Tuesday, April 28, 2009

More on Specter's Switch

And the hits keep coming for the G.O.P. Politically the news couldn't be worse. The Democrats now completely and totally control the House, Senate, and White House. They can (or will once the SNL alum is allowed to go to represent the people who elected him) do whatever they damn well please and the GOP has little or no way of stopping them. Some may think this is a bad thing, but the Democrats aren't nearly as united as the G.O.P. tends to be when in power. The only thing I think this might change is that health care reform, at this point, might actually get done. But even then, don't rule out filibuster support from Dems in states where they have a race on their hands. Nate Silver agrees.

I should also note that Specter's motives are obvious: He wasn't going to win reelection in Pennsylvania in 2010 as a Republican.

And that's what's really interesting about this from a political perspective. The "industrial" north is also socially liberal. Meanwhile the "rural" south is socially conservative. The Midwest is suddenly swimming to the left, while the West is thinking about it. The West Coast is--at this point--the East Coast without a stick up their ass.

The long term effects of Nixon's South stragity has killed his own party (oh yeah, and W's total lack of ability to do anything right). But there are two important trends as to why Our Father's G.O.P. is dead.

1) The G.O.P. of the 20th century was a party with libertarian roots and fiscal motives. It was a party that wanted the government to stay out of every one's business and lower their taxes. However, this was a poor election formal considering that many people lived through the 1930s and saw, or thought they saw, the effects of the New Deal Democrats. But as the Democrats tore themselves apart in the late 60s, Nixon was smart in thinking that he could pick up the South and flip it from red to blue (even if this happened for racist reasons).

This worked beautifully helping get H.W. Bush elected and then W. in 2000 and 2004 (Reagan didn't need the South all that much). However, to keep the new Southern party members happy, the Republicans had to throw them a bone, and that bone was a greater focus on social issues which lead the party to champion Southern Populist ideas. This anti-intellectual arm of the party turned off many Northeast, Midwest, and West Coast to the point where it's impossible to find a Northeast Republican. (There is probably also an interesting study about Roe vs. Wade and how that eventually would hurt the G.O.P. since a majority of Americans favor the woman's right to choose/abortion rights).

2) But this could only happen if the Democrats changed too. And they did. It took over 20 years, but beginning with Clinton (and before, but he was the sign that things had changed within the party), the Democrats started reading economic text books. Suddenly, Chicago School Economics wasn't evil if one throws in a dash of Keynesian economics and everyone tells unions that they're great. Bing, bam, boom, those who were fiscally conservative, the idea of voting for a Democrat wasn't so crazy. It's not that America has moved to the left, as much as the Democrats began looking to the right a bit.

The G.O.P. is it total disarray. There is no leadership. The party is being pulled five hundred different ways. The anti-intellectual, our way or the high way arm of the party seems to be in control. Moderates (i.e. pro-choice G.O.P.ers) are shunned. The party, right now, is fucked. They better get their act together or else Sarah Palin is going to lead this party to a defeat that only George McGovern could get tell her about.

R.I.P. Republican Party

More later, but with Spector becoming a Democrat, the Republicans are in serious trouble. Or at least, our father's Republican Party is. The 21st century, rudderless, socialist Conservatives live on. But they won't win too many elections.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Root of All Evil

People wearing jeans. It's a problem. A major policy problem.

According to George Will.

I know, I know, the economy stinks, people are out of work, North Korea continues to be an issue and China and Russia has their back, East Africa is a mess and everyone seems to think that Mexico is on the brink, Canada has a conservative government, and Obama is talking to the leaders of the New World where Cuba will be issue #1.

Oh yeah, and there is still Iraq and Afghanistan.

But George Will is sick and tired of people wearing blue jeans. So I welcome George Will to the Policy Zone.

On any American street, or in any airport or mall, you see the same sad tableau: A 10-year-old boy is walking with his father, whose development was evidently arrested when he was that age, judging by his clothes. Father and son are dressed identically -- running shoes, T-shirts. And jeans, always jeans.

Oh, no, he's going to talk about race. This is not going to end well.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, he (Akst) has denounced denim, summoning Americans to soul-searching and repentance about the plague of that ubiquitous fabric, which is symptomatic of deep disorders in the national psyche.

Huh? Jeans? Really? Blue jeans? Not credit cards? Not the 'smarter than no one' Wall Street yahoos? Blue jeans are the problem?

Denim on the bourgeoisie is, Akst says, the wardrobe equivalent of driving a Hummer to a Whole Foods store -- discordant.

I'm speechless. I don't know about you, but what is so bad about jeans? And why is dressing 'better' than the 'working class' so awesome?

Long ago, when James Dean and Marlon Brando wore it, denim was, Akst says, "a symbol of youthful defiance." Today, Silicon Valley billionaires are rebels without causes beyond poses, wearing jeans when introducing new products.

Those effing Silicon Valley geniuses! Wearing comfortable clothing and not looking like squares! Don't they know the George Will lives in Washington, D.C. where wearing comfortable cloths is no-no! Don't they know that in DC only navy or black suits may be worn?!?! Don't they know that when it's 95 degrees with 93% humidity suits are the only way to go! This was a nation founded on being a square! How dare they even think about not wearing the national uniform!

Denim is the infantile uniform of a nation in which entertainment frequently features childlike adults ("Seinfeld," "Two and a Half Men") and cartoons for adults ("King of the Hill"). Seventy-five percent of American "gamers" -- people who play video games -- are older than 18 and nevertheless are allowed to vote.

So what? If I were handing out suffrage cards, every white male over the age of 30 in DC would not be allowed to vote. Because guess who's more out of touch with America... that's right! The square in the black suit sweating his ass off!

In their undifferentiated dress, children and their childish parents become undifferentiated audiences for juvenilized movies (the six -- so far -- "Batman" adventures and "Indiana Jones and the Credit-Default Swaps," coming soon to a cineplex near you).


Denim is the clerical vestment for the priesthood of all believers in democracy's catechism of leveling -- thou shalt not dress better than society's most slovenly. To do so would be to commit the sin of lookism -- of believing that appearance matters.

You know who does dress well. The Jehovah Witnesses. They dress well. So do those whack-job Mormons who walk around really poor areas in a dress shirt and drank pants and look totally out of place (and pardon my French because I really have nothing against Mormons, but those guys are reason I cross to the other side of the street when I'm out walking about).

I'm not saying that anyone should look like a bum, and if one is going on a job interview, then by all means wear a suit. But I'll be honest. I think we should wear jeans to 90% of all events in life. If I'm sitting in an office all day, why should I be in a suit (or nice pants)? Give me one reason.

Denim is the carefully calculated costume of people eager to communicate indifference to appearances. But the appearances that people choose to present in public are cues from which we make inferences about their maturity and respect for those to whom they are presenting themselves.

Frankly isn't listening to an iPod in public (like shopping, ordering coffee) or doing anything that may require human interaction five hundred times more insulting and disrespectful? If I'm sitting at the airport and I see some guy in a suit, I'm thinking one thing and one thing only: Loser who thinks he's more important than everyone else (this guy will also bitch if he has to check his bag, and the odds that he is white is 99%). If I see someone with an iPod while in line at a coffee shop I'm thinking one thing: Disrespectful jagoff.

This is not complicated. For men, sartorial good taste can be reduced to one rule: If Fred Astaire would not have worn it, don't wear it. For women, substitute Grace Kelly.

Ah, George longs for the 1940s! The truth comes out! The 1940s and 1950s, when few people owned cars, people held low paying manufacturing jobs, universal suffrage was something the Canadians did, and black men were finally allowed to play baseball in the major leagues! The good old days when war was cold and women didn't work!

(A confession: The author owns one pair of jeans. Wore them once. Had to. Such was the dress code for former senator Jack Danforth's 70th birthday party, where Jerry Jeff Walker sang his classic "Up Against the Wall, Redneck Mother." Music for a jeans-wearing crowd.)

What did Mr. Bojangles wear? I think we can settle it right then and there.

Well thank YOU Mr. George Will for finally realizing that America needs to go back to the 1950s and that if we only didn't wear jeans, Medicare wouldn't be an issue any more. Because in a time like this, were the people who you identify with politically are organizing anti-tax rallies against nothing, you write a column about blue jeans. And how they're ruining America. Only, D.C. and the squares who think they're really important... they're the ones ruining America.


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The real question is... does he think they should have fired Weis?

If you're a veteran of Catholic schools or a Catholic university then you know that nothing sets off the campus quite like a pro-choicer coming to campus to talk. So when it was reviled the President Obama was going to give the commencement speech at Notre Dame this spring it was only a matter of time before this turned into a Holy War.

The Right to Lifers are out in full force, stomping their feet, and talking to anyone in the press that will listen. They're ready to protest. They're ready to denounce Obama. Oh the fun.

Of course this is a case of the minority being really freaking loud. Catholics it turns out are to the left of the nation. This shouldn't be shocking considering the emphasis that the Church places on social justice (don't tell Richard Dawkins of course... because they he wouldn't contined to put his foot in his mouth). While Catholics have somewhat trended towards the GOP in the last twenty years or so, Catholics have been strongly Democratic voters throughout much of their history here in the U.S.A.

Why don't we hear about the non-blue-in-the-face-pro-life-Catholics? Because they aren't the minority--most Catholics don't vote on abortion or the death penalty or gay marriage--those issues are considered but how a 'good' Catholic should vote is for Div students to discuss over a pitcher of beer.

So what does this have to do with policy? Over all not much. There has only been one Catholic President (JFK) but Catholics who for so long were on the outside looking in when it came to the American economic, educational, and political system have become a powerful force in Washington and across the country (for example, five of the nine Supreme Court Justices are Roman Catholic).

But as they've become more and more important in the American political system, the Catholic vote has fragmented. It is no longer strongly Democratic (though Obama won Catholics by a large margin in November). And what that means is that the financially supported, well organized groups with in the Catholic community will be the most vocal and attempt to speak for the population as a whole (unofficially of course). Considering the far left of the Catholic Church in America live on in kind donations within the poor communities of America, the right wing of the Church will always be more vocal in American.

So this 'controversy' is much to do about nothing within the Church itself. Most Catholics (myself included) feel that it's some what hypocritical to have the pro-life groups protest Obama because of his views on abortion, but not W. over his views on capital punishment and the Iraq War.

But for the Catholic Pro-Life Movement in America, two wrongs do make a right.