Friday, October 16, 2009

Nobody Asked Me, But...

1) I want you to ponder this: Tens of millions of people around the world watched an empty balloon flying. For two hours!!!!!

2) What is WRONG with these people???????? I don't mean the Heenes, whom I believe were not staging a hoax, but with this fucking nation of mindless moronic yahoos watching a bag of fucking gas????

3) On to more prosaic topics...Mr President, the time has come: you MUST, this weekend, come out in support of the public option. Period. End of discussion. You are our last hope, our last stand.

4) Failing that, I would like to see Congress revoke the anti-trust exemption that insurance companies enjoy. Japan has private health care, 3,000 insurance companies vying for business, and caps costs. Here, an insurance company can revoke coverage from an entire class of patient simply because one gets too sick to be profitable. Odd that the only newspaper covering this story is the Sun Myung Moon's Washington Times.

5) Did you know space has weather? Well, sort of. Weather on earth and other planets with an atmosphere is largely due to differences in atmospheric pressure. Guess what space has?

6) This might be one of those useless bits of trivia you never needed to know, but that some scientist was paid to uncover. Funny thing is, it will likely affect you in the near future.

7) Think the bailout solved our banking problems? Guess again!

8) Serial goat blower Mickey Kaus visited Albany, NY yesterday. At least he knows how to show a goat a good time.

9) Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't laws against miscegenation illegal? I'm thinking the judge is up for re-election in his parrish and probably wanted to be on the safe side of this issue. Solution? Disbar him.

10) Fort Lupton, CO, even now I can remember 'Cause the Colorado River, Goes smokin' through my dreams

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Respectfully, I Disagree...

Anyone who has known me for any length of time ought to know two things about me:

1) I oppose nearly every war in all its facets, and

2) I am a lifelong liberal Democrat, but I do not take marching orders.

In fact, my favorite T-shirt says "I Don't Fetch And I Don't Beg".

That said, today I read a troubling piece from one of the limelight A-list bloggers for the Progressive movement, Arianna Huffington. I distrust Ms Huffington, who was stridently conservative before she was stridently liberal (as was David Brock, among others). I find that over the past five years or so she has become more trustworthy, but being paranoid like I am, I still take her with a grain of salt.

But I digress....sort of.

Here's what she had to say today:
Joe Biden met with CENTCOM chief Gen. David Petraeus this morning to talk about Afghanistan -- an issue that has pushed the vice president into the spotlight, landing him on the cover of the latest Newsweek.

I have an idea for how he can capitalize on all the attention, and do what generations to come will always be grateful for: resign.

[...]It's been known for a while that Biden has been on the other side of McChrystal's desire for a big escalation of our forces there -- the New York Times reported last month that he has "deep reservations" about it. So if the president does decide to escalate, Biden, for the good of the country, should escalate his willingness to act on those reservations.

What he must not do is follow the same weak and worn-out pattern of "opposition" we've become all-too-accustomed to, first with Vietnam and then with Iraq. You know the drill: after the dust settles, and the country begins to look back and not-so-charitably wonder, "what were they thinking?" the mea-culpa-laden books start to come out. On page after regret-filled page, we suddenly hear how forceful this or that official was behind closed doors, arguing against the war, taking a principled stand, expressing "strong concern" and, yes, "deep reservations" to the president, and then going home each night distraught at the unnecessary loss of life.

This is a fair position to take, like Colin Powell's, of leaving a group who clearly hold strong opinions in opposition to yours.

The unfortunate thing is, Biden is right. Further, he's not being furtive in his opposition, as the Newsweek article makes clear.

Undoubtedly, this article was sanctioned by the Oval Office, and so Biden's opinion being on display for all to see is both comforting to me as a liberal Libertarian and as a fan of good government.

Here's Biden's position, as noted in Newsweek and quoted by Ms Huffington:
"Can I just clarify a factual point? How much will we spend this year on Afghanistan?" Someone provided the figure: $65 billion. "And how much will we spend on Pakistan?" Another figure was supplied: $2.25 billion. "Well, by my calculations that's a 30-to-1 ratio in favor of Afghanistan. So I have a question. Al Qaeda is almost all in Pakistan, and Pakistan has nuclear weapons. And yet for every dollar we're spending in Pakistan, we're spending $30 in Afghanistan. Does that make strategic sense?" The White House Situation Room fell silent.

Indeed, why are we wasting our time in Afghanistan if we are fighting Al Qaeda? Now, there may be plenty of other reasons to engage the Taliban and its ally Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

A show of faith in the battle waged by the Pakistani government springs to mind, and that the Taliban, recently the focused of renewed energy by the Obama administration (I'll get to that in a second) is less influential in Pakistan than in Afghanistan also must be considered.

What Biden is pointing out is the thuddingly simple rationale that any average American can understand. Al Qaeda cross the Afghan-Pakistan border with impunity, and the way we are battling them is kind of like duct taping one side of a leak in a boat. It'll work, sort of, but eventually you're going to sink.

This is good. This is the sort of advice a President needs to hear. Cogent, simple, and not lock-step voicing of conventional wisdom.

Ms Huffington, THAT'S what got us into this mess in the first place! By forcing Colin Powell (or any number of military advisers)and the "Pottery Barn" doctrine out, the Bush administration guaranteed themselves insulation from bad news. Insulation from bad news guarantees bad results.

By raising this issue, it appears Biden has already forced the administration to alter course, even if a little: by repurposing the efforts in Afghanistan (and justifying the increase in troops) as a fight against the Taliban. This does provide some political cover to pressure Pakistan to accept US help.

That Biden is whispering in Obama's ear "Sic Transit Gloria" is a good thing, Ms Huffington.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

That Popping Sound You Hear... the sound of right wing skulls exploding across America:
BOSTON--Commissioner Roger Goodell said here Tuesday that it would be inappropriate for the owner of an NFL franchise to make the sort of controversial statements attributed in the past to conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh.

"I've said many times before we're all held to a high standard here, and I think divisive comments are not what the NFL is all about," Goodell said at an NFL owners' meeting. "I would not want to see those comments coming from people who are in a responsible position in the NFL, absolutely not."

Limbaugh has acknowledged being part of a group bidding for the St. Louis Rams.

Goodell and several owners said Tuesday that the Rams' sale process is in its early stages and the league is far from considering a potential bid by Limbaugh and Dave Checketts, the chairman of hockey's St. Louis Blues.

But any proposed franchise sale would have to be approved by three-quarters of the owners, and Goodell's comments signaled that it perhaps would be unlikely that Limbaugh's bid would be ratified by the other teams.

Now, no big deal, right? It's not the first time someone has made a complete ass of themselves and been prevented from joining the cool kids club.

Except...well, Rush is held in (for reasons that remain unclear) some high esteem among the more neanderthalic limbic-systemites of this nation. You know, the more reptilian-brained Americans? They tend to get a little vicious when one of their own is threatened with anything mildly close to a sanction against their behavior or idols.

Take the Tea Baggers. Or the the unimaginative, idiotic, and ultimately ineffectual protest created on the fly against Senator Olympia Snowe, whose vote yesterday in committee to approve the Baucus healthcare plan was the sole Republican one, on a bill that is about as friendly to the insurance industry which is Astroturfing the TeaBaggers as they're going to get in this era of poverty. Or, indeed, the fluffernutter reaction to the Nobel Peace Prize.

It must be frustrating to be a right-winger these days, but I digress...

Look, Rush has said some remarkably ignorant and moronic things, and that alone should not keep him from being an NFL owner. Al Davis has said many moronic and idiotic things, and he's not only kept his franchise but has been allowed to move it up and down the California coast like a Hell's Angel on the PCH.

And Rush is a truly controversial figure and even that should not keep him from owning an NFL team. After all, Jerry Johnson of the Dallas Cowboys just opened a multibillion dollar football stadium in the middle of the worst recession since the Great Depression that replaces...well, a multibillion dollar stadium that was in perfectly good shape, and no one is taking his franchise away from him.

What SHOULD keep him from being locked out of owning a franchise is the fact that a large enough percentage of the owners simply don't like the thought of being associated with an idiotic, nonsensical, foul-mouthed bigot who will own a team that no one will want to play for. In their opinion, it demeans the game and will weaken the product.

This isn't the public domain of America. There is no First Amendment right in the domain of the private enterprise that is the NFL, and Rush is getting a first-hand lesson in what the average worker has to endure on a day-to-day basis: at-will employment, albeit in Rush's case at the executive level.

And here's where the explosion is happening in the skulls, thick as they are, of the right wing: they're watching a wealthy businessman (there really is no other way to describe someone who exploits everyone around him, including himself, for his own profit) being treated like one of them by a sport they all love deeply.

Who to root for? After all, the NFL provides them with (subjectively speaking) "quality" entertainment to remove them from the mundanities of miserable proletaria for most of the day on Sunday (and Monday night and sometimes Saturday and Thursday), gives them a rooting interest in millionaires. Rush provides them with lightning rods to exhaust their anger and rage at their own miserable mundanity, blaming the liberals or the gays or the women for their own inadequacies.

And now they're being reminded over and over just how miserably mundane their lives are, how pathetic the American male existence is, all that privilege and power having been pooled not amongst the majority of white men, but among an elite, including Rush and the owners of the very club that would not have him as a member.

See, this is why the whole "anti-anti-affirmative action" effort falls apart. Yes, white men in this country generally have it better than minorities, women, and gays. No doubt about it. But here's the thing: the white men we make that argument to are not in much better shape than the minorities and groups that they fear will take even more away from them.

This is the case we need to make to them, that this equal rights initiative is not aimed at them, that the gay marriage movement won't make them gay, but is an attempt, ultimately successful (because it must be) to garner the privilege of the economically more privileged, which is largely older, whiter, and male.

So we see the assault on the average American male: on the one hand, he sees a threat from us on the left, on the other, he sees there are limits to even the avatars he has created to live vicariously thru (you don't think Rush has been married four times because he likes being married? He does it because of the image of power and potency it portrays to his audience. As I said, he exploits even himself.)

And he can't very well reconcile the two groups by painting the NFL owners as liberal stooges! He is experiencing a deep cognitive dissonance, one that will make for interesting observation in the months and years to come.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Useful Idiots

You may have missed this, it may have been deliberately timed for a slow news weekend on a semi-national holiday (in that the markets were open Monday despite Columbus Day), but an interesting front was opened up by the Obama administration on Sunday: FOX News
The White House is now fighting a three-front war: Iraq, Afghanistan and Fox News.

I found myself in the middle of that conflict on Sunday when my interview with Anita Dunn aired on CNN's "Reliable Sources." Within hours the thing went viral; stories and video of the White House communications director's remarks spread to the Huffington Post, Daily Beast, Media Bistro, Politico, Mediaite, Hot Air and many other sites.

I had thought Dunn might try to smooth things over with the country's highest-rated cable news network, as guests often do in front of a television camera, but instead she was determined to ratchet things up: "The reality of it is that Fox News often operates almost as either the research arm or the communications arm of the Republican Party. . . . Take their talking points and put them on the air. Take their opposition research and put them on the air, and that's fine. But let's not pretend they're a news network the way CNN is."

I'm going to ignore the sucking up aspect of Dunn's statement for a moment to take the narrow case with respect to FOX News.

It's no secret that FOX News takes its marching orders in large part from the Republican leadership, if not directly from the party itself.

"Party itself"...sounds so...Soviet...don't you think?

Kurtz goes on to point out that, indeed, MSNBC offers some refuge for the progressive wing of the country in the evening in its opinion round-up: Ed Schulz, Keith Olbermann, and Rachel Maddow make no attempt to hide their biases, but misses the point that the daytime coverage of the news on MSNBC is nothing but what FOX claims it is: fair and balanced.

FOX is, in effect, what Lenin used to call the far-left wing of America and the west: "Useful idiots".

I'd add Rush Limbaugh and all the other B-list opinionators who are either too scared or too insignificant to land a gig with FOX television (I mean, my God, Glenn Beck has a show on FOX!), but hasten to add that, in Rush's case, he's the most useful idiot the party has: one who thinks he's in charge!

So what Dunn describes is not only fair, but true: FOX is an organ for the right wing of this nation to hang their idiocies on.

Is that a bad thing?

No. It is true that FOX is the highest rated cable "news" network in the country, but there are many reasons for that, not least of which is the almost single-minded devotion its viewers have to being deluded.

They can't get enough crystal meth, I suppose, so FOX is the next best thing.

That other real "news" networks don't do as well doesn't mean that FOX is better or more informative or accurate. It just means it attracts a larger number of idiots, much like a bug zapper attracts dumb moths.

There's plenty of room on the cable spectrum to support both FOX News and MSNBC's progressive opinion makers (in their own right, useful idiots) and CNN's attempts to ride the middle as far as it can. We've entered an era where if you get your news from one source or one side, you really are playing the idiot, given the choices available to you. You deserve the pablum you get.

"News" has been redefined, in other words, not as the facts carefully compiled to relate a story, but as opposing opinions, often unfairly juxtaposed and imbalanced, and spoonfed to the waiting throngs of yes-people.

"News" has become infotainment, a smear of fact and a little truth, encased in a rich chocolate coating, sprinkled with sugar, then served in a plate of ice cream. Somewhere in their is some mental nutrition, but you'd be hard pressed to find it.

Like chocolate cake has milk, flour and eggs in it.

When the Today Show does twenty minutes with an Afghani widow, instead of Kate Gosselin, I'll start to believe in the news divisions of America's networks again.

Monday, October 12, 2009

We Will All Be Marxists, One Day

Did you know we live in a Marxist society and have for some time?

I didn't either, until I watched this fascinating lecture given by Professor Richard Wolff called Capitalism Hits The Fan (side note: Link is in the middle of a fundraising drive, so please give. LinkTV is only available 24/7 on DISH and DirecTV, and Link in conjunction with Free Speech TV is ONLY available on DISH Network, so drop your cable, skip Murdoch's DirecTV hegemony and get a DISH!)

Capitalism in America worked pretty well for the first two hundred years of our nation's existence, even if for a large swath of that it was poised in large part on the backs of slaves. Around 1970, something happened.

Four things, actually. Production continued to rise, while the traditional tie-in to real wage growth (which occurred in this nation in every decade, including the 1930s) was severed, and wages became stagnant and even declined.

Wolff explores these four reasons-- automation and computers, global competition, immigration, the expanding role of women in the workplace-- and comes to the logical conclusion with respect to the recent mortgage meltdown (and the coming consumer credit crisis): it was inevitable that in order to "keep up with the Joneses" we'd all have to borrow our asses off.

Indeed, General Motors makes less money now off its automobiles than it does lending money to Americans to buy them (and houses, and in credit cards).

In fact, as Wolff discovered, companies realized that they could freeze wages, make enormous profits off the gap between rising productivity and frozen wages, and then make even more money lending those profits back to the working classes and earn interest on the money they rightly should have been paying in wages!

Meanwhile, Americans began working more hours to compensate for frozen wages, because, you know, you have to keep spending and paying off your credit cards and putting food on the table and, oh yea, buying a car for the wife who now works and getting her work clothes and lunches and...

Hours worked per annum in America rose 20% in the period since 1970.

For every European nation, they dropped, on average, 20% over the same period! We're exhausted here!

Wolff goes on to examine the various solutions proposed for this current and (what he feels will be) extended recession, and finds fault with all of them.

Why? Because they don't address the structural inequity of American capitalism: you can't turn the clock back to the 1970s and forgo global competition or automation or women in the workplace or increased immigration (mind you, he doesn't mean illegal immigration, which actually helps prop up the wage structure). You have to move forward, and giving money to ease the pain is putting a bandage on it.

His solution is both elegant and capitalistic, but reminds us that Marx has been distorted beyond parody.

Marxism is in America, right now, and right now, you are looking at its products, if you have an HP computer or printer or an Apple iMac or Macbook, or any countless number of "entreprenurial" products that arose in conjunction with the computer revolution.

But go watch his lecture on LinkTV to find out the real answer...