Archive for The Lileks Zone

Michelle Bachmann and the uphill road

Michelle Bachmann’s latest PR headaches: headaches. Migraines, to be exact. It’ll be interesting to see if anyone unearths the source of the story – disgruntled former aides, another GOP candidates launching a subterranean strike to cripple her in Iowa? Irrelevant, we’ll be told: it’s the truth that matters, not the source. Okay, but what about President Obama’s medical records? You’re a racist.

Michelle Bachmann was never going to get a fair shake from the media, but that doesn’t mean she has to make their job easier. As listeners to Hugh’s show know, I like her a lot, as an advocate and a person. She’s absolutely delightful in person. Do I agree with everything she says, to use the annoying form of posing assertions as questions to vary the tone of the paragraph? No. But you could see her in, say, the Perry administration as Secretary of Education. First step: abolish the department. She’d do it, too. Why, she would work tirelessly to put herself out of a job.

But to get the job first you need a certain amount of credibility, and part of that comes from playing the MSM games. It’s one thing to tell off Tingle on MSNBC; it’s another to know when not to hand them a magazine clip with your name inscribed on every bullet. She took some flak for signing a pledge about marriage which had this statement:

Slavery had a disastrous impact on African-American families, yet sadly a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African-American baby born after the election of the USA‟s first African-American President.

It’s true, in a certain sense, but given the prohibitions against marriage among slaves and the disruption of families, it would seem ill-advised to suggest the Old South was family-friendly for slaves. A better comparison would be segregated cities in the north, but even then you’re rooting through the dung to find a shiny coin. The plight of fatherlessness and out-of-wedlock births can stand all on its own. The architects of the pledge realized this, and removed the offending paragraph.

This just gave the story more oxygen – particularly when the Bachmann camp sent out a memo announcing the revision, and insisting that the candidate signed the 14 points, not the pledge. Was the preamble with the slavery reference tacked on after the candidates signed it? No one says so, which suggests it wasn’t, since that’s the sort of thing you’d want to note.

Lesson: don’t sign other people’s pledges. Even if the statement wasn’t in the preamble, there’s 14 other points with which the Daily Show could have great sport. Not that they need any encouraging to make fun of her: the crazy cake is baked and decorated when it comes to Bachmann, and nothing will dislodge the narrative.  This isn’t fair, but it’s politics – and whoever wins the nomination will have to have a narrative that plays well with the people who don’t pay attention, but pick up the trembling emanations from the liberal chattering classes. Just as the establishment media decided that Obama was brilliant, possessed of an preternaturally serene temperament, non-ideological, post-ideological, and just damned cool to boot, that was it: any contrary evidence was shunted aside, ignored, explained away, or foisted off as a redneck plot to prevent the waters from receding.

When the left goes after a woman, they have several approaches: either turn them into icy queens with evil brains whose inability to manifest empathy in every word and gesture means they’re not really women at all. Thatcher; Jean Fitzpatrick. If they’re old – as Nancy Reagan was to the boomer class – then they’re useless relics of the Leave-It-To-Beaver era, unfit for the modern era, out of touch, and a tad pathetic. But if they’re good looking, leave it to the left to want them raped. Or at least giggle when someone suggests that it should be done, with gusto. From the Daily Caller:

The era of civility was on full display during Friday night’s “Real Time with Bill Maher.”

In the midst of a conversation about Michele Bachmann and her husband Marcus Bachmann’s Christian counseling clinic (recently underfire for attempting to turn gays straight through prayer), comedian Marc Maron spoke about how he thinks about “angrily f*cking” the Republican presidential candidate. (h/t Ian Schwartz of RCP video)

“I don’t want to be crass, but I just hope that Marcus Bachmann takes all that, ya know, that rage that comes from repression and denial and brings it into the bedroom with her,” Maron said. “I hope he f*cks her angrily, because that’s how I would. And I’ve thought about it.”

Maron will suffer no consequences for this. Let’s go to Twitter to see how he’s being excoriated by his fellow leftiest . . .

Wow Republicans are mad about Marc Maron’s “hate sex with Bachmann” bit on Real Time? These are the “free speech” people, right?

Possibly the stupidest thing read today, if not this month. O the hypocrisy! You say you’re in favor of free speech, and you criticize someone for saying something? Ergo, you’re not for free speech. This is like saying you’re in favor of dinner, then criticizing the waiter when he brings a pile of flaming dog feces.

No finger-wagging, as far as I can tell. C’mon! It was a joke! Besides, it’s nothing compared to the hate-speech you hear on talk-radio! Don’t you remember when Rush Limbaugh called Chelsea Clinton a dog every day for six years? So let’s go to his website, and see if there’s anything amusing there. Ah, his philosophy:

“If it weren’t for the shame of the rich there would be no charity.”

Assuming, then, that charity comes only from the rich. Or “rich” is defined by someone who has enough to give to charity. Assuming that the rich give to charity not for any silly stupid reason like religious beliefs. He has another quote on the front page:

“Why not assume it is all a big lie and the soul is just a whore that we pimp out to fill our emptiness?”

Deep, man. No doubt that’s why the NYT did a profile on him earlier this year, noting with giddy approval his RAGE. He’s angry and funny! But he’s angry and funny about the right things. Glenn Beck was dangerous because he was angry and funny about the wrong things, and only encourage the wrong people to do the wrong things, but a Moran can only appeal to our better angels, and push us towards a more enlightened world where everyone’s angry about injustice and The System, Man, and if a few conservative chicks get taken behind the bleachers and Hate-bleeped for good measure, well, they were asking for it the minute they opened their stupid whore mouths.

Out of the mainstream, you say?

Marc’s next guest on his podcast will be Paul Reiser.

Happy Fourth from the Left

Life is the bubble of smug: internet comedian Andy Borowitz tweeted  “If the GOP controlled barbeques, there’d be no food for kids and seniors and ten times more rockets.”

Boy, he nailed it, didn’t he? We just hate when the young and the elderly eat. He also points out  a fact that may have eluded you: political parties are responsible for the existence of food, and its subsequent distribution. I wonder if he think the GOP would have the foresight to choke off food supplies in advance so kids and old people starve, or send around the goons to take if off their plates. Details, details. Of course, one could suggest that if the liberals controlled barbeques, there wouldn’t be any, because they contribute to global warming. This New York Times article reminds us that this is a day for asking forgiveness for our climate sins:


The Fourth of July, the national celebration of combustion, presents an opportunity for atonement.

I’m not advising you to forsake grilling this holiday and join the ranks of raw-foodists. Nor do I believe that we can reverse  climate change by eating burgers rare instead of well done. But a little creative thinking can reduce this year’s Fourth of July carbon emissions without gustatory sacrifice. And maybe that awareness will carry into other days and other parts of our lives.

The author warns against the environmental impact of apple pie, and suggests some sort of grilled fruit – but use the dying embers to heat them; don’t light up the grill again. As for the GOP allowing more rockets, there’s an element of truth to that; the states where fireworks are most tightly constricted are the usual suspects – deep-blue states on the coast.

Another tweet, enthusiastically retweeted by lefties:

Happy 4th! Pig out on safe food, take good roads to city park, where fire / police protect your well-educated kids. Complain about govt.

Okay! Thanks! I will. Oh, wait – I get it. It’s super-cali-hypocrtical to raise a word against any excess or failing of the government if one has used one of its 1,034,205 manifestations. Try this the next time you’re arguing with one of those Teabagger types who insists on entitlement reform – hey, you drove your car on a road today, didn’t you? They won’t know what to say. Shuts ‘em right up.

And then there’s a cartoon in today’s paper: a quote from some 19th century notable deriding those who deride patriotism, but also deriding those who are more patriotic than they should be. (Determining the uppermost limit of acceptable patriotism is one of those calibrations the left properly reserves for itself, being keenly aware of all the national deficiencies that should always inform one’s decision to love one’s country.) The cartoon has a drawing of a middle-aged white guy with a flag and a USA T-shirt, clutching a Bible, with some “Freedom Fries” in front of him for a particularly timely reference.

A greater threat the Republic can hardly be imagined.


Pension problems solved

The surest path to public pension reform? Publicize this:

Professors Jonathan Rauh of the Kellogg School of Business and Robert Nova-Max of Rochester University have a new paper out that looks at how much revenue states will need to be able to pay in full the pensions of local and state public employees over the next 30 years. The answer: a lot of money.

“Without policy changes, contributions to these systems would have to immediately increase by a factor of 2.5, reaching14.2% of the total own-revenue generated by state and local governments (taxes, fees and charges). This represents a tax increase of $1,398 per U.S. household per year, above and beyond revenue generated by expected economic growth. In thirteen states the necessary increases are more than $1,500 per household per year, and in five states they are more than $2,000 per household per year. Shifting all new employees onto defined contribution plans and Social Security still leaves required increases at an average of $1,223 per household. Even with a hard freeze of all benefits at today’s levels, contributions still have to rise by more than $800 per U.S. household to achieve full funding in 30 years.”

Publicize it. Then start charging people. Send everyone a bill, due in 30 days. Failure to pay will result in penalties and interest; long-term failure will result in revocation of any state licenses, forfeiture of property, bank liens. Tell them that failure to pay isn’t just illegal, it is an attack on the middle class.

Right? Right. It’s  isan indisputable truth to the left: public employees are a sacrosanct sect of the Working People whose benefits cannot possibly be adjusted in any direction but “up” or any speed but “fast”.Touch their bennies and you’ll get Michael Moore in his trademark Ordinary Fella Costume to bellow hot twaddle about paying for everything by taxing  that magic pile of self-renewing money the plutocrats keep in the garage, back by the gold Bentley. But there aren’t enough of them to pay for everything, so if we’re going to let public employees retire at 57 before they drop dead of sheer exhaustion, then we need to fund those pensions.

So. Let a Republican in each state legislature switch sides, and make his first act as a Democrat the proposal of the Mandatory Public Worker Security Initiative. Shame the rest of the Democrats into signing on. Point out those who don’t want to send out the bills, and ask why they hate teachers. If it seems like an undue burden on the poor, point out how they probably use more public resources, and thus should be extra happy to pay. If anyone makes a peep about the Constitutionality, note that the money spent on the pensions could be used on commerce, so it’s covered by the commerce clause. Call it a stimulus package: if money is taken away from person X and given to person B, well, person B will use the money for economic activity! Person X might have set it on fire or buried it, you know.

Come up with an ad campaign that will remind us of our priorities: “Why are you doing going to Disneyland this year when high-school junior administrators might have higher co-pays in 2017?” I mean, really let people know what’s at stake. For extra credit, require people to smile while they sign the check. Don’t want any grumblers. We’re all in this together.

You want action on pension reform? You’ll get it.


Final thoughts on Weinergate

Now that the mega-swingin’ ultrasexy textin’ dude has ‘fessed to broadcasting his John Thomas on Twitter, we can all move on and let him get back to working on the people. Or doing the work of the people. Whatever. People are involved. But those who have followed the story from the start, who know how Twitter works, who found his initial reactions to be . . . peculiar, the aftermath provides a certain amount of Schadenfreude. (German word meaning “joy in the squirming of an insignificant worm who stuck his nether-member in a media Cuisinart set on ‘puree.’”) There’s the apology to Brietbart. There’s the jaw-dropping fact of Brietbart taking the press conference before Tony the Tweeter showed up, which is like John Edwards showing up to refute some accusations and finding the entire editorial staff of the National Enquirer at the podium, fielding questions. There’s the itty bit of pity you felt when he choked – up – in – public talking about what he had done, and there’s the grim satisfaction of hearing Pelosi announce they’d be looking into this, which suggests there will be a Process, and an Evaluation, and other synonyms for dragging him by a hook up the steps of the Avantine and throwing him into the Tiber.

But few things are more delicious than big traditional media outlets deciding to shiv him, and shiv him hard, for giving an interview, lying, and browbeating the reporter.

ABC pushed this clip out – via Twitter! O irony – after the mea culpa, which is their way of saying they can take self-righteous twaddle from a politician, but not when he goes after one of their own. It undercuts the apology completely. He shows he has no center, no real self, just a series of personas he can adapt as the situation requires. Combine the two – the liar and the groveling supplicant – and you have a remarkably unattractive personality.

But what made him attractive before? Nervy pugnacious sarcastic defense of all the Proper Things, of course. The Left saw this twig as a stout trunk, because this is what they applauded: a scrappy intellectual! A brain! A smart guy who told it like it was, and wasn’t afraid to speak truth to all the various Powers out there who want to elect Sarah Palin so she can unleash the book-burners and thug-bumpkins seething in the heartland. To the young women who followed him, he was Awesome – he used Facebook! and Twitter! and was totally all about the right causes. The sort of guy who, if you got pregnant, would drive you to Planned Parenthood and go halfsies on the bill. Just don’t say you want to keep it, because then he’d get that look, and get irritated, and while okay sure it’s your choice, he supports choice, this complicates matters, and he thought you were cool.

You may wonder what motivated him, but that’s easy. Power over the jocks. All the guys who snapped towels at him because he was in the Chess Club. He got some power; he buffed up; he saw Adonis in the mirror instead of a preening little  peacock. He’d always been able to talk his way out of things, and thought that skill would work here too. It usually does, right up until the moment when it doesn’t. He maneuvered himself into the worst possible place: all he has is words. And no one believes a thing he says.

One more thing: you can’t say the guy never tried to do the right thing. From his website:

In early 2007 my office did a study that found that over 85% of registered sex offenders in New York City live less than five blocks from schools, and 670 sex offenders live within just two blocks. Some offenders are even closer, permanently residing less than 500 feet away from unwitting parents, educators and children.

Along with several colleagues in Congress, we introduced & passed the KIDS (Keeping the Internet Devoid of Sexual Predators) Act of 2007, a bill to require sex offenders to register their e-mail and instant message addresses with the National Sex Offender Registry. The “Kids Act’ implemented one of my six recommendations to keep a closer eye on sex offenders both near school grounds and online. I also proposed stricter GPS tracking of sex offenders, tougher enforcement of registration laws and more public disclosure of sex offender data.

Sadly, the Internet is the predator’s venue of choice today. We need to update our strategies and our laws to stop these offenders who are a mere click away from our children.

That was 2007. Perhaps we need to update them some more.

bin Laden’s Diary

bin Laden’s diary has finally been translated, and some excerpts are starting to be leaked. Here are some entries from his final month:


April 12 Gloomy day. Bad mood.  If I’m so smart, why aren’t I caliph? Thought: start telling everyone the most famous state in America is actually spelled Caliphornia. Declare victory. Take a vacation.

April 13 Wife #1 wants to refi the compound and redo the kitchen. She says it’s “gloomy.” I said that’s probably because the windows are painted over. Suggested we paint a nice scene on the inside, so she could have a view. “Like the scene from a 40th floor penthouse in Dubai overlooking the water with nice shops and restaurants downstairs and people you can meet for coffee and talk about what your husband is doing?” she spat. I said sure, if you want, but I don’t know if they can get that all into one picture. She’s not talking to me now. Wife #2 is talking to me, but I’m mad at her. Wife #3 is staying with her folks for a while so we are getting along fine.

She has a point. This place is a dump. I can’t believe I spent a million dollars on this. Okay, half of that was hush money to the officials and payoffs to the families of the contractors we had to disappear, but still. Everyone said the value would only go up, but if Egypt and Tunisia are any indication the compound market is going to be glutted. Have instructed courier to use internet access and see what it’s worth on Zillow.

April 18 Was down in the basement the other day, and checked the escape tunnel. It’s full of kids’ toys and boxes of old clothes. There must be three hundred My Little Ponys in there. Strong horse, weak horse, pink horse. I know what I feel like lately.

April 19 One of the children tried to get revenge for not having internet today. He rigged my computer so it said “You’ve Got Mail” when I turned it on. I nearly had a heart attack. Even after I found out what he had done I could not stop looking out the window up at the sky. He won’t be sitting down for a day.

April 23 Even this Pepsi doesn’t give me the same lift. I am convinced they changed the formula. I mentioned that in one of the videos, but wife #1 said I should take it out, said it detracted from the main point about the Crusaders and their sins. I said it made the point about those who ally themselves with the West will be betrayed in the end, but she wouldn’t have any of it.  She’s young. Didn’t live through New Coke.

April 21 Some kid’s ball came over the wall this morning. Ever since they learned that we don’t throw them back but just shove some money through the gate, it’s one ball after the other. They don’t even take Euros. “Real money,” they say.

April 22 O cursed day. Another setback. An appalling setback. There are times when I think we lack the technological expertise we  need to bring down America and the West, but now and then I am proud of our team, such as three years ago –  we were trying for years to figure out new forms of cryptography to get our messages to various operatives, and we have been using a complicated program that embeds messages in images, or a video. We had a meeting the other day, and I asked how things were going. They said they had been following my instructions to the letter, and had been hiding porn in videos about operational plans.

I just stared at him for a second and told him he had that backwards. There were nervous looks all around the table.

“No,” he said, “as you requested, we hid porn in videos about operational plans. We thought it was curious, but you are the leader.”

I cursed them all for idiots, and asked if that stack of DVDs down in the family room was all porn. They said that it was. Apparently we have been sending around our plans for everything we intend to do, and Allah knows who has it. I am furious. Furious beyond compare.

April 23 Ahmed showed me how to watch the videos embedded in the DVDs. Even I was unaware the West was this sinful. How sinful it will take me weeks to find out; there must be a hundred of these.

May 1 Finally out of the basement; ran out of batteries for the DVD remote. Spring has come; the plants are in bloom. Gives a fellow a lift. Now I am at my desk, ready to compose a new plan to bring down the infidel.

Gave one of the kids a remote-controlled helicopter for his birthday; he’s been flying it around the backyard all week. Just went past the window. You know, he’s flying it pretty close to the house; that thing looks bigger than I


The Nutty Professor

Apologies for being late to bang this particular gong, but it’s really quite timeless. Dateline: Iowa! College Republicans, if that’s not an oxymoron, send out an email touting an upcoming event. A professor in the Department of Aggrieved Fixation on Issues We Have Magnified Beyond Belief reads it, has steam shoot out her ears, and fires back: F You. She elaborated on the F, of course. It made news because she used the campus email system, and because we like to think professors are kindly doddering sorts who have offices stuffed with paper and a dusty bust of Goethe, not foul-mouthed harridans who drop into gutter-speak the moment someone outside their ideological bubble has the cheek to suggest that college belongs to everyone, not just Bolshevik barnacles hanging on the ivy-draped marble walls.

Of course, she apologized.

In a follow up email to the college Republicans, Lewin reportedly responded: “This is a time when political passions are inflamed, and when I received your unsolicited email, I had just finished reading some newspaper accounts of fresh outrages committed by Republicans in government. I admit the language was inappropriate, and apologize for any affront to anyone’s delicate sensibilities. I would really appreciate your not sending blanket emails to everyone on campus, especially in these difficult times.”

Oh, this is a time when political passions are inflamed? Today and yesterday and also last week and also a time stretching back to the founding of the first colony. But yes, things are inordinately inflamed these days, and when someone has just read about Fresh Outrages in the newspaper, it’s all you can do not to shout F YOU from the rooftops, or find someone in a cafe reading National Review, knock it out of their hands and hiss how dare you. The language, she admits, was “inappropriate,” the weasel-word the therapy culture uses instead of “wrong,” and it also suggests there’s a time when telling strangers F YOU is approprate. Perhaps if you’ve just finished reading the paper and it had twice as many Fresh Outrages “Apologize for any affront to anyone’s delicate sensibilities” is a howler, though; gives the game away. Translation, no apology whatsoever, because you don’t have delicate sensibilities, you morons, and your outrage is a pretense. Of course, her sensibilities were scraped raw by the letter, which used the term “coming out” to describe being open about one’s political beliefs. Those words belong to another group! That’s insensitive and inappropriate and cruel and hateful and homophobic and encourages a culture of harassment.


Lewin also said she had been offended by several “extremely offensive” things in the email, including an invitation to an “Animal Rights BBQ,” disdainful references to the Wisconsin protests and the fact that College Republicans were “appropriating the language of the LGBT right movement.”

When they do it, it’s satire. When the right does it, it’s hurtful appropriation.  According to this story, it was also personally insulting:

Lewin also chastised the chairwoman of the Iowa Federation of College Republicans, UI junior Natalie Ginty, for calling her by her first name in an email complaining about the vulgarity.

“She referred to me as Ellen, not Professor Lewin, which is the correct way for a student to address a faculty member, or indeed, for anyone to refer to an adult with whom they are not acquainted,” she wrote.


Would you please call her professor? She’s worked so hard for that title.

She concluded the apology: “I would really appreciate your not sending blanket emails to everyone on campus, especially in these difficult times.”

Do not send me any message that may contradict my worldview if the times are difficult.  And what makes them so difficult? Because heaven on earth had been glimpsed, if only for a month or two – and then tide turned, so horribly, and now the rich have the upper hand once more, determined to carry out their plan to close Planned Parenthood, drive “Car Talk” off the air, and require public employees to write out their own checks for their union dues. It’s Kristallnacht all over again.

Why does it matter? It doesn’t, in the large sense, because the great squishy middle  – the people who don’y pay attention to the tales that grip the blogosphere  – won’t be moved one way or the other. It makes the Right grin, because it validates opinions about the collegiate left; it makes the Left gnash their teeth and rend their garments, because it gives aid ‘n’ comfort to the enemy, and obscures the real issue, which is FRESH REPUBLICAN OUTRAGE you never hear from the corporate GE- controlled media. But it does reminds us of some modern truths:

1. The idea that academia is some Olympian preserve with no connection to the tedious scrum of mortal conflict is, of course, nonsense. F YOU.

2. No one who believes in reduced tax rates, and opposes a carbon tax, can expect to get a fair shake in the professor’s classroom, should she learn you hold such heretical ideas. Doesn’t matter whether they’re relevant to the subject matter in her class. F YOU.

3. The Left is pushed to these things, which goes a long way towards mitigating responsibility. Just as the Koran-burner is responsible for the riots on the other side of the world, the bulk e-mailer is responsible for the reaction of a professor confronted with heresy. F YOU.

4. In the professor’s world, the University is the perfect model of society: money comes from . . . somewhere, there’s no industry, people are properly viewed through the prism of skin color and sexual identity, art and “culture” are the pre-eminent objects of study, and tenure insulates the elite from economic realities. Everything that was done to establish the conditions under which the University of Iowa to exist and thrive are irrelevant, and possibly offensive, and can be discounted with a wave of the hand: thank you so much for building this stable civil society that permits us to train termites intent on chewing its foundation; now please be quiet, because there are patriarch-paradigms we have to undo.


Oh: and please approve our tuition increase. Thank you.


The Dullest Newspaper in America

One of the many perks of union membership is the monthly newsletter, a grim and humorless document that gives you an idea what newspapers would be like if Labor ran everything. They’re absolutely tedious to read. They’re boring to look at.  Everything is always a Struggle; the fat cats are ever-poised to snatch away hard-fought gains, because that’s what fat cats do. Working Families are hardest hit by everything – except taxes, of course.

The latest issue was predictable. Self-aggrandizing equivalence with Arab protestors? Check! The editorial cartoon, “Wisconsin Flag 2011,” shows a crest with two old-time guys – one’s a minor, the other a sailor, or perhaps a rope maker – standing next to a hodgepodge of labor symbols, over which stands a badger, and a banner that says “forward.” Mind you, this is the newsletter for the Newspaper Guild. Even a 1200 baud modem would be an jarring insertion of modernity. The cartoon says “Rebellion to Tyrants” and the top and “Democracy for Workers” at the bottom, a link that might have made perfect immediate sense in 1776.  An account of a union meeting in Florida last February concludes the opening paragraph thus:

“They heard a forceful call for sweeping changes, approved a wide-ranging set of initiatives – and returned home to a resurgent labor movement nationwide and a parallel explosion of reformist uprisings in northern Africa.”

This is the publication of the Newspaper Guild, remember. People returned home to a parallel explosion in Africa. Okay. Got it. Of these “wide-ranging” initiatives, the first in the list was “use of an electronic reporting system of dues payments.” Priorities, priorities. Of course there was a call to “strengthen Guild activities on behalf of equity, diversity, and inclusion,” as well as a resolution to create a Seal of Quality to let people know the reporting was “fair, even-handed and credible.” Yes. A Seal of Quality. Perhaps a rope maker making the thumbs-up sign.

The CWA, the parent union, has a list of “attacks on working families,” and #2 seems a bit odd:

“PAYCHECK DECEPTION. Campaigns backed by right-wing and corporate groups to take away workers’ rights to a voice in the political process.”

Since the description does not seem to have anything to do with deceived paychecks, you wonder what they mean. Ah hah: the end of forcing the state to collect union dues, perhaps? Could that be it? Requiring people to write out a check for their own dues instead of deducting it from their paycheck is paycheck deception? You think you have more money, but you’ve been deceived! It’s ours! All ours!

Then there’s the local labor review, which put the Wisconsin situation in these terms: “In Madison, Wisconsin – and in St. Paul, Minnesota – and in other state capitols in the Midwest, union members and supporters are rising up in response to a wave of legislative attacks aimed at crippling both public sector and private sector unions. The fight is not about budget deficits. It’s a war on workers. It’s a war on the middle class.”

Glad we could clear that up for you. Nothing to do with deficits!  Why, those could be solved by taxing the Koch brothers; everyone knows that. It’s war on the workers. In case you missed the point, the lead editorial on the second page is headlined “The debate is not about budgets . . . it’s a war on workers and unions.” Okay then. If you say so. Tempted as you might be to read the editorial, your eye is drawn to the cartoon, which shows a man named BIG OIL saying “Due to unrest in the middle reast there will be an unavoidable increase in the price of oil,” and there’s a cartoon thought-bubble that shows him rejoicing amidst a flurry of money. I’ve read My Little Pony books that had more depth and complexity.

Inside there’s an announcement of the staging of two Upton Sinclair novels, “The Jungle” (1906) and “Oil! (1927), and a description assures us that the performance will include “dance, movement, (and) puppetry.” Dance AND movement? I’m there.

But here’s the fun part.

“The 600 airport security screeners at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport are among some 44,000 Transportation Security Administration employees nationwide now taking part in an election to determine whether or not they will be represented by a union.”

Yes. The hand that gropes the junk maybe unionized soon. Bush forbade this when the TSA was created. Obama changed that. You were just thinking how we need to make it tougher to fire incompetents who are bad at screening people or just plain surly and mean, weren’t you? Or how cool it would be if your kid’s trip to Disneyland was cancelled because the union struck over the government’s refusal to increase their wages by 5% instead of 4?

Don’t worry. It could happen. It had better happen, or all those people rioted in Cairo for nothing.


Serious President is Serious

Listening to the President’s remarks on Japan today, I was reminded of something that  nags at me most of the times I hear him speak: what’s the rush? Does he have something else to do? “Golf,” you say, you cynical partisan, you. Okay. Besides golf. We all know he’s capable of good set-piece oratory, but when it comes to important moments like the Japanese speech, there’s a flat phoned-in quality you wouldn’t expect from the greatest orator in American history. Why?

Because he’s not talking about himself, perhaps. When it’s a campaign speech to rouse the base or rally the masses, well, as the song says, this one goes out to the one I love. Even the Tucson speech could fit in that category, since he no doubt regarded Healer-in-Chief as a position appropriately for the nation’s top lightworker, but when it comes to these briefings and statements, his heart’s not in it. Not to say you want someone emoting every line – no. Stoic is good. But he reads the prepared text with a flat inflection, a predictable cadence, a rote habitual downward inflection; it’s the choppy read of a run-through, scanned for content, not for impact.

Either he’s disengaged from the material, or this is his Serious Person Voice. I don’t know. I do know that he sounds like this is somehow an imposition, a thing to be gotten over with. It doesn’t sound like a man who knows how to lead. It sounds like a man disengaged from the very moment he’s attempting to shape.

Long-hidden 9/11 footage now online

Coming up on the tenth anniversary. Still seems like yesterday. An FOIA request pried this footage from the New York Police Department, which had a helicopter in the area after the attack.

Click here, since the Newniverse Hughniverse is having a bit of a problem embedding video here.


Time to bring back the asylum?

Forgive me if this has been covered – I’ve been at sea, where internet is spotty and news in the public areas is provided by International CNN, also known as “the shrieking den of lies.” (Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but the day after the shooting the lead anchorperson began the hour by saying “A nation divided and in fear: a look at America.” Uh huh.) I’ve been able to keep up on the attempts to drag the narrative into the usual dank dens where the ever-fever’d right plots its base crimes; I just heard the president admonish these times when rhetoric gets overheated. I did like this line:

But at a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized – at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who think differently than we do – it’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds, but to get in their faces and kick their ass if they are actually our political enemies.

It was a healing moment. Anyway: now that everyone realizes this fellow had a head full of angry bees, it might be possible to have one of those “national conversations” about involuntary commitment of the mentally ill. (Seems Newsweek is on the case.) For years I was told that the reason we had mentally ill homeless was because, of course, of Reagan. He cut the funding and kicked out the mentally ill, and didn’t care, because he was mean and stupid, etc. But as Myron Magnet pointed out, there was a shift in the thinking about the mentally ill in – any guesses? Why yes: the sixties. Old asylums were horror-holes, Bedlam redux, and new drugs meant the insane could be let out and trusted to take their meds. Didn’t quite work out for everyone.

Simultaneous with de-institutionalization was a cultural meme: the crazy are really more sane than we are! Or at least wild lovable dreamers who are just like Robin Williams. Think of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” which is probably the “China Syndrome” of mental-health-treatment movies. Not only did we hiss wretched Ratchit, we cheered on free-spirited McMurphy, because he was played by Jack Nicholson, and wondered why they had picked up an enormous taciturn American Indian and zapped his brain for no reason at all. They were all guilty of being non-comformists, if anything. Simple-minded, but everyone has an uncle who’s a little soft in the bean; doesn’t mean he should be made to live in a hospital gown and play cards all day before he’s tranked into a dreamless sleep.

So we turned against institutionalization, and now we no longer wonder why these people whose minds have turned against them walk around us and decide, on a clear sunny day, to shoot a little girl.

Side note: wonder how many people will be sent over the edge by the martial messages sent off by the name of the news station that broadcast the shooting story. Not saying the station is guilty, but it does create a climate, no?

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November 2023