January 8, 2011

Sarah “Don’t Retreat, Reload!” Palin, proud owner of a map using rifle-scope crosshairs to mark states with Democrats who displeased Mama Grizzly, now wants to offer her “sincere condolences” to the family of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (one of the Dems Palin marked with the crosshairs) and the other victims of the Arizona shootings.  Michele Bachman, friend of anti-government extremist cults, says her “tears are flowing” over the incident.  John “Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran” McCain wants everyone to know the shooter is a disgrace to Arizona.

There’s going to be a great rush to quarantine the alleged shooter as a loner, a weirdo whose Internet rambling in no way link him to the little tinpot warriors of wingerdom. It’s going on right now, in fact. And it’s garbage. There have been other gun-crazed wackos who get their news and opinion from Glenn Beck and all the other bottom-feeders. This Arizona shooting is just the latest example of what happens when a political party and its attendant propaganda channels make crazy into their lingua franca.

I don’t care how many crocodile tears Bachmann, Palin, and all the other career sleazes shed. They own this. They’ve lying to loons and poisoning our politics to make money and keep power, and when one of their deluded followers decides to take them at their word and act on his convictions, they can’t pretend it has nothing to do with them. It has everything to do with them.

They have spent years demonizing Democrats and liberals, imagining a sinister alternate universe where liberals are in control of everything, and the President is actually a Kenyan-born dictator who wants to establish death panels for the elderly. They smirk about “second-amendment solutions” to politicians they don’t like, and talk about watering the tree of liberty with the blood of tyrants when Obama talks about reining in the ability of health insurers to screw their customers. And this is where that crazy talk leads us.

So, I guess we can’t use the term “teabaggers” anymore. It’s no longer appropriate. They’re bodybaggers.


I was listening to Patton Oswalt’s My Weakness Is Strong on the train home last night. Hilarious guy, but this routine has gotten a little sad in retrospect. Actually, a lot sad.

Wonder what he would have to say now about the Folder in Chief?

Yeah, I know we dodged a bullet when Obama kept Cranky McCain and Caribou Barbie out of the White House. All props for that. Trouble is, there’ve been a few bullets since then, and instead of helping us dodge them, Obama has been letting the country take the hits in the name of — what do they call it? — bipartisanship. “Just stand still and let the Republicans shoot you in the leg,” Obama says. “They’ve promised not to shoot you in the head.” And the Republicans say: “Not today, that is.”

My Weakness Is Strong. Sounds like a swell all-purpose campaign slogan for the Democrats. Thanks a lot, guys.

Dear President Obama

September 29, 2010

Yes, Mr. President, I know what’s at stake in the midterm elections. It would be nice if some more Democrats in positions of power and influence acted as though they understood as well.


Opinion Mill Proprietor

P.S. Could you please stop pissing on liberals and progressives, and tell Joe Biden to knock it off as well? I know the Beltway pundits love to see hippies get bashed, but it’s really not a smart way to mobilize your base. Unless your internal polling shows the cause is already lost and you’re laying the groundwork for blaming it all on those unrealistic lefties who are never satisfied with anything. I surely would hate to think that’s what’s going on here.

More Bags Than Tea

September 29, 2010

Matt Taibbi travels to the heart of teabagger territory:

A hall full of elderly white people in Medicare-paid scooters, railing against government spending and imagining themselves revolutionaries as they cheer on the vice-presidential puppet hand-picked by the GOP establishment. If there exists a better snapshot of everything the Tea Party represents, I can’t imagine it.

Watching them tootle around, he has an epiphany. David Broder would not approve of it. If there’s any higher praise than that, I’d like to hear it:

Vast forests have already been sacrificed to the public debate about the Tea Party: what it is, what it means, where it’s going. But after lengthy study of the phenomenon, I’ve concluded that the whole miserable narrative boils down to one stark fact: They’re full of shit. All of them. At the voter level, the Tea Party is a movement that purports to be furious about government spending — only the reality is that the vast majority of its members are former Bush supporters who yawned through two terms of record deficits and spent the past two electoral cycles frothing not about spending but about John Kerry’s medals and Barack Obama’s Sixties associations. The average Tea Partier is sincerely against government spending — with the exception of the money spent on them. In fact, their lack of embarrassment when it comes to collecting government largesse is key to understanding what this movement is all about — and nowhere do we see that dynamic as clearly as here in Kentucky, where Rand Paul is barreling toward the Senate with the aid of conservative icons like Palin.

Read the whole thing here.

Money changed everything

September 24, 2010

Gosh, isn’t that wonderful? A billionaire geek whose Facebook empire is about to be the subject of an unflattering movie is giving a $100 million check to the Newark school system, with a governor who made four times that amount disappear through his own ineptitude (and a mayor who stands to gain added political power from the situation) sharing the spotlight while Oprah sprinkles fairy dust on the stage. Like the song says, money changes everything.

But while I agree with everything Bob Braun has to say about this ridiculous situation, I think he’s mistaken in treating this as some new development. The rich guy from California who wants to dictate terms to the Newark school district is following a well-worn American tradition. After all, a rich guy from Australia and a couple of rich guys from Kansas are using their dough to deform America’s political system, while  a rich guy in Orange County gets to use his hard-inherited bucks to undermine science education. A rich guy from Pittsburgh used his money to hobble the Clinton administration.  So why shouldn’t the co-founder of Facebook use Newark’s schools as his hobby horse? He’s rich! It’s not like there’s any other standard at work here.

In better times, it would have been considered seemly for the governor and the mayor to tell the rich guy, “Thanks but no thanks.” But these are pretty lousy times, thanks in no small part to economic notions promoted by think tanks and media outlets funded by rich guys who get even richer when these economic notions hold sway. So now people don’t tell the rich guy to find himself another hobby. They tug their forelocks and thank their lucky stars the rich guy came along and threw them a bone.

I guess that’s what “trickle-down economics” meant all along. The ones with the money get more money shoveled their way, and the rest of us get to huddle under the table and hope some big crumbs fall to the carpet. The argument for countenancing this Brechtian arrangement used to be that we would all benefit from the care and feeding of millionaires. A rising tide lifts all boats, right?

Well, not exactly. Not when money changes the laws of physics, and the reconfiguring of the tax system shifts benefits upward and risks downward. The rising tide now lifts the yachts and swamps the smaller craft. And if you’re one of the many who end up treading water, don’t bother calling for help. You should have learned how to swim, loser.

One of the cornerstone texts of the conservative movement is F.A. Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom, which argues that centralized economic control inevitably erodes freedom.

And here we are, waiting for the lords and ladies of the upper class to toss a wad of money our way, every once in a while, when things get really bad. What I want to know is, how does the condition developing in this country differ from serfdom?

Character II

September 21, 2010

Crisis reveals character. Get a load of this character as he muses on 9/11.

“Why are we listening to this fruitcake Newt Gingrich? All he ever does is blow smoke.”


September 11, 2010

It was a beautiful, crisp fall day just like this one when my car topped the first span of the Pulaski Skyway and I saw the thick plume of black smoke stretching across New York Bay from the World Trade Center.

Lots of pundits talked about 9/11 as the day everything would change. As it turned out, not everything changed, but enough did. George W. Bush was transformed from an ethically and politically compromised pretend-president, tainted by a contemptible Supreme Court decision and slated for ejection after four years of looting, into a delusional world conqueror who led America into a moral cesspool of torture, lies, and manipulation. The day’s death toll was awful, but the most terrible consequence of  Osama bin Laden’s scheme was to give a free hand to an ugly cohort that never should have been allowed near the levers of power in the first place.

It’s been said that crisis doesn’t shape character, but it does reveal character. Click here to see the character of our mass-market media revealed. Click here to see the character of the political opportunists who still exploit the disaster revealed.

Not everything changed on 9/11, but some things did. America turned into something tainted in the eyes of the world, a nakedly predatory country tolerant of blatant lies and willing to give free rein to its worst impulses. For a lot of evil people, 9/11 was just another political day. They have yet to pay any kind of price for their manipulations and deceit. In fact, some of them are poised to get back into power. Osama bin Laden, wherever he’s hidden away these days, must be having himself a good laugh over that one.

Daschle Days Are Here Again

September 3, 2010

So here we are, Labor Day just around the corner, midterm elections on the horizon. After a sweltering summer of bone-deep crazy, the Republicans have made it clear that if they regain power in Congress we can expect them to paralyze the government, conduct endless phony investigations into equally phony scandals, and pad the pockets of their cronies while the country continues its downward spiral.

So what are the Democrats in general, and President Obama in particular, proposing to do about this? Why do I feel that I’m witnessing a re-run of the Tom Daschle years, when the Senate leader let Republicans walk over him so many times that he should have had WELCOME tattooed on his forehead? Paul Krugman has some ideas about what they can to, you know, stave off the looming GOP disaster:

The actual lessons of 2009-2010, then, are that scare stories about stimulus are wrong, and that stimulus works when it is applied. But it wasn’t applied on a sufficient scale. And we need another round.

I know that getting that round is unlikely: Republicans and conservative Democrats won’t stand for it. And if, as expected, the G.O.P. wins big in November, this will be widely regarded as a vindication of the anti-stimulus position. Mr. Obama, we’ll be told, moved too far to the left, and his Keynesian economic doctrine was proved wrong.

But politics determines who has the power, not who has the truth. The economic theory behind the Obama stimulus has passed the test of recent events with flying colors; unfortunately, Mr. Obama, for whatever reason — yes, I’m aware that there were political constraints — initially offered a plan that was much too cautious given the scale of the economy’s problems.

So, as I said, here’s hoping that Mr. Obama goes big next week. If he does, he’ll have the facts on his side.

All true. However, Obama has had the facts on his side pretty much all the time. The facts supported single-payer healthcare. The facts supported the public option. The facts supported getting the hell out of Iraq and Afghanistan. The facts supported lots of sane, politically astute measures that would have pulled us back from the abyss we now stare into. Hell, the facts supported grabbing the Republicans and rubbing their long noses in the immense mess they created.

Obama had the facts. The Republicans had scare stories about socialism, death panels, and birth certificates. And now the Democrats are once again poised to pluck defeat from the jaws of victory.

Sure, I’ll vote for the Democrats in November. With Congress ready to become an even worse bedlam, it would be criminal to stay home. While teabaggers chase phantoms around the foot of the Washington Monument and Obama’s press secretary sneers at “the professional left,” I will do my bit to speak up for rationality and good policy.

But I sure do wish the guys with the power had been doing likewise these past months. When I pulled the lever for Obama I knew I was voting for a politician, not a messiah or a saint. But never in my wildest nightmares did I think I was voting for a younger version of Tom Daschle.

Mission Accomplished

September 1, 2010

President Obama’s visit to Fort Bliss just before his speech on the withdrawal of most (not all) troops from Iraq was gracious and dignified. As this Grey Lady editorial notes, it was a welcome change from the behavior of the repulsive little creep who launched the war:

President George W. Bush tried to make Iraq an invisible, seemingly cost-free war. He refused to attend soldiers’ funerals and hid their returning coffins from the public. So it was fitting that Mr. Obama, who has improved veterans’ health care and made the Pentagon budget more rational, paid tribute to them.

Of course, before going on to state the obvious about this contemptible war, the Times has to pause and give the hippies a smack over Vietnam: “One of the few rays of light in the conflict has been the distance America has come since Vietnam, when blameless soldiers were scorned for decisions made by politicians.”

We hardly ever hear about the antiwar protestors who were shot, or beaten to a pulp by hard-hat rioters, or attacked by cops with batons and tear gas. But these yarns about hippies spitting on soldiers, like the fairy tales about Americans still being held prisoner by the evil Vietnamese, will always be with us. They are a peerless mechanism of control, to be used for corralling and isolating dissent, and control was what the Iraq invasion was all about. Not the control of Saddam Hussein — he was already penned in. The control of power in America.

Many fine, patriotic Americans opposed the Iraq invasion right from the start, and I salute them, now and always. Some opposed it out of pacifism. As for myself, I didn’t oppose the war out of pacifism: I opposed it because I can smell a rat. The stench of fraud and lies was thick in the air well before the “shock and awe” spectacle started, and it only increased over the months and years. But “support the troops” was the catch-all response to any criticism, and it worked. The public, scared stupid by 9/11, mostly went along with it. The Democrats who should have been the loyal opposition were cowed. The press, which should have been telling the truth about what was going on, failed (with some honorable exceptions) in this most important task. What an appalling show.

As a military operation, the invasion of Iraq was worse than a fiasco, but it was never a true military operation. There was no casus belli, no real threat to be expunged. I see no reason to doubt that the Iraq invasion was, from the start, a politically motivated spectacle meant to shore up the credibility of George W. Bush and give the Republican Party the whip hand in dealing with the Democrats. It certainly wasn’t meant to go on this long: I’m sure most of the war whores expected it to be done and dusted as quickly as the Nineties romp presided over by the president’s dad, only this time the political capital wouldn’t go to waste.

That’s not the way it turned out, of course, as is shown by the scorecard: some 4,400 Americans dead, another 35,000 wounded, and at least 100,000 Iraqis dead. But that “Mission Accomplished” banner turns out to have been quite correct. George W. Bush, whose presidency was made possible by only Supreme Court justices voting from the bench, got to play Caesar and win himself a second term in an office he didn’t deserve in the first place. The GOP got endless congressional clown shows with ink-stained fingers, and the freedom to turn the economies of the U.S. and Iraq into vast hog troughs of crony capitalism.

And none of the crooks who participated in this awe-inspiring scam has suffered for it. Bush, whose middle name should forever be “Waterboard,” will grow old with his millions. An entire administration that deserved to be led away in shackles for fouling  America’s good name and destroying its economy has not even been subjected to the mild inconvenience of a serious investigation.

Gracious and dignified behavior is not the proper response to what Bush and his cronies did to this country. They used America like a cheap hooker, and they got away with it. So give the hippies their due: they saw something was wrong, and they did something about it. For all the uglies, real or imagined, that might be laid at the feet of the Sixties protestors, they stood up and demanded answers to their questions. All this generation can do is avert its eyes, twiddle its  thumbs, and say “Let’s just move on, okay?”

Mission accomplished.