Friday, February 29, 2008


Over at The Corner, Michael Ledeen shares some words of wisdom with the world:

Clintons=Obamas? [Michael Ledeen]

Think about it this way: each couple has a charming, talkative, charismatic husband and a smart, nasty, hyperambitious wife. It just struck me.


Heading North
" the thing with feathers." -- Emily Dickinson

(Had to knock that nasty McCain/Donohue photo off the front page.)

He Made This Jew Boy Feel Blessed

Shorter David Brooks on William F. Buckley and his finger bowls and parties.

Live by the Donohue, Die by the Donohue

So our pall Bill Donohue isn't happy about McCain's new BFF (pictured above). It seems that besides the wacky apocalyptic anti-Semitism--the 'we have to save Israel in order to incinerate it' plan--he has enough hate in his heart for the Catholics as well:

"There are plenty of staunch evangelical leaders who are pro-Israel, but are not anti-Catholic. John Hagee is not one of them. Indeed, for the past few decades, he has waged an unrelenting war against the Catholic Church. For example, he likes calling it 'The Great Whore,' an 'apostate church,' the 'anti-Christ,' and a 'false cult system.' To hear the bigot in his own words, click here. Note: he isn't talking about the Buddhists.

"In Hagee's latest book, Jerusalem Countdown, he calls Hitler a Catholic who murdered Jews while the Catholic Church did nothing. 'The sell-out of Catholicism to Hitler began not with the people but with the Vatican itself,' he writes....

"Senator Obama has repudiated the endorsement of Louis Farrakhan, another bigot. McCain should follow suit and retract his embrace of Hagee."
And, talking to Greenwald, Donohue has this to add:
Why were they so exercised about Bob Jones? This is worse. . . . If someone said to me: who is the biggest anti-Catholic bigot in the evangelical community, I would say: hands down, John Hagee.
Let's be clear: Donohue is a thug--a loathsome, bigoted outrage pimp1 whose agenda is the suppression of any viewpoint not consistent with his Catholic ultra-conservatism. (Remember when he got Melissa and Amanda fired?) This here is a blind squirrel/nut-type interaction, the rare case where Donohue is outraged about genuine anti-Catholicism, but it doesn't legitimize anything else he's done.

At the same time, having seen the Catholic League act as a de facto Republican operative, I'm amused to see him turn against his former masters. Some bloggers have expressed skepticism that this will be widely reported; I think Donohue has the power to make it news.

And as SteveM points out, Hagee isn't just McCain's problem--he's a problem for the GOP as a whole, embraced by all the leading Republicans (and faux Democrats). And the Hagee problem illustrates the much broader dilemma faced by the GOP: when you build a coalition from varieties of religious intolerance, you can't be surprised when the various intolerances are intolerant of each other.

1Paperwight coined the phrase

Friday Random Ten

Sonics - Good Golly, Miss Molly
Johnny & the Hurricanes - Molly-O
Ramones - She Talks to Rainbows
Dave Alvin - As She Slowly Turns to Leave
James Marsters - Rest in Peace
Ultravox - Rockwrok - Three Cool Chicks
Sleater-Kinney - Entertain
New Order - Everything's Gone Green
Shriekback - Accretions

This week, you get to improve your list by choosing 1-3 songs from the list immediately before your own and subbing them in for the songs you consider your weakest. (Once the last list is posted, I'll do the same with mine.)

Thursday, February 28, 2008


Judith Schaechter, 2001; at the De Young Museum.

Quote of the Day

George F. Will, of all people:

Although [McCain's] campaign is run by lobbyists; and although his dealings with lobbyists have generated what he, when judging the behavior of others, calls corrupt appearances; and although he has profited from his manipulation of the taxpayer-funding system that is celebrated by reformers -- still, he probably is innocent of insincerity. Such is his towering moral vanity, he seems sincerely to consider it theoretically impossible for him to commit the offenses of appearances that he incessantly ascribes to others.
The rest of it is actually worth reading. Will comes at it from the opposite of my own perspective, but he's dead-on about McCain's arrogant disregard for any standards that might apply to himself.

Well, I guess We are the Change We've Been Waiting For

I'm a huge fan of the blog Needlenose and Swopa, who writes over there, has a fabulous piece on the new Obama aggressive tone towards McCain and towards Bush. Swopa's been writing some of the most prescient political commentary out there for a long time, hammering away at issues and themes that underlie particular political moves. Our own SteveM has been beating up the same muse from the depressed, dark side for a long time now. His own recent posts are all over the ongoing struggle of Democrats to define themselves as more than the party of febrile elites. Swopa My favorite observation from the essay, which you should read, is this

That's part of why Obama's reply to John McCain on Iraq yesterday was so bracing:
"I said, well I would always reserve the right to go in and strike against al Qaeda if they were in Iraq," Obama said. "So, you know, this is how politics works. McCain thought that he could make a clever point by saying, 'Well, let me give you some news Barack, al Qaeda IS in Iraq,' like I wasn't reading the papers. Like I didn't know what was going on."

. . ."But I have some news for John McCain," Obama said, "and that was that there's no such thing as al Qaeda in Iraq until George Bush and John McCain decided to invade Iraq!"

. . . "So John McCain may like to say he wants to follow Osama bin Laden to the gates of Hell," Obama said, "but so far all he's done is follow George Bush into a misguided war in Iraq that's cost us thousands of lives and billions of dollars."
What Obama is doing here isn't just responding to the factual specifics of McCain's gibe -- he's portraying himself as the ordinary, common-sense guy dealing with reality, and McCain as a foolish, out-of-touch phony who's only concerned with politics.

For those of us who've been worried about Barack's readiness to deal with the GOP sludge machine, it's a good sign.

Update: So is this bit of framing goodness from Team Obama, responding to Dubya's press conference today:
With their words today, George Bush and John McCain called for staying the course with an endless war in Iraq and a failed policy of not talking to leaders we don’t like, but Americans of all political persuasions are calling for change. The American people aren’t looking for tough talk about fighting for 100 years in Iraq, because they know we need to end this war, finish the job in Afghanistan, and take the fight to al Qaeda. The American people aren’t looking for more of a do-nothing Cuba policy that has failed to secure the release of dissidents, failed to bring democracy to the island, and failed to advance freedom for fifty years, because they know we need to pursue new opportunities to achieve liberty for the Cuban people.
Notice how the statement intentionally links "tough talk" with failure, and puts Obama on the side of the American people in wanting policies that get results instead?

A couple of months ago, I mentioned that for almost three years now, I've been "writing about the basic distinction of bluster versus responsibility and the need to consciously rehabilitate and reclaim common sense as an approach for addressing policy issues, especially with regard to national security. . . . We need to start asserting the value of thinking about what works, not just what sounds like the most macho response." It's great that Obama and his brain trust appear to get this.

Edited to add that Swopa's post seems to be in large part linked to, and borrowed from Firedoglake

but the multiple typefaces and indents made this hard to tell. Sorry for the confusion.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Memphis, Egypt

I couldn't find the song from which I stole this post title, but here's another great Mekons tune instead.

Goodbye to all that Nil Nisi Bonum

So William F. Buckley is dead? From LGM to Firedoglake to Rick Perlstein's obit the praise is raining down for a guy who was a sharp dresser, sharp talker, sharp thinker and, ultimately not so personally awful as his awful politics would imply. There's a long tradition of forgiving people their sins after they are dead, and an even longer one of looking and old farts as though they were kinda cute long after they've lost their bark or their mission has been converted from scary reality to old timey nostalgia. Hell, even Nixon looks good to me these days, thinking about what has come after. I'm not in a position to say whether Mr. Buckley was a really nice old gent or not, Nil Nisi Bonum and all that, but really, can anyone figure out what on earth Perlstein means by this silly paragraph?

First came a very nice column. He called me "an ardent enthusiast for the America Left." Damn straight. Then he sought out my friendship. "I reproach myself"—I'll never forget that impeccable Buckleyite locution—for not reading the book earlier, he wrote in a personal letter. What a deeply sensitive, humane thing to say to a 31-year-old first-time author: an apology for not affording him his immediate attention. Then came a very nice column. The passage from my book he reproduced quoted a "liberal" reporter on Goldwater: "What could such a nice guy think that way?"

Why did I love WFB? Because he never would have asked such a silly question. The game of politics is to win over American institutions to our way of seeing things using whatever coalition, necessarily temporary, that we can muster to win our majority, however contingent—and if we lose, and we are again in the minority, live to fight another day, even ruthlessly, while respecting our adversaries' legitimacy to govern in the meantime, while never pulling back in offering our strong opinions about their failures, in the meantime. This was Buckleyism—even more so than any particular doctrines about "conservatism."

The intensity of the right's fight for its own priviliges over and above that of ethnic minorities, religious minorities, atheists, queers, women, etc...etc...etc... isn't, to me, rendered acceptable because Buckley was personally nice to Perlstein or in private and public communications, in some sense "respected [his] adversaries' legitimacy to govern in the meantime." I'm not sure what that means, actually--when did Buckley renounce the mourning for segregation and white rule that, ultimately, never recognizes its "adversaries'...legitimacy?"


History Has a Stutter; It Says, "W-w-w-watch Out!"

Paul Kramer has a fascinating article in the New Yorker about the last debate over torture--100 years ago, when American troops were fighting to suppress an insurgency in the Philippines. The lede:

Many Americans were puzzled by the news, in 1902, that United States soldiers were torturing Filipinos with water. The United States, throughout its emergence as a world power, had spoken the language of liberation, rescue, and freedom.
Of course it was worse than anyone knew; of course denial, rationalization, and cover-up were the order of the day. Tell me if this sounds familiar:
Confronted with the facts...Administration officials, military officers, and pro-war journalists launched a vigorous campaign in defense of the Army and the war. Their arguments were passionate and wide-ranging, and sometimes contradictory. Some simply attacked the war’s critics, those who sought political advantage by crying out that “our soldiers are barbarous savages,” as one major general put it. Some contended that atrocities were the exclusive province of the Macabebe Scouts, collaborationist Filipino troops over whom, it was alleged, U.S. officers had little control. Some denied, on racial grounds, that Filipinos were owed the “protective” limits of “civilized warfare.” When, during the committee hearings, Senator Joseph Rawlins had asked General Robert Hughes whether the burning of Filipino homes by advancing U.S. troops was “within the ordinary rules of civilized warfare,” Hughes had replied succinctly, “These people are not civilized.” More generally, some people, while conceding that American soldiers had engaged in “cruelties,” insisted that the behavior reflected the barbaric sensibilities of the Filipinos.
Same as it ever was.

The article is currently available online; by all means, go read the whole thing.

Update: Thanks for the link, Melissa! First-time visitors from Shakesville, take some time to look around--we've got a smart bunch of contributors and a lot of great posts, and on the whole we're fairly hospitable.

The Russian Bride Attires

The Russian Bride's Attire
Konstantin Makovsky, 1889; at the Legion of Honor. This is one of my favorite paintings at the Legion.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

I'm sorry I was late to the party, but I'm a satisfied Obama Voter Now.

This has me really excited. Despite my last posts on HRC I finally went over to the dark side a week or so ago after one more hideously stupid attack by HRC on Obama--it was before the plagiarism accusation, but really, at this point, all the ways she's chosen to take him on have been so hurtful to the party as a whole that I couldn't forgive her any longer. So I've thrown my heart over, as they say of show jumping, and I'm going for Obama in a big way. This recent post over at Kos about Obama's ground game in Texas is hugely exciting to me, as a political person. There is nothing better for us as a country, or as a party, than getting people excited enough to come out to vote. Because when they come out to vote, they will also come out to fight, to organize, to get stuff done that needs doing. The passive style of political consumerism--waiting around for the candidate who you think is the "nicest" or "seems ok" or voting to spite the country with third party losers is death for every level of political action in a democracy. And from reading these accounts of Obama in Texas you get the sense that he grasps this, and so do his volunteers. Here's to exciting meetings, lots of phone calls, and long and active lists of intrested voters.


I Write From an Unnammable Destination

You may have wondered where I was. I did too. I was in that soul shriveling portion of the slab 'o beef we call the U.S.A. that looks either like a tit that 's been in a wringer or a shriveled bull's pizzle. Take your pick. I'll wait while you swallow your gorge. Yes, I was visiting Mr. Aimai's parents in noplace beach florida. I've lived in a lot of places--Cambridge, New Haven, Kathmandu, Eastern Nepal, Chicago, Amherst, and Berkeley and of all those places Florida is the only one that forces me to ejaculate, like a corpse's death rattle what in g-d's name is life for? Every year around this time I go from gritting my teeth and murmering "I'm sure it will be nice to be someplace warm" to shrinking back in horror and crying out "what *is* this place? who thought this would be a good idea?" as we career from one strip mall to another, past serried ranks of palm trees and high walls segregating acres of old folks from the street and from anyone not in their demographic.

We are on the annual pilgrimage known as "the kids are here" week in the old people ranch known as Florida. It can have its risible moments--my daughters are young and cute and we often experience gratifying moments of drive by grandma'ing such as yesterday's incident in the line at a huge superstore. I'm standing next to the younger one who is self dressed to the nines in a cherry sundress with matching hat. Elderly woman brushes past us without making eye contact and, without breaking stride or even opening her lips, shoots out under her breath "she's so cute! look at that outfit! she's adorable!" and then, like a top spy making a hidden drop, she's past us and on to the next such non interaction.
I, of course, am engaged in the classic life and death struggle with grandma mr. aimai over pretty much everything. I won't get into that. At least we agree politically. Because we are at daggers drawing over everything else. This is truly the land of the undead, or the waiting room for the soon to be dead. There are lots of great reasons people retire down here--low cost of living, lots of friends and similarly situated elders that you can take classes with, go to ballet performances with, and generally enjoy yourself with. I get that, I do. But why does it have to take place in these utterly souless, endlessly iterated, bungalows in this faux countryside? Florida, if you haven't been there, has almost no public space and certainly no walking space. In keeping with this, all social interactions are manufactured ones. Desperate to entertain the kiddies we took them to *see chocolate being poured into molds* at a chocolate factory. Then to "pick strawberries" at a place so ersatz that you park in a strip mall and walk through the door of a tiny shop full of expensive stuff and out the back to a strawberry picking theme park in which the strawberries cascade down five foot high planters and you "pick" them with teeny tiny clippers. The faux quality suits my MIL down to the ground. Having picked five pounds of unripe berries she is so terrified of fresh produce that she leaves them out to rot for two days thinking they will ripen. "Well," she says, when she discovers her mistake "at least we won't be put to the pain of making jam with them." "Or the pleasure" my youngest shoots back, having grasped something her grandmother has not which is that doing things is more fun than not doing things.

My in laws have chosen, from among a limited set of choices, the life of the alterkocker in a car driving from one mid priced chain restaurant to another (the food is terrible, but they give you a free salad!) and from one over air conditioned space to another. Outside is a carefully pruned landscape stripped of flowers and beauty (because the HOA won't approve individual gardens) and too hot for ordinary northerners to stand. Inside is an endless, sere, identical set of plastic interiors chilled until the mold and bugs of the exterior have been driven out. Contact with others is kept to a minimum. Contact with real life, too--we eat off paper plates the entire time we are there so that clean up consists of throwing things out. The horror of this waiting room for hell really can't be overstated. I retreated to my room to check the internets and discovered that the whole issue of suburban purgatory was being thrashed out over at Alicublog where Roy likes to pretend he's merely snarking but his commenters bring da noise with furious insights into things like the geography of nowhere and fear of the other.

Nader: The Other Republican

What else can you call a candidate funded by Republicans, who said he would rather see Bush win in 2000? Let's not mince words here: Nader is just another Republican scumbag.

And here's a reality check for all the potential Nader voters out there: the next president is going to be either the Democratic nominee or John McCain. Period. If you don't vote for the Democratic nominee, you're helping McCain win. Voting for Nader or any other third party is contemptible cowardice, a way to pretend you aren't responsible for the damage you're helping to cause. If you're determined to help McCain win by voting for a third party, at least have the courage of your convictions and vote for McCain.

Grow the fuck up and accept responsibility for your choices.

Monday, February 25, 2008

It's Hard Out There for a Woman-Hating Racist

Now that the Democratic nominee is definitely going to be either female or African-American, the party that whose stock-in-trade has been racism and misogyny is afraid they're going to get called on their shit:

Top Republican strategists are working on plans to protect the GOP from charges of racism or sexism in the general election, as they prepare for a presidential campaign against the first ever African-American or female Democratic nominee.

The Republican National Committee has commissioned polling and focus groups to determine the boundaries of attacking a minority or female candidate, according to people involved. The secretive effort underscores the enormous risk senior GOP operatives see for a party often criticized for its insensitivity to minorities in campaigns dating back to the 1960s. [emphasis added]
Translation: they're going to run coded racist/misogynist messages past focus groups to see which ones do the job without being identified as racist or misogynist.

Oh, and "criticized for their back to the 1960s"? That would be because the 1960s is when the Republican party made the conscious decision to openly embrace racism as a means of winning the South from the Democrats--a strategy they have employed mostly successfully ever since.

Gee, it's just awful that now they're afraid it might backfire on them. My heart fucking bleeds for the poor motherfuckers.

(Hat tip: John Cole)

And a Pony Unicorn...

And a Pony
Cheesy Photo Posted While Tom is Sick and Distracted

Monday Movie Review: No Country For Old Men

No Country for Old Men (2007) 10/10
While out hunting, Llewellyn Moss (Josh Brolin) finds the remains of an ugly drug war; dead bodies, a whole mess of bullets, and a truck full of heroin, as well as a survivor begging for water (which Moss doesn't have). A little ways away from the scene, he finds one last body with a satchel full of money. Later that night, he decides to have mercy on the survivor, but when he returns with water he is seen. Now he's running from the killer (Javier Bardem) who is after the money, while the local sheriff (Tommy Lee Jones) wants the killer and wants to bring Moss in before he gets himself killed. Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen.

I've seen numerous plot synopses of this film, and skimmed quite a few reviews (I don't read them closely until after I've seen a film; I'm allergic to spoilers). All of them tell this short tale, of Moss finding the money, going back with the water, and getting identified. It makes him sound like a bumbling fool. Certainly the Coen brothers love bumbling fools in their movies, and the thought of a Steve Buscemi or Billy Bob Thornton being relentlessly pursued by a killer didn't appeal to me. But what no one seems to mention is that Llewellyn Moss is smart. His only big mistake is the water, and he knows it's stupid and says so, but how can he leave a man to suffer like that? Moss is a hard man, but a good one. He knows early on that his wife has to be protected from the risk he's taking, and takes the right steps to do so. He stays one step ahead of deadly and terrifying Anton Chigurh (Bardem) for most of the film. You end up, not just siding with him, but admiring him.

This is the Coen brothers most mature film. They don't sidetrack themselves with amusement. There's no mockery or over-done irony. In most of their films, there are characters that we enjoy mostly because they're dumb, or ignorant, or buffoons. But there's no one to laugh at in No Country for Old Men. You can fear Chigurh, who shows a face of evil so pure, so horrific, that it may never be matched elsewhere. You can care about Moss and his wife, feel for Sheriff Bell (Jones), but you respect them all. And while the movie is exquisitely filmed, there's none of the showy, slightly-distorted stylization that is there just to prove to you that the Coens have made their mark.

This sounds terribly critical of the Coen brothers' past work, and I don't mean it to be. I have loved most of their films, hated one, disliked a couple. But this movie stands apart from the rest. Like I said, mature. There's something about it, like the movie itself is so strong that there's no need to dress it up.

As a tense and brutal adventure, it cannot be beat. Moss runs and Chigurh follows. Sheriff Bell follows both, and then there's the guys whose money it is, off in some unnamed city, trying to pull strings. Meanwhile, we are continually asked what it all means. Chigurh tells us early on that it's all random and meaningless. Randomness is the only thing he respects, and he is willing to spare or take a life on the toss of a coin. People pleading for their lives doesn't matter to him; pleas are empty. But the flip of the coin...somehow, that's not empty. How disturbing! Bell, meanwhile, wants desperately to find meaning. He arrests killers—how can he live with a world in which such empty souls exist? It's all getting darker, and he wants it to mean something. Moss takes no position; he wants to be smart and he wants the money. He loves his wife and he sees a way of making a better life for her. That's enough.

A lot of people who've seen the movie dislike the ending, which contemplates these themes. But this isn't The Man Who Wasn't There, in which the unwelcome ending was essentially from a different movie. Instead, it addresses themes that have been clear in the movie from the beginning; literally from the opening narration. I could maybe knock a point off because it definitely slows down; there's an almost Return of the King determination to wrap everything up. But 9/10 might tell you that I think it wasn't brilliant. And I think it was brilliant. I only saw two of the five Best Picture nominees this year (the other was Juno) but I feel confident that this win was deserved.

(No Cross-post for Old Men)

Random Flickr-Blogging: img_3206

Random Flickr-blogging explained.

Click on the images to see this week's entries, from:

Anthony Cartouche at Yazoo Street Scandal

Pat J at Dear Diary

Ben Varkentine at Dictionopolis in Digitopolis

George at I'm Not One To Blog, But...

shiltone at The King's Stilts


"Who Will Tell Hillary?" is the headline of concern-troll (and actual troll) Robert Novak's column in this morning's Washington Post. And here is the photo currently accompanying that headline on the Post's online Opinion page (with my caption):

Hitlery Clinton

Apparently it's time to eat the cyanide and shoot yourself, Hill, so we can drag you out back of the bunker and incinerate your remains. Oh, and Bill too, of course.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

WingNutDaily Settles Libel Suit

Dear Husband came home from a trip to the in-laws with a copy of the Savannah (TN) Courier from February 21, detailing WorldNetDaily's settlement of a $165 million libel suit filed by Savannah businessman Clark Jones. Jones is a prominent Democrat who raised funds for Al Gore during the 2000 presidential campaign. WND, without, apparently, bothering to seek confirmation, published articles accusing Mr. Jones of all manner of non-existent criminal connections and then bragged that its mendacious accounts helped to defeat Gore. The Courier article is not online, but WND's apology is:

"A lawsuit for libel, defamation, false light and conspiracy was filed by Clark Jones of Savannah, Tennessee against, Tony Hays and Charles H. Thompson II arising out of a press release issued by on September 18, 2000, and articles dated September 20, October 8, November 24 and December 5, 2000, written by Tony Hays and Charles H. Thompson, II, posted on's website.

"The original news release by of September 18, 2000, and the article by Hays and Thompson of September 20, 2000, contained statements attributed to named sources, which statements cast Clark Jones in a light which, if untrue, defamed him by asserting that the named persons said that he had interfered with a criminal investigation, had been a 'subject' of a criminal investigation, was listed on law enforcement computers as a 'dope dealer,' and implied that he had ties to others involved in alleged criminal activity. These statements were repeated in the subsequently written articles and funds solicitations posted on's website. Clark Jones emphatically denied the truth of these statements, denied any criminal activity and called upon the publisher and authors to retract them.

"Discovery has revealed to that no witness verifies the truth of what the witnesses are reported by authors to have stated. Additionally, no document has been discovered that provides any verification that the statements written were true.

"Factual discovery in the litigation and response from Freedom of Information Act requests to law enforcement agencies confirm Clark Jones' assertion that his name has never been on law enforcement computers, that he has not been the subject of any criminal investigation nor has he interfered with any investigation as stated in the articles. Discovery has also revealed that the sources named in the publications have stated under oath that statements attributed to them in the articles were either not made by them, were misquoted by the authors, were misconstrued, or the statements were taken out of context.

" and its editors never intended any harm to Clark Jones and regret whatever harm occurred. has no verified information by which to question Mr. Jones' honesty and integrity, and having met him, has no claim or reason to question his honesty and integrity. wishes him well."

Well, isn't that special? As part of the settlement agreement, the amount of the financial award was not released, but Mr. Jones says he is "very, very pleased with the end result." I hope he took them for millions. The apology, such as it is, is no longer on the WND front page, and I had to look pretty hard to find it. When I searched the site for "Clark Jones", I found the apology -- and links to all the libelous articles, which remain on the site. A check of a few of them shows that the apology has been appended at the bottom, as inconspicuously as possible. I guess the publishers are hoping their readers won't notice the egg all over their faces.

Sunday Sierrablogging

Lake 10200 Morning
Ward Mountain above Lake 10,200, LeConte Divide, John Muir Wilderness.

War Springs Eternal

Shorter Anthony H. Cordesman: "The F.U. paradigm is unsustainable. I therefore pronounce these 'long wars.'"

Saturday, February 23, 2008

They Can't All Be Scott Beauchamp

So in Thursday night's debate, Obama told an anecdote about an army captain in Afghanistan whose platoon was under-staffed and under-equipped because of the Iraq diversion. Predictably, the shrieking monkeys of the right went into full attack mode; not surprisingly, the story checked out.

That, of course, didn't stop the wingnut frenzy. The Weekly Standard, whose credulity is boundless when it comes to justifications for war, had no fewer than four--count 'em, four--posts trying to cast doubt on the story (three of them posted after Tapper substantiated it). Bush's Pentagon even tried to give them a boost.

So how did that work out for them? Well, here's a portrait of a failed outrage orgy: Memeorandum at 10:15 pm last night, and again 12 hours later. Not long after the latter, the story fell off the page altogether; despite the wingnuts' best efforts, their non-story about supposed fabrications by Obama pretty much vanished.

McCain's genuine, well-documented fabrications...not so much. So much for changing the subject.

Pink and Pinker

Cherry Tree
The cherry trees are in full bloom, right on schedule--in the bleakest part of winter, the one bit of hope that it won't be endless. Meanwhile, there's another big storm due in today.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Both and Neither

I want to highlight a passage from the David Brooks column that Ahab was snarking on today--a passage in which Brooks inches a little further toward the truth about St. McCain:

McCain is, on one level, a figure of the Washington mainstream. He admires Alan Greenspan and Henry Kissinger....

But McCain is also a renegade and a romantic. He loves tilting at the establishment and shaking things up. He loves books and movies in which the hero dies at the end while serving a noble, if lost, cause. He loves the insurgent/band-of-brothers ethos....
That seems right as far as it goes; McCain is a floor wax and a dessert topping, an establishment politician and a sentimentalist.

But that's far too generous. It's not just that he's an establishment politician; it's that he's lousy at it. He's an establishment politician with no interest in policy (say what you will about Greenspan and Kissinger; they were both detail guys) and few legislative achievements, an insider with nary a clue about coalition building and a habit of pissing off colleagues.

And of course he's a lousy sentimentalist, a sentimentalist who lacks the courage of his sentimentality, whose renegade persona is all show and no follow-through.

He's both and neither, the worst of both worlds--a floor wax that doesn't wax floors, and a dessert topping that isn't sweet.

Some People Think Little Girls Should Be Seen and Not Heard

Poly Styrene begs to differ.

(For Mr. Particular, who is unfamiliar with this punk feminist classic.)

Friday Random Ten

Stage Men - Fall Out
Dead Moon - Killing Me
Wanda Jackson - There's a Party Goin' On
Larry Holloway - Going Up
X-Ray Spex - Oh Bondage Up Yours
Eno - Dead Finks Don't Talk
Thin White Rope - Tina & Glen
Michael Cox - Mata Hari - Bomb the Twist
Talking Heads - New Feeling

Fighting a bad cold today; can't think of a good question.

Devil Made Him Do It

Shorter David Brooks: "I blame John McCain's staff."

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Literalizing the Metaphor

Todays Times reports that besides being in bed with lobbyists, McCain was apparently in bed with a lobbyist. Except they don't quite come out and say that.

Josh Marshall notes how the story was neutered:

We know that the McCain Camp went to the mattresses to get this story spiked back in December. And some heavy legal muscle was apparently brought to bear. When a story has to go through that much lawyering it often comes out pretty stilted and with some obvious lacunae....The reference to a possible affair is there in the lede. But then most of the piece is a rehash of a lot of older material....In terms of a relationship between the two, the Times piece seems quite hedged.
And it's exactly that hedging that allows Captain Ed to say "the most impressive aspect of the smear is just how baseless it is". I imagine most of the wingnuts, having demonized the Times for the last quarter century, will have the same reaction. If people in general see it as a non-story, McCain's lawyers will have accomplished a spectacular feat of damage control.

If they don't, however--if the story lasts more than a few news cycles, if more details come out, if we get information that directly contradicts McCain's semi-non-denial denial--then it could be devastating, because it goes directly to McCain's straight-talking reformer image. Anything that gets the phrase 'Keating Five' back in the news can't be a good thing for McCain.

In which case, if I were a Republican I would be mightily pissed at McCain's people for delaying the story. If it had run in December, it could have sunk McCain; now, it has the potential to damage the party. We know how many Republicans really don't like McCain. This is a guy who is winning his party's nomination on the strength of a series of 25-30% 'wins' early on--wins he got only because Huckabee was busy knocking out McCain's best-funded rival. If this thing has legs, it could be the Republicans who wind up choosing their nominee at the convention.

Now that's entertainment.

The Three Shades

The Three Shades
Shadow of a Rodin sculpture at the Legion of Honor.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Does Experience Matter?

One thing I've seen a lot of Democrats fretting about in facing McCain is the question of 'experience'. The concern is usually applied to Obama, but if is a factor it'll be a line of attack against Clinton as well; McCain's 'experience' dwarfs that of both Democrats.

But is it a factor?

In 2004, 1996, and 1984 the incumbents beat challengers with more experience. Okay; incumbency is a huge advantage in its own right, so that doesn't tell us much.

In 2000, with no incumbent running, the guy with less experience won...with fewer votes. In 1988, with no incumbent running, the guy with more experience won handily.

In 1992, 1980, and 1976, the less-experienced candidate beat the incumbent.

All of which means...what? Well, that's exactly the point. I don't think there's any support in recent history for the idea that objectively measurable 'experience' is a significant factor one way or the other in presidential elections.

Whoever gets the nomination will be savagely attacked in all kinds of ways, including on a lack of 'experience', and some of those attacks will be effective. I just doubt very much that 'experience' will be one of the effective ones.

Coal Town

On the Susquehanna River

McCain Is the Enemy

Josh Marshall:

Whoever wins the Democratic nomination, it seems clear that that victory won't be celebrated any time soon. The writing could be on the wall on March 5th. But even if that's the case, the race seems unlikely to be settled for some time after that. And there's of course the possibility, though I think it's not likely, that the fight could go all the way to the convention.

And during that time, who takes on John McCain? McCain is already making a number of position changes that are getting little or no media attention. He's caught up in some very questionable campaign finance gambits. And he's launching daily and fairly harsh attacks on Barack Obama, as he's wise to do as long as the Democrats are distracted by their own primary fight.

Someone at the DNC, or other party organization should be putting together a campaign apparatus in waiting that will take on the Republican nominee until a clear Democratic winner can take over. But at the moment I'm not seeing any sign of it.
In the absence of any official DNC effort, the answer to "who takes on John McCain?" has to be us. This is what the blogosphere is for, folks. If we're a laboratory for memes, the memes we really need to be testing are the ones that could keep McCain out of the White House.

So far, we--well, a lot of us--have been falling down on the job.

Many of the bigger, more politically obsessive blogs and blog communities have been focused almost exclusively on the primaries. TalkLeft is the worst I've seen--13 of the 15 most recent posts were about the primaries, as of my last visit--but a lot of others are not much better. All over the lefty blogosphere, people seem to be more concerned about the minor difference between Obama and Clinton than about the vast catastrophe it'll be if we let McCain win. As Susie Madrak says: "If you put 100 Republicans who only agree on one thing in a room, they’ll come out of that room working together to win and focused on that one thing. If you put 100 Democrats in a room who agree on 99 things and not on one, they'll come out of that room fighting about the one thing they disagree on."

Not that there aren't people doing good work on the McCain front. As I've noted, Matt Stoller has done great work on McCain's flip-flopping; Paul Kiel and Mark Schmitt are all over McCain's sleazy campaign financing scheme; and of course we've done some posts here (Aimai here, myself here and here, plus assorted other pieces going back a ways). It's just that there isn't enough of it. We need to hammer the shit out of John Motherfucking McCain, and we need to do it now.

The primaries? They don't matter. One candidate may be a little better than the other from some perspective, but the differences aren't huge. One might do better than the other in the general, but CDS doesn't make Clinton 'unelectable' and losing California in the primary doesn't mean Obama won't win it in the fall. It's just not that big a deal.

What does matter is keeping Captain McQueeg1 from taking us all for a ride on the Straitjacket Express2. How about we focus on that for the next 8 months or so?

Update: Spackerman's blistering attack on McCain's foreign policy is another good one. More like this, please.

Other Update: Melissa, who has been doing great work tracking McCain all along, has a helpful round-up of every McCain an hilarious video.

1Thank you, maxbaer(not the original).
2Thank you, Generik.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Tuesday Trivia

I'm filling in for Deborah on the trivia quiz this week; go play.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Random Flickr Blogging: img_1226

Random Flickr-blogging explained.

Click on the images to see this week's entries, from:

Anthony Cartouche at Yazoo Street Scandal

Generik at The Generik Brand

dday at d-day

shiltone at The King's Stilts

George at I'm Not One To Blog, But...

Ben Varkentine at Dictionopolis in Digitopolis

Dead Beat Dad Borrows Kid's College Fund to bet "sure thing" long-shot.

In "Betting the Spread" Mark Schmitt takes a stab at explaining just how deeply McCain has screwed the American Taxpayer and his status as an ethical human being in order to finance his campaign. Essentially, he has bet the use of public monies he has not officially accepted so that he can leverage private loans to run his campaign. If he loses, he promises to stay in the race long enough to take public money to pay off his debt to his private lenders. If he wins he bets that he will receive enough private money to pay off his lenders and, ultimately, refuse the public money so that he can receive more money as a corporate shill. So he's used the public financing system as collateral in a private loan scheme--or, more accurately, he has robbed the pennies of jane and john taxpayer so that if he looks like a good bet the Olins and Pews and Scaife's can pour money into a sure thing.

The problem for people who don't love a "straight shooting" maverick is that the whole thing is just too complicated and runs too far counter the McCain legend to make a dent in the myth, let alone the campaign on the man. This is the place that the long term work of bloggers on coming up with new ways to understand the GOP would come in handy. I'm thinking of all the work done on notions of "credit card conservatives" and "dead beat dads" that populated blog discussions during the last election cycle. Unfortunately for the left there simply is no orchestrated "iron triangle" to put these ideas into play. Even as we see all around us evidence of just how this teetering pile of loans and self dealing ultimately results in economic and moral bankruptcy.

My first pass at a way to use this against McCain is to hammer away at a "Campaign Finance Reformer" whose own campaign finances are so leveraged they are impossible for the average american to understand or would be illegal if the average american tried them. But I don't really think it can be done unless the dems can figure out a short form strategy and blast fax and blast cocktail party circuit the story in such a way that lazy media pundits run with it. There's no sex in the story, and to the extent that it mirrors the grim story of overextension and bankruptcy that is bedevilling the economy as a whole no one wants to hear about it.


Monday Movie Review: The Silence of the Lambs

The Silence of the Lambs (1991) 10/10
FBI trainee Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) interviews Dr. Hannibal Lecter—"Hannibal the Cannibal" (Anthony Hopkins)—a psychiatrist who is one of the most dangerous incarcerated serial killers. Starling's supervisor/mentor (Scott Glenn) believes that Lecter can help find another serial killer known as Buffalo Bill (Ted Levine) who skins his victims. Directed by Jonathan Demme.

As the final credits for The Silence of the Lambs roll, a character walks through a crowd. We are interested in watching him, but he walks away from us, off into the distance as the crane shot recedes. The credits obscure the scene, and when they briefly clear, he is gone. We cannot find him, our fear has disappeared into an ordinary, pretty street scene. The fear remains within.

Maybe everyone has already seen this movie, and there is no point in avoiding spoilers. Indeed, the movie is excellent, and watchable, and terrifying, even when thoroughly and completely spoiled. Yet out of respect for its genius, I think I'll leave its mysteries intact.

Only three movies in history have swept the Oscars' four major categories: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, and Best Actor. In 1934 it was It Happened One Night, in 1975 it was One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and in 1991 it was Silence of the Lambs. (All three also won Best Adapated Screenplay.) As it happens, I adore It Happened One Night and Cuckoo's Nest. I'd seen Silence of the Lambs once before, but it was censored and cut up, and it hadn't impressed me. I was determined to give it another go, and TCM's recent uncut showing gave me the opportunity. So here I am, reviewing a movie everyone's already seen. Go know.

People say "they don't make 'em like that anymore" with alarming disregard to what is and is not being made nowadays, or what was made in the past. Yet in regard to Silence of the Lambs, I have to say it's probably true. They stopped making horror movies that scared by making you imagine, and not see, shortly after Psycho. Silence of the Lambs is about what we don't see. It is the taut, tightly constrained body of Hannibal Lecter, who is sometimes straight-jacketed and muzzled, but always looks like he is even when his limbs are free. It is the expressive stare of Clarice Starling, who flinches even while not allowing herself to flinch. It is the derangement of Buffalo Bill, whom we barely ever see clearly at all; he is almost always in the side of a shot, or bent over so his face is obscured, or seen in so tight a close-up that his features are distorted, so that the one clear shot of him, bizarre, vulgar, intimately revealing, is actually more shocking, than the autopsy or the head in a jar.

The filming is deceptive in its apparent straightforwardness. Opening at the Quantico, Virginia FBI training facility, it has the grainy look of a made-for-TV movie. But look again. Starling works her ass off on the training course, and then diverges, leaving it incomplete. She runs inside, a small, slight woman, while a group of larger men runs in the opposite direction. And that's Clarice: Smaller, running in the opposite direction, off-course, tough but out of breath. At the end of the movie, she'll be in the same position; off-course, out of breath, relying on incomplete training while her compatriots move in the opposite direction. Jonathan Demme clearly studied his Hitchcock; symmetrical film-making of that sort is the kind of thing you learn from the master.

Much has been made of the chilling intimacy of the relationship between Clarice and Hannibal. He is the dark side of the mentoring relationship she seeks with Jack Crawford (Glenn). As she reveals her childhood losses, one can see why reaching towards mentors is appealing to her. And with Lecter, there's also the sheer joy of winning; anything he reveals to her hasn't been revealed to anyone else. She's infinitely special and can reflect this success back to her real mentor.

There is also a feminist undercurrent to the film. Starling is a little bird, preyed upon everywhere by larger men. She is a surrogate for the female victims of Buffalo Bill, who likes large women whom he makes helpless. Instead she is a small woman who can fight back. She can connect to Lecter even though he terrifies her, because he is just the worst possible version of every man who surrounds her, looks down on her, judges her, and tries to victimize her. Like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, she's the poor sexy little girl running away, who turns around and kicks ass.

(Cross-post of the Lambs)

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Can't Resist These Sock Puppets

Incredible film of two sock puppets discussing work and working conditions in the modern, white collar, "neoliberal" market. Its really funny to watch these Sock Puppets discuss Marx, Foucault, and everything in between. ( h/t Crooked Timber who linked to the original posting over at a marvellous site called Wicked Anomie.)

Its really worth watching because some issues we've been talking around politically (about how much any politically active individual can recognize their own agency, or lack of it, in a political contest) come up in the context of the sock puppets discussion of labor and work in the modern world. What struck me most was the sock puppet's explanation of the necessity for the creation of internal controls like anxiety, fear, and guilt in the modern white collar worker to take the place of brute force oppression in the regular factory worker. In a democracy we can see this issue being played out in this election with people encouraged to imagine themselves "freely choosing" among a variety of competing candidates offering them a smorgasbrod of policy choices. But are they really "freely choosing?" when the candiates and the issues and the coverage have been constrained and limited by authorities and powers beyond the control, or even the ken, of the individual voter? As Incontinentia Buttocks pointed out over at LGM the battle between Obama and HRC is, in reality, largely a battle over minute and even trivial differences in the delivery of the same product (she calls it the "narcissism of small differences"). And even where there are actual policy differences for voters to choose among they are encouraged or deluded into regarding the political/policy battle as being one of taste. Even worse, they are misled entirely as to the nature of the choices before them--see e.g. Kristof's skin crawlingly meretricious but utterly standard paen to McCain's honesty in today's Times.

Where this hits me is actually somewhere different--in my role as a parent. Anyone out there raising young children to be part of the ideas creating and marketing middle and upper classes will slowly come to recognize, in the sock puppet's discussion of labor and capitol some very interesting similiarities between child rearing and worker castration. The "ownership society" relies heavily on creating an anxious, frightened, submissive, self repressive "owner" who willingly and even eagerly performs his function as a cog in a machine that offers him (or her) the mere right to compete with other owners for basic necessities. That training starts very, very, young and much to my chagrin I recognize that I play an important part in it. Too gloomy for you? Watch the vid and laugh...and then cry.

Bunker Buster

And this time it's not (just) of the Archie and Edith variety.

The Protect America Act lapsed last night at midnight. Following a couple of press release-style posts (which basically regurgitated the political spin of McConnell and Bush) on that topic yesterday, it's now going on 18 hours since anyone at all has been heard from over at NRO's The Corner, a period of restraint and thoughtfulness heretofore unknown at the conservative blog. The final Corner post was Mark Steyn's 187th memorialization of his "human rights" persecution by the pesky Canadians. He also works in a joke about his vagina.

Then, nuthin'. Dead air. Crickets.

Come out from under your beds, folks. Isn't there something important you need to watch coming up on Fox News?

Update (10 minutes later): Oops! I posted too soon. Mark Steyn is back at The Corner this morning, the very definition of coyote ugly, with a stock-in-trade, borderline racist (and somewhat wistful, perhaps?) denunciation of the evildoers. And so the world turns.

Other update (yet two hours later): With this post mixing up the Loch Ness Monster, Global Warming and the ravings of some creepy dude with a compulsion to "call a spade a spade," Steyn completes the coveted natural hat trick of hatred and holds The Corner, for better or worse, his own private Idaho.

Sunday Sierrablogging

Crystal Creek Canyon
Crystal Creek canyon from the Middle Fork Kings River near Tehipite Valley, Kings Canyon National Park.

Saturday, February 16, 2008


Reflections 01
Shiny metal art at the De Young Museum.

But in the Morning, Sir, I will be Sober

Old Joke:
Society Woman, to Winston Churchill "You, sir, are Drunk!"
Churchill "Yes, Madam, and you are ugly...but in the morning, I will be sober."

Or something like that. I don't want to beat a dead horse on this one but I do, do, do, wish that bloggers and Obama supporters would remember that the morning after the Democratic convention they are going to wake up in bed with a lot of people they've been calling ugly, and we will all be quite sober enough to be really, really, angry about it. Case in point. I wandered over to Kos this morning and found a highly recommended, many posted diary headlined "Hillary is Selfish." The following three hundred approving comments take for granted that all her motives are evil, and the evil-est portion of the whole thing is that her wishes run contrary to those of Obama and his supporters. Part of the fun, in these often two line posts, is to recapitulate things that "Hillary supporters" those poor, deluded, women, might say against these attacks. Female Obama supporters enter the lists to explain that something is never sexist if a woman says it--as though we hadn't just endured years of Ann Coulter and other femmes for hire offering cover for rampant misogyny.

Qua anthropologist I'd argue that we can't talk about the two candidates without sex and sexism intruding because we don't have a gender neutral language to begin with. Words have associations and meanings, histories and cultural backstops that give them a different valence depending on who is using them and who is being referenced. For example, while its trivially true that both men and women can be accused of being "selfish" -- they aren't accused of being selfish *for the same things.* And selfishness, too, is understood differently when applied to men and women. We have a long history in this society of seeing the singular male actor, acting selfishly for his own benefit, in fairly noble terms. We have *no* history or cultural appreciation for "elle, seule" the woman who makes her own way and does what she wants despite the needs and desires of those around her. Nevertheless, Kos and his commenters feel very comfortable continually demonizing HRC with sexist and sexed language while at the same time telling others that they are, essentially, crazy old biddies if they criticize it.

In a race where both candidates are performing the same political tasks can we honestly say that we can present any evidence about the two candidates that isn't sexed, or classed, or raced to a degree that makes it hard to grasp the political reality without at the same time commenting on it and shaping it? I don't think so. At this point the campaign to control the meaning of the campaign seems to me to be utterly focused on demonizing Clinton and her supporters by continuously transforming ordinary political acts into extra-ordinary forms of evil, anti democratic, selfishness. Another case in point? If you see a headline "Hillary outspends Obama on Ads" it is sure to come with an attached storyline that goes "Hillary's in trouble, needs to use paid advertisements to persuade the voter while Obama's authentic outreach enables him to reach voters directly." On the other hand, I saw a headline over at Buzzflash "Obama outspends Hillary on Ads" but we are merely to understand that as a strength of his fundraising--another knock on her.

Ezra Klein, I think, alluded to the phrase "conservation of virtues" in which what one candidate lacks the other is assumed to have and vice versa. If Obama is warm, Hillary must be cold, if Obama's supporters are X, then Hillary's supporters must be Y. I think of this more as the pathetically manichean model of political thought and action. But its certainly there, underlying a lot of commentary and a lot of ex-post facto rationale for how the candidates are doing and should do. The final manichean difference between the way Obama's supporters represent what is going on and the way the rest of the world may see it is the continued invocation of the idea that Obama alone, transformatively, represents the majority of voters. This underlies the accusation that Hillary is "selfish" while Obama is "unselfish"--- Obama's desires and actions are seen as unselfish because they are undertaken, we are assured, *for us* rather than for Obama. The more of "us" there are, therefore, the more unselfish Obama's actions become because the responsibility for them is shared among many. By contrast, if you believe (as many of Obama's supporters do as an article of faith) that Hillary represents a small number of deluded or angry or old line female supporters, well, her actions are deemed the more selfish because either she represents only herself or the voters she represents are too insignificant to dissipate the selfishness of her actions. Because Obama's supporters are assumed to be in the majority, and to be in the right, so--well, we can all do the math. When democracy has spoken, the one who speaks in opposition to the majority must be anti democratic.

But of course democracy hasn't spoken, yet, we're still in media res. And there is something quite disturbing to me in continually seeing the exact same behaviors lauded for one candidate and attacked for the other. As far as I can see Hillary's time has come and gone and she will go down to defeat and Obama will be the nominee. I don't quarrel with that and I don't even think its a bad thing for the party or the country. But there is something deeply disingenous about reading popular democratic bloggers and progressive bloggers continually smearing both Hillary and her voters when you know that tomorrow they are going to wake up in bed next to them and need to start pleading for understanding and forgiveness. And not only that, they are going to ask us to get up and make breakfast for them.

Quote of Two Days Ago

Matthew Yglesias:

It is fascinating that the Republican Party would rather allow what they believe to be a critical national security law lapse than allow it to be extended without the extension containing a rider immunizing large telecommunications firms from the consequences of prior illegal activity. It's almost as if the Republican Party exists to serve the interests of large business enterprises and very wealthy individuals, and tends to use national security and cultural anxieties as a kind of political theater aimed at securing votes so that they can better pursue their real agenda of enriching the wealthy and powerful.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Things Look Different From the Top

I know we're kind of a laid back blog site but this story is really an important one. I found it over at War and Piece, Laura Rozen's journalistic site, but I would have encountered it eventually because I know people who work for BAE and I was just talking to a Channel Four newscaster (hello Jon! If you are bored in Iraq and surfing the web!) about them. In a Nutshell, this is the story of how politics and political decisions really get made up at the top. When a bribery and military industrial complex scandal got too close to the House of Saud, they literally blackmailed the Prime Minister of England into dropping the case using the threat of major terrorism against an English city.

People have written a lot of silly stuff about what they would have done if they'd been, for example, HRC in the run up to the AUMF and what they think Obama will or won't do when he gets into power (g-d willing.) I've tried to point out something that democrats and the man on the street just don't seem to get--power and danger look differently to you when you are at the top of the power pyramid and not at the bottom. I have no doubt that on Obama's first day in office he will be shown, by some cabal of *&^% wise men that includes the corpses of Kissinger, Negroponte, and a host of the other undead militarists, jingoists, baby rapers, nun torturers, clapped out whores of the carlysle group and pimped up blackwell mercenaries a series of paper threats that will be a combination of true and untrue, very serious and utterly spurious. And Obama is going to have to sort them out and take the chance that he is wrong on some big thing even if he is right on a host of little things. None of us know what he will do. And for darn sure none of us know what we would do if we aren't strong enough to keep the cockroaches from the oval office in the first place.


Twin Peaks, Sunday morning just before dawn.

Friday Random Ten

Time for another coolness self-audit:

Slickee Boys - This Party Sucks! (10/10)
Zombies - I Remember When I Loved Her (9/10)
Zakons - Wasted! (8/10)
Shriekback - Open up Your (Filthy) Heart (to Me) (8/10)
Mekons - Darkness & Doubt (9/10)
Manu Dibango - Ceddo End Title (10/10)
Reptile Palace Orchestra - Little Wing (5/10)
Pine Box Boys - The Tardy Hearse (9/10)
Iggy Pop - The Passenger (10/10)
Modern Lovers - 96 Tears (live) (8/10)

8.6 overall. Rate your own lists in comments. And remember--the scale is 1 to 10; anyone caught giving themselves 11s will have their ratings adjusted by a factor of 0.90909...

Update: added links to album pages, where samples are available.

Man, I Wish I'd Gone Over to Obama Earlier

I feel like I just received all the goodies I was promised when I sent in my Chain Letter Obama Vote. It was worth it--I really mean that.

(From Tapped):
"Finally, just for fun... Obama. Also, he subscribed to your feed, carries a picture of you in his wallet, and wrote on your funwall."


Make of This What You Will

I'm standing on a pier watching fifteen mob guys have a sit down, a half circle of chairs facing the ocean. All of a sudden they stand up and, out of fear, raise their rifles and shoot into the air, where they imagine their enemy is. But accidentally, they shoot their feet off, and blow huge holes in the pier. All falls into disarray. I'm scared and wondering what is happening. Then I hear a voice over--its Howard Dean. Turns out, I'm watching a film about his campaign for the presidency. People are criticizing him for allowing the film to be made because it makes the dems look bad. But he answers, pleadingly "After all, a campaign isn't an administration, things wouldn't have turned out so badly."

The weird thing? I really did dream this.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

No Day Without a Line

I'm trying to make a valentine's dinner for Mr. Aimai and also blotting my copybook over at LGM. here's where I'm coming from--I'm trying to make duck breast with cherry/fig/wine sauce; risotto cakes, asparagus, and a fresh cardamom pastry cream tart with some nice fruit for dinner. At the same time, I'm really tired of all the blogging about what a terrible person and a terrible candidate Hillary Clinton is. This is just one of those personal political preferences of mine--I'd rather see both my candidates an my fellow dems tearing up the republicans instead of guessing and second guessing each other. If I'm stuck with HRC it won't be the first time I'm stuck with a conventional candidate when I would have preferred an insurgent. If I'm stuck with Obama it will certainly be the first time I've been offered the chance to vote for a charismatic, progressive, black guy but it may not be the last time I get a chance to vote for a *losing dem* in a general election. I just don't know. And no one else does either. I'm tired of the endless piggybacking attempts by the pro-obama crowd to project ahead and find clinton the worse candidate and the worse person in order to prospectively legitimize obama as the best. they are both ok candidates. They are both claiming to get lots of votes and they both want to get lots of votes. can't we let the voters decide instead of trying to tell the voters over and over again that everything clinton does proves what a horrible candidate she is? I'm going to take the pledge about this now, over at LGM, and stop trying to discuss the underlying theme there to so many posts which is that HRC represents some evil hitherto unknown, or wholly associated with republicans, which Obama rises above. As Dr. Zen over there has posted--Obama is a politician, he is surrounded by politicians, he's not above politics. And we wouldn't really want him to be. Everything that HRC is excoriated for in this primary? We'd be shocked and enraged if Obama and his supporters didn't somehow use in the general. Because we want to win--dammit. And we have to win. Its too important for the Marquess of Queensbury rules.


Updated to say: What Sifu Tweety Said:

Tin Star showing

If my review this week of The Tin Star interested you, it'll be on TCM next Tuesday at 6:15.

Barney Bites Broder

Shorter David Broder: "Which of my paragraphs today doesn't belong?"

[Hint: the penultimate, with which the old fool painfully pwns himself.]

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

McCain: Big Fat Flip-Flopping LOSER

Following up on the question of defining McCain, here are a couple of items that caught my eye today:

  • Matt Yglesias notes that McCain's voting scores tell an interesting tale: in the 107th Senate (just after the 2000 election) he was one of the most moderate Republican senators (after a reliably conservative career); in the 108th he shifted back to the right; and in the 109th, which includes his presidential run, only one other Senator has been more conservative. In other words, he shifted left (i.e., voted against Bush) when he was still angry about 2000, and shifted right again when he needed conservative support to run for president. Flip vs. Flop.

  • Also: he was against torture before he was for it. Flip vs. Flop.

  • And an article by Dana Milbank in today's WaPo suggests that the L-word might just get some traction:
    In a broader sense, there was a whole lot of nose-holding across the Commonwealth yesterday as McCain made off with much less of a victory than expected. The relatively tight race in Virginia, and widespread rejection of McCain in rural Virginia, told the larger story of McCain's effort to cement his all-but-official claim on the GOP nomination: Though the conservative establishment is slowly reaching for the nose clips, the McCain scent has proved stubborn and noxious....

    McCain clearly didn't beat the spread, even though he was playing against an unranked opponent, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, who has no hope of winning the title. And this means grass-roots conservatives weren't following the plays called by Allen and other conservative leaders on the sidelines....

    The vote was undeniably a conservative protest against the candidate and the conservative leaders who lent McCain their grudging and half-hearted endorsements since the exit of Mitt Romney from the race last week. Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), who last month said "the thought of his being president sends a cold chill down my spine," this week endorsed McCain. So did Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), who last month asked why conservatives "shouldn't be physically ill at the prospects of a President McCain"....

    Using phrases such as "whether we like it or not," conservatives this week have steadily stepped forward to endorse the presumptive nominee. But it has been a joyless affair.
    Generally speaking, when you're running for high office, appearing as an object of pity in the national press is...sub-optimal.
Update: Welcome, Atriosi! (And thanks for the link, Thers!) Take a look around--we have a great crew here, and they post a lot of excellent stuff.

Other Update: the Milbank piece suggests an ad: a bunch of anti-McCain soundbites from Thad Cochran et al. (including Rush Limbaugh, if he ends up endorsing McCain) with the tagline "McCain: his supporters don't like him; why should you?"

Glenn Beck proves my point about voters and beta males

Beck: Tonight, here’s what you need to know. The war, immigration, the economy, the primaries have pushed the Democrats too far to the left, but how long before the American people figure it out, and will it be too late? This is the time in an election that, you know, it’s like young love. You’re wild. You’re impetuous and you’re up for just about anything, but when the flirting is over and it’s time to make a commitment the smart ones retreat back to what makes sense. You know, the girl you can take home to mom. You might date really really strong liberals, but you never marry them.

Don't you just want to say "Oh, like we'd have you anyway you loser."

Map Tourists

Map Tourists
The map is not the territory, but it is the destination.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

(Re-)Defining McCain

There is one advantage in having the Republican race be over before ours: they don't know which target to focus on, and we do. The most important thing to do right now is to define McCain before he has a chance to define himself. The Saint John media narrative that has taken hold is no more than a vague impression of fuzzy goodwill for most people; if we can create a more vivid (negative) narrative now, define him the way Dole was defined in 1996, we just might win this thing.

Off the top of my head, McCain is vulnerable to definition in several (non-exclusive) ways. In order of effectiveness, as I see it:

  • More of the Same: More Iraq, more neo-con adventurism, more fiscal irresponsibility, more government by lobbyists. To that end, this picture is worth several thousand words.

  • Flip vs. Flop: a man of no settled convictions who reverses himself as political expediency dictates. The Carpetbagger Report has an excellent list (more here); there's also a video, and another video (same attack, but from the right).

  • Crazy John: a loose cannon, reckless and impulsive, who will lead us into more crazy self-destructive wars with countries that aren't actually a threat. Think bomb-bomb-Iran; think 100 years.

  • Cranky Old John: the Bob Dole of 2008, with a nasty mean streak and an uncontrollable temper. And having himself made nasty jokes about old people, he can't well complain now that he's in a position to be the butt of them.
This is what I see as the basic framework for defining the persona of the candidate McCain. To the extent that right-wing criticism fits into this framework (as opposed to calling him insufficiently conservative), we should welcome and exploit it.

I have a feeling there's one more approach, although this one I'm less sure of (I'd be more certain if Huckabee had won Virginia): the L word. Elections in Gringolandia aren't about issues, they're about superstition: every contest is between the Lucky and the Doomed. People want to associate themselves with good fortune, and distance themselves from bad. Accordingly, there is no word more toxic in American politics than 'loser'.

McCain could be fit for the part. He lost to Bush in 2000, and was so peeved that he talked about joining the Democrats (see 'Crazy John', 'Cranky Old John'). In 2008, in a field of generally acknowledged losers, he came from behind to be the least loser of the bunch...and still couldn't seal the deal, denied majorities even after he was the presumptive nominee.

As you can see from the above, various people have painstakingly assembled the evidence against McCain. Now it's up to all of us to use it.

Quit Digging, Dweeb Derb

John Derbyshire followed up his controversial remarks on race and Barack Obama this afternoon with another similarly stupid post. In the second post, Derbyshire assures an inquiring world that he would have voted for the African-American Colin Powell for President in 1996, had Powell been the Republican nominee.

Although Powell "could 'talk black' when he thought it was required of him," Derbyshire helpfully explains, "Powell doesn't care about being black." Now, as for Obama?--he "cares a lot about being black" and would be a "race-obsessed President."

Basically black Presidents are like everything else in America: IOKIYAR.

Some of My Own Kids Are Minorities...

Peggy Noonan said it couldn't happen, but The Corner's John Derbyshire seems to have some racial issues with Barak Obama's candidacy:

All this emoting over Barack Obama's wonderful, wonderful personality is starting to trigger my gag reflex.

What are we electing here, a faith healer? What is Obama's view of the executive power? How, exactly, does he propose to "bring us together"? Just by being half-black?...
Derbyshire desperately needs to know, "What will Obama do?" Since he lacks any intention to learn about Obama by reading his books, he quite naturally turns for answers to noted racist pseudoscientist Steve Sailer -- who, turns out, hasn't read Obama's books either. But, Derbyshire reports, Sailer has blegged his VDARE blog's vast readership for "any paper trail for Obama's thoughts, ideas, and opinions." Sadly, nobody who reads Sailer has read Obama's books, nor can anybody turn up much dirt on him online.

Left to his own devices, Derbyshire summons up a dark and scary Obaman apparition:
And then there is the matter of ethnic triumphalism, which is shifting and murmuring in the background of Obama's campaign. Be interesting to get Obama's opinion on, for example, Justice Thurgood Marshall's remark to his colleagues in the Bakke case, that, "You guys have been practicing discrimination for years. Now it is our turn."...
Which is not at all offensive when Derbyshire says it. You see, he's got hand:
As a white guy with half-Asian kids, is there an ethnic downside to me and mine in voting for Obama? Is this an improper question? Why?
As a decent American citizen reading you on the Internets, Derb, I can tell you that the primary "ethnic downside" to you and yours is coming from inside the house. Get out, John -- get out while they still have a chance.