Sunday, March 28, 2010

Nancy Pelosi

I was in the dental office the other day, discussing an upcoming extraction and implant, and one of the dentists cracked, "It'll be uncomfortable, but not as bad as a date with Nancy Pelosi."

I'm afraid I gave him my sternest displeased teacher look, and told him I'd probably enjoy a date with Nancy Pelosi. Hopefully, this will not make my impending extraction more painful, but I'm totally sick of the Pelosi jokes. What makes Pelosi, one of the most skilled political leaders of my lifetime, at least, an acceptable target for wisecracks?

Oh, right. She's, uh, how do you say it... female? It seems like it might still be okay to be openly resentful of, and spiteful towards, a woman who exercises real power — and feels no more need than a man to be "charming" about it.

Maybe I'm wrong, but I can't think of a good alternative explanation. Of course, the raving diatribes against her by right-wing media might lead more reasonable people to think that "gentler" digs are okay.

Anyway, if I did have a chance to take her to dinner, I'm sure the conversation would be fascinating, stimulating, and informative. And so, Madame Speaker, consider that a standing invitation.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Health Care Politics

Any health care bill, I suppose, is better than none — and any small amount of courage displayed by Democrats is a lot better than the total lack of balls they displayed up to this point. It's a shame that by enshrining private insurance in the law, Congress probably has permanently blocked the possibility of a Canadian style, single payer system.

It was nice, though, to see the president finally step down from his pedestal of aloof, superior non-confrontation and twist a few arms. If he'd been willing to do that from the beginning, we might have ended up with a better law — not much better, of course, because in a corporatist plutocracy the interests of corporate plutocrats always must come first — but possibly a law that provided for a public option, at least, and provision for nationwide insurance exchanges instead of a vague mandate that they be established by the individual states.

Personally, I don't think the passage of the law will hurt the Democrats at all in the next cycle of elections — Americans like winners, and the Democrats won this one. If they go on to push through some substantive financial reform, unperturbed by irate Republicans jumping up and down like Yosemite Sam (and the occasional death threat), they can demonstrate the kind of strength Americans genuinely admire.

How successful they can be depends, to a great extent, on Obama. Health care shows us that if he provides real, aggressive leadership, things can get done — and Republicans have been behaving like such assholes of late, even Fox is having a hard time making them look good. (Fox also must bear quite a bit of the responsibility for unleashing the crazies, including the militias and neo-Nazis as well as the dopes in the tricornered hats.)

Speaking of crazies and death threats, I seem to recall that the assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan didn't hurt him at all, politically. It's wishful thinking, but I think a failed assassin who says his attempt on Obama's life was inspired by Glenn Beck would be just about perfect.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Special. Very special.

According to today's Times, General Stanley McChrystal has taken control of Special Operations forces in Afghanistan. To those of us who assumed that the commander for the region already had control of those forces, it came as a bit of a surprise. Who was in charge before he decided to take over? Donald Rumsfeld?

Special Forces, you see, appear to have been responsible for an outlandish share of the civilian casualties McChrystal says he hopes to avoid. It seems those Green Berets and Navy Seals and such like have been trained to be very efficient — albeit not especially discriminating — killers. Men, women, children, chickens, goats, insurgents, non-insurgents, armed, not armed, who the fuck cares? They're just more towelheads — or, in the terminology of an earlier war — just gooks.

Barack Obama, who hopes to be the first American president to win a war since Harry Truman, does not seem to understand that not even the best military leaders can control the military personality, the military ethic, and the military quest for advancement by spilling blood. I think it possible that McChrystal understands, though. Maybe, if we elected him president, he would get us out of Afghanistan.

Where the fuck is Eisenhower when you need him?

In the meanwhile, nobody seemed to pay attention to the content of Patrick Kennedy's rant the other day, when he attacked the press for its failure to cover Dennis Kucinich's attempt to get us out of Afghanistan in 30 days. Sadly, all they heard was the noise.

Had it not been for the noise, of course, they would have heard nothing.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Hooray for Dennis!

Arguably, Dennis Kucinich is America's least corrupt politician. No plutocrat ever benefits from the actions Kucinich takes in the House, so it's pretty obvious he hasn't been bought.

His bill to end American involvement in Afghanistan, as everyone expected, went down to resounding defeat in the House yesterday, and Afghan corruption king Hamid Kharzai's tongue kiss with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (as documented on the front page of the New York Times) does not seem to have changed the numbers at all.

I'm still anxiously awaiting McChrystal's "government in a box" for Marja — not yet installed in the newly "liberated" town. When Karzai showed up there a couple of days ago, he was not exactly greeted with enthusiasm, and easily could have been run out of town on a rail had he not been in the company of U.S. Marines. One certainty, however, is that nobody in Marja wants the unabashedly corrupt and brutal Afghan police around, no matter how "well" they've lately been trained by American contractors.

Call me a cynic — everyone does — but I'm still inclined to believe that the main reason we remain in Afghanistan is because the usual war contractors continue to rake in vast profits, and use those profits to elect compliant politicians who will keep the profits flowing. Afghanistan's corruption is blatant and shameless. Our system is more subtle, but no less corrupt.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Dump Duncan

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is, in my opinion, incompetent. Yes, he plays basketball with Our President, and he was named CEO of the Chicago public schools by Little Rich Daley, but so what? His most noteworthy "qualification" seems to be that he hung out with some kids from the "hood" — including a few who "made it" — while he was still in high school. Did it have something to do with his mother's white liberal "outreach" to Chicago's poor blacks, or did it have everything to do with it?

(Did he ever spend so much as a semester in the classroom? Of course not! He's one of the elite, and they don't lower themselves to a point of actually teaching. I shit upon him — figuratively, of course, because I see no opportunity to do it literally.)

Gag me with a spoon. Duncan is just another elitist asshole with "free market" pretensions — pretty much the same as Our President. Firing every goddamned teacher and administrator in Rhode Island's Central Falls High School is just fine with fucking Arne — and with fucking Barack as well.

Okay, here's an idea: instead of firing all the teachers of Central Falls, how about swapping them with the "successful" teachers of East Greenwich? East Greenwich is even more Anglo than Central Falls is minority, and vastly more affluent. Let's see how well those "successful" East Greenwich teachers do when they're tossed into the hood.

(As to the reverse: it doesn't matter who teaches affluent kids — they still succeed.)

So how do we save American education? Personally, I like that idea of teacher exchange — which would demonstrate that "bad teachers" are not the problem. That won't happen, though, so here are some other impossible ideas:
  • Fire all the kids who attend "failing" schools. Better kids, certainly, would improve those underperforming schools.
  • Fire all the parents of kids who attend failing schools. If their parents weren't failing, the kids would be all right.
  • Mix the kids from the "failing" schools and the "successful" schools together, applying massive, random transfers. The average success rate will not change, but the number of "failing" schools will decline.
Mostly, though, get rid of Arne Duncan — and everybody else who never worked a classroom but pretends to understand what is wrong with American education. Find ways to move America's underclass into, at least, the working class — and move the working class, via education, into the middle class. The problems with American education are problems of social class — and you can't fix American education without fixing America.