Topic: Chasing the Zeitgeist
They Call It Stormy Monday, But Tuesday's Just The Same
Monday, January 23rd opened with this - "A British scientist says he has proven January 23 to be the year's lowest emotional point."
This fellow's name is Clifford Arnall and he's got this special formula - personal and seasonal factors all weighed against each other - bleak weather, debt versus monthly salary, the elapsed time since Christmas, the elapsed time since failure to quit a bad habit (think about your New Year resolutions), winter-time low motivational levels bumping up against the actual need to take some sort of action about this or that. And there are no holidays scheduled any time soon. (The next is Valentine's Day, which is the cause of tremendous anxiety and subsequent depression, self-reproach and guilt, of course.) He says his formula is valid for both the UK and most of the United States. He may not have "proved" anything, but he's clearly on to something. Some of us would argue Groundhog Day might be a better fit here, unless you live in Punxsutawney and own a concession stand.
But his day was the day Ford announced the plan to shed thirty-thousand workers in the next year or two, and close fourteen major assembly and parts plants. The idea is to make twenty-five percent fewer cars and trucks, and make car and trucks people might actually want to own. It is a matter of survival. The Windstar minivan wasn't going to save the company, and only the police and strange old men in baseball caps drive the Crown Victoria, which tends to blow up in a large fireball when tapped from behind, unless you buy the dealer-installed upgrade they've not publicized. Time to rethink all this.
This is bad news, made even more depressing with the note that only one thousand of the thirty-thousand jobs that will disappear will be Canadian Ford jobs, which might have something to do with labor costs there - the government picks up all the healthcare costs. It might have something to do with Ontario having the highest percentage of workers with college degrees in the industrialized world, or not. Both are advantages that have been pointed out in the pages before (see this last July). Still, the Ford announcement was a Clifford Arnall moment. Lou Dobbs on CNN was fuming.
But note this point-counterpoint -
White House Begins New Effort to Defend Surveillance Program -
Killing Me Softly -
That's the kind of day it was, and indeed, the news media dutifully repeated the Karl Rove talking point from his speech last Friday, where he said the Democrats simply don't want to monitor the bad guys making plans. The day was filled with Democrats, even the useless John Kerry, saying of course we do - but we want to do is sensibly, carefully, and methodically - not with a wholesale spying on everyone - and within the law and constitutionally.
This of course is a major miscalculation on the part of the Democrats. They seem to think people value their privacy, but they clearly don't - if the NSA wants to put a camera in their shower or record every telephone call and email and file it all, that's fine. Anything to get the bad guys. On the Fox News panel shows with "real Americans," on all the call-in radio shows, it's the same. If you have nothing to hide (and good people don't) then there's no problem. These people just wonder what the Democrats have to hide. Privacy is a loser of an issue.
And of course in the question-and-answer with General Hayden he said the constitution said searches just had to be reasonable - there was nothing in the Fourth Amendment about "probable cause" - those two words just aren't there and everyone knew it. He scolded the reporters. The administration was just being reasonable. He knew his stuff. The news media reported all this dutifully, and didn't note that those two words - "probable cause" - actually are there in the Fourth Amendment, in every copy. But you don't want to embarrass the guy, and if you catch him out and expose him saying something that just isn't so, well, then you're giving comfort to the enemy and the Fox guys - O'Reilly and Hannity - will be on your case, and America will turn away from you, and you'll lose even more advertising revenue. So that passed.
For many of this, this was another Clifford Arnall moment.
But then there is the refreshing new openness from the administration, as in this -
So the startling news of the day was that the president, starting with this appearance at Kansas State University in Manhattan (Kansas), was going to talk unscripted questions. He was going to dazzle them with his openness and willingness to respond to anything they put to him. He'd show all the doubters he was quick on his feet (with his mouth) and in command of all issue.
Yeah, yeah, the audience was carefully screened and all his worshipers, but for once he didn't know the questions coming and hadn't memorized the answers. This was not exactly Question Time in the House of Commons, but you have to start somewhere.
How did that go? As a general rule, see Crooks and Liars for video. They have him here (Windows Media) and here (QuickTime), looking really bamboozled when someone asked him about the big hit movie about the two gay cowboys, "Brokeback Mountain" -
And what? Get out of his face? Maybe this unscripted thing wasn't such a good idea. Those of us who caught a bit of this noticed the woman who asked about the 12.7 billion dollars cut from education funding, particularly from the student loan program - how was this going to make anything better for the country? The answer? The funding wasn't really "cut." Things were "restructured." No one in the room was buying it. You can imagine the "Note to Staff" - do better audience screening, and no more university appearances.
Ah well. That wasn't nearly as odd as some other recent questions to the opposition.
You may recall that two weeks ago the singer and activist Harry Belafonte, almost eighty now, was in Chile and called George Bush was the "greatest terrorist in the world" (see this). Belafonte has been saying that a lot. He's not happy. And Sunday, on NBC's "Meet the Press," this came up. Tim Russert, the host and "owner" of the show, had as his guest the junior senator from Illinois, Barack Obama, a rising star in the Democratic Party - the man who gave that amazing speech at the Democratic Convention in Boston.
Well, Russert put two and two together. Harry Belafonte is black. Barack Obama is black. Neither supports Bush. Ask Barack Obama about Harry. Yes, Harry Belafonte is a private citizen with no connection to the Democratic Party, but, well, they're both black folk aren't they? Russert saw an opening (see the video here).
It was one of those all-you-black-folk-are-alike moments. Barack Obama was, pretty much, being asked to explain what's wrong with the black folks. Why don't they like George? Note here the only other time Russert questioned anyone about Harry Belafonte before was when he asked Colin Powell. Tim wants to find out what black folks are up to?
He might ask what Navy folks are up to - see the Wikipedia entry on Harry Belafonte (here). Harry Belafonte is a WWII veteran - Navy. He enlisted, voluntarily. And James Webb, secretary of the Navy in the Reagan administration, a Marine platoon and company commander in Vietnam, on January 18th in the New York Times here, was all over the administration for personally attacking decorated veterans who disagreed with current policy. Maybe it's a Navy thing, Tim.
Peter Daou here -
Yeah, well, scroll down to one of the comments and you get an explanation -
That must be it.
Steve Gilliard here -
That would have been cool.
Well, see this - a screen capture of Secretary Of State Rice, a black woman, being asked her reaction to Hally Berry, a black woman, winning the Oscar way back when. Tim just doesn't "get" black folk. (Rice did say film awards wasn't her area of expertise, but was polite about it. Tim didn't get it.)
It all pretty comical.
Ah well, race issues aside, the rules of political discourse have changed, Glenn Greenwald explains here.
Read the whole thing but see the end -
But Glenn is not bitter, is he?
It's the day.