Friday, November 07, 2008

Nobody Asked Me, But...

1) Short of having another Brooks Brothers' Riot, I'm not sure how we can help Al Franken win his seat, but he's closing in so I'm open to suggestions.

2) Franken had the NERVE to insist on the rule of law and an automatic recount, which has the right wing up in arms. Imagine!?

3) Remember: Joe Biden said that Obama would be tested. The line starts in Russia.

4) We give you Mount Obama.

5) Having suddenly realized that his eight years as the brains behind the throne, First Dog Barney takes it out on innocent reporter.

6) I didn't think gators ate baby food...

7) The market is tanking yet again, unemployment is up to 6.5%. Do you think Obama is demanding a recount?

8) OH CRAP! Maybe he really IS the AntiChrist!

9) This is much like a chain smoker telling me I need to lose weight.

10) Am I a bad person for enjoying the schadenfreude?

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Middle Earth

I don't know if you noticed it, but towards the end of the Presidential campaign, a new talking point was trotted out by the punditocracy in the face of an overwhelming defeat: "America is a center-right nation."
It is so pervasive, and moved so quickly through the blogosphere, that even John Meacham of Newsweek, who generally maintains the least veneer of plausibility and objectivity, has trotted it out.

So are we a centrist country, or a right-of-center one? I think the latter, because the mean to which most Americans revert tends to be more conservative than liberal. According to the NEWSWEEK Poll, nearly twice as many people call themselves conservatives as liberals (40 percent to 20 percent), and Republicans have dominated presidential politics—in many ways the most personal, visceral vote we cast—for 40 years. Since 1968, Democrats have won only three of 10 general elections (1976, 1992 and 1996), and in those years they were led by Southern Baptist nominees who ran away from the liberal label. "Is this a center-right country? Yes, compared to Europe or Canada it's obviously much more conservative," says Adrian Wooldridge, coauthor of "The Right Nation: Conservative Power in America" and Washington bureau chief of the London-based Economist. "There's a much higher tolerance for inequality, much greater cultural conservatism, a higher incarceration rate, legalized handguns and greater distrust of the state."

Bollocks, as the Brits would say. The election Tuesday certainly put paid to the authority of most of these folks to speak "for America", for one thing, but as David Sirota points out, poll after poll after poll suggests that Americans are moving away from centrist-right positions and towards center-left, and even leftist positions on social issue after social issue.
It's sad, in a way, to watch the right wing meltdown that's happened in front of our eyes, but not unexpected. When you've been running the show and silencing dissent for thirty years, it's hard to focus on what happens when the rug is pulled out from under you. Ironically, the election of Clinton in 1992 should have sent the Republicans scurrying for a re-evaluation of their positions and platforms, and more important, their slavish devotion to the forces of intolerance and religion.
The chipping away of the clear majority that the Republicans had under Ronald Reagan, in terms of the electorate at any rate, should have been a sign to Karl Rove and Newt Gingrinch and their minions and successors that a permanent Republican majority was not only improbable, but impossible.
When your echo chamber shrinks, apparently, you merely think it's becoming more and more crowded.
The overwhelming truth is, when America is in trouble, voters run towards progressivism. Right now, America is a center-left nation.
Greed has its place in the nation, and the grand struggle for the soul of this nation is between our liberal charitable "better angels" of Abraham Lincoln and our "greed is good" conservative philosophies of the Gordon Gekkos of the world.
Ironically, as Harry Truman was wont to point out, "if you want to live like a Republican, vote for a Democrat." It's true, as a cursory study of recent national economic history will show, the Carter years notwithstanding. Our brand of "socialism", the one the pundits were twisting their knickers about, is actually very good for all people, rich and poor. Greed, in small doses, is probably good for America.
America, in terms of current policy, is center-right. I make no mistake about that. The trouble with judging a nation by its policies is that, partilcarly in a two-party system, those policies are reflective of the people in power and the people in power are not necessarily the majority voice. Indeed, Barack Obama's greatest achievement may be that he has fused power and popularity. In this, his admiration of Ronald Reagan, anathemic as it may have been, holds true, since Reagan was the last President to have a clear and true mandate from the voters.
Thirty years ago, Mr. Meacham. A full generation ago. Now, the tide has turned.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Hump Day Comedy Blogging

The Police - Message In A Bottle

Who needs comedy to feel good today? This is going out to all my fellow progressives who've felt lost in the woods for all these years.



Mah indorcement put Brack Obama ober da tawp! I es a kingmaikah! Hem owe me big tiem naow!

Who da qat?!? WHO DA QAT?!?

Update: Sorry, ThumbPer, but it appears Obama is a dog person.

NUDDER UPDAIT: WHAAAAAAAAAAAAT? I scartch hem's ize out! Doan hem no I putt hem whar hem iz???? I gon taik back mah indorcement an maik hem loose! LOL!!!!!!!!!!!111!!!!!!!!!!!!

A Dream Delayed, But Not Denied

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."


Bet you thought I was going to go with Martin Luther King's dream, didn't you? ;-) But his dream was the American dream. If a funny looking scrawny guy with big ass ears, a permanent tan and an unsual name can be elected President, well...we can put a man on the moon, right?

Many random thoughts are flashing through my mind right now, and when I get like this, I like to remind myself: just breathe.

Take a breath with me now. Be in this moment. This is history, and history of a good kind, not the kind you stare at in horror as it unfolds on the TV. This is the kind of history that you savor, because it's about you.

Yes, you. Personally. Whatever part you played, even if you opposed it, this history was built stone by stone, pebble by pebble, person by person.

Forget the tasks ahead. Forget what has come before, except as how those moments built to this moment.

Thank yous abound. Thank you, Frederick Douglass. Thank you, Rosa Parks. Thank you, Dr. King. Thank you, Ralph Bunche.

Thank you, Reverend Jackson. Thank you, Representatives Henry Jackson, Shirley Chisholm, John Lewis, Harold Ford, Senator Hiram Ravel and the embarassingly small number of other black legislators who have paved the way for this moment.

Hillary Clinton had 18 million cracks in her glass ceiling. President-elect Obama needed just 340 or so to break through.

Obama was not my first choice for President, but he was my best choice, and I was proud to vote for him. In 1992, and 1996, I felt like progressivism had stolen a couple of victories from the forces of regression, and in 2000, when Al Gore was humbled by a slack-jawed faux-cowboy, I suddenly felt adrift in my own nation. Shortly after that election, I filed for dual citizenship (hey, it was available for the first time, to be fair!).

I've never run from a fight, but I was embarassed to be an American, for the first time since Nixon.

In the bluest city in one of the bluest states in the nation, despite having 8 million people around me who were more less near the same page as I was, I felt alone.

But...Walked out this morning
Dont believe what I saw
A hundred billion bottles
Washed up on the shore
Seems I'm not alone in being alone
A hundred billion castaways
Looking for a home

Turnout in the election nationwide was 61.9%, the highest since the 1920s (when Prohibition was repealed, which means Obama is as attractive as a pina colada).

As proud as I was to vote for Senator Obama, I think when I walk into the voting booth in 2012, and cast my vote for the re-election of President Obama, it will hit me, the magnitude of what has just happened. The job's not over, not by a long shot. Inequality in this country won't be history until we have two African-Americans running for the top job opposing each other.

One Democrat. One Republican.

Oh, I forgot a thank you:
Heavenly Father, thank you for this moment, and please give President Obama the strength, the wisdom, and the courage to guide the ship of state through the turbulent waters ahead.


God, I wanna cry!

UPDATE: The first thing that popped into my head this morning when I woke up and saw how big a landslide Obama had was, "Bush claimed political capital for eking out a victory in 2004, yet I bet Obama will be humble in the face of the change he has wrought."

UPDATE, PART DEUX: The wonk in me would like to point out that, not only did more people vote for Barack Obama than have voted for any other President in history, but that a higher percentage of people voted for Obama than for any other first term President since FDR in 1932.

Like I said, "Amen!"

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

The Gathering Storm

As all the world's eyes are focused on America and its elections, a very frightening piece of news is developing in China:
In the initial weeks of the global financial crisis, Chinese officials resolutely declared that they were not significantly affected. But now, as factory closings, dire corporate earnings reports and stock market losses continue to mount, the Communist Party's confidence has changed to another feeling entirely: fear.

For the first time in the 30 years since China began its capitalist transformation, there is a perception that the economy is in real trouble.

And for the Communist Party, the crisis is not just an economic one, but a political one. The government's response offers a glimpse into its still ambiguous relationship with capitalism -- relatively hands-off in good times, but quick to intervene directly at the first signs of a downturn in order to prevent popular unrest.

Normally, you might think to take this in stride, but here's the problem: the American economic system, including our own governmental operations, are inexorably linked to the Chinese system, indeed, to the government itself.

Should the Chinese government fail to stem the economic tide within its own borders, should the absolute worst happen and the Chinese government itself go belly-up (like Iceland almost did) in financing a bailout of its banks, then the Chinese government will do one of two things:

The lesser of the two evils is to stop buying American bonds, you know, those things we've been financing the deficit with. This will create a hyperinflative environment with both skyrocketing prices AND skyrocketing itnerest rates, the economic perfect storm of stagflation I predicted three years ago.

The worse of the two evils is that China will liquidate its outstanding investments, meaning they will dump our T-bills and notes and bonds onto the open market. This will cause the value of the dollar to crash, and trigger a depression that will most definitely not be called "great". It will be nothing less than a catastrophe. War would be the most likely outcome of such a radical move, war on a global scale.

There's small comfort to be had here, and we should all be crossing our fingers or praying really hard right now. China is a relative rookie in free market capitalism, and the mistakes we made up to now have been pretty horrific.

And we continue to perfect our mistakes. China doesn't have the benefit of our past experience, even. It won't take much, just a minor panic attack and things could topple quickly.

Barack To The Future

(with apologies to Skippy for cribbing his phrase)
I went to vote today.
I got to my polling place at 7:15 AM. I like voting early, I like getting home at night and knowing I've fulfilled my obligations for the day.
Normally, I vote somewhere around 7:45. Usually it's me, the poll workers and maybe one or two poll watchers, depending on how tight the local races are. My district is reliably Democratic, more so as it has become something of a haven for artists.
I get to talk to the poll workers, usually ladies of a certain age in my neighborhood who make a few bucks by jotting down numbers on a card and a sheet of paper and wishing you well. Sometimes, I'll bring coffee because I know they've been there since 5 or so, and have a long dead stretch of time until 9 or 10PM.
Usually, I'm voter number four in my ED. In NYC, we divide our precincts up into Assembly Districts and then Election Districts. That means my ED is basically the four square blocks around my house. My immediate neighborhood is a mix of deeply blue collar homeowners, one or two who are pretty Republican, and a large dollop of single men and women, with a sprinkling of young families. Usually, this means I'm one of the first people up in the morning, nevermind out and voting.
My polling place is the local elementary school. On a good day, say when Clinton ran for re-election in 1996, there might be twenty people voting at any one time that early.
Today, I had heard rumours that the turnout was already gearing up to be spectacular. That's why I decided to get there early. I wanted to witness it.
In one ED, just one, there were some seventy five people lined up when I got there. Think about it: usually, twenty people across something like 20 EDs. Today, 75 in just one. I was fortunate. It wasn't mine. I did have to stand in line.
I was voter number 25 in my ED. Remember, I'm usually a half hour later and number four or so. Six times as many voters in three-fourths the time in my ED alone.
I get the sense there's a welling up in this nation. A repudiation of the evil attempts to take this nation back to a time when things were better...for white men.
I'm not sure what finally woke America up. Katrina? Perhaps. Iraq? Possibly. September 11 and the watered down accusations of the 9/11 Commission's report? Likely.
Somewhere along the line, Americans looked at government-by-Republican and said "enough". In drips and drabs, to be sure. We'll put up with a lot, and will be very forgiving, very...Christian.
There is, however, an undeniable momentum to the future, towards progress. We are, to coin a phrase, heading Barack to the Bridge to the 21st Century.
I can write this on election morning, November 2, with the results unknown, much less unannounced, because frankly, it doesn't really matter. Obama can win, Obama can lose, but this boulder will not endure Sisyphian efforts to roll it up the hill of reactionary thinking any longer, it will flatten those who choose to get in its way. If Obama somehow manages to lose this election-- no matter, in 2012, Hillary will prevail. There is no stopping this motion. The inertia is too great.
If Obama loses, it just means the right wing has thrown John McCain in front of the rock to momentarily bounce it around a bit, but McCain with a fully Democratic congress, and a GOP torn asunder, will be less of an impediment than many on the right would wish.
In 1980, 1984, 1988, 2000, and 2004, I had hoped that America would finally see the sham being foisted upon them by the Republican party, shackling us to our jobs and to an indentured servitude of lifelong indebtedness while the government does nothing for the "little guy", the "Joe The Plumbers" of America. It worried me that, as we rode deeper and deeper into the abyss, as Republican leaders became less and less coy about the rapine of America's bounty, that Americans might wait until it's too late.
And indeed, they may have. It might be impossible to pull our great and wondrous nation back from the brink. But we have a chance. We have hope.
We have change. And I have never been prouder to be an American than I was to be voter number 25 this morning.

Monday, November 03, 2008

En Indorcemunt

I, ThumbPer da Qat, herebye indorce Barack Obama foah Presnident.

I fink hem be da bessest presnidet foah qats ebber! Hem maik shoah da qats at Hemingway House hab a place to lib foaheber.

And hem tax kuts meen dat qats all ober da werld will git moah fud from dey ownahs, cuz dem kin affoahd moah fud. Dass whut manee ob mah frens says!

So you shud bote foah Barack Obama for mai saik! We need moah pitchers liek we kin taik ober da werld!

The Lion Sleeps Tonight

A large part of me is thinking that Barack Obama is going to walk away from the election tomorrow with the largest mandate a President has had since Ronald Reagan.

If not more.

And part of me, the part of me that roots for the Mets, the Rangers, and yes, the Democrats, is worried. This is no time for complacency and if we are to be accused of anything, better we should be accused of running up the score than in losing graciously.

Al Gore lost graciously, thanks in large part to the spiteful vendetta of Ralph Nader. Did anyone want a repeat of the past eight years?

Not that I believe, in his heart of hearts, that John McCain and George W Bush are soulmates, cloned from the same dreck and flotsam that would see this country drift rather than take the reins of its own destiny. I don't. I believe McCain sincerely wants to do right by doing good.

I just don't think he has either the energy or the capacity anymore after selling his soul, one slice at a time, for the past eight years.

This was why, despite a bruising and at time bitter primary campaign in which my candidate lost, I was able to instantly support Barack Obama. The John McCain of 2000, the one able to speak his mind and be funny from time to time, the one I was able to disagree with without being disagreeable, him I might have had a harder time turning down.

Not this guy:

Not ever. How could I even respect a man who was so thoroughly humiliated, even to the extent of having his adopted baby's parentage questioned, by the very man he now had to kowtow to in order to get the nomination?

It is an ignominious epitaph for "The Maverick" that his political career should end in such a shabby way.

I say "end" because I assume at his age that he might even resign the Senate given the amount of animosity he has had to raise on both sides of the aisle in this campaign. He doesn't have the luxury of two or more re-election bids to re-establish his respect.

His chance came eight years ago, and he blew it. I suspect one reason he was practically given the nomination is that he deserved his shot.

That and the fact that ultimately, he and his campaign were about the strongest contenders against an Obama or Clinton ticket. I don't claim to understand the Republican mindset, but my guess is the thinking went something along the lines of "Well, we're going to get creamed this year, the economy will be in the tank, we need to send out the person who has the best shot of keeping the moderates on the sidelines."

He ran, I think, perhaps the best campaign he could, given the circumstances. You know the old saw about being given lemons and making lemonade.

McCain was given rotting lemons and a moosehunter and managed to make something not quite as nasty as moose piss. If that is damning with faint praise, it is nonetheless praise.

It troubles me, this other side of me, the one that obsesses about the possibilities of losing. I realize an awful lot of is was created by the media, who don't want to pronounce the race over until it is over, even if it is over, even if McCain himself believes it is over.

After all, what's going to draw voters to watch on Tuesday night? Not the spectacle of the first minority candidate to win the Presidency, no, of course not. It's all about "Does the old white guy stand a chance still?"

It's a sad state of affairs for our nation when even our Presidential elections have to be sold like a season ending cliffhanger.

Complacency, then, is our worst enemy. If everyone who said they would vote for Obama would simply get out and vote, then my fears would be allayed.

So that's job one for tomorrow: get out the vote. Take the day off and take five people to the polls to vote.

Job number two: remind people why you support Obama. You don't need talking points to do this. You don't need to know that his healthcare plan is better than McCain's or his tax cuts will provide three times the relief for you that McCain's will.

All you need to do is make it personal. So ask yourself, why ARE you supporting Obama? If you can't answer that question easily, then you need to think it through a bit more.

This is your vote, dammit, your birthright, and at the risk of losing a vote or two to McCain or worse, Nader, you ought not to waste it. Be sure you understand why you are voting the way you are voting, even if it's for some silly emotional reason. It doesn't matter. In our emotions are often the most compelling arguments made.

Number three: after you've voted, make sure to tell your friends you have (hell, Starbucks is giving away coffee for free to people who voted!), because while the five you take to the polls might vote, there are going to be huge numbers of people out there who will forget. Every reminder helps.

That means emails, Twitters, blogposts, phone calls, and casual run-intos in the street. Talk it up. It's important. This election will be historic, people might actually brag about their vote. Get a jump on the bandwagon!

Finally, once you have voted, and are in for the night, find a comfortable place to sit, and be sure to have plenty of relaxing music on hand. It's going to be nerve-wracking by design. The networks won't have the guts to call it for Obama the way Fox called it for Bush in 2000. It will last into the early morning and it will be tense.

I think the Pennsylvania results will be the place where the networks milk it for all its worth. Just my opinion, but if I was going to try to steal an election, that's where I'd put my resources, and the "tell" has been in for weeks now that McCain's focused on that area: Ohio and Pennsylvania.

I don't think ultimately it will matter, but I'm not willing to bet the next eight years on it.

Get out and vote.