Charles Pierce’s instant emetic

Jaysus, I hope this shit is parody.  You just need to go read The Cynic and President Obama but get your barf bag.  Here’s an excerpt:

Now, four years on, the cynic wonders if the president yet has learned what he needed to learn. He has been subject to unprecedented political obstructionism and to a campaign of personal slander unseen in this country since the days when Thomas Jefferson was hiring James Callender to do his dirty work for him back in 1800. Some of the deepest muck from the river basin was churned up to the surface. And there was an audience for it. Rank insanity drove television ratings and made stars out of weeping hucksters. In 2010, the American people — whose essential unity and wisdom he so warmly praised in the speech that made him a star in 2004 — returned a singularly reactionary Congress full of utterly ridiculous men and women. They dedicated themselves to his political destruction, and they proved themselves willing to wreck the country and its economy, and to cause untold pain to millions of Americans into the bargain, in order to achieve it.

Oh, puleeeeze, cry me a fricking river!  Is this some kind of joke?  Obama has had it easy.  Has anyone called his wife a bloodthirsty lesbian who killed Vince Foster?  Has he been subpoenaed by Congress to present his birth certificate and explain his whereabouts on the day of his birth?  Has ANYONE pursued his connections with corrupt real estate slum lords in Chicago??  Has he had any special prosecutors dogging his steps day after day, calling up his staff, burdening his secretaries with monumental legal bills?  Has he had the Supreme Court tell him to suck it up? Well, has he??

No, all he had was an opportunity to turn around eight years of Republican solid waste and use the financial meltdown to institute major reforms using the filibuster proof Congressional majority that we gave him for two whole years.

Let’s be frank here: after the 2008 financial meltdown, most people would have voted for a mixed asian-african american, Muslim, lesbian hermaphrodite if he/she had a “D” after her/his name.  And that’s because the American people wanted that person to aggressively fight back against the forces that were destroying their lives.

And when he listened to his Wall Street advisors instead, resulting in more layoffs and more foreclosures, they panicked and swung back the other way.  What Obama failed to understand is the severity of the crisis on average Americans, a lot of them, some who had never been laid off before.  I’m surprised that the country has remained as calm as it has.  That calm may not last too much longer.

I think it’s time the Democratic apologists step away from the poppers and stop blaming the victims.  Obama wanted this job, he committed political homicide on his opposition to get it, he knew what was coming and he failed- miserably.  Not only did he fail to help, he even made it worse in some cases.  Charles Pierce needs to read Neil Barofsky’s book or Ron Suskind’s Confidence Men or Sheila Bair’s new Bull by the Horns.  The truth will curl your hair.

It’s not always about race and I’m sick of a certain stratum of progressives pulling that old sledge hammer out to whack us over the head.  It is and always will be about the economy, stupid.  That’s what Obama has failed to understand.  For such a supposedly intelligent guy, you’d think he would have gotten that by now.

HE needs to take responsibility, not the voters.

Charles Pierces Brooks

Oh, golly, it was soooo worth the wait:

Both Klein and Brooks have taken to the public prints to reassure Willard Romney — and, by proxy, all of the country’s Willard Romneys — that he is being treated so terribly unfairly, darling, by that man in the White House who plainly does not know his place. First, we have Brooks, who never saw a plutocrat for whom he wouldn’t happily serve as a footstool….

“Romney is going to have to define a vision of modern capitalism. He’s going to have to separate his vision from the scandals and excesses we’ve seen over the last few years. He needs to define the kind of capitalist he is and why the country needs his virtues. Let’s face it, he’s not a heroic entrepreneur. He’s an efficiency expert. It has been the business of his life to take companies that were mediocre and sclerotic and try to make them efficient and dynamic. It has been his job to be the corporate version of a personal trainer: take people who are puffy and self-indulgent and whip them into shape. That’s his selling point: rigor and productivity. If he can build a capitalist vision around that, he’ll thrive. If not, he’s a punching bag.”

All those steelworkers, and the people at that paper company, they were puffy and self-indulgent — and not hunks of iron-reinforced man-flesh like, you know, David Brooks — and that’s why none of them have jobs anymore. People at the business end of the “system” that so charms David Brooks over the canapes know the real score: The “scandals and excesses” are the system. Take them away, and Romney is clipping coupons back in Michigan.

But wait!   There’s more!

Pierce also takes on Joe Klein too.  It’s a twofer.  (Moral Hazard, alas, has decided to take a day off)

Bliss, sheer bliss.  I shall savor it slowly while I’m eating my lunch to make it last.

Cleaning the instapaper queue and, At any moment now…

Charles Pierce will roll out his weekly dissection of David Brooks’ latest hand wringing over the declining morals in America.  Because, you know, if we unemployed scientists hadn’t screwed and  gotten high all the time and had children out of wedlock, we’d be better educated and fully employed.  This week’s Brooksian post was a doozy so I am nearly peeing myself in anticipation of the next episode of the adventures of Moral Hazard, the PR dog of the Young Fogey’s club.

In the meantime, here’s some stuff that has accumulated in my instapaper queue:

I can’t wait until I have enough money to buy a Dutch bike. American cities aren’t ready for them but I predict a booming business in the next couple of decades. I love the Bear Bicycle ads.  Look at what we have to look forward to:

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In Gene Sequencing for Leukemia, Glimpses of the Future recounts the course of a leukemia researcher’s battle with the disease from a personal standpoint.  This article made me nostalgic because FLT3 was one of the proteins I modeled before we had any good publicly available structures.  It was a tangent that my project went off on while we were working on a closely related protein.  It’s good to know that this group of proteins can be inhibited successfully.  I’d love to still be involved in these projects.  Very satisfying.

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In case you haven’t seen this post already, David Kotok writes in BusinessWeek Insider what the financial fallout of the LIBOR manipulations could be and says claims could “spiral into the trillions”.  It could be very profitable for lawyers who have a future full of lawsuits from municipalities, investors and individuals who were negatively affected by the rate manipulations.

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BuzzFeed Politics reports on the silly right wing outrage over the Obama campaign’s use of the Revolution Gothic font.  I like the font.  Might even use it myself someday.  It’s just a fricking font, people.  Stop frothing at the mouth.  Anyway, it’s the slogan the Obama campaign is using that should get everyone’s attention:

In the wake of so many Wall Street scandals, and the fact that it funded Obama generously in 2008, “betting on America” seems ill-advised.  Betting and gambling on America definitely conjures up negative connotations.  I’d fire the PR department, but then, I’d fire the whole campaign and the candidate, so, maybe I’m not being objective enough.  Still…

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Crammed into Cheap Bunks, Dreaming of Digital Glory is about “Hacker Hostels” in California where entrepreneurs, techies and geeks can get together and collaborate.  The places are flophouses for the young aspiring future Mark Zuckerbergs.  I think it’s an ingenious solution to a perplexing problem: what are you supposed to live on when you’re creating all this good stuff that venture capitalists and corporations are going to want to license from you or invest in?  Ideating isn’t easy and people have to eat. I think it’s great that geeks are finally starting to socialize and share ideas but you’d think we’d make it easier for Americans to innovate, maybe not indenture them to their student loans so they could actually have their own bedrooms.  But no, this is America!

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Here’s a great timewaster.  (Warning: if you have things to do today, do not click on this link) The Landmark Trust in Britain buys old properties, some of them very old, and renovates them, restoring them as closely as possible to their original forms and functions.  Then, it rents them out as vacation properties.  Yes, you too could stay in your own Mill-on-the-Floss or castle.  It’s bloody brilliant!

Brinkburn Mill

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If you’ve ever wanted to code javascript (and who hasn’t, right?), here’s a cool way to learn how to do it.  The CodeAcademy will take you through a series of exercises, step-by-step.  You type exactly what they tell you to type (not as easy as it sounds) and then hit the run button to watch it work.  This is not a time waster.  I’ve learned a lot in the first 7 or so lessons.  The problem is it doesn’t stick in my brain for very long.  So, practice, practice, practice.

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And now for something completely different, The Thinking Atheist, Seth Andrews, put together this lovely youtube video for people who are scared to death of death:

Chill.

Inflection points

Black in West Virginia

You’ve probably already seen this article about race and the 2008 campaign.  Supposedly, if people in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and NY hadn’t been such ignorant bigots, Obama would have won by bigger margins.  That’s assuming that there was nothing more important on the electorate’s mind.

It’s an interesting study but I can’t imagine why this would be of any particular interest to anyone.  Obama won.  That means enough people were either able to overcome the conditioning of their culture or they were scared shitless about the market collapse.  What it *doesn’t* mean is that the people who were googling racist jokes would have voted for Obama if they had been more enlightened people.  For those of us who realize that race is a social construct and not a biological one, Obama’s skin color did not factor into our decision.  If you’re really post-racial, you evaluate the candidate by criteria that is important for successful presidents.  A candidate who weaponizes racism, whether real or merely convenient, against hard working people who are concerned for their own livelihoods, is not that much different than the guy who is googling the N word.  If anyone is being prejudiced here, it might be the Obama campaign who assumes that everyone in Appalachia is hiding an ignorant redneck heart.

There are some questions I’d like the answers to about this study, which I have only glanced at briefly.  For example, what about the people in these states that don’t have computers and have never used google.  I have relatives who fall into this category.  They’re more likely to google a recipe for halushka, if they had a computer or any interest in using one.  They were not fans of Obama but hardly racists, considering the diversity in their own families.  The study makes me think of Gallup polls that report on people the surveyers contacted by phone.  Presumably, that means landline.  But what if you don’t have a landline?  How would Gallup contact you to know what you think? A phone survey might oversample older people who may not believe in evolution while showing a drop off of people who do because younger people don’t need landlines.  Or, the study could be finding that race was part of the general atmosphere of 2008 and people were following up on stories they had heard. It might be a voyeur effect.  And how do you account for NJ turning up ranked #17 on the list?  I’ve never met any racists here in NJ and I’ve lived here for 2 decades.

Then there are the unanswered questions about whether Obama’s ill-timed remarks about bitter, gun-totin’, church goers before the Pennsylvania primary might have had any effect on the primaries in that state or the subsequent one in West Virginia. Obama seemed to go out of his way to insult everyone in Appalachia long before a single vote was cast for him there.  Why aren’t we questioning his stereotypes and prejudices towards the voters in these states? If you listened to the Obama campaign, you’d think that Appalachia consisted of nothing but toothless, moonshine smuggling rednecks.  I don’t doubt that there are some places in central PA where those people exist but I never spoke to one when I was phone banking or canvassing there.  Did the study author bother to explore the effect of Obama’s snubs on these primary outcomes?  Another question that I’m dying to have the answer to is how many searches of the form “hillary, bitch” came out of lower Manhattan or “redneck” from Chicago, Illinois?   Why don’t we find out whether making the men of this country less sexist would have lead to the first female presidency?

Or would we hear howls of protest?  Hillary must be judged by a completely different set of criteria.  She and her husband were centrists, they’ll say.

Ok, I’ll bite.  Would a guy who wanted to appoint the first female attorney general, who raised taxes on the wealthy, appointed two of the most liberal judges on the supreme court we have today, put health care reform at the front of his agenda, got the Family Leave Act passed, protected children’s health care with SCHIP, stared down Republicans when they shut down government and was in favor of having gays serve openly in the military years before Obama kinda sorta got around to reversing DADT, would that guy be considered centrist today?

I have a lot of differences with my own party even though I consider myself solidly liberal.  But one of the most striking differences has to be how history is remembered.  It is illogical to judge the Clintons as more “centrist” than Obama.  In fact, the only way that the word centrist becomes negative against the Clintons is when it is taken out of context and when the comparison to Obama is not made.  Instead, centrism is mapped to the Americans Elect, Thom Friedmanesque monstrosity, that thing without a soul.  It ignores the fact that centrism in 1993 was a primarily a description of where the Clintons were on the left.  On a scale of 1=>10, leftiest Democrat to rightiest Republican, the Clintons were about a 3.8.  Now that the scale goes to 15, it is Obama who is centrist at about an 8 and the Clintons look solidly liberal when the issues and voting records are compared.

Lefties seem disgusted by DADT and DOMA that were implemented in Clinton’s terms but forget (or were too young to pay attention) that it was during the Clinton administration when the topics first landed on the national scene and in the case of gays in the military, it was Clinton who brought it up in the first place and wanted to allow gays to serve.  I’m betting that many young Democrats don’t know that and their lefty elders aren’t setting the record straight.

What I think bothers lefties the most about Clinton was not his “centrism”, although he probably referred to himself as a centrist back then.  It was that he was not dogmatic in his lefty beliefs.  Dogmatism plagues both ends of the political spectrum. When people complain about partisanship, they’re really complaining about dogmatism, that persistence in believing in theories in spite of all evidence to the contrary.  Dogma has relatively little to do with politics and has almost everything to do with identity.  It also has little to do with rationality and a lot to do with emotion.

I was more than a little disappointed to see Charles Pierce jump on lefty revisionism in one of his latest Netroots Nation posts.  One of the reasons I stopped going to these events was because I wasn’t willing to empty my brain so that it could fully absorb the dogma saturated atmosphere.  Plus, I find crunchy granola, anti-vaccine, anti-nuclear energy, anti-genetically modified everything really irritating, not to mention that people who can’t differentiate between corporate shareholders and stakeholders have no idea what they’re talking about when they wail against all “corporatism”. Netroots Nation is not much different than a CPAC convention.  Both entities have solid beliefs that they base their solutions on but they have little to do with observation, data collection, careful analysis, construction of a model, proposing policies and evaluating the effect of those policies on the model.  Dogmatists don’t usually like to have their beliefs evaluated.

If there is a recent surge in interest in the Clintons, it’s probably because voters realize that one is still available.  And it’s not voters, specifically the working class and women, who are looking forward to Hillary in 2016.  No, voters would prefer to have her now.  It is the party leadership who wants to create the expectation of a Hillary 2016 run.  They’re hoping that delayed gratification will help focus voter attention on the here and now where they have presented Obama as the only choice.  But I don’t think that’s going to work this year.  And it’s great that Obama is finally getting feisty but I don’t think he’s trustworthy.  It’s not just his actions that make him suspect.  It’s primarily his contempt for voters in general.

Maybe quality doesn’t always triumph over mediocrity.  But I think that when people have had experience of both, without a dogmatic filter, their brains are able to synthesize an evaluation based on information they have gathered, whether consciously or not.  I made this point in 2008 about presentation and how a speaker who does his or her homework will shine over someone who has baffled the audience with bullshit.   The political consultant class who thinks that voters don’t know the difference may be indulging in wishful thinking.  Sure, there are the Fox News viewers who are suffering from acquired stupidity syndrome but what about the other half of the population?  They now have the kind of information about Obama that wasn’t available to them in 2008.

It’s not the dogmatists at Netroots Nation that will decide the election this year.  It’s going to be the base that the Democrats blew off in 2008.  I’m sure the Democrats aren’t happy about that but calling them racists is probably not going to work this time.  They gave Obama a chance and he has come up severely wanting.  This upcoming performance evaluation is based on actual performance.  And if the working people are chattering about Clinton, it’s not because Mark Penn has anything to do with it.

What we might really be seeing is frustration on the part of the party loyalists, Obama fan base and self-described intellectuals towards the electorate that refuses to eat its poison mushrooms.  Those working class idiots don’t know what’s good for them, they want a “centrist”, they’re racists, they’re stupid.  But mostly, those working people and women and independents have way too many votes.  There’s a lot of howling going on right now from the lefty dogmatists who simply want to believe what they want to believe, damn the facts and life and imminent poverty staring people in the face everyday. But might I suggest that calling people racists and politically naive is not the best way to win friends and influence people.  Since the great unwashed masses are the ones who are going to determine this election in the fall, whether the lefties like it or not, a much better idea would be to give them what they want before they go to the polls.

On Wisconsin!

I’ve been following the recall election news from Wisconsin all day and from the looks of it, turnout is very high and it looks like it will be a squeaker between Scott Walker and his Democratic challenger Tom Barrett.  Turnout is estimated at 119% in Madison.  That number only looks strange because it is a relative number compared to the last election.  Wisconsin allows for same day registration so the number of first time voters is up.

[There seem to be an awful lot of people on twitter who are confused about the math when the turnout is reported to be above 100%.  So here's how it works: Take the number of voters who turned out for the last election.  That's your baseline.  If you get less than that number this year, you have less than 100% of the last voter turnout.  This happens a lot, especially in off year elections.  It's not unusual for your some of your registered voters to stay home.  If you get more voters, you get more than 100% of the last voter turnout.  In Wisconsin, it is possible to register to vote on the same day as the election.  Since this is a very high profile election, there are a greater number of voters coming out to vote so the number exceeds the turnout of last time.  It only sounds strange because the numbers are not absolute and they are not absolute because there is no hard count of voters by registration rolls when same day registration is permitted.  I assume that the new voter had to fill out a voter's registration card and they will be vetted later. The number exceeding 100% doesn't necessarily mean there were out of state voters or dead people.]

Update: Bernie Sanders weighs in on what a Walker win would mean to the rest of the country:

I love this headline from Andy Borowitz: Canada Bracing for Massive Influx of Wisconsin Boat People.

Charles Pierce is on the ground in Wisconsin and writes his usual witty, pithy, brilliant first hand account in Scenes from a Recall (I hate him for that).

The accusations from both sides are flying thick and fast.  The hallucinating nutcases at Fox are saying that Barrett is busing in people from Detroit to vote.  The voters have been reporting misleading robocalls that assure them that if they signed a recall petition, they need not trouble their pretty little heads about voting today.

Then there are the excuses and rationale that are coming from Obama friendly sources.  Rumor has it that he didn’t campaign in Wisconsin for Barrett because he thought Walker would win and he didn’t want to be seen standing next to a loser.  That’s a bit of a self fulfilling prophecy if ever I heard one.  Once again, it’s all about Obama.  Nevermind that there are public service workers and regular working people and women who may suffer the consequences if Walker wins.  What’s most important is maintaining Obama’s image.

The new spin from press secretary Jay Carney is that Wisconsin won’t be very  predictive of Obama’s chances in November at all.  I disagree.  Let’s look at the possible scenarios:

1.) Walker wins big.  This is bad news for working people.  It also proves that with a lot of money, you can buy a lot of megaphone volume to spew lies out to the public.  It would set a really bad precedent.  Republicans would gleefully pull out all of the stops.  Obama’s carefully manicured image would be in danger, especially if he economy gets worse.

2.) Walker wins small. If it’s really tight or if there’s a recount and Walker squeaks by, we’ll always wonder if Obama’s active presence and support would have been enough to change the outcome.  I think we’ll hear a lot of criticism from Wisconsin if that happens.  And if they’ve fought this hard and lost the war anyway, what would be the point of showing up in November?

3.) Barrett wins small. This would be a great outcome for Wisconsin and working people everywhere.  But it’s hard to see how Obama benefits from a win when he has scrupulously avoided any association with the campaign.  His tepid endorsement after Barrett won the primary and his single motivating tweet on the Wisconsin election this morning just goes to show how little influence he had on the outcome.  On the other hand, Barrett is going to owe Bill Clinton.

4.) Barrett wins big. In this scenario, the sentiment is that working people are pissed and won’t be shoved to one side while the Republicans swagger all over them and the Democrats go out of their way to court the snippy suburbanites who have stay at home moms like Michelle Obama and don’t hang around with working people if they can help it.  The party may have to start paying attention to working people and unions, something they’ve been avoiding for the past 4 years.  Hmmm, how do they start to look sincere this late in the game…?  Or the party could continue on it’s single minded quest for complete control of the message and just ignore Wisconsin.  In neither case do I get the impression that Obama will motivate the base to vote for him in November.  In fact, working people might just start feeling their Cheerios and start issuing demands.

Are there any other scenarios that would favor Obama?  I don’t see them but I might be suffering from a failure to imaginate.  It just seems to me that the Obama campaign kind of let Wisconsin down here.  Sure, Debbie Wasserman Shultz says the DNC and Obama’s campaign org in Wisconsin helped out but one gets the impression from the candidate himself that he was dragged into it very reluctantly.  And against this much cash pouring into Walker’s campaign, boots on the ground and a serious, DNC GOTV effort was more than justified.

Does Obama even realize that working people are his base or is he still buying into that crazy ass stuff that Donna Brazile was peddling in 2008 when she said they were the “old coalition” and the Democratic party didn’t need them anymore?  Because I have news for the party. The suburbs aren’t doing so well these days either.  There are just as many of us out of work and much, much poorer than we used to be.  And as we move from being wage slaves with company benefits to involuntary entrepreneurs, footing the bill for everything ourselves, the conservative message starts sounding a lot less painful.  Not everyone has the interest to become a political junky and tease out fact from fiction, cause from effect like we do.  I wouldn’t get to comfortable if I were the DNC.  Or Obama.

Maybe he should have gone to Madison.  Some things are just worth the risk.

Hillary, the VP rumor and what men don’t understand about powerful women

Gosh, it seems I have a lot to say today.

Charles Pierce is freaking out about the poll numbers.  Oh, sure, it was all fun and games to poke at Obama until someone loses an election.  After yesterday’s dystopian description of Obama’s campaign headquarters in Chicago that chilled me to the bone, Charles is backtracking today and telling the left to suck it up and vote for the bastard.

Not so fast, Charles.  In fact, if the Democrats want to dodge this rendezvous with electoral obscurity, now is the time for voters to lay down the law, draw a line in the sand and say, “You Shall Not Pass!”.  I’d make any grand bargain on Social Security and Medicare my rubicon but there are half a dozen other legitimate issues that Democrats should be forced to defend vigorously before voters yield.  No, I am not afraid of Romney, believe it or not.  At this point, the states are gleefully slashing through all of women’s reproductive rights and there are already 5 votes on the Supreme Court to overturn Roe. Democrats yielded women’s issues without much of a fight so they can’t fall back on that old trick anymore.  I hate private equity firms and sons of rich family firms as much as anyone but Obama’s negotiations with Wall Street have been so godawful that it hardly makes a difference who’s the coldhearted Mr. Moneybucks in the White House.  In this case, it is perfectly fair to talk about equivalence.  Pierce just better hope that Democrats fare better in Congressional races.

My problem with Obama is that it’s not enough to have good intentions but a hostile opponent in Congress to blame stuff on.  You need to look as though you’ve actually broken a sweat defending our rights and quality of life and Obama hasn’t.  No one in my generation should settle for a Democratic president doing a lackluster job and then throwing up his hands in frustration and saying, “It’s inevitable that your life is going to suffer.  Deal with it, late babyboomer.  Sucks to be you.” I’m not settling for that.  We knew the job was going to be tougher than average following a disaster like George W. Bush.  He shouldn’t have run for the job if he wasn’t ready, and it was obvious that he wasn’t.  No excuses.  He had his chance to sit it out and wait but he had to have the White House now, now, now.  So, now it’s his responsibility and solemn obligation not to screw us over even if it’s really hard to do.

But it’s not Pierce alone who is starting to panic and grasp at straws.  Over at the Daily Beast, Michael Tomasky is testing the “Hillary-Biden VP Switch” idea again and seeing if it gets any more traction than it did before.  I’m not sure Obama would get the bang for the buck everyone expects from this ticket though and in some respects, it might almost be worse.

For example, did you know that recently Hillary compared the VP position to being First Lady?  That’s not necessarily derogatory but does touch on something that I think men just don’t get about powerful women, which I’ll get to in a moment.  The reason why Hillary says VP is like First Lady is because although the VP can be an important and influential advisor to the president, constitutionally, the position doesn’t have much power.  The VP can break ties in the Senate annnnd, that’s about it.  Otherwise, the VP is just hanging around for the president to experience some catastrophic event.  It’s sort of like being a political vulture or hyena.  A carrion pol.

I just finished the Passage to Power by Robert Caro about LBJ’s Kennedy years and what happened to him when he was VP was a textbook case of what you do not ever want to happen to a person with as much power potential as LBJ.  Johnson was a Senate powerhouse, a legislative genius who understood every representative and senator in Congress, their hidden desires and flaws, and how to manipulate those desires and timing to generate momentum and force legislation through.  The Kennedy brothers brought Johnson in as VP in order to neutralize his power and they were exceedingly successful.  They were so successful that they jeopardized their own policy agenda.  And Johnson was miserable as VP.  He was emasculated by the Kennedys who made sure that he couldn’t even make a trivial speech without having it cleared by the Attorney General.  When JFK was assassinated, Johnson revealed himself to be a great leader.  If he’d been as astute on Vietnam, we’d be worshipping him along with FDR and Lincoln.  But if Kennedy hadn’t met his fate in Dallas, Johnson would have faded into obscurity and the Civil Rights Law of 1964 might never have happened.  I’m no fan of Obama’s but even I wouldn’t wish that on him just so someone else could benefit.

I’m of the opinion that had Hillary wanted the VP in 2008, she could have had it.  We don’t know how it all went down but my suspicion is that she knew that she would be de-balled like Johnson if she had accepted the position and so she pre-emptively asked for State if Obama won.  And so the original choice for SOS, Joe Biden, switched places with Hillary.

So, assuming this is true, why would she want to be Obama’s VP now?  My guess is that she wouldn’t.  What really drives me up a wall about Tomasky’s post is that it reflects the guy’s point of view about what would save Obama’s ass in this election.  The focus is still on saving Obama at all costs.  Yes, he is tremendously inexperienced and doesn’t seem to be learning his job very well.  Yes, he’s not a very good politician and doesn’t act like he likes being around legislators and gladhanding for votes.  Yes, he made too many deals with Wall Street, the insurance companies, the religious right to the detriment of his base. Yes, the economy is terrible and he’s done nothing about unemployment.  Yes, he’s planning to give away all the money the late baby boomers PREPAID into social security for their retirements.  But somehow, the guys feel we’ve got to re-elect this man.  I don’t understand it.  It’s got to be a male graduate student guy thing, the cluelessness of being near the top of Maslow’s pyramid. I keep picturing that iconoclastic image of soldiers pushing the flag up Mt. Suribachi on Iwo Jima.  So much struggle for so little payoff.

But that’s the problem.  They act like Obama is the most-ut and those around him are expected to sacrifice their own needs for his future.   I understand that Obama has this power over people.  They want to help him achieve his own personal goals and it doesn’t seem that important that his goals should be subordinated to the welfare of the country. This is where the reasoning behind the guy thing breaks down.  For that matter, some women don’t get it either.

But if that’s the case, why the Hell would a woman with Hillary’s power and ability continually put her own needs secondary to Obama’s?? We don’t expect Obama to sacrifice his ambitions for the good of the party or country. If I were her, I wouldn’t do it.  I wouldn’t put myself in a four year sound proof booth just to help Obama achieve self-actualization as a two term president, country be damned.  What would be in it for me?  Would I be able to influence policy?  Sha!, Obama’s smartest guys in the room, like Kennedy’s, aren’t going to let her anywhere near a lever of power.  So, without the ability to affect policy, what is she reduced to but a series of ceremonial appearances where she would be dragged out in front of crowds of Democrats, like some hostage, to make Obama look good.  At the end of four years, she’s going to be permanently associated with whatever failures Obama’s administration is notorious for without having had any opportunity to influence them.  And with that she’s supposed to run for office in 2016?  Like some 69 year old Chernyenko who the party is going to feel obliged to unenthusiastically endorse until some young whippersnapper beats her in the New Hampshire primary?  Are you f^&*ing kidding me?

Did it never occur to these guys that maybe she has her own ambition that is independent of and does not make reference to Obama’s?  If I were her, I’d never settle for less than the top spot because I would have the confidence to know I’d be good at the job.  And if I couldn’t get the top spot, I’d leave politics behind and become a powerhouse on the outside, holding Obama’s feet to the fire on gender equality or education or scientific infrastructure or something equally important.  There’s no point to being powerful, competent and smart if there’s no way to exercise it.  And there’s apparently no place in American politics for a woman who is not seen as a traditional helpmeet to a man.  But seriously, ladies, why do it for a dude who is not your husband and who is secretly driving you crazy with his bumbling incompetence?

Tell them to shove their shotgun wedding, Hillary.

The Snark is Strong in this One: Part deux

Charles Pierce must be off his meds because he’s in one of those brilliant manic phases right now.  His lastest post on David Brooks and his Irish setter, Moral Hazard is deadly funny.  And today, he posted his assessment of the Republican budget plan and the Democratic side of the aisle’s response. Basically, the Republicans are doing a Haka, demonstrating just how berserked with battle lust they are so that the other side is completely freaked out.  Judging by the reactions I’m reading, it’s working.  But Charles says it so much better:

Consider the new budget proposed by zombie-eyed granny-starver Paul Ryan. We had our say about it yesterday. So did practically everyone else. It is a blueprint for dystopia beyond anything concocted by Dickens. It is a perfectly fine budget, if you’re planning to recreate the golden age of the industrial slum. It should not be taken seriously by any journalist who is conscious and not a hack. Paul Ryan himself should be shuffled off to the back of the call-back lists wherein reside the UFO enthusiasts and the actual liberals. (This, of course, will never happen. Paul Ryan is a serious man of ideas while Bernie Sanders, say, is “extreme.”) However, it looks like the monkeyhouse is preparing to pass this mess. But I call your attention to one passage in the story.

There are people on the Republican side of the House who believe that a budget that would virtually decimate the federal government’s constitutional obligation to promote the general welfare doesn’t go far enough in making the lives of the nation’s poor as miserable as possible, and doesn’t go far enough in eviscerating the middle class, and doesn’t go far enough in permanently fastening onto the political commonwealth an income inequality incompatible with effective self-government. The passage:

Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.), a conservative member of Ryan’s Budget Committee, said he would vote against the plan, saying it broke the GOP’s “Pledge to America” and did not cut spending deeply enough. Huelskamp voted for the Ryan budget in 2011. “It’s not good enough,” he said during an appearance with six other conservatives at an event sponsored by the Heritage Foundation.Huelskamp said he was troubled by a lack of specificity on tax reform and the budget’s failure, in his view, to hold to spending levels that will be lower because of $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts set to take effect next year.The half-dozen other members of the Heritage panel said they were undecided on the budget resolution.Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) criticized the proposal for not cutting spending at the levels promised in the 2010 Pledge to America.“I’m not sure if I’m going to vote for it or not,” Gohmert said. “I appreciate so much the great work of Paul Ryan, but we took a pledge a year and a half ago, and we said we would cut more than is being cut. So that’s my struggle.

These people belong in a cage.

Hypergraphia is my muse but it looks like she has graced Charles with abundance this week.

Wednesday: The Satire is Strong in this one

I’m talking about Charles Pierce. His piece on the Women’s Media Center’s recommendation that the FCC take a more proactive role in monitoring the public airwaves is priceless. But before we get to that, the Women’s Media Center* has a good point:

Spectrum is a scarce government resource. Radio broadcasters are obligated to act in the public interest and serve their respective communities of license. In keeping with this obligation, individual radio listeners may complain to the FCC that Limbaugh’s radio station (and those syndicating his show) are not acting in the public interest or serving their respective communities of license by permitting such dehumanizing speech.

The FCC takes such complaints into consideration when stations file for license renewal. For local listeners near a station that carries Limbaugh’s show, there is plenty of evidence to bring to the FCC that their station isn’t carrying out its public interest obligation. Complaints can be registered under the broadcast category of the FCC website: http://www.fcc.gov/complaints

This isn’t political. While we disagree with Limbaugh’s politics, what’s at stake is the fallout of a society tolerating toxic, hate-inciting speech. For 20 years, Limbaugh has hidden behind the First Amendment, or else claimed he’s really “doing humor” or “entertainment.” He is indeed constitutionally entitled to his opinions, but he is not constitutionally entitled to the people’s airways.

I happen to agree with this for the most part. As much as I would like to exile Rush to blogtalkradio, it’s not necessary to drive him completely off the airwaves. The problem is not that Rush gets away with murder unchecked. The problem is that he takes up so much space on the airwaves and he has spawned an industry of like minded blowhards like Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly. Right wing friendly media corporations like Clear Channel own much of the spectrum so anti-female bloviating saturates the airwaves. It is not in the public interest for them to be so dominant.

Before anyone accuses the WMC of advocating censorship, let’s just nip that in the bud. There are plenty of ways for Rush’s voice to be heard. His free speech rights are not curtailed if he is left with nothing but a few radio outlets and blogtalkradio. He could even start his own internet network, like Leo LaPorte has done with TWiT.tv. Leo’s doing pretty good business and the internet presents a relatively low barrier for entry. But the public radio spectrum is not an infinite universe. And when one political party owns or dominates an overwhelming majority of it, it has an obligation to not spew toxic crap all over the place to the detriment of others, especially women who, after all, must continue to live as female. There’s not a lot we can do to change our gender, or that we even want to. It’s not a disease or a disability. So, why does 53% of the American population have to put up with this constant, discriminatory and hateful crap 24/7?

In the past, I have told critics of this blog that we do not practice censorship here when we bump trolls into moderation or the spam filter. The internet is vastly, amazingly big in the Douglas Adams sense of the word. You can start a blog in numerous places and pollute it to your heart’s content. Your free speech rights are not infringed if I moderate you. However, if this was the only blog on earth I would feel morally obligated to let you say whatever you wanted here. The same goes with radio and TV spectrum. If we had unlimited stations and everyone could own one at a low cost, Rush Limbaugh wouldn’t be a problem. But radio frequency and signal strength is rationed. There aren’t an unlimited number of stations so there is a moral obligation on the part of the FCC to ensure that everyone’s voice is heard. This is not political. Those licenses belong to the public and the public should have a right to revoke them when a particular point of view is so prevalent and toxic that it drowns out all other points of view and is harmful to particular segments of society.

Pierce says the WMC’s suggestion will lead to President Romney appointing the next FCC commissioners and says it will be a huge election year distraction. But that is not his target:

The first inkling that the FCC might take this suggestion seriously would set off a howling from the flying monkeys of the Right that would be audible on Saturn. It would quickly become The Only Issue in the campaign. You would have thousands of hosts in smaller markets pumping out hour after hour of very effective paranoia. (There is, after all, a genuine First Amendment issue in play here.) This paranoia would start turning into votes very, very quickly. It would cement the image of the porcine junkie sex-tourist as a victim just as the country — and its rich people who own companies and buy advertising—- seems to be turning on him all on its own. Good god, this is the same crowd who thinks the Affordable Care Act is the thin edge of the socialist-fascist blade. Can you imagine the ensuing ruckus if the FCC actually moved on this misbegotten plan? The president has enough trouble with these people. He doesn’t need to give them another excuse to draw little mustaches on his picture.

It’s a pattern with Obama. He didn’t stick up for homeowners, the unemployed, Shirley Sherrod or women whenever their reproductive health concerns got in the way of passing legislation. Don’t expect him to make a forceful first amendment argument against extremists either. I too suspect that he really is more worried about defacement of his campaign posters.

* Before you sign any online petition, ask yourself if the organization that will shortly flood your email inbox with bulletins and sell your information to third parties is being sufficiently demanding of Obama and the Democrats. Women’s organizations sold themselves to the Obama campaign in 2008 and it is partially their fault for the toxic crap that Rush is spewing today. If women’s rights advocacy organizations had held Obama, the media and the DNC to a higher standard and accountable for the misogyny of the 2008 election season, politicians wouldn’t be able to pass the anti-woman legislation without penalty and “entertainers” who really serve as propaganda mouths of Sauron for the Republican party wouldn’t have felt safe to call women feminazis and sluts for so long.

***********************

Have you been following Doonesbury this week? Oh, that’s right, your local paper may have been so distraught by Gary Trudeau’s satire of the slut shaming, anti-woman legislation that it has pulled his cartoon to protect you from what looks like an alternative view. Rush, Fox and the Washington Post can say whatever toxic or mindless drivel they want. But have a cartoon character get directed to the “Shaming Room” before her compulsory transvaginal ultrasound, well, THAT just crosses the line of decency and civility.

***********************

Heard on the DailyShow last night:

What’s the difference between a fertilized egg, a corporation and a woman in Oklahoma?

One of them is not considered a person.

(hint, it’s the woman)

Bring on the smelling salts.

Wednesday: Melange

A mixture of things from around the web:

1.) Charles Pierce writes that Obama’s press conference yesterday featuring Slutgate and contraception left him uneasy.  In Standing Up for Sex, Pierce writes:

Not a simple, mumbling word about the right to decent health-care, let alone the right to choose. Given a golden opportunity to say flatly that he and his administration were foursquare behind these rights, he gave the whole thing a pass. I’m sure he’s got poll numbers that tell him not to say “abortion” in public but, damn, this was disappointing.

This is what I mean when I say that this issue can only be a political winner for the Democrats if they go out and make it one. How hard would it have been for him to say, “Look, it’s probably not a good time in history to be using the war metaphor, but there’s no question that the Republican party is a vehicle in an organized campaigh to roll back women’s rights in the most personal sphere of their lives, and, as long as I’m president, that won’t happen.”?

I’m glad he called Sandra Fluke. I just wish he’d show that he appreciates the incredible political gift she gave him.

Obama thinks his party affiliation speaks for itself and we should read into his statements what his real thoughts and intentions are.  And this worked so well in 2008.  Everyone thought he was a liberal even though he didn’t embrace liberal or even Democratic or New Deal principles.  Everyone thought he was an anti-war candidate even though this was all premised upon what he *might* have done had he actually been present at the IWR vote.  Everyone thought he was a feminist, which flew in the face of hard evidence that we watched and heard with our very own senses.  In the past four years, he has shown himself to be none of the things he was assumed to be so, and, as far as I’m concerned, we should not assume or presume that he is onboard with sex being guilt free for adult women.  More likely, he has no natural empathy for women in this regard so he’s more inclined to do what’s good for him politically and not for women socially.  And right now, he thinks it is good for him politically to reach out to evangelicals and the women’s vote will just flock to him because women are assuming he is not as bad as the Republicans.

I think he is just as bad, if not worse, because his attitude encourages complacency.  It will all be taken care of, don’t you worry.  A year from now, women are going to be kicking themselves for not being more demanding of him.  You’re only going to get a commitment from him under duress and until you hear him choke it out in a high squeaky voice, don’t assume anything.

2.) Speaking of beliefs that may or may not have any basis in fact, have you checked out the Richard Dawkins Belief Scale?  Unlike women’s rights, you don’t have to commit to a god or atheism.  It’s perfectly Ok to land somewhere along the scale.  I’m a 5.78324.  Some people might round that up.  Here it is:

  1. Strong Theist: I do not question the existence of God, I KNOW he exists.
  2. De-facto Theist: I cannot know for certain but I strongly believe in God and I live my life on the assumption that he is there.
  3. Weak Theist: I am very uncertain, but I am inclined to believe in God.
  4. Pure Agnostic: God’s existence and non-existence are exactly equiprobable.
  5. Weak Atheist: I do not know whether God exists but I’m inclined to be skeptical.
  6. De-facto Atheist: I cannot know for certain but I think God is very improbable and I live my life under the assumption that he is not there.
  7. Strong Atheist: I am 100% sure that there is no God.

Assuming that there are not as many 1′s out there as the Beanie Boys would have you think, why should we allow the 1′s to run the country based on judeo-christian biblical principles?

3.) More on belief.  Pat Robertson may have exceeded his stupidity quota.  When asked on the 700 Club about why God kills people with tornados, he had this to say:

There ya’ go, tornado victims.  Let this be a lesson to you.  Don’t buy a farm in the middle of tornado alley.  Don’t be a person who earns a living in tornado alley either.  And woe to you on the west coast in the earthquake zone.  The kinfolk say, move away from there!  Californy is NOT the place you want to be.  Also, if you are anywhere where you could be swept away by a flash flood, get caught up in a hurricane or Nor’easter, burnt to a cinder in a wildfire, trapped in a heat wave, engulfed in a blizzard, frozen in a cold snap, eaten by wild animals or poisoned by insects and plants, or irradiated by a particularly unusual and strong solar flare, well, it’s your own damn fault.  Did God promise you a rose garden?  You should have bought one of the time shares in Glenn Beck’s underground bunker cities and retreated to it with your 6 months supply of dried ravioli and Tang.

I guess Stephanie Decker, who protected her kids from the tornados with her own body and lost her legs as a result, should be thankful that God didn’t demand more of a sacrifice for living in the wrong place.  But I have faith that with the help of doctors, physical therapists and prosthesis engineers, Stephanie *will* walk again.  Hang in there Stephanie.

4.) A couple of days ago, a PR person for Chris Viehbacher tried to do a What Chris Really Meant response to Chris’s insensitive and clueless presentation of the reasons why his company was getting rid of its own scientists and turning to cheap and desperate small company scientists for potential blockbuster drugs.

Now, Viehbacher’s point seems to be that small biotechs and mid sized companies are more nimble and innovative than big behemoth pharma companies so, and here’s the logic of the bonus class in all it’s glory, big pharma scientists just aren’t as good as those in smaller biotechs and therefore deserve to have their jobs eliminated.

This ignores two things that Viehbacher is either denying or completely ignorant of.  The first is that those of us who up until recently worked in big pharma until we were dumped for working in big pharma, did not start our careers in big pharma.  Nooooo, we were in medium pharma.  The first pharma I worked at only had 3 research sites and the one I worked at in Princeton was relatively small having about 400 people total working on about 5 different therapeutic areas.  It was all self contained with chemistry, biology, animal facilities, structural biology, analytical, scale up, everything in one building.  But then came the mergers and more mergers and we added more facilities and companies and satellite research centers in different companies and then we got consultants to come in every couple of years and rejigger everyone, just to keep it light and breezy.  Every time there was a merger, work would come to a screeching halt for two years so the managers could play musical chairs and find a department headship position, usually by doing a real Julius Caesar meets Brutus in the Senate scene.  So, big was never OUR idea.  It was the bright idea of the finance guys, the consultant guys and the Viehbacher guys who got big bonuses from every merger they made.

The second thing that undermines Viehbacher’s argument is that all of those big pharma scientists that he thought were no good are now working for the small companies and acedemic groups that Viehbacher is planning to rape.  Now that they’ve been liberated from the shackles of big pharma wage slavery, they are working more nimbly and innovatively at small biotechs and university labs with vastly reduced salaries and benefits.  And this must warm the cockles of Viehbacher’s heart enormously.

5.) Finally, Titli Nihaan, my new favorite internet chef (until #1 child gets her own show), shows us how to make a Cassoulet and gives us some French lessons as a bonus!  This is the halal version.  I tried it the other night but made some even leaner substitutions.  Delicious. Er, Magnifique!

Why Obama’s cave looks bad depending on your gender

I noticed that Charles Pierce at Esquire is getting a deluge of “you’re wrong about this one, Obama totally scored” comments on his post about how braindead stupid Obama’s cave to the Catholic bishops was over the birth control controversy. Here’s what Charles said about it in his How Obama’s Lady Parts Deal Empowers the Church:

The Church has claimed — and the president has tacitly accepted — the right to deny even its employees of other faiths the health-care services of which it doesn’t approve on strictly doctrinal grounds. That is not an issue of “religious liberty.” That’s the enshrinement of religious thuggery in the secular law. By accepting that frame, the president has left himself dependent on the avaricious to bail him out against the arrogant. This is not a comfortable place to be.
And that’s not even to get into the obvious fact that women’s-health issues have been treated as little more than a bargaining chip by a Democratic president. Again.

[...]
I see from the peanut gallery that it is suggested that I may have underestimated the president’s political jujitsu on this issue. However, I’d like to hear a clear exposition of the following: What political advantages has the president gained from his accommodation on this issue that didn’t exist in the status quo ante? Before the controversy broke, health-insurance plans had to cover contraception, except in the case of explicitly religious organizations engaged in specifically religious work, and all the polling data suggested that the American people wanted it that way. According to all available polling data, the bishops were already a marginalized opposition holding firm to a marginalized opinion. The traditional Catholic policy on birth control already was as unpopular and ignored as it had been since 1965. The Republicans were already on the losing side of this issue. Yet, in less than two weeks of ginned-up phony outrage, the marginalized opposition got the White House to move off its original position. Now, if you want to argue that all of these political advantages have been increased and sharpened because of what the president did — e.g. the bishops now look even more unreasonable — I guess you can, but I’d argue that they don’t really give a damn about that, and they never have. I’m less sanguine than Amanda is that the White House will be running “We Saved The Pill!” ads this fall. I think the whole argument for “religious liberty” — a phrase the president never should have used in its current political context — is going to spread throughout the campaign now, and it’s going to revitalize all the social issues. I do not believe in cooler heads prevailing, or that this is a reasonable nation willing to listen to reasonable accommodations. But, hell, I could be wrong, too

This issue is going to look different to you depending on your gender. If you’re male, or simply a loyal Democrat who doesn’t want Republicans to win this fall, you’re probably all “what’s the big deal? He helped out the Liberal Catholics who were looking for cover. Slam dunk! Partay!”. If you’re a woman, you see this as capitulation to the very idea that anyone needed cover to do the right thing.  Obama just blew oxygen into a dying ember giving new life to a very unpopular position. If you’re a woman, it’s now necessary to jump through yet another hoop to get the medical services you want and need. It’s another fucking bothersome workaround in a world of workarounds.

Do any of you guys know how difficult it *still* is for females to get recognition in school for talent in math and science? I’ll give you an example. In 7th grade, the advanced math class in my daughter’s school learning algebra in one year consisted of 21 children, all of them there on the basis of a teacher recommendation, not merely math scores from the previous year. Of those 21 children, 14 were boys and 7 were girls. The selection was made solely at the discretion of the previous year’s math teachers from their classes in 6th grade that were 50/50 in gender representation. It is much harder for a well qualified girl to get into a math class like that in the 21st century because girls get rewarded for compliance and good behavior, not making leaps of mathematical logic.  Girls who are left out and are still determined to take advanced math have to go through complex workarounds.

We are forced to workaround and workaround and workaround for services and resources and recognition. It’s absurd that this decision by Obama to give liberal Catholics cover is treated as some kind of victory for him and women. The problem is between liberal Catholics and their anachronistic, unrealistic, celibate, patriarchal church hierarchy. The rest of American women don’t care what Catholics do and we should not be under any obligation to give them cover and make it easy for them while making it harder on ourselves.

But it’s worse than that. Because now that Obama has allowed religious liberty to creep into the election year issues, he has taken the bait for the religious conservatives to push their agenda and for Republican operatives to use it as a way to split the Democratic base. Once again, Obama has failed to treat women as adults and equal citizens who shouldn’t be forced to endure yet another workaround to appease some religious institution. And that religious institution is even more despicable because they know that there’s no way to enforce their rigid belief system on their own female adherents much less the rest of the country’s women. It’s simply an inconvenience that must be endured so that some liberal catholics can save face.

The same thing happened with abortion. It was merely a few workarounds, a few inconveniences. If you really need an abortion, it will still be there for you. You just need to assuage the consciences of a few religious people. That’s how it started. But how has it ended? In some states, there is only a single provider and women have to risk losing their jobs to get an abortion. It’s no longer just a few workarounds. Now, it’s a major ordeal. How is that fair to women who have no religious proscriptions about getting an abortion? The same thing is about to happen to birth control. This is no time to celebrate or think it’s no big deal. It is THE BIGGEST DEAL.

It wouldn’t matter if it were birth control or abortion. When you tell women to take the backdoor to these things for no other reason than that some religious institution is going to be displeased if they don’t, you leave the way open for the religious to make other demands.

Rick Santorum gave some preachy little sermon on women in the military praising their special contributions. Oh, please, if Rick Santorum had been president back in the 80′s, would we ever have had a Sally Ride in space? Or would her earthbound position have been praised as “special”? Yesterday, Janice Voss, space shuttle astronaut of 5 missions, died at the age of 55. What a thrilling life she must have had. But if she had been born 20 years later, she might have spent a lot more of her life jumping through hoops, going through workarounds and hacking her way through the system to get recognition and praise and equality.  Life in the hard sciences for women is still pretty rough and praise is extraordinarily rare. Females have all of the opportunities of their mothers but they have to hack through an ever thickening jungle of regulations on their bodies. We have gone backwards in the past 20 years. The election of 2008 accelerated that process for women because the man we elected used every trick in the book to appeal to conservatives instead of his base. He’s going to continue to capitulate because men do not know what it’s like to be constantly inconvenienced. So, no, this was no triumph. Obama has shown over and over again that he is no feminist and women are getting the message that they are on their own. We won’t forget.

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