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Showing posts with label Local Politics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Local Politics. Show all posts

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The “Curses o’ Whoredom”: Rome’s History Turns Into Wisconsin’s Misery In Phase 3 of The Madison Uprising

“Elections may be lost by failing to energize the base, but they are only won by charming non-ideological voters who form the majority.  Milwaukee and Madison are the state’s most left-leaning cities, but in the eyes of Wisconsin’s rural and suburban majority, they are also the darkest pits of Babylonish whoredom.”

Caligula:  a career model for the modern statesman?
The wheels seem rapidly to be coming off the runaway freight train that was the effort to recall troubled Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.  Nearly1,000,000 people affixed their names and addresses to a petition to initiate the unprecedented recall procedures against Walker.  But as of late April, Walker is polling at least 5 % HIGHER than his most likely opponent, Milwaukee’s mayor, Tom Barrett.  WTF?

Here is a brief recap of events since I last wrote about the Madison Uprising:

1.   Walker appointees refused to cooperate with a Federal John Doe investigation into Republican campaign violations.  To date several minions have been charged with felonies ranging from appropriation of public assets to promote Walker’s candidacy, to embezzlement of funds intended for the surviving families of veterans in the Afghan and Iraq conflicts, to enticing underage boys into sexual relationships over the internet.  Walker made some attempts to distance himself from the actions underlings took on his behalf, but those were undermined by the revelation that he had retained legal counsel from a firm renowned for its specialty in defending against white collar criminal cases.

2.   Waukesha County clerk Kathy Nickolaus resigned in her capacity as elections supervisor under severe public pressure.  Diligent readers may recall the Signs And Wonders attendant upon Nickolaus’ miraculous production of just barely the required number of votes to overturn the originally called results in the State Supreme Court race between JoAnne Kloppenberg and Nickolaus’ former boss, and Scott Walker darling, David Prosser.  No, the proximate causes of Nickolaus’ ouster didn’t include the broken seals, incorrect tracking batch numbers and torn ballot bags which were discovered during a contentious recount proceeding in the Kloppenberg race, but in the complete breakdown in the process of certifying the results of the recent Republican presidential primary.  Who’d have thought?  Public outrage does count for something, but only when it’s the outrage of Mitt Romney.

3.    Perhaps not incidentally, the self same Justice Prosser is currently the subject of disciplinary proceedings related to his alleged physical assault of another Supreme Court justice in chambers during deliberations.

4.   A Federal court has overturned the redistricting bills pushed through by Walker this last legislative session.  The court was unambiguous in decrying the GOP-drawn map as an effort to disenfranchise Milwaukee-area ethnic minorities.  In another case bearing upon voting rights, the Wisconsin Supreme Court has delayed implementation of Walker's controversial voter ID law until after the recall election, saying it will not be able to complete an adequate review before then.

5.   A Federal court has also overturned as unconstitutional many of the provisions of Walker’s stealth, union-busting bill that gave birth to this nest of monsters to begin with.  Critical union certification and funding provisions of that bill have been defeated, which is a big plus, but, pending possible repeal through the Wisconsin Legislature, severe limits regarding the scope of union negotiations remain.

This last point is a big (but note sole) cause of my discomfort.  Because, in my mind, it is a harbinger of doom for the Walker recall effort—though NOT for the reason most commenters think.

Veni, Vidi . . .
The preliminary procedural effort, the campaign to obtain 540k signatures to authorize the recall election, was in and of itself a spectacular and unqualified success.  Despite misgivings of professional pundits about the rarity of recall proceedings, and the timing of the campaign during the winter holidays, which typically curb turn-out at outdoor events of this sort, nearly million people signed the petition.  That means that, as of the dates they signed the petition, roughly 10% more voters wished to halt Scott Walker’s illegal power grab than actually voted for the Democratic candidate during the 2010 election.

Sic Transit Gloria One Day
That venom, that outrage is all just a memory now.  The Federal district court gave the public the sop they need to assuage their anger.  Public worker unions now have the right to nominal existence, albeit practically neutered by limits on its negotiating powers.  Wisconsin can now retire in dignity, having saved face, yet it has not really addressed the issue most offensive to right thinking people:  Scott Walker’s unrepentant disregard for democratic procedure.

Only a relative handful of the people signing the petitions are themselves union members, even fewer are members of public employee unions.  A statistically negligible portion are top-level union negotiators.  Apart from them, it seems, only the Righteous Before God feel any particular need to decisively defeat Evil.  And as Revelation 7 tells us, they total only 144,000 worldwide. 

Assuming an even geographic distribution proportionate to population density, that means roughly 0.000001 Righteous Voter in Wisconsin.  Not nearly enough to turn a Wisconsin election.  I highly doubt that Scott Walker loses much sleep over the hypothetical specter of a Righteous Voter upsetting the cart, not when he sees thousands of non-ideological voters deserting the recall effort daily.

Most pundits seem to feel that these defections were an unavoidable consequence of the Democratic Party’s stereotypical poor discipline, a confirmation that it is not so much an organized political faction as an ephemeral coalition of self-interested constituencies.

While I find that a plausible idea, it does seem curiously to make little of the notion that leaders are supposed to lead—that their failure to secure a stable following might be due to their lack of reliability and competence.  But then again, that proposition is at least 2,000 years old.  Perhaps that is why no one feels any particular need to call Tom Barrett out as a feckless whore.

Roman Precedent

In the five centuries of the Roman Republic, a sort of hierarchy of office eventually emerged whereby individuals in public service assumed ever greater responsibilities.  As they increased in age and experience, candidates were admitted to positions of more influence.  This succession of offices they termed the “Cursus Honorum”, that is, the “Honors Race”—the title of this article is a semi-satirical play on that term.
Over time Rome was called upon to intervene in the domestic affairs of neighboring city states, gradually and reluctantly at first, but then with increasing rapidity and eagerness.  The demands upon its leadership grew to such an extent that the pressures created a professional political class.

The Cursus Honorum now hardened into a definite, set progression of specific offices and requirements, whereas before it had merely been a pedagogical tradition for cultivating competent leadership, open to exception when need be to meet some immediate threat.  Few men could economically afford to devote themselves exclusively to public service.  Going forward, the top job, the consulship, would be open only to those of high aristocratic birth.  Outward, superficial qualifications became more important than deep intelligence or moral commitment.  The failed triumvir Mark Antony is literally the ultimate example of the Cursus’ shortcomings.

Mark Antony may have been a charming rogue, taken on his own terms: a drunken aristo given to hosting elaborate feasts and public spectacles.  Not a man you cross casually, but apparently willing to give and take within certain proscribed limits. Certainly diehard republicans in the Roman Senate saw him in this way.  There is good evidence that he was at least a passive participant in the plot to assassinate his controversial mentor, Julius Caesar.  This easy-going, pragmatic approach eventually sealed Antony’s doom and that of the Roman Republic.

Antony never had great respect for his younger rival, Gaius Octavius, and rarely made serious efforts to check the challenges Octavius offered him.  And why would he?  Antony himself had inherited command of Caesar’s most hardened troops and control of the financial resources of Egypt, the breadbasket of the Mediterranean.  Antony had already held the consulship, the pinnacle of the Cursus Honorum.  In the eyes of the world, he had achieved all these through unquestioned personal competence and success in the Cursus in the more-or-less traditional manner.

Gaius Octavius, on the other hand was little more than a grubby parvenu.  True, the patrician dictator Caesar had been his great uncle, but his paternal line was of very obscure equestrian origins.  During Antony’s first consulship he had not been of age even to assume the relatively junior position of quaestor.  And Octavius hardly distinguished himself by his conduct during the Battle of Philippi, where he is alleged to have hidden in the rear of his forces’ baggage train.  Not much of a challenge for Antony, in a direct mano-a-mano. 

But the ultimate showdown would NOT be a direct mano-a-mano.  Against all odds, this showdown was a comically desultory non-battle taking place in an obscure, strategically unimportant sea inlet in southern Greece:  Actium.  Antony was decisively defeated by what amounted to little more than a seaside dust up.

Modern military historians have a difficult time understanding just why Antony chose such an unpromising site for his final stand, but it seems obvious enough to political historians.  Seeing little danger in being overwhelmed by his inexperienced rival, Antony deemed it more important to maintain his dignity and make a show of the fact that he did not intend to attack Rome itself.  Therefore, he selected a battle site spectacularly unsuitable for launching such a campaign.  Antony was protecting the integrity of the Cursus Honorum.

Octavius’ stealthy contempt for convention and decorum secured him victory at Actium, and indeed served him well during his whole career.  Caesar raised Octavius above his native social station through a controversial posthumous adoption, and Octavius took full advantage, surrounding himself with a gang of ruthlessly competent conspirators who were bound to him by his newfound wealth and prestige, without regard to their pedigrees. 

One of these conspirators, Octavius’ best friend and future son-in-law, was Marcus Agrippa, perhaps the most spectacularly gifted general in Roman history, barring Caesar himself.  Although Octavius, now calling himself Augustus Caesar, was officially declared the victor of Actium in the celebrations that followed in Rome, it was clearly Agrippa who had been the true operational commander all along.

Wisconsin Decedent

How does any of this relate to Wisconsin’s 2012 recall election?  Quite simply, Wisconsin’s Democratic Party is showing a reverence for convention every bit as stupid and self-destructive as anything the doomed Mark Antony ever did at Actium.  They’re almost certain to nominate Tom Barrett, career politician from its largest in-state stronghold, Milwaukee. 

Anyone who knows Wisconsin knows that the mere mention of a Milwaukee mayor makes the vast majority of Wisconsinites cringe.  This state is overwhelmingly white, of northern European origins, and adherent to a vanilla Christian denomination like Lutheranism or Catholicism.  We are constitutionally conservative and bred for obedience to traditional authorities. 

In such a narrow world view, a Milwaukee mayor can only conjure up images of Mexican gangsters and big city greasebags--horrors to be resisted rather than novelties to be embraced.  Given any plausible excuse to abandon their awkward rebellion against a more familiar suburban greasebag like Scott Walker, we will.  We are not inclined to buck the system.

There is the supreme irony for you, because neither are Democratic activists.  They had the opportunity to nominate Peter Barca, the charismatic assemblyman from Kenosha, but that quickly received the kybosh.  Barca would have been a stunning candidate, maybe unbeatable in a general election. 

Barca could have commanded the loyalty of the unions in a way Barrett certainly won’t.  It was Barca who delivered the historic protest against Walker’s violation of the Open Meetings Law which inaugurated this whole sequence of events.  While Barca’s speech that night is immortalized for the ages on Youtube clips and newspaper accounts, Barrett might prefer to minimize his role in that little episode of Wisconsin history.  Barrett extracted piratical concessions from Milwaukee public service unions under the very Walker bill that he now pretends to disdain.

And who knows how many potential anti-Walker voters will fail to show up out of simple Barrett fatigue?  Barrett strung the media along for months, refusing to decisively commit to a gubernatorial candidacy until AFTER he’d taken the Milwaukee mayorship.  Will otherwise Democratic leaning Milwaukee voters be disgusted with this apparently premeditated and opportunistic turnaround?

There is another candidate running within striking distance of Barrett, former Dane County supervisor Kathleen Falk.  I plan to vote for her, though I do not think she will win.

Although Falk really doesn’t share Barrett’s substantive baggage, it’s still an open question whether she can overcome the perceived arrogance that clings to stereotypical images of Dane County / Madison people in the imagination of the average Wisconsinite.  As in all elections for at least the last 10 years, it is the non-ideological suburban and rural voter who will decide this race. 

Any objective review of Falk’s CV suggests that it is possible.  She is an accomplished woman.  The only problem being that politics are not objective.  Policy may be objective, but politics, never. 

It’s not a point of honor, but reality that Barca, a white male from outside of the Democratic charmed circles in Milwaukee or Madison, would have stood a much better chance of overcoming all of these obstacles and winning over flakey and unreliable “undecideds”.

That’s all water under the bridge now.  Barca announced, unequivocally that he had no intention of pursuing the nomination.  It’s an oddity that inevitably invites curious speculation but few satisfactory answers.  It’s understandable enough that the man may want to continue in his current position as assemblyman for Kenosha—he’s certainly demonstrated a particular zeal in that capacity.  I wouldn’t begrudge him or his constituents that.

Yet given the mediocrity of the leader of the pack, Barrett, I really have to wonder if that’s the whole story.  Barrett, like Barca, used to be a U.S. congressman.  The typical progression would have been to go on to the U.S. Senate—if one is willing to forego any theoretical presidential ambitions, given the historically poor performance of alumni as candidates.  Or, alternatively, if one is setting himself on a presidential track, a former congressman can run for governor of his state.  Which Barrett has actually done.  Twice already.  Failing both times.

Barca did neither of these things.  After working in public service and the private sector, he returned to the Wisconsin State Assembly and increased his involvement in local affairs.

My guess is that Barca received a polite “talking to”, by Wisconsin Democratic Party bigwigs, to discourage any notions union reps may have put into his head.  Like I said, Barca could have had tons of perfectly legitimate reasons to be reluctant, even before such a hypothetical “talk”, so it may not have taken much.  If Barca were sincere but perhaps more na├»ve man than I believe him to be, he may not even have been aware that this was a warning.

In any case, I’m sure that Barrett and the Democratic Machine are glad Barca didn’t run.  I’m sure that Scott Walker is, too.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Worker-Owners of America, Unite!

Gar Alperovitz chimes in on the re-evolutionary convergence of capitalism and socialism into a hybrid paradigm in a recent article in the NY TimesGar Alperovitz is a professor of political economy at the University of Maryland and a founder of the Democracy Collaborative, is the author of “America Beyond Capitalism.”

THE Occupy Wall Street protests have come and mostly gone, and whether they continue to have an impact or not, they have brought an astounding fact to the public’s attention: a mere 1 percent of Americans own just under half of the country’s financial assets and other investments. America, it would seem, is less equitable than ever, thanks to our no-holds-barred capitalist system.

But at another level, something different has been quietly brewing in recent decades: more and more Americans are involved in co-ops, worker-owned companies and other alternatives to the traditional capitalist model. We may, in fact, be moving toward a hybrid system, something different from both traditional capitalism and socialism, without anyone even noticing.

Some 130 million Americans, for example, now participate in the ownership of co-op businesses and credit unions. More than 13 million Americans have become worker-owners of more than 11,000 employee-owned companies, six million more than belong to private-sector unions.

And worker-owned companies make a difference. In Cleveland, for instance, an integrated group of worker-owned companies, supported in part by the purchasing power of large hospitals and universities, has taken the lead in local solar-panel installation, “green” institutional laundry services and a commercial hydroponic greenhouse capable of producing more than three million heads of lettuce a year.

Local and state governments are likewise changing the nature of American capitalism. Almost half the states manage venture capital efforts, taking partial ownership in new businesses. Calpers, California’s public pension authority, helps finance local development projects; in Alaska, state oil revenues provide each resident with dividends from public investment strategies as a matter of right; in Alabama, public pension investing has long focused on state economic development.

Moreover, this year some 14 states began to consider legislation to create public banks similar to the longstanding Bank of North Dakota; 15 more began to consider some form of single-payer or public-option health care plan.

Some of these developments, like rural co-ops and credit unions, have their origins in the New Deal era; some go back even further, to the Grange movement of the 1880s. The most widespread form of worker ownership stems from 1970s legislation that provided tax benefits to owners of small businesses who sold to their employees when they retired. Reagan-era domestic-spending cuts spurred nonprofits to form social enterprises that used profits to help finance their missions.

Recently, growing economic pain has provided a further catalyst. The Cleveland cooperatives are an answer to urban decay that traditional job training, small-business and other development strategies simply do not touch. They also build on a 30-year history of Ohio employee-ownership experiments traceable to the collapse of the steel industry in the 1970s and ’80s.

Further policy changes are likely. In Indiana, the Republican state treasurer, Richard Mourdock, is using state deposits to lower interest costs to employee-owned companies, a precedent others states could easily follow. Senator Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio, is developing legislation to support worker-owned strategies like that of Cleveland in other cities. And several policy analysts have proposed expanding existing government “set aside” procurement programs for small businesses to include co-ops and other democratized enterprises.

If such cooperative efforts continue to increase in number, scale and sophistication, they may suggest the outlines, however tentative, of something very different from both traditional, corporate-dominated capitalism and traditional socialism.

It’s easy to overestimate the possibilities of a new system. These efforts are minor compared with the power of Wall Street banks and the other giants of the American economy. On the other hand, it is precisely these institutions that have created enormous economic problems and fueled public anger.

During the populist and progressive eras, a decades-long buildup of public anger led to major policy shifts, many of which simply took existing ideas from local and state efforts to the national stage. Furthermore, we have already seen how, in moments of crisis, the nationalization of auto giants like General Motors and Chrysler can suddenly become a reality. When the next financial breakdown occurs, huge injections of public money may well lead to de facto takeovers of major banks.

And while the American public has long supported the capitalist model, that, too, may be changing. In 2009 a Rasmussen poll reported that Americans under 30 years old were “essentially evenly divided” as to whether they preferred “capitalism” or “socialism.”

A long era of economic stagnation could well lead to a profound national debate about an America that is dominated neither by giant corporations nor by socialist bureaucrats. It would be a fitting next direction for a troubled nation that has long styled itself as of, by and for the people.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

An Undifferentiated Mass of Human Dignity

It's an anti-capitalism thing.  No, it's an anti-war thing.  No, it's a civil rights thing.  No, it's a desert topping.  No, it's a floor wax.

Occupy:  Social Supernova?
Ever since the Occupy movement began garnering mainstream media attention there has been an energetic, maybe even desperate, debate to define the significance of thousands of people from all over the nation spontaneously gathering in America's large urban centres, decrying the rapacious criminality of the establishment--all sans identifiable figureheads or fixed policy programmes.

Yes, from the start it was clear that, in its broadest outlines at least, this thing was a passionate rebuke to parasitic Wall Street types.  Whatever that may mean in actual practice, it's definitely not a formulation consistent with laissez faire economics a la the Koch brothers' Tea Party.  So not surprising that most right wing analyses approached the topic with a dismissive laziness.  They've crafted fear into a formidable electoral weapon and are well familiar with the coward's first law of dealing with Truly Scary Things:  avoid real contact.

That general approach, however, is hardly the exclusive resort of the right wing.  It is, in fact, the universal reaction of all establishment types accross the board.  Witness the White House's statement about the Occupy movement.

And that is the point most interesting to me, as a recovering Obama zombie.  Not so much that His Zero-ness is not even trying to swim with the raw, powerful populist currents churning within Occupy, but that those on the institutional left are not doing a helluva lot better.[1]

Analyses during the early, pre-mainstream exposure pretty much focused around the creeping sense of unease felt by veteran activists when confronted with the informal, unpolished and unfocused demeanor of some demonstrators. 

While I've only become really engaged with public affairs recently, I identify most closely with this group of commentators.  They may have much more extensive pedigrees of activist involvement than I, but we all share one key characteristic:  a relatively simplistic linear model of the world. Something akin to a cold, impersonal, mathematical dogma bound by a rigid series of theorems and acceptable logic that is fatally dependant upon the artificially constricted environment of 2-dimensional Euclidian space.  Just as where A+B=C and C=2A, then A=B, when social outcomes are a function of the implementation of policy programmes by formal authorities, all movements seeking to affect social change must have designated leaders and a fixed platform of specific policies.

Elegant notion, that, no?  Makes a man feel superior.  Powerful.  Easy able to comprehend the vast workings of the society around him and have a decisive impact.  'Cept it don't quite work that way in the real world.

We live in a world of at least 4 dimensions (height, depth, width and time) and certainly more, if you're able to contemplate the inescapable yet ineffable fact of human subjectivity.  Within certain specialized domains, the objective statistics of a person's height, weight, eye color and age may be crucial, but are totally inadequate to evaluating that person's tangible impact on his family and co-workers.  Is he smart or stupid?  Funny or morose?  Energetic or slothful?  Handsome or hideous?  Generous or niggardly?  We ultimately care a lot more about these questions than we do whether he's 5'10 1/2" or 6' or his eyes are most accurately described as green or hazel.

But what exactly is intelligence?  Humor?  Vitality?  Attractiveness?  Generosity?  Those are philosophical or religious questions that the mathematicians, myself included, have utterly failed to acknowledge, let alone resolve.

This is exactly what Occupy is or should be teaching us.  How to come together as people and articulate a clear consensus of values that actually work.  It is no longer acceptable to passively trust the dithering buffoons formally charged with interpreting received wisdom, quite simply because that "wisdom" does not work and has not worked for quite some time.  Occupy is about morality, not politics.  It is most definitely a type of activism, but one more concerned with developing a shared moral vision of society's priorities than in establishing yet another corruptible "leader" or co-optable policy programme.

Until Occupy, America's been kind of winging this one.  Lost in almost completely unchartered territory.  True, there are ample historical precedents for crumbling superpowers undermined by a feedback loop of dysfunctional entrenched interests and incompetent leadership.  But never in the context of a society philosophically on autopilot, almost completely indifferent to actual engagement about the moral content of its choices.

Let's not screw this one up again, America.  Let's not insist on Occupy being a closed-ended event, smashed viciously into the unforgiving mold of our stupid personal prejudices.  Let's accept this beautiful gift for what it is on it's own terms--a process, not an event.

[1]  Obama's motivation in avoiding the thing is obvious.  He's a cack-handed snake oil salesman who will say anything to avoid true conflict and achieve short-term electoral advantage.  His deal with the Devil in defunding Social Security through extended payroll tax holidays sapped, quite rightly, Democratic support for a jobs bill that contained many otherwise useful provisions such as a rebalancing of income tax policy.  Obama finds himself hoplessly cornered by Republican demands that, in exchange for bringing the bill up for consideration in the House, he submit for approval a job-killing "free trade" agreement that he negotiated with South Korea.  No where for Obama to go on this one; Old Nick's coming to collect his due now.  This jobs bill, at least its potentially helpful bits, is dead.

So it's more than a little disappointing to me that organized labor has been a little slow in seeing the light.  Earlier this year, in conjunction with the events surrounding Republican Wisconsin governor Scott Walker's attempts to crush public workers unions, heavy hitters like Richard Trumka, AFL-CIO president, were making encouraging noises about a renewed vision of the labor movement independent of compromised empty suits like Obama.  Yet once again they swallowed hard when Obama handed them this sh*t sandwhich of a jobs bill too small and too reliant upon long-disproven free market tropes like the Laffer curve and regulatory disincentive hyptothesis.

I'm glad that unions have started to make solid, practical contributions toward the Occupy movement--like the New York Transit Workers Union's refusal to be co-opted into busing NYPD detainees.  But if they want to make a true difference, display some deeper understanding of Occupy's significance, they're going to have to directly confront Obama.  Either with a primary challenger, as proposed by Cornell West and Ralph Nader, or a potential third party candidacy, as Dylan Ratigan is reported to be mulling.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Great News, Everybody: A New (Secret) Bailout!

This in from Business Insider:  Scuttlebutt that German Chancellor Angela Merkel will be softening up Obama, Federal Reserve Chief Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner for yet another round of bailouts for the incompetent multinational financial elites.

Awesome!  I was afraid that the next round of bailouts would require "patriots" like representative Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) to take to the floor begging again.  I feel so relieved now, knowing that the whole thing can proceed quietly without anyone having to jeopardize their campaign funding.

The Parable of the Blind, Pieter Bruegel, 1568
But where do our other, prospective "leaders" stand on this topic?  Hard to say.  Irrelevance and opacity seem to be the primary tenets of the major candidates' PR machines.  Here's what I mean.

Ron Paul's heart may be in the right place regarding the need to end counterproductive wars and pointlessly intrusive social wedge issues, but his knack for failing to identify urgent priorities remains unequalled.  Witness the most recent update to his news page:  Paul's response to the burning issue of a vaguely worded email RECEIVED (i.e., NOT sent) by a third-tier lackey in the slave galley of Obama's PR establishment.  Yeah, I know.  $527 million is 0.05% of the $1 TRILLION in bailout money supposedly at stake in the Euro bailout, but Ron's never claimed to be more than what he clearly is:  an amateur.

Still, it was a bit of a disappointment.  Those of us who had taken heart in the earnestness of Ron's campaign do feel a little saddened by his betrayal of it's core moral theme, that public figures should take firm stands on what they believe and know to be correct, regardless of the short-term pragmatic consequences.  Ron doesn't have and never had a snowball's chance in Hell of winning anything other than honorable mention.  But his piling on here to the failure of an innovative business venture, and one pioneering a technology that could threaten the petroleum-military complex at that, just feels like he's gotten himself lost.  Hopelessly lost.

And that was the high ground, folks.  The rest of the lot could either bore you with their predictability or make you laugh at their vapidity:

A quick visit to Michele Bachmann's website yielded only her trumpeted zeal for "politicking" in Iowa.  FYI to Bachmann:  You're from Iowa.  You have home turf advantage.  You already won the straw poll there last month.  Time to move on.  There's another 49 states in the union, some of them with more than 1 electoral college vote.

Rick Perry's site wasn't a helluva lot better.  True, he seems to have left last month behind him, but devil a word you'll hear about the impending bailouts.  He also spent all his gunpowder in low-grade partisan b*llshitting.  G*ddamn it, at least Bachmann gave us a few laughs.  All Perry did was bore me to tears.

Mitt Romney's response was a little more nuanced and amusing.  Yes, no one is surprised that the much-vaunted hedge fund manager uttered not peep #1 about the use of public funds to underwrite his pals' vacation homes in St. Tropez, or that he cleared his policy platform with these same scum bags.  But did you know you could win a once-in-a-lifetime date with this Tiger Beat dreamboat?  I don't know about you, but his flat, nasal automaton speech and "Reaganesque" elder statesman-y graying temples just make me melt.  'Specially the way he says:  "Corporations are people, too, my friend!"

No, you won't hear much about Bailout III:  The Re-"Bush"-ening on any administration web site either.  Not the Fed.  Not the Treasury.  Not the president's blog.  Hardly much of a surprise.  Obama's always been an awkward, "play-behind-the-beat kind" of guy anyhow.  He seems continually caught off-guard by the way his bailouts, unconstitutional wars, plutocratic tax giveaways and civil rights violations have continued to erode the economy and the support of the people who voted for him in 2008.

But shouldn't we expect more from his "challengers"?  There should be no question of pragmatic compromises in order to achieve tactical victories, because going on the 4th year of 10%+ unemployment and simultaneously sky-rocketing unemployment claims and corporate profits, there's really nothing left to compromise any more.  Ergo a complete and overwhelming moral victory seems free for the taking.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Please Join the Fight Against FMS

Jonathan Steitz:  Extra chromosome or victim of donkey kick?
It's clear just from looking at him that Johnny Steitz is "special".  The Republican recall candidate for Wisconsin's 22nd district sports a sloping forehead, thick eyebrow ridge, wide-set eyes and a vacant grin . . . But is the culprit an extra chromosome or a kick in the head while working a TJ donkey show?  Neither, I suspect.  I believe he may be suffering from Furious Masturbation Syndrome ("FMS"), which is why I have nominated him as poster child for the fight against this dreaded disease.

FMS is a condition first diagnosed by the McGonagle foundation yesterday.  FMS appears to afflict many public personalities.  As many as 100% of all Republican politicians may suffer from it.  It is characterized by a frantic activity which almost seems purposely designed to defeat its stated goals, hence the analogy to another famously desultory form of behavior.  While the American Psychiatric Association's review is pending for inclusion in the next DSM, I have proposed the following check list items for diagnosis:

  • Touting such douchey affiliation to the single most severely flawed institution in recent world history, the multinational corporate sector, as credentials for "economic expertise".  The only deal to Steitz is publically associated with is the issuance of 2.7 billion Euro of junk bonds.[1]

  • An awkward aura of phoniness, a want of spontaneity, a general lack of soul.  While I don't yet have definitive proof that Steitz doesn't cast a reflection in the mirror, it certainly seems possible.  At one time he managed bland Xian rockers "Skillet".[2]

  • Sad over-reliance on the corn-pone hokiness of staged family pic's in preference to actual substantive discussion of issues.  My God, I hope they airbrushed those smiles on!  I'd hate to think their pumping that baby full of lithium!

  • Generally evasive, secretive behavior; hiding one's true personality behind a facade of friendliness.  Despite the all-American image he's trying to project in Wisconsin, the man working in Latham & Watkin's glass tower on Wacker Drive is certainly more complex.[3]

  • Persistant delusional beliefs.  Like the notion that a total stranger like Steitz, born in Utah, raised in Texas, working in downtown Chicago can even possibly win against heroic, long-serving and much-beloved Kenosha/Racine man, "Uncle Bob" Wirch
This disease is insidious and debilitating to society.  It must be stopped at all costs.  There is much to be done and it will require a team effort.  Not everybody can afford long-term political commitments, but everybody can do something, whether it's ridiculing deluded fantasists like Steitz or simply showing up to vote for old fashioned Wisconsin 14 heroes like Bob Wirch on August 16th.  Let's each of us do what we can.

But for God's sake, whatever you do, don't shake Steitz's hand.  Ick.

[1] Yeah.  It's for real, alright.  The most recent S&P rating for the Wind Telecom bonds is Ba3--"Non-investment grade speculative", or "junk".  He's peddled his garbage over in Euroland, now he's trying to unload an even bigger pile in Racine/Kenosha.

[2]  No, I never heard of them before either.  But it's not like they aren't trying.  Their current managers keep setting up front organizations like "Dove" to give themselves awards left and right.  They must really be horrible. . . . Wait a minute--who were we talking about again?  I've forgotten them already.  Maybe that's why they didn't bother to mention Steitz on their wikipage.

[3]  Naguib Sawiris, the owner of the telecommunications client referred to above is currently serving as advocate for deposed Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak.  In 2006 Sawiris received the Sitara-e-Quaid-e-Azam award from General Pervez Musharaf, the former dictator of corrupt terrorist state Pakistan.  And in 2008 Sawiris aided North Korean dictator Kim Jung Il in establishing a system to monitor its citizens private communications.  Just doesn't seem to square with the apple-pie, Tea Party libertarian stuff Steitz's being shovelling in Wisconsin lately.