Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Not that AP is worth all that much anymore, but . . .

They have called the Alaska Senate race for . . . Mark Begich, not Ted Stevens! Yay! One step closer to a filibuster proof Senate. Of course, that's if we keep all the Democratic cats in the herd, which won't happen, so this is truly meaningless, but still, it's nice to know that even Alaskans don't want convicted felons in the Senate. Now, about that at-large Congressional seat . . .

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Wall Street Journal--still written by jerkwads

A friend of mine decided to rile me up some more this AM by sending me a link to one of the latest WSJ opinion pieces. In it, author Bret Stephens purports to pre-examine the first year of the Obama Presidency, claiming that now that there's a "real" liberal in the White House, liberal policies will now be implemented and they will finally be judged in the marketplace of ideas. What the article really contains, though, is a wealth of meaningless drivel. Apparently, the left has been living in a world of "what-ifs?" for more than 60 years, and Stephens spends fully 1/2 of his column describing these--and of course, no space whatsoever proving his assertion. (Shocker!) Some of his statements border on the absurd: according to Stephens, "liberal pundits now bemoan the passing of those great conservative ideas men" (who they might be Stephens does not tell us), "In Mr. Obama, liberals have a president who seems to have stepped out of the last episodes of the West Wing," "He has the Congress in his left pocket, the news media in his right pocket," and in referring to Obama's first year, "[a]fter that, it will become increasingly difficult to attribute whatever mistakes he makes to the legacy of his predecessor."
Let's take these in order. I don't know about who Bret Stephens hangs out with, but I have never heard anyone on the left cry out for the return of "conservative ideas men." I assume Stephens is referring to the notion that some of us on the left possess, wherein we wish the Republicans weren't completely insane. As it stands now, the Republican Party is entirely bereft of worth as an ideological opponent, so some Democrats think it likely that the Democratic Party might be left standing on its own in the halls of power with no external checks on its behavior. Personally, I think that fear is hogwash; we have enough trouble remonstrating our own recalcitrants (see Lieberman, Joe) to run roughshod over the remnants of the morons outside the party. The fact is, Stephens shows no effort to either define his terms or give any credit for his assertions, so who knows what he's talking about, really.
Only neophytes, fools, and right wingers (hmm, I guess I don't need that last descriptor, do I?) think Obama is an actual lefty--anyone with any brains saw that of the final three standing in the primaries, Edwards was the real leftist, and on most issues, Clinton's were more "liberal" than Obama's. We're all hoping that Obama belies his reputation, positions, and rhetoric to give us some truly liberal leadership, but I think a lot of us are holding our breath waiting. He is hardly the Jed Bartlet or Matt Santos we've been looking for.
Anyone who thinks Obama has either Congress or "the media" in his pockets is trying to fool you, if not himself. On one, herding cats called, they want to sue Congress for trademark infringement. On the other, "the media" is still owned and run by the same right wing felons and louts that savaged Clinton, Gore, Dean, Kerry, Edwards, Clinton, etc., and gave Smirky, Dick, and the entire gang of thugs passes on their multitudinous crimes every single time over the last 8 years. Raise your hands if you think that's going to change. Fools!
Let's see, Obama is only allowed a single year to fix the collapse of our entire system of economy and governance that has been in the works for at least 8, and in reality, 28 years before he can no longer blame his predecessors? Sounds fair. If you're a complete jackass, that is. It's going to take many years, if not decades, to undo the unbelievable amount of damage the Republicans (and the Republican-lite of Bill Clinton) have done to our country, and that's assuming the adults get to stay in power the whole time. It took Clinton 8 years to get to where he had budget surpluses, and he didn't even address the systemic rot began in the government by deregulation and in the press by consolidation and co-optation in the previous 12. And now there's been 8 more years, and far more drastic ones, of it. If Stephens really thinks this ship of state can be turned around in a single span of 1 year, he's a toolbag without any hammers. (It's far more likely that he's simply a disingenuous tool.)
The Wall Street Journal Op-ed page: it's not just for amoral moneymen anymore!

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Monday, November 17, 2008

Newsweek shows its colors--crazy!

An article in Newsweek's 11/24/08 issue, as seen online here, actually gives credence to those who think Barack Obama is . . .wait for it . . .wait for it . . .the Antichrist! Yes, The Antichrist. As in, the one who will usher in the end times. While the author herself doesn't seemingly subscribe to this insane notion (although see below for the money quote), she gives prominent ink to those who do. As a librarian, I am asked to evaluate sources to provide my patrons reliable facts and news. It is stuff like this that makes me no longer able to suggest to anyone, let alone kids who have yet to gain the ability to think critically, that even our most hallowed "objective" weeklies are useful sources of any information whatsoever. I have to ask: If the editors at Newsweek allowed this kind of absolutely evil inanity to find its way into print, what else are they doing over there?
And it's not as if the author doesn't show her true colors, although one does have to look all the way toward the end of the article to find out what she really thinks, and even there we have to be able to parse words a tad. After giving the religious nutbags their say and presenting their "evidence" (ZOMG! One of the winning lottery numbers in Illinois--Obama's home state!!!!--was 666!!!!!!!!!!!!!) about how they believe that Obama is the ultimate evil, Lisa Miller seemingly allows for the possibility that this response really is measured:
The people who believe Obama is the Antichrist are perhaps jumping to conclusions, but they're not nuts: "They are expressing a concern and a fear that is widely shared," [Mat Staver, dean of Liberty University's law school] says. (Emphasis added.)
If Miller were truly interested in practicing journalism, though, doncha think she might have produced a countervailing quote from someone, um, not from Jerry Falwell's school? (She doesn't, needless to add.) Perhaps she might have . . .

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

The swindling of America by Republicans, pt. 7843567843567834657836

Smirky's Administration has done it (to us) again! Remember that $700 billion we gave them? Well, now, apparently, they aren't even going to do what they said they were going to do with it, even though that wasn't worth a damn to begin with. Treasury Secretary Paulson just announced that he wouldn't spend the money to buy up mortgage-backed securities as he was authorized, but would instead do, well, nothing, which completely undermines the purpose of strongarming Congress in order to gain their instant approval of this emergency measure.
To be fair, I guess I shouldn't say that Paulson's doing nothing, since he's willing to admit that he is going to "continue to devote bailout funds to restore liquidity to credit markets." What that means, however, is that our tax dollars are going straight into the pockets of the very same high rollers and financial scammers that have been instrumental in creating the mess in the first place--you know, the sociopaths that have been fleecing the country for 8 years, also known as Smirky's "base"? That's right, we are giving $700 billion to the same financial institutions (more likely, the CEOs of said institutions) that screwed us into this swamp.
It's the ultimate con job, and anyone with 1/2 a brain saw this one coming from miles away as soon as Paulson's 3-page plan was presented allowing for no oversight whatsoever. Unfortunately for us, though, this leaves out some of our Congresspeople. Jane Harman:
"My mouth is open," Rep. Jane Harman (D-Venice) told a television interviewer, comparing Paulson to a football team's quarterback changing the play at the line of scrimmage. "It was a very hard vote for many of us who voted for that package, and now all of a sudden we have an audible and we're spending it on something else." Read: I'm shocked, shocked! to hear a Bush appointee was misleading us. How unprecedented! Moron.
It is possible that Paulson's telling the truth when he says that he's just going to sit on the remainder of the money until Obama comes to town, but if he is, that would be the first time anyone associated with Smirky did so, and in any case, by doing so he gives the lie to that whole, "We need this done now or we're dooooomed!" speech he gave us, doesn't it? Well done, Hank. You can now join Colin Powell in the hall of Smirky's stooges who have sold their souls in order to deceive the American public into giving away everything they have. There won't be anything left by January 20 for Obama to do except turn off the lights on the United States of America's future . . .

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Election recap--or, what's gone wrong with Arkansas?

Here's a fun toy that shows how almost everywhere in the country--even in parts of the deep south--turned more Democratic in the election. Quite obviously, the Ozark Plateau and some of the southern Appalachians haven't gotten some messages over time. Is it that they're still rabid racists who haven't yet joined the 20th Century, let alone the 21st? Is it that they're still Rebels who haven't yet given up the fight against those damn Yankees? Is it that their backwoods religious dogma clouds their vision of how immensely Republicans have screwed us up?
Who can tell?

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Book Review--The Age of American Unreason

I am always interested in books purporting to tell me why and how we have lost our way, because I happen to agree with that sentiment. Since Ronald Reagan took office, we have been led down a path of ignorance and foolishness, with monumentally negative ramifications that we are seeing come home to roost in our crashing economy and plummeting international standing. The causes for our willingness to continue traveling this self-destructive path are seemingly long established and deep-rooted in many aspects of our culture and society, and many observers have attempted to detail them in order to raise an alarm. Allan Bloom's The Closing of the American Mind was singularly curmudgeonly in its preeminence, although most of the writers covering American cultural/social decline show a similar disdain for modernity. In fact, almost all of the "genre" contain a virtually identical conservative theme: Things Were Better Back Then. All of the works I've read include many passages mooning over how when the author were young, s/he was exposed to classical writings or music by a hallowed teacher or professor--and bemoaning that the kids today are lacking that exposure.
Susan Jacoby's The Age of American Unreason is no different, although I bet she would argue that she is not a conservative. Her own stance, though, becomes obvious whenever she stops arguing with the specter of Bloom's book and addresses popular culture or technology on her terms. For Jacoby, all modern conveniences (e-mail, the Internet, blogging, even television and rock music, but especially video games) are contributing to our intellectual vacuity, because Things Were Better before their inventions. She details all the ways we are becoming more unreasonable (by which she means we are becoming creatures less driven by intellect over time) wonderfully well, but her assertions of causation lack even a modicum of proof. Even when faced with opposing research, she merely asserts its obvious lack of sense instead of offering up evidence to the contrary. For example, she makes great hay of Steven Johnson's Everything Bad is Good For You, calling it "self-referential codswallop" (pg. 16). Much like Bloom before her, however, Jacoby dismisses Johnson (and her other potential detractors) with many strokes of her pen but no substantive refutations of his thesis or research.
More fundamentally damaging to her attacks on modern media, though, and the one that betrays her center-right ideology, is that at no point does she even acknowledge the profound structural changes our media have undergone in the past several decades. In her haste to claim her centrist "pox on both your (left/right) houses" position, she fails to note that the right owns almost all the levers of power in the media, and they may have a very good reason (pun intended) to keep/make us illiterate and without the capacity to reason.
All of which is unfortunate, because I think she actually has many valid points and worthy targets otherwise. She shows a great grasp of how poisonous fundamentalist religion has been to our country's political landscape, and ties that in to our increasing science illiteracy as well. She writes wittily and well, and as a thought piece The Age of American Unreason is provocative. If this is meant to be an extended essay (which by definition would have required no research but rather sets out possible avenues for research), it holds together quite nicely, but if that is the case, her specific attacks on Johnson's and others' work are out of place.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Keith Olbermann on Prop 8

Whether you think KO is great or cheesy, I would hope you have to admit that his passions run deep. I think he's terrific; I've liked him ever since he was a sportscaster here in LA. Something about him told me, "Here's a guy who's smart, geeky, funny, and has his heart in the right place." Kinda like what I hope I am, to be honest. For those reasons, I have always paid attention to what he has to say. Even if I don't watch him every day, I know he's on air somewhere telling it like it is, against all odds. (And those odds seem to finally be going our way. Phil Donahue lost his MSNBC show years back for being "liberal", his top ratings notwithstanding. Olbermann, on the other hand, just got his contract renewed. Happy day!)
Last night, he gave a special comment on Proposition 8. As usual, Keith was eloquent and fiery. Even more than that, though, he showed an unusual amount of emotion (other than righteous anger, which is his norm); more than once he nearly choked up in tears. It's a powerful piece--please watch and listen.
(Hat tip to transcendence for the notice.)

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Saturday, November 08, 2008

Supreme Court filibusters--IOKIYAR

Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona sure didn't take too much time reminding the country why the Republican Party needs to be destroyed. It hasn't even been a whole week since the election and Kyl is on record as threatening filibusters of any Obama Supreme Court nominees that he deems "too liberal." He is from the same Party that threatened to change the rules of the Senate to eliminate filibusters in order to get Bush Court nominees passed, because it was unfair of them not to get "an up or down" vote. Remember that? As we all know now, however, IOKIYAR.
(It's Ok If You Are a Republican, if you don't know.) Be prepared to see a lot of this kind of intellectual and ethical dishonesty for as long as there are any Republicans still alive.

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Thursday, November 06, 2008

Nice image *sniff*

Obama's "Team of Rivals"

There's a lot of pundit talk about whether President-elect Obama (sounds pretty good, eh?) will include any Republicans in his Cabinet. Personally, I think he'd be stupid to do so--why would you want to include anyone who still wants to affiliate him/herself with a massively discredited political entity that stands for nothing if not partisanship before country? Most who take the line that Obama will do so anyway make much of his apparent liking for Doris Kearns Goodwin's book Team of Rivals, which covers Abraham Lincoln's Cabinet.
Lincoln stunned insiders when he chose his most hardened political foes (if not outright enemies) for prominent positions in his Administration. But here's the thing: all of them were from his own party--they were still all Republicans (when they were the good guys)! He did not give any offices to Stephen Douglas, or John Bell, or Horatio Seymour, or anybody who wasn't a Republican already. The modern equivalent would be for Obama to give Cabinet positions to Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Chris Dodd, Mike Gravel, Dennis Kucinich, Bill Richardson, and Tom Vilsack, not Chuck Hagel or Paul O'Neill (although in O'Neill's case, he seems to have gone off that reservation), or even Colin Powell, despite his endorsement.
It is certainly possible Powell might be tabbed, given his supposedly centrist/moderate attitudes, but remember, this is the guy who lied his a$$ off to the UN for Smirky's war. That alone should disqualify him from holding any federal office ever again. Ever. He might be a good candidate to be a witness for the prosecution in the war crimes trials, but that's as far as I'm willing to go. Powell's a disgrace to his uniform. Chuck Hagel's only--and I mean only--stance that has him even under consideration for anything but scorn from a Democratic President is that he became a vocal opponent of Smirky's war, but only after he had decided to retire, and after a long career of enabling Republican crimes. Thanks, but no thanks, Chuck.
I hope Obama's claims of wanting unity mean that he wants to convince Republican voters of his overall concern for their well-being, which I believe is quite sincere. I hope his claims of wanting bipartisanship means that he wants to convince Republicans that if they stand in the way of Democratic platform-derived legislation, they are thwarting the will of the country unpatriotically, and for their own good they should support those bills if they want to remain employed. We already know what Republican policies have done; there is no reason we should ask for their input in crafting anything.
The Republicans have earned their downfall; let them bask in its fetid glow . . .

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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Citizens strike back against bigotry

Not 24 hours after the seeming passage of Proposition 8, the first lawsuit to challenge its validity has been filed, with another charging its unconstitutionality hot on its heels. The San Francisco City Attorney's office will immediately petition the California Supreme Court to invalidate the Proposition, while Gloria Allred, who represents the first gay couple to wed in LA County after the ban was lifted back in July, said she will file her lawsuit soon.
Fingers crossed yet? They should be . . .


The cloud to that silver lining

A number of good people and ideas lost--and some lost big--this time, showing us how far we really need to travel. In the Senate, Scott Kleeb got blown away in Nebraska, and three of the most reprehensible Republicans (Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, James Inhofe of Oklahoma, and John Cornyn of Texas) won handily. In addition, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, probably the most despicable Senator currently serving, (judging by his campaign strategy 6 years ago, wherein he portrayed his war-scarred triple-amputee opponent as a traitor), will most likely secure his reelection either later today or via runoff. Even felon Ted Stevens leads in Alaska by 3000 votes with over 95% of the precincts counted.
In the House, Gary Trauner lost his bid in Wyoming (and it wasn't close), Bob Lord of Arizona, who sought to take down one of the leading lights of the Republican Party John Shadegg, got crushed, Jean Schmidt of Ohio, who has made quite a name for herself as a shrieking imbecile, won easily, and Nixon lover Don Young of Alaska leads widely as well.
The biggest disappointment--make that, crushing blow--is right here in California, where the Yes on 8 bigots have a larger than 400K vote lead with only 4% of the precincts left to be counted. 2 similar pieces of crap were passed elsewhere in the country last night also, but one expects that kind of diseased behavior from Florida and Arizona citizens.
Update: 3 pieces of crap. Arkansas did, too. Vastly predictable, given that the bulk of Arkansas is becoming more red even as the vast bulk of the country is turning blue. (Hat tip to neurotranscendence for pointing this out.)
If ever we needed more evidence that we are just beginning to turn this mess around, these should make that point readily and sickeningly. So, congratulations to us for electing the first African-American to the highest office in the land and extending the Democratic Party's lead in both the House and Senate, but I, for one, still weep tears of shame for the moral rot we continue to show the world.

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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Call me sentimental . . .

Today's the day, people. Just thinking about what could happen--the sheer relief, the possibility of regaining a future for our country--is choking me up. I'm sitting here counting the minutes before I can go home and watch history happen, and I'm nearly bawling. Reading the comments on Daily Kos detailing stories of voters who have faith that what they're doing, what we're about to do, will help our country get back on track. Or even non-voters, like this person:
Come on guys, make history
The world is watching you in awe.
Paris France
The amount of crap we have had to endure, the sheer magnitude of evil we have been exposed to over the last 8 (or 28, for those of us taking the longer view) years, and even the simple mechanical barriers erected against fairness we are still trying to tear down, have all combined to create the air of desperate hope in me that demands release.
This isn't the end, though, folks--this is only the end of the beginning. Turning our ship of state around will take a monumental amount of work, and the Republicans are just as adamant in their determination to block our path as they have ever been. Overcoming their resistance will take a resolute heart and an agile mind working as one to solve the massive failure that has been their rule. One election can only do so much, after all.
But oh, what an election!
If . . .


Monday, November 03, 2008


There have been 3 elections in my adult life that have been super important--1980, 2000, and now. 1980 ushered in the era of Republican Party rejection of our country's struggle to improve our general economic well-being while paying heed to the environment, instead focusing on robbing the nation of both our natural resources (remember James Watt?) and selling off our assets. Lowering taxes on the rich led to us going from the world's largest creditor to the world's largest debtor in a matter of months while increasing the disparity between rich and poor for the first time since the Great Depression. 2000 resulted in finishing us off as a viable world power economically; we no longer "control our own destiny", to borrow a sports phrase. Not only has our debt risen to such heights that it threatens our very ability to pay it off properly, but the open greed and rapacity of the conservative movement has also diminished our standing in the company of nations. We are not envied or admired any more, we are despised throughout the entire world. The litany of lies and deceptions the Smirky Administration has perpetrated on us has reverberated around the world, making the United States of America the first superpower in history to be so reviled. (Other empires were feared or resented, but mostly they were grudgingly respected for a century or more until they could be overthrown by the locals wanting self-government. We didn't even last 60 years before becoming so hated as to encourage an attack on our own soil that was cheered on by many.)
The difference between the election tomorrow and those two was that this time, we know how high the stakes truly are. Ronald Reagan was seen as a joke by most people, even after he became the Republican nominee, except for the people of California, who had had to endure his term as governor--they knew what was coming. And Bush was even more of a joke; his only success in his entire life was in being elected governor of a state where the governor has no real power. The true horror of both those presidencies came in retrospect. What Reagan's presidency initiated, and Bush's finished, has been the almost complete dismantling of our system of governance.
Taxes, which are the primary method by which our government pays for what it does, have become so disdained that politicians fear to even say the word out loud, even when it is obvious that our fiscal standing is precipitously poised to collapse.
Trust in government at any level has eroded to the point that the Bush Administration, which by any measure is the most corrupt and venal in the history of the country, can do anything it wants without most people even noticing. Approve the torture of US citizens? Oh, gee, Clinton was worse. (Somehow.) Make up "facts" to convince Congress and the public to assent to make war on a country that did not attack us? Who cares. Launch a countrywide assault on the mechanics of elections themselves in order to cheat the actual will of the people? Wait, is that Paris Hilton over there?
The vaunted power of the press to curb any excesses of the three branches of our government has been either neutered or co-opted, first by the Reagan-era elimination of the Fairness Doctrine, which allowed for the creation of TV and radio stations which have no desire to even fake objectivity, and secondly by the similar neutering of any oversight bodies, which allowed for an egregious consolidation of media outlets. We no longer have much of a press, let alone a free press, in the US; less than a handful of companies own the vast majority of newspapers, and ownership of our broadcast media is even more concentrated. And all of these media are owned primarily by conservatives singularly uninterested in anything but the bottom line.
We may have already lost the battle to save our country, but one thing is for sure: if John McCain is elected, it is entirely possible we will have lost the last chance to do anything about it. This election, we know what is at stake. Does anyone truly believe that if McCain is at the helm, China and the other countries that own the paper--literally--on our country won't simply call in their loans, devastating us financially? Why wouldn't they, given McCain's unstable character and hawkish tendencies? They could do so simply as a means of protecting themselves from military attack! Does anyone truly believe that if McCain is elected, the crimes of the Bush Administration won't be erased even more completely than they have been already? Does anyone truly believe that if McCain is elected, the machinery of governance will not come grinding to a halt as a Congress that has just enough obstruction-minded conservatives left in it becomes unable to pass any worthwhile bill whatsoever that has a chance of being signed into law? (Since 2006, we've already seen how that will look.)
More loftily, though, this election is about the mindset of our country. The contrast between the two candidates could not be more stark. Barack Obama, to all but the most cynical or deluded, really does operate from a worldview driven by hope and pragmatism, while John McCain, to all, sees only scary things in the world that need to be suppressed. Do we want to continue on the same path that gave us Iran-Contra, Fox News Channel, Florida 2000, 9/11, the "War on Terror", the Terri Schiavo mess, waterboarding and Abu Ghraib, the mortgage bubble/collapse and our current economic meltdown, and Sarah Palin? (I know, I know, Bill Clinton had oral sex. The Horror!) Or do we instead want to try and fix some of the things that Republicans have done to us? I don't know if it's at all possible for Barack Obama to "change" much in the time he may have, but I damn sure know that McCain isn't going to do anything I want done.
Hope v. Fear: that is the storyline here. I hope that Obama can help, and I am deathly afraid of John McCain.

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