Saturday, February 28, 2009
I wish he would provide a list of quotes where members of Congress “say bad things about our troops,” because I’m not sure what would go on it other than gentle insinuations about how troops shouldn’t kill civilians or commit war crimes. Maybe he could mangle Murtha’s quote about troops under pressure making mistakes or something like that, but otherwise the greatest real amount of invective in recent years was from the Swift Boat team- about which Joe presumably has no complaints. If Democrats had a habit of traveling to Iraq to wave purple band-aids at our marines or something maybe he’d have a case, but until then maybe ominous rants about killing elected officials for treason should be put on hiatus?
I’m also a little bit curious about exactly when in American history it was an accepted practice to summarily execute people for imaginary treasonous jabs at troops. Wikipedia lists seven Americans convicted of treason, but most of them seem to have led rebellions or engaged in similarly high-level activities- and even then most resulted in jail sentences delivered in court instead of via vigilantism or however Joe envisions it. Even during the Revolutionary War there only seem to be a small handful of examples, so the best I can say for Joe’s wistful remembrance of the joyous olden days (where anyone where an insufficiently large number of flag lapel pins was burned at the stake) is that he might be confusing American history with feudal European history.
It can only be concluded that Republicans still haven’t figured out why they lost big in both 2006 and 2008. The Palin & Plumber team plays extremely well with a minority of Americans, but to the majority? Letting them run amok as the standard-bearers of modern conservatism is an extremely efficient way of telling the rest of the country “don’t vote Republican.” Obama and the Democrats can only pray that they don’t wise up any time soon.
Friday, February 27, 2009
In 2011, one of the greatest foreign policy disasters in American History will come to an end:
As if anticipating concern about a reported 50,000 person residual force, he quickly ads:
As a candidate for President, I made clear my support for a timeline of 16 months to carry out this drawdown, while pledging to consult closely with our military commanders upon taking office to ensure that we preserve the gains we’ve made and protect our troops. Those consultations are now complete, and I have chosen a timeline that will remove our combat brigades over the next 18 months.
Let me say this as plainly as I can: by August 31, 2010, our combat mission in Iraq will end.
Through this period of transition, we will carry out further redeployments. And under the Status of Forces Agreement with the Iraqi government, I intend to remove all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of 2011. We will complete this transition to Iraqi responsibility, and we will bring our troops home with the honor that they have earned.Barack Obama, 2002:
I don’t oppose all wars. And I know that in this crowd today, there is no shortage of patriots, or of patriotism. What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war. What I am opposed to is the cynical attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and other arm-chair, weekend warriors in this Administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne.He gave that speech as a state senator, and 7 years later he's able to make that vision a reality.
What I am opposed to is the attempt by political hacks like Karl Rove to distract us from a rise in the uninsured, a rise in the poverty rate, a drop in the median income — to distract us from corporate scandals and a stock market that has just gone through the worst month since the Great Depression.
That’s what I’m opposed to. A dumb war. A rash war. A war based not on reason but on passion, not on principle but on politics.
Pretty unbelievable stuff.
I actually found out about this band from FIFA '09, which features their song "Always Where I Need To Be" on its soundtrack. A few friend referrals later, and their latest album Konk had attained heavy rotation status in my music library. I'm a little bit late on their hype though, as many people have pointed to 2006's Inside In/Inside Out as The Kooks' best.
All I know is that their latest effort has numerous jams, including but not limited to today's featured track "Stormy Weather."
(And no, JJ, not the famed, yet ill-fated Stash House song).
Stormy Weather - The Kooks
But Steele rejected the idea that the recent elections meant the ideological ground had shifted. "I am here tonight to reject the idea that defeats of the past are a repudiation of core conservative values and principles," he said. "Nor do I believe that those defeats are a sign of things to come."I see Michele Bachmann has been hanging out with Mitt Romney.
And check out this latest development in Steele's campaign to create a hip-hop image for the GOP. Michele Bachmann praised Steele's speech: "Michael Steele! You be da man! You be da man."
I also thinks this confirms that she wasn't actually reading.
This comes after last night's signing of cornerback DeAngelo Hall for six years and $54 million. Where is all this money coming from? We just had to restructure four veterans' contracts to get to a measly $10-12 million under the cap (unofficial numbers, somewhere in that ballpark though). This is before signing any of our four draft choices, one of which includes a number 13 overall pick. This all but tells us that we are going to wave bye-bye to that first round pick, in exchange for multiple shittier picks in later rounds (with our scouts & talent evaluators, I can't wait to see how many receivers & punters we can draft in the fourth round!).
Even in a year in which the Pittsburgh Steelers just won the Super Bowl, which should serve as the quintessential blueprint for consistent, long-term success, Snyder and the Skins have reverted to form. Making a "big splash." But for what? I mused last year that the reason we didn't make any flashy signings may have been because there weren't really any prized free agents on the market (see the second-to-last paragraph). Now that theory has been thusly proven.
I'm actually amazed how stupid Snyder and Cerrato are. Does no one remember Dan Wilkinson? Dana Stubblefield? Hell, did anybody pay attention to the deal Cleveland gave Shaun Rogers last year and how little it paid off for them? LAST YEAR?! There was a cautionary tale on why bringing in big money free agents doesn't always bring instant success, but that means nothing to these clowns. They have no plan. They see every year as a year the Redskins can win the Super Bowl. Rebuilding? That's for suckers.
They take advantage of Washington's unusually loyal fan base and give us an inferior product to root for. They don't develop. They don't plan. The real life Redskins serve as Snyder's team on Madden year in and year out. And he actually wonders why Steve Spagnuolo passed on the job last winter?
They refuse to try to lock up Jason Campbell at quarterback, probably in case they decide to go after Vick, or some other as-of-yet undetermind star quarterback, flying in the face of everything they said about valuing continuity last year. So, make JC feel disrepected and under-appreciated, then pay for it when he's lighting us up in a few years wearing a different uniform.
The one tiny positive out of all of this is that Haynesworth is a very good player. However, it's human nature to perform when you have something to prove. Athletes play for that "big pay day" and once they get it, it's hard to play with the same level of intensity. It happens in sports all the time.
My dad once threatened to stop rooting for the Redskins if we hired Steve Spurrier as our coach. He didn't like Spurrier's arrogance, his temper tantrums, his inability to take any blame on himself and his knee-jerk reaction QB substitutions, among other things. We ended up getting Spurrier, but my dad's overarching allegiance to all things burgundy and gold overpowered him; he remained a fan. This is why I can never stop rooting for the Redskins. It's just how I was raised. All I've ever known has been rooting for them, that's the way it will always be whether I like it or not. But now I understand how my dad felt.
Our team is being used and abused by an egomaniacal owner who doesn't care what people say or think about him. He has the money, so he gets to make the decisions. No matter that he has zero football experience and doesn't know what he's doing.
All that being said, I sincerely hope that I have to eat these words. That's one of the reasons I'm writing this; to have it cemented into the interwebs for all to see and when we check back this time next year, I can see whether I was right to be angry about this or not. There's a possibility that this move works out for us and I'll look quite the fool for all these mean things I've said. The thing that worries me, though, is that we've all seen this show before and we have an idea of how it ends. Woo hoo! 8-8, here we come!
Knowing all that, the state of Ziegler's website seems even sadder. Remember this picture?
The misspelling is just the beginning- that image is really boring! The flag and grid background speak of an artist not motivated to provide even the bare minimum. Ziegler should have a site fit for a king, something that bewilders the eyes and boggles the mind. It is with this in mind that I hereby announce the first MSPaint Train for the Needy! I even made a starter image to get us moving:
Using my guru-like mastery of the principles of graphic design and the five elemental magics I conjured that up as an offering. Note my careful implementation of an attractive coloring scheme and the use of fundamental spacing skills to draw the eye from area to area. Then I accidentally converted it from jpeg to bmp a dozen times, resulting in ugly jpeg artifacts and washed-out colors, but I’m sure he won’t mind. It’s a masterpiece!
The rest is up to you. Create tasteful works of conservative art that could adorn his website for years to come. Email them to me or to the Train of Thought email address (should be on the top right of the page) by midnight Sunday (East Coast time). I’ll post them all on Monday, and if we have some real winners I’ll even email them to Ziegler and offer help for any future endeavors** he might have in the works. Good luck to all!
*Gosh I wonder who that might be, you betcha.
** Someone has to create a movie poster for Media Malpractice- it may as well be us!
Thursday, February 26, 2009
Conservatism 2.0 ConferenceJoe the Plumber, Sarah Palin Unplugged, Hans Von Voter Suppression, and a white supremacist reception!
Sponsored by Pajamas Television
Activists, bloggers, students and scholars discussing new media strategies to shape the future of conservatism
Panelists: Stephen Green, Margaret Hoover, Andrew Klavan, Deroy Murdock, Alfonzo Rachel, Roger Simon, Joe Wurzelbacher (ask Joe the Plumber)
Sarah Palin Unplugged on the Media Video Interview
Sponsored by "Media Malpractice" Movie
Speaker: John Ziegler and special guest
Open to all CPAC attendees/Tickets enclosed in CPAC registration bags
Al Franken and ACORN: How Liberals are Destroying the American Election System
Hans von Spakovsky, The Heritage Foundation
Heather Heidelbaugh, Republican National Lawyers Association
Mark Braden, former RNC chief counsel
Moderator: Cleta Mitchell, American Conservative Union Foundation
Youth for Western Civilization Inaugural Reception
Sponsored by Morgan Knull and The American Cause
Speakers: Rep.Tom Tancredo, Bay Buchanan, Pat Buchanan (invited)
And that's only day 1!
On a sad note, the Republican party has destroyed all parody and humor. You couldn't do better than this list if you tried.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Fortunately, I wasn't at last night's 4-2 Capitals loss at the hands of the despicable Philadelphia Flyers. Unfortunately, the H.B.I.C. (Head Blogger In Charge) was, along with friend of the blog K Bizzle. While it's never a good feeling to lose to Philly, especially the way we did last night, games like that are what make a rivalry great and also serve as very important warnings to a team like the Caps to not get to big for their britches just yet.
Last night's loss was just the sort of wake-up call we needed. Firstly, we were so sorely reprimanded for taking shifts/periods/games off. Up 2-0 midway through the second period and cruising, the Caps rested on their laurels a bit too much and were stung for it by a Claude Giroux goal to draw the Flyers to within one. After a series of wasted chances, our defense went to shit in the third frame, Theo lost his confidence after a 2-1 lead turned into a 3-2 deficit in two minutes and before you could blink it was 4-2, Philly. In truth, we're lucky the scoreline didn't end up at 5 or 6-2.
The second thing we learned was that we need to acquire a veteran backup goalie. Like right now. This is no indictment of Jose Theodore, who has played very, very well since being pulled from the Rangers game on Dec. 23. I even thought most of the goals last night weren't his fault, apart from the bizarre fourth goal in which he either dropped his stick or had it kicked out of his hands before flailing awkwardly at Arron Asham's shot.
The problem with Theo is that he's extremely hot and cold. Cold for much of the season before Christmas (maybe inconsistent is the more accurate word here), he has been rock solid in the time since. However, you need your goalie to get hot right in the middle of the playoff swing - and then stay hot through them - for a successful postseason run. I'm worried that the other shoe is going to drop with plenty of time remaining before the playoffs actually start and without Brent Johnson, all we have are two very talented, but very young and inexperienced options. Plus, if Theo got hurt right now, what would we do? Perhaps Varlamov and Neuvirth are ready for a trial by fire, but I would prefer it if there was at least another option for us in case they aren't.
The enduring lesson of the night, though, was that the Caps HAVE TO BECOME MORE DISCIPLINED when it comes to taking silly, lazy and sloppy penalties. Plain and simple, committing nine to ten penalties per game is not going to lead to many wins, especially when those penalties include too-many-men-on-the-ice and delay of game (playing the puck out of the rink in the defensive zone). I know that Semin was unlucky to play it off the ice last night as replays appeared to show the puck come off his stick completely wrong and purely accidentally. But good lord, the Capitals continue to shoot themselves in the foot in this department and one has to wonder how many wind-sprint filled punishment practices it takes to get them to correct it.
All in all, the Caps are still alright. If they are able to learn from these lessons moving forward and continue to beat the teams they're supposed to, then games like this are actually beneficial. But as sweet as this past Sunday's win over Pittsburgh was, it was just as sour to fail to make an enormous statement to the rest of the NHL that the Caps are a legitimate force. Wins over Boston and Detroit this year have already done that; missing an opportunity to dispatch two of our biggest rivals in consecutive home games definitely hurts.
I was at a Hockey game during the speech itself, otherwise we would have probably tried out that new liveblogging software. It's the first State of the Union I've missed live in quite a few years, although since it wasn't technically the State of the Union I guess my streak is still alive. But thanks to the magic of the internets none of this matters and I was able to youtube both Obama's speech and Jindal's brilliance that followed.
A few highlights from Obama's speech:
- I know this has been mentioned, but after the last 8 years I consider it a highlight to have a president who can form complete sentences, and regardless of anything else, that was nice.
- "I intend to hold these banks fully accountable for the assistance they receive, and this time, they will have to clearly demonstrate how taxpayer dollars result in more lending for the American taxpayer. This time, CEOs won't be able to use taxpayer money to pad their paychecks or buy fancy drapes or disappear on a private jet. Those days are over."
- "This is a cost that now causes a bankruptcy in America every 30 seconds. By the end of the year, it could cause 1.5 million Americans to lose their homes. In the last eight years, premiums have grown four times faster than wages. And in each of these years, 1 million more Americans have lost their health insurance. It is one of the major reasons why small businesses close their doors and corporations ship jobs overseas. And it is one of the largest and fastest-growing parts of our budget. Given these facts, we can no longer afford to put health care reform on hold. We can't afford to do it."
- "History reminds us that at every moment of economic upheaval and transformation, this nation has responded with bold action and big ideas. In the midst of civil war, we laid railroad tracks from one coast to another that spurred commerce and industry. From the turmoil of the Industrial Revolution came a system of public high schools that prepared our citizens for a new age. In the wake of war and depression, the GI Bill sent a generation to college and created the largest middle-class in history. And a twilight struggle for freedom led to a nation of highways, an American on the moon, and an explosion of technology that still shapes our world"
- "I have asked Vice President Biden to lead a tough, unprecedented oversight effort -- because nobody messes with Joe."
- Setting everyone up for another stimulus bill was important. The sooner the media(and idiots like Ben Nelson/Susan Collins et al.) wrap their minds around the fact that almost all experts agreed that the last one wouldn't be enough the better.
I thought Obama's speech went well, and Jindal's bombed, but since I watched them on youtube I didn't really get the sense of how the media reaction.
Ace of Spades is an up and coming success in the Conservoblogosphere, as evidenced by the award for BEST CONSERVATIVE BLOG given by some group I’ve never heard of. I discovered that Ace of Spades has a lot to offer- the classy, intelligent posting of Free Republic combined with the racial awareness of Stormfront, with a slight hint of “AOL-speak teenager” which is especially intriguing given that the posters are all presumably middle-aged white dudes with jobs. Behold, Ace of Spades watching the address:
What you don’t know about Blue Falcon is that he followed Obama along the campaign trail, sitting in the front row with a stopwatch:
As usual boy wonder is running several minutes lateMrPaulsFishsticks brings us a vital post that can be read multiple times for greater enjoyment:
Shoey… well, just read it for yourself:
I can't watch I already have a nasty rash in my butt
crack. This would just make it worse.
he's late, very professionalMaybe he’s talking about Washington political culture, which don't place a high priorit-
oh, i forgot timeliness isn't part of their culture
Late, as usual.Oh ok, thanks for clearing that up 5th Level Fighter. Drew M wants an M. Night Shyamalan-influenced Presidency:
Can't a black guy ever break stereotype? Or would
that be inauthentic?
I was really hoping that after the doorkeeperThen in the REAL twist, George W. Bush rips off his mask, revealing himself to be… Jefferson Davis! He leads a new secession to try to put THOSE PEOPLE back in their place, but again it fails again and the South is left in ruins once more. Maybe next time, guy! MrPaulsFishsticks posts again:
announced "The President of the United States",
George W. Bush would appear and the last month
would have been a bad dream.
Hillary's ass is HUGE....maybe she stuffed ChinaArgh why was he looking at Hillary Clinton’s ass, why argh ahhhhhh. Here I’d like to give Kari a chance to write a proper insult for that post, seems like it’s right in your wheelhouse (don’t know what that means? Neither do I really, JJ will explain though)! CDR M combines the “ACORN is an endless source of evil” meme with the “fuck the poor!” mentality that normally gets at least nominally disguised before posting:
What transfer of wealth to rich???? I see it allGator is some kind of Posting Superstar on Ace of Spades, which says a lot about whatever organization declared them BEST CONSERVATIVE BLOG:
going to the fucking poor via ACORN, etc.
A black man talking about credit....Jesus.Sen. Gov. proves that Obama was right about the urgent need for education in America today:
He is fucking IDIOT.Eww don’t do that Obama, you don’t know where IDIOT’s been! Cromagnum mispal words, capitalizes Incorrectly, botches he ellipses…… and throws in racism to complete the Posting Prophecy:
Responsibility for childern ......Only when MarriageSPECIAL BONUS COMMENTS: Provided by Fox News Online, whose virile shitposting population will certainly be featured in a future installment. USAlltheway actually read the entire stimulus bill, and found the sections pertaining to the creation of a Racist Puking Bureau:
is sanctified. Dont the blacks have that problem?
Can I puke now? Will I be labeled a racist if IFoiled again! This post by Slickdutch reminds me of the movie Daredevil, which no one watched because it was awful:
puke before I receive proper authorization?
Its, reminds of the movie WaterWorld where theYes I’m sure the speech was exactly like that. Every time I do one of these I get the urge to sign up and start trolling them, but then I realize that no amount of contrived racism and Bad Posting Habits can possibly match the real deal. Still, having read all of these I do feel like I experienced the speech, if perhaps not the way Obama intended.
people are on the ship Valdez and the guy is telling
that he has found the way to dry land. Get the
people rowing and criminal partner tells him he is
lying. He responded he knows, but that the people
will row for months before they figure out he lied.
Just like the big O more lies.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
I love how outside of the DC area Elenor Holmes Norton is known for her numerous appearances on the Colbert Report.
The act grants D.C. a full voting member in the House of Representatives, a seat which will be held by a Democrat for a long, long, loooong time. Currently, the seat is held by Eleanor Holmes Norton, who is a frequent guest on the Colbert Report. In exchange, the Act also grants a fourth member of Congress to Utah (currently Utah has three Representatives, two Republicans and one Democrat). Since Utah was next in line to receive an additional Representative, this is the sort of bi-partisan compromise I can live with. We end a great stain on our Republic by giving D.C. representation in the U.S. House, get a new, uber-solid Democratic seat, and all it required was giving Utah something it would have received in 2012 anyway.This will temporarily increase the number of full voting members in the House to 437, and makes the partisan breakdown 257-178, with two vacancies (NY-20 and UT-04). For the 2012 elections, D.C. will keep it's full voting rights, but there will be only 434 House districts seats outside of D.C.
As for the bill, according to the City Paper there could be multiple legal challenges so we're definitely not out of the woods yet. But this is huge progress on something that is long, long overdue.
If being an asshole failed as a debate strategy, I'm not sure why he thought it would be a good idea now.
MCCAIN'S SALVO FALLS FLAT.... At the closing session of the "fiscal responsibility summit" at the White House yesterday, President Obama graciously introduced John McCain and invited him to go first in raising a point or asking a question.
McCain apparently thought he'd get in a little dig at his former campaign rival, and began talking about the bloated Pentagon budget. "We all know how large the defense budget is," the Arizona Republican said. "We all know that the cost overruns, your helicopter is now going to cost as much as Air Force One. I don't think that there's any more graphic demonstration of how good ideas have cost taxpayers enormous amount of money."
The president, taking away the senator's fun, agreed.
"I've already talked to [Defense Secretary Robert] Gates about a thorough review of the helicopter situation. The helicopter I have now seems perfectly adequate to me. Of course, I've never had a helicopter before. So, you know, maybe -- maybe I've been deprived and I didn't know it. But I think it is an example of the procurement process gone amuck, and we're going to have to fix it."
This almost certainly isn't what McCain had in mind. At a White House gathering on fiscal responsibility, McCain wanted to needle Obama on wasting federal funds on a new Marine One helicopter. Instead, the president voiced his agreement.
Jonathan Chait noted, "This is Obama at his most appealing. He makes a gracious introduction of his rival, who in turn tries to stick in the knife by painting him as wasting taxpayer dollars on needless luxuries. Obama, rather than sniping back, turns around and agrees with McCain while making the point that he's hardly accustomed to extravagance."
Monday, February 23, 2009
Good to see a US senator helping a racist nutjob get international respectability:
Israel Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman met with his American namesake, US Senator Joseph Lieberman, on Sunday in what sources close to him said was an audition for the role he wants in Prime Minister-designate Binyamin Netanyahu's government: foreign ministerJust a refresher: (JN gives background here as well). . .The senator requested the meeting, because he wanted to better understand the Israel Beiteinu leader's views. He advised his namesake to go to the US to explain his views.
Joe Lieberman: Always finding new ways to be an asshole.
Under the party slogan "No loyalty, no citizenship", Mr Lieberman also wants a law demanding Israeli-Arabs pledge allegiance to Israel as a Jewish state and committing them to some form of national service.
And his blunt invective and the blatant disregard for political correctness have further raised concern internationally and on the Israeli left.
For example, he has said that Israeli-Arab MPs who met Hamas should be executed like Nazi collaborators after the Nuremburg trials.
And according to the Jerusalem Post he said in January 2009 that Israel should "continue to fight Hamas just like the United States did with the Japanese in World War II" - widely interpreted as a reference to the dropping of nuclear bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima…
Mr Lieberman is a champion of the Israeli settlers and takes a tough line on unilateral withdrawals from Jewish settlements arguing that Israel gets nothing in return, particularly security guarantees.
He pulled out of [an earlier] government in January 2008, however, refusing to back its peace talks with the Palestinians on core issues under the US-backed Annapolis process.
Here's what Gibbs had to say at the press conference on Friday:
Sen. Dodd clearly opened the door to nationalization in an interview with Bloomberg reported this morning. This comes on the heels of Alan Greenspan opening the door to it. And just moments ago Huffington Post reported an interview with Sen. Schumer in which he appears to do more or less the similar, though with a decent amount of caveats and hedging.
These and other comments and developments are driving the value of the big bank stocks down toward their mathematical limit. Citi and BofA have lost another 20% of their value just today. As the reader pointed out earlier, at a certain point this emerging consensus becomes a fait accompli. And as I noted, the administration has been really silent on this.
Is the silence intentional? Because it seems, unmistakably, to be moving this ball forward.
"This administration continues to strongly believe that a privately held banking system is the correct way to go, ensuring that they are regulated sufficiently by this government. That's been our belief for quite some time, and we continue to have that."Krugman had a great piece on the subject this weekend:
Summers and Geithner may not like this, but seems like they won't have a choice. Having this many people of varying ideological stripes come out supporting (or not opposing) this type of plan is a big step towards forcing their hand.
Still, isn’t nationalization un-American? No, it’s as American as apple pie.
Lately the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation has been seizing banks it deems insolvent at the rate of about two a week. When the F.D.I.C. seizes a bank, it takes over the bank’s bad assets, pays off some of its debt, and resells the cleaned-up institution to private investors. And that’s exactly what advocates of temporary nationalization want to see happen, not just to the small banks the F.D.I.C. has been seizing, but to major banks that are similarly insolvent.
The real question is why the Obama administration keeps coming up with proposals that sound like possible alternatives to nationalization, but turn out to involve huge handouts to bank stockholders.
For example, the administration initially floated the idea of offering banks guarantees against losses on troubled assets. This would have been a great deal for bank stockholders, not so much for the rest of us: heads they win, tails taxpayers lose.Now the administration is talking about a “public-private partnership” to buy troubled assets from the banks, with the government lending money to private investors for that purpose. This would offer investors a one-way bet: if the assets rise in price, investors win; if they fall substantially, investors walk away and leave the government holding the bag. Again, heads they win, tails we lose.
And once again, long-term government ownership isn’t the goal: like the small banks seized by the F.D.I.C. every week, major banks would be returned to private control as soon as possible. The finance blog Calculated Risk suggests that instead of calling the process nationalization, we should call it “preprivatization.”The Obama administration, says Robert Gibbs, the White House spokesman, believes “that a privately held banking system is the correct way to go.” So do we all. But what we have now isn’t private enterprise, it’s lemon socialism: banks get the upside but taxpayers bear the risks. And it’s perpetuating zombie banks, blocking economic recovery.
Sunday, February 22, 2009
Echoing perhaps the single most egregious legal position taken by the Bush Administration, the Obama justice department has now openly classified the detainees at the Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan as "unlawful enemy combatants." As previously discussed here, the purpose of this legal category is to keep secret the reasons for and reviews of their captivity and to deny any legal means to secure release.
Though the Obama administration's commitment to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay came as a surprising ray of hope for many of us who care about human rights, this new statement raises concerns that Guantanamo won't so much be closed as moved. As the New York Times article on the statement points out, the arguments of the two primary Supreme Court decisions on Guantanamo rest on the fact that the base is technically on United States soil. With that limitation removed, the overall mission of the prison can continue outside of SCOTUS's jurisdiction.
It isn't clear yet whether this indicates a full-fledged endorsement of the Bush legal framework or merely a temporary acceptance that will be addressed in time. But either way, it's worth remembering that Bagram has an arguably worse record than Abu Ghraib when it comes to prisoner abuses – there just weren't any publicly released pictures from Bagram.
Here's an Al Jazeera report, which both puts a human face on the situation and captures a US Officer's explicit statements on the legal status of the detainees and on the fact that Bagram contains prisoners from outside of Afghanistan:
Secrecy surrounding imprisonment is always worrisome, as public knowledge and legal recourse are the only means other than open revolt to keep abuse in check. Given how easy such abuse can be, how almost accidental or unintended, how impossible to investigate, an endorsement of institutionalized secrecy and questionable morality is playing with fire. For an administration that not only promised a change in detainee policy but would like to think of itself as pragmatic and rational, this is a scary step indeed.
Combine it with Hillary Clinton's remarks on China/Tibet relations, and you've got one truly awful week for human rights.
Check out this hot promotional video for the upcoming documentary by John Ziegler! Some background on Ziegler first- he spent some time seriously planning to kill OJ Simpson after he was found innocent, he’s been fired from one job in talk radio for saying “nigger” on air, and from another for discussing on air the “physical attributes, intimate attire, and genital grooming” of a former girlfriend after she dumped him. If you aren't at least moderately revolted you should read that sentence again, you missed something. Don’t let all that get in the way of enjoying this preview, though:
“Media Malpractice: The Trailer”
Sarah Palin returns! The prospect of not having her around to constantly say mind-bogglingly ignorant crap all the time was genuinely starting to get to me, and dealing with the anticipation for the joyous day when her book is released doesn't help. Speaking of which, is anyone interested in having a live Train of Thought book reading/wasted-getting to celebrate when it finally shows up?
Back to the trailer, though- some general observations. First: John Ziegler looks, sounds, and acts like as much of a douchebag as you would expect for a guy who’s been fired for dropping the n-bomb. Next, one can’t help but to notice that this grand confirmation of high-level media bias seems to be built on a firm foundation of Jay-Walking style research. “Look, I asked a handful of Obama supporters questions, and they couldn’t answer all of them! Brainwashing!” Even the constantly-befuddled Alan Colmes notices that something doesn’t quite follow there. Zeigler later went on to commission a Zogby poll, but neglected to include McCain supporters- which even Bill O'Reilly found ridiculous. Bill O'Reilly as a voice of reason, what is happening to the world?!
Next, Ziegler apparently misses the irony of complaining about the fascist liberal media by way of showing clips of them happily giving him a platform to… rant about the evils of the fascist liberal media! Conservatives don’t have a voice in the media, he bawls, as endless clips of the media en-voicening him flash past.
The best stuff shows up next, with Terry McAuliffe being a whiny baby (his role as chairman of the Hillary Clinton campaign isn’t mentioned) and Sarah Palin airing some deep thoughts about how the media was really mean to her. I can’t even guess what possible meaning one is supposed to draw from the bits with black people being happy about Obama winning, unless Ziegler is hoping that the entire Stormfront demographic will crawl out of their holes to buy the documentary.
All in all, this has me highly excited to view the whole thing. On a scale of 1-100, with twenty points possible for the five categories of “partisan hackery,” “a stunning disrespect for science,” “racism,” “heroic levels of ignorance,” and “general depravity,” I give Media Malpractice 86 points. I leave you with this awesome graphic from his SERIOUS BUSINESS website, where he evidently doesn’t care about useless nuances like spelling his own name correctly:
Saturday, February 21, 2009
NYC: You don’t see it in the media, but there is a groundswell of public anger over the Democrats’ attempt to spend their way out of a spending crisis. There have been numerous small protests—and conservatives haven’t taken to the streets in decades. Do you think this will all go away, or does Obama have a problem?I think this movement culminates at a Joe the Plumber rally where he denounces various things as "American government" and "welfare".
March 10th, 1959: 86,000 Tibetans are killed in an uprising against Chinese military occupation. March 10th becomes known as Tibetan Uprising Day in subsequent years.
March 10th, 2008: Small protests in Lhasa on the 49th anniversary of the first uprising result in arrests and beatings- leading to far greater protests and riots everywhere. Chinese authorities worry about what will happen on the 50th anniversary one year later (nothing like a good round number to inspire a proper heavy-duty rebellion).
February 12th, 2009: China preemptively closes access to a number of Tibetan areas* for foreign journalists and tourists. At the last minute they cancel earlier plans to create a giant neon sign large enough to be seen from the depths of space reading “NOTHING TO SEE HERE, DEFINITELY NOT BUSY KILLIN’ MONKS!”
February 18th, 2009: Calls to abstain from observing the upcoming Tibetan New Year in memory of those killed by the Chinese last year see growing popular support among Tibetans. Ignoring the holiday and choosing to mourn instead is, as this article puts it, "akin to people in the United States deciding to forego Thanksgiving." In a bizarre twist on the usual state of affairs in Tibet, the Chinese government attempts to encourage Tibetans to celebrate their own culture and holiday by giving them free fireworks and lowering prices on celebratory materials. Forcing people to have fun is a challenge, however, and the article mentions ongoing incidents such as this one:
“When Party officials turned up on the doorstep ofIt’s enough civil disobedience to make the spirit of Gandhi proud.
Kirti Monastery in Amdo to try to persuade the monks
to join in the New Year festivities, a number of the
monks suddenly decided to go on a meditation retreat.”
February 20th, 2009: With just weeks to go until 50th anniversary, “US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton vowed not to let human rights concerns hinder cooperation with China.” Now that is the right message to send at the right time! It’s been an American tradition to shuffle papers and look busy while horrible things happen abroad, so it's nice of Hillary Clinton to abandon the pretense of caring about human rights. Don’t get too upset, though: as Clinton left South Korea on her way to Beijing, State Department spokesman Robert Wood claimed she would "raise the issue when appropriate." That’s a long and arduous way of saying ‘never,’ so at least they get a few points for honesty.
So, what does the future hold? It’s a bit like the end of The Matrix, except instead of Keanu Reeves in sunglasses flying around and beating up Evil Hugo Weaving it’s a bunch of Chinese riot police and army units flying around in helicopters and beating up civilians. If it helps you can imagine this happening while Rage Against The Machine plays in the background (just remember that for a properly Maoist interpretation you need to think of the monks and civilians as The Machine, which the valiant People’s Liberation Army is Raging Against).
*Areas which I not-entirely-coincidentally visited in December, a month after they were reopened to foreigners for the first time since before the March 2008 riots. Literally everyone I met there was extremely friendly- they went out of their way to show me around, to tell me about their culture and language, and to proudly display the scars they were given by helpful PLA soldiers.
Friday, February 20, 2009
During the stimulus bill fight, congressional democrats pushed hard to include executive pay caps on banks that participated in the bailout. This was condemned from all the usual suspects, and was then bolserted by somewhat surprising opposition from the Obama administration.
You'll never guess who was behind this brilliant idea:
Over the last few months the "Larry Summers and Tim Geithner will secretly push through a progressive agenda using their right wing credentials" stories seem to have dissapeared. And since the argument seems as logical as it did 3 months ago when they were nominated, I can't say I understand why.
A funny thing happened this weekend, after congressional Democrats surmounted a fierce lobbying effort and maintained one of three executive-pay limitation plans that were being eyed for removal from the final stimulus bill.
It turns out that Wall Street wasn't the only opponent of more stringent limits on bonuses for bailed-out executives -- Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and White House economic adviser Larry Summers were leading the charge to keep CEO pay caps out of the stimulus.
Oops. Though Geithner and Summers wanted President Obama's loophole-riddled executive compensation limits to be the only game in town, they ultimately lost that battle with Congress. Now what can they do to make sure eminently qualified leaders at companies like AIG and Merrill Lynch don't have to forgo their lucrative pay packages?
The new defense for these guys within the progressive blogs seems to have moved towards "trust them, they're experts and they know what they're doing" territory, which is about as weak sauce as arguments get.
People are free to put as much faith in them as they want, but at the end of the day I think their actions (like they did 3 months ago) speak for themselves.
I just peeped this video last night and the song is otherworldly. From its melody to its complex verse-chorus-bridge structure, this track is a certified jam. The video is extremely violent (not for the weak-hearted!) and is not in any way an attempt by me to make light of the recent Chris Brown-Rihanna situation. I swear.
The song fuckin' rocks, though. Enjoy!
The funniest part about this might be how excited he gets taking up the fight for elitist douchebags everywhere. Personally I feel like an appropriate response would be to punch him in the face repeatedly, but since that's not possible, Dday gave a reasoned reply:
Sirota frames it as market populism vs. grassroots populism:The government is promoting bad behavior... I'll tell you what, I have an idea. The new Administration's big on computers and technology. How about this, President and new Administration, why don't you put up a Web site to have people vote on the Internet as a referendum to see if we really want to subsidize the loser's mortgages, or would we like to at least buy cars and buy houses in foreclosure and give them to people who might have a chance to actually prosper down the road and reward people who actually carry the water instead of drink the water...He gets a standing ovation from the traders at that point, and then he asks them if they want to pay for their neighbor's mortgages, and they boo. Then he goes off about how Cuba used to have mansions and when they went "from the individual to the collective, they started driving '54 Chevys." It's right-wing backlash stuff at its absolute best.
Lost from this complaint is the plain fact of predatory lending, that lenders got cash rebates to put people in crappy, high-interest mortgages, that they hid terms of the agreement and denied disclosure, and that all of those hardworking folks are seeing their property values plummet as a result of millions of foreclosed homes glutting the market. To the tune of $6 trillion dollars in home value.
But I digress. The more interesting part of the video is the part where he calls his buds on the trading floor part of "the silent majority."These guys are pretty straightforward, and my guess is, a pretty good statistical cross-section of America, the silent majority.This is all starting to sound very familiar. Paging Rick Perlstein...
It's also obvious that traders on the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade are clearly the new face of the average lunch-pail working stiff, isn't it?
The revolution has begun. These workaday stock traders are going to take back this country for the laissez-faire capitalists who are entitled to it.
The gap, of course, is in the portrayal. If you watch television or read op-ed pages, the Market Populists get most of the attention. Indeed, Market Populism is portrayed as the "centrist" mainstream sentiment in the United States. Just look at David Brooks' New York Times column this morning. He non-sarcastically insists that Santelli's comments were "lustily" representative of mass popular anger at "these injustices" - not the injustices on Wall Street, mind you, but the supposed injustices of people now losing their homes. Meanwhile, Grassroots Populism - ie. seething populist anger at Corporate America - is depicted as the ideology only of a tiny fringe. It's as if the media is a funhouse mirror on society - a bizzaro world where up is down, black is white, and free market fundamentalism is portrayed as a mass-based movement.The elitist douchebag revolution begins! Get your hair gel and abercrombie shirts ready!
When the macroeconomy was doing well, the disconnect between the media narrative and what's going on in the real world certainly caused regular people to lose confidence in the media, but it didn't incite outrage.
Now, though, with the economy in meltdown, I'm convinced that part of why the public is so angry is because what they see on television and in their newspapers is so fundamentally at odds with how they are feeling and what they are dealing with. As Santelli shows, large swaths of the media and political Establishment actively and publicly denigrate the people who are most hard hit by the downturn. Indeed, in the multimedia presentation I gave during my book tour for The Uprising, I have a whole section on this very phenomenon, using Fred Barnes' literally laughing at the "lower class" as my example.
This divide between the Market Populism people are fed through the media and people's own Grassroots Populism is a major catalyst that has turned the last two elections into backlash moments. And as bailouts and handouts now become daily news, and the Market Populists get ever more outrageous, that backlash is intensifying. Channeling it into something positive is the challenge of our time.
UPDATE: Santelli eviscerated by White House spokesman Robert Gibbs:
Damn. NOT FOR THE WEAK HEARTED!
"I'm not entirely sure where Mr. Santelli lives or in what house he lives in," Gibbs said during the daily briefing. "But the American people are struggling every day to meet their mortgage, stay in their jobs, pay their bills to send their kids to school, and to hope that they don't get sick or somebody they care for gets sick that sends them into bankruptcy. I think we left a few months ago the adage that if it was good for a derivatives trader, that it was good for main street. I think the verdict is in on that."
Ouch. But from there it got almost more personal. Gibbs picked up a hard copy of the housing plan from the briefing room lectern and implored Santelli to "download it, hit print and begin to read it." Gibbs added: "I would be more than happy to have him come here and read it. I'd be happy to buy him a cup of coffee, decaf." The press in the room laughed.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
ACORN is under federal indictment for voter fraud, but the stimulus bill nevertheless gives ACORN $5 billion.Wanna guess how many parts of that sentance are true?
Something tells me she's not actually reading.
The only thing that makes this better is that my dad and I were at the game, and it was scored in our end. And it wouldn't be complete without an Ovie style quote to go with it:
"It's instinct," said Ovechkin, who jokingly called it a normal goal but ranked it in his top 10. "If I didn't turn around my back it's going to be hit. I just tried to push puck forward, try to turn around, go to the net and score."
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
(Stolen from Moon Over Alabama)
Hugo Chávez apparently doesn’t believe Venezuelan voters, who just more than a year ago rejected his bid to eliminate the term limits that are blocking his continued rule. On Sunday, he is giving them another chance. For the sake of Venezuela’s democracy, they should again vote no on changing the nation’s constitution.
Venezuelans’ Right to Say No, NY Times, Editorial, Feb 13, 2009
[Mr. Chavéz] should abandon for good his push to change the Constitution so that he can run for a third term in 2013. Venezuelans deserve the chance to choose a competent government.
Hugo Chávez’s Choice, NY Times, Editorial, Nov 24, 2008
We supported Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s bid for the right to stand for a third term because we strongly believe that voters deserve as rich a choice as possible on Election Day — and term limits narrow that choice.
Mayor Bloomberg’s Opportunity, NY Times, Editorial, Nov 9, 2008
This page has always strongly opposed term limits, and we continue to oppose them. We believe they infringe a basic American right: the voters’ right to choose who they want in office. If we had our way, the Council would be voting to abolish term limits altogether.
The question of voter choice is particularly relevant now. Although a majority of New Yorkers, according to a recent Quinnipiac poll, oppose changing the term-limits rule, a majority of New Yorkers also strongly approve Mr. Bloomberg’s performance and, more to the point, say they would vote for him given the opportunity.
They should be given that opportunity.
Term Limits and the Council, NY Times, Editorial, Oct 22, 2008
The bedrock of American democracy is the voters’ right to choose. Though well intentioned, New York City’s term limits law severely limits that right, which is why this page has opposed term limits from the outset.
The Limits of Term Limits, NY Times, Editorial, Sep 30, 2008
Mr. Chávez’s approval rating has plunged since December, when he narrowly lost a referendum that would have given him even more power and allowed him to run for re-election indefinitely.
He must stop using the levers of the state to harass his political opposition at home. And he must stop trying to seize by decree powers that voters denied him in December’s referendum.
Hugo Chávez, New and Improved, NY Times, Editorial, Jun 15, 2008
An article in The Times the other day about Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s political ambitions reminded us of how little we like term limits.
We opposed term limits when New York City voters first approved them in 1993. (They were reaffirmed in 1996.) Term limits are undeniably seductive. They seem to promise relief from mediocre, self-perpetuating incumbents and from gridlocked legislatures in places like Albany. They also diminish democracy, arbitrarily deny choice, reduce accountability and squander experience.
The deceptive charm of term limits is that they automatically purge the system of rascally politicians. But democracy vests that power in every citizen who chooses to vote. Meanwhile, of course, term limits automatically retire excellent public servants whose instincts and experience are not easily replaced. Their future should also rest with the voters.
The Seductive Charms of Term Limits, NY Times, Editorial, Jun 9, 2008
I don't really know how I feel about term limits, I tend to lean pro, but you have to love pompous statements like "This page has always strongly opposed term limits" and then completely contradicting themselves when it's convenient.
[Mr. Chavéz] favorite provisions, of course, would extend the presidential term from six to seven years and remove presidential term limits.
Opponents are calling for a massive “no” vote. For the sake of Venezuela’s battered democracy, voters should heed the call.
Saying No to Chávez, NY Times, Editorial, Dec 1, 2007
With that said, this does fit with our "The Train of Thought has always opposed editorial pages sounding like elitist douche bags" stand we took a while back.
One of the free market fundamentalists in the picture above now supports the nationalization of US banks.
(Hint: It's not the one who works in the white house)
Former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said on Tuesday that the global recession will "surely be the longest and deepest" since the 1930s, adding that the Obama administration's Troubled Asset Relief Program will be insufficient to plug the yawning financial gap.There's pretty much an across the board consensus that many of these banks are insolvent, and that the government will have to take them over.. . ."It may be necessary to temporarily nationalize some banks in order to facilitate a swift and orderly restructuring," he said. "I understand that once in a hundred years this is what you do." Nationalizations would "allow the government to transfer toxic assets to a bad bank without the problem of how to price them."
Signed into law. This part is particularly important:
Today does not mark the end of our economic troubles. Nor does it constitute all of what we must do to turn our economy around. But it does mark the beginning of the end - the beginning of what we need to do to create jobs for Americans scrambling in the wake of layoffs; to provide relief for families worried they won't be able to pay next month's bills; and to set our economy on a firmer foundation, paving the way to long-term growth and prosperity.Well said, and even more bad ass, you can follow what gets spent where on recovery.gov.
As frustrated as I was with how the bill turned out compared how it could have been, it's still vital that it passed as soon as possible.
This is also a huge political victory for Obama, who ended up singing a bill extremely close to the one he requested.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
In the first week of February, both sides sent their troops to Washington to lobby in well-publicized events. Union workers delivered a petition with more than a million signatures supporting the act. The National Association of Manufacturers dispatched 50 chief executives.As Michael Whitney put it:
At the rally I was hoping that we'd march over to the anti-EFCA strategy meeting (where the 50 CEOs were) to make the contrast obvious, and hopefully get some media attention.
One million working people in favor of the Employee Free Choice Act, or 50 CEOs opposed to it.
There's a reason that those opposing this bill don't have marches or events, and it would be nice if the media started taking up that angle on a regular basis.
Monday, February 16, 2009
The White House has been graced by a bust of Winston Churchill for several years now. After the 9-11 attacks the British government gave it to George Bush as a gesture of solidarity and a statement of willingness to follow Bush on whatever moronic endeavors he should choose to pursue. Nowadays all that remains of that era is two ongoing wars and the bust, which greeted Obama last month when he sat behind the Oval Office desk for the first time. Today Obama shocked millions of Britons and international bust enthusiasts when he chose to return it to England, despite a British offer to extend its stay.
The most important fact to be aware of when hearing about this story is that the bust itself can be objectively described as “fucking hideous,” as you can see here:
Look at it! Having to make decisions with that thing in the room may actually account for a good number of Bush-era disasters. The apparent show of goodwill from the British now looks pretty different as well: “Something went horribly, terribly awry in the sculptors quarters… maybe we can pawn it off on Dubya” doesn’t have much of a noble ring to it. Still if there’s one thing you can depend on in this life, it’s that any story featuring Obama will instantly cause freepers to collectively shit their pants, regardless of how unexciting it is.
I think the internet may have actually reached Peak Conservatism in the reaction to this story. Watch in awe as the denizens of Free Republic get angry in defense of art for the first time in their lives:
First, FreeDumb2003 lives up to his username:
Yes, lets insult our closest ally in the world.
This fuhrer is painfully stupid. I hope we survive his
2ndDivisionVet makes the first of what you can imagine turned out to be a trillion references to Free Republic’s favorite religion:
He probably had to make room for a bust of The
Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Sheikh Ekrima Sabri.
DogBarkTree got my hopes up with the first sentence of his post:
Sorry but I dont feel a whole lot of sympathy for
the Brits. Whit the exception f the few traditional
British patriots left, most of England has gone
socialist, soft, and sharia. They bought into the
messiah act so now they can choke on it.
…but then I remembered that references to Britain sharing a spot of blame for our current predicament (both in recent history and in their role of putting a lot of these domino pieces in place during the colonial era) probably don’t get a lot of mileage over there. Anyways this is what Mkcc30 knows will happen:
He will replace it with Lenin’s corpse on loan from Russia.
NonValueAdded gives us an Obama nickname I don’t recall seeing before, although he better hope his post isn’t interpreted as an offer by some British agency trying to find a new home for that monstrosity of a bust:
Quite frankly, I’d suspect Winston would be quite
relieved to be out of there, but that doesn’t excuse
the inexcusable action of the Obamateur.
What’s Up may have noticed a potentially more realistic explanation:
Hussein's angry that Churchill acted against his
grandfather who was part of a Kenyan rebellion in
the 50's. This is what happens when we elect an
African to the WH.
Wait, what happens- we notice that colonialism might not have actually been a rollicking good time for everyone involved? What a horrible age to be alive. Ilgipper wraps this one up with a fantastical reimagining of pretty much all of the last century:
Symbolically right on. Bush as a Churchill (minus
the communication skill). He was a Churchill in
doing what is right. The new guy is a Chamberlain.
Does not recognize evil. Cannot identify the enemy.
Always a pleasure! Soon we’ll see if this does indeed denote the high water mark of conservative internet insanity, or if discoveries of new conservative resources place this landmark event further in the future.
Sunday, February 15, 2009
End The Honeymoon By John Judis:
Obama and liberals: a counter-productive relationship By Glenn Greenwald:
The labor movement, for instance, has not recovered from the split between the AFL-CIO and Change To Win. To make matters worse, the unions themselves--in particularly, SEIU and Unite Here--are rent by division. As a result, the unions have either been on the sidelines during the debate over the stimulus and bank bailout or uncritically backing Obama and Reid. One labor group, Americans United for Change, which is backed by the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), even ran ads thanking Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe, Ben Nelson, and Arlen Specter for agreeing to back the stimulus bill that they had significantly weakened.
A member of one liberal group, Campaign for America's Future, pronounced the stimulus bill "a darn good first step." MoveOn--as far as I can tell--has attacked conservative Republicans for opposing the bill, while lamely urging Democrats to back it. Of course, all these groups may have thought the stimulus bill and the bailout were ideal, but I doubt it. I bet they had the same criticisms of these measures that Krugman or The American Prospect's Ezra Klein or my own colleagues had, but they made the mistake that political groups often make: subordinating their concern about issues to their support for the party and its leading politician.
What, you might ask, would have been the result if these groups had gone after Obama and Reid--and in the case of the so-called Americans United for Change--the self-appointed centrists? They would have certainly incurred the wrath of the Obama administration. I know this myself. One Obama press person recently asked a mutual acquaintance, "Why does John Judis hate us?"
But they would have also moved the political debate to the left, so that the center no longer resided somewhere in Susan Collins or Ben Nelson's heads, but considerably to their left. Suddenly, a $900 billion bill without the AMT and with expanded health insurance for the unemployed would have looked like a compromise. These angry leftists would have actually done the Obama administration an enormous favor.
What's the basis for my saying this? Look at the last two periods in Americans history where dramatic reforms were adopted--the 1930s and the 1960s (up to 1972). These were periods when the presence of a popular left moved the center away from the laissez-faire, pro-big business right. The experience of the 1930s is particularly relevant now. During the initial years of the Great Depression, there were demonstrations and marches--notably those by the Bonus Army in 1932--but there was also great despair and disunion. The AFL was paralyzed. Communists were battling Socialists. And the absence of leftwing pressure was reflected in the legislation that passed.
Two fascinating articles and if you're interested in this relationship at all I'd recommend reading both. And if you still want more, check out Chris Bowers' response to both of their points:
But Krugman's larger point is correct: Republican groups demand from politicians support for their beliefs. By contrast, as Judis describes, Democratic groups -- including (perhaps especially) liberal activist groups -- now (with some exceptions) lend their allegiance to the party and its leader regardless of how faithful the party leadership is to their beliefs. That disparity means that there is often great popular agitation and political pressure exerted from the Right, but almost none from the Left (I'm using the terms "Left" and "Right" here in their conventional sense: "Right" being the core of the GOP and "Left" being those who most consistently and vigorously opposed Bush's foreign and domestic policies).
During the 2008 election, Obama co-opted huge portions of the Left and its infrastructure so that their allegiance became devoted to him and not to any ideas. Many online political and "news" outlets -- including some liberal political blogs -- discovered that the most reliable way to massively increase traffic was to capitalize on the pro-Obama fervor by turning themselves into pro-Obama cheerleading squads. Grass-roots activist groups watched their dues-paying membership rolls explode the more they tapped into that same sentiment and turned themselves into Obama-supporting appendages. Even labor unions and long-standing Beltway advocacy groups reaped substantial benefits by identifying themselves as loyal foot soldiers in the Obama movement.
The major problem now is that these entities -- the ones that ought to be applying pressure on Obama from the Left and opposing him when he moves too far Right -- are now completely boxed in. They've lost -- or, more accurately, voluntarily relinquished -- their independence. They know that criticizing -- let alone opposing -- Obama will mean that all those new readers they won last year will leave; that all those new dues-paying members will go join some other, more Obama-supportive organization; that they will prompt intense backlash and anger among the very people -- their members, supporters and readers -- on whom they have come to rely as the source of their support, strength, and numbers.
As a result, there is very little political or media structure to Obama's Left that can or will criticize him, even when he moves far to what the Beltway calls the "center" or even the Right (i.e., when he adopts large chunks of the GOP position). That situation is extremely bad -- both for the Left and for Obama. It makes impossible what very well might be the apocryphal though still illuminating FDR anecdote:
FDR was, of course, a consummate political leader. In one situation, a group came to him urging specific actions in support of a cause in which they deeply believed. He replied: "I agree with you, I want to do it, now make me do it."
As Judis points out, Obama, on some issues, might move to the Right because he wants to. In other cases, he will do so because he perceives that he has to, because the combination of the GOP/Blue-Dog-following-caucus/Beltway-media-mob might force him to. Regardless of Obama's motives, the lack of a meaningful, potent movement on the Left to oppose that behavior ensures that it will continue without any resistance. The lack of any independent political pressure from the Left ensures that Obama will be either content to ignore their views or will be forced to do so even when he doesn't want to.
Interesting stuff to think about as we move forward.
In their articles today on how "the left" is failing under the Obama administration John Judis and Glenn Greenwald decry the lack of a mass popular movement agitating all political actors, including President Obama, to enact a specific policy agenda. However, the decentralized, self-producing, public sphere multiplying reorganization of our society brought on by the self-publishing, network neutral Internet is in direct contradiction with the vision of a discrete, hierarchical organization working to enact specific policy agenda. We are well past the point of being able to create new, large, hierarchical organizations to agitate the government on behalf of a specific, left-wing policy agenda. That just isn't going to happen anymore.
The relationships between individuals and the larger institutions in which they participate are now highly decentralized and fluid. The trend in that direction will only continue. As such, even mass membership institutions themselves will be variable in how, and why, they continue to operate. Their goals will be vague, and even those vague goals will not be fixed. This is less comment on the state of the American Left than it is a comment on broader changes in our largest cultural institutions. There is simply no way for the sort of left-wing movement implied by Judis and Greenwald to come into existing given our larger societal trends.
It is a new world, more in line with The Uprising that David describes or the Taking On the System that Markos describes. Any new American Left will reflect these larger trends. It should be judged not by the standards of a type of societal organization that is no longer possible.
Saturday, February 14, 2009
This month (season/year, depending on how long it takes to write these) on The Train of Thought, we're going to count down the 25 best conservative movies of the last 25 years, starting with the first five today and finishing with #1 at some point in the distant future.
The top-25 list is a creation of The Train. A few days ago another website, which shall remain nameless, published what it holds to be the best conservative movies of the last quarter century. Noting that some of the movies on this list aren’t even slightly conservative, someone suggested that another list be created. Literally single digits worth of suggestions came in and we considered each one (for those who wrote: thank you very much).*
#25: Fern Gully (1992)
An expertly crafted satire of the envirofascist movement which reached its peak in the early 90s, Fern Gully lampoons the wacky tree-hugging left mercilessly. The main character is a lumberjack, who is merely doing his patriotic duty to creatively disembiggen forests when a fairy maliciously assaults him with magic and attempts to brainwash him into believing that strategically resizing forests aids a demonic creature named Hexxus. Discerning conservative viewers have noted that the Hexxus character is clearly a mockery of the liberal hatred of industry and commerce which, guided by the infallible unfettered hand of the free market, has benefited literally every human being ever.
#24: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001)
Imbued with a deeply conservative outlook, the first Harry Potter film is a masterpiece. The viewer is shown a world where the government is unable to bring the villainous Voldemort to justice, referencing the fact that all governments in real life fail everything they attempt. Instead resistance comes in the form of a private institution, Hogwarts, which operates outside the law (likely much to the dismay of namby-pamby liberal viewers). More central to the plot is the fact that the Hogwarts academy separates talented boys and girls from the muggles, who are their inferiors in every way. The parallels with the evils of desegregation are all too clear to anyone with a grasp of American history.
#23: The Day After Tomorrow (2004)
This movie did more to burst Al Gore’s hideously obese bubble than liberals are willing to admit. It should be interpreted as a documentary of the near future after Gore and company illegalize all carbon emissions, forcing the human race to struggle against the ensuing age of frozen darkness. The trademark loony left science myths are shattered one by one, and the viewer leaves with the distinct impression that it is his or her duty to release as much carbon dioxide as possible in order to thwart Gore and his insane cohorts.
#22: Good Night, and Good luck (2005)
A warning about the evils of the Liberal Media, this film depicts the crusade to discredit the good America-loving Senator Joseph McCarthy by the treacherous back-stabber Edward R. Murrow. Murrow confounds McCarthy at every step as he attempts to uncover the communist conspiracy which was infiltrating the American government, which we know in real life ultimately lead to McCarthy dying after leaving office. Somehow Murrow was never charged with his murder, and in the decades since then the Liberal Media has gone on to strangle every form of the news. Murrow’s last words in the film should be heard as a warning to every conservative American in the aftermath of the death of American liberty: “Good night, and good luck.”
#21: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (2010)
While not technically released yet, no one can deny that this movie will be a conservative tour de force. The ongoing metaphor of Harry Potter as Jesus Christ reaches its end as Potter sacrifices himself to save humanity. Voldemort is revealed to symbolize Big Government, which will surely destroy the world if it isn’t stopped dead. His draconic rule is obviously a stand-in for the regulations and laws which the left uses to stifle the glorious free market every time it gets the chance, and the spells he casts are the wizard version of the pork-filled stimulus bill. At the same time the Death Eaters, a sycophantic cabal of evil-doers who represent Congressional Democrats, make their play to destroy liberty for all time by crushing the band of protagonists (all white). Luckily Potter conquers death to destroy the villains, just as the GOP will inevitably rise again and end liberal tyranny for all time.
Stay tuned for the next five, which will be announced as soon as possible.
*Any resemblance these two paragraphs bear to the words on this page is entirely coincidental.