Friday, October 08, 2010

Nobody Asked Me, But...

1) Fall is in the air, that means it's time for the annual Nobel Prize controversy. Today, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo. Needless to say, Beijing is none too happy about a jailed pro-democracy dissident being awarded such a prestigious prize, but the clues have been there all along that the Nobel committee likes jailed dissidents. There's a very simple solution, President Hu: free him from jail.
2) 7.45PM GMT tonight. Be here. Also, rumour has it that Google has a widget in honor of John Lennon, but I have not been able to see it. It's possible it's only available to Brits.
3) Despite rumours of peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government, it seems that, well, it ain't ending anytime soon.
4) This is conceivably the most important weapon the Democrats have going into the fall election...IF it's deployed with good timing.
5) Poor Lou Dobbs. Lost all his credibility in the blink of an eye. Like Meg Whitman before him, perhaps he should have simply shut the fuck up about undocumented workers and hope no one noticed.
6) This could have been the environmental version of Chernobyl. So far, it seems Hungary has ducked a bullet. Just keep in mind: it's happened here and could happen again at anytime.
7) Truly, there's a level of sexism in this story. But not entirely. After all, it takes discipline and hard work to maintain a slim figure in America and people who have that kind of discipline in one area usually have it in other important areas, and doubly so for women who have to overcome the image of being unserious in the working world.
8) What's the true cost of a pack of cigarettes? $140.
9) No wonder he had high blood pressure!
10) There are seven times as mnay sex offenders in the US than there are people.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Perhaps They Should Rename It The "Extremely Silly Party"

(cf. Title Reference here. Video clip here)
We have seen witches, wackos and whiners run under the banner of the Teabaggers. Why not a wanker?

The Naked Cowboy -- Time Square's tighty-whitey wearing, guitar-toting tourist magnet -- announced he's running for President in 2012… as a member of the Tea Party.

The familiar white briefs, boots, cowboy hat, and long hair were nowhere to be seen at a press conference on Wednesday in his old haunt, Times Square. This time the underwear-sporting cowboy, whose real name is Robert John Burck, was garbed in a suit and tie with his cropped hair slicked back.

Burck, who is registered as a Republican in Ohio, slammed President Obama and declared the Tea Party was "the only legitimate grassroots movement."

"America is rapidly transforming into a government-run enterprise," the over-exposed tourist attraction said, adding that "American politicians are selling out America and its most cherished institution, that being capitalism."

Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhkay, then!

The Teabaggers have already made a mockery of American politics. I would not have believed it possible after America re-elected a most singularly unqualified man President in 2004, or after the cock-mocking Congressional campaign of 2006. I would not have believed it possible to mock American politics particularly after the selection to a major party ticket of a woman who claims foreign policy expertise because Russian planes fly over her porch daily.

And yet, led by this self-same "diplomat," American politics has sunk to a new low: the marriage of the bread-and-circus clown car distractions of Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and, quite literally, professional wrestling to the American governance process.

I suppose it was only a matter of time before parodies of politicians started laying claim to Teabagger status. After all, it's been years since porn stars ran as Republicans, thus neatly dovetailing insanity with inanity. It turns out the Teabaggers are less an expression of American anger than an expression of American psychoses.

There is room in American politics for a populist movement that truly expresses the anger of the American people over the loss of our nation. Barack Obama leveraged that anger and channeled it into a successful Presidential run and to be sure, he has neither exhausted that anger nor vented it appropriately. I do not envy him the tightrope he has to walk to appease both the people on the left and the people on the right, all of whom have only grown angrier as the economy sank under President Bush, and has only shown glimmers of life under President Obama.
Populism has never been an effective tool of the right wing of this nation, no matter which party occupies that flank. The Teabaggers schizophrenia develops out of the fact that they are beholden to corporate interests while paying lip service to the interests of working people.
Think about it: the anger over government intrusion, the anger over higher taxes, the rage over a black man in power, these all speak to corporate interests, not to populist interests. Obama has lowered taxes on 98% of the people of this country. Obama has worked hard to enforce government oversight of critical areas like banking and corporate malfeasance but has done next to nothing to abduce the rights of the general population (altho he has neither rolled back infringements on those rights).
In short, Teabaggers are the orcs of their corporate Sarumans and Saurons. Mindless rabble intent only on sacrificing their intellect and fortunes to further the interests of those who would dispose of them in a heartbeat when the situation arises.
Populism, keeping the people first, has always meant progressivism. It was progressive populism that forced the nation to deal with pollution, with civil rights, with empowering women and minorities, because as the least of us is lifted, we all rise. A rising tide does lift all boats, it's true, but if that tide is rising because of rain "trickling down", it will cost us many boats. A rising tide from the mass of gravitational attraction will safely lift us all.
The left cries out for a populist movement. The left MUST create a populist movement. The perception that the left is nothing more than an aging bunch of hippies and socialists has to be turned into a positive image, one that can attract interest and more important, support that interest. It must not be mockable the way the Teabaggers are, and the way the right-wing corporate media has managed to make "liberal" a dirty word.
Republicans and right-wingers seem to have a farm system that churns out lock-stepped limpminds like clockwork. We on the left must develop this kind of training process, but effectively, that generates effective leaders. The Democratic Leadership Council, the DLC, that the Clintons helped inaugurate in the 90s went sort of nowhere, partially because of the Big Dog himself sucking all the air out of the room. Yes, it was centrist, but it was certainly better than the crap the right-wing has smeared on the walls of this nation since, and it could have spun off a truly progressive, truly populist movement.
We have to, each of us, start identifying people whom could make this happen, who could develop new philosophies of both candidacy and advocacy. The "leaders" we send out on television, from the Koses and the Marcottes to the Olbermanns and the Schultzes, they represent us partially, and partially is badly. We need to identify people who stop talking at an audience and start talking to them. We need to give people a reason to be liberal, not to run from the label.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Need Ammo To Persuade Someone To Vote Democratic?

Here ya go!

Fat Morons In The News

Item 1 - New Jersey Governor Chris Christie hints at defunding NJ rail project. In fairness to Gov. Christie, right now he's suspended all road and rail projects in the planning stages  in order to review costs (and presumably benefits). Under any scenario, the Hudson rail tunnel project offers benefits that will far and away return much more than any potential cost overruns. Right now, NJ Transit trains are running under what amounts to a bottleneck to get tens of thousands of commuters into New York City. Trains are often delayed, and too often cancelled outright, because of a lack of easy access to New York City. An additional commuter rail tunnel from New Jersey to New York would alleviate enormous overcrowding on not only the current rail scheme but the road tunnels and bridges heading into the city.
Delays of up to an hour or more are almost daily at the Holland and Lincoln Tunnels, and the George Washington Bridge. Many of those commuters would gladly take the train in if the trains themselves ran more reliably on time. Think about it: rail service in Jersey is so bad that people are willing to sacrifice two hours out of their days to travel less than ten miles, in and out!
Chris Christie believes that enslaving his populace to the Arab oil sheiks, hiking their blood pressure causing strokes and heart attacks and  is better than allowing them easy access to New York City. This might make sense if Chris Christie also had an economic development plan for the state that would create jobs that pay as well in places that offer as many amenities...amenities these commuters are exempt from paying taxes the city.
But he does not. His ideas are rusty Republican rules: lower taxes on the rich and hope for the best. Another Republican, praying the problem goes away.
Chris Christie: fat moron number 1.
Item 2 - In his column in the LA Times today, Jonah "Fudgie the Whale" Goldberg is alarmed, ALARMED, that President Obama and the people currently engaged in actually battling terrorism might have a secret assassination list.
OMG! This is terrible news! Why, this new development in the war on terror might lead to, I don't know...torture!

Yet, according to the torture prohibitionists, there must be a complete ban on anything that even looks like torture, regardless of context, even though we’d never dream of a blanket ban on killing.

One reason for this disconnect is that we’ve thought a lot about killing and barely at all about torture. Almost no one opposes killing in all circumstances; wars sometimes need to be fought — the hopelessly suffering may require relief; we reserve the right to self-defense. Indeed, the law recognizes a host of nuances when it comes to homicide, and the place where everybody draws an unambiguous line on killing is at something we call “murder.”

In other words, Fudgie was FOR assassination before he was AGAINST it!

The juice quote from Fudgie's column today?

[T]he very idea of a presidential secret assassination list is creepy in a country committed to democracy and the rule of law.

Why funny? Well, because I don't recall Jonah throwing a temper tantrum when the Bush administration was targeting US citizens. But now that the scary black Muslim is President, well, Katie bar the door! All hell is going to break loose and the Constitution be damned!

Those of us who oppose torture AND assassination did so from the beginning and didn't suddenly develop a case of situational ethics dependent upon the party in power.

Jonah Goldberg: fat moron number 2


Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Mixed Bag

Trick AND treat! I see two stories in the news today that I feel compelled to comment on. One is pretty funny, and shows a candidate in deep trouble, the other is pretty hopeful, and shows we may have turned a corner.
First up, Christine O'Donnell. Apparently, Ms. O'Donnell has forgotten the first rule of Republican politics: never complain, never explain. She has released her first television ad in Delaware, and it's a doozy. How many candidates introduce themselves to the general population by saying "I'm not a witch"?
She's done for. Anytime a politician has to define him or herself in terms of what he or she is not, that politician is pretty much toast. That candidate has allowed the opposition to define the race, and it never ever makes sense to play in the other team's ballpark with the other team's bat and ball. You've lost before the first pitch is thrown.
"I am not a witch" will go down in history alongside "I am not a crook" and "I did not have sex with that woman, Miss Lewinski" as an all-time political gaffe. If you feel compelled to spend millions of dollars in ad buys and production costs to create an introductory commercial, you've probably wasted money as it is, so your message had better be a lot more effective than reassuring the voters you won't turn them into newts if they vote for the other guy.
A better strategy for her would have been to pick one or two issues where her opponent, Chris Coons, has failed miserably in service to the people of Delaware, and then build your resume off that.
Oh. Wait. She really doesn't have a resume. Still, you need to lay out a vision for the voters that doesn't include flying monkeys.
Turning to better it possible the Israeli government is starting to get it? Benjamin Netanyahu has opened an internal dialogue amongst his cabinet about freezing West Bank settlements in an attempt to move the Middle East peace process forward.
This is the same Netanyahu who vehemently opposed the Oslo Accords as giving too much away too quickly to the Palestinians, thus solidfying his image as a hard(er)-liner on the peace process than even Yitzhak Rabin and certainly harder lined than Ehud Barak. You may recall that it was as an outgrowth of the accords that Rabin was assassinated by a right-wing extremist. One hestitates to draw a line from Netanyahu to the killer, but they argued from the same position.  
It is conceivable that only Netanyahu could persuade the Israelis to accept a peace accord with the Palestinians, similar to how only Richard Nixon, with his policy history and hawkish stance on communism, could have opened relations with the Soviet Union and China.
It seemed unlikely when he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, but it seems possible that Barack Obama will actually have earned his Prize in the very near future.  

Monday, October 04, 2010

The Logical Conclusion

Based on what little I saw of the news last week, I didn't miss much in the States. Some weather issues, a few stories about Teabaggers, and of course, Rick Sanchez calling Jon Stewart a "bigot" for surrounding himself with blacks, Muslims and women.
Go fig. There were plenty more and better reasons to fire that tub of goo than the Stewart comment. But I digress...
The story, the tragedy really, that did catch my eye was the woeful drama of Tyler Clementi, the Rutgers University student who threw himself off the George Washington Bridge in New Jersey after two fellow students webcast his sexual encounter with another man.
That Rutgers obtained the immediate cooperation of their football team to hold a moment of silence for Clementi before Saturday's game speaks well of both the u niversity administration and the football coach. Kudos, before I get into my point.
Much has been made of the homosexual aspect of this crime, labelling it a hate crime. I do not know enough about the two students charged with invading Clementi's privacy to make a judgement about that, but my suspicion is they would have webcast his encounter even if it had been heterosexual. 
And now, to my point: would this webcast had been made if we as a society hadn't created an environment of gratification thru humiliation? If we hadn't had marketed to us "illicit sex tapes" of Kim Kardashian or Paris Hilton or Britney Spears? If we didn't have paparazzi around to events and places specifically to take compromising photographs of stars and starlets? 
All because we as a society have a near-insatiable need to see tits, ass, and cocks?
In a society where Perez Hilton can be a celebrity because he's willing to embarrass someone else for the sake of a buck (and merely by coincidence, prove a larger moral point), isn't it a logical outcome that suddenly, everyone would want to make easy money by embarraassing their friends, acquaintances, and colleagues?
The expectation of privacy in society has become more and more narrow. The ready availability of information has given all of us the illusion of power and control over someone else, with the threaten of exposure and embarrassment held over our heads like the Sword of Damocles. It works for the good with people who are pursuing publicity, like a Carrie Prejean or a Christine O'Donnell, or yes, a Barack Obama or John Edwards. These are people who can rightly assume that everything they've ever said or done has been catalogued in the vast domain of the Internet and will come back to haunt them.
But for someone like Clementi, or you or I, someone who just wants to live out life in the relative obscurity of 330 million Americans and 6 billion citizens of the planet, this shredding of boundaries works for evil.
The two children who effectively killed Clementi will have their own accounts to settle in the world. I don't anticipate a happy life for either of them, having done this to a fellow human being. They are old enough to know better to be sure, but even if they weren't they would still be held accountable. And it speaks to the stunning change in technology that their parents could not have taught them better than this. How could they have known?
Moreover, how does a parent make a case for privacy when all around us are magazines and TV shows and websites that show that privacy in the face of a fast buck is quaint?
There is, however, a lesson for all of us in this tragedy. If we can learn it, if we can help stop the next tragedy from happening, then Clementi's death will have garnered some meaning.