Friday, March 26, 2010

Program Note

The Big Fat Slob is back on the exclusive H&J blogroll! Go visit.

Midnight In The Garden of Goobers And Weasels cont.

In considering the looming fate of the brain-dead GOP, it might be useful to consider the condition of other conservative projects apart from the daily scrum of party politics, like evangelical empires:

The towering glass church, founded by Robert H. Schuller in the 1950s and home to an international ministry and the popular "Hour of Power" televangelist broadcast, has long been a symbol of success. But the church has struggled financially in the last two years, laying off workers and seeing revenues drop 27%.
Church spokesman John Charles could not be reached for comment Thursday afternoon. But in January, he told The Times that the ministry was battered by the recession and suffering from declining television viewership and a drop in contributions from its aging congregation.
(R.J. Lopez, L.A. Times)

Or, in a story that has not quite hit the US, which Andrew Sullivan has done a peerless job highlighting these last few days:

What's fascinating in the steady onslaught of new incidences of previous cover-ups of child rape and molestation in the Catholic hierarchy is the notion that the hierarchs tended to see child rape as a sin rather than a crime.

Two datum points, to be sure, but big for what they have to say about US demographics, and the general nature of weird, blockhead, patriarchal hierarchies that have to collapse before they can change. Are Republicans paying attention? I don't think so.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Loss Leaders

Though I've long predicted the utter collapse of the Republican Party, on what you might broadly call sociological grounds, for the life of me I could not imagine what something as profound as that might look like in real time. Now I know.

A toxic (and by toxic I mean AWESOME) mix of anger, stupidity, delusion, and denial; the system-wide inability to admit error, or that times have changed; the eagerness to follow bad advisers over and over and over and over again; the depredations of con men; the rhetorical switching of Up for Down; and the radical over-estimation of one's powers and abilities--combined with the profound under-estimation of the capabilities of the rival--contributing to an all-in plan of action, the success of which is never doubted, and possible failure never planned.

But how did this happen? By way of the massive noise machine, of course, which, while trying to influence the wider MSM narrative had the unintended effect of shielding its operators from any sense of what's going on in the real world, or the consequences of their many errors of judgment and fact, until it is way too late.

David Frum gets it, and the NY Times today, in its silly and cautious way, tries to break the news gently. But if you read the Times story, you will see that none of the major players will have any of it, because they know they are right.

Anyone anticipating destined and substantial GOP gains in the mid-terms needs to say what exactly that would look like (I want a hard number) and if anything less--given the current status of those gains as a mortal lock--would be a victory for the Dems.

Monday, March 22, 2010

A Little List

This morning I estimated there were seven Democratic cement heads who voted Nay contra the wishes of leadership. Turns out there were eight, one of whom being the fuckwit who thinks he can be governor of Alabama. TPM has the list.

Party Time

While I have been as exasperated as most of you over the brain-dead objections of Bart Stupak these last few weeks, I believe the utility of the final deal offered by leadership, reached with such drama yesterday, became clear when the representative rose in the chamber last night to make his stumbling rebuttal to the Republicans' attempt to turn back the reconciliation bill by invoking the anti-abortion measure which bears his name.

Clearly, Bart is not the brightest bulb on the marquee, but he managed to bring a sincerity to his brief remarks which the other side, for all their talk about ramming, socialism, and granny-killing, has remarkably lacked. Like it or not folks, the Democrats are the true big-tent party, and Bart--in over his head this past week and given a very decent means of saving face--did the right thing, unlike more than several of his colleagues.

I'd predicted something like 231 Yeas, mainly on assumptions of optics and basic party identity. I would not presume to know what Speaker Pelosi considered the optimum number, but 34 Nays is more than I'd accept, and it sets up an interesting dynamic for November. I'm thinking out loud here, but let's say 20 of those votes are stone Blue Dogs, and half the remainder were released by the majority leader for sincere re-election needs. That leaves about seven deadheads, seven active liabilities to the party who deserve primary challenges in districts which the Democrats can gamble with, and lose without undue cause for concern.

Because the real big thing which happened last week was how this vote came together as the defining act for a contemporary Democratic identity. Labor, Anti-abortionists, Progressives, Hispanics, and Women (and these constituencies certainly overlap) managed to hold together and accomplish something historic. The world changed last night, and while many in the MSM and GOP will pretend it most certainly has not, at least in regards to how they plan on conducting themselves for the foreseeable (and I plan on going over their fucked fortunes shortly), the Democrats, thanks to some brilliant leadership, are remade.

UPDATE: I swear to God, I hadn't read Josh Marshall's piece before writing the above.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Midnight In The Garden of Goobers And Weasels cont.

One of the stranger outcomes of the last year, for me anyway, was how closely the MSM stuck to the GOP. I'd predicted a gradual winnowing away, as news orgs came to realize that the dying Republicans had little to offer in terms of access, accomplishment, or advertising. That the dying MSM clung so warmly to the GOP brand finally came to make a certain amount of sense in that, as I've written here, both groups were firmly vested in a status quo which for various and similar reasons, in several spheres, is coming quickly unglued. The MSM needed the GOP and quid pro quo. It also didn't hurt that both are traditionally connected by a conservative public relations umbilical which hones talking points, gins up opinion polls, feeds reporters and moves a LOT of corporate money around DC. Certainly the assumption going forward since BHO took office was that the GOP would get a big pass with the understanding that they'd succeed in cutting down the new guy, and everything would return to normal in '12.

But here we are instead. After months of willful shallowness and obfuscation, the press is now obligated to report what really is in the new health care reform bill. After weeks of conventional wisdom humming about Dems in disarray and a desperate and embattled president, the story is now one of the greatest legislative achievements since Reconstruction; and Republicans, so damn sure they were in the driver's seat have to take a good look at their confident assumptions about November and feel more than a bit ill. Things are not working out as planned, and, really--FUX News reports to the contrary--have not been for quite some time.

I'll have a few posts kicking around in the next couple days (at this hour I'm still waiting to see if my call for the final Yea total--around 230--will be correct; if so, I plan on being insufferable), but right now let me propose that one of the remarkable developments in the unwinding of this great story is the genuine influence bloggers like Ez Klein and Kevin Drum had; knowledgeable, fact-based, current commentary that provided a crucial backstop, and mop, for the drivel the Republicans were committed to spew, and the MSM felt duty-bound to spred. The policy Bloggers may not have won any particular day, but overall they kept a lot of people focused and aware, and a number of reporters honest in spite of themselves.

Speaking Of. . .

On the morning of this great vote, on this great day for our Republic, I'd like to recall something I wrote, gee, about three-and-a-half years ago:

to underestimate Nancy Pelosi, to presume to grasp how she thinks or even assume how she'll react, are mistakes of the first water; mistakes you will never find me making.

And so onward.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Booked Solid

After no small editorial effort by the nimble Cliffhanger Press, I am very pleased to announce the publication of my readers guide to Adventures of Huckleberry Finn first blog-published here last year. The Press is dedicated to a sort of popular criticism not much practiced anymore, clarifying looks at American writers meant for a general audience, the sort of critical journalism once advanced by H. L. Mencken and Edmund Wilson, now mainly gone from contemporary letters.

The hard-eyed among you might reasonably insist that any sentimental notion of contemporary American letters is a busted mill on a dusty plain, and you'd get no argument from me. However, there was very little to the idea when Twain first set pen to paper; and all his books were first sold door-to-door. So let us give people something they might enjoy, and take Mark as an example for what might follow, even in our digital time. Such things are born of impudence, style, and a certain amount of luck.

I am deeply grateful to Ms. Laura Sullivan of TypeStyle Graphics and Mr. Hugh Butler of Graphateria, both of Tallahassee, FL, for the marvelous job they did designing and printing Divide's Guide. Mr. J. Gioia was also a help, if only to keep my identity a secret.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Butter End

It seemed to me, on hearing the news a couple days ago that the House HCR vote will go ahead without catering to the anti-abortion caucus, that there really is no A-AC to speak of now; that leadership had whittled away at the Stupak dozen (or whatever) and now have the votes counted. Anything otherwise and it would not be brought to the floor. In fact, I suspect all the drama that awaits this week's vote will be nothing more than the sort of entertaining theater our elected official live to act in.

Way I see it, the question is how many defections for hard November reasons Speaker Pelosi will allow. Looking ahead, I suspect leadership will accept a close vote, but not that close. A mere 216 (or whatever) majority will play to the entirely made-up (albeit well market-tested and sold) narrative that the bill is deeply unpopular and only passed thanks to the worst sort of party head busting. No, I see passage with at least 15 votes to spare.

That number could even grow a bit depending how a No vote might be seen back home as a solid reason for a primary challenge. Yep, it's gut-check time, and I suspect more than a few of those spineless fawns are beginning to fear fellow Democrats more than Republicans. Which is the way it should be.

Which is to say November is shaping up nicely. Loyal readers will know I have not strayed from my long-held prediction of a disaster for the GOP at the polls this year, even as the prevailing narrative has been crowing for months about a definitive Repub comeback. Looks like the CW is beginning to reconsider the creeps chances; and I reserve the right to sketch out what this disaster might look like, and will do so, I hope, shortly. First let's see how close my vote count is.

UPDATE: Speaking of drama, this from Greg Sargent this AM:

But: The chief vote counter for House Dems flatly acknowledged on NBC this morning that the Dem leadership doesn’t have the votes to pass health care as of now. Asked whether Dems have the votes, Dem Rep James Clyburn said:

No, we don’t have them as of this morning. But we’ve been working this thing all weekend, we’ll be working it going into the week. I’m also very confident that we’ll get this done. I’ve been talking to members for a long time on this, and they have the will to do it.

Which, I believe, is to say they do have the votes, but are not sure, as of this morning, who gets to vote no if they really really have to.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Dollars And Nonsense

I've been meaning to write something about the gooey mess that is Eric Massa, once praised on these pages, but his story just gets weirder and weirder. So fuck it. Our times are not right and he will be a silly memory soon.

Rather I'd like to draw attention to something which has been nagging at me for weeks, and that maybe one of you can help me with; two figures I find irreconcilable.

First one is the supposed yearly profits of FUX News, generally stated, as in D. Carr's profile of R. Ailes to be in the nabe of $700 mil:

The division is on track to achieve $700 million in operating profit this year, according to analyst estimates that Mr. Ailes does not dispute.

Not income, mind you, profits.

Now consider their audience size, which is, by TV standards, laughably tiny, one to two mil. in prime time. (Here see, most recently, Mr. Drum and The Newsosaur.)

Which means that FOX News is supposed to make something over $2 per viewer per day. With their demographic? Allow me to opine: Ba-fucking-loney.

I am not saying there isn't $700 mil. sloshing around News Corp somewhere. They peddle sports on TV all over the world, while the movie division has done pretty well of late. And Rupe certainly isn't shy about moving money around the company to bolster the brand in his failing or low-return endeavors (see: the NY Post, and the WSJ, discussed by the Newsosaur above.)

This is just to say that the idea that FOX News (and I am calling them by their real name to attract search engines here) is a financial juggernaut, certainly something Mr. Ailes would like everyone to believe, strikes me as a colossal tower of horseshit. Who knows? Maybe there is more gold in them thar brain-dead hills than I could possibly imagine. What I am certain of is that no one in the MSM is going to be the first to bust the scam, indeed most will be pleased to play along for as long as possible.

Monday, March 01, 2010

About The Bag

While I agree with everything Mr. Carlin has to say in this very worthwhile vignette, (found at Chris Smith's very worthwhile Buffalo Geek blog), give a watch and see if you can spot the flaw in his reasoning.

Well, aside from the fact that a huge broadcast media company makes Carlin's collected works readily available on dvd (and here let me just say that you are speaking to someone who bought Carlin's first record, Take-Offs and Put-Ons, when it first came out); in fact, if the rulers of this country really had congress bought and paid for long ago there would be no need to spend billions lobbying it every year.

Point being that though the rich rule this country, the status of the bag keeps changing and they have to run like mad to keep up with it (there's a mixed metaphor in there somewhere.) Digital communication has now broken the century-long grip of the news brokers. And as far as healthcare reform is concerned, the steady and combined efforts of corporate communicators, along with all the silly knashing of teeth from the GOP, and the over-hyped yelling of the pathetic TPers, were not enough to stop passage in both houses and will not be enough to stop a final adjustment via reconciliation.

Here is the big news: not that HCR is in any danger of failing (and let me say I've never shared my big blog brothers doubts as to final passage--looking at YOU, Matty), but that if the big right-wing noise machine was all that effective (pace, Mr. Benen), HCR would have died long ago.

Fact is, people matter; shit gets done. No amount of advertising can disguise a broken system, or stupid arguments make most people ignore it. And though, looking toward November, I doubt the character of some members of the Dem caucus in the wake of the Coakley debacle (I tend to assume, naively perhaps, that elected representatives are mainly made of sterner stuff--but more of this later), Americans at heart are a very practical people, and the practicality of the fix by now is clear to all, even those doing their damnedest to prevent it.

UPDATE: Lots o' good stuff regarding HCR passage from Greg Sargent this morning.