Tuesday, November 29

That Settles It; We Don't Really Need Anything More Illuminating Than Six-Watt Incandescents

Emma Carmichael, "Bob Costas gasbags about showboating". November 28

After I'd slammed Bob Costas' participation in that Jerry Sandusky photo op, it came as no surprise to me--or no more than the revelation that "gasbag" is now a verb--to find Costas being universally praised for it, not that I'm suggesting the two might be related. "He didn't let up!" I heard, over and over, as though the expectation was that Costas would shift gears and ask Sandusky about the BCS, or Friday Night Lights, or which latex-friendly lubricants held up best in a hot shower.

And it's not that I don't understand the basis for the expectation; an entire generation has grown up where that sort of crap is what passes for television coverage. But go watch the thing, if you wish. Costas looks and sounds for all the world like a man who inexplicably and without warning finds himself on a tightrope, and who has the presence of mind--long training, possibly Pavlovian--to recognize that the one thing he must not do is fall into the front row of the stands and land on a sponsor.

What should Bob Costas have done? Well, projectile vomiting comes immediately to mind.

And without warning seems to be an accurate description, since Costas had been scheduled to interview Sandusky's lawyer, and the disembodied voice of Sandusky himself was offered up at fifteen minutes to air. In other words, with plenty of time to say No, let him come into a studio and show his face to America if he wants some free publicity. Which, of course, was not about to happen, since the question wasn't journalism, it was free publicity for the Brian Williams Variety Hour. The next morning the whole planet--meaning all the other networks--would be talking about Bob Costas' scoop. As in kitty litter.

The question assuredly was not whether justice, rough or otherwise, would be served; in the event it was Sandusky's risible pause before--even more risibly--defending himself, not Costas' tough questioning, which would be the story. What would not be the story is how Sandusky was given the opportunity few accused boy buggerers would receive: the right to try to sell his story on prime-time teevee. At whatever cost to his victims. Sandusky wasn't there in the interests of justice. He wasn't there because a phone conversation with Bob Costas was going to illuminate the story. He was there because of prurience. Incisive questioning wasn't going to salvage that.

How th' hell does this get turned upside down? Well, for starters, there's Carmichael, who usually writes for Deadspin, the Gawker of pro sports.
Hours after Stevie Johnson mocked shooting himself in the leg, and just a few hours before Plaxico Burress publicly laughed it off and told Johnson that it was "all love," Bob Costas used a portion of Sunday Night Football's halftime show to do some excessive moralizing about excessive celebration in the NFL. He called players like Johnson "knuckleheads" and admonished us, the American public, for being "too busy keeping up with the Kardashians to notice [that] we live in a culture that in many ways grows more stupid and graceless by the moment."

Somewhere, on a La-Z-Boy in rural New England, a senile 80-year-old pumped his fist in agreement and wondered who the hell the Kardashians are.

Let's go no further before we diagram that last sentiment: a woman whose livelihood depends on turning pro athletes into tabloid fodder imagines that the only public moralists in the country are a) old; b) La-Z; and c) Out of It, out of it being defined as "not knowing who the Kardashians are", as though this is not a condition the sane portion of the country would pay any price to learn the secret of.

I don't care what you think of Costas' point; the league has considered incontinent fist-pumping, back-flipping, and biceps-voguing to be a marketing problem for some time. But, y'know, if you want to slam Costas, or his network, for hypocrisy, then maybe instead of figuring out how to use "excessive" three times in one sentence, or cunningly attributing opinion opposing yours to octogenarian, recliner-bound screamers at their teepees (lo-def, black and white, rabbit-eared in the bargain), maybe you could note that in 2000, with millions of Nike money on the line, Costas dutifully scooched over on his Olympic hosting couch, the better to help the gold-medal winning American 4x400 relay team explain away its disgusting, preening victory lap that included using the American flag like a bath towel in a Zestfully Clean! spot. That's hypocrisy, lady. Costas' opinions are at the service of his employer (which includes the NFL); if his own get in it's at the margins, or simply to the extent he's internalized NBC's wishes.

Is there something out there that says you wouldn't be five times the hypocrite for the chance to sit in Costas' chair? 'Cause if there is I've missed it. Must've been watching the Kardashians.

Monday, November 28

Hell, If Newt Gingrich Is An Historian, Everybody's An Historian

Ross Douthat, "The Enduring Cult of Kennedy". November 27

FOR starters, could we please be quit of Douthats, and Goldbergs, and Ben Shapiros (if we aren't quit of him already) recapitulating their parents' wingnuttery, uncomprehendingly, like children playing Ring Around the Rosy recapitulating the bubonic plague? * Ross Douthat doesn't know what happened in the 80s. So now he's going to correct the record on JFK? Or just unknowingly admit the font of most of his understanding?
No matter how many times the myths of Camelot are seemingly interred by history, they always come shambling back to life — in another television special, another Vanity Fair cover story, another hardcover hagiography.

If you get bored, just do what I did: substitute "Jesus" for every mention of Kennedy.
It’s fitting, then, that the latest exhumation comes courtesy of Stephen King himself. King serves a dual role in our popular culture: He’s at once the master of horror and the bard of the baby boom, writing his way through the twilit borderlands where the experiences of the post-World War II generation are stalked by nightmares and shadowed by metaphysical dread.

Y'know, Ross, you're over thirty now, a family man, so perhaps it's time you either stopped behaving like a dick, or took it up full time and tried to become proficient.

The Boomer shit, well, maybe it was clever, in a sallow fashion, back when your beard was the envy of your fellow underclassmen, but look, it's time you started thinking for yourself. Stephen King is a highly successful writer of pulp horror and sci-fi born in 1947. The latter fact makes him a Boomer; the former gives him more in common with a later generation which insists on salving its extended adolescence by calling comic books "graphic novels". If Stephen King was some sort of Bard to my generation I'd accept it. Never read the man, but I heard him talking about horror movies on Turner last month, and he was thoughtful and insightful. Meanwhile, there's plenty of political stuff in the works of Thomas Pynchon, or Don DeLillo, neither of whom depends on mass-market paperback sales to supply him with heft. Not that I'd advise you to step up in weight class.

Incidentally, he's a little tip about insults: if you have to strain to manage it, at least try to do so with a smile, and certainly not with some freshman bullshit about metaphysical dread. And if you have to doubly strain--making Stephen King a bard and a Boomer icon, say--it's really best to just shut th' fuck up.
At its best, King’s new Kennedy assassination novel, “11/22/63” — which sends its protagonist back in time to change that November day’s events — offers an implicit critique of this generational obsession. (I am not giving much away when I reveal that the time-traveling hero does not succeed in freeing ’60s America from the cruel snares of history.)

Oh, Ross, you're always giving more away than you realize.
But its narrative power still depends on accepting the false premises of the Kennedy cult — premises that will no doubt endure so long as the 1960s generation does, but still deserve to be challenged at every opportunity.

Go ahead; at least it means a break in the Reagan hagiographies. But look, Ross-o; the oldest goddam Boomer on the planet had just turned seventeen when Kennedy was shot. Boomers are no more responsible for the Camelot myth than you are for the Clinton impeachment.
The first premise is that Kennedy was a very good president, and might have been a great one if he’d lived. Few serious historians take this view: It belongs to Camelot’s surviving court stenographers, and to popularizers like Chris Matthews, whose new best seller “Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero” works hard to gloss over the thinness of the 35th president’s actual accomplishments. Yet there is no escaping the myth’s hold on the popular imagination. In Gallup’s “greatest president” polling, J.F.K. still regularly jostles with Lincoln and Reagan for the top spot.

Oh, yeah, but Reagan being up there is evidence of sound and solid historical awareness.

Shit. Blah-blah Vietnam, blah-blah Civil Rights, blah-blah Bay of Pigs. I'm not dismissing those because there's nothing to them. I'm dismissing them because Ross Douthat has picked them up like a bum cadges a half-eaten sandwich. People can worship Kennedy, or Reagan, or Martin Van Buren; the can write books where the South wins the Civil War or Rommel rolls into Glasgow, but it doesn't make 'em smart. The fact that people beatify Kennedy doesn't make him any less of a man, the same way the canonization of Reagan hasn't made him any less of an idiot. The question of whether JFK would have "come to his senses" over Vietnam (and it's highly unlikely: Johnson knew the war was doomed before he escalated it; the anti-Commie domestic politics of the day demanded it, especially of a Democratic president) is an empty exercise. It's the United States which bought itself that particular quagmire, and it's managed several more since then, without Kennedy's help. Did he believe that the weight of US military intervention would ultimately defeat the Vietnamese? Yeah. So does half the country forty years after it was emphatically disproven. Was he a slow-moving hypocrite on Civil Rights? Yes. And a politician. But I repeat myself. But ask African-American Boomers what they thought of Kennedy, Ross. Or what their parents thought. Does he deserve all the praise that's been heaped upon him? No man does. Obsequies are always mixed with infusion of poppy. So what? The Kennedy myth harks to the end of an era when American imperialism could still be thought of (erroneously) as a force for Good; compare the ugly worship of George W. Bush while in office. Compare the Great Society and Civil Rights legislation which traded, in no small part, on his interrupted legacy--throw in the enormity of Vietnam, too--with the destruction of international prestige and domestic economy that resulted from the Nixon and Reagan presidencies.

Bobby Kennedy survived to fulfill those silly Boomer promises of change before that, too, was cut short. Ted Kennedy, whatever his failures as a legislator and a man, remained a champion of liberal ideals when there was a bounty on 'em. Where's the comparable legacy of all the Reagan foofaraw? Shouting on AM radio, or filling its own pockets. Or worrying about someone else's rewrite of history when its own is nothing but fiction.


* Which I doubt they are, in fact, but that's a much longer footnote than I have the time, or you the patience, for.

Friday, November 25

Do I Have To Say It?

FIRST, Cheers! to the young libertarian entrepreneurs locally who realized that a mallful of unattended vehicles in the middle of the night was a fine place to search for treasure. If this seems insensitive on my part to dozens of good folk who had merely gone in search of the illusive Unbelievable Deal on Some Consumer Crap Guaranteed To Make Their Miserable Lives Less Miserable, only to have some brigand spoil Christmas, well, it's meant to be. Why don't you sue all the local teevee news operations which have been telling you for a solid week that you'd better get out at midnight and buy shit?

Y'know, it's not like you can't figure this stuff out for yourself, and it's not like this hasn't actually taken place right before your eyes: a decade ago "What's the busiest shopping day of the year?" was a trivia question. Then some marketeer with no belief in a Cosmic recounting of his actions on some Day of Judgement--but I repeat myself!--turned it into a sales ploy. Which meant, of course, one of two things would follow: the sort of sad mediocrity contest that results from major producers vying for attention, like the vast array of energy drinks and flavored waters now available on your grocer's shelves, or the Slough of Despond that results when such shit really takes off. I guess we know which one "Black Friday" turned out to be.

And, fine: you can't live without a bigger teevee, or a bluer Blu-Ray, it's your business; if I were a public moralist I might concern myself with it (and where are the public moralists, anyway? Non-denominational public school "Winter" programs offend them, but a mass descent into human depravity of Fall of Rome proportions over a fucking telephone sale elicits no response at all), but I figure we're not exactly missing the next Einstein because these people are camping out at the mall rather than home procreating. Retailers, of course, cannot be expected to do anything but panic dive for the bottom in fear that everyone else will get there first. For fuck's sake, have we learned nothing from the presidential campaign of that Godfather's CEO and NRA President?

But the local news, fer chrissakes! I'm assuming you're smart enough not to watch. For the past week, solid, if there hasn't been accompanying video of a fireball the story got no play, the better to cram in vital news of store operating hours. Is it really possible that everyone connected with such enterprises is soul dead?

Second, via Wonkette we get news of the Illinois Republicans who want to secede from Chicago; I trust Chicagoans are smart enough to take them up on it. If that wasn't enough evidence of the, let's call it, insufficient attention to detail, there's this:
Rep. Mitchell brought up the state of Indiana multiple times Tuesday morning and said that he would like Illinois to become more like its neighbor to the east. "Take a look at Indiana. Their population is similar to the new Illinois we are proposing. But there are some fundamental differences between Indiana and Illinois as it exists now: Indiana doesn't have a budget deficit; they haven't raised taxes to pay for more government spending; they have a lower unemployment rate than Illinois. And what's the biggest difference? Indiana doesn't have Chicago."

Of course, if it did, Indiana wouldn't have Mitch Daniels as its governor, and you'd be minus one paragon of made-up virtues. Indiana doesn't have a budget deficit its rulers will admit to, but it conveniently doesn't count what it owes the Federal government, nor note that, accounting period to accounting period, Mitch Daniels' last deficit was larger than the one he keeps crowing about; it didn't raise taxes to pay for more government spending, it raised its most regressive tax to pay for a cap on property taxes which mostly benefits commercial landowners; and it has a lower unemployment rate than Illinois, mostly because if you didn't have a job, and found yourself in Indiana, you'd go somewhere else too.

But let's back up. The Indiana deficit game is smoke and mirrors, as we've noted here many a time; the guy who wrecked the national economy under George W. Bush, then high-tailed it back to the Hoosier state, set out to create a make-believe record he could base a vanity Presidential campaign on in 2012, and get himself another cabinet post out of. The way he proposed to do so, at first, was precisely the way Illinois eventually addressed its: a temporary tax increase. This did not sit well with Indiana Republicans, so ten minutes later he dropped it, and, over the course of his first legislative session, the deal was struck to balance the budget by lopping the feet off every existing program, and sending the bill for the remainder to county and local governments.

Indiana's sales tax is now 7%, compared to Illinois' 6%. Illinois' personal income tax is now higher, 5% to 3.4%, but that's due to the four-year deficit reduction increase, begun this year, which raised it from 3%. Some of us in Indiana--who've watched sales and local taxes go up so that some idiot in Illinois, or some governor on the campaign trail, could selectively quote numbers to make it look like Indiana had lowered taxes--call that "refreshingly honest". Indiana's per capita tax burden ranks 25th nationally; Illinois is 13th. Indiana's income tax is 33rd highest in the nation; Illinois' is 31st. Meanwhile, Illinois' per capita income is 11th in the nation, while Indiana's--13% lower than its neighbor across the Toll Road--is 27th.

Y'know, I still can't figure out where this Miracle is supposed to reside. Indiana isn't well off. It hasn't suddenly solved the manufacturing problem, the outsourcing problem, the infrastructure problem, or the income disparity problem; its citizens aren't any less less-well-off than the rest of the nation during the Daniels era. Anybody can make a budget deficit disappear by cutting out everything above revenue, assuming he's got a compliant, veto-proof majority, and that no one looks closely at how things work thereafter. State college tuition is skyrocketing, secondary education has been slashed, and local governments are being stretched. The number of Hoosiers with no health insurance has risen 8.6% in the last decade; in Illinois--which used to have more uninsured, now has fewer--it's gone up only 1.3% in that time. Hoosiers now get taxed at the same rate--outside the 17% increase in sales taxes, and the 1% property tax cap--and get less and less service in exchange. This is the nature of miracles: they're not duplicable, they get shilled by the faithful, and they don't stand up to scrutiny from anyone else.

Tuesday, November 22

Right On Cue

DOWN goes the UC Davis Police Chief Annette Spicuzza; and OUT comes Linda Katehi to "accept full responsibility".

So, in case you're keeping score, the pace of fact-finding has apparently accelerated dramatically between Friday and Monday--must be technology--and "accepting full responsibility" remains the method of choice for public officials to suffer no consequences of note, unless cellphone pictures of their underwear were involved.

Why, and for how much longer, is the BP response to the greatest ecological disaster the Gulf has ever seen the template for this sort of thing? (Okay, sure, it was the Nixon White House's response to Watergate, the Johnson administration's response to Vietnam, and the Army's response to pretty much everything. All the more reason for it to stop; all the more reason for it to be recognized immediately someone tries it; all the more reason for someone who does try it to cut his own throat that same afternoon.) Spicuzza is the public source of the risible bedtime story that officers were surrounded and looking for a way out; she had no reason to lie about the circumstances before they were known, which is to say, she had one reason, and she got caught.

Similarly, Katehi had one reason to order police to confront demonstrators, and it was outside the bounds of decent human behavior. And the most she'll ever suffer for it is having to personally label boxes of her possessions as the U C system picks up her moving fees to whatever sinecure she inhabits next. Meanwhile, the rest of us were intended to witness Episode Twelve in "Those Occupiers are so lawless it takes police in full riot gear to keep them contained."

Because this happened at Davis--and at Berkley--these should be the pinholes that eventually bust the dam. This is not the sort of policing the majority of Americans believe they purchase (though it ought to be acknowledged that the majority of Americans are not black, or poor). Maybe Katehi was unaware of the police violence that took place in Oakland, and New York. If so then she's incompetent. It's far more likely that this is just another instance of Excessive Force is Okay on the Young and Left (however vaguely) Because Someone at a G-20 Protest Overturned a Kiosk. Katehi may be small potatoes, but she was no less trying to stifle dissent at the end of a baton than was Bloomberg or the Oakland PD. If she does so with impunity in a college setting there's little hope of bringing bigger criminals to justice, or of bringing law enforcement in line with public service, not service to the powerful.

Let's remember that last Friday at Davis ten people were arrested, and none of them had committed an act of violence on fellow human beings, or failed to stop one despite having the power and the sworn responsibility to do so. I'm not Mr. Fuck da Police, nor was I Mr. Off the Pigs forty years ago. But there's an undeniable, and extra-legal, current of social control in law enforcement, and it's one which we've exacerbated in recent decades by allowing the authoritarian right to make its arguments while fearing only a faux-balanced response. And we've added to that with the saccharin portrayal of everyone who picks up an assault weapon in our names
(supposedly) as a Hero, and a Good Guy, and a Cosmic Avenger. It's not the case. It clearly isn't the case. It's nothing more than the Nixonian right's attempt to get out from under the state-sponsored violence of the Civil Rights era, and the ugly, deceitful military violence around the globe that came to a head with Vietnam, in order to keep itself in the good graces of the "Silent Majority". Of course, the Right suddenly went all civil libertarian after the Murrah Building was blown apart, but that's another story.

It's the sort of problem we can solve--meaning minimize--by being reasonable adults and acting as though we realize what history is. Or it's the sort of problem we can solve with advanced crowd dispersal techniques. I have my own ideas about which one has been the Real America for most of our history. But which is the one going forward?

Monday, November 21

Nobody Pepper-Sprayed The Dade County Rent-a-Mob

TWO things: first, it does not take a week to convene a Special Blue Ribbon Panel, and it does not take a month to determine that iconic torture video, I'm sorry, tactical application of enhanced crowd control technique above represents something intolerable, both in a legal and a moral sense. Take Doughnut Boy's S&M getup away from him and he's going straight to the slam for aggravated assault. Period.

Two cops suspended. It should have gone up the chain of command, and immediately; you're the chancellor of a university, the chief of campus police works for you. When you saw that video, Ms Katehi, it's heads, not your eyes, which should have rolled. There are only two possibilities here; this is not the action of a peaceable law enforcement officer unable to exit because he's surrounded. Either this was a rogue act, in which case you might want to know how a sadist wound up on your police force, and why his superior on the scene did nothing whatsoever to stop it; or it's a demonstration of a systematic failure taking place on a college campus.

Sorry-assed excuses don't cut it. Why were these thugs out there in riot gear to begin with? In New York, or Oakland, there's a least a cover story for that. Why on a sunny fall afternoon at UC Davis? This was not a response to a threat, at least not to an immediate threat on campus. This was a response to an issue, and that response was a colossal rat-fuck. And the people of California deserve to know why it happened, and why you set it in motion.

Second, we have to ask ourselves whether the measured response
A half-century ago, many parents told their children to ask a cop for help in case of trouble. With police forces now defining their role as more military than civilian, viewing citizens with suspicion and often treating them with hostility, that has changed. Saying the wrong thing to a cop, asking for a warrant before a search, throwing a snowball at an unmarked cop car, legally taking a picture of an official building, questioning a Capitol police officer about why a public area has been closed can lead to threats of arrest, or worse. But on university campuses, the police are often seen as they generally once were: your friend.

or the full-on Greenwald
Although excessive police force has long been a reflexive response to American political protests, two developments in the post-9/11 world have exacerbated this. The first is that the U.S. Government — in the name of Terrorism — has aggressively para-militarized the nation’s domestic police forces by lavishing them with countless military-style weapons and other war-like technologies, training them in war-zone military tactics, and generally imposing a war mentality on them. Arming domestic police forces with para-military weaponry will ensure their systematic use even in the absence of a Terrorist attack on U.S. soil; they will simply find other, increasingly permissive uses for those weapons. Responding to peaceful protests and other expressions of growing citizenry unrest with brute force is a direct by-product of what we’ve allowed to be done to America’s domestic police forces in the name of the War on Terror (and, before that, in the name of the War on Drugs).

The second exacerbating development is more subtle but more important: the authoritarian mentality that has been nourished in the name of Terrorism. It’s a very small step to go from supporting the abuse of defenseless detainees (including one’s fellow citizens) to supporting the pepper-spraying and tasering of non-violent political protesters. It’s an even smaller step to go from supporting the power of the President to imprison or kill anyone he wants (including one’s fellow citizens and even their teenaged children) with no transparency, checks or due process to supporting the power of the police and the authorities who command them to punish with force anyone who commits the “crime” of non-compliance. At the root of all of those views is the classic authoritarian mindset: reflexive support for authority, contempt for those who challenge them, and a blind faith in their unilateral, unchecked decisions regarding who is Bad and deserves state-issued punishment.

makes the most political sense. For many of us who were paying attention at the time it is the fabricated narrative of "The Sixties"--how we went, for example, from the historical record of the Pentagon Papers to the facile morality tales of Dirty Hippies spitting on our returning heroes, or how, in the mind of that great social observer, Andrew Sullivan, we went from correcting, in some part, four centuries of ugly racial history to the equal outrage of four years of some white kids losing out on scholarships to less qualified applicants whose parents could not read because it was illegal to teach them--it's this happy horseshit land where racism and brutality have been banished, except for a few bad apples, or where Mistakes Have Been Made, which is at the heart of the problem. Why on earth does the chancellor of a University of California campus buy into that narrative? Why does Michael Fucking Bloomberg, for that matter? Why does a half-African, former community organizer in the White House remain silent? How, really, can anyone with a modicum of power not understand? Who do we have to fuck--or fuck up--to get some answers?

Sunday, November 20

That's Stupid, But This Is Smart?

Kathleen Parker, "The Palinization of the GOP". November 18

HONESTLY, whaddya want for getting the point after thirty years? A Pulitzer?
The headline on Democratic strategist Paul Begala’s recent Newsweek essay dodged subtlety: “The Stupid Party.”

“Republicans used to admire intelligence. But now they’re dumbing themselves down,” was the subhead.

Democrats couldn’t agree more.

Sure, lady. Why would any Democrat disagree with beloved liberal spokesman Paul Begala?

Now Republicans're dumbing themselves down? Compared to what? They kicked the real intellectuals out of the party in 1964.

I'm not a Democrat, except by default, at election time, sometimes. If I were. and I discovered just this week that my fellow party members "couldn't agree more" that Republicans had somehow "lost" their admiration for "intelligence", and that intelligence was defined by the work of Bill Fuhbuckley, George Eff Will, and Milton Friedman, I'd now be an ex-Democrat.

Look at what Buckley was a spokesman for, back when Paul Begala was an earnest young liberal: what was left of the Cold War, and what racism could still be camouflaged enough to wear in public. His bowtied little doppelgänger was working Reaganomics and Catholic culture war (abortion, abortion, and abortion), and when was Friedman anything but a secular apologist for Looting & Piracy, Inc.? I'm sorry, but unless you shared a sizable portion of the belief system there's no way you found their arguments anything other than insane. And Begala's a Reagantot, born 1961; if he admired the argumentation and reading skills Will honed on Jimmy Carter's stolen briefing books, why didn't he become a real Republican?

Begala Democrats have done as much damage to the country as any of the dolts on that Republican dais.

Sure Democrats agree that the current Republican party is missing three-quarters of its screws and needs a good torque wrench for the other 25%. I like to think they're also figuring out that their own centrist wing doesn't deserve the name Democrat. These are the people who elevated a minority group of fluoridationalist cranks, religious maniacs, and aggrieved racists to co-equal status, who handed Ronald Reagan his legislative victories, the ones that set the ball rolling on thirty years of government disfunction, then decided that, in the interest of winning elections, Democrats needed to be more like him. Now they're nostalgic for the days when one could splash around in the cesspool with monarchists, class warriors, back-dated colonialists, and nuclear war aficionados, and they'd help you clean up before cocktail hour? Why? So they can surrender to 'em all over again?
And quietly, many Republicans share the sentiment. They just can’t seem to stop themselves.

No. Funny thing, though, most people who've sped up specifically to crash through the guardrail and plunge into the 5000 ft. ravine on the other side do not quietly wonder in mid-plummet why the power steering stopped working.
Moreover, where Buckley tried to rid the GOP of fringe elements, notably the John Birch Society, today’s conservatives have let them back in. The 2010 Conservative Political Action Conference was co-sponsored by the Birchers.

Please. No more of this crap. Buckley did not "rid" the movement of Birchers; he kicked 'em off the Goldwater Express (this was like giving an incontinent cur a flea bath) for an election cycle because they were an embarrassment to sane people, a demographic the modern Republican party has discounted. Without appreciably affecting its electoral results.
Meanwhile, the big tent fashioned by Ronald Reagan has become bilious with the hot air of religious fervor.

What? Reagan's "big tent" consisted of Nixon Republicans and newly-politicized backwoods snake-handlers. Who'd heard of Jerry Falwell before the 1980 election?
No one was more devout than the very-Catholic Buckley, but you didn’t see him convening revivals in the public square.

Darlin', tent revivals are a Low-Church Protestant affair. You mean Buckley did not publicly announce he'd found an image of the Holy Virgin in his morning danish. What he did do was fan the issue of the "exclusion" of Christianity from the public square. Smart marketing. Disgruntlement has a longer shelf life.
Nor is it likely he would have embraced fundamentalist views that increasingly have forced the party into a corner where science and religion can’t coexist.

Yeah, by the middle of the 20th century Buckley had more-or-less come to terms with the science of the 19th. Remarkable achievement.
Nevertheless, the Republican base requires that candidates tack away from science toward the theistic position — only God controls climate.

Bosh. The Republican position is that we shouldn't regulate business. The "libertarian" Republican position on climate change is no less theocratic than the Limbaugh position, and both really rely mostly on the fact that if Al Gore said something, they're agin it.
It takes courage to swim against the tide of know-nothingness that has become de rigueur among the anti-elite, anti-intellectual Republican base.

How would we know?
Call it the Palinization of the GOP, in which the least informed earns the loudest applause.

Ronald Reagan said evolution was "just a theory", said trees cause pollution, thought children should be forced to pray to a Bronze Age supernatural being in public school, called FDR a Fascist and his wife Mommy. The only difference between him and Sarah Palin, or Herman Cain, is that they weren't nurtured by Warner Brothers.
Even so, there are signs that the GOP is recognizing its weaknesses and is ready to play smarter. To wit: The sudden surge of Gingrich, who, whatever his flaws and despite the weight of his considerable baggage, is no intellectual slouch.

In case you dozed off, a column by a Pulitzer Prize-winning "conservative" which began by asking what's become of Republican intellectualism concludes by touting the intellect of a fraud and a huckster as reason for hope. Does anyone even care anymore how doomed we are?

Saturday, November 19

Ken Layne, American

There's a shower room where you do not want to drop your soap.

IN Egypt earlier this year, the cops refused to attack the people. East Germany and then the whole Iron Curtain collapsed when the local cops wouldn’t smash heads when Erich Honecker ordered it. What about America? Where are the cops who walked off the job rather than attack their neighbors drowning in debt and despair?

Friday, November 18

How 'Bout Protecting The Public From Him?

Phillip Elliott,"Cain receives Secret Service protection". November 17

Susan Saulny, "Cain Says 'We Need a Leader, Not a Reader' ". November 17

LOOK, it's too late to excuse Herman Cain as a mutant amphibian harbinger of political ecosystem disaster. That was Richard Nixon. After him, if the system couldn't defend itself from Ronald Reagan, or Newt Gingrich, Dick Cheney, Phil Gramm, Dick Armey, Alan Simpson, or Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, James Dobson and Tim LaHaye, well, we were just left to hope that future Americans would get really cool laser eyes or convertible carapaces, or something out of the deal.

Do we really need a second-rate Sarah Palin? Do we even really need to contemplate the theoretical possibility of such a thing? Herman Cain is a joke. If Herman Cain has to be on the evening news, the lead-in should be Brian Williams announcing "Tonight, Herman Cain is still a joke." We are not having anything that approaches an adult conversation because of Herman Cain. And it's not like people who want to follow the tabloid exploits of halfwits, nitwits, and exhibitionists are lacking in opportunities.

It's just time, right here and right now, to recognize the Nixonian war on "the Media" for what it always was, and for the reeking, empty hazardous waste site that's left of it: an excuse to give free passes to idiots and hallucinators, a requirement that our official narrative take them as seriously as it does the sane and rational and articulate. I'm still a proud disciple of R.D. Laing but, y'know, some people need to be institutionalized. And our compassion and understanding, and the difficult work and times of dealing with a broad range of microcephalics, religious maniacs, and sexual psychopaths ought to be husbanded for the poor and the scorned, not rich fucking figureheads who could use a good slapping.

Does every last one of these sorry-ass media clowns deserve fifteen minutes? Must the amount of time devoted to a thing be determined by how many total fucking morans you can get to buy one?

The man is not qualified to be President of the United States. Don't tell us that the only proper function of the Free Press in that circumstance is to give him enough mic cord to hang himself with. The Press ignores hundreds of unqualified candidates every election cycle. Somebody somewhere in every newsroom has the authority to say, "The Republicans can allow anyone they want into their promotional events. We're not covering idiots".

"A Leader, not a Reader" by the way. Which makes him half-qualified. Which one of his brilliant minions came up with that one? Cain can't lead a campaign. I'll believe he could lead a high school Homecoming parade down a single, one-way city block when I actually see it. The National Federation of CEOs should have bought him off six months ago, before he gave the game away. Herman Cain couldn't lead a pizza shop. Given an unassailable position by a multi-mega conglomerate, Cain "solved" the "problem" of Godfather's "Pizza" stores which didn't make enough profit to justify the time corporate honchos were forced to spend looking at their spreadsheets--interrupting valuable sexual harassment time--by excising everything that didn't fit. This is a "solution" only if your problem is "we can't find anybody willing to cut stuff". That's not entrepreneurship. It's fourth-grade math. If Herman Cain had been CEO of Herman Cain's Pizza & Pork Logs on Main, and it wasn't making the profit it was supposed to, would he have closed it and declared himself a success? Are we pleophorically certain that every one of those, you should pardon the expression, units he closed would never have become successful with the right direction? I guess the only time we believe that success can be snatched away from certain failure is when some executive gets the credit.

By the way, what does the Herman Cain Presidency say about the National Restaurant Association? I mean, what does it say that we hadn't already learned from Taco Bell?

One more thing: show of hands, who believes the Death Threat stories? Okay, of those, who believes the Cain campaign engineered them? The only people who might want to kill Herman Cain are Republicans embarrassed by total shit-for-brains Presidential candidates, and if there are any of those how'd they survive intact the last thirty years? The Cain campaign is what crawled out from under the GOP rock when the election of Barack Obama kicked it over. They need anything to take the focus off their man, and they're willing to do it, despite the fact that there's no hope in hell their man will be elected President. They knew that Homeland Security wouldn't dare refuse. A gaffe highlight reel is not the same thing as reporting.

Thursday, November 17

Go Do Something Good

SCOTT and Mary could use a little help. Go, click on the donate button in the top left corner, and feel good about yourself for once. I know I did. At least I think that's what that sensation was.

Wednesday, November 16

Olio: The Whole World Is Tivoing Edition

• Just-Barely-Shorter Ross Douthat on the Gingrich "Surge": Reality may eventually do Newt in, but to the extent that he resembles me--a reformed snake-handler who converted to Romanism for the better class of bigot one meets, an "intellectual" who yet manages to maintain a childlike sense of wonder at the shiny, pointy, and brightly colored, as well as a child's sense of United States history, and isn't constrained by outmoded notions of "consistency" or "accuracy" or "shame"--he should do really well with the Base.

Fer cryin' out loud, I was already at a loss to explain why the Times moved him to Sunday--unexpected surge in the Teenage Beard demographic? final resignation that they're just printing fancy toilet paper anyway?--but now he gets a weekly piece on the campaign? Why? And the deal is labelled "Strong Opinions on the 2012 Election". The reader is asked--the reader is dared--to come up with a definition of "strong" that fits Ross Douthat's stuff.

• There are times when I wish I was a more positive person--I can remember at least three--so leave us just say Welcome to the Sixties, Young Occupiers!

Concerted, Federally-assisted efforts to "solve" local hygiene problems? Sure, why not? Might we just take a moment to mention, here, that this is more-or-less what the FBI was up to forty years ago, and most of our efforts since then have gone into creating some Half-Plausibly Deniable Universe in which Dirty Hippies were 50% of the problem back then, and 100% of the Losers. We're still being policed by Bull Connor; its just that today he's got a better PR department. It's not like this is some big secret; the G has, over and over, demonstrated its willingness to do this shit right out in the open when necessary, and even when unnecessary if it sounds like fun. I love you, smart young people. Learn that the extent to which you've been lied to is far beyond what you would imagine anyone would have dared attempt. Know your enemy, if you didn't know before. Now figure out some way to get the vast majority of Americans, who are actually on your side, to realize they're on your side. And don't come to me for practical advice.

• Jesus Fucking Christ: the Free Madoffs, Jack Abramhoff, now Jerry Sandusky? The networks owe Adolph Eichmann an apology.

Sandusky is entitled to his day in court, to presumption of innocence before the bar, and his First Amendment rights; he's not entitled to airtime on NBC. He's not entitled to a system that benefits his sorry ass in the name of fact gathering. Bob Costas is the Jeff Greenfield of Sports, a thoughtful and knowledgable reporter in his youth who, as he grew more powerful, more connected, and wealthier, became a horrible network shill. How much better can ya eat?

Honorable mention--maybe "honorable" is the wrong word--okay, sure it is--to Mike McQueary, sudden reputed author of retroactive emails which just happen to show him-also retroactively--in the correct light. And then clamming up about it, since "the case is under investigation." How th' fuck is anyone supposed to decide what to Occupy in such a world?

Tuesday, November 15

It's The Canadian Border We Should Be Worried About

David Brooks, "Let's All Feel Superior". November 14


An adult male who has sex with young boys is called a pederast. The word--wait for it!--comes to us from the Greek, via Latin, and entered the English language in the early modern period, around the middle of the 17th century, following pederasty, which entered in the early 17th.

A young boy used for sexual services is known as a catamite. Again, from the Greek, via Latin, which got it from Etruscan, it dates to the late 16th century.

A corporation which is treated as a person de jure has no English term, perhaps because the Greeks and Romans would have laughed themselves into societal collapse at the notion. We can trace the idea to a scribbled note in the margin of some 14th Amendment decision, the scribbler in question being, not a Justice, nor a clerk, but, evidently, a stationery salesman trying to get a sample pen to work, and we can trace the idea that such an idea would be taken literally, and not as an inside joke, to the confirmation of Antonin "Fat Tony" Scalia. The concomitant idea, that your good friend Mr. Corporation deserves your silence the same way Aunt Martha did because her bathroom linen was furnished by the Holiday Inn Corporation, is of similar vintage, though no historian of religion need be reminded that the Toad is not merely an amphibian.

So of course in Brooks World the polluted debauchery of a young boy's--a motherfucking ward, fer chrissakes--sphincter would never have taken place without, y'know, Hugh Hefner:
In centuries past, people built moral systems that acknowledged this weakness. These systems emphasized our sinfulness. They reminded people of the evil within themselves. Life was seen as an inner struggle against the selfish forces inside. These vocabularies made people aware of how their weaknesses manifested themselves and how to exercise discipline over them. These systems gave people categories with which to process savagery and scripts to follow when they confronted it. They helped people make moral judgments and hold people responsible amidst our frailties.

But we’re not Puritans anymore. We live in a society oriented around our inner wonderfulness. So when something atrocious happens, people look for some artificial, outside force that must have caused it — like the culture of college football, or some other favorite bogey. People look for laws that can be changed so it never happens again.

First, let me belatedly mention that ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© told us yesterday that Brooks was working this angle on the Sundays, and that, as he mentioned, driftglass has it handled.

And, second, let me say, yet again, that if David Motherfucking Simperer Brooks wants to come right out and say this shit, instead of dancing around it for fear someone will stuff him in his locker again, I'll reimburse his lunch money. (Apparently he felt a little more comfortable around fellow stuffees E.J. Dionne and David Gregory than the readership of the Times, since there he explicitly made it "30 or 40 years muddying the moral waters ".) Here, we're just not Puritans anymore, as though modern life lost the sheet music, or got drummed out for smoking. So evidently nothing like the Penn State Shower Stall Scene could have happened before 1970, because the Hayes Office wouldn't have allowed it. Just like, of course, it could never happen in an institution devoted to Christian morality.

Do we need a return to Puritanism (Brooks really means Victorianism, I suppose, but we'll play along) ? Then fucking say so. 'Cause else, we do not really need to be reminded that we are no longer 16th century English Protestants, though some of us could use a refresher course as to why this is. Victorian morality is laughable today; chalk that up to the developments in that human psychology Brooks imagines himself an amateur master of. The social enforcement of moral concepts, for which "Puritanism" is a poor metonym, would wipe out how many current Republican Presidential contenders in a wink? (And don't look at what's left.) What corporate persons would still be standing if 16th century morality had the force of law, or even the force of magically preventing all transgressions like it did in the old days?

Spit it out. Stop saying, "well, if my preferred historical dream world existed this would never happen, therefore no one should demand the law solve problems". The law does solve problems. This one. Unquestionably there is less child sexual exploitation today than there was in the good old moral days.

How long has this construction been growing mold? Something bad + some vague connection with sex = Dirty Hippies (let's hear David Brooks say this about AIDS). Jerry Sandusky (b. 1944) played football at Penn State in the early 1960s, then went into coaching. This is not Mr. Brooks era, nor--just guessing--was American football his preferred sport. I played--not particularly expertly--at the junior high and high school level in a mid-sized Midwestern city in the late 60s. And not once did I have a coach tell me that if something felt good I should just give it a shot. I was told a couple times to cut my hair, because I looked like a girl. The full import of that bit of wisdom didn't strike me until later.

What of Mike McQueary? Are we supposed to believe he didn't stop the rape of a 10-year-old because he figured it felt good? That the guy who oversaw the Penn State police department was a libertine, and the AD a voluptuary? No one can be that tone deaf, Mr. Brooks. Except, same as they were, for money, because if Jerry Sandusky was a Dirty Hippie, what's that make the Occupiers, eh?

The murder of Kitty Genovese has nothing whatsoever to do with Penn State. Nor Abu Ghraib, not the Holocaust. Try Enron, Dave. Try Arthur Andersen. Maybe Bernie Madoff's dick did get hard cheating people. The smart money still says it was the Money.

Monday, November 14

We May Not Mean It This Time, But Next Time, Look Out!

Scoop Jackson, "Penn State scandal and a tipping point". November 12

David Weigel, "Is the Newt Gingrich surge for real?" November 11

OKAY, so the easy thing to do would be to ask whether kneeling in prayer as a means of getting out from under a horrible situation is common to both the continuing Penn State story and the continuing Hot Republican candidate of the Week routine. And the easy answer is yes. Of course it is.

Does it up the degree of difficulty any to ask about other connections? Jackson wants to know If this isn't the tipping point what, if anything, will be?
Where, now, do we go from here?

Here? I'm done with this! I'll never trust another college coach or program ever again! No. Probably not to that overly dramatic, scorched-earth place. That kind of reaction to Penn State's alleged child sexual abuse scandal would be wrong. To go that far -- to say that our faith in college athletics will never be the same -- is extreme.

But if you're habituated to looking at this sort of thing with a jaundiced eye--or, as I like to call it, objectively,--you have to wonder why anyone would take this long to lose faith. Big-time college athletics was sold to the highest bidder in the late 1970s. College athletics. Why? Global reserves of Boolah-boolah started shrinking? College administrators couldn't see where it was heading?

Or is it rather that no one in America can be trusted to make any decision where large enough amounts of money are involved? Isn't that something which, maybe, should have transcended our native propensity for shit-blind faith back during the Nixon administration?

Is there even such a thing as a record book in college athletics anymore, or is there just an annual listing of schools which aren't on probation, in random order? How long have the Football Factory programs been a disgrace? How long has recruiting stunk like the runoff from a pig farm? How long has "student athlete" been a punchline? Don't tell me that no one realized, twenty or thirty or forty years ago, that dishonesty bred dishonesty.

And don't tell me it isn't everywhere, or that it isn't everywhere in large measure because lying was preferred to having our children go to school with Negroes, or because lying was preferred to losing elections for being soft on Communism. I'm not saying that it wasn't always that way where human beings were involved; I'm saying that at the dawn of the Information Age we took a fresh look around and said, "Y'know what? Not gonna be us that finally learns how to transcend this shit. Pass the remote."

Kneel and pray all you want (hypocrites!). You think a lack of public sanctimony is what ailed Penn State? Jerry Sandusky was all about good works. Maybe one more minute of silence, on top of a decade or more of silence, wasn't exactly the best approach.

Which brings us to Newt Gingrich, theologian, historian, public intellectual, and this week's recipient of the You Can't Vote 'No' bounce.
A lot of people wrote Gingrich into fringe territory back when his campaign collapsed. He’s now polling as high as he was before he imploded. The press understands the GOP electorate in the same way a baby-sitter understands a kid who never seems to be satisfied with the new toy: It doesn’t understand at all.

Right, Dave; it's the Press' fault for being flummoxed by the perfectly understandable series of Teen Idol crushes masquerading as the Republican Presidential primary. (Though, of course, Weigel has the key, not that he's a Republican!). Sarah Palin, Donald Trump, Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Rick "Puddles" Perry, now the bloated corpse of some crooked, Southern backwater judge, why, only an elitist would be confused.

Who th' fuck even cares about Newt's oh-so-legendary diss of Paul Ryan? Ma and Pa Kettle? Maybe 30% of the Republican electorate, if that many remember it? Funny how the Press elitists don't understand just how much Republican primary voters think like Slate political columnists.

Oh, but now Newtie has clawed his way back up to where he was before, when he was a 14-point irrelevancy! That's different.
Still: Why him? Why a guy who polls worse against Obama than Mitt Romney?

David Weigel. The man with his finger on the pulse of the Republican party.
While his spiel is captivating, in the way that a really good conservative historian is captivating,

Oh fer cryin' out loud. We're done here.

Sunday, November 13

Even The Liberals At NPR Agree, Vol. CCCXXXI

Adam Davidson, "It's Not Just About the Millionaires". November 9

ONCE more, as if it were needed: I'm not an economist, I'm a shit-flinger. There's less money in it, but but it's a more valuable service.
This election is about stark differences on economic policy, but one of the few fiscal issues on which Democrats and Republicans agree — surprisingly — is how to tax corporations. Every Republican presidential candidate, and even the guy who currently has the job they’re after, wants to lower rates. Raising them, or even maintaining them, might satisfy the anti-corporate angst of protesters and populists, but it won’t come anywhere near paying off our debt.

Our old favorite, the opening paragraph that simultaneously gives the game away, and annihilates the thousand words that follow.

Where do we begin? With the notion that the Republican's Absolutely No Taxes, Ever is "starkly opposed" by the Democrats' Historically Low Taxation Unless We Can Possibly Raise It Slightly On The Wealthiest 1%, Without Pissing Off Donors? Or that "Democrats" and "Republicans" represent the Manichaean boundaries of human cogitation and domestic political will? That, in fact, "Democrat" and "Republican" views on corporate taxation are in some way--in any way--the product of objective thought, rather than objective accounting? That one is justified in saying "even" Barack Obama agrees with the Seven Specks of Granite, as though that settles something, let alone in the affirmative?

How 'bout here: the idea that demands for increasing taxation on the wealthiest Americans and our corporate fellow citizens is an idea born of angst, and one which is proffered as a way to "pay off" "the debt"? Boy, those protesters and populists sure are misguided, now that you've explained them to me.

Who actually believes that the solution to a problem lies in defining it in such a way that one's preferred action seems like the only possible choice? Well, politicians and jingle writers. Anyone else? Who out there, facing the horns of a dilemma, the teeth of a difficulty, or the angry shower-stall erection of a predicament, says to himself, "Wait! I should ask a politician!"?
Most people who study the issue agree that the top federal corporate tax rate (35 percent of profits) is simply too high.

Just a note here--all economic pronouncements coming from me are illiteracies--but is it not the case that by "most people" "who study" you mean "people paid to consider the effect taxation has on corporate profitability"? And nothing further? Such as, say, the effect it would have on corporate profitability if their non-corporate (aka "second-class") fellow citizens decided they should no longer pay to support the infrastructure those corporations depend on to make any profits whatsoever? Or for the massive Defense outlays, the mineral and water rights giveaways, and government contracting which represent a sizable portion of, if not the net aggregate profit, for many? What exactly is it worth to American corporate citizens that the United States government has, over the past century or more, sought to enforce capitalism--a capitalism, remember, based on a convenient and spurious reading of a Constitutional amendment designed to protect former slaves--here and around the world? Why shouldn't the government--as the instrument, supposedly, of the general population--do to corporations what corporations do to their fellows: take every possible advantage of every tiny lever within its grasp?
The cardinal rule of taxation is that whatever you put a levy on, you’ll inevitably get less of.

"Cardinal" means "fundamental" (so "inevitability" is a given. Dude.). If I look at the cardinal points of the compass, I find 'em right where I left 'em the last time. This isn't the, or a, cardinal rule of taxation. It's the standard rejoinder of the taxed, who imagine that, if they could just avoid paying the 2¢ they actually pay of the nominal 35¢ they're taxed on a dollar of profit, they'd have $1.02. It's a convenient, and illiterate, reading of the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The system isn't closed. The profit maker (sorry, the Benevolent Employer on whom we all rely) doesn't lose that 2¢. He buys something with it. Granted, he has no choice, but then neither do the rest of us have a choice but to grant him, as just one example, a limited liability non-corporate citizens do not share.
Taxing corporate activity means less investing, less hiring, fewer jobs and a smaller economy

of a certain type,
which hurts the rich, the poor and the middle class alike.

in certain (and unequal) ways.
While this may seem like Republican propaganda,

Just because something sounds like Republican propaganda doesn't make it right.
NPR’s “Planet Money,” for which I work, polled many leading progressive policy groups and academics, all of whom told us that they would support lowering the top corporate tax rate.

Which sounds like the precise thing that's behind Republican propaganda.

Here's the interesting thing about this: you sure don't see this sort of analysis done on Social Security, Medicare, or national health care. Not on the business pages, and not from the Republican party, anyway. Should the top corporate tax rates be cut? Maybe. Should Exxon-Mobil and GE be able to avoid taxes altogether? Maybe, depending on the tax structure, but not under the current one. Nevertheless, it moves! You've got a conclusion which arises not from the "evidence" as characterized by what "most people who study the matter" think, but from how you stated the question. It looks at one portion of the tax structure in isolation. And then--and most of all--it simply ignores the history of corporate bad citizenship, of bribery, of criminal collusion, of unequal access to government and the law, and demands that the victims of these behaviors shoulder more of the burden out of fairness.

Y'know something tells me that if most people who study the problem concluded that the solution was to end the phony corporate protection written into the margins of the 14th Amendment in invisible ink, and to revert to an agrarian/barter culture, with a reasonable democratic control of what was produced, when, and for how much, you wouldn't hear a lot of these folks saying, "Welp, okay, let's give it a try."
Any serious analyst who isn’t paid by one of the tax-benefiting industries would suggest eliminating most industry-specific loopholes. But the problem is that cutting them will not even come close to reviving our economy. Alternatively, even if we eliminated all corporate taxes, the extra $250 billion per year at the companies’ disposal wouldn’t be enough to make our $14 trillion economy grow. President Obama tried an $800 billion stimulus, and we’re still debating whether it helped or hurt or did nothing at all.

Okay, for the record: we're in a sixty-five year hole, corresponding to our having added to our WWII indebtedness military expenditures since then which pretty much continued at the same rate. Those aren't recoverable, they aren't readily convertible into something else of value, and they've benefitted very few, financially, at an oversized consequence to our national indebtedness. And we exacerbated that, beginning with the Reagan "Government Debt is Theft" revolution (and how'd that bit of expert wisdom work out for us?) by slashing the top marginal tax rates, which is roughly the level of increased debt we find ourselves dealing with today. The argument for having done so was Jobs. We are now arguing over why there aren't any jobs.

So I'm guessing that most experts who have studied the problem and can be trusted to utter an honest word on the subject would conclude that slashing those tax rates did not work. And doing more of that, while not necessarily contraindicated, is at least lacking in a strong moral or practical imperative. And, further, even a simple history of the public debt--even one which, as this one does, ignores all benefits of public spending--tells us that we didn't get here overnight, so insisting that some action or other "won't solve the problem" is a quacking canard.
It serves the interest of both parties to argue about taxes on corporations and the wealthy because neither wants to discuss the alternative, which is where things get touchy.

S'funny. A couple hundred words ago, what all our politicians agreed on was apodictic.
To solve our debt problems, we have to go to where the money is — the middle class. People who earn between $30,000 and $200,000 a year make a total of around $5 trillion and pay less than 10 percent of that in taxes (owing mostly to tax incentives and the fact that most families make less than $68,000, where larger tax rates begin).

Most make less than $68,000, and are taxed at lower rates, which is why we lump them in with people making $200,000? Because we know you wouldn't do that just to get the required numbers, right? Because there's a cardinal rule about that, somewhere.

Interesting, too, how easy it is to rid ourselves of "middle-class" loopholes.
Increasing the middle-class tax burden an additional 8 percent, however, would actually have a bigger impact than taxing millionaires at 100 percent.

Just for the record, what impact would "killing everyone who doesn't work for a living" have?
Still, many experts say we don’t need to raise the tax rate on the middle class; we just need to get rid of some of those despised loopholes (or beloved incentives). Most reform proposals suggest gradually eliminating the most popular tax deductions, like mortgage interest rates ($120 billion per year) and workplace health insurance ($200 billion per year). Regardless, most economists acknowledge, and most politicians privately concede, that the middle class will have to give up some benefits (Social Security, Medicare) or it will have to pay more in taxes. Actually, it will probably have to do both. The millionaires will be paying more, too. Leading Democrats are proposing a nearly 10 percent hike.

"Leading Democrats" are "proposing a 10% hike"? When, pray tell, was the last time Democrats drove tax policy? When was the last time "leading Democrats" accomplished anything they proposed? Funny how all of a sudden their proposals are supposed to be taken seriously.

It's plain, it's simple, and it's unequivocal: over the past thirty years or more, unequal access to government policy has further enriched the wealthiest Americans at the expense of all other Americans, and has permitted increased protection of huge corporations with fewer and fewer controls on their behavior. The argument is not what math gets us out of the stink this shit created. The argument is how much further do you fucks think you can push it? Paying for today, and paying for the future, is something all Americans should do, including our "corporate" brothers. Paying for the past is the ethical answer to the question of government debt, and that should be done--in addition to what's fair--by those who helped themselves while everyone else sank.

Saturday, November 12

Not That We Condone The Forcible Buggery Of Children Too Young To Know The Times Table, Of Course

WELL, first, what Scott said, and I have no hopes of being so brief.

There's no real reason for me to add my slender reed to the general moral condemnation of everything connected with this episode occurring everywhere outside of State College, PA. I'm wiling to presume that the college yahoos who fanned the stench into every corner of the university weren't thinking clearly, and aren't really equipped to do so, anyway. I'll even tip my hat to the Trustees who made the only decision sane people could have, because, god knows, that's almost more than we can expect, anymore.

I know you know that in 2002, a 27-year-old grad student named Mike McQueary supposedly walked in on the anal rape of a 10-year-old boy. And his immediate reaction was that he'd better call his father. I'm guessing in order to clarify whether the laws and norms of 21st century America or 1st century Rome took precedence in the Penn State showers.

We don't know either the internal or the external dialogue that ugly scene engendered. And we are justified in asking, if not concluding, that Mike McQueary's first thought in that situation was for his career. And that everyone else's first thought when--if!--they were informed of it was for the reputation of a big-time college sports program. And everybody managed to carry it around for a decade, and sleep, however well, and maybe, on occasion, hope like hell that no other boy got buggered, or if he did, at least that the news didn't get out.

How'd we get here? Shame is not a strong enough word; I'm not sure what is. If we're so willing to accept, or pretend not to see, the Ancient Roman's preferred choice of carnal destination, maybe we could say a few good words about their willingness to open a vein when the situation called for it.

Let those who did nothing face that fact, forever, now. I believe in the power of redemption. I don't believe it's likely to occur when one reportedly is busy drunk-dialing his receiver corps for a little pre-game wallow in self-pity.

I'd rather ask how we can look at this and treat it as though some unspeakable Evil just happened to land in Happy Valley, and Mistakes Were Made, and those responsible Will Be Punished. We are evidently supposed to realize that the near-instantaneous (in news cycle terms) punishment of higher-ups shows just how serious we are about things this time. If this had been Iraq, Paterno would have his Medal of Freedom ceremony scheduled.

This is corporate culture, and this is American culture for the last three decades; Winners get to fuck the skinned and the scorned, and call it Freedom (and, if they're smart about it, take a charity deduction into the bargain). It ain't like you had one catamite fancier who happened to be caught, and tossed back, by one former Penn State quarterback. The entire athletic hierarchy at Penn State acquiesced. So too did people at the charity harem Jerry Sandusky ran. We are in Good German territory here, and we are justified in asking why. How did career, and self-love, come to trump every other consideration, even protection of the most vulnerable and most innocent? This is vile, this is inexplicable and unconscionable and maybe unforgivable, but does it really differ all that much from what we've been proudly doing to the poor since 1981?

Friday, November 11

"Analysis" and "Paralysis" Share The Same Root. Example Follows.

Matt Bai, "The Other Problem With Perry's 'Oops' Moment". November 10

OR, Ya Don't Need a Brain To Suffer Brain-Freeze.

Is there any explanation--any at all--for why we suffer through this time after time after time? There are so many godawful components to our godawful mass-market media political coverage--the superficiality, the venality, the faux-balance, the careerism, the cynicism, the herd mentality--that you'd imagine that somewhere a seam would just blow, and the whole thing spill out like a crap piñata. Instead, all the friction between the endless reporting of the same script in use since Nixon cowed today's journalists' grandfathers and what really happens in really America just gives you and me rug burns.

Pierce shows how it's done. Roy shows how it's done. Bai shows how you make the big bucks:
There’s really no arguing with the consensus view that, after repeatedly courting calamity in prior debates, Rick Perry did grave damage to his presidential campaign Wednesday night. First the guy says that anyone who disagrees with him on illegal immigration must not have a heart, then he gets all twisted up while trying to attack Mitt Romney, and finally comes this new gaffe about … um … hang on a second … wait, it’ll come to me.

Opening with a gag is a time-honored practice. Look into it.

I'm sorry, but how does "he said people who disagree with him on immigration have no heart" come to lead off a list of gaffes? That's the one thing Rick Perry's done that belonged in a debate. If characterizing your political opponents is rhetorically beyond the pale, throw everybody off that stage, and shutter the Republican party.
The question I’ve been pondering today, though, is why, exactly, this latest Perry moment strikes all of us as so consequential. Sure, the obvious answer is that Mr. Perry looked, again, like maybe he wasn’t the sharpest butter knife at the tea party. Fair enough.
No, the obvious answer is that being a dolt--which Rick Perry was, and was known to be, unequivocally, before he ever entered the race--won't get you called out unless you slip on a banana peel and fall face-first into a custard pie while your pants fall down and your Texas-sized belt buckle accidentally sets off a nearby seltzer bottle. Repeatedly. And because in Republican circles that still might get you applauded, which won't get mentioned, either.
But let’s be clear: tongue-twisting and mind-lapsing aren’t necessarily deal-breakers. If they were, former Presidents Dukakis and Gore would be out playing golf together and boring their caddy to tears.
Well, let us just thank our Maker, whomever or whatever we imagine Him/Her/No Gender Preference to be, that none of these people is boring. Excepting Jon "The Semi-Sane One" Huntsman and Mitt "The Eventuality" Romney.
People wrote entire books about the dumb things George W. Bush said (“Is our children learning?” and so forth), and sold them briskly at checkout counters, and still the man tormented his detractors for eight years.
Tormented his detractors? I guess "people with an abiding belief in America's bright promise and moral leadership" found him thought provoking.

Look: those are back-to-back fucking sentences. Michael Dukakis was boring! (and, oh, he was defeated by George Herbert Walker Prescott Bush, who was a comparative one-man Mardi Gras, I suppose). George W. Bush was an imbecile, but he was President!

On what planet does this stuff resonate? Let me put it another way: no wonder 98% of movies made in this enlightened age are one long festival of computer-generated shit blowing up, loudly, to the delight of the fourteen-year-old boy in all a few of us.
If being inarticulate or at a loss for facts were disqualifying traits, Sarah Palin would not remain one of the most formidable Republican presidential candidates who isn’t running for president.

And if "being inarticulate or at a loss for facts" were traits that were regularly pointed out by the mass-market media when plainly encountered it might not be so easy for Republicans to ignore them.
No, there’s another level to Mr. Perry’s self-inflicted wound, and it has to do with the most powerful commodity in American politics: authenticity.
Once you can fake that, you're in, so long as you apologize to Jean Giraudoux.
The problem is that he didn’t seem to know the basic details of his own proposal. Here he was calling for what would be a truly radical restructuring of the federal government — involving many thousands of jobs and many billions of dollars in federal expenditures — and he didn’t have a grasp on which sprawling departments he would shutter. It seemed the idea was not his own, but rather something he had tried and failed to memorize.
Now for cryin' fuckin' out loud, this in a piece explaining how there was more than just that Oops! at work.

Please explain to me what reason anyone ever had to believe that Rick Perry was a thoughtful politician espousing what are largely his own ideas. If you can, please move on to Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann, and Mitt Romney; save Gingrich for last, because that involves the biggest sucker list since Charles Ponzi drew breath. Perhaps, for extra credit, you can explain why every goddam Republican Presidential candidate for the last thirty-five years has sounded like this. It's a fucking party of panderers. If it's a sin to sound like you tried and failed to memorize something, how big an accomplishment is it to have successfully memorized something that is entirely designed to please the ignorant?

Th' fuck?
And in this way, Mr. Perry violated one of the core tenets of modern politics, which is that you have to at least sustain the artifice of ownership. We know, of course, that presidential candidates don’t actually write their own speeches or stay up late at night tinkering with their own proposals to overhaul Medicare. We get all that.
And we express this nuanced understanding by insisting that they make us believe the opposite if they want our support. CGI politics.

[Y'know, now I think of it, some Presidents do write their own speeches (with help) and do stay up all night tinkering with proposals and studying issues. Over the past fifty years we've called those "Democrats". Or "boring". ]
But we do expect them to really believe in the things they propose — to have the requisite conviction to know and recite with passion the basic policies that someone on their team stayed up nights to craft. Say what you want about Mr. Bush, but no one ever doubted his deep well of resolve on tax cuts or education reform. He had command of his own plan, if not all the underlying data.
Honestly, Matt, just what runs through your mind when you look down at your razor each morning? Pat Robertson sounds committed to his plan. Adolf Hitler sounded committed to his plan. Larry Craig had a story and stuck with it. That means ab-so-fucking-lutely nothing whatsoever. If your plan is flat wrong, simply ridiculous, doomed to failure and disastrous consequences, your enthusiasm for it is worse than indifference.
There’s nothing more central to Mr. Perry’s campaign than the idea of scaling back the government in Washington — that’s pretty much the whole tamale right there — and what he proved last night, in 60 or so agonizing seconds, is that he hasn’t thought deeply enough about it to even master the basics of his own agenda.

And this proves, once again, that so long as someone has good hair, a place to stand, and manages to spit out those lines without kicking over the podium, the Matt Bais of the world promise never to question the underlying assumptions.

Thursday, November 10

Peyton Manning For MVP

THE Colts were the winningest team in the NFL the last ten years with him; without him they don't belong in the league. What else do you want?

If you wanna know what's wrong with this country, look at professional sports in Indianapolis. If you already know what's wrong with this country, skip it. It doesn't make things any better.

The Colts of Indianapolis At Present play football in a retrotrendy barn built by taxpayers and named by a guy who peddles lubricants. It was built after the NFL sent its Commissioner, Paul Tagliabue, of the Jersey City Tagliabues, to town to good-naturedly threaten to move the team to LA unless we ponied up for a new stadium with skyboxes to replace the blimp hangar, without skyboxes, we built in the 70s to steal the Colts in the first place. Pauly Tags and the Multi-Billionaires Club he shilled for got their taxpayer-purchased pony ride, and LA--which wanted an NFL franchise so badly it had run two teams out of town in the previous decade--got the Cardinals. Or the Vikings. I didn't really pay attention.

The stadium project had an initial pricetag of $500 million. It cost at least half again as much, and probably closer to $1 billion. Not counting operating costs, spiffing-up-the-city-for-the-Super Bowl-we-got-in-the-deal costs, or the $10 million/year additional we had to give the Pacers because they didn't like how the Colts deal was better than theirs. And so threatened to move to Los Angeles.

The owner of the Indianapolis Colts, "inheritor" being a better word, is one Jim Irsay, former hillbilly heroin addict, now Twitter addict. Jim Irsay is really all you need to look at if you actually want to know what's wrong with this country. In fact all you really need to look at are his clothes, "clothe" being a better word, since he either owns one extremely ugly suit, or else several dozen copies of one extremely ugly suit, inspired by Bugsy Malone.

Irsay's father Robert is the guy who moved the Colts out of Baltimore in the middle of the night, and into the loving arms of a city which had built a third-hand version of the Minneapolis Metrodome just for such an eventuality. At the time Irsay was the only member of the Multi-Billionaires Club whose team was not an expensive toy; the Colts represented about 95% of Irsay's net worth. When he got to Indianapolis the whole thing nearly exploded in a divorce--Irsay couldn't have bought the other half of the team, because he didn't have the money--but appears to've been saved by a private agreement designed to save it for the children. Jim Irsay. The perpetual child.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Your Jobs Creator! From one of the least-valuable NFL franchises, to the 17th most valuable sports franchise in the world. Because, with the help of the NFL, lucky spermatozoa, one fortuitous draft pick, and mid-sized market politicians desperate to stay on the gravy train, a semi-literate twitterer was able to get millions in tax dollars without even applying to the legislative process.

Now Manning's hurt, maybe gone; Irsay's team, having done as close to nothing about this as is theoretically possible, is O-and-The Season, and nothing's effected his bottom line, which is guaranteed by the city to remain at sellout-plus concessions-plus parking-plus-revenue from concerts or anything else wholly unrelated to the Colts that takes place in the Barn we built for them.

Meanwhile, there's no NBA season because the owners have locked out the players, the better to get their hands on $100 million they need to keep body and soul together. Until an agreement is reached the Mall of America Simons, owners of the Indiana Pacers, will have to content themselves with the extra $10 million a year the city forked over last year for daring to give the Colts a deal that made the Pacers envious.

So now, with downtown sports traffic down, the local news hairdos--previously dutiful reporters of the wholly-made-up "lost revenue for the city" numbers the Pacers planted--have busied themselves finding Downtown bar owners to stick microphones in front of so they can sing the blues about business being down. I mean brave entrepreneurs who suddenly find themselves without a taxpayer-funded revenue stream.

Was any of this ever brought up in the all-important mayoral election just concluded? Did anyone ask why Teabag Gomer, erstwhile principled critic of Indianapolis' Super Bowl pretensions, handed millions to the Simons when there was no contractual reason to do so? Does the city still dump raw sewage into White River whenever it rains, or send elementary school students to school in un-airconditioned buildings? Whadd'a you think?

Wednesday, November 9

Oh. Thanks For Clearing That Up.

Karen Tumulty, "Virginia elections may be a warning sign for Obama". November 8

Katherine Q. "It's Not Fair Steno Sue Is Alliterative" Seelye, "Anti-Abortion Initiative 26 Defeated in Mississippi". November 8

Tuesday’s legislative elections in Virginia appeared likely to add more evidence — as if national Democrats needed it — that the terrain of the political map will be significantly more rugged for President Obama next year.

It is difficult to draw a bright trend line from an election in which fewer than one-third of those registered voted. When turnout is as light as it was on Tuesday, those who do show up tend to be the most dogged partisans.

But analysts and political strategists of both parties said the expected Republican gains — even if less than was expected — underscored the need for the president to reinvigorate his supporters and close what is becoming known as the “enthusiasm gap” between the two parties.

and, b)
Taken together, Tuesday’s results could breathe new life into President Obama’s hopes for his re-election a year from now. But the day was not a wholesale victory for Democrats. Even as voters in Ohio delivered a blow to Gov. John R. Kasich, a Republican, and rejected his attempt to weaken collective bargaining for public employees, they approved a symbolic measure to exempt Ohio residents from the individual mandate required in Mr. Obama’s health care law.

FIRST: how many biennial election cycles have these two personally witnessed, many of them as political reporters? What percentage of those offered hope and/or warning to incumbents? Hint: if you answered less than "100" you will need to show your work.

(I know, I know; even the best kitchen has to turn out toast points and coddled eggs on occasion. Doesn't mean they have to crow about it.)

Second, the Great State of Mississippi, which is to personal freedom what Wal*Mart is to fine wines, defeated personhood for blastocytes legislation. Mississippi. This is not a minor electoral blip. It is not, as some halfwits might have it, a "blow" to the "so-called 'personhood' movement", but a death knell.

Not, of course, that those bozos actually go away when they die. Or even fall over.

And this compares to "expected, but not as large as expected" Republican gains in Virginia?

Fer chrissakes, if you couldn't write "2008 May Be Difficult for Obama To Duplicate in 2012" in, uh, 2008 you've got no business voting, let alone writing about politics. Maybe you should write "Lessons of 2011 for Obama: Don't Fuck Up in 2009".

You can, in the right circumstances, be too fucking cracked for Mississippi. This is news. If you want to make some over-arching conclusion about our national politics, try this: Maybe someday it'll be possible to be too fucking cracked for the mass-market media in this country to take you seriously.

Monday, November 7

"Highlights Of The Cain-Gingrich Debate": The Shortest Volume Since "History Of German Humor".

HOLY crap, I taped this thing. Then I tried to watch it. Y'know, part of me secretly understands that even hack journalists--and "hack" may actually be the collective noun for a herd of journalists--are underpaid, at least those who are forced to view something like this, which must, at some level, be like some vile and malevolent god forcing you to watch a highlight reel of the ritual vivisection you'll be undergoing every twenty minutes for all Eternity once you reach your Reward.

First, it was hosted by US Representative Steve "Not Even the Smarmiest Wingnut Named King in Congress" King; I barely made it through that. Is there something in the Constitution which requires Iowa be represented? Practically the first thing out of his mouth was "Something-or-other Lincoln-Douglas debates". After a few minutes and a large cognac I started watching again, and was rewarded with the folksy little tale of how much his new granddaughter ("Reagan Anne") was born owing the Federal government. I stayed for the graph of its growth over her young lifetime, when she, by the way, will be paying no taxes but will be operating as a write-off, and was rewarded by King explaining to the audience that it could've been made to look much worse if his fucking staff had just jiggered the scale the way he asked somebody to tell them to.

Tell ya what, Steve: consider what it would have looked like if the scale was such that we could all see just what that money was going for. Little Dutch will have her own aircraft carrier by middle-age.

Then came the discussion of the explosive growth of Federal spending. This time we went with a pie chart, since even the Teabagger audience might've noted how a timeline corresponded to King's own tenure in Congress. And this, sadly, was where I just gave up.

Three guesses.

Right the first time! Because we start off talking about "Entitlements" vs. "Discretionary spending", with an eye to gulling our audience--not that a broad cross-section of white Houston exoburbian Teabaggers required any--about what's a work here. Social Security and Medicare "entitlements" are no less subject to Congressional oversight than "discretionary" Defense spending; we might note, for one thing, which side of that equation has proved vulnerable to attack. When you make the Social Security Slice look the same size as the Military, you kinda sorta elide the part about how the former is a Trust, paid for by taxpayers who are in the system, up to a certain, artificially-low level of their income. "Defense" is paid for by every taxpayer, hasn't gone begging for a COLA increase since Pearl Harbor, and the last time anyone suggested it might be cut in some small fashion resembling, I dunno, a Distant Glimmer of Reality we showed 'em what a portion of that overkill was for. King eventually got around to noting that Defense was an equal-sized slice of the pie, assuming you fell for the optical trick, but that in his opinion we didn't wanna go cuttin' that, unless we wanted Ruskies pounding on the door tomorrow morning. I believe this is referred to in Iowa as an "airtight case".

I'm sorry. I this point I turned the damn thing off again, considered hitting "Erase", left it intact, went back, and flipped through Lincoln and Douglas trying out new ideas for their next books, to the genial fellow-feeling of the hall. You can have your money back.

How'd we get here? Yes, indeed, how did we get to where a reptilian carnival barker and the James Brown of cardboard pizza empires--and not the good James Brown; the one who shot at people for using his towels--are a) running for President, and b) able to draw a crowd of 800? I mean besides the fact that we let Georgia back into the Union too easily?

But the bigger question is how'd we get to 1946? The narrative is a fake; we know the narrative is a fake. The enormity of deceitful wars--funded not by us, but by Reagan Anne King--and laissez-faire looting of the financial system are less important than Godless Socialism, the same way we conveniently ignored the rise of Nazism, and the First World War which it rode to power, and set off to win the Battle of Light vs Dark with a little help from German rocket scientists and medical technicians. Y'know, a lot bigger question than "Who takes Herman Cain seriously?" or "What does a Gingrich candidacy tell us about an uncaring God?" is how it is that this crap gets repeated ad infinitum without contradiction. Defense is at least 50% of the Budget, and it buys us a more bloated bureaucracy than Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and France, combined. For nothing, or nothing like what is claimed. Social Security is vital, vital to vast swathes of America, and even Texas. Who th' fuck is it so important that we bomb?

Can't somebody make any of these guys answer a real question?

Friday, November 4

WaPo, You Slut!

Getting In On The Ground Floor, Before It Sinks Any Lower

David Brooks, "In Praise of Fracking, and Other Theological Developments". November 3

I'M in a bad mood already, so don't start with me about America. Because we watch The Daily Show/Colbert at supper around here, I just caught thirty or forty seconds of Tom Fucking Brokaw with Jon from Wednesday night. (And only because my Poor Wife had the controls and the idea that I'd do my Brokaw impression, which is barely passable, and which it is probably more accurate to describe as my impression of Harry Shearer doing Tom Brokaw. I'm more of a phonetic impressionist. A week or so ago my PW was watching Camelot in the living room--I can only assume the remote was lost again--and I was in the kitchen, and started repeating a single syllable as Richard Harris, over and over, until she snorted her way into finding the thing and changed the channel.)

We watched just long enough to hear Brokaw lamenting the horrible, worse-than-ever divisions in our nation's capital--would you please retire, already? Or take up Japanese?--which apparently is creating unpleasant cross-currents for the centrist tide-bobber. So unlike the good ol' days of "Dutch" Reagan and "Tip" O'Neill giving each other after-hours backrubs. Why can't politics be fun again?

Does Stewart really believe that Brokaw is less responsible for this state of affairs than Tucker Carlson? Brokaw was the Princeling of Faux Balance. He's the guy NBC went to when it wanted to convert from news organization to infotainment, when it wanted to syphon off some of ABC's successful right-wing mojo in the era of Librul Media backlash. He was the spokesmodel for tearing down the grand old structures of television news, replacing them with Megamalls, and then filling the B. Dalton window inside with his lavishly illustrated paean to those great old buildings.

This is when the working class got stiffed (I mean, when the current round began); don't tell us you didn't notice, Tom. Don't tell us that Ronald Reagan's affability had you hypnotized. The loss of Courtesy now is deeply troubling to you, but the loss of All Reason in the 80s bothered you not one whit, or not enough to actually report on the actual effects of the Great Reagan Looting Party until after they had occurred, and the statute of limitations run out.

You were on the anchor desk, Tom--meaning that 1/3 of most Americans got their news from you--throughout the Reagan Swindle, through the transparently phony PR campaign which turned him into an American Folk Hero Action Figure, against the Details Formerly Known As Facts, and blamed all the bad stuff on Jimmy Carter. That's where you sat when his reelection campaign appropriated Bruce Springsteen. And Reagan's veniality there is not the issue; it's that Springsteen's clear message of an America of closing factories and broken promises and co-opted freedoms was increasing difficult to find during your tenure, faux-balanced and whited-out from a classic American narrative as old as Old Hickory and as relevant as the Civil Rights movement, becoming something that resembled a rude, persistent coughing from the back of the lecture hall where Heinz Kissinger and Jerry Falwell were discussing the Founders. The 1988 Presidential election was about Willie Horton. The '92 and '96 elections were about Bill Clinton's dick, as was everything else in those days, for that matter. The 2000 election was about Al Gore inventing the internet. You stood by. Forgive me, but I don't think the fact that sane people want nothing to do with Louie Gohmert quite measures up.

One of our major parties is clinically fucking insane; the other is corrupt and cowardly. And you're afraid to mention it, and so hope that scolding them for a lack of bonhomie will have some results. This is not necessarily unprecedented in the history of the Republic, but it continues at a time when the powerful are more powerful than ever, and the powerless increasingly so. Our problems--our fingertips-on-the-ledge dilemma--were not created by both sides, and are not to be solved by admonishing both to Work Together. If you won't leave the Newsotainment industry, Mr. Brokaw, and you think things may be so serious that at some future date you might have to let the weekend chauffeur go, or write your own books, then start putting what blame belongs on your own side where it belongs.

Is David Brooks a minor or a major problem? I think you know my thoughts. If I'm the Times and I read this I have to wonder why, in a period of contracting ad revenues, Big Energy gets a free slurpee on my Op-Ed page; if I'm a Timesman I have to wonder why I'm bothering with getting anything right. Brooks pens a column which begins, ostensibly, as a poignant tearstained letter about our modern muddle; the miracle of shale oil production--everyone who stands to make a buck on it agrees--is yet thwarted by environmental concerns.
The U.S. is polarized between “drill, baby, drill” conservatives, who seem suspicious of most regulation, and some environmentalists, who seem to regard fossil fuels as morally corrupt and imagine we can switch to wind and solar overnight.

Sure, sure, it's a Tell--or several--you could go All In on all night long: "conservatives" "seeming a little suspicious of regulation" vs. environmentalists who are frequently unbathed and are motivated by hatred of decent people. Never mind that this followed six paragraphs of the sort of puffery which would make a Pope blush. The sober, Grown-up, David Brooks view is that a couple of "conservatives" may be a little too radical about laissez-faire capitalist plunder, while environmentalists plain go too far. And we must balance these extremes, because they are preventing the "conservative" view from running the field at will.

It takes another three paragraphs before we learn that maybe, just maybe, the dirty hippies have a point, though one which they're not smart enough to realize is trivial:
Like every energy source, fracking has its dangers. The process involves injecting large amounts of water and chemicals deep underground. If done right, this should not contaminate freshwater supplies, but rogue companies have screwed up and there have been instances of contamination.

The wells, which are sometimes beneath residential areas, are serviced by big trucks that damage the roads and alter the atmosphere in neighborhoods. A few sloppy companies could discredit the whole sector.

Martin Luther may or may not have been the first to note that much depended on whose ox was being gored. What we do know is this: we've known about it since the 16th century at least. "Special interests"--in true Libertarian fashion Brooks is willing to add the coal industry to the villains list, since this gives him Let the Chips Fall Where They May credibility while costing neither him nor his energy sector friends with benefits anything--are what oppose you screwing with someone else's property; "Sound regulation" is what opposes someone else screwing with yours. For the corporate apologist and Bright Future human mic, criminality, environmental disaster, and eroding personal rights are always the result of one or two bad actors, not the inevitable consequence of letting the worst sort of person do the worst sort of thing because Profit will make it all better, and clean up after.

I don't know any more about shale oil than Brooks does; I'm just honest, and poor, enough to know that when someone calls Effects "side-effects" you might look for a financial interest, and not be surprised to find one. We can't expect to solve, or even salve, real problems while virtual jabberers promote the opposite, and their fellows recommend splitting the difference.