May 5, 2008


Hey there. I've been writing, actually a lot. I've probably turned out a couple essays a week since the last post and some of them are A-OK. However, I look at the paper or listen to the news and then look at what I've written and think it is just more crap to pile on a huge pile of bullshit. Really, does the world need another person giving their opinion about Clinton and Obama? And, at this point, does what I have to say matter? Yeah, yeah, I am sure on some level it does. But, increasingly, not to me. I certainly do not find it hard to write about politics and trash media coverage, but to find humor in it? Nah, the more I write about it the more I feel beaten down and the angrier I get. I get angry at the candidates, the political machine, and the media. And I get angry at all the people who buy this bullshit. Hillary Clinton: Working Class Hero? Give me a fucking break. But people believe it. Or they talk like they believe it and are willing to carry on the lie. I am disturbed by the gullible, but I loath the cynical manipulation. To write about it means I have to concentrate on it; to concentrate on it means that I lose my sense of humor, that my wit degenerates to calling people idiots, which might be what they are and what they deserve to be called, but it is too easy, too reactive. Yeah, I can detach and get all analytical, break down what I see and theorize; but I am bored of that. It is too damn easy, not because I am smart, but because things are so obviously fucked up that anyone with a smidgen of honesty and a tad of critical thinking can slice and dice this shit. Plus, when I analyze the humor dries up and I can't do this without making myself chuckle from time to time. Without some sense of fun, it is a death march. So, I am going to take a hiatus. I have some ideas of how I want to continue this. It might be a different format and under a different name. I will keep this blog url so check back, I dunno, in a week or so. Hopefully by then some of these ideas will have gelled.

March 29, 2008

On Blood & Treasure

Every couple of years, a word bops into the popular vocabulary and its usage makes me cringe. A few years ago that word was phenom. Shorthand for phenomenon, some sports writer used it to describe then-high school basketball player LeBron James. James was a young, exciting player whose ability far surpassed his age and the short, zippy phenom, with fluid but powerful first and last syllables fit well. The national press caught on and phenom was used to describe anything new and unique. First it was reserved for young athletes, then young people who seemed to possess some special quality (usually aptitude in math, science, or spelling). After a while, the word became pure buzz, sans any meaning except “new.” When I heard it used to describe a sandwich, I accepted that phenom was now just another garbage word and I let my annoyance die.

Lately, the word treasure has started to piss me off. The corruption of the word started in politics – which is not uncommon. The culprits are the Bush administration. Though I can’t pin down the exact date, a couple years ago the president uttered the phrase, “enormous loss of blood and treasure.” When I heard it, I shuddered. Blood as a substitute for human life I can take. Rather than abstract the issue of war, talking about blood in relation to casualties, while a cliché, is direct. But treasure?

Sure, money and resources can technically be treasure, but who the fuck uses treasure as a substitute? Has someone exhumed Robert Louis Stevenson and forced him to write speeches? Has someone been reading the president to sleep with Hornblower novels? Yeah, I know we have a treasury and it is logical to assume that the treasury is full of treasure, but forgive me if I picture stacks of bills when I think of treasury and not a seaman’s chest overflowing with jewels and doubloons. I know when I look at my paycheck that the government is withholding my money, not bags of rubies and bars of gold. The war is not costing us treasure. It is costing us money and a lot of it – 500 billion, 1 trillion, or 3 trillion depending on who is counting – much more than will fit in a treasure chest, the obvious tool of measure when you are talking about treasure. If the amount of money we are referring to when we talk of “blood & treasure” cannot fit into a treasure chest, than perhaps it is better to substitute the word treasure for the phrase one hell of a fucking debt that will assure that your grandchildren will be speaking Mandarin in Asian sweatshops, indentured to the People’s Republic of China who now owns the mortgage of the United States of America.

That the Bushies would use treasure as a stand in for how much money they’ve wasted on the war shows how deluded and disconnected they are from reality. While I am always happy to see proof that these people are living in fantasyland, it is important that we not break from what is real. Treasure is a word of fiction. It is a word that kids use at play. It is something you make maps to lead you to. It is why you dig up the backyard. Treasure is not a word that rational people in the adult world of public policy use. A parent whose child has died in the war does not want to hear that along with their son’s life, a lot of treasure was lost. Not unless they are in a cartoon and they are being told that by an animated dog president named George W. Ruff.

I suppose that Iraq’s oil could be defined as treasure, but only if we admit that we are buccaneers out to steal their resources. I’ll also grant that the search for WMDs was indeed a treasure hunt. But, still, sober, serious minded people do not use the word treasure in reference to something as serious as the Iraq War. Let’s leave the word to kids playing pirate.

If the Bushies (and now presidential candidates and pundits) want to keep using the word treasure instead of money, fine, but they better adopt all of the pirate’s oeuvre. I want to see them in pantaloons with a patch over one eye and a parrot on the shoulder. I want them to start saying things like, “It’s time for the scallywag al-Sadr to sit or walk the plank!” and “Those mortgage hornswagglers will soon be feeding the fish!” I want them to address the nation with “Avast ye citizens…” and start every sentence with “Arrrrggghhhh!” Most of all, I want them to start talking to us about booty. Please, please, please, tell us how much booty this war is costing us. Because, really, when we batten down the hatches and talk to each other sea dog to sea dog, life really is all about booty.

March 13, 2008

A Short Econ Lesson

I feel compelled to lay some economics on you. It is something that should be taught to every high school student, because it is an essential piece of our economy. However, what I am about to tell you is not general knowledge. And there is no reason why it should not be, as it is very, very easy to understand. That piece of hidden economics is that the currency in which a barrel of oil is measures is the US dollar. Okay, you might know that. You probably also know that how much we pay for a barrel of oil is based on how much oil producers charge us for that barrel. But did you also know that that final price tag is also determined by the value of the dollar. Thus, because oil is measured in dollars, every time the value of the dollar drops, the cost of oil goes up, not globally, but to those who use US dollars to buy oil. That is the little secret.

"What about Europe?" you ask, "Aren't they paying eight bucks for a gallon for gas.*" Well, technically they are, but if you convert that eight bucks to euros, they are paying about 5.4 euros per gallon. Two years ago they were paying about 5.1 euros a gallon. That two year price hike is little more than 1%. We are paying about 40% more than we did two years ago.**

While it is convenient for politicians of both parties to blame OPEC and say that they are "going to hold the Saudis accountable," the truth is that as long as the dollar is weak, not only will oil prices be high, but every other thing that is produced outside the US and imported for us to use will be more expensive. Yes, things like electronic equipment and clothing will be pricier. But that isn't all: Food prices will also climb (as they have been). Why? Over the last twenty years, we've become a major food importer. Many of our fruits, vegetables, and grains are imported. As a result, when the dollar's value drops, food prices go up.
Why is the dollar so weak? Well, there is no single answer (and if there was economists would come up with a rival theory). However, it is safe to say that the national debt, fighting a three trillion dollar war and funding it on credit, and the mess caused by deregulation of the financial services industry have some blame. Sober headed economists look at US fiscal policy and shake their heads, just as rational diplomats look at our foreign policy and wonder what the fuck we are doing. I think the cause is pretty easy to figure out. The solution? Not so easy, but I know one thing for sure, it ain't staying the course. Unfortunately, everything I hear from our presidential candidates avoids any of the stuff I just rattled off.

* First off, I know that Europeans measure gas in liters, but for sake of argument I am measuring in gallons. Second, they do pay about double what what pay for gas, but not for oil. A big percentage of what they pay at pump is taxes, taxes which go toward social services. They also drive cars that average 40 mph.

** If you adjust for inflation, we are actually paying about the same amount for a gallon of gas as we were in the early 1980s. What has gone up isn't the value of oil or gas, but inflation - something we have been brainwashed to believe that never happens any more, at least now until recently.

March 8, 2008

Sick Leave

I've took ill with that damn flu bug that is going around. Which one? I dunno, maybe the Siamese pig flu or the East Appalachian virus no. 2. Who knows... I'm feeling well now, but a couple weeks down put me behind. I should have a new post next week so check back.

February 25, 2008

You Are All Morons

The Clinton campaign released this picture of Obama today. Not officially, of course, but the timing is suspect. It was floated out there along with a whole bunch of other nasty shit. By framing himself as a new kind of politician, Obama put Hillary Clinton into a box. Every time she goes negative, she confirms that she is part of the old guard. I would bet that their assumption is to make the next week as noxious as they can, in an attempt to disgust people and drive down the vote. However, I think that this ploy is like a mouse struggling to get out of a glue trap. If this is where the Clintons are at, they are fucked.

Check out the photo. It was taken in 2006 and is of Obama in traditional Sudanese dress. Realize that by circulating this photo, the Clintons think that you are all stupid enough to conculude that Obama is a terrorist. Really, these people think you all are fucking morons.

February 16, 2008

This Was the Week That Was - February 16, 2008

What a week, what a week! Plenty of entertainment in politics and even some consequences. Let’s start off with the week’s Democratic primaries and caucuses, otherwise known as the Obama. “The Obama what?” There is not a what, just the Obama. His campaign has been a study of consistency and a great example of timing. His message has been simple, inspirational, and positive. His offense doesn’t seem like one and when he attacks, it comes off as defensive. As a result, his tone is remarkably consistent. And, now that his message and tenor are established, he is adding policy to the inspiration, at least in his speeches. The policy has been there all along, in his books and on his web site, you just have to read it. Whether he wins or loses this contest, Obama’s campaign will be studied for years to come.

By contrast is Hillary Clinton’s “strategy,” which is as muddled as her presentation and her message. She’s been hard, she’s been soft. She is an outsider that is going to stir things up, she has been in Washington and politics all her life and has the experience to “get things done.” Bill Clinton is a big part of her past, Bill Clinton just happens to be her husband. Etc., etc. Some might accuse her of “flip flop,” but her problem isn’t changing positions on issues. Her one consistent identity is that of a woman ( and she should thank Science that genetics has fixed her gender, otherwise she’d muddle that up!). She’s become the Democrat’s version of Mitt Romney. Given that she came into the race with 100% backing of the Democratic establishment, more money than anyone imagined possible, and a fearful political machine, the nomination should be hers. That she’s squandered these advantages shows how shitty a campaigner she is (and, perhaps, how ineffective a president she would be).

While I am not going to bury Clinton, I’ll predict that you have seen the end of the Democratic Leadership Council-era Democratic Party. Even if Obama gets beat out of the nomination or gets the nomination and loses the general election, the party is his. He has brought too many people into it, inspired too many people who had given up, and has articulated a future, not only for the party but for the country. The DLC has delivered nothing new, nothing the voters want to hear, and if their standard barer was a man rather than a woman, Obama would be the Dems’ choice for November.

Likewise, the Republican Party that emerges from this race is going to be different. The two people remaining in the race are not party people. Huckabee might be a born again Christer and a social reactionary, but the free market crowd consider him to be a socialist. McCain is hated by many within his own party. He doesn’t buck to party pressure. While he has pandered to different conservative interest groups – he is a politician, ya know – his votes are his. That many Democrats could “live with” McCain as president, bugs the shit out of the Win at All Costs Repugs. But they are stuck with McCain as he is the only Republican out there that can win in November. And, with Obama bringing so many people into the voting booth, the Rove strategy of suppressing the vote and turning out the base is a loser. Consider this: McCain is a moderate, who is now being framed as a conservative. If people come to believe McCain is conservative, will the Republican Party be forced to shift to the center?

One thing that doesn’t help Republicans is the idiots they have in office. Did I just write “idiots”? Sorry, I meant “fucking idiots.” How else can you explain bozos like Indiana Congressman Dan Burton? I don’t know if you watched any of the Congressional Steroids Hearing. It was another one of those Congressional Grandstanding Sessions: An issue comes in front of a committee. TV crews are there. Congressmembers each choose a “hero” to praise and a “villain” to attack, the choice dictated by party affiliation. Guests are asked a few questions then lauded or ground down. And the grandstanding goes on until the cameras leave.

While the Democrats are as bad on the attack as Republicans, no one can suck cock like a conservative. It doesn’t matter if the adorned is a Supreme Court nominee, an Iraq War general, the Attorney General, or a ‘roided up asshole of a baseball player, once deemed “hero,” each and every conservative elected official takes hero’s cock in mouth, with smile on face. And I am not talking nips and nibbles; Repugs are total deep throaters. And like Linda Lovelace’s cinematic contribution, there is nothing subtle about it.

Most of the time, these obscenities are viewed only by the pervs who tune into C-SPAN. However, when an athlete or entertainer is before Congress, the spectacle might as well be Pam & Tommy or Paris Hilton. Even the most prudish wants a peek. And thus, millions of sports fans tuned to C-SPAN and watched the Roid Fiasco - and when they did, they caught cock suckers like Dan Burton in full throat. Tsk tsk. Not a good thing for the Republican Party, especially when the lead Democratic candidate is talking about ending partisanship and “bringing the country together.” It also doesn’t help that this same candidate is a self-professed sports freak and advertised during the Super Bowl. And when the Repugs’ cockmaster is the idiot brute Roger Clemens, HA! Clemens might be the only person in baseball who makes Barry Bonds look good! I think the Republican Era is over.

Also not of much help for the Republicans are the tornados that hit the upper South and Midwest. Disasters happen, but damn the Republicans when they occur on President Bush’s watch. Doesn’t matter how fast the government reacts, if they give each victim a check for a cool million, or if the President offers to put up the storm refugees in Crawford, any Act of God that occurs will happen in front of a backdrop of Katrina. That being the case, you’d think that Bush would push the state to act fast, cut a check for a million per, and open his ranch up to the people. Instead the Compassionate Conservative tells the victims that he is there to help but, more importantly, that the country is praying for the victims. Praying for the victims? Ha! What a fucking creep.

Yeah, despite what happens in November, I think this sad chapter in American history is about to close.

February 10, 2008

Spin Cycles

While the horse-race style reporting of the 2008 Presidential Primary Race is tedious and the pundits’ endless analyzing of the polls is a grind, I don’t grow tired of watching how the campaigns react to things. Much fun is looking at how they try to spin primary & caucus results and what they try to do to distract us when the spin doesn’t work. On the Republican side, Mitt Romney’s quit deprives us of the most consistently entertaining spinster. Watching Mitt spin is like witnessing a contortionist knotting himself up, forgetting how to unwind, and then trying to explain that that is what he planed all along. His debate performances were the verbal equivalent of trying to herd cockroaches. And his assessment of his campaigning was downright bizarre. Add that the man tossed off enough frantic energy to fuel a week’s worth of Silicon Valley research and his entertainment quotient was high.

That is not to say that the way John McCain and Mike Huckabee spin is not entertaining. McCain’s reaction to anything is difficult to predict, making him much fun to observe (at least at this point, when his finger isn’t near any buttons). The testy, impatient McCain can be good for a thrill. It is when irritated that his eyes bead and face narrows. Words spit out of his mouth in short machine-gun like bursts and the cords on his neck get red and throb. It is seat’s edge wondering if he will snap. Even better is when McCain uses dry, sarcastic wit to spin. The spin often seems like non-spin, blatant replies which boarder on obvious; but then he betrays himself with a half smile, people chuckle, and move on. Watch McCain work and you see cynical genius, one of the best diverters in the biz. The man also has a very dark sense of humor and, if elected, might prove to be one of the funniest presidents ever.

Huckabee also spins with humor. His “aw shucks I don’t know better” tact is leveled with a bit of absurdity and punctuated by a wink. It is a loveable smart-ass approach that is nearly as effective of a diversionary tool as McCain’s deadpan. Huckabee’s throwing a jolly party and he doesn’t care who comes along. In non-spin mode he trots out his smarts, a tactic which keeps him from coming of as a total hick. The missing candidate, Ron Paul, doesn’t spin. He doesn’t have to, as no one is giving him anything to spin.

No one in this race is as smooth as Barack Obama. True that Obama often stumbles when he has to spin short – in length and on notice. However, twenty words in and given time to formulate an answer, he has no peer. The man’s command of the language and oratory style are refined enough to convince one that his spin is not spin, but is sincerity. And that might be true. In today’s world of 24-hour spin, it is difficult to suss out what is one’s real opinion and what is play for the crowd, or how much reality and artifice one’s reaction possesses. Trying to figure out if the sincerity is really spin is even more challenging. If Obama’s sincerity is really spin, he just be the world’s best spinmaster. I have a pretty well-oiled bullshit detector and can be a champion cynic, and I have to admit that I often don’t know when the guy is spinning or not.

And then there are the Clintons. While the Clintons employ no single tactic, few are the times when spin isn’t happening. Even moments that seem to happen spontaneously - such as Hillary’s New Hampshire diner breakdown - are immediately spun and then packaged and reused. The Clintons have been spinning for so long that it is probably impossible for them to stand still. Of the Clintons, Hillary is the best spin artist…but only when she is at her best. At those times, her spin is subtle and so orchestrated that its traces are minute. It usually comes in a single line, slipped into a debate or a one-on-one interview. Her execution is so spot on that it is only when she flounders and the spin become brutish and crude that you can track back and see the subtly.

Bill Clinton also has a yin and yang to his spin. When he is on, his spin is not unlike that of fellow Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee—a charming, likable good ol’ boy who might not “play by the rules” but is there to help you. You know you are being bullshitted but it is both entertaining and done for the greater good. Bill’s bad spin is historic. It is the quibbling over the definition of “is.” It is pretty much any of his replies to the Monica Lewinski scandal. It is the “First Black President” pandering prior to the South Carolina primary.

The week following the “Super Tuesday” primaries saw the Clintons at their spinning worst. Hillary’s spins were oafish. First was the revelation of her $5 million loan to her campaign. “A good investment,” it was called. In reality, it was an act of desperation, an admission that she was not getting the bump in union money she expected by Edwards’ quit and that the Kennedy machine’s backing of Obama was a hit to her coffers. Whether the loan was a “good investment” is only true if the desired return is Obama, coming from 20 points down in the opinion polls to pretty much tying her for the popular vote. Senator Clinton’s reaction to MSNBC’s David Shuster’s remark that the Clintons were “pimping out” their daughter Chelsea by having her lobby Democratic “superdelegates” is further desperation. Sidestepping whether or not the Clintons were indeed “pimping Chelsea out” – and one could very well argue that they are – Hillary turned the “tasteless” observation to an attack on her mothering skills, her as a person, and the whole of Womankind. Clinton might be a great mom, but the moment any politician starts a sentence with “As a mother…” you know the spin is on. A day later, the subject o’ spin was once again fundraising. This time Hillary was trumpeting that her campaign had made $10 million in the week since Super Tuesday, information that could be considered just more data, if not for the meat-fisted way in which it was presented.

Consistent throughout the week was the insistence that everything in the Clinton campaign was going as planned, that the draw of Super Tuesday was expected and really no big deal, in fact, a great victory. While not quite Romneyesque, the Clinton delusion is pretty thick. How thick? Thick enough to send hubby Bill back on the campaign trail sans muzzle. Speaking in New Orleans, Bill claimed that Obama made "an explicit argument that the '90s weren't much better than this decade." Problem is that Obama said nothing of the sort. He has stated that whatever positive legacy the Clintons left behind was pretty much wiped out over the last 8 years - that is, unless one considers NAFTA, GATT, managed care, welfare reform, etc. some of the Clinton administration’s positive contributions of (my words, not Obama’s). So, unless the Clintons want to claim NAFTA and managed care, which I doubt, maintaining that everything positive the Clintons accomplished in the 90s is still in tact while arguing that Bush fucked up the country over his two terms doesn’t jibe. It is a spin is as crude as Bill framing Obama as a closet Reaganite because he (Obama) recognized that Ronald Reagan was a “transcendent political figure” who was able to change the country with the cooperation of Democrats. Both of Clinton’s spins are so far afield, so bereft of reality, that they qualify as outright lies.

As I’ve noted before, when they Clintons get crude in their spin, the assumption is that they are so much smarter than the rest of us that we won’t notice. We won’t fact check, we won’t analyze, we won’t be able to suss out lies. They treat us like the Bush administration treats the Washington press corps, and, like the corps, we are expected to suck it up. However, while the crude Clinton spin is insulting, from a life-long car wreck careener’s point of view, it is also very entertaining. And now that Clinton has sacked her campaign manager! The opportunities for spin are endless!

February 4, 2008

The Pragmatic & The Ideal

Take an introduction to political science course and one of the first things you are taught is that there are Idealists and Pragmatists. Idealists, we are told, are important because they come up with the vision of a better future; however, they can’t get anything done because they lack “a sense of reality.” Pragmatists, on the other hand, might not be the most forward-thinking people, but they are the ones “who get things done.” Because “getting things done” is all that we can wish for in this society, Pragmatists are good, they are what we "need." So, when the choice is between the Idealist and the Pragmatist, the Pragmatist is the wise choice. To support an Idealist is a nice idea, but it is "folly."

Of course, there is a big problem with the above “logic.” One hitch is that political realities shift so fast that what is an ideal today is the most pragmatic approach tomorrow. Giving African Americans rights equal to Whites was derided as idealism up until the time that it was very apparent that Civil Rights marches would evolve into to riots and insurrection if the Civil Rights Movement’s demands were not met. Very quickly, what was an ideal became the most sensible and pragmatic solution.

I would argue that civil rights for African Americans was always a pragmatic solution to racial injustice, that it was idealism that assumed that a nation with two castes based on race would be able to thrive, let alone survive. Fast forward to now and it is very apparent that “idealists” who opposed Bush/Cheney’s march into Iraq were the real pragmatists. The real idealists were the NeoCons who preached that the only way the US could remain “safe” from terrorism was to invade Iraq and install a democracy. It was the real idealists who thought that a lean, mean military machine could “get things done” in a few months. It was the real idealists who voted to give Bush war powers, trusting that he and his pals knew what the hell they were doing. Back then, those idealists told us their vote was pragmatic.

Idealist. Pragmatist. When you look at history those words really don’t mean much. When you realize that people such as Thomas Jefferson, Tom Paine, Abe Lincoln, Frederick Douglas, Teddy Roosevelt, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Franklin Roosevelt, Martin Luther King, Cesar Chavez, Rosa Parks, and many others were called idealists by their critics, it is apparent the the term is an epithet, not a description. Nelson Mandela was slammed as an idealist. So was Gandhi. Hell, on his first run for president, Ronald Reagan was painted as an idealist by the pragmatists in the Republican Party. Pragmatist? Idealist? In politics, the words are worthless.

How about we look at things instead as “long-term” and “short-term”? Did Democrats who supported the Bush march to war do so because it was good for the long-term health of the country, or the short-term health of their political careers? That is the question you need to ask.

As long as I can remember, moderates and conservatives within the Democratic Party have insisted that the most pragmatic thing to do was to support their wing of the party. Anyone who envisioned a politic that did not suck up to the country’s right wing was painted as an idealist. Democrats of all ilks capitulated , giving the right wing more and more power. That power has lead to a lawless Bush administration, senseless wars, a bankrupt economy, and environmental catastrophe. Democrats are now being told that the most pragmatic thing they can do with their vote is to vote for the pragmatist that helped bring about the current situation with their pragmatic approach to politics. To vote for the idealist, we are told, is to vote for words, not someone who “can get things done.” I think it is pretty clear that given the choice between idealism and pragmatism, you have nothing to lose by choosing the idealist (who seems to also be the real pragmatist).

The choice is between keeping people in power who have been pushing their style of pragmatism for the last 25 years, and moving forward and trying something that doesn’t have the same record of failure – both politically and in policy terms. It is a fight between insider politics and the rest of us. Think about that before you vote for the “safe” choice. Live a little.

February 3, 2008

Sweatin' the Polls

One of this political season’s clichés is that “you can’t trust the polls,” something the pundits endlessly repeat…while they give us their newest spin on the poll numbers. While I am neither a fan nor foe of polling, I like to watch how the candidates and especially their supporters react to the numbers. It is much fun watching the “anointed ones” squirm.

In California, the squirming is done by Hillary Clinton and her supporters. Back in August of last year, the polls gave Clinton a 20 point lead over Barack Obama. According to the latest Field Poll, Clinton’s lead is now only 3 points. In television interviews, Clinton campaign workers fidget as they mouth the words, “We are not concerned.” But they are. They have to be. Their candidate has blown a 17-point lead and has made a “guaranteed” Clinton win in California a real democratic contest. And that is how it should be (well, shorn of money and media anointed candidates).

I am pleased not because I have any special loathing for Clinton, but because this is the first time in my memory that a primary in California means anything more than a rubber stamp of the decisions made elsewhere in the country. With all due respect to Iowa and New Hampshire, they represent just a fraction of America and should not be the nation’s political filter. The “importance of retail politics” aside, Iowa and New Hampshire setting the electoral table for the rest of the country just means that states like California wind up as credit cards used to pay for the meal. Even though the impact of the first primaries and caucuses have been blunted by Super Tuesday, Californians (and other participants in this “super” primary) do not get to vote for Joe Biden, Rudy Giuliani, Dennis Kucinich, Fred Thompson, John Edwards, Duncan Hunter, Chris Dodd, or Bill Richardson. Others have decided that none of these people are worthy of California’s vote.

Another of this season’s clichés is that Republicans really “don’t have a candidate their party can get behind.” Translated in simple English, that means that you Repugs actually get to chose your candidate this year and not have one selected for you by your party’s elite. Of course, like the Dems, many of you have the honor of other folks tossing “unacceptables” out of the race (though you do have Ron Paul – and the Dems, the entertainingly incoherent Mike Gravel). However, if the polls hold, John McCain, an anathema to the party’s elite, will be your candidate.

What is exciting isn’t that McCain is going into Tuesday with a 27 point lead over Mitt Romney, but who else will take a beating if/when Romney goes down. Conservative talk media has invested lots of airtime in pimping Mitt. Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity, and Bill O’Reilly have all backed Romney…and they are about to get trashed. It is about fucking time. For the last two decades, Limbaugh and his ilk have not only set the tone of modern politics, but created and pushed the agenda. Their man, George W. Bush, has been a failure and now their chosen one is about to go down. If the Dems triumph in the Fall, the blow to conservative punditry will hopefully be significant enough to relegate them to heel snipping, rather than policy pushing. Regardless of who gets elected in the Fall, the collapse of Limbaugh, Inc. would be a boon to this country. Anything that lessens the centralization of American politics is good for the country.

Conservative media and centralized politics? Yes, of course. As much as they like to pass themselves off as “outsiders,” “rebels,” and “everyday people,” Limbaugh et al are just another pillar of a power structure designed to limit the people’s voice and participation. Their talk of liberty aside, they don’t like or want democracy. Their quest is power for power’s sake and little else (okay, money, too). To get that power, they have to do something to bring people to power or bolster them once they are in. Conservative pundits can’t keep Bush’s poll numbers up and it looks like they aren’t helping Romney’s “Quest for the White House.” If they can’t deliver, what good are they? In the best of all worlds, they will wind up as sideshow entertainment for the hardcore, perverted and spent like the has-been that is Pat Robertson. One can only hope.

January 27, 2008

The Arrogance of Arrogance: Thoughts on the South Carolina Democratic Primary 2008

The Clintons fucked up. There really is no other way to describe Hillary Clinton’s showing in South Carolina’s Democratic Primary. Yes, I am sure Clinton supporters will parrot President Bill, claiming that Obama’s landslide is as relevant as a Jesse Jackson primary win and that it was to be expected because South Carolina is a “Black state.” Let us put aside the cynical and borderline racist insinuation that the Black vote doesn’t count and turn to the exit polls. Numbers show that the only groups Senator Clinton won were people over 65 and White women. Except for White men, who went for Edwards, Obama won in every other demographic group. Obama was second with White men and even among White women he had a decent showing. To write Obama’s victory off as a Black thing is not only insulting to all of those who voted for Obama, Black or White, but is where the Clintons are fucking up. The message it sends to people is “Unless you are with us, you are against us,” a stink the Clintons have been throwing off publicly since they attacked entertainment mogul David Geffen for holding an Obama fundraiser way back in 2007.

The Clinton’s arrogance is not just theirs. It permeates their supporters. The Black Democrat and Civil Rights elite were as complicit as the Clintons in pushing the “Bill Clinton as the first Black president” line and claiming that Obama was not “Black enough” for African Americans, two assertions full of equal amounts of absurdity and bullshit. The Clintons not so subtle claims that Miss Hillary was owed the Black vote were doubled by much of the Black establishment. Whether the Black political elite are too used to being treated as a power block and not as individuals or they feared that Obama would not garner any White votes, I am not sure. But I do know that they eased off the vocal and knee-jerk Clinton support once Obama won Iowa. I also suspect that the Black elite backed off when they saw that African American Democrats were not looking at the race as a Black/White thing but as one between hope & aspirations and the Same Old Shit.

Women over 50 are big Clinton supporters. Senator Clinton is “one of them” and an alum of the Women’s Liberation Movement. Because of this, the Senator’s female supporters believe it is the duty of all women to vote for Clinton, whether or not they agree with her politics, her conduct, or her record. I’ve heard female Clinton supporters say that any woman who votes for Obama is a “traitor to her gender.” Young women who support Obama are portrayed as immature and simple minded. Others have stated that not only does Hillary deserve the vote because she is a woman, but that she is owed the presidency because of her status as scorned woman and wife of a heel. This kind of “sisterhood” is identity politics at its worst, a totalitarianism that demands obedience due to tribal membership rather than weighing merit, ideas, intellect, accomplishments, character, leadership skills, empathy, and any number of other things that one would want in a president. The arrogance of the Vote Woman camp denies the importance of free thought and the real power of choice.

Then there are the Democratic Party elite, the Centrist money machine who would like nothing more than another four to eight years of Clinton politics. They seem to forget that Smiling Bill’s popularity is a post-presidential phenomenon. When he ran for his first term, many liberal Dems voted for him out of duty and, once elected, were quick to attack him over his serial bombing of Iraq, welfare reform, and other Republican lite policies. The behind the scenes tension between establishment Dems and the wave of new recruits the Obama campaign is bringing in is thick. Much pressure is being exerted on the Democratic rank & file to support Hillary. Now that it seems that the Kennedy wing of the Dem elite is swinging behind Obama, expect that tension to increase. Whether it breaks out into the open or not, who knows, but down below, the screws are being turned on elected Dems to support the anointed candidate, Hillary Clinton.

Lastly, the Clintons treat voters as idiots. Take the Clinton spin of Obama’s Reagan quote. Obama correctly called President Ronald Reagan a “transcendent figure” in American history, a president who was able to push through policies that the majority of Americans did not agree with that lead to substantial change. This is not Obama expressing an opinion or stating support for Reagan, as the Clintons would like us to believe. Obama is simply sharing the conclusion made by many a historian. Polls conducted during Reagan’s presidency show that though most Americans like Reagan the person, they did not support his policies. History shows that Democrats in Congress often voted against their interest and in support of Reagan’s initiatives. History also shows that the Democratic Party moved to the right in order to court “Reagan Democrats.” Whether the above were good or bad ideas is debatable; however, there is no argument about what happened. And that is exactly what Obama was saying. That the Clintons turn Obama’s observation (and warning that such a strategy betrays Democratic ideals) as proof that he is a closet Reaganite presumes that you and I cannot look at history and make our own conclusions. It assumes that the Clintons hold the One True Interpretation of History and that, despite contrary evidence, we have to support that view…well, kind of. The Clintons know as clearly as I do what Obama meant and I am sure that one on one in a room with no recording equipment and where my memory would be erased once I left, they would say, “Yeah, Obama is right on that point.” They would be insane not to and while they are power hungry, the Clintons are not crazy. However, they do want me to believe that Obama is Ronald Reagan, Jr., a claim that only a moron would consider as truth.

Like many of you, I am unclear about Obama’s policies. The cynic in me is unsure that, if elected, he will be able to “change Washington.” But as he so eloquently says, he offers the “hope of change.” His hope is a call for involvement, not an order to get in line. He respects the intelligence of the people he speaks to. He does not talk down to people or try to trick them. His message is not one of arrogance. His actions are not filled with arrogance. Despite poll-driven media predictions of primary & caucus wins, Obama has not acted like the anointed one. He has identified himself as the “Agent of Change” and “Bringer of Hope,” but he comes off as the Everyman (much to Edwards’ chagrin). The greater the Clintons’ arrogance, the more the Everyman Obama becomes. One of our great national narratives is that the Everyman triumphs over the Bully. Arrogance is the weapon of the Bully and, in this case, it seems to be the Clintons’ biggest fuck up.

(Note that Senator Clinton’s success in New Hampshire came after she both ditched the arrogance and became a sympathetic figure with her brief cry in a town diner. The media’s pre-vote crowning of Obama as King helped switch the roles of Anointed and Everyman. Given President Bill’s nasty involvement, it might be too late for Miss Hillary to recapture her role as underdog. But for a moment climbing off the Bully pulpit worked.)

January 19, 2008

Fearless Iranian Motorboats from Hell

Though it has been more than ten days since the Strait of Hormuz incident, the questions around it are pretty fascinating. Before I go on, a bit of background: On January 8, a handful of Iranian “PT boats” menaced two US Navy ships, a destroyer and a cruise, and threatened to blow the American vessels up…or at least that is the Pentagon’s version of things. What video released by the Pentagon shows are four or five small boats weaving in and out the two Navy warships' wake. Tacked onto the end of the footage is some interesting audio, which I’ll get to in a second.

Upon release of the video, the Pentagon’s interpretation of events came under scrutiny – not here in the States. Nah, the American press pretty much reported the Defense Department spin. The foreign press and independent observers remembered the Bushies’ lies the Iraq War lies, and had the gall to suggest that the Hormuz incident was Bush & Co.’s Gulf of Tonkin.

We can argue whether or not the Iranian "Patrol Torpedo boats" were little more than souped up water-skiing motor boats or whether such provocations are pretty much everyday stuff in the world of power politics (last fall, a group of Russian bombers were turned away from British airspace by the RAF. The Chinese regularly violate Taiwanese air and sea in a provocative manner. These incidents only turn to war when one of the two participants will a war to happen. Defining what happened in the Strait of Hormuz as Bush and the Pentagon have is a step toward war).

However, let us agree that the most peculiar and entertaining part of this tale is the audio tacked on to the end of video released by the Pentagon. Footage of the Iranian motorboats dogging the US vessels is followed by either a black screen or a still of a destroyer. A deep, accented voice says “I am coming for you.” That is followed by an American sailor stating that the US has peaceful intentions and asking the motorboaters to identify themselves. The strange voice answers, “You will explode in two minutes.”

The Pentagon immediately passed this audio off as one hundred percent real, coming from the Iranian motorboaters, and proof that they were under attack. A sceptic pointed out that there was no ambient noise behind the deep "Iranian" voice, nothing to indicate that the transmission came from a speeding motorboat. “The transmission originated from mainland Iran” the Pentagon countered, but when pressed, they had no proof. It has since been alleged that some mysterious “prankster” known as the “Filipino Monkey” must have been the source, though there is no solid evidence to back that up. The mainstream media is saying that this is a question that will never be answered…and that the Iranians are a bunch of dirty dogs and that is all we need to be concerned with. I, however, think I have an answer to this conundrum.

When I heard the voice say "I am coming for you," two words came to mind: Shaw Brothers. For those of you not up on your Kung Fu flicks, the Shaw Brothers are pretty much the Paramount Pictures of the Martial Arts world. Their team of directors made some of the greatest Kung Fu movies of the late 20th Century. Titles such as
Clan of the White Lotus, Flying Guillotine, Vengeance, and Five Deadly Venoms are considered classics of the genre and are Shaw Brothers product. There are literally hundred more Shaw films. While the fighting scenes are what make these movies exceptional, those of us who saw the English dubbed versions (usually on Saturday afternoon TV’s Kung Fu Theater) remember fondly the mad voices and crazy dialogue, dialogue that sounds strangely familiar to “I am coming for you.”

So, here you have a White House who is desperate to get into a war with Iran, but doesn’t know how. The nuclear threat suddenly disappeared. There is no hard evidence that the Iranians are running militias against Americans in Iraq. An event needs to be created out of everyday provocation. There is no Karl Rove around to engineer the thing and Condoleezza Rice isn’t gonna let her be pushed in front of the UN with a bunch of pie charts and graphs to do a Colin Powell Iraq threat presentation. Considering that the Bushies are hot to privatize military functions, why not hire out the propaganda? Enter the Shaw Brothers. How else to explain "I am coming for you"?

You think that is crazy? Have you seen and heard the Pentagon video? If not, check it out. And then listen to this, a top secret outtake from the Shaw Brothers' production studio. I am sure you will be as convinced as I am that we are living in a real life Kung Fu Theater.

January 10, 2008

Sex Change

If you’ve been paying attention to the Democratic and Republican Parties’ presidential nomination races, I am sure that you, too, are sick of the word “change.” I am so aggravated by the word that when the counterperson at the café offers me my change, my first impulse is to slug him. Perhaps now that Hillary Clinton has won the New Hampshire primary the word “change” will be retired, or at least given a rest. Instead of the “change mantra,” the candidates will figure out some other squishy concept to mouth. Polls will be commissioned, consultants engaged, a few pundits listened to, and all will conclude that Clinton won New Hampshire because she “brought women back into her camp.” So what is a man to do in a race where the media-anointed “front runner” is the only woman? Simple: Trumpet their womanhood. Hell, if Hillary and Mitt can claim to be “agents of change,” what is stopping Obama, McCain, and Huckabee from growing vaginas? Need help to hear how that presents itself? Allow me:

Barak Obama:
Now…you might not be able to see it under these pants, but I…have… a vagina... I have a big vagina, a vagina big enough to envelop all people, …… all parties, …… all visions. They are going to tell you that I don’t have a vagina. They are going to tell you that my vagina will never work. They are going to say that my vagina is all talk and no action. But they are wrong…I have a vagina that you can believe in. I have a vagina that will unite us as a people. My vagina is not about race or class or gender. My vagina is about hope. I have the vagina of hope.

John Edwards: When people think of the word “pussy,” they often picture something soft, weak, and cowardly. Not me. When I think of my pussy, I think of a fighter, a pussy that will get down into the trenches and work it for the middle class, a pussy that knows the taste of poverty, a pussy that came from the coal fields of South Carolina. My pussy fought its way out of those coal fields and it is the only pussy that will fight for you in the White House. I have the only pussy that can’t be bought. My pussy is the pussy of America. My pussy is your pussy and I promise that it will be on top.

Just because the Republicans are not Democrats, don’t think they aren’t paying attention to what went down in New Hampshire. God knows, the Repugs don’t have any clue how to “engage the electorate.”
They look to the Dems for guidance. Before Iowa, the Repugs (sans Ron Paul and Mike Huckabee) were Bush men. Post-Iowa they became “agents of change.” They, too, will find their inner vaginas.

John McCain: Well, well, I don’t have to tell you about my vagina. You know that I’ve always had a vagina. It might not be the prettiest vagina, it might not be the tastiest vagina, but it is a vagina that was there before all these other guys got their vaginas. And it is a vagina that will always tell the truth. This is a vagina that you can trust will always be a vagina.

Mitt Romney: Vagina? I’ve always had a vagina and my record proves it. It’s a good vagina. It is a vagina of values. It is an American vagina, built by hard work. It is a hard working American vagina…and it has values. It is a valuable vagina of hardworking America. It is a family vagina. A family vagina of freedom. It is a freedom-loving vagina of the American family of values and hard work. It is a vagina, loving of freedom and hard work, that came to America from a family who came here legally. It is a legal vagina. A legal vagina of a hardworking family with the values of an American, an American vagina that works hard legally in America for a freedom-loving family of values. It’s a freedom vagina of values and hard…..

Mike Huckabee: Jesus had a vagina. He might not have shown it off, but he did have a vagina. And I wrote a little song about it. You are welcome to sing along.

Jesus had a vagina
All the live long day
And just because he had a vagina
Doesn’t mean that he was gay.
Can’t you hear people callin’
Through these fields of corn?
They want a real pussy,
Not anymore internet porn…

Sure, sure, there are other Repugs in the race, but all I could make out of Fred Thompson’s mumbling were the words “cunt” and “Ronald Reagan.” Rudy the G flat out denied he was “a pussy,” pointing to his performance after Nine-Eleven and his many ex’s. And in the spirit of Democracy, I didn’t consult Ron Paul or Democrats Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel, but I am sure they would be happy to flash you theirs.