Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Risible Mr. Hannity

I enjoyed a laugh yesterday when Hannity opined as how he was fine with the First Amendment ("I practice it everyday here on the show," he said), but not with Common's statements.  Poor fellow.  The contradictions must twist his lower intestines to such a degree that getting normal "regularity" must be a chore.  It's now only one tiny step to "I'm fine with the First Amendment, as long as you say what I approve of."  Some fellow traveler on the show chimed in to entirely change the subject to how rappers generally talk about women, assuming there is such a generalization out there in reality.  Who knows.  For a PhD in brow-beating, you can't beat Hannity.  My guess is, he learned the trade from newspaper home delivery sales drives.  Either that, or from making money in the summers selling bibles to the unwary.  Meanwhile, Osama remains deceased, and the rhetorical war on "rinos" continues apace on the rightwing blogs, according to reliable sources. 

Monday, May 30, 2011


There is a want of a nail aspect to motor racing, as there is to life in general, and it wasn't just Napoleon who discovered that aspect of how things are.  First, at the Brickyard, a rookie driver crashed on the very last turn and allowed vet Dan Wheldon to win the dang thing, while the rookie was going so fast that even wrecked and missing wheels, he crept across the finish line in 2nd place.  Then last night at Charlotte, the same thing happened more or less.  After Jimmy Johnson's engine blew up and caused an endless caution, running the gas down to fume in the top three or four cars, Kevin Harvick of all people managed to win the race, blasting past Junior's final turn-to-line coast for an entirely unexpected win, even to himself.  And then we saw the happy sunny side of Harvick.  All was well for the moment.  No doubt Kyle Busch's retirement to the garage and far distant 32nd place did not but add sweetness to Harvick's humour. 

We felt kinda like election day, '68.   The good news is, Fox's is running through its allotment of races and soon will be on to other stuff.  NASCAR had best be some careful--it could all end up looking too much like wraslin'.  That would not be a good thing. 

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Rockefeller Republicans

ABC news got a nice little behind the scenes picture of where things are at re the Ryan budget.  Here's the clip:


I always figured Bill Clinton as a Rockefeller Republican.  He certainly had no problems with NAFTA or with watching American jobs vanish by the millions.  He was fortunate (and competent)--during his term the economy was doing quite well, and lost jobs in the rust belt were being replaced  by less strenuous jobs elsewhere.  For a lot of the real work that remained, Latinos legal and otherwise amounted to exactly the same result as sending jobs overseas.  Then, of course, along came Bush.

Maybe it's just me, but I find Bill Clinton's commiseration with Mr. Ryan appalling.  If Democrats can't take a clear position in opposition to the Ryan budget, what are they going to take a clear position against.  Do Democrats these days actually believe the trickle down jive?  As I was saying in my last post, Mr. Ryan needs to be put to a new task--finding himself a nice job at the CVS cash register.  Putting a few years in that slot might actually teach him something.  Something real I mean.  Like making a car payment, or a health insurance payment for that matter.  

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Fake Budget Crisis

GOP retirement at the Wisconsin Dells

From the Daily Howler today:

"In the 1998 State of the Union, Clinton said the projected federal surpluses should be applied to Social Security’s long-range balance sheet. In this way, he blocked the House GOP’s proposal for a large tax cut. In 1999, he made his full proposal: 62 percent of those federal surpluses would be used to strengthen the program’s finances, thus extending the life of Social Security by some twenty years. Some of that money would be invested in the stock market—but it would be invested as a federal fund under federal direction, not as part of individual “private accounts.” Other funds would be used to help citizens establish savings accounts—savings accounts which would operate in addition to their regular Social Security benefits, which would not be cut.That was Clinton’s proposal for the use of those looming federal surpluses. After Chris Matthews sent George Bush to the White House, this new president had a different idea; he used those projected federal surpluses for his massive tax cuts. Whatever one thinks of Clinton’s proposal—Candidate Gore didn’t agree with several parts of the plan—the Clinton proposal was vastly different from anything Bush ever did."

There's quite a lot more at Howler, check it out. 

Now that Democrats have made the first baby step towards regaining majorities in 2012 with a flawed but still significant victory in upstate New York, their goal should be to totally demolish the false fantasy of looming budget disaster which the Republicans have fabricated and helped use to launch the Ryan Budget.  The Republican cards are on the table.  What's not on the table is the obvious solution: sensible progressive tax increases to adjust the budget shortfalls, plus (of course) some sensible cuts where they are needed--in military spending. Surely the Democratic Party is capable of convincing a majority of American voters of the intelligence of such a course of action.  Wouldn't it be just wonderful to see Paul Ryan where he belongs--running a cash register in some CVS in a strip mall in Chippewa Falls, or working the swing shift at the Dells Antique Mall.  He would in either case still only be a scant few miles from I-94, and could drive down to the entrance of a Sunday afternoon and watch the traffic.  

Don't let the music scare you. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

On Moonlight Bay

From On Moonlight Bay

You might want to start out with a good intellectual rinse this morning by going over to my links and reading the top several posts from I Blame the Patriarchy.  Such clarity of thought will improve everything you do today.  I've been finding the ongoing political news so gray and annoying that I've just had nothing much to say.  I spent my evening watching an Esther Williams movie, followed by a Doris Day movie.  As Libby said, watching the former, which was choreographed by Buzby Berkeley, was almost an LSD trip.  Ms Williams bounces from guy to guy in a kind of haphazard way, but saves the day by diving from a trapeze dangling from a chopper some 40 feet in the air above a phalanx of waterski-ists being pulled behind probably ten boats at top speed.  The next scene, when they ski through a mangrove swamp, was a cut.  Whatever else one might say of Ms Williams, she did her stunts for real, pretty much.  At least so says the literature.  For that matter, I'm pretty sure Doris knocks down the milk bottles at the fair and gets that triple on her own dime.  She's got an arm, and she can definitely sing.  I do kinda wish Anita O'Day had gotten the breaks Doris got--but maybe Anita's life of art music was a more lasting contribution to the culture--a culture that seems to be dissolving on the pavement unfortunately.

This brings me to Mr. Gingrich.  Or to the media's ability to continue to treat the Newt as a real serious thinker no matter what he does, ever.  How is it possible that he can say that anyone who uses his plain clear assertion that the Ryan Budget is "right-wing social engineering" in an ad would be lying.  How can he possibly say that.  Or, since of course it is sadly true that we humans are capable of saying that two plus two equals five.  How is it that after Mr. Newt's statement, he still--STILL--gets on the Sunday political talk shows, pontificating further.

Mr. Gingrich is actually being played by Jonathan Winters, that must be the explanation.  This absurd faux "perfesser" somehow snows the whole main-stream media, no matter what the hell he spouts, from stupid all the way to utter contradiction.  He's still the political intellectual.  Which makes "On Moonlight Bay" a serious political commentary on that moment when America sends its young men off to die in war.  They're all sitting in the troop train, singing.  It's just a camping trip for big boy scouts.  I actually enjoyed "Moonlight Bay," but I did think about "Since You Were Away," made only six or so years earlier, when America was at least more realistic.  Maybe once the war was over and Korea arrived, along with the Rosenbergs and Joe McCarthy, people just had to look away.  It's understandable.

Immediate update:  sheesh, I go over to see what Driftglass is talking about today, and find the following quote from "The Hill," taken directly from the lips of Newt yesterday:
“I’m not a Washington figure, despite the years I’ve been here,” Gingrich said.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Charles Temple Wins Jeopardy Tourney

Hey, I'm putting this up because I know this fine young man, Charles Temple.  Libby and I lived much of the time on the island of Ocracoke, NC, from 1995 until 2003 or so, playing music and generally enjoying the mysterious quality of life on a spit of sand 23 miles out in the Atlantic Ocean (yeah, it's sort of the last bit of NC, that's another way to look at it).  Charles' uncle Rob is captain of the schooner Windfall, upon which I was mate for one summer ('97 maybe), raising and lowering the sails and talking with the customers of the hour-long rides in the Pamlico, and now and then steering the craft carefully through Silver Lake Harbor and back to her berth at the Community Store dock.  What a nice life it was.  Charles appeared sometime in one of these years, and took up residence on the Island, teaching school.  Now he's done hit the jackpot.  It couldn't happen to a more deserving or nicer guy.

Here's the news story about it:


If you want to read more about the Windfall or Ocracoke, there's plenty to see via the google.  I remember the days when there was a shack over near the lighthouse with a sign on the door that said "The Internet Lives Here."  If I can find a picture of that, I'll post it sometime.  The island is surely among the very best places to go for a vacation in the whole and tender world.

Sunday, May 15, 2011


up on Bickle's Knob, near Elkins, WV
Seems like the right-wing absurd balloon has, with the death of bin Laden and the unveiling of the long-form birf-surf-ticket (to quote Bob Marley--"ain't got no birfsurfticket on me, now") become overnight as deflated as the '08 housing market.  Suddenly this past week the amateurs who got elected to the House on the Tea Party Revolution Ticket are begging the Democrats not to get political about their unanimous vote to destroy Medicare, but to look ahead to the future.  Meanwhile, the latest effort to somehow Maumau Obama--oh my gawd, look, he invited a gangsta rapper to the White House--gets sent whizzing around the room by Jon Stewart's comedy show with one half of its brain tied behind it's back.  And last night I heard that Huckabee ain't runnin'.  Thank gawd, and he was probably the last hope of the Republican Devils, because he at least masquerades as a kindly preacher when you're at a safe distance with the remote near your hand. 

Thus we go to Dover for yet another weekend of NASCAR.   It was heartening to see Kyle sitting beside Mark Martin yesterday in the pre-race talk-talk.  For all of Harvick's bluster, it's Kyle who's come out ahead, because the lasting image of the to-do at Darlington remains that of Harvick's car cam--Harvick futilely running after Kyle, who's driven out of the frame and planted said car-cam's platform against the wall.  Now it's just up to Kyle to keep beating Harvick fair and square on the track.  As their machines are usually pretty even-steven, it'll come down to pure driving skill, not who has the best left hook. 

Meanwhile, I'm breaking in a new computer.  I hope you can tell.  I've decided not to copy all the detrius of ten years of computing over to this one, but to use the oldie as a living external hard drive.  Therefore, I'm now living in an airy mansion--at least 50 miles of elbow room, as A.P. used to say.  Feels like a cool spring day up near Boone, the leaves just budded out, church bells from some distant village wafting in the air, the feeling like no other of just having climbed up some Appalachian knob on a Sunday morning. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


Just a few words on the events near the end of the Sprint Cup race last Saturday night.  (Disclosure, there's an 18 on my bumper.)  Mr. Harvick has through the years made it clear that he'll punch you in the mouf if you object to his racing tactics by on-track retaliation.  Close to the end on Saturday, Harvick whammed Kyle Busch in the rear as he worked his way forward, then slammed him side-to-side while trying to get past him to the best groove on the track--a place Kyle was holding firmly.  In the process of this elbowing, Harvick managed to wreck Clint Bowyer, which caused a number of cars to loose control.  At that point, Mr Busch had enough, made a move to the inside of the track around Harvick, avoiding the wreck and in passing nudging Harvick, who spun out.  There was no doubt at all that Harvick initiated the banging, and no doubt that Busch eventually got tired of it.  That should have been that. 

What happened next, after the race was over, was Harvick's attempt to cash in his bully-boy threat, by physically punching Busch.  Busch avoided the confrontation several times by simply driving away from Harvick.  Finally Harvick managed to block Busch at the entrance to pit row, and jumped out of his car.  There were a number of Harvick crew team members assembling as well--more or less a four to one punishment squad.  As soon as Harvick cleared his car, Busch pushed the car aside with his own vehicle and drove away.  As he was departing Harvick threw two punches into Busch's cockpit--presumably Busch was still helmeted and these hurt Harvick's hands more than Busch's head.  The Harvick machine turned left and hit the pit row wall.  No one was hurt.  Harvick looked pretty silly.  That's a good way for a bully to end up looking.

The fact is, Busch initiated nothing, Harvick everything.  And Harvick seems to presume that if an opponent resists on the track, he will met out punishment with his fists later on.  There is no reason for anyone to play by these NHL rules.  Now, after the fact, various commentators are waxing purple on the terrible danger Busch engendered by pushing the Harvick car.  This is pretty silly given that all the folks any where near the car are pit crew--guys who stand in traffic as a job and know how to get out of the way.  Harvick's car wasn't going nearly as fast as cars entering the pits normally travel.  And, more important--Harvick was using his car to pin Busch--to keep him from simply avoiding the confrontation, as he had been doing.  In those circumstances, Busch did what he had to.  He was under no obligation to fist-fight Harvick, or to take punches from Harvick and possibly Harvick's crew members (who later tried to fight with Busch's crew members).

The patter on the racing shows should not influence NASCAR officials on this matter.  I guess we'll find out today.  It was pretty laughable to hear Elliot Sadler last night chastising Busch--when Sadler drives for Harvick!  Hopefully Busch will have some folks in his corner--folks who were sadly absent in last night's chatter.  Busch does not deserve any penalties from NASCAR for protecting himself.  And NASCAR should not let the racing "culture" devolve into professional hockey. 

Update (5-14):  Kevin Harvick's interview last night on Trackside (Speed Channel) pretty much confirmed my perception of him as stated above, although I wish his interlocutors had also followed up along my line of analysis (oh well, guess they just don't read this little blog).  Harvick waxed about how Busch didn't want to fight, wasn't a fighter, etc.  Well, so since when was a race driver supposed to be able to punch people?  Busch is a terrific race driver--at that skill he's pretty much defeating Harvick and the rest of the field of competitors right now, which of course isn't to say that he wins all the time (except in Nationwide and Trucks).  NASCAR is not professional hockey.  Harvick is playing 8th Grade school bully, both now and at Darlington.  Busch simply thwarted him.  Hopefully, Harvick's attitude will just focus Kyle that much more--on winning on the track.  Yesterday's truck race at Dover was a good example--Kyle just walked away from the field, Harvick included.  But I thought Kyle's bows at the end were a little pro forma--that this whole incident has taken just a little of the joy of racing out of him.  That's really a shame.  

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Torture? That's a Plank to Stand On?

I realize that Republicans and the right wing pundits have been rather kicked in the gut by the simple facts of the moment--that President Obama and his military leaders directed a successful--and brilliant--attack on al Qaeda leading to the death of Osama bin Laden, the man who with his military leaders directed a brilliant and successful attack on the United States on September 11, 2001--a moment, it might be noted, when George Bush was President of the United States.  The facts are so clear that it might have been, oh what's the word--"patriotic" might suffice--for all the national leaders of substance to have rallied to this moment, more or less as the then minority party, the Democratic Party, rallied to the nation after 9/11.  Mr. Obama isn't claiming to have done the raid himself.  But he was in the chair, and he made the call.  The people of America rallied.  There were spontaneous demonstrations of joy all around the country.

But over on the Right there seems to be a veritable chorus of subject-changing, with a strong emphasis on diminishing the plain facts and accomplishments of the Obama Administration in this matter.  On Hannity yesterday there was much talk of how torture "worked" and was essential to getting bin Laden, even though it's simply obvious that if torture were the foundation of the successful raid--torture that was done well back in the Bush years--that suggests that Bush failed to use the crucial information at hand.  Limbaugh went on a veritable tirade yesterday on this same subject, reviling the Obama Administration and the "Democrat Party," "leftists" all in his view, little short of traitors in his view, capable of nothing in his view--a view which apparently does not include the plain truth of the moment, that Obama gave the order and the Seals got the job done.  On Hannity, Rep. Peter King of Staten Island was praising torture to the heavens, with the false argument as his centerpiece of "what if Mohammed Atta could have been tortured...."  That's where they're all standing.  It's actually so stupid that you'd think one of them would just realize that going down that torture path was always a big mistake, and that once again, at this historical juncture, an opportunity for everyone to just get off the torture bus has presented itself. 

I watched an incredible movie last night, Rossollini's "Roma, Città Aperta", known as  "Open City" in its English title.  It's set in the early occupation of Rome by the Nazis.  Towards the end of the movie a partisan is tortured to death.  He does NOT give up the information he has.  So, then, what if Atta had been tortured?  We know he was willing to die for his mission, because he did.  Why should we assume that if we just tortured him, he'd break?  That's hubris on a Germanic scale.  (Indeed, the man who is doing the torturing understands that if the partisan does not break, that implies that he is not of the "master race," and the partisan not of the "slave race."  This becomes a desperate concern as the night wears on and the partisan does not yield--Fellini wrote the screen play.  Torture assumes exceptionalism.)

One never knows what the months ahead are going to yield.  Possibly the successful killing of Osama bin Laden will have faded into a distant memory by the summer of 2012.  Republicans have been very good at changing the subject over the past thirty or so years.  But at the moment the fact that it was Republicans who diverted our efforts to respond to bin Laden into an agenda driven war against Iraq--a war that was tremendously costly in lives and treasure and eventually lead to an almost last-ditch effort early in the Obama Administration to retrieve victory from defeat in Afganistan--this diversion, in 2003, is as plain as day.  It's not President Obama who's drawing our attention to this either.  It draws attention to itself.  And the right wing pundits and the right wing Republican politicans see it so vividly that they are jumping up and down trying to divert our attention to not only a red-herring, but a policy--the Bush torture policy--which is itself yet another serious mistake of the Bush years, and a mark of the false hubris which was the Bush Administration's fatal flaw.

As a matter of politics--of theatre if you like--all the GOP needs to do at this juncture is give Obama a standing O.  Perhaps we should be glad that they are so stupid, and hope that the nation can see the stupidity for what it is.  It's obvious that a standing O would at this point, after all these empty pirouettes, be just that--theatre.  Still, you'd think Rove at least would be smart enough to take a higher path.

Footnote:  One of the most fundamental points in the moral argument disguised as the ultimate western movie, Pekenpah's "The Wild Bunch," comes when Borgnine objects to Holden's comment (referring to the Mexican General and his German military advisors), "we're just like them."  "No we're not," says Borgnine.  "We don't hang anybody."  Here's a good piece on the problem of rough justice, which no one (and certainly no Republican) dares to talk about:


The tricky part is talking about war as "legal."  I've always thought war was actually the end of all civility--legality, if you will--the place where you step across that last line into darkness.  Hiroshima, in a word.