Wednesday, August 31

Wednesday Olio: It's A Cookbook! Edition

• Okay, so my first thought was "This is news for whom, now? The five people who showed up at O'Donnell's book signing?" Then I realized that that might double Politico's readership without appreciably lowering its average IQ. Good move.

• And my first thought here was "Oh, Politico's management gave every employee the same Word-a-Day calendar last Christmas." But that doesn't work, since "panic" in the first instance consists of spokessentients for four "leftist" "special interests" (Women, Gun Violence, the Separation of Church and State, Al Sharpton) stating their dislike for the Governor's politics in what seem like fairly calm, and certainly complete, sentences (and apparently in response to a question some journalist asked); "not panic", in the second, describes being forced to kiss Jim DeMint's ass in public, and having your advisers, real and self-declared, urge you to start swinging at Perry real quick, before the Teabag Party appoints him President.
But even as the primary is fought on conservative turf, liberal leaders say they and their constituents see Perry as far worse than your average, hated Republican, and indeed as bad — if not worse — than his hated predecessor in Austin, George W. Bush.

Y'know, the median age in the United States is around 35, and the median age of voters adds another decade. This suggests that the typical "liberal" "leader" should have a passing familiarity with Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, and probably should have confronted the presidencies of one or more Bushes from a liberal perspective. Th' fuck is there left to panic about? Why would anyone in his right mind imagine that a Romney presidency would be "more moderate" on gun control just because Rick Perry is a pandering loon in a bandolier? What gun control? We fucked this country up royally in 1980. It is the year to which you can trace the decline of the middle class, the ascension of Property over Personal rights, the end of Fairness on the public airwaves, and the national agenda being set by slimy televangelists. The two centrist Democrat administrations in the interim have sought mainly to find a common ground between Reaganism and their own pollsters' notion of what wins elections; historical Democratic majorities in both Houses did nothing whatsoever for their supposed constituencies. I sure don't relish the idea of another Bush, but does that make me feel more confident about Mitt Fucking Romney? No it does not. I'll relax about it when this shit is thoroughly discredited, in the public debate and at the ballot box, the same as it has been in reality. Or else when the tainted Chinese catfood kills me. I'll panic about it never. The people who ought to panic about Rick Perry are the Mitch Danielses and the David Brookses and all the other fuckers who've been whistling past that graveyard for thirty years now.

Maybe Rick Perry is 8% worse than Romney, and 15% worse than Obama; if I had a serious alternative I'd be donating money to the cause. When we fuck up Social Security, Medicare, reproductive rights, the public schools--that is, when we fuck them up to Republican standards, not just Democratic Bargaining Position standards--and arm every citizen so we can gun down anyone who doesn't Pray in school, I'm not going to panic. I'm going to watch, and try to enjoy, as much as possible, as the slow dawning of what they've accomplished seeps over the Republican rank and file, aka the rightward part of the new permanent Serf class. We've had thirty years to wake up from this shit now. The continued slumber is not due to lack of evidence.

• Meanwhile, I hope you weren't too overcome by Perry Panic to enjoy the tour of The Opulent Digs of Aisha Gaddafi, the Uday and Qusay of Libya, as brought to you by teevee reporters outraged by the pretentiousness of Wealth and the stratification of someone else's society.

• South by Southwest Festival gets politicized; proposed lineup includes:

"Poli-Sci-Fi Punditry: Nerdy Political Bloggers," featuring Slate's David Weigel, The Washington Monthly's Steve Benen, The Washington Post's Ezra Klein, the American Prospect's Adam Serwer and the Center for American Progress's Alyssa Rosenberg.

More tainted Chinese catfood, anyone?

Tuesday, August 30

Tuesday Olio

• Shorter David Brooks, "The Haimish Line". August 29:

Slumming can be a lot of fun, if you're a college student or on an African safari.

I do my best to hide it, but between you and me I'm not exactly enamored of American culture (and the feeling seems to be mutual). I turn on the teevee news, or, if you want an example from the former world of literacy, click open the Times, and I'm confronted by idiocy within forty-five seconds. Not merely the idiocy of other people's enthusiasms, but aggressive, intentional, over-boiled tripe. There are any number of "refinements", but this culture has essentially become, in the words of my friend Gary, a dichotomous, good-natured bar-wager struggle between the forces of Beer and Pussy. That tastes differ is not a question for debate. What we probably should be discussing, though, is whether the sum total of all bottom-feeding pleasures justifies the cacophonous and constant attempt to make a buck by lowering them.

Is there a voice anywhere for this? Maybe in academia; maybe Louis C.K. It has to be expressed sardonically. Because it sure ain't gonna cut through the clatter, and it ain't gettin' on the nightly news to make them look like they haven't been doing their jobs for the last forty years. Receding daylight has allowed, or forced, me to tune in local morning news for bicycling weather; I have, in the last two days, witnessed not one, not two, but three stories whose entire point was to inform early-AM viewers of a sale or coupon opportunity available at a fast-food abasement.

Which brings us yet again to Brooks, and to the Times: how, in the middle of this, does the nation's most influential editorial page come to feature the staged worldview of Mr. Scoutmaster?

• What's the emoticon for "rolls eyes skyward and prays for Slate-specific Deluge"? Weigel:
So let's adjust our outrage-o-meters. Cuts-for-aid is the new normal.
No. Let's roll back the thirty years of moronity at least far enough to call it what it is: the latest expression of how far gone the Republican party, and its sycophants in the Press, truly are.

Look: maybe the American public can be boiled by degrees without even noticing, like a frog, for the benefit and amusement of the top 2% of wealth holders (and their sycophants in the Press). But that doesn't make it wise, sensible, or sane, let alone normal.

Y'know, pace Michele Bachmann, His lunatic spokesinmate, God's Latest Message wiped out a lot of Republicans; the ones he sends to the Gulf, or the Prairie, often wipe out little but. It's either our collective will to assist our countrymen in an emergency, or it's not. If not, then let's vote, up or down, to enshrine the principle of 19th century neglect once and for all. In daylight, with Republican fingerprints all over it.

Yeah, we have a budget. Yeah, it's not unlimited, unless we're buying bombs, or buying replacement bombs. Our present deficit was caused by the Bush Tax Cuts, chiefly owned by the Republican party from 2001--2009, which is still the principle partner. In the 21st century, where many of us live, natural disasters do less damage to persons, thanks to technology, and much more damage to property, thanks to incontinent development. So who gets hurt? 1) People directly underneath; and 2) Business.

I honestly don't know which is worse: the cynical games-playing of the hard-core Right, or people like Weigel who think it's all good for a chuckle.

And this is what one always wants to know about candidates who flourish the Good Book or who presume to talk about hell and damnation. Do they, themselves, in their heart of hearts, truly believe it? Is there any evidence, if it comes to that, that Perry has ever studied the theory of evolution for long enough to be able to state roughly what it says? And how much textual and hermeneutic work did he do before deciding on the "inerrancy" of Jewish and Christian scripture? It should, of course, be the sincere believers and devout faithful who ask him, and themselves, these questions. But somehow, it never is. The risks of hypocrisy seem forever invisible to the politicized Christians, for whom sufficient proof of faith consists of loud and unambiguous declarations. I am always surprised that more is not heard from sincere religious believers, who have the most to lose if faith becomes a matter of poll-time dogma and lung power.

Michele Bachmann, by the way, blasphemed in speaking for God, then consciously blasphemed in saying she was just joking. Heard anybody mention that? Or is it excused under the Crazy meme?

And remember when she proved she was a Serious candidate in that first debate, by speaking in complete sentences? Does Weigel?

Monday, August 29

Epistemology Is The Last Refuge Of The Magical Thinker

Ross Douthat, "Just because Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry are utter loons (and you didn't hear that from me) is no reason to assume their religious manias are not reasonable, nuanced, and flexible. After all, look at me. Besides, religious people don't actually mean what they say. I mean, c'mon". August 29

TWO old friends meet here: our USENET-vintage observation that sooner or later every internet discussion--including those between Ross Douthat and the imaginary liberals he vanquishes once a week--devolves into an Epistemology lecture for incoming freshman, generally conducted by a third-year sophomore, and the recognition, so familiar to anyone who's had Dick Lugar as his Senator for the last two lifetimes, that the only principles "moderate" Republicans are willing to stand up for are those held by the right-wing crackpots they vote with. Although on reflection this does not really distinguish them from moderate Democrats.

[Speaking of epistemology, most Mondays I wonder, briefly, about the vestigial organ that is "moderate" Republicanism. Does Douthat deserve the term, just because (in print) the terms of his inexplicable employment trump his own theocratic tendencies? Douthat's personal objections to gay marriage are religious; he won't say so in print, because it makes him look like a Bronze Age bigot, rather than the Hahvahd man the Times hired. His moderation is the artificial reasonableness of the man who hopes above all that you don't discover that fifth ace in his sock. He's no more moderate than Bill Fuhbuckley was, just perhaps a little less congenitally well-off. You could figure that David Brooks would not be too confounded by a newly-legal gay couple buying the condo one flight up. The best you can say about Douthat, on the other hand, is that you'd be surprised to learn he was the one who dropped their Yorkie down the trash chute.]

Fuck it, let's roll:
During George W. Bush’s presidency, many liberal and secular Americans came to regard religious conservatives not merely as their political opponents, but as a kind of existential threat.

Once again, History begins when Douthat took notice of it, or once he figured out its partisan political significance.
Rather, it was an essentially illiberal force, bent on gradually replacing our secular republic with what Kevin Phillips’s 2006 best seller dubbed an “American Theocracy.”

I can't speak for liberal and secular America, but as I recall Phillips' point wasn't that this was something new; rather that under George W. this faction had considerably increased its influence in Republican politics.

And Phillips, of course, is something of a special case, since he was a Republican insider, so his estimation of when this "takeover" began might differ from mine, or secular America's. At any rate, some liberal and secular Americans might point to Carl McIntire, Billy James Hargis, or Charlie Coughlin--hell, even Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, to name a couple Douthat might have heard of and repressed--to suggest that the right-wing theocratic impulse isn't exactly new.
These anxieties dissipated once the Republican majority imploded. In the Obama era, debates over the economy and health care crowded out arguments about sex education and embryo destruction, and liberals found a new set of right-wing extremists to worry about: Tea Party activists, birth certificate obsessives, the Koch brothers.

The Reader is reminded here that this "Liberals do this, Liberals obsess over that" routine--all incognito beyond the title of a Kevin Phillips book--is at the service of Douthat's complaint that the Religious Right is unfairly treated as monolithic.
But with the rise of first Michele Bachmann and then Rick Perry in the presidential polls, and the belated liberal realization that many Tea Partiers are also evangelical Christians...

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: talking to yourself does not noticeably improve argumentation. It's the Teabaggers who pretended to not be religious, or to have jettisoned the religious trappings to concentrate on the all-out effort to end Socialism. I can't name a single leftblogger who bought the story. I can't name any who forgot that Sarah Palin existed as of January 2009. Maybe Amy Sullivan. Believing your own hype is bad enough, Ross. When it leads to snake handling, drinking unfiltered Mississippi River water, or searching for some rhetorical sense in which Paul Revere did warn the British, you need professional help.
Beginning with Ryan Lizza’s profile of Bachmann in The New Yorker, a spate of recent articles have linked the Republican presidential candidates to scary-sounding political theologies like “Dominionism” and “Christian Reconstructionism,” and used these links to suggest that Christian extremism is once more on the march.

Again the Reader is reminded that this critique comes from the direction of the American "Conservative" movement, whose political capital comes from having trademarked Pinko™ in the 1940s, plus residuals from an uncounted number of successful spin-offs since, including Criminal Coddlers, My Mother the Limousine Liberal, The Real Racists of Blue State America, and The Baby Killers.

Look, Ross: the reason there are "suddenly" Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry articles is that they are "suddenly" at the top of the Republican leader board. The reason some of those articles are unflattering to the point of questioning either's sanity is that sometimes the truth does get printed.
But here are four points that journalists should always keep in mind when they ask and then write about religious beliefs that they themselves don’t share.

First, conservative Christianity is a large and complicated world, and like other such worlds — the realm of the secular intelligentsia very much included — it has various centers and various fringes, which overlap in complicated ways.

One can say the same about Capitalism, Crime, and Cornflakes (or the Journalists Who Write About Religious Beliefs They Don't Share, for that matter). It doesn't mean all generalizations are equally worthless, nor that one may only seek to vivisect Bachmann's crank worldview, or Perry's show-off piety, once the scalpel is infinitely sharp.
Second, journalists should avoid double standards. If you roll your eyes when conservatives trumpet Barack Obama’s links to Chicago socialists and academic radicals, you probably shouldn’t leap to the conclusion that Bachmann’s more outré law school influences prove she’s a budding Torquemada.

It's easy to remember Kids: faux-fairness kicks in with the second incident, just as in professional sports, where the second guy to throw a punch is the one who usually gets ejected.

Although we should note that Douthat does not condone the corollary--or wouldn't, were it possible for him to be open on the Times pages, or honest about anything--that the solid week of teevee media time devoted to Jeremiah Wright means those who did preempt real stories in 2008 to run snippets of Wright's sermons are now honor bound to start nosing around Perry's theological connections or Bachmann's magical belief system.
Third, journalists should resist the temptation to apply the language of conspiracy to groups and causes that they find unfamiliar or extreme. Republican politicians are often accused of using religious “code words” and “dog whistles,” for instance, when all they’re doing is employing the everyday language of an America that’s more biblically literate than the national press corps.

There is No Fucking Way the national press corps is less biblically literate than America. The scale only goes to Zero.
Finally, journalists should remember that Republican politicians have usually been far more adept at mobilizing their religious constituents than those constituents have been at claiming any sort of political “dominion.”

I know it was before your time, Ross, but way back in the 80s--the 1980s--when the boom in cable television, following rapidly on the heels of the generalized acquisition of electricity in their neck of the woods, caused several backwoods preachers--the epithet refers to the origin of their garbled theology, not a presumed inability to Spot a Mark--to recognize just how much a low-watt station, satellite communications, and the good folks at the Federal Communications Commission could assist in spreading the Good News About Jesus. This just happened to occur almost simultaneously with the generalized move to the Republican party by former Yellow Dog Democrats, and the election of Ronald Wilson "Take All The Licenses You Need, Boys!" Reagan.

Yes, in the interim the Republican party harvested a ton of votes while hoping that Brother Pat and Cousin Jerry, et. al., proved more interested in short-term venality than Eternal growth, a supposition well-founded in the history of the breed, and mostly borne out: the Republican party has yet to seriously challenge reproductive rights, or amend the Constitution to permit school prayer and prohibit mosque construction. The Religious Right leadership has been fine with this for four decades. It accepted George H.M.S. Bush, then sat on its hands and clamped its jaws shut for Bob Dole. George W. was its accidental candidate; his Christianity dated to a need to excuse his drunken frat-boy past, then to cover up his incompetent Presidential present. Evangelicals loved him. This did not noticeably budge his competence factor.

In return, the FCC fined whatever network broadcast Janet Jackson's African breast armor, and the entire GOP establishment ran to DC on command to save Terri Schavo, which caused any number of Republicans suddenly to discover they were sharing a party with people who thought Adam, Eve, and John Wayne's great-great grandfather rode dinosaurs.

These people thought '08 was their year, but the Bush administration took the brand down with it, with the help of the usual number of sex and money scandals among the Elect. Sam Brownback went nowhere. Huckabee had a good run, but he was savvy enough to save the preachin' for the Flock, and, as it turned out, he had signed a bill that raised Arkansas' cigarette tax 2¢, and so was theologically suspect to begin with.

If the Religious Right has been less than omnipotent over the last three decades of public gridlock, it's not for lack of trying.
Perry knows how to stroke the egos of Texas preachers, but he was listening to pharmaceutical lobbyists, not religious conservatives, when he signed an executive order mandating S.T.D. vaccinations for Texas teenagers.

Which he now repudiates. Fer chrissakes, the fact that these morons sometimes listen to an even higher power--Mammon (that's a Biblical reference, so your colleagues won't get it)--proves nothing. Let me know when the "I'm Rick Perry, and I'm Slippery Enough to be Your Next President" Tour reaches the Bible Belt.

However, I would like to nominate "listening to pharmaceutical lobbyists", with its suggestion that Evil Profits drive the argument for HPV vaccinations, for a Pulitzer in the Respecting the Nuance of Opposing Arguments the Way He Was Demanding of His Opponents 250 Words Earlier category.
This last point suggests the crucial error that the religious right’s liberal critics tend to make. They look at Christian conservatism and see a host of legitimately problematic tendencies: Manichaean rhetoric, grandiose ambitions, apocalyptic enthusiasms. But they don’t recognize these tendencies for what they often are: not signs of religious conservatism’s growing strength and looming triumph, but evidence of its persistent disappointments and defeats.

And which, of course, the Religious Right--somehow it's now convenient for Douthat to treat it as a monolith--has internalized as indicative of our pluralistic society, and vows to approach reasonably and rationally from here on out.


Friday, August 26

With Luck, The Capitalists Will Innovate A New Knot To Hang Themselves With

David Brooks, "President Rick Perry?" August 25

IF there was anything to American Exceptionalism--other than the fact that we dominate a hemisphere, and came out of two European global wars physically unscathed and economically better off than when we went in--wouldn't it show up in our politics? Wouldn't we have the wisest counsel, the fullest debate, the most trenchant commentary?

Would we have David Brooks at the New York Times?

We lead the world in stand-up comedy, popular music, and number of things we think we lead the world in.

We invented free, public, and sorta-universal-if-you-squinted-some education, simultaneously with the idea that academic truth was amenable to first-century superstition and the willful hallucinations of Texas school boards. The salient feature of our history is that we took every bit of our Land from its original owners by invasion, by force, and by swindle, the latter just for practice, and we imported, then bred, human beings to tend our crops, serve our meals, and wash our feet, as our property. While we thanked God. It took a bloody and incompetent struggle to end it, and after twenty years of moderately trying to make small amends we gave up and told white Southerners it was really okay with us if everybody pretended they'd won.

Which brings us to Rick Perry.

Hell, that's enough about Rick Perry. I'd just like to point out, yet again, how the "moderation" in Brooks' "moderate conservatism" works.

Brooks is going to say essentially what I said the other day about Mitt Romney: that he now finds himself unable to jab his leading rival because the same clinical insanity that infects the public persona of Rick Perry infects 80% of the Republican electorate. Brooks, of course, substitutes "small government conservative" for "certifiably batshit". It is the Times.

Unlike Yours Truly, Brooks has a couple of ploys Romney might use.
First, Romney could accuse Perry of being the latest iteration of Tom DeLay Republicanism. On the one hand, he is ideologically slippery. The man who sounds so right wing today was the Texas chairman of the Al Gore for President campaign in 1988. The man who now vows to appoint only anti-abortion officials to relevant administration jobs endorsed Rudy Giuliani four short years ago. On the other hand, he is unwavering in his commitment to the government-cash nexus. Even this week — amid much attention to his pay-to-play proclivities — Perry named two big donors to powerful state jobs.

The second line of attack is to shift what the campaign is about. If voters think Nancy Pelosi is the biggest threat to their children’s prosperity, they will hire Perry. If they think competition from Chinese and Indian workers is the biggest threat, they will hire Romney. He’s just more credible as someone who can manage economic problems, build human capital and nurture an innovation-based global economy.

So leave us note, first, that Tom DeLay Republicanism did not seem to disturb Brooks overmuch back when Tom DeLay was practicing it. Just after he got caught. Not to mention the fact that Mitt Romney calling someone "ideologically slippery" is the Teflon skillet calling the invisible ice patch black. (Is there any clearer evidence that Brooks doesn't really know the Real Americans who make up 75% of his own party any better than he knows Appleby's menu than his suggestion that Romney start yelling "Hypocrites! Grifters! Tom DeLay Republicans! at every stop?)

Second, just how pathetic is that "Mitt's the man to lead us into an innovation-based global economy"? Is there some point when we're going to note that this is what the Republican party has supposedly been up to since 1981, and that as a result we now have more economic problems than we can manage, more humans with less capital, and we've lost Our Rightful Place atop the innovation-based global economy to a bunch of Communists?

By the way, the only "innovation" the Chinese have come up with--or at least the major one--was the idea of loaning us the money to buy the crappy, environmentally-destructive, and toxin-laden consumer trinkets they manufacture with slave labor. I'm not the economist Brooks is--and I don't have Amity Shlaes or Megan-Jane Galt on speed dial--but how do you innovate a lower cost than Forced Labor? And it seems to me that protecting the environment, engineering safety, and reducing the risks we've already created for ourselves is what calls for innovation. Not the libertoonian "If it weren't for all these damned regulations I could smelt ore right here in my spare bedroom" bullshit.

Maybe Romney the man understands the first, but Romney the candidate is committed to spouting the second. That is to say, he's a Republican. But, y'know, somehow Apple managed to innovate--in the business sense--itself into a behemoth despite the Socialist anti-business regulation and taxation environment in this country. 'Course that was Apple's corporate MO for twenty years while the smart boys consigned it to permanent Niche/Cult status. I don't really recall back then hearing anyone demanding that Microsoft innovate. Back then the great regulatory bugbear prevented Bill Gates from throwing his weight around however he pleased, and hindered "innovations" like AOL's takeover of Time-Warner. Y'know, the way Detroit could have innovated safer, more fuel-efficient cars if it hadn't been forced to litigate against government requirements that it create safer, more fuel-efficient cars.

What innovation's being stymied here? Pizza with cheese in the crust? Remote-control death kites? Facebook? We've done all that (despite the odds!). What's it done for us? If innovation was the real key to success--across the board, not just in a relatively few high-tech applications--we'd be doing it. The culture would be awash in the stuff. Instead, we relabel old shit and pass it off as new. We use mass-communication to create artificial demand. That's what we've been doing for fifty years now. That's the sort of business Republicans celebrate when they talk about Business. Except when they actually mean real estate. Which is often.

I have no idea whether this would work for Mitt Romney. I doubt it. But the thing I find curious is how "moderates" like Brooks, and "fiscal 'conservatives'" like Mitch Daniels, act like the moderate conservative Reaganite in the White House is wearing an OSU sweatshirt in Ann Arbor. Look at what Brooks finally (in the last two paragraphs) gets around to saying about Perry: he's slimy, he's a panderer, if he's a borderline crook we need to redefine our borders. He leaves out (despite his economist credentials) the massive sucking sound at the center of the Texas Miracle. What th' hell's so bad about Obama by comparison? Health care?

Is he gonna say that? (Is Daniels?) Not and risk the franchise; you can't be The Moderate Republican Liberals Love if they've thrown you out of the Republican party. Brooks "watches" (the polls) as "moderate 'conservatism'" "disappears" from the Republican electorate. We hear barely a peep. That is, barely a third-hand sideswipe at Rush Limbaugh, or Sarah Palin, or the Teabaggers both he and Douthat had kinda sorta identified as the problem with the Party, circa 2007. Go back and read 'em in early 2009, as they start looking for a door to hide behind, realize it's no good, and so proclaim that the Teabaggers are really themselves. Just less refined.

Th' fuck's wrong with these people?

There may be more damning indictments of Republican "intellectualism" than the fact that these guys have spent the last thirty years inventing excuses for utter crackpotism, first with the idea of eternally harvesting its votes, now in the hopes that the 'conservative' welfare spigot will stay on, but you have to google "William F. Buckley" and "Civil Rights Movement" to find 'em.

Thursday, August 25

Thursday Olio: Circle Jerk Edition

S'funny, but since Clark Kent got contacts five years ago he's started to look more and more like Superman: Weigel notices that The Teabag "Party" "has been" "adopted" by the GOP, making it unlikely "it" will duplicate its roaring successes of 2010, when it swept nearly a dozen House Republicans out of office and replaced them with other Republicans. (If you correct for Sarah Palin endorsements it's even more impressive.)

The kicker in this is the analysis--from no less a source than Erick Erickson; Weigel is nothing if not well-informed--that Indiana Sesquicentarian Senator Richard "Dick" Lugar is the ripest Teabag target for 2012, which is like saying that Dell is poised to take over Apple. Weigel replies with the rumor that Indiana State Senator and Perennial Crackpot Mike Delph (R-Corporate Pockets) is set to join State Treasurer and Perennial Crackpot Richard Mourdock in challenging Lugar in the primary, thus "splitting the 'conservative' vote" and handing the nod to the longest serving elected official in Indiana, or world, history. Phew. Close escape.

For some reason--possibly the same spineless acquiescence he's demonstrated toward the anti-fluoridationist Right his entire public career--Lugar, or his caregivers, seemed to take the Mourdock threat seriously for the fifteen minutes of the Great Debt Ceiling Revolution, buying up ad time so he could take a couple of free swings at his old Senate protégée and Doppelgänger Barack Hussein Obama. The spots seem to've disappeared since. Say, has anyone ever actually seen Dave Weigel and Kreskin together?

Look, I'm from Indiana, home of the Mitch Daniels Economic Miracle, so I'm through asking if there's anyone out there of voting age stupid enough to swallow this shit. What you will never convince me of is that there's someone out there intelligent enough to string together back-to-back sentences obeying the compositional laws of English who nevertheless believes that The Teabag Party was some sui generis uprising which, as luck would have it, has now been co-opted by the Wholly Unrelated Republican Party suddenly adopting its Tenets of Frugality, crafty devils, just in time to possibly win an election in 2012, after which, curse the luck, it'll devolve back into the old Republican Party, and the bright Randian promise of a world without taxes, except on the Poor, will be doused with the cold bilge water of fat cat deals, pork barrel politics, and a plague of weasels of Egyptian Captivity proportions. You really think Rand Paul replacing Jim Bunning represented a sea change? More like swapping pathological symptoms.

I am not going to be the 1157th person to say "Governor Perry? Fred Dumbo Thompson on Line 2" in response to his zooming to the head of the Dingbat Parade. Because it isn't true. Thompson was a turd in a punchbowl of a candidate. Perry's more like a free-range turd, for a Republican electorate now convinced that the only reason it's not a permanent ruling party is that it hasn't been shit crazy enough to this point. Perry's going to have to wreck himself. Thompson didn't need to, which was fortunate, since his campaign wasn't really about Activity.

The closest the Republican field gets to sanity is Jon Huntsman, who might as well be Dennis Kucinich; the closest it gets to sanity in a major contender is Mitt Fucking Romney, who'd pander his way out of it if he could. Romney's got no room to maneuver. Perry's low-hanging fruit, but Mitt doesn't dare swing at it; the more he does the more unpopular with Republican primary voters he becomes. It's the same position Mitch Daniels found himself in with Sarah Palin: you can't out-crazy 'em; you can't move to the Right of 'em, because the base doesn't cotton to rhetorical flourishes; all you can do is hope they out-crazy themselves, and with an electorate mostly restricted to self-appointed Republicans, good luck with that.

And Mitt ain't gonna get the help of Daniels, Barbour, or Pawlenty; this is the fucking party which sat still for Ronald Reagan and both Bushes, and it's not gonna suddenly crank up the self-reflection routine. The Republican soul takes what the Perfect Market is passing out at the moment, and schemes about stealing the rest later. That's the Republican brand on view on Your Grocer's Shelves, bub. If the public wants hand-crafted beer, make yourself a new label, slap it on, and give the manager a new set of clubs in exchange for prime shelf position.

And I don't care; at this point my main interest is that 2012 is shaping up to be the election which determines which side will start committing suicide in droves. The thing that interested me is how Perry's announcement appears to've cost Romney five points. Who are those people? Why did half the Giuliani supporters decide to jump ship, assuming one can jump a ship that's already sunk? Do the 10% losses for Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin mean that Republicans are sexist against 'conservative' women, just like liberals are?

And how does a Ron "Invisible" Paul jump of 33% get termed "slight"?

I'm not bisexual, except for that one time*, but that isn't why I wasn't gonna say "Well, d'uh!" or the "No shit, Sherlock" of my youth and current preference, since it's more literary.

Because it's the sort of thing Science does, and its also the sort of thing the Social Sciences do when they want to look Sciencey.

And somebody amends a forty-year-old experiment to include bisexual men, it might get picked up for the sensational headline. No offense intended, by the way; it's the sort of thing the social sciences do, amending old data in terms of current ideas, and not unmeaningful of result.

But it not only points out what sort of stuff gets picked up by the mass-market Press, but also how the social sciences manage to march backwards. By testing what is no more than a temporal political tic. Yes, we know there are bisexual males because, as there always has been, there are bisexual males. And we know you know there are bisexual males, so save the routine. You guys, after all, are the inventors of "sexual addiction". Tell us why there are still so many Victorians in 21st century America, and why on earth you'd pander to them. Tell us why the US torture program was designed by two accredited psychologists. Tell us why people fall for the bullshit of Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, or Rick Perry. And tell us what to do about it. Then you'll be telling us something.


* joke **

** overcompensation

Tuesday, August 23

No. Really.

It's like one of those old "Can You Spot the Errors?" calendar illustrations, isn't it?

Jonathan Martin and Ben Smith, "Conservative elites pine for a 2012 hero". August 23

DON'T you feel, sometimes, like "reality", or "Hell", is the Science Dork lunchtable, and your mealtime, peanut-butter-in-the-orthodonture conversation is drowned out by a strategically-placed loudspeaker blasting the Cool Kids' chatter?

From 1983?

Listen, "conservative" "elites": Mitch Daniels didn't decide not to run, or at least he didn't really decide not to run until after he'd been handed his hat by the only Test Grader you guys recognize, the one with the Money. He wasn't gonna run anyway, because he's married for a second time to Miss Havisham, but that's just another millstone y'all have to bear: where you gonna find the required Altruist in a roomful of Randians in Spock ears?

And by the way, if co-someones can describe the Journal's editorial board as "the bible of conservative intellectual orthodoxy" then 1) you just need to get out of town, and 2) they need to find employment somewhere where the intricacies of metonymy and subject-pronoun agreement are not quite so obviously displayed.

Oh, Death, where is Thy big sloppy tongue kiss?
“It just does seem to be a little crazy in a year when you have a chance to win the presidency that a lot of leading lights aren’t putting themselves forward,” said William Kristol, Weekly Standard editor and indefatigable Ryan advocate, who hopefully brandished a Ryan-Rubio button on Fox News Sunday.

Oh, Death, where is Thy stupider brother?
“All this comes back to the failure of Mitch Daniels to get into the race — he was the guy who had the potential to unite the conservative intelligentsia and the quirky, eclectic types like me,” said New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, the co-author of the manifesto that aimed to launch a populist Sam’s Club conservatism.

"Quirky and eclectic". But enough about your religious history, Ross. Didn't you get a job at The New York Times--Sweet Jesus, give me a reason to go on!--by explaining to its Editors and seven or eight other people who got free copies of your book that the Republican party needed to transform itself into a sort of crypto-Rockefeller ruling elite by faking interest in the working class? And didn't you, three years later, just write a column extolling the misunderestimable virtues of Rick Perry?

So, I'm sorry, but now you guys don't want a President who struts around an aircraft carrier with his nuts cinched like a 50-year-old stripper's cleavage? Now you're afraid of a Jebus-spouter, if he or she doesn't just save it for the rubes? Now you're opposed to President Hair Dye? Maybe you should have mentioned this sooner.

Monday, August 22

Shorter Mitch Daniels *

MY Man Mitch--Mitch has been My Man for thousands of Hoosiers of the sort he'd never deign to let into his garage, let alone his guest house, since his first campaign-- turned up on NBC's venerated Meet the Press yesterday. Shit, I typed "venerated". I meant "venditive".

Daniels was there in the network's hope that he'd say something dishy about one or more of the Eight Specks of Granite which currently compose the Republican Presidential field. This suggests NBC needs a new booker, or else that the whole operation is a tad cynical. Daniels declined the offer, refused to endorse fellow Randian Spaceman Paul Ryan, waved off the thoughtful offer of a chance to call Rick Perry a doofus (Perry "shouldn't have used That Word"--the word, traitor, never escapes anyone's lips--but then
There's nobody more effective than the president and his allies at vilifying people, challenging their character. )
before insisting that we could raise revenues while lowering taxes provided we started calling "taxes" something else, blaming the Lovely Cheri-with-an-i, yet again, for his not being President, and heading off with whoever was paying for lunch.

Read the transcript (do not risk the voice of Savannah Guthrie unless you have been cleared by a physician). Daniels is a tenth-rate weasel, despite the fact that he's obviously been practicing all his life. He's been brought on because he was the guy who, during his fifteen minutes of campaign enthusiasm, sorta said he would sorta leave social issues on the back burner while he finished fucking up the economy, unless he needed some votes or something. You remember: it was just before he announced his lifelong Christian advocacy nobody'd ever stumbled on before, and a while or two before he outlawed Planned Parenthood. Daniels candidacy was doomed at that moment, though another line of thinking would make that moment the whole purpose of his "campaign", the shot across the bow of the USS Palin which, naturally, landed a little short. Or maybe he just hoped everyone would talk about that, and not his own Record of Economic Achievement. (Mission Accomplished!) The fact that he defended the idea once or twice, after it stopped meaning anything, is apparently taken by network "news" functionaries to mean he might call Michele Bachmann "an idiot" on air, and absolve them of being afraid to do it themselves.

Read the damned thing, if you think wise. During his campaign**, the man used to do an elaborate self-leg-pull routine about his lack of charisma, in an effort to make it seem like the charge was all about his superficial physical shortcomings, sorry. Insufficiencies. Read him. He's even less charismatic on the inside. For cryin' out loud. "The Democrats are being intransigent about Social Security"? Gutting it is the only way there'll ever be a balanced budget, or a fair test of his Supernatural Randianism? Weren't we actually on the road to sensible Federal budgets until the day when--who was it?--Mitch Fucking Daniels took over at OMB? And slashed taxes on the wealthy in the exact amount we're in arrears today? This is the voice of a major Republican thinker? "Let's take all the loopholes out of the tax code". Yeah, right. I wonder why nobody ever thought of that? The Reader is asked to consider that while "Close the loopholes!" sounds like "Tax all those fatcats who use loopholes!" to the average taxpayer unaware it's his mortgage exemption Daniels is after, the helpful Liberal Media Personality, a wholly-owned employee of Fatcat-Universal, has managed to keep her microphone hand from quivering uncontrollably despite the threat to her beloved employer.

Yes, yes. Imagine President Daniels making the tax code fair for the Little Guy. Imagine him turning his anit-charisma ray on a Republican Congress, ushering in the Era of Fair Taxation and Satisfactory Revenues, plus Jobs for All. Fuck it, just imagining that man becoming President rends the curtain of spacetime. Daniels now gets to stand just off to the side, shooting spitballs for the wealthy, while simultaneously pretending that he, and Haley Barbour, his bff aside from Paul Ryan, now, chose not to run, for personal reasons, and not because of the obvious shellacking their "reasonableness" was about to take from actual voters in their own party. This makes Daniels, somehow, the official Republican voice of moderation, in that, as the President nearly two dozen Ivy League underclassmen, and no one else, wanted him to be, he would be so opposed to seeing the poor and the elderly die in the streets he'd be forced to leave a note asking the help to keep the blinds drawn.

It bears repeating: Mitch Daniels and Paul Ryan are now the moderates in the Republican party, according to all the cool kids.


* I have no explanation for how that took so long.

** Can we stop mincing about with this? The Coy Campaign was a campaign; had Daniels raised enough money from Republicans fearful of a Palin takeover in 2009 he'd be a candidate now, Cheri-with-an-i be damned. Besides, Indiana Republican women are practically dropping like cicadas from Becky Skillman Disease, the lifelong, debilitating syndrome with no symptoms, which takes you, or your mate, conveniently out of politics for a time. My god, you wouldn't even need to fake it; I'm sure the CIA could fix it so Cheri could not be moved outside of Hamilton county, with a prescription for Cosmopolitans and someone to check the mail for talcum in the bargain.

And what, exactly, was she to be called on to do during the two months a "real" Daniels campaign floundered? Anyone heard from Mrs. Dr. Ron Paul? Have you seen Jon Huntsman's wife.? No, really, have you seen Jon Huntsman's wife?

Friday, August 19

Actual Words In A Major Language Family Actually Combined In An Actual Attempt To Mean Something

Evan Smith
"5 myths about Rick Perry". August 18

IN case you, for some reason, don't scour the Washington Post each morning for life guidance, "Five Myths", which should be called "Five Myths [sic]" * is a sidebaresque regular column in which various authors correct the Conventional Wisdom--which they helpfully supply--by applying anything between Fact and Conventional Wisdom More To Our Liking. In practice it sometimes leads to a column like last May's, which was spot-on about The Lies, Half-Truths and Hallucinations Apparently Resulting from Ergot Poisoning of the Education Reform movement. (The "myths": 1. Our schools are failing. 2. Unions defend bad teachers. 3. Billionaires know best. 4. Charter schools are the answer. 5. More effective teachers are the answer.) It was such a refreshing, straightforward, common-sense response to the horseshit in our national "debate" on "education" I had to remind myself it was appearing in a paper which nonetheless had pleaded for Michelle Rhee's job even after she stuck her nose in the DC mayoral race and suffered the fate of some nosy kitty-kats.

Put the truth in your news reports, then. Really. When Privatized Education turns to shit this is the sort of thing which someone trying to defend journalism will be pointing out. "The Post said that merit pay was a poor idea on May 20, 2011". And they'll leave out the part about how every news story treated the academic who says "Charter schools have not performed any better than public schools, despite some built-in advantages" as just the other side of the debate with Michelle Rhee, plus not nearly so hawt. **

Anyway, my hope for "5 myths about Rick Perry sic" was that #1 would be "Rick Perry is worth two column inches in a regional shopper's weekly".

Which I knew had about as much chance as "Rick Perry. Isn't he the guy who produced Nilsson Schmilsson?"

No, of course, #1 was "He's not Bush". It is, as of this writing, less than six full days since Rick Perry made political history with his announcement, and I've already heard this twenty times. And the "answer" is always "oh, he's more conservative than Bush was". Which means--and this is all it means--that the discussion has been permanently hijacked by this sort of insider, Republican-centrist bullshit historical rewrite, probably via Frank Luntz. Just for starters, no one with the smallest American liberal inclinations, a three-digit IQ, and a job which didn't require him or her to spout that sort of shit in order to keep it would ever refer to George W. Bush as "less" 'conservative' than anyone else. This flummery is straight from the kitchens of the Losing Side, 2006-2009, during which George W. Thank God He's President And Not Gore Bush became Wait, That Asshole Wasn't Really One Of Us. I will accept "No. He's not Bush. Perry gives every appearance of managing to be an even bigger loon, somehow." But if you want to claim George W. Bush as Not So Conservative ("He was compassionate, he spent money, and he tried to commandeer education") then take Ronald Reagan off the "Conservative" list. Explicitly. You renounce the right to call Reagan a 'conservative', then you can exempt Bush the Dumber. You can keep Ed Meese, either way.
3. He’s an ideological purist.

It’s true that Perry was 10th Amendment before 10th Amendment was cool, a believer in the notion that states are the laboratories of democracy — and that nothing good comes top-down from government. He even wrote a book about it. But at least three times in his career, Perry has thrown over those core principles. In 2007, he pushed for the mandatory inoculation of young girls with the human papillomavirus vaccine as a way to prevent cervical cancer. Conservatives went crazy. Only in the first hours of his presidential campaign did he walk back from that decision. In the run-up to the campaign, Perry called for constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage and abortion, in direct opposition to his long-held insistence that the feds should stay out of states’ business.

There’s also the fact that, once upon a time, Perry served in elective office as a Democrat, albeit a conservative one. He even was the Texas chairman of Al Gore’s 1988 Democratic presidential primary bid. And in the 2008 GOP primary, he endorsed Rudy Giuliani, a candidate whose positions on gun control, abortion and gay rights are, by the standards of today’s Republican party, downright liberal.

Okay, I probably would've just let this thing go, but for cryin' out loud, "He took a popular stand once for mandatory life-saving vaccinations over the objections of the snake-handling cultist wing of his party, not inconsiderable in Texas, mind you, before being forced by politics to repudiate himself. " Myth busted!

Oh, but we ain't through: he actively pushed for Constitutional amendments banning abortion and same-sex marriage, despite the fact that he's ideologically opposed to federal control. What an open mind. I've like totally misjudged his tenth-generation-Xerox brand of small-time, small-minded, commercial-right-religious political blather, Confederate states division, coupled to untraceable funds. I guess now I see why there's so much excitement in the media. We've never had a candidate like this before. So conservative, I mean.


* I not getting into it today. Nevertheless, the correct term for "an erroneous belief commonly held by the badly informed thought to explain some central fact" is not Myth. It's Journalism.

** Nor so tax-exempt.

Thursday, August 18

For My Next Trick I Will Attempt To Break Out Of Handcuffs I Made Myself Before My Lovely Assistant Can Escape From A Water Tank While Upside Down

Jesus, is this a primary election or a reality show?

-Callyson, "Jonathan Alter launches Chris Christie Presidential bid" at Wonkette

MY Poor Wife reports, ten days into the new school year, that she is now spending more time filling out paperwork, both palpable and electron-based, than actually working with students, a situation which obtains even though, as she has for the past several years, she acquiesces to teaching one more class per day than she is contractually required to.

But contracts don't seem to mean much nowadays, as anything and everything which can be ignored is (this is not particularly new to Indianapolis Public Schools in general, nor to the reign of Dr. Eugene White in particular).

"The 'core subjects' teachers have it a lot worse," she said. "They're sending reports in triplicate which have to be entered into three different web pages. Everyone's lost a prep period to attend mandatory meetings. All this stuff is going into a file somewhere that no one will ever open."

If you got here late, realizing that his time was short to actually profit on awarding private contracts to operate public schools, Mitch Daniels and educational henchman Dr. Tony Bennett rushed into the nuclear option this year, without being able (surprise!) to actually elucidate actual standards and actual responses when those actual standards weren't met. They're poised to take over Indianapolis Failing Public Schools, auction them off to some room deodorizer manufacturer, and declare the problem solved. But they couldn't get ready by the actual start of the actual school year so, like that Iraq War: The Sequel that Mitch financed for us, they went in with the troops they had. Hearings, and more hearings, and the fate of the schools left hanging (for one thing, in order to get the power to do this shit they had to write the law so that the results were entirely arbitrary, lest poor scores at some exoburban system trying to educate large number of farm children with thresher injuries trigger a takeover that white people wouldn't like).

So while we wait for them to sell everything to Edison, or maybe that consortium that runs the Toll Road, the administrative weight of the Indianapolis Public School system has been thrown behind some sort of headless chicken dance designed to ward off death by axing. Not of the teachers, staff, or schools. Of the administrators.

Who fucking works for two weeks in this country and doesn't understand how things work? Who really imagines that handing over employment regulations to local administrators so they can act like the franchisee of some fast-food bunker is going to improve education? Or, for fuck's sake, manage to do anything in any way shape or form except make things worse?

Two more things: these same educational "reformers" made sure to lower the standards for incoming teachers, in the name of Improvement. "Oh, this way the retired industry chemist or idealistic math whiz can give teaching a shot, and we automatically get better teachers, because Business." And in return they get four classes in a row, out of six total, to a roomful (and more) of surly teenagers, with the five minute's passing time between classes to prepare for the next lesson and attend to life's fecal necessities. Welcome, Idealists!

The second is that my Poor Wife, known to some people who read this blog just to get a feel for the sort of thing she goes through, is not the source of these complaints. I am. She--a Teacher, in every good sense of that word--still goes beyond what she's asked for, legal or no. I try not to think about how I wound up with a good woman with a moral code, since when I do I usually go straight to the "how many reincarnations as a pilonidal cyst am I gonna get for this deal?" But for cryin' out loud. All the working conditions shit in the labor contract are the product of long years of everyone involved working together for the common good, not labor union banditry; would you rather have a teacher or a politician hold your wallet while you disappeared for ten minutes? We know it is no good to chain people to class after class, deprive them of prep time, or bury them in the after-action report detritus of the bureaucratic mind. But we're doing it. We're requiring even more work out of the people who do the actual work in the first place, because that way the people who are really responsible look like they're the ones doing something.

In four years time--after IPS has been auctioned off--you're going to hear 1) "Test scores are almost as good as they were before, a remarkable achievement when we had to come in and start from scratch." 2) 'There hasn't been enough time to really evaluate the new system. Please come back after you've forgotten all about it." or 3) "We are beginning to look at whether high-stakes testing is really in the best interest of students. Perhaps we need a wider-based approach to acquiring the necessary skills to compete at some level in the modern, global economy."

You talk about stealing from future generations….

Wednesday, August 17

Well, That Didn't Take Long

But every mention of the word "retarded" is a personal insult to Sarah Palin. Unless you're a right-wing radio blowhard. Weigel:
Rest easy: Rick Perry probably isn't going to execute Ben Bernanke.

And David Weigel probably doesn't really mean "probably".
When he told a crowd of Iowa Republicans Monday that "we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas" if the chairman of the Federal Reserve "print[ed] more money between now and the election," it wasn't exactly a Kinsley gaffe, defined as when a politician tells the truth. Instead, call it a "Perry gaffe": when a politician doesn't mean what he says, but means to say it.

Otherwise known as "hyperbole", an invention of the Ancient Greeks, not some Jebus-mazed huckster from Texas who'd probably not be lynched for showin' off any fancy larnin' like that if anyone got wind of it. We do know that if it was an intentionally-employed figure of speech he didn't get it from his state's textbooks.

Sure, it's the United States of America. Then again, I don't think it woke up this AM wondering whether to read Slate's political columns or check out the morning line-up on E!. Perry was "using" hyperbole. His readers do not need David Weigel to explain this. (David Weigel knows this, else David Weigel would not have stated in as a leg-pull. But he still stated it.)

Furthermore, saying someone was using hyperbole isn't an excuse, except maybe in cases where the hyperbole was widely or strikingly missed. I dunno about you, but I saw headlines saying "Perry Bashes Fed" or "Perry Attacks Bernanke"; I didn't even see a blog post suggesting he'd actually threatened the man with bodily harm. But thanks for clearing it up anyway, Dave. (Especially in a way that suggests, again, that no Republican ever means what he says, unless he gets away with it. We know that, too.)

Now, were I an "objective" 'conservative'-"libertarian-" "leaning" "journalist", my reaction might have been, "Dear God, does every one of these bozos have to dive for the bottom of the Crazy Barrel right at the gun? And isn't there something seriously wrong with a party where that's true?" But that's because I don't have the instincts of the careerist, who knows enough to simply wait until everything's gone to shit again, and then point out all the instances where he was somewhat equivocal tried to warn us.

The other thing is this: Treason. Treason is not hyperbole; "Treason" is something the Right's been spitting out ever since Bob Welch heard about fluoridation. The Right's been accusing somebody of Treason at least forty times a day since, except when there's a Republican President in charge of however many military actions we have going at any particular time, in which case it's forty times a minute. That, of itself, takes it out of the realm of Hyperbole, and into the realm of Phrase Repeated Over and Over Until It Becomes Meaningless, Except It Was Misused From the Start.

We've noted this a few hundred times by now, but there were barely any treason convictions attached to WWII, and that was the last time anyone could commit treason, since it was the last time we had a declared enemy to aid and comfort. It would be nice if we could see a little simple recognition of that once in a while. Not to mention that it goes a long way towards improving the quality of your hyperbolic utterances when you know what you're talking about.

Instead, of course, it's a direct line from "Tailgunner" Joe McCarthy's list of 597 364 215 121 84 32 some "traitors" in the State Department, to Hanoi Jane Fonda, to the Chairman of the Fed being a traitor because he carries out his legal duties. Everything the Right doesn't like--even for the sake of temporal political gain--is fucking unAmerican. Is it too much to ask that some columnist playing objective observer from miles behind the lines notice this? Yeah, I'm glad Perry "probably" won't execute Bernanke. Har har har. The fact that everyone in his party talks like Yosemite Sam, though, is another matter.

So, it took Perry about twelve hours to say something so stupid it made headlines, and it took Weigel probably about twelve minutes to decide to apologize for it. How long did it take Kathleen Parker to get to the heart of the matter?

I smell another Pulitzer. One brief daydream?
There’s something slightly lazy in the mouth, half a smile, a knowing look. Both share a devil-may-care, towel-snapping streak — an attitude that either connects them to their quarry or sends their prey howling into the outer darkness. The same things that drove liberals mad about George W. will repeat themselves with Perry.

It’s that certitude mixed with bravado. It is also, dare I say, their certain brand of manliness. Weathered, creased and comfortable in jeans, they convey a regular guyness that everyday Americans relate to. Take it or leave it, it happens to be true.

Y'know, I'm a life-long admirer of Borges and Milton, and of The Real Helen Keller's courage and socialist humanitarianism; I love Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder. Yet somehow it never occurred to me to string two paragraphs together in hopes that thousands of Americans would poke their own eyes out lest they ever encounter anything like it again.

Finally, we're getting the Republican presidential race back to where it belongs. 2009.
Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan is strongly considering a run for president. Ryan, who has been quietly meeting with political strategists to discuss a bid over the past three months, is on vacation in Colorado discussing a prospective run with his family. Ryan’s concerns about the effects of a presidential campaign – and perhaps a presidency – on his family have been his primary focus as he thinks through his political future.

Sure, sure: if you're a Hoosier, like I know I am, the first thing that strikes you is what sort of dedicated family men all these Establishment Republicans are, and how desperate. It's beginning to look like the last great hope for these guys was Bobby Jindal's State of the Union reply.

Could we just say it, please? This--and apologists like Weigel--are what's really wrong with the Republican party. They don't like Romney, who couldn't be more Pro-Bidness if he shit tax exemptions, because he gives off the odor of a man who might try to do something Big while in office to get himself a statue. And they don't like Palin and the Palinettes, because they know these people are fucking loons. That is, they know that a strict application of so-called Republican principles would sink everyone who couldn't move offshore. But, of course, in order to keep going since Reagan they've had to insist that every colossal failure has come about because their principles weren't applied strictly enough. They're stuck in mid-extreme, and nobody wants to yell "Fire!" Or "Shit!", which would be closer to the truth. They can't decide if it's better to lose now, or later.

Listen, it's not like I didn't tell ya that the whole Daniels for President thing was a desperate cry for help. Now they've decided they just need a slightly more magnetic Tim Pawlenty (who, it should be noted, was merely keeping his own bag o'guano insanity under control so he could run as a more competent Michele Bachmann). For the fucking life of me: the Plutocrat party cannot win on its own, and it cannot govern or remain popular when it manages to sneak in. Not to mention that reading Ayn Rand is now the mark of its intellectuals. Why are you not making common cause with the moderate 'conservative' in the White House? The goddam Democratic party is yours for the taking, and there's little risk Barack Obama is going to do anything in the next five years. The Other Party refused to stomp a mudhole in your snake handlers' cult. Suck it up and do it yourselves.

Tuesday, August 16

Well, You've Got Plenty Of Dissonance, So I Think The Problem's In Your Cognition

SO a day after the memorial service for those killed and injured in the State Fair stage collapse, a little over twenty-four hours following Governor Mitch "The Only Thing That Could Improve Ayn Rand Is A Little Christianity" Daniels' announcement that the whole thing was the weather's fault, and nobody can prepare for weather; that is, roughly, about the time anyone who's ever paid any attention whatever to such things would have predicted the original story would begin leaking seriously [structure wasn't subject to city inspections, since it's on state property; it's the responsibility of Homeland Security, now, which doesn't consider "scaffolding" to be a "structure" (and hence, required to survive 90 mph winds, or a third-again beyond what the Governor says no one could ever anticipate); it would've been inspected--and would have had to meet our standards for permanent structures--if it was in tax-burdened Illinois; the outdoor venue for the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, scheduled to perform fifteen miles north, sent everyone home un-overtured but safe; this is the fourth such rigging collapse this summer, though no one could have anticipated more than three, I suppose; several independent experts have suggested that something was seriously substandard with the set-up, many mentioning a lack of crossbeams and guying; we're really just warming up] the Indianapolis City/County council breaks a land speed record for "shoveling shit at the NFL's behest".

See, Indianapolis has no ticket scalping ordinance. Make that "had". The NFL finds this as unseemly as gambling, but a lot more amenable to public weight-tossing, so it insisted on one as a condition of granting the make-up Super Bowl to the city it promised one to in exchange for using a billion and counting in tax dollars to build a new football barn which seats exactly the same number of people as the old one, but at higher prices. Indianapolis should have gotten the last Super Bowl, but the Cowboys spent even more. God's in His heaven.

And, yes, it is interesting how the whole thing was already in the works with a new city ordinance promised, as though voting didn't mean anything or somethin'. And the city's hosted the NCAA finals at least once a decade over the past thirty years or so, and just shooing scalpers away from the venue (on no authority beyond the NCAAs and the people who stand to make a buck) has been sufficient. But not for the NFL. So, as promised….

Now, look, I do follow politics, in my sleepy fashion, so it's not the toadying, the whiff of corruption, or the willingness to permit high-speed gang anal, sans foreplay, provided there's a nickel involved and one of the guys is on th' teevee that surprises me. Wholly expected. Never even an issue. This city elected a proto-Teabagger mayor in 2007, and you oughta see the public works "improvements" festival going on in preparation for a three-day fucking football game. We already passed--and have steadfastly refused to enforce, so far--an anti-panhandling ordinance of "questionable" legality which will suddenly be remembered about two weeks before the Big Event, and just as quickly forgotten (it happens to place an undue stress on entrepreneurial buyers of gold and operators of franchise fast food abominations who would go out of business if they couldn't dress a minimum-wage employee like a clown and send him out into traffic. Trust me, our scrupulousness has nothing to do with concerns over the Constitutional rights of the unsightly). If the goddam NFL demanded our wimmen the only question would be where we're supposed to meet the bus.

No, it was the local news coverage, which consisted of the sloppiest blowjob possible so soon after a tragedy, coupled with photos of the Large Scary Negro men who scalp tickets. The new law will "protect the consumer" they said. Because ticket resellers--unlike concert-venue managers--will be licensed. It won't affect all the ticket brokers in town, the ones who employ large numbers of Large Scary Negro men to buy up blocks of tickets restricted to "public" sale in order to skirt anti-scalping measures. No. Thank goodness. Because they're entrepreneurs. And because the nice local newshairdos thoughtfully gave them microphones so they could tell us so.

Not a mention of the rest of it, though: not about the NFL pushing the city around, not the sudden loss of your right to go to the venue the day of and sell a ticket you don't need, none of it. In a state whose economic "miracle"--being better than Michigan--has been credited to Mitch Daniels' Economic Freedom agenda, there's not a peep while the game is rigged in plain sight, the little guy takes it in the shorts, and the big operations get their competition swept up alongside the homeless. Because the NFL said so. Because a Super Bowl is so fucking important you can hand over your sovereignty, spend whatever it takes, and take away a right your citizens have had since the invention of the ducat. And it's all Good. Or so the teleprompter says.

Okay, so I expected all that, too.

Monday, August 15

The World's Longest Praeteritio

YOU might've heard we had a disaster at the Indiana State Fair this weekend. Or maybe you're just close enough to receive our broadcast transmissions, in which case you know we had a tragedy. * People have died, and dozens more had their lives altered in an instant, and we do not mean to detract from the very real hurt that a relative few people suffered, while some lie in intensive care and others wait to be buried, just so we can talk about how the rest of us feel about it.

At some point, I suspect that a lot of the survivors are going to recognize that "showing respect" at this moment was perhaps no more important than calling Premature Bullshit on Mitch Daniels when he gets up the next morning to announce the whole thing was just some freaky freak of Nature, no one could seen it comin', awfully sorry for your loss. Settle early.

I'm not even gonna start, except to say it was particularly telegenic coming in the early light of the first daylight investigators had had since the fevered minutes after the stage roof collapsed. In other words, Daniels didn't know that for a fact, let alone the at-best-a-disputable-conclusion he tried to fob off as fact. Ain't science wonderful?

And just because I'm thinking of it, I think it's fine if local anchorpersons would like to add their own opinions about the nature of the Deity and his amenability to prayer to stories of someone else's pain. And I'm sure that all those "God blesses" and "We're praying for youses" were heartfelt. My question, though, is what would be the reaction if you signed off a telephone interview with the victim of the disaster, or his immediately family, with a cheery "Well, it's all in the stars now" or "Hum. Guess that's Fate" ? "Better luck next kalpa."

Personally, I think if there was a God She'd'a made sure Mitch Daniels was a candidate for the Republican nod, just to enjoy him figuring out what to do about Perry just like a sane person. I really, really, wish we could all see Daniels under pressure to some Bible salesman with good hair and a vegetable-crisper IQ. I'd love to see him have to make something of it, for once, that a good chunk of his Randian Dream Party are Jesus-mazed snake handlers with a magic view of the economy. And everything else.

It's Down to Romney! Bachmann!! and Perry!! say Dan Baltz and Philip Rucker, which I guess is as good a reason to believe it as any. [exclamation points mine]

Bachmann? How does Bachmann stay in the race if Perry's a factor? Her only hope--if she actually does want a nomination--is to start having hookers rappel into his elevator after it's stopped between floors. Does anyone--even a Beltway pundit--actually believe that Perry and Bachmann are going to slug it out for the same delegates while Romney races off? Well, I guess you might as well ask if anyone imagines that stupid-ass Ames poll has any meaning whatsoever.

You've just got to love, or puke at the mention of, how Rick Perry became the Instantly Credible Candidate when "credible" is code for--no, hell, it's not even code, it's synonymous with--"rich donor list". I mean, there's nothing else aside from this constant artificial excitement over what bright, shiny, and fur-wrapped object has grabbed the Religious Teabagger focus du jour. The Texas Miracle--interesting, by the way; a year ago, when the now in decline Establishment Republicans for Mitch--and Mitch himself, I think it goes without saying--touted Indiana as having the best employment record in the Abysmal Obama Economy. Daniels got away with it. Perry won't.

And don't get me wrong: Rick Perry is religious scam artist, a public liar, and a neo-confederate fuck melon. And he could be Your Next President. None of those things is mutually exclusive of the other. Hell, in the last three decades they're positively correlated. Rick Perry sounds like he stands for something. It may not matter anymore just What that happens to be. Democrats quit doing that full-time in 1981, after spending the previous decade apologizing for George McGovern and ridiculing Jimmy Carter. Sorry, but the possibility of President Rick Perry exists today only because Democrats wouldn't stand up for themselves after losing to Richard Fucking Milhous Nixon.

I hate to keep bringing it up, but that's that. Democrats decided in 1972 that Liberalism had run its course; in 1974 Democratic Senators decided it was too costly to get the money out of politics. 2006 was just a re-capitulation; Democrats placed in a two-house majority because of an extremely unpopular war couldn't find the wherewithal to defund it, let alone bring anyone home or hold the Worst President in History accountable. Democrats are not going to take their rightful place as the majority party in the US until they chop the Republicans off at the knees. That's a requirement. Now, of course, the GOP has gone so far Right it's in danger of falling into a Horowitz Singularity and emerging as weirdly religious Trotskyites, and the Dems will figure once again that sooner or later they'll return to power on the backs of what morons their opponents are. Meanwhile, Rick Perry sounds like he believes in something. Barack Obama sounds like he believes in giving speeches.


* Why is it that the very people who keep you informed of Our Failing Schools seem obligated to remind the viewer, or reader, that the information comes from someone who quit paying attention in junior high school? Except to social events, student government, and fashion tips, I mean.

Friday, August 12


JON, Jon Jon: whatever's wrong about that Newsweek Bachmann cover--and, somehow, no one to my knowledge has mentioned "being the sort of country where a religiously mazed Bible saleswoman rates any sort of national news coverage"--it's not an example of Librul Media bias which makes FOX look good. Liberal Media? It's fucking Tina Brown. It's marketing. It's the reduction of everything to celebrity gossip as perpetrated by the Roone Arledge of Literacy. And the goddam thing about that is, "There's no such thing as bad publicity" is as old as the Ten Commandments. We all know better. Bachmann willingly poses for pictures like this

and I don't hear anyone complaining about the outrage to Christianity that is the public display of piety for private gain.

And that goes for Terry O'Neill, too, who said:
"Gloria Steinem has a very simple test: If this were done to a man or would it ever be done to a man - has it ever been done to a man? Surely this has never been done to a man," O'Neill said. "What they are saying of a woman who is a serious contender for president of the United States of America...They are basically casting her as a nut job."

First, the Steinem Test belongs with the Above the Ears, Above the Collar test for boy's hairdos of my high school days. Second, it more closely resembles the MMPI than a real test, since a close examination of any results tell you at least as much about the test operator as anything else. The fact that someone is required, by commercial considerations alone, to proclaim Michele Bachmann "a serious contender for president" tells you all you need to know. And more.

This is pretty straightforward, isn't it? The reason there's a Michele Bachmann Crazy meme out there is that she's a fucking loon; as Stewart said, Newsweek could have made that point using her words (by why should they blaze a trail?). The reason there's a Michele Bachmann Crazy Eyes meme is her off-kilter affect--that's not even a matter of interpretation, just one of cultural norms--which dovetails nicely with Meme #1. Tough fucking shit. The reason Tina Brown decided to take advantage of that, assuming she did, was the eternal quest for a buck. Take it up with the people who think that's a sacred oath excusing all sorts of tasteless, amoral behavior. Not with the few Liberals still working in journalism.

Tough fucking shit. We heard this crap about Sarah Palin. We heard it about George W. Bush, more to the point, and look where that got us. Nobody said it was unethical to make fun of John Kerry, or Al Gore, or Mike Dukakis. It's just well past time for forty-something male commenters to acknowledge that this is no one-sided game, that this sort of thing is the Right's great stock in trade--the bumper-sticker witticism, the Messiah caricature--and demanding unilateral disarmament from the Left, let alone from "The Left", is ridiculous.

This is what was said about George Fucking Bush, and that oughta end it right there. You can't make fun of him, you're showing an elitist distain for Christianity, an Easterner's bigotry against (imaginary) Texans, a literate snob's condescension for Yale graduates who can't speak English. Especially not if you're Newsweek, or Time, or NBC, or anything else covered by the right-wing rubric Librul Media, because you're not allowed to call bullshit on that, either, apparently. Just on John Kerry windsurfing. Or Dennis Kucinich, on general principles.

Demands for faux-civility are no different than the argument for faux-balance. It's false, it's contrived, and it plays into the hands of the worst sort of lowest-common-denominator abuse of the system. Bachmann isn't exactly suffering personally from a refusal to caricature her opponents. She hasn't been forced to withdraw from the race for being too honest, and too fair, and too civil. There was no shortage of professional audience applause when she managed to string two certifiable English sentences together in the last debate. Fer chrissakes, I'd like to think the Crazy Meme would stand on the evidence alone, too, but take a look around: Honesty's dead, and Truth's on suicide watch.

Listen, Jon Stewart could've filled an entire half-hour riffing on that cover if he wanted to, but linking it to "proving the Right's case about the Unfair Librul Media" is just flummery. The pool water is fetid, drain the pool; don't complain about how unfair it is when someone who's swimming there voluntarily gets dunked by some commercial rapscallion.

And while we're at it, maybe we could fumigate a political system which allows a hole in the atmosphere like Bachmann to become "a serious national candidate" by dint of nothing more substantive than that Newsweek cover is.

Meanwhile, you'll forgive me if last night's GOP debate didn't cause me to learn where FOX is located on my teevee. It's really enough, for me, to watch the phony buildup to a phony "debate", and wait for the inevitable recap based on the buildup. Oh, it's gonna be Pawlenty vs. Bachmann! They're gonna take the gloves off. They'll violate the 11th Commandment!

Nobody asks why anyone should care what Pawlenty was saying just before he hit that brick wall, or why Bachmann should be replying to him at all, the same way no one asks why this collection of stale iced sugar cookies deserves any coverage at all, let alone any that might contribute to one of 'em becoming President. I don't know why NOW isn't jumping T-Paw for daring to suggest that Bachmann isn't a serious contender for President; Bachmann's response, which appears to involve having her staff find ways of calling him a godless Socialist which can be used on a Republican, is pretty much the nominal operating program. Has anyone said anything of substance yet in these things? Would anyone notice if they did? Hey, isn't that Rick Perry?

Thursday, August 11

Olio: The Circus Has Left Town. On The Other Hand, There's Still Good Seats Available Edition

• Yes, the Man Is a Horndog. But in Fairness, the Hooker Did Come On To Him: both my Poor Wife and I noted that Channel 13 Political Correspondent Kevin Rader took pains to mention ("in fairness") that his exclusive interview with the Governor came at his Channel's request, even though Mitch "Smaller and Smaller" Daniels is beginning to try making news (with Chuck Todd, on MSNBC, on education, for all the Just Fuck Me Right Here in the Stall of subjects Mitch Daniels is a national expert on), in order to peddle the upcoming Book that someone bankrolled back when it might look like Mitch might possibly test the waters for maybe President.

Which, y'know Kevin, it wouldn't have been necessary to note if you'd asked him a real question or two.

Also, y'know, this would qualify as "fairness" if you announced every time you run somebody's talking points for them at their beck-and-call that that's what you were doing.

We'll get to what Daniels actually got away with momentarily. But let us state that while you have probably been the best local political reporter during the Daniels administration--don't get a swelled head, it ain't much of a class--opening a piece on Daniels--as you did in print and John Stehr evidently read off the teleprompter--with "Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels considered running for president to help deal with the financial crisis" is the sort of sweet talk I can't categorize without having to apologize to my Poor Wife later. And probably print a retraction about her not wearing panties anyway.

Shit, too late. What I meant to replace it was "kid who was ridiculed for his KISS action figure collection getting to interview Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley thirty years later." Both you and the Governor got the job. How much better can ya eat?"

• As for Daniels (Good News, still alive; Bad News, still has power of speech) there's the book-rollout version of his successful I've Not Decided This Is Other People Talking Campaign, 2012, in which, apparently, he tries to emphasize--by manufacturing--his distinction from the House Teabagging and Severe Economic Fuck-Up now that the general public has noticed something of its accomplishment. And more about them after this.
"We need growth. We need more revenue. Let's all agree with that," he said.

To do that, Daniels says we need to get regulators off the backs of business and banks.

"Let's try for the next several years - everything should take second place to trying to help the private economy grow. That is where you will get the tax payments that will provide for the things we need to do," he said.

"Let Us Come Together in the great spirit of rational compromise, and do it My Way, provided I can keep a fantasy version of plausible deniability for yet another financial disaster with my intellectual fingerprints all over it."

What Daniels means by "increased revenue" isn't "increased revenue". It's "promised increased revenue", the exact same Randian plerophory we've heard--and, to a far too great extent, reacted to--is the same Reagan Trickle Down routine which, combined with Incontinent Tax Cutting at the Top put us in this Micturation Soup in the first place. But wait, it gets pissier.
The governor says moderating defense spending and limiting foreign aid won't even begin to address the debt problem.

"What we can't afford is all in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. The tragedy is we can protect everybody who is in there today if we would just set up a system where the young people of today have something waiting for them ten to fifteen years out. That is what the world is watching for us to do," he said.

I'm thinking once they get that Constitutional Originalist/Texturalist thing on some moderately-solid philosophical footing--as in "frozen shit"--(in fairness, they've only had forty years to work on it) they should turn to this "the Constitution permits, and prudence demands Defense Spending ("which we can't avoid", much as we'd like to, and still hold out hope for a Cabinet job with Michele Bachmann"), but these social programs are mere legislative creations. Gotta go, sorry, we're broke. True, they have been trying to whim these programs out of existence for forty years (and Mitch has been a Republican insider for at least three-quarters of that), but that just adds to the evidence that Mitch Daniels is lying through his teeth.

Oh wait, my bad. I'm sure there's a rock-solid argument for this arrangement in Daniels' book, available next month at your local time zone's bookseller, if any, and he just can't reveal it ahead of time, like he couldn't reveal any by thinking up an answer back when he wasn't running for not President, and when people were sorta starting to say out loud that his international credibility stood at Sarah Palin minus the ability to see the Soviet Union from her house.

Look, motherfuckers: I'm used to the crackpot shit, believe me, including the anti-fluoridation economics. Carry on. But here's a thing about "finding the middle ground All Americans can agree is the starting place for completing the decoupling of the economic system from the rights and basic interests of 85% of Americans": the opposite viewpoint is not "Gee I wish there were some middle ground, or, barring that, somebody with some really strong opinions and a temporal political advantage". No. The opposite view of your opinion is You're A Lying Sack.

There's your twin poles of American opinion, Mr. Governor. Navigate us between them.

Y'know, meanwhile, as a young man I paid for WWII, and Social Security and medical care for the elderly, which has contributed to my parent's, and my Poor Wife's poor parents, and any number of extended family matriarchs and the drunken rapscallions they inevitably married, I think the word is living. That's not the whim of some legislature. That's a cultural value. If we really can't afford caring for the elderly, the disabled, the infirm, or if we can't afford to do so without the nagging suspicion that some Colored Woman out there is fornicatin' with the proceeds, sweaty, thighs like maple-cured hams, African rhythms pulsing, pulsing, which I suspicion is closer to the truth (if not for you personally, Governor, nor you lovely wife, I'm sure, but we might start by suspecting those people in your party you Disagree With, the ones who kept you out of the Presidential race because they're the majority voice), then we're better off cutting all the needy cold turkey, then say so, and defend the idea that we still need to outspend the rest of the world combined on military power. Because military power. And wouldn't this be a really good time for our military to just Go Gault on the rest of the planet, so there, defend your own parasitical selves?

• And if for some reason you read the article, or watch that attached video, dear God, I hope you don't suffer nightmares from his back-to-back softball "Aren't there some in your party who say…" allowing Daniels to thwack! disagree with unnamed extremist Republicans on closing tax loopholes!, a statement which looks like English but has about as much real world effect as the water in the Scotch at the free bar, and Rader's fucking Winston Fucking Churchill quote.
"Wasn't it Winston Churchill who said after Americans try everything else they eventually get it right?" Eyewitness News asked.

Yeah, "Eyewitness News" asked. I bet the sound man shouted it out.

Fer chrissakes. First, Winston Churchill is quite possibly the last man in all of English-speaking history who should be lecturing anyone on crapping everything up with big ideas, and getting things right by default. Second, what does the thought have even remotely to do with our present economic situation? We've really only tried one solution ever since Reagan. And it's the wrong one. It was a radical reinvention of "American" "society", and it failed, economically. It has enriched the already enriched, but it didn't provide one fucking job, really, that the economy didn't allow for, not in Macro view. I mean, if you crafted wooden sailboats for the Wealthy Adrift over the past four decades Reaganism probably looks like Nirvana to you, but it sure didn't do anything for anyone who wasn't in a position, or of a gambling enough nature, to go into business for himself and hope not to join the vast majority in Bankruptcy. Working people have suffered big time since Reagan. Hey, Gov, maybe there's something we could all admit. Y'know, just as a warm-up pitch, before we get to the important stuff.

I would point out here that among the things we haven't tried, absent a few numerically-insignificant historical oddities, is Socialism. So maybe we can meet halfway and your party can shut th' fuck up about it for a fortnight. On the other hand, Hoping for a Solution Based On Our Magical Belief In Our Own Infallibility has really already been checked off four times, including the first Bush administration, whose program seemed to be based on the idea that the Rapture had to be gettin' close anyway. Else the economy wouldn't be so bad.

• Speaking of Mitch, the guy he named to head the Indiana Utility Regulatiory, or "Regulatory", Commission to replace the other guy he named who'd been part of a scheme which placed his high-ranking lieutenants in cushy jobs with a company they regulated, or "regulated", has been caught talking about placing his high-ranking lieutenants in cushy jobs with a company he regulates. Chairman James Atterholt says he was really just bein' friendly, an' all, like he is with everybody he deals with. So, apparently, the remarkable congruence of his act with the one that got his predecessor shitcanned for making Mitch look bad before the I'm Not Sure I'm Running Campaign roll-out is just accidental. Or not, now that Cheri refused to run.

• 14% of Americans Approve of Congress. Big fucking deal. Tell me when 86% have figured out what to do about it, besides look for some spiffy new packaging--Same Great Taste!-- on old Turd Bar stocks.