B SQUAD

Posted in Election 2012 on June 14th, 2011 by Ed

If I was a Republican who firmly believed that Barack Obama is destroying America and Must Be Stopped in 2012, I would have spent the majority of the CNN New Hampshire GOP Primary debate on Monday night sliding the barrel of a gun into my mouth and slowly talking myself out of it before repeating the process at five minute intervals. Since I'm not a Republican, I spent those two hours of my life (which unfortunately I can never get back) in absolute shock that there is a non-negligible chance that one of these drooling idiots will be the next president of the United States.

Three observations:

1. It's stunningly clear in the side-by-side comparison that Mitt Romney is the only one of these candidates with half of a functioning brain in his head. I think he's wrong about just about everything (more on that momentarily) but god forbid a tanking economy turns 2012 into an "anyone but the incumbent" election and we get stuck with one of these people. Romney might be a douchebag, but better a d-bag with access to the nuclear codes than one of these other vacant-eyed sociopaths.

2. This debate had nothing to do with answering questions or taking positions – it was Kowtow to the Donor Base, Evangelicals, and Tea Party Night. Anyone else enjoy the surreal sequence in which Pawlenty, Romney, and Bachmann tried to out-tax-cut one another? Romney proposed taking the corporate tax rate from 35% to 25%. T-Paw one-upped him with 15% last week. Tonight, Bachmann threw down to the tune of 9% (with no capital gains tax, estate tax, or AMT…and a tax increase on the lowest bracket). It was like watching three children fight over who loves mommy more. All seven debaters participated in a spirited round of "No, I hate Obamacare the most!" followed by the requisite "Who is the most pro-life pro-lifer?" sparring match. The candidates, sans Bachmann, didn't even look like their hearts were in any of this. Romney and T-Paw in particular had that McCain 2008 look of resignation, the one that shouts "I have to say this but very little of me believes it." CNN's crowd shots were a great reminder of who these candidates were trying to impress on Monday evening:

Dance faster, monkeys. The bloated plutocrats are not impressed.

3. The GOP analysts and talking heads are buzzing about a "big opening" (insert joke here) for Rick Perry. First, that's little more than a polite way of saying "Wow, these people are just terrible." Second, Perry is quickly turning into Fred Thompson 2012, the maybe-candidate on whom the party can pin its hopes of saving Republicans from this terrible field. In practice a Rick Perry candidacy would probably work about as well as Thompson's "campaign" did in 2008. The party faithful are just using him as a blank slate on which to project their fantasies of a perfect candidate; in reality he is a deeply flawed politician whose bullshit flies in Lubbock but doesn't scale up well to the national stage. And don't forget that every other candidate has a 2+ year head start on him in Iowa, New Hampshire, and other early states. The louder the drumbeat gets for a Knight in shining armor to save the party, the poorer the odds that any such person will actually materialize. If Perry thought he would walk away with the nomination he'd be in.

God help us all.

NOTHING EVER CHANGES

Posted in Rants on June 13th, 2011 by Ed

(title cf. Brainiac)

The American fascination with the dongs of our elected officials is hard to take. On one hand I can see why the average moralistic (and probably hypocritical, but that's another story) voter would consider extramarital shenanigans to be conduct unbecoming a public official. Anthony Weiner can testify to the consequences, as can John Ensign, John Edwards, Mark Sanford, Vito Fossella, and so many others (although the occasional curious case, like David "Senator Hookers" Vitter, does get a pass for no readily apparent reason). On the other hand, why can't Americans find the same sense of deep moral outrage over Congressional corruption and malfeasance unless it involves the wang?

Yes, the occasional high profile corruption bust happens when an elected official practically gets caught holding giant sacks of money with dollar signs on them (William Jefferson, Duke Cunningham, Operation Tennessee Waltz, etc). But for the most part sex scandals are career enders whereas all manner of trading influence and favors for campaign contributions or schemes that line the Congressman's own pockets is usually greeted with a shrug. I mean, hey, Joe Lieberman may be little more than a paid shill for AIPAC, the financial industry, and insurance companies, but he doesn't cheat on his wife. What a guy. Sure, John Cornyn would support legislation to allow energy companies to strip mine Arlington National Cemetery, but we've never seen his penis, have we? Class act!

Most Americans are far too young or uninterested to remember the Abscam scandal from 1978-1981. The FBI employed the services of a professional con man (which I believe is the plot of a TV show now) to engineer a sting to catch corrupt elected officials. An undercover FBI agent posed as a mysterious Arab sheik who offered large sums of money in exchange for political favors – in this case, granting him legal asylum in the U.S., soliciting wealthy investors for a foreign investment scheme, and helping the "sheik" illegally transfer his fortune into the U.S. To their credit, some members who were approached either declined to meet with him or directly rejected offers of a bribe. Some weren't that bright. Five members of the House and a Senator (Harrison Williams of New Jersey) were indicted and, believe it or not, actually went to prison.

Suspend your disbelief for a moment and suppose that the FBI would actually do something like this today: What percentage of Congress do you think would take the bribes? What percentage do you think would spurn a bribe but accept something like campaign contributions, favors for family members, or other less obvious gifts? What percentage would, as South Dakota Senator Larry Pressler did during Abscam, say "No. Wait a minute. What you are suggesting may be illegal," leave, and immediately contact the FBI? More importantly, what portion of the voting public would be as up in arms about this kind of behavior as they are about "sexting"? Hell, unless the FBI happened to catch the exact same number of Republicans and Democrats the whole thing would probably be written off as a partisan witch hunt.

It's heartening, I suppose, that the voting public is willing to hold people like Anthony Weiner responsible for their behavior. So hooray, we are capable of caring. Now if only we could start holding them accountable for something that actually matters.

NPF: ONE WORD…PLASTICS

Posted in No Politics Friday on June 10th, 2011 by Ed

Since the future is so depressing, let's spend a day enjoying the whimsical charms of the past.

1. The best thing about the dawning of the Atomic Age was the belief that Science was going to save us and Progress would lead us to a better, brighter future. Now Progress is a nice way of explaining layoffs and the industrial revolution is as likely to end up killing us all as saving us. But let us set that aside for the moment in honor of NPF and enjoy this (click to embiggen):

Not a day goes by that I don't wish I had attended Plastics Industries Technical Institute rather than getting a Ph.D. Not even close to kidding.

2. Hey, now that we're all aboard the Fuck Libraries train – pure socialism, and they're like, what, 90% of the federal budget? – take a look at this interesting time capsule. My, how the times have changed.

Early-1971, in an effort to attract as many youngsters to the premises as possible, Marguerite Hart — children's librarian at the newly-opened public library in Troy, Michigan — wrote to a number of notable people with a request: to reply with a congratulatory letter, addressed to the children of Troy, in which the benefits of visiting such a library were explained in some form. It's heartening to know that an impressive 97 people did exactly that, and below are just four of those replies, all from authors: Isaac Asimov; Hardie Gramatky; Theodore Geisel; and E. B. White.

Check out Dr. Seuss. And all the others (including authors, elected officials, etc.) on the Troy Public Library Flickr site. Before they close the library.

3. I have a cellphone from the dark ages. OK, not really, but it predates smartphones by several years. Hand me an iPhone or Android and I stare at it like the apes finding the monolith in 2001. Then I randomly stab my finger at the screen until the owner says, "Here, I'll do it." To smartphone users like you this is comical; it's so obvious that the idea of someone being unable to figure it out is silly. With that in mind, please enjoy this 10-minute video, Now You Can Dial, produced by AT&T in 1954 to…explain using a rotary dial telephone.

Its advice seems ludicrous ("Wait for the dial tone!", the difference between the ring tone and busy signal, how to work the dial) but to people who were used to the operator making connections for them it probably needed to be said.

Also, 1950s corporate film. Win.

NOPE

Posted in Rants on June 9th, 2011 by Ed

Jack Cafferty on CNN is never one to miss an opportunity to be an alarmist for the purpose of stirring the pot and starting conversations. That is potentially a useful function in a media culture that prioritizes cheerleading and the defense of the status quo. Sometimes, though, I can't tell if Cafferty is asking serious questions or merely going for shock value. Every C-list talk radio host understands the fine art of asking something offensive – "So let's open up the phones to hear what you think about my proposal to mark Muslims with a hot cattle brand…" – to generate interest. That may have been Cafferty's motive when asking viewers to sound off on, "What are the chances the U.S. economy could eventually trigger violence in our country?"

Is that a serious question? I feel like treating is as a serious question even if it isn't.

The knee-jerk answer is "Oh yeah, stock up on guns and MREs. It's gonna be all Thunderdome up in here by 2014 – or possibly even beyond Thunderdome." That answer passes the smell test. Americans have more household debt, less savings, less wealth, and poorer job prospects than at any point since the Great Depression. People increasingly feel strained to the breaking point, frustrated, depressed, powerless, and desperate. Those who don't feel like that are fearful of the people who do. Income inequality is appallingly high, and historically that's an excellent predictor of civil disorder. We already have a higher percentage of our population in prison than any other Western nation. Oh, and we're tits-deep in guns. So sure, the ingredients for violence prompted by economic conditions are there.

That said, I tend to think that the prospects for violence are poor for a number of reasons.

1. Americans are too lazy, uninterested, disheartened, docile, or busy supplicating themselves before their economic betters to put together a half-decent protest rally.

1a. The closest we've come to a half-decent sized rally involved elderly, ignorant, porcine reactionaries waving around misspelled signs and screaming for more upper class tax cuts. I don't think we can even rebel correctly.

2. There's no common purpose. Sure, everyone's angry. Maybe even violently angry. At what? Half of us are ready to start a class war and the other half are polishing up their guns to defend upper class tax cuts, shoot at Mexicans / Muslims / black people, and basically form a circular firing squad rather than focusing on the problem. We'd fight about what we are fighting about. I can't think of anything more pointless.

3. As individuals get closer to their own breaking point, resorting to crime or lone acts of violence seems more probable than any kind of collective action.

The only thing that makes collective violence seem like a plausible outcome is the sense of a very real, profound, and widespread loss of hope in this country. Does anyone actually look forward to the future? Think that sunny days are on the horizon? Believe that the political system can solve our problems (without 1000 unrealistic "ifs")? People who feel that way probably exist, but either they're very quiet or there aren't many of them. The 2008 and 2010 elections both generated a lot of excitement among different portions of the electorate and to say that the results have been disappointing is a rank understatement. Do Obama voters think four more years will bring "change"? At best they consider him the less-terrible of two options. Do Republicans really believe that going to rallies in stupid hats and voting for clueless ideologues who will Go Native the second they enter their offices is going to balance the budget and solve our problems? I doubt it, a small, vocal minority of true believers aside.

The biggest problem is that young people are more pessimistic about the future – their own and of this country – than ever before. If you're under 40, do you even have any long term plans, goals, or hopes anymore? The short- and long-term pictures are both bleak. We're unemployed, marginally employed, or tenuously holding onto one of the few decent jobs to be had in the short term, and in the long term we can look forward to…I don't know, working until we drop dead. And we'll do it in a country that will keep getting dumber, more dilapidated, poorer, and more like the average Banana Republic than the Super Great Land of Success we were told we live in.

Personally I don't think I'm going to live to see a civil war or mass rioting. I'm not confident that what I will live to see will be much better than that, though.

BAYH BAYH BABY

Posted in Quick Hits on June 8th, 2011 by Ed

Last night was a comedy night, so a real post is still forthcoming. For now, I said the following about Evan Bayh in March of 2010 while criticizing Ezra Klein's overly deferential interview of the retiring gasbag:

Now that he has had this spiritual epiphany he's quitting a position of tremendous power because attempting to fix the problem would be too hard. Thanks for playing. I have fifty bucks that says he takes a lobbying job six months after his term ends.

I want my $50. And for the Chamber of Commerce of all places. What, Lockheed Martin wasn't hiring?

SENATE 2012: SON OF A…

Posted in Election 2012 on June 7th, 2011 by Ed

We've already talked quite a bit about the upcoming presidential race. It may turn out to be less than enthralling, though, if the GOP nominates a dud and Obama finds himself on solid ground as the campaign heats up. The odds that the race will be competitive have increased with the seemingly accidental anointing-by-attrition of Mitt Romney, who is both the only remaining viable contender and the only one with a realistic shot at the incumbent. Regardless, the Senate races may end up being the more interesting story in 2012.

Way back in 2006** I noted that the terrain was unfavorable for the GOP because it was forced to defend a considerably greater number of Senate seats compared to the Democrats. Well, given the success of Democratic candidates that year it is now the Democrats who are disadvantaged by high levels of exposure in 2012. There are 33 races scheduled. Retirement is taking six Democrats but only two Republicans (both in safe seats). Of incumbents seeking reelection, the Democrats must defend 17 seats compared to only 8 for the Republicans. Obviously these numbers are subject to some change if additional incumbents retire, although most of the official announcements of candidacy have already been made.

The Democrats currently hold a 53 seat majority in the chamber including the two caucusing independents (with the high likelihood of replacing a retiring Joe Lieberman with a real Democrat). Most of the early analysis treats the loss of the chamber as a foregone conclusion. Is it?

Of the six retiring Democrats, one (Kent Conrad, ND) is a Republican lock. North Dakota's odd all-Democrat congressional delegation as late as 2009 was an anomaly the party could not expect to enjoy forever. That leaves 52.

In Nebraska, Ben Nelson is highly unlikely to be elected to a third term. The GOP field is weak but it may not matter in a state like Nebraska. Though Nelson is not 100% dead in the water, the vultures are circling. That leaves 51.

The four tightest, most exciting races this year will be a group of toss-up seats currently held by Democrats: WI (Kohl retirement), VA (Webb retirement), MT (Tester vs. Rehberg), and MO (Clare McCaskill). The Democrats would have to win three of those just to hold a 50-50 tie in the chamber, and that's not even counting additional races that are likely to be competitive like Florida (Bill Nelson), New Mexico (Bingaman retirement), Minnesota (Amy Klobuchar), and Ohio (Sherrod Brown). The odds of the Democrats winning seven or eight of the eight races mentioned here seem poor unless A) Obama somehow wins in a 2008-type landslide, or B) the Tea Party saves them by nominating unelectable tools in key races.

But wait! There are two Republican-held seats that will be a challenge to hold. Scott Brown must run for a full term in Massachusetts, and in a presidential election year his odds are not good – 60%+ of that state is going to be casting an Obama vote in all likelihood and Brown's seat is tenuous to begin with. Second, John Ensign's retirement in Nevada has set up a Congressman vs. Congresswoman race between Dean Heller (R) and Shelly Berkeley (D). That will be a barn burner, especially if Obama does well in Nevada again.

Republican moderates are getting primaried as well. In Indiana, Dick Lugar is a lock for re-election but Teatard Dick Mourdock is currently polling ahead for the GOP nomination. If Lugar is unseated the statewide race could be competitive. The same is true in Maine where Olympia Snowe has two Tea Party Express challengers. Neither will be a strong general election candidate.

In short, the Democrats are fighting a the war of 2012 on about 12 different fronts. It is unrealistic to expect that the party can prevail in so many tight races and toss-ups unless Obama somehow achieves a 1984-style blowout victory at the top of the ticket. That does not appear likely. At this early stage the odds are good that the Republicans will net a gain of at least four seats, giving them the Senate majority. If Obama returns to the White House alongside that outcome, we can expect gridlock on a biblical scale for at least two years. If the Senate and the White House both switch party control, then America can look forward to the kind of solid political leadership that Wisconsin and Florida have been enjoying since the 2010 midterms.

(**Holy shitballs. I have been writing this thing five times per week for eight years at this point. I can't tell if that shows impressive levels of commitment or if it's just pathetic.)

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CERTAIN RIGHTS FOR CERTAIN PEOPLE

Posted in Rants on June 6th, 2011 by Ed

A friend of mine posted the following on Facebook recently:

After reading that Gov. Scott wants random drug tests for Government employees, and mandatory drug tests for welfare recipients, my cynical response was, "What, does he own a drug testing facility?"

Ha! Funny, but no. Of course he doesn't.

He transferred his $62 million stake in Solantic, a walk-in clinic chain that contracts with employers and government agencies to provide drug screening, to his wife – in a revocable trust, so the moment he leaves office he can regain control of the company. So you see, Rick Scott does not own a drug testing facility. He merely founded a chain of fast food-style walk-in clinics and transferred his ownership share to his wife. (This kind of "share shuffle" is prohibited by federal law and in most states wherein at least the pretense of preventing cronyism and conflicts of interest is maintained. But in Florida it's A-OK. Way to go, Shitshine State.)

Yes, Rick Scott is quite proud of his measure requiring drug testing for all welfare recipients as well as random drug testing for state employees. Finally, Florida will be chock full of personal responsibility. Let's briefly note three aspects of this policy that get ignored in our rush to argue about "welfare" and the morality of drug use:

1. Drug testing in this context – cheap, quick tests administered and performed by someone making $9/hr with a Med Tech degree from a community college – is a complete joke. It has accuracy problems and more importantly it is laughably easy to beat. We see evidence everywhere, from professional athletes to your college roommate "Bongzilla", that testing amounts to an inconvenience to drug users. They'll catch a few knuckleheads here and there, but this is little more than a moneymaking racket for the for-profit medical industry.

2. People on welfare can still get drunk and smoke, right? So with drug testing in place they can still A) waste money on expensive intoxicants they can't afford, B) lay around shitfaced all day if they are so inclined, and C) exercise a near total lack of personal responsibility.

3. "Well, my boss drug tests me, so why shouldn't blah blah blah…" is a false equivalency. Your employer drug tests you because if you are stoned at work and you kill someone (or do anything else legally actionable) they are liable. They are not drug testing you because Nancy Reagan and McGruff the Crime Dog visited them and handed out some colorful pamphlets. They are covering their ass, period.

It does not take much thought to expose the holes in the logic allegedly behind this legislation. That this is stupid and pointless is hardly worth discussing. The more interesting aspect is that Teatard support for people like Scott and proposals like this (Read the comments on the CNN story. I dare you.) casts the failings of modern American conservatism in high relief. In my opinion, the American flavor of conservatism fails to adhere to any meaningful definition of the term and produces failed policy outcomes for three reasons, one of which is directly relevant here:

First, it is vehemently anti-intellectual. This is inherent in appealing to the lowest common denominator.

Second, it profanes institutions it is supposed to defend. Rather than instilling a culture of respect for the institutions of the state and society – which is a basic, foundational aspect of conservatism historically – it throws them under the bus in favor of defending an ideology. If the Supreme Court makes a decision they don't like, conservative leaders say "Screw the Supreme Court." They undermine what they should be defending.

Finally, it surrenders the moral high ground as a party of individual liberty, because Republicans and American conservatives more broadly believe this only selectively. They will howl like stuck pigs about their own 2nd Amendment rights or the tyranny of their personal tax "burden" but they will sell out others' rights at the drop of a hat. Rather than recognize the troubling 4th Amendment implications of subjecting individuals to a search of their body in order to receive something to which they are entitled by statute, they support laws that infringe upon rights based on whatever combination of insecurity, fear, and prejudice shapes their view of the targeted social group. Sure, conservatives would be shitting white phosphorus if the state decided to drug test them, but man, screw them welfare queens.

We need people like Rick Scott, if for no reason other than to remind us periodically that the ideology he represents knows no limits and has no consistent principles. It's the politics of blood and tribal identity, of defining who is Us and then using the power of the state to lash out at Them.

NPF: INFILTRATION

Posted in No Politics Friday on June 3rd, 2011 by Ed

The late Cold War – say, 1980 until the Wall fell – was a depressing time for the Soviet Union. The end of their crumbling system seemed inevitable, with Moscow run by aging party hardliners, an economy socked by the collapse of oil prices, and the entire country in a seemingly terminal torpor. Paired with the rebirth of American triumphalism and irrational exuberance under Reagan during that same time period, tensions between superpowers remained dangerously high. It needed some comic relief.

Almost exactly 24 years ago today, 18 year old West German (remember when that was a separate country?) Mathias Rust boarded a tiny Cessna not unlike the kind you see at small, rural airports everywhere in the U.S. As of May 28, 1987 Rust had exactly 49 hours of experience as a pilot. After a brief flight to Helsinki, Finland he refueled and took off with an announced destination of Stockholm, Sweden. Once airborne, the teenager turned his fabric-skinned plane toward the most hostile, heavily defended airspace on Earth, the Korean DMZ notwithstanding. Yes, Mathias Rust decided it would be fun to fly his Cessna to the Kremlin.

Soviet air defense officials began a Keystone Kops routine that, ahem, exposed some potential flaws in military preparedness. Three AA missile batteries tracked him but Soviet officers could not get an order to fire from a disorganized chain of command and balky communications system. Fighter jets were scrambled only to discover that a Mach 1.3 jet has a remarkably hard time engaging a plane the size of a Ford Fiesta (and traveling about as fast). Several other air defense posts even assumed he was a Russian, given the similarity of his plane to a popular Soviet model used by farmers.

At 7:00 that evening, Rust circled Moscow. Abandoning his plan to land in the Kremlin he decided to go for maximum visibility – a landing in Red Square that Soviet leaders would not be able to pretend didn't happen. So he landed in front of St. Basil's Cathedral, calmly stepped out of his plane, and lit up a goddamn cigarette.

What Mathias Rust accomplished, aside from going for one hell of a joyride and giving himself the greatest "When I was your age, guess what I did?" story of all time, was to cut like a hilarious knife through one of the tension of the Cold War. Americans and Soviets alike expected the mighty Russian military colossus to be prepared for American bombers to come charging toward Moscow, yet in practice they reacted comically while some dork in a prop trainer flew for hundreds of miles over what was supposed to be impregnable airspace. Rust made the Cold War and the massive military apparatuses it produced on both sides look…well, silly. It also accelerated the collapse of the USSR (according to the CIA) by giving Gorbachev an excuse to fire many of his hardliner opponents in the military.

Rust was convicted of, I shit you not, "hooliganism" and sentenced to four years of hard labor that he never served. He was released in 1988 after being detained in regular ol' prison sans hard labor. Ironically he ended up in German prison almost immediately – not for his stunt, but because he stabbed a nurse who rejected his request for a date. Upon release he became a Hindu "holy man" and was arrested repeatedly for shoplifting before resurfacing in 2009 as a professional poker player.

His later life sheds a little more light on the motives behind his daring flight…namely that he's a nut bar. When the tension gets dangerously high, sometimes a nut is exactly what the situation needs.

JOHN RANSOM IS TELE-FAXED AN FJM TREATMENT

Posted in Rants on June 2nd, 2011 by Ed

Before being inducted into the sacred order of syndicated right wing columnists, aspirants must endure a grueling 12-week course during which he or she must prove to a panel of elders that they do not know any cultural references beyond 1990. Successful applicants will punctuate their logically fallacious, cliched work with phrases like "Where's the beef?" and "dy-no-MITE!" The general rule of thumb is, "If the crowd at a Yakov Smirnoff show won't get it, don't use it." John Ransom, heavyweight public intellectual and Finance Editor of TownHall Finance, finished the course in a mere 9 weeks. They quickly realized that this guy swings the goddamn Wonderbat of dated pop culture references and there was nothing more that the seasoned veterans of TownHall World Headquarters (pictured here) could teach him. That is how he is so seamlessly able to churn out masterwerks like "Obama Goes D'oh!-for-97, 98, 99, 100!" Pro Writer tip: if it's worth saying, you'd best believe it's worth following with an exclamation point. Let's go! (See?)

Mr. Irrelevant, the man formerly known as president,

The reigning Mr. Irrelevant is Rice University's Cheta Ozougwu. TownHall.com regrets the error. It is a lone mark on Mr. Ransom's otherwise ironclad reputation for journalistic excellence.

was in France when news came that the Senate unanimously rejected the Jerry Lewis gag budget that the administration submitted to Congress in February.

Jerry Lewis last had a leading role in a U.S. theatrical release in 1970.

The vote was 0-97 against, with three Senators voting “not present.” Can you blame them? If John Kerry’s misshapen theme was “Reporting for Duty,” Obama’s is: “I’m AWOL: Ha. Ha. Ha. You can’t catch me.”

Yes, "AWOL" on an official state visit to France. Can you believe that? A president. Visiting a foreign country. Get your ass back here, Johnny SkyMiles.

Wait, why does it matter if he's irrelevant? I'm confused, John.

If Kerry’s presidency was still-born, Obama’s died of crib-death.

First of all, nothin' like a good baby death analogy to get the ball rolling. But are you sure it was "crib-death", John? Maybe the vapors? The fan-tods? Bilious colic? Catarrh? Consumption?

Hey, wait. Didn't he accomplish some stuff in the two years before this budget vote? Eh, why let the facts get in the way of a good SIDS joke. The funny part was when the baby died!

Can you imagine any other president in history being satisfied with sending up a budget that couldn’t muster even one vote from his own party?

Jackson. Jackson wouldn't have given two flinty, cashew-laden shits.

It’s fitting that Obama got the news of the vote while in France, a country also well known for giving up without a fight.

Boy, nothing screams "I am a hack right-wing columnist" like immediate recourse to France Surrender Joke. But it's funny, right, because they always surrender without a fight!

Except in WWI, when four percent of France's entire fucking population died fending off a German invasion. That's 1,700,000 people. Maybe crack a history book sometime or google a thing called "Verdun". Or plan a nice family vacation to Douaumont, where they had to shovel 300,000 bodies worth of bones into a giant pit because the corpses were in too many pieces to allow identification. Yes, yes, I know, WWII was not France's finest hour. They took a mere 560,000 deaths in that conflict. You know, about 30% more than the U.S.

Incidentally, John, your biography doesn't list your dates of military service. Please update it. We're curious.

On the budget, the administration was hors de combat, to borrow the French term for being irrelevant, after being outflanked on the budget by the GOP and the mood of the people.

Where to begin. First of all, hors de combat means "out of the fight", like a wounded person or a downed pilot would be. So no, you nitwit, it doesn't mean "irrelevant". Second, you're not too up to date on the "mood of the people" if you think Paul Ryan's "Hey America, Fuck You!" budget constitutes a successful flanking maneuver. Gee, quite a bit of military jargon in here. I can only imagine the amount of Military Channel programming your pasty, chickenhawk ass has watched.

On the Right, the budget was panned for adding over a trillion-and-a-half to the deficit just next year; on the Left, the budget was ripped for reducing spending on community organizing.

Yeah, we're up in arms about Community Organizing. And ACORN, and the New Black Panthers, and Card Check, and every other right wing buzzword of the day for red-faced ranting idiots to post repeatedly in internet forums because they heard it on Glenn Beck.

"Less than two months after signing tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans into law," reported the Huffington Post in February, "President Barack Obama proposed a spending plan to Congress that cuts funding to programs that assist the working poor, help the needy heat their homes, and expand access to graduate-level education, undermining the kind of community-based organizations that helped Obama launch his political career in Chicago."

One can almost feel filmmaker, author and all-around socialist, Michael Moo- re, adding exclamation points to the HuffPost’s story!!!

Michael Moo-re? Get it? HE'S FAT!!!!!111!!!on!e

God, it was already funny, but the exclamation points sold it. Hey, if you have a minute, can anyone tell me what in the name of christ this column is about? I think John Ransom's weekly feature should be entitled "Whiskey Screams from a Guy With No Short-Term Memory" because this reads like little more than random, free-associative bitching without the stabilizing benefit of being able to remember what he said twenty words ago.

During Mr. Irrelevant’s European tour,

With Odd Future opening! That tour is gonna be cray-cray.

three others added their vote of no confidence to Obama’s absentee, slum-lord presidency.

I'm baffled by these allusions to him being an "absentee" president…because he went on a foreign visit. I mean, he hasn't gone on half as many "vacations" as W, George I, or Reagan. Aim higher, BO! (see? That really sells it.)

The Queen, who knows something about dealing with celebrity, finally got some payback on Obama after a series of very public snubs of the UK- our mightiest, best ally- during Mr. Irrelevant’s term of office.

The Queen voted “not present” by having her band play God Save the Queen over Obama’s toast to her, which the Washington Post reported under the headline Burnt Toast. No one knows how to do an understated snub as well as the Royal Family.

Wingnuts have been banging this "OMG he hates Britain!" thing since quite literally the first week of his presidency. First of all, yeah, they clearly hate him. Second, only a person who stopped time in 1980 thinks the UK is our mightiest, best ally. Seriously, in what Anglo-centric fantasy universe is that close to true? If we had to choose one and only one country to be allied with in Europe, which would it be? Germany. Without a second though every single person in the Pentagon, State Dept., and Treasury would say Germany. Worldwide? Japan. Maybe Korea. Maybe Saudi Arabia. Maybe Israel. Maybe India. Maybe Mexico. I think the UK's only real strength as an ally at this point is its blind willingness to play "Blow Up the Brown People" whenever a Republican president gets bored.

Jesus. How much longer is this piece of…oh, come on.

Even ABC News called the moment "awkward."

It took a little gloss off another sequel to National Lampoon’s Obama Vacation, just like that "awkward" Japanese tsunami did when he traveled to Brazil.

National Lampoon's Vacation was released in 1983. And can you believe this guy doesn't even control the weather? Amirite people?

Out-going defense secretary Robert Gates then took his turn, warning that Obama’s budget would cut the military to levels that could encourage more violence against the US.

Yes, let's hear what Bush appointee Robert Gates has to say about defense spending. The Defense Department is a good, objective analyst of defense spending needs, today and in the future. Right? In other news, I've empaneled a team of meth addicts to recommend a safe level of meth consumption and to give Americans advice on what we should do with our old car batteries and half-empty cans of paint thinner.

"But make no mistake,” Gates said at Notre Dame, according to the Wall Street Journal, “the ultimate guarantee against the success of aggressors, dictators and terrorists in the 21st century, as in the 20th, is hard power—the size, strength and global reach of the United States military."

"If you cut the defense budget by 10%, which would be catastrophic in terms of force structure, that's $55 billion out of a $1.4 trillion deficit," Gates told the Journal last year. "We are not the problem," he concluded about America’s budget problems, in direct contradiction to the commander-in-chief.

No, the problem is that the Pentagon budget, with constant supplementals for George and Dick's Middle East Adventures (see? I found a movie from, like, 1990!), is over three quarters of a trillion dollars. Or, you know, half of the goddamn deficit. Plus $250,000,000,000 annually for defense-related interest on the debt. Plus nuclear, which is booked under the Department of Energy. Plus Veterans Affairs. Plus Homeland Security. Plus defense-related NASA projects. When we add it up, the 2012 budget includes more than a trillion dollars for defense, the majority of all global defense spending.

Gates, who has presided over defense reductions already, is speaking out about further budget cuts while engaged in his farewell tour as secretary of defense.

How can we ask them to cut anything when the budget has grown by a mere 150% since 2001?

Then the guy who is still the de facto Democrat President of the United States, Bill Clinton, did the job Obama is supposed to be doing. Obama thus far has outsourced budget negotiations to his rent collector and vice president, Joe Biden.

Yes, Bill Clinton is still secretly behind everything. Whitewater! Vince Foster! Travelgate! Filegate! Gennifer Flowers! It's 1995, right guys? Whoomp, there it is!

Also, can you believe Obama delegated to Joe Biden? Let me check if Bush ever delegated to Dick Chene…oh. Oh I see. Oh dear. Well.

So Clinton spoke up forcefully last week for a compromise on Social Security and Medicare reform, warning that Democrats should resist the urge to gain short term points with seniors by using scare tactics. Instead, Clinton took a novel approach, suggesting that Democrats stop playing politics and get those two entitlements under control.

Yes, how I miss the "novel" Bill Clinton approach, suggesting that the Democrats do exactly what the Republicans want and spend time "working the message" to make it sound like they didn't turn around in front of Eric Cantor, grab their ankles, and yell "Just leave us enough blood to get home!" Ah, where's that New Democrat magic when we need it?

At a forum on the national debt, Clinton even told House GOP Budget Chair Paul Ryan to give him a call if he wanted talk about fixing Medicare. Mr. Irrelevant has become so irrelevant that he doesn’t even seem to know that he’s being disrespected.

Does John realize that this is not pro wrestling? That Obama doesn't particularly care if the Queen or Bill Clinton or the Pope or Big John Studd and Hacksaw Jim Duggan have "dissed" him? That his response is not to film a promo next to Mr. Fuji and Miss Elizabeth wherein he wildly gestures at the camera and promises to get revenge this year at SummerSlam? Other than the Democratic donor pool, who really cares what Bill Clinton says or does at some piss-ant academic cluster wank conference on "bipartisan deficit reduction"? He collects his speaking fee and goes home. Big deal.

While Obama toured Europe, stumping for the electoral votes of Irish counties Cork and Offaly, along with the all-important endorsement from the head of the IMF, there’s been a quiet bipartisan effort to make the presidency relevant again.

Shush, though.

Let’s no one tell him until after Hillary’s in the race.

I still can't believe a U.S. President went to Europe. None of the Founding Fatherstm ever went to fruity Europe!

Also, John Ransom is a genius. Clearly Hillary Clinton is going to quit her job, throw together a campaign in a month (I hope it's as well-organized and effective as her 2008 team!!!!exclama!!!tion!) and challenge the sitting president in a primary. Is this the depth of implausibility to which conservatives are sinking to create a positive scenario for whatever stiff they nominate in 2012?

Counting the headline ("d'oh!" being a vintage Simpsons reference originally dating back to 1989) I'd say John did a solid job of limiting his cultural references – and his understanding of history, politics, and world affairs for that matter – to those that would be meaningful and relevant to the average long-term nursing home resident. You do your Order proud, Lion Hearted one.

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THE NET

Posted in Quick Hits on June 1st, 2011 by Ed

It goes without saying that I am not a big War on Terror / Fuck Our Rights Because I'm Scared of the Brown People guy. So it's somewhat surprising to find myself with mixed feelings bordering on ambivalence at the revelation that the recently concluded "Special Registration" program in Homeland Security netted 11 individuals with al-Qaeda ties out of 85,000 Muslim registrants.

Part of me understands that I am expected to decry the program as racial profiling (see the Wiki for a list of foreign nationals who were required to participate). Another part of me is supposed to mock the program's amusingly low success rate (0.01%) as an indicator of its futility. Yet despite what the right likes to use as a straw man of Libruls, I understand a number of key aspects of the complicated question of rights, the law, and non-citizen residents in the U.S.

1. Finding 11 individuals – let's assume, perhaps tenuously, that "ties to al-Qaeda" is defined in a reasonably accurate, meaningful way – is neither surprising nor insignificant. We would expect and anticipate that 99.99% (literally, in this case) of entrants from these 25 countries will have no links to any kind of terrorist activity. It only takes a very small number of individuals to execute a potentially serious terrorist plot.

2. Terrorism is a real threat and DHS has a legitimate mandate to prevent it, within the limits set by the law.

3. There is a reasonable suspicion that entrants from the countries identified are more likely – again, 0.01% vs. 0.0001% – to have terrorist ties.

4. Non-citizens can legally be subjected to reasonable requirements like registering their presence in the country. The NYT reports that the program identified "more than 10,000" individuals who were not in the country legally – either visa overstays or undocumented entrants. I have no problem with the government enforcing existing laws requiring people to have valid visas to reside here. It shocks me that anyone would.

5. Non-citizens are not treated equally in terms of the requirements placed upon them. We can argue the right or wrong of this, but that is a separate argument. The legal reality is that neither the U.S. nor any other nation on Earth treats all non-citizens and entrants identically irrespective of country of origin. This does not imply that the U.S. can do anything it chooses to immigrants or entrants, but only that it is not legally required to subject everyone to the exact same standards in issuing visas or requiring registration.

6. Any sovereign country has a vested interest in keeping accurate records of who is coming in and out of the country.

7. We do a shit job of #6, and it's not productive to have a hissy fit every time the federal government tries to place additional requirements (you know, like not overstaying visas by 15 years) on non-citizen residents or visitors. They have rights. But the government also has legitimate interests.

There. I guess I'm a closet neocon after all.