Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Rough draft of history

And it's pretty fuckin' rough. Bush's least repulsive surrogates, his wife and Condi Rice, have been out trying to lay the groundwork for the rehabilitation of his reputation, but something like this -- fourteen pages of the man's every failure and inadequacy -- laid out in a prestigious magazine is devastating, particularly at this point in time, when the question of where Bush fits in the presidential pecking order is becoming an issue. The format of it -- quotations from people who knew him and worked with him, many of them Republicans -- is designed to appeal to a Washington culture that is conditioned to dismiss any criticism of the right as "partisanship." Won't be so easy with this piece, and the events it covers, and the descriptions of them, are vivid, just the sort of things that our dullard press corps will remember when they need to fall back on a narrative to tell a story they are too lazy and brainless to write themselves. The really sad thing is it takes something like this to make one sure Bush will get the reputation he deserves -- his actions themselves, with a corrupt and lazy press corps like ours, weren't enough.

Inside out

We thought we were going back to the old days of Bush 41. And ironically enough Rumsfeld, but even more Cheney, together with Powell, were seen as indications that the young president, who was not used to the outside world, who didn’t travel very much, who didn’t seem to be very experienced, would be embedded into these Bush 41 guys. Their foreign-policy skills were extremely good and strongly admired. So we were not very concerned. Of course, there was this strange thing with these “neocons,” but every party has its fringes. It was not very alarming. --Joschka Fischer, German foreign minister (emphasis added)


How unamusing. To Mr. Fischer, the neocons are a "fringe" group; to establishment Washington, neocons are the mainstream, while those who challenge them are the fringe -- this is still true, to an extent, today. Anyone who doubts this need only look at the evidence of the Republican presidential primary, where a bunch of guys spent most of their campaigns trying to out-snarl the other guys to the rest of the world, while the punditry uttered not a word of criticism, but only asked whose snarl was most convincing.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Reader

Of all the films I've seen in 2008, this, just ahead of Let The Right One In, is my favorite. Kate Winslet: sexy, stupid, worldly, maddening, decent, amoral, strong, pitifully weak -- she was perfect, in every way. The message of the movie -- perfect.

The key to the entire film -- the key to everything related to the Holocaust -- is the question asked by Hannah Schmitz in the film: "What would you have done?" The collective failure of the world to honestly answer that question is the reason we have Rwandas, and Darfurs, and Israel choking the life out of the Palestinians, and then bombing the shit out of them when they hit back. We just haven't learned the lesson of that period: Nazism wasn't about evil per se, it was about cowardice, and groupthink, and tribalism, and taking the easy way out. Deep down we're all Nazis in one way and to one extent or another; some of us just haven't found our own personal Fuehrer yet.

Reagan vs FDR

I have to share Steve Benen's amazement that such a comparison would even be made, let alone taken seriously:

I can appreciate the fact that fawning, sycophantic, and generally embarrassing conservative cheerleading has helped bolster Reagan's image in the wake of his presidency. I also realize that Reagan, more than any modern leader, is the only GOP figure who's claimed by every wing of the Republican Party as their own -- from New England moderates to Deep South far-right conservatives.

But up against FDR, how is this even a contest? Reagan's economic policies were largely unsuccessful; propaganda notwithstanding, he was not responsible for winning the Cold War; his White House traded weapons for hostages in Iran-Contra; and no president before or since oversaw a White House filled with so many officials convicted of felonies (32, not including 30 who resigned in disgrace or fired following charges of legal or ethical misconduct).


However, I must point out one thing: this is a poll of who was most influential, not who was most effective. Reagan, while not particularly effective, was quite influential, and in fact, the image of Reagan, and Reaganism -- his penchant for belittling his opponents with a never ending stream of wisecrack non sequiturs -- still maintains a deathgrip on the Republican Party, and to a lesser extent, the media itself. The image of Democrats as a bunch of soft-on-everything, elitist, head-in-the-sky pansies originated with Nixon, but it was under Reagan that it really took hold in the nation as a whole.

If you look at Reagan's influence on policy, he left a mark there, too. Clinton's presidency was essentially a defensive battle against the policy prescriptions of the extreme right. Welfare reform, entitlements, deregulation of industry -- the whole "the era of big government is over" thing -- were all Reagan initiatives, that he himself was unable to enact, but that had huge residual staying power, particularly when the Republicans were able to assume control of Congress. And of course, we saw the real influence of Reagan once the Republicans took control of everything, and a swaggering buffoon was able, in a few short years, to ride the country headfirst into the ground, feet in the stirrups of Reagan campaigning and Reagan policies.

Was Reagan as influential as FDR? That's absurd. Even to this day, we're still operating in FDR's world, as we make our retirement plans with FDR programs like Social Security and FDR-inspired programs like Medicare at the center; and our entire concept of what government is and should do has been permanently changed by FDR's 14 years in office. And it was FDR who put an end to isolationism on the international front, got the ball rolling on the UN -- he shaped much of, not just U.S. policy, but world policy, both directly and indirectly through his chosen successor, Truman. Reagan chose no successors, while those who won in his name did abysmal jobs -- in fact, this Bush has done a wonderful job of pushing the country away from the policies Reagan was ostensibly for. No way was Reagan even close to as influential as FDR was -- and that's leaving out the concept of effectiveness. I'm perfectly content to call Reagan the second-most influential president of the 1900s, but only if you keep in mind the notions that 1) in this case, it's rather like being the second tallest guy on Kareem Abdul Jabbar's high school basketball team; and 2) "influence" can be a good thing -- or quite a bad one, and still be influence all the same.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Ain't it grand?

In the past two weeks I've seen two films, Doubt, and I've Loved You So Long, starring actresses who, 40-odd years ago would have been reduced to running ads in Variety begging for work. Instead, we get to continue to see performers like Streep and Scott Thomas in first rate films, and will be able to for years to come. A black man in the White House, all the information I could ask for, right at my fingertips -- this is a fantastic time to be alive. We just need to fix the economy and scrub some of the stain of mindless jingoism out of the national psyche and this could be the best time in history to be alive. That's something that every generation ought to be able to say, but right now this one can't quite do that -- the first time since the 30's that's been true, I think.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Jack Johnson




To some people, today is "Jack Johnson Day," the celebration of the anniversary of the first black man winning the heavyweight boxing title, which happened one hundred years ago, today. Alas, boxing isn't what it was in those days, when it was the sport of men, not just kings, and the thought of a black man being better than whites at anything was enough to send the entire nation into a decade-long tizzy, and a desperate search for some white boy who would put things right. They finally found him in Jess Willard, who would beat the 37 year old Johnson, recaiming the heavyweight championship for the white folk, and their racial pride along with it.



Some odd points:

1)Johnson, a smart, defensive fighter known for his counterpunching and defensive handspeed, was derided as a cunning coward by the press of his era; Jim Corbett, who'd held the title several years before Johnson and had a similar fighting style, had been lauded for being smart. Heads we win, tails you lose.

2) Why was Johnson allowed to fight for the heavyweight championship, while baseball remained segregated for another 39 years (Jackie Robinson), football, with some fits and starts, 38 (Bill Willis and the great Marion Motley)? Superficially it would seem to make no sense.

3) Back then racism took a reasonable form: blacks were inferior to whites in all ways, athletically, morally, intellectually. Nowadays, black people are assumed to be athletically superior to whites, and this is a sign of inferiority, as superior physicality is is the natural result of black people being one step closer to the animals. Heads we win, tails you lose.

Anyway, one of the encouraging signs about Obama's win, besides the thing itself, is that the nation hasn't been thrown into a tizzy. So here's to you, Jack Johnson. And Jackie Robinson. And Marion Motley. And Tiger Woods. And Jesse Jackson. And all the other firsts who combined to make this first possible. It took a century of fighting worse than anything Johnson went through in the ring, but because of all those fights, the world is a much better place, at least in some ways, than it's ever been before.

And above all, here's to a world that doesn't need any more firsts. I don't know if we're there yet, but we're damn close.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

No comment needed

WARSAW (Reuters) - A Polish man got the shock of his life when he visited a brothel and spotted his wife among the establishment's employees.

Polish tabloid Super Express said the woman had been making some extra money on the side while telling her husband she worked at a store in a nearby town.

"I was dumfounded. I thought I was dreaming," the husband told the newspaper on Wednesday.

The couple, married for 14 years, are now divorcing, the newspaper reported.


http://www.reuters.com/article/newsOne/idUSL0910395120080109

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

First things first.

Number of posts Josh Marshall has made regarding the media's relentless attempts to tie Obama to Blagojevich: 0

Number of posts Josh Marshall has made defending his friend Matt Yglesias from criticism from another blogger: two.


We all have our priorities, of course.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Wouldn't it be nice?

After reading this, that's the theme song for Bush's presidency:

“The Bush administration took a lot of pride that homeownership had reached historic highs,” Mr. Snow said in an interview. “But what we forgot in the process was that it has to be done in the context of people being able to afford their house. We now realize there was a high cost.”


Wouldn't it be nice if everyone owned a house? Wouldn't it be nice of all the countries we don't like in the Middle East could be made America-loving democracies? Wouldn't it be nice if you could stick a bunch of your incompetent cronies in important posts in government? Wouldn't it be nice if you could ignore the laws of science? Wouldn't it be nice if you could cut taxes and increase government spending with no adverse effects? Wouldn't it be nice if you could preserve freedom by alternately ignoring and then subverting the Constitution? Wouldn't it be nice if you could ignore the will and interests of the rest of the world and suffer no repercussions? Wouldn't it be nice if you could brand domestic dissent with your disastrous policies as treason? Wouldn't it be nice if you could improve the educational system merely by demanding kids score higher on tests? Wouldn't it be nice to live in a world where there are no consequences?

It's as if a bunch of wide-eyed children were given control of their lives, only to learn the hard way that all the limitations placed on them by their dolt parents were rooted in the hard realities of life. No, kids, drinking and driving has costs. Taking drugs has a cost. Plopping down in front of the TV for eight hours a day instead of learning something useful has costs. Irresponsible sex has costs. And letting a bunch of dimwits run your country has costs. And we're paying them. Boy, are we ever paying them.

Maybe if we think and wish and hope and pray it might come true....

Run run wooooooooo

The Democrats and the military

Wes Clark:

...Obama is off to a promising start with the Pentagon, steering clear of a reprise of the fight over "don't ask, don't tell" and picking pragmatic, non-ideological leaders whom top military officers will find highly reassuring -- especially since so many may have discovered from personal experience that a particular partisan label is no guarantee of good leadership. Retaining Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, designating Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (with her six years of experience on the Senate Armed Services Committee) as secretary of state and appointing James L. Jones (a retired four-star Marine general) as national security adviser should go a long way toward assuring members of the armed forces that their concerns will be given a fair hearing at the very highest levels.

But the incoming team and the Democrat-dominated Congress still need to work hard to understand the lower ranks and the culture of today's military. Perhaps as many as 75 million Americans have either served in uniform or have family members who have done so. At any given time, the armed forces total some 2 million Americans on active duty, in the National Guard or in the reserves -- all volunteers. Most read military-focused newspapers, such as the Army Times, and many live on bases, relatively isolated from nearby communities. The majority are married, and almost half have children, creating a subculture of families that endure frequent moves and frightening absences. Most Americans just can't fathom the stress and pain this lifestyle imposes (although Michelle Obama can -- as the future first lady showed by reaching out to military family members during the campaign).

Our military is a values-based institution. Don't think of it as Republican or Democratic. Sure, occasionally someone will pop up, like the radio talk-show host I met while traveling in Arizona, who assured me that he had become a dues-paying Republican while serving as a Marine officer and thought that everyone else should, too. But most of us are uncomfortable with partisanship. True, many in the military, especially those who have served longer, lean toward the conservative end of the political spectrum. (What would you expect? The military must obey the orders of the commander in chief and follow the chain of command, which means giving up one's own liberties and spending time in difficult and often very dangerous circumstances.) But the real military values aren't partisan values; they're service, loyalty, honesty, patriotism, respect, achievement and personal responsibility.

Which brings us to one more core military value, one that Democrats can easily embrace: fairness. Military leaders take care of their troops -- and their unit's families. They don't take advantage of their authority. Captains eat after their troops do, not before. Good officers get to work earlier than their subordinates and leave later. I used to joke on the campaign trail that the Army was a socialist organization: The government owned the housing and all the equipment I worked with, everyone's children went to the same schools and used the same hospitals, and the highest-ranking person (after more than 30 years in uniform) earned only about 10 or 12 times the salary of a raw recruit. In the military, we don't like favoritism, show-boating or elitism.

That's a good base upon which to build. But Democrats must also realize that the military's respect has to be earned. We don't consider ourselves an "interest group." Sure, we will always appreciate more pay, better housing and stronger veterans' benefits. But that isn't how the Democrats will win over the military. They'll win by being straight-up, clear-eyed and professional about national security. And if they are, the military will trust them, even with a painful withdrawal from Iraq and the inevitable defense cutbacks.

...

We have a president-elect who has set out a pragmatic, nonpartisan, visionary course. It's time to lay to rest the old stereotypes about feckless, pacifist Democrats and authoritarian, war-mongering soldiers. If there were ever a time to get the relationship between Democrats and the military right, this is it.


The whole piece is well worth reading, and I have to wonder (again) how Obama can't find a direct use for Clark; instead, Clark always has to work from outside the system, where he has to put much more effort in to get any results.

Anyway, as I've said before, the Dems don't need the military to switch sides, they just need the perception of mutual animosity to go away. I think Clark points out the road here very well: stress respect and the many areas of mutual areas of agreement, and push on with your agenda, which is, in the end, a military friendly one.

As an aside, Clark said in his piece that 75 million Americans either served themselves or are related to someone who has. Is it that small a number? Except for me, my entire family served, probably a majority of the people I grew up with served. And now that I think about it, I grew up in poor and working class areas -- the military was a way out when you couldn't afford, or otherwise felt unready for, college, and didn't know what else to do. Now that I move in the more rarefied airs of the middle class, it is unusual to find someone who's done time in the military. In fact, I don't personally know of a single person among my acquaintances who's served. But these are also some of the most jingoistic, superficially "pro-military" people on earth. What an odd thing.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Trusting the president

"Puff Graham"

"I'm for morality, but morality goes beyond sex to human freedom and social justice. We as clergy know so very little to speak with authority on the Panama Canal or superiority of armaments. Evangelists cannot be closely identified with any particular party or person. We have to stand in the middle in order to preach to all people, right and left. I haven't been faithful to my own advice in the past. I will be in the future." -- Billy Graham




Steve Benen:

I will gladly argue, and have repeatedly, that the Warren invitation is a mistake, and I'd hoped Obama and his team would have known better, but Cloud's criticism strikes me as excessive, not because it's intemperate, but the disparagement doesn't match the error. Obama, to my mind, is poised to become the most progressive president in history on social/cultural issues, including gay equality.



That would have been true with or without Warren, and would have been true of any Democrat at this moment in time, so Dems who buy into this line are being bribed with their own money. The question is, does elevating Warren make it harder for Obama and his successors to push a progressive agenda? Clearly, to the extent that Warren's stature as some kind of moral authority is enhanced by all this, it does. Warren stands against the entirety of the left's social and foreign agenda -- Obama is basically building up Warren, already a speedbump, into something that could become a wall. And Warren, as a moral authority, will be around for a lot longer than Obama, as a president (Billy Graham has been "pastor to the presidents" since 1950). Is the tradeoff here worth it? I don't think so. I think you can go too far in trying to appear "reasonable," and Obama has done it with Rick Warren.

Overall, unless you're gay or a woman, this is no big deal -- and who cares about those minor interest groups, anyway? But the left has got to draw the line, or watch it continue to be obliterated. Anyone who wants to just let this stuff go in the name of expediency and clever political maneuvering needs to answer a question: If endorsing Rick Warren isn't crossing the line, what is, and how long do you think it will be before Obama does it?

If Darwin was right, which is survival of the fittest then homosexuality would be a recessive gene because it doesn't reproduce and you would think that over thousands of years that homosexuality would work itself out of the gene pool. -- Rick Warren on evolution

We all have biological predispositions. I'm naturally inclined to have sex with every beautiful woman I see. But that doesn't mean it's the right thing to do. -- Rick Warren on homosexuality

Thursday, December 18, 2008

If you can't smile at this...

A five year old white kid spontaneously breaking into The Jackson 5's "ABC" while shopping with his parents. That song is what, almost 40 years old? From the look of his parents, I doubt they were the ones he heard it from, and I wonder if some musically-minded teacher hadn't used the song as part of a lesson plan or some such. I wonder how the kid learned the rest of the alphabet.

Beyond hideous




After all the destruction they've delivered these past eight years, shouldn't these people collectively curl up into a quivering, defensive, fetal ball in anticipation of the savage beating karma is sure to inflict? Instead, it's business as usual, right up to the end, as if there isn't a thing wrong.

The picture of laura holding the animals like that brings up a question: what do you call a human shield's (Laura) shield (the animals)?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Maybe it doesn't take all kinds...

A friend who's known me forever sends me this link:

Do you love to play Super Mario Brothers on the Classic Nintendo System? Do you like to get tagged from behind while you do it? This is the post for you then.

You must know your way around the game before we meet, must be open to anal sex, also able to fake an orgasm is a plus.

I will send you the address to a hotel and a room number. When you arrive the door will be open. Please come in close and lock the door and close the shades if they are still open. I will be in the bathroom and the door will be closed. Turn on the TV and the Nintendo. Remove all of your clothing. Turn off all lights in the room and kneel down on the bed so you are directly in the light of the TV. You need to be facing the TV with your butt in the air pointed toward the pillows on the bed.

Press the start button on the controller when you are ready. I will hear the sound and turn the light off in the bathroom and come out. You will not look directly at me, only look at the TV. When the first level starts I will begin to finger you and lick you. I will be using lots of lube as well.

When you reach the end of level one, make sure to trigger the fireworks. This is vital to the entire experience. I must hear the fireworks. When level 2 begins and Mario walks into the pipe, I will penetrate you. You may say things like, "MORE", "HARDER", "YES", "FUCK ME", but nothing else. I will continue having sex until the level ends. DO NOT take the secret level skip. If you die I will pull out and spank you until the level restarts.

When you reach the flag you must again trigger the fireworks, and also orgasm. I will pull out. When the 1-3 starts I will penetrate your ass. You are allowed to say something like "OH GOD", "YES", OR "IT HURTS" no other conversation is allowed.

When level 1-4 starts I will alternate between holes as I see fit. You may beg me to cum inside or outside of you, depending on what you want. When boss falls and you reach the princess I will pull out and blow my load where you have convinced me I want too. You may then say something like "Thanks", "It was great", "I loved it", "Don't stop"

If I am impressed you may continue playing and I will continue to pleasure you. If I am not, I will turn the Nintendo Off and return to the bathroom. At this time you may clean your self with the towel that is beside the bed. Turn the lights on, redress yourself and leave.

I may come back out and talk to you as you dress but the conversation will most likely be short and revolve around scheduling another time to get together.


Once upon a time, I was embarrassingly good at Super Mario Brothers. We would hold contests, dozens of people would come to play from several cities, and I don't think I ever lost: it's fair to say I knew the game then about as well as anybody could. I cannot, however, remember a damn thing about the game now, but this person knows it so well he can weave different levels into a narrative that I assume -- maybe it's just a hope -- is meant as a joke. While it is pretty funny -- as a joke -- what kind of person remembers a 20-odd year old video game that well?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Firewall

Nate Silver, getting the hang of drawing eyeballs, makes a(nother) provocative post:

Firstly, the Democrats have a pretty strong buffer against Republican gains at the margins, which might be pretty useful to them since parties taking over the White House typically lose seats at the next midterm election. For example, suppose that Republicans gain 5 points across the board in 2010 (so that, for instance, a district which they lost by 3 points in 2008, they'd win by 2 points in 2010). If the Republicans managed to do this, the Democrats would lose just 15 seats, still holding 242 to the Republicans' 193. Suppose instead that the Republicans gained 10 points across the board. Surely that would give them back control of the chamber, right? Not really -- it only nets them 7 additional seats, giving them 200 to the Democrats' 235. Finally, suppose that the Republicans gained 15 points across the board. Even then, the Democrats would retain possession of the House by a narrow 219-216 margin. Put more succinctly, an outright majority of the House is now controlled by Democrats who won their elections by 15 points or more. Even if the political climate shifts back toward the Republicans, they may have trouble getting much bang for their buck.

The second advantage that comes into play is redistricting, which will take place after the 2010 census is completed. If the Democrats' voters are less efficeintly allocated now, they would seem to have more to gain once redistricting takes place and reshuffles them.

The third advantage is resource allocation. Seats that are won by 40+ points require next to nothing to defend, allowing the Democrats to concentrate their resources in more competitive areas.

Finally, there is a synergistic relationship between the vote margin in a particular district and the ideology of the congressman. That is, districts that are won by wider margins can support more progressive policymakers. The Congerssional Progressive Caucus now has 71 members, considerably larger than the Democrats' 47 Blue Dogs. Many congressional districts are so blue that the congressman is theoretically under more threat of losing to a primary challenge on his left than a Republican challenge on his right.

Although the Republicans face an arduous task in crafting a path to 270 electoral votes, finding 218 viable seats in the Congress might represent the more difficult challenge.


The work is first rate, the writing typically fluent, the thinking lucid, but at the end I found myself thinking, "So what?" OK, given the past decade, it's pretty clear that we are better off if the Republicans don't control anything more responsible than a small mayoral position -- somewhere, and God help that town -- but other than that, I'm not seeing the positive benefits of a Democratic Congress. The Blue Dogs plus the Republicans seem pretty much able to bully, bluster, and beg the majority to indulge them and not do anything "radical," and if Congress can't start driving progress, how will things get done?

Well, you say, that's Obama's job. And you're right -- it is. But it's an awful lot of responsibility to put on one guy, especially one guy of limited experience who will, if history serves as a guide, have no more than a year or so to effect meaningful change (name one major accomplishment of a president not named Roosevelt that happened in their second term). After that, the Democratic majority in Congress will be nothing more than one big firewall waiting for the Republicans to hack through. The Dems need to find a way, not just to maintain their majority, but to use it, even to expand it. Making Congress something more than a static body would also have the benefit of undoing some of the damage Bush's "imperial presidency" has done to both institutions. Congress has got to be able to lead, at least some of the time, or else it almost doesn't matter who's in charge of anything except the presidency.

Put that in your shoe

I wonder if the shoe thrower guy will start a trend. Flipping people off is boring. Cussing? Eh. But throwing a shoe? In our country, it carries with it the intoxicating scent of novelty. And since Bush is already despised, importing this insult is a way of perpetuating the original insult to Bush. I'm going to keep an eye out for this sort of thing in the future. As a new breed of insult, it just might have legs.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Paper money and paper tigers

Krugman wants the Germans to play nice:


We start from the proposition that Europe is, or soon will be, in a position where interest rates are up against the zero lower bound. This means both that fiscal policy is the only game in town, and that we can use ordinary multiplier analysis.

...

You can play with these numbers, but I don’t think that conclusion is very sensitive to the details as long as you keep the large intra-EU trade effects in there. The lesson of this algebra is that there are very large intra-EU externalities in fiscal policy, making coordination really important. And that’s why German obstructionism is such a problem.


Strip away the wonkery, and the bottom line is the Germans, 80 years after hyperinflation, are caught up in Austrian School, "government spending is worse than useless, it's bad" style economics. But. They are locked into the Euro along with everyone else in the EMU. I don't know the intricacies of the EMU bank well enough to be sure, but it seems to me they could force the Germans to play ball by threatening them with their greatest fear: the devaluation of the money supply. Either they go along with fiscal expansion like everyone else, or the rest of the EMU, trying to compensate for (not punish, of course) Germany's recalcitrance, revs up the printing presses. I imagine the Germans would shit saurkraut and brats, swallow hard, and start spending, because from their inflation phobic perspective, it's better than the alternative.

Really, all this makes me wonder how long the EMU will hold together, though. A union that requires constant threats and arm twisting to make it act like a union isn't much of a union. Maybe the Brits et al were right to steer clear. And if they're like this now, with an economic crisis on hand the likes of which we haven't seen in 70 years, how would they be if they had to militarily cooperate? Talk about a paper tiger.

Just when you think you really are unique.

I've been buying stuff at Amazon, literally, since there was an Amazon. One of the creepy things about the experience to me is their "personal recommendation" algorithm is amazingly accurate -- they consistently recommend to me books I already own or have already read, and music I already own, but most of it things I haven't bought at Amazon. This wouldn't be so creepy, except that many of the books they end up recommending are in genres I've never bought or browsed at Amazon -- IE, there must be some kind of "type" out there that reads mystery books, classic literature, listens to classical, New Age, R&B, classic pop, and jazz music, who also has an interest in some of the more arcane subjects I do, subjects that are entirely different from the sort of literary tastes you'd expect from the things Amazon should know about me based on my behavior with them.

What's really interesting to me is that the other day I did a search for Space Food Sticks (a childhood thing), ended up at Amazon, and now their suggestions, which used to be all books I'd already read and music I already owned, are dominated by a bunch of survivalist stuff -- freeze dried and canned foods, tents, matches, and the like. Now, how many survivalist types read John Grisham, Michael Connelly, George Orwell, listen to Beethoven and Basie, Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, and Doris Day? I assume there really is such a type, based on the accuracy of their recommendations in the past.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Impressive



Attractive, warm, command of the issues, which she breaks down into easily understood chunks, and sincere. I think Warren has a big future in politics if she wants one.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

"Get ROTCs off campus!"*

Reading around the liberal internets for reaction to Shinseki's appointment.

A few bullet points, as it were:


  • Another good pick by Obama. Shinseki is a competent guy whose pick sends a message to the military: "Your concerns are important to me, and I know it was Bush, not you, who fucked everything up."
  • People who speak their minds with integrity and passion will be rewarded in the Obama administration.
  • Picking Shinseki might also be something of a sop to the left, which made a martyr of him as soon as he spoke up on Iraq and was punished for it. Which brings me to,
  • The attitude of the left towards the military is a helluva lot better than it was just 4.5 years ago when Clark ran. Back then there were a whole lot of left wing yahoos who clearly hated the military and everything it stood for, and saw nothing wrong with saying so -- loudly. I don't think it stretches things at all to give Clark's courageous candidacy, and subsequent efforts on the behalf of Democrats, some of the credit for the change of that attitude.


This last point is the most important to me. Hilzoy made an excellent post about Shinseki today, but something she said, or didn't say, actually, bugged me:

I think this is very important -- as I've said before, with all Obama wants to accomplish, he needs strained relations with the military like he needs a hole in the head. But Obama's choices to date also raise the serious possibility that he could end (or at least mitigate) the Republican tilt of the senior officer corps. They have already experienced life under George W. Bush, and by all accounts, they did not care for it. But their distrust of Democrats might easily have prevented them from seriously considering drawing the obvious conclusion from Bush and Rumsfeld's trashing of the armed forces. If Obama can get past that hurdle, he could, just possibly, cause a very significant change.

I don't expect that the senior officer corps would go Democratic the way they are now Republican, nor, frankly, would I really want them to. I think that it's bad for the senior officer corps to be overwhelmingly aligned with either party. I would just like the two parties to be on a level playing field, as far as the officer corps goes. Obama might actually achieve that. And that would be a very big deal.



Notice what's missing? There is no attempt here to examine why the generals went Republican.

A few more bullet points:


  • Obama isn't going to establish a level playing field with the generals. Many of them come from the South, most of them come from backgrounds -- white, male, and Christian -- that are naturally conservative Republican, and they come from background that establish a rigid, orderly thought process which doesn't really lend itself to the liberal world view.
  • That being said, the combination of Republican incompetence and extremism, and shifting Democratic attitudes towards the military, can soften the military's hostility to the Democratic Party and the broader left in general. The left doesn't need to win, or even tie, the military battle -- they just need the image that the left and the military are inherently hostile to each other, and the cost that has on the left with the patriotism factor, to go away.
  • The ability of Hilzoy and some other liberal bloggers to make posts like these and not have to clean up after a vomit of anti-military rage from their posters is an encouraging sign that we can get to some kind of accomodation with the military.


I am increasingly optimistic about Obama, and the kind of president he's going to be. I like his cabinet picks, like his response to the financial crisis, like the sense I get from him that he isn't shrinking at all from a giant set of challenges. He just might be the right person at the right time -- a Lincoln, a FDR. At the same time, I think anyone who would put their trust in him and hope for the best -- not constantly push him from the left so he'll stay near the center -- is insane. Politics is a pressure game, and our side needs to learn how to play.

*The title of the post is from a particularly vivid memory I have of being a kid hanging around on a certain college campus, watching a bunch of students hurl rage at a ROTC formation. "Get Rotsies off campus!" was one of their chants. And they were chanting -- they were clapping and stomping in time to the chant, almost like a dance. Or a twisted kind of march of their own, a way of mocking the ROTCs.

Anyway, it shocked me, that this bunch of white people at an elite public -- that is, taxpayer-funded -- institution could harbor such blind anger towards a bunch of people they didn't know, and who were doing something that in the end was public service, no matter what you thought of it. This was in the years after Vietnam, so the war wasn't directly responsible. It was just a bunch of people needing a target for their dumb anger, and the ROTC was there. Ever since seeing that I mistrusted the left on all matters military, and if that stuff had that sort of effect on me, I can only imagine what it did to other people who saw it. That's got to change.

Disconnect

Gretchen Rubin:

It's nice to be nice, of course. It's not BAD to practice random acts of kindness. But if you want to build your happiness based on the happiness you bring to other people - the noblest ways of boosting happiness - I think it's more productive to be targeted. Hold the door open for a person pushing a stroller. Give your seat at Starbucks to an elderly person. Help a co-worker even when you're rushing to meet a deadline yourself.


Except for the "Help a co-worker" part, these are things I always considered expectations, not "kindness." Helping a woman with a stroller -- what man wouldn't do that? In fact, I always hold the door open for women, stroller or not, and see this behavior in other people as well. I wonder if this is a situation where Rubin, a New Yorker, is used to a different set of behavior norms than the rest of us.

And talk about awakening fears of "reciprocation" -- helping a co-worker is the single best way I can think of doing that. You should only do it if you know them well and are already friendly with them, they are in no position to do you a favor in return down the road, or they know, and accept, the notion that eventually there's going to be a favor called. Anything else and you are risking uncomfortable personal dynamics in the one place nobody needs them. That's just the way the real world works.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Visionary Leadership

Congress at work:

Faced with staggering new unemployment figures, Democratic Congressional leaders said on Friday that they were ready to provide a short-term rescue plan for the cash-strapped American automakers, and expected to hold votes on the legislation during a special session next week.

Details of the rescue package were not immediately available but senior Congressional aides said that it would include billions of dollars in short-term loans to keep the automakers afloat at least until President-elect Barack Obama takes office.

Ending a weeks-long stalemate between the Bush administration and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, senior aides said that the money would likely come from $25 billion in federally subsidized loans intended for developing advanced fuel efficient cars.

Ms. Pelosi had resisted using that money, which was approved as part of an energy bill last year, and Democrats had called repeatedly on the Bush administration or the Federal Reserve to act unilaterally, using existing authority, to aid the auto companies.

On Friday, Ms. Pelosi said that she would allow that money to be used provided “there is a guarantee that those funds will be replenished in a matter of weeks” and that there was no delay in working toward higher fuel-efficiency.

Word of a breakthrough came as Congress wrapped up two days of hearings at which lawmakers grilled the chief executives of the companies, Chrysler, Ford and General Motors, and experts warned that GM could collapse by the end of this month.

But it was the Labor Department’s report of 533,000 jobs lost in November that seemed to put a final halt to the hand-wringing on Capitol Hill and prompted the Democrats to announce that they would draw up legislation for votes next week.



Wait until after everything is fucked beyond recall, then do something. That was the pattern with Iraq, that's been the pattern with the housing crisis and the subsequent, broader meltdown: on every major issue these people are behind the curve, babbling about nonsense while the country goes down the drain. The Republicans have no governing philosophy, no will or desire to do anything besides obstruct progress and bomb weak countries, while the Democrats have lost all ability to take the sorts of risks necessary to govern.

Yes, part of this is that the public and their media pushers are ignorant about economics and always on the prowl for something to sneer at and attack, and an auto bailout would have been a perfect target for sneers and attacks. But what kind of leader wouldn't, staring straight in the face of a new Depression, decide to say, "Fuck it, we're going to act and deal with the public afterwards"?

This whole thing could almost certainly have been averted several months ago with an aggressive bailout of Lehman, and the creation of a rainy day fund of a few hundred billion. Instead, we are here, and the total cost will run well over a trillion when all is said and done, and even that might not be enough. This is a broken country, and even if the economy is put back together again, it will remain broken until our leaders are capable of leading.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Bob Gibson, philosopher

My ex, a 100% dyed in the wool, Rush listening wingnut who two weeks ago was calling Obama a "socialist," was today praising him for his moderateness, and made the brilliant point, "You know there's hardly any difference between the Democrats and the Republicans, don't you?" It's like someone pulled a switch somewhere, and what was black is now grey, what was up is now in the middle, what was intolerable is now hardly any different than the alternative. I don't understand the mindset that allows that switch to be made so quickly and unconsciously -- she has entirely forgotten what she thought of him two weeks ago. It's frightening, is what it is.

If I were on the Obama team and all these people, my sworn enemies two weeks ago, were suddenly praising me, I'd be taking a hard look at my actions. There's such a thing as too much bipartisanship, and as we've discovered with Bush, too much support can be almost as bad as too little. If the conservatives don't start pushing back some, it means Obama is not crowding the plate like he should. It all goes back to Bob Gibson: "Show me a hitter who can't be jammed, and I'll show you a horseshit hitter."

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Chick Flicks

Since being drug in to see the Sex And The City movie, I have seen Mamma Mia, and now Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2.

1) They are emotionally sophisticated. You can, if you look, generally see the manipulations, and in fact, it was because I liked deconstructing these manipulations that I've come to enjoy the genre. But compare the carefully constructed and thought-out characters in even a simplistic chick flick, like SATC, to a male-oriented film, like, say, any of the Bourne movies, and it's no contest. The Bourne films have simple characters driven by simple motivations, whose interactions with each other seldom involve more than gunshots. In a chick flick, the interactions are the whole point of the movie. A male movie is about the action, the what; a female movie is about the who, the why. Action films center on technique: cool car chases, well choreographed fight scenes, pacing; chick flicks center on dialogue. Dialogue, dialogue, dialogue.

2) Chick flicks seem to focus on relationships between women. Men are necessary, but entirely peripheral, actors, little more than props and plot devices. I have never in my life known a woman who had relationships with other women like the idealized ones you see in these films. In fact, I've never known a group of women who could stand each other for very long. Pairs, yes, but get more than two together for any period of time and trouble has always been the result. I have no idea why this is, but the stark contrast between the reality of female interaction and its idealized version in these films is jarring to me. Why is reality so incredibly different from what women seem to want, based on what I see in these films?

This isn't intended as a put down, as man movies are no more realistic. Arnold or Stallone or someone shooting their way through a roomful of bad guys is no more realistic than these sisterhood things. Man movies have gotten somewhat better than they were in the 80s, but not all that much. But the point is, if women really wanted to have these beautiful, perfect relationships with each other it would seem to be something they can create, whereas the idealized world of a man movie is an impossible fantasy.


The women I know I could talk to about this and get some answers aren't the kind of women who watch these films, while the women I know who watch and enjoy them haven't been able to give me any answers, and sometimes get annoyed with me when I try to bring the subject up. :/

One further point: why isn't anyone making movies of those romance novels that seem to sell so well? You'd think there's a market for them.


To finish up this mental doodle, a more realistic chickish flick which I just saw was Rachel Getting Married. Outstanding acting all throughout, especially from Anne Hathaway, who bounces back from what I thought was a listless performance in Get Smart, and the long MIA Debra Winger, who fell off the map and now, we can hope, will re-emerge, although I don't know what kind of roles she will be able to find. But she's still as gifted as ever, and there's something about her, even in her 50s, that draws your eyes to her wherever she is onscreen, or at least for me. If she can't get good filmwork maybe she can do something on stage. Way too much talent to let it waste.

Anyway, the female relationships in this movie are much more realistic than in classic chick flicks. The women fight, they vie with each other, they don't care for each other, men are in the center, not on the periphery -- just much more like real life. And that's probably why an excellently made and acted film like this one will likely do about half as much business as a fantasy movie would have.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Schlaesify:

To create an "expert" by giving someone a book deal. In cases where their credentials are particularly thin, you can also make them a member of some panel or think tank. Then you bring them out to argue a position legitimate experts will not risk their reputations over.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

By their enemies...

The Beltway -- wrong about everything since 1992 -- is so happy with everything Obama does that I'm getting a little concerned. They fought Clinton tooth and nail, and he ran a highly successful presidency. They bowed down to George Bush for six years, and he ran the country into the ground.

Sometimes I think that politics is like a play. You need some tension -- some conflicting motives, unease, suspense, some drama -- to bring out the best in the actors. And the audience. The Republicans in Congress aren't going to be the lap dogs in opposition the Democrats were, so I imagine there will be some fireworks here and there, but I feel we would be better served if Obama was being challenged by something more than an intellectually bankrupt political movement led by the likes of John Boehner and Mitch McConnell. The Washington press corps is at least as intellectually bankrupt as the Republican Party is, but maybe this would be a case of quantity making do for quality.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Mindless partisanship

The thought strikes me that when the Democrats took power in 1932, they went on to win WWII, end the Depression, lay the groundwork for winning the Cold War, and firmly establish the principle of equal rights for all, regardless of skin color or gender. When the Republicans took power, they embroiled the country in a disastrous war, took a nasty shit on the constitution, and destroyed the economy. In about 1/12 the time the Democrats had. It's so ridiculous that my reflexive instinct is to say it's all absurd, that I'm being some kind of mindless partisan. But I keep trying to think my way around it, and I really can't. I can point to instances of bad times under the Democrats, of a blunder here, an excess there, but overall, the period between 1932 - 2000 was the best 70 years in the history of this country. It was one long stretch of growing prosperity, prestige, power, influence, respect, and freedom. To go from that to where we are now -- how is that possible?

Ben Stein's Money

Who'da thunk Ben Stein, most recently seen in the awful Expelled, has a soul?




Stein now finds himself fighting a dragon he's helped to feed. To his credit, he's fought this battle before, speaking out against tax cuts for the wealthy despite, I'm sure, being pretty wealthy himself, but people like Stein, and Kathleen Parker, and Powell, and Scott McClellan, and so on -- what do they expect? They've been watching these sorts of things play out for years, often taking part in them themselves, and now when the Crazy Train that is modern conservatism has worked up a full head of crazy steam and is heading for a cliff, welp, there are going to be some cuts and bruises and broken bones after they jump off.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Boy In The Striped Pajamas

1) I'm tired of Holocaust literature.

2) There's something so human about this story it transcends the genre.

3) I'm still tired of Holocaust literature. Isn't there evil out there right now we can directly explore through film? This story, with a few changes, could have been set in Rwanda or the former Yugoslavia or hell, Israel, for that matter, and been just as touching and even more relevant. Come on film industry, step outside the lines.

Impress

Almost against my will, Obama continues to win me over. I have not one bad thing to say about his cabinet selections to date, except to complain about letting a Republican take over for Napolitano in my former state of Arizona. But even there, from what I've been able to glean, DHS has been so mis-run by Bushism that he needed someone super-competent to clean house, and Napolitano is super-competent. Taking Hillary on as SecState was a slap in the face to the Beltway class, the first time Obama has ever done such a thing that I can remember. And I think he's doing Hillary a big favor in giving her this shot at a role where she can operate without the Washington Babble constantly attacking her. It's a magnanimous gesture, and one I hope a lot of people will remember. My one caveat there is that people ooohed and aaaahed over Bush's cabinet picks, and they turned out to be the most ill-managed, dismal collection of ideologues to inhabit the White House in modern history. I don't think that will happen here, if for no other reason because Obama is half again the man Bush is, but a team of well regarded sub-chiefs does not a success make. But you take an intelligent, thoughtful guy, mix in a strong cabinet, and the willingness to show some sac every once in awhile:



and how can he fail?

The key line is the last: "It is time to act. And as the next President of the United States, I will." My guess is he'd rather avoid making semi-Bushian statements like these, but Bush and the obstructionist Republicans in Congress aren't doing shit while panic is re-asserting itself in the markets, so he had no choice. I think he's committed to going in there and doing whatever it takes to save the economy, the simpering chatter of the Beltway be damned. And that's exactly what it's going to take to get things done. Unfortunately, lacking an equivalent to Fox News and Rush and the gang, a Democratic President needs the Beltway to be at least non-hostile if they're going to get their message out to the public, but the message of a ruined economy speaks a lot louder than Brian Williams and Charlie Gibson and the rest of the dullards.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Interest

One of the things that I can't stop marveling at is how much we keep paying and paying and paying for having given an ideologue, know-nothing movement so much power in this country. It isn't just Iraq, it isn't just the meltdown and the "deep recession" -- no, you'd think that would be enough. But the party that brought us George Bush and Sarah Palin, the Iraq War and nuclear Korea, Terri Schiavo and a cut in stem cell research, Katrina and the economic meltdown -- yes, these same people -- want to roll the dice on the economy some more, by letting Detroit fail:

As a new bout of fear gripped the financial markets, stocks fell sharply again on Thursday, continuing a months-long plunge that has wiped out the gains of the last decade.

The credit markets seized up as confidence in the nation’s financial system ebbed and people rushed to put money in Treasuries, the safest of investments. Some markets are now back to where they were before Congress approved the $700 billion financial rescue in October.


And what do these witless ideologues get in return for their dice roll? Nothing more than the warm feeling of having adhered to an economic and political philosophy that the vast majority of them don't understand.

How many trillions of dollars will this nation pay for the gross self indulgence of eight long years of Bushism? Nobody knows, and not knowing is a problem. But an even bigger problem is that the Bush-Palin-Shelby-Coburn Republicans don't care.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Go Franken!

Franken closes the gap on Coleman.


According to data just released by the Minnesota Secretary of State, Al Franken has gained a net of 43 votes on the first day of that state's recount process. Norm Coleman had a lead of 215 voters over Franken in Minnesota's certified, pre-recount tally; that margin is now 172 votes.

Minnesota reports that it has thus far recounted 15.49 percent of its ballots. If the first day's results are indicative of the pace that the candidates will maintain throughout the recount process, Franken would gain a net of 278 votes over Colmean [sic], giving him a narrow victory. For any number of reasons, however, the results reported thus far may not be indicative of future trends.


Getting rid of Dole, Coleman, and Stevens is like a political triple play. Franken is now a 3:2 favorite on Intrade, which means it ain't over yet.

(Almost) All the right moves

I've always liked Tom Daschle, and I like what I'm beginning to think is Obama's unwavering focus. I think the odds are now pretty good that Obama means business, that he's going to find a way to get things done, that he's going to do the things it will take to succeed. And as long as he gets reasonable breaks, I think he will succeed. This is the first time I've been truly impressed by Obama; until now he struck me as a charismatic, but otherwise ordinary, pol. He ran a mediocre campaign, but it was good enough to win. Having mediocre relations with a Congress like this one will not be good enough to win; as Bill Clinton discovered with the whole impeachment fiasco, it might not even be good enough to finish. Daschle, with his years of experience and contacts in the Senate, gives Obama the best imaginable shot at having good relations with Congress. It's still early, but so far it looks like Obama really gets this governing stuff, and I'd rather have someone who gets governing than someone who gets campaigning any day of the week.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Madam President


It looks like Hillary is a go for Secretary of State. And the more I think about it, the more I think I was wrong about this move helping her ambitions, because of a key point. The only reason we aren't calling her "President-elect Hillary Clinton" is because of 15 years of press corps hostility. All the stories, the gross misogyny, constant negative attention, distortions, absurd allegations of race baiting -- these were the difference in a razor close campaign.

Now, one of the interesting features of the SecState position is that I can't think of a single Secretary of State who is disliked by many people. Not Kissinger, not Rice, not even the colorless George Schultz. They get in the news when they are flying around the world trying to put out fires, and when they go on those talking head shows they are treated with deference because they are, in many respects, the face of the country to the outside world -- bashing Sec State Hillary is a different ballgame from bashing candidate or Senator Hillary. So Secretary of State gives Hillary a platform from which she can project an image unfiltered by Chris Matthews' Washington. And it gives her a national platform, as opposed to the regional one she has as a New York Senator, or even a New York Governor. If she and Obama are able to achieve some success, particularly in the Middle East -- and I suspect Obama has every intention of doing that -- all the Chris Matthewses in the world would be hard put to continue blackguarding her in 2016.

All that being said, I still think she could do more for the country in the Senate. If all the pull on President Obama comes from the right, that's the direction he's likely to lean in. There is no national figure besides Hillary around whom some kind of left movement could even possibly coalesce. Getting her out of the Senate is good for Obama, good for Hillary, but bad for those of us who don't trust Obama.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Hillary

Hillary out of the Senate removes the natural focus of any Democratic Party dissent to Obama's presidency. This is essentially the same Senate that rolled over and bared its ass for George Bush for eight years. Take Hillary, her supporters, and her ambition out of the equation, and no one is likely to even try to keep Obama honest. And he would seem to need the help in that area, as all politicians do. I hope like hell she looks over his offer and decides to pass. She can do a lot more for the country, and for herself where she is. Someone has to drive the healthcare debate; someone's got to be a voice for women and the working class, and right now that's Hillary.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Me likee



No selling ideological horseshit like Bush would have done, just "We have problems and we're going to solve them." Ideology, whether left, right, center, or "bipartisan," doesn't matter -- getting the job done matters. Ideology is a tool, not an end.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Distance from power makes the mind grow less disgusted.



Somehow Bill O'Reilly is much less obnoxious when the ideas he supports are separated from being realized by a Democratic President and Congress. I might even come to feel neutral about him -- if the Dems also had the Supreme Court.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

War Of The Words

Here's Matthews, campaigning for 2010:




It wasn't a good performance on Matthews' part, but what I found interesting was the Republican flack getting out the "It's still a center-right country" thing, even able, over Matthews' ranting, to get in a reference to the exit polls showing 30-odd percent of the voters identify as conservative, only 22% as liberal. This is a potent stat, all the more so considering that Matthews and his colleagues are a little bit intellectually flabby. It's going to be trotted out again and again by Republican flacks and their whipping boys in the "liberal media" -- as long as they aren't planning on running for a Senate seat as a Democrat, like Matthews is.

If the Democrats are serious about "change" they are going to have to defeat this talking point, both when the flacks and when the Broders keep chanting it in the face of all other evidence, both electoral and poll-wise, showing that people really do want the Democrats to shake things up. The obvious way of doing this would be to say, "I don't care about 'liberal' or 'conservative' -- I care about issues. And on these issues -- healthcare, social security, jobs, the tax system, foreign policy -- the public agrees with our agenda. You can call it a liberal agenda or a conservative agenda -- in fact, you can call it what you want to call it. But that's what I was elected to enact, and that's what I'm going to spend the next four years pushing for." If the Democrats and Chris Matthewses allow themselves to get bogged down by meaningless, undefined words and phrases like "liberal" (what does the public mean by "liberal"? None of those exit polls ever says), and "center-right country", and "Democratic overreach," they will end up getting very little done.

Winner

Four short years ago...




I wonder if this guy, standing there with his "W." shirt on grinning like a football fan after his team scored the winning touchdown with a few seconds left on the clock, still has the same idea of what a "winner" is that he did that day, Nov 2 2004. I wonder if he understands, watching his team being squeezed into a smaller and smaller electoral region, that it isn't just a case of his party losing elections, but of his party losing the war of ideas before the votes have even been cast.

Now that we're riding high, some of the folks on our side might do well to keep this thought in mind. Winning is the first step, but you have to follow through, have a positive vision for the country, which neither Bush in 2004, nor McCain in 2008, did. And then you have to have the courage and daring to make your vision live.

1456 days until the votes in 2012 are cast.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Lieberman

So he stays, apparently at Obama's behest, as I suspected would happen. The only way this works out is if Obama is planning on using his "mercy" to Lieberman as a marker when it comes time to get things done. Because when that time comes there are going to be shrieks of "Partisanship! Partisanship!" coming from a lot of different sources, and Lieberman could easily be one of them. And leaving him in control of an oversight committee -- that's like leaving Aldrich Ames in charge of counter-espionage after you've discovered he's a spy. Lieberman is perverse and narcissistic enough to use his spot to eff with an Obama Administration given half a chance. If he's removed after starting some bogus, Whitewater investigation, he can bask in a martyr's attention and claim the Democrats are just covering their ass. This isn't necessarily likely, but why give someone as demonstratedly perverse as Lieberman the opportunity to do what he does -- behave perversely? Get rid of him now, while it's cheap, easy, and painless. He's a risk the Democrats don't need to take.

On top of it all, taking his useless, duplicitous ass back means it'll be that much harder to beat him in 2012. I simply can't get over the optics of it: Lieberman behaves as a traitor to "his" party, Reid calls him in and says he's going to punish him. Lieberman, from a place of no leverage, says "That's unacceptable," and the Democrats back down. What in the fuck goes on in Washington?

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Never Can Say Goodbye

After all he's done, the Democrats can't bring themselves to kick Joe Lieberman into the gutter, where he belongs:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) signaled Sunday that he might be ready to forgive Connecticut Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, days after the two held a private meeting in the Capitol.

Party activists want Reid to strip Lieberman of his chairmanship atop the Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs for campaigning against President-elect Barack Obama.

"He is a senior member of the Senate," Reid said on CNN's "Late Edition," reminding viewers that Lieberman would become chairman of the Armed Services or Environment and Public Works committees if "something happens to the chairman."

More personally, Reid said he "would not be majority leader but for [Lieberman's] vote."

That said, the majority leader, whose cushion is six seats larger after last Tuesday's election, said, "I recognize what he did was wrong, and quite frankly, I don’t like what he did."

Reid said he and Lieberman would continue to discuss the latter's standing in the Democratic caucus.

"I think a lot of this is very private stuff, but Joe Lieberman has done something that I think was improper," Reid said. "If we weren't on television, I'd use a stronger word of describing what he did."

Lieberman, the Democrats' vice presidential nominee in 2000, took shots at Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden (Del.) while campaigning for his close friend, Arizona Sen. John McCain, the Republican presidential candidate who lost last week. Democrats did not punish Lieberman at the time because they held a meager one-seat majority in the Senate last year. The Democrats' expanded majority gives Reid more power to act.


Lieberman's smarmy, chuckly (what the fuck was with the constant "Huh huh heh hehs?" Was he doing a Beavis and Butthead impression?) performance at the Republican Convention was particularly odious, but apparently that's all water under the bridge now. Lieberman is the entirely meaningless difference between 58 Senate votes and 59, so it's forgive and forget time. Needless to say, like the FISA treachery, this almost certainly wouldn't be happening without Obama's approval. If the Democrats can't stand up to Joe Lieberman, how can they stand up to the terrorists?

It's all about the delivery now

Obama actually has intentions to do something:

Mr. Obama repeated on Saturday that his first priority would be an economic recovery program to get the nation’s business system back on track and people back to work. But advisers said the question was whether they could tackle health care, climate change and energy independence at once or needed to stagger these initiatives over time.

The debate between a big-bang strategy of pressing aggressively on multiple fronts versus a more pragmatic, step-by-step approach has flavored the discussion among Mr. Obama’s transition advisers for months, even before his election. The tension between these strategies has been a recurring theme in the memorandums prepared for him on various issues, advisers said.

“Every president is tempted to take on too much,” said one Obama adviser, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. “On the other hand, there’s the Roosevelt example and the L.B.J. example, which suggest an extraordinary president can do an awful lot. So that’s the question: Is it too risky for the president to be ambitious?”


Judging by the rhetoric coming from Pelosi and Obama himself, you'd think any internal debate was about whether to do anything at all, rather than how aggressively they should move. Coupled with their talk about undoing some of Bush's executive orders, Obama might just get things back to when the country worked -- worked in several senses of the word.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

A Tale of Two Elections

2008:



1896:



You'd think the Republicans would realize this is the future, as well as the present and the past, if they don't find a way to appeal to moderates.

Why GM matters

The world's youngest cranky old man is at it again:

Answer: The government has already done everything that it needs to in order to help G.M. The government established bankruptcy courts so that a company like G.M. can go through a Chapter 11 reorganization. During the Chapter 11 process, a judge has the power to adjust the company’s obligations so that they can be paid from the company’s likely future revenue. Chapter 11 was designed specifically so that employees can keep their jobs, albeit possibly at lower salaries, while shareholders and creditors suffer and/or are wiped out.

The stockholders, creditors, and employees of G.M. do not deserve to be spared the pain of the recession. The rest of America will be taking pay cuts, losing jobs, giving discounts to customers, etc. What is special about G.M. that they should be able to live as though 2008 never happened?


GM is a flagship of industrial America. If it files bankruptcy -- even "just" 11 -- the effects on the already bruised national psyche could be irrevocable. We're fighting like hell to avoid a new Depression, and we've got the fringe libertarian crowd out to use this as an opportunity to crush unions further (which is at least partially what's behind Mr. Greenspun's eagerness to watch GM collapse -- unions are an inevitable victim of an 11 filing).

That he would compare GM to Google ... well, GM directly employs 250,000+ people, and God only knows how many hundreds of thousands more indirectly. Google employs 20,000 - not even 10% of GM's total. Of course, when you don't work for a living yourself, some details become unimportant.

There are certainly problems in the domestic auto industry that are going to have to be resolved, and the industry will almost certainly further shrink in the near future. But to let it play out now, with all the rest of the problems we have, is simply ideologically driven recklessness. We could easily be seeing the U.S. government become an "employer of last resort" again, like it became in the 1930s. If that comes to be, saving some of those 250,000 jobs now would end up being much cheaper than letting those people go out of work, and then hiring them to sweep streets and build roads few people can afford to drive cars over any more.

I've been reading Greenspun for years now. In that time he's become increasingly cranky, increasingly willing to spout off on topics he shouldn't, increasingly unreadable. I suppose enough is enough.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Anaconda Plan



Expand the map a little, and this might be what the Democratic leadership is trying to do with the Republicans. It's either that, or they are a chickenshit bunch of people interested in nothing more than getting fat at the public trough.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

RIP John Leonard

John Leonard bites the dust at 69.

At an average of five books a week ... I will read 13,000. Then I'm dead. Thirteen thousand in a lifetime, about as many as there are new ones published every MONTH in this country.


I have no idea the exact number of books I've read. As a child, I read between 3 - 5 a week for several years, slowed down some in my teens, then picked up to a ferocious pace after adolescence for several years. Nowadays I average maybe one a week, albeit most of it garbage. When I left elementary school I'd read maybe 1/4 of all the books in the school's (small) library. I would have guessed it's a minimum of 5,000 books, and I should have a good 40 years to go. Yet when I look at Leonard's number, and my guesstimate of my own, my number seems a little Wilt Chamberlainesque.

So here's a breakdown: I have with me maybe 1000 books. I've donated about as many to libraries over the years. I've lost some, given some away, and then there are libraries, where a good chunk of the books I've read came from. Add in professional things I've read, and maybe 5,000 is too big a number. Maybe 3,000, 4,000 seems more accurate. It's still a lot of books compared to what most people read, but nowhere near the number I thought I'd read, until I looked at Leonard's calculation and thought about it some. And now it seems an inadequate number to me -- and if mine is inadequate.... What kind of world would this be, I wonder, if people made it a point to read one book a month. That's all, just one a month. It could be on any topic, fishing, sex, stamp collecting, romance -- it doesn't matter, just turn off the TV for awhile, find a quiet corner somewhere and read. What kind of world?

Marooned from a sinking ship

You've just been on the wrong side of a crushing electoral defeat -- for the second time in a row. Your party is being pushed into a smaller and smaller geographic region. Your party is in the minority on many of the most important issues of the day. The demographic trend is against you. What, then, to do? Do you need to ask? It's purge time in Wingnuttia!

RedState is pleased to announce it is engaging in a special project: Operation Leper.

We're tracking down all the people from the McCain campaign now whispering smears against Governor Palin to Carl Cameron and others. Michelle Malkin has the details.

We intend to constantly remind the base about these people, monitor who they are working for, and, when 2012 rolls around, see which candidates hire them. Naturally then, you'll see us go to war against those candidates.

...

Don't make us add you to our list. Do you really want to be next to Kathleen Parker in the leper colony?



Yikes, a leper colony's leper colony. Rejected by the loony bin. Voted off the crazy island. Persona non grata in hell.

With oblivious arrogance like this is it any wonder that these people have lost the good will of the American public? I'm sure that it's good business for redstate and Michelle Malkin and the rest of them to drum up these little vendettas and keep the rubes riled up, but it's a terrible way to reach out to the voters you need to re-establish some kind of electoral parity. At this rate these guys won't be out in the wilderness: they'll make a wilderness of where they live.

I doubt this will last very long or come to very much besides putting some extra scratch in Malkin's pocket, but there's a Senate seat in play in Georgia, where all this energy could be put to much better use.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Trickling in

This almost makes up for Franken, if he doesn't pull it off.

Democrat Jeff Merkley won the closely contested U.S. Senate race in Oregon, defeating incumbent Republican Sen. Gordon Smith, a victory that helps Democrats expand their majority in Congress, the Portland Oregonian reported on Wednesday.

With the results of three Senate races still to be determined from Tuesday's election, Democrats have now picked up six seats to raise their majority in the 100-member chamber to 57. Merkley is speaker of the state House in the Northwestern state.


Being a white, moderate Republican male has got to be one of the hardest jobs in the world. You want to be rational and thoughtful; all the people with passion on your side want Sarah Palin. A moderate woman Republican, like Snowe or Collins, can at least count on their gender -- they have a base of voters who will support them because they are women. Men ain't got nothing.

Not getting It

Having to explain, repeatedly, to white middle class people that no, black people don't expect Obama to wave a magic wand and give them all Cadillacs filled with 40 ouncers, and they'll riot if this doesn't happen, is quite annoying.

Come on, white people, are y'all that sheltered and ignorant? Do you have that low an opinion of us?

Prop 8 III

In the wake of last night, the relative success of Prop 8 should serve as a reminder of the road ahead. Those people are not going away, they are not quitting, they are not daunted. Yesterday was one battle in a long war.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Noodlin'

The numbers are coming in exactly as I expected them to, not a single surprise. Intellectually I knew this was going to happen, from about two days after Lehman Brothers Day. And yet, the reality of it is emotionally stunning. The tendency in the face of such a massive rout, the second such rout in two years, is to start getting all starry eyed, thinking the rules are changed, and so on. According to Greenwald,

A sign of how devastated the GOP is: the Fox panel is now actively considering whether this is no longer a "center-right country," but instead is now a "center-left country."


But then, the Republicans were all giddy after 2002 and 2004 when, in particular after 2004, they should have seen they had serious problems, that their party was out of ideas that could move the country forward, and they'd been winning on what amounted to a bunch of bullshit and the Iraq War.

When I look at the Democrats right now, I don't see them collapsing quickly, like the Republicans did. They are on the right side of some important issues -- health care, restoring some kind of balance to income and wealth distribution, keeping the religious nutcases out of our bedrooms and private lives, and so have a positive impetus, which the Republicans did not have after 2004. But things always look good when you're on top.

I was thinking that I'm not the only person emotionally stunned by this, that maybe Mitch McConnell, who just squeaked out a re-election win, and his Republican friends in the Senate will realize they've been on the wrong side of history for too long, that they are going to have to get out of the way of progress. Then I went over to redstate to see what the crazies are saying. Here's a sample:

A liberal media, a weak president, the housing crisis, and the charm gap between McCain and Obama...

What's troubling though, is that an Obama win will be misconstrued by the left as a MANDATE that America is ripe and ready for socialism. Which it isn't.

------------

It should have beens an easy win
for the Republicans if McCain had been a solid CONSERVATIVE. God bless Sarah Palin but unfortunately she was the VP candidate.

Perhaps McCain did not run the best campaign, but blame needs to be squarely placed on Bush also. He did great harm to the GOP by governing as a RINO (like McCain).

------------

The "American" Electorate has shown itself to be perfectly willing to embrace Socialism. Obama is so obviously a Marxist that any other explanation for him winning so handily is sophistry. There is no more America tonight.

------------
It remains to be seen if the same people who voted for him because of his race will continue to support him once he begins implementing his Socialist policies.



Those people are there. Rush Limbaugh is still there, and he isn't paid $20 million a year to be a voice of moderation. Rupert Murdoch isn't likely to defang Fox News any time soon. The neocons still want their wars, the rich still want their tax cuts, the religious nuts still want to dictate peoples' private behavior, the corporations still want no regulation. What's changed, then? Right now those groups have been pushed to the margins, but it doesn't have to stay that way. The iron is sort of hot for the Dems, but it will be three months before Obama and the new Congress are sworn in. Plenty of time for the Republicans, and the people at Fox, to remember whose interests they represent -- and it isn't the moderates' interests.

Winning is just the beginning. Even after a big win like this.

Time



We've been singing this song for over 40 years, since Sam Cooke wrote it. Now, it's time to live it.

Tilting...

It looks like the actually important races -- Al Franken and Kay Hagan challenging incumbent Republicans in the Senate -- are going the Dems' way. Those were the two I wanted big -- Coleman always struck me as a sleazy opportunist, and I have no idea why Elizabeth Dole is a senator, and judging by her campaign, neither does she.

A few years ago Bill and Hillary Clinton and Bob and Elizabeth Dole (Bob Dole had been Clinton's opponent in the 1996 race) did this "bipartisan" fundraiser thing where they went out on stage together and tried to talk nice about each other. Hillary and Bill were gracious, Bob Dole was slightly less so, but Elizabeth was a fill-in-the-blank. You'd have thought she'd rather cut her tongue out than say something nice about either Clinton. Hopefully, she'll get to nurse whatever resentments she has without the benefit of a government salary, office, staff, and vote in the Senate after today.

Teh Crazy Begins

Click at your own peril.

Some choice comments:




Start the War, I'll Be There!
I say let the blood flow and to the victor go the spoils! I've had enough! Let it begin. Enough placating!


--------------

If the election is a 'landslide' for Obama and the Dems, it's only the beginning of the storm troopers and brown shirts actions upon anyone who disagrees with the chosen one.....der fuhrer...Wake Up America.

---------------

Are you kidding?
We are talking about Hypocrats here! They have been stealing elections for DECADES!! You think in Philly it will be any different?

Get ready for the next 4 years to be just like this!

Hussein and his minions will be using Chicago vote stealing, thug actions like this to overpower ANY opposition!

Way to go you Obamatons! This is the most uniformed [?] electorate that has ever voted for a President. To all you morons that think Hussein will be paying for your gas and mortgages...give us a shout in 4 years and tells us where you are!

LOL! You idiots have been voting for the same liberal policies for DECADES and look where you are, standing at a rally with children that should be in school, showing these kids that a politician is going to cure your every ill!

How sad! You have nothing to show for you life voting Hypocrat all your life and you just continue on doing it...

MORONS!!!

------------------

Obama is a disgrace to the human race, an embarassment [sic] to his family, to his community and most of all to this country.

-----------------

The only good socialist thug is a dead socialist thug. Marxist/Socialist ideology has murdered over 150 million people who disagree with them. I disagee. [sic] THe time to stand up against tyranny is near.



That about gave me my RDA of crazy for the day, and I haven't even got to The Corner yet.

These lunatics will be demanding Clinton bashing-style books soon claiming Obama is a murderer and so on, and there are people out there who will meet the demand. It seems the "MSM" has lost interest in playing those games itself for now, but you never know if they'll get bored once things get on a stable track, and decide it's worthwhile to stir up some shit, "investigate" a couple of "Obama is a murdering drug smuggler" type "stories" just to attract some eyeballs. The natural check for this sort of thing would be the liberal internet as a watchdog for its own interests, but the interests of the people who run the big sites and the people who read them are already diverging. We're probably OK for the next several years, because Obama is well liked and there are so many serious problems to solve. But Obama won't be around, or necessarily well-liked, forever, and problems exist to be solved. The crazies, though, aren't going anywhere.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Premature celebration

The world's youngest cranky old man

Greenspun should be too smart for stuff like this, but when given the choice between intellectual exercise and emotional gratification, it's human nature for most people to choose the latter. I won't even bother running down all the reasons Massachusetts residents pay more taxes than New Hampshire residents do (and probably get a good return on those dollars); the point is that Greenspun shouldn't have to be told this. But he perfectly illustrates a point: for too many people politics is more about self-gratification than making the world a better place. But people will pretend otherwise every chance they get. He's in his early 40s and already settled into a useless life of useless bitching. What a waste of an IQ.

Cheney's endorsement

How nasty and mean spirited is Dick Cheney? Well, let's answer that question with another one: what are the chances that Cheney, with 40 years experience in politics, didn't know the impact his endorsement would have? Maybe he figured the election was lost anyway, McCain has been going around attacking Bush (and by extension, Cheney), so he might as well stick the knife in, get a little vengeance, tell someone to "go fuck yourself" one last time, while anyone still cares what he thinks or says. Kind of a political hunting accident: he "accidentally" shot McCain in the face with his endorsement.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The politics of (foolish?) optimism

Joe Biden today:

While Biden made several references to the protesters as he criticized McCain, President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, he told the crowd of about 1,000 that they need to unite with Republicans.

"We can't moan about the politics of division unless after this election's over, God willing we win, we reach out to the very people out in the outer parking. I mean literally, not a joke," Biden said. "I know you find some of that obnoxious, but ... we've got to end this. Somebody's got to be big enough to stand up and end it."


We'll see if being grownup can "end it." Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Fox News, tens of millions of dollars of wingnut welfare, calling Obama a socialist Muslim -- and having many people in your party believing it, calling a progressive income tax rate socialism, the most obstructionist Senate in the history of the United States, the popularity of the radically divisive radical Sarah Palin among the Republicans -- how can you put an "end" to all this and still have enough focus left to run the country? Many of those people think they are at war -- not just with "islamofasicts," but with liberals and any other Americans who don't agree with them. How, exactly, does Biden propose to put an "end" to that?

I'm hoping Biden isn't that naive. I'm hoping he and Obama are laying the groundwork to be able to say, "We've tried hard to work with these folks but they aren't interested in anything besides namecalling and obstructionism." And I'm hoping they are able to pull this off without looking weak and foolishly optimistic in the process.