Friday, January 22, 2010

Hoist A Glass: Why I Owe Lizz Winstead A Debt

This, while a sad development, was neither unexpected nor unwelcome.
The death of Air America Radio is a little like watching an older more sophisticated sibling die. It served its purpose, tho.

For me, I met a whole slew of new friends and made a few enemies on the blogs there. No problem. I'm a rare jewel, and was happy to make the acquaintances I did.
More to the point, however, AAR forced me to blog.
When I heard, over and over, from people at AirAmerica that they thought they were alone in the wilderness, that AAR gave them a place where they realized they weren't weird or odd or unique, or worse, outcast, that meant a lot to me, and after much arm twisting by a certain co-blogger of mine, I started this humble little place.
I owe it to Al Franken, Rachel Maddow, Lizz Winstead, Randi Rhoades, Marc Maron, Sam Seder, Janeane Garafolo, Mark Riley, Laura Flanders, and Steve Earle. AM talk radio helped people find their voice, and I was one of them.
We liberals don't take our marching orders from on high, which is why AAR was doomed from the get-go. We argue and quibble, and come to a consensus. We are not the sheep of the right, listening to Beck or Rush or O'Reilly and bleating "MEGADITTOES!"
What Air America did for us was inform us.
In the midst of a Bush administration bent on disinformation and warped lying, this was vital. And we started to do our own research and learn our own truths. AAR was never going to make money so it was never going to survive. All it had to do was light a fire.
So to my friends, like not_over_it and Mr. Doggity and Lestat de Lioncourt, and CathCatz and Elderta and Ham Jenkins III and fellow denizens of those Crunchy Knee and Britisher, and the hundreds of others whose names escape me at the moment but who I met and loved and argued with and informed and kidded around with...thank you and I share your pain in this.
But think of all the good that's come out of it, folks! AAR may be gone, but forgotten?

Nobody Asked Me, But...

1) Talk about a slap on the wrist. I realize that going back fifteen or twenty years to when banks had true regulations placed on them like Glass-Steagal and Regulation Q is like regaining your virginity, but come on, Mr. President! You can do better than this. These asshats just destroyed the greatest economy in the history of the planet and have relegated America to a second-tier economic power in perpetuity!
2) Learn to speak Chinese is what I'm saying, folks, because you'll need it when all the tourists start descending on America from Beijing.
3) And they'll probably be looking to buy a senator or two.
4) When I learned that the Bush administration was going to allow lobbyists to write the way, does anybody know if Obama actually stopped this?...I thought the country couldn't sink any deeper into the pits of fascism: corporations and government walking hand in hand in a class war against its citizenry. I was wrong. Fucking goddamned Republicans. If I'm ever made king of this country, I will issue an edict declaring Republicans enemies of the state.
5) Roe v. Wade is 37 years old today, just about at the end of its fertile cycle.
6) Most of them are probably Republicans.
7) What a fucking week. You know, you go on vacation, you expect to ramp up working a little bit on either side of it to make up/catch up. I've had to put in so much effort this week that I haven't unpacked yet from my trip and I arrived a week ago, and the attitude I've gotten is almost hostile to the fact I was away, rather than be happy I got a chance to relax a little and recharge my batteries.
Add to that the fact that there was a wage freeze the past two years and our bonuses were cut by a cumulative 35%, and I'm starting to feel genuinely unloved here. Pride in a good day's work is all that keeps me plugging away. For now.
8) Consider this your obligatory reminder about the Haiti telethon tonight
9) Wow! And I thought I've pissed off past girlfriends!
10) Next thing you know, the entire Eastern seaboard will be littered with giant Pampers filled with verdigris!!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Rage WITH The Machine?

If you want to begin to come to grips with the Tea Bagger...I mean, Tea Party movement, here's a good place to start:

ONE CAN DEDUCE merely from the titles of' Ann Coulter s books (If Democrats HadAny Brains..., etc.) that diplomacy and shaded opinion are not her strong suits. Why is she so mad?

Maybe because she's a tail, leggy blonde. It's not the trod-upon who are easily-angered, according to recent research from UC Santa Barbara; it's the entitled, Aaron Sell and collaborators make a case for anger as an evolved bargaining tactic. Huffiness promises either the infliction of harm or the withholding of goods. When you don't get a "fair" shake, you flare your nostrils and your adversary recalculates. And the more bargaining power you have—the size of your stick or your carrot—the better treatment you feel you deserve.

In Sell's new studies, men's strength (big stick) and women's self-rated beauty (tasty carrot) both correlate with sense of entitlement, proneness to anger, belief in the effectiveness of personal aggression, and a history of getting one's way. The theory stands up.

If Coulter feels entitled, it could also animate her jingoism; jocks and beauty queens in the studies also supported political aggression. Sell suspects these alphas' pro-war stances are an evolutionary echo of strong men expecting to go to battle themselves (and win), and fair maidens expecting to claim an unfair lot of the spoils. "Political attitudes," he points out, "don't stem from reason,"

A compelling argument, to be sure, made by Matthew Huston, of Psychology Today in the current issue.

Anecdotally, it seems to bear weight, as well. The right wingers I've encountered, the really angry, nasty ones, tend to be people who have already got some (the usual way of phrasing this is "I got mine, Jack!"). Or as the poet put it, when you ain't got nothing, you ain't got nothing to lose.
There's a fear underlying this, as well. When you feel you deserve a fair shake and get angry when things don't seem to be going your way, that's about loss. If not a material loss, then one of self-esteem and prestige. Those who have get more easily, mostly because they have already and other people feed into that.
Anyway, something to think about when going up against someone like this.

Thin Skins

President Obama and his team spent most of last year blaming President G.W. Bush for just about everything that went wrong. So what can we expect from the Bush-bashing White House in 2010? 
There's a lot of "stoopid" in that paragraph. About the only bits they got right were "President Obama" and "2010".
I only recall hearing Obama even reference the Bush administration handling of anything once all year, and that was early in the spring when defending the additional bail-out funds paid to the bankstahs. Justifying this outlay, he explained that he was following precedent and that his advisory team said it was a good option to pursue.
In other words, he actually praised Bush's decision (even if it was an idiotic one from the get-go and oh yea, so was Obama's follow-through).
Maybe I'm wrong, and maybe Obama did blame Bush for Brazil winning the summer Olympics bid...yes, that's IN the article!
But I doubt I'm wrong.
Who in the hell believes this shit?


Say goodbye to any voice you and I had in American politics.

Pass It...To Kill It?

Lawrence O'Donnell is one of my favorite DC people. Not because he's particularly bright and only partially because he was deeply involved with the production of The West Wing television series.

He pays attention. That's his strength. You see it when he's interviewing someone, you see it when he's on a panel of bloviators, and you see it in his blogging.

You see, by paying attention, you pick up on nuances and details that others miss. Like the fact that, well, Mitch McConnell has all but passed healthcare reform for Harry Reid already:

In Washington, where everyone is desperate to know what's happening behind closed doors, all you have to do to keep something secret is do it out in the open, preferably on C-Span. Mitch McConnell did exactly that when he entered a unanimous consent agreement with Harry Reid about how to proceed on the health care bill. McConnell knew that agreement was going to make it impossible for Republicans to amend the bill and would put it on a fast track toward passage.

McConnell accepted an agreement brilliantly designed by Reid that required 60 votes to pass an amendment. McConnell did that without anyone noticing anything odd after a year of saturation coverage of the importance of 60 votes in the Senate. Everyone outside the Senate now thinks it takes 60 votes to do anything. Not amendments. Amendments pass by a simple majority, 51 votes. Amendments are usually debated for a couple of minutes or hours or days, then voted on. Once in a while, a 60-vote cloture motion is needed to end debate on an amendment. What McConnell agreed to was an implicit cloture motion in every vote on every amendment, thereby completely surrendering the minority's real power. In all my years in the Senate, I never saw a leader make such a mistake. If it was a mistake.

[...]President Obama threatening to violate a campaign pledge by taxing workers' health care plans is one thing, but actually doing it is a dream come true for Republicans. They know the health care reform bill has a handful of taxes like that, none of which were mentioned by any Democrat in the last campaign. They can't wait to campaign to repeal those taxes. The internal Republican strategy debate now is should we repeal the whole bill or maybe leave some of the more popular sounding bits alone? But how can they run on any kind of repeal if Scott Brown wins in Massachusetts and steps into the Senate just in time to kill Obamacare?

If that happens, and the Democrats then scale back their dreams on cap and trade and other liberal ideas, then maybe moderate independents -- including some of Scott Brown's voters -- might think Mitch McConnell has all the Republicans he needs to keep the Democrats on the moderate course those voters prefer. So who is Mitch McConnell really rooting for in Massachusetts?
Absent the future tense and uncertainty of a Brown win, as I'm late to the party on this column.

It is an interesting note that O'Donnell makes. Mistakes are rarely made in the Senate and hardly ever made by the party leadership. Clearly, McConnell intended to leave himself the out that O'Donnell mentions, the ability to have a tax to rail against in November.

Just as the abortion issue could have been settled in favor of the Republican/conservative caucus at any point over the past 16 years or so by aggressively pursuing legislation to overturn Roe v. Wade or at least drastically limit it (not just the nibbling around the edges that has been passed), Republicans could simply have repeated the strategy they pursued in defeating healthcare reform in 1994: submit endless amendments that would eventually exhaust the chamber.

Four real amendments were submitted as well as five requests to return the bill to committee. All were voted "down" in the regard that they did not pass a 60 vote test.

Sure, the Republicans put on a show of opposition: calling for a reading of the bill on the Senate floor, forcing Senator Byrd to roll in on a wheelchair to vote in the middle of the night. To call this a full-court press to defeat the most socialist piece of legislation in the history of this country (even Social Security doesn't force everyone to carry it, only people earning wages) is ludicrous.

Now, it's possible that McConnell made a mistake. It's possible that, when Reid and McConnell made this agreement, McConnell had polling that showed Americans were so deeply in support of reform that they'd tear apart anyone who behaved badly, and McConnell decided it wasn't going to be his side.

And it's also possible that monkeys might fly out of my butt tomorrow, because this fear was diametrically opposite to the strategy that was pursued, which was to so water down the legislation...what? You thought Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman acted independently out of good conscience?...that no one would like it much.

The election of Brown certainly defeats that possibility...unless of course a rookie Senator can be persuaded to tow the line.


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Martha Choakley

It's not the end of the world. Hell, it's not even the end of Obama's presidency. Politics is, after all, the art of the possible and good politicians like Obama can make lemonade out of pisswater.

So what are the real lessons to be learned from Martha Coakley's defeat at the hands of a naked teabagger?

1) Never ever diss Fenway Park, sports fans, or the Boston Red Sox if you want to win a statewide office in Massachusetts. Martha, my dear, when people are hurting, sports comes to the rescue. For most men I know, a sport if not multiple sports is a religion. Treat it that way. That means, yes, standing outside Fenway Park on New Year's Day, shaking the hands of every single Bruins fan you can grab hold of, and talking to them, answering and more important, asking them questions. You will never win in Massachusetts as a Democrat if you can't carry all of Boston, not just the quiet neighborhoods where you can throw cocktail parties and make fun of blue collar workers. Remember the flak Obama took in Pennsylvania for comments recorded in California? It nearly cost him the nomination.

2) Apart from Kennedys, Massachusetts has a shitty Democratic machine. When the chips have been down and we've turned to a Massachusian to lead the way, look at what they've served up: Dukakis, Kerry, now Coakley. And even Mitt Romney, to extend this to a bipartisan level. The MassDems ought to take a good long stone cold sober look at themselves and wonder if maybe they're barking up the wrong tree for campaign funds.

3) Democrats cannot win elections by preaching from on high. See point (1). The party faithful are not a homogenous bunch of sheeple, nearly all white and nearly all Christian, like the Republicans. We aren't as patriarchal and we are not going to be lectured. The only way Democrats win is to engage with the voters, face to face, hand to hand, heart to heart. That last is the most important. Listen, then speak. It's how Obama won, it's how Deval Patrick won, it's how both Clintons won elections. We speak of hope and prosperity, we talk about how Americans are struggling and how they will ldo better under a Democrat because that's what history teaches us. We talk about the values that make America great and how all people need is a fair, level playing field in order to succeed. We don't need to tear down, because we always build up. Hope was a theme of the last two Democratic presidents for a reason, folks!

4) You can't win an election in absentia. I'm not talking about taking a vacation in a truncated election season, altho that couldn't have helped. I'm talking about running a campaign as a surrogate for a beloved politician like Ted Kennedy. There's only one person who could possibly have done that, and Victoria Reggie Kennedy was not in the race. You want to flavor your stump speech with reminders of his tireless work on healthcare and how you want to protect that, that's fine, but don't make it the singleminded focus and the raisn d'etre of your campaign. See point three for what to run on.

What should the Democrats in DC do now?

I'd like to see them take off the gloves. This is the time to recognize that, while Democrats are not sheeple, elected Democrats have to be. Time to bully the Blue Dogs, and kick Lieberman to the curb, use the reconciliation feature of Senate votes and get Obama to release that donor list of his for robocalling on healthcare, on jobs, on deficit reduction. We have less than a year where we can guarantee even an eighteen seat majority in the Senate, so we have a deadline looming on us. We're likely to lose seats as it is, but whether we pass HCR or not, whether we get a jobs program in place or not, we're not going to lose the majority party status. So if we sacrifice one or two Democrats in the cause of advancing the nation, so be it.

Are you listening, Senator Reid?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

One Island, Two Nations

Two households, both alike in dignity,
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.
-- Romeo and Juliet: Prologue

Occasionally, does its job right and makes me think. Today was one of those moments:
We are all sick at heart to witness the unfathomable suffering in Haiti. Why do bad things happen to innocent people? Why Haiti, again? Even Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said recently, "It is biblical, the tragedy that continues to stalk Haiti and the Haitian people."

How we make meaning of this suffering will be crucial to how we respond, in the long term, as a global community.

Why, indeed?

McAlister goes on to explore Haitian faith and the Christian belief that Haiti is playing our the last chapter in the Bible, of famine and floods and earthquakes and war.

Perhaps. And yet, there's a side to this story that doesn't often get mentioned: the eastern half of the island of Hispaniola contains another country: not as poor, quite as Christian, and poised to absorb the nation of Haiti.

Quite the turnaround for a country that had to fight for independence from Haiti.

It's true, for much of its existence, Haiti has been out of favor of the United States and Europe, while the Dominican Republic has enjoyed the benefits of alliances with both. This despite the fact that the DR had engaged in what we would now call "ethnic cleansing," slaughtering Haitians within its borders by the tens of thousands, in an era marked by the spread of totalitarian fascism around the world and the rise of Nazi Germany.

Admittedly, Haiti has a long history of shackling from the West, first as a slave colony, and then with crushing debt incurred in the treaty for independence from France. Indeed, the national bank of Haiti has been looted, literally, no less than four times, including at least once by American troops.

Too, the political unrest in that nation since, well, independence can't have helped any, but riddle me this, Batman: why is American bankrolling uprisings or defending dictators, when we espouse policies of "sovereignty" and "freedom" and "popular choice" on our own people and are trying to cram these down the throats of Iraqis and Afghanis?

Is it any wonder people really don't trust us? They read history, the history we should read but do not. I mean, come on, we were supporting the Duvaliers with economic aid and development!

I don't know that I have the answer to this conundrum, and I expect people with far better knowledge of sociology and political science struggle with a question that seems infathomable to me.

But this simple truth cannot be denied: one island, two nations moving in diametrically opposite directions:
The which if you with patient ears attend,
What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Hating Haitians

One of the joys of scuba diving is it offers the chance to take vacations in exotic locales off the beaten path (Bon-where, now?).
One of the embarrassments of scuba diving is having to explain Rush Limbaugh and Pat Robertson to people from more civilized and sophisticated societies like France, England, the Netherlands, and "Bon-where, now?"
Often, I'm tempted to shrug my shoulders and simply say they're snake oil salesmen who have entire swaths of morons bamboozled by both bilking them for tens of millions of dollars, all while off-putting the blame to someone else. Of course, there's much evidence that even the more mainstream Republican factions are con artists, which makes this not only a tempting trope to leave with, but a facile explanation to boot.
I mean, come on! When a dunderhead like Erick Erickson finally begins to see the light about the movement he's helped spawn and launch, it's like Capt. Renault finding gambling at Rick's Cafe Americain!
But that's nothing compared to the massive scam being pulled by Rush Limbaugh and Pat Robertson over Haiti. If Sarah Palin and Michael Steele are pulling in long money over a few books and a convention, you can rest assured that every time Rush Limbaugh or Pat Robertson open their mouths and say something blitheringly, blindingly idiotic, their accountants are grinning from ear to ear.
For example, when Robertson says that the earthquake was a "blessing in disguise," was he really referring to religious reform in Haiti? Well, sort of, but the blessings were not for Haitians and not for the afterlife, but for the hundreds of evangelicals and other Christian missionaries who would be getting beaucoup bucks to keep piling on the indigent population to attempt to convert them to a brand of Christianity that is both judgemental and better suited for people with little intelligence.
In other words, it benefits Robertson and other Christian Coalitionites.
And when Rush actually campaigns against giving to relief efforts (particularly those emanating on the White House website, like, you know, the American Red Cross?), cui bono? Who benefits?
As for his ridiculous comments that American taxes go to pay Haitian relief efforts, yes, to the extent that they pay the salaries of officials and soldiers on the ground there, it's true. Those salaries would be paid anyway, however so its not like no earthquake would have magically removed a line item from the budget.
Indeed, one could make the argument that Rush himself benefits from those same taxes, ergo he should not be allowed to charge for advertising on his radio program since the airwaves are free.
But now try explaining to some fellow diver who's Swiss or Italian the whole phenomenon of a man who rails against taxes or one who calls innocent people "devils" in a free society, not only with little repercussion (the tragedy having far outweighed the outrage, a tactic both Rush and Robertson rely upon) but with the full faith and credit of a significant percentage of Americans supporting them, and not conjure up images of Il Duce or worse.
I'm sure I got defensive when discussing them. For that, I apologize, just as I was forced to offer up simple puling of "well, there's a place for all beliefs in America" as explanation.
Which I shouldn't have had to. Your not allowed to shout fire in a crowded theater. It's about time we found some way to hold people responsible not only for their actions, but for their words.