Thursday, April 30, 2009

Obama takes over Chrysler

Poor ole Chrysler has to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Something to do with the hedge fund people refusing to make concessions similar to what the workers, managers, government people and other non-greedy people signed off on.

Dear Mr. Obama: could you make sure to save the endangered PT Cruiser for us? I like the Cruiser. Lots of people like the Cruiser. PPPPllllleeeeaaaasssseeee??? (puppy eyes)

Just look at all the sweet pics of nice, pretty, customized PT Cruisers. Do you realize that saving the PT Cruiser can boost the auto customization industry? :)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

So much schadenfreude I have to pack some away as leftovers

Oh man, the hits just keep on coming.

Just as we reach Obama's 100th Day of Waking Up Knowing He's P-ssing Off Rush (Since FDR, the First 100 Days of a Presidency carries symbolic value: the more a President gets done the more successful he looks, ergo the harder it gets for his critics to shred him), he gets an anniversary present in the form of Arlen Specter deciding he'd had enough of the Republican Party. Arlen "Magic Bullet" Specter is now a Democrat.

This isn't unprecedented to have sitting politicians jump sides: Ben Nighthorse Campbell switched from D to R back in 1995, and Jim Jeffords went Indy when the Bush the Lesser GOP treated him like, well a Dem.

There'd been speculation for a good while (since 2006, actually) that some of the moderate/centrist Republicans might make a move like this, especially as their own party was driving them out of office. Examples include Lincoln Chafee, Wayne Gilchrest, and a few others that have been targeted with harsh primary challenges by the likes of the Club for Greed. What happens is that the Club for Greed notices any Republican refusing to stick to the "Cut Taxes" script, quickly labels them "RINOs" and a threat to party unity, finds a hard-line anti-tax pro-life candidate to challenge in a primary (something few incumbants face), runs a hard-right campaign that forces the incumbant to turn further right on the political spectrum, and because the challenger actually gets more party support (!) the challenger either wins or else loses in a close nailbiter. The GOP candidate then goes on to the general election in a weakened state, because either the far-right candidate is now running and is unpalatable to the general voting public (as what happened to Gilchrest's seat) or the surviving incumbant has been forced to accept an unpalatable platform and faces a greater chance of losing to a Democrat (as what happened to Chafee).

See, the problem is, the Club for Greed doesn't care. They don't care that fixating on an extremist ideology and forcing candidates further right than they should go would actually make their Republican allies LOSE SEATS and thus lose political power and prestige. They only care that they stay on message, and that the GOP stays on THEIR message. And then they think they can bully enough moderates into buy their trick pony show. Which is why every economic platform the Republicans have offered since 1980, 84, 88, 92, 96, 2000, 2004, and 2008 have been tax cuts, tax cuts, relaxed business regulations, and more tax cuts. Any Republican comes out and says "You know, tax cuts hadn't created jobs, and we need to raise funds to build more schools" and inside of ten seconds the Club for Greed will have a primary challenger signing up at the state courthouse.

Let us do be honest: Arlen Specter is only doing this for Arlen Specter. If there's anything an elected incumbant holds sacred, it's their own job security. Specter had already faced a Club-backed primary challenger before and barely held his own. Today, he's facing that same challenger and this time there's 200,000 fewer registered Republicans (those voters mostly switched to Democrats during the Obama-Hillary primary fight) who were the moderates keeping Specter safe. The prelimary polling had Toomey winning the primary (can't currently find the polling numbers, I think it was like 60 to 38 percent) all because the Pennsylvanian GOP was now thoroughly dominated by the Far Right. This is, by the by, a perfect example of what happens when you drive all the RINOs out: You end up losing, because now that Specter's a Democrat he can beat Toomey by a comfortable margin.

This isn't too big a win for Democrats. We're talking about Senators, who thrive on the self-inflated ego that they can be above partisanship and vote however they want. Specter isn't about to go completely DFH and vote liberal on every bill, although he will have to reconsider his stance on the EFCA that happens to be verrrrrrry popular in a blue-collar state like PA. All this talk about the Democrats now having a filibuster-proof majority is overlooking the fact a handful of Democratic (and Republican) centrists can and will vote against a far-left agenda.

This is however a massive loss for Republicans, no matter how they try to brush it off with a "good riddance" sneer. It never looks good for a party to have one of their own so openly and brazenly quit them to go join the other team (it hurt Clinton and the Democrats like hell when Campbell switched, as it made Gingrich's GOP Revolution look more unstoppable: Jeffords' escape so early in Bush the Lesser's term of office had hurt him, and it had to take 9/11 to stop the CW perception that Dubya was going to be a one-termer). It promotes the ever-growing meme that Reagan's Big Tent is shrinking until all that's left in the GOP are the wingnuts. And pretty soon the GOP won't be in a majority of the states, won't be anywhere near holding a congressional majority of any kind within the next 15-20 years. That Rovian dream of making the Republicans the "permanent majority party" will become the nightmare of a permanent Democratic majority instead, all because of the paradoxial acts by Rove to constantly appease the wingnut base above all else. As David Frum notes, it would have been better to have a majority party that appeases 60 percent of the base over a minority party that appeases 100 percent of the base... because that minority party will remain a POWERLESS minority party until scandal or another cultural shift takes place... which might be another 30-40 years the way the young voters are trending...

This is actually going to make it worse for the Republicans, and even moreso for those left in the Party still viewed as RINOs. There's talk now about the remaining two Senators that the Club for Greed mocked back in February for voting for Obama's stimulus bill and what could happen to them (actually, not much: Collins and Snowe are honestly two of the safest moderates in the GOP as there's no viable candidate the greedheads could dig up in their state to challenge them). But Specter's departure as noted earlier is bringing out a lot of the "goodbye so long good riddance and let the door hit your ass on the way out" talk among the wingnuts, and is even sparking dialogue that other so-called RINOs need to leave with Specter. Rush insists Sen. McCain should leave the party and take his pro-gay-marriage daughter with him. (personal note: Ahhh, Meghan, if only you were brunette, I might actually fantasize about you...) There could well be a major "litmus test" event within the GOP ranks to force the issue, where the Far Right will insist on their moderate bretheren to perform some embarrassing stunt that would completely alienate moderates from shore to shore. And to keep at it until the midterms in 2010, at which point they'll make a massive effort during primaries to run the RINOs out as best they can.

As I've said here and before, the wingnuts don't care. They genuinely believe that in order to win they actually have to NARROW their position, make it harsher, make it less moderate, make it less palatable to a majority. They somehow think that their purity of thought/purity of essence will make voters change their minds and agree with the wingnuts. Even though history keeps showing us that moderate/centrist voters don't vote the way the wingnuts (right or left) think. It's never about the 30-33 percent Right/Republican or the 30-33 percent Left/Democrat, it's the 30-33 percent Moderate/Indy that matters most... and the wingnuts never can see that. Those percentages, by the by, are how traditionally Gallup and other pollsters broke down the electorate voting habits. Would it hurt the Republican Party to mention that currently the polling numbers show 21 percent identifying as Republican (with 38 percent Indy and 35 percent Dem)? Hmm 21 + 38 + 35 = 94 so there's 6 percent leeway, but still. Should it shock anyone that it's the most skewed I've ever seen the voting divisions (I did research on voting trends from the 50s on up back at UF in 2004: the voting trends were usually hovering around 30 percent for all three groupings every decade)? Actually it ought to hurt the Republicans a lot: but as always the wingnuts don't care.

I do wonder just how MANY seats in Congress the Republicans have to lose before whatever's left of their leadership sits up and says "Hey guys, remember when there were enough of us to fill a Denny's banquet room? Think we oughta start appealing to more voters instead of fewer voters next term?"

UPDATE: not more than 10 seconds after I post this, I find on Moderate Voice a wonderful essay by Elrod that explains more eloquently the problems facing the GOP being taken over by the Club for Greed wingnuts.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Shep Smith speaks for me

"We are America! We do not f-cking torture!"

While the buzz is mostly going to be focusing on Smith dropping the f-bomb, the real topic should be on what Smith is saying. Smith is saying, in effect: America is supposed to be the Good Guys. We're supposed to be about truth and justice and pursuit of happiness. We're supposed to be about Reagan's "Shining City on a Hill." (Actually, the Shining City metaphor comes from John Winthrop, but Smith is appealing to the image of Ronald Reagan being a benign Pro-American positivist). We're not supposed to torture, that's what the bad guys do, the Commies and the Nazis and the tinpot dictators, not us.

Shep Smith deserves our applause. He might also need a job, because going off the rails like that at FOX Not-News will not go over well with their Overlord (no, not Ailes, I mean Cheney).

Saturday, April 18, 2009

More Schadenfreude of 2009 - Florida special

Ahh, it's been such a busy week I almost nearly missed this. Remember back to when I posted comments on a few tidbits of political scandal? Of course not, you probably don't read half my posts anyway. But still, I led off with a local scandal involving a major political player within Florida who lost his position of House Speaker - I don't think he even had it longer than a month, did he? - because he got caught helping out a business buddy and a college that had been doing him some favas (such as line him up for a cozy six-figure salary).

Well, yesterday got to be more fun for State Rep. Ray Sansom because a Grand Jury came back with an indictment on him and his college associate Bob Richburg (Northwest Florida State College):

The charge against Sansom and Richburg is official misconduct. It is a third-degree felony punishable by a maximum five-year prison sentence and a $5,000 fine.

The indictment said the men did "unlawfully falsify or cause another person to falsify, an official record — the 2007-08 state budget — with corrupt intent to obtain a benefit" for another person.

Richburg also was indicted on a perjury charge for testifying that there was never discussion to have developer Jay Odom use the building to store aircraft after the college got the $6 million.

Not indicted was the business partner Jay Odom, who stood to profit from that airport. Odom refused to testify to the grand jury and wasn't subponead for it, and because there's no law against a private citizen to seek out public funding he's the one getting off scott-free. I wonder if politicians will remember that the next time these business guys and lobbyists come begging for this and that... nah probably not. Politicians keep thinking they'll never get caught...

Also indicted by the grand jury - but not up for a day in court - was how the State Lege did its business: in shadow and secrecy, even with all the Sunshine Law provisions trying to keep things transparent. From the St. Pete Times article: The 18-member grand jury, however, described the budget process as a secretive one, where the most powerful lawmakers reward themselves. "We ... heard that this $6 million was likened to a gnat hitting a windshield. It is small wonder, with this attitude, that Florida is broke financially."

So the questions become: will the state reform itself further? Will Florida officials do a better job of making themselves accountable to the public in these dark times of recession and growing need for state services? Will I ever get a date with a sexy brunette? Obviously, the answer to all three questions is No. Sigh. :(

Anyways, I wonder if Sansom is gonna team with Blago on that overseas reality TV show thingee...

Friday, April 17, 2009

Okay, let's hold a protest

From Greenwald:

More importantly, Obama can only do so much by himself. The Obama administration should, on its own, initiate criminal proceedings, but the citizenry also has responsibilities here. These acts were carried out by our Government, and if we are really as repulsed by them as we claim, then the burden is on us to demand that something be done.

More than 250,000 Americans attended protests yesterday (ostensibly) over taxes and budget issues. If these torture revelations are met with nothing but apathy, then it will certainly be reasonable to blame Holder and Obama if they fail to act, but the responsibility will also lie with a citizenry that responded with indifference.

He's right. If a handful of Obama-hating wanna-be secessionists can work up the gumption to gather in protest over taxes THAT HAVEN'T EVEN HAPPENED YET IF EVER, then we ought to gather anyone and everyone in the United States who are morally opposed to the use of Torture and other criminal acts THAT HAVE HAPPENED.

So c'mon folks, let's gather round and rally on the National Mall and tell The Justice Department that we want Justice, that we want a Special Prosecutor investigating the criminal misdeeds of these memo-writers (Yoo, Bybee, Bradbury) and their political patrons (Feith and Cheney above all else). Let's do it. Let's rally.

All we need are the permits filled out, 50 bucks paid for the paperwork, and uh oh yeah 200 million of our closest friends. Anyone know a good date to schedule this all for?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

You Keep Using That Word... definitely DOESN'T mean what you think it means, Republicans.

The word in question is socialism. And the Republicans are using that word (and it's harsher cousin communism, but in smaller doses) to describe Barack Obama and his Presidential era.

Now, I wanted to add the definition of socialism to this discussion, and I thought about using William Safire's (noted conservative essayist/columnist) Political Dictionary to do so. But he doesn't provide direct definitions: he instead describes 'creeping socialism' as a political code phrase used by Old Guard GOP from the FDR years. All he notes is the word origin coming from the 1850s.

Without Safire for guidance, I went to Webster's:
Socialism. 1: any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods. 2 a: a system of society or group living in which there is no private property b: a system or condition of society in which the means of production are owned and controlled by the state. 3: a stage of society in Marxist theory transitional between capitalism and communism and distinguished by unequal distribution of goods and pay according to work done.

Pretty straightforward. What Webster's doesn't explain is the usage of socialism as an insult/mark of intent in American politics. For that you have to examine the whole of 20th Century, the rise of global communism as a threat, and basically the whole Cold War era.

What has to be explained is how 'socialism' became the insult du jour instead of 'communism.' The Cold War era had rampant anti-communist fervor, marked obviously by the McCarthy hearings and constant hunts for hidden Yuris in every branch of government (and Hollywood). While the Republicans were openly waving their anti-commie flags high, the urge to label Democratic opponents as communists (and by extension, traitors) had to be there. Problem was, in that atmosphere of persecution, you had to really PROVE someone was a communist in order to prove your point. You just couldn't point a finger at a Democrat like, say, John Kennedy, and claim he's a Commie. Because he could come right back at you with his War Record (wounded war hero complete with Hollywood film rights) and make you look like a screeching harridan who's just jealous of his good looks... and hell could even take you to court for defamation/libel because back then being labeled a commie was a BIG deal.

So how to insult Democrats as Commies without the need for evidence that they actually were Commies? The trick was to make Dems out as Commie sympathizers... which a good number of them like Veep Henry A Wallace were. Not actual Stalin-worshipping Reds but close on the rainbow scale: Pinko sympathizers (such as Nixon accusing his Senate opponent in 1950 of being "pink down to her underwear."). Thus came the word 'socialist' as the insult to be aimed at Democrats.

On the political scale - Fascism to the far right, Pragmatic Moderatism (usually represented as modern Capitalism) in the middle, Communism to the far left - Socialism is between the Moderate and the Communist. Socialism basically is where the government nationalizes the means of production, and regulates to the point of absolute control nearly every social service ('rationing') available to the nation. It's more open than Communism in that the people retain purchasing power, some level of individual wealth, and access to various means of financing not related to production. Not every business and industry was nationalized. But the point of Socialism is to try and enforce some kind of social equilibrium: everyone get a fair share of the pie, whether they earned it or not. That usually meant a form of "Taking from the rich to give to the poor," creating a welfare state where the state ends up providing the bare minimum of incentive and motivation of using capital... creating a kind of unemployed malaise and cultural stagflation that noticeably hit Western Europe from the 60s until the Thatcherist years of privitization of the 80s re-opened the floodgates of capitalism.
It never got as bad in the United States as it did in Europe, mostly because 'socialism' remained a bad word. LBJ's Great Society was the closest we would come to a welfare state, which didn't even have as high a tax rate as the post-FDR years did to pay for it all. Nixon, Ford, and Carter's terms of the 1970s didn't see much other than a series of massive energy crises and growing inflation, to which I'm not sure if any movement towards socialism had a role. I can be certain the pro-business anti-communist years of Reagan ended that for good. Even Clinton eventually reformed our nation's welfare system (the grand nail tying the Great Society together) into a more work-oriented re-employment system.
Combine that with the collapse of Communism between 1989 to 1991 (leaving pretty much Cuba as the notable openly-Communist state left, unless I'm forgetting someone from Africa or Asia), and socialism (and even communism) came and went in the United States like a brief unwanted fart.

So what does this all have to do with Obama?

To the Republicans, everything. Because the Republicans want to attack Obama non-stop, and they need all the words-as-a-weapon they can get.

It doesn't matter if you look at Obama's actual record of activity since he got into the White House 3 months ago. The fact that Obama's current tax plan actually LOWERED taxes for 95 percent of Americans doesn't concern Republicans. The fact that Obama's next step regarding taxes is to allow Bush's tax rates to expire AS SCHEDULED by 2010-11 doesn't concern Republicans. The fact that a majority of Americans are at the point for the first time in decades thinking their taxes are "fair enough" doesn't concern Republicans. The fact that Obama's current economic plans for bailing out the economy and combatting the recession are so universally acknowledged as needed that even the Republican Governors trying to refuse the stimulus money are being forced by their own state Leges to accept the funding doesn't concern Republicans. They just see a Democrat, and to them a Democrat is a tax-and-spend liberal who threatens to bring about socialism to this country, no matter what he does to improve a shaky economy, no matter how well he actually does his job.

So they toss out that word - "Socialist" - like it means something. Like it's a weapon of lethal efficiency.

But it doesn't mean anything. Not in the way it used to. And especially not to the up-and-coming generations coming into political power of their own. Which is what should be worrying the Republican Party leadership, but isn't.

This is the 20-year mark of 1989: the year people recognized that Communist nations like China and the Soviet Union had redesigned their economic structures closer to capitalism than communism. That year, Eastern Europe fell in its own Domino Effect as one Communist regime after another collapsed, leading up to the Fall of the Berlin Wall itself. Side note: I was nineteen years old at the time, and believe me I never saw a more joyous moment in all my life than watching on TV as everyone who could danced on the Wall that night of November 9th. Personally, I miss the Berlin Wall: it was the one place you could have legally left graffiti, and I never got a chance to do so...

This is the 18-year mark of 1991: the year that saw a post-Cold War struggle in the Persian Gulf akin to the Korean War, an international effort led by the U.S. to stop the Iraqs from seizing Kuwait, in which our old Cold War adversaries the Soviets sat on the sidelines watching a proxy army (Iraqs armed with their gear) get clobbered in under 40 days. And then that August, the last gasp of a Communist regime trying at one more political coup, a half-hearted effort to oust Gorbachev and stop his dismantling of Soviet ideals. It failed, spectacularly. The only thing the coup did achieve was removing Gorbachev... five months later after the coup itself collapsed. By then the Soviet Union had fractured, Russia replacing the behemoth and essentially signaling the end of Communism. We could joke, then and now, that Communism failed "because there was no money in it."

These are key things when considering the massive generational shift going on in American politics, wherein a younger generation of voters are coming in... and are decidedly coming in on the side of the Democrats.

We are getting, right now with this year's set of 18-year-olds, the first generation of college students and the first generation of voting age that DOES NOT KNOW THE COLD WAR on any personal level. When they were born, Gorbachev was on his way out. The United States was the sole superpower on the planet with any conceivable military, economic, political, and cultural mojo. Cuba was this island off of Florida with a constant supply of decent baseball players swimming over, with a graying old man in charge who could be viewed more as a run-of-the-mill dictator than a Communist propangandist. Okay? We're talking about the first generation ever who learned about Communism IN THE PAST TENSE. Trust me, from my memories of high school history studies: Anything older than ten years in the history books is ANCIENT HISTORY. This is a generation of 18-year-olds who grew up learning how COMMUNISM FAILED. To them, it's not a threat. It's not even a joke. It just... is. Like fuedalism, or mercantilism, it's just things to study. How can you terrify a generation with the boogeyman specter of "Socialism" when they've never even experienced it?

And that's the 18-year-olds. The 28-year-olds were all 10 years old when they saw Communism collapse. They grew up with Reagan and Thatcher as paragons of virile capitalism, and even they watched an economic system fail and sputter to death. Think any of them are frightened by Communism? And try my generation: the 38-year-olds. Generation X, that's us. We were in college watching Communism fail, and we even studied and learned the Hows and Whys, and understood what it meant. While a majority of us went conservative in our leanings as we grew up and grew out, we too learned that Communism was a failure. Hell, we even know Socialism - as we were the generation that grew up in the social decay and destruction of a failed Great Society plan - was inconceivable, a joke.

Generation X grew up as the Soviet Union fell, as Communist China changed to capitalism. Yes, we are the generation that grew up with "Rambo," with "Rocky IV," with non-stop replays of "Red Dawn" on HBO. But my generation - well at least the guys I grew up with - didn't take half of that sh-t seriously. I remember a bunch of us catching "Red Dawn" on TV one weekend, and we chortled watching a bunch of fellow "teenagers" (who looked ten years older than us) take on the whole Red Army. And watching C. Thomas Howell turn into a gun-toting, deer-blood-drinking psycho was scary only in that we saw this guy turn into basically a psycho, not someone worth emulating. 'Course, To us it was a movie. Hell, the whole Cold War was a movie, or a video game (and sometimes both): in which detente was preferable to war, in which we still saw the self-destructive impulses of Communism (its inability to stop Greed as an economic drain onr resources) as a failing system, in which the only real difference between Us and Them was that they drank vodka and we drank whiskey (or scotch). My generation may know Socialism, but it doesn't scare us. We know better.

And that leaves the generation above us, the Baby Boomers. The ones now in charge of things, the age of the political leaders of both parties, but in particular the Republican Party. Note: Obama himself, born 1961, is on the tail end of the Boomers for whom the cutoff year is 1965. Those born near the Generational shifts tend to share traits of the preceeding or following generation, so Obama shares some traits with Gen-Xers, noticeably a love of basketball. For the Boomers, and the older Generations (the Silent, ones caught between Boomers and those who won the Great War, and the Greatest Generation who grew up in the Depression and fought the Big Fight That Saved Everybody), Socialism is indeed a Big Deal. They came of age at the start of the Cold War, with Stalin slamming down an Iron Curtain across Eastern Europe and reneging on the power-sharing arrangements in demilitarizing a Post-War Germany. They grew up with a Socialized Western Europe, an increasingly moody and out-of-sorts France and England with large tax systems that drove out wealthy rock stars on an annual basis. To them, Socialism if not Communism is a threat and a problem, and they worry about it like the hybrid navigators on the re-imagined Battlestar "This has all happened before and it can all happen again."

So now we have a very noticeable generation shift: the party elders who knew and fear Socialism; and younger generations coming of age and power who don't know Socialism or else saw Socialism fail and have no fear of it.

And you see the results: younger voters are aligning with Obama by 66 percent, with the 18-29 age group making 18 percent of the voting bloc. And those numbers will go up as they grow older and as more of their generation gets interested in voting. And this generation - the Millenials - are NOT as socially conservative as their elders, not even Gen'Xers who tend to be libertarian-leaning on social issues. To the Millenials, all they've known is a capitalistic system that grew corrupt and corpulent, taking billions in tax cuts during the Bush years and now coming BEGGING to Obama for billions more in bailouts. To the Millenials, they can't comprehend the level of hatred Ayn Rand had for Communism that would have pushed her to create a socio-political movement out of Objectivism: to this generation, "Atlas Shrugged" is a boring book they had to read in AP English.

And all the Republicans do is point at Obama and yell "Socialist!" They can't even effectively describe what it is Obama is doing that's Socialist, other than the massive spending, and as I mentioned earlier this article, THAT'S THE ONLY THING KEEPING OUR CAPITALIST ECONOMY ALIVE. And the younger generations are gonna look at Obama and think "If that's a Socialist, and we like him, then hell we're Socialists too!" Just the word alone - "Socialist" - it doesn't scare people anymore.

So whenever you hear a Republican say it, someone on FOXNews repeating it, someone writing a Beltway screed against Obama, whenever they bring up the word "socialist," you could consider some level of pity, or sympathy, for those guys. They're trying to hurt Obama the best way they can, the only word they and their aging out-of-touch generation knows.

They're just using a word that doesn't mean what it means anymore.


Today, by the by, was a big day for the anti-Obama forces because they were pushing a huge Tea Bag Revolt across the nation, all 50 states, trying to rally their massive forces of conservative angst to show how they are opposed to Obama raising taxes and spending like a Democrat (which does, of course, beg the question of WHERE THESE F-CKERS WERE WHEN GEORGE W. BUSH WAS SPENDING LIKE A DEMOCRAT). Did not see much in the way of explanation of the Hows and Wheres and Whys of Obama being an evil overlord of doom. He just is to the Far Right. No one yet complaining about Obama's shoelaces, but the year is still young...

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

I was going to post about something else, but this blog is concerned about the harsh treatment of pirates

I'm still working on my next thought about how screwy the Republicans are re: Obama, but I couldn't leave this unchallenged.

The past week saw American interests over the rise of Somali piracy heat up when pirates seized an American-manned cargo ship and hold the crew hostage. Normally, the pirates would wait, negotiate for a ransom, take the money and flee back to Somalia. This time, however, the crew fought back, causing enough problems until the ship's captain offered himself up as a hostage to ensure the safety of his crew.

The U.S. Navy was quick enough on the scene, and a tense stand-off over 5 days took place. Meanwhile, the media back home - especially the conservative bloggers and blowhards - were ranting and raving about how Obama was failing his first big test of an international crisis, that oh something's gotta be done, oh we gotta go bomb Somal...

SEALs snipers coordinated with the American captain to where he jumped off the pirate's ship and the snipers shot the three pirates guarding him (the fourth was on the Navy ship trying to negotiate and is now in custody). Done and done. Obama let the Navy do its job, gave out the congrats, made a follow-up speech that the world needs to resolve the piracy issue, and moved on. The conservative critics were left slackjawed and in some cases bitch-slapped.

My problem with the issue is that, while I know Somali piracy is a problem (and it's far worse in Southeast Asian waters), as a Floridian and Tampa Bay Bucs fan and as a Unitarian who recognizes the religious beliefs of Pastafarianism I'm a little concerned about the bad rap pirates are getting in this day and age.

Sure, pirates are robbers, and raiders, and not the kind of guy you'd invite 'round to dinner to meet the folks. But I like to think of the kinder, gentler pirate, the one more interested in rum, buried treasure, rum, women, rum, and maybe a spot of gambling in port. Ah, the fun pirate, the pirate who looks back at 40 and goes, "damn, I should have gone into a Poli Sci career."

The problem is now how the Obama fanatics are drawing up charts highlighting the effectiveness their boy wonder is in killing pirates (not like Obama was one of the damn snipers after all). There's now a chart showing that compared to the likes of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, Obama is something of a wuss.

What are we heading for here? Are we as a society going to call on our elected leaders to suddenly with force and without legal niceties to start hunting down poor pirates across the seven seas? Will the 2012 election be decided by who captures Calypso and defeats the undead krewe of the Black Pearl once and for all? To this I say, Parley! Let us not lump all pirates into one dreaded column of evil and bloodlust. Let us calmly and rationally ensure the safe passage of those pirates whose sole interest in this world is rum, women and song. For the sake of the pirate children, I implore you...!

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

The one thing driving Republicans crazy

You can kinda see it in the blogs, and on the FOX Not-News, and in the pro-Republican papers (the ones still alive that is). This desperation to attack President Obama for every little thing he does. This need by the Far Right Noise Machine to shred and humiliate a President (and political party) they despise to the nth degree.

And you can kinda see how crazy they're all getting when the polls and general public reaction to it all - even two months into Obama's first year in the White House - is a "We Hugz Barack!"

The polls keep showing Obama's approval above 60 percent, even as the economy remains mired and job losses keep increasing. Polls show that a majority of voters are willing to blame a lot of people - Corrupt CEOs, the Bushies, GOP Congress - for the major recession but not Obama. CNN just ran a video on how the public still loves Obama (even comparing him to another Teflon Prez, Reagan) even as the media and political elite with Washington DC continues to act hostile toward him. And while those inside that insular Beltway echo chamber are starting to wake up to the fact that the public aren't buying their anti-Barack angst, the GOP leadership is still convinced they've got a winning strategy of waging a war of personal attacks on a President who's about 50 points more popular than they are.

And why not? That platform - Making the Political Personal - worked before so many wonderful times. Especially on the last Democrat to hold the high office.

With the Clintons, the war of personal destruction - of slander and damaged reputations - could work. For all of Bill Clinton's political skill and savvy, he could never sell sincerity and was too slick even for his own good. Hillary was so clearly ambitious it rubbed people the wrong way. The Republicans could attack them, attack them personally, attack them mercilessly, and simply wait for the right time (Lewinsky) to try and topple them. The only thing that really saved Slick Willie's presidency was a majority of Americans could recognize a screwed-up partisan witch-hunt when they see one: for all the hype about the Clintons' criminal misdeeds the best the GOP could do was blowjobs? It also turned out to be something the Republican leadership could also get caught being hypocritical about: sexual misconduct by GOP leaders quickly popped up and caused a few of Clinton's harshest attackers out of office (Will Ferrell as almost-Speaker Livingston screaming "What the hell happened?" remains the satirical high point of those scandal-ridden days). Even years later, Republican hypocrisy related to that scandal keeps popping up.

And so with that campaign strategy, they kept working that policy of Personal Destruction. They criticized Gore for being stiff, boring, a fibber about "inventing the Internet", a half-crazed hypocrite about environmental issues. They went after Kerry (swift-boating was the term, yet another fancy synonym for mudslinging) for being a soft-on-war paper soldier who didn't deserve his Purple Hearts. Those times, it worked.

But nothing can work on Obama. Labeling him 'liberal' doesn't work as an insult in an era where 'conservative' is the new 4-letter word. Calling him 'Socialist' or even 'Communist' isn't going to work either, and I've got a separate blog thought coming up about that. Going after him for his tax-and-spend policies doesn't work when your own party can't provide any viable alternative (What part of Tax Cuts Don't Work are the Republicans ignoring?). I'm serious, the Republicans' budget proposal from last week was so weak - IT HAD NO NUMBERS outside of a blatant tax-cut-for-the-rich scheme! All it had were fancy flowchart circles promoting vague "underwear gnome" catchphrases - that even their far-right cheerleader blogs couldn't defend it. The GOP leadership's follow-up proposal - the aptly named "April Fools Budget", I swear doesn't the GOP P.R. guys read the calendar and plan for a better release date? - has more numbers but is more laughable. Sullivan, who's looking harder than I am, can't find anyone on the rightie blogs speaking up for it. Like I said earlier, the Republicans can't attack Obama on policy when their own party has trouble defining their own policy. In some respects, it's not that Obama is Teflon: it's that his attackers are toothless.

The problem for the Republican Party is that they've relied on the Politics of Personal Destruction for so long that they can't think of more pragmatic means of promoting policy and organizing followers around coherent theories. All it is for them is ATTACK ATTACK ATTACK, even with growing evidence that a majority of Americans (and a growing majority of their own own GOP base) has grown weary of that crap. It's getting to the point where the GOP leadership - Cantor, Limbaugh and Coulter and their noise-machine wannabes - are gonna confirm my Obama Shoelace Hypothesis: that at some point, the Republican Party and their media allies are gonna wage a full-scale propaganda war against the way Obama ties his shoelaces (even if Barack starts wearing loafers). And Obama's popularity will probably bounce up to 70 percent when they do.

ADDED: One other point to make about Obama's "Teflon" image. One reason why he compares a lot to Ronald Reagan's popularity is due in part to how Washington DC really is disconnected from the rest of the nation. The Beltway mentality truly is about 15-20 years behind the rest of America. The political party leaders are guys and gals who have been long-time incumbents in safe secure districts meaning the ideological beliefs they came into office (say, 1988) are the same ones they have now. The same thing goes for the media elites and political commentators who come into the spotlight at a particular ideological era: for example Ben Bradlee, powerful news editor for the Washington Post in the 60s through the 80s, came into the media upper echelon at the time a close personal friend (John Kennedy) was heading into the White House, and had a career throughout the post-FDR era where even Republicans accepted the New Deal (Hi, Ike!) in some way. For Rush Limbaugh, he came into talk radio at the height of the Reagan Era. Which is why for him every aspect of his worldview is based on that Era... even when it's been 20 years since then and everything else in America has changed.

The thing is, in the 1980s the Washington establishment - both political (and in both parties) and media - were still thinking in terms of FDR/JFK/LBJ where government was the solution and business needed oversight. Meanwhile, a majority of voters - even the now-legendary 'Reagan Democrats' - fell in love with Reagan's cheery pro-business anti-government platforms (even as Reagan turned out to be pragmatic enough to not fully embrace such platforms), because by then all voters could see were the negative consequences of calcified Keynesianism (stagflation, steady job loss, psychological ennui). Reagan caught a lot of flack by the Beltway types, but his popularity never waned (not until the Iran-Contra scandal, but even he bounced back from that).

And now here we are in the 2000s. The Washington establishment is now made up of players (both Republicans and Democrats) and talking head media darlings who came of age during Reagan and still think those heady days of tax-cut mass-deregulation could still sell well to voters. But voters - including enough so-called RINOs - are turned off by the end results of Randian laizze-faire (massive corruption and incompetence in both finance and federal gov't, massive job loss and failing wages). Obama is catching a lot of flack now by the Beltway types, but again don't be surprised that popularity won't wane (well, not until his own Iran-Contra scandal... so whatever happens, Barack, don't make any deals between Iran and Central America, GOT IT???).

And I mentioned before I have some additional thoughts on how the GOP and the Far Right media are trying to attack Obama's ideological core beliefs... but not as well as they hoped. That's for another time.