Thursday, March 14, 2013

The tropics told me Charlie Pierce is on it

Back from a few days out in Mexico, which beat getting hammered with rain and snow back here in Dairyland. In addition to eating beyond my weight and having a few tropical beverages with significant others and friends, I got a chance to do some book-reading. In my 5 days out of town, I was able to take care of Charles P. Pierce's Idiot America , and while it's a bit more serious than Pierce's excellent work at Esquire's politics blog, it's still great stuff.

(Granted, the book currently has the aroma of tequila on it, because of stupid U.S. customs rules that forced me to re-check luggage in the Detroit airport upon landing there on the way back to Madison, and disallowed me from carrying on the same tequila bottle I carried on in Mexico. Fuckers mishandled the bag that had the book in it, and broke the bottle, which either has now enhanced the book, or distracted from it.)

But I digress, and onto Idiot America itself. First of all, Pierce brings up the 3 great premises of Idiot America- an America where expertise and decency is frowned upon and diluted to the point of nothingness, and everything is a giant grift where no one stops the grifters to say "You're wrong, and you make no fucking sense."
Premise 1: Any theory is valid if it sells books, soaks up ratings, or otherwise moves units.
This defines right-wing radio and Faux News, but also includes other parts of the right-wing entertainment complex, leading to the bubble-world that results with the clown show known as CPAC. And because sober evaluation doesn't always grab eyeballs, we see a whole lot less of it than we need.
Premise 2: Fact is that which enough people believe. Truth is determined by how fervently they believe it.
This explains both how a majority of Americans (and media) could be snookered into thinking Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, why some still cling to climate change as a "hoax" to be ignored, and why Paul Ryan is still given one minute of air time DESPITE BEING WRONG FOR THE LAST 10 YEARS ON PRETTY MUCH EVERY ISSUE HE'S SPOKEN ON.
Premise 3: Anything can be true if someone says it loudly enough.
And also if it's repeated enough, like "union thug" memes on AM620 and AM1130. This is also how some (and far too many in DC) still think we have "a deficit problem" when the 10-year note is still standing at just over 2%, and the deficit has been nearly cut in half over the last 4 years (and is scheduled to be cut in half again in the next 2).

The book has an afterword that takes place in 2009- a time when Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin and Tea Bagging seniors were actually taken seriously by far too many. Pierce uses that moment in time to accurately call out the media for allowing Idiot America to be given creedence in the name of "both sides" journalism.
[Glenn Beck and his supporters] are utterly out of their minds. I do not need to find three sources for this. I do not need someone to say, well, some of them are only sort of out of their minds. If I see a guy walking down the street with a duck on his head, I can write that I saw a guy walking down the street with a duck on his head. I don't have to find someone on the other side who will say, "No, what you saw was a duck walking down the street with a guy on his ass." I am not obligated to treat transparent lunacy as though it was worthy of respect simply because it happens to be popular. I am not obligated to be that nice a person, and neither are you.
Pierce also has Wisconsin ties, as a Marquette grad (the Golden Warriors are just taking the floor in the Big East as I type this, by the way), and has been reporting more than most national figures about the goings-on in this state over the last 2+ years. His most recent article on Gov. Walker discusses the mining bill (for a mine that'll never open) and ties it together with how Walker appeals to the Idiot America and Idiot Wisconsin part of the GOP (which is much of what's left of the GOP).
We have been concentrating a little heavily for a number of reasons on the truly atrocious mining bill that finally passed the Wisconsin Assembly last night. The first is that it is yet another indication that Scott Walker, the goggle-eyed homunculus hired by Koch Industries to manage their midwest subsidiary formerly known as the state of Wisconsin, plans to run for president, so it's a good idea to judge him by his works. The second is that the bill is an almost perfect example of the conception held by modern conservatives — which is to say, Republicans — of the way things are supposed to work, and an almost perfect example of the conservative idea of self-government as public oligarchy. And the last one is that it truly is an atrocious bill, being, at the same time, an environmental catastrophe, a staggering economic giveaway, and a deliberate and obvious offense against the idea of a political commonwealth....

The legislation was written in such a way as to defang the state's Department Of Natural Resources, provide what is essentially a liability shield for the company, overturn over a century of environmental protection laws for the benefit of a single company. The mine also would benefit from a proposed budget provision that would repeal a state law dating back to the 1880's that prevented Wisconsin land from being controlled by foreign corporations or governments, leading more than a few people to wonder exactly who's going to get the 75 kajillion jobs that Walker and his pet legislature insist the mine will provide. In short, despite the fact that polls show substantial opposition to both the bill and the mine itself, and despite the fact that its sponsors concede the destruction it inevitably will cause, the Wisconsin legislature passed a law not only to permit the project to go forward, but to immunize the corporation against responsibility for any destruction the project might wreak on the state and the people therein. They gave away public lands to this company while arranging that the political entity known as the state of Wisconsin, and therefore the people they ostensibly represent, would be unable to protect themselves from the damage the company will do. Self-government, and the political commonwealth that arises from it, is just something else gouged out of Wisconsin for a buck. This is astonishing. This is something that happens in China.

This is raw state capitalism at its most egregious, and it demonstrates clearly that the conservative movement has plans that go back in history beyond rolling back the Great Society or the New Deal. They are after every progressive advance made since the end of the 19th Century. This isn't something that the conservative movement is trying to hide....On the fringes, Glenn Beck made a fortune tracing the Great Progressive Conspiracy through the cobwebbed canyons of his mind, and the likes of Jonah Goldberg got rich explaining how Adolf Hitler really was nothing more than a proto-Green Party activist with an air force and submarines. Teddy Roosevelt didn't have three votes in the Wisconsin Assembly [last] week, let alone Bob LaFollette or FDR. They are playing for a newer, and far more permanent Gilded Age, and it is not coming about by accident.
And that's why you should read Charlie Pierce, both for Idiot America, and in his Esquire blog. He's one of the few that'll actually play it straight in this time of lazy media allowing universal deceit.

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