Saturday, October 04, 2008

Saturday Rock Show

I'm dee-jaying a High School Homecoming Dance tonight. I'm quite sure this song will be played to rousing approval. I hate to say that I happen to like it a great deal, especially mashing together "Sweet Home Alabama" and "Werewolves of London" as it does. I don't think the video is kid- or work-safe. I wouldn't let my kids watch it.

Even Deeper Strategy

It's been nearly two months since I wrote this post in which I invoked the whole "rope-a-dope" analogy that managed to raise the ire of Brad at Sadly, No! I think my invocation of this boxing analogy has turned out to be wrong, however. While initially it seemed to be true - especially as Obama came out with three pretty hard-hitting ads in a row even supporters started to twitch a tad as McCain managed to erase Obama's early lead.

What I believe Obama has done is take Rove's strategy of using an opponents strengths against them to a new level. Coming from a background in Chicago politics, where connection with people on the ground is most important, the campaign has focused its resources on voter registration, GOTV, and contact with local folks. McCain, on the other hand, has relied from the start on his connections with traditionally Republican political operatives, and his well-known and much-discussed connection with national media figures. There was some speculation in the immediate aftermath of the Republican National Convention, as McCain took the lead, and seemed to widen it even as his campaign produced one deceitful ad after another with little response from the Obama camp, that Obama was going to be a Michael Dukakis, running a principled, yet ultimately failing, campaign. Yet, I think Obama understood something that most people didn't. The combination of a campaign staff wedded to a strategy of deceit combined with a national press corps who believed McCain a principled politician would, in the end, create the kind of cognitive dissonance that would either end the strategy of deceit or end the love-affair of the press and pundits for McCain. The pundits, it seems, refuse to go along with McCain's campaign of constant lies. While hardly in the tank for Obama, much of their campaign commentary concerns how betrayed they feel by McCain's reliance on outright falsehoods as an attempt to turn the public against Obama.

In the end, the combination of a network of local offices connecting with people on the ground and a press corps turning on McCain for his blatantly false campaign against Sen. Obama (not to mention McCain's erratic behavior in the face of the financial meltdown and the selection of the supremely unqualified Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate) have all played out to push Obama's numbers higher, even as McCain's continue to slip.

I doubt very highly that Obama is resting on his laurels, or satisfied with the way the race is going. He is experienced enough to understand that the race is not over until November 6, at which time the focus will shift. I believe he is in this to win, and win big. I believe he will.

Intelligent Life On the Op-Ed Page?

Kathleen Parker, a right-wing political columnist who managed to stir the ire of the fringe by pointing out the obvious - that Sarah Palin is not only grossly unqualified to hold the office of Vice President, but is an embarrassment particularly to women, because she is so unqualified - and David Broder have somehow managed to come away from Thursday night's Presidential debate with impressions that come from an alternate universe. While it is true that Gov. Palin didn't have a wardrobe accident (although it seems National Review's Rich Lowry* would have lost complete control had she done so), start speaking in tongues on stage, or simply tripped, then pulled Joe Biden to the floor as he tried to help her up, that hardly means she was, as the plug for Broder's column suggests, "fine on her own".

Parker is still aware enough of reality to point out that Palin was "manipulative". I think, however, that most people recognize the kind of "manipulation" of which Parker speaks, the kind attractive young women who know they're attractive use to get what they want. She was blatant - all that winking, her inflections on all the "You betcha"'s and her pronunciation of "ing" as "in", as in "talkin'" instead of "talking" - that I think most people would have thought it quite obviously some kind of deliberate ploy.

While it is important to take such snap polls pretty lightly - they are hardly scientific in a variety of senses - those taken in the immediate aftermath of the debate clearly put Biden in the winner's column. In the intervening time, that has been confirmed by more solidly grounded polling. In other words, most Americans were not impressed with the fact that Gov. Palin, on occasion, managed to utter a sentence recognizable as English. Oddly enough, unlike Kathleen Parker and David Broder, most Americans want a bit more out of the people who hold high office; they want them to know the names of the generals in command of American troops in fields of battle. Most Americans want Vice Presidents who know a bit more about their own candidate's positions on the issues. In this regard - oddly enough, in the same way the American people managed to be far wiser than the pundits during the Clinton impeachment nonsense a decade ago - I think the American people have proven, again, they are smarter not only than the pundits, but also than the pundits give them credit for.

Of course, as serially stupid as most pundits show themselves to be, since they believe the American people are actually dumber than they are, that sets the bar kind of low.

*I urge you to click the link and read Lowry's short little piece. The whole "starbursts through the screen" line is worth the price of admission. I guess it is possible to type one-handed.

Friday, October 03, 2008

I'm Not Sure Josh Is Right

Josh Marshall says Charles Krauthammer is conceding the race to Obama. I have to admit, the following, from the end of his column today, also quoted by Marshall, is surprising, especially considering the source:
Like Palin, [Obama]'s a rookie, but in his 19 months on the national stage he has achieved fluency in areas in which he has no experience. In the foreign policy debate with McCain, as in his July news conference with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Obama held his own -- fluid, familiar and therefore plausibly presidential.

Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. famously said of Franklin Roosevelt that he had a "second-class intellect, but a first-class temperament." Obama has shown that he is a man of limited experience, questionable convictions, deeply troubling associations (Jeremiah Wright, William Ayers, Tony Rezko) and an alarming lack of self-definition -- do you really know who he is and what he believes? Nonetheless, he's got both a first-class intellect and a first-class temperament. That will likely be enough to make him president.

Yet, if you read the entire column carefully, you come away with a far more equivocal feeling. It seems the columnist who once compared George W. Bush's speech-making to that of Winston Churchill believes that, like Ronald Reagan, beneath the near-Presidential demeanor lies something more. In the case of Reagan, it was the gang of nuts on the right whose foul progeny have ridden the country in to the ground nearly a generation later. In Obama's case, at least in Krauthammer's view (at least, I think it's his point of view), it might just be Democrats as a kind of generic label for liberal people. I really can't get a feel for his fundamental objection, especially considering the utterly prosaic nature of Obama's policy statements on those matters dearest to Krauthammer's heart, the Middle East (Israel in particular), and our current struggle in Iraq.

Of course, I could try and be funny and say something like, "Obama is doomed because Charles Krauthammer thinks he can win!" And, in a way, I'd be correct, because Krauthammer's columns over the eight years of the Bush Presidency have been consistent in only one thing - their horrible wrongness. Indeed, he is so wrong his nickname from critics is Kraphammer, which is both clever and accurate.

Yet, I hesitate to do so because I think Krauthammer is actually right in his analysis overall, right on the specifics of McCain's "Hail Mary" strategy and its dismal failure, right on Obama being disciplined enough to stick to his campaign strategy in the face of the brief McCain poll surge after the Republican convention (our memories are so short; Bob Dole achieved much the same result in 1996, and some folks were wondering if he might actually beat Clinton; only in retrospect was Clinton's re-election a foregone conclusion).

Oh, he shows he earned his nickname - Kraphammer - by continuing to lie about the 1980 election. Ronald Reagan did not win in a "landslide". Ronald Reagan did indeed take the vast majority of the states in the Electoral College. In the popular vote, however, he won . . . 50.1% of the vote. Pres. Carter suffered from the presence of former Rep. John Anderson, a Republican-turned-Independent, as a spoiler. Anderson was the first liberal, Rockefeller-style Republican (from right here in my current state of residence, IL) to leave because the yahoos were taking over. In many way far more liberal than Carter, and a progressive voice on many issues, even prophetic in some ways, he managed to take votes away, not from Reagan but Carter. To call Reagan's win "a landslide" is to seriously misrepresent what happened in 1980.

Anyway, I'm not sure Marshall gets it right. I think Krauthammer is simply looking at the math, the ways of each candidate and his respective campaigns, and coming to the conclusion that Obama will win. Or at least has the potential to be Presidential, which our current President certainly lacks.

One more thing. I think the Holmes quote is often seen as a backhanded compliment. In fact, I think it is a pretty apt description of what it takes to be a good politician. Intellect is not nearly as important as temperament. One needs to be able to deal with people, most especially people one loathes, as if these people are the most important people in the world. A few Presidents had that quality, and Roosevelt was one (although he could also be offended at effrontery, whether it came from his predecessor, his Army Chief of Staff, or whomever). Reagan, I think, was another, as was Bill Clinton (a quality which always baffled his supporters who wished he would simply have flipped Newt the bird; what they didn't understand, and he did, was that you can kill with kindness just as easily as with malice). In that regard, John McCain fails utterly, being not even a second-class intellect, and certainly not a first-class temperament.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Lies, Damn Lies, And The McCain Campaign

I think it fair enough to make a few points on my claim yesterday that John McCain managed to misrepresent the facts during a sit-down with the editorial board of the Des Moines Register. I also think it fair to put this in the context of a discussion of McCain's "Liar's Paradox" statement that he always tells the 100% absolute truth.

The "Liar's Paradox" is as old as Greek philosophy. Sometimes called the Cretan Paradox, it points out the way in which logic can invalidate certain statements. If the major premise of an argument is "All Cretans are liars", and the minor premise is, "I, a Cretan, am lying to you", what conclusion can be drawn from this? None, in fact. The minor premise is invalidated as meaningful by the major premise. Like the "chicken and egg" business, it presents something that is meaningless in a fashion that appears meaningful.

Now, during the interview, McCain was presented with the opportunity to come clean about some of the many misstatements his campaign has made concerning all manner of things. One question concerned an ad the campaign produced that said Barack Obama supported comprehensive sex education for children in kindergarten. When the questioner made the factual point the bill did no such thing, and that Obama's support for the bill was uncontroversial, rather than backpedal a bit, chuckle and say something like, "Well, you know, politics ain't beanbag, lady. We all stretch the facts a bit in order to make a point," or some such, McCain sat there and said that he had not misrepresented the bill in question. He claimed the questioner's "interpretation" of the bill was wrong, and then he did something that was odd. He said that he "respected" her interpretation but disagreed with it.

First of all, the bill in question is pretty clear. It is quite clear in its language - it offers education on "good touch vs bad touch" for young children, something that I think is welcome and necessary. There is no question of "interpretation" here, as there can be at times about vague legislation. It might be possible to quibble about a law that uses a vague term, such as (for example) a parental consent law for receiving an abortion. For the purposes of the legislation, who constitutes a "parent"? Of what does "consent" consist? These are not minor matters, and are indeed open to interpretation through a definition of the terms involved. The bill that is the focus of the ad in question, however, is very clear.

Furthermore, if it is indeed the case, as McCain claimed in the interview, that the law does, indeed, provide for "comprehensive sex education" for five-year-olds (as the parent of two children who have been through kindergarten in IL schools, I haven't heard of this particular bit of educational legerdemain, so I think I might know a bit about this), how is it possible for him to say that he "respects" the questioner's "interpretation", when in fact he just said the law is clear and is not open to interpretation? Here we have the Liar's Paradox in its contemporary form.

With a Cretin making the argument.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Lie-Lie-Lie, Lie-Lie-Lie-Lie-Lie-Lie-Lie-Lie, Lie-Lie-Lie

Just watch this and be overwhelmed by the combination of outright untruthfulness and barely repressed anger. There's only one phrase to sum this up - full of shit:

Besides The One On Top Of Your Head, What's Your Point? (UPDATE)

Before I get to my current frustration, a little background is in order. When I started visiting right-wing fundie sights last year, one of the commenters I came across on a pretty regular basis was Mark. At some point in a thread long since forgotten, he made some point about the fact that I seemed to be showing off or bragging or something about my educational background, and that he, unlike me, had to work for a living and wasn't as educated. Or something like that. A conversation developed in which it was made known that Mark, in fact, has a thing about people with education, some kind of chip on his shoulder or other.

OK, that's fine.

In an effort to inject a bit of humor in to a somewhat testy relationship, I would occasionally needle Mark with remarks about "big words" or some such; I was, honestly enough, only kidding. Instead, he recently got very indignant with me and proclaimed he had "a genius IQ".

Immediately, I had a picture of Wile E. Coyote, "Genius", plummeting once again off a cliff, with a boulder falling after . . .

In any event, he is apparently trying to impress me - or something - as should be clear from the following comment:
Nobama is a floccinaucinihilipilification, as are Geoffrey's ludicrous comments.

To which I responded:
BTW, Mark, I see your Word-a-Day calendar investment is paying off.

Later in this same comment thread - just tonight, in fact, Mark wrote:
Geoffrey, Morologus es! Vescere bracis meis.

Tace atque abi.

Now, he says he's just trying to have fun with me.

Am I missing something here? Or what?

I looked up floccinaucinihilipilification on Wikipedia, and found out it means "the act of describing something as worthless, or making something to be worthless by deprecation". How it applies in the specific comment by Mark, I don't know.

As for the Latin phrases, they include, "You're talking like a moron. Eat my shorts [I guess I'm in sixth grade]. Shut up and go away."

Telling someone to "eat my shorts", even if it is in a dead language, hardly puts one up there with Montesquieu, or even Gladstone, as a user of the first lingua franca.

To his query as to my sense of humor, I just replied (and I want a record of it here before Marshall Art gets all upset and takes it down), "I do. I think being an idiot in a dead language is hysterical."

UPDATE: Now, he calls me an elitist, "but not in a good way." Jesus-please-us, what is this guys freakin' problem?

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

It Would Be Tied If She Had A Tongue

Words fail me . . . As they do Sarah Palin (transcript below)

COURIC: And when it comes to establishing your world view, I was curious, what newspapers and magazines did you regularly read, before you were tapped for this, to stay informed and to understand the world?

PALIN: I've read most of them again with a great appreciation for the press for the media, I mean...

COURIC: Like what ones specifically? I'm curious that you...

PALIN: Um, all of 'em, any of 'em that um have been in front of me over all these years, um...

COURIC: Can you name any of them?

PALIN: I have a vast variety of sources where we get our news too. Alaska isn't a foreign country where it's kind of suggested it seems like, wow how could you keep in touch with what the rest of Washington, DC may be thinking and doing, when you live up there in Alaska. Believe me, Alaska is like a microcosm of America.

The last bit is just nonsensical gibberish.

Don't Know Much About Politics

As Dan and Alan note, Jason Bowden doesn't seem to know what he's talking about:
The left traditionally hates individualism, originality, and initiative. They want everyone to be subordinated to universal comprehensive plans. No exceptions!

To be fair, this is an accurate description of Stalinist Communist Parties during the 1930's, and some elements of the hard left during the 1960's, but I would hardly consider it descriptive of contemporary American left-wing political thought. Indeed, most lefties are, as Dan suggests, soft libertarians when it comes to personal expression (as are most Americans, for that matter). I would like to have an example of contemporary (past decade or so) left-wing policy proposals that are as lockstep as Jason suggests, but I know I shall wait in vain.

This exposes part of the problem not only with libertarian political thought in particular (Jason is self-described as such a one) but much of our political discourse in general. "Left", "right", etc. are really meaningless terms, to be filled in by whatever the user prefers. Now, back when there was an CPUSA, with a Stalinist COMINTERN calling the shots, the kind of description Jason offers of "lefty" political thought could be described as reasonably accurate, as long as one limited oneself to Communist equating lefty. Remember, the CPUSA spent much of the 1930's decrying fascism as the final result of capitalism . . . until the Nazi-Soviet pact, when the CPUSA went full-throttle saying that the Nazi's were misunderstood, that the USA needed to be neutral in the struggle, etc., etc. When the Germans invaded the Soviet Union, they did a pirouette again, but by then the most intellectually honest members of the Party were long gone.

Also, consider what happened to really culturally radical members of the Party. Emma Goldman, perhaps the most famous Communist besides Lenin and Stalin, ended up on the wrong end of a firing squad for complaining quite publicly about the doctrinaire nature of Leninist rule. A true Bohemian in every sense of the word - free-love, open marriage, modern art, free thinking all were tools of the coming revolution - she hadn't reckoned with the fact that, in practice, Leninism demanded full acquiescence and submission. Since it was "scientific", it answered all questions before they were asked. Since artistic freedom, and cultural expression in general, were stymied under communist rule, it stands to reason that should one equate "communism" with any even moderately liberal approach to politics, you've got a Q.E.D. for your argument ready to hand.

Except, American left-wing politics as never been doctrinaire, which is why it's so fragmented and powerless. Ideological purity, demanded by a few (especially on matters concerning religion), is anathema to most lefties and liberals. The right, however, makes any attempt by liberals to insist on purity like pikers. Whether it's abortion rights, or doctrinal purity in religion, or on economic policy (as the past couple weeks have shown), you either put up or walk out.

My guess is that the multi-generational use of "liberal" as code word for "dirty commie" has created a situation in which the general picture Jason tries to paint, thoughtless and silly in its own way, has become common currency among those who don't pay enough attention to the real world to understand as mindless nonsense.

Tossing In A Newt Wrench

Yesterday, John Boehner quite publicly complained about Nancy Pelosi's really mean speech as the source of the Republicans "No" vote on the bailout. Today, the House leadership (although not Boehner himself) are walking back that explanation quite openly. Fine. Whatever. Principles or tantrum, the House Republicans put the ball squarely in the Democrats' court on this one.

Who, however, was behind the Republican decision to screw this particular pooch? According to Andrea Mitchell, it was none other than former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. If true, this was a colossal interference in the legislative process by an outsider.

More interesting are the ways to try and understand what, exactly, is happening. My own guess is as follows. There are enough Republicans, who for principles reasons, did not like the concept of a "bailout" (or, as the new nom de jeur puts it, a "rescue") and were planning to hold their noses as they voted for it. My guess is that Newt figured he could get the Republicans to sink the bailout, allow the Democrats to write a more liberal version - including some of their own pet stuff like extension of unemployment insurance, protection against foreclosure, strict caps on executive compensation, etc. - that the President would most surely veto. Thus, the Democrats would get even more blame, in their eyes for (a) not doing what was necessary to round up enough votes in their own caucus to get the first bill through; then (b) passing a bill the President would most surely refuse to sign. Thus, the House Republicans could run against the Democrats as preferring to play politics in an opportunistic way during a "crisis" rather than knuckling under to Republican demands for a blank check. If this is the game Gingrich and the House Republicans are playing, it's a dangerous one on a number of levels.

One thing to note about this entire mess. As it stood, the sum in the failed bill was around $700 billion. Yesterday, once news hit Wall St. that the bill tanked, stocks lost $1.1 trillion. That's about a third more in one day than the amount the feds were planning to pump in to the system over a span of months. Now, the Dow is back up today, which suggests that trying to gauge any bailout plan based solely on the fluctuation of the financial markets is a fool's game. It is, however, something to remember.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Music Monday

It probably shouldn't surprise anyone to hear that I love the music of Ralph Vaughn Williams. I purchased a wonderful copy of his Sea Symphony not too long ago, a choral symphony in which he puts some poetry of Whitman to music. All I can say is sit back and enjoy (I hope).

An Odd Political Calculus On A Truly Epic Fail

The bailout bill tanked, as did Wall St. While the former is good, the latter is not so good, although hardly surprising. While it is good it went down to defeat, we have the House Republicans to thank for that. Yet, they are whining it is all Nancy Pelosi's fault. Because of a truly unremarkable speech she gave. So, not one shiny thin dime is going to the investment banks. Good. The House Republicans are the heroes. Not so good. They refuse to take responsibility for that failure, and blame the Speaker of the House, who doesn't have any control over their caucus. Whiny-ass Titty Babies.

Untangling the political mess will make crafting a bill that is actually good look easy by comparison. The only really good thing about this is that, as I said, the bill went down. I doubt, with the time left, another can be drafted that will survive. I think Boehner and his buddies poisoned the well with the blame game they played after the vote.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Where Have All The Wedge Issues Gone?

I mean that question in all sincerity. It has been pretty standard for the Republican Party to bring up social issues as a wedge to divide the electorate. Whether it's abortion, or race, or prayer in public schools, or religion in general, it's been thrust to the public table and made part of the discussion whether it is relevant or not. So far, this time around, not so much. Even the introduction of Sarah Palin, clearly the pick of the religious right, has not pumped up the volume on the outrage over the holocaust of abortion, or the de-Christianizing of America, or the way God has been kicked out of our public schools in favor either of Satan or Mohammed, or both.

Maybe it's because, unlike previous election years, not only do we have the toilet bowl of Iraq to deal with, where we are flushing $10 billion a month plus all the dead and wounded, we have the collapse of the investment banking industry in a short span of a couple weeks. People are jittery about things that actually matter, like keeping their homes, their jobs, making decision about buying gas for their cars or medicine and food. Worrying over the ontological status of a fetus just doesn't compare with these more immediate realities; kids probably are praying in school more, especially that they might have enough money to buy lunch; and since all the Christians in the high reaches of the Republican Party seem to be either stupid or corrupt or closeted homosexuals, or some combination thereof, I don't see where a discussion of Christian values matters all that much.

Overall, I think this is a sucky year to be a Republican.

David Broder Channels Maureen Dowd And Our Discourse Gets Dumber

Whether it's the headline, or the way Broder attempts to pull it off, the whole thing is just a mountain of stupid.

Virtual Tin Cup

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