STRIKE ONE

Posted in Quick Hits on April 30th, 2009 by Ed

Well, my suspicion that Chrysler was in far worse shape than GM appears to have been correct. They're the first one to crawl into bankruptcy court.

A VERY SPECIAL FJM FOR MICHAEL STEELE

Posted in Rants on April 30th, 2009 by Ed

RNC Chairman Michael Steele sent the following email to the RNC listserve on Tuesday. Despite my explicit desire to spread out the FJM series, this is an opportunity one cannot overlook.

Dear _______,

I hope Arlen Specter's party change outrages you. It should for two reasons:

"Hi, I'm Michael Steele, token black guy and second-in-command to whichever talk radio jackass is leading you people these days. We fucked up – bad. But if your blind, ignorant rage got us into this mess it can certainly get us out! Am I right? Am I right?"

First–Specter claimed it was philosophical–and pointed his finger of blame at Republicans all over America for his defection to the Democrats. He told us all to go jump in the lake today.

Well, you were all really nice to him. This is quite a mystery. Scotland Yard is working on it. Two separate teams working in 12-hour shifts. One of them has a bloodhound.

I'm sorry, but I don't believe a word he said.

Luckily for Senator SuperJowls, it no longer matters whether or not you believe him.

Arlen Specter committed a purely political and self-serving act today. He simply believes he has a better chance of saving his political hide and his job as a Democrat. He loves the title of Senator more than he loves the party–and the principles–that elected him and nurtured him.

This is copied verbatim from the email the RNC sent out when Dick Shelby and Ben Nighthorse Campbell abandoned the Democrats and joined the GOP in 1994. The Republicans responded by refusing to admit those gentlemen to their caucus. Moral outrage knows no partisanship.

Second–and more importantly–Arlen Specter handed Barack Obama and his band of radical leftists

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nearly absolute power in the United States Senate. In leaving the Republican Party–and joining the Democrats–he absolutely undercut Republicans' efforts to slow down Obama's radical agenda through the threat of filibuster.

According to a statistic I just made up, 97% of Americans vehemently oppose the President and his radical plan to steal our guns and fluoridate our water.

Facing defeat in Pennsylvania's 2010 Republican primary due to his left-wing voting record

No, I'd say it's primarily because the Pennsylvania GOP is tiny and unrepresentative of the majority of the voters in the state. You know, the people required to win the general election. The GOP brand name is as marketable as "E.Coli Cafeteria" or "Childrape Daycare Center" up here. His voting record reflects his constituents. They live in Philly and State College and Scranton, not Beaumont, Texas.

and an end to his 30 year career in the U.S. Senate, he has peddled his services–and his vote–to the leftist Obama Democrats who aim to remake America with their leftist plan.

Oh, he didn't do that to help the leftist Obama leftists leftistly enact their leftist plan. He did it for revenge, to stick it in the GOP's ass sans lube. Unless blood counts as lube.

For the RNC, the last step in proofreading documents for release to the media is to have an intern go through and add "leftist" in as many places as possible.

As recently as April 9th, Senator Specter said he would run in the Pennsylvania primary next year as a Republican. Why the sudden change of heart?

Someday they will come for you too, Michael, and then you will understand. Also, I bet being assholes to the man for 25 years had something to do with it.

Clearly, this was an act based on political expediency by a craven politician desperate to keep his Washington power base–not the act of a statesman.

Awesome. Accuse the man of being craven and desperate to keep his Washington power base as a means of criticizing him for undermining the craven GOP's desperate effort to keep its Washington power base.

His defection to the Democrat Party

"-ic". Someone really needs to catch this typo at RNC Headquarters, pictured here:

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puts the Democrats in an almost unstoppable position to pass Obama's destructive agenda of income redistribution, health care nationalization, and a massive expansion of entitlements.

No, the fact that you can't win a Senate seat north of Gatlinburg put the Democrats in that position.

Arlen Specter has put his loyalty to his own political career above his duty to his state and nation.

This is why the GOP strongly opposed Joe Lieberman's independent candidacy. Principle First every time with these people. Also, Arlen Specter's duty is to obstruct the White House and the overwhelming Congressional majority while taking marching orders from backward closet cases in Colorado Springs.

You and I have a choice. Some will use Specter's defection as an excuse to fold the tent and give up.

Fortunately it's a pretty goddamn small tent – one of those 20-ounce ultralight backpacking jobs; I highly recommend Kelty – so it shouldn't take long.

I believe that you are not one of those people.

This is where he begins the Bill Pullman speech from the end of Independence Day. They originally used the "band of brothers" speech from Henry V but found that conservatives don't like things that come from books.

When Benedict Arnold defected to the British, George Washington didn't fold the tent and give up either.

Well, he didn't give up because Arnold's fabled treachery had little military significance and no deterrent effect on Washington's ability to fight. It's exciting to think that the GOP might be adopting a "George Washington strategy" though – complete with 1000 Hessian mercenaries, numerous river fordings, and a nasty outbreak of typhus.

He grit his teeth more determined than ever to succeed. That's what I'm asking you to do today.

Source: an interview with George Washington that I just made up.

Join me in this fight by making a secure online contribution of $25, $50, $100, $500 or $1,000 right now to build our army of supporters and defeat Democrat candidates like Arlen Specter in next year's elections.

The cash will be used to print signs reading ARLEN SPECTOR – SOCIALEST which will bring his campaign to its knees.

Stand with me. I need your support today.

I'd rather spend my money on organizations with greater odds of success than the GOP. That is why I just bought four Washington Nationals season tickets.

Sincerely,

Michael Steele
Chairman, Republican National Committee

Not for long, Yankee.

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UNSCHEDULED OUTAGE

Posted in Quick Hits on April 29th, 2009 by Ed

Dear readers, I have nearly exhausted my bandwidth for April – my first 50,000 hit month ever. It resets monthly, so on the off chance that the site becomes unavailable sometime on Thursday, April 30 be sure to check back on Friday rather than forgetting I exist and never returning.

Six years ago when we were lucky to pull 20 unique IPs per day – and that was a good day – I would never have imagined averaging 1500. Thank you.

OH YEAH? WELL…

Posted in Election 2010 on April 29th, 2009 by Ed

Eight years ago DeLay-Gingrich-Bush style politics bit the Republican Party in the ass. Hard. Today we see that what separates the GOP from higher-order primates is the ability of the latter, and inability of the former, to learn from such a mistake.

The year was 2001. Senator Jim Jeffords (R-VT) had committed a grievous ideological error. By opposing President Bush's $1.6 trillion tax cut proposal, Jeffords forced the White House to accept compromise legislation with a mere $1.2 trillion in tax cuts. If that doesn't sound like a crime in need of immediate and vicious retribution, well, then you don't understand the brilliance of the people who were in charge back then. Frist, Bush, DeLay, and the rest of the GOP power brokers were unambiguous: Jeffords had to pay.

The GOP leadership in Congress refused to renew a dairy subsidy bill that was important to Vermont farmers or to fully fund Jeffords' pet legislation, the dastardly and controversial "Individuals with Disabilities Education Act." Jim, you partisan hack. The White House added petty insults like refusing to invite Jeffords to an event at which a Vermonter was given the national Teacher of the Year award. "Heh heh heh," the GOP braintrust chuckled amidst considerable back-slapping and cigar-puffing, "we showed that fruity Yankee."

Unable to conceive of what Jeffords could possibly do in response to their coordinated onslaught, they were legitimately shocked when he responded to their "fuck you" with a resounding, "Oh yeah? Well fuck you." Jeffords left the GOP and threw the majority to the Democrats for the first time since 1994.

The GOP learned nothing from the ordeal, of course, and in the intervening eight years it has grown even less tolerant of "RINOs" (moderates) or any deviation from the ideological gospel. It would be facile to say that Arlen Specter's flip represents mere opportunism. In reality, this represents the culmination of fifteen years of hostility and harrassment directed at the dopey Pennsylvanian. Politicians expect that from the opposition, but not from their own party.

Back in 2005 Jeffrey Toobin wrote an excellent piece about how all-or-nothing GOP "nuclear option" politics were slowly crushing all of the party's moderates. Having already claimed the careers of most of his liberal Republican colleagues, Specter bore the full brunt of the talk radio hostility alone.

Specter, of Pennsylvania, was elected in 1980. These days, in his office overlooking the Supreme Court, he surveys, not happily, the current state of his party—especially the disappearance of moderates like him. “We had a lot of senators,” he said. “We could go on and on and on,” and he named, as examples of this group, Bob Packwood, Mark Hatfield, Lowell Weicker, Charles Mathias, and John Heinz. “And we don’t have them now. So it’s not good for the Party, and it’s not good for the country. It’s not good for the Party because you need balance. You need to be a national party.”

By 2005 Specter, a 25 year Senate veteran, was reduced to taking orders from Texans and Alabamans who had been in the Senate for about five minutes. The party humiliated him by forcing him to audition for his Judiciary chairmanship – on national television.

“I have not and would not use a litmus test to deny confirmation to pro-life nominees,” Specter said, in the weary monotone of a Soviet prisoner forced to confess his ideological errors. “I have voted for all of President Bush’s judicial nominees in committee and on the floor, and I have no reason to believe that I’ll be unable to support any individual President Bush finds worthy of nomination.”

“Everyone who pays attention knows that Senator Specter comes from a state and a segment of the Party that are to the left of the President and the Republican caucus,” John Cornyn, a conservative first-term senator from Texas, said. “I have been pretty pleased from what I’ve seen of Senator Specter’s performance so far.”

Specter didn't need the GOP, and the GOP didn't think it needed him. After nearly being defeated by a wingnut primary challenger in 2004, he won the general election by 11% – in a state John Kerry won. He didn't have a hard time getting Pennsylvanians to vote for him; it was the DC radio hosts, the cowboy-hatted hick Congressmen from Texas, and the Colorado Springs televangelists that were giving him grief. As he geared up for another brutal primary challenge from far right "Club for Growth" candidate Pat Toomey, we don't need deep insights into Specter's mind to understand how readily he might conclude "You know what? I don't need this shit."

And he doesn't.

What did all the hostility toward Specter accomplish? What did Rush and Hannity and the Free Republic forums get in return for savagely attacking this nondescript guy for more than a decade? Well, they successfully drove him out of the party just as the GOP desperately clings to their last shred of influence in DC – the 41 seats needed to defeat cloture. As the increasingly readable David Frum said,

For a long time, the loudest and most powerful voices in the conservative world have told us that people like Specter aren’t real Republicans – that they don’t belong in the party. Now he’s gone, and with him the last Republican leverage within any of the elected branches of government.

Specter could have waited, of course, until late 2009 or early 2010. He claims that the timing of his announcement was dictated by the legalities of forming his re-election campaign. Maybe. In reality I think this is an old man, one who has had a brush with death and answers only to his conscience at this point, twisting the knife. This was carefully timed to inflict maximum damage. He is once again responding predictably to the actions of a party that never seems to learn the lesson that every ideological vendetta leads to ruin. Frum asks,

For years, many in the conservative world have wished for an ideologically purer GOP. Their wish has been granted. Happy?

Good question. They have plenty of time to ponder it.

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BREAKING: SPECTER A DEMOCRAT

Posted in Quick Hits on April 28th, 2009 by Ed

Straight from the horse's mouth on Specter2010.com:

Since my election in 1980, as part of the Reagan Big Tent, the Republican Party has moved far to the right. Last year, more than 200,000 Republicans in Pennsylvania changed their registration to become Democrats. I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans…I have decided to run for re-election in 2010 in the Democratic primary.

Self-preservation at its finest. My knee-jerk reaction is that he will cakewalk through 2010 as a Democrat. More on this soon.

APOSTASY, TORTOISE AND HARE STYLE

Posted in Rants on April 28th, 2009 by Ed

In consuming a lot of conservative media, mostly for the purpose of mocking it, I've noticed some outliers and an unmistakable recent trend.

Little Green Footballs, founded and primarily authored by Charles Johnson, is routinely lumped in with the hysterical wing of the right along with the likes of Malkin, Free Republic, Instarube, and so on. The funny thing is that I find LGF entirely reasonable, well-written, and intelligent – as long as they're not talking about Israel. On the Arab-Israeli conflict or "Islamic extremism" they are borderline fascists. Other than that issue, Mr. Johnson is alarmingly…normal. Sadly, No aptly describes Johnson as a solid fellow driven immediately and overwhelmingly insane by 9/11. But honestly, bring up any other topic and he does a startling impression of a sane, normal person with decent writing skills.

A few other folks like self-identified traditional conservative Andrew Sullivan or mushy centrist (media speak for conservative) Marc Ambinder are similarly readable. This is a select group, the closest thing that the right has to intelligent commentary. They have something else in common as well: they appear to be going through a slow, public disillusionment with the conservative movement and the GOP.

This is most obvious with Johnson and LGF. Being a smart fellow, he has occasionally parted company with some of the right's nonsense. For example he now routinely slags Glenn Beck as an embarrassment to the movement. Throughout the election was loudly critical of anti-Obama conspiracy theorists (i.e., the birth certificate dipshittery). He has warned the right about allying with European "nationalist" organizations in the War against Islamic Immigrants because of said groups' frequent neo-Nazi ties. Predictably, former wingnut allies like the certifiably-insane Pam Atlas (check out her self-photo) have branded him an apostate and turned on him with a vengance he has not previously experienced. Eventually Johnson decided to label Ms. Atlas a "hateblogger" and "shrieking lunatic" after she accused him of neo-Nazi ties.

This wingnut civil war/pissing contest may be of little interest to non-bloggers but it speaks to a much larger issue. Johnson, like many conservatives, is in the midst of a pitched battle with his conscience. His ideological biases and his intellect are crossing lightsabers. The result is a man who is very publicly coming to grips with the truth about his right-wing colleagues, who is forced to admit to his audience of millions, "Holy crap. The people who make up this movement are totally fucking bonkers."

You can see the same in Andrew Sullivan pointing out the idiocy of Glenn Reynolds and the Teabagging "movement" or Marc Ambinder saying, "My Republican friends keep asking me when I'll take the GOP seriously again and why I've stopped writing about ticky-tak political gamesmanship and GOP consultant tricks. When they're a serious party with serious ideas, then we can talk." Come toward the light, boys.

These examples should not be disregarded when attempting to understand why a historically low 21% of people are willing to admit to being a Republican these days. Everyone with half a brain has turned his or her back on the party in embarrassment. I assume you all have Republican friends and relatives. How many of them are proud to admit that affiliation these days? For the irreducibles, the 20% who say that W was our greatest President, the pride remains. But how can the average, educated conservative – bankers, cops, teachers, medical professionals, engineers, etc. – watch Glenn Beck's lunatic ranting and be anything but mortified? Now that the party is leaderless and wingnut radio hosts have stepped in to fill the void, the party's ability to attract anyone above the grade of "mouthbreather" is severely limited.

There are a lot of smart people in this country and they do not share a single political viewpoint. People disagree. Always have, always will. But smart people, by virtue of being smart, are embarrassed by the kind of demagoguery and stupidity that the right uses to keep the rubes frothing at the mouth and ready to cast a vote against The Homos. Many of us realized this a long time ago – in 1964 for the older folks, or 1980 for the Gen-Xers, or 2002 for the youngest voters – but a lot of die-hard conservatives are playing the part of the tortoise. They don't want to admit it, but with every day, every idiotic best-selling book, every talk radio segment, and every cheap piece of grandstanding by the few Republicans in visible public offices, the truth becomes just a little bit harder to ignore.

THE PROBLEM WITH PAYDAY LOANS

Posted in Rants on April 27th, 2009 by Ed

Desperate for a leader or at least a visible public figure who doesn't humiliate the entire movement, conservatives have recently rekindled their love for Margaret Thatcher. One of the Iron Nitwit's quotes has been making the rounds lately, popping up on t-shirts and bumper stickers hawked by people who lack the creativity to come up with their own slogans: "The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money." Interesting logic. Let's run with it.

Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels became something of a hero for the Cato Institute crowd while igniting a fierce controversy here in the Hoosier state when he announced a plan to auction off the rights to Indiana's toll roads. For a one-time payment of $3.8 billion dollars, the state surrendered the rights to a Spanish transportation conglomerate for 75 years. The system was making $160,000,000 in revenue annually. Indiana drivers (and long-haul truckers serving the state) have noticed no change in quality of the road conditions, which is good. They have noticed that all of the tolls have doubled, which is bad. So everything's the same except that the state no longer makes money from the endeavor and it costs more for the same services.

In Chicago, Mayor Daley and the county board are in the midst of an orgy of privatization as they desperately try to un-bugger municipal budgets that are bleeding red. Daley leased the city parking meters to Morgan Stanley for $1.16 billion – and rates immediately quadrupled. This is in addition to the 99 year lease on city parking garages that Da Mare sold Stanley for $563 million in 2006. And in September the city accepted a $2.52 billion bid on Midway Airport from a Citigroup-led team of investors.

As municipal governments across the country run out of revenue, this kind of cannibalization of assets will only become more common. Minnesota legislators are suggesting a "garage sale" of municipal assets starting with the airport, and in Texas they think that privatized roads are about the greatest idea since beer helmets. All of these transactions follow the exact same pattern: state surrenders revenue-generating asset to private bidder, private bidder forks over some up-front cash, and the costs to end users, i.e. you, double or triple.

Basically it's a payday loan. Only worse. And the problem with this strategy, as Ms. Thatcher would no doubt point out in the interest of ideological fairness, is that eventually you run out of shit to sell.

Only two kinds of people take out payday loans: the desperate and the phenomenally stupid. These state/local governments are among the former (and perhaps the latter, but for different reasons). I think they realize that the assets they're selling could produce more revenue over the life of the leases than the pittance they receive up-front, but…they need money now. As each dollar one borrows from Check-and-Pawn Express takes three or four future dollars out of one's wallet, each asset sale deals another blow to states' ability to generate revenue in the future. Draw your own conclusions about how pathetic it is that our governments are now responding to the same incentives, and in the same way, as the urban poor.

I see no conservative tears being shed over this future-mortgaging exercise in fiscal irresponsibility largely because, as usual, it is only the sacred ideology that matters. The Free Market is better than public ownership; so was it written, so shall it be. Why bother worrying about the fact that Chicago could make ten or fifteen times as much profit over the 99 years for which they've sold off city assets. Like a starving person, they can no longer conceive of a future and are beginning to digest their own organs in a desperate effort to get through the next minute, the next hour, or perhaps the next day.

So you get screwed and the Free Market wins big. Stop me if any of this sounds familiar.

WEEKEND BONUS: NO-COLLAR COMEDY TOUR

Posted in No Politics Friday on April 26th, 2009 by Ed

This premise is flawed.

Glenn Beck is bringing his summer comedy stage tour to movie theaters nationwideso that no matter where you live, you can join! Bring your family and take a trip to your local movie theater this summer (complete with comfy seats and air conditioning) to examine common sense, which is no longer common! Glenn spares no one, including politicians and celebrities, as he takes a look at the state of our culture and the frightening lack of common sense, especially in Washington. Explore the comedy behind the chaos that has become America. Hear the tales and revisit the wisdom that our grandfathers and forefathers relied on to build America.

I tried very hard to think of something with less potential to be funny. All I could think of was the Holocaust. I feel really, really bad for all the young people whose ignorant cracker parents are going to drag them to this and force them to think it's funny – and educational!

Note that Glenn intends to break new ground comedically by refusing to spare "politicians and celebrities" from his rapier wit.

NPF: BREAKING AWAY

Posted in No Politics Friday on April 24th, 2009 by Ed

One of the unique challenges to teaching at Indiana University is accomodating the annual ritual of binge drinking and disregard for public urination laws that accompanies the "Little 500" bike race, the event immortalized in the film Breaking Away. It combines everything an IU undergraduate holds dear: alcohol poisoning, dressing identically to one's bros/sisters at the frat/sorority, and skipping class. I suppose there is some sort of bike race as well, but that clearly is a tertiary concern.

Because the job of trying to motivate undergraduates through a sixteen week semester is not difficult enough, this event is jammed into the Spring semester one week before finals. To say that all academic activity on campus grinds to a halt for this spectacle is an understatement. In its place is all manner of generalized stupidity just as a normal teacher might be expecting to prepare his or her class for the final exam or set a due date for semester research papers. I mean, why go to class when you can get ballz drunk on Pucker at 9:00 AM? I haven't a good answer for that either, so don't feel bad.

Benefits to the non-undergraduate population of what is modestly advertised as "The World's Greatest College Weekend" include ankle-deep vomit on Jordan Avenue, the inability to get anywhere near campus, and visits from some of the biggest names in entertainment (in the eyes of an 18 year-old, I suppose). I don't want to brag about my town, but if you want to see Soulja Boy and Young Jeezy in rapid succession, this is the place to be right now.

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"This is how badly I want to win the Indiana Primary. Also, see Young Jeezy."

I must be getting old. I certainly sound like an old man brandishing a rake at kids who encroach upon his lawn. Regardless, there is clearly an age at which this type of spectacle – seven consecutive days of dawn-to-dusk drunkenness – loses its appeal. I know that some adults partake of this type of thing (i.e., Mardi Gras) but I doubt they can handle it physically all day, every day for a full week. The body just can't function on Keystone Light and Taco Bell at 7:30 in the morning in the harsh glare of adulthood. We need occasional sleep. We need a decent meal at semi-regular intervals. And unfortunately we have things to do. In my case that "thing" is trying to hold the attention of young people and perhaps even teach them something. If I sound crochety it results from the fact that the average IU student is not known for his studiousness at any point during the year; institutionalizing a week right before finals during which the campus-wide interest in academics drops to zero feels like fate, nature, and the Higher Power giving us the finger. The University, for its part, is an enabler, all but winking and telling its vast herd of East Coast kids who couldn't get into Penn State "It's OK, we know what you came here for."

Cue loud barfing backed by the righteous, original beats of Soulja Boy.

WHAT COULD GO WRONG?

Posted in Quick Hits on April 23rd, 2009 by Ed

Imagine a Teabagging rally, only scarier and more heavily armed. You might have something like the "Million Militiaman March." You'd also have the worst idea since Lincoln decided he wanted to see Our American Cousin. On a scale of one to ten, this is going to go reeeeeeeeeally well.

(Sorry for the shorty; regular full-size posts will return later today.)