Monthly Archives: June 2014

Unconventional convention

 

No "Obsession" this week, folks. I've been attending the Texas Democratic Party convention (as delegate for SD12), and boy, is my left wing tired!

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TexasDemConventionCheckin

(this pic is mine – all following pics are from kut.org)

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Turnout Friday at the convention was unbelievable. It was standing room only at many of the caucuses. The caucus rooms were huge, but the crowd was huger.

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Sylvester_Turner


The sole unifying factor of the attendees (other than enthusiasm)?

There wasn't one. 

Young, older, men, women, caucasians, hispanics, blacks, etc etc, a true cross-section of this state. This makes me feel better than good – it makes me feel hopeful.

Crowds_Wendy_Davis

Even the Gun Owners caucus was SRO – for some reason, the prevailing attitude was anger at the Gun Nuts.

Gun owners don't like Gun Nuts a lot, it appears.

What is a Gun Nut?  Glad you asked.

A gun owner goes to the range.  A Gun Nut takes his AR to Chipotle.

A gun owner removes the bolt/slide from any gun in the house before company comes over with their children.  A Gun Nut leaves everything loaded and easy for people to get to, because the revolultion is coming.

A gun owner detests the NRA with a white-hot passion (at least the gun owners at the caucus do). A Gun Nut thinks the NRA are the last bastion of defence between the New World Order (or whatever they're calling it these days) and freedumb.

A gun owner accessorizes his Bushmaster with cool aftermarket assemblies and sights. A Gun Nut thinks he needs an AR to stop the M1A1 Abrams tank that Obama is going to send to his house to take his stuff.

A lot of talk about mental health issues was talk talked, as was the futility of legislation in removing guns from a country awash in them. I took notes and smiled. After the caucus, I buttonholed one of the keynoters, Mr. Mark Greene (who is running to take the SD12 away from Kay Bailey Hutchison) and proposed a novel idea:

A concerted PR push by gun owners to shame Gun Nuts.

He looked skeptical. I advised: "You think PR doesn't work? Why did you buy the brand of shoes you're wearing?" I went on to explain that pressure from non-gun owers was worse than useless, because it was coming from (according to Gun Nuts) people with no knowlege of guns – the old "Do you, an auto mechanic, take car advice from a plumber?" routine.

I want to let you all in on a little secret.  Gun owners despise Gun Nuts. On user boards like Glock Talk, disdain for the "open carry" enthusiasts currently making all gun owners look like morons is well documented. The only outcome the gun owners would like to see in the "open carry" movement would be a few negligent discharges that only involve the open carriers. They know, however, that any NDs would involve innocent bystanders – because the "open carry" entuhsiasts are morons. These people are hated with a passion by gun owners, because they make us all look like morons.

Hence, my idea of peer-shaming.the Gun Nuts. "Cmon, man – nobody's gonna pull a gun on you at Chili's. And frankly, if someone with a CHL sees you coming in with an AR, they're not gonna wait to see if you're gonna tell everyone to get on the floor and hand over their wallets.". Peer pressure is a very very powerful tool, and no one wants to look stupid to his/her peers.

OK – back to the convention -  Enthusiasm, good ideas (very little blue-skying), and most of all, engagement.

Also, the Texas GOP's – um – approach to women  seems to be bearing fruit – just not the kind they had planned on. From WOW to HCDW, women were attending. In massive numbers. And pissed.  REALLY pissed.

Good.

One last thing – this convention produced the best Wendy Davis photobomb in recorded history:

WendyDavisPhotobomb

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Anyway, my AFIB eventually did me in (having to park a statute mile from the convention center didn't help much), and I reluctantly came home and got horizontal. And yes, I missed all of the parties afterwards.

I was mostly there to see if my fellow delegates have things well in hand (this year's appointments and elections were a done deal).
Do they EVER! 
This old guy can take a break now and let the young'uns handle the jubilation.

Back next monday with the usual mockery and buffoonism.

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The Fog Of History: The Princip Principle

It is often said that one person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter. That eternal argument rages on in Sarajevo where the Bosnian Serbs have erected a statute of Gavrilo Princip. Yes, *that* Gavrilo Princip; the man who assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Reaction to that event, of course, spiraled out of control and led to the Great War.

The shots that changed the world occurred 100 years ago today: June 28, 1914. The Bosnian Serbs regard Princip as a hero, which is not an analysis that I agree with. He was a fanatic with a gun whose actions unleashed a blood bath and led eventually to most of the worst European events of the 20th Century: the rise of Nazism, Soviet style Communism, World War II, the Cold War and the ethnic cleansing that swept through the former Yugoslavia in the 1990’s.

I have no nostalgia for the ancien regimes of Russia, Austria-Hungary and Germany. They would have fallen eventually and maybe even violently but to celebrate the man who set all of this in motion is obscene. I could even add a 21st Century event to the Princip list: the second Iraq War. The neo-cons may have had petro-imperialism at the top of their agenda but many liberal supporters of the war saw it as a humanitarian intervention a la Kosovo. They were, of course, delusional and we’re still paying for Tony Blair’s delusions and Dick Cheney’s hubris.

Does any of this make Gavrilo Princip sound like someone who should be honored as a hero? I should hope not, but the Serbs have a persecution complex, which could be dubbed the Princip principle.

I’ll have more about the centennial of the Great War in the weeks to come. That is all.

A Very Thoughtful Guy

All his thoughts are about murdering kittens, but hey: 

Toobin asked, “Is listening to Dick Cheney like listening to an arsonist on fire preventin?” CNN counterterrorism analyst Philip Mudd admitted while Cheney’s “always claiming the sky is falling,” he’s a “very thoughtful guy” and so people shouldn’t be “ignoring the message because we don’t like the messenger.”

What "message" would that be? 

A. 

Sunday Morning Video: Hubris

Since we're once again discussing our misadventure in Iraq, it's a good time to post this MSNBC documentary about how the Bushies lied their way into war:

 

Weekend Question Thread

What are you growing this year? 

My deck garden is somewhat abbreviated this year: tarragon, rosemary and thyme (because roast chicken) and basil (because pasta) and a lemon tree that in four years has never, ever, ever given any indication it is going to produce any lemons. 

A. 

‘I saw he was carrying a Bible, and I knew right away that was a bad sign’

When doctrine is a bludgeon: 

I was hungry and tired and anxious and I knew I needed to get Plan B, the drug that people said wasn’t as bad as an abortion really (the abortion drug was different), but it prevented a baby from being conceived and that meant it was at least some kind of evil.

And I got out of the cab, and a man in overalls with a big white beard stared at me, and I just wanted to have a nice interaction with a person, especially a man, and I said “Good morning” and that’s when I saw he was carrying a Bible, and I knew right away that was a bad sign, and then he called me a murderer. He shouted it so loud it almost wasn’t a word anymore. It was a force of nature.

I was rescued by two mid-2000s feminist hipsters wearing “Escort” vests. I looked at the vests and wondered if I had entered the place where sex workers and pro-lifers somehow mixed, which seemed like a very East Village thing, but they were Planned Parenthood escorts, and they were there to help me. They chattered at me about my “cool” clothes and earrings and smoothly walked me the dozen feet or so to the entrance, where a security guard took over. They promised me they would still be there when I left, and they were.

They knew how to talk to a scared young woman as if everything were normal, as if she weren’t being screamed at by the human embodiment of an angry Judeo-Christian sky-god, as if she didn’t already feel like shit. They knew how to make me feel human, and for that I was and remain enormously grateful.

Have you ever, ever, ever even once shouted somebody into submission? 

Did that submission stick? 

The Bible was a bad sign. That's where we are now, cats and kittens. The Bible is a bad sign. If you see somebody walking around with a book, at least a third of which explicitly makes the point that valuing systems over people is bullshit, you should duck and cover. That person, carrying that book, is likely about to do something like scream MURDERER in your face, because that's what that book means now. 

This is what happens when you take care of systems, and forget to take care of people. This is what happens when enforcing the rules becomes the goal, when order is prized over kindness, when what matters is not the person in front of you but what you're saying to her. You've maintained the rules. Everybody, look at you, and at your Bible. 

(Because: If you believe abortion is murder, if you believe that a person walking into a Planned Parenthood clinic is killing someone, then standing there screaming about it is just about the dumbest thing you can do. You see somebody on the street about to shoot somebody else, do you point and yell MURDERER? What does that do to stop that person? You should throw yourself bodily into the fray, you care so damn much about preventing the crime you think is taking place. Inconsistency makes me crazy, especially in this.)

That Bible, that person so filled with Christian love, isn't there to "counsel." He didn't ask one goddamn question, not one. He's there to shout and bully, and that's all he's there for. There were people at that clinic doing God's work, and they weren't the ones on the sidewalk yelling. 

A. 

The Skeptics Are Not Heard From Again

NYT, way to learn: 

The Times’s access to administration sources has produced important news stories, but my reading suggests that there has not been enough effort to challenge and vet the views of these government sources.

Here’s one small example. In a military analysis, “U.S. Airstrikes Could Help in Reversing Insurgent Offensive, Experts Say,” the only acknowledgment of opposition came in a partial sentence: “Despite skeptics, particularly Democrats, who say that American airstrikes are unlikely to change the course of events in Iraq, President Obama is considering them among a range of options to help the government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Malaki.” The skeptics, after this brief nod, are not heard from again. 

A. 

Sponsored?

Blogger ethics panel ahoy. Blue Cross Blue Shield "sponsors" the Chicago Sun-Times's political coverage, and certain articles are listed as "sponsored."

Such as this one: 

The genesis of health care reform was to focus on three objectives: Expand access to coverage and services for more Americans; improve the overall quality and outcomes of care; and lower health care costs. Taken together, these three aims are almost counter-intuitive — how does one offer greater access to more people and deliver higher quality care, while still lowering overall cost? 

In the weeks ahead, several colleagues of mine – prominent health care subject matter experts – will use this space to bring light to the ways in which the health care system is working to achieve those three objectives: Lower costs, provide greater access and improve quality.  It’s about more than enrollment figures and websites.

Remember when web sites linking to things was going to bring down the Republic? 

A. 

It’s More Like the United States of Too Bad

Pierce: 

We cheer for cruelty and say that we are asking for personal responsibility among those people who are not us, because the people who are not us do not deserve the same benefits of the political commonwealth that we have. In our politics, we have become masters of camouflage. We practice fiscal cruelty and call it an economy. We practice legal cruelty and call it justice. We practice environmental cruelty and call it opportunity. We practice vicarious cruelty and call it entertainment. We practice rhetorical cruelty and call it debate. We set the best instincts of ourselves in conflict with each other until they tear each other to ribbons, and until they are no longer our best instincts but something dark and bitter and corroborate with itself. And then it fights all the institutions that our best instincts once supported, all the elements of the political commonwealth that we once thought permanent, all the arguments that we once thought settled — until there is a terrible kind of moral self-destruction that touches those institutions and leaves them soft and fragile and, eventually, evanescent. We do all these things, cruelty running through them like hot blood, and we call it our politics.

And it's not that I think he's wrong. I wrote something similar, back in the day: 

It's not mark of strength, it never is, to barrel down on somebody smaller than you. If you're really the leader of the free world, if you're really the strongest and biggest badass the land has ever known, you aren't threatened by anybody. Least of all another American speaking his or her mind.

But they never were our leaders. They told us to be afraid, and they turned us on each other, and they gave away our money to their friends and killed our sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, husbands and wives. They sniped and they snarled, but they never did lead us. They never brought us an inch above ourselves, or a milimeter closer together.

It's that I think he doesn't go far enough. Cruelty is the deliberate infliction of harm; I think there's something far more insidious at work here. I think it's fear. Hear me out. 

You step out of line, in this country, for one second, you get goddamn flattened. You work all your life, you pay all your taxes, and your pension goes up in smoke. You work all your life, you pay all your taxes, and you get sick and you get fired and you get left in the dirt. You work all your life, you pay all your taxes, and that buys you nothing, because this isn't a vending machine, because thieves get rich and saints get shot and none of us ever, ever get what we deserve. 

Generosity has always been a radical act. Opening your home to the stranger has always been a radical act. Opening yourself up to the idea of caring for others goes against our every defensive human instinct. It means giving others the ability to hurt you. It means baring your wrist and handing someone the knife. And we used to not understand just how much of that we had to do, in order to live. 

And I think in the past two decades we've managed to convince ourselves that that's the reason we get screwed. We ARE screwed, by the way: There's no way to make sure you live a reasonably secure life anymore (there never really was, but …) and being scared is a reasonable response. 

So I think in order to protect ourselves, in order to defend ourselves from the howling horror that is the truth that we're all in danger and nobody's safe, we've perfected the shrug. We do not have the emotional energy, or so we tell ourselves, to give a shit about anybody else. 

A toddler gets gravely wounded in a drug raid? Too bad. 

A homeless woman gets arrested for leaving her kids in the car while she tries to get a job so she doesn't have to leave her kids in the car? Too bad. 

People can't afford to pay their water bills? Too bad. 

The war was a lie? Too bad. 

It's all just become too much, and we've allowed ourselves to define "too much" downward so far that we're left caring out ourselves, and barely that. If we widen the circle any further, it might just blow us apart. I get it, I do, which makes it not one iota okay. 

Because the circle widens anyway. If you think you can keep others' troubles away, you're kidding yourself. If you think you can keep the wolf from your door if he's already two houses down, good luck to you. We aren't that far from each other, and we never were. We just didn't, once upon a time, let ourselves think there was any other way to do this. 

And now? Too bad. 

A. 

Bitter Divisiveness Now, Bitter Divisiveness Tomorrow, Bitter Divisiveness Forever

From Album 5

First, Billmon is right — about the only thing missing from Chris McDaniel's non-concession screed was a schoolhouse door. And at least some are apparently flirting with the idea of turning the Teahadists into the Dixiecrats of the GOP (calling Trent Lott…though I'm guessing while Trent's heart might be with them, his legacy/record is closer to Cochran's bring-home-the-bacon approach).

More seriously, I call bullshit — McDaniel and his Teahad allies can holler as much as they want for "less government," but if they don't cut Defense, or Homeland Security…or step on the third rail and demand cuts to Social Security and Medicare (which would immediately render them as dead as…Dixiecrats) — then they're not really cutting government. But of course cutting government has never really been their point — they just want to cut "those people" out of government, without much regard to the broader cost civil society might bear.

Besides, both instances of actual limited government along the lines of their rhetoric — the original Articles of Confederation and the Southern Confederacy of the 1860s — were utter disasters, the latter augmented by the utterly sick notion that human slavery based on racism was justified. Further, the New Deal, i.e., social insurance, was and remains a necessary element of a modern, developed, first-world nation state.

So get over it, teahadists.

Paragraph Of The Day: Charlie Pierce Edition

My blogging patron saint wrote a brilliant and blistering post about the Mississippi GOP's little electoral shindig. Here's the kick ass opening 'graph:

The triumph of sheep-humping in Mississippi last night was clear and unequivocal. Incumbent Republican Thad Cochran, an otherwise nondescript elderly pork-ladling conservative, waited until very late in the campaign to bring out his heavy, er, artillery, explaining to his constituents that he not only brings home the bacon, but also entertains the bacon while it's still ambulatory. Cochran's political masterstroke turned the entire election against his opponent, Tea Party neo-Confederate Chris McDaniel, who could not come up with an effective counter-argument, at least not one that he could show on a television commercial. And, thus did sheep-humping defeat cockfighting, a watershed moment in Mississippi politics. So now we start the genita…er…general election campaign. Everybody wash your hands thoroughly.

Pierce understands what the MSM horde does not. Nothing that happens in Mississippi politics has any relevance to any other place. It's a fucking weird fucked up state, which produced a run-off between an advocate of animal husbandry and a neo-Confederate pro-cock fighting racist. Originally, I didn't expect black folks to vote in any numbers for the sheep fucker but once they issued the statement about poll watchers, I knew we were in for some political mischief.

I'll give Charlie's favorite Canadian the last word:

 

Pulp Fiction Thursday: The Mad Hatter Mystery

Feeling as mad as a hatter? It's a mystery to me:

3946234343_d542250fed_o 1955-1

Friday Catblogging: Pogo In Exile

It's time for another edition of throwback catblogging. Here's the late, great Pogo resplendent on a pillow at my cousin's house during our Katrina exile in 2005:

Pogo In Exile

Thursday Night Music: Temptation Eyes

I've been a bad blogger because I have a gig this week that keeps me away from the computer. Additionally, a certain mouthy tuxedo cat has been body slamming our bedroom door and waking me up at horrendous hours, hence no post on the surprising triumph of Senator Animal Husbandry in the Mississippi GOP primary. Who knew that boring old Thad Cochran was a walking Aggie joke?

I do, however, have an earworm to share and it's a good un by the Grass Roots as opposed to the Astro Turfs:

 

Kids Are Not Insurance

Jesus H. Christ in a chicken basket: 

When asked by Gallup why they aren't having more kids, 65 percent of respondents mentioned "not having enough money or the cost of raising a child." Another 11 percent blamed the state of the economy or the paucity of jobs in the U.S. You can at least partially blame government for that, at least to the extent that bad policy slows economic growth and makes education and health care less affordable.

But there is another way government may hinder family formation. Considerable academic research suggests social insurance programs, such as Social Security and Medicare, reduce fertility rates in advanced economies. Thanks to these government-funded safety nets, parents have less incentive to produce kids to care for them in old age.

Which, as that's a WILDLY INEFFECTIVE PLAN FOR YOUR RETIREMENT, is a good thing. Growing your own help may have been how we did it in ye olden days, but honestly, it was never all that smart. You can't guarantee your kids will want to take care of you in your old age, or that they'll be able to, either. My grandma predated the Greatest Generation slightly, and at her nursing home I could count on one hand the people who saw their kids more than once a year.

Far better that people plan to handle their decrepitude in other ways; I tell Kick that she is welcome to visit my Jamaican hammock where I plan to drink myself quite pleasurably to death should I hit 80 and be alone. 

Washington should care about the nation's fertility rate the same way it cares about the nation's productivity and labor-force participation rates. Low fertility rates are associated with diminished economic growth. Fewer kids mean fewer tax-paying workers to support public pension programs.

Which is still not a good reason to create more human beings. "You owe it to the Reich" is not a convincing argument. These are people, not numbers, and they will get ear infections and teethe and refuse to nap, and anyway they're not obligated to do anything for you that you can't do yourself. America could carelessly support all the public pension programs in the country for what we pissed away each week in Iraq and Afghanistan, so let's not burden the drooling, cooing inhabitants of our country's cradles with that job. 

A. 

Album Cover Art Wednesday: Imperial Bedroom

Imperial Bedroom was Elvis Costello's first foray into Sgt. Pepper-style art pop/rock. It shouldn't surprise anyone that this is one of my favorite EC albums.

The  cover was designed by Barney Bubbles. I'm uncertain as to whether he's related to either Charlie or Tiny Bubbles. Here's how the LP package is described at Wikipedia:

The name of the album "Imperial Bedroom" appears on the sleeve as IbMePdErRoIoAmL. The cover painting, titled "Snakecharmer & Reclining Octopus"[4] by Barney Bubbles (but credited to "Sal Forlenza") is a pastiche of "Three Musicians" by Pablo Picasso, and letters on the zipper-like creatures in the upper right spell "PABLO SI".[1]

Without further adieu, here's the cover

Elvis Costello-Imperial+Bedroom

I couldn't find the whole album in embeddable form so here's a not so shabby track:

 

It SOUNDS Silly?

Only sounds?

Is the length of Hillary’s ever-changing hairstyle a litmus test for a presidential run?

It sounds silly, but Sneed has been suggesting for years the state of Hillary Clinton’s hairdo may indicate just that.

◆ To wit: During Hillary’s run for the U.S. Senate from New York and her subsequent bid for the presidency, her hair was short, close-cropped and serious.

“No hair out of place,” said a Hillary source — contrary to the trendy hairstyles she wore when she was first lady.

There's no money for journalism, and the Internet is killing it anyway. 

A. 

Headline Of The Day

It comes from a TPM livewire posting of an AP story, dateline Berlin:

Giant Vagina Sculpture Traps US Student in Germany

Check out the link, see the picture. This may well be the funniest story of the year thus far

Welfare Queens

We're perfectly comfortable making poor people answer for the brands of cereal they buy because HERF DERF OUR TAX DOLLAHS, but this stuff is beyond our scope: 

"Beside a roster of pier employees and salaries, Brodsky also declined to make public contracts that Navy Pier Inc. has signed with restaurants and other vendors – all public information before his group took over in July 2011.

"I don't know if we want to create the precedent in giving these things out," Brodsky says. "I want to operate this as a business."

But you're not a business! Plus, the business you are running is subsidized by taxpayers! Both Ways Brodsky!

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"We are not a public entity in the true sense. We're more like the Museum of Science and Industry or the Lincoln Park Zoo."

Except you're not. Ish.

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Go read the rest of it, if you've got the stomach for it.

A.