Friday, March 30

Sure, Liberals Admire Native Americans For Using Every Part Of The Buffalo. But Beef Products, Inc. Is All Evil An' Stuff.

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, left, followed by Texas Gov. Rick Perry and South Dakota Lt. Gov. Matt Michels, toured Beef Products Inc.'s plant Wednesday in South Sioux City, Neb. The governors say the beef product known as lean finely textured beef, or pink slime, is safe. Associated Press photo via Winston-Salem Journal

A hundred thousand dollars says none of 'em saw the front end of the line. Or came back to give the night clean-up crews a hand.

Josh Funk, "Governors urge consumers to reconsider pink slime". March 29

OUR sermon, yet again, will be from the Book of No, Conservatives Aren't Any Crazier Than They Used To Be, It's Just That Lying Is More Popular Than Ever, Chapter 6.

And, again--you may be excused if you'd heard this the previous 168 times--it's not really that Lying is so popular, it's that caring about the difference has gone out of fashion.

Yesterday's example, which could come from anywhere, comes from this Tim Alberta piece in the National Journal:
And despite recent scrutiny of his family history (Rubio's parents left Cuba before, not after, Fidel Castro's rise to power)...

Of course the scrutiny hasn't been applied to the story so much as to Rubio's lying about it, then fudging when caught, and the resultant portrayal of the matter as if he'd momentarily confused a Clovis point with a Folsom point in dating some minor archaeological site, rather than obviously and fraudulently doctored his political resumé to pander to a group of Miami voters who accidentally hold the American electorate by one or two short hairs. Scrutiny is not a dirty word. Bald-faced liar is three.

Marco Rubio's Inspiring Biography is the approved way of saying "The Continuing Republican Pipe Dream That Electoral Tokenism Will Hoodwink Minorities", last seen wearing Sarah Palin's purloined wardrobe, and prior to that haunting left blogtopia comment boards with "Dick Cheney will step down and Condi Rice will run for veep, as no librul would vote against a black and a woman" from 2003-2004. The Press is now like the earnest and humorless brown-nosed high schooler who tailors his Current Events speech for maximum chance of winning a trophy from the Kiwanis.

So it's amusing, if you're that sort of person, to see this at work in one of those rare instances where it races off in the other direction: the joint Prairie Republican Sons of the Smallpox Immune statement that calling liquified ammoniated scavenger scrap ooze "pink slime" is just unfair, dammit.

Oh, sorry, Brownback was with 'em. Make that "dagnabbit".

For starters, this is the party of Revenue Enhancements and Death Taxes and Operation Enduring Bright Shining Eternal Righteousness complaining about how something is being mislabeled. It's the party of Holy Climate Change Denial and Evolution is Just a Theory, the one whose members don't trust science, assuring us that science says everything's okie-dokie, so eat up. The really amusing thing for someone of my limited remaining lifespan is that sausages and laws are the two things you don't want to see being made, and right here at their intersection is the Republican party.

Why the pronouncements of a bunch of prairie politicians is supposed to assure people I'm not sure. Or maybe I am. This:

looks for all the world like one of those times you walk into the Kroger meat department and find six suits blocking the aisle. And you know that a) some poor working stiff is gonna wind up taking it in the shorts for anything wrong; and b) come tomorrow the whole section will be rearranged, top to bottom, the better to justify the suits' per diems.

And, of course, this little photo op wouldn't have been complete without the dignitaries actually chowin' down on some slime, which scrutiny suggests is why Nebraska and South Dakota were wise enough to send their Lieutenant Governors. I was hoping that Rick Perry would still be resentful enough to say afterwards that while he didn't eat fast food as much as he'd like to, he had friends who sat on the Yum! board, but no such luck. Iowa Governor Terry Brandstad announced, "It's lean. It's good. It's nutritious," so I he call Michelle Obama with a personal apology.

Of course no such news report is complete without getting the same side of the story from a different perspective:
Russell Cross, who is a former administrator of the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service, said this product is getting a bad rap from a food safety standpoint.

"I'm not saying it's perfectly safe. Nothing is perfectly safe. All food is going to have bacteria in it. But this product has never been in question for safety," he said.

It will later be noted that Dr. Cross now heads the Department of Animal Science at Texas A&M University. It will not be noted that he worked for the USDA during the Bush I and Clinton administrations, that is, after the Reagan administration had gutted (pardon) the regulations, reduced the number of regulators by 2/3, and turned over the safety process to rancher and meatpacker industry groups, nor that he spent the interim working for, if I remember correctly, industry groups. (That's okay; Funk will balance the report by getting the opinion of the spokesman for the National Meat Association, just to make sure all our information is fully vetted.)

And, look, I don't disbelieve Cross. The product is unquestionably safe, within the limits of our scientifical plerophory; meatpacking profit margins are too thin to actively poison consumers, for one thing. How 'bout if somebody asks Cross about the general safety of "Federally inspected" ground beef? Preferably under oath.

We're not even going to mention the fact that, yet again, Republican allegiance to market forces is considerably less than Republican obeisance to Big Slime. And I can't understand it for the life of me. We sell corndogs! fer chrissakes. Wrapped in chocolate-chip pancakes! People eat at White Castle! Without duress. Don't your friends who own regional distributorships tell you this sort of thing? Put the damn stuff in a plastic tube, with a juice-box straw taped to it, and market it as Pink Slime. Layoffs? Hell, they'll be flocking to South Sioux City from the North Dakota shale fields.

Wednesday, March 28

Um, No.

David Weigel, "If You Tweet Lil' Wayne Lyrics, Is It Still a Crime to Shoot You?" March 28

OKAY, it's Spring Break, and it's beautiful bicycling weather, so it's basically Later, Dudes around here (and, look, nothing could possibly get me interested in reacting to what The World's Most Pathetic High Court says during oral arguments, no matter the topic, no matter how much free time I have).

But, if I may, if you've saddled yourself with political bedfellows of the angry racist variety--and where are the polite racists of yesteryear, anyway?--you really don't need to score points with 'em first before denouncing their vile battlefield excrements:
There are really two Victor Davis Hansons. One is a cracking good military historian, the author of Carnage and Culture, the guy Hollywood calls when it wants to make sure it's got the Spartans' helmets right.

No. He's not. He's a small-town classicist milking the History As Simple Moral Tales for Children of All Ages scam real historians abandoned decades ago. And Carnage and Culture is a prime example, a collection of just-so stories about how White People won all the important battles except Cannae, which the Africans weren't smart enough to capitalize on.

Which, naturally, requires that we grade the Tet Offensive on a curve.

And, no; has anyone but Frank Miller ever called on ol' V.D. for anything? And that was just because Tom of Finland was already dead. He's got a fucking IMDB page, Dave.
The other is a conservative columnist who relies on the sort of rigor and research normally reserved for the dream journals of Twilight fans.

Please, please can we get ourselves a Press whose every cultural reference isn't pop trash? Like only 98% or something?

No. They're identically slipshod. And they're identical to all other "reasoning and rigor" on every public issue from every Republican of the last forty years. White People=Civilization=Great, except for your modern European. That's the Romney campaign right there, and he's the most rational of the bunch. Maybe you should ponder that. Maybe you 30-something Insiders who imagine racism is going to disappear from the Republican party when old coots like Hanson die off oughta be asking yourselves how old George Zimmerman is.

Tuesday, March 27

An Immodest Proposal

ALLOW a person, or a corporation, to beat into unconsciousness, using anything handy, any person carrying a firearm, on the grounds that the former may be shot if the later doesn't approve of his fashion choices. At least it levels the playing field somewhat, eh? Call it "Geraldo's Law".

Monday, March 26

I Wish I Had Something Original To Say

JUST as I wish the death of Trayvon Martin was something unusual. The reader is reminded that the state of Florida finds all sorts of ways to facilitate the deaths of black teenagers, and excuse the perpetrators.

I think that, for once, the President's measured tone was correct. We don't need a public execution of George Zimmerman. We don't even need some self-appointed expert to hear Zimmerman say "coon". Whether George Zimmerman is a raving Kluxer, a closet bigot, or a misguided gun nut is a matter for the courts. And he and his gun are nowhere near the courts at present.

We don't know why Zimmerman pulled the trigger. We do know why he was well-known to the local police for parading around like a self-appointed sidewalk security guard: because the state of Florida told him he could. And it told him he could precisely because, like many states--and leave us make no mistake about it, not just in the South--it has pursued a Jim Crow By Any Other Name policy since 1964.

We know this. We've sat still for it. We watched while the Press faux-balanced the retrenchment of institutional racism with specious claims of "reverse" racism. We listened to the "debate" over whether the Willie Horton ads were racist. We've seen the New York Times give prime Op-Ed space to a man who would publicly deny there could possibly be anything suspicious about Ronald Reagan's Philadelphia Experiment.

We've seen fall-back position after fall-back position, and heard equal time given to the denouncers of "race pimps" and "liberals, the real racists". We've watched the Republican party--not exclusively--try to turn Equality into a "special interest", and we've watched the Democratic party--not exclusively--run from African-American support.

Let's just say this: we might disagree about when deadly force is justified. We might disagree about how much force one is permitted when defending not life but property. We cannot pretend that an unarmed teenager shot in the head because some citizen thought he might be virtually threatening someone else's virtual property has died in a way any civilized society worthy of the name can accept.

Friday, March 23

Dick Doesn't Live Here Anymore

I MAY have mentioned here that my only rooting interest in the vaunted Teabagger Challenge to 109-term Indiana Senator Richard "Nixon's Favorite Mayor, and Peggy Eaton's Favorite Dinner Guest" Lugar was for a stage collapse during a debate. I was lying; I knew that Lugar would be too smart to debate Indiana state treasurer and flaky white biscuit Richard Mourdock. He's made about every other stupid move he possibly could, though.

For one thing, taking the man seriously. Mourdock's only qualification for his present job is that he's as mazed as the people who give him money. (It's Mourdock, by the way, who is nominally responsible for Indiana's $300 million lost-and-found game with public funds, aka The Precise Amount the Mitch "CEO" Daniels Administration Cut From Public Education "Because We Didn't Have It".)

Lord only knows what sort of war chest Lugar's been sitting on for the past sixty years; some of it must be in pieces-of-eight. He's never had a serious electoral challenge from a Democrat, because Indiana (not that Jim Jontz wasn't a good guy). Hell, he once ran unopposed, except by the Libertarian/Free Silver coalition. Every six years he'd turn loose of something like sixty bucks to put up a few Glamour Shots ads, touting his positive attitude, his Eagle Scout merit badges, and nothing about Nixon, reminding Hoosiers how lucky they were to have a real statesman in their corner, a brave internationalist in the fight against everybody else's nuclear arsenal, and a Senator who didn't demean himself by taking committee chairmanships that were important to his state, or saving its military bases, like all those other guys did.

But then the Senate hurt Evan Bayh's feelings, and in the resultant battle to find another Republican to replace him, the Teabagger candidate and recipient of Federal agricultural largess Stanley Myron Handleman Marlin Stutzman got his feathers mussed by Dan "The Beige Carpetbag" Coats. (Never fear; all Stutzman had to do was wait for the next Republican sex scandal to create an opening, in this case Mark Souder's 3rd District seat.) So, on the grounds that all superannuated white guys look alike, the Teabaggers announced their intention to go after the treasonous Lugar, who has only voted their way 93% of the time since the Long Depression.

What grounds Lugar had for taking this seriously I don't know; fer chrissakes, Dan Coats beat their guy in 2010, and he was a professional lobbyist and gratuity collector who didn't even live in the state.

Then again, as it turns out, neither does Lugar.

Lugar began running ads--incessantly--calling Mourdock a mud-slinger, thereby wisely drawing attention to whatever well the Teabaggers were shouting this stuff down. There's a real cautionary tale here. Or maybe a couple. First and foremost, if you're going to hold public office for eight or ten generations, it's probably best not to fill your staffing needs with an in-house inbreeding system. What this new generation of Lugarites is up to is anyone's guess, but turning Everybody's Kindly Old Great-Grandpa into a political shit-slinger has had the appropriate results; Lugar now looks like his colostomy bag exploded.

Mourdock began with the usual crap. "Obama's Favorite Republican!" "Lugar Doesn't Support Hoosiers' Second Amendment Rights To Gun Down Abortionists!" Lugar responded with ads insisting he hates Barack Hussein Obama as much as anybody, and, my personal favorite, that he voted for a Balanced Budget Amendment seventeen times. Okay, so his people are at least savvy enough to know that Irony is going right over the primary voter's head.

Then Mourdock's crew trotted out the one about how Lugar hasn't lived here since 1977.

Which is old news, and pretty much settled law; we've gone over this a couple of times since, and the GOP sure wasn't concerned that Dan Coats hadn't lived here since he went to Congress the first time. Except--oh oh!--Lugar's voted twice to require IDs for federal elections (though I suppose he didn't specify accurate IDs). And for the first state in the nation whose Republicans demanded IDs from voters, unless they were running as Republicans for Secretary of State, it doesn't really look all that good that our senior Senator has been listing that house he sold during the Carter administration as his legal voting address ever since. This, naturally, led to immediate demands from the state GOP that Lugar be brought up on felony vote fraud charges.

I mean, get the Presidential Medal of Freedom next time there's a Bush in the Oval Office. But the Marion County Election Board has a Democratic majority, and last week it stripped his registration. This is known as partisan politics.

Then yesterday the Lugar campaign announced that he'd be repaying $4500 wrongly siphoned from taxpayers to pay for hotel rooms in Indiana while the Senate was not in session, going back to 1991, "as far back as records go."

Oh, the other cautionary tale: y'know, if you're really such an all-out moderate, maybe the time to say something when your party goes crackers is when it happens, not thirty years later, when it happens to you.

Wednesday, March 21

Campaign 2012: Hyperreality Is Setting In

FIRST, as is so often the case, our guide to how these people think is Young Middle-Ager and Young Teenage Beard Enthusiast Ross Douthat , who has all he can handle (and more) with sounding semi-rational, and can't put much effort into cosmetics.

(By the way, I don't say "semi-rational" just to be insulting; it's past time that Douthat, and his former asylum mate Megan Jane Howard-Roark, admit, for the good of the country, that they're crazier'n a griddleful of fleas, and run off and do whatever the progeny of the Wannabe Quality are supposed to do. There never was a time when we needed their opinions on anything, and now that time is past. I just found out a day or two ago that, prior to Douthat's mother's dissatisfaction that medical science did not solve her problem in 48 hours, which is what led to the entire family becoming snake handlers (the part of the bio I did know), they'd been Episcopalians, which is where wealthy WASPs go if the Romans seem a little too ethnic. Then they all became Catholics, the late conversion presumably explaining how Ross can write a column about the Kennedy Cult without throwing up in his own mouth. This sort of thing apparently is filed by the sort of East Coast snobs who employ such people as "being religious" when, in fact, anyone with any sense of religion can tell you it's fucking cracked. Changing religions is one thing. Accepting the theological shift from Episcopalianism to glossolalia is an undertaking that should require an alpenstock, if not a written test; switching to Catholicism from there is prima facie evidence that one hasn't been paying attention to anything, or maybe was just tripping out on the stained glass. This is not a condemnation of Young Ross, who presumably had no choice in the matter. Nor, really, is it meant as a condemnation of whatever family dynamic was at work, however Scripturally mazed. It's to note that a succession of religious officials in the 80s and 90s felt no compunction about accepting into the Fold a group which was clearly marooned on some coconut island of the mind. Budweiser is choosier about who can be seen with its product.)

Douthat has been assigned to write for this Times campaign blog, which advertises itself as offering Strong Opinions, though he's yet to cough up anything resembling an Opinion, let along one of strength. Today, Young Ross would like you to know that, having read this guy in the Weekly Standard--and please, won't somebody at the Times forbid Douthat from linking to the wingnuts who do his real thinking for him?--we can conclude that while Mitt Romney is pretty awful, he's still better than the Republican alternatives. The poets call this sort of insight "trenchant".

The fun part of the piece--I'm kiddin' ya; there isn't one--is that Douthat starts off bemoaning the fact that Poor Mitt has won Decisive Contest after Decisive Contest while the Media blatantly ignored the fact, then proceeds to analyze the "failures" of the Romney campaign as told by the Conventional Wisdom.

Still hungering for the real pungent stuff I head over to Slate, where John Dickerson can usually be counted on. To say the same things as William Saletan.
Romney will argue that he is "bringing the party together," a claim that rests on whether enough people believe that he is acceptable to conservatives. He got some evidence in Illinois to help him make his case. Romney won his usual constituencies—moderates, the wealthy, and the well-educated. But he also improved his performance among the 64 percent who identify themselves as "conservatives." Romney won 47 percent of that group to Santorum’s 39 percent. He also won 47 percent of the vote from those who support the Tea Party to Santorum’s 36 percent.

Listen, you don't have to tell me that "conservative" has no actual meaning in contemporary American politics, but if you're obliged to use it anyway, could you do so with some consistency? When people say "Romney will have trouble with conservatives" they mean the red meat, gun-totin', Jebus-spouting neo-Confederates who make up a third of the party, not "self-described conservative" members of the "conservative" party. This exchanges something approximating "reality" for the more comforting one in which people like John Dickerson don't have to call those people "nuts".

If Willard Mitt is the shoo-in nominee, then "conservatives" like him, in considerable numbers. He's certainly tailored his message to the extreme end of the Republican spectrum (though some--me, fer instance--would argue that's a spectrum with only one end), while trying to preserve what room there is to tack towards the "center" in the General. That--clearly, now--is what the "conservative" party has voted for in this primary season. Let's call this what it is: Mitt Romney is, in public, as "conservative" as most of his party, and its pundits, are comfortable to admitting to in polite society. This is the "rift" in the party: half of it believes a third of it is an enormous vat of guano.
But if Jeb Bush, Mitch Daniels, or Haley Barbour put their arm around Romney, it would generate some coverage in conservative circles and perhaps that would translate to even more lopsided wins in future states.

Jeb has since done so; we'll see what sort of "conservative" circles this means anything in. Daniels ain't exactly beloved of the sort of people who don't like Mitt; maybe somebody could explain this to Mr. Dickerson. Break the news that Haley Barbour is as toxic as the lower half of the Mississippi to him gently; a good script is a horrible thing to have to toss out all at once.

This may've been the score four years ago, when the skid marks Mitt Romney had left in turning "conservative" were still fresh, warm, and redolent of plastic; today he's Mitt Romney, nobody's sweetheart, and no liberal except to the knuckle-draggers of his own party. Fifty-one percent, or something approximating that, have repudiated them, at least as regards selection of a national candidate. The same thing happened last time, except last time the "real" "conservatives" had only tax-raisin' Mike Huckabee to carry the banner; this time they've had a half-dozen to chose from, all duds. It's time to acknowledge that Mitt Romney is the face of the national Republican party, or the face it wishes to show the rest of the country, neatly coiffed, tone-deaf, and vacant behind the eyes, rather than the ravening Bronze Age thinkers who represent 40% of its voters and most of it Congressional representatives. It's the party which now admits that addled oligarchy, however unpopular, has to run things because that's preferable to the alternative. Time for the rest of y'all to say so, too.

Tuesday, March 20

Olio: There's A Surprise, Vol. MMMCCCVI Edition

• Mitch "My Five Favorite Authors are Ayn Rand" Daniels' second-biggest gift to untold future generations of Hoosiers is the Rockport Coal Gasification plant deal, in which "we" agree to buy $7 billion in natural gas from Leucadia, and the insider holding company (but I repeat myself) agrees to build a plant the market has no need for. Two things we should about Leucadia. First, its market cap is about $8 billion, and its total assets around $9.3 billion, so we might as well have just bought the whole shebang if it was such a great fucking deal. Of course that's not the way the Free Market works.

The second is that its point man in Indiana is Mark Lubbers, the ultimate Indiana Republican fixer. This takes me back to the days when his boy Mitch Roob was an IBM insider, just before the Daniels administration bought a billion-dollars worth of failure for the Family and Social Services Administration, Mitch Roob, executive director. It's great having an economic genius like Daniels for governor; he can get you so many great deals just from knowing the right people.

Anyway, golly, we voted, or "voted", Leucadia a bunch of tax breaks, back when the Indiana General Assembly was doing all it could to make Mitch Daniels a viable Presidential candidate, because assuming all the business risk for the venture didn't quite make it profitable enough.

And now, four years later the thing's still sitting on the drawing board, cost overruns have nearly doubled the price of the plant (a Daniels specialty; he practiced on the Iraq War, and jumped in on the construction of the new Football Barn just in time to lose the emergency operating fund under the cushions), and the price of natural gas--the locus of the "$4 billion in savings" future Hoosiers would receive, minus, probably, a few incidental fees owed to the resellers--has continued to plummet. Who knew? asks the man who, when his last big multi-generation scheme, the peddling of the Indiana Toll Road, didn't earn the interest he'd already spent because the bond markets tanked, asked "Who knew?"

When the World's Third-Worst State Legislature™, which now has no further use for Daniels, and has spent the last two sessions pre-ingratiating itself with Choirboy Mike Pence, balked on continuing to help fund the boondoggle it helped create three years ago, Daniels pretty much announced he'd continue the tax breaks anyway, by the Indiana equivalent of a Bush signing statement.

It's actually gonna work out fine, though, as Lubbers points out:
Lubbers said the gas industry is about to undergo a huge consolidation, with 10 large companies dominating the market. That will end the long slide in natural gas prices, as big players get more pricing power.

"That will bring enormous stability to the price for natural gas," Lubbers said. "When that happens, this project and this contract will be great for Indiana consumers."

The Free Market. Solving Problems Rational People Don't Even Have. ™

• Speaking of the General Assembly, now Indiana's most exclusive psych ward for sufferers of religious mania, there was a big flap during the "short" session this year over a state specialty license plate going to the Indiana Youth Group, a support group for gay and lesbian teenagers. Our wise counsellors tried to yank the permission, tried to end the incontinent granting of specialty plates which had been created by, I've got it here somewhere…oh, the Indiana General Assembly, then saw those efforts fail. The short session--we used to have a biennial Legislature, just in case anyone tries to tell you that things are better nowadays--is generally not the time for Maximum Insanity, but, y'know, the End Times are upon us. So when this one failed the spokesmen for the One True Religion weren't satisfied to Wait Til Next Year, since they may've been Raptured by then; they pulled strings at the BMV, which discovered that the Indiana Youth Group had shockingly offered lower-numbered plates to donors, a clear breech of the public decorum engaged in only by Nazis, and every other organization with specialty plates.

So, now, the group's plate has been yanked, along with that of 4-H and the Greenways Foundation, a couple of other violators who got caught in the desire to make this seem fair.

The effort also exposed the criminal intents of now-former BMV spokesman Graig Lubsen, who maliciously told a reporter last week that the cancellation of the group's contract came after someone from the Indiana Senate contacted the BMV about it. Because, of course, there's no way that sort of thing goes on.

Don't the idiot progeny of Idiot Senator James Imhofe have an obligation to die of heat stroke now or something?

• I ♥ Charles Pierce, who, while I've been out enjoying the impending climatic doom of human civilization--on thirty-year-old bicycles--does something I wish I'd done: object to the pre-defense tone of the coverage of Robert Bales in the land of My Lai. Meanwhile, loc. cit., Scott Raab remembers the shameless railroading of John Demjanjuk in the land of Operation Paperclip.

Sins of the Fathers. I'm too young to know, really know, how much of the Red Scare was due to genuine fear. Obviously a lot was ginned-up political gamesmanship, the most successful American political con-game of the century. But I can say this: the publication of the evidence of the Son My massacres--not the publication of the Pentagon Papers, which required reading--was the high point of public honesty about the war, or anything else, probably; by the time Richard Nixon was elected a half-year later the blame had been reassigned to the dirty hippies of Chicago. Two years later, and one day after Calley's life sentence for being the American military's worst mass murderer, Nixon commuted Calley's sentence to three years in his room.

After a moment of shock when Life published the pictures,

the public exploded in outrage that we were criticizing an American soldier. A war which had been politicized for five years, a conflict which had been lied about for more than a decade, and one as redolent of racism as the Birmingham Transit Company had reached the pinnacle of facile cold-bloodedness, of the sort of thing we accused our enemies of, the sort of thing we'd fought the Nazis for.

Happy Talk News was not far behind.

•Speaking of which, it's been interesting, by which I mean "about as nauseating as usual", to watch local coverage of the Peyton Manning saga. Manning single-handedly took the franchise from 1-15 to one of the most valuable sports franchises on the globe. If you think "single-handedly" is an exaggeration, take a look at what they did last year without him.

There's a fucking Children's Hospital here named for him, Mandrake.

Then he senselessly gets older, and gets injured, requiring a slow rehab. And, meanwhile, giving the Colts the opportunity to draft Andrew Luck, the Next Payton Manning. So Jim "Lucky in Owning Shit, Unlucky in I.Q." Irsay cuts him loose.

This was partly due to the structure of Manning's deal, and largely due to the cap rules of the NFL, the folks for whom we built a billion-dollar barn which was a half-billion dollar barn before Mitch Daniels rescued the project. Manning's deal crushed the Colts' cap room, not this year but the next. Though, again, that happened because of the deal Irsay negotiated in the first place.

Anyway, the man cuts the Jesus of Football, a guy without whom Irsay is making his own hillbilly heroin and sewing his own atrocious suits, and the universal local media response is "Well, it's a business."

Fuck you. So's shooting Afghanis. I'm not saying the Colts should've kept Manning. I'm not saying Irsay was just trying to get out from under a $28 million payout he owed Manning this year. But if it's "just business" to cut a guy who meant everything to you for more than a decade, then what fucking meaning is there in anything, other than profit? The value of everything is now determined by who has the most expansive free bar in the media tent. Rick Santorum, take note.

Saturday, March 17

Just Like A Woman

Peggy Noonan, "America's Real War on Women". March 16

I WAS too young to've seen Lenny Bruce, not that he'd have been allowed in our house anyway, and when I discovered him, a half-decade after his death, probably, it was via the written word, not records. And, for sure, YouTube at that point was just a beautiful dream.

I haven't checked his discography, or his YouTube page, but I know that at the end of his career Lenny had pretty much forsaken stand-up comedy for stand-up court stenography, reading long passages of his many legal entanglements on stage, and that one of these included his (I think most famous) obscenity arrest for saying "cocksucker", which was described before the Bar as "an ten-letter euphemism for homosexual". And Lenny said it wasn't a ten-letter euphemism for homosexual, it was a ten-letter description of the woman he loved.

I don't recall ever calling someone a cocksucker in print. I think I've avoided Kochsucker on the grounds that fifty people got there first. I've been known to shout it at other motorists, invariably as blind cocksucking motherfucker.

I've certainly used fellatio--which the Republican Congressional delegation in the Respectful 90s, as Ms Noonan remembers them, informed me on a number of occasions is one of the Things that Homosexuals Do--as a metaphor for any number of political actions. It's not a homosexual slur. Some of my best friends are. When some idiot driver tailgates me on the interstate when I'm sixth in a line behind a rolling dumpster, he's not a cocksucking motherfucker because he sucks cocks and fucks his mother. He's a cocksucking motherfucker because he's a cocksucking motherfucker .

On to Ms Noonan, who, by the way, I'd never call "Peggy" in person, without her prior permission, but I would call "lying motherfucker"; such is the distinction between personal manners and artistic license. In addition to that "Respectful 90s" routine--that genteel period in American history where half of the Pegster's output concerned blowjobs--in fact, leave us quote her for the record:
But you don't have to go back 60 and 70 years to see how much things have changed. Twenty years ago the discourse was higher….

The Internet is a breakthrough in human freedom. But over the past 20 years it has had a certain leveling effect. It hypes the cheap and glitzy, it reduces the worthiness of a thought to the number of clicks it gets.

in addition, I say, to this stunning, dementia-level historical blackout, Noonan blithely and un-ironically uses "Feminazi" in a piece about the public denegration of women.

And, y'know what? I don't care. I defend her right to be a hypocrite and an idiot. I defend Greta van Spacealien's right to critique Louis C.K., an artist she, by rights, should not be allowed to see. I'm certainly not going to defend Bill Maher, or even Matt Taibbi; hell, I'm not even going to defend myself. But if we're gonna talk about this, then let's discuss what's what.

And what's what, first of all, is that Rush Limbaugh is a decorated hero of the Republican party. Nobody's putting Matt Taibbi in their Hall of Fame. Ted Kennedy didn't write Maher a note that he was the "Number One Voice of Liberalism" the way your boy Ronnie did with Rush, mutatis mutandis. You may be offended by whomever, and whatever language you choose, but this tenth-generation Xerox of gotcha outrage falls flat. That doesn't negate your point. I agree. What does is the fact that your Presidential candidates run as far and as fast as they can from criticizing Limbaugh. What does is the fact that he's been free to talk this way for over twenty years, with nothing worse from Moral Republicans than approval being forced to remain tacit.

Either Limbaugh is "just an entertainer", in which case so are Maher and Taibbi, or else you're flinging shit. I mean s__t:
Some left-wing men think they can talk like this because they're on the correct side on social issues such as abortion. Their attitude: "I backed you on the abortions you want so much, I opposed a ban on partial birth. Hell, I'll let you kill kids at any point until they're 15, I'm cool. And that means I can call women in public life t - - - s, right? Because, you know, I think of them that way."

First, Peg, this whole "Liberals are the real racists, because affirmative action" routine would be a lot more effective if you folks would ever bother getting it right. Which you don't, because it's a little piece of in-group folklore, not a serious argument. I don't know what Bill Maher's real attitude about women is, nor Matt Taibbi's, and neither do you. I accept at face value their support for reproductive rights, or equal protection under the law, because they say so. It's entirely possible to support those ideas on principle, and still be a dick, personally. I certainly am. It's also entirely possible to publicly turn your view over to the Pope and still be a hypocritical little scold. It's you, Peg, and the Right in general, which seems to have a problem with this, which seems to insist that its own definition of intellectual purity be met to the letter by all of its opponents. It comes from having Commies under your beds for four decades. Just stop it. Your side got caught on the wrong side of these issues for decades, in exchange for some votes. That day is past, and the responsibility is yours and no one else's. It's entirely possible to be a racist and still support, wholeheartedly and unhypocritically, equal rights and the Brotherhood of Man. Haven't Republicans been insisting for sixty years now that their resistance to every piece of civil rights legislation, to the Equal Rights amendment, and to gay marriage had everything to do with principle, and nothing whatsoever to do with bigotry? Hasn't that been used on any number of occasions to defend, oh, Rush "Barack the Magic Negro" Limbaugh? Choose one story and stick with it. That there may be assholes out there with their own shows, or bylines, doesn't let Limbaugh off the hook. Nor you.

And while we're at it: if all you Moral Americans wish to return us to that Golden Age you keep moving around, how 'bout you quit lying? And forswear hypocrisy? I don't recall the Willie Horton campaign causing you to leave the White House, Peg.

Is cunt a witty rejoinder to the phenomenon that is Half-Governor Palin? No. I doubt it was intended as such. Does the fact that it sends you to the fainting couch make it worse, somehow, than our long tradition of character-assassination-as-politics? Impugning the character and motives of anyone who disagreed with her politics or dared question her clumsy PR moves was Palin's one stock in trade. Is that somehow purer because she's precluded from swearing? Was Nixon a more graceful pol because he only cursed out the Jews in private? For that matter, I don't remember you volunteering to get the soap so George Herbert Walker Panamanicus Bush could wash his wife's mouth out. And she didn't have the Internets as an excuse.

All of this was just smart politics when your side was getting away with it. It was okey-dokey to go to Philadelphia, Mississippi and wink at racism, so long as you didn't say nigger. It was okay to pursue a President for getting a hummer, so long as you pretended to be aghast. One thing the Evil Internet has done is call your bluff. You can't get away with having your proxies hurl shit at Hillary Clinton for eight years and pretend you've got nothing to do with it. You can't have Lee Atwater conduct a racist campaign and have his only worry be what the hapless Democratic party intends to do about it. Limbaugh can still aim his billion-dollar Empire at some law student, but he won't go unnoticed. Some of the people who oppose you use rough language. I'm sorry to break it to you Peg, but this didn't start with AOL. If you don't like the fact that there are a million Chuck Colsons out there now, maybe you should have given that some thought in the Sixties. Or the Eighties. You don't like how things have turned out? Own up, fess up, and promise to change. You go first.

Incidentally: the idea that no one ever said a cross word in public--including the L word--about Eleanor Roosevelt is pure b___s___.

Thursday, March 15

Santorum Campaign Reaches A Climax

VIA Wonkette we learn that Rick Santorum's law degree really doesn't disqualify him from criticizing people who seek higher education after all. At least not those who learn anything. From :
For many decades, the American public has actively petitioned the United States Congress for laws prohibiting distribution of hard-core adult pornography.

Congress has responded. Current federal “obscenity” laws prohibit distribution of hardcore (obscene) pornography on the Internet, on cable/satellite TV, on hotel/motel TV, in retail shops and through the mail or by common carrier. Rick Santorum believes that federal obscenity laws should be vigorously enforced. “If elected President, I will appoint an Attorney General who will do so.”

The Obama Administration has turned a blind eye to those who wish to preserve our culture from the scourge of pornography and has refused to enforce obscenity laws. While the Obama Department of Justice seems to favor pornographers over children and families, that will change under a Santorum Administration.

I proudly support the efforts of the War on Illegal Pornography Coalition that has tirelessly fought to get federal obscenity laws enforced. That coalition is composed of 120 national, state, and local groups, including Morality in Media, Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, American Family Association, Cornerstone Family Council of New Hampshire, Pennsylvania Family Institute, Concerned Women for America, The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and a host of other groups. Together we will prevail.

Maybe you should hire yourselves a good lawyer.

Like one who could explain the First Amendment to you.

And I don't mean "Hey, man, free speech." I mean an actual understanding of the First Amendment, which would encompass precedents on Church and State, and Obscenity. Because I'll be goddamned is there's anything more basic in American jurisprudence than understanding the protections and limitations of the First.

Hundreds of tax-avoiding organizations and many decades, and whaddya got? Every so often someone at Justice--politically motivated or just permanently a sexual juvenile--will go after some Mom&Pop porn store on the grounds that it doesn't have the resources to fight. Not because of "obscenity". Because of leverage. The only way you're ever going to get a real obscenity conviction is by amending the Constitution. The only way you and your support mob is going to get leverage over the entire country is to have Jesus come down and sign up.

Really, though, please do tell us how you're going to shut down internet porn. I guess because you people believe Al Gore invented the thing you think we run it, huh?

Oh, you'll appoint a wingnut AG? There's a news flash. You have some dim awareness that Ed Meese and John Ashcroft were already there? Maybe we should start covering statues now. And Chuck Keating's still available for Blue Ribbon Commission work.

Listen, Frothy: porn addiction doesn't seem to've had as deleterious a sexual effect on our young people as Catholic doctrine has. And no matter how porn-addled, few consumers of the stuff can match your own level of kink.

Wednesday, March 14

Group Hug

David Brooks, "The Fertility Implosion". March 12

SHORTER David Brooks: the Market is perfect, it's the people who keep fucking it up.

Look: isn't it time some Republican tried to pull the plug on Brooks, for the same reason that the Koch Brothers want to stop the Cato charade?

The GOP doesn't need the cover anymore. The Republican party needs some smarty-pants quoting "experts" like a Baptist picnic needs margarita glasses.

Sure, sure, for some reason Brooks seems to need the Republican party more than it needs him. But if that "there are no moderates in the Republican party" piece a couple weeks ago was the strangled cry of a man who just found out his girlfriend dumped him four years ago, this--pseudo-science intended to show that the Bronze Age fertility superstitions his party can no longer keep hidden are really quite sound, if you squint hard enough--is the work of a man who picked himself up, admitted that she changed her phone number, email addy, and her locks, that it's just never meant to be, and who promptly went to the florist and ordered her flowers.

Y'know, assuming the worst, that I was a member of a political party, and my short-range goals were that it either a) come to its senses or b) prove to be not quite the disaster it almost surely will be, I think I'd be examining other options.

It's interesting, ain't it, that the only time Republican economic "thinkers" believe Malthus is when the subject is Social Security? Our reliance on fossil fuels, global climate change, * an insane healthcare system, * our ever-increasing reliance on a vulnerable communications system that's one Chinese bottle rocket away from being space junk, even the results of galloping anti-immigrant insanity on our food crops, will all be solved automatically by the Market. Projected deficit in twenty years in the Social Security system, unless the Congress pays back the money it swiped from the till? Cosmically insurmountable. Dismantling the system is the only way to solve it.
For decades, people took dynamism and economic growth for granted and saw population growth as a problem. Now we’ve gone to the other extreme, and it’s clear that young people are the scarce resource. In the 21st century, the U.S. could be the slowly aging leader of a rapidly aging world.

But we'll still have the most rapidly aging billion-dollar military gizmos. And old people can't get out of the way so quickly.

For fuck's sake, was it only people who "saw population growth as a problem" who took economic growth for granted? It's not the way I remember it. Could that be just another passive-aggressive snipe at environmentalists? Hmmm? Maybe Brooks should try applying his dilettante's mind to their literature for a change.

Here's an idea; it doesn't come from an economist writing a sociology treatise, but from the plumber I had paint my house: we don't need more people. We don't even need smarter people. We need you fucks to stop filling everybody's head with bullshit designed to make yourselves wealthier no matter what.


* assuming they admit it.

Monday, March 12

When Do They Announce Pulitzers?

Ross Douthat, "Not-So-Crazy Republicans". March 10

I KNOW that Republican discombobulation is supposed to cheer me up, but, eh. Perhaps if we had a second major political party, one poised to roll back the three decades of lunacy of which "brought us" to "this point".

Some people are never satisfied.

I'd like to skip ahead--frankly, I'd like to skip the whole thing--but first let us ask a question that goes unasked far too often: Isn't three fucking years enough time for Ross Douthat to have demonstrated--however briefly--what he's doing at the Times? It's like the third year of Iraq War II: the scope of the mistake has to be obvious, even to people who originally believed in it, but there's no way the administration is going to admit to making that big a mistake.

Why does a Shorter Ross Douthat always sound like a twelve-year-old?

Shorter Ross Douthat: People say that the Republican party is insane, but it's not insane, because it was smart enough to choose the guy who only pretends to be an insane Republican.

or a petulant twelve-year-old?

Shorter Ross Douthat: The Grownups are back in charge.

I'm willing to admit that there may be a column here, but it's not 800 words on how the Republican voter has managed, heroically, to overcome the sort of candidate who appeals to the Republican voter.
From early 2011 onward, the media have overinterpreted this sifting process, treating every polling surge for a not-Romney candidate almost as seriously as an actual primary result. They might nominate Herman Cain! They might nominate Michele Bachmann! Why — they might nominate Donald Trump!

How remarkably short-sighted of the Media to suggest that the person leading national preference polls among Republicans might win the nomination.
Not so much. Instead, despite an understandable desire to vote for a candidate other than Mitt Romney, Republicans have been slowly but surely delivering him the nomination — consistently, if reluctantly, choosing the safe option over the bomb-throwers and ideologues.

Now, correct me if I've missed something, because even for the professional layabout it's tough to keep up with Ross' frantic one-column-per-week pace (except when he was taking six weeks off to reexamine his life, or get a secret appendectomy at the Jenna Bush Clinic). But when exactly did he call the Republican Presidential Associate Clowns "bomb throwers"? Before now? Not while any of 'em was leading the polls. In fact, which GOPer George Metesky is he referring to? Were the positions of Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, and Rick Perry that much different from Douthat's own? Or notably outside the Republican mainstream, or different from what Mitt Romney will admit to? Douthat recently anointed Rick Santorum as the Brains of that outfit (as he does again here, the better to excuse those Responsible Republican voters); isn't Santorum the biggest bomb thrower of the bunch? Y'know, at least with Brooks you imagine he'd have no personal objection to gay marriage equality, or the status quo on reproductive rights, and is probably a little melancholy that they're such a sure-fire voting gimmick for his side. Douthat's only objection seems to be that, as the snake handler who's been up North and et in hotels, his unlettered brethren back in the holler are screwin' up the opportunity to install a stealth theocracy.
A crazy party might have chosen Cain or Bachmann as its standard-bearer. The Republican electorate dismissed them long before the first ballots were even cast.

A crazy party wouldn’t have cared how Rick Perry debated so long as he promised to visit Texas justice on the Democratic Party. The Republican electorate did care, and delivered him less than one vote for every $1,000 dollars his campaign spent.
First of all, Ross, Cain removed himself, Perry removed Bachmann, and his own performance was so laughable inept that even a party which pretended George W. Bush was Churchillian couldn't ignore it. Second, it's the money people who put those clowns on the dais, and the money people who removed 'em, and when someone over your way starts complaining about them I'll take notice. Finally, while the voters never nominated nor removed any of 'em, they sure put each one atop the polls at some point, and no amount of Romney hatred explains that.
Even the elevation of Rick Santorum as the last not-Romney standing testifies to the Republican electorate’s relative sobriety. For all his follies and failings, Santorum is a more plausible presidential candidate than most of this season’s alternatives — more experienced than Cain and Bachmann,
Who isn't?
more substantive and eloquent than Perry,
Who isn't? Hell, what isn't?
more principled than Gingrich.
Could someone call 9-1-1? I think I'm bleeding internally.
As a two-term senator from a swing state with a record of legislative accomplishments, he’s far closer to a right-wing Howard Dean than a right-wing Jesse Jackson.
You mean his record of voting with his Team? By the way, whatever happened to No Executive Experience?
What we’re really seeing from the Republican campaign, over all, is less a party gone mad than a party caught between generations. The disasters of the George W. Bush era depleted the party’s bench of officeholders and tarnished the (last) name of its most successful big-state governor. The elections of 2009-10 delivered a promising crop of future stars, but the current presidential campaign arrived too soon for them to be entirely seasoned.

Y'know, Ross, if you think Jindal, Rubio, and Christie constitute an exciting benchful of major league prospects your problems are longer-term than you imagine.
If the current race pitted Jeb Bush against, say, Mike Huckabee and Mitch Daniels, nobody would be talking about how the party has gone off the rails.

Yo. Look, Ross-O, I'm sure someone somewhere told you to count your blessings.
But those three men all found reasons not to run.

Yeah, curse the luck. Bush, as you mention, has a poisoned last name, in some quarters because he shares it with the Worst President in the history of the Republic, in others because he didn't strangle his brother in his crib when he had the chance. Huckabee is an entertaining huckster who made the right--and Republican--decision to enrich himself above his bleeding concern for the direction of the nation. Recall that Huckabee was too liberal four years ago for having once signed a tax increase, so imagine what would have happened to him this time, driven even farther rightward and toward more of the blatant religious pandering he adopted when all else failed last time. Of My Man Mitch, well, let's just say he married the perfect woman. You guys can pretend all you want, but Daniels' record is awful, and not just at OMB; he was really vulnerable if he stepped outside the Hoosier cocoon and faced big league pitching. Not that being full of shit has stopped every candidate, but his prospects are a lot rosier for having not run.
So the primary electorate was left to choose from a roster of retreads, mediocrities and cable-news candidates. And given their options, Republican voters have acquitted themselves about as sensibly, responsibly and even patriotically as anyone could reasonably expect.

Well, they've showed they'll swallow anything if it'll get rid of the black guy. Neither of those things being particularly surprising.

Sunday, March 11

Talking To Yourself In Polysyllables Is Still Talking To Yourself

George Eff Will, "Those pesky things called laws". March 9

IT'S not merely my contention; it was my observation that, having lost every argument of import in the 1960s, and on factual grounds, for the most part, "conservatives" figured the only way to ever win again was to stop listening to the opposition. We now have an entire generation grown to middle-aged punditry which doesn't understand what "engaging the argument" means. (Thus the idea that we'd somehow be better off with a Senateful of Olympia Snowes and Dick Lugars, "natural" "non-partisans", as opposed to, say, finding someone smarter, or closer to the natural consensus of the country, or, god forbid, not beholden to Exxon Mobil and Goldman Sachs.)

George Eff Will owes his entire career to the phenomenon. He's a national pundit (and leading "conservative" intellectual) not because he had anything wise to say, or a witty way of saying it, and not because the late 1970s were crying out for a recapitulation of the debates of the Tyler administration. He's a national pundit because Dick Fucking Nixon hated the Press, and adding Will to the Post and This Week was one way to prove that not all the gentlemen of the Press were as ultra-liberal as David Broder or David Brinkley.

And, y'know, fine; pundits aren't supposed to straddle fences, but it'd be nice if they at least had to pretend to watch out for bird shit and barbed wire. The fact that the post-war "conservative" tradition was informed by galloping fantasy and willful inaccuracy, poured copiously over a bed of groundless paranoia--the reason why the so-called liberal media was so-called liberal, to the extent it was--was never addressed. Will just donned his little I'm-so-unfashionable-you're-supposed-to-imagine-I'm-serious bowtie, and got to spout his monarchist claptrap as though it had some intellectual currency. And it still is news.

And once on the stage Will was permitted to simply ignore all the other actors. Is there some other explanation for how the Republican party is the party of incontinent tax-cutting thirty years after it was demonstrated to be a failure and a fraud? For the disparity between Ronald Reagan, "conservative" mythological hero, and Ronald Reagan, actual and addled titular head of the most corrupt administration since Grant's? The punditry weeps, openly, that the 2012 campaign could be "reduced" to discussing a "settled issue" like contraception, but we've had forty years of punditry which pretended the "ethical" opposition to reproductive freedom had no connection whatsoever to institutionalized Bronze Age patriarchy. The same bastards who marched us off to twin disasters in the Middle East now demand war with Iran and are taken seriously rather than being trussed up like Mussolini's mistress.

This has done no one any good. What it's done to "conservatism" is on view at the National Review, Will's first sinecure, which started out as a plutocratic, racist, fatuous High Church organ and has managed to go downhill; what it's done to the Republican party was clearly displayed by Sarah Palin in the three years before the current Clown Car to the Nomination got in gear; what it's done to the country, well, look around. Will is supposedly one of his party's deep-thinkers who are perturbed by this "sudden" turn of events, even as his undisclosed wife worked mostly undisclosedly for the biggest buffoon save one. How long is it going to be before we admit that that is part of the problem? If you didn't realize what the Republican party was becoming over the past three decades your place on the ash heap of history is unfairly vacant.

But here's Will:
Two policies of the Obama administration illustrate an axiom: As government expands, its lawfulness contracts. Consider the administration’s desire to continue funding UNESCO and to develop a national curriculum for primary and secondary education.

Izzat enough for you? I hope so. The utter lawlessness of the Obama administration is perfectly illustrated by its attempts to gain a waiver for funding UNESCO, and by talking to states interested in a voluntary adoption of national standards. Texas has already opted out, by the way, lest it be forced to teach History. Again, the measure of our total fucked-upedness is that Texas imagined it would be included in the first place.

Friends, when George Eff Will was born, Pearl Harbor was still seven months away. He was, in other words, an intelligent teenager when the whole of Dixie shut down its public schools rather than comply with Brown. In his 70 years the United States has engaged in more than fifty military conflicts; precisely two involved a Declaration of War, and both of those occurred before he was a year old. He undoubtedly knows, and maybe even recalls, the United States government trying to prevent American citizens from gaining employment in the movie industry, because of what they thought, or used to think. He certainly remembers the Bay of Pigs, the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, and the secret bombing of Laos and Cambodia. He probably picked up a word or two about the FBI's program to entice Sixties Radicals into blowing shit up, and provide the hardware. I'm sure Nixon's domestic programs, including the Plumbers, caught his attention for a week or two. What he knows about Debategate, the Iranian hostage deal, Iran-Contra and the willful violation of the Boland amendment he might not want to mention. All that's before Bush's signing statements, the Patriot Act, the retroactive immunity given international telecommunications conglomerates for illegally spying on every living American, and the shredding of the Geneva Conventions and the Fourth, Fifth, and Eighth amendments to the Constitution, in the name of the Holy War On Terra In Perpetuity.

For that matter, we might point out that the worst example of government overreach before George W. Bush became President, with the approval of George Eff Will, occurred during the John Adams administration. So much for government expansion being the root of the problem.

But, yeah, sure. Asking for a waiver of a fifteen-year-old pro-AIPAC piece of shit legislation, and talking to state officials who might want to consider actually improving education in some way? That's how Hitler got started.

Friday, March 9

Let's Not Be Hasty. Lieberman Is Still Available.

David Weigel, "Romney-Santorum 2012, Obviously". March 8

FIRST, I would like to apologize if anyone was offended by the fact that I've taken David Weigel to be a journalist all these years. I'm an old man, and ironic hipster comedy is sometimes lost on me. Especially unintentional hipster comedy.

So…I guess it's time for the typing class to display its terminal boredom with the Republican race, look around, find no real issues worth covering, check the calendar, and bring on the Veep speculation.

Weigel enlarges on ("Small is the New Large") this Tim Noah piece, which suggested that Romney is so boring, and the Republican party so dysfunctional, that a Veepstakes piece might actually liven things up. Weigel the Journalist might have been expected to miss the point, or pretend to miss it; Weigel the comedian goes for the killer riff:
1) Would Santorum alienate swing voters? We'd see about that. There's the specter of Sarah Palin hovering over any VP choice. But Palin's main problem was that she undercut John McCain's "experience" argument by having eighteen months of statewide elected office behind here, and by responding to pressure with aggressive ignorance. The media is already vetting Santorum, for the most part.

Yeah, well, Republican voters have been vetting Santorum, too, and even with the demise of every other religious fanatic candidate he can't beat the hated Romney. People may not vote for Vice-Presidents, but if you guys didn't learn last time that pandering to the 30% is a desperate and boneheaded move, go on and find out again.

True, it's hard to argue with "we'd see"; it's also hard to remain firmly seated as this inexplicably becomes a discussion of Sarah Palin. "The specter of Sarah Palin" haunts Romney's choice of Veep? Hell, Sarah Palin haunts the whole goddam party, not that she didn't simply take over as Poltergeist in Chief, and seamlessly, from the shade of George W. Bush. Palin's the only reason an avalanche victim like Santorum, with no legislative record beyond his crippling Ovary fetish, was even in the race in the first place. The whole Republican primary has been one big "Find the Sarah Palin Replacement" reality show.

On the other hand, if we'd like to discuss Santorum's negatives, the better to "dispense" with them, they are clear, legion, and the sort of thing Republican "moderates" don't like to discuss with non-family members. Santorum would add a lot to the ticket, provided you think you can repeal the 19th amendment in the next seven months.

Whatever people said about Palin in '08--this includes Republicans, but only when they didn't realize the mic was live--it revolved around her obvious unpreparedness and the McCain campaign's astonishing gaffe. She was, at that time, a fluke and a punchline. This time voters--non-Republican voters--are going to look at a Santorum candidacy as a first-fitting for the mantle of the Republican party. I guess we'd see.

Say it again: until you guys are honest about this shit--beginning with yourselves--you've got no hope of governing, if you even care about that. You might win elections the way somebody wins a coin toss, but while Free Cash from Billionaire Lunatics may continue to appeal, as an electoral strategy it pretty much reached its full potential with that daisful of Palin impersonators you needed Mitt Romney to (barely) defeat. The question isn't Who Will Mitt Choose? The question is What Choice Does He Have?

Wednesday, March 7

The Eternal Palimpsest Of The "Conservative" Bullshit Campaign

William McGurn, "Reagan Was A Sure Loser Too: Conventional wisdom about Republican presidential prospects sounds mighty familiar." March 5

"MIGHTY familiar", that is, provided you too had spent every night for the last thirty-two years fantasizing about The Ol' Gipper.

Anything said about the ostensible point here--"C'mon gang! It's an election year! Anything can happen! The experts have counted us out before!"--is probably too much. The point could be made about all but three Presidential elections since WWII, and the reader is reminded that the exceptions gave us the full term of Lyndon Johnson, and the second terms of Richard Nixon and "Dutch" Reagan.

And we'll grant a free pass for the use of James "Scotty" Reston, though by 1980 he was more generally regarded not as the Dean of Conventional Wisdom but as Henry Kissinger's butt-boy. Leave us stipulate that what Reston said--particularly about a Reagan victory in New Hampshire being a instance of Good Luck for Jimmy Carter--was pretty much the conventional wisdom of a certain sort of Republican observer at the time. Perhaps McGurn will stipulate in return that Reston was writing insider malarky designed to get people to read newspapers, not a first draft of history. Had he been pressed I bet that Scotty himself would have acknowledged that the future is a better judge of the past than the present is predictor of the future. Though not by as wide a margin as you might imagine.

Instead let's ask ourselves why the conventional wisdom held Reagan to be a liability, and how he overcame that. And the answers are a) because he was a loony wingnut and intellectual lightweight who'd spent eight years as Governor of California through a combination of name recognition and Sixties backlash; and b) because Carter coupled the Iranian hostage crisis occurring on his watch with the worst possible campaign imaginable.

Okay, sure, if you wanna crab about it, there's the stolen debate briefing book, and Ted Kennedy, plus whatever Bill Casey and the Ayatollah were cooking up. But Carter lost the 1980 election, by not convincing people to give him another chance.
A Harris Poll released just about this time in 1980 bolstered the case for Mr. Ford by reporting that, in a head-to-head matchup, Ford (the noncandidate) would trounce President Carter 55% to 44%. The same poll showed Reagan (the front-runner) trailing Carter 58% to 40%.

A good argument for nominating Newt Gingrich.

Look, every adult with a nominally functioning cerebral cortex knows that poll numbers at this point are something like meaningless. Probably so do many Republican voters as well. The movement of those numbers is slightly more revealing, and they haven't been moving your way of late, McGurn. Things can and will change; the inexplicable convention bump will occur; the inexplicable "independent" voter will take until the last minute to make a choice as simple as Coffee or Tea? and will be celebrated for his keen analysis of the issues. Or "issues".

On the other hand, the numbers which are tougher to move are the negative opinion numbers, and there the Republican field looks a combination of Crabgrass and Colonoscopy. I don't know what Reagan's were in January of 1980, but I doubt half the Republican party thought he was some sort of turncoat. I do remember watching in amazement as he overcame questions about his qualifications for office by purchasing a microphone, refusing to dye his hair, and by being the sort of guy Americans would like to see play someone their idealized counterpart would have a beer with in a movie. That's not happening with Gingrich or Santorum. Mitt might be wealthy enough to afford the necessary personality transplant before the general election, but considering what they're starting with poor Ann might have to make do with three full-time body servants after dark.
Nor was candidate Reagan without baggage. As governor, Reagan had pushed through the largest tax hike in California's history, had signed one of the nation's most liberal abortion laws, and—as George H.W. Bush pointed out—presided over the doubling of the state budget over his eight-year tenure, to $10.2 billion when he left office from $4.6 billion when he entered.

We'll stipulate that Reagan might have a hard time getting nominated by the Reagan party these days. Who considered this baggage--besides George Herbert Walker Impericus Bush, whose "voodoo economics" line got his usual zero traction--I don't recall. Reagan was never anything but a vapor candidate and a genial dispenser of bumper-sticker idiocies. He's the beginning of the modern taste for rewriting unpleasant realities. With a PR department, or Xanax.
Yes, the parallels to 1980 take you only so far, and Mitt Romney is no Ronald Reagan. Still, at this same point in his campaign for the GOP nomination, neither was Reagan. The President Reagan we rightly admire for bringing down the Berlin Wall, reviving the U.S. economy, and attracting into the GOP millions of disaffected Democrats was still to come.

Yeah, that Reagan was just a dream at that point.
And he got there by transcending the conventional wisdom rather than allowing himself or his message to be limited by it.

Um, aren't we about five years late in urging that on Mitt Romney?

Monday, March 5

Just An Idea: Maybe Your Moderates Could Try Being Moderate

Chris Cillizza, "In GOP circles, some wonder whether the party needs to lose big to eventually win". March 4

THE 2012 Republican Presidential primaries will be remembered, if at all, for having taught us any number of things we already knew.

Rush Limbaugh is a human cloud of flatulence. Rick Santorum is a 10th century religious lunatic. Newt Gingrich is to serious politics what Newt Gingrich is to academic history.

Nobody likes Mitt Romney.

Of course the preeminent truth is that the whole goddam party is insane, and that the Press, having ignored the over-abundance of evidence of this for a generation, now finds itself incapable of dealing with this. Aside from the customary writing of scripts designed to encompass all such facts as aren't truly inconvenient. Those, as always, get ignored.

So this is the campaign which began with the artificial groundswell of popular wrath known as Teabagging. To my knowledge no one ever asked what exactly the "grassroots" were so worked up about, other than the fact they'd roundly and deservedly lost an election. That turd floated so long as it was the only Republican hope for the mid-terms, but the fact that it might mean Sarah Palin was the nominee alerted a few worrywarts who'd actively campaigned for her to become Vice President of the United States just months before.

Which led to the desperate casting of Indiana Governor Mitch "Ronald Reagan Without The Charm, Or The Stature" Daniels as the Big Brained Savior of the Big Brained Republican Economics Club. Which lasted right up until the time Mitch (Or Haley Barbour--there's an opportunity lost--or Chris Christie, or Paul Ryan) would have had to become serious candidates. Recall that, at the time, each man's refusal was excused as personal decisions which disappointed a lot of potential supporters, and not a harbinger of Sarah Palins II, III, IV, V, and VI.

Trump. Bachmann. ("Tested by Fire".) Perry. Cain. Santorum. We'll leave out Newt's minute at the Top, even though he has the coveted Palin If It Can't Be Me Sorta-Endorsement; Newt is sui generis. The rest are just as cracked, and all but Santorum as illiterately ill-prepared, as La Palin herself. Anybody really believe that the emergence of Candidate Daniels would have changed that dynamic?

When was it, actually, that it began to dawn on the bright thinkers that there was trouble a'brewin'? Not when Bachmann was taken seriously. Not when Rick Perry rode into town. And both were well-known as imbeciles long before they demonstrated that anew, in debate form.
In “Batman Begins” — the 2005 movie about the origins of the caped crusader — there is a group of villains who believe the city of Gotham is beyond saving and that the only way to fix it is to first destroy it.

Y'know, nobody ever asks whether "having a pundit class whose frame of reference exceeded pop culture" could do anything for us.
As the Republican presidential race has worn on (and on), there are some within the party wondering — privately, of course — whether the only way for the party to face the growing divide between its moderate and conservative wings is for the 2012 election to be its Gotham moment.

What "moderate" wing? If Mitt Romney had embraced his record he'd'a been run out of town in '08. Romney isn't the "moderate" candidate. He's the establishment candidate.
“I’d personally enjoy all the ‘we can’t nominate another Republican In Name Only’ crowd getting a stomping by an incumbent with an 8.5 unemployment rate,” said one senior party strategist, granted anonymity to speak candidly, warning of nominating a strictly conservative candidate like former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum.

Granting, arguendo, the existence of "moderate" Republicans, on the grounds that there are still some left who are just sane enough to realize Rick Santorum is unelectable--even if they won't say so out loud--th' fuck is a "stomping" supposed to accomplish? Why should it do more than the stomping of "Moderate John" McCain? "Moderate" Republicans haven't nominated a winning candidate since Eisenhower. The lips of the modern "moderate" Republican are still firmly attached to the tailpipe of Ronald Wilson Reagan, the World's Most Unpardonably Successful Anti-fluoridationist. Why should anyone in that blasted landscape listen to them?
The GOP’s problem, according to party insiders, is most evident when it comes to the issue of immigration. All of the major Republican presidential candidates — with the exception of former House speaker Newt Gingrich — have largely rejected the idea of a path to citizenship for the 11 million people in the United States illegally.

That view has contributed to a broader sense among Hispanic voters that the Republican Party is not a friendly place for them. In the 2008 election, President Obama won the Hispanic vote nationwide with 67 percent of the vote. Given that more than half of the total growth in U.S. population over the past decade came in the Hispanic community, Republicans simply can’t afford to keep losing this largest minority group 65 percent to 35 percent and have a fighting chance of winning national elections in four or eight years’ time.

For those of you just tuning in, or exiting a coma, yes, this is the very same Republican party which threw out African-Americans--literally, not just figuratively--by dissolving all the Reconstruction-era Republican organizations across the south in 1964, and which has been milkin' that same bull ever since. It's the same one which is currently involved in a national effort to obstruct voting by poor people. It's the one where the "moderates"--see McCain, "Desperate John"--are the ones who've flip-flopped on the issue. Now a fast-growing Hispanic minority is an opportunity you're not taking full advantage of? Maybe you people should come out in favor of contraception. In selected drinking water supplies.
The question many Republican strategists are asking themselves at the moment is whether — in 2012, 2016 or even 2020 — it’s worth taking one step back in order to, hopefully, take two steps forward.

GOP 2020: That Shit-Stain Was There When We Got Here.

Two steps forward to what? You've had thirty years at least to do something about this. Your brand, clearly, consists of pushing hot buttons for votes, not offering a vision of leadership. You're not one lesson, or two, away from righting the ship. You're forty years off course.

Sunday, March 4

That's Entertaintment!

I'VE no idea how many lifetimes it's going to take Rick Santorum to figure stuff out, but here's a leg up (since I'm assuming legs are something which he'll find in short supply for the next Kali Yuga or two): if Rush Limbaugh is an entertainer, then everyone in the news business is an entertainer (I'm willing to stipulate that, Rick). So either no one is responsible for the things he says, or everyone is. You don't get to insist that "The Media" is after you for "being a conservative" if Rush is free to say whatever fucked-up-thing is echoing in his skull at the moment. Sure, sure, you said that because neither you nor Mitt dare criticize him outright; yes, that must be a heavy Cross to bear. But you said it, so that should be the principle you're stuck with.

As for people who supposedly know better, here's Weigel:
But let's be clear about what this is. Limbaugh is a private citizen who has not endorsed any Republican candidate. (The closest he's come is praise for Santorum, which the candidate quotes on his campaign lit.) There is not a pressing public interest here. There's only the advantage that Democrats have carved out, by moving the discussion on birth control from the conscience exemption to the existential reasons why conservatives might want to limit birth control. The complex is winning this one.

Makes you wish that Weigel would acknowledge that he's just an entertainer, too.

Sure, sure, it's Slate, whose corporate mission is to make sure no one could possibly give a fuck, thereby reducing the number of complaints they receive.

But what about Weigel? "Conservatives" like this were pretending that Limbaugh was "just an entertainer" long before Santorum grabbed it like a drowning man grabs anything that floats by. They've gotten to pretend that the racism, misogyny, comet-induced-panics, and drunken high-school-yahoo one-liners weren't really their party, just a set of distasteful rituals in flyover country, full of Sound and Fury and deficient in Dentition. Now, not so much. The supposed uproar over how intractable the party has "suddenly" become is just the recognition by a few well-seated pundits that the louts they excused for decades--because loutishness elected a helluva lot more Republicans than the columns of George Eff Will and David Brooks combined--have wised up to the con.

But what about Weigel? I've given him the partial excuse of galloping Reagantotism in the past; this is the way it has always been, post-Nixon, the duration of Weigel's sentience, and it's not his fault it's never been questioned. But it is his fault that he can't be bothered to look around on his own. Limbaugh said something (yet again) that's outside the bounds of decent rhetoric. I don't care; I do the same myself, for a lot less money. But fucking own up to it. Limbaugh didn't "give the Democrats a chance to turn the 'debate' from a conscience exemption onto contraception". He blurted out what's been behind the argument all along. Not for the news cycle; since Roe. He underlined the fact that there's no pretension to truth at all behind the cries of religious persecution. Limbaugh is the Catholic Church with Tourette's.

The fact that the "Democratic media complex" (read: Kos, Media Matters, and Think Progress) object to it, and seek to disseminate it more fully, has nothing to do with anything. We're all left to understand that Weigel, or Brooks, deplores the abhorrent attack on an innocent woman--whose crime, incidentally, was to be correct, and to wish to make the case that contraceptive drugs have other health uses than preventing pregnancy--so he can proceed to uncover the real story: that Democrats are making something of it.

Th' fuck does someone want to do this? "Rush Limbaugh is a private citizen?" So are the Koch Brothers. So is Dick Armey, and so are the literally dozens of grammar-challenged powdered-wig mummers Weigel's been trying to make into a political movement for three years. Only Limbaugh also has a huge radio-blather empire. And it's not exactly non-partisan.

Thursday, March 1

You Have My Most Middling Sympathies

Jonathan Weisman, "After Many Tough Choices, The Choice To Quit". February 29

Dana Millbank, "A moderate's lament". February 29

IF you have tears, prepare to almost shed them now. Or ask your Doctor if a half-empty bottle of Restasis® is right for you:
WASHINGTON — The looming Senate vote on a Republican plan to give employers the right to withdraw health care coverage based on religious and moral convictions put Senator Olympia J. Snowe in a tough but familiar position: weighing her own views as a Republican centrist against pressure from fellow Republicans to support the party position.

A longtime advocate of increasing access to health care and one of a dwindling number of Republican backers of abortion rights, Ms. Snowe believed that the language was too broad and could have unintended consequences. At the same time, an embattled Republican colleague, Senator Scott P. Brown of Massachusetts, had publicly backed it, and a “no” vote from Ms. Snowe, of Maine, could isolate him as he sought to fend off anger in his heavily Democratic state.

Dear Lord, what have we done? Forcing a United States Senator to choose between voting her nit-picky conscience and chucking it all to symbolically aid the reelection efforts of a fellow Republican from a nearby state? Are we monsters?

Boy, there goes my beautiful dream, that someday in my lifetime the US Senate would be composed of Red State religious lunatics and Blue State moderate Republicans, and we could finally get something done.
with each day on Capitol Hill comes more evidence that the place is broken beyond repair — and that the last remaining vestiges of sense and moderation are fleeing. The latest blow came on Tuesday, when Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine, one of the Republican Party’s last moderates, said she wouldn’t seek a fourth term because she sees no imminent change in “the partisanship of recent years.”

Also heading for the door is much of the remaining core of Senate moderates: Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas; independent Joe Lieberman of Connecticut; and Democrats Kent Conrad of North Dakota, Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Jim Webb of Virginia. After that kind of exodus, Bennet will be one of the last reasonable lawmakers still standing. “I think that it should be a real wake-up call to people here,” he said. “There are a number of folks who don’t want to come here and participate in the dysfunction.”

This lament, by the way, is brought to you by Dana Millbank, whose regular job is piloting a clown car for the Washington Post.

One: what is losing Joe Lieberman, Ben Nelson, Kent Conrad, Kay Bailey Hutchinson, and the late lamented Evan Bayh, compared to living in a society where those five are described as "moderate"? I'm really supposed to be excited because Hutchinson (R-Exxon Mobil) is pro-choice (and thus "principled")? I'm supposed to be aghast at the prospect of three more dilatory, war-flogging (and thus "principled") Democrats (I'm sorry, two Democrats and a guy who got lost on his way to the Knesset) who managed to block single payer, the solution to a major social and economic problem in this country, for the sake of their friends (and wives' employers) in the insurance and pharmaceutical businesses, being "forced" to join Evan Bayh on the sidelines, in the boardrooms, and at FOX? Somebody show me the major legislation any of these bozos crafted. Somebody show me the major legislation they proposed, only to be cruelly overpowered by rabid partisanship. All five ought to be thanking their lucky stars for our dysfunctional politics, which allowed mediocrities like themselves to set themselves up for life swapping tax breaks and special treatment for "campaign" contributions and a sinecure to be named later.

(Jim Webb, on the other hand, seems a decent and thoughtful fellow. But Webb really made it clear in 2008 that he wasn't going to be a career Senator. Snowe may be a step up from her fellow retirees, and an actual sponsor of real-world legislation, but is her real problem with the "tone" in Washington, or the constant buzzing her own party has been emitting since 1964?)

Which brings us to Two: th' fuck did these people imagine they were going? Were they informed ahead of time that the Senate is the "deliberative" body? Isn't that at least covered at Orientation? For fuck's sake, all but Nelson (and Bayh) sat in judgement of William Jefferson Clinton, and none got so disheartened at the tone of that he hung up his galoshes. None of them has spent an hour of adult life living in an America that wasn't politically divided. All are old enough to remember the Civil Rights movement firsthand. All the males (except Bayh) are old enough to have escaped service in Vietnam, which, of course, they atoned for by voting unlimited funds for Iraq. This country's divided, like it or no; that's reflected--as it's supposed to be--in our Senate.

You ask me, the problem is that we aren't divisive enough, that an entire current of political thought is largely unrepresented in the Congress, namely, that of people who don't game the system, and who think things ought to be fair. When we're pillorying them in the Senate out of excess partisanship it'll at least mean we have some.

And tell me, who gives a fuck if Ronald Reagan and Tip O'Neil used to have a beer after hours? Only people who're warm and satisfied with the results of thirty years of Reaganism.

Which brings us, of course, to Three: the Republican party comprises the criminally insane, the merely criminal, and the religiously mazed. Untreated, ignored, faux-balanced--let alone rewarded--this has, to no one's surprise except people who earn their livings working in government, or watching and reporting on it, merely grown louder and uglier. The Democratic party won sweeping electoral victories in 2006 and 2008, based largely on the public's wish that this would put a stop to such excesses. (This is ample evidence, where none was needed, that the American public doesn't pay near enough attention.)

It didn't. The new Democratic majority quickly reassured nervous markets that it would never do anything so radical as to tax wealthy people again (the one aspect of the Gentlemanly, Peaceful, and Respectful 50s no one wants to return), or treat war crimes and high-level profiteering as moral enormities on par with blow-job reception; thus reassured, and unfettered for yet another decade, the markets responded by looting the world economy.

This is what the lamenters lament. The All-in-Good-Fun partisanship of Newt Gingrich and Tom DeLay. The days when a man, and only a man, could clap Strom Thurmond or Jessie Helms on the back in bonhomie, without worrying about some internet riffraff bringing up their voting records. The days when the Congress could just laugh and shrug at Iran/Contra or the S&L disaster. It very well might be that it would take more Evan Bayhs to bring those days back. Or the last Ice Age, for that matter. I would like to point out to people who think that way that we in Indiana managed to find another lackluster Republican Lobbyist/Senator to take his place without too much fuss. Now please explain to me why, if you could snap your fingers and make the Senate more efficient, you wouldn't prefer to snap your fingers and make it ten times smarter instead?

Me, on the other hand, well, my one regret when people start gurgling this nonsense is that I have only two hands to clasp my wallet with.