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  • Wednesday, October 29, 2008


    Is Palin the Future of the GOP?

    I'm not so much interested in the question as how many news stories are talking about it.

    It's not much of a surprise though; Palin is the current golden girl because of her VP run. McCain is obviously not going to run again if he loses and all those folks from the primaries are just memories at the moment. This will change after the election, assuming McCain/Palin lose the election.

    The New York Times says:
    Brent Bozell, president of the Media Research Center, a conservative group, called it a “top order of business” to determine Ms. Palin’s future role. “Conservatives have been looking for leadership, and she has proven that she can electrify the grass roots like few people have in the last 20 years,” Mr. Bozell said. “No matter what she decides to do, there will be a small mother lode of financial support behind her.”
    Unless Palin is really developing her skills, it's difficult for me to see her in the Presidency except as a front for other interests/power brokers. She may be top dog in Alaska but that is not saying much compared to a broader political stage.

    The superficial similarities to the current Bush are difficult to ignore. (Although I think Palin comes by her "folksy" mannerisms more honestly than Bush.) The appeal of the "shucks, I'm just like you" factor isn't to be discounted but I don't think it really plays well in these times. Even four years from now, it's unlikely that our economy will be in great shape. The "drill, baby, drill" motto won't solve our longterm energy problems. Her foreign policy approach until now has been shallow and naive. Unless she (or her team) can work up a more nuanced approach to issues, she remains all surface and no depth. Undoubtedly, those who will try to educate her will be the Neocons.

    I don't think she's stupid. It's possible she will get up to speed, particularly if she has four years to prepare, but I personally think it's a losing proposition for the GOP to go with her as the future. Just because she "galvanized" the GOP base this time around doesn't mean she's a good candidate. The longer you look at her positions and responses, the less there is to her appeal. Smiles and winks are not substantive positions.

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    Tuesday, October 28, 2008


    The Death of Long Form Blogging and My Mild Protest

    Wired has an Op-ed piece that basically says essay-type blogging is an outdated form. for common people. Really, you should be doing the Twitter and Flickr. Ain'tcha burning with Web 4.0 passion to haiku-ize your life in microbursts?

    My amusement is showing. And radio killed newspapers and TV killed radio and the internet killed all of them. (Well there's a little truth in the last one.)

    While haiku-like 160 character messages are fine for some purposes if your main communication tool is the cell phone, it's hardly a nuanced or complete source.

    I think this is a reaction to the information overload many people feel from all the myriad sources out there competing for their attention. Instead of learning to evaluate sources and carefully pick which to follow, we now have short notes of dubious value and probably subject to misinterpretation.

    This strikes me as a solution for people who don't like to read. Perhaps they feel intimidated by reading. All those different words all strung together in long sentences. It's a lot easier to write or read "im gr8 hw r u?"

    I'm still waiting for grunts of pleasure and displeasure to come into the public discourse as debating points.


    Friday, October 24, 2008


    Floodgates Open on Obama Endorsements So Why am I Unhappy?

    For some reason I was surprised when the New York Times (NYT) endorsed Barack Obama in the Presidential race. This is, to me, both encouraging and dismaying.

    In recent days, a number of people and groups have endorsed Obama: Colin Powell, former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld, Scott McClellan as well as a large majority of newspapers.

    Now why would I find this dismaying? Endorsements like these certainly won't hurt Obama's chances. The NYT's endorsement in particular emphasizes McCain's responses to the current economic problems as out of touch and lacking in forward vision. Yet it also shows the establishment/elite comfortableness with Obama. In other words, Obama will find solutions within limits acceptable to the political and financial establishment. This doesn't mean the solutions might not be painful for them but they are willing to accept the probable parameters and limits of the actions.

    If you read about these opinions in the newspaper or see it on the TV, you will be looking at elite opinion, not the opinions of working-class people. Studies have shown that the views aired in these forums are from an incredibly narrow political and social spectrum.

    I don't mean to belittle Obama's accomplishments or his ability to inspire. Yet despite all that, my expectations for substantive change after his election remains low and muted.

    Part of me wonders if this is some unconscious racism on my part seeking justification but I think not. It's my cynicism about the US political process over the last 45 years. The process is intended to winnow out candidates unacceptable to the established order, not to provide change. Slogans are not change.

    Perhaps my attitude is a result of a lo-o-o-oong string of disappointments in the elective arena over decades of experience. I no longer get my hopes up. Then I'm pleasantly surprised when the elected official even minutely exceeds an exceptionally low bar.

    I wish Obama the best. I want him to win. I just don't expect to be remotely satisfied by his actions after taking office. He will not be free to take radical action. This is the reality of Presidential politics: There will be political debts to be paid. No one reaches the White House without being bound by these debts.

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    Wednesday, October 22, 2008


    The Disease of Libertarianism

    Libertarianism is a political philosophy. All the Libertarians that I've ever known have been white males, often with an income higher than the average American.

    I find Libertarianism to be almost pathologically anti-social. I can find a few issues where Libertarians and I share common ground (changing draconian illegal drug laws/penalties, for example.) But in the main, the lack of compassion and insistence on ruthless social Darwinism strikes me as repugnant and selfish.

    This is on my mind because there is a question on the ballot this year, undoubtedly promoted by Libertarians, asking whether to abolish the income tax in Massachusetts. (Pros and cons)

    I couldn't contain my laughter when the argument "for" the abolition said that this wouldn't make town tax rates go up. Let me name a few of the things state income taxes help subsidize.
    The idea that private enterprise or corporations will step in to provide for the commonwealth and societal needs is remarkably naive, perhaps deliberately so. I can't help but wonder at the possible motivation to capitalize on the "opportunities" inherent in the withdrawal of state organization and resources. The result of this tack is more people falling to the bottom. And it's remarkably easy to take advantage of desperate and poor people willing to do anything to stay afloat.

    This is why I doubt Libertarianism will ever become widely popular: It despises poor people.

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    Monday, October 20, 2008


    Election News Sources

    I'm pretty late in attempting to round up some good sources for election news and polls but with the clock ticking down to two weeks, it still might be useful to some folks.

    First is where a plethora of charts and poll results examine the current state of affairs. I also found this blog entry on Palin titled "The Wikipedian Candidate" an interesting read.

    Out of time now but I plan to come back and expand this entry.

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    Sunday, October 19, 2008


    The Battle of Cynicism and Hope

    Fierce Celt, my housemate, steadfastly refrains from investing too much in the outcome of the Presidential election. Given the outcome of the last few elections, she maintains there is no telling what will happen so why get your hopes up? I'm a reluctant realist when it comes to politics: Voters don't always have the clear say over the results on election day.

    Republican political fixers certainly influenced the outcome of 2000 and the 2004 results doesn't seem all that clear either considering the numerous problems with "caging" voters and voter roll purges.

    Like the X-Files tagline, I want to believe in fair elections in the USA but manipulators work hard to affect the final count. I don't mean the normal heat of elections, accusations and self-praise flowing in abundance from both camps. That's just the normal political jockeying for position and to be expected.

    Our voting system is so flawed in execution that I sometimes wonder why impartial international observers don't monitor the vote counting. Electronic voting machines are still astonishingly problematic and so full of glitches I can't believe they are used at all. There is no guarantees of their accuracy and the companies manufacturing them have documented close ties to the Republican Party, something that doesn't exactly generate confidence in the impartiality of their programming.

    It's obvious my cynicism is ascendant and rampant.

    I just can't believe in a system that continually tries to deny access to many citizen voters. It is the Republicans who seem to have mastered the art of constricting access in their favor. No one tries to deny voters in well-off neighborhoods their franchise. It's always the poor and working class who suffer the attention of self-styled gatekeepers crying "voter fraud" to exclude them.

    Democracy is supposed to be built on the basic right of citizens to vote politicians into and out of office. Once this is circumvented, we are left at the mercy of white collar thieves and professional manipulators. We lose faith in the basic credibility of the election system. This leads to a sense of powerlessness and of being helpless pawns.

    In the face of my cynicism, I'm left with hope that the system isn't anywhere as corrupt as it seems. But hope isn't much of a comfort in these dark times. It feels more like a crutch, an illusion best ignored.

    Yet I still hope.

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    Friday, October 17, 2008


    The Fraud of Voter Registration Fraud

    It seems particularly lame and disingenuous for the Republican/McCain camps to cry "foul" over voter registration fraud. Despite studies that show that such fraud isn't extensive or exceptionally organized beyond very local levels, they keep hammering ACORN.

    ACORN (The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now), which is at the center of the current allegations, has a factsheet on the issue which is worth reading.

    This Washington Post article examined the issue in 2007 during the blow-up over the Attorney General firings.

    By contrast, the efforts by Republicans to exclude eligible voters under the pretext of voter fraud is both persistent and very well documented.

    These are the technical tactics of politics: making sure the right people are able to vote.

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    Sunday, October 12, 2008


    Now is the Time When I Curse My Blog Coding...

    When I first started blogging, I settled into Blogger because it was easy and fast to set up.

    That was over four years ago and 1,100 posts ago.

    Since then, I've added a few customizations to the code, sitemeters and such. Then I began noticing that DemiOrator was throwing up pop-ups when it loaded. I ignored it for a long time but I just figured out it was one of the site statistics scripts so I've deleted it from the code. This seems to have solved the annoying problem. And I'm kind of pissed about it. I should have known that they would take the opportunity to make some money but I still don't like it and particularly not the use of pop-up ads.

    This brings me to the current rub: I've made noises before about switching to different blogging software and I think the time is ripe now. You know, get a domain and host it myself.

    My web host has Wordpress as an automatic install. It seems like a good platform but if anyone has input, I'd love to hear from you.

    I've only the most rudimentary of HTML coding skills and still have trouble keeping CSS coding straight. I need to get better sometime so why not now? Hardly a resounding carpe diem but that's life.

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    Wednesday, October 08, 2008


    Death-throes of My Reasoned Discourse

    I find myself feeling distinctly irrational tonight. The calm marshaling of argument, the ordering of points in support of a thesis, the use of supportive documentation and links... These are all tools beyond me at the moment.

    Bleak cynicism grips me. American democracy strikes me as casino gambling, the odds always inevitably weighed in favor of the House. Structured to resist drastic change, we still pretend that the outcome of elections will bring substantial change.

    It. Will. Not. Bring. Change.

    I genuinely believe an Obama/Biden administration will be better for the country than McCain/Palin. Co-existing with this belief is my fundamental certainty that Obama's hands will be tied in many different ways if/when he gets into office. Many rhetorical and political promises will come up empty in the ensuing years. "Change" will turn to the long wait, to delay, to the study of myriad options. Congress will balk, always with reasonable explanations as to why action is ill-advised.

    These are the days of dust and tears.

    These are the days of terrible lies.

    These are the days of political abuse coated with sugared words.

    I'm tired of pretending that rational public discussion and debate will change the actions of politicians. In the vast majority of cases, it does not.

    Constituent calls to Congresscritters on the US$700 billion economic bailout bill ran hundreds to one against passing it. (One Representative I heard actually said it was 1000:1 against it in his office.) Yet, despite this enormous public outcry, five days later it was passed.

    America runs on money and power and influence in lofty circles. The vast majority of us live in the land of the screwed, the scrimping and scrounging wage-slave beggars, at the mercy of the vast economic forces of Capitalism. Those in power need only put on the appearance of care and concern. Only exceptionally overreaching illegality is caught at that level.

    So tonight I'm just bitter at the whole degenerate mess of politics. Reason is lost to disgust and distrust.

    The impulse to foment revolution begins to seem attractive and desirable.

    Cosmetic change is not real change; it is the illusion of change that placates, calms, gentles the populace.

    Someday, the hypnotized will wake on fire and wonder when it began. I don't want to wait that long.

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    Vacant Debates: My Blank Response

    Another Presidential candidate debate down, one more to go. I'm left without sharp edges or persistently lingering points of exceptional import.

    Living in the age of opinionators rather than analyzers, factoid reporters rather than fact checkers, we are left without clear understanding of truth. Claims are presented without contrast, without context, leaving loudness and aggression as the clearest memory.

    I look for follow-up analysis and find only partisan cheerleading or carefully balanced gray reportage. All this is carefully choreographed to create the iconic representations of the candidates. War hero maverick. Calm assured diplomat. Rainbow Brite frontier woman w/ maverick highlights. (I've got nothing for Biden except experienced but occasionally gaffe-prone white guy which seems thin even to me.)

    Winners of a particular debate are variously declared using specific or specious criteria: polls, style, audience, expectations. Because there has to be a winner and a loser. There are no stark contradictions. There are no lies, no misrepresentations in the mainstream reports. They leave those to be presented by the campaigns.

    What would it be like if every campaign claim and counterclaim were strictly analyzed for verifiable facts? For a candidate's historical positions? Deconstruct the assertions with clarity and without bias and see what comes out the other end.

    Instead we are tribes battling, shouting taunts and incoherent epithets back and forth, caught up in the identity politics and issues cleaving the body politic.

    Color me blank.

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    Monday, October 06, 2008


    The Camden 28

    As I watched The Camden 28 tonight, I was reminded that war and protests against war in the USA have shifted.

    This action in 1971 was a shrewd tactical protest against the war with very specific concrete and achievable goals. While there were flaws in the planning (notably infiltration by an agent provocateur for the FBI), it was in the tradition of the previous Catholic "left" actions such as the events around the Catonsville Nine.

    Do actions like this still happen? If they do, they don't seem to get much press.

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    Friday, October 03, 2008


    Odds and Ends post-VP Debate

    Sarah Palin easily exceeded expectations for her in the VP debate. Or at least the parts I saw. Her "folksy" style began to grate on me after a while and I left for significant portions after the first half hour.

    Whether a deliberately developed persona or not, Palin's "I'm one of you" public face is the result of Ronald Reagan's influence on politics. Much as I despise almost the entirety of Reagan's policies, many Americans apparently liked his easy manner and communication style. He lied, deliberately misrepresented, or forgot facts and events but, shucks, he made it seem like he just forgot to pick up the milk on the way home from work rather than distorting critical information and decisions related to his Presidency. In the latter years, it's possible that Alzheimer's was affecting him but that hardly accounts for the vast majority.

    The real question is whether many Americans will think that style is preferable to substance and competence. Palin's responses were often full of deliberately self-conscious "hockey mom" references, catchphrases and isolated facts obviously prepared for her. Biden had some moments like that but he also showed comfortable comprehension of the information for the most part.

    I admit I'm biased toward the Obama/Biden side but I also have to say I'm not inclined to believe what either Dems or Repubs say. At the national level, both represent elite money interests to a greater or lesser degree. Yet I heard the most incredible things from Palin, statements that obviously contradicted McCain's long record and beliefs up to that point. The clearest pandering I saw from the stage easily came from Palin.

    In most other election years, a VP candidate is hardly an important factor to consider. Considering McCain's history of serious illness and his age at 72, Palin becomes more of a factor on their ticket. The odds of her ascending to the Presidency if elected are higher than usual. This is why she is being scrutinized so thoroughly.

    I'm not impressed by her abilities so far and I've seen much that worries me.

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    Thursday, October 02, 2008


    Palin vs. Biden: Hilarious Hijinx or Serious Debate?

    I'm looking forward to the Palin/Biden debate tonight. I don't know if I'm expecting a train wreck or a skillful rhetorical dance.

    There's been a lot of advice to each side in the media lately so I doubt whether either side will be surprised. The big question is whether Palin can think on her feet after undoubtedly being drilled endlessly on her responses on major issues. The few interviews she's done since her nomination indicate she's a poor study so far but I suspect the campaign handlers have taken these lessons to heart. They will do everything they can to compensate and make sure she knows basic policy answers cold.

    I still don't know the contract details of the event but the format of short, 90 second answers, will curtail meanderings from both. Palin has shown a tendency to sometimes flail wildly to very specific questions when she is uncertain of the answer. Extensive rehearsals will probably reduce that response.

    My understanding is that Biden tends to wander and elaborate too much, probably a much easier habit to curtail and focus into the time period than Palin's previous gaps in policy knowledge.

    I suspect at this point many people are looking for big gaffes on Palin's end. She's done poorly at some spontaneous answers. We'll see

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    Wednesday, October 01, 2008


    The Authoritarian Dynamic

    Across time and place, we find that those inclined to discriminate against members of other racial and ethnic groups also rush to protect the "common good" by "stamping out" offensive ideas and "cracking down" on misbehavior, and show unusual interest in making public policy about what other people might be up to in private. At the other end of this spectrum are those who interact eagerly and respectfully with all manner of people, who think the common good mostly a chimera best served by letting "a thousand flowers bloom," and who cannot imagine being bothered about, let alone bothering lawmakers about, what others do behind closed doors. The rest of us fall somewhere in between: not openly averse to other peoples but usually favoring our own, uneasy about restricting what individuals may say but less so how and when and where they say it, generally wanting to keep private moral choices out of the public realm but at some point "drawing the line."

    Karen Stenner, The Authoritarian Dynamic. New York:Cambridge University Press, 2005. 1-2.

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