Freedom from Blog

Don't call it a comeback . . . .

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

"All of Them"

Sarah Palin is the gift that keeps on giving. If you haven't seen this latest clip from the Katie Couric interviews, go watch it. Apparently, she can't name a single magazine or newspaper that she has ever read. In her ENTIRE LIFE. I am not making this up!

(I wish I had a snarky joke. How do you top the self-parody?)

Arizona Says "No!" Alaska Says "Nyet!"

Despite McCain's effort to save the economy, not a single House member in Arizona voted for the bail-out. Hmm. I guess when McCain was making calls and working to get the plan passed, he either (1) didn't call members of his own state's delegation, or (2) did call and they told him to stuff it. I have no idea which, of course.

McCain is famously unpopular with other members of his state's congressional delegation. Because he is, when all is said and done, a bit of a jerk. But that's quite a rebuke.

Also, note that Don Young, the sole member from the wintry borderlands with Russia (where Putin rears his head in US airspace), a/k/a Alaska, voted no as well.

GOPpers from the home states of the nominees weren't willing to go along with a plan that the ticket staked its hopes on. Either they really hated the bill, or they really don't care what happens to the ticket. Or both.

Monday, September 29, 2008


The Republicans in the House just led a rejection of essentially their own president's Wall Street bailout plan and the stock market and economy are tanking. For a prescient post on the dangers posed to the world economy by subprime NINJA loans, see here.

For a failure to foresee an even greater cataclysm, see here (I had to throw this in just to keep #3 from getting a big head).

Personally I'm all for bailing out WS execs -- from jail 10 years from now.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

AreYou Experienced?

A few thoughts about the debate, etc.

First, although McCain has gotten away from this theme somewhat lately, "experience" is obviously his strongest point of comparison relative to Obama, and he tried to reinforce that over and over in Oxford. But on its own, that's a pretty vacuous point of distinction, since it can also be a negative insofar as it ties you to the status quo. McCain has tried to have it both ways by (a) emphasizing Obama's lack of experience (bad), hence inability to "understand," and (b) playing up Sarah Palin, the ultimate "outsider" (good).

The problem for him is that his particular gambit ignores the means-ends aspect of the "experience" qualification. What we really mean when we say we value experience is that we want knowledge and judgment, qualities that experience develops and reveals. So when Obama shows he can go toe to toe with the aged one in a substantive debate, depite a supposed lack of experience, he negates the presumption that with age comes wisdom. When he shows he won't panic in a crisis, while his opponent flails around, he crushes the notion that he's too green to lead. And when he meets his rival in the eye and addresses his arguments, while that rival averts his gaze and ignores the core issues, he shows that he is the true alpha dog. Indeed, if you're just as knowledgeable and your judgment is just as good (or even better) despite lesser experience, it suggests that you'll be vastly better than your opponent once you have that experience. As George Will pointed out, you can fix inexperience relatively easily, but you cannot fix defects of temperament.

Which brings us to Palin. The problem with her is not simply a lack of experience, it is an utter lack of understanding about national politics or policy. Unlike Obama, who can cite his call on the war as a simple proxy for good judgment, we have no similar examples from her, save maybe the right-wing mythos concerning her mothering virtue. That virtue may in fact exist, but it is not inherently political, and it looks, at least superficially, to conflict with the time-intensiveness of active politicking. So, whether or not it is true, it is a much less stable narrative to rely upon. Meanwhile, her few public appearances all undermine any claim she has to fitness for the job. So McCain exposes himself as committing the very error he falsely charges to Obama: seeking change in the emptiest of suits.

Finally, if you haven't yet seen the WaPo account of the White House meeting of all the various party leaders, go read it. Stunning. Barry makes Johnny his bitch. In private. Then he smiles and plays the bigger man in public, while Johnny glowers. So long Mr. Nice Guy. Hello Barackasaurus Rex.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

A Good-Looking Kid from Shaker Heights

Paul Newman has died. Here's a photo from Shaker Square, just before the 2004 election. I went to the Kerry campaign hq to do some volunteering, and there was this big crowd. I went over, and they were listening to this old guy. Who is this guy? Oh, shit, that's Paul Newman.

He was good looking and charming. So talented. (Slapshot!) But one thinks, also a decent guy. Really always just a good-looking kid from Shaker Heights.

Rank the Terps

Three weeks after a humiliating loss at Murfreesboro, the Maryland Terrapins today came back from an 11-point halftime deficit to beat Clemson, at Clemson, 20-17. Clemson was (somehow) ranked #20. Two weeks ago, Maryland defeated the #23 California Golden Bears.

No love for the Terps (4-1, 1-0 ACC) in the polls, though. Not top 25? What gives? I mean, Maryland is no Commodores squad, but who is?

Friday, September 26, 2008

Is the Suspension Suspended?

I just want to know if #3 has officially suspended his suspension? I might note that he kept blogging anyway, despite his avowal not to.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

What a Strange Week It's Been

In U.S. politics, I think you'd have to go back a ways to find a week as strange and, yes, interesting, in a surreal sense, as the one that is wrapping up tomorrow with the first presidential debate . . . maybe? I mean, Ole Miss says, "it's on," and Obama will be there, and, presumably, a chair and/or lectern for McCain. Will Obama just sit silently during the times when McCain would have given his answers? Maybe Obama will get to rebut the silence?

Between the suspension (?) of a presidential campaign, the Palin implosion, and the Paulson-Bernanke "trust us, we're with the government" (or, "this hurts us more than it will hurt you"?) MOAB plan . . . just too much to process.

I still can't quite get over the Bush administration asking for a $ 700 bn blank check. And now it appears, as I always expected, that they just pulled that number out of their [bleep]. It's like a crime film--the gang needs one last big score so that they can retire to the beach.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


I'm suspending the blog to return to Capitol Hill to FIX THE ECONOMY. That is all.

Majority of the Minority Needed

Along the lines of Number Three's Gaming Theory below, Pelosi is clearly cognizant of the political peril involved in the Wall Street bailout. She intends to have bipartisan cover if the Congress is to take action that is going to be progressively more unpopular as it becomes more widely understood.

As a new twist on the old Hastert "majority of the majority must support" dictum, Pelosi is demanding that a majority of the minority party support the Wall Street bailout package.

To compound the political difficulties, it looks like an almost sure-fire losing scenario for the country's leadership. Here are the possibilities:
1. If Congress passes the bill, and it helps avoid a meltdown, Congress won't get credit for it because nobody will know whether the meltdown would have happened absent congressional action. The public will still be angry about the price tag.
2. If Congress fails to pass a bill, and a financial meltdown occurs, their lack of action will be blamed.
3. If Congress passes a bill, saddles the taxpayers with these huge obligations, and a recession happens anyway, they will be public enemy number one.
4. Congress fails to pass a bill and things do not go dramatically south in short order.
Number four is the only winning scenario here, politically speaking.

Despite the general consensus that Congress is going to deliver something, I'm beginning to wonder whether the rank and file are going to let their leaders deliver on the promises made in negotiating with Treasury over the weekend.

Voters aren't ever going to be able to understand the economic justifications involved. They are just going to see taxpayer money being handed to Wall Street tycoons. I don't know how you sell this to voters, especially in an election season and in an environment where there are defectors and competing elite arguments. Given the public mood right now and the level of trust enjoyed by our political institutions, it looks like the political equivalent of waving a red flag in front of a charging bull.

There was some potent rhetoric being thrown around in Congress yesterday. We'll see what happens with the House Financial Services Cmte hearing today . . .

Monday, September 22, 2008

Gaming Theory

Here's my take on the politics of the bailout. If my read of the Sunday shows is correct, this is a classic Center vs. Poles play. The "responsible centrists," who still believe that they exist as a force for good in U.S. politics, say, "be we must act, and act quickly. That is the responsible thing to do." (Sam and Cokie, the Egregious Duo.) The Left, such as it is, and the Right, as evidenced by the opposition to the plan of George F. Will and even, if somewhat tepidly Bill Kristol, are opposed. The Left because it's a hand-out to Wall Street, the ideological Right because it's a hand-out and one of the most fiscally irresponsible things ever proposed in Washington.

This is at the elite level, of course. At the mass level, my guess is that this is going to be one unpopular bill. The president is at, or at least near, the nadir of his popularity and credibility. Although this would be hard sell for a popular president, it will be harder for him. Congressional leaders are similarly unpopular.

Given the bill itself and, more importantly, how easy it would be to demagogue it (i.e., "act irresponsibly," in centrist speak), it is a ripe opportunity for someone to take on entrenched powers.

In the House, it looks like Mike Pence, R-IN, is going to use this issue to take down the Tanned One, current but NFL minority leader John Boehner. Boehner is almost certainly toast after the election (not a tanning reference), anyway. But Pence has his issue now. Boehner is backing the plan. Pence will pounce.

The first question is how many votes Pence can muster from the Right. The second question is who will emerge on the Left to join his ragtag band of flat earthers (term used affectionately). I don't have answers to either question.

The Senate is trickier. I haven't seen a Right or Left opposition emerge yet. One problem is that the northeastern Democratic senators are probably most Left but also probably most compromised by their ties to Wall Street. (I wouldn't expect, for example, either senator from New York to lead the opposition.)

On the Right, it looks like McCain is going to back the plan. Not 100% clear yet, but his backer Kyl on Sunday came out for it. This will make it hard for any GOP senators to lead the charge. I mean, except for Tom Coburn, or Jim DeMint? The party's fringe, in other words (again, not used judgmentally).

This means that the ball is really in Obama's court. If he could find it in his heart to OPPOSE the plan--not to seek compromises, not to look for a fig leaf or a promise to work out other issues later--but to OPPOSE giving Treasury $700 billion without strings--then I think that this thing is over.

I mean both the bill and the election. It's his big chance to show voters hesitating to support him that he really is on their side and that he is real change. It gives him a great opportunity to attack Washington (and Wall Street) credibly and forcefully.

I doubt that Obama will do this, of course. His record indicates that he really is risk-averse, and that he rarely takes on the establishment. So I would say, 15% chance Obama fights the plan, and 85% that he seeks the fig leaf with his fellow Democrats. Obama may be especially compromised here with his running mate, the senior senator from the credit card industry.

There would be big risks for Obama here: being relentlessly attacked by the "responsible center," his experience called into question, etc. But at least he would be right on the policy. And if he does become president, once the bail-out is in place, he won't be able to achieve any of his policy goals with the debt out-of-control beyond bounds. So this may be Obama's last chance to save his presidency, were he to win in 43 days.

IOW, playing it safe now may lead to EPIC FAIL later.

The same opportunity to oppose the bill is available for McCain, but I don't see him bucking his party leadership and Wall Street (his campaign is where the old boys' network is a staff meeting, after all). But look at the play: If McCain supports and Obama opposes, Obama can hurt McCain with the Right of the GOP (at least suppressing turnout).

Have to run. But those are my thoughts on the state of political play.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

What's Next? A Black President?

Put this down under "things I never thought I'd live to see": the undefeated (4-0; 2-0 SEC) Vanderbilt Commodores ranked #21 in the AP. In. . . football.

Still a lot of season to go.

Leverage the Buy Out

Is this a spine sighting among congressional Dems? I won't hold my breath. But I hope Congress will stop to catch its. The Dems have all the leverage here, and they need not to get suckered by GOP bluster. They control both houses. If they pass tough reform legislation as part of the bailout, what position will the GOP be in to either filibuster or veto it? Not much I'd say. Bush has less capital that Lehman Brothers. The bankers are salivating for our (the taxpayers') green. The public is pissed. And most of the reforms I've seen suggested will sound pretty good to American voters, especially if the words "700 billion dollars!!!" are tossed around enough.

I'd dare those fuckers to filibuster.

Socializing Private Securities

Just think, 6 months ago the Republicans were talking about privatizing Social Security. Now they're talking about socializing private securities.

Here's a copy of the proposal.

This looks like a very, very bad idea, if for no other reason than the Bush administration is proposing it, and his cronies will run it.

Update: This morning the talking heads of both parties seemed to be reaching some sort of bipartisan consensus that quick action is needed. This supposed somber-faced meeting last week, yadda, yadda, yadda really reminds me of the run up to the Iraq war. And sections 8 and 9 of this proposal:

Sec. 8. Review.

Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency.

Sec. 9. Termination of Authority.

The authorities under this Act, with the exception of authorities granted in sections 2(b)(5), 5 and 7, shall terminate two years from the date of enactment of this Act.

Is the Democratic leadership crazy??? Give this unbridled, unreviewed authority to a partisan hack like Paulson, whose authority will last two years? This is the same Paulson who has said repeatedly the economy was sound and there was no problem or recession.

Evasions Evaded

A small point, but aren't we lucky this week that Obama and Biden are the nominees and not Hil? After all, if she were on the ticket, we'd be debating who was more responsible for deregulation of the financial markets, Saint John or Slick Will, who for some reason signed the repeal of Glass-Steagall in 1999, tearing down the walls that had kept compaines like AIG out of investment banking, despite almost party-line opposition by Senate Dems on the initial version of the bill. Clinton forced a rewrite designed to help minorities gain access to lines of credit, but in retrospect this looks like a bad deal. McCain has already tried to suggest, with extraodinary credibility, that it was all Obama's fault, somehow pulling the strings from his perch as a "community organizer." That dodge would certainly have been much more effective with a Clinton somewhere on the Dem ballot. I think I know how the press would have been spun.

Friday, September 19, 2008


So we learn this week that the national government is capable of acting to solve domestic problems, after all. Legislation of enormous scope, complexity, and cost is said to be imminent -- going from conception to execution in a mere week. (One hates to imagine what boondoggles lobbyists are going to include in this behemoth. After all, the only people who really understand highly complex financial markets are those who are paid to do so -- and they don't work for the American taxpayer.)

Despite our massive deficits, the government can come up with hundreds of billions of dollars (even $1 trillion is easily possible) to bail out Wall Street. And yet it can't provide a few billion dollars for catastrophic health insurance for the underinsured bankrupted by medical bills. More expansive national health care legislation is similarly perceived as impossibly complex, destined to be mired in gridlock -- even though literally NO major initiative has ever entailed a health care plan as expensive over a 10 year time frame as what Congress is prepared to lay on the line for Wall Street immediately on a mere day's notice.

Divided We Govern?

The speed with which the Congress and the Administration have agreed in principle to sweeping legislation costing potentially a trillion dollars is quite breathtaking. Can one imagine this happening in either unified Democratic or Republican control? I can't!

Both parties' rank and file find this Wall Street bailout enormously distasteful, albeit for different ideological reasons. Both would dearly love to wash their hands of the matter and blast the opposition for saddling the taxpayers with this frighteningly enormous obligation. But both parties currently share in power, and everyone is also deathly afraid of what will happen if the government fails to act. So they share the pain together and act together.

But if one party actually controlled the entire government and passed this bailout legislation, it surely could obtain no support from the opposition party. Instead, the opposition would excoriate it from here until eternity. That governing party would probably suffer enormous losses as a kind of accountability for doing what everyone is agreeing to do right now.

Of course, as it stands, divided government makes it possible for the blame to be shared all around in an utterly unaccountable fashion. And that unaccountability is precisely what allows the government to act in a bipartisan fashion.

Ballot Shenanigans, Moonlight, and Magnolias

I'm sure you've all seen this already. Moving a U.S. Senate election to the bottom of the ballot . . . too clever by half.

HBP Stats

I'd always thought Don Baylor was the career leader in being hit by pitch (HBP). It turns out he's fourth. Among active players, Jason Kendall is tops, at sixth all-time, with 230 career HBP. Wow.

Tiger great Chet Lemon is 19th, with 151 career HBP. The ancient one, and a Tiger for a few games (?), Hughie Jennings, is all-time first, at 287, but he was before my time.

Here's the active players list. Interestingly, three current Yankees are in the top five: Jason Giambi is third among active players with 155 career HBP (four HBP more than Lemon), A-Rod is fourth (ten HBP behind Lemon) at 141, and Derek Jeter is fifth at 137 (14 HBP behind Lemon).

In short, Jeter is 150 HBP behind Hughie Jennings.

Update:: Sheff is also high on the active players' list. If I had the time and the inclination, I'd be interested in the relationship b/w ABs and HBP. My guess that HBP is a function of AB.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Insurer of Last Resort

I don't have anything terribly substantive to say about the AIG bailout . . . but isn't it interesting that the Government can do this sort of thing without a statute? My understanding is that the Chrysler loan in the 1980s required a statute. Talk about the expansion of presidential power.

What is Congress for, anyway?

Monday, September 15, 2008

Worth a Read

Baseball fans, athough you read Posnanski regularly, anyway.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Football Night in America?

Have I posted on this before?

NBC calls its Sunday night pregame show "Football Night in America." This is clearly a rip-off of CBC's "Hockey Night in Canada." But even worse than the blatant ripping off of an actual national institution (albeit in another country) . . . is the fact, the fact, that Sunday is clearly not Football Night in the US of A.

There is an argument that Friday is Football Night in America. That's when most high schools play. My guess is that more people attend HS games than all other games combined.

There is an argument that Saturday is Football Night in America, with late starting college games. Unless that game is USC-OSU. Egad, what a travesty. Did anyone watch that game after the first half? I doubt it.

There is even an argument that Monday is Football Night in America, with MNF.

But while it's clear that Sunday is the day that many of us watch endless hours of football . . . it's not the night game that makes the day. After two games during the day, it's a bit gluttonous to watch a third.

Unless it's Browns-Steelers. But if the Browns look like last week, I won't be watching much of this one, either.

Update: That was ugly, 10-6. Perfect Cleveland weather, unpredictable.

It's the Humidity

This week's long run (Capitol Hill-the Mall-Lincoln Memorial-Memorial Bridge-Roosevelt Island loop-Key Bridge-Towpath-Rock Creek Pkwy-Kennedy Center-Mall-Capitol Hill, estimated at 11 miles) featured hot, humid conditions that I found surprising, even after many summers of D.C. running. I won't say that I'm "used to" long runs in the heat and humidity, but I've certainly done my share of them. But today was exceedingly unpleasant.

And, at the same time as I was out there, hundreds of folks were participating in the National Triathlon. (The swim is actually in the Potomac. It would be like swimming in the collected water that runs off the streets of D.C. and its environs. Just like. Gross.) Not a good day to post a PR.

Supposedly, there's a cold front coming through soon.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Next Up

EMU vs. Vanderbilt is the link. Have I never attended a football power . . . ? No. I have not. Damn you Florida/Tennessee/Ohio State/Michigan!!!!!!!!!

Weathering Ike

Here's hoping that Lips and Whits have a safe, dry, powered-up place to hunker down during the storm and that the Houston house is well fortified. No hanging out the window!

We Shocked the World!

Maybe an exaggeration, but we did beat the Cal "Golden" Bears this afternoon, 35-27. Cal scored two late TDs to get that close. The team really snapped back after last week's throttling in the 'Boro.

That's the TE Dan Gronkowski pulling in the third touchdown--at the end of the field "near" our seats. I say "near" because we're in row W in the upper bowl. My nose is still bleeding. (And yes, I took that photo. Copyright me.)

My game ball to LB Dave Philistin, who had a lot of tackles. I'm not sure how many. But a lot.

Friday, September 12, 2008

I Think George Allen Has Got the Rope

How low can the McCain campaign go?  Their new ad, run on 9/11 despite a campaign "truce" for that day, makes the case for Obama as Emmett Till.  "Let's lynch im'!" Gives new meaning to dog "whistle" politics. Truly disgusting.  

Radio Free Murfreesboro

Heard an interesting radio interview on our Jazz/NPR station with a local prof discussing the RNC on the Friday morning following McCain's speech. (Click the date on the link to listen.)

Must be a commie. Or a Muslim.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Fable

Here's a fable to help you through these rough times.

In any ecosystem, there are plants, which harness the energy of the sun to create food for the herbivores. The herbivores are, in turn, eaten by the carnivores. But then, thanks to the circle of life, the carivores defecate. In truth, herbivores defecate too. That's why we call it bullshit, after all.

Someone, in this happy story, must eat the bullshit.

Thankfully, [and depending on your beliefs, choose one, either:]
(a) creatures evolved who could, and, more importantly, would eat bullshit; or
(b) G-d created creatures whose mission in life it was to eat bullshit.
[And the fable is agnostic as to which; although if G-d saw fit to create shit-eaters, he was truly a benevolent G-d. Because if the shit didn't get eaten, the world will fill up with it pretty GD quick. No?]

Ponder, in this fable, where your place is. You probably don't harness the energy of the sun. You probably don't eat the plants that do. You probably don't eat the ones who eat the plants that do.

You probably consume the bullshit.

But that is an important function, too.

Imagine if there was no more bullshit! We would effin' starve. Thank the Maker for those who make the BS.

PS: This vulgar post should in no way detract from the picture below.

Happy Birthday, Francesca

One year old today and so darn cute.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Another History Lesson

In today's WaPo Bob Woodward gives us another history lesson about the Irag War, in which he demonstrates that when Bush said again and again that he was adjusting troop levels in Iraq based on what the commanders on the ground were saying, he was telling outright lies. Anyone with half a brain knew this line was a big lie by the mere fact that Bush kept repeating it, but isn't Woodward supposed to be a reporter, and aren't reporters supposed to cover the news, which, all folk etymologies aside, is supposed to cover new events?

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Turtle Soup

I hear we have some Maryland fans on this blog. Looks like it's going to be a long year for the Scarlet Snappers.

MTSU 24 Maryland 14.

Nathan Bedford Forrest must be smiling in his grave.

Addendum by Number Three: It will be a long year. Next week is Cal at home. We had trouble with 1-AA Delaware and got beat at Murfreesboro by a solid Sun Belt team. What will a PAC-10 team do to us? (PS: Cal beat Washington State 66-3 on the road yesterday. Should I give away my ticket for the game next week? Or find a Cal fan who might enjoy it?)

Even worse, I watched that game last night on Comcast. The Terps were terpible. The offense could not sustain a drive, convert a third down . . . Chris Turner overthrew receivers most of the night, and the INT in the end zone really hurt. The defense was on the field so much that their poor performance can be somewhat excused (but not the penalties, including pass interference in the end zone.) And the kicking game . . . don't get me started.

On the other side of the ball, MTSU played exceedingly well. (The game was not as close as 24-14 makes it sound.) I can see how they almost beat Virginia last year and whipped Maryland this year.

Btw, the announcing team on Comcast were MTSU homers, including Kelly Holcomb, former NFL QB and MTSU alum. He kept calling MTSU "Middle," which I had never heard before. TMcD? I kind of like it.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

The Weight of the Cross

Following up on my earlier post, now having seen JMac's speech, I'd have to say that "American Christ" was truly the convention's theme. Note first how the bio video tonight referred on multiple occasions to the Hanoi Hilton as "Hell." And look at how McCain made a prominent point about his "scars." I had wondered how they were going to introduce a crucifix. Silly me. It was the video flag flying behind him set against the azure blue of heaven. Perfect--and quite elegant--if you think about it. These Republicans sure do know marketing, and they sure do love religious dog whistles, even for their most secular of candidates.

Overall, however, I thought it was a lame speech. Vouchers!? How much time did he spend on that crap? Seemed like forever. The saber rattling over Russia was also quite the throwback. Too bad there's no wall for Putin to tear down. Do Americans really care about this? I also found it amusing that he could mention all these people he was "fighting for" without giving any concrete notion of what they might need and how he might help. Then there was the creepy grin, the green screen, the flubbed lines. The end was pretty rousing, but that was it. Even there he reminded most of Gore 2000. The rest of it was a below-average imitation of Kerry 2004, but without the Band of Brothers. Just McCain in his isolation and his pain. The central paradox is the conceit that this election is not about him and his ambition but about America. Even his co-chair Rick Davis admitted their campaign had no concern with "issues," only personality. I guess, at a minimum, he made a rare magnanimous gesture toward Obama, even after his surrogates had run a two-day hate. Could Johnny JesUS have done any less?

The Second Coming of George W. Bush

Palin's speech and its reception last night struck me a very disturbing spectacle, a perfect encapsulation of how vacuous, simplistic, and image-driven our politics has become. It was not a "break-out" speech, where a convention is surprised by a stellar performance by a new face. Before she spoke her first word, this woman was welcomed by the convention as if she were the second coming of Ronald Reagan or Barry Goldwater. What proportion of delegates had even heard of her one week ago? Most GOP officeholders didn't even know how to pronounce her name last week. She hasn't even given an interview since she was picked for the VP. And she's only given one national speech before now. It used to be that right wing heroes had to do at least something to earn their status.

Clearly, none of that mattered: she is a symbolic placeholder in the culture war. The convention delegates have projected onto her this whole drama (and the media's questions just play right into it), even though she's more or less a total cipher to them in every other respect. Palin welcomes their projection and, truth be told, admirably fulfills the Nixonian role she's been assigned. She's a fine performer in this type of politics.

Is this going to help McCain long term? Pat Buchanan got vigorously cheered when he proclaimed the kulturkampf at the GOP convention in 1992, too - but that didn't turn out so well over the long haul.

On the other hand, we've had 8 years of George W. Bush, and he's been prosecuting the culture war, at least rhetorically, better than Pat Buchanan ever did. In fact, Palin really is the second coming of George W. Bush. Chosen by the right wing of the party, sold to the American people as a bipartisan reformer, a poorly educated person with no interest in policy beyond right wing hot buttons, and an inveterate exploiter of wedge issues to gain and hold onto power.

Is America ready to "turn the page" on the Bush years, as Obama gambles? If so, then they won't be suckered once again into the war that Palin is trying to keep alive. It seems to me that the cultural battles of the 1960s are getting very tired and stale. At this point, conservatives don't even care about most of the social disorders that fueled the conflicts of the 1960s (drugs, the pill, crime, hippies, feminism). They can't even get interested in debating unwed teenage pregnancy anymore -- abortion is about all they have left. But Nixon's ratfuckers still control the GOP and they've given us Palin. It's all up to the American people now.

Sarah Barracuda, or The Passion of John McCain

That wasn't a speech. It was a declaration of war. A couple of quick thoughts on Palin's big night.

1) As many have noted, it was an electrifying speech, full of red meat. I thought the tone was interesting: pure contempt. How dare Barack Obama run for president! He's not even an American. It was especially interesting to see such barely contained hatred in a speech purporting to defend John McCain's record of bipartisanship. Where the Democrats last week offered a rhetorical olive branch--Obama talking about areas of shared concern for all Americans, both Obama and Biden talking about their deep personal respect for McCain the man, then Obama gallantly defending Palin against family scutiny--Palin gave us what I'll call "gunboat bipartisanship." If you do not obey us, we will destroy you. This is not your country, it is our country. We own it. Go to hell.

2) So in some ways, I read this as Nixon in stiletto heels, a more effective version on Pitchfork Pat's famed culture war speech from 1992. She oozed with disdain for urban America--"San Francisco," "community organizing," etc. If she said that small town America was not "bitter," her words suggested the exact opposite. This makes sense of her fellow traveling with her husband's Alaskan secessionism. She dreams of an America where there are no Democrats, no urbanites, no cities teaming with alien others and faggity liberals. America will only be redeemed when all America is Alaska and Alaska is all of America.

3) John McCain is the American Christ. He suffered and bled for your sins, descended into Hell, and rose again from the dead. You owe him! Bow down before his majesty, and repent your wickedness. I am the Angel of Death.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Two Words: Ron Mercer

The Grass Ceiling, or why Vandy football sucks. And basketball. Btw, the Wikipedia entry doesn't deal with Mercer's collegiate career, but those of us who were there remember that Vandy wanted Mercer, but he couldn't get in.

Is this really an SEC school?

Shee-yit. So he went to Kentucky (Home of Low Standards, and Blue Grass!). And won a national title as a freshman. Now Kentucky is an SEC school.

Palin Drone

Well I may as well weigh in on the Palin pick too. To me, her political and personal hypocrisy (no big government, but pork for AK, or no sex or real sex education before matrimonium sanctum, or breaking the law) spell the same thing frontwards and backwards: mainstream GOP. In spite of her gender, she strikes me as just another Republican drone.

Sarah's favorite saying: "Dogma I am God".

The Book on Palin

Pork barreller, secessionist, and--egads!-- book banner? How many words do the eskimos have for "crackpot"? What looked at first like a risky pick of an inexperienced governor of a minor state now looks like an epic implosion. She's not the new Dan Quayle, she's worse than Dan Quayle. And she's got the unwed mother to prove it. OK, cheap shot. The preggie daughter is clearly the least relevant of the revelations. Can we doubt, however, that if the baby shoe were on the other foot, the right wing media would be on a rampage right now about the decay of character in modern America? (Interestingly, her wikipedia entry suggests that pre-marital sex and quickie weddings are a mother-daughter bond.) This is less about her hypocrisy than theirs.

While we're at it, a question about her personal narrative. The pro-lifers have celebrated her decision not to abort her now four-month old baby, Trig, upon discovering he had Down syndrome. Frances has already raised some interesting issues here. But let me ask this. If you're a pro-life crusader and also the presiding governor of a state, do you really have a choice in this? Isn't having an abortion in these circumstances pretty much career suicide? Isn't it easier to just have the baby and then shunt it off onto somebody else? Say, by going back to work after three days and then jumping onto a VP ticket first chance you get? I don't think that women should have to give up their careers over family and child rearing. And we certainly do too much second guessing of women's choices. But this is the core of the "character" narrative the GOP is selling as a qualification for her being a "hearbeat away." In my book, you don't get moral credit for doing something that is in your obvious political self-interest. No blame either--she didn't do the "wrong" thing in having that child, and that's not my call to make anyway. But let's stop pretending that this decision had anything to do with character or judgment. Her choice was as non-existent as the ones she wants all American women to have.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

First Redneck on a National Ticket?

Is it possible that Sarah Palin is the first redneck on a national party ticket? That she is a redneck, I believe Jeff Foxworthy would agree.

"If your husband is a world champion snowmobiler, you might be a redneck." (I refuse to use the term "snowmachiner.")

"If your children are named Track, Bristol, Willow, Piper, and Trig, then you might be a redneck."

"If your pastor preaches that we're in the end times, then you might be a redneck."

The big question is whether there has ever been a redneck on a national ticket before. There could be an argument that LBJ was a redneck. But he never, to my knowledge, wore a flag bikini.

Update: The photo is a fake, of course. But there's some funny stuff where I found it. Link.

Thome HOF Follow-up

Thome hits number 536 tying Mantle for career home runs. We had a discussion about Thome's HOF credentials before. Link. Wilson pointed out that the comparable players in stats are mostly not Hall of Famers--although if you look at the list, Manny is clearly in the HOF, and Conseco and McGwire aren't in for political (and steroids) reasons, not because they weren't great (offensive) players.

If the ChiSox win it all this year, and Thome has a big post-season . . . that burnishes the resume, no?

Monday, September 01, 2008

Mr. Mom

Frances had to attend APSA this weekend, so I got to spend almost three whole days with Baby Bee! Fortunately, she is a good baby, for the most part, not colicky, and she almost sleeps through the night most nights. Once, that is, you get her to go to sleep, which is, I am learning, the tricky part.

Crying babies are a bit like UFO sightings. Project Blue Book back in the 1960s was able to "explain [away]" 80% of UFO sightings as swamp gas, weather balloons, meteors, stars (never got this one--who looks at a star and sees a flying saucer?), atmospheric inversions, etc. But that still left 20% or so of reported (and investigated) sightings for which no explanation could be given. Same as when a baby cries. Sure, most of the time she's hungry--that's the equivalent of weather balloons. Then she's got a wet diaper, or she's tired. But there is still like 20% of baby crying that I have no idea what it's about. Maybe it's always just gas--not swamp gas, but the stomach variety.

There are other baby mysteries. Like, what is that babies dream about? What makes a baby laugh in her sleep? Why do babies laugh in their sleep before they laugh when awake?

Then there are even weirder things. Those of you who know me will know my downward grin. Bee does that too, and she's under 10 weeks old. ??? It could be that she's mimicking me, that she learned to smile from watching me smile. Or it could be that that smile is built-in to my (and her) hardware. It's hard to know, but it's weird. It makes sense that she has my widow's peak and hairline, my feet, things like that--that's hereditary. But is a smile hereditary?

One last baby mystery: Bee sees faces, but it seems only human faces. The cat, even at very close range, is of absolutely no interest to her, even when the cat is moving. Maybe cave babies who didn't react to hairy beasts nearby had a higher survival rate than crying cave babies?

Scarily Prescient Re: Palin

From three weeks ago.

By comparison, let me just say Jindal looks better in retrospect.