Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Tolerance is not immunity to criticism

Noah Millman on religious tolerance:

[C]orporate bodies to exist at all must define their boundaries: this is who we are, this is what we believe, this is how we behave. And this requires an implicitly if not explicitly excluded “not that.” This being the case, if freedom of religion means, most fundamentally, the freedom to be a heretic, it equally means the freedom to declare that the other guy is a heretic. In a very real sense, a social environment that is hostile to religious intolerance must necessarily be hostile to religious freedom.
But this is only true if that intolerance calls upon the power of the state for its enforcement.

If someone says, "OUR magic sky-fairy only accepts white, heterosexual, blonde-haired blue-eyed worshippers who make at least $50K," fine. Go for it. Have fun. But when you run around telling certain "other" people that the magic sky-fairy thinks they're no different from pedophiles, that the magic sky-fairy says they're evil disgusting sub-humans, and the magic sky-fairy wants the gummint to make sure they aren't treated equally under the law--you're going to be criticized for it. Politicians who give you a platform are going to be criticized.

That's only "hostile to religious intolerance" in the sense that public statements and public actions are open to public criticism.

As far as I'm concerned, the Saddleback Church is completely within its rights to exclude gay members. I wish they wouldn't, but they certainly have the right to do so and there's no particular reason they should listen to me on the subject--after all, I don't claim to follow their magic sky-fairy or to be an authority on magic sky-fairies in general. Rick Warren is perfectly within his rights to say everything he's said. And I'm perfectly within my rights to point out the hateful bigotry in those statements. It's not the religion that's the problem here, it's the bigotry. Bigotry on behalf of a particular magic sky-fairy is still bigotry. If his magic sky-fairy tells him to be a bigot, that's his business, not mine. When he starts organizing and fundraising to take away my civil, secular, legal rights, it becomes my business.

A religious body is perfectly free to be intolerant. But when they express their intolerance through public discourse and the political proces, they become subject to public criticism. If your religion tells you to be intolerant toward certain things or certain people, fine. If you're too cowardly to face criticism from others who don't share your belief, keep them to yourself.

But religion doesn't give you the authority to run around criticizing everyone else while being immune to any such criticism yourself.

[h/t: Andrew Sullivan]

Friday, December 19, 2008

Speaking of people I like...

Christopher Hitchens' column over at Slate is a winner, as well.

As Barack Obama is gradually learning, his job is to be the president of all Americans at all times. If he likes, he can oppose the idea of marriage for Americans who are homosexual. That's a policy question on which people may and will disagree. However, the man he has chosen to deliver his inaugural invocation is a relentless clerical businessman who raises money on the proposition that certain Americans—non-Christians, the wrong kind of Christians, homosexuals, nonbelievers—are of less worth and littler virtue than his own lovely flock of redeemed and salvaged and paid-up donors.

This quite simply cannot stand. Is it possible that Obama did not know the ideological background of his latest pastor? The thought seems plausible when one recalls the way in which he tolerated the odious Jeremiah Wright. Or is it possible that he does know the background of racism and superstition and sectarianism but thinks (as with Wright) that it might be politically useful in attracting a certain constituency? Either of these choices is pretty awful to contemplate.

I've read several different explanations of how this is actually shrewd politics, a healing gesture, whatever. No, it isn't. Wrong messenger, wrong message. By an amazing coincidence, once again it's the gays being told to keep a lid on it, never mind the symbolism, we all have to put aside our personal issues and come together in unity and all that... but how come no one else has to do much adjusting?

Is this really just a cynical move? Do something to get the gays in an uproar, to gain credit for being a centrist who's willing to anger his base? A Sister Souljah moment? I can believe there was some of that present. I can't believe the Obama team fully expected the depth of the reaction, because they misjudged the depth of the hurt in the gay community. Having your civil rights put up for a vote, and taken away, to the tune of vile, hateful rhetoric, can do that. And inviting a major fundraiser who spewed more than his share of that bile to give the invocation, and thus implicit sanction....it's simply too much. It goes too far. Marc Ambinder's wrong about this, by at least half. And Andrew Sullivan is obviously seeing something I'm not; the "earnestness and sincerity of his campaign" are belied by the hamhandedness (or blatant cynicism) of this invitation.

As I told a friend of mine: I knew Obama would disappoint me. It's inevitable; every winning politician must, inevitably, disappoint his or her supporters. I just thought he'd be in office before it happened.

I know, I know. He's a politician, from Chicago. I never bought into the walks-on-water enthusiasm of some. But I thought he was a cut above the typical politician.

I'm not so sure now.

Why I [heart] Glenn Greenwald

His spot-on column today about how Obama's "new politics" is actually the same old politics, and how poorly it's worked in the past.

Go read it, it's good.

It's the end of the world as we know it....

In another sign of the impending Apocalypse, I find myself in agreement with Charles Krauthammer, at least on the Caroline-for-Senate thing.

If Princess Caroline wants a seat in the Senate, let her do it by election. There's one in 2010. To do it now by appointment on the basis of bloodline is an offense to the most minimal republicanism. Every state in the union is entitled to representation in the Senate. Camelot is not a state.
Zing!

Oh, well, never mind, then.

Kathleen Parker has a vaguely-unhinged column up at today's Post explaining that questioning Caroline Kennedy's qualifications for the Senate is reasonable, but there's a simple reason why those who oppose her on those grounds have got their facts wrong. You see, unlike those who opposed Palin on the grounds that she was "anointed--cynically selected without proper vetting", Caroline Kennedy would only be a Senator, would only be one person among 100, and would have to stand for election (eventually) anyway.

The thing of it is, Parker clearly understands, at least on an intellectual level, the argument against appointing Kennedy:

The real rub is that she hasn't earned it. The sense of entitlement implicit in Kennedy's plea for appointment mocks our national narrative. We honor rags-to-riches, but riches-to-riches animates our revolutionary spirit.

Palin paid her own passage unfreighted by privilege. But I and others opposed her spot on the Republican ticket for good reasons, some of which resemble concerns now aimed at Kennedy.

To wit: It isn't enough to want the prize. One must be up to the job, in a league with one's fellow actors.

Excellent summary! Couldn't have said it better. So what could possibly outweigh this argument?
In Kennedy's case, those actors would be senators, not heads of other, potentially belligerent, nations. If appointed, she would be a single vote among 100 and otherwise a placeholder until 2010, when she would have to run for election as any other.
Oh, well, in that case, it's okay, I suppose. After all, she can't launch nukes, so why shouldn't she have it, just because she wants it?

Hey, I have an even better idea. Since a Senate seat is no big deal, a House seat, where you're one person in 435 and have to stand for election every two years, must be next to nothing. If someone in a prominent family decides they'd like one, why don't we just let them have it? After all, you can't launch nukes or anything. And in fact, we could simply say that certain families have first dibs on the seat. We could pass them down through multiple generations! Won't that be exciting! Think about the fairy-tale endings we could put on our media narratives! And we could give those families special titles to show they're part of the aristocracy! Oh, wait, there's that little matter of the Constitution. Well, the last eight years have shown that it's mostly just suggested guidelines that don't really need to be taken seriously anyway.

Sorry. But simply being a Kennedy and deciding she wants to be Senator aren't enough. For Palin to rise to the Governorship in spite of her apparent lack of qualifications says a lot about her political chops and her determination, if nothing else. If Kennedy wants the seat, let her campaign for it.

Would Hillary have won if she weren't Mrs. Bill Clinton? Probably not. But she still campaigned. She met with voters, she pressed the flesh, ate the ethnic food and pretended to like it, the whole thing. Why should Caroline Kennedy have the seat for even two years, and the benefit of incumbency in the upcoming election, simply because she wants it? If there were a track record of elective office, of something beyond boards and fundraisers, it wouldn't reek so much. And if a prominent socialite not part of the Kennedy clan were interested in the seat, they wouldn't be getting this much serious consideration.

Of course, I'm not a resident of New York, so my opinion matters somewhere between diddly and squat. I don't know where Kathleen Parker lives. But to whatever degree she's trying to influence opinion, including the opinions of those who do matter on this question, her reasoning is shallow, waving away with an airy la-de-da some very real concerns about the corrosive effects of dynastic politics. For someone who tries to consider herself a conservative, she doesn't seem to understand basic political theory all that much.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

What's the price going to be?

John A. cites anonymous but allegedly inside sources that the decision to invite Rick Warren came from Obama himself, that this wasn't from Feinstein or a staffer. Assume for the moment that's true.

Part of why Obama's felt free to disregard the left is that they gave him their support cheaply. As Congressional Democrats have demonstrated repeatedly, when there's no penalty, no price to be paid, for disregarding your concerns.... your concerns get disregarded a whole lot.

So. What's the price going to be? What sort of concession is going to be demanded? Early action on DADT? Federal recognition of state-level domestic partnerships? It should be something more than just some speechifyin'. He wouldn't have to devote his entire first term to LGBT issues--the Inauguration invocation, while a big deal, isn't an earth-shaker--but there has to be something.

And if he isn't held to it, made to pay a price for going out of his way to insult a constituency--then that constituency has no one and nothing but itself to blame.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

This is ridiculous.

Every winning candidate must sooner or later disappoint his supporters. It's inevitable.

Backing the idea of Joe Lieberman staying in the Democratic Caucus was annoying. But Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at the inaugural? WTF?

The election is over. I thought Obama's appearance at the Saddleback forum, unhealthy for democracy as it was, was an unfortunate example of a candidate doing what had to be done to win. But this is outrageous. The reasons are laid out very well by Joe at AmericaBlog, John at AmericaBlog, at Pam's, by Mark Kleiman over at RBC. I don't have much to add to what they've said.

We've heard oodles and oodles about how Obama's transition team is the savviest political team ever assembled. I can therefore only assume that this was deliberate. Has Obama made a calculated decision that the support of the LGBT community is not needed, that its loss will be more than offset by the uniting picture of a popular right-winger at the Inauguration?

Well, he's a politician. And he won the election. That means he gets to make such decisions.

But I don't have to like it. And I don't.

Most of his cabinet appointments have been good, and I don't share the general amazement that he's picking a team of centrists and relative insiders. That's pretty much the platform he campaigned on. But Rick Warren isn't centrist. He's Dobson with better PR. And putting him up on the podium sends a very clear message.

Message received, Barack. Loud and clear.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Kleiman update

Re: The previous post, which was originally about this post.

Mr Kleiman posted a comment pointing out a factual error in my post (my bad, I gotta stop posting late at night) and laying out his position in more detail. I was, in fact, misreading him in places, and his proposed solution has quite a bit to recommend it. I don't think it's likely to happen politically (govt recognizes partnerships, under some different name, for everyone, gay & straight alike, and religious organizations decide for themselves what 'marriage' means), but it would be a cleaner solution, and Mr Kleiman doesn't seem to think it's likely to happen immediately either. Anyway, go read the comment, it's worth it.

Thanks for the quick & courteous reply. I'm still sometimes amazed to realize I'm not just talking to myself on this internet thingy....

Friday, December 12, 2008

Trying to have it both ways

Mark Kleiman has a generally very good post over at RBC discussing gay marriage and his lack of sympathy for Maggie Gallegher, who resigned from the Coyote Grill in Hollywood after it was boycotted over her contributions to Prop. 8.

Most of the post is very good, pointing out that the boycott was about her public political acts, not her private religious beliefs, and that disapproving of something is not the same as wanting to use the power of the state to prohibit it.

So far, so good. However, in the last paragraph he reveals how little he really gets it:

Not that it matters, but I'm not especially a fan of legal recognition for same-sex marriage. I agree with Barack Obama that the state should recognize and protect committed pairwise domestic partnerships regardless of what they are called, and leave the definition of "marriage" to be worked out in civil society without the interference of the state. But that wasn't the question on the ballot.
But that's the problem. As the experience of New Jersey is showing, saying "it's a protected committed pairwise domestic partnership but not marriage" leads to all sorts of problems. Lack of insurance coverage, hospital visitation and consent-to-treat issues, and more, because the relevant (Federal, for the most part) regulations use the M-word exclusively. If it's not marriage, real marriage, it's separate and very much unequal. Leaving the definition of "marriage" to be "worked out by civil society" is playing with the lives of the people he claims to care about.

Leaving it to the states lets the states serve as policy laboratories. that's the classic Federalist argument for non-involvement. In this case, the experiment of almost-but-not-quite marriage has failed. It has not produced equality under the law for gay couples. Saying "civil society can work it out without government involvement" is impossible in an economy and society in which the government is as involved in our lives as it is. (Should it be less involved? Maybe. But that's not the question on the ballot, to borrow a phrase.)

If Mr Kleiman means that some sort of domestic-partnership status is a necessary waystation on the road to full equality, I'm skeptical but willing to be convinced. But unless I'm misreading him, that's not the point he's trying to make. He seems to be arguing in favor of benign neglect, of leaving the issue fallow because, after all, it's just so messy and while he doesn't personally have any objections, you understand, he just doesn't see the need to make it official. The states can set up something separate but equal (because we all know how well that works out) and "civil society" (by which he appears to mean straight society) can decide whether or not it's ready to allow queers to use the m-word. And if there are specific legal privileges that are tied to the m-word, well, um, I guess the queers will just have to wait, and be grateful for what they can get.

I wonder how many signatures we need to put the validity of Mr Kleiman's marriage on the ballot. We are going to get to vote on that, right? Or is he comfortable with the idea of the majority voting on minority rights because he's confident that it won't be his rights that are taken away?

I dunno. It's late, I'm in finals-week grading, perhaps I'm being unnecessarily uncharitable. But when someone who's usually so sharp says something so obtuse, it stands out.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Ruth Marcus Loses It

Ruth Marcus's column today on why Caroline Kennedy should be named Senator for New York starts off trying for some fair-and-balanced by discussing several very good reasons why she should not be named:

I always find it a bit creepy when children follow the career paths of their parents.... even though politics as family business has a lengthy pedigree in American history, I recoil from political dynasties.

For one, dynasties tend to illustrate the phenomenon of reversion to the mean: It's rare that the second generation outperforms the first....

More unsettling, political dynasties are fundamentally un-American. This is not -- or is not supposed to be -- a country in which political power is an inherited commodity. The notion that Caroline Kennedy could simply ring up the governor and announce, or even politely suggest, her availability grates against the meritocratic ideal. After all, even the children of politicians generally take the time to climb the usual rungs rather than parachute into top jobs.

Right on, Ruth. She gets it. Caroline for Senator would be a bad idea. If she wants to attain high elective office, let her go through the rigors of a campaign. Let her demonstrate her competence and let the voters decide if she's worthy.

A big bundle of cash -- see, for example, Jon Corzine, former Goldman Sachs chairman, former senator from New Jersey, now New Jersey governor -- is helpful for vaulting your way over the drudgery of doing time on the state Senate subcommittee on pensions. Ditto other forms of celebrity -- see, as an example, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Before getting all huffy about Caroline Kennedy's qualifications for the job, let's take a breath and remember Jesse Ventura and Sonny Bono.

But, again, they all campaigned. They all went through the process. They had to come out with positions on issues that weren't their pet causes, they met the voters, they did what they were supposed to. Yes, they had advantages. All other things are never equal. But U.S. Senator wasn't their first elective office. Even Hillary went through the process. Did she run on Bill's coattails? Duh, of course. But she also did fundraising, and campaigning, and the other things that gave her legitimacy.

So, why is Caroline so uniquely qualified? What makes her the best person to fill that position and represent New York in the Senate at this time?

What really draws me to the notion of Caroline as senator, though, is the modern-fairy-tale quality of it all....The lucky little girl with a pony and an impossibly handsome father. The stoic little girl holding her mother's hand at her father's funeral. The sheltered girl, whisked away from a still-grieving country by a mother trying to shield her from prying eyes.

In this fairy tale, Caroline is our tragic national princess. She is not locked away in a tower but chooses, for the most part, to closet herself there....She is the last survivor of her immediate family; she reveals herself only in the measured doses of a person who has always been, will always be, in the public eye....

I know it's an emotional -- dare I say "girly"? -- reaction. But what a fitting coda to this modern fairy tale to have the little princess grow up to be a senator.

Actually, no. Not if it's by being named to the position with little significant accomplishment in public life. (Yes, she's written a book. Better than nothing, but is that enough? By that standard, Bill O'Reilly is better qualified.) For her to enter politics and build on her family's legacy, by achieving something significant in her own right? Absolutely.

But of all the ways of choosing Senators, and of all the reasons to choose a particular person to fill a vacant seat, "it would make a perfect fairy-tale ending" is one of the worst. It isn't (or shouldn't be) about happy endings to stories we tell ourselves, it should be about the best combination on ideology and competence to get done what needs to be done now. I suspect Ruth Marcus knows better and, on reflection, will come to her senses.


Sunday, December 7, 2008

Who, exactly, are these "reactionary liberals"?

George Will's column today is on the perils to the Republic posed by the threat of reviving the Fairness Doctrine. I'll let him summarize it:

[T]he doctrine required broadcasters to devote reasonable time to fairly presenting all sides of any controversial issue discussed on the air. The government decided the meaning of the italicized words.
He points out, quite correctly, that the original argument in favor of the Doctrine was scarcity of spectrum; with only a relatively few stations, and those stations using the public's airwaves for private profit, they had a responsibility to present different sides of an issue. (From his comments, it appears Will found the rationale unpersuasive, but that's a separate issue.)

And he observes, correctly, in an era of 100-channel cable packages, exploding talk radio, and that there Internet thingy, the scarcity argument doesn't carry nearly as much weight as it used to. BUT... check out the last few paragraphs. Note what's there, and what isn't.
[S]ome liberals now say: The problem is not maldistribution of opinion and information but too much of both. Until recently, liberals fretted that the media were homogenizing America into blandness. Now they say speech management by government is needed because of a different scarcity -- the public's attention....

And these worrywarts say the proliferation of radio, cable, satellite broadcasting and Internet choices allows people to choose their own universe of commentary, which takes us far from the good old days when everyone had the communitarian delight of gathering around the cozy campfire of the NBC-ABC-CBS oligopoly. Being a liberal is exhausting...

If reactionary liberals, unsatisfied with dominating the mainstream media, academia and Hollywood, were competitive on talk radio, they would be uninterested in reviving the fairness doctrine. Having so sullied liberalism's name that they have taken to calling themselves progressives, liberals are now ruining the reputation of reactionaries, which really is unfair.

So I have a question: Who, exactly, are these "reactionary liberals"? Part of why I read Will is his careful research, his willingness to name names, cite sources, and in general provide a factually-grounded as well as well-reasoned argument. (I seldom agree with him, but his columns are always thought-provoking.)

Yet here he simply invokes the right-wing bugaboo of "reactionary liberals." Um, I spend a fair amount of time cruising through the left blogosphere. Not all my time--I do have a life, such as it is--but I'm simply not seeing a groundswell from the Left for reviving the Fairness Doctrine. I'm hearing a lot of bloviating from the right about how restoring the Doctrine is going to be Barack Hussein Obama's first step in turning America into a Socialist Muslim Atheist Marxist Dictatorship. The Lefties I'm reading are more concerned with the economy in free-fall, the Iraq mess, and health care, than with restoring the Fairness Doctrine.

So who are these people, Mr Will? What are your sources? Or, to keep your readership up with the base, do you just occasionally take a Limbaugh rant, edit it for tone, and run it?


Thursday, December 4, 2008

Roger Ebert on Ben Stein

A wonderful take-down of Stein's awful creationist movie. Here's a sample:

This film is cheerfully ignorant, manipulative, slanted, cherry-picks quotations, draws unwarranted conclusions, makes outrageous juxtapositions (Soviet marching troops representing opponents of ID), pussy-foots around religion (not a single identified believer among the ID people), segues between quotes that are not about the same thing, tells bald-faced lies, and makes a completely baseless association between freedom of speech and freedom to teach religion in a university class that is not about religion.

And there is worse, much worse.
For the entire buildup, to see how he reaches that point, go read the entire thing.

[With a big h/t to Princess Sparkle Pony!]

Friday, November 28, 2008

Giving Thanks

Gail Collins reminds us of the things to be thankful for that we may not have thought of.

Though if I can find the Thanksgiving Prayer that Heather Havrilesky wrote for Suck.com back in the day... that's still one of my favorites ever.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

the Lieberman decision

Disgust does not BEGIN to describe my reaction to this. The Democratic "leadership" has decided that expecting Joe Lieberman to pay a price for supporting the Republican nominee, demonizing and questioning the patriotism of the Democratic nominee, and being the least effective committee chair in the Senate would be unreasonable; after all, that would make Joe all frowny, and we can't have that.

So now the lying opportunist hack is still caucusing with the Democrats. Argh.

Glenn Greenwald has documented some of the extent of Joe's perfidy and the excessive degree of "bipartisanship" that made the Democrats nothing but a punching bag for Republicans, a role they seem determined to keep playing. John Aravosis has some insights as well.

What they said.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

I kan too has profundity

This morning's lead article on Salon is an attempt to explain the phenomenon of lolcats to those who have been living in caves the last couple of years. (Obsession with the election isn't a valid excuse, as there were sites dedicated to lolmccain, and lolmccain and lolobama sites up before the election. A lot of them seem to be gone, but some are still around.)

It's an attempt at deconstruction, but it's the most shallow, facile attempt at deconstruction I've ever read, an overly-earnest explanation of how the humor works, how it's actually symbolic, you see, so they're not really cats, they're symbols, all leading to the conclusion (are you ready for this?):

They're people. They're us.

Wow. That's really the best you could come up with? Seriously, anyone who needed that explained to them probably isn't a Salon reader in the first place. The thing I regret most is that reading the article took me about eight minutes, and I'll never get that eight minutes back.

Or, in lolcat:

EPIC FAIL. KTHXBAI.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Quote of the day

From a commenter on one of the blogs at WaPo:

Being in the majority means responding to the weakening cry of "Liberal!" with the loud and overbearing oath, "Dimwit!"

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Olbermann

Usually I don't have much patience with Keith Olbermann, unless for some reason I need a dose of umbrage and indignation. (Maybe it's just the things of his I've stumbled across or had forwarded to me--I'm not a regular viewer.)

But this, I think, is worth thinking about. A plea for love in a harsh, sometimes uncaring world.

Memo to Kathleen Parker

Just a few quick comments on your column today:

1) Yes, I'm sure you're getting angry mail from annoyed right-wingers. BUT, your response:

Yes, absolutely, let's start censoring people who entertain ideas and opinions that make us unhappy. Now there's a sure path to enlightenment!
while satisfyingly high on the snark scale, isn't accurate, and I think (hope) you know it. You're confusing censorship and criticism (or threats to boycott). Refusing to read your column and censoring you aren't the same thing. Not even close. If you make public commentary, you're going to have people who disagree with you. Why, even I myself have on occasion been criticized by regular readers of this blog--both of them. (In my case, I don't confuse censorship and obscurity.)

2) A bit of info. You write:

The most common complaint I've heard lately is that when people on the right criticize each other, the left uses that to its advantage. (The right would never do such a thing.)

You're quite right to be skeptical about the right not using disorganization of its opponents to its advantage. Yes, the left has its share of circular firing squads. But the right has been very skillful at exploiting them (anyone else remember Limbaugh's 'Operation Chaos'?).

Also, I'm told, the left doesn't eat its own the way the right does. . . . Whether assertions about the left's sturdier loyalties are accurate, I can't say.

I can. They're not. And this isn't new. Truman said, "I don't belong to an organized political party, I'm a Democrat." Remember the drama when David Geffen suggested Hillary might not be the one? Howard Dean becoming DNC Chair?

But one could argue that eating one's own -- that is, being willing to say what's true even when doing so is not in one's immediate self-interest -- is not a defect but rather an imperative that conservatives might wish to claim as their own.

Here, of course, you're quite right. One's commitment to the truth should be paramount, even when that truth is embarrassing or inconvenient. Alas, we live in an imperfect world.

Oh, and please walk down the hall and point out to Harold Meyerson that while some post-election schadenfreude is in order, and I'll admit to indulging a little myself, it's actually in our long-term best interest for the GOP to get its act together. (Jettisoning the Faux Noise wing of the party would be a first step, I agree, and a welcome change.) But: A healthy democracy needs a healthy opposition party. Today's GOP isn't it. As Meyerson points out, it's a regional, narrow, race- and class- defined party with strong elements of anti-intellectualism, Know-Nothingism, and xenophobia. They need to get their act together to force some discipline onto the Democrats, who certainly don't seem capable of disciplining themselves some day.

(Case in point: Why are we debating whether Lieberman should keep his chairmanship, after he campaigned for the GOP, questioned the competence and basic loyalty of the Democratic nominee, lied about the nominee's voting record, and did NOTHING during his previous term as committee chair? Because, apparently, expecting him to pay a price for misbehavior would make Lieberman feel bad, and that would make people all frowny.)

The Republican party can use this as an opportunity for soul-searching and rebuilding. If they follow the Democratic model, though, they'll have to lose another round of midterms and possibly a presidential election (Sarah in '12!) before they get serious about it.

In the meantime, while I can take some pleasure in watching them go through the process, I can only hope they get through the process relatively quickly.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Well, that didn't take long.

Every winning candidate must, sooner or later, disappoint his supporters. It's inevitable.

I just didn't expect it to happen this soon.

Lieberman campaigned for the opposing candidate. He questioned the competence and basic loyalty of the Democratic nominee. He held NO hearings as chairman of the homeland security committee. With everything going on with warrantless wiretaps, habeas suspensions, renditions, and the unitary executive, he couldn't find anything to poke around in.

Why, exactly, are the Democrats bending over backwards to keep this clown in the Democratic caucus?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Quote of the day

"The greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults."

- Alexis de Tocqueville, with a h/t to Andrew Sullivan.

Yet another...

Gail Collins mentions today that Senator Lindsay Graham said, at one point during the campaign, that he'd drown himself if North Carolina went for Obama.

Well, it did. But he probably won't follow through.

Just one more broken promise from the Republicans.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day: Report from the trenches

Polls opened in Missouri at 6:00 AM. When I arrived a few minutes before 6:00, there were over 200 people in line, snaking down the steps, along the sidewalk, through the parking lot, almost to the street in the back of the little Knights of Columbus hall where we vote. The parking lot was full, the parking lot in the church across the street was full, and people were parking 2 or 3 blocks away. I've NEVER seen more than 10 people in line at this polling station since I've lived here.

A slightly bleary-eyed 20-something got in line behind me and said this was his first time voting, were the lines always this long? Several of us in line had a good laugh and assured him that no, none of us ever seen anything quite like this, certainly not at 6 AM.

The line moved relatively quickly, as such things go. People were in a good mood, and no one seemed frustrated by the long wait (though one person had to leave the line because they had to be at work at 7:00, but I heard them say they'd be back after they got off shift at 3:30). I got my optical-scan ballot at 6:45 and was out the door at 6:50. By that time, the line was shorter--there were "only" a hundred people or so, and the line only went halfway down the parking lot.

Something big is happening. And with turnout like this, whoever wins will certainly be able to claim a mandate.

One other thing. I'm not one for flag-waving sentimentality. But walking up to the polls, seeing 200 people lined up before sunrise, patiently waiting for the opportunity to cast a vote--Is this a great country, or what? Maybe American democracy has a chance after all. The people are waking up, and they are about to speak. Loudly, I think.

Update: This is the body of an email I sent to Andrew Sullivan. He posted part of it. I'm famous, woohoo! Well, in an anonymous, who-cares kind of way.

Friday, October 31, 2008

One more thing I was wrong about

Last summer, I opined to anyone who'd listen that while the $4/gallon prices were temporary, gas was settling into a new higher range, a "new normal," and we'd never see $2/gallon again.

Yesterday I filled up for $1.999/gal at my local convenience store.

I dismissed certain blogospheric rants about manipulation and price-fixing as so much conspiracy theory, but a 50% drop in 5 months? Demand hasn't dropped *that* much, and perhaps wasn't *that* high last summer.

Just another something that makes you go, "Hmmmmm....."

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Guffaw-worthy quote of the day

Second, the political culture of the Democratic Party has changed over the past decade. There's a fierce new anger among many liberal Democrats, a more militant style and an angry intolerance of dissent and criticism.
--David Frum, today's Washington Post

Project much?

Friday, September 19, 2008

Oh, SNAP! Story Blurb Of The Day

From today's NY Times:

Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. has been butchering Senator John McCain this week. It is not clear who has noticed.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Hypocrisy Watch

Andrew Sullivan defends anyone's absolute right to criticize Catholicism, no matter how crudely.

And yet, a couple months ago, when PZ Myers desecrated a holy cracker, Andrew was most indignant.

I'm just saying.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Science policy questions for the election season

NancyP over at Pam's has a very good post about questions we should be asking the candidates about their policies on science and technology.

I think I'd want to add one or two, but I also think it's late in the day and I'm tired, so I'll let it percolate a bit before I post.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Quote

If the conservative movement in America is mostly about getting the federal government off our backs, then why does the Republican platform promote constitutional amendments to force prayer in schools, force women to have children they do not want and make it a crime to express political dissent by burning a flag?

Rack Jite

Friday, September 5, 2008

Quote of the day

Barack Obama can't help it if he's a magna cum laude Harvard grad and you're a Wal-Mart shopper who resurfaces driveways with your brother-in-law. Americans are so narcissistic that our candidates have to be just like us. That's why George Bush is president. And that's where the McCain camp gets its campaign strategy: Paint Obama as cocky and arrogant and wait for America to vote him off, like the black guy in every reality show. A black president? Half of Pennsylvania isn't ready for black quarterbacks. Forget Obama, they think Will Smith needs to be taken down a peg.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

video moment of the day

Did anyone else catch the CNN camera pointing at someone in the back holding up a banner saying "MCCAIN VOTES AGAINST VETS"?

Alternate Reality Land

Cindy McCain bio film: "It was love at first sight." No mention that John was married to someone else at the time.

Cindy McCain: A woman picks a husband by what kind of father he'll be, and she hit a home run in John. No mention that John's kids were raised by his FIRST wife... the one he committed adultery on, then dumped. Spare me about what a good family man he is.

Paeans to individual responsibility, after a night mocking those who organize citizens to take care of themselves.

Did you know McCain was a hero in Vietnam?

Did she just claim with a straight face that he wasn't a Washington insider?

And that he always speaks the truth no matter what the cost?

Who, exactly, is she talking about again?

Oh, Snap! Part 2

Since last night, the Republicans have reported a burst of new donations, with $1 million in contributions since yesterday.

The Obama campaign reports raising $8 million since last night, and on track to have raised $10 million by the time John McCain takes the stage tonight.

It does indeed appear that the base has been energized--for both parties.

[h/t: Marc Ambinder, by way of Andrew Sullivan]

Quote of the day 2

If we never question our religions or their motives, they will ultimately destroy our freedom to do so.

William H. Reynolds, Creationism: The Fossil Record and the Flood


[h/t: PZ Myers]

Oh, snap!

Last night Palin said this:

I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a "community organizer," except that you have actual responsibilities.
This morning the Obama campaign said this:
Both Rudy Giuliani and Sarah Palin specifically mocked Barack's experience as a community organizer on the South Side of Chicago more than two decades ago, where he worked with people who had lost jobs and been left behind when the local steel plants closed.

Let's clarify something for them right now.

Community organizing is how ordinary people respond to out-of-touch politicians and their failed policies.

[h/t: Pam Spaulding. That post also has a picture of Palin in what was almost certainly an unintentional pose, that's still disturbing]

Quote of the day

Actually from yesterday, but I just stumbled on it this morning:

Obama hasn't confused his base for the country. These guys don't seem to know the difference.

Palin's speech: the morning after

A lot (most) of it was the same culture-war GOP boilerplate we've been hearing for years. And it didn't address any of the substantive issues. It wasn't anything we haven't heard before. And as the Republicans have reminded us, there's a lot more to the job than giving good speeches. She's got a background in broadcasting, we know she's good at reading copy written by someone else. Giving a good speech doesn't qualify her for the job.

The Republicans were never going to just lay down and die. They're going to fight back, and not give up power easily. No one does, why should they be different? Yes, Palin's speech was infuriating. But it wasn't, to use this year's over-used phrase, "game-changing."

It rallied the base; it was clearly aimed at the people in the convention hall, and it clearly succeeded with them. But if I were a middle-of-the-road voter, doing relatively OK but a little worried about my mortgage payment, OK with being in Iraq but not happy with Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo...would I have heard anything there appealing to me? Or just standard GOP culture-war boilerplate?

Addendum: A bit of linkage:

PZ Myers: This is how we will lose

WaPo: In a more diverse America, a mostly white convention

Gail Collins, NYT: Palin seems an awful running mate, until you look at the alternatives

NYT blog: Still one step behind (apparently written before Palin speech)

AmericaBlog: Sarah stretches the truth

RBC: Palin was at 2006 Alaska Independence Party Convention

CNN's online quick poll:

How do you rate Republican VP choice Sarah Palin's convention speech?
Thumbs up 43% 81618
Thumbs down 34% 64820
Didn't watch 22% 41694
Total Votes: 188132
Oh, and as for Romney's ripping into "liberal" Washington: who exactly does he think has been in charge for the last 8 years?

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Quote of the day

"If the Obamas had a 17 year-old daughter who was unmarried and pregnant by a tough-talking black kid, my guess is if that they all appeared onstage at a Democratic convention and the delegates were cheering wildly, a number of conservatives might be discussing the issue of dysfunctional black families."


[h/t: Andrew Sullivan]

And the nation yawned...

Overnight reaction to the conventions, based on CNN online survey, the holy grail of political polling:

What did you think of the GOP convention's Tuesday night program?

Thumbs up



26%
23444
Thumbs down




27%
25038
Didn't watch



47% 42875
Total Votes: 91357

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Liveblogging the GOP convention 2

8:45 PM: Laura Bush walking on. Crowd going wild at the sight of the only member of the Administration not personally touched by corruption or illegality. McCain is a hero, Palin is an executive and reformer! Lots of women in the GOP! Laura loves George! He's a "man of character whose principles will not change." [Nor his ideas, in spite of facts.] George loves America! Lots of opinions lately, not many facts, so here we go with some straight talk. No Child Left Behind. Supreme Court Justices! (crowd going APE. Well, as much as Republicans do.) Faith-based initiatives. AIDS relief in Africa. (All snark aside, that's been a success.) "Change you can really believe in." Bush takes credit for Bill Gates' malaria initiative. We liberated Iraq & Afghanistan! There hasn't been another 9/11! [Question: Why is Osama Bin Laden still at large?] Yay for the troops! [question: Why don't we honor them with more than our thanks, by expanding some benefits and medical care?]

Bush coming on monitor. Crowd going nuts.

Can't be at convention because he's busy working & carrying out his duty. Gustav work underway. Bush on McCain: I know what it takes to be President. I get briefings, threat assessment. McCain's life has prepared him to make tough choices. He commanded his unit. Senate career. Service! He was a POW. [crowd almost missed their cue for an applause line] If the Hanoi Hilton couldn't break him, "the angry left never will." He'll protect human life. He's committed to principle! (how can he say that with a straight face?) He'll make tax cuts permanent, lift ban on driling, support new technologies. (the ones he voted against?) He's independent! He's a maverick! He's honest! The Democrats were threatening to cut off the troops & retreat, but McCain had faith in them! [the troops, not the democrats.] Quote from mccain about rather lose an election than lose a war, leaving the comparison (canard) unspoken. 9/11! 9/11! Palin will be great! I'm optimistic! America is great! Americans are great! Freedom is great! Americans will look at judgment/policies/experience & vote McCain/Palin! Laura's great! God bless everyone!

Laura's back. McCain has what it takes. Cindy supports John! Cindy's made PR trips to different countries! She can make even more! Yay for America!

9:05 PM: Reagan bio film. The media hated Reagan! Some called him a maverick! (McCain, you're no Reagan.) Reagan ran on conviction politics. Yay for America! Yay for Reagan! McCain knew Reagan! [no word on Reagan's surprise when McCain dumped his injured wife to marry the millionaire heiress he'd committed adultery with.] Everything was better under Reagan! Reagan put country first and "saved *our* America."

9:09 PM: Fred Thompson speaks. [My ghod, it just hit me just how much he sounds like Foghorn Leghorn.] Will always have challenge, but yay for America! Palin is a "breath of fresh air." (Unlike the phrasing of his speech.) Having small-town values isn't enough. "Media bigshots" are criticizing someone who was actually governor & not just a talking head on tv. "I say, I say, give me a governor..." he's in full foghorn mode. The crowd's eating it up. She's not part of the beltway crowd. The selection has "the other side & their friends in the media" in a panic. She's not afraid to take on the establishment. (good thing they got a professional actor to give this speech, no one else could give it w/ a straight face.) She knows how to field-dress a moose! They're going to drain the swamp in washington. (that'd be the one Bush has been in for 8 years.)

Pivot to McCain's character. He's a veteran! His sons are in the military! [Again the moving-hurricane-clouds backdrop. wth?] Introduction of McCains in the audience.

Phone ringing. Going offline.

10:07 Back online... and it seems to be winding down for the night. Talking heads are on.

Signing off for the evening.

Liveblogging the GOP convention

Why not...

8:09 PM: Just tuned in via CNN's streaming video. Shanna Hanson is speaking. What's up with the vertigo-inducing cloud-motion backdrop? Are they trying to make it look like the speaker is on the mountaintop or something? Is it intended to remind people of Gustav?

8:11 PM. Empty seats everywhere. The crowd looks bored. TR bio starting.

8:11 PM: History flick. Yay for Lincoln! (Lincoln was the best creator of 1-liners in US history? Until Reagan?) Remember how much the Democrats hated Lincoln! They called him a bad speaker!

8:13 PM: OOooh, risky. Pointing out that Lincoln protected the Constitution. Note the contrast with President Doofus. And here we go, Lincoln put country before self.

8:14 PM: CEO of Raza Development Fund speaking. Democrat who likes McCain. Establishing his credentials as a Christianist. News flash: McCain was a POW! Yay for God! John McCain is a nice guy! Bible quote! Hm, mention of immigrants. How will that play with the base? Biggest cheer yet: "sanctity of life," "sanctity of marriage." Yay for America!

8:20 PM: G. H. W. Bush Bio film starting. He was a war hero! He served his country! Desert Storm! Country First! Bush waves, crowd cheers.

8:24 PM: Putting others first! Service! Hooray for farmers and the private nonprofit no-govt-money agencies that help them! They can't make a living, they can't survive during a crisis--we plant/harvest crops but don't give them money, if they're morally deserving (a "crisis," i.e. not their fault, because low crop prices aren't affected by govt policies, and intrusive government safety regulations are part of the problem). Service! Service!

8:29 PM: Retired army captain. (Retired? at captain?) McCain is a hero. My story isn't as good, but whose is? (That's right, McCain is the GREATEST AMERICAN HERO EVER.) Injured, complications, almost died. Got better. [crowd shot: They look bored.] America is great! Life is tough. America is land of opportunity.

First reactions: I'm struck by the difference in tone. The Democratic convention speeches were scrappy, and policy based. They talked about issues. Sometimes they demagogued, but they talked about issues. It was more than feel-good yay-for-America stuff. Granted, this is warming-up-the-crowd... But so far I haven't heard a single reason why I should vote for McCain other than he's an ex-POW who loves America and God. I haven't even heard any reason why Republicans are better suited to lead than Democrats.

To be fair, I also haven't heard the sort of "We love America and that other party doesn't" rhetoric the GOP sometimes falls into, either.

AFK a bit being domestic. Back later.

McCain Just Didn't Do His Job

So it also turns out Sarah Palin may have been briefly involved with the Alaska Independence Party, which views the USA as a colonizing power and wants AK to be an independent state. She's just now hiring a lawyer for troopergate. She was all about getting earmarked money for her hometown when she was mayor. Her daughter's pregnancy was apparently an "open secret" around the town, but no one in the campaign knew about it. And lots of people who should have been asked as part of a vetting process, weren't.

He's had six months since he wrapped up the nomination. More than just about any candidate in history. And basic work wasn't done.

Some are speculating he wanted Lieberman or Ridge, but they're both unacceptable to the theocrats, so he caved. And, it does seem as if the theocratic wing of the GOP is the only one happy with this selection. And of course, if he can't stand up to activists in his own party, how's he going to deal with Ahmedinejad?

Oh, but wait. He's doing this to win. After all, if he doesn't win, there won't BE a McCain administration to take on Iran. But, of course, this pretty much undercuts his 'maverick' image who's willing to stand up to conventional wisdom and do what he thinks is right.

Either he's incompetent, or he's a moral coward. Or he's just another politician willing to say or do whatever it takes to get to 51%.

What happened to the tough, courageous POW?

Addendum: David Brooks has a guffaw-worthy column today in which he tries to argue that it doesn't really matter, that he knows John McCain and everything McCain does is virtuous and right, simply because McCain does it. But even he is forced to concede:


If McCain is elected, he will face conditions tailor-made to foster disorder. He will be leading a divided and philosophically exhausted party. There simply aren’t enough Republican experts left to staff an administration, so he will have to throw together a hodgepodge with independents and Democrats. He will confront Democratic majorities that will be enraged and recriminatory.

On top of these conditions, he will have his own freewheeling qualities: a restless, thrill-seeking personality, a tendency to personalize issues, a tendency to lead life as a string of virtuous crusades.

He really needs someone to impose a policy structure on his moral intuitions. He needs a very senior person who can organize a vast administration and insist that he tame his lone-pilot tendencies and work through the established corridors — the National Security Council, the Domestic Policy Council. He needs a near-equal who can turn his instincts, which are great, into a doctrine that everybody else can predict and understand.

Rob Portman or Bob Gates wouldn’t have been politically exciting, but they are capable of performing those tasks. Palin, for all her gifts, is not. She underlines McCain’s strength without compensating for his weaknesses. The real second fiddle job is still unfilled.


So, again, McCain hasn't found someone suitable for the job.

Memo to the candidate: When even David Brooks is concerned, you really blew it.

Monday, September 1, 2008

A question of judgment

Again and again and again: The issue is not Sarah Palin. (Well, not entirely; there's evidence leaking out to be concerned about, more signs that she wasn't properly vetted.)

The issue is what this selection says about McCain's decision-making. In picking a relative unknown, we have 70 days to get familiar with her and learn if she's any more than someone convenient who passes all the right-wing ideology criteria. In selecting her, McCain invites the (false) conclusion that there are no Republican women better qualified. (Kay Bailey Hutchinson has more experience in national and international affairs. Carly Fiorina has more executive experience. Elizabeth Dole has more of both, having served in the Executive Branch as well as the Senate. I'd disagree with all of them and wouldn't want to see any of them in office--but that's because of policy questions, not concerns about basic experience and temperament.)

E. J. Dionne has a good column up today over at WaPo about how this may play out in Convention Week and beyond, and how his own decision complicates McCain's job badly. He also calls out movement conservatives who were horribly concerned about Harriet Meier's lack of experience, but have no problem with Sarah Palin's lack of experience. (Hint: It's not nearly as much about experience as it is about maintaining power and making sure someone is really one of them.) Money quote:

In picking Biden as his running mate, Obama made a prudent choice. It is McCain who is asking us to roll the dice. You'd think that people who call themselves conservative would have a problem with that.
Ordinarily I'm wary of reading too much into the small human-interest details that get tossed into bio puff pieces. But: Obama plays low-stakes poker, a game about deducing how things look from the other person's perspective, making the most of limited information, and adjusting your strategy to the nuances at the table. He plays conservatively, and rarely bluffs. McCain plays higher-stakes (what would be very high stakes for me, but for a man of his wealth not excessive) craps, a game in which the odds are fixed, nuances are few, and letting winnings ride so everything is determined by the next throw of the dice is encouraged.

In this case, gaming preferences may be diagnostic.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

McCain's Fundamental Lack of Seriousness

Michael Kinsley has a must-read over at Slate about the GOP's tossing away the experience argument, and the suddenness with which the punditocracy has done so. Suddenly it's not about experience, it's about something else. We're not quite sure what, yet, but it's definitely something. Best zinger statistic:

Why, before her stint as governor of Alaska, population 670,000, she was mayor of a town of 9,000. Remember when the Republicans mocked Bill Clinton for being governor of a "small state"? That would be Arkansas, population 2.8 million. As it happens, 670,000 is the population of metropolitan Little Rock.
Money quote:
How could anyone truly believe that Barack Obama's background and job history are inadequate experience for a president, and simultaneously believe that Sarah Palin's background and job history are perfectly adequate? It's possible to believe one or the other. But both? Simply not possible. John McCain has been—what's the word?—lying. And so have all the pundits who rushed to defend McCain's choice.
Yeah. What he said.

The Palin selection raises serious questions about McCain's judgment, and about how seriously he takes the position. It's looking more and more as if she wasn't adequately vetted beforehand. If you seriously believe that terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism are the overarching issues of our day, how can you select someone with apparently no prior interest in foreign affairs at all as your running mate? If you truly believe your opponent is dangerously inexperienced, how can you select someone with even less national experience?

This says something about McCain's seriousness, his judgment, or his competence. Pick one.

Snarky Atheist Video of the Day

Why God Seems Nonexistent.

Nothing brilliantly original here, but well-executed.

And check the comments out. Poe's law still holds: No matter how over the top it is, someone will take it seriously.

[Hat tip: PZ Myers]

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Embezzlers (?) For Jesus. Well, self-enrichers, at least.

PZ has the details.

It seems a small bank tried to do everything just as God wanted, including praying before all their meetings and giving 10% of their income to charity. (The article doesn't say whether that's gross or net income.)

It also seems they paid themselves exorbitantly well -- five or six times what bank officers at banks that size usually make.

I know there's something there about the workman being worthy of his hire, but isn't there also something about rich men, camels, needle's eyes, etc?

(Though actually the reference was to a very narrow gate in Jerusalem, called the Needle's Eye, that merchants had to go through. A loaded camel wouldn't fit; thus the camel had to be completely unloaded, with the friendly tax collector conveniently close by. This concludes today's historical aside.)

The FDIC is looking into things.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Obama's speech

Strong start, eh middle, strong finish. All in all, a success. But what in the hell is up with the action-movie-closing-credits music afterwards? It's not inspiring, not uplifting, it sounds like it's supposed to scare us. Better fit for a campaign of fear than hope.

Of candidates and choices

One more reason why PZ Myers is one of my favorite curmudgeons:

Fair enough, actually. It does represent a difference in values: that [Kay] Hagan may not be an atheist but is willing to speak with them says one thing about her values, and that Elizabeth Dole thinks atheists are un-American says something else about her values. It also says a lot about Dole that she is willingly affiliated with the party of bigotry and incompetence, the Republicans. These are choices made by candidates that are legitimate issues to help voters decide who they should elect.
The Republican party is not going to worthy of respect until the theocrats are fully repudiated. And one election cycle won't be enough to do it.

Noonan makes a good point

Peggy Noonan, who I've certainly disagreed with before, about a great many things, makes a very salient observation about the two parties:

Democrats in the end speak most of, and seem to hold the most sympathy for, the beset-upon single mother without medical coverage for her children, and the soldier back from the war who needs more help with post-traumatic stress disorder. They express the most sympathy for the needy, the yearning, the marginalized and unwell. For those, in short, who need more help from the government, meaning from the government's treasury, meaning the money got from taxpayers.

Who happen, also, to be a generally beset-upon group.

Democrats show little expressed sympathy for those who work to make the money the government taxes to help the beset-upon mother and the soldier and the kids. They express little sympathy for the middle-aged woman who owns a small dry cleaner and employs six people and is, actually, day to day, stressed and depressed from the burden of state, local and federal taxes, and regulations, and lawsuits, and meetings with the accountant, and complaints as to insufficient or incorrect efforts to meet guidelines regarding various employee/employer rules and regulations. At Republican conventions they express sympathy for this woman, as they do for those who are entrepreneurial, who start businesses and create jobs and build things. Republicans have, that is, sympathy for taxpayers. But they don't dwell all that much, or show much expressed sympathy for, the sick mother with the uninsured kids, and the soldier with the shot nerves.

Neither party ever gets it quite right, the balance between the taxed and the needy, the suffering of one sort and the suffering of another. You might say that in this both parties are equally cold and equally warm, only to two different classes of citizens.


Of Omens & Portents

PZ Myers, a self-described "godless liberal," is forced to admit that there may be something to omens & portents after all.

He may be on to something.... If there is a magic sky-fairy, he/she/it can't be pleased with the ninnies running around insisting that he/she/it wants them to have a tax cut and kick out the damn furriners as his/her/its top priority.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Hillary's Speech

A bit much boilerplate for my taste toward the beginning, but she ended with a strong finish. She laid out why supporting Obama is important, and her line about "was it just for me, or was it for the people who feel invisible" laid it out right there. If you're still angry about how the primaries went down and use that as an excuse to stay home, you're hurting the people who are going to be worse off with McCain.

On that note, Michael O'Hare has a great post over at RBC:

Someone should suffer for the wrongs done to Hillary, but anyone who thinks that will be Obama if McCain is elected either has no heart or no brain. It's like voting for Nader, compounding the careless, heedless pique of a child who punches a younger sibling because Dad turned off the TV with the wilful ignorance of tourists who yell at people who don't speak their language. And just as destructive. If the voter who chooses to act out that way is among the lucky upper middle class intelligentsia for whom the Bush years have been infuriating, but actually not all that personally injurious, all the more disreputable. [emphasis added]
Yeah. What he said.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Not feeling the Hillary-Love

Jack Cafferty has also had about enough Clintonian drama at this point.

It's not like they have been bending over backwards to help Obama get elected. Bill Clinton has barely been polite. He couldn't even bring himself to say he thought Obama is qualified to be president. Now, Bill Clinton is reportedly not happy about the topic of his speech Wednesday night.

Politico.com reports the former president wanted to talk about the economy under President Bush compared to his accomplishments during his term in office. The theme for Wednesday night is "Securing America for the 21st Century." It seems Bill Clinton is forever more interested in reminding us of what a charming guy he was while in office than in acting like one of the leaders of his party and trying to get his party into the White House.

Kind of sad, really.

Yet, Obama's people have gone out of their way to accommodate the Clintons this week in the hopes of achieving party unity. Obama told reporters on Monday that former President Clinton could speak about anything he likes.

Some of Hillary Clinton's supporters had threatened to disrupt the proceedings if their candidate wasn't shown the proper amount of respect. They're called PUMAs, an acronym for "Party Unity My Ass." They appear to be a humorless lot who cannot come to terms with the fact that the country didn't want Hillary Clinton to be president. So they have been throwing a hissy fit ever since the primaries ended.
It's always and everywhere about them.

Still not getting it

Marie Cocco has an article at today's WaPo about Hillary's thankless job, how it's slightly demeaning to expect her to support the nominee, who came from behind and stole what was rightfully hers.

A few observations:

  1. She started with a huge warchest, near-universal name recognition, the support of a popular ex-President, and the best political machine in the business.
  2. She ran a campaign marked by warring staff, unpaid vendors, and a complete lack of contingency plans after Super Tuesday, when she expected to have it wrapped up. (Remember how surprised they were by the Texas caucus rules, two weeks before the Texas vote? They hadn't even started organizing there, as they didn't expect there would possibly be any need to.)
  3. Point two suggests a lack of executive ability. I'm just saying.
  4. Her opponent ran a tightly-disciplined operation, mobilized new supporters, out-organized and out-hustled her. Yes, this was an exceptional year in that a relatively inexperienced Senator, and a black one at that, was able to be a serious contender. That doesn't change the fact that he ran a very good campaign. Much better than hers.
  5. This is politics, not stickball. It ain't always fair, because life ain't always fair. If it were fair, the Swift Boat attacks on Kerry would never have been seen as anything but laughable. If it were fair, then impeaching a President for lying in a civil suit would have lowered the bar enough to demand impeachment for a President who authorized war crimes in direct violation of legally binding treaty--surely a "high crime or misdemeanor" if there is one.
Does Hillary have some bitter disappointment to deal with? Undoubtedly. It's no doubt painful, and having to do much of it in public can only make it worse.

But please. She's not a helpless victim here. She lost the campaign because of the campaign she ran.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Quote of the Day

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was born to wealth, but that didn’t stop him from doing more for working Americans than any president before or since. Conversely, Joseph Biden’s hardscrabble life story, though inspiring, didn’t stop him from supporting the odious 2005 bankruptcy bill.

But in the world we actually live in, pro-corporate, inequality-increasing Republicans argue that you should vote for them because they’re regular guys you’d like to have a beer with, while Democrats who want to raise taxes on top earners, expand health care and raise the minimum wage are snooty elitists.

--Paul Krugman, today's NYT

Slant your coverage much, Wofl?

Check out Wolf "Anything-For-My-Pal-McCain"'s lede on CNN this morning:

And now the selling begins. The Democrats need to do some major marketing at their party convention in Denver, Colorado. First and foremost, they need to sell Sen. Barack Obama. They need to convince American voters that he's the right man to lead the country.
"Now the selling begins"? Um, last time I checked, Obama was leading in the polls. Most Americans are already convinced he's the right man to lead the country. And in case Wolf, being new to journalism and all, isn't aware of it, a convention does have some function beyond PR and 'selling.'

Although it is true that John McCain was a POW. It's not relevant in this context, but it gets trotted out to explain everything else, so I figured I'd beat the rush.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Of fighting back and looking weak

Andrew Sullivan asks:

Could it be that in this election cycle, the tactics of the far right are beginning to turn around and bite them?

In order for that to happen, the Democratic leadership would have to make a counterpunch. I don't see that happening. They (still!) haven't learned: When you tell yourself you're being lofty and ignore gutter attacks, you allow those attacks to become accepted as fact. (Thus decorated veteran Kerry was painted as a wimp by multiple-student-deferment Cheney and a candidate who spent the war years keeping the skies of Texas safe from the Viet Cong, until he "talked to the army" and didn't finish his enlistment.) And when you don't speak up to defend yourself because you think protesting might make you look weak.... You just look weak. And are therefore treated with contempt by a party that respects only strength.

Is it a case of lacking the killer instinct, or just the effect of being beaten up by Republicans so badly for so long they've become too timid to assert themselves? I don't know. I do know their "Maybe if we're nice, the Republicans won't be so mean to us" strategy isn't working, has never worked. And if a Democrat had had the kind of week McCain just had, it's all we'd be hearing about from now to election day.

Personally, I would love to see the GOP implode on itself, not only as poetic justice but as a necessary corrective for the last several years. But it won't happen unless it's helped along by a vigorous opposition, one the current Democratic leadership seems unable or unwilling to muster and the candidate seems to be having trouble mounting. Reagan said of the Soviet Union: It didn't fall, it was pushed. Today's Democratic Party won't give the Republican Party even a nudge.

Who's the Elitist Here?

Remember, taking a nine-car motorcade to Starbucks isn't elitist if an ex-POW does it.

I just thought I should clear that up.

"Gee, ya THINK?" Headline Of The Day. Possibly The Week.

From today's Washington Post:
----------
Houses Snag McCain Campaign

McCain's inability to remember how many homes he owns may disrupt plan to cast Obama as elitist.

-----------

McCain went to Annapolis on the basis of his father and grandfather both being admirals. After distinguished service and time as a POW, he returned home to find his wife, who had been raising his children during his captivity, had also been injured in a car accident and was disabled. So, naturally, he divorced her and married a beer heiress worth over $100 million. Today he owns six (or seven, or eight, and today I saw one source that said 10) homes, wears $500 shoes, spent over a quarter-million last year just on domestic help, and says that in order to be rich you have to make $5 million per year--which, coincidentally, is about the expected return on his wife's wealth.

And the kid who grew up in a single-parent home, sometimes on welfare, who worked his way through school, earned the editorship of the Harvard Law Review and a faculty position at the University of Chicago (neither noted for being hotbeds of affirmative action) is the elitist.

That doesn't even pass the laugh test.

Update: USA Today now has McCain at 12 houses, worth over $10 million. And you gotta love the closing graf:

McCain, who has portrayed Obama as an elitist, is the son and grandson of admirals. The Associated Press estimates his wife, a beer heiress, is worth $100 million. Obama was raised by a single mother who relied at times on food stamps, and went to top schools on scholarships and loans. His income has increased from book sales since he spoke at the 2004 Democratic convention.
[h/t: AmericaBlog]

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

We have gone hopelessly astray

Kathleen Parker has an excellent column pointing out just how fundamentally wrong and profoundly un-American the Saddleback Church meeting with the candidates was. Rick Warren is trying to insert himself into public life under the guise of "it's all about worldview," which is a codephrase for "evangelical Christianity."

Of course, the next day, he said flat-out that no Christian could vote for anyone pro-choice. Which sends a pretty clear signal about how he thinks everyone should vote.

Neutral, my ass. And expecting candidates to go through this is undignified, demeaning, and pandering of the worst sort.

Warren used to be someone I may not have agreed with but could at least respect. That's changing rapidly.

And though I'm sure he'd call it "anti-Christian bigotry," I think his insistence on bringing religion, faith, whatever you want to call it, into the political realm and making it a political issue is wrong. And I'm sure he'd deny any such bigotry. While also saying he would never vote for an atheist, no matter what that person's policy positions are. So you see, it's only bigotry when other people do it. When he does it, it's just looking for people who share his worldview. In other words, at least pretend you believe in the same magic sky-fairy he does, or at least in some magic sky-fairy, and he'll condescend to pretending he respects you.

Go read Parker's column, it's worth it.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Why Evolution Must Be Taught

No, I'm not a biologist. But an anti-science, anti-evidence attitude is toxic.

Excellent column at the Times today explaining more about why we can't let the nitwits win on this one.

Life is strange dept.

I had the opportunity last spring to participate in the Oxford Roundtable conference on regulating cyberspace. I submitted a paper based on my presentation to the Oxford Journal of Public Policy.

Unfortunately, my journal article was turned down.

But on the bright side, a photo I took while I was out sightseeing got selected for an online travel guide. So I guess now I can add "published travel photographer" to my resume.

There might be a lesson in here somewhere, but I'm not sure I want to know what it is.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Quote of the day

God has always resembled his creators. He hated and loved what they hated and loved and he was invariably found on the side of those in power.

Robert G. Ingersoll, "Gods," 1879
[h/t: Pharyngula]

Saturday, August 9, 2008

What went wrong

I've gently tweaked Andrew Sullivan a few times in this space (and not-so-gently blasted him in emails back & forth w/ a friend of mine). I read his stuff for the same reason I read George Will--he's usually wrong, but often in an interesting or thought-provoking way. And he occasionally goes completely off the rails, as in his latest contest, "Let's protest all the negative campaign ads by making our own negative campaign ads."

But when he's right, he's spot-on:

A critical part of what's gone wrong these past few years has been the tendency of a war president to bully opponents, distort their meaning, use base emotional appeals when we need far more rational discussion about how to counter a very complex, terrifying Islamist threat. The kind of campaigns Rove ran in 2002, 2004 and 2006 made all this far harder. It reduced important debates about priorities in the war, detention and interrogation policies, the wisdom of long-term enmeshment in the Middle East, the difficulties of securing loose nukes, the excruciatingly difficult calls on which allies to trust and how - into dumb-ass contests about who is the biggest bad-ass, who is a treasonous wimp and which opponent most belongs in a French hair salon.

Some Daily Mencken

I may make this a regular feature, I'd forgotten how good some of his stuff is:

The inferior man's reasons for hating knowledge are not hard to discern. He hates it because it is complex - because it puts an unbearable burden upon his meager capacity for taking in ideas. Thus his search is always for short cuts. Their aim is to make the unintelligible simple, and even obvious.

--HL Mencken

Friday, August 8, 2008

Stupidity as policy

Paul Krugman has a spot-on column today on how Know-Nothingism--"the insistence that there are simple, brute-force, instant-gratification answers to every problem, and that there’s something effeminate and weak about anyone who suggests otherwise"--has become accepted wisdom in the GOP.

Until we get over the poisonous anti-intellectualism rampant in this country, particularly our political discourse--the idea that those who think too much or learn too much are untrustworthy and deserve nothing but contempt, that "common sense" and childlike faith will always carry us through to victory no matter what--we can't hope to clean up the mess we've made over the last 20 years. Our economy is a mess, our standing in the world in tatters, and when a candidate points out a simple low-cost way to save as much gas as offshore drilling would gain for us, he's mocked for it, even though the numbers show he's right.

Given two choices, we keep opting for the stupid one, and then wonder why things don't get better.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Consumer issues

Followup to this post.

I received this email today:

Thank you for writing Crock-Pot ; a division of Jarden Consumer Solutions.

We do apologize that you have experienced trouble with our product. I have sent out a warranty replacement Crock-Pot, to replace the unit that was defective. Also, a pre-paid shipping label will be delivered separate from your new Crock-Pot. Please place the defective unit in the box and ship it back to us, free of charge to you.

Please write back if we can provide further assistance. You may also reach us at (800) 777-5452. We are open from 8:00am to 8:00pm, EST, Monday thru Friday.

Best Regards,

Danielle

Jarden Consumer Solutions


They misspelled my first name in the email, but that's a minor annoyance. But I posted a scathing review, I should also post that they responded by replacing the unit.


Now, if this one fails in the same way, I'm going to be, um, annoyed, to say the least. But they're at least making an effort.


Sunday, August 3, 2008

But he's a nice guy!

Today's Post has a nauseating op-ed. The point of it seems to be, Ted Stevens' corruption indictment is a darn shame, and we ought to all just let bygones be bygones, because after all, he's really brought home the bacon and is a nice guy when you talk to him.

Disgusting.

This is the same entitlement mentality that argued that Scooter Libby shouldn't go to jail because, well, he shouldn't, because he's one of us. Baloney.

And the argument being made isn't the (quite legitimate) point that indictment isn't conviction, and we should avoid rushing to judgment. Rather, it seems to be, we shouldn't even ask the question, because he's one of us.

Disgusting, wrong, and a dangerous attitude.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Quote of the day

The foundation of morality is to ... give up pretending to believe that for which there is no evidence, and repeating unintelligible propositions about things beyond the possibilities of knowledge.

--T. H. Huxley

Definitionses

In my facebook profile, I call myself an agnostic. I recently got a question about it from a friend of mine, who noted that I used to identify with a particular religion. What happened? Here's an excerpt from my reply, with minor edits for clarity.

Well, for a start, I haven't practiced in years. I did for a while after my divorce, and considered myself religious for quite a while after that. As I drifted away from organized religion, my beliefs gradually shifted, becoming less and less denominational, less and less specific...and, as time went on, less and less theistic at all. Today I'm not even sure I'd qualify as a Deist.

Mostly , it was a process of "Do I really believe this? Not 'do the people around me believe it,' not 'do I get patted on the back for saying I believe it'--do I really and truly, deep down, believe this?" And more and more, the answer came back, no, I don't. And while I've never been a literalist (well, not past the age of 10 or so, but that doesn't really count, does it?) the more I thought about it, the more skeptical I got.

Partly, I think, because so many of the arguments in favor of belief are so awful. I'm enough of an intellectual and skeptic (and all-around horse's ass, at times) that anything I claim as a belief is going to have to stand up to some fairly rigorous scrutiny, and most of the arguments for belief don't come close. And heck, even if Jesus Himself Touched My Heart And Gave Me New Eyes To See, all that would prove would be that I'd had some kind of emotional experience. See any number of previous blog posts for deconstructions & fiskings of various stupid arguments for God.

So, I've pretty much given up on any idea of a magic invisible daddy in the sky who loves me as his very own. It would be a comforting belief, but "Believing it makes me feel better, so I believe it" isn't a satisfying argument. (Though if someone else says they believe something because it comforts them, well, I can't very well argue with that, and need only respect their right to be irrational. When they say believing something comforts them, therefore *I* must also believe the same thing and am a rotten commie traitor who hates Baby Jesus if I don't--that's when I part company with them.)

I went with "agnostic" rather than "atheist" because I'm also not convinced of the atheist position. There's a difference between I don't know what's there and I know for sure there's nothing there. There's no conclusive rational proof of God, but disproof is also impossible. The most you can say is there's no evidence for it, therefore we shouldn't assume it's there unless we have some other good reason to. That's my beef with the Intelligent Design nitwits: "God did it" is not the simplest, most parsimonious, least-assumption explanation. I'm willing to be persuaded, but haven't heard a convincing argument yet.

So how do I reconcile that with active participation in a 12-step program that puts emphasis on reliance on a Higher Power? Almost 20 yrs sobriety has taught me, sometimes painfully, that if I do certain things, life tends to go a little smoother; if I do certain other things, I get a little crazy, and if I keep doing those other things, I'll probably get drunk. Whether or not there's a deity behind them, following certain principles keeps me on an even keel. "God" is a useful metaphor for something pulling me toward those principles, and regular prayer and meditation has put me into the habit of taking a few minutes and calmly reviewing my day before setting out in the morning, and again at the end of the day, and promptly trying to clean up any messes or unfinished business before it festers. It's put me into the habit of thinking of other people rather than myself first (at least, not thinking of myself first all the time), and evaluating my actions by whether I'm living up to the values I'm professing--values that don't necessarily need a magic sky-fairy to be legitimate. Am I being honest with others and myself? Can I disagree with someone without being disagreeable? Am I treating others with respect? Am I meeting my responsibilities as an employee, as a family member, as a citizen? If not, what can I do about those things? If I can't change everything at once, what can I change today? At the end of a meeting, I don't need to go off on magic sky-fairies while everyone else says the Lord's Prayer--that would be rude and disrespectful to their beliefs, even if I don't share them, while maintaining silence costs me nothing.

At the convention last weekend, I talked with a woman whose (non-12-step, no need for one) brother works for Anheuser-Busch in St Louis. They just got bought out, and no word yet on who's keeping their job and who isn't. She asked if he was worried about it, and he just shrugged and said, no, nothing he can do about it either way, so he's just doing his job until he hears otherwise. And she (and I) were boggled--how do normal people do that? How do they get it that simply? We have to bang our heads against the wall several times before we remember the serenity prayer about accepting what we can't change and all that.

So, yeah, "agnostic" is about the most accurate description of where I'm at now. Further bulletins as things develop.