November 2008


Well, the election’s finally over, and so is my self-imposed absence. It’s been a while since I posted, having been distracted by a mix of work, sloth, and mute fascination with the spectacle of two candidates defining themselves and each other almost solely in terms of how much (or little) each differs from the Bush Administration.

Understandable, of course, given the abysmal ratings of the President. But since Congress has approval rates nearly as bad (or worse), I’d kindly like to give the President-Elect a few words of unsolicited advice:

  • 1) You’ve got an historic opportunity—Don’t blow it!
    Whether we voted for you or not, we’re all tired of the partisan rhetoric and constant sniping, we’re all deeply concerned (read: terrified) by the economic issues ahead of us, and we’re all hopeful that your administration will figure out a way to move forward. So you’ve got an opportunity to truly be a President for the whole nation. But only if you really want to be. If you do:
     
  • 2) Rule from the center.
    This isn’t the advice of an embittered conservative or dejected McCain fan, this is simply the only way to really run the country effectively. This isn’t a Progressive country, nor even a liberal country. For that matter it’s not a far right country either. It’s a center-right country, in which broad majorities believe in individual responsibility, the free market, small business, and low taxes. That’s not to say that you can’t win support for reform in areas, but massive expansions of socialism will not be well-received in the long run. The appointment of your cabinet staff and economic advisors so far is a great start, and one I hope continues. If you want to do well, continue to play to the broad majority, not the partisan base lurking in the shadows. To help do that:
     
  • 3) Make the right use of your political allies.
    Take Nancy Pelosi, for example. Some will tell you to rely on her advice, and others will point out that’s she basically an idiot (or possibly a muppet, it’s hard to be certain). But only I will tell you the sure and certain way to turn Nancy Pelosi into a solid asset with no downside. And it’s simple: whenever you’re really, really excited about some new idea but have a nagging suspicion that the idea, however exciting, may also be insanely stupid, simply run it past Pelosi. If she embraces the idea enthusiastically, it is stupid, and you should discard it immediately. If she opposes the idea on ideological grounds, then it may or may not be stupid, it’s simply not progressively stupid. If she looks at you wide-eyed in bemusement, then the idea is beyond her mental capabilities and you’ll need to re-run the test with Vice President Biden or Senator Reid. And don’t forget to:
     
  • 4) Make the right use of your political enemies.
    At first this might seem tricky, since you can’t really consider McCain and his crowd your political enemies, now can you? He really is the Alan Alda to your Jimmy Smits, and most of the RINOs in that group are secretly delighted at the possibility of raising taxes and opening the spending floodgates even wider. But those aren’t the enemies I’m speaking about. You can make use of the actual Republicans as well, particularly the more conservative ones. Take a page from the master himself, and emulate Bill Clinton in cherry-picking the best conservative ideas, repackaging them, and selling them as a new plan for “responsible government” (hey if Bush can use “compassional conservatism”…). Hammer the health insurance industry on their anti-free-market attitude (nobody likes them anyway). Nail the lovers of earmarks, Republicans and Democrats alike. Take the populists and isolationists to task on free trade, pointing out how tariffs hurt the poor around the world (and coincidentally make us poorer too). Do this, and you’ll confuse the Republicans and their base, especially because you’ll be doing more than their own party’s done for years. So be clear that:
     
  • 5) Government can’t fix everything—Make that clear every day!
    As a progressive you want to believe in the power of government to fix problems, but as a former community activist, you know the reality: things often suck, but the government typically sucks even more. There are few, if any, things that government can do better than the private sector. (Though there are things, like defense, that we just really don’t want the private sector doing.) Embrace the great truth our Founders knew: government is always an evil, simply often a necessary evil. But within that truth, you can stress your plans to make government as little an evil and as great an asset as possible. That’s a message most Americans can believe in—and those who can’t are your core supporters anyway! Best of all, when your administration falls short, as they all do, you can simply point out that you’ve been skeptical of the power of government all along!
     

Do these simple things, and you’ll be a new Bill Clinton, but with a loving (if America hating) wife, beautiful children, and (we all hope) fewer (or more attractive) mistresses. And, with a bit of luck, you’ll get to preside over yet another economic boom that turns into a bubble that has the good grace to burst at the beginning of your successor’s first term rather than at the end of your second!

More importantly, and more seriously, you’ll be able to preside over a country finally healing the division of 2000, since, unlike your progressive base, most Republicans really are willing to give you half a chance and really will judge you on your results rather than your ideological background. Since the progressives will never quite be able to hate you, by being a President for all Americans you’ll finally bring the unity we always say we want, but never actually do anything to achieve! Or, at least, that’s my profound hope. In the meantime, congratulations on your victory, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America!

As is traditional we put aside our usual bickering, pissing and moaning for national holidays. As my comrades are being lazy of late, I’m going to post my list and people should add comments or just edit.

Mildly Piqued Academician is thankful for a lot of things this year. Aside from the usual stuff:

  1. That his brother fully recovered from what was supposed to be major but routine surgery but which turned into life-threatening internal bleeding…
  2. That he’s got a stable job in a decidedly unstable time, with very good colleagues and students…
  3. That his retired parents pulled their money out of the stock market six months ago…
  4. That certain important deadlines were—finally—set… and met. 🙂

The Angry Immigrant is thankful…

  1. for safe travel across country to visit family back in the old country.
  2. for fun visiting little nephew #1 and little nephew #2
  3. for fun building breakfast and lunch meals for the homeless for today. All those years of making sandwiches for school lunch came in very handy.
  4. that my latest project appears finished, so I can spend evenings at home instead of at the movie studio.

The Angry Midwesterner is thankful…

  1. That he is spending the holiday in the Midwest.
  2. For loving family, all across the country.
  3. Open roads lined with farms, and a sky free of pollution.
  4. Good friends, good fellowship and good food.

The Angry Political Optimist is thankful…

  1. That the election is over and that the cumulative exhaustion is finally wearing off
  2. That, in spite of Libor peaking on November 17th, the day his ARM reset, his interest rate went down
  3. That the silver lining of the economic meltdown is that people are taking the time to reassess their goals and turning away from rampant consumerism
  4. That the price of oil is less than $50/barrel and gasoline is $1.56 a gallon; and that Chavez, the Saudis, and Medvedev/Putin are scrambling so hard to right their respective boats that they aren’t causing trouble
  5. That all those people who were wishing secretly and not so secretly for the United States to crash and burn, have decided that “eh, maybe not” such a good idea

Take the now-infamous turkey episode.

(WARNING: If you are a wuss it’s mildly disgusting and might well be NSFW if you happen to work somewhere odd.)

It’s classic Palin: Over-acted in a way that makes William Shatner appear downright Oscar- and Grammy-worthy and the Checkers speech look like the Gettysburg Address, tone-deaf, and carefully pitched to push the buttons of the mainstream media and urbanites who don’t understand that, yes Virginia, the turkey on your Thanksgiving table got his f—ing head lopped off not more than a few weeks before, his feathers plucked after being dipped in scalding water and innards removed, before being packed in shrink wrap plastic on his way to your local mega mart, with the giblets neatly tucked in the now-empty body cavity.

Edit: All this was done to turkey quite possibly by illegal immigrants; almost certainly by people making very small wages and working in dangerous conditions, though the farm Sarah Palin visit was a traditional one and thus not giant agribusiness (so all the more reason for AM to dislike her).

This seems horrible for a large chunk of the population who doesn’t want to acknowledge the fact that, well, not to put too fine a point on it but Turkey Day involves the wholesale massacre of millions of turkeys… year after year after year, as long as there’s been Turkey Day. Literally wholesale, as in they are going to be sold wholesale and then, eventually, retail, to you, Joe Consumer, will buy one. Maybe even Joe the Plumber will buy one with the proceeds of his new book deal, if he’s not a ham type of guy or the sort to have shot Bambi for some tasty venison roast. You see, roast or fried turkey is turkey, not soylent green… which is people. If it was a tofurkey it would be soy, which you could eat on Lent and some would argue is much more green than meat consumption… but, to paraphrase Alton Brown, that’s another rant.

Having been near the wholesale massacre of livestock before, I can assure you that nobody, but nobody, with a functioning nose can miss the blood-tanged air—not to mention the giant trough of turkey blood easily visible in the background where Farmer McDoodle keeps looking around—and, as we all know, she knows how to dress a moose and would be acquainted with the scent. If not, you would know that at a turkey farm where you’re pardoning a turkey that the rest of the happy birds are going to be turned into dinner and what comes after. In other words, much like the machine gun bullets fired at Lech “Duck Son” Kachinsky and Mikael “Misha” Saakashvili , or Vladimir Putin’s most fortituous tiger shot, Paris Hilton and numerous other celeb sex tapes, or Andrew “Don’t Tase Me, Bro'” Meyer’s little stunt with John Kerry last year, this was probably one big setup. Why play the fool like this, you ask?

Well the MSM reacted pretty much like Pavlov’s dogs when the dinner bell rang. (In case you need an edumacashun.) And MSM baiting is to be expected, because she’s auditioning not for public office but for the really big bucks that only come from being, not to put too fine a point on it, part of the New York-dwelling MSM itself. You see, I suspect that Sarah Palin’s seemingly tone-deaf post-election media campaign is essentially a long audition to host that FOX News program when she’s had a “decent interval” from the election and it won’t look like she’s walked away from her obligations as Alaska gov. It’s not tone-deaf, it’s perfect-pitch dog whistle. FOXes are canines, too.

If she’s really lucky it’ll end up being the Sarah and Joe Show for ’10, but I doubt Joe’s fifteen minutes will make it over five… his web page is gone now, for instance, and I bet that book deal will be gone soon enough, too, because the belly of the beast digests first and Joe looks like he’s got some gristle to him—gristle enough to ask tough questions of a presidential candidate, for instance, and then compare said candidate to a member of the Rat Pack. He’ll be lucky to end up as a motivational speaker. But Sarah now… she’s schmoov like buttah, but she’s got to keep her name out there if she wants that much posher than Joe’s book deal not to end up in the remainders bin faster than Monica’s story or the rest of the digested mass left by the political-media complex.

And ’10 is a long way away….

So Happy Thanksgiving, dammit. Pass the lasagna. I’m tired of this turkey already.

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In case you wondered just how the yearly massacre of turkeys is managed, here’s The Explainer. Of note is this almost definitely NSFW clip from Dirty Jobs.

Detroit, Detroit!
It’s a blunderful town,
The graft goes up,
then they burn the place down.
Jobs disappear down a hole in the ground.
Detroit, Detroit!
It’s a blunderful town!

Apologies to Frank, Gene, and the gang.

Angry Immigrant note to self:
Borrow $500M from government, start a new manufacturing hub in northern Ohio. That way I can preserve 100,000 manufacturing jobs, while demonstrating what incompetent management comes out of the University of Michigan. The fact that these workers’ children will go to OSU in large numbers and grow up hating Michigan is just a bonus.


 

The “Auto Industry Crisis” is easy to solve. Before giving any more private companies any public money:

  • Step 1)  Get it out of Detroit. Anyone smart enough to be good management is too smart to move there. You’d have to bribe them, and the industry can’t afford it. Ohio seems like a good new place for it. Round on the edges and high in the middle… Use this move to:

     

  • Step 2)  Get it out of the UAW. Or re-educate the UAW about what actions you will accept. They’re one of several albatrosses around the neck of the U.S. auto industry, and they need to be taken down a few notches. The workers are necessary, the union is just like barnacles that need scraping off. The Department of Labor is their only friend, and the only one enforcing labor laws. Congress should write a neat little loophole into labor law that any company being bought into Gov’t receivership is now subject to special labor rules, including all-out ignoring current contracts. This will allow for massive flexibility in changes the government can force into the company. Use this flexibility to:

     

  • Step 3)  Purge the dross. High and low. Anyone making a multiple of a typical line-worker salary is gone. If they were so critically useful to the process, then they had the power to make it succeed or fail. They chose to fail. Their replacements will work on contingency, and be paid their fee once the company comes back out of receivership. Union dues are reset to $0 until all gov’t loans are paid back. Until my government money is paid back, not a cent goes to the bungler/crooks that caused the problems in the first place. This crisis is about preserving workers’ jobs, not their parasitic union fat cats’ jobs. They can start collecting regular welfare with the rest of the shiftless. The workers can feel free to organize. Their grievances will be heard by a special board at the Dept of Labor. Any work by a union organizer will be done on a volunteer basis. Then we’ll see how much the “workers good” they really care about. Until their employer buys itself back from me, John Q Taxpayer, I make the rules.

     

This will likely cause 2 of the big 3 to fail. I’m fine with that. Re-tool the assembly assets into making other things we will always need — garbage trucks, railroad equipment, forklifts, etc, and make a crapload of them. Use government-owned product designs so you don’t waste time and energy making ugly useless and unwanted slag any more. The surviving major U.S. manufacturer will be an efficient bastion of design, marketing, and manufacturing that we can be proud of. It will repay its debts to society and buy itself out of its government indenture. Then it can proudly show its face again.

But step 1 is getting the heck out of Detroit. And turn the light off when you leave…

-AI

The enemy is clearly delineated: he is a perfect model of malice, a kind of amoral superman—sinister, ubiquitous, powerful, cruel, sensual, luxury-loving. Unlike the rest of us, the enemy is not caught in the toils of the vast mechanism of history, himself a victim of his past, his desires, his limitations. He wills, indeed he manufactures, the mechanism of history, or tries to deflect the normal course of history in an evil way.

In 2003, columnist Charles Krauthammer coined the term “Bush Derangement Syndrome” to be: “The acute onset of paranoia in otherwise normal people in reaction to the policies, the presidency — nay — the very existence of George W. Bush.”

It is hard to resist the conclusion that this enemy is on many counts the projection of the self; both the ideal and the unacceptable aspects of the self are attributed to him. The enemy may be the cosmopolitan intellectual, but the paranoid will outdo him in the apparatus of scholarship, even of pedantry.

Given the emotional nature of our brains—emotions usually come first, reason a decided second—it’s almost impossible to avoid at least a little disgust at “the other guy.” All too often reason’s job is to find a post hoc rationale for the outcome emotional we wanted to support anyway. This is called motivated reasoning by social psychologists and it’s a very useful skill to learn to recognize it in yourself, and to mitigate its effects, to the degree that’s possible. (Example: I personally believe Michael Palin has reasonable grounds to sue for defamation of character simply by sharing a last name with a certain former Vice-Presidential candidate…. Edit: See this for Michael’s gracious take on Sarah, starting at about 7:45. At least he’s a class act.) It is, essentially, a function of the body much like many other functions we don’t like to talk about, like… well, you know about those so I don’t need to talk about them further. So if you’re feeling an excess of emotion—of any sort, positive or negative—right now, don’t feel too bad, as it’s hard to avoid. There are people who spend lifetimes working on the skill and let me tell you there are few things nastier than the studiously passive-aggressive conflicts among Zen Buddhists.

… the paranoid mind is far more coherent than the real world.

No, the true “presidential derangement syndrome”—Krauthammer was overly specific in his terminology—is a longstanding part of the political scene of America, fitting in very nicely to the the “paranoid style” of American politics so neatly outlined in an article by Richard Hofstader in Harper’s in 1964 (from which all the above quotes are taken). To be sure, it infects everyone else’s politics as well, even more than in the USA most places. Taking the time machine back to the 1990s provides a very useful reminder: Much of the excessive anger the left exhibited towards George W. Bush had fine parallels in the right’s excessive anger towards Bill Clinton, with its crazy stories about Vince Foster’s suicide (or was it murder?) and so forth. Both men were able to inspire vituperative hatred in a non-trivial number of people, in no small part because the hard core partisans of both sides viewed their elections as being fundamentally illegitimate. Lo and behold, witness many of the things that have been said about Obama, or about “the media not being tough enough on Obama,” the quadrennial Republican fearbabe ACORN, and God knows what else. Actually former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson has a nice little piece on this on Nov. 5.

In American experience ethnic and religious conflict have plainly been a major focus for militant and suspicious minds of this sort, but class conflicts also can mobilize such energies. Perhaps the central situation conducive to the diffusion of the paranoid tendency is a confrontation of opposed interests which are (or are felt to be) totally irreconcilable, and thus by nature not susceptible to the normal political processes of bargain and compromise. The situation becomes worse when the representatives of a particular social interest—perhaps because of the very unrealistic and unrealizable nature of its demands—are shut out of the political process. Having no access to political bargaining or the making of decisions, they find their original conception that the world of power is sinister and malicious fully confirmed.

Now the “paranoid style” in American politics has existed for a long time. It’s not—despite what certain partisans so desperately want to believe—the province of the left alone. Instead it has shifted around back and forth between left and right depending on their political fortunes. Lest we forget, the 1950s was the heyday of the John Birch Society, epitome of right wing paranoia, and Richard Nixon was quite adept at playing a simplified and more accessible version of the tune, a Kenny G compared to ‘Trane, as it were. Basically, for some people being on the “out” side is so horrible an experience that they fall into a nearly mindless rage. The paranoid style, in its most extreme form, is manifested by oppressed out groups. Think the Arab street or some of the really paranoid thinking in groups like Nation of Islam or white supremacists, but you can see it in slightly milder forms among many other groups, African-Americans, white guys who think affirmative action screwed them, taxi drivers who won’t shut the hell up, etc. Irrespective of the truth of one’s grievance—and make no mistake, many of the groups subject to “paranoid” politics have been screwed royally—the grudge is nurtured and due to the very strong need for a narrative our brains seem to possess, a good paranoid story just “works” emotionally. To quote some Young Earth Creationists I saw on TV once, who were ham-fistedly “debunking” Darwin, “Isn’t it just easier than all this Darwinism?” And the web seems to have made faceless exercise of rage more possible.

The paranoid spokesman sees the fate of conspiracy in apocalyptic terms—he traffics in the birth and death of whole worlds, whole political orders, whole systems of human values. He is always manning the barricades of civilization. He constantly lives at a turning point.

So, coming soon to a Diehard Republican—and, I think even more likely, the sorely disappointed “bake sale bomber” type progressives when Obama fails to deliver on the impossible things they’ve projected onto him—near you:

Obama Derangement Syndrome…

Ask for it by name…

Accept no substitutes!

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If you want practical advice, take a “news break.” I remember reading about this in one of those newspaper columns by Oprah’s favorite doctor before Dr. Phil and Dr. Oz arrived on the scene, Dr. Andrew Weil. Whatever else you might think about the good Doctor’s advice, this one is spot-on: Stop reading news for a while, say a week or two, or even a month and get yourself involved in other things that don’t constantly remind you of the stimulus that bugs you. You’ll be surprised at how difficult it is to start but how effective it is in the long run. In a nutshell, it’s cognitive behavior therapy for your overactive political brain.

At 12AngryMen, we have a protocol of sort where one of us writes an article (“rant”) and others of us review it prior to publication so as to insure that the grammar is somewhat correct and that the links actually work. Intellectually we also have to get into the mindset of the author to see if what he is trying to say is conveyed in an effective manner. We suggest changes from time-to-time and even do a few of our own edits, but by and large, the work that appears on the blog is the work of the author. The fun part is getting to read stuff early.

Now a lot of the stuff we write doesn’t make it off the draft pages, either because it ages out in terms of newsworthy, or frankly because the author just doesn’t give a damn anymore. So it is fraught with peril to suggest to our viewers that one of our members will actually publish something, or for that matter anything (Angry Biologist comes to mind).

However, recently I had the opportunity to skim over a draft rant of Angry Midwesterner. Seldom has a theme resonated with me as strongly as this, and I’m sure that this piece will be picked up and go viral through the blogosphere. Even now I can’t help but to assign characters to the people in AM’s analogy. Rahm Emanuel as The Mouth of Sauron, implementing his dark master’s will at Morannon, the Gate of Mordor at Udun, is merely the first of a long string of associations. I look forward to AM’s publication and urge you to stop back to see if it’s up.

Gay Pride. What image did that short phrase conjure up in your minds? Did it make you think of a long parade of well dressed citizens marching in solidarity for civil rights? If you are an average American the answer is, unfortunately, probably not. More likely you first thought of a bawdy display tramping down the street with large stylized genitalia, and folks dressed in costumes normally worn in private, which leave less to the imagination than a trip to the beach. Sadly, when it comes to pride parades and demonstrations, LGBT groups have opted not to show maturity, restraint, or an understanding of what sorts of behaviors are appropriate in public, and instead have turned these events into something that would earn participants an arrest and permanent status as a registered sex offender if it weren’t for the city permit.

Let’s get down to brass tacks. It is never appropriate to dress up as a giant penis and parade down main street. City streets are public places, and as such need to be kept child friendly. Most parents want to manage the way their children are exposed to sexual content, and groups strutting down city streets in barely enough leather to cover their unmentionables are taking this right away. Take this sort of behavior and try it on a normal day and you’ll be slapped with charges for lewd and lascivious conduct, and with good reason. There is no legitimate excuse for acting this way in a public setting. None whatsoever.

Normal folks see this sort of “pride” on display and form the logical opinion that the people participating in these events don’t have the slightest clue about appropriate behavior, and might be more than a little deranged. Given that this is (hopefully) not the message the LGBT community wants to send, it is time to put a stop to Gay Pride, or at least reform it. I have a few suggestions towards this end:


  • Lose the sexual imagery. In Gay Marriage debates the LGBT community is very vocal about how gay relationships are about love, and not lust. If so, why the need for the giant walking penises, and the troops in bondage gear? This sends the message that the LGBT lifestyle actually is just about lust. You can’t have it both ways. Furthermore you don’t see normal people behaving like this in public, we keep our private behavior in the bedroom. Even those of us who support the gay lifestyle would prefer that you keep your sex life to yourself, the rest of us don’t subject you to ours.
  • Project a positive image of homosexuals. Most of the folks I know who are gay are normal people, with normal morals, and normal lives. This is the side of gay people you want to introduce America to. Americans who oppose homosexual lifestyles largely do so because they’re afraid gay people are deranged sex offenders out to expose their children to inappropriate content. Gay Pride simply serves to reinforce this belief with solid proof.
  • Make use of abstract symbols. From the rainbow flag, to the pink triangle, to the linked gender symbols, homosexuals have a large numbers of easily identifiable symbols to rally around and project as part of their public image. Make floats that focus on these symbols (like Jewish communities focus on the Star of David and Menorah), not explicit sexual imagery and behavior. Abstract symbols are appropriate for public places, giant dildos aren’t.

In the end, I think you’ll find you win more friends with appropriate behavior and conduct than you do by being obscene and offensive.

-Angry Midwesterner


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