Sunday, February 27, 2011

Yeah, Well...

I know this actually goes against Mr. Howler's excellent point but I think it's hilarious.  From Roger Ailes (the good one):

Book: Palin used to mispronounce 'Mitt'

Sarah Palin used to pronounce Mitt Romney's name "M-I-L-T."

In one of the many embarrassing anecdotes about the former Alaska governor, former aide Frank Bailey writes in a leaked manuscript that Palin actually argued with some of her staffers about how to correctly pronounce Romney's name.

During her own 2006 campaign for governor, when Romney was chairman of the Republican Governors Association, Bailey writes that Palin didn't seem to know much about the then-Massachusetts governor.

“During the campaign for governor, when Romney was in the background of our Republican Governors’ mess, Sarah didn’t even have a clear idea who he was,” Bailey writes. “As she wrote after the gubernatorial election, ‘I argued with Frank and others, as I insisted his name was Milt, not Mitt.’”

The story is one of several that the disgruntled ex-aide highlights in painting a very unflattering picture of Palin.
Palin correctly pronounced Milt, the word which she was trying to pronounce. She has no trouble pronouncing the letter "t." If she was trying to pronounce Milt and said Milf, that would be mispronunciation. Her error was that she didn't know that Willard the Talking Wigstand's middle name is Mitt.

And it's almost certain she didn't pronounce the name by spelling out its letters ("M-I-L-T"). Although maybe she did when the kids were around.

The title of the article should be "Book: Palin Thought Mitt Romney's Name Was Milt."

I know I'm going to call Romney Milt from now on.

posted by Roger 

Also, Mr. Ailes (the good one) is quite right--Mrs. Palin did not "mispronounce" "Mitt."  

Friday, February 25, 2011

Principles? We Don't Need No Stinking Principles

Colonial Unions Stage Work-Stoppage

Forget the reasons for the Right's manipulation of various groups of people into a "Tea Party" for a moment.  Forget the political game, in other words--the fact that the Right (read Insurance Companies, corporate power generally, and Republicans generally) needed a method for countering a much needed and much desired reform of the United States medical delivery system which was going to get enacted by a Democratically controlled Congress.  Instead, ask yourself just how the Tea Party got generated.  That is, what was it, in the received feelings and beliefs of those folks who really did turn out, that was appealed to.  Of course one important part of the answer was and is, surely, the disconcerting fact to millions of folks that there is a black person in the U.S. Presidency.  This is the submerged appeal to racism.  There is no doubt at all that it exists and existed when the Tea Party came to exist.  It's visible in the signage, for one thing, and in the birther arguments, the "he's a muslim" arguments, etc.  Racism was and is there--and we know that just because anyone who cares to pay attention to normal, everyday life will easily discern racism almost at every turn.  Just ask any black person.  And the Right knows it's there, and there to be gamed as needed.  It's just more gaming to deny it with a straight face, as the various vocalizers of Right-Wing mythology do with sickening frequency.

But let's leave the racism vein alone for the moment.  As well as that, the Tea Party also expresses a fundamental distrust of power--particularly and perhaps over-exclusively government power.  This is where it gets its name, what "Tea Party" appeals to, on the surface.  The original Tea Party was a colonial resistance to the British Government's imposition of tea taxes.  It's an objection to government power.  And how did the original Boston Tea Party happen?  Why obviously, because a group of Bostonians got together and organized a demonstration, a political theatre if you like--namely, they tossed the tea into the harbor.  And while I'm not going to bother to do the historical research right now, I think it's fair to say that the British Government's reaction to the Tea Party was supression, or at least an attempt at supression.

So then.  How is it that today Tea Party groups are actually standing with the Wisconsin government when it attempts to supress a fundamental right--the right to collective bargaining.  And how is it they're also defending a bill which, among other important details, give the Governor the power to sell by fiat State-owned and operated public utilities, without even a bid process?  What is the matter with these Tea Party folks, anyways?  They're on entirely the wrong side, according to their own fundamental principles.  Indeed, the Wisconsin Democratic State Senators who have taken the irregular tack of actually leaving the state to deny a quorum are doing a very "Tea Party" thing.  These Senators ought to get medals, and maybe they will some day.  They are doing their best to save their state from a disastrous piece of legislation--legislation of no benefit to anyone but large corporate employers--people mostly from out of state.  Outlawing collective bargaining is the opposite of populism--which is what the Tea Party is an example of.

Check out Paul Krugman's analysis of the Walker Bill.  That's pretty much all the facts you need to know.
King George III would have been delighted with this bill.  

Obviously Wisconsin (as most other states) faces budget issues right now.  Outlawing unions, however, is hardly a solution to a budget problem.  Nor is transforming teaching--a very hard job--into a very badly paying job an answer to the budget problem which doesn't bring with it worse problems.  As a commenter at Driftglass remarked (I paraphrase): if you make teaching a job not worth doing, we're qualified for other work: your jobs!  It's a true point even if it ultimately plays into the hands of the employers.  There's nothing employers want more than a dog-eat-dog mentality amongst the folks who need jobs.  And that gets us right back to the fundamental principles of the Tea Party.   Get together in a group and you can get stuff done.

The Kenyan Imposter hasn't banned the Tea Party, now has he?

Update: I note with pleasure that the Daily Howler takes note of the same Krugman column I linked to above.  Howler is exactly right on his larger point--that this long-game strategy to destroy the only financial counterweight to corporate power is at the moment in full hideous bloom, with coordinated attacks on unions qua unions erupting in any number of state legislatures controlled by Republicans.  With the Citizens United ruling already the order of the day, the force of money in political discourse, and in elections themselves, is already trending towards so-called "conservative" ends which will result in less and less voice for ordinary Americans--particularly when ordinary Americans begin to discover in their own lives the destruction which "conservative" policies such as Governor Walker's will entail over time.  It would indeed be nice if the  relatively tiny liberal voices on the teevee wasted less time on the ephemeral if disgusting pundits, and worked harder to actually report (as Krugman does in his column) what is going on.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Born Yesterday

She could be wearing a Miss Liberty outfit

Last night the good people at TCM favored us with a viewing of "Born Yesterday."  The film stars Judy Holliday, Broderick Crawford, and William Holden.  Miss Holliday won the Best Actress award for the movie, winning over both Bette Davis in "All About Eve" and Gloria Swanson in "Sunset Boulevard."  That's some serious competition.  There probably should have been a three-way tie.  I can't say why Miss Holliday won, but my guess is, it had at least something to do with 1950.  1950 bears a lot of similarities to 2011.  There was a regime change on the way, and an unpopular war with a national hero (MacArthur) being fired by an unpopular President.  There was McCarthy, and the House Un-American Activities Committee, and a great paranoia about Communism.  The Ruskies had achieved an A-Bomb, and we electrocuted two Jewish Americans, the Rosenbergs, to make it clear that we were serious.  There was, I believe, concern about John L. Lewis and coal strikes and steel strikes.

Both "Eve" and "Boulevard" are dark movies--noirs in fact, even if "Eve" is so much else that its noir aspect doesn't get much mention.  "Yesterday" is a comedy, and it has a very happy ending, a triumphant resolution indeed.  Even the coda of a potential speeding ticket is brushed aside--Holden flashes his marriage license and the cop let's the honeymooners off with a warning.  Domestic fascism is defeated, and defeated not with Marx but with Thomas Jefferson and the Oxford Dictionary.

But along the way of "Yesterday" fascism is by gawd accurately depicted, and the slap Mr. Crawford gives Miss Holliday is the absolute center of the movie, the place where it stops being light and fluffy, where you find that hard, nugat and carmel center that you need to watch your fillings about.  Watching "Yesterday" last night wasn't easy.  It was too much about right now.  And I think that's why the Academy of 1950 noticed it as they did (nothwithstanding that all the performers give fantastic performances).  I said yesterday that the Governor of Wisconsin is that fat thug in the rusty pickup with the gun in his pocket, in "Harlan County."  The Governor of Wisconsin is also Broderick Crawford.  What he's saying to Wisconsin state employees is just what Crawford says to Judy in his last ditch appeal to her--"I don't hit you so hard."  Sign the fucking papers, bitch.

I don't disagree that unions can sometimes be overbearing.  But isn't it remarkable that an organization--the Tea Party--which just weeks ago was spouting about the tree of liberty and the dangers of government power--is today standing against people who are standing up to government power.  Isn't that just amazing.  The fantasy of right-wing double speak is this idea that in America we are all equal individuals, all with an equal opportunity to be the magnate on the hill, if we just persevere.  Congress is for sale; just make the dough.  But in the next paragraph the right is in a tizzy because of government's over-reaching power.  Like what?  Like outlawing collective bargaining with government workers?  To quote La Palin--WTF is that?

Mr. Crawford should have gotten an Oscar too.  He depicts exactly the fascist impulse.  "I love you; I don't hit you so hard."  The Republicans are offering all of us Mr. Crawford's bargain.  They've spent the decades since 1950 and the disgrace of McCarthy rebuilding their base of confused, afraid Judy Hollidays.  There is power in the world, and the double-speak only distracts people from that fundamental.  The Governor of Wisconsin has a lot more power than a school teacher.  It takes the balance of an organized body of school teachers--partcularly when the Governor of Wisconsin is playing a long game, when corporate power hopes to destroy the balancing power of organized labor when it comes to funding election campaigns.  And this is old stuff, all this lying muddle from the right.  In North Carolina, since the 1950s, we have something called a "Right to Work" law.  Back when I worked on the line laying bricks with a bunch of old time masons, the old guys marveled about how good things used to be in the mason's union, with health care and good wages.  And then they all went out and voted for Jesse Helms because he rang their bells about black people.  Jesse was famous for being real good to individual constituents.  "I don't hit you so hard."  

Thanks, TCM.  Thanks Mr. Cukor.

Update: here's you some historical context.  Kinda takes the breath away, doesn't it?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Paranoid Style

Bill Monroe, circa 1930

One of the best things about bringing my lunch to work, something I've been doing for a couple of months now with Libby's essential collaboration, has been my total avoidance of Mr. Limbaugh's daily rants--I'd always tended to turn him on during the few minutes it took to drive down to the hot dog stand--and while there's no doubt much fresh manure that I have missed (not to mention the hot dogs), how much difference is there, really, between last year's "analysis" and yesterdays--when it comes to the world's greatest salesman and his bag-o-tricks.   This week's Limbaugh riposte is worth a thought, however.  As you can find if you care to google, there has been much comment on his attempt to remove the term "worker" from the conversation concerning events in Wisconsin.  As is always the case, Mr. Limbauigh has a long game.  Here's what he's doing.

Of course the term "worker" is used with great frequency in American conversations.  It is a word rather like "guy," or "pretty."  There are other more precise words, which some know or think of, and others don't.  But there's never been any hidden implication in the word.  There's blue-collar workers, and white-collar workers.  There's "working people" and "working stiffs," "factory workers," "textile workers," "chicken-plant workers."  Basically ain't nothing to see here, let's move along, right?

Well Mr. Limbaugh is suggesting a "tell."  Turns out "worker" is a Communist word, a European word.  We don't, he said, have "workers" at all in the United States.  And so--by implication--when you the listener hear someone using the term "worker," be suspicious.  That person, he suggests by implication, is operating on a theory which in fact undermines the American paradise we are living in, if we only knew it.  And of course since you'll find quite a lot of "worker talk" around unions, unions themselves become suspect, an outside un-American "thing" to be distrusted.

Like so much of right-wing punditry, it's about saying that a person really can't trust his own lyin' eyes.  Hannity said on Friday that there was absolutely no evidence that the Tea Party had a racist aspect.  Forget all those posters you thought you remembered seeing.  The ones that are still easy to find on the internet, if you but look.  Forget that table of tee-shirts at the Rand Paul rally.  Today is a fresh, new reality.  "Workers," says Mr. Limbaugh, only live in Russia and China.  (You need the scare-quotes to even have that absurd statement make any sense; what Mr. Limbaugh's goal is is for you to imagine those scare-quotes whenever you hear the word--see how it works?)

Thing is, the Adam Smith/Ayn Rand social philosophy has no room in it for either government or unions.  If people would just let the wise men who built industry get on with their important work, everything will be fine. Unions just get in the way, as does government interest in how business works.  Never you mind your pretty little heads.  And if you hear someone talking about "workers," it's just evidence that that person is probably not really American at all. Everyone ought to own a copy of "Harlan County, USA."  That there's some workers, by gawd, and we ought to never forget 'em.  And the Governor of Wisconsin?  He's the guy with the pistol in the old pickup truck.  And the Duke Power Stockholders Meeting folks?  That's the Koch brothers.

Right now there's a systematic effort being made by a number of states to actually outlaw unions in public sector jobs.  That's a pretty breath-taking fact.  It's true.  The screeching harridan on my local "Rush Radio" morning drive show said, last week, "They ought to fire all the teachers, just like Reagan fired the air traffic controllers."  Some people want to push life in America back to how it was in the '20s, before Social Security, back when a strike could bring out the National Guard.  In a couple of weeks they're apparently going to stop sending the Social Security checks out, to make some kind of point or other.  When and if that happens, go hunt up the scene in "Harlan County" where the miner's wife is getting on the miners for not coming out to the picket line.  See if you hear a Russian accent.

Sounds a lot more like Bill Monroe to me, too.

Friday, February 18, 2011

A Mighty Oak Has Fallen

I am informed by my friend Betty Vornbrock that the great Kentucky fiddler J.P. Fraley died on February 17 last.  For a beginning, see:
J.P. inspired many fiddlers and musicians generally, and was a model for living generously and with kindness and consideration.  Among those he touched were the late John Hartford, who played and recorded many of J. P.'s tunes.  There are also very good recordings of J. P. himself.  

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Sean Phones It In

So if you had to choose between  rising rates of STD infection, pregnancy, and AIDs infection amongst teenagers on the one hand, and a rising rate of sexual activity amongst teenagers, on the other hand, which would you choose?  Mr. Hannity picks the first fork in the road.  The one on the right if you're facing Hell.  He did it today, as I was driving home from work via the post office.  I guess he was tired of trying to figure out whether the protests in the various Middle Eastern countries were an assortment of Tea Parties, or an assortment of scarey muslim brown people.  Certainly Mr. Beck has the fear game pretty much covered--Beck told the world this morning that Mr. Obama was actually causing every damn revolution on the planet, including the one in Madison, WI.  All Sean has to call his own is the Mosque at Ground Zero, and he stole that from some small-time ranter who has a blog. 

Of course I paraphrase Mr. Hannity's Hobbsian choice, which is most likely factually incorrect because more availability of condoms does not imply or cause more sexual activity.  He was het up about the fact (if it is one) that Boston Public Schools (or some of them) are providing (or might be planning on providing) free condoms to their students under some set or other (Hannity didn't say) of school or Board of Education guidelines.  This impending (or ongoing) event was going to lead to big trouble in River City.  It was another example of the Decline and Fall.  Mr. Hannity was quite outraged.  He said so.

So then, Mr. Hannity like the rest of his Republican Tea Party would rather use the risk of STD and of pregnancy as a impediment to teenage sexual activity.  Same as it ever was.  Back when I was growing up, if a girl got pregnant she either dropped out of school and ... well, who knew, really, what happened then.  Or she got the name of some guy who knew someone or other, and she paid some person some money, and had an abortion.  Neither of these dark choices were desirable.  On the other hand, even way back then, in the '50s, teens did have sex.  It's a well known fact, even to Mr. Hannity most likely.  Sex really feels good. 

It's funny how Mr. Hannity is also on the side of people who think killing abortion providers is exactly what abortion providers deserve.  That's what the Right to Lifers believe--or at least what they encourage rhetorically.  Probably Mr. Hannity and most Right to Life spokespersons would explicitly eshew actual calls to murder, if only for legal reasons.  It's sort of like how the Tea Party folks always tell you, if you ask, that the guy with the racist sign isn't really "in" the Party, and might actually be an agent provocateur.  It's the only French those folks know.

So what's a school system to do?  Particularly when some talk show ranter from out of town tosses a bomb into their midst on an afternoon when he just felt like phoning it in?  Ain't no skin off'en Sean's nose.  Lord Haw Haw strikes again.

Update (it must be the water):  Seconds after I write this little commentary I get an email from North Carolina Planned Parenthood.  Turns out the NC Legislature is considering allowing a personalized license plate with the words "choose life," funds from which sales will go to so-called right to life groups.  Like most states, NC is struggling with budget shortfalls due to the recession.  Like most states, our unemployment rate is around ten percent, with some demographics being much higher.  Like most states, our infrastructure needs attention.  Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera, to quote Yul Brenner.  And so, like the Republican Party in Congress, apparently our Legislature, now controlled by Republicans for the first time since Reconstruction, leaps into the nasty, divisive "pro-life" issue.  No doubt there is hope that lots of folks who otherwise would become restive about their own financial circumstances, will instead get on the "right to life" tear again.  Hey, maybe we'll get personal harassment of women's health providers here, just like they have in Kansas.  Won't that be just swell.  Seems to me there must have been a memo last week.   I hope this whole thing can be addressed head on, as Rachel Maddow is doing right now.  The fact is, the so-called Right to Life Movement is to a significant degree domestic terrorism.  It's time for this to stop.  Women have a right to choose.  It says so in the Constitution. 

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Understanding the Eye of the Needle, Continued

Here's a fine analysis of a particular feature of the Obama Administration's current effort to deal with the crisis in Egypt.

There are still clear distinctions between a Democratic Administration and a Republican one, when it comes to dealing with events afar which are at the very least beyond our control, and at worst, frightening and dangerous in their implications to the very entangled and complex network of power relationships which we have woven and encouraged since--pick a date?--1947 or so.   The previous administration clearly believed that the United States was capable of decisive, direct military action which would in reasonably short order bring the world "to order."  Acting on that belief, the previous administration embarked on two wars.  Now, in 2011, both wars have lasted longer than our involvement in World War II, and whether either have actually accomplished the basic if vague goal of bringing these states, Iraq and Afganistan, "to order," is as yet unknown.  (On the other hand, I think we knew within a year or two that both Germany and Japan had been fundamentally altered as states and were no longer threats to either the US or the world generally.)

So, in this example, Mrs. Clinton has sent as an enabling envoy a lobbyist who is actually still in the employ of the Mubarak Administration in Egypt, and as well, seems to view Mr. Sulieman, who has long term and cozy relationships with the CIA, as a suitable replacement for Mr. Mubarak.

And I offer this example as an obvious indication that while the Obama Administration is not laboring under the illusions of the old Shock and Awe people, this Administration still wears rose-colored glasses, and does not seem to grasp the liberating possibilities contained in the Egyptian situation at present.  Or possibly they believe, being cautious and sensible, that the risks of deeper change in Egypt are just too great for the general cat's cradle of diplomatic relationships in the Middle East which currently obtain.  There is no doubt that the strings are taut to the breaking point, and sing with the slightest touch.  One wonders if in the end the fundamentals of nuclear deterrence psychology will be the deciding factor in the flow of history in the Middle East--as in fact they were in the flow of history with regard to the United States and the Soviet Union.  The clock has been wound tight; its awful ticking fills the darkened corridors of midnight.

Update:  My conservative critic resorts to prejudice and stereotype far too typical of the current right-wing "analysis" of the Middle East events.  

Anyway, muslims are incompetent at almost every thing, which in many ways is good news for the rest of the world. However, if they are going to succeed at becoming democratic, they will need guidance from experienced people. 

Mr. Mubarak has left.  This is a fact.  That his departure was caused by a direct expression of millions of Egyptian citizens is beyond argument.  There are other facts to note.  One is that Iranian government leaders are apparently quite concerned that this Egyptian model will be noted by its own citizenry.  (One would think Iran would be rejoicing if the fear-based rantings of Mr. Beck are in fact connected to Middle Eastern realities.)  Yes, it's true that the Egyptian Army holds many cards, and plays its hand.  One would imagine that our government will certainly be discussing things with the Egyptian Army.  Other players, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, labor unions, university and business leaders, even the significant Christian component of the Egyptian culture, will also be at the table should such a conversation bring positive results.  A real, good-faith conversation amongst all the power-bases in Egypt will be the best foundation for further democratic developments.  What America should do is encourage this conversation.  Period.  I hope that is what we are doing.  From what can be seen from the living room couch, this is what we are doing.  The arrogant and racist attitude of the American right can be of no benefit to either us or the Middle East.  And let it be noted that the last significant Middle East diplomatic achievement which the US had a hand in was the original Eqyptian/Israeli Accord brokered by Democratic President Jimmy Carter.  Then came Reagan.  Q.E.D. 

(I considered simply deleting the comment, but thought that noting its arrogant tone was worth the space, as it exhibits in a nutshell what's wrong with right wing punditry sui genris.  Mr. Hannity runs along these same rails daily with his diatribes against the muslim faith.  It used to be that unadulterated bigotry and hate-mongering would not be tolerated on our publicly-owned air waves.  Now Mr. Ailes has brought Lord Haw Haw to every podunk in the land.)

For a more realistic view of Mr. Reagan, here's a nice piece I just discovered this morning thanks to Doghouse:

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Best One Sentence Super Bowl Coverage

"leaving the station"
Ask yourself how the NFL could throw a flag on Green Bay for "excessive celebration" and keep a straight face. 
 --Doghouse Riley

Meanwhile, it would seem that Mr. Obama's opportunity in the Egyptian situation has evaporated away, along with his opportunity to do much of anything with the oligarchy here.  As was pointed out by Lawrence O'Donnell last night, no mention was made, in the Chamber of Commerce Speech, of ending the absurdly low tax rate for the top 2 percent of Americans.  In the interview with Bill-O we perhaps got a reasonable guess of what phone conversations with the Mubarak people were probably like.  Maybe if Obama had ended that detestable exercise--the "interview" I mean-- with a hand buzzer handshake we could then fantasize about the United States "sending a plane" over to Cairo. 

Friday, February 4, 2011

When Reporters Actually Are the Story

Rachel Maddow connected some dots last night, and anyone wanting to understand the flow of events in Egypt this week should check out her Thursday, 2-3-2011 show, perhaps more than once.  What's going on in Cairo is a bit like what went on at Gettysburg.  There's a public relations battle layered over the real events on the ground, which are too detailed to really make out from a tenth-floor hotel balcony, filmed with a cell phone.  Night before, that's what we got to see: tiny figures ebbing and flowing, little Molotov candles arcing and exploding, little cars on fire, little men on the ground here and there, motionless, the rat-tat-tat of weaponry.  And a few vivid snapshots in motion, such as the guy on the camel--which to some American observers such as Glenn Beck, seemed comical and a kind of "proof" that really, "they" were all just crazy little brown people over there.

Yesterday thugs stopped all reporting with cameras.  Big cheeze American Anchors such as Katie Couric were jostled and shoved.  Anderson Cooper was beaten.  Two Fox reporters were hospitalized!  Brian Williams whispered to us briefly from an undisclosed location.  There was general consensus from those being beaten, themselves, that it was Mubarak goons who were doing the beating, just as it was Mubarak goons who attacked the protesters the day before.  And Maddow explained why: because (DUH!!!) a crowd of protesters who are nonviolent and feature moments where, for example, women are hugging soldiers, is far more evocative of good PR in the West than arcing Molotov cocktails and burning cars and dead bodies.  So how do you change the pictures?  Well first you attack the protesters until they respond.  And then after there's been plenty of that fresh "mob footage" aired to the world, you beat up the press to shut down the story entirely.  If Mubarak is to survive this, the West must be manipulated. 

The most important fact from our vantage point--that is, of people just peering at the teevee and trying to understand what's happening way off over there--was also reported by Maddow last night--the resignation of Mrs. Amin, Vice-President of the State Egyptian Televison Network.  Like most television people, Mrs. Amin could speak very intelligible English.  You should hunt up her statement on line--it must be available.  She simply says that she cannot participate any longer in the distortion of the news.  It's an eloquent statement, and a courageous one.  She may pay for it with her life, depending on how events play out.

Meanwhile, Fox News is still unwilling to admit that it was Mubarak thugs who were beating reporters, including their own.  And while the events in Egypt are of course the primary story of the moment, it really ought to be a national scandal, this Fox Network.  While their own reporters are being clubbed and sent to the hospital, they are running Mr. Gingrich's arch opinion that (of course) Mr. Obama is making big mistakes, not to mention Mr. Beck's World Caliphate insanities, and Mr. Hannity's assertions that it's a world-wide communist/islamist conspiracy.  In other words, Fox is selling the story that it's this big, violent, radical mob over there, trying to pull down a "democracy" and burning your car in the process, and the secret muslim Obama is in league with them.  Fox is like having Pravda in the living room, reporting on Hungary circa 1956.  And Limbaugh took the cake yesterday, laughing at the reports of New York Times reporters being beaten, then trying to get serious when he was informed that Fox reporters were also beaten.  It was a reinactment of Il Duce's famous remark, which I've mentioned before here (because it strikes me as fundamental to any understanding of the fascist impulse in our political life): "What will you do first, if elected," a reporter asked Mussolini.  "Why, kill you," the Great Leader replied. 

It's beginning to look like Mr. Obama got it very right.  No one can say what the final result of this turmoil will be, but America had better be on the side of democracy, and be serious about it.  Standing with the thuggery at this point will simply recruit more people to the view that we are pretty much the Great Satan.  And of course that's exactly where the Great Satan would stand, isn't it.  Excuse me, lemme introduce myself--I'm a man of wealth and taste.

Update:  Because of my mystifying (to me) inability to comment in the comments section here even when others manage the task successfully, as I do on other blogs, I'll respond to Laurie here.  Following is the most interesting piece yet on the Egyptian situation as it relates to the US, via a link at James Wolcott's blog:

Update II.  Re the critique in comment 3.  The US is not in any position to give orders to Mubarak.  We can't send a plane.  We have apparently accepted the idea that Suleiman is a suitable replacement to Mubarak.  It is unlikely that the protesters, who represent a broad cross-section of Egyptians including the Muslim Brotherhood, will accept Suleiman because of his history, but we will see about that.  It is certainly possible that Suleiman will be a more effective suppressor of various forces for change, at least for a time.  Again, we will see.  Mr. Obama is trying to thread a course and I think that is all he can do.   I was struck by Mr. Weiss' optimism in the article I cited above--and was hopeful that Obama might cut through the gorgon's knot that is the Israeli/Palestinian impasse and its broader regional implications.  Any conversation that refers to "dirtbags in Gaza" has already taken one of the old, unworkable positions.  The choice of Suleiman seems an unlikely solution to anything much, except possibly the very short term issue of people in the streets right now.  The US has limited options given its various commitments in the Middle East, and their implications: almost anything we do can be suspect given our history there.  Everyone knows we play a double game: see.e.g, Donald Rumsfeld's grinning handshake with Saddam.  It didn't take Wikileaks to reveal this to all.  Therefore, I continue to congratulate Obama for making the effort to thread the needle, but I also have to say that if we're indeed backing Suleiman as a solution to the Mubarak regime, we've probably succumbed to fear of the admittedly enormous risks involved with significant change in the Middle East dynamic.  The previous administration believed that we were capable of cutting the knot via direct action.  This has clearly been proven a failure of possibly gigantic consequence.  "Sending a plane" is not a realistic solution.  Articulate diplomacy is the only field of action.  The needle Obama either threads or doesn't includes boundaries such as described in the following article:

Thursday, February 3, 2011

In a Pinch You Can Eat Your Sled Dog

The guy down at the Texaco who hates electric cars and must be a distant relative of Jack London posted the following on the local bulletin board:

Count me among the many thousands of Washington area residents who spent Wednesday night stuck in traffic as a snowstorm sowed chaos all around us. Being car-bound in sub-freezing weather for six hours can make a guy think. I counted my blessings. The situation could have been worse, I realized: My fellow commuters and I could have been trying to make it home in electric cars, like the ones President Obama is constantly promoting, most recently in his State of the Union address.

It is a basic fact of physical science that batteries run down more quickly in cold weather than they do in warm weather, and the batteries employed by vehicles such as the Nissan Leaf or the Chevy Volt are no exception.

The exact loss of power these cars would suffer is a matter of debate, partly because no one has much real-world experience to draw on. But there would be some loss. Running the heater to stay warm, or the car radio to stay informed, would drain the battery further.

Here's how, a pro-electric Web site, candidly summarized the matter:

"All batteries deliver their power via a chemical reaction inside the battery that releases electrons. When the temperature drops the chemical reactions happen more slowly and the battery cannot produce the same current that it can at room temperature. A change of ten degrees can sap 50% of a battery's output. In some situations the chemical reactions will happen so slowly and give so little power that the battery will appear to be dead when in fact if it is warmed up it will go right back to normal output. . . .

"In a car where all power is supplied by a battery pack you can see where this would be a problem. The batteries don't produce as much power so the car has less power. The batteries also have to work harder so the effective range of the car is also significantly reduced. Charge time will also be longer. Cold has a negative impact on all aspects of battery operation."

"Alongside the negative impact on the batteries cold also has a negative impact on the driver as well. Drivers need to be warm to operate the vehicle effectively so on top of the reduced range and power of the batteries just from the temperature they also must operate the car heater to keep you warm. This will further reduce the range of the car.

"If you live in an area where the winters get extremely cold an all-electric vehicle will have to be garaged and equipped with some kind of plug-in battery warmer for it to be effective in the coldest months of the year. Keep these thoughts in mind if you're planning an electric car purchase; we don't want you finding out the range of your car has been halved when it's five below zero and you're fifteen miles from home."

To be sure, gas-powered cars are hardly invulnerable. Plenty of motorists ran out of fuel in Wednesday night's mega-jam. But my hunch is that electrics would faced similar problems or worse. And many electric-car drivers who did manage to limp home Wednesday would have been out of options the next day: You can't recharge if you don't have electricity, and hundreds of thousands of customers were blacked out Thursday from the snow. The Post reports that this will be the case for many of them for days. 

I like how he tosses Obama into the mix for good measure.  Perhaps he's already at work breeding Huskies for the end times to come post peak-oil.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Kenyan Imposter?

The above looks like news to me--I mean versus some kind of rant.  And it's not surprising that President Obama would be inclined to find some middle course in his reaction to the possibly surprising events in Egypt.  After all, this is exactly what he has tried to do whenever he has had to lead a decision-making effort, at least since he was President, and possibly since he was attending Harvard back in the day (see accounts of his leadership efforts there).  The Health Care Reform Act actually exhibits this "leadership" at every turn.  Its complexity, which the right-wing has used as a club against it, exists because the bill is an enormous compromise with all the "players" who have a stake in the business of health care--namely, insurance companies, hospitals, doctors, etc.  President Obama nurtured this effort in Congress.  He agreed that a simpler and more elegant approach to reforming health care--namely, making Medicare available for all our citizens--was not to be done.  Obama made every effort to protect every interest.  He presumed that such an effort would at least be acknowledged for what it obviously was--an exemplification of his good faith--at least with regard to the various significant economic interests.  On the vague "general" interest, well maybe the defeat in November at the polls has something to do with how little engaged the people who voted for Obama initially felt with regards to the final outcome.  Certainly there's no doubt that while the right wing was revved with fears of the Kenyan Imposter, millions of voters who had come out for Obama in '08 just stayed home in November, 2010.

So with the current moment, where a major player in the Middle East Rube Goldberg Contraption is suddenly and apparently surprisingly experiencing a street revolution--an objection, from the people, to governance as it has been applied in that country since... whenever.  What would a Kenyan Imposter have done, that's the question?  Certainly not what Mr. Obama has done.  Read his statements and those of his Secretary of State.  As in the Health Care Bill, Mr. Obama makes every effort to take account of the powers that be, while at the same time trying to at least acknowledge that there are questions of the general common good--in Egypt--to also be considered.  Mr. Obama has long telephone conversations with his "friend" Mubarak.  Mr. Obama has engaged his clearly impressive diplomatic talents towards finding some course to safety amidst a roiling storm which surely threatens the lives of many thousands of Egyptians, at least in principle and possibility.

Meanwhile, the Right seems to be coming to agreement on how to politicize the moment--"Obama Lost Egypt" is the developing theme by pundit after pundit.  Yesterday Mr. Hannity had one Frank Gaffney on board, railing about how there was a fifth column of Muslimists in the Administration.  I guess if you believe hard enough, there can be no evidence to the contrary.  Tinker Bell was right.

And how many simplistic solutions to complex problems can the right sell to the public?  Possibly the number is if not unlimited, at least more than the grains of sand on the beach--or in the Sahara.  Mr. Bush sold simplicity in his very being.  "He tried to kill my daddy" was as good a reason to engage our vast, complex, military machine as any other.  And everyone rallied around the flag for a good long time, and since the actual cogs in the machine are "volunteers," it's actually likely that there will never ever be a voting majority that finds military "solutions" repulsive enough to vote for a different course.  Given the lay of the land, Mr. Obama is going to spend his tenure tight-roping the various questions of the day.  It's how he rolls--it's how he must roll, because there are too many interests with far more power than he can weld which block all roads to simpler, more elegant, even possibly revolutionary answers.

What's remarkably audacious, and also profoundly insulting to its more fervent followers, is the ongoing chant that Mr. Obama is the Kenyan Imposter.  And the insult seems to hold, perhaps due to the underlying prejudice in the "base," a feature never brought to light and actually considered, but always denied and suppressed when challenged.  Same as it ever was.  The revolution will not be televised.

Update: The "He Lost Egypt" meme has moved to the so-called "mainstream," where Dick Morris of all people said last night on Fox that the US should be using its $Billion plus leverage with the Egyptian Army in support of Mr. Mubarak.  We do not know what is really happening, both in front of our eyes (television last night showed us long-distance live footage of exploding Molotov cocktails and the possible lynching of a guy in a pickup truck on a bridge), or behind the scenes in country-to-country conversations.  The basic truth that the Right is driven by the fear impulse seems to lead people such as Hannity to say that no country ever found democracy via revolution or popular uprising--a patent falsehood and, moreover, a remarkable inconsistency given all that "water the tree of liberty" jive the Tea Party was spewing so recently.  The mystery to me is why we--the US--always assume we can at least theoretically control big events in far off places.  And it is also a mystery, albeit the question of 20-20 hindsight is involved, why we tend to never see something like the last days of Mubarak coming down the track.  But of course we don't seem to really have an answer to "irrational exuberance" either, and nor are we willing to find solutions to the systematic problems raised when a policy of "irrational exuberance" is the order of the day.  Indeed, the most fundamental argument offered against efforts to react proactively to the fact of global climate change is that humans can't devise solutions to such problems.  This is a comforting belief, of course.  Responsibility has its psychic as well as its economic burdens.  If the unknown, in whatever sphere, is beyond our effect, the Bush doctrine (which Mrs. Palin might have called on to great advantage had she but possessed the wit) is our best resort: "just go to the mall."  But then if we aren't smart enough to fix it is the rule, why muddle around with the Egyptian Army?  As I was saying initially, Mr. Obama is making every effort to walk a tightrope.  What else can he do.