Tuesday, September 30, 2008

How low is the bar?

Poor Sarah Palin. It appears that Katie Couric (who knew?) has yet again been practicing some of that "gotcha journalism" you hear so much about. She pulled the dirty trick of asking little Sarah what newspapers and/or magazines she regularly read before being nominated to be Vice President of the United States of America.

Sarah, alas, was not able to name a single one. Such a tricky bitch, that Katie Couric.

Of course, if that question had been asked of me, it would have been kind of a trick question. I haven't bought a dead-tree copy of a newspaper in years. I don't know that I've had a magazine subscription since Mad. But... just checking here... opening up the "history" pane in Firefox.. this is a sampling of some of the news sources I've informed myself with over the last 4 days:

New York Times
Washington Post
L.A. Times
The Economist
Chicago Tribune
San Francisco Chronicle
Wall Street Journal
Dallas Morning News
New York Post
Boston Globe
The Guardian
The Daily Mail
BBC News
Financial Times
New York Magazine
Alaska Daily News
Miami Herald
International Herald Tribune
Al Jazeera
Seattle Times
The Politico
Denver Post
The Atlantic
Congressional Quarterly
The New Yorker
National Review
The Nation

Not to mention dozens of blogs and opinion sites. Just in the last 4 days.

But being well-informed about politics and national and world news is my hobby. Not my job. In fact, it is antithetical to my job. Imagine how well-informed I would be if I were actually employed in politics? My guess is that prior to being nominated to be Vice President of the United States of America Sarah Palin rarely read anything other than the local bumfuck Alaska daily, plus maybe People and US Weekly.

And I guarantee -- in fact I would bet my life savings -- that I could tear Sarah Palin to tiny shreds in a debate on just about any topic under the sun (excluding, of course, the proper christianist methods of witch hunting).

And so does this qualify me to be a candidate for the Vice Presidency of the United States of America? Unfortunately, no. I'm no good at glad-handing, back-slapping, small talk, schmoozing, pandering, or any of the other happy shit that politics so often requires. In fact, I am abrasive bordering on antisocial bordering on sociopathic. So that, apparently, disqualifies me. As it probably should.

But yet is this what our national politics have come to? We find some unknown person, who fits the proper demographic profile, who looks good on camera, who holds the right views on god, gays, and guns, and who isn't, as of the exact date of nomination, under indictment for any serious felonies, and place that person in a position to be running the entire fucking country at a moment's notice, simply because she loves god, hates gays, and shoots a bunch of babies out her vagina, but despite the fact that not only is she supremely ill-informed about history, science, politics, and the world in general, but also that she wears her ignorance as a badge of honor, hates, despises, fears, and denounces people who are educated and informed, and to top it all off not only has never bothered to read any news but is also too stupid to be able to fake any good answer or indeed even name a single news source in service of propagating a credible lie to at least mollify and provide the slightest bit of cover for her compatriots in idiocy that insist on supporting her no matter how incredibly fucking stupid she proves herself to be???

These Republican dumbfucks have set the lowest of low bars here. I am embarrassed to live in a country that even pretends to take shit like this seriously.

Monday, September 29, 2008

A boondoggle by any other name...

In case anyone was wondering, the Wall Street bailout legislation which failed today was the same thievery proposed by Bush and Paulson over a week ago, just dressed up in some happy-happy language that congressional Democrats thought would save them from being hauled out of their cushy offices and lit on fire.

Limits on executive pay? Sounds great to the hoi polloi when you go in front of teevee cameras to explain how you are really teaching those greedy Wall Street fuckers a lesson in exchange for allowing them to loot the treasury. (Here, note, "looting the treasury" being merely a metaphor, since the treasury has no money and all these ill-gotten gains must be borrowed.)

But when you see it in print, eh, not so much, buddy. First, it is all "at the discretion of the Secretary". The same Secretary, you'll remember, who didn't want any of this language in there in the first place. Second, even if required by the Secretary, it only does the following: (a) limits "golden parachutes" being put into new exec contracts, (b) discourages exec bonuses which incentivize "excessive" risktaking -- which is obviously a crock, because (1) bonuses are never explicitly based on excessive risktaking, and (2) if your bonus is achieved and actually paid out... then how in the hell can you, looking backward, ever possibly say that any risk was "excessive", since the risk, obviously, paid off!), and (3) allows a "claw back" of bonuses paid out which are later determined to have been based on "incorrect" earnings statements -- in other words, stock fraud, which, last I checked, was already a felony resulting in civil asset forfeiture and, uh, imprisonment.

So, there's your limits on executive comp.

And as for the $700,000,000,000 being broken up into "tranches" so that congress can monitor how it is being spent and whether this "rescue" is working? Heh. You didn't think Henry Paulson was a dummy, did you? Goldman Sachs used to pay this guy tens of millions of dollars to cook their books. You don't think they'd let just any moron off the street do that, do you?

No. Whatever else Henry Paulson may be, he's no dummy. Read for yourself. Sure, the bill starts out by appropriating only $250,000,000,000. Um, but then, "[i]f at any time, the President submits to the Congress a written certification that the Secretary needs to exercise the authority under this paragraph, effective upon such submission" the amount will be increased to $350,000,000,000. [My emphasis] So, another $100,000,000,000 on merely the President's say-so alone.

But what about the other $350,000,000,000? you may ask. Well, either these people are a whole lot smarter than congress, or congress thinks the public is a bunch of shit-for-brains dumbfucks. Because the next $350,000,000,000 may also be requested by the President at any time, and such request will be granted unless congress jumps through a whole lot of hoops with really tight deadlines and passes a law within 15 days rejecting the request. So, ok, well... not entirely impossible, I guess... BUT WAIT, there's MORE! The President may then veto such rejection. In which case, you guessed it, the additional $350,000,000,000 will be appropriated. Unless, of course, congress is able to override the veto with 2/3 majority in both houses before the end of the aforementioned 15 day period. Heh.

Put simply, this bill is and was a complete crock of shit. And just to drive home the point, Paulson's minions at Treasury held a conference call with 800 Wall Street fucks telling them about the toothlessness described above, plus some other toothlessnesses that I'm don't have the energy to blog about right now (oversight? Hah, you mean from this congress? Please. Transparency? In the Bush Administration? You've got to be fucking kidding me.). Suffice to say, all this bullshit touted by assholes in congress over the last several days as "protections for taxpayers" is no more than window dressing to assuage the righteous anger of the taxpayers who were (or, are still) to be stolen from.

Of course, the press was not invited to this conference call. Some bloggers, however, crashed the party. The "Treasury Boys" (you know, those folks putting in their time playing at government before moving to Wall Street to cash in) more or less baldly stated that the exec comp provisions had no teeth (why limit your future paychecks!?) and that the "tranching" was a mere formality, as the whole $700,000,000,000 could be requested pretty much immediately.

The story of this bailout is not that investment bankers want to steal the public's money. That's a "dog bites man" story if ever there was one. No, the real story is how our representatives (yes, OUR REPRESENTATIVES) in congress lined up like whipped curs to help these fuckers loot the treasury.

Well, they have failed. So far.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Sullivan uses flamethrower; Cafferty has shake-voice

Here's Andrew Sullivan's latest blistering attack on McCain/Palin: McCain is a lying liar and is responsible for the "legalization" of torture, and the nomination of Palin is "the worst act of political judgment in my lifetime."

Meanwhile, check out this clip of Jack Cafferty on CNN. He plays one of Palin's answers to Couric, and, while barely being able to control himself, sputters to Wolf Blitzer that in the decades he's been covering politics it is "one of the most pathetic pieces of tape i have ever seen... no excuse... pathetic".

Me, I'm all for Palin-FAIL, but I could barely watch her answer. Just too awful. As others have noted, it's like a Ricky Gervais skit, only more cringe-inducing and painful to sit through. I had to take my headphones off. Absolutely terrible. And the look on Couric's face near the end... it is obvious she's struggling as hard as she can not to close her eyes and put her hands over her ears.

Comedy Interlude

Too busy reading about the bizarre-O circus that our country has become to blog much, but here are a couple of funnies:

First, IOZ, always trying to be inside Vlad's head:
Imagine if you are Vladimir Putin. You do not drink or smoke, and aside from occasionally fucking your gymnast nymphette into catatonic submission while a 10,000 piece orchestra plays Gimn Sovetskogo Soyuza outside your window, you do not carouse. Your life is occupied with grim, atavistic fantasies, which are just now coming to fruition, and as you nurse your bloody dreams in the Siberian expanses of your glittering, Satanic soul, you flip on the teevee and see the only force on earth with any capacity to foil or retard your ambitions rapidly consuming itself in an orgy of abject ridiculousness, a Marx-brothers comedy of political ineptitude so baroque in its Vaudevillian slapstick that it melts, for just one moment, the crimson popsicle that is your KGB heart and from your mouth, for the first time since you traded your soul for life eternal and a thirst for blood one thousand years ago, you let out one brief, delicious: Ha!
Second, the Onion with Point/Counterpoint (you don't have to read through the whole "Point").

Third, I give you the next Vice President of the United States:
COURIC: Have you ever been involved with any negotiations, for example, with the Russians?

PALIN: We have trade missions back and forth. We-- we do-- it's very important when you consider even national security issues with Russia as Putin rears his head and comes into the air space of the United States of America, where-- where do they go? It's Alaska. It's just right over the border. It is-- from Alaska that we send those out to make sure that an eye is being kept on this very powerful nation, Russia, because they are right there. They are right next to-- to our state.
Thank you, South Carolina!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

These people cannot be trusted.

I don't care about their credentials, what their reputations are, how sincere they may seem, or how many people think they are "honest brokers". The fact is, they work for Bush. And that one simple fact by itself means that they have zero credibility.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Fool me twice... uh... won't be fooled again

[Well... I wrote this last night, but neglected to post it. Now people all over are asking the same questions. Here's Yglesias, and here's a guy that won a Pulitzer Prize writing about economic issues. Not that it's exactly an original thought; Atrios has been bashing it from Day 1.]

The more I think about it, the more I don't get where this "consensus" is coming from about how something must be done, NOW to save these Wall Street assholes from the consequences of their own idiotic pyramid schemes investment vehicles.

I've seen this all over the place. Even hardcore anti-Bush, anti-business bloggers are buying into this, saying things like "there's a real crisis here, that requires real governmental intervention", while railing against the current "plan" (which, as the scare quotes indicate, is not actually a plan, but rather a dollar figure signifying the amount of money we will be handing over).

But how do we know there's a "crisis" which "requires" government to "intervene"? The only thing that's come to light so far is a scary and disturbing conversation that Paulson had with lawmakers on Thursday night. Prior to that, no one was talking about a huge bailout of the entire industry.

So, where is the evidence? Are we going on Paulson's word alone? And what led him to form his conclusions? There is very little information on this. I presume Paulson talked to some investment bankers, who presumably told him "Boy, things are bad. Like, really really bad. But not just for us. We're about to go down, and if we go down, then everything goes down. And the only way to solve this is to transfer huge sums of money to us."

Not exactly surprising that they would say something like this. I don't doubt that they are in quite a bit of trouble. And when people are in trouble, they will say a great many things to get out of it.

And it's not exactly surprising that Paulson believed them. They are his friends and colleagues. And, let's not forget: these people are -- truly -- the world's best salesmen. They get paid tens of millions of dollars a year to sell shit to people. Like, for example, huge packages of debt that will never be paid back.

Notes on a swindle

A couple of things to consider when trying to figure out what's going on with the Bailout:

1. There's this idea that runs through all the coverage in the media. In brief, it is that all the experts agree that something must be done, and right fucking now! to avert an unprecedented disaster that will throw the country and the world into a deep economic pit from which we may never recover. I don't know enough to dispute this idea on the merits, but I would simply ask: who, specifically, is making this claim? And if the answer to that question is:

(a) "the same people who stand to be paid $700,000,000,000"


(b) "the same people who stand to have unchecked power to hand out $700,000,000,000"

then I think someone oughta, you know, find out whether the claim is actually true.

2. A lot of the opposition to the bailout from GOPers and "conservatives" appears to be based on the idea that, while it might be ok to let Bush/Paulson hand over this money to Wall Street, we sure as hell don't want Obama and his people to have this authority come January. I've also seen this talked about in media reports.

I really don't understand where this comes from. I've read the Bush/Paulson proposal. The authority it would grant would expire after two years. But that is all it says in terms of timing. There is no mechanism whatsoever for preventing Bush/Paulson from paying out the entirety of the 700,000,000,000 prior to the end of Bush's term. And if you think for one minute that that's not precisely what they intend to do... then I'll just go ahead and assume you've been living in a dark cave for the last 8 years.

3. And, of course, the main feature of the Bush/Paulson proposal is this:
Sec. 8. Review.

Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency.
I think that one sentence pretty much conclusively sums up the Bush theory of governance.

Big Business is not inherently evil

I hope that most people would agree with that statement, but because it looks likely that I will be doing quite a lot of Big Business bashing on this here blog in the near future, it seems like I ought to lay out this idea as a baseline.

In my experience (which is significant, though not extraordinary), corporations are -- as a general proposition -- typically not bad actors. Businesses large and small have the basic goal of pursuing profits. There is nothing wrong with this, and in fact it is the very basis of our economic structure and the reason for our relative level of prosperity as a nation. In other words, I've read Adam Smith, and I agree with him.

Of course, in pursuit of profits, both corporations and individuals sometimes color outside the lines and do bad things. I submit that this is to a great degree the exception rather than the rule. A great majority of businesses have a built-in incentive to play by the rules and be good corporate citizens; that is, when they fuck up and act egregiously, they run a great risk of suffering in the court of public opinion and thereby losing the goodwill of their customers. This conflicts with their primary goal of pursuing profits.

Furthermore, businesses large and small -- even giant corporations -- are run by individuals. These individuals act according to a set of morals, which of course vary from person to person just as they do with individuals in general. The point being, the people who manage businesses are probably no more likely to do evil things than anybody else.

And also... I've long had the (somewhat ill-formed) idea that complex, detailed regulations placed on businesses by the government actually encourage bad behavior. Consider that no set of regulations, no matter how detailed, can ever prohibit every kind of bad act that the human mind can conceive of. Then consider that if a regulatory body says "here is a very highly detailed set of things you are not allowed to do", this, almost by necessity, leaves a businessperson with the idea that anything that is not prohibited by such a detailed regulatory structure must, by clear implication, be OK. This leads to "gaming the system", and the actions resulting from finding "loopholes" in a regulatory structure are simply then considered "smart" "innovative" ways to play the game, with any moral calculus being thrown out the window because, hey, if there was anything wrong with taking this or that action then obviously our government overseers would have prohibited it.

But back to my original point, the demonization of businesses and corporations is wrongheaded thinking. Some are good, some are bad, but most are not a menace to the general welfare.

That's where I'm starting from, and from that perspective I feel perfectly comfortable saying that allowing the nation's wealthiest financial institutions to reap huge profits when business is good and then having the ordinary taxpayer indemnify those same institutions when that very same business turns bad... well, people, that is the worst, most shameless kind of outright thievery I've ever heard of.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Mother of All Boondoggles

Ehhh... In case anyone out there happens to be wondering what I think of the Bush Administration's plan to borrow, on behalf of U.S. taxpayers, $700,000,000,000 from China, and then to quickly shovel all of this money into the pockets of their friends on Wall Street prior to leaving office in January...

I'm against it.

I will likely have more to say on this soon. But my thinking at this point is that we all oughta be getting out our torches and pitchforks.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

McCain flailing badly on financial crisis

I don't have the time to blog extensively today, but -- among tons of negative wordage being produced today in regards to McCain's incoherent economic gobbledygook -- here are a couple of articles worth read:

A short piece cleverly showing McCain flailing this way and that on the subject of regulation... all in the space of a single day.

An article in the Washington Post examining how McCain and Gramm helped get us into this mess in the first place several years ago.

Is it even remotely possible that McCain is able to shake this stuff off before the election? I can't imagine it. Even considering the amount of lo-info voters out there.

Meanwhile, I just want to say that the idea of taxpayers pouring $85Billion into AIG makes me so very very sincerely fucking pissed.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

"blum flink, edstoog wuck scrailty blongerfeddingtall"

That title is just a bunch of random words I made up.

Similarly, John McCain -- who will very possibly take the oath of office in a few months as President of the United States -- was speaking on teevee this morning. While McCain did utter combinations of sounds that can be recognized as real, actual words, the order in which he uttered them left those paying attention with little more in the way of any idea actually being expressed.


1) On the Today show he said: "Of course I don’t like excessive and unnecessary regu — uh, government regulation."

2) A few minutes later on The Early Show he said: "Do I believe in excess government regulation? Yes. But this patchwork quilt of regulating bodies was designed for the 1930s when they were invented."

(Watch the compilation video. Seriously, watch it.)

Adding to the confusion, a few months ago he told the Wall Street Journal

I'm always for less regulation. But I am aware of the view that there is a need for government oversight. … But I am a fundamentally a deregulator. I'd like to see a lot of the unnecessary government regulations eliminated.

I don't listen to John McCain much. It is painful. But in those instances when I do, I invariably end up asking aloud what in the world kind of idea is this guy trying to convey to me. Does he believe in regulating financial markets? Who can tell? Does John McCain himself even know? If he does know, is the answer today the same as it was last year? last month? last week?

My best guess is that he has only a very vague idea what financial markets are. This view is supported by another McCain quote from today. Claiming that he has special insight into the recent troubles on Wall Street, McCain stated: "I understand the economy. I was chairman of the Commerce Committee that oversights every part of our economy." Yes, this committee oversights every part of our economy, except of course "credit, financial services, and housing".

(Purely as an aside, given the news of the last few days (and weeks and months) does he actually want to take credit for these last several years of government oversighting? Really?)

He does, on the other hand, have access to solid advice on the somewhat significant aspects of our economy falling under the classification of "credit, financial services, and housing". After all, McCain has pronounced his advisor, Phil Gramm, "one of the smartest people in the world on economics". After all, this is the same Phil Gramm who pushed through two rounds of deregulation on the financial services sector that teed up what is now known as "Big Shitpile" (i.e., the cause of the failure of Bear Sterns, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, and the impending failure of WaMu and AIG).

John McCain spews gibberish on these issues because, in a very fundamental way, he has a complete lack of interest in them. Oh, sure, he's read some brief memos on summaries of digests that touch on them, but all he gleaned therefrom were a few buzzwords and the idea that, when speaking to the Wall Street Journal, you should be sure to mention that you are "against excessive governmental regulation".

But still, I can see why he thinks Phil Gramm is the smartest person in the world on economics. If I were -- against my inclination -- speaking regularly with a numismatist about the vagaries of coin-collecting, I might very well come away with the impression that that particular numismatist, be he the dumbest, most bungling and incompetent numismatist in an 800 mile radius, was in fact a genius in his field.

Thankfully, I don't have to do that. Even more thankfully, no one is considering me for a position in which I am tasked with fixing a historic crisis in the mysterious and uninteresting world of "the scientific study of currency and its history in all its varied forms".

Monday, September 15, 2008

Maybe someday soon...

..but so far I can't seem to force myself to do the tough work of coming up with an even decently competent eulogy for DFW.

And so but then Gleemonex took up the slack and did a great one.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Palin and McCain

If sheer consumption of information is the benchmark, I have to be one of the world's foremost experts on the negative aspects of the McCain/Palin phenomenon. As previously noted, I'm following it so closely at least in part because I have this spark of an idea (recurring daydream, maybe) that the whole thing will very shortly meet a fiery doom in a conflagration of epic proportions.

Their campaign, I mean. Sure, it is rumbling along, still, with some ominous amount of momentum, but all the signs are there that it is coming apart at the seems. The media -- having for so long been so deferential to McCain -- is now nearing open warfare. Whatever qualms they might have had up til now in terms of not pursuing certain angles, airing certain narratives and facts, which might appear damaging to McCain... that's all gone now.

The campaign is keeping Palin on the shortest of leashes. According to the story:

Palin has yet to say so much as hello to the press corps [on her campaign plane].

The campaign is doing its best to keep Palin well away from inquisitive reporters, going so far as to book the press corps into a separate hotel from the candidate.

John McCain has not held a press conference in over 4 weeks. He is ducking difficult questioning. He went on The View for what I'm sure he considered a bit of puffery, and ended up getting mauled. One of his spokesmen recently told Politico: "We’re running a campaign to win. And we’re not too concerned about what the media filter tries to say about it."

The man openly disregards them and scoffs at them, both through his surrogates and through his his own words and deeds. And if there is one thing you can't do to the media -- if you are counting on their support -- it is disregard them. It strikes at their vanity, and impels them to prove their importance. And you don't want that. Especially when your campaign (and indeed the most popular of your ticket's two candidates) is built on a teetering mound of easily-disproven lies.

After all, it doesn't take much effort -- in fact, it is an exercise perfectly fit for a lazy but vanity-fueled media contingent -- to show that when John McCain states that Sarah Palin "knows more about energy than probably anyone else in the United States of America", he is not asserting something that is true, or even something that he believes is true. It is preposterous. (Read this excellent post from Matt Yglesias for more on this.)

When you begin to openly hold the media and its importance in such low esteem, even someone like Tom Brokaw might become offended at having his intelligence so blatantly insulted, which might cause him, on national teevee, to ask one of your supporters a question like:
More about energy than probably anyone else in the United States of America? More about solar, more about wind, more about geothermal than the MIT scientists who are working on this initiative? Boone Pickens? Al Gore? Do you think she knows more than any of those people do?
You could continue adding to Brokaw's list for weeks and still not have exhausted all the other people in the United States that know more about energy than Sarah Palin. Uh, just for example, putting to the side for a moment the nefarious ends to which the current V.P. puts his knowledge, does anyone with a brain in their head think Sarah Palin knows more about energy than Dick Cheney?

This kind of thing doesn't even pass the laugh test. And yet this is what John McCain's campaign is now built upon. It's only a matter of time until the joke filters down to the voters, though of course there's not a lot of time left for it to matter. On the other hand, all it would take is for one single ultra-damaging story to come out of Alaska, and the whole thing would come crashing down in an instant. Let's hope it happens before the election.

On a related note, if you, like me, are interested in being a rubber-necker for this possibly impending disaster, you should be reading Andrew Sullivan at The Atlantic. This guy is a smart ex-Republican with a lot of guts -- and he has had quite enough of McCain/Palin; he does very little other than throw firebombs at them all day every day. (I'm glad someone's doing it... but DAMN.) A sample:
McCain knows one thing: how to smear, lie, disorient, distract, and intimidate. You can't beat these thugs and liars at their own game. Beat them at the task of government. They are unfit for it.


David Foster Wallace, dead at 46.

My previous notes on Infinite Jest are here and here. He was a giant, according to me. It is unfortunate that most of his writing was so inaccessible to so many people, though of course it wouldn't be the same if it weren't.

I have nothing clever or profound to say. It is just very sad.

Friday, September 12, 2008


Ok, I kid in the post below. But check this out:

Damn. Click for (very) high res pic.

UPDATE: From the Associated Press, the "colossal storm" is "nearly as big as Texas itself". It threatens to "obliterate" waterfront towns. Huh.

UPDATE II: I'm starting to believe this "certain death" thing:

It pretty much fills the entire Gulf of Mexico.

Run for your lives!!!

Via DailyKos (cuz for some reason I can't seem to find the direct link), comes the following from the National Weather Service:
All neighborhoods... and possibly entire coastal communities... will be inundated during high tide. Persons not heeding evacuation orders in single family one or two story homes will face certain death. Many residences of average construction directly on the coast will be destroyed. Widespread and devastating personal property damage is likely elsewhere. Vehicles left behind will likely be swept away. Numerous roads will be swamped... some may be washed away by the water. Entire flood prone coastal communities will be cutoff. Water levels may exceed 9 feet for more than a mile inland. Coastal residents in multi-story facilities risk being cutoff. Conditions will be worsened by battering waves. Such waves will exacerbate property damage... with massive destruction of homes... including those of block construction. Damage from beach erosion could take years to repair.
Umm.... "certain death"?! Wow.

And then I find this map, which -- if I can trust the color palate on my monitor -- appears to indicate that the entire SurburbaPlex is under a "Hurricane Warning". Folks, we are 300 miles inland.

What's up, Chuck?

Well... it appears I owe Charlie Gibson somewhat of an apology. Judging from what I've seen so far, he actually asked some serious questions, and -- thus far at least, as there is still more to come -- no unserious ones. Props!

As for Sarah Palin, she was wobbly but seems to have at least not fallen flat on her face. Which, given the fact that 2 weeks ago she hadn't so much as even considered any of these issues, only proves that she has admirable college-style cramming skills, the ability to memorize and regurgitate.

I'm still not sure that the whole thing won't explode in a fiery blast of charred wingnut parts sometime prior to the election -- whether something ugly and obviously disqualifying emerging from her past (a la Eagleton) or from some horrendous gaffe that exposes her utter lack of knowledge, judgment, credibility, competence, etc. (a la Clayton Williams). But for now at least, the Palin phenomenon keeps trucking along relatively unabated. Despite, of course, its sheer absurdity and its challenges to our view of the universe as an orderly, rational place.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

'Member that time that you had all those babies? Huh? That was AWESOME!

The mag Foreign Policy has a list of twenty questions that Charles Gibson should ask Sarah Palin. A sampling:
(1) What’s the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite?
(2) In a broad and long-term sense, would you have responded differently to the attacks of 9/11?
(3) What's more important: securing Russia's cooperation on nuclear proliferation and Iran, or supporting Georgia's NATO bid? If Vladimir Putin called you on the phone and said, "It's one or the other," what would you tell him?
(4) What are your picks for the three most enlightening books written on foreign policy in the last five years?
(5) Which U.S. political thinkers, writers, and politicians would you enlist to advise you on matters of foreign policy and why?
(6) What is your preferred plan for peace between Israel and Palestine? A two state solution? What about Jerusalem?
Let me suggest that she would not be able to answer these questions in a suitable manner, even if given half a year sitting in front of The Google with a hotline to the State Department. Much less off the cuff.

Let me further suggest that Chuck Gibson will not ask any of these questions, or any like them. But you can be quite sure he will ask some form of the following questions:

(a) It is now well known that your beautiful daughter and her charming husband-to-be are expecting. Can you take us through the joy and wonderment you experienced on hearing the news that you're going to become a grandmother?

(b) You worked to fight corruption at the state and local level during your public service in Alaska, and you resisted wasteful federal spending in your state. Can you tell us a little about the knowledge and skills you brought to bear in this effort?

(c) You chose to bring a Down syndrome baby into this world. How rewarding has the experience been for you?

(d) As we've all seen, you have a wonderful family. How have you been able to successfully balance your public duties with your responsibilities as wife and a parent?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

how do you like them apples?

Will Hunting weighs in on Sarah Palin:

Watch it.

I'm one of those people always telling Hollywood types to shut their traps about politics, but here the guy is reciting near word-for-word what I've been saying for, um, eleven days now. Right down to the sputtering around, trying to work out the strongest possible synonym for "absurdity" without spewing an unparsable string of profanities.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Evolution in action

Watch closely, as Republicans mutate into Know-Nothings. Here's a guy, by the name of Mark Steyn, who likes to market himself as an intellectual. He pontificates regularly in print and in bytes, masquerading as a wise, smart, purveyor of Ideas.

And he posts here as follows:
I would rather be governed by the first 500* names in the Wasilla, AK phone book than by the editors of The Harvard Law Review.
Granted, he was quoting some other supposed intellectual of some stripe or other, but he associates himself with this Big Idea.

Do you get it? See, Barack Obama is a former EIC of the Harvard Law Review. And Sarah Palin is a person who might as well have been picked out at random from the Wasila, AK phone book. And obviously Sarah Palin would make a better President of the United States than Barack Obama.

I grew up in a town quite similar to Wasila, AK. Most of the people there are decent well-meaning sorts. But a random selection of them will result in a group of decent, well-meaning ignoramuses who have never traveled more than a hundred miles from their birthplace, have never attended a college, have never read an actual book, can't pick Iran out on a map, and think the science of Economics is some sort of Elitist Voodoo practiced by eggheads who might as well be space aliens. Oh, and they think the earth is 4,000 years old, that humans lived at the same time as dinosaurs, and aren't entirely convinced that the planet we live on is, uh, spherical.

We want these folks commanding our military, nominating people to run the Federal Reserve and be Supreme Court Justices, and performing day-to-day managerial duties over the gargantuan federal bureaucracy? Excuse my elitist small town Texas sensibilities... but that is Crazy with a capital "C". Pure idiocy. No one espousing such an opinion should ever be listened to about anything whatsoever.

I believe that people who read this here blog -- slip-shodishly run by a erstwhile small town Texas redneck -- understand what kind of ultra-rigorous criteria must be satisfied for someone to be admitted to Harvard Law School, much less to be installed as the editor-in-chief of its Law Review (only the most well-respected legal journal in existence). I guess people that read Mark Steyn's digital diarrhea either don't understand this or else believe that what we need, in this country, at this particular point in history, is a complete moron to run our country.

When your ideology has reached the point where its tenets compel the conclusion that it is better to have a neanderthal running the country than a smart competent knowledgeable person, perhaps your ideology is absolutely bankrupt without any conceivable possibility of redemption.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Tracy Flick tossing the red meat

As a commenter sez on this awesome blog I've been following:
Gotta say, she delivered.

Never mind all the outright lies and half-truths. She’s a low-information voter’s dream.

And another:
wow - she is a frightening beast, a real mean b!*ch- i hate to say it, but the repubs are going to love her - the gloves are off people. Biden is going to have to let that chick do herself in, cause if he touches one little hair on her perfect little head, he’s going to pull back a stump.
The book-banning anti-abortion Christianist crowd just eats this shit up. Perfect dentition, not a hair out of place, great bod courtesy of 1.5 hrs of pilates each day. And a stagefulla kids, just to prove that she doesn't use birth control (sex is only for procreation, dontcha know).

Which is what really pisses me off. I'm used to meeting up with the Tracy Flicks of this world (male and female), so that's nothing new. But what makes me want to throw my longneck bottle through the plasma screen is seeing those kids (including the gum-chewing hockey hunk Baby Daddy) constantly being dragged in front of the cameras as props in her Lifetime Channel made-for-teevee Saturday afternoon drama Special, which is itself nothing more than a television commercial designed to advertise her services as Vice-Principal-In-Chief. (If elected, she's going to be up in your business like you can't even possibly imagine, yet.)

But yeah so she drags theses unfortunate youngsters around with her everywhere she goes, in order to demonstrate... something or other that I don't get and never will. WHY are they important? WHO gives a fuck about them? HOW are they relevant in any way whatsoever? WHEN did a candidate's darling little fuck trophies start demonstrating said candidate's electability? WHAT about the rest of us citizens who don't particularly care for your Leave It To Beaver bullshit fucking lifestyle?

Is that too harsh? So what. I don't really care.

Dear Candidate-For-Public-Office: Please explain to me, in careful and rigorous detail, exactly what you plan to do in office. Hint: if what you "plan to do in office" involves your children in any way, please state that at the very beginning of your answer so that I can then immediately quit listening to you and start looking for another candidate to vote for. Thank you.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Two Straight Talking Mavericky Soulmates

It's been interesting following these republican blowhards tying themselves into knots trying to defend against the Sarah Palin criticism noted in the post below. It is an impossible task, but you can't say they aren't trying their pathetic little hearts out.

The two lines of defense I like the best so far are "Sarah Palin is commander of the Alaska National Guard" and "She's experienced in foreign policy because, as you may not know, Alaska is near Russia" (not an exact quote).

And, as if to drive home the point I made two posts below about his reckless and impulsive gut-driven emotional worldview, John McCain says Sarah Palin is his "soulmate", despite barely even knowing her.

But as everyone knows, John McCain is a Straight Talker. The guy talks SO straight that, because CNN's Campbell Brown raked one of his spokesmorons over the coals for his Alaska National Guard B.S., McCain canceled a scheduled interview with that well-known assassin interviewer, Larry King. Yes, that Larry King.

But McCain has apparently noticed a recent reticence on the part of national media to give him a pass on his fact-free style of campaign rhetoric. He's quit having media sessions on the Straight Talk Express (TM). He hasn't given a press conference in weeks. The reason is obvious: he has no answers that hold any water at all.

And now his campaign manager explains why his V.P. candidate has seemingly retired to one of Dick Cheney's undisclosed locations: they aren't going to make her available in the absence of softball-only assurances from her questioners:
"Davis demurred when asked when Palin will sit for interviews with major news organizations, pointing out that now would not be the right time given the "combative" attitude the media has seemingly adopted..."
That's some STRAIGHT TALK we can all believe in, my friends.

But there's only so long they can keep little Laura Roslin hidden from those mean ol' reporters: National Enquirer has "Edwards team" in Alaska.

Umm, Ms. Mayor? You've just been called up to the big leagues.