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November 6, 2006

Return to Baracks. That's an order.

I need to read The Nation online more often. It always cheers me up when I do. Unaccountably, I missed this gem last month from Sam "I Am" Graham Felsen:
Mark Warner tried hard to build a youth constituency for a possible '08 bid. He was one of the first politicians to create a full-fledged Facebook profile.... Despite all the effort, Warner--who declared he's no longer running last week--never really caught on with Generation Y.

Meanwhile, Barack Obama, who had done virtually nothing (until now) to directly court young people, has developed vast youth following. I counted nearly thirty Facebook groups, many ranging from hundreds to several thousand members, which explicitly called for Obama to run for President in 2008. There were almost twenty other pro-Obama groups with titles such as "Barack Obama is Amazing," "Barack Obama is My Only Hope," and "Barack Obama Can Ba-Rock Me Anytime."

I did a search for pro-Hillary in '08 groups and found a dozen or so, but I found many more groups urging Hillary not to run or openly opposing her....

Coincidence or not, days after Warner dropped out, Obama began using his Facebook profile to reach out to young people--creating two "notes," or Facebook announcements in the past two days, urging his followers to vote in the '06 elections and watch him on Oprah and YouTube.

My hat's off to Facebook for its signal un-enthusiasm about that arch-Boomer, Hillary Clinton. But at the same time, the pathos of this piece -- Sam the Sham Graham getting morning wood over Barack Obama's Facebook position. This is sad, sad stuff. I know, it's brutal to subject you to any more of it -- it's cringe comedy, like The Office or Curb Your Enthusiasm -- but I can't resist:
One thing is clear: if Obama decides to run, he will have a tremendous base in young people. Obama would likely draw an unprecedented number of new young voters to the polls, and he would amass a huge volunteer core (one that would make the Deaniacs look like the Teeniacs).

As far as I can tell, he is by far the political superstar of the moment---and perhaps ever---for Generation Y.

*returns from vomitorium, wiping lips* Glass of water, somebody -- ahh, thanks.

Generation Y? Aren't we into the the Greek letters by now, or even the Hebrew alphabet -- the aleph-null generation?

I fear the source of Sammie's enthusiasm is all too clear. He doesn't give a hoot what Barack has to say, or what he will or won't do. What gets Sammie's pulse pounding is the idea that Barack might actually bring some of these fresh-faced Generation-Upsilon delinquents trotting back up the ramp into the Democratic Party's abattoir.

Oh, fresh blood! It's been so long!

December 7, 2006


J Alva Scruggs writes:
Matt Stoller runs down a list of excellent reasons why a small "d" democrat and a gate-crashing, netroots, big swinging "D" Democrat would never want an Obama candidacy. Then he concludes that he'll support him.

I can't read this stuff without feeling a need to start gesticulating wildly and screaming, "of course! Of course that's why we'll support him! It's the antithetical, stupid!".

Obama cult

Reechard writes:
Democratic Underground, pwog blogging's squeaky Hervé Villechaize to KOS's Ricardo Montalban, has opened a special Barack Obama section. Membership in this shrine to the man of the people is, however, a tad restricted. As the site owner explains, even dues-paying at "DU" is no pass unless the heart itself prove pure:
"The mission of the Barack Obama Group is to discuss this rising star in the Democratic Party and to share news and information about his life, career and political future. DUers who are supporters of Senator Obama for President, or have a positive view of the Senator and are open to an Obama candidacy in 2008 are welcome."
All others to the back of the bus.

February 11, 2007

Semi-sweet chocolate

You all probably read this piece by Glen Ford already, but it's solid and worth repeat notice: the nation turns its hungry eyes toward a chocolate-covered statesman --

Yes, Obama plays rocket man for The Man, a real corporate media meteor arching across the political skies, lifting heads and minds from our 24/7 mud-blood-and-beer circus minimus down here below.

My favorite bit:

And what do African Americans get out of the deal? Far less than nothing. By assisting white Americans to believe that painless absolution of collective responsibility for the past and current national sins can be achieved by looking kindly on an ingratiating Black man's presidential candidacy, Obama has become an active participant in the Great Diversion. He repeatedly reinforces the notion that noisy “partisan politics” is what’s wrong with America, rather than rapacious corporations, structural and overt racism, and rampaging militarism.
Pretty hard to improve on that.

All deliberate speed

Driving to my little shop of sleepy horrors this morning, don't I hear a sound bite by Barack Obama, our choco-lite saviour from the land of Stephen Douglas. (Yeah, it was on NPR News, so I have no one but myself to blame.)

Apropos the Iraq-upation: "We need to be as careful getting out as we were careless getting in."

It's a perfect humanist empire phrase, isn't it? The obvious response from the anti-empire side: But Obie -- it's really not our call, is it? It's the Iraqi people's call; and if -- as I'm sure is the case -- they want us to scram, then we just oughta scram. Anything else -- in particular, staying solely for "their own good" and solely at our own expense, 'cause we owe it to them to... do the right thing. Even if it's thankless! Even if the world will revile us!

Bullshit, Obie.

We are home invaders there, not foster parents. If there's domestic abuse there now -- and even if there'll be way way more after we leave -- well, that tragedy of choice will still be on our heads, and the only thing we can do by staying is make it worse.

We owe Iraq reparations, not armed mediation, not a donkey-infested, responsible, humanely-motivated, open-ended bloodletting.

Any further Uncle Sam brutality, any further occupation, is a second round of criminality. And it's even worse than the first round, because at this point, nobody can deploy that scanty fig-leaf of innocence, "we wuz lied to." Everybody knows what's what in Iraq now, and nobody can pretend not to, and every day's new tally of dead and maimed lies right at the door of the people who want to be "careful getting out."

February 28, 2007

Icebergs ahead (again) for the Great Coalition?

If, as Toni Morrison once famously, and fatuously said, Bill Clinton was "our first black president," it's starting to look as though Hillary may not be our second -- at least, if black folks have anything to say about it:

Among the Democrats, Clinton still leads, but by less of a margin than last month, given a seven-point gain in support for Barack Obama. His advance has come overwhelmingly among African-Americans, many of whom likely have learned more about Obama in recent news coverage.

Clinton's support, meanwhile, slipped by five points. The reason, again, is entirely blacks. In ABC/Post polls in December and January, she led Obama among African-Americans by 60-20 percent. Today it's a 44-30 percent race among blacks, with Obama in front.

This could get interesting if blacks rally behind Obama, since as noted here yesterday, the Israel lobby doesn't so far like him one little bit. Dare we hope for some delightful fireworks on this one? The phoney Dembo story line of a harmonious Great Coalition between American blacks and Israeli ethnic cleansers might fall embarrassingly apart again -- and wouldn't that be fun!

Naah, don't get your hopes up, Smith. Barack will make the necessary obeisances, surely, and get himself certified kosher by our favorite cluster-bomb customer. Or Hillary will find a way to take him out before he can cause too much trouble. Or maybe the whole story is a Triangle Productions film from start to finish, in which everybody knows their lines already, and whose leaden denouement is a Clinton-Obama ticket.

Obama, da Bomb-ah

For what it's worth... it's already over. Obama is the Dem nominee. Any fool can see that Mother Clinton is all but embalmed, like that sad Jayne Mansfield the 16th on the slab down in Florida.

Nope, the race is over, and as often happens, the wiry, intense black dude took first place. Oby-wan has the black vote swinging behind him, and what has St Hill got left but the troops of Fort Zion? And there's no particular reason for them to stick with her, either -- like the Bedouins they enjoy chasing around the wadis, the Zion cavalry will gallop to the oasis with the sweetest water. Lose your donors, lose your chance.

I wonder if she'll even wait to be Muskieed (a la '72) and Humphreyed (a la '60) all at once, in the first spasm of prima-caucal action? Yeah, I think she prolly will, even if she don't need a beating like that. She'll charge into it, get the full robo-soak, and probably not take it well either -- "I guess you'll have mo more Hill-Rod to fuck around with anymore, will ya, guys?"

She won't take the vice gig. She'll be hoping, with some reason, that the drawn booth curtain will Al-Smith the dark-skinned chap, and 12 is her lucky number, anyway.

So who else can veep it? Will the higher wisdom of the party of the people, the whole people, and nothing like the people go full scramble and anoint... Pelosi?! Or pull back to Clark?

Oby-Clark looks like the better bet to me -- keep a mean snake-head cracker lookin' in over Oby's left shoulder, while Wall Street Bobby Rubin keeps a half nelson on the black guy's signing arm.

And there it is, fellow citizens: our land of mile-wide, inch-deep symbolic gestures, with this one nomination, can put paid to the black blood debt. And if the half-African meritoid actually gets Whitehoused to pilot the invisible earth empire -- well then, the tables will be turned, and black folks will owe us big-hearted Caucasians a debt they can never hope to repay.

March 4, 2007

Clash of the... midgets

After the Hollywood donor dust-up, now there's the sensation in Selma over the black base vote -- all this worthy of the corny, mirthfully ironic hyper-hype that the greatest of them all, Mohammed Ali, put behind his title bouts.

Here mother Clinton and brother Obama make simultaneous dueling speeches over the 42d anniversary of the most televised cracker cop clubfest ever, in Selma Alabama, March '65.

The deal went down in stages: Obama first and foremost, giving the key speech where the various surviving participants will gather. Among other delights, it's church vs church -- black Baptist venue against Afro-Methodist venue. And even more delightful, Obama gets the prestigious Methodie forum, while Hil has to slum it among the Baptists. The bridge crossing re-enactment will be the scene of the two mighty forces merging in ruffled waters -- all for the sake of the suddenly contested and valuable black vote.

Clinton comes off much the more shameless -- and desperate. The best part is that they decided at the last minute to wheel Bill in -- Bill! -- to accept some sort of civil-rights award. Bill! The man who pulled the switch on Rickie Ray Rector, and contributed the phrase "Sister Souljah moment" to our political lexicon.

If he's the best ma C. can do to appeal to the black electorate, she's in some kinda trouble.

Barack kisses the ring

I predicted here a few days ago that Barack Obama would soon find a way to make his obeisance to the Israel lobby, and I was vindicated sooner than usual. Barack appeared before a regional conference of AIPAC and laid it on thick. He spoke with his usual facile lyricism of a trip to what he called the "Holy Land":
I flew on an [Israeli military] helicopter to the border zone. The helicopter took us over the most troubled and dangerous areas and that narrow strip between the West Bank and the Mediterranean Sea. At that height, I could see ... how close everything is and why peace through security is the only way for Israel.

Our helicopter landed in the town of Kiryat Shmona on the border. What struck me first about the village was how familiar it looked. The houses and streets looked like ones you might find in a suburb in America.... Then, I saw a house that had been hit with one of Hezbollah's Katyusha rockets.

Barack is very good with code words. Kiryat Shemona is a town on the Lebanese border -- a town built on the ruins of an Arab village named Halsa. The present town, whose name means "city of the Eight," refers to a group of Jabotinskyite adventurers, including the fairly well-known Josef Trumpeldor, who were killed in 1920 after attempting to take possession of another border town called Tel Hai. They seem to have believed that eight resolute Zionists would suffice against what Trumpledor's ideological comrades called the "Arab horde."

In this case, as in more recent ones in the same region, they were mistaken. Halsa, from which the "hordes" who overran Trumpeldor and his comrades came, conveniently became "abandoned" later, and Kiryat Shemona now stands above its buried ruins. It is a bit of a tourist destination for Israelis; there's a toboggan run, and a chairlift up into the nearby mountains.

Kiryat Shemona was a bloody shirt for the late Menachem Begin. "Nooooo more Katyushas over Kiryat Shemona," he used to declaim to the wild cheers of his followers. This oratory, of course, paved the way for the Lebanon invasion of 1982.

You've got to give Barack credit. "Kiryat Shemona" before an AIPAC audience is red meat indeed; it's like talking to Serbs about the Field of Blackbirds. Of course exoteric ears would not, perhaps, quite grasp what signal was being sent here. They would probably just think he'd picked some town at random. But Barack, I daresay, does nothing at random.

He went on to talk about Iran:

...we should take no option, including military action, off the table.... Iranian nuclear weapons would destabilize the region and could set off a new arms race. Some nations in the region, such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, could fall away from restraint and rush into a nuclear contest that could fuel greater instability in the region—that's not just bad for the Middle East, but bad for the world, making it a vastly more dangerous and unpredictable place. Other nations would feel great pressure to accommodate Iranian demands. Terrorist groups with Iran's backing would feel emboldened to act even more brazenly under an Iranian nuclear umbrella. And as the A.Q. Kahn network in Pakistan demonstrated, Iran could spread this technology around the world.
Here's his take on last summer's jolly little war:
... when Israel is attacked, we must stand up for Israel's legitimate right to defend itself. Last summer, Hezbollah attacked Israel. By using Lebanon as an outpost for terrorism, and innocent people as shields, Hezbollah has also engulfed that entire nation in violence and conflict....
Oh, and don't forget to send money:
...we must preserve our total commitment to our unique defense relationship with Israel by fully funding military assistance and continuing work on the Arrow and related missile defense programs. This would help Israel maintain its military edge and deter and repel attacks from as far as Tehran and as close as Gaza.
All in all, a more polished performance than John Edwards' recent pole-dance for the same outfit; but that's the difference between a high-class whore and a Tenth Avenue streetwalker.

March 14, 2007

The poor ain't so bad

Remember Mel Brooks as Louis XVI in History Of The World, Part I?

[Rimbaud's father has been thrown in prison for making an offhand remark at a party]
King Louis XVI: What did he say?
Mademoiselle Rimbaud: He said, "the poor ain't so bad."
King Louis XVI: [shocked] What a thing to say! "The poor ain't so bad!" Huh, you're lucky he's still alive!

Barack Obama encountered just such a Brooksian reception at AIPAC, according to the Times:

Less experienced than Mrs. Clinton in the thicket of Jewish and Middle Eastern politics, he became a bit tangled in the eyes of some.... Several... conferencegoers said they were concerned by Mr. Obama’s remark Sunday in Iowa where, in a reference to the Middle East, he said, “Nobody is suffering more than the Palestinian people.”

.... Mr. Obama has said in the past that both Israelis and Palestinians had “suffered” because of the lack of a peace agreement, and a spokesman said on Tuesday that Mr. Obama believed “the security of Israel should be America’s starting point in the Middle East.” Yet by singling out Palestinian suffering on Sunday, Mr. Obama could be tempting fate....

“Awarding first place in the suffering matrix is odious and infelicitous,” said Rabbi Steven Silver... “I think a lot of Americans would find that comment offensive, too.”

The extravagant hair-tearing rhetoric of Israel fans is a never-failing source of delight -- not just odious, but infelicitous! Perhaps Rabbi Silver is a descendant of Dogberry*?

If so, his son appears to have missed the hysteron-proteron gene. At least as quoted by the Times, Silver fils' comments are a bit more coherent and composed:

Mr. Silver’s son, Jesse, a college student who supports Mrs. Clinton, said he was spreading the word at the conference about Mr. Obama’s remark.

“It’s just clumsy of him to say that on the eve of the Aipac conference,” Jesse Silver said. “His inexperience is showing.”

"Inexperience," it seems, is the official line here, articulated by young Jesse Silver and duly echoed by the Newspaper of Record. Personally, I wonder. If my esteemed colleague Mr Owen Paine is correct and Obama has already got the nomination sewn up, maybe he has concluded that he doesn't need to pander to AIPAC at quite the historically mandated level. Is this another straw in the wind? Has the Lobby peaked?

*"Masters, it is proved already that you are little better than false knaves; and it will go near to be thought so shortly."

March 28, 2007

High concept
Silicon Valley Not So Sure of This Clinton
Concerned About Senator's Leanings, Some of Her Husband's Supporters Defect to Obama

SUNNYVALE, Calif. -- For a woman striving to shatter the ultimate glass ceiling, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is getting a surprising rap among some here in Silicon Valley: "old-guard." This is Clinton-Gore country -- or it was once. Now, several of former President Bill Clinton's earliest and biggest fund-raisers -- such as Sandy Robertson, founder of investment bank Robertson Stephens and a partner at technology buyout firm Francisco Partners; and Steve Westly, an ex-eBay Inc. executive and former controller for California -- have defected to Illinois Sen. Barack Obama. Others, including venture-capitalist John Doerr and Apple Inc. boss Steve Jobs, are staying conspicuously neutral, possibly waiting to see if their friend Al Gore enters the race.

"Barack Obama may just be the man of our times," says Mr. Robertson, one of President Clinton's largest fund-raisers throughout the 1990s.... Up the highway in San Francisco, Sen. Clinton enjoys backing from traditional Democratic donors like real-estate magnate Walter Shorenstein and Susie Tompkins Buell, co-founder of clothing retailer Esprit de Corp.

But here and in places like Hollywood and Wall Street, Sen. Clinton appears to be having problems matching Sen. Obama's success at connecting with newly wealthy younger people -- a potential pitfall for her as the candidates enter the final week of fund-raising for the first quarter.

Some of Silicon Valley's business-minded Democrats, citing health-care proposals Sen. Clinton made while first lady, worry she is too ideological and would govern from the left.

Jeez, that's a good one, isn't it?
"Silicon Valley invests in high-powered intellects who are effective at bringing big new ideas to market," says Frederick Baron, a lawyer and Obama fund-raiser who spent two years in the Clinton Justice Department. "In the lexicon of high tech, Barack Obama is the next-generation solution."

Sen. Obama is particularly popular among techies under age 35, a largely untapped market for political cash. Organizers say about a quarter of the 700 guests at a recent $1,000-a-plate fund-raiser for the 45-year-old senator were under 35. "It's exciting to see a candidate younger than our parents," says 23-year-old Joe Green, an Internet entrepreneur who brought 10 friends to the event

These California guys are surprisingly easy to excite. They need to get out more.

But of course the guys, being guys, are hopeless by definition. Giddy, metrosexual flibbertygibbets, every man Jack of 'em. The girls are a lot more solid. The bourgeois virtues have been, it seems, re-gendered:

[Hillary] is building her own Silicon Valley network, led by the growing ranks of women executives at technology companies, supporters say. "Hillary's been in or near public service for 20 or 30 years; that kind of experience is important for running a country," says Sheryl Sandberg, a senior Google Inc. executive and Clinton campaign fund-raiser, who was chief of staff for former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers.
That must be a hell of a girl. She worked for Larrry "chicks-don't-get-science" Summers? My hat's off to her, and not just because I'm a Southern gentleman.
Many Silicon Valley Democrats say they had hoped former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner would enter the race. A Southern moderate, he earned his fortune investing in cellular phone companies. But when he and another favored centrist, Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh, decided not to run -- and Sen. Obama went for it -- "the real movers in political fund raising suddenly rallied to Obama," says Mr. Baron, the Silicon Valley lawyer and a veteran political bundler.

... Sen. Obama's supporters acknowledge their candidate is largely untested on policy matters, and there is no certainty that he would be more conservative than Sen. Clinton on health care, tort reform or fiscal policy. It is his persona, they say, that is generating excitement.

"No one's calling me about Barack's stands on business or tech issues," says John Roos, the Obama point man in Silicon Valley and chief executive of the law firm Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati....

Sen. Clinton's supporters say the attraction is sure to wear thin. They also say the former first lady has gotten a bum rap as an old-guard liberal. "She was far less of a policy person than people think," says David Barram, a former chief financial officer of Apple and senior Clinton administration official.

I think Brother Paine may be on to something. Hillary. She's just so... played. To borrow an expression as dated as Hillary herself.

April 19, 2007

Obama's econo-ghoul

Meet Barak Obama's economist Austan Goolsbee:

He's Robert P. Gwinn Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago (I think he's really in the B-school), and according to the DLC's own web site, he's also "a senior economist with the Democratic Leadership Council and Progressive Policy Institute". As if that's not enough fruit salad for his chest, he's also a columnist for the NYT biz section.

He's just what the label and brand implies -- a dry 8-inch DLC cork for Uncle's budget bottle. I bet he's a parson's son like Dean Acheson. He even looks like a loan officer.

But I'm here to tell ya, he's up to date. This cuss loves the new mortgage market. Maybe he looks like he'd say "Sorry, Mr Chubb, we can't loan you that today. Why don't you go home and save your pennies and maybe come back when you can put down a real down payment?" (Imagine staring at that Adam's apple bobbing away as he says this.)

But he really don't say stuff like that, not about householders. Nope, he believes "Mr Chubb, you're going somewhere! So here's the loan you requested, and here's 20% more! Buy yourself some business suits, and the wife a new car!"

You see, the new "supply-side" trick play in town is not to cut top tax rates, and load the diff on payroll. Nope, among the banker progs that inform guys like Oby and the Kerry tree, the watchword is to raise middle America's debt nut.

I call it the peonage effect. Get the nut up to the max based on potential future earnings. That's right, chain these raw recruits to the corporate monkey bars for life. When you owe, baby, and all you got to sell is yourself and the domestic partner.... Debt will make 'em climb faster, even as the ladder slides out from under 'em.

But Uncle's borrowing? Well, pard, that is an entirely different story. Deficits incurred to increase social spending only makes life too easy for the jobless. Now if you tax-extract it from payroll.... that's different.

Get a sense of this porcupine? Here for your day's punishment is an article (or something like an article) he scrawled for the DLC last year:

Message: the growing household wealth gap is the reward of virtuous savings and investing habits.

The main reason the capital gap has been widening -- aside from the effects of the recent tax cuts -- is that higher-income people have higher savings rates and a much higher likelihood of owning high-return investments, such as stocks and other forms of equity capital. For example, while just over half of the middle class has a retirement account, almost 90 percent of the top group does.

May 3, 2007

Not just a Sister Souljah moment....

... poor Barack Obama seems committed to a whole life of sister-souljah'ing, 24/7:

Obama Reaches Out With Tough Love
Candidate Says Criticism of Black America Reflects Its Private Concerns

Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) is delivering pointed critiques of the African American community as he campaigns for its votes, lamenting that many of his generation are "disenfranchising" themselves because they don't vote, taking rappers to task for their language, and decrying "anti-intellectualism" in the black community, including black children telling peers who get good grades that they are "acting white."

"Anti-intellectualism!" That's rich, isn't it, from a key cog in the great foundry of stultification that is the Democratic Party. And the poor man is so empty of ideas, and so unable to talk about anything real, that he has to campaign against racy language. To think that the party of Jackson has become the party of Seth Pecksniff.

December 13, 2007

Talkin' 'bout my generation

Lakshmi Chaudhry has made me tilt:

I'm for Project Obama now in the race for the White House. And why?

'Cause mother Clinton and the rest of the whole sick crew are all boomers -- except Obama. He's an X-onian!

January 4, 2008

It looks like... like...

Parsing Barack triumphator:

In a 1200-word speech, he used the word 'change' six times -- once every 200 words, on average; like the tolling of a tinny, cracked bell. He said 'belief' or 'believe' five times. He said 'hope' eight times -- hey, it worked for old Bill. 'Mother' only appeared once, mercifully, and apple pie, in our weight-watching world, not at all.

I missed it. I could have used a slice of pie. Or perhaps a substantial slug of Scotch.

As with Barack's speech at the 2004 Dem convention -- the speech that launched his career -- people are in ecstasies. I can only wonder why. Barack's magic -- like Bill's -- simply doesn't touch me at all. I don't hear the music. I have no personal, empathic sense whatsoever how anybody could possibly see anything in either of these sentimental, platitudinous, pasteboard windbags.

I remember asking people back in '04, But what did Barack say? Nobody could remember. What they remembered was being inspired, uplifted. It was, I guess, some kind of a heartwarming, Frank Capra thing. (To tell the truth, Capra leaves me pretty cold too.)

Concretely, there are, maybe, two conclusions we can draw from Barack's Iowa victory:

1) A lot of people find Hillary so nauseating that they're looking for an un-Hillary. That's the good news, as far as it goes.

2) Barack's very blankness is the secret of his success. This is, of course, the bad news. His manner is so bland and unthreatening, his rhetoric so vacuous and unmeaning, that it's easy for people who want to believe to hear him saying whatever they need him to say. He's like a particularly multivalent and unsuggestive Rorschach blot -- you can see in it whatever you like: a bird, a bat, Jack Kennedy.

They used to say that you can't beat something with nothing, but perhaps that has changed. Perhaps Nothing is finally going to come into its own -- all the Somethings are so revolting that only Nothing has a prayer. Can we look forward to the Seinfeld presidency? It's about... Nothing!

There's another angle, though, and it has to do with the cognitive limitations of people addicted to the Democratic Party. They can't acknowledge, or haven't figured out, what they're really up against, so of course they are not dissatisfied with Barack for avoiding what they too would rather avoid, or perhaps have never even understood.

But they are dissatisfied with what actually is. So what do they want? Change! From what to what? O do not ask what is it!

And they want to believe! They want to believe because belief, you know, is quite a trip, but experience, that killjoy par excellence, is always trying to spoil the fun.

And there is Barack, whose admirably disciplined speechwriters have figured out that their 'umble job is simply to construct an unobtrusive syntactic armature on which to hang a half-dozen or so repetitions of the key, focus-group-positive words: Change. Belief. Hope.

If religion is the opiate of the masses, then the Democratic Party is the methadone of those who have learned to use a Web browser.

January 5, 2008


The Times this morning, trying to understand the Obama-phenoma, offers this angle:

Daring to Believe, Blacks Savor Obama Victory

For Sadou Brown in a Los Angeles suburb, the decisive victory of Senator Barack Obama in Iowa was a moment to show his 14-year-old son what is possible....

For Milton Washington in Harlem, it looked like the beginning of something he never thought that he would see. “It was like, ‘Oh, my God, we’re on the cusp of something big about to happen,’ ” Mr. Washington said.

Surely it's more like the cusp of something big -- very big -- that has happened?

The leading contenders for the Democratic nomination are a man with visible African ancestry, and a woman. Now if you're Rip van Winkle, and you've been asleep for the past fifty years, this is big news.

For those of us who have been awake, however, the gender and skin color of the candidates belong in a small-type footnote. Or ought to. The only reason anybody is hoo-ha'ing about Barack's nice light-brown skin or Hillary's ovaries is simply that there is nothing else to cite in favor of either of these palookas.

The Obama candidacy shows us something, to be sure, but so did the OJ Simpson verdict. In the awful old world of Jim Crow, an innocent black guy could easily get lynched. In the modern world, a guilty black guy, if he's rich enough, has the same chance a guilty rich white guy has of escaping justice. And why not? Seriously. If Klaus von Bulow can escape, why not OJ? It's definitely an improvement, as far as it goes.

And it's getting to be an equal-opportunity world for women too. No longer are ethnic cleaning and mass murder occupations reserved for the male of the species. You have your Golda Meirs, your Jeane Kirkpatricks, your Madeleine Albrights -- not to mention your Condi Rices, a real twofer in the crimes-against-humanity sector.

I don't mean to compare Barack, as a person, with OJ. Barack seems much superior, qua human specimen -- though it must be said that if he reaches the White House, and does what Democrats have always done there, he'll kill a lot more people than OJ ever did.

January 6, 2008

Obama Caesar on the legions' missions

Doug Henwood, he of the long memory and the gimlet eye, posted on lbo-talk today a wonderful piece by arch-reactionary Robert Kagan about a speech Barack gave back in April to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs (a funny-sounding organization to a guy who once lived in Chicago):
Washington Post - April 29, 2007

Obama the Interventionist
By Robert Kagan

America must "lead the world in battling immediate evils and promoting the ultimate good." ....

Obama's speech at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs last week was pure John Kennedy, without a trace of John Mearsheimer. It had a deliberate New Frontier feel, including some Kennedy-era references ("we were Berliners") and even the Cold War-era notion that the United States is the "leader of the free world." ... Personally, I like it.

.... His critique is not that we've meddled too much but that we haven't meddled enough. There is more to building democracy than "deposing a dictator and setting up a ballot box." We must build societies with "a strong legislature, an independent judiciary, the rule of law, a vibrant civil society, a free press, and an honest police force." ... Obama proposes to double annual expenditures on these efforts, to $50 billion, by 2012.

... Obama wants to increase defense spending. He wants to add 65,000 troops to the Army and recruit 27,000 more Marines. Why? To fight terrorism.

He wants the American military to "stay on the offense, from Djibouti to Kandahar," and he believes that "the ability to put boots on the ground will be critical in eliminating the shadowy terrorist networks we now face."

"Boots on the ground"! Wow! That is the classic DLC touchstone.

The whole delightful thing:

January 19, 2008

First time as farce, second time not funny at all

Mike Flugennock writes:
I'm surprised you aren't riffing on Barack Obombirana declaring his love for Ronald Reagan. I feel another cartoon coming on...something about a black dude with a big, slick, uniformly Superman-colored pompadour.

"Obama, in his interview with the Reno Gazette-Journal's editorial board, made the case that his movement is as much about a national moment as about him as a "singular" individual, and he drew a rather odd analogy for a Democrat: Ronald Reagan.

'Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not, and a way that Bill Clinton did not,' he said, describing Reagan as appealing to a sentiment that, 'We want clarity, we want optimism, we want a return to that sense of dynamism and entrepreneurship that had been missing.'"

Yeah, he changed the trajectory, alright -- from an Apollo 11 trajectory to a Challenger trajectory.
"Entrepreneurship" is particularly good. This is the Great Black Hope?

Hillary, like George Washington Plunkitt, seen her opportunities and took 'em, to raise the pulse rate of the sclerotic Party faithful. It's primary season, after all. Doesn't Barack know enough to save that stuff for the general election?

[from The Note]

Clinton is attacking Obama for his comment that "the Republicans were the party of ideas for a pretty long chunk of time there." Said Clinton on Friday: "That's not the way I remember the last ten to fifteen years. I don't think it's a better idea to privatize social security. I don't think it's a better idea to try to eliminate the minimum wage."

January 28, 2008


Thus Toni Morrison on the Great Light-Brown Hope:

This letter represents a first for me--a public endorsement of a Presidential candidate.

In thinking carefully about the strengths of the candidates, I stunned myself when I came to the following conclusion: that in addition to keen intelligence, integrity and a rare authenticity, you exhibit something that has nothing to do with age, experience, race or gender and something I don't see in other candidates. That something is a creative imagination which coupled with brilliance equals wisdom.

She "stunned herself"? What an image. If only she had stayed stunned for awhile. Alas, she seems to have awakened quickly and started scribbling again.

Let us recall that this is the same genius who said Bill Clinton was our first black president. One wonders whether Ricky Ray Rector would concur. Perhaps he would -- the poor soul wasn't very bright. In any case he's dead, thanks to First Black President Clinton, so the question is academic. Let's MoveOn, as they say.

Morrison's letter contains about 500 words. For this we must be grateful. She could have gone on and on. Of those 500 words, 30-odd are variations on the first person pronoun -- I, me, my and so on. I don't know why I notice these things. It's just the kind of guy I am, I guess. They make an impression on me. It's just one aspect of my endlessly interesting life. Have I told you about my grandpa?

But enough about me. What do you think of my opinion of Toni Morrison?

This in-extenso version of Morrison's letter comes to us, drolly enough, through the good graces of one Sam-I-am Graham Felsen, noticed here some time ago as a Nation junior woodchuck who was presciently puffing Obama stock back in November of '06. Apparently Sammy is really on the team now, since his stuff appears on Obama's website:

Hell of a creepy site it is, too. Barack's masthead photo is shot from waist level, always an ominous Great Leader sign, and little Sammie has emulated the master pro virili, except that his smirking imago seems to have been taken with a cell phone.

Here's Sammie:

Why I support Barack Obama: I think Barack Obama is the Bobby Kennedy of my generation. He's the first truly transformational leader I've seen in my lifetime-- the only candidate for people who have been turned off by the process but are dying to re-engage in politics and help change their country.
The Bobby Kennedy of his generation! Well, fair enough -- but geez, haven't we learned anything? And as for "dying a to re-engage" in politics -- well, opportunities for dying are perhaps the only thing that the American political process can really be counted on to offer.

January 31, 2008

Ghidrah vs. Rodan

Clash of the titanobores! Toni Morrison, as noted here earlier, "stunned herself" (nt to mention the rest of us) with fluent but poorly-edited panegyric of Barack; and now comes Maya Angelou...

... emitting some equally embarrassing doggerel for Hillary:

State Package for Hillary Clinton

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.

This is not the first time you have seen Hillary Clinton seemingly at her wits' end, but she has always risen, always risen, don't forget she has always risen....

She declares she wants to see more smiles in the family, more courtesies between men and women, more honesty in the marketplace.... Rise, Hillary.


Read the whole thing, if you haven't eaten seafood recently, here:

Maya, Maya! Call yourself a poet, and you couldn't even keep the ballad stanza going for more than one quatrain? Even I think Hillary has deserved better than that. Two quatrains at least.

Much to enjoy here, but the very best, perhaps, is the notion that Hillary will be a promoter of "courtesy." And well she may, come to think of it -- in the sense that our NYC cops intend when they emblazon the word on their smoked-glass SUVs.

And of course, the idea of Hillary rising "like dust" is perhaps suggestive in ways that Maya didn't intend. Damn dust! Where the hell is that humidifier...?

February 5, 2008

What HAVE they been smoking?

I may have to re-think my belief in the innocuousness of cannabis sativa:
Grateful Dead and Deadheads reunite for Obama

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Saying Barack Obama embodies political hope absent since Robert Kennedy was slain 40 years ago, three surviving members of the Grateful Dead rock band reunited on Monday for the first time in four years to back the presidential candidate.

"Every few generations a guy like this comes along," drummer Mickey Hart [said].

Thank God it's not any more often than that. Somebody really needs to do a major debunking of the Kennedy myth. It's amazing what a cognition-stopper it is.

February 9, 2008


Gallup has spoken!

Education and Gender Help Predict Democratic Preferences
College education a major differentiator in choosing Clinton vs. Obama

Gender and education are both strong predictors of Democrats' preferences for their party's presidential nominee. Generally speaking, the more education a Democrat has, the less likely he or she is to support Hillary Clinton, and the more likely to support Barack Obama....

Among the most highly educated Democrats -- those with postgraduate educations -- both men and women are more likely to support Obama than Clinton. Among the least educated -- those with no college experience -- both men and women are more likely to support Clinton than Obama.

Long story short: with the in-between groups, gender assumes some importance. But once education has really run its course, it's Barack by a country mile -- or an urban census district, anyway.

Since I'm a long-time foe of education, this was very cheering news. It's as if the educated, like Caliban, don't enjoy seeing their own face in a mirror.

February 12, 2008

Reconstruction reconstructed

Recall Father Meanest pointed us to this minor Grapeful Dud oracle:
"Barack Obama embodies political hope absent since Robert Kennedy was slain 40 years ago."
I savor the thought, don't you? Now he could fall on his face between here and the predicted dead-heat primary finish with the Hill. But say he doesn't.

Then we all can count --- the party elders will hold the balance of power at the convention. Lady Humphrey-Nixon, a plausible Mrs Macbeth, confronting a melanin-enhanced ghost of Bobby -- though no Banquo he.

My bet, if it comes to it: the elders will anoint the chap in the clean white shirt from Illinois.

Will that raise another ghost -- Huck Finn's Pap? Compare and contrast the conjunctures. Here's what Pap Smiff would call the locus classicus:

"Oh, yes, this is a wonderful govment, wonderful. Why, looky here. There was a free nigger there from Ohio -- a mulatter, most as white as a white man. He had the whitest shirt on you ever see, too, and the shiniest hat; and there ain't a man in that town that's got as fine clothes as what he had; and he had a gold watch and chain, and a silver-headed cane -- the awfulest old gray-headed nabob in the State.

And what do you think? They said he was a p'fessor in a college, and could talk all kinds of languages, and knowed everything. And that ain't the wust. They said he could vote when he was at home.

Well, that let me out. Thinks I, what is the country a-coming to? It was 'lection day, and I was just about to go and vote myself if I warn't too drunk to get there; but when they told me there was a State in this country where they'd let that nigger vote, I drawed out. I says I'll never vote agin. Them's the very words I said; they all heard me; and the country may rot for all me -- I'll never vote agin as long as I live.

And to see the cool way of that nigger -- why, he wouldn't a give me the road if I hadn't shoved him out o' the way. I says to the people, why ain't this nigger put up at auction and sold? -- that's what I want to know. And what do you reckon they said? Why, they said he couldn't be sold till he'd been in the State six months, and he hadn't been there that long yet.

There, now -- that's a specimen. They call that a govment that can't sell a free nigger till he's been in the State six months. Here's a govment that calls itself a govment, and lets on to be a govment, and thinks it is a govment, and yet's got to set stock-still for six whole months before it can take a hold of a prowling, thieving, infernal, white-shirted free nigger, and.... "

They'll eat it and they'll like it

Alex C and Mr St Clair tell us: "Hillary has the support of the white working class." If so -- whither organized labor, amongst fears of an Obama class divide?

In the last successful uprising against the party machine, way back in 1972, the unfledged majority of McGovern's insurgent delegates, dancing about the convention floor in obscene triumph, caused then-union mogul George Meany to have, in the words of the immortal Hunter Thompson, "brain bubbles", and in the subsequent national race to the White House, the hapless McGovern ran largely sans big labor's helping hands and cash.

So how 'bout it -- will the suntanned ghost of RFK have a similar fate if nominated? I doubt it. For one thing, the Pope and the Zionists have long since left the house of labor to tend to its domestic pigeon droppings pretty much on its own -- such alas are the wages of senile-onset dwarfism -- and besides, the party machine wants a new look. And needs one, Lord knows.

Now if Obama didn't have his "fair share" of corporate friends -- why then -- even a union hard-on for him as impressive as Lyndon Johnson's legendary prick wouldn't be able to get him the nod.

Of course the really interesting question is, can Obama the gentleman from the state of Lincoln beat the white-flight votin' booth jinx?

Hey, why not -- I mean, fer Chrissake, all bad things must end, and at this point all this talk about Jesse in Wisconsin -- that hideous day in 1988 when exit poll samples and counted votes looked like they came from different universes -- well, to me, in today's traffic, that sounds like Simple-Simon style Hillary eyewash.

Basic fact: McCain '08 can't win even if he gets all the Paps in America to put aside their beer cans, march to the local place of election and pull the lever for a hundred-year war and a pink slip. Hanoi Johnny is no more going to win next fall than Barry G in 64.

Nice touch, Clio. Then it was the loony reactionary who was sacrificed by the vital corporate party center. This time it'll be the goony moderate, run out and off the plank by the spirited god-fearin' right rump

February 20, 2008

Principalities and Powers

Whither der Barack's Sudweltpolitik? Behold one pair of eyes and ears in Obie's global vision system, the demitasse glamghoul Samantha Power:

Samantha Power pinup

A kinder, gentler -- Condi?

To help guess at the shape of things to come in Obam-America, vigilante Tim D offers us this choice prefigurative find

It's a spirited defense of conventional imperial wisdom against the onslaughts of one... Noam Chomsky. Sample:

For Chomsky, the world is divided into oppressor and oppressed. America, the prime oppressor, can do no right, while the sins of those categorized as oppressed receive scant mention. Because he deems American foreign policy inherently violent and expansionist, he is unconcerned with the motives behind particular policies, or the ethics of particular individuals in government. And since he considers the United States the leading terrorist state, little distinguishes American air strikes in Serbia undertaken at night with high-precision weaponry from World Trade Center attacks timed to maximize the number of office workers who have just sat down with their morning coffee.

It is inconceivable, in Chomsky's view, that American power could be harnessed for good. Thus, the billions of dollars in foreign aid earmarked each year for disaster relief, schools, famine prevention, AIDS treatment, etc. -- and the interventions in Kosovo and East Timor -- have to be explained away.

Guided by a quick read, I might suggest that its restrained Ivy-league style of Chomsky-bashing on behalf of Uncle Hegemon's interventions may demonstrate she's just the gal for all those soft but still rainy seasons ahead.

February 27, 2008

Pleasure Island

Deep structure question for today: will Pinocchio's almost-fate be Obama's too? Something about his ears puts me in mind of the early onset -- of the fearful morph through wayward boys-will-be-boys naughty line-crossing acts of licentious self-indulgence.

Will a Whitehoused Barack (the ultimo pleasure island gig) grow a tail -- lose his command of language -- fall down upon all fours, and just bray away night and day like a complete jackass?


March 2, 2008

Obamania takes a quantum leap?

Very scary. The Fasc-O-Meter twitches into the red zone:

The incantatory repetition of the Great Leader's name. The waggling, pointing Uncle- Sam- Wants- You fingers. And all those nice-looking young people with appealing cheekbones, intense but not un-cool -- that's the worst. That's the authentic Riefenstahl touch.

Maybe Hillary's not so bad after all. At least, nobody would ever call her cool -- and even better, nobody really believes in her. I'm starting to get a bad feeling that people really do believe in Obama, which is just about the direst of dire news.

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