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Plaid Adder

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Member since: 2001
Number of posts: 5,518

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Where We Were Four Years Ago

Since I am thinking about doing The Immoderator III at some point in honor of our first Obama/Romney debate, I went back and took a look at The Immoderator II. It was instructive.

We really have forgotten where we were four years ago. Yeah, everything is all stagnant and doldrummy and unemployment remains high and whatnot. But looking back at that piece I felt all over again the sickening sense of panic created by the economic cataclysms of 2008. I mean we were going to bed not knowing if our banks would still be operating when we got up in the morning. The D word lurked behind every conversation. A huge amount of money was being moved to SOMEWHERE and we were supposed to think this was going to make everything OK even though nobody could really explain why. When that first debate between Obama and McCain took place, we were still in the middle of the explosion and we had no idea where the shrapnel was going to fall.

Are we better off four years later? My gut and my nerves think so. I'm stressed out and perpetually out of money and suffering from the malaise that all of us "middle class" people who are running on fricking hamster wheels trying to make enough money to maintain a middle class lifestyle feel...but at least the explosion is over and I'm not coping with free-fall induced nausea.

It was bad four years ago. It was REALLY bad. We have repressed how bad it was beacuse it was that fucking scary. And why was it bad? Because for eight years Bush let the plutocrats do whatever they wanted. There was no effective regulation, no effective enforcement, and all the guys bundling bad mortgages and trading derivatives and shorting companies were out there making money for themselves while creating anti-value and nobody stopped them. And although they always seem to feel like these bubbles will go on getting bigger forever, they always burst. Someone eventually figures out there's no money inside the bubble, and the whole shiny surface goes pop.

Yeah, I wish Obama had closed Guantanamo. I wish a lot of things. But here's one thing I know: you put Mitt Romney in charge, and somewhere between four and eight years from now there will be another crash. Because that is where unrestrained capitalist rapacity always eventually leads. And that is clearly Mitt's platform.

Anyway. Try the experiment. Go look back at something you posted four years ago today. It will the fuck out of you.

The Plaid Adder

Mitt Romney is not running for president. He is running for another office entirely.

I just figured this out. The reason he's going to be toast is that he is not actually campaigning to become president of the United States. He says that, sure. But in his mind and heart, the job he's really angling for is not POTUS, but Mayor of Stratos.

All right, so, in the late season 3 Star Trek episode "The Cloud-Minders" (I speak of the original series with Kirk and Spock, and not any of the franchise's many later additions), Kirk and Spock find themselves coping with a civil war on the planet Ardana. Ardana has split into two completely separate societies: the "troglytes," who live on the planet surface and under it while they work in the mines and till the soil, and the inhabitants of the cloud city, Stratos, which hovers far above the surface, and where everything is beautiful and pleasant and awesome. Spock points out in a voiceover that separating "those who shoulder the burden" and "those who enjoy the rewards" so completely is not something a "wise leadership" would allow. Nevertheless, it's what has happened in America in 2012, where at last report economic self-segregation is on the rise, which reflects the massive and widening gap between rich and poor.

There are some leaders who would look at that gap and say, this is a problem and we need to close it. There are some leaders who would say that it's a problem that the poor--or even, increasingly, the non-filthy-rich--are doomed to struggle forever in the lower depths while the rich enjoy the fruits of everyone else's labor. Back when Star Trek was made, there were some leaders even talking about how poverty was a problem that should actually be addressed, instead of just wondering how to get elected without the support of the struggling-American part of the population. Course nobody talks about eradicating, or even significantly reducing, poverty now. Because once you start suggesting that people are in fact entitled to food just because they're frickin' human, this apparently makes you a complaining victim who will never take responsibility for your life.

But never fear, citizens of Stratos. Mitt Romney will not be one of those leaders! His motto will always be Stratos for the Stratans. So I have an idea about hwo Mitt could reboot his campaign, and because I believe in the redistribution of wealth I'm going to offer it to his advisors for free. I think Mitt should campaign on the promise that once elected he will erect cloud cities which will float far above the surface and the 47% who will never vote for him. That way, the galloping increases in greenhouse emissions that will result from his adminsitration's deregulation of industry will only create more real estate for the deserving rich. Those living on the surface will continue to toil, of course; and they will eventually die with the planet, but not until long after Mitt's two terms are over.

Say goodbye to Mitt Romney, failed presidential candidate. And say hello to Mitt Romney, Cloud Minder. Has a much nicer ring to it, and I think everyone will recognize that this version is more authentic. I can see the "Get Off of My Cloud" bumperstickers rolling off the presses already.

The Plaid Adder

That Smirk

I talked to my sister the other day and she said she was having a hard time with Ambassador Stevens' death. She had worked with him on something a while back, and said he was "the best of the best"--someone who believed in his work, who was willing to risk his safety to get out of the embassy and actually meet people, someone who understood the human cost of these political situations that seem so abstract to us, someone who was popular with the people he worked with and with the people of Benghazi. I said, I'm sorry that you lost a good colleague, and that we lost a good ambassador.

Romney, of course, is not sorry about any of this. The smirk that photographer captured as he walked away from the podium would tell you that, but of course the fact of that press conference, and its content, would do that anyway. So would the media response, which basically portrayed him as dancing on the grave of an American diplomat because he thought it was going to score him some political points.

But that smirk takes me back. It takes me back to George W. and his smirk, which I could never stand. Under W, and with the help of his minion Karl Rove (or was W Karl Rove's minion? Perhaps we will never know), we reached a new low in this country in terms of basic human decency. You remember the whole thing about how Kerry didn't deserve his Purple Hearts? And how there were people wearing band-aids with purple hearts on them on the Republican convention floor in 2004? And how W's entire re-election campaign was based on smearing a veteran with the foulest lies they could craft? I do.

The fact that Romney's response to the Benghazi attacks has provoked media criticism is in itself evidence that we are better off now than we were four years ago. Because four years ago, that would have been covered as just plain par for the course. Now, it appears, it is becoming common for journalists to object to the fact that the Romney/Ryan campaign tells lies in public. It would also appear that trying to turn a political profit from the deaths of Americans abroad is now considered beyond the pale. Whereas in W's world...do you guys remember the "trifecta" joke? And how round about the 2004 campaign, his advisors were always going on the record about how much the threat of terror attacks increased their guy's chances?

Both smirks, though, appear to me to come from the same place and to say the same thing about both of these men. And that thing is: It is all about me.

Just after the Republican Convention, as my father the formerly lifetime Republican (until he voted Kerry in 2004, Obama in 2008, and most likely Obama again in 2012) and I were discussing the Empty Chair Incident, he said, "Romney's like Nixon; his problem is that he wants it too much." Nixon? I said. He said look at Watergate; all that happened because being President again was more important to him than anything else. I said, "Maybe that's why Romney's having so much trouble coming up with a vision. 'My vision of the future is a vision of an America in which I am president.'" Exactly, my dad said. And that obviously inspires Mitt Romney, but it's not gonna do much for anyone else.

Our latest evidence that it's All About Mitt is the now-infamous "47%" speech. It's a veritable smorgasbord of offense, but it all more or less comes back to the same idea: the people who will not help me become President do not matter. In fact, people who will not help me realize my vision of an America in which I am president are not really people. They are parasites feasting on the body politic and they need to be burned off like the bloated ticks they are. Sure, he's putting it all in the context of the campaign and how he needs to reach the undecided independent voters (good luck with that). But this speech tells you that just as he's "not going to worry" about the 47% during the campaign, he's sure as hell not going to give a shit about them afterward.

You know what, though? Elect a guy for whom it is always all about me, and you find out who the real parasites are. Because that guy will think your country belongs to him; and that guy will suck out its resources faster than you would believe. That's what happened under Bush. He had all his buddies feeding at the government trough, shoveling public money into their gullets as fast as they could. The private military contractors, the "faith-based" organizations, the tax cut beneficiaries, the bailout--there was a lot of redistribution of wealth under W; it just went up instead of down. But I guess when you actually <i>run</i> the government, hoovering money out of it makes the government your bitch, instead of making you its.

Other people have been working pretty hard to take apart what's factually wrong with his comments about the 47% and I don't need to reiterate it. All I want to say is that we had this kind of narcisissm, selfishness, and greed in the White House for eight years, and it broke the country. We don't need to go there again.

I can hope, I suppose, that after having had four years to recover from the public depravity engineered by Rove, the spectacle of Romney's selfishness may repel more voters than it attracts. Because it makes a difference whether the government is made up of people like Ambassador Stevens, or whether it is made up of people like Romney. It makes a difference whether the public face of America is wearing that self-satisfied smirk.

The Plaid Adder

There is a difference between condemning an example of free speech

and jailing the person who engaged in it.

I'm just pointing this distinction out, since it seems to be evaporating in some of the threads I see about Terry Jones's "film."

Look, the First Amendment is one sentence long and it goes like this:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Nothing any of the US Government representatives have said during this crisis has indicated that Congress is considering making a law that will prohibit assholes like Terry Jones from making or distributing their assholic diatribes. And that is just as well, because in the digital age, trying to deal with shit like this by suppressing it is always going to be a losing battle anyway.

To say, "this is some bad fucking speech, and the speaker is one monumentally irresponsible asshole whose sentiments in no way reflect the official stance of the US government" is not the same thing as saying "this speaker does not have the right to say this." THe US Government is not compelled to defend every crazy thing every crazy American says. It is only compelled, by the first amendment, not to prosecute people who use speech in ways the government considers dangerous, counterproductive, or inimical to US interests (or to the self-interest of the individuals running the government).

What is the point of making a "film" like _Innocence of Muslims_? Obviously the point is to bait Islamic extremists into engaging in violent action which can then provoke a political backlash convenient to Jones and his fellow-lunatics. And it looks at first glance as if it has succeeded; but the evidence suggests that the attack on the Libyan embassy was not actually motivated by the film, and that the film is merely serving as a pretext which can conveniently be used to justify aggressive action on the part of Islamist extremists. In that sense, the makers of the film and its targets are actually collaborating, since thanks to this "film" both extremist constituencies now have what they want.

The argument that films such as this should be banned because they lead to violent deaths is a) impractical (try banning anything in this day and age) and b) potentially dangerous (Batman Rises led to violent deaths too; I don't think anyone needs the law that woudl be created by an attempt to define what actually makes a film bannable on that grounds).

ON EDIT: I didn't think I needed to point this out, but apparently I do: Condemning the film is also not the same as saying that the group of heavily armed militants who attacked the Benghazi embassy and killed four people were justified in doing so. Responsibility is not a zero-sum game, and extending it to include Terry Jones and his ilk does not somehow magically relieve the attackers of theirs. First of all, as I said above, plenty of evidence suggests the Benghazi attack was not actually motivated by the film, though the film provides the attackers with a pretext. Second, even if it was, that doesn't justify murder. I would have thought these things were obvious. But then if they were I suppose Mitt wouldn't have tried his initial gambit.

The fact that Jones et al. have a legal right to make this film, however, does not imply that making this film is ethically defensible. The issue there is not so much the bigoted and mendacious attack on Islam (though I would argue that bigotry is never ethically defensible) as the fact that given recent history it is so obvious that such a film would provide a pretext for anti-American violence on the part of Islamic extremists that one is forced to conclude that provoking such violence must have been part of the filmmakers' intention. And that's not only dangerous, it's disgusting.

Apparently even Mitt is criticizing the film, now that he's figured out how badly he fucked himself up with that press conference. So evidently even he can now grasp the distinction, though he previously worked hard to erase it.

The Plaid Adder

"I didn't refer to the troops, I used the word military. I think they refer to the same thing."

That's his excuse.

OK. That is how you KNOW he thinks corporations are people. The "military" that he wants to give untold trillions of dollars to is a vast bureaucratic-industrial complex. The "troops" are the actual human beings who do the extremely dangerous work that this complex creates.

Mitt can't tell the difference. That's perfect.

The Plaid Adder

So my mother called to talk to me for 30 minutes about Michelle Obama's speech.

My mother, the 70 year old affluent white woman who hasn't worked in 30 years and lives in the state Mitt Romney used to govern when she's not relaxing at one of her two vacation homes, identifies with Michelle Obama and thinks Mitt Romney is out of touch.

I'm just sayin'.

I know we can't afford to be complacent what with the economy and the smear tactics and all the things we have come to expect from the Republicans and the media during a presidential election. But I think we're gonna win this one for the same reasons we won 2008, not the least of them being the fact that this time, all the people who vote based on who they want to have a beer with are going with our guy. Less, of course, the people who would refuse on principle to have a beer with anyone who wasn't white.

You know what, though? There were not enough racists left in the US to elect John McCain, and there will not be enough to elect Mitt Romney in 2012.

I will remember that I said this as I get more nervous watching the deadline grow nearer.

On edit: AND, can I say that it is crazy how gay marriage is now getting a shout-out in these convention speeches like it's no big deal? Their internal polling must have started showing that public opinion has finally broken with the Republicans on this one.

The Plaid Adder

Make My Day

I didn't watch the Republican National Convention. But after all the hoo-ha about it, I did go and see Clint Eastwood's 11-minute theater game. The memes based on it are so funny...and after all, I enjoy the absurd, especially in theatrical form.

The memes are funny. The speech itself is not funny. For a few reasons.

One: Clint Eastwood is not well.

In some of the post-mortem articles on this it is averred that the chair shtick was a surprise. Eastwood asked for one at the last minute, and someone gave him one, thinking that either he wanted to sit in it, or that he would use it as a prop. And then this happened.

He absolutely was using it as a prop, and in a very specific and consistent way. If you watch the video and keep track of when invisible Obama 'talks' to Eastwood, it pretty much always happens at a point where Eastwood has wandered to the end of whatever tangent he's on and has run out of thought. The chair is there so that when these moments happen, Eastwood can engage in hilarious byplay with invisible Obama, using one of the cheap jokes he's prepared (there's really only two: pretending that invisible Obama has told him to shut up, and pretending that invisible Obama has told him or Romney to go fuck himself). Said cheap jokes can be relied on to generate a cheap laugh which then gives Eastwood time to start over with a new topic.

This tells you two things. One: like many 83-year-olds, Eastwood is losing some of his mental agility. In fact, this performance reminded me a lot of Ronald Reagan's later debate performances. He can still perform; he can still charm; but he's in trouble when he has to think on his feet. Two: Eastwood is aware of this. Because that's why he wanted the chair. And that is not funny, it is sad.

Each time Eastwood does this invisible-Obama-enabled reboot, the new thread he starts has less intelligible content than the one before. He seems, in fact, to be really struggling for things to say, perhaps because he's not actually very enthusiastic about Romney himself. The only thing nice that he says about Romney is that he's a "stellar" businessman and he for some reason repeats this to make sure everyone heard the scare quotes. He obviously didn't have a clear idea of how he was going to end the speech; he eventually found refuge in telling the crowd how wonderful they were, but it wasn't until someone yelled something at him during one of the pauses that he was able to formulate an exit strategy.

What she yelled at him, apparently, was one of his famous taglines from his days as Dirty Harry: "Go ahead. Make my day." Everyone in that hall was thinking of it; in fact, they started chanting it when he first showed up, stopping only when he admonished them to "save some for Mitt." I couldn't hear her well on the tape; but everyone in the hall heard her, and so did Clint. He said, "I don't say that word any more." And then he said, "Well, maybe one more time." And sure enough, that's how he ends the speech: by turning to the invisible Obama in the chair, and saying, "OK. You wanna make my day, huh?"

Huge applause and cheering; and then Eastwood says, "All right, I'll start it, you finish it. Go ahead," and the whole audience chants gleefully, "MAKE MY DAY!"

And this is the second reason why that performance is not funny.

I've spent some time in the past few years trying to understand exactly when it was that it became OK, and in fact laudable, for the 'good guys' of American mass entertainment to kill people indiscriminately. I think the fact that our action heroes so often behave like mass murderers is a symptom and perhaps a contributing factor to some major cultural problems. When I try to remember when this changed, one landmark that always sticks out is Dirty Harry. Dirty Harry was a cop, and he was 'dirty' primarily because he routinely used excessive and deadly force on the job in situations that did not call for it. It's the nickname that marks him as a transitional figure. In the early 1980s, the fact that Harry liked killing people even when it wasn't necessary was something that made him an antihero, something that made him seem 'dirty' to his superiors and even to the superegos of the moveigoers watching him. His extralegal killing was enjoyable, but controversial; we were supposed to feel bad about being satisfied by it. Now, guys who do what Dirty Harry did are just straight-up action heroes, and it doesn't bother anyone.

OK. So, "Go ahead. Make my day" comes from a 1983 Dirty Harry movie called Sudden Impact. Go and take a look at the original context in which Eastwood's tagline occurred.



So, after shooting about five people--all of them dark-skinned--Eastwood delivers this line to a Black man (in this universe, there are no African-Americans) who is holding a white woman hostage. The police have already pulled up outside the diner, and since they are not as endearingly 'dirty' as he is, one assumes that once they take over Harry will lose the opportunity to execute the last remaining Black man on the scene. When he says "Go ahead," he's telling the unnamed assailant to shoot, move his gun, reach for something, do anything that will give Harry a good enough excuse to fire the gun he's pointing and blow this Black man's head off. That will "make" Harry's "day," because there's nothing Harry likes more than blasting people's brains out.

So let's review those last couple minutes of Eastwood's speech.

The anonymous enthusiast yells out the tagline. Eastwood says "I don't say that word any more." Presumably he means "that phrase." Presumably there's a reason he doesn't say it any more. Maybe he's tired of it. Maybe he has some regrets about the Dirty Harry character. Maybe he, since he was after all in the damn movie, remembers the original context, and is thinking that the Republican National Convention might be an inappropriate place to threaten our nation's first African-American president with the same words he used to threaten the scared Black thug whose head Harry wanted so badly to spatter all over that diner.

But then, giving into the mood of the room, he says, "Maybe one more time."

And they are all so delighted when he turns to the chair--in which, remember, Obama is supposed to be sitting--and says, "You want to make my day, huh?"

I mean am I the only person seeing this?

And then he gets the entire room to help him threaten to blow Obama's head off.

I'm sorry, but as a moment of creepiness this beats even Eastwood calling out, "We own this country!" to his put-near-all-white audience. All right, I know he was off-message and off-script and over time. But he was only doing what actors learn to do, which is give the audience what they want...and this is what they wanted.

Gonna be a while before I get to sleep tonight.

Farewell Poems for Michelle Bachmann

In celebration of the end of Michelle Bachmann's candidacy, I call upon my DU brethren and sistren to waft her on her way with a valedictory poem. Here's mine:

Haiku for Michelle Bachmann

In this contest of
the crazy, you were always
the batshittiest

Let's see yours!

With a Whimper

It appears that the war in Iraq is over.

I just thought I would point it out. It doesn't seem to be getting much play in the media. And yet, it is a day that I once longed to see more than anything else in the world; so I felt I ought to bring it to more peoples' attention.

I say "once" because I find that I don't really feel as happy as I thought I would feel when I got this news. It's possible that this is just because I've been faked out so many times that it's hard to trust that this time it's for real. There was "Mission Accomplished," of course; but I was never going to be one of the people who fell for THAT. And then there was the name change from Operation Iraqi Freedom to Operation New Dawn. And now, finally, the last troops are coming home (via Kuwait) and the flags are coming down and it would appear that in fact this war is over.

I listen to the speeches about what we accomplished in Iraq and I just feel like throwing up. This war did not have to be fought. It should not have been fought. It was unconscionably destructive, on top of being unconscionably expensive. The oceans of blood and mountains of treasure poured into it will not come back. The dead will not come back. Abu Ghraib does not go away. Haditha does not go away--though apparently the Army threw out their own investigation into that massacre, where some NYT journalist found it in a dumpster. The damage we did will not be reversed. It will grow into something new; and let's hope that whatever that is has a bright side, because it will surely have a dark one.

Instead of anything celebratory, what I find has come into my head is a line of a lament from a Wole Soyinka play called _Death and the King's Horseman_: "But oh, how late it all is."

Yes. Late. Too late in a lot of ways for a lot of people.

Better late than never.

I am quick enough to talk about what's wrong with Obama, so I guess I should say: He did finally end the war. He also did it without an aircraft carrier and a fighter pilot's uniform, and for that I am especially thankful.

I'd be more thankful if I had some evidence that Guantanamo will finally be shut down. Or that torture will once again become something unjustifiable. Or that...oh, what is the use.

The damage does not end with the end of the war--not in Iraq, not in the US. And I guess knowing that now, in a way that perhaps I didn't in 2003, I find it hard to celebrate.

All the same. The war is over. I want to thank everyone who has been through it with me here on DU. I know we're all about the other battles now. But it meant a lot to me to be able to write about it here, and I want to thank all of you who hated this war as much as I do and to say, well, congratulations. We lived to see the end of it.

The Plaid Adder
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