September 27, 2008

Google officially opposes Prop. 8

Read the post here.

Prop. 8 is the ballot initiative in California to overrule (if that's the right term) the finding earlier this year that the state's gay marriage ban is (was) unconstitutional. Google have just announced their opposition to Prop. 8. This is interesting to me -- not only as a Californian in exile who happens to also be opposed to Prop. 8 -- but because, a few months ago, Notre Dame switched its student email system to gmail. And, of course, while opposition to gay marriage isn't as big an issue here as abortion, contraception, and premarital (straight) sex, I doubt the conservatives are going to be thrilled with Google. I'll certainly let the one person who reads this blog know of any cranky letters to the editor in the student paper.

September 26, 2008

Cue uncontrollable giggling fit

Again, from the Couric-Palin interview:

It's very important when you consider even national security issues with Russia. As Putin rears his head and comes into the air space of the United States of America, where do they go? It's Alaska. It's just right over the border.

Oh noooooes!


Via Shakespeare's Sister, an excerpt from Katie Couric's interview with Sarah Palin:

Couric [on tape]: Why isn't it better, Governor Palin, to spend $700 billion helping middle-class families who are struggling with healthcare, housing, gas, and groceries—allow them to spend more and put more money into the economy—instead of helping these big financial institutions that played a role in creating this mess?

Palin [on tape]: That's why I say, I, like every American I'm speaking with, we're ill about this position that we have been put in where it is the taxpayers looking to bailout. But ultimately, what the bailout does is help those who are [glances down] concerned about the healthcare reform that is needed [glances down] to help shore up our economy. [glances down] Helping the—oh, it's got to be about job creation, too, shoring up our economy and putting it back on the right track. So healthcare reform [glances down] and reducing taxes and reining in spending has got to accompany tax reductions and tax relief [glances down] for Americans, and trade we've—we've got to see trade as opportunity, not as a competitive, um, scary thing, but 1 in 5 jobs being created in the trade sector today. We've got to look at that as more opportunity. All those things under the umbrella of job creation. This bailout [is a part of that].

September 23, 2008

AO Scott on Lee's Do the right thing

Spike Lee's Do the right thing is one of my favourite films of all time, for far too many and far too complex reasons to go into here. I just wanted to point everyone to
this video of AO Scott, film critic for the New York Times, discussing Do the right thing and the state of race relations today. Note that the clips in the video amount to some fairly significant spoilers.

September 21, 2008

I do not think that word means what you think it means: `Ordinary' edition

Copy from a Facebook ad for Heroes: `Are you the one person on the planet who isn't already a fan? Don't be ordinary. Be extraordinary. Become a fan now.'

I'm not an economist, but I play one on the internets

Paul Krugman (whom, let me be clear, is not the `I' of the title of this post) has been working on a nice series of blog posts commenting on the impending bailout. He gives a nice, rigorous version of the basic liberal problem with the plan in its current form: it's a huge transfer of wealth to the already extraordinarily wealthy people in the finance industry who got themselves (and us) into this mess, with absolutely no guarantee of success.

In the linked post, Krugman breaks the situation down into a cascade of four stages:

1. It all starts with the bursting of the housing bubble. This has led to sharply increased rates of default and foreclosure, which has led to large losses on mortgage-backed securities.

2. The losses in MBS, in turn, have left the financial system undercapitalized — doubly so, because levels of leverage that were previously considered acceptable are no longer OK.

3. The financial system, in its efforts to deleverage, is contracting credit, placing everyone who depends on credit under strain.

4. There’s also, to some extent, a vicious circle of deleveraging: as financial firms try to contract their balance sheets, they drive down the prices of assets, further reducing capital and forcing more deleveraging.

The current Bush administration plan targets stage 4 by attempting to set a sufficiently high floor in the prices of `toxic' assets (that is, mortgages with such egregious terms that the homeowners may not be able to afford to pay them, and derivatives based on those mortgages; isn't it great how the financial difficulties of working class people are being reframed as `toxic' for the wealthy and powerful?). Krugman's points out that, if this floor is too low, it might not do much to help out struggling firms.

As an alternative, he suggests intervention at stage 2. Rather than becoming the buyer of last resort for these `toxic' assets, he wants `public injections of capital, in return for a stake in the upside'. I assume it would work something like this: to deleverage (move the balance sheets from red to black), firms with `toxic' assets would issue more stock (rather than selling those assets), and the US government would be a (or the) major buyer of that new stock. That way the struggling firms get black balance sheets now, and when their stock prices go back up, the government can gradually sell those stocks and get a nice little return on the investment. According to Krugman, compared to the Bush administration plan, this plan is not as risky, is more likely to be successful, and doesn't involve just handing nearly a trillion dollars of taxpayer money over to the `geniuses' in the financial industry with no strings attached.

Another possibility -- that I'm surprised to see no-one making at all on the lefty blogs -- is an intervention at stage 1. Rather than bailing out the wealthy idiots who caused this problem, why don't we help out the people who are likely to default on their mortgages? If these mortgages aren't in danger of failing, or failing as dramatically, the assets based on them are no longer toxic, or as toxic.

There are two obvious ways of doing this, corresponding to two radically different ways the government could intervene in the borrower-lender relationship. First, the government could give a direct cash infusion, covering the gap between what the homeowner can pay and what the terms of the mortgage require. Second, the government could change the terms of the mortgage, eg, negotiating a lower rate.

I actually don't like this plan, whichever of the two strategies it adopts. This is because it not only fails to deal with the ultimate underlying problem, but it can actually exacerbate the underlying problem.

Go back and look at stage 1 in Krugman's list. This all started with the housing bubble -- the inflation of housing costs, especially the cost to buy a house, over the past 20-25 years, especially in places like California and large cities (SF, LA, Chicago, the Acela cities, etc.). A wide variety of serious development and environment issues -- the spread of suburbs, the proliferation of single-driver cars, car-based rather than pedestrian-based communities, etc. -- are connected with the housing bubble in various ways, and a contraction in housing prices is, frankly, necessary for addressing most of them in any effective way.

But addressing stage 1 of the current crisis by preventing mortgage failures in pretty much any way is maintaining housing prices at the current inflated level. It's preventing the deflation in home prices that is necessary to get people to move out of the suburbs and back to the cities.

I genuinely feel for the people who have already and will lose their homes due to predatory lending practices. Owning a home is an important part of the ideal of American middleclassness to a lot of people, and, more pragmatically, declaring bankruptcy also completely ruins your ability to get credit. (Although pretty much no-one can get credit at this point -- which is the part of this whole mess that has the wealthy and powerful worried.) But owning a home is, ultimately, not that important, especially when it's owning in a home in a bedroom `community' built on top of a paved-over wetland.

Let me make one final point. Perhaps everyone in the leftist blogosphere has already realised everything I've said in this post. Still, it's something we -- including the leftist blogosphere, but also the citizenry of this country as a whole -- need to be talking about, if for no other reason than it gets us thinking about the nature of the problem. Right now, the mainstream discourse seems to be all about `fixing' the economy. But fixing something requires first having an explicit idea of what the thing is supposed to do, and how it does it. The mainstream discourse doesn't talk about what the economy is supposed to do, much less what we want the economy to do. Do we want it to produce and distribute lots of cheap consumables -- cheap food, cheap clothes, cheap houses, cheap electronics? Or do we want it to go for quality rather than quantity? Simply getting the finance industry `working' the same way it has been for 25 years isn't fixing the industry if it's been radically dysfunctional for that period of time.

September 20, 2008

Hacking on autism

Evidently, the philosopher of science Ian Hacking has been doing some thinking -- and writing -- about autism as of late. So, via the philosophy blog What Sorts of People, here is a post on Ian Hacking on what do we know about autism?, with an accompanying link to a fascinating book review in the LRB.

More from Latin America: Unions in Colombia

To balance out the anti-Chavez post below, here's an anti-capitalist article in The Guardian, on the literally life-and-death struggle to unionise workers in the Coca-Cola bottling plants in Colombia:

The Colombian paramilitary groups were spawned in the conflict between the state and revolutionary guerrillas. In 1982, officers under General Landazábal, the defence minister, worked with multinationals and cattle ranchers to organise and fund "defence groups". Ostensibly they were to fight leftwing insurgent groups, but increasingly the paras, as they are known, became entwined with the drug cartels and the army. They formed death squads, attacking and killing anyone considered to support the leftwing guerrillas - basically anyone working in human rights or trade unions. It is a common refrain among the establishment and security forces that the guerrillas and trade unionists are one and the same.

Carlos Castaño, leader of the paras, claimed that 70% of his organisation's funding came from the cocaine industry. But he was also an ardent supporter of neoliberal economic policies and of multinational investment in Colombia - so why shouldn't national and international companies support them? In a newspaper interview, Castaño maintained there was always a reason for the paras' attacks. "Trade unionists, for example. They stop the people from working. That's why we kill them."


What was the Coca-Cola Company's response? Its website displays the only public audit by the Coca-Cola Company into their bottlers in Colombia. This was conducted in spring 2005, more than eight years after Isidro Gil was shot dead. Intriguingly, the audit conducted by the Cal Safety Compliance Corporation focuses on compliance issues: the report notes several health and safety breaches, including the absence of a protective guard on a syrup container at one plant, the incorrect number of fire extinguishers at two plants, and incorrect documentation for an employee at one plant. I am happy to report that the appropriate remedial action has been taken to comply with health and safety regulations. To this day the Coca-Cola Company itself has not investigated the alleged links of Colombian bottling plant managers with the paramilitaries.

Oh Venezuela

De Le Monde:

Le gouvernement vénézuélien a expulsé, vendredi 19 septembre, les deux membres d'une délégation de Human Rights Watch (HRW) qui avaient présenté, la veille à Caracas, un rapport accusant le régime du président Hugo Chavez d'avoir "affaibli les institutions démocratiques et les droits de l'homme".

On Thursday, September 19, the Venezuelan government expelled the two members of a Human Rights Watch (HRW) delegation who had presented a report the previous day in Caracas accusing the regime of President Hugo Chavez of ``weakening democratic institutions and human rights''.

Le ministre [vénézuélien des affaires étrangères, Nicolas Maduro] a fustigé "ces groupes qui se font passer pour des défenseurs des droits de l'homme" et qui "sont financés par les Etats-Unis". " Ils suivent, a-t-il dit, une politique visant à attaquer les pays qui construisent de nouveaux modèles économiques." Le 11 septembre, Caracas avait expulsé l'ambassadeur américain, par solidarité avec la Bolivie qui venait d'en faire de même.

The [Venezuelan] minister [of foreign affairs, Nicolas Maduro] thrashed ``these groups that pretend to be defenders of human rights'' and that ``are financed by the United States''. They followed, he said, a political aim of attacking those nations that are constructing new economic models. On September 11, Caracas expelled the American ambassdor, in solidarity with Bolivia, who had just done the same.

(My translations.)

September 17, 2008

Reason on Palin

Cathy Young, a `contributing editor' of the libertarian magazine Reason, has a piece in said magazine arguing that Sarah Palin is `a feminist hero'. Why? Let's work through the list.
  1. While anti-abortion, she belongs to a group called Feminists for Life.

    Feminists for Life's feminist credentials are themselves a little sketchy. Not too long ago, FfL's website prominently featured long-since-disproven and dubious claims about, for example, connections between abortion and breast cancer and abortion and depression. They've since removed these claims, but at the very least a sceptical eyebrow should be raised.

  2. more representation for feminism across the spectrum of political beliefs is a good thing

    This is question-begging. Of course women can and do disagree about all kinds of beliefs. And of course feminists support women making up their own minds. But this doesn't mean that any woman with political beliefs is ipso facto a feminist.

  3. Palin is a mother of five who resumed an intensive work schedule days after giving birth, and whose husband seems to be a full partner.

    Fair enough. But it's one thing for Palin to be a symbol of a successful balance between family and career and another for her policy positions to give other women the same opportunities. And given McCain's opposition to the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act (I can't find any solid information on what Palin thinks of Ledbetter), comprehensive sex ed, expanded federal education funding, etc., it's hard to see what policies she could support that would give other women these same opportunities.

  4. the hypocrisy of feminist liberals who deploy sexist weapons against her

    At this point in the piece, Young has apparently decided she'd rather attack `the feminists' than defend Palin. But fine, let's see what these sexist attacks are: Novelist Jane Smiley called Palin `arrogant'. A sex educator/UU minister and the former editor of Cosmopolitan, Glamour, YM and Us Weekly both called her a bad mother. And Gary Kamiya wrote a piece on Salon about Palin titled `The Dominatrix'.

    Maybe Young just doesn't understand that there are subtle but important distinctions between feminists, women, and Gary Kamiya?

  5. The Biden-sponsored VAWA represents a toxic mix of gender-war feminism that treats such crimes as acts of patriarchal oppression rather than individual wrongdoing, and paternalism that sees women as deserving of special protection

    This tangent seems to have mutated into a non sequitur.

  6. Palin represents by far the better version of female empowerment

    This is from the penultimate sentence of the piece, which suggests it's something like the thesis. It's hard to see what it has to do with the `Palin is a feminist hero' claim. I guess it's the thesis of the second part of the piece, where Young suddenly starts talking about VAWA and Joe Biden's toxic feminism. Up until that point, we didn't really seem to have anything on the table about contrasting versions of feminism.

    On the other hand, she never says anything at all about what Palin thinks about VAWA. So she clearly can't think that the last point was an argument for this one. You can't support a compare-and-contrast thesis without talking about both sides. So maybe the contrast is between the hypocritical sexist attacks used by various non-feminist `feminists' against Palin and the non-hypocritical sexist attacks used by Palin against Clinton earlier this year?

I have no idea. I'm going to go play Spore.

September 16, 2008

McCain's health care plan is kind of the opposite


A study coming out Tuesday from scholars at Columbia, Harvard, Purdue and Michigan projects that 20 million Americans who have employment-based health insurance would lose it under the McCain plan.

Maybe the idea is to solve the crisis of the American health care system by getting rid of the American health care system?

`The new colossus', Emma Lazarus, 1883 (inscription in the Statue of Liberty)

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

September 15, 2008

How much has Palin helped McCain?

According to Gallup, today John McCain is enjoying a slight but not statistically significant lead over Obama, 47-45 percent. Three weeks ago, on 24 August, just before the Democratic convention, McCain was 2 percentage points ahead of Obama, 46-44.

So it appears Palin has given McCain a net boost of 1 percentage point. Why are we paying so much attention to this woman?

September 13, 2008

Tortured Fingers

A new Obama ad point out several ways in which John McCain is out of touch, including the fact that he doesn't know how to use a computer and can't send email. Clearly, as the charge is that he's out of touch, the point being made is that he isn't cognitively familiar with sending email; that it's not something he understands in the same way that he doesn't understand the economy. He's admitted to this stuff himself.

The response from the right? This is a new low for Obama because John McCain has had trouble typing every since...wait for it...he was tortured as a POW. I never would have imagined that they'd be able to work the POW schtick into every criticism but they find new ways to impress me every day. What's next: "John McCain lost his ability to use diplomacy in the Hanoy Hilton! How dare Obama question his war mongering!"?

Are the media finally pulling their heads out?

Karl Rovean political campaigns rely heavily on certain assumptions about the behavior of talking heads: that they enjoy spreading gossip as news, are obsessed with drugs and sex, and reflexively jerk to the right at the merest hint of the phrase `liberal media bias'. Keep the talking heads talking about artificial scandal and inane innuendo, the thinking goes, and Democrats (and moderate Republicans) won't have a chance to get a policy word in edgewise.

This past week has seen an especially ugly Rovean campaign on the part of John McCain. And it's not just me who thinks so. It's the New York Times:

Mr. Obama has also been accused of distortions, but this week Mr. McCain has found himself under particularly heavy fire for a pair of headline-grabbing attacks. First the McCain campaign twisted Mr. Obama’s words to suggest that he had compared Gov. Sarah Palin, the Republican vice-presidential nominee, to a pig after Mr. Obama said, in questioning Mr. McCain’s claim to be the change agent in the race, “You can put lipstick on a pig; it’s still a pig.” (Mr. McCain once used the same expression to describe Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s health plan.)

Note that this isn't a `Senator McCain said ... but the Obama campaign responds that ....' story, the usual pattern these sorts of stories take. McCain is twisting Obama's words, making false claims and incorrect assertions. The truth is identified, not as talking points from the Obama campaign, but as assertions of fact. Even better, the article is accompanied by a graphic in which McCain and Palin's assertions about Obama's policy positions (and the Bridge to Nowhere) are contrasted with nonpartisan analysis of those policy positions.

Are the media finally waking up and realizing that their job in the political process is fact-checker, not stenographer and gossip rag writer? The more -- and more prominently -- stories like this appear, the worse the Rovean campaign tactics will misfire. This NYT piece -- and the fact that it's linked on MSNBC's and US Today's front pages -- are positive signs. As is this piece on Newsweek's front page. On the other hand, CNN and (of course) Fox News have absolutely nothing.

September 11, 2008

Couple Good Links

Here's a good clip from Rachel Maddow's show. Are she and Olberman the picture of impartiality? Of course not, but then neither if Pat Buchanan and there's room for openly liberal and openly conservative talking heads in the media.

Wasilla, AK made rape victims pay for the rape kits which are essential to prosecute their attackers while Sarah Palin was mayor. In fact, it was the only town in Alaska to do so, but forced the state legislature to pass a law forbidding them to do this. Let's just put it plainly: Under Sarah Palin's stewardship Wasilla charged rape victims thousands of dollars for being raped. Link.

Edit: $50/hr to pick lettuce for a whole season. McCain's offering, but only because you *can't do it*! Link.

Chris Matthews

In case you didn't know, MSNBC, after accusations that they have tilted too far towards Obama, benched Keith Olberman and Chris Matthews as anchors for their election coverage. The spot has been given to David Greggory who isn't bad exactly but isn't exactly exciting.

Anyway, I'm watching Chris Matthews on Rachel Maddow's new show and he looks like somebody kicked him in the gut. Don't get me wrong, I think Matthews is anything but out and out liberal and way too prone to shallow crushes on mostly male politicians. Still, he always had a fire that he brought to his coverage that just seemed drained. Maddow kept trying to get a rouse out of him, but every time he started to get warmed up it was like someone behind the camera told him to take it down a notch. In short, he was just sad.

September 10, 2008


Good ol' Dan Brottman sent me along to this blog post (I gather it's his friend's blog) arguing that John McCain, and not Barack Obama is the elitist. Yeah, I know, we all know this, but he breaks it down better and more clearly than you often see. It's a good read.

September 09, 2008


Fringe is similar to Tru Blood in some ways. They both deal with a world which is very much like ours with a pretty significant, and oh-so-mysterious, twist. They both obviously have a pretty expansive mythology which will be explored over the course of the series. What Fringe did that Tru Blood didn't in its first episode, however, is manage lay out the hints at the larger plots with tantalizing hooks. It also did a much better job of cutting the drama with humor. All in all, I'll give Tru Blood a couple episodes to pick itself up, but Fringe doesn't need that space. It's good already.

September 07, 2008

Obama On O'Reilly

Obama did an interview with Bill O'Reilly this last week. Evidently this is just the first of four parts, the rest of which air Monday through Wednesday if you want to keep up on that.

John McCain's campaign won't let Sarah Palin answer so much as a question from reporters and Obama goes into the lion's den in what most certainly could have been an interview stacked with cheap questions and then edited in post production to make him look terrible.


Good to have the gang back.

True Blood

Ok, so it's a first episode. First episodes of even the best series can be iffy, and especially a show like this that relies on a mythology that obviously will need some time to flesh out. Still, "Six Feet Under" this is most surely not. Anna Paquin is Rogue, and for that there will always be a special place in my heart. But really, let's be honest, she's never had wicked acting chops. The writing has some intriguing aspects, but sometimes it's downright blunt.

After "John From Cincinnati" tanked, HBO really could use a new hit. Here's hoping this show gets a bit of time to breath before they decide whether it's worth the risk or not. I'll certainly give it a couple episodes.

September 06, 2008


You want to know the difference between kids' sports movies and adult's sports movies? Kids' movies are all about sportsmanship and enjoying the sport. Adult's sports movies are about winning. Also, I guess it's worth mentioning that I'm watching "The Mighty Ducks" now. I know, I'm super lame.

September 05, 2008

Give Huckabee A Job

Ok, so I have a bit of a crush on Mike Huckabee. Yeah, some of his positions are straight up crazy. That's fine, I can accept that, but damn, every time I see that guy I can't help but like him. He was just on the Daily Show and, like always, just exuded charisma.

So, my quandary is this: is there any job we can give Huckabee in the next administration which would be simultaneously extremely visible and almost entirely without power? Actually, during the primaries Huckabee got tons of flack for his populist positions, so maybe we can find something that plays up that aspect of his politics and, shall we say, de-emphasizes his social conservatism. Department of Labor? Interior?

The Politics Of Conventions

I might have another post in me that's more specifically about Senator McCain's speech accepting his party's nomination for President, but what struck me most about it was tone. The Democratic Convention had some firey speeches to be sure, but the ones that come to mind the most, John Kerry and Joe Biden, got their fire from tying McCain's positions to the clearly wrong positions of the current President. Everyone admitted that John McCain was a patriot and a decent guy who was simply wrong about just about everything. It wasn't jarring then, when Barack Obama came out and hammered John McCain's positions for being wrong and gave his alternatives.

Last night was jarring. After two nights of smarmy, sarcastic speeches implying all kinds of terrible things about their opponents, John McCain comes out and waves his hands at playing nice before essentially talking about his life story for an hour. Now, out on the campaign trail it's possible to claim that you don't have control over people who aren't in your campaign. If Rudy Giuliani gave an interview where he tore apart Obama like he did two nights ago, John McCain, if he felt he needed to, could legitimately say "I don't employ Rudy, so I can't exactly make him stop, but I sure wish he would because I don't agree with him." Now, as we learned with Swift Boaters, a nominee can disapprove all he wants, but the bile gets out into the discourse anyway. Still, at least there's some separation.

What isn't credible, however, is to have these two perspectives smashed together at the same convention. If John McCain truly respects Barack Obama, what didn't he tell Rudy, or Mitt, or Sarah to tone down their speeches? Why not ask them to focus on Barack's policies that you disagree with rather than making fun of community organizers? Why not present a whole convention with the type of stuff that you yourself to say if you were speaking every night?

The answer is that the few nice things John McCain said about Barack Obama last night aren't what the Republican Party believes. They believe the stuff from the last few nights and John McCain had to have those speeches to mollify his base. And he had to say those nice things about Obama last night to try to attract independent voters. So which night of the convention show what John McCain truly feels? I'm betting whichever one is most likely to get him elected at any given moment.

September 04, 2008

Swing voters breaking for Obama

From Gallup: `The percentage of voters who are "up for grabs" has declined sharply in the past week, from 30% to 21%, according to the latest USA Today/Gallup poll.' Assuming no-one has gone from being certain to vote from Obama to certain to vote for McCain (or vice-versa) in the past week, of that 9%, 6% went to Obama and 3% to McCain. This gives Obama a 42%-37% advantage over McCain in the popular vote.

Gallup's description of the methodology is unclear, but I think the comparison is based on surveys done last weekend (30-31 August) and yesterday.

September 03, 2008

Republican Convention: Day 2

Ok, I lasted an hour or so into last night's convention. When they started up the Reagan video talking about what a "maverick" he was, I just had to turn it off. I know, I was weak but it was just garbage. Maybe I've got rose colored glasses about last week's Democratic Convention, but I don't remember them mischaracterizing Republican positions the way the Republicans are doing. Anyway, I decided to try harder tonight.

Just on the surface, Romney, Huckabee, and Giuliani are such better speakers than McCain that it *has* to have made some Republicans at least a little regretful that this is the guy they've ended up with. I'm not suggesting they won't support McCain, but there have to be a few people out there a little wistful for the primaries.

A little below the surface, I'm getting fed up quick. Yes, there have been some good political lines, particularly from Giuliani, but the substance of these speeches has been maddening. They have been fearless in their complete disregard for things Democrats actually believe. See, Democrats say, "Republicans are too aggressive on foreign policy and they support overturning Roe v. Wade" and that's what Republicans actually believe. Republicans obscure the actual positions of their opponents and rely on paeans to non-partisan ideas like patriotism.

Yeah, I know, they do these things because it works. It's also the job of Democrats to push back against the nonsense that comes out of their mouths. But it's sad that this is what national politics has become: a largely fair dealing party constantly pushing back against a party that always fights in bad faith.

I Love Live Mics

Peggy Noonan gets caught. Link.

Sans titre, Francis Bebey, c. 1998

Je suis venu chercher du travail
J'espère qu'il y en aura
je suis venu de mon lointain pays
Pour travailler chez vous

J'ai tout laissé, ma femme, mes amis
Au pays tout là-bas
J'espère les retrouves tous en vie
Le jour de mon retour

Ma pauvre mère était bien désolée
En me voyant partir
Je lui ai dit qu'un jour je reviendrai
Mettre fin à sa misère

J'ai parcouru de long jour de voyage
Pour venir jusqu'ici
Ne m'a-t-on pas assuré d'un acceuil
Qui vaudrait bien ette peine

Regardez-moi, je suis fatigué
D'aller par les chemins
Voici des jour que je n'ai rien mangé
Auriez-vous un peu de pain?

Mon pantalon est tout déchiré
Mais je n'en ai pas d'autre
Ne criez pas, ce n'est pas un scandale
Je suis seulement pauvre

Je suis venu chercher du travail
J'espère qu'il y en aura
Je suis venu de mon lointain pays
Pour travailler chez vous.

September 02, 2008


The issue of who is "qualified" for holding nationwide executive office has come up a lot in this election cycle. John McCain asserts that Barack Obama doesn't have enough experience to be qualified for being president. Various democrats, internet folks, and even a few Republicans argue that Sarah Palin doesn't have enough experience, or perhaps not the "right" experience to be Vice President. has several definitions for "qualified," but I like looking at the synonyms better: "able, capable, competent, fitted." The focus isn't on having done anything specific or having any one specific quality, but on being in a position to perform whatever the function is being asked of you with competence. When interviewing for a job, sometimes the successful candidate has extensive experience in the field. Sometimes the successful candidate is a young up-and-comer with interesting new ideas.

I think history has shown pretty well that a long political resume doesn't necessarily equal a good President and being a Washington "outsider" doesn't either. John McCain, with his 30 years in the Senate, is plainly "qualified" to be President. So is Barack Obama, with his four years in the Senate, several in the Illinois state legislature, and his sweeping and exciting plans for reforming the country. Sarah Palin, I don't think, is qualified, or at the very least her qualifications are questionable. 22 months as a governor in a small state which receives incredibly huge amounts of federal largess is not very impressive. Unfortunately for her, she also doesn't, at least not that I've seen, bring much new to the table either politically or charismatically. Does she bring several politically useful features to McCain's campaign? Obviously. Is she qualified to be Vice President or, if something should happen to John McCain, President? I just don't think she is. She may have been a hot Republican prospect for four or eight years, but they pulled her from the farm club too soon and it may destroy her prospects.

One Last Post On Palin Before I Shower

Andrew Sullivan and Josh Marshall make the most important point: all of this isn't to tear down Sarah Palin as a person, it's about John McCain's presidential campaign. You can pick through all these Palin stories individually and decide whether each impacts Palin's ability to act as an honorable VP, but taken as a whole it's clear that John McCain didn't think that it was important enough to look into Palin's history. He wanted a female VP pick who could be cast as a maverick conservative Washington outsider. There were other, eminently qualified Republican women he could have chosen. Some couldn't be cast as party mavericks. Some couldn't be really called conservatives. Some aren't Washington outsiders. So what he decided to do was go with an unknown quantity in Sarah Palin. She fit what he thought he needed politically, so he gave no thought to whether she would actually make a good VP. Barack Obama chose Joe Biden because he brought some working class cred to the ticket, but also because he demonstrably will help Barack govern better than Barack could have done alone. John McCain put his campaign before the country in his VP pick and that showed a serious lack of judgment.

Edit: Ok, so as to not break my promise of this being the last Palin post for a little while, here's a sneaky edit to point you in the direction of this editorial, which I rather liked.

Rove On Biden

You know, really, calling the opposition a "big blow hard doofus" is certainly rude, but it's not exactly breaking new lows for the party.


Video of Sarah Palin shooting a honkin' big assault rifle? Not really that big of a deal given that it's a big part of the party platform and it was done visiting the troops in Kuwait.

Embroiled in a scandal where she might have tried to get her abusive brother-in-law fired? Well, as far scandals go, I guess that's not the worst.

Video of Sarah Palin saying she doesn't know what the VP does? Really embarrassing.

17 year old daughter is 5 months pregnant? Well, kids are off limits in politics...kinda, and the base will get a kick out of a kid being "not forced" into carrying a pregnancy to term and marrying the father.

Having been a member of a secessionist group in Alaska? Wait, really? How is she putting country first if she wants to leave the country? I know I live in a bit of a liberal bubble, but it's one thing after another with this VP pick. Are conservatives still excited to have her on the ticket and, if so, are they crazy? (Also, in the video she says "I've always said competition is sooo good." I know this was probably a quickly produced video, but that's just a stupid sounding line.)

Edit: It appears the answer to both questions is "yes."

Edit, the Second: Ok, I was skeptical and it seems to have been born out. That Red State link asserted that "under God" was added because it had been uttered by the founding fathers. According to Wikipedia, and the huge grain of salt that it comes with so I'm ready to be corrected if somebody has better information, the "under God" phrase was taken from Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. Great as Lincoln was, he wasn't a founding father of the United States. Founding fathers may have put those two words together at some point, but that wasn't where the phrase in the Pledge came from. And given the flippancy of the answer, I'm going to assume that Sarah Palin misunderstood either the question or the history of the Pledge.

September 01, 2008

Oh Palin...

Sarah Palin really needs a month or four of schooling in the issues of the day. This is stuff you should really really know...Link.

On Teen Mothers

As the whole world knows by now, Republican VP candidate Sarah Palin's 17 year old daughter is pregnant. Evidently she's planning on taking the pregnancy to term and marrying the father. The cynic in me rolls his eyes when considering the chances of a marriage between 17 year olds working out long term, but that's beside the point.

The issue that's come up for Democrats is how to treat this in the campaign. Hilzoy asserts that Palin's child should be off the table, but it's unclear to me what that really means. For instance, Hilzoy states that we shouldn't use this as an example showing that abstinence-only education doesn't work but that it *is* appropriate to discuss how Palin's reaction to this squares with her stated views on abortion.

I just don't see a very bright line distinction there. I mean, we *know* abstinence-only education doesn't work, but Republican's fail to acknowledge that fact based on studies. Just bringing up the topic of abstinence-only education at this point is going to invoke Palin's daughter, so is the whole topic off the table? At some level, this poor girl is going to be in the spotlight no matter what because her mother is running for office. Did the Republicans go overboard with their attacks on Chelsea Clinton? Obviously. Should Democrats do the same thing here? Obviously not. But candidates bring all their baggage with them when they opt to step into the public eye and while there are certain boundaries we should respect vis a vis their families, we also have to recognize that the lives of candidates give rise to legitimate questions of policy. It's unfortunate for this young woman that what would probably be embarrassing in the best of situations is now embarrassing on a national scale, but ultimately politicians have to consider that they're exposing their whole family to public scrutiny when they run for office.

Again, this isn't to say that anything should go, but that a whole host of issues are now sure to make people at least think about how it applies to Gov. Palin's family and that we can't simply avoid those topics in an election year. Ultimately we just have to do our best to stay classy and apologize for any difficulty this may cause a young woman who's already in a bad situation.

Edit: Drew has a much welcomed political post on this up. Link.