Archive for October, 2008

Complacency my ass!

Friday, October 31st, 2008

Have you noticed there are two entirely different — and wholly irreconcilable – narratives regarding the mental status of Democrats buzzing around now?  

Narrative number one: Democrats remain so obsessed, traumatized even, by our narrow losses (or stolen victories) in 2000 and 2004, we’re constitutionally incapable of accepting good news. Even though the polls look great for Barack Obama, we steadfastly refuse to be happy about it. Instead, terrified victory will once again be snatched from us at the last moment, we walk around in a dark cloud of misery and foreboding.

Narrative number two: Democrats are in grave danger of blowing this election because we’ve become so damned cocky, based upon the polls, that we’re convinced Obama already has things locked up. It’s made us complacent. And as a result, we probably won’t work very hard the rest of the way to the election and a lot of us won’t even take the time to vote.

So, let’s add it up: Democrats today are utterly terrified of losing, but, at the same time, are also so overwhelmingly complacent about winning that we won’t even bother showing up to vote.

Got it.

The only problem, of course, is that a lot of it is pure bunk. Complacency my ass!

Here’s the truth, at least as I see it. Older Democrats — defined as those of us who’ve been politically sentient for at least eight years — are, in fact, terrified of losing, absolutely and utterly so. The last two presidential elections still burn in our esophagus like an underdone extra large beef and bean burrito (with double onion). Complacency?! You’ve got to be fu*king kidding! Obama could be leading in the polls by 30 points and we’d still show up to vote and stand in line nine hours if need be.

And, by the way, we won’t do that just to make certain Obama wins. We were robbed blind in 2000, and maybe again in 2004. We’re looking for payback.

By the same token, nothing will stop African American voters from flocking to the polls. They’ve already proven this in the primaries and in the early voting so far for the general.

So that leaves the youngsters — defined, as you’d expect from the above, as anyone who hasn’t been politically sentient for at least eight years. And here, of course, is where the big question comes in: will the kids turn out? (When you’re over 50-years-old you have a constitutional right to call people in their 20s kids, so live with it.)

Most of these young Americans, after all, have no investment in the 2000 election. They didn’t sit in front of their television sets, as Democrats of my generation did, screaming in outrage as a GOP dominated Supreme Court closed down the Florida recount. They didn’t have to hold themselves back — time after time — to keep from throwing a glass at the television screen as one amoral Republican hack after another accused Al Gore of trying to steal the election, even as they themselves were finalizing that very crime.   

So will the kids become complacent? Will they, once again, decide to stay home?

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Speaking of Joe the Plumber

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

Is there anything this boob can say that’s dishonest, stupid or reprehensible enough to cause McCain to stop using him as the principal foundation for his campaign?

Apparently not.

You can never find a plumber when you need one

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

Not even an unlicensed one.

Check it out: it’s funny.

If Dole wins I give up

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

In this year of historically despicable Republican campaigning, this takes the cake. The bottom line pitch: my opponent hates God.

Obama does ridicule well

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

Nothing is more effective, when directed at a deserving target, than a little understated ridicule.

Obama, via The Washington Monthly (they also have the video):

“[B]ecause he knows his economic theories don’t work, he’s been spending these last few days calling me every name in the book,” Obama said. “Lately, he’s called me a ’socialist’ for wanting to roll back the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans so we can finally give tax relief to the middle class. I don’t know what’s next. By the end of the week, he’ll be accusing me of being a secret communist because I shared my toys in kindergarten. I shared my peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

The class warfare fight Obama shouldn’t duck

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

Could there be a drearier drumbeat than the rights incessant cry of class warfare? And could there be a more pathetic attempt at a diversion from the real issues, or a more obvious con, than the right’s constant harping that any attempt to achieve greater economic justice in this country is advocacy of redistributing wealth. Or, worse still, that it constitutes the bogeyman of socialism or Marxism?

For 30 years now, the rich in this country haven’t just been getting richer: they’ve been getting massively, almost unimaginably, richer. The statistics are staggering.

According to Inequality.org, “The top one percent of households received 21.8 percent of all pre-tax income in 2005, more than double what that figure was in the 1970s. (The top one percent’s share of total income bottomed out at 8.9 percent in 1976.) This is the greatest concentration of income since 1928, when 23.9 percent of all income went to the richest one percent.”

Also from Inequality.org, “In 1962, the wealth of the richest one percent of U.S. households was roughly 125 times greater than that of the typical household. By 2004, it was 190 times . . . The richest one percent of U.S. households now owns 34.3 percent of the nation’s private wealth, more than the combined wealth of the bottom 90 percent. The top one percent also owns 36.9 percent of all corporate stock.”

But in one sense these statistics largely miss the point. The real issue isn’t so much that the rich in general have prospered in recent decades; it’s the rebirth in this nation of an economic aristocracy of the superrich. According to the New York Times Magazine, “The top 0.1 percent of earners — that’s one out of every 1,000 families — made 6.8 percent of the nation’s pretax income in 2004, up from 4.7 percent a decade earlier and about 2 percent in the ’60s and ’70s.”

As Mel Brooks famously said, “It’s good to be the king!”

None of this is subject to serious dispute: there’s no other side of the story that needs to be told. The undeniable objective truth is that the last 30 years have seen a staggering transfer of the nation’s wealth from the middle class to the wealthiest of the wealthy. And this didn’t just happen ‘cause. It happened, in large measure, as a result of political choices. One of the most important being, obviously, the decision to make this nation’s primary public “investment” be in the form of massive tax breaks for the wealthy.

Warren Buffett said it best, “There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”

Yet, what do Democrats do when their Republican opponents claim even the slightest effort to right this wrong constitutes class warfare, or even socialism? Do they laugh in their faces? Do they take the opportunity to educate middle class voters on just how badly they’ve been robbed blind in recent decades? Do they remind people that America was a much more equal — much more middle class — nation in the decades following World War II? Or that during those years of greater equality, America actually experienced the greatest growth in prosperity the nation has ever known?

Sadly, the answer is no. Instead, what Democrats generally do when Republicans push this class warfare nonsense is to plead for mercy. “Please don’t hit me. I’ll promise not to raise Rupert Murdoch’s taxes if you stop yelling at me.”

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Eulogy to a dying art — political cartoons

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

When I was a teenager, I fell in love with the idea of becoming a political cartoonist. I bought a book on cartooning, got myself some black India ink and went to work.

One small problem: I can’t draw.

In retrospect, perhaps before flying full soul into cartooning it might have been wise for me to remember I had never been able to do better than a C-minus in art class.

Curse you cruel fate!

Anyway, since that day I’ve felt a certain kinship for political cartoonists and, at least in the case of the good ones, more then a little awe of their talent. Political cartooning is one of those art forms, like poetry, which can seem deceptively easy on first inspection: just draw a picture and write a few words. But, of course, the opposite is true, with so much that needs to be accomplished in just one small box.

For many years here in Wichita, Kansas, we’ve been fortunate to have a fine political cartoonist, Richard Crowson, drawing for the local paper. Although Crowson is liberal by Kansas standards, he’s more than moderate enough to occasionally annoy a lefty like me.

Still, his stuff has always been worth a look (not something you could consistently say for the rest of the Wichita Eagle’s editorial page).

Crowson is gone now: the victim of budget cuts.

It’s a story that’s being replayed all across the country, as Editor & Publisher discussed in this story covering Crowson’s layoff:

He’s the latest of about a half dozen staff cartoonists laid off in recent months, and one of dozens of cartoonists jettisoned in recent years. There are now only about 80 of these positions left in the country — down from hundreds several decades ago.

This trend will no doubt continue, as newspapers fight the battle of the ever diminishing bottom line. My guess is that within ten years, political cartoons will have all but disappeared from daily newspapers in this country. True, the art form will survive on the Internet, where a lot of very good work is already being done — but economics comes into play online as well.

The great gift of the web, of course, is that it offers the unlimited opportunity to publish almost every form of creative work. The great limitation of the web, on the other hand, is that it’s damn hard to get paid for doing so.

And even cartoonists have to eat.

What is particularly sad, of course, is that the death of the political cartoon isn’t an isolated event. Ever so surely, the all powerful bottom line is plowing under everything that provides an ounce of elegance and originality in traditional media sources. National conglomerates, for example, have already killed most local radio programming — and with it virtually every speck of originality — as the same poll-tested dribble is played from sea to increasingly polluted sea.

I personally doubt most newspapers will continue with local editorial pages much longer. Why mess with local writers, with all those nasty salaries and benefits, when you can paste in Ann Coulter’s latest tirade for a minimal fee? Other public service features of papers, including most local reporting (and virtually all investigative reporting), will quickly follow, as anything not directly proven to enhance the bottom line is jettisoned.

Welcome to the future of the American mass media — as dull and predictable as sugar free vanilla pudding.

So goodbye to the political cartoon. You’ll be missed.

Why the right wing may go extinct: it’s too dumb to breathe

Monday, October 27th, 2008

You’ve probably seen the absurd — laughable really — “interview” Florida news anchor, Barbara West, conducted of Joe Biden. Not satisfied with merely repeating official GOP talking points, West, instead, jumped the media shark all the way to repeating the talking points of the party’s most extreme nutcases.

Here are some of the money quotes from the “interview” (borrowed from Crooks and Liars):

Interviewer: “You may recognize this famous quote: “From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.” That’s from Karl Marx. How is Senator Obama not being a Marxist if he intends to spread the wealth around?”

Biden: “Are you joking? Is this a joke?”

Interviewer: “No”

Biden: “Is that a real question?”

Interviewer: “That’s a real question”

*  *  *

Interviewer: “Are you forewarning Americans that nothing will be done, and America’s days as a world leading power are over?”

Biden: “Umm, no, I’m not at all. I don’t know who’s writing your questions.”

*  *  *

Interviewer: “What do you say to the people who are concerned that Barack Obama will want to turn America into a socialist country much like Sweden?”

And here’s a shocker: it turns out West is married to a GOP operative. As Gomer Pyle might have said: Surprise, Surprise, Surprise!

What I find most fascinating about this isn’t that some unknown local television ”personality” decided to make a pitch for Fox News glory. Hell, a talking head has only one soul to sell: why not sell it to Rupert Murdoch? No, what’s fascinating is the right wing’s response.

I won’t link to any of their sites because, well . . . because doing so might cause my computer to crash in protest: but I did spend some time surfing right wing blogs (just type “Barbara West” into Google blog search), checking out posts on the subject. Suffice it to say, the wingers are in ecstasy over this.

Apparently to the twisted minds of the far right GOP base, West’s questioning of Biden wasn’t an embarrassment: it was Pulitzer Prize quality journalism. They’re laughably wrong, of course, but what’s really striking is their cluelessness about the broader public mood. Despite everything that’s happened, these people still have no idea — not the slightest inkling — of how badly this type of ignorant hate-mongering is damaging the GOP brand.

It’s almost enough to make you feel sorry for John McCain. Think of what he’s up against — trying to thread the needle of playing nice with these nitwits in the base, while at the same time trying to appeal to independents. No wonder his campaign appears to be going up in flames.

There’s good reason to hope for more than McCain’s defeat this year’s election, of course — to dream even that it may represent the beginning of the extinction of today’s ultra-radical conservatism. And if so, this time it won’t be an asteroid that takes out the (political) dinosaurs.

Nope, this time it turns out that they were just too dumb to breathe.

 

Try imagining Palin in the Oval Office

Saturday, October 25th, 2008

I can’t do it. I try forming the mental image, Sarah Palin — looking dazzling, of course, in her new Neiman Marcus suit and red pumps — sitting behind the desk in the Oval Office “leading” the free world. I can’t do it. I just can’t.

The image is too ludicrous — like trying to imagine your own father wearing a dress with stockings (Rudy Giuliani style): the mind rebels.

Yet, if McCain somehow comes back to win, this very image (of Palin not your father) stands a damn good chance of coming true.

What a shameful act, putting this utterly unqualified and self-consumed prima donna so close to the presidency. McCain’s selfishness is staggering: placing a higher priority on pleasing the far right GOP “base” than on protecting the nation — and this from a man who so regularly presumes to lecture the rest of us about patriotism. 

Country first my ass, Senator.

Kindness to Ashley Todd: seven plagues to Matt Drudge

Friday, October 24th, 2008

What a sad case: a 20-year-old McCain volunteer falsely claims that she was attacked by a black Obama supporter, apparently going so far as to carve the letter B into her own face. Was she trying to affect the outcome of the election? Probably a little, but my guess is this had more to do with her trying to garner attention for herself.

It’s obvious this young woman has some serious issues. Sure, she should pay a price for filing a false police report. I doubt, however, anyone (including Barack Obama) will get all that upset if her punishment (or diversion agreement) requires little more than mandatory counseling and perhaps a little community service.

Matt Drudge, on the other hand, deserves to burn in hell for pushing the original story in the most inflammatory and racially polarizing way possible. Although come to think of it, what would be the punishment in that? He probably confirmed his reservation there years ago.



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