Saturday, December 13, 2008

Burning Down the Church. Sarah Palin's home church, the Wasilla Bible Church, was severely damaged by fire on Friday. I hope it wasn't politically motivated arson. Although Palin's ridiculous lack of qualifications to be vice-president made her look foolish during the campaign, I always respected the sincerity of her religious beliefs and hope her church is able to rebuild.

Friday, December 12, 2008

A Good 5-17. The Los Angeles Clippers won a double-overtime game in Portland tonight to up their record to 5-17. But it's a good 5-17. The Clips have put together a strong starting five of Baron Davis and Eric Gordon at guard, Al Thornton at small forward, Zac Randolph at the power slot, and Chris Kaman at center. Randolph is a horse in the middle and has been playing well all year. In fact, all five starters are capable of scoring 20 on any given night. The Clips also have a chance at a defense identity because of Kaman and Marcus Camby.

Actually, lack of identity is the main reason why the Clippers are 5-17. They've been injury-prone since training camp and haven't had much of a chance to develop team cohesion with four new starters and a second-year player in the starting lineup.

There's also a big talent drop-off after the first six guys and the Clips have lost several games after leading at the beginning of the fourth quarter.

But Chris Kaman and Ricky Davis will be back after a couple of weeks and the Clippers have a good shot at moving up to .500 at the end of the year.

Altogether an interesting team.
True to Their Twisted Little Selves. One of the ironies of Hamlet is that the pathetic blunderer Polonius appears to give his son Laertes excellent advice:
This above all: to thine ownself be true
And it must follow, as the night the day
Thou canst not then be false to any man.

But the advice only has the appearance of wisdom. Someone should be true to themselves only if they are unlike Polonius and have a worthy self to be true too.

This is obviously the case with the rejection of the $14 billion automobile bailout where the Republicans are being true to their twisted, bitter little selves.
Welcome to My Dreams. Last night, my recently deceased grandmother Rheta West entered my dreams. After having dreamt at least once about her being lost, Rheta appeared for the first time in my dreams since she died 2 1/2 years ago.

My grandmother Rheta was the real deal. Being born and initially married into the farm life in Camptown, PA, she raised four kids as a single parent after being abandoned by her husband at the depth of the Depression.

Then, it all turned around.

Marrying a good-guy bricklayer named Wayne West after the war, Grandmother Rheta enjoyed a happy life of cooking, crafts, boating, gardening, and small business enterprises for the next 40 years. And she lived it well, She was great with her neighbors, grandkids, and husband. She was also generous and fair. When she got a big bucks inheritance, Rheta divided it about 18 different ways without even giving herself a share.

I don't know that I had ever dreamed about her before.

But . . . Welcome.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Conservatives and the Sixth Catastrophe. One way to think about the history of conservativism in the United States is in terms of recovering from the latest in a series of catastrophes.

Catastrophe #1. The Election of Thomas Jefferson in 1800 and the decline of federalism as a dominant political force. The Federalist political project of aligning with the British monarchy, confining power to a narrow elite, and limiting the impact of the majority within Republican institutions failed. Jeffersonian Democracy introduced the specter of popular government to American society.

Catastrophe #2. The Election of Andrew Jackson and advent of Jacksonian Democracy in 1828. By the 1820's, conservatives had successfully fought back against popular government and re-established their ascendancy. But the election of Andrew Jackson introduced popular government and forced conservatives to fight their way back for another 12 years before they decided to adopt a popular politics themselves during the 1840 presidential campaign.

Catastrophe #3. The Defeat of the Confederacy. By 1860, the defense of slavery against abolitionism had become a core theme among conservatives South and North. The vanquishing of the Confederacy raised the specter of equal rights for African-Americans and temporarily overthrew the racial hierarchy in the South. White supremacy would not be fully re-instated until the 1890's.

Catastrophe #4. The New Deal. The Roosevelt administration openly attacked wealth and privilege, made poverty a political issue, and brought labor unions into the highest levels of presidential politics. The New Deal also legitimated an activist and supervisory role for the federal government in the economy with Keynesian economics, regulatory agencies, steep progressive tax rates, socal security, and AFDC. And the New Deal approach didn't stop with the end of the Roosevelt era. The National Defense Highway System, the GI Bill, and increasing levels of federal involvement in education were fundamentally New Deal initiatives. Unlike other catastrophes, American conservatives have never recovered from the New Deal.

Catastrophe #5. The Civil Rights Movement and the 1960's. With the Civil Rights movement, the specter of equal rights for African-Americans became at least a partial reality as the South's system of racial segregation was overthrown. The elimination of segregation as a system of racial hierarchy then inspired women, gay people, and other groups to redouble their efforts to end various kinds of social and political disabilities. The social ferment of the 1960's also gave birth to a counter-culture movement that had a long-term impact on American attitudes toward sex, abortion, marriage, drug use, and other social mores. Conservatives have been working even harder to undo the legacy of the Sixties than they've been working to reverse the New Deal. But they have only had limited success.

Catastrophe #6. The Failure of the George W. Bush administration. The Bush administration was the first authentically conservative administration since the Coolidge years during the 1820's. The Bush administration's reputation for arrogance and incompetence, the bungling of the war in Iraq, and the current economic crisis have confronted conservatives with the possibility that the incoming Obama administration will be a catastrophe for conservatism on the order of the New Deal.
Happy RSI Children. Sometimes I wonder about the RSI children. Mrs. RSI is down with a migraine on top of an infected root in one of her teeth. But the law of unintended consequences applies to Mrs. RSI's various illnesses as well. A big migraine means no sax practice tonight for the RSI girls (both of whom play alto sax in school bands). Happiness reigns.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Really Long Sentence Please.
His career in shreds, Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich clung defiantly to power Wednesday, ignoring a call to step down from President-elect Barack Obama and a warning that Senate Democrats will not let him appoint a new senator from the state.
I imagine Rod Blagojevich thinks he can leverage his defiant refusal to resign into an easy sentence.

But public outrage doesn't quite work that way.

As several criminal celebrities, wandering CEOs, and corrupt politicians could tell Blagojevich, public outrage can add a lot of years onto a prison sentence. Because of the general disgust, O. J. Simpson will be serving at least 9 years for "potentially" hurting people in his Vegas memorabilia grab. Jeff Skilling of Enron got 24 years for hiding his losses at Enron while Bernie Ebbers got 20 for fudging the books at WorldCom.

Blagojevich probably has a few days--maybe a week--to give up his office before public disgust adds 5-10 more years to his sentence.

Personally, I think Rod will get 15-20 out of his bargaining.

Celebrating the New GOP. Some ads are more significant than others. I think the Sarah Palin 2012 shirt with the red and blue moose is especially rich in symbolism. The only problem I see is that the Moose is standing. Isn't Palin famous for shooting down the hulking herbivores and cooking them up into mooseburgers, moose chili, and tasty moosebeque? It would be much more true to the Palin spirit if her shirt had a moose trophy rather than a live moose.
Perhaps the Republicans could really capture the Sarah Palin spirit by referring to themselves as the "Dead Moose Party." Perhaps the "Dead Moose Party" has a certain satirical ring to it, but the nickname does capture core Republican positions on the special value of rural life, guns, and the environment.
"Dead Moose" t-shirts anyone?
Any Racists on Your Christmas List? It's hard to be a white person and not know at least a couple. I have several racist relatives myself. Anyway, the right-wing magazine Human Events recommends that you send them The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Civil War. If you order now, they'll also send you a white sheet with a hood at no extra cost.
"At Least He Kept Chile Safe from Bolivia?" Talk about misplaced priorities, a Chilean cardinal used his homily in honor of mass murderer Augusto Pinochet to criticize Madonna:

Madonna is causing "crazy enthusiasm" and "impure thoughts" on her first concert visit to Chile, a prominent retired cardinal complained on Wednesday, as he paused in a tribute to a late dictator to denounce the pop star.

Roman Catholic Cardinal Jorge Medina criticized the flamboyant singer during his homily at a Mass in honor of the late dictator Augusto Pinochet, who oversaw the deaths of some 3,200 dissidents during his 1973-1990 rule.

By the way, shouldn't the Catholic Church be catching some of the anger that's being directed at the Mormons over Prop 8. Certainly Catholicism is the greater evil in relation to gay rights.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Nailing Blagojevich. In a way, the attorney for Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich hit the nail on the head. What Blagojevic has been doing is "just politics." But that's why it's such a great thing that Blagojevic was arrested and faces significant jail time. In fact, it has become "just politics" for legislators, governors, and staff people to either do things or promise to do things in exchange for campaign contributions. Presidents give their big-time campaign contributors plum ambassadorships, politicians hold out promises of appointments to bundlers, and party leaders promote legislation with the expectation that those who benefit will contribute to their campaigns.

But that's why the arrest of Blagojevich is such a great thing. Much of what's become "just politics" is a crime. When politicians promote bills with the expectation that the beneficiaries will increase their campaign contributions, that's soliciting a bribe. When they talk with their staffs about how they're going to use legislation to put the squeeze on lobbyists, that's conspiracy. It's extortion when a politician use a threat to withdraw beneficial legislation or promote harmful legislation if someone doesn't make or increase campaign contributions. Likewise, all the discussions of these kinds of threats are conspiracies.

It's time that all of this kind of politics be treated for just what it is--a crime.

And that is just what Patrick Fitzgerald is doing.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Call Bush "Palinesque." Perhaps people like Karl Rove should just buy up a television network and devote programming entirely to the presidential legacy of George W. Bush.

Call it Bush Legacy Television--B-L-T for short.

In an interview with The Statesman, Rove puts on his Obama "post-partisan" cap and claims that the Bush people were surprised by the level of partisanship in Washington.

Rove, a hall-of-famer when it comes to partisan politics, says Bush was hampered by partisan politics magnified by the recount. Bush, the self-proclaimed "uniter," came to town after successfully having navigated the decidedly less partisan waters of Austin, where, according to Rove, he "got lulled" by six gubernatorial years of dealing with Texas Democrats who were generally willing to work with him.

"And here (Washington) it's still consumed by the '90s, by what Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich routinely said about each other from the rostrums and the focus that was created in this town in the afternoon headlines and the snappiest comments on the morning cable programs . . . "

Evidently George Bush hadn't been following the news since the 1960's and hadn't been familiar with all the fights over Watergate, Jimmy Carter, Reaganomics, or Bill Clinton's sex life.

And that's where Bush Legacy Television should start--with a show about what George Bush knew about American politics when he was elected president.

Call the show "Palinesque: George Bush's Legacy as the First Totally Clueless President. "
One Too Many. It had to happen sooner or later. Getting into the ring one too many times, Oscar De La Hoya took a beating from Manny Pacquiao.