Inhuman Swill : Politics : Page 3

Bin hidin', bin dyin'

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My first reaction this morning upon hearing the news that Osama bin Laden is dead was elation. I wasn't in Manhattan on 9/11, but Laura and I were in Queens, and we rode our bikes to the southern end of Roosevelt Island in the East River from where we could clearly see the smoke pouring from both towers of the World Trade Center a few miles away. Bin Laden being shot in the head by special forces feels like justice, though inadequate justice compared to all the death, suffering and hatred he ignited.

But at the same time, I have to wonder about the timing and importance of this event. I know the operation has been in the works for a very long time, but it comes as Al Qaeda seems to be fading into irrelevance. The Islamic world, as evidenced by the Arab Spring, seems to have taken to the idea that protest and civil disobedience are more effective at bringing down oppressive regimes than terrorism, which has been demonstrated as entirely useless in that regard. Al Qaeda will soldier on, no doubt, but it's not the power it once was.

All in all, with the election season starting up, the 10-year anniversary of 9/11 approaching, and the U.S. letting itself be drawn more and more into the Libyan conflict, the raid on bin Laden's compound in Pakistan seems almost like a distracting piece of theater.

But I do hope President Obama got George W. Bush on the phone and broke the news to him personally.

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When a man like Donald Trump says that he's not sure whether or not the president is really a natural-born citizen, you should pay close attention. He's telling you something very important.

What he's telling you is that he thinks you're stupid.

Yes, Trump has conceded that Obama's birth certificate "checks out." But the man is smart enough to know that there was never any serious dispute about the president's citizenship. Any credible politician—not to mention The Donald—who has repeated and amplified any "birther" claims has done it for one reason: to undermine the president's credibility in your mind and to weaken him politically. After all, if you're frothing at the mouth and calling for the president to be impeached over a citizenship issue, it's that much easier for those same politicians to pick your pocket. And if they think they can whip you into that state by repeating statements with no more than a tenuous connection to reality, what does that say about their opinion of you?

So listen closely to Newt Gingrich, and Sarah Palin, and Michele Bachmann, and, yes, Donald Trump when they try to spin today's revelation to their advantage. Even now they think they've gotten away with something by forcing the president's hand, and every word they utter tells you they think you're as dumb as a bag of hammers.

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Hook, line and Dan Sinker

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Dan Sinker, a/k/a @MayorEmanuel, appeared on The Colbert Report Tuesday night, and I have to say he hit it out of the park. Occasionally a guest will say something so funny or bizarre that Colbert has nothing to say in response. Sinker did it twice.

The first clip here sets up the interview in the second clip:

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By the way, I've also meant to point out that [info]rjl20 captured the entire @MayorEmanuel feed in chronological order, together with most of the mentions to which he deigned to respond. Read the whole motherfucking thing at:

http://www.elsewhere.org/MayorEmanuel/

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@MayorEmanuel unmasked

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Dan Sinker is @MayorEmanuel
The man behind the curtain has been revealed. Well, really, he came out from behind the curtain himself. As reported by Alexis Madrigal at The Atlantic, @MayorEmanuel is Dan Sinker, a journalism instructor at Columbia College in Chicago, and one of the founders and editors of the zine Punk Planet.

Having myself waxed rapturous over the @MayorEmanuel tweet stream, I can't help but feel a little disappointed that the mystery is no longer a mystery. I'm not nearly as disappointed as Jim DeRogatis is, because, hey, that Twitter account was a brilliant, engrossing, and uplifting example of a new form of literature, accidental as that might have been, and its author has every right to reap the benefits of his achievement. My disappointment is more that of a fan for whom part of the thrill was the not knowing, and the hope that we would never know. Did you honestly want to know for certain whether or not that top in Inception was ever going to stop spinning? I didn't.

But to be pragmatic, it was probably better that Dan Sinker control the revelation than that someone else out him, which no doubt would have happened sooner or later. And at least now we know whom to nominate for that Hugo next year in the Best Related Work category. (Hey, Chicago in 2012!)

Hats off, Mr. Sinker. As your character wrote: "Only things that fucking suck never end: look at laundry, or dishes."

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Into the time vortex!

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@MayorEmanuel
The most entertaining and rewarding piece of fiction of the past six months has been, without a doubt, the Twitter stream of @MayorEmanuel. (Sorry, Mongoliad.)

@MayorEmanuel is, or was, a delightfully profane Rahm Emanuel impersonator whose tweets started appearing six months ago, after the real Emanuel expressed his intention to enter the Chicago mayoral race. (Tagline: Your next motherfucking mayor. Get used to it, assholes.) The tweets were drop-dead funny—so much so that I'm sure I retweeted them more frequently than I've retweeted anyone else's—but at first seemed like little more than an amusing and perceptive piss-take on the real Rahm and Chicago politics.

But then a surprising thing happened. Characters from @MayorEmanuel's entourage began to develop, some based on real people (David Axelrod), others fictional (Carl the Intern, Quaxelrod the mustachioed duck). Storylines began to emerge. Riffing off the real ups and downs of the Emanuel campaign, the daily news, and even the weather, the tweets led followers through the dark underbelly of a fantastical Chicago populated by celebrities and politicians, by the famous and the infamous, by the living and the dead alike, with the gang often tooling around town in Axelrod's beloved but increasingly damaged Honda Civic. (Even the real Rahm tried to insert himself into the story, famously offering a large donation to charity if the anonymous author would come forward.)

From Jane Byrne's secret dungeon to a harrowing ride through the flooded sewers beneath City Hall, from New Year's Eve bacchanalia with Kanye West to Mayor Daley's secret celery dome, the story blended an insider's knowledge of the minutiae of Chicago politics and an intimate familiarity with the geography of the city with a stew of pop-culture references and jaw-droppingly absurdist comic sensibility to create a prodigious, profane, and ultimately moving kaleidoscope world that nonetheless captured the essence of this city-like-no-other. Wilco and Gene Siskel, Groupon and Threadless, even celery salt, that key ingredient of the Chicago dog, all get their moment in the spotlight.

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Targeting violent rhetoric

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A green light for gunmen?
It has come to my attention that a major American retail chain, in an orchestrated campaign to "take out" high prices, may be quietly encouraging violence in our cities and towns. I'm sure the perpetrators of this offense don't mean it that way, but what other message than an invitation to mayhem are the impressionable and unstable amongst us supposed to take from the sight of a local area map covered with red bull's-eye symbols?

I hereby call upon Target Corporation, in these times of hyper-vitriolic political rhetoric, to change their store-locator symbol to something less inflammatory. A nice, neutral asterisk, perhaps? Who could possibly object to that?

Please. It's for the good of the country.

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The wages of fear

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It's 2010, and America has finally started dragging itself into the 20th century's world of social responsibility. We have a health-care reform bill, and that's a thing to celebrated. Meanwhile, as you will have heard, a few opponents of progress are doing their best to drag us back to the worst parts of the 19th century*, as in these incidents (as reported in the New York Times) against House members who voted for the reform bill:

At least two Congressional district offices were vandalized and Representative Louise M. Slaughter, a senior Democrat from New York, received a phone message threatening sniper attacks against lawmakers and their families.

Ms. Slaughter also reported that a brick was thrown through a window of her office in Niagara Falls, and Representative Gabrielle Giffords, Democrat of Arizona, said Monday that her Tucson office was vandalized after the vote.

The Associated Press reported that the authorities in Virginia were investigating a cut propane line to an outdoor grill at the home of a brother of Representative Tom Perriello of Virginia, after the address was mistakenly listed on a Tea Party Web site as the residence of the congressman. Representative Bart Stupak, Democrat of Michigan and a central figure in the measure's abortion provisions, reported receiving threatening phone calls.

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Why I love Malcolm Tucker

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I think most people know me as a fairly laid-back guy in person, never getting too exercised or losing my cool, even when someone's being a jerk to me. If that's your opinion, then you've never worked in an office with me. Seriously. Ask the good, long-suffering people at BenefitsCheckUp or Sesame Workshop. (Actually, don't ask the people at Sesame Workshop. Most of the folks I used to work with there got the ax even before I did.)

If you talked to them, you'd find out that I could be a real bastard in the workplace. Some people at my last job were apparently afraid to talk to me when I thought they'd messed up, or at all. I made at least one producer at the Sesame Street website cry. Mind you, I'm not proud of this. No, wait, actually I am.

Over the past week or so, I've watched the recent film In the Loop three times on DVD. Besides its scathing, cynical view of the political process that lubricated our way into Iraq, I can't get enough of Malcolm Tucker, the angry, profane press secretary who never encountered a functionary he couldn't intimidate or a problem he couldn't spin his way out of. I want to be Malcolm Tucker, or at least be that articulate when I'm enraged.

Tucker, as played by Peter Capaldi, is also a character on the BBC comedy series The Thick of It. That's the source of the short video clip below (decidedly NSFW in its language), which pretty well sums up the Tucker philosophy.

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In the March 8 New Yorker, Hendrik Hertzberg makes an interesting throwaway observation in the course of discussing the Republican disinformation campaign that has labeled Obama's health-care effort as "socialist":

The Democrats' bill more closely resembles Richard Nixon's health-care proposal—the one that Ted Kennedy went to his grave regretting he hadn't embraced—than it does Bill Clinton's, to say nothing of Harry Truman's.  [full article]
It's clear that politicians who bloviate about the dangers of socialism in this country are either ignorant or lying. Do you think that when a smart guy like Newt Gingrich calls 1984 an argument against socialism, he doesn't know Orwell was himself a radical socialist? Do you think that when Jim DeMint calls "discredited socialist policies" the "enemy of freedom for centuries all over the world," he doesn't know that Europe and Canada are not exactly collapsing into anarchy and ruin as he speaks?

No, they're not ignorant. What they're doing is putting Orwell to use in a different way—deploying careful buzzwords—socialism, totalitarianism, 1984, Big Brother—that have become freighted with decades of fear-inducing associations, words that slice through rational processing and detonate like smart bombs in the reptile brain.

The worst indictment of socialist ideas I can think of is that our equitable, cooperative, socialist education system has so completely failed to instill in us the ability to see through all this doublespeak.

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The Accidental Terrorist 30th Anniversary Sale

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