Saturday, October 25, 2008

Memo To David Frum

Frum has a column in today's Washington Post. In it he refers a few times to "angry" Democrats.

Mr. Frum, you are so right we are angry. We are angry that we have the worst President, and the most unpopular President, in living memory. We are angry that this man, possessing far too small an intellect and personality for the Office he currently holds, has done so much damage to our nation, its institutions of governance, and its political culture. This is the most secretive Executive in modern history. Even Nixon wasn't this in camera, and there have been few attempts to pry open the door. The Republicans have offered nothing but fear, endless fear, seeing the American people as cowardly in the face of an always threatening world, whether the issue at hand be terrorism or the economy.

We are angry because this country we love so much has been run in to the ground by third-rate non-entities who destroy whatever they touch. The America in which we live is not the America in which I grew up, or thought I would occupy when I reached adulthood. I am not ashamed to admit that I am angry because my country - yes, Mr. Frum MY COUNTRY - has been stolen from me by plutocratic nincompoops, nihilists interested only in the perpetuation of power for its own sake. I am angry that someone as shallow and dim-witted as yourself takes up valuable journalistic real estate on the op-ed page of The Washington Post writing drivel like this.

Admit it, David. Your party is bereft of any raison d'etat. You have no ideas, no policy proposals, no guiding ethos. Your current Presidential candidate, and his running mate, are among the sorriest pair since George McGovern and Sargent Shriver. They, at least, had the virtue of ideas, even if they were far ahead of their time.

The funniest part of your column, David, is that you are so blind to the constant stream of fear, that is the sole tool left in your advice to what remains of the Republican campaign strategy. You offer fear of all us angry liberals. As I said, yes, we are angry. Are we vindictive, too? Perhaps a few will be. Will we use the tremendous power of the executive and legislative branches to stifle all sorts of freedoms? Well, since one of the charges against us is that we are far too willing to defend the Constitution - all that ACLU-loving crap, you remember that, don't you? - I think that's a tad misguided. Yet, go ahead, preach fear of the loss of liberty, so that Democrats can remind everyone in two words what has happened to their freedom from government intrusion over the past eight years. Call the Democrats big spenders, tax-and-spenders, and we'll remind everyone that, eight years ago, George Bush inherited a budget surplus that he just pissed away without thought. Call us terrorist-loving, America-hating radicals, and I will just mention one name - Timothy McVeigh.

You offer fear, David Frum, because that is all you have. At the end of day, the bottom of the barrel, the face of the Republican Party is the face of Ashley Todd, faking a politically-motivated racial attack. That is all you have. That is who you are.

I just emailed this to Mr. Frum. I thought it might be interesting to do so. I have never done such a thing before. Who knows what will happen, eh?

Basic Research

Quite a bit of hay was made early in the Presidential campaign over certain earmarks for the State of Alaska that included basic scientific research funding. These are often topics for laughter among Washington politicians, the press, and the public, and it is a bi-partisan thing. Liberals do it as much as conservatives.

Yet, as this post over at Science Blogs makes clear, there are very good reasons for the state to fund basic research, a case Sarah Palin completely screwed up when she made a policy speech proposing increasing funding for assisting children with special needs.

While hardly a high priority for the American people, and even less so as it becomes clear the economy is sliding in to a recession, it is nevertheless imperative that the basics of this issue are clear - basic research is the most important part of moving health and medical science forward. State funding for basic research is necessary to ensure that American science does not end up like Soviet science did. Ours is a mostly scientifically illiterate society, and some funding needs to go towards educating people in what science really is, and really does. If more people knew what science really is, we wouldn't have to deal with "intelligent design", "creationism", or the kind of idiocy that leads people to deride basic research funding. It is all part of a much larger project of making our country better, recovering from far too many years of our public discourse shaped by ignoramuses.

Saturday Rock Show

I have posted one or two songs by the band Disturbed before. Classically heavy metal, they also have the intelligence to write such moving songs as "Pray", "Liberate", and "Stricken". The man who operates the website "Dr. Music" reviews their latest CD, Indestructible, and nails it right on the head: despite a certain "sameness" to their sound, they are nevertheless a maturing band who aim for high-quality at all times (including a high quality of ass-kicking). Their latest release includes a deeply personal song by lead singer David Draiman, concerning the suicide of his high school girlfriend. It not only rocks hard, it is honest enough - and resonant enough for someone like me who has lived through a similar experience - that I thought I would share it with you. Before the song starts, Draiman does a little plug for the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, and the number pops up both before and after the video itself. I would urge you, if you know anyone who might be sliding down this way, to give this number to them. If you are feeling this way - CALL. I would also add that the video itself contains some imagery that some viewers might find disturbing, but you can close your eyes and enjoy the song, if you wish.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Ghosts of Tawana Brawley

If you aren't old enough to know the name, click here. She managed to sucker not only the Rev. Al Sharpton, but Bill Cosby as well as other famous names, black and white. Unfortunately, like her body, her story was covered in feces from the very beginning. And, like her body, she did it to herself.

Well, it seems that a young, white volunteer in Pittsburgh for the McCain campaign is skipping over the whole "tragedy" thing that happens when history repeats itself, and is going straight to farce. Unlike Duncan, I will admit that I thought the story a crock from the very beginning. The friggin' "B" was backwards, which told me she did it to herself in a friggin' mirror! C'mon people. . .

I do not blame John McCain for this. Yet, were racism not a subtext of this campaign, at least for Republicans, there would not have been such an attempt to exploit old racist fears and stereotypes. This is to say - I blame America and its refusal to admit, corporately, that we are indeed a racist people. I am not suggesting this young lady is a hood-and-sheet-wearing, full-paid member of the Ku Klux Klan. Rather, I am saying that racism, as a social and cultural fact, exists in such a way that this young woman could pull up an image not just of a marauder who was black, but add that this marauder attacked her for her political views, and that this black attacker included a sexual assault as well. Every fear the Republicans have subtly (and not so subtly) tried to stir up has risen to the surface in this one microcosm of bullshit.

I wonder if anyone will come and insist that even though she retracted her story, it might still be true?

Wait for it, folks, you know it's bound to happen . . .

Conservative Logic In Action (UPDATE)

It's a long, twisted tale how I came across the following quote, and I shan't bore you with the details. Suffice it to say that Ann Althouse, a conservative blogger who is as insane as she is wrong (being a law professor does not insulate one from either serious mental illness or chronic error), believed that, during one of the Presidential debates, Barack Obama had an earpiece through which he was receiving answers (just as many liberals still insist George Bush had some kind of earpiece during one of the '04 debates). When it turned out that she was quite wrong (as usual), she accepted her error graciously (because it was pointed out by conservative uberblogger Glenn Reynolds). Yet, even as she accepted the fact that she was, once again, totally wrong and living in fantasy land, she nevertheless kept her head below water long enough to type the following sentence, which, when I read it, made my over-tired head swim.
"You know, just because the thing I saw wasn't there doesn't mean there wasn't something there that I didn't see."

By that logic, Barack Obama could, in fact, be the carefully crafted suit worn by a team of alien beaver-beings from the Neptunian moon Triton, bent on world conquest. See, that sentence may in fact be factually erroneous, but some other wild speculation may well be true, and as long we keep typing crap, some of it is bound to stick.

These people are simply, completely, and without a doubt out of their fucking minds.

UPDATE: God help us, but these people are just not of this earth. At all.
It's not that Omaba is Ayers friend but they are of the same ideology and historically those who follow that system "need" to thin the herd more so than want to for their system to work....for awhile until the population exceeds their fiscal budget thats founded on oppressive over taxation and by that time the socialist government has morphed into a communist government and they need to rinse and repeat.

Anyone reading this site going to sign up for Obama's Civil Defense Force?...just curious.

I'd copy and paste more of this gobbledygook, but I'd have to wash my computer.

At least the nuts haven't been buried, so we can see them for what they are.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Some Non-Political Thoughts (Imagine That!)

I'm sitting here, even as we speak, watching the video for the Disturbed song, "Stricken", and was thinking about the lack of serious heavy metal songs that take an honest look at human relationships. Most heavy metal songs, when they deal with issues of sexuality at all, tend toward the "Let's Screw" end of the spectrum (W.A.S.P.'s "Animal" being the epitome of the type; if you don't know it, check it out because I won't post it). Yet, rooted as it is in the rage and angst of young men, I have always wondered why it is that there has been so little exploration of these real and honest feelings in an art form dedicated to them.

"Stricken" is, in fact, a good example of this too-rare bird. Dealing with the honest feelings that usually come when relationships fall apart, it is far better than the, "I hate you, I hope you die" kind of thing that one can find (and can be amusing at times).

I suppose part of these musings are rooted in the fact that we are too often told that rage, deep sadness, the confusion the often accompanies loss of relationships are "negative" emotions. We have been conditioned to believe that these are "stages" through which we must pass towards an equanimity that should be, in some nebulous way, the way we "really" should feel. Except, of course, rage, mourning, confusion are also real. More than that, they are usually more honest reactions to our lives than equanimity. Part of the popularity of heavy metal stems in part from an embrace of rage and confusion that "mainstream" society deems "negative". I know that, for my part, my attraction for the genre is rooted there. There is little that is more satisfying at times than to put on some music that is so loud and aggressive it blots out thought, allowing these other feelings to come forward. Far safer than buying a gun and either eating it or using it someone else, or even kicking the dog, it does little more than annoy the spouse and neighbors, while giving me a few minutes of freedom for these feelings.

I also think part of the mainstream disdain for heavy metal is rooted not in disgust at its alleged simplicity, its maxed-out volume, or some kind of vague, aesthetic disdain for such a prole art form. Rather, I think it is fear. Fear of the rage, fear, and confusion that lies at the heart of the music. Those uncomfortable which such "negative" thoughts and feelings are repelled by a music that revels in them, tries to bring them to the surface, and in a really good heavy metal concert, allows such thoughts, actions real free reign.

Songs such as "Stricken", which deal with the confusion after the end of a relationship; Black Sabbath's "I", which confronts the confusing lack of identity too many of us, but certainly adolescent males, feel head on; Metallica's "Fade to Black", perhaps the single best song to capture the feelings of a suicide; Dream Theater's "Blind Faith" on God's silence and absence, and the resulting refusal to accept it without question - these are just a few examples in that far-too rare breed, the thoughtful, serious heavy metal song.

As Goes Montana . . .

While this is interesting, I think assuming Montana is just automatically a Republican win is a bit odd. They currently have a pretty liberal, Democratic governor. In 2006, they elected liberal populist John Tester to the United States Senate. I think part of it is, simply, ignorance. It's a big, mostly empty, rural state out there in the Rocky Mountains, so it must be Republican. That it has been trending Democratic for a couple years and more is just not part of the equation to some political prognosticators.

While we are still twelve days away, anything can happen, and this is just one poll, it does show the way Obama is not only solid, but has all the momentum.

CeeCee, R.I.P.

At the end of August, my wife got our daughters two guinea pigs, CeeCee, a teddy bear so named because she was, in my younger daughter's words, "cute and cuddly", and Cali, short for "calico", which she is. This morning, my wife woke me up at quarter to nine to tell me that CeeCee had gone on to that great vegetable patch in the sky. When the girls got home from school, we told them, allowed Miriam to see her body, then buried her in a shoe box, with a note Miriam had written to her put inside. My wife said a wonderful prayer, then tossed dirt on the box.

Now, while Miriam grieves the loss of little CeeCee, who was a little pistol, sitting on your chest and biting your nose if you weren't careful, she almost immediately said, "Can I get another guinea pig?" In a couple weeks, when we're sure she didn't die of some dread, communicable guinea pig ailment, we will most assuredly purchase another Asian ground rat for her to love and care for.

Some good thoughts, please, for Miriam, as she learns to grieve for the first time. Better a guinea pig than a parent, in my view. . .

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Game Changer

The potential for an Obama/Democratic victory in thirteen days not only poses the possibility of serious political realignment. It also, perhaps, means accepting some things that are practical realities yet have been matters of controversy for a couple decades or more. I am speaking here of much of the talk of "diversity". I have always found it amusing that this description of our country - that there are as many different ways of being American as there are actual, living Americans - is controversial. Yet, for some reason, it has been an almost constant punchline for the right. Mention "diversity" and one is immediately targeted as somehow not only silly but outside the mainstream of American political and social thought.

As a quick and easy description of our country, however, one cannot do better than talk about how diverse we are. There are gay Republicans who are working to elect John McCain President. There are hunters who are pounding the pavement for Obama. Working-class voters are the target - again - or Republican Presidential rhetoric, and some are responding (although not nearly as many as in previous elections), even as all the empirical evidence suggests that a McCain Presidency would be the worst thing to happen to the working-class since, well, George W. Bush. We have even been treated to a kind of neo-McCarthyite discussion of the "anti-American views" of the Democratic Presidential candidate and what constitutes real versus (apparently) fake Americans.

Should Obama be elected, and should the Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress increase and become more liberal (as seems likely), the reality of all these differences will (or perhaps "should" would be a better word) be apparent, retiring forever "diversity" as a punchline. Since we are all Americans, no matter what we believe or don't believe, what we eat, how we choose to spend our spare time, what color our hair is, what music we listen to, whether we worship on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday, whom and how we love others, even (gasp) whether we accept the "person" status of a fetus or not - we are all Americans who vote, pay our taxes, watch American Idol and Dancing With the Stars (well, except for our household), gossip at work, and do all the other things that Americans do.

One thing that has impressed me most about the Obama campaign has been his abiility to do what many, many of us have done over the years but, alas, far too few Democratic politicians have done - mock the idiocy of the narrowness of right-wing rhetoric. It is not "elitist" to call stupid things stupid. It isn't "elitist" to mock those who have dumbed down our political and social discourse to the point that Sarah Palin could be put on a national ticket with a straight face by one of the senior members of the upper house of Congress.

So, my hope is not only that Obama will change our options on a policy level. My further hope is that his election will fundamentally alter the vocabulary of our national discussion. I do not foresee the silencing of the right forever; it has been and always will be a part of our politics, and will, in all likelihood make a comeback at some point in the future. For now, however, it is thoroughly discredited, and we have an opportunity to change not only how we think about ourselves as a country, but how we talk about ourselves, which is even more important.

Worst Ever

This just about sums it all up:
Never before in modern history has a standing president been such a pariah that candidates of his own party wanted nothing to do with him.

As long as the 1952 race isn't considered "modern", when Adlai Stevenson wanted Harry Truman to stop stumping for him, that is.

Couldn't Care Less

It seems the story du jour is the spending spree the RNC did for Sarah Palin's wardrobe. I cannot begin to tell you how little I care.

When all the world was atwitter with John Edwards' $400 haircut, and all the talk about Obama being an "elitist" for eating arugula (a pretty common green), the discussion wasn't, "Ooo, if only we could find some elitist dirt on the Republicans," because the Republicans are elitist, too. Running for President on a major party ticket, by definition makes one a member of the elite. Ditto being a Senator and a Governor. The entire thoughtless nonsense was decried for its stupidity.

Now, however, some folks are pointing fingers and screeching, "See?!? See?!? Saks Fifth Avenue!!! Needless Markup!!! ELITISTS!!!!" I realize it is all part and parcel of American political discourse, and has been for a very long time.

That doesn't make it any less stupid.

The truth is the Republicans are going to lose not just the White House, but their minorities in both houses of Congress are going to shrink, and their de facto working relationship with conservative Democrats will wither on the vine because there will be fewer of them. They are headed for an epic fail of historic proportion, due to the Double Whammy of the worst President since James Buchanan and the worst candidate since Wendell Wilkie (the latter was also a Republican; he was, however, much nicer than John McCain). Their entire franchise has gone the way of Grant's Department Store. None of their old tricks have worked, quite a few have backfired, and they just can't seem to catch a break (not that I'm complaining). Liberals and progressives of all kinds need to stay on message about issues, about the economy, about the epic fail about to occur in Afghanistan (directly linked to getting involved in our illegal, immoral war in Iraq), about the end of American credibility abroad and how important that is (there are a few right-wingers who don't seem to care, but they are ignorant). Spreading this kind of nonsense is so small-minded, so . . . Republican.

Although there might be a nasty joke or two in it, about being able to put a designer dress on a pit-bull, even if you can't put lipstick on a pig. Or something to that effect. . .

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

My Election Prediction - Fourteen Days Out (UPDATE)

Here's the map from 2004. Had John Kerry won Ohio, he would have won - by one Electoral Vote. As it stands right now, Obama is poised to win all those "Kerry" states from 2004, plus (and here is my prediction, folks, please pay close attention, because I will either eat some serious crow in two weeks, or feel all smug and "I told you so"):

- Virginia, Iowa, Missouri, New Mexico, Colorado

These, I think, are pretty safe Electoral College picks. This would leave Obama with 296 Electoral Votes, and John McCain with 241 Electoral College votes. This is a kind of baseline prediction, and I feel pretty confident it will be the shape of the Electoral map. On the other hand, in a flight of fancy (and based upon recent polling showing Obama and McCain dead even in the following states, and being wishful and wistful as we sprint towards the finish line):

- North Carolina, Florida (Schadefreude, thy name is the Sunshine State), and Nevada

Should these three states turn blue, that would add 47 Electoral Votes to Obama's total, and subtract that same amount from McCain, for a total respectively of 343 for Obama and 194 for McCain.

While the former scenario represents a substantial win, certainly more comfortable than either of Bush's, the latter scenario would make many sit up and take notice (especially a win in either Florida or North Carolina; a win in both and I believe Cokie Roberts would get the vapors).

So, to sum up - two levels of prediction. My first, safe and confident one has Obama winning 296 to 241 Electoral College votes. My wistful prediction has him winning 343-194. I will hold both numbers, with the first as a lower threshold, and the second as a (possible) higher one. Anything within this range, and I will be happy to collect whatever prize awaits me.

UPDATE: If you click you will see a potential map that already has Obama winning, with 277. What I find most interesting about this map are Ohio and Indiana are considered toss ups. Should Obama win these, especially Indiana, then, well, I think the "L" word could be used to describe Obama's win (no, not "lesbian").

Monday, October 20, 2008

Music Monday

Chillin' with the Dead. . .

"Playing In The Band"

"Dark Star"

"Morning Dew"

Not Liberal Enough?

With all the accusations that Barack Obama is a socialist, I thought it might be fun to consider the following theory. With all the national trends moving against the Republicans, there have been many lefty bloggers and liberal pundits (both of them) who have wondered why Barack Obama's polling numbers haven't been higher. I believe, after not a whole lot of careful thought, that the reason is simple - his politics are far too conventional. Were Barack Obama really as liberal as the nuts believe him to be, I think he would be so far ahead, we would be looking at a 48, 49 state sweep. Even Utah wouldn't be safe. As it is, there are few calculations that have McCain able to overcome his current Electoral College deficit. It is important to remember that George Bush won his two elections by one state, Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004. Obama is pretty much guaranteed to keep the states Kerry won, plus pick up a few others, such as Virginia, Missouri, and possibly Florida. While it is still technically possible for the popular vote count to be close, I still don't see McCain polling more than 46%, in which case the dread word "mandate" might just start looming around Obama.

Thoughts? Comments? Dissensions?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Divide And Be Conquered

The dwindling supply of workable issues for the Republicans, through which they reveal not only the sorry state of their souls, but the dearth of ideas that has always existed at the base of right-wing politics in America, now features not only racism (which everyone had to know would rear its ugly head before election day) but the return of "real" America - parts of North Carolina, Virginia's rural areas and other sundry places yet to be specified - and the yet-to=be-named "unreal" America. The latter, I'm assuming, are such oddities as the eastern seaboard, Hawaii (Obama's home state), California and the rest of the west coast, and probably the upper Midwest except for Indiana.

I live in Illinois, which is so blue no Presidential candidate has set foot here all year. Yet, Boone County is very Republican, as is the whole stretch west of us, through the city of Rockford, and rural Winnebago, Stevenson, and Jo Davies' counties, and those areas just to our south, such as Ogle, Lee, Burueau, LaSalle, and Rock Counties. So, am I a "fake" American living in a small portion of "real" America embedded in enemy territory? What of conservative Republicans living in Chicago/Cook County?

Similarly, I grew up in New York State, which is pretty Democratic, yet there as well, I grew up in very rural, very poor Tioga County. Now, what's really odd is that Tioga County is in the 28th NY Congressional District (now, because of redistricting, known as the 22nd), which all of my life, both while I lived there and since, has elected pretty liberal Congressmen. Growing up our representative was Matt McHugh who was first elected in 1974. He left Congress during the 1990 "House Banking scandal" because he, along with many other long-serving members, he had been kiting checks on his House bank account. He was replaced by an even more liberal Democrat, Maurice Hinchey. How to account for this? The cities of Binghamton and Ithaca - cities in name only, really, but big enough for our little slice of heaven - are also within the district. Both McHugh and Hinchey were originally from that Cayuga Kremlin, Ithaca, so it's no wonder they were so liberal. But, neither one had any serious competition from Republican rivals, even though the seat seems pretty unsafe for such a liberal Democrat.

Since I, for rhetorical purposes, am no longer considered a real American, does that mean that my vote doesn't count? Better yet, does it mean I don't have to pay taxes, or pay in to Social Security and Medicare?

I'm trying, exactly, to figure out what it means to be a "real" American, other than to be a citizen (or at least resident) of the United States, and revere the Constitution as the basis of our national life. Since I'm liberal, and been told again and again how clueless we liberals "really" are, I need some help here.

Virtual Tin Cup

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