Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Phil Gramm Lives!

This worm has finally crawled out from the dank underbelly of the private sector rock for which he's always had a stiffy, even when he was getting every stage of his education and subsequent career paid for by the public. I've had the great pleasure of hating this S.O.B. for most of my adult life because he was my Senator in Washington from the time I became aware of such a thing as politics at around 14 until I left the great state of Texas in 1996.

Make no mistake, this man is as disingenuously sleazy as disingenuously sleazy gets, and all with a gooey smile and squinty Georgia drawl - for he was only the Senator from Texas because he had a job at Texas A&M when he decided to enter politics. His entire reputation and career as an economist and then a politician was essentially an audition for the corporate lobbyist job he's had since leaving the U.S. Senate in 2002, his creed a shrill, mythological fantasy variation on the tired old libertarian retread of deregulation and complete lack of government oversight as the silver bullet for whatever economic woes beset any civilization anywhere, throughout time.

Or something like that. Who really know with these people. Their "theories" are not intended to actually illuminate or explain anything; they only exist as a faux-expertise patina to cover whatever sleazy thing they originally wanted to do in the first place, which is more often than not reinforce existing inequities and wealth-generating power structures. Kinda like the way their revolving set of names for creationism are just shitty, dim-bulb attempts to prove a pre-determined set of beliefs.

I'll leave the Bill of Indictment to the late, great (and terribly missed) Molly Ivins:
Gramm, the great crusader against government spending, has spent his entire life on the government tit. He was born at a military hospital, raised on his father's Army pay, went to private school at Georgia Military Academy on military insurance after his father died, paid for his college tuition with same, got a National Defense Fellowship to graduate school, taught at a state-supported school, and made generous use of his Senate expense account
In other words, from the time he was born in 1942 until he retired from the U.S. Senate 60 years later, his entire existence - from birth until practically retirement age - was owed to public institutions, financing & monies. He's been really busy since slithering out of office, though. From Christy Hardin Smith at FireDogLake:
Phil Gramm has taken McCain's "Charlie Black Sweet Talk Expressway bus" to Lobbying Town all the way to the bank...literally.

Gramm only stopped lobbying for international banking giant UBS officially on April 18, 2008, well after McCain clinched the GOP nod -- but also well after Gramm had written and shaped the McCain campaign's banking policies in response to the subprime mortgage which UBS is also embroiled, and for whom Gramm continues to be employed as a UBS vice chairman regarding investment banking. Yes, you read that correctly.

Who is UBS, exactly, that they have now restricted their international banking staff from traveling to the US during their pending SEC investigation? And why are they in legal trouble for allegedly running a tax-evasion arm out of their US branch? Josh has some background, including this link on McCain's speech on banking policy fully a month before Gramm quit lobbying for UBS. Funny how that speech calls for banking folks to decide how to handle things amongst themselves rather than tightening regulation -- wonder whose idea that was? Things that make you go "hmmmmm," indeed. Hilzoy has a good thumbnail sketch.

Why on earth would John McCain think this man was remotely appropriate to be his economic adviser? Because McCain knows nothing about economics. And just like his "pick a winner" foreign policy hodge podge, it's all about who might have a "reputation" among his pals who...quite coincidentally, I'm sure...also happen to be lobbyists for the very same industries would help to shape policy in a McCain Administration.
And Keith used the Good Mister Gramm to take this whack at the Senator from Arizona last night:

Rethugli-bots simply can't help themselves, the poor dears. Corrupt to the core.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Important Question

Is Obama a Muslim?

...Pass it on...

Not enough info?

Try here.

Now, pass that on...

(h/t Broadway Carl, via Dr. Biobrain)

Grand Old (Confederate) Party

Digby has an extended post that revisits a theme she's hammered for a very long time, that the Rethugli-bots really are exactly the bunch of racists they so hysterically deny being whenever confronted with examples of their dog-whistle language. If challenged, they usually call it a "joke" and then make it the fault of the uptight, overly-sensitive, listener for being offended.

They've been successfully running for office with cultural reinforcement via this technique from their dependable stable of right-wing shock-jocks and blathering bobblehead "pundits" for a very long time, but always couching it in issues that allow them to use coded language like "welfare reform" (stick it to the darkies) or "immigration reform" (stick it to the furr'ners) or "family values" (stick it to the queers - or uppity wimminfolk - you choose) or "strong defense" (stick it to the prissy girly-men over-educated egghead Lib'ruhls who all think they're better than Real Americans who know how to kick ass in war and always win - BOO-YA! - unless those pussies afraid of a stand-up fight make America lose just for spite).

Since the Ruling Class - and make no mistake we have a Ruling Class in America - is like all Ruling Classes across the world throughout history, they are deeply, fully, deathly afraid of the dirty, unwashed masses. Their fear is expressed in the platform of their pet-party, the GOP, to build election-winning coalitions (which they'd bypass if they could, since elections - and specifically democracies - are so messy and unpredictable and thus bad for business and, more importantly, accumulated wealth). The problem is, though, that those platform planks have all been, in some way, more or less reduceable to fear and loathing of "The Other" - to which the over-whelmingly white Rethugli-bot membership, from the violent & virulent racism of your average Dixie-goon to the latent racial mistrust of the nervous, TV-news-addicted suburban soccer mom, is all-too-eager to subscribe.

Well, digby takes a good extended look at the changing political landscape and has this to say:
The Republicans have flogged this idea that they are the party of the salt of the earth Real America for quite a while. But what they have been working toward, really, for quite some time is to be the party of the Old Confederacy with just a tiny reach beyond it with the right candidate and the right circumstances. The problem, you see, is that this mythical Real America is actually a country filled with all those undesirable identities to which they see themselves in opposition. In fact, these undesirables, from gays to uppity women to Hispanics to Asians to the ultimate interlopers, the African Americans who came over to "our" country against their will (long before "we" did) comprise a majority. So even if they Republicans manage to make this election a referendum on the "Real Americans" vs "The Other," which is all they can do, they can't win that way anymore. The Real Americans are outnumbered by the rest of us. The takeover is complete.
I really hope she's right. Please go read the whole thing. And follow the links, too. It's well worth it.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Intersection of Sports & Politics

While we're on the topic of comparing sports and politics, I love me some good baseball analogies (via Balloon Juice):
Barack Obama has just retired Hillary Clinton in the top half of the ninth inning of the seventh game of the American League Championship Series.

He's the home team, and he's leading 9-7, so he's already won, not just the game, but also the series.

But Clinton is insisting on taking the field to play out the final meaningless frame. It's never been done before in the history of baseball, but Obama, being a gentleman, is obliging.

Strangely, the umpires don't do anything to stop the game from continuing, even though it's completely under their control.

After Clinton finishes her warm up pitches, Obama steps up the plate. Clinton delivers three fastballs, each right over the heart of the plate, but Obama doesn't lift the bat off his shoulder. He strikes out in three pitches (West Virginia), clearly mailing it in in the hopes of avoiding injury.

Clinton, not recognizing the reason for Obama's nonchalant attitude, taunts him mercilessly. "You can't hit my kind of pitches!" she she screams.

Assassinate this

I have gone from liking & admiring Senator Clinton to pitying Senator Clinton to fully loathing and detesting the very sight and thought of Senator Clinton. I know what she meant isn't what she actually said here:

...but I have moved beyond any notion of playing fair with her since she is obsessed with making this entire campaign a round of Clintonian-reduxed Calvin Ball. Since I'm trying to make the focus of this blog more about Peak Oil and politics and such, I have avoided anything specific to the campaign as of late. However, Keith is on F-I-R-E here and I want to have his words take the place of mine:

Friday, May 23, 2008

We Got Troubles

It has been a few days due to a family situation (of which I'm pretty sure most of you are aware) that required me to fly to a state in the deep, deep south - the poorest, most backward one of all, but which nevertheless somehow has an enviable literary heritage (wink & nudge). The whole experience was like a re-fresher course on why I got as far away from that part of the country as my English-only ass could get, sin el pasaporte.

I will be writing more about what I saw down there (both on the ground & from the airplane) vis a vis Peak Oil, but as for today I want to direct everyone's attention to driftglass who is absolutely on fire in this post from a few days ago that echoes what I and my friends have been lamenting for some time - but much more eloquently - the stranglehold the "Dixie" mindset has on American politics. In the wake of the HRC blowouts in W.Va and Kentucky, all the bobbleheads (including this guy at HuffPost - a Princeton professor) have been yammering away in a thoroughly clinical manner about how vast swaths of the electorate won't vote for a black man and that the Dems need to somehow contend with that.

Racism trumps misogyny afterall, I suppose.

But at no point do they condemn these people for their willful provincial ignorance. Instead, in the collective mind of the village poobahs in D.C., these people become romanticized and elevated as Real 'Murricans, despite the fact that their ideological forefathers wanted to leave this country and we fought a war to prevent them from doing it.

Why do they get a pass?

Why do they get to claim the mantle of patriot?

They lost the Civil War and even more than that, they deserved to lose. And they have been an impediment to progress in this country since DAY ONE. From the earliest days of the republic, even before we were a republic, we've had to accommodate them, their soul-destroying 'peculiar institution' and all the toxic, corrosive cultural tendencies attending it, as well as the resulting inferiority complex and massive chip on their collective shoulder which drives the majority of their politics.

Why do the rest of us have to put up with all this shit?

Driftglass is having none of it.
...I am done conceding one more fucking millimeter to the great- great-grandbastards of an ideology that should have been universally denounced two generations ago and then unceremoniously sealed like Chernobyl under a million tons of concrete.

Instead, far from repudiating ignorance and racism -- burying them at the crossroads with a stake through their rotting hearts -- for as long as I have been alive they have been the Republican’s cash crops; their carefully cultivated political opium poppies.

So rather than denouncing the mutant offspring of our nation's Original Sin, they hire professional race-baiting gunslingers like Lee Atwater and Karl Rove to dog-whistle its shambling electoral corpse back up from unquiet graves in unholy ground every two years with magic conjure words like “Southern Pride”, "Confederate flag” and “state’s rights”.


But so long as the hunger for their votes means they're pandered to instead of long as they are allowed to rage unchecked and unchallenged like a disease through our body politic -- decade after exhausting decade -- warping our national debates, demanding that their atavistic values be accommodated...I say fuck ‘em.

Without the guns of the Union Army, the Confederacy would never have fallen. And without the massed might of the federal government, the courts, and hundreds of thousands of ordinary citizens putting their necks on the line, Jim Crow would never have been smashed.


I have absolutely no reason to believe that, having endured proudly intact century after century, our surviving enclaves of American bigotry will ever “softly and suddenly vanish away” without the aid of a fleet of cultural and political bulldozers.
Anger is a great motivator. Man, driftglass can write. So could Abraham Lincoln (from his Cooper Union Address, New York, New York, February 27, 1860):
The question recurs, what will satisfy them? Simply this: We must not only let them alone, but we must somehow, convince them that we do let them alone. This, we know by experience, is no easy task. We have been so trying to convince them from the very beginning of our organization, but with no success. In all our platforms and speeches we have constantly protested our purpose to let them alone; but this has had no tendency to convince them. Alike unavailing to convince them, is the fact that they have never detected a man of us in any attempt to disturb them.

These natural, and apparently adequate means all failing, what will convince them? This, and this only: cease to call slavery wrong, and join them in calling it right. And this must be done thoroughly - done in acts as well as in words. Silence will not be tolerated - we must place ourselves avowedly with them.
Only the rest of the United States looking like Dixie in word, thought, action, deed and spirit will make them go away. And not even then, because they're so insular and mistrustful because of the ugly, lingering side-effects of the cognitive dissonance of a culture of slaves and slave-owners in a "free" country that they can never seem to get away from the persecution complex that lies at the heart of their brand of politics.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Dreams Really Can Come True

OK, so they haven't actually done this yet, but they might. John Conyers has issued subpoenas for Karl "Dark Sith Lord" Rove to testify before Congress, which he has repeatedly refused, in the Don Siegelman case. I haven't written a whole lot about it, even though I carry a Don Siegelman banner on my sidebar, but I think this is one of the pivotal conflicts before us in this country right now.

It is not exaggerating to say that Don Siegleman was sent to jail for being a popular member of the opposing party. The particulars of his case you can read here, but not only was his election victory fraudulently stolen in the middle of the night (after it had been called in his favor) with a surge of votes from one precinct, these same operators (at the behest of Rove) trumped up a bribery charge and sent him to jail.

'Cuz they like to twist the knife after they stick it in.

Now, I've argued for a long time that the so-called "New South" is little better than a third-world shithole pretending to be part of the modern world, a failing only masked in the popular imagination by the fact that they speak English. The brand of politics practiced down there is mostly akin to the kind one finds in a corrupt banana republic - complete with violence-prone paramilitary shock troops to enforce the political doctrines of the ruling class on the general populace - the Klan, in case I hadn't been obvious enough. The fact that they're jailing the opposition party is just a natural evolution of a system of (mis)rule they've been perfecting since before the Civil War.

At any rate, Conyers has had enough. (From Paul Kiel at TPM Muckracker via C&L)

Just off the House floor today, the Crypt overheard House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers tell two other people: “We’re closing in on Rove. Someone’s got to kick his ass.

Asked a few minutes later for a more official explanation, Conyers told us that Rove has a week to appear before his committee. If he doesn’t, said Conyers, “We’ll do what any self-respecting committee would do. We’d hold him in contempt. Either that or go and have him arrested.”

[…] Yesterday, in somewhat more diplomatic language, Conyers refused Rove’s offer to testify in writing.
Well, it seems the MSM is finally catching on as well. Catherine Crier talking to Dan Abrams on "The Verdict." (Also via C&L):

I’m a big rule of law (fan), this has nothing to do with politics for me, it is respecting the rule of law, regardless of Democrat or Republican, and at this point in time if they don’t show back bone then there are not three branches of government in this country.
We moonbats in the looney left have been trying to tell the numbskulls in the press for a long time that these people are dangerous. I just hope they haven't caught on too late.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Irony, thy name is NRA

From NY Daily News (via Huffpost):
NRA Bans Guns At Own Convention.

This was done, the article says, to protect Senator McBush, who was speaking at the convention. I guess the Secret Service decided that sorting out the people who would kill people from those who wouldn't in a room full of gun nuts is harder than just making sure anyone who wanted to would have to try just a little bit harder.

I guess they forgot that guns don't kill people.


Sports Notes

OK, still working on the next Peak Oil post, but the Mets take the first game 7-4. Boo-YA!

And I don't really watch horse racing, but I was in the room when they ran the 133rd Preakness this afternoon and, boy howdy, it was actually very exciting to see Big Brown - who just won the Kentucky Derby - two or three back, then steadily outpace all his competitors around the final bend, finishing with about half a mile of daylight between him and Macho Again, who placed.
And all the while, he hardly broke a sweat. By the end of it, that horse looked like he could go another lap or two.

I admire horse racing even if I don't fully understand or appreciate it, sort of like opera. Sometimes, the majesty - the pomp and circumstance surrounding the celebration of the sheer physical prowess of the participants - I find deeply moving in an abstract, elemental, visceral way.

On to Belmont!

Photo via New York Times & Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Subway Series

I have a very important post about Peak Oil and the end of modern civilization I hope to have up before the end of the day, but in the meantime, as a sort of invocation of the way in which we should be tooling around the countryside in this fair land of ours (in my mind, anyway - to everyone else it's just a baseball game), the two hometown teams are playing each other in the celebrated Subway Series.

The series should have started yesterday, but it got rained out - cold and wet (stupid Climate Change). Today is a glorious, clear-skied day, however. I am not at the games (must work - bills to pay) but I am there in spirit. Neither team is doing so well right now, the Yanks are in the basement of the AL East and the Mets are in the middle of the pack in the NL East. But, it's Santana versus Pettite today. May the best team win.


Friday, May 16, 2008

Historical Amnesia

I have not liked Chris Matthews for a long time. I think he's one of the poster-children for the corroded state of our professionally compromised, ethically corrupt, navel-gazing media class. He's a loud-mouth with a national media platform where other empty-headed loudmouths get to spout ill-informed opinions.

But every once in a while, he does something to remind everyone that he is actually smart. Like this complete, utter, total and unapologetic atomization of the distinctly non-comedic right-wing shoutmeister Kevin James (h/t Broadway Carl):

Gawd, Reich-wingers are stupid. Watch this bit from Jon Stewart regarding the recent West Virginia blowout of a black candidate, especially the lady at the end who is "sick of Hussein" - just the kind of braindead political insight that gave us the modern day GOP. If the guy above is part of the GOP command structure, these loser below are its footsoldiers. And we've been losing elections to them? How?

Keep going, West Virginia. You morons deserve the squalor within which you live your miserable, backward lives.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Nothing to see here

Go read d r i f t g l a s s.

West Virginia is for Yokels

Not unexpected, but the Hill-bot steamrolled through West Virginia. As of this post, she won with 93% of precincts reporting by 66.9% to 25.8%.

Frankly, her "victory" is sickening for a great many reasons, not the least of which was having to hear her fingers-on-a-chalkboard voice claim 2, 209 delegates to clinch - which is the goalpost-moving number her campaign has been peddling because it includes the otherwise uncontested but nevertheless completely disqualified Florida and Michigan delegations. The greater reason is the on-the-ground ugliness behind the lop-sided numbers. She won because the mouth-breathing knuckle-draggers just couldn't bring themselves to vote for a (whispering now) nig-ra.

To which I say to the good people of West Virginia (except for you John Cole, because you rock!):
Fuck You.

You deserve to stay stuck in the 19th Century. Besides, we all know you're going vote en masse for Johm McSame in the fall anyway, so we don't really need your vote. It's shit like tonight that makes the rest of the country (especially all us coastal elites) take such glee in depicting you like this:

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

That's Great, It Starts With An Earthquake


China Earthquake, Florida Fires, US Tornadoes, Burma Cyclone

The Angry Earth

When I was in college, I briefly flirted with the idea of majoring in geology. But since I have the math skills of a brain-damaged 4th Grader, the overwhelming amount of calculus involved made my half-assed curiosity about rock-formations in road cuts and land-forms insufficient motivation to overcome the mathematical threshold.

One thing I came away with from the few classes I struggled through, though (like Geology 101 or "Rocks for Jocks"), was the knowledge that every few thousand years or so, the earth more or less "freaks out" for various reasons. Minor fluctuations in the period of the earth's orbit or angle of rotation or even something like minor turbulence in the magma in the earth's mantle - which generates our magnetic field, something on the order of .001%, can result in massive changes that can manifest in any sort of ways. One way, experts postulate, is when the earth's polarity reverses itself every few thousand years. Nobody really understands why, but one thing geologists all agree on is that those flips coincide with periods of tremendous instability in the atmosphere and terrestrial violence. It has never flipped in recorded human history. It is, shall we say, without historical precedence.

Oh, and they all agree that we are overdue for another flip.

What all this means, I don't know, but there's a lot of people in the world today who weren't dead yesterday and that is a lot of suffering for those left behind. Because of politics, their suffering is only beginning and it could be a window nto the future for all of us.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

It's The End of the World As We Know it (and I Feel Fine)

by R.E.M.

That's great, it starts with an earthquake, birds and snakes, and aeroplanes -
Lenny Bruce is not afraid.
Eye of a hurricane, listen to yourself churn -
world serves its own needs, regardless of your own needs.
Speed it up a notch: speak, grunt. No strength.
The ladder starts a clatter into fear.
Five down. Hike!
Wire in a fire, represent the seven games and a government-for-hire in a combat site.
Left her, wasn't coming in a hurry with the furies breathing down your neck.
Team by team reporters baffled, trumped, tethered, cropped.
Look at that low plane!
Fine. Then.
Uh oh, overflowing population, common group. It'll do.
Set yourself, suit yourself.
World serves its own needs, listen to your heart beat.
Tell me with the rapture and the reverent in the right - right.
You vitriolic, patriotic, slam, fight, bright.
I'm feeling pretty psyched.

It's the end of the world as we know it.
It's the end of the world as we know it.
It's the end of the world as we know it
and I feel fine.

Six o'clock - TV hour. Don't get caught in foreign tower.
Slash and burn, return, listen to yourself churn.
Lock him in uniform and book burning, blood-letting.
Every motive escalate. Automotive incinerate.
Light a candle, light a votive.
Step down, step down.
Watch his heel crush, crush.
Uh oh, this means no beer - Cavalier.
Renegade and steer clear!
A tournament, a tournament, a tournament of lies.
Offer me solutions, offer me alternatives and I decline.

It's the end of the world as we know it.
It's the end of the world as we know it.
It's the end of the world as we know it
and I feel fine.

The other night I tripped a nice continental drift divide.
Mount St. Edelite.

Leonard Bernstein.

Leonid Breshnev, Lenny Bruce and Lester Bangs.
Birthday party, cheesecake, jelly bean, boom!
You symbiotic, patriotic, slam, but neck, right?

It's the end of the world as we know it.
It's the end of the world as we know it.
It's the end of the world as we know it
and I feel fine

(It's time I had some time alone)

Without Historical Precedent

I, like anyone over the age of 30, have an indelible memory of the Damocles Sword of nuclear annihilation. For all of us in this age group, the end of the world was always nigh. While global thermo-nuclear war was always a very real possibility, in part, it was also just so much hype generated by Saint Ronnie and his national security minions to keep the rubes pissed at all the squishy liberals who thought perhaps that even pretending to be a smidge too eager to blow up the rest of the world just to spook the Ruskies into capitulation was a tad extreme. For Saint Ronnie and his Coterie of Sycophants, those pissed off rubes translated into votes for his toadies, which in turn poured dollars into the pockets of his military/industrial-complex bosom buddies. It was a win-win, really, if you were above a certain tax bracket.

Of course, post hoc/ergo propter hoc, the cackling gremlins who cooked up this fiction about Mighty Ronnie standing astride the world ultimately came to believe their own hype when the USSR folded just a few years after Saint Ronnie left his marbles on the floor of the Oval Office. That delusional and deliberately ignorant reading of history took on epic and mythical power during the 1990's, becoming a kind of manufactured conventional wisdom, a widely believed and accepted general principle that was part of the background information for any discussion of foreign policy, presidential politics or recent world history.

As this deliberate fiction curdled into policy prescriptions written by quacks at heavily-subsidized Reich-wing think-tanks during the reign of the impediment to American Global Hegemony (and adulterer) Bill Clinton, the older neo-cons forgot to impart to the new generation that it had all been a con game to bamboozle the shit-kickers, but that American power did have limits, Realpolitik was still in effect and we had deep vulnerabilities best kept hidden. We were not invincible, nor had we ever really been, but the bedtime story of The Triumph of the Virtuous and Godly United States Over The Wicked and Godless Soviet Union metasasized into an kind of instructive origin tale.

These comforting illusions were pierced rather spectacularly on September 11th, 2001, but unfortunately the people in charge of formulating a response had been politically weened on the poison milk of American Imperium. For them, We The (Chosen) People of the US of Fuckin' A could pretty much do whatever the fuck we wanted, wherever the fuck we wanted, to whomever we fucking wanted, for as long as we fucking wanted and no one in the world could do fuck all about it.

This ugly, 11-year, chest-thumping power trip culminated in the Invade Iraq chorus heard relentlessly following 9/11, 'cuz Saint Ronnie took down the whole goddam Soviet Union by himself, dude! Boo-YA!

All of which was only the military aspect of a pervasive disinformation campaign.

I bring up this little history lesson for two reasons. First, something in me, perhaps at a molecular level, is just used to idea of living with the dread of imminent obliteration, it is programmed into me at a machine code level. I remember duck-and-cover drills. That feeling subsided for a while during the Clinton years, of course, but being in New York City on 9/11 pushed that reset button hard, and now that familiar old dread lies coiled in its usual place down there in my gut (this time with a good reason - the world really, truly, actually is coming to an end). And second, because I believe that once again the rubes and shit-kickers are about to have their illusions pierced or, more correctly, are having their illusions pierced now. Perhaps even shattered. Utterly. And the people responsible for the informational snow job will only suffer in proportion with the rest of us, though that suffering could become - in a phrase - without historical precedent.

I say without historical precedent because today I read the following:
A report from the Bureau of Meteorology in Australia makes clear that, despite recent heavy rains in the eastern Australian breadbasket, years of above normal rainfall would be needed "to remove the very long-term [water] deficits" in the region. The report then adds this ominous note: "The combination of record heat and widespread drought during the past five to 10 years over large parts of southern and eastern Australia is without historical precedent and is, at least partly, a result of climate change."

Think a bit about that phrase -- "without historical precedent." Except when it comes to technological invention, it hasn't been much part of our lives these last many centuries. Without historical precedent. Brace yourselves, it's about to become a commonplace in our vocabulary. The southeastern United States, for instance, was, for the last couple of years, locked in a drought -- which is finally easing -- "without historical precedent." In other words, there was nothing (repeat, nothing) in the historical record that provided a guide to what might happen next.

Now, it's true that the industrial revolution, which led to the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere at historically unprecedented rates, was also, in a sense, "without historical precedent"; but most natural events -- unlike, say, the present staggering ice melt in the Arctic -- have been precedented (if I can manufacture such a word). They have been part of the historical record. That era -- the era of history -- is now, however, threatening to give way to a period capable of outrunning history itself, of outrunning us.
Of outrunning us. What an ominous phrase, fraught with images of Frankenstein's monster and Mickey Mouse in the wizard's workshop. Outrunning. Us.


You see, people who actually know things have known that our patterns of consumption and land use are not sustainable, not by a long shot, and versed as they are in disciplines like math and statistics, they could plug the numbers into a chart or graph and see that something had to give. Since the 1970's. In other words, people who ought to know have known our petroleum-driven world was a problem for a long time, but in the decaying citadel of what has only recently come to be called "Red State America," these people have been gleefully dismissed as just a bunch of elites, prissy egg-heads and sissi-fied "One World" liberals who want take away all the things that make America great: Big Cars, open roads and vast, sprawling shopping malls. Oh, and guns, but that's just a piece of ancillary paranoia.

It has sure been fun for these people, these last 30 years or so, flipping the proverbial bird to all those (phantom) dirty fucking hippies who wanted to make all of us live on communal farms, eat granola and ride bicycles everywhere. Yeesh. All those Chicken Littles who tried to put limits on things because just because the oil might run out. Or the atmosphere might get polluted. Don't restrict me, dude. Screw you and your spotted owls. Carter was wrong. There is no energy crisis, you wimp. Saint Ronnie said it was morning again in America, that we're free to consume and drive and eat red meat and he vanquished those godless commies so he must be right, right?

Not right.
Even for Americans, constitutionally convinced that there will always be a second act, and a third, and a do-over after that, and, if necessary, a little public repentance and forgiveness and a Brand New Start -- even for us, the world looks a little Terminal right now.

It's not just the economy. We've gone through swoons before. It's that gas at $4 a gallon means we're running out, at least of the cheap stuff that built our sprawling society. It's that when we try to turn corn into gas, it sends the price of a loaf of bread shooting upwards and starts food riots on three continents. It's that everything is so inextricably tied together. It's that, all of a sudden, those grim Club of Rome types who, way back in the 1970s, went on and on about the "limits to growth" suddenly seem… how best to put it, right.

All of a sudden it isn't morning in America, it's dusk on planet Earth.

There's a number -- a new number -- that makes this point most powerfully. It may now be the most important number on Earth: 350. As in parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
No, not right at all. Wendell Barry, gentleman farmer and famous Kentucky poet, in "Faustian Economics" in this month's Harper's (behind a subscription firewall - sorry) wrote of those hateful, hateful limits:
"Our national faith so far has been: “There’s always more.” Our true religion is a sort of autistic industrialism. People of intelligence and ability seem now to be genuinely embarrassed by any solution to any problem that does not involve high technology, a great expenditure of energy, or a big machine.


“. . . It is this economy of community destruction that, wittingly or unwittingly, most scientists and technicians have served for the past two hundred years. These scientists and technicians have justified themselves by the proposition that they are the vanguard of progress, enlarging human knowledge and power, and thus they have romanticized both themselves and the predatory enterprises that they have served.”
Different ways of saying the same thing, really. America is not exempt from the same historical pitfalls that befell other nations, even if Jesus is a Republican. Libraries full of doctoral theses have been written about the reasons, but for me they boil down an unfortunate historical convergence, some 200 years ago, of young-nation exuberance coinciding with and ultimately driving a mechanization of industry that fed on the vast and seemingly inexhaustible resources of a virtually untapped and - as luck, divine providence and reckless genocide would have it - largely uninhabited continent, all of which ultimately led to a perception of limitlessness.

Go west, young man, indeed.

It is this perception, this belief, this Religion that infuses our thinking of limitlessness more than any other single thing from all sides with a faith that scientists will "come up with something." Afterall, they always have, right? It is commonplace these days, and I hear it even from the smartest people who should fucking know better, that the egg-heads will invent something because the Magic Hand of the Free Market will force a solution, presumably in the form of some Michael Jordon-style fade-away 3-pointer jumpshot at the buzzer, but by some nerd in a labcoat having an Edison-style "Eureka!" moment. Then once again American ingenuity will save the day and we can keep on driving our SUV's to Wal-Mart for more cheap crap from China. Boo-YA!

To which I reply: to what end? Are we to keep consuming, chewing up farmland and paving over forests and spewing CO2 and dumping plastic crap in the oceans and blighting entire ecosystems just so we can have ever bigger vehicles and bigger yards and use up even more of the planet's resources? And on and on until the planet becomes a used-up husk? A smoldering cinder drifting inert through space? Where is that logical limit? A certain Englishman thought he found it 210 years ago:
"The power of population is so superior to the power of the earth to produce subsistence for man, that premature death must in some shape or other visit the human race. The vices of mankind are active and able ministers of depopulation. They are the precursors in the great army of destruction, and often finish the dreadful work themselves. But should they fail in this war of extermination, sickly seasons, epidemics, pestilence, and plague advance in terrific array, and sweep off their thousands and tens of thousands. Should success be still incomplete, gigantic inevitable famine stalks in the rear, and with one mighty blow levels the population with the food of the world."
Mechanization, people have argued in the intervening decades, and petroleum-based technologies have rendered Malthus' calculations moot. I think we can all agree that now that assumption has been a mistake. Everything comes with a price and for decades the darker-skinned peoples of the southern hemisphere have been paying it for the prosperity of the lighter-skinned peoples of the northern hemisphere. For them, the 20th Century has been one long lesson in the limits of modern technology, as lesson we are only now beginning to learn in the north. We are learning the hard way that we cannot consume the world and discard it with impunity forever. Everything has limits. Especially this planet, the only one we'll ever get.

I find great irony in a global object lesson in "no free lunch" on a large scale. Our domestic proponents of that creed cling to it in a socio-economic defense of the systemic inequalities of the American Way Of Life, with no understanding that the very way of life they "defend" is most responsible for the mess we're in now precisely because a piper must always be paid somewhere, sometime. It is all about limits.

$4/gal. gasoline will take the optimistic wind out of anyone's sails. Get ready for $8. And $10. What little of that shiny American optimism which some may desperately cling to now will likely evaporate completely in the face of such prices.

From the time of another economic depression (eventually to be less Great than the one we're staring down the barrel of right now), I am reminded of this aching lament from F. Scott Fitzgerald about New York City upon his first ascent into the Empire State Building:
Full of vaunting pride the New Yorker had climbed here and seen with dismay what he had never suspected, that the city was not the endless succession of canyons that he had supposed but that it had limits—from the tallest structure he saw for the first time that it faded out into the country on all sides, into an expanse of green and blue that alone was limitless. And with the awful realization that New York was a city after all and not a universe, the whole shining edifice that he had reared in his imagination came crashing to the ground.
Which echoes for me the sentiments behind the image that gave birth to the modern environmental movement, an image from a trip to the top of the world which, like Fitzgerald's experience writ large, reminded the whole of humanity for one all-too-brief moment that this vessel, this fragile blue thing, is the only planet we'll ever have, Spaceship Earth:

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Shifting Gears

As most of you know, I worry a great deal about all kinds of things, mostly the future (to which one can reply "what else is there to worry about - the past?" Yeah, well, tell my mother that). By which I mean the things I have been worrying about for a long time, for those of you who have been reading my blog(s) for a while - you already know what these things are: the climate is changing, the oil is running out and everything is about to change completely and forever.

Not to be overly dramatic about it.

And when I really start to worrying, as opposed to just a generalized anxiety, I worry that I haven't taken all the necessary steps to be really ready for what comes next. I have packed "Go Bags" for me and Mrs. Joe, which are useful if the shit hits the fan while we're at home together, but since most of our days are spent not working at home, it won't do either of us much good in most situations. Nevertheless, I have plans for the various scenarios should some immediate disaster like another 9/11 strike the city. I have fairly clear escape plans, or at least semi-developed ideas about where to go and what to do. Living through 9/11 in New York will make a person want to be better prepared for the next, potentially worse one.

If something more drawn-out should happen, the kind of thing for which we could have one or more days of advance warning - something like a Hurricane Katrina hitting the city, let's say - I'm still fairly well-prepared with the materials and supplies I have. I can't live my life as though any particular terrible thing is imminent, but neither can I pretend some large scale disaster is only the stuff of Hollywood movies and paranoids. Again, post-9/11.

But what about something really drawn out, large-scale, long-term and irreversible? What about multiple things? Things that go to undermining the very socio-economic structures I live by? You know, like, such as, Peak Oil and Climate Change? How can I prepare for epic calamities like those? What about money? How will I live? Will I have a place to actually live in? Will I be able to work? Have I taken enough steps to have a marketable skills-set in a post-petroleum economy? Will I be able to feed and defend myself and my wife in a possible world where those systems have broken down? Can I do all of these things and continue to pursue the life and career I enjoy now, without retreating to a cabin in the mountains and living like a paranoid hermit? If so, how?

Perhaps it is in our collective cultural memory that civilizations erode and collapse into anarchy: Imperial Rome collapsing into Dark Ages Europe is of course the reigning catalyst for this idea in our shared history. I think these historical patterns are important because we are again on the precipice of an utter failure of the very engine of civilization as the underlying technology we have chosen to build our entire Flat Friedman World is finite, with deep, powerful side-effects, the scope of which we are only just now beginning to grasp.

As everything begins to break down, the scale of the disaster now besetting us will make itself known in successive waves that, at the time, will each seem like the most horrifying and insurmountable challenge in the history of humankind. Until the next thing overtakes it. Right now, that thing is the housing bubble and concommitant mortgage crisis. But, on deck in the batting circle is the collapse of international credit and the implosion of currency exchange. All of these things have real-world consequences, as many, many people are beginning to learn.

After that, who knows? The end point, though, and each in their own way a driving force behind the other, smaller problems, are (say if with me now...) Peak Oil and Climate Change.

James Howard Kunstler has been banging this drum for years, but his larger point has always been that "suburbia will come to be regarded as the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world."

Now, he doesn't intend to specifically demonize suburbanites living suburbanally in their own right as much as he wants to condemn the essentially wasteful and wholly unsustainable nature of our modern living arrangement, of which American suburbia is the largest, guiltiest and most tragic. In the decades following WW2, in keeping with American tradition, rural life was romanticized as pastoral and authentic but - apart from food production - a kind of luxury, while city life was viewed as gritty and inhuman but vital for economic prosperity. The post-WW2 consensus viewed suburbia as the best compromise between the two. Leave aside the class-based and racist implications that lay below those widely held assumptions for a moment and government and banking policy, while still the primary forces behind the suburban build-out, were only possible because for several decades almost everybody in the country, including anybody who had decision-making power about the allocation of resources in America, saw suburbia as the cure for all ills. Many of those "ills" were of course assumed to be racial in nature, mind you, and the post-WW2 suburban build-out has been part of the unexamined secret behind the Rethuglican rise to prominence since the 1950's.

Once we had warning shots fired across our economic bow during the OPEC oil shocks of the early '70s, though, instead of using these intervening years to develop alternative energy and, more importantly, change our land-use patterns and goods & services distribution systems, we chose to double-down and do more not less of exactly the wrong things. Complex cultural and distinctly non-economic factors drove this knuckle-headed collective choice, but the manufactured Myth of Saint Ronnie and the Cult of American Exceptionalism are major culprits.

So, now that the Democratic race is winding down (finally!), despite the mewling of the Hill-bot Brigades, my posting will be shifting a bit more towards my thought about what's next and how I and everyone I know can fit into this new world emerging around us.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Je Ne Sais Quoi

I will come back to the Peak Oil issue I raised a couple of posts ago, but in the meantime this post from the very wonky and always incisive Matt Stoller over at the (decreasingly so, but nevertheless staunchly) pro-Clinton Open Left just nailed down into words what for me has been up to now that je ne sais quoi that has drawn me inextricably to the Obama campaign.

It's the feeling of change, real change. Big change. Of difference. Of finally being on the winning team. For a dumb 'ol boy from Texas who grew up watching the horrific, inexorable march of the cornpone Nazis grow from a few angry, sanctimonious, Christo-fascist bigots in backwoods rural Texas spread like a cancer to infect first the governing apparatus of the state and eventually the whole country. As I have said many times, I left Texas because it is the kind of place that actually elected George W. Bush - on purpose. Twice.

So, for truly the first time in my entire life, I am seeing the vast, nationwide cultural wave of xenophobia and willful, mean-spirited, Dixie-fied ignorance that - after college in West Texas - chased me first to the true-blue heart of Texas (Austin, yawl) then on to New York City, before the cackling gremlins in the Reich-wing's high command with their army of flying monkeys usurped the United States government, the people's government, in a bloodless coup. Since then, they have blown up the world, grinning all the way to their secret swiss bank accounts.

And all along, the most galling, frustrating thing for creative-class types like me and, well, everyone I know, was that we knew - KNEW - we were smarter, harder-working, more clever and overall just plain better at organizing shit in a dynamic and interactive way than the lock-step goobers we faced every election cycle. Which is why we all retreated onto the inter-webs. The hive-mind of the blogosphere was where we could and would organize, find our voice and our power again.

Barack Obama understands that. It is unfortunate for Hillary Clinton that she and her husband, as I wrote a few posts back, are relics from another age. Prior to Obama's emergence, Hillary was salable mostly because she was an only slightly prickly reminder of better days, those indian summer salad days of Clintonian dot-com-&-SUV's-on-cheap-gas prosperity, before the onset of this dystopian winter of BushCo.

We can appreciate what Bill & Hillary did for us back then, but Obama makes us now see them both, and her specifically, for what they truly are: the compromised remnants of the-best-we-could-have-hoped-for as the hurricane of right-wing Dixie-fied hatred (30 years in the making) finally make landfall on the shores of decent society.

Obama is an entirely new animal. I will quote Matt Stoller at length:
Obama has successfully remade the Democratic Party already, and shown that old partisan Washington politics is over if you are a Democrat. Can he do that with Republicans? By stripping power, money and responsibility from outside groups and opponents, Obama is increasing his control of the party apparatus. He is also, however, putting everything on his own shoulders. When the Swift Boaters come back, and they will, it's all on Obama and his movement to hit back. He's betting that he can strip power from their base just as he stripped power from the old Washington way of doing politics within the Democratic Party.

I do not doubt that he can do this during the general election. McCain is such a weak candidate, and the Republicans are in such disarray, that a solid White House victory, 5-7 Senate seats, and 40-50 seats in the House are clearly possible. House Republicans are especially mean right now; insiders tell me they are going to cause problems with the war funding tactics just because they are so depressed from losing in Louisiana and Illinois. They have no money for the House and the Senate, and a depressed base. I'm curious about Obama's governing philosophy, as that is where the Republicans are going to make their stand in 2009. Without traditional outside groups (and he doesn't want them involved, witness his lobbyist ban in his new administration), Obama is going to be relying on the emergent networks that come from his campaign to buttress his priorities, but since we don't actually know what they are, it's hard to figure out what his governing strategy will be.

As Mike Lux wrote earlier, it's time to get ready for Obama as the nominee. I would amplify this and point out that it's time to get ready for a party that is being taken apart and rebuilt as the Obama movement. It's incredibly refreshing, in a sense, for politics to be completely reimagined on top of the internet and with a strong focus on leadership development, volunteers, and outside of DC leadership disdainful of partisanship and the give and take of politics-as-usual. It's also displacing the anti-Bush arguments of the last eight years and the political dynamic it fostered on the left.
He then quotes dday from over Digbysblog at Hullabaloo:
There's certainly a danger here of relying on projected numbers instead of traditional power bases, though I don't think he'll be abandoning groups like unions and black churches, nor will any progressive movement structures abandon him. But I really think that the Obama campaign is reacting to this demonization campaign from the right by saying "OK, I'll find voters in so many nooks and crannies and make you work in so many states that you won't have a chance to make this narrative work." His response is not necessarily building a progressive electorate; that would be accomplished by plugging into the nascent progressive structures that already exist. Obama appears to want to build an electorate aligned with Obama's principles and values, and fostering greater participation in politics as a means to move the country forward and break the current polarization. Some Democrats would play on the same playing field and try to win it; Obama's building an entirely new field, one where these narratives and negative ads and the need to tailor the entire general election to 10 independent voters in the middle of Ohio won't matter anymore.

I can't say if it will totally work, but that looks to be the strategy. We've been tantalized with these kinds of efforts before; it's actually a very traditional belief that increased turnout is good for Democrats.
I think all of this is exactly right. You should go read the whole thing, but for now I will end with this quote (also from Stoller's post) before returning to this issue tomorrow in discussion of Peak Oil:
I've been in the wilderness all my political life, as have most of us. The Clintonistas haven't, and they know what it's like to be part of the inside crew. We have a leader, and he's not a partisan and he can now end fractious intraparty fights with a word and/or a nod. His opinion really matters in a way that even Nancy Pelosi's just did not. He has control of the party apparatus, the grassroots, the money, and the messaging environment. He is also, and this is fundamental, someone that millions of people believe in as a moral force.
That is why Clinton is fighting so damned hard.  She and her husband's entire political legacy is at stake.  Obama is about to re-make the entire Democratic Party in his image, as Bill did fifteen years ago.  He very well could re-make the entire political system before he's through, like Saint Ronnie did thirty years ago.  Whether that is good or bad I leave to time and history to decide.  Either way, he is a very different creature in very fundamental ways because he has harnassed new technologies and modes of thinking into a movement.  None of this would be possible were it not for Howard Dean's campaign four years ago and more recently his 50 State Strategy.  As The Great Orange Satan says: Barack Obama is Howard Dean 2.0

Muppets for President 2008

Just watch:

Village Idiots Like Beer

So, just for grins, I followed the link at the bottom of the quote from my previous post.  

What an artifact from a strange and distant time it seems to my eyes now. What a strange world that was, when such minor, insignificant and distracting things could somehow be passed off as a legitimate addition to the public discourse.

Al Gore is Fat

I was working on a big, long post about Peak Oil and the end of modern civilization when I came across this post from Tim F. over at Balloon Juice. In it, he sorta nails down the growing sense of unease I feel about where we are as a nation, vis a vis the (completely foreseeable & utterly predictable) energy crisis:
I don’t feel particularly smug when I stand next to my Honda Fit watching some SUV owner near tears as she puts more than $100 of gas into a car she doesn’t need. It just feels sad to think about how long it’s been since it became obvious to anyone who cared to look that we won’t be able to scare off problems like fuel scarcity and climate change by closing our eyes and wishing.
That lead time was an opportunity to make changes. Some would have been painful and some merely sensible, but it would prevent huge numbers of honest Americans get caught with their pants down. Instead we blew it out the tailpipe of cars that average 15 MPG. Now, instead of a planned transition, we get to see what happens when stubborn denial meets inescapable change. It’s simply unsustainable to live in suburban car country with a negative equity on the house, $6-7 gas (wait until you see what that does to property values in outlying suburbs) and expensive SUVs that nobody wants. The saddest thing for me was that most who will get fucked the worst had no idea this was coming. There was that one guy who warned us, but he had a snooty laugh.
I hope those guys with W stickers on the Hummer parked in front of mcmansions that the bank owns enjoyed their beer
But Al Gore is a nerd who sighs too much and Jimmy Carter looks like a wimp in his sweater.

Go Ronbo!!!
More on this topic to come.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

I Don't Feel Wright Today

No political posting today, although Clinton's nuclear option bullshit amid the ongoing Indiana and North Carolina primaries should be sufficient motivation.  But it isn't.  Besides, I feel like Hill-bot is going to have a strong enough showing today to keep scraping along like a B-horror flick monster in the final reel all the way to the convention.  I find myself having a visceral reaction to her continued presence in the race and I hate the people who support her.  Very little that is rational about it, it's just the way I feel.  

So, I choose to not blog about politics.  The day's just too darn nice.

Nope.  Not today.  The weather is almost beautiful enough to completely offset my being sad at the Mets losing last night.  But I also have stuff to do.  Busy, busy, busy.

Today, I post simply as a reminder to my vast reading public out there (all three of you!) that Mrs. Armadillo Joe will be on Law & Order: SVU tonight.  

Tune in and don't miss it!

Monday, May 5, 2008

This Just In....

Armadillo Slow here just found The Group News Blog, where former commenters at and contributors to the late, great Steve Gilliard's unrivalled News Blog (including the recently linked at this very site Sara Robinson) soldier on in his name.  

I used to link to The News Blog all the time.  If you are wondering about what it was, or who Steve was, I blogged about it at my old site here and here.

I just added The Group News Blog to my Blog Corral.

You may now resume normal programming.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

All The Wright Moves

So, while I knocking together my last post and not watching the Sunday morning bobblehead shows, Howard Dean and his Mighty Band of Fightin' Democrats 2.0 fanned out across the airwaves and started doing exactly what I advocated in my last post.

They started to hit back.

And hard.

Howard Dean on FOX, against Chris Wallace.  (via C&L):
Dean: Chris, the Republicans…for the last 30 years, the Republican (play)book has been to race bait and to use hate and divisiveness. In 2006, the American people said no to that; I think they’re going to say no to that in 2008. It is true that the economy, the war and healthcare are more important to the American people. They are tired of the divisiveness of what the Republicans have done to them. And that’s why the Republicans are in trouble. Deep trouble. Another four years of George Bush is not what we need…

Wallace: Governor, are you suggesting that bringing up Jeremiah Wright is “race-baiting” and hate and divisive?

Dean: Yeah, I am suggesting that kind of stuff. I think when you start bringing up candidates that have nothing to do with the issues…uh when you start bringing up things that have nothing to do with the candidate, nothing to do with the issues, that’s race-baiting. And that’s exactly what it is. Just like Willie Horton was race-baiting so many years ago. I think we’re going to take…we’re going to turn the page on this stuff. I’ll tell you, there’s a lot of difference between the Republicans and the Democrats on issues, but the biggest issue of all is we don’t use this kind of stuff. We never have used this kind of stuff and we’re not going to start now. America is more important than the Republican party and that’s the lesson the voters are about to teach the Republicans.
And, Charlie Rangel (my congressman, BTW) a Clinton supporter (also via C&L):
Blitzer: The criticism of Barack Obama is that what Jeremiah Wright said at the National Press Club, Congressman Rangel, was no different than what he’s been saying for some time, and he should have known that these controversial remarks would be made. Is this explanation that Senator Obama is making good enough for you?

Rangel: It’s disgraceful that he has to make any explanation for anything. The intrusion of the media and Republicans into the sacred relationship that worshipers have with their spiritual leaders I think is going to come back to haunt us. To think that we have to go into the lives and the beliefs of Rabbis and Priests and ministers and Imams is absolutely ridiculous. We’ve got a war on. We’ve got an economy that’s splintered. I think the media should be more responsible and start dealing with those issues. I don’t think many people care what reverend Wright thinks and I don’t see why any candidate should have to explain what ..

Blitzer: But Congressman, even Senator Obama last Sunday said this was a legitimate issue given the nature of — He wants to be President of the United States. If there’s a right wing politician, let’s say a Republican politician that has an extraordinarily close relationship with a pastor who is making outrageous statements has been a member of that church for 20 years. Wouldn’t that be fair game?

Rangel: Of course not. Of course he’s a candidate. He doesn’t want to take all of you on and I’m probably over the hill but the truth is that you guys know that his beliefs have nothing to do with someone that went to the church, and if we’ve got to get into the Jerry Falwell’s and into the Robertson’s and to the number of people who have what appears to other religions to be bizarre beliefs we’ll never get to the issues that Americans were concerned about. I know that every American is more concerned with who is going to be a better Presidential candidate and a better President more than they are on anything that happens in the church that Senator Obama went to
This is the kind of party we should be, not Hillary and her husband's capitulating horde of Republican-Lite quislings.

A Little More to the Wright

Once again, I find really smart people agreeing with me. OK, maybe not agreeing with me per se, but writing things that I have already written, just, you know, (vastly) more widely-read and articulate.

Today's winner is the former "Butcher of Broadway" Frank Rich in the Sunday Times, in an op-ed titled "The All-White Elephant in the Room."
it is disingenuous to pretend that there isn’t a double standard operating here. If we’re to judge black candidates on their most controversial associates — and how quickly, sternly and completely they disown them — we must judge white politicians by the same yardstick.


There is not just a double standard for black and white politicians at play in too much of the news media and political establishment, but there is also a glaring double standard for our political parties. The Clintons and Mr. Obama are always held accountable for their racial stands, as they should be, but the elephant in the room of our politics is rarely acknowledged: In the 21st century, the so-called party of Lincoln does not have a single African-American among its collective 247 senators and representatives in Washington. Yes, there are appointees like Clarence Thomas and Condi Rice, but, as we learned during the Mark Foley scandal, even gay men may hold more G.O.P. positions of power than blacks.

A near half-century after the civil rights acts of the 1960s, this is quite an achievement.


An all-white Congressional delegation doesn’t happen by accident. It’s the legacy of race cards that have been dealt since the birth of the Southern strategy in the Nixon era. No one knows this better than Mr. McCain, whose own adopted daughter of color was the subject of a vicious smear in his party’s South Carolina primary of 2000.


Mr. McCain is graded on a curve because the G.O.P. bar is set so low.


if there’s any coherent message to be gleaned from the hypocrisy whipped up by Hurricane Jeremiah, it’s that this nation’s perennially promised candid conversation on race has yet to begin.
I wish I could promise that this will be my last post about Jeremiah Wright, but I can't as long as the blowhards in the media insist on making this an issue. Thus, I will highlight any major media figure who participates in the proper kind of pushback.

In other words, Obama should not have needed to apologize or reject or denounce Wright. Not that I want to adopt anything that Saint Ronnie of the Ray-Gun may have foisted upon our political establishment, but his 11th Commandment applies here: we have got to stop eating our own. Obama's message should have been STFU about my preacher until you denounce your pet squad of hate-spewing Christo-fascist bigots.

Of course, Hillary triangulating herself into pretzel knots to win those elusive Rethugli-bot Lite votes hasn't helped the blue end of the spectrum rally to the defense of their standard-bearer.

Except, of course, Obama can't say any of that because we can always depend on the cable news bobbleheads to regurgitate GOP talking points undigested (from C&L):
Duffy: There’s no question they’ll come after him any way they can. And everyone who supports Obama will get a version of this too. They’ll be asked to account for it, they’ll be asked to put some distance between them. McCain himself will probably say something like “I’m not going to make Rev. Wright’s views an issue,” but he’s made it already clear that he disagrees with him, so I think you can expect the entire Republican establishment to make this issue #1—unless something better comes along.

Matthews: Can a brilliant politician – Barack included, perhaps, perhaps – turn this around? Can he show that he’s different? So different from the Rev. Wright that he should be elected President?

Morehead: I think he’s already shown that. He’s already said before that he does not believe what Wright said, he was at church—was not at church that day. But obviously, he’s someone who says, “I want to bring the country together, let’s get beyond this issue of being divisive. Let’s talk about what we have more in common than what we have in terms of our differences,” So I think he’s going to be able to use this as a way to bring the country together, as opposed to using this as a division the Republicans and McCain are trying to use this for.

Matthews: Does everyone agree with that? That he can turn this around or he’s just going to have to cut his losses?

Genardo: I don’t. I interviewed him the other day and I don’t think he distanced himself far enough from his pastor, actually telling me all the great things he had done on the South Side of Chicago. Rev. Wright, that is. I don’t know, politically, you’d think he’d have to come out and really condemn his remarks and I know we already got him—got rid of him on his faith and values team, but is that enough? I don’t think so.
What would be enough? As the ever-brilliant and incisive Amanda Marcotte said the first time the Wright non-issue issue exploded: "America will not rest until Obama says Jesus had blue eyes."

Because it is about race. It will always be about race. It is but one facet of America's Original Sin, a stain on our national soul that cannot be expunged, and for forty years the GOP has used it (as the Democrats did before them) to maintain their failing grip on power. Remember, this issue is ginned-up by slick College-Rethugligoon-trained operators who - abetted by bloated, self-important media dunderheads like Chris Matthews - love to fire up the bigots in "The Base." Wind 'em up and watch 'em go... all the way to electoral victory.

The slick operators also love the idea of the "crazy black preacher" because not only does it overtly tap the fear buttons of white voters, but the mental image of the "angry black man" also covertly facilitates a verbal shorthand for talking about race in dog-whistle code language that keeps it masked from polite society, but is nevertheless understood by those who want to hear it.

Such methods once again resurrect Nixon's odious Southern Strategy. I don't mean via direct appeals to the overtly racist parts of the Rethugli-bot coalition, the 'Minutemen' or neo-Nazis or KKK or any other domestic terror groups; they are already on board with the fundamental tenet of any political right-wing in any country - protect and reinforce existing power structures. I refer instead to those who are afraid of ostracisation from our modern, more evolved and supposedly post-racial society, to those who still quietly blame all our modern problems on the Civil Rights Era and "those people." They romanticize a simpler, whiter past - like "The 1950's" or "Gone With The Wind."

The slick operators of the GOP gleefully tap into a deep-seated, secret desire of this portion of "The Base" to once again have the freedom to enjoy the sensation of the word "nigger" crossing their lips just one more time.

We all know people like this. Chances are, many of them are our relatives or co-workers. GOP operatives know they are out there. Obama knows they are out there. Media dunderheads know they are out there and romanticize them as heartland, salt-of-the-earth types, the Real Americans. Which is why they and the Party that represents them and the nominee of that Party all get graded on a curve when it comes to race relations.

Ahh, the soft bigotry of low expectations.

The racial component will remain undeniable for both sides, but for very different and morally divergent reasons. On that score, Gary Kamiya at wrote what has become probably the central opinion piece in my conversion from Obama doubter to Obama supporter. The title of his essay is "It's OK to vote for Obama because he's black." He wrote it in February of this year, before most of us had ever even heard of Jeremiah Wright.
whites' race-driven enthusiasm for Obama is an almost unreservedly positive thing -- both because electing a black president is a good thing in its own right, and because of what that enthusiasm says about race relations in America today.

Yes, there can be a touch of bathos and self-congratulation in white Obama-mania. But so what? Great historical shifts are often accompanied by such feelings. Besides, sincerity and sentimentality are not mutually exclusive. Barack is no Magic Negro. The truth is, the more white voters find out about Obama, the more they like him.


Having a black president would give the country a deeper comfort level in talking about racial issues. It would help Americans of all races break out of the sterile guilt/victim dialogue, or the fear of falling into it, that too often inhibits real communication. It could radically change our entire racial landscape, in ways we can't even predict.


Many dismiss the Obama phenomenon as a mere "cult of personality." It is in some ways a cult, but not one of personality -- it's a cult of racial healing, of racial transcendence. For many whites, voting for Obama is a kind of appeal to one's better self, and the better self of the country. It is, in a way, a promise. It could even be seen as a kind of prayer.


there's every reason to believe that if elected he will be a good president -- and maybe a great one. And every day that Obama is in office, even the bad ones, we'll be able to tell ourselves: We elected a black man president of this country. That thought, with all that it says about where we came from as a nation and where we hope to be going, will be a light that no one can put out.