Saturday, March 31, 2012

Houston, we have a ‘Twitter problem’

Katrina vanden Heuvel, the smart editor and publisher of the magazine The Nation, is visiting Amsterdam, capital of the Netherlands. The city, the home of master Dutch painter Rembrandt, is one of Europe's most popular tourist destinations. There are no end to pleasurable diversions. What does vanden Heuvel do? Log into Twitter: "Okay, in Amsterdam, heading out 4 night, w/ hubbie obsessed about Kentucky v. Louisville game. Can't take KY out of the boy/:)" Really, Katrina? Turn the damn iPhone off. You're in Europe. Live a little. (Drawing: Rembrandt, Self-portrait in a cap, with eyes wide open, etching and burin, 1630.)

Are we a gaggle of Gumps?

H. L. Mencken set the table back in the '30s when he quipped, “Nobody ever went broke underestimating the [intelligence] of the American public.” Fast-forwarding to 2012, POLITICO's Alexander Burns quoted Democratic pollster Tom Jensen as saying, “The first lesson you learn as a pollster is that people are stupid.” Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. Still, with another critical election looming, that's not very comforting. But American Prospect writer Matt Corley says, relax. He writes: Stupidity, which “implies a lack of aptitude or intelligence,” is not the primary problem, according to George Washington University political scientist John Sides. Instead, ignorance “is more the problem, since a lot of non-stupid people don't necessarily follow politics very closely.” Moreover, academics say we can rely on the electorate to make rational collective decisions because the "miracle of aggregation" cancels out "the uninformed errors of individual voters." But was reelecting President Bush in 2004 rational? I'll stipulate to the likelihood that most voters are not imbeciles in the clinical sense. But the Gumpian levels of political ignorance (and naivety) that everyone agrees they exhibit scares the bejesus out of me. Per Corley, Vanderbilt political scientist Larry Bartels found that “political ignorance matters—not only for individual votes, but also for election outcomes.” Which explains Election 2004, a result produced not by idiocy but empty-headedness. I say that as a partisan, of course. Still, God help us in November. The country can ill afford to make another dumb decision regardless of how it gets made.

A penny nickel for your thoughts

In a burst of economic brilliance, Canada has decided to withdraw the penny from circulation this year, saving taxpayers about $11 million annually. The move will force retailers to round prices to the nearest nickel. Totally makes sense. If only Uncle Sam would take the hint. (Did you know it costs 2.4 cents to make one U.S. penny?)

If only ego sublimation were enough

Keith Olbermann was fired from his gig on CurrentTV. Is anyone really surprised? The stage was set for his latest flame-out when Current ousted former CEO Mark Rosenthal last July. Rosenthal, you see, recruited Olbermann to Current and "had a knack for the ego sublimation necessary for effective talent management," per the Hollywood Reporter. And selfdom is the bane of the pointless Merry-Go-Round representing Olbermann's on-air existence. His work history reads like Hamlet. ESPN fired Olbermann in 1997. Fox Sports fired him in 2001 (Rupert Murdoch said: "He's crazy.") After reaching official prima donna status as anchor of MSNBC's "Countdown," that network fired him 2010. The reasons behind Olbermann's trail of burnt bridges are all of apiece. CurrentTV summed it best: He violated the "values of respect, openness, collegiality, and loyalty." Olbermann is his own "Worst Person in the World." I wish he would simply go away. But neurotics like him only leave the klieg lights at gunpoint, rhetorically speaking. So expect to witness another Olbermann flame-out cycle on yet another cable show coming to a TV near you.

The 'conventional wisdom' is never wrong, right?

That was quick. The jury is back already. The "conventional wisdom" has decided that the US Supreme Court will declare the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional, 5-4, courtesy of the conservative judges (Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, Alito) plus Kennedy. We won't actually learn what decision the justices reached until late June. But the CW says that's just a trifling detail. Obamacare is toast. Trust us. Never mind that there are few, if any, bona fide constitutional scholars among those providing the CW. They are mostly the same windbags who get it wrong more often not. It is notable that the fella who pushed to get get Obamacare in front of SCOTUS is POTUS -- President Obama, a Havard-trained, constitutional law professor. Gee, I wonder if Mr. Obamacare himself knows something the CW doesn't?

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Litigating without the facts

"FACTS are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence." So said John Adams in 1770 during his famous trial defense of British soldiers involved in the Boston Massacre. Thus far, I haven't commented on Trayvon Martin v. George Zimmerman, the controversial case being tried in the court of public opinion. Those stubborn facts, or rather the lack of them, are the reason why I've stood mute. A like-minded Andrew Sullivan put it this way: "At the Dish, we've been leery of wading into an important controversy because, well, the sides were taken before all the facts were in, one of two people in the incident is dead, and the details matter." Precisely. I'll wait.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Gimme that old time corporate religion

Well, I see wiser heads prevailed at the Arizona Legislature. The Senate killed the controversial contraception bill this afternoon (though the betting is that will reanimate itself, zombie-like, at least once). The Arizona Capitol Times had a humorous postscript. To set the scene, Democratic Sen. Linda Lopez became exasperated with Republican Sen. Nancy Barto (a big-time pro-lifer) for wasting the Senate's time with the measure.

The Cap Times wrote:
And just to hammer home her point about the need for lawmakers to focus on more pressing issues, Lopez asked: “Can you tell me how many jobs this is going to create in Arizona?” Barto said she can’t say, but the legislation sends a signal to businesses that Arizona will respect their religious views, and that may attract them to the state.
Really? Wow. I've worked for a few firms in my time. But I never knew any of them had "religious views." But since Mitt Romney says corporations are people, too, I wonder if they know which denominations they belong to. I bet IBM is Roman Catholic. Walmart strikes me as Baptist. Apple? Definitely a bunch of atheists. My, my – how on earth did we get here? I kid Sen. Barto, of course. Still, wow.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Still Life with Numskull

I GUESS we can’t help it, drawing premature conclusions, that is. It’s probably rooted in a primordial impulse we Homo sapiens needed to keep from being eaten back in the Pleistocene Epoch. Better to be wrong than being dinner for a saber-tooth tiger. These thoughts came to mind as I read the reactions to today Supreme Court hearings on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. The black-robed justices, in full Socratic Method mode, grilled the government’s lawyer and set him back on his heels a bit. It’s what they do. Afterward, the news media’s Paleolithic instincts kicked it as they rushed out to report the proceedings. "This was a train wreck for the Obama administration. This law looks like it's going to be struck down. All of the predictions including mine that the justices would not have a problem with this law were wrong," concluded CNN's legal correspondent Jeffrey Toobin. Really? A ruling won’t be made for months. What you see (today) is not necessarily what you’re going to get later. Yet, the media is already howling that Obamacare is doomed. Reporters would make a tasty treat. But there’s never a hungry saber-tooth tiger around when you need one.

Painting: Paul Cézanne, "Still Life with Skull" (Nature Morte au Crane).

Splicing contradictory DNA

QUESTION: What do you get when you cross a "very conservative, uptight [newspaper] covering the very powerful, very conservative and straitlaced people the paper so desperately works to keep happy and unruffled" with a journalist-employee of said paper who also works as a stripper at night to earn extra cash? ANSWER: You get one Sarah Tressler. Kinda like splicing contradictory DNA strands. Only in America. (POSTSCRIPT: It took about a week after the story broke, but Ms. Tressler was fired by the Houston Chronicle, her former employer. Surprise! By the way, she isn't that hot. But sexy is in the eye of the beholder, mostly.)

Gratuitous Tressler glamour shot, Maxim-style:

Monday, March 26, 2012

Mad Men Madness

Well, "Mad Men" is back and the Internet is all atwitter about last night's season opener. Interestingly, one observer recently pointed out (sorry, I don't have the link) that the show has less than 6 million viewers. That means most of America is not watching the show, and never has. But reading the web this morning, you'd think the entire nation was glued to their TVs as Don Draper's new wife (Jessica Pare) shimmied and sang a smoking hot rendition of "Zou Bisou Bisou." A rather sizable disconnect, n'est-ce pas?

Um, gaffe of the week?

Time's Joe Klein just wrote: "In a ‘hot mic’ conversation with the Russian president Dmitri Medvedev, Obama asked for ‘space’–that is, that Russian President Vladimir Putin not press him–on missile defense right now. He added that he’d have “more flexibility” to negotiate after the election." Klein thinks the "gaffe" will be used against Mr. Obama in the fall. "See?" Republicans will say, "Obama’s liberal-Muslim-socialist predilections will be unleashed, without check or balance, if he wins the election." And writing from the pages of Time magazine's prestigious (and highly visible) pages, Klein is sure to create a tempest in a teapot. Never mind the substance of the Obama-Medvedev talks. Thanks, Joe. You just dragged journalism deeper into the hole it is already in.

The 'curse' of Santorum

Oh. My. God. Rick Santorum said the word "bullshit" while cursing out a New York Times reporter. I had no idea that politicians, let alone presidential candidates, cursed like the rest of us. Heavens to Murgatroyd! America must be shocked, shocked, I tell you! USA Today has the full scoop here on why Santorum blew his cool -- plus the video (there's always video). Just when I thought news coverage of the candidates couldn't get any sillier, it does.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Etch-A-Sketching A Migraine

When Bloomberg News asked Ohio Art Co., the maker of Etch A Sketch, which way the firm leaned politically, spokesman Martin Killgallon said: “Etch A Sketch has right- and left-hand knobs. We speak to both parties. And together we can draw circles.” Heh. Priceless.

File Under "Too Much Information": Per Bloomberg, the Etch A Sketch toy was invented by Andre Cassagnes in the late 1950s. The French electrician’s original version, called the Telecran, used a joystick, glass and aluminum powder. Ohio Art then bought the rights. And for those of you just returning from a desert island and didn't hear the news, here's a smart take on the Romney "Etch A Sketch" kerfuffle. That, too, is priceless.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Mission Accomplished

This just in from New York magazine: "Jeremy Lin, who is no longer the world's most important person, signed a two-year deal today to become Volvo's 'brand ambassador.' His advertising will focus on the U.S and China." The terms of the endorsement contract weren't disclosed, per the Wall Street Journal. But we can safely assume millions of dollars are involved. Well played, sir.

Spring has sprung

Spring has returned. The Earth is like a child that knows poems.” (Rainer Maria Rilke)

Sunday, March 18, 2012

A though for Sunday

“History is orphan. It can speak, but cannot hear. It can give, but cannot take. Its wounds and tragedies can be read and known, but cannot be avoided or cured.” (Kedar Joshi)

War's dark heart

A WEEK AGO, Army SSgt Robert Bales allegedly murdered 16 Afghan civilians in cold blood. Women and children may be among the victims. Bales is innocent until proven otherwise in a military court of law. But the reported evidence thus far (possibly including a confession by Bales) appears damning. Bales, who will likely face the death penalty for his alleged crimes, is married and the father of two young children. By all accounts, he was good family man, a good soldier, and a decent human being. What on earth happened? One Army officer near the scene of the crime believes Bales "just snapped." If that is true, then we are again staring into the black heart of war's tragedy. In this circumstance, it's hard not to think of Shakespeare: “Finish, good lady; the bright day is done, And we are for the Dark.”

Saturday, March 17, 2012

War's sad meaning

Thomas Bruscino, author of A Nation Forged in War: How World War II Taught Americans to Get Along (University of Tennessee): "War, after all, is about competing purposes, competing causes, competing ideals—produced by polities, defined by policymakers, put into action by military professionals, and fought for by average soldiers. War itself does not care about the relative merits of those ideals, but the outcome of war, and therefore the outcome of combat, determines which ideal wins. The outcome of war determines which cause gets to survive, thrive, and guide the lives of people in peace, and just as importantly, which cause does not get to shape the peace. Most vitally, war decides which ideal gets to be fought for again. War is regrettably a part of the human condition, and it is many awful things, but it is never meaningless."

The media giveth and the media taketh away

Speaking of our cultural theater of the absurd, NBC is reporting: "Jason Russell, 33, was allegedly found masturbating in public, vandalizing cars and possibly under the influence of something, according to the San Diego Police. Russell, as you might recall, is the co-founder of Invisible Children, the nonprofit that gave us Kony 2012, evidently the most viral video ever (per New York magazine). A press release from Invisible Children said Russell was "suffering from exhaustion, dehydration and malnutrition," and that the past two weeks had taken "a severe emotional toll" on him. That's doublespeak, but no surprise. Kony 2012 was (rightly) criticized for naivety in its approach to the complicated situation in Uganda. But the angst that led to masturbating in a park suggests Russell has way deeper issues that go beyond a drubbing in the press. And the bill has come due for the white-hot publicity he sought.

Um, ice-cream activism? Really?

ON THE ONE HAND, the fact that Ben & Jerry's has whipped up pints of apple pie-flavored ice cream — called "Apple-y Ever After"— in support of same-sex marriage in the U.K. is admirable. On the other hand, Ben & Jerry's is a perfect co-star (along with Snooki and Santorum-for-president) for our early 21st century theater of the absurd. I'm not certain what is more curious: an unsubtle marketing ploy in the guise of ice-cream activism or the fact that it qualifies as breaking news. Color me bemused.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Digital Darwinism

Art by David Horsey / Los Angeles Times

Apple Madness

The line snaked around the corner "outside the New York City flagship Apple Store on Fifth Avenue Friday morning," PC Magazine reported today. First in line: One Greg Packer, age 48. He'd been camping outside the entrance for 5 days. "It's the chance to spend a week and watch the people go by. I plan to get one, possibly two," he said proudly. Another Apple acolyte who had been waiting in line for a mere two days said, "It's just a way of life. If we don't do it someone else will." Well, fellas, whatever floats your boat. But I know what a grinning Chris Rock would say: "White people."

Even the terrorists think Fox News sucks

Washington Post columnist David Ignatius was given exclusive access to documents the U.S. captured when SEAL Team Six sent Osama bin Laden to an early grave. It seems al-Qaeda planned to promote an upcoming bin Laden anniversary video. One document recommended: “It should be sent for example to ABC, CBS, NBC, and CNN and maybe PBS and VOA. As for Fox News let her die in her anger. From a professional point of view, they are all on one level — except (Fox News) channel, which falls into the abyss as you know, and lacks objectivity, too.” Heh. You can't make this stuff up.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

In the tank for Obama. Deal with it.

Know hope.

Um, totally too much information

Having found another beam of limelight, Meghan McCain surfaced in a Playboy interview this week (fully-clothed). The woman has an amazing talent for being famous for the sake of being famous. During her chat, Meghan got a chance to parry a question about her sexual preferences. PLAYBOY: "Say a little more about the hanging-out-in-bed-with-girlfriends part." MCCAIN: "Watch it, mister. My [girl] friends from home came over [after Election Night 2008] to support me, and we got in my parents’ big bed. They have this huge California king and we just stayed up eating ice cream. I’m not a lesbian, if that’s what you’re asking. I’d be the first person to tell the world I was gay. I’m not private about anything. I think you should live how you should live. But I’m strictly dickly. I can’t help it. I love sex and I love men." Strictly dickly, eh? Glad we cleared that up. Thanks for sharing, Meghan. Not that we needed to add this tidbit to our societal knowledge base.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Missing the point

New York magazine's Dan Amira couldn't resist the snark. Commenting on the above photo, he wrote: "In a ceremony at the White House with British Prime Minister David Cameron today, President Obama returned control of the United States to the British Empire, probably after apologizing for causing them so much trouble 250 years ago. Just kidding! It's just the Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps, an American unit that "perform[s] in uniforms patterned after those worn by the musicians of Gen. George Washington's Continental Army," which also happen to look a lot like old-timey British uniforms, for some reason!" Ha-ha. Funny. I guess.

Now contrast the above photo with the below scene from Steven Spielberg's 1997 historical drama film, Amistad:

That's the real significance of what Barack Obama represents after 250 years of American history.

Why burn your bridges when you can nuke 'em?

The media-internet complex is all aflutter with Greg Smith. You may be asking, who? Smith is, or was, a bigwig at Goldman Sachs, the powerful investment bank you and I bailed out in 2008 with our tax dollars. Anyway, Mr. Smith resigned today in spectacular fashion by dissing his employer in a New York Times op-ed. Long story short: He flipped them the bird.

Smith, an executive director and head of the firm’s U.S. equity derivatives business in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, wrote:
"TODAY is my last day at Goldman Sachs. After almost 12 years at the firm — first as a summer intern while at Stanford, then in New York for 10 years, and now in London — I believe I have worked here long enough to understand the trajectory of its culture, its people and its identity. And I can honestly say that the environment now is as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it. ... How did we get here? The firm changed the way it thought about leadership. Leadership used to be about ideas, setting an example and doing the right thing. Today, if you make enough money for the firm (and are not currently an ax murderer) you will be promoted into a position of influence."
Talk about nuking all of the bridges behind you. On the other hand, it's a safe bet that Mr. Smith has socked away tens of millions from toiling at Goldman Sachs for over a decade. With that kind of "fuck you" money, as they say on Wall Street, it's easy to tell your bosses where to shove it. By not going quietly into that good night, Smith's biggest problem now is deciding how big a yacht he should buy for his retirement. Must be nice.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Here's hoping it's not really this bad

Actor Jon Hamm: “Whether it’s Paris Hilton or Kim Kardashian or whoever, stupidity is certainly celebrated. Being a [expletive] idiot is a valuable commodity in this culture. You’re rewarded significantly."

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Thinking of Santorum's moral certainty

"Better to trust the man who is frequently in error than the one who is never in doubt." ―Eric Sevareid

A thought for Saturday

German poet Bertolt Brecht: "Unhappy the land that is in need of heroes."

Friday, March 9, 2012

Buy a bracelet, soothe some guilt

Um, does anybody remember Haiti? Whatever happened to that outpouring of concern following the devastating earthquake in January 2010? Today, all I hear are crickets.

It is the 21st century version of "The White Man's Burden," the concept of well-meaning but clueless Westerners perched comfortably in front of laptops bemoaning the latest overseas disaster or outrage. After tossing a few nickels to a favorite NGO at the horrific scene, the TV channel is soon switched back to American Idol with nary a thought about the fate of the brown victims we cried a river over. With consciences assuaged, so endeth the crisis -- for us. Meanwhile, the Haitians continue to languish in misery.

Alas, this cycle is beginning anew with "Kony 2012," a video that has gone viral worldwide. It is the story of Joseph Kony, a bona fide monster who wrecked havoc in Northern Uganda for over two decades with his Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). He is the African Mephistopheles who enslaved, brutalized and brainwashed an army of children to do his violent bidding. For Africa watchers, this is hardly breaking news. But it is for Americans who didn't know -- or care -- where Uganda was until, well, yesterday. Where was the outrage when the LRA was at its height a decade ago?

Today, Kony is on the run and no longer in Uganda. His LRA is (thankfully) a ghost of its former self and numbers only about 200. But those facts barely register in the celebrity-endorsed video created by the NGO Invisible Children. It is also unclear what exactly the well-meaning NGO wants to do "other than raise a lot of money and attention," noted Michael Wilkerson in Foreign Policy magazine. He also noted, "Along with sharing the movie online, Invisible Children's call to action is to do three things: 1) sign its pledge, 2) get the Kony 2012 bracelet and action kit (only $30!), and 3) sign up to donate." But bewailing Kony's death-spree in Uganda is now de rigueur. Expect CNN's Anderson Cooper to show up there soon, fashionably attired in his requisite black T-shirt.

Wilkerson, a longtime Uganda observer, writes:
"There are many reasons uninformed and oversimplified advocacy can cause trouble, and Siena Antsis catalogues some of them here, noting that Invisible Children expertly 'commodifies white man's burden on the African continent.' Buy a bracelet, soothe some guilt."
Calling attention to the LRA's crimes is a good thing. Dispatching Kony would be doubly so. But losing sight of the long-term issues affecting the victims, as Kipling's "burdened" Westerners have done so reliably in the past, won't help. Just ask the poor forgotten people of Haiti.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Limbaugh's enablers

Andrew Sullivan recently asserted, "No one is involuntarily exposed to [Limbaugh's] poison." Many of his readers begged to differ. One wrote:
"I make all sorts of efforts to not listen to Rush Limbaugh - namely, I don't like his bullshit and don't want to hear it so I don't listen to it on the radio. ... But now your blog lights up with his vitriolic misogynistic garbage, as does the rest of the Internet. Even in Lent, where I've limited my hours spent reading Internet people, I can't escape it; my Daily Show/Colbert Report wind downs in the evenings are mired in it; Maddow is talking about it; there's no escape in CNN. I suppose I could limit my television to, I don't know, Top Chef and RuPaul's Drag Race, but I like to stay reasonably connected to the news. And what Rush Limbaugh says, for whatever damn reason that is beyond me, is news. In order for me to consume any amount of news, in almost any medium I regularly stay attuned to, I'm exposed to Rush Limbaugh."
Interesting point. It's the Palin Syndrome. Limbaugh would disappear overnight if the media-internet industrial complex (esp. the outlets on the left) would simply ignore him. Trust me, that's not gonna happen. Both sides feed off of each other for ratings and page views. But it's hardly the end of the world. The vast majority of Americans do not read political blogs, listen to talk radio or watch the cable chat shows. So, this "debate" is mostly taking place inside a hermetically-sealed echo chamber. Ergo, this matter is much ado about nothing. Still, it is remarkable how the politically-informed among us thinks everybody else is paying attention, too. Sorry, they're watching NCIS.

Election 2012, the movie

New York Magazine: What should the film version of the 2012 election be tentatively titled? Columnist Frank Rich: "Given the way it’s going for Obama so far, I’d say Luck". Heh.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Tweeting ad nauseum

A spot-on observation by New York magazine writer Noreen Malone:
"If you're a committed or even occasional user of Twitter, you may have noticed that there are certain times when it seems as if every single user is tweeting, ad nauseum, about the same. exact. thing. Last night, for instance, as Super Tuesday results were announced, was one of those times. Today's press conference about Apple's iPad3 was another of those times. You log on for links to and commentary on a variety of things happening all over, the proverbial cocktail party full of interesting guests. Instead, on these occasions, what you get is a chanting game-night sports bar full of lurching, excitable, group-thinking, impulse-control-free, perspective-challenged drunks."
Preach it, sister. I glad somebody is.

Rush swung at wrong target

FOR THE RECORD, Rush Limbaugh's recent 'slut' remarks were reprehensible. He deserves the scorn being heaped on him daily. That said, his loutish insults could have been leveled at a target that probably merits them. As of this writing, some 46 advertisers have jumped ship from the S.S. Dittohead. They include the likes of Allstate Insurance, Capital One, Carbonite, Girl Scouts of Oregon, Norway Savings Bank, Philadelphia Orchestra, ProFlowers, and other upstanding corporate denizens. But I have to ask: Why were they advertising with Limbaugh in the first place? Now, I'll cut the innocent Girl Scouts of Oregon some slack, "for they know not what they do," presumably. (Whichever Madison Avenue firm doing their promotional bidding ought to be keelhauled and fired.) The rest, however, are just a bunch of whores. Clearly, they'll hop into bed with almost anybody -- even Limbaugh the Boor -- to peddle their wares. Now, of course, they're scurrying out like their "Johns" after a vice bust, and belatedly coming to Jesus to boot. But that's only because the media limelight caught them lounging in Rush's radioland boudoir for cash. Sad, ain't it?

Politics makes strange bedfellows

Democratic incumbent Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) lost his congressional seat last to Marcy Kaptur, a progressive from Toledo. As the Maddow Blog reports, sitting members generally don't lose primary fights. Redistricting was the apparent culprit in Kucinich's downfall.

However, the liberal firebrand may not go quietly into that good night. There's a rumor he may try to run for Congress from the state of Washington. If that's not enough intrigue for you, try this on for size: In the Ohio general election, Kaptur will face -- wait for it -- Republican Samuel Wurzelbacher (pictured). You know him as "Joe the Plumber." Yeah, him. It is amazing how desperately this Ghost of Christmas Past (like all 15-minutes-of-famers) clings to the stage long after the curtains have come down. The limelight is like crack to these folks. It reminds me of Chris Rock's Krispy Kreme riff in "Never Scared":
Krispy Kreme? These donuts are too good! Got me going there at 2 o'clock in the morning going, "Come on, man, open up! Let me have at least one donut. I'll do anything! I'll suck your d#@k!"
Heh. Kaptur's district is heavily Democratic. So Mr. Wurzelbacher will likely be crushed in November. But politics does indeed make strange bedfellows.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

He. Just. Can't. Close. The. Deal.

To the surprise of most observers (including me), there's a chance Mitt Romney could actually lose Ohio tonight to Rick Santorum. Even if Romney wins this Super Tuesday primary by a hair, the victory will be seen as hollow. I mean, really -- what is up with this dude? Anyway, I'm of two minds about this endless nomination race. On the one hand, the longer this thing lasts, the weaker Romney (and the GOP) will be in the fall. From my partisan perspective, that's good. On the other hand, I wish Romney would close the deal with his Republican peeps and wrap this damn thing up. That way, President Obama and his peeps will finally have a clear target to begin shooting at, rhetorically speaking. The earlier they can start, the better. But for reasons way beyond my grasp, Romney keeps flubbing the "Glengarry Glen Ross" A-B-C rule: A-Always, B-Be, C-Closing. Always be closing. And so, on it goes, round and round ... where she stops, nobody knows.

Hare today, gone tomorrow

There's an old saying: A politician should have three hats. One for throwing into the ring, one for talking through, and one for pulling rabbits out of when boxed in. That goes for political wives, too. On Fox News last night, Neal Cavuto asked Ann Romney how she and Mitt could relate to the average Joe given their wealth. She replied: "You know, we can be poor in spirit. I don't even consider myself wealthy, which is an interesting thing. It can be here today and gone tomorrow." Right. So, tone-deafness isn't confined to Mitt alone. Hubby raked in $42 million in 2010/2011 and has a net worth of about $200 million, per New York magazine. I wish I was that poor in spirit.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Bomb 'em back to the Stone Age

I want to believe that the actions of President John McCain would be more rational than those of Sen. John McCain. It is America's good fortune that we'll never know. Today, McCain called for U.S. airstrikes on Syria. In his mind, the fate of the United States hinges on it. Never mind the fact that bombing Syria would first mean taking out its air defense system and its air force (which includes scores of modern MiG-29s), no trivial task. Never mind that Syria has the second largest army in the Middle East and tanks to match (Libya this ain't). Never mind that neutralizing these forces would require a gargantuan U.S. military effort at a time when we can least afford it. Never mind the fact that, unlike Libya, America would be attacking Syria without mandates from the UN or the Arab League or help from NATO. Never mind that the Syrian rebels McCain hopes to bolster are politically splintered and currently incapable of replacing the regime he hopes to collapse. Unbelievable. Just be grateful there is an adult sitting in the Oval Office.

Is Rush Too Big to Fail?

In the wake of his "slut" remarks, Rush Limbaugh's advertisers are fleeing like rats from a burning Spanish Galleon. Given the size of this Moby Dick (pun intended), I suspect Limbaugh is "Too Big to Fail."

Maybe not. Time's Joe Klein wonders whether he has "reached an Imus-like tipping point, where his power and audience will be severely curtailed." Goodness -- wouldn't that be a gift to all mankind. I'm not holding my breath, though.

Neither is Klein:
It certainly is a result devoutly to be wished. Rush is a nihilist demagogue who has had a negative impact on American democracy, and particularly on the Republican Party. ... [But] Rush’s audience [unlike Imus'] is an ideological cult. It has a primal coherence. It loves the wack stuff Limbaugh says, and will probably love it even more now that the Liberal Eastern Establishment advertisers have called in their chits. ... I suspect El Rushbo is going nowhere, unfortunately."
Klein is probably right. He added: "But it sure is fun to watch him grovel." That it is.

Does politics make you stupid?

No, running for political office does not make you stupid. It just makes otherwise smart folks do stupid things to win. The latest case is Wendy Rogers, a local Phoenix woman who just announced she's running for Congress as a Republican. Rogers, a retired Air Force officer-pilot (she flew cargo jets), owns a BA and two master degrees. She's no dummy. Per the Arizona Republic, she touts her "20-year military career, ownership of a small business and experience as a mother and grandmother." It's unclear what those last two qualifications have to do with the price of eggs, but whatever. Near as I can tell, Rogers is a cookie-cutter Republican. Whatever the Dems are for, she's against. Beyond a recitation of her military service record, Rogers' bio page makes certain that you know she "believes in the goodness of America" and "homeschooled" her children during their elementary years. These, of course, are dog-whistles to the rabid conservative base to whom Rogers is pandering. Like I said, stupid is as stupid does. I kid the would-be congresswoman, of course. Though Rogers is no Abigail Adams, she isn't stupid. She just feels it's necessary to grovel like she is. Wouldn't it be nice if politicians could tout integrity, intelligence, vision and ability to work effectively with others as the primary qualifications for office? Yeah, yeah, I know. I must be in the grip of a fever dream.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Why I rarely Facebook - Ctd

After Facebook "forced" us to create a "timeline" a month or two ago, I also took the time to update my "interests." You know, fav movies, books, etc. Big mistake. Now, I've noticed, I'm getting unwanted spam about Casablanca, HBO's Homeland, etc, and virtually everything else I expressed interest in. So now my homepage is chock full of garbage from entities that are not my "friends" riffing about stuff they're sure will interested me. Except it doesn't. Thanks a lot, Zuckerberg. I'm close, oh so close, to terminating by Facebook account. But back in the real world: Does any of this really matter in the larger scheme of things? Nope, not at all. I'm just sayin'.

Why I rarely Facebook

A (real) friend of mine recently posted this on Facebook: "Finally replaced our pool sweeper. That 'pool boy' just wasn't cutting it!" Kinda funny, I guess. But -- really? Oh well.

A line in the sand

President Obama made some big news during a 45-minute interview with The Atlantic:
At the White House on Monday, President Obama will seek to persuade the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to postpone whatever plans he may have to bomb Iran's nuclear facilities in the coming months. Obama will argue that under his leadership, the United States "has Israel's back," and that he will order the U.S. military to destroy Iran's nuclear program if economic sanctions fail to compel Tehran to shelve its nuclear ambitions.

"I think that the Israeli government recognizes that, as president of the United States, I don't bluff." [Obama] went on, "I also don't, as a matter of sound policy, go around advertising exactly what our intentions are. But I think both the Iranian and the Israeli governments recognize that when the United States says it is unacceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapon, we mean what we say."

In the interview, Obama stated specifically that "all options are on the table," and that the final option is the "military component."
Yowzer. Talk about a clear line drawn in the sand. This, friends, is how major league balance-of-power politics is played on the world stage. Obama isn't bluffing, nor would he hesitate to pull the trigger. And if it comes down to the "military component," I suspect our aim would be to take out the regime to end the threat once and for all.

So what's driving this? The US could surely contain a nuclear-armed Iran just as we did with the USSR. What scares Washington, however, is that Tehran would be positioned to hand its nukes to terrorists, or threaten to do so as a form of political blackmail. That, I think, is the "unacceptable" part of this equation as Obama sees it. The question now: Are the Iranian Mullahs smart enough to realize Obama is not bluffing?

Friday, March 2, 2012

The absolute trouble with absolutism

Bob Kerry, the former Democratic senator from Nebraska, plans to run for his old Senate seat. But for some liberals, his moderate credentials and openness to compromise is a problem. To wit:
“I hope he gets carpet bombed. The more Republicans spend in Nebraska, the less they’ll have to go after Democratic Senate candidates who actually act like Democrats,” said Markos Moulitsas, the founder of the influential blog Daily Kos. “And if it turns out he needs the help, then too bad. F—- him.”
Hmm. Moulitsas (pictured) just reminded me again why I stopped reading the Daily Kos. I admit, however, that it must be fascinating to see the world strictly in black & white as Moulitsas clearly does. Too bad it's utterly worthless in a technicolor world.