Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Potemkin Presidency

Now that there are no more elections, Bush no longer needs his stage prop Crawford ranch:

Bush, the former Texas Rangers co-owner, does not plan to go back into sports but will earn money through paid speeches, friends say. While keeping the ranch in Crawford, Bush is also buying a house in Dallas to be near the library and the institute. He talked about it during a recent fund-raiser in Houston that was closed to reporters but was surreptitiously videotaped by a guest who slipped it to a local television station.

“We’ve got a housing issue,” Bush told the donors before adding mischievously, “evidently not in Dallas, because Laura’s over there trying to buy a house today.”

The crowd laughed. “What about Crawford?” someone shouted.

“I like Crawford,” Bush replied. “Unfortunately, after eight years of asking her to sacrifice, I am now no longer the decision maker. She’ll be deciding, thanks for the suggestion. I suggest you don’t yell it out when she’s here. I did tell her, I said: ‘Honey, we’ve been on government pay now for 14 years. Go slow!’ ”



One of the phoniest, consultant-manufactured people ever to run for public office was passed off, for years, as an "authentic", "regular guy." It's one of the greatest con jobs in history, and like the best con jobs, planted seeds that grew into other cons, like the Iraq War and a massive, upwards redistribution of wealth under the guise of "tax relief." The last seed of this con that might sprout is McCain's campaign.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Palin II

She's a wingnut soul hiding behind a box of Tampax and a pretty face. If -- and I don't think they should -- the Dems decide to hit her, they need to do it on the issues. It's possible the Reps miscalculated somewhat: a lot of the sympathy Clinton got was because the nature of the media attacks against her was so ugly and personal and dishonest; attacks on Palin that are issues-based shouldn't be seen in the same light. At the same time, there are some raw feelings out there, and McCain will try to exploit any attacks at all to the fullest, and play the gender card for every spot it's worth, just when his POW card is expiring. She's bait, and the Dems are best off leaving her to soak in the water.

Ultimately, all this comes down to one of the many key failures of the liberal "netroots" during the primaries. Had they not been eager to play along with all those insults and inventions from Chris Matthews and the rest of the gang, Hillary's backers, and women in general, would have been a lot less pissed off. Of course, had they decided not to play along, Hillary would have been the nominee and all this bullshit wouldn't be happening. True, there would be other bullshit, but if the Republicans manage to put a permanent dent in the advantage Democrats have had in recent history with women voters, it's going to create a ripple felt in places a lot further off than this election. And one last thought. Everyone's talking about how McCain is going after "disaffected Hillary voters." Sure he is. But that's not the actual point. He's going after women voters. Most traditionally liberal Hillary voters won't want anything to do with Palin. But there are more voters out there than just Hillary voters, liberal and otherwise.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Palin

I was simply stunned by the reaction of the wingers to Palin. They were thrilled to death. I expected them to be disappointed because their fellow Mormon Romney got passed over, but not a bit. She's good looking (heard that over and over), young, and -- this fascinates me -- they felt that having a woman on the ticket helps negate the "advantage" Obama has as a black man. They wouldn't come out and say it in my presence, but that was the gist of what they did say. Apparently Obama has some kind of Affirmative Action advantage with the voters, or at least in the minds of the wingers he does. They also liked that she comes from Alaska, and is presumably pro-drilling -- this, for some reason, was seen as some sort of trump card she holds.

The two things about Palin to my mind are whether she is able to hold her own, and whether people look on her as a stunt or a gimmick or an act of desperation by McCain (which I think she is at least to some degree). If she flops, then she automatically looks like a desperation play that backfired. If she is viewed as a stunt, then whatever her merits, she looks like a desperation play, which makes McCain's campaign look like it's flailing. From the standpoint of McCain I like the pick, because he has to do well with women, and a status quo, old white guy pick wouldn't have helped him much there. And just an argument over her lack of experience takes some of the rock star focus off of Obama and puts it on McCain's campaign, which he needs. I think on balance it was one of those good gambles the Republicans take and the Dems won't.

45

The magic number for McCain is 45, as in 45% of the women's vote. He gets that, and he stands a good chance of winning. The entire McCain campaign has been focused on that from the second Obama got the nomination, and nobody seems to understand it on the Dem side. Palin is entirely in line with that focus; if she can hold up her end reasonably well, she will have been another calculated choice in a campaign that is very disciplined and focused, despite the way it has been portrayed on the liberal web and, at times, by the "MSM." He does risk getting tarred as a panderer, but hey, it's McCain. He still has media goodwill to burn.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Watching a political convention (thanks CSpan) has the astonishing power to make me even more cynical.

Obama's speech = good so far. Something like Clinton's in '92, but not as sharp. He isn't as good a speaker as Clinton, contrary to some claims I've heard. But also contrary to the campaign he's run so far, he projects strength and passion. It's going to be hard for people who watch him speak to think of him as effete. I can see him almost "getting it" with regards to the women vote. A very good night for him, especially compared to the speakers who preceded him, who trotted out boilerplate stuff that would have fit in the convention of either party. He did best on foreign policy, the least important piece of the election, but maybe the most important to his campaign. Too many "I wills." Begging for equality on the "patriotism" thing is a loser's move. Why not take the issue? Why in the world did he talk about guns??????? Ending pretty good. Falling into the cadences of black preachers a little, and it looks like he's been sandbagging on the speaking skills some. Clinton still better, I think. What the hell is it with the country music? Exceptionally beautiful family. He gets a straight B, which considering the Republican line of attack, is the perfect grade. The preacher said it best: "Let's go out and change the world for good." Nancy Pelosi = tired hack. Let's hope nobody was watching her.

Interesting

3.3% GDP growth sounds pretty good, except:

GDP swelled 3.3% at an annual rate in the second quarter, the Commerce Department said. That came on the heels of 0.9% growth in the first quarter, meaning the economy grew at more than a 2% annual rate during the first half of the year — a time when many economists, including Federal Reserve staff, thought it would shrink.

But the forecasts of a shrinking economy may not be so far off the mark after all. Gross domestic income, which Fed officials have in the past highlighted as perhaps a better measure than GDP, advanced just 1.9% at an annual rate last quarter after contracting the two previous quarters. Thursday’s report is the first to show first quarter GDI in the red.

Two consecutive quarterly declines in activity — usually defined by GDP — is the popular definition of recession, though the National Bureau of Economic Research uses a more complicated gauge to make its official determination, usually several months after the fact.


What is particularly interesting is the cynicism and bitterness of the commentors; you'd expect people commenting on an economics blog sponsored by the WSJ to be, at the very least, somewhat sympathetic to the Republican/conservative cause, but these people don't come across that way. Probably, the kind of people who snarl out "Democrat Party" and toss off lines about appeasement and so on aren't the kind of people interested in dissecting a GDP report.

I spoke with two people today who were cynical and bitter themselves, both retired white men with more than a couple of quarters to their name. One called the GDP numbers "bullshit," and the other, a very mild-mannered and generally nice guy, surprised the hell out of me by all but saying he thought the Bush people were cooking the books to help McCain. I had never heard one pip of political speech out of either one of them before. At any rate, I thought today's numbers would be good for McCain, in the sense that the Republicans could count on the media to talk about how things are looking up, but that hasn't been the response at all. There is a lot of anxiety out there, a lot of pain, a lot of frustration, but not very much confidence in the integrity or competence of the country's political leadership -- even less confidence than usual. And despite this, McCain is still hanging around in the polls.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A tale of two elections

What the election should be about. Instead, we talk about arugula (what the hell is arugula anyway?) and Paris Hilton and "celebrity" and other nonsense. Ultimate fighting isn't too far away from gladitorial games; I wonder if we'll see the real thing in my lifetime.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Wingnuttery

"Barack Hussein Saddam Osama Bin Laden."

"Hahahahahahahhahahahah!"

"Hahahahahahahahahaah!"

"Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!"

"Michelle scares me. I like Obama, but Michelle is scary."

"You like Obama? Hahahahahahahahahahahahahaaha!"

"Yes, he's fine, but Michelle is scary."

"Obama scares me."

"No, Obama is OK, it's Michelle you have to be afraid of. She is scary."


"Barack Bin Laden Saddam Hussein."

"Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!"

"Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!"


"It doesn't matter because McCain is going to win."

"No, I think Obama is going to win."

"They're tied in the polls, and McCain is doing good."

"I still think Obama is going to win."

"Barack Hussein Osama."

"Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!"

"HAhahahahahahahahahahahah!"

"Hahahahahahahahahahahahaha!"

"I think Obama is going to win, but I'm going to vote for McCain, because Michelle scares me."


The youngest person in this group is 25, all have children, college degrees, and respectable jobs. This is probably -- probably -- a below average specimen of what passes for political discourse in this country, but it isn't below average by much. Notice that Michelle Obama has already become a threatening she-bitch, like Hillary before her. I remember eerily similar "discussions" in the early 90s revolving around the Clintons.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The press corps got to vote, after all.

There is not one thing Obama has said or done that insider Washington disapproves of. This includes his running mate selection, who is, from what I can tell, adored by Washington, at least as much as a Democrat can be adored there. I have nothing against Biden at all -- one old white guy is pretty much the same as another -- but Obama's kowtowing to a Washington culture that is entirely corrupt doesn't say anything good about Obama.

Friday, August 22, 2008

I am...

happy about the campaign Obama is finally starting to run.

I am not...

confident that the campaign he is running -- and he's only running it this way because he has been forced to -- is indicative of the kind of president he will be, the kind of president he will need to be if he is to get anything done. But it's quite possible this experience will teach him that having balls and letting people know you have them can yield good results. And since he's going to be sitting in that big white house, he might as well do something in it. The intelligence and life experience are there, I wonder if the character -- and I'm narrowly defining character here to mean "the courage to do what your heart knows is right, not just what your brain tells you is safe" -- is as well. Because he's going to need a shitload of character.

All this fuss over the VP selection, and if it isn't Hillary (and it won't be) none of it means shit, anyway. One bland, white guy is going to be pretty much the same as another. I imagine the press corps feels like they're watching American Idol, but they can't call in to cast their vote for their untalented favorite, just to show they have some power. They must be getting pretty pissed off about now.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Ringing hollow

I was trying to figure out why Obama's way, way overdue, but generally on-the-mark, counterattack left me a little cold, and I think I hit on it: he is only talking about this stuff now, in the context of a campaign where he has been losing ground on economic issues. If this stuff had been really important to him, he could have whacked McCain on it weeks ago; if the Democrats in general cared, well, McCain's obscene wealth, and the way he acquired it, are on public record. But it's only important to him (and the rest of them) because he needs to score electoral points. The same is true of the entire Democratic Party. Obama lives in a million dollar home, the vast majority of the people serving in Congress are wealthy, even millionaires. Is it any wonder that the only time they talk about issues that are important to the rest of us is when they need to pander? The Democrats are supposed to be the party of the working people, but the leadership is all but totally divorced from the realties of life for most of us, living in a bubble of a secure income, the best healthcare package in the world, a hefty retirement package, power, the deference of the powerful, lucrative positions as lobbyists or lecturers when they leave politics, and a money-rotted culture in a Washington that is populated entirely by other people just like them. So when the Republicans smear them, why bother fighting all that hard? They don't personally lose much as a result of the smears. When the Republicans start in on their "class war" nonsense, the Democrats don't really need to fight all that hard, because they lose nothing as a result of the tax cuts for the wealthy, the reduction in funding for government services. It just doesn't touch them. So they have become what they are: a fat, out of touch group of people who every once in a while put up a sham fight to convince themselves they are any different from the Republicans. Sometimes, they even win their sham fight, much to their own surprise, and probably occasional dismay. If they really cared about this stuff they'd put up a genuine fight, even when they will probably lose. They'd be attacking the McCains of the world all the time, not just when it's politically expedient. That's what people do when they have a stake in a given outcome: they fight for it, fight like hell. Obama has his ambition at stake here, so he's probably going to fight to the end, but once he wins and his ambition is satisfied, he'll go back to being a fat, indifferent sluggard, like the vast majority of the political class.

And of course, one way or another Obama will almost certainly own several houses himself in a few years, which is another reason I listened to him thinking, "Something is wrong about this, even though I like the words." I wonder if I was the only one thinking that.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Bullshit

This is complete bullshit, and obviously designed by the McCain people to drive a wedge between the Obama and Clinton people, and keep the rubes at each others' throats. The idea that McCain wouldn't have attacked Obama based on his total lack of experience is laughable; in fact, any candidate running against Obama would, and should, attack him for his lack of experience. It's ABCdarian politics. But the media will suck up any chance to do dirt on Clinton, so this reporter, and many others, will be thrilled at the opportunity to play dumb. The manipulation is so obvious everyone should see it, but since the "netroots" really are dumb, we can look forward and see more divisiveness and infighting. Supporting Democrats is a lot like rooting for the Chicago Cubs, except the Cubs at least try to win.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Slip sliding away ...

Another state, Indiana, falls out of the "tossup" category, and into the McCain column, not that Obama was going to win that state, anyway. It's actually hilarious, how we moved from Obama being some kind of "transformative" figure, "the kind of politician who comes along once in a generation, if that often," to this ... thing I can't describe without using extreme profanity, and few "liberals" defend with much enthusiasm any more. And his negatives are going up, just as those of us who saw him and his campaign as fraudulent said they would in the face of Republican attacks and media indifference. It's amazing how ordinary a politican looks when his opponents aren't being demonized for him by the press. He'll probably still win -- the Republicans have fucked things up that much -- but then, Pyrrhus won. This cycle should have been about more than winning and losing this election, but then, online liberals should be smart, too.

If the economy starts sputtering to life he'll get crushed, which is exactly what should happen to a zero term Senator running for president, but time is running out on the economy....

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Overplaying their hand, Part II

No, not the Russians this time, but John McCain:

Senator John McCain was not in a “cone of silence” on Saturday night while his rival, Senator Barack Obama, was being interviewed at the Saddleback Church in California.

Members of the McCain campaign staff, who flew here Sunday from California, said Mr. McCain was in his motorcade on the way to the church as Mr. Obama was being interviewed by the Rev. Rick Warren, the author of the best-selling book “The Purpose Driven Life.”

The matter is of interest because Mr. McCain, who followed Mr. Obama’s hourlong appearance in the forum, was asked virtually the same questions as Mr. Obama. Mr. McCain’s performance was well received, raising speculation among some viewers, especially supporters of Mr. Obama, that he was not as isolated during the Obama interview as Mr. Warren implied.

Nicolle Wallace, a spokeswoman for Mr. McCain, said on Sunday night that Mr. McCain had not heard the broadcast of the event while in his motorcade and heard none of the questions.

“The insinuation from the Obama campaign that John McCain, a former prisoner of war, cheated is outrageous,” Ms. Wallace said.



Apparently being a prisoner of war is some kind of super-powerful magic wand. Cheat in a debate? "I was a prisoner of war!" Know nothing about economics? "I was a prisoner of war!" Don't know the difference between Sunni and Shia? "I was a prisoner of war!" Have an out-of-control temper? "I was a prisoner of war!" Vote against expanded veterans benefits for a war you Jack D. Rippered on? "I was a prisoner of war!" There is nothing you can't wave away with those magic words.

Note the byline -- Kit Seelye and Elizabeth Bumiller. Birds of a feather eventually do flock together.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Overplaying their hand.

This is Berlin airlift territory, if the Bush Administration has the guts and can spare the resources from its Iraq debacle.

Watson says one European diplomat said the Russian goal is clearly regime change, that Moscow wants to overthrow the pro-American, anti-Russian president, and it is doing that by isolating the capital. He predicted that with the railroad down and with the road blockaded, Tbilisi will start feeling the pressure of food and supply shortages in a matter of days.



It might also give Bush's reputation a desperately needed shot in the arm. Let's see if Bush can do anything more than bully around Third World militaries.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

When Joe Klein, the epitome of a gutless, greedy, Washington insider who doesn't take a piss without getting the approval of his Beltway pals first, writes something like this I'm tempted to say the worm has turned, and a core pillar of Republican campaigning is about to be knocked down. And yet ... as I look at the coverage of this campaign, all the focus is still on Obama, the Democrat. All the negative narratives, the obsessive analysis, the turning of any event, no matter how serious, into a tool to prod the Obama campaign with ("Will this be good or bad for the Obama campaign?"): this is how the media have functioned since at least 1998. So a few of them, seeing a likely Obama win and desperate to get access to a President Obama, are willing to throw scum like Corsi under the bus. They're still corrupt and so are their motives, the system is still broken, and the structure of the national discourse is inherently favorable to Republicans. I don't see things changing until this entire generation of Washingtonians moves on and is replaced by something better. Judging the people sitting on the bench, like Klein's stablemate at Time, the nasty, vapid, Cox creature, that won't happen. These people are selected for their venality, and they are selecting them as young as possible, to keep the shed well stocked with willing tools.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Holy Toledo




It's the whole world against the energy companies, the anti-liberals (the Limbaughites), and those stooges of corporate America, the libertarians. And progress is still incredibly slow, given the magnitude of the issue. But if Robertson is signing on, things are probably reaching a critical mass.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Beyond the big lie

The Republicans are just going to keep lying, over and over and over, in more and more and more ways. Eventually the lies come so heavy and so thick, while the cries of "You're lying" seem so repetitive and dull and whiny, that people start believing the lies, almost out of exhaustion and a sort of resentful spite. If the Democrats tried the same thing, the media would be fact checking them like a hockey enforcer going after a wimp with the puck. Obama is going to keep losing ground to this stuff until there is a thorough, systematic, and honest evaluation of Republican campaign tactics by the media, and that simply will not happen by a media that hides its cowardice behind claims of "even handedness." When one side tells repeated, calculated, bald-faced lies, it isn't "evenhanded" to report those lies and then quote the liar's opponents as saying "that's a lie." An obvious lie ought to be called that.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Paris Hilton

The celebrity America deserves.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Hell Naw!

When a black man has taken too much shit, he'll let out a "Hell naw," usually right before kicking some ass. This looks like Obama's "Hell naw" moment ("Hell no" for you white people):




The tone, the words, the delivery (He really nails the folksy black guy routine, reminding me of one of my uncles), and above all, some fucking spirit and outrage. He made me proud for a minute, and maybe he's figuring out that the gravy train is over and he's going to have to dig in and grind it out, that the only way to, not just get something done, but win, is to mix it up and let some elbows fly. The skills and ambition are there, he just needs to show the guts. In this bit he does Rush Limbaugh better than Rush Limbaugh, and people respond to that.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

...

The Republicans have seized control of the discourse, as was inevitable. And Obama keeps cringing and ducking. The flip on drilling, when he could have made a strong stand backed by plenty of expert evidence, and taken the spotlight off the whole "race card" canard, was just plain weakness, and now he's set up to be attacked for "standing for nothing," with some actual justification this time, unlike the last two Dem presidential candidates. It's pretty clear now that the only thing Obama will stand up against is his own base and absent black fathers. For everyone else, he's an Uncle Tom. I despise him more each day, despise the stupidity of the Democrats for nominating him, yet every day McCain opens his mouth and demonstrates he is nothing more than a tool of the right wing machine, it becomes more vital that the gutless, conniving prick wins.

I am beginning to think this country has only about a decade of true greatness left. After that the slide we are on will become steeper and steeper, and in twenty or thirty years people will look back to the 1990s and think, "What the fuck happened?" You can look at almost every other empire in the history of the world and the signal event of its demise was a war. I can't imagine the war that could break this country, but I can imagine the country breaking itself, through apathy and complacency. We are going to collapse from within, like the Soviet Union, but unlike the Soviets, it isn't our system that's failing us -- we are failing our system.

...

Solzhenitsyn died. Great writer (I'll take Orwell over him because, for better or worse, Orwell, with the example of his own prose, the essay "Politics and The English Language," and a big assist from Andy White, changed the English language, whereas I'm unaware of Solzhenitsyn changing Russian in the same way), but an oddball of a human being. I remember reading his Harvard lecture and thinking, "This guy is a fucking crank, and I've been admiring him for all these years." But a non-crank couldn't have filled thousands of pages with prose of scarcely concealed fury and still made himself readable. Solzhenitsyn did that. He was a crank with a gift for story telling, and an understanding of how to make people listen to him. In his old age, he seems to have lost control of his anger to the point where he didn't care so much if people listened to him anymore. I haven't read his First Circle yet, maybe I should. I first read Gulag in, I think, my teens, and for years afterwards re-read it every year to remind myself how shitty and dangerous human beings are. Nowadays I'm such a crank myself I don't need the reminder.