Thursday, January 26, 2012

Walter Jones for National Spinster

Campaign season brings a special kind of crazy in social media, so this season I'm putting my foot down. The madness has to end. Anyone who shares disingenuous campaign paraphernalia (and that dragnet pretty much covers ALL campaign paraphernalia) will have their kneecaps split with a rusty lead pipe. Those of us trying to have a decent, level-headed argument about policy can't sit for three seconds without having to pen out some ridiculous diatribe explaining why even if the President were born on the moon his parents were American citizens, so it doesn't even matter. Jus sanguinis.

Case and point, this claptrap from Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC):

I'm gonna start with the shit that should scream out at you and then work my way down...

1) Only in Orwellian math does a 0.7% rise in unemployment equal a 9% rise in unemployment. And yes, I understand where the number came from, it's still shit. That's like saying that if I switch from drinking 1% milk to 2% that I've increased my fat intake by 100%. Sure, the math is technically correct, but just saying it's up by a measly percentage point won't make it seem like my arteries are going to explode.

I can guarantee you that if the unemployment rate had decreased from 8.5% to 7.8%, nobody would be saying that unemployment dropped by 9%, because nobody is that stupid, except maybe the Congresscritter from North Carolina. There must be something in the water.

2) For most of us, the last time we can remember gas being below $2/gallon is somewhere around the time the Marlins won the World Series. This is because that is the last time gas was that cheap for more than the blink of an eye. Once again, the number is technically correct, but still shit. There was a period between late November 2008 and late March 2009 when oil was trading around $50/barrel. I can't blame anyone for not remembering why, but sufficed to say the world economy looked something like this. Even people I know who don't follow politics at all realize that this is a bogus talking point, so I'd suggest people stop using it before they make even larger fools of themselves.

3) I'm going to jump back to the unemployment rate because while a 0.7% increase is nothing to balk at, and certainly nothing a sitting President would even be proud of, the number is hollow unless you marry it up with changes in the labor force over time. Once again, those of us who have memories that span past the last episode of Jersey Shore recall that when Bush left office our economy was hemorrhaging 750,000 jobs a month. Not a year, not during his entire Presidency, but 750,000 jobs in January 2009 alone. You can read all the data off of the Bureau of Labor Statistics' website. Look at where the graph is in January 2009, and where it is now. Go on, do it. I'll wait...

...moving on.

4) If America were a right-proper socialist nightmare, trying to hang the cost of health insurance around the President's neck might be worthwhile. But is isn't, and doing so just makes you look like an ass. Here's five theories as to why costs are rising...the first one comes from the US Chamber of Commerce, which means they must have taken a five-minute breather from fellating Chinese financial firms to tell us what they think. I'm betting that they're more talented at the former occupation than the latter, but hey, you're entitled to think what you want. Just wipe the slop from your chin before you exit the washroom.

Same goes for college tuition...Jesus people, do you love Adam Smith or not? Because I have trouble keeping track.

5) Foodstamp stats are fun, because any rise means more poor people are being fed, and nobody hates that more than Jesus. Yet again, if you don't pay attention big numbers are scary, but I'll do my best to beat the scared out of you:
Since Oct. 1, new federal rules make it easier for households with income from combat pay, retirement accounts or education savings to be eligible.
If I know my Constitution well, this means that Sarah Palin is automatically President for the next 10 years and Obama has to clean the lavatory at the Congressional gym room for the remainder of his term.
Dean says the changes will increase participation but job layoffs will do far more to add people to the program.
I'll understand if you forgot, but remember this? Yeah.

6) Federal debt. Big numbers scary, right? Not if you realize that the US owns the vast majority of its own debt, so really it's just us investing in ourselves. Holy shit, somebody must be stoned for this! Wait, the SEC is already, stand down!

The rest of it is either subjective (what is US Competitiveness and how is it gauged?) or just plain fact. Yes, there are more unemployed since 2009, and yes, home values have plummeted...I don't know how many more .gifs of imploding buildings I'm allowed to post before I hit some kind of quota. Just remember that I have a lead pipe in standing water, so pay the fuck attention to what you post. It won't take much to warm up my swinging arm. I can't get to NC, so I'll have to settle for slugging his social media arm, I suppose. Selah.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Fragments of Democracy: The Aftermath of South Carolina

Rain in Southern California has a tendency to keep people off of the streets. This is a good thing, because most residents of this area drive like banshees the minute water hits their windshield. They'll do their best to make it to a nearby bar to wait out the storm, leaving the roads adequately vacant for rest of us. After I had closed up shop, I spent the drive home hopping AM stations like a kid with a HAM radio searching for the police blotter; any signal, no matter how remote and fraught with static, would at least sate me until I managed to get home.

Conservative debate, especially for the more liberal-minded junkies among us, is a test of mettle rarely found in this day and age. The tools required to endure it vary for each individual, but I have spent years accumulating mine. I knew coming in that surviving it would require a fair amount of alcohol: A few shots of rum and a bottle of Corona would keep me up to this kind of wretched work, and I had to be able to survive the whole carnival show from start to finish if I wanted to make a comment on it with any sort of confidence.

Watching these debates, it's easy to get the sense that there is an understanding between the networks and the candidates' handlers. Rules on time and rebuttals intentionally reduce responses down to finely-tuned talking points, red meat for the base and accusations of media bias. Nine times out of ten a candidate will simply ignore a question and instead go on a 30-second diatribe on the outrage-du-jour, capped off by a rousing round of applause and the shrug of a moderator too meek to even try and keep them on topic. Those who attempt serious journalism are left battered and bloodied or simply mocked on the national stage. Juan Williams felt the bitter sting of this reality, but he will certainly not be the last; this show has no room for the ad-lib.

Because national politics these days - especially when it comes to television - is distilled, bottled and distributed by the same board room dweebs who peddle major league sports. To say that televised debates are akin to a NASCAR event is an insult to the simile; they are interchangeable phenomena, and in each the favored champion has often been selected long before even the participants themselves have had an opportunity to fuck up their own fortunes.

The political junkies among us crave those moments: the crash-and-burn, the look of sheer panic in the eye of the candidate, the stunned silence of Rick Perry when he has an on-stage epiphany: "Sweet Jesus," you can almost hear him say, his face pale beneath heavy layers of bronzer and rouge. "I have no idea what the fuck I'm talking about." These are the broken legs and torn ligaments of the more common American pastimes, and as with any other sport the most spectacular injuries can sometimes permanently cripple the players' careers.

Yet American politics, unlike many others, is a game fraught with second chances. I have no doubt that Perry will limp his sorry, backwater ass back to his governorship and, at the very least, live off of the public teat for the rest of his life. If his handlers have any sense between them they'll let him fade into the political wilderness to die in obscurity, lest he one day decide to irrationally lash back out onto the national scene at some inopportune moment.

If he's lucky, he will re-emerge when the party base is ready to ingest his strange brand of radioactive Texas lunacy. It is not a difficult thing to accomplish in this day and age, especially in the GOP. The fact that someone like Gingrich, who was ridden out of town on a rail by his own party a mere two decades ago - a serial adulterer, chronic liar and petulant bitch of a child - can vault back to the scene and take South Carolina from under the anointed nominee's nose speaks volumes about the baseness of the electorate participating in this scheme and their willingness to engage in a sort of "Scorched Earth" policy to prove some half-baked point about "conservative bona fides".

Gingrich in particular is an outright anomaly to me. If you had asked me weeks ago - before Iowa and New Hampshire - if Gingrich would have any chance of clinching the GOP nomination I would have balked at the idea. Too much sleazy, horrid baggage hung like an albatross around his neck; he'd never be able to keep his head above water. Besides, Romney was the anointed nominee, crowned by the establishment prior to the race even beginning.

For better or for worse, depending on your perspective, I was wrong, though I would argue it was for the wrong reasons.

The truth is I had irrationally assumed that the GOP base was clever enough to avoid a candidate who managed to make Romney seem trustworthy and likeable. Romney is a failure of a candidate because he is incapable of understanding the unique plight of those of us who pay above a 15% income tax rate - or as he calls us, "the help". This is not because he is a narcissistic windbag with no moral compass, but because he wasn't programmed with the ability to feel empathy. It's an oversight I'm sure his manufacturers are beginning to regret.

But "alea iacta est" - the GOP will have to lie in the bed they've made, and live with the imagery of Gingrich being in it, as well. And if he, in fact, does manage to clinch the party nod, we can only hope that his mental train derails somewhere around October, reducing him to drooling idiocy before he has a chance to do any more damage to the nation then he already has. The rest of us will be dutifully standing by, ready to pick up the pieces.