Clown Of The Week July 28 – August 3: Angelina Jolie

July 28, 2008

    

In honor of all her humanitarian work. 

Really.


Who Kidnapped Digby?

July 28, 2008

     If there is a progressive blogger that is universally respected throughout Left Blogistan it is Digby.  I was a regular reader of her work at Hullabaloo back when nobody online even knew her gender.  That’s why I find it sad and disturbing to learn that she has officially drunk the Kool-aid:

Keep in mijnd that the GOP does not do this stuff for a knock out. They operate on the death of a thousand cuts. Little criticisms, relentlessly played, dribbled out over time designed to create a running theme. This one is obvious: elitist, aloof, and — presumptuous. That last carries quite an amazing amount of freight — presumptuous, uppity, doesn’t know his place. It applies neatly to any Democrat who deigns to lead Broderville but the historical, subliminal American memory that attaches to such a word when the person in question is black is particularly powerful.

Calling Barack Obama “presumptuous” is the same as calling him “uppity.”  The missing word that is implied with “uppity” is “negro,” or even worse, “n*gg*r”  The nuclear weapon of epithets in our country, worse even than “cunt” 

So, according to the premier “A” lister among progressive bloggers, calling Barack Obama “presumptuous” is a racist epithet, delivered as a dogwhistle.  This isn’t the only time she has made this argument.  In response to this story:

ABC News’ Christianne Klein reports that at a breakfast with Republican insiders at the Capitol Hill Club this morning, former White House senior aide Karl Rove referred to Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, as “coolly arrogant.”

“Even if you never met him, you know this guy,” Rove said, per Christianne Klein. “He’s the guy at the country club with the beautiful date, holding a martini and a cigarette that stands against the wall and makes snide comments about everyone who passes by.”

Digby had this to say:

It’s very clever to add in the country club and martini imagery, even though it’s patently absurd. Gives it a nice sort of cover to what he’s saying. After all, conservatives can’t just come right out and call someone an Uppity Negro these days.

Personally, the image I would expect people to associate with “uppity negro” isn’t a smart-ass hipster enjoying cocktails at a country club.

I started referring to Obama as the “Presumptuous Nominee” when his campaign and supporters (both in and outside of the media) started referring to him as the “Presumptive Nominee” before he had attained enough pledged delegates and superdelegate commitments to make a plausible claim to the title, and when he was passing on the remaining primaries in order to begin his campaign against John McCain.

Wiki Dictionary defines presumptuous as “Full of presumption; presuming; overconfident or venturesome; audacious; rash; taking liberties unduly; arrogant; insolent; as, a presumptuous commander; presumptuous conduct” with the following synonyms:

  • overconfident; foolhardy; rash; presuming; forward; arrogant; insolent.

I don’t see “uppity” anywhere in either list.

One of the common criticisms of Senator Obama is that he is arrogant and exudes an elitist attitude.  Bostonboomer, in answer to the question “What is Wrong With Barack Obama?” said:

Well, in the first place he is incredibly arrogant, haughty, full-of-himself, and entitled.  

That about sums it up for me too.  But what do we know, we’re just bitter racists.

I don’t know of any PUMA that thinks Obama is presumptuous because he is black.  They point to his resume, which is far thinner than any Democratic nominee for President since before FDR.  Even John F. Kennedy had completed a full Senate term (along with three terms in the House) before becoming President, and JFK was a war hero who was groomed for politics by his father since his childhood.

At first, only the serious deluded bought into the racism meme.  When the Obama campaign started pushing the idea that Bill Clinton was making a racist putdown of Senator Obama when he called Obama’s story about consistently opposing the war a “fairy tale,” or when he referred to the 15 years-younger man as a “kid.”   Anyone who wasn’t suffering from Clinton Derangement Syndrome found that idea laughable.

Some people found an earlier incident slightly more credible, when Billy Shaheen brought up Obama’s already admitted drug use by saying  that he might be less electable because the press might wonder if Obama had sold drugs in college saying “”It’ll be, ‘When was the last time? Did you ever give drugs to anyone? Did you sell them to anyone?‘”  But Shaheen never made any racial inferences, only mentioning the drug use.  Nevertheless, Obama’s admitted cocaine use has been a taboo topic ever since.

We’ve heard it suggested that calling Obama “inexperienced” was racist.  Comparing his win in South Carolina to Jesse Jackson’s was also racist, although Jackson was the last person to win that primary besides Bill Clinton who wasn’t still in the campaign.  Actually, Clinton and Jackson were the last two-time winners in South Carolina. (for a thorough description of the false racism allegations made early in this campaign, see “Race Man” by Sean Wilentz)

Then there was the recent New Yorker cover controversy.  Obviously meant as satire, Obamanation went ballistic because it allegedly was racist.  This is the New Yorker fer gawd’s sake, a supposedly “progressive” publication!  Of course, any caricature or Obama will almost always portray him as black, because (believe it or not) he is of half African descent.

So, according to Digby, “presumptuous” and “arrogant” are racial epithets when applied to Obama.  So is pretty much any criticism or ridicule of The Precious according to the “Obama Rules.”  We’ve seen the “Clinton Rules” in use for years (any action or statement by the Clintons, no matter how innocuous, as proof of evil intent) epitomized by the RFK assassination wankfest last May, but the Obama rules are completely different.  They are the political equivalent of a “get out of jail free” card.

That’s because the Obama rules don’t apply to Obama, they apply to everyone else.  Obama is free to make accusations of racism without any proof, even preemptively.  He has already stated that the GOP will run a racist campaign against him.  In fact, pointing out the racist nature of something he or his wife says is racist too. 

And of course, he gets a complete pass on sexism and misogyny, because pointing it out is . . . well, you know.


Can’t Sleep, Clowns Will Eat Me

July 27, 2008

     I was up suffering from insomnia again and I stumbled across this at Joe Bageant’s blog:

In the post political world the candidates who can best thrive in it have tremendous appeal to the economic elites; these candidates thrive in a system that does not dwell on issues and will never ask the question, “who has power and why”, but simultaneously creates a social and media environment of stupefying distractions while destroying traditional social mores (under-credited as a source of much social solidarity). This can only benefit their continued rule of that society.

In such a setting our political choices like our consumer choices, regardless of the product, are primarily about what makes us more fulfilled and feel better about ourselves.

Senator Obama’s campaign understood much better the impact of these changes on our electoral system than any of his opponents’ campaigns. In the post political world, the campaign that is less political and less issue-based but is savvier in using new modes of communication technology will be the campaign to win the greatest market share of the electorate. The candidate in this case, Obama, was not a political entity but, in essence a product, an ornament that made his supporters feel better about themselves.

One of the most telling facts about the Obama’s constituency outside of African Americans (whose support needs no explanation) is that it is a coalition of people who need or demand the least amount of social benefit from our government. They are the under politicized younger voters and upper middle class whites. The two groups, coincidently, are the ones most influenced by trends in consumer popular culture and have the greatest of ease using the latest technologies.

In commercial advertising it is the poor commercial that lists the seventeen functions of the product being marketed. The best commercials are based on image associations entirely unrelated to the functions of the actual product. In the post political world, when the same principle is applied to the political realm, it makes complete sense how Barack Obama no longer is a black man with a strange name but the iPod to Hillary Clinton’s cell phone. In the world of toys it is the one that stands out the most is the most marketable.

(h/t Susie)

I can’t say I agree with 100% of that but it does provide some stuff to ponder about while I try again to acheive a few precious minutes REM sleep that don’t involve evil twins.


Garbage In, Garbage Out

July 26, 2008

     GIGO is an old programmers’ term for “Garbage in, Garbage out.”  It refers to the fact that no computer program yet created will produce results superior to the data provided as input.

Barack Obama is poised to become the first black American to be a major party nominee for President.  Despite the numerous allegations of racism that have been made during this campaign, my experience is that his supporters are far more likely to consider his race as an important factor in voting for him than his opponents are in voting against him.  My personal assessment that he is unqualified to be president has nothing to do with his race.  By any objective standard he is far less qualified than any recent President as well as all the recent major party nominees.

But a valid point could be raised that African American and other minority candidates will usually be “less qualified” by traditional criteria than white candidates due to the legacy of racism.   The same is true for women; Hillary Clinton was criticized by Obama supporters for pointing to her experience as First Lady as part of her qualifications, but she was fulfilling a traditional gender roll in supporting Bill when he was President.

The Presidency of the United States is far too important a position to be given to anyone who is unready or unqualified.  But there has been a dearth of top tier candidates who were not both white and male.  The remedy for historical racism and sexism is to provide more qualified women and minority candidates.

In modern times, almost all of our Presidents have come from a pool that includes Senators, Governors, and Vice Presidents.  Eisenhower, who was the Supreme Allied Commander in World War II, was the lone exception.  That’s a pretty small group.  Realistically speaking, in any given election year there are only a few viable candidates.  This year saw an exceptionally large field of contenders for both parties, but only a handful survived past the first couple of contests.

There are currently 50 Governors, 100 Senators, 435 Representives and 1 Vice President, as well as another 10-20 Cabinet Secretaries and other top government and military posts.  Let’s just round that off to 600 spots that could be considered stepping-stones to the Presidency.  I’m including the House of Representatives even though it’s been a while since we elected someone directly from that body to the White House.  Let’s say that each of those positions is potentially within one or two steps of the Big Kahuna.

If the people currently holding those offices were a fair reflection of the population, 74 would be black, 76 would be hispanic, about 60 would be asian or other minorities, at least 12 would be LBGT and 300 would be women (including half of all the minority and LGBT)  Instead, most of these positions are filled by straight white males, especially when you exclude the House of Representatives.

There are stepping-stones to each of those positions as well, and on down to the entry levels of politics.  There are thousands of starting points in politics, including local government, business and government service.  In theory and in practice, there is a winnowing process that weeds out the unfit, and, to mix metaphors, allows the cream to rise to the top.

But as long as the input is overwhelmingly white, straight and male, so too will be the output.


They’re Down With OPP!

July 25, 2008

   I was disappointed to learn that John Edwards was caught with his hand in the nookie jar the other night.  I was originally an Edwards supporter (because Gore didn’t run) and I began supporting Hillary after he dropped out.  Although I now realize Hillary was by far the superior candidate, I still felt kinda sentimental about John. 

Not anymore.  My sympathies are reserved for Elizabeth, along with best wishes for her health.

John Edwards was seen going to the Beverly Hilton to meet Rielle Hunter (aka Lisa Druck) who gave birth to a child allegedly fathered by Edwards.  Even though the story comes from the National Enquirer, I find it credible because it contains specific details rather than anonymous rumors.  The Enquirer was tipped off and staked out the hotel with several reporters, and Edwards was seen entering and leaving.  Edwards’ latest denial is unconvincing.

Normally I wouldn’t touch a topic like this (yeah, right, who am I kidding) but there is an angle I think is worth pondering.  Who tipped off the Enquirer, and why?

Back in 2004, Barack Obama was running in the Illinois Democratic Senate primary against several opponents, and was running second behind Blair Hull, who had a substantial lead, along with money and name recognition.  But when rumors of domestic violence surfaced in the media, Hull had to resign and Obama went on to win the nomination.

The winner of the GOP primary was Jack Ryan, but he also had to resign when juicy details from his divorce from actress Jeri Ryan were disclosed in the media.  The Illinois GOP asked Alan Keyes to take the nomination, but he was little more than token opposition and Obama was elected.

Last summer and fall, Barack Obama was running neck and neck with Hillary Clinton and John Edwards.  Edwards was the favorite of many in the so-called progressive blogosphere, having been Kerry’s running mate in 2004 and having positioned himself as a “populist.”  Obama needed to eliminate Edwards in order to turn it into a two-person race and to consolidate the anti-Clinton vote which he and Edwards were splitting.

Suddenly, rumors began to surface about Edwards having an affair, a particularly damaging allegation because Elizabeth Edwards was battling cancer and her condition generated enormous sympathy.  Then, shortly before the Iowa caucuses, the National Enquirer reported that Hunter was pregnant with Edwards’ child.  Edwards denied the allegations and a close friend of his, Andrew Young, claimed he was the father of Hunter’s child.  (Young is married with small children)

How much impact this had on the Iowa caucuses is unknown, but Obama finished in first place, with Edwards narrowly beating Hillary to claim second.  Five days later Edwards finished a distant third in New Hampshire, and shortly before Super Tuesday on January 30, 2008 Edwards announced he was suspending his campaign.

With his campaign suspended he was out of the public eye, and the scandal seemed to go away.  Although he stated he was not going to make an endorsement until the primaries were completed, on May 14th John Edwards (but not Elizabeth) unexpectedly endorsed Obama. 

He initially stated he was not interested in being Obama’s running mate, but on June 15th he walked that back and said he would take the job if it was offered.  There were rumors that he was on Obama’s short list of VP candidates, and his name was also suggested as a possible Attorney General if Obama won.

Senator Obama has shown he does not want any independent sources of power within the Democratic party that are not under his control.  He doesn’t want anyone donating to independent groups like Move On, and he hung Wes Clark out to dry when Clark criticized McCain.  For obvious reasons Obama doesn’t want a strong and experienced running mate (like Hillary) because he will look weak and shallow by comparison.  He has also moved the DNC offices to Chicago in order to place it under his control.

This makes me wonder if the Obama campaign was behind the tip-off to the National Enquirer.  Even though the mainstream media whores are mostly ignoring the story, it is enough to provide an excuse for them to pass on Edwards, even if there were promises made to secure Edwards’ endorsement. (“Gee, John, I know we promised you the VP slot, but with this scandal it’s just not possible now.  Sorry“)

I’m just speculating, but it fits the pattern.  The people at the Enquirer know who tipped them off.  Under the circumstances, the identity of the tipster is at least as important (if not more) than the tip.  And since this is the Enquirer, I don’t think they should try to hide behind “journalistic ethics” or any such crap.  C’mon boys, fess up.  Who told you?


Clown of the Week July 21-27 Heath Ledger

July 23, 2008

Rest in peace


What Have You Done For Me Lately?

July 23, 2008

It sounds cynical, but a political campaign can be viewed as a bidding competition. Candidates need votes to get elected, and the one who buys the most votes wins (unless Diebold is counting the ballots.) They don’t usually pay cash but promising a tax cut comes pretty damn close.

They promise to pass new laws, or to repeal old ones. They assure you that they will end waste, fraud and abuse, while making government more efficient. The put out a laundry list of promises hoping that your favorite issues will be covered. And just to see if you’re paying attention, they promise to pay for increased spending with tax cuts.

Our two-party system results in interest groups forming coalitions to support one party and its candidates. Although all of us have diverse issues we care about, some people have a pet issue or cause that they care about much more than the others. These people are often misnamed as “single issue voters.” In Parliamentary systems with multiple parties the elected representatives themselves tend to be more narrowly focused, so the coalition building happens after the election rather than before.

Conventional wisdom says that the GOP is supported by greedy businessmen, holy rollers and warmongers, while the Democratic party’s core constituency is a coalition of anti-American dope-smoking hippies, whiny minorities and man-hating, hairy-legged feminists. It is an article of faith among some progressives that blue-collar workers belong in the Democratic party but vote for GOP candidates because they are “low-information” racists.

The basic premise of a coalition is working together for mutual benefit. It isn’t limited to issues everyone agrees on, it also includes helping other groups achieve their goals with the implied or express covenant that they will help you achieve yours. Sometimes those various goals are in conflict with each other, and unless a compromise is reached the coalition may splinter.

In theory, the candidates and parties adopt platforms that reflect the combined agendas of the coalition members. But those platforms are meaningless if they only receive lip service after the election. Even worse is when the politicians secretly pursue agendas of their own that conflict with their stated platforms.

The old Democratic coalition is in disarray and may not survive. There are a number of different causes of this conflict, but one of the primary problems is that the Democratic leadership (including many of the current Representatives and Senators) have their own agenda, and they are aggressively pursuing it at the expense of their constituents. The FISA bill vote is a perfect example of this. There is no “Democratic” constituency that supported the FISA bill, and most Democrats were actively opposed to it, yet it was pushed forward by Pelosi, Hoyer, Reid and Obama,

Although the situation did not develop overnight, it became glaringly obvious during this year’s primaries primaries that some coalition members were very unhappy. Women comprise the single largest group of disaffected Democrats, but they are not alone. LGBT and Hispanic voters did not support the presumptuous nominee, nor did many old-school DFHs. It’s easy to understand their anger, because the Democratic leadership has breached the implied covenant that brought the coalition together.

There are several coalition factions whose goals I support but with less enthusiasm than they themselves have because I am not personally affected. I am opposed to racial discrimination but I am white. I support full and equal rights for LGBTs, but I’m a flaming heterosexual. I am pro-choice but will never have to choose because I am male. But even though those are other people’s issues they are is not in conflict with my own. I believe in protecting civil liberties and limiting the abuse of government power, particularly in regards to criminal law. I also believe in using the power of government to improve the quality of life of everyone, and to protect the weak against the strong.

For many years now I have faithfully cast my vote for whatever Democrat was on the ballot, often without making any inquiry other than party affiliation. But the reality is that for most of those years I simply gave my vote away, because I got nothing in return, for myself or for other coalition members. (The exception was the eight years of the Clinton administration.)

All those years I took pride in my party loyalty and now I realize I was just a fool, because I was telling the Democratic party and candidates they could take me for granted and ignore my wants and needs. The could pursue their own agendas without interference from me, because no matter what they did (or failed to do) they could count on my vote.

If I had been more disloyal they might have offered to pay me for my vote instead paying me no attention. Who knows what I could have got in return for my vote? I might have universal health care right now instead of my current plan which is called “don’t get sick.” We might even have “Congressional oversight” of the Bush Mob.

It wasn’t just me that screwed up though, it was the entire Democratic coalition. Our parents and grandparents allied their factions with others to form the coalition, which gravitated to the Democratic party because it had a liberal/progressive ideology. Some coalition members, like blue-collar workers, joined during the New Deal, but others became members during the Civil Rights era when minorites took the place of Southern conservatives. The conservatives and reactionaries who were unwilling or uninterested in staying in the coalition migrated to the GOP.

But beginning in the 1960’s and 70’s, the Democratic party started to become less responsive to the coalition’s agenda. They still said they supported the agenda, but they quit fighting for it. They made excuses, and blamed the Republicans for obstructionism, even when the Democratic party controlled Congress and the White House. They let Ronald Reagan and Newt Gingrich turn “liberal” into a dirty word. The Village idiots joined in, propagating the idea that liberalism is a bad thing, and constantly preaching that if Democrats want to win elections they have to become Republicans.

And the coalition fell for it, booing and hissing at the GOP while loyally voting for Democrats. Eventually it got to the point where the Democratic leadership did nothing, or even worked against the coalition goals. They couldn’t get legislation we supported passed, nor could they stop the GOP from passing legislation we opposed. But we kept voting for them anyway.

Now they even have the chutzpah to demand our support after they ignored the will of a majority of Democrats and gamed the system in order to force upon us an unqualified nominee for President.

Imagine if the PUMA movement had been around for a couple decades instead of a couple months. Imagine if PUMAs were adamant that they would not vote for bad candidates, even if it meant letting a Republican hold the office temporarily. More importantly, imagine if they demanded something concrete in exchange for their votes.

Eventually the Do-Nothing Democrats would be replaced with candidates who cared about our concerns, and were willing to fight for us. Or perhaps those new candidates would appear in the GOP or in a viable third party. (Once upon a time there were liberal Republicans, perhaps one day soon they will return)

So how do we fix this mess? First of all, we must stand firm and refuse to give our votes away any longer. If the Democratic party wants our votes, they must pay us for them, and not with promises. Their credit is maxed out. Since there is no promise we can trust, they must give us a nominee we can trust. Obama ain’t it, and if he is the nominee we will not support him, and will actively oppose him.

And either way, if they want our votes 2 or 4 years from now they will have to pay for them again. They will have to pay for our votes every election, and can never rest on their laurels. “What have you done for me lately?” is a question every incumbent Democrat better be able to answer satisfactorily.

There is a tacit admission in every appeal for “party loyalty” that the party has failed us. If we were satisfied with the performance of the Democratic party and the presumptuous nominee, PUMA would not exist.  “Party loyalty” is merely a promise to pay later, a request for credit. 

Never again should we profess loyalty to any political party or candidate. Our only loyalty should be to ourselves, to each other, and to our principles. But we should demand loyalty from politicians and parties, and we should expect them to prove it, over and over. We should not give politicians or parties the benefit of the doubt on the votes they make or the people they associate with and accept money and gifts from.

Our nomination and election process is completely FUBAR’d, including both the party rules as well as the law. We should have one uniform set of laws, regulations and rules, and both party nominations and the general election should be determined by popular vote. We also need comprehensive campaign finance reform including the requirement that television networks and stations set aside a certain amount of time for candidates to use free or at minimal cost.

Barack Obama must be defeated. Preferably at the convention with the assistance of the super delegates, but if necessary in November with the assistance of John McCain. And we must root out the cancer that infects our party leadership. Barack Obama is the visible manifestation of the illness, but it’s roots run much deeper.

That’s why we should think of John McCain as chemotherapy for our party. When a cancer patient undergoes chemo, his or her doctor prescribes a drug cocktail that will make the patient very ill, but will hopefully kill the cancer. Allowing the GOP to control the White House is bitter medicine, but necessary to restore the moral health of the Democratic party.

Obama trolls like to falsely accuse PUMAs of being “McCain supporters.” That accusation is false because PUMA’s don’t look forward to a McCain administration, but they consider Obama the evil of two lessers. If Obama wins in November it will take years for the Democratic party to recover.

Our country is currently in a situation that historians refer to in technical terms as “deep shit.” The economy, the environment, and the war in Iraq are each a major crisis, and yet they are only part of problem the next President will face. The solutions won’t be easy or quick.

But before we can deal with the problems facing this country we need to put our own house in order. That means we need to either clean-out the corruption in the Democratic party or we need to build a viable third party. Reforming the Democratic party would be easier and quicker, because rank-and-file Democrats are not corrupt, but in order to do that we must first discredit and disempower Obama and his supporters in the party leadership. Losing the election would be a repudiation of his campaign tactics as well as his supporters behavior, but would not harm the party nearly as much as a failed presidency would.

So let us put our votes up for sale. The minimum bid is a qualified nominee for President. Bidding will remain open until November 4, 2008.