Sunday, December 16, 2012

three ways forward

The news out of Newtown freezes everything.

Children shot multiple times, some shot as many as eleven times at close range and none of them over eight years old.  Six teachers killed.  Elementary school teachers, some of the most generous-hearted people we have, doing some of the most important work anyone can do.

Emotions battle with each other when an atrocity like this is the day's fact.  Anger, grief, amazement, sorrow, fear, all whirling about, talking over each other, nothing making any simple sense.  But a terrible event, even one as terrible as this, always delivers one, and only one good thing: clarity.

We need, as a nation, and as individuals, to take this moment of clarity and grief and sorrow and anger and fear and honestly work together to do our best to insure that these things stop happening with such heart-breaking frequency.

I've sketched out three possible ways forward.  There are certainly more, but here are the ones I've come up with.  Take a look and maybe we can start a conversation.

1. Arm everyone.

 And, to avoid the inevitable personal arms race, arm everyone, every citizen, with the top-grade military equipment currently available.  As soon as better technology, stronger body armor, more lethal bullets, faster-shooting weapons, whatever it is, as soon as it becomes available, issue it immediately to all citizens.

This will be expensive, but safety first.  And actually, a war economy is a healthy economy, so the need for increased production of all of this weaponry will create jobs.   This fully weaponized society, with every citizen at a moment's notice able to unleash thousands of bullets in a matter of minutes upon any and all other citizens, will, according to all of the National Rifle Association's arguments, logically result in a safer country.  There may be some isolated, tragic cases, perhaps, where someone who has had a bad day and who, without immediate access to high-grade military weaponry, would have simply punched a wall or maybe even got involved in a pushing and wrestling match in a parking lot, will, instead, gun down twenty strangers.  But on the balance, clearly, it will make for a safe environment.

So, that's option one.

2. Keep the access to guns the same, just make the environment safer. 

This is basic lockdown, a strategy that is routinely employed in high-security incarceration centers across the land.  Every public area: stores, banks, movie theaters, schools, restaurants, office buildings; any place where you have to walk through a door; is equipped with a metal detector and a minimum of one armed security guard.  When you enter, you place your belongings on the belt, wait until the guard waves you forward and step through the metal detector.  Just like the airport.  The technology is there, it just has to be put into place.  Also, all citizens will agree to random pat-downs and bag searches by armed security personnel.  If you are carrying a concealed weapon and can produce a license for it, then you go on your merry way.  If you do not have a concealed weapon, you thank the security guard for protecting you and go on your merry way.  If you are carrying a concealed weapon and do not have a license and are, in fact, planning on committing a mass murder, the armed security guard will find your weapon, you will hand it over to him without any kind of struggle and society will be safe.

In rare, tragic, isolated cases, some individual, planning a mass murder and carrying a concealed weapon or weapons, upon being approached by an armed security guard may take advantage of the element of surprise and before submitting to the pat-down may open fire and kill the security guard and anyone else who may be standing behind or next to the guard.  But on the balance, clearly, this would make for a safer country with, admittedly, a regrettable loss of civil liberty and a small increase in the degree of daily personal invasion.

So, that's another possible way forward.

3. Regulate gun ownership as we do everything else in this country that may cause death or injury. 

Like automobiles.  Like switch-blades.  Like alcohol.  Like cigarettes.  Like everything else.  The only difference being that handguns are designed for only one thing: killing other humans.  So, perhaps they should be regulated with a little more thought and rigor than other things.

Everyone who wants to own a gun, no problem.  You take a test showing you know how to use it, you get a quick eye test and you get a license.  And if it turns out you're mentally unstable, you don't get the license.  Otherwise, you want to hunt, you want to keep a gun in your home or on your person for protection, no problem.

Although, I'd suggest we look to the Constitution for some guidance on this.  The Second Amendment clearly states that "A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."  And, of course, we have well-regulated militias in every state in the union.  We call them the National Guard.  So, if you want to own a gun, you join the National Guard.  Every month you take a weekend and train.  This will dramatically increase the people in the National Guard, which will help in times of emergency.  That's a win win right there.

And the course of regulation isn't that difficult to imagine.  We could look at the regulation of automobiles as a possible model.  Automobiles are very, very regulated in safety and speed. And there are, of course, cars available that go much faster and are not as "safe" as the car in your driveway.  These are racing cars.  They're legal.  You just can't drive them down the highway.  So, if you want to own a semi-automatic pistol or a rocket-grenade propeller or many, many machine-guns, that's fine.  But you can only operate them in certain areas, cordoned off from the general public.  That's just basic safety and common-sense.

So, we've got three options:

1. Arm everyone, make it mandatory.  This would be the NRA's choice, based on their public statements.

2. Impose universal, national lock-down.  Will slow things down, but everyone gets to keep their guns and you will know, once you're inside somewhere, that you are, probably, safe.

3. Regulate guns.  Like we do with everything else and like every other civilized, industrialized nation on the planet does.

There is a fourth option, of course.  It's the one we always reach for and  will, sadly,  most likely choose this time as well.  

We can do nothing.  We can grieve, mourn and question.  We can shake our heads in dismay.  And do nothing.  And if we choose this option, as I'm so afraid we will, if we choose door number four, then when the next massacre occurs, as it will, as you know it will, then also know that we, you and I, share responsibility in the next round of murders.  Because we did nothing to prevent them. We did nothing, knowing that they were inevitable, that they were certain to occur as long as we allow virtually anyone in this country easy access to military-grade weaponry and allow others to call this access "freedom". 

Those are the four options I see going forward.

I hope this has been helpful.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

the man he is, not the man you want him to be

I was in California doing this last week and we were in technical rehearsals on Wednesday, so we missed the debates.

Caught some of it later and of course read the breathless, astonished, "o the humanity" coverage.  The  President stumbled.  How could he stand there and not hammer away with that righteous hammer of Truth and Righteousness he keeps in his tool belt?  Why didn't he just blast the Plutocrat Cyborg with the Laser Beam of Populist Outrage and Honesty that he can summon at will?

Yeah.  Weird.

Instead, he stood there and, ah, argued his side reasonably.  And didn't attack.  If it were a prize fight, he would have won on points only because you have to beat the champ, he doesn't have to beat you.  But the ref would have been unhappy and been on him for just wrapping Romney up every time, every exchange.  Crowd would have been standing, booing and throwing things, shouting,

"Hit him!  Throw a punch!"

President Obama is a moderate.  And maybe the most cautious, thoughtful and in-his-head man to hold the office since James Earl Carter.  Yeah, I said it.  Go wild you fine, hungry Republicans looking for anything that may turn the tide this late in the day. 

Do you honestly believe that Axelrod or Plouffe or anyone behind the scenes would let him swing and try to knock Romney out?  Do you honestly think that the President would throw caution to the wind and risk making a mistake, or saying something that could be twisted into a gaffe?

He's a whip-smart, disciplined politician with maybe the best organization in modern political history behind him.  These are the guys who beat Hillary Clinton and then John McCain.  With an untested black guy.  Come on.  He's on script and the script says "Keep your head down, let the guy pound on you, absorb the blows, wait for the bell."

He's got my vote and I love the guy, but he's not who you want him to be.  I wrote awhile back that he's the President least inclined to screw the poor and that's why we all need to make sure he gets re-elected, but let's not forget how low that bar is. 

He ain't King or Gandhi or Mandela. 

None of those three would have made it out of the primaries four years ago.


Monday, September 17, 2012

angry people hate empires

Or, empires make people angry, which can lead to hate.

Or hate is not an unnatural reaction to an empire when you are not part of that empire and it's actions make you angry and you feel (or in fact, are) helpless to meaningfully confront the empire.

I'm hearing a lot about how the people in the street in the Mideast are very angry and there's no one thing we  did or other thing we can do to either explain the anger or quell it.

And, of course, we've all been told like children asking about "the bad people" that some people out there just hate us.  Because we're us.  And free and secular and...good.  Because we're modern and they're not.  They're just evildoers.  What are you going to do?  They're going to do evil, since they're, ah, evil-doers, you see, and there's not a lot to be done or said about that.

We're told that they hate freedom.  Hate it.  That damned freedom.

Now, let's be very clear.  There are, in fact, twisted, evil, homicidal people out there.  Some of them claim to worship Allah, some claim to worship Jesus and some are just bad, broken bags of bones lurching around causing chaos and mayhem.  It's a fact that bad, dangerous people hurt and kill other people every day on this fine, fine planet of ours, for reasons only they can articulate or for no damned reason at all.

But usually you can trace a reason for someone's violent reactions.  Ninety times out of a hundred you can look at the whole thing and figure out why the bad thing happened.  It's the old cause and effect routine, you're probably familiar with it, it's used a lot around here.

So, here goes:

The United States of America is an empire.  That's not red propaganda or hyperbole or even a criticism.  That's a  military and political fact.  An empire is very simply defined as a nation or a nation/state that has what used to be called garrisons and are now called military bases outside of its home territory.  And the more you have and the farther spread out they are, the more powerful an empire you are.  Not that controversial or complicated a thing, really.

And empires are not by definition bad or destructive things.  I read once that there was an emperor of ice cream, so that sounds pretty good.  But the nature of a military empire is that it imposes its order, power and culture onto the people in foreign lands.  And if a large part of that culture is democracy and free trade and equal rights for all people, hey, we're all eating ice cream.  But if another large part of that culture is a religion that is seen as historically alien or worse, hostile to the religion of the people in the foreign land where the empire is garrisoned, well, then you start having some problems.

Anyone remember what Bin Laden wanted back when he started killing innocent people, mostly Muslims?  What he stated he wanted, the cruel, rich, pampered, self-infatuated fuck?

He wanted the American military out of his holy lands.  That was it.  He did not want to kill Americans on American soil.

I am in no way, in no way, Jim, defending the guy.  Personally, I'm glad he got shot in the face.  I've got some karmic/Buddhist/Christian weight I'll have to work off for that one, but I'm fine with that.  He ordered and financed the deaths of three thousand people and it went down a mile from where I sleep.

But his anger and hate did not come out of thin air.  His anger and hate came from his frustration at the implacable, immovable empire camped out in his homeland.

But my point is not about Bin Laden.  It's about the millions of young men and women and boys and girls who live outside the walls of our bases, all over the world.  They have no context.  They don't know or care about the Marshall Plan.  A central fact in their lives, from birth, is the armed presence of foreigners in their homeland.  And these foreigners are impossibly richer than everyone they know, these foreigners directly or covertly control their leaders, these foreigners walk around like they own the place.

Do the quick thought experiment and put on their sandals.  You're growing up in Miami and Russians run the town from inside their military base.  You're born in LA and Chinese soldiers are everywhere, pretty much doing what they want.  You're from Montana and German drones regularly blow the shit out of houses and cars along the road.

How  do you like the empire now?  

They're angry at the presence of the empire.  And anger with no outlet and no ability to engage can turn to hate pretty quickly.  Which results in violence.

I don't have an answer to what's going on over there, but please, we have to stop just shaking our heads in mock-confusion and regret at "the angry people who hate us despite all we've done for them."  Most of them just want us to go home.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

fear and loathing in Tampa

Newton shakes the grim hand of Death

Need to tip the hat to the good doctor Thompson.  As you'll see, the reporting of Thursday night's convention coverage becomes a bit...incoherent towards the end.

I had a few drinks to steel myself to watch all of those bored white people sitting around trying to get excited about something, anything, please god, is that a famous singer? No? Is that Boehner? No?  Is my sad novelty Colonial foam hat ironic or festive or just sad?
Just sad?
I'd go outside and get out of this red, white and blue funeral parlor for a minute but then I'd be in...Tampa.  And it's raining sideways out there.
Goddamnit, Jim, whose idea was this?

Poor bastards.  Foot soldiers and grunts with no coherent command, no real battle plan, no morale. You can see them trying to get excited and be happy, like friends at a wedding who know that one of the people up there at the altar is making a terrible decision.  Mechanical smiles, pain wet in their eyes, huge foam hats drooping sadly.

So I had a few drinks to get ready and I've been experimenting with very cheap blended Scotch whiskey lately, just seeing what's down there on the lowest shelf at the old Liquor Factory.  I stumbled (not literally, thank god) upon Old Smuggler last week and so Old Smuggler was my companion Thursday night. And apparently they're cutting that shit with mescaline or something.

Three shots and you're blind.

Man.  If you can't trust an Old Smuggler...?

So.  Here's what I wrote down, what I can decipher, anyway.

I'm not apologizing or anything, but I ask you to understand:

Old Smuggler was at the wheel.






Yeah, no one really cares, clearly. 

This is the Big Night and the Excitementometer isn't even plugged in.  It's a collective "ehh" from the Republican braintrust/bigwigs/old power network, half hoping Mitt will get buried so they'll still be the smart guys and have a job next year, half hoping that fluke upon fluke, Mitt might win in November, so they're trying not to piss off his guys too bad.

When I tune in, Connie Mack (not the baseball Hall of Famer, but his great-great grandson or something crazy like that) is making the stunning observation that we are in America, we are Americans and the country we call America exists and is a pretty good place.  Also, according to Congressman Mack, a lot of important people have lived here and done big things.

I didn't know any of this, so I have to thank Mr. Mack for the revelation.

And I'm having some trouble with this phrase, "Making the American Dream a reality again."

Making the American dream a reality again.

Isn't the essence of a dream that it isn't real?

Or am I missing something or just being another goddamned literalist?

And now, I'm pretty sure this wasn't the Old Smuggler messing with me, but Callista and Newt Gingrich actually walked up to the podium.  And no one threw anything at them that I could see.  No vat of pig blood tipping overhead.  Why Newt, of course, but why the hell Callista?

And then they proceeded to give Ronald Reagan the Lifetime Achievement Award.  For something.  Certainly not the movies he made.  Unclear.

And I need to pull over the car for a moment and say something about Ronald Reagan to you kids in the back.  Can't do it while I'm driving, I'll kill us all and everyone else on the road.  I get a little blind and start shouting if I don't really mind myself in these waters.

You've probably been told all your life, directly or indirectly, that Ronald Reagan ended the Cold War.  This is like when people tell you that Elvis Presley invented rock and roll; a popular, lazy and inaccurate belief.  What happened is that Ron, along with his handlers and cronies, won the big Poker Game in the way a gambler with unlimited funds wins any pot he wants.  He just kept raising, hand after hand, billions and billions of dollars into a defense industry we didn't need.  The Soviet Union had to respond and went bankrupt.

But, of course, so did we.  This was not an act of courage or patriotism on Reagan's part.  it was a cynical and destructive policy for both countries.

And I'm going to give you two words, breathing deep and slow as I do.




Well then, that will be homework.

Maybe  the largest scandal since the Teapot Dome.  Nixon was running a half-assed burglary squad and had a slush fund for dirty tricks.  Google "arms for hostages" and "dirty money to fund an illegal war".  Should come up and you'll see what Saint Ronald had going on.

At this point in the evening I had to take a call from an old friend, so the Old Smuggler and I stood outside smoking and yelling in the yard for awhile.  When I came back Olympic Girl was on the screen saying some nice  things.  Romney saved the Olympics, I'm told, so that makes sense.  Then it's Olympic Appreciation Time and the crowd starts that USA chant.

This always scares me for some reason.  I think it's the "Yoo-Ess-Ay", which turns the beautiful and simple "USA" into some kind of primitive, infectious and dangerous tribal chant, a war cry, really.  Freaks me out a bit every time.

Then the captain of the United States hockey team that beat the Soviets came up and made the Deep Pitch.  And this could work, I guess.  It's deep.  Weird and subterranean and kind of sideways, but deep.  Here's the formula:

Mitt saved the Olympics.
The Olympics are global and important.
The Olympics are, in fact, a global phenomenon more important and immediate to real people (athletes and their trainers, mostly, but still real people) than anything else you can think of.

Therefore, in some way, if you follow,

Mitt saved the world.
So clearly, he can save America.

All right.

Could work.  It's kind of a lateral pass, but those work sometimes.  As long as the defense doesn't see it coming.


Sorry, partisan impulse there.

And then, this is where the evening starts really getting weird, I take a good snort of the Old Smuggler and blink my eyes and I see Clint Eastwood at the podium talking to an empty chair.  I know this didn't really happen, of course, but it was so realistic.  He was pretending that the President was sitting in the chair and the President kept telling Clint to go fuck himself.  Crazy.

I'm either never touching Old Smuggler again or it's all I'm drinking from here on out.  I haven't decided yet, but it's definitely one or the other.

And then Marco Rubio came out.  We'll definitely be hearing from this guy down the road.  He's got mostly just blather right now, but he'll get a team around him.

And then the Man of the Hour walked out.  Stood there for awhile, June got his pipe, Wally slouched by, the Beaver got mixed up in some kind of shenanigans with that hooligan Whitey but Mitt straightened it all out and started to talk.

At some point  I swear he copped to having been the governor of Massachusetts for awhile there.  More Old Smuggler lies, I guess, he would never do that in real life.  Talked about women as if they were practically equal to men, so that's a tactical shift that makes sense going into the general election.  I also thought I heard him saying that praying harder and hugging your kids longer might improve the economy, so that's a novel approach.  We don't have kids, but I'll pet the cat a little harder, see if it helps.

The meat of the speech seemed aimed right down the center of the lane, trying to persuade the couple of hundred thousand folks who only voted for the President last time because we were going over a cliff and McCain was clearly unhinged towards the end there.  They grudgingly pulled the Obama lever, shrugged and walked out of the booth.  It's the right strategy, no question.  But once again, and again and again and again, Romney's got nothing except "I'm a business man. He's not. A business man understands jobs and should be the President."  And the problem there is that only the first two sentences are true.

The only pure businessman who ever held the office is Herbert Clark Hoover.  No joke.  He was a mining engineer and an author.  And a smart, impressive guy.  Had never held elected office before, not even as dogcatcher or treasurer of his bridge club.   We put a businessman in the White House in 1929.  And then something else happened that year.

I'm blanking.  Something big.

Oh yeah.  Great Depression.  Hoovervilles all across this great land.

I understand the pitch the Romney guys are trying to make.  It's just the fact that it's complete and utter nonsense that bothers me, I guess.

Tonight the Democrats step up.  We're going to see a lot of the same hoo-haw, of course.  But at least they've got a guy who knows what the job is and how to do it.

Old Smuggler just pulled up.  Got to run.   



Thursday, August 30, 2012

as seen on TV

I watched some of the Republican convention last night.


I'll try to keep the tone of this blog respectful, but Jesus.

Any party's convention is going to be, by definition, triumphalist and one-sided.  The immediate point of the convention is to fire up the delegates, the foot soldiers who will go back home and actually work to turn out the vote.  If they're not passionate, that's one less lawn sign, three fewer phone calls, five hundred bucks that doesn't go to the campaign.

The second, and at this stage, less important goal is to influence the persuadables out there, those few hundreds of thousands of voters who could go either way.  They're probably not watching the convention,but the highlights will get filtered down to them through the media and every little bit helps.

So, I'm taking all of this with a fistful of salt, but still.

It started with Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Minority Leader of the Senate.  McConnell is the great legislator and statesman who said, on the record, that his highest priority was making Barack Obama a one-term President.

Way to govern, Mitch.

McConnell started out by praising someone named "Mitt Ryan". I don't know who this is, must be some last-minute replacement for Romney, some back-room Tampa deal.  And then he kept talking, raising the question:

How on God's green earth did Mitch McConnell ever get elected to anything, let alone the United States Senate?  He is the most phlegmatic, wooden speaker I've seen televised nationally in years.  Biff from the old Letterman show is Robert Preston in the Music Man compared to the good Senator.

And speaking of old TV shows, was that the old SNL guitarist accompanying Jack Blades?  And why didn't they turn Jack's microphone on?  Kind of a shame, him being the singer and all.

McConnell stumbles off and Rand Paul strides on.  Ah, Rand.  You got to give some grudging respect to a grown man who defies any comb or hairbrush.  Apparently, hair grooming of any kind is unconstitutional, clause 8, paragraph 41, you can look it up.  Right around the part that decrees African-Americans to be equal to three-fifths of European Americans.

That's one infallible document, huh?

Rand started out with a history lesson, which is always a great way of making an audience think you're smarter than they are and therefore your ideas make sense even if they don't make any sense.  The Newton Leroy Gingrich gambit, I think it's called.  Very effective.  You could feel the crowd getting into it, finally.  They love it when the Pauls lay in to that serious, straight-up Ayn Rand shtick, just thundering out that simplistic, selfish, short-sighted message.

McConnell and Rand both took some good, measured whacks at the President, which raised the second question of the night:

How do the Republican strategists, with straight faces and presumably able to sleep through the night, continue to try to characterize Barack Hussein Obama as a member of the elite?   Because he went to Harvard? So did Romney.  George W. Bush went to Yale.  Come on.

The President grew up as a black guy with a single white mother.  In America.  Odds, actual odds, friends, are that he ends up in prison, not in college and certainly not in the White House.  You can disagree with his policies and his philosophy,  you can just not like the guy, that's fine, but don't insult the collective intelligence of the voters or dismiss the extraordinary effort and discipline of the man.  His road was not easy.  Respect that.

Then Rand just flat-out lied, setting the bar nice and low for Ryan's speech later.  The word from the back room is clearly:

 "Hammer away on the "You didn't build that" line.  Just keep saying that, with scorn and a slow head shake on the profound arrogance and ignorance of a person who would dare say that to an American business person.  Just keep saying that, we'll figure out something else in September."

So Rand said, simply and concisely, that businesses build roads.


That would be, untrue, Senator.  Flatly, simply, obviously untrue.  I've never driven the Staples superhighway and I've seen a lot of road in this country.  Dwight D. Eisenhower, a Republican president, built the interstate highway system.

Look it up, Rand.

And then Condoleeza Rice walks out.  I've already said what I think of this woman.
The coldest, smartest mercenary I've ever seen.  Enough said.

And then the highlight of the night, Vice-Presidential candidate Paul Davis Ryan, possibly related to Mitt Ryan, don't know.  And now you could really feel the crowd tuning in and breathing easier.  Like a dead party when someone finally says, "Hey, you guys want a drink?"  Ryan damn near burned the place down.  Mostly because his pants were on fire,I guess.

I mean, he lit his pants on fire and then kept pouring on the kerosene.


Again, I'm trying to be respectful and all, but holy Jesus on the cross eating corn chips.

Liar liar.

He certainly proved he belongs with the Big Boys, I'll give him that.  One of the unfortunate and corrosive skills you have to possess to run for national office these days is the ability to lie with great passion and sincerity.  Ryan excelled.

A couple of places where the Congressman strayed from what some of us would call the facts:

- The GM plant in Janesville, Wisconsin that Ryan claimed the President promised to keep open closed in December of 2008.  Yeah.  Hard to pin that on a guy who wasn't sworn in yet.  Janesville happens to be Ryan's hometown, by the way.  So, he knows when it closed.

- This one is more of a lie of omission, I guess.  The bi-partisan debt panel that Ryan claims the President ignored?  Ryan was on the panel and voted against it's recommendations.   Come on.

--Of course the stimulus created jobs.  Millions of them.  Not enough, and I've written before, the problem with the stimulus is it wasn't big enough, mostly because of political calculation and cowardice on the part of the President and his team.  But to claim it had no effect is just silly.

-And then the bald-faced, brazen bit about Medicare.  Read Ryan's budget, the reason he was standing there last night, the only reason any of us outside of Wisconsin know his name.  It's not the Democrats that are going after Medicare, folks.

Ah.  Sorry.  A little partisan venting.

Again, I know the game.  I've been watching it for awhile now.

But when they demonstrate so blatantly that they think we are so, so stupid, it just gets me all kind of bitey and snarly.

If you think your points, your policies and your vision are better than the other guy's, then just make the argument, for god's sake.   Don't just stand there and lie.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

what the Ryan pick means

And all the pieces are in place.

First off, as far as the horse race goes, the raw politics of it, Romney picking Ryan confirms that President Obama's team won the summer.

Which means exactly as much as winning the first half of a basketball game.  If winning the first half meant eventual victory, the New York Knicks of the mid-nineties would have been a dynasty.

This means that the President's team outcoached the Romney crew.  Romney's strategy of don't get specific and keep talking about job loss and "I'm a business guy" was their one play and the Obama camp ran good offense painting Romney as Mr. Burns from the Simpsons without any of the laughs and the media and Mitt himself kept the cyborg weirdness storyline alive, so the President started pulling away in the states and with the demographics that are actually going to decide this thing.

So Romney and Co. had to throw out the playbook and throw something different at them. When they realized they were getting beat they started complaining about "garbage politics" and how the President was demeaning the office by...campaigning,  I guess.  A sure tell that one side is losing is when they start complaining that the other side is playing dirty.  You never see a winning team whining to the ref.

The larger meaning of the pick is that we have a  chance at an actual, interesting, meaningful election.

Think of the foolishness of the Bush/Kerry race and the surface noise of the Obama/McCain contest.  If it hadn't have been for the complete economic meltdown right at the end there and if McCain hadn't have said "the fundamentals of our economy are sound" (which is a perfectly reasonable and sensible thing for a candidate to say), it could have easily gone the other way.  It was all about optics and emotion that year, with the nuance and depth of a high school Homecoming King race.

Ryan now defines Romney, which speaks to the weakness of Romney more than anything else.  And the definition is "radical conservative economic policy".

I haven't gone through the Ryan budget, just seen all of the highlights they flash on the screen when the pundits are jabbering about it.  And since I've promised not to revert to talking points or lazy assumptions when writing here, (curse those late night, whiskey-fueled promises!) until I get some time to study it, I'll avoid judging it.

But a couple of things are clear.

It's an extreme document. 

It's extreme and, in my view, dangerous and wrong-headed not because of any of the details but solely on it's premise.

Our country is not a business.  We do not have to balance our books every year, or in fact, ever.

Now that's got to get somebody writing in.

Also, it doesn't tap the easiest and fairest source of revenue.

Which would be corporations and rich people, Bob.

So, you've got two deeply moderate guys, the President and Romney, standing on either side of a Big Debate:

Great Society vs. Gilded Age.

Keynes vs. Friedman.

Watered down, half-serious, old-time liberalism vs. Wild West dogs eating dogs, everyone else eating the poor.

Could get interesting.  

Monday, August 6, 2012

radicals in our streets

I read a headline the other day that blared something like:

Senate Likely to Turn More Conservative

But it was about the odds that some Tea Party-backed candidates were likely to replace some older, incumbent  Republicans.  And, here's a news flash, kids:

Tea Party ideology, if there can be said to be a single one, isn't conservative.

Not in the historical, generally understood meaning of the word, anyway.

Whether the ideology, philosophy, goals and game plan of the Tea Party are smart or dangerous to our country is a conversation I'm itching to have, but first we need to clarify what we're talking about.

The Tea Party is radical.

Kind of the opposite of conservative.

The Tea Party wants enormous change and it wants it now.  Think of the word "conservative" for a moment.  It generally means that someone wants to change everything, everything and he wants it to happen now, this afternoon, man, and if things get rowdy and a little crazy while we're overhauling the entire structure, well, hell, that's what happens, you have to break a few eggs to make an omelet, boys.

That's what you think of when you think "conservative", right?


The Tea Party is radical bordering on revolutionary, which is why I admire them.  Not what they want to do, not how they generally behave, o god in heaven no, but their revolutionary vision is something you don't see much these days in this country.  And they're matching that vision with organization in a lot of places and that's even more rare.  Occupy Your Mom's House could learn a few things from these guys.

The New Conservatives are really Clintonian Democrats, President Obama and Secretary Clinton being the leading figures of the cause.  They're mildly progressive on the social issues, which defined the chasm between the Left and the Right over the past forty years or so, but when it comes to economic policy, foreign affairs, energy policy, education, everything that actually falls under the job of government, they want to keep things pretty much the same and maybe gradually make small changes, if those changes are deemed prudent and acceptable to most people.   Very conservative way of doing business.

I don't know what you'd call the old Republicans getting overrun by the Tea Party crew.

Doomed, I guess.  Soon to be extinct.  The honest ones, anyway.  Watching the rest of them run to that new money is a sad thing, like watching an old fat man trying to dance with the kids at a wedding.  It's like,

"Dude.  Just sit down and talk to your wife.  You can't dance to that song."