Saturday, September 12, 2009

Glenn Greenwald Wrong on Dynamics of Freak Show

Glenn Greenwald's position is that the right-wing hasn't changed much over the last twenty years and is doing pretty much the same stuff to Obama that it did to Clinton:
But when was it different? Rush Limbaugh didn't just magically appear in the last twelve months. He -- along with people like James Dobson, Pat Robertson, Bill Kristol and Jesse Helms -- have been leaders of that party for decades. Republicans spent the 1990s wallowing in Ken Starr's sex report, "Angry White Male" militias, black U.N. helicopters, Vince Foster's murder, Clinton's Mena drug runway, Monica's
semen-stained dress, Hillary's lesbianism, "wag the dog" theories, and all sorts of efforts to personally humiliate Clinton and destroy the legitimacy of his presidency using the most paranoid, reality-detached, and scurrilous attacks.

I see things differently. Things are worse with the right. It wasn't until the George W. Bush years that the Republican elite coalesced arbitrary imprisonment, torture, and endless war, that establishment figures like Frank Gaffney were calling for the imprisonment of members of Congress, and prominent conservative intellectuals and Harvey Mansfield were calling for military coups or one-man rule. Where Rush Limbaugh used to represent the "right" of the Republican Party without advocating a lot of survivalist, conspiratorial, neo-Nazi junk, the "right" is now best represented by people like Glenn Beck who are eager to see the country descend into chaos. During the Clinton years, mainstream conservatives were looking to George W. Bush's "compassionate conservatism" as a way for the Republicans to appeal to people who were fed up with Newt Gingrich, Tom DeLay, and the confrontationalism of the Republican Revolutionaries of 1994. Now, mainstream conservatives view the "Revolutionaries" of 1994 as wimps and sell-outs. In 2000, the "radical right" was mostly a collection of single-issue movements like the "Right to Life" movement and the NRA. In 2009, all of those single issue movements seem to have coalesced around the cause of opposing Obama.

Forces of Evil Lose to Wolverines

I was glad to see the Notre Dame Forces of Evil lose 38-34 to Michigan. Having rooted against Notre Dame ever since they hired Jesse Helms supporter Lou Holtz as coach in the 80's, I hope this year's team falls on its face again.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Richard Wolffe: A Pimple in the Acne of American Politics

It was disappointing to see Richard Wolffe getting a bye-line from the Daily Beast for a pointless article on Obama administration's health care strategy for the fall. As bad a representative of mainstream media whoring as this country has to offer, Richard Wolffe has been able to keep his journalistic gigs with the Daily Beast and MSNBC while also raking in big bucks as a partner in the lobbying firm Public Strategies. The bottom line for Wolffe is that he can maintain some liberal credibility while undermining the public interest on behalf of his corporate clients. It's a win-win strategy for Wolffe and a lose-lose proposition for the public interest.

Speaking of interest, Wolffe's article has no interest outside a "senior administration official" giving him a spicy quote about instant "you lie" celebrity Joe Wilson (R-SC) being a "pimple on the ass of progress."
In fact, the White House is more than ready to brush aside the now-infamous protest of Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina, who yelled at the President during his televised address. “I think this is a pimple on the ass of progress,” said the senior adviser.

Predictably, the rest of the piece is filler that anybody could have gotten from CNN and which Wolffe probably did get from CNN. Wolffe might try to do some real research or real thinking. That way, he could earn his six or seven figure income.

But that would probably interfere with making money.

Come to think of it, the "senior administration official's" characterization of Joe Wilson applies to Richard Wolffe as well. Wolffe is just another "pimple on the ass" in the acne of American political life.

Comedian World Domination

The comedian plot to take over the world continues to gain steam. First the evil comics made Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert into America's two most trusted newsmen. After their success in taking over the news business, the comedians gained more momentum when the producers of Saturday Night Live ran Al Franken for the United States Senate. Saturday Night Live didn't just corrupt the Democratic Party either. They also convinced the Republican Party to nominate a Tina Fey impersonator for Vice-President. When Franken finally won, the plotters at Comedian Central (not to be confused with "Comedy Central") were almost as happy as Obama bin Laden was on 9-11.

But the news keeps getting worse. Not satisfied with taking over the news media and politics, the comedians have set their sights on a really important target. That's right, folks. The comedians are taking over one of the spiritual centers of American society--"American Idol." Operatives from Comedian Central have succeeded in placing Ellen Degeneres as a fourth judge on the most revered program on television. What does Ellen Degeneres know about music . . . or anything else for that matter. Is nothing sacred? Have the comedians no shame? How long do the other judges have to live before the comedians kill them?

Outside the National Football League, "American Idol" is the most important center of religious experience in the United States. Now that comedians have extended their influence from comedy shows to news, politics, and the world of religion, there's probably no stopping them. America has survived two invasions by the British, the slave conspiracy, two world wars, the Cold War and the War on Terror, but it looks we'll at long last lose our country to the laugh merchants at Comedian Central.

This may be my last post. I think I hear the goose-stepping myrmidons of Comedian Central coming up my driveway now, tasers in hand.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Progressive Media Fails on Obama's Speech

This is another in what looks like a series of posts complaining about the problems of the progressive media in covering the Obama administration.

I'm going to start with a quote from HuffPost's Dan Froomkin worrying about upcoming coverage of the health reform debate from the mainstream media.
The biggest challenge for Obama at this point, however, is the press. Will his speech be a game-changer as far as the coverage is concerned? Last night's triumphant visuals, including wildly cheering Democrats, and the resulting instapolls certainly proved a change of pace from the angry town-halls and barrage of lunacy that so transfixed our elite reporters during August. But the question is actually less whether the tenor of the coverage will change than whether the media will take this occasion to engage -- even just a little bit -- in a serious examination of the issues. Chances are, of course, that the vast majority of the coverage will continue to focus obsessively on politics and process -- and on the next conflict, the next gun-toting whacko, and the next spectacular bit of disinformation. That wouldn't be good for Obama -- or for the nation.

But where is the mainstream media going to go for their stories about Rep. Joseph Wilson yelling at Obama, the "next gun-toting whacko," or the next set of bizarre comments from Michael Steele--Instapundit? Rush Limbaugh? Fox News? Why bother. Such conservative sources will have at least some discussion of whether yelling "liar" at President Obama is a reasonable thing to do or carrying guns to Obama rallies is a good way for conservatives to dissent. Translating all of that into the desired "food fight" between the Obama administration and the right wing would be too much work for the mainstream media. Why should intellectually lazy mainstream media types bother.

That's especially the case because the mainstream media can draw its stories on right-wing antics from HuffPost. It's 10:58pm Eastern Standard time. Let's see what HuffPost has up right now. For their headline, they have a picture of Rep. Joseph Wilson of "you lie" fame along with four articles on the Joe Wilson story. Anybody reading HuffPost tonight--including the sheep-like mainstream media--would reasonably conclude that the most important thing about President Obama's speech as a political event was Joe Wilson's outburst. Not Obama's arguments concerning why health reform is necessary, his criticism of skyrocketing medical costs, Obama's attempt to pose himself as a moderate manuevering between "progressives" and "conservatives," or even his stories about seriously ill patients having their health insurance pulled. Instead of following up on the poor people who have died because of the inhumanity of the insurance companies, HuffPost decided to make Rep. Joe Wilson just as famous as Joe the Plumber.

It gets worse. Almost immediately below the headline is a story about Glenn Beck--I'm sorry two stories about Glenn Beck right below a picture of Glenn Beck. So far, we have pictures of Joe Wilson and Glenn Beck on what might have been considered a big day for Barack Obama and the health care debate. I had to push my "PgDn" button three times before I got to a picture of Obama and the picture of Obama makes him look thin and small compared to the full exposure given Joe Wilson. Progressives at HuffPost and TPM have been complaining all day that Republicans like Joe Wilson did not show proper respect for Obama and intimated that they were at least partly motivated by racism. And I think they're right. But treating Joe Wilson as though he's more important than Obama isn't much of a way to show respect for Obama either.

Scrolling down on Huffpost, there's at least three more stories about Joe Wilson, another story about the California politician who resigned after some pornographic bragging about his (alleged) affairs, and Jane Hamsher criticizing Obama. Compared to the wall coverage of Joe Wilson, the progressive HuffPost only has three articles by Froomkin, Maxine Waters, and Paul Begala praising Obama and commenting a little on the substance of his views. In other words, HuffPost is practically a warehouse for stories on the state of the right-wing antics and relatively little coverage to the speech itself. And even then, a considerable amount of HuffPost's coverage of the speech is about polling and the politics of the moderate, progressive split among congressional Democrats. Dan Froomkin complains about the lack of policy substance in the mainstream media, but it's not like HuffPost is any better. And given that HuffPost "rules the world" of the mainstream media more than Drudge, HuffPost has become a significant source of the problem for the mainstream media as well.

And it's not just HuffPost. Talking Points Media features a big picture of Joe Wilson with smaller pictures of Dick Armey and John Boehner. Altogether I count eight stories on Joe Wilson and only three stories on Obama's speech (concerning Tom Harkin, Ron Wyden, and Joe Biden). And even those stories are more than balanced by other stories about Michael Steele, Mark Sanford, and California sex-bragger Mark Duvall. If a Democratic politician really wanted to be featured on TPM or HuffPost, the best thing they could do would be to start seeing prostitutes or go one better than Mark Sanford and have an affair with an exotic Brazilian beauty. Maybe President Obama could get more coverage in the progressive media if he filed for divorce.

To be fair, Salon featured a positive column about Obama's speech from Joan Walsh even though it still ran more articles about the Republican reaction.

All in all, the big-time progressive media has its head firmly up its butt about Obama's speech, the health care debate, and health care policy. As bad as the mainstream media is, the progressive media doesn't have a lot of room to criticize.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Steeling the Jelly-Spines of Moderate Democrats

Marc Ambinder writes for his Atlantic blog that President Obama survived the teabagging offensive by offering the "public option" as a bargaining chip to conservative Democrats.
Initially, given the GOP success . . . in framing the option as essential to health care, its putative failure and demagoguery seemed to be a significant blow to the White House. But -- and here is the key point -- it became something for the Blue Dogs to "oppose" and thus satisfy their constituents' concerns about reform in general. Sen. Max Baucus's health care plan has been derided by many liberal activists because it seems to be a compromise upon a compromise.

This is about right. Republican senators Charles Grassley of Iowa and Mike Enzi of Wyoming might be the only two people in the country who changed their minds as a result of the townhall eruptions. Obama stuck to his guns and progressives stuck to their guns. So did moderate Democrats from conservative districts in the South. If anything, teabagger rudeness and intimidation might have put some steel into the jelly-spines of moderates.

Ambinder didn't see a single Democrat in Congress changing their mind as a result of aggressive conservative tactics. I didn't see any either.

Actually, the political process has now been simplified. There are only four real players right now: Obama administration, the Democratic leadership, Democratic moderates like Max Baucus, and Maine Republican Olympia Snowe. The Democratic players will try to work out a compromise and they'll try to keep Snowe on board. But Snowe representing herself, her policy interests, and her Maine constituents. The Republican Party has rejected health reform so completely that they're not going to be a party to any negotiations.

And the legislation is going to pass one way or another. If the Democratic leadership can't get 60 votes, they'll pass a bill on budget reconciliation with 50 votes.

It's really that simple at this point.

Concerning the public option. Ambinder thinks it's dead, but I'm not so sure. Today it looks like the wind is blowing toward some sort of "trigger." But what happens when conservatives demagogue the "trigger" for the public option. Obama and the Democratic leadership might decide that they won't lose any more votes by keeping the public option than they would by compromising it away.

What's going to be the political fall-out of the health reform debate. In my thinking, health reform is one more item that's killing the Republican Party. Obama's popularity might be down but the Republicans have sunk much further. Republican strategists think they have an opportunity for big gains in 2010, but my impression is that the Republicans still don't have the candidates, message, or money needed to win hard-fought campaigns.

So, I wouldn't be surprised if the Republicans didn't lose a couple more Senate seats while only scoring minor gains by defeating a few Blue Dogs in the House.

In other words, Republicans are still on the path to being displaced as a major political party.

An Urban Legend Grows: My Daughter "Stood" for Obama

While I was conducting an event at the Honors House tonight, I heard from a colleague that Miss Teen RSI had stood up during a high school class and said that it was time to listen to President Obama's speech. I was also told that the teacher had told her to sit down and that the class wasn't going to hear the speech.

Yes, I had a brave daughter who was willing to stand up to authority in the name of all that was good and true.

But it turned out to be an urban legend.

When I got home, the daughter in question said that she had sort of stood to make her hand visible but that she forgot what the teacher said and that it hadn't been any kind of put down or anything like that anyway.

All very mundane.

It turned out that about half of the high school teachers didn't show Obama's speech in their classes.

Not much of a surprise.

High school teachers are pretty conservative--especially in a Bible-belt area like this.

I'm just glad that they're not teaching the "Answers in Genesis" line in the science classes.

A New Perspective on Glenn Beck

Doesn't the new species of giant rat in this picture remind you of Glenn Beck?

Monday, September 07, 2009

Obama's "I Walked Through Five Feet of Snow" Moment

In a way, conservatives are right about President Obama's speech to the nation's schoolchildren being indoctrination. It's indoctrination into the dominant ideology of individualism. But it's hard to see why conservatives object. They believe in individualism just as much as Obama.

What I found charming about Obama's speech was this "standard parent moment of telling kids how tough he had it when he was a kid. Every parent gives this speech hundreds of times while their kids are growing up and every kid ignores this speech every time their parents give it. In our house, it's called the "I Walked Through Five Feet of Snow" Speech.
I know that feeling. When I was young, my family lived in Indonesia for a few years, and my mother didn't have the money to send me where all the American kids went to school. So she decided to teach me extra lessons herself, Monday through Friday - at 4:30 in the morning. Now I wasn't too happy about getting up that early. A lot of times, I'd fall asleep right there at the kitchen table. But whenever I'd complain, my mother would just give me one of those looks and say, "This is no picnic for me either, buster."
For that matter, I did walk through five feet of snow to go to dances in a neighboring town while I was in high school. Or was it "I walked five miles through the snow?" I forget now. And maybe Obama didn't really take classes at 4:30 in the morning. Maybe it was 3:30 in the morning before he went out for his pre-school job in the oil fields.

Whatever it was, I pulled myself up by my own bootstraps just like President Obama. See, I still have the bootstrap scars to show for it.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Sympathy for Legarrette Blount

After yesterday's Boise State win over Oregon, Oregon senior tailback Legarrette Blount sucker-punched a Boise State player and then went beserk before being pushed into the Oregon locker room. Here's the video. There was some provocation. The Boise State player taunted Blount and slapped Blount's shoulder pads. But the provocation was nothing compared to what Blount did. Upon seeing the incident on video, University of Oregon officials quickly decided to suspend Blount for the rest of the 2009 season and effectively end his college football career.

It appears that they are going to keep him on scholarship though.

I agree with the punishment.

For his own good, Legarrette Blount needs to get out of big-time football for awhile.

But I also have some sympathy for Blount. High level athletes are expected to play with enormous intensity, reckless abandon, and testosterone-fueled aggression. But athletes are also expected to keep their emotions under rigid control at all times when they're not playing football and serve as role models for good citizenship.

It's an impossible demand and I'm surprised more athletes don't just go berserk like Blount did yesterday.

Anyway, I hope Legarrette Blount gets things worked out.

He certainly has my good wishes.

Where Have You Gone, Marion Motley?

I was shocked by this report on Shawne Merriman of the San Diego Chargers being arrested for choking his girlfriend. I always kind of hope these things aren't true, but they almost always are.