Friday, November 16, 2012

Nobody Asked Me, But...

1) Well, it's been an interesting week, what with the Gaza buildup to war distracting us all from the national shame of one man dipping his quill in another man's inkwell, against the backdrop of closed door hearings on the Benghazi incident. I have no doubt that Senator John McCain will find time to miss the hearings in order to launch yet another "old man rant" against the President and pick on poor little Susan Rice.
3) The recent incident involving Savita Halappanavar who died from a miscarriage while trying to secure an abortion, has India and Ireland at odds. I hope they can see I to I soon.
4) Preliminary reports would indicate that driver error is to blame in the tragic crash of a float carrying military veterans in Texas with a freight train.
6) Got time to kill, and Google Chrome? Here.
7) This is called "Doing the right thing" for your people. Think any Republican would dare, if we had this system?
8) Does this mean, because corporations are people, too, that BP will serve jail time? Maybe the SCOTUS needs to step in an give us guidelines? How about banning BP from the States for a year or two? Will that suffice?
10) Finally, please support Wal-Mart workers this Friday by boycotting the annual Black Friday tradition. Instead, shop a local small business on Saturday (yes, it's sponsored by Amex but you don't need to use an Amex card and there's nothing wrong with a big company doing some good).

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Whiners In The News

I was going to write about something else, but the sun got in my eyes, my shoe lace was untied and I'm not a popular enough blogger because other blogs are hogging all the readers.
So let's talk about whining:
1) Mitt Romney complains that Barack Obama, President of the United States, used his office to award voting groups "gifts".

"The Obama campaign was following the old playbook of giving a lot of stuff to groups that they hoped they could get to vote for them and be motivated to go out to the polls, specifically the African American community, the Hispanic community and young people," Romney told hundreds of donors during a telephone town hall Wednesday. "In each case they were very generous in what they gave to those groups."

Apparently, dogs bite men as well.
Look, when even a loser like Pikush Jindal disagrees with your analysis, Mitt, it's time to take a serious look in the mirror and figure out if you've been living your life anywhere near reality.
Presidents hand out favors. Yes. So do candidates, in the form of promises. I'm sure you made plenty to the 1%ers who you stood in front of mocking the vast majority of Americans, including Bain Capital, who take government largesse.
You lost because, frankly, you suck at this. One term as governor and somehow you feel qualified to run the nation? You've never had to get out there and listen to people. Not surprisingly, you've run for President and you still haven't been out there, talking to people, except for the crowds that your cronies have forced into showing up, and the planted questions from operatives.
Let me know when you're ready to visit Harlem and face a crowd in the basement of an inner city schools and lay out a plan for education, then we can start to talk about qualifications.
2) Guy Fieri objects to a review of his restaurant.
It's possible you missed the review in the New York Times of Fieri's new Times Square restaurant. If you did, go read it. I can wait.
*whistling softly*
Back? Pretty harsh, huh? It's been called one the worst reviews the Times has ever published on anything: plays, books, restaurants, art exhibitions. The reviewer admits to having eaten there with groups over the span of four meals and hated nearly everything he tasted.
By the way, the Times was kind, by comparison.
Does Fieri say "You're the Times food critic. I maybe ought to take notes."
Lemme sum up his response thusly:
Literally. Also, that the reviewer was used to reviewing joints with "teh classy".
The question has to be asked, "If you aren't ready on day one, what's the point in opening?"
It seems pretty clear that the answer to that is he wanted the restaurant open in time for the holiday tourism season, figuring that he could beta test his menu to paying customers and no one would really notice. Even if he got a bad review, it couldn't be so bad that anyone coming into town would notice, and the Fieri name would sell the rest. He could deal with Quality Control issues after the fact.
Note to any readers who are coming to New York: rather than eat the slop that's served on the Deuce by rip-off artists, try Virgil's for real American food. It's on 43rd Street, just off Broadway, and it's one place that real New Yorkers go for meat.
And no "donkey sauce." Ever.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Is She A Slut?

No, this isn't about Petraeus/Kelley/Broadwell/Allen.
Well, tangentially, because that was the topic that created this chain of thought in my mind. But I want to look at a deeper point.
I don't really care what adults do in the privacy of their own homes and my only real comment on the whole sordid mess is that this was not just two -- or four, or how many -- consenting adults, but entire families, including apparently non-consenting adults and children, so that's a shitty excuse for deciding it should be ignored.
However, it does not affect me so I really don't care about the people involved. What I do care about is words.
A lot of political hay, a lot of what's wrong with American culture in general, is the ambiguity of words.
So I asked myself (and a few other people), "What makes a slut?" If Kelley or Broadwell (or for that matter Petraeus or Allen) had slept with two generals? Four? Where do we draw the line and agree, that's running into slutitude?
You're going to reply, "It doesn't matter, it's an offensive word and should be banned from use." But it's not going to be, and it sure as heck didn't spring out of the muck, in search of a definition.
The way to take the power away from a word is to define it. Let me instruct with an example:
"A liberal application of paint." No one would object to that adjective, "liberal." It's a very factual description of how to apply paint. Let's switch the words around.
"An application of liberal paint."
Now you're forcing this sentence into a context. If I say it, "An application of liberal paint," it comes off as a very benign and even positive sentence.
Now imagine Glenn Beck saying it. Now imagine the imagery he would try to create with it: cheaply made, overpriced, probably government issued, masking an underlying problem of such great depth and profundity that it would require a tax cut for himself. I mean, the wealthy.
"Liberal" used to be a good thing to be. "Conservatism" was defined by its reactionary -- the word that we all used when we wanted to characterize someone negatively -- outlook and its "stuck in the past" first principles. In an era where progress was paramount, conservation was antithetical to society.
Now, in an era that desperately cries out for moving forward, "liberal" is only just starting to emerge from the turtle shell we all withdrew into decades ago, and conservatism is the ideology in the dock.
If you scroll to the top right corner of my blog, you'll find this quote, which I think sums up this column nicely. It is also one of the greatest lines ever written for TV:
"Liberals got women the right to vote. Liberals got African-Americans the right to vote. Liberals created Social Security and lifted millions of elderly people out of poverty. Liberals ended segregation. Liberals passed the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act. Liberals created Medicare. Liberals passed the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act. What did Conservatives do? They opposed them on every one of those things...every one! So when you try to hurl that label at my feet, 'Liberal,' as if it were something to be ashamed of, something dirty, something to run away from, it won't work, Senator, because I will pick up that label and I will wear it as a badge of honor." -- Matt Santos, The West Wing
In truth, this quote is probably loosely based on a quote from JFK:
If by a "Liberal" they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people — their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, and their civil liberties — someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a "Liberal," then I'm proud to say I'm a "Liberal."
By redefining the word, liberal now means something powerful to me. It goes from being an epithet spit out by someone full of bile and hatred and becomes an affirmation of my life and my beliefs.
There have been a few attempts to take back the word "slut." I'm thinking of how many feminist groups have annual "slut walks," protesting how women are portrayed in the media and in culture. My own daughter has participated in these (she has her dad's temper. I never worry about her.)
It's not enough. When Rush Limbaugh can define the word to apply it to a woman who merely testifies that it would be nice if contraception was maintained as an insurance benefit, despite the religious status of the employer, then the word begs to be defined better.
Because if we don't do it, the Limbaughs of the world surely will. And we fought hard to make liberal an acceptable word again. And I like being a liberal again.
But then, I'm also a slut, undeniably.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Bluing Of America

Ted Cruz, the Senator-elect from Texas, has an interesting observation to make:

“If Republicans do not do better in the Hispanic community,” he said, “in a few short years Republicans will no longer be the majority party in our state.” He ticked off some statistics: in 2004, George W. Bush won forty-four per cent of the Hispanic vote nationally; in 2008, John McCain won just thirty-one per cent. On Tuesday, Romney fared even worse.

“In not too many years, Texas could switch from being all Republican to all Democrat,” he said. “If that happens, no Republican will ever again win the White House. New York and California are for the foreseeable future unalterably Democrat. If Texas turns bright blue, the Electoral College math is simple. We won’t be talking about Ohio, we won’t be talking about Florida or Virginia, because it won’t matter. If Texas is bright blue, you can’t get to two-seventy electoral votes. The Republican Party would cease to exist. We would become like the Whig Party. Our kids and grandkids would study how this used to be a national political party. ‘They had Conventions, they nominated Presidential candidates. They don’t exist anymore.’ ”

Long-time and careful readers of my prose will recognize this statement. I've long held that the US is due to swing the political pendulum back to liberal thinking and policies.

Normally, pendulums lose momentum and gravitate towards the center, and that will eventually happen, but in this instance, Karl Rove and the Republicans, in an effort to create what Rove termed a "permanent Republican majority" have pulled the pendulum really far to the right.

And you know what happens when you pull a pendulum really hard: it swings back, fast and hard.

Cruz is one of a handful of Republicans -- Marco Rubio and Suzanna Martinez are among the others -- who could prevent this from happening, but it seems really unlikely to occur. It's pretty clear that Florida (Rubio) and New Mexico (Martinez) have cemented the Democratic party as the party of the minority vote. But that's not the issue, identity politics. It's something much more basic and subtle.

I want you to think back to the election campaign, particularly the general election: can you name one Republican proposal for the next four years that didn't involve lowering taxes for the wealthy?

Meanwhile, Obama still has a raft of policies from his 2008 campaign that he can call upon at any time and propose. This is what we might term "leadership."

People respond to this. People in trouble especially respond to proposals that will lift us all out of trouble. It's fine to propose a tax cut-- claiming it's for all but in truth, it benefits the wealthy the most -- but when people aren't so worried about their next paycheck as their next car or their house or their retirement or their children, short-term proposals lose an awful lot of their luster.

If Hurricane Sandy benefitted President Obama at all -- apart from looking Presidential, I mean -- it is on this very subtle point. Sandy showed that everything we build up for ourselves to ensure a future can be wiped off the face of the earth in an instant, and then where do you begin again?

Tax cuts help, to be sure, but they don't address the underlying problem: jobs don't pay as much as they used to and second jobs are really embarrassing.

Wage growth will help Americans. To play with tax cuts at this point in time is preposterous. It's like giving someone a five percent discount off a TV, when what they need is a job that pays enough so they can pay for that TV out of their own pocket, not borrowing the money.

This, above all other reasons, is why I believe America is heading for a progressive agenda over the coming decades. People are tired of crumbs and want the bread, and minorities are only the canary in the coalmine on this point.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Thoughts On Petraeus

I really don't have much to say about the Petraeus resignation and scandal, except a few observations.
First, a hint to public officials everywhere: if she'd (or he'd) be out of your league if you were a civvy and both of you were in a bar, then leave it alone. Go home, jerk off and forget her. You're sixty and not particularly good looking, how long did you think it would last? And you're forty and a starry-eyed biographer. How long did YOU think it would last?
Next, Andy Borowitz had the best take on the "conspiracy" angle, by pointing out that Petraeus began the affair over a year ago, so clearly he intended to use it to distract from the Benghazi story. Petraeus can still be called as a witness in the House hearings and worse for the Obama administration, can't hide behind executive privilege or national security any longer.
Third, it's pretty sad that a man of such accomplishment and a woman of such accomplishment have created such a roadblock for themselves. I'm not going to point fingers: the second the tango began, both of them were to blame and who's to say when the music started?
My real sympathy goes out to the spouses of the couple in question, of course, but I save my deepest symapthies for Jill Kelly, the woman who triggered this whole mess -- not incorrectly -- by complaining about threatening anonymous e-mails. She gets implicated in so many ways here and I expect this will have repercussions for an apparently (there's one implication right there) uninvolved person. Think about it: she is suspected by folks of being the "other" other woman, her actions disgraced Petraeus (*ahem* No, but people will think that), her name gets dragged out through trials and investigations and she'll now have to lawyer up for what? For being the recipient of some really nasty e-mails.
Finally, I wish we'd all grow up a little and learn that power begets sex. This is an unspoken deal that politicians and their families make going in, and if you think they do not, then they're being naive and not paying attention. While the smart ones manage to stay away from it all, to ask anyone to betray their sex drive is like asking them to stop eating.