Friday, July 29

Friday Monon Knee Warmers

Ben Harper and The Five Blind Boys of Alabama, Take My Hand
Fountains of Wayne, Please Don't Rock Me Tonight
Leon Russell, Dixie Lullaby
Bruce Hornsby and Ricky Skaggs, Come On Out
Richard X. Heyman, Hand Prints
Rufus Wainwright, Across the Universe
Brenton Wood, Gimme Little Sign
Sam Phillips, Raised On Promises
ZZ Top, Stages
Ryan Adams, Chin Up, Cheer Up

What Krugman Says, Vol. DCCXLV

Paul Krugman, "The Centrist Cop-Out". July 28
So what’s with the buzz about a centrist uprising? As I see it, it’s coming from people who recognize the dysfunctional nature of modern American politics, but refuse, for whatever reason, to acknowledge the one-sided role of Republican extremists in making our system dysfunctional. And it’s not hard to guess at their motivation. After all, pointing out the obvious truth gets you labeled as a shrill partisan, not just from the right, but from the ranks of self-proclaimed centrists.

But making nebulous calls for centrism, like writing news reports that always place equal blame on both parties, is a big cop-out — a cop-out that only encourages more bad behavior. The problem with American politics right now is Republican extremism, and if you’re not willing to say that, you’re helping make that problem worse.

AND, we might add, perpetrating a shameful sell-out to the Nixon administration, one which has gone on now for forty-three years without the slightest hint of a public reevaluation. We've had a fuller discussion of the appropriateness of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, for fuck's sake, and we still would be if Rand Paul wasn't a pussy.

And it's Nixon; this is the last guy your modern journalistic celebrity would admit he'd bend over backwards for rather than tell the truth about.

Thursday, July 28


IS there any reason I shouldn't just imagine that everything in this country not originally constructed of shit has been turned into shit by reverse alchemy, Republican rhetoric, and Democratic cowardice?

ITEM: here are the stories on the Politico homepage:

The summer of liberal discontent
Still waiting for Obama
Pols cash in on the debt debate
TPaw's connected Iowa consultants
Has Obama betrayed the Left?
DNC head: GOP could spark 'chaos'
Biden, McConnell look for way out
Podestas lead FEC bundling list
McCain: Tea-party freshmen 'foolish'
Tea Party founder blasts Boehner
Freshmen coalesce around Boehner plan
GOPers chant 'fire him' at staffer
Boehner quiets rebellion on right
Perry put out feelers on Fox debate

Yeah, I know; it's Politico. Still, are they not nominally adult men and women paid to follow domestic politics? Do we need twenty-five stories which say the same thing, none of which has anything to do with any "reality" that doesn't have "political" in front of it? We've done this shit for thirty years. The greatest acting performance Ronald Reagan ever gave * was his histrionic hissy fit at raising the Debt limit to $1.4 trillion, on his way to more than tripling that. We've lowered taxes, cut programs, and demonized the poor for three decades, and we're worse off than ever. This is not a part of the story?

Weigel. (Seriously, I toyed with the idea of just saying "Weigel"):
Eight months ago, in an interview Democrats love to send around even more than they like to call Republicans "extremists," Boehner predicted that the vote on the debt limit increase would be the "first really big adult moment" for new Republican members of Congress. Democrats read that as Boehner saying that Republicans would have to suck it up and raise the limit. Instead, it's turning out to be an entirely different kind of adult moment: Movement conservatives are seeing the value of playing politics, and trying to convince themselves that pure partisanship can be principled, too.

Down with the Tyranny of Meaning, Comrades!

Look, I turned 21 at the tail end of the first Nixon administration. So I lived through two Reagan and three Bush administrations as an adult. These people don't scare me anymore, because they've already done their worst; I'd just like to know why a regular paycheck and some cadged drinks convinces them they don't need to look any further than their own reflections. A handful of connected financial institutions stole from practically every American in the country, and no one seems to give a fuck so long as he's got a plasma teevee. House Republicans now object to raising the Debt Ceiling to pay for programs they--minus the eight or ten new ravening ideologues every high-water Republican election brings 'em--voted for, simply because they feel they now have carte blanche to blame all that on the President. As well they should, because he's the guy who keeps insisting they can be reasoned with. [I can't tell you how much I enjoyed the little Which President Said This About The Deficit (Surprise Answer: Ronald Reagan) moment in his speech the other day, since, 1) I was trying to imagine what audience his speechwriters thought that would work on; and 2) I love the idea that a professed Christian thinks you can shame believers by quoting holy writ.] And some fuck calls this "principled" on the grounds, apparently, that it's possible to put words together in that order and still have them recognized as English.

There are clear, calm, level-headed solutions to our economic problems. Those three adjectives insure that they're not going to be listened to. And this apparently disturbs no one at Politico, or Slate, or anywhere else all our Iraq War-flogging geniuses hang their shingles these days.

Listen: my Social Security taxes went up during the Reagan administration in order to solve the "insolvency" "problem". Take it away from me now. I'm ready. But at least one of you fucks is dying in the gutter before I go.


*Yes, it's a new record for Steep Grading Curve.

Wednesday, July 27

Pawlenty-Bachman: It's Like The Bum Of The Month Club, But Without Joe Louis

Richard Cohen, "The GOP's real headache: a lack of courage". July 25

Amy Gardner, "Pawlenty struggles to step out of Bachmann's shadow". July 27

LET'S give Richard Cohen credit, for once, the way we might credit a glacier for a glassworth's of thaw:
Still, Pawlenty should become Mr. Republican, a term once reserved for Sen. Robert Taft of Ohio. He personifies the near-total lack of leadership among leading contenders for the GOP nomination. Not only will they not confront Bachmann and the nonsense she spews, but they diligently turn their backs on their obligation to educate their own constituencies. For the time being, they seek to become president only of the 119,188 Republicans who voted in the 2008 Iowa caucus, and then only those whose conservatism has been set in concrete.

S'funny: Cohen and I are the same age, and if I saw a headline reading “Pawlenty Questions Bachmann’s Fitness” I would, assuming I gave it an instant's thought, have figured it was about her cardio workouts. Or, sure, her migraines. I would not have imagined, let alone hoped, that one Republican Presidential sweepstakes loser would have criticized another on substance, because first I would have been forced to imagine a Republican Presidential sweepstakes contender talking about substance. And the last one of those I recall was John Anderson, in 1980, at the dawn of the Ascension.

The only Republican Presidential primary season since 1964 containing anything resembling a clash of ideas was '96, and you have to use "ideas" in the loosest possible sense there to make it fit, the same way you have to use "Pat Buchanan" and "viable candidate", or "Alan Keyes" and "sane".

'96 was the primary season where Nixonians went to die, not that they were being repudiated, renounced, or killed off by anything better, but just because the Snapple of Reaganism had out-branded Gall and Wormwood, mostly by outliving it. Sure, Nixonite Bob "Bob Dole" Dole got the nomination, to widespread indifference. But the only other Nixonian to make a showing was Indiana Senator Richard "Dick" Lugar, who was handed his walking papers early, but not before he attempted, in desperation, to out-Reagan Reagan by proposing to eliminate the income tax. After that Lugar spent much of the following decade sulking that he'd pimped himself out for no return, waking only on occasion to appease the ACU vote tabulators and try to make himself look too statesmanlike to care.

Buchanan, of course, had worked for Nixon, rounding up grandmothers for Chuckles Colson to walk over, but by '96 he was more the Ur-Crazy Republican, except the confusion of ancient Israelites and modern Israelis hadn't quite been perfected in him. The first "wide-open" GOP primary in twenty years also gave us such archetypes as Keyes, Steve Forbes, and Phil Gramm, the former Dixiecrat who was essentially Jack Kemp without the sound economic ideas. That's pretty much the breadth of the party since.

True, it was hard to get down to actual issues with Bill Clinton's dick on your mind constantly, but it's not as if even that one produced any real fireworks. And since then there's been one mold. The most that happens in Republican primaries is that some "establishment" Republican--Maverick John McCain, 9/11 Rudy Giuliani, Mitch "Groundswell" Daniels--becomes the darling of the chattering class for about twenty minutes, never quite long enough to actually criticize the Raging Dementia he's supposed to serve as an antidote to. Tim Pawlenty isn't going to criticize Michele Bachmann, Crazy Jesus Fluoridation Lady. For chrissakes, where would that sort of thing end? Bachmann may indeed, okay, is too much of a lunatic to be President of a United States still populated by people who wish it to continue, but criticizing her without angering the base would be like picking all the prehistoric toads out of your coal. Pawlenty doesn't lack the "courage" to attack Bachmann. Well, maybe he does, I dunno, but it would be suicide to try. And that ain't something that started when the first Teabagger misspelled something on his placard. Nor is it some 11th Commandment horseshit. No one in the Republican party dares to attack the Crazies, because they've allowed them to take over enough of the party that you'd have to kill the patient to get rid of 'em.

By the way: the impression that this is some form of cowardice, or pure political calculation, is unwarranted speculation at this point. We're talking about people who've been Republicans their whole adult lives, all of it in the Silent Majority/White Backlash era, and never shown the slightest intention to reach for some Spackle, let alone the bug spray. I don't endorse the idea that Mitch Daniels is smarter than Sarah Palin just because he named Atlas Shrugged, and not the New Testament, as his five favorite books. In fact, I'd suggest that there's your answer. Assuming you're interested, for some reason.

Tuesday, July 26

Tuesday Olio

• Anybody seen the Inhofe family lately?

I do hope they're enjoying their summer.

• Yeah, it's been hot here, too--it's the fucking end of July, fer chrissakes--and it's supposed to get hot again, which is good, because the local teleprompter readers were really in their element, and it seems a shame to interrupt. Last week Channel 8 ("Your 24 Hour News Source") had a dietician on two days running to explain which fruits and vegetables ("watermelon") contained a lot of water, evidently for the benefit of the people who knew they needed to hydrate ("not a word"*) but don't like the taste of the stuff.

No doubt you've endured this sort of thing, too, and if so, thank Richard Nixon, since all of this traces to the Happy Talk format bullshit of the early 70s, when White People, as defined by Which Cracker Ass Yelled the Loudest, grew weary of all the bad news, as defined by anything which made White Cracker Ass politics look bad. So now, not only would the local hairdos rather talk about Nothing, most of 'em don't remember a time when that wasn't the accepted practice. So large amounts of money change hands for advertising slots during a ninety-minute festival of people talking about the weather, which you can get for free from any cashier, barber, or salesman in town. You would imagine that in the intervening forty years at least one college-educated news producer would have edged a cautious toe in the direction of a different pool, but no. Somehow it occurs to no one that for a solid week eighteen of every twenty-two minutes of local news was devoted to advising people who were hot to look for shade.

Not to mention that the advice comes from people whose only non-air-conditioned moments in summer are when they get sent out to do remotes on how hot it is.

Republicans are recalibrating on social issues, Part 4,763:
Two of the most prominent social conservatives looking toward the 2012 presidential election -- Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann -- now have suggested deferring to the states on marriage laws. That stance meshes somewhat with former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman's view, and he is perceived to be the most socially moderate candidate in the GOP field. For a party that has in the past remained adamantly opposed to gay marriage, the coming presidential race may be the forum where that position gets a fresh look.

Y'know, a year ago all Mitch Daniels had to do was stand up (okay, and prove to voters he was standing up) to brush aside the Palinistas; today the entire Republican field is one big religious mania, and the rank and file is desperately hoping that Rick Perry will join in. It is abso-fucking-lutely clear that no candidate will be tossing the Religious Right overboard, certainly not when every last one of 'em is trailing Obama by somewhere between six and infinity points.

Saying "Waall, if'n New York wants queers to marry I guess we cain't stop 'em" doesn't exactly seem a reformulation of the GOP brand to me. Not that it seems like a rallying point, either, and we might act like we've all been to a Republican rodeo before. The minute this attitude hurts Bachmann or Perry in the slightest it'll be adjusted right quick. Or, more likely, they'll just deny they ever said anything so darn foolish. When there's no more political mileage to be squeezed out of the thing, that's when the Republicans will "recalibrate". And you'll know the time has arrived, because it'll be accompanied by an insistence that gays are the real homophobes.

* at least not to me; "hydrate", as an intransitive verb, means "to cause to undergo hydration", meaning, to combine with water, which is not what you do when you drink a glass of the stuff, but saying it that way makes you sound all scientific an' shit.

Monday, July 25

And You Felt Compelled To Share This Why?

Ross Douthat, "Anders Behring Breivik May Be a Euro-Conservative, But He's No Fundamentalist Christian, So There. Plus Bill Clinton Times Infinity". July 24

I KNOW, we've played this game before, but, really: supposing you had some degree of influence over the contents of The Nation's Op-Ed Pages of Record, is this the sort of thing you'd continence? Even supposing you felt, for philosophical, political, or economic reasons that the section should reflect "both sides", or "a wide-ranging sample of contemporary viewpoints", or "some sop to the Right as a CYA for Anthony Lewis Russell Baker Frank Rich uh, whoever the Liberal is there now"? (Oh. Maureen.) Is "Ross Douthat answers some guy at Daily Kos" what you had in mind? Or "Ross Douthat Weighs In On the Burning Question of Just How Christian Some Nutjob Norwegian Mass Murderer Is"? Do you not expect something for your money? Absent the Times Douthat would be saying this same shit to strangers on the bus, provided he could find one so crowded that people had to sit next to him.

It takes him six words to mention Al Gore, and a restrained 437 before Bill Clinton exposes himself. Clinton, you'll recall, single-handedly rolled the entire Republican party in eau de McVey after the Murrah Building bombing. Douthat certainly remembers, because he was all of fifteen, and no doubt took extensive notes.

Never mind, of course, that the Oklahoma City bombing--once Bob Dole's instant analysis that "Arabs" were the obvious perpetrators became inoperative--marks the first of two occasions in postwar US history when the party on the Right opposed unfettered police powers (the other being John Ashcroft's post-9/11 intervention on behalf of responsible owners of private arsenals the size of Chechnya's).
Timothy McVeigh’s connections to Republican politics were several degrees short of tangential, but Clinton successfully linked the heartland terrorist to talk radio and the government shutdown, implying that McVeigh’s crime was part of a broader story of antigovernment conservatism run amok.

You'll have to forgive me forgetting that that occurred; somehow to me the Oklahoma City terror bombing was a big enough deal that I didn't look to Bill Clinton to explain it to me. But, then, I was just an adult.

Listen, goddam it: there are dozens of people chattering on the internets as we speak, and it doesn't matter what any of 'em are saying. It certainly doesn't matter enough that the Times has to pay some maroon to do this little tap dance every time another of his petards goes off unexpectedly. Nutjobs sometimes kill people; sometimes enough people that they impinge themselves for a moment on the raging Korsakoff's Syndrome that is popular culture and political commentary. It may be that we need to understand such people better, that we need to air our opinions about their possible motives. If so, having Ross Douthat to do it for us is worse than not doing it at all. There's plenty of room for these gotcha games to play themselves out endlessly; if Douthat needs to participate he should give up the grueling one-column-per-week pace that was encroaching on his parenting time earlier this year and stick to yelling at the six or eight people who watch him on Bloggingheads. The fucking thing about tragedies such as Norway is that in the end they don't mean anything at all. And if we are going to talk about them, maybe our first (and, wishful thinking alert, our only) consideration ought to be how to keep weapons which permit mass killing out of the hands of people willing to commit mass killings.

Friday, July 22

Friday Monon Knee Warmers

Nazz Open My Eyes
Ray Charles You Don't Know Me
James Brown Get Up Offa That Thing
Webb Wilder Human Cannonball
Family Spanish Tide
Julie Miller All My Tears
Jane's Addiction Just Because
Iggy Pop Knocking 'Em Down In The City
Spoon Anything You Want
Frank Zappa The Gumbo Variations

Thursday, July 21

Wow, Nice Petard. Yours?

DICK Lugar, Richard Nixon's Favorite Mayor, and Chief US Negotiator of the Treaty of Ghent, who is not only Indiana's longest-serving Senator but also its longest-surviving mammal, raised the ire of the two dozen or so Hoosiers who actually believe there's some distinction between "Teabagger" and "Republican" a couple years ago by voting to confirm Sonia Sotomayor. Let me repeat that in case you come from some area of the country where rationality is, if not respected, at least still nodded at in passing: people in this state who insist that they represent a non- or trans-partisan movement concerned solely with cutting taxes and government spending were ticked off because Lugar voted to confirm a qualified nominee to the Supreme Court, simply because she's a Democrat, and the guy who nominated her claims to be.

In the interim, though, Indiana's junior Senator, Republican-Democrat Evan Bayh, decided to pursue the more suitable profession of FOX News Democrat, meaning that race was sure to go to a real Republican. Though, as it turned out, just not to one from Indiana, as former Senator Dan Coats rented an apartment here and sinecured his way to the 2010 Republican nomination over two Teabagging favorites.

So the knives got sharpened for Lugar, who's always seemed just a tad bit Pink in these parts, what with his concern over limiting other country's nuclear stockpiles an' all. This despite the fact that Republicans have been reelecting him by landslide for the last hundred and seventy years. Lugar's facing his first primary challenge since the invention of television, from State Treasurer and Teabagging homunculus Richard Mourdock, whose 2010 reelection ads memorably touted his ability to earn interest on Indiana's accounts.

Earlier this year the Club for Growth, the tax-exempt opponents of tax policy now headed by former Indiana congressman Chris Chocola, started running anti-Lugar ads which pilloried him for voting to bail-out New York City in the mid-1970s, presumably because his vote to bail out the Loogootee Dirigible Company saved Hoosier jobs.

Of course, with such a storied career Lugar's had no shortage of Indiana Republicans willing to come forward and brave the wrath of the Teabaggers to defend his record. Provided they--like former Mayor Stephen Goldsmythe--are now on the New York City payroll and don't plan on returning.

And now Lugar himself has fired back, in that patented straight-shootin', let-the-chips-fall-where-they-may fashion that made him Barack Obama's choice for an example of the sort of Republican he could work with: he's released campaign ads ten months before the Indiana primaries, blaming everything on Barack Obama.

Lugar does offer irrefutable proof of his tax-and-spending-cutting bona fides. Well, at least he offers proof that he had two pictures taken with Ronald Reagan, the man who never raised taxes, when both of them were alive. No shots of Nixon, though.

Anyway, thanks all around: the political season can't start too early, the insights of the Club for Growth on American prehistory are almost as fascinating as Sarah Palin's, and listening to Indiana Republicans wondering out loud what Dick Lugar's been doing for the past four decades has almost been worth the wait.

Wednesday, July 20

Back Home Again

A reserve police officer has been accused of having sex at the Roberts Park Family Pool in Connersville.

Sunday, about 25-people looked, and then looked again, hardly able to believe what they were seeing.

"I've seen a lot of things, but this was a little bit more than what we would ever expect," eyewitness Brian Davison said.

What they were seeing, according to police, was a 39-year-old man and a 40-year-old woman having sex right there in the pool.

And instead of being happy for them, everyone was left in doubt.
"We've tried to make this a family place and it's not a family place when you're coming, doing lewd acts like that," Connersville Sports and Activies Director Daryl Drew said.

Children ruin everything.

Honestly, the great thing about this story is the quick thinking emergency response of your local officials:
"We cleared the pool, put new chemicals in, recycled the whole water," Drew said.

Really? It's a public swimming pool. A cloud of love juice would have been, what? the fourth-worst contaminant, on a good day?

Tuesday, July 19

Social Security's Been Successful For Eighty Years. Reaganisn's Been A Failure For Thirty.

AS I've mentioned here and elsewhere before, I've kept an eye on the American Right since 1964, when I was ten, and a billboard across from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway suddenly sprouted an American flag with "Impeach Earl Warren" beside it, and "John Birch Society" underneath. I was a moderately precocious child, and my father had instilled the habit of reading the morning paper in me (the rest of my kneepants political worldview came courtesy my older cousins, who taught me to read Mad magazine.) We were a Republican household (because Lincoln won the war, as John Prine said). But the damned thing bothered me no end.

This is not to say I was politically savvy, but 1) I knew who Earl Warren was; 2) I knew from the context that impeachment could not be a good thing; and 3) I knew I didn't much care for the usurpation of the flag for partisan politics. My understanding has probably improved slightly in forty-five years, but my feelings about that flag shit haven't changed.

Fluoridation, commies under every bed, Quemoy and Matsu: it's been difficult to convince someone of my age that today's wingnut differs qualitatively from his forebears. The distinction seems to be that in the interim the Sixties added Backlash, Nixon added modern communications, Reagan added Madison Avenue amorality, and a lifetime of watching teevee and videogame screens--and an all-volunteer military--removed what little reality was there to begin with.

And yeah, okay, there was the demise of the Great Bugbear, the Soviet Union, which was never the existential threat it was portrayed to be, and was barely a military threat for the last three decades of its existence, not that that mattered. Yes, the Right had to come to grips with that. And, yes, not surprisingly, it chose to pretty much go on the way it had been, regardless.

The Right is full of it, as always, but while the PR department was busy relocating the Overton window, ignored reality kept moving by its own lights. Where the Wingnut of 1946 had an argument--not a good one, or a rational one, but one which could be connected by a reasonably straight line to some defendable view of the world--today the goddam thing is an unholy (and not terribly photogenic) alliance of Nationalism and Advertising, neither of which has anything but contempt for the truth. It'd be one thing if the Republican leadership was playing brinksmanship because it thought the fate of the world was at stake; it might even count as something if it actually thought it was offering some sort of economic solution, magical or otherwise. The utter cynicism of the thing may mirror that of the Reagan Revolution, but with hair dye, fake conviviality, and simple greed replaced by the bland fascism of loyalty to the Brand. It may not be anything new in our politics--it may, in fact, be no more than Business as Usual--but it's being perpetrated by the loudest pretenders to Patriotism, our supposed Exceptionalism, to our founding documents, and to creative problem solving, and you can't find a single trumpeter of that shit who'll object in public. Not only that, you can't find anybody who seems even slightly disturbed by that turn of events; the closest you got was the sublimated unease that expressed itself in a desire to see Mitch Daniels elected President (I ask you). And somehow the primary cause of our great national dilemma--the Budget Deficit perfectly mirrors all those religiously-motivated Republican tax cuts over the past thirty years--is the one thing we're not permitted to discuss.

This is the goddam United States of America. It's one thing to be dyspeptic enough to refuse to swallow all the Exceptionalism bullshit, all the Entrepreneurial and Military Colossus bushwa; it's another to ignore the fact that it's a talented, smart, and creative land we live in which has been manipulated into confusing duck paté and goose shit to the extent that many of our fellows can no longer taste the difference. I do not understand why. I'd appreciate it if everyone would go get th' fuck laid, for once.

[By the way, anyone believe there's nothing comparable to Murdock's purchase of the British constabulary at work on this side of the Pond?]

Monday, July 18

The Seven Types of People You Meet On The Monon.*

1. Captain Trips (there's at least three; maybe it's just my neck of the woods)
2. Barbie
3. Barbie Emeritus
4. Serious Women Runners

OKAY, first: I'm not really doing this; there aren't many Barbies, but plenty of Clawers Just On the Farside of the Barbie Slope; and the Serious Women Runner shows my age. It's not that there weren't serious women runners in my day--which is, or was, a day when girls' high school athletic competition in Indiana was organized by something called the GAA, Girls' Athletic Association, I suppose, as though it required an extra level of protection for those Special Days. My sister was a superb athlete, an overachieving little sparkplug type, and her high school letter is branded "GAA", as though it didn't really count--it's that today they're more dedicated, more disciplined, and have better form than 95% of the males I see.

Title IX happened between the time I graduated from high school and the time I entered college. And along with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which it appended, it's a perfect example of government "social engineering" which extended the rights of citizenship long unfairly and unwisely denied, something which would not have happened had the Durn Fool Gubment not acted. But me no buts about it. And, conversely, it's a prime example of the sort of institutional and individual foot-dragging--not to mention cries of "Tyranny!"-- the advancement of individual rights has met since Reconstruction.

Anyway, sorry posting has been light, and it ain't like politics doesn't impinge on my every spin of the crank. I'll be back tomorrow.

Oh, and a kitten.


* Just kiddin'. I don't actually meet any of these people, of course.

Friday, July 15

Friday Monon Knee Warmers

Ian Dury Reasons to be Cheerful, Part 3
Iggy Pop Five Foot One
Richard Thompson Two-Faced Lover
Mink DeVille Mixed Up Shook Up Girl
Richard X. Heyman Falling Away
Tom Waits Downtown Train
Southern Culture on the Skids Fried Chicken and Gasoline
Eddie Floyd Knock on Wood
Gruppo Sportivo Girls Never Know
Joe Jackson (Do the) Instant Mash

Thursday, July 14

Olio: Default Edition

[Ron] Paul will leave Congress next year as arguably the most intellectually influential member of the House of Representatives in a generation. (I write "arguably" even though trying to think of a runner-up is a deeply depressing task.)

Hell, it's a lot less depressing than parsing either "intellectual" or "influential", Dave. But, yeah: even if it were true it would be an honor on the level of being named KISS's greatest musical influence.

And none of that can match contemplation of those Too Smart To Be Republican Libertarian-Republicans who imagine they can praise Paul's influence one day and puzzle over how their party became too ideologically hidebound to maneuver the next.

• By the way, what is there in Eric Cantor's America that's worth saving, anyway? Not corporations; they've got no allegiance to America, or none beyond our willingness to provide Gunboat Diplomacy at little or no cost to the beneficiary. Not the people John Boehner called "jobs creators" the other day without turning red-orange. (It's funny: we can't tax Jobs Creators, and we can't expect them to create actual jobs in the US. This sorta leaves only one possible reason they even qualify as a category to Republican politicians.) It's been instructive to watch Murdock get piled on from all sides in Britain. Sure, sure, it's a mass outbreak of Captain Renault Syndrome, but how much Congressional Republican outrage do you think that'd garner over here? How much Democratic, for that matter? Y'know, if these fucks really were concerned about the Federal deficit the first thing they'd do is resign en masse.

Michael Tomasky, "How Bachmann Could Win":
…when movements capture parties, strange things happen. The antiwar faction captured the Democratic Party in 1972, giving us the candidacy of George McGovern, and the tea party movement has captured the GOP now.

First, as a first step to finally ridding ourselves of the National Nightmare of Boomerdom, could people who don't know what th' fuck they're talking about quit talking about it? In terms of influencing the 1972 Democratic primaries, the "anti-war movement" "capturing" the Democratic party, in addition to Not Actually Happening, ranks behind 1) Chappaquiddick; 2) Ed Muskie, the Ur-John Kerry; 3) Ed Muskie's tears, the '72 replay of George Romney's Brainwashing for the Mass Market News; 4) George Wallace; 5) Arthur Bremer; 6) an excellent campaign organization run by some sharp cookies; 7) the democratization of the primary process after 1968; and 8) just about anything else you could dream up, provided your sense of history doesn't come from Happy Days reruns.

Let's us say this again: in 1972 something like 50% of the American public opposed the continuation of the Vietnam War, then in its eleventh or sixteenth or fifty-fourth year, depending on who's counting. That number included George McGovern, and he benefitted from that support during the primaries, and was hurt by it (Abortion, Acid, and Amnesty!) in the general. His crackpot economic ideas gave us the EITC, one of the most important additions to the tax code in the Tax Lawyer Era. McGovern did not represent a "takeover" of the Democratic party by "The Left"; he represented the mood of the liberal half of the country at the time. (It's funny that one never finds the Early Middle Aged complaining about how anti-Iraq war sentiment gave us Barack Obama.) Finally, the tragedy of 1972 is not that the Democratic party nominated a Way Out Leftist Kook. It's that Richard Nixon won reelection. After, by the way, a team of burglars employed by the President of the United States broke into Democratic National headquarters. This made all the papers at the time, but seems to've been obscured in the interim by the Bill Ayers Era.

There really was an anti-war movement during the Vietnam war. It represented something of a break with the hyper-militarism of the Post-War era, though it also echoed domestic opposition to Korea. It came about only after the public had been lied to, nakedly and repeatedly. Its influence continues to be felt today, despite the concerted effort to rewrite the history and remilitarize the popular sentiment; it survives because the truth never quite goes away. Cf the Teabagging Revolution, which amounts to the latest in a long line of Republicans doubling down on anti-government insanity every time "reality" smacks 'em in the face, this time while pretending not to be Republicans. Michelle Bachmann may very well lead this Lunatics' Parade down Pennsylvania Avenue some benighted day, and it might change a lot of things, but not by virtue of being correct.

• My Poor Wife gave me the DVD set of The World At War some years ago, and I pull it out every now and then and watch a half-dozen episodes and marvel at it (and Olivier's narration). It's always interesting to be reminded that the Brits, while giving him his due as a wartime leader, never really lost sight of the fact that Churchill was a colossal asshole.

Tuesday, July 12

Tina Brown, Genius

Peter J. Boyer, "Sarah Palin Plots Her Next Move". July 10

ASSUMING, that is, you imagine "genius" could describe someone who dreams up new labels for half-eaten candy bars she finds discarded on the sidewalk.

Okay, fine: some guy's got a warehouse full of buggy whips in the Model T era, and you're hired to sell them. The fact that I didn't think Newsweek was salvageable when I was a teenager is immaterial. The fact that you imagine putting Sarah Palin on the cover of something else will do it is irrelevant. Hell, maybe it's Justin Bieber. I'm 57 years old. It's not like my entire lifetime hasn't been spent wondering what th' fuck it is makes things popular: Bonanza, Herman's Hermits, Disco, the Iraq War. It's not like I don't understand that what was rightly viewed as the lowest form of schlock back when William Castle was dishing it out to drive-in moviegoers is now seen as Capitalism's great contribution to the culture. It's just that I don't understand why you'd get up every morning and do it. How much better can ya eat? My Poor Wife had on one of those morning "news" shows with some idiot blathering about longevity, and I said, "Why would these people want to live forever? They think there'll be another Dan Brown novel every two years to eternity?"

I don't care. Sell the rubes whatever you have to sell them, but is there some glory in plumbing the depths? A Nobel for discovering a new Lowest Common Denominator? Jesus Christ, this thing is 4200 words, and it's about nothing. It consists of a handful of Palin quotes (saying nothing, of course, but translated into English from Gibberish) and a few loving paragraphs about that fanboy and his movie (which, you'll be relieved to know, is probably going to make back its initial investment thanks to a distribution deal with Wal*Mart; so much, I guess, for Setting the Record Straight with those of us who have been so badly misinformed about the Half-Term Governor's many accomplishments). In fact the movie seems to've been the guiding light here. We get Sarah Palin, the crusading Governor who tackled Big Oil, and who cobbled together a legislative coalition of Mostly Democrats to do so, Sarah Palin, brave tax hiker, Sarah Palin, Maverick.

Of course the problem is--well, the real problem is that most of us have heard the woman speak, or "speak"--none of this ever explains why she can't go five minutes without saying "Lamestream Media", why she can't say anything insightful about Barack Obama, or why she sounds like a jayvee softball coach trying to inspire a group of twelve-year-olds with some half-remembered Reaganisms she learned second hand in a church league. If she used to be so thoughtful, how'd she go stale so fast? I've read three or four Palin hagiographies, for some reason, and none ever begins to try explaining why she fucking quit the governorship of Alaska. There's always some mumble-jumble about her opponents, as though most states chose their top executives by acclamation. I've yet to see anything approaching an explanation, let alone an honest one; none of her defenders will say, "Well, she saw an opportunity to cash in," even though they believe that's as American as caribou pie. It's the dog that didn't bark. As if we needed one.

Sure, sure: I think Sarah Palin is unqualified for any political job other than FOX commentator, "best-selling" author, or buffoon, and I think anyone who insists she's qualified to be President of the United States, or Governor of the Tundra, for that matter, is a liar or an idiot, and probably both. But could someone at least try? Address why so many Americans--who've seen her in action--think she's beyond laughable? Jeez Louise, you people had eight years to do this with Bush. Maybe you should have, y'know, practiced.

Sunday, July 10

I Suppose We Should Just Be Thankful It's Not At Half-Staff

Indianapolis Star photo Charlie Nye

LEAVE us not mistake each other here. This is part of yesterday's Whiteland (Motto: Yes. Yes It Is.), Indiana, procession for James Allen "Jimmy" Waters, killed in Afghanistan on July 1st, aged 21 years. It is well to show your respect for his service and his sacrifice, your respect for the loved ones who have lost his companionship when his life should just be beginning. It's okay with me if you want to assuage your guilt at sending young Americans off to kill, and die, for nothing other than a ten-year fit of pique. None of that makes the flag of the United States of America a piece of apparel. It doesn't belong on your sweaty torso. It doesn't belong on your little girl's tank top. It's doesn't belong on the Colts' helmets, or on the lapel of your favorite politician. It doesn't belong to you. If you can't be bothered to treat it respectfully, then at least quit using it as a facile substitute for genuine sentiment and real thought.

Friday, July 8

Friday Monon Knee Warmers

Adrian Belew One of Those Days
Eno No One Receiving
Carlene Carter I'm So Cool
The Dave Clark Five Try Too Hard
David Byrne His Wife Refused
Bryan Ferry Let's Stick Together
Dave Edmunds I Hear You Knocking
The Nazz Open My Eyes
Kathleen Edwards 12 Bellevue
Mott the Hoople One of the Boys

Thursday, July 7

Nobody Could Have Predicted That, Vol. MMCDXXXII

Scott Elliott, "Good schools fearful of bad grades: Critics say rating system may unfairly penalize high-achieving schools". July 7

OUR story so far: beginning with the egregious No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (enthusiastic, and later regretful, co-sponsor: Ted Kennedy), plausible, or "plausible" deniability that right-wing education "reform" was aimed at poor urban districts and teachers' unions has been supplied by the requirement that all schools show improvement under the act, a legislative beard Indiana cheerfully donned when the Daniels administration began its own offensive. (It's always instructive, and frequently touching, when the Republican party demonstrates a vague understanding that the law is required to be fair, at least while the cameras are rolling. Innit?)

Well, Time, as is its wont, evidentally, has continued marching, and the Piper, as usual, has turned up with an invoice. And guess what? We didn't really mean it!
Munster High School in Lake County has been ranked one of the nation's best high schools by Newsweek magazine.

Sorry to butt in, but that means shit. Literally.
So why is Principal Steve Tripenfeldas worried? So worried, in fact, he sent a letter to the Indiana Board of Education?

Because under the state's rules, his school is about to receive its "letter grade" state rating -- and it's, gulp, a C.

"Don't let a school that has an (end-of-course exam) passing rate well over 90 percent for Algebra 1 and just under 90 percent in English 10 with large gains be labeled as a C school," he wrote. "Before the letter grades are published, please work to make sure that those letter grades are accurate."

"Accurate", in this instance, means "flattering to well-off Republican districts with no tradition of the Gentleman's C".
For years, Indiana has laid down a tough penalty on schools that failed to make "adequate yearly progress" (AYP) under the federal No Child Left Behind law. When the state rates schools, flunking AYP means a two-step demotion on the state's five-category rating scale.

The state board now wants to move away from counting AYP against schools, but new state rules won't come fast enough to help schools this year.

"Can we give ourselves a waiver?" board member David Shane asked at Wednesday's board meeting.

The answer is "maybe."

Maybe. That's education administration jargon for "Definitely, soon as no one's looking".
Indiana's move to A to F letter grades this year when ratings are released July 22 has raised the stakes for the AYP penalty. The goal of the letter grades is to make state ratings more understandable than the current categories of exemplary progress, commendable progress, academic progress, academic watch and academic probation.

Tripenfeldas' letter expresses the concern of many Indiana educators -- people understand that C means "average." State board members agreed letter grades have changed the landscape.

It's interesting that not only does much depend on who owns the ox, and who does the goring, but how often the people complaining now were the ones holding the pike when the whole thing started.
"I understand the rationale, but at the same time we're working on a flawed system out there," state board member Mike Pettibone said. "Our public is going to think Munster High School is a C high school."

When the public is only supposed to believe that every urban school deserves an F.
AYP, as it was originally designed, was supposed to force schools to focus attention on groups of students that often were overlooked. "Subgroups" whose test score growth is tracked under AYP include ethnic minorities, such as blacks and Hispanics, but also students in special education classes, kids with disabilities, poor children and those learning English as a second language.

For schools with lots of qualifying kids, there can be many subgroups. Tripenfeldas, for example, complained that Munster has 33 subgroups and only one -- a subgroup with 41 special education students -- fell short of the required test gains. Lawrence's Harrison Hill has taken a rating hit in the past when just one of its 29 subgroups didn't make AYP.

Right. It's absolutely unconscionable to penalize Munster schools when they bear the burden of educating almost 90% of the state average number of special education students, or as they struggle to overcome a poverty rate almost 31% of the Indiana average or cope with half the English language learners of the average school district.

Jesus Christ. If we could just figure a way to make cars run on nausea and bullshit we'd be fixed.

Wednesday, July 6

Olio: I'm Out Of It Edition

• How did the meeting go, say, at ABC News yesterday? Was there some debate over whether ten minutes at the top of the national news was sufficient coverage of the Casey Anthony trial? Did they decide against a Special Report for later in the evening? Was there one malcontent in the back asking if they couldn't find something more important to do? (I'm just kiddin' about that last one.)

I have absolutely no knowledge of this thing, aside from the fact that it involves a child who died in a bathtub or drowned in a pool (and, may I add, it took a considerable amount of steely-eyed reserve to limit it to that). Nevertheless, I feel I've lived a rich and rewarding life.

Despite the concerns of some of our best minds, Irony seems to've pulled through the Piss-Pants Era just fine. But Shame just dropped by the side of the highway sometime during Ronald Reagan's first press conference, and everyone just tiptoes around the rotting carcass and pretends he doesn't smell anything. Really: did someone at NBC figure that if they didn't lead with a regional murder story viewers would tune out in the millions?

And the worst of it from a personal perspective is that I absently turned to local Channel 8 at the news weather hour, and was met with Disgraced Former Marion County Prosecutor and Tim Durham Henchweasel Carl "Facetime" Brizzi, who's gone from grafterrific elected official making unwise and unethical comments on the local news at every opportunity, to 8's "legal analyst". Imagine turning on the teevee in your Houston hotel room and finding Tom DeLay on the Redistricting Beat.

• I'm spending entirely too much time on the bike trail, and starting to wonder how I'm gonna manage when it gets too cold to ride. (We've got a stationary bike, and last year I rode it longer than I rode outdoors, but last year my knees were much worse off and the stationary bike was easier on them. This year I'm gonna be fighting boredom.)

It's really tempting to see the Monon Trail as a microcosm of America Herself: a lot of basically nice, pleasantly mazed folks whose lives and well-being are constantly threatened by a dedicated cadre of high-tech Nazis in bike outfits.

But I won't; for now I'll just mention that 1) lactic acid is not your friend, unless you drink German wine and have more patience than most of your countrymen; 2) excessive solarization is not your friend if you plan on living past the age of 23; and 3) wicking teeshirts remove sweat more efficiently than going shirtless, so please fucking stop.

• Exercise Nazis, in general: I was fairly athletic, in my youth, which was long enough ago that my daily tennis outings were disturbed to the point of rage killing by the Tennis Boom of the early 70s, and the luster of a track career was dimmed by the Jogging Craze. (I got off easy; my friend Cowboy Clint, a real working cowboy, had to buy a complete new wardrobe when Urban Cowboy became a hit.) I've managed to avoid these people like the plague--precisely like the plague--for thirty some years now by the simple expedient of being lazy. I'm all for physical exertion. I love sport, and I'm still pretty competitive. I admire people I meet on the trail who are training hard--I'm particularly impressed that there are so many women out there who know how to run--and it's good to see people who, conversely, are having fun at it. But 40% give every impression that they're there as an excuse to buy outfits.

• On the other hand: foam rollers entered my cloistered reality about four days ago, and I'm 100% sold on them already. And weighted juggling balls are the next coolest thing to learning to use a speed bag.

• I'm not sure how long I overlooked it, but my local post office branch flies a POW/MIA flag right under Old Glory. I've written in to ask on who's authority, but you know how the mails are.

Another microcosm: apparently lost to the Mists of Time is the fact that this thing started out as a political argument: the US shouldn't recognize Vietnam--in fact, should go back and finish the job--because of the thousands of POWs still being held by the Commies. This, of course, was pure bullshit, essentially a road-show version of the Manchurian Candidate tales about Korea, and an offshoot of the whole We Weren't Allowed To Win business. The Vietnamese were extraordinarily forthcoming in the search for missing Americans, far more than any country which had expelled an invader could have been expected to be. As for now--who's missing, exactly? Who's got a hidden camp full of captured Americans? Nobody. We're the captors, not the captives, and it's been that way for forty years now. This is just another tic of excessive militarization. I'll let you know if I ever hear back.

Monday, July 4

Happy Birthday, Murica

WE'VE had our own Missing Blonde story here the past month, an IU student who disappeared of a 4 AM about a month ago. One of the last places Lauren Spierer was seen in public was a Bloomington bar. Lauren Spierer was a year short of being there legally.

This didn't rate much more than a mention on the timeline with the locals--cynics of my height and shoe size occasionally note that commercial enterprises that cater to middle-class pursuits rarely do--until the official search was more-or-less called off, when the Indianapolis Star noted the bar in question was the source of a notable percentage of the underage drinking citations issued by State Excise.

And here's the thing, Murica: that story brought a predictable number of the Star's commenters (caution: don't go there) to insist this amounted to some sort of war on Freedom. Freedom! The freedom to drink if you please, the freedom to sell liquor to people the law says are minors. This is a change, Murica, and not for the better. Listen, you and I know that on occasion my willfulness trumps your ordinances, and did so to a greater extent when I was that age. But I always knew where the line was before I crossed it, and I didn't use any Randbabble to excuse myself. (For that matter, th' fuck did I want to pay to drink in bars? When did being impoverished stop being part of the college experience?) This sort of crap is recent, it's the direct result of facile libertarianism (pardon my redundancy) being manipulated by the Republican party. You may recall, Murica, that we had this conversation a few years back, when every pundit who pockets teevee money fell all over himself excusing the Bush Twins for being nabbed with fake IDs, on the scientific grounds that Everybody Does It, a standard previously applied only to scrupulousness of tax preparation on the part of corporations and persons in the punditological tax bracket. It sure didn't catch on as a general maxim after that. No "Everybody Says Racist Things" or "We've All Texted Photos of our Junk, Haven't We?"

Where did the distinction between Freedom and License go, Murica? The same place honesty and fairness went? Y'know, if you manage to blow out all 235 candles today…

Friday, July 1

Friday Monon Knee Warmers *

Boz Scaggs Some Change
Deaf School Thunder and Lightning
Frank Black Hang On To Your Ego
Randy Newman It's Money That I Love
The Strangeloves I Want Candy
The Vibrators Stiff Little Fingers
Pere Ubu Flames Over Nebraska
Love My Little Red Book
Kings of Leon Pistol of Fire
The Loud Family Aerodeliria


* Just songs from my iPod Shuffle (4th Generation) that happened along like an old (or really old) friend to give me a little encouragement on the trail.