Freedom from Blog

Don't call it a comeback . . . .

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Barbour Shaves His Own Nuts

Haley Barbour's recent defense of the White Citizens Council of Yazoo City isn't hard to decipher. Like a lot of conservative southerners of his generation, he saw (and still sees) the problem of racism as little more than one of incivility: the KKK displayed bad form; they made the natural white power structure look trashy and exposed the South's dirty laundry, whereas the WCC were more respectable. I doubt that Barbour is a hard core racist. He's just utterly oblivious to matters of racial injustice, and he assumes that the old boy network from which he emerged is just good Christian folks. Barbour's a smart guy and smooth operator. If he had an ounce of racial self-awareness, he would have been wily enough to conceal his own wretched backwardness.

So one more serious (but not really serious) GOP presidential aspirant commits political suicide, joining Mark Sanford in the loser line. Barbour never had a chance anyway. The 2012 race is going to be between (a) Sarah Palin and (b) NOT-Sarah Palin, and the moneycons are desperately seeking someone to fill slot (b), for which the defining qualification is "do not embarrass the party!" Haley was always a long shot for that role. As good a money guy as he is, someone who comes across like W.C. Fields after he swallowed George Wallace does not make a compelling challenger to our first not-exactly-Yazoo-City-mayoral-candidate-worthy president. Who does that leave for the GOP in 2012? HCR is a big cross Romney will have to bear (along with other better known crosses). Huckabee can't compete against Sarah! for the exact same slice of the GOP pie. McCain is done 4evs. Chris Christie is a cartoonish baffoon who cannot wear well with anyone who is not a DC reporter. Pawlenty? A-Hahahahahahahahahahaha!!!!! Rubio is too green, McDonnell too polarizing. Thune looks the part to me, and he's both dumb enough and pliable enough for the moneycons to see as a convenient tool (see also, Bush, George W.). This is the weakest bench I can ever remember on the GOP side. Who's the "white" horse?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

To Wong Fu, With Honor, Thanks for Everything, Joe Lieberman

In this hour of triumph on DADT, let's just take a moment to note that for all the drama, the Dems not only did the right thing, they did it the right way.

Obama, with the help of Bob Gates, argued time and again that it was really Congress' job to repeal DADT and that a change of this social import shouldn't be left to the courts. Amen to that. Not only does the court's traditional deference to the military make them an unreliable savior, but there is a real difference in the legitimacy courts and Congresses have on matters of social change. Brown v. Board was far less effective than the Civil Rights Act a decade later. And Obama showed great restraint in not preempting Congress, first by refusing to unilaterally suspend the policy, and second by appealing an anti-DADT decision at the US District Court (to the great confusion and chagrin of the LGBT community and their allies in the Dem base). It sets a bad precedent for presidents to manipulate the law when they simply don't like its outcomes, a lesson the base should have absorbed from eight years of GWB. We are a constitutional system, and matters of potentially divisive social change, Congress should take the lead.

Unfortunately, Congress (by which I mean "the Senate") is badly broken thanks to GOP filibuster madness. No matter. They still got it done today, great credit to the oft-maligned Harry Reid. He's got a far harder job than Nancy Pelosi, but he's done himself proud over the last two years. Two key moves that made it possible? The Obama tax deal, of course. But also not kicking Joe Lieberman out of the Dem caucus when everyone was screaming for his scalp two years ago. Sometimes shameless ass kissing to scumbags pays off. Joe, you're still on my shit list. Today, shalom!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Music Trivia Amidst Grading Tedium

Every once in a while I look at a music chart and I think, damn!, this popular music today sucks. So, magic of Wikipedia "discography," I checked for some historical context. Turns out that a lot of rock legends have had, shall we say, "limited" chart success.

To break up the tedium of grading, I present you the top 20 rock artists who never scored a #1 single on the US Billboard charts. Following each band will be their highest chart position, # of top 10, and # of top 40 singles. I rank them by # of hits in the top 10, then top 40, then chart position as final tie break.

20) White Stripes/Raconteurs (26//0, 1)
19) Radiohead (31//0, 2)
18) Elvis Costello (19//0, 2)
17) Dave Matthews Band (16//0, 4)
16) Smashing Pumpkins (12//0, 4)
15) John Mayer (12//0, 9)
14) Beck (10//1, 1)
13) Grateful Dead (9//1, 1)
12) the Clash (8//1, 2)
11) Nirvana (6//1, 2)
10) Talking Heads (9//1, 3)
9) Pearl Jam (2//1, 4)
8) Led Zeppelin (4//1, 6)
7) the Who (9//1, 16)
6) REM (4//3, 9)
5) Tom Petty (3//3, 16)
4) Bob Dylan (2//4, 12)
3) the Kinks (6//5, 11)
2) CCR (2//9, 11)
1) Bruce Springsteen (2//12, 19)

Did I miss anyone? OK, here are your trivia questions, answered below the fold: Which of those bands (there are 9) never had a #1 album in the US? Which (there are 2) never had a top 10 album?

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Ritalin, Anyone?

I haven't seen much MSNBC lately, but when I tuned in tonight at the end of Olberman's "Special Comment," I could tell that it was ON, bitches! Nostrils flaring, ears steaming, ready to rumble with the Republicans, ON!!! Except that he wasn't raging at the GOP, but Obama. Seems Keith no likely the tax cut compromise. Bordering on Glenn Beck hostility. Oh.

Maddow, always ready to be "talked off a ledge," would have to be better right? Sorry, no. This was by far the worst Maddow show I've ever seen (have I seen a bad Maddow show before? I can't remember one). A really dishonest analysis of the tax deal. First, she acts like Dems gave the GOP everything they wanted on taxes. Not true. They wanted permanent extension of the Bush rates. They got two years. And Obama stated clearly that he drew a "line in the sand" on making that permanent. In following this debate over the last several weeks, it has seemed a pretty standard expectation that about the best the Dems could do, after having foolishly punted this from pre-election to post-election, was to offer a temporary compromise exactly like what we got. Senate Dems tried to approve the middle-class only cuts--but they failed to get 60 votes. Nice try, but it's about the VOTES! This wasn't Maddow's only misrepresentation of events. When she chalks up what the Dems got and what they lost, she never mentioned the 13-month extension of unemployment benefits. Come on, that was key here. Sherrod Brown finally came on and mentioned them, but only to dismiss their significance, since "Republicans always cave on that," albeit at the last possible moment.

Now, this is deeply misleading. True, the GOP usually caves on this, but they're facing a vastly improved legislative environment in just a month, and this is not the only bill Dems are trying to push through the lame duck Congress. Getting a deal on taxes should open the door for consideration of DADT and START, both of which are hugely important. And yet absolutely no one on Maddow saw fit to mention this. Brown's argument seemed to be that Obama should have trusted Senate Dems to beat down the GOP over the next two weeks, as if you can ever trust Senate Dems to beat down anybody. Dude, you're in the Senate--have you even met your colleagues? Meanwhile, there are several Republicans who have said that they would vote for those other measures if a tax deal got worked out first. If Dems want to take the tax fight "to the mattresses" they have to know that they're most likely strangling in the crib all the other issues they're supposedly fighting for right now. It is, of course, possible that Obama has failed to get solid commitments from Snowe, et al. on DADT and START, and we're still going to lose those. But this play could work, while if we go with the left's preferred strategy, we get bupkis. Will I allow the rich to get their Bush tax cuts for two more years so that I can get DADT repeal and START? Hell yes I will. Unlike the GOP two-year tax reprieve, those would be accomplishments that can't be rolled back.

Thank God for Lawrence O'Donnell. Finally someone with an understanding of legislative process. I was a little worried when his panel of guests included three lefty "purists" (Adam Green, Jane Hamsher, and Roger Hodge) and one lonely pragmatist (Ezra Klein). But then Larry diced and sliced the hard liners so expertly I thought I was watching Morimoto on Iron Chef. Without even mentioning the DADT and START issues, O'Donnell made a powerful case that there was simply no practical alternative to doing a deal much like this one. If the Dems hold out for symbolic reasons and tax rates go up for all Americans in January, Congress won't be able to do a retro-fix, and Obama will get tagged as the guy who raised everyone's taxes during a recession. And Obama managed to get big stimulus tax cuts for the working class while he was at it, in amounts that Klein pointed out dwarfed the estate tax provisions that they had to trade for them.

I can't say for sure that Obama got a great deal, or that he couldn't have gotten a better one. But I'm pretty sure he got a decent one and that the Senate Dems didn't have any better plan. I should have known the freak out was coming when I caught the tail end of Obama's press conference on NPR earlier today--the part where he went after the "sanctimonious" purists in his base. His rhetoric of pragmatism was clearly aimed for guys like me who have never minded occasionally "punching the hippies," as Atrios has so memorably called it. But the hippies have gotten tired of getting punched, and they want to prove they're up for the fight, even if they're mainly flailing wildly at the older brother who's trying to keep them from getting their asses kicked, once again, by the schoolyard bullies. Nice gumption, guys. Let's start throwing those punches where they belong.

One final thought. Everything Maddow said about Obama tonight played right into GOP narratives about Dems in disarray. She even used FOX News clips as trustworthy evidence. And she did an entire segment on how thrilled the GOP was at this "compromise," meaning that Obama got rolled. Oops. Don't look now, but it looks like DeMint and the Tea Party may not be on board. Her best evidence for this claim was an edited set of remarks from McConnell's press avail. Did she notice that he looked as if he had swallowed a shit pie? Or acknowledge that since he was the chief negotiator for the GOP, he HAD to defend the deal just as Obama did. His supporting HIS deal has absolutely no bearing on whether or not he WON that deal. Come on, people, this is Politics 101. Can't anyone here play this game?