Friday, October 31, 2008

Holy S**t!!!

They say any landing you walk away from is a good landing...

Thursday, October 30, 2008

One More Republican Who Proves Me Wrong

Long ago, in a galaxy far far away, I used to think Elizabeth Dole was one of the few Republicans who'd managed to show a little spine and grace under pressure. I used to think she actually had some class. Making her one more Republican who's proven me wrong...

Friday, October 24, 2008

Almost Settled In

Well, we've completed the move to our new house -- and escrow has closed on our old house -- which means, in our obsessive-compulsive way, we're almost settled in. We've had new hardwood floors put in upstairs; we've had new built-ins built-in downstairs; we had our painter paint the built-ins and the home theater installer install our home theater; we're having our painter paint our guest room and our daughter's room; we've had our paintings and posters hung; I've unpacked my office, set up our computers, networked our TiVos, powerline-wired our house, wired our wireless router; hired a gardener, a fountain guy (don't ask), and contracted with the alarm service; picked up dry cleaning at our old dry cleaners and committed myself to finding a new dry cleaner in our new neighborhood; picked up mail at our old mailbox place and committed myself to finding a new mailbox place; found out that a tree in our back yard has a root fungus and probably will have to be cut down; found out that the tree on the curb outside our house needs to be trimmed before another limb comes crashing down, but the city owns the tree and won't come out to trim it, which means we'll have to trim it ourselves on our dime but we can't let them know about it because it's their tree; found a great new pizza place (new to us anyway) down the block from our new house; and it's only been five days since we moved in.

Wonder what next week will be like...

Till then, something to make us all realize that minor disasters can be pretty funny, as long as they happen to someone else: - Watch more free videos

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Thursday, October 16, 2008

It's 1932, Do You Know Who Your Candidate Is?

Last night, while Barrack Obama was handily trouncing John McCain in the (thankfully) last debate of this interminable election season, a friend of mine forwarded me a semi-anonymous email touting Obama's supposed connections to terrorists, and his purported "lying" about McCain's record, and so on, and so forth. Apparently there are a lot of these emails floating around, providing folks who won't support Obama because he's black with a feel-good-about-yourself alternative reason to pull the lever for the other (white) guy.

Be that as it may, my friend will probably end up voting for McCain, because he gets most of his news from right-wing talk radio, and because, over the years, he's accepted most of the Republican arguments without really looking at the difference between what they say and what they do.

After all, the party that ran on the promise of proposing an anti-abortion constitutional amendment had control of Congress and the White House for almost eight years, and somehow never managed to put that amendment on the front burner. The party that touts its fiscal responsibility has left our children with a crushing ten trillion dollar debt. The party that promotes its handling of military and foreign affairs sent our sons and daughters and brothers and sisters to die in Iraq without a clear plan to achieve "peace," or without a good reason for invading in the first place, and has made our country the enemy of human rights, and has destroyed our moral standing in the world. But none of that matters, because it's not what they do that's decisive, for the people who blindly support them, it's what they say. And it's what they say about the other guy that wins them elections -- because they're not afraid to use the Nazi "Big Lie" technique, having learned that people will believe anything if it fits with their prejudices.

Here's my response to the email my friend sent me:

Sadly, this is typical behavior for a party that's proven itself incapable of governing, bankrupt of ideas, and unwilling to face the consequences of thirty years of lying to the American people. They're reduced to making faces at their opponent, of exaggerating inconsequential issues, and in the process, they're attempting to confuse the voters into making yet another bad choice. As if on his worst day, doing the worst thing he's been accused of (and only accused of -- these anonymous emails are despicable, full of lies and innuendos that would make Joe McCarthy proud), Barrack Obama could be any more of a threat to our country than another four years of Republican misrule.

Really, aren't you tired of being played for a fool by people who hold you in contempt?

The Republicans are *not* on your side. They don't care one bit about you, about your family, about what you believe, or what you need. If they had their way, you and your family will be facing even worst economic news in the future than we are all facing now. Make no mistake: the situation our economy is in is a direct result of thirty years of free-market, anti-regulation, anti-government philosophy. This is the world Ronald Reagan, George Bush Senior and Junior, the Republicans in Congress, and their proud sponsors on Wall Street, have bequeathed us.

They know they've screwed up, they know that on the merits they don't have a case to make for another four years of mismanagement, corruption, stupidity, and malfeasance.

So, instead of fighting on the issues, they make up lies and distort the truth about their opponent.

Don't let them sucker you.

The very fact that they're raising this issue -- which was raised and dealt with ten months ago during the Democratic primary, and proven then to be a red herring -- is a clear sign they're desperate, and they're hoping that Lincoln can be proven right one more time. They're hoping to fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time.

I'm just hoping, for once, they can't fool all of the people all of the time.

Not again.

It's 1932. Are you really going to cast a vote for Herbert Hoover?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

This Sums It Up Nicely

I've been thinking much the same thing lately, but rather than hash out my own take on what appear to be the Republicans' Last Days (ironic, ain't it?), I'll just pass this along, from the TPM blog and the commentator formerly known as NCSteve. (I tried to link to the blog entry but for some reason the page wouldn't allow it. Probably my technological incompetence at work.)

Is This the Beginning of the End for the Republican Party?
October 13, 2008, 7:50PM

Political parties are not immortal, even in this country.

The Federalists ceased to be a national party in 1800 and subsequently ceased being even a regional party with a national voice as a result of their opposition to the War of 1812. The lack of effective opposition after the Federalist Party's demise allowed simmering tensions within the Democratic Republican Party of Jefferson and Madison to come to a boil and it fissioned into the Jacksonian faction, which became today's Democratic Party, and everyone else. The remaining bits and pieces swirled around for a bit, forming minor parties and coalitions and within a fairly short time, these parties, along with the remnants of the Federalists,, coalesced into the Whigs.

The Whigs were hampered in developing a coherent ideology because doing so would have required them to confront the slavery issue head-on. Doing that, they knew, would have alienated voters in one region or the other. Instead, they stood for a vaguely defined nationalism that favored Congressional supremacy over the executive, programs of internal improvements, a protective tariff, and a slightly more "energetic" central government than that favored by the Democrats.

The Whigs were just credible enough of a threat to cause the Democrats to keep a lid on the tensions between those who were strongly in favor of slavery and those who were merely not against it. (In practice, in other words, the Whigs bore a surprising resemblance to the kind of barely credible threat that the Republicans dreamed of reducing the Democrats to the heady crazy days between the 2002 midterms and the Schiavo debacle.)

The Whigs' imperative need to avoid taking strong policy positions caused them to look to old war heroes for presidential candidates. Unfortunately, both of the heroes they managed to get elected quite promptly died in office. Between the lack of ideological vigor, the inability to get a strong personality elected President and the growing unavoidability of the slavery question, in the 1850s, the Whigs just unraveled. Their leaders either quit politics altogether or drifted into other new, fringier parties like the American a/k/a "Know Nothing" Party (think Lou Dobbs if he lived in antebellum America), the Anti-Masonic Party ("Against Secret Societies!"), and the the Free Soil Party (against the expansion of slavery into the west).

In 1848, the Whigs won their last presidential election. Their candidate, Gen. Zachary Taylor, hero of the Mexican American War, of course, promptly died. In 1852, the Whigs nominated Gen. Winfield Scott, hero of the War of 1812 and of the Mexican American War. Scott was resoundingly defeated by Franklin Pierce--not exactly a political superstar--and thereby managed to survive another ten years. By 1856, there wasn't anyone left in the Whig party of sufficient stature to merit a nomination. Their sad little convention that year nominated Millard Filmore, the head of the Know-Nothings, and went home, never to meet again.

Also in 1856, another little fringe party started and promptly began competing with the Free Soilers for former Whigs and anti-slavery Democrats. They called themselves Republicans. By 1860, the Democratic Party was also splitting in two, between the "not necessarily against slavery" and the "if you're not for it you're against it" factions, the Republicans swept up the remnants of the Whigs, the Free Soilers and--gingerly and with a certain amount of nose-holding--the Know-Nothings and won the election, their second.

If the Civil War had not followed, the split in the Democratic Party might well have become permanent and the party dissolved. As it happened, once slavery was abolished, northern and southern post-war Democrats found they could deal with one another once again. Since then, factions have hived off of the two major parties only to eventually rejoin the mother party or drift over to the opposition--the Bullmoose Party split off and rejoined the Republicans. The Dixiecrats split from the Demcorats, rejoined, split off again as the "American Party" of George Wallace, rejoined again and then their members answered the siren song of Richard Nixon's southern strategy. The LaRouchites -- okay, actually I've never known what the fuck those loons were all about or why, exactly, it was they nominally Democrats.

My point is that the persistence of the Democratic and Republican parties in the face of splits that previously would have been fatal has lent them an air of unquestioned permanence over the last century and a half. The Republicans may have fantasized about the end of the Democratic Party, but eventually they had to close up their skin mags, zip up and and let someone else use the stall. The Democrats survived and came roaring back from their low ebb following 9/11 just as the Republicans came back after Nixon's disgrace made many suspect they were washed up as a national party.

And despite that, I'm really wondering if we're seeing the last days of the Republican Party.

Most likely not. Almost certainly not. But consider the following. The main difference between a two party and multiparty system is that in a multiparty system, every ethnic group, every religion, every social and economic viewpoint, can have its own party with a rigid ideology and the coalition building occurs after the election. In a two party system, however, each party must be a coalition of competing interests, viewpoints and agendas in order to thrive. The Democrats have always been better at being a big tent and, in any case, ever since the segregationists abandoned the party, the agendas of the various groups within the party are rarely truly contradictory. There is tension, of course, between left and center, and,of course, there's our delightful penchant for turning primary contests into brutal cannibalistic rituals, but by and large we get along.

Republicans, however, have become a simmering kettle of mutually antagonistic interests. Libertarians vs. authoritarians. Anti-immigration activists vs. the people who employ the immigrants. Theocrats vs. the corporatists who want maximum freedom to cater to our most base desires. Isolationists vs. neocon militarists. And, of course, professionals and intellectuals (a few real, most psuedo) who want government by reason vs. the ignorant hateful rabble who want government from the gut.

The only thing that held them together was that they hated us and a common nearly patholocial fear that our policies would lead to social, economic and moral collapse. Now that their policies have led to social, economic and moral collapse, however, all those differences have boiled over and the stupid people appear to have won.

For decades, the Republicans have been more than happy to patronize to the bigots and haters, to the rabid anti-intellectuals, the xenophobes and the just generally stupid. Heretofore, they've used those people, but they never let them run the party. In recent years, however, they let the camel get its nose into the tent when they stopped just giving the theocrats their ear and, instead, gave them a seat at the table with the corporatists and the militarists. Meanwhile loud voices appeared in the media to feed the belligerent delusional ignoramus faction's insatiable appetite for stupidity--Limbaugh, Hannity, O'Reilly, Coulter, Malkin, and on and on. And slowly but surely, as those people took control of the belligerent ignoramus faction, they found themselves in a position to give orders to Party rather than taking them. Increasingly, the agenda of the Republican Party was set not by the Bill Buckleys and George Wills and the Reagan alum. No, increasingly, the agenda was being written by the people who controlled the rabble: Limbaugh and O'Reilly and Hannity and the wingnut bloggers.

And now, the victory of the belligerant ignoramus faction is complete. They've found their champion in Sarah Palin, they develop and coordinate their ideology and worldview through unhinged emails and in the comments sections of the MSM's websites and, at last, the people who used to use these ignoramuses are recoiling in horror.

The list of defectors, people who can no longerstand to be associated with a party run by its pro-ignorance faction, grows by the day: George Will, David Brooks and Christopher Buckley. Lincoln Chaffee, Chuck Hagel and Susan Eisenhower. Wall Street has abandoned the Republicans, donating more to Democrats in the ratio of 2:1. As David Brooks noted recently, the Republicans have lost the professionals--doctors and lawyers, architects and accountants.

The belligerent delusional ignoramus faction still has the neocons on their side, of course. Bloody Bill Kristol and Rich Lowery are on board for the duration but that's hardly surprising. They're just better educated versions of the belligerent delusional ignoramuses who are calling the shots now, kindred spirits. That's not a plus for the Republicans.

If one thing should be clear to us, it is that a political party run by delusional ignoramuses cannot survive. If that premise is granted, I confess that I can see only two possible futures for the Republican Party as I write today. Either the professionals, the country clubbers, the elitists and the libertarians take advantage of the seismic defeat they're about to suffer as an excuse to stamp out the power of the belligerent delusional ignoramuses, or else the ignoramuses keep control and the Republican Party follows the the Whigs and the Federalists across the bridge to oblivion.

Maybe not. There's a lot more institutional infrastructure holding parties together these days; think tanks and donor networks, PACs and national congressional campaign committees. However, one other lesson of history is that when parties die, it can happen faster than anyone imagined--one election you're electing presidents and two election cycles later, the party doesn't even exist.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Two Weeks Till Zero Hour

One reason I haven't been posting lately -- other than the occasional YouTube-hosted wisecrack -- has to do with big changes in the Conway household.  We're selling our house and buying another one, and if you don't think we've gone through some nail-biting during the past few weeks of financial crisis, you've been living on another planet, and part of me wishes I were with you.  

As someone who's watched his career go up and down like a roller coaster piloted by a text-messaging teenager, I approach any long-term financial commitment with a certain amount of, let us say, trepidation.  For the last six or seven years, Karen and I have been extremely conservative with our finances, living in a house that costs us much less than we could afford, and socking away ever spare dime in savings.  (Conservative savings, too, so, luckily, we avoided getting smashed by the stock market crash last week.)  The result is, we're in pretty good shape to weather any short (or moderately long) term setbacks.  And that really won't change as a result of selling our current house and buying a new one.  But our payments will go up, and that pushes us close to the edge of our comfort zone -- and then, on top of that, like everyone else in the country we've been pretty rattled by the economic news of the last few weeks and months.  Not to mention the yo-yo drama of the current presidential election.

So I haven't been in the mood to update this blog.  I've been, well, preoccupied.

Mind you, anxiety isn't the only emotion I've been experiencing lately.  I'm pleased that Rachel is enjoying her new school, I'm having fun writing my first comic-book project in almost two decades, Karen and I are having a great time picking out new furniture and other goodies for the new house, and I barely noticed my birthday passing by a couple of weeks ago.  (I'm at the age now where celebrating a birthday seems a bit hubristic.)  All in all, life is good.  Actually, life is better than good.  The fly in that ointment, of course, is the fact that life is anything but good for so many of my fellow Americans.  


Our country will survive this economic (and political) crisis.  A lot of hungry chickens are coming home to roost -- decades of fiscal mismanagement in the name of a political and economic philosophy that failed spectacularly less than a century ago, and seems to have failed again.  (Why oh why do we never seem to learn from our mistakes as a nation?  Why does each generation have to repeat the follies of their grandparents' generation?  Why is the earth round?  Why don't ducks fall up?  Bears ask, do humans crap in the house?  Questions, questions, questions.)

Anywho, anyhow, interesting times.  And that's why I haven't been blogging much.

Think Before You Vote