Monday, February 28

Funny How Quickly Public Schools Go From "Urban Warfare Hellhole" To "Sounds Like A Really Sweet Place To Work Part-Time". Ain't It?

THINGS I cannot recommend trying, at least not all in one weekend:

1) Your Poor Wife getting a strangulated hernia down in Ladytown *, necessitating a journey through the Suburban Saturday Driver's Education Zone known as "the northside of Indianapolis", particularly 86th Street, "The Avenue of the Morons", during which she felt every bump along the potholed route with a sort of mescaline intensity that made me wince. I will spare the Reader a complete recap of the ensuing ten gruesome hours ** (and that's just from my perspective), except to note that every visit there reveals a healthcare system strangulated under its own weight and sense of market share; that nowhere is this more on display than in Emergency, which is taking on the unmistakable aura of Large Corporation forced to do something less than optimally profitable as a sop towards an earlier, less mercenary, and more Christian time (and this is a Catholic hospital) until it can get the law changed; that the nurses outpost just outside our door was apparently the spot where lunch breaks and snack choices were negotiated without ceasing; that this might have been the reason why, on the four occasions they had to unhook my Poor Wife from the IV so she could use the facilities, no one ever managed to come back in and hook her back up until I'd gone out there to remind them.

The biggest treat of the day, though, was the woman behind the bulletproof sneeze guard at the Emergency admitting desk who told my Obviously In Pain missus that she'd be with her just as soon as she'd finished the paperwork she was carefully completing. (Later--see #4--my neighbor, herself a medical professional, would explain to me that "I'm having chest pains!" will get everyone within a half-block off his or her duff tout de suite. Just for the record.)

2) Going to the supermarket at 5:45 AM of a Sunday after a day and a night of medical terrorism. Seriously, there is something about the sad evidence of America's Vertiginous Downward Spiral as told by Her Ever-Cheapened Parade of Parti-Colored Consumer Bits which is magnified a hundred fold when you and the store have just passed a sleepless Saturday night. And I do not mean this in the familiar (to some of us, I suppose) sense of a skid-row lurch into such a place as the Buzz is starting to wear off, or just get old, in search of ill-considered consumable on your way to an unchaste bed, but pushing yourself up off a deathless mattress in stone sober search of necessities while your Poor Wife catches a bit of sleep. Seriously. Just go without. It's like the funhouse phantasmagoria of Dante's Inferno. The movie, I mean. The movie with Spencer Tracy, I mean, not the one where Pierce Brosnan drives through a lava flow, and probably runs through one, too, not that you can single out just one moment of scientific idiocy from that thing for admiration, and not that it wasn't called Dante's Peak, now that I think about it.

3) Turning on NASCAR as though this would provide a calming mindless provender. If you ever decide that you will "turn on NASCAR in the other room, because it's the only thing on" here is what you will get: a) a bunched pack of cars going fast; b) a bunched pack of cars going slow; c) a bunched pack of cars going sideways; d) a line of cars, stopped, while they clean up after (c). And I like motorsports, though it must be admitted that anyone who likes motorsports, and who watches NASCAR as one of two or more, realizes that NASCAR is by far the inferior regardless of whatever else he watches. Just make a fucking mix tape; you won't know any different. NASCAR is, assuming you refuse to go into near-empty grocery stores at ungodly hours, your best demonstration of what's gone wrong in this country over the past four decades, and just how far. It's the utimate example of what happens when you buy into this phony USA! Zeitgeist crap just because it looks to be profitable, knowing full well that you and it are full of shit. It's no coincidence that the popular imagination--as well as the powers that run the scam--link the thing to red meat Republicanism. NASCAR went from regional semi-obscurity to national fetish object on the strength of early cable teevee. Not hard work, imagination, or a superior product, just Lucky Shit Product Placement and a New Low (for the time) in Lowest Common Denominator. It was, though we didn't realize it until it was too late, the three-headed, ten-limbed mutant amphibian harbinger of our Reality Teevee future. Since it got there it has betrayed a cluelessness about how to proceed bordering on epic, in large measure due to the demands of upholding the phony Jes Moonshiners cover story the way Teabaggers pretend to be the descendants of Tom Paine. And it did so despite the fact that by the time cable fame found it it was already two decades beyond the racing of actual stock cars. You have, in NASCAR, a billion-dollar operation which wants to--that is, must--protect its capital and advertiser value to the fullest extent of science, but wants to act like it's Officially Anti-PC so its theoretical Yahoo base (or its onetime Big Tobacco bankrollers) won't take offense. This is sorta like creating a real professional wrestling league, but making it look phony, and requiring all the protective headgear be transparent.

NASCAR tried to keep the excitement generated by the accidental discovery of drafting, and the resulting split-second finishes, by artificial means. And, as a result, it certainly was powerful enough to brush aside the Iraqi army, but it had no clue how to prevent looting. It is now the longest, dullest, spectacle in sport, and it has no fucking idea how to get back to honest racing now, because there's too much money riding on every little decision for honesty to ever be a part of it again.

And, y'know, there are thousands, hundreds of thousands like me who remember what it was, and who must remember the difference between real chocolate and whatever they smother Milky Ways in these days, or who remember what a steak tasted like before the Reagan administration. NASCAR's a family business, and allowed to fuck itself in the ass all it wants, but America isn't, and isn't supposed to.

4) Discovering, as your lovely risen potato bread awaits baking, that your oven has decided not to go above 100º F for the foreseeable future, necessitating a frantic trip to the neighbors, who are nice enough to let you use theirs, while you are embarrassed enough to give them half your production.

5) Waking up at 5 AM to find the overnight torrential rain onto ground only that morning soaked to supersaturation by the melting snowfall of the previous two weeks has, as expected, created a Category 5 flood in the basement. And yes, we have Categories, and "Five" means "lapping at the decrepit carpet at the foot of the stairs" meaning I will stand in 45º water for the next two days alternately convincing myself that the Ridgid Tools† wet vac is making a noise it shouldn't be, and that the sump pump is not making a noise it should. I am, in fact, typing this thing in shifts while warming my half-frozen feet on microwaved tube socks filled with rice. ‡

6) Reading this goddamn Victor Claudius Drusus Nero Germanicus Davis ("Oh, that Vic Hanson!") Hanson piece of shit which tries to pretend that a) working on your family's farm, a gig they gave you probably to cheer you up for missing that Nam opportunity, qualifies as "working for a living", the way Tucker Carlson dropping personal insurance qualified as "going without", because you once broke a sweat; that b) this then somehow reminds us that teachers really have it pretty good compared to the average 14th century serf, and so shouldn't be allowed to have unions; meanwhile trying to c) convince his readership that said farm was "failing", its continued existence dependent on his very sinews and not the combined incomes of his (college administrator) father and (attorney) mother; while d) various farmworkers lazed around, stole shit, and threatened him with knives for catching them. Read it if you have to. Hanson can't even bother keeping the voice consistent; he just sorta turns from noble and death-defying son of the soil who might not actually make any money, to bedeviled straw boss of an instant. And, of course, he never mentions it's his family's farm; heirs never do. The teacher half travels an opposite arc: ignoring the fact that the vast majority of Wisconsin teachers aren't teaching Applied Right Wing Kinesiology at Fresno State, and don't "t[each] about 16 weeks a semester, counting finals and introductory orientation, or 32 of 52 weeks a year." Then he suddenly seems to remember that he's supposed to be emphasizing the nobility of the lowly public-school teacher, lest anyone get the idea that he and his cronies just have a hard-on for union busting, and blurts:
My purpose in relating the divide is not to suggest that the brutality of farming bears much resemblance to the private-sector office or that a university professorship is at all comparable to the much more arduous duties of an inner-city middle- or high-school teacher.

Oh, okay. I knew there was some reason you'd done just that for the two previous pages. Good to know it wasn't the wrong one.

My favorite, though was this:
Research was supposed to matter a great deal; but often it strangely did not for purposes of tenure and retention.

Says the author of War and Other Simple Morality Tales for Children, and The History Channel's go-to guy on the fine art of defecating during a homoerotic recreation of the Battle of Thermopylae.


* What my Poor Wife suffered was not, actually, "a strangulated hernia in Ladytown"; she merely had the misfortune to marry someone who thinks "Ladytown" is so hysterically funny that he'd say this about her just to break himself up, even though it's not the condition which rushed her to the hospital.

**Preteritio, albeit unintended.

† Which, unlike "Ladytown" I say not for cheap laughs, but because it's the best one on the market, dollar for dollar.

‡ Buy whatever th' fuck you want.

Friday, February 25

I Rest My Case

David Brooks, "Run Mitch, Run". February 24

THE good news: Free 12-Course Banquet! The bad news: Every course is cold Vienna sausages luxuriating in ketchup.

Alternately, I suppose, caloric monstrosities (it's Indiana). That, by the way, is a Brooks quote, describing the Bill of Fare at some whistle-stop diner where Daniels and his camera crew dropped in (in clodhopper mufti) to play Jes' Folks with the locals during one of his campaigns. I think it tells you all you really need to know about Brooks that he's still using long-distance food metaphors. (Since I figure you already knew he really has nothing but contempt for the people who keep voting his party into power.)

Okay, since every argument eventually winds up as an epistemology debate, let's start begin with this: if someone tells you that Beethoven was a greater composer than Bach you know he, or someone else, could stake out some piece of defensible territory, but you're justified in wondering why he'd bother in the first place. If someone tells you Tschakovsky is a greater composer than Bach, you're also justified in believing, apodictically, that any such defense would be overrun in a matter of seconds. If he says Schoenberg was greater than Bach, he has an agenda, and if it's polished you'd best be prepared to weather a sort of Nimzo-Larsen Attack. And if he tells you that John Williams is a greater composer than Bach, call your local newspaper. They may have an editorial writer loose.

But check for your wallet first.

In case you've missed the pattern of these Daniels hagiographies, let's recap: He's an economic miracle worker, because Indiana's budget is balanced! He's slashed spending! But at the same time he made programs more efficient, and provided innovative new services to the poorest Hoosiers. Plus he's personally so a) humble; b) unprepossessing; and c) charisma-free that he'd be the perfect antidote to flashy, PR-driven Presidents.

Now, while you're checking that wallet, recall that this Anti-Charisma Fever is coming from the same people who idolize Ronald Fucking Reagan and couldn't get enough of George Bush's flight suit.

The brief response here--I know you're probably exhausted already--is that 1) Indiana's budget is "balanced" only if we ignore the $2 billion it owes the Feds in loan repayment, plus interest and penalties (ignoring it is the same thing we're hoping the Feds do) and don't ask too many questions about what's been sloughed off on local governments; 2) slashing spending is an argument, not a miracle process he invented, and it's easy to do if both houses of your legislature are dominated by the tax-and-program-cutting extremists of your own party; 3) the program record doesn't bear scrutiny any better than the budget, and the arguments for his accomplishments depend, for one thing, on ignoring the billion-dollar FSSA Pooch Fuck, largest boondoggle in Indiana since the Michigan Road, perpetrated personally by Mitchell Elias Daniels and Cronies, and based on his Randian super-knowledge.

Okay, Mr. Brooks, you have the floor.
On Feb. 11, Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana met with a group of college students. According to The Yale Daily News, he told them that there is an “excellent chance” he will not run for president. Then he mounted the podium at the Conservative Political Action Conference and delivered one of the best Republican speeches in recent decades.

For the speech, well, having Only One Idea puts you one up on the field over there, assuming the judge is David Brooks, and not the Republican rank-and-file, which prefers Obama=Socialism.
The country also needs a substantive debate about the role of government. That’s exactly what an Obama-Daniels contest would provide. Yet because Daniels is a normal person who doesn’t have an insatiable desire for higher office, he’s thinking about not running.

Well, Dave, we've been having a debate about the role of government for thirty years now. If it doesn't always qualify as "substantive" you may take your pick of reasons, but I'll mention one: your side refuses to lose, because your side isn't really interested in the size of government--write a column urging a reduction of Defense spending to actual defense, and see how your party takes it--it's interesting in not paying for any. It's willing to oversee the destruction of the American middle class just so its ideology wins. A debate on the subject would include just what the consequences are of leaving the masses at the mercy of robber barons and financial pirates with no legal recourse whatsoever. You don't want that debate. You certainly don't get that debate from Mitch Daniels. You get a theological certainty that consolidating all money and power in the hands of the top 2% is a positive Good. And that argument has already lost.
Daniels’s Conservative Political Action Conference speech had a serious and weighty tone. He spoke for those who believe the country’s runaway debt is the central moral challenge of our time.

You mean "who now believe…"
He spoke of the program he started that provides health insurance for low-income residents, and the education program that will give scholarships to students in failing schools so they can choose another.

Yeah, in his first term Daniels actually addressed health care, with a program allowing low-income families to buy low-cost insurance. Good luck getting into it now; good luck expecting Daniels to mention "government health care" on the campaign trail, except in the negative.

Oh, and vouchers are vouchers. Slashing public education while giving a few poor students a chance to win the Lottery isn't competence. It is, in fact, the same old failed "education reform" of the past thirty years, except there's not a huge bankroll behind saying so, the way there is behind pretending dismantling public schools is the way to "save" them.
“Our first thought,” he said, “is always for those on life’s first rung, and how we might increase their chances of climbing.”

And our first and only answer is "Eliminate the minimum wage!"
He also spoke of expanding the party’s reach. In a passage that rankled some in the audience and beyond, he argued that “purity in martyrdom is for suicide bombers.”

Frankly, Dave, I think this sorta thing seems a whole lot more impressive if you fancy yourself a Republican insider too intelligent for the likes of Limbaugh. From the outside it looks like a simple political calculation from a man who's going to get clobbered on the Right in Republican primaries, and whose only hope is to convince enough people to vote against Sarah Palin. And from a certain Hoosier perspective it's more of the same from a guy who finds the worst Republican yahoos distasteful, but is happy to count their votes, and whose party, for all his moderatableness is, at the moment, busy turning the Indiana General Assembly into Arizona North.
Daniels’s speeches are backed up by his record. Since 2004, the 49 other states in the nation increased their debt levels by an average of 40 percent. Indiana has paid down its debt by 40 percent. Indiana received its first Triple-A bond rating in 2008, and now it is one of only nine states to have the highest rating from all three rating agencies.

This is what I know about bond markets: 1) they're run by wealthy people primarily for the benefit of extremely wealthy people; and 2) the biggest rating increase last year went to Califuckingfornia. So let's try to use this as a measure of what it is: bond safety, not underlying economic genius. As for our public debt, I don't know the particulars. I know we're still in the middle of the pack, America-wise, and I know the Daniels administration, so I suspect there's some accounting procedures in the mix. Call me cynical. I know the general: we've slashed away at state spending. Announcing this as a Win seems premature, sorta like announcing the guy who bought the cheapest car won without looking at operating costs and reliability.
At the same time, the business climate has improved significantly.

That's like saying the sexual climate would improve significantly if hookers started giving it away.
Infrastructure spending is at record levels.

We sold the fucking Toll Road, Dave. Oh, and we swallowed our pride and accepted Obama Stimulus Bucks.

And what we're doing with it is build Indiana's section of the NAFTA highway, I-69, which is wiping out forests, wetlands, family farms and residential areas so you can get from Evansville to Indianapolis a half-hour quicker. We fought over this shit for fifty years before Daniels and his 2005 Republican majorities solved it for all future generations. The first leg's running $700 million over budget, which prompted Daniels to explain that when he said the Toll Road sell-off was going to pay for it he had his fingers crossed.
The state has added jobs at twice the national average.

Jesus Christ, tell it to the unemployed, will ya? They were 5.2% of the population when Daniels took office; they're 9.5% of it now. That's 35th worst in the nation.

Indiana's 40th in the nation in per capita income. Since 2005, household income has risen 0.92%, Since Mitch is so fond of comparing us to surrounding states, that's equal to the increase in Kentucky and Ohio, and less than Illinois and Michigan. Only Kentucky's household income is lower. So, yeah, I can see why people are flocking to the Indiana Miracle:
For the first time in four decades, more people are moving in than moving out.
Click to enlarge:

Daniels is famously a font of metrics, statistics and management stories. During his term, wait times at the Indiana motor vehicles bureau dropped from 40 minutes to under 10 minutes while customer satisfaction levels skyrocketed.

Okay, as we've noted here before: the increased efficiency at the BMV is due to the new computer system, purchased by the last Democratic administration, which knew how to operate a competitive bidding process and write specifications, and it was rushed into operation by a Daniels administration clown, resulting in a year of total chaos--and the eventual loss of his job--which Hoosiers now apparently have forgotten due to the highly caloric monstrosity diet. The wait times, well, again, call me cynical. They're better than they were, for certain; but I don't know where that "40 minutes" figure comes from. What I do know is that the Daniels administration initiated a Welcome Desk, a sort of Triage for your BMV visit, and the time spent waiting in line there doesn't count toward your total. It's faster now, for sure; so, too, are my credit card transactions compared to a decade ago. There's a reason why "overegging the custard" is a hallmark of a successful advertising gull, but not a successful, well, custard.
In manner, Daniels is not classically presidential. Some say he is short (though others do not regard 5 feet 7 inches as freakishly diminutive).

Then again, Dave, some of us don't regard a man who needs a one-foot platform to see over a standard lectern as 5 foot 7. And some of us wonder about why so simple and unassuming a public servant as Governor Combover has to tack inches on his stat sheet like an undersized NBA point guard.

Nice talkin' with ya. Drop in for some Hoosier home cookin', why doncha?

Thursday, February 24

Well, That Didn't Take Long

MITCH Daniels' Solomonic metamorphosis lasted no more than twenty-four hours. What turned him back into a toad--nightfall, the Democrats staying away to kill odious Republican legislation that Mitch was in favor of, or someone shutting off the teevee lights--is not clear. At any rate, what on Tuesday was the sacred right of a minority to walk out (and show its ass!) became, by Wednesday, attempted bullying and blackmail. Good to have the Old Mitch back.

The one remarkable thing was that Wednesday's performance added terminally-ill Lt. Governor Becky "GED" Skillman to the podium, taking valuable time away from her medical treatments and her supervision of the twelve-month-long celebration of the six times Ronald Reagan changed planes at Weir Cook airport. This marks her second public appearance since being shoved aside so Mike "Choirboy" Pence wouldn't run for President, bringing her six-year total to four, or two if you don't count the gas-station Ethanol ribbon-cutting gigs they gave her in '05. Becks was apparently there to put a human face on the crushing of thousands of working-class lives and dismantling free education for the poor. This prompted one protesting union worker to remark, "If someone as nice as Becky Skillman is willing to stand silently to support this, I may need to rethink my position." Another added, "Hey, I think that woman's in my night-school Hygiene class!"

The real Republican response, though, was left to Then-Deputy Indiana Attorney General and Comedy Blogger Jeff Cox, who twittered a Mother Jones reporter over the weekend that the Wisconsin state police ought to clear the square with "live ammunition", then retwitterated, "you're damned right I advocate deadly force".

Cox lost his job, but raised his national prospects. He told local Channel 6 last night that his comments were "satire", that he regretted his "lousy choice of words", but that he was the victim of a "double standard".

Cox's blog is now down, so we mostly have to take his reputation as a keen sports observer on faith; however, we might note his violation of the cardinal rule of football above: Don't try to run three plays at once.

And, of course, the internets live forever, or until Scott Walker discovers the off switch, so we did manage to salvage this little bit of Swiftian satiricalism:

The Teenage Black Thug in question was one Brandon Johnson, the fifteen-year-old who deservedly looked like this:

after some curb service from three or four IMPD officers. Brandon was initially charged with resisting arrest, interfering with a police officer, and felonious assault with his face bones. Satirically, those charges were dropped.

Cox says his blogging was known to his superiors. And I have to say that I agree that he should not have been fired, though I base this on the slightly different grounds that we really shouldn't have hired his crazy ass in the first place.

Actually, one good thing did come out of all this: no one's going to be able to find Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller for a week.

This left the mule work to House Speaker and longtime Republican leader Brian Bosma, who is probably best thought of as Bill Murray without the talent. If Mike Pence is The Choirboy, thanks to his cosseting in the nation's capital, Bosma is the venal and colluded preacher in the company town. The phrase "smirking pious hypocrite" was actually invented for him. Really, I'd like to avoid being judgmental, but consider that while Jesus surrounded himself with thieves and prostitutes, He would almost certainly have drawn the line at lobbyists, and unquestionably at the Indiana General Assembly. Consider how He treated that other herd of swine.

Bosma's the guy who, during his last stint as Speaker, just couldn't keep the "nondenominational" monotheist invocation at the beginning of each session from turing into Saviorfest '05, to the extent that he was sued by a Jewish lawmaker, lost, and tried to fight the thing--at state expense, of course--all the way to the Supreme Court. Employing a crony law firm. Y'know, What Jesus Would Have Done.

Well, Bosma's been standing there with his gavel in his hand and no one to pronounce an auto-da-fé on, so yesterday he took it out on the gallery (filled with union folk and other non-believers), claiming they'd tried to "intimidate" and "spit on" legislators, before finally clearing the seats, taking his cross, and going home. Bosma also announced that, should Democrats return, he just might change the House rules and vote on the legislation they'd killed anyway. Because even a bankrupt state has plenty of loose change lying around to defend court challenges to every piece of legislation it enacted.

Mitch, meanwhile, is now threatening to hold Special Sessions "until New Years" if necessary, to get his promised soils divvying legislative agenda voted on, and to give the bill to the Democrats. Which I think they should pay. Right after Mitch reimburses us for last year's Special Session, the one he forced at the eleventh hour by torpedoing a bi-partisan spending bill that didn't meet his Presidential campaign propaganda needs.

Wednesday, February 23

Jon Stewart Should Take A Lesson From Mitch Daniels. Seriously.

HELL, let's just start with it: yesterday Mitch Daniels practically scoffed at the idea he'd send the Indiana State Police to round up skedaddling House Democrats, and said this:
“The activities of today are perfectly legitimate part of the process,” he said. “Even the smallest minority, and that’s what we’ve heard from in the last couple days, has every right to express the strength of its views and I salute those who did.”

Now, okay, this is the same guy who called skedaddling 2005 Democrats "car bombers". And there's no doubt that he thought those little backhand swipes were a subtle masterpiece of rhetorical art, like anything that cracks 'em up at the Cato Institute is Certified Dr. Swift. Plus it's the same Non-Presidential Candidate who wishes the rabid curs he helped elect last November would shut up and not give him headaches right before the Prom. He didn't want the Right to Work bill the Democrats blocked. He'd made that clear.

What the Bantam Menace might've done had this been a cherished part of his campaign makeover is moot. For those of us who've watched him grow up (man, I tickle myself sometimes) it's a remarkable accomplishment; it was like the day the terrier next door stopped yapping for five minutes.

So, sure, a politically-motivated talk that cost him nothing, but, still: he defended a principle he might need some day, though with any luck that won't be a political need. In the Land of the Blind, the guy who can actually see into next Tuesday is a philosopher.

I'm sure I've yelled Fuck you at The Daily Show once or twice, depending on how much Dennis Miller I watched before I skipped ahead to Colbert. I don't recall ever adding Jon Stewart! before.

I've complimented Mitch Daniels before, too, though the last time was probably the second week of his administration.

I know I've never done both in one 24-hour period.

You might recall that at Chez Riley we watch TDS/TCR the next evening, beginning when we've both had a bellyful of the locals, or, roughly, ten minutes in. And due to weekend overload, last Friday's show fell forward to the Monday dinner hour.

Yeah, it's a comedy (even if it's one which increasingly of late seems to rely on the time-honored pillar of the genre that any mention of "oomph loompa" or donning of a fake porn 'stash is Pure Gold). So, too, was Dennis Miller's "Ooooh, the global temperatures going up two whole degrees! I'll buy sunscreen!" routine comedy. That's an excuse when one of those remotes crosses the line between funny and boorish. It might be an absolute excuse, but for the line that was crossed by that rally last fall. It's not Jon Stewart's fault that he's the Most Trusted Name in News. That's not a fault at all, it's a default. But that needs to be taken into consideration, especially when he dedicated a segment of his program last fall to replying to--and denying--charges of a false equivalence.

Look: FOX News is a crusade; MSNBC is a counter-programming gambit from the network which shitcanned Phil Fucking Donohue for being too liberal. FOX is eight hours of Super Bowl pregame; MSNBC is a men's figure skating exhibition. When FOX calls the Teabagger Revolution it bought astroturf for "Freedom Fighters" that's Grade-Z propaganda. When it turns around and calls Wisconsin protesters un-American thugs and goons, that's Grade-Z propaganda and first-class hypocrisy. When some guy on MSNBC says that Teabaggers are Looney Toons, it's commentary. I know, I know: it sounds like I'm making a joke. But I'm serious. It may not be the sort of commentary Jon Stewart wants on the air, but he'd be back working clubs without it. It may not be 100% accurate, or 50% smart, but it is commentary; further, it--I say obviously, you may say "arguendo" if you'd rather--uses hyperbole. When that same guy--it's Ed Schultz, by the way, just try to contain him!--voices support for the Wisconsin protesters, that's not hypocrisy. It's called opinion. Hypocrisy is what FOX did: term the one a popular upwelling of Free Speech and the other a dangerous example of mob justice.

Now, maybe Ed Shultz--the man's a comet!--did exactly the same thing. He sure didn't do so in the clip you showed. And I'll gladly allow for a difference of opinion on such things. I'm a partisan. I'm not a partisan who feels he's represented by MSNBC, nor one who wants to be represented by MSNBC, but I understand why some people want a network that does for their viewpoint what FOX does for Roger Ailes'. What I think I'm arguing for here, though, is simple, and obvious, acceptance of what words mean. Calling an idea "bullshit" is not the same as calling an idea "treasonous". Lighting a fire in your fireplace in the middle of a scorching summer is looney; setting fire to your neighbor's house on a chilly evening is criminal. We enshrine the difference, legally, rhetorically, every which way.

There is, I'm sorry to say, always this sense in someone of my age, hat size, and general demeanor, the feeling that so many of you people in your forties betray a satisfied laziness about your own politics, a sort of watery libertarianism which mistook the Reagan-era backlash of your young adulthood for the Great Ridgepole of American centrism, and which loudly proclaims its willingness to split the difference as the apex of acuity and middle-aged common sense. Honestly, I've been waiting since my own forties for some sign that this might be fleshed out, and so far I'm still waiting. It's as though because you wouldn't have been caught dead driving around campus in 1982 in a van with shag carpeting and a unicorn mural, you obtained some insight into the foolish excesses of 60s social movements. It isn't that these matters are settled; it's that you're So Over them. The destruction of the right of collective bargaining for you is somehow metaphysically balanced by the gaucherie of people carrying signs and chanting. It's like you divide the country into two groups: those who have porn 'staches, and those who don't.

Colbert has Eugene Jarecki on to plug his new documentary dispelling Reagan Myths. Jarecki's an intelligent man; he certainly didn't enter the project a Reagan apologist. And what Myths does he uncover? Well, turns out the Gipper raised taxes. On the other hand, he wasn't an amiable dunce.

And, y'know, I'd be happy to debate the latter, or the aside that painted Jimmy Carter as History's Greatest Liberal Firebrand. But here's the fucking deal: on the one hand there's the thirty-year, politically-motivated Soviet Realist painting of the Gipper, and the fabricated record ("Reagan never cut taxes" is not a myth. It's a goddamned lie), while on the other, Clark Clifford once said something sorta nasty about him. Have you been laboring under a great weight because of that all these years? Really, isn't there some point when you say, y'know, somehow, those things don't really seem all that equal?

Tuesday, February 22

Consider That Now When Your Message-In-A-Bottle Hits The Beach It's Going To Be One Piece Of Trash Among Eight Hundred Thousand

Verne G. Kopytoff, "Blogs Wane as the Young Drift to Sites Like Twitter". February 20

Roni Caryn Rabin, "Behavior: Videos of Self-Injury Find an Audience". February 21

Stanley Fish, "What Did Watson the Computer Do?" February 21

I DON'T know if I can go on; should this prove to be my final olde style "blogging" missive, I trust the Reader will remember me warmly, if at all, and not look for me on Facebook. Maybe--should I decide to go out in a blaze of glory--on YouTube, where I will, with luck, usher in the new sub-category craze, "Disgruntled Old Guy beating a random 15-year-old Twitterer with a VHS machine the size of a dorm refrigerator". Assuming I can figure out how to work the video on that execrable inch-square thing lax (or non-existent) American advertising laws allow Target to call a "camera".

Okay, so I wouldn't really dream of doing that. Fucking print on the camera instructions is too small. And the young are considerate enough to keep my Poor Wife entertained, though not often amused. Let's just say that while my belief in the Brotherhood of Man remains strong, old age has at least given me a fuller perspective on the elderly's historical willingness to use the young as cannon fodder at the least provocation.

And my interest, and today's opprobrium, is not specifically directed at 12-17 year-olds who are refusing to visit my blog out of some misguided sense of fashion, but, rather, the people who write about them as though they were not simply the latest in a long line of inexperienced, unlettered, easily-replaced and hormonally-mazed sub-adults with a disturbing amount of sexual vigor.
Blogs were once the outlet of choice for people who wanted to express themselves online. But with the rise of sites like Facebook and Twitter, they are losing their allure for many people — particularly the younger generation.

Now, yet again we might note that somehow to the mass-market media Our Children are remarkably prescient--harbingers of that better future Mitch Daniels is forced by his philosophy of naked greed to insist is right around every corner--provided their activities are sufficiently consumerist, enormously profitable, at least potentially, and don't involve synthetic marihuana. Compare, for example, the huge "social networks" revolving around the decidedly middle-aged fondness for scrapbooking and flea markets: not exactly awarded a lot of space in your newly-Middle-American-friendly Times, are they? You wanna know about either you have to tune to HGTV, where the former will be on at 5 AM, and the latter a place where young trendoids go to refill their remodeled houses after the annoying, screechy decorator woman throws all their old stuff out. Are these things less trenderific than Whatever Internet Thing Teenagers Are Doing This Month? No, they're just done by people print editors and teevee producers are less likely to secretly dream of fucking. Are they somehow less important economically? No, it's just that compared to computer software and websites, they're less amenable to a global takeover by some Harvard dropout asshole who steals other people's ideas. And so, less attractive to print editors and teevee producers who dream of being those assholes.

Thus the possibility of, say, Kobalt box cutters or Wilkinson Sword Blades getting behind the cutting-video craze won't change matters; such behaviors are supposed to elicit concern that Our Youth may be too self-destructive, too high, or too otherwise occupied to get with the latest consumer trends like they're supposed to, and before they become too old to hook. Or fuck. The distinction is easy to make; the article in question will either quote someone from a research group which stands to make a lot of money off it (Good trend):

Lee Rainie, director of the Internet and American Life Project, says that blogging is not so much dying as shifting with the times. Entrepreneurs have taken some of the features popularized by blogging and weaved them into other kinds of services.

or an Assistant or Associate Professor of Psychosociology from some made-up school in some made-up country who stands to make a lot of money "curing" it (Bad trend):
Stephen P. Lewis, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Guelph in Ontario and the paper’s lead author, calls the YouTube depictions of self-harm “an alarming new trend,” especially considering how popular Internet use is among the population that engages most in self-injury already: teenagers and young adults.

Y'know, just a couple generations ago any teenage craze was cause for alarm. Sure, the influence of religious nuts, overt racists, and sexually-frustrated grammarians has waned since then, but, like the deposed Freud, who used to keep diapered infantilists too embarrassed to run for reelection, we were ill-served to toss them out on deserved ear without considering a proper replacement. It's not that I fear for Twittering's effect on literacy: there is no literacy left to be affected. It's the fact that information naziism can now employ as foot soldiers brigades of twenty-somethings with unchecked cases of galloping nostalgia for high school.

I suppose that at the time it was thought that normal adult humans could and would keep this sort of thing in check. In fairness, we used to have a much bigger supply.

For the life of me I don't understand the resilience of optimism. It's impossible for me not to wonder how someone can operate under the assumption that technology will, in every instance, come up with some means of cosseting them in old age the same way it has perpetuated their adolescence. Then again, like the man said, it's schools, not bookies and psychics, that hold bake sales. I'm still trying to figure out who green-lighted the "Watson" business on Jeopardy! ? Was it Trebek? Hey, I root for the man to go on forever, but he's got these fainting spells, and he's no programmer, assuming all the excitement he conjures up for all those "special" Jeopardy! weeks isn't shammed. I don't wanna watch Kid's Jeopardy! Isn't Nickelodeon still a network? Tell you what: I'll watch, if you ask them regular Jeopardy! questions, so that the whole thing consists of 22 minutes of smart-ass kids shutting up.* Put the little rat-bastards in their place. Teens I don't want to watch do anything. No, really, I mean anything. Twenty years ago a woman I knew asked me what celebrity I'd most like to fuck. My protestations that I didn't know the names of any, and didn't think that way wouldn't deter her, so I finally said, "Salma Hayek". And she said, "What would you do once you had to talk to her?" It is the rare one-liner which influences a lifetime's choice of pornography.

Ms Hayek, of course, has proven herself a genuine talent and a smart cookie, and we could well ask what she could possibly find to talk to me about, after the full five-minute version of The Riley Technique. But this is not the point. I'm sure my inquisitor had that one-liner ready regardless of my answer, and I wish now I'd said "Tracey Ullman," but I was aggravated. I was always more drawn to brains, and I don't say that just to earn Brownie points. It's because smart girls could appreciate a good attempt at pathos when they heard it.

Anyway, Jesus, guys, Paint Still Dries. Compelling fucking television, assuming you couldn't work the remote to turn it off. A complete waste of Brad Rutter and Ken "My Poor Wife's Dream Date" Jennings. Somebody call 1978 and see if it gives a fuck. The four-year-old computer I'm typing on can kick my ass at Scrabble once I set it to "Smart", and that's about halfway up the scale. So can the eleven-year-old computer it replaced. So could the eighteen-year-old that one replaced. You could come up with a pitching machine that could out-duel Sandy Koufax and Nolan Ryan in their primes, and it wouldn't take the millions IBM dropped on advertising this one to do it. And so what?

We had the thing on because there's no way my Poor Wife would pass up Ken Jennings doing anything. I fell asleep twice, and wished I had the third time. I kept rooting for one of the Two Greatest Jeopardy! Champions of All-Time to reach over and pour a glass of water on the thing.

And I don't know which was worse: the home-town crowd of IBM engineers whooping it up like Steeler fans, or the perpetual use of the Single Explanation for Why This All Means Something: Medicine. "Doctors will be able to use Watson to aid in diagnoses." I heard that eight times before I stopped counting. Like Doctors rank just above Grandmas on the computer literacy scale: "My diagnosis box doesn't speak English!" Maybe next time you can take a team of engineers, ten years, and 127 supercomputers and figure out how I'm supposed to pay the guy. Or make my fucking television smarter. Or come up with one that can say something useful in 140 characters.


* Except it wouldn't; if there's one thing we learn from the local, televised high school quiz bowl thing we watch every week in the hope that one day an urban school is gonna kick the ass of the rich private school fucks, it's that, given a question they have no hope of answering and don't believe should qualify as a question, such as the incontinent Boomer culture references**, or some piece of arcana your average teenaged "brain" considers the exclusive province of the Super-Brainiac†, someone will come up with a bit of self-conscious dumbassery that only his fellow juveniles--including, here, the guffawing Channel 13 weatherman who moderates the thing--would find amusing.

**And in fairness, they're right.

† Since there's generally someone on every team who can handle entry-level college math, this usually, and instructively, consists of history, geography, or current events question involving some area of the globe which is not the United States, or some fact about the United States which predates 1998.

Monday, February 21

Olio: Even Homer And Jethro Nod Edition

The Times checks in on this weekend's Jeff Davis inaugural celebration in Montgomery:
Though the swearing-in was a re-enactment down to the antique buttons, there were contemporary political overtones. More than one speaker, insisting that “the South was indeed right,” extolled the Confederacy as an example of limited government that should be followed now, and said vaguely that the Southern cause was vindicated by a glance at the headlines every day.

But even the politics on Saturday were tied up in a larger sense of grievance, a feeling of being marginalized and willfully misunderstood. Expressions of this feeling led to some rather unexpected analogies, like when Kelley Barrow, a teacher from Georgia, declared that people of Confederate heritage “have been forced to go to the back of the bus.”

The participants know, however, that they will have to live with such frustrations over the four years of the war’s sesquicentennial.

“I really wish we didn’t have to defend what we do,” Chuck Rand, an engineer from Monroe, La., who is the adjutant in chief of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, said in an interview on Friday night. “This doesn’t have to be a fight.”

Y'know, Colonel Rand, my Poor Wife and I fight over how to load the fucking dishwasher. And we like each other.

I wouldn't tolerate you sticking your nose in that one; likewise, if you wanna keep this shit in your own kitchen you'll never hear a word from me. But you don't. Somehow there just can't be a Sons of the Confederacy without the attendant denial that the Late Unpleasantness was over The Peculiar Institution.

Go ahead, Colonel: play dress up soldier all you want; hire a nice elderly couple to run around your home playing Uncle Ben and Aunt Jemima--you're gonna have to pay 'em this time--and plant cotton to your heart's content. No one's gonna bother you. Hell, what's left of the American economy depends on walking hallucinations, so most of us are at least inured. We don't give a flip how much you lie to yourselves--that is, after all, your heritage, too--but we don't have to listen to you lie to everyone else and be nice about it. When you come into the public square people get to yell back. This is the difference between wearing a Stars n' Bars t-shirt, and hoisting one up the flagpole at the state capitol building.

And it may well be a minor concern when people are actively writing out the enormity of human chattel and the most destructive conflict this country has seen, fought over its perpetration, but, Colonel, the antebellum Southern contingent didn't favor "small government" any more than its namesake firebrands and pretend patriots do today. Like them, it favored self-aggrandizement and government controls on everyone else to its own benefit. Again, lying about this stuff is as old as the creation of Confederate nostalgia itself, so I don't really expect better. But the sort of peace you mean--where everyone else agrees you may say any odious thing that crosses your mind, and use the courthouse square to do so--might fly a little further if you were willing to do the same in return.

Oh, by the way: kudos to Campbell Robertson for the end of the piece, for finding a fifth-grade teacher and his class touring the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church while the march was going on outside:
But there was a lot more to discuss. So, Mr. Schmitt said as he left Dr. King’s old basement office, he was still thinking of ways to talk to his students about history, about the reasons for commemoration, about causes that were lost and causes that were won.

Meanwhile, Frank Rich writes a pretty good column, though it may owe a lot of its effectiveness to the fact that no one else wants to speak about the Elephant in the room when it's the Republican elephant, and the utter lack of "conservative" "ideas". But there was a fainting spell right in the middle:
There was one serious speech at CPAC — an economic colloquy delivered that night by Mitch Daniels, the Indiana governor much beloved by what remains of mainstream conservative punditry

Listen, first, if by "what's left of mainstream conservative punditry" one means "David Brooks and George Eff Will, plus assorted wingnut publications which need to maintain a toe in every Republican camp lest they lose access" and by "serious" you mean "didn't call the President a Socialist more than once, and waited until near the end to reference rap music", then, okay, I suppose.

You've got much to atone for, Frank, and repeating what the headlines tell you ain't gonna do it.

Let's try this: "The single attempt at a serious speech the entire weekend came from Indiana's Mitch Daniels, who, after reminding the audience that at 5'4", James Madison, our shortest President, was only three inches taller than Daniels, launched into a denunciation of the generationally-crippling effects of Federal deficits run up since his own tenure at OMB."

It's a fucking pose, Frank, though one you may have to step past the headlines to figure out. And Mr. "Culture War on the Back Burner" will, thanks to the Republican majorities he helped elect last year in Indiana, get to run for President with Arizona's Stop and Shoot Immigration Law and some of the most hallucinatory un-Constitutional abortion laws on his resumé, in addition to the generationally-crippling effects of gutting every state program average people rely on just so he won't have another massive deficit on his watch to explain away.

Can I just mention something here? This whole notion that "families have to spend within their means, so governments should too", in addition to being a haphazard argument disguised as common sense, based on real-life observation of something that rarely if ever happens (the average American family, faced with a financial shortfall borrows more money: the wealthy American family in the same situation just rigs a market or two), and which, when it does, frequently results in the opposite (part-time job for Mom or Dad), and practically never in the "third-grade math" Daniels likes to pretend he's the Master of, namely, unthinking budget slashing of a set percentage across the board. The average family which decides to face a financial shortage strictly by cutting expenses will, say, make do with an older car, or just one, or skip a vacation; it will not decide to drive 75% of a car, or get little Wylie 3/4 of the braces he or she needs. Daniels didn't "cut public employment 18%" because he thought it was the correct course of action; he did so because he could, and because that was what he needed to do to walk out of here and run for President with an arguable budget surplus. The only tough-minded decision Mitch Daniels made as Governor was the decision to run that one-year tax increase on top earners to pay down the "deficit". That one lasted all of about twelve hours. It's time to stop calling this shit "serious".

I guess it's time for another MITCH WATCH watch, where we note what the former newspaper known as the Indianapolis Star said about the man just so it can excuse putting his picture on every Sunday's political column. This week: nothing.

Okay, that's not entirely true; it's actually less than nothing. Rush Limbaugh took offense to Daniels' CPAC speech, leading to the rather remarkable display of the Star correcting something Rush said; Jeb Bush, so inept a politician and human being he was passed over for the Republican presidential nomination in favor of his younger brother, George W. Bush, said something nice about Mitch, but also mentioned his height (and teleprompters for fuck's sake. Would someone please explain that to me?); and Mitch getting crushed in a New Hampshire poll by 1) Mitt Romney; 2) everyone else; and 3) no preference. Romney's lead was explained by the proximate distance to Massachusetts. You're free to buy that if you like, but what explains Mitt Romney?

Friday, February 18

Back Home Again

I DON'T believe I can adequately describe the current Indiana General Assembly. Okay, I could, but I think I get enough traffic already from people searching for "shit eating motherfuckers".

In addition to Definitively Defining Marriage For All Time As Between One Man and One Woman, In Case Anybody Can't Read The Law Already on the Books, and No Tag Backs, eradicating the menace of public education, enacting a clone of the sure-fire Arizona immigration and suspiciously brown people act (just in time for the fucking Super Bowl) and requiring doctors to inform potential pregnancy terminators that You're killing a human baby, you whore! in their best DeForrest Kelly voice, the two-chamber Republican majority is seeking to arm every law-abiding and substantially law-abiding citizen in the state at all times. Actually, this is the one part of their agenda which makes sense to me, since it might be useful in mediating the total fucking chaos they're in such a rush to provoke. You know what they say about blind pigs and acorns.

I used to watch local Channel 8 "news" in the evenings; in part this was because 8 once had a decent news staff--true, this is like watching Katie Couric because of Edward R. Murrow--headed by an Indianapolis-born anchor, and produced, for a time, by a Hoosier with a social conscience. They're a half-generation gone, now, and the survivors of that time are like a police line-up of what's happened to journalism over the course of their careers. There's the doyenne of local female teleprompter readers, appended to the anchor desk back in the heady days of The Mary Tyler Moore Show is Already Off the Air and the ERA has Already been Obstructed, who took to reading whatever was in front of her--news report, unfounded rumor, or promo copy for Survivor--the way a duck takes to crapping on your lawn; the Dean (Broder) of local political reporters, whose sing-song delivery can be used to trace the last quarter-century movement in the Overton Window, by analyzing the Doppler shift; the…

Oh, just a minute. Jim "Dean Broder" Shella has found it increasingly difficult to hide his middle-class fat cat Republican fetishism in the Mitch Daniels era; he's the guy I heard on the blaring radio one day when I was rehabbing my knee, yukking it up with his pal and GOP hatchet man Fat Mike McDaniel over Hillary Clinton ordering a Crown Royal shot in that Northern Indiana bar. This was maybe two weeks after the event, and thus 13 days and 23 hours after it had been explained that it was the bartender who gave her Crown Royal, the Cadillac of blue-collar bourbon scholarship. Can't let that sort of thing get in the way of perpetrating a joke that was already ten-days past what sell-by date if might have had, if it hadn't been a factory reject from the start. Anyway, Shella's the long-time moderator (the word has no actual meaning) of something called Indiana Week in Review, a sort of cornpone conflation of The McLaughlin Group and Washington Week on the local PBS affiliate. The panel used to consist of a Republican representative, a Democratic-Republican representative (it's Indiana; what choice do they have?), and two political reporters from Hoosier newspapers. It now consists of the same goddam four people, every week: Fat Mike, former (say twenty years ago) Democratic-Republican insider Ann Delaney, and two guys who used to be on the show a lot as reporters, but now work as mouthpieces for industry groups, yet are still on the show. It's like watching somebody's weekly poker game. Nobody at the PBS station seems to've noticed, or dares to say, that replacing Reporters with Guys Who Used To Be Reporters sorta sabotages the whole concept. The resulting discussions are so wide-ranging, so inclusive of differing viewpoints, that it occasionally threatens to veer into the center lane. If you missed your opportunity to hear someone describe Barack Obama's Indiana electoral victory as "historic", this was your place to come, provided that was all the analysis you needed.

And the point here is this: I wish ill on no Hoosier without first knowing whether he voted for Mitch Daniels. So let's just say that, should Shella actually depend on the income generated by this thing to send his children to college, or operate his boat, the irony that the Republican party is about to remove its funding would not be lost on me.

…there's the Jeff Greenfield guy, the one who started at 8 as a mustachioed young liberal go-getter, and now is a mustachioed, middle-aged burgher and promoter of regular home maintenance; and the aging (quite well, actually) pretty boy who seems to have enough on the ball to read a teleprompter and not fuck up a good-paying gig. In other words, he's the one whose skills best translated into the modern era.

When these people were young Channel 8 was the #1 rated, and #1 considered, local news broadcast, but it's now mired in mediocrity. Upstart Channel 13 was better positioned in the 70s to take advantage of the Galloping Stupidity of Happy Talk News, especially as it was then the local ABC affiliate, and could get plenty of pointers from Roone Arledge, Barbara Walters, and Good Morning America. Now, I don't know about you, but for me, personally, if someone smiles incessantly in my presence there'd better be a confirmed neuropathology behind it. Fuckers at 13, if you turn the sound off you'd swear they were trying to sell you a car. Hell, half the time they are, and they couldn't be more pleased about it.

So 8's been losing to The Osmonds now for a couple decades, yet all these people still have jobs, possibly because they demonstrate the sort of flexibility which would give you pause in dumping a mistress. The news direction has obviously slanted right at an escalating pace in recent years, either because there's a wingnut at the helm, or because the FOX template happened to float by while they were gulping seawater. At any rate, these are not masterminds at work, and they aren't really covering "news" anyway, so what you get is a sort of unqualified Daniels boosterism combined with the natural unlettered libertarianism (gotta stop repeating myself!) of the SUV-piloting regional marketing director.

I had more-or-less given up on 8 in disgust after it let disgraced former Marion County Prosecutor Carl "Face Time" Brizzi back on the air--two nights in a row!--to comment on his successor's handling of the Drunken Cop Kills and Maims Stopped Motocyclists case he had conveniently botched, but last night I had it on for some reason, or no reason. And one of the many Let's Arm The Citizenry To The Teeth bills moving from Bad Idea to Even Worse Law, SB 0202, this one sponsored by State Senator Jim Tomes (R-New Phallusburg), "prohibits, with certain exceptions, a political subdivision from regulating any matter pertaining to firearms, ammunition, and firearm accessories," those exceptions, as widely reported, being schools and courthouses. It also provides for that favored accessory of the total lunatic, the ability of the inconvenienced far-arm enthusiast to sue whatever comma-nist political subdivision pried the guns, ammo, and accessories out of his still warm fingers.

Now, about a week or so ago, Jim Irsay, the inheritor of the Indianapolis Colts (thanks to an activist divorce-court judge), and the inheritor of millions of dollars of Indianapolis taxpayer largess (thanks to the local officials who get to eat free on game day), tweeted, fer chrissakes, his semi (I'm feeling charitable this morning)-literate opposition to the bill:
Someones got a bill n Ind.State Legislature making it illegal 4 CIB 2 stop some1 from bringing a gun into Luc Oil,I'm against it,so should u

Now, for the record, "CIB" is the Capital Improvement Board, the unelected tax-seizers who operate "Luc Oil", among other scams, the Football Barn we built Irsay when he outgrew the old one. Why this would be a Tweet, well, you're asking the wrong man. Why Channel 8 would pick it up a week later, I suppose incompetence has its own internal rhythms. Shut up and dance.

So the goddam thing is a big deal last night: Jim Irsay opposes bill! He's going to have a press conference, and we'll bring it to you live! And 8's two male halves (it's f'ball) are squeezing the air out of the thing for ten minutes prior. And a big part of that is how Senator Jim Tomes says Irsay's misreading the bill. This was not presented as the usual he said/guy with equipment problem said. No. It was "Hey, the Senator who wrote the bill says it doesn't mean that. So Irsay's just getting all het up about something that doesn't mean anything, and, besides, guns are really no risk at all, and nobody would carry one into a Colts game anyway." Except, of course, guns were mentioned as little as possible, lest someone in the audience start to get the picture.

Except, of course, that's not how the law works, and if you don't believe that you can look at the Indiana General Assembly and its history of passing dumb-ass shit that blows up in everyone's face while taxpayers pay the court costs. Then, as this is still unfolding, we get a second story from the Senator: the law wouldn't apply to the Football Barn (Home of the It Might Happen Super Bowl LXVI) because people who buy tickets are entering into a contract.

Now, as to why every "political subdivision" seeking to keep crazed killers and 18th century musketeers out of public buildings wouldn't make every library, public park, and stadium in its jurisdiction a contract deal is unclear. As is the reason why guns are so safe in those spots, but not courtrooms or classrooms.

Although it's wasn't exactly a mystery as to what does the talking here; the NFL trumps sacred Constitutional rights. The legislature is reported to be writing Luc Oil into the exemption list. Which, of course, means the Senator was quite possibly full of shit, and the two anchormen, with almost sixty years combined experience, couldn't find the handle on the story with four hands.

Oh, and Mr. Irsay? Why don't you buy your own fucking stadium?

Thursday, February 17

Maybe If The Adults Weren't Such Liars The Juveniles Wouldn't Know They Can Get Away With It

THIS, from an editorial from The Newspaper of Record on how irresponsible the House Republicans are. (Yeah, there's a shocker):
If the Republicans got their way, it would wreak havoc on Americans’ lives and national security. This blood sport also has nothing to do with the programs that are driving up the long-term deficit: Medicare, Medicaid and, to a lesser extent, Social Security.

On second thought, okay, assuming by "to a lesser extent" you mean "not at all".

Social Security is a trust, not part of the Federal budget. Social Security is solvent. If John Boehner finds the Magic Elixir of Stupid tomorrow, and eliminates Social Security in its entirety, the Horrible Federal Deficit will not be altered one iota.

Actually, that's not true: what would happen is that the HFD would increase, because thanks to the Joint Financial Trickery of the Johnson and Reagan years, the Social Security surplus now camouflages the Federal Deficit for purposes of fooling the Rubes as to what Reagan was really up to public reporting. Eliminating it would also deprive the Congress and the Executive branch of something to borrow from surreptitiously.

This, by the way--as if you aren't ahead of me--is the actual crux of the actual issue of "fixing" Social Security. And the argument is now forty years old. If the fucking New York Times can't get this right--and Jesus Christ, Wikipedia does--what possible hope is there that The Crazy Party will be detoured by "facts"?

Of course it's actually worse than that: the Timesmen can't avoid adopting the Right's Inhuman Resources Program as fact: Medicare and Medicaid bust the budget, but the 55% (conservative, but not "conservative" estimate) of the Federal budget which goes to military operations is as invisible as we pretend a Stealth bomber is.

Y'know, at every goddam turn there's another excuse for our incontinent militarization, for continuing to spend at WWII levels, whether the threat is the Soviets being sorta close to us in megatonnage (see Missile Gap, The) or some guy lighting his underwear on fire in Canada. We're the fucking Windows™ of hard power: we insist on never actually obsoleting the junk we sold the Rubes two generations ago, like they might remember, so we're continually defending the Fulda Gap, preparing to storm Quemoy and Matsu, weaponizing Space, touching up Mutually Assured Destruction, preparing to best the Kaiser at Jutland, and shopping for video-game weapons systems, all at once, and all with no sense of fitting anything together. And meanwhile, in case no one happened to notice, getting bogged down for decades inside countries which didn't even have armies when we invaded.

Hairlessingaza was good enough to send me a link to this report just released by the Straus Military Reform Project. Let's pull up two tiny points:
[R]eal air-to-air combat is separated by a chasm from the technologist’s dangerously beguiling dream of beyond-visual-range (BVR) combat: push a button, launch a missile at a blip on the scope at 25 miles, then watch the blip disappear without ever having laid eyes on the target. That concept of combat, oblivious to the inconvenient details of real air-to-air fights8, leads to huge, cumbersome fighters loaded down with tons and tons of heavy stealth skins, massive radars and missiles, and failure-ridden electronics of unmanageable complexity. The most recent fighter built in pursuit of the BVR combat delusion, the F-22, has a $355 million sticker price and costs $47,000 per hour to fly, making it impossible to fly the hours necessary to train pilots adequately (people first!) and impossible to buy enough fighters to influence any seriously contested air war.

[I]n its carrier reincarnation, the battleship is still soaking up the lion’s share of the U.S. Navy budget to this day. The preoccupation with $14 billion carriers escorted by $1 to $3 billion destroyers has led to virtually complete Navy neglect of strategically essential coast control capabilities like $175 million minesweepers, $60 million coastal patrol ships, $35 million fast missile-torpedo boats and $4 million riverine-estuarine warfare boats. In the 1991 Gulf War, the Navy’s perennially inadequate minesweeping forces made it too dangerous to launch a 17,000 Marine amphibious assault that General Schwarzkopf had planned.6 Recently, in the Indian Ocean, the U.S. Navy’s utter lack of coastal patrol and fast attack boats left our merchant ships mostly unprotected against pirates in rubber skiffs. As a result, we witnessed the ludicrous scene of using a $1 billion destroyer to subdue four rifle-armed pirates in a 25-foot inflatable.

Of course, there is no seriously contested air war in our future; maybe a couple of anxious hours if we decide for some reason to declare war on Israel. Similarly, we're building a twelve-carrier fleet, an extension of the Spend-Incontinently-on-Everything-but-Manpower doctrine of the Reagan years, which has served us so well; when the Navy requested a temporary reduction in the number of carriers in 2008, to adjust for decommissioning and major overhaul schedules, the Heritage Foundation screamed bloody murder. Fourteen Essex-class carriers saw action in WWII--this a time when they were in danger of being sunk by an enemy--and half of those were commissioned in 1944. We had plans to build twenty-two. Why we need twelve now is anyone's guess. There are eleven other carriers in service in the rest of the world's navies combined. Italy, Spain, and the UK have two each. Russia has one. In an actual conventional naval combat situation a carrier would have to drop 100% of its offensive capabilities and spend all its energies defending itself. We would, however, compensate for this by going ballistic the moment any other country on the planet decided to build some, and, if nothing else, start building more.

The only military mission of today's supercarrier is the intimidation of countries with no air force. If we wind up in six such situations simultaneously you may well ask yourself where we're finding the ground forces to go in and finish the job.

Look, President Daniels may talk about "Defense" spending being on the table, but that means little beyond the drop-in-the-bucket cancellation of one or two showy development programs whose selection will mostly be left up to the same bureaucrats who approved the thing in the first place. No one even mentions a sensible military program for the 21st century guiding a massive, and perfectly reasonable reduction in Defense spending. Nobody dares to. And the New York Times ain't gonna make 'em, apparently.

Wednesday, February 16

There Were Nine Official Investigations Of Pearl Harbor Between 1941-1946

Scott Shane, "Expert Panel Is Critical of F.B.I. Work In Investigating Anthrax Letters". February 15

Jerry Markon, "Anthrax report casts doubt on scientific evidence in FBI case against Bruce Ivins." February 15

AND, yes, the first one was actually conducted in December, 1941.

It's now nine and-a-half years later. It's beyond time that subpoena power was applied towards getting the facts on an attack on the US government before the American people.

Yesterday was the capper: the FBI, which had resisted all efforts for independent oversight, and, instead, funded its own evaluation restricted to the scientific evidence--presumably the strongest part of its case--has its own panel cast doubt on that.

And there's plenty of reason to wonder about the rest. There's $5.8 million reasons we paid Steven Hatfill after the Bureau tried him in the papers. What reason do the rest of us have to believe the case against Bruce Ivins was any stronger? Not the lab work, apparently.

Look: this was a direct attack on the U.S. Government. 9/11 was not, despite the apparent belief in some circles that the Pentagon is one of the Two or Three Other Branches, Depending on Who's Counting. We've decided that 9/11 was an Act of War, conveniently, since that was what we were prepared to respond to (though, in the event, not as well as we imagined). The anthrax bombings were an act of pure terrorism, though the FBI has somehow managed to conclude they were more like Ivins' ill-conceived ad campaign for More Lab Work. (And these are the guys who invented, or "invented", Criminal Profiling, but the fact that the bomber targeted Tom Daschle, Patrick Leahy, and the news operations of the three major networks, under the cover of a sort of cartoon Islam, is evidently chalked up to coincidence.)

It's time to live up to our War on Terra rhetoric in a way that will, for once, make a difference. It's time to get to the bottom of this. The investigation hasn't answered any questions, and there are serious questions about the investigation.

Tuesday, February 15

I'm Sleeping As Fast As I Can

Ross Douthat's blog
February 10, 2011, 2:08 PM

A Quiet February

My already-intermittent blogging will cease for most of this month. Real posting will resume once I’ve figured out how to successfully juggle punditry and fatherhood.

OKAY, so I suppose "Give up punditry" is either too easy, or too difficult, since you don't actually engage in any, and yes, I am giving you credit for using the term ironically, except it's not classical irony, but the modern sort which expects to be taken seriously for having employed it. This is, perhaps, a major symptom of the modern disease: you imagine you can call yourself a pundit, and gain points for a little self-deprecation, despite the fact that "pundit" now precisely means "ignoramus who blathers about current events on some mass-market media site". So in effect you're not being ironic, but you're the only one who doesn't realize it.

Anyway, Ross-o, maybe you could start off by not wasting two hours of everyone's time talking to Matt Yglesias on Bloggingheads.

And fer cryin' out loud, every weekend you write one 800-word essay on what you and the Pope think of last week's headlines; through the week you occasionally expound on something Ezra had to say on your "weblog", doing, in other words, what tens of thousands of Americans do better than you, except they aren't paid for their time. What's the fucking problem? I know people who spend more time drinking than you do punditizing and still manage to be good parents. Is the problem that your children are getting old enough to wonder why Daddy's always walking around in his pajamas? Or is it early-middle-age existential terror, and you've begun to wonder what happens when they get old enough to read your shit? Is the problem that punditizing doesn't take you away from parenting often enough? What? Please don't make me hope it's galloping Farah Fawcett-Majorsitis, and the Times in its infinite cluelessness has decided that your incontinent linky-linky thing is no longer cutting edge? They want somebody on top of this Facebook thing? Did someone overhear Pinch asking a copyboy if he knew of "a young Ross Douthat"? Face it, Ross: you're coming up on two years (!) at the Times. That's twice as long as they put up with Kristol having nothing to say. You got the gig for having pretended to lecture the Republican party on how to come back from the Bush administration, and come back it did, except by doing precisely the opposite. I realize that in your world being utterly wrong about everything is grounds for a promotion. But things change. Maybe it's time to read the crayon on the wall. Glad we could have this chat.

REPUBLICAN legislative insanity (but I repeat myself!) continues apace, here as elsewhere. It's worth noting, I guess, that now that Mitch Daniels has deserted the state for full-time contemplation, not even his own party feels like pretending that "let's put social issues on the back burner" was anything but a bad soundbite. A requirement that doctors inform a woman seeking to terminate a pregnancy that "life begins at conception" has been tacked on to the ongoing attempt to require hospital admitting privileges for anyone who performs abortions, and is now out of Senate committee. It's the sort of thing which would have been killed in the "strategy" sessions in previous years. There's a proposal somewhere (I don't follow this stuff too closely, for fear it may be radioactive) which will quadruple marriage license fees unless the couple takes a marriage course first. I trust it will include a good tenderloin recipe for the little woman, and I say "woman" because the real push is for getting a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage on the Indiana ballot within a couple years, despite the fact that the gay marriage ban already on the books has been upheld in court. It's not just nostalgia for the heady days of 2005, when we were young and anti-gay; the impetus, besides really cementing the Republican reputation for never thinking things out beyond the next quarter, is that old "conservative" favorite, making it statutorily impermissible for the courts to rule on the law, and the newer "conservative" favorite, overturning the results of the Civil War via abrogating Federal law. Indiana will not be satisfied just denying civil rights to some of its citizens. It wants to ignore the rights other states grant them into the bargain. And to think I once said that "conservatives" hadn't studied the Civil Rights movement.

I'm not certain whether anyone has bothered to point out that this might have a negative effect on gay and lesbian entrepreneurs who were considering moving businesses to Indiana because of its "business-friendly atmosphere", which Mitch is busy trying to turn into our version of tourism. Though this might be balanced out by the descending divorced gay partners looking to avoid court-ordered alimony altogether.

Again, just short-sightedness and a full-speed rush to whatever reactionary idiocy the GOP thinks will help it at the polls; this is the real reason I hate these guys: not so much that they're assholes, but that they're half-assed assholes. Could we please just admit that the problem isn't going away until we get rid of homosexuals? I'm not talking Final Solution stuff; just make the state less attractive for 'em than it already is. God, it can't take much.

Meanwhile, we're hell-bent on wrecking what's left of the public educational system, which ain't much anyway, so I think I was more amused by this one than anything else:
House OKs home-schooled students on athletic teams

Home-schooled students could play on the athletic teams of their local public school district under a bill the Indiana House passed 60-30 on Monday.

House Bill 1399, which also applies to students who attend nonaccredited schools, goes to the Senate for consideration.

Rep. Tim Wesco, R-Osceola, said that the parents of home-schooled students pay taxes that support public schools, and that the state constitution says those schools should be open to all.

Now, y'know, I'm really thinking that if you didn't want to subject young Mackenzie or Larson (or Rebekah or Seth) to the iniquities of the public school classroom, lettin' 'em into the locker rooms is not a particularly good idea.

But the thing I love about this is the assumption that schools are there to provide this sort of open-ended opportunity even as we strip away the funding; Indianapolis Public Schools have done away with major sports in several high schools, and I didn't hear a peep out of the legislature about Our Precious Extracurricular Rights then. But then, these are the same bozos who defunded fire departments across the state (via the Property Tax Freedoms we raised sales taxes 17% to implement), and now want to know why those departments are charging people for their services. Enjoy the ride, America. If you don't come to it, it'll come to you.

Monday, February 14

Poster Boy

Walter Shapiro, "CPAC 2011: The Only Winners Were Mitch Daniels and Ron Paul". February 12

READERS overly concerned with minutiae may recall that last week, or sometime, the Indianapolis Star debuted its MITCH WATCH ("A weekly look at Gov. Mitch Daniels' activities as he weighs a run for the GOP 2012 presidential nomination") column-within-a-political-round-up-column ("Behind Closed Doors") in an effort to better excuse running a half-page picture of the man every goddam Sunday. With our nation's precious preteritio resources declining nearly as fast as newspaper readership, we're not even going to bother mentioning that recent years have seen such sure-fire Hoosier presidential contenders as Dick Lugar, Evan Bayh, Birch Bayh, Dan Quayle, Mike Pence, and Whichever Crane Brother Didn't Get Caught Molesting Congressional Pages come and go without testing the limitations of traditional page layout.

This week's thrilling installment includes: 1) Mitch went to CPAC, but that doesn't mean he's a candidate; 2) those YouTube Draft Daniels students went to CPAC, and sold tee shirts (one of which replaced Obama's "Hope" logo with 'Solvency". Oh, sorry. Hope you were sitting down.) but that doesn't mean he's a candidate; 3) somebody dug up Mitch's old Princeton pot bust, which is old news to Hoosiers because he's been upfront about it [I love, first, how easily an utter necessity becomes a Virtue, and, second, how overlooking the felonious (he was dealing in his dorm room, not tokin' up in the library stacks) youthful indiscretions of a man who is now, by professional necessity and personal inclination a big fucking hypocrite about the thing qualifies as open-mindedness] so it won't affect his still not being a candidate; 4) Daniels is getting some press notice for being short (the item attributes to "Statehouse gossip" the question of whether his insisted-on 5-foot-7 might be something of a stretch. And yes, "stretch" was their term). Although, you know, James Madison, who did run, and also dealt weed. This prompted the following conversation Chez Riley, which must be prefaced with a note that our living room statement includes an old church lectern used as a dictionary stand:

ME: Honey, how tall are you?

PW: Five-nine.

ME: Could you come in here for a moment? I wanna figure out what size casters we need so you can reach the OED.

He's 4-11 people. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that, but imagining you're hiding it, coupled with that combover, is suggestive of something pathological; 5) He's having rotator-cuff surgery, which, according to his press secretary, doctors attribute to normal wear-and-tear, but he attributes to falling in December '09 while taking out the garbage. Jes' like folks. This doesn't mean he's a candidate.

And Jes' Like Mitch, who knows better than every scientist on the planet when it comes to global climate trends.

Which brings us to CPAC, I guess, and the continued Press confusion over a sorta-carefully crafted Daniels PR campaign and something that actually means something.
What was most striking about Daniels' speech, which inspired careful listening rather than pep-rally applause, was that it treated his CPAC audience as adults rather than as just another constituency group demanding pandering. Whether it was dismissing the easy-answer attacks on earmarks ("in the cause of national solvency, they are a trifle") or suggesting that most voters do not appreciate the sharp-edged rhetoric of the Republican right ("it would help if they liked us, just a bit"), Daniels' speech was an exercise in speaking truth to conservatives who have the power to derail a presidential candidacy.

Here's the difference between our political pundit class and med-school students: med-school students generally only imagine they've caught every disease they read about for their first year or so. Evidently with pundits it's a lifetime condition.

Mitch Daniels! Barack Obama! John McCain! We can go on and on and on. The post-Watergate political press always anoints somebody as the Straight-Shootin', Truth-Tellin', Serious Candidate who's gonna pull us out of Our Political Morass ("Since 1948"™) by ignoring the conventional wisdom of campaigns as promoted, interminably, by our post-Watergate political press. Always the same shit, and perpetually in ignorance of the Guy who it touted four years ago for pulling the same schtick. This is an arena, mind you, where Jack Kemp was touted as a serious thinker. Go ahead, motherfuckers. Start talkin' about policy. Dare ya.

Here's the deal, Mr. Shapiro: Mitch Daniels would get points for "talking to a CPAC audience as if they were adults" if that meant something, and if he had a choice in the matter. Daniels can't come across as Mr. Christian Values. Let's give the Republican party credit for the one thing it's good at: insularity. Mitt Romney didn't get away with turning himself into a culture warrior last time. Daniels is a Chamber of Commerce Republican. It's not a philosophical stance. It's not economic analysis. It's the result of having Regional Sales Manager in your DNA. Such people do not like the wingnut religious fringe because they don't like anything that interferes with markets, or threatens advertisers, or has principles which do not begin and/or end with the lining of one's pockets. They believe such people exist at their sufferance, and for one purpose: voting Republican.

I have no idea what Mitch Daniels actually thinks about reproductive rights. I have an absolute certainty about why he told Laura Ingraham he was Indiana's Most Anti-Abortion Governor, Ever, and it has nothing to do with principles, or with the issue, for that matter. Is there some reason to imagine that Mitch Daniels is the single politician on the American scene in the past forty years who isn't a calculating little fraud? Is there something in Daniels' record that suggests Calling Things As He Sees Them, or Taking Brave, Unpopular Stances without regard for the political consequences? Or analyzing situations with an open mind? No. It's precisely the opposite. He first proposed a one-year tax increase to solve Indiana's "deficit" "problem", then withdrew it quicker'n you'd pull your fingertips out of an open flame. Afterwards the sole consideration in Daniels-dominated legislatures has been slashing budgets (and assorted accounting tricks) in order to display a showy budget surplus which countered his work at OMB. We haven't had a discussion over educational priorities over the past six years in Indiana; we just had a chart that showed how much spending "had" to be cut. We haven't actually had a discussion of priorities at all; just six years of trying to correct Mitch Daniels' record. We've had nothing resembling leadership at all. Just Mitch Daniels, Libertarian Logo.

He hasn't stood up for any principles. When he's had a foolproof majority in both houses dedicated to reducing spending, Daniels has reduced spending. It doesn't matter whether you consider this to be an accomplishment or not; the question remains how applicable it is to that Federal deficit Daniels helped create. It doesn't take any courage, any vision, or even any math skills to stand up in front of a CPAC dinner and promise to cut Social Security and Medicare; it also doesn't accomplish anything, or address the real consequences. If it takes some small amount of calculation to insist that Defense spending be left on the table, well, that's less about bravery than a measure of the incontinent arms dealing that dominates both parties. If you're clamoring for a balanced budget, and Defense-related spending is 60% of that budget, and we outspend the rest of the world combined, how do you not bring it up if you're serious? Especially when you know that, in the event, you won't be taking any heat for it, because real Defense cuts are about as likely as real campaign finance reform. How does this get mistaken for political realism?

Let me note, again, that I'm from Indiana, Mr. Shapiro. I'm inured to Republicans the way a herd of cows is inured to the noise of a nearby freeway. As far as I'm concerned, any legislative session which ends with us still not putting strumpets in stocks, nor Carmel getting the money to build prangers at the center of all those roundabouts, nor the state park system getting sold to Wal*Mart, is a good session. In fact, any session of the Indiana General Assembly that ends is a good session. For chrissakes, the best I can hope for around here is an Evan Bayh governorship. I started off with low expectations. I would have been happy to continue thinking of Mitch Daniels as a malignant hobbit who'd won the governorship with a cornball routine that would have made Homer & Jethro blush, but who coulda been worse; I wasn't going to forget his work for the Bush administration, but that's a given. But in the event it's been clear from Week 1 that the Daniels program has been to obfuscate his record, or replace it with transparently false claims, blame the Democrats for everything, and then use the bullshit to fertilize his own fields.

Had you or I, Mr. Shapiro, set out to create a Mitch Daniels Presidential persona from the fabric of his political accomplishments that CPAC speech is about the best we could have done. That might make it a good speech, but it doesn't make it a smart one. And if things are as bad as we all imagine, it's time that distinction trumped political posturing on the punditry scorecard.

Friday, February 11

That Blogosphere Thing

THANKS to Brendan we're adding Leonard Pierce's place to the blogroll just as soon as we work up the energy to do so.

Told Ya

APOLOGIES for cranking out more column inches on Mitch Daniels this week than the man is tall, though in my defense it doesn't take much. Besides, you try living in Indiana, where the Daniels Suck-off Machine has been roaring away full blast since 2007, when The Franchise looked as vulnerable as Bush's, speaking of Suck. The tiniest (sorry) Daniels utterance is now a banner fucking headline in these parts, spit back out by his fluffers and examined for clues.

The "Will Mitch run for President?" shit started here about as soon as he'd won reelection, an interesting contrast to what the man himself was up to, which was hiding from the public for three months as the crappy economy he'd been taking credit for since the primaries backed up the toilet, ran across the floor, and ruined the carpet. God knows how much money the man had to slosh around during the campaign; if you watched local news, as I do for some reason, you saw at least one ad, every goddam break, from March thru November. It didn't seem to matter that he had no primary opponent, nor afterwards that the Democratic contender had apparently lapsed into a vegetative state before Midsummer. That's how much money he had. The spots--I hate to keep bringing this up, but then every last thing about the man is stage managed, and every last bit of business is instructive--consisted of hammer blows to the solar plexus, delivered in what had, twenty years earlier, been referred to as "the MTV style": flash cuts touting his Outstanding Economic Record at near subliminal speed. The exact ratio of Outright Lies to Misstatements of Fact is not precisely known, because the damned stuff flew so fast, but the ratio of Bullshit to Truth can be extrapolated as "Nine Months" to "Zero".

And the instructive part is this: Daniels' handlers knew that the Corndog Eaters at Home weren't going to freeze-frame his claims and step through them, but hear sonic booms and see flashing lights and believe whatever they were told; this much had been proven in the early days of the Iraq war Mitch financed for us. And they sure knew that "journalists" weren't going to question the ads' claims, not when they were the difference between profit and loss for the year.

It's actually been enjoyable to watch with jaundiced eye, as they try to fit the same Tinseltown PR BS Reagan wore to a guy with the physical stature of Alan Ladd and the personal charm of Lawrence Tierney. Sure, sure, we're taking about Republicans, and politicians, and public relations, so they're liars three times over, but tailoring's in the details. The opening Let Daniels Be Daniels Era lasted for the first twenty minutes, when he proposed a temporary tax increase to balance the budget (such, reader, was the fixation on that little bit of business--the key to his future office-seeking--that he was willing to raise taxes to try to balance his stint at OMB); he did manage to roam free for the rest of that spring, snarling and nipping at anyone who disagreed with him in public, especially over the big Toll Road scam, before they realized they had to get him under control as much as possible. Between summer 2005 and Election Day 2008 he mostly cut ribbons on any and every hardware store that opened, and thanked the brave entrepreneur for recognizing Indiana's "pro-business" environment, and employing 2500 Hoosiers.

And so it has gone, a never-ceasing tale of the contrast between facts, even reasonable disagreement over facts, and what gets reported instead. Through 2008, Indiana residents joined the habitués of financial news television as the only people in the nation being pummeled into believing how great everything was going; afterwards, and safely after Daniels' reelection, they were informed that, bad as things were, it was much, much worse in Michigan or Illinois. They were told this despite the fact that a large percentage of Hoosiers can actually identify "Michigan" as "the place where cars used to be made", and so might have understood the problem. They were told this even after it demonstrably was no longer true.

So yesterday, in the rapidly escalating pace of Mitch Daniels talks to media outlets about how he hasn't decided whether to run yet but people are urging him to, Mitch talked to Politico, just before the traditional Explaining What He Really Meant to someone else, this time Mary Beth Schneider at the Indianapolis Star. (This time the "confusion" concerned his gush about the "unbelievable letterhead" he'd have if he decided to run):
Daniels later explained his remarks by saying, "I was just reporting to them that an awful lot of very impressive people are still urging (his candidacy). That's all."

Now, I don't think we should ever make too much of someone's ability to speak extemporaneously. And in Daniels' case it's theoretically impossible to make too little of his ability. It is true that most of us, in that situation, might have conveyed the Number of Very Impressive People who would be backing us by referencing that, not office supplies. Still, not everyone's sharp on his feet. But the matter does tend to come up along the Presidential trail, and they'd best be figuring out now how to keep him away from anyone who contradicts him, and that includes potential debate opponents. And it's certainly fair to ask, not about flubs or flusters, but the mentality behind them: "unbelievable letterhead"? He's talking about Republican donors, not astrophysicists, Nobel chemists, or military veterans. Y'know, there's a difference between believing in unfettered Capitalism and having to do your own laundry every time you meet another CFO because you don't want the maid to see your underwear.

That Star article is here, at least for the next ten minutes, before they expect you to pay for it, just in case you'd like to see Daniels turn the coy routine from "I'm being urged to run" over to "Gee, I haven't even thought about whether I'd continue as Governor, since I'm not really planning to run yet."

Now, on the one hand, this is precisely the sort of infuriating codswallop Reagan got away with routinely, and that Daniels has coasted on while safely ensconced in Indiana, where nobody who counts asks embarrassing questions, and no one at all can remember 18 months ago, when he was still insisting he'd run his last campaign. On the other, though, this is a fine example of why Politics and Golf are so closely allied. It's the thin veneer of banality placed artfully (or artfully enough, for the audience) over a solid core of utter dishonesty. It's a wedge shot pitched just inches short of the cup, saving a quadruple bogie.

(This, of course, follows the Daniels Not Campaign giving "Indiana Lt. Governor" Becky Skillman an incurable but only-debilitating-enough-that-she-has-to-step-aside-for-a-Pence-for-Governor-campaign mystery illness. Which, we're guessing, the plucky night-school student will find the wherewithal to overcome for two years if called upon, before collapsing at the finish line.)

Of course the real story was the one that everybody missed:
Daniels suggested three things could keep him from plunging in: his wife’s concerns, the calculation that his party or the country aren’t ready for his tough-love message or the emergence of another capable candidate.

People close to the governor say his wife, Cheri, is very cool to a run. It “would be safe to say” she is uneasy with a campaign, he said.

Now, as much as I'm looking forward to Daniels trying that "You people are too stupid to understand the brilliance of my plan" routine on a national level, the way he did here with the Toll Road and Daylight Savings edicts, it's the future of Indiana First Lady Cheri "Another Margarita, Manolo, And Why Don't You Try To Find The Goddam Tequila Bottle Before You Make This One?" Daniels, who was also dead-set against his runs for governor, which really interests me. Cheri's been spotted four times since 2004, unless I missed a couple, mostly at the State Fair. She was "rumored" to be the driving force behind Daniels' embarrassing refusal to live in the Governor's Mansion, or "Dump", and to remain in his gated reservoirshore community in violation of state law, while building a grander McMansion more in keeping with his stature (sorry), but no closer to Marion county. The old money Meridian-Kessler neighborhood where the actual Mansion is located gets a lot darker at night than Geist does, if you catch my drift. Has anyone ever run a major Presidential campaign while keeping his spouse a secret?

Damn, I'd love to take this woman's side, too, and not just because I agree her husband shouldn't have run for Governor. If only I didn't remember the night in October, 2001, when Mitch Daniels' Indiana home became the site of the only anthrax bomb mailed to a Bush administration official, anywhere. an "hysterical" Cheri was the only one there that night; she lived in alabaster Hamilton county while Mitch was saving us from prosperity in darkest D.C., which must've been what confused SPECTRE. It turned out the envelope was stuffed with a comic amount of talcum powder. And the rest, as they say, isn't history, and may not even still be a police report someone could find. She would, at least, reverse the trend, and be the nations' first First Lady with a Stepford husband, even if he really is the bride of the Cato Institute. Let's just put it this way: Mitch may be concerned about Cheri on the campaign trail, but history tells us it's not her feelings about it that concern him.