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Saturday, May 31, 2008
Saturday Night Roswell Blogging

This week I am in Roswell, New Mexico, one of the quirkiest and most delightful towns in the Southwest. Robert Goddard did his pioneering work in rocketry here in the 1930s and 40s, and the local Air Force base was the big employer here until it closed down in the 1960s.

When the airbase closed, the town -- slowly -- moved to embrace an incident from its past as the basis for a new economy. The incident in question was the purported crash of a flying saucer on a ranch outside of town in 1947, and the recovery of wreckage and (according to some accounts) several alien bodies by personnel at the Roswell air force base.

The local newspaper eagerly splashed the "flying disc" story on its front page; but subsequent denials from the military (the object that crashed was explained away as a weather balloon) killed the story, and the whole thing was forgotten for 30 years.

By the 1970s, of course, Ufology had reached a high-water mark in terms of credibility, and old flying saucer reports were mined to feed the public's appetite for UFO lore. The Roswell incident was revisited, and this time Maj. Jesse Marcel, who was one of the officers who examined the debris at the time, now asserted that the wreckage he had seen at the crash site was not the same as the wreckage he had later shown to the press.

This resulted in a storm of controversy and, ultimately, a tourism boom for the city of Roswell. You can't throw a rock in town without hitting an alien -- or at least, a fanciful depiction of one.

Like the crazy aunt in the attic who has a talent for earning a lot of money, the folks in Roswell are happy to sell you aliens, if that's what you want. But at its heart Roswell is just a dusty desert town that isn't really on the way to anywhere. And that's how I like it.

Friday, May 30, 2008
"Everyone Who Exalts Himself Will Be Humbled, And He Who Humbles Himself Will Be Exalted"
You can't be a good Catholic these days without being audibly and visibly right-wing, so I guess by that standard Mnsr. Jim Lisante is the best Catholic around. He's speaking at Republican party functions, essentially campaigning against Barack Obama:

The priest, Monsignor Jim Lisante mockingly asks God to change Obama's mind and volunteers to replace Rev. Jeremiah Wright as Obama's pastor.

"One more thing, Lord. Please tell Senator Obama that maybe change is a good thing and maybe he should think about changing his favorite preacher," he said, to applause.

"I know a lot more of us would be comfortable with his judgment skills if he hadn’t sat for 20 years through those words offered by his preacher of division, bigotry, and – honestly – half truths without a word of objection from Senator until the media brought it up, and now he doesn’t want any part of the guy," he said.

"I’m willing to be his new preacher."

I suspect you're too busy with Republican party politics to browse scripture, padre, but when you get a chance you might want to take a glance at Luke 18:9-14

Thursday, May 29, 2008
November Flip
TPM Election Central looks deeply into the eyes of the electoral map and demonstrates that Barack Obama could lose Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida in November and still win the election.


If he can flip one big state (like Virginia) and / or a couple of small ones (like Iowa and Colorado), he could pull it off.

My only reservation is this: if Obama was going to flip Virginia or Missouri, he'd probably wouldn't be in any danger of losing Ohio and Pennsylvania in the first place.

Nevertheless, it's an interesting analysis and well worth reading.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008
My God, They've Hypnotized Themselves
How dumb are wingers?

So dumb that they're beginning to get confused about who Rush told them they're supposed to be rooting for. An emailer to the National Review's The Corner confesses:

I have recently realized that I feel little if any Clinton hatred anymore. I guess I still think Bill is sleazy, but I have come to view Hillary in a neutral or even somewhat positive way. I am wondering if you feel the same way (I know you had more direct experiences with the Clintons in the 90's). For the last several months, Hillary has been given the "Republican treatment" by the media. Obama is the new Bill Clinton, the one the media and the intelligentsia will defend and adore to all lenghts. Hillary is now evil, just as the first Bush and Bob Dole were evil. Maybe I delighted in this turn of events for a while, but now I guess I feel like Hillary has been through a purgatory of sorts. Wondering if you feel the same way.

Well, don't worry, little fella. Rush will be along any time now to tuck you into bed and tell you who to hate.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Hey, Hey! Get Your Own Damned Bottle Of Wine!

Oh, Christopher Hitchens, you make me laugh:
Not everybody likes wine as much as I do. Many females, for example, confine themselves to one glass per meal or even half a glass.

How peculiar.

It pains me to see good wine being sloshed into the glasses of those who have not asked for it and may not want it and then be left standing there barely tasted when the dinner is over.

Okay, this is a guy who more often than not shows up drunk on interview shows. This is a guy who literally gives public lectures with a glass of bourbon in his hand. "Not everybody" likes wine as much as you? Hitchens, nobody likes wine as much as you. Bacchus doesn't like wine as much as you. Bung from The Wizard of Id doesn't like wine as much as you.

Save Us, Republican Party! Save Us!
Julie Ponzi writes at No Left Turns that it might be a good idea for John McCain to pick a Democrat to be his running mate, even though a Democrat is, by definition, not ideologically pure:

It would be good for the Democrats to see the more extreme wing of their party suffer a serious defeat. If Lieberman is the choice and wins along with McCain, Lieberman would be vindicated. He may not be (exactly) a Scoop Jackson Democrat. But he’s a damn sight better than anything else they’ve got going right now. He’s a person of some integrity and backbone and he’s got a common-sensical love for the country that appeals to everyone. He connects with the people we need in order to prevail in the struggle we’re in with the radical elements of Islam. It is better to have those people planted firmly on our side (even if temporarily) and to give them a stake in the fight than to have them loosely tied and trailing behind the radical elements among the Democrats where they can’t do anything but wring their hands and get used, occasionally, to attack the wisdom of Republicans. With the Dems they can do no good and affect nothing. With us, they can help their country and rise to a position of prominence--perhaps one day strong enough to regain control of their own party and defeat us. But such a defeat would be honorable and I am willing to risk it. I would rather suffer that than defeat at the hands of the likes of Obama & Co. and watch my country do great damage to herself and others.

Some may object that there is also a danger that admitting these folks in among our ranks may work against us and allow them to take over our party. I concede that. But I am not afraid of that challenge. I do not think they could transform the Republican party as easily as those who fear this imagine. I think it’s more likely that the Democrats would find themselves in need of copying us in an attempt to bring these folks home to them. Then we’d have a genuine and worthy fight for the center. I would be happier to do combat on these friendly terms with a loyal opposition than to have to continue in these pointless squabbles with an opponent who does not even come to the table with the same understanding of the terms. We could make real inroads with some of these voters, I think, and the GOP could build itself a strong center.

This line of reasoning is so bizarre that I actually worry for Ms. Ponzi's sanity. Is she really saying that the Republican party -- that corrupt, morally and intellectually bankrupt rat's nest that stands foursquare for profligate spending, government incompetence, political patronage, public malfeasance, imperial snake oil, mouth-breathing ludditeism, legalized torture and the worst sort of leering Babbitry imaginable -- this smoldering train wreck of a political movement is going to "save" the country from the horrid prospect of Democratic governance and, at the same time, "save" the Democrats from themselves?

What weed do you think they smoke, up in the mountains on the planet she is from?

Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Really Crappy CGI

I loved Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Loved it. Must have seen it a dozen times at the dollar theater in south Minneapolis in the summer of '82.

I haven't seen the new Indiana Jones flick, though -- and don't intend to -- but it seems I'm not alone in my contempt for the slapdash way that Spielberg and Lucas make movies nowadays:

If you were unfortunate enough to have dropped ten bucks on Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull over the holiday weekend, the last thing you should feel is alone: The movie has made over $150million in just five days. And the reviews have been okay, too: According to Rotten Tomatoes, the movie garnered a not-unimpressive score of 79%. Still, you might be one of those (brilliant and thoughtful) people who thought the movie was nothing short of dreadful. If so, you are probably asking yourself, How on Earth could this film have been well received by critics?

A friend suggested one theory to me, which is that reviewers were scared to dump on a beloved franchise. This seemed plausible, although weren't the three most recent Star Wars films rightfully trashed? Well, sort of: Although not as well reviewed as Indiana Jones 4, none of the moves in George Lucas’ second trilogy received the drubbing it deserved.

Anyway, this is a long-winded way of broaching my real problem with the film, which was its awful, awful CGI. David Denby, in an otherwise sensible review, actually seemed to enjoy some of the action scenes, including the big one near the end that looked to my eyes almost completely fake.

I think what the reviewers are really afraid of is bashing a movie that they know is going to be a monster hit. It's hard to go into an Indiana Jones movie without knowing what to expect, and no one doubted that this new movie, regardless of how badly executed it was, would pack 'em in.

CGI has made it possible to put a lot of things on the screen that couldn't be created before; and it has also made it possible for low-budget films to attain at least a passable level of visual effects.

But what's regarded as acceptable these days for CGI is of much poorer quality than "analog" special effects. Lucas' CGI "improvements" to Star Wars (1977) were a joke: flat, cartoonish and unconvincing. The original model work was much more realistic; putting the old and the new together on the screen made that painfully obvious.

And the big special effects pictures of Spielberg's early period -- Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) and Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)used the technology of the era to make the effects scenes extremely convincing. Imagine if Spielberg used Industrial Light & Magic's CGI to create the spacecraft in Close Encounters; it would have been dreadful, perhaps as bad as the smeary, cartoonish scenes in The Fifth Element or Spielberg's own dismal War of the Worlds.

The industry perception seems to be that the current level of CGI is, to use the insider phrase, "commercial" -- that is, it's of high enough quality so that the average moviegoer won't see the seams.

I don't believe it. I don't even believe Lucas and Spielberg believe it.

I think they have simply grown so fat and lazy, so convinced of their own genius, so contemptuous of their audience, that now they just throw it all up there on the screen and call it a day. But their younger selves -- the ones who were making smart, vibrant movies thirty years ago -- would have been appalled.

Monday, May 26, 2008
On Memorial Day

I am posting this late on Memorial Day, of course, but still wanted to mark the occasion: this day, originally called "Decoration Day", was created to honor the Civil War dead. It later was expanded to honor all American war dead.

My own family was lucky: my ancestor Elisha Culbert hailed from northwestern Ohio, and he proudly fought for the Union. He saw action in a number of campaigns and was later captured and imprisoned by Confederate forces. He suffered terribly in captivity but survived as a decorated veteran.

My grandfather fought in World War I as an artilleryman. He saw a great deal of action on the front lines in France but lived to tell the stories to his grandchildren.

My father was in the service during the Korean War, but never saw action.

I turned 18 in 1983, with a generation that lived on the knife's edge of nuclear confrontation with the Soviets. At the time, we thought of it as "peacetime". Like many of my peers, I didn't serve, and I was fortunate not to read the names of my old classmates in the obituaries.

There were many generations in American history that were not so lucky. We think of them today: the bright-faced young people who set out to defend their country, proud but uncertain about whether they would return. All those graveyards filled with war dead. Think of them today. Honor their memories. But more importantly, think of them when the next bout of war fever rages across our country. Remember that while sacrifices are sometimes necessary, they often are not. And that governments are apt to freely spend more than their people can afford.

Sunday, May 25, 2008
Who Is This Liz Trotta, And Why Does She Want Barack Obama Dead?
Oh, right, she's a Fox commentator. Should have known.

First she confuses "Obama" with "Osama", then excuses herself by saying that it would be great if both were dead.

Typical Fox News class.

I guarantee you this. If Barack Obama ends up getting assassinated, this Trotta moron is going to have to go live with Osama Bin Laden. Because she won't be safe anywhere else on earth.


This evening will be a stressful one for the scientists at the Jet Propulsion Labs in Pasadena. The Phoenix lander is scheduled to touch down near the north pole of Mars just before 5 pm Pacific time. If more than a dozen computer-controlled maneuvers go off without a hitch, the probe will land safely. If one thing in the sequence goes wrong, it's all over.

This is an important probe because it's designed to learn the lessons of the old Viking landers. Rather than examine dry soil from the surface, Phoenix will dig 5 inches down into the soil, where it is believed that water can be found. If there is any trace of microbial life on Mars -- living or dead -- it may just reside there.

Unlike the Spirit and Opportunity probes, Phoenix won't use airbags to bounce to a safe landing on the Red Planet. Instead, it's kickin' it old skool: first aerobraking through the upper atmosphere with an ablation shield; then deploying a parachute to slow descent to 150 miles per hour; then deploying thrusters to slow down to 5 mph. Shock absorbers in the legs of the probe will take most of the jolt out of that.

So why is this such a white-knuckle landing?

Success in landing Mars probes has been dicey at best. The Russians never managed to land a successful Mars probe at all, despite numerous attempts; and the American have batted just over .500. And Phoenix is actually the twin of the Mars Polar Lander probe, which crashed on the surface in 1999.

The MPL crash prompted NASA to go over the Phoenix probe, looking for the fault that caused the crash. A number of problems were found and corrected; the eggheads hope they found all of them.

Did they? We'll know in a few hours.

Update: As of 7:17 pm Pacific time, NASA and JPL confirmed that the lander successfully touched down, deployed its solar arrays, cameras and bioshield, and is now transmitting photos back to earth.

Very well done.

Saturday, May 24, 2008
The Conventional Wisdom Says That The Conventional Wisdom Is Always Wrong
From Politico, an interesting article in which senior GOP strategists quietly assert that they can buck the conventional wisdom and get John McCain across the finish line with as much as a 50-electoral-vote margin -- essentially a landslide:

It sounds crazy at first. Amid dire reports about the toxic political environment for Republican candidates and the challenges facing John McCain, many top GOP strategists believe he can defeat Barack Obama — and by a margin exceeding President Bush’s Electoral College victory in 2004....

The case they make for a comfortable McCain win is not beyond reason. Begin with the 2004 electoral map. Add Iowa and Colorado to Obama’s side, since both are considered states Obama could pick off. Then count McCain victories in New Hampshire and Michigan, two states where McCain is competitive. In this scenario, McCain wins the Electoral College 291-246, a larger margin than Bush four years ago.

If Obama managed only to win Iowa from Republicans and McCain managed only to win Pennsylvania, McCain would still win by a much greater margin than Bush — 300-237.

“McCain is in a remarkably strong position for how poor the political environment is right now,” said Brian Nienaber, a GOP pollster. “McCain could win Pennsylvania, Ohio, Colorado and Nevada with a high Hispanic population. It really does scramble the map of where Obama does find those electoral votes.”

It is an interesting analysis, and I agree strongly with at least one thing the strategists say in the article: that McCain is the only candidate in the field who would have a prayer this year. I would vastly prefer the Republicans to have thrown Huckabee or Thompson or Giuliani in the ring. If that were the case, I think Obama would already be ahead by double digits. And the GOP was almost -- almost -- dumb enough to do it.

And I am willing to concede that the conventional wisdom, which has been wrong about nearly everything this election cycle so far, might be just as wrong about McCain this time.

But it seems to me that some of the GOP confidence stems from the assumption that they will be able to control the debate, smear Obama in 2008 the way they smeared Kerry in 2004. And I just don't see that happening.

Obama went up against an extremely well-positioned opponent in the primaries, a woman who was regarded as a shoo-in not only for the nomination and the presidency as well. He beat her because his message was better and his organization was better. Hillary Clinton lost the nomination because she underestimated him. Now it seems the Republicans are doing the same thing.

Like Rats Leaving A Sinking Ship
How dinged-up is the Republican "brand" right now? So dinged-up that GOP shill, toady and pennyboy Jonah Goldberg is now claiming that he's not necessarily a Republican...

Here's a confession: I am a weak Republican. I'm a strong conservative, at least I like to think so. Maybe that makes me less beholden to the idea that every Republican victory is a conservative one as well, or that every Democratic success is automatically a conservative defeat. I get all of this email from people screaming that I'm some sort of RINO because of a column where I floated a strategic idea for how the Republican could win and the conservative movement might live to fight another day. But the idea that the fate of conservatism and the fate of the Republican Party are not merely intertwined but synonymous is what led us to the rhetorical abomination of compassionate conservatism and nurtured the crapulence of the congressional GOP lo these last 10 years.

Sorry, Jonah. It's too late for that. 40 or 50 years ago you might have made the case that the so-called "conservative movement" was not inextricably linked with, or dependent upon, either of the two major parties. Because back then there were conservative factions -- and liberal factions -- in both parties.

Not true anymore. The Republicans have been ruthless in evicting anyone from their ranks who does not hew to absolute ideological orthodoxy (for instance, look at what happened to a handful of Republican legislators in Minnesota who dared to vote for a tax increase).

It wasn't Bush's talk of "compassionate conservatism" that got the Republicans in the mess they're in now. The problem isn't that the GOP has abandoned conservative principles at all; the problem is that the so-called "modern conservative movement", fully in control of both the GOP and, for the first time in history, all the levers of government (White House, Senate, House of Representatives, majority of Supreme Court justices, majority of state legislatures, majority of governorships), made a complete and utter disaster out of everything they touched. They discovered that it's easier to write smarmy pieces in the National Review and throw grenades from the backbenches than it is to actually govern.

Goldberg did not disavow his allegiance to the Republican party until the party's popularity fell somewhere between that of lung cancer and dog shit. He can squawk all he wants to, but he belongs to the GOP and the GOP belongs to him. He's not getting out that easily.

Friday, May 23, 2008
Pattern Recognition
It keeps coming up. Nobody talks about it openly -- but it keeps coming up.

Exhibit A:

Exhibit B:

And from today, Exhibit C:

Does anyone doubt what's going on here? Does anyone -- besides me -- fear where this is all leading?

Thursday, May 22, 2008
You Got Your Facts Right, Son, But Your Conclusion Is All Wrong
The liberal blogosphere has cheered Peggy Noonan's recent excoriation of the current clueless, brain-dead Republican party.

But no one seems to have noticed an offhand paragraph in Noonan's otherwise sensible column:

I spoke this week to Clarke Reed of Mississippi, one of the great architects of resurgent Republicanism in the South. When he started out, in the 1950s, there were no Republicans in his state. The solid south was solidly Democratic, and Sen. James O. Eastland was thumping the breast pocket of his suit, vowing that civil rights legislation would never leave it. "We're going to build a two-party system in the south," Mr. Reed said. He helped create "the illusion of Southern power" as a friend put it, with the creation of the Southern Republican Chairman's Association. "If you build it they will come." They did.

Noonan's paragraph reminds me of an old joke.

Actually, the joke is rolled up in an anecdote about Abraham Lincoln -- scourge of the South -- so it's doubly appropriate here.

It's said that when Lincoln was a young lawyer, he served as a defense attorney in a trial. The prosecutor made a stirring closing argument, and soon it was Lincoln's turn. "Gentlemen of the jury," Lincoln began, "My esteemed colleague has his facts straight, but his conclusion is all wrong."

Inexplicably, the men on the jury threw their heads back and roared with laughter.

The jury had not been out long before they came back with a verdict -- acquitting Lincoln's client.

After the trial, the prosecutor asked around to find out why the jurors had such a reaction to Lincoln's words in the closing argument

It turned out that on the final day of the trial, Lincoln had bumped into the members of the jury as they were having lunch across the street. Lincoln, far too honest to discuss the trial, paused to tell the men a dirty joke.

The joke was: a boy rushes into his family's house. He yells, "Pa, Pa!"

The boy's Pa says, "What's the matter, son?"

The boy blurts out, "Pa, I saw Sis up in the hayloft with the hired hand. He was a-pullin' down his pants, and she was a-liftin' up her skirt. Pa, I think they're fixin' to piss all over the hay!".

The father replies, "You got your facts right, son, but your conclusion is all wrong."

You might say the same thing about Noonan.

The Democrats, Noonan implies, were impeding the cause of civil rights, and Republicans like Clarke Reed were determined to push back against their segregationist impulses. They were going to make inroads by building a more fair, more just, more decent electoral system in the south.

Which would have been wonderful. Except it isn't true.

The Republicans had no interest in, nor did they support, civil rights legislation. But they knew that the Democrats were deeply divided on the subject. Northern Democrats passed -- and Democratic President Lyndon Johnson signed -- the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which white southerners saw as a betrayal. The Republicans knew they could cynically reap the benefits. And they did. By appealing to disenchanted southern racists, and propping up the Jim Crow election laws, they became the majority party in the South, and for a time, the nation as a whole.

And that helped the Republicans to power. Racist Democrats like George Wallace and Strom Thurmond -- and hundreds of others -- switched to the Republican party.

There was nothing heroic in what the Republicans did. In fact, they made a bargain with the Devil -- a bargain that made them the majority party in America for a generation.

But those days are over. The bill has come due, and the Devil will be paid.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Thurston Howell III Would Laugh At Your Economic Analysis

Larry Kudlow -- the TV economics pundit who doesn't know anything about economics -- thinks that the financial markets are terrified of Barack Obama:

One of the things we’ve learned during the Democratic primary battle is that Hillary’s victories are bullish for stocks and Obama’s wins are bearish.

The clearest example was Hillary’s massive West Virginia victory. Stocks opened strong the following day. But after Obama’s big North Carolina win, a night he nearly carried Indiana, stocks opened way down.

Even though Hillary clocked Obama in Kentucky, since Obama took Oregon convincingly, he really carried last night’s elections and now stands on the verge of gaining the Democratic nomination. Not surprisingly, stocks opened down 80 points this morning.

I understand that Kudlow's statements are meant to rally the troops in the "conservative movement". They're not supposed to be taken seriously. And we know that it's forbidden for Republicans to admit that there is anything wrong with the economy.

But you don't have to be the Wizard of Wall Street to understand why the markets fell today:

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The Federal Reserve sees worse economic problems ahead, according to new forecasts from the central bank released Wednesday.

But even so, the Fed may be reluctant to cut interest rates any further than it already has, the minutes from its last meeting show. (The minutes were also released Wednesday.)

The Fed lowered its economic growth forecast for the year. At the same time, it raised its projections for inflation and unemployment. The combination of slowing growth and rising prices created a difficult situation that made the Fed's latest decision to cut rates on April 30 a "close call."

Stocks, which were trading a bit lower before the release of the minutes, fell even further after the new forecast was revealed. The Dow finished the day with a more than 220 point loss.

So let's just lay it out on the table, okay? The Fed projects slowing growth, higher inflation and more job losses, and at the same time they signal that no further interest rate cuts are in the offing. That same day, the stock market takes a dive.

Because Barack Obama won a primary election in Oregon?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Don't Say You Didn't Ask For It, National Review
Well, Charlotte Hays chimes in at the Corner, so I guess I can't let it go:

I loved Obama telling us how how “unacceptable” and "low class" it would be for us to to mention his wife's anti-American remarks. How’s he gonna stop us? (I certainly hope he will have a tougher approach when negotiating with dictators!)

Hmm. Good point, Charlotte. I think Obama ought to be forced to prove how tough he will be against dictators -- by firing a couple of cruise missiles at 215 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10016.

It couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of people.

Good Eye, Sullivan
Conservative limey Andrew Sullivan caught this on The Corner's roundup of political news headlines. Can you spot the story that is in the wrong category?

Around the Web: 2008 [Katherine Connell]

The latest on the candidates . . .


-- Still After the Holy Grail - The Washington Post

-- As Time Runs Short, Claims Lead in Popular Vote - The New York Times

-- Puts Up a New Fight -The Washington Post


-- Finds a Thorny Path in Ethics Effort - The New York Times

-- Aides Turn the Media Rebuttal Into a Savvy Campaign Tactic - The Washington Post

-- Aides Seek to Contain Lobbyist Controversy The Wall Street Journal

-- Addresses Economy in Obama's Backyard - The Boston Globe

-- Obama Talk on Iranians Draws Fire The New York Times

-- Chief Reassures Donors, Touts Favorable Numbers - Politico


--Courts American Indians - The Wall Street Journal

-- Black Statement Conflicts With Record - Politico

-- To Tout Delegate Majority - The Washington Times

-- Blasts Tennessee GOP for Criticism of His Wife - The New York Daily News

-- Backers See Dream Ticket as Nightmare - The Hill

Yes, you guessed it. The headline "Black Statement Conflicts With Record" is not about the Obama campaign, it's about the McCain campaign; the subject is senior McCain advisor Charlie Black, not the Black Guy running for President.

That, of course, is a bit subtle for the beautiful minds at the National Review.

Victor Davis Hansonisms
I can't read a Victor Davis Hanson post at The Corner without my brain automatically fisking it as I go along. Today's example is just so egregious I've got to share.

Victor writes:

Barack Obama should review the basics of American history and the fundamentals of diplomacy.

Look who's talking.

In comparing various enemies, one is by needs more willing to talk to hostile nuclear super-powers (as Nixon, and Reagan did with China and the Soviet Union) that have the ability to destroy us than to talk to a hostile power like Iran.

So we should never speak to a foreign government unless it can destroy us? Why? How can that be interpreted as anything but an insanely dogmatic and inflexible policy?

And are you saying we never talked to China or Russia until they were able to destroy us? Seems like you've got your basics of American history a little fuzzy, Vic, not to mention your fundamentals of diplomacy.

In the former case, we have few options, in the latter plenty.

For example: "Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran"

For the analogy to be valid, did Nixon and Reagan have summits with Castro as they did with Mao or Gorbachev—and if not, why not?

Cuban-American voters in Miami, maybe?

And is not Obama's speak-anytime-anywhere-to-anyone -policy at odds with many of our allies in the EU who haven't gone that far with an Iran or Venezeula?

Oh, now they want our allies in the EU to have a say in our foreign policy.

Saturday, May 17, 2008
A Bridge To The Past
Yuval Levin, writing in the Weekly Standard, outlines what he sees as a way to victory for John McCain in 2008.

Levin's argument is based on the premise that elections are won or lost not on personalities or strategies, but on themes. The candidate with the stronger, more consistent theme will win.

Levin then argues that, thematically speaking, the Democrats actually hold the weaker hand, because the theme of their campaign is "change".

But "change", says Levin, is actually a pejorative -- or at least, an aggressive marketing campaign can convince the American public that it is a pejorative. Think, he says, of all the change we've endured in the last century. Where has it led us? Into a thicket of regulation and government do-gooderism, that's where! Medicare! Medicaid! Social Security! The FDA! The UN! The Federal Reserve! Public schools!

The antidote to this, Levin says, is a Republican campaign centered around a counter-theme: reform.

Since the American people are fed up with "change" but don't know it, the way into their hearts is to promise to reform the institutions that came as a result of all this awful "change" stuff we've been suffering from.

Hmm. Okay, so far, so good. Sounds a bit like Bob Dole's famous bridge to the past, but I'll play along. What would this "reform agenda" look like?

Well, hold on to your hats, kids, because your old Uncle Mike is about to blow your mind.

Here are the highlights of the reform agenda:

--Privatize Social Security;

--(Partially) privatize Medicare;

--Tort reform;

--Tax cuts;

--Private school vouchers;

--Eliminate the U.N.;

--"Smarter and leaner" (read: less) regulation of the housing and credit industries;

--"Reform" (read: gut) regulatory agencies such as the FDA, the FEC, and the Federal Reserve;

--"Reform" (read: gut) the Department of State.

The only remarkable thing about this agenda is how stale it is; this has been a standard-issue GOP wish list for a generation. Levin apparently believes that by wrapping this string of golden oldies up in a shiny new package called "reform" the GOP can ride back into the White House for another eight years!

The problem is, the Republicans tried this a few years ago. Remember their bold plan for "Social Security reform"? The American people already know what that means -- and it didn't exactly go over so great the last time.

And I'd like to see John McCain get through the next six months talking about "reforming" Medicare or the State Department or the credit market without having to talk some specifics about what, exactly, he means. Euphemisms like "Medicare reform" work fine in the pages of the Weekly Standard, because everyone reading knows what you mean.

Levin's colleague Peter Wehner says that this essay proves that "Yuval is one of the brightest stars in the conservative constellation".

Apparently it's a very small, old and fading constellation -- nearly invisible to the naked eye.

Friday, May 16, 2008
You Have Got To Be Kidding
My eyes nearly fell out of my head when I read this news item:

Ford elected to Boston-based archaeological group

Harrison Ford, who portrays the adventure-seeking "Indiana Jones," has been elected to the Boston-based organization's board of directors.

The group promotes archaeological excavation, research, education and preservation around the world. AIA president Brian Rose says Ford, in his role as "Indiana Jones," has played a major part in stimulating interest in archaeological exploration.

The latest installment in the series, "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of Crystal Skull," premieres in U.S. theaters May 22.

Let's get one thing straight. Indiana Jones is not an archeologist. He's a grave robber. He has apparently been trained as an archeologist as a cover for his real job: looting crypts, pyramids and sepulchers and selling the contents to the highest bidder.

Amusingly, it's been rumored that it took ten years for George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and Harrison Ford to agree on a storyline for the "new" installment.

According to one news source:

From the trailers and studio press materials, the basic story line is out there _ Indy and Soviet agents led by Cate Blanchett pursue a crystal skull that can bestow fantastic power on those returning it to a city of solid gold in the Amazon from where it was stolen.
It took them ten years to come up with that?

I'm Beginning To See A Pattern Here
Truly amazing.

After John McCain's blistering attack on Barack Obama's willingness to speak to the leaders of Hamas, we learn this:

Two years ago, just after Hamas won the Palestinian parliamentary elections, I interviewed McCain for the British network Sky News's "World News Tonight" program. Here is the crucial part of our exchange:

I asked: "Do you think that American diplomats should be operating the way they have in the past, working with the Palestinian government if Hamas is now in charge?"

McCain answered: "They're the government; sooner or later we are going to have to deal with them, one way or another, and I understand why this administration and previous administrations had such antipathy towards Hamas because of their dedication to violence and the things that they not only espouse but practice, so . . . but it's a new reality in the Middle East. I think the lesson is people want security and a decent life and decent future, that they want democracy. Fatah was not giving them that."

Given McCain's previous reaction to this sort of thing in the past, I expect this reaction from his campaign.

1. Angrily deny that he ever said any such thing.

2. When confronted with the videotape, claim that his words were taken out of context.

3. When it becomes clear that his words were not taken out of context, claim tht the entire situation has changed in the last two years, but that by 2013 we might be able to talk to Hamas again without being appeasers.

Thursday, May 15, 2008
Where Are You A-Headed, Johnny Smoke?
Here's one of the creepiest anti-smoking ads ever produced. It terrified me as a small child, and stuck with me through the years in a way that no other TV ad ever managed to:

I think this Internet thing may just catch on.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Somebody Still Loves You, George Pal
This month marks the 40th anniversary of the release of Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey -- one of the few science-fiction films that looks as good now as it did four decades ago.

2001 made some bold predictions about the future and is still widely seen today. In fact, it's playing in glorious 75mm in cinemas right now.

But another ponderous, expensive film about interplanetary travel has been largely forgotten, and it's unlikely to turn up in revival houses anytime soon.
The Conquest of Space was a rare misfire for producer George Pal during a decade in which he was definitely on a roll. After spending much of the 1930s and 1940s as a producer of the beloved live-action Puppetoons, he had made the journey from Europe to Hollywood and built a reputation as one of Paramount Pictures' best purveyors of animated fare.

Pal started his career as a live-action producer with a bang, scoring three hits in a row -- Destination Moon (1950), When Worlds Collide (1951) and War of the Worlds (1953)-- and had Conquest of Space been a moneymaker at the box office, his next project would have been After Worlds Collide, an adaptation of Balmer and Wylie's novel.

But The Conquest of Space was a flop, and seeing it today, it is pretty clear why. In spite of the beautiful Chesley Bonnestell mattes and the haunting score, it is as creaky and inert a piece of filmmaking as you are likely to see.

Yet as we have discussed in the past, science fiction cinema has less to do with the future and everything to do with the present -- that is, the present in which the film was made. You will never see a starker portrait of the yearnings, fears and priorities of a society than you will by examining that society's science fiction. In that respect, The Conquest of Space is a treasure trove.

Like many of the science fiction films of the era, there is a warped sense of scale: a crew chosen for a Moon voyage is informed -- about 12 hours before launch -- that their destination has been changed: instead, they're going to Mars! This news is greeted in the film with a few lines of dialogue ("Mars! But that's incredible!") but no one sees any real flaw in the plan (for a bit of perspective, imagine you were going to take a 21-foot sailboat from Huntington Beach to Catalina Island, then at the last moment decided to sail to Hawaii instead).

And so informed was Conquest of Space by the tropes of World War II cinema that in spite of an ostensibly hyper-competitive winnowing process that picks only the sharpest tools in the shed, the crew chosen for a flight to Mars looks like a bunch of draftees thrown into a foxhole together: you've got a broads-and-beer Italian-American from Brooklyn; a steely-eyed Aryan straight-arrow sort; a faith-and-begorrah overgrown Irish leprechaun; and a Japanese fella named Omoto, who asserts -- after the requisite apology for the attack on Pearl Harbor -- that Japanese people are so short because they're malnourished, and only some serious agricultural mojo on Mars can fix it.

As bad a film as The Conquest of Space is, it had the trademark George Pal optimism and wistfulness. America ran on that optimism in those days, but it wouldn't last long. Pal's gee-whiz sensibilities were quickly becoming old-fashioned.

Time was not on Pal's side. Science fiction was growing up; and by the time he decided to make tougher fare -- such as the underrated The Power (1968) it was too late; that movie flopped too, and Pal ended his career humiliated, openly regarded by the industry as a has-been, endlessly shopping around a project no one seemed interested in -- an adaptation of a novel by William F Nolan and George Clayton Johnson, called Logan's Run.

Mark Levin: Sunshine Patriot
Andrew Sullivan has already linked to this, but Mark Levin's smear of Barack Obama is so egregious that it has to get as much exposure as possible.

Here's what Levin says:

The flag pin issue is important to, among others, veterans who fought under the flag and, to this day, treat it with respect. It is more than an empty symbol to them (and me). I have talked to many of them. I have lived with some of them. And they don't understand why a candidate for president would draw some kind of "principled" line against wearing it. Obama had said that he shows his patriotism in other ways. It's not as if wearing the flag pin and showing these other ways are mutually exclusive. It's an odd argument. Others may not think this is a big deal. That's fine. But Obama made a point of not wearing the flag pin, knowing that a point would be made of it, just as he makes a point of not placing his hand over his heart during the playing of the National Anthem.
So by not wearing a flag lapel pin, Levin claims, Obama is "making a point" by "knowing that a point would be made of it". By not wearing a flag lapel pin, Levin strongly implies, Obama is insulting the flag.

This is a baffling and dangerous line of reasoning. When did it become mandatory for anyone in this country to wear a flag lapel pin? When did that begin? When did the absence of a flag pin on your lapel become a symbol of treason and an insult to veterans?

What idiocy. What nonsense. The people who "made a point" of Obama not wearing a flag pin lapel were guys like Levin, and now they want to cow Obama into wearing one. And Obama, quite sensibly, has refused -- because no one has the right to call his patriotism into question because he doesn't wear a certain pin. We are not the sort of country that requires loyalty oaths.

If he wears a pin order to satisfy the petty demands of Mark Levin and his fellow sunshine patriots that would be a greater insult to the flag. To showboat his patriotism in order to pander for votes would be a greater insult to the veterans who fought for this country.

It's his choice, either way. It's anyone's choice. To be sure, there are politicians in this country -- Sen. Larry Craig springs to mind -- who are never seen without a flag pin on their lapel. But as far as I can see, that doesn't mean they are more honest or more trustworthy or love their country more than other politicians -- and other Americans -- who don't choose to wear such a pin.

As to the national anthem "point" that Obama is making, that's been thoroughly debunked over at snopes.com. I'm sure Levin knows this. But he keeps bringing the "issue" up anyway.

That's the dictionary definition of a smear. It's exactly the sort of thing that is poisoning the politics of this country.

Mark Levin doesn't understand this. But a true patriot would.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Good News From The Red Zone
With 89% of the vote in, the AP has called the election in the Mississippi 1st district for the Democratic candidate, Travis Childers.

There is no question: this is a monumental win. The Dems have now won three special elections in a row in rock-ribbed Republican districts. If I were the Republicans, I'd be mighty nervous right now.

You can be sure they are.

The Whiteboard Jungle

There are few things as sad as an English teacher writing an obit for the English language. But it happens all the time. Kids are dumb, we are told incessantly. They're illiterate, they're lazy, they can't write an English sentence. I read plenty of such essays when I was in high school back in the early 1980s.

One popular reference in those days was to the epidemic of high school graduates who "couldn't read the name on their own diplomas".

Where are all these high school graduates, I wondered at the time, who can't read the name on their own high school diplomas? Even the dullest students I went to school with had at least a functional level of literacy; and while I knew that there must be a few people my age who were undoubtedly illiterate, I saw nothing to convince me they constituted a greater number than the previous generation.

I've been out of school for nearly a quarter-century; I still haven't met anyone my age who would appear incapable of reading the name on their own high school diplomas.

But of course, to English teachers the end is always nigh. It's very very nigh for Mary Kolesnikova, who writes in an L.A. Times opinion piece about the rise of -- horrors! -- "text-speak" among our young people!:

I'm an occasional tutor in San Francisco public schools with 826 Valencia, a writing-based community outreach program, and I have seen some linguistic horrors in the trenches. I've been asked how to spell "here" and "one" by high school seniors and seen more your/you're, there/their, to/too mix-ups than a homophone workbook. But at least those students were using actual words. I dread my first encounter with text-speak, but I know it's coming: "Marcel Marceau lived in France and totally brought the LOLz." Even more gut-tossing is the fact that 25% of teens in the Pew study have used emoticons on tests, homework and essays. Oh, imagine the history papers: "When President Abe Lincoln was gatted, the whole country was =(, even though some in the South must have been =P."

Go back and read that paragraph closely: then give Kolesnikova an F on her critical thinking skills.

First she says that high school students are bad at spelling, and that they get "your" confused with "you're", and "their" confused with "they're". This is news? Isn't that what tutors are supposed to deal with? Did it occur to her that the students who can spell and who know the difference between "their" and "they're" don't need a tutor?

Then she admits that she's actually never seen an example of the dreaded "text-speak" -- which is what the opinion piece is about -- but that she "dreads" her first encounter with it. Without any first-hand examples of "text-speak", she fabricates a couple of examples of her own -- which showboats her own stupidity, not the stupidity of any actual students.

She then cites a statistic in the Pew study: 25% of students have used emoticons in "tests, homework and essays". But Kolesnikova never asks any critical questions about the methodology of the Pew survey. How did they determine that 25% of students use emoticons in tests, homework and essays? Did they poll teachers for an (unscientific) guesstimate? Did they poll students? Did they collect all the homework from a semester of classes? If so, what classes? From which schools? How many? Where?

There is a lot of ignorance revealed in this opinion piece, but it's not the students I'm worried about.

Monday, May 12, 2008
McCaindroids Are Everywhere!

McCain worship in the mainstream media reaches dizzying new heights in Michael Scherer's Time Magazine piece, in which he outlines the McCain camps strategy to beat Barack Obama:

Work, Woo and Win the Referees. McCain's willingness to parry and thrust with the press is already the stuff of campaign legend. And if the candidate has his way, the legend will only grow. "He is the best earned media candidate I think in history," Rick Davis, the campaign manager, recently told The New York Times. (Earned media is another way of saying free media, or anything a campaign doesn't pay for.) "And so we will try to use that advantage." In recent weeks, the campaign has relaunched what advisers call the 'Straight Talk Express,' a time when groups of three or four reporters head to the front of the plane, or the back of the bus, for open-ended interviews.

The media has long adored McCain, so the suggestion that they're not rooting for him is silly. Yet Scherer seems to think that "wooing the referees" is part of McCain's strategy. The truth is, most of the referees are already wearing McCain buttons.

McCain has also tried to tar Obama by his relationship with William Ayers, a once violent anti-Vietnam War activist, by demanding that Obama call on Ayers to apologize for his actions. (Obama has shot projectiles at McCain as well, misquoting McCain's willingness to have American troops in Iraq for "100 years.")

Huh. Looks like McCain's strategy to "work woo and win" Michael Scherer has already succeeded!

Obama isn't "misquoting" McCain -- why does the mainstream media keep insisting that he is? McCain actually said he's be perfectly content to have American troops in Iraq for 100 years. On another occasion he said he'd be happy to have American troops there for a thousand years, or a million.

McCain later claimed that he meant he'd be willing to accept a peaceful occupation for 50 to 100 years. But he's never said that he'd find a bloody 50-to-100-year (or 1000-year, or million-year) occupation unacceptable.

Even if you accept McCain's belated spin on the comments, there's no way that you can claim the guy is being misquoted. And Scherer clearly knows this. But he's a McCaindroid now, there's no way to reprogram him.

Sunday, May 11, 2008
Happy Mother's Day
I didn't come from a family of picture takers, so I'm ashamed to say that this one of the few photos I have that feature my mom, taken on her wedding day in 1953.

Mom struggled with deep and debilitating bouts of depression throughout her life, but she always took great joy in her children. Her happiest times were always when the all the kids were home to visit.

She died of emphysema in 1991, but I still miss her and think of her every day.

So happy Mother's Day, mom! And happy Mother's Day to you, dear readers, as well.

It's Official
The Republicans are completely out of ideas.

Saturday, May 10, 2008
Surely You Must Be Joking, National Review
Just a follow-up to our previous discussion about NRO's David Freddoso and the Indiana voter ID law.

I don't mind the National Review's rhetorical chicanery and snooty Toryism most of the time; but there are a couple of nasty little tricks they try to pull that drive me up the wall.

The first is their belated embrace of Martin Luther King as some sort of champion of conservative ideology -- this after the years they spent painting him as a communist and a traitor.

The second is a similarly disingenuous tactic: claiming that their support of voter suppression tactics, like the Indiana voter ID law, is all in the interests of free and fair elections.

Let me be clear on this. National Review has had, since its first day of publication, a very clear and consistent editorial policy on democracy.

They're against it.

They don't necessarily view elections as a problem -- providing that the right sort of people win them. But if the rabble get too far out of control, they believe that "civilization" has not only the right but the duty to rig the outcome.

This is not an attitude that some guest editorialist might have thrown over the transom once in a while. This is one of the cornerstones upon which the magazine was founded. And they've certainly been consistent about it, on every issue from the Jim Crow election laws in the south, to the Franco government in Spain, to the Pinochet government in Chile, to the apartheid government in South Africa, to the 2000 Florida recount, to the authoritarian impulses of the Bush administration.

It is, quite simply, a laughable proposition that the National Review has anything useful to say on the subject of fair elections. Their lack of integrity on this issue speaks for itself, and I take their views on election reform about as seriously as I'd take the Flat Earth Society's views on cosmology.

Friday, May 09, 2008
Friday Antique Radio Blogging

The Sparton Model 154B, one of the most sought-after radios ever built. An eye-popping Deco set, manufactured in the 1930s.

The Zenith 9S262 from 1938, one of the most famous of the "black dial" Zenith consoles. This model had a "shutter dial" that would flip open to reveal a second tuning dial for shortwave. It also sported a popular feature from those days, a green "tuning eye". I owned this particular radio in the mid 1990s, and one of the great regrets of my life was selling it.

Emerson was a mid-priced brand that specialized in small, stylish table radios. Here's an attractive "tombstone" model. It's made of bakelite, an early plastic.

The Zenith 1000 Trans-Oceanic was one of the most popular shortwaves ever manufactured. They were of terrific quality and quite expensive for their time, though there were many cheaper imitations.

One such Zenith knock-off was the VEF 202, a Soviet transistor set from the 1960s. It picked up AM and shortwave bands, though not particularly well, and like all European radios it ran on 220 volts. I paid more for the step-down transformer than I did for the radio.

Street Cred
Matt Yglesias takes issue with Ed Kilgore's assertion that an Obama/Clinton ticket would be useful because Clinton has "street cred" on national security issues:

Clinton's "street cred" on national security consists, of course, of being massively wrong on the most important national security issue of her career. Paradoxically, a lot of folks find her massive wrongness on this hugely important issue reassuring because they and their friends were also wrong and they view having made the right call to be a suspicious quality. After all, the Iraq War may have led to thousands of U.S. deaths, tens of thousands of U.S. casualties, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi deaths, and millions of Iraqi refugees all at a cost of over $1 trillion and in ways that's damaged the strategic position of the United States, but war opponents were all a bunch of hippies.

Well...yes and no. It's true that Clinton took a hawkish stance on the Iraq war; but so did John Edwards. No one is talking about Obama picking Edwards in order to absorb his "national security street cred".

Derserved or not, Hillary Clinton still benefits from linkage to her husband's administration, which seemed to have a fairly sure-footed foreign policy -- especially in comparison to the administration that came after. And to be fair, Clinton has spent her time in the Senate burnishing her foreign policy credentials. She lobbied hard -- and successfully -- to get a seat on the Armed Services Committee, and if you are an amibitous Senator who wants to build a reputation as a national security wonk, that's your first stop.

There's no question that Clinton's foreign policy credentials are overblown -- Biden or Richardson would be a better choice on that basis -- but she's not exactly a naif on the subject either.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008
Come On Feel The Irony
Andrew Sullivan stands amazed as Hillary Clinton slowly morphs into George W Bush:

The representative of working class white America is now using her own multi-million dollar fortune to ensure that the little people's voices are heard. It's a nice contrast with the elitist, commie egghead who has revolutionized campaign finance with 1.5 million small donors. But, hey, the Clintons can simply position themselves the way the Bushies do: they create their own reality. But what the Clintons' self-financing now means is that all the sleaze around Bill's post-presidential money-grubbing is on the table. The Clintons are financing their campaign with dollars gained by Bill's speaking gigs to all sorts of interested parties.

It's distressing to see the Clintons debase their political stature in this way. But think for a moment what this lunatic campaign season has yielded: Hillary Clinton, considered the inevitable nominee a year ago, is broke, on the ropes, and no more than a few weeks from being mathematically eliminated from contention. And Barack Obama, seen a year ago as little more than a troublesome upstart, has outworked, outorganized and outsmarted her at every turn. He has harnessed 21st-century technology to raise funds and keep in touch with his supporters. And it's finally dawned on the news media what the rest of us already knew -- that he will be the Democratic nominee for President.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008
You Kiddin' Me, Kathryn?
Kathryn Jean Lopez says the exit polls point to an Obama victory in Indiana:

So early exits may suggest. The voting is not over so they are meaningless yet, but I'll believe it — I'll believe that's the way the night could go. No one really has a crush on Hillary (politically speaking) and Obama probably successfully undid Wright damage by disingenuously distancing himself from him. (And it doesn't hurt Obama that mainstream journalists — thank you, Soledad O'Brien — still have a crush on him.)

What, you smoking crack, K-Lo? Is there anyone -- anyone -- who still believes exit polls in this election cycle, especially one that points to an Obama victory?

Matt Yglesias: God Smites The Democrats

Believing that God has cursed the Democratic primaries, making them a season of neverending torment, Matthew Yglesias sees the political equivalent of blood-filled rivers and rains of frogs:

Clinton will win Indiana and Obama will win North Carolina. But Clinton will win Indiana by a larger margin than Obama wins North Carolina, and Clinton's supporters will note in somber tones that Obama lost the white vote in NC. At the same time, because NC has substantially more delegates than Indiana, Obama will actually make a small gain in net delegates causing his supporters (i.e. me) to become further enraged at Clinton's refusal to admit that she's lost and the press' insistence on indulging the idea that there's real doubt about the ultimate outcome.

Matthew has lost all hope, it seems. His bitterness, his fatigue, his despair have consumed him. He is a broken man, incapable of looking forward to the good days that undoubtedly lie in the future.

However, he's probably right.

Monday, May 05, 2008
The Jindal Gambit
It is clear, as spring threatens to turn to summer in this election year, that John McCain will have to do something pretty daring when he picks his candidate for VP.

The conservative blogosphere is all a-twitter today, on the heels of Bill Kristol's NY Times column claiming that Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is John McCain's smartest choice for running mate:

....no fewer than four McCain staffers and advisers mentioned as a possible vice-presidential pick the 36-year-old Louisiana governor, Bobby Jindal. They’re tempted by the idea of picking someone so young, with real accomplishments and a strong reformist streak.

It might also be a way to confront the issue of McCain’s age (71), which private polls and focus groups suggest could be a real problem. A Jindal pick would implicitly acknowledge the questions and raise the ante. The message would be: “You want generational change? You can get it with McCain-Jindal — without risking a liberal and inexperienced Obama as commander in chief.”

Maybe. Except... Bill Kristol doesn't exactly have a sterling track record as a prognosticator. And look carefully at how he phrases this: "no fewer than four McCain staffers and advisors mentioned" Gov. Jindal. Kristol doesn't say how high up the chain these "staffers and advisors" were, or how long the list was, or where Jindal appeared on it.

Seems to me that picking Bobby Jindal would be seen as a blatant attempt to counter-program Obama, much the way Illinois Republicans chose to draft a trainwreck candidate like Alan Keyes in order to counter-program Obama in 2004. The message they sent then was, "You want an eloquent, Harvard-educated black guy? We got one of those too!"

Picking Bobby Jindal would send a similar message. "Hey, you want a young black guy? We got one of those too!"

But what conservatives don't seem to understand is that Obama's appeal isn't rooted in his age or the color of his skin. Ask yourself: would Jindal be a smart choice if Hillary Clinton were the nominee?

And consider this: wouldn't having Jindal on the ticket make it hard for McCain to make the argument that Obama -- a man ten years older than Bobby Jindal -- is too inexperienced for the job of President? After all, McCain is 71. The first question voters will ask of his running mate is: if McCain keels over a month into office, will his running mate be able to take the helm?

There are plenty of candidates who might reassure voters on this score. But Bobby Jindal? Probably not one of them.

Oh, Go Lay Down, Jonah
Jonah Goldberg fearlessly bloviates at The Corner:

The one and only time Ramesh [Ponnoru] and I collaborated on article (hopefully not the last time) it was to address the annoying habit of liberals to claim dead conservatives for their cause....

Laughable. Simply laughable. Conservatives have been on a campaign for years to claim Martin Luther King as their own -- this in spite of the long record of vicious attacks on the man from the National Review and every other conservative publication during King's lifetime.

Here's one example of the right wing's MLK Reclamation Project -- David Horowitz, in an interview with Human Events:

HE: If you took Martin Luther King, and his "Letter From the Birmingham Jail," and put them on "Meet the Press" today

Horowitz: He'd be a roaring conservative. He'd be a Reagan conservative. Except that he already had been eclipsed by the time he died. The left had left him because he wouldn't break with Johnson over the war. And then he gave that horrible speech about America being the greatest purveyor of violence. But that was under pressure, because when he did the garbagemen strike there were no leftists in Memphis, nobody went with Martin Luther King, he was completely ignored at that time. That's why I think if he had lived, he would've been just suborned as part of this charade they have that they call the civil rights. movement.

And here's David French at NRO:

When Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote his "Letter from Birmingham Jail," it was so powerful precisely because it related to "one's convictions as one relates to God." King wrote:

"But more basically, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their "thus saith the Lord" far beyond the boundaries of their home towns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco-Roman world, so am I. compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid."

King was directly challenging how his fellow clergymen put their faith into practice, using the most explicit religous language. I'm sure that he hurt some people's feelings — and maybe even made them feel "devalued." Yet we are all better off as a result of King's directness. It is this kind of religious speech — speech that challenges, provokes, and transforms — that is most vital to our culture.

It's a shame that where people like Dr. King saw opportunities for hope and change, campus administrators see only hurt feelings and disgruntled students.

The real shame is that these idiots didn't hear Dr. King's message when he was alive. They were too busy calling him a communist, a rabble-rouser and a traitor.

It's a shame, all right. Or would be, if these people had any sense of shame.

The Courage To Be Inconvenienced

I'm a big fan of Dr. Steve Miles, a physician who now teaches at the University of Minnesota's Center for Bioethics. Miles has been an outspoken critic of this government's torture policies. If the name sounds familiar, it may be because of his book, Oath Betrayed: Torture, Medical Complicity and the War on Terror; or because he ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate in 2000.

He recently spoke to Saint Joan of Arc Catholic Church, in a lecture called "Torture and the Courage To Be Inconvenienced", and here is part of what he said:

We are responsible for knowing the facts. Research by the CIA, the Army, and the National Defense Intelligence University all show that interrogational torture is ineffective. It does not defuse ticking time bombs. The television show “24″ lies.


*Produces bad information that leads to bad policy and needless dangerous battlefield sorties.

*Radicalizes survivors

*Makes it impossible to recruit human intelligence.

*Alienates populations.

*Causes an enemy to fight to the death rather than to surrender.

*Undercuts the possibility of appealing for the humane treatment of our own soldiers who are taken POW.

We are responsible for resisting the culture of torture.

*Bishop Tutu and Nelson Mandela were freed by our solidarity with their cause.

*Our amens enabled Martin Luther King to beat back the culture of Jim Crow.

*Our complacency allowed Major Roberto D’Aubuisson to assassinate Archbishop Romero and his forces to oversee the defiling and murder of the Maryknoll sisters.

*Our complacency allowed the sadistic guards at Abu Ghraib to go about their business; but our unwillingness to put their photographs aside saved countless lives.

It was Dr. Miles' eloquent anger about the doctors who served at Abu Ghraib -- the doctors who betrayed their oaths by aiding and abetting the torturers -- that brought him to the forefront of this issue. I hope he'll run for public office again; he's a voice of conscience in a political realm that sorely needs one.

Sunday, May 04, 2008
How Worried Are They?
Yesterday's special election in the Louisiana 6th has got to be causing headaches in the GOP hierarchy. This was as red a district as you are likely to find; it's been held by the Republicans for 33 years.

But last night, a Democrat won the seat.

Don Cazayoux beat Republican Woody Jenkins 49% - 46%. It's a huge upset -- an early indicator of just how feeble the Republican brand has become.

Yes, Jenkins was a stiff who carried a lot of baggage. Yes, Cazayoux is a pretty conservative Dem. But the Republicans threw everything they had at this guy -- money, vicious attack ads and Bobby Jindal -- and they still lost.

How worried are the Republicans? Here's a hint: at National Review's team blog The Corner, there has not been a single mention of the election results. Although they have given a great deal of attention to the results of local races in Britain, which have put the Tories at a great advantage over the sputtering Labour party.

If I were them, I'd be paying attention to things at home. Of course, a number of NRO writers who are British ex-pats.

Maybe if things keep going to way they're going, they'll move back home.

Quick! To The Man Cave!
New York Times film critic A.O. Scott, while contemplating the career of Adam Sandler, sees a disturbing cultural meme at work in American film:

..[T]he center of attention will be a guy, his buddies and his toys. He will, most of the time, be nudged toward responsibility, forgiven for his quirks and nurtured in his needs and neuroses by a woman who represents an ideal amalgam of supermodel and mom.

It would be hypocritical of me to dismiss the appeal of this fantasy and silly to deny that a lot of these movies manage to be both very funny and disarmingly insightful about the male psyche. But I suspect I’m not alone in growing weary of the relentless contemplation of that psyche in its infantile state, and of the endless celebration of arrested development as a social entitlement.

The attachment to the emotional world of childhood and adolescence — along with the fetishistic, fake-ironic clinging to tokens of that world — is so widespread that it almost escapes notice. Impulsive, self-centered, loyal to our pals, anxious about women, physically restless, slow-witted and geeky: that’s just what we’re like, isn’t it? John Updike once remarked that in America “a man is a failed boy,” but it increasingly seems that a man is, at last, a triumphant boy, with access to money, sex and freedom but without the sad grown-up ballast of duty and compromise.

This post-adolescent fantasy does have a lot of cultural currency, and it's been around for a while: anyone who's seen an episode of "Home Improvement" (any episode; they're all the same) will recognize it. And while I laughed at the idea of Jason Bateman's character in Juno having "his own room" -- a symbol of his infinitely-extended adolescence -- I find the current spate of articles celebrating exactly that phenomenon as a "man cave" as more than a bit creepy.

Friday, May 02, 2008
Friday Robot Blogging

The factory floor at B9 Creations, which makes licensed replicas of the robot from the TV series "Lost In Space". Each replica costs a whopping $25,000.

Gort, the robot from the movie The Day the Earth Stood Still. Gort was the strong and silent type: proof that when you really hold all the cards, you don't need to brag about it.

Robots, like children, are curious but don't always exercise the best judgement. If there are robots in your house, invest in a gun safe, or buy some trigger locks. Don't let a good robot go bad.

The Friendly Robotics RL-1000 lawnmower. This is the one that patrols my back yard and defends it from long grass. Death-dealing laser beams are in the works for the next Robomower generation, available spring 2009.

The Mission Was Accomplished Before It Wasn't Accomplished
Funny that the news media still doesn't see a pattern here.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said Thursday that he thought the "Mission Accomplished" banner "was wrong at the time." But in June 2003, he had a different answer, ABC's Teddy Davis and Talal Al-Khatib report: "McCain pointed to the banner to bolster his contention that major conflict had ended in Iraq and that it was appropriate for the Senate Armed Services Committee to hold post-conflict hearings," they write. Said McCain, when told by an interviewer that "many argue the conflict isn't over": "Then why was there a banner that said 'mission accomplished' on the aircraft carrier?"

Think Tim Russert will ask McCain about it?

Ha ha, just kidding.

Thursday, May 01, 2008
Collapse In Courage
Sen. John McCain waded into the Minneapolis bridge collapse controversy on Wednesday, showing that he knew as much about this issue as he does on every other issue facing our nation: that is to say, not a lot:
While campaigning in Pennsylvania Wednesday, McCain said the Minneapolis bridge collapsed because too much money was targeted to unnecessary federal earmarks. "The bridge in Minneapolis didn't collapse because there wasn't enough money," he said. "The bridge in Minneapolis collapsed because so much money was spent on wasteful, unnecessary pork-barrel projects."

Well, that seems pretty clear, doesn't it? Not to Tim Pawlenty, governor of Minnesota and ardent McCain VP suitor.

Pawlenty's response to McCain's brain-dead comments was characteristically mealy-mouthed:

"I think he's making the general statement that Congress has underserved the country by doing pork-barrel spending and earmarking in transportation projects, and I agree with that. I strongly agree with that," Pawlenty said today. "He suggested that perhaps other things could have been better had they not done that, I agree with that too."

"He may not be aware of all of the details of the NTSB's work," said Pawlenty, "and I think once he learns of that, he'll incorporate that into his thinking."

A real profile in courage, this guy.

Meanwhile, McCain's campaign was also engaging in some predictable behavior. First, his campaign took a reckless, damn-the-torpedoes stance when asked about it:

A spokesman for McCain's campaign said Thursday that McCain stands by the statement -- and went even farther. The campaign criticized Democrat Barack Obama for bringing up the Minneapolis bridge while criticizing McCain's gas tax holiday proposal.

But when this tactic didn't work, the McCain campaign -- predictably -- pretended it had never happened:

McCain today backed off his earlier comments. "No, I said it would have received a higher priority, which it deserved," he told reporters in Cleveland.

Got that, asshole? He never said it. And shame on you for even asking the question.

The Limits Of Doublethink
I wonder if Rush Limbaugh's "Operation Chaos" might actually be creating more chaos inside the Republican party than outside.

The National Review Online is running emails they've received from readers, reacting to last night's Hillary Clinton interview with Bill O'Reilly. Here's a typical one:

I'll be honest...as a conservative who was prepared for the worst with the O'Reilly interview with Hillary, I was pleasantly surprised with how much more human she came across vs. Obama. More animated and on top of her stuff. Better than the formal TV debates.

For me, it's going to be #1 McCain, #2 Clinton.

I don't want to take a chance that, somehow, Obama could win in November...talk about a hard left-turn to socialism!

Here's the conundrum for Republican voters: they've been stoked up by the Giant Right-Wing Media Wurlitzer to believe that Barack Obama is the most liberal member in the history of the Senate -- that he is, in fact, more liberal than George McGovern, more liberal than Che Guevara, more liberal than Karl Marx. That he's a wild-eyed, radical Muslim negro who believes that the proletariat will inevitably overthrow the upper classes but who is simultaneously a latte-sipping elitist. In a few short months, the Republicans have learned to hate Barack Obama -- not disagree with him, not think he's not the best man for the presidency -- but viscerally and personally despise him the way they hate communism, cancer and stepping in dogshit.

This personal hatred has become the oxygen that Republicans breathe. I can't think of a presidential race in the last 20 years that hasn't featured, as a campaign centerpiece, the mindset that the Democratic candidate not only shouldn't be President, but is in fact a traitor who shouldn't even be allowed to walk around out in the open.

The Obama-hatred has, at least temporarily, replaced the Clinton hatred. And this seems to be very odd and puzzling experience for Republicans; they seem to suddenly be awakening to a weird identity crisis. Here's another email from The Corner:

I watched last night's interview twice (first at 8 and again at 11), and each time
I came across liking the woman that was being interviewed. I didn't
like her political stances, but I liked her.

I think one thing that maybe played into my favorable opinion of her is
that I have hated on Obama so much recently and I actually have been
quietly rooting for Hillary to win...

Now, never underestimate the ability of Republicans to stoke themselves up with crazed, irrational hatred, but I'm wondering if they might be exhausting themselves this campaign cycle with hating Obama. They used to believe Hillary was the antichrist; now they think it's Obama. If by some quirk of fate Hillary ends up with the nomination, would they be able to switch back to believing Hillary is the antichrist again?

Maybe, maybe. But it might be more than their little minds could take.

Grandma, Please Put Your Clothes Back On

You're embarrasing us.

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