Tuesday, September 30, 2008

so do you suppose..

So, do you suppose Boeing orchestrated yesterday's market drop to gain a kind of subliminal publicity for its new 777 airliner? Of course it's ridiculous. I just made it up. But I'd love it if the conspiracy theorists picked it up and ran with it across the internet.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Ok, it is now time to PANIC!!!!!!!

The sky is falling!!!

Depression is coming!!!!

Your retirement will disappear!!!

Dogs and cats, living together, MASS HYSTERIA!!!

House republicans (who voted 67% against the package) blame house Democrats (who voted 60% for the package) for scuttling it. Apparently it was Nancy Pelosi (and I do wish I still lived in her district) injecting a "partisan tone" into her speech from the floor, noting (completely accurately) that it was de-regulation that led to this mess.

John McCain blames Barack Obama, who wasn't in DC, was being totally bi-partisan, and urged passage of the bill, for scuttling the bill. This after he and his surrogates took credit for passing it before it actually passed.

So it was the mean speaker and the way she talked about the Republicans who drove the Republicans away. Or it was partisan Barack Obama. Anything but what it was: 67% of Republicans knowing that there constituents were pissed off and voting the way their constituents wanted them to. Chuck Todd had a great analysis of the whole thing: those congressmen of both parties who either had been in a tough reelection fight recently, or are in one now, voted against the bill, and those who are in safe seats voted for it. They are worried about their jobs and so they voted the way their constituents overwhelmingly wanted them to vote. We have a word for that, and it's not cowardice.

It's called democracy.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Media Bias

It is worth noting that a few days after John McCain lambasted the New York Times for being biased towards Barack Obama, the times printed a story highly critical of Mr. Obama, leveling toward him accusations identical to the most damming that have been leveled against Mr. McCain. The number two story on todays front page is on misleading and innacurate campaign advertisements being put out by the Obama campaign, this after Senator Obama had promissed to behave differently than Mr. McCain, after a spate of innacurate attack ads had been launched at him by the Arizona senator. The Times lists several Obama ads and how they, in one way or another, innacurately portray Mr. McCain's record. Perhaps the Times was cowed by Mr. McCain's accusations--we have seen for years that Republican attacks on the media usually work by cowing news organizations into soft pedling the news lest they be accused of more bias. On the other hand, the Obama story has the look of one that has been in the works for some time--certainly before Mr. McCain's most recent tirade. And both the Obama story and the one that raised Mr. McCain's ire, about his campaign manager still being in the pay of Freddie Mac, the recently failed morgage giant, seem valid.

On the other hand, wired has a great piece on the fact that Obama's name appears regularly in the New York Times crossword puzzle and McCain's not at all.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Man's Got Balls

The instincts of a fighter pilot, the ability to maneuver and attack at once, are showing up in John McCain. This morning the news was grim. The economic crisis, as expected, has given Barack Obama a sudden nine-point lead in national polls. By afternoon McCain had a plan in action. It was, in fact, provided for him on a silver platter by Obama. Senator Obama called Senator McCain this morning when it looked like the White House bail out plan was in trouble, and suggested they put aside partisan politics and issue a joint press release supporting the plan. This was a nice bit of leadership on Obama's part, and McCain apparently thought so to. He recognized immediately that it strengthened Obama's perceived leadership on the economy, so he seized the issue as his own. He issued a statement almost as soona s they got off the phone. He proposed that they stop campaigning, postpone Friday's debate, and hold a joint meeting on how to fix the credit crisis. While close observers might note that this only reinforces the perception that McCain's answer to any economic issue is to form a commission to study it, he knows that most Americans are not close observers. By issuing his press release first, almost immediately, he has stolen Obama's thunder. Now McCain is trying to look like a leader on economic issues, and if Obama insists on continuing to campaign and going ahead with the debate, he will look like he is putting partisan politics ahead of what is best for the country. McCain works best from an underdog position, and he is in one right now. He is taking this crisis, which clearly highlights Mr. Obama's strengths, and trying to turn it to his advantage. And it will probably work.

The worst thing Obama can do right now is stop campaigning. He is up nine points in the polls. The country is focused on his big strength, the economy. Between McCain's admission that he doesn't understand the economy, his connections to Phil Graham and the Keating Five, his wealth, his professed predilection toward de-regulation, his culpability in getting us into this mess, and his ties to President Bush and his big-business cronies, McCain is a ship taking on water fast. In the thirteenth round, when your opponent is bleeding and you've got him against the ropes, you don't take a break for four days to sort out the economy. It is exactly what McCain needs to re-group and get back on his feet. But what can Obama do? If he contineus his attacks he will look like a partisan hack while handing the economy issue over to McCain. If he backs off he gives McCain a break and hands the economy issue over to him. He's dammed if he does and dammed if he doesn't.

Me, I hope he fights on.


Sunday, September 21, 2008

Race in the race

Keeping with the theme of the week, an article out from the AP today presents the finding of the most comprehensive survey yet to measure the effect race is likely to have on the presidential campaign. Republicans like to say that race will have nothing to do with it, that they are voting for McCain becuase of his ideology and experience. And the study found that to be true, which shold be obvious. Republicans wouldn't vote for Obama no matter what race he was.

But independents and democrats are another thing. Using modeling methods from Menlo Park based knowledge networks, researchers at Stanford measured for racial attitudes among white independent and democratic voters, and then filtered for such things as who they voted for in the primaries and who they plan to vote for now. Among the findings:

40% of white Americans harbor some negative attitudes toward blacks.

More than 1/3 of white Democrats and independents agreed with a negative adjective about black people such as "Lazy" "violent" or "boastful."

Independents are even more likely than Democrats to have negative feelings toward blacks.

17% of Hilary Clinton's white backers plan to vote for John McCain.

All told, negative racial feelings among white independents and democrats amount to a 6% handicap for Obama. That is likely enough to cost him the election.

Of course, my mom would point out that ageist attitudes are working against McCain, but I think that has less of an effect on the election. The young people who don't like McCain's age, much like republicans who don't like Obama's race, wouldn't vote for him if he were twenty years younger. Those who are saying McCain is too old are also those who are saying that we should pull out of Iraq immediately.

And now for today's favorite quote about the race: "The thing that scares me about Sarah Palin is that if anything were to happen to her, God Forbid, John McCain would be president." --Roy Zimmerman

Friday, September 19, 2008

It's the season for a third post

Must be election season. I never post three times a day in this blog.

I gakked this from a Live Journal friend:

"a second visit to the Lincoln Presidential Library was as great at the first. Always helps to show what an idealistic but practical guy from Illinois without any real experience can do for the Presidency..."

2 posts in one day!!

Let me tell you, if you bought at noon on Thursday, you are a God.

As of right now (2:50 on Friday afternoon, an hour and ten minutes to close) the Dow is at 11,400. That is a 400 point GAIN over opening bell on Monday. Every day this week has seen triple-digit swings in the Dow. At noon yesterday the Dow was just a smidge above 10,400, so it's had a 1,000 point gain since mid-day yesterday.

The rise today was in response to the government essentially saying they would bail out wall-street and the banking industry by garaunteeing all this bad debt from the sub-prime crisis. This after Ben Bernake and Henry M. Paulson essentially gave congressional leaders a "the sky really is falling" lecture on Thursday Night in Nancy Pelosi's office. Apparently, the doom and gloom was so deep that one senator said he had never heard language like that. I guess they spelled out the prospect of financial Armageddon.

I don't know. The free market economist in me says that an adjustment is needed. It also says that a foreclosure is like death: it is a natural part of the process that actually helps, not hurts, the overall economy. the reason so many people make money in foreclosures is because there is money to be made in them: they stimulate the economy by creating opportunity. Yes, it is on the pain of someone else, but usually, but the time someone steps up and buys a house in foreclosure, the people selling it are grateful to get rid of it. How different would AIG be (we are certainly going to find out with Lehman)?

But I also feel people's pain and I realize the huge upheaval that would come from a complete meltdown (which still might occur, you know). We don't need another great depression.

The cynic in me, however, can't help but see this as a way to bail out John McCain. The stock market seems to have recovered because the Fed has essentially said "don't worry, go crazy, we are here to protect you." It can only lead to more excess and craziness in the future, just like with the teenager whose parents keep bailing him out and then lending him the car even though he speeds and drives drunk. This is everything the Reganite's have been saying the government should not do for the past thirty eight years. They've been trying to roll back depression era regulation and now that it's lead to the inevitable they are suddenly engaging in the biggest financial bailout in history. We are nationalizing mortgage debt, for crying out loud! We are nationalizing AIG! How can these conservative economists look into the camera and tell us that we should be doing this? It is the biggest piece of cororate welfare ever! Milton Friedman's casket has probably exploded at this point. But is it shores up Wall Street, bails out the corporations.

I wonder if the nutcases over at Fox will finally admit that the economy is in dire straits now that the Fed chairman and the treasury secretary have essentially come out and said that the sky is falling. On 9/11 Sean Hannity absolutely exploded on economist Robert Kutner when he said that the economy was in dire straits. Hannity and the rest of the GOP (including John McCain, with his argument that "the fundamentals of the American economy are strong) know that a bad economy is bad for the GOP, so thaty have to lie and say everything is rosy. Hannity, in typical bullying fashion, did this to Kutner. Check it out.

So, just out of curiosity: are you better off than you were eight years ago?

Cross posted to Live Journal

That lying sack of horse excrement

Ok, that might be a bit harsh. But only a bit.

This morning I turned on the TV to find John McCain trying to blame Barack Obama for the stock market meltdown. He said that Stnator Obama should stop lecturing and own up to the "fact" (bull) that this meltdown was brought on by a "culture of corruption in Washington" wiht lobyists and special interests and that Obama was "front and center" a part of that all along.

This from a man who has as many as 39 big-time lobbyists on his campaign staff or among his advisers. This from a man who has been part of that Washington culture for 36 years. The F*#&ing hypocrite!

Far worse however is the fact that McCain is far more culpable in this mess than is Obama. McCain's chief financial adviser is Phil Graham (whom I once had the opportunity to kick in the shins but unfortunately passed it up). Graham is chairman of UBS, a major player in the sub-prime mortgage scandal, and the person who wrote the biggest and worst de-regulation law of the post-Regan era, the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999. That was the law that rolled back the depression era Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, which had established the FDIC and was designed to help prevent EXACTLY the type of mess we are now in. It's worth noting that Graham-Leach-Bliley was signed by President Clinton, but the vote in the senate was along party lines, which means that John McCain supported it. Gramm-Leach-Bliley allowed banks and brokerages to compete against one another and to merge, and according to many economists is what lead to the sub-primer mortgage crisis that precipitated the financial meltdown we have been experiencing this week. In other words, John McCain and his chiefe economist ARE DIRECTLY RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS MESS!!!!!! They know this, so they lie lie lie and try to blame it on the guy who was in the Illinois State Legislature when the die was cast. They know that if they tell a lie loud enough it will obscure the truth.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

At last!

John McCain has started to take interviews and his new ads don't feature Sarah Palin. He has come out as an "economic reformer" and, although he has to run against his record, is actually talking about the economy. It took a wall street meltdown to do it, but we have issues on the front page again.

Fox Network News this morning ran a hit-piece on the view which was actually very good. They showed the part of the McCain interview where he was grilled over his "lipstick on a pig" ad and on Palin's record, and then showed a piece with Obama where the ladies were gushing all over him and comparing him to Brad Pit. It was selective editing, and it was at a different point in the campaign (Obama was on the view in March and they made it seem like he and McCain were on the same week). The intensity over both candidates is much different now than it was then (McCain was getting slow-pieched by John Stewart back in those days). None the less it does score some points. While I think the framing is very deceptive, it is clear that the hosts of the View treated Obama were ga-ga over Obama. Now, I don't see what they did to McCain as out of line: like I said a few days ago I think they were being journalists for once and asking real questions that should be asked, but it has been clear for months that there is one republican and three democrats on the View, and the odds are in Obama's favor on that show. Hell, they fight about it when the candidates are *not* there, and the left (read Whoopie) always wins those fights.

Oh yeah: I was watching morning shows for at least half an hour this morning, but I didn't know our embassy in Yemen had been attacked until I turned my computer on. Seems odd.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

I give up

I really do. I know that in today's political world spin trumps truth, I really do, so I shouldn't be shocked when I see it happen. But it still pisses me off.

Comedy is cruel.

Years ago I wrote in this space that the only voices on the left that were really critical of Bush were comedians, because comedians are seen as un-threatening and thus could get away with speaking truth to power. Not any more. Now the candidates do guest spots on Saturday Night Live and get interviewed by John Stewart and Stephen Colbert (but not Bill Maher). Comedy is now part of the game. And comedians now get to be attacked by the rabid Republican spin machine just like reporters are.

Carly Fiorina, McCain surrogate and former chairperson of Hewlet Packard, told reporters that Tina Fey's spot-on impression of Sarah Palin, which opened Saturday Night Live this weekend, was "sexist." The worst part of this is not that Tina Fey is one of the stronger feminist voices in the media today, but that Fiornia didn't level the same criticism at Amy Poeler's performance as Hillary Clinton, who was being portrayed as a power-mad harpy, in the same skit.

It can be viewed at the SNL page. (at the moment it's the lead item on NBC's home page. I guess they are enjoying the publicity from the flap).

Admittedly, SNL opened themselves up to such criticism. The whole skit was about sexism. It delivered unflattering portrayals of both women drawing upon their public persona. In the skit , Clinton and Palin are delivering a joint speech to denounce sexism in political coverage. At one point Clinton says that she and Palin have their differences: Clinton says she disagrees with the Bush Doctrine and Palin says "I don't know what that means." Fiorina (who started the whole viagra/birth control flap in July), said this was sexist because it suggested that next to Hillary's competence Palin lacked substance. To quote a great philosopher and SNL vetran: WELL EWXCUUUUUUUUUUSE MEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!! Palin showed quite clearly that she didn't know what the Bush Doctrine was when asked about it by Charlie Gibson. Now to point that out is somehow sexist.

And speaking of Charlie Gibson the attacks against him have been withering. Apparently, asking valid questions of a candidate for Vice Preisdent, following them up with equally valid questions, and trying to get her to answer in something other than canned sound-bites--in other words, doing the job of the press--is sexist and disrespectful. He's actually received death threats over his interview with Palin. Meanwhile, McCain's campaign manager has said that Palin will only conduct interviews when the press shows her the proper "deference." I take that to mean she'll talk to reporters so long as they don't ask her any questions. I'm sorry, but the press's job is *not* to show deference. Their job is to probe and challenge. Everybody was all teary-eyed when Tim Russert died this summer, but if Tim Russert were still alive he would likely shred Sarah Palin--not because he is a democrat but because she clearly doesn't know about foreign policy (as I said yesterday, that doens't matter to the people who vote for her, but it does matter to some of us).
Even with Tom Brokaw hosting it, until she goes on Meet the Press she is not a serious candidate, and I predict that she won't be seen on Meet the Press unless they win. She just doesn't answer questions (neither at the moment does McCain).

This all proves once again that the Republicans are not interested in truth or in debate on the issues. They only want to bully the media and shout down any criticism of their candidates. Look: if Charlie Gibson can't ask a valid question of a candidate for national office without being bullied and threatened, and if the people actually buy this swampland about poor Sarah being the one who is getting bullied, then we might as well admit that Democracy doesn't work and pack it all in.

These people do not deserve your votes.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

A Sign of Desperation

This is exactly the sort of thing the conservative bloggers and pundits want to hear me say. They will see it as a sign of desperation and, in a gleeful feeding frenzy, press on with their lies and deceit. They will see this as a sign that they are winning (which they are). I don't care. I'm pissed off, so I am going to say it Hardly anybody reads this blog anyway.

The other day I was standing on the subway platform and I started to think about the very real possibility that John McCain might be president next year, and made me want to step in front of the next train that went by. The thought of a McCain presidency, and more to the point of an Obama defeat, made me want to kill myself.

I am not stupid enough to believe, as many of my liberal brethren do, that Barack Obama can't lose, that John McCain is a tired old man, or that Sarah Palin is a light weight who can simply be mocked and dismissed. That is stupid thinking. All the momentum is on McCain's side now. 53% of white women are now backing him, most of them due to Sarah Palin (a number I'm surprised at, frankly, but that's the only thing surprising me about this so far). National polls have McCain and Obama tied at 46% This election that was supposed to be firmly in the bag is slipping away.

So let me say what's on my mind: if Barack Obama can't get elected president right now, in this environment, in this country, then there is no hope for the future of humanity. None. I don't know if I can handle John McCain winning. I mean I don't know if I can survive it or if life would be worth living after that, after we push our country so far down into this Orwellian nightmare we are living in that there will be likely no chance we will ever wake up. It's the end of decency and humanity and, let's face it, of the world.

I don't blithely dismiss people who will vote for McCain and Palin as stupid or cynical the way Bill Maher does. The conservatives I know and love are all smart. They know that Palin doesn't know much about foreign policy or the Bush Doctrine. They know she requested millions of dollars in earmarks this year alone. They simply don't care. It's not on their priority list. They want someone who will take on what they see as the big enemies: terrorists and liberals, and the details don't matter. This is not an election, it is the culture war, and what they are aiming at is the extermination of me and the destruction of everything I believe in. This is indeed a fight for the survival of what is good in the world.

They also don't care about the lies, the deception, the double speak, or the pure unmitigated evil coming out of McCain's campaign right now. It doesn't matter a bit. McCain staffers, right up to his campaign manager, have come right out and said that they don't care about issues, that they are waging a war of personality. Truth means nothing. When confronted by reporters with the lies they have been spreading in press releases and in campaign adds recently, the drivers of the Straight Talk Express have replied with a collective "So What." Every time somebody examines the candidates' records, asks about the issues, or simply tells the truth, they are immediately attacked as being part of a liberal media elite. One thing Janine Garafolo is right about is that for the Republicans to be accusing anybody of dirty tricks and slime tactics is the height of hypocrisy, since they have relied on nothing but for the past eight years.

Why, oh why, did it take a session on The View, of all places, for John McCain to get put on the spot, asked real questions about his stand on the issues, and be called to task for his lies? Whoopie Goldberg asked him what he meant when he said he wanted to appoint strict constructionists to the Supreme Court, and he said he wanted judges who would view the constitution the way the founding fathers did, Whoopie said "Should I be worried about being a slave, about being returned to slavery? We had to change the constitution." McCain, as usual, had no response. Barbara Walters (whom people seem to forget was once the top journalist on television) pressed him to admit that he want's Roe v. Wade overturned, and he finally admitted that he thought it was a bad decision (and got booed). Then Joy Behar called him on two of his attack adds against Senator Obama, saying "those ads were untrue. They were lies."

Two points here: none of this matters. It was The View, and McCain's supporters have shown again and again that they don't care much about the truth. But why haven't other reporters had the opportunity to grill McCain on his campaign's lies?

Actually, the reason is simple: They haven't had the opportunity. In order to shield him from reporters' questions, McCain hasn been avoiding press conferences. He hasn't had a meaningful one since before the Democratic National Convention other than the introduction of Sarah Palin (and I am not sure if he took questions then). His campaign has been protecting him from having to answer for himself. They think the media is biased so they are going to take thier (unexamined, untruthful) case directly to the people. He used to sit in the back of his bus with reporters and talk about any issue they wanted to talk about. Not any more. After a reporter asked him in July to comment on the fact that Viagra is covered by Meidcare but birth control is not (he voted against bills in 2003 and 2005 that would have required birth control coverage) reporters were essentially kicked off the bus. There is no more talk at all on the straight talk express. One McCain staffer was very clear on the subject, saying they are now running an aggressive, dirty campaign because they tried running a clean campaign and had to talk about Viagra. The McCain camp saw that as an un fair "gotcha" kind of moment--as if a question about healthcare policy, how the candidate voted on health care policy, and an issue that is extremely important to women all over the country is somehow unfair. THE NERVE OF THESE ASSHOLES!!!!!!!!!!

What is comes down to is this: they are no longer even pretending. There is no more straight talk express. They are openly, laughingly, declaring that they are not going to talk about the issues and are simply going to lie and swift-boat their way into the election. They are mean, venal evil people, and 46% of the American public doesn't seem to care!

And it will work. They know another truth they don't really want to talk about. Chuck Todd points out there there is clearly a race element working against Obama in the campaign that will put him at a seven point disadvantage on election day. He illustrates this by looking at Wisconsin and Michigan, two states where Obama should be doing better, states that John Kerry won and where democrats and democratic issues are well received. Among the 12% of undecided voters in these states, there is a large number of them who are looking at Obama and shying away. These are people who support the Democrats, who believe the country is going in the wrong direction, who are opposed to the war, who are voting the democratic ticket right down the line for congress, state elections, and the senate. But when it comes to Obama they can't bring themselves to pull the trigger. They agree with every policy he has outlined but they still can't bring themselves to vote for him. You might say "well, he just hasn't sold himself well enough," but that would be a ridiculous statement. If there is one thing Obama has done better than anyone else in this campaign it is sell himself. You could say that they have been confused by all the negative campaigning and lies about Obama that have come out of the right-wing slime machine (and which Hillary's people contributed to), about him being a black nationalist, about him not being Christian, about him having three Muslim names, and you'd be right: but all of those things have a racist element to them. I've said all along that Obama would have to get an extra ten percent to beat the hidden racism among some white voters, and now it looks like he won't get it. Chuck Todd says that Obama needs to have at least 48% in battle ground states on the Sunday before the election to combat the racism factor.

All of which leads me back to where I started: this is no longer an election about ideas. It has once again been turned into a culture war: small town Christian values against all of us big city elitists (and what is more big city and elite than a black man who was a community organizer on the South Side of Chicago?). They are somehow managing to convince people that a man who grew up with a single mother and lived on food stamps is more of an elitist than the guy with nine (and yes it's nine, not seven) houses. Lies! Lies! Lies! Let's face it, this guy who went to Columbia and Harvard is already at a disadvantage. But in spite of the fact that he was raised in a white family with a white suburban upbringing, he is seen as a mysterious, dangerous, inner-city black dude, a slick and corrupt machine politician right out of some blacksploitation movie in the seventies. Just as the Democratic National Convention represented my America, the real America, not the 1950s Leave It To Beaver all white fantasies of the Republican party, so too Barack Obama represents the real American Dream: a multi-racial man, born in Hawaii to an African dad and an American mom, lived over seas, raised in the heartland, he represents all of America. And could there be anything better for America or the World than an Obama presidency? Nothing else--NOTHING--would do more to raise our status in the world, help to mediate conflicts, or to make us seem less like the great Satan than to have a black man named Obama as our president. And nothing could be better for domestic America than to have someone in office who actually had a plan for health-care and social security and protecting American jobs. NOTHING!!!!!!!!!! But he's got a weird name, he lives in Chicago, and he's never gutted a moose, and, oh yeah, he's black.

Why the Democrats weren't prepared for this I have no idea. The Republicans effectively used gay marriage as a wedge issue last time: why they couldn't see that race, the biggest wedge issue in America, would be the deciding factor in this race is beyond me. If Obama loses it will prove that Dr. King's dream is still a nightmare. It will prove that the best candidate in the race, in the midst of a terrible economic downturn, the one who represents change in a country that hate's the current administration, the one who represents the future instead of the past, the one who is decent and honest and good and true, can't get elected against a war monger who's campaign is packed with lobbyists and who wants to continue the same failed policies of the current moron in chief.

Now imagine if Obama were white.

Let me say this real clearly: it's not that I think people who vote for John McCain are stupid. I don't. I also don't think most of them are racists--just enough to sway the election. I do think--no, I know--that they are wrong, so wrong I have no word to describe it. I thnk their values are warped and perverted. I'm not sure I can accept them any more. This is not a fight about ideas and the future of this country any more. This is about right and wrong, about truth and lies, it is a struggle between good and evil, and anybody who votes for John McCain this year is contributing to evil. Plain and simple. If you vote for John McCain you can no longer be forgiven.

I can't joke or take this lightly any more. It's too serious.

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Friday, September 12, 2008


Check out this clearly elitist, and extremely funny if at times infuriating column from the SF Chronicle. I love it. *This* is why as much as I love New York I feel most at home in San Francisco. I especially like numbers 6, 9, and 18.

Yay absinth!


Yesterday Senators Boama and McCain appeared together in New York, twice. did anybody hear about it? Once was to lay a wreath at Ground Zero, the second time as they passed each other on stage and embraced at a forum on public service at Columbia University, Obama's Alma Mater. Each candidate was interviewed for 45 minutes on their views on public service. Each of them said nice things about the other. McCain was a trifle more combative, but not really. There was no lipstick.

What struck me most clearly was Obama's directness. I saw this in his Bill O'Reily interview as well, but from a politician it is shocking and refreshing. Normally, when a politicians are asked questions they use them as a platform to launch into long, heavily nuanced explanations of their positions, usually repeating stuff they've said before. Obama has those nuanced explanations and he does trot them out, but when he was asked a yes or no question last night he didn't start with "You see..." or "That's why I've proposed..." or anything like that: he simply said "Yes" or "No" and then went on to explain why. He was direct concise but still demonstrated his grasp of the issues and argued his case.
Stunningly, one of the questions was "Should ROTC be brought back to Columbia" and he said simply "Yes" (More stunning was the fact that his yes got applause).

Wow! A yes or no answer! If for no other reason than this America should vote for this man.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Femenist Palin?

My mom sent me a link to a great article by Camille Paglia and asked me to respond to it. Here's what I wrote:

Well, it's vintage Paglia, that's for sure. Only Paglia could write this paragraph:

"Conservative though she may be, I felt that Palin represented an explosion of a brand new style of muscular American feminism. At her startling debut on that day, she was combining male and female qualities in ways that I have never seen before. And she was somehow able to seem simultaneously reassuringly traditional and gung-ho futurist. In terms of redefining the persona for female authority and leadership, Palin has made the biggest step forward in feminism since Madonna channeled the dominatrix persona of high-glam Marlene Dietrich and rammed pro-sex, pro-beauty feminism down the throats of the prissy, victim-mongering, philistine feminist establishment."

That "do me you pathetic male" kind of dominatrix feminism has been her signature stance. I have always liked Paglia because I think she is a very pragmatic feminist and offered a breath of fresh air to the Andrea Dworkins, Gloria Steinems, and Helen Cixous of the world. But I certainly don't agree with all of what she says--even if I do agree with everything she says about John McCain.

Of course i'm annoyed by her trite dismissal of San Francisco and New York City as places where nobody can form their own opinion (and I noted with glee that she undermines her own argument by presenting a product of San Francisco, Diane Feinstein, as her heretofore ideal femenist politician: if San Francisco is incapable of creating an independent thinker then hos did it create Feinstein? She lives in Washington, where there are no independent thinkers. How's that?). It means that, in her eyes, nothing I am writing at this very moment has any validity, since I am a San Franciscan who lives in New York. It gives her permission to just dismiss me without actually engaging my argument. Kind of like the terms "Liberal Elite," "Dumb Redneck," or "Politically Correct."

She knows and you know that femenism's problem with abortion restrictions stems from the historic use of pregnancy over the ten thousand years to keep women subjugated to the will of men. Procreation has been the number one weapon in the opression of women since time began. The ideal of women being able to control their own bodies stems not from a libertarian belief in universal self determination but instead from a femenist belief in not letting amale dominated society control a women's body (and I could argue with her that her ibertarian ideal should actually lead her to support choice and oppose the death penalty as well). Her abortion is murder statement obviously plays into the hands of the conservatives. If you agree that abortion is murder than it can be restricted as murder. What she is saying is that murder is justified, which is dangerous ground to walk on and I do not agree with her. It is perfectly reasonable for me to say that abortion is *not* murder. I can back it up.

I don't adhere to liberal orthodoxy in all things, yet I consider myself to be a liberal. Yes, there is a liberal orthodoxy, Paglia is right, just as there is a conservative orthodoxy (of which McCain ran afoul until he picked Palin), but it is not the all oppressive monolith controlling the democratic party as Paglia argues. If it were there would be no pro gun or pro life democrats, but there are both.

I do agree with her about frontier women. I've been making the point for years that Annie Oakly is not transgressive in a frontier setting for exactly the reasons Paglia cites. Frontier women were more truly equal to men than any others in American history. It was, in fact, the manufacturing economy that invented the washing machine, gas range, electric toaster, and the vaccum cleaner, as well as wage labor, that made modern femenism so necessary. The civilizing process drove away the frontier women (in most places--not Alaska) by dividing up the labor into money earning tasks and domestic tasks, as opposed to farm work that everybody had to do in order for the family to survive. And she is right. Sarah Palin represents that pioneer spirit. I too think it is cool that she can field dress a moose. She is just the type of woman Paglia loves to write about.

But I don't dismiss everything I've heard about Palin the way Paglia does (and much to quickly). It amazes me how uncritical Paglia is in this. If nothing else, looking at Palin and the GOP points up their hypocrisy, which to me at least is a big concern. Palin's record and her stance on the issues absolutely needs to be examined. Paglia can't dismiss as "pragmatic" her stated religious beliefs on aborition, gay conversion, or theologically driven foreign policy, since they are statements Palin actually made and are justifiably troubling to some (and heartening to others). The way the GOP has cried foul and played the gender card, insisting that any criticism of Palin is automatically sexist, is very hypocritical considering the sexist things they've said about Hillary Clinton in the past. And couldn't the same be said of republican criticism of Obama, that it is based in an inherent racism on the part of the GOP? It might not be true, but it is equally as valid as the GOP trying to hide Sarah Palin behind her gender. And yet they attack Obama at every opportunity. Their hypocrisy knows no bounds. Paglia should be able to see this.

No: Paglia's essay is really good, and I agree with more than half of it, but some of her central points are deeply flawed. I would love to get see her go after Bil Maher though.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Olberman and Mathews yanked

Let me first say that I love Chris Mathews and have a love/hate relationship with Keith Olberman. I think Mathews is a great attack dog; an old school East Coast Catholic liberal who earned his stripes working for Tip O'Neil. Olberman is the Bill O'Reiley of the left, which is why I both love and hate his act. MSNBC was right to pull them as anchors of election coverage, both because they were too biased and because Olberman couldn't control his mouth.

Let's face it: MSNBC is necessary. It offers a clear alternative to Fox News. I got into a debate with one of my students on Thursday who said that MSNBC was no more balanced than Fox (he is a republican and Fox watcher) and I think this proves my point. Fox News's coverage of the conventions was every bit as skewed to the right as MSNBC's has been to the left--in fact more so, since MSNBC has two powerful conservatives in high-profile commentary slots--Joe Scarborough and Pat Buchanan, whereas Fox has none. But I can't imagine Fox pulling its anchors because they were being too partisan. Just the opposite in fact: Fox would like give them bonuses. MSNBC, bowing to pressure from their overlords at NBC headquarters, pulled Olberman and Mathews and relegated them to commentary status, giving the anchor job to David Gregory for the rest of the elections.

And good for them. Speaking as a progressive democrat who agrees with about 90% of what Mathews says and about 75% of what Olberman says (even if I do hate the way he says it), I think they were way too biased. Gregory will offer a much more balanced approach to the election coverage from here on in. The real problem was Olberman, who as the convention coverage went on injected more and more of his personal, very liberal opinions into his coverage, and who in a couple of open mic incidents disparaged Buchanan, Scarborough, and even Mathews. Olberman is, of course, the network's cash cow: his anti-O'Reiley act has boosted the Networks ratings considerably, especially among younger voters who were looking for an antidote to the republican propoganda that comes out of Fox. but his act went too far what what should have been objective reporting of the conventions.

So the next time you hear the Republicans whine about liberal media bias, softly point out that even MSNBC has toned it down. Fox, not so much.

Ok, a solid Gonzo lover like myself probably shouldn't have written this post.....

The Bounce

The convention bounce appears to be in effect. As always, a candidate gets a five to seven point bounce right after his convention and McCain got his. The republicans ran a great convention. They basically ignored their record for the past eight years and it worked. They fell back on the strategy that they perfected over the last eight years of lie, and then when you get caught in a lie ignore it and lie again louder and more vociferously, secure that if you repeat a lie often enough it will become the truth. This is the Republican mantra. The current lie is that John McCain is an agent of change. Add to that the lie that democrats are responsible for your problems, that Barack Obama is a radical black separatist, that drilling for oil will lower your gas prices, and that Sarah Palin is a reasonable facsimile of Hillary Clinton. Oh, there are more lies, of course; too many for me to list right now. The lies are working and now Gallup shows McCain ahead of Obama 49% to 45% (within the margin of error) in decided voters and even in so called "leaners." It's a tight race. The media, of course, is playing this as a seismic shift in national opinion, but it really isn't. Opinions aren't likely to solidify until after the debates.

Gallup and CNN and the other pollsters are also measuring popular votes. As Al Gore can tell you, popular votes don't mean much. When polling based on electoral votes comes out, the picture looks much better for Obama. According to the Rassmussen Reports, Obama leads in electoral votes 193 to 183 with 162 votes in play. When you add states leaning one way or antoehr, Obama picks up another 71 votes to McCain's 64, with 27 up for grabs. Those 27 are in three states, Nevada, Colorado, and Virginia. This looks good for Obama. However, the major movement has all been in McCain's favor, as Ohio went from a tossup to leaning Republican. Over at Electoral-vote.com things look rosier for Obama. They have Ohio, Nevada, and Colorado all leaning democratic, with only Virgina as a tossup. They currently give Obama 301 electoral votes, which puts him on Pennsylvania Avenue next spring.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

John McCain's School Days

So I had an epiphany the other night. It was during Giuliani’s speech, when he and then the whole crowd of jack-booted minions started laughing at the fact that Barack Obama has been a community organizer in Chicago, and then again when Sarah Palin started mocking that as well. The idea that is was laughable to give up a high-paying career to actually go and help people, to engage in community service and lift people up economically who had been kicked out on their ears when the steel mills closed—this was somehow a joke to the Republicans. They laughed at it and made fun of Obama for it, like they did his Ivy League education. And that’s when it hit me. All of a sudden I was back in the school yard at Riverview Elementary School, where I spent my last semester of grade school after my dad moved us the place where I’d grown up till then. I was being teased and mocked for the things I enjoyed, I was being beaten up and having my face shoved into a pile of dog shit.

That’s my epiphany. This whole republican vs. democrat thing is a high school conflict. It is the jocks vs. the nerds all over again. And it really became obvious with Palin’s nomination.

I suppose there is nothing new here. I am sure I’m not the first person to make this observation, but it all fits so nicely. Sports has always been a very conservative pursuit, but it is much more than that. Look at the way the republicans mock intelligence and denigrate education. Barack Obama has an Ivy League education and it’s treated as un-American. (George W. Bush had an Ivy League education too, but that was something he had to rise above). Barack Obama becomes a community organizer and it’s treated like a joke. It is far too brainy a pursuit. Brainy. Elitist. Football and NASCAR. It all kind of comes together.

In American Nerd: The Story of my People (a book that I didn’t particularly like but which made some interesting points), Benjamin Nugent lays out his angst-ridden childhood as a D&D playing nerd who was constantly harassed and bullied by the jocks of his school. He displays a lot of deep seated anger over how he was treated (and a lot of guilt over the fact that he abandoned his nerdish ways and assimilated in order to stop the beatings). Nugent traces a direct line from Tom Brown’s School Days, which he identifies as the seminal text in the jock/nerd divide, to the Columbine shootings, wherein two nerds finally snapped and took vengeance upon their thuggish tormentors. In Nugent’s angry world, jocks are ignorant bullies and nerds get picked upon for their intelligence. The jocks hate the nerds because they are different, but there’s more to it than that. Nerds value intelligence, something most jocks disdain, and the jocks hate the nerds for being smart.

Just like Republicans and Democrats.

And it doesn’t stop there. Look at the candidates themselves. A skinny, geeky black guy and a wonkish (student) government type on one side, vs. a real man’s man uber-jock and a beauty queen on the other. Seriously, read your T. Roosevelt: war is the ultimate sport, so McCain’s ability to kill people makes him a jock par excellence. Go further. Look at the difference between the two women who represent the Democratic and Republican parties. The one is a totally nerdy student government wonk. She wears those garish pantsuits. Remember back when she got hassled for the plastic head band she wore in her hair? She spouts of statistics and plans and policy as though they actually mean something and are not just a bunch of nerdy numbers that prove what a geek she is. Then look at the other woman. She is a beauty queen. She is true jock: a basketball player who was nicknamed “Sarah Barracuda.” She’s killed a moose. There is no question that this is the jocks vs. the nerds, and the Republicans have nominated the ultimate Jock and Prom Queen ticket (and if it’s true that the presidential election is just a popularity contest, how can they lose?)

But what made it really obvious, what showed clearly the jockishness of the Republican party and laid bare the simple truth of this election, was the rabid, frenzied laughter of the Republican crowd during the Palin and Giuliani speeches, the way the laughed at Barack Obama being a community organizer and coming from Harvard and actually trying to do something productive with his life. As they lapped up and chewed on the red meat the speakers were pitching to them, I suddenly realized that this was the same pompous crowd of popular kids and popular wannabes who stood around and laughed at the nerds on campus as they got tripped, bullied, beaten, stuffed into garbage cans and had their faces pushed into dog shit. This was the schadenfreude of high school kids, now grown and ready to stuff the Democrats back into their lockers with all their Star Trek memorabilia and twenty sided dice.

Of course, that also means that, in the end, the nerds will likely win. The jocks always end up working for the nerds sooner or later. It also means that Barack Obama must be great in bed. You know why. What the Republicans haven’t realized yet, and the Democrats have, is that we are living in a postmodern world. The old hierarchies of Jock/Nerd have disintegrated. Being nerdy is suddenly cool (I thank Bill Gates for this). And that gives the Nerd ticket a big boost come election day.

The nerds will have their revenge.


Friday, September 05, 2008

Dear Senator. McCain

Last night John McCain asked me, and millions of people like me, to fight with him for change.

Dear Senator McCain.


You voted with our president 95% of the time, yet you claim you represent real change.

You want to stay in Iraq “for 100 years,” yet you claim to represent real change.

You reject diplomacy with Iran (and jokingly sing about bombing them), yet you claim to represent real change.

You would enshrine the current administration’s policies of corporate welfare and tax breaks for the rich, re-distributing wealth upwards, yet you claim to represent real change.

Your answer to the health care crisis in this country is, essentially "heal yourselves," yet you claim to represent real change.

You embrace a belligerent, unilateral foreign policy, yet you claim to represent real change.

You adopt a cold-war stance toward Russia, yet you claim to represent real change.

Well I’m sorry Mr. McCain, but I didn’t just fall off the turnip truck. I know bull crap when I smell it.

So, thank you for applying for the job. Your credentials certainly are impressive. However, after careful consideration, we’ve decided to tender an offer to another candidate. Good luck in your future endeavors.

The Management.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Northern Exposure

Well, the red meat was flying tonight.

My sweetie and I watched the convention tonight. She was furious. She couldn’t stop talking about how angry it made her. I know how she felt. I thought my head was going to explode listening to Rudy Giuliani. His speech started slow but he got stronger as he went on. He was the comedian for the night. He got a lot of laugh lines. He was the real attack dog of the evening. But he recycled the same old republican lies about taxes and patriotism and elitism. I was furious. Of course, that's what these pigs want. If they are pissing me off they are doing their jobs.

One thing about the Democrats, and maybe it’s all the show business people whom they supposedly have on their side, but they know how to put on a show. Their speeches were perfectly timed. There was about five minutes for commentary, ten minutes for an intro, five minutes for the video, thirty minutes for the speech, leaving five minutes for interviews and five for analysis, and leading into the eleven o’clock news. Rudy’s speech ran so far over that they canceled the video, and then Sarah’s speech still lasted till well past eleven o’clock.

Sarah Palin, as I expected, was really good. Scary good. Anybody who was dumb enough to think that picking her was an appeal to Hilary voters must have been disabused of that notion watching her tonight. This had nothing to do with attracting PUMAs. This was a pure culture war pick. You could hear it in the cheers and see it in the fanatic elation and love being expressed by the rank and file republicans in the convention audience. This was an all out full frontal assault on the Obamas and the Democratic party. I thought for awhile that her speech was just going to be about introducing her and her family to the nation, which of course had to be done, but once she got rolling she pulled out the big guns (and this lady knows guns). She lauded her small town upbringing and ridiculed Obama’s history. She made the case that it is small town America that American values are preserved and American heroes are made. She worked hard to tie Obama to Chicago and Biden to Washington, never once mentioning that Obama had grown up in Kansas. I was shocked when, toward the end of the speech, she mentioned Scranton. She said again and again how people from small towns are born being proud of America, a direct shot at Michelle Obama. Both she and Giuliani ridiculed Obama’s work as community organizer in Chicago, as though to go out and help people whose factory had just been shut down was somehow just posing. She became the pitbull that the VP candidate is supposed to be. All the while they kept flashing on her beautiful family, her incredibly cute kids (especially the youngest daughter) and her very handsome husband.

Democrats be warned. If people were paying attention, they saw a rabid and energized republican party and a strong, competent, woman who made a strong case that she was the most experienced candidate in the election. And she was clearly ready for a fight. The democrats should not take this woman, her story, her abilities, or her pugnacity for granted. She is trouble. She appeals to the middle of the country in a way that Barack Obama never could.

Like I said, this is a return to the old Regan version of the culture wars: hate Washington, love America, praise the small town traditional Christian values of “real Americans.” It si a formula that works.

Oh yeah, but the convention floor. They went out of their way to show black people on camera. They cut back to them again and again. I counted three. There were three black men who were not actually working there, two Mexicans and one South East Asian man. That’s it. Other than that the convention floor was truly frightening. It was an endless parade of scary looking white people. It did not look like America—not the America I know, no the America I love. The Democratic Party, they looked like America. At the Republican convention I saw no women of color Asians, few Mexicans, three black men, and other than that just an endless sea of happy cheering scary white people. It’s not that it didn’t look like my beloved cities of New York or San Francisco—which most of these fat happy swine wouldn’t admit were in America anyway—it didn’t even look like Marysville California or Richmond Virginia or Magnolia Texas, towns where people of every color and ethnicity can be found.

No. This is clearly the American White People’s party. And it scares the shit out of me.

Wow. I’m playing requests now.

Somebody named “Anonymous” asked me to comment on last night’s GOP conventions speeches. Ok, here goes:

I think Fred Thompson is a great speaker. He certainly fired up the troops. I’m a big fan of his as an actor. But he is full of it: he says that Governor Palin has the democrats in a state of panic. Not at all. If anything she has instilled in the democrats a state of overconfidence. Somebody on Bill Maher the other night, after about his tenth joke about her, said “democrats mock her at their peril,” and I agree. She brings a lot to the table. But mock her is what they are doing. But it’s Thompson’s tired old song to blame the Democrats and their so-called “friends” in the media. It’s all meaningless and deceitful spin.

Honestly, is there anybody in this whole campaign with less credibility than Joe Lieberman? Frankly I don’t care what he has to say.

The things which interest me the most have nothing to do with Thompson or Lieberman, however. There are two things which interest me about last night: the way President Bush was nothing more than an embarrassing afterthought, and why they gave Rudy Giuliani the boot last night. Bush was supposed to deliver a speech on Monday but the republicans, wisely, cancelled Monday’s speeches because of Hurricane Gustav. This gave them the opportunity to shove the sitting president to the side and that’s exactly what they did. He was completely marginalized. He is a leper as far as the McCaine campaign is concerned. Rudy too, or so it would seem. But I think the reason Rudy got the boot and Fred was plugged in was because they are going after the South. They know they can’t win in New York but they are suddenly facing challenges in North Carolina and Virginia, and even Georgia. Rudy does little to help them down there, but good old Fred with his southern drawl and his bloodhound jowls does.

But what I am really really interested in is Sarah Palin’s speech tonight. She is going to bring the house down, no doubt about it. Yes, like Obama last week she is preaching to the choir. But that’s what conventions are. Despite some Republican grumbling, I continue to think picking her was a brilliant move. Not only does she firm up the base and maybe grab a few PUMAs (but not many), and not only does she have an incredible story (we vote for narrative nowadays, not qualifications) but she has, if nothing else, controlled the news cycle: What? The Democrats had a convention last week? 84,000 people in a stadium? 38 Million viewers? Are you sure? I forgot with all this tak of pregnancies and moose and Northern Exposure. To paraphrase a a great philosopher, “what bump?”

I will make this prediction: while her speech will not out draw the 38 million people who watched Obama’s acceptance speech, she will out draw McCain.