Bacon Nation

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Back in Business...?

Hmmm.... It's been a few years.  But I've been thinking about reviving this blog, mostly because I need a place to record my travels.  These would be real travels through life and the world, and also the virtual kind.

Mostly the virtual kind that leads to buying shoes.

Right now I am specifically referring to these shoes:

And so here I sit on Saturday night, wrestling with the desire to buy these shoes, fighting the urge to start blogging again, pondering the dark paradox of being 40—wanting to drink in the world, and yet to slow time at all costs.

I believe I will start simply, with the shoes.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The Comeback Bitch

Reader K writes in to insist that I post, given that I must have things to say. I can only assume she refers to certain recent political events -- namely, the resurrection of Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire.

Well, of course, I have rather a lot to say about that, most of it having to do with the moronic nature of a political system that would declare a winner after one primary, and a media that goes along with this nonsense. I mean, if you'd seen Chris Matthews' show on voting day in NH, you'd have about puked. It was a non-stop hagiography of Obama, all about the "something amazing" that was happening around his campaign, and a relentless litany of reasons that Hillary should just give up and go home. He was slobbering, literally. I felt a desperate desire to register to vote in New Hampshire, to vote for Hillary, and then to shove a ballot box up Matthews' ass.

Reader H and I have a long-standing dialogue of mutual agreement on the subject of Hillary Clinton's unacceptability as a presidential candidate. The reasons range from her general centrism, to the public's preposterous perception of her as the most liberal of the candidates, to the substantial number of people who won't vote for her no matter what, to the vast right wing conspiracy that will ensure a lively wingnut turnout in an otherwise lackluster year. Lately, though, I've sort of kind of let these arguments slide. And I will confess that by New Hampshire I was secretly totally rooting for her.

Since this has now come out, I suppose I'd better make a case for it.

1.) It's hard for me to see at this point that Obama is substantively more liberal than Hillary, except on foreign policy. And while she's more hawkish than he, or me, I also think she's more likely to get me some health insurance (especially given that she understands mandates, which Obama, very worryingly, does not). I want me some health insurance. This is selfish of me. I don't care.

2.) I am on record with my brilliant analysis of the fact that while the right has had a 15 year head start pasting Hillary, this is no reason to think that they will not make excellent use of a full year in which to do the same to Obama. Middle name Hussein indeed.

3.) While Hillary's candidacy is risky, I think there are serious worries about Obama's candidacy that need to be acknowledged. At this point, his whole claim is the ability to inspire and unite. But, um, what if that whole magical movement, "something amazing is happening here!" effect, just doesn't happen in the campaign? What's he got then? I have to say, I don't think it should go overlooked that the guy is consistently really terrible in debates. This is the one place where Americans experience candidates, other than advertisements and soundbites. Hillary's pretty damn good. Obama is....stiff. Granted, against McCain he'd probably come through ok. But surely Hillary can handle that face-off, too?

Given all of the above, I am faced with a problem. I am presented with the first serious woman candidate for the presidency. She's from my party. She's got a decent shot. And I'm going to be churlish and vote for someone else -- someone whose politics don't thrill me, whose "let's all just get together and build coalitions for change" platform strikes me as hopelessly naive, and whose electability strikes me as by no means secure -- just because she doesn't perfectly mirror my politics (John Edwards is closer to that), and is hated by such luminaries as Rush Limbaugh? How, exactly, do I stand in a voting booth and do that?

But even if you don't like Hillary, it seems clear that her continued presence in the race is a good thing. After Iowa, I was deeply upset that the candidacy of the first serious woman contender for the presidency was likely to end after two primaries. What kind of message is that? I mostly just want the race to keep going. For once, votes will count in primaries from coast to coast! More, please! I get the impression that some New Hampshirites felt the same. (Leaving aside the absurdity of the fact that many independents, thinking Obama had it in the bag, trotted over to the Republican side to vote for McCain. What kind of crazy person would feel that his interests were equally represented by McCain and Obama? Like their politics have any similarities? It may be time to outlaw independence on the grounds of sheer intellectual incoherence. God, how I wish we could outlaw things on those grounds....)

I'm not declaring for Hillary. But I am retracting my years of declaring against Hillary. And if she can persuade me.....

Friday, November 09, 2007

Memory Lane

For the last 8 years, we have had to suffer Republicans telling us that they, in fact, care about diversity more than Democrats. They are a big-tent party -- just look at Bush's cabinet! He's so blind to race that he hired an (incompetent) African-American Secretary of State and a (yet more incompetent) Latino Attorney General. The rebuttal that the Bush administration was happy to accept racial diversity in the service of the greater goal of ideological lockstep fell on deaf ears. And so it was that many, including David Brooks, were able to declare, in public no less, an end to racism in America. Seriously:

Well it reveals what sort of people George W. Bush is comfortable with. You look at the guy's life story he could be the ultimate white man -- Harvard, Yale, old line family. He was in the bombastic Bush kid at the Midland, Texas Country Club. And yet, look who he's going to be spending time with -- a very strong woman in Karen Hughes, a very strong black woman in Condoleezza Rice, a Hispanic guy from Houston, a black guy from the South Bronx. I think this is symptomatic of who George Bush is and maybe where his generation is -- somebody who is just comfortable with people of different backgrounds, and for those who say this is a racist country or a patriarchal country, it’s very difficult to explain how this Republican conservative is so personally comfortable with these sorts of people.

Fortunately, we have a new crop of conservatives to demonstrate to us that, thank goodness, we still live in a world we can recognize. Via Matthew Yglesias, a bar graph of the ethnicity of the advisers to the major presidential candidates. It's really something to see. Among other things, it confirms one's sense that Rudy is trying very hard to fashion himself as a caricature of the only possible way things could be worse than Bush.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Campaign 'O8, Obama Edition: Unity Can Go Fuck Itself

There's been some talk lately, growing in insistence, about why Barack Obama's campaign can't seem to take off in the way many of us -- myself included -- expected. I was very excited about Obama, and very eager to see what he would do, and now that he's been in for a while, I have to say my major feeling is: "Meh."

In this regard, I feel the exact opposite of Andrew Sullivan (no real shock there). Sullivan's line on Obama is typically credulous and overly impassioned; to him, Obama represents the one true hope of stepping outside of interest group-driven partisan politics and building a politics of unity. Now, I have more Sullivan hate to bring later, but for the moment it's worth pointing out that what's aggravating about Sullivan on Obama is not that he's wrong; I think he's got Obama's message pretty well pegged, and I think he accurately represents Obama's appeal. The idea here isn't standard bipartisanship; it's a kind of going-around-partisanship, coalition-building, not-trying-to-be-too-radical-to-begin-with, not-super-wonky, kinda bipartisan politics. And, as I say, Sullivan's describing it accurately, if a bit too hagiographically. It's just that I don't want a candidate looking for us all to try to get along, thanks.

I know one is not supposed to say such things. Today at the Plank, this question of Obama's failure to gain traction is being batted around as an issue of Democratic revenge. Essentially, the logic goes, the base doesn't want to make nice -- doesn't want to talk hope and unity -- because they (we, I) want to knock some heads together first, and want to send in a big partisan enforcer to make sure the last 8 years get their due political redress. The question, in light of that, would be not only whether this is an accurate representation of the base's Obama reservation, but also whether such a vengeful politics is going to work to the left's advantage, given that it just perpetuates the partisan slugfest.

For my part, I have no particular liking for the slugfest in its own right, but the damn thing is self-determining; it is aimed at getting one party or the other to blink, and stop the fighting. And sure that sounds good -- except that, of course, the side that blinks has to make all the sacrifices, and even then it never actually does end the fighting. At which point the effort to build unity politics in the face of a raging partisan opposition starts to have real-world consequences, in the form of sacrificing policy.

That to me is the whole point. I don't care for partisanship as an outcome of politics, but I do care for policy as an outcome of politics. This is my only real concern, and in a certain sense, all of Obama's rhetoric makes me wonder what kinds of policy sacrifices he would make in the interest of bringing a new tone to Washington. Because frankly, I don't give a fuck about the tone, as long as I get my health insurance.

And that brings us to Hillary Clinton. My complaint about Clinton, which is unchanged over the last year, is that she just isn't liberal enough for me. That said, I'm actually beginning to think we'd be more likely to get liberal outcomes from her presidency than Obama's, not because she's actually more liberal, but because she's more political. Of course, the major line on her, according to Sullivan (and everyone else), is that Hillary will not only perpetuate partisan politics, she'll revivify a currently inchoate Republican base. By this logic, the right wing base, otherwise apathetic this cycle, will turn out in droves on election day, and raise endless piles of money, all to defeat her; and if they don't manage to defeat her, they will turn her entire term in office into an endless loop of the impeachment crisis. Now, I bought this myself for a while, and I'm still concerned about it; and, of course, her negative perception numbers are higher than the other candidates', and it is absolutely the case that a repeat of the uglier bits of the Clinton years sounds exhausting.

But, look. Let's not kid ourselves here, thinking that with a different candidate it would be another way. Hillary's negatives are higher because the right wing spent the last 15 years working her over. It's no accident. By election day they'll have worked over in the same way whoever the hell we might nominate instead. At that point, where will that guy's negatives be? To get an idea, ask Gore or Kerry. Especially Kerry, who was chosen particularly for his electability. Obama looks untarnished right now because he's, well, untarnished -- that is, his future tarnishing awaits him, just on the far side of the primaries. The audacity of hope is the audacity to hope that your candidate will get left alone; that some kind of extra-establishment movement politics could keep your candidate looking like a unity builder even after a hard dose of right wing smearing -- he can just float above it all.

Obama's candidacy relies on your believing this dream -- the dream of the unsmearable candidate, who gets to actually talk about reality rather than spending all of his time wiping the mudstains off his pants. To buy this, you have to not only think that it's possible to silence the smear machine. To buy this, you also have to be prepared to concede that the party should start from a position of not nominating certain candidates because the right wing have decided that they extra-especially dislike them. And you have to be blissfully amnesiac about the fact that Bill Clinton started out -- before Gennifer Flowers, and Whitewater, and Monica Lewinsky, and the witch-hunt that led to the lies that led to the smears that led to the negative numbers and riling of the Republican base -- representing a revitalized Democratic party, ready to move forward in, what was that? Unity. Everybody starts out as the unity candidate -- before the smear machine makes them into either partisans or pussies. As Snoop Dogg so wisely says, "Six million ways to die. Choose one."

There are more registered Democrats than Republicans; the Republicans dug us into a fraudulent war that we started losing well before they officially declared we'd won it; the economy is slamming on the brakes, meaning that the Dow, Bush's only remaining friend, is rapidly turning on him; 1 in 6 Americans is un- or under-insured for health care; and on and on. And yet I don't hear the right flinging aside their less electable candidates (which would be all of them except, possibly, Romney -- assuming Rudy is planning on continuing to do crazy shit and talk even crazier shit). Underneath all the flailing and flip-flopping, they seem to be in a struggle to figure out which of their core issues they actually care about, and which they are ready to sacrifice. That that soul-searching so far is amounting to a victory of greed over bigotry (by a short nose) should not obscure the fact that it's not all centering on the electability question. In an odd way, I envy them that (the latter part, not the short nose part).

I'm not saying I'm endorsing Hillary (though I have a lot more to say about her); but I am saying that I'm not such a sucker that I'm ready to buy the idea that there's any way around the right wing smear machine other than straight ahead through it.

That said, what would really fuck up either Hillary or Obama's game would be if the Republicans nominated Huckabee. You can't beat up on him, Hillary style; and he's not polarizing enough to make Obama look special. Of course, Republicans won't nominate him because he raised taxes a couple of times, so never mind.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

She's My Cherry Pie

So I'm sitting here working away, doing a little bit of writing for my side job, and I've got Top Chef on for entertainment. The host, Padma Lakshmi, just announced which of the two worst chefs from this week would be moving on to the finale, and which would be packing up and going home. Only she communicated this by saying, "One of you are going to the finale, and one of you are packing your knives and going home." That means she said "one of you are" twice, without self-correcting -- indeed, with her trademark marbles-in-the-mouth solemnity -- and then evidently did not fight a battle to the death to ensure the deletion of the footage.

Maybe it helps if you know that Padma Lakshmi is Salman Rushdie's soon-to-be-ex-wife. Oh, and she looks like this:

(That's really her.)

And Salman Rushdie looks like this:

I think everyone's cynical motivation is now perfectly clear, yes? Not that I had much remaining respect for Salman Rushdie (who is close friends with the loathsome Hitchens and whose prose I find unreadable anyway), but it's a little like the Senate. I was ok with the fact that they've caved on the war, because with 49 votes (at best) there's not much you can do anyway, but when they apparently have the time, energy, and unity of purpose to start passing motions condemning MoveOn's Petraeus ad, that's just fucking rubbing my nose in it.

By the way, Padma's got a cookbook coming out. Because she eats, like, ever.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


As the Petraeus testimony unfolded last week -- and I do mean last week, because this week's performance is merely the materialization of a rhetorical strategy that's been floating in the air for at least the last few weeks -- I found myself consumed by a deep sense of depression. It turns out, I'm kind of stupid. And that's a bummer.

The realization that I'd been played came upon me last week, growing out of the confluence of 2 related events: a media blitz portraying the surge as successful in reducing violence in Iraq; and Bush's statement that, given this amazing surge success, he thought we would be bringing troops home beginning next summer. Uh-oh, I thought, this is bad; he's going to get to say he's bringing troops home just in time for the election.

Well, of course. But perhaps less obvious is this: in that sense, it doesn't matter whether the surge is working or not working. Liberal bloggers spent the last two weeks diligently -- and persuasively -- deconstructing the violence statistics; they were aided in this by the major newspapers. And shades of their statistical objections were voiced on the Hill over the last two days.

Again, this frustrating sense of always arguing about the wrong thing. Because really, whether the surge is working or not makes absolutely no difference. The surge troop numbers absolutely, positively cannot be sustained past next summer. And that's not even in political terms -- in logistical terms. So, declare victory and pull back, in a kind of military version of "I totally meant to do that".

And where does that leave us? Exactly, precisely where we were before the surge. It will look like a troop reduction, and will in fact be no such thing. But so what -- Bush doesn't mean to pull out, and so he's not going to, and fair enough. But here's what this means for Democrats, and it's a trap that I think there is no chance of avoiding:

1. Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee.

2. Hillary's Iraq strategy is hawkish.

3. The Bush "troop reduction" will effectively nullify the distinction between the Democratic and Republican nominees, if Hillary is the Dem's candidate. This problem doesn't apply to anyone but her, but in her case it's devestating. That is to say: her proposal would be for moderate, phased troop withdrawals. Bush is going to give the appearance of doing that for himself. The entire Democratic anti-war advantage is thus, in one fell swoop, handed off to Republicans, and the long-standing electoral meme (of which we seemed briefly, beautifully, to be free) that the parties are exactly the same, will be back with a vengeance. Worse yet, it will effectively be true.

4. Dems will scream a lot about how their candidate wants some percentage more troops out some increment faster than Nominee Romney. This distinction without a difference will be completely lost on the population at large, as it quite properly should be.

5a. Hillary will be defeated at the polls, proving that there truly is no circumstance in which a Democrat can get elected in the post-civil rights era (even Bill Clinton considers Bill Clinton a fluke); OR

5b. Hillary squeaks out an electoral victory after wide airing of a YouTube video of Nominee Romney personally performing a gay marriage ceremony, including a close-up of him choking up while pronouncing the happy pair "man and husband." President Hillary now has two equally hideous choices, either of which will devestate the Democratic party for yet another generation:
i. Remain in Iraq in full force, waiting out the civil war, and pretending that we're damping it down, but really just shifting the pieces on the board as the game goes on for as long as it's going to go on. I call this the Petraeus option.
ii. Remain in Iraq in reduced force, trying to train forces and prevent a "wider regional conflict" while the civil war burns around us. I call this the "High casualties for everyone!" option.
iii. Pull out precipitously and helter skelter, given the armed services' exhaustion and Bush's lack of planning for withdrawal up to this point (see George Packer in this week's New Yorker); whatever this means for Iraq in terms of genocide is unknowable -- but all ugliness that ensues will not only be blamed on Dems, it will also inevitably be linked to Vietnam, and we'll come to own both of these failed wars. This last is a notion that literally makes me sick, on a multitude of levels.

Hillary is a hawk, as I said, and very wary of being tarred with the Vietnam brush. I think she'll avoid iii. unless forced to it by public opinion. But the trap is clear any way you look at it: there is a straight line from Petraeus' "the surge is a success" line to Republicans' trump card against Hillary in '08; and even if that trump card fails, they've got the "Democrats lost the war" narrative in the bag. And from there it's another half century of elections lost for other people's irresponsible behavior.

So either way you look at it, no matter what happens, no matter who wins the next election, there is going to be a substantial (by which I mean in excess of 70,000) troop presence in Iraq for at least 5 years. I should have known this. I should have known it before the last election, when I was fool enough to have hope. I should have known it earlier this summer, when I stupidly thought Dems had a number of opportunities to put pressure on Bush to start drawing down. I should have known it all along. Which is why I feel stupid.

I'm beginning to believe that there is almost no limit to the potential negative repercussions of Hillary Clinton as a presidential nominee. And the fact that there seems to be no way out of ending up with her as the nominee makes me feel stupid in advance.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

I wonder why my ass is getting so huge....

Seriously, if I eat this one more time, I am going to need my own zip code. Bacon popcorn -- merely reading the words will make your pants feel tight. Well, friends, my pants are tight indeed. And this despite the fact that I've added two spin classes a week to my regimen to try to put out the (grease) fire. I should mention that, not content with merely bacon and bacon fat, I add two other forms of fat to this recipe: parmesan cheese and some melted butter. Of course, the butter is there mostly to help the cheese stick, so it doesn't really count. The ground black pepper is crucial. However, this provides me with the opportunity to direct you to Adrienne's site; she is the genius behind bacon popcorn, and if I give her a reader or two on her fabulous food site, then the radical expansion of my ass will all have been worth it. Sigh.