Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Last Call

Via Jon Pitts-Wiley at Jack and Jill Politics, a not-so-gentle reminder than not everybody who suffers from Obama Derangement Syndrome is A) a Republican or B) white. 

No one grasps this tragic descent better than West, who did 65 campaign events for Obama, believed in the potential for change and was encouraged by the populist rhetoric of the Obama campaign. He now nurses, like many others who placed their faith in Obama, the anguish of the deceived, manipulated and betrayed. He bitterly describes Obama as “a black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs and a black puppet of corporate plutocrats. And now he has become head of the American killing machine and is proud of it.”

That's Truthdig's Chris Hedges -- not President Obama's biggest fan by a long shot -- covering Princeton professor Cornel West there, in one of the nastiest pieces of firebagging I've read in some time.  The piece is mainly about Cornel West's phone calls not being returned and his hurt feelings, but with Chris Hedges driving the narrative it becomes a massive airing of the grievances at Festivus.

Take this passage:

“I was thinking maybe he has at least some progressive populist instincts that could become more manifest after the cautious policies of being a senator and working with [Sen. Joe] Lieberman as his mentor,” he says. “But it became very clear when I looked at the neoliberal economic team. The first announcement of Summers and Geithner I went ballistic. I said, ‘Oh, my God, I have really been misled at a very deep level.’ And the same is true for Dennis Ross and the other neo-imperial elites. I said, ‘I have been thoroughly misled, all this populist language is just a facade. I was under the impression that he might bring in the voices of brother Joseph Stiglitz and brother Paul Krugman. I figured, OK, given the structure of constraints of the capitalist democratic procedure that’s probably the best he could do. But at least he would have some voices concerned about working people, dealing with issues of jobs and downsizing and banks, some semblance of democratic accountability for Wall Street oligarchs and corporate plutocrats who are just running amuck. I was completely wrong.”

Now I've made the exact same point about Geithner.  I do not however find it to be a deeply personal betrayal. I also pointed out that the kind of folks that Republicans put forth to replace Geithner were a lot worse.  It is in fact possible to criticize the President.  I did so on many of his economic, civil liberties, and military policies.  I still have a number of issues with the President.

But what West (and Hedges) are doing is making it personal, and that's just not objective.  Melissa Harris-Perry has even less tolerance for this nonsense than I do.

I have many criticisms of the Obama administration. I wrote angrily about his choice of Rick Warren to deliver a prayer at the inauguration. I have spoken on television about my disagreement with drone attacks in Pakistan and been critical of the administration’s initial choice to prosecute DADT cases. I worked for more progressive health care reform legislation and supported organizations that resisted the reproductive rights “compromises” in the bill. I’ve been scathing in public remarks and writings about the President’s education policy. My husband leads a non-profit that is suing HUD for its implementation of a discriminatory formula in the post-Katrina Road Home program. The president has never called me. I got my ticket to the inauguration from Canada! (Because Canadian Broadcast Television who gave me a chance to narrate the day’s events.) But I can tell the difference between a substantive criticism and a personal attack. It is clear to me that West’s ego, not the health of American democracy, is the wounded creature in this story.

And I have to agree with that wholeheartedly.  The real issue is how the "principled opposition" to Obama from the left always seems to devolve from pointed criticism of the President to hysterical pyramids of straw men set on fire to glorify and justify the people attacking him from the left.  It becomes the raison d'etre rather than the objective viewpoint, and much of that comes from the fact the Village exists to feed on things like this.  Best way to get attention as a liberal?  Attack Obama from the left.  A whole number of folks have staked out this territory in the last two years or so.  Cornel West is just the latest but by no means is he the sole offender here.

When the "valid criticism" of the President becomes a vehicle for your own self-advancement, it ceases being valid and starts being dangerous and detrimental.  If you're going to come at Obama because of policy differences, that's one thing.  If you're doing it to get shiny views and TV time in order to remain relevant, then it's your problem, not Obama's.

Some folks need to do some serious soul searching, and do it quickly.  The alternative to Obama is far, far worse.  But I'd be remiss if I let this passage go without a fight:

I think my dear brother Barack Obama has a certain fear of free black men,” West says. “It’s understandable. As a young brother who grows up in a white context, brilliant African father, he’s always had to fear being a white man with black skin. All he has known culturally is white. He is just as human as I am, but that is his cultural formation. When he meets an independent black brother, it is frightening."

As a mixed-race person here, West's accusation involving Obama being afraid of being viewed as a "white man in black skin" is so far beneath both rational discourse as a tenured Ivy League professor and beneath contempt in pretty much any other context that I'm actually somewhat horrified that anyone would actually say that outside of David Duke.  Trying to make your bones off of painting Obama as "not black enough" is just as repugnant as having a problem with him being black, and in many ways it's worse.  How is that in any way germane to the discussions of his policy or the realpolitik of Washington in 2011?

This is the kind of truly damaging idiocy that will end up doing more to deliver votes into the hands of the Republicans and depress turnout among blacks than anything Newt Gingrich or Tom Coburn or Ron Paul could utter, and it's this line-obliterating nonsense that goes well beyond the realm of valid criticism of Obama and straight into Obama Derangement Syndrome territory.

And that brings us to the most maddening, frustrating, and depressing part:  West does have some valid points.  Obama has made some bad decisions on his economic team and economic policy that favored the wealthy over the rest of us, on continuing many of the more heinous Bush-era legal and civil liberties policies, and by not prosecuting the Wall Street offenders who decimated out economy.  But those points are hopelessly lost in the storm of his own desire to go after Obama for sleights both real and imagined, and the further rush to justify his position as morally correct.

There is a categorical difference between what West set out to do here (and what Hedges tries to assist him with) and what they actually end up doing, and it's an empirical example of how you can go way too far in the quest for ideological perfection at the expense of common friggin' sense.

[UPDATE]  I've been asked by Michael J.W. Stickings of The Reaction to contribute over at his place on occasion, and I've queued this one up as my first entry there for tomorrow morning.  Do say hello, it's one of the better group blogs out there and this is a hell of an honor for me.

Nuked Gingrich

Newt Gingrich, Sunday:

Newt Gingrich slammed the House GOP budget on Meet The Press this morning, telling interviewer David Gregory that replacing Medicare with a voucher system was too "radical" an approach. His words were by far the harshest of any major presidential candidate towards Paul Ryan's proposal on entitlements.

"I don't think right-wing social engineering is any more desirable than left-wing social engineering," Gingrich said, calling the plan "too big a jump" for the country. "I don't think imposing radical change from the right or the left is a very good way for a free society to operate."

 Newt Gingrich, Monday in Iowa:

“I’ve gone around the country for three years giving speeches attacking Obamacare,” Gingrich told a huddle of reporters at the Holiday Inn here Monday, after speaking to the local Kiwanis Club over lunch. “Now, somebody watches 22 seconds of a TV show and says, ‘Oh, what’s happening?’ Nobody said to Reagan, ‘Oh, you must be soft on communism because you said, ‘I like Gorbachev.’ I am opposed to Obamacare. Obamacare should be repealed. In toto. Not partially. All of it. And then we should have a discussion about what replaces it.”

And this is the result of that complete flip flop:

McCain in 2008 comeback stories aside, Newtie here is about done, I think.

The larger issue is now the rest of the GOP 2012 clown car cavalcade will now have to come out in full-throated support of the Ryan Unicorn Plan or suffer the consequences.  Of course, the consequences of supporting the Ryan Plan to end Medicare is going to be bad enough for these jokers.  The reality is if you don't support the Ryan Unicorn Plan, you get squashed in the primaries.  If you do support it, you'll get squashed in the general by voters who aren't going to take kindly to the end of Medicare.

After all, if the Ryan Unicorn Plan is so wonderful, why is Paul Ryan ditching his Senate bid in Wisconsin?

Oh, and Jay Ackroyd has a point:

Hey! Emulate . Not "the Ryan plan." It's the GOP Budget. 's exploding-deficit, Medicare-killing budget.

I'll need to drop the "Ryan Unicorn Plan" stuff after this and go with the House GOP Budget.  They all basically voted for it.  They all need to own it.

Oh, and PS:  Newt still sucks and his wife is Stepford scary.

The Kroog Versus Mike Allen

Paul Krugman calls Politico's Mike Allen out.

Urk. Politico:
DCCC will be out today with a brutal (and misleading) slogan, “VOTE REPUBLICAN – END MEDICARE”
It’s not misleading! I know that serious people are supposed to be shocked, shocked at the Democrats calling the Ryan plan a plan to dismantle Medicare — but that’s just what it is. If you replace a system that actually pays seniors’ medical bills with an entirely different system, one that gives seniors vouchers that won’t be enough to buy adequate insurance, you’ve ended Medicare. Calling the new program “Medicare” doesn’t change that fact.

The CBO analysis of the Ryan Unicorn Plan backs this up.  Seniors will be paying the lion's share of their health care costs under this new scheme, as much at two-thirds of Medicare costs.  That seems like the end of Medicare to me.  Calling the new program Super Awesome Senior Health Plan Omega Care Arts doesn't make it better either, instead of pretty much bankrupting America's elderly while we cut taxes again for the rich.

Politico's response, by the way?  Nothing.  Dems are so mean for pointing this out, why can't they just be bipartisan?

If It's Tuesday, The Democrats Must Be Thugs

With news that recall proceedings in Wisconsin may go to voters as soon as July 12, and that six state Republican Senators face recalls to three Democrats, Republicans are now turning to the Noise Machine to declare the recall effort thuggery when Democrats do it, but patriotism when Republicans do it, and that means the New York Post.

Orrin Hatch, the senior senator from Utah, didn't mince words the other day on Hugh Hewitt's national radio show. The Democrats, he said, "play politics very, very tough, they play it well, and they don't give a damn about what's right and what's wrong."

He was speaking about battles in Washington, but an even more vivid example can be found in Wisconsin, where the Democrats are still trying to overturn the 2010 elections.

Blindsided last fall by the election of Gov. Scott Walker, the loss of both houses of the legislature and the US Senate seat held by ultraliberal Russ Feingold, the Democrats have simply refused to accept defeat and instead are continuing the fight by any means necessary.

Lawmakers' weeks-long flight from the state to prevent a vote on Walker's reformist budget made national news; less well-covered tactics have included recounts and recall petitions as well as threats and intimidation

Nowhere in the op-ed piece by the Post's Mike Walsh is there any mention that Wisconsin Republicans are trying to recall state Senators too, but we wouldn't want pesky facts to get in the way of blowing the "those people are all thugs and criminals" dog whistle.  Expect a lot more of this as the recall election approaches, how Wisconsin Democrats are "lawless radicals" who must be "dealt with".

But that's par for the course.  If We The People do something that Republicans don't like, they are "thugs".  If they do something approved by the oligarchy, it's "patriotic".

Sony Update - Yeah, About That...

It doesn't appear that Sony has a release date for getting their users back online.  In a suspiciously vague press release, they thank people for their patience and let us know they are working towards a resolution:

"I'd like to send my sincere regret for the inconvenience this incident has caused you, and want to thank you all for the kind patience you've shown as we worked through the restoration process," said Kazuo Hirai, the executive deputy president of Sony Corp.
"I can't thank you enough for your patience and support during this time."
I do appreciate that they are taking the time to fix this and do the job right.  I hope that once they go live again, they are prepared for the flood that is coming their way, from users and hackers alike.

He'll Never Walk Alone

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Veteran entertainer Jerry Lewis said on Monday he is retiring as host of the annual Labor Day telethon on behalf of muscular dystrophy research after 45 years and will make his final appearance on the U.S. show in September.

Lewis, 85, the zany comedian and actor who starred in more than 45 films in a career spanning five decades, made the announcement in a statement posted by the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA), on its website.

"As a labor of love, I've hosted the annual telethon since 1966, and I'll be making my final appearance on the show this year by performing my signature song, "You'll Never Walk Alone,'" he said in the statement.

Lewis did not say why he was retiring at this stage.

I have never known life without Jerry Lewis as the Labor Day host.  It will be fascinating to see what the charity does to replace him, and who can ever fill those shoes.  After a lifetime of service, he certainly has earned his retirement.  I hope it doesn't mean he has found further health issues.

Putting Them All Together

Rust Belt GOP Governors (an a few Blue Dog Dems) are hot on the idea that it's time to merge hamlets and villages in order to shed local government jobs and consolidate services to save the states money in places like Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana.

State Representative Thomas R. Caltagirone, a Democrat from Reading, introduced a bill last year that would require consolidation among the commonwealth’s 2,652 boroughs --30 percent of which have 1,000 or fewer residents, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Economic Development. Residents and elected officials are loath to surrender control, he said.

“A lot of them know in their hearts it’s the right thing to do, but politically they’re afraid to touch it,” Caltagirone said in a telephone interview.

In Ohio, Governor John Kasich has suggested a bipartisan panel similar to the federal Base Closure and Realignment Commission to analyze consolidations and document the benefits.

“If you can’t show that there’s something to be gained, you’re not going to get it done,” Kasich said in a telephone interview.

One state to the west, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels has proposed eliminating the state’s 1,008 township governments, calling them “venerable but obsolete” in his State of the State address this year. Cutting their three-member elected boards alone would save about $2 million a year, Chris Ruhl, director of the Indiana Office of Management and Budget, said in a telephone interview.

“I’ve never seen such a consistent push across so many different states and across so many different municipalities to say, ‘We have to look at this,’” Charles Zettek Jr., vice president of the Center for Governmental Research in Rochester, New York, said in a telephone interview. The nonprofit center has advised governments about consolidation in New York, New Jersey and Ohio.

Justifying duplication is difficult with revenue still rebounding from recession, said Scott Pattison, executive director of the Washington-based National Association of State Budget Officers.

“People are saying, ‘Come on, we know why you would want to keep it this way, but we just can’t continue to afford it,’” Pattison said in a telephone interview. 

It's funny how state lawmakers are convinced that having less local control in small towns is a good thing, not to mention ironic.  They yell that federal control is unconstitutional, but that local government is too costly and must be consolidated.  Imagine that:  state lawmakers want as much power as possible at the state level, not the federal or local.

That would be amusing if it wasn't disturbing at the same time.

FIght Smarter, Not Harder

Matt Osborne continues to be one of the most consistently excellent voices we have out there, and yes, he understands the GOP Plan all too well.

Once upon a time in America, a defeated southern white society told itself a number of lies and incorporated them into its culture. Scholars call this the “lost cause.” It shows up in the language, literature, and politics of the South. The story is well-known and widely told now. When Reagan talked of “states’ rights” at the Neshoba County Fair, he was picking up the “southern strategy;” as we have seen, the GOP actually doubled-down again in the last cycle. But the conservative movement has swallowed its own Kool Aid in the process. Think of all the issues that keep coming up with the class of culture warriors installed last November: they want to revisit the battles over collective bargaining rights, gays in the military, abortion, health care reform, gay marriage, the Civil Rights Act, and the pre-Civil War issue of nullification. All of these are lost causes.

And this is an excellent point.  Why come up with new outrage when you can run the culture war forever on the things you've lost?  All the GOP candidates are stuck in the past in some way or another refighting the culture battles of America, but nobody personifies this better than Ron Paul.

Ron Paul is committed to fighting pretty much every classic liberalism victory since the Civil War, and quite a few prior to that time period.  Look at what Ron Paul's platform is:  Repealing the New Deal, repealing civil rights, repealing affirmative action, repealing the social safety net, repealing any government agency created by the executive, repealing dozens of Supreme Court decisions, repealing a number of Constitutional amendments, the list goes on and on.  Nobody fights the battle for lost causes better than Ron Paul.  He is the quintessential grand master of this.

And if Ron Paul had his way, we would most certainly be an oligarchy bordering on feudalism, beholden to corporate lords and fiefdoms and absolutely powerless before them, quite literally.  If Paul completed his checklist, America would become a nightmare state. But he knows he'll never win, for him the fight is everything.  Well, that and his money bombs.  He's a snake oil salesman of the first order. and he exists to tilt at windmills as a spectator sport...and he's in a league by himself.

The problem is the GOP is rushing backwards along with Ron Paul.  And they will take America with it unless we do something.

Get To Dah (Patonity) Choppah!

The LA Times completes the "So why are Ahnold and Maria Shriver separating anyway?" story, and it's a doozy.

Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and his wife, Maria Shriver, separated after she learned he had fathered a child more than a decade ago — before his first run for office — with a longtime member of their household staff.

Shriver moved out of the family's Brentwood mansion earlier this year, after Schwarzenegger acknowledged the paternity. The staff member worked for the family for 20 years, retiring in January.

"After leaving the governor's office I told my wife about this event, which occurred over a decade ago," Schwarzenegger said Monday night in a statement issued to The Times in response to questions. "I understand and deserve the feelings of anger and disappointment among my friends and family. There are no excuses and I take full responsibility for the hurt I have caused. I have apologized to Maria, my children and my family. I am truly sorry.

"I ask that the media respect my wife and children through this extremely difficult time," the statement concluded. "While I deserve your attention and criticism, my family does not. "

A spokesman for the former first lady said she had no comment.

Holy crap.  Ahnold really IS a politician after all.  Dude sat on that for a decade and had a kid and got away with it all through being Governor of California?  Note to Cali Dems:  get better oppo research staff.

I'm honestly floored that the tabloids and the paparazzi didn't get wind of this.  Fooling all of them plus his wife for a decade?  Yowza.  Remember when Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch was talking about changing the Constitution to let Ahnold run for President back in 2003?  This happened two years before that.

Turning into a hell of a morning.


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