Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category
In the last few days, while Barack Obama’s been doing everything absolutely right, life hasn’t been too kind to Mitt Romney. I mean, when an act of God blows a hole in the heart of your political raison d’etre a week before the biggest election of your life, that’s just gotta hurt. Then Chrysler and GM began firing dum-dums into his ass for his whoppers about the auto industry. His “storm relief drive”, naturally, turned out to be yet another unconscionable political stunt. And perhaps worst of all for Mitt, Tea Party favorite Chris Christie has spent the last few days telling everyone in the world, including Fox News, what a wonderful dude this Obama guy is. And who does Romney have in his corner? Only the disgraced Bush apparatchik Michael Brown, who called in from his leper colony to accuse Obama of moving too quickly on Sandy.
With Obama politically restrained from tackling real issues like climate change, the flow of guns to Mexico or the totally insane War on Drugs and Romney refusing to make a single coherent argument, both sides hunkered down into “Anybody but him” mode, making this election the flukiest one I can recall—the one least driven by concrete policy positions or planned campaign developments. The 47% tape, Obama’s narcotized debate appearance, the comments about rape by some down-ballot GOP Neanderthals, the Benghazi debacle, Superstorm Sandy—these are the things that have driven the polls the last couple months, and they all caught the campaigns by surprise.
The first debate exposed how soft Obama’s support was outside of likely-to-vote Democrats, but the swarm toward Romney slowed, then halted, as people got close enough to get a good whiff of him.* Now the wind is blowing back into Mitt’s face again. Behind in the polls—not by much, but by what’s starting to look like enough—his headlines, just when he needs them most, are being eaten up by Sandy, the denunciations from the automakers, and Obama endorsements from Colin Powell and, suddenly, Michael Bloomberg. An old debate tape is making the rounds, with Romney saying that he wants to defund FEMA and turn its duties over to the states or the private sector, an idea which sounds pretty groovy until you wonder how the Gulf Coast states would be faring today if they’d had to deal with the tab from Katrina on their lonesome. A child could figure out that a single agency with a big kitty and deep technical expertise is a more cost-effective way to go than having fifty agencies, each of them definitionally deficient, and all doing the same job, but badly.
Of course there’s no way the rightwingers will temper their crazy-ass view of the world if Obama wins—they enjoy their outrage too much. And really, why should they moderate themselves when they’re this close to unseating an incumbent using what the spokesman for General Motors called “campaign politics at its cynical worst”? Even if he loses, Romney will have proven some valuable lessons. For one thing, candidates no longer have to submit themselves to such old-fashioned purity tests as releasing their tax returns, no matter how fishy the circumstances. More importantly, a candidate can build his entire campaign on transparent lies—he can even admit he’s shaking the Etch-a-Sketch again and again—and do so without paying a price for it. Well, baby, that’s the final frontier. Not even Nixon dreamed of this day ever coming.
If Obama hangs on and wins the election, they’ll blame him first, of course, because, hey, he’s Obama, so “Ugh” right there. But his name will be closely followed by Candy Crowley’s, and then Stuart Stevens, Chris Christie**, Romney himself, Gary Johnson, those bitches on The View, and, if there’s any spit left over, Lena Dunham. (If they’re smart, they’ll save a spot for John Roberts.) Of course if Obama loses the election, it won’t be hard to figure out why. It’ll be a sad day, but I can think of at least one silver lining: we’ll no longer need to keep asking the question—“Does the American voter have any pride in himself?”—which we’ve been asking since 1980. Finally, we’ll have an answer for sure.
* However, some people are going to see what they want to see, no matter what the reality. From a story in this morning’s New York Times: “Sitting in the audience, Carla Dickard, 61, said she was drawn to Mr. Romney’s put-down-the-pitchforks message. ‘It wasn’t always like this, everyone so divided like they are,’ she said. Ms. Dickard views Mr. Obama as overly partisan, setting off the birth of the Tea Party. Mr. Romney, by contrast, she said, ‘seems to understand that we won’t get anything done unless we work together.’”
** What goes on between Christie and the GOP/Tea Party should be plenty interesting to watch the next few months, especially if Obama wins. Ted Nugent might even shoot him instead of Obama; God knows he’d be easier to hit.
I’m at the point where, if the Republicans had a moderate candidate left in their ranks, I wouldn’t have that big a problem with Obama losing the election. A moderate Republican is less than a pipe-dream, of course, which leaves me with five reasons to hope for an Obama win—none of which are about the man per se.
1) As always, keeping the Supreme Court sane—or, more accurately, no more than 5/9ths insane.
2) Romney’s bullshit about being a businessman is perfect for Rotary meetings, less perfect for a country full of hurting people. Jack Donaghy is not the answer here.
3) Protecting Obamacare. Incomplete as it is, it’s a step in the right direction and, just as importantly, a step away from the wrong direction—i.e., doing nothing while people suffer. The one thing the right-wing has always feared, even more than a big Bill Clinton speech, is a massive government program which works so well that Americans come to expect it. With Romney in the White House, the GOP can de-nut Obamacare by 2014, but if they have to wait until 2016 to get at it, they’re going to have the dickens of a time explaining why millions of people are getting thrown off the rolls with nothing to take its place.
4) Not rewarding the racists, Birthers, Creationists, Randroids and other butt-picking Neanderthals on the one hand or the fingers-crossed lie-spewers (both amateur and professional) on the other for their open and utterly slimy efforts to derail a presidential administration amidst an epochal recession and a pair of wars. If the Democrats did something like that, it’d be easy to guess the exact names which these same sterling citizens would be hurling at them, and rightly so.
5) Not setting the bar for the presidency at so low a level that a man can say—literally—anything that comes to mind, and be elected. If Romney thought he could get votes by promising to wash every American’s dog next Saturday, he’d do that, and if it were expedient for him on Friday night to backtrack and insist that his promise was to wash our cats last Sunday, he’d do that, too. Obama tells his own whoppers, and I hate it just as much when that happens, but he does it rarely compared to Romney, who exhales lies like halitosis. You can’t even call Romney, who lacks both the flair and appeal of Father Coughlin, a demagogue. He’s just a salesman who jammed one foot in the door, and if Obama hadn’t brain-farted his way through the first debate we wouldn’t be having this chat. It’s only a matter of time before some bred-to-the-bone liar does win the White House, but can we please save that one until after I’m dead? I’d like to go to my grave not completely disillusioned with America.
Like I say, these are all Big Picture items that have zilch to do with Obama the man. If Don Knotts was president, I’d still be rooting for Fifecare.
By coincidence I just stumbled across a post that my crazy-ass liberal friend Leonard Pierce wrote for his blog that also mentions the WPA posters, and he fully fleshes out one of the truest (and most touching) points one can make about them:
I recently came across an archive of posters created by and for the Works Progress Administration under FDR, the man I will never stop thinking of as the greatest president America has ever had. I highly recommend it for its incredible aesthetic beauty, but there is more to it than that. Looking through each one, seeing what programs it was intended to support and what goals it was designed to achieve, is like glimpsing an alternate universe where the government actually cares for its people — and does something about it. Each poster reflects the values of a political class who believes that everyone in its sphere of influence — nursing mothers, workers who might want to learn more about current events, unemployed people who have a skill or a trade that might be worthwhile to someone who doesn’t know them, retired people who have mastered a craft in their old age, girls who want to learn magic tricks, musicians whose careers have been shipwrecked by economic turmoil, farmers who need to find about about advancements in agriculture, kids who are interested in science but don’t have proper books, local artists trying to make a living, tourists, writers, tenement dwellers — is valuable. It is this recognition that everyone has potential, worth, and value, and that by supporting a system that valorizes the privileged and ignores the poor, the nation is cheating itself on every level, that helped lift the nation out of a murderous depression. It was this conviction that created the best-educated working class America has ever seen, quelled a century of labor strife, and laid the foundation for the liberal consensus of the post-war world that led to the longest single period of economic prosperity the country had ever seen.
At one point of Terry Zwigoff’s Crumb, Crumb (the man, not the movie) riffles through a handful of Polaroids which he uses as drawing aids. The pictures show a series of street scenes, but instead of people or architecture they’re focused on utility poles, dumpsters, transformers, parking meters, newspaper racks and all the other bits of urban detritus which, as Crumb points out, we unconsciously block from our minds as we move around in the world. Simply swiveling your head from side to side while standing on any city street corner reveals just how much of this suppressed junk there is surrounding us—junk which, along with the acres of ugly advertising signage, does nothing but pollute our view of the places we live in. So it’s nice to imagine walking down the street and finding a well-funded effort to spruce the place up with a little whimsy and positive social feeling, and if it takes up space that would otherwise be filled by ads for Buick and Electrolux (or Lexapro and Apple), so much the better. And if that effort springs from a government agency whose only mission is to promote the health and happiness of its citizenry while incidentally throwing a few bucks at some talented artists on the side—why, then, yes, I can get behind that, too. Absolutely, absolutely, absolutely.
Okay, so it’s not in the same league as the ACA ruling, but considering what a chilling effect the fine had at the time, it doesn’t deserve to go under the radar either. When conservatives bitch about the feds telling us what to do (that fine was levied by the FCC when it was being run by some of Dubya’s most primitive apparatchiks), why don’t they care about hysterically prudish actions like this one, or self-censorship imposed by a gun to the head like the MPAA ratings board? Don’t worry, I know the answer: our discomfort about sex gets to trump everything, including common sense. I’m just sick of the double standard.
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Spent the morning listening to the Parliament questioning. The tone was much less adversarial than I expected but the two Murdochs still made surprisingly bad fencers. (God, that James is a lummox. Without his dad around he’d be asking someone “You want mayonnaise or mustard with that?”) On the other hand I suspect Rebekah Brooks could make D’Artagnan her pin-cushion if she wanted to, but she knows—they all know—the one thing they can’t do right now is look high-handed. The most striking thing, though, after years of watching American Republicans stonewall even the simplest challenges to their right to destroy the solar system, was seeing Brooks actually engage her questioners and provide answers that actually bore information related to their questions. When one of them said “This is a simple yes or no question” she immediately obliged them with a simple “No”, which is just where Condi Rice would have talked for 10 solid minutes by way of providing the “necessary context” before finally concluding that the question can’t be answered yes or no…and, in any case, is classified.
Y’know, I gave up writing about Sarah Jane Mabel Ann Palin a long time ago because there’s no percentage in it, but her latest move is just too good to be ignored. The ex-gov is apparently in the middle of some kind of hobo bus tour which may or may not have something to do with running for president (that whole part of it’s unclear), but the beauty part is this: Palin announced today that she’s no longer going to tell the press where she’s going.
When you think about it, this is exactly what we’ve been praying for—a Sarah Palin traveling incognito to Tea Party rallies which nobody even knows are happening—and this might’ve been the perfect opportunity for American history to finally give her a big wet kiss goodbye. Except that the press, of course, won’t stand for it. No, by golly, they’re just going to keep on following Sarah Palin, and keep on reporting about her, and if the country’s sick to death of her and she herself does nothing but show them her ass all day, well, that’s tough. We’re getting more Sarah Palin stories whether we want them or not.
As a result of the announcement, the two parties have fallen into a Borgesian roundelay about who should be be held responsible on the inevitable day that some vanload of stringers, rushing to catch up with Sarah Jane, takes out a group of schoolchildren. Will it be Palin, whose announcement is an obvious ploy for even more of the “lame-stream” media attention she claims to despise, or will it be the masochistic and gutless press corps, which’d let itself be manipulated by a dog so long as a few bucks were there in the end? The scary thing is, the media is so easily entranced by its own behavior and memes that all it will take is one good chase for the whole mess to become observable from the outside, and then the pursuits themselves will become the story. After that, it’s “Katy, bolt the door”—a reality show can’t be far behind. It wouldn’t surprise me if the first one’s happening now.
I swear, sometimes living in America and trying to keep up with all its babble and discourse is like having four kids and two full-time jobs. Perhaps the most beautiful thing about the news of Osama bin Laden’s death was its absolute crystalline clarity—some of our guys broke into his house and put him down like a rabid dog, and you just can’t get much more basic than that. But then came the fog of peace, and in less than a week the waters were muddied again:
- College kids who barely remember 9/11 got toasted and made fools out of themselves, causing old farts and fuddy-duddies like me to choke a little bit on our own vomit.
- The administration had to dial back its initial account of the raid, offering a second version so at variance with the suddenly non-operative first statement, and which in itself raised so many additional questions about what happened, that one came away wondering what either version was based on.
- America started giving Pakistanis the stink-eye for either shielding bin Laden, if they knew he was there, or for being too stupid to live, if they didn’t.
- Native American groups objected to the brain-fart selection of “Geronimo” as a codename for bin Laden and/or the operation.
- A debate about whether the death photo should be made public threatened to overwhelm all other aspects of the raid until Obama tersely announced that he would not authorize its release.
- Another debate—this one a true exercise in egg-heady pointlessness—erupted over the raid’s legality.
- The inevitable Sarah Palin flap broke out when she accused Obama of “pussyfooting”, all of about six seconds after he shot Lex Luthor in the middle of his face.
- A second photo—the instantly iconic Sit Room pic—raised its own sidebar issues, to wit: Wow, somebody showed human emotion—what’s up with that? Hillary, perhaps eager to undercut any “fairer sex” bullshit, maintains she was only having an allergy attack. Considering the circumstances, I wouldn’t care if she was trying to see how many Milk Duds she could cram into her mouth.
- Along those same lines a flotilla of psychological theories trying to explain the “meaning” of the raid sailed through the media, with the words “catharsis” and “closure” repeated so many times that one might think bin Laden’s death actually signals the end of grief.
- The New York Times, in its Science section no less, ran a good-sized article about how the SEALs were accompanied by a bomb-sniffing, terrorist-detecting, parachuting Super Soldier Dog. Traces of pretty much everything that’s terrible about the Times nowadays can be found in the single sentence “Little is known about what may be the nation’s most courageous dog”—a line that must be swelling Borges’ ghost with envy.
- And to absolutely nobody’s surprise, the fright-wingers went into full-blown nutjob mode, insisting, among other things, that: torture—yes, wonderful, yummy torture—deserves all the credit for finding bin Laden; Obama staged the raid “now” to cut off speculation about the authenticity of his birth certificate; there’s no actual proof that Osama is actually dead (or at least that he was killed when and where Obama says he was); and that while Obama showed weakness by not tying bin Laden’s body to a humvee and dragging it around Ground Zero for a few hours, he showed hubris by using too many personal pronouns in his Mayday announcement. As is so often the case, the absolute nuttiest, most completely batshit alternate-reality theory was lodged at Atlas Shrugs, where Pam Geller and her fellow Cuckoo Nesters argued that the raid was actually a Fletcher Knebel novel come to life.
In light of all this, it’s nice to have at least one clear thought to wrap our minds around as everything else tips over into nonsense. Barack Obama and I have our differences but there’s one thing I gotta hand to the man: when he wants to, he has a knack for saying things in a way that makes them permanently said, and his latest display of this talent was also one of his best. Discussing with 60 Minutes his decision to deep-six the corpse photo, he explained, “The fact of the matter is, you will not see bin Laden walking on this Earth again”. To which I can only say: Wow. Pithy and concrete, that little sentence packs into a few very serious words the done-deal finality of Abbottabad, the physical absence left behind by any man’s death, and the rock-bottom meaning of what life is all about. “We don’t need to spike the football,” which comes from the same interview, is good in its way, too, mostly because it frames a fragile and important moral issue in terms any American Christian ought to understand. But that other line…Brother. That ain’t just poetic. It’s proverbial.
As of this writing the San Francisco Giants are the baseball champions “of the world”, which means that there is not a single nine-man squad on the entirety of the planet which is capable of beating them. It also means that a rather large monkey is finally off my back. Rooting for the Astros and the Giants over the course of my adult life has been an exercise in two things, futility and heartbreak, and I get plenty of that from my love-life, thanks. For decades the Astros were one of baseball’s sad-sack asterisk teams: participants in two of the great league division championship series of all time (’80 and ’86), they lost both in agonizing fashion, and when they did finally reach the World Series in 2005, they were asphyxiated and left for dead by the nine-minute wonder Chicago White Sox. Meanwhile, the Giants made it to the World Series in ’89, only to be overshadowed by the Loma Prieta earthquake and the Oakland A’s, and when they made it back in 2002, they couldn’t hang onto the late five-run lead that would’ve given them the trophy. (Now, that was brutal.)
So who needs it, right? I’d basically checked out on baseball, partly because I was tired of the disappointment and mortification, but also because the constant shuffling of free-agents made me feel like I was rooting for corporate flavors, and because I’d grown weary of following the achievements of people who I don’t know and probably wouldn’t like much if I did. This year’s Giants club snuck up on me, though—in fact, they snuck up on the world. A team of misfits and castoffs, as the press keeps reminding us, but with a staff of homegrown starters and a cross-eyed closer who signals his thanks to Zardoz after getting the final out, the whole pack of them is impressively aware of the Giants’ long drought. (The team’s last championship came in 1954—the year I was born, for crying out loud—when it was still located in Harlem.) A lot of the already heavily-qualified pleasure of the A’s success in the ’90s was undercut by the personalities involved—Tony La Russa, Jose Canseco, and Mark McGwire being pretty damn far from my idea of heroic material—and it wasn’t much easier to cheer on Barry Bonds in 2002. Whatever his gifts as a player, Bonds was never relatable as a man.
That isn’t a problem with the current Giants, whose acknowledged leader is a 26 year old pot-smoking longhair. Timothy Leroy Lincecum is pretty far out of the mainstream, as they say, and that’s an especially pleasing look on a public idol today of all days. Even as I write this millions of people are donning their tricorn hats, shoulder holsters, and chastity belts, and lining up to refudiate that elitist Kenyan conman in the White House. It was only two years ago we were all singing “Hey, hey, I saved the world today” in a classic underestimation of the American people’s capacity for self-willed ruination, and whatever blows befall us at the polls are sure to be magnified when the media runs down “what it all means” in the aftermath. Ah, well…One monkey off and another back on.
A rich Nixon tape here. It has some choice bits of the man’s blinkered and bigoted rationalizations, but I’m posting it mainly as a great bull session between the big guy and his two most devoted pets. The general subjects are All in the Family (early enough in its run that it was still possible to get the lead character’s name wrong) and homosexuality—which, and let me repeat this, Richard Nixon did not have any moral problems with. He did not. Fags just sickened him—that’s all.