Thursday, July 22, 2010

Is that rigor setting in?

I've made it a point to avoid the news since coming home. I allow myself to watch Dylan Ratigan's show (4-5 p.m. on MSNBC) and visits to Talking Points Memo and every day. I've more than filled my days with job hunting, househusband stuff, PS2 and fighting with teenagers -- all far more stimulating than the crap that usually surfaces during the daily news cycle.
A couple of newsy items have caught my eye today, however. Firstly, I love watching PFC Andrew Breibart of the Right Wing Noise Brigade squirm over the blowback from slandering (yes, slandering) that lady from USDA. I also noticed that Sarah Palin's flirty, blissfully ignorant act flamed out wildly in front of real estate execs in Vegas this week. She actually called Obama an "opium addict" -- opium in this case meaning other people's money! HAHAHAHA! OMG, she is so fucking cute, isn't she?
Is it just me, or has the major media finally, finally gotten tired of Breibart, Palin and their enablers? Tea party panderers are winning GOP primaries, only to have their local news outlets discover that they are ignorant, lying misanthropes. As badly as Obama's poll numbers look now, Congressional Republicans are even worse. Every Tea Party flavored nominee surges out of the primary, only to start tanking in the polls by week's end.
Speaking of GOP congresstypes, they really, really tripped on their dicks over this whole unemployment business. It got the Gulf oil spill off the front page and made them look stupid and partisan. Obama is going to ram that issue down their throats this fall.
Oh yeah, and don't forget the Obama's SCOTUS pick will get confirmed and the financial reg bill, as milquetoast as it is, finally passed.
I really don't why anyone thinks the GOP is taking over anything this fall. They have yet to stuff the Dems and White House on anything and their fall election roster is so of morons who won't inspire anyone with an IQ over 80 to come out and vote for them.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Watch this guy

Paul George was the Pacers' first round pick and I'm sure he'll push Brandon Rush hard for a starting spot this fall; however, watch this guy:

Barring a sweetheart deal for Darren Collison or Jonnie Flynn, Lance Stephenson will be the Pacers' starting point guard on Opening Night...and too many more nights after that to count.

PS: I could be wrong, too.

Coup, excerpt 2

“Man, there’s some shit going on. I’m even thinking of taking my pension and going home. I’ve got my 20-plus in and I can take care of Mom and still have college money for Todd. I thought he might enlist and use the GI Bill, but now I don’t even want him to…”
Mark was thunderstruck. Johnnie gave up his wife and son for the Army; it was his entire life. He had busted his ass to work his way up the ladder. Mark had planned to do what he could in the House to get his cousin that star he had always been fixated on.
Johnnie started to rattle off all of the new faces popping up around the office in the week or so after the election: retired three- and four-stars, Air Force intel, ex-military types wearing the kinds of suits and watches that all of those Blackwater guys buy when they come back from AfPak and Iraq, and, just the day before, the Governor of Indiana. The last one was the oddest to Mark, as he was the bottom of the losing Republican ticket.
Mark listened patiently as Johnnie explained why none of these guys (and they were all guys) belonged in the office, that the Navy and Army chiefs both got into very heated screaming matches with the Chair, Air Force Gen. Bert “Brownie” Samuels, in front of the entire staff on separate occasions, and that transfer requests were flying out of the office like 747s on a holiday weekend. People he had never seen before were coming up and making small talk with him, usually armed with some knowledge of his service record.
Johnnie saved best, or weirdest, tidbit for last: Samuels asked (or ordered) Johnnie into his office Friday morning. That was a first; the Air Force guys typically treated the rest of the services like Godless heathens and unwitting tools of the President. He didn’t think Samuels even knew his name. The conversation was brief. After acknowledging all of the new faces coming and going, Samuels thanked Johnnie for all of his hard work and said he hoped that Johnnie wasn’t going anywhere. Johnnie thought it best to reassure the General that he liked his job; with that, Samuels cleared his throat and steered the conversation around to religion. He asked if Johnnie knew about the Charles Town Church of the Redeemer, some church on the Virginia state line. Johnnie said he didn’t know of the place and joked that he hadn’t been to Mass since his confirmation (which was mostly true -- aside from his wedding, Todd’s baptism and a few funerals, neither Mark nor Johnnie had attended church in years). He said Samuels’ expression suddenly changed to concern. The General quickly wrapped up the visit and told him to enjoy the weekend.
Johnnie thought his comment had gotten him out of the conversation. He said the whole born-again thing was thick around the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, as well as the USAF side of the Pentagon. With the exception of a few Opus Dei types, the ringleaders were all evangelicals. After years of open proselytizing in the wake of 9/11, the first term under the new President was a bit quieter and much more businesslike, which made this sudden rush of new faces and Jesus-mongering all the stranger. The Defense Secretary’s office had even circulated an email around the Pentagon reminding personnel about the regulations intended to keep religious activities away from work. One of Samuels’ assistants made an impromtu speech during the weekly organizational meeting in response, claiming the Secretary didn’t understand the Constitution but failing to explain the basis of his logic.
“These guys work Jesus into every fucking conversation,” Johnnie said. “Everybody just listens politely, you know, not wanting to get on the shit list.”

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Once more into the fiction breach

Ever since I read Fletcher Knebel's Seven Days in May, probably in high school, I've been interested the notion of a military coup. A few weeks ago, I finally watched A Very British Coup, a BBC miniseries from the late 80s about the British upper crust's harassment and overthrow of an openly socialistic prime minister, via Netflix.
General Smedley Butler once claimed that a wealthy cabal approached him about taking over FDR's Cabinet (with FDR as a carefully-watched and regulated figurehead). Butler's word was the only real evidence, but the scheme has gained credibility over the years.
It got me to thinking about how such a thing would take place here. I can't think of any president who so knocked the status quo that he could have really motivated the Powers That Might Be into such brazen and risky a proposition. I very much doubt the means exist today, but I'm sure there are people around D.C., N.Y.C. and military who imagine they could pull it off.
Here's the first installment of my half-assed fantasy of a coup today:

All of the wrath and acrimony of October wasn’t enough to drive the President out of office. In fact, it was probably the 24/7 hysterics of Fox News, massive radio buys and slander filling the Murdoch papers in the U.S. and U.K. that disgusted just enough Americans to give him four more years.
Mark Wood was certain the Tea Party pandering put him into Congress. His opponent, a less-physically-repulsive-but-every-bit-as-odious-as-Karl Rove-mouthbreather named Leonard Denton, was in such a hurry to take his seat that he wrecked what little credibility he had with the general voting public; one TV ad accused Mark of sympathizing with Muslim terrorists and advocating tax hikes, based on his support of criminal trials for 9/11 suspects. There was even a quote, supposedly from one of his Indianapolis Times columns, superimposed over pictures of Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar.
Denton must have assumed no one would actually go back and read the column, or that Wood might remember what he wrote, because the quote was fabricated. When Mark cornered him about it in their one televised debate a week before the election, Denton initially insisted it was accurate, then, in the next sentence, called it a mistake but said it accurately depicted Wood’s attitude. Denton fired his ad guy the next day and refused to pay the rest of his bill, prompting the consultant to call all of the TV newsrooms and claim that Denton wrote the script himself and knew the quote was false. Denton responded the next day with a lawsuit against the consultant and criminal charges against Wood claiming that Mark and/or his campaign staffers were stealing Denton yard signs. One local anchor even starting laughing at Denton's vehemence during a live interview a few nights before the election.
The victory was doubly-sweet, as it was Leonard’s father who had fired Mark from his first newspaper job, at the Martinsville Republican, for filing a story about one of Mr. Denton’s friends, the then Sheriff who had never paid child support to either of the women he impregnated while they were incarcerated at the Morgan County Jail. The notoriety surrounding that incident landed Mark at the Indianapolis Times and, eventually, his own thrice-weekly column and platform to publicly humiliate Denton the Younger.
Mark had tired of the newspaper game. Newsrooms seemed to shrink by the month, as profitable corporations publicly fretted over expenses and privately booked 20-plus percent profit margins every year. Local reporting gave way to poorly researched and executed wire copy based on the false conventional wisdom that tax cuts are always good, unions and public employees steal money, Ronald Reagan was right about everything, and all Americans hate liberals and Democrats. Upper management used to be populated with men (and a few women) who came up in the business, either as editors, salespeople or circulation managers; they had given way to MBAs adept at making spreadsheets read however they liked. Politics, incredibly enough, had become as honest as business as newspapering, even if by default.
Or so it seemed as Mark was boarding a flight to D.C. to shop for an apartment that week before Thanksgiving.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Alter's book

I've been reading Jonathan Alter's new bestseller, The Promise President Obama, Year One, for the last week and a half. I agree with most of the reviews (slow start, picks up nicely, good read, etc.). I would encourage everyone to read this book; if you're in Indy, you can borrow my copy.
Lefties want FDR, or who they believe FDR was. He and Obama are quite different. FDR was open to improvisation, infighting between aides and showmanship. Despite his considerable gregariousness, FDR wasn't at all affectionate in private. He never saw the need to soothe the feeling of those around him and, I suspect, played their insecurities like a fiddle. He was a great president, no doubt, and remembered fondly by friends and family but he was not the man we believe him to be today.
Obama's amazing speechifying abilities lead people to think of him as a superstar (or showoff, according to Fox News), but he's really not. He may appear to be Marlon Brando, but he's much closer to Arthur Miller. He's a writer. He doesn't act without a road map and he's inclined to let the map present itself. If it takes a day, great; if it takes a year, so be it (health insurance reform, anyone?). Obama would never resort to court packing, or using troops to shut down the federal theater; he would anticipate such things and maneuver away well before hostilities broke out.
Is Obama better the FDR? No, of course not. FDR knew the robber barons would back off at some point for fear of the streets filling up with pissed off working people, and he exploited that repeatedly.
Some will recall the story about the wealthy cabal that wanted to put Gen. Smedley Butler in charge of the Cabinet and make FDR a figurehead during his first term. Butler blew the whistle on them, but they had covered their tracks by the time Congress got around to investigating. I doubt FDR lost much sleep over it. He knew who he was up against and assumed they would never really risk their comfortable homes on Long Island Sound.
Obama, however, is conciliatory by nature. He means it when he talks about bipartisanship. No matter how many times he's rebuffed, it's always going to be his first impulse. The other side can't make nice with him and continue raising money from Wall Street and those wealthy Birchers funding FreedomWorks, teabagging and the like. There is enough of a supply-side bent among the populace to provide a base for the anti-Obamites to fight from. It's a loser in the long run, but these people don't take the long view. Nonetheless, Obama will keep sticking his hand out because it's his nature.
I personally would love to see him start going after the preening Blue Dogs (Ben Nelson, I'm looking at you) and publicly recruit young progressives to run for state house and Congress seats. Decently funded progressives run strong everywhere outside the Deep South and would really benefit from Obama's seal of approval. It will cost Obama a few votes in the suburbs, but not enough to put himself within striking distance of the GOP's pathethic presidential bench for 2012.
FDR had a country ready for a little socialism to beat back the robber barons. Obama has a country blissfully ignorant of how things have gotten so bad and how much worse they are likely to be. The working man was a hero in FDR's day; the working man is a nuisance today.
Keeping this in mind, I give Obama some slack and take solace in his deliberate way of doing business. I just hope he cuts loose this fall and scares the mouthbreathers.