Friday, January 08, 2010

Te Aworo

I thought I'd have more time today to post something, and maybe even have the chance to write some things for next week.

I'll be on vacation. I'll see about posting stuff, but I ain't promising. I leave you in the capable hands of Kat, and if ThumbPer can work out the password on the computer, he might post some stuff too.

See you on the 18th!

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Things That Make You Go "Hmmmmm"

Senator Harold Ford, Jr...of New York???

His stature undoubtedly derives from his five consecutive terms as a United States representative and a bitterly contested campaign for the Senate, but Mr. Ford, 39, has introduced himself to New Yorkers as a self-assured, nattily dressed political insider on Fox, NBC and MSNBC.

Over the past two years, he become a regular on shows like "Morning Joe" and "Meet the Press," pontificating on everything from death panels to Barack Obama's popularity.

The appearances have given Mr. Ford's name a familiar ring but have revealed little about his politics, which will become the subject of intense scrutiny over the next few weeks as he decides whether to run against Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand this fall. He has given himself 45 days to sound out potential donors and party leaders about a campaign.

Attentive readers of Simply Left Behind now have an explanation to this bizarre encounter your editor had two years ago. Not in a million years would I have imagined that it was leading up to this possibility, but the fact that he met with Joe Trippi in a quiet little restaurant (albeit not in the corner) certainly intimates Ford's intention to re-enter political life.
I'm not sure how I feel about this. Ford, you may recall, had his hopes for Senate in Tennessee dashed in part by a race-baiting TV ad.So to a degree, his candidacy in a state less predisposed to listen to hate-mongering and more disposed to listening to issues is sort of "get even." Too, he's an intelligent man with good ideas who is not as liberal as many would pick him out to be, so he could be a sale in areas of New York State that Hillary Clinton carried with surprising regularity.
On the other hand, Kirsten Gillibrand has not exactly been a horrible Senator. She is, however, somewhat tainted by her unfortunate and necessary association with Governor David Patterson, whose approval ratings are abysmal, even if they have softened somewhat these past few weeks, Gillibrand has also carried a lot of the water for the Democrats in the Senate, voting strictly along party lines despite being more conservative than the party in general.
Which is saying a lot, considering how far to the right the party has had to move to pass legislation this year.
This has the earmarks of a White House wishlist, between this trial balloon and the pressure President Obama has placed on Patterson to forgo re-election. Patterson has led an oddly charmed life since that pressure was made public: no one serious, it seems, wants to run against him, except perhaps Andrew Cuomo. Republicans have shunned the race like Puritans in a sex club marathon.
My guess is, the budget outlook is so bleak, no one wants to be the one left standing when the music stops. In this regard, Patterson will likely thrive into a second term, simply because he hasn't backed down from the challenge.
But I digress.
The potential for a Gillibrand-Ford lock-up in the primary is interesting. Ford would likely capture most of the lower counties, like the city, Westchester, and Long Island, while Gillibrand would run strongly in the central parts of the state, like the Leatherstocking district and the Hudson Valley.
So the toss-ups would be the university towns way up north, like Ithaca, Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo. Those are a strange admixture of blue collar whites who have suffered mightily in this Bush depression, and scholarly-types. Ford appeals to both, to be sure, but Gillibrand's support amongst the working class folks would be hard to crack.
Look for pressure brought to bear on Gillibrand to quit the race, and perhaps lock horns with Patterson for the governor's chair, or an offer of a post that would be hard to turn down (ambassador or sub-Cabinet appointment). I don't think the state party wants to have this on their hands after the 2009 state Senate debacle.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Great Moments In Twitter History

Sadly, No!, in response to complaints about a thread deconstructing a Tweet sent by some random cultural celebrity and basically demolishing it as the single most ridiculous form of communication ever devised, has created a thread of how Twitter would have been used in history. I post some examples here:
Naturally, the denizens couldn't help but chime in...
  • Elephant Butte said,
    January 6, 2010 at 4:34

    @Caesar OMFG et2 Bts?

  • It gets worse:
    Felonious Monk said,
    January 6, 2010 at 8:03
    Plan 4 2nite: F#%* sum bitchzz, overrun West Asia, F(@# moar bitchzz. Holy Shit I luv my life.
    So, yes...I took a swing or two:
    actor212 said,
    January 6, 2010 at 16:17
    @MaryMagadalene U no who else got naled? Ur mom LOL!!!!!!!!!!
    actor212 said,
    January 6, 2010 at 16:19
    @MaryToodLincoln Othr thn tht, how wuz plai?
    Take your best shots, readers, either here or at Sadly, No!

    Thunder And Lightning

    Barack Obama showed some stones yesterday.
    This shouldn't be news. I suspect the reason it is is the last administration was in woefully short supply of stones, particularly when it made mistakes. "Heckuva job, Brownie!"

    After an earlier meeting with his security advisers, President Obama said US intelligence services had enough information to place the Nigerian suspect, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, on a no-fly list, but had failed to connect the dots, adding: "That's not acceptable, and I will not tolerate it".

    I should point out that the only person who suffered any consequences of the 9-11 terrorist attacks was Sibel Edmonds. Indeed, the only admission by anyone in authority in the Bush administration with respect to the 9-11 tragedy was from Condi Rice, which she called a  "failure of imagination".
    As if terrorists bringing four planes down a month after the infamous August 6 PDB was like the release of "Avatar".
    But I digress.
    President Obama's point yesterday, that we had all the pieces but no one to put the puzzle together, was supposed to be solved by the Department of Homeland Security, set up by "President" Bush and alowed to squander seven years of financing to put on a dog and pony show of protecting Americans' security. We were given rainbows, told tweezers and nail scissors were deadly weapons (perhaps they anticipated an attack by an army of Jackie Chan clones), and asked to buy duct tape and plastic sheeting.
    Instead of putting together an infrastructure that would in real time share information between agencies and prevent a lone terrorist from boarding a plane loaded down with explosives. Yes, Bush and his team stopped Richard Reid (for want of a lighter, admittedly on the "no-fly" list. Too bad Reid wasn't.), and then rested on their laurels.
    Bush and Rove et al spent those last seven years wetting their pants trying to get us to wet ours, with continual incidents of false flag terror alerts (timed in election cycles, no less).
    President Obama's inference, that intelligent people are now running the intelligence services so let's cut the crap, is an even better reaction than expected. Had Abdulmutallab (and I thought Ahmadinejad was hard to spell!) succeeded, I would hope the implication that heads would roll would be carrid out, starting with his own Cabinet pick, Janet Napolitano, who now has to work hard to persuade Americans she can handle what on the surface seems to be a job cut out for her. I'm sure the details are far more complex, however.
    2009 was a difficult year for Obama, even tho the end showed glimmers of an administration that can reverse the deep troubles this nation is in. If this kick-off to campaign year 2010 is any indication, this should be a good year for Obama and the Democrats.

    Tuesday, January 05, 2010

    Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright

    In the forest, in the...nude? Well, sort of...:
    (CBS)  While Tiger Woods remains holed up in seclusion more than a month after his Thanksgiving Day crash, never-before-seen images of the world's No. 1 golfer have surfaced in this month's Vanity Fair, reports CBS News correspondent Jeff Glor.
    A bare-chested Woods graces the cover of the magazine -- Woods holding a dumbbell in each hand.
    The shots, taken by celebrity photographer Annie Leibovitz back in January of 2006, give a rare glimpse into the life of the world's most guarded athlete.
    The words I've heard bandied about here are "intense, dedicated, raw".
    In other words, practically (save for "dedicated") the opposite of his persona.
    There's a lesson here for all of us who admire celebrities: don't.
    Don't admire anyone who hires a publicist or a manager or an agent or charge d'affaires. The image you are admiring is likely not what that person really is, and if you have to aspire to a fictional character, then aspire to fiction with your eyes open. Admire Captain Kirk, or Luke Skywalker, or Tess of the D'Urbervilles.
    Or admire what Woods could have been, because it's clear he is not whom he was presented to be.
    I have often wondered why we swallow these images whole. Part of me thinks it goes back to the Bible, and those tales of superhuman endurance and semi-divine men and women who walked our planet and left footprints that by rights we are unworthy to follow, but who probably were human to begin with.
    Even Jesus had a temper, in other words, but we are offered him as a God who was perfect, which we should aspire to even tho we are guaranteed to fail. Similarly, we conflate heroism on humans, taking a talent or small act and assuming the entire soul follows in those footsteps. And vice versa. We assume evil is evil through and through, even if simple observation of the people around us shows that people are neither good nor bad, but a mix, so even saints and devils must have a little of both.
    It's clear that Woods was not the ultranice citizen of the world he claimed to be. In these photos, he shows a complete narcissistic side of himself, a man in love with being Tiger Woods, a man who gives flinchingly to others of whom he is.
    Ask Elin if you don't believe that last bit. In exchange for selling his soul, his essence, he signed a bondage agreement with a wife, his sponsors and a sport that values dignity and comportment above improved play or score. The scary bit is, what's going on in that sport that is going on in other sports, that golf is not talking about openly? How different will golf's image be once the steroid and amphetamine scandals erupt from the clubhouses?
    How will golf survive? It won't attract the kind of sponsors it does now, upscale investment banks and luxury cars, and it won't be able to assume an image that's more down to earth (maybe if the LPGA was forced to play in bikinis and have implants, and the PGA was forced to play in Speedos and have full contact).
    And maybe it shouldn't. Golf has always tried to walk a fine line between sport and diversion. Golf is a sport the way walking is a sport: it's a fine way to pass time if you've got gobs of it to waste, but to sit and watch someone engaging in it is an even bigger waste of time. In this regard, setting up a webcam on a busy street ought to be classified as sport.
    And it dumbs down the definition of sport while it debases its true nature. Fractally, this reflects in Woods' own persona. He's dumbed himself down in order to fit into a sport that denies his true nature. The most interesting comment I've heard on the entire mess was on the Today Show this morning, when some yahoo told him to show up at the Masters riding a Harley, tattoos all over his arms, unshaven, win the tournament, throw away the green jacket and hook up with the first woman he comes across in the press tent after demolishing the competition.
    I concur, actually. Be who you are, Tiger. Stop pleasing everyone else around you. You are the most talented golfer on the planet, and you shouldn't have to lower yourself to some image that others have of you.
    Does it really matter if you earn $100 million a year or $50 million a year? Endorsements will come simply because of the talent. It may take a while, but you're very young and eventually people will not only forgive you, they'll come to see your point of view.
    Fuck redemption. Teach the world a lesson about getting the fucking sticks out of its collective ass.

    Monday, January 04, 2010

    Truth Will Out

    It may take twenty years, but eventually, truth will out:
    The year 1989 changed the world. It moved us from a world of division and nuclear blackmail to one of new opportunity and unprecedented prosperity. It set the stage for our contemporary era: globalization, the triumph of free markets, the spread of democracy. It ushered in the great global economic boom that lifted billions out of poverty around the world and established America as the one and only superpower.
    Yet it was a dangerous triumph, chiefly because we claimed it for our own and scarcely bothered to fully understand how this great change came to pass. We told ourselves stick-figure parables of defiance and good-versus-evil triumph, summed up in Ronald Reagan's clarion call: "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"
    From the vantage point of 20 years, we should be wiser. The reality is that "our" victory in the Cold War was not what we thought it was, nor did it happen the way we think it did. Most painfully, the myths we spun about it have hurt the world and ourselves.
    It was, in truth, a Pyrrhic victory that took more than 40 years to come about, and was more about the edificial nature of the Soviet Union and its weak economy than about America's "strong defense"...altho to be fair that had a large part to play in the drama, certainly in terms of speeding it up.
    Meyer raises some interesting points beyond this obvious trope, that the United States and in particular the Reagan administration have been too quick and too self-centered in picking up all the credit.
    Indeed, many myths, like populist revolt overthrowing the Warsaw Pact, come into question.
    The central point is, the Soviet Union was doomed from the beginning. It was really a matter of time and economics.
    Just as the fall of America was ordained in the early days of its creation: one nation was not under God, but several disparate islands of view. White, black, male, female, rich, poor, these groups, history shows, cannot all live under the same roof forever. It really is just a matter of time, as history demonstrates.
    But note Meyer's third fallacy that came out of 1989:
    A third myth is the most dangerous: the idea of the United States as emancipator, a liberator of repressed peoples. This crusading brand of American triumphalism has become gospel over the past two decades in certain foreign policy circles, especially among neoconservatives.
    He has a point: every war we've engaged in, with the exception of one, since 1989 has been a patrician war of "freedom". The sole exception? Preventing ethnic cleansing in the former Warsaw Pact state of Yugoslavia.
    Indeed, many of our wars for freedom have ended up oppressing sectors of population worse than before we arrived to fight (the Kurds after Gulf War I spring to mind), and most, if not all, have left the nation we've battled in far worse for the wear and war. This lesson is being demonstrated now in Iraq (and eventually Afghanistan) to our utter embarassment.
    Imagine if we had invested that postwar "peace dividend" in our infrastructure, or education, or job retraining, or healthcare, and freed Americans instead of people who meant us no harm, caused us no harm, and whom we could have safely ignored (obviously, the Taliban and Al Qaeda do not fit this profile).
    Imagine the trillions we would have shored up our economy with. Imagine actually going in and winning a quick war against Al Qaeda because we weren't tamping down Somalia in the 90s (or worrying ourselves over which orifice of what woman our President was filling, but I digress...).
    It's a shame that it takes history to give us wisdom, that we do not learn from the mistakes of our ancestors or even from our elders, who fought and beat a hegemonic empire, likely the most powerful on the planet, to win our freedom. Practically by ourselves (the French helped).
    Wouldn't we be ashamed if some other nation, say, Italy, came here and fought for our freedom for us?