Saturday, January 30, 2010

Meet And Bleet

I will try to be charitable here regarding the Republican House caucus' invitation to the president to speak at their meeting and then take questions. The televised exchange did the country a great service and two or three of the questioners sounded smart, engaged in policy, and frustrated with this past year's outcomes.

The balance of the audience, however, ranged from the clueless to the corrosively stupid, and illustrated--when one-on-one with a very bright, informed, and at ease chief executive--just how conniving and brainless the GOP has become. (If you have not seen it, you really must.)

And, given the Republicans' MO since Bill Clinton had the gall to replace Poppy B. in the WH, one can only assume that someone conceived yesterday's exercise as a means whereby they could trap the president--because, you know, he's not that smart, and is lost without the tele-promptor--in their midst and then wail on him for an hour in front of TV cameras. Great idea, right? Got him right where we want him. What could go wrong?

You gotta think that someone just lost his job for that. Not, I submit, because the Prez looked so good and the Rep. Reps so bad--there was in fact more light from their side of the isle, not a lot, but some, than I would have given them credit for--only that it highlighted so directly Obama's point about contemporary politics exactly. It gave him a stature of being both engaged and above-the-fray, which their PR klaxons have been blasting full vol. for a year to deny him.

What should be clear from Obama's very plain-spoken and relaxed State of the Union, is that he is much more interested in being president of the whole nation than leader of the Democratic Party. This has its good points and bad, both pretty obvious.

On the good side, broadly, is the country really needs a chief executive working and thinking that way. The bad side, broadly, is that sometimes--and especially in the past year--to do the most good for the most people, the president HAS to be the head of his party and smack some genuine fear into the souls of his enemies, both Republican and Democrat, to give them something to keep company with their hatred of him.

Does Obama get this now? Maybe; I'm not sure. Thing is, you are NEVER sure with that guy; that's mainly how he rolls. I like him a lot, though, and you have to admit he is fascinating to watch.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Winter Of Our Disconnect cont.

My admiration for the regular, paid band of bloggers leapt immeasurably these past ten days as they found words to describe the situation once the Democratic caucus became unglued in the aftermath of the worst performance by a so-called public servant--for her party and her nation--that I can recall in 45 years of following politics.

That Martha Coakley had the gall to ridicule the need to shake hands with voters in cold and dreary neighborhoods, in the city where modern American politics was more or less invented (and I am thinking back to Elbridge Gerry); a city once ruled by such champion campaigners and fixers as John "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald (the grandfather of the man she had the temerity to want to replace in the U.S. Senate) and James Curley, only indicates the atrophy Massachusetts Democrats suffered under decades of reliable Kennedy returns.

The woman is a jackass and fool, and succeeded in launching her poor husband's last name into the dictionary, as a new adverb for fucking-up a sure thing. That said, the disgraceful reaction of elected Democratic officials once the results had been tabulated sounded a lot like fourth graders discovering a king snake on the school bus.

If nothing else, you figure, these people are professionals and should be able to spot a horseshit campaign and draw no further conclusions. But no, the charge to the rear was lead by a tired and emotional Barney Fraud, uhm, Frank, a top-tier drama queen, who immediately declared health care reform dead. Next day, after sobering up some sleep, he walked back his limbic reaction, but the damage was done.

Now, in truth, the collective lack of spine and overdose of dismay by the congressional Dems was so immediate and systemic that it could only have been simmering for weeks, if not months. And cooler heads have since prevailed. The freak-out was not pretty, and it certainly gave a ton of free chips to the GOP, but it may have saved us further weeks of hurt bickering, and called attention to an effectively rudderless majority.

This last I find inexcusable. Whether he likes it or not, the president is the party's leader, Harry Reid and Nan Pelosi his captains. I suspect he has limited influence over entrenched senators, and I don't expect him to win every battle with those baboons, BUT, neither do I see him trying awfully hard to shape events for his own and the nation's benefit.

In fact the most dismaying development dropped 36 hours ago, when the administration signaled a mainly pointless freeze on discretionary social spending, without a whisper of going after the hypertrophic military budget.

Christ. On. A. Fucking. Crutch.

I've been mainly sympathetic to the overall challenges of the game to this point. The big majorities notwithstanding, I know this shit is not easy. I can dig that a lot of small steps in education, law enforcement, and Pentagon reform are underway. And I can let a lot of the big stuff slide, like a war crimes truth commission, reforming the Department of Agriculture, a restructure of the finance industry, until health care is squared away. What I cannot abide is that at the first sign of trouble, the Obama administration spits out a stale GOP nostrum that does nothing so well as sanction an utterly bankrupt and discredited way of managing the country's affairs.

You probably hear this a lot, but if they've finally succeeded in antagonizing pragmatic and sympathetic me, the administration is risking a ton of friends when they need them the most.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Yo-yo MA

A few days ago my estimable colleague Prairie Weather and I had a brief discussion about the campaign in Massachusetts, and the nature of candidates today, which you can read here. I used to know a lot more about Massachusetts politics than I do now, so I can't judge the outcome of the special election for certain. I don't even know if the remainder of Ted's term is three years or five.

I will point out that Coakly won a primary, first in a field of four. Consequently I have a hard time seeing how her particular weakness as a candidate is at all the fault of "Democrats". As I said to PW, attorney generals are mainly not the sort of glad-handing, loud-talking pols who just love engaging people on the hustings. Oh well.

I will also observe that our current election industry seems geared for these high-drama ratings extravaganzas. Everyone from the pollsters to reporters to consultants have a deeply vested interest in making these things look close, even when they ain't. It aptly fits the national mood of belligerence and misunderstanding too.

Still, I'll venture to say it'll be close, but not that close. The president is popular in the state; he will certainly help turnout and maybe even say something that goes to the heart of our contemporary disorder that resonates from the North End to Stockbridge, and beyond. I don't sense a betrayal of Ted's legacy on the way.

That said, if Brown truly was smart, and ambitious, and his party flexible and secure, instead of a zoo of vicious numbskulls, he'd have announced last week that, if elected, he'd vote with the Democrats against any further cloture on health reform--modeled so closely on what has been achieved in the Bay State. He'd win going away, and would so launch a very interesting political career. So tell me, which party is stupider?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Notice

Lemmie tell you, don't fuck with this guy.

So, I know everybody in the media is all in a tizzy -- "Oh, what's this going to mean politically?" Well, let me tell you something. If Republicans want to campaign against what we've done by standing up for the status quo and for insurance companies over American families and businesses, that is a fight I want to have. (Applause.) If their best idea is to return to the bad policies and the bad ideas of yesterday, they are going to lose that argument. What are they going to say? "Well, you know, the old system really worked well; let's go back to the way it was"? That's not going to appeal to seniors who are now seeing the possibility of that doughnut hole finally closing and so they can finally get discounts on their prescriptions. (Applause.) That's not going to appeal to the small businesses who find out all the tax credits that they're going to get for doing right by their employees -- something that they have been wanting to do, but may not have been able to afford. It's not going to be very appealing to Americans who for the first time are going to find out that they can provide coverage to their children, their dependents, all the way up to the age of 26 or 27.

And that's why I'll be out there waging a great campaign from one end of the country to the other, telling Americans with insurance or without what they stand to gain -- (applause); about the arsenal of consumer protections; about the long-awaited stability that they're going to begin to experience. And I'm going to tell them that I am proud we are putting the future of America before the politics of the moment -- the next generation before the next election. And that, after all, is what we were sent up here to do: standing up for the American people against the special interests; solve problems that we've been talking about for decades; make their lives a little bit better; make tough choices sometimes when they're unpopular. And that's something that every one of you who support this bill can be proud to campaign on in November.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Tea Beggers

For weeks now I've been meaning to write something about the fractious tea party cadres, which are supposed to be the future of something or other, mainly to say that, as fundamentally constituted, all they are capable of doing is to fracture into smaller and smaller knots of soreheads (or maybe it's sores of knotheads). But I tarried too long, and instead of impressing you now with my perspicacity, I can only direct you to this link at TPM regarding a Maddow segment from last night.

The essential problem of the TP movement is how, at its most sincere, it is a collection of, oh, let's call them rugged individualists over-impressed with their reasoning skills. Earnest, bright without being especially smart, willing to work out whatever disappointment they feel about their lives by standing up for SOMEthing, as such they immediately fall into two temperamental camps: the cynical and the naive.

While I'd say both types are sincere in their anger, the cynical actors are, of course, looking to ride this into power--having perhaps no patience earlier for the moneyed mummery of the old GOP--and are willing to trade to get there. The naive are the the child crusaders, lit inside by ideals they can barely express beyond a yearning for the sort of freedom that is just not available to members of modern affluent societies, no matter what their status is, anymore.

Now apart from the temperamental differences, there are those of philosophy. Broadly this breaks down to libertarian TBers vs. control TBers, and racist TBers vs. those for whom race is not an issue. I will leave it to pollsters to determine the strength of each camp of the above, but these are sizable sub-categories.

Now divide them into regional groups, the shoal upon which the Detroit protest discussed in the link above foundered. NOW add on the circling wolves of the Grand Old Pooty, those looking to take pure financial advantage of the assembled believers, and the deforming attention of the national press, mix with people for whom compromise with others is anathema to start with, then stir.

All of the above should make you appreciate what a fine and sturdy thing a truly national political party is, and what a great job Democrats have done over the last half century to define and promote their dynamic, if sometimes aggravating, coalition. It should also help you see how totally fucked the Republicans are if they think they can use people who mainly can't agree with each other in order to advance an agenda no one can define.

UPDATE: Steve Benen dives in after me.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Changing Crimes

One of the most popular media fallacies of our modern times, now that history has been effectively abolished, is the notion that the present moment extends forever in every direction; that things have always been like this and always will be like this. Furthermore, since history troubles no one anymore, the present moment is exactly what anyone defines it to be.

Those most invested in this inane, if understandable, perspective are those with the most to lose when things change. Now some media players, notably the record and movie companies, have more or less succumbed to change, even as whole branches of their biz model whithered away. They were pretty porous to begin with, broad-based and staffed with relatively young people who, eventually, got it.

The GOP/corporate communications nexus is none of the above, and have spent the past year wishing frantically that times are not changing. This is a lot easier to do when you have money to burn, indeed nothing validates a world view longer than money. Sooner or later though, reality intrudes.

It has long been my contention that the news organizations will stick with the GOP only so long as there was some hint that their old buddies would waltz back into power. Once the stink of losing settled over them, however, you could kiss sympathetic coverage goodbye. I figured it would take about a year, and am happy to report it seems to be un-peeling right on cue.

Take this story from just yesterday: Rudy on a morning show telling us how the squalid little man kept us safe. Because history does not exist on TV anymore, his tame interlocutor said nothing to challenge that rather bizarre proposition. But, mirable dictu, that then turned into a story.

The best part of the AP piece adds that this has been a popular untruth with the GOP faithful of late:

That statement set off waves of protest in the blogosphere. And it echoed a recent claim by former Bush press secretary Dana Perino. GOP strategist Mary Matalin also recently said the Bush administration "inherited the most tragic attack on our soil in our nation's history," implying that the 9/11 attacks resulted from mistakes by the Clinton administration.

Only the day before the nauseating Chris Matthews decided to go after a GOP hatchet man, who ended up on camera with nothing to say.

That the shameless Matthews, the craven Blitzer and the utterly corrupt AP are starting to call the previous narrative into question, says a lot. It says they can't make money by sticking with teh stupid anymore. It also says the intertubes are driving from here on out.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Changes

Gave the Ol' blogroll a bit of a tweak for the new year. Out goes the Big Fat Slob, who has not been exactly active these last many months (if this changes Slob, lemmie know), and the ever-illuminating raging universe. In comes the famous Driftglass, whose rage can warm the coldest night, and Mr. Keith "Keitho" Saunders, a jazz piano player who can really turn a phrase (we would expect nothing less from a New Yorker), like:

There is a special place in hell reserved for those with the lack of imagination to request New York, New York. If there is a more clumsy and obvious song dedicated to a municipality I have yet to find it. That's right, Randy Newman fans, even "I Love LA."

His deconstruction continues here.

Copyright Infringement Theater Presents

the king, playing Scotty's guitar.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Copyright Infringement Theater

wishes a happy 110th birthday to El Rey de Rumba, somewhere in that big cabana in the sky.