Monday, April 25, 2011

You the kind of gentleman that want everything your way, Take the sheet off your face, boy, it's a brand new day!

I was hopeful when former MSNBC talking head Dan Abrams started his own website,

OK, the name is dumb, doesn't exactly fall trippingly off the tongue, but it has its moments.

Such as 4/20, when pointing out the immense tone-deafness of the otherwise clever Scott "Dilbert" Adams who jumped up to support Orange Co. Repub official Marilyn Davenport, who sent the now infamous Obama-as-chump-baby email to all her BFFs:
The same thing is happening today with a Republican official who emailed some friends a humorous photo of President Obama’s face on a chimp and a punch line about his birth certificate. If your only context is what the Internet says about this story, you assume it’s a typical racist act by a Republican who is already guilty by association. But if I add the context that Googling “George Bush monkey” gives you over 3 million hits, and most of them are jokes where President Bush’s face is transposed on a monkey, you see what’s really going on. Democrats and advocates of civil rights are using the media to further an agenda at the expense of a woman who was probably so non-racist that the photo in question didn’t set off her alarms as being a career-ending risk.

Yeah, no. I find Adams generally clever, pointing out the absurdity of todays' business and corporate world. But here, he bends too far over in an attempt at, I dunno, fairness?

Mediaite writer Tommy Christopher explains:

Here’s the thing. President Bush was a white dude, so calling him a chimp, while not very nice, doesn’t evoke dehumanizing racial stereotypes that have historically fueled murder, rape, and enslavement. President Obama is a black man, so picturing him as a chimpanzee does evoke dehumanizing racial stereotypes that have historically fueled murder, rape, and enslavement. Scott Adams can Google President Bush until Dilbert’s tie straightens out, and he’s never going to find a legitimate analog to this insult.

Also, this isn’t Davenport’s first brush with racial email hijinks. According to former California Republican Party Chairman Michael Schroder, Davenport defended Los Alamitos Mayor Dean Grose when he sent out this knee-slapper, a photo depicting a watermelon patch on the South Lawn of The White House:

While none of this necessarily makes Davenport a racist (she could just be extremely clueless about race), there’s more than enough probable cause here to absolve “Democrats and advocates of civil rights” of being wolf-crying opportunists.

Speaking of stereotypes, though, what did Adams mean by “typical racist act by a Republican?” He’s either promoting, or acknowledging, a stereotype about white conservatives, which compounds his failure to recognize the same in Davenport’s email.

Indeed. Blue Texan writing at Instaputz adds:

Yes, if your only context is that you're from another planet and haven't been around the Western world for the past 500 years -- calling a white man a monkey and a black man a monkey are totally the same thing!

Also, don't you love the way Scott assumes the woman who sent the racist email is "probably non-racist"? How does he know that?

This is nothing new for the glibertarian Adams, whose writing style and political views are reminiscent of a cross between Glenn and Helen Reynolds. What does he mean by that?

From Gawker (follow the link above):

Scott Adams, creator of the great comic strip Dilbert, is sort of a prick. He is a horrible boss, and recently penned a charming misogynist rant comparing women to children begging for candy. Now we learn he likes to bash critics on message boards under a pseudonym.

For months, Adams has been pretending to be the world's biggest Scott Adams fan under the handle "PlannedChaos." (Planned Chaos is a book by Austrian economist and libertarian hero Ludwig von Mises.) Today, he fessed up to his sockpuppetry.

It started with a thread on link-sharing community MetaFilter about Adams' Wall Street Journal op-ed on how awesome and successful he is even though he didn't get straight-As in school. Some people said mean things about the article, suggesting Scott Adams wrote like someone who has "actually convinced himself… that he's the smartest guy in the room."

That's when "PlannedChaos" weighed in, furiously defending Adams:

As far as Adams' ego goes, maybe you don't understand what a writer does for a living. No one writes unless he believes that what he writes will be interesting to someone. Everyone on this page is talking about him, researching him, and obsessing about him. His job is to be interesting, not loved. As someone mentioned, he has a certified genius I.Q., and that's hard to hide.

And when someone thought Adams was pumping himself up a little too much in the article, "PlannedChaos" wrote:

I assume you don't hate all self-promoters, such as homeless people applying for jobs. Is it Adams' enormous success at self-promotion that makes you jealous and angry?

This wasn't Adams' first time pretending to be his own fan. For months, he's been commenting on threads about himself posted to link-sharing site Reddit under the same handle. Sample comment:

If an idiot and a genius disagree, the idiot generally thinks the genius is wrong. He also has lots of idiot reasons to back his idiot belief. That's how the idiot mind is wired.

It's fair to say you disagree with Adams. But you can't rule out the hypothesis that you're too dumb to understand what he's saying.

And he's a certified genius. Just sayin'.

Just sayin'.

After a number of MetaFilter users called him out today, Adams confessed, "I am Scott Adams." Then he said goodbye: "I'm sorry I peed in your cesspool." Metafilter users are currently engaging in a ritualistic shaming: "This is a wonderful example of how to take a garden-variety fail like a slightly dumb WSJ OpEd and turn it into an epic fail," wrote Lodurr.

Just to finish, Ludwig von Mises was a complete tool, a free-market idealogue who pimped out the infamous Austrian School of Economics which has NEVER WORKED ANYWHERE. So of course it's beloved by glibertarians everywhere.

Lastly, it occurs to me that Libertarians are just selfish and infantile people, who don't give a good Goddamn about anyone else.

But hey, I could be wrong.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Let me sing you a waltz; Out of nowhere, out of my thoughts

Perfect music performed imperfectly, but it lends it a certain charm. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Julie Delpy:

Friday, April 08, 2011

Give the poor man a chance, help stop these hard, hard times

Screaming liberal Sensible conservative Bruce Bartlett decimates the lunacy that is Paul Ryan (R-Cheezwhiz)'s modest budget proposal:
House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s budget plan has been the talk of Washington this week. Most of the discussion has revolved around his proposal to privatize Medicare and slash many federal programs to the bone. Less attention has been paid to the tax side of Ryan’s plan, which is every much as radical as the spending side.

One would think that a comprehensive budget proposal designed primarily for the purpose of reducing budget deficits and the national debt would put at least some of the burden on the revenue side of the equation. First, it would reduce the need to cut spending so heavily and improve the chances of passage; unless Ryan is only interested in scoring points with the Tea Party crowd, he will need the support of at least some Senate Democrats and President Obama if he wants any aspects of his plan enacted.

Second, Ryan’s plan puts an exceptionally heavy emphasis on cutting programs like Medicaid and food stamps that primarily aid the poor, while the well-to-do are essentially held harmless because they don’t benefit much from federal spending. The one government spending program that arguably benefits the wealthy disproportionately is national defense because, as UCLA economist Earl Thompson has argued, it protects their capital. And that’s the one major program Ryan lets off the hook almost completely.

For Ryan, it is an article of faith that federal revenues must never rise above 19 percent of the gross domestic product no matter how dire the nation’s debt problem. No explanation for this necessity is offered in his plan, other than observing that the historical range of federal revenues as a share of GDP has been between 18 percent and 19 percent of GDP during most of the postwar era. Ryan simply asserts, without evidence, that this range is the one most compatible with prosperity.

Conservatives dogmatically believe that taxation is the single most important factor in economic growth, and the lower taxes are the better. But if that were the case, then the late 1990s should have been a period of exceptionally slow growth: Federal taxes averaged 19.9 percent of GDP from 1997 to 2000. In fact, that period was among the most prosperous in American history, with real GDP growing an average of 4.5 percent per year. By contrast, during the last four years, federal revenues have been exceptionally low, averaging just 16.5 percent of GDP. But growth averaged less than 1 percent per year.

. . .

Distributionally, the Ryan plan is a monstrosity. The rich would receive huge tax cuts while the social safety net would be shredded to pay for them. Even as an opening bid to begin budget negotiations with the Democrats, the Ryan plan cannot be taken seriously. It is less of a wish list than a fairy tale utterly disconnected from the real world, backed up by make-believe numbers and unreasonable assumptions. Ryan’s plan isn’t even an act of courage; it’s just pandering to the Tea Party. A real act of courage would have been for him to admit, as all serious budget analysts know, that revenues will have to rise well above 19 percent of GDP to stabilize the debt.

Go read. There's more.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

I focus on the pain

From Esquire, by The Collective.

Posted in full because editing or cropping would be a sin.
"Compassionate conservatism" was a hell of a brand name. You have to give Karl Rove credit for that. It was a masterpiece of political marketing. Rhetorically, at least, it managed to bridge the great gap between what the Republican party was doing and the people to whom it was doing most of it. It even managed to enlist organized religion in what was said to be an attempt to ameliorate the social consequences of the policies that were central to the agenda that the Republicans were bringing to the nation. If people were going to be forced into soup lines, they were going to be really good soup lines. The worst instincts of our politics were going to be sanctified by the best instincts of our people. It was as though the Laffer Curve described the arc of a censer or the wave of a thurible and not the inevitable swing of a wrecking ball.

Of course, it was all a shuck. (According to his memoir, David Kuo was a Republican who actually bought it, until he got to the White House and, one day, was told by Rove to come up with "a fucking faith-based thing," which is not how Saint Francis would have put it.) Not only that, but it was a shuck that, like so many things in the Bush White House, including the president therein, was so screwed up in its execution that it inevitably became a punchline. Nobody was ever going to be able to say "compassionate conservative" again with a straight face. And now, the Republicans, and the conservative politics that have possessed their party, have decided that they don't even have to try.

We are in an age dominated on one side by the New Politics of Sadism. Hurtful policies are enacted, not because of any logical benefit they might bring, but specifically because they hurt people the Republicans want to hurt. The thoroughgoing abandonment of the notion of a political commonwealth, cheered on by degrees since the elevation of Ronald Reagan and whatever ideas people could cram into his empty head, has reached the point among American conservatives where it is now the kind of faith you find in the most unshakable of perversions. It manifests itself everywhere. It's expressed politely by people like that intolerable foof, David Brooks, who's never taken a position in his life that cost him so much as a dinner invitation. On the radio, and on cable news, it's expressed crudely by people who are far more honest about their contempt for their fellow citizens.

And the sadism is running now through the institutions of government. We have made our peace with torture to the extent that support for it now is as much a litmus test for being a Republican as opposition to abortion is. (The Democrats, of course, choose to deplore it without condemning it.) The Supreme Court's majority opinion in the recent Thompson V. Connick decision — delivered, fittingly enough, by Justice Clarence Thomas, the walking Freudian petri dish who once opined that he saw nothing wrong with chaining inmates to a post in the hot sun — pretty much advises a man who was stuck on death row for fourteen years because of egregious prosecutorial misconduct to stop wasting the Supreme Court's time and be grateful his sorry ass wasn't fried a decade ago.

And, in the Congress, there is Congressman Paul Ryan, who is angling right now to make a career out of political sadism.

Make no mistake: Ryan is a thoroughgoing nutball, as bug-house crazy on economics as Peter King is on Muslims and Steve King is on anyone swarthier than himself. He is a lifelong adherent to the doctrines of Ayn Rand, which ought to disqualify anyone from ever being taken seriously enough to park cars by anyone over the age of fifteen. In terms of their connection to actual human reality, the difference between the doctrines of Ayn Rand and the doctrines of L. Ron Hubbard is not substantial, and the fervor of their acolytes is almost exactly the same. Picking Paul Ryan to handle your political economy is tantamount to electing Tom Cruise to be pope.

Paul Ryan is a thoroughgoing fraud. He went through high school and most of college on Social Security survivor benefits after his father's death. He voted for almost all the Bush programs — including both off-the-books wars — that ballooned the deficit he so piously condemns now. And this week, as he rolled out his lunatic conception of a federal budget, Paul Ryan produced the definitive statement of his political philosophy: There are those Americans who deserve to live and those Americans who don't. Period. All of the former are very, very wealthy. All of the latter are poor, or struggling, or old. Paul Ryan believes the true mission of government is to bring as much pain to the parasites as it can because, by doing so, it can liberate the genius of those people who deserve to live. When Paul Ryan dreams of a free nation, it is one in which the seventy-two-year-old spouses of seventy-five-year-old patients are free to go out and shop in a rigged insurance market for the $100,000-plus they're going to need over a lifetime of tending to that patient. If they insisted on feeding themselves, and even risking the odd vacation, over the course of their working lives and they failed to anticipate what might befall them, then the spouse is going to have to starve and the patient is just going to have to sit there in his own filth, until market forces determine that they should die.

Look at him when he talks about dismantling the hard-won protections of the shrinking middle class. He is so positively lubricious about it that his teeth seem to be sweating. Pain (not his) purifies the nation. Pain (not his) makes us free. This is what Paul Ryan dreams of when he dreams of a free people.

The object of his politics is to render political liberty subservient to economic exigencies, to render it an unaffordable luxury item available only to the wealthy, because only the wealthy are competent enough to exercise it. (Do yourself a favor and watch the interview that this serious intellectual did with that other serious intellectual, Glenn Beck, and see how fast they get around to calling ideas with which they disagree a "cancer" that needs to be excised from our civic life. The only thing that distinguishes Ryan's ideas from Beck's is that Beck is now universally recognized as a crackpot.) Ryan has come to the unremarkable intellectual conclusion that more people would rather inflict pain — even vicariously, even through his greasy sadist's smile — than receive it. He has seen that dynamic in action. Even the White House, occupied for the nonce by a putatively progressive Democrat, has signed on in a gentler way to the notion that "austerity" is the way out of our current economic morass, and "austerity" is fairly defined in this context as making other people hurt so you'll feel better about yourself. Unemployed workers, whose pensions were looted by Wall Street sharpers, rage against the pensions of public workers, not because those pensions are so gloriously lavish, but because they exist at all. Somebody has something you don't and they must pay for that. Small wonder that Paul Ryan thinks he can grin his way to the dystopic wasteland that he sees when he dreams of a free country. So much of the work already has been done for him over the previous three decades.

Look at how his nonsensical plan was received. The Right, led by the ever-polite Mr. Brooks, praised Ryan for the fortitude it takes to make life harder for the poor, the elderly, and the disabled while comforting plutocrats and corporations. Nobody laughed. The respectable Left tut-tutted, but several allegedly liberal commentators insisted that Ryan's monkeyhouse numbers should be taken seriously because Ryan himself is a serious person. (Writing at The Washington Post, the normally judicious Ezra Klein began his analysis of Ryan's proposal: "Ryan is the kind of politician I fundamentally like. He's smart, policy-oriented and willing to take political risks — but only, it turns out, of a certain kind." Jesus, kid, don't be so tough on the poor bastard.) The emerging default position within the Beltway seems to be that Ryan's budget is just crazy enough to make the recommendations of the president's Deficit Commission, which themselves were bad enough to be laughed out of the court of public opinion not six months ago, seem like a reasonable alternative.

The people explaining this troubled, wounded country to itself have completely lost their minds. They're giggling outside the cells, just loudly enough to drown out the screams from inside. When Paul Ryan dreams of a free country, he sees a glittering palace built atop blasted swamp. He dreams only of someone else's pain.

In-freakin-deed. People, we are lost.

Bound to lose . . .

I've been missing lately. I could dissemble: "Working to hard . . . family stuff... blah blah." Fact is, I'm heartsick abou the direction our nation and our discourse is taking.

Watching Mike Huckabee on The Daily Show tonight was a changing moment. Huck was, to me, a conservative christian with whom I disagreed about everything, but whom I thought was a decent honest guy.

I was wrong. Huck is a dishonest self-aggrandizing whore who will say anything to further his agenda. Of late he has become a newly minted birther:

Well, that didn't take long. Just one week after calling the birther conspiracy theory "nonsense," probable GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee raised concerns of his own about the president's upbringing, in an interview with a conservative New York talk show host. In an appearance Monday on the Steve Malzberg show, the Fox News personality and former Arkansas governor appeared to sympathize with his host's questions about President Obama's citizenship, and then floated a theory of his own: Obama was raised in Kenya. Per Media Matters:

"I would love to know more. What I know is troubling enough. And one thing that I do know is his having grown up in Kenya, his view of the Brits, for example, very different than the average American."

But don't worry, he's not a birther:

"The only reason I'm not as confident that there's something about the birth certificate, Steve, is because I know the Clintons [inaudible] and believe me, they have lots of investigators out on him, and I'm convinced if there was anything that they could have found on that, they would have found it, and I promise they would have used it."

Huckabee went on to explain how Obama's Kenyan upbringing imbued him with an anti-British worldview radically different than most Americans. (You know, like the guys who wrote this anti-British screed.) Media Matters has the full audio here.

And tonight exposed himself as a tenther as well:
. . . the tenth one was explicit, that if it was not contained in the constitution, that power is left to the states (note: my transcription from the Daily Show video)

Here's a description of "tentherism" from a liberal writer whose work I enjoy:

These efforts are all part of a movement whose members are convinced that the 10th Amendment of the Constitution prohibits spending programs and regulations disfavored by conservatives. Indeed, while "birther" conspiracy theorists dominate the airwaves with tales of a mystical Kenyan baby smuggled into Hawaii just days after his birth, these "tenther" constitutionalists offer a theory that is no less radical but infinitely more dangerous.

Tentherism, in a nutshell, proclaims that New Deal-era reformers led an unlawful coup against the "True Constitution," exploiting Depression-born desperation to expand the federal government's powers beyond recognition. Under the tenther constitution, Barack Obama's health-care reform is forbidden, as is Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. The federal minimum wage is a crime against state sovereignty; the federal ban on workplace discrimination and whites-only lunch counters is an unlawful encroachment on local businesses.

Tenthers divine all this from the brief language of the 10th Amendment, which provides that "the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." In layman's terms, this simply means that the Constitution contains an itemized list of federal powers -- such as the power to regulate interstate commerce or establish post offices or make war on foreign nations -- and anything not contained in that list is beyond Congress' authority.

The tenther constitution, however, reads each of these powers very narrowly -- too narrowly, it turns out, to permit much of the progress of the last century. As the nation emerges from the worst economic downturn in three generations, the tenthers would strip away the very reforms and economic regulations that beat back the Great Depression, and they would hamstring any attempt to enact new progressive legislation.

Such retreat to fringe constitutional theories is one of the right's favorite tactics during times of historic upheaval. The right-wing South justified both secession and the Civil War on the theory that the Constitution is nothing more than a pact between sovereigns that each state is free to leave at will. In the immediate wake of Brown v. Board of Education, 19 senators and 77 representatives endorsed a "Southern Manifesto," proclaiming -- in words echoed by modern-day tenthers -- that Brown "encroach[es] on the rights reserved to the States" because the "Constitution does not mention education." President Franklin Delano Roosevelt spent much of his first term combating a tenther majority on the Supreme Court, which routinely struck down substantial portions of the New Deal.

So thanks, Mike for exposing once and for all who you really are: A do-anything, say-anything zealot, with only the conviction of fundamentalist religion to fall back on.

Mike Huckabee, the Donald Trump of . . . oh well, never mind.

Friday, April 01, 2011

It's true, I was made for you

Perfect music, performed perfectly:

You don't have to be a Grey's Anatomy fan to appreciate Sara Ramirez's performance of The Story, originally recorded by Brandi Carlile, written by Phil Hanseroth. But you can't deny her talent.

Ms. Ramirez, besides being a TV actor, is also a Broadway star:

She debuted on Broadway playing Wahzinak in Paul Simon's The Capeman (1998). In 1999, she appeared in The Gershwins' Fascinating Rhythm (1999) and received an Outer Critics Circle Award nomination for her role. She has also appeared in A Class Act (2001) and Dreamgirls (2001), and she performed in The Vagina Monologues with Tovah Feldshuh and Suzanne Bertish.

In 1998, she played the voice of Lammy in the video game UmJammer Lammy, a spin-off of PaRappa the Rapper, both on Sony's PlayStation console. She later reprised her role as Lammy in the PlayStation 2 video game sequel PaRappa the Rapper 2, and has a smaller role, unlike the game that preceded it.

In 2004, Ramírez was cast as the Lady of the Lake in the Eric Idle/John Du Prez musical Spamalot, based on the 1975 film Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The musical opened on Broadway in 2005 to widespread acclaim, and Ramírez in particular was singled out for her performance, winning several awards including the 2005 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical.

Following her success on Broadway, Ramírez joined the cast of Grey's Anatomy in a recurring role as Dr. Calliope 'Callie' Torres in the show's second season. For the third season she became a series regular. On a special Grey's Anatomy-themed episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show, she revealed that top executives from ABC loved her performance in Spamalot so much that they offered her a role in any ABC show she wanted. She picked Grey's, of which she was a fan.[2] While Ramírez has never performed a musical number on the show, she did provide a cappella vocals in the song "Silent Night" for the soundtrack of the show's sixth season episode "Holidaze," airing November 19, 2009. On December 21, 2009, this version of the song was released as a single on iTunes. Her first solo release is an extended play scheduled for a March 27, 2011 release through the iTunes Store. It will reportedly include three original songs, as well as a recording of a song scheduled to be performed on Grey's Anatomy.[3]

And while it may be silly, I think granddaughter Isabella Carolina Zumaya may grow up to look something like Sara Ramirez. Who knows, maybe she'll be as talented. I have high hopes.