Monday, January 31

Kids Today

Kevin "America's One-Time Next Great Pundit and One-Time Mr. Michelle Rhee" Huffman, "A Rosa Parks moment for education". January 31

I WAS having such a good weekend I figured I'd better check out the Spontaneous Student Uprising to Draft Mitch Daniels I'd heard so much about. One embarrassing (and, really, is there any other kind?) and embarrassingly white YouTube video later I ran into this:
Who is Mitch Daniels?

Daniels is arguably the best Governor in America. In his first year leading Indiana, he transformed a $600 million deficit into a $370 million surplus. Daniels signed the Healthy Indiana Plan that expanded medical coverage to 132,000 uninsured people, passed an $870 million property tax cut, and directed Indiana — a state with 2 percent of the nation’s population — to account for 10 percent of America’s private sector job growth in 2009.

When you add his experience working in the White House, the U.S. Senate, as an executive of a respected policy think tank, and a major corporation, you can see why one pundit said that Daniels would make the best President of any Republican hopeful.

I am not even gonna say it (again). I just want to ask one thing: How did this budget miracle take place? Why, if Mitch has The Answer, aren't we doing that everywhere? Why isn't he explaining how? He doesn't even explain how he did it in Indiana. [Here's the short version, for the study-adverse: 1) Find a state where the legislature traditionally does little or no budget work in even-numbered (read: election) years. 2) Get elected. 3) Announce, loudly, that the difference between the projected budgetary requirements of two years previous and the real-world requirements of the present--which just happened to reflect the two years of the Bush II Jobless Recovery Part I, Mitch Daniels, Director--constitutes Deficit Spending! since "Standard Accounting Procedure in Republican and Democratic administrations" doesn't really have that Zing to it. 4) Find a Toll Road in your state. 5) Sell it to the same schnooks and crooks who bought the Chicago Skyway and now have no way of getting people on their private drive from the East except through you. 6) Announce, loudly, that the difference between the sale price of public property in your trust and the "deficit" "you" "inherited" represents your Big Brain at work. 7) Run for President.]

I mean 7) Be coy about running for President so a wholly spontaneous, grassroots initiative of college students concerned, above any and all other concerns, about The Deficit can form a fucking PAC to urge you to run. Th' hell happened to people over the last twenty-five years? You can't just open a free Facebook page without begging for tax-exempt contributions first?

I may be somewhat inured to these sorts of shenanigans, but I'm not going to get over the underlying willful stupidity in this lifetime:
Last week, 40-year-old Ohio mother Kelley Williams-Bolar was released after serving nine days in jail on a felony conviction for tampering with records. Williams-Bolar's offense? Lying about her address so her two daughters, zoned to the lousy Akron city schools, could attend better schools in the neighboring Copley-Fairlawn district.

Williams-Bolar has become a cause célèbre in a case that crosses traditional ideological bounds. African American activists are outraged, asking: Would a white mother face the same punishment for trying to get her kids a better education? (Answer: No.)

Meanwhile, conservatives view the case as evidence of the need for broader school choice. What does it say when parents' options are so limited that they commit felonies to avoid terrible schools? Commentator Kyle Olson and others across the political spectrum have called this "a Rosa Parks moment for education."

Yes, the entire span of the political spectrum: from a Townhall contributor with a right-wing educational "reform" foundation to a news reader on NPR, all the way to a couple of black people. All agree that the only way to improve public education is to throw in with the "conservative" forces which have been trying to destroy public education since 1956.
if you are poor, you're out of luck, subject to the generally anti-choice bureaucracy. Hoping to win the lottery into an open enrollment "choice" school in your district? Good luck. How about a high-performing charter school? Sure - if your state doesn't limit their numbers and funding like most states do. And vouchers? Hiss! You just touched a political third rail.

Williams-Bolar lived in subsidized housing and was trapped in a failed system. In a Kafkaesque twist, she was taking college-level courses to become a teacher herself - a dream she now will never realize as a convicted felon. It's America's version of the hungry man stealing bread to feed his family, only to have his hand cut off as punishment.

Y'know, here's the interesting thing, to me: We've been listening--and implementing--these solutions since before Mr. Huffman entered Swarthmore. As the "solution" to our "lousy schools" they're the Cup that never runs dry. But no one seems to mention that you can drink for thirty years and you're still thirsty.

There is no fucking set of circumstances under which Charter schools cease to be a Lucky Lotto deal. Indianapolis is creating Charters as fast as our Republican, or Republican-Democrat mayors can sign the papers; this hasn't changed the refrain about "failing schools" one bit. We've passed out vouchers in this country for a quarter century; if there was a single example of this making any difference it would've been repeated so often that by now we all knew it by heart. If the incontinently-deposited Charters in Indianapolis were performing any better than their public school counterparts there wouldn't be any discussion any more.

I don't know the particulars of Ohio's educational system. I don't know what made the actual "lousy school" Ms Williams-Bolar was supposed to send her children to so lousy, and I'm guessing nobody's eager to tell me. I won't condone nor condemn what she did, nor the way the Not Lousy suburban school district played hardball with her, from hiring a PI to demanding full tuition once she was caught.

Here's what I do know, and here's the one thing that's inescapable in this little morality play: Ms Williams-Bolar was trying to send her children to a fucking public school. Because the funding equation we enshrine, and the district lines we draw, are what make our poorest families send their children to our poorest schools. And the next time I hear someone from Teach for America offer a solution for that which doesn't sound like Mitch Daniels' Unexplained Miracle Touch will be the first time.

Friday, January 28

Thanks. A Lot.

David Brooks, "Mr. Hamilton and Mr. Burke: Being an Imaginary and Contentious Discussion of the Day's Events between two esteemed and noble Shades vying for the Hand of Mr. David Brooks, Esq." January 27

FIRST, somebody better fucking explain to me what God told Mike Pence, since otherwise the only honest explanation I have for his preferring to apply his inerrant Christian insight to Indiana, or as it's known in the Midwest, That Space Between Ohio and Illinois, rather than to the nation at large is that he's a lot less confident in private than he is in public. All other explanations involve large sums of money changing hands.

Mike Pence has considered himself a player on the national stage since he got to the House. This is something that happens to a lot of Indiana Representatives, and nearly all of our Senators. He's a cross-section of the Republican party. He's the perfect embodiment of fiscal "conservatism" and military profligacy wrapped in Jebus. He is not just what the Republican party wants, he is what it insists is the only way back to the City on the Hill. Mike Pence doesn't have political positions, or opinions; Mike Pence has The Answer. How can he give that up? What for? So Indiana can pass a 48 Hour Waiting Period, Plus Ultrasound, Plus Being Told That Fetuses Feel Pain, Plus Being Forced to Watch Other People's Sepia-Toned Home Movies Before You Can Get An Abortion bill? I mean, before we can pass another one? No, I don't want him as Governor, but in reality, after Mitch Daniels there's very little left to fuck up without declaring Outright Culture War, which these types have been too smart to do up to this point. The Indiana budget is FUBAR; you can't cut taxes because the only ones we have left pay your salary; six years of slashing education is going to show up in results at some point, not to mention that the Republican program is to fuck that up worse while we're at it; and if it comes to it you're only going to have Mitch Daniels to point a finger at. Losing fucking proposition unless your only concern is the lining of your own pockets. Christian know-it-alls really need to consider very carefully whether they want to step out front and try to run things, as opposed to wagging their fingers from the middle of the mob.

And, in case you're not from around these parts, consider that Lt. Governor Becky "Now Superfluous Y Chromosome" Skillman was shoved off the stage came down with that lifetime non-debilitating disease with no name or symptoms which took her out of the race right when Pence was making noises about running for Prez; consider Daniels' track record with exterminating threats before they occur; and consider the shitpot full of money he's sitting on, money which wants Palin on the sidelines, and doesn't want surrogate Palins popping up anywhere. With Pence gone it's Huckabee, Palin, or Not Christian Enough.

Two things: one, a week or two ago I heard some teevee blatherer talking about how "early" the President was indicating he'd be a candidate again; fuck, by this time in 2007 there were already twenty Republicans in the race, weren't there? The 2008 race began the minute they pulled the feeding tube from Terri Schiavo. The reason there aren't that many now is simple: the former Half-Term Governor of Alaska can obliterate any contender at any time at this point, Pence being the one exception, probably, because he's purer than she is. I think the logical conclusion we can draw from Pence dropping out is that the race now becomes an effort of the "fiscal" "conservatives" such as Daniels to raise enough slush to give Palin a lifetime non-debilitating disease with no name or symptoms, or another miracle pregnancy.

So I ain't in a great mood, and damned if Brooks doesn't choose just this moment to write an imaginary debate between 18th century cabbies, one of whom sounds like a Times intern trying to ape Montaigne without actually reading more than a paragraph, and the other which sounds like Milton Friedman. The "literate" consumer is supposed to understand that these represent the twin poles of Brooks' "principled" "moderate" "conservatism"; actual literates will, of course, just move on. I urge you to do so, in the strongest terms imaginable. I'm sorry. I already have a headache. Hamilton's 18th century neo-monarchist capitalism never confronted a smokestack, an interlocking directorate, a Ponzi scheme, a shortage of raw materials or a financial panic. Making him the mouthpiece of modern-day Teabag libertoonianism is, simply, too stupid for words.

Thursday, January 27

Evidence Of Life On Mars

Jonathan Martin, "Mitch Daniels: Heartthrob of the elites". No, really. January 22

THAT title (mine), meant to be sneeringly condescending, of course, yet reminds me that last week my Poor Wife and I watched NOVA scienceNOW! ("The PBS Series With The ShortingOUT CAPSLOCKkey!") which is narrated by the affable and charismatic NEIL deGrasse TYSON, co-host of The Daily Show. The episode was entitled "Can We Make It To Mars?" and, since "No" apparently would have left them 59:49 short they went with "If We Pretend We Could Make It To Mars, Can We Make It To Mars?" There may be something to be said for blurring the distinction between hopeless optimism and unfettered hallucination, but this wasn't it.

We never quite mentioned who it was who was paying for all these overripe Star Trek fanboys to Live The Dream of thinking up impossible space motors or developing the Thousand-Year Jeno's Pizza Roll. I guess maybe PBS is a little sensitive about that sort of thing. Even my Poor Wife, who, we can safely say, is more sanguine about this stuff than I, on the grounds that no one on this or any other habitable planet could be less sanguine about it than I, found the thing cloying after about twenty minutes. Columbus! Magellan! With enough luck, some day we'll manage to get a dozen humans to Mars with enough of them still alive to enjoy being stranded there and looking at rocks no one's ever seen. How many billions ya need?

You know, you never see health care presented that way, or education, or nutrition, or Social Security. Isn't it interesting how many trillions of actual dollars we spend perfecting "adult" versions of little boys' toys, and how easily the scam perpetrates itself? Maybe we need Freddy Freeclinic, the Healthcare Provider with Laser-Surgery Eyes, or Rick Rational, Social Security Administrator by Day, Living Wage Advocate by Night, Batteries not Included. Somebody call the Chinese.

Anyway, Brendan, who I thought was a friend of mine, launched that latest in the never-ending Daniels flackery my way a few days ago. It's from something called "Politico" which is some sort of internets deal, kind of a Slate with the amusing stuff--intentional or inadvertent--removed.

And this one is a pinnacle, of sorts, since it postulates Daniels as a great favorite of the Elites and Punditologically Adept, which is explained by recasting unexamined bullshit from those earlier right-wing publication fluffings as simple morality tales for children.
If pundits and columnists represented the GOP base, Mitch Daniels would be the odds-on favorite for the presidential nomination in 2012.

And as an added bonus, the aggregate IQ of the GOP base would rise .005%.
The Indiana governor has been showered with favorable coverage from political thinkers and analysts in recent months, most of which heaped praise on his thoughtful and principled approach to governing while celebrating his serious yet down-to-earth mien.

As my dear granny used to say, "Th' fuck talks like that?"
“Of all the Republicans talking about the deficit these days, Mitch Daniels, the governor of Indiana, has arguably the most credibility,” claimed The New York Times’ David Leonhardt in an Indianapolis-datelined economics column recently.

And which, as we noted in an Indianapolis-datelined turd in Leonhardt's Single Malt, reached that conclusion by avoiding all evidence to the contrary, including the billion-plus the state owes the Feds, plus interest and penalties. In fairness, Leonhardt stopped short of the full-on hard-on Daniels gives the Wall St. Journal and Rich Lowry and Steven Hayes at NRO. But he bought the image, which is a lot more important to Martin than that wonky details stuff.
Daniels is hardly the first presidential prospect to be greeted with bouquets from the cognoscenti as the Last Honest Man in politics.

Though it is possible he's the Most Dishonest Man to hold the title. Which probably says more about the cognoscenti than Daniels.
There is a long, bipartisan tradition of White House aspirants who play the truth-teller role and they almost invariably receive better reviews in print than at the polls.

Bruce Babbitt, Paul Tsongas, Ross Perot, John Anderson, Lamar Alexander and John McCain in 2000 all won plaudits from elites for their willingness to speak hard truths about the real problems facing the country rather than just pandering to the partisan rabble.

Ross Perot? Lamar Alexander? Can I just stop now?
Usually, as it is now, much of the admiration is rooted in the truth-teller’s focus on the looming fiscal iceberg and willingness to tell audiences what they don’t want to hear.

And, as it is now, none is rooted in the truth-teller actually telling the truth.
Better yet, the candidate pushes aside the divisive social issues that are thought to be non-negotiable with the party bases.

Daniels voiced such an idea fairly explicitly in a much-buzzed-about Weekly Standard profile last summer, calling for a “truce” in the culture wars so the political class can get down to the business of repairing the country’s finances.

Let us pause for a moment and ask--sure, it's not the first time--how exactly one gets to be an Elite Punditating Cognoscenti type while remaining utterly innocent of the fact that people running for public office try to position themselves by saying shit?

Here, again, is the deal: Big fucking deal. Daniels tells some guy at the Weekly Standard that he's more interested in repealing what's left of the New Deal than making useless and divisive attempts to inject Backwoods Jesus into every political issue. In return, what? I'm supposed to regard this as a guarantee? Because the Punditatin' Elites would never let him go back on his word? The Religious Right won't be vetting his Attorney General the way they have every Republican AG since Bush I? There won't be an immediate cut-off of aid money to any third-world country where any health-care provider mentions to a pregnant woman that abortion is legal in the United States? What? Absent Mitch Daniels' Presidential imprimatur, Snopes will run out of crackpot emails? The man never even defined where he intended to locate the back burner. He read some fucking political tea leaves, and said something that sounded like an uptrend.

He's not gonna out-Christian Sarah Palin, or Mike Huckabee, or Mike Pence. We all know it. He's kept the religious nuts in line, mostly, in Indiana--in fairness, they get the same Back of the Hand from the Republican party generally every legislative session (allowed to introduce bills in the strategy sessions, which die there), because they're fucking nuts. Recognition of this fact does not make you a moderate. And it wasn't long into Daniels Campaign Protective Coloration #2 that Mitch announced his "fifty-year" church membership, which is something I've never heard him mention before. If Mitch Fucking Daniels becomes the Republican nominee it'll be with the acquiescence of the Religious Right, not over its howling objections.
But it’s not just his policy outlook that titillates the elites. The diminutive Hoosier has nurtured a profile as a mature politician whose outlook extends beyond the next news cycle and whose demeanor exudes seriousness.

As David Broder wrote last fall: “[H]is record of accomplishment is dazzling.”

Okay. I do rest my case. Or rather, you just made it for me.
He went to all the right schools (Bachelors, with honors, at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School and a law degree, with honors, from Georgetown), learned at the knee of a political Wise Man (veteran Sen. Richard Lugar) headed up a think tank (Hudson Institute), was a top executive at a Fortune 500 company (Eli Lilly), and for two terms has been a governor, where, as the mandarins’ formulation goes, all the real policy innovations take place.

Alternately: from a fairly well-off family (paternal grandparents were Syrian immigrants); became weaselly faux-moderate Dick Lugar's butt boy while still in high school; suckled that teat for sixteen years; became president of the proto-neo-con and anti-environment Hudson Institute shortly after Indiana Republican government largesse convinced it to move to Indianapolis; left after three years to become Eli Lilly's Republican fixer; left after a decade to destroy the US economy for George W. Bush; left to become Governor of Indiana.

Granted, this beats hell out of Sarah Palin's c.v., but it doesn't exactly fill me with the Warm Glow of Guaranteed Open-Minded Moderation, somehow.
What makes Daniels different from, and potentially more formidable then, his truth-telling predecessors is that he’s not just The New York Times’ idea of the ideal Republican. The man known as The Blade during his tenure as Bush 43’s first OMB chief also has more traditional conservatives swooning.

I hate to be Johnny One-note here, but is there anyone on the planet other than Beltway insider Punditasters still referencing Bush 43 Nicknames as though they were badges of honor? While we're at it, is there anyone else who still says "Bush 43"?
“He’s a Reaganite who is not trapped in 1980s nostalgia,” wrote National Review editor Rich Lowry last year. “He’s a fiscal conservative who believes not just in limiting government, but in reforming it to address people’s everyday concerns; he’s a politician of principle who refuses to sell his program in off-puttingly partisan or ideological terms.

Well, he called 2006 Indiana House Democrats "car bombers" for refusing to agree with him, and then he told the rest of the state it was too backward to understand the perfection of his tiniest idea. But those are really terms of endearment in these parts.

So for "makes more traditional conservatives swoon" read "NRO, Weekly Standard, and WaPO flunkies agreed to blow him back when he looked like their best hope to avoid an "Abbot/Costello '12" ticket. Back when the Right was talking about "post-Reaganism". For twelve minutes. And for "politician of principle" well, just lie down until the fit passes.
The idea of a skilled manager who is passionate about ideas, can claim real policy accomplishments and speaks bluntly, but not bombastically, has thrilled influential conservatives like Will and Charles Krauthammer who see a Palin nomination as akin to a suicide pact.

Y'know, despite my estimation of the collective wit of George Eff Will and Charles Merkwürdigeliebe Krauthammer, it doesn't really surprise me that a Palin nomination would frighten 'em. Being thrilled by Mitch Daniels, on the other hand…

Wednesday, January 26

That Sputnik Moment Was The Problem, Bub.

shown actual size

OKAY, so it's time to admit that it's Public Education which is the failure, that Our Schools are just the bedsores the thing has developed from the inattention of mean-spirited and sadistic family members drooling over the old girl's money, and move on. It's failed, clearly. Nice idea. Successful in its day, the way grandma musta looked hot in that neck-to-ankle swimsuit back before Radio. But fatally flawed. There's no money in Communism *, and Education seeks to make people smarter. People do not take kindly to this.

In fact, as we clearly see, people run screaming in the other direction. When I was a lad the Horoscope was a daily feature in the Indianapolis Anti-Fluoridationist. It was buried somewhere; it came with 19th century graphics, and you followed a number code to read your personalized message, which is what drew my seven-year-old self; I remember it taking about a year before I could read all twelve messages by looking at the pile of words, rather than following the code. It was a dumbshit amusement. This was in the day when computers were the size of a house, plate tectonics was scoffed at, and Velcro was for plants. Today, you may have noticed, astrology is fucking news. What's the point of education? At the twenty-minute mark of Monday night's NBC News With Brian Williams' Suit he read the story of Oprah's imaginary sister. Let's leave alone the woman's public relationship with Honesty over the years; Jesus Fucking Christ, if I wanted Oprah news I think I could find it. Lemme know when she cures cancer. Or books bin Laden.

Now, I'm not saying that the President's Sputnik reference wasn't a fairly slick political move, or what must've seemed like a slick political move, grading on a Slick Political Move scale, which is to say bullshit in pursuit of self-aggrandizement at the expense of your fellows. Let's hit Republicans right in the American Exceptionalism! Boy, that'll mean they have to adjust their Budget Cutting Rhetoric to reflect their easy platitudes!

Listen, if there are educated men out there who still believe that Pointing Out Their Total Fucking Cognitive Dissonance has any effect on the Republican party then there's simply no point in educating anyone.

The American government--hell, every American with a subscription to Popular Mechanics--knew that Sputnik was a gimmick. Same as we fucking knew twenty years later that the Soviets were bankrupt. Nobody let on, because panic is good for business. At least the Defense business.

This is the goddam fucking hell of it, Mr. President: we came out of WWII as the only major power whose hair was still in place. Global economic hegemony, aside from our erstwhile Allies the other side of the Dnieper. So, of course, we started a religious war with them--because otherwise our own religious paranoids would have voted Republican--and set about gobbling up all we could everywhere else, rather than establishing sustainable growth patterns. This is known as the genius of capitalism.

The program started cracking in the late 50s, about the time Sputnik launched. Death from Above! Nukes on the Moon! Our response, sir, was to use this to justify continuing "Defense" expenditures at WWII levels in perpetuity. This was back, of course, when you actually had to justify that sort of thing. Quaint, really.

What did we get out of it, besides Tang, a multi-billion-dollar Space War Agency with nowhere to go now, and massive debt? This is the problem, sir. The same way all those qualities you admire in Ronald Reagan are the problem. We can't go on peddling this shit to ourselves. We can't go on letting "does it make money for Congressmen and GE?" be a final arbiter. That's the goddam thing that has to stop. American Exceptionalism is the fucking reason America is no longer exceptional. I sympathize with your plight. No one realizes more than I that the fight was given up decades before you came around. But then, I didn't ask you to run for President. And this shit ain't helpin'.

* Where is A. Whitney Brown?

Monday, January 24

Back Home Again

Now is the winter of our discombobulation
Made ice fog by the smoke machines of Channel 8.

PREVIOUSLY on Bats Left Throws Right: Forty years of pretending its congenital Nixonian road rage is "just a nervous tic", and that dementia was a condition which beset Ronald "Gipper" Reagan only later in life, has led to a modern Republican party in which both Mitch Daniels and Mike Pence could be seen as viable Presidential material by a percentage of its base which exceeds the sampling error; forty years of explaining how we Actually Won in Vietnam but Lost on CBS, and pretending it is "basically okay with" racial equality has resulted in a Republican base which will buy, and eat, any shit the Brand shovels in a bag; forty years of running from the rhetorical swordsmanship of Spiro Agnew leaves that portion of the mass-market media which isn't completely in the bag with the social and analytical skills of the whipped dog.

And as we've mentioned before, it's possible that there's no better place to see the results, unvarnished, than ringside at the nightly Attempted Teleprompter Reading on a local, mid-sized market channel in a Hopelessly Red State such as, well, my own. It's like looking at the results of thirty years of Reaganism by checking The locals lack the talent, the awareness, and the consciousness required to make this stuff deniable, let alone plausibly deniable. A pinnacle, or nadir, of sorts (records were made to be broken!) was reached last week when Channel 8 featured back-to-back performances by former Marion County Prosecutor and currently unindicted co-culprit Carl "Facetime" Brizzi; Brizzi was so compromised by his butt-buddy and chief campaign backer Tim Durham's Ponzi dealings that he refused to run for reelection last year. His replacement is a Democrat, which is the reason we keep Democrats around in these parts, and he fulfilled a campaign promise to refile the drunk-driving charges against IMPD Officer David Brisard, charges Brizzi had dropped without a hearing because when police finally got around to testing Brisard's BAC (and got a .19, two hours later) the draw was performed by a technician who might not be eligible to do so under one reading of a revised state law. (Brizzi, who was best known in these parts for his myomorphic nose for poon and television cameras, is currently under professional investigation for his using all that preening time to, among other things, prejudice cases pre-trial. So it's not like Channel 8 has any reason to steer clear of him at this late date.)

Of course 8 can't really be expected to try, anymore; its Statehouse man Jim "The Dean (Broder) of Indiana Political Reporters" Shella gave up pretending sometime during the Bush administration, and now confines himself to trying to shape Mitch Daniels' talking points into an inverted pyramid, just from force of habit. Here's Shella's three big stories of the week:

• Mitch Daniels' Super Colossal Brain singes Illinois, by reacting to its recent income tax increase by inviting Illinois businesses to relocate to Indiana.

• Mike Pence, winner of a straw poll in Iowa, currently running even with Daniels in New Hampshire despite five minutes, compared to five years, as a candidate, and the object of a seeming groundswell of interest in his economic/religious credentials, will no doubt run for Governor.

• Dick Lugar is going to be challenged in the 2012 primaries by the awesome power of 150 Teabaggers.

Okay, just to shag the fungo first: anybody's who's spent five minutes watching Indiana politics knows Dick Lugar could switch from Republican to NAMBLA and still win a twenty-second term. It's one thing to puff this sort of shit up to the level of news filler; it's quite another to say "Lugar is prepping for a fight" because he's holding a fundraiser.

As for Pence, well, again, I have no idea what the man will do. But there's no question that a Pence presidential run would hit Daniels in the solar plexus; there's no question that Pence is a better match with the Republican rank and file, who are the people who vote in primaries, being a sort of Mike Huckabee without the tax increase, or Sarah Palin without the trailer; and there's no question that wherever "Governor" came from it wasn't Pence's mouth. Shella--the longtime host of a local PBS program White People Laugh At Each Other's Jokes About Inside Indiana Politics,--asked his panel this week whether Pence's speech about Federalism didn't mean he was definitely running for Governor. Funny how Pence giving up the #3 position in House Republican leadership didn't have any deeper meaning.

But mostly it's been a week of slightly frostbitten, somewhat strangled (there's really no other kind on the Prairie) mirth at the impending war with Illinois Daniels sparked because he saw a moment's self-aggrandizement in it. Illinois, which has a two-party system, voted to raise taxes for the next few years to deal with its deficit. Indiana, which doesn't, will deal with its own deficit the way it has ever since Daniels' original plan to--what was it, now? oh, yeah--temporarily raise taxes to reduce its deficit was shot more fulla holes than the Moran Gang, and in less time, too: it will slash education spending, raise taxes that don't count as taxes, and fob the rest off on local government, then declare another miracle surplus.

The goddam petulant child routine would have been a hoot on some sensible planet. Right after the vote Daniels was urging disaffected businesses to relocate in Indiana (to someone who looks down on Daniels--yes, it's a large club--his little neener neener had the distinct aroma of Speech I Used To Win the Lovely Cheri-with-an-i Back for Marriage #2). By week two we're spending taxpayer dollars on ad space to encourage just that. Never mind, of course, that for the first six years of his administration Indiana's income and corporate taxes were actually higher than Illinois'; never mind that our base sales tax is 17% higher, thanks to the Daniels' increase. Never mind that this flood of new businesses is coming from Illinois, not Indonesia, and might thus be expected to bring along all their employees, rather than create jobs for any of the 10% of Hoosiers who don't have one.

Of course if they promise new jobs that counts in Indiana. The one guy doing so was the owner of Jimmy John's Sandwich Joint Franchisers and Labor Intimidators, Jimmy John Liautaud, who's so angry about the Illinois tax increase he's planning to move--to Florida. And suddenly add "about 80" employees to his staff of "about 100", as, you know, a Freedom Dividend. Again, it's one thing to drag this dickwad part of the story; it's quite another to swallow him whole.

Friday, January 21

Dave, Obsequies Are Supposed To Contain An Infusion Of Poppy, Not A Hot Shot Of Heroin

David Brooks, "A Most Valuable Democrat". January 20

LEAVE us begin with Brendan's mention of Brooks' howler, here, since I saw it before I got around to reading the column:
Lieberman played an important role in saving Bill Clinton from impeachment. As momentum for impeachment was growing, Lieberman gave a crucial speech on the Senate floor that scolded Clinton for his behavior but resolutely opposed removing him from office.

Now, I like to think that I'm not altogether unreasonable, and that it's the circumstances of our politics since 1946 which are at least partly responsible for my habitual irascibility. It's likely that the vast majority of Americans could confuse "impeachment" with "conviction by the Senate". It's not a hanging offense, even for someone with a kiosk on the Times' Op-Ed pages. But then Brooks uses it twice, and the second time should have reminded him. I suspect that thoughts of Bill Clinton's impeachment are to Brooks what thoughts of Uschi Obermaier were to my fifteen-year-old self. Let's step over the sticky spot on the floor and move on.

But not far; even correcting for the junior-high civics mistake, Brooks is full of it. Conviction by the Senate was already a dead letter before the House began selecting the most blatant public hypocrites it could find for its Management Team. The only thing Holy Joe's speech did was give aid and comfort to Congressional Republicans who were looking for a place to hide. Which, no doubt, is why it's remembered so fondly, if fuzzily, by Mr. Brooks.

Okay, it did one other thing: it made Lieberman a national figure, in the stick-figure cartoon fashion which is most effective: he's Moral! He's Religious! He Takes A Stand!

We have a regular theme around here, which runs something like this: When do you have to stop pretending this shit is a brave, insightful, hard-headed response to the Intractable Power of Washington, and start admitting that it's the way we've done business for forty years now, and a big reason why we're so Fucked? As in, when does School Reform admit we've been "reforming" public schools since Back to Basics became the first movement to piggyback on the racism and anti-fluoridationism of the Fifties? When does the Republican party--which managed to tie up the signature legislation of a popular President despite a fillibuster-proof Senate--have to stop playing Outsider? When does Reaganism get the blame for the greased-rail economic roller coaster ride that followed, or incontinent tax-cutting for the wealthy face the unemployment rate?

And when does the notion of the Pore Forlorn Centrist Democrat Beset By the Ravening Leftist Mob get laughed out of court?
These policy makers are judging Lieberman by the criteria Max Weber called the “ethic of responsibility” — who will produce the best consequences. Some of the activists are judging him by what Weber called an “ethic of intention” — who has the purest and most uncompromising heart.

Okay, first: this construction has officially done whatever memes do to indicate the completion of a slide into risible self-parody now that Jump the Shark has Jumped the Shark. Second, it ain't as though this doesn't happen on the Right with considerably less provocation: they're still barking at Dick Fucking Lugar here because he voted for Sotomayor, and Mr. Brooks himself is the object of scorn from his party's "purists", which hasn't exactly derailed his career.

But mostly there's this:
In the end, it wasn’t even close. Forty-two Democratic senators voted to let Lieberman keep his chairmanship. Thirteen voted against.

As Ezra Klein of The Washington Post noted recently, this turned out to be one of the most consequential decisions Obama and Reid made. If Lieberman had not been welcomed back by the Democrats, there might not have been a 60th vote for health care reform, and it would have failed.

Which seems to suggest, for starters, that Lieberman's vaunted, fearless, call-'em-as-I-see-'em 90% liberal independence is dependent on what's in it for him.

But of course that's not the case (or, rather, it's not the explanation); what Democrats got in return for having placated the inexplicably-reelected Lieberman was one more Cloakroom sneak thief who helped derail Single Payer for the sake of insurance companies. Funny how Holy Joe's liberal moral conscience coincided with that.

And funny, also, how it dragged the process into a second year, demanded more complexity, and handed the defenders of corporate interests narrowly defined enough cobblestones to break every window in the joint. Only I'm not laughing. If Biden, Reid, and Kerry really imagine this is responsible action, and aren't just saying nice things at Lieberman's stagy pre-funeral, then they're bigger idiots than I imagine. And I didn't imagine they could be.

Let's can the shit. It's real easy to praise the compromisers, quislings, and principled double-dealers of the other party. Especially when your own can be counted on to march in lockstep toward your abiding, single-issue concern with a marginal tax rate of zero for the Elect. If the Democratic party really was run by its activists, those pie-in-the-sky, never satisfied, politically benighted bloggers, there wouldn't have been any negotiations over Joe Lieberman's chairmanships. Because he'd have been on his ass in 2006.

For fuck's sake, Mr. Brooks: people on the Left in this country get more pushback on their ideas in the average week than you've had since you first touched Milton Friedman's hem. Don't tell me about consequences; I've watched the consequences of Democratic appeasement since 1972. I'd just like to try something different, for once, not only because we're right, but just to see what it might feel like.
There’s a theory going around that Lieberman was embittered by the trauma of 2006 when Democratic primary voters in Connecticut defeated him because of his support for the Iraq war. There’s little evidence to validate this.

I think it's more that the evidence is confused; Lieberman was already so embittered by the WTF reaction to Gore nominating him for Veep, and the subsequent, wholly accurate criticism of his pathetic performance on the campaign trail, that you can't really figure out which footprints belong to which episode.
Lieberman has always sat crossways between the two parties and has often served as a convenient bridge, infuriating Democrats, but then serving the party’s interests at important moments.

For cryin' out loud. Fucking Senate Democrats have more bridges to the other side than Königsberg does.

Thursday, January 20

This Post Covers Topics Including Joe Lieberman And Buttsex. Sensitive Readers May Wish To Avoid The Lieberman.

FIRST, particularly gratifying comments yesterday, of which we will repeat K. Willow's:
Ms. Maddow speaks as if she's still on Radio, and suspects her signal is weak.

and mention the business others raise about rapidity of speech. Local Channel 13's suave weatherman Chris Wright is a noteworthy example, or offender: the traces of his Mid-South African-American dialect--where words seem to be released in phonetic bubbles from just underwater, though not as sluggishly as in the Deep South--have been aerated at Jacuzzi Jet speed, evidently by professional training, and that likely with an eye, or ear, to either talking-up vocal music (blabbing over musical intros right until the vocal starts) or cramming as many commercials into a time slot as possible. At any rate, he's far from alone. With the weather it's no big deal, since if you miss something you can wait five minutes until they go over it all again. But 13's weatherman is also traditionally the host of the local High School Quiz Bowl show, where it has the effect of someone shouting calculus problems at you from the window of a passing Buick.

So Roy aims us at the Ol' Perfesser doing weird things with his mouth, mostly by repeating the weird, pat, and weirdly pat Republican Anti-Sex Talking Points of the last half-century. And by ricochet to this, the most recent in a series of semi-memoirs in which the argument appears to run as follows: 1) There is an enormous amount of Porn out there, something the Reader may not be aware of, and it may be linked to people, generally males, but occasionally Wild Going Girls, behaving in certain ways, often sexual; 2) The fact that this is transmitted via the internet, or videophone, makes it different than earlier forms of Porn, because Technology; and 3) the problem really can be traced to Ur-Feminists not speaking out about Porn and the Internets, and instead focusing on stupid old-fashioned ideas like marriage and patriarchy.
Male desire is not a malleable entity that can be constructed through politics, language, or media. Sexuality is not neutral. A warring dynamic based on power and subjugation has always existed between men and women, and the egalitarian view of sex, with its utopian pretensions, offers little insight into the typical male psyche. Internet porn, on the other hand, shows us an unvarnished (albeit partial) view of male sexuality as an often dark force streaked with aggression. The Internet has created a perfect market of buyers and sellers (with the sellers increasingly proffering their goods gratis) that provides what people—overwhelmingly males (who make up two-thirds of all porn viewers)—want to see or do.

Okay, a couple things here. First, no one despairs of the crappy comic-book cinema tastes of the past thirty years more than I, but I find it to be an artifact of mass-market capitalism, not a perfect condemnation of every last mind on the planet. Second, why do we so often run into the critique--or simple dismissal--of "Sixties egalitarianism" as hopelessly utopian (and pretentious!) in a piece whose sole reason for tree killing, or forced electron reorganization, is to complain about how things are? The fucking Age of Aquarius (has that been shifted now, by the way?) was on the musical goddam stage, and half the audience was just there to see chicks naked. The women I knew in the 70s, the ones who'd read the first edition of Our Bodies Ourselves, (and that was most of 'em) weren't exactly sanguine about the prospects. In fact, half of 'em were damned near suicidal. I'll grant you that, for a brief moment or two, people considerably closer to either ocean than we in the Midwest are were inclined to trendy communal living. Here we looked on it with slightly less enthusiasm than we had for macramé and the peasant sleeves/leather jerkin look for men. Again, please: do not base an entire socio-economic worldview on a Donovan album. Or Mad Men.

As for the "reactionary political correctness of the 1990s" and its disastrous view of gender politics, is there any sense at all in which this isn't just a facile construction meant to make your later ratiocination look wise? "Two generations of women, my own included, soared into the game with the justifiable expectations of not only earning the same wage as a guy, but also inhabiting the sexual arena the way a man does." Who was teaching you the latter? Why'd you buy it in the first place? Listen, being Sadder but Wiser just as the foggy amorphous Island of Middle Age comes into view is not a condition that's been forced on you by the malefactors of a previous age. They were just as mazed by things as you are, and just hoping to make sense of them as best they could. The business of blaming the Older Generation for the woes of the world, Weltschmerz, or the inability to achieve orgasm is probably as old as the invention of adolescence. But it's just recently that it's taken to analyzing a period in the past by watching teevee programs set in it.

Unless this really is your own story, huh? Please tell me it isn't.
Never was this made plainer to me than during a one-night stand with a man I had actually known for quite a while.

Thanks for sharing. Now we all get to get fucked.
A polite, educated fellow with a beautiful Lower East Side apartment

Y'know, in my forty-some years of spending the small details of my sexual adventures on unsuspecting strangers I have never thought to begin one with a description of the guest towels.
invited me to a perfunctory dinner right after his long-term girlfriend had left him. We quickly progressed to his bed, and things did not go well. He couldn’t stay aroused. Over the course of the tryst, I trotted out every parlor trick and sexual persona I knew. I was coquettish then submissive, vocal then silent, aggressive then downright commandeering; in a moment of exasperation, he asked if we could have anal sex. I asked why, seeing as how any straight man who has had experience with anal sex knows that it’s a big production and usually has a lot of false starts and abrupt stops. He answered, almost without thought, “Because that’s the only thing that will make you uncomfortable.” This was, perhaps, the greatest moment of sexual honesty I’ve ever experienced—and without hesitation, I complied. This encounter proves an unpleasant fact that does not fit the feminist script on sexuality: pleasure and displeasure wrap around each other like two snakes.

Look, I hate to break this to you, little sister, but even back in my, pre-VCR, day, the ol' "I need to violate you philosophically" routine worked at least 1 time out of 3. Even in crappy student apartments.

Which brings us to Joe Lieberman; his histrionic pre-resignation speech was a familiar one to any of us who'd listened to Evan Bayh's last spring, though I don't remember Bayh having his publicist spread the word three days in advance in the hope that someone might talk him out of it. Of Lieberman, "Goodbye, already" is already one too many words, but I enjoyed the talk he had with Jennifer Fucking Rubin:
Do the attacks from the left get to him? He said, "It doesn't discourage me, but it does dismay me." He continued, "There is such an ideological orthodoxy among Democrats that if you're not there 100 percent of the time, you're not 'there.'"

Do we not now posses the technology to identify dementia in its early stages? And do we even need it in this case?

Tuesday, January 18

Olio: Vowel Sounds Are The Horrible Mutated Amphibian Epidemic Of Our Mental Ecosystem Edition

• "This is the first we've heard of it."

--Mike "Choirboy" Pence, yesterday, responding to the question of a reporter who accompanied the cameraman who'd been taping him on the dais at some sort of Dr. King Was Actually A Conservative Day function or other. Pence was responding to a question about yesterday's announcement of a national Pence for President Petition Drive. We were reminded of nothing so much as the surprise Courtney Cox displayed when she was spontaneously selected to dance with Bruce Springsteen.

(He's going to consider it, humbly. Just in case you'd started holding your breath already.)

• Indianapolis Star*: Lugar votes party line less often these days.

Yeah, he's down from 91, as a freshman, to 84; at this rate he'll be an actual moderate in 2096.

If you'd like to know what's changed in the years since he was Nixon's Favorite Mayor, let's let one of the local Teabaggers whose impotent challenge Lugar might face in 2012's primaries give you the scoop:

Hoosier Patriots co-founder Greg Fettig, who is among those working to mount a primary challenge to Lugar in 2012, said it's specific votes Lugar has taken that concern him, not how often Lugar has voted with the party overall. Fettig, whose group is aligned with the tea party movement, cited Lugar's votes to ratify a nuclear weapons treaty, to confirm Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court, and to help some illegal immigrants who came here as children obtain a path to citizenship.

"I think he's been in Washington, D.C., too long," Fettig said. "When you've been inside the Beltway all those years, you get infected by the liberalism that's prevalent in Washington."
• I walked through the room where my Poor Wife had local teevee news playing four times this AM, and three times (story, twice, teaser once) heard the remote reporter tell me a victim was shot in the had.

Is this the same everywhere, now? Where does it even come from? It's not a regional accent. As far as I can tell it's nothing but a second-generation Clueless impression. It's like turning on your teevee and finding that everyone born between 1972 and 1985 is speaking Scouse.

It's not the speech itself, of course. Although I find it about as unpleasant as an American accent can get, I can't think of any set of circumstances which would require me to listen to, let alone care, how Young Urban Careerists talk in real life. It's the fact of its professional deployment that's troubling. It's coupled--inevitably--with an assault on the pore unfortunate -ing form which, apparently at random, turns the ending to ANG or EEEN as though the speaker had been subjected to electroshock therapy designed to eliminate the dropped G and wound up with a vocal tic and the attitude of the whipped dog. God, if it only ended there! instead of hitching that to the Incontinent Mono-stress/War on Schwa business which produces sentences like:


before putting their hads down on their dasks, presumably. Except to this is added the Clueless Permanent Interrogative, so it comes out:


Which, first, I find damn near unlistenable, even if these people were imparting information I needed, which they aren't. It makes me wonder how they got through high school, let alone earning a major in Personality at some four-year college. When the Republican party stops hating teachers long enough to use this, and reality teevee, as evidence that public education is a dismal failure this blog will lurch rightward so fast you and your chaise lounge will be in the drink before you know what hit ya.

But there's more, for me, and maybe worse: name a profession that's more image conscious. I'm guessing that the lowliest cub reporter on local teevee is given his or her own image consultant at signing. I doubt there's a tie, or a hat, seen on-air that hasn't been vetted; I'd bet that 90% read at least one self-help book per month (and that 50% of those read nothing else). But the speech pattern isn't just wrong, or ersatz, it's mealy and benighted. It takes sides in the Great Anti-Intellectualism Debate in this country (assuming we're still having one, and it's not just a few of us yelling at the now-ex-girlfriend as she drives off for good) without admitting it does so. People who are paid to read English are no longer required to make a reasonable attempt to do so properly. How much less of an effort do they make to understand the shit they try to sound out? Who's going to say an administration should be honest, a legislature accurate, or a general forthright when he makes a tidy living for having substituted hair care for comprehension?

• At some point over the weekend I caught the locals teasing their upcoming two-minutes-per-hour national and international news coverage:

"Coming up at Six, the Republican leadership is finding it difficult to deal with the enormous Federal deficit."

Which I guess is intended to convey "It's not as easy as they said it was," but which, in fact, conveys Just How Little You Fucks Pay Attention, and How Easy It Is For Right-wing Talking Points To Dominate Your Coverage.

Did we do some sort of Dallas shower scene and erase all memories of the Bush administration earlier this season?

• I spent a couple hours yesterday moving A/V equipment around, and when I turned the system on to see if everything was connected right, Rachel Ray was on the box. She was telling her audience of unfettered manics what she was going to make For the Holiday, which I took to be Dr. King Day, as rerunning last year's Valentines Day program would have been a bit slovenly. And she's going from 0-60 in about 2.8 seconds on this, except it's teevee, and it's Rachel Ray, so she's going from 90-9000.

I was operating a different remote at the time; I couldn't just shut her off. And she screams something like "I going to do…MY Famous…MEXICAN MEATLOAF!!! or something, and the crowd goes nuts. Again, assuming that's possible.

I'm not sure what the "dish" was, exactly, but "Mexican" was definitely appended to it. This is not actually my point; I suppose someone at the production meeting had enough sense to 86 the Soul Food idea. Or maybe Jennifer Hudson cancelled. It wasn't the weird juxtaposition, it was the lunatic fucking screaming that got me. Honestly, if we'd been at Thanksgiving dinner at my inlaws', and I'd heard someone yell, "I'm making…MY Famous…CAJUN CASSEROLE!" I'd have turned to my Poor Wife and said, "Just think; six years ago doctors said Austin would never achieve articulate speech!"


* In recognition that the Star has made an actual attempt to clean up its comments section, we're going to quit calling it the Racist Beacon. It's still a poorly-written, evidently unedited right-wing screedfest and panting Republican demirep suitable for lining birdcages, but then, we don't expect miracles.

Saturday, January 15

You Asked For It!

I spent an hour watching Mike Pence on CSPAN yesterday morning and I still haven't recovered from it.

How did the people of your state manage to elect this besuited senescent lake trout? He stammered through a series of talking points, repeatedly and without any apparent enthusiasm, sounding like Bush Pere in his Halcion days. He's be asked a question by some earnest college kid and evade it for two minutes before answering it anyway, generally with a sigh and an expression that suggested he knew no one was really listening anyway. 

What kills me is, he doesn't even have good hair. So why the hell does this guy get elected?

Don't get me wrong, my own state seems to go into a vegetative state when handed a ballot as well, which is how Dave Reichert keeps getting elected, that and promising to keep us all safe from sex predators unlike his opponent, etc, and also he'll let us lick the bowl when his wife makes the victory party cake. 

So what's the deal with Pence? Is he, you know, cool, nudge nudge? Does he have blackmail pictures of everybody in his district? Are people just hypnotized by his voice?

I will also accept, as an explanation, "El Nino."

Which is probably as good an explanation as any.

Let me say, first of all, that I really don't know shit about Mike "Choirboy" Pence, and I like it that way.

Second, the short answer, such as it is, is that the artificial restriction of House seats (on the grounds that it's supposed to be Crazy but Workable, goddamit) has caused Indiana to lose two seats over my lifetime, causing an almost tectonic collision of soybean fields and truck stops, with exposed plateaus around Indianapolis, Ft. Wayne, and the Chicagoland area like islands of Not Sanity, But At Least Some Small Improvement. Pence represents the 6th--almost perfectly represents, aside from the fact that he's nominally college-educated--which includes basically all of the border with Ohio westward until it spies the multicultural enclaves of Indy and The Fort, and shrinks back like it had been singed. The 6th, like Danny Burton's 5th and Steve Buyer's 4th, all of them skirting the urban jungles of Circle City, is as reliably Republican as a Baptist potluck supper. So all Pence had to do was get himself nominated.

Muncie, Anderson, and Richmond are the major metropolises. In other words, Muncie, Anderson, and Richmond are the major metropolises. Nice enough spots, assuming you just can't get enough corn in your beer. (Aside from Muncie, which is home to Ball State University, so it's nice enough assuming you like beer on your cornflakes at breakfast. And dinner.) The major cultural attraction of the 6th is the Edinburgh Outlet Mall. I'm actually not making this up.

(Anderson, Indiana, by the way, is quite possibly the most depressing place on earth not in Oklahoma. It was part of the Gas Boom in Central/Eastern Indiana in the 19th century, which went Bust in about ten years because They Used All The Gas Up, meaning the fact that we'd just finished defoliating the place and Using All The Lumber Up made no impression whatsoever. The local population has not grown noticeably more intelligent since. Then Anderson became an auto-parts manufacturing town, an industry it mostly lost to Kokomo as that market contracted beginning, coincidentally, I'm sure, at the exact moment union workers decided to vote Republican because, you know, America. Anderson now lives, as a sort of seedy uncle the rest of Indiana slips a few bucks from time to time, on horse racing, which we legalized in 1994, casino gambling, which we had to allow the horse track to get into ten years later so it wouldn't go belly up, and a giant Nestlé plant that sits at the curb of Interstate 69, one of those monuments to a multi-state competition over who could give away the most public monies to lure one of those marvels of the Free Market, which then sprawl like kudzu across land that used to be productive.

(In young adulthood I was the passenger in a vehicle returning to Indianapolis after a louche weekend in Ft. Wayne, which stopped for gas, or a bathroom break for one of the surviving women, in Anderson. Our attempt to get out of town as quickly as possible was thwarted by a freight train which, through a well-known optical-slash-weather phenomenon I don't know the name of, appeared to be moving. We were quickly socked in. Not knowing the area, the driver took the fact that no one pulled out of line to find some way around as a clue that there was none, or none which was practicable, and there we sat, until, twenty or thirty minutes later, we learned from a fellow strandee who'd been attracted by the piquant aroma of burning vegetation, that, no, in fact the locals just considered this a form of theatre.)

The 6th does not include Columbus, which is where Pence is from.

As for the man himself, well, he's religious. He's apparently religious about everything. This leads some people, many of them voters, evidently, to suppose that he has principles, or, more exactly, that he has a set of principles which guide his beliefs, rather than having a set of beliefs that he ascribes to his superior, and metaphysically unassailable, principles. The latter seems more likely to me, but what do I know? Similarly, Pence seems to have impressed his Republican colleagues with his piety through the simple expedient of Keeping It Up When The Cameras Ain't Rolling.

How he got there in the first place is a complete mystery to me. He ran two losing Congressional campaigns in the 80s, backed by the James Watt brigades of the Reagan administration. A quirk in Constitutional law required the Indiana Republican party to wait until 1991 to redraw the Congressional map, despite the fact that the party had elected Evan Bayh in 1989; Pence was required to cool his heels for another decade because the equally infallible and Crazy-Eyed Rotarian David McIntosh held the seat. (It's instructive to note that McIntosh's political career ended when he left Congress and ran for Governor; a contemplated run four years later ended when Mitch Daniels slammed McIntosh's fingers in the door. It's the Daniels campaign which is now trying to insinuate Pence into the Governorship, and away from a run for President, by, among other things, simply shoving aside Lt. Governor Becky "Unspecified Illness" Skillman.)

The larger question, really, is how Pence rose so quickly to prominence among Congressional Repbublicans. It can certainly be noted that having the intellectual prowess of sludge is not exactly viewed as a handicap in the Party, but the exact process by which that contingent is whittled down remains a mystery. He is, as I've noted here before, an almost perfect admixture of the Judeo-Christian, Economic, and Incontinent Militarism crackpottery of which the modern Republican edifice is constructed. It's apparently more difficult to pull this off than it would seem to the casual observer, who reasonably considers all those little, if anything, more than wardrobe. Consider, though, that the rank-and-file hated every last candidate in the 2008 primaries, until Palin came along after the fact. It seems likely to be a matter of one's comfort level with the percentage deals of what the Supreme Court calls Speech and the rest of us call Cash. Palin, obviously as big a religious whacko as you can be and remain unencumbered by charges involving the sexual or physical abuse of prepubescents, is more than happy to take any amount of money from anyone, for anything, or was until the pile got big enough. Pence is perhaps more levelheaded, or maybe his saturation level is yet to be reached. He seems to me to be the perfect Republican presidential candidate: more religious than George W. Bush, more economic "conservative" than George W. Bush, and even less intellectually distracted.

Friday, January 14

Can't We Just Get Along Now? C'mon, Look How Nice I Was About Accusing My Opponents Of Dirty Double Dealing.

David Brooks, "Tree of Failure". January 13

YOU ARE HERE (Surveyor's Mark): The thing that's been mentioned even less frequently than Actual Legislation Which Might Possibly Control the Unfettered Access to the Implements of Murder this week is What We Might Begin To Learn about Arguing.

Plenty of suggestions, demands, and koans on the need for civility, of course, to which we say: if you're not Jon Stewart, then civilly shut th' fuck up. Ninety-seven percent of the calls for civility in our political discourse that aren't accompanied by mopping up brain matter are just partisan political gamesmanship motivated by some temporary deficit or a stinging jab over dropped gloves. So were 97% of the calls this week.

Let's acknowledge this. David Brooks isn't lamenting grave charges because he's adverse to grave charges. David Brooks didn't mind when grave charges were hurled at Bill Clinton, or Hillary Clinton, or Al Gore, in part because he was right there in his usual spot, twelve rows back in the mob, prying up cobbles. Grave charges of the spiritual liability of the American Left for 9/11 don't seem to've troubled his sleep. A call for your opponents to be civil is just another variety of shit slinging. Especially when you can be certain that plenty of people on your side will return fire for you.

So Brooks either is Mr. Passive Aggressive Refined Milquetoast, or he plays him on teevee. So he gets a medal? This is like a third-generation road show of Beatlemania, except instead of the Fab Four he impersonates William Effing Buckley. George Will's been packin' 'em in in that role for thirty-some years. I guess the fact that he's too smart to call Paul Krugman a Socialist (just Out of Touch with the Mainstream American Empirically and Morally Certified Belief in Piratical Capitalism) spells civility. I guess the rest of us are supposed to appreciate this, the way we appreciated Buckley driving out the Birchers to make the Party safe for Barry Goldwater. Civility. Not, of course, that the Birchers didn't take the party back over thirty years ago, while first Will, then Brooks, harrumphed into his theatrical bow-tie or Sta-Prest™ business-dressy-casual suit jacket about Political Correctness, Janet Reno, or Nancy Pelosi (and occasionally gave the rabid hyenas the GOP courted incessantly over the period the fish eye, just to keep up the reputation for independent thought). I suppose we should be grateful for the modern equivalent of St. Fuhbuckley calling Dr. King a Negro agitator for thirty years, and not That Commie Coon.

But somehow I'm not. Somehow this is thirty years late and a few trillion short, coming after abortion providers were hunted for Sport, after the presidency of Bill Clinton was disrupted intentionally, by whatever spurious charge could be hurled, after the enormity of 9/11 was wrapped in bunting and sold by the slice, after the fucking military heroism of John Kerry was stomped in the mud as a cheap election ploy. No sale. Sarah Palin can say what she pleases, and other people can say what they think of her. Seems fair. If you don't like the latter, don't approve of the former. Not even tacitly. And don't give us the sort of disapproval that appears 700 words in and limits the applicability to your own personal distaste. Give us the sort which proves that you question if there's enough room in your party for your superior self and the gun-totin' apostles of stupidity who seem to run the joint. The Republican party pays no price whatsoever for its embrace of Yahooliganism, Mr. Brooks. Apart from your occasional smirk. If that was lethal we'd send you to Afghanistan full time, not just for the afternoon.

Leave us note, just slightly tangentially, that apart from the National Council of Churches, Mainstream American Christianity was largely silent as Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell swiped the Franchise beginning in the 70s. This got them where, exactly? Would griping about the metaphysical shortcomings of Paganism today change the picture? No. You don't like being called on these people today, then maybe you should have done something more than "dislike" them then. I don't hold you personally accountable for all the shit that comes out of Sarah Palin's mouth. I hold you accountable for a complacent thirty or forty years during which your party encouraged that sort of mindless hate so it could co-opt it, because it thought it would always be able to co-opt it. Because of the mental superiority born of all those Burke weekends.

I don't expect you to single-handedly eradicate violent dipshitism from the Republican party, Mr. Brooks. I don't even really expect you to oppose it, not publicly enough to put yourself in someone's crosshairs. What I do expect is that you--and the rest of your ilk--earn the right to make these objections when it becomes necessary, instead of just making them anyway, or else that you accept the fact that others will see through you.

And maybe you could consider whether actually engaging the argument might not improve civility. Too much to ask? Probably. But what's the value to the Other Side of remaining civil when the argument won't be advanced either way? Of course one gets frustrated with an opponent who'll never listen, no matter what. I'll gladly grant you all the same privilege. And it's not as if the complaint about the Palin/Teabagger/GOP gun rhetoric suddenly sprung from the blood of innocents, is it? As, for example, when Rep. Giffords objected to it herself? The fact is that it didn't matter to you, days later, what Gary Hart actually said at first flush. It didn't matter to you that what millions of people felt about the Giffords shooting is something they felt beforehand, something the shocking event unleashed. It doesn't matter to you that there would have been the same reaction had Glenn Beck managed to get himself martyred on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Or if Sarah Palin got mugged on Rodeo Drive. You don't care--you specifically don't care--for the distinction between someone who says the Culture of Violence is fed by the Rhetoric of Violence, and someone insisting that Sarah Palin told Loughner who to hit. The fact that you don't spray your audience with invective and spittle while you make the argument doesn't make it civil.

Thursday, January 13

Love And Squalor

LOVE: aimai in comments at Roy's:
I don't really agree with the Doghouse Riley quote--that our debate is about how to remove the pieces of ggshell from our omlette... I think the debate resembles a woman's magazine devoted to telling you how to pick glass and blood out of your hair after you've been attacked by your husband.

To which we reply, first, that if I'd thought of something that good I would have used it, and you can send your stuff our way anytime. And, second, that we are taken out of context; that prissy little food fussiness which never addresses the source of the problem is what the Democrats have played at all these years; the Republicans, meanwhile, have been taking a cleaver to whatever was in their way, joint of beef or bowl of soup.

And before we go on: as the howling takes the argument further and further afield--one of the intended effects of howling--leave us note, and keep repeating, that when we speak of a poisoned public discourse we are speaking of the Republican rank and file reacting to what are clearly the modest and mainstream acts of democratically-elected officials as if the Fucking Hounds of Hell had been unleashed and placed under the telepathic direction of Zombie Karl Marx. This is not the political speech of The Chimperator, or Bush=Hitler, for the simple reason that 70-damn-percent of Republicans believe Obama's a socialist. And 60% think he's a Muslim. This is not an obscure point. It's just one that the punditocracy in this country--which deserves a helluva lot of blame--choses to ignore. There is such a thing as critical mass. There is a distinction between an angry, liquored-up mob usurping the national debate and a couple of undergrads with a free hour and Photoshop.

SQUALOR: Christ, this Brooks thing has been hanging around my desktop all week, like three-quarters of an awful sandwich you didn't throw away. This is Bobo aroused: passive aggressive, careless about facts, and in full defense of the Republican vote machine while simpering his "dislike" of Sarah Palin. (Just once, you know, just fucking once I'd like to see his dislike of some Republican who embarrasses him at weekend cocktail parties expressed as dislike.)
Mainstream news organizations linked the attack to an offensive target map issued by Sarah Palin’s political action committee. The Huffington Post erupted, with former Senator Gary Hart flatly stating that the killings were the result of angry political rhetoric. Keith Olbermann demanded a Palin repudiation and the founder of the Daily Kos wrote on Twitter: “Mission Accomplished, Sarah Palin.” Others argued that the killing was fostered by a political climate of hate.

These accusations — that political actors contributed to the murder of 6 people, including a 9-year-old girl — are extremely grave. They were made despite the fact that there was, and is, no evidence that Loughner was part of these movements or a consumer of their literature. They were made despite the fact that the link between political rhetoric and actual violence is extremely murky. They were vicious charges made by people who claimed to be criticizing viciousness.

Let us not even bother asking What mainstream news organizations "linked" the attack to Palin's map, rather than brought the thing to readers' attention; let's ignore the fact that Gary Hart was arguing that inflammatory rhetoric has consequences, not that it pulled the trigger, and that among them is its effect on "unstable" individuals; let's ignore Keith Olbermann and Markos Moulitsas altogether, since that's a tradition around here almost as old as praeteritio.

Wait. On second thought, let's do consider what Hart said on the day of the shooting: "Today we have seen the results of this rhetoric." How does that differ from what's said in a thousand pulpits every Sunday in this country by self-appointed spokesmen for God? If "the gravity of the charges", if "viscousness in the pursuit of viscousness"gives such offense, and tars people so unfairly, where's all the complaints about that? And we're not talking about the comments of someone in the hours after a tragic event that made a lot of people very goddam angry, Mr. Brooks; we're talking about a stock in trade. Any event to which a readymade moral opprobrium can be attached it will be attached. Every sordid event in the tabloid press is proof of the Apocalypse, and the Liberal cabal working to tax it. Every Gay Pride parade is Babylon come to Murrica Herself, and every gay man a walking compendium of psycho death germs (sent by God, by God!) which will shorten his life and that of everyone he ever fornicates with. How often was "What Homosexuals Do" read into the Congressional Record, Mr. Brooks?

And this, of course is but the tip of the iceberg; if you manage to ban the practice FOX News is gonna be showing dead air sixteen hours a day. Every Liberal in this country is Julius Rosenberg, and has been for sixty years. How often is "traitor" bandied about? How often has 9/11 been portrayed as the work of the Left, in spirit if not in deed? Your entire political worldview, Mr. Brooks (we've been trying to tell you this for years), is based on rococo elaborations of Dirty Pinko Bastards Are Poisoning Our Water Supply which were in full cracked filigree before you were born, only you're too lazy to look it up. We don't have a single fucking political issue in this country that isn't tainted like this, Mr. Brooks: terror, immigration, health care, the budget, and all of it by your side. For years. Because votes. Sure, occasionally someone like the comedy team of Falwell & Robertson catch some flack for saying Homos brought down the WTC. Who do they catch it from? Not you. The most this warrants from you is a little uncomfortable grimace which is supposed to indicate your principled moderation, but which in fact is a measure of how little you want to discuss it.

There's a libertoonian sense in our politics that all the insanity on the Right--which you economic "conservatives" imagine you control the way you control where the line forms at the bank--is just that; that it's not real, that it will go away or collapse under the weight of its own stupidity when the time comes, and hence need not be mentioned, lest attention be drawn. But "liberalism"--even the dishwater centrism of the President--must be subjected to rigid strictures of behavior, and ad hoc rules of Unintended Consequences, or it might break out into economic justice or something. This generation, this era, is too far gone to imagine creating an anodyne version. It's too late for you to denounce rash words spoken for political ends. And it's a joke that you do so only when it comes from anyone you're not aligned with, with, of course, the dash of "I don't like Sarah Palin" as pretend leavening. "If it takes a bloodbath, let's get it over with". That wasn't the Trailer Trash Half-Term Governor who embarrasses you so, Mr. Brooks. It was the Republican Saint. Talking about people squatting in a park. Go, as they say, fuck yourself.

Wednesday, January 12


THIS is Edroso at his most luminous, not that those moments are all that rare. But there are times when his writing is prehensile, when it seems like conception and thought and action are a single wave on the pond. Fuck it, I wish I'd written this, is what:
The "eliminationist" tropes we've been hearing about recently are part of the problem, but so are the less violent notions we see them parroting every day: That Obama is a Muslim, an alien, a psychopath, and consciously trying to destroy the United States; that Teddy Roosevelt was a dangerous radical; that America's scientists are engaged in a deliberate conspiracy to bankrupt the nation via global warming fraud; that deficits, which were harmless and even kinda fun under Reagan, are under Obama a menace to the future of our famous statues; etc. etc. etc.

The cumulative impact of this kind of magical thinking may or may not lead to assassinations, but it certainly weakens the sufferer's ability to respond to even obvious problems in any reasonable way. And in the long run this is more dangerous to the Republic than the grrr-lookit-me-I'm-a-Minuteman blood-lust we're currently focused on. The wingnut looks, for example, upon millions of citizens financially unable to visit a doctor when they're sick, and the first thing he asks himself is, "How can we defend these people from socialism?" He sees the stock market doing great while ordinary people can't find jobs, and surmises, "This Administration is anti-business." Etc.

Even if you embarrass them (fond hope!) into talking less about guns and revolution, you aren't touching the real problem. I'm not confident that it's curable. The best we can do is keep them away from sharp objects and the levers of power.

Comments, too; a lot of which disagree with his assessment. If you're getting there late, as I did, it's a daunting five pages or more, but worth it. I went through saying, "Oooh, I'm gonna feature that one tomorrow" at least seven or eight times.

If I can, or must, return to the fog-shrouded swamps of my own cerebral landscape, then I agree with everybody, and don't, and don't know what to make of it, except I'm sure we're all on the wrong page, or something. The levers of power are broken, or else over my lifetime they've been reconnected to operate a country not my own. And you can't trust a repairman; they're all certified by the same people who broke (or swiped) the thing. I have a sense--I started blogging specifically from the sense--that this is a center-left country at its heart which has been seized by issues as defined by the Right, and that the proper response--of Liberals, who seek to make things better, not scabrous mongrels like myself--was to show America, aggressively, since that's all it understands any more, which side it was really on. Instead, after twelve years of responding to Reaganism the way the French responded to the Wehrmacht (and that's probably unfair. To the French.), they more or less codified the differences (let's elect a President who really cares!) and then offered to split them if the other side would just play nice.

So much of our politics seems to be a debate about how best to remove most of the pieces of eggshell from our omelette, and none about figuring out how to properly crack an egg. If you're concerned about eliminationist rhetoric--and you have every reason to be--then you should be hopping mad at the Obama administration (as you very possibly are) for the failed policy of Timid Response, and hopping mad that it could have been voted into power in a pivotal year without the extraction of a promise to Do Something about the madness of the Republican party. The timidity of the 110th Congress (in fairness, Pelosi wouldn't have had the votes for impeachment even if she'd had the political courage; in fairness, it's always the Left which is saying "in fairness"); the USADOUBLEGOODPATRIOTAct, The Iraq War Resolution, the 2000 Elections: it isn't long before the litany predates most voters. If you think a toxic political environment was a contributing factor in the Giffords shooting, then the failure to confront it--going back to Nixon, at least, in some quarters--is inculpatory.

Instead, when this sort of thing gets noted, it's Jon Stewart winging an opening segment Monday because it's no time to be funny, and pointing fingers at James Carville for blaming Palin, as though Carville was as major a factor in the Democratic party as Palin is in hers, and, in Norbizness' absence, the official spokesman for The Left. Dreaming a World where none of this exists is not the same as confronting it where it does. Carville may be dead wrong, and/or gauche, but what he said is not entirely unwarranted; for that you have to go to the people who dragged out "The President once said 'bring a gun to a knife fight'". Palin, and the Teabaggers, and the Right, and the Republican party are responsible for their rhetoric. They are responsible--not solely, but unanimously--for the complete lack of gun control in this violent land. They may be unfairly hoist on a canard here, but Who Controls How An Issue Is Raised? I wish we'd have a rational discussion about economic exploitation or basic justice every day of the year, not just when Wal*Mart gets caught looting timecards or "extraordinary rendition" hits the headlines. I wish we wouldn't have a discussion about our Toxic Political Environment only when it's time to urge "both" "sides" to shut up. I wish Charlie Manson didn't represent Youth Culture, Altamont didn't represent Rock n' Roll, and Len Bias didn't represent What Happens On Your First Hit Of Coke. I wish I could still buy a Betacorder.

I wish a loon with a semi-auto Glock shooting up innocent people--Congresswomen or no--was reason enough to discuss gun violence and gun culture. It's not. So I'll take what I can get.

Tuesday, January 11

Thank God Some Things Are Still Running On Schedule

I cannot be the only person in America who saw
this mook's mugshot and immediately thought of Arthur Bremer.

J. Freedom "The Only Reason To Use Some Crazy-Ass Moniker Your Hippie Parents Gave You Is Excessive Attention-Seeking" du Lac, "Jared Loughner's music choice, Drowning Pool's 'Bodies', strikes chilling chord". January 10

LIKE probably 72% of my fellow Baby Boomers in America I was, in my youth, forced to sit in a large lecture hall next to a guy in a sleeveless down jacket and listen to some schnook of an Associate Professor try to convince me that the Bandura Experiment meant something. Now, assuming by the Grace of God you weren't, here's the layout: you get Stanford to pay you a salary, plus lab coat, clipboard, and comely graduate assistants by the handful. You make a short film of a man taking a mallet to one of those bottom-weighted Bozo punching bags every Boomer was issued at birth. You show this film to a group of Boomer children between the ages of 3-6 who happen to be the progeny of Stanford University employees who have likely been tricked into signing a leasing agreement in exchange for daycare (it's 1961; perhaps the niceties weren't observed). After the movie you lead these test subjects, one by one, into an identical room containing an identical Bozo and an identical mallet. You then inform your employer that the wholly astonishing result--three-to-six-year-olds taking a handy mallet to an available thing designed for punching--proves something or other about Social Learning. *

Now, by the time I got there it was over a decade old, and showing its age; this is perhaps why the Prof could hardly summon a perfunctory enthusiasm for the thing, even at Indiana, where the Psych building still reeked of B.F. Skinner's hair oil. I don't know. It's possible his halfheartedness was dictated by academic fashion or niggling doubt, though at IU in the early 70s it still required a certain casualness bordering on the foolhardy towards One's Chance for Tenure to suggest Skinner was less than infallible; no doubt you could get away with a little of it in front of a room of uncomprehending undergrads. Judging from the grad students I was forced to serve as a hamster serves a wheel, the Sixties, even the end of College Draft Deferments, had not appreciably diminished the lure of Nazism. Or it could simply be because the thing was bullshit. I remember asking the TA at a discussion session why they hadn't had the adult in the movie do something which wasn't completely obvious, like hit the mallet with the dummy, or eat them both, and see how that worked. I think she urged me not to raise the issue on the midterm.

But the likely reason for any reticence was that several years earlier the study had been pounced upon by the Opponents of Television, and was being waved around as Scientific Proof that depictions of violence in the media led to actual violence. It's not particularly surprising to find the thing still going strong; it may be a tad depressing to find it still ambulatory all these years despite never having progressed beyond the Stupid Shit phase:
"You're never sure what caused an individual to commit a specific act," said Brad Bushman, a communications and psychology professor at Ohio State University. "But I've been doing research on violent media for 20 years, and the evidence is that it leads to aggressive behavior. It's not the only factor that leads to violence, but it's one of them."

So that took only 20 years? God bless the Computer Age. I'm really looking forward now to 2075, when you guys get to the bottom of that Judas Priest case.

Call me a dreamer, but, y'know, in twenty years of research at major US universities maybe we could have figured out a way to prevent total fucking nutjobs from walking into a Wal*Mart and walking out loaded for Democrat. Y'know, along with other contributory factors.
In addition to its ignominious past as Cooke's anthem of choice, "Bodies" was used as a tool of torture at Guantanamo Bay in 2003 when it was played repeatedly to "stress" detainee Mohamedou Ould Slahi. The song has also been a battlefield anthem for U.S. troops and professional wrestlers and fighters.

And where was the US psychological community then? Oh, yeah, the APA was explicitly endorsing members aiding the torture effort. You know, professionally.

Incidentally, shut the fuck up:
In a statement posted online Monday evening, Drowning Pool said: "We were devastated to learn of the tragic events that occurred in Arizona and that our music has been misinterpreted, again.

The problem isn't that you're misinterpreted. The problem is that you're interpreted:
Dec 14, 2008
Message from Stevie

Recently, the Associated Press, has stated that Drowning Pool's music (among a slew of other songs) has been used "to create fear, disorient ... and prolong capture shock."
I would like to set the record straight to say that upon our return from Baghdad (in 2006) and after visiting our injured soldiers at the Walter Reed Medical Hospital, I commented to Spin Magazine that I take it as an honor to think that perhaps our music could be used to quell another 9/11 attack as part of a longer comment. I sincerely regret if my statement was taken out of context as supporting any specific policy or agenda. My remarks were an emotional reaction to the band's personal experiences. The band's intention has been, and will always be, to support our young men and women in uniform who put their lives on the line every day. Our performances for soldiers abroad led to the honor of being able to speak before Senate and Congressional leaders in support of extended health care rights for our returning veterans. We cherish this distinction and continue to maintain a close relationship with our military personnel and their families.
We would like to wish everyone a healthy and happy holiday season.

Stevie Benton
Drowning Pool

Dude. You're now the first metal band whose website has its own Corrections column. Call it another honor.


* In fairness, for some reason, the point seems to be that there was an increased correlation between seeing an adult pummel the thing and doing so your 3-year-old ownself; so fucking what?

Monday, January 10

It's Really Cold And Snowy Here. I Guess The Only Solution Is To Move Somewhere Where There's No Weather.

John Dickerson, "The Paucity of Hope: After the Arizona shootings, can Obama--or anyone--bring America back from the brink?" January 9
This tragedy has prompted not reflection but just another round of sparring. Some liberals quick to point the finger are linking 22-year-old shooter Jared Loughner to the Tea Party—showing the same lack of restraint and tendency to demonize their ideological opponents that they accuse the right of having. Some conservatives, meanwhile, were more concerned with the political consequences of this tragedy than with the possible impact of their rhetoric.

I'M JUST spitballin' here, mind you, but here's something we haven't tried: not writing paragraphs like that one any more.

Some did this (somewhere), Some did that; when will They stop? It's the pundit version of the Celery Diet: it takes more energy to chew the thing than you'll ever get out of it.

But we're not after weight loss, we're after nutrition. (Okay, it's Slate, so I really have no idea. Perhaps Dickerson is employing some subtle, Double-Reverse-With-Half-Twist-Special-Contrarian/Non-Contrarianism designed to make us think he's trotting out some standard Faux Balance bullshit when his real purpose is to trot out some standard Faux Balance bullshit.) What in the world does What Some Said have to do with anything? It's like saying "Oh, of course Slate would put the shooting on its front page".

Did Some immediately "blame the Teabaggers"? Of course. Were they justified in doing so? To an extent; after a fashion. Does this constitute a hypocritical "demonizing their ideological opponents and failure to show restraint"? Did you invite a divorce lawyer to write your column? At what point, ten or twenty or thirty years ago, when the self-perpetuating and self-fulfilling prophecy of this construction--not to mention its patent partisanship--was already evident, when the One Way signs had already been posted--Democrats who return Republican fire are Hypocrites; Republicans who open fire are "Republicans"--did it convince you anyway, Mr. Dickerson? When was it? When the Limousine Liberals desegregated the public schools but sent their own children to private academies? When the House Bank covered some overdrafts? When NOW refused to throw in with the Republican party just because a Democratic president got a blow job? When? Civility of discourse has gotten the Democratic party precisely what that Hands Across the Aisle shit got the newly-minted President Obama. Zero. This added obligation for Democrats--fight back, but do not use any tactic employed by your opponent--is there precisely for the perpetration of Faux Balance and Faux Equivalences. Fer chrissakes, the Clinton Rapid Response Team can hold its twentieth anniversary this year. The self-defense justification for such behavior goes back to the first Congressional campaign of Richard Milhous Nixon, and only because I'm too lazy mornings to consider digging up who said what about FDR. This shit stunk on ice when your nanny was still choosing your wardrobe, Mr. Dickerson.

Are Republicans justified in considering the political ramifications of the Giffords shooting? Yes. More so than "the possible impact of their rhetoric"? Shit, why should one bad Saturday ruin a life's work?

Look, because of the circumstances--Arizona, Democratic Congresswoman who fought off a Teabagger in November, "collateral damage", a weapon designed to kill humans, coupled with years of violent, insane, and insanely violent rhetoric--Republicans do have something to answer for. And this article is just one of many steps which are taken to make sure they won't have to confront anything substantive. Because, you know, Some Guy on the internets may be a hypocrite.
The idea that the left and right have both use violent images suggests a false equivalence. A few scattered examples from Democrats can't match the power of gun imagery on the right or the regular use of incendiary language about tyranny and insurrection. Politico's Jonathan Martin pointed out that Palin herself referred to the cross-hairs on her map as a "bull's-eye." But that doesn't mean Glen Beck or Palin are to blame for this shooting.

Well, now: that only took 550 words and six paragraphs to get to. Do let us know if at some point you decide that False Equivalences might have some negative effect on how we understand things. At this rate, two or three more decades and we might start making progress.
Perhaps the saving voice at this moment will come from a conservative who can make this distinction. Politico found a "senior Republican senator" who said, "There is a need for some reflection here—what is too far now?" What's admirable here is that this senator is willing to broach the idea that heated language on the right can be a problem without validating the idea that it caused the shooting. What's depressing is that this senator would not go on the record. It proves that the political penalty remains high for saying anything—not matter how obvious—that might inflame the armies of no restraint.

Then again, maybe "two or three decades" is a little optimistic. How in the hell can you report this as faint glimmer of hope when it's clearly precisely the problem? A colleague gets gunned down at a shopping mall and you can't find a single Republican who'll allow as how maybe there's some room for fucking reflection unless his name isn't used? Jesus Fucking Christ. I guess if we can get one to utter "semi-automatic Glock" in a darkened parking garage we'll be halfway home.

And the armies of no restraint? Well, there's this, y'know: Representative Giffords is pro-gun. And a Democrat. And she's admitted both, on the record, while you could see her face. There is no equivalency. It's an artifact of forty years of Nixonian complaints about the Librul Media, and the resultant decision by people in your profession, and your mother's profession, Mr. Dickerson, that from then on every issue would be split down the middle between "Conservative" and "Liberal", and that every position would be treated as equally valid, provided it could be ascribed to one side or the other. Subject, of course, to the vicissitudes of ratings, the demands of advertisers, and the whim of publishers and boards of directors, or the requirement that we all wave the flag during Republican wartime. It's gone on so long now that y'all don't seem to know how to analyze a position anymore except in terms of Pepsi vs. Coke. Mass-market journalism is now just the US Senate with advertising space. Then when things turn ineluctably to shit, and it looks like someone might actually be held accountable for it, you all are suddenly hungry for Restraint, for Civility, for Confronting the Issues and Real Compromise of the sort which, of course, doesn't require anyone to admit responsibility. Or give his name.