our puritanical progressives". November 28

OKAY, so: apparently as a result of the Sui-Generis Teabag Movement™'s laserlike focus on economic issues

Wait, I'm sorry. The convulsive laughter always stops in a minute or two. Clear blue ocean. Clear blue ocean. Okay.

APPARENTLY as a result of the Republican leadership's insistence on tabling social issues

Fuck it, I'll never get through that. The Court recognizes the guy in the gratuitously anachronistic neckwear:
Concern for children's sensibilities is admirable. The coarsening of the culture is a fact with many causes, but its consequences are unclear. And it can bring out a Puritan streak in progressivism.

This, by the way, in defense of videogame depictions of young girls being set on fire. At least when we can pin the law on California "progressives".

And let's not mistake each other here. It is perfectly defensible to, on the one hand, bemoan the Coarsening of Culture while on the other defending the First Amendment rights of your fellows to speed the process along.

And if that was what Will was about here we'd be good.

It's a little different, though, when you and your party have been milking the cow of rustic moral outrage for the last thirty years. I apologize if I missed the George Eff Will column condemning the Constitutional violation of children by the MPAA ratings system, or of Court decisions which have held that schoolchildren have limited rights of free speech and little, if any, protection from unreasonable searches. Will's spirited defenses of 2Live Crew and Harry Reems seem to've gone right by me. (And, sure, Will objected to the abuse of FISA courts and the use of the Iraq War Resolution to justify unlimited wiretapping of American citizens. Forgive me for not falling all over myself to thank him for saying what every decent American should say. And what, in the end, cost him nothing while shoring up the illusion of independent thought.)

Incidentally, over the past twenty years the city of Indianapolis has twice tried to ban violent video games, without ever being denounced by George Eff Will or being mistaken for being progressive.

Hypocrisy is certainly something we've come to expect from Will *; let us direct the Court's attention to the second count of the indictment, Will's implication of the hypocrisy of "Pecksniffian progressives". Like Brooks of a week or so back, Will finds progressives in the thrall of Science, particularly the Social Sciences, and their blasphemous Faith in the improvement of Man, which progressives apparently imagine to be inerrant. Maybe this is a recent development. Maybe I slept through it. Or maybe I just have a little different perspective on the outfit which brought you The Tuskegee Experiment, incontinent lobotomies, electric shocks and pharmacopeias dedicated to keeping unruly children in line, and alternative cash cow institutions for wealthy drug felons. The people I know who swallow this Improvement business up to the sinker aren't progressives; they're parents, and most of 'em are about as apolitical as you can get.

Will's evidence, by the way, is classic: a guy who opposed comic books in the Fifties defended Ethel Rosenberg. And the law in question was enacted in California. Q.E.D.

Of course, of course, there is a certain "progressive" thread which runs though the entire enterprise from the campaign to get manipulative advertising off children's teevee programming to the crusade against videogame violence. Just as there is a certain thread of authoritarianism that runs from the Marihuana Tax Stamp Act through those ludicrous (in retrospect, for some) anti-comic book and race record crusades, through the MMPA (a movie'll get restricted a lot quicker for sex scenes than scenes of violence), to the attempts to turn public schools into prisons. Both sides seem to agree on child pornography, though one of 'em seems okay with child labor.

I'm not sure where the hypocrisy is supposed to lie in this, unless with the people who denounce the other side for doing exactly the same thing, and who exempt their own defense of any activity that turns a profit and wasn't banned before 1980.

_______________

* Who helped prep Candidate Reagan from Jimmy Carter's stolen briefing books, then went on ABC to declare Reagan the obvious winner of their debate. I realize that the moral failure here is not hypocrisy, but dishonesty, with notes of greed and hubris in the bouquet. I just like to work Briefingate into every piece on Will one way or another.

Tuesday, November 23

David Brooks: Not A Broken Record, Because The Song Keeps Changing, And Not A Broken Clock, Because, Well, You Know

David Brooks, "Liberals Talk Like This, But Conservatives Talk Like This". November 23

JESUS Christ, Mr. Brooks, you should pardon the expression:
For centuries, American politicians did not run up huge peacetime debts.

Y'know, I'm not sure what the record is for total number of errors contained in a simple English declarative sentence with no misspellings, but, whatever it is, consider it shattered. That thing is wrong beginning to end, from the center out in either direction, and probably as a sum of all possible anagrams. I'm still checking that.

First, anybody here happen to recall when the Declaration of the Independence of White Guys Who Own Things was signed? When the Articles of Confederation went into, you should pardon the expression, effect? Anno Domini 1777? Which is how long ago? Two-hundred thirty-three years. So, to begin with, "for centuries" seems an odd construction, though this does match the rest of the sentence. And hell, we've barely built up enough steam to start our trudge back uphill when "peacetime" shows up to notify us that Brooks has found Outright Lying insufficient to his purpose, and will be adding Hedging into the bargain.

Now, honestly, I can't explain this. Did Brooks begin by writing the simple declarative (and wrong, again, but that's obviously beside the point) statement that American politicians had not added to the Publick Debt for non-military purposes before the New Deal? It seems to be what he's trying to suggest. Did he just happen to recall the Louisiana Purchase while he was typing? Does some editor read this stuff first? I have no idea. It's certainly plausible that the whole bidness of "Wartime Debt Good, or At Least Morally Unavoidable, while Peacetime Debt Bad" trumps everything in the "conservative" universe, but for the life of me, how does "peacetime" turn up there without raising some little alarm bell in the back of your head? The main reason we're now governed by the second scheme the Founders thought up is that the first failed to handle the Debt. Sure, it was Good Wartime Debt, but then, Debt's Debt, unless you're paid to apologize for one party's contribution to it. This country, rather famously, was debt free exactly once in its history, for the better part of one sunny afternoon during the Jackson administration. We've been war-free only slightly less often. Public funds built the transcontinental railroad, the telegraph system, and the national parks. Public debt irrigated the California desert, purchased Alaska, and electrified the rural South. Public debt built the Panama Canal, the Hoover Dam, the TVA, and paid veterans' benefits into the bargain.

So let's tidy up a bit now, just for neatness' sake. It's not actually centuries, since there's barely a hundred years between Andrew Jackson and the New Deal, and just over for the Louisiana Purchase, $200 billion in today's dollars, or about half of the generally estimated cost of the FDR's alphabets.

And New Deal spending was not exactly unprecedented; goodbye "never in peacetime".

In fairness, I think Brooks did get the punctuation about right.

Okay, let's look at this a little differently. Most people nowadays would allow as how the Louisiana Purchase turned out to be a pretty good deal. Most people, at least most this side of Brooks' second favorite economist, Megan McGalt, would allow as how something needed to be done to ameliorate the effects of the Great Depression. How does the value of the action get to be settled in one direction only? War good--well, a lot of us would like to have, not just the outlay for three times the ordinance of WWII dropped on Vietnam in a continuing effort to close a third of the Ho Chi Minh Trail overnight, but most of what was spent on the Cold War, and in Korea, back in the coffers. Let alone what disappeared when George W. got ahold of it.

So let's say, in all, that what doesn't seem to be working is getting lectured on the subject by someone who can't tell the truth, beginning with Ronald Reagan, the man who increased the national debt in peacetime more than any other President--more than FDR did in eight years of the worst economic depression we've ever faced. For nothing.


I'm sure there's someone out there who's pointed out that refusing to make hard choices does not differ distinctly from making hard choices but refusing to look at the evidence first. If not, allow me to be the first. David Brooks doesn't even have the courage to take on incontinent militarism in a fucking newspaper, but he can lecture the Democrats on what has to be done to check spending. And it takes him exactly three weeks before he's absolving the Historically Victorious Teabag Party from any and all responsibility for doing anything substantial. It's curious--or maybe not--how closely the approach of the Economic Wing of the Republican Party to this Life or Death Deficit Problem resembles that of the Global War for Civilization Republican response to the idea of getting on the front lines themselves.

Monday, November 22

A Curmudgeon Thanksgiving

I AM preparing a small Thanksgiving feast. I think I may have done so once before in my life. I am pretty sure I'll have nothing else to think about or write about for the rest of the week. Standard refund policy applies.

In our early years of marital bliss, the holidays found my Poor Wife and I trying to satisfy the moietical demands of our families, further complicated by the fact that my parents were divorced and still bickering at long-range, a situation which continued right up to my mom's funeral. Some years we drove 150 miles or more just to eat two nearly identical meals and beg off the left-overs of a third. My Aunt Margaret, my dad's older sister, was a pretty fair cook with a real touch in dumpling preparation. My mother was not quite as accomplished, but made up for it by working out strenuously. My wife's family's cooking raises the question of how the bloodline survived before the invention of canning.

But whatever the level of competence, these are not people who embrace culinary invention, nor bravely navigate the uncharted waters of exotic ingredients or ethnic ports of call. My last attempt came several decades ago, when I served what I imagined to be a modest suburbanite's plate of roast lamb, spanakopita, and green beans with tomato to a family which looked at me as though I had just expressed a preference for women's apparel or the perineums of young Negro males. I--we--resigned ourselves then and there to a future of letting someone else boil everything to unrecognizability, interspaced with visits to the sort of restaurant which performs the task for you, probably several hours before you arrived. I have occasionally taken some small pleasure, in the case of the latter, of ordering a steak blood rare, then feigning ignorance of the effect on my fellow diners.

My Aunt is now 95 and too feeble for most tasks, let alone a Thanksgiving feast; she became the recipe giver emeritus a few years ago. For a while hosting devolved to my eldest cousin, who is a delightful person, a serial monogamist, and no cook whatsoever; it has since been taken over by her eldest, who is enthusiastic and fairly modern in his culinary tastes, but whose agrarian sense of reproductive obligation renders his house too small for his own brood, let alone the rest of us, so we've decided to stay home.

My Poor Wife declared, however, that the price of her participation was "traditional Thanksgiving fare", not that I was planning on dim sum. So I worked out the menu last night: turkey, brined and roasted, with apple cider gravy; sage stuffing; cranberry sauce, on the grounds that she'll leave me unless there is some; sweet potato soup, unless she reads this and objects, in which case it'll be sweet potatoes, sweetened beyond recognition; couscous with spinach; and a pumpkin-praline roulade, unless I get tired and quit first.

Woman better learn to eat leftovers for once.

These, then, are their stories.

The plan for Day one (today) was Make Potato Bread for Stuffing, shop for ingredients and a new roaster rack during the first rising, grind pork shoulder for sausage which may or may not wind up in the stuffing, and reconsider the whole proposition several times. I jumped up, got the potatoes peeled and boiled by 7:15, then realized at that rate the dough would be risen before Macy's--where I hoped to find a quick roasting rack--was open, so I regrouped.

I was dressed and ready to go when the dough came off the hook and went into the oven to proof. That gave me an hour and a half, tops, for my errands.

So of course Macy's doesn't have any roaster racks without they come attached, for sales purposes, to a roaster. And I don't need a roaster. In fact I don't really need a rack, but I use a couple of metal trivets and they're a pain to clean, plus I was hoping for something that stands a little taller. On to Plan B, which is an early-season trip to the Snootville Mall Williams-Sonoma.

I've mentioned the Snootville Mall a couple times here; it's the one that blasts various perfumes at you at predetermined intervals to enhance the shopping process. It's a Simon Mall; a percentage of each purchase goes to keep Indiana's wealthiest family in bologna sandwiches and internecine squabbling. I always try to go there dressed like a bum, which doesn't take much planning on my part, and today meant the black Levi's shirt with the gray chest-hair accessories, carpenter jeans, and Merrill chameleon ventilated hikers with no socks. I always walk fast, and bump into over-dressed gawkers. I always try to go there and get out as rapidly as possible.

Now Williams-Sonoma employs greeters, much like Wal*Mart, only theirs are ambulatory and reasonably aware. They generally appear to be women beginning to approach a middle-age they were not aware would be somewhat clouded by their having signed a pre-nup without adequate legal advice. Their style and manner says "I'm just doing this between planning Junior League luncheons", but their eyes--if you catch 'em when they ain't looking at you--say something else entirely.

Only this time the greeter wasn't a woman, but a Gay-American who took a quick glance at me as I entered and decided I'd been sent on a mission by someone smarter to buy some inexpensive gadget whose name was probably written on my palm. He might have muttered "Truck Nuts" under his breath. He immediately went back to talking to the geezer he'd been helping, the one who truly had no idea why he was there, without so much as an acknowledging nod. I cased the joint. No roasting racks that didn't come attached to roasters here, either, the main difference being that these roasters ran $250 and up.

And let me just state for the record that I am 100% behind the Gay Agenda to Corrupt America in a Better Organized Fashion than Her Current Corrupters Do, save for one area: retail sales. I do not want to be waited on by someone who introduces him or herself at the beginning of my dining experience. I do not want expert merchandise advice from someone who seems damned tickled to be almost shopping for a living. I am not here for the cheerfulness, whether or not it's free. It makes me think I'm shopping with Amway. No normal person can deal with the public for ten minutes and remain cheerful. Or even recover a previous level of cheerful. I hate the person who employs you, and who marks this shit up double what's justified just so he can afford to spray me with random perfumes. I want you to acknowledge that you do, too. Else I don't want you to make a commission on me.

What he acknowledged, instead, was that they had no roaster racks without roasters attached. I felt like pointing out that they have madeleine pans, cannel knives, three-headed timers, and grapefruit spoons, so maybe a simple fucking rack would not be out of the question, but I had bread rising.

Off as quickly as possible to the grocery, where there are no organic turkeys, but the steroided by minimally-invasive means ones are just over a buck a pound. Place is already a zoo. Grab eight items, head for the Express Check Out Line, aka Why Don't I Know Better By Now? Behind the woman with the screaming infant, who is actually a diversion from the elderly woman who apparently won a lifetime supply of rouge in a radio contest ("That, or she had some bad rug burns"--Kevin Nealon), and who, I swear, takes ten minutes to complete her six-item transaction. From its impatience I'm guessing the baby has dough rising too. Next up, finally, is a middle-aged woman with a dozen items which include two bottles of wine--actually, pink goop with alcohol in it--and who has no ID. So that's a five-minute argument with the clerk, followed by a quick cellphone call (of course) to her husband, who's apparently in the parking lot, waiting for someone to feed him, so he can come in and certify they're old enough to know better.

Good Christ, I hope you people don't fly. Or else I do. At least the bread turned out okay.

Friday, November 19

Who Asked For It?

IF there's anything that'll turn my congenital but wholly defensible dyspepsic outlook on American culture, or "culture", damn near homicidal quicker'n a David Brooks column on how iPhones prove our innate superiority, it's those times when Americans get all pissy about Rights.

Well, let's rephrase that in recognition of another gleaming facet of our junk culture: I hate it when the Press tells me that Americans are getting all pissy about Rights, since in the present case CBS also tells me that 80% of Americans support body scanners in airports, and only 15% oppose them. You can add to that the fact that half of all Americans don't fly at all in any given year, and another 30% fly once or twice, and the "groundswell" begins to look like it consists of disgruntled network executives.

Of course no consideration of Rights would be complete without hypocrisy and ignorance, the ubiquitous garden gnomes of the American political landscape; Americans are a lot more ambivalent about defending the rights of others than they are about insisting on their own, and those rights are often Actually Something Else. Smokers' rights. The rights of the Unborn. The Right of the Bush Twins to Use a Fake ID to Get Roaring Drunk on Mojitos Just Like Everybody Else Did in College. (And this is distinct from the utterly convenient pop-confusion over what actual Rights actually are, as in "The First Amendment gives me the right to teach Creationism in public schools.")

All of this is directly traceable to the rightwing reaction to the post-war judicial trend emphasizing personal over property rights, with the Civil Rights movement being the most glaring example. But there's also the school prayer decisions, and Miranda, which the Right's rabid reaction to, much like the National Review's history on race, we're all now supposed to ignore, have forgotten, or never learned of the first place. The American Right was outraged when the Court ruled that police power did not include the right to shine a light in your face for 87 hours and beat you with a garden hose until you signed a confession. Outraged. This is the genesis of the Law N' Order campaign that brought us Richard M. Nixon.

Of course if you're old enough to remember this, and not so old that you've forgotten, or if you're independent of mind enough to have learned about it yourself in the interim--since they weren't going to teach it that way in history class--you know there was an odd reversal of sorts that occurred once it became obvious that Jim Crow was a lost cause; enforcing someone else's rights ("judicial activism") itself became a violation of your rights, and shortly after ("reverse discrimination") you granted yourself the right to pretend that enforcement was the right, and you were entitled to your share. It's not hard to trace from there to the complete linguistic confusion that attends matters today.

So, forgive me, but I'm not joining in until you choose one: America's right to beshit itself about Homeland Security, or America's right to gripe like a sleep-deprived eight-year-old every time it is personally inconvenienced. You gave the fucking Cheney administration carte blanche on domestic spying, and now you're outraged at a service charge. The lot'a ya ought to be strip-searched every time you go out in public, by poorly-trained, mentally defective, roided-up inverts, until you agree to think things through in the future.

Which doesn't mean I'm taking the side of the fucking TSA, or DHS on this, especially with that whole "flying is a privilege, not a right" routine:
49 U.S.C. § 40103 : US Code - Section 40103: Sovereignty and use of airspace

(a) (2) A citizen of the United States has a public right of transit through the navigable airspace. To further that right, the
Secretary of Transportation shall consult with the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board established under
section 502 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (29 U.S.C. 792) before prescribing a regulation or issuing an order or procedure
that will have a significant impact on the accessibility of commercial airports or commercial air transportation for
handicapped individuals.

I guarantee you, anybody sticking his latexed fingers up the fundament of some Forbes 500 CEO before he gets on his private jet is getting paid a lot more than minimum wage.

It's driving which is a privilege. And driving while yammering on a cellphone which is a right. Try to keep this shit straight.

Thursday, November 18

I ♥ The Internets

OMG! Ponies! at Gawker:

If it's okay for the Palins to say "faggot," then it's okay for the LGBT community to say "retard".


Tuesday, November 16

Elections: The Daylight Savings Time Of Stupidity

David Brooks, "The Two Cultures". November 16

YOU may have noticed that there's no link to Brooks' piece above. That's because there's really no reason for anyone who hasn't been assigned the thing to read a Brooks piece entitled The Two Anythings, or This or That Culture.

Liberals think like this, while "Conservatives" think like this. He's like Sinbad without the A material.

Okay, if you're morbidly curious: Economics, where Liberals have gotten all Sciency and Rational an' stuff, and trust it implicitly, despite the fact that rationality has proven itself less than perfect in some example Brooks has decided both to use and blame on Liberals, thereby proving that rationality is worthless, at least as practiced by Liberal majorities. "Conservatives", on the other hand, have gone all Emo.

And this, sez Dave, is a reversal of the natural order.

Now, as always, I'm a lot more interested in the political-cultural milieu which allows David Brooks to thrive as the world's primier fifty-year-old frankfurter repackager than in Brooks' actual product. I'd like to know where the idea that caring about people as a political tenet makes one a flightily, sandal-wearing slumber-party denizen who makes her own candles, and what, in the name of Gods, gives anyone the right to suggest that American "Conservatives" are notably, or even passably, enamored of Science. I think that government economic policy ought to have as its abiding principle the protection of the weak and the guarantee of basic human dignity beginning with the lowest of the lowly. And I'll be happy to box David Brooks for twelve bare-knuckle rounds.

Second, speaking of abiding principles, this blog's has always been that, on an absolute scale, though not necessarily in cumulative effect, Centrists are worse than Rightists, and phony Moderates are worse than Hitler. Maybe it's just me, but while I have little use for people who talk to dead Jewish carpenters before and after every gridiron contest, I'm more offended by people who show up at His house twice a year like it's a nursing home and He's grandma. If you don't drink eggnog and eat fruitcake twelve months out of the year, why do it just because some culture you know nothing about handed it off to you?

And what good are your opinions if they change with the proximity of Election season? Three years ago Douthat was writing the Summa Theologica of movement "conservatism"; two years ago Brooks knew that electoral disaster was going to make his party that much more like himself; last winter, with the Democrats once again circling the firing squad, the Common Man suddenly became wise, and good, and in innate agreement with his Burkean and Augustinian betters. Now, coffers refilled and elections won, it's time to backpedal, slowly at first, just in case the promised miracle is a little late in coming. Like, say, your entire lifetime, which is what it's been for these two.

I just wanna know who it is wolfs down these turds like they're Tootsie Rolls. Did you sleep through the fucking Bush administration, so that the world was all fresh and new in January of 2008? Is there some nuance of the Boehner House that differs from that of Hassert, or Gingrich, like the Roberts Court differs from the Rehnquist? It's bad enough when, suddenly, some glorified Chamber of Commerce newsletter columnist decides that scoring points on imaginary liberals is worth abandoning Economics; it may be worse that he's willing to abandon the notion of logic, or comprehensibility, if that means votes for His Side. We're certainly in a lot of trouble for that third of the population which seems to believe that nonsense makes sense, as well as the corporate mouthpieces who facilitate 'em. But what about the threat from people who imagine they can convince the other two-thirds to sign on?

Monday, November 15

Boy, That's Totally Unexpected! Vol. MDCCXLVII

Ross Douthat, "The Party of No" November 15

GUESS which is the Party of No here. Go ahead, I'll just make some coffee.

Okay, I'm back. Did you guess? It's the Democrats! Douthat just pulled the Ol' Switcheroo on you! So having viewed your own hypocrisy, unexpectedly illuminated by a lightning flash of brilliance, are you planning on writing your Congresscreature, demanding he swear fealty to the Will of the People, as Revealed in the Historicallest Elections Ever? Or are you planning to write the Times, asking them to make 18 the minimum age for getting an Op-Ed slot?

The No in Question here is Nancy Pelosi's reaction to the Simpson-Bowles It's Doubly Bipartisan Because Erskine Bowles Is Almost A Democrat, And Alan Simpson Is A Lovable Fascist Commission.
But the reaction from Republican lawmakers and the conservative intelligentsia was muted, respectful and often favorable; the right-wing griping mostly came from single-issue activists and know-nothing television entertainers. The liberal attacks, on the other hand, came fast and furious, from pundits and leading Democratic politicians alike — starting with the speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, who pronounced the recommendations “simply unacceptable” almost immediately after their release.

Yeah, c'mon, Nance; you know how much The Conservative Intelligentsia love those bi-partisan Presidential commissions. You're just trying to be hurtful. Besides, it's fifty pages long! No one could have read it that quickly.

It is, of course, no concern of Douthat's that the Commission's "recommendations" are explicitly presented as "Illustrative Only", like the Serving Suggestion on the label of the can of beans which sports a four-course banquet on the front. It's a con job, and a stupid frickin' con job at that: "both" sides of a one-sided debate pretending to sacrifice some of grandma's precious figurines for the Greater Good, when they know no Good will come out of it, and one grandma is more equal than the other.

Look: the co-chairmen of The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform--is that title less clownish than the one I suggested?--recommend that we freeze tax rates at a percentage of GDP they decided they liked. Isn't that all you need to know to declare the game rigged? Th' fuck? Did they leave "Fiscal Morality Squad" off the letterhead? Or do they imagine that's going to give Teabagged Republicans the political cover to raise marginal tax rates by 1%? "Hey, we're only trying to reduce the deficit in a bipartisan fashion!" Great rallying cry for 2012.

The James B. Riley Nobody Asked Me Commission Interim Chairman's Report of Fiscal Reform:

1. Cut the bullshit.
2. #1 is sufficient.

Let's us just note, here, that the Co-Chairman's Report claims to cut a supposed $4 trillion out of the supposed $10 trillion projected deficit by 2020. That is, it would leave us over the next eight years (FY 2012 is just ahead) overspending at the same rate the Bush/Cheney administration managed. Good times. No budget fat in them days.

Take My Defense, Please! The report proves its bipartisanship by cutting Defense ("Security") and Domestic ("Non-Security") spending equally. Except, of course, they aren't equal; Defense + Veterans entitlements + their share of the cost of retiring the debt = 60% of the budget. And that's a budget which funded Defense at World War Two percentages for the following sixty-five years. The bulk of the ("illustrative") savings are supposed to come from 1) enacting Secretary Gates' overhead reductions, which, presumably, we intended to do without the advice of Cowboy Mussolini and Baron von Krupp; and 2) reducing procurement 15%. In the sixty-five years since WWII ended, the annual Defense budget has been reduced from the previous year nineteen times. Fourteen of those came at the end of enormous, enormously wasteful, and ultimately worthless spending on Vietnam and the Late Cold War. Aside from the end of WWII--the slashed budget of 1947 was immediately doubled in '48, so we'd be ready to defeat the Commies--the biggest one-year cut--the Bush I Peace Dividend--was 12.5%, and elicited howls of protest and a 6% increase the following year.

Military spending in the Bush II years rose by 37% while we conducted two wars off the books.

We're building aircraft carriers at a rate which suggests we expect another ocean to be discovered any day now.

So, y'know, forgive me, but I'm not quite convinced they're serious. The idea that the Congress of the United States is going to reduce "Security" spending at any time is a losing proposition, as is "by 15%"; the idea that they'll do so while Piss Your Pants The Moooslems Is Coming! is still a hot brand is ludicrous. And the idea that 15% even reaches the bottom of the bucket, let alone leaving a dent, is yet another example of that fine Center-Right/Right bipartisanship which got us here in the first place, and every so often sends us a dunning notice.

Thursday, November 11

Nine Out Of Ten People With Impressive-Sounding Titles Agree: Hire The Person With An Impressive-Sounding Title!

Room for Debate: "Who's Qualified to Run New York City Schools?" November 10


Baseball is what we were. Football is what we have become.

-Mary McCrory


SO which is worse: Wholesale Mayor Mike Bloomberg naming his second Utterly Devoid of Relevant Experience Except in the Area of Employee Termination Chancellor, or Exalted High Architect, or something of NYC Schools, or the Times holding a "debate" on the topic in which the entree seems to be "Well-off enough to be considered for a Bloomberg appointment"?

And don't get me wrong; I'm from Indianapolis, where our school superintendent is an Ed Ph.D and a waste of good cufflinks. I'd just like to know how we came to be the sort of society where Former Publisher of USA Today is considered a mark of success. Or, rather, a mark of success at anything other than plumbing the depths of a Barnumesque culture, looking for nickels. Simultaneously complaining about reading scores and promoting the former perpetrator of Parti-colored Literacy Downsizing does not make sense in this, or even in the multi-billionaire's, universe.

You will find, though, if you click that link over my express warnings, that the Times could find only one person with an appropriate title who outright objected to Cathleen Black's appointment, and that, again, based on the Business Model of Everything: promoting from outside will damage morale!

Everyone else is at least marginally on board, which, y'know, you might figure they'd be since they have no stake in the game. Who's gonna start right in hurling rocks at Cathleen Black, without even a few warm-up tosses? No respectable commentator, certainly. So why have the fucking conversation at all? (To be fair, a couple other commenters point out that the twenty-year history of these sorts of Reaganist shenanigans is, well, a mixed bag at best, and Clara Hemphill, while giving the notion of a non-educator running education--as well as the lying sneak thief she's replacing--a free pass, does ask whether Bloomberg would appoint a publishing executive to run the Health Department. But this is not a side issue to be solved with an epistemological shrug. It's the main fucking issue, and maybe it's what you ought to be debating.)

The guy from Clown College The Cato Institute Clown College is in full midseason form:
This drives educators nuts, but cheers people who think educators have proven themselves incapable of fixing schools. There’s certainly reason for concern: K-12 education hasn’t gotten much better for decades despite huge funding increases. For most of that time, educators have run the show.

Now, one, as we've noted here, and Bob Somerby--who knows more about the topic that that entire Times panel put together--has documented repeatedly, the fact is that minority student test scores have improved dramatically over the past fifteen years, which have also been marked by something other than "huge funding increases". You'd think that maybe, with an entire Institute College busy with the tax-exempt work of shoring up your positions, or position, you'd have some sort of argument which wasn't constructed of an inferior grade of plywood, some plumber's epoxy, and a Klaxon.

And we ask, again: As we enter the fourth decade of this Business Model bullshit with overwhelming evidence that it doesn't improve things, and more than a little evidence that it contributes nothing but a noisy interference pattern behind which wealthy assholes and their Institutes gorge themselves at the public trough, heedless of our hurtling cosmic swirl down the Big Toilet, when does this sort of thing start getting the blame?

You people imagine that the Hotshot Operators of Fixed Gaming Equipment, Inc. are the best choices to put the world to rights? All I can say is, Babs Bush showed that fetus to the wrong idiot.

[Speaking of which, Intrepid Girl Reporter s.z. has an update on how that story used to play, back before the 2000 elections.]

Wednesday, November 10

This Week On As Succinct As Riley Ever Gets

A country which listens to anything George W. Bush has to say--about Kanye West, Sarah Palin, a pig's pickled fetus, or anything else--is clearly doomed. What, then, of one that listens to him simply because someone's paid to get him another five minutes of fame public idiocy?

Monday, November 8

Electric Olio


Roy brought us such a collection of hopeless pseudo-historical sludge yesterday that I'm still wrapping my head around one sentence from one example ("Today we also know that Sacco & Vanzetti were guilty, as were the Rosenbergs and Alger Hiss.") which does have the benefit that I get to post W.T. Vinson's Ethel and Julius, after Norman Rockwell from the National Lampoon's Bicentennial Calendar. And thanks, Mom, for buying me the scanner.

I took some small pains in comments to explain that "we" don't know this, that in fact conventional wisdom now exonerates Vanzetti; recognizes that not only was there no case against Ethel Rosenberg, but that the government knew this and executed her anyway, ostensibly to protect the existence of the Venona Project, but more likely as a high-stakes game of Chicken with Julius, who refused to blink; that Hiss was convicted in the second of two perjury traps, on the testimony of an admitted perjurer, and his modern-day "guilt" is the product of some willful, and disputed, analysis of Venona. (In much the same way the "proof" of Sacco's guilt requires the bearer to simply ignore the rusted chain of evidence which, even if accepted, is equally suggestive of a police frame-up.)

This took enough time that I didn't bother considering Th' fuck this is supposed to prove, anyway? Sacco and Vanzetti were railroaded; that's as despicable with guilty suspects as with innocent. Ethel Rosenberg was electrocuted (took three attempts) for being married to a guy who might've been a Soviet courier. Hell, he shouldn't have been executed. The Hiss case wasn't about anything he'd actually done (and certainly not anything he was ever charged with) but "rescuing" the reputations of McCarthy and Nixon and other Cold War dipsomaniacs. Which were, and still are, tattered husks anyway. So people objected at the time. I'd object today, and still do; th' fuck's that got to do with Leftism? And I'd like to hear Ms Now I Too Am Outraged By Chappaquiddick defend the idea that Dalton Trumbo should have died in the joint for malicious screenplayery.

• We sat in agitated horror for ten minutes yesterday afternoon while Colts receiver Austin Collie lay motionless on the fucking field after a helmet-to-helmet hit. That is, we would have sat, and in silence, if CBS didn't continue, inexplicably, to employ one Phil Simms, onetime professional quarterback, now professional language butcher, as "Vanilla Jim" Nantz' color man on CBS's marquee game, meaning Colts fans get subjected to the sumbitch a half-dozen times a season.

Like I say, Collie is stretched out flat, surrounded by the medical staffs of both teams. He hasn't moved since he hit the ground. And Simms spends the entire ten minutes, less exhortations for Miller Lite and Cialis, essentially saying the whole thing was Collie's fault, that he'd had two steps with the ball and thus "become a runner" and had ample time to protect himself. The man's feet are sticking out of a crowd of medical personnel. Somewhere out there his wife, or his parents, or his pastor is listening to this millionaire hillbilly jabber away while Collie may lie paralyzed for life. Thank God he reportedly suffered only a concussion. But, y'know, yeah, there's some dispute about "taking the violence out of the game". And, yeah, the hit may've been something between a helmet launch he happened to get knocked into and One of Those Things. But that wasn't the time to debate it. (Hell, Simms was talking so much he flat out missed the official's call.)

Of course Simms wasn't gonna criticize the NFL (not directly), which diddled for years before deciding a few weeks ago to join the 21st century medical understanding of concussion. It's bad enough listening to people use a supposed technical understanding of the rules (which they don't really have, because the real rulebook is kept secret from everyone but the NFL brass and the officials themselves) to whine that their enjoyment of seeing a man paralyzed for life is being compromised. I hope the league will look closely and fairly at whether Coleman was illegally leading with his helmet or simply playing his position, assess penalties, if any, correctly, and explain itself clearly. But, without question, CBS should be fining Simms for conduct unbecoming a sentient being. Unless that's actually a loophole.

• Ross "You Still Here?" Douthat, inherent electoral superiority once again reestablished by The Base, gets to go back to pretending to blame The Base:
The modest Mr. Boehner leads a party with much to be modest about. Gingrich could brandish an agenda because he had an agenda — a raft of conservative policy proposals, on welfare and crime and taxes, that couldn’t get any traction in a Democratic-controlled Congress. Today’s Republicans, by contrast, know what they’re against (the health care bill, tax increases, cap and trade) but have a world of trouble saying what they might actually be for.

Anybody old enough to remember that Gingrich "agenda"? Any one still prescient enough to recall what, if any of it, rose above a litany of Things The Right Is Against, Or Was At That Moment? Slashing Welfare payments does not become a policy argument just because you say it'll cut illegitimate births among the coloreds. Tort "reform" which consists of making it tougher to sue negligent corporations is not a policy argument just because you think they've got better things to spend the money on. Boehner and McConnell don't have Newt's abilities as a peddler of patent horse liniment. This does not retroactively heal any nags.

Friday, November 5

Finally Some Good Economic News: Prices For Swampland, Brooklyn Bridges Hit All-Time High

OH, and Local Housing Market Skyrockets on news that Indiana's Once and Future Senator Dan "Lackluster" Coats is considering moving back to the state.

Daniels' political tip: Zip your lips
By Mary Beth Schneider
November 5, 2010

Memo from Gov. Mitch Daniels to candidates thinking about the 2012 election: "Just stifle yourself."

That goes for himself, too.

Daniels, who has left the door open to a run for the White House, said Thursday that he won't be talking about his potential candidacy until at least after the state legislature finishes its work in April.

And with one election just finished, every other candidate ought to take a timeout as well, Daniels said, to focus on governing.

Daniels issued his hush-up advice after being asked about the possibility of U.S. Rep. Mike Pence, R-Columbus, seeking to succeed him as governor.

Standing next to Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman, who also likely has her eye on moving up to the state's top job, Daniels said Pence is "a great guy, and he's served well."

But, Daniels said, "I'll ask anybody who is thinking of running for any office in 2012 to be quiet about it for the next several months. We just finished an election. We now ought to all be about the business of delivering on the change and the duties that we have. So I'm going to ask anybody who is thinking about running for anything to just stifle yourself for a few months."

Our Story So Far: As the Daniels for President campaign enters its ninth, twenty-fourth, or forty-sixth month, depending on whether you're counting from, respectively, his announcement that he was "leaving the door open" (and not, Ms Schneider to "a run", but to "people who want to convince him to run"; let us take people at their word, especially pathological liars); the beginning of the Daniels for President artificial hubbub in locations as diverse as The National Review and The Wall Street Journal Opinion Pages; or when he started lying about his record as Governor, with an eye to creating a Reaganesque fiscal mystique, and nearly as much long-term fiscal carnage, per capita, our coy and petite candidate would like all those other candidates to kindly be quiet for the next four months while he pretends to manage the two-House Republican majority he just bought himself.

This is known as "Urging restraint". Which shouldn't surprise us, in a world where raising the state sales tax to the second highest in the nation is known as "cutting taxes".

(By the way, that "so close to an election" routine is the seemingly effortless Daniels Genius at Work. It is, in fact, the whole of Reaganism appropriately in a nutshell, an excuse for everyone else to work in your own self-interest offered up as a cherished and time-honored platitude you've based your life on. The terminally bored may recall that way back in Aught Eight the recently re-elected Daniels, shiny Republican hope in a sudden sea of Blue, thought the appropriate response to just finishing an election was to disappear from the public eye for the next few months while economic reality slammed into his trail of campaign lies [which were constructed of cardboard, so there was no real reason to duck from the potential fall-out, not that any occurred anyway]. Not to mention how Rumor of a Run was scraping the fender of his resolute declaration that he'd just finished his last campaign. That Daniels wasn't too keen on catching every last echo of the Vox Populi.)

The Bantam Menace now has precisely the same metaphysical problem Pence just solved, except Running Away isn't an option. (By the way, the Pence for Governor??? thing is, well, interesting, in that "Governor" wasn't mentioned when he won that Iowa straw poll, and damn that state's got a lot of straw. I said it as a gag, but I'll say it seriously now: th' fuck would you want to follow Mitch Daniels when he's spent two terms locking you into starvation rations, and when he's already sold off everything that has a price tag? Particularly when your Ego's stuck on "Palin"? The very suggestion seems conveniently in Daniels' favor, emphasizing, as it does, Pence's "non-executive" track record, and potentially removing an Indiana Republican who's a helluva lot closer to the base. Pence is a Jesus nut and a fiscal Procrustian; he's gotta look at what Huckabee did last time and realize the whole Teabag Party Has Abandoned the Culture Wars thing is a piece of shit, especially where the Republican primaries are concerned. There's a pile of money to be raised, there's no credible Jebus candidate besides the Huckster, and corporate Republicans haven't exactly fared well on the hustings. And while I haven't heard anybody saying this, it sure looks to me like Palin's one of Tuesday night's big losers, since "female" and "female and insane" were both something less than an A Ticket, and she can't even win an election in Alaska. If raising money and supporting candidates meant anything to anyone besides those candidates, Richard Viguerie would have his own reality program.

And, for what it's worth, Pence is at least six inches taller and better looking than Daniels. But who isn't?

Mitch, on the other hand, gets to preside over a rubber-stamp General Assembly, which will slice more meat from education to preserve what it can of his artificial surplus. Of course, no Republican primary candidate will be able to call him on it, but Miracle Mitch is shortly to become Held the Line Provided You Don't Ask About Specifics Mitch, which is a helluva lot less inspirational, and not what they set out six years ago to run on. Whether or not there is actually anything which could be described, however fancifully, as a Budget Surplus is a matter of debate, in no small part because the thing's been kept half-hidden all along. If Daniels breaks out of the box, if he manages, say, to be 2012's Romney and not its Giuliani, and it comes time for whomever else is left to start swinging, his vapor jobs creation and massive sales tax increase is gonna suddenly get noticed.

Sure, sure, I'm wrong all the time, but I'm not selling this like it's a hot stock. I just haven't ever seen where this Daniels shit was supposed to be heading, aside from the rake. He was the wet-dream candidate of the semi-wonkish, semi-realistic, wholly desperate NatRev writer when the GOP was in the dumps. It isn't anymore. Photogenic non-entities like Pence now imagine they can beat Obama. Make that "will", since every Republican gain comes with God's Own Guarantee attached for these fucks. Daniels isn't the Libertoonian Intellectual in a field of Crackpot Sarah and the Losers from Last Time. The man has nothing left to sell to anybody. Except the Indiana state lottery. Bidding is already open, in case you're interested.

Thursday, November 4

Don't Say I Didn't Warn You

SO "Choirboy Mike" Pence is abandoning the impure Republican party just as he gets his opportunity to a) say something that means something and/or b) get put in a position where he'd have to choose between his public principles and the dirty business of governance. Pence chooses, instead, to resign, or, in other words, to double down on Empty to preserve the Rhetoric.

Of course the story gets played as "Mike Pence running for President and/or President of Indiana", which I hope to Allah is true; in fact I'm pulling for him to be elected, and Jesus to return just after he takes the Oath, after which there's a sudden, intense burst of light, and I wake up in the shower and the last forty-five years turn out to've been a dream. Shunted off to the margins is the fact that as part of the "New" Republican Leadership he'd'a been forced to get behind their apparent--or at least presently bruited about--willingness to cooperate with the White House and other agents of the Infernal to make themselves look like something more than perpetual scolds. (The Over on this plan is Groundhog Day, but it ain't gonna surprise me none if somebody tries to impeach Obama during the Lame Duck session. At any rate, asking Mike Pence to be something other than a perpetual scold is like asking Lady Liberty to take a seat.)

As far as running for Governor is concerned, well, anything is possible once the blood gets up, but personally I'd advise against it, quoting Woody Allen's dictum to the Stevenson fundraiser stage manager in Annie Hall: "You don't have a comedian follow another comedian".

Indiana's fucking doomed, Brother Pence; everything that could be slashed, given away, or fucked up beyond all endurance in an effort to get the unemployed to move someplace warmer has already been enacted, or is about to be with a two-house Republican majority. Not to mention the fact that there's already twelve real and hopeful Hoosiers for every one imaginary job that Mitch Daniels has created. Follow your Dream.

President's a much better bet; you can always declare announce a war if things get rough. And look what it got The One True Religion in '92 and '96, this playing ball with the heathens. The real problem with Republican Purity Tests is that they haven't been pure enough.

As for the rest of you, I'd like to remind you once again that when you reward the Republican party Indiana is the rash it breaks out in. Dick Lugar, in '68, the Nixonian mayor of Indianapolis bound for beige-er things, who is to the Overton Window what Barbara Walters at ABC's anchor desk was to proper diction; Dan Quayle, then Dan Burton, Potatoe Head and Pumpkin Splatterer, spawns of Reaganism; Mark "Abstinence For Thee" Souder of the Gingrich Revolution; Mitch Daniels, Bush OMB Director now come to save the Common Man, and now Pence. I'm pretty sure we can keep this sort of thing up forever, America. I'm just not sure that you can.

Wednesday, November 3

Well, Somebody Had To Supply The Wimper…

Evan "How Soon Can You Move?" Bayh, "Where Do Democrats Go Next"? November 2

FIRST, "November 2" is the dateline, but the only evidence that it's 2010's Blame the Democrats routine from Indiana's Top Democrat is that he name-checks Healthcare instead of Insufficient Warmongering, Sore Losermanism, or Hummers From Interns. Let the record show, Your Honor, that this man was supposedly on Candidate Obama's short list for VP. That fact alone should have made the race closer than 53-46.

Second, the worst news I got last night was not that Bayh would be replaced by Dan Coats, a stuffed pig who now goes back into the legislative wholesale business after ten years as a purchaser's rep; ain't no change at all, so far as I'm concerned. It wasn't even the return of Harry Reid, which galls not so much because it's Harry Reid, though that's bad enough, but because it reinforces the easy, comfortable, and utterly refutable on its face notion that the American voter is savvy enough to reject the clinically certifiable, if only by a narrow margin.

[By the way, Reid's reelection has given me an idea which will fix the Senate, a simple procedural change: just require every Senator to be in his seat at all times while any one of 'em has the Floor. We won't need term limits--we may need metal detectors--and we won't need new filibuster rules. We'll just need the threat of listening to Harry Reid, e.-fucking-g.]

No, the worst news I got was that Mitch "Pretender" Daniels bought himself a Republican majority in the Indiana House, which will, by the Wolf Moon, have begun to finalize the Californication of Indiana, excepting that there's no brake here on reduction of services or corporate giveaways or protection of the environment. Our insanity is too profound and earnest to be entertaining.

And the interesting distinction here is that Daniels, bless the black hole of corporate buggery where his heart's supposed to be, actually spent a portion of his graft pile to elect other Republicans. Granted he did so in his own interests, which may be charitably described as "getting himself elected President, and hence the hell out of Indiana before its notoriously time-addled citizens get wise". Daniels spent money to make money; Bayh has just built himself ever bigger counting houses for the last three decades. He reportedly turned loose (was perhaps embarrassed into turning loose) a mil for his designated Democratic heir Brad Ellsworth, posed for a couple pictures, and vamoosed (same as he did for the 2004 and 2008 gubernatorial elections) while corporate Republicans (but I repeat myself!) pummeled the man into submission for six fucking months. Here's how bad things are in Indiana: the eleventh hour appeals for Ellsworth featured the shade of Lee Fucking Hamilton; evidently they couldn't coax Jim Baker to stand with him in a show of dishwater bipartisanship. The Chair recognizes the Right Honorable Birch Evans Bayh II, though it wishes it couldn't:
It is clear that Democrats over-interpreted our mandate.

The Reader's attention is directed to the results of the 2006 mid-term elections, and the landslide 2008 Presidential election that installed a man who's middle name at the time was "Change", not Hussein. The Reader is asked to explain what th' fuck could've been clearer? In present political terms, 2006 was a knockout punch, 2008 a whitewash, and a--pardon me, remain seated--"filibuster-proof Senate" was an Act of God. Which, as it turned out, could be repealed by Ben Nelson and Evan Bayh. Who knew?
Talk of a “political realignment” and a “new progressive era” proved wishful thinking.

Yeah, boy, that must've rankled. First time in the history of the Republic that back-to-back historic realignments of both Houses was considered a call to end business as usual.
Exit polls in 2008 showed that 22 percent of voters identified themselves as liberals, 32 percent as conservatives and 44 percent as moderates. An electorate that is 76 percent moderate to conservative was not crying out for a move to the left.

Let that sentence wash over you long enough and we'll make you an honorary Hoosier.

Ladies and gentlemen: this is a man who was elected Governor of Indiana as a Legacy pledge, who came out on election night to announce his admiration for Ronald Reagan, and who didn't take it back 24 hours later when the bright light of a leafless dawn hit him right in the Dom Perignon* hangover. He's been dining at the taxpayer trough his entire adult life; he's amassed "campaign" funds estimated at between $11-13 million, and his wife pulls down the GDP of Tonga annually for her expertise in directing pharmaceutical companies. No one can point you to a single thing Evan Bayh has done in twenty years, and now he's taking early retirement, better fixed than a Hall of Fame shortstop whose career spanned the same decades. Two terms in the Senate, and all he ever did was make sure he could collect campaign contributions for reading fucking exit polls.
We also overreached by focusing on health care rather than job creation during a severe recession. It was a noble aspiration, but $1 trillion in new spending and a major entitlement expansion are best attempted when the Treasury is flush and the economy strong, hardly our situation today.

Unlike back in '99, when the Bayh Universal Healthcare Initiative Bill passed by acclamation.
And we were too deferential to our most zealous supporters. During election season, Congress sought to placate those on the extreme left and motivate the base — but that meant that our final efforts before the election focused on trying to allow gays in the military, change our immigration system and repeal the George W. Bush-era tax cuts. These are legitimate issues but unlikely to resonate with moderate swing voters in a season of economic discontent.

Jesus Fuck; I don't think I need to remind anybody that the main reason it took until 2010 to deal with this collection of Republican Talking Points was that 2009 was given over to placating the likes of Evan Bayh on the serious, morally-correct and economically-wise matter of reforming our healthcare system, nor that he's one of the main reasons it couldn't be done unless the insurance companies wrote the bill. Gays in the military? Kinda sorta being not totally opposed to the idea, provided they're not Too Gay, is a recipe for election disaster? Enshrining the Bush Tax Cuts for all but the wealthiest 2% of Americans is political suicide? Then, forgive me: when th' fuck will it be time for these "legitimate issues" and "noble aspirations"? When they no longer appeal to the Evil Left? Once the Republicans have returned us to economic good times? When that 2%'s the only people left who can afford your wife's patent medicines?

Christ, what's wrong with Democrats? How many fucking times a day do you look in the mirror, Senator?


___________

* intended as a paragon of Knowing the price of Everything and the Value of Nothing, not as an endorsement of the most over-priced brand name on the champagne, or any other market, period. Buy two bottles of Veuve Cliquot. Buy one bottle of Krug if you want to show off.



Monday, November 1

I Didn't Say Tea. I Said Me.

Jacob Weisberg, "Faking Right: How the Republican Congress will abandon Tea Party ideas and legislate toward the center." October 30

SHORTER Ross Douthat, at least The Part I Could See From Clicking the Link, Since After I Began Reading I Refused To Scroll Down:

The history of domestic politics in the US begins precisely at the point where I became aware of it.

Why I refused to scroll down:

• Douthat defines Liberalism, as in "America became more liberal from the 1990s to 2008" as "supporting government spending and extending sympathy to the poor", with a minor in gay marriage, climate change, and universal health care.

• He seems somehow to've missed what his own people were up to during the Clinton Blowjob administration.

• He suggests that liberalism grew during this period because brown people, white harlots, and Satanists outbred decent White Americans. Actually, I'd've read the whole thing if it promised to expound on this idea. I'll buy a goddam book on the subject, if only he'll write it. Hell, it's the book the man was born to write, unless he suffers an attack of debilitating honesty in middle age. Alas, under the circumstances, it was obviously not to be. Much like that future honesty.

• He uses "unchurched". This one is in part personal: during the 70s and 80s the Indianapolis Racist Beacon employed a series of psychotic fundamentalists as Staff Religion Writer; the last one eventually became a regular columnist who used "unchurched" the way another woman might use Kleenex. Now, a man my age, raised a Midwestern Protestant, with a black humorist's taste for doctrinal debate and a long history of watching Crack-of-Sunday-Dawn religious teevee programs while the drugs wore off--back when religious teevee programming was not a 24-hour-a-day phenomenon--understands three things about the term: 1) it's a theological argument, and not a good one, disguised as a sociological term, and not well-disguised, either, and it's used only by people who miss both points; 2) it's actually less about theology and more about the size of the Collection; and 3) in context it means "heathen"; on the Op-Ed pages it means "I'm too cowardly to admit my dogmatic condemnation of 98% of the world's population, but too metaphysically self-assured to hide it for long."

It's a measure of how much the clueless urbanites of the Times pander to their notion of Jesus-besotted Middle America that the term isn't prohibited by the style book.

ANYWAY, the casual observer has noted how, in recent days, Tea Bagging Triumphalism has begun to be tempered with the preventative castor oil dose of Hey, We Didn't Really Mean It. This is primarily the call of the professionally moderate Republican, who's been subjected to such G forces since 2000 that we should probably forgive him everything but his Republicanism and supposed moderation. [Anthropology note: fans of the seemingly interminable attempt to categorize how Man differs from The Animals--interminable because the perfectly reasonable "He's so much worse" is deemed insufficient--might want to consider that our clueless marginal males keep up their hopeful territorial whistling through late autumn, not early spring.] The Weisberg piece is a suitable example:
While [the "new" Republican leadership]'ll never discuss this problem honestly, indications point in the latter direction. That is, the GOP's congressional leadership will feint right while legislating closer to the center.

The center of what, exactly? (And I don't mean this as an argument about the Overton Window, though, the God of the Unchurched knows, it'd be nice to see one of these punditasters--not Douthat; we're disinclined to believe in miracles--acknowledge which way it's been traveling these past few decades, though that would be like expecting them to admit the iPhone does not exist because of their own intellectual superiority.) Instead, let's try looking at this problem (To Teabag or Not to Teabag) without the accompaniment of the Pep Band of Desperation.

As 2009 dawned, Republicans found themselves in danger of losing control of the actual mechanism of government for the first time since Nixon's Silent Majority speech. Of course, they needn't have worried, since, as Oscar noted, their choice of enemy was superb. With a real historical Congress, genuine leadership from the White House and some cooperation in the Senate, the real source of partisan madness and the gridlock of idiots could have been put behind us. I suppose it's fair to note that their are wide swatches of the country, including the one where I sit, where "Democrat" doesn't mean what it does to the headline writers and Slate byliners, but still: it's been that way for forty years; the tone-deafness of the Democratic leadership on this, and the whole "post-partisan" shit, was inexcusable. Inexplicable, in fact.

So the Republicans did their dilatory best, and Democrats, as usual, didn't make them pay. Then their bumper-sticker mojo started working again, and Bailouts--both the program and the result of the Bush administration--got blamed on the Democrats, and a President still convinced in middle age, somehow, that reason and reasonableness are trumps. In about as long as it took him to try to explain away Candidate Obama's professed admiration for the Great Communicator, he was being tarred with the most extreme reckonings of the cost of national health care, and by the same people who signed blank check after blank check for Iraq. And national Republicans were all, suddenly, Teabagging libertarians, instead of Taxcut-and-Spenders.

So leave us note, now, that one may see the choice facing the "New" Republican leadership as between fulfilling election promises and charting a "sensible" "centrist" choice (and vote for the latter). One may, I say; there's ample psychic stores of stupidity and cynicism to power it. I can't say I see anything else to recommend it. The House GOP has been a collection of Hotheads since the late 70s. Granted they, like their socialist counterparts, know who really pulls the strings, but assuming, for example, that they can avoid proposing Bigger than Bush Tax Cuts, the repeal of healthcare, or that they can pass a budget which is not balanced without attracting all sorts of attention is just wishy-washy wishful thinking. I am neither young, naive, nor brain-damaged enough to believe there's some massive, grassroots movement of non-aligned political scientists out there waiting to hold the Republicans to the same standards they hold the Socialists. But it's going to come up; that's the reason for the whole eleventh-hour retrenchment thing.
The choice is between a Ronald Reagan strategy and a Newt Gingrich strategy. Reagan, who first rode a new conservative movement to the presidency in 1980, was a master of the right fake. After one brief and disastrous attempt to reduce Social Security spending in 1981, Reagan never seriously challenged federal spending again. But Reagan sounded so convincing in his rhetorical flights that most conservatives and liberals walk around today thinking that he cut government.

Jesus Fuck, what Reagan Actually Did with the federal budget, and the deficit, in contradistinction to what he campaigned on for sixteen years, is the first goddam tenet of anti-"conservatism". Who do you talk to, Weisberg?

By the way, kiddo: the line at the time was "But he slowed down the rate of growth of government!" which, along with substituting "revenue enhancement" for "tax increase", was the thing I admired most about the Reagan presidency. The absurdist humor.
President George W. Bush followed this same model, humoring the base while letting government expand.

Once again, we hate to intrude with some reality, but this idea that George W. Bush broke the Federal bank via his compassion is not exactly what you call accurate. That, as we will note a moment from now about Newt, the program was Cut Taxes Now, Delay Program Cuts for Later, presumably when this Enlightened GOP Supermajority has been permanently installed. The idea that incontinent Defense spending somehow doesn't count as spending--it's the major portion of the national debt, and the interest on paying it off is the major drain on credit--might win elections, but it doesn't budge the reality an inch.
After Gingrich became speaker of the House in 1994, he was much more literal-minded. He and the Contract with America Republicans made the terrible mistake of taking their own anti-government rhetoric seriously and thinking they had a mandate to implement it. They proposed a budget that really would have slashed federal spending on Medicare, Medicaid, education, and the environment.

Well, again, it was Tax Cuts Now, Budget Cuts When It's Someone Else's Fault. That's rhetorical excess, not ideological purity.
A recent Wall Street Journal article suggested that the future leaders of a Republican House remember Gingrich's mistake and intend to avoid repeating it. The House candidates most likely to win are experienced politicians who understand they're being handed a gift, not a mandate. They don't think working with Democrats is evil. On the big picture tax and budget issues, they plan compromise with President Obama.

Well, if the Wall Street Journal says so…

Listen, let's just turn all the cards over, panel, shall we? It's all a Lie, Mr. Weisberg. That's not partisanship, it's cold hard facts. You can convince people of a Lie--it's clear that in this culture you can sell 'em the same old Lie so long as every couple of years you spruce up the wrapper--but you can't change facts. Tax cuts reduce government revenues. Defense spending + veterans benefits + the cost of retiring the debt for those two =60% of the Budget. You have to eliminate all other spending to balance the Budget and reduce taxes to the None Whatsoever that's the Teabag rallying point. Of course the Journal, of course sad-sack apologists like yourself assure us the "New" Republicans will be more Reagan than Gingrich. But the facts is, there wasn't a dime's worth of difference. The fact is not that Reagan "feinted" right, but that his rhetoric, like Gingrich's a half-decade later, collided with reality and lost. Assuming a different result this time is just fucking insanity, aka, the Republican platform.