Monday, October 31

It's One Thing To Be A Liar. It's Another To Be An Ill-Informed, Third-Hand Liar.

Ross Douthat, "What Tax Dollars Can't Buy". October 30

FOR starters, having Herman Cain on the Sundays might be justified by his front-runner, or "front-runner", status--might be; it sure isn't justified by anything else--but if you have to talk about that fucking ad, then the point is not "promoting smoking" but "perpetrating this phony Fuck You! USA! shit" which has gone on thirty years past its expiration date now because no egghead's gonna tell me not to eat tainted meat-like substances. That shit worked for Reagan (when it shouldn't have, and wouldn't have if the Press had pressed, instead of raising its hand and hoping to be recognized by the big Hollywood star) at a time when product bans (DDT, cyclamates) were still news, and widely misunderstood by the public, with help from industries disinclined to be bothered with the common good unless there was a profit in it. Tobacco, of course, was still the beneficiary of a well-funded counterintelligence campaign. Today it is time to understand that the great majority of Americans now get the concept, aren't flummoxed by the very concept of risk, prefer safety to faux economy, and want nothing whatsoever to do with cigarettes, including being within fifteen miles of somebody smoking one. And they are right.

I don't give a shit if someone smokes a cigarette on camera. (Hell, half my teevee viewing is Turner Classics.) This might be a minority opinion these days, but to accuse Herman Cain of "promoting smoking" or, more accurately, to accuse him of "not caring" that the ad might possibly promote smoking, is to lead with your chin into Herman Cain's wheelhouse or, more accurately, the general location of Herman Cain's wheelhouse, if he had one. The question is why Herman Cain, in a Presidential primary campaign we'll be nice for once and call "quixotic" (when calling it "a campaign" is probably far too generous already), finds it necessary to trot out this phony issue of Cigarette Freedom, especially in a fucking Republican primary, where it distinguishes him not one whit from the rest of the field, and why he would imagine it bestowed some benefit in a political process where 98% of Americans clearly believe not being forced to walk through clouds of carcinogens wherever they go out in public is a more important freedom than the right to choose cancer.

Of course, this was Bob Schieffer, who clearly took a look around in the mid 70s, realized he had half the talent of Dan Rather and one-third the talent of the talented people at CBS, and opted for the career strategy of making himself seem as innocuous to the Nixonites as possible.

LET us examine, for a moment, the other side of the George Eff Will "conservative" coin, though I'm not certain "moderate" "conservativism" is distinctive enough to be considered something separate. If Will's bright balloon is never more than the business end of a toothpick away from full-on anti-fluoridationalism, Douthat is George Will if Will had grown up listening to babbling hillbilly schizophrenics in place of the Latin Mass.

Compared to graceless Ross, Brooks' simpering "reasonableness" seems almost genuine in its abject marketability, and Mitch Daniels' calculating venality sounds like intellect. Douthat's "moderation" amounts to nothing beyond the fact that by the time he got to Hahvahd it was no longer possible to pretend to be Bill Buckley, Defender of the Faith at the Liberal Ivies, because that ship had sailed, and the American right could no longer read. Scratch him and you get Jerry Falwell with social pretensions.
But true social mobility and broadly shared prosperity are not so easily achieved. Remember that those tax dollars, once collected, would not be disbursed with perfect effectiveness to the most deserving members of the American middle class. Instead, they would be used to buy a little more time for our failing public institutions — postponing a reckoning with unsustainable pension commitments, delaying necessary reforms in our entitlement system and propping up an educational sector whose results don’t match the costs.

This is how one displays one's Republican reasonableness (consider Mitch Daniels and the culture war on slow simmer): agree that the opposition has a good point. And then explain why the answer is the same Republican crackpottery as before (or, in a pinch, explain that it should be left to sort itself out, which is sure to happen once you're back in charge).

We have a roaring cascade of inequality in this country, and it is directly traceable to the argument--and the tax policies--of the Reagan administration thirty years ago. There's no question. And, for those who tend to forget the inconvenient, let us remember that the point of all that was not More Wealth for the Wealthy, but the beneficial effect all that water was supposed to have on everyone's little dinghy.

And let's add to that, as is always necessary, that the current Horrible Budget Armageddon Caused by Libruls amounts to an increase in the deficit essentially equal to the size of all that tax cutting all these years.

So, just for starters, raising taxes on the wealthy is justified. There really need be no other argument than this. The deficit is life-threatening? Return lost revenues. Incontinent tax-cutting, thirty years on, has produced an even worse, and considerably more stratified, economy? Do away with it. Put it to right.

The argument failed. Twice. As algebra. You had thirty years.

Connecting it now to the social safety net, union hatred, and education, for fuck's sake, where the only reason you can even make out the category on the Federal pie chart is the massive increase in Federal spending and meddling under the Bush II administration, when "conservatives" and soon-to-be-disowned "conservatives" decided to make over the educational system in the image of the Great Conservative Permanent Majority to Come, just demonstrates what's been going on all along. Social Security is solvent, all the Withered Anti-New Deal hornswoggle to the contrary, and it's a trust, not part of the general revenues. Not to mention that the Jobs Creators barely pay into the thing. Eliminate Social Security altogether and you do nothing for the Deficit. It shouldn't even be part of the argument. Unfunded Federal pensions have grown substantially, but that isn't a prima facie argument against pensions; it's an argument for responsible government funding its obligations. As in levying equitable taxes.

Instead we've had this two-shoe Republican method of "bankrupting" the government (Freedom!) followed by "the only way to fix this is to do away with all the programs we are too politically cowardly to face head on". And, as such, I'll believe you're serious about the deficit when you start proposing to balance it with military cuts.

And I'll believe you're serious about rescuing the lower classes…no. I won't.

Sunday, October 30

Federal Bow-tie Tension Guidelines: Opposed By The Very People Who Stand To Benefit The Most

George Eff Will, "Mitt Romney, the pretzel candidate". October 28

IF I had to choose a single reason for the thirty-five years I've spent trying to ignore George Fucking Will as much as humanly possible, it's here: like his Latin-cognater idol Buckley, Will is really never more than a couple paces from complete, mouth-foaming, Anti-fluoridationalist rant of the sidewalk wingnut sermonizer. Either man would have been entertaining, if not interesting, had he been able to keep that in check. But had he been able to keep that in check he wouldn't have been such a crackpot in the first place, because the wingnut mentality can take hold only with a constant source of cranky flapdoodle near at hand. Quemoy and Matsu are to the American Right what a creek that flows throughout the summer is to the cattle rancher.
The Republican presidential dynamic — various candidates rise and recede; Mitt Romney remains at about 25 percent support — is peculiar because conservatives correctly believe that it is important to defeat Barack Obama but unimportant that Romney be president. This is not cognitive dissonance.

Correct. Cognitive dissonance is the relationship between that second sentence and the first. What the Republican presidential dynamic is is reduced cognitive ability.
Obama, a floundering naif who thinks ATMs aggravate unemployment, is bewildered by a national tragedy of shattered dreams, decaying workforce skills and forgone wealth creation. Romney cannot enunciate a defensible, or even decipherable, ethanol policy.
And this is not cognitive dissonance. It's a non sequitur.
Life poses difficult choices, but not about ethanol. Government subsidizes ethanol production, imposes tariffs to protect manufacturers of it and mandates the use of it — and it injures the nation’s and the world’s economic, environmental, and social (it raises food prices) well-being.

In May, in corn-growing Iowa, Romney said, “I support” — present tense — “the subsidy of ethanol.” And: “I believe ethanol is an important part of our energy solution for this country.” But in October he told Iowans he is “a business guy,” so as president he would review this bipartisan — the last Republican president was an ethanol enthusiast — folly. Romney said that he once favored (past tense) subsidies to get the ethanol industry “on its feet.” (In the 19th century, Republican “business guys” justified high tariffs for protecting “infant industries”). But Romney added, “I’ve indicated I didn’t think the subsidy had to go on forever.” Ethanol subsidies expire in December, but “I might have looked at more of a decline over time” because of “the importance of ethanol as a domestic fuel.” Besides, “ethanol is part of national security.” However, “I don’t want to say” I will propose new subsidies. Still, ethanol has “become an important source of amplifying our energy capacity.” Anyway, ethanol should “continue to have prospects of growing its share of” transportation fuels. Got it?

Got it.

That is, I've got this: the wholly crazed American Right, which likes to call itself "conservative", doesn't like Mitt Romney. This much is easy to understand. For the life of me, I can't figure who does like him, or why; the best argument, the only argument, is that he isn't one of the other guys. I understand why "conservatives" don't think Mitt is one of them; he isn't. He's a born-rich rich guy and the son of a politician, like the ethanol-enthusing last Republican president, who appears to have the same relationship to power that thirteen-year-old boys have to eroticism: you can tell he's desperately interested in the game, but he seems to have no idea how it's played, and he lunges around so gracelessly you can only imagine he's trying to mimic something he saw somewhere and missed the point of.

On the other hand, he does have long experience pandering, and his routine here is pretty much standard politics (which reminds me, another ethanol fancier is diminutive Indiana governor Mitch Daniels, George Eff Will's dream candidate). Romney may not do it particularly well (who does?), but if we want to suggest that this qualifies as actual cognitive dissonance, and thus disqualifies a candidate from the intellectual rigor required to run an economy, we might consider who else gets caught in that net. And we might start with Ron Paul, the anti-government-subsidy legislator with the history of earmarks. Or Michele Bachmann, the anti-socialist nutball with the bank balance stuffed with government funds. Or Rick Santorum, subsidy hypocrite and the Sacred Right to Lifer who finesses his own wife's medical pregnancy termination into a miscarriage. And that's the three Republican candidates--none of whom can ever have expected to be the nominee, and thus really get called on this shit--willing to oppose ethanol subsidies in front of Iowa audiences. For principle.

Hey, this is fun, if familiar; what else is there? Carter's ethanol subsidy deal was a pander, coming during his reelection campaign, but he'd resisted subsidizing Gasoline, Now With 10% Less Gasoline! in favor of fossil fuel alternatives to that point. Free-Market Ron's sugar embargo, still in effect, which resulted in high fructose corn syrup replacing the sugar we add to everything, didn't damage his reputation with "conservatives" like Will, though with Reagan we're always left to define where "pander" leaves off and "ongoing criminal conspiracy" begins. (Not that he invented the Sugar Production scam, our nation's longest running.)

Can you spell politics without pander? Probably not. We could take the money out of it; we could reform the electoral process, the major party domination, make it more inclusive, use the public airwaves to create a better-informed electorate. Those ideas don't seem to garner a lot of Republican support, or generate too many George Eff Will columns. Is there some Freedom! argument, or something in the Pledge of Allegiance, which guarantees Iowans the right to screw up the first eighteen months of every Presidential campaign roll-out? Sheesh if there's one thing Republicans have proven to be good at over the last four decades, it's suggesting rules, regulations, and Constitutional amendments designed to save themselves from what they want to do. You can't propose a bylaw that triggers a Blue Ribbon Panel selected by the Competition Committee once the level of pander reaches some designated point?
Every day, 10,000 baby boomers become eligible for Social Security and Medicare, from which they will receive, on average, $1 million of benefits ($550,000 from the former, $450,000 from the latter). Who expects difficult reforms from Romney, whose twists on ethanol make a policy pretzel?

I guess this is supposed to qualify as an argument; it's a little bit of a shock to see Will succumb to the modern practice of letting the Reader fill in your point for you in order to save time. Of course, I don't read him very often, and he has been working the Unreliable Narrator thing since the 70s.

But, look, maybe Ross Douthat or one of those other young hot-shot techno-linkers can explain to me where those figures come from. In the meantime, all I know is there's a 3.6% COLA raise in Social Security due next year which will raise the individual take to 13,452 lucky-ducky bucks per annum. So if my calculator skills haven't deteriorated, this means that Baby Boomers, on average, are expected to live to be 105.886 years old.

Can anybody suggest any good cat food stocks?
A straddle is not a political philosophy; it is what you do when you do not have one. It is what Romney did when he said that using Troubled Assets Relief Program funds for the General Motors and Chrysler bailouts “was the wrong source for that funding.” Oh, so the source was the bailouts’ defect.

And here I imagined its success was the problem, and that Romney was just trying to find some way to criticize the President for a favorable outcome in a way which might pass muster with that sliver of the Republican electorate known as "somewhat sane".
Republicans may have found their Michael Dukakis, a technocratic Massachusetts governor who takes his bearings from “data” (although there is precious little to support Romney’s idea that in-state college tuition for children of illegal immigrants is a powerful magnet for such immigrants) and who believes elections should be about (in Dukakis’s words) “competence,” not “ideology.” But what would President Romney competently do when not pondering ethanol subsidies that he forthrightly says should stop sometime before “forever”? Has conservatism come so far, surmounting so many obstacles, to settle, at a moment of economic crisis, for this?

Heaven forfend. Do, please do, nominate a real "conservative" and continue the work thus far so nobly advanced, give or take a few utter disasters. How else are we to see another complete collapse of the Savings and Loan industry, or the banking system descend into piracy, without "conservative" principles to guide them? And how else will be get the principled response of Letting Everything Turn to Shit as a result? You know, the way in would in a perfect world.

Friday, October 28

"Dear Penthouse: I Never Thought I'd Be Writing You At Age 70. Then One Day I Bought A New York Times…"

David Brooks, "This Oughta Be Good For Two Holiday Columns At Least". October 27

I RARELY tackle Brooks in one of those Sociology reveries of his, when he's apparently imagining himself at some private, exclusive, expensive liberal arts college, be-Tweeded and Meerschaum'd, privately discussing her semester grade with some pillowy coed, just enough of sixteen, or fifteen, still echoing in her cheeks, or tongue-moistened lips, just enough college girl experience in her eyes, stubby little fingers a bit too fidgety, paint-chipped some ridiculous color or two. Extra credit! The sinecure's wet dream of a sinecure. Because, frankly, I'm subject to fits, and this computer desk has sharp corners.

If the Times wants to pay a rank amateur to regularly fill its Op-Ed pages with unlettered and highly selective culls of social science articles written for the general reader, well, it's not like it has much of a reputation left to lose.

It's bad enough that Brooks evinces no awareness whatever of the basic issues in the social sciences; what's worse--or, at least, what's a greater risk to my maxillofacial structures--is how Brooks seems to imagine he can use this stuff to reinforce his Preppy Monarchist routine without anyone being the wiser. It's always relentlessly aspirational, always wowed by some Untapped or Recently Discovered Human Potential which, in the future, will serve the ever-perfection-bound perfection of Capitalism well, or would, if it weren't largely a shell game. Brooks didn't get where he is on the back of a turnip truck. That doesn't mean he doesn't actually believe this shit. It just means he has to know that not everyone does, and might consider writing accordingly.

Today's column is a bleg for seventy-something readers to write their life stories, and a couple of columns, for him ("around Thanksgiving". Good timing.). This will benefit young readers, who rarely get the advice about adulthood they so desperately crave from withered senescents.

And so does Youth turn to David Brooks for help! like he's an elevated sleeping platform 12 hours up the overnight trail. Actually, Dave recently "stumbled across" brief biographies written by Yalies, Class of 1942, for their 50th reunion. While looking for the definition of "bleg", I'm guessing.

So, first off, young reader, I'm with Dave on this one. I wish someone had advised me to be wealthy enough to attend Yale during a Great Depression.

Of course, Young Dreamer, we are not here to discuss what sort of effect Every Fucking Opportunity in the Book might have on your Life Story, as this is why you have been provided bootstraps, or a Times to sleep under. There is, after all, a 1 in 2 chance you are female and a 1 in 5 chance you're black, or otherwise disadvantaged, and so wouldn't be writing about your time at Yale in the 40s in the first place. Mutatis mutants, future entrepreneur! Enjoy your refrigerated beverage! Not so common among your kind back in those days, yet look where you are now. Consider the selection in the beverage aisle! Consider the opportunities in the burgeoning field of refrigerator repair. Or the admittedly spartan, but relatively inexpensive housing afforded by their ubiquity. David Brooks did not happen to stumble on a treasure trove of bios from the Alumni of the Watts Riots or Khe Sanh or the Auto Industry. Take what aid life gives you, and be thankful he didn't stumble over your bedroll on his way to the Deli.

For example, you might consider a double major--"Appliance Repair" and "Dumpster Diving", say--if you wanna be truly happy:
The most common lament in this collection is from people who worked at the same company all their lives and now realize how boring they must seem. These people passively let their lives happen to them. One man described his long, uneventful career at an insurance company and concluded, “Wish my self-profile was more exciting, but it’s a little late now.”

This, of course, is welcome news had you planned on a career in public education, manufacturing, or anything else, actually, not involving nepotism.
Looking back, many were amazed by the role that chance played in their lives. Others point to the pivotal moment that changed their lives. One man was nationally humiliated when he lost to Charles Van Doren in a television quiz show (Van Doren was cheating).

From which you may learn, Future Leader, that it's a lot better to be the major corporation running the crooked game than it is to be the pawn in that game who broke no law, went on to a distinguished academic career, and will forevermore be referred to as Cheater. At least so long as it's up to the David Brookses of the world to assign blame.
The men all mention serving in the war, but none go into detail about their war experiences.

Take note, Young American! Although if you actually do happen to be headed to Yale you can just skip that part.

Thursday, October 27

That's All I Can Stand, Vol. CCXLVI

Peter Lattman, "A Stunning Fall From Grace for a Star Executive". October 26

Diana B. Henriques, "Ruth Madoff Says Couple Tried Suicide in 2008". October 26

Susan Saulny, "As Cain Promotes His Management Skills, Ex-Aides Tell of Campaign in Chaos". October 26

FUCKING Hell. If there's anything I want to say about Ruth Madoff, unfairly unincarcerated Dowager Queen of East Ponzistan, trying to kill herself it's this: Next time, consult a professional. On the dosage.

I heard at the time how Poor Ruth Madoff was trapped inside her luxury condo. That was one time too many. I'm a humanitarian. I believe in redemption, but I believe in sincere atonement, too. Madam, kindly crawl back to wherever it is society is kind enough to let you keep living, and pull it in over you. For about the next three lifetimes. Then we can hear what you have to say.

Had you been unfairly, demonstrably unfairly, imprisoned, that would make you American #268,438 whose story deserves to be told. Barring that you're Human Being #6 billion 750-some million anyone should give a shit about. Have the decency to shut th' fuck up.

There oughta be a hole now where CBS News once stood. I mean a literal one, not just the figurative one that's been in place for years.

What can you say about someone who trumpets this stuff, except that he obviously believes there's no shit Americans won't eat? That his only reality is his own reality, one where Bernie Madoff is a "story", one where Bernie Madoff formerly was "a winner".
Regardless of the case’s outcome, the charges punctuate a stunning fall from grace for Mr. Gupta, whose personal story reads like a caricature of a Horatio Alger tale.

Nobody reads Horatio Alger. Plenty of people read True Crime.

So let's start here: Horatio Alger heroes rose from being street urchins or bootblacks to productive, respected members of the community. They did not climb the ladder to the corporate board room penthouse so they could piss on the next generation of newsies.

Orphaned at 18! Something tells me this doesn't qualify as tough luck for Josie from Accounting. In fact something tells me this doesn't qualify as a tough luck story except for people who automatically add "and the Trust Fund doesn't kick in until twenty-one" when they hear it.

At any rate, fuck you. The difference between Rajat Gupta and a sleazy pornographer is that the latter earns an honest living. Simple self-respect and basic human decency are all that was required to ashcan that Brown Skin to Riches story in the first place. There's no reason today to suggest that anything about Gupta's career ever amounted to anything beyond a swindle. He clawed his way to the top so he could steal a bigger pile. If that's not 100% accurate the fractional difference is too small to matter any more. It shouldn't make anyone nostalgic for a time when he hadn't been found out.

And, for fuck's sake, if we can't stop talking about Herman Cain altogether--yet--can't we at least stop talking about Herman Cain as though he's ever uttered an honest or sensible word on the campaign trail? No, there is no mystery that "despite Herman Cain's claims to managerial expertise" he turns out to be a crappy manager. Despite Herman Cain's claims, everything he's ever said is a load of crap. Despite the White Star Line's claims, the Titanic is at the bottom of the Atlantic. This does not mean the actual truth is swimming around at 1900 meters.

And, while we're at it, "ex-Herman Cain volunteer" ranks right up there in credibility with "former Goldman Sachs director".

Wednesday, October 26

To Preserve Disorder

IT'S 2011. Nobody's ever said there aren't corrupt police officers, even corrupt forces in some places, but I believe that over the last twenty-five years or so I've been justified in thinking, along with much of America that has a functioning sense of history, that "law enforcement officer" was now a profession, not a polite term for thugs to hide behind, the way it too often has been in the past. I expected that the men who run police departments in major cities were, though admittedly selected from the ranks of human beings, a fault we cannot fix, serious men dedicated to the difficult, and sometimes impossible, task of law enforcement. Men who, unlike their predecessors, understood, accepted, and worked within a system which grants certain rights to the lawless, the accused, and even to the convicted it doesn't always provide the innocent, and who worked within that system whole-heartedly.

Any large department is going to have bad actors, but their careers ought to stop there. * A cop who slams into three motorcyclists stopped at a traffic light, killing one and critically injuring the other two, and blows a .19 BAC two hours later is a reprehensible policeman and a contemptible human being; if his cohort, including top officials, manage to ignore protocol and get the blood evidence excluded as a result--whether intentionally or through a negligence of the first order--other careers should end as well, and a lot of soul-searching should follow, from top to bottom.

That didn't happen in Indianapolis; the matter was turned, as every serious matter seems to be these days, into a PR maintenance and mop-up operation. And that's not acceptable.

I have no idea if the Oakland cops were justified in using gas and percussion bombs on Occupiers last night; I don't know whether the Atlanta arrests were called for. But it sure doesn't look like it, and it sure looks like you have people at the top who don't care what it looks like.

The police should not be there to take sides in the age-old debate between personal and property rights. (Yeah, I know: it's Tradition.) And those who supervise the police should think long and hard before showing contempt for American citizens peaceably assembling, even quasi-illegally. It's disturbing. The goddam history of this sort of behavior, from the Haymarket Riots, through forty years of John Edgar Crossdressing Dwarf Motherfucker Hoover, to the Let's Fake An Assassination And Blame It On Protesting Wisconsin Union Workers tells us that we're a finger-width, if that, away from instigation, deceit, and malfeasance. And if that history isn't enough to shame people into thinking twice, the ubiquitous phone camera should be.

The policeman is extraordinarily vulnerable. It's not a good idea to give the appearance of his taking sides--whatever the reality--and, frankly, we now have to make this determination each and every time it comes up. There are no longer any small examples of our legal machinery favoring the wealthy. Not when the wealthy violate the law with impunity.


* void in Arizona.

Monday, October 24

It's Over.

Ross Douthat, "The Inevitable Nominee". October 22

OH, not the End of the World (again), and not the Death of the American Experiment, although every time I read Douthat's byline at the Times I wonder what's holding that up. No, what's over is the Republican presidential race.

And, in a shocker, the winner is the guy who most resembles Ross Douthat: a moderate Republican (a "moderate Republican" is one who won't scream in public that all Muslims should be in Gitmo, or all Medicare recipients on ice floes, unless there's profit to be made, or an election to be won) with a history of religious nutjobbery running in the family, willing to disown his own ideas if the mob thinks otherwise or the winds change direction, and undoubtedly nostalgic for the time when all those other religious nutjobs ("the base") filled the coffers, passed out campaign literature on Sunday, voted Republican, then went back to screaming about abortion for four years.

I have no idea whether Romney is inevitable. What I am pretty sure of is that if this is so it should be a clear indication even to Republicans that the brand has been selling tainted tinned meat by-product for so long the survivors can't tell the difference.

Let's just note again that in 2008, with the Bush/Republican party sure to suffer another crushing at the polls, this one involving the Constitutional Big Daddy figure such types love, Douthat co-authored a blueprint for a "conservative" resurgence. One which lasted all the way to Inauguration Day 2009 before falling victim to what his critics might call "the fucking reality of the Republican party anyone not willfully blind, congenitally mazed, and/or aware that the Bill Kristol seat at the Times was going to be vacant soon--I mean "vacant without Bill Kristol" as opposed to vacant with him--understood at a glance." Let's just say that the much-anticipated soul-searching for the future of "conservatism" did not survive the realization that Barack Obama is black. Like David Brooks, Douthat went from mild condescension about the Teabaggers to running around to the front of the parade and pretending to be its drum major, and pretending to mute the racist section with a withering stare. (Brooks got there first, if only because the much-ballyhooed and wholly-fictional shelving of culture war themes seemed to've hurt Ross' feelings, proving once again that the only people who believe the Right's PR crap are the same people who dish it out.)

Four years later there's one Presidential candidate who embodies Douthat's vision: Mitt Romney. Only problem is it's the Mitt Romney of 2004. The current Mitt Romney is the guy who's been furiously backpedaling for five years now in an effort to appease the base ("mouthbreathers"). Which, in Douthat's view, proves he was right all along.
Last week the big story was Herman Cain’s rise to the top of the polls, and then Rick Perry’s combativeness at the Las Vegas debate. Next week, perhaps, it will be Newt Gingrich’s surprising resilience or Ron Paul’s potential strength in the early caucuses or the appeal of Perry’s flat-tax plan. Then there will come a debate in which Mitt Romney looks shabby instead of smooth, a poll that shows one of his rivals surging, a moment when all his many weaknesses are on every pundit’s lips.

Please do not listen to any of them.

Except the Republican polls haven't been a random walk among announced candidates; it's been Romney, the roundly-disliked, roundly-distrusted "moderate" windsock with the well-financed campaign machine vs. Whichever Genuine Republican (i.e. completely unstable wilting) seemed to have a chance against him. If Newt Gingrich ever gets a second thought that will be news. If Ron Paul ever garners more than his dedicated and unbalanced 10% he might become as much of a danger to Republican politics as he is to himself, and wake me when it happens. What has actually occurred is that Sarah Palin gave way to Donald Trump gave way to Michelle Bachmann gave way to Rick Perry gave way to Herman Cain. You can look this sort of thing up. The probably have records of it someplace on the internets. The Republican party isn't searching for excitement. It might've been, at one time, but that's long past. Today it's searching for a nominee who represents the party. That's not Mitt Romney.
For now, though, none of his rivals look capable of even pushing the race that far. They don’t have the money or the organizational muscle, but more important they aren’t clearing the first hurdle that every presidential candidate faces. After months of campaigning, it is nearly impossible to imagine any of them as a major party’s nominee, much less in the White House.

It's a little late for Republicans to start talking about who is or isn't credible, doncha think?
People like to cite counterexamples: The Republicans nominated Barry Goldwater, after all, and the Democrats nominated George McGovern. But Goldwater and McGovern, for all their weaknesses, were far more credible nominees than a Perry, a Herman Cain, a Michele Bachmann, a Newt Gingrich.

This assumes, of course, that our standards haven't sunk as rapidly as the quality of our candidates. An assumption which is at best unwarranted.
They were too extreme to win the general election, but they were not political novices or washed-up self-promoters, and they had a mix of eloquence and experience that’s largely absent from the current Republican field. (Watch clips of Goldwater being interviewed by William F. Buckley Jr. on “Firing Line,” and then try to imagine how Perry would fare in the same format.)

And speaking of unwarranted assumptions, the idea that Bill Fuhbuckley would be turning his High Church monarchist, Latin cognate, and Tourette's syndrome routine on Rich Perry in 2012, the way he did forty-five years ago with Barry Goldwater, sorta raises the question of where one would even find Firing Line these days. Still on the hated PBS? As a lead-in for Chris Wallace? One of the few great moments in justified political payback to've occurred in my lifetime is the fact that Buckley lived long enough for the anti-fluoridationists to throw him out of the party. One of the saddest is that he didn't stay vital long enough to devote an hour to South Park. Or Jersey Shore. I do so hope he enjoyed reading the National Review Online in his dotage.

(And, look, how long is it going to be necessary to respond to the idea of George McGovern, Senator from South Motherfucking Dakota, as the Bolshie version of the racist, sun-mazed Goldwater? Not even close. The whole thing is founded on two repugnant ideas: that Ross Douthat knows anything about political history he didn't learn from Family Ties, assuming that snake-handling cult he grew up in had a teevee, and that the Birchward shift of the "conservative" movement that preceded his birth didn't sweep him up, making Barry Goldwater appear almost rational, something he clearly wasn't in his day. If you're looking for reasons the Republican party has nothing but religious pinheads and fourth-rate grifters left to nominate, maybe there's part of your answer.)
What’s more, Republicans have only themselves to blame for his inevitability. Romney owes his current position to two failures: the Bush era’s serial disasters, which left the Republican establishment without a strong bench of viable national politicians, and the Tea Party’s mix of zeal and naïveté, which has elevated cranks and frauds and future television personalities to the party’s presidential stage.

Political naïveté may be defined here as "demanding implementation of the crackpot shit St. Ronald Reagan said to get elected, and continuing to do so even after a Republican got the seat."
To date, neither the establishment nor the populists have come to terms with the failures of the last age of Republican dominance. And despite occasional flashes of creativity, neither has groped its way to a credible vision of what the next conservative era should look like.

Have your credit card and that ISBN number at the bottom of your screen handy. Make checks payable to "Grand New Party: This Time We Mean It, ℅ Ross Douthat, New York, New York. Operators are standing by.
What they have to offer instead is a largely opportunistic critique of a flailing liberal president. So it’s fitting that America’s most opportunistic politician is destined to be the standard-bearer for their cause.

What a shame that, once again, the "conservative" critique won't be responsible for its consequences, despite everyone's best efforts. Maybe someday they'll get that Purity thing straightened out.

Friday, October 21

Friday Olio: Forty Years Of Worrying About Katie Graham Getting Her Tit Caught In A Wringer Doesn't Make You A Breast Cancer Awareness Pioneer Edition

AH, WaPo.

Do tell. Why does the Librul Media always have to spoil everyone's good time?

Do tell. Maybe this is just a question of style books, but, y'know, if someone said "Churchill planned the Gallipoli campaign as a response to the Armenian genocide" I'd call him "wrong", not "an embellisher".

Rubio's response, though--that he wasn't checking facts, he was merely writing a book--should cement him as a frontrunner in the Republican Veepstakes.

Now, a couple things, here: when, out of the 20% of Americans who have ever heard of Herman Cain, at least 10% of them are laughing at him at any one moment, "honeymoon" might not be le mot juste. I can't speak for what the "conservative" media is up to, but the fact that Herman Cain, jibbering dingbat, has been given unconditional, uncritical, and unreflective conjugal love from that quarter makes him different from any other certified wingnut how now?

Isn't the story that Cain, or any of that ilk, is cheered for stomping his oblivious way across a rhetorical minefield until that includes abortion (or tax increases, which amount to the same thing)? Cain hasn't exactly been hiding his lack of intellect or preparedness, has he? Not understanding math, or giving a shit about political geography, earned him applause. Maybe it's the honeymoon part y'all should be concerning yourselves with. I mean, there's a difference between a week of connubial bliss at the threshold of a life together and pretending to like Brenda Watson in fifth grade because she's stupid enough to climb a tree with no panties on.

Do tell. Leave it to Walter Isaacson to really blow the lid off the whole Steve Jobs mythos.

Every time I see something like this there's a brief moment when I wonder if the Chinese are at the bottom of a campaign to make all Americans just give up and wallow in whatever cultural shit they're being slopped with this week. Then I tell myself the Chinese are too smart to bother paying for something they can get for free.

Thursday, October 20

Why, Yes. It Is.

Steve Kornacki, "This is really the best the GOP can do?" October 19

David Weigel, Liveblogging Tuesday's debate October 18

OKAY, I really just wanted to riff on Kornacki's title, not his analysis, and as for Weigel's latest exercise in excusing every Republican excess by seeming to poke it some--the man is Mitch Daniels with a sense of humor and slightly better hair--let's just get it over with:
9:26: An actual Bachmann quote: "He put us in Libya. He is now putting us in Africa." Remember that month when people took her candidacy semi-seriously? I'm really sorry about that.
People? Semi-seriously? You wondered, Mr. Weigel, "how anyone could have underrated Michele Bachmann". Sure, in your defense, you were four months younger then. But you did so, sir--along with, yes, any number of the other cool kids "wowed" that her first debate performance included whole sentences and no outbreaks of glossolalia or spaz dancing--largely because to you the most important political story in this or any other season is "Stupid Liberals Think They're So Smart". It's not going to get you your lunch money back. You can go on excusing yourself with a comic burp and a readjustment of the rear-view mirror every time this happens, but you're thirty years old. At the present rate you'll be Jonah Goldberg in five years. With, perhaps, a byline at the Times of New York, or La Ciudad de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles, if there still are such things. As cities, I mean, let alone newspapers. But it won't bring that lunch money back.

Youth is fleeting! Turning this shit around while simultaneously trying to cover a bald spot is practically impossible. Do it now, before you and Ezra Klein are sitting in a Green Room somewhere swapping colonoscopy stories.

This is not the best Journalism can do, nor does, praise the Lord, but I see no reason to ask whether Herman Cain, Mitt Romney, Tex Bumpkin, and Santoro-Bachmann is the best Republicans can do. Incompetent, disingenuous, hypocritical, wrapped in showoff nationalism, ill-informed--proudly ill-informed--pandering to Wealth and the Antebellum wetdreams of the base, and, ultimately, all Noise and no Result; what th' hell is more Republican than that?

We have already answered the question of whether Republicans can do any better this time around; the list of saviors, from "Bobby" Jindal to Chris Christie, might just as well all pile in Mitch Daniels' RV and go on one big No Sale book tour.

The desire for "better" Republican candidates is nothing if not understandable, but it resembles the sort of thought process which gave the Ancients tales of mythological beings composed of ten different animals, or, for that matter, which gives the modern Republican party its economic program. The ability to dream something up doesn't make it possible, except maybe to the native Hopi speaker. The idea of the suave, Reaganesque pitchman convincing America of the correctness of the wingnut agenda was a Republican fiction at the time; Republicans rode a wave of economic trouble (largely created by Vietnam, Vietnam-created shortages, speculation fueled by Vietnam-created shortages, and the two oil embargoes, the result of policies then and now championed by the Right, and blamed on Jimmy Carter) and resentment over cultural change (civil rights, women's rights, the refusal to support immoral wars, the invention of Sex) to a Lesser of Two Evils victory in 1980, and a subsequent fortuitously-timed economic upswing to a landslide in 1984. Reagan's popularity--I'm not denigrating it--was heavily PR-managed, and eagerly dispensed by a Librul Media anxious to shake that tag and gain its employers anti-trust exemptions in the nascent age of cable. Ronald Reagan did not convince Americans to become raging anti-fluoridationists. He cemented the trend, begun by his boy Barry Goldwater, of its wingnuts becoming more, and more desperately, nutty. Reagan's electoral successes gave hope to his party's ideologues. The ideology itself remains hopeless.

That pathetic class of "presidential" "contenders" now on display is the result, not of Reagan nor anyone else talking America into "conservatism"; if it were the last thirty years of results, or "results", would have convinced them back out again. They're the product, not the by-product, of that Reagan mythology being taken seriously. What produced that daisfull of political flotsam is enforced ideology--wouldn't Mitt Romney at least be an interesting curiosity if he hadn't blown with every rightward breeze since 2007?--and a comfortable belief that Money would always win in the end, collecting the predictable and uncomprehending votes of the Great Unwashed at no cost, so the looting could go on as before without the risk of alienating sane Americans. It was a fool's bet that kept on hitting. But these fools are going to play it forever.

The cool kids want a better Republican candidate so they don't have to fake admiration for a gibberish-spouting (and nouveau riche!) pizza deliveryman, or any of three certifiable religious nutcases. Why'd Weigel want a successful Bachmann campaign enough to convince himself he saw one? Because it would "prove" his cherished script about underestimated Teabaggers as a serious, and thoughtful, movement. He didn't want a Bachmann presidency, because that would have put those ideas to the test. And like all Republicans who imagine a willingness to rearrange their prejudices qualifies them as open-minded, he figured, on that June day so long ago, that a Bachmann success would be temporary, just until some real smart Republican stepped in to take the reins and prevent disaster. He just never figured that would turn out to be Herman Cain. Others wanted Daniels (or Barbour!) in the race, not because they'd taken a close look at the actual record, but because he offered the convenient cover of a man with a reputation for seriousness, deserved or no, to hide behind. The internets has made it a lot harder to ignore facts with impunity, so it's nice to have a candidate like Daniels, where everything that comes out of his mouth is unquestionably True.

Isn't the real question how the Republicans come to field, and serially enthuse over, such nobodies, and not why they can't do better? And not in the sense of "how'd he get here?" Cain, Perry, Bachmann, and Donald Fucking Trump have all led polls, and there's barely a qualification there in the conglomerate. Sarah Palin has been a national figure for more than three years. That's the question, although it's one the pundits don't want to ask for fear someone will point out they've ignored it for a lifetime. The Republican party took its intellectuals out and shot 'em fifty years ago. Now it's reduced to pretending Mitch Daniels is one. It may be a head-scratcher, but it's not exactly mysterious.

Wednesday, October 19

I Smell Pulitzer. With A Soupçon Of Dirty Hippie.

Anne Applebaum, "What the Occupy protests tell us about the limits of democracy". October 17

FIRST, that was a "fiery" debate last night? A "fierce clash"? How 'bout "a group of privileged, unruly, and particularly unattractive grammar-school students shoving in the lunch line"? Christ, it's the barely articulate vs the marginally literate for the championship of the Greater Ottumwa Financial Institutions Slo-Pitch League. Mitt Romney strikes back! Like that's ever meant anything other than having some underling's assistant craft a strongly-worded letter, or leaving something less than his customary 10% tip. (I love the idea, by the way, that Mitt Romney personally spoke with his landscaper about employing illegals. Sure he did. Through a surgical mask.)

If Matt Bai was right accurate, and Republican insiders really are feeling confident that a Romney candidacy, coupled with an Obama candidacy, is enough to put them back in the White House, then either a) they aren't watching (which I highly recommend), or b) we need a new word to replace "cynical".

Yes, it's early, and yes, none of this really has anything to do with the actual campaign. But that's going to start when the Republicans choose one of those colorless idiots as their standard-bearer, and no amount of time is going to make any of 'em look any better. Sure, there's a built-in Republican electoral advantage, and, sure, the President is plenty unpopular himself. But nobody in America can possibly like any of these people. There aren't even any ideas on that stage. Just slogans. The only suits that aren't empty are filled with something that, if you stepped in it, you'd just throw the shoes away and be done with it. And it's not like the Republican party suddenly finds itself thus trapped; this is what 2008 was, but with more, and less charming, Huckabee Wanabees. It's a semi-ruling and non-governing coalition of Bronze Age superstitionists, Ayn Rand acolytes, and itinerant hucksters, and we desperately need a better media to call them on it, not the one we have now, trying to fluff enough air into the thing to make Twinkie filling.

Cue the clown car:
Of course these international protests do have a few things in common, both with one another and with the anti-globalization movement that preceded them. They are similar in their lack of focus, in their inchoate nature, and above all in their refusal to engage with existing democratic institutions. In New York, marchers chanted, “This is what democracy looks like,” but actually, this isn’t what democracy looks like. This is what freedom of speech looks like. Democracy looks a lot more boring. Democracy requires institutions, elections, political parties, rules, laws, a judiciary and many unglamorous, time-consuming activities, none of which are nearly as much fun as camping out in front of St. Paul’s Cathedral or chanting slogans on the Rue Saint-Martin in Paris.

I hate to detract from the originality of that statement, but, y'know, it tends to ring a little hollow coming from the pages of the Washington Post, the goddam poster child for the last thirty years of expense-account, Golden Rolodex, "insider" journalism, multi-mega mergers-and-acquisitions information empires, and ruling-class apologetics as a way of "balancing" "liberal" "bias" when your major local competitor is the Moonie Times. This is the paper of Sally Fucking Quinn, fer chrissakes. The birthplace of Vandalgate, conveniently at a time when the grubby little details of democracy pointed to a stolen election. Had the Post had the foresight to hire away Judy Miller it could have cornered the market in Iraq warflogging. It's the sordid sheet Politico was born on. So leave us not talk about people who'd rather chant than do grunt work when the Watchdog of Democracy has been hand-fed on filet mignon and vintage port while everything went to shit.

Check the log in your own eye. That'd be an original approach.

I'm guessing that, for a lot of people in Zuccotti Park and elsewhere, 2008 was a time when they imagined they did address the institutions of Democracy on their own terms. In this they were deceived, some naively, some willingly, and perhaps nearly all with the same lazy, self-absorbed, easy reach for easy answers as the rest of the American electorate. So what? The Teabaggers insist that the national debt can be eliminated while taxes are reduced, by targeting 20% of the budget. That's not inattention to the niceties of the democratic process (which they ignore, into the bargain). That's innumeracy. Yet the Teabaggers are the vital, grassroots, driving force behind the reenergized Republican party. Or were, until the quadrennial elections got close enough that it became inconvenient to hold any Republicans to an obligation to actually do anything about it.
Yet in one sense, the international Occupy movement’s failure to produce sound legislative proposals is understandable:

In every other sense, as well.
Both the sources of the global economic crisis and the solutions to it lie, by definition, outside the competence of local and national politicians.

Both the sources and solutions lie by definition, period.
If you’re upset about the austerity program being imposed on your country by indebted banks on the other side of the world, it doesn’t seem logical to complain to the mayor of Seville.

Correct. If he lied to you about it while stuffing his own pockets, and now presents you with a bill you have to pay, because "it's a global thing", complaining is futile. Plus, stringing him up by his necktie is so much more satisfying.
Unlike the Egyptians in Tahrir Square, to whom the London and New York protesters openly (and ridiculously) compare themselves, we have democratic institutions in the Western world. They are designed to reflect, at least crudely, the desire for political change within a given nation. But they cannot cope with the desire for global political change, nor can they control things that happen outside their borders. Although I still believe in globalization’s economic and spiritual benefits — along with open borders, freedom of movement and free trade — globalization has clearly begun to undermine the legitimacy of Western democracies.

“Global” activists, if they are not careful, will accelerate that decline. Protesters in London shout,“We need to have a process!” Well, they already have a process: It’s called the British political system. And if they don’t figure out how to use it, they’ll simply weaken it further.

And if they work within The System, generate serious, equitable, workable proposals, present them as part of The Process (lest they weaken it further), and give back 2/3 of their gains in the name of democratic "compromise", this time, with luck, someone in power will take the time to grease the Garden Implements of Democracy before shoving them unceremoniously up the Public Fundament.

Leave us say this plainly: you people had the opportunity to ensure fairness, to hold the Corporate Feeding Frenzy in check, to give some thought to, to spend some small fraction of your energies in aiding the poor, helping the helpless, and protecting the great Middle. And instead you gorged yourselves. You paid lip service to that rising tide lifting all boats, then you cut everyone else adrift. After Reaganomics crashed and burned in 1987 you set about reclaiming your own, not making things right; you saw to it the '88 election was about Willie Horton and tank rides, not the S & L lootings. You saw to it that the Clinton presidency was about blow jobs, and pushy, scheming wives, not solving the health care crisis. You've been whistling past this graveyard for almost four decades now; maybe you can convince some younger people this mess is of more recent, unavoidable, way-of-the-modern-world vintage, but the rest of us know where the stench is coming from. You fucks expect the Little People to praise God for their crude democracy, while you spend Sunday mornings at the counting house. And then you shit yourself every time it looks like the Great Unwashed might get wise, get angry, or stop buying nicknacks. You've had all this time to think about this, and think you did, but not in any way remotely resembling altruism (though I will grant you never tried all that hard to camouflage it). So let's start with you taking responsibility. Let's can the global claptrap excuse-mongering for the rich to get even richer, and set things to rights. My mayor can't solve global problems, but my Congressman, and Senator, and others can make it prohibitively expensive to rake in profits in this country while treating its population like ciphers. Well, not my Senator; I'm from Indiana, but you know what I mean. I've stood by for thirty years or more while democracy was expressly co-opted by sloganeering and dirty money, and heard that called Wise, and True, and Adult, and never once heard anybody ask where the reasonable, workable proposals were. And now it's reached the point, or damned near close, when large numbers of our fellow citizens will have precious little to lose because of it. They're not really going to give a shit about the niceties of The Process when it tells them it's time to starve. Or much care how you came by the gold in your parachute.

And whose fault is that?

Tuesday, October 18

Pity Party

Matt Bai, "Does Anyone Have a Grip on the G.O.P.?" October 12

IF we might say this just one more time: you can't fix something by not looking at it.

You can wade through Bai's 7000 + words if you wish, but you're not going to find what's supposed to be wrong with the Republican Presidential campaign line-up excepting Romney and Perry (yes, Perry; this was the cover-story of this Sunday's Times Magazine, and that October 12 publication date is the standard mid-week reveal, but script approval must've come during the twenty minutes between Perry's declaration and his first two debate performances). Criswell speaks!
“If we have a Rick Perry versus Mitt Romney battle for the nomination, it’s a little hard to say, ‘Ooh, the party has really gone off the rails,’ ” [Bill] Kristol told me just after Perry entered the race, a development that essentially ended Bachmann’s brief ascent.

(And presaged the rise of Herman Cain.) "Nuts" and "off the rails" are evidently the generally accepted descriptions of the problem, clear to everyone, except maybe the 75% of Republican voters currently supporting one or another of these undesirables.

So let's begin with Bai, and the Times Magazine, and its proclivity for turning national politics into a mush sandwich with a side of wingnut deference. There is, I believe, precisely one example of the sort of extremism the Republican Establishment objects to--or, more precisely, objects to being saddled with--in the piece: Michele Bachmann's suggestion that no one should pay any Federal taxes at all. Like that differs from the Republican party line in some significant way other than her honesty, or her forgetting to add "except the Poors". Alternately, every Republican insider--lobbyist, think-tanker, PAC sinecure, former Bush/Reagan/Ford functionary, Mitch Daniels--quoted expresses his admiration for the Teabag agenda "to a great extent". But what's left out? Is something too nutty for them? National Bow Down To Jesus Day? Arming preschoolers? What? How long do they get to protect the Franchise while proclaiming themselves more sensible, and expecting to be taken at face value? For as long as the Times publishes a Magazine?

Early on there's this from Scott Reed, former RNC executive director and Dole-Kemp campaign manager:
Did he mean to say that the party was slowly co-opting the Tea Partiers?

“Trying to,” Reed said. “And that’s the secret to politics: trying to control a segment of people without those people recognizing that you’re trying to control them.

That sort of candor from a political operative has all the refreshing qualities of an eyedropper of anti-freeze in the middle of the Gobi. We fucking know what these people actually think. Fer chrissakes. If journalists had been asking them tough questions about this shit the past thirty years they wouldn't have this dilemma now, because the Reagan coalition would have disintegrated by '87.

Likewise, the beyond-tiresome Mitch Daniels, Sensible Moderate routine tells us what, exactly?
The establishment’s preferred candidate, generally speaking, was Mitch Daniels, Indiana’s second-term governor, who served as a political aide in the Reagan administration and as budget director for George W. Bush. Probably more than any elected official in America today, Daniels makes an argument about the moment that precisely reflects the thinking of most establishment Republicans. He did so, most memorably, in a rather unlikely forum — at the annual gathering of far-right activists known as the Conservative Political Action Conference, held in Washington this past February. Daniels devoted much of his keynote speech to the establishment case for reducing federal debt and remaking entitlement programs, which he calls a generational challenge, rather than trimming government on the margins through discretionary spending. But he also made a forceful case for the willingness to compromise and for broadening the party’s appeal beyond the most conservative voters. He didn’t say overtly that he was open to new taxes, but he told the audience of activists that Republicans simply couldn’t succeed in solving the nation’s intractable problems without giving something up in the process.

Mitch Daniels, testing his Presidential chances in a party of ravening nutjobs, sidled up to tax increases--without which, in anything approaching the real world, his major campaign theme, the Debt, would have served as a burial shroud for his Presidency--without exactly, you know, mentioning any, and suggested that the culture war might find itself on the back burner in the interim--without, you know, pledging to name a Log Cabin Republican Attorney General--and this is Political Courage and Fearless Straight-Shootin'? Hell, for the two years of his Non-Campaign Campaign (Contributions Welcome) he tried to distance himself from his own record at OMB by blaming the Bush administration for having other people in it. As though he was pretty sure he heard that $50 billion dollar figure for the Iraq war from a neighboring stall and felt obliged to pass it on.
When I met Daniels last month in his cavernous Statehouse office,
It just seems cavernous because he's in the center of it, Matt.
he cautioned that the Tea Party movement, like all effective popular movements, had an effect far beyond the proportion of its actual numbers. “I wouldn’t minimize for a minute their importance,” he said, “but I wouldn’t fixate too much on the Tea Party. There’s a whole lot more to the Republican Party than the Tea Party.”

Wow. Thanks for dragging that out of him.

Look, the Republican party is in desperate need of a couple of rivers to reroute to clean up its stables. Pretending the Teabaggers are some sui generis, formerly apolitical bunch which suddenly awoke to our Crushing National Debt in late January, 2009 isn't doing them any good. Letting Mitch Daniels pretend he's the man to Save the Economy, when he was the man who wrecked it, right in front of 95% of the voting-age population, isn't doing them any good. Letting George Eff Will blather about the Republican establishment from whatever bow-tied sinecure he was manning that day, well, look:
George Will recently said there is no such thing as the Republican establishment, which is a little like Michael Douglas saying there’s no such thing as Hollywood. But Will’s point, shared by a lot of other longtime Republicans I spoke with, is that the real establishment, the league of Protestant lawyers and bankers from the Northeast and Midwest who once exercised enormous influence, was smashed in 1964 when Barry Goldwater, acting as the advance guard for a new breed of ideological conservatives from the West and South, wrested the nomination from Nelson Rockefeller. (Among Goldwater’s most vocal G.O.P. opponents at that time was a liberal Midwestern governor named George Romney.) Since then, this argument goes, the idea of any singular establishment has been little more than a convenient media conceit.

Sure, sure, the money went West, and the racists changed parties. And since then the Republican party--traditionally reliant on electing Presidents to bend legislation to its will--has nominated Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, two George Bushes, god help us, Bob Dole, and John McCain.

Forty-five years, one Movement "Conservative", and one other guy they claimed before disowning him. A stunning reversal. This is the result of polishing your mythos for a lifetime, without ever being asked what you're doing, or why, or why your pants are on the floor. It's a party which stands ready to defeat Jimmy Carter again, to pull down the solar panels on the White House (as if), and get back to fucking things up even worse while enriching its donors. Mission Accomplished! And apparently no one's allowed to ask Why, not until the whole thing collapses on us, at which point anyone who manages to crawl out of the rubble will be told, "Because those people were nuts!"

Friday, October 14

Olio: Forty-three People Camping Out At The Apple Store Was Ten Minutes Of Local News This Morning Edition

SO, let's turn to the Washington Post, and get serious:

Gee, maybe if you'd thought of that when the foundation of the movement handed you the keys to the Congress in 2006 and the White House two years later...

"Whether he has the breadth of knowledge a president needs"? He's running for the Republican presidential nomination. It's like asking whether Chris Christie has what it takes to provide shade.

Marco Rubio for Vice-President is officially the new Wait 'til Fred Dumbo Thompson Gets In the Race.

By the way, not that anyone could possibly care, but the requirements for Jennifer Rubin anointing you a Serious Foreign Policy Thinker are 1) public Likud fellatio; 2) making one of those America: the Globe's Force for Good speeches; and 3) questioning--for pure partisan profit--some slimy, realpolitik deal with authoritarian thugs, like an arms sale to Bahrain, say, which is the hallmark of American foreign policy as enacted by administrations from both parties in furtherance of that same America's Global Goodness you just wallowed in in a previous clause. Not to mention the fact that, as President Cain's foreign-policy stand-in, Vice-President Rubio will be the guy smiling and shaking hands with Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa when we unload a couple of surplus aircraft carriers in 2014.

Y'know, I don't give a fuck, but incontinent childhood nostalgia, like any and all instances of childhood incontinence, should be cleaned up quietly, or referred to a specialist. People my age have been getting blasted, and deservedly so, for a lifelong tolerance of The Eagles; how much longer are people going to listen to you wax poetic about the early days of Doom before they take to pushing you and your Hoveround down the steps while cackling like Richard Widmark?

And here's another thing: now once something gets remade it automatically, thanks to cable teevee/studio distribution deals, becomes the Official Version. This did not used to be the case. King Kong meant King Kong for fifty years, meant Fay Wray, not Jessica Lange, not whatever Jessica then replaced Jessica Lange, and excuse me for not giving enough of a shit to look that up. If I see 3:10 to Yuma or The Manchurian Candidate on a teevee listing, and it's not Turner Classics, what's showing isn't the definitive film of that title but something someone designed to make money off it with minimal effort. Fie! Now if you'll excuse me, I wanna go see if there're any new iPhones left.

Thursday, October 13

Back Home Again

HAMILTON county, Indiana's wealthiest, sits like a creamy white rosette atop Indianapolis' mud pie, and is known for three things: 150 million dollars worth of roundabouts, the legal foundation for making Driving While Black a Felony (one which, in fairness, it now wishes to disown, at least during daylight hours), and a One Party system which nevertheless manages to cough up politicians everyone hates, and especially current Indiana Secretary of State and felonious voter Charles P. "Yardbird" White.

White couldn't even get along with Republicans in Hamilton county when he was county chairman, which is like Mormon church elders getting crosswise with Mitt Romney. Then he got himself nominated for the Secretary of State job in the last election cycle. Sometime after that someone noticed that Charlie White was registered to vote at an address where Charlie White did not, as the legal term has it, live.

Seventeen months earlier White had separated from his wife, and moved in with his girlfriend, now Mrs. White II. He then forgot to transfer his registration to his new precinct. Hectic schedule, he says. Voting in the primaries didn't jog his memory. Neither did cashing his paychecks as a member of the Fishers Town Council, even though he no longer lived in Fishers.

Democrats argued that the failure to change the registration made him ineligible to run for office, since only properly registered voters are eligible. White's defense was that he'd been really, really busy, what with the divorce and counseling a Town an' all, and, besides, his ex-wife agreed that that was still his legal residence for purposes of keeping his ass out of prison. Unsurprisingly--since removing White from the ballot at that late date would have meant Democrats winning by default--the ruling was postponed until after the November elections. The matter was then dismissed, on a party-line vote, and White was officially allowed to stain the office.

Then this spring he was indicted on several felony counts, including voter fraud and theft of public monies. Governor Mitch "Ethics" Daniels urged him to step down. He didn't.

So a couple of days ago, in his capacity as Indiana's chief voting law enforcer, White filed a criminal conduct complaint against Evans Birch Bayh and his Lovely Wife Susan for voting absentee in Indiana while being absent. Because the Bayhs mostly live in Washington, D.C., where their twin sons go to school, and where Susan can be closer to all those pharmaceutical corporation board meetings she regularly attends. The Bayhs maintain a home in Indianapolis. They're registered to vote at that address. They're licensed to drive in Indiana. They don't vote in D.C.

In fact Charlie White makes no secret of the fact that his filing is solely intended to make a point, that point being that Charlie White shouldn't be charged with anything if he can think up some way to hurl the same charges at a Democrat. By which, of course, we mean "Democrat".

Sure, sure, some will cry partisanship, since this blog has stood by Evan Bayh through thick and thin, and excused his every Blue Dog capitulation, his standing up for the principles of free enterprise and free-flowing campaign funds in the face of unreasonable demands for equitable health care, and his every FOX News appearance. But this is just plain wrong.

And I thought you should hear about it. Because if the shoes were on the other feets you'd hear about it. Because you'd be able to hear Indiana Republicans screaming bloody murder right through your closed windows.

Wednesday, October 12

Wait, You Mean They Haven't All Been Single-Issue Debates?

Philip Rucker and Amy Gardner,"Mitt Romney solidifies his front-runner status in Republican debate". October 11

Jonathan Martin, "Mitt Romney builds case for inevitability". October 12

Fred Barnes, "Romney Rolls On". October 11

SO let the record show that October 11, 2011, was the date the Cool Kids--and Fred Barnes--decided that it was time to stop kiddin' around and acknowledge Mitt Romney as clearly the most, if not the only, qualified Republican candidate for President, on the grounds there are no more Eagerly Anticipated Saviors left out there to decline to run, or run and get pounded. The wisdom, in other words, of the man who needs no more than three bricks falling on his head before he reaches for a hat. Romney's inevitability plainly rests on two factors: everyone else in the race is insane, with the possible exception of Jon Huntsman, who is a Mormon, and Newt Gingrich, who is a reptile; and the fact that while every Republican in the country hates him, the Smart Money, and the plain old Old Money, have finally decided they can't do any better.

Of course, some Money in the Republican party doesn't care for Romney on ideological--read: pathological--grounds, but most is supremely comfortable selling the hangman rope, so long as the markup is excessive and he pays cash. The distrust of Romney among Financial Republicans stemmed from his being a loose cannon, or as loose as a Republican cannon gets; Romney's Massachusetts record gave the impression of a man who, once in office, might do something designed to improve a problem, right a wrong, or make himself look reasonable. All red flags. Otherwise, of course, there're no worries whatsoever. He's a Republican. The last one to exhibit independent thought unconnected to a book deal was Dwight Eisenhower, and he was sedated immediately.

Of course the cynical among us, if there are any, might note that Romney is Inevitable this week, the way Christie, Perry, Ryan, Daniels, and Bobby Jindal were previously, and the cranky historian in the back somewhere might note that to date nobody's cast a vote for anything. Trifles. The Cool Kids have spoken, and they're tired of having to pretend they don't look like idiots five minutes after every utterance is published, assuming it takes that long. Fun's over. Sure, they'd toss Romney aside like blended Scotch at an open bar for the chance to drool over Sarah Palin for three weeks, but this one has, if not a sense of finality, at least the sense of everyone recognizing there's very little profit left to wring out of this particular reality show.

Romney's "inevitability" solves a number of problems. It allows the Finance wing to support him without looking any more cynical or amoral than usual, and it allows the ideologues to (eventually) support him without looking any more mazed than your average beaning victim. It allows Republican "thinkers" and objective "observers" to pretend they didn't really notice that every Teabagger favorite has the mental agility of tofu. And--although nobody's gonna mention this one--it gives Republicans a Presidential candidate who could turn activist if required--and activism is required if the GOP plans on making anything remotely resembling a dent in this economy--which they could drum up artificial enthusiasm for, then complain about later (see "George W. Bush wasn't really a 'conservative' "). The wider electorate, for example--not necessarily a font of perpetual good sense, but perhaps not quite ready to fall for President Crazy Eyes or An Even Dumber Dubya--may prove comfortable with the idea of selecting a Republican to derail Republican insanity, since the Democrats have proven more likely to enable it.

I am sad to see Herman Cain go, even though I personally feel that A Place on the Dais was more attention than he deserved. Cain seems to me the perfect embodiment of the Republican Entrepreneur scam, the walking reality where Mitch Daniels is only a government-sponsored theorist. Cain was a regional manager for one of Pillsbury's divisions (Burger King); and if that wasn't conclusive evidence of a deep-seated malevolence, for some reason Pillsbury moved him to its Godfather's Pizza crime family--the move speaks of some horrible transgression or physical over-familiarity with one of the Chairman's nieces, and ought to be cleared up--which Cain made profitable by closing half its stores. So: Herman Cain, Job Creator. He became CEO when a consortium finagled a buyout. In a country which actually valued economic leadership and jobs creation Herman Cain would be in jail. In one which knew enough about cuisine to distinguish chicken liver from chicken shit, he'd be in an unmarked grave. Instead he's a Republican candidate for President of the United States.

And, y'know, forgive me; Herman Cain must seem like a really deep thinker and an impressive, motivational, speaker, provided you're required to listen to him and have been convinced your minimum wage job depends on it. Jobs creator? What fucking job did Herman Cain create, beyond assistants to Herman Cain, that wouldn't have existed elsewhere or otherwise?

Okay, sure, the man got a computer science degree in the 1970s, so he's objectively smarter than I am, but he's on the national stage as a walking, talking billboard for the over-praised and under-scrutinized Republican Hero "Entrepreneur". I know, no amount of exposure to Herman Cain--even his nomination--would get Americans to finally make the connection between the Mythological Republican Job Creator and the Brain Dead, Entitled Asshole they work for, if they even have jobs. That shit's been implanted, the way mincing draft-dodger Duke Wayne became America's Greatest War Hero; sometimes I think even Mitch Daniels really believes it. I'm a withered charlatan. I'll take my amusements where I find 'em.

As for Romney, becoming inevitable by "defending" his own health care plan to a constituency which has spent the last four years treating universal access to health care as though it were the last nail in the Commie takeover of America, I think the real nominee ought to be whichever staffer came up with the States' Rights defense. It's genius, even if it did fly over the heads of the intended audience. And I was reminded that it was October four years ago when Democrats watched as the fate of the Free World was handed over, for one night, at least, to Tim Russert and John Edwards, who pulled us back from the abyss of New York state drivers' licensing requirements. You didn't have to be a Hillary Clinton fan to think that one stunk, and I can't figure what, if anything, Teabaggers are thinking now as they watch their four years of grunt work turned into a landscaping project for Romney's middle-class lawn. Maybe we should avoid October debates altogether. Maybe T.S. Eliot got his months mixed up. Or maybe he just never had to rake leaves.

Tuesday, October 11

The Eternal Spotless Locker And Its Occupants

David Brooks, "The Milquetoast Radicals". October 10

DAVID in NYC, in comments:
The locker-dwelling (or even unborn, as is the case of so many of them) citizens of the 60s just can't get over the fact that they weren't cool then, they aren't cool now, and nothing will ever, ever change that.

David Brooks in NYT, right on fucking cue:
It's the moderates in suits, not the Occupiers, who are the real cool kids, because we--I mean they--think deeply about things.

Been a while since I fleshed this out, so, by way of explaining that I never stuffed anyone in a locker, myself:

I entered high school in the west suburbs of Indianapolis in 1969. They were still trying to enforce a haircut code for boys, something which got blown up that very autumn when a fellow whose name I still remember won a lawsuit over that issue at his tonier, northside school. The one that gave us Mitch Daniels. Overnight, assistant principals across central Indiana had to put down the rulers they used to measure sideburns, and find something less vital to occupy their time.

As far as I recall, this directly affected exactly zero of my fellow students, except in the theoretical, freedom-increasing sense. We direct the court's attention to the Exhibit market "A": at the end of The Sixties, at the apothefuckingosis of Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll, in of one of the five largest high schools in Indiana, in a city of 750,000 (albeit one noted mostly for the opportunities it provided for unmolested slumber) you could have combed the halls without finding anyone who needed a comb.

By the time I was a senior, two years later, I couldn't walk down a hallway without some guy I didn't know, with his bellbottoms dragging a foot behind him like busted mudflaps, calling me Man or Dude in hopes of scoring some righteous weed I must be holding because of the length of my hair.

If anything, I hated those fuckers more than I hated the Young Republicans they were crowding out of the ecosystem.

And those are, in my obviously overstated but justified both as literary device and because I clearly have my finger on some sort of Deep Fucking Truth--the people that James Lileks met five years later in an even-more remote, god-forsaken and Christ-ridden part of the Prairie, when it was possible--maybe even compulsory--to be a dope smoking hippie, Freebird Division, and still be a star quarterback, let alone an all-purpose goon. Brooks and Reynolds came along shortly after; Goldberg and half the mastheads of NRO and the Weekly Standard after that. And, yes, I've been known to exaggerate for comic effect (Could a sane and civil society expect otherwise with these fucks, Your Honor?), but look at 'em. Maybe the preppies among 'em got laid before they turned 26, but you'd want to decide even that much on a case-by-case basis. With Kristol or Podhoretz, e.g., I'd wanna see a receipt, or a police report.

Look at 'em. Every one of those guys gives evidence of involuntary locker rash. Except Goldberg, who wouldn't fit in an NBA locker. And every one of them demonstrates an inability to admit, anywhere, the validity of the great social movements of the 50s and 60s that borders on Locker-Incarceration Syndrome levels of denial. You'll get a Brooksian "everybody believes women should get equal pay for equal work" now and then, and of course the obligatory paean to Martin Luther King once a year, but otherwise the difference between the "deep thought" of David Brooks or some NRO legacy pledge and the output of a robo-program designed to disagree with anything a long-haired teenaged hooligan, circa 1983, would have said about contemporary politics had he a) cared or b) been able to read is negligible. These guys found solace and a chaste sexual surrogacy (the Clean kink must be particularly attractive to the professional brown-noser, unless he's lucky enough to get paid for doing what he loves) in Reaganism, and the Right had already dived headfirst into its own little insular universe in which no Leftist critique troubled the ear, aside from the one the make up themselves. And it still is news.

[If you want my bona fides: I landed at Indiana University while Emmett ("Bob") Tyrrell was still playing out the twelve-year string begun when he handed out towels to Doc Counsilman's great IU swim teams of the early 60s. He was working as television pioneer and notable wingnut crank Sarkes Tarzian's butt boy, and bilking Indianapolis pharmaceutical heiresses on weekends to keep his Spectator going. Tyrrell had reached the conclusion that because he could think up ways to make fun of hippies it made him their intellectual superior, and that the fact that his stuff struck him as clever made up for the fact that no one else did.]

Take Brooks on the Occupiers. Please.

I'm not even going to bother quoting the guy. If you've heard the right-wing chatterphone response over and over--the one it took 'em a week or so to craft so they'd have time to avoid Teabagger toes, a mark of how much they're slipping, and how little official Republican officialdom and its mouthpieces actually know about real Teabaggers--you've already read Brooks' piece a hundred times without realizing it. Disorganized! Unfocused! Ill-informed! Not enough vandalism! You know. All the stuff these guys expressed such admiration for among anti-war demonstrations from 1963-2008.

What's the fucking excuse? None. Well, there's the attendant feature that Don't Tax Really Wealthy People gets another airing, like they're at a loss for venues in these trying times, but so fucking what? Even that has that Mitch Daniels, I'm-going-to-give-you-the-metaphysically-certain-Answer, but-if-you-respond-it'll-vanish cowardly isolation stench about it. Why does Brooks write this column? He can intellect rings around the dirtiest of hippies. Like the rest of the Finance wing of his party he's stuck now showing grudging admiration for grassroots politics (just kiddin'; he's required to show enough cognitive dissonance about this or any other matter to prove which side he's on) forced by circumstance to do just enough tap-dancing between Vox Populi Teabaggers and Possibly Dangerous Street Morons to sound like he's convinced himself he's given the matter a lot of thought. But in order to give himself that much credit he has to sound, in the main, like Erick Erickson with 25% more college and 55% less personal time allotted to polishing his gun collection. I might be half-joking, and I may be a little embarrassed to put my name on it--even my name!--but there has got to be some explanation for the lockstep promotion of every pathetic Did Not! argument that comes down the right-wing pike, and the hurried wagon-circling that goes on at the slightest perceived or invented threat to big business hegemony or the continuation of the Republican party as one of two majors, despite its philosophical anathema to the lives of 87% of the American public. Can there be a rational explanation for a willingness to appear irrational before an audience that can read? I think we may well be reduced to an emotional-disturbance explanation for even the most casual Republican behavior any more.

And Brooks uses--I'm not going to quote him today--the contention of a tax-exempt anti-tax foundation working for rich people to "prove" we can't tax the put-upon wealthy and make any significant dent in The Deficit. Which may or may not be true (or, rather, is true in an extremely limited sense, and an utter lie, rhetorically) . But if you tax them and the corporations they control at something approaching fair value, let alone fairness + sufficient justified income redistribution to keep the game from being rigged (that is, rigged any further), you'd accomplish a lot more. And just (re)-establishing the concept of Fairness would be a boon to the society and the darkest day for Capital since Roosevelt turned on his class. So, two good reasons.

You're fifty years old now, Mr. Brooks. Mitch Daniels is sixty, and Jonah Goldberg is nine. In your twenties, for whatever reason, possibly including Wedgies, you embraced a pop-philosophy which was both a) ludicrous and b) insistent upon a droning metaphysical certainty from its Acolytes. Now is the time--there's to be precious little other--to admit how fucking wrong you were and to try to help put things right for the sake of future generations you've fucked over. No, of course I don't expect you to. Now gimme that lunch money, fuckwit.

Friday, October 7

The Real Problem With Wireless Technology Is That It Makes It Harder To Find Something To Strangle People With When They Deserve It

David Brooks, "Where Are the Jobs?" October 6

OKAY, just for the record, when I saw that Brooks column's title I did not immediately think to myself, "Well, moderate Republicans are finally asking, in public, why incontinent tax-cutting hasn't benefitted anyone except the major recipients of the cuts." Because it's David Brooks, and that would be like imagining that a Papal missive entitled "The Joy of Lifelong Virginity" was His Holiness' first foray into snark.

No, siree, as we say in Indiana; the only possible explanation was that Brooks was going to explain to us, in another of those recurring bouts of ad nauseam, that tomorrow's grand vistas of entrepreneurial triple-good success, and the wholesome, satisfying, life-long employment as maids, repairmen, and ass-lickers such gods among men rain down on the little people like Zeus rained gold on Danaë, would come from the metaphysically-assured ability of technology to solve every problem, or every problem worth solving. You know, the way the late Steve…Jobs…

Oh, shit. Get out of the house! He meant Where are the next Steve Jobs!.

Lemme guess. They've all been stymied by high rates of taxation, and the attendant demoralization from a few liberal smartypants who don't understand the economic system, hate freedom, and keep insisting that technology doesn't solve every problem, at least not as a plerophory requiring the rest of us to curl up and starve, happy to help make more innovatin' room for the Innovators.

Dr. Pangloss to the white courtesy phone:
Let’s imagine that someone from the year 1970 miraculously traveled forward in time to today. You could show her one of the iPhones that Steve Jobs helped create, and she’d be thunderstruck. People back then imagined wireless communication (Dick Tracy, Star Trek), but they never imagined you could funnel an entire world’s worth of information through a pocket-sized device.

Now here I take unfair advantage of David Brooks, because a) I was reasonably sentient in 1970, allowing for the raging hormones, Indiana ditch weed, and the time that girlfriend of mine, the one who didn't wear a bra when her mother wasn't around, got me to read Heinlein, and b) I haven't spent the following forty years convincing myself that the select bits of cultural detritus about The Sixties I'd picked up since, coupled with a still-smoldering resentment for the hippies who shut me in my own locker in that Philadelphia Main Line high school we attended, are a particularly satisfying, hence almost scholarly, substitute for accuracy. Whereas Brooks was nine.

So, well, no. I wasn't prescient, I didn't imagine myself to be prescient, and if I had it sure wouldn't have been because of how people imagined wireless communication, space travel, or world peace in that glorious, papier-mâché future Star Trek heralded. And I'd go so far as to say this was true of a vast number of my fellow citizens, seeing as how, by 1970, we'd been listening to this "atomic cars, cities in air, robot valets" shit since the late 40s.

I freely admit that my sixteen-year-old ass was dead wrong about the future in 1970. For one thing, I imagined it would be saner.
The time traveler would be vibrating with excitement.

I though you showed her an iPhone, not the Hitachi Magic Wand.
She’d want to know what other technological marvels had been invented in the past 41 years. She’d ask about space colonies on Mars, flying cars, superfast nuclear-powered airplanes, artificial organs. She’d want to know how doctors ended up curing cancer and senility.

No, no, no, no, no, and no.

Can it really be so hard to unearth a copy of Kubrick's 2001 that'll fit in your futuristic Blu-Ray machine box? In 1970 lots of people were fucking suspicious of anything involving Technology, let alone claims of the techno-utopia it was about to usher in. At the time computers, and the hangars they resided in, belonged to the Government, and large corporations, and many people--here's the quaint part, Dave--were actually suspicious of their intentions, and doubtful of their commitment to individual liberty and personal value.

In 1970 The Whole Earth Catalogue published its fourth-through-seventh editions; I know you're aware of this, Dave, because you name-check it later as part of the "He was once a crazy hippie" Jobs c.v. The Population Bomb had been a best-seller two years earlier, and The Greening of America was one currently. Computers were something which Ran Amok in movies. Telephones were a monopoly run by an international crime syndicate that funneled cash to Richard Nixon. "Better Living Through Chemistry" meant napalm, Agent Orange, and polyester pants, at least when it wasn't said with a wink. Your 70s chick probably would have taken one look at your miniature phone and asked how she could call her dealer. Unless she needed to call the Doctor to schedule a house call.

We've said this many a time, and we'll keep saying it, at least as long as David Brooks has a Times column and Mitch Daniels is a Thinker: you can make this claim all you want. And you can keep writing alternative fictional histories of the 60s and 70s to demonstrate how the actual intellectual superiority of the involuntary locker dweller to his dope-smoking, sex-having hippie tormentors has been proven apodictically by consumer gizmos people like. Keep writing it till Doomsday, but that doesn't make it true. It doesn't even exempt it from looking at the evidence, although you seem to think so. You imagine everything Good accrues to your side, and buttresses your arguments. So does every moron on the face of the earth. Try being better than that. Once. Think of it as a mini-vacation.

So let's suppose we meet that same time-traveler. Let's show her The Real Housewives of New Jersey. Three-hundred seventy-two channels of dreck, which she now has to pay to receive. Let her get behind the wheel and try to avoid drivers who're watching their miracle pocket phones, instead of the road. Show her her children, obese at ten, playing videogames in the rec room while the sun shines through the window.

Show her the ugly stain that's replaced the cherished records of baseball, track and field, of college athletics. Y'know, thanks to medical advancements.

Tell her how her income is essentially unchanged, or perhaps gone backwards since the Reagan Revolution. Tell her that spot in the workplace Women were demanding as their right in 1970 rapidly became a responsibility, a requirement just to maintain a lifestyle that included food on the table and a roof over the food.

Buy her the biggest slab of post-Reagan USDA prime beef you can find. Tell her why she might wanna skip the spinach salad.

Tell her those Melina Mercouri glasses are back in style.

Take her for a picnic in a shady glen on her family's ancestral farm. I mean, behind a Starbuck's. Show her the sort of improvement in gas milage Detroit has engineered over the years, since the First Oil Embargo brought us all to our senses. Show her Before and After pictures of Jimmy Carter's solar panels.

If she's an African-American, tell her she's represented in the White House. Then tell her what the opposition party's had to say about that. In the Twenty-first century.

Hell, show her her fucking phone bill. Just make sure there's someone behind her to catch her.

Go on. Take the average American from 1970 and explain to her what was about to happen to the Middle class, what would happen to healthcare, and how the unmitigated disaster that was Vietnam would turn into the glorification of a war machine which would manage to conquer Grenada before getting back to its trillion-dollar quagmirey ways. Then tell her that you expect a $500 consumer gimmick will make her wish she inhabited such a miraculous time. See which one really astonishes her.

If you want to make the argument, go ahead and make it. Just show there's some thought involved, and fucking quit confusing that with restating your bottomless, and remunerated, faith as though it sweeps the field.