Thursday, June 28

What Pierce Said, Vol. MMCCCLXVI

I don't think it's too far afield to presume that the Chief here didn't want to hang the Court's reputation on what was only a year ago thought to be a fringe legal theory in a decision that would appear to be so obviously political. I'm not sold on Roberts as Chief Justice, but I've got to believe he looked at what happened since Citizens United was decided and thought, Jeebus, one Dred Scott per tenure is enough, thanks.

LOOK, with the assurance that comes from not having read the decision, and being too stupid to analyze it if I did, let's just say that I don't like the fact that the Court would even agree to hear this crap; that super-elastic we've made out of the Commerce clause has not always been a friend to me (or any man), but if we're gonna start tossing aside precedent for political fucking expediency, then let's just do away with the game entirely. If Congress' power under Commerce is to be reined in just because a cadre of gold nuts and Randians don't like a result, then let's be fair and take away their corporate personhood. That sure ain't in the Constitution.

Did you feel this coming? I thought I did, but only a fool predicts Court decisions, even in this benighted 5-4 age. It's a political decision, and the political winds just shifted alee. Roberts' "tax-based" decision sounds for all the world like the sort of thing that happens whenever any Grand High Poobah decides to get tricky. It's overwrought and stupid, and transparently does what it was really designed to do, except for the fooling people part. I guess we can't ask for more, except the massive stroke that Scalia has deserved for years now.

Monday, June 25

Inside Indiana Business: First You Need A Proctoscope

FIRST, news from the Moron Monon Trail (Motto: Return three unsupervised toddlers and the fourth one is yours to keep!), the wildly popular Rail-to-Trail "vertical park" that runs from downtown Indianapolis to suburban Whitedream. Or maybe that's "bizarrely popular", since it's the product of  precisely the sort of government spending Hoosiers keep voting against.

I started riding the Trail just over a year ago, after I got kicked off a local unused parking lot, so maybe my sampling error is large. But what appears to be a Trending Trend is this year's rash of informal drink stands, mostly, but not entirely, of the kid-run type. I never saw a one last year. They started popping up about six weeks ago, usually announced by childish chalk scrawls on the trail itself, with arrows, occasionally by Signs Stuck Everywhere. (Full confession: I'm the guy--one of 'em--who stops and destroys every last sign left on the trail unless it involves missing pets. It's enough for me that this stuff--it's not just neighborhood crap of the sort often duct-taped to telephone poles, but also commercial advertising--is invading a public park, but the fact is that I'm entitled to ride a bike on the thing at 20 mph in most places, and, believe me, there are enough pedestrians on it who stop dead and/or spin 180º for no discernible reason, and without an apparent inkling that anyone else shares the trail, that adding Impromptu Phonetics Practice is contraindicated.)

I wasn't playing close attention at first. Some chalk scrawling, here and there. But since it hasn't rained here roughly since Herman Cain suspended his campaign operations, I've eventually read them all about twenty times over. Then, three weeks ago, I ran into my first physical manifestation (not literally), in Westfield. The next week there was an obvious charity-scam sponsored one in Carmel; they had carefully located their table a good six inches off the trail, so that the two-deep crowds, and not they, were the ones technically causing the accidents. I'd seen two more--one was more like a mini-convenience store--before Sunday's encounter.

I was nearly home, creeping through the Broad Ripple village section, because it's heavily trafficked and much favored by parents who imagine it's just the place for their three-year-old to learn independence, even before she learns balance. I'd done 31 miles by this point, which had included more encounters with the oblivious than you might prefer. I've been breaking in two saddles, and was riding balls akimbo because the Adult Onset Diaper Rash (taint funny) I was fighting  was hissing at me like Summer's Last Charcoal Ember.  I was not in a cheery mood. I'd just survived yet another intersection when there loomed in front of me--standing on the trail--an eight-year-old huckster for "Lemonade! Ice Tea! Wadder!" There was a metal cooler next to him that must've weighed twice what he did, and, behind that, some greasy character with a porn 'stash. The involvement of an adult overcame my natural reticence.

I slowed to Trail Normal Speed ("Fat Guy Walking"). Two feet past Harry Reems I hocked up a theatrical loogie. "No thanks," I said. "Still got plenty of saliva."

This, of course, is the opposite direction bodily fluids generally travel in larger, more official commercial interactions.

Witness, then, the Indianapolis Star telling yet another tale (Caution: vapor link) of how the Indiana Economic Development Corporation….

Okay, let's just pause here and enjoy the incessant sunshine for a moment. The "Indiana Economic Development Corporation" is a Mitch Daniels creation. It replaced the Indiana Department of Commerce, because "Indiana Department of Commerce" just didn't have the ring of massive venality disguised as mindless civic boosterism that the early Daniels administration wanted to showcase. Of itself this should have been enough for every news-gathering operation in the state to smell what was up. "We" kept the title of Indiana Secretary of Commerce, but added "CEO of the IEDC" because, well, you already know. The first of these was Daniels henchman and former Eli Lilly crony Mitch Roob, who several years later, and reportedly chaffing that he couldn't get a raise, was shuffled over to head the Family and Social Services Administration, where he promptly gave a billion-dollar contract to a former employer, spoke the sacred name of Ayn Rand, and watched the whole thing turn into the greatest shitpile in state history. He was replaced as Commerce Secretary by Daniel Hasler, a Daniels henchman and former Eli Lilly crony. Why fuck with a winning formula?

Anyway, this whole rotting swamp should have caught everyone's attention. It didn't go completely unreported: the fact that the IEDC was touting thousands of jobs "brought to" Indiana, jobs which never, somehow, reached the stage of, you know, actually being filled by people, has gotten some attention, but it escaped the voters' notice in 2008. So I'm not complaining that the Star finds--now that Daniels has publicly announced he's out of politics--the latest example of CEO Hasler's group pushing a business plan on an Indiana municipality (Madison) which was, fortunately for them, smart enough to actually vet the thing, and discover that it was, oh, let's call it a fabrication. And one which about one hour of diligence would have uncovered. And let's go ahead and forgive the fact that the coverage asks "How could this come to be?" and not "Why isn't everyone involved in this, up to and including Purdue's new President, in the dock?" Because it wouldn't do any good. Let's just enjoy a couple of things.

First, that the Business Plan sold to the IEDC was lifted from, a site that reportedly features hundreds of the things. This is the use the once-celebrated English language is put to by these types:

Using Global Energy's own manufacturing facility as a model and test bed for our products, Global Energy will provide the mid- to large-sized corporate market with new and exciting ways to cost effectively manage all external vendor and customer transactions, yielding continual savings for the users of our products and services. Our manufacturing partners will also add value to our offering of services, further allowing Global Energy to grow into a high-quality, long-term growth corporation.

The second goes uncommented, despite the fact that it is the key to understanding the Daniels administration:

You can see the incentives for the IEDC, [economist Morton] Marcus said. Gov. Daniels has made a point of trying to lure California companies.

And Illinois companies, when that state responded to its budget crisis with a two-year tax surcharge, much like the one Daniels proposed for Indiana, for about fifteen minutes in 2005.

All of these shenanigans were about creating positive economic statistics, not real economic growth. The intention was to erase Daniels' disastrous record at OMB so he could become a national figure again. If jobs could be lured from "high tax" states, so much the better. Didn't even matter that they weren't real.

I do hope that someday we'll hear a full accounting. Might become necessary as Governor Pence beholds his inheritance. But Mitch Daniels has spent the last four years, at least in Republican/Beltway circles, as the Messiah of Economic Supernaturalism, and never has anyone asked him how come it won't work without a stacked deck.

Saturday, June 23


Kathleen "Pulitzer" Parker,  "Ann Romney has a horse. So what?" June 22

EVOKING the stable:

The punch line is at least as old as the eldest baby boomer: “I didn’t get a pony.”

Here’s Jerry Seinfeld: “I hated those kids [who had ponies]. In fact, I hate anyone that ever had a pony when they were growing up.”

Why is this funny? Because we all know that, for the most part, kids who had ponies were the rich kids.

There's something seriously wrong with Kathleen Parker, isn't there, something that relative fame, undeserved acclaim, and good tables at tonier DC eateries have done nothing to mitigate. Look at the whole range of female "conservative" public thinkers; there's something seriously wrong with all of 'em, no? Phyllis Schlafly, Mona Charen, Laura Ingraham, Ginny Thompson, Michelle Malkin (how much time do we have?), Lynne Cheney, Sippy Cupp, Tucker Carlson? TV's Kennedy?  It's not that I think the menfolk are a particularly sharp and balanced lot. It's just that, well, sooner or later you think a smart gal would take a hard look at her roommates and decide to move out.

Why is this funny? Because it ain't, unless you don't know how to tell a joke and think everything Jerry Seinfeld ever says is funny, because he's a comedian. I mean a successful comedian.

See, what's funny about the pony bit, Kathleen, is that a kid, offered the opportunity to make a Christmas wish, wishes for the most extravagant, impractical thing imaginable, thinking it will appear by magic. At least this was how it went in Speedway, Indiana, back when, where we didn't hate the kids who had ponies because, like the overwhelming majority of mid-20th century Americans, we didn't fucking know any fucking kids with fucking ponies.

Perhaps Mr. Seinfeld did. Or perhaps, as a comedian, he's panning for nuggets in the rich stream of normal American experience, where the vast majority of people don't like conspicuous consumers, or conspicuous anythings that have to do with that Me First and Always attitude.

(By the way, I didn't know anyone who had a pony, but my Poor Wife did: her sister. And she hated her sister, not for her socioeconomic status, which roughly mirrored her own, but because she was the sort of child who asked for a pony.)

It is but a short canter from hating pony people to despising the horse crowd.

No it isn't. It's the same damned thng.

And this is because people who own fancy horses — thoroughbreds or, heaven forbid (you knew this was coming), Olympic horses — are very, very rich. We just call them the One Percenters these days.

Maybe we call 'em that, but the Horsey Set--like the Romneys--is generally more like the .05%

Thus, Ann Romney, wife of the presumptive Republican nominee, recently became a target of ridicule when it was revealed that she co-owns an Olympian horse that will compete in dressage, a sport she apparently enjoys. Dressage, sometimes called “horse ballet,” is the “highest expression of horse training,” according to the International Federation for Equestrian Sports.

Yeah, and Budweiser™ is "the highest expression of the brewmaster's art" according to Anheuser-Busch.

It may not be as stimulating as a horse race with bets and booze, but thus it has always been with art.

Translated into Plebeian that's "It doesn't have vulgar appeal of horse racing, but y'all don't understand Art anyway."

Dressage and horseback riding in general offer other rewards, including therapy for people who suffer maladies from physical disabilities to emotional imbalances. This should not be surprising, given the millennia-long relationship between humankind and horse that transcends mere transportation. Anyone who has ridden knows the deeply satisfying synchronicity between the movements and rhythms of human and horse. The emotional bond that also develops is not insignificant.

Thanks, Kathleen, but revealing too much wasn't really necessary.

And, look, I understand that when the yacht capsizes you'll grasp at the corpse of any cabin boy that floats by. But "dressage" is not exactly being prescribed for MS sufferers as a routine matter of allopathy, now, is it? "I'm afraid it is multiple sclerosis, Bob. I suggest we get you on a rigorous program of teaching horses to move unnaturally with precision." You rich bastards--what we call nowadays the One Percent--really should restrict your lying to your own Class.

For Ann Romney, riding has been helpful in dealing with her multiple sclerosis.

Oh, sorry, I didn't realize The Left has been making fun of Ann Romney's medical condition. I thought they were making fun of her frivolous rich-person involvement in a prohibitively expensive and profoundly silly Olympic display of overripe circus tricks and Victorian attire.

Sheesh, I ride bicycles for my knee problems, and general fitness. And I find that to be sufficient, without bankrolling a family of Bavarian unicycle aerialists.

Why, then, have some seen fit to ridicule Ann Romney’s choice of activities? Stephen Colbert can be forgiven his fun with the news, which focused on dressage as the not-so-common-man’s sport.

And because criticizing him might make it sound like you are slightly deficient in the sense of humor department, heaven forfend.

You think Colbert's point is any different than Lawrence O'Donnell's? Really?

But others have been less funny. Leading the charge on the political side has been MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell, who, while insisting that he wasn’t commenting on Romney’s MS, pointed out that the Romneys treat the horse as a business rather than a health expense.

Y'know, far be it from me to offering writing advice to a Pulitzer-winning opinionator, but, generally speaking, a dependent clause should be dependent on something. "While insisting he wasn't commenting on Romney's MS" is not, in fact, contradicted by the fact that the man then criticized the brand of tax write-off favored in this instance by the Romneys horse accountants.

Horses that compete and breed at the Olympic level typically are business investments, as O’Donnell surely knows. But the talking point must be made — and made and made — that the Romneys aren’t like the rest of us working stiffs. They have big ol’ fancy cars and horses and stuff. And they make lots of money, too. (Oh, and by the way, television anchors do rather well. What’s with the guilt?)

First, drastically overpay 'em. Then accuse 'em of being Class Traitors. Circle of Life.

And, Kathleen, "What am I, in business for my health?" is even older than "Where's my pony?" So surely you know the distinction. You can't say, in one paragraph, "Brave Ann Romney fights debilitating disease with the help of deeply satisfying equine synchronicity", and, in the next, "Why of course she took accelerated amortization on that Brazilian saddle factory.  Oats aren't cheap!" and imagine that, somehow, you've double-annihilated an argument neither line even addresses.

And why this war on success? People who are struggling through rough economic times didn’t suddenly become stupid, and surely most see through this absurd, sustained attack on the Romneys, whose only apparent sin is having been successful.

Well, if they didn't, they do now that their official spokeswoman has spoken for them.

Romney’s opponents seem to be aghast that he has made money for investors (aren’t we all investors?), though they studiously ignore other greed-less facts: He never took a dime in salary for heading the Olympics in Salt Lake City nor as governor of Massachusetts, to mention a couple.

Christ among the Kiowa, if you get to bring this shit up, then other people do, too.

May I say that, personally, I'm up to the eyeballs in Mitt Romney, hero of the Salt Lake City Games shit? Of course he didn't take any salary. The goddam Games were mired in a Shit Scandal and he was called in to clean up the mess. He didn't get called in to resolve the Tricky Moral Dilemma of what to do about a Games the capital of Mormonville had obtained by ugly payoffs (like, probably, every Olympics since Avery Brundage was a thinly) guaranteed by ramrodded taxpayers; Mitt Romney wasn't going to conclude that the 2002 Winter Games were hopelessly tainted, and should move elsewhere. There wasn't time, even if that sort of thing was in his nature, which it ain't. He was there to preserve untold millions of television and advertiser dollars, and their intended profits, that hung in the balance. Mitt Romney was the designated untainted guy brought in to clean up the mess. He was the face of the clean-up. If you ever want a cush job, be the face of something that has billions of dollars behind it after the scandal has broken. Nobody blames the guy who took over for Tony Hayward for the BP oil spill. And you'll note that BP's still in business. Elect him President.

If he'd have demanded five Big Ones up front and a share of the gate his job would have been over before it started. Care to bet that Mitt Romney didn't, somehow, turn a bigger profit on his unpaid Olympics gig that most Americans will manage in a lifetime?

The issue of Ann Romney’s horse is yet more ideological nonsense from the left, intended to portray Republicans generally and the Romneys specifically as enemies of The People. Riding horses is framed as just one more example of how out of touch the Romneys are with everyday Americans, though Democrats didn’t seem to mind that Jackie Kennedy was an avid horsewoman.

And Republicans didn't seem to mind that the Kennedys paid an 85% tax rate on their income over $500,000.

Should Ann Romney become first lady, perhaps she can promote the therapeutic benefits of horseback riding and encourage a culture that funnels the countless unwanted or retired horses to riding farms where emotionally or physically distressed people can enjoy the special communion between human and horse.

And maybe she can give her once-worn wardrobe to the visually impaired.

It would be a better use of these noble animals than as circus or zoo meat, which is how so many wind up. Maybe she could even arrange to get O’Donnell his own pony.

Sure. While her husband, and the rest of your party, is busy arranging for a surplus of poor people as a suitable replacement for that lost protein source.

Thursday, June 21

I Never Imagined I'd Say This, But Could You Please Stick To Baseball?

George Eff Will, "The Beach Boys still get around". June 20

I'M feeling charitable; the massive climate change engendered, supported, and loved by Mr. Eff Will and his ilk has saved me the expense of moving to Arizona for my sinuses. So let's assume a) he didn't write that headline ("Tom Cruise: Still Hollywood's 'Top Gun' ") and b) that whoever did has a couple dozen adopted Special Needs children to feed.

Okay, who let George Eff Will backstage?

Three hours before showtime, Brian Wilson says: “There is no Rhonda.” Sitting backstage at Merriweather Post Pavilion, gathering strength for the evening’s 48-song, 150-minute concert, Wilson was not asked about her, he just volunteered this fact. The other members of the Beach Boys seem mildly surprised to learn that the 1965 song “Help Me, Rhonda” was about no one in particular.

Look, I'm no Beach Boys historian--my Boomer-ass relationship to their music will probably be made clear here later--but Brian Wilson is acknowledged as a composing and arranging pop genius, not a lyricist. I think the lyrics to "Help Me, Rhonda" were in fact written by the song's co-author, the decided non-genius Mike Love, although my exhaustive research, clicking on the Wiki page, proved inconclusive. At any rate, it's a little hard to imagine this news creating mild or any other level of surprise among the rest of the band after fifty years, unless they hadn't realized Brian was touring with them again until he started speaking.

Not that it matters; the sound is everything. Attention must be paid to baby boomer music-cued nostalgia, and no one pays it better than the Beach Boys.

Must this always be said this way? Attention must be paid? Really? As though this great Generational Leviathan insists that Everyone listen to nothing but its incontinently nostalgic soundtrack of 60s Top 40 to Eternity? Codswallop. So far as I know, there's still a Glenn Miller Orchestra touring out there. There are Platters and Coasters and possibly Ink Spots out there, all, like George Washinton's original hatchet, having had the handle replaced five times and the blade six.

Easy nostalgia for money is hardly a Boomer invention. I'm sorry, truly sorry, if it ruins your elevator riding experience, but take that up with the people who peddle shit for money, not people who like to relive the high point of their miserable lives made even more miserable by shit peddlers and their public spokesmen. I'm sorry there were people who were out of sync with it. I sympathize, I truly do; I've been out of sync with pop culture myself since Star Wars. I think if Dick Cheney or Phil Gramm could have gotten laid in the Sixties the world would be a better place today. But not George Eff Will, no. Nothing could have gotten him laid, nor did he deserve it. And we don't deserve listening to him kvetch about it for half a century, either.

Given California’s dystopian present, it is difficult to recall that the Beach Boys’ appeal derived not just from their astonishing harmonies (which derived from the Four Freshmen)

And the Devil, who had all the good harmonies...

but also from their embodiment of a happy Southern California that beckoned to the rest of the nation.

I guess growing up I missed the idea that Good Dumb Fun was a regional phenomenon.

Political scientist James Q. Wilson grew up there, and in 1967, the year after the Beach Boys released “Good Vibrations,” he wrote a seminal essay on the political vibrations that produced California’s new governor: “A Guide to Reagan Country.” Wilson’s conclusion was that Ronald Reagan represented the political culture of a region where social structure nurtured individualism.

And Federal money watered it.

Southern Californians had, Wilson wrote, “no identities except their personal identities, no obvious group affiliations to make possible any reference to them by collective nouns. I never heard the phrase ‘ethnic group’ until I was in graduate school.”

The late James Quinn Wilson, Ronald Reagan Chair of Public Policy and Ethic Identification at Pepperdine University, was born in 1931. Grew up in Long Beach, undergrad at Redlands; are we sure he actually saw any ethnics until he went to the University of Chicago in the mid-50s?

“The Eastern lifestyle,” Wilson wrote, “produced a feeling of territory, the Western lifestyle a feeling of property.”

Though not a strong enough one to give it back to its original owners.

Southern Californians lived in single-dwelling homes and had almost no public transportation, so their movements within the city were unconfined to set corridors. Houses and cars — the “Sunday afternoon drive” was often just to look at others’ homes — strengthened, Wilson wrote, “a very conventional and bourgeois sense of property and responsibility.”

Thanks to the interstate highway system, and cripplingly high tax rates. Fer cryin' out loud. That describes the whole of American life between big cities and rural farms in the 1950, what I believe has been dubbed "Suburbia". Which, in fairness, Ronald Reagan invented.

When James Watt, Reagan’s interior secretary, barred the Beach Boys from playing a Fourth of July concert on the Mall in 1983 because he thought they attracted “the wrong element,” Reagan invited them to the White House. This was almost a generation after the Beach Boys were dethroned but invigorated by the challenge of the British Invasion, particularly the Beatles.

Look, first, say what you want about Ronald Reagan, the man knew how to huckster. But, no. He didn't invite them to the White House "when" James Watt--who happened to work for Ronald Reagan, by the way--barred then from the Mall. He invited them to the White House after Watt's risible right-wing religious kookism was snickered at from the Eastern territories to the West Coast properties.

Boomers must be served, so Mick Jagger, who long ago said, “I’d rather be dead than sing ‘Satisfaction’ when I’m 45,” is singing it at 68.

Zing! See, George, back then he meant it, now he does it for money. This is the difference between Art and Commerce.

In 1966, the 31-year-old Elvis Presley asked the Beach Boys for advice about touring;

"Simple. Next time you shoot at a television, hit Col. Tom instead."

he has been dead for nearly 35 years, but they play on, all of them approaching or past 70, singing “When I Grow Up (to Be a Man)” without a trace of irony. Southern California in their formative years was not zoned for irony.

Speaking of Art and Commerce, this is a band of entertainers who might, might have achieved some minor success individually or elsewhere, who instead achieved major success because one of them was a (seriously troubled) genius. When his talent and vision led him in new directions, there was opposition from other ego-tripping, fame whore members (no names, but two of the initials are Mike Love) pissed that he was fucking with the franchise. Or so the story goes. Thing is, though, that it turned out that only Brian was capable of doing what Brian did. That was then. Without him, the others met with more commercial failure than they had with him. And they resolved the problem by becoming a nostalgia act. More power to 'em. Their audiences are irony immune, at least temporarily. And if any of 'em gives a shit about what James Q. Wilson said, they probably reserve that for office hours.

Wednesday, June 20

The Joys Of Matrimony, Vol. MCMCCCLVI

MY Poor Wife, on Mitch Daniels' new position:

"I just wonder where they're going to live." *


* Non-readers of this blog have missed its fifty or sixty references to the fact that the Daniels family has refused to lower itself to live in a dump like the Indiana Governor's Residence. 

Don't Let The Door Hit You In The Back Of The Head

Get to class, Hippie! 
SO the once scintillating sputter, petty thievery, and massive PR flummery that was the political career of Mitch "Spud" Daniels, one-time Governor of Indiana, grinds to a much-needed halt tomorrow, as the Trustees of Purdue University, the majority of whom were appointed by Mitch Daniels, announce their choice for the next President of the state's largest Ag college: Governor Mitch Daniels.

This is a choice which makes a whole lot of sense, assuming you're Mitch Daniels, or a Trustee of Purdue University.

Daniels has no academic record, or more accurately, one no longer than his police record while a Princeton undergrad with a nascent interest in the art of the deal. His education record--excuse my, there seems to be something lodged in my gorge--as Indiana governor consists of Procrustean budget cutting, jawboning state universities not to raise tuitions to cover the resulting shortfall (they complied, mostly, but tuition still rose more than inflation over the past seven years), and starting up his own for-profit online certificate mill. His intellectual record is long on the apodictic certainties of Friedmanomics 101, and short on open inquiry. His five favorite books were all written by Ayn Rand.

There's been a lot of discussion locally since word about the appointment leaked yesterday. Surprisingly, not all of it matched the remarkable faith in Daniels' leadership skills Hoosiers were supposed to have in droves. And Purdue is already an institution which over the past couple decades has developed a reputation for caring more about research grants, business connections, and self-promotion than undergraduate education.

And Mitch Daniels is a man whose vision of the future, if any, is fully in sync with that burgeoning tradition:

He believes a college education is worth it, he said, “but maybe not for everybody and not at any price.”

Daniels defended his administration’s record on higher education, saying that “we’ve been a big booster.”

“I proposed the biggest infusion of money to higher education anybody ever conceived of in this state. We think it would have been a billion dollars or more (by privatizing the Hoosier Lottery.) We couldn’t get the legislature to agree, but that should be a signal of how important it is.”

Or, y'know, maybe it could be a signal of how desperately he needed to camouflage his dismal education record at the start of his Presidential non-campaign.

In other words, Mitch Daniels got the brush from the Romney campaign, which possibly explains his "brave" criticism of Romney, one day after belatedly endorsing him, for not running the sort of campaign Mitch Daniels refused to run. Explains it to everyone but the Beltway press, I mean.

Still, it's surprising that Purdue could outbid every Randian corporation out there for the man's big-brained services. Ain't it?

Tuesday, June 19


Maureen Dowd, "Moral Dystopia". June 17

LET'S give the woman her due. One thousand seven hundred words without calling anyone Bambi this or Princess that. Or a Fifty Shades of Grey pun.

Now, then: the world needs moral advice from Maureen Dowd like it needs to discover that Peggy Noonan has a twin sister.

with formerly hallowed institutions and icons sinking into a moral dystopia all around us, has our sense of right and wrong grown more malleable? What if we’re not Thomas More but Mike McQueary?

Or Pius XII?

Listen, I dunno about you, but I was filled to dyspepsia with mid-range Boomers like Dowd pretending there were such things as hallowed institutions and icons in their (my) youth, which have mysteriously sunk into anything in the interim, around two decades ago. Pius the Fucking Twelfth for the win, MoDo. These institutions were hallowed-out by the end of the 19th century. Did two World Wars escape your notice growing up? Maybe they weren't routinely ignoring boy-buggering football coaches at Penn State in the 1950s. Would you care to guarantee it? This sort of blather is meant to ingratiate oneself with the herd. Nothing more. Name a human institution with a history of trustworthiness. It ain't the Roman Church. Or the government of the United States, or any money-printing operation like Penn State football. Hell, Science peddles its ass like a jet-set call girl, Mo. If you had any delusions about Our Hallowed Institutions which have only lately come to crumble then you're not a reliable observer. Or observant.

Tellingly, [McQueary] compared the sickening crime to the noncomparable incident of being a college student looking for a bathroom during a party at a frat house, and inadvertently walking into a dark bedroom where a fraternity brother is having sex with a young lady.

He said he felt too “shocked, flustered, frantic” to do anything, adding defensively: “It’s been well publicized that I didn’t stop it. I physically did not remove the young boy from the shower or punch Jerry out.”

He told Paterno the next morning and went along with the mild reining in of Sandusky, who continued his deviant ways.

The overwhelming odds are that if Mike McQueary had come across this sort of behavior in an alley he'd have put a stop to it. He'd have "punched Jerry out". The Penn State locker room, though, was like accosting the Pope in St. Peter's Square. The worldwide Catholic altar boy abuse scandals have made it impossible for public moralists to ignore the massive ethical lapses and personal guilt of people who knew and did nothing, or said nothing, or went along, or actively covered up. They're still ignoring the uncomfortable and clear conclusion that the institutions themselves are part of the problem.

McQueary's failure is personal, colossal--I hope it tortured him before he was discovered, and I hope it continues to, as it should; I'm not required to believe in forgiveness or redemption, as some people are--but it owes more than a little to the very notion of "hallowed institutions", and the hallowed notion of unquestioning service, and the heroism of career building.

All the soul-searching of the "How did we get to the point where our institutions lie to us so freely, so awfully, so criminally" is just another form of listening to the slap of wet genitals on forcibly exposed buttocks then calling Dad for advice. The damned human edifice is corrupt. Always has been. It's not a question of timeless Foundations with a little spalling brickwork on the façade. What keeps it standing is the mass insistence that there must be Good underneath. Because we don't like the alternative.

No, people and their institutions ("also people") aren't wholly, transparently, agents of evil. Everyone condemns Jerry Sandusky. Some would have stopped him, even at risk of a paycheck. We call those people "whistleblowers". And we don't really like 'em.

“Most Americans continue to think of their lives in moral terms; they want to live good lives,” said James Davison Hunter, a professor of religion, culture and social theory at the University of Virginia and the author of “The Death of Character.” “But they are more uncertain about what the nature of the good is. We know more, and as a consequence, we no longer trust the authority of traditional institutions who used to be carriers of moral ideals.

“We used to experience morality as imperatives. The consequences of not doing the right thing were not only social, but deeply emotional and psychological. We couldn’t bear to live with ourselves. Now we experience morality more as a choice that we can always change as circumstances call for it. We tend to personalize our ideals. And what you end up with is a nation of ethical free agents.

Why does this argument--Lord knows I've been hearing it since at least 1972, without the slightest appreciable movement in Our Public Morality--always sound like it's headed for "and that's why we should ban all abortions", not "and that's our pledge to you. Sincerely, The School of Religion and Ethics at the University of Virginia"?

And what is our political discussion about nowadays? Not about asking, let alone making, our institutions behave, but about how unfettered unfettered Capitalism needs to be before it can really get comfortable. Maybe instead of checking "our" morals, we oughta be checking our eyesight. Maureen Dowd is a Pulitzer (hallowed institution!)-winning author who's done her best to trivialize the issues of the day ("What? I should cover policy?" she's alleged to've said once. Or more than once). That may not make her a Good German, like McQueary or Dottie Sandusky. Talking about Lindsey Lohan's latest antics may not be the moral equivalent of turning up the sound on TMZ so you don't hear the screams coming from the basement. But is it really impossible to trace a connection?

Wednesday, June 13

The Fuck You Society

SHORTER Elizabeth MacDonald: Of course the Fed finds the median US household net worth has plummeted. The economy sucks! This proves that the government should not support the economy. Besides, the data is so 18 months ago.

And yet the Fox Branch of Government, along with its subsidiaries in Congress and elsewhere, insist that this November's election should be about the economy.

Because we desperately need a government that realizes it can't do anything. Or, put another way, after thirty years through the Looking Glass, the Republican party has discovered that its economic wing is more metaphysically zonked than its religious nuts.

Last Sunday, Absentee Governor and Retired Lawn Ornament Mitch Daniels went on FOXNews to call for an end to public-sector unions. Sorta. Daniels is from the wing of the party which doesn't like to say that sort of thing without the required hemming and hawing necessary to prevent it from being held accountable for the crazy shit it's going to do anyway.

It should be noted here that 1) Daniels claims to be a Randian, of the Christian division; 2) Daniels "took a year" to decide whether he supported Indiana's Right to Work bill, or whether the people who were paying him to "run" for "President" were against it; and 3) to my knowledge, the term "public sector unions", as opposed to the unionized state employees he screwed back in 2005, has never crossed the man's lyin' lips, not while he was within the state of Indiana and eligible for reelection. Not in public, anyway. Because public sector unions comprises, among others, police and fire unions. Because Hoosiers may not have much use for teachers, or road crews, but they sure want cops around to keep the coloreds from burning their houses down.

Is this really what this election should come down to? Is it really someone's definition of "economy"? Eliminate public unions, and our wealthy job creators will be free to create jobs, namely, security guards and private bucket brigades.

Was the 2012 election really decided when Big Donors chose up sides in 2010?

Is this really the United States of America in the 21st century? Don't tell me.

Do we really have to relive the excesses of the fucking Gilded Age just because rich people won the 1980 Presidential election?

This is the program which has failed, publicly and demonstrably, time and again, since. Incontinent tax cutting and irresponsible regulation are precisely what got us here. And they are promoted by the likes of Mitch Daniels, public liars, political cowards, and "principled" men who won't actually do anything except accompanied by a new moon, and the sort of massive PR campaign which convinces Americans to eat pig anus stuffed with bacon and cheese.

If it's so wise then let's go all in. Let's begin by eliminating corporate welfare, sweetheart oil and gas leasing, foreign investment credits, securities regulation, the public prop under markets, the insurance game, medical and scientific research, corn subsidies, NASA, interstate highways, and the featherbedding benefits of US military and government employees, whose health and retirement benefits are an order of magnitude beyond what the poor private sector worker is handed. Let's finish turning our schools over to anybody who'll teach for minimum wage, and let's return the ancient right to capture anything that flies over your property to the people. How much have we saved so far? Surely an economy based on big-ticket military gadgets, Starbuck's, and private space travel is just what the Founders envisioned.

And let's see who survives.

Monday, June 11

How Can You Live In Wisconsin And Not Recognize Real Cheese?

I MAY'VE mentioned this before, but I've survived two terms of Richard Nixon and five of Ronald Reagan, a tiny witticism which should not be allowed to disguise the fact that two of those extra terms belonged to George W. Bush, who was judged by many, if not always exactly a majority, of our fellow citizens to be fit to operate a country when he clearly couldn't operate an oil company even after someone staked him profitability. And that's without touching on Indiana politics, where, the casual observer is reminded, we think Dan Quayle, Dan Burton, Evan Bayh, and Earl Landgrebe are men of national stature. So soul-deadening news from Wisconsin I take in stride, like the overcooked cow-fed steak and chemically bleu'd cheese dressing millions of my fellows view as the height of the cuisinier's art. Nothing new, can't be helped, evidently, please feel free to try anyway.

What's worse than some nearby, and similar, state, albeit one once considerably more intelligent, dealing with a crooked carnival game operator as governor--leave us be honest, just for the change of scenery it affords, and ask when this wasn't the rule, not the exception, in American politics?--is the fact that people nowadays have every opportunity to know better, and they seem, in response, to be getting stupider about such things by the minute.

I make no judgements about whether the people of Wisconsin should have dumped that blithering Jaycee dick they were foolish enough to elect in the first place; people who live in Indiana shouldn't throw stones. But what's the fucking excuse for the mass-market media?

Last week John Gregg, the Indiana Democratic candidate for governor--"Democratic" here defined as "the Republican who isn't Mike 'Choirboy' Pence"--came out swinging. Sort of. He accused Pence of being "an extremist", which is like accusing him of being religious. He used as prime evidence a book published by the Indiana Policy Review, a licensed-begging, non-profit educational foundation Pence headed before he went to Washington, a book Pence co-authored, and which called for, among other things, an end to minimum wage, and eight-year Congressional term limits. Pence served for twelve. Oh, I hope you were sitting down.

This caused many independent Indiana political observers, including Jim Shella, the Dean Broder of Indiana political journalism, to note that the book in question was twenty years old. As though the statue of limitations on being an outright liar had passed.

Shella actually treated the criticism more even-handedly when blogging about it, but "Twenty-year-old information" was in the first sentence of his teevee coverage. As though the very notion of holding Mike Pence accountable for anything he's ever said insulted the all the hard work the man has put in moderating his thought (his one thought) through the years, as well as making those dewy campaign blurbs.

Pence is running as a sort of evangelical Rick Santorum, emphasizing his own fictitious hardscrabble upbringing while glossing over what would have become of him under present-day Christian Republican rules. The Mike Pence who's already flooded the local airwaves--with Karl Rove's help--with misty tales of his homespun Hoosier values and empathy for the little guy is going to ensure the continuation of the species by removing any rights Mitch Daniels might've missed, and so clearing the way for an economic renaissance the likes of which haven't been seen since the Panic of 1893.

Twenty years out of date! Nobody's mentioned that Pence's idea had already been disproven by the Great Reagan Social Experiment of ten years before, nor that it hasn't gotten any fresher since then. Hell, we're one month removed from the Mourdock Teabagging victory over Dick Lugar, and his made-up shit was treated like serious policy discussion.

Meanwhile, our saviors in the Indiana Department of Public Instruction, "Dr." Tony Bennett, Superintendent, are about to turn over half of the Indianapolis Public Schools to charter operators, who have suddenly discovered that there are problems at those schools, which they'd missed when they were running well-fueled lobbying efforts over the past five years. This sudden discovery is due to the fact that what's left of IPS isn't cooperating by, say, pointing out the troublemakers ahead of time so the charters can dump 'em right back on the public schools like they've got special needs, just after the funding kicks in. Funny how before the Law took over these people had all the answers, and now they're thwarted by a refusal to share attendance records. I'm certainly no fan of the IPS administration, and its tiny residual backbone has been discovered too late, but "Hey, we're in competition, don't expect us to share trade secrets" is perhaps the funniest thing I've heard from the education sector in decades. The state--which rushed all these changes into law in order to take advantage of a clear Republican majority, and in order to seize control, torpedos be damned--was caught flat-footed, and was forced to invent the concept of "transition year", a term which hadn't been heard in any previous discussion, but now was enough--should IPS ignore it--to threaten further financial punishments. Because we're all supposed to be rooting for the kids, y'know.

So forgive me; I've heard all this before, I don't expect it to get any better, and certainly no more honest, and if anyone imagines there's the slightest concern for results, consequences, rights, or people in all of this he should be quarantined from the general populace. As if it weren't already too late.

Tuesday, June 5

Good Evening, Class, And Welcome Once Again To The Pitsville Mall University's Guest Lecture Series

David Brooks, "The Debt Indulgence". June 4

YES, class, this is the same lecture you've heard the last twenty times, but today I'm going to tack on a line about the Scott Walker recall!
Every generation has an incentive to borrow money from the future to spend on itself. But, until ours, no generation of Americans has done it to the same extent. Why?
Um, because that isn't true?

A huge reason is that earlier generations were insecure. They lived without modern medicine, without modern technology and without modern welfare states. They lived one illness, one drought and one recession away from catastrophe. They developed a moral abhorrence about things like excessive debt, which would further magnify their vulnerability.
Goin' with it anyway, huh? Well, if you were born in 1920, as my father ("World's Greatest Dad from the Greatest Generation") was, your life expectancy at birth was 53.6 years, which was up 12% in just twenty years. He's still alive and kickin', by the way. When I was born, in 1953, it was up to 66 years, another 12% gain. In my lifetime--almost three times that twenty--it's gone up 8.6 %, to 76.5. In other words, it's still three score years and ten, which ain't exactly news, and if people are throwing caution to the winds then the advances of medical science, for some reason, come with a concomitant decrease in intelligence.

Not that this has anything to do with the National Debt. My dad was 12 (life expectancy 61; I'm using the figures for males, by the way) when the "welfare" state was born, and he was forty-five and a Goldwater Republican when the Great Society turned up, and none of it had anything to do with him, or with Polio.
Recently, life has become better and more secure. But the aversion to debt has diminished amid the progress. Credit card companies seduced people into borrowing more. Politicians found that they could buy votes with borrowed money. People became more comfortable with red ink.
Professor Brooks? Would it be possible for your side to, I dunno, take a fucking position on unfettered capitalism and stick with it? Financial markets are vital to Our Economy, but people shouldn't have anything to do with them.
Today we are living in an era of indebtedness. Over the past several years, society has oscillated ever more wildly though three debt-fueled bubbles. First, there was the dot-com bubble. Then, in 2008, the mortgage-finance bubble. Now, we are living in the fiscal bubble.
Listen, the only thing "society" had to do with that is that "society" elected the bozos who took their hands off the wheel, and "society" is what the careening truck smashed into as a result.
In this country, the federal government has borrowed more than $6 trillion in the last four years alone, trying to counteract the effects of the last two bubbles. States struggle with pension promises that should never have been made.
Wow, we went from descriptive to proscriptive pretty quick.
Europe is on the verge of collapse because governments there can’t figure out how to deal with their debts. Nations around the globe have debt-to-G.D.P. ratios at or approaching 90 percent — the point at which growth slows and prosperity stalls. It all goes back to the increase in the tolerance for debt.
I'm sorry; I could swear I've been awake all this time, and somehow I missed the proof of that. The United States of America has been in debt constantly from the founding of the Republic to today, with the exception of one afternoon during the Jackson administration. That has historically been due to war expenditures. And this period of "incredible, impossible, unprecedented debt" of yours corresponds one hundred fucking percent to the permanent war footing the country has been on since 1946, thanks, not to increasing life spans or carefree indebtedness, but to the mindless paranoid militarism driven mostly by your own party. The one so concerned with Debt.
Democrats and Republicans argue about how quickly deficits should be brought down. But everybody knows debt has to be restrained at some point. The problem is that nobody has been able to find a political way to do it.
Except Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton.
The common view among politicians is that pundits may rail against debt, but voters don’t actually care. Voters don’t want to face the consequences of their spending demands. They’ll throw you out of office if you make the tough decisions required to cut deficits. That’s why debt mounts and mounts. Voters want it to. Until maybe today.
Yeah. Because Scott Walker is the very model of fiscal good sense. And Wisconsin is the state all other states look up to when it comes to handling the financial morass.

 And because if there's anything that measures the good sense of the American voter, it's the results of our elections.

Sunday, June 3

Reassurance From An Unexpected Source

NAMELY, this blog. Look, if John Kerry, Mitch Daniels, and Peggy Noonan are on the guest list at that Bilgeburger Conference then it almost certainly is Evil, and guaranteed not to be possessed of Genius.

And Jeez Louise, Rich People are needier than a claque of junior-high slumber partyists, aren't they?

Friday, June 1

His Lips Are Moving, Too, But It's Mitch Daniels, So You Didn't Need To Ask

RANDIAN Cultist, fifty-year Christian, and pint-sized paragon of Good Government Mitch "Flea" Daniels travelled to DC this week for the unveiling of the seriocomic portrait of seriocomic president George W. Bush and, naturally, was in big demand to speak to the sort of groups who want his advice on how to continue to fuck America over for their own benefit. Mitch told a Reason Foundation assembly that he wasn't interested in being Mitt Romney's Secretary of Transportation. One gets the impression, from his recent string of snippy public episodes of the sort his handlers had kept in check for the last six years or so that the Romney campaign has sent word to Daniels that come next January he's going to be seated below the salt.

Anyway, Mitch said his real reason for going to Washington was to fight New Mexico Senator Jeff Bingaman's amendment which would exempt privatized roadways from the Federal tax calculation. This would cut $42 million from Indiana's highway funding, the amount which the Hoosier state currently receives for maintenance on the Indiana Toll Road, which Daniels auctioned off (privately) in 2006.

So help me, there are times when I actually begin to suspect the man really believes his own bullshit.