Monday, January 30

Olio: May You Live In Interesting Times, And A Mid-Sized Market Hosting The Super Bowl Edition

• A week or two ago I saw the most jaw-dislocatingly stupid thing I'd seen on local teevee "news", at least until the next time I turned it on: in reporting on the monthly state unemployment numbers, whichever useless shill I'd subjected myself to ignored until the end of the report the fact that Indiana's rate--9%, the neighborhood of which was, leading up to the 2008 gubernatorial elections, was the most important piece of evidence for Mitch Daniels' economic miracle--is now worse than the national average (and way north of Ohio's (8.1), while Kentucky (9.1) and Michigan (9.3) have both appeared in the rear-view mirror, not that he mentioned any of that), instead focusing on the one-month jobs creation number, which was, apparently, the greatest in the entire 6000 years of human history.

Which number did not budge the unemployment rate. We're all glad that 15,000 Hoosiers found jobs last month. And it's not like I think that local teleprompter readers compile their own statistics. It's just interesting that three years ago how Indiana compared with surrounding states was the chief measure of economic progress, and now it's a mumbled afterthought.

• You can imagine what's transpired when the modern-day local teevee news operation's natural inclination to Jaycee boosterism meets something like The Super Bowl. But do yourself a favor. Don't.

I swear that everyone doing remote reports while standing has been fitted with a catheter.

Which is not much of a surprise, since a couple weeks ago they were all beside themselves at the prospect of Jack in the Box returning to Indiana.


And who can blame them? People were lined up across the parking lot.

But for chrissakes, how does this infest the only print reporter in town with a political beat ?
Some of the more curmudgeonly Hoosiers among us are intent on noting that all of the city's problems will remain after Jimmy Fallon and Alec Baldwin leave. Yep, they will. Just as they would have without a Super Bowl. Expecting more is expecting too much.

I've been a critic of outsized public spending on professional sports stadiums and what it says about our priorities. And I'd trade this Super Bowl for a city full of super schools without blinking.

But it's not as simple as either/or. There's no doubt about the benefits that sports bring to this city, and the benefits of this particular game are obvious. The Eastside legacy project and the economic boost for local businesses are but two examples. Perhaps most important is the reminder that it sends to the city about the benefits of thinking big. This city has become what it is -- and it's something to be proud of -- after decades of thinking bigger than our weight class.

The "Eastside legacy project" is, essentially, Indianapolis' version of the annual NFL "Let's give 0.00001% of our teevee revenues to some poor side of whatever town gets to hand us a Super Bowl". In exchange for which Indianapolis--whose new Teabagger mayor was crying poverty at the same time--matches those funds and builds a practice facility for the visiting team to equal the practice facility we built the (privately-owned, need I remind you?) Colts. (Explain that one in terms of economic benefit, would ya?)

They've done a good job. The $1 million in matching NFL funds has become--reportedly--$154 million.

But where th' hell was that money? Those schools Mr. Tully "wishes" we'd improve could have used that sort of cash over the last twenty years. He should know; he spent a year in one of 'em without noticeably losing the conceit that it's all the fault of bad teachers. Maybe he should spend a year drinking straight out of the raw-sewage receptacle known as White River. Then tell us what it is or isn't reasonable to expect.

Funny how this excuse always sides with Circuses, and against Bread.

• Brave Indiana blogger Doug Masson points us at this Muncie Star Press editorial supporting the latest religiocrank legislation moving in the Indiana General Assembly (Motto: Quick, Kansas Is Gaining On Us!"):
The legislation allows schools to authorize "the teaching of various theories concerning the origin of life" and specifically mentions "creation science" as one such theory.

And specifically mentions no other.
Creationism is the belief that the Earth and its creatures were created by a deity.

But creation "science" has been forced to back away from the deity routine.
Opponents will argue this bill chips away at the separation of church and state and brings an unwelcome mixing of theocracy and scientific theory into the classroom.
Not necessarily.

It's true; you can use the Bible in public schools. To teach the Bible. Problem is that you're not supposed to use it to teach the Bible exclusively. And religious diversity, as we all know, leads directly to Sharia law.
We see nothing that would change that here, and note the bill stresses "theories" on the origins of life.

Sure it did, because one of our citizen farmer legislators heard from some other state's citizen farmer legislators--or a teevee pastor--that such language makes it all fair to teach Christian just-so stories alongside natural selection in biology class.

No worries, though. I'm sure Mitch "Culture War on the Back Burner" Daniels will be weighing in on this any minute now.

Saturday, January 28

Where Are The Snow Globes Of Yesteryear?

David Brooks, "Hope, but Not Much Change". January 26

THE drool of idiots and the haughtiness of kings is in all eras the same; it's the flattery and excuses of the sycophants, the toadies, the mouthpieces, the Yes men and the ass-kissers that changes.

There's no question about the discomfort being felt by the David Brooks/Mitch Daniels wing of the Republican party now that the Republican Presidential Sweepstakes has come down to: Mitt Romney, who is, essentially, what would have resulted had they been able to replace George W. Bush's non-existent aptitude for public speaking with Ronald Reagan's highly-overrated one; Rick Santorum, the reverse; Newt Gingrich, the most accomplished of the post-Nixon race-baiters, who they're forced to pretend has turned into a lunatic since the glorious days of his glorious Republican Revolution of the Week; and Ron Paul, the Ghost of Anti-Fluoridationism Not-Quite Past. I'd like to know what the problem is. It's like they took Reagan and cut him in quarters, nurtured the Four Horsemen of his Middle-American Appeal in petri dishes, and grew themselves a primary season. So, okay, Herman Cain would make it the Five Blocks of Granite, both numerically and intellectually. I miss him, too. But you can't have everything.

And this has all come about because Sarah Palin was so toxically ignorant, and so illiterately greedy? How long has Rush Limbaugh been a major player in Republican politics again? The party took Nelson Rockefeller out and shot him before Mitch Daniels was old enough to vote. Who do they think they're fooling? You broke it, you bought it.

This has lead, in a direct line, to David Brooks using prime New York Times Opinion Mall space to begin a column thus:
The Simpson-Bowles report wasn’t just a policy document. For a few months, it expanded the national debate. Everybody seemed to realize that the country was beset by large challenges that could no longer be neglected: soaring debt, lagging growth, wage stagnation, family breakdown, political dysfunction.

Suddenly, there was a sense of urgency. There were grand plans coming from all directions.

Yeah, remember that exciting Twenty Minutes? Anyone?

Anyone remember believing that Simpson-Bowles would change anything? Or knowing anyone who believed that? Anyone think there was anything about Simpson-Bowles that couldn't be extrapolated ahead of time, just by knowing who Simpson and Bowles were? Anyone remember being surprised/dismayed/dumbfounded when Congress ignored it?

Anyone, in other words, remember Simpson-Bowles as anything other than a cloak of idiocy designed to give everyone inside the Beltway who favors Cupidity over Insanity a few weeks of cover?
It’s sad to compare that era of bigness to the medium-sized policy morsels that President Obama put in his State of the Union address. He had some big themes in the speech, but the policies were mere appetizers. The Republicans absurdly call Obama a European socialist on the stump, but the Obama we saw Tuesday night was a liberal incrementalist.

There was nothing big, like tax reform or entitlement reform. There was no comprehensive effort to restore trust in government by sweeping away the tax credits and special-interest schemes that entangle Washington.

A lifelong Republican mouthpiece, a youthful liberal transformed by beatific beam of Milton Friedman like Ben-Hur swigging from Jesus' bottomless canteen, wishes a "Democratic" President would come up with the big ideas necessary to salvage the mess he and his fellows have made of things ever since Ronald Reagan bought a microphone.

(By the way, did anyone else see Mitt this week do his "I didn't pay for this microphone, but…" schtick? The only genuine moment in primary season since the Three Babblers dropped out. About halfway through you could see that he realized he was about to 1) use humor on a Republican audience without the subject being watermelons in the White House garden, and 2) use an historical reference, even though it was one of their own, and well within the lifetimes of most of the old white people present. There was a flicker when Romney almost froze, before instincts born of seven years on the Republican stump took over and he realized that facts go right over everyone's head, regardless, and relaxed.)
Some of the ideas were lamentable. Instead of simplifying the tax code, Obama would muddy it up with more tax loopholes for corporations as long as they conformed to this or that industrial policy.

"Hiring Americans". But I agree, Dave. The tax code is no place to encourage American corporations provide American jobs. The criminal code would be much better.
It’s odd that an administration that once wanted to do everything all at once now should be so gradualist. Maybe its members were scarred by the traumas of health care and the 2010 election. Maybe they just want to win the election, so every policy has to be politically easy instead of politically challenging..

Assuming this administration once "wanted to do everything"--including the younger sisters of Republican voters, I think--is that really so odd? We'd'a been a helluva lot better off today--probably--if that actually were the case. And Obama would already have 2012 won, especially against your bunch.
Legislatively, the president has to build a center-left governing majority that can overwhelm those Republicans who will never support him. That can be done only with ground-shifting policies.

Now you tell him. Y'know, the President had a center-left governing majority. It was called "the people who elected him". And the first thing he did after he was elected--hell, the first thing he did when he secured the nomination--was to run to the other side of the aisle and ask them to friend him. These are the instincts of a man who resembles…David Brooks.

It was an historic opportunity which nearly matched FDR's, but the President wanted Tim Geithner and Larry Summers to run things, and John Boehner to approve his every move. This wasn't a miscalculation; no one with an ounce of sense would have calculated that way in 2009. It was pure Democratic "centrism", the sort of "centrism" which could travel 98% of the distance to meet David Brooks halfway, but which considers rank-and-file Democratic voters only slightly less repugnant than rank-and-file Republicans. (And which, may I say, is a compliment I gladly return, mutatis mutandis.) What was missed should not be forgotten. Nor should we have to endure some Republican "moderate" telling the rest of us about it, three years and a busted flirtation with the Teabaggers later. It was as true an example of the utter moral and intellectual failure of the American center as the Bush administration was of the Right.

Wednesday, January 25

If Duchamp Were Alive Today, He Could Hang Mitch Daniels In A Museum And Label It "The Fountainhead"

HERE'S the best thing about Mitch Daniels giving the "rebuttal" to the State of the Union address: it got local news hairdos to talk about something other than how many days are left until the Super Bowl.

And the worst thing? I happened to walk through the living room just in time to hear one of 'em say something about what an honor it was for Daniels to be picked.

Because, look: this is one of the many, many things in this country which could be improved by the simple expedient of letting me make the decision. The Official Opposition Party Rebuttal to the Republic-old Tradition of the State of the Union Address is a crock of shit. Every bleeding idiot American, all 300 million of 'em, gets to reply to the State of the Union, at the top of his lungs and while it's going on, if he chooses. The Official Reply is nothing more than the habitual media tendency to fellational genuflection to Power and the two Parties which monopolize it. Was there an Official Democratic Response to Bush's Taliban Out of Town by Sundown speech? Or his bullhorn babbling on 9/16, or whenever it was he came out of hiding? I mean, other than "Hooray for the Glorious Republic!"?

And the damned thing isn't actually a response, of course, but a made-for-teevee taped prebuttal designed to level talking points at what Tout le Beltway knew was going to be in the speech, delivered (for Republicans) by some Tiger Beat jerkoff heartthrob. This is precisely the sort of "honor" Mitch Daniels deserves. The sort that comes in cans, and you buy off supermarket racks.

As for the speech itself, well, do I have to do anything but yawn? Obama's "extremism" "divides the nation", a nation, we might add, in which everyone still enjoys his Bush tax cuts, including, or especially, people in Mitch Daniels' (and Mitch Daniels' bankrollers') tax bracket. (Do we still have tax brackets?) This comes from a guy who gave the big stage wink to "Right to Work" legislation last year (but wouldn't get behind it publicly, since he was"considering" running for President while he was running for President). But who this year is behind it whole hog, after "studying the problem" over the past twelvemonth.

I don't know who this fools, but anyone it does should be legally precluded from ever complaining about our politics. Because this is precisely what's wrong with our politics: our public men have no commitment to the barest requirements of honesty, intellectual or otherwise.

My personal favorite, as always, is Mitch Daniels, Voice of How If We Just Eliminate All Public Responsibilities on the Wealthy, Provided They Agree To Heroically Hire People If They Need To, and Let Them Dismantle the Safety Net in the Name of Saving It, Republicans Will Agree Not To Enact Any Crazy Social Legislation Until They're Done. To The Extent That Mitch Daniels Can Guarantee It, or Be Held Accountable When It Doesn't Happen.

Reader, this is the guy who couldn't run for the Republican nomination because he suggested putting social issues on the back burner, who had to run to Laura Ingraham or one of those other "conservative" transvestites to apologize the very next day, and who, when he was still pretending he wan't running for President but was, had to agree to name Mike "Choirboy" Pence his successor just so he could carry Indiana. Mitch Fucking Daniels has a helluva lot more to fear from Social "Conservatives" than you or I. Spot anyone on the Debate Dais in favor of gay marriage, did you? Heard a Congressional Republican leader touting the Time to Cool It on Social Issues gag? Mitch Daniels is the designated Official Voice of the Non-Existent Republican Party on this. Because it was his best-paying job back when it looked like Sarah Palin was the next nominee, and now he's committed. Have we not spent the last nine months being clearly informed just how much weight Social "conservatives" have to throw around in their own party these days?

Last year Mitch Daniels signed a bill blocking Federal funds from going to Planned Parenthood in Indiana. And his is what passes for a credible voice on cultural détente in the Republican party.

And the guy who wrote the first three Debt-tumefying Bush budgets, and who crafted the blank checks Congress signed for Afghanistan and Iraq II, is now a strict Deficit Hawk. Which is right in line with the idea that The Brain thinks entitlement spending busts budgets it's not a part of, or that capping the amount of income subject to FICA taxes artificially low has no connection to wealthy Americans enjoying excessive Social Security benefits, or that "compromising" for the sake of "jobs creation" just happens to be identical to "giving the wealthy, and the party of wealth, everything they demand".

Y'know Dick "Moderate" Lugar, being threatened, or "threatened", in his reelection bid by Indiana Teabaggers, is running ads (in January!) about how he's fuckin' this Obama guy up but good. Pipeline! Obamacare! Whoo-hoo! Forget how anybody can believe these guys; I can't find anything anyone would claim to believe in the first place.

Monday, January 23

Funny Pages

ITEM: Bring Back Bill Clinton to stop Newt Gingrich! says guy in newspaper which sluiced Ken Starr's flaccid and leaky member and batted 1.000 while doing so. If by "batted a thousand" you mean "whiffed on everything, but gave Congressional Republicans enough cover to keep the investigation going 36 months longer than it should have, legally."

By the way, I love how the same Press which has faux-balanced every crackpot Republican scheme for the last forty years into One Side of the Coin gets all nervous an' shit when Republican figures "reveal" themselves as babbling anchorites.

ITEM: Speaking of which, the race to be the next Dean Broder continues unabated; Dan Balz explores the subtle nuances between the Official Beltway Script
In some respects, the contest between Romney and Gingrich falls into a familiar construct of Establishment vs. Insurgents, and yet neither candidate is the ideal to play his assigned role

and the grudging sort-of facts (Romney is an Establishment figure, but a moderate; Gingrich is a loon; The "Insurgents" are, in point of fact, the actual Republican party minus its rich-guy corporate wing) which is the fiery forge where Beltway Vulcans temper the Conventional Wisdom and pronounce it Indestructible.

ITEM: Meanwhile, loc. cit., let's allow Catholic organizations to claim religious exemptions, provided they choose to make a stink about it. Meaning, of course, Conception in all its various pathologies; they'll still be withhold employee taxes aimed at enriching the Rich, frequently executing the frequently Poor, and the ongoing $ trillion/year plowshare-sword conversion operation.

The reader's, if not the Post's editorial staff's, attention is directed towards the state of Utah, and its banning of polygamy just in time for Statehood, or the strictures placed on the Native American church.

Okay, it's been a rough few decades for Catholicism, especially its Likudnik USA faction. By the way, it's interesting to note how closely the Papacy parallels US post-war politics. You've got the Don't Ask Questions about Franco, Dr. von Braun Is On Line One, era, during which (previous) Fascist sympathies were judged as slightly less abhorrent than Communism. Followed by the miraculous appearance of Mr. Charisma, who turned out to be something of a Pink, followed by Nixon, followed by Reagan, followed, now, by Dick Cheney. The Catholic church has spoken very clearly about the enormity of contraception, wanton killer of theoretical souls, vs. the in-house PR difficulty presented by an ecclesiastical hierarchy with the collective morals of a troop of baboons. I'd like to think it's time now to use your Vow of Silence voice. Reproductive freedom is every American's Constitutional right. I know you don't like it. If you feel aggrieved about your tax money being appropriated for things you don't approve of, kindly find your place in line with the rest of us taxpayers.

ITEM: If you union teachers would give up your unreasonable demands to belong to a union we'll get this education reform nonsense dreamt up by your sworn enemies in high gear.

Y'know, far be it from me to point out that D.C. fucking schools are the ones which were reformed by the brilliant Michelle Rhee, before she took her snake oil wagon off in search of greener pastures. When's the evidence start pouring in about the unmistakeable benefits of giving each and every child a wonderful, caring, nurturing teacher who'll be here any minute, just as soon as that Right to Work thing is settled?

Okay. I don't care. Same fucking bullshit, same disastrous results for poor students, same pocket-lining opportunities for the next Neil Bush. Really, I just wanted to add this:
In recent remarks commemorating the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Mr. Cuomo spoke of his increasing intolerance for a school system that regularly fails so many of its students. “Our schools are not an employment program,” he said, according to a report in the New York Times.

Right. They're an employment training program. For imaginary jobs. I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by how well they did on some one-shot, high-pressure math questions in third grade!

I have a dream today. But, dammit, I keep waking up.

Sunday, January 22


Frank Bruni, "Of Mouselike Bites and Marathons". January 21

Jane Black, "What Paula Deen didn't bring to the table". January 20

FULL disclosure: George Eff Will's wife didn't do anything for Rick Perry, and my Poor Wife watches food porn. Two distinctions: my wife doesn't cook, and so inflicts those horrors on no one but herself, and her regular job actually benefits people, and society at large, if you'll pardon my outdated notions.

The Paula Deen pre-obituaries I happened to read were eye-openers for me. I suppose this is something of a disclosure as well, but I have no patience for that deep-fried, mushmouth-and-grits accent. I mean, if that happens to be your accent, fine; what I object to is hearing it from people who are being paid handsomely to communicate with English speakers, unless they are certified experts in some field and speaking to a national audience is not their main gig. Neither is true of Deen. Any time I walked into the room while that woman was on I wondered how she ever finished a recipe in just a half hour with two extra syllables wormed into every word. And I'm from Central Indiana, which, in terms of dialect, is Kentucky.

Plus I swear--this is on scant evidence--that it got thicker as time went on. At any rate, the thing obviously wasn't put on, but that doesn't mean it wasn't phony as NASCAR's good-ol'-moonshine-runners image. You don't have to speak like Edward R. Murrow--hell, you don't have to speak like Edward R. Murrow to read the news, anymore; thanks Roone!--but Indecipherable is schtick. ESPN uses subtitles on people who speak more plainly.

Paula Deen is not some sweet old Suh-thur-un lady who cooks "traditional" fare; she's the product of cable network brass and producers and agents hiding a reality-show on state fair cuisine from the rubes. Has this information not made it inside the Beltway?
The fooderati may brand Deen a menace to a healthy society and a culinary joke. But there’s a reason that her shows are in constant rotation on the Food Network, her 14 cookbooks have sold 8 million copies and her magazine, “Cooking With Paula Deen,” has a circulation of more than 1 million: Americans relate to this sassy, nonjudgmental former single mom. And they like her food.
Are we trapped in faux-balanced everything now like miniature marshmallows and Bac-O-Bits in lime Jell-O?

And this was the first of several things which struck me about the pre-obits: Deen and her deep-fried butter-on-a-doughnut cuisine were somehow accepted as authentic, and the mark of the seriously misguided way our simple-minded forebears did things (which does nothing so much as pat us on the back for the superiority of our herd. Bruni's piece is freaking awful):
The research that [Allison Adato] recounted to me and the book itself, “Smart Chefs Stay Slim,” to be published by New American Library in April, describe a populous crowd of food professionals who work out diligently to keep the ravages of foie gras at bay.

They have private trainers. They play tennis or soccer. They climb rocks or box or do yoga or bicycle or run. Adato’s book spotlights four chefs and restaurateurs who have run marathons, including Art Smith, who cooked for Oprah Winfrey for 10 years and was once more than 100 pounds above his current weight. It could also have name-checked Bobby Flay, who has run three.

Wealthy celebu-chefs have private trainers, and the leisure to work out. Let's emulate them.

Except--as Bruni gets around to mentioning, as really is the point of the piece--the food porn these people put out is just as salacious as Deen's, but grabs the other, more "accomplished", side of the schtick.

Isn't this the fucking point? If Deen's Type II is a message from God, or a piece of irony stuffed with bacon, and cheddar, and Canadian bacon, and Canadian cheddar, then so be it. But is her hypocrisy worse than Flay's because hers comes with a mushmouth and grandma's lack of New York fashionableness, and because Flay wisely doesn't eat his own cooking?

It's not. Classic cuisine is every bit as contraindicated, healthwise, as Deen's phony down-home concoctions, but with less use of potato chips as an ingredient. And dollars to deep-fried Kashi says that the masterworks of those other celebu-chefs--at least the ones prepared out of sight of the customer--owe more than a little to the knowledge that fat, sugar, and salt = flavor.

It's not that Paula Deen has diabetes. Millions do. Millions more have eaten like wealthy piglets and lived to be 95. It's the fact that she hid it until she had an endorsement deal, then--by virtue of being a "celebrity"--gets the opportunity to defend this behavior. It's the fact that no one ever gets called on this anymore provided they're "winning"--winning defined as "making money on th' teevee". The idea that Deen is excused because she moves a lot of magazines--the Lumpenproletariat has spoken, according to the guys in Market Research!--is a sad excuse for accepting a world in which one need not be knowledgeable, or honest, or forthright, to be authentic. Just fool some of the Demos some of the time.

Paula Deen isn't going to become a spokeswoman for healthier eating. That's already established. Th' fuck is someone hoping for that, anyway? Th' fuck do we put up with all the other phonies?

Saturday, January 21

Piers, n. : The Vertiginous Self-Loathing That Follows An Ill-Considered And Lube-Free Bout Of Sodomy With A Fatuous Clown

SO Piers Morgan asks Rick Santorum how he'd counsel a raped and pregnant daughter:
“I would do what every father must do: Counsel your daughter to do the right thing.You can make the argument that if she doesn’t have this baby, if she kills her child, that too could ruin her life."

“This is not an easy choice. I understand that. As horrible as the way that son or daughter was created, it still is her child.”

Okay, first: we have to raid British teevee to find this guy? For fuck's sake, this--The Kitty Dukakis Gotcha!--is the way we still ask this question? Santorum's willing to sentence thousands of women to death in childbirth because the representatives of a 2000-year-dead imaginary carpenter tell him so. What does how he claims he'd counsel his own child have to do with anything, except the apparent expectation that he might suddenly admit that his one claim to campaign contributions doesn't apply to him personally? Sure. Sure he would.

How many times do we imagine Rick Santorum has practiced answering this question for a national audience? You think some consultant asked him if he could choke up on "son or daughter", maybe just a little?

It's like asking Mitch Daniels whether some incident of corporate rapine would cause him to burn his five copies of Atlas Shrugged. What's he supposed to say? "Wow, ya got me, Piers. I'm actually a total fraud, and just in this for the money. You Brits are tough."

How 'bout asking Santorum about women who're fortunate enough not to be part of his brood, whom he nonetheless helped sentence to much riskier medical procedures regardless of their religious beliefs, or the wishes of their parents?

And if you have to ask stupid questions, how 'bout following up by asking him why he doesn't have the courage to defend his theological beliefs without weaseling? It's not an easy choice? According to the Roman church it is, at least morally. It's certainly one Rick Santorum is ready, willing, and eager to make in millions of cases where he doesn't know anyone involved, or the medical issues, or anything else but the Pope's wishes. You wanna trap him in hypocrisy, ask about the hypocrisy which claims that procedure designed to save his wife's life at the expense of his "baby" differed qualitatively from 99.999% of late-term abortions.

Santorum is a loathsome slug; he's Newt Gingrich without the entertainment value. He may deserve to have any sort of frothy mix hurled at him, in public. The public, on the other hand, deserves better. Just for the novelty, if for nothing else.

Friday, January 20

Purity Of Essence

SHORTER David Brooks: "Sure, Mitt Romney's character has been shaped by piratical capitalism and kooky theology. But only the good parts."

Okay, for starters: the issue with Bain isn't whether Mitt Romney obeyed the law, and it's certainly not whether we can find right-wing mouthpieces willing to defend him in public by spouting some blather about the American "system"; it's whether one can do everything up to the letter of the law and thereby claim to have been ethical, even moral, beyond question. It's whether there are different rules for the rich guys who make the rules than for the poor schlubs who keep imagining, against all evidence, that they are voting for honest men. And it's about just how much plutocracy Republican shills will defend without losing their self-appointed status as spokesmen for the Real America.

There's no sacred text of Alexander Hamilton which consecrates what was done at Bain. There's no shrine to unfettered rapine honored in every American household. What Bain did--what Willard Mitt Romney and his two hard-scrabbled Hahvahd degrees did--was take every advantage of a gamed system, a gamed system we can call, not for want of a better term but because there is no better term, the Reagan Revolution.

Faced with a troubled, stagnant economy which was in trouble, and had stagnated, largely because its multinational colossi did not want to be bothered adapting to a changing world--one in which energy wasn't plentiful and cheap, one in which the United States did not stand as the only global player, one in which consumers had begun to take their rightful place in the endless merry-go-round of merchantilism--in other words, the world of the 21st century, the one we're failing to adapt to today--unless their built-in advantages were preserved. So the Reagan administration, and the Western-Southern alliance in the Congress, defanged and dismantled the legislative safeguards which had for two generations somewhat leveled the playing field, and protected the vulnerable public from the worst of Boom and Bust. Which allowed the "visionaries" and "tenacious achievers" to bleed the system, to convert assets into cash. Meanwhile destroying the assets.

Fooled plenty of people. Made Reagan look like an Economic Miracle Worker, provided you didn't look too closely or ask why he simultaneously had the worst jobs creation record of any post-war President. Until his successor inherited the snake oil inventory.

That's what Romney did; his tireless efforts were designed to prove that any idiot with money can make more money, provided making more money is the only thing he cares about.

Mitt Romney is running for President of the United States, not the CEO of Citicorp. I know, GOP shills aren't supposed to recognize any difference. But the rest of us do, and we haven't had any choice in the matter since 2007. Romney chose money over morality; now that choice has bitten him in the ass. If it was all so innocent--heroic, even--in the first place there'd be no need for all the hoop-jumping going on in its defense.

Speaking of which, Dave, I know it's tough to come up with 800 words defending the inexcusable, but turning 600 of the over to a recapitulation of some guy's book about the Pioneer Mormon Romneys? And, you should pardon the expression, fer chrissakes:
It is a story of relentless effort, of recovery and of being despised (in their eyes) because of their own success. Romney himself experienced none of this hardship, of course, but Jews who didn’t live through the Exodus are still shaped by it.

Only if they ignore the clear historical record that nothing like the Exodus happened, since nothing like the Egyptian Captivity happened. Modern Jews, of course, are entirely justified in being shaped by the Holocaust, but you didn't wanna go there, right? Especially since the victims of Hitler's genocide are all now unwitting Mormons. And while Romney's progenitors certainly faced an armed and bigoted populace, that was nothing compared to what African-Americans faced, so I glad you skipped that too, Dave. So, I'm sure, is the rest of the Mormon hierarchy, which finally got around to making colored boys into men in 1978. When Willard Mitt was thirty-one.

I'm sorry. Was that a cheap shot? Is it unfair, since "Mitt Romney can’t talk about his family history on the campaign trail. Mormonism is an uncomfortable subject." ? Y'all sure expected Barack Obama to explain Jeremiah Wright.

Thursday, January 19

Dodging A Bollock

Chris Cillizza and Dan Balz, "Rick Perry to end presidential candidacy, expected to endorse Newt Gingrich". January 19

LAST week someone--I negligently failed to note who--said that Colbert hid the utmost seriousness of purpose behind being silly, while the Media hides its profound silliness behind a guise of seriousness. So:
Texas Gov. Rick Perry will end his bid for the Republican presidential nomination today and is expected to endorse former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, according to two sources familiar with his thinking.

Gingrich himself said via email this morning that all he knows is “not much. Rumors.”

[Emphasis mine.] Please, It's too late to start. And if you've decided to anyway, please aim little higher. Like off the ground.

Here's a couple of ideas: 1) What are we supposed to make of the profound silliness at the center of the Republican presidential race? and 2) Why aren't any Republicans bothered by it?

J. R. "Rick" Perry has been governor of The Republic of Texas for eleven fucking years, during which he had amply demonstrated that his wits, while perhaps sufficient to manage the world's largest manure field, fall quite a bit short of what's required for serious national office, even in our debased age. Yet Perry was treated as a Force that demanded reckoning with, long before he entered with a pratfall, and it became okay to laugh at him.

Now he's gonna toss to Gingrich, a liar, a blowhard, the world's least credible academician, a petty criminal yet too incompetent to try covering his tracks, a racist, a despiser of pettier thieves, as well as the less fortunate, and a smug little doughboy with the morals, and ethics, of a syphilitic polecat. The Press doesn't like the man. Not for any of the above, but because he speaks down to them instead of offering professional courtesy.

Four years after it nominated a laughingstock to be Vice President of the United States--and learned that she was wildly more popular among the faithful than the War Hero in the top slot--the Party of Burke Weekends at David Brooks' has offered up two talking hairdos and six--make that eight--certifiable lunatics. At every debate stop the Republican rank and file cheers, loudly and long, for dog-whistle racism, cheery threats of political violence, and expressions of a fervent and twisted distaste for anything approximating reality. What does Brooks have to say about it? What does George Eff Will have to say about it? "Gee, I wish Mitch Daniels was running"

Wednesday, January 18

Turns Out You Can Solve Just About Any Problem By Refusing To Talk To Anyone But Yourself

Robert Kagan, "Against The Myth Of American Decline". January 11

IF there's one thing that keeps me going, it is the hope that during my lifetime someone will be able to explain how the United States foreign policy has, for seventy years now, come under the sway of a series of frauds and con men, from Dean Acheson and John Foster Dulles through Heinz Kissinger and Eliot Abrams to Dick Cheney and the Kagan Clan.

There has long been a question whether the Republican leadership can possibly be as stupid as it seems. This is certainly not limited to questions of historical accuracy, or competence, or familiarity with the very concept, but it's a fine place to start, seeing as how the costs of printing faux-history texts for Texas, or faux-biology texts for Kansas, or even of incontinent tax cutting for the wealthy, pale in comparison to what we've spent since the end of the Second World War making the world safe and interesting for middle-aged white guys who like to play Risk with real army men.

Just in case you were tempted to slog through all 10,000 words here, well, don't. Here ya go:

"America is not in decline, because if the people who say it's in decline would adopt the arguments I make for them, my cogent analysis would mow 'em down like tenpins. So, in conclusion, cut social spending instead, since that has nothing to do with it."

There. I saved you at least 9900.
The present world order—characterized by an unprecedented number of democratic nations; a greater global prosperity, even with the current crisis, than the world has ever known; and a long peace among great powers—reflects American principles and preferences, and was built and preserved by American power in all its political, economic, and military dimensions. If American power declines, this world order will decline with it. It will be replaced by some other kind of order, reflecting the desires and the qualities of other world powers. Or perhaps it will simply collapse, as the European world order collapsed in the first half of the twentieth century. The belief, held by many, that even with diminished American power “the underlying foundations of the liberal international order will survive and thrive,” as the political scientist G. John Ikenberry has argued, is a pleasant illusion. American decline, if it is real, will mean a different world for everyone.

Y'know, there's nothing like being lectured about other people's delusions by an eagle-eyed skeptic hawking Normal Rockwell prints.

And Kagan will be forced, more than once, to insist that America hasn't had its way with the world in the dim past, say, the 1950s (Quemoy and Matsu! No, really.) which is akin to being wrestled to a draw by your own strawman.
During the first three decades after World War II, great portions of the world neither admired the United States nor sought to emulate it, and were not especially pleased at the way it conducted itself in international affairs. Yes, American media were spreading American culture, but they were spreading images that were not always flattering. In the 1950s the world could watch televised images of Joseph McCarthy and the hunt for Communists in the State Department and Hollywood. American movies depicted the suffocating capitalist conformism of the new American corporate culture. Best-selling novels such as The Ugly American painted a picture of American bullying and boorishness. There were the battles over segregation in the 1950s and 1960s, the globally transmitted images of whites spitting at black schoolchildren and police setting their dogs on black demonstrators. (That “used to be us,” too.) The racism of America was practically “ruining” the American global image, Dulles feared, especially in the so-called Third World. In the late 1960s and early 1970s came the Watts riots, the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy, the shootings at Kent State, and then the government-shaking scandal of Watergate. These were not the kinds of images likely to endear the United States to the world, no matter how many Jerry Lewis and Woody Allen movies were playing in Parisian cinemas.

Somehow the appetite for this sort of thing is never sated, is it? Especially when it can be mooted by the image of "whites spitting at black children"--which somehow omits to mention that some of them spit at black children using dynamite--thereby excusing the American Right from any and all responsibility. Fer chrissakes, even if you've got a specious argument to make, acting as though television is what made American institutional racism a problem, or what drew the attention of a world which had never heard of Jim Crow laws to that point, says a little more than you think it does.

It's funny; the reasoned analysis somehow manages to sound like a remake of the Red Scare with less yelling. Foreigners are malinformed by The Ugly American and television coverage of the Civil Rights movement; foreigners were evidently unacquainted with Americans, or American companies otherwise. The lousy Reds capitalize on this to poor-mouth us to "the so-called Third World"; never mind, of course, the the long history of the United States doing nothing (or worse than nothing) to ameliorate racial injustice and gender inequality was propaganda grist for the Red mill from the 1920s onward, and rightly fucking so. The United States can bring the world to understand and adopt its virtues. Just don't ask it to do the same at home.

Similarly, seventy years of opposition to frankly insane military spending dispositions boils down to some short-sided, short-term grousing:
SOME OF THE ARGUMENTS for America’s relative decline these days would be more potent if they had not appeared only in the wake of the financial crisis of 2008.

Yeah. And the financial crisis of 2008 would've seemed a lot more benign if it hadn't been caused by the systematic looting of global financial markets aided and abetted by the United States government.

And let's just note that the argument isn't strengthened by, uh, fudging:
Americans currently spend less than $600 billion a year on defense, more than the rest of the other great powers combined. (This figure does not include the deployment in Iraq, which is ending, or the combat forces in Afghanistan, which are likely to diminish steadily over the next couple of years.) They do so, moreover, while consuming a little less than 4 percent of GDP annually—a higher percentage than the other great powers, but in historical terms lower than the 10 percent of GDP that the United States spent on defense in the mid-1950s and the 7 percent it spent in the late 1980s.

They also do so while spending considerably more than $600 billion, which is a rough estimation of what the Pentagon request looks like. And that doesn't include Iraq, Afghanistan, or a few thousand other little items we don't want on the books.

Nor does it include intelligence; nor does it include military spending's share of the interest on the debt. And it doesn't include the hidden social costs of spending so much tax money on planned obsolescence rather than human beings. It sure ignores what we're still paying for that 7% of GPD insanity during the Reagan decade with no identifiable military threat.

And if it doesn't do your argument any good to, uh, fudge clear facts, it does even less to attach it to the bullshit factory which is Militarize At The Expense Of Everything Else, Inc.:
As the former budget czar Alice Rivlin has observed, the scary projections of future deficits are not “caused by rising defense spending,” much less by spending on foreign assistance. The runaway deficits projected for the coming years are mostly the result of ballooning entitlement spending. Even the most draconian cuts in the defense budget would produce annual savings of only $50 billion to $100 billion, a small fraction—between 4 and 8 percent—of the $1.5 trillion in annual deficits the United States is facing.

Tell ya what, though. If we put enough money into R&D maybe we can figure out a way to turn transparent bullshit into a weapon. Then those foreigners'll be cowering at our feet.

Tuesday, January 17

And I Know He Would Have Approved Of The MLK Day Savings At Croft Furniture. Croft--Where Old World Craftsmanship Meets Third World Labor Practices!

NO, really: :
The Indiana Chamber of Commerce said the ["Right to work"] bill currently being considered by legislators is "consistent with Dr. King's teachings."

"People should have the choice as to whether or not they should belong and pay money to a union or any other organization," said Kevin Brinegar, president of the Chamber of Commerce. "They shouldn't have to be forced otherwise as a condition of work."
"Pretty sure Gandhi, JFK, Gene Debs, and Woody Gutherie would've been behind it, too."

Bonus: Indiana statehouse Republicans--but I repeat myself!--propose deregulating cosmetologists, barbers, dietitians, hearing aid dealers, private investigator firms, and security guards. Upsetting cosmetologists, barbers, dietitians, hearing aid dealers, private investigator firms, and security guards.

Local Channel 6 gets a reaction from beauty school owner and past president of the American Association of Cosmetology Schools John Halal, Fishers, Indiana:
"Even with training, there's a concern, but we minimize the risk when people are properly trained," he said.

Sorry; inside joke. There hasn't been a single Democratic vote cast in Fishers since Oliver P. Morton was governor. Mr. Halal, when you lie down with dogs, at least you know you can get an unlicensed flea dip for 1/3 the price.

Monday, January 16

Why Johnny Can't Read (The New York Times Book Review Without Tripping Over The Wingnut Press)

Sam Tanenhaus, "History vs. the Tea Party". January 14

SEVENTEEN-hundred forty-two words which begin with this:
FOR more than two years, conservatives have been riding a wave of Tea Party insurgency that has formed the most dynamic force in American politics, a protest movement that promised to slash taxes, close the federal deficit and remake Washington.

then spend the next 1702 trying to explain why that insightful analysis of the American political scene hasn't meant squat on the Republican Presidential trail. (SPOILER ALERT: it's not because the analysis is wrong.)

This incredible turn of events (so completely unlike 2008) has confounded poliscientists such as Matt Bai and the great minds at Politico, which is enough for Tanenhaus to conclude that the whole world is out of whack.

Oh, I'm sorry; I must've had the wrong Sam Tanenhaus there. This is the Sam Tanenhaus who wrote The Death of Conservatism in 2009, because his new Centrist Democrat in the White House was about to Ring in the Changes, sending the "revanche" wing of the GOP into a deserved, permanent life of dumbfounded Gooberness and FOX News at whatever Heartland trailer park or church basement they crawled out of in the first place. After which we'd all be able to vote for Nelson Rockefeller again, and the Republican leadership could quit pretending to be insane.

Listen, say what you like about American politics in what is for the rest of Christendom the 21st century, but it has certainly disproven earlier notions about cognitive dissonance and the incidence of exploding heads.

On the other hand, there's a lot to be said for recycling. And I have to admit that when someone says, in 2009, as the Teabaggers were gathering unwarranted free press--and as the astroturf the operation stood on was being revealed to everyone but Beltway insiders--that the revanche wing of the Republican party was going the way of the authoritarian wing of the Nazis, or the powdered hairpiece wing of the Whigs, or the flightless wing of Raphus cucullatus, and then turns around and calls them, in 2012, "the most dynamic force in American politics for more than two years", you have to admire the élan of the thing, after the vertigo passes.

And you can't argue with evidence:
An organized grass-roots revolt, its influence was decisive in the 2010 elections, when an energized base propelled Republicans to enormous gains in the House, helped secure Senate victories for fresh faces like Rand Paul and Marco Rubio and captured as many as 700 seats in state legislatures.

Marco Rubio and Rand Paul, just to use two of two names you mention, replaced, respectively Mel Martinez (the last man elected to that seat) and Jim Fucking Bunning. Jim Fucking Bunning, who, experts agree, was not the smartest man ever to figure out how to throw a ball, was reelected in 2004, at a time when he was already addressing his office door as "Mr. Ambassador". Some fucking accomplishment, Republicans snagging that seat, thanks to Teabagging.

S'funny how the Centrist Democrat routine is no more amenable to evidence than "Conservative" Republicanism, the movement it--purely dispassionately, natch--thinks we should give everything it wants, in exchange for which guys who have decided this will be even better off than they are now, and all the distasteful 19th century backwoods shenanigans which currently run the Republican party--at least its pronouncements--will magically disappear into whatever trailer park their mommas and sisters gave birth to 'em in. The evidence of Barack Obama is right there, Mr. Tanenhaus, just as the evidence that the Republican party is a collective noun for criminals, lunatics, and the irredeemably White. Its pretense to an intellectual history running from Edmund Burke to William Buckley was a joke in 1964; the people who cling to it now are public frauds. Its electoral successes have been an unmitigated disaster for this country. There's no Teabagger Revolution pushing the party to the Right; there's just the same modern Republican party, the one that only knows one direction. Aground.

Sunday, January 15

While They Were At It, They Picked Denver To Beat The Spread Next Week

Jonathan Martin, "Social conservatives back Rick Santorum". January 14

MAYBE I'm moving too fast, here; maybe I should hold off until the Press gets around to naming all 150 "Conservative" "leaders" who took part in this pre-selection of the President of the Theocracy of South Carolina And Possibly Several Other States, Frequently Southern.

I do understand, though; when you've got James Dobson, Gary Bauer, and The Other Tony Perkins on the marquee, the sheer wattage is bound to make it tough to make out the rest of the cast.

Just for fun, somebody tell me what James Dobson has to do with national politics aside from hallucinating himself a place in it? Outside of Ronald Reagan--which is like backing the guy who looked the other way while you stole the neighbor's car--the only winner Dobson's picked in thirty years was George W. Bush. And looked how that turned out.

Haven't these fucks been wrong at every turn? Isn't that the point? If they had the power to influence the race Michele Bachmann would be leading it. If they had the sense God gave geese they wouldn't have jumped to Rick Perry, or believed anything Herman Cain said, aside from the glossolalia enthusiasts among them.

Southern Evangelical Christians met this weekend to decide which of two Mary Worshippers they were going to back, on the grounds that they have theological differences with Mitt Romney.

Seriously, if you don't like Romney, you're not nine months too late here, you're four years and nine months too late. Whadda you guys rake in in donations on the average month?

Look, guys, I have a Southern Baptist preacher in my extended family, and he, his wife, and all fourteen of their children I am not making up understand they are repellant to the ordinary, Satan-worshipping citizen (and knew how to exchange pleasantries with me, er, them). It might be different when you live in an enclave. Which means you need to stop being led by people who live in enclaves. The Republican party has convinced you, over the past three decades, that it was society which was wrong, not you. It's past time to unlearn that.

Friday, January 13

The Professor And / Mary Annnn….

David Brooks, "The C.E.O. in Politics". January 12

Paul Krugman, "America Isn't a Corporation". January 12

FOUR Januarys ago (are you still here?) it fell to David Brooks to explain to the millions of Democrats who hang on his every moderate word why Barack Obama's Magic Speechifyin' should trump The Inevitable Hillary. Come Spring, of course, it was his duty to explain to that same rapt and reasonable audience that Obama the Inevitable was an empty phrasemaker. I mean turning out to be an empty phrasemaker, after further, and sadder, consideration.

Okay, so one for two ain't bad, except when it's the result of taking both sides of the same question.

I wonder aloud here how such men grab a razor each morning and manage to use it solely for shaving. It is, for want of a better word (I actually have some handy, but let's press on) a life of Letters, but Brooks, and the vast empty stretches which contain so many of his fellow Beltway pundits, seem content to behave like touts for fashion houses, blithely peddling whatever Look they have for sale at the moment, trusting that no one will remember back six months, when they were trashing it. One caucus, one primary, in the same order and on the same schedule they've been in since, I suppose, Hamilton foresaw them, and now Romney's not the guy who can't get more than one-quarter of the Republican vote while running against what even Republicans admit is a collection of stiffs rarely seen outside a big-city morgue, he's Just One Win Away. And pace Jon Stewart, it's not the fact that our nation's teleprompter readers are calling the race before it begins; it's the fact that they can safely assume that Two Weeks Ago will generally be regarded as lost in the mists and musts of ancient history.

So the clock strikes January, and the year is divisible by 4, and it's time for Brooks to write a something-less-than-honest appraisal of whichever race is still a race, which will give him "credibility" when he later decides, after much serious deliberation and a OUIJA board weekend with Edmund Burke, to back the Republican this time.

Only he does it the very same day Paul Krugman writes about the very same topic. Which must be a bit like bringing your dad's old Princess Leia trading card to Show and Tell, and finding out that that smart-ass Elrond brought the guy who played the gay robot.

Compare and contrast! Brooks' tack--which I'm sure is amenable to mathematical description, where the [U]ltimate goal of a Harding Republican victory divided by the square of the number of weeks before the [N]ominee is determined times the coefficient of [F]aux-Moderation Brooks is required to maintain yields either the angle of the backhanded swipe he pretends to take at the Republican he's rooting for, or the degree of condescension in his praise of whichever Democrat he thinks is most beatable--is, unsurprisingly, that it's not enough for Romney to've been a highly successful corporate hero. Though, he admits, this may seem a bit counterintuitive to the savvy reader.
In reality, Romney’s Bain success is largely irrelevant to the question of whether he could be a good president. The real question is whether he has picked up traits like emotional security, political judgment and an instrumental mind-set from his upbringing and the deeper experiences of life.

Get it, America? Sure, Mitt Romney is an alabaster and neatly-coiffed idol of American Mercantilism, those Builders of Iron Railways, Tillers of Rocky Soil, and Shredders of Paper Documents. But we demand more!

How much longer do you imagine it will be before Brooks has his answer? Whaddya guess it might be? (Bear in mind: Brooks knows the Brand better than anyone, and he's not gonna cheapen it by proclaiming that Romney has passed the trait test, tempered in the crucible of a Bruising Primary Season, no. Public fluffery is best left to the Kathleen Parkers.)

Does the man ever get tired of writing Civics lesson plans designed for a classroomful of earnest but none-too-bright scions of Financial empires?

Ah, hell, let's have some fun at recess...
Whether it is a George Washington, a Franklin or Theodore Roosevelt or a John F. Kennedy, [the emotionally secure] president enters the White House with ease and confidence, is relatively unscathed by the criticism of the crowd, is able to separate the mask he must wear for public display from the real honest self he knows himself to be.

Plodding Plutocrat, incontinent poon hound, or class traitor.
This sense of emotional security can also be found in great military leaders, like Dwight Eisenhower, and in

serenely successful movie stars, like Ronald Reagan.

Whew. For a moment there I was afraid Brooks was going to forget all the serenely successful movie stars who've led our Great Nation.
A president with political judgment has a subtle feel for the texture of his circumstance. He has a feel for where opportunities lie, what will go together and what will never go together. This implicit knowledge is developed slowly in people like Harry Truman or Lyndon Johnson who have spent decades as political insiders and who have a rich repertoire of experiences to draw on.

It also comes from voracious social contact. It comes to leaders who have a compulsive desire to be around people and who can harvest from a million social encounters a sense of what people want and can deliver.

More important than knowing is the sense of knowing. Kinda like Dave's restaurant reviews.
Third, great leaders have often experienced crushing personal setbacks. This experience, whether it’s Lincoln’s depression or F.D.R.’s polio, not only gives them a sense of sympathy for those who are suffering, but a personal contact with frailty. They are resilient when things go wrong. They know how dependent they are on others, how prone they are to overconfidence. They are both modest, because they have felt weakness, and aggressive, because they know how hard it is to change anything.

In Romney's case this would be the time he had to talk all five sons out of volunteering for Iraq?
In sum, great presidents are often aristocrats and experienced political insiders. They experience great setbacks. They feel the presence of God’s hand on their every move.

Unfortunately, we’re not allowed to talk about these things openly these days. We disdain elitism, political experience and explicit God-talk. Great failure is considered “baggage” in today’s campaign lingo.

Well, y'know, if this is such a serious loss, maybe y'all should have thought of that back when you were turning the Sacred into tawdry political applause lines.

And, fuck, Dave; out of the eight hobbled philosophers who once graced the Republican race--let me just double check the count here--yes, eight wear Christianity on their sleeves, including the two the other Christians don't think are Christian, and the so-called Randian, though he crouches his in his fealty to the desires of the imaginary Founders who direct his waking thoughts. Who stopped 'em? What stopped 'em, at least occasionally, was stupidity, incomprehensibility, hypocrisy, and/or a "subtle feel for the texture of their circumstances", including, in this instance, the fact that most Americans want nothing to do with snake handlers, miracle healers, and child seduction rings. That, plus the inability to make it rain on command. You guys fucking figure it out. It's not everyone else's responsibility to do it for you.

Thursday, January 12

I Smell Pulitzer. Sheesh, Light A Match, Kathleen.

Kathleen Parker, "Romney's rivals serve up a heaping helping of pious baloney." January 11

SO, today's award-eligible assignment: crank out 771 words on the outrage of Jon Huntsman and Rick Perry, who are currently splitting 0.5% of the Republican vote, making such a huge issue of Mitt Romney saying he enjoys firing people, even though that's clearly Not What He Meant in Context.

Watch for Kathleen's two-volume monograph Khrushchev Didn't Really Mean "Bury" In That Way, coming this spring from Random House.

Seven-hundred seventy-one words. You'd think maybe if this was an issue she could have hit eight hundred?

Would this be something different if we hadn't been playing Gotcha in Presidential politics since Gerald Ford announced he'd never heard of the Soviet Union? Or if in the intervening thirty-five years we hadn't pretty much dredged the very concept through some particularly vile sewer system, fished it back out, run it through a Cuisinart, then had a panel of reality show producers punch it up? Hell, Romney just got done doing the precise thing to Barack Obama. How do you win a Pulitzer and remain oblivious? I'm kiddin'.

Mitt Romney made millions as a corporate raider. We don't call them "corporate borrowers". Or "corporate angels". They fucking revel in that Half-Piratical Randian I Need Viagra To Get It Up For My Poolboy But I'm A Big-Balled Capitalist Out of my Way shit. And now it's fucking unpopular? Shame on us, then, shame on you, shame on the Pulitzer committee for the last thirty years of acting as though Rich People buttfucking the rest of America was all part of Our Sacred Heritage.

And y'know what else, Kathy? Shame on Mitt Romney, too. He presents himself as a moral man. As the paragon of a moral man. And he fucked with people's livelihoods on the grounds that there was money to be made by doing so. And he was already rich. He had enough money to live comfortably. He had enough money to put less fortunate people to work, not out of it. Mitt Romney shouldn't be running for President. Mitt Romney shouldn't be griping about his words being taken out of context. Mitt Romney should be sitting alone in a room somewhere, thinking of ways to atone for how he's spent his life.
But the job-killing idea has picked up additional sauce, sticking as we are with the baloney theme, with criticism that Romney’s leadership of Bain Capital also resulted in some people losing their jobs. Indeed they did. That’s what happens sometimes when companies are purchased, salvaged from poor management, revamped and, assuming competence at the top, made profitable.

Since when in a free, capitalist nation is it a sin to buy a company and turn a profit?

Since when in America is it not a sin, or a crime, to fuck with innocent lives?

You don't have to answer me, Kathleen. I lived through the 1980 elections.

Catchy idea, though. I hope Mitt adopts it as his slogan.

Wednesday, January 11

Little Man, You've Had A Busy Day. You Lying Bastard.

I HAVEN'T had much to say about Mitch "Booster Seat" Daniels since the day he announced that his wife wouldn't let him run for President, which, oddly, was the same excuse John Wayne gave for staying home and making movies in which he won WWII singlehandedly instead of, you know, actually winning it singlehandedly on the side of the Pacific where it was actually fought. Except Wayne was taller.

Immediately after that touching display of family loyalty taking precedence over the patriotic responsibility to kill Freedom's Enemies he hoped someone who could take the heat would take up, Daniels seemed to me to be sulking. Or gloating. It can be difficult to tell. It can be difficult with him even to know if there's some difference, or some moment in the day when he isn't doing one, or the other, or both.

Who knows what he was doing this summer. (He turned up, as usual, at the State Fair, most memorably around daylight after a storm had toppled the stage at a Sugarland concert, killing and maiming dozens, to announce that the one thing we did know about it already, after a thorough overnight search by flashlight, was that it was an Act of God. God's liability, it turns out, is even more restricted that the state's. After the Indiana Supreme Court ruled that the maximum payout the state was liable for, in total, was $5 million, he turned up again to express his heartfelt opinion that the Legislature oughta make an exception in this case, now that he knew he wouldn't be fighting against one in court.) Daniels has been a full-time campaigner since 2004 (or, rather, had been up until last May), but a part-time governor since the 2006 short legislative session, when he, or his handlers, finally figured out that running around the state mouthing off like a petulant runt wasn't making him many friends. He's been quick to grab at the limelight--turning up last fall, for example, to tout tax breaks for some venture-capitalist/LED sign entrepreneur with a track record of stiffing investors in California--and slow to grab hold of the responsibility stick (he's currently fighting a subpoena from IBM requiring him to testify in the billion-dollar FSSA boondoggle case, on the grounds that He's the Governor, Goddammit, and shouldn't have to take responsibility for his decisions, or be placed under oath).

Daniels did appear last month to announce that the state he manages like a financial wizard had just found $300 million dollars mistakenly put in the wrong account and ignored. This just happens to be roughly--and by "roughly" I mean "precisely identical to", and by "just happens" I mean "bullshit"--the amount Daniels has reluctantly cut from Indiana education over the past seven years. His plan is to give the money back to "its rightful owners, the taxpayers", meaning "figure out some way to base the payments on total declared income, not actual tax payments". The good news there is that it isn't up to the Governor. The bad news is that it's up to the World's Third-Worst State Legislature™. (This has been something of a boon for fans of Daniels' public displays and black comedy; the only thing the Randian Supereconomicbrain could say in response was "Hey, it's found money!" Seriously. He's said it by now to every political reporter in the state, and never been called on it, to my knowledge.)

Mitch also turned in an interesting performance a couple weeks ago, after a brain trust consisting of Homeland Security Duct Tape specialists, plus state and local fire and police forces, which look to Homeland Security the way a piglet looks at a vacant teat, suddenly devised occupancy limits for the Indiana State House, just in time for Right to Work II. After about three days of various doughnut-inflated functionaries solemnly responding how sorry they were to seem like they were restricting Free Speech, and how the whole thing had been under review since last year, making it just a coincidence that it came out just as the Republican legislature hoped to strip unions of their rights, Daniels simply rescinded the new rules, making a mockery of a week's worth of bloated CYAs from bloated officials. Or it would have, if citizens of Indiana understood mockery any better than they do the connection between fried pastries and bloat.

Speaking of good news, this is Daniels' last year in office. Speaking of bad news, we're already announced that "Choirboy Mike" Pence will be his successor, and he's had a year to confer with God on future plans.

And that meant, last night, Mitch's final State of the State address. Making it his first and only as a pure Randian gun for hire, since last year he was still required to watch his step during last year's Presidential campaign coffer-filling mulling of a national bid at the behest of three or four Ivy League Campus Republicans. So this year Mitch can announce that Right to Work legislation is absolutely crucial to attracting new jobs to Indiana. After last year, when he just hadn't had enough time to study the idea. And after, apparently, an adult lifetime spent reading Hayek and Friedman and never getting the message.

And of course neither that oversight nor the cranial-explosiveness of the contradiction kept Daniels from claiming the SupereconomicRandianbrainsuperiority of his every act:
Tonight, while states elsewhere twist in financial agony, Indiana has an honestly balanced budget, a strong, protective reserve in our state savings account, and the first AAA credit rating in state history, one of just a handful left in America. Our credit is better – imagine this – than that of the federal government.

Another host of states raised taxes again last year, while Hoosiers are taxed at the lowest levels in a long time, thanks in part to the lowest property taxes in the nation.

By the way, among many other tricks, "honestly balanced budget" means "having promised to push repayment of the principal on the state's $2 billion unemployment fund debt to the Federal government (the same one with a lower credit rating than ours!) onto the administration succeeding the Choirboy's two terms, in 2020, by figuring out how to pay $70 million per annum in interest and penalties, which we'll be bequeathing to future legislatures, as well". Naturally, if we paid off that debt, which was owed in full last year, the way you or I would be hauled into court if we didn't, that "protective reserve in the state savings account" would be a $ one billion hole. Or roughly twice the inflated figure Daniels used when he inherited one. (That inflated figure itself being not Debt, but the difference between the two-year revenue assumptions made in 2002 and the actual figures for 2004, which the long-session 2005 legislature was supposed to address all along, as was the general practice. And as has remained the general practice during the Daniels Miracle. That "debt" was originally reported as $250 million, but growed like Topsy later. So in effect Daniels has quadrupled (at minimum) state debt despite fobbing any number of fiscal responsibilities off on local governments, and slashing state spending, including education, on a series of decreasing Procrustian beds that fit together like those Russian doll-within-a-doll dealies.

As we've been at some pains to note here, what Indiana has done in the Daniels era was shift property taxes to sales taxes by hiking the latter 17%, benefitting (surprising how such things turn out) mostly the owners of commercial property, not homeowners. Indiana's total tax burden is about at the national average, and right in line with all of its neighbors except Ohio. (Illinois was brave enough to enact a temporary income tax surcharge to deal with its debt, something Daniels proposed in 2005 and retracted 20 minutes later in 2005.) Indiana has the highest discrepancy between tax burden and income level in the Midwest, again excepting Ohio (Kentucky's is worse, too). It also manages to be worse than big-tax liberal havens New York and California, and all of New England save Maine and Vermont. This is apparently the sort of thing which greatly pleases a bond-rating service, especially when coupled with an apparently unlimited willingness to replace government services with a thin veneer of service-like substance.

Outside of major urban areas, which add in their own tax rates, it's still cheaper to live or work in Illinois. And somehow they've managed to do that without Miracles.

Monday, January 9

Har Har Har

John Dickerson, "The Great Republican Humor Crisis of 2012: Why is this crop of presidential candidates so incredibly unfunny?" January 8


-St. Stephen, noted first century ad-libber

TEST your psychic abilities! Here's the fourth line from the third paragraph of Dickerson's piece:
Great presidents who faced trying times were known for their humor.

See if you can guess divine the subject of the seventh and last line. If you come up with the quote into the bargain you're Psychic Hotline material.

Did you guess intuit "Ronald Reagan" and "Mommy, I forgot to duck," after he was shot? Ooooh, so close. It was Reagan and "I hope you're all Republicans," to his doctors after he was shot.

I don't think the Press cares for that Mommy stuff. Because the Press has no sense of humor about itself.

Okay, so it's usually reported as Honey. Maybe he called Nancy something different in public (even with a couple of slugs in him) than he did in private. Either way, that one's a funnier line than the doctor quip, which I'm guessing he may have used in some form or another a few hundred times.

Don't get me wrong; just because I think Ronald Reagan was more caustic substance than caustic wit it doesn't mean I object to anyone characterizing him as funny. Sure, I wasn't amused, and I think there's a real debate to be had over whether Reagan was genuinely funny or just a trained seal It's the fact that once I saw the sign which read "Presidential Humor Litany Next 3 mi." I fucking knew, not only that Reagan would be on the list, but that he'd bring up the rear, like movie credits where a half-day's work by De Niro or Brando netted him the screen-filling "and So-and-So" slot at the end of the actors' scroll.

Because, say you're John Dickerson, and you're writing a piece focusing on the humor deficiencies, as opposed to the charm deficiencies, the intellectual deficiencies, or the complete absence of personal honor among the current crop of Republican Presidential hopefuls. Say you need to fill up a few column inches with historical comparisons. Okay, you have two Presidents who were paragons of wit and humor: Lincoln and FDR. You have one who was funny enough to've been a standup if he hadn't been born six or seven decades too early; dollars to doughnuts says "Silent Cal" would be on NBC's lineup these days.

But if you use Coolidge you're up to three, and you haven't named any Presidents much of the Slate readership will be familiar with. (There's not much else; Grant once remarked that he knew only two songs, that one was "Yankee Doodle" and the other wasn't. But we aren't writing an anthology here. I understand John Tyler did a withering impression of Henry Clay once he was on his third sherry, and there was something funny about James Buchanan, but that's it; the modern Slate writer has got to go modern.)

George W. Bush was funny, in the same way that setting plastic Army men ablaze with a magnifying glass or obliterating prairie dogs with high-powered rifles are, but reminding your fellow Slatesters how they lined up behind that bozo in Aught One probably gets your tray tipped in the employee cafeteria.

Besides, imagine writing a piece these days on Presidential humor and leaving out Reagan. It would be like naming The 100 Greatest Rock Guitarists and leaving out Eddie Van Halen. How much email do you want to have to answer, anyway?

So the obvious solution is to include Reagan, and put him at the end, following Kennedy. The cultured Brahmin and the trained performer. And the twin fonts of horrible Oval Office decisions of the last half-century.

The point is that whether you've actually mistaken John McCain's "Chelsea Clinton, the White House dog" jocularity for wit, or are just dong the standard Beltway insider genuflection toward the Reagan Ranch, you're going to miss the obvious answer to your question. Why are the current crop of Republican Presidential hopefuls (not to mention the rest of the party) so unfunny?

Because while a blind pig can find a joke as easy as an acorn, real humor requires honesty.

And not personal honesty, necessarily; honesty of purpose. The only way most of those guys could have a standup act would be as insult comics. They've got the nasty down, but not the speed of wit (Gingrich has the speed of wit, but not the quality of wit; like all Republican would-be quippers he's never worked a house that didn't applaud louder the worse he got). And there's no way in Hell any of 'em will admit that that's their natural line. Are there Christian insult comics? Some deadpan Mormon wiseass who just hasn't yet broken out of the burgeoning Provo scene?

This isn't necessarily any less true of Democrats. But let's be honest about it, huh? What've we got to lose? Republicans aren't funny because they're all either True Believers or pretending to be True Believers, and neither group is permitted any levity. It's not a matter of "convincing" Mitt Romney he should lighten up. What we see out there is Mitt Romney lightened up. Consider what passes for humor from Newt Gingrich, and imagine Rick Santorum swinging for the fences sometime. Even those of us who'd appreciate a Santorum candidacy in the opposite sense that George Eff Will will don't want to see that.

Mr. Dickerson, the reason you guys want to see some human traits on that Republican dais is just so you'd have something to dwell on besides the truth. But if you'll just report honestly, the jokes'll take care of themselves.

Saturday, January 7

Saturday Olio: In Fairness To Lawyers, Shakespeare Didn't Really Know Any Journalists Edition

Binyamin Appelbaum "A Hidden Cost of Military Cuts Could Be Invention and its Industries".

One thousand, five hundred three words, of which one thousand fifty six have been excreted before we get this:
Military spending does not compare well economically with many other forms of government spending, some experts say. Professor [Robert] Pollin [an economist at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst] calculated in a recent analysis that $1 billion in spending on health care produced an economic benefit about 14 percent larger than spending on defense. The impact of spending on transportation, education and energy were even larger.

A recent study of federal spending since World War II by Alan Auerbach and Yuriy Gorodnichenko, both economists at the University of California, Berkeley, found that the economic benefits from nonmilitary spending were at least 50 percent larger than those from defense spending during periods of normal growth.

Although I have to admit that those who like their news served up with a bit of comedy won't want to miss
“The central thing that distinguishes them from other agencies is that they are the customer,” Professor [Daniel] Sarewitz [ director of the Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes at Arizona State University] said. “You can’t pull the wool over their eyes.”

We'll just ignore the track record of pretty much every major weapons system since Eisenhower, and ask whether the reader--or Professor Sarewitz, for that matter--has ever gone camping wearing what the Pentagon does with actual wool.

Shorter Lisa Miller, "The new evangelical vote":

"The incredible transformation of Evangelical Christian voters into open-minded cosmopolitans over the past twenty years can be seen in the fact that many of them voted for Romney in Iowa".

Shorter David Weigel, "Newt Gingrich and the NAACP" :

"Gingrich's comments about the NAACP and food stamps have been widely misconstrued as racist by everyone who doesn't pay as much attention to Newt Gingrich as I do, because he's been calling Barack Obama the 'food stamp President' for months now without once mentioning his race."

Friday, January 6

It's A Long Hard Climb, Boys, But I Swear To Ya: The Sea Of Mediocrity Is Just Over Those Mountains.

Doyle McManus, "Is the tea party over?" January 5

LEMME ask you: do you look around at US America and see anything real? It's a goddam landslide of crappy merchandise, crappy values, greed, shit-for-brains, guns n' penises, 19th century backwoods religious mania which was already theologically out of touch in the Age of Steam, and food unfit for mammalian consumption. And the whole thing is driven by the utterly nonsensical idea that technology moves us eternally forward and solves every Problem before it becomes Troubling, so we can just do whatever th' fuck makes us money. (Exempting, of course, the 80% of our fellow citizens who think a Magic Jewish carpenter tells them they're right about everything.)

"Well, by golly, I believe that America is exceptional, and I'm not apologizing for it!" is Mitt Romney's campaign. And he's the electable one.

Y'know, I look at the fucking parade of non-entities on cable "news", and on the remedial teleprompter-reading class the local stations begin every night at five, and I find it hard to forgive the twenty-something professional hairdos, but I do understand that an utterly self-fixated, disposable, money-is-all-that-matters culture is all they've ever known. It's not an excuse for living your life in professional vapidity; I have no idea why any of these people wanted to go into "journalism" as opposed to any other outlet for egomania. But the blame for the condition of their industry belongs back in the 70s; they inherited it.

But how th' fuck can you wake up in the morning and find yourself Wolf Blitzer? How th' fuck do you get to be 71 years old and Tom Brokaw, still donning a prop trench coat to add your profound speech impediment to the coverage of the Iowa Fucking Caucuses? (Because The Battle for Twelve Delegates in the Search for a Presidential Candidate Under a Steaming Pile of Brain-Dead Grifters just wouldn't have the same gravitas if it didn't pull Tom in from, I'm guessing, a book tour.) How do you not simply go on air some night and howl like an ill wind from the Kingdom of Tortured Souls?

How much better can ya eat?

What possesses a man gone to gray in the coverage of politics to write this:
A year ago, the tea party movement looked like an irresistible wave sweeping through the Republican Party. Anyone who hoped to win this year's GOP presidential nomination, it seemed, would need to embrace tea party activists' stringent demands for smaller government, lower taxes and deep cuts in spending.

I know we've been over this before , but 1) like the Teabaggers weren't Republicans in the first place, and 2) a known astroturf operation from the get-go to boot, which 3) echoed the Republican party's stringent demands for smaller government, lower taxes and deep cuts in spending for the past thirty years, leading to 4) a decidedly mixed bag of election results resulting in the installation of a couple of wingnuts in the US Congress, instead of the wingnuts who would have won in those districts otherwise, and 5) the addition of Joe Miller and Christine O'Donnell to a national pantheon already full to brimming with the likes of Sarah Palin, Joe the Plummer, and Chuck Norris.

It is only in the Press in which those ideas are granted the status of Grand Philosophical Concept, and not Deceptive Sales Practice.
The tea party has changed the political landscape in ways that are likely to last for a while. Every Republican candidate, for example, at least claims now to be a fiscal conservative.

Yeah, its a Jim Rockford 180 from John McCain's "I'm A Wild-Eyed Tax and Spender" campaign of four years ago.
And it's not really the tea party's fault that its favorite candidates, Bachmann and Perry, stumbled. Bachmann, who founded the Tea Party Caucus in the House, never found a way to turn that into a qualification to be president. Perry, whose resume was strong on paper, proved so inept in televised debates that he couldn't remember which Cabinet agencies he wanted to abolish.

This is like saying you can't blame Jehovah's Witnesses when the people who knock on your door have no understanding of primate evolution.
According to the "entrance poll" sponsored by news organizations, about a third of those who voted in the GOP caucus pronounced themselves "strong supporters" of the tea party; of those, 30% said they voted for Santorum, 17% for Gingrich and 16% for Paul.

But then, you can't blame the Teabaggers just because Teabaggers don't seem to understand what they stand for, right?
Romney tied with Perry for fourth place among strong tea party adherents. In fact, it was Romney's first-place showing among non-tea partyers that made him the statewide winner — by just eight votes.

Sure, he won, but only because other people voted for him.
That divide mirrors the fragmentation of the tea party itself. It's always included a mix of libertarians (Paul voters), social conservatives (Santorum voters) and older Reagan conservatives (many of whom were Gingrich voters).

In other words, a wholly-unexpected, new phenomenon in Republican politics. Whose agenda was sweeping the party just one year ago, minus the libertarian and social "conservative" parts.
That's the biggest reason, when real votes were being counted, that Romney came out on top of the Republican field: His opponents split the remaining votes so many ways.

By the way, for those of you keeping score, it took McManus exactly 80 words to go from "30% identified themselves as Teabaggers" to suggesting that the 75% of the vote Romney didn't get consisted of Teabaggers, 47% of whom voted for Santorum or Gingrich, apparently for the same reason that people in a Baskin-Robins order "Double Maple Peanut Butter Swirl" when they really wanted plain vanilla and are in fact allergic to peanuts. Too many choices.

How 'bout we put it another way? How 'bout we note that the modern flavor of the Republican party brand has been trading on an ugly negativity since the 1950s: Red baiting, anti-Civil Rights, anti-labor, anti-woman, anti-gay, anti-immigrant, anti-sex, anti-science, ahistorical, Xenophobic, and wrapped in international paranoia. All of this, of course, cover for the same old Republican Money party we've had since the Gilded Age. It's worked, to the extent is has, to get Republicans elected. The only other thing it's accomplished--going back six Revolutions--is to convince what was once the party of Franklin Delano Roosevelt to run screaming from social spending, tax increases, and Defense Dept. cuts. That, and packing the Supreme Court with more religious sinecures than the Vatican.

So, yeah. Revolt on, you Teabaggers! Iowa's done your whittlin' for you. Now find yourself a True Small Government "Conservative" out of what's left, and get back to the business of doing Businesses' business.

Wednesday, January 4

Footnote To History

SHORTER Ross Douthat*: Thank you, Iowa Republicans, for winnowing the horrible** into the merely disgustingly unpalatable, preserving, in the process, the one guy with a reasonable chance of winning a national election†, the Catholic†† religious nutcase, and the beard for Republican "libertarianism"‡.


* Somehow the Times found a "conservative" who's willing to put a Panglossian spin on everything that happens in the Republican party. And in public!

** Douthat: "Presented with the weakest presidential field of any major party in a generation…." I realize that, in part, this statement is the result of Douthat's sinecure; like Brooks he is occasionally required to say something refreshingly rational--likely something he overheard--in order to present himself as "'conservative' by thought", rather than, as is actually the case with both men, just another child of privilege rooting for the home team. Like the dog walking on its hind legs it isn't done well, but unlike that circus act, it seems to convince some people. At any rate, it's certainly remarkable; "conservatives", faced with a daisful of abject panderers to the entire "conservative" agenda--economic, social, and religious warfare, with a couple of complete loons thrown in for the completists--don't like any of 'em.

This is the end of the American political spectrum which went clinically and legally insane during Roosevelt's First 100 Days, and which, after a twenty-year courtship, finally convinced the Republican party to accept its troth in 1964. I was ten. There hasn't been a public admission that any flag-lapelin' Republican was wrong about anything since. These people defended Nixon. They pretended Reagan was a genius. They compared George W. Bush to Churchill. They swooned for Sarah Fucking Palin like bobbysoxers at an Elvis movie. Sure, there was some dissatisfaction with "moderates" like George H.W.H.M.O Bush, and Bob Dole, but no wingnut's come in for criticism since Nelson Rockefeller died getting a hummer.

It's a remarkable moment, and, clearly, things have gotten so bad with American "conservatism" that "conservatives" themselves have caught wind of it. Spare a moment of human-heartedness for the backers of Rick Perry. Imagine finding out, after dumping a few hundred grand into his campaign, that you actually can be too stupid for Republican voters. This time.

† So they say. To me, Romney is some committee's idea of a viable candidate. He's Bruce Babbitt. He's John Connally. He's a guy who deserves to run fourth. Just ahead of Mitch Daniels.

†† Maybe it's just me, but this--plus the fact that it's Santorum standing at the end, not Bachmann or Perry or Cain--seems to be how Douthat distinguishes between the various forms of religious mania.

Because, sheesh, of the four it's Santorum who's most likely to drag religious nutjobbery down the Hole, and take the Republican brand, 2012 Edition, down with him, if he survives long enough into the primary season that he decides he has to make Abortion (or Contraception!) a major fight. Maybe the idea here is that Santorum is so personally repugnant that "religious" "conservatives" will be convinced to vote for the "electable" guy, even if he is a Mormon. We'll leave aside the idea of one religious nut Republican being concerned about all the other religious nut Republicans, and ask how well this worked in '88 thru '96.

[By the way, Senator: the reason bringing home a fetus is creepy isn't your religious conviction vs. societal norms; it's the fact that you do what's unnatural just to make showy points about your faith, and frighten your children into eternal submission. Y'all just wanna wallow in that "Look at his precious little fingers" routine. You, or God, can refuse to forgive me, but I find it hard to believe you'd have trucked home a Petrie dish of protoplasm, or some unspeakable six-bodied frog mutant with a single staring eye in the middle, for the enlightenment of your brood; at least I hope not. If your two-year-old got hit by a bus you wouldn't scrape up the remains and put 'em on the mantle. Odds are you'd have held a funeral, like the "normal people" you impugn here. I don't doubt your sincerity. But I don't think "sincerity" means "devoid of religio-political machinations which might put the lie to it when viewed less than favorably".]

‡ Where Paul, on the other hand, serves the Grand Old Party's grand old tradition of throwing bones to the rabid like Roman emperors provided bread and circuses. Can Ron Paul actually believe the stuff he says? Can someone with a Hahvahd education really think that a continuing Paul presence in the GOP race is adding something?

Tuesday, January 3

Froth Is Stranger Than Friction

Mackenzie Weinger, "Gallup: Most fluid GOP primary ever". January 2

David Brooks, "Workers of the World, Unite! " (Behind a Republican). January 2

FIRST, does any one else smell fecal matter and propylene glycol?
The lead for Republican front-runner has changed seven times since May, according to a Gallup report Monday, with Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich all making it to No. 1 at some point in 2011….

Meanwhile, the Republican battle most closely mirrors the Democrats’ contest in 2003, when Joe Lieberman, John Kerry, Tom Daschle, Dick Gephardt, Howard Dean and Wesley Clark each took a turn at the top spot, Gallup found. Before Kerry secured front-runner status at the start of the 2004 primaries, the lead changed nine times during 2003.

I'm sorry; do you remember it that way? I didn't. In fact, I didn't to the extent that I checked the original article.

And the first thing I discovered was that what was being compared was the year 2003 in the Democratic race vs the last eight months of 2011 for the Republican, probably because Republicans winter somewhere else. My own aggressively indolent research turned up Mike Huckabee leading the field--according to Gallup--last February; would Sarah Palin and Donald Trump wind up in the mix if we included the whole of January-April? Michele Bachmann didn't even make the cut, though she certainly led some polls. Is it too much to ask that someone writing for Gallup bother to look?

One of those nine Democratic ties occurred between January Early and January Mid, and consisted of the Lieberman-Kerry-Never a Candidate Daschle tie somehow transmogrifying into a Lieberman-Kerry tie. Seismographs all over the country must have been set off by that one.

Say what you wanna about the running gag that was Joementum, or how a turd like Dick Gephardt ever managed to lead a national poll, but, c'mon. In 2003, timidly attempting to ride the rising awareness of the clusterfuck in Iraq most of 'em had timidly enabled the previous summer, Democrats faced a wide-open campaign after Al Gore declined to run. That's nothing like the fortnightly hysteria for one Not Romney candidate after the next, followed by public defenestration, which has marked the GOP slug fest since last spring (and I mean "slug" as a common noun).

Look, if you just want to help the Republican party, let alone the Republic all Republicans seems to imagine tottering on the Edge, it's time to stop pretending this stuff is normal, explicable, and chockablock with historical precedent. Our politics have always been screwy; this doesn't mean the kid eating paste in third grade is indistinguishable from the serial arsonist jerking off at a fire. Self-identified and phone-answering Republicans did not hem and haw among a list of United States Senators, Representatives, and a sitting governor. They've backed--in a dizzying display that makes preteen pop culture look sedate--a moronic self-promoter with a reality show, a half-witted Jebus fanatic, another half-witted Jebus fanatic, an even-dumber pizza magnate, possibly the slimiest and most disingenuous politician in living memory, and the remaining Jebus fanatic.

You're enabling! It's bad enough doing it for the sake of Faux Balance. It's another thing entirely to do it out of a natural inclination to flinch which is part congenital and part partisan political ploy:
The Republican Party is the party of the white working class. This group — whites with high school degrees and maybe some college — is still the largest block in the electorate. They overwhelmingly favor Republicans….

The Republicans harvest their votes but have done a poor job responding to their needs.

Says David Brooks, educated on Philadelphia's Main Line and the University of Chicago, and possessor, ever since, of a series of Beltway sinecures.
Santorum is the grandson of a coal miner and the son of an Italian immigrant. For years, he represented the steel towns of western Pennsylvania. He has spent the last year scorned by the news media — working relentlessly, riding around in a pickup truck to more than 370 towns. He tells that story of hard work and elite disrespect with great fervor at his meetings.

First, there's a distinction between "scorned" and "ignored because he's a colorless, humorless professional scold who can't be separated from his 13th century worldview far enough that the press could write about him without imagining it was angering all the snake-handling religious bigots it seems convinced inhabit every Applebee's and Red Lobster between the Alleghenies and the Sierra Nevada".

Second, he's the son of a clinical psychologist and his wife, both of whom worked for the VA. This is why grandpa and the Old Country make that guest appearance. If you go back far enough, everybody's ancestor dug for something for a living. If Rick Santorum ever got calluses from a hard day's work, they were on his ass, and came from pulling all-nighters in the Dickinson Law Library.
His worldview is not individualistic. His book, “It Takes a Family,” was infused with the conservative wing of Catholic social teaching. It was a broadside against Barry Goldwater-style conservatism in favor of one that emphasized family and social solidarity.

Forgive me; I keep meaning to pick it up. And forgive me if I imagine the whole thing was more broadside at Hillary Clinton than Barry Goldwater. The religious right has had thirty years now to get out from under the yoke of secular conservatism. Seems it's a helluva lot easier impugning Mammon Conservatives in print than it is turning down their campaign contributions.
While in Congress, he was a leader in nearly every serious piece of antipoverty legislation.

For "serious" read "Republican-sponsored" and for "antipoverty" read "anti-New Deal". Santorum's name was on "compassionate" "conservative" legislation for the same reason Britney Spears' name is on some abominable simulation of perfume. Republicans inside Washington realize they can't just sever the safety net (at least they used to recognize it, back in the days when Santorum had an actual elected position), so they needed Jesus as a wingman.
On the stump, he cries, “The left has a religion, too. It’s just not based on the Bible. It’s based on the religion of self.”

You mean he doesn't mention Goldwater?
But I suspect he will do better post-Iowa than most people think — before being buried under a wave of money and negative ads. And I do believe that he represents sensibility and a viewpoint that is being suppressed by the political system. Perhaps, in less rigid and ideological form, this working-class experience will someday find a champion.

Jesus Fucking Christ. The closest that Republican dais gets to a non-Mormon, non-loony-nutjob religious babbler is Newt Gingrich, and just because he's clearly a Devout Cynic; he certainly had the sound political instincts to get himself right with God, and Catholicism, to boot (and so under the protective cloak of Abortion is Murder), before he ran. Hell, Gingrich is more "authentically" working class than Santorum. Bachmann and Cain are too, and they're just as Jesus-mazed as he is. Can't you even be bothered to try anymore, Dave? Wishing (that is, pretending to wish) for a populist Republican sans religious mania is like hoping to find a purebred mongrel.