Big Smoke

'cause it's hard to see from where I'm standin'

Tea Party Holds Nation Hostage, Gets Concessions

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Apparently we do negotiate with terrorists.

Sanity

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It’s not going to be a fun two years coming up.

To be fair, Jon Stewart’s rally was great, but even as he pointed out, “it’s not how many people attend, it’s how many people the media says attended.” And, as if on cue, the NYTimes et al barred mention of the rally from the front page, relegating it to two op-ed pieces and a short article that failed to mention any of the pointed criticism Jon Stewart held the rally for in the first place.

But that’s not nearly as insane as the insinuation that, what with Obama declaring himself “humbled” by the political winds changing (and here I was two years ago predicting the end of the Republican party – I may yet not be far off) pundits are claiming that – finally – there may be bipartisanship in Washington. Because, as we all know, Republicans were all simply waiting for the right opportunity to collaborate with their comrades across the aisle.

It’s not a terrible stretch of the imagination to point out that, to a great swath of the political system, all politics is merely campaigning and reality is subservient to the goals, however amorphous as they may be, dictated by the Republican party. In that stead, this election isn’t a mandate for Republican policies – for there are none – but instead a grossly misdirected referendum on Democratic inability.

And while Jon Stewart has attempted to take the moral high ground by having us and them (mostly them) tone down the hyperbole and acidic rhetoric, we may not see the fruits of that for at least another generation to come. Simply put, too many of the American people are too ill-educated, too easily distracted, and too cynically apathetic to allow proper function of this here republic, and education takes at least a generation to fix itself… and we’ve yet to begin to overhaul it.

In a sense, the corrupting of the executive and upper congressional branches – invented largely to temper the hoy polloy through the closest system a representative government can get to an oligarchy – has finally spread to the only direct representation the people have through the House, such that direct representation of a people who have no idea what it is they want is largely useless.

And until they figure that out, our economy will contract, our influence on the world will diminish, and we will become yet another failed empire.

Tea Partiers

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Someone please mark the exact time and date of the death of satire.

The Narrative

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Obama gave a speech last night to address not so much the BP Oil Crisis, but the media narrative surrounding his involvement with it, for the two have little in common. That didn’t stop the narrative from plodding right on, but then nothing Obama can do is ever remotely in the right direction (so sayeth the narrative).

a) The Oil Spill was somehow Obama’s fault. This allows opponents to draw parallels to Hurricane Katrina (because there are only two sides to every issue and every partisan move has a direct analog, right?). Yes, the government bears responsibility, but not in the way the narrative implies.

b) The government has the resources to address the spill, with the implication that it isn’t mobilizing those resources. The governor of Louisiana got the troops he asked for. The appropriate authorities have put up barriers all along the Gulf. The government leaned on BP to provide billions in an escrow account (arguably the biggest hostile government takeover of private assets in Obama’s administration to date, yet the least controversial) to pay damages, and yelled at every American oil corporation for having basically the same policies as BP. It remains to be seen whether MMS and other regulatory agencies will have cleaned house by the time all this is done, but that’s basically the extent of government involvement. The issue, after all, is not whether the government can plug the hole itself (it can’t; nobody can), but whether it can stop corporations from breaking what they can’t fix.

c) Obama’s leadership is in question due to his impotence in the problem. I voted for Obama because he was a fresh, vigorous Democrat who looked like a strong leader, sure, but also because there was no way in hell I’d ever vote for the GOP. Obama’s inauguration was historic, sure, but aside from the warm glow of that night, nobody actually believed he was Jesus and JFK rolled up into one. Indeed, such sounds more like a GOP sneer on how strongly liberals supported Obama during his candidacy rather than how liberals saw him. So, to hold him to such a standard where he’s able to leap tall buildings in a single bound and swim to the ocean floor and beat it into submission is disingenuous at best.

There’s things to get Obama on – his criminal negligence of continued illegal detentions, his hawkish stance towards Afghanistan, etc – but he’s a politician, and one with the worst job since Hoover left office, coupled with a far more hostile congress and public than FDR ever had to deal with. We’re at the point where the GOP narrative has so poisoned the well for all government (after defanging regulatory agencies, defunding legacy projects and decades of media campaigns devaluing government initiative) that we have an entire “movement” of so-called Tea Partiers who don’t know what they want except that DC should burn. We’re at the point where reaching across the aisle means liberal Dems making deals with NDC conservative Dems, because the GOP are gleefully and cynically sabotaging government – delegitimizing the current administration – rather than looking to govern.

The idea that the same pundits can criticize Obama for not doing enough (whether it’s the bailouts, the recovery plan, the health care bill, or the BP response) while simultaneously blocking his every move is insane, but that’s the current narrative.

Playing Right Into a Trap

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In his haste to find something to slam the Tea Party on as the current midterms are encroaching upon us, Mark Benjamin falls right into a very simple GOP trap. He takes this statement from Sharron Angle, candidate for Nevada:

We moved to the state of Nevada when I was three-and-a-half. My father bought a small business out in front of the convention center in Reno — and it wasn’t a convention center then; it was an onion field. His small business was a motel, and so we did those things as a kid that Americans don’t do. We cleaned bathrooms and made beds and swept floors, did laundry, those kinds of things.

He interpreted it as her being racist by confirming that such work was below the average American.

Au contraire.

In my opinion, it’s fairly clear that she was giving the usual politician faux-populist pitch wherein she established her humble salt-of-the-earth credentials while making a sly dig at East Coast Liberal Elites’ often-touted argument that illegal immigration is not a major problem because the immigrants do work Americans won’t do. She even laughed at her own satire, in the video.

Being that Arizona’s right wing is going on a xenophobic head trip right now and she’s the Tea Party candidate, my reading would seem to make the most sense, no? And being that Benjamin’s reaction belied an assumption concerning minorities and the economy that validated her narrative, he fell into a trap: Her narrative is they’re taking our jobs and to say otherwise is to be out of touch with working-class Americans. In that stead, his opposing viewpoint then becomes those jobs are so beneath my elitist purview as to be invisible.

I am by no means defending Angle or the Tea Party, and indeed I’m glad that Paul Krugman and his readers have written what they did this past day, but if any criticism from the left is to be effective, Mark, it must first be accurate.

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