Friday, September 30

The Elephant In The Room (I've Got A Dozen Of These And I'm Usin' 'Em Up Edition)

The irony is that these are two of the demographics the Republican party is trying to kill.

Gene Robinson, "Chris Christie's big problem." September.

IT'S his Big problem, as in weight, and Gene Robinson fills a column with medical arguments against obesity.

Which, of course, is exactly what you'd do if you wanted to call Chris Christie fat for 800 words without actually doing so.

Robinson mentions that Christie's weight became fair game when he entered the public arena. True. I just seem to've forgotten exactly where Gene mentioned the corollary, that Christie's fitness, or lack thereof, would be a national, not a New Jersey, issue, if it were a Presidential issue. If say, for example, Chris Christie decided to run for President.

Look, unlike Gene Robinson I've got no vested interest in who Barack Obama faces. Well, there's a concern over the man chosen to lead The Free World for the next four years, except that's so over, as the kids say. America was a great idea, but it's not going to recover from turning into the place where the literal and figurative descendants of Her Backwoods Illiterates battle the 19th century in perpetuity. It could have made it anyway--overcoming, in the process, the cosmically bad-timing of Harry Truman followed by Dwight David Eisenhower, the Accidental and Unfortunate President followed by The Overpraised Dolt, who get a free pass these days for Perpetual War in Korea and The Post-Colonial Colonial Disaster in Indochina, though, to be fair, Truman really started that one, too--so, okay, Korea and Lifting Dick Nixon to National Office, respectively--but The Wealthy found comfort, solace, and a few loose coins they'd missed earlier in the disaffected rube vote, and here we are, moving backwards on the social fabric while simultaneously traveling at Turing speed in the economic and psychological manipulation of the populace, the bald-faced grab at civil liberties when the previous isn't enough, and incontinent military spending.

So, of course, our present political situation finds itself in the care of a dozen Teabagging Representatives who believe precisely the opposite, that the Key to Grrrr-REATer Freedomland is moving towards The New Feudalism, or Goshen, while lifting the shameful yoke of iniquity our largest political contributors struggle under. If you feel the United States is still capable of rising above this sort of shit, my hat's off to ya.

I don't know, or care, whether Robinson, or Obama, fear, welcome, or are indifferent to a Christie candidacy. Personally, I'd love to see him run. A slobby White guy who shoots his mouth off? That's who should be the Republican nominee. Not just as the physical embodiment of the Base, and the metaphorical embodiment of the party at large. Not just because you look at that dais and say, "Why th' fuck not?" Christie'd at least be entertaining, and his girth would add an element of suspense. I'd like to see him squared off against Bachmann or Santorum, and see what becomes of that vaunted shoot-from-the-hip style.

There is all that. But mostly I'm thinkin' it'd be a good excuse to talk my Poor Wife into buying me a wide-screen teevee for Xmas.

Thursday, September 29

Prince Of Whales

WHAT is there to say about Chris Christie that hasn't already been said about Rick Perry? Or Mitch Daniels? Or Michele Bachmann? Or Paul Ryan, Rudi Giuliani, Sarah Palin, Bobby Jindal, Jeb Bush, Fred Dumbo Thompson, or Donald For Chrissakes Trump?

Well, okay, that he's a slobbery slob who shoots his mouth off. A demo which is underrepresented among candidates in the teevee age, but is a mighty big slice of the electorate.

Sure, this Non-candidate du Jour phenomenon has become so common that even the mass-market media has noticed, though usually in a column listed somewhere under the boldfaced Will Christie Run? or Christie Makes Speech link. Those stories have as much effect on the Conventional Wisdom as all those Is Palin Presidential Material? and What Was The Media's Role In The 2000 Elections? stories do, and they know it. It's a free shot. If it was the sort of thing that people noticed the professional Right wing complainers would be all over it, meaning The Librul Media wouldn't dare it in the first place. It's not like they don't already know, with at least 98% certainty these days, what flies and what draws flies, and rational, sensible, adult discussion is clearly compost filler. I mean, sheesh, it's The Media, not the Republican party, which clubbed Serious Discussion to death back when that sort of thing put them in danger of being on the wrong side of Reaganmania. You gotta figure they still remember where the corpse is buried.

Yeah, the question gets asked, but it can't get answered, because the answer--The Republican Party is clearly, perhaps irrevocably, insane--undoes forty years of mass-market media genuflection towards the Nixonian Media Critique and thirty years of blowing Reagan.

We're going to ask this again: would a sensible person behave this way in real life? Faced with, say, a recurring electrical problem in the family Buick, or a perpetually surly, short-changing supermarket cashier, would one, time and again, approach the repeated obstacle as though one had never seen it before? Or, hell, even conceived of it as a possibility? And just take it back to the mechanic who'd failed to fix it ten times, or stand in that line instead of another and walk away without counting the change? Once or twice things might run counter to All Good Sense by coincidence. Every Fucking Time is another matter. As we've noted here and elsewhere: the 1988 Democratic presidential contenders were widely labeled The Seven Dwarfs, and Chris Christie's resumé wouldn't have gotten him in the door. Yet his speech at the Reagan Library and Casino makes headlines.

Seems to me the prudent course would be to wait a week, or two months, until he does decide to run, if he does, meanwhile polishing the What Th' Hell Happened to Christie? stories for when he tanks two weeks later.

The Republican Economic Gospel is now so mindless, so contrary to anyone's real experience, that it can't stand. It's just artificially suspended, propped up like a corpse in some bad Hollywood comedy in hopes the copper won't notice. And the only way the party can accomplish, or "accomplish" this is by sending Mitch Daniels out to tell people the only way we can solve The Greatest Financial Crisis in the History of the Republic is by making average Americans ever more envious of the wealthy. Which in turn, I guess, is supposed to lead to ever greater productivity gains at lower and lower compensation. It's not analysis. It's a wet dream.

And, lest we forget, that's Daniels on the hustings, contractual-obigatorily shilling the Idea behind his own presidential bid, the one which took two years to travel ten feet before sputtering to a halt he blamed on his wife. The only actual attempted solutions on the dais, beyond Jebus or Magic Underwear or Have Jebus Tax the Poor belong to Ron Paul, and would get someone without independent means committed for observation. What's Chris Christie's solution? Double cheese?

Daniels told Jon Stewart at least twice that he wanted to move forward; it was meant as a defense of his blaming Obama for his own, and his party's, sins. But I wonder if we're ever going to absorb the principle. As in, quit looking to Republican cutpurses and Randian blockheads to solve problems caused by listening to them in the first place.

Tuesday, September 27

Tell Ya What, I'll Let You Have The Rust Coating For One-Twenty-Five. That's Below My Cost!

Jon Stewart, The Mitch Daniels Interview. September 21

OKAY, so there ain't much to be said for the Extended Mix over the broadcast version. Not a big surprise, because Daniels has one answer, and isn't used to hearing the question it goes with.

That's his schtick, and that's the response to President Mitch Daniels? He's 62 years old, and he talks like a fairly bright high-school senior who thinks he's twice as bright as he is. And once again, this is the result of forty years, now, of American "conservatives" talking only to themselves. The thirty-years-and-counting disaster Capital-R Reagan Republicanism has wrought on Americans of Less Than Independent Wealth--thirty years of precisely his policies--lies behind the man like a tornado-blasted trailer park, and he talks This Way to Prosperity, Folks! Sure, the man is a professional liar, so it can be tough to know exactly where the line is drawn between open-mouthed credulity and sheer horseshit. (I know Jon Stewart doesn't want to hear me talking like that. Conversely, I don't want to hear Jon Stewart apologizing for lumping Mitch Daniels in with the rest of America's Pirate Class just because Daniels objects. For that matter, I don't need to hear Stewart say that "everyone basically agrees" that we have to slash "entitlements" during a fifteen-minute discussion of the Deficit which never once mentions Defense spending. We're not going to achieve national unity--assuming anybody wants to--when you can't even believe the things that come out of some people's mouths.)

Somebody at Hoover, or Hudson, or Heritage, gave Mitch his one talking point: that revenue actually increased after the Bush Tax Cuts, relative to GDP; this, not surprisingly, turns out to depend on who's counting and where they choose to start and stop, and what they choose to ignore in the interim. Tax revenues were higher in the 1990s (again, relative to GDP) than they were in the Naughts. Isn't that the end of the argument? And those tax cuts were supposed to make the GDP zoom, which…lemme look that up…they didn't. So tax cutting benefits from its own lyin' incompetence. Much like Mitch Daniels.

(In fact, revenues have plummeted every time we've enacted this miracle cure, to the extent that the new argument seems to be that Tax Cuts don't claim to increase revenues, just increase the amount of money in rich people's pockets. Thanks for clearing that up.)

Wasn't Me Who Said That! and I Don't Know How You Got that Impression! That's Daniels' Defense, too, and you can't really fault him much since, as a Republican, he's never been required to play any his adult life. He told Stewart twice that Jon was talkin' to the wrong man. Daniels, it turns out, is fully in favor of revenue enhancement. He's just metaphysically certain that none of it should come from wealthy people. Dunno how anybody misses the distinction. (I kept waiting for Stewart to push it to the point that Daniels would say, "Hell, I raised sales taxes 17%!")

This is Daniels' sole claim to "moderation", and for the life of me I can't figure out why it works. He makes amorphous statements about guaranteeing a social net for young Americans, and no one ever mentions that we have that now and that the one risk to it is Republicans with a gutting knife. He gets to pretend that "wanting to make it more economical for companies to hire Americans" doesn't mean "the working class takes it in the shorts". He gets to slip in a line about Regulation without anyone saying "You mean environmental safety and public health, right?" The "compromises" Mitch Daniels talks about--and they're all supposed to lead to the enactment of his high-school Randian vision, by the way--are the sort currently on offer from the House Republicans. Easy to be conciliatory when you get to have your way.

Where Stewart was ready for him--the Bush Tax Cuts contribution to the Deficit, the continued White Fluffy Cloud Land of the Top One Percenters--Daniels just ignored him and plowed ahead with the Randian Immoral Certitudes. We need to strengthen the Middle Class by giving it the opportunity for Advancement! This is like asking a bald man about hair tonic, or a Bush about the price of milk. The Middle Class--what's left of it--by and large prefers to stay Middle Class. It wants good jobs, decent schools, and hi-def flat screens. Striking It Rich is a silly, and an acknowledgedly silly, dream. The real constituency for The Continued Ability To Advance Ownself is the Wealthy, who know they'll stand to rake in 65% of whatever hits the table.

Stewart did a pretty good job, apart from all the apologizing. True, I had a vested interest in this one, whereas the Poor Wife and I usually skip his political interviews altogether and head straight for Colbert. I hope America--or at least that part of it I have any hope left for--truly appreciated the President it didn't get.

Monday, September 26

I ♥ Charles Pierce, Vol. Six Thousand Something

DUE to various weekend and peri-weekend events--marathon, ecstasy-fueled debauchery, the crying jag that inevitably follows (mine, of course), an unrelated head injury, cats--it was Sunday morning before I got to see the redacted, broadcast version of Jon Stewart's interview with sometime Indiana Governor Mitch "Check That Book Cover Glamor Shot" Daniels, and I've yet to get through the full, online version while taking notes. It was no surprise, and only a tiny bit disconcerting, that Stewart referred to the man who raised Indiana's most regressive tax 17%, slashed the state budget using the bed of Procrustes as a template, then dumped the bleeding stumps on local governments, as "fiscally responsible"; even assuming the nationals researched this sort of thing, what would they do with it? Ruin a perfectly serviceable script? No, the remarkable thing, for any Hoosier, certainly, was that Daniels had to sit there and take it, because Holy Commerce was at stake. Back Home Again, when he's merely the democratically-elected chief executive of the state, he tells anyone who disagrees with him that the sty isn't gonna muck itself, nor their closest girl relative impregnate herself, and to quit wasting time questioning their betters.

Meanwhile, we get acid reflux, Charlie Pierce gets insights:
Jon Huntsman, poor dear, truly is a lost soul. He came here this weekend, for the Florida presidential debate and the ensuing straw poll, running what appeared to be a complicated simulacrum of a national presidential campaign. This placed him in a subcategory of Republican contenders along with Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, and, oddly enough, Rick Santorum, who is running a show not unlike Huntsman's, although Huntsman appears to be trying to get elected leader of the United States of America while Santorum seems to be angling for the job of patriarch of Antioch. Most everybody else — the rising Herman Cain, the faltering Michele Bachmann, and Ron Paul, who's always been really good at it — seems to be content with fashioning a cult of personality. And then there's Newt Gingrich, who is actually on an extended book tour.

Read, as they like to say, the whole thing.

Sunday, September 25

2012: The Lesser Of Two Banalities

FOR starters, Ron Suskind can go on The Daily Show and try to soft-soap the host, and the audience, about their President, if that's what he thinks it takes to sell books in that Demo, but there's no explanation for Larry Summers and Tim Geithner; a couple years in the Senate cannot possibly have convinced an educated man in possession of both his faculties and the rudiments of current events that there was such a thing as Compromise just waiting for the right promotion to open everyone's eyes to it. Barack Hussein Obama, State Senator from Illinois' 13th District, ran for the US Senate in the Swiftboat and Purple Bandaid Election of 2004. He served in The Deliberative Body during the heyday of the Gang of Fourteen; did they squidge your little tiddle cup to brimming with confidence in the combined wisdom of our two parties? Barack Obama entered national service under threat of The Nuclear Option, and switched branches four years later with Perpetual Filibuster the whole of the Republican agenda. Did you miss this fact? The people he listened to were the ones he put in the position to talk to him in the first place. He was so damned enamored of Ronald Reagan he might've remembered that the Reagan administration was still blaming Jimmy Carter in 1987. The incoming Bush the Dumber administration tried to blame Bill Clinton for the recession it had tried to talk into existence on the campaign trail in 2000, and Clinton had the best economic record of any postwar President. Barack Obama was dealt a bad hand. He played it abysmally. No fucking excuses.

Speaking of the incomprehensible, who had "2 weeks" in the Rick Perry=Fred Thompson Over/Under? Christ, Thompson lasted longer, by the simple expedient of not campaigning at all. How th' fuck does it take you three televised debates to figure out that Perry is a dolt? He's been governor of Texas for three terms now. Isn't that enough? (Christ, he'd already managed to be a national disgrace as Lieutenant Governor.)

By the same token we'd like to know how Republicans keep getting away with this sad-ass parade, how they once again field a daisful of scoundrels, simpletons, and snake-oil peddlers without it being termed the Seven Dwarfs or Eight Loonies or Nine Nutjobs by the Gentlemen of the Press. This is the Republican Presidential Sweepstakes history since 1988 (not that Reagan wasn't the King of the Simpletons and Patron Saint of Patent Nostrum Pushers before that; it's just that, once he became inevitable, the entire party managed to keep its mouth shut about it), but it sure ain't reflected in the Conventional Wisdom.

Could you please just fucking decide if you're a party of complete imbeciles, or just marginal ones? If Sarah Palin/Rick Perry/Michele Bachmann/Herman Cain/Rick Santorum/Fred Thompson/Sam Brownback/Alan Keyes/Gary Bauer/Pat Buchanan/whatever other both-sides-of-the-borderline sociopathic personalities I'm forgetting at the moment can't be elected, or make it through a debate season without setting off alarm bells, then do something about it. Likewise, if you don't like Mitt Romney, John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, Bob Dole, George Herbert Walker Panamanicus Bush--let alone any of the supposed serious, supposed "moderate", alternate-Brooksian-Universe candidates like Mitch Daniels or Haley Barbour--then quit nominating them. That Daniels business began in 2009, and was clearly a measure of how desperate the Money Boys were to save the party from Sarah Palin. So did Mitch Daniels ever mention her name? The goddam money shot of the whole Non Campaign Campaign is him saying that the Culture War might have to be put on the back burner, then immediately turning around and trying to finesse that with Laura Ingraham. If you're even talking to Laura Ingraham you need to reconsider your life's path.

The Bantam Menace worked for Ronald Reagan. What beef can he have with Sarah Palin? The only difference is that Ol' Dutch read his lines like a second-rate actor, while she reads 'em like the alternate weekend weathergirl on Bismark's second-rated channel. Same lines.

Being afraid to cross the base and its even-weirdening collection of litmus tests and town-idiot candidates has worked to keep y'all at or near the levers of Power--and rich--but it means you can't do anything with them once you get ahold of them. Your bullshit moderates have zero courage and even less credibility. Your leading marginally non-certifiable, not-presently-under-indictment candidate has, basically, run a five-year campaign based on how much he's willing to pander to get nominated. The only moderate on the stage is the second of two Mormons, fer chrissakes; who th' hell wants those people on his doorstep, let alone with the launch codes and signing statements?

Finally, let us do ask, again, how long it takes before the last thirty years of the colossal social failure that is Reaganism becomes recognized as such? It didn't take thirty years for the Right to denounce the New Deal. It didn't take thirty years for it to denounce the Great Society. It didn't take thirty years for Brown to become the Fort Sumter of the War on Public Education, and it didn't take anywhere near that long for the Press to join in. The Republican party has been promising a Return To National Greatness for decades (the way it promised to focus on Jobs in the 112th Congress) while we slid instead into a National Morass, and the only consequence has been a doubling down of the rhetoric that got us here. When's that become a campaign issue? Not until we get a campaign that means something?

Thursday, September 22

I Give Up

Spot the errors

Glenn "Thrash" Thrush, "Obama sparks middle-of-road rage". September 21

ONE: thinking up a headline, then concocting a story to fit it? I know times are tough, but maybe you should shop your resumé around to major advertising firms on your own time. TWO: Just because the headlines say Liberals now heart Barack Obama like it's 2004 again doesn't make it so. For the life of me I can't understand how a supposedly literate Press corps views things this way. And by that I do not mean "personally believes it", since I'm convinced that practically to the last man the Press believes in nothing whatsoever; I mean how it believes that such storylines convince anyone of anything (though, again, "convince" is undoubtedly the wrong word here. "Deflect" is more like it). It is, of course, about a hundred times worse once election season rolls 'round, and the open bar starts pouring premium liquor. "Romney Says Cheney Would Make Excellent Running Mate", or "Michele Bachmann Demonstrates Her Competence in First Debate" for example. You wouldn't let somebody who really tried to convince you of something like that cut your hair, would you? Or sell you a fedora?

THREE, and MOST TELLINGLY: Your Middle-of-the-Road Ragers--please return your seat-back and folding tray to the upright position!--are David Brooks, Ben Nelson, and Mark Fucking Penn, one of whom wrote a column, while the other two commented. See you at the Revolution!

Like this ain't bad enough--y'know, you could've held on to that headline until Gallup confirmed that moderates were leaving the President in droves because he'd turned into FDR, but then that isn't going to happen, is it?--we get this:
Then there was Brooks, Obama’s highest-profile centrist champion in the mainstream press, who sounded downright distraught in his Tuesday column — a lot like the progressive hand-wringers who once accused Obama of colluding with moderates like, well, Brooks.

“Being a sap, I still believe that the president’s soul would like to do something about the country’s structural problems. I keep thinking he’s a few weeks away from proposing serious tax reform and entitlement reform. But each time he gets close, he rips the football away,” he wrote.

Okay, I thought about blogging that Brooks column the other day, and then I figured there were only so many ways to call the man a fucking coward and an even bigger fraud, and I'd done 'em all in my sleep. Brooks owes his sinecure at the Times precisely to this sort of nonsense. He hasn't "championed" Obama, except for the two-week period in early January 2008 when it began to look like the man was the great Republican hope for defeating Hilary. Brooks occasionally allows as how if it were up to him he'd be willing to compromise and take only 95% of his Friedmaniac agenda, even though that 5% deficit would prevent it from working its pleophoric miracles. This is known as Protecting the Franchise. It's not to be confused with imagining David Brooks is some sort of thinker, moderate or otherwise.

This shit doesn't even stand up if we take the man at his word. Brooks reacts to a single--albeit major and campaign-theme test-marketing--speech; "Liberals" were supposed to have championed the man from day one, despite the repeated, even constant, application of wet-mackerel facials. No one familiar with Brooks' work--hell, no one who's seen one of his sniveling performance pieces on News Hour--could believe any of this.

And, okay, I'm not the most objective observer of the American political scene to be found on the internets. But Lonesome Barack Obama gives one speech in which he suggests that, perhaps, the wealthiest 2% of Americans might be asked to do a little something to show their appreciation for the government of the United States ceding control of its economy to them for the last thirty years, without bothering to ask the other 98% first--a position, by the way, which Obama advanced for all of thirty minutes at the beginning of the Debt Ceiling Crisis--and suddenly the Ghost of Saul Alinsky is loose upon the land (again)? And poor David Brooks barely made it to the fainting couch in time. Sure.

Y'know, for the life of me, I'm starting to think that the solution to the Educational Crisis in this country is to drop all the pretense and just quit trying.

Wednesday, September 21

Back Home Again: USA America In A Nutshell, Appropriately, Edition

AS reported earlier, I'm fighting a losing battle with the horizon; even before the Equinox I'm forced to wait until 7:30 in the morning for enough light to safely ride a (lighted) bicycle in the streets, streets which are increasingly filled with drivers who apparently owe their licenses, if any, to the pseudo-Randian takeover of the BMV in 2005. (There are two possible explanations for this. The first is that there are orders from On High, or, in Mitch Daniels' case, Short, in conjunction with Indiana's Okey-Dokey Double-Constitutional Voter ID law, for the Bureau to license white people indiscriminately to balance out all the African-American voter fraud. The other is that malcontented Bureau employees forced, in 2005, to don the Official Worker Uniform of blue golf shirt,--wait for it--khaki pantaloons, and pained* smile, had turned rogue or gone Luddite.) That would include the Carmelite driver--we're coming back to you, Car-mel**--who stopped this morning three feet beyond the intersection of the Monon Trail and whatever side street in the old neighborhoods of Old Town Carmel ™ she was driving on, so she could hold her iPhone up high enough to read the text. And text back, which somehow is against the law in Indiana, though perhaps this does not include Hamilton county.

I was safely in lowered gear and heightened alert; it's a heavy pedestrian area with a couple little street crossings that can be dangerous, and one--the Old Town Main Drag--which can be dangerous and infuriating, so I watch out. This did not prevent me from the loud proclamation of a curse word still considered ill-mannered among the Uppers, and both she and some Carmel-homeless guy (over 19, still living with parents, possibly in or out of college, possibly walking to a local restaurant job, hipster mien; believe me, there are no real homeless people in Carmel. Not for two days running there aren't) replied with shouts, but I couldn't make either of 'em out since I had the iPod on, and was past before they finished their thoughts.

Pardon the digression. It's not like I routinely abuse the privilege. When Mitch "Turns Out Freedom Is Free" Daniels first got hold of the state's infrastructure, he named as BMV director some guy with a retail background, most recently having helmed Galyan's Sporting Goods Empire as Dick's Sporting Goods Empire came into its home market and pushed it off the monkey bars, and made it cry. Within weeks he closed branches (surprise!), removed the clocks from those that remained, and thunk up that dress code. (Asked whether he'd be wearing it, too, he replied that he would, whenever he was working in a Branch.) He also oversaw the utterly incompetent switch to a major computer program overhaul, which had been in the works for several years. It got so bad he was cashiered. These days, truth be told, it's the best it's ever been in my memory, except way back in the day when you could just pick one, wherever it was located, and a quick trip to farm country more than made up for the extra drive. They seem to've done something with all the small-time car dealers who used to clog the system first thing in the morning. Like putting them on the Honor system.

Anyway, with the tardy sunrise I've been watching the local morning teleprompter readers out of some latent masochistic streak, and yesterday, swear to God, there was a story on how Wendy's/Burger King/Waste Management was going to put more meat in their burgers. And today came news--it made me pine for a teletype chattering in the background--that Coca-Cola™ would be offering its flagship product in somewhere between two and five new sizes; the announcer was so excited I never quite got the actual count.

Just tell me where this comes from. Yes, indeedy, it's traceable to the contagion of Happy Talk News, circa 1972, when it was decided that news coverage should not neglect the National Morale and the tonic effects of an adorable dog who fought a fire or traveled a long and mysterious road to return to the house and the family which had secretly dumped him while on vacation 1500 miles away and now had to clench the bowels of self-loathing and never, ever, admit having done so. But the switch to Coupon News and Arby's New Sauce Selections features is of more recent vintage.

Of course, chatter of any sort clenches the bowels in the day's first spasm of Potential Pre-Cancer at that hour. (Or does so for those over, say, 15, which, assuming this is in fact the target audience, explains everything.) But I'm mystified by the process that decides this is the sort of thing The Masses wanna know about before they brush their teeth.

The effect on the unwashed brain at that hour I leave to the Sociology Department, but the signs do not augur well. A commenter on the story at the Star writes:
Many realize that Carmel is a Republican stronghold with many entrepreneurs. When you have a city of this caliber, people come to expect the best. Insurance was offered to the city council members which as Mayor Brainerd pointed out is an option not out of the ordinary in the United States. People who complain about these type of options seem to want the nation to deteriorate to the point where no one is offered benefits. The small minded, if I don't get that then they don't get that, simply overlooks all the factors involved in maintaining competent individuals.

Now first, I'd like to fully endorse Entrepreneur as the Official Republican PC Code for "White". Second, it is perhaps our duty, again, to remind the reader innocent of Central Indiana geography that the Sleepy Burg of Carmel owes its growth beyond the charming two-block area of Old Town to the Interstate Highway System venturing a little too close for its own good. Or ours. Supplemented by the Second White Flight, post-Nixon, the one in the mid-late 70s, the one that jumped the Marion county line in three directions, outside the Eisenhower Circle around the big, Africanizing city, the way one can trace the migration of the Iroquois by the bulge their neighbors made in getting as far away from them as practicable. That's Carmel, Indiana, Entrepreneurial Heaven. It's done a better job than its bucolic neighbors, Fishers and Westfield, of avoiding turning every square inch of fertile loam over to strip malls.

I like Entrepreneur. And Grifter's even better.


* They're actually quite nice, and genuine, practically without exception, at least in these parts.

** Car-mel, accent on the final syllable as with Carmel-by-the-Sea, and not the locally acknowledged first syllable, is 1) one favored way to determine whether the recorded announcer is from out of town, and/or 2) the way the rest of us pronounce it sometimes, with either an implied distain or mock superciliousness, for some reason. I'm not sure why. It's one of those things like "Dead as a doornail" that you just say.

Tuesday, September 20


Benjamin H. Friedman and Caitlin Talmadge, "What Defense Cuts?" September 19

PUTS me in mind of the two middle-aged Midwestern sisters who skimped and saved and finally got to take a vacation to California and see the ocean for the first time.

"Look at all that water," says one.

"Yes," says the other. "And that's just the top of it."
...the Senate Appropriations Committee last week unveiled its spending caps for fiscal year 2013 — without a big defense cut. The appropriators proposed nonwar defense spending (“base” spending) just $2.9 billion below 2011. That cut, less than 1 percent, comes entirely from the military construction and family housing budget — not exactly the pointy end of the spear….

Compared with 2011 spending, the deal requires only a minor trim in security budgets: $4.5 billion in 2012 and $2.5 billion in 2013. And that reduction — pocket change in a $529 billion annual defense budget — need not even come from the Pentagon.

The legislation defines “security” spending as Defense, Homeland Security, Veterans, State and the National Nuclear Security Administration, a part of the Energy Department.

To get under the 2012 cap, Senate appropriators took $3.5 billion from State and around a half-billion from Homeland Security. Veterans and NNSA got small increases. Defense dodged the bullet — save for that military construction trim.

I was tempted to ask if anyone here was old enough to remember how well Gramm-Rudman worked, but, of course, that would be like marveling that Bernie Madoff would dare run a pyramid scheme even though Charles Ponzi went to prison.

Friday, September 16

Friday Olio: We're Arguing About What's Truly Fake Now? Edition

• No surprise that Slate rises to the defense of Poor Sarah Palin So Unfairly Attacked By Joe McGinniss, since subtracting "double reverse surprise contrarianism with a backward twist" from both sides of the equation yields "defending really stupid shit". As usual, this blog refuses to make "poking fun at The XX Factor, and Rachael Larimore in particular" anything more than a semi-annual fungo shag, but, c'mon:
Unfortunately, whatever meritorious reporting there might be on Troopergate or legislation she worked on as governor or her expertise or lackthereof on energy issues, it has to compete with [McGinniss'] anonymously sourced musings on Palin’s parenting skills and his sympathy for Levi Johnston’s mother.

1) How many Hillary Clinton books are there, again? 2) Palin and her brood have now been artificially-colored, may-contain-nuts media products for twice as long as she was governor of Alaskahoma. Th' fuck should a Sarah Palin book be about? Her contributions to the language? and 3) "lacktherof"?

Weigel, at least, is smart enough to term some of the Prairie Snooki stories "outrageous" without explaining which direction the outrage is supposed to be coming from, but then he has a vested interest in Palin staying out of the race so Michele Bachmann can continue to impress.

• SAT scores plummet to their lowest level in forty years, which, since the test was dumbed down in 1995, essentially means lowest level ever.

This is after fifteen years of school reform, and a decade of high-stakes testing designed to focus 90% of school-day energies precisely on those subjects the SATs evaluate.

Once again: how long does this reform shit get to fail before we focus on its failures?

CERN: Higgs boson 'God particle' likely does not exist. So it's exactly like God.

• NASA brainiacs nickname planet with two suns "Tatooine". And we're talking about de-funding the Post Office?

• Finally, a reason to own a teevee: Fred Dumbo Thompson, shilling a reverse mortgage plan when he should be planning his re-election campaign, emphasizes that reverse mortgages are government insured.

Thursday, September 15

The Vermiform Cerebral Ganglia And Circumpharyngeal Connective That Is American Politics

E.J. Dionne, Jr., "The GOP establishment's Rick Perry problem". September 14

DUDE, at least Rip Van Winkle had the decency to act confused when he woke up:
The Republican establishment is said to have grave qualms about Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s presidential campaign. Here’s the problem: There is no Republican establishment. It squandered its authority by building up the Tea Party’s brigades and then fearing them too much to do anything to check their power.

Fer chrissakes, this has been going on for thirty years. It's been going on so long that Jerry Falwell's latest, last, and best career move was four years ago. The Republican establishment didn't miscalculate its estimation of the Teabaggers. The Republican establishment created the Teabaggers, in response to the fact that the Bush administration, and the 2008 elections, had not simply repudiated the Republican establishment, but had revealed it for all time as the criminal enterprise it has been since the end of Reconstruction, and the brain-dead criminal enterprise it's been since Reagan.

The big "point" of Teabagging was supposed to be how the Republicans were conceding religio-social issues for the tainted-meat-and-potatoes of economic issues. Never mind, of course, that the wrecked global economy could be laid squarely on the doorstep of their gated island community in the clouds.

In this, for some reason, they received the unexpected aid of a Democratic president elected in the wake of all this (plus the comparable international disaster directly traceable to thirty years of trying for that Golden Vietnam Do-Over), who decided to meet them under a flag of truce. Or surrender. I get those two confused. As does he.

It's not like this is a first for the Democratic party. And it's not like The Liberal Media, E.J. Dionne, Jr., card-carrying member, hasn't been worshipping at the altar of Ronald Reagan since 1980. A big part of that has been the convenient belief that the whole of Flyover Country was one big Praise Jesus, snake-handlin' cult one was required to tread very carefully around, lest it wake up to larger realities and start pressing the Republican party for something real in exchange for its votes.

How much more so are "establishment" or "moderate" Republicans responsible for this shit? They didn't wink at it over cocktails; they celebrated it. Whether that was cynically, for votes, or cynically, to maximize profits, doesn't matter. This isn't something which suddenly rose up and bit 'em on the ass. Rick Perry isn't some sui-generis cowboy/religious nut. He is the Republican party. If a few Republican power-brokers of the Mitch Daniels sort hope he's not the nominee, it's just because they don't think that Jebus crap will work in the general; if they had any real concern about the crazy Jebus people they'd have fled the party long ago.

Tuesday, September 13

The Kids Are Alwrong

David Brooks, "If It Feels Right". September 12

I WATCHED a passel a' Republican Reality Show last night, and, frankly, I'm not all that impressed with the field.

This was the first time I've (sorta) watched two of these things back-to-back (I mean ever, not just with this collection of oxygen bandits), and the striking feature, for me, was that none of these biting midges can sustain from one week to the next. Even Jon "The Normal One" Huntsman--and how disconcerting is it when the only two candidates who give the appearance, and probably only the appearance, of managing to keep one foot in or near the reality-based gravitational pull of the Earth are Mormons?--can't manage two straight episodes without turning up covered in cotton candy or fire ants; the Green Room must be fulla each. Romney? He gives a very good impression of a Second-Generation Legacy GM board member being forced to work two straight weeks without golf. He's been lying and pulling Jim Rockford 180ºs so long now he can barely keep anything straight, and the requirement that he express a robust opposition to whatever fucking insanity is popular with GOP voters (Executive orders? Germ theory of disease?) this week is beginning to tell on him. I'm sure he'll pull through, though; the man's a pro, and I mean that in the worst possible way.

Last week I almost wrote about how Huntsman and--surprise--Rick Fucking Santorum were the only two guys who belonged, marginally, in a House debate, let alone in a Presidential sweepstakes, but last night Santorum sounded like the guy reading Bible verses out loud while you're both waiting for the bus. There's Professor Gingrich, of course, whose early career was spent assessing just how transparent a liar and crook one could be without getting caught, provided one remained in Georgia ("Like Dan Burton, but 10% smarter and 20% more immoral," my friend Gary once said), and whose second act is designed to prove--probably unintentionally--that character does matter.

The performance of the front-runners last night was just depressing, and not the usual sort of God, This Is Gonna Hurt Republican depressing, either. How th' hell can a Republican of sensible mien sit through one of these things, or sit still just knowing they're out there? This is precisely what the Artificial Draft Mitch Daniels movement was all about, and we'll repeat: when you're reduced to tabbing Mitch Daniels as just the sort of man your party needs, you've taken a wrong turn somewhere, and it was at least a thousand miles ago.

Which brings us to David Brooks. Brooks has the built-in advantage that his vertiginous intellect allows him to merely allude to a certain dissatisfaction, a vague feeling that maybe a Republican or two has overstepped somewhere; this impresses the thinking classes no end, and grants him the freedom to go off on another of these Sociological experiments he enjoys having other people conduct for him. Turns out the durned Kids today are immoral and inarticulate:
During the summer of 2008, the eminent Notre Dame sociologist Christian Smith led a research team that conducted in-depth interviews with 230 young adults from across America. The interviews were part of a larger study that Smith, Kari Christoffersen, Hilary Davidson, Patricia Snell Herzog and others have been conducting on the state of America’s youth.

Well, on the bright side, at least academics in the empirical, or "empirical", social sciences are finally beginning to pay attention to the college-age population.
Smith and company asked about the young people’s moral lives, and the results are depressing.

In other words, it describes how people who aren't David Brooks fail to consider how David Brooks would have them act.

STANDARD DISCLAIMER: 1) Do not operate toaster while it, or you, are immersed in water. 2) Bear in mind, whenever you're treated to the moral complaints of American "conservatives", that these same people thought 100,000 innocent Iraqis dying for the sin of being governed by Saddam Hussein, a man we helped them choose in the first place, was an acceptable moral calculus.
It’s not so much that these young Americans are living lives of sin and debauchery, at least no more than you’d expect from 18- to 23-year-olds. What’s disheartening is how bad they are at thinking and talking about moral issues.

Or, put another way, it's the debauchery.
The interviewers asked open-ended questions about right and wrong, moral dilemmas and the meaning of life. In the rambling answers, which Smith and company recount in a new book, “Lost in Transition,” you see the young people groping to say anything sensible on these matters. But they just don’t have the categories or vocabulary to do so.

Okay, first, I'm guessing here that, despite the disclaimer, we're going to wind up blaming their moral sense, not their vocabulary. Second, isn't this pretty much then the finding of every similar study? Maybe the English department should be doing the research. Finally, we should urge caution here, if only because inarticulacy is the one trait young Americans share with the middle-aged and the elderly.
“Not many of them have previously given much or any thought to many of the kinds of questions about morality that we asked,” Smith and his co-authors write. When asked about wrong or evil, they could generally agree that rape and murder are wrong. But, aside from these extreme cases, moral thinking didn’t enter the picture, even when considering things like drunken driving, cheating in school or cheating on a partner. “I don’t really deal with right and wrong that often,” is how one interviewee put it.

Confused, inarticulate and amoral young people! Things sure have changed since I was in school.
Many were quick to talk about their moral feelings but hesitant to link these feelings to any broader thinking about a shared moral framework or obligation. As one put it, “I mean, I guess what makes something right is how I feel about it. But different people feel different ways, so I couldn’t speak on behalf of anyone else as to what’s right and wrong.”

Okay, so at this point could we ask for the precise date when Sociology solved this problem for all of Western civilization? Was it that day when every Protestant and Jew in Judeo-Christendom agreed that the Pope was infallible? I must've mislaid my notes.
Smith and company found an atmosphere of extreme moral individualism — of relativism and nonjudgmentalism. Again, this doesn’t mean that America’s young people are immoral. Far from it. But, Smith and company emphasize, they have not been given the resources — by schools, institutions and families — to cultivate their moral intuitions, to think more broadly about moral obligations, to check behaviors that may be degrading. In this way, the study says more about adult America than youthful America.

Not to mention what it says about America's sociologists and punditasters. Our young people, it seems to me, have pretty well internalized the same unquestioning belief in the primacy of individual whim the Republican party touts as the solution to all our economic problems. But by all means, let's blame the schools for not eradicating the rabid consumerism every last non-comatose citizen is bombarded with forty-five times a minute.
Many of these shortcomings will sort themselves out as these youngsters get married, have kids, enter a profession or fit into more clearly defined social roles. Institutions will inculcate certain habits. Broader moral horizons will be forced upon them.

Resistance is Futile!
But their attitudes at the start of their adult lives do reveal something about American culture.

So does finding a hidden strength in the knowledge that Corporate America'll knock that immorality out of 'em soon enough. Or just re-channel it.
For decades, writers from different perspectives have been warning about the erosion of shared moral frameworks and the rise of an easygoing moral individualism.

Allan Bloom and Gertrude Himmelfarb warned that sturdy virtues are being diluted into shallow values. Alasdair MacIntyre has written about emotivism, the idea that it’s impossible to secure moral agreement in our culture because all judgments are based on how we feel at the moment.

Charles Taylor has argued that morals have become separated from moral sources.

Wow, thinkers as diverse as Alasdair MacIntyre and Allan Bloom, agreeing that America has failed to live up to the moral guidelines they'd set for it. And Gertrude Himmelfarb! Nearly spanning the complete spectrum of American "conservative" social moralist prescription.
In most times and in most places, the group was seen to be the essential moral unit. A shared religion defined rules and practices. Cultures structured people’s imaginations and imposed moral disciplines. But now more people are led to assume that the free-floating individual is the essential moral unit. Morality was once revealed, inherited and shared, but now it’s thought of as something that emerges in the privacy of your own heart.

Well, in fairness, a still-sizable portion of the population still comes by its morality the old fashioned way: from a talking tree, or the miraculous scorch pattern in a piece of toast.

Hey, Dave: Allan's no longer with us, but why don't you, and Bea, and Alasdair, and the rest, just get together this weekend and hash out the clear-cut moral code the rest of us are supposed to live by. And then why don't you all live by it for a week, and see who cries Uncle first?

Monday, September 12

Remembering 9/12

The Washington Post editorial board, "Don't underestimate what America has achieved since 9/11". 9-9

THANKS are what I guess are in order to ‪ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®©‬ for the above link, and certainly to Suffern AC for the capsule description: "the most important thing to do this day was to shield the elite from criticism."

I don't remember who said that Sentimentality was other people's sentiments, and it was either Doctor Swift or Doctor Johnson who said "Obsequies are always mixed with infusion of poppy." Or it was someone else. I'd look it up, but my quote collection is on Hypercard, and I'm not gonna go plug in the graphite iMac, and find a keyboard, just so I can open it. Not until Apple apologizes.

Anyway, maybe it's just me, but if you want to remember, really remember, the Fallen of that day then you watch a documentary, you look at something that happened in between the planes flying into the Towers and the subsequent shocking collapse that much of the mythology is based on; you share a moment or two in that polarscape of ash with people unable to fully comprehend the scope of what had happened, and no clue about how much bigger it would become, very, very soon. The people--fire, police, civilian--who went, as the popular parlance has it, Up, not Down that day, weren't doing so for America, or "America". They were doing it for their fellow human beings. What it had to do with turning the playing field at Cowboys Stadium into a temporary prop flag I do not know. The impulse to easy patriotic display seems all but irresistible to the profit-driven.

I mean, I don't really care what Chris Berman and Tom Jackson think about 9/11. I care about who won the late games. I'm sure their expressions were heartfelt, but I'm not sure they should bring their show to a halt every time an anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, Pearl Harbor, the Normandy Invasion, Washington's Farewell, the Kennedy Assassination, Marbury v. Madison, or the Gadsden Purchase is divisible by five. The one thing I would like to ask is: can we please get rid of Tom Brokaw before the next one? If the humanitarians among us wish Mr. Brokaw a long and happy life, then let's just agree not to celebrate 9/11 again until it's over.

For fuck's sake, the man is a walking Whitman's Sampler of What's Fucked Up About the Culture. At the time of the 9/11 attacks he was making maybe $15 mil a year for reading a teleprompter--which he can't even do in English--and doing vanity reports, and he wants credit for coming in to work early that day. And he had to come into work early because the Today Show hosts--Catie and Matt--had zero gravitas about them, or just the right amount for a program NBC wanted to be gravitas-free. And once he got there he announced we were at War. or, as he put it, "Wah-ah." Imagine Cronkite or Huntley-Brinkley doing that at the height of the Cawd Wah-ah a half-hour after an ammo dump blew up.

But they were reporters, and had a serious attitude about the reach of television; Brokaw is a ratings monkey. Brokaw and Peter Jennings were the first two Q-ratings anchors. Both rose after the News was taken over by Entertainment, both climbed the ladder at networks which were furiously paddling Right in an effort to catch the Silent Majority slipstream and rise to ratings semi-respectability, and both arrived at the top just in time to curl up in Ronald Reagan's grandfatherly lap. Jennings actually became a journalist after that. Brokaw became a corporation.

Just get him off the fucking air. He can write all the stupid pandering books he wants, just so someone else reads the audio version. But, fuck, the man has nothing in his head corresponding to an original thought. His is the wisdom of the man who created the fourth-largest regional grommet manufacturer starting with only the Mom & Pop grommet sweatshop his parents left him.

Fred Hiatt the WaPo Editorialistes:
ON THE 10TH anniversary of al-Qaeda’s attack on New York and Washington, the conventional wisdom seems to be evolving from “We will be hit again” to “Osama bin Laden won by provoking us into a decade of overreaction.”

What channel was that on?
The feeling is understandable but incorrect, and it would be dangerous if it took hold. Yes, the nation made big mistakes over the past decade. When has America ever geared up without excess and error? But the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon alerted Americans to genuine dangers that only a relative few had noticed. We have lived safely for the decade since not because we misread those dangers but because we responded to them in a manner in which, on balance, Americans can take pride.

Yeah, about $500 billion each to make sure Qusay and Uday, or Qumoy and Mtsu, didn't succeed their father as Unfriendly President with a Bunch of Oil and a Third-World Sandhole, and another $500 billion to kill bin-Laden. I guess we can take pride in the fact that we're too ethical to've just offered $100 mil to the first person to bring us bin-Laden's head. We could have had the motherfucker in a week, except, of course, that it took that long to locate George W. Bush. Just because a straightforward approach to a criminal act probably would have netted us something closer to justice, in much less time, and at an exponentially lesser cost in innocent lives is no reason to be too hard on ourselves now. Just because we ignored the Geneva Conventions so we could slake our bloodlust, but keep our hands clean, is not excuse to run around contemplating our navels. Just because al-Qaeda turned out to be one guy with a bunch of oil residual money, a Commodore 64, and a porn stash doesn't mean it wasn't SPECTRE, once, and couldn't be again. Hey, we heard credible threats about the Tenth Anniversary! Didn't we?

Friday, September 9

Well, For Starters, Because They're In On It

Dana Milbank, "The irrelevancy of the Obama presidency". September 9

This just in from Dana Milbank, National Chairperson, Let's Put Gravitas Back Into Politics Foundation.
President Obama gave one of the most impassioned speeches of his presidency when he addressed a joint session of Congress Thursday night. Too bad so many in the audience thought it was a big, fat joke.

“You should pass this jobs plan right away!” Obama exhorted. Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) chuckled.

Why shouldn't those two chuckle at Obama's Big Plans, three years late? He's done more for the Republican agenda than they ever have.

That said--but not for the last time--I wish everyone would sit there respectfully, but whaddya gonna do? Look at what you got to work with.

Lindsey Fucking Graham, Strom Thurmond Chair of Applied Antebellum Studies, Washington, D.C., has been in the United States Congress for fifteen years. What did the employment picture look like when he took office, compared to now? How 'bout the Horrible Baby-Killing Deficit? How much of the current Federal deficit is directly traceable to things Lindsey Fucking Graham voted for? And his party stand for? What's he got to chuckle about except how deeply the rubes are hooked, and how long a Ponzi scheme can go on without anyone catching on or saying something? Of Bob "Bob" Corker, the most that should be said is he holds the Bill Frist Chair for Tennessee (Motto: The Thinking Man's Confederacy!) and aspires some day to fill it.

And I will be saying the same thing thirty-six months from now, about Presidential Addresses and Bob Corker, when one of the bolder Democrats has summoned the courage to cough pointedly at one of President Palin's howlers.

You wanna show disrespect, boycott. Maybe that's just me. If we wanna have Question Time, let's be elitist, just for the sake of viewing an imaginary future, one where we have both British-style rough-and-tumble and a still-functioning government. Okay, so they're both farfetched. Our observation might sound something ike this: There is a distinction between a Shakespearean sonnet and the rude scribblings on a mens' room stall. Not that the latter is entirely without charms; the point is that that distinction is flatly lost on a sizable number of Americans, and an even higher percentage of their elected officials.

Maybe the President should announce a speech every week, and invite the audience to heckle him.

Jobs? It's the Democratic party that sold out the middle class, the Working Man, and that happened more than four years ago. Barack Obama standing there as the deal spared the Financiers both money and prison time was just an acknowledgement of the fact. Of course, there are still more friends of the Lesser Classes among Democrats than their opponents, but only since those opponents have been stuck on Zero since the 1880s, Progressive Era excepted.

I don't know what percentage of the blame to belongs to the Democrats; the Bush administration was such a disaster that disaster was guaranteed to follow in its wake, but what did The Historical Democrats do about it? This is the Historical Congress of Suckitude; what are they doing about it now? Fuck Congress in perpetuity. The President runs the country, and has been since whenever you wanna start counting. Barack Obama is aware of this, since he has invoked emperorhood in order to continue covert surveillance on every American with an internet connection, bail out Wall Street scammers, and justify whatever th' fuck we spend on the Defense, Psychic Investigations, and Really Cool Robots Department, because we let the paranoiacs take over in 1946.

Candidate and President Presumptive Barack Obama professed his admiration for the way "Ronald Reagan brought people together even though and let me clarify my remarks from yesterday I didn't agree with his policies." It perhaps--perhaps!--explains his failure to grasp that the appropriate model was Franklin Delano Roosevelt, since his gazed was fixed 180º opposite.

I do not understand why Barack Obama did not consciously evoke FDR ("The last American President to actually win a war!") and the 100 Days. Or Martin Luther King, for that matter. The minute those Teabagger racist signs went up he should have given a ninety-minute teevee lecture on African-American history. (Granted, yet again, that I also believe he should have let at least one "motherfucker" slip out, early. As in, for example, "that Motherfuckin' Dick Cheney." I am not so delusional as to imagine that I'll be taken seriously.)

Compromise is a joke, but Compromise has been a joke for a long time. Thanks to the work of Restoration nobility, 18th century surveyors and political philosophers, and an insatiable and realizable lust for Indian lands that followed close behind, we have a semi-permanent ruling coalition of Dixiecrats with, frankly, less genetic variability than is ordinarily seen in a population sample that size, and representatives of a vast inland area in which there are no people. Or in which what people there are a disproportionately rewarded with government contracts, land, oil and mineral leases, water, and probably free premium cable.

Obama should'a come out swinging--from December, 2008, and he should have dared the Congressional Republicans, on the ropes but refusing to go down, to call Martin Luther King a Socialist. In public. In the spirit of Compromise, he could have pointed out that what he was asking was a helluva lot milder than what they called him when he was alive. In public.

How did this happen? He missed the fact that people were looking at him as some sort of Rescuer, a handsome and valiant and yes, half-African First Responder to the collapse of the White House? Yeah, he got stuck, economically, in the shorts, with no sweet talk first. Yeah, the President can't exactly go on teevee and announce "We're fucked" ten minutes after he takes office, and there are probably other good reasons he couldn't go on and say, "Our fucking money was stolen, and I'm gonna get it back." Should'a done it anyway. Should'a taken the majority of the American people with him, instead of going out of his way to meet with those who weren't ever gonna like him. Instead he asked the Republicans what he should do. It's not like I'm the only person who thought this was a bad idea. How does the man know the Shining Beacon That Was Ronald Wilson "Dutch" Reagan, and not the bios of James Earl Carter or William Jefferson "First Black President" Clinton?

And, no, I think that Barack Obama did exactly what he intended to do, though probably not as well as he wished. The only connection Centrist Democrats have to the old Democratic party involves the contributions of organized labor. Jimmy Carter--he was elected as a "moderate Democrat", remember--could have done something about it--like run a better PR operation--but he couldn't have seen the scope of the Reagan Revolution of 1981-1985. Bill Clinton could have done something about it, but he was one of the Original Centrist Weasels (Motto: Just Get Elected), and he wasn't prepared for the organized vehemence of the Great Clinton Hunt. But for godsakes, Barack Hussein "One of These Presidents Is Not Like the Others" Obama had to see it comin'.

Thursday, September 8

The Neatly-Coiffed Rich Boy President Of The Student Council vs. The Hunky Binge-Drinking Male Cheerleader? Don't Make Me Choose!

"NOTHING survives being thought of," the sainted Oscar said, and nothing demonstrates that any better than the history of the "Presidential" and "Presidential candidate" debate routines.

I watched, God help me, as much as I could stand last night before taping the rest of it, the MSNBC post-game analysis, and this morning's chatter on CNN, in the way someone might cap off a night and early morning of inadvisable drinking by eating the most disgusting, sugar-laden, marginally non-toxic piece of American Food Goo he could find at the Mini-Mart--by the cartonfull, for good measure--just to make sure the following Sick was as virulent as the offense called for. Then I watched as much as I could stand of the recordings. And I have no idea which was the most offensive.

Nor do I really know what to say about them, except that each was an exercise in setting up a story, including the debate itself, which seemed to've been scripted by Brian Williams' writing staff and management team with the intention of fomenting a Perry/Romney fracas it could sell the way NBC's Sports Division (is that separate from the news?) might tout an NBA final as Kobe vs LeBron.

Who does this serve? Not the viewer. Not the national debate. Not the other Six Specks of Granite. Perry and Romney--fer chrissakes, they both look like The Incredibly Age-Regressing Zombie Reagan with special effects from #5 or 6 in the Lon Chaney, Jr., Wolfman series, don't they?--split the first ten minutes of the thing; the Officially-Proclaimed Also-Rans divvied up the next ten. Everybody's prepped for the sort of question Williams will ask, and Williams is trying to look just competent enough to deflect criticism, but not rile the Right, or not above the nominal, any way. After that it's a two-hour search for soundbites.

I grew up a mile from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I go back to a time when the racing car pilot--a real man untroubled by intellect who wrestled death-trap bullets of real steel on the edge of glory and disembowelment--could not be counted on to remember to thank the car owner when the cameras rolled. Today's slick magazine idol has been chosen in no small part for his ability to say "The boys worked their butts off to get the Pepsi-Fritos-Laetrile Ford, Brought To You By Certs, with Retzin™ back into the field yesterday," as naturally as he draws breath.

C'mon, do we have to work to elicit this sort of thing with politicians? These people are prepared to give their stump speeches, making sure to cough up the Phrase that Pays as often as possible. That is their full-time job. Shouldn't we expect a United States Representative, or even a western Governor, for that matter, to be, at minimum, amenable to the sort of training required to spit out a message, when that's all they have on their plate? For God's sake, they got Schwazenegger to do that. And Fabio. (And yes, I'm looking at you, members of the Press who were so artificially impressed by Bachmann's initial debate appearance, though I'm not Weigeling any names. I mean I'm not mentioning any Weigels.) And they're prepped for the Celebrigossip round. Mitt Romney's response to the sudden Perry supremacy is not a piece of stage business. It's the salient question for his campaign at the moment, and that campaign goes on seven days a week. For the life of me, what is the attraction of having this exchange:

"Michael Dukakis created more jobs than you did in Massachusetts."

"Well, George Bush and his predecessor created more jobs than you did in Texas."

unless we're just really, really fascinated by the spectacle of two empty suits embarrassing themselves? This was not the fault of Williams. It's the fucking silly setup. (By the way, her name was Ann Richards, which is so well-known I can only assume that Romney's people didn't want him to suddenly appear informed.) I don't give a fuck what Republican presidential hopefuls think of the philosophical conundrum of Anti-Gubment "Conservatives" who spend their entire lives living off the taxpayer dime. If this mattered to any of them they wouldn't be politicians, or Republicans. It's an artificial gotcha. It's something for Beltway insiders to chuckle over while on their third Macallan 15 of the evening.

If Mitt Romney's gonna pull some Al Gore Invented The Internet routine * the proper response is to have a Zen teacher walk across the stage and belt him with a stick. If all you're going to do is hold a microphone to the mirror reflection of the thing, just do that. Rick Perry reiterating, for the umpteenth time, his crackpot inaccuracies about Social Security isn't news. It's a pathology. The proper response to that is a straitjacket, not Mitt Romney musing on Perry's electability. Really taking that down would mean exposing the sham Social Security game the Right's been playing since the 80s. Which, of course, no one with a major network job, or a name on the masthead of a nominally financially-functioning website, is going to do. Couldn't we get Matt Taibbi and Christopher Hitchens to moderate one of these things?


* Credit where credit is due, carefully worded, and competently delivered, to invoke the laughter of a Reagan Library crowd without actually saying that Vice President Gore claimed he invented the internet. Still, there's such a thing as a freshness date, and it's surpassed more quickly when the product in question was beaten to death by a parade of drunkards ten years previous.

Wednesday, September 7

On The Role Of Deeply-Held Philosophical Beliefs In American Political Life, And Other Comedic Concepts

YOU may recall that late last month the roof and rigging of the outdoor stage at the Indiana State Fair collapsed in high winds, killing seven and injuring dozens more. You might also recall that by the next morning Mitch Daniels was on the scene, informing everyone within earshot, and especially potential litigants, that the whole thing was just one of those freakish acts of Nature, Nature being the goddess who gets the blame when public Christianity-professors like Daniels need a non-monotheistic culprit.

Indiana law limits the state's liability to $5 million in this case; there's been a lot of grumbling about that, such as you'll have whenever the proponents of Small Government for Thee get a prominent part of their collective anatomy caught in a Press. Because, of course, we only mean Libertarian reforms to affect other people, not to absolve us of our own culpability just for the sake of some filthy lucre. We only mean to prohibit frivolous lawsuits by people who aren't the accidental recipients of massive public sympathy.

Daniels had been forced, within 24 hours, to proclaim his intention for a thorough state investigation. Since Hoosiers of any shred of decency had not risen up en masse and pummeled him within an inch of his height-challenged life the day before, there was no chance he'd be made to pay for that little weaselly performance. So it was right in character when, yesterday, he rejected calls to lift the $5 million limit. Here's what the leader of the Anti-Statist Party told Channel 13's Kevin Rader; see how many errors you can spot:
"I wouldn't say yes or no. We are prepared to go ahead and release the $5 million, which is the state's limit before anybody knows anything about fault or where it lies among all parties. It's just again to give people an option that they otherwise wouldn't have and a chance to have compensation immediately with certainty and not have to share it with trial lawyers. For now that will be our emphasis. Let's see what the inquiry tells us," said Daniels.

Daniels, whose five favorite books are concordances of Atlas Shrugged, believes, or "believes", that Government is tyranny, and that ours is a kleptocracy at best, when run by Democrats. Yet Mitch has been on the hustings--beginning while people were still in operating rooms fighting for their lives, a fight two would lose--as a spokesman for limiting what innocent people can receive in compensation for the wrongful infringement of their rights by the negligent. From daylight the next morning. And he doesn't say, "Well, this is what the law says, as written; it shouldn't be changed just because it doesn't meet our sense of justice in this case, but should be looked at calmly and rationally", which at least would make an acceptable dodge. No. He talks like a litigant with both hands on his check book cover, trying desperately to keep it closed. He's pitching an arrangement which is clearly unfair and inadequate for many of the victims while absolving himself of any responsibility ("I wouldn't say yes or no") for what his words mean.

And why? Sure, because there's a dollar involved. But also because Daniels' notion of economic Freedom includes the freedom not to be held accountable for anything done in the name of profit.

I don't know which is more disgusting: that he does this sort of thing repeatedly, or that he repeatedly gets away with it.

[By the way, while looking shit up on the internets this morning ("research") I came across this at a quote site; someone had propped it up like it was worthy of Montaigne:
And before our current legislature adjourns, we intend to become the first state of full and true choice by saying to every low and middle-income Hoosier family, if you think a non-government school is the right one for your child, you're as entitled to that option as any wealthy family; here's a voucher, go sign up.

And I though, Wow, that's interesting; school choice is somehow the one area of public life where the underclasses have some sort of right to what the wealthy have "earned". They don't have a right to decent, affordable health care; they have no right to bargain for compensation, or (if they're government workers) to earn more annually than the median Hoosier; they have no right to sales tax--the most regressive tax they pay--relief, the way their landlords get their property taxes lowered. And, of course, they have no right to be admitted to those non-government schools ("Here's a voucher--lemme know what Exeter says, har, har, har"). They have the right to be deluded about choice if it suits Mitch Daniels and the wealthy families lined up behind him. It's Philosophy.]

Tuesday, September 6

The Plumb Bob Of Stupidity

FOR some reason this morning, after the standard subjecting myself to the local inane weather blithering, I switched over to CNN. Readers over fifty may remember CNN, which stood for Considered a News Network (it's now just CNN, like Kentucky Fried Chicken became KFC when they stopped using real chickens), and be surprised to learn it survived into the holographic news era. I know I was.

The program was American Morning, one of several programs sprinkled throughout the airwaves which began because some producer thought he had a chance with Paula Zahn. And which continues because Dead Air is apparently not an option.

The show is currently hosted by two teleprompter-readers with hairdos and a Frank DeCaro impersonator. They were discussing the impending demise of the US Postal Service. Ad lib.

Now let's reiterate: if it weren't for Barbara Walters, and Roone Arledge, the worst thing that ever happened to "Journalism" would be the debut, in 1975, of ABC's Good Morning America, which not only appropriated a perfectly good Steve Goodman song in that special way only tone-deaf Republicans can (see Reagan, Ronald Wilson, "the words of New Jersey's own Bruce Springsteen"), but completed the Nixonization of its news division a full year after his resignation and full pre-pardon. (This, by the way, before it turned over control of its newscasts to a sports producer.) GMA, as it is known to people who need to talk about it but don't have much time, eventually connected with its intended audience: people who enjoyed inane chit-chat, but were made uncomfortable when it came from people who gave the impression of having read something other than magazines at some point.

No such problem here, of course. The general attitude at American Morning was "Who needs the Postal Service when there's email?" This was not intended as a rhetorical flourish. It was evidence of real puzzlement.

But the segment closer was the real treat; one of the hairdos had gotten "pensions guaranteed for seventy-five years" stuck in her head, and kept repeating it so it would sink in and the rest of us could share in the outrage. The other pointed to "no-layoff clauses in some of these union contracts." As though an employer ought to be able to abrogate a contract if he discovers later he's losing money on the deal. I'm not sure how many union contracts she imagines postal workers have. Maybe one for each location.

Look on my works, ye Mighty! Two extremely well-compensated union-represented contract employees whose job it is to read the news gave this no more thought than they would the details of some boring policy debate. Like most questions this one can be solved by applying playground math and the homespun wit of Michele Bachmann. Simple working peons shouldn't have guaranteed pensions! Mailmen shouldn't be allowed to trade dedication to a job for a guarantee it will be there next week!

Good Lord, times are tough! Don't the little people realize this?

Friday, September 2

Ask The Man Who Owned One

LET'S have a quick look back at the newly-ended career of former New York City Deputy Mayor and Chief Morals Officer of Indianapolis Stephen Goldsmythe. Not because of schadenfreude; just because I've always wanted to say "newly-ended career of Stephen Goldsmythe".

First, it's "Goldsmythe". I don't know why the papers are always misspelling it. Back when he was screwing up snow removal in the Midwest it was revealed that he was registered to vote as Stephen Goldsmythe, 123 Fake St., Indianapolis. Since it's a felony to vote under an assumed name, or address, and since he was never charged, this information was apparently correct.

Which is how he should have explained it, instead of claiming he was hiding out from all the bad guys he'd put away as Prosecutor. At the time Rudy Giuliani, who had put away some real bad guys, was living at Gracie Mansion. Okay, plus various love nests, but you get the point. And Giuliani is still with us, as everyone who's about to be subjected to a month-long tenth-year anniversary of his artificially inflating the WTC death toll for the purpose of increasing the political hay harvest can attest.

Anyway, after becoming an Eagle Scout, like Dick Lugar, graduating from Michigan Law, like Ann Coulter, and landing a six-year gig with the US Army Reserves at the height of the Vietnam War, like Dan Quayle, Goldsmythe started work for a well-connected Indianapolis law firm, and shortly after went to work on the government's dime as Corporate Counsel, and later chief trial deputy, for the city. He won a surprise victory for Marion County Prosecutor in 1978, thanks to the popular Nixonian law n' order blather and some fortuitous financing. Goldsmythe spent the next twelve years as Prosecutor, pissing off Bad Guys and carping about Permanent Indianapolis Mayor the Reverend Bill Hudnut, whose job Goldsmythe wanted. Hudnut--a popular, likable, and moderate fellow who could've gone on being Mayor indefinitely--finally decided not to run for a fifth term, citing "that goddam flea infestation in the Prosecutor's office". Though not exactly in those terms.

Goldsmythe, meanwhile, had become a disciple of Government Privatization, on the grounds that this seemed like a good deal for his backers. His antics, which to this point had been only about 10% more disturbing than the run-of-the-mill politician's in these parts--he had a particular fixation on "cleaning up" massage parlors and adult bookstores, and no apparent concern with Constitutional rights, nor the cost to taxpayers of losing extended court fights over overarching prosecutions--now became, in a word, insufferable. Indianapolis did not undertake Privatization under Stephen Goldsmythe for the sake of economic efficiencies or improvement of services; Indianapolis undertook Privatization because Stephen Goldsmythe was metaphysically correct in his every assumption, and on his way to important political office.

Fans of the genre will not be surprised to learn that Privatization, to the Goldsmythe administration, meant selling off contracts to do things the city already did, and that it emphatically did not mean that the Simons should be forced to build their own new stadium for their own basketball team, nor that the Colts should be held to their original lease, nor that the Simons should build their own downtown megamall, nor that Eli Lily should be forced to expand its operations without massive tax rebates, nor that any of this should be accounted for publicly.

In brief--okay, too late for that--Goldsmythe continued the twenty-five year program, beginning with Dick Lugar, and continuing through Bill Hudnut, of propping up the value of downtown property, and the Old Money portfolios it fit in, with taxpayer dollars. Unlike his predecessors, though, Goldsmythe did it while proclaiming loudly how opposed he was to government spending.

Fans of the genre who aren't already way ahead of me will by now be wondering when all the self-flattery went to the man's head. Which would be 1996, when, ignoring the results of the 1995 Indianapolis mayoral elections, which he won easily against a woman who was as surprised as anyone to learn she was running, but with a decided Nobody Really Likes You, Stephen turnout, he ran for Governor, bulling his way through the Republican primaries--Republicans didn't really like him, either--before being pretty much humiliated in the general.

Fill in the rest: 'conservative' sinecures at Lockheed Martin, Harvard's Kennedy School, domestic advisor to the Bush 2000 campaign, public crybaby when he only got the #2 job at the Faith Based Initiatives Boondoggle as a result.

For me Steve Goldsmythe will always be a sort of link between the Nixon Crime Family and the Reagan Snake Oil factory, a guy who never really sounded like he believed what he said, but who sounded like he believed he needed to say it to enrich himself. I swear his blade-dulling swath through the mid-90s Indiana Republican party served as the bad example Mitch Daniels' handlers "learned" from; Goldsmythe's arrogance is why we got Mitch Daniels, plaid-shirted RVer, rather than the accurate Mitch Daniels, Fuck, He Must Know Better Than You, He's Rich. There's been no shortage here, the last two days, of people expressing their surprise that Little Stephen, Former World's Youngest Eagle Scout, would get bunged up on a domestic battery beef. At a time when Indianapolis has elected Gomer Pyle mayor, and just ousted Ratso Rizzo as Prosecutor, I'd just like to say that for some of us who can still remember Steve the real surprise was the news that he'd been hired to get things done in a city that needs things done, and where Rube is just one of many voting blocs.

Thursday, September 1

Thursday "It's Olio Week!" Olio

• Maybe you've heard, but my personal Congressman, Andre Carson, did a bad thing by talking like Glenn Beck within Glenn Beck's hearing. Though in fairness, he made up for it by doing a great thing: refusing to apologize.

If you did hear about this I hope it wasn't from the Indianapolis media, which hates to be reminded that the city of Indianapolis is represented in Congress by a scary African-American Muslim fellow who is wildly popular among the sort of people local media can't find much use for except as extras at a shooting scene.

Carson's comments made Indianapolis Star [caution: Indianapolis Star Evapo-Link™] political columnist Matt Tully sad. Because Matt Tully likes Andre Carson, and wishes he'd behave better than the Teabaggers. Because Matt Tully doesn't really like the Teabaggers ("Although I appreciate [their] efforts to increase attention paid to the federal deficit"). So much so that he says he's pretty sure he's written it down somewhere.

Plus, all the people who scream about racist Teabagger comments are now rushing to defend Carson, and all the people who defend racist Teabagger comments are now complaining about him. And it's really, really painful for journalists to have to keep reminding us how above this sort of behavior they themselves are.

I just want to mention here, in my role as shit-tossing apologist, that Carson's predecessor, his grandmother Julia, was so utterly reviled, and subject to such repulsive racial crap in Central Indiana that it was practically impossible for a white person to walk into a public establishment in any Republican enclave (read: the suburban doughnut counties) when she was in the news without getting drenched in racism like gutter water by a passing car. That absolutely includes the other side of closed Republican party doors (former Sheriff Jack Cottey, running against an African-American in 2002 and losing badly, created a Xerox pastiche handbill of his opponent, Ms Carson, and Bill Clinton [!] that made Carson look like the Wild Woman of Borneo). And, undoubtedly, it was heard repeatedly, for years, by every political reporter in this town.

• Here's a proposal: no more budget cutting talk until we get our $60 billion back from the people who stole it, and the people who signed the blank check they cashed in the first place.

Just kiddin'.

• How in the name of Ron Ziegler does the White House 1) try to schedule a Congressional address the night of a Republican debate show; 2) claim it was an oversight; and 3) wind up losing to John Boehner and The Seven Specks of Granite all at once?

I'll just ask again: what did Barack Obama want to be President for? So he could bring to the Executive branch the same studied Wisdom of Consensus Building he'd seen in action in the US Senate? I swear to God this is a guy who thought he was running for Vice President, until he, John Edwards, and the not great but late Tim "Spud" Russert played Let's Hump Hillary for Halloween, 2007. This should have been enough right there to tell C-Student America, let alone the Exceptional one that God favors with the right leader at the right time, that there was no fit candidate in the Democratic primaries.

I'm sorry. Things could be worse, I suppose, but that thought is not anodyne to the throbbing hemorrhoid sufferer. When Barack Obama stood on various stages throughout the United States and called, nightly, for the crowd to give way so the latest Lady Faintee could be ministered to, th' fuck was he thinking about? Was he hoping to bundle all that adoration and positive energy into a legislative package that could be pled down to time served?

And, so help me, if his deal with Boehner doesn't include an obligation on Orange Man's part to say something gratuitously racist just before the general elections then there's no sense to this at all.