Archive for June, 2010

The dysfunction of our Washington media, in a snapshot.

Jun 25, 2010 in Journamalism

Sullivan (whole post worth reading):

David Brooks writes the following sentence today:

The most interesting part of my job is that I get to observe powerful people at close quarters.

Like David, I am privileged in many ways to be able to meet and talk to a lot of powerful figures. David and I have been at many functions of this sort together, but I have to say I disagree. These interactions are the least interesting part of my job, and often the most misleading. Every now and then, you discover a nugget that adds something. But in general, you get the schtick and spin, larded with a few anecdotes to make you feel flattered to be included in the salons of power. And what still amazes me is how deferent most of even the A-list journos are (with a few glorious exceptions). In fact, the definition of an A-list journalist in Washington is the person who is chummiest and closest to the people they cover. They have risen to the top in part because they know what questions the powerful really don’t want to answer – and decide not to ask them.

As Chomsky said, there’s really no need for a conspiracy. It’s just a simple question of incentives and human nature. Those with power almost by definition don’t want the press to be too inquisitive or challenging, because doing so undermines that power. That’s the precise point of journalism, to be a check on power. So what do those in power have to challenge the press? In fascist societies they can simply jail or kill those who ask too many questions, but in our society the powerful simply mete out what they have: power. Access. The illusion of hot insider info, which usually turns out to be planned leaks or superficial. In a free society, our leaders simply don’t have to invite in a challenging journalist when they can invite over a “bigger” journalist who will be nicer.

The least amazing thing about a powerful person should be that they’re charismatic and dynamic. Outside of societies where power is decreed by bloodline, such will ever be the case. Odds are that no matter how horrible a leader somebody in America is, they’re likely pretty easy to get along with in person, because they’re politicians, and that applies to high-ranking military as well. I’m sure George W. Bush would shake my hand and give me a pat on the back, and we could throw some small talk around, and I’d probably enjoy the actual encounter itself. At the same time, he was one of the worst presidents in our nation’s history and we will spend decades cleaning up the damage he did to both our land and our government.

A journalist’s job is to look past the charm and get to the facts, the things that actually matter to us as a country, as citizens who want to keep their leaders in-bounds. I don’t care if there’s a gang of rude assholes in D.C. as long as they’re doing the right thing.

-hw

What’s up with this running from the press business?

Jun 22, 2010 in Politics

I mean, it’s not exactly working wonders for Sarah Palin, so why are other Republican politicians like Mark Kirk, Rand Paul and Sharron Angle attempting to mimic the technique?

Yes, the base will love you as long as you appear on Fox News and rightwing talk radio, fawned over and studiously shielded from anything resembling an actual question (though after that O’Reilly interview last week even Palin isn’t finding that strategy foolproof, and certainly anything she attempts must be foolproof to work…). Maybe it can work for Republicans in super-red territory, since the GOP base relies exclusively on bubble-bred shnews-fests from the usual propaganda outlets, but how does one hope to crack the mainstream that way?

Some Americans simply have lost all respect for anything resembling rigor or scrutiny. Of course, the fact that the GOP has been led by Rush Limbaugh for 20+ years, a man who is morbidly afraid of appearing in any situation where he can be questioned without the ability to cut the mic. This sick bastard is their hero, and thus they have become sick. Increasingly few of their leaders can withstand any cross-examination. Yes, we can point out they’re chickenshits, but the bubble is so thick on the right that anybody outside it is automatically dismissed. What I say simply doesn’t matter. Not because it isn’t true, sure it is. But I’m a liberal. So what I say simply doesn’t matter…to these folks, anyway. Yet neither does the analysis of those who would be able to claim a somewhat more independent label, because by not actively promoting the rightwinger agenda, one becomes a liberal anyway. And so by critiquing them, one automatically becomes irrelevant in their eyes. It’s all purity and purges nowadays, folks.

It’s sad that so many Americans have chosen to let their better faculties degrade so egregiously. I heard my physical therapist (the excruciating back pain thing…) commenting with a tone that suggested weary wisdom that he’d been watching Huckabee on Fox and “the politicians are going to try to use this oil thing to get a global warming bill passed. It’s all politics!” Oh, of course, because the gulf turning into an oily wasteland in front of our eyes wouldn’t actually suggest that we look for clean renewable energy. Obviously there’s no connection, right? It’s just a lil’ nothing that we crazy liberals are all pumping up in order to fulfill a political agenda. Because the right is obviously so dedicated to scientific principles and not toeing the corporate line that happens to coincide with their massive election contributions…

p.s. Gotta love rightwingers complaining about Obama strong-arming BP out of one corner of their mouth while pointing out that he received a lot of BP dollars during his campaign. Gee, he took their donations and yet didn’t act like their servant? Yes, this seems wrong to Republicans, but they can’t really explain why without making explicit the fact what corporate stooges they are. You’re supposed to take your money and do like you’re told!!!

Of course, this all means we must elect more Republicans in ’10. The only sensible thing for the country, really…

-hw

Oil is Republican blood in the water.

Jun 20, 2010 in Energy, Politics

Rahm Emanuel, approaching usefulness:

Obama sped right past the Republicans on this one. They’re worried about BP’s bottom line, while the Obama administration just got BP to voluntarily cough up $20 billion to cover the clean-up, with more on the way. The “tea” party was just the Republican party, and they’re here to save America’s corporations from stifling regulations over things like safety and accountability, while Obama scored a victory without a single executive order.

Of course, the GOP leadership is out there trying to do their damage control, and I think they deserve some credit for realizing Joe Barton just about sank the GOP’s chances for big gains in the fall. Mitch McConnell is out there doing his diligent duties, but the problem is, as Rahm Emanuel nails, this is what Republicans really believe.

-hw

What Obama should have said.

Jun 16, 2010 in Politics

John Cole:

“Those penguins pelicans coated with oil and shrimp that taste like wd-40? You stupid motherfuckers can expect more of that until you stop voting for assholes who oppose alternative energy sources and any move away from fossil fuels. Until then, I hear dental floss works ok removing tarballs from your teeth, you dumbasses. Also, this response IS big government, you teabagging shitheels.”

Really, as long as Obama keeps trying to handle this logistical nightmare as competently as possible, all the more incompetent our press reveals itself to be. They just seriously can’t handle the idea that we’ve fucked ourselves so hard that we can’t immediately walk straight again, mainly because we’re still getting fucked. The oil spill is spraying our faces like a neverending German scheisse video. And what is our press up to? Writing some goddamned D.C. Beltway soap opera where the nation languishes because Obama isn’t cheering us up. Never is it fully grokked that there’s nothing much to be cheered up by. Instead of a press, we have a frightened four-year old clamoring for Daddy President to make the bad go away with a smile and wave of the hands.

I won’t even link to Maureen Dowd’s piece of shit column yesterday, whining about how the Obama WH doesn’t respect the media’s dedication to reporting real news instead of gossipy snipey bullshit like Maureen Dowd’s columns. ZOMG YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND HE DOESN’T SPEND TIME WITH US ON THE PLANE! WHERE IS PRESIDENT MCCAIN???

A lot of ink was devoted to the Beltway’s pathetic slobbering adulation at Joe Biden’s swim party. Yet can you blame Biden, or Obama for delegating the job of wooing the press to his VP (preferable to letting your VP do your actual job, ala Bush/Cheney)? They’re like idiot babes, if you don’t toss them some happy scraps they’ll throw tantrums and derail your good causes. The Beltway media doesn’t care if a president shreds the Constitution and plunges the country into economic despair, they care about parties and barbecues and being best buddies with the people they’re supposed to keep a check on. Inversely, the press will gleefully trash any good plan Obama has and do their best to write history against Obama if he doesn’t satisfy their endless neuroses. So screw it, throw reporters some Twizzlers and ask them about their kids. If that’s all it takes to get your agenda a victory in press wars, why not? You can’t buy somebody who isn’t for sale.

-hw

Tea Party Derangement Syndrome

Jun 16, 2010 in Politics

Sullivan in fine form:

The Bush-Cheney presidency was, in some respects, the perfect pseudo-conservative administration. They waged war based on loathing of the experts (damned knowledgeable elites!); they slashed taxes and boosted spending for their constituencies, while pretending to be fiscally responsible; they tore up the most ancient taboos – against torture – with a bravado that will one day seem obscene; and they left the country in far worse shape than they found it.

Throughout all this, the Tea Partiers supported them. So how do they manage the cognitive dissonance that two failed wars, a financial collapse and a debt crisis have brought? How do they deal with the fact that their beloved president was manifestly the most incompetent and disastrous in modern times? They blame it on the next guy.

Yes, they are doing all they can to avoid facing the fact that they did all of this … to themselves. And sometimes, the truly, deeply humiliated can only carry on through blind rage.

And now they’ve got a bunch of weak candidates and November isn’t too enticing for them. Of course, the fact that they’ll pick up any seats whatsoever is simply a disgrace, given their abysmal track record in the aftermath of the mess Republicans made of the country. And now they pretend electing Republicans again is somehow a wise idea. It’s almost too absurd to believe, but by God you can bet they’ll try making it happen. Because the health of the country was never the point, it was always about the power. Granted, a few too many Democrats are after that power too, but we’ve got an awfully large number of good ones and just need a president capable of twisting some arms. Re-balancing this country means counteracting the past thirty years of rightward swing and truly resetting the priorities of our institutions, a process barely begun.

Let’s not give up before we’ve really implemented our plans.

-hw

Obama’s speech.

Jun 15, 2010 in Politics

Why bother listening? He’ll make sense, but Republicans will filibuster whatever he plans and chickenshit Democrats like Blanche Lincoln will actually threaten to join the filibuster.

I heard it said pretty well on the Norman Goldman show today. The second a Democrat threatened to join a Republican filibuster on an issue central to the Democratic platform, Obama should have dragged that person into the WH and said, “I’m going to put everything I’ve got behind your primary opponent if you don’t vote yes.”

Obama didn’t do that and Goldman concludes that that was a hobbling moment for Obama’s presidency.

Okay, Obama wants to do something about clean energy. Democrats can run against the oil spill in the fall with a clean energy plan. Dirty energy Republicans will be left parsing their words or talking about the HITLERFASCIST solar/wind bills. They are so damn vulnerable anybody could beat them.

But just enough Democrats will chicken out. And they’ll do so knowing Obama will still stand behind them later. And they will feel no remorse, nor flash of regard for the feelings of the vast millions of Democrats who passionately disagree with them. So why get excited? It will be like everything else we’ve gotten from this gang of Democrats: watered down half-measures nearly killed to appease the radical right.
All because of some fear that an idiot like Palin or Limbaugh or Beck will say mean things about them.

We’re just going to keep sucking on our own fumes a bit longer. This country isn’t really ready to move forward yet. We’re too busy trying to bang Kate Winslet on the Titanic.

-hw

Farce.

Jun 13, 2010 in Politics

Sorry, but anybody who’s ever studied drama just has to giggle. Barack Obama is elected to repair the damage that Bush and Cheney did to the country after eight years in the WH and after 12 years of a Republican Congress. Unregulated oil drilling springs a leak, seven years after Dick Cheney let the oil companies write the rules, and yet…

…we’re sitting around wishing Obama would make us feel better.

Hey, America…this situation is fucking grim. Try not falling for the protestations of those who just a few years ago chanted, “Drill, Baby, Drill!” It’ll work out better for you. You’ll feel cleaner, morally upright, etc. Good stuff.

Time and time again, the same story plays out. The only rational criticism of Obama is from the left. Over, and over, and over again. But that criticism never counts in the eyes of the national media. Torture prosecutions? Media’s against them. Military tribunals? Media’s for them. Public option? Media didn’t want it. Too big to fail? Media didn’t mind. Believing BP’s version of the story? Media woulda done the same.

So over and over again, the media stands directly between Obama’s typical extensively compromised initial volley and whatever insane batshit twaddle idiots like Limbaugh, Beck, or Palin and dream up. Or stalwart criminals like Dick Cheney, or the abomination Liz Cheney. The sole standard is, are they willing to go there? Because if they are, our media will lay down like a bunch of chickenshits.

And they’re always willing to go there.

Democrats need to grow a spine and Americans need to grow the hell up. We’re still fixing the goddamned mess. Let’s propose solutions that actually solve something. Let’s point directly at those sucking on corporate dollars, those who always bend away from justice, away from the right thing, away from the divine path.

It’s really sad when one thinks of what could have been built upon the Clinton years and the prosperity we were generating. Democrats were screaming like mad during the Bush years as one fiscal restraint after another was peeled back. We’d finally become a fiscally conservative nation, and there Bush was, going nuts on his daddy’s credit card like a man who’d never had to worry about money his whole life. And there the Republicans were, cheering him all along and passing every spending bill.

No, it’s time to kick out the last of the Bush apologists and elect only those who are willing to rebuild America, instead of a bunch of whiny titty babies crying about their taxes. Grow up, you little sissies. I have to pay quite a bit each month to handle the debts I accrued during my younger, reckless years. Why shouldn’t I expect the same of my country?

And why should I listen to a bunch of racially unenlightened Republicans who want nothing more than to reactivate their wrecking balls and keep up the same old Bush/Cheney policies that ruined this country in the first place?

The only criticism of Barack Obama that makes sense is from the left. It must be understood. Democrats have to unite in that understanding. We know he isn’t the model of a liberal president. We need him to actually take liberal democrats seriously instead of sneering at us. There’s a war to be fought in the nation’s primaries, and Blanche Lincoln’s victory didn’t mean the end of anything. But in any general election contest, Americans should be absolutely aghast at the thought of letting Republicans get back behind the wheel with some phony story about how they suddenly became fiscally conservative.

-hw

WTF of the next decade is a lock.

Jun 11, 2010 in Election crap

Holy. Smokes.

Personally, I couldn’t finish the first 1:30 interview, and made it 56 seconds into the second one. See if you or your friends can survive the challenge without clawing out your eyeballs!

-hw

p.s. Obviously, there’s shenanigans going on somewhere here…

This is also worth repeating.

Jun 11, 2010 in Politics

Sarah Palin resigned halfway through her first term as governor of a mostly empty state with fewer people than Iowa under a dark cloud of numerous ethics violations.

In reality, that’s called a stunning failure. We don’t elect politicians to make us feel warm and cozy inside, we elect them to do not just a good job, but a superlative one.

You know, I actually understand that I wouldn’t make a good president. I mean, I’d have my highlights, and I’d be wading into the place with a massive bullshit detector and an acute understanding of our nation’s fundamental problems and how to fix them. In other words, I could do a better job than Sarah Palin. Yet I still realize I shouldn’t be the president. Do the “real American” moms out there who see a little bit of themselves in Sarah Palin believe they themselves could also be president if they felt like it? If you’re not qualified, then why are you trying to put into office somebody because they’re similar to you?

Really, the Republican base is narcissistic. They love to look at themselves in the mirror and proclaim what they see as the only true model for a genuine American.

Real Americans start employing some standards for their leaders or else they better get used to sucking on the world’s tailpipe when our empire comes crashing down. After Bush, the biggest lesson that Republicans could have learned was, “Stop electing idiot screw-ups!” Alas, they just can’t help themselves deifying the next one.

-hw

Gibbs tries to apologize for Rahm Emanuel, sounds like a dick too.

Jun 09, 2010 in Disappointing Dems

I say Rahm Emanuel because he is almost certainly the “anonymous WH official” who decided to insult the Democrats in Arkansas for daring to have a primary against Blanche Lincoln for killing the public option. So, Rahm, go fuck yourself, because even if you didn’t say it, you agree with it.

The public option mattered, and its exclusion will only hurt HCR in the long run. Barack Obama ran on it and won partly because of it (a public option was assumed in the 2008 Democratic presidential primaries, a condition of even being able to enter the debate).
Losing it was a steep price for something fundamental liberals wanted, a government plan committed to getting as many people covered as possible.

So, yeah, White House, try not to kick sand in our goddamned faces after the fact, okay? We may have to occasionally support Democratic candidates to keep godawful Republican candidates from winning, but don’t disparage our right to vote in primaries to put people who actually represent us in office.

-hw

She knows what the people want.

Jun 09, 2010 in Clueless Conservatives

It’s only insulting to call a woman a Barbie doll piece of ass with no brains if that doesn’t actually describe her. I suppose I’m supposed to fill up with some “Real American” pride that capitalism allowed Sarah Palin to get plastic surgery to look more like the porn actress who portrayed her in the withering satire Who’s Naylin’ Paylin. But I don’t.

It’s virtually a truism that Sarah Palin’s looks are a huge part of her appeal, since she’s rarely ever said anything of value that wasn’t written for her. Just because the GOP can produce endless volumes of defense mechanism whining if you call one of their stupid candidates stupid doesn’t mean they aren’t still really, undeniably, incurably stupid. “Call me…”??? Really? Why on earth would Obama call Sarah Palin, other than to learn how to quit his job and cash in? Maybe get some tips on how to accumulate a critical mass of ethics violations?

-hw

On prejudice.

Jun 08, 2010 in Politics

A historical story, that of the 19th century British prime minister Benjamin Disraeli:

Although born of Jewish parents, Disraeli was baptised in the Christian faith at the age of thirteen, and remained an observant Anglican for the rest of his life.[69] At the same time, he was ethnically Jewish and believed the two positions to be compatible, as well as seeing no conflict of interest in using British power to support Jewish interests (such as supporting the tolerant Ottoman Empire above the anti-semitic Tsarist Empire). Adam Kirsch, in his biography of Disraeli, states that his Jewishness was “both the greatest obstacle to his ambition and its greatest engine.”[70] Much of the criticism of his policies was couched in anti-Semitic terms. He was depicted in some antisemitic political cartoons with a big nose and curly black hair, called “Shylock” and “abominable Jew,” and portrayed in the act of ritually murdering the infant Britannia.

Some things never change. It’s really hard to imagine such vitriol could really be reserved for a Jewish politician in today’s era, not the way it is so freely conjured for Obama among Republicans. Nowadays we have to settle for Helen Thomas advising Israelis to move back to countries like Germany, Poland, and THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA!!! Nothing has quite the ring of hatred like, “Hey, Bibi, move next door to me where it’s safe!” (Note: of course, the Germany/Poland line was pretty boneheaded, but following it with “America” should have defused any explosive fury.)

-hw

Promoting Nazis is fine just as long as you don’t cross the line and criticize Israel

Jun 08, 2010 in Politics

After all that hand-wringing and public weeping over the slow takeover of the US by liberal fascists, Glenn Beck speaks favorably of an actual, honest-to-god supporter of Hitler and the Nazi Party. Does the ADL have anything to say about this or is the Left Behind crowd so important to “Israel” that they get a free pass? I ask rhetorically because the answer is obvious; ADL rage is reserved exclusively for those that are critical of Israeli state policy. Even more so if the person happens to be Jewish. They then receive the title “self-hating Jew”. Refuse to rescind your criticism and they’ll set out to ruin you.

Can Elton John really want money this badly?

Jun 06, 2010 in Politics

A cool million convinces him to sing for Rush Limbaugh’s fourth wedding.

Words fail.

-hw

Sunday Jams

Jun 06, 2010 in Music

Magic rightwinger thinking.

Jun 06, 2010 in Clueless Conservatives

Eric Martin tries to make sense of the senseless:

So Bush kept us safe by waterboarding three detainees way back when, but continuing the use of torture wouldn’t yield any valuable intel now (it didn’t back then either, but that’s another story). Nevertheless, Obama’s refusal to continue waterboarding detainees* (even though Bush stopped too) is making us less safe.

Here’s the litany rightwingers repeat to themselves nowadays to create the feeling of danger:

June 1, 2009 army recruiting base murder, 2009 Christmas Day undie bomber, November 13, 2009 Ft. Hood, and the May 1, 2010 Times Square bomber.

Wow, that’s an impressive list of things Obama made happen because he’s continued to not waterboard prisoners. Some deranged lone wolves, two of whom were incompetents, lashing out or attempting to and getting caught. Gee, has any nation ever faced such peril??? Ft. Hood? Shit, shooting up a bunch of innocent people is practically an American past-time, but wingers just can’t help themselves. This was A Successful Terrorist Attack On U.S. Soil and all must treat it as if 9/11 happened all over again.

Amazingly, wingers can always do this while obeying the prime directive: Always remember to forget that George W. Bush was on watch on 9/11 and ignored the warnings.

-hw

Oil is finite.

Jun 05, 2010 in Politics

Dammit, I’m going to make the point! This is a little dose of Republican-style repetition. People need to acknowledge it.

And people need to explain to me exactly what they think humans will be running their cars on in a thousand years. Ten thousand? How can you claim any pride in your species, humans, if ye will not attempt to compete with the reign of the dinosaurs? They held the earth’s surface for hundreds of millions of years. This was just Dinosaur Planet for UFOs in the vicinity to gander upon and giggle at. Endless equilibrium.

We’ll be but a speck, albeit an extremely bright one, if we can’t start behaving sustainably.

The oil will never run out because it will be inefficient first. The effort to retrieve it will continue to grow, and the energy payoff in return will steadily depreciate.

This isn’t even a long-ranged notion. This is an event that is likely to occur within my lifetime. If I manage to die while there is still some oil left, surely my children will not manage the same feat.

One simply cannot begin this debate without acknowledging this plain feature of reality and modifying one’s arguments accordingly. Whatever the case of ANWR, any attempt to drill there would in time generate another depleted oil well. What then?

The BP oil spill upends the notion that humans can’t do great damage to the planet. We’ve been mauling the planet for resources and we’ve gashed some parts out of existence. Fishing stocks are set course to collapse within the next fifty years. Holes have been made in the ozone layer. Trash is forming its own landmass in our oceans. Six billion and growing creates unbelievable demand for nature’s remaining resources.

Oil is a blip. Buy the headstone and plot. “Oil, you made it all possible!” Say whatever you want about the Golden Age of cheap energy. Humanity requires a real age to rank with the Jurassic era. If you ain’t got a plan that thinks at least ten million years ahead, you ain’t got jack shit.

-hw

UPDATE: For those concerned about my lackadaisical attitude towards humanity, every moment is precious and every person is amazing (albeit in ways that are often mysteries to other people, e.g. charmless chronic liar Karl Rove).

Monkey grapevine.

Jun 05, 2010 in Clueless Conservatives, Energy, Politics

Limbaugh says it, Krauthammer tries to put an intellectual sheen on it, and Palin dutifully repeats it. What is it? The idea that somehow the Sierra Club, by trying to prevent environmental damage on land somehow “pushed” the oil companies out to sea. Thus, who should we blame for ruining the environment? The environmentalists, of course!

Naturally, this morsel is too irresistible for the rightwingers because it’s the classic trope of telling a Big Lie to turn the person trying to fix the problem into the culprit, when you are the actual culprit. Wingers need cover for relentlessly promoting hateful and destructively policies. The first ones they have to brainwash, however, is themselves.

It’s difficult work, however, and it sometimes requires, in a symbiotic way, somebody with no intellectual honesty whatsoever, Rush Limbaugh in this case, to give the unthinkable words, and suddenly fake intellectuals like Krauthammer become instantly afflicted with amnesia regarding one inescapable fact:

The environmentalists don’t want deep sea drilling either.

That was the idiot Republicans chanting, “Drill, Baby, Drill!” like zombies in August 2009. The Sierra Club and other environmentalists have, without a doubt, advocated for and endorsed a future where most of our energy comes from clean, renewable resources.

I’m under no illusion that this is really a unique point to be made. This is all so bleeding obvious and beyond debate that I feel stupid simply for spending time over such visible and tangible realities. This is like blogging on the earth being round.

Yet there these people are, the various brokers of power in the GOP following the lead of their party’s true leader for the past twenty years: Rush Limbaugh. People with power are saying this dreck. People who want power are saying it. People who want to vote for them believe it and repeat it. Yet there it is, such an imposing fact that none can survive against! We want solar, we want wind, we want tide generators, we even want safe nuclear power.

But I guess in this deranged world view, those concerned about the environment were supposed to approve of drilling in Alaska in order to prevent offshore drilling.

The other inescapable obstacle that a fraudulent blatherer like Krauthammer ignores is that oil is finite. The oil corporations and the GOP are going to be for drilling absolutely anything and everything they can, until the earth contains not a drop left. They aren’t out in the oceans drilling at unsafe depths because the environmentalists forced them out there, they’re there because there’s oil in them thar depths. No other reason whatsoever.

If these Republicans can’t understand these basic facts, how can they suggest to the public that they’re in any position to help solve the problems afflicting this nation? Problems which are the product of years of GOP/corporate collaboration?

-hw

Gaza.

Jun 01, 2010 in Politics

I dunno, but the soundest explanation I’ve heard is that Israel just really doesn’t give a shit anymore and is just going to keep kicking ass until the Palestinians decide to move out. And we all know when that will be.

-hw