Thursday, August 30, 2012

RNC Avoidance

I've watched about 5 minutes total of the big rally to take our country back to 1953, which is probably on the whole the perfect moment as far as "they're" concerned, all features considered: you have a new Republican President who's a war hero, you have Joe McCarthy and John Foster Dulles, and a raging cold war, and atomic testing, including the H-bomb, and Mickey Mantle smoking Camels in the outfield, and Miss Monroe on the silver screen, schools are well segregated, women are mostly quiet visual objects if they're young and pretty, or hard at work cooking and cleaning otherwise, gay people are secrets, and abortions are illegal or go by other medical names when necessary for those with money and in need.

Every speech I've seen or heard snippets of is laced with lies. There's no point in even bothering to counter them. (Edroso went and got married, and he's busy.) There is one speech, though, that really bothered me beyond all the rest. That was Mr. McCain's, last night. McCain decided to even bring our day to day foreign policy into the conversation. Here's what he said last night, in part (as transcribed by Fox News):

....When Iranians rose up by the millions against their oppressive rulers, when they beseached our president, chanting in English, “Are you with us, or are you with them?”, when the entire world watched as a brave young woman named Neda was shot and bled to death in a street in Tehran.

The president missed a historic opportunity to throw America’s full moral support behind an Iranian revolution that shared one of our highest interests: ridding Iran of a brutal dictatorship that terrorizes the Middle East and threatens the world.
The situation is far worse in Syria. What began as peaceful protests has now become, 18 months later, a savage and unfair fight.

With the full backing of Iran, and Hezbollah, and Russia-with tanks, and helicopters, and fighter jets, Bashir Assad is murdering men, women and children.
More than 20,000 people have perished. Extremists are gaining ground. And the conflict is becoming more dangerous by the day for our allies, and for us. In other times, when other courageous people fought for their freedom against sworn enemies of the United States, American presidents – both Republicans and Democrats – have acted to help them prevail.

Sadly, for the lonely voices of dissent in Syria, and Iran, and elsewhere, who feel forgotten in their darkness, and sadly for us, as well, our president is not being true to our values.

For the sake of the cause of freedom, for the sake of people who are willing to give their lives so their fellow citizens can determine their own futures and for the sake of our nation – the nation founded on the idea that all people, everywhere, have the right to freedom and justice – we must return to our best traditions of American leadership and support those who face down the brutal tyranny of their oppressors and our enemies....

Mr. McCain does a grave disservice to our State and Defense Departments to bring such a blanket indictment into the political conversation. He knows full well that President Obama is engaged in these global matters, and that he makes decisions (as will a President Romney, or any rational President) with the considered advice of diplomatic and military professionals. McCain knows full well that setting out on some quest to save a country from itself is dangerous and almost guaranteed to be an act with an even worse outcome than doing nothing--unless all the many details that have to be considered are considered.

It's not like we don't have the adventures of the last Republican administration to take note of, not to mention the various adventures of earlier times. It's not like we don't have Vietnam in our past.

Maybe that's the trouble with being the party of 1953. In 1953 there was only Korea to measure against the wonder of World War II, which had by then been mythologized into a glorious and nearly bloodless victory for the forces of Light, lead of course by Ike, McArthur, and George Patton. In 1953 there was really nothing much to learn, and the gaping wound that was the American Civil War had been plastered over so effectively that only a few articulate black folks had anything to say about anything. In 1953 America still lynched people.

Maybe we're going to have to live the whole of McCain's lifetime again. How stupid is that?

[photo (c) Eugene Smith]

Friday Update: As I've just said, trying to counter the literally hundreds of lies with which the GOP is building this campaign is beyond my interest and time. But here's something to consider. One can, with historical detatchment, view this whole process as the meltdown of the mainstream media, and the failure of the media to do it's fundamental job--namely inform voters of the truth. If we do end up with a government run by deluded Christo-fascists aiming to bring on armageddon while making their fortunes in the military war market,we will have the media to thank as well as our own slothfulness. Because the information is indeed out there to find, even if it's not on CNN, Fox, ABC, CBS, PBS, or even MSNBC, who's coverage of the convention has been over all as appalling as the rest.

And it's possible that Mr. Eastwood, last night, has saved us from ourselves. He's been aptly compared to Andy Kaufman, and it's possible. There are many commentaries to be found easily. I think Sadly No's might be the best one I've seen. On the other hand, my take on his speech is simpler. He was just massaging the base, and doing a little P.R. work for the industry he represents, to folks who pretty much think "Hollywood" is synonymous with "faggot communist," and who would gladly close the whole place down. Come to think of it, 1953 was pretty much a black and white world, not that they weren't making outstanding films back then too, and with a lot more guts and subtlety than the films that allowed Eastwood to become a Director. Watching Eastwood confronts another mystery. But it's not really new. It's just the mystery of unselfawareness, played out for everyone in the world to watch. And it's not like Mr. Romney doesn't trump Mr. Eastwood in that, now is it?

Monday, August 27, 2012

Returning to Earlier Days

Here's what his little web bio says:

Bryan Jonathan Fischer is the Director of Issues Analysis for the American Family Association. He hosts the talk radio program Focal Point on American Family Radio and posts on the AFA-run blog Rightly Concerned. Wikipedia
Born: 1951, United States of America
Spouse: Debbie Fischer
Education: Stanford University

Apparently he has a big voice in the world Republican.

Here's what he says about the election this morning:

If you don't care to paste the link into your browser, here's what he twatted:

"Women's suffrage only thing keeping Obama in the game: Obama down 8 with men, up 8 with women."

No doubt if anyone should "call" him on that remark, his answer will be the same as Romney's--this campaign needs some levity. Humorless libs, pah.

I mentioned 1940 as the date they want to return to yesterday. Clearly it is earlier by several decades.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Beyond Fireworks

In case you thought he was all hat.

In other news, Charles Pierce has a solution for the Democratic Party now that it is an undeniable fact that the Republican Party has no further interest in compromise or governance, but simply aims to destroy the United States as it has evolved since 1940.

How is Pierce's idea a mistake? I sure can't see.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Small Houdahenian Events

Fuzzy has now achieved a new monniker, Puzzle, which I think is pretty nifty. He's growing the biggest (and possibly the fattest). We're trying to keep him from tending to always eat the leftovers, but it's hard to do that without being more constantly alert to their every notion and whim than we already are. We do have other aspects of our lives. I took out the trash, and the recycling, and changed the oil on both vehicles, and went to work. Just for example.

Libby got the boys an electric water fountain water dish last night. She sat up pretty late getting it going. I plugged it back in for them this morning. Possibly they weren't thirsty. They just looked at it and went on. But it's true that moving water fascinates them. Somewhere in the fairly distant but still computerized past I saw a cat who someone with a lot more time on their hands had trained to used the toilet. It was remarkable. I think he might even have flushed. No doubt it's somewhere on Youtube. It clearly proves that cats are somewhat interested in moving water. Wuzzy likes to whack the water dish and watch the water splash out. Also dip his paw into it and flick it around. Sometimes he'll come into the back room, where I'm doing something important like watching Al Sharpton, and jump onto my lap with his wet paw. Then I can tell what he's been up to, and admonish him. Usually he purrs loudly when I'm admonishing him.

This morning when I got up the usual situation was at hand, namely Momma was sitting on the porch looking intently at the door at me. As she's trained us, that "means" "I am hungry, people." I immediately set to filling her bowl. She gets a can plus some dry food mixed in. I made sure the boys were not standing right at the door, opened the door, placed the food out on the porch from a kneeling position. Momma was watching from the ground (it's a kinda small stone stoop of a porch). She has even now and then meowed just a bit to me, a new interaction. She also does the eye thing cats do when they want you to know they like you. (We can get into the eye thing some other time, but people who read books about cats will already know about it, and some dog people, the Romney kind of dog people if you know what I mean, will think it's just more liberal cat malarkey I'd expect, so I'm not going to rush into getting into the eye thing with you.)

Anyways, Wuzzy leaps over my arm and is suddenly outside, and standing pretty much beside Momma on the ground. He's fast and as heedless as Kurt Busch during the last ten, on bad tires. Momma wasn't sure what to make of this identical black cat landing beside her. She retreated under the house. What's funny, however, is that Wuzzy never noticed her at all. He was interested in sniffing the ground where he'd landed, and never moved when I went out and picked him up and brought him back inside. I rattled her dish a bit and left it outside on the porch, and shortly she hopped up and ate breakfast. When she finished she sat on the porch for a little while, grooming, then headed out into the woods as she does. We won't see her again until the next time. It's her schedule. I'd say there's a 70% chance or so that she'll be around this evening, and somewhat higher percentages for tomorrow morning. One day a couple of weeks back she sat out on the little race car that's a yard ornament for most of a morning. That hasn't happened again.

Bruiser became Grey Bear and is now 'Mokey, which stands for Smokey. Once the biggest, he's now the smallest of the three. He's the most finicky eater, which might account for some of that size differential. He's plenty full of energy and if we can guess the food he's really into on a given moment, he'll chow down like the others. Otherwise he'll eat some and then go sit on the windowsill, and like as not Puzzle will clean his plate for him.

All of 'em can now leap up to nearly any surface in the house. We are slowly losing our surplus of crockery. They are all tending to sleep in the bed down near our feet, and to function well as kitty alarms in the AM. I'm concerned that they use the wood stove as a perch and leaping station to higher spots. I don't want them to burn they little footsies, but how to prevent at least one such moment I'm really not sure of. We're about six weeks or so away from the first fire, if the weather is typical. They also have lept on the gas range without warning, fortunately not when a burner was in operation. I'm sure it's quite possible that one Sunday morning I could find one of 'em standing in the middle of the bacon or the scrambled eggs.

There was a nifty short story in the New Yorker a long time ago, about the senior year of some kids in high school. The story was sort of wry (not to be oxymoronic), and at one point the mother of one of the girls in the story says, to a friend, something along the lines of "well, at least if they're driving too fast in the middle of the night, they can't be having sex." The girl who's the object of this comment leans in the door and says, "why not?"

This is the motto of the Houdahenian Tribe.

Thursday, August 23, 2012


From Digby this morning:

The Republican Party has officially endorsed its backing for Arizona-style state immigration laws, adding into its platform language that such laws should be "encouraged, not attacked" and calling for the federal government to drop its lawsuits against the laws.

On O'Reilly last night the guest host, a typical Fox anchorette sporting blonde hair and a cigarette voice browbeat the typical liberal counterpointers, a nice butchy blonde who couldn't stop grinning, and a nice young black woman from New York City. All Miss Marlboro had was "this whole Akin thing is manufactured by the liberal press to distract the voters from what they really want to talk about, namely, Obama's failed economic policy." She brooked no back talk. "Women want jobs," she said over and over. "Particularly married women with children." Those young singles--she brushed them aside with the sneering assumption that one day if they're lucky they'll find husbands for their children, at which point they'll likely turn Republican.

Given that it is a fact that the Republican Party made a conscious commitment, on 1/20/09, to never find any place of compromise with Mr. Obama, surely it follows that if his economic policy is a failure, the Republican Party shares that failure. It is a fact that the Democratic Party even with small majorities in Congress has never had the political strength to overcome the filibuster. It is a fact that once the Republican Party gained majority in the House, its primary efforts have been a continuous string of anti-abortion bills--which have lead to the reasonable judgement that the Republicans are waging a "war on women."

Republicans have entirely lost their credibility with African-Americans. Romney's appearance at the NAACP convention simply confirmed all the assumptions black people reasonably make about Republicans. The current Republican rejoinder, that Romney was just giving the NAACP some bitter medicine, which they should have accepted as it was in their best interests, is just more paternalism in a different key.

This is all the Republicans have. They are the party of paternalism. They are the expression of the patriarchy. Their deepest, true-ist slogan should be, "Don't Worry Your Pretty Head." If that kindly pat/smile doesn't do the trick, well, it's on the roof with ya.

It couldn't be much more obvious. The Republican Party is right now being as "honest" as it can be, with at least a third of the group supporting even Mr. Akin's medieval medical science, as well as similar notions concerning climate science and the whole of biology.

From Doghouse Riley this morning:

And it just happens, then, that he [Akin] slid all the way down the slope. If there's no exception for rape, according to the Republican party, no exception for incest, none for viability, genetic disaster, or the life of the mother--until it's the mother of Rick Santorum's children--then say so. If there is, then on what basis? If there is, then the termination of a pregnancy is not murder.

They also intend to wage a war with Iran as soon as possible.

Really, any questions?

Friday Update: Compared to the hot issues of immigration, women's rights, and climate change, pure economic theory is of necessity pretty grim stuff--there is the taste of metal in the mouth after a few paragraphs, and the mind yearns for something... sports highlights, previews of coming attractions... anything... But as Paul Krugman points out, the GOP is remarkably aiming at returning to the gold standard as well as segregated lunch counters and back alley coathanger abortions:

There was a bit on the news last night about the continuing Romney whine that not only do they pay over 13% in taxes, but--as well--they are "pay" over 10% a year in charitable contributions, much of that in tithes to the Mormon Church. This remarkable conflation of two very different things offers an insight into the Romney (and Republican) way of looking at the world. It's of a piece with the common conservative whine that "over 50% of 'them' don't pay any taxes," and the complaint from millionaires that, in absolute terms, they are paying more than enough.

All of this is profoundly egocentric and self-serving. In Romney's whine about his charitable giving percentages he is also conflating charity with tax obligations, and indeed, suggesting that taxes are charity. This is a pernicious idea at the heart of a great deal of right wing cant. "We don't want to pay for them." It entirely ignores and dismisses the plain fact that all of us benefit from our joint efforts, and the rich most of all.

It is tragic that a serious Presidential nominee is so deeply misguided, and a Romney Presidency will bring disasters on us all.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

What If Science

There was a great amount of solid analysis of the Akin/Ryan position on Roe V. Wade last night on the teevee--if you were watching MSNBC anyways. Over on Fox they were covering other "stories," and of course there was an infinite amount of other things to occupy your mind, i.e., direct it away from a pretty interesting bit of intellectual fencing with significant implications for all our futures, should the Republicans gain full control of the United States.

As many analysts pointed out--correctly--there is no difference between the Paul Ryan position on legal abortion and the Akin position, and they have cosponsored several bills just in the past year aimed at outlawing all legal abortion via the route of defining "personhood" as beginning with conception. This legal tack has been presented, as well, to several states for constitutional ratification, while even Mr. Obama currently concedes that states may well have the "right" to make such alterations in the constitutional landscape if they can pass such state constitutional amendments. So far, fortunately, the people have not gone along.

No one has really looked at exactly why that is. But in the insular circles of conservative thinking, an assertion of fact has been making the rounds for at least twenty-five years, and surfacing occasionally (as in Akin's off the cuff remarks this past Sunday). It's almost always couched in the exact same language, this medical claim. Akin must have learned it by rote: "Doctors tell me," he says, "that the female anatomy simply shuts down when a 'real' rape happens, thus subverting the possibility of pregnancy."

This is positively Shakespearean. Storms come up when the royals are roiled. Chimney pots are blown down. Comets portend. Yorick moans from the back garden. A rape is just so wrong that a woman can't get pregnant. Or--conversely--if she's pregnant, she must have enjoyed the process just a tad, or something.

Where does this claptrap come from? Certainly not from legitimate science, or from the real world either. Rapes are fairly commonplace, and so are pregnancies occuring from rape. According to medical statistic keepers cited on Rachel Maddow last night, there were over 32 thousand pregnancies occurring after a rape last year. Rachel, Ed, Chris, Lawrence--all of them demolished the "facts" asserted by Mr. Akin, and all of them explained clearly that Akin and Paul Ryan are in total agreement that there should be no abortion allowed, not even in the case of rape.

Oh yes, of course Mr. Romney has now said that abortion in the circumstance of rape will remain legal in his administration. This is exactly as believable as Mr. Akin's rediculous "apology" of "misspeaking" on the subject of female anatomy. Both of them are simply offering ad hoc lies in the circumstance of total exposure. This situation is no different than Mr. Clinton's "depends on what 'is' means."

But as I said, no one (at least that I listened to last night) has really got at the motivation for the Right's return, over and over again, to the assertion of this patently false science, this Shakespearean world of mystical congruence, where the physical world simple cooperates with our presumed "morality" and "immorality."

So here's the deal. For most regular folks, when they are forced by politicians to actually think about banning all abortions as a legal procedure, they mostly realize that such a course is a terrible solution to a gorgon's knot of a problem. Because the fact is, almost no one would be willing to force a rape victim to have the child of her rapist. Such an idea is patently abhorrent, obviously evil, lacking entirely in any empathy for the victim of the event. And of course one can spend a whole lot of time to further develop why such an idea is abhorrent, including much that might be said about why even the potential offspring of such a situation could well face a tragic life path from the outset. Again--Shakespeare spends some time on this, as do the Greek playrights. This is old old stuff.

But. What if there were a scientific truth that was little known until, oh, about 1981, when the Reagan revolution took hold and a sitting President actually took the position that a settled constitutional matter, e.g., Roe V. Wade, was in fact not settled. What if the Akin science were true. Well then, if that were the case, then Mr. Romney could still say that in his administration there would be legal abortion in the circumstance of rape--while holding another quiet thought--that there can be, as a matter of science, no pregnancy as an outcome of "real" rape, because--well, because the gods just wouldn't allow it.

And, moreover, if such science were to gain a "foothold" amongst the majority of folks who actually never really think much about what's scientifically true or false, and why, why then it might be that one of these days a constitutional amendment which defines personhood as starting upon conception or possibly even slightly before, even when sperm and egg are in close enough proximity to possibly meet and unite, such an amendment might finally pass. And then, the foolish people having voted themselves into the old hell of back-alley abortions, of girls bleeding to death in punishment for their sinful ways, we will have returned ourselves to 1950 again. Our country will have been, as it were, "taken back."

For Mr. Ryan and Mr. Romney as much as Mr. Akin, their moral certainty is enough to ground their lies. And this is how much they value honesty and truth, and respect democracy. Which, of course, assuming you've been paying some attention, is no surprise at all.

Care to delve deeper? Here's a good start:

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The End of August

Historically the end of August has been a time of ends and beginnings. It's the start of school moment here in the United States. (Last weekend in NC we had some sort of "tax free" shopping weekend, which was meant to encourage upcoming students to get their stuff as slightly less cost.) August was when World War I got going. It's when the political conventions are usually held, and when the political campaigns get seriously rolling. August of 1963 was the date of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. (I was there, something I'll always be proud to say.)

We all thought, those of us who were part of the Civil Rights battles of the early '60s, that the various federal laws which passed after the March on Washington and the subsequent national shock over the assassination of President Kennedy (which had nothing to do with the Civil Rights Movement) put an end to some of the fundamental aspects of segregation in the United States. As time moved on, it seemed that the country was simply done with those terrible old days. It only takes watching any number of movies from the '30s, '40s, and '50s to find remarkable anachronisms which, when the movies were made, were simply how "things" were--so much so that they were entirely unremarkable. The assumptions concerning race that are common place in American Film made during the segregation era are as shocking today as seeing a man suddenly capable of unassisted flight would be. And that shock at these now historical assumptions is a mark of what most Americans assume concerning race and the issues of civil rights.

Yet it turns out that there is, even today, another view. Digby points it out:

In Arizona, the alternative view has already left the station, and people who want to resist are having to do a lot more than just go to the polls--if indeed going to the polls is even an option in the southwest corner of the United States:

As well as the efforts to destroy the federal safety net so carefully constructed over many decades by our representatives and successive administrations of both parties, the current Republican party aims to destroy the civil rights protections we all thought were written in stone. Endless dissembling is part of the strategy:

Edroso provides the link to back up his assertion.

We'd all better take heed of the old Carter Family song. There seems to be a little black train a'comin'. At the moment, all we have to do to head off disaster is get out and vote for the better choice available.

Monday Morning Update: Rep. Akin is really in the news, and yesterday trumped his remarks on voting rights with some oft debunked blather about the female anatomy (from Firedoglake today):

Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) told a local television station on Sunday that “legitimate rape” rarely produces pregnancy because “the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

That's not really the worst part. The worst part is, Atkin leads Sen. McCaskill for the Missouri Senate seat McCaskill now holds by nearly 8 percentage points.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

On the 31st Floor

Apparently we're going to watch the Ryan/Romney team spend the next couple of months obfuscating the plain obvious fact that putting Ryan on the Republican Presidential ticket commits a Romney Administration to the agenda Mr. Ryan stands for, publicly, clearly, and for quite a long time. They'll come up with some glittering chaff almost hourly, aimed at distracting our horribly distractable media from actually telling us what and who we are voting for this fall--which is surely the fundamental job the media is supposed to be doing. (Except of course that a long time back there was a kind of bait and switch mind clamp applied by the businessmen who wanted to run the world, to the effect that anything on your TV is actually "entertainment," not "news," so of course the various "news" people are first and foremost obligated to bring in the passing throng, and to do that they need something spicy and striking--the throng, us'n, being rather of the Houdahenian persuasion that way).

So today it'll be some claim that Obama is the real "racist," and tomorrow it'll be that Obama is going to destroy Medicare, whereas the guy who wrote a big budget bill destroying Medicare was "really" saving it, etc. etc. Count on this. You will be amazed at what will be asserted by Ryan/Romney, and reported seriously by not only Fox News, but all the rest of the news outlets as well. If you can stay up for Rachel Maddow, maybe you'll catch some push back, but I'm not sure even Rachel will manage to just say what's going on. Romney/Ryan--the Liar Ticket. Start there.

However, and fortunately, it is now clear that Ryan does indeed stand for the Ayn Rand "Objectivism" "philosophy" which the far right oligarchs in this country, meaning among others the Koch Brothers and their organization, Americans for Prosperity, aim to shove down the American peoples' collective throats, like it or not. If you look in the right places--and not where the main stream media happens to be pointing at the moment--it's all right there.

Here's the trailer--the actually up front advertising--for the movie "Atlas Shrugged," which came out last spring.

Now, let me quote you some Digby quoting the New York Times:

This month, as a handful of Republicans auditioned at town halls and on bus tours to be Mitt Romney’s running mate, Representative Paul D. Ryan joined a private conference call. For 20 minutes, he walked through his plan to cut government spending and bashed President Obama for weakening welfare work requirements.

His audience: Several hundred field organizers for Americans for Prosperity, the Tea Party-inspired group founded by the billionaire conservative philanthropists Charles and David Koch.

When Mr. Romney announced that Mr. Ryan would be his running mate, his campaign emphasized the congressman’s detailed knowledge of the federal budget and his chemistry with Mr. Romney. Less well-known are Mr. Ryan’s close ties to the donors and activists who have channeled Tea Party anger into a $400 million political machine, financed by a network of conservative and libertarian donors that now rivals, and occasionally challenges, the Republican establishment behind Mr. Romney.

Mr. Ryan is one of a very few elected officials who have attended the Kochs’ biannual conferences, where wealthy donors sit in on seminars on runaway government spending and the myths of climate change.

As much as the Ryan/Romney team will try to distance themselves from the plans and goals of groups like Americans for Prosperity, the Ryan/Romney team is in fact the Administration of Americans for Prosperity. That's the deal. Toss in Sheldon Adelson as well, and a few other extremely rich oligarchs who want to entirely control the United States.

This is what the vote for President in November is about. It's a frightening situation.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Ryan Veep

Driftglass suggests correctly ( that Romney's pick of Paul Ryan as his veep is a desperate appeal to the hard right of his party, which includes almost all the talking and visible aspects of the GOP. Ms Coulter's hissy fit earlier this week probably scared not only Mr. Hannity, but Romney as well. What she said, after all, was that "we" aren't going to pay for a candidate who won't follow our current historical revision, who won't toe the mark and walk the line (to borrow a phrase from Waylon Jennings). Romney's whole political career has one gigantic feature--a remarkably endless willingness to say and do what people he thinks have power want. More than any politician in my memory, save possibly Ronald Reagan, it is impossible to actually know what Mr. Romney believes. About anything. All we know is that he can be authoritarian. That is, he can put a dog on the roof, and leave all the women's issues to his wife to sort out. To be authoritarian is not a position, it is a way of being. There's a big difference.

This week the Wall Street Journal exhorted Mr. Romney to pick Paul Ryan. At the same time, Romney's own staff made the horrible mistake of actually citing one of Romney's own achievements, the health care reform he instituted in Massachusetts when he was Governor. This was a "mistake" because the entire political right has spent the last four years attacking the national health care reform patterned on Romney's state-wide reform (down to the always omitted detail that the national health care reform bill is grounded in the private health insurance company industry, and will be a boon to the industry). The "mistake" Romney's staffer made, in short, was to become a credible counter to the intense propaganda campaign which generated the muddled Tea Party movement and an off-year Republican electoral landslide in 2010. It's one thing when Democrats try to argue that all the blather about death panels and European socialism is nonsense. It's another thing when a Romney staffer says pretty much the same thing, by implication.

So, as Driftglass remarks today. Romney caved. As usual. He changed the subject. He picked Paul Ryan. There are obvious implications, pro and con. On the one hand, I think Mr. Ryan will have a lot more appeal to the muddled "independent" American voter than, say, Sarah Palin managed. Mr. Ryan seems on the surface to be an "intellectual," cool and considered, about policy and numbers, not dog whistles and hate. And the fact is--as a demographic certainty--one of the candidates, either Obama or Romney, is going to need this muddled independent middle to win the election. Moreover, Ryan has such credibility with the hardcore right--the pundit leadership of Limbaugh, Coulter and the rest--that he will certainly shore up the right wing base in a way that a possibility such as Tim Pawlenty was incapable of.

What Romney is hoping to achieve, I think, is a kind of dual campaign. He can continue to cite his seemingly moderate record as a politician and, at the same time, use Ryan's radical economic agenda as a red flag to his base, and to independents who spend all their time fretting about the possibility that the United States may go the way of Greece and Spain--that is, people who tremble at big numbers with no context.

On the other hand, Mr. Ryan is, at last, a very clear target for anyone hoping to remind America of what used to be taken for granted--a government which protects people who otherwise would simply be discarded by the economic system when they are no longer productive, due to age or education or outsourcing. The long term goal of the American Right is the utter destruction of all vestiges of Roosevelt's "safety net." The American Right holds as a tenant that people must "produce" to live, and argues in the face of the obvious that "producing" is entirely a matter of personal will. This is Mr. Ryan's view. It ought to be possible to make it clear to voters that by putting Paul Ryan on the Republican Ticket this fall, the hard-core right's agenda is now the official agenda of a Republican Administration.

That is, the political advantage Mr. Romney has enjoyed--of presenting so vague and confusing a picture of his plans and ideas that his primary appeal to voters is his stiff charm and the fact that he's rich and white--should be eclipsed by his choice of a very known quantity--the guy who has produced and argued for the "Ryan Budget," which will destroy Medicare and Social Security as we know these programs, along with many other government services, all in the service of protecting the "job creator" class from any further taxation.

Not that Mr. Romney wasn't already toeing this line, mind you. But no one can really believe much of anything about Mr. Romney--right or right center. Romney is a persistent liar. His lies are so numerous that he really has no serious credibility. He has lied so often that at this point he can neither cite his business nor his political record. His silence on his own tax record is remarkable. Each new day, Romney is a new blank slate (thus the "Etch-a-sketch" metaphor).

While Mr. Ryan also has a changing political record (see the New Yorker, August 6, "Fussbudget," by Ryan Lizza), most voters know him primarily as the author of the "Ryan Budget," which is the on-record economic agenda of the Republican Party as it exists in the House of Representatives. Ryan's plan is the coming Romney tax plan, should Republicans gain control of both the Presidency and Congress. Ryan is a Representative from Wisconsin, and supports Scott Walker's radical agenda in that state. Paul Ryan is a hard-core Randian, on the record.

The Republicans are already starting to argue that the 2010 elections were an indication of the views of the "American People" on economic and social issues. Ryan represents the Radical Right juggernaut that took over the House in 2011, even if he was already there, and during the Bush years was a loyal soldier, voting for every deficit increase the Bush Administration asked for.

It ought to be possible for Democrats to at least point out Mr. Ryan's clear record, and his clear agenda. The question will be, how much money can the Dems muster to counter a bottomless Republican war chest. And, how successful Republican voter suppression efforts in swing states will be. In both these aspects, I find the liberal pundits of MSNBC to be far too sanguine. It may be laughably absurd, this Republican agenda of destroying the most popular programs in American history. It might be really hilarious to point at the rubes who flourish signs exhorting, "Keep Your Big Government Hands Off My Social Security," or to laugh at the absurdity of the Tea Party claim that it is in no way a racist political movement, when the very signage at their events makes racist assertions. But it's obvious, at this point, that millions of American voters do not make logical connections.

Nonetheless, the appointment of Ryan to the Romney ticket is the Democrats best hope to find clarity and logic perceptible to a majority of American voters. If--of course--those voters can present the special credentials which radical Republican legislatures and governors have now made a mandatory part of the voting process in crucial swing states.

[photo: "Romney Picks Ryan"]

Sunday update (upon watching the wall to wall coverage on Fox of Ryan's unveiling, occurring in a large picic shelter at Manassas, Va, scene of two of Stonewall Jackson's greatest triumphs over the United States of America and the U.S. Army--in the first one the Confederates brought several United States Senators and Congressmen back to Richmond after they'd gotten too close to the action, which they thought was going to be a picnic in the afternoon. La Histoire. She doth spin):

The Romney-Ryan train could not even leave the station without flat out lying about the President and his record. They also could not manage to resist playing the victim card--"He called me a murderer"--which is pretty rich coming from both of these guys, a millionaire who thinks he deserves to be President, and a Objectivist True Believer who can't even stand up for his Athiest Hero when he's called on it. It's too bad Mr. Obama can't debate Ryan head on. Maybe Mr. Biden can catch an opportune cold just before the Veep Debate and Obama will have to fill in. Surely as big a self-declared genius as Paul Ryan wouldn't hide behind Romney's skirts in such an eventuality. I'd watch.

Second Sunday Update
: Paul Ryan is what passes for an economist in the mainstream media. He has an affect--he plays a "serious economist" on TV. But what he perports to believe is probably nonsense. See, e.g., the following:

It's not like Mr. Obama has been particularly helpful when it comes to economics. The question remains, rather, whether America gets a hardcore plutocrat with the clear aim of stealing as much wealth as he can and funnelling it to his fellow plutocrats, or on the other hand, a man with some apparent empathy regarding real life as it is lived by 99 percent of the American people.

Monday Update: You know what. It's pretty stupid when the following has to even be elaborated. I always thought it was obvious that there are almost no supermen, toiling alone to build their gigantic businesses or fortunes. That it was almost always a complex collaboration between society and good fortune and insight and stamina and many other things that leads, at some end point, to a particular person such as Mitt Romney or Paul Ryan and his family's business or James B. Duke or Bill Gates or... ending up being the famous zillionaire. It's obviously a collaboration. Yet this plain fact is now in dispute with one of the major party's candidates for vice president and president doing the disputing. And so they did during the "unveiling" speeches on Saturday.

So, ok, I guess time must be wasted on this. Mr. Rude Pundit did the job for all of us:

Ok, now this groundwork ought to be laid. And it's time for everyone to realize that in the selection of Ryan for Vice President the Republican Party is now running directly and full on on the program of dismantling all the entitlement programs which serve as a humanizing safety net for all American citizens. According to the Republican Party, such a safety net is no longer worth paying for. Vote for them and it's simply sink or swim. A few people will certainly swim, and some fewer for their whole lifetimes and even into their children's lifetimes. For the rest of us, well, we'll find out how it's like in places like Calcutta as things slowly, inexorably contract around us. And we're pretty much fresh out of Mother Teresas too. And as for the economy? Vote for these people this time and I'd guess we'll see something that no one can pretend isn't a Great Depression. That's the Ryan plan. Brutal, ignorant fantasy from a naive, charming romantic who thought she could actually imagine a brave new world more to her liking.

I've mentioned it before. Try watching The Fountainhead sometime. Even with Gary Cooper and Patricia Neal, it's just simply pathetic. And this is what "inspired" Paul Ryan. We had all best pray that the Deomcratic Party is capable of educating the electorate on what's truly at stake. I don't see how this sort of mistake can be unmade later. Indeed, one could say that the Romney/Ryan ticket (to hell) is yet another result of the tragedy that was the election of George W. Bush in 2000. It wasn't 9/11 that changed everything. That had already happened.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

I Wouldn't Eat That If I Were You

[probably Amanita jacksonii, photographed 8/4/12, Chatham Co., NC]

Someone told me that the "body" of a mushroom is huge, sometimes extending underground for several acres. What we see of the creature is just the moment when it puts up mushrooms. Seems like the critter I photoed yesterday is definitely part of a family--there are several rows of these guys, separated by probably at least a hundred feet, in the woods near the house. We've had a good deal of rain, and very hot temperatures. Yesterday it was just barely at a level where I felt like weedeating some in the late afternoon--fighting back a bit of the jungle. I was still wet by the end, but I didn't find any ticks on me--a definite improvement over early this summer--only a couple of little bites on my leg, maybe chiggers or whatever... nothing horrible.

We saw a little antlered deer in the yard yesterday. I should have taken a pic of that. The kitties watched it with extreme seriousness from the window--as much seriousness as they watched a moth this morning.

The mimosa trees--a terrible mistake I made fifteen years ago--have had their yearly orgy, and if I don't get out there with a chainsaw we'll have a dang forest of the worthless things before long. Here's a pic of a satiated mimosa, enjoying a cigarette and a beer no doubt.

It's close to that moment when what seems without a doubt to be "fall light" appears. Maybe it's today. There's a way the shadows fall. It's also the moment when, since Hurricane Fran back in '96, it feels like Hurricane Season is on us. I keep waiting for the coverage to start--the tracking of tropical depressions chaining across the Atlantic from Africa. They all get names, and trajectories. Some years it seems like they all march into the Gulf. When that's happening it seems looking at the map so obvious that the Gulf draws them in, that the idea of one of them coming up here seems highly unlikely. Other years, the big shallow bay which is the southern half of the NC coast, from Wilmington to Ocracoke, seems to be nothing less than a big catcher's mitt, and the strikes just keep coming, one after the other. There was a time when weather prognosticators thought all hurricanes had to turn north at Florida because of the earth's spin. It was in this epoch that the great Galveston hurricane occurred, killing thousands, including a whole trainload of folks from Houston who were going down there for a day at the beach because no one who spoke English realized the big storm was coming. (Spanish-speaking weather forecasters in Cuba knew different, but we'd just defeated Spain and controlled Cuba, and we weren't gonna let no Cubans tell us whats what.)

Here's a string of our fungii friends, looking just like a hurricane map of the western Atlantic:

I think depicted below is also the same mushroom as the one I started this out with--that as they age and expand the red is diffused into orange as in the "hurricane map," but sometimes things go a different way. I'm not sure of that. Here's one more pic of the red ones, this time "open" but not orange at all and so possibly a different species, even though this one occurs very close to the red caps:

Of course it's equally possible that the two red mushrooms are not related, or that the orange ones are yet another species. I love how the mushroom books tell you never to eat one unless you're certain of which kind it is. Not that that's not great advice. The red one that starts this post might be the kind of critter responsible of up to 90% of the mushroom eating deaths in the US each year. That's some significant info. But the word "certain" in that dictum. I hope nobody ever feeds me a plate of forest gathered 'shrooms and doesn't tell me till I've half-finished the deliciosity.

Meanwhile, of course, oblivous to the remarkable beauty of the day, the machinery grinds on. Here's a wonderful piece on that:

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Gore Vidal

[Getty Images, Meyer Lansky, 1958]

Driftglass has a fine memorial to Gore Vidal up on his blog. Mr. Vidal died yesterday in California, at the age of 86. The Driftglass piece is mostly composed of various youtubes of Vidal in action, i.e., discourse. There are countless such pieces--one could spend a day watching Vidal. He was as good as it gets as a conversationalist, capable of matching wits with other champions, including William F. Buckley and Norman Mailer. One of the "tubes" Driftglass features is a short piece in which Vidal makes the point--quite correctly--that Saint Ronald Reagan was in fact an explicit racist, having supported racist governors in the south in their campaigns in the '60s, as well as having supported John Birchers running for national office. Vidal cites the names and dates.

In general, Mr. Vidal was unafraid, throughout his whole life, of speaking truth to power. He should be much better known and appreciated. That he isn't is a testimony to the cowardly centrism of our national media, a state of affairs which has betrayed the fundamental duty of the media pretty much since the end of World War II--assuming one can at least give some nod to war-time fudges such as the loss of thousands of American soldiers in amphibious exercises just prior to the Normandy landings.

But let's cut to the real chase. You know how youtube gives you links to other videos of possible interest after you watch the first one. Here's a link to a short Ronald Reagan clip which I happened to watch after seeing the Vidal piece on Reagan's racism. It's pretty remarkable. The right wing wants to put his likeness on the dime, which would of course fulfill their generations old dream of erasing FDR from history. As it is, Mr. Reagan owns the income cap on social security withholding--a feature of his legacy which keeps the Social Security program always on tender hooks--which was exactly his design.

The driftglass link is as follows:

Someone ought to ask Mr. Romney about Reagan's views on the Holocaust. After all, he's Meyer Lansky, ... err Sheldon Adelson's candidate, bought and paid for. This past week, watching his slow montion stagger through the distant lands of the world, I felt like I was watching the Godfather. Mr. Adelson is an international gambling czar, with a lot of pending legal issues involving his huge complex of casinos in Macau, China. Yet he is buying one of the Presidential Candidates in our election.