April 25, 2005
At the Going Down of the Bun
I notice from an irate letter in today's paper, McDonald's are again using Anzac Day to sell their fat-on-a-bun. I'm not sure if the ad is the same as the one they used a few years ago, which went like this:
An aged digger sits glumly at a table. A young McDonald's countergirl comes over to him and gives him a coffee. "Oh, thank you," he says. "No," she intones back, "thank you."
Cue logo, nausea.
At the time I was disappointed they hadn't pursued my idea for a follow-up, in which the girl throws the coffee in the face of a nearby Japanese tourist, screaming "THAT'S FOR CHANGI!"
April 23, 2005
When in doubt, read Thomas Frank.
The illusion that George W. Bush "understands" the struggles of working-class people was only made possible by the unintentional assistance of the Democratic campaign. Once again, the "party of the people" chose to sacrifice the liberal economic policies that used to connect them to such voters on the altar of centrism. Advised by a legion of tired consultants, many of whom work as corporate lobbyists in off years, Kerry chose not to make much noise about corruption on Wall Street, or to expose the business practices of Wal-Mart, or to spend a lot of time talking about raising the minimum wage.
The strategy had a definite upside: Kerry's fund-raising almost matched that of the Republican candidate, while the newspapers brimmed with exciting tales of New Economy millionaires volunteering to work their entrepreneurial magic for the Democrats, and the society sheets offered juicy details on fund-raising stunts pulled by wealthy women of fashion. Yet there can be no question about this scheme's ultimate effects. As the savvy political journalist Rick Perlstein put it in a postelection report,
For a party whose major competitive advantage over the opposition is its credibility in protecting ordinary people from economic insecurity, anything that compromises that credibility is disastrous.Swearing off economic liberalism also prevented Democrats from capitalizing on the great, glaring contradiction of their rivals' campaign, namely, the GOP's tendency to demote "values" issues once elections are over...
George W. Bush carried the white working-class vote by 23 percentage points, according to pollster Ruy Teixeira. Then, on the morning after the election, the country's liberals were astonished to hear that, according to exit polls, at least, "moral values" outranked all other issues in determining voters' choices. Later on that same day, the reelected President Bush set out his legislative objectives for his second term. Making America a more moral country was not one of them. Instead, his goals were mainly economic, and they had precious little to do with helping out the working-class people who had stood by them: he would privatize Social Security once and for all and "reform" the federal tax code. "Another Winner Is Big Business," declared a headline in The Wall Street Journal on November 4, as businessmen everywhere celebrated the election results as a thumbs-up on outsourcing and continued deregulation.
In the months since then the magnitude of the corporate victory has only become more apparent, with Republicans in Congress working to tighten up bankruptcy law at the request of the credit card companies, open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to the oil companies, and crack down on class-action lawsuits for the greater glory of Wal-Mart. The clout of the US Chamber of Commerce, the D.C. glamour lobbyist of the moment, is acclaimed by all as it raises millions to keep the pro-business bills coming. "Fortune 500 companies that invested millions of dollars in electing Republicans are emerging as the earliest beneficiaries of a government controlled by President Bush and the largest GOP House and Senate majority in a half century," wrote Jim VandeHei in The Washington Post.
And the values issues? They seemed to dissipate like so much smoke once the election was over and won. Republican Senator Arlen Specter, the chair-apparent of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee, waited only a single day after his buddy Bush had been safely reelected before informing the nation that, no, his committee would not be approving judges who planned on overturning Roe v. Wade. The great crusade against gay marriage, which had worked such wonders for Republicans in so many states, was essentially abandoned by the President in January. After all, more important matters were beckoning: the war with the trial lawyers, for example, or the need to persuade people that our basically sound old-age insurance program was actually in crisis.
In March the President and Republican congressional leaders chose to make much of the tragic Terri Schiavo affair, but the obvious futility of their legal demands and the patent self-interest of their godly grandstanding require little embellishment here. Let us simply note how perfectly this incident, when paired with simultaneous GOP legislative action on big-business items, illustrates the timeless principles of the backlash. For its corporate backers, the GOP delivers the goods; for its rank-and-file "values" voters it chooses a sturdy wall against which they are invited to bang their heads.
April 20, 2005
Just a Placeholder
I got nothing - let's pretend it's still because of the headcold.
Mr Schwarz has a great interview with that Chris Floyd fellow. Go read that instead.
The craziest time was right when the Soviet Union collapsed. Then later they had another economic collapse, right after I left—although it wasn't my fault, really...
Anyway, when I was there it was wild enough on its own. You'd go out to eat in some restaurant, and the next day read in the paper how someone had been machine gunned there right after you'd left.
We worked on Pravda Street, which is where all the old Soviet newspapers were. One guy at another paper across the way was investigating corruption in the army for a Russian paper. One day he got blown up in his office. There was a lot of stuff like that going on.
April 06, 2005
Reading Campaign Trail
The death of the Dean reminded me that I'd only ever read extracts of Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72, and, having purchased a copy shortly after, I've now cleared my "To Read" list sufficiently to be able to start it. So far its themes are depressingly familiar:
How many more of these goddamn elections are we going to have to write off as lame but "regrettably necessary" holding actions? And how many more of these stinking, double-downer sideshows will we have to go through before we can get ourselves straight enough to put together some kind of national election that will give me and the at least 20 million people I tend to agree with a chance to vote for something, instead of always being faced with that old familiar choice between the lesser of two evils?
Now, with another one of these big bogus showdowns looming down on us, I can already pick up the stench of another bummer. I understand, along with a lot of other people, that the big thing this year, is Beating Nixon. But that was also the big thing, as I recall, twelve years ago in 1960 - and as far as I can tell, we've gone from bad to worse to rotten since then, and the outlook is for more of the same.
Of course, this was written very early in the process of nominating the Democratic contender, and McGovern was a candidate HST could actually vote for but he lost all the same. In fact, he was crushed; which may explain why Americans have been having "lesser-of-two-evils" elections ever since.
Meanwhile, A Tiny Revolution informs me that another favourite Moscow Times columnist, Chris Floyd, has his own weblog now - Empire Burlesque. I don't know what I like about Mr Floyd's stuff more, the savage invective or the voluminous footnotes backing up the savage invective. His old columns can be found at The Smirking Chimp.