Friday, July 16, 2010

Nobody Asked Me, But...

1) Here's a political party that could make me drop the Democrats in a heartbeat...unless Sheryl Crow personally convinces me to stay.
2) Attention DC residents! That rumbling you felt this morning was the Teabaggers suddenly realizing they are irrelevant.
3) It was a good week for the President. Perhaps his best since the spring. Two problems he didn't create and somehow was being blamed for are getting make-overs. There is hope they are both fixes, as well, and not just bandaids.
4) US satellite? Russian spy plane? Aliens looking for moo shu pork?
5) In case you've missed it, Lance Armstrong's attempt to recapture his Tour De France glory has all but ended except for the formalities. Irony number one: he placed third last year while racing in less than optimum conditioning. This year, he was in far better shape and was challenging early on for the yellow jersey. He was undone by a series of crashes on one stage that left him unable to answer the call when his rivals decided to weed the contender field. Irony number two: he may finally be forced to testify in front of Congress about doping in cycling.
Congress? BIKING? Since when do Americans give a damn about cycling? This leads me to irony number three: Because the accusations stem from the short-lived tenure of the US Postal Service team, apparently it falls to Congress to look into it...if they want to be a pain in the ass. I don't support Lance's politics (he's more conservative than I), but to investigate a now nearly twenty year old incident because a few people have made accusations seems pretty silly to me. There's plenty of circumstantial evidence to indicate that the team was doping (three other members of that team tested positive after the team disbanded and they joined other, less well-funded teams who might not have been able to cover their tracks as effectively, as an example) but if the sport itself sees no reason to revisit the issue, then perhaps a Congressional investigation is a waste of energy.
6) This is a fascinating story. We tend to forget that people have been industrious long before the age of computers. Early New Yorkers added as much as half a mile of width to the island of Manhattan long before there was asphalt and tar and skyscrapers, and it astounds me that two thousand foot high buildings (and now one 1,776 foot high one) were built on yesterday's garbage.
7) As if things weren't tough enough for Linda McMahon in Connecticut, her past is coming back to haunt her. She talks about creating jobs, but she's fired more people than most companies have hired.
8) The electric car gains momentum.
9) Americans will have to grow up a little this fall.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Crunch Time

The Teabaggers have made a lot of noise over the past year. But it might signify nothing, after all.
The trouble with populist movements that are anti-government is they are also suspicious of anyone who wants to organize the movement for effective change. Now, I'm not suggesting that the Teabaggers have an actual agenda that would create effective change, at least as the normal people in this nation would define it. Indeed, most studies of the movement indicate that there's a lot of rage out there, but apart from Obama and Congress in concept, there's no focus to this rage.
What does this mean?
It means a couple of things we should keep in mind going into the fall:
1) Fundraising for the Teabagger candidates is going to be extra hard. If you aren't focused, you don't have your heart into a movement. Compare, for example, the Teabaggers to the Obama insurgent candidacy in 2007 and 2008. Hillary Clinton all but had the nomination locked up, and all the big money donors were quite happy piling her plate high to fund her general election campaign. Barack Obama made appeals to small donors, liberal donors, and to people who worried that the smear campaign launched against Hillary by the Republicans was true, that she was a corrupt politico who would do little to change DC.
Obama's supporters, in other words, had a focus for their anger, so contribute they did. In massive numbers. I suspect that campaign has already generated a large number of masters theses in political science. It was remarkable.
The Teabaggers lack that kind of focal point, a body of candidates who can generate the kind of enthusiasm that anger has to be channeled into. People don't like to be angry. They like to have faith that things will get better if they can just get something done. Obama presented that. The folks on the right wing who are exploiting the Teabagger anger have presented no such solution.
2) Which brings me to the next point: if you don't have a focal point for your anger, and you don't have an agenda to create effective change, you really have nothing. The Perotistas of the 90s at least had the rallying cry of lower deficits. You don't hear that much from Teabaggers. Lower taxes, yes. Less government, yes. But you don't have the hammering point that the deficit is out of control. That's a change that would get people to join up. What you have instead is a bunch of greedy cheapskates who have zero clue about what it means to be a citizen of a society. They want society out of their lives, not government. They would prefer a nation of loners, not a nation of doers. Life left them behind, and this is their way of getting revenge on the world.
3) If a candidate in Alabama, a Teabagger favorite, leading the polls heading into a runoff election loses a runoff to an establishment candidate...IN ALABAMA, the very heart of white anger...your movement has lost its direction already. Indeed, one of the few victories Teabaggers generally point to, Senator Scott Brown of Massachussetts, has already jumped Teabagger ship twice and sided with Democrats on two major issues.
I think 2010 will see the end of the Teabagger movement, as well as the collapse of Glenn Beck into Ann Coulter obscurity.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Floating Balloons

A bit of intriguing political theatre took place yesterday. You probably heard about it, but didn't pay much mind to it.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi bashed White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs Tuesday night, even as the president's top spokesman continued to backpedal from his assertion that Democrats could lose control of the House in the November election.

The fusillade from Pelosi and other Democrats at a closed-door meeting escalated an already fiery clash between the White House and its own party in Congress. During the tense evening meeting, the speaker grilled the top White House aide in attendance, senior legislative affairs staffer Dan Turton, about the impact of Gibbs' comments.

"How could [Gibbs] know what is going on in our districts?" Pelosi told her members in the caucus meeting in the basement of the Capitol Tuesday night. "Some may weigh his words more than others. We have made our disagreement known to the White House."

As noted, Gibbs has begun to walk back his comments, predicting the Dems will salvage the House and Senate this fall.

What makes this intriguing is, did Gibbs leave the reservation on his own accord, or was he thrown under the bus? (I must be a real pundit now! I'm using meaningless cliches.)

If Gibbs' words were aimed at Democratic activists, specifically liberal and leftish activists, then this was a surgical strike that had unfortunate (but deliberate) collateral damage. It's true, the Dems have played fast and loose with the party alliance between Congress and the White House. It took forever to pass a watered-down version of healthcare. While that's really a Senate issue, Pelosi could have been more forceful in getting a version slid through the House, forcing the Senate's hand.
That this was a scare tactic for liberals has some merit. There's a lot of griping about Obama's failure to live up to the ideals imposed upon him in the heat of the 2008 campaign. Failing to secure a Democratic majority in the House would surely seal his Presidency, since the intractability of Senate Republicans would only double and they could conceivably peel off some moderate Blue Dog Dems to some odious legislation.
If Gibbs' words were primarily aimed at Pelosi and company, then likely he's venting the frustrations of the administration as noted above. And he probably did it as a loose cannon and both inartfully and unintentionally. The question then becomes, why this warning?
I have a theory: this could have been a signal that the White House is rationing Obama's charisma and power to focus on specific races in key states that would impact his re-election. Why not kill two birds with one stone, and open the re-election campaign, by showing up in key districts and battleground states that he will need in 2012, instead of trying to salvage what the Congress has lost of their own accord?
The next few days will be interesting, to say the least.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Thoughts on Steinbrenner

Inarguably, George Steinbrenner was one of the most influential New Yorkers of the past four decades.
Inarguably, he was a cancer on baseball as a game for kids and as a sport. He took a perfectly good game and turned it into a multibillion dollar business and in due course, ruined the game.
Since 1990, according to ESPN, he spent $2 billion dollars on free agents, just since 1990. That's money taken from people like you and me: working class, middle class folks, people dumb enough to buy into the "winner takes all" mentality that he exploited to outspend nearly all other major league baseball teams combined.
Think about what that $2 billion would have meant to the ticket buyers. Yes, it gave them a few hours of joy over the years, but take that money and put it to good use and maybe we're not in the economic pickle we're in. After all, money that doesn't go into Steinbrenner's (and the other owners) pockets is money we're spending on ourselves or better, saving. If he spent $2 billion on free agents, how much did he himself personally pocket? I'd bet it's safe to say a far larger sum.
He's being mourned today by "New Yorkers", but Noo Yawkahs know better. I hope he burns in hell.

Cagey Or Caging?

President Obama floated a balloon yesterday in the form of laying out a potential campaign strategy for his re-election (and clearly, he's chosen not to be a one term president): Run against George W Bush.
Specifically, he wants to talk about the direction he wants to steer the nation and where its come from.
I'm of two minds on this. On the one hand, conventional wisdom suggests that, once you've had four years in office, it's a little hard to paint yourself as the victim of circumstance. We still have troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, with no suggestion of withdrawal anytime soon. The economy is showing signs of early growth, but jobs and job creation, a peculiar measure by which a President is usually judged, have been a dark grey area.
I say "usually judged," because in 2004, George W Bush had a three million job deficit on his ledger, yet managed to get re-elected. Indeed, that Bush was re-elected is more a testament to the Democratic foolishness in choosing a candidate as opposed to Bush's own charisma. His approval ratings, you may recall, dipped deeply into the forty percent range, and after re-election, flirted with 30% at times.
On the other hand, Obama took over a nation that was at its lowest point, if not in history, then since the Civil War. Our invulnerability had been tested not less than three times in the previous eight years: the terror attacks as well as the twin stock collapses of 2000 and 2008. We are, to be frank, shell-shocked. A nation deeply in need of treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, and this is before we look at the horrible state of the nation's political will, before we consider the two wars that seem unending, and before we look at the cynical way our leaders have behaved since 9/11.
It's understandable we're depressed and angry, so perhaps Obama's best strategy is indeed to put a happy face on the future. Hell, worse it couldn't get, right?
I'm angry. I look at the news, and look at the rage that's arisen from a small rageaholic minority of Americans and think I'm not alone. And I see that rage beginning to catch fire in moderates, who are not only angry at Obama, but at Republicans, Democrats, governors, mayors, hell, they're angry at the dogcatcher!
This could be healthy, long term, if we can keep it from boiling over into random acts of stupidity and channel it into citizen involvement, not in politics, but in watchdogging those who would corrupt the political process (like a Sarah Palin or a Glenn Beck, or a Goldman Sachs). We need a break from that kind of obstreperous and strident nonsense. We need to cool everything out while making sure we don't get sucked dry by the cynical fearmongerers of the right and the corporatocracy.
Get mad. But keep a clear head.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Suck It, Arizona!

This response to the Federal lawsuit seeking to overturn the noxious AZ SB 1070, the so-called Immigration Law is ludicrous at best.
At worst, if the law stands, it would set a very dangerous precedent to other groups who don't always have the favored eye of any particular state. Say, for example, a gay couple were to marry in Iowa, but move to Arizona. Let's say a whole bunch of couples begin to migrate to Arizona. What's to stop the state from passing yet another law determining that, since the couples violate the state's marriage statute and marriage is the basic building block of a nation, their citizenship should be revoked? After all, we've given a state the power to determine what constitutes "being an American" so how far out of the realm of possibility, given the distinctly....untermenschen...attitude Arizona is displaying here, is it to think that Arizona would not reserve the right to decide who gets to remain an American?
Full faith and credit be damned!
The immigration issue is a deeply tangled, deeply difficult and deeply divisive one. For my part, I believe that the laws pertaining to immgration ought to be loosened. This nation was built by immigrants, from the Mayflower on down to Ellis Island and beyond. The first generation immigrant has sparked new industries, created new jobs, built communities (every large city has a Chinatown or Little Italy), and brought their unique culture to our own and assimilated while assimilating.
I'm not sure why the Latino population is held in such low regard for somehow "destroying America." They do the dirty disgusting jobs that even the poorest citizen would turn his nose up to: field worker, busboy, janitor. However, every immigrant population has had to start with nothing in America, and work their way up. The story of the Irish or Italian, nevermind the Jew, is no different than the story of the Mexican or Nicaraguan. 
In a day and age when the established population has been so savaged by its own kind, perhaps we need fresh blood and a fresh way of looking at things in order to restart our economic engine. This is what immigrants throughout our history have excelled at. 
Open our fists and shake hands, says me.