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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Sunday, September 21, 2003

I'm neglecting you, gentle readers . . .

. . . so go feed the bat instead.

At the current rate of an average $62.57 contribution, it will take just shy of 80,000 individual contributions to reach the $5 million goal. Given that, as I write this, there have already been over 5000 donors, that means each of my faithful readers need contribute only about 25,000 times.

Oh, what do I think about Wes Clark, you may ask?

Meh. I'm unimpressed so far.

See me on Open Source Politics. My No Child Left Untested series starts sometime this week.

Sunday, September 14, 2003

Miscellaneous = Mousse in a Cell
Just a few short bits today

So I'm writing for this Open Source Politics e-zine/ metablog/ project thing now, and one of our number has thoughtfully installed some stats tracking things. (I'm not illtechnorate, but some things are beyond me at 8 AM on a Sunday.) The shocking thing? Of the most-used phrases typed into search-engines that found our site, recalldoyle.com is the third most popular.

I used recalldoyle.com in this essay about Wisconsin politics, knowing that, after dust-up upon dust-up between Gov. Jim Doyle and the Republican state legislature, there would be a movement afoot to recall him, especially given what's going on in California and what happened last year in Milwaukee County. (The Milwaukee County recalls are discussed in that same essay if you don't know what I'm talking about.)

I guess the idea of recalldoyle.com is so popular, it's leading people to my essay decrying the idea more than just about anything else that's leading people to Open Source Politics at all. (And really, the top two search phrases are save overtime and save our overtime, which ought to count as one search; they take you to this great piece by C. Brian Lavigne.)

I'm playing tonight (Sunday) at the Coffee House at 7 PM in a benefit show for Rethinking Schools, a great progressive-minded education reform outfit. Doors open at 6:30; a free-will donation is requested at the door. I'm probably playing first, with another teacher playing after me.

If you're not in Milwaukee to see me tonight, be sure to check out "K Street," the new HBO series which is airing at 9:30 central, featuring James Carville and Paul Begala. Tonight's guest is Howard Dean, and they're airing the real-live debate prep they did for him before Tuesday night's Congressional Black Caucus debate. C & B claim to have given Dean several lines for the debate, though in promoting the show they didn't say which lines. But my money's on the Trent Lott/ Martin Luther King line. I like Dean, but I could tell when he siad it that he didn't write it.

Thursday, September 11, 2003

Of Straw Men and Paper Moons

It's only a paper moon
Sailing over a cardboard sea . . .


The Bush administration, to me, has always seemed plasticky, fake. And I'm not just talking about the way Bush took office; the whole thing has an eerie staged look to it, from the press events to Bush's phony Texas-by-way-of-Maine-and-New Haven accent. I don't need to mention the USS Abraham Lincoln, do I?

The impression of Bush on the campaign trial in 2000 was just as carefully crafted--it was an act, in fact, designed to give the impression that he was folksy and frugal. The Washington Post wrote that "Bush made his maiden voyage to Iowa and New Hampshire with a single paid advance man leading the way. Gore's traveling entourage included about 32 advance staff, half a dozen White House aides, his pollster, speech coach and media adviser." (Of course, Somerby was all over that one: "But somehow, in two full days of reporting, the writers never provided the actual data: the Gore campaign had spent $8.1 million, compared to $7.2 million for Bush. Was it true, that Gore had 'spent far more?'" I do love Somerby!)

But since his ascendancy to the Oval Office, Bush has grown progressively more theatrical:
[O]n the one year anniversary of September 11th President Bush gave a speech on Ellis Island and the White House had gone so far as to rent three sets of Musco Lights which they set down on a barge across New York harbor and tethered in the water around the base of Liberty Island and then sort of blasted them upward and lit up the Statue of Liberty in a huge, fabulous way so it could be seen on television. [. . .] There is a new guy who's head of the presidential advance team. Presidential advance is the group of people that sets up all the presidential events 2, 3, 4 or 5 days ahead of time. He was a producer for Fox News.
It all stinks: "I want you to like me," he says. "I want you to think I'm a good, regular guy." But it's also very transparent. Remember the speech in Indiana when the Republican officials behind the president had to remove their ties to look more like "normal" people?

Lately I keep thinking of Wag the Dog, you know, and of course, I'm not the only one. The funny thing is that in many ways, the war is not the overproduced sideshow, but the presidency itself.

That's not to say there aren't distractions. And Saddam Hussein is this president's straw man.

Yes, it's only a canvas sky,
Hanging over a muslin tree . . .


Now, I thought I knew what a straw man was, and then I actually looked it up. (I also do love the Wikipedia!) Turns out the straw man was originally in rodeos, if you can believe that. A man-shaped thingie stuffed with straw was there in the ring, the hope was, to draw the bull's attention long enough to let thrown bull riders get to safety.

Well, my friends, George W. Bush is the thrown bull rider. We are the bull.

Before September 11, 2001, the most challenging thing that Bush had ever faced was the stem cell research decision. I still remember his squished-up-in-thought forehead, trying to show he was serious, as he spoke from the movie set that is his ranch in Crawford. It seemed like this presidency would just be a statistical bump, an aberration that, as slickly produced and vapid as any summer blockbuster, would be forgotten soon after it left the White House--er, theater (sometimes I get lost in my metaphors). In fact, apart for some abdication of responsibility in North Korea and a general air of idiocy, I had found very little overall in his administration to object to, until that Tuesday morning.

It was there and then that the United States woke up to two things: First, we were not unassailable. Second, this president was never really riding the bull. It's been well documented how Bush was off the bull as the attacks were happening that morning, and everyone agrees that Rudy Giuliani was the only one really acting presidential.

But worse than that, since the release of the results of the congressional investigation into the terrorist attacks, we know that the bull had tossed Bush's phony cowboy self long before: The administration ignored repeated warnings describing al Qaeda activity and warning of attacks using hijacked airplanes.

The administration wisely tried getting back on the bull. As soon as it became clear that bin Laden and his group were behind the attacks, they went into Afghanistan after them. Trouble is, Bush couldn't stay on the bull for very long--bin Laden disappeared and Afghanistan slowly sank back into the swamp.

Lucky for Bush, the Office of Special Plans (great parody here) was on top of it, digging out the old stand-by straw man, Saddam Hussein. From jump street--basically, the afternoon of September 11--plans were rolling to tie the new war on "terra" to Iraq, and the neo-conservatives could start playing out their imperialist American fantasy.

So when, right on schedule, Bush's poll numbers got too low and the public started to forget about Afghanistan, we started hearing--how did he put it?--"March to war, march to war, march to war" with Iraq, to distract us from the fact that Bush was off the bull again.

In fact, if Saddam Hussein had not already been there, they would have had to invent him. We may be on the verge of seeing it now; since Saddam himself is MIA and Iraq is quickly becoming the worst quagmire since Viet Nam, I imagine that somewhere in the bowels of some agency there's a cabal of neo-cons desperately stuffing straw into a turban.

It's a Barnum and Bailey world,
Just as phony as it can be . . .


So then came Bush's address to the nation last Sunday. It bore none of the high production values we have come to expect from this spectacle of an administration. The only thing shocking about it was the Really Big Number.

But it did hold some telling moments: Bush is asking for our patience. "This will take time and require sacrifice," he says. We can't give up now, he says, for "[t]errorists in Iraq have attacked representatives of the civilized world, and opposing them must be the cause of the civilized world." Basically, he wants us to keep the faith. He wants us to believe in him.

It reminds me of the stories about Donald Rumsfeld a few months back, and his forbidding criticism of the US occupation. One columnist opined, "Questioning the president only makes our enemies stronger. Or as Tinkerbell would say, 'Every time you say you don't believe in the president, a U.S. soldier dies.'"

How does that song end? Oh yeah:

But it wouldn't be make believe,
If you believed in me!


Ella could make it work. But from this administration, it just sounds kind of desperate, doesn't it?

Monday, September 08, 2003

Do you think he and Zappa are jamming yet?

The thing that burns me up most about it is that Warren Zevon will be best remembered for "Werewolves of London." Not an awful song, sure, but as far as legacies go, not the one I would have chosen. RIP, New Von Razer.

Sorry about the sporadicity of posting here lately; it's not (entirely) because I don't love you any more. I do have some good things posted (and more coming) up at Open Source Politics, and, of course, I've spent too much time lately belaboring the obvious over on the Daily Kos boards. Mostly, though, it's just that the opening to this school year has been the toughest in my career so far. The thing what pays the bills gets the most attention.

Somebody found me today by Googling anagram howard dean. Well, for the curious: Howard Dean = Head Onward.

Didn't even need Andy for that.

Saturday, September 06, 2003

A Dependent Woke Her
or, Weekend Open Thread

Talk amongst yourselves. Suggested topic this week: Where were you on September 11, 2001?

And don't forget to check Open Source Politics all this week for remembrances of the anniversary, and news about what's happened (and not) since.

Props to Andy's Anagram Solver for this post's title.

dye job patsy # 5:41 PM

Thursday, September 04, 2003

Math is Hard Redux

Spears: "I think we should just trust our president in every decision that he makes and we should just support that."

I like my shirts roomy

Turns out that I share a birthday with Damon Wayans, Beyonce Knowles, Paul Harvey, Richard Wright, Pink, and Mitzi Gaynor.

On this day in history, Romulus Augustus, the last emperor of the Western Roman Empire, was deposed by Odoacer, a German barbarian who proclaimed himself king of Italy in 476; Los Angeles was founded in 1781; Geronimo was captured in 1886; Pancho Gonzales and Ted Schroeder played 67 games in five sets in the longest tennis game ever in 1949; the Edsel was introduced in 1957; The Beatles recorded "Love Me Do" at Abbey Road studios in 1962; Albert Schweitzer died in 1965; both "Gilligan's Island" (1967) and "Lawrence Welk" (1971) had their last network airings; and Mark Spitz won his seventh gold medal in 1972.

If you want to give, click on the "Boot Bush" button to the right. I would be so happy this time next year to be on the verge of kicking him out.

Tuesday, September 02, 2003

Open Source Politics
www.ospolitics.org

So a couple of months ago, I was given the opportunity to get in on the ground floor of a project that would bring an unprecedented number of left-wingish bloggers together with the singular focus of spreading the good word and helping restore this country to some semblance of balance, order, democracy, and, most of all, hope.

After much back-and-forthing on a name and a format and a mission statement, we finally settled on Open Source Politics. I'd like to think our mission is fairly inherent in our name, but if it's not clear, see my opening paragraph here. We're out to tell a story, to weave a dialogue that creates an awareness of new issues and provides fresh insight to old ones. I am honored to be in the distinguished company of such luminaries as have joined this project. I will not try to list them all--there are over 40 of us, and the list is ever-changing--but among them are some of the real lights of the blogging left.

We are live today. It's starting slowly, but soon you can expect to find a dozen posts a day from some of the sharpest minds on the left side of the blogosphere in all different categories. Please don't worry about some of the clearly "to be built" aspects of the site yet; they are coming. Better hands than mine have been hard at work making sure that this thing both sings and looks pretty.

I predict that within a month, like Atrios or Daily Kos, we will be one of the few daily must-reads for the left. However, you can start now.

What does this mean for your humble Folkbum's own blog? Little, I think; I may occasionally post a teaser for what I have over at ospolitics.org, but I will keep this site moving ahead with humor, other pieces not meant for ospolitics.org, and my shameless shilling for Howard Dean. (I do need to try to stay objective on the new site!)