An Angry Return To Blogging

I have been busy for the past several weeks, which when combined with my boredom with both the Republican and Democratic party conventions, and more recently my being struck down with appendicitis, has meant that Semi-Partisan Sam has not seen much new activity lately.

I remain confined to the couch and hopped up on painkillers, and though sitting up and typing on a laptop still causes considerable discomfort, I am doing it because would like to say the following to the hosts of “Fox & Friends” on Fox News:

SHUT UP WITH ALL THIS STUFF ABOUT A “POLICY OF APPEASEMENT”. DO YOU EVEN UNDERSTAND THE FREAKING POINT OF HAVING A DIPLOMATIC SERVICE? AMERICAN EMBASSIES AND CONSULATES ARE NOT JUST THERE TO SERVE AS MASSIVE MEGAPHONES THROUGH WHICH THE UNITED STATES CAN GLOAT ABOUT ITS SUPERIORITY, OR CHIDE THEIR HOST NATIONS ABOUT THEIR VARIED SHORTCOMINGS. DIPLOMACY INVOLVES BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS WITH OTHER COUNTRIES AND FOSTERING PERSONAL, ECONOMIC AND CULTURAL TIES, AND GOODWILL, IN SERVICE OF THE NATIONAL INTEREST. HOW DO YOU PROPOSE THAT THE AMERICAN NATIONAL INTEREST WOULD HAVE BEEN BETTER SERVED IF THE LIBYAN CONSULATE AND EGYPTIAN EMBASSY HAD SENT OUT MESSAGES SAYING “FREE SPEECH RULES AND YES, WE DO THINK YOUR RELIGION IS A BIT DODGY. NOW BRING IT ON!!” ?

Aah, why am I bothering? You’re all ignorant at Fox, save the increasingly orange Shepard Smith, the hard-to-define Juan Williams and the curious case of Gretchen Carlson, who holds degrees from Stanford and Oxford and just pretends to be dumb sometimes (“I looked up the word ‘czar’ in the dictionary, and it said…”).

And to Mitt Romney:

WHEN AN EMBASSY SENDS OUT A MESSAGE CALLING FOR RESTRAINT IN UNNECESSARY VERBAL ATTACKS ON OTHER RELIGIONS, IT IS NOT TRYING TO SUPPRESS FREE SPEECH. NOR IS IT SYMPATHISING WITH “ATTACKERS” WHO WOULD NOT BESEIGE SAID EMBASSY FOR ANOTHER SEVERAL HOURS. TIME, FOR OUR PURPOSES, IS LINEAR.

There.

That is all.

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When Homemade Signs Fail

The Obama re-election campaign recently released via Facebook this picture of an Obama supporter holding aloft a hand-written sign, detailing in colourful lettering the reasons why they voted for the president in 2008 and plan to do so again in 2012:

This is all very well and good, notwithstanding the dubious nature of some of the “achievements” listed, but then it all goes wrong in point #8. The placard creator writes:

“Despite inheriting one of the worst economic messes since the Great Depression, he added 2.6 million private sector jobs to our economy, and indications are that the economy is slowly improving. To anyone who thinks it’s been too slow – don’t you know you can’t turn the Titantic around in a day?”

Now, I get the message behind this, and I actually agree with it. The economy was falling off a cliff when Obama took office, and the tales told by Republicans about how sunny and wonderful everything would have been if only John McCain had won and we hadn’t had that awful stimulus package that did nothing to help us are just pure grade A baloney. The stimulus was necessary – much of the money may have been misdirected and there may have been a dearth of “shovel-ready” projects in which to invest, but it is a great falsehood to argue that it made things worse.

However, I also think that any election literature that includes the phrase “indications are that the economy is slowly improving” is pretty weak and perhaps should not see the light of day. And the Titanic metaphor?

Apparently you “can’t turn the Titantic [sic] around in a day”. In fact, you probably can’t turn it around at all, given the fact that the wreck lies two miles beneath the surface of the north Atlantic ocean. But if it were still afloat, I’m sure that it’s turning circle wouldn’t be that bad. Then again, maybe that’s why it hit the iceberg.

But do you really want to be comparing the US economy to the Titanic? Really? Is that wise? Are you just trying to give some ammunition to the Romney campaign at this point?

Come on, Obama campaign, you can do better than this.

 

# you can’t turn the titanic around in a day

SEMI-PARTISAN SUMMARY

CULTURE

Amanda Marcotte, writing at Slate magazine, makes a compelling case for movie scriptwriters and directors to show more condom use in their movies. She makes a fair point: “In the world of movies and TV, people seem to be having sex all the time, but they almost never talk about or are shown using contraception. Since so much of movie sex serves the plot, you get encounters that are much more spontaneous than they would be in real life, without any pause in the action to wrap it up. Young viewers could easily get the sense that the norm is to hop right in bed with someone without ever worrying about unintended pregnancy.” And it’s true – if realism is your aim (and admittedly this is not always the case), pretending that people hop into bed with each other without going through that awkward “fumbling in the bedside cabinet drawer” moment is a misrepresentation, and one that can be easily (and, if done well, humorously) corrected.

Jim Henson Studios, creator of The Muppets, is boycotting Chick-fil-A over that company’s president’s condemnation of gay marriage. In a stern rebuke, their statement reads: “The Jim Henson Company has celebrated and embraced diversity and inclusiveness for over fifty years and we have notified Chick-Fil-A that we do not wish to partner with them on any future endeavors”.

Proco Moreno, Alderman of Chicago’s 1st Ward, joined in the anti Chick-fil-A backlash, stating that he would block the restaurant chain’s attempts to open their second Chicago outlet in his district because of the aforementioned statement issued by their CEO. His statement is somewhat over-the top – “If you are discriminating against a segment of the community, I don’t want you in the 1st Ward” – it is hard to see how any discrimination is taking place, as the restaurant does not check the sexual orientation of its customers upon entry, or have any policies in place that discriminate against one or another. But the fact remains that needlessly coming out in favour of a regressive social policy position that has no direct impact on your business or bottom line, can cost you money.

Getting in on the act, The Onion reports on Chick-fil-A’s new homophobic sandwich. Reports The Onion: “In a press conference to reporters, company representatives said the homophobic new sandwich will include the national fast food chain’s trademark fried chicken filet wrapped in a piece of specially-smoked No Homo ham that would be topped with a slice of Swiss cheese and lathered in a creamy new Thousand Island-based Fag Punching sauce”.

 

BRITISH POLITICS

The UK economy shrank by another 0.7% according to the latest figures released today. Iain Martin, writing in The Telegraph, thinks that George Osborne has six months to turn things around. I would guess that this estimate sounds about right, but I am not optimistic that Osborne will do anything differently, given his obstinate refusal to implement the needed supply-side reforms, and his obsession with trying to score cheap political points from Ed Balls, a diversion which should be beneath him.

The Guardian’s foremost education journalist twists herself in knots trying to explain why she is against private schools, and yet is sending her daughter to a private school. She takes a whole article, and many unnecessary words to explain what I can say in just three – she’s a hypocrite. She says: “I remember reading about Diane Abbott’s decision to send her son to the £10,000-a-year City of London school. She said she was a mother first and a politician second, a point that resonated strongly with me.” Precisely. She’s happy to inflict her left-wing social engineering on other people to make them conform to her ideal worldview (uniform standards, uniform people, uniform outcomes), but as soon as her own interests come in to play, she takes the conservative position.

 

AMERICAN POLITICS

Oh noes. The house of cards built by Grover Norquist has started to come crashing down as more and more elected officials repudiate his “tax pledge”. Whether you think the current tax burden in America is sustainable or not, I think most reasonable people can agree that Norquist’s pledge is overly restrictive on lawmakers, preventing them from closing unwarranted and discriminatory tax loopholes on the grounds that doing so would constitute a “tax increase”. Norquist, and his advocacy group Americans for Tax Reform, are one of several significant hurdles standing in the way of a fundamental simplification of the existing byzantine tax code. We should all cheer its demise, and hope that similar obstacles from the American left fall by the wayside too, in the name of meaningful, lasting reform.

It is hard to disagree with this piece from Marbury, discussing the old-fashioned political art of persuasion, and the relative aptitudes of Obama and Clinton at using it. Through the lense of the Northern Irish “Good Friday” peace accord, Marbury looks at the way that President Clinton was able to flatter, cajole and reassure the key parties so that they reached a point where a deal could be signed, and how this skill is currently lacking in the Obama administration. Money quote: “Obama likes the big set-piece speech. But every policy he has backed, from the stimulus to healthcare, has declined in popularity the more speeches he made about it. His speeches explain things very well, very precisely. But they don’t change minds. This, it turns out, was the big hole in Obama’s campaign rhetoric of unification, of bringing red and blue together. He spoke about it eloquently, but he was never going to be the president who put it into action. Obama is a preacher, not a persuader. He’s terrific if you already agree with him, but doesn’t have much impact on those who don’t.”

Jacob Weisberg, writing in Slate magazine, effectively deconstructs the Romney campaign’s attempts to smear President Obama with the “Chicago machine politician” label. Says Weisberg: “Of course, Romney isn’t interested in this kind of nuance. ‘Chicago-style politics’ is mainly just a way for him to call Obama corrupt without coming out and saying so”.

SEMI-PARTISAN SUMMARY

Semi-Partisan Sam’s inaugural summary of new events and commentary that are worth a read today.

CULTURE

The Obama and Romney campaigns paused their respective election campaigns in response to the tragic cinema shootings in Colorado, which have left at least twelve people dead. This did not stop some people from trying to make political hay out of the tragedy, though they were roundly chastised by Slate Magazine.

The Daily Mash takes a sardonic look at the new Batman movie which just received its London premiere. Mocking pundits from left and right alike, who have attempted to find a relevant political statement in the subtext of the movie, they report that “Director Christopher Nolan’s latest epic has prompted intense speculation from critics searching for socio-political meaning behind the images of a man in a costume hitting people and running away from explosions.”

 

BRITISH POLITICS

Robert Halfon MP writes an opinion piece for ConservativeHome, arguing that the Conservative Party needs to work harder to win the respect and votes of trades union members, where necessary reaching over the heads of their ideological, self-serving union leadership. I couldn’t agree more. The average RMT worker has no more in common with the fat, bloated Bob Crow than I have with Matthew McConnaughey, and it is ludicrous that Crow should claim to speak for his entire membership and not be called out for doing so. A point well worth remembering as leaders of the Public Services Union call a strike in the run-up to the Olympic Games, based on a ballot where turnout was less than 20% of members.

Nick Cohen at The Spectator has an excellent piece exposing the cravenness of the British government in handing the Olympic organisers and their favoured partners so much control not just over the Olympic brand, but over the ability to market goods and to exercise free speech itself. In fact, the Olympic organisers are the beneficiaries of a special, bespoke law (the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act of 2006) which gives them special and criminally enforceable legal rights that no other private individual, company or organisation enjoys. This article is a must-read.

An expectant couple were shocked to find a ghostly image of Margaret Thatcher’s head in the ultrasound scan picture of their unborn baby, as Guido Fawkes reports. I really have nothing to add to this one.

Tony Blair would be more at home in America than Britain, or at least would receive a warmer welcome, writes Paul Goodman at ConservativeHome.

A worrying new “grassroots” campaign has appeared, on Facebook and elsewhere, calling for the renationalisation of Britain’s rail network. Going by the name “Bring Back British Rail”, they long for a return to the days of swift, courteous, efficient transport service and a customer-oriented ethos that used to exist prior to…oh wait. Well, the government should just own everything, right? It’s simple! ADDENDUM – I refined my views slightly after a discussion with a respected friend on the Bring Back British Rail group’s Facebook wall.

 

AMERICAN POLITICS

Andrew Sullivan gets there first and does a better job of analysing Obama’s “you didn’t build that” speech, which has sparked so much Conservative gloating/fuming. I must admit that when I first heard it, I thought that this was another facepalm moment, akin to Obama’s “clinging to guns and religion” faux-pas, but Sullivan clears things up and demonstrates quite clearly that the “that” Obama is referring to were the roads and bridges and infrastructure which he was discussing immediately before – and which were conveniently left out of the quote. You can still argue that Obama attributes too much success to the collective aspects of American society – the infrastructure, the regulations, and so on – but I think it is pretty ridiculous to argue that the president really believes that entrepreneurs are not responsible for their own success.

Michele Bachmann, the fire-breathing congresswoman from Minnesota, finally stepped over the line with her letter calling into question the character and patriotism of a senior State Department aide who happens to be Muslim. This was too much even for the likes of John Boehner, who was one of several senior Republicans to disassociate himself from Bachmann’s ‘McCarthy-like’ witch hunt.

The General Services Administration (GSA) appear to have failed to learn from the furore that followed their Las Vegas blowout in 2010, or at least decided that blowing taxpayer money on lavish events was a feat to be encouraged and repeated. Which they duly did in November of that year, allegedly spending $268,732 on a venue, drinks and canapés, entertainment and party gifts at a “performance reward ceremony”.

Highlighting an often-overlooked point, Lori Montgomery, writing in The Washington Post, reminds us that Americans actually pay the lowest taxes to the federal government in 30 years. If today’s GOP cared much for the truth, or understood the concept of an objective fact, perhaps they might stop whining about Obama the tax-raising president. But I think we all know that won’t happen.

This controversial piece by Tom Junod caused quite a stir when it was published just over a week ago. Analysing the secret drone strike programme operated by the Obama administration (though its existence is officially denied, apart from a series of fortuitous leaks to let the American people know how successful it is), it should make any right thinking person question the new powers over life and death, due process and standards of accountability that are being claimed by the federal government. It should also make anyone who voted for Obama hoping to put an end to the criminal excesses of the Bush administration feel betrayed and angry about what is still taking place in your name.

Fortunately, the ACLU is now getting involved and suing the Obama administration over these grotesque constitutional overreaches, as Adam Serwer reports at MotherJones.

A Funny Conservative Meme

It doesn’t happen often. I think even most right-leaning Americans would agree that the political left has a disproportionate share of the talent when it comes to humour and comedy (think The Daily Show, The Colbert Report etc.) But in a recent speech Obama finally seems to have given America’s budding right-wing comedians the impetus that they needed for success.

Cue the “You Didn’t Build That” meme, which can be found here.

I’m going to treat the substance of Obama’s speech – in which he uttered the now famous line “If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that” – more seriously in a separate post.

But for now I encourage everyone to enjoy this comedic renaissance taking place within the American right. My favourite example is below:

Or maybe this one:

Clearly a vast improvement from this truly awful song about government czars under the Obama administration, which attempts to rhyme “USA” with “citizenry” and includes the dreadful line “word is they’re getting one [a czar] for centaurs”, with accompanying inappropriate footage in the video:

 

I guess it is true – from rock bottom, the only way was up.