Saturday, April 30

Maybe Just A Breadstick, Senator?

Trucey To Sign Anti-Abortion Bill

INDIANA Governor Mitch "6'2" In Heels" Daniels announced yesterday that he will sign a bill which will make Indiana the first state in the nation to prohibit use of Medicaid funds at Planned Parenthood.

The bill will reportedly cut $2 million out of the $3 million Planned Parenthood budget. None of which pays for abortions, since that is already prohibited.

Of course the Daniels Magic Touch™, which avoids all negative consequences of slashing social programs, will be invoked:
Daniels, though, said his administration reviewed women's access to services "and can confirm that all non-abortion services, whether family planning or basic women's health, will remain readily available in every one of our 92 counties. In addition, I have ordered the Family and Social Services Administration to see that Medicaid recipients receive prompt notice of nearby care options. We will take any actions necessary to ensure that vital medical care is, if anything, more widely available than before."

Any clinic affected by this law, he said, "can resume receiving taxpayer dollars immediately by ceasing or separating its operations that perform abortions."

And even a serious issue can benefit from a touch of that ol' Daniels humor:
"The principle involved commands the support of an overwhelming majority of Hoosiers, as reflected in greater than 2:1 bipartisan votes in both legislative chambers."

Let us take a moment now to repeat what we say every time reproductive rights are threatened in this country: access to abortion is a Constitutional right. Every restriction of it is a restriction of Constitutional rights.

And let's add, just for this case, that when women are 21% of Indiana's population, the way they're 21% of its Legislature, a 2-1 vote on reproductive issues will mean something.

A lot is going to be made about Daniels living up to his pledge of a truce on social issues. Naturally enough. What we'd like to mention, though, is how friggin' dishonest the thing was in the first place. It was an obvious calculation, and it obviously could not, and would not, be enforced, be promoted, or be a part of the equation the minute push met shove.

The General Assembly is now going home heading out to find some excuse to pocket per diems out of session. God tempers the wind to the shorn lamb, but somebody still gets fleeced. This has led to a lot of punditological "roundups" and "scorecards"; on the local public teevee's Fat White Guys and One Democratic Lady Yuk It Up Over Indiana Politics with Jim Shella two of the four pronounced Mitch Daniels the Winner. One of 'em (it wasn't the Lady) marveled at how the Mighty Atom wasn't a lame duck even after six years, but the fact is that Daniels spent a sizable chunk of that PAC slush fund of his electing a Republican House, and it rewarded him not just with his crackpot budget schemes, but with more crackpot social legislation than the previous five sessions combined. If he won't stand up (yeah, I know, he is) when control of such measures is simple, what's he going to do on the national scene?

Right. Pander.

In one sense the response is "This is what you get regardless of which Republican you empower". In another, it's "Mitch Daniels is a fucking inveterate liar."

Friday, April 29

Four Flusher Inside Straight

Ed Kilgore, "The Mitch Daniels Dilemma". April 27

Erin McPike, "The Campaign Waiting For Mitch Daniels". April 29

EARLIER this week Jon Stewart "refuted" the notion of Donald Trump, Republican Front-Runner, by pointing out the leader board at this time four years ago.

It's an easy laugh, assuming you don't mind cultivating an audience blissfully unaware of its surroundings; couldn't you name "Rudy" and "Hillary" without looking? If the point was that front runners ten months out do not necessarily get the nomination, well, thanks. If the point was Donald Trump is unlikely to be the Republican nominee for President in 2012, much obliged. If the point was the porn-mustache humor of referencing the campaigns of Giuiliani and Clinton née Rodham, well, anachronism packs 'em in on Saturday night, if you can land Will Farrell. That it comes about 35 years too late for me is my own fault.

Instead the point was that The Media, in the form of the cable news-o-tainment babblers, was making too much of The Trump. Which, no doubt, they are, but it doesn't really follow; "Trump Leads Republican Field" is a lot bigger story than "Name Recognition Looks Good For '08". Donald Fuking Buffoon Trump is leading the Republican Presidential Polls. That is news. The fact that The "News" no longer remembers how to cover news is incidental.

And, yeah, The Trump is a tiresome self-promoter hawking transparent flummery for an easily satisfied audience. And this differs from Mitch Daniels how? Daniels has 24% more of what passes for subtlety in this culture, which is not a credit to Daniels, just the utter shame of the rest of us. He's the North Greenway Olde Towne Shoppes, while Trump's the Exit 47 Outlet Mall. They're selling the same execrable shit, but Daniels has the better labels.

Anyway, The Big Brain's Big Announcement is due any minute, now that the Indiana General Assembly is going to pack up its official session so it can break down into permanent committees and travel around the state mugging people and institutions de facto and ex officio. And I have absolutely no idea what he's going to do. In the first place, I think he's already been running since 2007, so we're just asking if he'll make it official, or, rather, when he'll withdraw, now or later. All the little signs here point to Yes--he's even made The Lovely Cheri come out in public, and that had to cost him something. On the other hand, doing no campaigning and expecting Iowans to refrain from killing you resides somewhere at the outer limits of even Mitch's smirky Ego. It's not as easy to fool a bunch of pig-ignernt farmhands and pastor's wives as it is Beltway insiders.

So it's nice to see McPike's piece, with a recitation of the Big Muscle that is Team Daniels, even if it might've been made shorter by saying "Distilled Essence of Bush/Cheney Privateers". It's interesting to see what sort of thing wows your average Beltway punditaster (we're not accusing McPike, who seems to avoid drooling for the duration). But:
More than anything, it could set up an epic four-way showdown in New Hampshire between Romney, Huntsman, Daniels and Tim Pawlenty, and shift the focus squarely onto that state.

Really? If that winds up being the choice in New Hampshire, how long before the starved carnivores of the base are screaming for the 2011 version of Fred Dumbo Thompson? Daniels might run; running, his Money Boys may very well engineer that sort of Dullness Parade after Iowa, and even emerge from it, but it won't fucking last. This has always been the Daniels Dilemma. He can make all the jockey jokes and combover cracks he wants, and wow the Insiders, but where does he go from there? Daniels entire campaign so far has been predicated on staying away from the howling vacuity at the center of the Republican galaxy; where does he go if he gets there? If there's some reason why the Republican choice should be Mitch Daniels, as opposed to it being anyone else, it's not his economic program. And that's all the man has. He was being touted in 2009 because a) he'd managed to win as a Republican in 2008; and b) Republicans with double-digit IQs were sneering at Sarah Palin. It fit right in with the bullshit record he'd crafted, but now it's everybody's message. Just as Haley Barbour's racist gaffes were counterproductive when the whole Republican campaign will be propped up on racism, and thus require some form of beard, so Daniels, as of now, can't run as the refreshingly competent Ayn Rand nerd when that's nearly everyone in the race.

Ed Kilgore makes the case, a lot more succinctly than I ever will (there's a shocker!). Daniels pulled that "social issue truce" bit when that looked like a brave and canny act; now it makes him a target without Target of Right Wing Mouth Breathers conferring any benefit. He's managed to stay under the national radar while slashing-and-burning collective bargaining, education, and social services, but that tide has begun running the other way, and what you get away with in Indiana is not exactly what gulls 'em on the Coasts. Sooner or later (I keep telling myself) somebody's gonna start looking hard at that polished turd of a record of his as governor, and then what's he going to run on?

And, for the life of me, I can't figure out why he wants to be President. Seems like you can loot something more effectively without a spotlight shining on you every hour of every day. There doesn't seem to be any there there. He's more like a Randian hero than a Randian. Pure cardboard. Maybe it's because we in Indiana got to watch him in action in those early months, before those Republican insider money boys wised up and kept him and that enormous chip on his shoulder away from the Great Unwashed. I really have no idea why Mitch Daniels would run for President besides Money or Ego. Or Petulance. But I suspect that uses up his list of motivations anyway.

Thursday, April 28

Forget It, Jake

David Weigel, "Birtherism Is Dead. Long Live Birtherism. : The history of a national embarrassment, and why it's not over yet." April 27

LEAVE us begin at the end: Birtherism isn't a national embarrassment. Waterboarding is a national embarrassment. Keeping innocent men in Guantánamo is a national embarrassment. Keeping guilty men in Guantánamo, without the benefit of trial, is a national embarrassment. Our two major political parties are a national embarrassment. The unseriousness of our mass-market media is a national embarrassment.

Birtherism, on the other hand, is a Republican embarrassment. And Republican embarrassment is fast becoming a redundancy.

As to "why it's not over yet" well, simple: because Birtherism is not some Snopesworthy email which caused a majority* of Republicans to accidentally believe the President is not an American. It's the fucking delusional soul of a party, and a "movement", based on being delusional. The Weigels of the world, and his occupation writ large, for the most part, may consider anything older than five years to be ancient history. The clearer view is that modern Right Wing Republicanism, a phenomenon which can be shortened to "Republicanism", certainly after 1964 at the latest, is a veritable museum of Fucking Crazy Shit People Insisted On, from Commies under every bed, fluoridating our drinking water, biasing our screenplays, and weakening our moral fiber so we'd be ripe for that Soviet invasion coming any day, to the Cult of Flag and Cross, which inserted "Under God" into a 19th Century Boy's Life homily before insisting that every public school student mouth the words uncomprehendingly each dawn, to the contention (from such marginal Republican outsiders as William Fuhbuckley) that the Negro, however well- intentioned and -mannered, could not be trusted to vote in any jurisdiction where the average annual temperature accentuated his natural indolence, to the various Stab in the Back/ We Weren't Allowed to Win/ We Really Did Win theories of Vietnam, to the entire Ronald Reagan mythos, or at least those parts touching on Economics, Defense, Culture, and the Mathematically Verifiable, "The Judeo-Christian Tradition", the confusion of modern-day Israelis with mythic Israelites, and the sacred tradition of Cecil B. DeMille's prop ten commandments on every courthouse lawn, to the Presidency of Bill and Hillary Clinton, the Cambrian explosion of crazy--the point at which Right Wing America formerly merely gulled by PR and irritated by facts became, like the Simpsons, a family that didn't know any songs that weren't commercial jingles--about which we will just say "The Vince Foster hit" and let the reader to add his own fond memories. That brings us to the Presidency of the Prodigal Bush, and certainly to within shouting distance of when Weigel wants the clock to start moving.

Birtherism is not an aberration. Birtherism is the Republican party. It's too bad if it makes the Davids (Frum, Brooks, Weigel) uncomfortable. They should be uncomfortable. They should be especially uncomfortable with the number of times they've coverted for this sort of shit in exchange for lower marginal tax rates.

Here, by the way, is how much this sort of thing affects Weigel's perception of his own party:
Proto-birtherism: April 2008 to June 11, 2008

In March and April 2008, [Hillary] Clinton regained ground and looked to have some chance of beating Obama for the Democratic nomination. This was the time when some Clinton supporters started glomming on to any rumor that looked dangerous. A chain letter from American missionaries in Kenya did the trick: It claimed that Obama's real middle name was "Mohammed."

Birtherism, the Democratic tactic: March 2009 to January 2011

In March 2009, with very little fanfare, Rep. Bill Posey, R-Fla., introduced one of his first pieces of legislation.

"To amend the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 to require the principal campaign committee of a candidate for election to the office of President to include with the committee's statement of organization a copy of the candidate's birth certificate, together with such other documentation as may be necessary to establish that the candidate meets the qualifications for eligibility to the Office of President under the Constitution."

For the first time, an elected office-holder had indulged the birther theory. Before this point, there was no reason to ask a Republican if he bought into that stuff. Now there was. A dozen Republicans co-sponsored the Posey bill. Fringe-curious reporters (and here I'll raise my hand) and liberal blogs covered it all with amazement. A liberal videographer named Mike Stark tailed Republican members of Congress to get their takes on the story.

At the time, Democrats saw an advantage in making Republicans look crazy.

Now, for the record, "Proto-birtherism" follows "Paleobirtherism", a period evidentally renowned for its being named for a phenomenon which did not then exist, making the ever-convenient PUMAs, all six or eight of 'em, counting Republican plants, the spark that lit the fuse that ignited the unsuspected barely-contained cloud of racist sewer gas under the houses of 51% of Republican voters. And then Democrats suddenly saw an advantage in making Republicans look crazy. Something which hadn't occurred to them in the previous forty-five years. And all because a mere dozen or so duly elected Republican representatives were insane enough to sponsor a harmless little bill.

So, then, Whatever are we to do about these Democrats? (And while we're at it, does anyone know the identity of any "liberal bloggers" who were "amazed" in 2009 by anything whatsoever a Republican, in or out of Congress, would do?)

Spirited attempt, really; the problem is it's about fifty years and a hundred-fifty cases of marrow-deep insanity too late. The "serious" policy positions of the Republican party belong on Snope's Crazy Email Chain page right alongside Birtherism, Palinism, and Larry Craig's wide-stance explanation. If you wanna claim it's all just a sideshow, kindly point us to where the real, sane, rational show has been going on.


* statistic courtesy Dave Weigel.

Tuesday, April 26

With Luck, Now, Mitch'll Be Able To Lure That 0% Barbour Was Polling To His Own Camp

Jonathan Martin, "Haley Barbour's exit frees Mitch Daniels, big-money GOP donors for 2012". April 25

Jonathan Martin and Maggie Haberman, "Why Haley Barbour pulled the plug". April 25

OF course the bad news for big-money GOP donors for 2012 is they'll have to back a Republican.

Now, for me the bad news is we don't have Haley to kick around any more. Except, of course, we do and always will. I sure would have preferred a Fred Dumbo Thompson story--who wouldn't?--with months of artificial excitement followed by a spectacular fizzle, but Barbour's an old pol, not somebody from a dinner-theatre production of All the King's Men. He got in, took one look, and skedaddled.

We'll miss him, but we'll always have the excuses: No fire in the belly! Family opposed! As though Haley Fucking Barbour didn't know what was involved in a Presidential campaign! As though he became the top un-indicted Republican fixer by soliciting his wife's tender feelings at every turn.
“I was surprised,” added [the putative candidate's putative campaign manager, Rob] Collins. “Ultimately I think that while he knows we need a new president, he just didn’t think it was the right time for him.”

Yeah, again: when the Republican campaign promises to center on crypto-racism, maybe running the poster boy for Explaining Racial Gaffs might not be your best bet. That, or The Donald coming over the top called his bluff.

Anyhow, assuming for the moment that you are one of those big-money Republican donors, how's your digestion? You just lost your favorite bridge troll, or so says Politico, and now you're left with his shorter, smirkier brother? You've helped create an America that can't tell the difference between 24 and geopolitics, between fast food and edible substances, between astroturf and real grass, and, now, the one thing you can figure it does know, besides what time coverage of the Royal Wedding starts, is what a President is supposed to look like. That's gotta sting a bit.
Haley Barbour's surprise announcement Monday that he won't run for president now turns all eyes upon Indianapolis. Without his good friend Barbour in the race, does this now make it more likely that Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels will run?

For the hell of it, let's ask that question as though, oh, Haley Barbour had just taken a look around and realized he wasn't going to be the GOP nominee, as opposed to soliciting the advice of his duodenum. I realize this is a little cynical; after all, Republicans take the President at his word about that birth certificate business. But let's pretend. If your twin brother, the insider's insider, decides he isn't gonna make it, do your chances look that much better? I mean, Daniels can play the Ho Ho Ho I'm a totally un-photogenic candidate (therefore I must really have something) routine all he wants, but the fact is that while Dull and Diminutive might wow 'em at Politico, and CPAC, it's not proven a big winner in Presidential primaries. Daniels tried to establish his national persona--I'm sorry, I mean, other people tried to encourage him to establish his national persona--as the competent alternative to the populist crazies. But now, if the race ever starts, it turns out he's running against Mitt, Newt, and Some Guy From East Dakota, and the Crazies can't decide among themselves who's crazy enough to run. So Daniels--who, by the way, is getting plenty of opportunity to put the Culture War on the back burner in his own state (including an upcoming defunding of Planned Parenthood that'll cost the state real, honest-to-goodness Rand Bucks), without noticeable effect--has already gone out of his way to distinguish himself from the very people he's not running against, as well as the people who'll decide the thing.

And if you're a Republican, from either the big-money donor or small-animal torturer wing, and you look at that field, and you avoid the impulse to cut your throat while shaving, why would you bother? Put your money into Congressional races. Sure, sure, anything can happen, but what it looks like is going to happen is McCain/Palin II: Electric Batshit Boogaloo: What Passes for Competence on the Right coupled with someone so fucking crazy the base will hold its nose and turn up at the polls. (And that's the good news; the alternative is Trump.)

Daniels has already signaled his willingness to go down fighting the good fight ("if the money's right" is never spoken, a nod being as good as a wink); I really can't wait to see Mr. Culture War in the Background introducing Michelle Bachman as his running mate. But really, now: is this the culmination of the fifty-year Prairie/Dixie coalition? Pure insanity, low tax rates, and a party that can't govern?

Monday, April 25

At Least You Get To Choose Your Hell

So if Mitch is 5' 8" I guess that makes Haley Barbour 6' 2".

Ross Douthat, "A Case for Hell". No, Really. April 24

Dan Balz, "In Case You Missed It The First Thirty Times: Mitch Daniels' Non-Campaign Campaign Hagiography and Beltway Insider CW Are Nearly Congruent". April 24

QUESTION: should I waste today's post on this idiocy, or should I throw away the virtual nickel I spent on it at the Times, and another chance to slag Mitch Daniels (they only come 'round once an hour or so, but that's twice the rate of Indianapolis mass transit) ? Let's start slowly and see how it goes.

Douthat's "case for" Hell--I won't spare you reading the piece to look for it, because I know no one other than a court-ordered psychiatrist would bother--is, essentially, that The Afterlife Which Doesn't Test Well With The 18-55 Demographic is nonetheless necessary to keep the popular stuff--An Alabaster Eternity, guardian angels, instant harp virtuosity, Jesus-shaped corn chips, your own Eternal Jessica Alba--from running away with things. Hell is, in other words, a sort of combination of Pascal's Wager and the common-sense rules of Marketing which undergird Planned Obsolescence and Faux Exclusivity.

So, in other words, if Hell didn't exist it would be hell on Christian apologetics. And tougher to keep people in line.

The Gospel according to Leo Strauss has actually been with us for millennia, and seems to be enjoying a recent resurgence alongside the Republican party's decision that it would prefer its support from the middle class to come from somewhere lower.

Which brings us to Mitch Daniels:
Daniels has looked to others to seize the issue of the country’s fiscal problems, hoping that would give him a good reason not to run.

Yeah, he's a veritable Diogenes of the Prairie. Really tough finding a Republican willing to blather about financial issues.
Daniels’s retail candidate skills — honed by nights spent in the homes of strangers and encounters with voters in coffee shops, fairs and flea markets along the back roads of his state — could play well in Iowa and New Hampshire. But his capacity to generate real enthusiasm across the party remains in question.

Is there someone out there who really believes this shit? Look, Dan, no one in Indiana thinks Mitch Daniels is Jes' Folks. Or no more than you do. The man went to high school here, to Princeton and Georgetown, then to work for Dick Lugar. He came back to Indiana for ten years, first to sit atop the Hudson Institute, then as Vice President in charge of North American Influence Peddling for Eli Lilly, before becoming Bush Jr.'s Director of Budget Mismanagement and War Cost Misestimation.

Mitch Daniels didn't put on a seed cap, a neatly-pressed plaid shirt, and climb aboard an RV to tour Hoosierland because that's who he is. He did so because the sorts of people who run campaigns felt he needed to play Cornpone to combat his image as a surly Washington elitist who'd wrecked the national economy. It may very well be that your low opinion of Hoosiers is entire justified, but none of us really believes that's why he won an election, and few of us with any knowledge of the deal and no paycheck on the line really believe he did it well. Take a look. Daniels surrounded by prop hicks eating balls of grease on a bun looks about as natural, as believable, and as comfortable as Tony Hayward being filmed cleaning oil off a duck. He won in a Republican state in a Republican year, and he did so because people figured twelve years of Democratic governors was enough. He won reelection against a woman who was later determined to be clinically dead. This made him a hero to Republican party insiders who'd just seen their criminal enterprise crushed and the remains inherited by Sarah Palin. The "miracle" of Daniels economic record--if it isn't to be judged by what actually has happened in Indiana--ought at least to be viewed in that light.
Daniels said he was “deeply disappointed” by Obama’s recent budget speech. “At a time when we should seek to unify Americans around the big changes necessary to deal with this life-and-death issue, he was divisive and partisan,” he said. “In terms of content, it was worse than empty.”

See, this is the Daniels you're really gonna see on the campaign trail, if any; the one who's yet to win an argument that has two sides.
Daniels’s focus will prompt questions about his service as budget director during the first 2 1 / 2 years of Bush’s presidency, as the country was beginning to move from surpluses to sizable deficits and a big increase in the national debt.

Daniels argues that the problem has ballooned dramatically under Obama, that debt and deficits today represent a far bigger share of the overall economy than in the Bush years. “We’d give anything to be within a country mile of that now,” he said.

Of the surplus you inherited, sure. Of the $2 trillion slide you orchestrated, once you got it, well, we're soaking in it.
Democrats see his record in less glowing terms. State Rep. B. Patrick Bauer, the Democratic leader of the House, called Daniels’s approach to budgets “slash and burn.” Dan Parker, the chairman of the Indiana Democratic Party, said Daniels’s record earlier in his term on taxes — a sales tax increase that was part of a broader plan that lowered property taxes and a cigarette tax increase to fund health care for low-income families — could draw criticism from conservatives.

One questionable decision was his attempt to privatize parts of the state welfare system. Indiana turned over the processing of eligibility claims to private contractors, including IBM. After widespread complaints, Daniels and other state officials decided to terminate the contract and have instituted a hybrid system.

So I guess we've reached page three.

And look, it would be nice if at some point someone--Democrat, or sane person--gets to point out that Daniels hasn't balanced Indiana's budget, which is $2 billion in the hole to the Feds, and only $2 billion thanks to the $1.67 billion in Federal stimulus money which "balanced" the books in 2009 and 2010. The same stimulus Mitch Daniels has been criticizing. While asking for more.

Yes, let's return to a country-mile's distance from 2001. And for god's sakes let's keep the goddam economy out of the hands of Mitch Daniels; it ain't like we don't know better by now.

Friday, April 22

But The Field Is Already Handicapped*

Charles "Merkwürdigeliebe" Krauthammer, "The Racing Form, 2012". April 21

THERE are, you know as well as I, embarrassing riches for the connoisseur of Apocalyptic Portents these days, and probably none is so embarrassing as the idea of Chuckles Krauthammer, public intellectual. The man cannot even construct an argument:
Unified Field Theory of 2012, Axiom One: The more the Republicans can make the 2012 election like 2010, the better their chances of winning.

Okay, look: maybe someone at the Post Writers Group is supposed to take "axiom" out for a walk every so often, but that's not an axiom; it's an argument. In fact, it's the same argument Chuckles makes every day.

He's free to declare anything he wants "axiomatic". We're free to point out he's an idiot.
The 2010 Democratic shellacking had the distinction of being the most ideological election in 30 years.

And an odd distinction it was, seeing as how just two years before the country elected the most power-mad, Messianic, Euro-socialist President in its history, edging out Jimmy Carter, which Dr. Krauthammer must remember, since he's analyzed it, and him, at great length, and even greater distance. Apparently, though, elections don't count as ideological unless the correct ideology wins.
It was driven by one central argument in its several parts: the size and reach of government, spending and debt, and, most fundamentally, the nature of the American social contract. 2010 was a referendum on the Obama experiment in hyper-liberalism. It lost resoundingly.

Dude, 1) you beat the Washington Fucking Generals; 2) you beat the Washington Fucking Generals in a midterm; and 3) you beat the Washington Fucking Generals in a midterm after saddling them with the responsibility for the Bush economy. Don't gloat.
Of course, presidential elections are not arguments in the abstract but arguments with a face. Hence, Axiom Two: The less attention the Republican candidate draws to him/herself, the better the chances of winning.

Okay, there's an axiom we can agree on.
To the extent that 2012 is about ideas, about the case for smaller government, Republicans have a decided edge. If it’s a referendum on the fitness and soundness of the Republican candidate — advantage Obama.

We will accept "Republicans have ideas" as axiomatic, since there's no way you're going to prove it with evidence.
Which suggests Axiom Three: No baggage and no need for flash. Having tried charisma in 2008, the electorate is not looking for a thrill up the leg in 2012. It’s looking for solid, stable, sober and, above all, not scary.

A thrill up the leg? And throbbing tribal drums? Never mind. Again, "axiom" does not mean "something devoutly wished by Republican lackeys." We will be getting to the Republican field in a moment. You tell me whether Flash lost its appeal with the election of Barack Obama, or with the ascension of Sarah Palin, Former Half-Term Governor, Present Full-Time Embarrassment, if such a thing is even possible.
here’s the early line. (Remember: This is analysis, not advocacy.)

A choice, not an echo! A promise, not a prayer! A finger, not a vibrating butt plug!
Long shots

Michele Bachmann: Tea Party favorite. Appeals to Palinites. Could do well in Iowa. Hard to see how she makes her way through the rest of the primary thicket. A strong showing in debates and a respectable finish would increase her national stature for 2016. But for now: 20-1 to win the nomination.

A strong showing in debates would not increase her national stature. It would rend the very fabric of SpaceTime. It would deliver us into the hands of a Trickster God. It would make Charles Krauthammer a public intellectual.
Donald Trump: He’s not a candidate, he’s a spectacle. He’s also not a conservative. With a wink and a smile, Muhammad Ali showed that self-promoting obnoxiousness could be charming. Trump shows that it can be merely vulgar. A provocateur and a clown, the Republicans’ Al Sharpton. The Lions have a better chance of winning the Super Bowl.

Oh, yes, how well I remember Muhammad Ali charming the American Right! And I was thinking more like "Trump is the Republican's Sarah Palin". Or "Michelle Bachman". Or "Louie Gohmert," "Ted Stevens," "John Kyl", "Rick Santorum," "Dan Burton," or "James Inhof".

Or "Bob Dornan" "Bob Barr" "Newt Gingrich" "Alan Keyes" "Dick Armey" "Richard Melon Scaife" "Sharron Angle" "Tom Delay" "Ginni Thomas" "Clarence Thomas" "Pat Buchanan" "Phil Gramm" or "Dan Quayle".

Or "Ann Coulter" "Glenn Beck" "Cal Thomas" "Sean Hannity" "Tucker Carlson" "Rush Limbaugh" "Jonah Goldberg" "Bill O'Reilly" "Thomas Sowell" "William Kristol" "Pat Robertson" or "Emmett Tyrrell". But, you know, go ahead and choose your own. My preference is "current Republican frontrunner".
The major candidates

Mitt Romney: Serious guy. Already vetted. Tons of private- and public-sector executive experience. If not for one thing, he’d be the prohibitive front-runner. Unfortunately, the one thing is a big thing: Massachusetts’s Romneycare. For an election in which the main issue is excessive government (see Axiom One), that’s a huge liability. Every sentient Republican has been trying to figure out how to explain it away. I’ve heard no reports of any success. Romney is Secretariat at Belmont, but ridden by Minnesota Fats. He goes out at 5-1.

Well, maybe today he's Secretariat at Belmont, a lump of metal shaped like a horse, but he's not a thoroughbred no one else will run against. But seeing as how the Republicans' only chance is to make this election as ideological as possible, it's hard to understand how the hatred of all the party ideologues makes you the front runner.
Newt Gingrich: Smart guy. A fountain of ideas. No, a Vesuvius of ideas. Some brilliance, lots of lava. Architect of a historic Republican victory in 1994. Rocky speakership. Unfortunate personal baggage. 12-1.

Are we really so bereft of ideas in this country that Newt's logorrhea qualifies? And "New Gingrich: Architect of the '94 Congressional Victory" sounds a lot like "Jimmy Swaggert: Friend of the Working Girl".
Haley Barbour: Successful governor. Experienced Washington hand. Abundant charm. Baggage: Years of lobbying, unforced errors on civil rights, early neo-isolationist deviations. Rarely without a comeback, however. 7-1.

Not A Chance In Hopping Hell. Barely-crypto racism is already inherent in the campaign. No need to select a specialist.
Tim Pawlenty: Formerly, unassuming, unprepossessing, solid two-term Minnesota governor. Currently, mouse that roars. Up-tempo style, middle-of-the-road conservative content. Apparently baggageless. Could be the last man standing. 5-1.

And whose one hope is to be the last man standing after some sort of pandemic.
Mitch Daniels: Highly successful governor. Budget guru. Delightful dullness satisfies all axioms (see above). Foreign policy unknown, assuming he has one. Alienated some conservatives with his call for a truce on — i.e., deferring — social issues. If he runs, 6-1.

Anybody imagine this is the reason I read the thing? Okay, first: one of the things I find interesting in the Analysis, Not Advocation, Complete and Utter Bullshit workaday world of the American punditaster is how Mitt Romney can't escape enacting a healthcare plan in a liberal state--when until about a year ago Republicans insisted they wanted to reform healthcare, too, and were going to unveil their plan as soon as the insurance companies finished it--but Mitch Daniels, with a Republican majority in both houses in a conservative state proposed a tax hike, words no Republican had uttered since 1988, and gets a free pass. Maybe this is Analysis, since God only knows what they use for logic over there, but what seems more likely is that Romney is seen as a loose cannon, as someone who might, as President, actually do something he thought would bring himself credit, while Daniels is a corporate weasel to his marrow, if any.

Of course, if I have to handicap this myself, Mitch has been too clever, trying at first to steer clear of annihilation by Palin, and doing the "oh, he's the quietly competent, uncharismatic candidate" routine while pretending he wasn't one. He could be the last man standing, but no one could tell if he was. And his non-candidacy has already endured two seismic shifts in the GOP non-race: the fall of Palin, and the rise of Trump, aka the return of Palin. I realize that even Republicans don't know anything about their non-candidates yet, but the delayed start ain't helping him any. Coy, colorless, and freakishly short last worked, well, never.
Likely not running

Mike Huckabee: Has a good life — hosting a popular TV show, making money, building his dream house in Florida. He’d be crazy to run. Doesn’t look crazy to me.

Sarah Palin: Same deal. Showed her power in 2010 as kingmaker and opinion shaper. Must know (I think) she has little chance at the nomination and none in the general election. Why risk it, and the inevitable diminishment defeat would bring?

What, Huckabee is the only rich guy on that list? That sounds a lot like the punditological version of Team Daniels puffing Mike Pence as a real fine gubernatorial candidate. Why are so many Republicans so eager for Mike Huckabee to stay home and enjoy the Good Life?

Of course, why they don't want Palin to run is obvious, but is this analysis? Kingmaker? At the height of her popularity she went, what? 4-7 in 2010? Is Palin--is the Palin "wing" of the Republican party--going to sit still for a three way, Romney-Pawlenty-Daniels race? Sure they are. And--say it again--if Palin doesn't run, contact a Mystery Illness, or at least explain her absence to the Teabaggers ("I'm busy living it up" is not gonna do it) she's co-hosting a video clip show with Danny Bonaduce six months after the next inauguration.


*Not a cheap Krauthammer joke. It's a highly offensive derision of the not-even-passable mental abilities of the Republican Presidential field. "Merkwürdigeliebe" is the cheap Krauthammer joke. Your objection is noted. May is Civility Month. Check back in. We'll be running specials.

Thursday, April 21

Let Me Know If Some Ayn Rand PJs, Boy's Size 14, Turn Up On eBay

NEWS ITEM: Indiana State Police investigating Capitol Police officer assigned to guard duty at Governor's Mansion for going through underwear drawers, among other things.

Now the one real interesting thing about this story is that a Daniels' spokeswoman was forced to come out an explain why the Guv, and his Missus, had any personal property to rifle when--contrary to Indiana state law, and at an unexamined cost to its taxpayers--he actually lives in a gated community in Hamilton County, the Republican Paris.

For those of you who haven't been following along, or who have better things to do, the Happy Little Danielses refused to move into the Governor's Mansion after he was elected. The thing has been falling apart for years, not surprisingly, since it is a hallmark of modern "Conservatism" to refuse to take care of the things you own if it costs money to do so, but every Indiana Governor had called it home, at least provisionally, until Cheri "Manolo, Before You Make The Next Pitcher of Margaritas Why Don't You See If You Can Find the Tequila?" Daniels pronounced the place a dump, whereupon Husband #1 and 3 announced he'd found a little-known height exemption to the law requiring the Indiana governor to "reside in the seat of government". Then--do not get ahead of me--Team Daniels responded to critics they'd already told to fuck off by turning the whole thing into a chance to promote themselves free repair and decorating services in exchange for turning state property into a temporary billboard. This, in turn, fell through when First Lady Cheri "The Muse" Daniels objected to some of the free wallpaper, or something, and the charity Showplace Tour was cancelled, and replaced by an ad-hoc charity deal, so everybody went home happy, assuming that by "everybody" you mean "Mitch Daniels", same as he does.

Now, sure, a lot of people would say this is a So What? moment, and more than a few bought into the idea that getting people to donate repair work, and decorate to Cheri "Antrax Scare" Daniels' tastes at no cost to taxpayers was some sort of deal. Plus, no surprise, there were a great many people here who suddenly agreed with Daniels' contention that the law doesn't mean anything if you portray its intent as trivial. I, on the other hand…

Well, I live here, and my interest in local politics goes back to the days when Dick "Now I'm Concerned About The Cost Of Military Adventurism" Lugar was Nixon's Favorite Mayor. I'm happy when anyone to the left of Dan Burton wins public office. I was happy Evan Bayh became governor, right up to the moment he gave his victory speech ("I am a better-looking Ronald Reagan!"). I'll compromise. I'll Wait. And See. But the first thing Daniels did was declare his own call for a one-year surtax to pay down the "deficit" inoperative. The second was to call for the creation of a Special Secret Governor's Inspector General In Charge of Blaming Things on Democrats. And the third was to refuse to live in the Governor's Mansion, despite a recent $1.5 mil upgrade. The place wasn't good enough for a guy who, two months earlier, had been riding around Indiana in a fucking RV and a neatly-pressed plaid shirt, pretending to be a hick. It really is the little things that tell you all you need to know.

And this was before his first legislative session, before he flat-out lied to people about Daylight Savings Time (another So What? moment that perfectly illustrates his character, or "character"), before he essentially told the citizens of Indiana he'd sell off their Toll Road if he felt like it, because he knew best (and they weren't "forward thinking"; this from a guy whose legislative agenda six years later is Repeal the New Deal and Replace Public Education with a Series of Catchphrases From the Seventies). It's sure been, well, interesting to watch his Presidential campaign lurch into neutral. Watching him sit atop a state party as fucking looney as the national candidates who'll knock him out of the race? Not so much.

Tuesday, April 19

The Times Paywall Is Not Nearly High Enough

David Brooks, "Why Trump Soars". April 18

LET'S start with Brooks' answer to the #1 question on everyone's mind--Why (O Why?) does Donald Trump soar?--and y'all can be on your way.
in every society, there are a few rare souls who rise above subservience, insecurity and concern. Each morning they take their own abrasive urges out for parade. They are so impressed by their achievements, so often reminded of their own obvious rightness, that every stray thought and synaptic ripple comes bursting out of their mouth fortified by impregnable certitude. When they have achieved this status they have entered the realm of Upper Blowhardia.

These supremely accomplished blowhards offend some but also arouse intense loyalty in others. Their followers enjoy the brassiness of it all. They live vicariously through their hero’s assertiveness. They delight in hearing those obnoxious things that others are only permitted to think.

This immediately puts the Op-Ed window peeper in mind of a couple things. One, due to proximity more than anything, is Brooks' co-weasel Ross Douthat's insistence yesterday that the average American family of four earns $94,000 per annum. The other, just because he will wear it like a Kick Me sign, forever, is Brooks' familiarity with the Red Lobster price list and Appleby's salad bar selections.

Because I don't know who these guys are talking about. I don't even know who they imagine they're talking about. But if Brooks really thinks that your average middle-American/ Republican/ FOX viewer and Trump idolater is too reticent to say those sorts of things himself he's clearly never had a seat at your average Middle Western Thanksgiving dinner.

So instead let's re-title this one "How I Manage To Ignore the Treatment of Veal and Details of the Sausage-Making Process and Still Enjoy a Steady Diet of Gelbwurst".

Because, look: is there anything else at work here besides another episode of Mr. Brooks Explains Away His Party (To His Own Satisfaction) ? Donald Trump is leading the Republican race for President. Donald Fucking Trump. By spouting Birther nonsense, along with all other sorts of nonsense. It's not "Donald Fucking Trump is getting undeserved media attention by saying stupid shit." He's leading goddam Republican Presidential polls. The issue isn't why some clown on teevee attracts a following. He's leading goddam Republican Presidential polls. Explain that. I don't give a shit why people venerate Snooki.
Thus, there has always been a fan base for the abrasive rich man. There has always been a market for books by people like George Steinbrenner, Ross Perot, Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, Bobby Knight, Howard Stern and

Oh, Jesus. Wait for it. As if you weren't already:
George Soros.

George Soros. Of course. You'll have to forgive me, but I'm not a Democrat, so I don't get my marching orders from George Soros. Is he abrasive, or just located to Brooks' left?
There has always been a large clump of voters who believe that America could reverse its decline if only a straight-talking, obnoxious blowhard would take control.

Always? Large clump? Maybe. But if you…

Wait. Let's address this another way; I can't ignore the stupid little writer's trick there that readers of the New York Times are presumed to be idiotic enough to fall for. Book sales? I can want to read a book about an asshole without voting for him for President. Book sales makes an appearance there because David Brooks found himself in a familiar quandary, certainly familiar for David Brooks. He needed to say "Liberals do it too" but he'd already committed to that "rich man" trope, for some reason, and, really, how many liberal blowhards are there who are rich? How many have a public following that doesn't look puny next to Rush's, or O'Reilly's? So he hit on…books, which have nothing really to do with it beyond giving him some way to avoid admitting that in American politics in the last half-century Wildly Popular Blowhard means Republican, or, occasionally, Republican Who Becomes An Independent Because The Party Backs Some Vanilla Wingnut Instead.

George Steinbrenner? Rich blowhard, but who emulated him, aside from other rich blowhards? I've never heard any local ever wish that Steinbrenner would've bought the Colts, or the Pacers. Ross Perot? Okay, but I seem to remember him being accused of costing George Herbert Walker Germanicus Bush an election. O'Reilly and Limbaugh are Republican entertainers. Bob Knight has certainly been a public asshole, on more than one occasion, and is sometimes blowhard-ish, but he is, to my and Amazon's knowledge, the author of an autobiography (with the fine Indiana sportswriter Bob Hammel) , and a contributor to several books on basketball, which he is acknowledged to know a thing or two about. Knight also imagines himself a student of military history, yet thus far has successfully avoided publishing The Napoleonic Way to Wealth! or Pattonize! A public asshole who avoids cashing in on his assholery is, in all likelihood, a man to be celebrated in these times. Howard Stern is an entertainer, distinguishable from the two Republican entertainers above in that he's honest about the link between his career and sexual perversion. Soros, of course, is just there because Brooks wrote the column.

Really, if we would like to stick to what makes Trump a bigger public jerk than he was six months ago, it's his inserting himself into politics. Which he's free to do, as an American, and free to claim membership in either major or any minor party, without that fact impugning them. But what's he saying, and where's his support coming from? The same Republican base which celebrates Michelle Bachman (referenced here) and Sarah Palin (not)? The same Republican base that loved George W. Bush precisely because he is inarticulate? Which hates The Elites, The Academics, and The French? Which celebrates greenhouse gasses and oil spills? The one that worships Ronald Wilson "Trees Cause Pollution" Reagan? We don't need an explanation for Trump's popularity.

C'mon, Dave. If you want to write a column worth reading, try explaining why someone as thoughtful as yourself is still a Republican if mass stupidity offends you so.

Monday, April 18

The Way Things Don't Work

SO it suddenly turned out, late last week, that the state of Indiana, Mitchell E, Daniels, Micro Manager, has suddenly discovered $150 million it didn't think it had. Or, more accurately, which is to say accurately, it suddenly discovered that it thinks it might have $150 million it didn't think it had.

It should be noted that 99.9999% of Hoosiers did not actually discover the actual possible fact of this possible found money per se; rather, they discover it simultaneously with learning how Mitch Daniels was going to spend it, once the state legislature rubber-stamped another of his brainstorms.

Let's pause just a moment before the reveal to note, once again, that "Republican Libertarianism" is the facile Megachurch of our domestic politics. So long as you're shouting about Jebus you can just count the rake while getting away with anything that doesn't involve a dead hooker or a live boy. And I'm not absolutely certain that hasn't been raised to two dead hookers or live boys, or one of each.

Any road, $150 million. Taxpayer money, aka "seizure". In a state which has had to console itself with the fact that some of its neighbors are wearing shoes with even more holes in 'em; in a state which owes a couple billion to the Feds, give or take interest and penalties. But Mitch Daniels "finds" $150 million right on the eve of his Non-Candidacy becoming official, and he spends it before anybody knows it's gone, and without consulting the Mitch Daniels who insists that taxation is theft.

Full-day kindergarten. Indiana is one of a handful of states which don't offer it, and which don't even require kindergarten attendance.

There are two reasons why this state of affairs continues, but they haven't been getting much play in the media coverage: first, because when the previous Democratic governor pushed for it the Republicans in the General Assembly screamed bloody murder. Second, because when Candidate Daniels, who also pushed for it, became Governor Daniels the idea sorta fell by the wayside as incompatible with the bullshit line of budget-cutting being used to slash school budgets. Funding all-day kindergarten was a great idea in 2005, and a great idea today. The difference is not in funding; the difference is that in '05 Daniels wanted the PR aura of Deficit Slasher--to counteract the Huge Motherfucking Federal Debt he'd just brought about in two-and-a-half years--where the '11 Daniels needs to burnish the equally bullshitical reputation of the Budget Slasher Who Works Miracles Nonetheless.

Funding full-day kindergarten in 2005 would have meant admitting there were educational priorities the state wasn't meeting, even as it slashed budgets purely by mathematical formula to solve a "crisis". Which, of course, would also have admitted that we should be thinking before we started hacking, which would have been unwieldy in practice and apostasy in the pews.

[As always, the uninitiated should be made aware that in 2005 newly-minted Governor Daniels proposed a one-year surtax on incomes over $150,000 as a deficit-busting measure, and that this was retracted by sundown, apparently after the statehouse Republicans, and statewide Republican donors, inquired as to whether he'd enjoy seeing another sunrise.]

In 2011, though, Presidential Not-Candidate Daniels finds himself in shifting circumstances. He once looked like the robber baron's answer to Sarah Palin--and, again, I'm convinced the reasoning behind the Coyness Campaign--and Daniels was being Coy back when everyone expected the Republican race to begin officially by mid-2010, as recent experience suggested it would--is that Palin could have mopped the floor with anyone not under the official Teabagging Jebus tent--but now "Palin" means nothing more than "The Red Meat Right" which Daniels was going to have to deal with anyway. And beyond that, the shithouse rats, in the form of the Republican House, have taken over Mitch's nice gated community putting green. His bid got trumped. Then Trumped.

And, too, he found himself on the wrong side of the union-busting issue. Daniels doesn't want to do his dirty work in the glare of the spotlight; he wants to operate behind closed doors, then trumpet the story the way his people shape it. So his little hatchet man Superintentent Tony Bennett is suddenly at his side proposing we give the trades unionists more money to solve a problem. This once.

Daniels' PAC has been running Not Campaign ads non-stop, O brave new world! The latest feature two young teachers bemoaning the fact that they'll be laid off first even though they're clearly superior in their youthful exuberance, and their students all above average, thanks to their tender ministrations and non-union work ethic. And nobody asks why teachers should be getting laid off in the first place, or who might be the guy who could put a stop to it.

And it's not like the question hasn't been asked for the last six years. Daniels' Procrustian budget trimming has been objected to for a lot of reasons, but what's been done to education is the one with the most traction. He called last year's Special Session after there was a House/Senate compromise specifically to cut millions out of education and sock it in the artificial surplus wants on his resume for his next job interview. He's cut $300 million from education for the last two years, and now, now he finds $150 million and wants to use the biggest chunk of it to start a new program.

Me, I'm all for full-day kindergarten. I just think Remedial Math and Logic for Adults is the more pressing need.

Friday, April 15

This Week On Doghouse Riley's Doggone-Good Foodie Blog ™

OKAY, for the record: my Poor Wife watches Glee, but I still love her. So; I'm not gonna slug it out with somebody over "foodie", but I'll be happy to get down in the mud, or the Jello, or the Green Tea-infused Mango-Blueberry Chutney, and rassle around a bit. Preferably the mud, in case I have to eat some.

First, "food" comes from the Indo-European root Pa-, from which we also get, via the Greek, Fodder, Foster, Pastor, Pasture, Repast and, from Latin, via panis, bread, Pantry, Company, and Companion; that is, much which is basic, nurturing, nourishing, comforting, and consoling. Had our ancestors not been adept above all in its procurement we would not be around today to turn it into a art form, to put our resources into providing it for the world's poor, or watch Iron Chef America. So mixed bag, is what I'm sayin'.

On the other hand, the diminutive "-ie" comes from the sort of gurgling sound adults make when confronted with someone else's infant. It designates the uncomprehending. We talk to doggies and kitties, and shun Trekies. We do not have Lities or Painties, or Songies, and we put Bookies in jail where they belong.

People with a sense of proportion call Citizen Kane a great film, Jean Renoir a Titan of the cinema, and the collected works of Rob Schneider movies.

And bubbling alongside the objection about trivialization and standards-free pretense of expertise I made yesterday is the distinct impression of anti-intellectualism. Foodie, it always seemed to me, is the coinage of some middling adolescent who didn't want to be a Frenchified gourmet, and of course had no awareness that that term is inevitably misused (gourmet being a wine term; gourmand is the food equivalent ). Gastronome and epicure were sitting there all but unused, though they too connote some level of expertise rather than the unstinting hedonism of the chronic enthusiast. Nothing wrong with aristologist a little work-out wouldn't fix. Foodie comes to us because there's a certain class of teevee viewer who wouldn't be caught dead saying "connoisseur" in mixed company, even though "foodies" are, by domestic definition, at any rate, fussy. They are welcome to the term. But they should not be encouraged by their brethren with triple-digit IQs.

For that matter trencherman, with its hint of the knife and fork replaced by mattock and shovel, seems an almost perfect fit to me, though I suppose it would be rendered trencherperson before nightfall.

A couple other details (there was such a wealth of raw ingredients from Megan yesterday that one could hardly sift through them): first, I'm slightly flabbergasted to hear Narya say she was taught the water displacement method. But I think the real question is why. It makes sense as a holdover from someone churning his own; it makes technical sense to weigh, rather than measure, in that the water content of butter varies a good deal. I admire frugality, competent husbandry, and scientific notation, but I question whether that was going on very much by the time the Fifties rolled around. Urban dwellers ("urbies") had their butter delivered, and variation in quality, like variation in weight, soon became conveniently forgotten. I buy quality butter, but I don't ever consider how the water content might vary. And a packaged one-pound block is pretty easy to cut accurately into fourths.

As for the use of a duster, well, no doubt many were used as Megan incompetently demonstrated, but her point was the remarkable superiority of the machines invented in anticipation of her own birth. If I'm sifting 3-1/2 cups of flour I use a sieve the size of a colander, and I'm done in less time than it takes to open the bag. And I didn't mention (embarrassment of nouveau riches, again) that you're supposed to measure after you sift, so a quick spin in the processor requires you to figure out a way to pour it into a measuring container somehow. I'll race her any day.

And then there's this, which I specifically ignored yesterday:
At least I use my pricey equipment: although my husband may be the world’s leading expert on frozen chicken tenders, we do eat something cooked from scratch more nights than not.

and which is, I think, the crux of my argument: the convenience of frozen chicken is not in the preparation, but in having the ingredient around with a more-than-three-day shelf life. Chicken tenders take fifteen minutes from scratch, if that. Ain't you gonna make a salad or something to go with those frozen deals? Slice two chicken breasts, flour 'em--don't use that sifter--and saute for ten minutes.

I don't spend more than thirty minutes in the kitchen very often. Fish cooks in minutes; tilipia is farm-raised and amenable to just about anything you'd like to do to a filet. I've done it a dozen ways, and buy it whenever it's on sale; what's left over from fish tacos one night is a cold salad ingredient two nights later. Pork roasts take an hour, and the most you have to do is marinate and brown first. Roast chicken takes 2-2-1/2 hours, but it's five minutes trussing time, and, if you're obsessive, three or four bastings in the final hour. And then you've got three meals and a couple lunches. Stir fry. Main-course salads. Imagine™ organic free-range low-sodium chicken stock is as good as what I can make. Onions, garlic, fresh tortellini, and some fresh spinach and you've got a soup that's a meal. The no-cook lasagna works perfectly.

Megan's kitchen, if that is Meagan's kitchen, looks more utilitarian than fancy-schmantzy, and good for her. But she doesn't know how to cook, and she ought not to be adding to the wealth of disinformation and unfortunate eyeglass choices already out there. You're not going to learn to cook from The Food Network. You're sure not going to learn to cook from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, because you're going to bog down rapidly. If you'd just study the Introduction you'd come out ahead, but without recipes. And recipes is what the illiterate cook is all about. Technique and preparation is what a good cook is all about. You're a good cook when you can open your refrigerator at five-thirty and produce a good meal at six-fifteen. And when you don't have to justify the cost of your knives.

Thursday, April 14

Eat Shit

Megan-Jane McArdle-Galt, "The Joy of Not Cooking".

Not recommended.

SURE, sure; Boggioni and Edroso have already picked this carcass clean. But I'm a lifelong cook, and McArdle actually offends my sensibilities in a different way, or maybe just one additional way, though the whole History of Modern Cuisine as told by a Shopaholic Aristo is certainly irritating enough.

It's hard to tell how much of this is confused, and how much just stupid, a question already raised in noting McArdle as the author. As so often--at least often in relation to how much I read her stuff--she seems to be pitching a concept, not making an argument. The Atlantic (cursed be thy name!) piece starts off asking why we spend more on kitchens but don't cook, then seems to drop the question once it dawns on Megan (about 1500 words after it must've hit her readers) that a sensible, reasonable mass extinction of the conspicuous consumer might condemn her to shopping at Sears.

What does it mean that people put $6000 Viking ovens and $15,000 worth of refrigerated cabinetry, bookmatched to the handles of their knives, into kitchens where they never cook? Well, on its face, little or nothing much beyond the mindless gadget-fetish the reasonably aware observer trudges through every day of his life, blessedly exempt from the ability to buy, and thus from the idiocy required to take it seriously. Writ against the thirty-years of sacrifice both parties now ask of the people that sort of consumer hires to keep this stuff spotless, a great deal. You already know Megan will ignore that consumer trend while puzzling the whole thing out.

And my Lord, that video! She starts off trying to link it to the article ("We're going to bake a cake the way my grandmother would have in 1950, and then see why it's so much easier today even though you wouldn't think that much has changed," though this might raise the question, in the non-apodictic economist, of why people would be spending small fortunes on crap they didn't imagine was any different from the batterie of the middle of the last century). But we seem to drop that notion within a minute. She doesn't actually bake a cake just like grandma did; instead she trots out a whisk, an egg-beater, and a hand-crank sifter for demonstration purposes. (Christ, she can't even be bothered to turn off the convection oven and bake à la June Cleaver.)

Of course this Panglossian electronic gizmo worship is bad enough (and the fact that Megan never tires of it is even worse), but then apparently it wasn't demonstrative enough, so all the sudden we've brought in the fucking 1900s, evidently so Megan can add "electricity" to "iPods" on the list of things she was wise enough to be born in time for. Maybe she really did make a cake by primitive 1950s methods, and discovered it really isn't all that different or any more time consuming than today.

With two differences, and those differences are telling. First, Megan compares the laborious, old-timey, hand-crank method of sifting flour with…dumping it into a food processor. Except that she's using a dusting sifter, which is properly used to sprinkle small volumes of powdered sugar as decoration. For larger volumes of flour a sieve is the proper tool. Whisking works just as well. Hell, so does dumping packaged flour into a new container before use. The food processor, on the other hand, well, now you've got a fucking food processor to clean. No real cook uses those gizmos casually, because they're a fucking pain in the ass to wash. Although--this is telling point #2--the real time saver between the 1950s kitchen and today's McWizard's Den is the ubiquitous dishwasher. Didn't see Megan demonstrating that. (Hell, if you watch--and I don't recommend it--you'll notice she doesn't even clean up her own spills.)

Special mention has to be made of her insistence that cooks in olden times had to measure butter by climbing in the bathtub with it and noting how much water it displaced. I have no idea where this comes from. Maybe it's a reference to the commercial practices of the Pre-iPad People, a savage era where an entrepreneur risked losing the finger he stuck on the scale. No one who cooks can imagine someone--especially someone spending twelve hours a day in a depressingly downscale kitchen--going through that sort of rigamarole rather than eyeballing a measure with practiced eye.

All this, apparently, is Megan being Megan: the whiz-bang kitchen of 2011 must be superior to grandma's, since the Free Market decrees that each bell must now have its own dedicated whistle; purveyors of over-priced, disused tchotchkes must be worth their big profit margins, because they can mouth psychobabble inanities and expound on current buying fads. No mention, of course, that granny's horribly-uneven-heating oven could, if it broke down, be fixed by any handyman on the block, while today's requires a factory-certified technician with a minor in programming, nor that any of the modern wonders smaller than a stove goes straight to the landfill the minute its trim color goes out of fashion. The deeper irritation, for me, is encapsulated by the easy adoption of "foodie", the ugliest word in the modern lexicon in that it is embraced by the very people who pretend an expertise which ought to put them at odds with that sort of adspeak juvenilia. "Foodie" perfectly conveys the modern sensibility that gushing beats expertise any day. It exempts the Megan McArdles from any obligation of knowing something beyond what could fit in a tweet, while still conferring membership in an exclusive club. "I'm a foodie" explains your superior insistence on Peccorino romano. "I'm just a foodie" explains your presence at a wine tasting when you couldn't tell Chambertin from fino sherry. It's connoisseurship without all the demanding knowledge stuff. If this were just some silly twit inadvertently demonstrating her ignorance, that would be one thing. It's not. This is the same way her economic system works, and on the pages of a once-fine magazine. It's the way Les Aristos actually trickle all that extra cash the Republican party insists we have to give 'em. I grant you, it's objectionable enough in and of itself. But at least they could have the courtesy to bother doing it right.

Tuesday, April 12

Who Knew?

ITEM: Fukushima nuclear disaster raised to highest level on international scale. It turns out the highest point of the international scale is Level 7, known, variously, as "Major Accident", "Chernobyl", or "Uh-oh". At the same time, officials insisted that this in no way implies that the Fukushima accident is as serious as Chernobyl, thereby assuring the world community that Japanese officials are just like anyone else's.

I'll admit that when I read that I momentarily wondered why the scale only goes up to 7, before it dawned on me that you really don't need anything further. Also, a seven-point scale limits the number of times nuclear power shills have to rewrite their "We must not let hysterical overreaction to this accident interfere with the reasonable use of nuclear power, vigorously regulated" pieces. To seven. Or eight, since for some reason there's a Level 0.

I do wonder about the scale, and since it turns out the numbers can be assigned by just about anyone--plant operator, national panel, celebrity judges--I'm working on my own:

Level 0: Nope. We haven't heard anything unusual.

Level 1: Just a few dings. These babies are built to the highest safety standards and governed by strict regulations.

Level 2: The Level 1 Alert is now inoperative.

Level 3: The Level 2 Alert is now inoperative.

Level 4: Listen, the middle of a crisis is no time to be pointing fingers.

Level 5: With any luck this'll hold for a week.

And so on.

ITEM: Libyan stalemate putting stress on NATO alliance.

I think that's Level 3.

Y'know, somebody needs to explain to me how seeing ten fucking days into the future is too much to ask of the people we entrust with high explosives and blank checks.

Of course, that's not exactly what's happened here; we're just ten days further into things and the required miracle hasn't yet materialized.

ITEM: Budget deal won't cut military spending.

Well, in fairness, that's the 60% of the Federal budget we can afford.

So the Democrats vote against their constituencies, and it's the Republicans who are termed courageous.

We have two major political parties in this country. One of them, in my lifetime, has been led by: 1) an excessively solarized, anti-fluoridationist version of Herbert Hoover; 2) a raging paranoiac; 3) a guy who played football without a helmet; 4) a B-movie actor whose room-temperature IQ wasn't improved by terminal brain bubbles; 5) an effete East Coast Yalie whose impersonation of a Texas bidnessman was so pathetic it made the previous guy look competent; 6) a small-time, small-town Georgia courthouse lizard so slimy he still has to apologize to amphibians he meets; 7) Bob Dole; 8) the son of #5, a man whose own phony Texanism could be explained by the fact that it's the only state where he'd be judged mentally competent to hold a driver's license, in conjunction with possibly the most loathsome human on this side of the planet; 9) John McCain; 10) a brain-dead weekend weather reporter McCain raised to national prominence in one of his periodic fits of Fuck Youism; and 11) John Boehner.

And the other one not only manages to keep losing to them, but keeps telling itself it needs to be more like 'em. American Exceptionalism, indeed.

ITEM: Applebee's gets 15-month-old boy plastered. I'm always fascinated with how "It was a mistake" serves to explain any corporate PR disaster, from nuclear meltdown to serving margaritas to underage toddlers ("employees will be retrained" was one of the announced changes, presumably because someone forgot to salt the rim of the sippy cup). So far as I know, no one's bothered to ask Applebee's why a fully-mixed margarita would be hanging around in a storage container in the first place. Maybe all their drinks are pre-mixed. I don't know. Anybody got David Brooks' personal email?

The infant blowing a point-one-oh, and the subsequent explanation ("Accident") reminded me of last week's announced mix-up at a local medical testing concern, which mistakenly informed eight Hoosiers they'd tested positive for chlamydia ("Okay, but the good news is we first thought it was twenty-three").

I saw this story on two local channels, and both fell all over themselves assuring viewers it was just a mistake. ("Hello, honey? Well, it's a funny thing…When that lab said you gave me an STD it was just a mistake! So you can come home now. They forgot to clean it or something. I sewed all your suits back together.") Both stories interviewed the Vice President of the joint ("Very sensitive equipment. Gave it a good cleaning. Moved it to another room"); one of the two did bother, after that, to talk to a doctor who was a little perturbed that patients might have been told their lousy husbands gave 'em crabs, and who might now be looking for a little legal relief from anyone involved.

And nobody said "Aren't you supposed to've read the manual?"

And this is the sort of deference given to someone who doesn't buy teevee time.

Monday, April 11

That's It? Really?

BEFORE we begin, I'd just like to ask Tiger Woods whether yesterday's applause from a collection of hypocrites felt any better than their scorn did last year.

Now, among the personal consequences of the Times porous firewall--I'm a natural husbander, and I've opened a mere three articles so far, Brooks' All Hail Paul Ryan piece last week, Douthat and Krugman this morning--is an increased familiarity with the Washington Post, something I don't wish on anyone. At least there's no math involved. Last week this included Dana Milbank finding renewed hope for mankind in the slow-motion firing of Glenn Beck, an attitude which goes beyond The Glass is Half Full optimism and A Little Arsenic Never Hurt Anyone capitalist collusion all the way to Sure It Smells Like Pig Shit, But That's The Mark Of A Great Burgundy clinical pathology territory. The entire advance of digital technology, of the American ideal of universal education, nay, the whole of Western Civilization herself is negated when someone can type this sentence and not follow it by slashing his own throat, at least as a warning to others:
Fox deserves credit for finally putting an end to this.

See, I'm not sure how a functional adult can miss the Tunguska Explosion of stupidity that detonates about 20% of the way into that sentence. For someone who's paid to cover our politics, and who has worked as a multi-media clown himself, Milbank simply has to understand that Beck was a Roger Ailes put-up job, and that unfettered Protocols of the Elders of Zion dementia schtick has become a public liability when the Republican Presidential campaign is slated to begin any month now. Falling ratings? He's still a comparative powerhouse. Advertiser pressures? That's been going on ever since he said, "But this Obama is a colored fella!" out where sane, decent people--or at least Today Show viewers--could hear him. Congratulating FOX for cutting Beck loose is like congratulating the fast food industry for tackling the obesity problem.

Last week the President of the United States, who's been called "Socialist" by the opposition party from the moment he defeated Hillary for 'em, basically agreed with the assessment. Of course we're well beyond questioning his commitment to anything other than a successful 2012 product roll-out, but if he's serious about both that and budget cutting I'd like to know what he didn't go ahead and indicate a willingness to sign a budget bill provided that it cut the $100 billion or whatever it was that Republicans promised in the first place. I know, he's a great admirer of Ronald Reagan, and so believes that if the piano falls on people's heads in sections it won't hurt as much, or they won't be able to figure out where it came from.

Because if you're a decent human being you know what's wrong with draconian cuts in social services, and if you're a reasonable one you know what this deficit "crisis" is composed of. There is no legitimate argument that Tax Cuts=Jobs Creation anymore, and even if there were, Jobs at the expense of Health and Well-Being, Education, and Human Compassion is not exactly a winning argument.

And if you've been paying attention then you realize that the number of roofs required to fall on America's collective skull sufficient to effect some awareness of Gravity is something north of "one". If this is the way it's to be, let's get going. Starvation isn't much improved by slowing it down.

Friday, April 8

Is This Supposed To Be Fooling Someone?

I WOKE up about an hour early this morning. My Poor Wife hadn't stirred, so I turned on the local news downstairs. You'd think I'd know better by now.

The Top Story--after Weather and Traffic, I mean--is a local spin on The Budget Crisis: the President was supposed to come to town to do some photo-op at Allison Transmission today, but he cancelled. This is the local FOX affiliate, which in recent years has toned down its old Morning Zoo approach, winnowing the zany crew of drunken revelers down to the present two middle-aged reformed drunks with a slightly monogamous air. It's probably not fair to say this about the male anchor--he probably, but not certainly, was off in some other market being zany during that period--but the female half now sits and soberly reads the same teleprompter which used to direct her tosses to The Booty Cam, which would then swoop in on someone's ass. I am not making this up. These days she humanizes the incessant weather chat with anecdotes from last night's soccer practice. I'm not making that up, either.

In other words, the past decade of news packaging at 59 has recapitulated young adulthood moving into middle age: the viewer has gone from being surrounded by undisciplined, ungovernable know-nothings who never seemed to realize they were shouting, and couldn't be trusted with furniture, to being stuck with the one know-nothing still in town, the one who decided to sober up only after she realized it was affecting her looks, and who now gives Mommy advice as though no one else can remember how much she used to sleep around, either. Sorta like Jenna Bush on Good Morning America, or wherever th' fuck she is.

And they toss the President Cancels Trip story to the Nordic blond reporter, who's standing in front of Allison, in the dark and in the rain and in her cute hooded slicker with just the right percentage of blond sticking out. And she brings us all up to date, that is, she reiterates that the Prez has cancelled his visit, because Budget Crisis. And then she brings us up to date on what that means--to the limits of the popular imagining, of course--that is, Government Shut Down Unless Agreement, which is incongruously papered over with video of Mr. Obama's previous visit to Allison. She finished that section with one of those generalizations about what the Little People are thinking which are sprinkled on local news so our celebrity teleprompter readers can feel good about themselves, something like "This has Hoosiers wondering how a government shutdown might affect their own households". Which led to…

a clip of Mike Pence on the big FOX, blaming "liberals in the Senate"?

Okay, and that's not the head scratcher, believe it or not, or not the biggest one; that came after, when the Choirboy stopped chanting, and Inga, standing in the dark, in the rain, in her mac, because the President's visit to the building behind her had been cancelled due to the Budget Crisis thing took up reading again, and informed us that Republicans were criticizing Mr. Obama's trip to Indianapolis, saying that he should remain in Washington.

I hit the record button to make sure I could relay this accurately, and that it wasn't just another acid flashback. Part of it was cleared up, or "cleared up" twenty minutes later, when we tossed to Heidi again, and she went through the same spiel, with the same old video of Obama's previous trip, and the same Make A Difference line about Hoosier households, which was followed by…

a clip of Ray LaHood talking about gas prices?

Which led to Ilsa reporting that Republicans had been criticizing the President for his plans to come to Indianapolis, but the issue had been mooted in the previous twenty minutes.

Look, I understand this is like criticizing a bunch of clowns for not ducking when the pie was thrown. But consider that the President's visit was cancelled yesterday, then consider that a professional news-gathering operation couldn't adjust to the news by dawn the next day; that raindrops bouncing off her head wasn't enough to remind the reporter that the visit she was supposed to cover had already been cancelled, and that their one nod to the business was to leave a partisan video hole--which presumably was originally pencilled in as Mike Pence Criticizes President's Trip--then couldn't be bothered to find relevant clips or write a coherent intro by the next morning. (The LaHood clip was on hand because the President was supposed to announce some sort of domestic drilling initiative while he was here, evidently to counterbalance any potential criticism of his photo op with a new Green technology. We are well and truly fucked.)

The second report was followed by Yet Another Clip of Mike "Your Next Governor" Pence, fauxbalanced by a static graphic of Andre Carson with a quote of his blaming Republicans for the impasse. So you could add "Potential Budget Crisis Covered Without Ever Mentioning Actual Budget", although I know you had no more expectation of any serious discussion of that than I.

Which brings us to Weigel Watch; Mr. How Dare Anyone Imagine I'm Other Than An Unbiased Journalist Covering The Completely Spontaneous Grassroots Teabagging Industry has decided--after telling us last week that Teabaggers, and their Republican Not Puppets, were not responsible for any potential government shutdown, as proven by Professor Dr. Gingrich, Ph.B--has now decided that the Pugs are gonna get blamed. In an effort to either explain or deflect this--the two operations are frequently indistinguishable--he has provided us with a handy scorecard of how Republicans and Democrats are spinning the potential shutdown, based on how people who would like to cover it like any other horse race hope they are.

Now, let's be fair: Weigel's gig doesn't require him to do any in-depth analysis. (Neither does mine.) And as such, maybe he ought to avoid saying things like this:
Democrats are increasingly convinced—depending on how much something can "increase" in a day—that the launch of Wisconsin Republican Rep. Paul Ryan's budget is adding more helpful noise to the shutdown debate. Voters who are not closely following the difference between 2011 fiscal year outlays and 2012 budget projections are hearing about a document that does all sorts of unpopular things, like means-testing and privatizing Medicare and broadening the tax code while cutting the top tax rates. They won't say this. But when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid talks like he did this morning and says that "the Tea Party is screaming so loudly" at the Republican Party "that it can't hear what the country demands," he's taking advantage of an electorate that doesn't completely understand what's happening.

Especially when 1) it's 2003 dollars to doughnuts that Weigel doesn't know what's in the budget, either, since no one does; 2) there are plenty of individual items, such as "privatized health insurance scam", "preventing the EPA from enforcing environmental laws", "the continued insistence that lowered tax rates increase revenues, thoroughly discredited in 1983, now extended as our only lifeline", or "long-range economic assumptions which are beyond the realm of fantasy even for politicians" which are, in and of themselves, reasons for opposition to the House budget (as if "it's proposed by Republicans" isn't enough); and 3) Harry Reid could fabricate evidence from now to the return of Zombie Ronald Reagan and he's not gonna come close to the sort of distortions, half-truths, and pure baby diarrhea which the Republican party has been feeding its uncomprehending electorate for thirty years.

I understand, I do, the difficulties faced by the accommodating child who grew up in an era when adults were telling him he could make any stupid-ass argument he wished, so long as it was right wing, and never be questioned. I would simply point out that, in the event that someone told him there would never be any consequences for behaving this way, they may have overstated. And that once you believe everyone else is an idiot, it can be awfully difficult to reverse course.

Thursday, April 7

Orange. A Lot Depends On Who's Wearing It.

Christ. It's like being governed by the guys who play the Rat Pack in
Lifetime's Plaything: The Angie Dickinson Story.

Honey, deck cleaning will be a little delayed this year...

PICTURED above are two more reasons posting has been light: nausea and time wasting, and please don't tell my Poor Wife about the second one, a $50 sherbet-colored French racing bike (Gitane Interclub) from c. 1975 which I'm getting into riding shape. The guy I bought it from said he'd bought it as a yearling from his buddy in 1977, the year my beloved Raleigh Super Course sprang to life in the forests of Nottinghamshire. It was well-used, and not always carefully. He spoke wistfully of its magic. How much of that was for the bike, and how much for lost youth I do not know; lovers of old French steel, and particularly Gitanes, have a Gallic intensity, at least online, but he was also downsizing from an enormous place up in Carmel, where soul is something you surrender at the county line. I didn't ask what tragedy had flung him there.

Whatever it was, the bike seems to've gone from plein air joy wagon to barn decoration in an instant now frozen; still has the original tires, probably, and remnants of tape, and other little routine maintenance tasks appear to've been ignored. About what you'd expect. Something like 1/8" of grime to be removed, on average, and some botanical sample wound around the jockey pulley. Many bikes of the era have mechanical idiosyncrasies, but the French made this an art form: stem and crank sizes are theirs and theirs alone. This will not be a whole lotta trouble to deal with, god bless the internets. Sew up tires I had to order, because local bike shops stock only high-end racers they can soak their high-end racing customers for. New cabling, once I decide on a color, which sounds like an easy exercise in personal preference but quickly falls into the rabbit hole of aesthetics, because "white", the obvious and period choice, becomes "glare white" when juxtaposed with the patina of age, and "blue", the next obvious choice, would make me look like a young trendoid. Or, rather, like a crazy old coot who'd swiped a young trendoid's bike. That, and a good cleaning, seem to be all that's required for the legendary Suntour V derailleur and Mafac Racer brakes (inscribed Marfac "Racer") to return to full operation. Having Marfacs means I will now own a bike with operating brakes, and not Gradual Velocity Reducers. This may come in handy, since the frame is maybe a couple centimeters too large for me. My thinking was that, at 57, my testicles are really pretty much for show now, anyway.

I probably could have parted the thing out and tripled my money: in one of those odd little twists the brake lever hoods, which, instead of the usual full-body cover consist of a kind of bikini bottom for the upper surface, fetch $35-50 on eBay in used condition; mine are a little cracked but serviceable. The unexpected money-making potential comes from the fact that the previous owner scratched his Social Security number on the thing as a theft deterrent.

It's easy for a man my age and temperament--though it may in fact be difficult to imagine a man of my temperament living to be a man of my age, and with all his natural teeth--to get lost while scraping off grime and seeing old metal come back to life under comparatively little effort, and wonder why th' fuck anyone shells out three or four grand for a modern miracle of carbon fiber technology that'll be clogging a landfill while this thing is still reasonable transportation. I know, some people have a need to go as fast as they possibly can. Most don't. It's like driving a Porsche when you could have a fully-restored Bugatti roadster for one-third the price, on the grounds that the Porsche's radio is better.

WHICH reminds me that I've been having a long email discussion with Brendan, which is to say he's taken my regular novella submissions with good humor, beginning (I think) with the topic of What Sort of Milieu Did David Weigel Grow Up In That He Can Now Imagine Himself as Some Sort of Moderate? I've been trying to work it into some sort of post, but thus far it resists being turned into less than five, and that's five Riley-length posts. Call it "A History of the Overton Window, 1961-present, and Why People Like Dave Weigel Can't Figure Out They're Actually Staring at a Brick Wall". Coming Summer, 2012.

More gist arrived at the mill yesterday, in the form of "Who Would The Public Blame For A Government Shutdown?" polls; the first one I saw, on teevee somewheres, tried to say the blame would be equally divided which, I thought, proved they'd done an excellent job of carefully dividing the poll.

The Times today (I'm not linking to them anymore until I'm assured that clicking links don't cost you any Gray Lady ViewPoints™, which, since I'm never going to research the question, is never gonna happen) put it a tad differently:
Poll: Blame for a Government Shutdown Will Get Spread Around

As the nation inches closer to the possibility that the government may shut down tomorrow at midnight, the public is divided in apportioning blame for the situation, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

While talks on Capitol Hill continue to try to avert the shutdown, 37 percent of Americans said they will blame Congressional Republicans if the negotiations fail, 20 percent say they will blame Congressional Democrats and 20 percent said they will blame President Obama. Another 17 percent will place the blame with all parties involved.

So if you add "Congressional Democrats" and "President Obama" you get 40 percent, or roughly the equal of 37.

And while such polls are generally corrected for party bias, more or less, depending on the result desired, you can't really correct for Total Motherfucking Delusionality, not if you still want to conduct a poll in the United States.

Don't get me wrong; I'm not saying that the 20% who would blame the President don't know what th' fuck they're talking about, because that much is so obvious I don't have to say it. You could lump them in with the "Democrats" responders and still have roughly the same results, except you'd know that at least half of them are answering the question as if they were being asked to express a preference for a sports team. I'm not trying to say that the President has no place in the game, nor that Democrats are in no way responsible--they're both responsible for, if nothing else, the continued existence of these maniacs on the national stage--you can follow Brendan's link to Josh Marshall quoting a Hardball Democrat's discussion of Ryan's "courageous" plan--and it's certain that I don't expect the public to be accurate in its assessment, nor do I care one way or the other. I'd rather ask why this qualifies as news for anyone outside the Beltway? "Partisan Poll Shows Partisanship".

Y'know, maybe we should wait to ask until there's an actual shutdown, when the action centers squarely on the House, and its Republican Inmate-Operators. Like maybe when "Government Shutdown" isn't a news graphic, but the reason Grandma didn't get her catfood money and Shane Lee missed his combat pay. I, at least, don't give a shit which side the American people blame this on; the American people put that goddam set of corporate grifters back in charge in the first place, and the American public can't be bothered to figure out what's a stake until the roof caves in on 'em. Ninety-four percent of the American public answered your stupid poll question with something other than "Fuck off." I'm not sure it can get any worse than that.

Wednesday, April 6

I'm Sure Cooler Heads Will Prevail

GLENN Kessler:
We have only scratched the surface, but a pattern is emerging. As with President Obama’s budget, the Ryan budget plan relies on dubious assertions, questionable assumptions and fishy figures. The ideas may be bold, but the budget presentation falls short of his claim that he is getting rid of budget gimmicks.

Oh, do tell:

Mitch Daniels gave Ryan's plan a glowing tweet. "The first serious proposal produced by either party to deal with the overriding issue of our time."

It is, of course, a measure of the unseriousness of our times that anyone takes Mitch Daniels' word about anything, let alone enough to retweet some. And that's before we get to the idea that a man, and a party, conducting a permanent game of chicken with the total ruination of a country in order to prove their sort of disaster is superior to any other has something "serious" to say, or would go about saying it via bullhorn and grandstand if it did.

"Let's cut everything but our ever-burgeoning War Department and let Ayn Rand sort it out" is not a serious proposal. It's a religious slogan. The fact that some people are serious about Dead Carpenters, UFOs, or two-bit novelists has nothing to do with whether the ideas themselves are serious. It's like being forced into having a never-ending debate about the real powers of vampires.

"Under threat of government shutdown?" What's the threat? If we avert the threat by enacting the Brave Ryan budget the government shuts down anyway, except for the IRS and the War Department. (Look, Teabaggers: stupid's fun, an' all, but those of you who aren't in on the gag might want to consider just when government officials, even those government officials you love, are going to stop picking your pocket to line their own.)

Hey, if you demand a "serious" proposal for dealing with the budget in precisely these terms you have it: it's called "Simpson-Bowles", and it was almost as delusional, but it raised taxes as part of the "solution". It's serious as a collapsed lung. I don't recall any Republicans manning the barricades over that one.

The Republican party has lost its mind. This is nothing new, or particularly shocking, to anyone who's been conscious the last thirty years. It's just another opportunity to note that things have gone so far downhill since then that the "reasonable" Presidential candidate, and the "moderate" New York Times columnist both endose as "serious" a piece of political kabuki which, if enacted, would shred the social fabric on the off chance that the upper 2% of income earners might benefit from it.

And this despite the fact that it's had exactly the opposite effect for the last three decades, and despite the fact that the utter fucking insanity has been clear for at least two.

Do you really want a serious proposal about the deficit? Okay. Ready? Raise taxes. Raise taxes to compensate for all that's been lost over the past thirty years, give or take a Clinton administration, through incontinent tax cutting for the wealthy, which was enacted by the same people who refused to make tough, public decisions about cuts in services, and who refuse to admit to them now, even as they blow the same goddam trumpet again. Add in a surtax designed to create the Trickle-Down Nirvana this era was supposed to usher in. End of serious proposal.

I doubt a serious discussion will ensue.

So here's a modest proposal, free of charge. Let the House shut down the government. At the stroke of midnight, Joe Biden declares himself the Fourth Branch of Government, acting on a National Emergency, freezes the assets of the entire financial sector based on the Dick Cheney clause, and uses that money to continue the normal, or "normal" operations of government until such time as it is restored. Meanwhile we comb the books. Over/under on budget compromise: 12:03.

Or, hell, just shut the fucker down. The Republican party needs it a lot worse than I do.