I think the main reason why hawks are falling over each other trying to pressure Pres. Obama into DOING SOMETHING in Ukraine is because the strategy of spending lots of time calling loudly for Obama to DO SOMETHING (ultimately, to use military force) has had a pretty good record of success. Not always, mind you–Obama’s Iran negotiations are encouraging, and he’s not only ignored these people, he’s actively used his influence to beat theirs’ back. But generally speaking, foreign uprisings have gone in the same way every time: Obama initially stakes out a vaguely “no involvement” position. Hawks clamor for him to speak out. He does. At which point, either the thing over which he spoke out fizzles before further pressure can matter (e.g. Iran’s Green Movement), or the thing Obama said makes life much more difficult for him (e.g. Syria, Libya). And then, if he can get past domestic obstacles, then the bombing can commence.

I do think that Obama would personally prefer to avoid these entanglements. But it’s impossible not to conclude that he also is very disinclined to simply tell the hawks to piss off, that America will not use military force to respond to this week’s foreign uprising. This is probably due to some calculation of keeping options open but it’s actually just a different kind of prison, since hawks have learned that maximum volume often works in moving the needle from “vague no” to “tortured yes” with the key ingredient of time. The absolute best thing for Obama to do at this point would be to flatly rule out any sort of military intervention in this case, and challenge the hawks to explain why money and lives would be best spent getting in the middle of yet another foreign dispute in a country where we have nothing at stake, where public support would likely again be nonexistent. Given that Obama’s tragic flaw is that he assumes goodwill and rationality of all people this would be somewhat unusual, but it would demonstrably make him “stronger” because hawks would have to realize they could not push him around so easily.

{ 1 comment }
Lev filed this under: , ,  

When’s the last time you saw Werner Herzog’s Stroszek? Yep, that’s too long. Having not seen all of his work I can’t say it’s his best, but it’s my favorite of what I’ve seen, and certainly a powerful answer to the Chamber of Commerce-approved narrative of immigration to America.

Lev filed this under: , ,  

This is just wild speculation, but if I had to guess what happened it would go something like this:

  1. Religious right lobbyists write the bill and pass it to sympathetic Arizona lawmakers.
  2. Bill is described to colleagues with Republican-friendly buzzwords: you know, “freedom” and “entrepreneurs” and the dreaded “homosexual agenda.” Nobody reads it.
  3. Bill passes.
  4. Uproar! For which the dumbasses who voted for the thing are wholly unprepared because they don’t know what’s in it and can’t defend it. Some of them even claim they wouldn’t have voted for it if they knew what’s in it, which is both mockable and sadly believable.
  5. Jan Brewer bails them out with a veto.

What’s surprising about this is…oh wait, there’s literally nothing surprising about it. It seems like a prime example of Jonathan Bernstein’s “post-policy GOP” thesis, which fundamentally states that the Republican Party has no real interest in policy, but rather in punditry and media types of things. All the details point to this, and are eerily reminiscent of the regrettable “forcible rape” bill the House passed in 2011, which went through exactly the same cycle. How could these guys be completely unaware of what they’re passing? I don’t buy the “this bill is longer than fifteen Bibles” or whatever dumb-populist stuff the right uses to reject bills, because reading the text of them is like trying to read binary code. The people voting for the ACA knew the gist of what they were voting for, and defended it. These guys…have no idea.

The scary part of this episode is that elected legislators were beside the point at all times: this was a squabble between the religious right and business, with minor roles for politicians. It’s almost as though the putative decisionmakers on the Republican side are utterly unimportant except to validate what the lobbyists want.

Lev filed this under: , ,  

Ralph Nader became a parody of himself when he endorsed a Mike Bloomberg third-party bid in 2012, but evidently St. Ralph is now working even harder to convince everyone not to take him seriously with a list (and a lengthy one!) of super-rich people he wants to help combat money in politics cynically use to hurt the Democratic Party indirectly elect the next GOP president run for president! It’s sort of a strange list, really, mixing your expected financiers and Silicon Valley hotshots with a couple of bizarre celebrity entries (Ted Turner, lol). About all they have in common is that, you guessed it, they would spend a lot of money and that they would take votes away from Democrats and thus elect the next Republican president. Notably, things these folks don’t have in common include: ideology (Tom Steyer seems to be genuinely quite liberal, Thomas Siebel seems to be extremely reactionary, most seem to be colorless moderates and I have no idea what Oprah’s politics are). Also, name recognition. Or, any sort of political base at all. If megabucks alone were enough, then President Romney and Governor Whitman would be sipping tea in the Rose Garden right now. They are not, though ardent campaign finance reformer Nader ironically has not learned this, nor does this list reflect any kind of overarching philosophy Nader wishes to advance, it’s much too schizophrenic. It feels more like he just copied and pasted some Forbes list because he forgot to do his homework. The only real surprise is that Donald Trump isn’t on it, though I suppose St. Ralph wouldn’t want to invite comparisons with anyone as politically clueless and egotistical as himself.

I’m not sure which is more puzzling at this point: how someone with such poor understanding of politics as Ralph Nader has has managed to keep himself relevant in the world of politics for decades, or exactly why Nader seems to hate the Democrats so much that he’s rededicated his life to electing Republican presidents in order to teach Democrats some lesson that nobody can articulate. I’ve read that he’s still bitter about getting shut out of Jimmy Carter’s White House after the ’78 midterms–no idea if that’s actually true, but given his long-term petty vindictiveness it really does fit with what we know of the man.

Also: apparently you can be too racist for FOX News:

Lev filed this under: , ,  

A couple months back, our state passed a law allowing transgender children to choose which bathroom to use. It caused an uproar in all the quarters you’d expect it to, and since transgender rights are often thought of as the “next” culture war battle some lovely people (i.e. likely Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Donnelly) decided to try to put repeal of the law on the ballot and see what might happen. Only they botched the first part. The measure didn’t get enough valid signatures and isn’t going anywhere. Which, being honest, is a real relief since I don’t have a real sense of how this would have turned out, though the fact that not even half a million real people could be bothered to sign them might signal little interest in rolling it back.

But this is instructive. It’s hard to imagine problems actually arising from this law–a boy who has a transgender female identity will simply use a stall, after all, and the inverse situation with a urinal is difficult to imagine working simply as a matter of physics. Whatever imagined threat these folks see is just not there. But you put together kids and things they do with genitals and suddenly there’s the religious right, complaining about society’s obsession with sex and genitalia and such. Increasingly, conservative forces are barely even bothering to disguise that an ick factor is all that propels their agenda against LGBT people. Their logic, such as it is, is in pieces. Society hasn’t crumbled with state sanction of gay marriage, man has not yet married goat. So you get stuff like this:

We are losing our decency as a nation. Imagine your son being forced to shower with a gay man. That’s a horrifying prospect for every mom in the country. What in the world has this nation come to?

This is in the context of, believe it or not, a lobbyist wanting to keep gay people out of football. It’s sort of an amazing quote: qualified athletes have to be kept out of pro sports because that will lead to young boys having to shower with adult gay men? Exactly when is that ever going to happen? If it’s that much of a fear, why not just shower at home? Sounds a little worn out as an excuse, too, doesn’t it? What with the internet and all, it’s not like images of naked people aren’t out there and available. Again, if this bothers you, there’s a real simple solution: don’t use the public showers if you don’t want to draw the attention of a potential gay showerer (who probably doesn’t have any interest in you). One has to wonder why this fellow feels such an urgent need to preserve spaces for hetero men to strip down and bathe together…

Lev filed this under: , ,  

Cory Booker, last August:

Hours before New Jersey voters headed to the polls to choose their candidates for the state’s 2013 U.S. Senate race, Newark (N.J.) Mayor Cory Booker dropped some intriguing names as examples of how to shake up Congress.

In an interview with NBC News posted late Monday, Booker was asked what his chances are to generate change, within a Senate where seniority often reigns supreme.

Booker described himself as someone who does not throw “Molotov cocktails.” In the process, he also mentioned two junior Republican senators who have turned heads at times during their tenures.

“Look at Rand Paul,” Booker told NBC News. “Ted Cruz.”

Cory Booker, half a year later…has been almost invisible in the Senate, only coming up in an utterly unshocking context as a big supporter of the Menendez-Kirk War With Iran Now Goddamnit! Not In Six Months Now Motherfucker! Act Iran Sanctions Bill, which failed to even come to the floor. I’m not taking a shot at him as this is pretty much how it goes: junior senators get the second-tier committees, have to work on building relationships to get things done, etc. Of course, if you don’t give a damn about building power in the institution and really only care about getting your name out there to your own media/activists, then you can quickly “shake things up” and become famous. But Ted Cruz (and, to a less destructive extent, John McCain) are by normal standards not very successful senators, and Booker seems to be doing about what he should be doing: learning the ropes, rather than aping those guys. This is a good thing, and it was stupid for him to make the statement in the first place.

{ 1 comment }
Lev filed this under: ,  

I still miss Phil Hartman. He was a true comic genius and a unique talent that we still haven’t even remotely replaced. For example, take this scene (sorry, no embed, Yahoo! Screen seems to do all in its power to not make that easy, but do click through to experience this moment):

Hartman

Yup, Hartman is about two inches away from Lovitz’s face, and he’s barely keeping it together as Hartman perfectly parodies Phil Donahue’s uncomfortably intimate interview style. Basically, Saturday Night Live still parodies pop culture as it did in 1987, but Hartman could add in the random bit of weirdness to take it to another level. The bit with the Danish is perfectly executed too. Trademark Hartman, who could drop those into any project, and either enhance a good movie (e.g. So I Married An Axe Murderer), or be the only redeeming attribute in a piece of garbage like Jingle All The Way.

{ 1 comment }
Lev filed this under: , ,