Tempus Fugit

Posted November 15, 2008 by usfbear
Categories: Politics

Well, comrades, it’s been a ridiculously long time since I’ve looked at much less updated this blog.  Needless to say, the result of the election was a relief – albiet a small one.  Don’t get me wrong – I voted for Obama, and I hope that he’ll be an excellent president.  Certainly, he is eminently qualified by background and temperament to be up to the task. The fear, as always with Democratic presidents, is whether or not they will be able to deliver on even half of what they outline in their platforms.  And, of course, Obama has outlined very little of substance as it is.

Already, we’re seeing pressures from the corporate media to warn Obama off of any attempts at basic reform.  And, if the recent appointment of Rahm Emanuel to be White House Chief of Staff, and the floated possibilities of Rubin or Summers for Treasury are any indication, the Obama campaign is already in full Clintonian triangulation mode.  This does not bode well.

I’ll reserve some judgement for the time being, but I’m beginning to fear that Obama is too compromised by his ties to the DLC, Wall Street, and perhaps even closet neocons within the Democratic Party aparatus.

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There’s small choice in rotten apples.

Posted May 24, 2008 by usfbear
Categories: Politics

Tags: , , , , ,

If anyone had told me a few months ago that I’d be expressing sympathy for Hillary Clinton in this blog, I’d have laughed – maniacally. Yet, in a strange way, I almost feel compelled, if not to defend her, at least to express sadness at the way she was maligned yesterday by the otherwise amusing Keith Olbermann, on MSNBC.

To be sure, yesterday’s events surrounding her wrong-footed reference to the ’68 primaries, and RFK’s assassination were dark and creepy. And certainly, this is not the first time that she (and Bill) have waded into the atavistic swamp of America’s political unconscious for political gain. Make no mistake here – I find both of them politically and ethically odious, the embodiment of almost everything that is wrong with, or has gone wrong with the US and the Democratic Party in the past 20 years. And, if the press had been doing its job over the past few months, she would have long ago been called out for the type of campaign she has run, and the media’s indulgent gaze upon her destructive and narcissistic quest would likely have ended.

But, of course that did not happen – the ample reasons for which need not detain us here – and she continued to play a cynical triangulating game of working the refs, playing both sides against the middle, and running out the clock on the Dems’ chances of coming together before the convention to forge some kind of popular front (however anemic) against the increasingly neo-fascist GOP.

But no matter how badly one may dislike Hill and Bill, that is no excuse for the embarrassingly puerile performance of Olbermann on last night’s edition of Countdown. I’ll admit that I find his show to be a guilty pleasure. It’s rather like spending some time in a boisterous political frat house of center-left boomers, slamming back a few beers (maybe even the odd bong-hit) and playing the dozens. Olbermann, for all his preening self-regard, is certainly no dummy; and he puts on a very good show. I can even overlook the ham-handed corporate sniping against MSNBC’s rivals CNN and Fox in the guise of political commentary. Yes, Bill-O and Glenn Dreck are worthy of copious ridicule and abuse, but there are plenty more interesting targets that go un-punked. For instance, I wouldn’t mind seeing Joe Lieberman or Abe Foxman in the sights a time of two. But, I digress.

What particularly irked me about Olbermann’s visceral attack on Hillary was not that it was necessarily undeserved, but that it was gratuitous. Nobody who watches the show regularly could miss the fact that Keith is for Obama and against Hillary. That’s fine; so am I. And I dont’ think it’s unfair, or sexist (pace, Katha Pollitt) for her to be made fun of in personalizing or dismissive ways – that’s politics, and it’s the game that all of these sell-out egomaniacs that we call political leaders sign up for.

Olbermann’s ‘special comment’ about Hillary last night, however, was completely over the top. It conflated her mention of the tragedy of RFK’s assassination with raising the specter of an attempt on Obama. Putting aside for a moment the question of what was actually in Hillary’s mind, or whether she had any dark motivations, it was simply irresponsible of Olbermann to make such a hysterical big deal out of it.

The mere reporting of this shabby turn of events will certainly seal the fate of the Clinton campaign. There can be no doubt about that. What Olbermann’s rant accomplished, though, was not just to give vent to the frustrations of Obama supporters about the conduct of Hillary and her campaign and make some sort of definitive moral judgment on her, but ultimately, it also tarnished Obama supporters and Democrats in general by proxy. It made them seem petty, vengeful and opportunistic by association.

Sadly, Olbermann took what otherwise was a tawdry ending to a flawed political campaign, and turned it into a seething resentment, a festering political wound that can only come back to haunt the Democratic campaign in the fall. Hillary supporters will not forget this, and, I imagine, the right-wing noise machine will continue to remind everyone else of it. So, Keith – slam back a beer, have bong-hit, take a valium … whatever. But stop confusing your own sense of importance with political relevance or gravitas. It’s just not on. From now on, stick to political satire.

Ça ira ?

Posted February 26, 2008 by usfbear
Categories: Politics

OK – so I have really neglected this blog. And now the Florida primary, and Super Tuesday, and the Potomac primaries, and Wisconsin are all over. And Hillary’s campaign seems to be sinking under the weight of its own contradictions. Rudy and his temple of doom are a distant memory, and will probably only reprise in allegorical form in some future episode of Law and Order. Improbably, though, Mike Huckabee is still soldiering on – clearly with the intent of putting the fear of Jesus into the RNC right up to the nominating convention.

Yet, who could have predicted that McCain would rise, Reagan-like, from the dead to pull the GOP’s political chestnuts out of the fire? It seems that McCain was the only remaining hope for the Repubs, given that Mitt Romney had so little popular appeal outside of the party’s narrow corporate-fascist base. It is stunning, actually, that Romney did as well as he did, given that his uptightness and inauthenticity are so glaring that he makes Al Gore look like Hunter S. Thompson by comparison.

And now that it looks like Obama has the Democratic nomination all but sewn up – barring a revolt by super-delegates and a brokered convention – the right wing is regaining its footing and is sharpening the knives in preparation to give this glib champion of the pwogs a grand old filleting. Already we’re seeing photos of Barak in East African garb brokered by Matt Drudge. I think we can all see where this is going.

So, what can we expect over the course of the next six months? The establishment media seem very pleased with the outcome so far – they’ve been able to stimulate popular interest in an otherwise moribund and undemocratic process that is essentially a corporate funded cattle call. This certainly is good for their advertising revenues, and allows the MSM to re-brand the electoral process itself by means of a lot of fatuous rhetoric about ‘change’. I’d look for McCain to be anointed as the new “gipper” while Obama ultimately goes down as sacrificial lamb to the fear and paranoia of an increasingly delusional country.

The only really interesting development in recent days, to my mind, has been Ralph Nader’s announcement that he will mount an independent bid. Of course, this will dredge up bitter memories on the part of bone-headed Democratic party stalwarts, who remain convinced that it was somehow Ralph’s ‘spoiler’ status rather than Republican perfidy and Gore’s cowardly passivity that handed the 2000 election to Shrub.

Nevertheless, Nader will probably be the only one raising substantive issues between now and November. For an excellent exploration of these issues, see Joshua Holland’s recent piece on AlterNet.

Sometimes – history needs a push

Posted January 29, 2008 by usfbear
Categories: Politics

I’ve come to the conclusion that at least until the primary season is over, I might as well abandon any pretense that this blog will deal with issues other than politics.

There are, of course, myriad academic library topics that I could be addressing; but for the time being, I plan to leave my professional observations and discussions at the workplace.

So much has changed since the primaries in Iowa and New Hampshire. Hillary’s stumble in Iowa was reversed, and once again the neoliberal DLC juggernaut was back on track.

On the GOP side, the contenders were essentially winnowed down to McCain and Romney – with Huckabee and Giuliani remaining in the race to sop up the extreme Jesusland and Gwotnik fringes of the Republicans’ toxic coalition.

Among the most interesting developments of the past few weeks, however, was the MSM’s brief spell of faux schadenfreude over Hillary’s setback in Iowa. Given the way that they had previously all but anointed her as the nominee throughout 2007, it seemed a minor correction – a flexible tack towards a more critical / skeptical tone – most likely with an eye on the media market value of a bit of political kerfuffle.

Hillary’s ‘Oprah moment’ in New Hampshire was clearly the climax of this manufactured psychodrama. So, Hillary is lobbed a softball queue by what must surely have been a campaign plant, and presto! – the DLC’s Iron Lady melted our hearts by revealing her inner Gena Davis.

That this would play well in the Disneyesque bubble of televisionland is not surprising. What was a bit unsettling, though, was that some otherwise sensible left-liberals bought into this schtick. A typical example was Katha Pollitt, writing in her blog at The Nation.

The conceit seems to be that since Chris Matthews is a thoughtless misogynist, then all liberal or leftist men who criticize Hillary in terms that could be construed as gendered are similarly mired in sexism.

The silliness of this argument should be self-evident, and therefore will not detain us here. Those who are still interested can see the offending remarks here:

Interestingly, though, Hillary’s fortunes have begun to look more dubious in the wake of Obama’s landslide in South Carolina. Taken together with Bill’s nasty attacks on Obama (which apparently triggered the Kennedys’ spectacular tilt towards Obama) these events have actually injected some real excitement into what is typically the quadrennial yawn-fest of Democratic Party politics.

Stay tuned for the results of the non-primary in Florida.

The Dialectic of the Heartland, or “What hath Iowa wrought?”

Posted January 4, 2008 by usfbear
Categories: Politics

One of the most interesting things about the result of the Iowa caucuses has been the way that result has been played in the MSM. This offering in the NYT is typical of the coverage. Clearly, Hillary was the favourite of the corporate / political classes and she received a stunning defeat, especially considering the amount of money her organisation has spent, and the big media endorsement she received.

Hillary has always been the candidate of the neoliberal establishment – she’s corporate friendly, has been a reliable soft-core supporter of Bush’s imperial war, and a staunch, uncritical supporter of Israel.

What I found interesting in the immediate aftermath of the caucuses, was both the way that Hillary’s defeat was being treated as essentially not really a defeat, and the way Edwards’ second place showing was either dismissed or downplayed. Indeed, early on Friday morning, the AP was running two contradictory wire reports – one claiming second place for Clinton, and another giving the correct result.

In any case, when it comes to Edwards, it seems that even salutary criticism of corporate greed from the perspective of enlightened self-interest cannot be tolerated. Yet, Edwards is clearly the best choice for Democratic liberals and progressives. He is the only candidate that is seriously addressing the issues of corporate power and the gap between haves and have-nots in the US. Moreover, he has actually admitted his mistake in voting for the Iraq war, and – as Norman Soloman writes – is the most “improved” Democratic candidate.

The biggest shocker for me, though, was hearing on Wednesday that Kucinich had instructed his people to throw their support to Obama as their second choice. “And not Edwards?” I asked incredulously, as my brother read this off of the CNN news ticker. Kucinich, it would seem, is not the progressive many thought he was. By contrast, Ralph Nader, to his credit, is supporting Edwards.

Clearly, though, Obama is not all sweetness and light – the anti-Hillary, as it were. Yet, even the usually sensible Philip Weiss is now climbing aboard the Obama bandwagon. I’m not going to go into an analysis of Obama’s candidacy here, but I would point readers to two recent analyses:

The Nation’s Bob Moser had a good piece on Obama last week, looking at issues of electability and the abivalence about him among black voters. See Inside the Black Primary. Also, an excellent summary of Obama’s shortcomings has been compiled by Spinwatch researcher and University of Strathclyde lecturer Muhammad Idrees Ahmad, on his blog The Fanonite. Check it out.

X-ers Agonistes

Posted December 18, 2007 by usfbear
Categories: Culture, Politics

There is quite a lot of buzz lately about the generational implications of the Obama candidacy. Some of this has come from the usual MSM suspects – these offerings in the Washington Times being typical of the genre:11/08/07 and 12/15/07

There have also been interventions from the odious Andrew “RawMuscleGlutes” Sullivan, the barebacking neocon, and the equally odious and opportunistic Markos Moulitsas, soi-disant prince of new politics in the blogosphere.

Sullivan’s entry is characteristically overlong, but essentially boils down to this bit of retail wisdom: “If you are an American who yearns to finally get beyond the symbolic battles of the Boomer generation and face today’s actual problems, Obama may be your man.”

Moulitsas’ contribution, typically, is shrill, provocative and puerile. In this screed, he defines an entire generation of people born between 1945 and 1964 thusly: “The Boomers are a schizophrenic, narcissistic generation that was more privileged than any before it; they had to work less to get more than their fathers had, and then derided their fathers for their submission to a corporate structure that provided them with their privilege.”

This sort of stuff from the likes of Sullivan and Moulitsas (both similar species of right-wing opportunists) should come as no surprise. Yet, I am constantly amazed at the currency that boomer bashing has. The way that this discourse dovetails nicely with the neo-liberal agenda was explored a few years back by Margaret Gullette in a piece for The Nation.  Playing the Age Card

In connexion with this alleged generational Kulturkampf, I noted some interesting comments on Barbara O’Brien’s blog.

Mit der Dummheit kampfen Gotter selbst vergebens.

Posted December 13, 2007 by usfbear
Categories: Politics

I simply could not let this pass without comment: HR 847, a bill introduced by Steve King (R-IA), and passed by the House on Tuesday 12/11/07.

I had missed this malign bit of political sycophancy when it first appeared. To see a bit more about the antics of this cretinous tribune of the heartland, check out this post on AlterNet.