Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Keeping the Bat in Motion

[photo of Roger Maris at bat from ]

Juan Cole closes a brief post on the recent Wilileaks dump of internal memos from the Stratfors private security analysis company with the following remarkable paragraph:

This fifth point, about the one percent interpreting the world for the one percent as being about the one percent, is a dire problem in our information system, since the one percent has the resources and can try to overwhelm reasoned analysis that recognizes the agency of the people. Ultimately, the political struggle here is an epistemological one (epistemology being the study of how we know what we know).

Cole's immediate point is that the intelligence coming from Stratfors was weak. His larger point is more important, particularly in a time of Citizens United. We are perhaps luckier than we know that there is even a single political party which remains at least to some degree connected to a world larger than the hall of mirrors. This is the deeper lesson of the utter collapse into absurdity of the other major American political party, the Republicans. America has allowed purchasing power to almost totally control information. Not only is one political party entirely lost to sanity--and I'd include most of the Republican elected officials as well as millions of Republican voters--we now have institutionalized voices which daily reinforce the lunacy: Fox news, the various radio hate-talkers, and even quite a few supposed institutions of "higher learning."

It's no wonder that one of the very few remaining mildly sensible Republican senators, Olympia Snowe, chose yesterday not to run again, in a campaign which she would likely have won. As she said (to paraphrase), dealing daily with unreasoning ideology is tiring, and six more years of it is not a welcome prospect.

Mr. Obama perhaps deserves a medal for being willing to run again, in the face of the entirely unreasonable opposition he will most likely face for a second term (although one can and might as well hope that somehow Democrats will regain control of the House--it ain't over till it's over). Yesterday he mustered a delightful stem-winder for an audience of auto workers, and how Mr. Romney can possibly counter Obama's speaking skills and his clear believability remains to be seen. The contrast at the moment is stark.

Thus, the ongoing efforts to making voting for all demographics who are expected to support Mr. Obama much more difficult this fall. And on the PR front, the right is hauling out the old welfare queen trope yet again, with ranters suggesting that anyone on government assistance shouldn't be allowed to vote at all, because "all they'll do is vote themselves more assistance."

As things become more dissonant, the volume rises. It's probably a matter of physics, which might be called the Law of Hannity, a guy who's mastered the weak skill of shouting down any and all opposition. See, e.g.:

The shouting doesn't obscure the fact that Hannity has nothing. Same as it ever was.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Daytona Finally Runs

[Martinsville, '09]

It seems like the France family thinks they can run their little universe by edict, and like the Red Queen, their word is law and the hell with, oh, physics and/or logic. It starts with the bizarre idea that the first race of the season is actually its championship or "super bowl." Following this logic, it's not surprising that the greatest participating driver, 5-time champ Jimmie Johnson, would be crashed out of the event on lap 1, and by a guy who was demoted to Nationwide last year no less. Also removed from the field on this first lap crash was the "big draw" of 2012, Danica Patrick (yeah, she did return, and drove with the pack some sixty laps down--what a depressing chore that must have been). Later another multiple champ, Jeff Gordon, had his engine blow up with no warning. I went to bed long before the blessed end of the event, which had been delayed for hours after a driver ran into a fuel filled drying machine and caused a raging fuel fire which melted the track.

At least no one was killed, although Johnson had a close call, living through a side-impact crash which happened after his initial crash left him sitting crosswise to oncoming traffic and obscured by the smoke and debris. He eventually flew home before the end of the race, the implications of that being perhaps that as a father and husband he's starting to see a possible life after racing. After all, what does a 5-time champion have to prove anyways? Surely not that even the much safer cars developed in the post-Earnhart era are not totally fail-safe.

So then, I'm wondering if even Kyle Petty will have the temerity to say the obvious, sometime this week, as the show heads on to Phoenix. The "management" has toiled in the off-season to make the Sprint Car close to undrivable, and thus much more dangerous, in the service of trying to end the undeniably annoying tandem racing that developed the last time they fooled with the engineering of the vehicles. What a mess. And when will somebody finally admit that having a restrictor plate race for the "super bowl" of NASCAR happen on the first race of the season makes sense only if you live "down under," where February is actually November, and Christmas is a-commin' on the 4th of July.

At least it made sense for Romney to be there for the rainout, and for both Paul and Santorum to have placed political ads on also-rans. NASCAR is at the moment modelling the "clown car" show that is the Republican Party, 2012. One of the clowns said over the weekend that if gas prices go down in October, it'll be Obama's October Surprise. He also said that Obama wants gas to go to $10 a gallon. It's no wonder one of the clowns derides college education. An educated base would laugh all of them out of the hall.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

What He Said

[photo from ]

I quote Riley's opening paragraph only to encourage you to go read the rest. As is usually the case, Riley is absolutely correct in his appraisal of not only the current miniscule victory being over-celebrated in the mountain of conceit residing just north of NC, but in the terrible failure of a majority of people of common sense and good will to stop, over some forty years, a ruthless and misguided minority from trampling a woman's basic right to own her own body and health in the United States:

OKAY, so, far be it from me to fart in the crowded elevator of delirious triumphalism rising amidst a temporary 5% reduction in the level of anti-abortion insanity in this country, but someone really should point out how defenders of reproductive freedom lost this battle four decades ago, how they continue to lose it today, and that celebrating small victories only makes sense if you're a ragtag band of insurgents or a hapless sports franchise.

In this regard, I also hope you saw Ms Maddow this week on the historical record of the current Governor of Virginia. The Governor, who has for obviously craven political reasons backed away--for the moment--from the "state rape" law he himself encouraged and probably ghost wrote, acting as though he only became just now aware of what the law required, has a history of doing this same pirouette whenever he feels it to be politically required. In fact, the Governor is as much of a fundamentalist fascist as Rick Santorum. He's written serious theoretical essays on the subject of using the power of the state to coerce behaviors the state views (in his view of course) as more acceptable than other behaviors. His treatise is I'm sure available on line, and as Ms Maddow pointed out, he didn't write it as some 20-year-old grad student, but as a 30-something adult embarking on a political career from the base of Regent University, the protege of Pat Robertson--religious fascist non parallel. As the Governor is, so to speak, "running" for Republican Vice President, his views have deep significance not only for those folks who find themselves living in the Commonwealth of Virginia, but for the rest of us as well. In my opinion, all the evidence points to a man who has rock solid beliefs, and who thinks that the beliefs are far too important to reveal to the voters before an election. In this he stands with several current Republican Governors, most obviously Scott Walker.

He also stands with the fundamental Republican operational tenant--that the practice of democracy is a fools errand, and that it's best to say whatever seems necessary to win votes, without regard to either personal belief, or general truth. This strategy is clearly in operation with both Mr. Romney and Mr. Gingrich. Santorum tends to go the two of them one better, asserting and then taking back audacious positions on the same day if necessary (see, e.g., his assertion this weekend that "going to college" is some sort of "elitist" goal aimed at "remaking your kids" in the image of Obama). As Michael Steele put it to Chris Matthews last fall, "he's not lying, he's talking to the base."

Riley's right. The current events in Virginia are not a victory, except in the most narrow sense. At the moment, only a small hole in a big sieve has been plugged. Even in this small victory, Virginia is still aiming to mandate a medical procedure--an external ultrasound--whether the patient and her doctor agree it is medically necessary or not. Thus, the center shifts ever rightwards.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


Lance Mannion is always on the money, as in the following:

While it's not the very most important point, I'm delighted to read the last paragraph. I have no idea why all reports regarding Santorum, including even those coming out of MSNBC, refer to his "workingclass roots." It is, indeed, bull. Santorum's grandfather was an Italian communist who immigrated to the Pennsylvania coal fields, where he probably stood up for worker's rights and John L. Lewis. We don't know much about him, because Mr. Santorum granfils only mentions (as is his wont and style) the very tiny bits about gramps that serve his particular needs right now. Santorum also fails to mention with great regularity that his father was a practicing psychiatrist boasting a handsome income, or that he (little Ricky) grew up in the bosom of middle-class America. Santorum of course fails to mention any number of relevant facts about himself and his way of life. Mr. Santorum is a practiced liar of the first order, and has perfected the vague lie, such as the one of most immediate note, wherein he compares Mr. Obama to Hitler, but leaves himself just enough room to also lie that really he was just using a World War II metaphor with, actually, no subject at all.

Anyways, Mr. Mannion offers another good post, and if you can afford to send him a bit of scratch, he can use it and deserves it greatly, for shedding light where it's needed.

Meanwhile, Franklin Graham, now there's a piece of work. Lawrence O'Donnell did us a service last night by not mincing words about Mr. Graham. He is a religious demagogue making huge amounts of money and serving nothing and no one but himself and his family. And perhaps the Koch Brothers. I'm sure you can find Mr. O'Donnell's take-down of Graham's amazing public hypocrisy with ease via the google. Needless to say, it speaks to the contempt in which Mr. Graham holds all ordinary Americans that he can say, straight to the camera, that while he can't tell what's in Mr. Obama's heart concerning whether he is a Christian, he can at the same time say with certainty that Mr. Santorum is indeed a Christian. What an amazing load. I am sorry to tell you that the Grahams, father and son, call North Carolina home. They make John Edwards look like a mere miscreant, and that takes some doing. And the worst thing Franklin Graham pulls off is the continuous modelling of the behavior of denial: he shows to the gullible and judgmental-tending "flock" that all one has to do to be a Christian is to incant a few words--there is no real price, and once the incantation is complete, one can join those who feel free to despise the hard working, intelligent man in the White House who's actually doing a decent job of the fundamentally impossible. Graham joins Limbaugh and the rest of the right wing ranters in spell-binding the gullible public.

The photo opening this post comes from
The article which it accompanies there is a fine read.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Keep This In Mind

It is a truism of propaganda
that existential threats generate national cohesion, and this cohesion occurs whether the threat is "real" or not, "real" meaning not just is/isn't, but also degree of threat. There is a current somewhat muted drumbeat of alarm about Iran's nuclear program. On the Right are authoritative voices, some of them major players in the Bush Administration's rationale for war with Iraq, speaking up today for immediate war with Iran. The Obama Administration leaves "nothing" off the table when the subject comes up, appearing in the context of the GOP to be the "reasonable" party. If any one thing makes GOP candidate Ron Paul a person not to be taken seriously by the main stream media and by his fellow candidates, it is the fact that he is absolutely against a war with Iran. Paul's proven racism and general absurdity has never kept him off the main stage, while several other GOP "candidates", Govs Romer and Johnson being two who immediately come to mind, only appear as curios in the odd news piece that fills up a minute or two at the end of a slow day.

In this context, consider the following comment from Juan Cole:

Iran has 150 billion barrels in petroleum reserves, among the largest reserves in the world, but they cannot be exploited by US corporations because of Israel lobby-inspired US congressional sanctions on Iran. US elites, especially Big Oil, dream of doing regime change in Iran so as to get access to those vast reserves. Likely the most important US objection to the Iranian civilian nuclear enrichment program is that it could give Iran “nuclear latency,” the ability to construct a bomb quickly if it seemed to Tehran that the US planned to attack. That is, the real objection in Washington to Iranian nuclear know-how is that it makes Iraq-style regime change impossible and so puts Iranian petroleum out of reach of Houston for the foreseeable future. This consideration is likely the real reason that Washington does not, so to speak, go ballistic about North Korea and Pakistan having actual nuclear warheads, but like to has a fainting spell at the very idea of Iran enriching uranium to 3.5 percent (a bomb takes 95%). North Korea and Pakistan don’t have oil.

Consider also this comment from Doghouse Riley:

A flurry of actions and statements by Iran this week suggest its leaders are responding frantically, and more unpredictably, to the tightening of sanctions.

LOOK: it is now the 13th month of a Republican presidential campaign--as in President of the United States, the Leader of the Free World, a man who commands an actual nuclear arsenal, not just some aluminum tubes--so freighted with idiocy, illiteracy, hysteria, backwoods religious mania, Xenophobia, howlers, whoppers, bad sci-fi plots, galloping juvenilia, sexual phobias, spittle-flecked nationalism, off-hand wagers larger than most people's life savings, and, of course, the mandatory hushed reverence at the mention of "Ronald Reagan" that we ought to at least think twice before we start calling other people's leaders "frantic and unpredictable".

And just to make life more complicated, while this undercurrent of war with Iran continues, a fairly outspoken voice of the Right, one Dana Loesch, argues with apparent seriousness that the Virginia State Rape law just passed can't be rape, since after all, the women who are subject to the law (requiring an internal sonogram prior to a decision to abort a pregnancy) obviously were parties to a similar "insertion," else they wouldn't be pregnant. This statement is made in the face of the fact that a decent definition of rape would be "undesired penetration of the body," and the Commonwealth of Virginia has just passed a law ordering said undesired penetration as a precondition of a decision to abort.

With this kind of logic operating in our national decision-making process, I predict that war with Iran is now entirely inevitable, and that the utter tragedy of war, which should have been learned for our time by the end of the Vietnam experience, will in fact NEVER be learned. This of course isn't much of a prediction. Athens should have learned it, and taught it to civilization, for all time, well before the appearance of Jesus. After all, Thucydides made every effort to tell the story, and I expect every educated generation since has read his History in their required freshman history course. We still went to war with Iraq.

Update: Oh, I know, this sounds all depressed and bummy. After all, Fiddlin' Bill, it's Sunday (even if it's raining), and Kyle Busch won the Shoot Out last night in Daytona by performing a feat of genius driving not seen since Saint Dale hissef, and the best part to me was after the race, when Kyle sported a black leather Budweiser Shoot Out Jacket, which must have made Harvick positively pound the locker door in utter frustration. Still, you might want to listen to this little interview over your 4th cup of Sunday coffee, because the real world continues to revolve around its obscure sun no matter what Santorum says about its platter-like properties and its central place in the cosmos.

This, keep in mind, is a description of what the by far preferable presidential choice this year is currently pursuing as an aspect of foreign policy, in your and my name. In brief, the US of A now summarily executes people anywhere on earth. This is the policy of the one guy in the race who is really, more or less, a Christian.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

But is there a Plan?

[from The Wild Bunch]

Well this week Ed Schultz is figuring Rick Santorum might actually be The Man, and watching his numbers pass Romney's in various states including Romney's original home state of MI, where Romney grew up and became a multi-national. Maybe he'll end up being the GOP nominee, who knows. One argument would be that his incompetence, ignorance, small-mindness, and utter inability to empathize with anyone other than another white male actually masks the greater problem which Romney presents, ultimately, to people who really think through what Romney stands for.

Go look at Romney's arch, smug rejection of the auto industry bailout, or the equally arch, smug rejection of any safety-net type solutions to the truly horrible situation millions of Americans are facing with regard to their mortgage commitments. Then ask yourself--on Romney's grounds, isn't the auto bailout (for example) still wrong even if it has succeeded? The answer must be yes, mustn't it? Because Romney has taken a principled stand, a stand based on his fundamental economics--which asserts that things are ultimately better when the free market forces simply are allowed to operate without any government adjustment or guidance (but keep taxes low on the job providers).

Romney's problem is that since he's running on a supposedly fundamental economic philosophy, when government does act and then things do get better, he's got a problem: his fundamentals turn out to be simply wrong. Santorum does not have this problem. As a muddled right-wing patriarch and defender of the keep em in the kitchen school, Santorum has no general economic view, no clarity, nothing but the right wing radio hate-ranter's ability to take Texaco cracker-barrel opinionations, his Pepsi stuffed with peanuts and fizzing over the top of the bottle and down over his nagging, pointing finger. Yes, his wife does look a little haggard these days, but soon he'll learn to leave her at home. Santorum has no fundamentals. He's just another pissed off redneck.

For the GOP candidate this year, it's looking like it's better not to have a Plan. Ain't that a pickle. Of course there is also the Mike Miller view--that people who actually think about stuff like this are so few as to be an inconsequential factor in national elections. This would explain a lot, such as the decline of the mainstream media.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Eastwood Ad

[heading south on Old US 421 between Staley and Siler City, NC, 2-8-12]

It is instructive to consider why insiders such as Mr. Rove would explode in indignation over a Chrysler ad featuring Clint Eastwood. The ad wasn't something that was going to burn into our subconscious for the next nine months. Mr. Rove, who is nothing if not savvy about advertising--he's been successfully selling the American public shit sandwich after shit sandwich for several decades now, and we keep wrinkling our noses but responding, "mmmmmmmm, good, though." Why not just let the ad drift down into oblivion, like all the other ads do.

Instead, Mr. Rove tells us all that he's "frankly, offended." By a message that asserts that America is in some ways a whole--a shared struggle which seems to be slowly paying off? What sort of offensive message can that be? Is the GOP really going to close the loop and now assert that not only were they against the Auto Industry Bailout (and Chrysler was bailed out by Mr. Bush, um, by the way), they're still against it, and still think the whole thing should have been allowed to collapse into ruin. Apparently that's the position.

And what bothers Mr. Rove is that by using Mr. Eastwood in the ad, the advertising company picked a voice that is deeply credible with the GOP base, and gave him a credible script so that he could in the ad say credible things to said base. And what that does--for the GOP--is a bit of spell-breaking.

The GOP has woven a powerful spell over the folks who listen constantly to right wing radio and otherwise buy into the idea that Mr. Obama is illegitimate in some or various ways. Every GOP candidate drums the same spell-binding message--spell-binding primarily because of the consistent across-the-board agreement. From Romney to Santorum, from Limbaugh to Krauthammer to Will, they all agree--Obama is somehow making America into something, well, "not-American." They all want to "take the country back." Yesterday on Chris Matthews, former Colorado congressman Tancredo said his dog was smarter than Mr. Obama.

Yet here's Mr. Eastwood--a credible voice--saying things are getting better. This might shatter the illusion. As well as consternation from Rove and many others about the ad, much air is being consumed this week arguing that the modest rise in employment is also somehow an illusion. "The statistics are from the (gasp) Labor Department." Well, no wonder then. Once again, the spell is being broken.

What the GOP wants is a profoundly divided America, a world of "us" and "them." Anything that suggests otherwise works against a voter choosing an obvious religious zelot muddle-head, or an obvious blowhard, or an obvious egotistic fratboy who still believes there should be no bailout of the auto industry, and no help for the millions of people entangled by their own home mortgages. If things are actually getting better, a conservative vote becomes "stay the course."

Well, driving to work the last few days I've noticed a sign at the gate to a plant I go past. It says "hiring riggers." It strikes me as a small indication that things are getting better--in some ways a more real indicator than the accurate graphs of employment which also show the same thing--that things bottomed a few months after Obama took office, and have been getting better since.

What the GOP continues to insist is a version of "believe me, or believe your lying eyes." For the Super Bowl, that bizarre balloon of celebration of everything middle-American, to feature an ad by Eastwood of all people--that amounts to an arrow straight into the confusion that the GOP works tirelessly to maintain. Eastwood is the ultimate straight shooter. You're going to believe Rove over him?
I doubt they can even argue that somehow he was "tricked" by some sneaky liberal advertising agency. He makes movies, after all, and that takes quite a lot of perspective and ability.

Hell, maybe another straight shooter will get back onto the radio in the wake of this flap. Next year, let's get the Hag up for the half-time show. He used to tell it straight, till the money boys pushed him off the big stage.

Sunday, February 5, 2012


Compare the video in the first link:

With that in the second link:


Friday, February 3, 2012

Back to Work

Although I hate to move on, I'll start by simply offering you a link:

After you've digested this, read this next one too:

Now, have a nice day! The poisionous, vile Republican candidates continue their remarkable speeches, so I'll have new comments up soon on life in the US of A, Feb. 2012 edition. TGIF.

Saturday Morning Update
. By the end of Friday, the Komen Foundation had backed off its policy re Planned Parenthood. For the moment. Until things quiet down. Until the heat's off. Go find Ms. Brinker's explanation of the original policy change in an interview with Andrea Mitchell, on Thursday last. It's posted, I'm sure, on Then ask yourself how this is some sort of "mistake." Rather than what it is--a prevaricating lie, boldfaced, in technicolor. And don't be fooled into thinking that the Komen people have actually conceded:

This is, by the way, exactly like Mr. Romney's most current "mistake," or as he puts it, "misspeak." It is Republicans caught in their tangle of bullshit, nothing more. It is yet another example, among thousands, of the tragic dark road Republicans have taken--have CHOSEN to take--a road of lies, of fear, of power at all costs, including the cost to their tattered reputations. It is fitting that Mr. Romney is their nominee (apparently). He is not only a liar of the first order, who continues to create new lies at the mere whiff of resistance to anything he might have previously asserted (what a guy to negotiate with some country who doesn't want to "toe our line," and has the wherewithal to back that resistance up. Like, say, Pakistan). As a methodology to power, this is just a new fill-up on a long road across a desert to nowhere--it started out back in the '60s with the "Southern Strategy," and it continues apace, even as the Grand Ole Party boils itself down to crusty, cinderous nuggets of pure black evil and hate, the little black train a-comin' if we don't get our business right and see them for what they are.

Let's hope the Komen Foundation is history. Meanwhile, since the march of history isn't going to occur this rainy February morning, take a look at a far better analysis of Mr. Gingrich's ever expanding ego than I could possible give you here. You'll find it at James Wolcott's blog, which is part of the Vanity Fair consortium.
I'll just quote the first bit, it's all just as good:

My favorite part of Newt Gingrich’s Florida-primary concession speech last night--only Gingrich could make a concession speech sound like Augustus Caesar risen from the Roman dust--was when he started reeling off all the executive orders he would issue on Inauguration Day like some madman.

“On day one, moments after I have sworn the oath of office, even before we begin dressing for the round of balls that night that some have called Venetian, others Viennese, I will sit at my desk in the Oval Office and issue an executive order repealing and revoking the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment is the font or fount, if you will, of the secularism and overreliance on scientism that plagues us today, and frankly anyone who can’t see that Voltaire led to the horrors of the Third Reich is fundamentally unequipped to debate the matter..."

Gingrich and Romney both deserve to be called what they certainly are, laughing stocks. Both are utterly unqualified to be President, though both could certainly play a President in a comic movie like Doctor Strangelove II. This fact, too, reflects the truth about the GOP--it's what they nominate, because it's what they believe--that a President should have no power precisely because he (or she, La Palin) is a result of a democratic process, and is thus awarded his position by fools incapable of governing themselves.