If It’s Tuesday I Must Be Whining


U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton works from a desk inside a C-17 military plane upon her departure from Malta, in the Mediterranean Sea, bound for Tripoli, Libya, 18 October 2011. (Kevin Lamarque/Associated Press)

Microcosmic: As Rachel Maddow asks Michael Beschloss his opinion on campaign norms―e.g., releasing tax returns―it occurs to me that we are quite possibly witnessing a microiteration of a problematic thumbnail sketch: If achieved, then change standard.

As Maddow asked, what about the future? And that would approximately make sense: Hillary Clinton is about to be elected president of the United States of America. We’ve already decided that everything else in her career is just that much more volatile and alarming and inappropriate than any man who came before her, repeatedly suggesting with each iteration that we will, in fact, attempt to change the rules in order to forestall certain outcomes.

For instance, who remembers the One-Drop Rule? Was there nothing incongruous or untoward about the proposition that we finally laid the One-Drop Rule to rest when Barack Obama was elected? Okay, that’s not fair; we lynched the One-Drop Rule and then put the corpse in whiteface: If Barack Obama is one-drop white, we haven’t yet elected our first black president.

Remind me all you want that it didn’t work; I’ll just shrug and wonder why we bothered trying.

Still, though, if we call off the customary tax return release? It’s easy enough to expect the ritual to survive Donald Trump, but we’ve seen this happen before. No, really, did you know that politicians were never supposed to get paid for public speaking when they weren’t in office? Apparently this has always been the rule, and Hillary Clinton just wasn’t smart enough to know. And since her predecessors didn’t really use the private email systems that they actually did, Secretary Clinton should have known that behaving like her predecessors was forbidden; I mean, it’s not like we suddenly invented this standard that what she did was unacceptable out of thin air just because she’s Hillary freakin’ Clinton, right? It’s not like we didn’t care when it was anyone else and then just decide to care because some scandalmongering political opponents decided to pretend something entirely ahistorical and―you know, since it’s “Her”―well, yeah, why not, sounds great. Sorry, I guess that’s just a distraction, isn’t it? Because while we’re spinning pay for play fancies because transparency means we can, the only reason we don’t care about the idea of pay for play through Colin Powell’s foundation, while he was Secretary of State, is because he’s Colin Powell, not Hillary Clinton, so that sort of thing could never, ever happen.

Nor is it just about girls, though it’s true in this case it kind of is. But the underlying principle of schoolyard socialization dynamics includes a function whereby a bellwether among the despised might achieve a threshold of respectability, and the communal response is to alter the threshold in order to maintain exclusion. That is to say, some kids will simply never be allowed by their peers to be cool; it’s a general bully principle, because without it the list of people bullies are allowed to treat poorly pretty much crumbles to dust in the wind.

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Image note: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton works from a desk inside a C-17 military plane 18 October 2011. (Kevin Lamarque/Associated Press)

Maddow, Rachel. “Historic debate could reset campaign norms”. msnbc. 27 September 2016.

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Everybody Say, “Thank You, Samsung!”


So it would seem the White House is considering the prohibition on “selfie” photos with President Obama. Before anyone gets their dander up at the evil White House occupied by the Black Man, let us be clear:

Ortiz-Obama selfieThe White House may prohibit selfies with President Obama, a top adviser said on Sunday.

Speaking on CBS’ Face The Nation, Dan Pfeiffer said that the president didn’t know the photo he took with Red Sox star David Ortiz was part of a Samsung promotion.

“Someone who uses the President’s likeness to promote a product… that’s a problem,” he said. “Maybe this will be the end of all selfies.”

The selfie controversy began after Obama took a fun photo with Big Papi. The image quickly went viral, receiving over 45,000 retweets and more than 48,000 favorites on Twitter. Samsung later announced that it was all an orchestrated PR stunt.

(Horowitz)

So, yeah. Everybody say, “Thank you, Samsung!”

Capitalism: This is why we can’t have nice things.

Oh, right. Also make sure to thank the Boston Red Sox for their part in this. David Ortiz can go screw himself. Then again, he’s rich enough to hire someone else to screw.

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Horowitz, Alana. “White House May Prohibit Selfies With Obama”. The Huffington Post. April 5, 2014.

And So Can They?


Every once in a while, I see a—oh, right. Sorry. Wrong song.

Through the Looking GlassIt is the sort of thing that can actually make me paranoid. Well, kind of. But when you feel that milhouse moment, when the slightest breath of air will shatter the looking glass—or, such as it is, when you finally expect that Rachel Maddow will break character and, at long last, say, “Nah, I’m just fuckin’ wit’cha.”

† † †

(Transcript to come, I suppose; and maybe a screengrab when I figure out how badly I broke everything installing KDE Plasma. Yeah. Too bad about that.)

A Note on Future Presidents


It will take me a while to find a copy of the decades-old Doonesbury strip that leaps to mind, though I’m thinking it was the late Jerald terHorst and the long-running joke about future presidents.

Rep. Peter T. King accused President Barack Obama of “undermining the authority of future presidents” to engage in military action in a scathing statement issued following Obama’s Rose Garden speech Saturday.Rep. Peter King (R-NY)

Obama said he would seek an authorization for the use of military force against the Syrian regime in response to the widely-reported use of chemical weapons, but King, a New York Republican and former chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, blasted that move.

“President Obama is abdicating his responsibility as commander-in-chief and undermining the authority of future presidents. The President does not need Congress to authorize a strike on Syria. If Assad’s use of chemical weapons against civilians deserves a military response, and I believe it does, and if the President is seeking congressional approval, then he should call Congress back into a special session at the earliest date,” King said in a statement. “The President doesn’t need 535 Members of Congress to enforce his own redline.”

(Lesniewski)

It is not that we are unfamiliar with the defense of future presidents and presidencies, but this is something of a twist.

Some Things Really Are That Obvious


Demolecularizing governmentOne of the curious things about the American political discourse is that two roads running in fairly opposite directions are somehow expected to meet up again after some mysterious number of miles have passed.

Consider it in other terms. A job interview? Why would you hire the candidate who says the job he’s applying for is useless and can do no good?

A product salesman? Would you really buy the product if the salesman insisted that it didn’t work and wasn’t worth the money?

I think of Homer Simpson: “I kicked a giant mouse in the butt! Do I have to draw you a diagram?” That is to say, it shouldn’t require a cartoon to help people figure this out. Some things really are that obvious.

Today in Talking Points


Tom Tomorrow, ca. 1997It’s almost like connect the dots. Of course, that’s why they’re called “talking points”:

  • Politico covers the latest conservative argument, that wealth and conscience don’t mix.
  • Steve Benen explains the obvious about that argument.
  • And Tom Tomorrow dusts fourteen years off an old cartoon, for obvious reasons.
  • Meanwhile, Rob Goodman hopes to intellectually validate equal criticism against all political players, the feelgood fallacy also known as “both sides do it”.
  • And why not get some election coverage from Karl Frisch, a Democratic strategist trying to explain what’s wrong with Republicans.
  • If that doesn’t do it for you, try the latest Obama-hates-Christians “war on Christmas” lament. (At least it’s not as mortifying as Rush Limbaugh’s astonishing defense of the Lord’s Resistance Army.)

Or, it’s just another day in the life. Something about decadence. Something about the fall of Rome. Something about what we do with what we are given.

    Let me say this is as clearly and as simply as I can: Republicans did not overreach. What they did is who they are. It is what they stand for. It is what they campaign on.

    To claim otherwise would be like saying fish live under water because they suffer from unquenchable thirst.

    Karl Frisch

Juxtapositions


David Horsey - August 24, 2011Juxtapositions are often fun. Dramatic sarcasm, all sorts of punch lines. It does help, though, if the pairings are not arbitrary.

So let’s give it a try.

David Horsey, the Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist for SeattlePI.com, considered yesterday the domestic politics of the American role in Libya. And while the article actually is quite interesting, part of his advice for liberals struck me as odd:

… the vision of neo-cons like Paul Wolfowitz was not as wrongheaded as many on the left contend. In the 1990s, Wolfowitz and others in conservative think tanks developed their own domino theory: a move toward democracy in one Arab country would lead to a toppling of dictators in many Arab countries. Yes, trumped up excuses were used to justify the Iraq War in an attempt to start the dominoes falling, but that does not change the reality that the theory has proven to be correct.

The idea of a domino effect is not in itself absurd, that much is true. But Wolfowitz, PNAC, and other neoconservative hawks pushed for a belligerent imperium; the idea that the United States could foment this change through belligerent agitation of the Muslim world is a bit less clear. Indeed, the proposition at least equally risked increasing anti-American sentiments not only in those nations, but also at home and around the world.

We might, then, juxtapose Horsey’s proposition against a certain other notion—that the Arab Spring came about in large part because of economics. In April, the Financial Times opined:

The fundamental dysfunction of Arab countries is that of the rentier state. In oil- and gas-rich countries, natural resources return far more than it costs to extract them. Capturing and controlling this surplus – economic rent – is the chief source of enrichment, hence both the means and the end of power. Meanwhile the tragedy of resource-poor Arab countries is that they create rent artificially when nature has given them none. Monopolies, regulation and bullying all serve to limit access to productive activity, which generates fantastic rewards for a favoured few at the cost of holding back whole nations.

Whatever the source of the rent, the rentier economy is a vicious cycle in which the concentration of economic opportunity and that of political power fuel one another. This is why dignity and livelihood are inseparable in the demands of the excluded Arab majorities that have finally raised their voice. It is also why the political revolutions across the region will succeed only if matched by economic transformations. Even as Egypt and Tunisia grope for political transitions, the economic challenge is urgent.

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