Welcome to Liam McGonagle's Great Amateur Hour!

You know, it's kinda ironic that they call this the "Information Age", isn't it? I mean, has there ever been a time in history when the collective intelligence quotient has seemed lower? The century that sees the rise of phenomena like the Jackass entertainment franchise and the election of an American President so stupid that he invades Iraq based on what is tantamount to a highschool kid's prank phonecall cannot have much claim to profound wisdom.

The sheer scale of the thing is sublime and its implications could be daunting when considered in context of immanent challenges to energy infrastructure, national security and to the fate of democracy itself. If you were of a mind to look at in the depressingly buttoned-down solution-oriented sort of way, that is!

No, the Spirit of Our Times speaks with a Different Voice--one not weighed down with the scoldful jeremiads of thoughtful old professors or turgid moral appeals to "Our Better Angels" --but rather one leavened with frenetic clarion calls to our own destruction by that self-selected tribune of the people, the amateur blogger. A thing fully in accord with the philosophical principles exemplified by my own revered great ancestor, William McGonagall.

This blog is dedicated to celebrating just this spirit, the tenacious obduracy, enthusiasm and ignorance that make the great American blogger's message what it truly is--a call to dunce-ity. Welcome to the Feeble Choice Awards, the Valhalla of the Vain, Liam McGonagle's Great Amateur Hour!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Populist Dissatisfaction with Economy Hands Senate Seat to Millionaire Dilettante; A Demographic Explanation of Why America May Never Be Great Again

"Saturn Devouring His Son"
by Francisco de Goya
courtesy of Wikipedia

I had intended to abandon this blog in May 2010 after issuing only one, inaugural entry. This was the combined consequence of the spiritual deflation I experienced in realizing the depths of mediocrity and resistance to reason apparent in Right Wing bloggery and wanting to move on towards a more constructive, forward-looking approach. Offline I began, among other things, a series of artistic projects and involvement in electoral politics. For the first time I volunteered for a political campaign. The dénouement of that campaign seemed to be so tragic for the preservation of hope and so perfect an illustration of Right Wing Dilettantism that I felt it deserved a public airing in this forum. And so I share with you the following.

Around 11:00pm CNN called the U.S. senate race in Wisconsin for Tea Party favorite Ron Johnson, finally ending a nail-biter that saw incumbent Democrat Russ Feingold projected at within one half of one percentage point of Johnson shortly before polls closed at 8:00pm local time.

During that three-hour window of opportunity we held a breathless deathgrip around that slender hope over at one of Russ’s suburban canvassing centers. The crew had literally worked their asses off for Russ—at 17 calories per minute, our 12-hour shifts of non-stop door-to-door troop rallying, we’d shed about a pound each day. I figure that I alone must have knocked on over a thousand doors during this election cycle, reminding folks not only of what Russ has done for Wisconsin, but what Johnson's Tea Party threatened to do to it, and why it all added up to an unequivocal imperative to support Russ. And with many votes yet to be counted,* and rumours that those were concentrated within the most traditionally Democratic districts in the state, we seemed to have good reason to hope.

Russ rejected the TARP bailout. He voted ‘No’ to the Iraq war. He opposed the Bush-era glad-handing of the U.S. Treasury to the wealthiest 2%. He supported legislation against predatory recission against premium payers by Big Insurance. Russ is a True Progressive Hero.

And what has Johnson done? What’s HIS track record of public service? Well, he doesn’t really have one. He essentially inherited his business, directly deriving more than a quarter of all its revenues** from his in-laws megacorps. That and licensure as a certified public accountant provided him with the thin plastic veneer of economic authority to curry the patronage of Big Finance, the Koch brothers, Club for Growth, and the state AICPA. Essentially Ron Johnson is a millionaire dilettante.

That does seem like the obvious headline: “Populist Dissatisfaction with Economy Hands Senate Seat to Dilettante Millionaire”. It’s hard to attribute this result to any particular achievement of Johnson’s. And while Wisconsin’s unemployment rate at nearly two percentage points less than that of the national average of 9.6%, and Russ’ legacy would seem to preclude any association with bloated Wall Street plutocrats,*** at first sight it seemed hard to understand the final vote tally as anything other than a generalized dissatisfaction with the slow recovery of the national economy.

So naturally we were all stunned with the final tally. Most of us collapsed into a combination of utter exhaustion and dejected silence, searching out our own private little ‘happy place’. But when the finality of the situation hit one of the younger volunteers, a cute college coed, tears started to well up and spill out over her eyelids now swollen red with sadness, fear, anger. No one over thirty had the guts to stay in the same room.

I got in my car and drove home. Sometimes I clear my head by taking late night drives through the black country roads of Wisconsin, letting the white noise of the some late night radio such wash out the frustration. But the implosion of that girl’s hope was just too much. Some stronger medicine was required and I remembered a half-finished bottle of Wild Turkey in my cupboard at home.

It didn’t really do the trick, though. If I had been more together I would have known not to go to the Wild Turkey. For me personally the bourbon buzz is, aggressive and demanding rather than numbing and comforting. My mind spent the next three hours in a corn mash-fueled spin between mourning the death of this girl’s hope and the total incomprehension of how this thing could happen.

I sat down. Took a swig. Got up again. Circled the floor. Took another swig. Sat down again. Searched the web for some alternate election reporting that might somehow provide a ray of hope—maybe that CNN projection wasn’t final, maybe I’d read it wrong, maybe it was done before final tallying of the late-closing poll centers. But no dice. The Grim Reaper was ringing and I didn’t have call waiting.

But hold on a minute. Maybe this might not be quite as complete a Death as I imagined. Yeah, site after site, update after update returned more or less the same grim stats on Russ, but some soft dim light began to pulse at the far end of the tunnel, too. The Dems had managed to keep the Senate as a whole out of the clutches of the Right Wingers, so this wasn’t really a Gingrich-style coup. It became apparent, weakly at first and only in my peripheral attention, but more and more consciously as I cycled through each update; there might just be some useful precedent and insight available in the career of my own favorite Wild Turkey addict, Dr. Hunter S. Thompson. He had earned his Phd in political philosophy during the fallout of the failed Beatnik experiment and heart-breaking McGovern campaign, not to mention his own flame-out as the Freak Power candidate for sheriff of Aspen.

I through myself onto the bed and spent the next three hours alternating between Wild Turkey and my copy of “The Great Shark Hunt”. Freak Power in the Rockies, The “Hashbury” is the Capital of the Hippies, The Nonstudent Left . . . There was some small amount of personal comfort in knowing with hindsight that publication of the Doctor’s magnum opus “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” still lay ahead of him despite or maybe because of these defeats. He’d certainly learned a lot as a writer from them.

But should that be enough? For me to dream of scavenging some personal artistic shelter from the wreckage? While the Republican’ts swing brickbats against the kneecaps of a nascent progressive legislative agenda and howl for the blood of our first African American president? How would Thompson have responded? Even assuming, grandiosely, that I could respond in anything approaching a similar level of eloquence, what difference could it make?

Then a recent conversation posted at Disinfo.com occurred to me. I was reminded now that Dr. Gonzo’s career of polemical awesomeness had taken place during an extremely rarified demographic context: The wake of a utopian political struggle led by the generation that had confronted and survived the Great Depression and the Second World War and embraced (at least temporarily) by the single largest generational cohort in American history. And achieving final victory seemed just possible—at least until the 1968 assassinations of Bobby Kennedy and MLK. What did the current demographic lay of the land offer vis-a-vis the chances of long-term progressive success?

Not much as far as I could tell. I’m still searching for hope, but the acceptance speech of another victorious Tea Bagger, the verbally incontinent Rand Paul, only seemed to confirm my preliminary conclusion: We’ve become a nation of weak-kneed bedwetters too busy pining for the mythological ‘Wonder Years’ to risk ourselves in a quest for real glory, grandeur of spirit.

The fact is that we’re a nation heading for decline, not only figuratively in the sense of the influence and economic security pissed away by decades of awful GOP policies, but also literally. As in a nation of cranky bladder-impaired old age pensioners. Boomers comprise about 75 million, or about 25% of the U.S.’s total 300 million population. Once again the incredibly self-centered and thoughtless Boomers drive the economic, cultural and political agenda—this time to feather their own retirement capital at the expense of a vital real economy of their X’er and Y’er offspring. They’d never compromise one bit of the phoney “investment” capital represented by the Big Banks to spare anything resembling a decent future for their children. It might cut into their time jammin’ to Rolling Stones greatest hits collections.

The signs are everywhere. It’s so obvious that it’s difficult to see how I ever missed it. Wisconsin is a relatively old state . And surely it’s no coincidence that the youngest, fastest growing segment of the U.S. population is Latinos who formed part of Russ’ most loyal core of support. Or that Boomers, despite their bogus claims to having defined the term “Progressive”, are essentially passive parasites—the near-identical economic agendae of Boomtown rats Clinton and Dubya are ample proof. Or that the Koch brothers and Ron Johnson are all dilettantes fuelled by inherited millions rather than any independent achievement of their own, in contrast to the self-made Russ.

So what does this mean for the hopes of our progressive young coed? Should she be bothered about the long-term implications of the new GOP senator-elect for Wisconsin totally blanking with no answer at all when recently asked about his plans to increase employment in the state? I think so. Unless somehow she and her kind can somehow engineer an effective coalition of the smart-ass X’ers and tech-savvy Gen Y to finally put an end to Boomer Bullshit.


* Polling hours for several high-density urban districts (i.e., those most historically Democratic leaning) were extended due to delays caused during mid-afternoon voting when they mysteriously “ran out of ballots”—with more than five hours left to go. My sense, however, is that this is not likely to result in a recount or major civil rights action; from a pragmatic point of view that prospect seems unlikely to yield much success. The final vote tally seems to present an insurmountable cost/benefit hurdle. While Johnson fell far short of the 13% margin predicted beforehand, he did come away with a 100,000+ lead. In a state with just barely over 2 million voters this time ‘round, it would appear that nothing short of proving Karzai-esque carnival of blatant street level thuggery could turn that tide. That just ain’t gonna happen with a state supreme court so firmly in the pocket of the Big Corporate Machine. And on top of that, in Wisconsin, any requested recount procedures would have to be paid for out of the challenger’s pocket.

**A sum no doubt considerably larger than the company's total net income, given typically low margins in commoditized industries such as plastics. However, we're not likely to ever find out for certain; Johnson's company is privately held and those details are not subject to public disclosure.

***Russ co-sponsored the
McCain-Feingold Act, the most aggressive attempt in generations to rid federal elections of the corrupting influence of Big Money. Sadly, Russ’s principled adherence to this legislation despite the Right Wing Supreme Court’s sellout to corporate interest in the ‘Citizens United’ decision may have cost him the election. Whereas the most recent federal election commission report showed the typical range of groups supporting Russ—educators, doctors, local tavern leagues, small business groups—Johnson’s report was a bit more interesting. Yeah, it’s to be expected that over a quarter of his PAC money came from directly from Big Insurance and the Banksters. But the so-called ‘Club for Growth’ actually spent more on a separate, explicitly anti-Feingold campaign than the combined total of all of Johnson’s direct, above-the-board PAC receipts. And while it may seem obvious that a nonentity like Johnson’s true appeal to big business lies in the prevention of effective governance rather than the promotion of any policies to benefit the working class, I think it is worthy of notice that nearly a third of the over $1.7 million total spent on attack ads by Club for Growth Advocacy Inc came from yet another billionaire heir of a multinational corporate mogul, Jackson Stephens. So where did the money come from to put the knife in Russ' back? Saudi Arabia? China? Who knows?


  1. utterly deflated! and angry as hell .

  2. Oh, my dear, we have not yet begun to fight! I'm taking the show on the road with a new blog at http://dystopiadiaries.blogspot.com

    Hope to see you there.