Saturday, January 17, 2009

I Could Have Laughed to Death

Matt Taibbi's take on elite opinion idiot Thomas Friedman is that funny. The left has generally been turning its attention from the Bush administration to incompetents in the Democratic coalition. Friedman is a daily target for bloggers like Glenn Greenwald while John Kerry and Joe Biden have been taking some hard hits from the Daily Show.

Because the Obama administration has not yet taken shape, the media field surrounding the Obama administration is also indeterminate. No one knows how the sub-fields of the right-wing media, mainstream media, and the left media are going to function or how much weight each of these fields is going to have over the next eight years (making the big assumption that Obama is going to win re-election).

Right now however, I think it is safe to say that the emerging left-wing media is the dynamic element in the contemporary media landscape. Television personalities like Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and Rachel Maddow, blogs like The Daily Kos, Huffington Post, Digby, and Glenn Greenwald, and op-ed columnists like Paul Krugman have supplanted organs like The New Republic as opinion-makers on the left.

However, the mainstream media and conservative media have become such big question marks that it's impossible to get a read on the field as a whole. To what extent will the mainstream media be cheerleaders for President Obama and his administration? If they decide to focus on celebratizing Obama and his family, cheerleading might be their main function? But liberal bloggers also point out that elements of the media are seeking to coalesce around right of center opinion concerning the economic stimulus package, Bush administration war crimes, and the Israeli invasion of Gaza. Perhaps the mainstream media will become the chief public source of right-of-center questioning of the Obama administration.

But that's far from being written into stone.

It's difficult to get a read on the conservative media as well. Limbaugh, Hannity, Fox, and the elements in the conservative media that drive opinion among conservative activists have been unreserved in their opposition toward Obama. But elite media figures like William Kristol, George Will, and David Brooks don't like being limited to "preaching to the choir" and are wary of popular conservative constituencies like religious conservatives and hard-core small government types. Given certain conditions, it's easy all of these figures supporting Obama over their erstwhile conservative constituencies.

But, people like Matt Taibbi are the media wild-card. If large audiences of informed readers start laughing themselves to death over Tom Friedman columns, the media landscape is going to start tilting toward the left.

Friday, January 16, 2009

An Almost Final Word on George Bush

My almost final word on George Bush is that I didn't have much interest President Bush's fairwell address. I didn't pay attention to the exit interviews either.

When you take away the blundering invasion of Iraq, the economic collapse, the crimes against humanity, and the crimes against competence, George Bush just isn't that interesting.

Ultimately, George Bush has to be seen as a failed president. I believe that historians will find that Bush administration negligence had a substantial role in bringing about 9-11. They'll find that Bush's people viewed the aftermath of 9-11 as an opportunity to invade Iraq and overthrow Saddam Hussein and launched a clever campaign to conceal both their war objectives and the fact that the decision was made so early. Given the ideological character of the fight over warrantless wiretapping and torture, there probably won't be much agreement over whether Bush administration figures were war criminals. However, historians will determine that Bush administration economic policies and deregulation mentality hurried along the financial collapse. There isn't much discussion of the effect of the Bush administration on the capacity of American government, but I'm willing to bet that future historians will find that the Bush years resulted in a broad deterioration in the skill level and fundamental competence of the federal government.

In the final analysis, Bush reminds me of Buchanan and Hoover in being a president whose failure is so monumental that he's going to usher in fundamental changes in American government and society. Does that mean that George Bush is the worst president in American history?

Probably not.

It looks like Barack Obama is going to be successful in using the economic stimulus package to push health care reform and jump-start government efforts to promote a transition to a green energy economy.

Those are fundamental changes but are not as far reaching as the Civil War or the New Deal. In this sense, George Bush wasn't as big a failure as Buchanan or Hoover because his failures are not connected with cataclysms like the Civil War or Great Depression.

Here lies the significance of the surge. Because Bush's surge policy in Iraq has been moderately successful, the Obama administration can maintain America's imperial role in the world. The Bush administration really would have been "the worst" is they had failed so badly that the U. S. had to fundamentally change its role in the international system.

But Bush did screw up badly enough to be included in the bottom three.

More Flexible Than I Thought

Well, real winter has come to this section of Kentucky. It was 15 degrees out this morning, just as frigid and sunny as a 15 degree day in Michigan or upstate New York.

That puts the RSI family in a bad way. Our house has large windows that catch a lot of sun but also let in a fair amount of cold. The furnace doesn't work that well either.

But the cold also brings out some unnoticed talents. While walking on N. Wilson Ave., I slipped on the ice and did a full split without ripping up any of my 54 year-old muscles.

Guess I'm more flexible than I thought.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Cheney Lied About the People Who Died

Why does Dick Cheney think that the Iraq invasion was worth 4,500 American combat deaths and the more than 100,000 Iraqis who died.

Mostly because Cheney didn't give a damn about any of the Americans or Iraqis who died.

For Cheney, the war was worthwhile because neo-conservatives were able to achieve their long-standing goal of overthrowing Saddam Hussein.

A secondary goal was getting out without being completely humiliated. The surge accomplished that.

More than 100,000 Iraqis might be dead, the Maliki government is rife with corruption, and the country is much closer to being a Somalia-type failed regime than a stable democracy.

But Cheney's satisfied because he got everything he wanted.

What a guy.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

I Hope Obama Wasn't Too Bored

Well, the big blog news this evening is that Barack Obama had dinner with conservative pundits George Will, Charles Krauthammer, David Brooks, and William Kristol.

I hope he wasn't too bored.

Reporters expect that liberal bloggers like myself will be "outraged."
Nevertheless, Obama's choice of dining partners seem likely to cause its fair share of hair-pulling and eye-rolling. As the pool reporter, Ken Bazinet of the New York Daily News, penned in his write up: "This is for real, folks. The bloggers are going to love this one."
I don't know why.

It's not like Glenn Greenwald, Josh Marshall, Digby, and the folks at Daily Kos and Huffington Post can begrudge the president-elect the time he spends listening to conservative pundits. With the exception of Will, the big-time liberal bloggers all pay close attention to these writers themselves.

Likewise, bloggers don't view these Kristol, Brooks, et., al, so much as "conservatives" as they see them as members of the "village" of politicians, commentators, and lobbyists who constitute the permanent American political elite.

In this sense, Obama isn't so much stroking conservative opinion as acquainting himself with leading members of the elite.

Does this mean that conservatives are going to have an influence over Obama's views on the stimulus package, the brutal Israeli invasion of Gaza, Guantanamo, torture, and other issues.

I don't think so.

Remembering back to Palestinian scholar Rashid Khalidi's reports of his dinners with Obama, it appears that Obama has a knack for making people think he agrees with him while remaining uncommitted.

I imagine conservative luminaries will find the same thing.

Of course, I'd like it better if Obama was spending more time with Rashid Khalidi.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Joe the Plumber--Real Right-Winger

Joe the Plumber is back, reporting from Israel and talking about the media:

"To be honest with ya, I don't think journalists should be (allowed) anywhere near . . . war," Wurzelbacher told other reporters in the Israeli town of Sderot. "You guys report where our troops are at, what's happening day-to-day, you make a big deal out of it. I think it's asinine. "I like back in World War One and World War Two when you go to the theatre and you'd see your troops on the screen and everyone be really excited and happy for them."

"Now, everyone's got an opinion," he added.

Wurzelbacher added that "war is hell and if you're going to sit there and say, 'Look at this atrocity,' well, you don't know the full story behind it half the time, so I think the media should have no business in it."

Joe the Plumber's right. We don't know the full stories behind the atrocities. That's because the atrocities are usually worse than the media say. We don't know half the atrocities either because the media doesn't get to report them.

War is hell and the public needs to know exactly how deep into hell their countries are.

But maybe that's not quite what Joe meant.

Bonus material: Working on a Song
"The Joe the Plumber Song" (apologies to Dr. Hook)

He's a real right winger, he's got an itchy trigger
and he's loved everywhere he goes
He talks about taxes and he talks about guns
and you know his name is Joe

(rest of song under construction)