The Daily Sandwich

"We have to learn the lesson that intellectual honesty is fundamental for everything we cherish." -Sir Karl Popper

Location: Boston, Massachusetts, United States


Monday, September 29, 2008

Captain Obvious

I'm not going to go on and on about the incredible spectacle of the last five days, with McCain quite literally holding the economy hostage while the world watches and House Republicans claim that they would've voted yes on the bailout if Nancy Pelosi hadn't made them cranky. Plenty of other bloggers have covered it at great length, and it at least looks like McCain's desperate flailing in the wake of his campaign-stunt-gone-horribly-wrong is having a genuine impact in polling numbers.

Nope, instead I'd like to direct your attention to a little something that's appearing in the latest issue of Newsweek.

Let me confess that I was genuinely unnerved by Sarah Palin's performance at the Republican convention. Given her audience and the needs of the moment, I believe Governor Palin's speech was the most effective political communication I have ever witnessed. Here, finally, was a performer who—being maternal, wounded, righteous and sexy—could stride past the frontal cortex of every American and plant a three-inch heel directly on that limbic circuit that ceaselessly intones "God and country." If anyone could make Christian theocracy smell like apple pie, Sarah Palin could.

Then came Palin's first television interview with Charles Gibson. I was relieved to discover, as many were, that Palin's luster can be much diminished by the absence of a teleprompter. Still, the problem she poses to our political process is now much bigger than she is. Her fans seem inclined to forgive her any indiscretion short of cannibalism. However badly she may stumble during the remaining weeks of this campaign, her supporters will focus their outrage upon the journalist who caused her to break stride, upon the camera operator who happened to capture her fall, upon the television network that broadcast the good lady's misfortune—and, above all, upon the "liberal elites" with their highfalutin assumption that, in the 21st century, only a reasonably well-educated person should be given command of our nuclear arsenal.

It really is a frightening measure of just how much damage the right wing's decades-long propaganda war has done to bring out the absolute worst in their most committed supporters. Do you know what else is a frightening measure of how successful they've been? Newsweek's spineless pseudo-disclaimer accompanying the article:

When Atheists Attack: A noted provocateur rips Sarah Palin—and defends elitism.

Considering that the author's argument pretty much boils down to "If you're plumbing's busted, call a plumber," it takes a special kind of timidity to suggest that it's the stance of someone who's clearly a godless, bomb-throwing snob.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Well, I guess he didn't need to show up after all....

I hope that the beyond-embarrassing examples of stupidity and egotism on display from the GOP's chosen candidates this week is starting to sink in nationwide. The MSM seems to be inching closer and closer to observing fact, now that the disgraceful "he-said/she-said" reporting of this century is embarrassing them as well.

Whether the public is jarred awake by McCain's blatant eagerness to use a national economic crisis as a photo-op-- struggling American homeowners be damned-- or frightened by Palin's complete inability to form a coherent sentence on even a single national or international issue, hopefully it will mark a turning point in the public consciousness. Hey, I know it's a longshot after eight years of Republican stupidity and corruption, but it helps keep me sane.

And hopefully we'll keep seeing more stories of GOP ineptitude like this:

The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza notes that an ad proclaiming "McCain wins debate!" was already running on the Wall Street Journal's Web site Friday morning. (A screen shot of the page can be seen here.) The reader who tipped Cillizza also saw a second ad that contained a quote from McCain campaign manager Rick Davis: "McCain won the debate -- hands down."

It's like 1984 starring the Three Stooges. All we need now is for McCain and Palin to reach for the same oil company check and bump heads with a coconut sound.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

I'm "Craven" McCain 2008

The cowardice McCain has shown in every aspect of his decision to flee the presidential debate once the going got tough is sickening. But he's certainly learned "Campaigning for Oily Liars" from cover to cover. From Kevin Drum:

A couple of hours ago I suggested that maybe John McCain would try to postpone the first debate to October 2nd because that would then eliminate the vice presidential debate. (So sad....) I thought I was just being hackishly cynical when I said that, but no: according to CNN, that's exactly what McCain is proposing. The VP debate would then be "rescheduled." (Perhaps to November 5th, joked Dana Milbank.)

The big question is how the MSM will treat this whole thing: will they once again roll over and repeat the campaign's baldfaced lies on how eager he is to roll up his sleeves and get right to the dirty work of closed meetings and open photo-ops on Capitol Hill? Or will they point out that McCain just left a McCain-shaped hole in the wall in his haste to avoid anything even remotely resembling a serious policy question?

Admittedly, "what do you have to say now that the economic policy you've backed fervently for decades has caused a massive fiscal crisis?" is a tough one. But McCain isn't supposed to be running for Crybaby in Chief.

(Updated) Did I say Cousin Oliver? I meant Knucklehead Smith.

I hope that reference wasn't too out-there, but 'Charlie McCarthy' seemed way too complimentary for Sarah Palin. His head was made of wood and he could trade barbs with W.C. Fields. Her head is made of a black hole that sucks up all logic & reason-- and she can't even handle MSM softballs.

COURIC: You've said, quote, "John McCain will reform the way Wall Street does business." Other than supporting stricter regulations of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac two years ago, can you give us any more example of his leading the charge for more oversight?

PALIN: I think that the example that you just cited, with his warnings two years ago about Fannie and Freddie — that, that's paramount. That's more than a heck of a lot of other senators and representatives did for us.

COURIC: But he's been in Congress for 26 years. He's been chairman of the powerful Commerce Committee. And he has almost always sided with less regulation, not more.

PALIN: He's also known as the maverick though. Taking shots from his own party, and certainly taking shots from the other party. Trying to get people to understand what he's been talking about — the need to reform government.

COURIC: I'm just going to ask you one more time, not to belabor the point. Specific examples in his 26 years of pushing for more regulation?

PALIN: I'll try to find you some and I'll bring them to you.

Be a-scared. Be very a-scared.

UPDATE: I couldn't bring myself to actually watch the video of the possible next vice-president of the nation with her head so far up her ass she needs an exorcism from a Kenyan preacher, but this is apparently the tip of the insanity iceberg.

COURIC: If this doesn't pass, do you think there's a risk of another Great Depression?

PALIN: Unfortunately, that is the road that America may find itself on. Not necessarily this as it's been proposed has to pass or we're going to find ourselves in another Great Depression. There has got to be action — bipartisan effort — Congress not pointing fingers at one another but finding the solution to this, taking action, and being serious about the reforms on Wall Street that are needed.

I'm feeling something entirely new-- part befuddlement, part terror..... it's terfuddlement.

Get 'im, Dave! Get 'im!

I've been saying for years that what the Democratic party needs is talented comedy writers. It's pretty damn clear that logic and policy aren't going to sway Republican voters who've been fed a steady diet of xenophobia, cultural warfare, and paranoia. (If it were, the US electoral map would look like the Economist's electoral map.) Ridicule and shame, however, may well be the thing when you consider how much the right has "normalized" ridiculous and shameful behavior.

After receiving a call from the McCain campaign canceling an appearance on tonight's Late Night with David Letterman, it was discovered that McCain stopped down the street to be interviewed by CBS' Katie Couric rather than rushing back to Washington to work on the proposed Wall Street bailout, as Letterman had been told.

"Hey Senator," Letterman mocked in front of live video of the interview, "can I give you a ride home?"

Letterman had earlier expressed suspicion at McCain's move to suspend his campaign. "This doesn't smell right," he said. "This isn't the way a tested hero behaves."

"I think someone's putting something in his Metamucil...He can't run the campaign because the economy is cratering? Fine, put in your second-string quarterback, Sarah Palin. Where is she?"

"What are you going to do if you're elected and things get tough?" Letterman added. "Suspend being president? We've got a guy like that now!"

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

That's a relief. I was afraid we'd have to do something.

Democrats have decided to allow a quarter-century ban on drilling for oil off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts to expire next week, conceding defeat in a months-long battle with the White House and Republicans set off by $4 a gallon gasoline prices this summer.

I suppose I can still see why Congressional Dems are still acting like battered spouses. The DLC's star might be fading (and none too soon), but it's no secret that their "do whatever the GOP says" strategy to winning elections still has plenty of adherents.

Still, there's a point where you hope that our elected representatives will look at the money-grubbing pissants across the aisle and their latest attempt to transform America's legacy into diamond stickpins & private jets and say "No. This is not only the empirically sound course of action-- it is the undeniably moral course, and the universally acknowledged responsible course for our economy, and indeed the future of our very planet."

Most of us reached it on behalf of congressional Dems.... what, five years ago? Of course, we're perfectly aware that, whether Democrats are principled or gutless, the 21st century Republican party will use us like a passed-out prom date whenever possible.

"If true, this capitulation by Democrats following months of Republican pressure is a big victory for Americans struggling with record gasoline prices," said House GOP leader John Boehner of Ohio.

See? It reminds me of a gruesome story I heard about faith healers. The huckster in question would shout hallelujahs while claiming to cure an elderly person's cataracts. They would actually pierce the eye, letting fluid drain out temporarily-- "curing" the afflicted and emptying wallets at the same time. When the con artist was safely out of town with his money, the healed individual's eyes would cloud over worse than ever, depriving them of what little sight had remained.

It's far, far past time for Democrats to stop being the timid neighbors who do nothing in order to preserve the town's good name, and start being the ones to hunt the bastard down and beat him within an inch of his life.

(P.S.- I know it's tied to a key spending bill that the GOP was going to make a show of vetoing. And they gave Dems the usual choice of "obstructionist America-hater or total wuss." The thing is, the Democrats are right. Again. And it's getting to the point where the MSM and the public are finally paying some attention.)

BAILOUT! The Musical

This is a must-see link. I was just wondering this morning how the 80s S&L scandal compared to the current corporate welfare debacle, and wouldn't you know... this administration's "economic stewardship" is once again Reaganism on steroids.

Blogs have started to grumble about the dearth of coverage on McCain's long and pathetic career as a champion of the deregulation that led to both crises, although the press is at least getting fed up with the campaign's most egregious lies on the issue, like campaign manager Rick Davis being on the payroll of Freddie Mac, etc., etc. But "Keating Five," despite its very great relevance to the current campaign, isn't appearing anywhere outside progressive blog-dom.

The press seems to have had its fill of being used as a GOP propaganda tool when it comes to Palin as well, given the no-words-allowed UN meeting. But I doubt that will translate to calling a spade a spade when it comes to McCain's wholesale adoption of BushCo's Potemkin Village campaign events.

The list of conservative talking heads who are (finally!) fed up with their party's race to the bottom keeps growing as well, but I don't think that's going to accomplish a whole lot after thirty years of talk-radio style sloganeering.

Which, incidentally, hasn't stopped. In fact, as wingers get more desperate, they're finally starting to stoke racial fears. Just one more thing to look forward to in the coming weeks. I don't know what role race will ultimately play in the national vote (I suspect younger voters won't care, but older voters will find it harder to go with Obama-- kinda like the gay marriage issue), but with the press and conservative pundits discovering that they could possibly be vertebrates, maybe we'll see some backlash on this front as well. That would be a welcome first.

As it (incredibly, stupefyingly) is, McCain still seems to have the electoral edge. I'm still none too optimistic about the final outcome, either.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

McCain thinks Spain is somewhere near Bah-raaaaaain. Or, Once a Pageant Contestant, Always a Pageant Contestant

More likely, he really just doesn't care where it is, who the president is, or much of anything else beyond getting his fat, pasty ass in the Oval Office. It might not be quite as bad as the current Disgrace in Chief thinking the Taliban was a rock band, but it isn't what anyone would've called 'presidential' until the 21st century (TPM has video):

"Would you be willing to meet with the head of our government, Mr. Zapatero?" the [Spanish] questioner asked, in an exchange now being reported by several Spanish outlets.

McCain proceeded to launch into what appeared to be a boilerplate declaration about Mexico and Latin America -- but not Spain -- pressing the need to stand up to world leaders who want to harm America.

"I will meet with those leaders who are our friends and who want to work with us cooperatively," according to one translation. The reporter repeated the question two more times, apparently trying to clarify, but McCain referred again to Latin America.

Finally, the questioner said, "Okay, but I'm talking about Europe -- the president of Spain, would you meet with him?" The Senator offered only a slight variance to his initial comment. "I will reunite with any leader that has the same principles and philosophy that we do: human rights, democracy, and liberty. And I will confront those that don't [have them]."

Encouraging, isn't it? And while McCain does his best to match Bush's idiocy and mendacity on the campaign trail, Sarah Palin keeps making a complete ass of herself whenever she has an unscripted moment. It's just like Miss (Teen) South Carolina's nonsense about maps and education that became such an Internet phenomenon a while back. Only Sarah Palin is in her forties, and running for the second highest office in the nation:

During a quick stop at a diner in Cleveland, Ohio, Sarah Palin was asked for her reaction to the AIG bailout.

“Dissapointed [sic] that taxpayers are called upon to bailout another one,” she said. “Certainly AIG though with the construction bonds that they’re holding and with the insurance that they are holding very, very impactful to Americans so you know the shot that has been called by the Feds its understandable but very, very disappointing that taxpayers are called upon for another one.” . . .

Though she has been on the campaign trail for nearly three weeks, Palin has yet to hold a press conference, and this morning’s stop marked the first time she answered a question from the press on the fly, prompting concerned looks from staffers.

The real stories here are, of course should be reported as "Presidential Hopeful Unaware Spain is in Europe," and "Vice-Presidential Hopeful Doesn't Understand Current Market Crisis." The reported stories will almost certainly be "McCain-Palin staffers say candidates 'misspoke.'"

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Cousin Oliver is so adorable when he talks nonsense.

Know how I mentioned my growing habit of nicking Kevin Drum's pieces as one reason I stopped blogging? Well, here's another one that I agree with from start to depressing finish:

Sarah Palin, peeking out from a thicket of pre-scripted talking points in Colorado Springs, goes off message briefly and explains what went wrong in the home mortgage market:

The fact is, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, they've gotten too big and too expensive to the taxpayers.

A gaffe! But how does it measure up? On a technical basis, I'd say it's impressive. Until now, Fannie and Freddie haven't cost the taxpayers a dime and their current problems aren't really related to their size either. This leaves only a few conjunctions and proper names as sensible parts of this sentence.

On artistic merit, however, the judges have to score this one for Palin. Nobody cares about the minutiae of how GSEs work, after all, and liberal attacks on this score are almost certain to backfire because (a) we're obviously harrassing her unfairly over trivia because she's a small town mom and (b) we're just trying to show off how smart we are. Besides, as Palin said, John McCain is in favor of "reforming things," so he's obviously the right guy to tackle whatever problem it is that Fannie and Freddie suffer from. For liberal critics, then, there's no there there.

Actually, what's really impressive about this is that even though Palin obviously didn't know what she was talking about, she managed to dig smoothly into the standard movement conservative playbook to say something pleasing to the base anyway. Got a problem? It must be government's fault! Something somewhere got too big and too expensive and conservatives need to rein it in.

I think it's more than impressive-- it's absolutely staggering. And yet, it's just the latest entry in the vast "lying or incompetent" archives. Palin's statement is the exact opposite of reality. And in spite of the fact that she is running for the second-highest office in the nation, an example of ignorance (and/or dishonesty) that shows a dangerous lack of concern with major policy issues will have no coverage, no impact, and no repercussions.

Exactly why I'm afraid things haven't gotten bad enough for righties to start jumping ship. I really, really hope it doesn't take something like the Great Depression to finally sink the GOP's post-Nixon era of complete intellectual and moral bankruptcy, but it doesn't look like we're there yet.

UPDATE: Matt Yglesias agrees-- we're still in Bizarroworld. "All this liberal sneering at public officials for not having, you know, [an] in-depth knowledge of policy matters is exactly why we’re seen as out of touch."

Monday, September 08, 2008

Third time's the charm.....?

One of the reasons I stopped blogging was that I found myself linking more and more to fewer and fewer bloggers. One of them was Kevin Drum. I always liked his posts, but I've become more enthused about his work as time has gone by. And the reason, at least as I perceived it, is that he's become more fired up over time. Mainly, in that he's gotten off the fence more frequently and made his own dissatisfaction with the state of things clear, rather than equivocating in the name of objectivity all the time. Anyway, I'm going to swipe on of his posts in its entirety, since it just about sums up the way so many progressives feel about this election.

TORCHES AND PITCHFORKS....Joe Klein on the GOP's attempt to play that old time gospel one more time:

Maybe I'm getting old, maybe it's that I've seen this act so often before, maybe it's that the people I talk to when I go out on the road really are having a harder time paying for things like health care, gasoline and college tuition, but I'm finding the Republican attempts to derail the conversation from the actual state of the country really depressing and disgraceful this year. They practice Orwellian politics of the crudest sort. They are trying to sell a big lie — that the election is about the social issues of the 1960s, or Barack Obama's patriotism or his eloquence, or the "angry left," when it's really about turning toward a more moderate path after the ideological radicalism and malfeasance of the past eight years.

Hey, when he's right, he's right. And he's right: it's very depressing indeed watching John McCain immolate both himself and the country in yet another raging round of the culture wars solely because he's decided that it's the only way to put John McCain in the Oval Office.

But I don't think it's going to work. The American public isn't going to buy it this time around, and in the end McCain will, once again, have dishonored himself and have nothing to show for it. It's the story of his life.

Of course, Drum is more optimistic than I am. I can't help but think that things can get much, much worse before the people who keep voting these greedy ideologues into office stop voting for the same old lines about atheist/immigrant/Hollywood/Commie/gay/[your bogeymen here!] conspiracies and wake up to the fact that the country is on the brink of multiple crises-- economic, diplomatic, democratic, and environmental-- and that all that cynical flag-waving and Bible-thumping has only served to turn American against American while the GOP carves up the nation into thick, juicy slabs of wealth and power for distribution among themselves.

Of course, I'm basing much of my opinion on conversations I've had with conservative friends and family members. Educated folks all, but still entirely willing to overlook reality and keep on voting GOP.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Reactions to Cousin Oliver's debut

A tiny sample size, but hopefully indicative of the response we'll see nationally when convention-mania dies down.

Republican reaction: "Wow! Once again we see that the GOP can do no wrong!"

Democratic reaction: "Oh, Lord, not again..."

Independent reaction: "I never did like that episode where Greg's hair turns orange."

Actually, here are a few actual reactions from self-described independents:

"She was a Republican novelty act with a sophomoric script."
"She spent little time helping Americans learn who she is."
"I found her barrage of snide remarks and distortions to be a major turn off."
"Her delivery style reminded me of a high school valedictorian who also might have been a cheerleader."

Cousin Oliver 2008

I figured I was pretty much finished with blogging. Life was getting a little too complicated to devote as much time to it as it requires, and confronting the endless stream of horror that is the Bush era was taking its toll.

But the news of the last week has just been a little too much to take. Namely, the rather impressive performances and platform of the Democratic convention being immediately followed by the red meat and circus of the Republican convention.

After an initial feeling of joy at the GOP selection of someone whose background is pure Bushco-style history of failing upward, I quickly remembered the reality of the last two elections. After all, the upward-failing nimrod on those tickets was at the top.

And how did the media react to a complete knucklehead with a habit of openly lying about his own public record? We know the answer to that all too well.

Yes, the Republican convention has been utterly devoid of substance. Not only that-- it's been devoid of anything resembling reality. Mitt Romney's baffling "let's drive the liberals out of power" speech got plenty of applause, Giuliani's stupefying potshots at Obama's "east coast elitism" were well-received, and everyone loves the classic "big-spending, big-government liberal" routine, even though the reality has been the exact opposite for nearly thirty years now. Palin is apparently going to go with the "powerless wealthy white man" ploy. With the ol' twisteroo that she's female, naturally.

So once again, it's going to be issues and policy from progressives, and belligerent nationalism from the right. And our track record isn't too good these days.

What will we get from the media? While there was a refreshingly noteworthy MSM presence in reporting Palin's (largely misrepresented, if not outright falsified) background, the campaign has made its decision: if you ask her about policy, you're sexist. If you ask McCain about policy, you're a traitor. If you ask about the GOP platform, you're an angry extremist. Judging from, say, Peggy Noonan's now-infamous discrepancy between her published opinion of the ticket and what she apparently believes, that will probably be a relief for most lazy journalists. After all, there's nothing easier than writing sappy paeans to veterans and working mothers.

Of course, unless you happen to catch prominent conservative pundits speaking candidly, you're not going to hear that Palin's selection was a cynical gimmick aimed solely at short-term electoral gain. Except on progressive blogs. And we're all drooling radicals.

To get to the above link, I think it's almost poignant how people who blog professionally--for actual money-- can still manage a 'Eureka!' moment when GOP luminaries stand in front of a national audience and lie their socks off. They don't care. Their supporters don't care. Most journalists don't seem to care, and those who do aren't getting any serious exposure.

And one final note on the Noonan affair: something that shocked me in the exchange was (assuming I understand this right) their mutual assertion that the GOP always blows it when they adopt a personality-driven campaign instead of an issue-driven campaign. That might've been the most counter-factual statement of the whole convention.