Wednesday, August 29


I TRIED, really I did.  I'd even been looking forward to what sort of pastel Vagisil commercial pitch they were going to hand Ann Romney to read. Or so I kept telling my Poor Wife, and myself. In the end, let us admit that Ann Romney provides neither outright disgust nor smug elitist mirth nor Stepford mock-horror; Ann Romney is no Nancy Reagan, no Babs Bush, nor even Marilyn Quayle. By the grace of God or the cruel jests of Loki she has arrived on a national stage where the audience is too tired, too distracted, or too filled with terror to make her pay for her prissy prancing horses and her awful fashion sense and her clueless self-deceptions about what real people would be like if she ever met any. If only Newt had been the nominee! Boxing lore is full of tales of fighters who suddenly found themselves trapped in an elevator with two or three professional nubiles right before a fight; is it possible that some prescient Republican strategist put Calista in Newt's way, back in the 90s, just so every other Republican wife would look semi-normal by comparison?

Okay, so she did reference the hard-scrabble life she and Willard shared as newlyweds when, armed only with his Hahvahd MBA and JD, his political connections, and the collective wealth of their two families, they managed to pull themselves up by their bootstraps without the help of more than three full-time body servants. Don't get me wrong. I have no doubt that Ann Romney deserves a pie in the face. I just doubt she'd understand it. I think she'd chalk it up to the Servant Problem.

In a sense, Ann Romney is to the other Republican distaff staff-bearers going back to Pat Nixon what the Mormon church is to organized religion: at first glance she looks like a ready-made figure of fun, but a closer look makes you wanna back away and just shut the door quietly, lest the cruelty lodge itself in your spleen for good. It's like the time in college my friend Kelly and I, after several bong hits of opium, decided it would be great to recast Titicut Follies as a musical.

I tried to sit through Rick Santorum, by which I mean "any segment of his speech longer than two minutes". We all know that Santorum promises much more than he delivers, politically and comically, and, let's face it, turning his name into a synonym for fetid human jelly pretty much exhausted both. Shall we just note, once again, that for 98% of the population old enough to have been elected to the Congress, his or her grandfathers and grandmothers having worked with their hands is not an accomplishment? Not a resumé builder? Not a surprise? The odds are only against this among actual members of Congress. Santorum's parents were both clinical psychologists, and both worked for the gol' danged gubmint. The only symptoms they risked coming down with were symptoms of empathy. And if you've hoisted both, you know empathy's got it all over a pneumatic drill.

I mean, this is the Republican pitch, now? Not rags to riches, but black lung and an early grave with the slim hope that your grandchild, who wouldn't be caught dead doing actual work, will, if he manages to score some taxpayer largess, get to make up shit about how noble you were to work yourself to death for Mr. Peabody so he'd have enough money to fight the Clean Air Act that some of it would splosh on Rick Santorum?

Santorum is to shit-slinging culture warriors what Ann Romney is to Republican First Ladies. He's stuck in gear, as required, but he can't show the proper half-supressed glee when downshifting to run over poor people and environmentalists, because of his public religiosity. Fortunately for his handlers, Roman Catholicism, unlike Mormonism, has a two-millennia history of hypocrisy, so he can still cash checks and pay for his own wife's abortion. * But the truth is that Republicans don't trust religious nut jobs any more than normal people do. Unless they are one. And maybe not even then.

[By the way, let's take a tangential moment to say that 1) Bloggingheads was supposed to teach everyone for all time that opening an article in a printed journal, online or no, to find oneself confronted with a youtubed interview one cared only marginally about to begin with is simply a bad idea, that 2) Slate is the last operation which should be casting aspersions on the Republican relationship to the truth; that 3) no matter how smart or incisive, Britons seem to be congenitally incapable of grasping just how awful modern American politics are, even when talking about how awful they are, and especially how utterly corrupt the Republican party is, and 4) and once and for all, No, fucking Ronald Reagan would not be too fucking liberal for today's Republican party. He'd be right there in the middle of it. This is the same turn of mind which gives us, at every stop, the idea that Bob Dole or Rudy Giuliani is a moderate, that Jack Kemp or Paul Ryan is serious and thoughtful, that George W. Bush is compassionate, or that Mitch Daniels wants to put social issues on the back burner. It's a tic, a tell, an attempt to convince no one so much as oneself that things couldn't possibly be as ugly as they seem. For fuck's sake, Ronald Reagan did not raise taxes nine times because he believed in taxation. He raised them nine times because he believed in Ronald Reagan. And he believed in Ronald Reagan as the spokesman for the people who gave him money. And that's all he believed in, aside from the empirical menace of cows and hippies.

[Weisberg at one point says something like "But Romney, as governor of Massachusetts, enacted some liberal legislation." And he says it as though this tells us something about Mitt Romney's potential. ]

Lor', this left me to flip ahead to watch Chris Christie waddle on stage. (Or not, since he just appeared behind the lectern; maybe he helicoptered in.) What is Christie's appeal? That he's fat and loud, but not addicted to oxycontin? That he's brave enough to appear in public, or wear men's neckwear? He's like Mitch Daniels on human growth hormone and Minoxidil. I've never heard either make a substantive defense of his platitudes. Back when Christie thought he was running for President, or Vice-President, I used to get twenty emails a day from his people. That's not an exaggeration. Like my own Governor, he has the Republican knack for winning arguments by drowning everyone else out. The remaining space is filled with self-congratulation. Which is what Christie did forever, last night, for all I know; I made it through the point where his father was working in an ice cream factory. At least it meant we'd found someone in the audience last night who'd once been paid to use his hands for something other than flinging stuff.


* Sorry, her not-in-any-way-responsible-for-the-foregone-conclusion-to-an-induced-labor-stillbirth-they-didn't-want.

Monday, August 27

Okay, Who Mentioned S-E-X In Front Of The Child?

Ross Douthat, "The Democrats' Abortion Moment". August 25

ALL right, so we've all had our little fun with the Akin spectacle, with everyone in the Republican party (aside from the people whose votes keep it in power) from Mitt Romney (despised of the party not so long ago for, among other things, having changed his point of view on abortion rights) on down explaining, or "explaining", that Akin's comments on rape do not represent the more reasoned, nuanced view of abortion as murder all mainstream Republicans hold. The fact that this distinction has yet to be put into anything resembling a declarative sentence in modern English just demonstrates how nuanced it really is.

[And isn't this the perfect, and perfectly timed, example of what's gone on this entire election cycle with a party which is beyond its Sell By date, beyond its Use By date, and beyond the point where its stench not only fills the refrigerator but permeates the milk?  Republicans reneged on the Jesus Crazies, they reneged on the Evil Deficit (with the Ryan Plan), then they reneged on the Ryan Plan. The party which has been in charge of Not Doing Business As Usual for the past thirty-five years nominated the poster boy for 'Conservative' Lip Service, on the grounds that he was the only thing they had approaching electability. Remember when Lisa points out that the engine warning light is on, and Homer fixes it by replacing the fallen piece of tape that covers it?]

Who better, really, to straighten all this out than Douthat, a man who is simultaneously an Ivy-League-educated Eastern establishment Republican and a reformed snake handler?
IN 1971, two years before Roe v. Wade, the philosopher Judith Jarvis Thomson used an arresting thought experiment to make the case for legalized abortion.

First, as I understand it, Jarvis Thomson was actually making the case against the idea that "personhood" automatically confers an absolute protection to fetal tissue. Second, I'm not sure how "arresting" the argument is; apparently it did arrest Douthat's predecessors in the Right to Life movement, at least while they came up with a way to change the subject, and long enough they were still yammering about it when Young Ross (b. 1979) came to them to be educated. So, yet one more time, a Ross Douthat column consists of him contemplating someone else's navel, circa The Reagan Administration.

Finally, don't you feel a "I Refute This Metaphor With Some Literal-Minded Objection That Totally Misses The Point" moment coming on? I know I do.
Imagine, wrote Thomson, that you awoke to find yourself lashed to a famous violinist. The violinist suffers from a lethal kidney disease, and because only your blood type can save his life, his admirers have kidnapped you and looped your circulatory systems together. If you consent to remain thus entangled for nine months, he will make a full recovery. Disentangle yourself, however, and he dies….

Provocative as it is, there are obvious problems with this analogy. It implies that there’s no difference between declining to provide medical treatment and taking a life directly, and no difference between the moral obligations owed a stranger and the obligations owed one’s own child.

The biggest difficulty, though, is that most women considering an abortion were not kidnapped and impregnated against their will. They freely chose the act that brought the fetus into being, and analogizing their situation to a kidnap victim implies a peculiar, almost infantilizing attitude toward female moral agency.

Now, it seems to me in the first case that refuting the "experiment" because you have a moral objection to abortion by raising a moral objection to abortion is akin to answering the Queen's Gambit by "accidentally" kicking the corner of the board. The very point of the metaphor is that disengaging yourself from the contraption takes the violinist's life. The reverse is also so; a pregnant woman could terminate her pregnancy strictly by withholding "medical treatment". It seems like, in forty years, you might've either come up with a competing thought experiment, or learned to defend your answer to the original.

The second, of course, is more to our current point: pregnancy is God's punishment for you spreading your legs in the first place. (Oh, and don't look at me; the Democratic party is the real infantilizer of women. Sweetie.)

This, of course, is where Republicans collide with Akin (not, as Douthat will try to make it, with the "unique agony" of the rape victim, though let's give him points for admitting it may have a little something to do with "political impossibility", too).

We have no need of a thought experiment here. If you're going to make absolute moral pronouncements, then they're absolute. You can start trying to weasel out of Thou Shalt Not Kill ("It means murder" or "Except when ordered by your political superiors"), but ultimately you're stuck. The Bible doesn't enjoin anyone from abortion; the moral argument is all yours, and the moment you're pressed you withdraw like a doused cat. The simple fact is that Akin spoke the truth. Not with his words, which were totally batshit, but he was absolutely clear on the concept. In his "desire to escape from the dilemma" sez Ross, but there isn't any dilemma. At least there isn't one with regards to meaning. Either terminating a pregnancy is murder, or it isn't. That includes rape victims, and that includes the medically unviable, and that includes, Mr. and Mrs. Santorum, when the life of the mother is at stake. It can't be both. You can make a distinction in law, but you're doing so because it's the popular thing to do, not because it's morally justified.

So leave us not quote statistics about what percentage of the public agrees with whom. Or not until you come clean. It's you folks who are literally and metaphorically chained to a corpse. Telling us all that you don't like the looks of some of the links doesn't free you.

Saturday, August 25

Weekend Update

I HAVE a sign on my front door reading "No Soliciting" because nobody makes one that says "Please Ring Bell If You'd Like To Debate The Meaning Of 'Solicit' ". 

Friday, August 24

On The Plus Side, This Would Totally End Our Political Involvement In The Middle East

ONE more time: this blog knows nothing whatsoever about Economics, macro-, micro-, or mini-, and is therefore as justified in calling itself an economist as the majority of economists.

Instead, let us humbly ask, apropos of  the recently released "Energy" "Plan" of "Mitt Romney": th' fuck is so important about "energy independence" when you assure us that everything else in the Magical Economics Realm has just simply got to be globalized? Why don't we shoot for Job Independence? Or Manufacturing Independence? How 'bout we set as a goal complete shipping independence by 2020? Every ship that docks in the United States has to be registered here, and the crew has to be 85% American. Why shouldn't we become Rubber Independent, or Manganese Indepenent? Why shouldn't we produce our own fucking cellphones?

Of course the bigger laugh is that Romney, who is fiscally incapable of independent thought despite being the wealthiest man to ever run for the office, can't even propose, John Kennedy-like, a large-scale government program to accomplish the un-accomplishable. No, he wants to turn the whole thing over to the states, because if there's any government entity that proves how little governments can accomplish, it's the tiresome collection of 18th century fiefdoms and 19th century slavery compromises we call "States".

The fucking states can't teach high school biology to high schoolers. Who do you think is failing to get 12th graders to read at a 6th grade level? And not just because they're incompetent, but because the states are at the mercy of the worst sorts of buffoons in American political life, and its most low-rent grifters. You think the House of Representatives is a strategic reservoir of Stupidity and Cupidity? Good Lord. Chris Christie is the best example of state executive the Republican party could offer. You really wanna put Rick Perry in charge of anything more important than the Texas Bureau of Weights and Calibers? Mitch Daniels would let Federal lands in Indiana go for a penny an acre, plus a $10 million finder's fee and some real hair.

Here's an idea: this is such a bonanza waiting to happen, let the states pay us the assessed value of the resource, minus 10 percent, in cash, and then let 'em do whatever they want with the proceeds.

Deal? Oh, except Wyoming also has to give its Senators back.

Wednesday, August 22


Y'KNOW, it's no accident that the birth of the modern political Gotcha! moment can be traced to the same year Barbara Walters lisped her way to a million-dollar contract. 

In 1976, kids, in a Presidential campaign, Jerry Ford said something like "There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe". It was immediately seized upon as evidence that he'd never heard of the Warsaw Pact.

This has led to the point where it's no longer necessary to even consider the meaning of words, let alone to recognize that people sometimes misspeak. Or, conversely, where Representative Akin can use "misspeaking" as a (temporary, in his case) defense when his meaning was absolutely clear.

And it's the people who are supposed to be the guardians of words and meaning who are debasing the stuff. I know I'm not the only person to point this out, and heaven knows I'll never be the first, but the real semantic questions here are a) what, exactly, is Mitt Romney, and the rest of the Republican establishment, objecting to, beyond being saddled with their own positions, suitably in a nutshell? and b) how is it we do not recognize, and pummel, public figures such as Akin who so obviously are not conversant with the issues they spew about, or even the "principles" they suppose us to imagine they hold? Akin's hardly the first religious maroon to get hisself elected to Congress. The question is how we've gone forty years without the Right to Lifers being questioned, philosophically, theologically, or scientifically? Akin could only be that unclear on the concept if he'd never been required to answer an essay question. He didn't erroneously substitute a word, except that he fumbled his lines. He substituted patent nonsense for thought. And neither is original with him.

And it just happens, then, that he slid all the way down the slope. If there's no exception for rape, according to the Republican party, no exception for incest, none for viability, genetic disaster, or the life of the mother--until it's the mother of Rick Santorum's children--then say so. If there is, then on what basis? If there is, then the termination of a pregnancy is not murder.

Those people have been abusing the English language for five decades, now. 

Monday, August 20

Monday August Olio

•I woke up after about 3-1/2 hours of sleep this morning, and a voice in my head said "The modern Republican party is practically identical to the so-called Fathers' Rights so-called movement: a pinpoint of pure white hatred and disgruntlement surrounded by concentric gaseous layers of self-aggrandizement, denial of personal responsibility or accountability for the results of one's actions, and an apodictic certainty that money is the only arbiter of truth."

• It's not the religious angle to the Sacred Republican Skinny-dip that tickles me (aren't we all used to that sort of thing by now?); "Hey, the holy waters where Jesus walked should be just the thing to work off some of that Montrachet and foie gras! Lord knows I could use it." No, what I liked was the instantaneous outbreak of "one year ago". 

Rep. Yoder: “A year ago, my wife, Brooke, and I joined colleagues for dinner at the Sea of Galilee in Israel…."  (Monogamous public nudity. Nice touch.)

Doug Heye: “Twelve months ago, [Eric Cantor] dealt with this immediately and effectively to ensure such activities would not take place in the future.” said Doug Heye, Cantor’s deputy chief of staff.

Heye added: “Last year, a staffer was contacted by the Bureau [FBI]...

Yeah, I think we've all done a lot of growing up since then.

Whatever you think of the outcome, you gotta admire the speed and grace of the veteran pathological liar, doncha? 

•In addition to fighting my natural indolence (okay, so I don't fight very hard), Weltschmerz, saddle rash, and the public career of Ryan Lochte, I've been suffering from the worst bout of Jobs-Induced Apple Colitis in the last five years. Bring back System 7.5! The really interesting thing I've learned in the past three weeks of fighting an utterly recalcitrant and vaguely Fascist operating system is that the vaunted stability of OSX really makes you long, when things really turn to shit, for the days when the damn thing would just crash and get it over with, you'd kiss off a few files that'd be forgotten in a week's time, if that, and get on with things. 

I haven't lost a bit of data in a month of trying, but there's a very real possibility at any moment that I'll lose some to a high-velocity collision between my back up drive and my iMac screen.

What I have done (among other things) is watch a dozen videos on the YouTubes explaining how to solve everything from a Firewire kernel panic to staring at my own stupid name in the corner of the menu bar. Yes, indeed, I upgraded to Mountain Lion a few days ago, something I never would have done without letting others volunteer to be beta testers for the next couple months except for the panic (its, not mine). The first major improvement I noticed from that, I believe the commonly-accepted term is "upgrade", was that now my trackball wheel ran backwards. Apparently so I could feel like a hipster, or a Mom, with an iPhone. And it's working, because nowadays I spend fourteen hours a day staring at a screen, and I mutter to myself in public.

I admit that I brought this on myself by recklessly plugging in a new drive for my iTunes collection. As a result--and, again, this list is far from exhaustive, believe me--I couldn't use Mail without entering my password every five seconds for the better part of an hour (and Mail, once a program with a few restful and reassuring quirks, now has full-blown Tourettes); couldn't flip through iTunes--fuck iTunes, in case I haven't said that recently--in Cover View, or Toxic Flow, or whatever they call it, without a guaranteed freeze; spent a sennight where the Finder would develop iAmnesia after five minutes; stood helpless as the freezing behavior took over every piece of Apple™ brand software (and little else) like a pandemic trend in eyewear or social mediaizing; and now, over the last 48 hours, watched as every reboot (six, for the average half-hour) launched three pieces of software, the same three I'd scrupulously closed each of the other five times. That seems to've stopped. I won't bother recounting the adventures of my new, larger, Time Machine disk, which has been subject to more blackouts, odd conduct, and mysterious disappearances than the entire Barrymore clan.

The most remarkable realization is that there is no abnormal behavior, no matter how idiosyncratic, trivial, labyrinthine, or random-seeming, nothing whatsoever that your Mac can start doing that you can't Google up and find fifty people asking about. Nothing.

I've said it before, but where the all-purpose Chinese insult is "May you live in interesting times", mine is "May something you like become wildly popular."

• The Piscopo Hypothesis states that any successful concept will, sooner rather than later, come under the control of people who didn't get the concept in the first place. Slate. "Double Secret Extra-Tricky Reverse Unexpected Contrarianism" was bound to be reduced to its component parts ("Stupid" and "Shit") long before someone gave David Weigel the money for a seventeen-part History of Rick Wakeman. But this ? (Don't go there.)

I guess we should be grateful that few, if any, trees will die for this, but Campbell Brown is given internet space to defend the idea that she's not Just Mrs. Dan Senor, but actually has her own ideas. And she's given this space because nasty internet commenters blasted some of those ideas, in part by mentioning the fact that she is, in fact Just Mrs. Dan Senor, in addition to being idiotic in several other ways. We'll print you a sample of those ideas in just a moment. 

But first, in her defense Mrs. Senor points to some campaign reporter who married an Obama campaign functionary, as well as Andrea Mitchell, who is either married to Alan Greenspan, or happened to buy the terrarium he's housed in. 

So leave us note, first, that Andrea Mitchell is to Washington what Barbara Walters is to Hollywood, that she's been criticized plenty for it, and no one wants to drag her conjugal bed into it. Whether a campaign stringer who marries an Obama aide goes on to become an evening news emoter, as Mrs. Senor did, remains to be seen. We do not, as a culture, believe that such matters prevent someone from being "an objective reporter", as Mrs. Senor tries to style herself, because most of us understand that the sole purpose of "the news", teevee division, these days is to reassure the upper-middle class that its betters are looking out for its interests. Just as we all believe it was possible for Weigel to be an excellent shill for the "Teabag Party" while sleeping with Ezra Klein.

Mrs. Senor had been given two Op-Ed spaces; in one she revealed her status as the wife of a murderous cutthroat--a theoretical murderous cutthroat--about halfway through the piece, while in the other she omitted it. People who disliked her opinions, and who oppose everything about her husband, including his haberdashery and continued use of oxygen ("Rationalists") brought up the connection. As they are entitled to do. 

Mrs. Senor finds this unfair. Personally I find it unnecessary, since the reality is that she's barely qualified to hold an opinion:
Most recently an op-ed I wrote for the Wall Street Journal was critical of New York teachers unions for supporting a policy that makes it very hard to fire teachers who engage in inappropriate sexual behavior with children. In this case, I failed twice. The teachers union immediately pointed to my Romney tie (apparently in their view only a Romney supporter would oppose sexual predators in school?). They then rightly asserted that  my husband serves on the board of StudentsFirst—New York, an education reform group that advocates for charter schools. He receives no money from the organization, yet the teachers unions blasted me for hiding this connection, and falsely accused me of a financial conflict of interest. Here I failed to disclose because I stupidly did not connect the teachers’ unions’ opposition to charter schools to their support for a system that protects teachers who engage in sexual misconduct. My sincerest apologies to the teachers unions for not fully appreciating how wrong they are on not one but two issues.
It really is unfair to accuse Mrs. Senior of indifference to the slaughter of thousands of Iraqi men, women, and children, just because her husband helped orchestrate it. Those are her own opinions. 

Wednesday, August 15

That Bowtie Doesn't Really Go With Your Beard

GEORGE Eff Will:
For Romney, conservatism is a second language, but he speaks it with increasing frequency and fluency.
Yeah. He sounded so Reaganesque on that European trip I half-expected a side trip to Bitburg.

Tuesday, August 14

Better Yet, Let's Make It A Lifetime Of Silence

THEY had a moment of silence on the Midway last night, at the Indiana State Fair, for the victims of the Sugarland concert roof collapse one year ago last night.

This morning I'd like to propose a moment of silence for one Mitchell Elias "Mitch" Daniels, former Governor of Indiana, now a full-time lobbyist.*  Or at least for the possible scrap of decency left in him that next morning when he went to the Fairgrounds. He didn't leave with any, after telling the assembled shorthand takers that the collapse was "clearly an act of God", an appropriately weaselly insurance salesman's word for when Grandma's about to find out what's really in her policy. 

Daniels, of course, would make all the appropriate soothing sounds in the following days, secure in the knowledge that the victims were going to wind up fighting over the state's self-imposed $5 million liability cap, and his precious imaginary budget surplus would remain whatever the imaginary term is for intact. 

It is the principle distinction between Mitch Daniels, Randian grifter and repentant hippie dope dealer, and Paul Ryan, Randian grifter and contemporary granny starver, that you could actually watch Daniels as he shoveled this foul stuff on the ground, and see that he, at least, knows exactly what he's doing. And that however much money he makes won't ever buy him a replacement soul.  


* Daniels will become President of Purdue University next year; his Official Government Ethicist recently declared that Daniels will be free to lobby the General Assembly, despite revolving-door laws, because, and I'm paraphrasing, words only mean what Mitch Daniels needs them to mean.

Sunday, August 12

Gimme an F

SO here's Bob Costas last night, after the Jamaican men's 4x100m relay team shattered its own world record:

"It's harder to have a higher opinion of (Usain) Bolt than he has of himself."

First, you supercilious, pint-sized Coca-Cola™ salesman: that's exactly the sort of thing smug little white sportswriters said about Muhammad Ali fifty years ago, and Ali was a hundred times more outlandish than Bolt, and hadn't yet proven them to be racist idiots.  Bolt's already one of the greatest Olympians who ever lived. And whatever anyone thinks of his antics--which are harmless and good-natured--they're dwarfed by fifteen celebrations of routine plays in every NFL game played. You really want this bullshit on your Wiki page forever, like Red Smith's carries his Ali hatred? 

Second, aren't you the same Bob Costas who rather hurriedly hosted Maurice Greene after the men's 4x400 in Sydney, so you, and he, could excuse the preening and clowning and flag-snapping he and the team had done during their victory lap and on the medal podium? I mean, once it became known to you both that Nike wasn't happy about it?

Fuck you, Bob. Just because you and your network institutionally missed the biggest story of the Games, and the most exciting athlete of the last two Olympiads, because he isn't an American, or a 16-year-old girl, or another boring corporate-spokesman wannabee, it's no excuse to miss what actually happened. Or maybe it is, since what Bolt accomplished involved athletics, and that has nothing to do with NBC's Olympic coverage.

While we're at it, I think the final count--ah, but it's not over til it's over--of Gratuitous Mentions of East German women doping in the 80s was five, and I'm not counting the Times article today, because it used the electrifying U.S. women's 4x100 m world record to talk about the previous record, set in 1985 by the Cheatin' Commies.

And even there, let's just note that Carmelita Jeter, who ran the anchor, is not exactly the least suspect athlete in the village.

The difference between the East German women and, say, Marion Jones, is that the former came through a system which didn't give them any choice. Or even tell them what it was up to. Not let them earn millions in endorsements.

The whole fucking record book is suspect. Nobody's more pissed off by this than I.

But, fer chrissakes, using the East Germans as the nadir, after all this time? That's so stupid and nearsighted I'm surprised I didn't catch Costas at it. 

Saturday, August 11

Rich Guy Picks Rich Guy Toady As Assistant

WELL, that'll add some much-needed excitement to the ticket….

First, let's agree yet again with everything Pierce says; there is no Republican establishment. The party is a hodgepodge of regional beer distributorships. It's possible it nominated the wrong McCain last time.

And what a perfect summation of the last thirty years of "conservatism" this is: the über-rich white guy who thinks he should be President because he understands the needs of über-rich white guys, and the forty-something Randoid posterboy for mendacity. The CEO and the chief ad exec.

Okay, so the move is not without its positives; it's sure to wow the sort of New York Times Op-Ed columnist who is willing to say, for money, that  the Republican House is offering solutions to their phony crises Our Nation's Dire Problems. Although in fairness, at this point Romney could have tabbed Sarah Fucking Palin and David Brooks, George Eff Will, and Chuckles Krauthammer would have huzzahed. It's not like he had much to choose from, or they have anywhere else to be.

But, assuming there's some reason other than under-the-table payoffs that made anyone feel good about the Republican party as of yesterday morning, how do you look at this stinkbomb and convince yourself that everything's all right? A bottle of The Macallan 25 and your financial report? Your party is not in possession of Facts, an Argument, or its Senses. And that's its sensible wing. You might win elections--you fucking might win this one, which should scare you, too--but you can't govern. Thirty-two years ago, eight election cycles (which is enough for even "conservatives" to have begun coming to their senses), you got the opportunity to throw a monkey wrench into the machinery of government. Today you're just the fucking monkey wrench. Tax Cuts, Because I'd Really Rather Not Pay Taxes. You've gone from unsustainable to incomprehensible.

You're the party of fucking lapel flags (as opposed to the Democrats, the party afraid to not wear lapel flags). You're the party of facile gestures which in fact put the lie to your principles, and you don't care because your principles are just there to distract people from your lying about them.

Okay, so full disclosure: I found you incomprehensible (and reprehensible) in 1980, but at least you didn't double down every time you hit a roadblock. A lot of people said you lost your way with the collapse of the International Communist Conspiracy (though, of course, you had to've lost your way just to be found there). But I'd propose that in fact you've never recovered from Iran/Contra and the Great S&L Swindle; like Vietnam and Civil Rights, you patched it up with disinformation. And got away with it, to the extent that you won elections, but you lost your minds. And your souls, if any. Which brings us to Romney/Ryan, 2012. This Is What "Opportunity" Really Looks Like.™

Thursday, August 9

Thursday Olio, "It's An Honor Just To Compete" Edition

• Join me August 15th for "Put a Razorblade in Your Chick-fil-A Sandwich and Threaten to Sue" Day. Void where prohibited.

• I've tried to ignore the Olympics, and especially NBC's "coverage" of the Olympics; I've tried to write about them three times now without ever finishing anything. Maybe I can do it by bullet point:

• Usain Bolt is the greatest Olympian since Aleksandr Karelin, and the greatest Track and Field champion since Al Oerter. And he gets no respect from the American media, for being insufficiently American. And for "showboating". This from a country so besotted with itself that every one of its winning athletes is required to parade around using Old Glory as a bath towel.

"He's up to his antics again," I heard someone voice over some video, and even if I remembered who or where I'd be too embarrassed to admit what I was watching, because there's an outside chance it was Today. The man left daylight between himself and the first 100 meter field in history where everybody broke ten seconds. And that's the second time he's done it. If you don't understand how astonishing that is then quit watching sports. Compare what Chad Ochocinco Johnson does every time he manages to catch a ball. Brandi-with-an-i Chastain rips off her uniform and it's a Hallmark moment. Fuck you people.

• Plus he's not 16 years old. For fuck's sake, it wasn't so many Quadrennial Games ago that Gymnastics started bleeding over into the second week. Now the damned thing goes on for a month.

• Goodbye, Lolo Jones, and please do not return as a lesbian, recovering drug addict, or Dancin' with the Stars crowd favorite.

The New York Times published this indictment of Jones' PR hype, which sent Deadspin and many of its commenters into Bud Light-redolent paroxysms. Because, you know, if we didn't manufacture bigger than Life sports "personalities", why have sports?

My favorite comments were the Leave Lolo Alone guy who opined that she had a right to earn a living and support her family, and the I'm A Christian guy, who said he didn't see anything wrong with her (tastefully) nude photo spread. The Mitt Romney Defense, and the Scriptures? I Don't Need No Scriptures! I Believe in the Bible! Gambit.

• And all of this traces to Roone Arledge, the Gene Roddenberry of Entertainment. (Where are these two buried, anyway? My prostate's not gettin' any younger.) I've been amused by all the complaints about NBC's coverage, since it's precisely what is deserved in a country where the question of Just How Sacred entrepreneurial resource gobbling is is a fucking Presidential campaign issue. Arledge was President of ABC Sports in '68, when satellite transmission first made live coverage feasible, and where Tommie Smith and John Carlos did their Black Power salute on the medals stand (and George Foreman waved a tiny flag).

People forget, now; it wasn't the case that Smith and Carlos were ostracized by people who didn't care for their style, or their politics. They were thrown out of the Olympic Village, and they and their families hounded in the US.

'72 was the Munich Massacre. Which has overshadowed everything about those Games, including that they were the first to feature an Official large stuffed mascot and tiny adorable gymnast beloved of an American audience. Which led directly to Montreal '76, the contrived perfection of adorable little Nadia Comaneci, the flag-waving of Bruce Jenner, and an opportunity for the wealthiest, best-placed, and most telegenic-by-the-standards-of-the-coveted-non-sports-viewer-demographic International Committees to make hundreds of millions from teevee rights at the expense of everything the Olympics is supposed to be about.

So of course NBC time-shifts everything to make a buck ("earn back its investment", which was basically designed to lose millions in order to keep the franchise). Of course they're only interested in crap storylines, and the promotion machine, and moving bran flakes. Of course if you're watching the Beeb you can chose from 100 simultaneous live feeds. Their people still have brains enough to spot shameless self-promotion (even if they don't always object).

And might I just point out: Tommie Smith and John Carlos, like Lee Evans, spent their lives helping young people. George Foreman perfected the waffle iron. Bruce Jenner was hit by one.

• And "Beach" "Volleyball" is neither, and it's not a sport. Catching a ball and throwing it over a net is not volleyball. And if you're too lazy to find the Maxim website to jerk off to, just go away. There, I said it, and I'm not taking it back.

• Closer to home, the Republican Tundra (the trees are all the right height, or recently bulldozed) that is Carmel, Indiana, finds itself $250 mil in the hole, somehow, from building a $40 million Arts palace. Don't ask me, I don't understand it any better than you do, or they, apparently. They had learned from Indianapolis how to create an un-elected, unaccountable, unsupervised body with tax powers in order to build shit on land owned by people who wanted to make a lot of money off it. Then, poof! they're in debt. Or "experiencing a temporary revenue shortfall" as their mayor put it. Apparently there is still hope that the hotel they've planned to go along with this will generate enough property taxes to pay for the infrastructure they have to build in order to build a hotel. I'm not making this up. This is Hamilton county, Indiana's most Republican political subdivision.

All this is right on the Monon Trail, which I ride every day, and which people in Carmel screamed bloody murder about, originally, because it would bring undesirables into their neighborhoods. Which it has. At least one.

And just a few blocks away sits the rubble of the old Grain elevator the city knocked down about as fast as Bob Irsay moved the Colts out of Baltimore, because 1) they had a buyer and 2) and maybe most importantly, there was public opposition building to the move. At first this was just an historical preservation deal; later people started asking questions about histoplasmosis. In the event those proved to be relatively minor, since the place was storing large quantities of a couple of pesticides, and no one bothered to check until the wrecking ball released it all into the atmosphere.

In fairness, they were in a hurry.

So now there's a particularly historic and toxic pile of broken concrete next to my daily ride, and the entrepreneurial (and anti-regulation) geniuses in the White North are reopening bids to have someone competent do the job.

Which just brings up one question: is there ever going to be enough evidence for the American voter to recognize the obvious?

Thursday, August 2

Posting May Be Light

THERE are two main reasons for this: one, I've been bike training very hard, over 200 miles per week, and, two, as a result I'm asleep all the rest of the time.

But I think it has to be added that everything has turned to shit, even admitting it pretty much started that way, and I've only got one plunger.

This week a major New York Times opinion writer, one who is inexplicably David Brooks, wrote a column about how dull the 2012 Presidential campaign is because the candidates won't talk about the issues. The good news here is that he was not immediately struck down by a Vengeful God, so, pretty much anything goes from here on out.

Another, who is unfathomably Ross Douthat, said:
If you want to fine Catholic hospitals for following Catholic teaching, or prevent Jewish parents from circumcising their sons, or ban Chick-fil-A in Boston, then don’t tell religious people that you respect our freedoms. Say what you really think: that the exercise of our religion threatens all that’s good and decent, and that you’re going to use the levers of power to bend us to your will.
There, didn’t that feel better? Now we can get on with the fight.
Sure, Ross. Just as soon as you admit that you're a racist, misogynistic homophobic, sex-adverse perpetual juvenile whose "religious" principles are nothing more than a glorification of his own bootlicking tendencies. Let the games begin!

Then after twenty-seven debates it turns out that the Republican party managed to nominate George Bush III. (Can we start calling Willard "Dubya" now?) And it did so, you may recall, because the Republican party, which is goddamned apodictically certain about everything, decided that no one who talked like a real Republican had any chance of winning.

I don't need to tell you that this is a party whose public intellectuals include George Eff Will, Chuckles Krauthammer, Charles Murray, and the aforementioned Mr. Brooks, and that, as a result, it has suffered from a serious overcompensation problem for the last thirty-five years. The job of "conservative" intellectual pays well enough that one can afford to overcome the habits that plague other intellectuals, like independent thought, open dialogue, and honesty.

We're going to give them a pass--today--on the Reagan Reverie, the Reagan Presidency having served for nerdy, unpopular, Model Airplane Club kids in the 80s what Hank Greenberg did for Jewish boys in the 30s. But you'd think even fake intellectuals might have noticed the general downhill trend their party has taken, even during that extended sugar buzz. It should have dawned on them, say, in 2000, when it turned out the last well-connected business genius they'd anointed as Our Best Bet couldn't read a speech or halfway convince an objective observer that he was marginally competent.

To be fair, this year they were focused more on derailing the nomination of any of a dozen Sara Palins, Jr. Then again, the mere fact of the original Half-Term is another object lesson they've studiously, and incomprehensibly, avoided when they knew the mic was on. You are the party of paste-eating morons and the Hopelessly Entrenched Privileged, who have effectively captured the steering mechanism whereby the Accumulated Wealth and Strength of Post-War America is being stolen, headlong and in haste, and right out in front'a God an' everbody. And the closest thing we get to a public acknowledgement is the occasional Brooks PBS smirk, or Eff Will objection that some 19th century principle he made up is being ignored by The Washington Establishment. If you honestly believed in the Reagan legacy (I mean the fake, positive one, not the real, disastrous one) you'd be screaming bloody murder about what his party, and yours, has "done" to it. Instead there's the aristocratic grabbing of handkerchiefs when Newt Gingrich or Michele Bachmann farts in an elevator again, or when Rick Perry turns out to be a complete moron despite your wife's best efforts.

Intellectuals would at least show some concern over how this looked. Although I am told that Dr. Merkwürdigeliebe criticized Ann Romney's dancing horse. But it's a funny thing about buckets: not only do most require more than one drop to be filled, you have to add those drops in excess of the evaporation rate.

Since the wildly successful two terms of the Affable Dim Bulb President in the 1980s, Republicans have nominated clueless Patricians five times, and Senatorial War Heroes Safely In The Pocket Of Big Money twice. The war heroes lost. The idiots won.

Look, fifty years ago your party fell under the spell of Western "movement" "conservatism", in an effort to halt the onrushing tide of the sixty-three-year-old 20th Century, and simultaneously adopted the idea that Bill Fuhbuckley was an intellectual, in an effort to cover your embarrassment. Neither worked; to survive, the party separated itself from the rest of the political spectrum, then from Reality Herself. Your elder statesmen now are people like Will and Dick Cheney, still pissed off that hippie girls wouldn't lay them in the 60s, and your middle-aged mouthpieces, when they aren't starkers, are toadies like Brooks, who bought the program when they were adolescents and still cling to it like Douthat clings to his St. Christopher medal, hoping Zombie Reagan will rematerialize if they just Believe. Of course Mitt Romney has no ideas. Your entire party has but one, and that one was disproved a generation ago.