Monday, December 29, 2008

I Require Validation, and get it

When I said this, first back in September after McSame & Moose-a-lini started slinging mud at Obama and then again in the wake of the embarrassing Rick Warren debacle, I felt I was distilling down a certain zeitgeist that had been taking hold across Left Blogistan for some time:
Why am I and my fellow progressives, liberals & Democrats expected to take the high road every single time? Why is the onus on us to make nice and maintain civility while the other side gets to wreck and rob the place with impunity, spewing hate and flinging poo like a monkey? Why are we supposed to just sit there and take it? It is almost as though they know these people are over-grown children and, like children, we grown-ups are required to be patient and tolerant while they go through some adult version of the terrible twos, except sustained and culture-wide.
Then, just today I read this at Group News Blog, again regarding the "wisdom" of Mr. Warren's selection (bold-face mine):
Warren panders not just to queer-hating but woman-hating, class exploitation, child abuse, apocalyptic nihilism, and white supremacy. Within a few years, he will be brought down by some seamy scandal (probably related to gay sex) and his brief validation on an international stage will be revealed for the sick joke it is.

In the meantime, however, he and his ilk operate from the developmental level of five-year-olds and talking about "tolerance" has no real meaning to them. If your five-year-old throws a screaming fit because she wants more cookies, you can sit her down and have a long talk with her about nutritional balance, but if you then give her one more cookie for participating, she will take away from that the lesson "if I throw a fit, I can get more cookies". Somebody has to be the grown-up with these people. They are not a majority, they are not even that powerful, it's all a house of cards. I want a President who will move in the other direction, away from giving them more room in our public discourse.
And then I read this at Crooks and Liars, not about Rick Warren but about the notion of bi-partisanship with the GOP in general, of which Warren is only a mis-represented and misunderstood facet (again, boldface mine):
I find it hilarious that after all of the petty partisanship of the last eight years that somehow it's incumbent upon the Democrats to be the grown-ups in Washington and reach across the aisle. Where was all the talk in the media circles of bipartisanship for the last eight years? Is it that the media knows that Republicans aren't mature enough to do so? And where, in all their history, have the Republicans shown themselves to be able to do anything for the good of the country instead of their party...?
Can we stop pretending these WATB's are serious people? On purpose and by design, they have no understanding of the demands of public policy or the laws of physics or basic facts of history or science or any complex theory of any kind. I know we are supposedly a representative democracy, but they demand a level of public validation that is far out of proportion to their percentage of the population and that validation, quite frankly, is Manichean in its desired totality. Anything short of fascist adulation and ring-kissing of their leaders bundled with unquestioned submission of any hint of any and all dissenting views is characterized as an attack on their personhood, a chip-on-the-shoulder, persecution-complexed worldview that is corrosive to healthy discourse in civil society. They should be marginalized for the good of the country, but Obama seems to buy into their self-serving hype as fully as the Washington Villagers.

I guess I can't let this Rick Warren thing go. Sue me.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Regarding Justice

Regarding the Obama Justice Department pursuing Bush Admin folks for the torture policy of the last eight years, I think Maru at WTF Is It Now?!? says it the best, so I shall quote (almost) in full:
Blowjob. National unity my ass. And you can blow me, you hypocritical motherfucker. Accountability for war crimes is not "vengeance," you chickenshit little fuckweasel. Remember this? Rule of law! Rule of law! Shoe's on the other foot now, isn't it, you smarmy little shit. I sincerly hope all your neocon pals and their fucking retarded POS monkey-puppet are fucking called to the Hague, you cumdribbling bastard. Fuck you.
End transmission.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Simply Marvelous

Not as angry with the Obama Administration right now. Still bitter about the ugliness of the naked pandering in the Rick Warren selection, sure, but this story about a quieter and far more morally commendable aspect of the inauguration is the kind of small-scale victory that I hope will only become more pervasive and commonplace as the idealism inspired by the ascent of Barack Hussein Obama takes hold of the national psyche (from NYTimes, via Mahablog):
ON Thursday, Dec. 11, Jim Donnelly got the call at his office on Jay Street in Dumbo for the biggest job he had ever had. Emmett Beliveau, the executive director of the Presidential Inaugural Committee, told him that Precise Continental, Mr. Donnelly’s 26-year-old printing company, had won the bid to produce one million gold-and-black engraved invitations for the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama.


Precise Continental was selected over rival printers because it is a union company, it uses recycled paper and it is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, which promotes responsible forest management.


“This is a real economy,” Mr. Donnelly said of the printing business. “This is not that bogus economy of Wall Street. This country used to manufacture things.”
Yo, Brooklyn, U.S.A.! BTW, Dumbo means Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass for those who don't live in New York.

Good, well-made, earth-friendly products, made by solid union labor, and made in America (howevermuch this particular part may be judged as "anti-" by people whose forefathers committed treason by seceding - natch). Despite a faltering economy, some of my union brothers and sisters are working this holiday season and that is a good thing.

Happy Christmahanakwanzika everybody.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Comment cross-posting

From the comment thread of this post, my very good friend Broadway Carl wrote the following:
Hey Joe,

What you doin' with that gun in your hand? (Sorry I couldn't resist.) I understand the frustration with the Warren crap, but ultimately will it matter? He chose Warren to give an invocation, not to become his new Senior Policy Advisor. I know it seems like a slap in the face to us now, but who's really gonna give a shit a month from now? That's how I'm looking at it. Obama is not all of a sudden going to become pro-life.

This is why I disagree with the Greenwald quote in your post - because his decision to include Warren in his inauguration for a 3 minute prayer (something that shouldn't be a part of the ceremony to begin with, IMHO) isn't going to change his mind on pro-choice, or closing Gitmo, or troop withdrawal from Iraq, or suddenly make him think conservative judges are what we need in the Supreme Court.

Sure, I'm disappointed that he chose Warren for all the same reasons everyone else is, but I don't find the invocation so important that I believe it's the beginning of the end for the Obama administration. Unemployment, health care, getting out of the Middle East, vets care, the economy - these are the things that are important to me, not who says what prayer when.

Which is why I don't agree with Hitchens either. Yes, Obama can be inclusive - that's what he campaigned on - but not on Inauguration day. Either Obama is going to believe what he says every day, or he's going to be politically manuevering every day. I hope it's the former, but it has to be every day.

And look at it another way. Warren's acceptance of the invitation is not sitting well with his base. I would say the evangelical right is freaking out about Warren's attendance more than the liberal left is. So, although I doubt this is the reason, Warren's power and influence is possibly being compromised on Obama's first day in office. That can only be a good thing.

And finally, "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss."? Seriously?
To which I replied:
New boss? Well, yeah.

New Boss Obama is triangulating his little heart out with all the mighty force of Old Boss Clinton. Up to now, it has been part of some master plan and I was (and still am) willing to sign on because, as you say, in the long run we trust that we will still get what we want on choice, Gitmo, Iraq, environmental policy, etc... Note that I said "trust." Signs are good, sure, but I realize that Washington politics is like making sausage and I'm not going to like a lot of what comes out of the Obama Administration over the next four years. That not-liking starts today.

The Warren choice smacks of wishful thinking to me. Why waste such a valuable moral commodity as the invocation at one's own historic inauguration? Such a bully pulpit for declaring and demonstrating a new direction, wasted on a bigot with a top-shelf PR team.

If Obama understands just how odious Warren (a liar & a bigot) is and thinks throwing these ravenous wolves a bone will quiet them, I point to Bill Clinton's impeachment as counter-evidence. If he understands how odious Warren is and doesn't care, then he needs to be made to show respect to this portion of his coalition. If he understands how odious Warren is and actually agrees with him, god help us, then he isn't the person we've supported all this time and should be called out loudly and often.

I don't think saying to such an important component of the Obama coalition "get over it" is really honest or fair, since that's what the whole political left in this country has heard since BushCo. stole the election in 2000. Warren equates homosexuality with incest and bestiality and loudly and publicly declares that Jews are going to hell. Lending him the weight of the Office of the President legitimizes his bigotry and spits in the face of the people who put him there. It fails to honor their blood, sweat, toil and tears.
The last paragraph of my response, ultimately, gets to the heart of how I read Carl's critique of my post, and his take on the whole Warren thing altogether, which is to say: "get over it," which misses the point. Warren is free to spew his hate all he wants. Sure, he's not quite the hellfire-and-brimstone Old Time Religion bigot that Fallwell was and Robertson still is, with his Hawaiian shirts and Van Dyke beard, but he still thinks homosexuality equates to incest, child rape and bestiality. He still thinks Jews are going to hell. And while to hold and express out loud those beliefs is still perfectly legal in an America where free speech is supposedly allowed, that still doesn't mean that it is altogether fitting and proper that Obama should give such a person a platform on the day of his inauguration.

On the other hand, it is Obama's Big Day and he can invite whoever the fuck he wants. I can have an opinion about it, though, and I think it is an insult.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Buzz Lightyear!

He's real!

Zooming Around the Alps In a Homemade Wing Suit
By Craig Whitlock
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, July 4, 2008

CRANS-PRES-CELIGNY, Switzerland -- Look! Up in the sky! It's a bird! It's a plane! It's . . . Fusion Man!

Make that Yves Rossy, a 48-year-old Swiss daredevil also known as Jet Man, Rocket Man, the Bird Man of the Alps.

Thanks to his homemade, jet-powered wing suit, Rossy can flash through the air at a Superman-like 186 mph.


on May 14, high above the Alps near the Swiss town of Bex, Rossy put it all on the line. He invited journalists and camera crews and promised a mind-blowing show, fully realizing that if he flamed out or crashed, they'd portray him as a world-class fool.

At an altitude of 7,700 feet, he dropped out of an airplane, his 120-pound wing suit strapped around his shoulders, back and arms. He gassed the throttle and off he went: soaring across the sky at race-car speeds as a helicopter tried to keep up so it could videotape his performance.

After a flight of slightly more than five minutes, with fuel running out, Fusion Man pulled the cord on his chute and floated gracefully to the ground, landing on his feet.

More Shooz

OK, time to wade in hip deep. We all saw this:

and this is what The Editors had to say about it. I happen to agree whole-heartedly:
George W. Bush has spent most of his life fucking things up horribly, and then escaping any consequences for his incompetence and indifference. This is who he is. What you have seen is not a moment of quick thinking, it was the man’s essence.
So may this shoe-throwing moment come to represent his entire presidency, in fact it can and likely will become the very symbol of his whole miserable life.

Though I was rooting for the pretzel.

More about Warren (UPDATED)

So, I hadn't realized this, but via a Steve Benen at Washington Monthly, I learn that we've spent most of our history without an invocation nor a benediction. FDR added both at his inauguration in 1933 and, sadly, they've been part of the program ever since.

This factoid makes me even angrier than I was before.

While I grant that Obama is elected to be the president of all the people, not just the people who voted for him - something the current occupant just never got through his thick skull - I still say Rick Warren is quite simply a bridge too far. I have read a lot in the last few days about this issue, both pro and con, and I still come down where I was before: Rick Warren is the wrong choice, a walking, talking insult to the spirit of inclusion Obama has spent so much time and energy creating.

I hate quoting myself, but I must raise a question I asked back in September in the wake of the McCain campaign's mud-slinging: why are we always the ones who must suck it up?
Why am I and my fellow progressives, liberals & Democrats expected to take the high road every single time? Why is the onus on us to make nice and maintain civility while the other side gets to wreck and rob the place with impunity, spewing hate and flinging poo like a monkey? Why are we supposed to just sit there and take it? It is almost as though they know these people are over-grown children and, like children, we grown-ups are required to be patient and tolerant while they go through some adult version of the terrible twos, except sustained and culture-wide.
So, once again, The Left is expected to sit down, shut up and take one for the team, to just be grateful for the fucking-over not being worse than it otherwise would have been. The emotional retards on the other end of the spectrum once again have to be pandered-to, because they will otherwise get their widdle feelers hurt and take their toys home to pout. I just don't recall seeing a reciprocal show of respect when the other side stole the last two elections. I just remember a lot of crowing and chest-thumping about "mandates."

I find the inclusion of Rick Warren to be sickening because the most favorable spin I can put on it is to think that maybe he wants to insure the largest possible audience for the launching of his bold new direction in government and putting Warren at the beginning of the program is the least odious way to get and keep the eyes and ears of a large group of people who would otherwise range from the curiously skeptical to the overtly hostile. Warren, with his genial demeanor and Hawaiian shirts, projects an approachable warmth (however manufactured and shallow it may be) that his predecessors Robertson and Falwell lack and maybe that is a factor for Obama as well, though I must say that even with all of that in mind I still don't think this is what we who worked his campaign and gave him money had in mind.

The intolerant learn nothing when tolerated; for them it just means the suckers on the other side didn't have the guts to let their hate win the day.

Because I think the thing all the Obama defenders lose sight of amid this whole brouhaha is that we've been here before. Democrats have been sucking up to the Reich-Wing since Saint Ronnie of the Ray-Gun slithered into Washington on a tide of racial fear-mongering and cultural resentment. It has never, ever, provided any long-term benefit for the Democrats except to encourage the poo-flinging monkeys to fling even more poo. "Triangulating Bill" Clinton tried and tried and tried to accomodate a burgeoning and ascendant Political Right, in fact he was the finest Republican president we ever had, and all he ever got was impeached for his efforts.

I think some of this has to do with the old saw about a liberal being someone who won't take his own side in an argument. As liberals, we think surely some common ground can be found on any issue since we generally try to see other sides of arguments. Righties think god is on their side and the devil is in any opposition. In such a formulation, how can we ever find the middle? We can't because there isn't one. As Glenn Greenwald wrote yesterday:
Ultimately, the reason politics is unavoidably "divisive" is because people have really divergent and irreconcilable views on passion-provoking controversies. That's what politics is. It's what it always has been. At some point, Obama either will or won't repeal DOMA and don't-ask-don't-tell; he either will or won't rescind Bush's anti-abortion regulations and appoint new Supreme Court Justices likely to re-affirm Roe; he either will or won't close Gitmo; he either will or won't withdraw from Iraq; he either will or won't investigate Bush war crimes; he either will or won't deliver on his promises to unions, etc. People feel very strongly -- and very differently -- about those issues.
And besides, at the end of the day, being an unapologetic atheist, I have to agree with (...a-hem...) Christopher Hitchens when he writes:
As Barack Obama is gradually learning, his job is to be the president of all Americans at all times. If he likes, he can oppose the idea of marriage for Americans who are homosexual. That's a policy question on which people may and will disagree. However, the man he has chosen to deliver his inaugural invocation is a relentless clerical businessman who raises money on the proposition that certain Americans—non-Christians, the wrong kind of Christians, homosexuals, nonbelievers—are of less worth and littler virtue than his own lovely flock of redeemed and salvaged and paid-up donors.

This quite simply cannot stand.


A president may by all means use his office to gain re-election, to shore up his existing base, or to attract a new one. But the day of his inauguration is not one of the days on which he should be doing that. It is an event that belongs principally to the voters and to their descendants, who are called to see that a long tradition of peaceful transition is cheerfully upheld, even in those years when the outcome is disputed.
So, Obama promises us a new politics. With the Rick Warren selection, Obama reveals himself as an epic genius with a secret plan so grand no mere mortal can guess it, or else he is either more of a cynical operator than we thought or more gullible and stupid than he seems.

I'm not sure I like any of those options. I know, I know, he's still the far better option and he's going to give us what we want on Iraq, Gitmo, minority rights, energy policy, environmental policy, labor policy, and he projects competence and tolerance while single-handedly changing the image America projects to the world, blah-blah-blah, but right now, I'm angry and I choose to stay that way until he gives me a reason not to be.

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

From the marvelously poisonous pen of Jillian over at Sadly, No:
I must confess that over the past few years I have been completely nauseated by the Sensible Liberal. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Left’s greatest stumbling block is not the Republican party or the Freepers of the world, but the moderate Democrat, who is more devoted to “winning” than to justice, who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension, often called “inclusion” or “getting along”, to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who says “I agree with the goal you seek, but I also understand the point of view of people who think you are little more than crazed pedophiles”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s full citizenship; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the fag to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Change? Where?

So, Obama is trying to gain some street cred with The Village poobahs the way all the Dems have always done since the early days of "Triangulating Bill" Clinton - by kicking the dirty fucking hippies in the nuts. Bigot, liar and all-around general hater Rick Warren will be giving the invocation at The Inauguration, and will do so at Obama's invitation.

I know he's trying to be a new kind of politician and all that shit, but... but...

Aw, hell, I think Ezra said it best:
This might be a wise political calculation on Obama's part. But it is a cruel thing to ask of his coalition. There's a time to pander to intolerance, and it is called the election. The election is over. January 20th is the inauguration. Pro-choice women and gays were a significant part of Obama's coalition, and they're being forced to accept that the candidate they worked for will use the election they won to elevate a powerful religious leader who works often and publicly against their interests. For them, the day will be darkened.
So many liberal Christians out there, to say nothing of other faiths (I'm certain no rabbis, imams or maharajahs will speak on January 20th), instead of giving yet another high-profile platform to someone already famous, couldn't Obama use the awesome weight and power and global visibility of that day to raise the profile of some non-bigoted, non-lying, non-hating Christian? We all already know who these evangelical fucktards are and what they stand for and using that day to suck up to the Christo-paths is, I think, a misuse of the power of his office and a violation of the trust he asked of the people who worked so hard to get him elected.

So, I say fuck you, Mr. Obama.

This Man Is A War Criminal

He should be arrested, tried and convicted of war crimes, then sent to prison for the rest of his unholy life. He dared the incoming administration to do just that a couple of days ago. I don't think anything will come of it and he will live happily ever after.

Because Dems are wimps.

It's not even past, PART 2

As if on cue, amid my re-watching of Ken Burns' "The Civil War," runs a piece today about how the Southerners in the Senate are selling out the country to foreign automakers for the sake of sticking it to the north and that such behavior had been SOP for Southern politicians throughout the 20th Century. Motivations vary, but the result is always the same:
In the early 20th century, the Southern states were the first to adopt conscious statewide economic development policies, which then as now meant poaching industries from New England and the Midwest where wages and public spending and regulation were greater. That's how the South took the textile industry from New England, before losing it to lower-wage Asia. Now with the help of Nissan, Toyota, and BMW, the South is trying to replace Detroit as the center of U.S. automobile production, using low wages, anti-union laws, and low taxes to benefit from the outsourcing of industry from societies more advanced than the South, like Japan and Germany. The economic Axis is collaborating with the neo-Confederates against their common opponent -- the American Union. If they succeed, the losers will be not only non-Southern regions in the U.S., but the majority of Southerners of all races, whose interest in decent wages, good education, and adequate public services have almost always been sacrificed to the greed of the well-connected few by Southern statehouse gangs.
The past is present. Once severed from The Union, the unruly confederate states couldn't short-term sacrifice for the long-term greater good long enough to gel into a coherent nation and would have thus lost the civil war sooner had the men in gray not been so ferociously committed to "The Cause," whatever that actually is. And so, now, today their descendants continue to fight those meddling Yankees by gladly selling out the greater good of the nation (for which they believe they have the greater claim to patriotism, backed by God himself) for the strictly small-time and narrowly local economic gain of their region or state. More more to the point, for the strictly small-time and narrowly local gain of the few people at the top of the economic and social ladder of their region or state while the rest of the population sees ever lower wages and standard of living.

It is no wonder why they hate unions so much. Organized labor gives the workers a voice when the "Culture" of The South has trained their ruling class that everyone who is not one of them are to be exploited and sold-off once no longer useful. Once a plantation culture, always a plantation culture. All the little people need to just sit down, STFU and be grateful for the scraps massa lets drop from his table.

This is no way to run a modern industrial country or even a political party, but then that's Today's GOP: yesterday's Democratic Party.

Again, Michael Lind:
"A house divided against itself cannot stand." At each of the defining crises in American history, a major expansion of federal authority was necessary to overcome a division between North and South that threatened the future of the U.S. as a democratic, middle-class nation. The division between slave and free states was overcome by the defeat of the Confederacy and the Reconstruction amendments that abolished slavery and established national citizenship for the first time. During the New Deal era, the enormous gap between the agrarian South and West and the industrial Northeast was overcome by federal programs like rural electrification and highway building, federal regulation, and federal social insurance.

Today the division is no longer between slave and free states, or agrarian and industrial states, but between two models of industrial society -- the Northern model, based on adequate public service funding and taxation and unionization, and the Southern model, based on low-tax, low-service government and low-wage, non-unionized, easily exploited labor.
Reconstruction, however imperfect, was about re-stitching the slave and free states back into a whole nation and was largely successful despite later social lapses, best embodied in the rise of the KKK. Much of the policy of FDR's New Deal was about bringing the South's infrastructure into the 20th Century, material improvements that paid dividends in the post WW2 economy. The Civil Rights era was about forcing their social norms and standards to adhere to 20th Century standards, for the sake of the country. The two latter forced-improvements culminated in the sleek, shiny New South of the 1980's & 1990's, for the world would not have paid such economic attention to the poor, ignorant, violent backwater the South would have otherwise been without the continual intervention of the Civil War's victors and their descendants in the affairs of the region.

So, Michael Lind cogently argues for a new Reconstruction to keep the rest of the country from becoming a low-wage sewer like the South:
The Southern conservatives of the GOP are not irrational when they denounce the very idea of a national economic strategy as "socialism" or "industrial policy" while each of their states pursues its own "socialist industrial policy" within its state borders. They are being strategic. They understand their interests, as they define them. A U.S. economic development strategy would make it more difficult for individual state governments and their crony capitalist allies to engage in the beggar-thy-neighbor policies that the Southern elites have specialized in for nearly a century. And a national economic development system would thwart the ultimate goal of the extreme right in America -- the leveling down of the entire U.S. to the South's inhumane and primitive standards.
I think he makes good points. Go read the whole thing.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The past is never dead. It's not even past

Lots of ideas bouncing around in my head right now, the result (as usual) of things I've been reading and watching, which all seem to converge in strange ways.

Allow me to explain.

I've railed time and again about how much of a diseased cur Richard M. Nixon was and how his terrible legacy haunts our republic in body, mind and spirit. Today, in the wake of the Blagojevich freakshow, driftglass re-runs Hunter S. Thompson's awesome eulogy of Nixon, someone Blago evidently admires. Here's a taste:
If the right people had been in charge of Nixon's funeral, his casket would have been launched into one of those open-sewage canals that empty into the ocean just south of Los Angeles. He was a swine of a man and a jabbering dupe of a president. Nixon was so crooked that he needed servants to help him screw his pants on every morning. Even his funeral was illegal. He was queer in the deepest way. His body should have been burned in a trash bin.

These are harsh words for a man only recently canonized by President Clinton and my old friend George McGovern--but I have written worse things about Nixon, many times, and the record will show that I kicked him repeatedly long before he went down. I beat him like a mad dog with mange every time I got a chance, and I am proud of it. He was scum.

He was utterly without ethics or morals or any bedrock sense of decency. Nobody trusted him--except maybe the Stalinist Chinese, and honest historians will remember him mainly as a rat who kept scrambling to get back on the ship.

Some people will say that words like scum and rotten are wrong for Objective Journalism--which is true, but they miss the point. It was the built-in blind spots of the Objective rules and dogma that allowed Nixon to slither into the White House in the first place. He looked so good on paper that you could almost vote for him sight unseen. He seemed so all-American, so much like Horatio Alger, that he was able to slip through the cracks of Objective Journalism. You had to get Subjective to see Nixon clearly, and the shock of recognition was often painful.

Nixon's spirit will be with us for the rest of our lives--whether you're me or Bill Clinton or you or Kurt Cobain or Bishop Tutu or Keith Richards or Amy Fisher or Boris Yeltsin's daughter or your fiancee's 16-year-old beer-drunk brother with his braided goatee and his whole life like a thundercloud out in front of him. This is not a generational thing. You don't even have to know who Richard Nixon was to be a victim of his ugly, Nazi spirit.

He has poisoned our water forever. Nixon will be remembered as a classic case of a smart man shitting in his own nest. But he also shit in our nests, and that was the crime that history will burn on his memory like a brand. By disgracing and degrading the Presidency of the United States, by fleeing the White House like a diseased cur, Richard Nixon broke the heart of the American Dream.

So Nixon's toxic legacy pervades the smoldering wreckage of our once great nation lying all around us now, a slow-motion disaster we've watched happen since the ascension of the snake-oil salesman from California, which tracks with my recent conclusion of the elegaic HBO series "The Wire." Saint Ronnie bequeathed unto us the constitution-shredding War on Drugs, and that war has ruined our cities, as intended. "The Wire" is, over five seasons, a kind of extended autopsy of the remnants of Baltimore, Maryland. The clash between police and the inner-city drug trade are the jumping-off point for an unflinching examination of the whole city's degeneration, from the corruption and violence in the police department to the lasting damage of generations of neglect of the city's poor and helpless to the ugly wheeling and dealing in her courts to those trying to survive amid a ruined industrial base or her failing schools to the "sausage-making" of big-city politics to the leveraged soul of it's once-proud newspaper, the home of H.L. Mencken: The Baltimore Sun, while never shrinking from the fundamental issues of race and class that lie at the secret heart of the American war on her cities. No American city, between five seasons of "The Wire" and seven of "Homicide: Life on the Streets," has ever been more thoroughly magisterially depicted warts and all. Baltimore is a perfect symbol for everything America has done wrong with her cities since World War Two.

We've never been a nation of cities. From our birth over two centuries ago, America has been conflicted about the role of cities in the life of a nation, from the epic struggle between Jefferson and Hamilton to define us as agrarian and rural or industrial and urban right up to today, with our red states and blue states. You know, patriots versus latte-sippers.

Not for us is the idea that a nation's great cities embody the soul of its people: Paris, London, Moscow, Prague, Rome, New Delhi, Athens, Cairo, Tokyo. Each city is evocative of its host nation, and it is no accident that each is the seat of government.

What else is Washington D.C. but a sort of grand college campus structured around the seasonal influx and evacuation of an ever-changing cast of characters with an ever-changing set of agendas - few of which circumscribe the ongoing needs of The District, apart from the bureacrats who are eternal. What else is New York City - the largest city in the world that is not also some seat of government - but a sprawling laboratory built for the sole and unrestrained purpose of making money, all other arenas of achievement pursued within its five boroughs however florid or grandiose springing from that initial formative commandment. We were never to be what Paris or London or Rome were in their respective hey-days, the unquestioned beating heart of The Empire where all things French or English or, well, Roman were legislated, elevated, celebrated and defended above all others. Had New York remained the nation's capital, perhaps we would have an American Paris or an American London, but History has left such an epic metropolis only to our dreams.

Where shall a traveler look to see the distilled essence of our country? Our regional differences belie any such simple answer, which gets to the heart of the continuing conflict in Washington D.C.. Washington may be our capital city, named after our greatest general, but it is a bloodlessly administrative beehive jealous that the very names of Boston and Philadelphia seem embued with the symbolism of our Glorious Revolution, while New York and Los Angeles (Hollywood) are our cultural megaphones to the world and Las Vegas is our national id made manifest in the scorching western desert.

Where shall a traveler look? The answer is, I think, nowhere and that gets to the core of not only our problems in Washington but to the core of our uniquely American condition. The fact that Baltimore has been allowed to fail is of a piece with the failure of Detroit or Buffalo or Pittsburgh or the attempted shivving of New York City in the 1970's. Digby calls it tribalism, and I think that is a fair assessment of what we of late call Red State/Blue State because it isn't just regionalism or race or class or religion or musical preference, although all of those are factors. It is about some manner of amorphous cultural identity, of tendencies, of elective affinities. The most vocal of the proponents of this form of social identification can't rightly say what or whom is in any of these groups, but they sure as shit can tell you who and what isn't. Right now, we are organized along the lines of the Red Tribe and the Blue Tribe, though the clutural cleavages embodied in that formulation date back to before the Revolution, and though we can't fully and objectively list the pre-req's for membership in either tribe, the grounds for rejection are easily intuited: Pat Robertson is not in the Blue Tribe and Barbra Streisand is not in the Red.

The most sickening part of all this stupidity for me is that is so fucking artificial. I don't mean the underlying chasms in our culture - those are there and they are real and often dangerous, perhaps mortally - but the pervasiveness and intensity of the divides are wholly artifical. Which brings me back to Nixon. It is all about the ginned-up controversies and manufactured wedge-issues that drove that goddamned Southern Strategy.

After Barry Goldwater damaged the foundations of our American consensus in '64, Nixon slithered into power through the widening cracks, a one-man wedge-issue utterly without conscience in exploiting the nastiest corners of the American psyche to get and keep votes in a decade that amounted to one long, sustained national family screaming match. His tactics nor his ruthless application of them were not new, but his success their use and the failure to adequately punish all bad actors upon discovery of the scope of his crimes has made everything since fruit of the poisonous tree. The GOP hegemony that lasted from November of 1968 until November of 2006 was built on Nixonian lies, muscle, manpower and mythology. No matter how important the Frost/Nixon interviews may have seemed at the time and ever since - now in the form of a hit Broadway play and new Ron Howard movie! - the fact that Nixon was not sent to prison like the common criminal he was, followed by all of his knowledgable co-conspirators, all on the pretext of protecting the dignity of the office and putting the past behind us for the good of the nation, allowed the Nixon cancer to metastasize until it has now spread throughout and consumed our whole body politic. Two days ago, Darth "The Big Dick" Cheney, unreconstructed Nixonite toady, has essentially dared President-elect Obama and the Democratic Congress to prosecute him for war crimes. We all know he won't and they won't and that is, in some perverse way, the more perfect coda than even Sarah "Moose-alini" Palin here at the bitter end of Nixon's GOP: the bad guys got all the money and rode off into the sunset while flipping the bird, roll credits.

And they did it with those artificial cultural issues, the chips on regional shoulders, the demonization of "Blue" places like cities, rife as they are with crime and negros and all those queers and snooty liberals and their dangerous "ideas". Baltimore as depicted in "The Wire" is perfect as neither a northern city punished by the toothless goobers for being on the winning side of The Civil War, nor a southern city (Maryland was a slave state, but did not secede) re-born as a sprawling, shiny, disorganized Sun Belt suburban metro-area non-city wasteland. It is merely an old, dirty, failing city - more of a overlarge town, really - choked to death by the ascension of a cultural hostility to the very idea of people gathering in cities. If my reference to our War Between the States seems too much of an historical call-back, I remind you that the great William Faulkner of Mississippi, a slave state that seceded if I recall correctly, once wrote "The past is never dead. It's not even past."

As a final point, our civil war has also been very much on my mind these days because I am re-watching Ken Burns' transcendant "The Civil War," a documentary so well made that it ceases to be a mere historical documentary and instead rises to the level of art. In so watching this magisterial work, I am reminded of our last president from Illinois and the challenges he faced. Digby recently touched on this, almost spooky in the timing as I began re-watching "The Civil War" on the same day she wrote about some Southern "partriots" who continue to deny that Lincoln was a great president and instead still consider him a hypocritical dictator and criminal. I leave the final analysis to Digby:

Yesterday, today and tomorrow:
Where Lincoln is concerned, no such schism exists. He is "considered by both historians and ordinary Americans to have been the greatest American president," says the taxpayer-supported website of the Lincoln Bicentennial Commission. Oh, really? Tell that to Bragdon Bowling, commander of the Army of Northern Virginia of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. He won't be lighting any candles for Abraham Lincoln on Feb. 12.

"Lincoln is responsible for the devastation of the founding principles of our country, and you can lay 600,000 bodies at his feet, the casualties of a totally unnecessary war," Bowling told me. As for the bicentennial, "It's just a continuation of the Lincoln myth-making paid for with public dollars."

Bowling sounds like an outlier crank, but south of the Mason-Dixon line his views aren't particularly radical. His anti-Lincoln line springs partly from popular culture, and partly from academic scholarship. In the marketplace of ideas the Lincoln-o-phobes lack the throw weight of, say, David Herbert Donald (of Lincoln, Mass.) or Doris Kearns Goodwin. But they are there, for those who want to hear them.

What's their beef? They view Lincoln as a cynical, self-serving politician with no particular aversion to slavery, who precipitated the Civil War, sorry - the War Against Southern Independence - to keep his Republican party in the White House. "It was all about power," Bowling observed at an anti-Lincoln rally in Richmond in 2003. "All so Lincoln and his friends could consolidate their power to tell other people how to live their lives."

Former University of South Carolina historian Clyde Wilson particularly objects to the beatification of the 16th president as a genial, all-knowing Christ figure trapped in a bloody hecatomb not of his own making. Writing on the website of the Abbeville Institute, a think tank for revisionist Southern scholarship, Wilson calls Lincoln "the tender-hearted leader who authorized ruthless terrorism against women and children, refused generous offers of prisoner exchange while declaring medicine a contraband of war, accepted Grant's costly policy of losing three men for every one Confederate killed, was not above keeping his own son out of harm's way, and invited his own fate by clandestinely organizing the attempted assassination of Jefferson Davis."

Wilson sent me a copy of a forthcoming anti-Lincoln article, timed to coincide with the bicentennial. Inter alia, it reserves particular scorn for Boston, whose citizens, Wilson believes, fanned the flames of war to ensure the economic hegemony of the industrial North over the agrarian South. Yankee hypocrisy is a favorite target: "New England shippers got rich in the illegal African slave trade to Cuba and Brazil right up to The War and Bostonians owned slave sugar plantations in Cuba even after The War," he writes.

Wilson even assails Ms. Julia Ward Howe of Mt. Vernon Street, for the "bigotry and blasphemy" of her composition, "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." "She subsumes Christ to her secular vengeance and conquest," he explained to me. That's a little rich, I'd say.
I always find it fascinating that the people who want to reach into your bedrooms, hospital rooms and wombs, are always upset about some phantom liberal who supposedly wants to tell them how to live. But it seems to be based upon this odd idea that goes all the way back to the civil war that if a fellow American is not in 100% agreement that they are trying to inflict their "values" on others.

Gay marriage is a good example. Nobody says that people must be gay and must marry others of the same sex. But these people simply can't live and let live. The mere fact that others don't believe as they do is seen as a threat and they seek to stop it. And they always do it while excoriating the other side for "seeking power."

(And the irony of excoriating Lincoln for spilling the blood of hundreds of thousands for immoral reasons in an unnecessary war for the benefit of rich hypocrites who made money arming the enemy is just too rich...)

I don't know that there are very many of these anti-Lincoln cranks out there. But the underlying philosophy is quite pervasive among conservatives, even if they don't trace it to Lincoln and the civil war. I recall another conservative from a few years back who also seemed to believe that the Democrats were only interested in power for its own sake:
By "the left" I'm including almost the entire Democratic Party, you can count the exceptions on your fingers, you can name them, Zell Miller, Joe Lieberman...The whole mainstream of the party is engaged in an effort that is a betrayal of America, what they care about is not winning the war on terror...I don't think they care about the danger to us as Americans or the danger to people in other countries. They care about power.
That's right. Everyone in the Democratic party was engaged in an effort to betray America because they only care about power. Just like Lincoln and the northerners. I suspect that projection is the foundation of this ongoing sense of conservative victimization. They have to quiet the voices in their own heads by shutting up those who disagree with them.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

More pictures

Again, not mine, but this place has been really dull lately, so I'm borrowing some art to spruce it up:

New Flickr Account

I haven't uploaded anything yet, but I thought this was a really spectacular photo, so I downloaded it.

Because it's pretty.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Light posting

Apologies all five of you out there for the light posting these last few weeks. I've been preoccupied with some personal shit and blogging was very, very low on my list of priorities for spending time.

That said, a few quick hits:

1. I'm still in mourning for the shellacking Texas Tech took at the hands of the Sooners on November 22nd, falling from a #2 ranking to #7 and out of contention for the national championship. At least the team who did that to them are themselves now playing for the national championship and Tech will be playing (#25) Ole Miss in the Cotton Bowl on January 2nd.

2. Holy Shit a fighter jet crashes into a tranquil San Diego neighborhood! (h/t Broadway Carl)

3. This afternoon, I just finished reading "The Road." I'm not entirely sure how I feel about it yet, but I'm still disturbed and upset so that may or may not be a good thing. Right now, I'm leaning towards thinking that the whole thing is some kind of metaphor for something. Details to follow.

4. I am almost done watching HBO's "The Wire" (all five seasons!) and that show does an amazing job at fictionalizing the futility of Reagan's War on Drugs, a war that continues to this day, unabated. It also depicts very clearly the depravity such a futile war generates in the policing organizations charged with enforcing it's anti-Constitutional dictates, a depravity that deepens every day as all our rights and liberties are abrogated in the name of Law & Order (the concept, not the Tee-Vee show). In most essential ways, the War on Drugs was a dress-rehearsal for the War on Terror and the concommitant shredding of the Constitution.

Thus, no other explanation than gross police misconduct can explain both this (via Digby's Hullabaloo):
Man dies during arrest in Minneapolis.
Officers found the man on the street and tried to arrest him. He resisted and officers shot him with a Taser, Palmer said.
So, just remember that the Police can taser you if you don't show them enough respect and it's all A-OK.
and this (via Balloon Juice). Unlike the last one, this one is so many different levels of awesome.
KopBusters rented a house in Odessa, Texas and began growing two small Christmas trees under a grow light similar to those used for growing marijuana. When faced with a suspected marijuana grow, the police usually use illegal FLIR cameras and/or lie on the search warrant affidavit claiming they have probable cause to raid the house. Instead of conducting a proper investigation which usually leads to no probable cause, the Kops lie on the affidavit claiming a confidential informant saw the plants and/or the police could smell marijuana coming from the suspected house.

The trap was set and less than 24 hours later, the Odessa narcotics unit raided the house only to find KopBuster’s attorney waiting under a system of complex gadgetry and spy cameras that streamed online to the KopBuster’s secret mobile office nearby.