Saturday, October 4, 2008

Sat5 - existential edition

Quoth Sartre, "L'enfer, c'est les autres." And who am I to argue with that? Hell is indeed other people. Cherished reader, your five personal hell-on-earth situations:
  1. A three day reggae festival.
  2. Being lectured by a 20-something Trotskyite on how to be politically effective.
  3. Watching your co-worker's not-very-good Heart cover band at a biker bar.
  4. 5th Period - Chemistry - Mr. Bilbrey.
  5. Being stuck in line for anything behind a high school tour group.


Sarah Palin. I've heard something about her being "a maverick":

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin said Friday that she disagrees with the John McCain campaign’s decision to pull staff and resources out of Michigan.

“I want to get back to Michigan, and I want to try,” Palin said in an interview on Fox News. “Todd and I, we'd be happy to get to Michigan. We'd be so happy to speak to the people there in Michigan who are hurting.”


The Alaska governor first heard the news this morning and fired off a quick e-mail to campaign officials expressing her displeasure with the move.

“Oh c’mon, do we have to?” Palin said she wrote.

Which then triggered this heartfelt plea from a "Main Streeter":

Date: Fri, Oct 3, 2008 at 5:34 PM
Subject: Dear Governor Palin from Chuck Yob
To: Governor Palin

Governor Palin,

I saw your comments on Fox News today and described in the Detroit Free Press article below. I wholeheartedly agree with you that the decision by the McCain campaign to pull out of Michigan was the wrong decision.


I talked to Michigan Republicans and McCain supporters on a conference call last night and they vowed to redouble their efforts. Indeed, there will still be a campaign for John McCain in Michigan whether it is sanctioned by the professionals in Washington DC or not.

Nuh-uh. I don't buy this for a second. This reeks of another campaign stunt, like they want to show that Palin's mavericky, that she's standing up for the little guy - like former Republican National Committee member Chuck Yob. I'm willing to bet money that a "grassroots campaign" spearheaded by Sarah Palin gets the McCain campaign to un-shutter their storefronts on Main Street, MI.

This just smells like so much bullshit. I really can't take these people seriously.

Friday, October 3, 2008

and, oh, by the way

has anybody looked at the electoral map lately?

If This Be Elitism, Then Make the Most of It!

I just heard, perhaps, the stupidest woman in the world on NPR. She's at a McCain townhall. She says she's undecided (right there is the entry for the award). The economy is her #1 issue. She recounts that she's had some hard times of late. She's been laid off four times in the last eight years. Started a business, but it failed. Has to take a job as a security guard in order to get health insurance, even though she has an engineering degree.

McCain promises tax cuts to create jobs.

She decides to vote for McCain because of his foreign policy experience.

I kill myself and write this post from Heaven.

It's not like you think it might be.

Sometimes You Find It in Unlikely Places

From Roger Ebert's review of Flash of Genius:

I know that I sound just like a liberal, but at this point in history I am sick and tired of giant corporations running roughshod over decent people -- cutting their wages, polluting their work environment, denying them health care, forcing them to work unpaid overtime, busting their unions and other crimes we have never heard George Bush denouncing while he was cutting corporate taxes. I am sure lower taxes help corporations to function more profitably. Why is that considered progress, when many workers live in borderline poverty and executives have pissing contests over who has the biggest stock options?

But enough. I have "Flash of Genius" to review. Yes, I am agitated. I am writing during days of economic meltdown, after Wall Street raped Main Street while the Bush ideology held it down. Believe me, I could go on like this all day. But consider the case of Robert Kearns, played here touchingly by Greg Kinnear. He was a professor of engineering, a decent, unremarkable family man, and had a eureka! moment: Why did windshield wipers only go on and off? Why couldn't they reflect existing conditions, as the human eyelid does?

Ebert is not the most sophisticated movie critic and he has a soft spot for the schmaltz, but I've always enjoyed his writing and mostly agreed with his reviews. I love the fact that unions got a positive mention.

Roger, you've earned the OG's highest honor: BOOM!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Debate open yarn

It's like a regular knitting bee here.

Overflow debate thread

Don't make me get out the velvet rope.

Veepin' it real open thread

Will Chance the Gardener Sarah Palin be able to spout ninety minutes worth of folksy non sequiturs without drooling on herself? Will Biden be able to resist blurting out, "Are you for fucking real?" Come join us in the comments for what will assuredly be a debate for the ages; one where, years from now, you'll be able to tell your grandkids where you were at 9 PM EDT on October 2, 2008. Unfortunately, the answer to your grandchildren's query will be, "Making snide comments on some lame blog."

Prisonship Self-Cleansing Quiz Agent

Bob Costas is probably a __________ political analyst than Keith Olbermann.
a) better
b) worse
c) none of the above

Short Answer (one sentence, max.):

  1. The difference between baseball and basketball is ___________
  2. The difference between politics and sports is __________

Homer endorses


Little Bill O'Reilly Tells It Like It Is - Watch more free videos

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

It's not just for commies anymore

What is it about the Russians and their love of posthumous rehabilitation?

Russia's Supreme Court has ruled that the last Tsar, Nicholas II, and his family were victims of political repression and should be rehabilitated.


The descendants' lawyer, German Lukyanov, argued that the lack of a trial was not sufficient grounds to reject the plea that they be considered victims of political repression.

Coercion by state bodies, restricting the freedom and rights of citizens for class, religious or social reasons, constituted repression, he told the court.

I suppose it's a particularly North American position that wonders WTF it is with Europeans and their love/hate relationship with royalty (excepting the French, who have done a particularly good job of ridding their nation of the vestigal structures of feudalism). And you have to wonder with all the rehabilitations and revisions and flavors of the week in Russia, it isn't just an elaborate employment program for authors of historical texts.

Why Bother?

Looks like the new bailout bill contains tax breaks for "small business" in order to attract the votes of the House Republicans.

Welcome to Ohio, John McCain!

not crap. i hope this airs at least as steadily as the Sleuth Channel provides me with Simon and Simon re-runs.

Suggested viewing

Before watching tomorrow night's debate (which we'll be here for), might I recommend throwing Peter Sellers' classic last film, Being There, in the DVD player tonight?

Bailout/Election/Labor Redux

There seem to be two prevailing narratives about the bailout plan(s). Both have elements of truth, but are fundamentally wrong.
One narrative is that of the Wise Men and the Destructive Yahoos. According to this narrative, men who Understand What Needs to be Done put together a plan to save the world, but they did a bad job of communicating, and a mob of ignorant people stands in their way.
The other narrative is that of the Evil Plotters and the Righteous Uprising. According to this narrative, the same people who sold us the Iraq war have tried to bully Congress into adopting a plan that is, in essence, a cynical ripoff - a scheme to transfer vast wealth to the rich and cripple the next administration.
What we have here seems like a crisis of legitimacy. In terms of the bailout, one's perception seems to be largely based on whether or not one believes that there is an impending financial collapse awaiting us if we do not act now. I think we have heard compelling arguments from every side of the debate. Certainly I'm not usually one to question Peter DeFazio and Donna Edwards when they get together, let alone Dean Baker, but neither am I likely to expand beyond reason the idea that this is really a timely moment to tip our hand and start spreading the "new New Deal" rhetoric around before we have the 2009 majorities (please! - ed. ) Not only am I unsure about the immediacy of the crisis, anyway - I'm also unsure as to the extent to which Dems would do well to try and pass an expansive, leftward-leaning bill.

At the moment, whole swaths of this country aren't sure if they trust the pragmatism of party leadership in every branch of government. Neither do they implictly trust the principles of Right- and Left-leaning stalwarts who objected to the bill. Meanwhile, the mainstream media and Wall Street speak with one voice (shucks, I'm shocked- ed.), telling us, oh shite, the End is Near. 'Seems like people are either a) having a hard time trusting any of these groups, or b) feeling there's no way any "special interest" would possibly succumb to elevating "the public good" over its own agenda.

So we turn our attention to November - wondering, how will the bailout play out for Senator, President, County Commissioner, and the whole merry band? I am unsure whether my attention to the election stems from the fact that I think I understand that context better than that of finance capital, or whether I think that the election outcome is one that us "people" (union people, for example) have a better chance of influencing.

The fun thing about ballot initiatives is that they allow for the public to enter into dimly ideological debates about public/private, market/state-type questions under the pretense that the partisan interests of Dem and GOP "politicians" are not central to the framing of this issues. Oregon's public employee unions come to the fore of per-bi-ennial (not a word?) "Vote No" campaigns. But they do so not as self-identifying unions, but as members of the public: citizens, servants, Oregonians. Labor is usually "victorious" in striking down what are increasingly called "Conservative Populist" initiatives. One could even contend that they have inured their unions, and by extension, the image of the public sector, to Oregon voters.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten:
We have often been called a "special interest." I will never apologize for that because our special interests' are the students we teach, the patients we care for and all the people we serve.

But one could contend other sorts of things, too. My point is merely to say, even if we grant labor a certain legitimacy within Democratic politics, and even if it attains a quasi-autonomous political identity in initiative states, it can't be a good thing to say that labor's primary interface with the broader public is through electoral politics via television ads, primary season news coverage or the occasional newspaper editorial. If I include get out the vote operations and person-to-person, more "organizing"-ish encounters... then are we pleased with labor's popularity or legitimacy within the society?

God knows nobody seemed to be asking our opinion of the bailout. God Bless the four serious magazines and 2.5 think-tanks that help keep some of our ideas alive in DC, but jeez louise. Is it enough to be seen as a relatively enlightened special interest among special interests? Is there a way around it?

The movement for the Employee Free Choice Act reflects a conversation about democracy within the labor movement that dares to question the NLRB - "Labor's Magna Carta," - and, at its better moments, relegates collective bargaining to a lesser status as just one among many forms in labor's repertory of political acts. The movement to pass the Employee Free Choice Act - over the ideological hysterics of the national Chamber of Commerce, and past the menacing and righteously-outraged Republicans with their "small business" and "secret ballot" fetishes - will necessitate the reassertion of workplace democracy as a popular (hegemonic?) idea. Since its heyday in the middle of the last century, workplace democracy has been steadily, deliberately eroded in form and content. During that same time, electoral politics has suffered low turnout, voter fraud, impeachment and "stolen elections," but it remains the most trusted, most exploited venue in which Americans do democracy.

The Employee Free Choice Act will have to (at least implicitly) critique the sanctity of the secret ballot as a venue for democratic decision-making. Ironically the road to this act of iconoclasm (not a word?) goes straight through Washington, D.C., and by extension, straight through electoral politics. Is that paradox "the point"? I hope not. I'd like to know what you all think of this weird conjuncture in political economy/elections/labor politics, and whether you, like me, dare to think that a small piece of labor legislation, EFCA, might contain within it the seeds for labor's first big, 21st Century "moment"?

Let's Make Money, But Not Too Much Money, Ted

David Brooks' latest column contains some interesting points. "Interesting," of course, being academese for "batshit." The Bellman cover Bobo's call for a strong "public" hand to guide the markets while decrying "heavy-handed government regulation."

I'd like to focus on Brooks' complete misunderstanding of free market capitalism. He seems to be under the impression that the goal of capitalists is not to make the most money possible in the least amount of time. Instead, the default position of your average capitalist is set at restraint and self-discipline. Unfortunately, this crazy 21st-century, flat economy has got everyone all fired up to make money.
We’re living in an age when a vast excess of capital sloshes around the world fueling cycles of bubble and bust. When the capital floods into a sector or economy, it washes away sober business practices, and habits of discipline and self-denial. Then the money managers panic and it sloshes out, punishing the just and unjust alike.
I'd also like to note that there is, apparently, and "excess of capital" in the world. Men that cocktail with Brooks know that when there is just the right amount of capital in the world, then a man is able to maintain his habits and justice reigns. Too much capital, however, and things go haywire. Unfortunately, Brooks does not offer any clues as to the appropriate amount of capital that should be sloshing around the world or how we might go about eliminating the excess. One suspects, however, that when Western European men were in control of all the capital, things were pretty good. Now that you have all these Asians, Middle Easerners, Russians, Indians, and (sweet jesus) Venezualens with money, things are truly going to hell.

Then there is the issue of the "just" capitalist vis a vis the "unjust" capitalist. The just capitalist, you see, protests the dissolution of sober business practices. The just man understands that there are limits dammit! You can drive an SUV, but make it a Navigator or a Lexus GX. Not an Escalade or (heaven forefend) a Hummer. The just business man wants just enough regulation to keep the money flowing, not no regulation at all. The just business man understands that it is okay to exploit the hell out of the poor, but when you do things that damage other men of a certain stature, well that just goes too far.

Who You Got?

I vaguely remember Al Swearengen saying something to the effect of "Declare your intentions or go fuck yourself." The sentiment vaguely applies here. Pick a team and live or die by their fortunes.

Boston: Winner of several World Series in the last few years. Former perennially loser to the Yankess, largely because curses are real and result from trading players that would go on to be the best of all time (further side note, in parentheses form, I have to mention that the Babe was born in Baltimore). Devotees of the "sabermetrics," the use of complicated statistical models to determine whihc players are best and which strategies to employ. Won't steal or bunt. Hated by most of baseball world because of it. Their success is seen as more proof that sabermetrics just doesn't work, largely because every pennant they win is another one Billy Bean didn't.

Los Angeles: Angels version. Formerly the "Los Angeles at Anahiem" Angels. Before that just the "Anahiem" Angels. They are more properly known as the "California" Angels. Spawned a series of godawful movies. Never, ever watch "Angels in the End Zone" no matter much your kids want to watch it. It makes you dumber. Big lumber in the 'Hiem, as the locals call it.

Chicago: White Sox version. Allegedly the working-class team from Chicago. Known mostly for throwing the 1918 World Series for, get this, money. Had a great baseball movie made about it. John Cusak. That John Cusak, quite the actor, no? The "ChiSox" snuck into the playoffs by winning a one-game tie-breaker against the Twins. They are from the worst division in baseball and don't deserve to be here. That said, they will probably go on to win it all. Worse, the sabrematricains predicted disaster for the White Sox, and they tried, but being from a shitty division helps, so they are in and we will never here the end of it.

Tampa Bay: The real darlings of this season. Not given a chance, they have plucked their way into America's heart with their plucky brand of pluck. They have a lot of really good players you have never heard of and their star didn't do well, then managed to finish the season on the DL. If you give them a chance, they will pluck the pluck out of your heart strings. Of course, you'd have to overlook the fact they are from Florida, which consistantly wins the title for most odious of all 50 states. (Sorry, Texas).

Milwaukee: The Brew Crew. When a Milwaukeeite hits a homer, a mule is shoved down a 50-foot slide into a mug of beer. If the mule can drink it's way out, beer-soaked sausages are a dollar off for the next two innings. If the mule drowns, burgers are fifty cents off the rest of the game. Either way, everyone wins. The Brewers are from Wisconsin, so they are obvious underdogs. But they are a team you can love. They will love you back.

Philadelphia: (Everyone, now) E - A - G - L -E - S, EAGLES, EAGLES, EAGLES!!! E - A - G - L -E - S, EAGLES, EAGLES, EAGLES!!! E - A - G - L -E - S, EAGLES, EAGLES, EAGLES!!!
Go Eagles! Come on, you Eagles! Fuck yeah, EAGLES!!!!!!

Los Angeles: Dodgers version. The "Trolley Dodgers" that is. From Brooklyn. Oh I could tell you about how my heart was ripped out when the Dodgers moved from Brooklyn to LA. It was 1958 and I was a young Jewish lad of 12. Oh the games with the Giants! Oh the Polo Grounds Ebbets Field! Serously though, the Dodgers are most famous for destroying a working class neighborhood to build their stadium which was a subplot in a book I read but now can't remember. LA Confidential? And they had a manger who loved pasta and a pitcher who looked to heaven before each pitch and a gimpy guy who hit a homer.

: Cubs version. The lovable losers. The little team that can't. Traded Babe Ruth for a goat and haven't won the championship since the Indians killed Custer. Formerly owned by a gum magnate, now, I understand, absolutely no one wants to own them. Snuck into the playoffs on the basis of excellent pitching, good hitting, and fielding. Probably be everyone's darling pick, except that everyone on the planet is sick of hearing about the goddam Cubs and how they haven't won since 19-dickity-2.

There you have it. Declare in the comments.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

This Is What Blogs Are For, No?

Writing out of frustration:

Member-run unions are, apparently, great, right up until the moment that your members start telling you that they would like to not receive quite so many mailings related to the upcoming political election. At that point, they somehow (get a team of monks on it!) transition from members whose opinions we value and nominally represent into whiners who need to suck it the fuck up and realize that if Obama loses this election we're all going to hell.

I agree that unions have the right and duty to inform their members about the upcoming election, who the union supports, and why. I fully accept that union members genuinely value receiving the union's opinion and facts about the candidates. I think our greatest resource is our willingness to hit the streets and organize, while the Republicans split their time between the pews and the links. I think this election is very important.

I also happen to believe that one of our greatest strengths is our willingness to listen to our members. We are not thundering from the pulpit, we are not hinting that everyone will lose their jobs if they don't vote for the pro-business party. We listen to our members. We can tailor our message to their needs. We shape them and, in turn, they shape us. We're all in it together.

That's why I refuse to see members who complain about the relentless propagandizing from their union as anything less than brothers and sisters who are trying to tell me that the union's tactics are not sitting right with them. And I'm not talking about Republican members here. I am talking about people who are protesting the sheer volume of the propaganda they receive from their union(s), from mailings to phone calls. We need to listen to them at the risk of alienating them. Only listening to the voices that agree with us is what got us into this fucking mess in the first place. (I mean that sentence as broad as it reads. The whole idea of the organizing model is that we engage all of our brothers and sisters. If the organizing model is not the way out of every mess we're in, I still haven't heard what is).

Anyway, back to the grind. You might be surprised to find that your union supports all the Democrats and is against all the Republicans. You will receive 1-2 mailings per day to that effect for the next 38 days.

Your (Almost) Daily Dose

What does Orrin have to say today?
Somehow, Franken managed to outline exactly why conservatives need to fight tooth and nail against Barack Obama and's plan to seize total control of our government.

Monday, September 29, 2008


On number of times Palin accuses Gwen Ifill of "gotcha journalism" during Thursday's debate: 2

Place your bets.

Bailout and Election Roundtable, Open Thread

Okay, it's the largest single-day points drop EVUH. Who are you reading for the lowdown? You know my oracles at this point, but here's three of their most recent entries below. The conjuncture of the financial crisis; the flaccid popular approval for any branch of government; the presidential race in its home stretch, and the cultural politics of the form and content of debating "the economic" in 2008 all combine to make this moment in politics seem the most historic in recent history.

  1. Ezra says it's possible that the next bailout could be a 'Left' bailout, if the Dems're prepared to shitcan "bipartisanship" and go it alone.
  2. Krugman congratulates himself (fair enough), reminds us how our govt is "bananas."
  3. The American Scene, much to its credit, shows itself and by extension its "Grand, New" vision for conservatism, to be analogous neither with the "Wall Street" nor "populist" branches of the Grand Old Party.

I have heard strong arguments - mostly from Left and Center-Left - on both sides of the failed bill. I am not sure just how possible Ezra Klein's proposed all-Dem bill will turn out to be, but, with Krugman, I think the need to do something - something soon - helps put in context the toothlessness of the Frank-Dodd plan. Democrats need a new frame for the bill just as much as they need new language. Obama's unwillingness to address the issue in a full-frontal fashion on Friday night is plenty understandable, but it resulted in a "missed opportunity" for a "teachable moment" with the country on this issue. That may or may not be justified, and I'd love to know what you readers think on that issue. The argument exists that we should save Stimulus Package 2 and tougher re-regulation of the markets for January, when we'll have stronger majorities in both houses, and, one would assume, President Obama.

More immediately, Obama's inability to steer the domestic policy conversation resulted in forty minutes of conversation about earmarks Friday night. Let's be honest, Hillary or Edwards would've sliced McCain's face off (figuratively) if they had a half-hour to debate the economy with the Maverick. For whatever reason, BHO has proven weirdly incapable on this score. It doesn't make me doubt his progressive bona fides, his sympathy with (the absurdly over-evoked) "Main Street," and it doesn't keep me from supporting his candidacy enthusiastically - but it exasperates me to no bleeping end.

Chris Matthews' Advice for Joe Biden

"Ignore her nice stories" and go after John McCain.

"Social Movement" Unionism has proven...

to be an absurd framework through which to understand labor's political identity in the 21st Century, in my opinion.

but some interesting issues come to light as one goes about taking that framework apart. par example, see Paul Johnston's Success While Other Fails; Social Movement Unionism and the Public Workplace (1994):
This does not mean that public workers’ movements will promote a “workers’ state,” abolish capitalism or the state, and so on. Different parts of the public workforce are likely to be implicated on different sides of every great social contest. The important point is that public workers' claims are framed in certain common forms and that these workers rely on certain kinds of strategic resources; beyond that, the significance of a particular movement depends on its historical context. As they frame their interests as administrable public interests, they are perhaps the quintessential “state-making" social movement.

No on Measure 64

it's all about the fidelity on the vocal track, here.

imagine hearing this on a record with no accompanying visuals or text.

Vote NO on Measure 64

"When your child goes to school, they build your future."

NO on Measure 64, Defend Oregon!

"I'm opposing Measure 64 because it's going to make our job of protecting our communities harder."

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Poll Results -- Hillary Proves Divisive

Once again, Hillary Clinton has proved to be the most divisive figure in the history of American politics. Not since Alexander "That No Good Son of Bitch" Hamilton graced the American scene has the American political world, as represented by the readers of this blog, been so torn.

Now, I am not suggesting that a former VP should shoot her, far from it, (although one does wonder if Quayle has any other way of getting back into the history books, which raises the side point of "what the hell is Dan Quayle up to these days?" I didn't see him in St. Paul. Does he not get invited to these things?) no, far from it.

People managed to tally nine votes suggesting that Hillary is out there every goddamn day busting her hump for this Obama guy who is totally inexperienced and is making more mistakes than a person who makes a lot of mistakes, but Hillary is a soldier who carries on in the name of all that is good and pure and clean in this world, despite the sexism that so pervades our society that not even her appeals to voters' racism could overcome it.

Three people voted for the middle ground option, choosing to say that Hillarty is working quietly behind the scenes. A bold choice, as it pretty much means that these voters are behind the scenes themselves, as they would have no other way to know this was true. All I can say is, welcome heavyweights!

Nine people have a more realistic cynical view of this crazy world, seeing in Hillary's complete absence from the American political scene in the last few months a sign that she'd much rather have a clear path to the nomination herself in 2012 than help Obama secure the presidency. Sure she gave a semi-good speech at the convention, but as far as being a partisan attack dog, she is failing big time.

Only one person acknowledged my side-splitting joke about the SNL bit. Side-splitting, yes, but also a fine example of the kinds of things Hillary could be saying, but for some strange reason isn't.

No one selected "told you so," possibly in protest against my uneditable grammar error. I'd apologize, but instead I choose to believe that you all find my mistakes charming. Maybe we could do a poll.