Monday, April 30

Slam Dunk, James Taranto!

James Taranto, "Obama the Unseemly". April 27

ONE of my recurring ideas--and one I'd be glad to discuss with Norman Ornstein--is that the American Right, not exactly the paragon of collating data from diverse sources to begin with--its modern fucking intellectuals claim to read three authors, fer chrissakes, fewer than your average fundamentalist--stopped talking to, listening to, or basically acknowledging the existence of, anybody who disagreed with it around the time that "Watergate was a third-rate burglary" became inoperable. And not to the good, just in case anyone had any delusions of Jesuitical competence:
There's been a lot of talk of late about how "cool" Barack Obama supposedly is. But people are starting to notice the man has no class. "Blue collar Democratic voters, stuck taking depressing 'staycations' because they can't afford gas and hotels, are resentful of the first family's 17 lavish vacations around the world and don't want their tax dollars paying for the Obamas' holidays, according to a new analysis of swing voters," reports the Washington Examiner's Paul Bedard. 
A group of Republican pollsters conducted focus groups of swing-state swing voters, mostly Democrats and independents, and John McLaughlin "handled blue collar and Catholic voters" in Pittsburgh and Cleveland. He found that they tend to think Mitt Romney is "too rich," but "there is a start of resentment of the government." In Bedard's words, "voters were also lumping in the president's vacation spending in with the General Services Administration's Las Vegas scandal and federal spending for those who aren't looking for work."
Okay, so let's be charitable and assume that part of what grammarians call the "utter fucking incomprehensibility" above is the result of bad editing or balky cutting-and-pasting. Else, let us allow that, if your point is as flaccid as Taranto's, maybe incomprehensibility is a reasonable ploy. But, please, you base a conclusion on "an analysis of swing voters" in the Washington Examiner? You think the working poor are going to flock to the Republican party because the President stays in nice hotels? The results certainly are unassailable. But only in the sense that you can't argue with the reflection in the cracked Funhouse mirror of James Taranto's mind. Wait, it's going to get better. Count to twelve:
Obama is also notorious for his golf outings.
No, he isn't.
Blogress Ann Althouse,
I believe they prefer to be known as "blogerettes".
another swing voter
(she has admitted supporting Obama in 2008)
"Swing voters" have to admit supporting a candidate?
notes that George W. Bush was "savaged" for going golfing "when Americans were fighting and dying."
We are, as much as possible, going to leave the practice of using Ann Althouse as a source, let alone accepting the Choking Hazard-level ruse of Ann Althouse, independent political thinker, without comment. But, frankly, sometimes the broad side of the barn deserves hitting. George Bush wasn't "savaged" for golfing "when Americans were fighting and dying." He was savaged for golfing while, according to him, and his party, and his party's hacky mouthpieces, the fate of Civilization Herself hung in the balance. And for showing a Patrician insensitivity to it ("Watch this drive.") which makes Mitt Romney look like Helen Keller.
Michael Moore made hay of it in his 2004 agitprop film "Fahrenheit 9/11," notwithstanding that Bush had given up golf in 2003 on the ground that it was unseemly: "I think playing golf during a war just sends the wrong message."
Y'know, it's too bad (for y'all) that he didn't think of this until after there was an uproar.
Althouse opens her post with a story about the latest casualties in Afghanistan.
I'm sure she does. Listen, this country's political situation would be improved considerably if "much of the distance between Ann Althouse and how far off the mark she is" was the new centrism. Which is not saying much for this country, I know.

This is highly reminiscent of the willful misunderstanding of the term "chickenhawk" from, not surprisingly, the same era, by, not surprisingly, the same people. Nobody expected, nor wanted, Jonah Goldberg to volunteer for the Marine Corps. No one expected George W. Bush to avoid golf, nor vacations altogether. In fact, the only people demanding a "serious" presidency are people who voted for Bush twice. Nobody ambushed George W. Bush. He was speaking to reporters; it's they he recommended admire his drive. At the time, the public had been subjected to a full year of fear mongering over 9/11, and twenty months of PR reassurances that George W. Bush, Commander-in-Chief, was not the overripe frat boy his every appearance suggested.

Context matters. If you don't understand this, then perhaps political punditatin' is not for you. If Barack Obama on the Jimmy Fallon show gives you the fantods, maybe you just don't like Barack Obama. Maybe you should work to raise the voting age to 65. Maybe you've forgotten that Nixon went on Laugh In, Clinton went on Arsenio, George W. Bush went to the Daytona 500, and Ronald Reagan went to Bitburg. If you're silent when your own do it, when Bush II breaks Reagan's vacation record, then could you at least be a little circumspect about your outrage? I got no problem with you being partisan; hell, what value would there be in measured responses from James Taranto or Ann Althouse? But constantly insulting everyone's intelligence just so you can fail to make a point? If that doesn't tell you anything, maybe it's time your friends did.

Saturday, April 28

Let's Just Say It: Thirty Years Late Is Not "Current"

Thomas E. Mann and Norman Ornstein, "Let's just say it: The Republicans are the problem". April 27

FIRST, via Pierce, do not click this link, unless you--unlike the author--find a picture of Rachel Maddow schmoozing Sarah Palin and Andrea Mitchell something other than a suitable replacement for the lost syrup of ipecac.

 (It's okay, Progressives, Madow wore jeans!

Sock it to the Man. Palin, meanwhile, was simultaneously drinking for free and endorsing Richard Mourdock in the Indiana Republican primary, despite the fact that what she knows about Indiana politics in general, Dick Lugar specifically, or anything and everything which can be described as an "issue" is what you can see from the Rat Islands.)

 Speaking of which:
The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.
Pfui. Both of you have punditological careers dating to the Carter administration. Did you sleep through the Reagan presidency? Miss the rhetoric of the Nixon years? Tricky Dick didn't deliver the famous "Silent Centrist Majority" speech, y'know. Though he might've, since it's you guys who remained silent while the Republican party went from cabal of 19th century capital pirates to cabal of 19th century capital pirates cosseting Nixonian lunatics, to cabal of Nixonian lunatics who revere 19th century capital piracy in thirty years. Fer chrissakes, a guy trapped in Arctic ice in 1950, and thawed out last week, would have a tougher time recognizing the policies of the Catholic Church than he would the Republican party.
It is clear that the center of gravity in the Republican Party has shifted sharply to the right. Its once-legendary moderate and center-right legislators in the House and the Senate — think Bob Michel, Mickey Edwards, John Danforth, Chuck Hagel — are virtually extinct.
The GOP hasn't "moved from the mainstream". It's gained more power. The "center of power" hasn't gone much of anywhere. It may have followed Goldwater West and South, thanks to the evil genius of Nixon, but it's not exactly a seismic shift from Joe McCarthy to Jesse Helms, from John Wayne to Glenn Beck. When th' hell was it Chuck Hagel's party? When was it Nelson Rockefeller's, for that matter? They called Truman a commie, for chrissakes.
The post-McGovern Democratic Party, by contrast, while losing the bulk of its conservative Dixiecrat contingent in the decades after the civil rights revolution, has retained a more diverse base. Since the Clinton presidency, it has hewed to the center-left on issues from welfare reform to fiscal policy. While the Democrats may have moved from their 40-yard line to their 25, the Republicans have gone from their 40 to somewhere behind their goal post.
Question: is all of this designed to palliate the conscience of the American centrist, or is it really what it purports to be, the slowest recognition of the extent of a brick wall since the Mogols? Eisenhower had to name Richard Fucking Nixon as his running mate. The contemporary Republican party was born in 1964, not coincidentally the same year the Johnson administration decided that black people could have some rights. It's the party of Bill Buckley's racism, and of Pat Buchanan's, as well as Steve King's, of Carl McIntire's religious mania and Pat Robertson's, as well as Rick Santorum's. It's the party which wrapped every little adventurist foreign excursion from Korea to Iraq II in patriotic fervor, and which found it necessary to rewrite the history of every last one (excepting, maybe, the Glorious Liberation of Grenada); Nixon's traitor hunt of 1946 was little different than Andrew Sullivan's in 2001, and, no, he's one of yours. No one with eyes and ears could possibly have missed this, apart, somehow, from the DLC and today's tiny island leper colony of sadder-but-wiser centrists.
What happened? Of course, there were larger forces at work beyond the realignment of the South. They included the mobilization of social conservatives after the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, the anti-tax movement launched in 1978 by California’s Proposition 13, the rise of conservative talk radio after a congressional pay raise in 1989, and the emergence of Fox News and right-wing blogs. But the real move to the bedrock right starts with two names: Newt Gingrich and Grover Norquist.
It's the virus causes the wart. Not vice-versa.

 Okay, sure: the Republican party has become increasingly dilatory and obtuse in the halls of power, but that's not a change of the last four years. Had Republicans had the power in 1981 they would have dispensed with all the Reagan sainthood bullshit and just rammed through their radical agenda, instead of getting Democrats to agree to do it for them. And there's no question this has been facilitated, both by a venal and cowardly Democratic party, and a venal and cowardly Press. But, really, enough of this stuff. I'm not gonna make common cause with Democrats, or rueful Republican centrists, who suddenly notice what the GOP has become, and expect a medal for saying so. The time to speak up was thirty years ago, when this stuff was just as plain, and was being covered by a transparent rewrite of unpleasant history, and a clear retrenchment on individual rights. Y'know, when Reaganism was the Wave of the Future the Republican platform had no more chance of actually governing than it does today. David Stockman was just as big a liar as Paul Ryan. I'm going to settle for having been right about this shit all along, and hope we don't kill too many innocents when it all blows up. Don't offer to help me shovel now. You've already done enough.

Friday, April 27

Maybe You Gotta Live Here

BUT trust me; I've been watching Indiana politics since Dick Lugar was Nixon's favorite mayor. I watched the eight year governorship of Kindly Doc Bowen, the Bremen Physician, who oversaw a scandal in every major department of state government and still retired as Everybody's Good Old Gramps. I remember when Dan Burton was a philandering state legislator with several screws loose. I remember election night, 1988, when Birch Bayh's kid turned into Ronald Reagan at his own victory party. Hell, I've chronicled a lot of the sports-shirt-wearin', tendeloin-eatin'-RV-ridin' governorship of Mitch "Jes Folks" Daniels, including that kabuki Presidential Non Campaign which was the most laughable dishonest thing I've seen since the Reagan Library opened. So trust me, this is the funniest thing to hit Indiana politics since we tried to legislate the value of pi:
Indiana's foray into school takeovers continues to be fraught with confusion, bickering and accusations of dirty tricks.

But the latest back-and-forth involving Indianapolis Public Schools, the Indiana Department of Education and the two private operators hired by the state to take over four IPS schools has taken things to a new level.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett thinks IPS' lack of cooperation with the turnover operators is such that it could warrant withholding state money from the district.
No, that's not the funny part, but it does explain the eagerness of the General Assembly, and the Daniels administration, to have the state take over funding of public education a few years back.
In short, it's a mess -- and one created, at least in part, by the lack of any strict rules in Indiana governing what is an unprecedented process in the state: transferring schools from a school district to private operators.

"Our goal was to be as flexible as we could be," said Stephanie Sample, a spokeswoman for Bennett's office. "We've never done this before, and the law is ambiguous."
No, that's not it, either, although it is funny, in a "Well, who th' fuck wrote the law, and who enacted it in such a big fucking hurry so they'd have time to throw around the repercussions and the largess on their watch?" sorta way. Not to mention the fact that Bennett has had a little difficulty previously following black letter law. Leave us just mention that the "flexibility" Bennett was looking for in this case was his opponents', and it involved the ease with which they could grab their ankles.
Bennett and the private operators, as well as some others, contend that IPS is taking full advantage of those ambiguities -- and not always in the best interest of students. Almost since the outset, the operators -- Florida-based for-profit Charter Schools USA and local nonprofit EdPower -- have complained that IPS has withheld information such as student disciplinary records and contact information, recruited current students to transfer to other IPS schools and mischaracterized the private operators' programs.
Funny, really, since all of them have had nothing but good things to say about the public schools. But not funny ha-ha.
This was supposed to be a transition year, Sample said, in which the takeover organizations spent time at the schools, evaluating the staff, getting to know the community.

"Unfortunately, it turned into a situation where (the operators) have to fight for everything they need," Sample said. "It allows the district some flexibility to obstruct instead of allowing the turnaround school operators and the community to adjust."
The legal doctrine established by S'pose ta Be v. Kiss My Ass, pure comedy gold. But that's not it.
It's to a point, Bennett said, that he is ready to order that the district follow the rules or face sanctions, which could include withholding state money.

"The state board will act if the requirement to provide for children is not met by IPS," he said. "Our interest is never litigation; it's education. I hope IPS has the same attitude."

Sample, however, declined to say whether IPS is considered out of compliance with any state law or how the state will respond if it is.

"It's not in our best interest," she said, "to share our legal strategy to adversaries who are working to obstruct the process."
Concern for students being so six paragraphs ago.
After the April 4 state board meeting, an incensed White sent a four-page letter disputing complaints aired about the district to the board. He has since followed with a letter from an IPS attorney demanding explanations for 11 specific charges made against IPS in the state board meeting.

White said the state board hasn't heard the whole truth, and he aims to set the record straight Wednesday when the board meets again.

"I think the state board is getting bad information," he said.

More broadly, IPS' main contention is that it is now officially in competition with the takeover operators -- both of whom have announced plans to open new charter schools in the community, as well -- and feels no obligation to benefit them.

White said, given those circumstances, that the district has only been practical and that it must protect its competitive interests, such as the contact information for elementary school families.
There ya go. Who's been goin' on about the sacred benefits of Competition for the last three decades? And, look, I have very little use for Eugene "Cufflinks" White; he spent five years burnishing his personal image, which anyone who'd paid the slightest attention to his career could have predicted. It's taken him until about a month ago to notice that his district is the second poorest in the state; when he ascends that pulpit he's so comfortable in to denounce the selective disenfranchisement of the IPS voter--the same people Lugar disenfranchised forty-five years ago--I'll let you know. But: Competition! though it probably won't be a winning hand--although there's not much left of IPS to take away, and then the state and its profiteering and "not for" profiteering pals will have to actually work miracles, not just demand them of some voting group they don't like--but it is, somehow, the single work of political genius this state has seen since Wendell Willkie decided to keep his mouth shut in 1940.

Thursday, April 26

I ♥ Charles Pierce, Vol. Six Hundred Thousand Something

Charles Pierce, "The Great Surrendering: How Cabal Became Our Politics" April 26

Scott Mendelson, "Why I don't care if today's kids know about the Titanic…" April 16

I SAW Mendelson's piece the other day, shortly after I'd stumbled over my Poor Wife watching the umpteenth recapitulation of the maiden voyage of the RMS Titanic, which prompted me, for the umpteenth time, to say, "The boat sinks." Yes, it was a ship. Yes, the illiteracy is intentional. She was watching the History Channel, which, in the most poignant illustration of the degradation of our educational system in the country I know of, her students refer to as "goin' to college". I was reasonably sure that if I stuck around Nostradamus would make his appearance. Or Morgan Robertson, if the producer was a stickler for accuracy. So I didn't.

I think we had a brief conversation about it later, which is how I describe one of my monologues when they're delivered in her presence: "It's not fucking History, it's spectacle, and if it is History it's to the extent that 1) it represents the point at which we took seriously the need for standardization of parts and materials, which hundreds, if not thousands, of rail-accident deaths and boiler-explosion maimings hadn't quite accomplished, since none of them collected any Astors of note; 2) we get an unintended glimpse at how social stratification is really intended to work; and 3) it represents a clear intersection of hubris with the artificial legal limitations of corporate responsibility. Apart from that, I hope the next time James Cameron goes down there someone adds a really big rock to his cargo."

So anyway, I ran across Mendelson's piece, wholly unprepared for the fact that America was somehow up in arms because Twittering Facebook juveniles (but I repeat myself!) don't know that Titanic was a true story.
In other words, we make fun of kids who think the 1997 Titanic film is a work of 100% fiction even while we fail to acknowledge that the only reason most of us know so much about it is because of the various entertainments based around it.  Moreover, it is a perfect example of generational snobbery.  We are stunned and amazed that today's kids don't know about an event that happened 100 years ago.  Well, let's say you're 30, can you tell me everything of importance that happened 115 years ago (that would be 1882)?  We whine about how kids today don't know about World War II, yet how much do most of us really know about World War I (or the already forgotten Korean War)?  We whine that 'kids today' don't know their history, when in fact we're pissed because they don't know their history AND our history.  Yes in a perfect world every American would be an A+-level AP history student who could write a volume of Uncle John's Bathroom Reader all by themselves.  But there is a cultural narcissism at play when we pretend that today's kids are stupid or ill-informed because their historical memories don't stretch back longer than ours.
Okay, two things: yes, there's a difference between the historically significant and the detritus of pop culture, but it doesn't actually excuse someone not knowing what th' fuck he's watching, or talking about, even on Twitter. Second, I think I was eight when I opened a Bazooka Joe comic, and somebody says to Joe, "Gee, I wish I was born fifty years ago." "Why?" asks Joe in the second panel. "Because then I wouldn't have to learn so much history!" Which I think caused Joe to sprout an exclamation point over his hat. The purpose of teaching history shouldn't be to catch the youthful up on the frame of reference of their elders, but to teach them about the forces which shaped the world they know little if anything about. I say should, of course, because I've actually seen a high school History text, and what's going on there is something, but History it ain't.

Equating the First World War with Korea as misplaced historical footnotes is part of the problem. The Great War shaped modern geopolitics; it's the reason what those who will not learn from History are condemned to enlisting in the Army. Korea, sure, we can go on and on about the half-literate, half-snake oil of US foreign policy and proxy wars against the Evil Empire, and perhaps we should. But in such an approach WWII will always overshadow its predecessor, and Vietnam will grab the spotlight from Korea. While in terms of analyzing the problem it's probably the other way 'round. Personally, I'd settle for the little bastards learning that WWI means something to them today. We sure as fuck don't say the Mayflower was too long ago to bother with. (And, just as a personal note: Like I care if kids know who Paul McCartney is. But I'd appreciate it if the educational system at least took note of the fact that people find it reasonable that Elvis, with his four-year career of making hits of other people's songs, followed by twenty years of making the worst movies ever filmed, should invade every skull thanks to marketing.)

Anyway, just because I can, Professor Pierce:
It, of course, began to happen in the 1960's, when the Democrats allied themselves with the civil-rights movement and lost the South and those parts of the North where people thought the South had a point. But it really accelerated in the 1970's, when the Democratic party overreacted to what happened to George McGovern and began whoring after corporate money, an effort that required them to abandon at least partly their traditional allies in the civil-rights and labor movements, and to soften their positions on a number of important issues, and basically inculcated into the party a permanent instinct for accommodation and surrender that was only strengthened after the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980. The rise of the Democratic Leadership Council was, in its own way, one of the largest white flags in the history of American politics. In fact, one of the most dismal weekends of my life came at the 1982 Democratic "Mid-Term" Convention, where it became plain that great progressives like the late Billie Carr of Texas were no longer welcomed by the party's serious people. At that point, the Republican fringe was empowered by the simple fact that there now was no political entity pushing back at them with a force equal to theirs in the opposite direction. At the very least, the Democrats could be counted upon to give them some of what they wanted, at which point they would scream and holler and nobody noticed that the "Center" was drifting in their direction. And when they overreached — the Clinton Impeachment, Schiavo, the entire Bush presidency — they didn't have to regroup. I've often used Stalin's order to the Red Army to describe this — Ni shagu nazad: Not one step backwards — and it's true. They fight like they do not care what happens to the country either way. They fight as though they don't care if they burn their party down. The Democrats fight like they care about both things. The Democrats stopped taking risks 30 years ago. Faced with nihilism, they reach for the olive branch, which is generally sent back to them in ashes.
Events which predate today's high schooler by almost the exact same amount the First World War and its aftermath preceded my own public education. Subtraction is for math class.

Wednesday, April 25

All Downhill From Here

YOU can't swing a cat at local television these days without hitting a Republican primary campaign ad [and if you did, the screeching would pretty much be indistinguishable, except for OBAMACARE! and SOCIALISM! (yes, socialism!)]. The Lugar-Murdock war--now joined by Armchair General Mitch Daniels, who, provided you didn't know enough not to take him at face value, you would be convinced actually believes he can talk some sense into his party--has been elbowed aside enough to allow in several House hopefuls, including the egregious DC resident David McIntosh (imagine, assuming anyone can, a more self-righteous version of Rick Santorum).

(There's a particularly nice touch in this: Daniels appears to've done his promos from the Lugar farm, which is where Lugar was forced to move his voting address a month ago so it corresponded to some property he actually could claim, however tenuously. And Mitch is attired in his Hoosier get-up, the open-collared sports shirt he cannot possibly have worn a single working day in his life. It's like Sincerity! is the new fragrance from the Cato Institute.)

All of these bozos are going to Repeal Obamacare!, and Cut Federal Spending!; one in particular is gonna make the Federal deficit disappear like he helped Mitch Daniels make Indiana's deficit disappear. Which should be some trick. One really wishes for the opportunity to sit Daniels down, look him in the eye, and ask what his plans are for when this jig is up.

Two things should be borne in mind: one, these guys are all seeking to replace retiring Dan Burton, so there's no net effect on the Beltway's insanity quotient, and probably only a small one on some caddy's tip earnings. And, two, these people are vying for the right to run with Mitt Fucking Romney, and so are pledging their troth to preventing him from doing anything that isn't doubling the Defense budget. Mitt Fucking Romney, now "pivoting" to the center, who, regardless of how the national Press tries to sugar-coat it, is a colossal doofus. And who, if he has any sense, will make certain not to pick a VP candidate attractive to the meatheads of his party. If Romney is now made to appear semi-appealing by virtue of the fact that it's either him or that black guy, just remember there's seven months of him to go.

Tuesday, April 24

If You Really Wanted To Honor Your Heritage You Shoulda Made A Prom Dress Out Of A Teevee

NOT again (via Wonkette:)
Gibson County High School senior Texanna Edwards was — like many of her classmates — looking forward to her prom last Saturday. But Edwards didn’t get to attend because of her attire — a knee-length red dress decorated with bright blue stripes and white stars inside the stripes. The school’s colors are red, white and blue, but the dress resembles the controversial Confederate battle flag.
Pull quotes, in case you haven't already made up your own:
“We kept asking people walking inside — black and white — and everyone said they loved it. Two black women even went off on the principal. They were upset with the principal. No one was upset with me.”
“I didn’t talk with administration because we wore rebel flags all through my four years at Gibson County,” she said.
Edwards said, in a way, she wanted her dress to look like the Confederate flag because she lives in the South
Okay, so first, that someone can go through four years of high school without knowing the distinction between the "Confederate flag" and the Confederate battle flag is bad enough; that she could do so while missing the distinction between "offensive behavior" and "behavior that might offend somebody in an informal poll taken at the door" is, well, to be expected in a society where the newspaper calls it the "controversial" Confederate battle flag. Second, maybe it's long past time to teach people the meaning of reverence. If you wanna honor Treason in Defense of Slavery, the U.S. of A., or your Italian heritage you do not do so by turning a flag into a handkerchief. It's not a goddam advertising logo. At least it shouldn't be. Teach the difference. Finally, I don't know where school administrators learn management, but everything I ever hear suggests "on the fly". Students don't have an absolute right of Free Speech--neither do the rest of us--but they ought to be given as much as is consistent with a functional education environment (or whatever it is we're substituting for that), and they deserve to have the difference explained. If Ms Edwards was told her dress would be unacceptable, the teacher/prom advisor who did so should have done so it writing, had her sign it, and sent a copy home. And if a Confederate flag getup is unacceptable at the prom, then it's unacceptable on everyday school attire as well. Can't we use some sense? If we can't teach her, in twelve years, about the Rich Man's War and the Poor Man's Fight, or about the institution of chattel slavery, the nearly-as-despicable century that followed, and the use of the battle flag as a rallying point for racism, can't somebody at least tell her Lyyynnnerd Skkkkyynned sucked? Couldn't they have just let her in, and made sure someone mentioned that diagonal stripes made her butt look even bigger?

Monday, April 23

Monday Olio: Evidently This Is The Best We Can Do Edition

• I'd like to thank every news outlet in the country for noting--inevitably at the top of the story--that the bailed-out George Zimmerman will be stashed somewhere in secret "because of threats on his life". Like there are people out there who might shoot him for absolutely no reason?

(This morning, BTW, one of my local teleprompter readers caught herself calling Zimmerman a "watch captain" and changed it to "watch volunteer". Apparently when you're arrested they demote you.)

 • Chuck Colson's in Hell, being walked over by ten thousand grandmothers in golf shoes. Right-wing evangelism didn't save his sorry ass. The whiny little punk went Christian before he went to prison (but after he testified under oath.) As soon as his "prison ministry" routine took, he was back hawking Nixonian politics. G. Gordon Liddy is more deserving of respect.

 • This reminds me of how much I've missed Karen Hughes: none.
Second, Romney specializes in turnarounds — and Washington is in desperate need of a dramatic turnaround.
"The country could sure use a Hail Mary completion right about now, and Doug Flutie…"

 "Jerry Seinfeld made a show about nothing, and today's economy…"

 "America is waking up with a bad hangover, which is why George W. Bush…"

 Jesus Christ. Does the stick come with the purchase of that shit, or is it extra?

Battered and deep fried, just 5¢ more:
The time when members of Congress could wave their chairmanships and pork-barreling prowess at constituents to win re-election is coming to an end. Washington is so discredited that almost no one cares anymore.
Sure, there are a few places where clout and seniority still matter to voters. But not many.
Hatch highlighted the prospect of his ascension to the Finance Committee chairmanship but it barely moved the dials for convention delegates. Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar’s heavyweight resume hasn’t saved him from a tough intra-party challenge this year either.
Think back to 2010. Among the powerful losers: the Senate Agriculture Committee chair and, in the House, the chairmen of the Budget and Armed Services committees.
Democrats in Arkansas, South Carolina, and Missouri lost in the most heavily Republican election since Reconstruction. Like the man said, if present trends continue, next Wednesday we'll get six feet of rain. Hatch and Lugar, on the other hand, are old, feeble, and they've been around too long; there're few people I'd personally enjoy seeing hoist on his Nixonian petard than my senior Senator. But, bullshit. This is about crackpots running loose in the Republican party. Conservatives Against Orin Hatch? Really? How far d'ya think that's gonna fly? Lugar could win 65% of the vote as a write-in candidate. Personally, I doubt that it matters which species of idiot Republicans choose. But the idea that the content-free Teabag Party is about to stage a coup is like the idea that Borkian Originalism was about to sweep jurisprudence. Sure, sure it is. Just as soon as they figure out what th' fuck they're saying.

Saturday, April 21

This Week's Cooking Tip: An Herb Crust Can Turn Bullshit Into Sage Advice!

Matt Tully, "Daniels has a few suggestions To GOP: Stick with Lugar. To Romney: Explain problems, solutions." April 20

WHEN last we saw Mitch Daniels (in Indiana; they've seen him in the Holy Land and Illinois recently, which, when you throw in the Purgatorio of returning to Indiana, where his list of sins grows longer with each day's evidence, is pretty much the Midwest Republican politician's recapitulation of Dante) he was signing Indiana's spanking new Right to Work law in the middle of the night before skedaddling. Whatever else you wanna say about the man, he's short. And he's become a master--or his handlers have--of the opera buffa exit. (Wait, what's Italian for "unintentionally comic opera"?) In 2005, newly installed in the Governor's Residence, * Mitch Daniels suggested a tax hike ("one-year-surcharge") on incomes over $150,000. He and the suggestion disappeared about twenty minutes later. He reemerged during the first legislative session that spring only to call minority Democrats "car bombers", Hoosiers in general "backwards" (for opposing his Sell the Toll Road and Change Railroad Time to Indianapolis Market Teevee Network Affiliate Time initiatives), and yell at homeless people:

He made a quick exit after announcing the opening of the bidding process, the closing of the bidding process, and the singing of the contract on the Toll Road lease. (This was all the same announcement. ) This disappearance is my personal favorite, because when he returned his handlers had done a Clockwork Orange number on his hair-trigger temper. For months after, every time he was insulted by one of his inferiors attempting to ask a question, or required to eat corn on the cob in the company of excessively solarized and sweating State Fair goers, he'd blink and swallow involuntarily several times. With his approval numbers in Dubya territory, he was forced to turn up at every phony job-creation ribbon-cutting his team could fabricate, and to tell Delco-Remy he understood management's pain in having to permanently lay off all those unreasonable union workers, who, after all, had cushy telemarking jobs to fall back on. He disappeared again after his famous eighteen-month teevee ad campaign for reelection, just as the end of his ad funding met the horrible economic news it had kept from the public eye. He popped back up the following spring, when the Republican branders needed him to be the anti-Sarah Palin. (This, as it turned out, was not an attempt to get Daniels on the ballot--there are still Republican power brokers old enough to remember Martha Mitchell--but to put the concept of "electability" before the GOP electorate. And the rest is history.) He's been missing again since the Advent, when he had to tell the now-housebroken Press that it was a very, very good thing to find $300 million that had gone missing in state accounts during his watch, because now we had $300 million! When an additional $200 million was found under the couch cushions last month, Mitch was long gone. So now that he's back again, Indiana's premier political journalists demand to know: What advice does he have for Mitt Romney?
The state's savviest Republican political strategist also happens to be its governor. So, as I sat in Gov. Mitch Daniels' office this week talking about his policy agenda for the final months of his term, I decided to pick his brain about the year's political landscape.
Because if I'd tried to write about his legislative agenda they would have asked me if I meant to turn in a blank sheet of paper.

Mitch Daniels, savvy political strategist. Y'know, the guy has taken a built-in legislative advantage in the Reddest Red State north of Dixie and East of the Mississippi, and a remarkably well-behaved Bichon Frise of a local Press, and turned it into the sort of record Ronald Reagan would have admired. In that, like Reagan's the whole thing's flummery. Savvy as a snake-oil peddler on a moonless night.
He obliged by offering suggestions for Republican primary voters that he hopes they heed, and advice for likely GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney that Daniels believes would make him a much stronger candidate and, if he is elected, a better president.
Advice for Romney from the savvy political strategist who who managed to garner an imaginary 1% of the Republican vote in a field that included three religious maniacs, a grizzled prospector with terminal sunstroke, the most disgraced and mendacious former Representative in the history of the Congress, and Mitt Romney.
"I make the argument that I'm not for this guy because of what he's done; I'm for him because of what he can do," Daniels said. Pointing to major challenges facing the nation, he added: "To address problems that big, we're going to need people who represent our point of view very effectively and can get the ear of other people. And I think (Lugar) is one such person -- one of not too many."
This is either utter nonsense, or utterly delusional--and not just in the absolute sense, but in terms of that alternate Republican reality Lugar and Daniels like to pretend they don't represent--or both. Lugar's Teabagger opponent is a twit--but I repeat myself!--and the only reason the race is close is that his criticism of Lugar as another Senate cloak room waxwork has resonated with Hoosier Republicans. Lugar's not a consensus guy; he's a reliable Republican vote, but he's grown too old to keep pedaling Right fast enough for the party. The only consensus he's ever been responsible for was the near-unanimous agreement that Dick Lugar shouldn't be President.
His advice for the former Massachusetts governor? "Go ahead and have the confidence in the voters to explain the fix we're in and then tell them with some specificity what we can do to get out of it in a way that's good for everybody," he said. "Explain those things from the standpoint of the young and poor -- those who haven't achieved the dream yet."
"Yes. Well, Matt, I've given this a considerable amount of thought, and my advice to Mitt Romney is to be more like Mitch Daniels." Bear in mind that this is what the best minds and deepest pockets of the Republican establishment could come up with in the fifteen months of the Daniels Not a Candidate Campaign: let's convince the young to abandon Social Security, and the Coloreds that the wealthy don't have any money.
Unfortunately, the national campaigns have veered toward the nasty and the silly this year.
Yeah, it's such a contrast with years past.
Romney survived the primary season thanks in part to super PACs and campaign spending that crushed his long line of rivals with negative commercials. Both parties seem to believe this election will be won by the one who does the best job of destroying the other. With that in mind, it's worth remembering that whether you like him or not, Daniels ran two successful campaigns for governor that were heavy on positive messages and policy ideas.
"Mitch Daniels: he only personality attacked war hero Joe Kernan when it became absolutely necessary"
"You don't change one thing about the policies you advocate or your principles," he said, noting instead that candidates should simply make clear how their policies would lift up those who are struggling. For instance, he said, at fundraisers Romney's message shouldn't be about how his policies affect the well-heeled people listening in the audience, but rather those who can't afford a ticket to get in.
Yeah, it's all about the sincerity. 


Monday, April 16

News In A Nutshell. Appropriately.

SO this morning, before I could hit the Off button, I heard Matt Lauer--or somebody; they all look alike--asking whether the Secret Service scandal would affect the Columbian summit.

"You mean the one you wouldn't have bothered covering beyond two lines and video of a wave from Air Force One otherwise?" I asked.

Saturday, April 14

Airline Deregulation: The One Event In The History Of Mankind Which Explains Everything It Touches *

George Eff Will, "Competition gives the airlines a bumpy ride". April 13

AS I've mentioned a few times, I know nothing about economics, for two reasons. First, because the section of Macroeconomics I signed on for as a college freshman turned out to be a) some sort of legendary way to avoid doing any hard work in order to obtain a necessary credit in some School or other, aka Rocks for Jocks; and b) taught by a guy who had a chip on his shoulder about that, and so combined a lecture style which should have required board certification in anesthesiology with a test schedule and attendance requirements that did require jackboots. The first hour was given over to his hectoring everyone in the large lecture hall about how tough he, the course requirements, and the subject matter were, and where the exit doors were for those who didn't like it. I was nineteen, but I'd been to public high school and I recognized bluster when I heard it. Workloads didn't give me pause--I took some real classes--but inflexibility about student participation did. I had a part-time job, and a large backlog of dope to sample.

I gave it a second week; fifteen minutes into that Wednesday I looked down the row I was sitting in, and every other person was asleep. And rightly so. End of my economics career.

The second reason is that after a childhood of middling sinus problems, I had discovered--courtesy of an ill-advised attempt to unlock the drawers of some woman in my dorm by reading, at her suggestion, The Fountainhead--that I did have a functioning sense of smell, and that this was a big, big handicap in that environment.

So let's hold our noses and turn to George Eff Will.

I have no idea why the historical foundation of (this particular example of) Will's prevarication should be of interest to his younger readers, since he can't possibly have any, but here goes: in the mid-70s, when it became obvious that the cultural syphilis introduced by The Pill had gone tertiary, President James Earl ("Jimmy") Carter got the Deregulation Mania ball rolling downhill. Carter came into office as the Washington Outsider/counter-Watergate candidate, and had vowed not to appoint the same old Democratic insiders to his administration. Apparently no one explained to him that this meant he'd be appointing Republicans. (Aside, that is, from State, and National Security, where it was important to reverse the disasters of the Nixon/Kissinger years by appointing Cyrus Vance and Zbiggy Brezezinski.) Carter's most important economics advisor was Alfred Kahn, the Vidkun Quisling Chair of Applied Pleorophorics at Columbia.

Kahn is the Father of Airline Deregulation, much like Brezezinski is the Father of Mika. While the overall consensus of Carter's economic advisors can be boiled down to 1) the US economy was in dire straits, and something needed to be done immediately; and 2) since they couldn't agree on what, it was better to just mark time and let Ronald Reagan take over. But when it came to Deregulation the idea seemed to be "Well, this is something, so let's fucking go nuts".

Two major industries were deregulated before the country wised up, cut out the middleman, and gave Reagan the power to just ignore regulation entirely. Why Will chooses to emphasize Carter's signature contribution to deregulation, and not Reagan's--Savings & Loans--is not altogether clear. People who claim to understand economics ("Liars") generally agree that Carter's deregulation of the trucking industry was an overall success, while the deregulation of the airlines was, let's say, fraught with minor difficulties, including recurring instances of massive shit precipitation.

But it was airline deregulation which got all the headlines at the time, and it's still the "sexy" example, assuming you like your sex as discussed by George Eff Will, and redolent of altarboy. So these types have been stuck defending it ever since, by pointing out the roaring success as evinced by the fact that the industry hasn't entirely collapsed yet:
In the last three decades, there have been 192 airline bankruptcies. Not coincidentally, fares, adjusted for inflation, are 18 percent lower than in 2000. Forty years ago, a majority of Americans had never taken an airplane trip. Now everyone is more free than ever to move about the country, air travel having been democratized by liberating it from government.

The Perfect Market. In that its apologists have a perfect excuse for anything.

Or, as otherwise known, The Law of Unintended Consequences Doesn't Apply to the Shibboleths of the Right. Imagine arguing, in 1977, that what the airline industry--which, leave us remember, was Federally regulated because without the Federal government it doesn't exist--needed was 200 bankruptcies (all of companies run by entrepreneurial heroes), the destruction of collective bargaining rights, the ability to refuse you service if you had the gall to live somewhere unprofitable, the right to charge extra if you had the temerity to try to fly with baggage, and the right to shoehorn you into an amenity-free flight, for which your fare, adjusted for inflation, would be reduced on average 18%. In other words, if they'd tried honesty ** instead of theology, what sort of reception would it have received? (See also Iraq War II)
In 1938, the Civil Aeronautics Act codified a government-managed cartel.

Y'know, for all the times you hear that, do you ever hear a plan for having the industry which stands to benefit from the Miracle of Hands-Off Driving pay taxpayers back for making its profit possible in the first place?

Something like eighty percent of air travel is done by twenty percent of fliers, mostly business travelers. The airports are built by taxpayers and accessed almost exclusively by the interstate highway system. Flight safety is insured by taxpayers. Gasoline taxes are higher than aviation fuel taxes--considerably higher than commercial aviation fuel taxes. Who benefits? The "public"? Or a specific class of consumer, and stockholder, at the public's expense? If "lower prices" were the be-all and end-all of economic discussion we'd have had national health care for the last sixty years, wouldn't we?

* Not involving Jesus

* * Not quite; "honesty", at the time, would have involved saying "We have no fucking idea what's going to happen here. So let's not wait to get started."

Thursday, April 12

Analysis Of Last Night's Lugar-Murdock Debate.

THEY'RE both assholes. *


* As I've said here at least since January, I have absolutely no idea what the Lugar campaign is doing, or thinks it's doing, but then, that's pretty much how I'd describe his century in the US Senate, too. Lugar reacted to last year's announcement that Philo T. Nobody was gonna challenge him in the primaries the way a teenager reacts to an enormous zit turning up the night before the Big Dance. And this was in spite of the fact that just months before, "Carpetbagger Dan" Coats--who not only hadn't lived in Indiana since his memorable first stint in the Senate was ended, but had pretty much told anyone who cared that he'd never be caught dead in that sinkhole again--beat his own Teabagger challenge and took the seat formerly moistened by Evan Bayh. Or that it was just weeks after Lisa Murkowski won as a write-in candidate. Lugar's taken 2/3 of the vote or more in every re-election he's stood for. His own announcement that he intended to run for his 52nd term backed off all the Republican candidates of "stature" (Mitch Daniels, Mike Pence). If the Indiana Republican party was really so far gone as to dump Lugar in a primary he'd have won in a walk as an independent.

Instead, he took the challenge seriously, assured the public he's as loony a "conservative" as anybody, and as a result he's a whopping 5 points up now. Mourdock portrayed him as a "Washington insider" but, hell, nobody hates Washington insiders if they're doing something for ya. Lugar just couldn't think of anything, probably because, for some reason, he's spent the last six decades in DC polishing his own image as a "statesman", which has meant exactly squat. He went negative with teevee ads almost immediately, first against Barack Obama, then his challenger; if I were the sort of voter who thinks his "moderation" is excessive this would have confirmed it for me. Why he agreed to debate Mourdock is beyond me. The man was a horrible public speaker when he was alive.

Much of what Mourdock has said stuck, especially the fact that Lugar was still voting from the address of a house he sold 35 years ago. He switched his address real quick to the family farm on the southside. Th' fuck didn't you do that 35 years ago? Mourdock also noted what had happened to the Federal deficit during Lugar's tenure (he didn't mention specifically how Lugar's voted for every Defense bill that came his way, of course). It's the sort of thing that would resonate with me, if 1) I wasn't way ahead of 'em; and 2) it wasn't immediately and predictably followed by charges that Lugar had traitorously voted to confirm President Blackeyblack's communist Supreme Court nominees.

Mourdock, for his part, is precisely what you would expect: a tenth-rate Randoid intellect who's discovered that blaming everything on taxes and regulation is a good way to garner campaign contributions. Lugar's hit him on accepting Out of State Money, without ever mentioning that those Extra-Hoosier sources were the big names in libertoonian licensed begging which have been nurtured in Lugar's own GOP.

And last night's debate didn't disappoint, in that it was utterly disappointing. They're both Republicans. They both dislike the President, and public healthcare. Lugar did actually stand up for a tiny bitty bit of government regulation, provided everybody was okay with it. Lugar won't really run on his record (which is closer to Reactionary than Moderate), and Mourdock won't roll out the Full Metal Crazy until it's time to mention that the Democratic candidate is a pinko. In other words, it was the Republican Presidential primary race without the disagreements. Wake me when there's a Republican faction that gets sick of its own lying.

Wednesday, April 11

And That Leaves Zero

Dan Balz, "With Rick Santorum out, Mitt Romney shifts focus to Obama". April 10

Sandhya Somashekhar, "Santorum followed a clever, emotional strategy to political resurrection". April 10

SHEESH, how do some people get out of bed in the morning?
Virtually no other candidate began the campaign from a lower perch. Santorum was a social conservative in a race expected to center on the economy. He was famous for his hard-edged brand of conservatism, especially his remarks on homosexuality, and for losing his Senate seat by an embarrassing 18 points in 2006. He was so discounted that he struggled to get the attention of debate moderators.

Yet Santorum outlasted most of his competition, winning the Iowa caucuses and contests in 10 other states — a historic feat for an upstart badly outgunned by the front-runner, Mitt Romney, who raised $74 million, more than four times Santorum’s $15.6 million. Ralph Reed, founder of the conservative Faith and Freedom Coalition, called the achievement “remarkable.”

Okay, so let's be generous (and mindful of the role "facts" play in the deliberation process) and assume that Ralph "How Many Synonyms For 'Fraud' Are There?" Reed is there atop the Post's Golden Rolodex because he bribed someone. Because Jesus everything else with those two paragraphs is awful enough.

I suppose there is out there, theoretically, the WaPo reader who is intently interested in the 2012 Republican Presidential race but has, say, spent the last twelve months in a medically-induced (rather than a 2012 Republican Presidential race-induced) coma, or was just miraculously delivered from a year-long spelunking ordeal. For the rest of us, the Republican primaries just finally, mercifully, sputtered to a halt twelve hours ago. Re-explaining the candidacy of Rick Santorum is not exactly a work of incisive scholarship. It's reminding us what we had for dinner last night, when we've been living on a steady diet of freezer-burned fish sticks since the housing market crashed.

The Miracle of The Santorum, so-called, consists of outlasting Rick Perry (!), Michele Bachman (!!), Herman Cain (!!), and, briefly, Newt Fucking Gingrich, to be the guy who actually handed the nomination to Mitt Romney. Rick Santorum is 2012's Miss Uncongeniality.

The only Miracle that man accomplished was getting anyone to vote for him, ever, under any circumstances, even as the only man in the race who wasn't Mitt Romney. This, of course, is a joke, since we're talking about the Republican primary voter, who has shown, over the years, a remarkable inventiveness in finding acceptable substitutes for the traditional, but now-frowned-upon (in some circles), cross-burning. If you wanted a real miracle out of Santorum it would have consisted in winning something, anything, that didn't have "evangelical" as a prefix.

Maybe it's our model of the Republican electorate as "rational", and our wholesale purchase of the idea that the 2012 campaign "would be about economic issues" rather than, say, about Get the Black Guy, which is at fault. There are two signature events of the 2012 Republican Presidential race, and neither occurred in 2012, and neither, certainly, was a miracle: the fantastical notion of a Teabagger Revolution "which rejected the culture wars", or relocated them to the back burner, à la Chef Daniels; and the widespread proclamation that Representative Bachmann had been cured of The Crazy, as attested by her stunning performance in Republican Debate No. 1. The only people taken in by these swindles have Press passes.

Now, right on time--you can set your watch by this stuff, the way you could by Kant leaving his house--the difference being that Kant seems to've left his crazy at home when he went to work, and stayed quiet until he had something to say--here's Your Gentlemen of the Press with Romney's New Trajectory:
The general-election contest already was taking shape, with the Obama and Romney campaigns engaging each other more directly in the past few weeks. That will accelerate rapidly, with Americans now looking at a probable seven-month campaign between two candidates who have strikingly different visions about where to take the country.

Strikingly different? Really? That's an insult to anyone who's ever been struck.
The former governor was forced to the right during the bruising primary fight, leaving him weakened for the general-election campaign among some key demographic groups. He is running far behind Obama among female voters, according to the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll. He also faces potentially major problems among Hispanics because of his positions on immigration and the harsh language he used to describe them during the GOP debates.

A Nation Asks: However Will Mitt Romney Manage To Change His Stated Positions?
Romney will now devote most of his energy to drawing contrasts with Obama, free of some of the dissonance generated during the intraparty warfare of the primary race. As he does that, his advisers say, voters will begin to see him in a fresh light and gain a clearer understanding of the choice they have in the general election.

"Causing those who do not choose suicide to just stay home, low turn-out being traditionally good for the GOP."
Although most of his attention will be on the president, Romney cannot entirely ignore his right flank. Republicans vow that they will arrive at their national convention in Tampa in August as a united party, and they are probably correct, given the antipathy toward the president among the most conservative.

Must we, really, must we continue to treat the Republican party as connected to reality, however tenuous? Republicans' antipathy to the President didn't begin this week. More like "in response to the Civil Rights Act of 1964". What passed for a Republican "Presidential" campaign season was a sorry-assed proxy fight between the Crackpot wing and the Pirate wing. Note that almost all of the Pirates' heartthrobs--Mitch "The Spork" Daniels, Haley "The Largess" Barbour, and that collection of crackpipe-dream candidates that includes Chris Christie, Paul Ryan, and Marco Rubio, which makes you realize that Fiscal Republicans grasp the culture the way most white people grasp the rudiments of rhythmic movement--passed. Sagely, if I may be so bold. Note that the Crackpots didn't even really like any of their own Crackpots. Note that the collective nouns fall somewhat short--the Crackpots are all for Piracy conducted by Fiscal Republicans, objecting merely to the inclusion of minorities in the customer base, and the Pirates are Fucking Cracked, just by Ayn Rand, not the Civil War.

What justification is there for saying such people are determined to be united, when they are just now wrapping a campaign based on nothing at all except theological knife-fighting? Sure, sure, they hate the President. They hate reproductive rights, too, but they don't really do anything about it (apart from judicial appointments). Maybe in the next five or ten election cycles they'll figure out they need to articulate those positions in a way that might convince anyone who isn't already brimming over with rage. Though if the example of Roe is any indication I wouldn't put money on it.

Romney now has a chance to "articulate" that vision to anyone who hasn't paid attention so far (and by "so far" I mean "since hostilities ended in the Pacific"). Of course the catch is that he has to do so without angering a base which was upset by the fact that Rick Perry wanted to give medical attention to Mexicans found bleeding in the streets. What do the experts think of his chances?
“Romney has to build bridges to evangelical voters, who he will need to turn out in large numbers in November,” said Ralph Reed, who leads the Faith and Freedom Coalition. Reed added: “I think Romney understands this and will take whatever steps are necessary to energize social conservative voters. Evangelicals will turn out to vote against Obama. Now it’s important that they are enthusiastic about voting for the Republican nominee.”

Hey, look, everybody! Ralph Reed's out of prison!

Monday, April 9

Calling A Spade A Spade

OH, ain't no reason to waste any more birdshot in John Derbyshire's direction, if there ever was; the man was one more jangling exposed nerve in our national mouthful of oral decay, and is there some reason we have to import them? Derbyshire seemed smart--and refreshingly human-esque--by comparison to his National Review cohort, but who wouldn't? Victor Davis Hanson sounds like an historian if you compare him to people who couldn't find Greece on a map. Hell, even Newt Gingrich…nah, let's not go overboard.

Let us ponder, instead, Rich Lowry's kiss-off, "Parting Ways". And let us do so, first, without saying "Well, at least Derbyshire was honest". He wasn't. He was, to some small extent, candid. Honesty's been out of fashion in those parts since around the time Derbyshire was born, and at this point there's no one left who remembers how it's done.

Lowry: "[T]he main reason that people noticed it is that it is by a National Review writer." The corollary being that people wouldn't notice just another racist right-wing screed on the internets. Shouldn't this be troubling to Lowry? Shouldn't it be troubling to the Right in general, and the Republican party that harvests its votes? Well, no, of course not, but shouldn't they at least sound like it? Instead they've barely been able to keep racist claptrap out of the mouths of every one of their Presidential candidates.

Lowry's main concern seems to be that Derbyshire was trading on NatRev's precious brand name, which, to begin with, seems curious when you consider that Derbyshire's probably the only one in that whole mucky stable who could find gainful employment without wingnut welfare. Not to mention the fact that undisguised racial seething is the brand, or was, until it became unmarketable. (I'm sorry; I mean long after, since Buckley was still smearing King twenty years after his murder, but, then, the National Review isn't really marketable in any sense of the word, either.) I've got no idea what Derbyshire was up to, if anything; it's interesting to consider what reception this would have gotten around the water cooler if he'd sent it as an inter-office memo. It's long been clear that Derbyshire was unhinged in racial and other matters. Does that distinguish him among that crew? And, personally, I'm all for giving the "maddening, outrageous, cranky, and provocative" a voice. The problem for NatRev is that it's not true, except maybe for the cranky part, and "cranky" is as essential to the modern "conservative" as "Beatle wig" was to the British-invasion-era lounge combo. Add "cranky" to "racist" and "the British aristocracy's post-war resentment that the help wouldn't eat rook anymore" and you get William Fuh Buckley, not John Derbyshire. Did Derbyshire outrage anyone with his defense of 19th century science? Anyone who isn't on the NatRev masthead?

What did "Derb" say that Charles Murray hasn't said, except Derbyshire said it succinctly, and for free, while Murray goes on at book length? And Murray's got a spot at the table.

Listen, I don't care. I don't even care to score points on this. It's fucking obvious to anyone who's paid attention to the Right for the last sixty years that the downfall of racism, both institutional and casual, had a greater effect on it that the downfall of Soviet communism. And, really, but me no buts about how this represents a "newer, tolerant 'conservative' movement". If Young Republicans don't acknowledge the racist foundations of their "movement" and their party, then they're either butt-ignorant or bald-faced liars. That dodge has been going on since public racism became indefensible. "Conservatism" is not absolved of sin just because Republicans won't make the King holiday a national issue anymore. Republicans--and the National Review--will be absolved sometime after they confront what's really wrong with what Derbyshire wrote: not crossing some imaginary line about racist utterance, but the ease with which it's possible to do so in those circles. Without question Lowry had to be quit of John Derbyshire; but without question this will not lead to any self-reflection at the National Review, which will now defend Derbyshire's right of free speech by denying it, and him, and will denounce the ugly racist attitudes contained within not at all.

Saturday, April 7

Weekend Olio, Aw, Fuck It, Vol CCCXLIX Edition

• The Republican primary battle between desiccated Senate fixture Dick "Dick" Lugar and Some Guy With a 2x4 With a Nail in It just gets worse, by virtue of going on, and thanks to TeamLugar's palsy-fisted response to a Teabagger challenge. "Actual moderates" (oh, play along; we're grading on the current US political scale otherwise known as "Horrible Beyond Despondence", and, besides, it's just a bit) such as Ollie Snow and Lugar's former Senatorial co-mummer, Evan "Dick" Bayh, at least had the wisdom God gave the blind pig and floated off on a river of tears. Hell, Lisa Murkowski, another Senatorial Republican with a reputation for independent thought--though hers actually comes with a tiny bit of "evidence"--had the wit and political acumen to call the bluff of Teabaggers in an even Teabaggier state.

Lugar's pallid advisers, however, went right for the mudslinging and shit-stomping, beginning with "I hate Barack Hussein Obama as much as y'all" and working down from there. One of his latest series accuses Richard Mourdock of gleefully accepting out-of-state money.

Sure, sure, it's the same Dick Lugar who opposed McCain-Feingold, who wants union money out of elections, but lobbyist money delivered to his office on time, but I like to think of him as the same Dick Lugar who's headed an Indiana Republican delegation that for thirty fucking years included Dan "The Congressman From Bahamian Offshore Accounts" Burton, without his ever saying a word.

It's interesting; I recently saw someone chalk all this up to "election year politics", and I wondered--it's the eternal juvenile in me--why we expect politicians to behave even worse in such situations than the average divorcing parent? Lugar doesn't have to be 100% consistent. But shouldn't he have shown some previous objection to a thing he now, evidently, considers tantamount to piracy? Remember when the big uproar was over how Bill Clinton's hummer enthusiasm would influence Our Youth? What do they learn from the rest of these fucks?

• Speaking of Mourdock, the benighted state of which he deservingly is Treasurer just found another $200 million which had been lost to an accounting error, a near-twin bookend to the $300 million it found in December. That's $500 million, or roughly something between two-thirds and 2.5 times the "deficit" Mitch Daniels "inherited", depending on how much the teller needed to inflate it. The difference being that that was product of an accounting practice, and this is the product of accounting malfeasance. Daniels, who's off on a private trip to Israel, could not be reached for comment. Not that any of the local media would have bothered doing anything more than wait for the press handout. (The earlier discovery of $300 mil, still officially described as "a mistake", led to Daniels telling every microphone in the region "Well, it's better to've found the money than not have it." And this was the end of the story. Mitch and his hench legislature successfully fought off Democratic calls for an independent audit. Oh, I meant "laughed off".)

• In case you've missed this story, allow my to have my Poor Wife provide the quick overview:

"The reason we still fight over the Sixties is that these people hate women and minorities. That's it."

• I was on my way home from my morning bike ride yesterday when this semi-notorious and month-old David Brooks column ("No, the contraception frenzy in my party isn't just stunted and religiously-mazed sexuality on display. There's also an intellectual and economic quotient, provided you're careless with facts") jumped into my head for some reason. Actually, for one reason: so I could ask, "How come the perfect market solves all problems of human need, but gets flummoxed by birth rates?"

Thursday, April 5

Show Us On The Doll Where The Reagan Administration Touched You, Libby

Libby Copeland, "Nikki Haley Is Right--Women Don't Care About 'Women's Issues' Any More Than Men Do". April 4

I HAD reached the end of the third paragraph here--and the last of the laudanum--when it all became cosmically clear: Slate is a sort of fractal of the facile and the disingenuous, from its smallest headline teases to its very raison d'être; the phrase If there was any need for Slate it wouldn't exist seemed to stretch the boundaries of my skull like some virtual underground sea, and I swerved to find the keyboard when the phone rang.

Sales call. From ADT, for the record. I'm on both the Indiana and the national No-Call Lists, and sometimes I wonder if people who aren't on the list ever find time to do anything else. When I told her, with minimum swearing--I was feeling that cosmic Oneness--that I was on the No Call list, and asked why she was calling me anyway, the line went deader'n the condom concession at CPAC. No apology, nothing. Into the Void.

Here ya go:
Amanda, I actually think that Republican South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley was right when she said on The View Tuesday that “women don’t care about contraception.” In a sense.

I agree that Haley stepped in it when she offered this needlessly polarizing line about contraception in response to Elisabeth Hasselbeck’s question about how the Republican platform is good for women. Haley was then predictably pounced on by liberal Joy Behar, and she backtracked, conceding that yes, women do care about contraception.

[Isn't that just like a liberal? Always pouncing, pouncing, whenever some halfwitted barker for the party which has attempted to demonize every single move made by liberals for the past sixty years says something even slightly preposterous.]
But the governor’s initial point contains a germ of truth. Women do care about contraception, of course, but political scientists have consistently found that women appear to care no more and no less about the whole spectrum of so-called women’s issues than men. Women associate more strongly with the Democratic Party than men, but, as political scientist Karen Kaufmann points out in her book, Unconventional Wisdom, concerns over reproductive issues don’t appear to figure into this. “Questions of abortion and women’s rights are two issue domains where gender differences generally do not exist,” Kaufmann writes. Rather, as I wrote in this piece on the history of the gender gap, women tend to be more liberal than men on matters like social welfare and military defense, and this accounts for women’s closer alignment with the Democratic Party.

Three paragraphs, three self-annihilations. I agree she was right. In a sense. Especially when she backtracked. After being pounced on. Correctly, sure. But even though she was wrong, if you change the definition of enough words she was right. Because people such as women who are more liberal about things tend to be more liberal. It says so in books.

Fer cryin' out loud, what happened to these people? Is it connected somehow to that brief period in their childhoods when ketchup became a vegetable? Some as yet undiscovered Libertoonian virus we're twenty years and several hundred post-mortem brain specimens from identifying?

Y'know, I understood how the fluoridation-addled "conservatives" of the 60s and 70s embraced all the counterintuitive, unlettered, jingoist and racist nonsense of the Goldwaterites and the Nixonazis. They saw a world where being White wasn't a free pass any more, where 1600 years of Christian mythology was being rejected, where scary images magically appeared in a box in their living rooms. They had reasons--not good ones, nor well-thought-out, but reasons--to grasp at this stuff. What's the excuse for someone born in 1976? Why does Coleman sound like someone whose political opinions are pretty much of a piece with her opinion on shag carpeting, tie-dye, and underarm hair, and were pretty much formed contemporaneously? If Women don't really care about contraception, except of course they do, but it's not really a problem for Republicans because there are Republican women, then maybe you need to consider where circular logic is ever gonna get you. Or Republicans.

Wednesday, April 4

News Flash

HERE'S Roy with the story of NatRev's abiding concern for the welfare of African-Americans. Here's Pierce destroying it.

Two things. First, in the world of assessment of fact and rhetorical analysis, the world our Free Press now mimics like a pet mynah, this matter would be closed, and Rich Lowry would be told, nay, forced to shut his pie hole.

Second, as far as the Where's The Media Concern When…argument, which is now old enough it creaks as much as I do when I try to stand up, allow me to mention that this is the same United States of Corporate America where all I have to mention is Missing Blond Girl before everyone in my hearing understands what I'm talking about, and can name the case which brought matters to a head. (With no appreciable change in media behavior. Yeah, shocking.) Black-on-black crime? The vast emptiness that is the corporate Press doesn't cover black-on-black anything, unless it's played with a ball.

Let me trivialize this for you (we all do what we can). I live in a city which is 25% African-American. A guess is that 80% of the African-American faces I see on my local news--meaning the ones which aren't being paid to read the stuff--are commenting on a local crime (of violence), or being perp-walked to arraignment, or they're shown in mug shot. What they aren't doing is discussing the common concerns of the impoverished and unsightly. Once in a while they get on to discuss the rich cultural heritage of blacks in Indianapolis, in a way that makes everybody, and especially the local news outlet, feel better about themselves; occasionally some non-whites will get caught in a round-up of holiday shoppers or irate gas purchasers. That's the slot. That's the script. It's carefully not-racist, and carefully devoid of anything that might suggest minority opinion, or experience, except for the semi-annual police beating or gunning down of a young black male, in which case someone sends a camera out to the Concerned Clergy rally, then asks the Mayor about it.

Whites fled downtown Indianapolis in the 50s and 60s, like they did in a whole lotta elsewheres. In the late 60s then-Mayor, now Senior Senate cadaver Dick Lugar rode shotgun on the Republican effort to annex the rest of the county wholesale into Indianapolis, the better to control the vote for the next quarter century. Carefully left out of that plan were the suburban school districts those white people fled to. Today, in a city that's 25% African-American, "Indianapolis public schools"--the only thing left of the old city limits--are 62% African-American.

Those stations broadcasting the evening news on the public airwaves are licensed to serve Indianapolis, not All the White People Whose Cable Companies Carry the Signal. Quaint, I know, but still in effect. So try tuning in some time to catch the sports scores for Indianapolis high schools. It's not that we don't cover high school sports. We love high school sports around here. All the locals have big loud graphics, and helicopters, and several beat reporters on site, and School of the Week Spotlight in their schtick. And those copters are there so they can fly to the white suburbs. So help me. You can watch a five-minute segment some nights and wonder if high-school basketball is still a whites-only sport in Indiana. Channel 8 has an African-American sports director, and their coverage is no different. I'd love to call in some night and ask him to name all IPS high schools.

Where's the coverage of black-on-black crime? Hell, where's the coverage that might make the comfortable white wingnut squirm, just a little, to confront something he knows nothing about?

Tuesday, April 3

I'm Thinking Of Changing The Name Of This Blog To "What Pierce Said"

THE Man at the Final Four:
It's not just the fact that all the coaches now dress like golf pros and talk like salesmen. It's not just the fact that, except for the pep bands, most of the people in the "student sections" look like they haven't been students since about two grand juries ago. It's not just the fact that this weekend is the climax of a month-long event that will net the various luxury-suite cowboys and buffet-table wranglers of the NCAA $800 million, and the naked profiteering goes all the way down to the fact that you are not allowed to bring a beverage into the arena unless it's contained in an authorized NCAA cup that has POWERADE written on it in big (and very lucrative) letters.

(Also, there is no beer served at NCAA events — except, of course, in the luxury suites of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, where you can get hammered just like it's a Saints game or something. Never let it be said that the NCAA doesn't know who it needs to keep happy … or sockless.)

What has happened to college sports over the past fifty years or so has been done by academics, by institutions of Higher Learning eager, above all, that the national cow be milked as often and as thoroughly as possible. Not even as often and thoroughly as practicable. Or in keeping with sound theory. As Possible.

(We in Indiana are most familiar with the practice through the work of the late Myles Brand, the Philosophy professor and IU president who came to the attention of the NCAA through his pledge to clean up college athletics one foul-tempered, chair-throwing coach at a time. Brand packed his bags, wrote himself a golden parachute that would've made Donald Trump blush, and headed north to Indianapolis, where, five years later, malignant karma struck him down before his reform program could be completed. Or implemented. Or thought of again.)

Never trust a Professor of Philosophy. If we can't expect academicians to keep their heads at first whiff of billion-dollar teevee contracts, how can we expect the hardened criminals of the nation's two major political parties to do so?
It's taken longer than it did for golf and tennis, and even longer than it took for the Olympics, but the amateur burlesque in American college sports is on its way to crashing and the only remaining question is how hard it will fall. The farce is becoming unsupportable.

Y'know, I understand the focus on the "amateur student athlete" charade, but in my inimitable, living-in-a-bunker way I find it misplaced. Professionalism didn't change golf or tennis, it just made the venues of an early time open to players who could make a living at it. The Olympics is a can of worms, and not the good kind of worm; the impulse which kinda sorta swapped a previously corrupt amateur system run by a racist for a more contemporary corrupt professional system run by American television networks and their sponsors seems mostly to have solved the pressing problem of Curt Gowdy bitching about how the Soviet hockey team was really a bunch of pros. Never mind, of course, that the sum total of their Red Army wages from 1948-1980 could fit in one of Carl Lewis' Nikes; never mind how the outrage over the East German "women's" swim team contrasts with the deafening silence over the systematic looting of the Track and Field record book. If we'd had the sort of Olympic committees which had reacted to the former, we wouldn't have had the latter.

It's precisely the same with the NCAA. How 'bout we let intercollegiate athletics be intercollegiate athletics, and operate the sort of world where NFL money, and NBA money, doesn't dictate our nation's universities act as an unfunded farm system? Where are the Teabaggers on the socialism of One and Done? If Money corrupts college presidents, how do we imagine we get equitable health care from single-minded capital enthusiasts? How do we imagine we'll get a just system of government? Stench is the new Chanel No 5.