There's a swell interview at Salon with Aimee Mann about her upcoming album, Charmer. Here's the title track:
Religion. What were you raised, and what do you practice now?
Note I didn't say, "and then bitch about the other commenters' practices," please.
Me, raised Catholic, still a practicing Catholic in that I'm not very good at it.
Act 10, the controversial law that took away most collective bargaining rights from public employees, was struck down for being unconstitutional by a Dane County judge on Friday.
In his ruling on a lawsuit brought against the legislation by Madison Teachers, Inc. and Public Employees Local 61, which represents teachers in Milwaukee, Circuit Judge Juan B. Colas said Act 10 "violates the Wisconsin and U.S. constitutions' guarantees of free speech and freedom of association."
If money is speech, and corporations and unions are people, then you can't infringe on their right to free speech. You wanna play it that way, then play it that way, son.
I remember the first run of the “Why do you hate America?” censorship that poured out in the weeks and months after 9/11. It was Bill O’Reilly and the other “STFU” freedom fighters who labeled anyone who wanted to stop and think about things for more than three seconds as being someone willing to offer aid and comfort to terrorists. It was a stupid bit of illogical patriotism that belied a larger concern that for all the freedom we were fighting for, we had to pretty much give up our freedom to get it.
Facts? Fuck ‘em
Discussion? Only for pussies.
Logic? Queer shit.
Fast forward to Friday in which Paul Ryan decided everything old was new again. He spent the better part of a campaign speech in D.C. deriding the president for engaging in similar behavior in terms of the economy and social issues.
“…if anyone dares to point out the facts” of the president’s “record” then “they’re just being negative and pessimistic about the country.”
Aside from heaping on the “America: Fuck Yeah!” approach, he upped his game by pointing out how Obama kept rolling out classic “strawman” arguments that he would then beat into the ground:
“Nobody is better at rebuking nonexistent opinions,” Ryan said. “Barack Obama does this all the time, and in this campaign we are calling him on it.”
Looking at this argument is like staring into a moebius strip: Every time you think you reached the end of it, you double back on top of yourself and you feel upside down.
Start with the fact that it was the Republicans who spent the entirety of the 2000s giving us the “agree or die” philosophy when it came to actual life and death decisions. If Democrats are anything, it’s overly sensitive dipshits who a) talk things to death or b) shut up if they can’t get everyone to agree on something. The whole idea that Obama is doing this “Yeah? You think so? Fuckin’ hater!” thing is laughable at best.
Then, move to the more amusing part of the program: the strawman. I’m not a great fan of Bill Maher, but he has been right as rain on this aspect of how the Republicans are running against Obama. There’s Real Obama and there’s Imaginary Obama. The Republicans have spent the last several years building an Imaginary Obama to run against, a guy who has a Negro Army just waiting to fuck up white people, a man who is plotting to seize all the guns and who will be walking through Bedford Stuy with milk crates full of C-notes to make it rain on his peeps any day now. (He’s also a silver-spooned, cultural elitist who never really worked a day in his life, but don’t let anything that might seem counterintuitive slow you down here…).
I had a two-day fight with a friend over a fucking Internet meme about how Obama said he didn’t think people should have guns. The fact he never said it, has never said it and there was no evidence to support he would even suggest it didn’t matter. It was online.
It was a picture and had quote marks around words and EVERYTHING!
If that purple-pimp-hat-having, freedom-suppressing, gun-stealing, black-junta-leading Obama were any more of a strawman, he’d be wearing flannel and having a crow shitting on him.
So if you want to try to pare this down into an elevator statement, Paul Ryan is essentially rolling out the ugliest parts of what the Republicans have done or are attempting to do and saying Obama is doing them, even with evidence or specificity to the contrary.
Obama isn’t perfect and I honestly don’t know how I’d vote if this time around a “McCain/Somebody Awesome With a Brain” ticket came along. That said, when a guy whose convention speech had fact checkers leaping off the couch screaming, “Lordy, Lordy, we’re having BISCUITS TONIGHT! Chedda comin’!!!!” calls you out, you have to kind of wonder where rock bottom is on this campaign.
But if we need a meme to capture this, enjoy:
Last week I posted a non-Della-n-Oscar video for Friday catblogging. My friend Mary Hogan was outraged so I'm not doing that again. I fear the wrath of Mother Mary, y'all. BUT since I'm still in a Tull feeding frenzy, here's one of Ian's finest feline tunes for a Thursday evening:
I've gotten hooked on a show on the Syfy network: Collection Intervention. It features History Detective, appraiser and Tulane alum Elyse Luray. Elyse works with obsessive collectors in an attempt to reign in their collections and to make a few bucks along the way.
In a recent episode, Elyse worked with a guy in LA who collects all sorts of oddball pop-culture items. You know, the stuff that I like. The collector had a bunch of spook show posters. A spook show was a live performance that was usually done at a movie theatre from the 1930's to the 1960s. The posters are clearly pulpilcious:
Via the Crack Den's comments thread, here's a particular piece of stupidity amidst the avalanche of stupidity coming from the Romney campaign right now:
Another adviser expressed frustration with horserace reporters declaring Romney's campaign dead fatally behind, as President Obama pulls ahead in the polls. He said he suspects the press is projecting their own hopes for an Obama re-election at best — and purposefully cheerleading the incumbent, at worst.
"I mean, I was expecting this narrative in October," he said. "You know, the polls are close, and so the media starts cheering on their guy, saying Romney's doomed. But I didn't expect it to happen this early. They just seem really eager."
Let's look at all the ways the Libya thing was stupid. First, you turn the campaign from the suckass economy, on which you have some advantage based on Obama not doing enough and not doing the right things (not that you're gonna do the right things, but let's not get crazy), to foreign policy, where your party has recently distinguished itself by sticking its entire dick in a bees' nest.
You are a basketball player, and you challenge your opponent to the 800-meter freestyle, for some godforsaken reason. Leave aside the human considerations, like the DEAD PEOPLE, and there's no reason to open your trap at all. Just keep blithering about job creation and how government sucks. Many Americans these days seem to find that bullshit appealing, whereas absolutely none of them think it's cool to wave a corpse around to get attention.
Plus, by making it an actual event, you made it eminently clear that your entire campaign apparatus was involved in making this statement, so you can't disavow it by saying the candidate wasn't prepared, or was taken in by a trick question, or was otherwise unable to somehow not shoot a hole in his own ass.
And NOW you want to claim liberal media trickery? Are you fucking kidding me? YOU CALLED THE PRESS TO SHOW UP THERE, MORONS. Now you're made because they wrote down what you said?
Just like during the RNC, I'm honestly getting offended at how inept the Romney campaign is, and here's why: Running for president isn't something you should do as a joke. It's not a stunt show. Sure, Bush's operation was evil, but they took it seriously. They didn't faff around. Their campaign show was the Death Star. Romney's is turning into an Ewok add-on movie George Lucas crapped out to buy himself a new boat.
ps. HAT TIP JAC DAMMIT JESUS
Teachers in Lake Forest High School District 115 went on strike today after failing to reach an agreement over salaries during negotiations that ended just before midnight.
Assholes are assholes:
"You make three times more than the average citizen in Chicagoland," a woman yelled. "What is the lesson for all the students today?"
A man joined the picket line but carried a sign telling the teachers to get back to work.
Given that the average citizen includes the dude panhandling on the highway overpass with the sign that says GIVE SOME CHANGE SO I CAN BUY MYSELF A PLASTIC LOVER, possibly that's not the best argument to make.
I touched on this in Monday's post, but this concept that you need to be really, truly, deeply poor for me to want you to be less poor is becoming a THING to me. What magical sympathy line do these rich yelly fucksockets seem to think is crossed, after which you're entitled to ask (quietly, and oh-so-civilly) for a raise or a benefits increase?
Have they seen the way we treat poor people in this country? Do they log onto Facebook and see one asshole cousin after another posting shit about drug testing for "welfare" and offering anecdotes about giving SIXTY WHOLE CENTS to somebody who then went and bought a can of beer with it? Do they realize how our definition of "not poor" now includes having an air conditioner and a microwave? Have they ever sent their kids to school wearing off-brand donated clothing and ill-fitting hand-me-down shoes?
What do they think people would be saying to the teachers if they did indeed make less than the "average" citizen? Probably YOU'RE STILL BETTER PAID THAN THE PLASTIC LOVER OVERPASS GUY SO SHUT UP.
The easiest phrase in the world to write is: terrible news out of the Middle East. At times the region seems to be the world's largest loony bin. This is one of those times.
The murder of Chris Stevens the US Ambassador to Libya seems to have been ginned up by demagogery over an anti-Muslim film that nobody has seen. We wouldn't have heard of it without this attack either.
I am once again struck by the eery similarities between Islamist extremists and American Islamophobes. Both are gifted at whipping up hysteria but our nutjobs then claim that any consequences aren't their fault. It's classic Americana: the late historian Richard Hofstader wrote a great book about it in the wake of the second Red Scare, The Paranoid Style in American Politics. If you ever get a chance to read it, please do so. We're still paranoid after all these years.
It's going to be a nasty few days as the wingnuts gear up to politicize another atrocity. Mitt Romney's initial response was to-surprise, surprise-try to capitalize on the first reports of the mobs in Benghazi and Cairo. I guess Karl Rove finally returned the Mittbot's calls and advised him to continue claiming that a relatively hawkish President is a hippie peacenik.
We started the day with Bibi Netanyahu intervening in our Presidential campaign by whipping up hysteria over Iran's unbomb. It's quite rich for Bibi to denounce anyone else for lacking moral authority. I can't wait to hear his overripe rhetoric about the mob violence. Actually, I can but hear it we will. Speaking of predictable responses: I'm sure Senator Walnuts and Holy Joe will call for bombing the shit out of Libya any time now. Of course, Western countries arming the anti-Qadaffi rebels is the reason there are grenade launchers floating around Libya right now. Logic, however, is *always* lost on the neo-Cons.
Okay, I'll stop rambling. For now. Time for more coffee and some Warren Zevon:
But with that access came one major condition.
Like other journalists who write about Washington and presidential politics, Mr. Lewis said that he had to submit to the widespread but rarely disclosed practice of quote approval.
During a discussion at Lincoln Center on Monday night with Graydon Carter, the editor of Vanity Fair, Mr. Lewis volunteered to the audience that as a condition of cooperating with his story, the White House insisted on signing off on the quotes that would appear.
Look, I love Lewis, I loved Moneyball, but he did not actually have to do this. He could have said fuck you. He would have lost the story, and that would have been the deal, but my problem here isn't what he did or didn't do to get what he did or didn't get.
It's the Times using terminology that implies that this is just the cost of doing business these days and whaddyagonna do? These things are decisions that are made, not inevitabilities.
My Twitter feed is all over this New York Times op-ed, in which journalist Kurt Eichenwald reveals the numerous warnings of an Al Qaeda attack in the months leading up to 9/11. Not just the infamous Aug. 6 PDB, "Bin Laden Determined To Strike In U.S.," but CIA reports from May 1, June 22, June 29, July 9, and July 24. And then there were the FBI reports of Al Qaeda-connected terrorists training to fly (but not land) airplanes at U.S. flight schools. And on, and on. All ignored. Why?
[...] An intelligence official and a member of the Bush administration both told me in interviews that the neoconservative leaders who had recently assumed power at the Pentagon were warning the White House that the C.I.A. had been fooled; according to this theory, Bin Laden was merely pretending to be planning an attack to distract the administration from Saddam Hussein, whom the neoconservatives saw as a greater threat. Intelligence officials, these sources said, protested that the idea of Bin Laden, an Islamic fundamentalist, conspiring with Mr. Hussein, an Iraqi secularist, was ridiculous, but the neoconservatives’ suspicions were nevertheless carrying the day.
Oh, right. Saddam Hussein. The guy the Neocons had been gunning for since forever. Wow, what a spectacular fail that was, right? But no, we never got to play the "blame game," not really. We never really learned any lessons about the many ways our politics and our corporate interests meddle in our national security. We're still taking our shoes off at the airport and dumping our water bottles at the TSA check point, though: a clear sign that this is a country completely out of ideas.
Do you remember Sept. 10, 2001? I do. I remember all the talk on the news was about Bush's hard-on for "Star Wars," and all of us were laughing because, wasn't that a Reagan thing? Some missile defense shield thingie to protect us from Soviet nukes? Bush's constant harping on the need for this bazillion dollar program just made me wonder what fucking decade he was living in, like we were back in the '80s but without the shoulder pads and bad hair. And then some dudes armed with box cutters attacked the country and killed nearly 3,000 people. Oh, woopsies. Don't hear much about "Star Wars" anymore, do you?
And so it goes. Ari Fleischer has taken to twitter to denounce Eichenwald as a "truther" -- this word is viewed among conservatives as their version of "birther," though these folks never really distance themselves from the birthers, do they? I mean, I'm trying to remember how many "truthers" ran for the Democratic nomination in 2004 and 2008. Oh, right. Zero.
But yes, that's a neat trick: paint someone revealing the Bush Administration's dangerous incompetence as a "truther." Nice try. They really don't want us looking under that rock, do they?
I'm no "truther." I don't believe the Twin Towers fell due to a planned demolition, that the Jews who worked there were told to stay home that day, and all of the other conspiracy BS coming from that crowd of wackjobs. But the Bush Administration being dangerously incomepetent? Hell, yeah. We saw that incompetence carried out over and over and over again throught the horrible Oughts: Saddam's failure to have WMD, the failure to properly plan and carry out the Iraq War, the failed Hurricane Katrina response and a thousand smaller failures, too. The Bush Administration was nothing if not the most incompetent collection of idiots and nincompoops handed the reins of power in this country's history.
Here's a scary thought: a big majority of these flaming idiots are advising Mitt Romney. God help us if he wins in November because we'll see the same Neocons in charge of our security and foreign policy who failed us 11 years ago. Romney has called Russia this country's biggest threat, which gave President Obama his "Cold War mind warp" zinger in his convention speech. But it's true. Repubicans seem stuck in 1952, in more ways than one. It's like they need that Commie threat, they don't know how to survive without it. It's their version of heroin.
This kind of thinking is dangerous. This is where it leads:
Re-posting for the umpteenth time because it was the first thing I read after that day, after that blur of a day and the two-three weeks that followed, that didn't feel like a fucking greeting card, that made any kind of sense to me at all:
As we approach the Brooklyn Bridge, a ferry pulls in to the pier, calling for passengers to Jersey City. That's where Don lives. We both stop, frowning, and for a moment we just stand there together as others pass us with their heads down, concentrating on going. We don't want to leave each other. Without each other, it's just us by ourselves. It seems strange and worrisome, and I sense that he wants me to go with him so we can stick together still, but I also know he knows I have to go north and finish the walk, that it's important for both of us to get to our homes. All of these thoughts come and go and we don't say any of them aloud. We shake hands, wish each other the very best of luck, although it's not a day with much of that. Don heads back towards the pier. I turn back to the hill ahead of me. I don't turn around. It's just me now, going home.
We reach for this easy stuff, all the time. My Facebook feed is being overtaken with images of bald eagles superimposed onto the Twin Towers by people who were thousands of miles away when the planes struck. I got angry at it back then; I am angry at it now. It's so easy, the treacly songs, the easy post-and-repost remembrances. We were Forever Changed by this terrible thing that happened. Every word of that annoys me because no, we weren't, and we aren't we anyway.
(I think I get so angry at the easy remembrances because I envy the sense of safety people now mourn as having been ripped away. I envy their former obliviousness to the randomness of bad fortune.)
Those for whom 9/11 was just a particularly compelling TV show, for whom the community prayer vigils were fan conventions for America, who were happy to wave their flags and paint their chests red, white and blue and beat up on Sikh shopkeepers? They weren't altered by it, not really. Three to six weeks later they stopped going to church again, or quit calling their parents, or started snapping at their kids, because that's how we're built.
We are prone to grand declarations — remember how snark and irony were going to be So Over? — that have no hope of coming true. We make wild promises we have no hope of keeping, and get angry when someone reminds us of the words we spoke so rashly, of the vows we made in moments of clarity. Full of excuses as to why we didn't live up to our best image of ourselves, the one we invent to keep from going mad when something terrible happens. Like a couple of planes slamming into a building. Or a gunshot.
Change doesn't happen with a break, or a leap, or a plane crash. The shock isn't what alters you. It's the grinding down, afterward, the every day scraping forward and forward and forward until the skin's rubbed down to the bone. It isn't fun and it isn't set to music and it certainly can't be reduced to a 15-minute ceremony in front of a statue once a year. It's every day. It sucks.
You tell me, though. What choice do we have?
Giffords was broken on that day, and she’s broken now. I’m broken, too, and so are you. Every day breaks us in a different way. But broken is not the same thing as dead, and if you’re not dead, you’re alive, and if you’re alive, you can do something. That’s not courage; it’s just what you do. You wake up. Something’s sore. Your head hurts. You don’t want to do what you have to do today. You don’t want to talk to humans. There’s so much weight that it feels like you can’t do it anymore. It’s pointless. It’s unmanageable. It’s awful. You can’t do it. You know, deep down in your stomach, that you simply can’t do it anymore. It’s impossible.
You get up anyway.
Then, this week, Paton blamed the continuing budget problems on pensions – on the very employees doing the work in the field every day – the very employees who hear complaints in the community about how “this used to be such a great newspaper – it’s so thin now, there’s nothing worth reading in it – the online version is so buried under popups and other glitzy ads that you can’t even find the news anymore and it’s just not worth bothering.” This, we heard in the community.
In the office, our technology was so slow and awful we couldn’t perform basic functions – including loading those very same clunky news pages so we could update the copy with breaking news and information. We watched as the company poured what could have been salary money into remodeling or relocating offices. One property that had been moved out of downtown was relocated back into the downtown. Another property, which was too far for anyone to walk to, was remodeled to make room for community media labs and community engagement efforts.
I always scream about this every time I go to some stupid seminar about the "future of journalism" and people are boring on about iPhone apps and digital subscriptions and new paradigms and shit. I will never understand giving up on something that works just because something else works, too. Why not do all of it? Why not have a great paper and a great web site and great mobile apps and great visuals and video and great everything? Why this rush to declare one thing over? Why pull the plug when the patient isn't even in a coma?
Part of my affection for print is tradition, of course, and the inherent bias that comes from having made it my primary medium for the early part of my career. But part of it is that the way things are now, the cost of technology being what it is, it is still the easiest and most democratic way to get news to the largest group of people.
Note I didn't say it was the least expensive way. Just that, the digital divide being what it is, it's the most broad.
Many people are fleeing print because digital is more convenient for them, and I have zero quarrel with them. I have a smartphone and it's my small friend. I browse headlines and read Twitter on it and such. I get text alerts.
But many others are fleeing print because print has deliberately driven them away. Capricious delivery and distribution schedules, removal/downsizing of features and personalities that once made the print product attractive, a mercenary focus on sleepy bedroom suburbs at the expense of more diverse lower-income communities, and an allergy to listening to the very communities newspapers purport to serve told those communities that the paper didn't care about them any more.
Is it any real surprise, then, that the communities believe it?
It's not a bad racket, really: Drive people away from expensive (though profitable) print, declare that people have left print, kill off print because people have left it, and above all, make sure your employees get mad at bloggers and college kids and young reporters who are taking over their jobs, because you can't have them turn the bullshit detectors for which you specifically hired them onto management. It's not a bad racket at all.
If you're in this for a racket, that is. If you're in this to do journalism, it's one of the seven hells.
Repeat after me: the GOP has lost its mojo. For now. The Romney campaign is flailing; acting like an iPod stuck on shuffle. (The Best of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, anyone?) They keep throwing shit against the wall and none of it seems to stick. There's a whiff of panic and flop sweat in the air.
The Mittbot is experimenting with being a culture warrior by implying that Obama will remove "In God We Trust" from both coins and greenbacks. This is both funny and pitiful. It's pitiful enough that Romney is out campaigning with Pat Robertson but that he feels compelled to do some extra pandering since the evangelicals think that Mormons aren't Christians. Me, I could care less but pandering to that useless, crazy televangelist is enough to make me puke and Brigham Young rise from the grave. Actually, the latter would be pretty darn interesting. I wonder if he'd look at Anne Romney and say "this is the place" and make her his 4,444th wife or something...
Repeat after me: the GOP has lost its mojo. McKinley Morganfield, however, never lost his:
It was a vintage weekend for zany campaign snapshots. The one of the Prez being lifted by the burly dude was pretty swell but this may be the political picture of the century thus far:
Talk about begging for a caption contest. Here's my contribution, which is an hommage to The Wild One:
Biden: What are you rebelling against?
Biker: What you got?
Key disputed issues in the talks were teacher cost of living raises, additional pay for experience, job security in the face of annual school closures and staff shakeups, and a new teacher evaluation process that ties teacher ratings in part to student test score growth.
“Evaluate us on what we do, not on the lives of our children we do not control,” Lewis said Sunday, denouncing the online process by which teacher evaluators were being trained.
CTU officials contend that CPS’ offer of raises over the next four years does not fairly compensate them for the 4 percent raise they lost this past school year and the longer and “harder” school year they will face this school year, with the introduction of a tougher new curriculum.
The union also has pushed for improved working conditions, such as smaller class sizes, more libraries, air-conditioned schools, and more social workers and counselors to address the increasing needs of students surrounded by violence — all big-ticket items. CPS officials contend they are seeking a “fair” contract, with raises for teachers, but are limited by funding and the threat of a $1 billion deficit at the end of this school year.
The local press just cannot believe the effrontery:
They are mainly stuck on two issues: teacher recall and teacher evaluations. Emanuel said teachers cannot strike over either issue by law. They’re also still fixated on issues that cannot be resolved at the bargaining table, such as financial resources for schools and wraparound social service supports for students.
They are right to fight for these issues — but they are not ones that warrant keeping 350,000 students out of the classroom.
Well, how the hell else is anybody going to pay any attention? For as long as I have been alive these have been issues in public schools, especially those in poor/city districts, and for as long as I have been alive the only response of those in power has been to basically shrug, continue making cuts, and whine about overpaid teachers on TV.
I'm sorry, I can't find it in my heart to have much sympathy for people whose entire argument is "other people's lives suck, so you should stop resisting the suck in your own life and just lean into it:"
Average teacher pay in Chicago is already at $71,000 without benefits, while the average Chicagoan makes only $30,203 and the unemployment rate in the city is nearly 11 percent.
Liberals are the communists here? Somehow it always seems to be the wingnuts who are arguing that everybody's pay needs to be dragged down to the same level, which is usually Charles-Dickens-poor, before anybody can ask please sir may I have some more.
If somebody else has it worse off, the answer isn't to shut up until things get precisely that bad for you, too. The answer is to pull that other person up as well, by doing things like teaching them well, and fairly, in a school with air conditioning for 106-degree days, and textbooks that no longer mention the looming threat of war with the Soviet Union.
No post this week, folks - RSI issue (apparently called "mouse finger") on my right index.
I was going to take this week off anyway, and this just made it vital instead of a vacation.
Yes, I know - people everywhere are going through REAL medical isses - horrors that make mine look like a - well, a sore knuckle joint, but that's hard to internalize when you can't unbutton your own jeans,
Fortunately, Barbara has the mothering instincts of the best of us, and the patience to put up with my whining.
Back next Monday, promise.
Here's the BrilloBeast next to her namesake.