Thursday, January 31, 2008

Change Agent My Ass

I've been lurking on a mommy/work board for years--got thrown off for talking too much politics!--but its an interesting place to see how working women from around the country see things. Today there was this post up from one of the women about how her husband took her daughter to hear Obama speak. After a thorough description of what it was like and how cool it was that Carolien Kennedy Schlossberg introduced the governor, Janet Napolitano, this is how the poster concludes:


"DH [dear husband] is funny...he is a registered Democrat and plans to vote for Obama in the primary, but might vote for McCain in the actual election if he wins the Republican nomination."



Be Afraid, be very afraid.

Tbogg: Unfair to Genital Herpes?

You decide.

Jedi Fascism: The Readers Respond

Response to Jedi Fascism has been extremely gratifying. Sure, the same old bleeding-heart pro-Jedi types are trotting out the same tired, predictable attacks on me and the book--but here's the thing: they haven't read it. It isn't even due out until next year 2010. How can you slam a book you haven't even read? If somebody wrote a book in favor of intelligent design, or arguing that the earth is flat, would it make sense to dismiss it without first seeing what the arguments are? Of course not.

Happily, there are more positive comments than negative, and they are far more thoughtful and serious. Early blog reviews are particularly encouraging: Daniel Wolf calls it "a brilliant and timely analysis of Jedi politics", and The United States of Jamerica says "'Jedi Fascism' would actually be an interesting book."

My reader e-mails are also a great source of encouragement and unpaid research helpful information. Here's one:

It's about time someone got to the bottom of this. I took one look at Carrie Fisher's hairdo in the first film (just called Star Wars for you youngsters out there), and thought her name should be Helga. There's your smoking gun right there.
Leia, She-Wolf of the SS? Sounds plausible to me.

Another reader e-mails:
You should also check out Jonathan Last's defense of the Empire. Last makes some of the same points you make, and also argues that Palpatine is a "relatively benign dictator" like...Pinochet.
Last makes a point similar to my own:
In "Attack of the Clones"...Count Dooku leads a separatist movement of planets that want to secede from the Republic. Dooku promises these confederates smaller government, unlimited free trade, and an "absolute commitment to capitalism"....The Republic, of course, is eager to quash these separatists, but they never make a compelling case--or any case, for that matter--as to why, if they are such a freedom-loving regime, these planets should not be allowed to check out of the Republic and take control of their own destinies.
They hate freedom and capitalism...hey, who does that remind you of?

Some comments are pithier but no less insightful:
The storm trooper is the Jew of Jedi fascism.
That is definitely going into the book.

Another reader makes a great point:
Mind control powers. Seriously ... how can you defend THAT?
When you watch old newsreel footage of Hitler, it's almost as if he has...wait for it...mind control powers. Coincidence?

Yet another reader corrects the record:
Alderaan was "liberated," get it straight!
True, but I'm sure the MoveOn crowd doesn't see it that way. To them, it's a 'criminal act of aggression'--and maybe even a 'quagmire', at that.

The same reader also notes that Emperor Palpatine is exactly like Dick Cheney, and as a charter member of the Dick Cheney fan club, I think that's an excellent analogy. Because at a time when everybody talks a big game about how they don't like people-pleasing politicians who live by the polls, Palpatine is pretty much the only guy out there who walks the walk. He truly doesn't care what people think about him. I love that.

Anyway, thanks for all the great comments--keep 'em coming! I wish I could credit all of you when the book comes out, but that would be a lot of work. Just know that I am really, really grateful.

Aravosis' Lament

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Site of the Week

I have mentioned before that my sister and I have a Mad Men blog. Nice little sideline? NOPE! We are AMC's Mad Men Site of the Week.

Yay us!

Don't You Miss It...Don't You Miss It...Some of You People Just About Missed It

Busy, busy, busy:

Again, feel free to use this as a blogwhoring thread. What should we be reading?

Nader?

Oh, goody. Ralph Nader has formed an exploratory committee to evaluate another run for the Presidency. That's just what we need. Ralph, honey, please go find some other way to feed your ego. Kthxbai.

Cat fight at the OK corrall

Asshurbanipal on a snowboard (thanks to Susan of Texas, or else Phoenix Woman, or whoever used this phrase the other day) what is with this demented hillary hating that progressives can't seem to let go off? Now over at LGM I've been called out because I'm not willing to concede that the Florida non primary proves that Hillary can't win when she runs a noisy campaign against Obama because she did win when she ran a quiet campaign against him but enough people weren't listening that the florida turnout of democrats was depressed next to the republican turn out...so ipso facto, Hillary would have lost if she'd only been able to spend more money in the state and campaign there, quod erat demonstrandum, or something. Why yes, in Iowa Obama won and in NH hillary won and in SC Obama won again. In florida, which happened well after these other rather well publicized events, some people may not have turned out to vote because it wasn't a real primary but there is no evidence that this lack of a "realness" quotient depressed Obama supporters more than hillary supporters but we are to assume that was the case. Is that it? Really? And do let us remember that Obama has specifically been appealing to independent and republican voters, something that works well in some kinds of primaries and less well in straight democratic ones which is a problem that has been widely acknowledged--yes, even by that great orange satan Kos--so why don't we start factoring that in when we talk about people being disenfranchised by the primary process? It pisses me off when independents and republicans are allowed to attend my primaries (a la iowa) and swing the vote towards their preferred candidate. But I don't challenge the legitimacy of those votes or those primaries. Its just silly. And can I also just say how silly to call something "uncontested" when what you mean is its "uncampaigned."

aimai

Whistling Past the Graveyard

In his NY Times column this morning, Michael Gerson obediently follows his master's whistle with his 514th defense of the Bush presidency, which of course he collaborated in as head speechwriter until about 514 days ago.

Gerson is mightily impressed not just with Bush's final State of the Union address, but with his presidency generally:

Proposals such as No Child Left Behind, the AIDS and malaria initiatives, and the addition of a prescription drug benefit to Medicare would simply not have come from a traditional conservative politician. They became the agenda of a Republican administration precisely because of Bush's persistent, passionate advocacy. To put it bluntly, these would not have been the priorities of a Cheney administration.
In Gerson's mind, that armful of dog bones is enough to offset the rest of the "priorities of a Cheney administration," which Bush has pursued with far more gusto -- and far greater consequence -- than he ever put into the puppy treats. In the end, though, Gerson predictably ignores the many legitimate criticisms Democrats have made of Bush's "compassionate" accomplishments in favor of a typical red-cape, right-wing smear:
Liberals and Democrats offer no praise because a desire to help dying Africans, minority students and low-income seniors does not fit the image of Bush's cruelty that they wish to cultivate.
That poor, poor -- poor! -- man. We never deserved him.

Correction: Gerson's column appears in the Post, not the Times. I must have been confusing him with Bill Kristol.

Damn it!

John Edwards is dropping out.

Yeah, I know. Underdog. No chance. But Edwards was more eloquent on poverty, more dignified and honest, had the best healthcare plan, didn't pander, and was more gracious when wrong.

I'm from New Jersey. New Jersey's primary used to be in June. June! For all my life I never got to vote for my candidate of choice, because he'd always dropped out by June. I've never been able to cast a vote for a true progressive, because by June all that's left is the moderate centrist mealy-mouthed compromise candidate. Then I moved to New York, and yippee skip, I got to vote for Bill Bradley like the week before he dropped out.

I just want to cast my vote, GODDAMN IT.

(cross-fucking-post)

A little more about Juno

Apparently, Juno is all controversial. It's unkind to people who were adopted as well as to birth mothers to create a comedy about adoption. There's a lot of discussion about whether Juno is anti-choice.

Shut! Up!

This is where I part ways with many feminists and other activists; where they start criticizing or trying to restrict art based on content. It's not better to object to a movie based on its supposed anti-choice values than it is to object to a movie based on its supposed liberal values. It all feels like Social Realism thinking to me. I get that a birth mother might not want to see Juno, and might find it painful. And I sympathize. But that doesn't mean that the subject matter should be off-limits. There are definitely things I never want to see in movies, and movies I avoid as a result. Comedies that everyone loves that I've never seen because they feel like they would trigger some serious pain for me.

But that doesn't mean those comedies shouldn't be made, nor that they are "not funny" by some objective standard. There is no objectivity with humor.

The more touchy the subject, the harder to do it right. One of my problems with Waitress, which was basically very charming, was the attempt to have a humorous abusive husband. This wasn't triggering for me; I've never been the victim of domestic violence, but it made me uncomfortable.

I didn't come away from that movie thinking this subject should never be addressed in a comedy. I came away thinking that maybe it can't be done well, and this movie definitely didn't do it well. But who knows? If beautifully written and acted, maybe it could illuminate the characters without feeling way out of line. Maybe.

If so, some people will choose to skip that movie anyway, because it hurts too much, and it's not funny for them. I get that. I just don't feel like it should be censored in advance, and I don't feel that people who do find it funny should be accused of being less enlightened or feminist or socially responsible than thou.

(Cross-post Realism)

Horse Race? Its the Chess Game from Hell.

Now that Edwards is out I guess I'm that most desirable of commodities a swing voter. Its never happened to me before that I haven't made up my mind long before the primary but in talking to other people IRL and online its pretty clear that I'm not alone in making up my mind on what are, to me, the wrong issues--electability and what the other guy is doing.

I'm no spring chicken and I have a pretty good memory but I can't remember an election that seemed quite this much of a crap shoot in terms of the reasons people give for choosing their candidates and also the reasons they give for choosing the candidate they think the person sitting next to them will choose. Are we setting ourself up for an Edsel moment? And if we are, who are we in that story? The Ford Motor Company which designed a big car just as small cars were coming in, priced it wrong in a sinking market, and failed to grasp what the buyers really wanted in terms of style and other issues. Or the buyer whose excitement was whipped into a frenzy by excellent use of marketing prior to the rollout, only to turn on the product when it turned out to be a cheaper version of what the buyers really wanted? Or not what they wanted at all? You really need to click on the link to get the full flavor of the metaphoric comparison between the Edsel and Obama's campaign.

Today on NPR I heard a series of interviews with voters, both Republican and Democratic, who were going for Obama. The Republican said he would vote for Obama because he was a "compromiser" and "compromise" is what is needed. The (very young) Democrat said plaintively that he couldn't take another round of divisive partisanship at the thanksgiving table with his elderly Republican relatives and he was voting Obama because he thought Obama could heal that apparently painful divide and the passing of the cranberries could be done in a spirit of comity thenceforth.

Talking to my favorite barrista at my (non franchised) coffee shop this morning I heard all about how one of the counter guys was working overtime for Obama, how she had taken an online test showing she was most sympathetic to Kucinich, but was leaning Obama because she had seen a poll saying that in a head to head matchup with McCain Obama was more likely to win than Hillary. Her own mother (apparently an unreliable and illogical spite voter if ever I heard of one) was planning to vote for Obama because she thinks Republicans are more willing to vote for an African American man than a white woman after having become attached to the fictional African American president in 24.

It seems as though everyone I talk to has a theory about how the next person is going to vote and they are tailoring their votes to that. I was called last night by a sweet young thing from the Obama campaign and this was her point to me--she thinks he can bring all these non democrats into the fold. I don't think there's anything wrong with that but its pretty clear that Obama at least is tailoring his style to reach these compromise voters who are sure of one thing--that they want to be on the side of the winner and they don't mind if he leaves the content of his winning philosophy and policy a sort of blank. Even my passionate Obama phone caller, when pressed, said she'd like a more active, progressive, policy oriented stance than she's getting from Obama but that she thinks he will do all those things (whatever they are) once he's in. I've come around to thinking Obama is doing what he has to do to win. But where will that leave the voter/buyer when the Edsel is unveiled?

aimai

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Pundits Will Be Pundits

Debra Saunders, economic wingnut/social moderate, today:

I have to wonder if Giuliani's biggest mistake was not touting himself as the only supporter of abortion rights in the Republican primary. I think he'd be faring better today if he had run as a security hawk and a fiscal hawk, but social moderate.
Star Parker, all-purpose wingnut, today (hat tip: Sadly, No!):
Post-mortems on Fred Thompson's short presidential run focus on how the actor and former senator ran his campaign....But these analyses miss the more fundamental, and instructive, problem -- his message. Touted as the only "real conservative," a careful look shows that this label was pretty dubious. His ideas were devoid of the vision and leadership that fueled Republican ascendancy a quarter-century ago and badly needed today.
Me, yesterday, in a comment at Instaputz:
I thought that was the standard pundit template: "[Party] won/lost because they did/didn't do what I wanted them to".
'Party', of course, is interchangeable with 'candidate' in this context.

On the Links

On the Links
Near Winkelman, AZ

Maybe Next Year He'll Get Around to It

2008:

Our security, our prosperity, and our environment all require reducing our dependence on oil....Let us fund new technologies that can generate coal power while capturing carbon emissions. Let us increase the use of renewable power and emissions-free nuclear power. Let us continue investing in advanced battery technology and renewable fuels to power the cars and trucks of the future. Let us create a new international clean technology fund, which will help developing nations like India and China make greater use of clean energy sources. And let us complete an international agreement that has the potential to slow, stop, and eventually reverse the growth of greenhouse gases.
2007:
Extending hope and opportunity depends on a stable supply of energy that keeps America's economy running and America's environment clean. For too long our nation has been dependent on foreign oil. And this dependence leaves us more vulnerable to hostile regimes, and to terrorists -- who could cause huge disruptions of oil shipments, and raise the price of oil, and do great harm to our economy.
2006:
Keeping America competitive requires affordable energy. And here we have a serious problem: America is addicted to oil, which is often imported from unstable parts of the world. The best way to break this addiction is through technology.
2005:
To keep our economy growing, we also need reliable supplies of affordable, environmentally responsible energy....Four years of debate is enough: I urge Congress to pass legislation that makes America more secure and less dependent on foreign energy. (Applause.)
2004:
Consumers and businesses need reliable supplies of energy to make our economy run -- so I urge you to pass legislation to modernize our electricity system, promote conservation, and make America less dependent on foreign sources of energy. (Applause.)
2003:
Our third goal is to promote energy independence for our country, while dramatically improving the environment. (Applause.) I have sent you a comprehensive energy plan to promote energy efficiency and conservation, to develop cleaner technology, and to produce more energy at home. (Applause.)
2002:
Good jobs also depend on reliable and affordable energy. This Congress must act to encourage conservation, promote technology, build infrastructure, and it must act to increase energy production at home so America is less dependent on foreign oil.
2001:
As we meet tonight, many citizens are struggling with the high cost of energy. We have a serious energy problem that demands a national energy policy. (Applause.) The West is confronting a major energy shortage that has resulted in high prices and uncertainty. I've asked federal agencies to work with California officials to help speed construction of new energy sources, and I have direct Vice President Cheney, Commerce Secretary Evans, Energy Secretary Abraham and other senior members in my administration to develop a national energy policy. (Applause.)

Pray for a Sports Disaster

The Boston Globe is reporting that if the Patriots win *the only day* they can have their victory parade is Super Tuesday. Its pretty clear that no one thinks that anyone will bother to vote if they can go to a massive party, instead. I'm clerking this election and I was dreading the pressure of high turnout--but I was really looking forward to this historic chance for MA votes to count and for people to get to vote for three such incredible candidates.

aimai

Trivia has returned!

Did you miss it?

Play It as It Lies

Shorter David Brooks: "Chappaquiddi...'Kumbaya, my Lord, kumbaya'!"

[Apologies for any insensitivity of this use of "Kumbaya," as raised recently in comments.]

Monday, January 28, 2008

Don't You Miss It...Don't You Miss It...Some of You People Just About Missed It

Another busy day at If I Ran the Zoo. Here's a brief roundup:

And those of you not fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to blog here, consider this a blogwhoring thread. What have you got that we should be reading?

As The Worm Turns

Recently, or eternally, Pandagon and Alicublog had hysterically funny threads attacking Rod Dreher and the other neo-natalist proponents for the argument that a) everyone wants to have children and b) that they ought to want to have children in order not to be left all alone and lonely in the end times that are a' comin'.  I was astonished to find some of these arguments replicated in miniature in this little note from my elven year old daughter's health class:

"Someone asked “Why would someone want to have a kid, anyway?” Kids had all kinds of comments about overpopulation and animal instinct and survival of the species. Other comments: “A person is a really cool thing, like a pet on steroids.” “You watch them grow. You put your energy into them.” “They might be a brat but you can say that’s my little brat.” “I love to play with the kindergarten so when I grow up I might decide I want children or I might decide I want to be a kindergarten teacher.” “When kids grow up they do work for you.” [and my personal favorite]

You know that uncle with no kids who appears really cool? When he’s old he’ll be alone but your father will be a burden on your entire family.”"

Random Flickr Blogging: img_4188

Please also see these fine contributions from Generik, catharine, Ben Varkentine, Anthony Cartouche, and nash.


Originally uploaded by mkeblx.
Random Flickr-blogging explained.
The Clinton campaign was accused of employing an aggressive and unorthodox get-out-the-vote methodology last week in South Carolina.


Originally uploaded by ushio.
A law-abiding citizen prepares to exercise his 2nd Amendment rights, defend his home and family, and reduce the density of housing in his subdivision, all at the same time.


Originally uploaded by Kendall Bruns.
It's good to know that, with the wedding over...


Originally uploaded by vix130.
...the honeymoon is proceeding pretty much as planned.


Originally uploaded by pubarso.
Anxious to put pressure on the Writers' Guild, television executives appealed directly to the viewing public, threatening the "nuclear option":

Curling in prime time.

Obama Wins Big in SC, Draws Huge Crowd in Birmingham

Barack Obama won the South Carolina Democratic primary on Saturday with a convincing 55% of the votes cast. As big as that win is, what might be an even bigger story is the ongoing record turnout of voters for Democratic primaries and caucuses around the country. In South Carolina, more than 532,000 people went to the polls. That's an increase of around 240,000 over 2004, and it's also 87,000 more than the turnout for the Republican primary last week. Could South Carolina end up blue in November?

Obama followed his South Carolina win with a town hall meeting at Bartow Arena here in Birmingham yesterday. The Birmingham News, known for its tendency to low-ball attendance figures, reported that more than 11,000 people came to the event. By contrast, Mike Huckabee, who should be a favorite in Alabama if you believe all the stereotypes about redneck Bible-beaters*, only drew an estimated 2,200 for his appearance at Samford University on Saturday.

Eleven thousand, huh? I doubt that many people will watch tonight's State of the Union address. Voluntarily, anyway. This could be a very good year for Democrats. Knock on wood.

------------

* I'm not claiming that all the people who went to see Huckabee are redneck Bible-beaters; I'm just poking back a bit at the conventional wisdom around the blogosphere that the mere fact of growing up white in the South guarantees one will be a redneck Bible-beater. If that were true, Huckabee, a white Southern Baptist preacher, would have drawn a much larger crowd.)

Agreed: Its all my fault

Call it plagiarism, or inter-textuality, or synchronicity but I have to follow "not atrios" over at Eschaton and post a link to the indespensible Tom Tomorrow who appears to be in all our heads as well as our hearts and minds:

http://www.salon.com/comics/tomo/2008/01/28/tomo/

aimai

Monday Movie Review: Juno

Juno (2007) 10/10
Juno (Ellen Page) is sixteen and pregnant. After seeking an abortion and then changing her mind, she decides to give her baby up for adoption.

Everything about Juno works. The strong individuality of the characters; quirky but not full-blown oddball, the honesty and frankness of the reality it presents, the acting, the mise-en-scène, all of it. Juno is about people who are flawed and unique; there isn't an emblematic role in the group. Jennifer Garner isn't The Uptight Yuppie, and Allison Janney isn't The Stepmother; they're all people, and they're all worth paying attention to.

The script is well-written, but what kept me laughing was exquisite delivery and timing. J.K. Simmons as Juno's dad keeps pitching his lines underhanded and soft, so you don't think much of them, and then wham! The landing. "Hey, Dad." "Hey, big puffy version of Junebug."

But let's get back to the frankness for a moment. I'd classify this movie as sex-positive, remarkably so nowadays. Juno is direct about her sexuality; she had sex and she got pregnant. She is confused about the sex but she enjoyed it. She is confused about the boy but she enjoys him. She isn't ashamed and she never allows her predicament to negate that. Her parents are unhappy about what's happened, but they stick by her and help her and don't hang a scarlet letter around her chest. The language is direct and real. She isn't "in trouble," she's pregnant. She isn't calling to "handle it" she wants "a hasty abortion." At the abortion clinic, the very funny girl at the front desk recommends she takes free condoms and is enthusiastic about their use.

But none of this is preaching. This is actually how people talk. In movies, people say "shmuh-shmortion" but in real life, people say the real words, and everyone knows, or should know, that sex happens, even when you're only sixteen. Juno affects a wise-beyond-her-years routine that's been working for her until now, and she's not dropping it just because she's in over her head.

And all of this sounds like some kind of life lesson, but the best thing about Juno goes back to my first paragraph; it's a movie about individuals, not about Big Lessons or Symbolic Characters. No one is on-screen to represent a particular choice, they're all there to be themselves, thankyouverymuch. They all make mistakes, and they all struggle to make fewer mistakes next time.

Yes, it gets touching. It kind of has to. And I shed tears. But it's not corny. Or too predictable. And none of our characters give up being themselves in order to tidy up the ending. For which I, and any other frequent movie-goer, has got to be incredibly grateful.

For all Juno's charm and intelligence and humanity, I actually came away mostly with the pleasure of a good laugh that wasn't mean-spirited or stupid, that celebrated its characters rather than mocked them, and that made me enjoy the act of being there laughing with them.

I haven't seen the other four nominated Best Pictures, but I'm glad Juno is among them.

(big puffy version of cross-post)

Dubya Con

Shorter Jacob Weisberg:

Weave a circle round me thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread,
For I on Bush's lies hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise.
Mmm mmm mmm. Kool-Aid, good to the last drop...

Update: Krugman on the Weisberg column: "Why are political writers still unaware that Bush’s phrase 'compassionate conservatism' wasn’t an acceptance of the Great Society, but rather a dog-whistle to the religious right?"

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Gitmo Girl

Yet another odd story has captured our K-Lo's imagination. And bound and gagged and tortured it to within an inch of utter bliss:

Pay to be "beaten, interrogated and shouted at" [Kathryn Jean Lopez]

Gulag nostalgia at a theme park in Lithuania.

You know, one day -- one day soon, I hope -- we'll be able to look back on Guantanamo and the Bush CIA's black sites. Most Americans will feel great shame. But a very special few of us will have an orgasm.

Sunday Sierrablogging

Cherry Creek Canyon
Cherry Creek Canyon, Emigrant Wilderness.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

2,000

Just noticed that I missed a blog milestone: our 2,000th post (which happens to be this one by aimai). I never could have done it myself (being, after all, the laziest SOB in blog business); that number includes posts by Deborah, Nobody in Particular, Kvatch, Shiltone, Kathy, Deb, Ahab, Steve M (guest-posting), and now aimai. Enormous thanks to all of you for your outstanding contributions here, and for generally classing up the joint.

And of course thanks to our readers and (especially) commenters for giving us a reason to keep posting.

Update: Added links to contributors' home blogs.

Sentries

Sentries
Sacramento River intake facility. I bet these bad boys could kick the crap out of Ahab's saguaros...

"No, Mister GOP--I Expect You to Die!"

It just keeps getting wackier and wackier: Steve M. links to someone who claims Ron Paul's candidacy is a plot by George Soros to destroy the Republican party--along with other instances showing the theory has gained some traction on the right. As Steve says,

it's kind of perfect that there's a paranoid, probably racist conspiracy theory about a racist candidate who, along with his supporters, is full of conspiracy theories.
But then wherever Soros comes up on the right, he's bound to be part of some imagined conspiracy. Soros is the dark power behind everything the wingnuts hate.

Truth is, when wingnuts see 'Soros' they think 'Blofeld'. They see him as some mad, all-powerful super-villain. A Bond villain. Which, in moments of near-self-awareness, they even make explicit. Start from the assumption that Soros is Dr. No, and the idea that Ron Paul is his pawn makes all kinds of sense.

Or maybe it's not Blofeld or Dr. No; maybe George Soros is really Auric Goldfinger. Think about it: wouldn't that Fort Knox caper be worth a whole lot more if we went back to the gold standard?

(Apologies to Deborah for treading on her turf.)

Friday, January 25, 2008

Mitt Reinvents Himself Again


Last week, he was "Mr. Fixit". Maybe for the next round he'll be "The Guy That Made The Entire Commonwealth of Massachusetts Bend Over And Grab Its Ankles".

Fundamentals and Sentimentals

I don't know about the rest of you but I get a big dose of daily rage listening to NPR's incoherent coverage of our economic woes. Just a few days ago I learned that there is an “Index of Builder Sentiment” which, apparently running the gamut from “gay and enthusiastic” to “completely hysterical” is used to gauge how long term our down turn will be. This morning I listened to the professional interlocutor ask plaintively how things were going of the resident economic expert. Interlocutor: [gibberish run through NPR econ speak. Not actual transcript] He described the stock market fall and rise of the last week and then asked, hopefully, whether this didn't indicate that the “fundamentals of the market” were still sound. There was a short pause while resident expert thought about shouting “No, you idiot, that's why they are called fundamentals and not super-fucking-ficials but you could almost hear the shrug as he decided to go with “sure, things are going to be ok...because (wait for it) the market now believes that Ben Bernanke is on their side.” But, he added hastily “the mood is still somber.”


This exchange, like much of NPR's coverage, reminded me irresistibly of my favorite Monty Python episode ever. Episode 35 “Housing Project built by Characters from 19th century literature” and “M1 Exchange built by characters from Paradise Lost.” [http://www.ibras.dk/montypython/episode35.htm]


See if you can spot the similarities:

Narrator:
"In contrast to the site in Bristol, it's progress here on Britain's first eighteen-level motorway interchange being built by characters from Milton's 'Paradise Lost'..."
He turns and we zoom past him into the angels etc.
Narrator (voice over) : "What went wrong here?"
Cut to a foreman in a donkey jacket and helmet.
Foreman: "Well, no one really got on. Satan didn't get on with Eve ... er... Archangel Gabriel didn't get on with Satan... nobody got on with the Serpent, so now they have to work a rota: forces of good from ten till three, forces of evil three to six."
(Elsewhere)
Narrator: "But even more modern building techniques are being used on an expanding new town site near Peterborough; The local Council here have over fifty hypnosis-induced twenty-five story blocks, put up by El Mystico and Janet. I asked Mr Ken Verybigliar the advantages of hypnosis compared to other building methods."

Cut to a man in a drab suit. SUPERIMPOSED CAPTION: 'MR K. V. B. LIAR'

Mr Verybigliar: " “Well there is a considerable financial advantage in using the services of El Mystico. A block, like Mystico Point here, (indicating a high-rise block behind him) would normally cost in the region of one-and-a-half million pounds. This was put up for five pounds and thirty bob for Janet.”
Voice Over: “But the obvious question is are they safe?” Cut to an architect's office. The architect at his desk. Behind him on the wall are framed photos of various collapsed buildings. He is a well-dressed authoritative person. SUPERIMPOSED CAPTION: 'MR CLEMENT ONAN, ARCHITECT TO THE COUNCIL'
Architect: “Of course they're safe. There's absolutely no doubt about that. They are as strong, solid and as safe as any other building method in this country provided of course people believe in them. “
Cut to a council flat.
Tenant: “Yes, we received a note from the Council saying that if we ceased to believe in this building it would fall down.”
Voice Over: “You don't mind living in a figment of another man's imagination?”
Tenant: “No, it's much better than where we used to live.”
Voice Over: “Where did you used to live?”
Tenant: “We had an eighteen-roomed villa overlooking Nice.”
Voice Over: " “Really, that sounds much better.”
Tenant: “Oh yes - yes you're right.” Cut to stock shot of block falling down in slow motion. Cut back to tenant and wife inside. Camera shaking and on the tilt.
Tenant: “No, no, no, of course not.” Cut to stock film again. The building rights itself. Cut back to interior again. Camera slightly on tilt. They are holding bits of crockery etc.
Tenant: “Phew, that was close.”


Neoconventioneering

Meanwhile, Iraqification of the Republican Party continues apace:

Andy, I Am So With You [Michael Ledeen]

I love chaos, as you know, and I am rooting for Rudy to do well enough to send this thing to the Convention. [...] If the Republicans have a wild, open convention, I expect Lieberman to switch parties and emerge as the consensus candidate, by the way...or maybe it will be Petraeus...

Or how about Ahmad Chalabi? Isn't he still on the payroll?

Friday Random Ten

Better-than-average list this week...so let's all do the classic Coolness Self-Audit1. You know the drill: rate each song on a scale of ten, be honest, and no making the embarrassing songs disappear.

Gang of 4 - To Hell with Poverty (9/10)
Roky Erickson & the Aliens - Cold Night for Alligators (9/10)
Budos Band - T.I.B.W.F (9/10)
Wanda Jackson - Fallin' (8/10)
Roxy Music - In Every Dream Home a Heartache (8/10)
Wire - Champs (8/10)
Anthony Head & Amber Benson - Standing/Under Your Spell (7/10)
Cibo Matto - Sugar Water (8/10)
Chris Thomas - Postures (Leave Your Body Behind) (7/10)
Angelo Badalamenti - The Nightingale (7/10)

Bonus Track:
The Ebb Tides - Big Noise from Waimea (10/10)

Tapered off a little toward the end, but came back with a great bonus track. 8.0 average; not too bad.


1"Coolness self-audit" is a registered trademark of the Norbizness Family of Companies.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

A.O. Scott's tender and intelligent obituary of Heath Ledger

In today's New York Times. Probably the best thing to read as an antitode to creepy and cruel speculation, but not an antitode to grief. An excerpt:

The dismaying sense of loss and waste at Mr. Ledger’s death at 28 comes not only because he was so young, but also because his talent was large and as yet largely unmapped. It seems inevitable that he will now be inscribed in the cult of the beautiful stars who died too young, alongside James Dean, Montgomery Clift and Marilyn Monroe. Even before his death he had been ensnared in a pathological gossip culture that chews up the private lives of celebrities, and Tuesday’s news unleashed the usual rituals of media cannibalism.

Mr. Ledger’s work will outlast the frenzy. But there should have been more. Instead of being preserved as a young star eclipsed in his prime, he should have had time to outgrow his early promise and become the strange, surprising, era-defining actor he always had the potential to be.


(cross-posted)

The Giant Saguaro Gang

Giant Saguaro Gang
In Sabino Canyon, Tucson

Taxi Drivers Say the Darndest Things

Years ago I attended a Code Pink rally in front of the White House—yes, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have now gone on so long that those early protests took place “years ago.” As I was rushing to catch my plane home I took a taxi and had the following conversation with my Muslim taxi driver. We talked about the rally (alas, I wasn't wearing a pink boa as some of the other women were but if you like you can imagine me dressed in the pinks raided from my daughters' dress up box) and what it meant that “the mothers” and “the women” were out protesting a war. Somehow we got onto the question of religion and of how different people can be, and of right behavior, and morality. He said to me that he thought that every person had to be treated with love and respect as a person, regardless of their religion. This was true not despite the fact that Islam is a proselytizing, monotheistic religion but, in a sense, because of it. He said that it was a commandment to try to convert people but didn't that imply that people were inherently good and worthy of respect even before they converted? He said “Shall I frown on you one day [before you are Muslim] and smile on you the next [when you have converted?] No, I must smile on you now, because you are the same person before and after...aren't you?”


I've never forgotten that, and I think about it very often. But this isn't a post about my often astonishing conversations with Taxi drivers although I could certainly fill a times op ed column if only someone would give me a contract. Its actually a post about the iterated prisoner's dilemma that our current primary and future general election has become. Digby has, as usual, said what I thought before I even thought it but I think it bears some thinking about still. I'm a Gore supporter who went for Edwards, but who will happily work and support any Democratic candidate in the general election. I have a personal antipathy towards the “unity pony” political style of Obama, and I suppose an equally personal preference for the “nose to the grindstone nuts and bolts” style of HRC. I think of them as the Dionysian vs. the Apollonian style of politicking and to the extent that I think they correlate with different styles of ruling, I prefer the leader who appeals to my intelligence over the one who appeals to my emotions. But style doesn't determine content and you can go just as wrong with logic as you can with emotion. As Digby points out there really isn't a lot of concrete policy differences between the two candidates—their supporters may be the last to figure this out but voting for either of the two is a vote for centrist, middle of the road, squashed armadillo politics of accommodation with a ruthless and destructive right wing machine and its very wealthy backers. What's going on right now with Reid and Pelosi is just a hint about what is going to go on with either of the two major Democratic candidates as President. But that being said, anyone who really wants change for our country—change at the level of a conversion experience for the voters that would shift the Overton window back to the the progressive center, change at the level of getting out of Iraq or trying to get universal health care—simply has to be prepared to bury the hatchet after the primaries and move forward with the Democratic party as a whole. Because while there's only a slim chance for liberal and progressive policies under any Democratic leader there is zero chance under any Republican administration. This is something that seems to be very much lost on a lot of Obama supporters and the various third way voters who pop up to express their eternal conviction that pique is a winning political strategy.




To get back to my Taxi Driver story Daily Kos is in a perpetual uproar, and the Obama supporters in a perpetual fury at the hypothetical Clinton supporters whose motives are not as pure, or post racial, or post politics as Obama's are. I don't see the same hysteria on the Clinton and Edwards sides, for some reason. Can you frown at us before we are converted, and smile at us after? Aren't we the exact same people as we were before? Lets recognize, before things get too ugly, that we need every vote and every voter in the party if we are to get even a toe hold in the White House. Lets argue whose feet are better looking later.


Aimai

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Cutting to the Chase

A few days ago my name magically appeared on the roster of regular posters here at “If I Ran the Zoo” and Tom asked me to prepare some kind of brief biographical note that might explain who and what I am. That instantly turned what had been a secret vice into something more like work, which made me put the whole thing off until I began to feel like an absolute fool. Let me just say that I'm an anthropologist, I did my field work in Nepal and my pseudonym is the word “woman” in Nepali. If I'd thought about it longer I might have chosen “Kay Garnay” which is the phonetic version of the most popular Nepali sigh meaning “what can you do?” Or “dukka/sukka” which reflects the even more important Nepali belief that the whole of life is to be understood as a mixture of bitter and sweet and that suffering is everywhere. I'm a dedicated political junkie and free lance cultural kibbitzer. I've been posting on other people's blogs for years and have a wider than I would like group of posters who recognize and detest me (in the last month alone it seemed like “fuck you, Aimai” was some kind of auto response to my posts). It was lonely and sometimes frustrating to have to piss people off retail, as it were. Thanks to Tom's generous offer to let me perch here I hope to bring my annoying opinions to even more people, and give them a chance to tell me to fuck off right here at my new home base.

Same as It Ever Was

Robert K. Massie on the Parliamentary election of 1900, held during the Boer War:

[Colonial Secretary Joseph] Chamberlain roamed the land, hammering on a single issue: the conduct of the war. His purpose was to convince the electorate that a Liberal victory would mean the political defeat of British arms in South Africa. His theme became, "A vote for the Liberals is a vote for the Boers!" This charge was shouted from platforms, proclaimed by billboards and placards. Posters depicted prominent Liberals kneeling in tribute to President Kruger, helping him to haul down the Union Jack, even urging him to shoot British soldiers. One Liberal M.P. attacked in this fashion had lost two sons in the war and was actually visiting their graves in South Africa when the election was held.
In related news, it seems people sometimes start wars for reasons that are not entirely honest.

No Message, Just a Sign.

This is just a very nervous first test.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Jedi Fascism

The first time I saw Star Wars1, I was dissatisfied with the sketchy portrayal of the Rebel Alliance. What was their program? If they succeeded in their rebellion, how would they govern? Did they have any core beliefs other than mere opposition to the Empire? The movie was nearly silent (nearly!) on these important issues; we, the audience, were expected to root for the Rebels based on nothing more than heavy-handed semiotics.

I say nearly silent because there is a disturbing clue at the very end of the movie: the final scene, in which the putative heroes are awarded their medals, is a direct visual lift from Triumph of the Will. This shocking turnabout calls into question everything that comes before it--or rather should have called into question, because it seems to have been lost on all but a few discerning viewers.

I didn't give this much thought over the years...until recently, when I learned that everything I know about liberalism is wrong2. Maybe now, I thought, the public would be ready to revisit the all-important question surrounding Star Wars3: who were the real totalitarians?

Surprisingly, the deeper I delved, the more evidence I found confirming my unorthodox conclusions. Among other things, I learned that:


  • Arch-villain Darth Vader, in his youth, espoused beliefs almost exactly like those of the Jedi;

  • Like 20th-century Fascists, the Jedi had a deep-seated hostility toward free trade--as evidenced by their military action against the Trade Federation;

  • Despite their professed opposition to Emperor Palpatine, the Jedi Council worked for him at one time; and

  • The Jedi considered themselves a sort of 'master race' marked by superior blood ("midichlorians"), just like Hitler.

All of the above and more are explored in detail and with great care in my forthcoming book, Jedi Fascism: the Totalitarian Temptation from Midichlorians to Mace Windu from Ewoks to Alderan from Jar-Jar Binks to the Death Star (publication date: December 2008 May 2009 eventually). This will be a thorough, compehensive, painstakingly researched and incisively argued account that should settle the question once and for all about who was the real 'Empire'.

In the meantime, though, I'm still doing research for the book, so if any of you Star Wars4 experts out there (regardless of ideological affiliation) could provide additional examples, I'd certainly appreciate it.



1i.e., Star Wars Episode 4: A New Hope.
2Apparently liberals are really fascists and fascists are really liberals, or maybe it's the other way around.
3i.e., the whole 6-film Star Wars series.
4See Footnote 3.

Blog for Choice: What Do We Choose?

Blog for Choice Day

Here's a thing about "Blog for Choice:" It's really important to ask what the choice is. What is being chosen?

I'm finally coming to terms with the notion that I'm aging. Like, getting older. Like, I had to see my gynecologist about perimenopause, because I was having some difficulties. The doctor ended up prescribing the Pill. And I said to him, "You know, I'm not going to be getting any of the ancillary benefits out of this thing. I'm not fertile."

And he said, "There are so many benefits to the Pill, if it wasn't birth control, everyone would take it." (He probably didn't mean everyone. He probably didn't mean men. Or children. Or, I dunno, pregnant women.)

I've been thinking about that a lot, and then Blog for Choice day came around, and it all tied together.

Why does the Pill being birth control prevent it from being used more widely for other things? Okay, in some cases, it's because someone is trying to get pregnant, but I'm sure that's not what my doctor meant. It seems to me that it's because there's a stigma on birth control.

You would think that anti-abortion activists would be interested in doing the one thing that is statistically proven to reduce the number of abortions: Prevent unwanted pregnancy. And in doing the one thing that prevents unwanted pregnancy: Provide access to birth control and accurate information about preventing pregnancy. But in fact, anti-abortion activists repeatedly oppose these things. They spread misinformation about birth control, claim that Plan B is an abortifacient rather than birth control, promote abstinence-only education which has been repeatedly proven to be a failure, refuse to fill prescriptions for birth control and in other ways prevent access to it...in fact, go out of their way to promote unwanted pregnancies, thereby ensuring the demand for abortion cannot decrease.

This is because these activists are not anti-abortion. They are anti-choice. And the choice they are against is sex. Specifically, women choosing to be sexual. They are anti-female-sexual-choice.

I don't think the anti-choice movement can ever show its hand in a more horrifying way than in its opposition to the HPV vaccine. Folks, they're against preventing cancer. Think of that the next time you hear the phrase "pro-life." Because, you know, the only way to get HPV is to have sex, and we musn't prevent people from dying of sex!

Anti-choice-to-have-sex. Anti-female-choice-to-have-sex.

Slut shaming. Abstinence-only "education." Lying about Plan B. Anti-abortion propaganda. It all ties together. It's all about preventing women from choosing sex.

The Pill can help regulate perimenopausal changes. It can help with menorrhagia and dysfunctional uterine bleeding. It can help clear up adolescent acne. But access to the Pill for these things is problematic because the pill allows women to choose sex.

Beware the word "consequences" in this context. They want to say that the pill allows "sex without consequences," but what they mean is "sex without punishment." They want abortion to be inaccessible and HPV vaccines to be off the table, because unwanted pregnancy and cancer are just desserts for sluts who choose to get laid.

It's so important to remember this. It's so important to remember that only pro-choice candidates are actually interested in doing things that prevent abortion: Provide real access to preventing unwanted pregnancy through education and birth control.

(Cross-post for choice)

Oscar Nominations are here

Well, there may not be an Oscars ceremony, but the nominations are in. And my score sucks.

Best Picture: I've seen NONE! None I say! (Atonement, Juno, Michael Clayton, No Country for Old Men, There Will Be Blood). I really do want to see all of them.

Best Actor: I've seen two (Viggo in Eastern Promises, Depp in Sweeney Todd) and I intend to see one or two more (not Valley of Elah, thanks).

Best Actress: I've seen one (Julie Christie, Away From Her). I intend to see two more.

I could go on but it remains about that pathetic.

(...and the cross-post is...)

Monday, January 21, 2008

Random Flickr-Blogging: img_5690

Please also see these fine contributions from Ben Varkentine, Anthony Cartouche, Generik, George, and nash.


Originally uploaded by mambocity.
Random Flickr-blogging explained.
"All we needed was a simple sign saying 'WILL WORK FOR FOOD' -- but noooooo, you just had to get creative."


Originally uploaded by anavalentina.
Never buy clothing from a roadside stand. I thought everyone knew that.


Originally uploaded by fabianguiza.
Personally, I think I would have waited for the next reality show.


Originally uploaded by lumberchicken<.
Parents can be so cruel sometimes. Fortunately, most grow up having survived the trauma without any lasting effects...


Originally uploaded by vernotico.
Others -- not so much.

Monday Movie Review: Eastern Promises

Eastern Promises (2007) 10/10
Anna (Naomi Watts) is a midwife at a London hospital. Nikolai (Viggo Mortensen), is a driver working for the Russian mafia. When a Russian girl dies giving birth, and leaves a diary behind, their paths cross. Directed by David Cronenberg.

Late fall and early winter are when I catch up on the most acclaimed movies of the year. I still have to review Sweeney Todd (which I saw Christmas day) and I'm trying to get past the waiting list on Netflix for Zodiac and Ratatouille. Meanwhile, buzz is big for Viggo for Best Actor, so here we are.

I'm not an expert on Cronenberg. I know he's considered all auteur up the whazoo, but it seems this is only the third of his films I've seen. So I can't speak to any Cronenberg thematic elements in this review. Nonetheless, it's easy to see that Eastern Promises is exquisitely constructed; it works as a straight-ahead gangster thriller, while at the same time exploring interesting themes. The plot twists and turns intelligently; it's not a movie that's twisty for the sake of twists, but you can't easily predict what will happen next.

The acting is solid. Armin Mueller-Stahl as the gang boss, and Vincent Cassel as his spoiled and drunken son are chilling, while Viggo is just stunning. Really, it's an amazing performance, richly embodied. Every gesture, every facial expression, every nuance of posture, is part of a whole. Apparently, upon getting the role, he simply took off for the Urals on his own, meeting and befriending unsavory types and learning what the character was all about. Naomi Watts has comparatively less to do; the script contrasts her ordinary, above-ground life with the violence and mystery of the underworld, and so Watts is...ordinary. But for that, she is solid and believable, and never cliché.

The film's title speaks to its theme. Promises, obligations, oaths, and honor permeate Eastern Promises. The gangsters live by a code, vor v zakone (thieves in law), which cannot be broken. The moral obligations of family; father to son, brother to brother, and Anna's commitment to protect her patient, all come into play. Tension builds as honor and oath come into conflict, as the diary reveals secrets dishonorable to keep.

Viggo's Nikolai is so interesting in this respect. He is quietly terrifying, and yet in a dozen small ways, reveals himself to be an honorable man. Living by the thieve's code, violent, cold as ice, he has molded himself into a man of principle, and his principles are being tested by Anna's interference. What will happen remains, moment-by-moment, a mystery, there is little obvious here, but it all works.

I saw Eastern Promises last night, and woke up thinking about it. I am haunted by these characters and this script and am ready to see the film again.

(Cross-post v zakone)

Like a Virgil

Shorter William Kristol: "I sing of arms and the man foot and McCain."

I gotta say I actually feel sorry for Kristol at this point. This is getting ugly.

We Are All Americans Now

Who needs Obama or Bloomberg to reach post-partisan nirvana? According to Tom Brokaw, we're already there:

MR. BROKAW: I think [there is] the perceived feeling in this country that President Bush has been a disaster in terms of managing the presidency. That's a lesson that everybody wakes up with every morning at this point.

MS. GOODWIN: (Unintelligible).

MR. BROKAW: Republicans and Democrats alike. I have never heard as many Republicans, gold-star, born and bred Republicans, so unhappy with the management of this country by a Republican president now.

Doris Kearns Goodwin has never sounded quite so sensible.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Sunday Sierrablogging

Upper Recess Peak Lake Alpenglow
Alpenglow reflected in Upper Recess Peak Lake, Mono Divide, John Muir Wilderness.

Triumph of the Swill

It's official: Pantload's "book" more popular than Mein Kampf.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Over-Reaction Is Capitulation

I wanted to highlight this, from a comment I made yesterday:

The point here is that overreaction is capitulation. The point of terrorism is to provoke overreaction: excessive irrational fear, repressive measures that alienate the populace and isolate the target state within the world community, ill-considered military actions that weaken the target state defensively and economically, and so on. The goal of terrorism is to make the target state weaken itself.

Any reaction that falls into these categories constitutes at least partial capitulation to the terrorists. Irrational fear: capitulation. Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, Bagram, illegal surveillance: capitulation. Invading Iraq: capitulation. Bush is the biggest capitulationist since Marshall Petain.
Obviously the government should take prudent measures to protect its people from terrorism (among a host of other perils)--something this administration hasn't done very well. Obviously they should take whatever actions are consistent with the constitution and civilized norms to capture anyone who is actively trying to commit acts of terror against us--again, something at which Bush at all haven't been entirely successful.

The most important thing to do though, the only way to defeat the terrorists (as Steve H pointed out in the same thread), is not to succumb to terror. Not just figuratively but literally, we have nothing to fear but fear itself.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Friday Fun

I saw this over at Shakesville the other day, and it just made me laugh. Well, cringe and laugh. It's probably safe for work, but the sheer dreadfulness of the performance could cause your coworkers to report you for bad taste or something. Enjoy!

Friday Random Ten

Hüsker Dü - Too Far Gone
Sonics - Have Love, Will Travel
84 Rooms - World Without Dogs
Wire - I Should Have Known Better
Savage Republic - Lethal Musk
Link Wray - Ace of Spades
Donnas - Who Invited You?
Nick Cave - Muddy Water
Kinks - Holiday in Waikiki
Joy Division - Passover

Definitely one of my better lists.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

But Seriously, Folks

Matt Yglesias:

One major problem with the book is that Goldberg has no ability whatsoever to stick to a coherent line of argument. You might call this book "disparate essays about fascism and American liberalism designed to annoy liberals." He doesn't seem to care about what his various claims amount to or even whether or not they're inconsistent. Thus, sometimes liberals are too mean to the non-Hitler fascists of the world. Other times, the problem is that people on the left in the 1920s were, at the time, unduly soft on fascism. But other times the problem is that people on the left now have views on some subjects (e.g., the importance of public health) that are similar to views fascists had back in the day....

Beyond specific errors, lapses in logic, etc. the biggest problem with Goldberg's book is actually that Goldberg himself has the wrong ideology.....[Goldberg is] a steadfast supporter of the political party representing the dominant ethnocultural group in the United States, the party that supports torture and unlimited surveillance, the party that supports a larger and more aggressively employed military, the party that supports a more punitive criminal justice system at home, the party whose backers are prone to fretting about low birthrates, the need to police gender roles more rigidly, etc....[N]obody with allegiances like that can seriously turn around, point at the other ideological camp, at start yelling "fascism" at the slightest whiff of collectivism.

But of course that just gets us back to the fact that there's no real coherent argument to be extracted here at all. Nor does there seem to have been any real intention of producing one. Rather, Adam "In Defense of Nepotism" Bellow's basic idea was, basically, let's slap a bunch of shit together that'll piss off liberals, generate buzz, and then maybe conservatives will buy the book. It's cynicism, pure and true, but it makes a reasonable amount of sense. The funny thing about it is that as best one could tell, Goldberg is actually slow-witted enough that he doesn't understand what's happening and is apparently genuinely upset that liberals aren't seriously debating his ideas the way one goes back-and-forth against an antagonist whose thinking you respect despite your differing perspectives.
Jonah responds:
Matt Yglesias tries a serious critique, or so several emailers tell me....

Update: Oh. Sorry. It's not very serious at all.
The difference between Ann Coulter and Jonah Goldberg is that Coulter knows what she is: a clown, a provocateur, an entertainer. As Matt observes, Goldberg doesn't have a clue.

Bonus Jonah-ism: "Nor do I believe that [Matt]'s anti-Semitic. I think he writes dumb things about Jews..."

All Bets are On

Shorter David Broder: "The Dem presidential field lacks the executive experience of, say, a George W. Bush."

Alternate title: "'Mandelbaum, Mandelbaum, Mandelbaum...' for Preznit."

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Borrow and Borrow, Cut and Cut

The cuts in Schwarzenegger's budget are big, but they're not the whole story; the rest is borrowing:

Despite deep cuts in Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposal to bridge the state's $14.5 billion deficit, nearly half of his budget-balancing plan involves borrowing money, deferring debt payments and counting future tax revenue, according to a report released Monday by the nonpartisan legislative analyst's office....

Legislative Analyst Elizabeth Hill questioned the shifting of revenues from one fiscal year to another.

"In our initial review, we have not yet been able to determine whether this proposal is a reasonable change in accounting practices or merely a convenient way to generate a one-time revenue bump," she wrote in her 23-page report released Monday.
Let's be clear about this: when Schwarzenegger says he isn't raising taxes, he's lying. He's incurring expenses that will have to be repaid eventually; instead of raising rich people's taxes now, he's raising somebody's taxes later.

This dishonesty is at the core of anti-tax fundamentalism. They pretend that there is such a thing as a 'tax cut'--free money for 'taxpayers' (in practice, for the favored few)--when it's really just tax shifting (from rich people now, to less well-off people later). Schwarzenegger almost certainly knows better, but he has to pander to the Norquist wing.

Just Another Sunrise

Bridge Dawn 02
Because Bird Girl (who I think is still lurking, although she can't post comments from work) likes them.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Somebody's Been Reading Way Too Much Ayn Rand

K-Lo:

Mike Huckabee Really Is a Piece of Work [Kathryn Jean Lopez]

From Michigan:
"For those of us for whom summer is not a verb, for those of us who didn't go to fancy boarding schools on the east coast, for those of us who didn't grow up with a silver spoon, who were lucky to have a spoon — ask those folks and they'll tell you the economy is not doing well for them," says Huckabee.
Governor, I didn't have silver spoons or boarding schools or a verb summer, but I know enough to thank God for the job creators, the natural economic stimulators, capitalism. Is this the Republican primary of a John Edwards rally?
K-Lo lives in her own special little Randian fantasy world, where the capitalists are the only ones who create wealth, the only ones who do any work at all, and 'workers' are just parasitic drones trying to get a free ride.

Unfortunately, the GOP lives there with her.

Trivia is up

With a secret hidden theme.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Random Flickr-Blogging: img_3193

Please also see these fine contributions from Ben Varkentine, George, Generik, Deb, dday, Anthony Cartouche, and nash.


Originally uploaded by d dimaculangan.
Random Flickr-blogging explained.
A highlight of the Right-Wing Bloggers' Festival is the hot-air event.

The ballooning is fun, too.


Originally uploaded by liliazdad.
"Hey, Daddy, I can read! See, right here on this marker: PER...MA...NENT."


Originally uploaded by khillabolt.
"I'm fine...but I'm a little concerned about you, what with that mechanical contraption you apparently have stuck permanently to your face."


Originally uploaded by lisasfoto.
In hopes of convincing one of the major film studios to locate there, the town of Olly changes its name.


Originally uploaded by fotofanatikuk.
"Sorry for the delay, but could I ask the hairdresser to come to the stage one more time, please?"


Originally uploaded by virtuosoyap.
Knock knock.

Who's there?

Cello.

Cello who?

Cello little louder; I can't hear you over the orchestra!


I know, I know...

Originally uploaded by Ilana Iguana.
...I should have stayed in bed.

Golden Globes

The Golden Globes winners were announced last night, in what I am told was a boring press conference (I didn't watch, but my sister did, and gave me the blow by blow on the phone).

Basket of Kisses was right on top of it, and I'm feeling really good about it. What's Basket of Kisses, you ask? That's the Internet's only unofficial Mad Men blog. co-authored by Roberta and me. Mad Men won twice last night; best dramatic series, and best actor in a dramatic series (John Hamm), beating out impressive competition.

Eighty percent of EOnline's respondents have never seen Mad Men. Time to change all that. The first season will be re-run Monday mornings/Sunday nights at midnight (y'know, the Monday that starts after the 11pm Sunday show ends), beginning January 20 on AMC. Watch it, and then visit Basket of Kisses for lively discussion.

(Mad crosspost Mad)

Sunday, January 13, 2008

It's For Your Own Good, Dear

Shorter Caitlin Flanagan: "Women are much worse off now1 than they were in the Victorian era2."


1'Now' meaning the reality of the present-day.
2'Victorian era' meaning some sepia-tone fantasy of the 19th century in which reality is indistinguishable from the ideology used to rationalize oppression.

[Hat tip: Bean and Molly Ivors]

Sunday Sierrablogging

Canyon Below Squaw Lake
Canyon below Squaw Lake (looking toward the southern boundary of Yosemite), Silver Divide, John Muir Wilderness.

Partial-Death Contortion

Shorter Andy McCarthy: "Let's keep torture safe, legal and rare."

Friday, January 11, 2008

Not-Much Shorter Jonah: "Tom Wolfe Likes It!"

Two of the recurring themes at Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism blog are that (I paraphrase) none of the liberal critics of the book have actually read it; and rather than engage its arguments, liberal critics dismiss the credentials of the author. These, of course, are demonstrably untrue--especially the former, as more and more folks on the left make some attempt to engage a book that doesn't merit the effort.

Yesterday evening, I got annoyed enough at the disingenuousness of this to e-mail Jonah for the purpose of calling him on it. To his credit, he responded (and he does deserve credit for that; I could name a fair number of big liberal bloggers who don't bother to respond to e-mail from strangers). Hence, the following exchange.

Me:

This constant refrain of 'liberal critics haven't read the book' is vulnerable on (at least) two fronts. First, you highlight the liberals who say they haven't read it but neglect to mention the ones who have. I won't even include Sadly, No!, hilarious and apt as their dissection was, because I'm sure you don't consider their approach 'serious'; but what about Spencer Ackerman?

Secondly, when a critic is more familiar with the underlying history and philosophy than you are (as seems to be the case with John Holbo), and it's clear to him that they don't support *any* argument remotely like the one you advance, then what does it matter that he hasn't read
your *particular* argument? If I were to construct an elaborate justification for the notion that the world is flat, would anyone with a passing familiarity with science really have to read it to know that it's completely wrong?
Jonah:
wow this is silly. If you take spencer ackerman and sadly no remoyely seriously, you're a fool. As for holbo, he's wrong and he hasn't read it. If he had, i'd bother with him. But how do you deal with the fact that a great many very serious people agree with the book in large measure. Ron radosh is no hack. Dan Pipes, steve hayward, tome wolfe, (coming soon) paul johnson: these people outweigh everyone you mention by a wide, wide, margin.

Try harder.
Me:
Thanks for responding.

This is a bit of a shell game here. When people dismiss the book based on your own lack of distinction, you say we should engage the arguments; when Spencer Ackerman clearly and cogently demolishes your arguments, you say Spencer Ackerman is a nobody. See the problem
there?

And by the way, Radosh, Pipes, and Johnson are ideologically-driven hacks. Wolfe has written some pretty good works of (sort-of) non-fiction and several terrible novels; sometimes he is very
perceptive and sometimes he gets it laughably wrong, and there doesn't seem to be a lot of middle ground.
Jonah:
again, if you think a nut job like ackerman is serious, you're a fool. Radosh just recently evicerated stan evans ' book on mccarthy in nr. And so far all of your arguments are variations on appeals to authority of your choosing. Sorry, this really isn't worth a lot of my time. [hyperlink added]
So, to recap:
  1. I suggest that he is ignoring people who do engage the substance;
  2. He responds by telling me his favorable references are far weightier than the critics I cite;
  3. I point out that he is engaging in precisely the sort of appeal to authority he has accused liberal critics of using against him;
  4. He calls Spencer Ackerman a 'nut case', and accuses me of arguing from authority.
Which, of course, is exactly what Jonah does in the book: set up a fallacious opposing argument, demolish it, then turn around and assert exactly the same sort of argument from the opposite direction.

Don't You Miss It...Don't You Miss It...Some of You People Just About Missed It

Lots of good stuff this morning. Just so none of it gets lost in the shuffle, here's a roundup: