Saturday, March 29, 2008

A Turning Tide

The wheels of justice turn slowly, sometimes so slow as to seem like they don't move at all, but they do in fact turn.

Don Siegelman is a free man, again walking the street, breathing free air.

He isn't completely in the clear on the bribery charges, as his case still needs to be heard on appeal, but now at least he can appeal because the corrupt, Banana-Republi-thug judge Mark Everett Fuller (who, since the summer of 2006, has been holding-up the release into the public record of the transcript from his trial - which prevents him from even filing for appeal) finally had his decision overturned by the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta.

It was, naturally, a Karl Rove hit job and I think this might just be the one that brings down the Dark Sith Lord. But whether it does or not, America is just a little less of a banana republic that jails opposition party members on trumped-up charges than we were a couple of days ago.

Considering how bleak these last seven years have been for the rule of law and a just society, this is a welcome ray of sunshine. I'd like to think that this might be the beginning in a long string of chickens coming home to roost for the thugs, thieves and theocrats in the GOP. Whether a reckoning comes to pass or not, at least this man now has a reason to smile:

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Religion is Stupid

Especially in Wisconsin.

I can't say why, but for some reason the same sane, reasonable Nordic stock of the great state of Wisconsin - the very same people who reliably send Russ Feingold back to the Senate every six years - has produced the two religious-themed stories I read today (completely independent of each other, mind you) that have spurred this post. Of course, these same people unleashed Joe McCarthy on the world, but unlike the numb-nuts in North Carolina who continually inflicted the rest of us in America with the odious Jesse Helms (or Oklahoma & James Inhofe or Mississippi & Trent Lott or South Carolina & Strom Thurmond... you see my point), McCarthy was never rewarded for his loathsome behavior. The next election cycle, he became unemployed and died of alcoholism shortly thereafter.

I'm getting off my point here. My point is that I didn't know that either of these stories were out of Wisconsin when I started this post, much less both of them, until I checked the dateline of each. Which made me wonder what the fuck is going on in the Great White North, land of beer, brats and bowlin' (ya, hey 'dere)

The first is yet another story about some judgmental fuck-head abusing the power of his position to impose his beliefs on some other helpless person. Abuse of power is at its worst when the person being abused is otherwise utterly powerless - which is why an abusive boss may be bad, but not the worst because you can always quit, while before a teacher or a cop or a judge the abusee has no choice but to submit.

And when you add the blockheaded, impenetrable irrationality of religion to the mix, this pharmacist is a worthless piece of slimy shit who isn't qualified to work as a shelf stocker on the midnight shift at a Wal-Mart Super Center. He's a devout Roman-Catholic working as a substitute pharmacist when a young woman sought to get her birth-control prescription filled. He "advised the woman of his objection to the use of contraception and refused to fill the prescription or tell her how or where she could get it refilled." Long story short, it grew into a court case and he just lost. Fucker. He deserved it.

Oh, and he's whining about it now being hard for him to get a job as a pharmacist. Good. Fucker. He deserves it. If he has objections to to use of legal prescriptions, then he shouldn't be working as a pharmacist because it isn't up to him to have an opinion about the service he's providing. Shut the fuck up and do your fucking job, or go do something else. Like apply for a job a Wal-Mart.


But then, this one is even worse. Also in Wisconsin, two parents allowed their child to die of diabetes, instead choosing to pray as their 11-year-old daughter died for want of insulin. She wasted away for a month, eventually dying of diabetic ketoacidosis - a horrible way to go involving vomiting, blindness, extreme thirst and weight loss, coma and (finally) death. It is easily treatable with over-the-counter insulin.

They are fucking stupid and fucking deserve to fucking go to fucking jail.


God damn Religion is Stupid.

H.L. Mencken:
Mencken's Creed

I believe that religion, generally speaking, has been a curse to mankind - that its modest and greatly overestimated services on the ethical side have been more than overcome by the damage it has done to clear and honest thinking.

I believe that no discovery of fact, however trivial, can be wholly useless to the race, and that no trumpeting of falsehood, however virtuous in intent, can be anything but vicious.

I believe that all government is evil, in that all government must necessarily make war upon liberty...

I believe that the evidence for immortality is no better than the evidence of witches, and deserves no more respect.

I believe in the complete freedom of thought and speech...

I believe in the capacity of man to conquer his world, and to find out what it is made of, and how it is run.

I believe in the reality of progress.

I - But the whole thing, after all, may be put very simply.

I believe that it is better to tell the truth than to lie. I believe that it is better to be free than to be a slave. And I believe that it is better to know than be ignorant

Sunday, March 23, 2008

sense of threatened tribalism

I saw the title of this post as a phrase this morning at Glenn Greewald's digs over at I agree with his assessment that there is "no better phrase to describe the animating feature of the modern Limbaugh/Kristol/Fox News conservative faction." Period. Over at my old site, I have called it the "Dixie Stench" because the particular flavor of crypto-racist, persecution-complexed Christo-fascism that has fused itself so thoroughly to the very DNA of the GOP (the political arm of the modern conservative movement), is a direct descendant of the violently racist political culture of the post-confederate south. This is the long-term fallout from Nixon's odious "Southern Strategy" wherein the knuckledragging, mouth-breathing bigots of Old Dixie were told, while still seething about a full decade of federal intervention in their "traditional" way of life, that they had friends in the (former) Party of Lincoln. Of course, this seduction and pandering on the part of the GOP didn't become overt until the 1980 campaign when Saint Ronnie of the Ray-Gun deliberately used the phrase "states' rights" in Philadelphia, Mississippi as a dog-whistle signal to the southern racists - a scant sixteen years after three Civil Rights workers had died there while trying to overcome the awful legacy that jingoistic political formulation circumscribes.

Which brings me to Bill Clinton.

Make no mistake, when a white, southern man stands in front of a crowd of white people in a place as rigidly old-fashioned as a VFW hall in a state that was among the first to secede and last to rejoin the Union, and says, in his best Arkansas drawl, this (bold face mine)...

"I think it would be a great thing if we had an election year where you had two people who loved this country and were devoted to the interest of this country,
And people could actually ask themselves who is right on these issues, instead of all this other stuff that always seems to intrude itself on our politics." means exactly what you would think it means if you were as ungenerous as possible in interpreting it. Doubt me? Watch the video.

As Bob Cesca says over at his place "you can see his sly little smile as he says "other stuff"." Also note that he uses the phrase OUR politics, a very loaded phrase when uttered by a white southerner to other white southerners about a black person. Bill Clinton knows that. He is playing directly to the sense of threatened tribalism.

Now, I've had fights with my family. All of you know this about me. During the entire Clinton presidency, but particularly in the fall of 2000, I had screaming fights over politics in the living room of my parent's house where things were said that have over time come to erode and ultimately diminish our relationship. One of those fights involved pointing out to my father, who grew up dirt poor in West Texas, got himself college-educated, into the middle class and married with two successful children despite the class-based limitations of his upbringing, that Bill Clinton is the embodiment of the American Dream - a brilliant and intellectually curious kid who grew up dirt-poor without a father in a two-room shack in Arkansas became President of the United States and would lead the country during an era of unprecedented peace and prosperity - the essence of the class-blind, meritocratic American ideal. Mister Smith in Washington and all of that. George W. Bush is the embodiment of the un-American Dream - a dimwitted and incurious spoiled brat who used his family name and connections to avoid any adult responsibilities or consequences for his actions, amass an unearned fortune and achieve the White House (again unearned - twice) where he lead the country into a waking nightmare of squandered blood and treasure in wars of personal vanity to the financial benefit of his cohorts and financed on the backs of the poor - the essence of the very worst of Old Europe's aristocracy. We had a revolution over just those sorts of things, if I recall, but I have never been able to convince my father of any of this. To him, Dubya is a good ol' boy from West Texas, just like him. And Bill Clinton is a Lib'ruhl.

And he buys it because Dubya and the slick GOP operatives who manufactured his good ol' boy image understand how to tap into that very tribal ideal, about which Digby has been writing for years and which is finally getting enough intellectual currency out in the lefty inter-webs to catch on with a leading light like Glenn Greenwald.

Bill Clinton, being the bright guy that he is, understands all of this - whether overtly or intuitively I cannot say - and he used that notion of the "threatened tribalism" in that speech he gave to tap into that part of the GOP lizard brain against a fellow Democrat who happens to be dark-skinned, for the benefit of his wife. That act (amid all his and his wife's other attacks on Obama) reveals the true nature of the political climate in Washington - that we actually have three major political classes in America, but only two formal "Party" representations to encompass them: the Ruling Class, the Bureaucratic Class and Labor.
  1. The Ruling Class is self-explanatory - either a group of entitled individuals either with inherited wealth who cast a longing eye to the old aristocracy of Europe and resent democracy, or with "earned" wealth and a wildly inflated sense of their own potency as rockstar C.E.O.'s or captains of industry or Nietzschean supermen. They have most of the money but are at a steep numerical disadvantage in a democracy. In Britain they would be called the Tories. In America, the GOP is their party.

  2. Labor means more than just labor unions. It is what used to be meant by blue collar, working class and working poor. It also includes immigrants and service industry wage slaves. They may have numerical advantage in a democracy, but little money or time to be involved in politics, a hole once filled by Big Labor but now exploited by the other classes. The Renfields from the Bureaucratic Class, along with their collaborators from Labor, have been able to break up this group along racial and tribal lines in a very successful, multi-generational divide-and-conquer campaign most saliently detailed in "What's the Matter With Kansas." The Democrats should be their party but they have been successfully sub-divided along mostly racial lines between D's & R's.

  3. The Bureaucratic Class is most often mis-identified as the "swing voters" or middle class. In an earlier day, they would have been known as "The Merchant Class" or the bourgeoisie. These people range from office-tower cubicle drones to temp workers to the Creative Class to small business entrepreneurs to school teachers and college professors to government office clerks to middle management in industry across the United States. They are the cogs-and-gears of the vast machinery of our economy, the million little pieces that allow the whole system to operate. They are its greatest beneficiaries, and to some greater or lesser small extent, complicit in its crimes. They can be Dems or Rethugs, depending on how they self-identify - which is itself a function of biography, perceived social mobility and various historical socio-regional influences. It is also the most fluid and permeable group. New members of the Ruling Class almost exclusively derive from this group while old members of the Ruling Class arrive (though they usually stop) here when in social decline. Fresh blood from Labor arrives here occasionally but usually very tenuously (a long trip up and a short trip back down) and rarely move beyond. Especially under Rethugli-bot rule, people drop out of this group far more frequently than they join it. Under the programs of the New Deal, this group flourished to unprecedented levels, and since Saint Ronnie, they have been in steep decline - which should make them the natural allies of the Democrats, except that it doesn't for reasons that have been examined ad nauseum across the inter-tubes for almost a decade now.
Which brings me to another point I have made off and on the last couple of years. I have argued, as have others, that the choice between the two parties is not like a choice between a red car and a blue car, or the red team and the blue team. The neat labels of liberal and conservative or Left and Right are not descriptive enough for the complex world we live in. What we are talking about is such a fundamental difference in belief about Life and how to live it, about the nature of Truth and how it is obtained, about how society should be structured and who should benefit from its products, about who should live and who should die, that to reduce party affiliation to one's stance on whether the boys should be allowed to kiss each other is the height of distraction politics.

But over the last 40 years, the Renfields have waged a very successful PR campaign in the form of a ginned-up "culture war" (in order to disguise a class war already fought and won by the other side) that grew out of Southern racial animosity and cross-regional resentments, then spread across the country along racial and class lines, resulting in a world where my formulation of the GOP as a coalition comprised of "The Stupid, The Deluded and The Corrupt" is the dominant party of the land. If we only evaluate our politics as Left or Right, the triptych doesn't make any sense. But if we can see it as class-based, then from Labor comes those too stupid to know the GOP is fucking them over (I should say "ignorant" but "stupid" scans better), while the Bureaucrats provide those too deluded to understand they are not part of the Ruling Class and the Ruling Class itself almost entirely provides those too ethically and morally compromised to give a shit about anything except enjoying the fruits of their own corruption. We are ruled by a group of people who resent accountability and are largely detached from reality or the consequences of their actions. Reality does have a well-known liberal bias.

So, along comes William Jefferson Clinton, that rare animal who has been able to successfully leave Labor for the Ruling Class. His impeachment witch-hunt was both a punishment meted out by the Ruling Class for forgetting his place and an induction ceremony of sorts - a test and rite of passage - which he obviously passed as we now see him and Poppy Bush hangin' out around the golf course.

As a full-fledged member of the Ruling Class, he has clearly forgotten his roots as fully as my father, and I believe that he and his wife now see themselves as having so successfully leveraged the apparatus of the Democratic ""brand" over the last several decades to their own personal political advantage as to now be synonymous with "Democrat." Bill and Hillary Clinton really do think of the Democratic Party as their own personal route to respectability within the rarified air of the Halls of American Power, except that rather than making their fortune in oil or timber or, say, collaboration with Adolph Hitler and the Nazis (I'm looking at you, Prescott Bush) - a fortune made in exploitation of some commodity - they've made their social and political fortune as a kind of political service provider to the Ruling Class by re-engineering the Party of the Left and delivering unto the Ruling Class a pliant, apologetic, capitulatory Blue Team - for the kinder, gentler aristocrat. Why else do you think Hillary has been siding with McCain? She sees herself as part of the same social class. As the reigning queen of the Blue Team, she genuinely, honestly thinks it is quite simply her turn and Obama is just an upstart who should wait in fucking line, make his bones and pay his goddamned dues. That's why she saw no irony whatsoever in magnanimously offering him the veep position a few weeks ago, despite being hopelessly behind by every measurable indicator. "L'Democrats, c'est moi," indeed.

Going even further, Bill resents the hell out of this new guy who is challenging his wife's bid for immortality because not only does he see himself as the first in a long line of future rulers (along which his wife would be the next natural step until Chelsea can make a go at it - ad infinitum), at a personal level this slender, handsome, charismatic rising star is a challenge to Bill's legendary virility, his status as "The Big Dog" and de facto leader of the Democratic Party, the very source of his power and respectability. While a Hillary administration would obviously deepen and strengthen his primacy as the Greatest Living Democrat (possibly all the way into immortality), an Obama presidency would signal the end of it and his reversion to (by way of his wife's failed presidential bid) just another Democrat with a vague presidential history - just another Carter or Kerry. He wants to enjoy his time at the top unsullied by a natural rival. The fact that the brewing conflict between the two is taking on racial overtones is incidental, I think, because for Bill it is simply about having the biggest dick in the party. The fact that Al Gore has found his own path to a parallel super-celebrity he can dismiss as merely the social striving of a nerd who never was quite as cool as him, but the easy charm and sex appeal of Barack Obama is harder to attack because it is a direct threat to the underpinnings of his manhood, a real and present danger to his perceived and, frankly, deliberately engineered social standing in the social galaxy of the Ruling Super Class.

Which is why he is pulling out all the stops and triangulating like hell, just like he did fifteen years ago along class lines, this time along racial ones. As a poor boy from rural Arkansas, the lower reaches of the Labor Class, he has fought and dug and scratched his way to the top, to membership in the Ruling Class, and he now intends to pull up the ladder behind him.

We can't let him or his wife win this one. This is bigger than the both of them. I leave the final words to Frank Schaeffer at Huffington Post:
Obama offers civility in the midst of a drunken national bar fight. Obama speaks in complete sentences, well-turned paragraphs, offers thoughts with intellectual depth, nuance, humility and compassion.


By providence or blind luck, we are being given a second chance. In Obama our founders appear once again stepping from the mists of time to offer a wayward great, great grandchild an opportunity for redemption.


If we squander this undeserved reprieve and choose business-as-usual, if we don't elevate ourselves out of our self-made mire, we will step into a future of steep and steady decline and war without end. It won't matter if you are right or left. It won't matter if the Republicans or the Democratic Party wins. We will all lose.

Saturday, March 22, 2008


Just because I'm curious, and something of a glutton for punishment, could all of my readers number off in comments? All three of you? Although, I'm pretty sure I could call each and every one of you right now with the numbers already in my cell phone, I'm still trying to get a gauge of the relative value of this blog measured against the amount of time I actually spend working on it. Because I don't keep a hit meter (why bother?), I have no record of how much traffic stops here.

I realize that this is the online version of fishing for complements, but I got really curious this afternoon and, frankly, I could use the affirmation.

Thanks for playing.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Big Dick

Richard "The Big Dick" Cheney doesn't care what you think (h/t to Mustang Bobby at Shakesville):

Thanks for taking impeachment off the table, Nance. What we need is people in the Congress to take the assholes down. Since they will be out of office (provided they don't suspend the elections and appoint themselves dictators for life), we have to demand justice. Demand it. They have been doing wrong for a long, long time. As Immortal Technique says in underground railroad freestyle:
the new world order was born on sept 11th
and just so conservatives dont take it to heart
i dont think bush did it
cuz he isnt that smart
hes just a stupid puppet taking orders on his cell phone
and the same people that sabotaged senator wellstone
Send people to Congress who will do what's right. Like Al Franken, who is running for Norm "I Vote With George W. Bush 86% Of The Time" Coleman's seat - you know, the one he got in a lucky break when Paul Wellstone died.

Power to the People, yaw'l.

P.S. Thanks to Broadway Carl for the Darth Cheney pic.

A Final Odyssey

I missed this. Wow. I'm even sadder than when Vonnnegut died.

Arthur C. Clarke has died of respiratory complications and heart failure at the age of 90.

His biography.

2001 & 2010 were always among my favorite books (& movies). When he wrote "2001", the terrible, earthbound mediocrity of the actual 2001 would have been the stuff of dystopian nightmares.

But he did invent the communications satellite. I'm pretty sure I'll never leave such an enduring legacy.

A More Perfect Union

I support his campaign. Here is why (submittted without further comment):

The transcript (via Kos)
Remarks of Senator Barack Obama

"A More Perfect Union"

Tuesday, March 18th, 2008

Constitution Center
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

"We the people, in order to form a more perfect union."

Two hundred and twenty one years ago, in a hall that still stands across the street, a group of men gathered and, with these simple words, launched America's improbable experiment in democracy. Farmers and scholars; statesmen and patriots who had traveled across an ocean to escape tyranny and persecution finally made real their declaration of independence at a Philadelphia convention that lasted through the spring of 1787.

The document they produced was eventually signed but ultimately unfinished. It was stained by this nation's original sin of slavery, a question that divided the colonies and brought the convention to a stalemate until the founders chose to allow the slave trade to continue for at least twenty more years, and to leave any final resolution to future generations.

Of course, the answer to the slavery question was already embedded within our Constitution – a Constitution that had at is very core the ideal of equal citizenship under the law; a Constitution that promised its people liberty, and justice, and a union that could be and should be perfected over time.

And yet words on a parchment would not be enough to deliver slaves from bondage, or provide men and women of every color and creed their full rights and obligations as citizens of the United States. What would be needed were Americans in successive generations who were willing to do their part – through protests and struggle, on the streets and in the courts, through a civil war and civil disobedience and always at great risk - to narrow that gap between the promise of our ideals and the reality of their time.

This was one of the tasks we set forth at the beginning of this campaign – to continue the long march of those who came before us, a march for a more just, more equal, more free, more caring and more prosperous America. I chose to run for the presidency at this moment in history because I believe deeply that we cannot solve the challenges of our time unless we solve them together – unless we perfect our union by understanding that we may have different stories, but we hold common hopes; that we may not look the same and we may not have come from the same place, but we all want to move in the same direction – towards a better future for of children and our grandchildren.

This belief comes from my unyielding faith in the decency and generosity of the American people. But it also comes from my own American story.

I am the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas. I was raised with the help of a white grandfather who survived a Depression to serve in Patton's Army during World War II and a white grandmother who worked on a bomber assembly line at Fort Leavenworth while he was overseas. I've gone to some of the best schools in America and lived in one of the world's poorest nations. I am married to a black American who carries within her the blood of slaves and slaveowners – an inheritance we pass on to our two precious daughters. I have brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, uncles and cousins, of every race and every hue, scattered across three continents, and for as long as I live, I will never forget that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible.

It's a story that hasn't made me the most conventional candidate. But it is a story that has seared into my genetic makeup the idea that this nation is more than the sum of its parts – that out of many, we are truly one.

Throughout the first year of this campaign, against all predictions to the contrary, we saw how hungry the American people were for this message of unity. Despite the temptation to view my candidacy through a purely racial lens, we won commanding victories in states with some of the whitest populations in the country. In South Carolina, where the Confederate Flag still flies, we built a powerful coalition of African Americans and white Americans.

This is not to say that race has not been an issue in the campaign. At various stages in the campaign, some commentators have deemed me either "too black" or "not black enough." We saw racial tensions bubble to the surface during the week before the South Carolina primary. The press has scoured every exit poll for the latest evidence of racial polarization, not just in terms of white and black, but black and brown as well.

And yet, it has only been in the last couple of weeks that the discussion of race in this campaign has taken a particularly divisive turn.

On one end of the spectrum, we've heard the implication that my candidacy is somehow an exercise in affirmative action; that it's based solely on the desire of wide-eyed liberals to purchase racial reconciliation on the cheap. On the other end, we've heard my former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, use incendiary language to express views that have the potential not only to widen the racial divide, but views that denigrate both the greatness and the goodness of our nation; that rightly offend white and black alike.

I have already condemned, in unequivocal terms, the statements of Reverend Wright that have caused such controversy. For some, nagging questions remain. Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes. Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely – just as I'm sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests, or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed.

But the remarks that have caused this recent firestorm weren't simply controversial. They weren't simply a religious leader's effort to speak out against perceived injustice. Instead, they expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country – a view that sees white racism as endemic, and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America; a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam.

As such, Reverend Wright's comments were not only wrong but divisive, divisive at a time when we need unity; racially charged at a time when we need to come together to solve a set of monumental problems – two wars, a terrorist threat, a falling economy, a chronic health care crisis and potentially devastating climate change; problems that are neither black or white or Latino or Asian, but rather problems that confront us all.

Given my background, my politics, and my professed values and ideals, there will no doubt be those for whom my statements of condemnation are not enough. Why associate myself with Reverend Wright in the first place, they may ask? Why not join another church? And I confess that if all that I knew of Reverend Wright were the snippets of those sermons that have run in an endless loop on the television and You Tube, or if Trinity United Church of Christ conformed to the caricatures being peddled by some commentators, there is no doubt that I would react in much the same way

But the truth is, that isn't all that I know of the man. The man I met more than twenty years ago is a man who helped introduce me to my Christian faith, a man who spoke to me about our obligations to love one another; to care for the sick and lift up the poor. He is a man who served his country as a U.S. Marine; who has studied and lectured at some of the finest universities and seminaries in the country, and who for over thirty years led a church that serves the community by doing God's work here on Earth – by housing the homeless, ministering to the needy, providing day care services and scholarships and prison ministries, and reaching out to those suffering from HIV/AIDS.

In my first book, Dreams From My Father, I described the experience of my first service at Trinity:

"People began to shout, to rise from their seats and clap and cry out, a forceful wind carrying the reverend's voice up into the rafters….And in that single note – hope! – I heard something else; at the foot of that cross, inside the thousands of churches across the city, I imagined the stories of ordinary black people merging with the stories of David and Goliath, Moses and Pharaoh, the Christians in the lion's den, Ezekiel's field of dry bones. Those stories – of survival, and freedom, and hope – became our story, my story; the blood that had spilled was our blood, the tears our tears; until this black church, on this bright day, seemed once more a vessel carrying the story of a people into future generations and into a larger world. Our trials and triumphs became at once unique and universal, black and more than black; in chronicling our journey, the stories and songs gave us a means to reclaim memories that we didn't need to feel shame about…memories that all people might study and cherish – and with which we could start to rebuild."

That has been my experience at Trinity. Like other predominantly black churches across the country, Trinity embodies the black community in its entirety – the doctor and the welfare mom, the model student and the former gang-banger. Like other black churches, Trinity's services are full of raucous laughter and sometimes bawdy humor. They are full of dancing, clapping, screaming and shouting that may seem jarring to the untrained ear. The church contains in full the kindness and cruelty, the fierce intelligence and the shocking ignorance, the struggles and successes, the love and yes, the bitterness and bias that make up the black experience in America.

And this helps explain, perhaps, my relationship with Reverend Wright. As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me. He strengthened my faith, officiated my wedding, and baptized my children. Not once in my conversations with him have I heard him talk about any ethnic group in derogatory terms, or treat whites with whom he interacted with anything but courtesy and respect. He contains within him the contradictions – the good and the bad – of the community that he has served diligently for so many years.

I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother – a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.

These people are a part of me. And they are a part of America, this country that I love.

Some will see this as an attempt to justify or excuse comments that are simply inexcusable. I can assure you it is not. I suppose the politically safe thing would be to move on from this episode and just hope that it fades into the woodwork. We can dismiss Reverend Wright as a crank or a demagogue, just as some have dismissed Geraldine Ferraro, in the aftermath of her recent statements, as harboring some deep-seated racial bias.

But race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now. We would be making the same mistake that Reverend Wright made in his offending sermons about America – to simplify and stereotype and amplify the negative to the point that it distorts reality.

The fact is that the comments that have been made and the issues that have surfaced over the last few weeks reflect the complexities of race in this country that we've never really worked through – a part of our union that we have yet to perfect. And if we walk away now, if we simply retreat into our respective corners, we will never be able to come together and solve challenges like health care, or education, or the need to find good jobs for every American.

Understanding this reality requires a reminder of how we arrived at this point. As William Faulkner once wrote, "The past isn't dead and buried. In fact, it isn't even past." We do not need to recite here the history of racial injustice in this country. But we do need to remind ourselves that so many of the disparities that exist in the African-American community today can be directly traced to inequalities passed on from an earlier generation that suffered under the brutal legacy of slavery and Jim Crow.

Segregated schools were, and are, inferior schools; we still haven't fixed them, fifty years after Brown v. Board of Education, and the inferior education they provided, then and now, helps explain the pervasive achievement gap between today's black and white students.

Legalized discrimination - where blacks were prevented, often through violence, from owning property, or loans were not granted to African-American business owners, or black homeowners could not access FHA mortgages, or blacks were excluded from unions, or the police force, or fire departments – meant that black families could not amass any meaningful wealth to bequeath to future generations. That history helps explain the wealth and income gap between black and white, and the concentrated pockets of poverty that persists in so many of today's urban and rural communities.

A lack of economic opportunity among black men, and the shame and frustration that came from not being able to provide for one's family, contributed to the erosion of black families – a problem that welfare policies for many years may have worsened. And the lack of basic services in so many urban black neighborhoods – parks for kids to play in, police walking the beat, regular garbage pick-up and building code enforcement – all helped create a cycle of violence, blight and neglect that continue to haunt us.

This is the reality in which Reverend Wright and other African-Americans of his generation grew up. They came of age in the late fifties and early sixties, a time when segregation was still the law of the land and opportunity was systematically constricted. What's remarkable is not how many failed in the face of discrimination, but rather how many men and women overcame the odds; how many were able to make a way out of no way for those like me who would come after them.

But for all those who scratched and clawed their way to get a piece of the American Dream, there were many who didn't make it – those who were ultimately defeated, in one way or another, by discrimination. That legacy of defeat was passed on to future generations – those young men and increasingly young women who we see standing on street corners or languishing in our prisons, without hope or prospects for the future. Even for those blacks who did make it, questions of race, and racism, continue to define their worldview in fundamental ways. For the men and women of Reverend Wright's generation, the memories of humiliation and doubt and fear have not gone away; nor has the anger and the bitterness of those years. That anger may not get expressed in public, in front of white co-workers or white friends. But it does find voice in the barbershop or around the kitchen table. At times, that anger is exploited by politicians, to gin up votes along racial lines, or to make up for a politician's own failings.

And occasionally it finds voice in the church on Sunday morning, in the pulpit and in the pews. The fact that so many people are surprised to hear that anger in some of Reverend Wright's sermons simply reminds us of the old truism that the most segregated hour in American life occurs on Sunday morning. That anger is not always productive; indeed, all too often it distracts attention from solving real problems; it keeps us from squarely facing our own complicity in our condition, and prevents the African-American community from forging the alliances it needs to bring about real change. But the anger is real; it is powerful; and to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots, only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races.

In fact, a similar anger exists within segments of the white community. Most working- and middle-class white Americans don't feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience – as far as they're concerned, no one's handed them anything, they've built it from scratch. They've worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor. They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they're told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time.

Like the anger within the black community, these resentments aren't always expressed in polite company. But they have helped shape the political landscape for at least a generation. Anger over welfare and affirmative action helped forge the Reagan Coalition. Politicians routinely exploited fears of crime for their own electoral ends. Talk show hosts and conservative commentators built entire careers unmasking bogus claims of racism while dismissing legitimate discussions of racial injustice and inequality as mere political correctness or reverse racism.

Just as black anger often proved counterproductive, so have these white resentments distracted attention from the real culprits of the middle class squeeze – a corporate culture rife with inside dealing, questionable accounting practices, and short-term greed; a Washington dominated by lobbyists and special interests; economic policies that favor the few over the many. And yet, to wish away the resentments of white Americans, to label them as misguided or even racist, without recognizing they are grounded in legitimate concerns – this too widens the racial divide, and blocks the path to understanding.

This is where we are right now. It's a racial stalemate we've been stuck in for years. Contrary to the claims of some of my critics, black and white, I have never been so naïve as to believe that we can get beyond our racial divisions in a single election cycle, or with a single candidacy – particularly a candidacy as imperfect as my own.

But I have asserted a firm conviction – a conviction rooted in my faith in God and my faith in the American people – that working together we can move beyond some of our old racial wounds, and that in fact we have no choice is we are to continue on the path of a more perfect union.

For the African-American community, that path means embracing the burdens of our past without becoming victims of our past. It means continuing to insist on a full measure of justice in every aspect of American life. But it also means binding our particular grievances – for better health care, and better schools, and better jobs - to the larger aspirations of all Americans -- the white woman struggling to break the glass ceiling, the white man whose been laid off, the immigrant trying to feed his family. And it means taking full responsibility for own lives – by demanding more from our fathers, and spending more time with our children, and reading to them, and teaching them that while they may face challenges and discrimination in their own lives, they must never succumb to despair or cynicism; they must always believe that they can write their own destiny.

Ironically, this quintessentially American – and yes, conservative – notion of self-help found frequent expression in Reverend Wright's sermons. But what my former pastor too often failed to understand is that embarking on a program of self-help also requires a belief that society can change.

The profound mistake of Reverend Wright's sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society. It's that he spoke as if our society was static; as if no progress has been made; as if this country – a country that has made it possible for one of his own members to run for the highest office in the land and build a coalition of white and black; Latino and Asian, rich and poor, young and old -- is still irrevocably bound to a tragic past. But what we know -- what we have seen – is that America can change. That is true genius of this nation. What we have already achieved gives us hope – the audacity to hope – for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

In the white community, the path to a more perfect union means acknowledging that what ails the African-American community does not just exist in the minds of black people; that the legacy of discrimination - and current incidents of discrimination, while less overt than in the past - are real and must be addressed. Not just with words, but with deeds – by investing in our schools and our communities; by enforcing our civil rights laws and ensuring fairness in our criminal justice system; by providing this generation with ladders of opportunity that were unavailable for previous generations. It requires all Americans to realize that your dreams do not have to come at the expense of my dreams; that investing in the health, welfare, and education of black and brown and white children will ultimately help all of America prosper.

In the end, then, what is called for is nothing more, and nothing less, than what all the world's great religions demand – that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Let us be our brother's keeper, Scripture tells us. Let us be our sister's keeper. Let us find that common stake we all have in one another, and let our politics reflect that spirit as well.

For we have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism. We can tackle race only as spectacle – as we did in the OJ trial – or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina - or as fodder for the nightly news. We can play Reverend Wright's sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words. We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she's playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.

We can do that.

But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we'll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change.

That is one option. Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, "Not this time." This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children. This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can't learn; that those kids who don't look like us are somebody else's problem. The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a 21st century economy. Not this time.

This time we want to talk about how the lines in the Emergency Room are filled with whites and blacks and Hispanics who do not have health care; who don't have the power on their own to overcome the special interests in Washington, but who can take them on if we do it together.

This time we want to talk about the shuttered mills that once provided a decent life for men and women of every race, and the homes for sale that once belonged to Americans from every religion, every region, every walk of life. This time we want to talk about the fact that the real problem is not that someone who doesn't look like you might take your job; it's that the corporation you work for will ship it overseas for nothing more than a profit.

This time we want to talk about the men and women of every color and creed who serve together, and fight together, and bleed together under the same proud flag. We want to talk about how to bring them home from a war that never should've been authorized and never should've been waged, and we want to talk about how we'll show our patriotism by caring for them, and their families, and giving them the benefits they have earned.

I would not be running for President if I didn't believe with all my heart that this is what the vast majority of Americans want for this country. This union may never be perfect, but generation after generation has shown that it can always be perfected. And today, whenever I find myself feeling doubtful or cynical about this possibility, what gives me the most hope is the next generation – the young people whose attitudes and beliefs and openness to change have already made history in this election.

There is one story in particularly that I'd like to leave you with today – a story I told when I had the great honor of speaking on Dr. King's birthday at his home church, Ebenezer Baptist, in Atlanta.

There is a young, twenty-three year old white woman named Ashley Baia who organized for our campaign in Florence, South Carolina. She had been working to organize a mostly African-American community since the beginning of this campaign, and one day she was at a roundtable discussion where everyone went around telling their story and why they were there.

And Ashley said that when she was nine years old, her mother got cancer. And because she had to miss days of work, she was let go and lost her health care. They had to file for bankruptcy, and that's when Ashley decided that she had to do something to help her mom.

She knew that food was one of their most expensive costs, and so Ashley convinced her mother that what she really liked and really wanted to eat more than anything else was mustard and relish sandwiches. Because that was the cheapest way to eat.

She did this for a year until her mom got better, and she told everyone at the roundtable that the reason she joined our campaign was so that she could help the millions of other children in the country who want and need to help their parents too.

Now Ashley might have made a different choice. Perhaps somebody told her along the way that the source of her mother's problems were blacks who were on welfare and too lazy to work, or Hispanics who were coming into the country illegally. But she didn't. She sought out allies in her fight against injustice.

Anyway, Ashley finishes her story and then goes around the room and asks everyone else why they're supporting the campaign. They all have different stories and reasons. Many bring up a specific issue. And finally they come to this elderly black man who's been sitting there quietly the entire time. And Ashley asks him why he's there. And he does not bring up a specific issue. He does not say health care or the economy. He does not say education or the war. He does not say that he was there because of Barack Obama. He simply says to everyone in the room, "I am here because of Ashley."

"I'm here because of Ashley." By itself, that single moment of recognition between that young white girl and that old black man is not enough. It is not enough to give health care to the sick, or jobs to the jobless, or education to our children.

But it is where we start. It is where our union grows stronger. And as so many generations have come to realize over the course of the two-hundred and twenty one years since a band of patriots signed that document in Philadelphia, that is where the perfection begins.

Iraq Planning

I don't know how he did it, but my friend Broadway Carl found some secret footage from five years ago of George W. Bush hard at work in the Oval Office planning the Iraq War.

It's pretty amazing:

Monday, March 17, 2008

Erin go braugh

I'm Irish on my mother's side, so happy Saint Patrick's Day.

An Old Irish Blessing

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

The Google

A quick search on the Inter-tubes (wish I had thought of this a long time ago, this Internet thing is cool - I think it might catch on!) has revealed to me that the Muppets have a character called Joe the Armadillo.

Here he is:

OK, so apart from simply being incredibly ugly (it's the lips! Jebus, 'dillos don't have lips! Gawd those are hideous!) Joe the Armadillo just isn't one of the cool Muppets, like Kermit or Animal or even Fozzie. In any event, I want to be clear that Joe the Armadillo is not the inspiration for my online handle. I'll tell that story some other time, but for now, for the record - I arrived at the name Armadillo Joe all on my own.

Moving on.....

O Happy Day!

Stirling Newberry, who used to blog to great effect over at TPMCafé, has resurfaced at The Agonist. He is super-smart, understand the nuts-and-bolts of economics, is steeped in historical example and precedent, and always has a keen eye on the Big Picture from a socio-geo-political viewpoint. I constantly referred to his stuff over at my old LiveJournal blog, until he left TPM and seemed to drop out off the face of the earth.

Well, he's back and today he explains (as only a super-brainy economist could) exactly why we are completely fucked.

[T]he right wing came to believe that it could have a military machine without mass mobilization, but instead with a high tech smaller force, it also did not see the need to keep most Americans happy. Instead, their new vision was of a small, permanent and highly mobilized base, which included a core of military-industrial contracting, supported by a security apparatus and getting votes from a combination of resource extraction, disorganized labor, the wealthy, franchise owners, and theocrats. Their idea was expressed in the Project for A New American Century, and in Karl Rove's political apparatus. People who were a danger to this thesis were removed by whatever means necessary. While being a heavily socialist enterprise, in the right wing sense of being a national socialism, it relied on a propaganda of libertarianism. This propaganda relied on creating the meme of the late 19th century as the legendary golden age, where laissez-faire economics combined with piety, plutocracy, and military empire, in that time came the conquest of the West to create a rising America.


This neo-conservative plutocracy was intended to take the place of the Liberal Democracy. It had a war without end as its mandate, a Christianist ethnocentrism as its meaning to create context, and a monetary system which would, after the invasion of the Middle East, be based on a direct imperial control over oil.


As many, many, many commentators, many, many times have pointed out, the US was consuming too much, and exporting too little. The Neo-Conservative happy monsters said that this could go on for ever, giving other people our paper for their oil and goods.

While it is possible that we will emerge from this functional, the likelihood is that we are going to see a continued fall for the next 9 months, as the crisis deepens, a die hard illegitimate executive burns his last brands on our skin, and a feckless opposition folds its cards over and over and over again, allowing ordinary people to bear the brunt of the continued contraction.

We are riding this bucket down a ways farther, because there is nothing to right the equilibrium, and without the stimulus from war spending, on which we are so dependent, there will be no pick up in business activity soon.
Read the whole thing, really. Then check out his diary.

Go ahead. Read it all. Right now.

I'll wait.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Our Ruling Class

Yesterday, I got into a discussion with a friend of mine who respectfully disagreed that America is dominated by a ruling class that uses the GOP as its political organ. This friend is an intelligent man with considered opinions but his characterization of my assertions was that he was more optimistic than me, that my viewpoints were too cynical and he had greater faith in the basic goodness of humans generally and Americans in particular.

The flashpoint for our discussion began as a four-way conversation regarding free wireless internet and the lawsuit a few years ago wherein Verizon used our legal system to shut down the City of Philadelphia's attempt to blanket the city in free wireless internet access, something about interfering with the free market or some such bullshit. Amid much point/counter-point, the upshot of our conversation was that my assertion (and that of the other participants) was that the interests of the ruling class - by way of multi-national corporate interests which largely though not completely overlap - are served by locking out the underclasses from the tools of prosperity. While he agreed with our assertion was that such action is counter-productive to the economy specifically and society generally, he chalked it up to short-sightedness on the part of a small group of greedy business tycoons without joining us in attributing it to some larger program. He tried to make the point that the "ruling class" would not want to hobble the masses from contributing to the larger prosperity of the nation (I'm trying to be fair to his argument) because everyone benefits when everyone participates in the general welfare.

I said that such a model works when the prosperity of a single nation is at stake, but now we have a ruling superclass (the personal equivalent of the multi-national corporation) for whom national boundaries are just so many lines on a map. They keep their money in Euros and other currencies, they bank from the Caymans and trot the globe with little thought about their impact on the environment or any particular local population - thus their personal welfare is not very tightly bound to the welfare of any particular nation or people. America becomes just one more place to exploit to exhaustion before moving on. He countered that such a class of people is very small and to assert any kind of primacy on their part is to sound conspiratorial to the level of Oliver Stone's JFK.

I then began to bring forward further examples of a long-term ruling class program to turn America into a banana republic: the school voucher program, which exists only to undermine (with the eventual goal of eliminating) the public schooling system. He argued that while the voucher program is misguided, the support for it derives from a good-hearted nostalgia for an America that never really existed. I countered that while such nostalgia is a minor pillar of the larger public support for vouchers, such support grows from a deliberate PR campaign on the part of wealthy interests with a hidden agenda, and that the program itself exists to undermine public education and ensure that we will always have an undereducated working class to stock the shelves of the Wal-Mart.

He countered with the assertion that we don't really have a ruling class in America, we are a democracy afterall. A third fellow in the discussion noted that George W. Bush derives from just such a class, inherited from Europe and always deeply hostile to the notion of democracy, which they tolerate mostly because it's good for business. He countered that we don't in fact have such a class because those people either stayed in England to begin with or went back after the revolution and I said that such people were called loyalists and they didn't so much disappear as transform.

Unfortunately, we were arguing at the end of lunch break and were unable to continue past the English re-patriation part of the conversation.

So I will finish it here, as briefly as possible

Viewed his way, American history looks meandering and disjointed - a series of accidents with no truly bad actors. I can't go there. While I don't believe that some Illuminati-style group of freemasons meets in a Star Chamber and picks the next Super Bowl winner, I do think the vast disparity of wealth in this country (to say nothing of the vast disparity between the wealthy of Europe and America as compared to the poor of Africa and South America) has created a class of people with the will, the patience and the political power to affect national and world events to their benefit over the long term. They fear social change because the status quo has made and keeps them rich. These people have been able to enlist the broader support of a large enough collection of various social, economic and religious groups which share their fear of changing the status quo (as long as the specifics of what exactly constitutes "status quo" are never examined) to build a coalition under the banner of "conservative" that will undermine and eventually eliminate the engine of change that has been the American political process from its inception.

I increasingly see our political process through such a lens. If that makes me cynical, then I plead guilty.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Told You So

Greg Palast ("Armed Madhouse" and "Best Democracy Money Can Buy") agrees with me that the Spitzer thing was a political hit. Unlike me, he's pretty sure it was because Spitzer stood in the way of the money. (h/t to C&L)

This week, Bernanke’s Fed, for the first time in its history, loaned a selected coterie of banks one-fifth of a trillion dollars to guarantee these banks’ mortgage-backed junk bonds. The deluge of public loot was an eye-popping windfall to the very banking predators who have brought two million families to the brink of foreclosure.

Up until Wednesday, there was one single, lonely politician who stood in the way of this creepy little assignation at the bankers’ bordello: Eliot Spitzer.

Who are they kidding? Spitzer’s lynching and the bankers’ enriching are intimately tied.

How? Follow the money.


...when the Bush regime took over, Countrywide and its banking brethren were told to party hearty – it was OK now to steer’m, fake’m, charge’m and take’m.

But there was this annoying party-pooper. The Attorney General of New York, Eliot Spitzer, who sued these guys to a fare-thee-well. Or tried to.

Instead of regulating the banks that had run amok, Bush’s regulators went on the warpath against Spitzer and states attempting to stop predatory practices. Making an unprecedented use of the legal power of “federal pre-emption,” Bush-bots ordered the states to NOT enforce their consumer protection laws.

Indeed, the feds actually filed a lawsuit to block Spitzer’s investigation of ugly racial mortgage steering. Bush’s banking buddies were especially steamed that Spitzer hammered bank practices across the nation using New York State laws.

Spitzer not only took on Countrywide, he took on their predatory enablers in the investment banking community.


It was the night of February 13 when Spitzer made the bone-headed choice to order take-out in his Washington Hotel room. He had just finished signing these words for the Washington Post about predatory loans:

“Not only did the Bush administration do nothing to protect consumers, it embarked on an aggressive and unprecedented campaign to prevent states from protecting their residents from the very problems to which the federal government was turning a blind eye.”

Bush, Spitzer said right in the headline, was the “Predator Lenders’ Partner in Crime.” The President, said Spitzer, was a fugitive from justice. And Spitzer was in Washington to launch a campaign to take on the Bush regime and the biggest financial powers on the planet.

Spitzer wrote, “When history tells the story of the subprime lending crisis and recounts its devastating effects on the lives of so many innocent homeowners the Bush administration will not be judged favorably.”

But now, the Administration can rest assured that this love story – of Bush and his bankers - will not be told by history at all – now that the Sheriff of Wall Street has fallen on his own gun.
Read the whole thing, if you dare, but I warn you that you should have some Pepto Bismol standing by. It ain't pretty.

So, basically, Spitzer gets taken out of power in a political hit and may go to jail.

And don't think they won't do it. Don Siegleman of Alabama is nothing short of a political prisoner of the Bush Junta and Spitzer could become one as well.

Et tu, Brute?

OK, a little late in the day, but today is the Ides of March.

These photos are from mine and Mrs. Joe's recent trip to Rome.

This picture is of the old Roman Senate. Note, in the background, the tree to the left of the tallest column in the foreground:

That same tree is the one on the right in this photo:

This is the base of the trunk of that tree:

That is where Julius Caesar was stabbed to death on the 15th of March, 44 B.C.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

This made me laugh

OK, so I've been working and not free to blog very much the last few days. The wife and I are going to see a show tonight (!) and that will cut into valuable blogging time as well.

So, instead of pithy commentary about the fallout from the whole Spitzer debacle or the food-fight between Clinton and Obama - I instead ask you to run don't walk to If Celebs Moved to Oklahoma.

The title is self-explanatory and this is an example of why:

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Clearing The Decks

Haven't had time to post a whole bunch the last few days.  I'm also rather tired.  Daylight savings cut into an already foreshortened night Saturday into Sunday morning.  I spent Sunday night (after two shows) polishing up paperwork for a new show, which has me working during the day.  Yesterday, while we were working, a fire destroyed the apartment of one of my friends and co-workers and I helped him clean up last night.  It was bad.  He loved his cats.  He had ten of them, two are now dead and three are badly burned at the vet's.  The last dead cat was found right before I left, so even as the place was looking better (and - by "better" - I mean looking less like the inside of a piece of charcoal) and our spirits were improving slightly, the hope of there only being one casualty evaporated. I rode home on the subway depressed, damp, muddy, covered in soot and smelling like a chimney.  I didn't sleep well last night and awoke with a splitting headache.  

But that's my personal story.  On to politics. So much has happened.  Obama wins in Mississippi.  Cool.  No doubt Clinton is still conniving about how to fuck up the whole process.

And about that whole Eliot "Ness" Spitzer and the hookers thing?  Whatever.  He's probably guilty and if he is then fuck him.  And, on this topic, Izzy has a teh awesome post today that offers a fantastic way to handle the legalization of something that shouldn't be against the law in the first place.

But as for Spitzer I think someone called in a political hit.  The clock is running out on the Rethugli-bots and they know it and they're scared.  Let's face it, unless they steal it (and they likely will), a Democratic president will bring in an army of the best and the brightest and all of them animated by a pent-up fury at being treated like diseased red-headed step-children for years or even decades by the sneering, sleazy and smugly self-righteous membership of the opposing party.  Spitzer was the odds-on favorite to be tapped for Attorney General and his record as a fearless, tireless crusader against the thieves and criminals on Wall Street means that the sleaze in the GOP would have had a great deal to worry about.  

All of this happened way too fast.  And it isn't even the incredible mess of detail that the press already seemed to have (insider tips?) but rather the not one but two spoof songs ("Love Client #9" & "Prostitutin' Spitz") I heard on the radio this morning that had lyrics and everything.  Way too fast, even in the Internet age.  I'm just saying this whole thing has a Rovian PR negative campaign roll-out feel to it.  I'm too tired to elaborate right now, but I will go into more detail soon.  Let me just say that I think the Spitzer sting boils down to the AG mess being not about who was fired for not following the orders of the dark masters of the GOP Star Chamber, but who kept their jobs.  Digby says it all much better than I can.

So, yeah, I think it was a hit and I bet Don Siegleman in Alabama would agree with me.

Monday, March 10, 2008

...And The Lord Taketh Away

Well, shit.

You really can't have it all.

Well, there goes the Attorney General from my White House Cabinet Dream Team.

Who's next?

Bye-Bye, Bowtie

Well, shit.  That's teh awesome!

Tucker "I'm a Smarmy Little Fuck Who Compensates For His Lack of College Education By Acting Like A Complete Prick To Anyone Who Seems Smarter" Carlson is being edged out at MSNBC.


Completing a downward spiral that began in 2004 when Jon Stewart single-handedly put an end to his gig at "Crossfire," Carlson's show is being cancelled, compensated only by vague promises of being kept on to add color commentary through the end of the election season, then presumably taken to the nearest toilet and flushed into the city's water supply. He should have been nicer to people when he had the chance, I suppose. But then, it was just so much more fun being a horse's ass.

I can just picture a homeless, drunken Carlson someday soon stumbling down the street with his bottle in a paper bag, mumbling curses at an invisible Jon Stewart.

He will be replaced by David "During The Day I Pretend To Be Edward R. Murrow In Front Of The Cameras At Press Conferences While At Night I Have No Qualms About Cutting The Rug With Karl 'Sith Lord' Rove In A Tux" Gregory is rewarded for his fealty to the powers-that-be with his own show.

Remember this?

Ahh, good times. Good times.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Hillary & Henny

Izzy, you got dat right, bruh-thuh!

Codename: "Renegade"

The most cloying thing about the Oba-maniacs is the thing many of his most vocal critics (with some justification, I admit) decry as "cult-ish." Such as it is with movements, I reckon. But then, without at least some emotion, we would never have any real social change. Emotion, vis a vis politics, arises from convictions affirmed or offended and Barack Hussein Obama, despite his rather slim progressive bona fides, is still a walking, talking affirmation of the better angels of our nature, a flesh-and-blood manifestation of racial harmony, cross-cultural understanding and colorblind meritocracy. (NOTE: He will deliver his nomination acceptance speech 45 years to the day after Martin Luther King's "I Have A Dream" - if Hillary doesn't fuck it all up)

Because Obama speaks to that part of all of us that longs for change, the emotional response can be overwhelming at times. For technocratic Establishment players like Hillary and good ol' boy "maverick" Sky Captain Andy Rooney, such abstract, non-commoditizable merits lack malleability; they are axiomatic and have their own inherent, non-reducible value. For minds steeped in the tit-for-tat, swap-meet atmosphere of the prevailing D.C. culture, a thing so-resembling actual principles simply does not compute. They see it as weak. Or naive. Neither can comprehend why he would appeal to so many people, which is what drives Hillary to mock it, and the GOP with their enablers in the media to dismiss Obama and the wave he is riding as mere enthusiasm, just more post-1960's naivete that will evaporate in the pressure-cooker of Washingtonian realpolitik. "Life is what happens while you're making other plans." Whenever anybody has the temerity to rile people's emotions up like this, to make them believe that things don't have to be the way they are, angry loners always materialize to dispatch them. I fear for the inspirational ones, for America has too often had a way of neutralizing them, from a schoolbook depository in Dallas, a hotel ballroom in Los Angeles, a motel balcony in Memphis.

Please, Mister Secret Service Man, keep "Renegade" safe at night. Please. Please.


For, though I have my doubts about his ultimate power (and his commitment) to really change things, he is still the best available option. And besides, people change (see "Roosevelt, Franklin D." + "class, traitor to his") and Obama is not leading a movement as much as he is riding a wave. The four-decade GOP pushback against modernity is at an end. With Goldwater, Nixon and Reagan, the ruling class was able to seduce the Dixie bigots and their like-minded fellow 'Mur-kuns that it really was a white, Christian nation afterall and it's the fault of all the dirty fucking hippies, u
ppity negroes and snooty wimmin-folk that it isn't more so. Just ask William F. Buckley. As usual, the 1960's become a Rashômon moment in the American experience. Where you stand on the 1960's is, frankly, where you stand on America in general. America in her best moments has always been about expansion and inclusion, but the Rethugli-bots have leveraged the forces of counter-revolution, not the better angels of our nature, to electoral advantage as far as reduction and exclusion can go - to the likely economic and social ruin of the United States.

With Saint McCain, I can sort of understand why he doesn't get it. He thinks the way he does since he really is just a mean old white guy who was supposed to inherit a world run on the principle of the white man's burden, but those meddling kids got in the way. He and his GOP ilk are barely part of the 20th Century, much less the 21st, so he and his fellow-travellers have simply become irrelevant to the grand stage of history. Had Chimpy McLies-A-Lot been clearing brush in Crawford, Texas that day, mentally replaying his defeat over and over again in the hot September sun, instead of reading "My Pet Goat" in Florida, he too would represent a similarly point-sized endnote in the Grand Narrative of American History, a road not-taken that faded into historical irrelevance. Instead, Dubya now gets a whole chapter, but there's little we can do to change that now.

But Hillary is different. We have to pay attention to her for two reasons:

One, the positive reason, we cannot escape the fact that it is deeply significant in American history that a woman finally has, or (until recently) had anyway, a very real shot at the White House. In world history, though, who gives a shit? If a violently misogynistic, Third World, quasi-medieval cesspool like Pakistan can elect a woman (much less the 60+ other women that have been world leaders in just the last 50 years - to say nothing of woman monarchs like Queen Elizabeth or Nefertitti), the US doesn't get credit for showing up at the address for a party that happened and dispersed long ago. No, apart from her gender, Hillary is just another candidate with no unique qualifications. She has unfortunately become the Establishment candidate, her Rovian antics over the past couple of weeks should be indicator enough of that.

Two, the negative reason, she is the wife of a former president, a very popular former president, no matter how many GOP-enablers may acquiesce to Rethugli-bot revisionism. And this number two is the negative reason we have to pay attention to her because we have to ask ourselves if we want Bush/Clinton/Bush/Clinton. 24 years (at least - maybe 28) of the same two families. Really? When did we surrender to the notion of a ruling class? I know we've always had one in reality, but never have we so formally embraced it. Should we not fight that trend? Is that not why we had a revolution? Isn't that one of our ideals?

Hillary doesn't think so. I boil down my problem with her down to two things:

  1. She and Bill have come to think of themselves as inseparable from the identity of the whole of the Democratic Party. "L'Democrats, c'est moi." Her arm-twisting of the superdelegates is a function of this self-serving delusion. She presented herself as the inevitable candidate. She thought she could get away with basking in Bill's reflected glory because her husband is a rockstar in the Democratic pantheon. She and her husband took notes when the conventional wisdom about Gore became that he should have embraced The Big Dog, the most popular living Democratic president. My problem with that is the one I have always had with Bill, that he and his whole DLC project burned the Democratic left wing and did long-term damage to the party to say nothing of the republic. He certainly helped himself politically, but he came to power by triangulating against the larger membership and traditional power base of his party at a time when that seemed like the only option for a national Democrat. As we sit amid the wreckage of the GOP's forty-year scorched-earth campaign against the modern world, the time for that kind of "third way" self-serving capitulation has clearly passed. Bill & Hillary's historical moment was fleeting and has gone.

  2. She was so traumatized by the astro-turf witch hunt against her and her husband in the 1990s that it seems to me she now thinks of herself as finally having earned membership in "The Club" or "The Establishment" and godammit no fucking upstart from the hinterlands is going to derail her inevitable candidacy. Her praise of McCain and denegration of Obama in recent days shows that she is more loyal to fellow members of Sally Quinn's "Village" than to the unwashed masses and other assorted riff-raff in her own party. Her arm-twisting of the superdelegates is also a function of this delusion. But this is not a recent phenomenon. Her votes for the AUMF and the UN Resolution, for the bankruptcy bill, for Kyl-Lieberman all reveal either a striving politician befuddled by the fog of Rethugli-bot lies, or a cynical operator building street cred for a future tri-angulating presidential run. Of course, we knew what she and Big Dog were up to when they settled on New York for their post-Washington life, but we here in the Empire State elected (and re-elected) her anyway.

So this seems like Obama's moment. The tide began to turn in 2006, but last night's defeat of a heavily-funded Rethugli-bot in Denny "the Manatee" Hastert's old district show's that the GOP "brand" is degrading everywhere its power isn't tied to overt racism, which bodes well for such a transformative candidate as Obama. No, he isn't as progressive as I would like. I was a Kucinich supporter before I switched to Edwards. Obama as a politician isn't far enough left for me, but no one else is even close. Frankly, he doesn't have to be because a ship this big underway doesn't stop or turn easily; he only has to begin the process. If change is truly afoot, forty years of corrosion to the body politic won't mend in a few election cycles. This fight will take generations. I recognize that Obama is only human - not some kind of vessel - but symbols do have power nevertheless. Somebody not-white with one, two, three atypical American names in the most powerful office in the world is a very potent symbol indeed, both here and abroad.

When William F. Buckley stood athwart history and yelled Stop! some half-century ago, he only succeeded insofar as he inspired a movement that enabled the luddite forces of bigotry and hatred to build a dam in the path of progress. That dam has been showing cracks for a very long time and I hope and believe that Obama could be the historical wedge to finally split one of those cracks wide open, carrying the GOP and the DLC-wing of the Democrats with it while "justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream."