Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Big Picture

This just bums me out:

Webb has pushed for a onetime windfall profits tax on Wall Street's record bonuses. He talks about the "unusual circumstances of the bailout," that the bonuses wouldn't be there without the bailout.

"I couldn't even get a vote," Webb says. "And it wasn't because of the Republicans. I mean they obviously weren't going to vote for it. But I got so much froth from Democrats saying that any vote like that was going to screw up fundraising.

I honestly can't think of an idea that would be more popular. It throws some red meat to the liberal base, it would boost up the Democrats populist brand, and the Tea-Party-influenced Republican party would have a tough time arguing against it considering the lingering anger over bailouts, both real and imagined.

A lot of people get really pissed off at the "There's no difference between the two parties" mentality that a lot of those that have given up on politics seem to carry around on their backs. And yes, to an extent, it is annoying (I feel that a main difference between the two parties was aptly summed up by ED Kain a while back - at the very least, Democrats have some interest in governing). But when it comes to the Banana Republic in process that is killing our country, neither party is going to save us. At this point, you just wait until Alexander the Great decides to show up.

Hell, as much as I hate to say it, the Tea Party may be our best bet to break that trend. Not that the GOP can't find some way to temper the anti-Wall Street hostilities while holding on to the sentiment that they are on the peoples' side, the DNC has pulled off that dog and pony show very successfully for decades now. But at the very least, Tea Party populists have a voice in the current discussion, whereas we've framed the national discussion in a way that a Democrat will never be seen as a credible ally against monied interests (because of Teh Socialism). Odds are, actually making some leeway at dissolving the Wall Street/Government marriage is probably going to have to be a Nixon Goes to China situation.

I sure as hell don't know how to fix it.

Meh. Maybe I'm just bugging off this Sinfest comic.

Via ObWi

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Because it's a seasonal internet tradition...

You need to watch at least one video of cars sliding down an icy hill. And this one has a bus!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Wait, Wait, Don't Tax Me

Hey! Do you know what would totally solve that whole deficit crisis thing that most people don't really care about? Getting rid of the funding for those Nazis over at NPR because of their violation of the first amendment when they stopped giving Juan Williams a paycheck.

Also too - doing away with earmarks. So long as they are not for transportation projects concerning Minnesota's 6th district, because as we all know, those aren't really earmarks at all, because Michele Bachmann says so, and we all know that earmarks freedom dollars for transportation projects desired by Republicans can never be wasteful.

So... It's become pretty obvious at this point that the GOP establishment is going to attempt to keep their Tea Partiers at bay with symbolic spending cuts that are aimed more at pissing off liberals then helping reduce the country's deficit burden. Which the Tea Party will dig because really guys, it's never been about taxes with them. Ever. And golly, who could have predicted that the Republicans wouldn't be serious about actually cutting spending after a full ten years of paying lip services to fiscal responsibility while going on a mad spending spree?

I would hope that the Democrats start hitting Republicans hard on this. I mean, seriously? How fucking stupid do you have to be to say that a bridge isn't an earmark when the most well-known joke of an earmark is a fucking bridge? I mean, I know the whole bridge thing was supposed to be shifted to ridiculing funding for volcano monitoring and all, but that didn't work out so well, did it? No, it's the bridge, it's always the bridge, that will be the symbol of wasteful spending, and will someone please throw this in Bachmann's face?

But I bring this up not just to hate on Bachmann, because it would be snarky and immature to use a blog post to point out yet again that she's a complete moron. No, I bring this up because there's an obvious theme here guys. And it's probably about time we started playing on it.

Despite all the bravado and sweet talk from the supposed spending slashers in congress, they have no interest in actually cutting spending. "Big Government", in the sense of "I don't want my tax money to help those people", sure. And if they can destroy a few liberal institutions under the guise of "cutting spending, they will toe that party line, because merely stating "Well, why wouldn't we? It pisses off liberals, doesn't it?" doesn't sell as well with independents as it does with the base. But as far as actual spending cuts go? NPR? That's nothing. Even earmarks, as much grief as they get, are nothing more then a tiny, minuscule amount of what makes up government spending, and are taken out of already appropriated money. And if you are just going to exempt those things that your constituents want, it's completely meaningless.

The big problem we have right now in terms of the deficit is health care. Mind you, this is what the Democrats shot themselves in the head over trying to fix (and didn't get that far, in some respects), and what the Republicans, in an attempt to appease the Tea Party, want to dismantle, even though they have no viable suggestions on how to fix what is the real problem with our deficit outlook today. Their health care "plan" actually adds to the deficit. But sure, let's ignore all that and ban some earmarks.

It's a pretty simple soundbite. The only thing borrow and spend Republicans like more then promising to lower your taxes is benevolently receiving the gratitude of their constituents at ribbon cutting ceremonies. It would be very helpful to the health of the country if we started pointing that out.

And yes, I realize that attempting to point out the Republican bait and switch in regards to spending is playing within their frame of "spending = bad". Yes, the liberal in me would love to have a discussion about the positive effect government spending can have in it's citizens lives (Look at this graph. Look at the income tax rates. Then think of your history, and what this country accomplished during the time of high income tax rates. Now look at what those rates are currently. Now think of the last awesome thing this country has actually done to make us the envy of the world. Then cry a little). And likewise, the libertarian in me would love to have an actual discussion about wasteful spending programs, usually those that revolve around the "This is completely useless, but the base will love it" types like drug wars, actual wars, border fences, failed education programs, and close-your-legs-problem-solved sex education.

But we can't have either of these conversations until we point out the obvious fact that today's mainstream "fiscal conservatives" just... aren't. And that's going to be hard to shake, because the stink of "fiscally conservative" Republicans "tax and spend" liberals rhetoric that has been around since Reaganomics screwed us all (and even he raised taxes) is still going strong in popular culture today. But until we start making some inroads in regards to why this dogma is completely false, until we start pointing out that amazingly enough, those services and projects that you liked weren't actually paid for by unicorn farts, we have to argue within this framework in order to destroy it.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Saturday Links (That I actually got up on a Saturday!)

Ah, winter in Minneapolis. The peaceful serenity of gentle flakes floating lightly to the ground. The picturesque branches of lonely November trees being weighted down by pretty white glistening jackets of snow. The crazy guy at the end of my block screaming obscenities at the top of his lungs in 30-90 second intervals at eight in the morning.

Yes, the snowy season is here, and as a result, I've made it my goal to not step foot outside of my house today. Which means, I have Saturday links! On a Saturday!

Kind of blogged myself into a corner with the last post. Had a lot of people tell me that post made them feel a little better about the election. So it's kind of hard to follow up a message of "Hey dudes, it will be okay" with a message of FUCK YOU WISCONSIN I WANT MY GODDAMMED HIGH SPEED RAIL TO CHICAGO I HOPE YOU DIE IN A FUCKING FIRE the following day. So I ate that anger, people. For the sake of your feelings. You're welcome.

Want some links?

Tough love: LaHood tells states attempting to opt out of high-speed rail projects that they must return the money and cannot use it on other transportation projects. Wisconsin is already pulling a "What? You mean if we don't build that rail line, those jobs you promised us won't exist? How does that work?" on this. New Jersey gets it the worst, as they are being billed for the work that already went into a rail tunnel that was scrapped by the Governor. More of this, please.

Why I don't cook at home. Seriously, if it weren't for my husband, I'd starve (or have a heart attack by age 30).

So apparently now it's not enough to save the jobs of the asshole failures on Wall Street that brought the country to it's knees (because god forbid we give other, more competent people a chance at those jobs), we are now allowing them to run over people with their cars and drive away. Because they are the best and brightest we have, people. (via Hullabaloo)

Ta-Nehisi Coates riffs off of Radley Balko and puts together a post regarding the violated social contract between the police and its citizens. Go. Read.

Celestina has some useful and humorous suggestions for alternatives to the "like" button that is so prevalent on social media these days. I do really need a "I know I'm an asshole" button.

I've been bugging off of this article for a few days now. It's a pretty thorough explanation of what exactly went wrong in the United States that set the course for the clusterfuck that we are in now. I'm sure the people that need to read and understand these lessons will pass it off as European garbage. But I think it's about time we started being honest with ourselves about the path this country is on. What's at the end does not look promising for us. (via Balloon Juice)

And finally, for those that haven't seen it yet, the uncut interview of Jon Stewart by Rachel Maddow is up on Maddow's MSNBC site. It's long, but it's worth a viewing if you have an hour to kill. I won't get too much into it, as everyone else is talking about it and probably has better insights then I do. So I'll just point out a couple of things I took away from it, one, Stewart's explanation of why he doesn't "get on the field". I've never been one to desire Stewart to be a hard-core partisan; I felt his strength was always in skewering the news cycle. But I have to admit that I was frustrated about the Rally to Restore Sanity, in the sense that, really dude? Three days before an election and you couldn't even encourage people to vote? Is it partisan to urge participation in the political process? But I do understand what he's saying, in the sense that once he does get into that game, he loses what he calls his liberties that come with being a satirist. So I take the point.

However, the other thing I take away is that I don't think he really understands what liberals are upset about when it comes to his equivalency in political rhetoric, or why we see it as false. I wish Maddow would have pressed him on this a bit more, because I felt her complaint that the left is often held to a tougher standard on rhetoric because it is often accepted as institutionalized on the right was a valid point, and one which Stewart didn't provide a decent answer for. It's as if he wants to frame the critique as "people on the right are crazy, people on the left are sane, why won't you point this out?", and that's not really the argument. Most people won't dispute the fact that the left and right both contain ass-loads of crazy. The issue is that the right tends to mainstream their crazy, while the left disowns anything that could be seen as remotely crazy. Michael Moore and Al Gore are still pariahs. But Newt Gingrich is seen as a major player in the Republican party. You cannot grab an anonymous comment on Daily Kos and compare it to a comment made by Congresswoman Bachmann and say "See? Both sides are nuts, what we need is rationality from them". In regards to the larger media, I think the example regarding the Tea Party disruptions of Town Halls during the Health Care debates and Code Pink also illustrate this: Code Pink is, rightfully or no, dismissed as radicals by the mainstream media, while what is, in actuality, nothing more than a re-branding of Bircherism is seen as the greatest political revolution this country has seen in the past twenty years. So when someone like Maddow seizes on this, and is then dismissed as a partisan hack, people understandably become upset. I think the idea that pointing out this phenomenon within our current political discourse is somehow hackery or a barrier to honest debate shows that yes, there are different standards here.

Well, I suppose I should probably go walk the dog. Hopefully crazy profanity screaming guy has worked out all his anger issues by now.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Teapocalypse Now?

Remember Election Night 2004? So do I. I was feeling pretty optimistic. Yeah, you knew, on a certain level, that you probably weren't going to get what you wanted out of the elections. But living in Minneapolis, and seeing all the sign waving and excitement that enveloped the city, this idea that yes, yes, we are finally going to get the crazy out of office and go back to our normal lives tomorrow, you almost got a sense that hell yeah, we could do this. So my naive, over-liberal self went to bed happy. And I woke up the next day to what I thought at the time was absolute hell. It was this crushing realization that no, elections weren't reasonable. The realization that people actually wanted these assholes in office. All in all, it was a rough day.

You'd think I'd feel the same way today. I know a lot of my fellow liberals are taking it pretty hard. And there are regrettable events that happened Tuesday night. We lost Feingold. We kept Reid. Iowa voted out three of the state justices that ruled gay marriage bans unconstitutional. Nancy Pelosi lost her Speaker of the House position. Yes, Democrats kept the Senate, but that's really only because Sarah Palin is an idiot that stuck her nose in where it didn't belong. Local elections were a disaster for Democrats, and this will have pretty dire consequences when it comes to redistricting. Ron Paul 2.0 (now with even more unchecked privilege issues!) will explain to us for years to come why it's our patriotic duty to kick black people out of our stores and force women to bear children while ripping out the social safety net from under them, all while pundits nod thoughtfully along at his new, fresh, hip ideas. And good lord, the punditry out right now, driving everyone mad with their "This just proves Obama must move to the center/this just proves the majority of Americans love the Tea Party" narrative that was actually formed last August (2009, not 2010). If there's one thing I learned on election night, it's that I really, really, really hate cable news pundits. And there is the frustrating fact that Lucy gets to hold up the football again, and yes, she will pull it away again (you honestly think Republicans are going to cut Social Security or find a way to pay for their tax cuts or entitlement programs? Bwa ha ha ha!) but when she pulls it away someone, somewhere, will scream that it was George Soros instead, and the mess starts all over again.

It gets old.

But oddly enough, I'm not angry. Or really that sad. I'm more reflective, I suppose. Perhaps this is some sort of mental defense mechanism, but I just can't bring myself to be that upset over this. Perhaps it's because unlike past disappointing elections, I pretty much expected today to end up like it did (Country's going to hell, but I was right! Go me!). I knew Republicans would take the House, history dictates that the opposing party usually does, and we always knew that Health Care reform was a suicide mission. I knew the media was giving the Tea Party movement a legitimacy they did not deserve, and as such, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. I knew we weren't going to get the voter turnout we had in 2008, not just because it was a midterm election, but also because Obama set a bar so high he wouldn't have been able to reach it with a ladder, leaving no other option but disappointment (And shit y'all, Dancing with the Stars is on). It was easily predictable, and there's nothing to be done about it now. Election cycles happen. But as a small comfort, when I look at the larger picture, I just don't see this election as any sort of defining moment in politics. I know that demographics and history are always on my side, and the Republicans have decided to fight what can only be a losing battle against those realities. They apparently have no interest in reaching out to new voting bases and instead are actively alienating them in order to appeal to their xenophobic base. I can take small pleasure in knowing that this will not work out well for them. So on that level, I'm fine, and will just wait patiently for the next two years, or four years, to pass.

But in the meantime...

I'd go into the lessons Democrats could learn from this massive loss, but I already have, and most of that hasn't changed (anyone else note that the Blue Dogs lost half of their members, making up half of the Democratic seats lost? But no story there, right? No, America just loves Tea!). Although I neglected to add SELL! SELL! SELL! to that list, because Democrats are astoundingly bad at that. No, the public didn't like things like the stimulus or the GM bailout. But these things worked. And unlike Health Care, we can see clear, obvious results in them. Democratic polices halted the unemployment drop, and saved many jobs (not as many as it could have, but still). GM, who was pretty much done for, is now increasing production for their Cadillac brand in Michigan. Democrats seemed to think that because these policies were so unpopular, they should never revisit them again, even if they were sucessful. This is a bad idea. The public doesn't understand policy, sure. But they sure as hell understand results. And I think "We saved the fucking American auto industry" is a pretty good sell. So why not mention it?

But like yelling at clouds, while a fun activity sometimes, talking about what the Democrats should do is a waste of time if you aren't a Very Serious "centrist" that writes for a major newspaper and has awesome ideas about how to invade countries in order to save the economy. So bah, Democrats. Right now I'm more interested in what the Republicans are going to have to deal with.

The GOP had a good night, but it's not all roses and champagne for them, mainly because it was their party that became the Tea Party's bitch Tuesday night. Appeasing this crowd seems right up the GOP's alley, being that the actual message of the Tea Party is "Medicare-funded scooters for me, but seriously, fuck anyone that doesn't look like me", but it's not 1970 anymore and such a blatant appeal to xenophobia isn't going to work for them. So the Republicans are going to have to figure out a way to appear as small government advocates while appeasing an aging and ailing crowd that only grows more dependent on programs like Medicare and Social Security, figure out a way to toss red meat to the religious-right (yep, they still exist!) while not stepping on the toes of Anti-Government interventionist libertarians, and figure out a way to appeal to the real, blue-collar 'murikans while making sure those corporate donations that benefited them so handsomely in this midterm keep rolling in.

Needless to say, it's a lot to balance.

Not to mention, they have to actually govern again, instead of just whining about how unfair everything is, and we know from past experience that doesn't work out all that well for them. They are already trying to downplay their control of the House while at the same time describing the election to be a mandate on Obama's policies. It's a nice attempt, but the high profile of this midterm election will be a double-edged sword. Sure, the "Tea-Party Tsunami" makes for great headlines for the party right now. But it also adds renewed interest in their procedures; newly-minted Speaker of the House John Bohner is not going to be a greatly unknown and uncared about public figure like some Speakers have gotten away with (remember Hastert? No? Me either). I'd actually feel bad for Boehner if he weren't such a douchbag, I have a feeling he got all choked up during his speech not because he was so moved by America but because he realizes that in another two years, he'll be the most hated politician on the planet. Have fun, buddy!

With the spotlight on them, Republicans are not going to be able to blame Obama for things like shutting down congress or, if they really are that stupid, and they might be, pushing for impeachment. But their Tea Party overlords are demanding nothing less, and they are some seriously vengeful, grudge-holding people. They are still reacting to the culture in the 60s, for fuck's sake. And being that they've told us, again and again, that no, they really *didn't* like Bush and really *did* care about his excessive spending, wasteful wars, and assaults on civil liberties, it's going to be a lot harder to whistle past the graveyard when the same pattern repeats itself. The Republicans themselves set this own trap for themselves, describing their wins as second chances. We've changed, baby, we promise. Always a party that has been quite brilliant at bucking narratives that could damage them in the long run, this time, they've embraced an unobtainable goal with open arms. And in return, their hands are tied. As a commenter on my local newspaper put it (and I'm paraphrasing here, because I'm not digging through that cesspool to find it again): "Congrats, Republicans! Now fix everything in two years." In short, welcome to Obama's hell, GOP.

Now, there are still things that work in their favor, mainly our ever-stupid media and the ever-present corporate interests that have even more sway thanks to the Citizens United ruling. The public will lose interest, and like I said, look at results and not policy, so they could throw blame on Obama for congressional gridlock (which Republicans want, as they are at their best when playing the victim). But the GOP has a huge problem, they've created not only a "big tent" but a "big tent full o' crazy assholes who think the GOP owes them big" and they just can't stuff that Tea Monster they've been poking for the past few years back under the bed, anymore then they can keep the libertarians, social conservatives, or corporatists under there. And when there's a whiff of possible power in the air, all of these groups are going to make a grab for their own piece of that pie, and if they are denied, turn on each other. It's only a matter of time before the GOP circular firing squad breaks out, and for anyone not in that circle, it's going to be an amazing thing to watch. The schism that has been slowly widening in the GOP is going to become a series of wide gashes that no band-aids or Contracts with America will be able to cover.

The Republican's strength in the past was always their uncanny ability to keep everyone in line, and on point. This is not feasible anymore, because the Republicans long abandoned actual ideas in favor of "liberals hate it, so it must be awesome". Sadly, liberals hate a lot of things, we even hate each other most of the time, so it goes without saying that some of these things aren't going to jive nicely with each other, and back into the circular firing squad they go. So now Republicans will have to learn how to deal with the enemies of your enemy's enemy, and I doubt the Democrats, who have been herding those damn cats for decades now, are open to giving them any pointers on that front. It's more of a point and laugh situation, actually.

It's interesting, I always figured that the GOP would run into trouble once it's "small government" values and "social conservative" values ran up against each other (which they can't help but do). But this Tea Party faction is a different beast entirely. These guys don't even want democracy, or consistency. They just want to rule, and scream bloody murder and wave around guns if they don't get their way. I really have no idea how one can successfully deal with that and still appeal to the majority of the country.

Best of luck, guys.