Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 Predictions -- More Right Than Wrong

On New Years Day this (last) year, I made a few predictions for 2009.  It's a silly excercise reserved for people with some kind of media presence who think anyone cares what they think.  It's also a reality check to see how well you are tuned in to an unpredictable world.

What'd I say?  Oh...

Barack Obama will start his term with a tremendous amount of good will and support for his economic stimulus package – whatever it is – because too many people will want and need it to succeed. True, as far as it went, and the plan has had more positive effect than it has been given credit for.  There is no way to know how much the injection of hundreds of billions of dollars into the economy stopped the deadly skid Obama inherited. Except that it did.

If Republicans get in the way on the basis of their usual petty nonsense, they will just dig a deeper hole for themselves. No "if" here.  The Party of No has been remarkably unified in their opposition to any hint of grown-up, Democratic accomplishment.  They are feeling pretty good about themselves right now, snuggled in the soft bosom of their alternate-universe talk-radio/Fox News circle-jerk, where Tea Bagging opportunists cavort with bad actors like Glenn Beck and bad legislators like Michele Bachmann.  We won't really know how deep a hole they are digging themselves until the 2010 elections they have already declared won, when they pick up only a few seats in the House and one or two in the Senate.  If they're lucky.

Barack Obama will start his term with a tremendous amount of good will and support around the world as he tries put the nation in a position to recover from the tremendous damage done by the arrogant, radical and reckless Bush administration...Not all of the damage is reparable, but Obama will have an advantage because of his background, because he has Clinton leading the effort and, most importantly, because he is Not Bush. Exactly right, his success in turning around America's image in the world exemplified by the premature awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize. Obama's nuanced, intellgent juggling of America's responsibilities in the world has led to a lowering of the anti-American temperature around the globe.  And he is certainly Not Bush.  And Not Cheney. And Not McCain.  And Not Lieberman. And that's all good.

Hillary Clinton won’t be home much as she jets around the globe on a mission to unruffle feathers and get America back to its deserved respected-leader status. Clinton has been Obama's secret weapon around the globe, as she has employed her remarkable talents in the service of American interests.

America and the world will breathe a collective sigh of relief when our brave troops start coming home from Iraq. Iraq?  What Iraq? Bush's Stupid War continues to wind down as the focus of our anti-al-Qaeda campaign moves where it belongs; to Afghanistan, Pakistan and -- now, apparently -- Yemen.

Violence there will increase, as the kind of thugs who have always run that country make their move. In the end, Iraq will end up right where it started – with the meanest son-of-a-bitch in the country presiding over a brutal regime. The only difference between that guy and Hussein will be that Iraq will be a theocracy, aligned with Iran, and even more of a potential threat to Israel. Nice work, Bush.  Recent celebrations of the success of Iraqi "democracy" in the continued propaganda campaign to validate Bush's Stupid War after-the-fact are drastically premature.  When the dust settles in five or ten years, Iraq will be much more of a threat to Israel and our interests than it ever was under Hussein.

Obama will have a chance to appoint at least two Supreme Court justices and, unlike Bush, will nominate people with impeccable legal pedigrees and no discernable ideological tilt, except for the inclination to be fair, which is a lefty trait, anyway. Republicans and their wing-nut lap dogs will pretend they are all lefty socialists anyway, and the general public will ignore them and move on.  Well, only one vacancy in the first year, but everything else was exactly right.  The public was not impressed with the Republican's childish attack on Justice Sotomayor.

Obama will end the year with an approval rating in the high 60s or higher. Yeah, well, a bit off.  Obama has met the perfect storm of 10% unemployment, an unprecedented echo-chamber of right-wing blather willing to tell any lie, and a bunch of snooty lefties who think they could do it better than he can.  Under these circumstances, it's amazing he's hovering at 50%.

Talk-radio clowns will continue to be completely flummoxed by Obama’s success and popularity, and will suffer ratings problems as a result. By the end of the year, they will spend more than half their time talking about finances and sports. The wing-nuts found their groove by creating and latching onto the Tea Party concept, which found obnoxious voice for all the imbicles who hate and resent Obama for racist and other reasons.  Their demogogory of health insurance reform, including (especially) scaring the elderly about "death panels", has been the most reprehensible performance by mainstream politicians since Florida congressmen like Joe Scarboro defended Bush's theft of democracy in that state in 2000.

Locally, the radio wing-nuts will shill full-time for Scott Walker’s campaign for governor. Their in-kind contributions will not be reported to the Government Accountability Board.  Just wait.  They are just getting warmed up.

The conversion from analog to digital television in February will be delayed when it becomes clear that the need for a converter box will take free TV away from millions of Americans who still don’t have the box and couldn’t figure out how it works if they did.  The first of my predictions to actually come true, as the date was moved to June.  Unfortunately, it has now taken place.  All over the poor and underclass, TV showing nothing by snow are gathering dust in closets.  Sadly, a little less Judge Judy for everyone.

 The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel will follow the lead of the Detroit Free Press and limit home delivery to three days a week. By the end of the year, the paper will stop pretending to have separate sections and fold everything into two sections; maybe one. The paper continues to be flumoxed by its crashing business model, but no limited home deliveries yet.  The Local section has been folded into the front page on Monday.  A four-page Business page here, a four-page Cue section there.  And after the Packers finish their run this year, can a four-page Sports page be far behind?

The paper will resort to hysterical headlines and endless self-righteous campaigns, like its current one about drunk driving. The paper's various hysterical campaigns against drunk driving, BPA, backups at the Patent Office (wha?), and the inner-city child care industry (while those reaping millions of state dollars scamming the J-S precious "choice" school program remain uninvestigated) continue apace.  Last Sunday, the paper spent three or four whole pages telling you how wonderful they were. 

If something is missing from the paper, referrals will be made to the on-line edition. All day, everyday.

No matter what happens, the J-S will continue to find room to run 25-inches of Patrick McIlheran's blathering three days a week. By the end of the year, his tedious right-wing talking-point recitals will take up 25 percent of the available non-ad column inches.  I think his column in the dead-tree edition are now down to two a week, but Paddy Mac continues to be the most fact-challenged, unaccountable, talking-pointed columnist in the paper's once-distinguished history.  The Illusory One has made tracking McIlheran a hilarious special project, to everyone's benefit.

The Brewers spend money and, maybe, trade one of their young superstars to create a decent-enough starting rotation.  Not quite.  They could have got some decent arms for Corey hart or J.J. Hardy early in the season, but even they didn't see how far they would fall.  The rotation was a mess all year.

Prince Fielder will come into camp having dropped 30 pounds.  Wishful thinking, but what a year after a slow start. 

Corey Hart will drop his at-bat country music for Nirvana and, this time, have a complete season. Ooops.  Sorry.

National League pitchers will continue to be stymied by Ryan Braun, who will hit 45+ homers despite being the most-walked batter in the league.  Not Braun -- Fielder.

The Brewers will win 90+ and win the division.  No.  Not enough pitching.

Despite strong lefty credentials and occasional accidental brilliance, Plaisted Writes will not be recognized by the Shepherd Express' Best of the Blogs page.  An easy prediction. 

Also, sometime this year, society page embarassments Boris and Doris will be invited to a party where no one but them shows up. They will write it up as a wonderful evening with Lou Fortis, Rip Tenor (as S-E mascot Art Kubalek) and other close friends.  All true but the write-up.

Finally, although I didn't predict it, this has been an admittedly shit year for Plaisted Writes.  I posted half as much as last year, even though there was plenty to talk about, and what I did write wasn't all that hot.  My Blogger page tells me this is my 300th post.  Here's to a better, more productive 2010.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

God Bless Us, Every One

One of my guilty pleasures on Christmas Eve day is driving around listening to old radio plays on WISN. For that one day, the primary purveyor of right-wing poison in Milwaukee gives their local and national chuckleheads the day off and runs three holiday-season radio plays from the late 1940s – “It’s a Wonderful Life”, “A Christmas Carol” and “Miracle on 34th Street”. It’s a trip back in time to a lost art form, featuring talented, familiar voices from the past. The material – smarmy and corny as it often is – is crafted for moderately intelligent, thoughtful people who might be in the market to think well of sponsors Campbell’s Soup (“Christmas Carol”) or Lux Soap (“Wonderful Life” and “Miracle”).

This Christmas Eve morning, the historic passage of health insurance reform in the Senate that I watched live on TV that very morning was on my mind as I took off for a long drive. Tuning to WISN looking to amuse myself with wing-nut hysterics about the vote, I instead found the “Christmas Carol” recording; hosted by the great Orson Welles and featuring the incomparable, crusty Lionel Barrymore as Scrooge, being led around by a bunch of ghosts.

I picked up on a detail I hadn’t noticed in the story before. During his tour of the Future, Scrooge is shown the Cratchit family in mourning over the demise of the sickly Tiny Tim. For some reason, Scrooge thinks he can do something about this if he is given the chance to go back to the Present and be a nicer guy. And, indeed, he does somehow “save” him from this apparent fate – according to Wikipedia (yeah, yeah, I know...but I don't pretend to know Dickens), Tim survives even to attend Scrooge’s funeral.

Now, what could Scrooge have possibly done to affect the length and quality of Tim’s life in such a dramatic way? What else but get the poor kid some damn health care? Dicken’s tale is set in pre-industrial, pre-nationalized health-care England, where the poor and (in Bob Cratchit’s case) underemployed were left to fend for themselves. The pre-ghost Scrooge was the epitome of the social Darwinist, more than willing to let the chips fall where they may on the unfortunate heads of the underclass; even unto death, inasmuch as it “decreased the surplus population”. After his fever-dream, he cares too much – at least about the poor he knows – buying more giant turkey than the Cratchit family can handle. And Tiny Tim must be saved. No doubt Scrooge headed straight to the health insurance exchange and got his employee on his plan (alas, with high deductibles – hey, Scrooge was saved, but not crazy).

If the Republicans, Tea Baggers and their purported intellectual enablers national and local were like Scrooge, we could say their salvation is only a nightmare (or history lesson) away. But they lack Scrooge’s internal consistency. Scrooge was a dick with his money because he thought he had to be – it doesn’t seem he was doing all that great either (certainly not as good as Barrymore’s other iconic role – Henry Potter). He just decided (at least for one night) not to make whatever success he did have on the back of his employee, the long-suffering Bob Cratchit.

Right-wingers, on the other hand, only care about one thing, and that is the reinstitution of their political power. They know as well as you and I do that the health insurance industry is an elaborate, bureaucratic scam designed to siphon money off of people’s (mostly) unavoidable misery. They know the small business people they pretend to champion are suffering under the crushing weight of health insurance policies that are costing more and paying for less.

They had a chance to do something about it when they were in power and didn’t even try. Now, the grown-ups in the room – the Democrats – are finally showing some leadership on the issue, and the shrinking GOP knows it cannot survive if Obama and the Democrats succeed in actually making millions of lives better. Even the weak, incremental, industry-friendly bill that passed the Senate is something that – like Social Security and Medicare – will be a landmark of positive government action that will solidify the Democratic Party as the Good Guys for another generation.

The power-mad Republicans and their fellow travelers know the long-range implications of Democratic achievement, which is why they have unleashed the most repulsive, demagogic campaign of lies and hyperbole in U.S. political history. From the constant screeching about socialism to putting the fear of “death panels” into our seniors, the disloyal opposition has become completely unmoored from reality, floating in its own fetid sea of phony facts, deliberate exaggerations and badly-acted hysterics. Using its all-too-convenient vehicles – talk-radio, Fox News, the Wall Street Journal and their echo-chamber counterparts in the blogosphere – an alternate universe has been created where these people can talk to each other and at their vulnerable target demographic of fearful, stupid people. Most of their commentary would be laughed out of the legitimate media – and are, when they make the mistake of showing their sorry asses in the real world.

But to accuse them of Scrooge-like behavior gives them too much credit.  Scrooge at least could articulate the self-interest involved in his previous behavior.  The Republicans can't articulate anything except "NO".  If Obama was against health insurance reform, they would find a way to be for it.  All they know is that if the Democrats succeed at something -- anything -- they lose (again).  Succeed Obama did (or will, soon).  Lose, they did, the Republicans, all standing together as a convenient and unfortunate whole.

Scrooge saw in the Future the unnecessary suffering and death of Tiny Tim and sought redemption through change.   Republicans know a million avoidable medical tragedies are out there and have one word for them -- NO!