Monday, March 31, 2008

McCain and Churchill

"Thus an administration more disastrous than any in our history saw all its errors and shortcomings acclaimed by the nation." -- Winston Churchill

William Jennings Bryan: Against Imperialism

I had forgotten what a great speech it was. But the amazing thing is, you can take it now, swap a few words around and it would be as if the speech were written yesterday. If I was a speechwriter for the Dems, I'd be all over this thing. Bryan had his issues, but this speech is a real beauty. One quick note: Bryan represented the people, the bible thumpers, who are now Republicans. Everything he speaks against in this speech the Republicans now stand for, but Bryan's constituency is now their's. I have no explanation.

Some excerpts from the speech:

Man is the master, money the servant, but upon all important questions today Republican legislation tends to make money the master and man the servant.


In attempting to press economic questions upon the country to the exclusion of those which involve the very structure of our government, the Republican leaders give new evidence of their abandonment of the earlier ideals of their party and of their complete subserviency to pecuniary considerations.


The Democratic party is not making war upon the honest acquisition of wealth; it has no desire to discourage industry, economy and thrift. On the contrary, it gives to every citizen the greatest possible stimulus to honest toil when it promises him protection in the enjoyment of the proceeds of his labor. Property rights are most secure when human rights are most respected. Democracy strives for civilization in which every member of society will share according to his merits.


Those who would have this Nation enter upon a career of empire must consider, not only the effect of imperialism on the Filipinos, but they must also calculate its effects upon our own nation. We cannot repudiate the principle of self-government in the Philippines without weakening that principle here.


Lincoln said that the safety of this Nation was not in its fleets, its armies, or its forts, but in the spirit which prizes liberty as the heritage of all men, in all lands, everywhere, and he warned his countrymen that they could not destroy this spirit without planting the seeds of despotism at their own doors.


Our opponents, conscious of the weakness of their cause, seek to confuse imperialism with expansion, and have even dared to claim Jefferson as a supporter of their policy. Jefferson spoke so freely and used language with such precision that no one can be ignorant of his views. On one occasion he declared: "If there be one principle more deeply rooted than any other in the mind of every American, it is that we should have nothing to do with conquest." And again he said: "Conquest is not in our principles; it is inconsistent with our government."


It is argued by some that the Filipinos are incapable of self-government and that, therefore, we owe it to the world to take control of them.


Republicans ask, "Shall we haul down the flag that floats over our dead in the Philippines?" The same question might have been asked, when the American flag floated over Chapultepec and waved over the dead who fell there; but the tourist who visits the City of Mexico finds there a national cemetery owned by the United States and cared for by an American citizen. Our flag still floats over our dead, but when the treaty with Mexico was signed American authority withdrew to the Rio Grande, and I venture the opinion that during the last fifty years the people of Mexico have made more progress under the stimulus of independence and self-government than they would have made under a carpet-bag government held in place by bayonets. The United States and Mexico, friendly republics, are each stronger and happier than they would have been had the former been cursed and the latter crushed by an imperialistic policy disguised as "benevolent assimilation."


And so with the nation. It is of age and it can do what it pleases; it can spurn the traditions of the past; it can repudiate the principles upon which the nation rests; it can employ force instead of reason; it can substitute might for right; it can conquer weaker people; it can exploit their lands, appropriate their property and kill their people; but it cannot repeal the moral law or escape the punishment decreed for the violation of human rights.


The principal arguments, however, advanced by those who enter upon a defense of imperialism are:

First- That we must improve the present opportunity to become a world power and enter into international politics.

Second- That our commercial interests in the Philippine Islands and in the Orient make it necessary for us to hold the islands permanently.

Third- That the spread of the Christian religion will be facilitated by a colonial policy.

Fourth- That there is no honorable retreat from the position which the nation has taken.

The first argument is addrest to the nation’s pride and the second to the nation’s pocket-book. The third is intended for the church member and the fourth for the partisan.


I can conceive of a national destiny surpassing the glories of the present and the past -- a destiny which meets the responsibility of today and measures up to the possibilities of the future. Behold a republic, resting securely upon the foundation stones quarried by revolutionary patriots from the mountain of eternal truth -- a republic applying in practice and proclaiming to the world the self-evident propositions that all men are created equal; that they are endowed with inalienable rights; that governments are instituted among men to secure these rights, and that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. Behold a republic in which civil and religion liberty stimulate all to earnest endeavor and in which the law restrains every hand uplifted for a neighbor's injury -- a republic in which every citizen is a sovereign, but in which no one cares to wear a crown. Behold a republic standing erect while empires all around are bowed beneath the weight of their own armaments -- a republic whose flag is loved while other flags are only feared. Behold a republic increasing in population, in wealth, in strength and in influence, solving the problems of civilization and hastening the coming of an universal brotherhood -- a republic which shakes thrones and dissolves aristocracies by its silent example and gives light and inspiration to those who sit in darkness. Behold a republic gradually but surely becoming the supreme moral factor in the world's progress and the accepted arbiter of the world's disputes -- a republic whose history, like the path of the just, "is as the shining light that shineth more and more unto the perfect day."


Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Other Boleyn Girl

Just watched The Other Boleyn Girl. A bunch of outstanding actresses (Portman was the worst in this group, and she's usually pretty decent), surrounding the awful, wooden Eric Bana. Eric Bana is the George Peppard of this generation, a guy who gets good roles despite having no talent at all. In fact, Peppard was a better actor. Sure, he fucked Breakfast At Tiffany's into a cocked hat, but he also made Blue Max, a film that was perfect for a wooden actor, and then he had the good graces to disappear into the world of B films, TV, and alcoholism. Bana just keeps coming back, poisoning film after film with his unacting. Please, somebody introduce him to drink, for the sake of the films he will otherwise continue to ruin with his perpetually glowering presence.

Not that this particular film could have been ruined, even by Bana. Great performances (and Kristin Scott Thomas, Johansson, and in particular Ana Torrent were enjoyable to watch), can't save a wretched script and a far too great focus on the female audience. All the men are weak and stupid, all the women strong, and forced to tolerate the stupidity and weakness of the men around them, until finally a bunch of heads get chopped off and we're left with the thought that a strong, intelligent woman (Elizabeth), will assume the throne and all this male-caused stupidity will end. I wanted to laugh out loud at the ending, but by then I was too bored to work up the energy.

Our expert punditry.

Glenn Beck pontificates on the "53 Trillion dollar asteroid" that is "hurtling toward us at a rapid rate". It's been one of the "Most Popular" on CNN.Com for several days now. The "asteroid" in question is spending for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. According to the nearest sources I can find, Glenn Beck has a high school education. So, for that matter, does Rush Limbaugh. Sean Hannity never completed college. These are the people who "inform" what, maybe 10% of the most politically active people in the nation? Even more than 10%? They can say what they please, and as far as I am aware, no one has ever pointed out that they can hardly be considered experts on any topic besides how to draw large radio audiences by shouting angry, ill-considered, pandering noise. That large segments of the population take people like this seriously speaks more about where we are as a society than all the words I could type.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Our press corps in action

This story is so poorly reasoned it almost isn't worth commenting, but what the hell:

Bickering between Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama could affect Democratic turnout in the general election, suggests a poll released Thursday.

Fighting between Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton could drive Democratic turnout this fall.

Sixteen percent of Clinton supporters questioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey said they are not likely to vote in the general election if Obama is the Democratic nominee.

An equal number of Obama supporters said they'll sit it out come November if Clinton is their party's nominee.

"The problem for the Democratic Party in November may not be crossover votes: Clinton supporters choosing [Sen. John] McCain in the fall if Obama wins the nomination or Obama voters doing likewise if Clinton gets the nod," CNN polling director Keating Holland said. "The real problem may be that those disaffected Clinton or Obama supporters may just stay at home in November, which could cost the party dearly in some key states.

"If the Obama stay-at-home vote is largely African-American, that will affect Democrats' chances on the ballot in several Southern states and could take states like Virginia off the table completely," Holland said. "It might even hurt Democrats in states where the party relies on heavy turnout in large urban areas, such as Pennsylvania and Ohio.

"And if the Clinton stay-at-home vote is predominantly female, that will hurt the party everywhere," he added.

But polls are just snapshots of how people feel at the moment. If the Democrats can come together and agree on a nominee, most of the ill will could be just a memory by November.

No where in the piece does it talk about how the "bickering" might lead to people staying home. Nowhere do they discuss the possibility that some people are interested in the race specifically because of Hillary or Obama, and would lose interest once either one of them left the race, bickering or no. And then there are the anecdotal examples of Carter and the particularly ridiculous one of Bush the senior tacked on at the end. Vulnerable incumbents attract competitors in a primary -- there's blood in the water. The incumbent is already vulnerable, so of course, such a candidate is more likely to lose a general, primary challenger or no. And Pat Buchanan? Christ. Talk about a reach. There's a marginal guy like that in almost every presidential election you could use to throw out as a support for a lousy argument. How about Jerry Brown, who drug his campaign all the way to the convention in '92? Ah, but he doesn't fit the narrative, so he must be discarded.

Our nation's finest, displaying their powerful reasoning skills.

John Adams

Finally finished the book. What I ended up feeling, besides a certain affection for Adams himself, was what I often feel when I read history these days: how small our world has become, and how small the people in it have become as well. We were born to a father of Freedom, a mother of Commerce, and now we are a nation that is about ... what? Rush Limbaugh shouting nonsensical anger about whether to build a fence to keep workers out; when, not if, we should invade which defenceless country, and how best to prepare for it; and all this while our self-proclaimed most freedom loving "pundits" preach a doctrine of fear and quake in their think tanks over the menace presented by countries that can't even build their own cars or rifles. The "MSM" is obsessed with blue dresses and home purchases, cackles, cleavage; and while in Adams' day everyone knew and understood the biases of their media, our modern media pretend to be entirely unbiased when in reality their affections can be bought and their reporting thereby slanted by nothing more than a slab of ribs and a verbal pat on the head from the likes of John McCain.

I ended up really liking the book, and in particular liked Abigail Adams, who I thought was more remarkable than anyone else in it, Washington, Jefferson, and Hamilton included (this is, by the way, a criticism of McCullough: that simply should not have happened, yet I suspect anyone who reads the book will end up with the same attitude. He really failed to do those three justice, and was particularly savage to Hamilton). But now I'm going to stay away from Revolutionary War history for awhile. I'm pretty certain that the more I read about that era the less I'll like this one, and that's an entirely unhealthy thing.

One other note was how well everyone wrote back then. People today just don't write nearly as well as the people of that era, for whom letter writing was an art. Their ability to turn a phrase or draw a clear and relevant analogy simply amazes me. This happens every time I read letters from that era -- I end up stunned by how clearly they are able to get across meanings, how they are able to bare their intellectual souls, as it were, how important language obviously was to them. I'm pretty certain this isn't a case of selection bias -- where they write better because only the best citizens wrote back then -- because I've read many, many letters from some of the best writers of the modern age, and they just don't compare in thoughtfulness, or in force or richness of expression. I think we today are poisoned by the ease and ubiquity of communication, which makes it cheap to our minds, so we treat it cheaply. The Orwell-E.B. White cult of plain writing also plays a part, I believe, although I'm not one to talk too much about that as I was brought up in that particular faith, and am entirely unable to escape its doctrines even were I to muster up the courage to try.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Good money after bad

The weaker Obama looks as a general election candidate, the louder the calls for Hillary to withdraw. Ah well. The only people who ever thought we liberals were smart were we liberals.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

What happened?

Bill Clinton went through two presidential elections and eight years of office, much of the time under constant fire from a hostile press corps, and earned the nickname "Slick Willie", sky high approval ratings, and a reputation for being able to finesse almost anything. Now, he can't open his mouth without saying something stupid, or so sayeth that same intrepid press corps. He must have lost his touch -- no other explanation will do.

A question for the American exceptionalists

Why did the American Revolution go so well, and almost every other revolution you can name turn into a bloodbath? The Russian Revolution produced Stalin, a ruthless apparatchik with a talent for intrigue, mass murder, and nothing else. The French Revolution, following right on the heels of ours, produced Robespierre, Napoleon, and its most enduring symbol, the guillotine. Ours produced, and was the product of, some of the greats of history -- Franklin, Washington, Jefferson, Hamilton, men without whom the experiment of democracy might well have failed. And of course, the greatest product of all was this country which, faults and all, has been a pretty splendid place to live for most of its people most of the time, particularly when compared to other countries. My guess is it was a confluence of the right people coming together at the right time. When you look at Washington, Jefferson, Franklin et al, it's hard not to be impressed by them as individuals, that is, without taking into account the outcome of their political efforts, whereas the people behind the French Revolution were, by comparison, mediocrities, and the Russian Revolution depended on people who were little more than gifted thugs.


I guess it's creative...

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Make my day

Veteran actor/director Clint Eastwood is resurrecting the 'Dirty Harry' franchise with the series' first film in 20 years.

On Tuesday, studio executives at Warner Brothers revealed the 77-year-old legend will direct and star in Gran Torino. No further details were released, other than the project has a December release date pencilled in.

All the ugliness.

As entertainment this could work -- Rocky 7 or whatever it was was watchable -- but Eastwood is one of the bigger directors out there these days, one who can pretty much make whatever film he wants. He doesn't need the money, doesn't need the exposure, so why would he do this, during these times? At the very least, I hope he uses this film to make a statement about the whole anti-intellectual, "get tough with the scumbags and fuck the effete, out-of-touch liberals who are always in the way" themes so evident in the original Dirty Harry films. All the excesses of modern conservatism can be traced back to some of the attitudes in those films, and this Gran Torino would be a perfect vehicle, as it were, to discuss just how far away from reality the movement is.

Playing to the chorus

Here's Yglesias:

Under the circumstances, I find it maddening that the party leadership isn't acting to push her out of the race. Dragging things out 'till the convention stands a much, much, much higher chance of hurting Barack Obama's chances in the general election than it does of securing Clinton the nomination. I understand the calculation from the point of view of the heart of the Clinton campaign -- McCain beating Obama in the general means the Clintons still control the party, so there's no need to worry about helping McCain and you might as well hold on and hope lightning strikes. But the broader mass of unaffiliated elites and Clinton supporters who aren't literally on her payroll are, in my view, acting in a massively irresponsible manner.

1) How can "dragging things out 'till the convention" hurt Obama? Is there any dirt that Hillary could find and use that McCain won't, and at a much more inconvenient time for Obama?

2) If the Clintons "control the party," why is there a race going on at all? Even if they couldn't just wave their all-powerful wands and win the primary by votes, they could use their "control of the party" to win the superdelegates at the convention.

3) One way or another, this is pretty much it for Clintonism. She would be 65 in 2012, isn't aging particularly well, and appearances count, particularly for women. Unlike the even older McCain, she doesn't have the entirety of the media establishment pumping her up.

The real thing that's going on here is the liberal blogosphere is pandering for the eyeballs of the Obamabots. Any mention of Obama gets hundreds of posts from the frothing morons of the left, these people know it, and that's how they drive their web hits and their careers. The establishment media panders to each other; the blogosphere panders to the people online -- semi-educated, middle class elites who only reflect a small section of the Dem base, but who are, for the Yglesiases of the world, everything. The "new medium" is already starting to fail. I don't know if this will change any as more common people get online, but right now it's depressing to see.

Friday, March 21, 2008

More victim points

Perfect timing, too. But will it be enough to distract from Wright? The ugliest primary I've ever seen. Both candidates benefit from having shitty tricks played on them.

Thursday, March 20, 2008


Obama's poll numbers sinking:

Democrat Barack Obama suffered in the polls Thursday after a much-acclaimed speech on race that, pundits said, had failed to defuse voters' anger over rage-filled sermons by his former pastor.

Waging an acrimonious battle against Hillary Clinton for the Democrats' White House nomination, Obama confessed to being bruised by the controversy surrounding his longtime Chicago preacher, Reverend Jeremiah Wright.


A clutch of polls released since Tuesday pointed to an erosion of Obama's support, with white working-class voters and independents especially alienated. That could hurt him in the Democrats' next primary in Pennsylvania on April 22.

The latest Gallup daily tracking poll found Clinton pulling into a seven-point lead nationally over Obama, 49 percent to 42 percent. It was Clinton's first statistically significant lead over Obama in more than a month.

"The initial indications are that the speech has not halted Clinton's gaining momentum, as she led by a similar margin in Tuesday night's polling as compared to Monday night's polling," Gallup said.

The poll also found Republican nominee-elect John McCain benefiting from the Democratic brawling. The Arizona senator had an edge of 47 percent to 43 percent over Obama, and a lead of 48 percent to 45 over Clinton.

Another survey by Rasmussen gave Obama a favorable rating of 48 percent among voters. Just before the Wright videos emerged last week, Obama's rating was 52 percent.

CBS News poll numbers showed Obama still just ahead of Clinton among Democratic primary voters -- 46 percent to 43. But a month ago, his margin was far wider at 54 percent to 38.

I finally start liking Obama as a person, and I'm disliking his campaign more than ever. The electoral logic of his campaign was always wrong. He owes his lead to states neither he, nor any other Democrat, will win in a general: the moderate people in, say, Utah voted for Obama because for years they've heard Hillary was a socialist she-bitch, while the left people in these states are generally harder left than you'll find in a state like Texas or even California, and the hard left has also been taught to despise Hillary as a calculating, triangulating Republican-lite. These states are tailor made for a candidate running against her -- ie, Obama won those states not because of his brilliance as a candidate, but because he was running against Hillary. He won't be running against Hillary in a general.

And yet, he is being put forth as the best chance to win in the general, because of his alleged lack of "polarizing-ness." He's never been tested, hardly been vetted (I still don't understand why Wright wasn't found out about months ago. My guess is the Hillary camp knew, but couldn't do anything for fear of alienating blacks and being further attacked for "negative campaigning", while the press corps was too busy blowing McCain and savaging Hillary to pay attention to much else), never suffered from negative attacks (sorry Obamabots, the stuff Hillary has been throwing against him are creampuffs). As a black man and a Democrat, large numbers of voters are suspicious of him, and he has to tread carefully to avoid crossing whatever line it is that will make those people think of him as a Jesse Jackson-George McGovern hybrid. This is why his campaign is so cautious, and why he would be cautious in the White House if he won, and it's also why his reputation as being "unpolarizing" is suspect. And then there is his near-total lack of experience, which I've already rattled on about. He's an electoral bomb waiting to go off -- I've been privately thinking of him as "O-bomb-a."

Everything I can see says he's fragile. I will even admit I hope my analysis turns out to be wrong. But when one event is able to knock someone's poll numbers around like that after a year of campaigning, and after all the positive press he's received and all the negative press his opponent has received, that candidate is dangerous. I don't understand why so many Democrats aren't just taking the risk, but are eager to take it. He's a gifted man in many, many ways, I like him, I'd like to see him win the presidency, but he's also a gamble, and speaking for myself, I'd rather win ugly with Hillary -- win a bruising, 51% - 49% election -- than lose pretty, or any other way, with Obama.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

An age like this

Finishing McCullough's John Adams. The theme of tyranny or freedom runs throughout the book (I particularly like Abigail Adams' sharp literary tongue), and I started thinking about all the attention paid to the topic recently. Interest in Roman history has been on the upswing, as well as other books on the American Revolution. Sometimes you get the feeling you aren't alone in your horror, and then you realize that, despite books like these, there are hardly enough people left in this country who consciously think and/or care about such trivialities as "tyranny" and "freedom" to fill one prison in a gulag, and the horror only intensifies.

For a pop biography of an important historical figure the book is pretty good, but I never trust any biography that doesn't find faults, and this one doesn't.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Arthur C. Clarke


The only one of his books I read all the way through was 2001, and that was only because I was trying to figure out the final scene in that GD movie (it didn't help).


Not commenting on the tone of Greenwald's post today will have to be comment enough on it. As for the substance...

The vast majority of the public will never see Obama's speech, never hear it, and sure as hell never read it. Instead, they will get it sliced and diced by the media people. If the media like the speech (and how could they not? Hillary didn't make it), they will see to it that it's presented to the public in such a way that they will like it. Already most of the headlines I see on the speech disappear Wright -- disappear the reason the speech was made in the first place -- in favor of presenting it as just some speech on race relations. NPR: "Obama Speech Addresses Racial Divide" Boston Globe: "Obama Speech Goes Past Generalities On Race" BBC: "Obama says US cannot ignore race".

It's an excellent, grownup speech, of the kind I've wanted to hear from Obama from the start of his campaign, but in the end that hardly matters. What matters is that Obama could count on the speech being reported to the public in such a way that they will see it as grownup. And that's something he may or may not be able to count on in a few months, if he wins the nomination. We won't know until then just how much Obama really trusts the public.

Some further comments: race has been Obama's friend throughout the campaign. This is the first time I think he, himself made it work in his favor. It's also the first time he's really been tested, and he's coming though well. He absolutely has to put this behind him now, so it's less likely the smear machine can whip up a furor with it during the slow period of the campaign, if he gets that far. And parts of the speech spoke to me, a person who, like Obama has a foot in both the black and white worlds, personally, which is the first time he's said anything that's done that. Most of his speeches are a bunch of damn nonsense, to borrow from David Brinkley. Not this one.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Bad Hillary!

Time's resident foreign policy expert and all-around wise old head Joe Klein discusses what should be a revealing moment about Obama's campaign. Obama, yet again, is caught out saying something that he doesn't believe, this time about Iraq, and his solemn vows to get the U.S. out. Turns out those vows are a lot of hooey. This despite him promising a "new kind of politics," and despite the fact that many of the more crazed of his crazed supporters got that way just because of his position on Iraq. This ought to be a defining moment, and any Dem disliked by the media creatures would be pulled apart, limb by limb, for getting caught out in something like this (this is, incidentally, twice Ms Power -- the person Obama chose to be his chief foreign policy adviser -- has put her foot in her mouth. But what sets him apart is superior judgment!)

What does Klein do? Writes an idiot post that bemoans the state of politics -- a favorite Beltway topic -- while absolving poor Obama of any greater sin than being a normal politician -- which he claims he isn't! -- while managing to denigrate Hillary throughout. Given the theme of Obama's campaign these constant admissions of duplicity on his part should be fatal, but the Joe Kleins of the world line up and cover for him, over and over and over again. Until he runs into McCain. Rude awakening. The most recent polls I've seen show him even with Hillary in a head-to-head against McCain, this despite the disparity between their press treatment. I liked Obama, then I was wary, then I wanted to like him, tried to like him, but now I'm just tired of him. He might win the whole thing yet: the economy is looking increasingly dismal, and McCain is tied at the hip to Bush's economic policies. But Obama is starting to look like a smarter version of George Bush to me -- a guy who should not be where he is, and would not be there if we did not have systemic problems with our democracy, problems that start with the press corps and their wise old heads like Joe Klein.


All day I hear the noise of waters
Making moan,
Sad as the sea-bird is when, going
Forth alone,
He hears the winds cry to the water's

The grey winds, the cold winds are blowing
Where I go.
I hear the noise of many waters
Far below.
All day, all night, I hear them flowing
To and fro.

James Joyce

My favorite short poem. I could type out hundreds of sentences trying to explain why, and never even come close to succeeding, at least in part because I'm not sure why myself.

Sunday, March 16, 2008


has just over three years in the Senate, and no executive experience. Has anyone in modern history become president with less experience? Jimmy Carter had a couple of terms in the GA state senate before serving a full term as governor, and then Bush, the guy in there now, is the next lowest on the experience ladder. Neither is considered a success. You could make an argument for or against Eisenhower, but I prefer his experience to that of most people, frankly, as it was a job very much like what presidents actually do. I've spent part of the last couple of days poring over Obama's record, and I was simply astonished to find how little there is there. Obamamania has covered it all up, just like it covered up his association with Reverend Wright, which should have been outed months and months ago. The upside is that with such a thin record it's unlikely he has many other skeletons in his closet, but I really wonder if the Democratic Party has gone completely insane here. If the economy continues sliding none of this will matter, but why take such a gamble on a complete unknown? Why are so many of them so crazy about him? Warning sirens should be blaring.

Sometimes the jokes write themselves

The headline from Nick Kristof's column today: "Your Comments on my Sunday Prostitution Column."

Saturday, March 15, 2008

I'm with Somerby

From Somerby's "Philospher Fridays":

NOZICK (pages 160-162): It is not clear how those holding alternative conceptions of distributive justice can reject the entitlement conception of justice in holdings. For suppose a distribution favored by one of these non-entitlement conceptions is realized. Let us suppose it is your favorite one and let us call this distribution D1; perhaps everyone has an equal share, perhaps shares vary in accordance with some dimension you treasure. Now suppose that Wilt Chamberlain is greatly in demand by basketball teams, being a great gate attraction....He signs the following sort of contract with a team: In each home game, twenty-five cents from the price of each ticket of admission goes to him....The season starts, and people cheerfully attend his team’s games; they buy his tickets, each time dropping a separate twenty-five cents of their admission price into a special box with Chamberlain’s name on it. They are excited about seeing him play; it is worth the total admission price to them. Let us suppose that in one season one million persons attend his home games, and Wilt Chamberlain ends up with $250,000, a much larger sum than the average income and larger even than anyone else has. Is he entitled to this income? Is this new distribution D2 unjust? If so, why? There is no question about whether each of the people was entitled the control they held over the resources they held in D1; because that was the distribution (your favorite) that (for the purposes of argument) we assumed was acceptable. Each of these persons chose to give twenty-five cents of their money to Chamberlain. They could have spent it on going to the movies, or on candy bars, or on copies of Dissent magazine, or of Monthly Review. But they all, at least one million of them, converged on giving it to Wilt Chamberlain in exchange for watching him play basketball. If D1 was a just distribution, and people voluntarily moved from it to D2, transferring parts of their shares they were given under D1 (what was it for if not to do something with?), isn’t D2 also just? If the people were entitled to dispose of the resources to which they were entitled (under D1), didn’t this include their being entitled to give it to, or exchange it with, Wilt Chamberlain? Can anyone else complain on grounds of justice? Each other person already has his legitimate share of D1. Under D1, there is nothing that anyone has that anyone else has a claim of justice against. After someone transfers something to Wilt Chamberlain, third parties still have their legitimate shares; their shares are not changed. By what process could such a transfer among two persons give rise to a legitimate claims of distributive justice on a portion of what was transferred by a third part who had no claim of justice on any holding of the others before the transfer?...

I can't believe this is all there is to Nozick's illustration.

1) Not all people are basketball fans, or attend Chamberlain's games, yet all are subject to the resultant income inequality. The behavior of a few -- maybe even a tiny minority -- ends up having deleterious effects on everyone.

2) Anyone who's been in an intro to Econ class should recognize a tragedy of the commons effect here. People, as individuals make a decision to go watch Chamberlain play, not to make him rich and foul up a wealth distribution that they found pleasing. Chamberlain's wealth is an unintended consequence, a collective outcome of individual behavior, which leads to

3) People, as a group, found D1 just, and presumably find D2 unjust. Isn't that all that's needed? Isn't "just" a subjective concept, that has to be hammered out by general agreement? Don't people have the right to try to correct injustice, regardless of how the injustice came about?

Usually this stuff bores me because it's a bunch of people sitting around trying to prove how smart they are, but I'm going to follow this one with some interest, as Somerby generally posts e-mails from people with objections to his reasoning, and the points I made above should have been dealt with in the past. It wouldn't surprise me if the right wing latched on to an argument like Nozick's, because their standards are generally low when it comes to anything that furthers their agenda, but this is a field of academia, where huge egos and careers are built on arguments like these. I assume I'm missing a lot of stuff that's been covered. But until then I'm with Somerby. This strikes me as sloppy.

Friday, March 14, 2008

I'm looking around on the internets lately, and seeing the same kind of groupthink that defined the press corps for the past 20 years. The hatred of Hillary, the willingness to suspend and ignore reason, a willingness to lie, the demonization -- it's all there. Many of us on "the left" have had this fantasy that the blogosphere would be an equalizer, but thus far it's been just as slanted as the institution it wants to supplant. It's even been slanted in the same direction.


Thursday, March 13, 2008

Katie get your keyboard

Wapo's Katherine Weymouth:

I need not tell you that our industry is undergoing a seismic shift as readers face an array of media choices and our traditional advertising and circulation bases decline. The good news is that the appetite for news is as robust as ever. Thanks to our presence on the Internet and the terrific site at, our Internet audience has exploded. We have more readers now, and more far flung readers, than we have ever had. And on-line revenues are growing. But, as you know, they are not yet growing fast enough to offset the declines we are seeing in print revenues. As we move forward, barring a dramatic turn around in the business conditions, our path is pretty straightforward: we will have to reduce our cost structure.

More readers + less revenue = fewer employees. I'm not interested in attacking Weymouth's decision here, but I wonder about what she didn't say. The demand for newspapers, and their ads, is declining, but that obviously isn't saying that the demand for news is down. Or has the explosion of video games and online porn and reality TV and psuedo-news like Crazy Talk radio reduced the demand for actual real news itself*? The data to make at least an educated guess about this are out there, and I would imagine the people at Wapo making the decisions about whose job is no longer needed looked at them (Do they get rid of reporters or some Schmoe working in printing?). I would also like to see them talk about this subject, if only on page A22 or whatever, or hell, do the modern thing and talk about it in a blog entry. The boom in information disseminators (the internet, wireless communication) is changing the world at a hurricane rate; these people are close to the eye of the storm, but they aren't doing a great job of reporting what they see. And yet that's their job. Makes you wonder why they are having trouble.

Anyway, here's hoping Broder and Ignatius are offered, and take, the buyout (fat chance, I know). I can't imagine any two people in the whole organization are more useless.

* Weymouth's statement about "the appetite for news" doesn't go far enough, as Wapo might just be vulturing the eyeballs of people who used to get their news elsewhere, particularly local newspapers, which are struggling mightily these days. I wonder what they would say about the "appetite for news". She had to come to this conclusion based on more data points than's "explosion" in internet viewers. Right?

Tuckered out

Buh bye. He always struck me as more of a manager in professional wrestling than a media yeller, anyway, not to say there's a whole lot of difference between the two jobs. Still, as far as such people go, he was relatively honest, and the dismal failure of his show speaks volumes about what it takes to succeed as a right wing blowhard.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The future of journalism

Right here:
It took six months for Liberation journalist Ondine Millot to get to the truth about the most sordid side of France's housing crisis.

Look through some property websites and you can see the advertisements: the phrase you are looking for is contre services - when a room in an apartment is offered, sometimes "free", in exchange for services.

Sometimes the service is perfectly innocent - cleaning the apartment or washing clothes, to defray some of the high cost of renting property.

But sometimes it is not: instead the requests are sexual, demeaning, bordering on the perverse. "Sex twice a month," is one blunt demand. Another asks for someone "open in spirit and elsewhere".

"Flat in exchange for libertine services," goes another.

The end of the article is actually quite different in tone: a factual description, sans sex, of what seems to be a very real housing shortage problem in France. Apparently what it takes to get people to read stories is a lurid lead, followed by all the boring, informational stuff at the end. A bowlful, not a spoonful, of sugar. And this is the BBC, not Fox or some such. Fox, of course, would have dispensed with all that boring informational stuff entirely.

Fifteen hundred bucks for this?

He deserved to be busted for overpaying. She's attractive, but the news stories about that site talked about beauty queens and accomplished women, blah blah blah. It turns out you have just a very pretty girl who's a struggling singer. You'd think former AG Spitzer would have hauled that company up on false advertising charges.

I wonder how much money she ends up making from this. There's the Playboy spread, then the reality show (Which one will it be, I wonder?), then the public speaking engagements -- the usual career path for good looking women whose only real talent is for getting caught doing salacious things with powerful and/or famous men. I'll bet Donna Rice thinks about the lack of reality TV in her day with wracking pangs of regret.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Eliot Spitzer (again)


Hidden behind the Spitzer story is this little gem:

The man poised to succeed Gov. Eliot Spitzer would not only become the first black governor of New York. He would also be the state's first legally blind governor and its first disabled governor since Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Though his sight is limited, Lt. Gov. David Paterson walks the halls of the Capitol unaided. He recognizes people at conversational distance and can memorize whole speeches. He has played basketball, run a marathon, and survived 22 years in the backbiting culture of the state Capitol with a reputation as a man more apt to reach for an olive branch than a baseball bat.

After earning degrees from Columbia University and Hofstra Law School, he worked for the Queens district attorney's office and was elected to the state Senate in 1985 at the age of 31. He built a reputation for working hard in a place where not everyone does.

Though he can read for brief periods, Paterson usually has aides read to him. He also has developed the ability to remember entire speeches and policy arcana. State Sen. Neil Breslin recalled that he told Paterson his cell phone number once and he memorized it.

"He has one of the finest memories of anyone I've known," Breslin said.

In sharp contrast to Spitzer, who can sound like a legal brief, Paterson is known for dry wit and speaking off the cuff. Sharpton recalled Paterson's arrest with his father at a New York City protest over the 1999 police killing of Amadou Diallo, an unarmed African immigrant. Paterson quipped: "I'm going to tell the judge that I didn't see where I was going."

Obama, Rice, Powell, (hopefully) this guy, even people like Harold Ford and Artur Davis: it's the best time in history to be black in this country. A ways to go, but it's hard to look at (most of) these people (most of the time) and not be optimistic. Although this Paterson would be a remarkable person no matter what his color...

Fallon out

His wording, at least in the story, is very circumspect:

The commander of US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, Admiral William Fallon, is to retire from his post early.

He cited the "embarrassing situation and public perception of differences between my views and administration policy" as the reason for retiring.


In a statement released through Central Command's Florida headquarters, Adm Fallon said: "I don't believe there have ever been any differences about the objectives of our policy in the Central Command.

Maybe I was wrong, and they really are that crazy. It isn't the objectives of our policy that people argue with; it's the Bush Administration's focus on militarism as a means of achieving those objectives that have caused all the problems. Of course, announcing this when he's "traveling", and so, unable to answer questions, suggests pretty strongly that they don't want him to answer any questions. If there really was no rift, they'd want him out there publicly denying it, in the glare of the cameras.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Book 'em

Going through the Library Thing, which is somewhat silly, but it actually forced me to think about some things. I decided to add in the books that were really important to me over the years, plus what I've been reading recently, plus some of the popular authors (Crichton, Connelly, Grisham,) that I always read when they have a new book out, and finally a sort of broad sampling of books in topics that interest me now, or have interested me over the years. Some topics I left out, for reasons of my own. And I learned some things. For one thing, I had completely forgotten that Captains Courageous, which I read at a very young age, was written by Kipling. I had always assumed I'd missed out on Kipling entirely except for some of his poems (which I don't remember liking, except for his incredible gift for turning a vulgar phrase). C.S. Forester wrote Sink The Bismarck, which I must have read 30 times as a kid -- I got to the point where I could read the whole book in 30 minutes, because I'd memorized so much of it (years later when I read Hunt For Red October I knew instantly that Clancy was another fan of the book). I read Forester's Hornblower series and liked it, although not nearly as much as the Aubrey/Maturin series. Anyway, the idea of limiting yourself to a set number of books, in this case 200, to try to capture what helped to make you what you are and what (and where) you are now is challenging, and really forces a lot of self examination. And the stuff I left out! I've probably read, conservatively, 1,000 science fiction books in my life, but only a few of them made the list, and most of those aren't really science fiction, except for The Stars, My Destination. Were all the rest of those books a waste, or are they rattling around in me still, in ways I don't know?

Eliot Spitzer

All I can say is, that's a lot of scratch:
The club's Web site shows a fee schedule of $1,000 per hour for a three-diamond prostitute and $3,100 per hour for a seven-diamond prostitute. Members of the exclusive Icon Club could reach restricted areas of the Web site and schedule appointments with the highest prostitutes, whose fees started at $5,500 per hour, the press release reads.

I have the same question I did when Vitter got busted: where do these guys get the money, on a public servant's salary? How do they hide spending like this from their wives? Or do they even bother to hide it? "Honey, we need to talk about the amount of money you spend on hookers. Timmy needs braces, and Ashleigh wants her own car."

Or is someone else paying for it, and getting favors in exchange?

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Stabbed in the back

It now appears that if Obama gets to the general election and loses, it will all be Hillary's fault. Not due to any fault of Obama's, Oh no! He will have been stabbed in the back by that calculating creature, who had the temerity to actually try to win the primary, and in so doing, why, she failed to acknowledge that Obama is a candidate without a weakness! Obama, it seems, is a perfect candidate, but not so perfect as to be able to withstand the perfidies visited upon him by Hillary. I have been saying for years now that the Republicans are smarter than the Dems, and every presidential election cycle that rolls around proves me a little more right.

The land of snow and Mormons

Tooling around and found this site. I've lived here for 18 months now and never noticed anything odd about the Mormons, in fact, I've come to like a lot of them. They seem like decent, family-oriented people. The racism I'd expected has not materialized. But those are some silly beliefs. Even granting that most Western religious belief is silly in one way or another (there's an all-knowing, all-powerful being who, nevertheless, has this compulsive need to "test" people, when he is supposed to know the outcome already, and he sure does have a temper!), some of those things are, well ... I'll stop there, except to say I don't get the thing about the underwear at all. I read through the Book of Mormon, and after awhile started wondering if it was somebody's attempt at comedy -- I can't believe they go door to door using that thing in their pitch. But of all the things I don't get, the tithe flummoxes me the most. You are expected to raise big families, the wives tend not to work, but you are also expected to give 10% of your income to the church. What do they get in return for that 10%? And they foot the bill for their own kids going on those missions (I actually admire the missions and the commitment it takes to an extent). It has to be the most expensive major religion out there. You can surely get the same community involvement and social benefits by choosing a different church. You can go to Catholic services for the price of a couple of bucks thrown in the offering basket. Mormonism ought to have priced itself out of the market. But it's one of the fastest growing religions in the world, from what I can gather. I just don't get it.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Broder, Klein, and Ignatius: the Early Years

This is how it starts. And then you have years of mutual backscratching, and eventually, an iron, supremely smug, conventional wisdom that brooks no heterodoxy. You would think the internet would make this sort of thing less likely, as it makes it unnecessary for people to hang out together, but people are people, no matter what tools they have, and hanging out with other people and doing things to gain and keep their acceptance is something that human beings are programmed to do. Keyboards don't make people say stupid things, people make people say stupid things. Or something like that.


The degree to which increasingly sophisticated and even brilliant merchandising is influencing popular culture is a little chilling. I wonder how many people end up identifying with a brand so strongly that it becomes a part of their self-image. A nation of youthful Frank Booths, shouting out about Mountain Dew and Red Bull instead of Pabst Blue Ribbon. But not "Don't look at me," rather, "Look at meeeeeeeeeee!!!"


And one of my favorite topics has been getting a little more attention recently:

Dr. Daniel Carlat sank into a choice seat at Lincoln Center, surrounded by other psychiatrists, all staying at the same four-star hotel in Manhattan and attending the same show for free. His deal with a pharmaceutical company to provide testimonials to other doctors had paid off well.

"It just kind of gave me a feeling of euphoria," said Carlat, a practicing psychiatrist and assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Tufts University in Boston. "Sort of like you've made it into the upper crust of society."

The practice of using doctors to pitch products to other doctors is legal, though several states — including New York — are trying to curb it. They are opposed by the pharmaceutical industry, which argues the practice is a kind of professional consultation.

Carlat was on the "speakers' bureau" for the pharmaceutical companies, speaking to large groups of doctors, or holding intimate, expenses-paid meals with a pharmaceutical representative and one or two doctors. In one year, he earned $30,000 — about one-fifth of his salary. Ultimately, his conscience started nagging him and he quit.

It baffles me that more people don't pay attention to this stuff. It's not as if their health and the health of their families and loved ones is at stake.


Could be good, could be disappointing. There's a lot of room for character exploration in the Iron Man series, and Robert Downey has the chops to do it. But it takes a very deft touch from the writer/director team to make a good action film that also has some depth. The guy who's directing this has only directed one other feature film, and I'd never heard of it before. So far, the track record for these comic book films is fair, with Daredevil and Hulk being the only plain misfires (the FF series hasn't been great, but neither was it intended to be). Daredevil and the Hulk were my favorite Marvel characters as a kid. Iron Man was my third favorite. :-/

Friday, March 7, 2008


There's a reason I don't read Daily Kos, and it's the same reason I don't read Free Republic: left or right, there's only so much insanity and ignorance I can take, and I get that much in every day life.

Apparently one of the geniuses at Kos decided the Clinton people had darkened Obama in an attack ad, making him into a Scary Black Man. A bunch of the other geniuses at Kos jumped on the bandwagon, and you have an instant "scandal." The folks at Factcheck analyzed the ad, and decided there was no evidence to support the darkening charges. Big surprise, there.

What interests me is that, yet again, the defense of something -- in this case defense against an attack that was never made -- underscores how insecure about Obama's candidacy his supporters are. If they think his race is such a high negative that some bit of dumbassery like this would hurt him, why do they think that a majority of Americans would vote for him at all? He's black. If Americans won't vote for a black man, doctoring an ad like this doesn't mean anything. If they will, doctoring an ad like this -- guess what? -- doesn't mean anything.

Apparently the people at KOS think there's some kind of blackness threshold, and Obama is just on the right side of it, but shade him any darker and oops! there goes the presidency. I don't know what's scarier, the idea that they think this, or the idea that they might be right. But if they are right, why are they, not just supporting him, but fanatically supporting him?

A week ago, Obama was running the Most Brilliant Campaign Evah, while Hillary was just a dumb bitch who couldn't run a lemonade stand. Now, Hillary is a kneecapping bitch, who should get out of the campaign to clear the way for poor, "eloquent" (even money says the word Chait was really thinking of was "articulate") Obama. Obama has had the benefit of a press that hates and maligns Hillary, a blogosphere that largely hates and maligns her, a huge spending advantage, two chances to simply put her away and end this thing, and he's blown it all. Hillary has had some of the most consistently and outrageously negative press coverage we've ever seen; Obama has been treated very nearly as well as McCain. Yet all it took was a couple of negative ads, and Obama started crumpling like a stepped-on cardboard box. There are serious problems with his candidacy, and if these people think that (probably un-doctored) ad was something, wait until the wingnut 529s, Crazy Talk radio, and Fox News turn him into a thumbsucking, commie loving, Muslim tarbaby, who wants to turn over American national defense to the U.N., socialize healthcare, and take money away from hard working white folks and give it to the Cadillac driving welfare queens of the ghetto.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Ana Marie Cox

Didn't pay enough attention to this when it was going on, but now that I've read through the whole ugly thing, I'm a little stunned. Her reasoning in defending the trip was pretty shoddy and dishonest, but it's too late to go over that stuff now. What really caught my eye was this:

"To those of you who are worried that I went to the event on my own dime: Time is not the only place in the world where people can publish stories about McCain, okay? I will recover my expenses."

In other words, she either has, or is looking for, a book deal. Now, I have no problem with this, and in fact, she would have been dumb not to do it. The real problem is this: if McCain wins the presidency, her book deal could stretch into seven figure territory. He was counted out, and came back to win, and she was covering it the whole way, plus she has her Time platform to help sales. It's the sort of political Rocky story publishers will pay for, especially if the election becomes a real monumental one that attracts a lot of attention. Which, come to think of it, pretty much describes the election we already have. If McCain loses, maybe her putative book doesn't even get published, but is relegated, instead, to some kind of feature article in Vanity Fair or some other magazine, which would pay her by the word. It's a huge difference, and stakes her in a big way to a certain outcome -- McCain winning -- of the election. And that's just this one book. Once a book like that established her, she's set for life, able to write what she pleases (see Klein, Joe, "Anonymous", and Primary Colours). And this person, with so much riding on the election, is going to be covering it, with her silly, giggly-assed persona, until the end, on TV, in Time, talking with her colleagues, the blog: everywhere she goes, she will have a gigantic stake riding on the outcome. It really shouldn't be allowed: in no other profession would such a gross conflict of interest be tolerated, but this is one that isn't even discussed.

Who knows, maybe Cox is a pillar of virtue, and will be perfectly "fair" (she admits she is biased, even brags about it, but claims that's OK because she's decided she's "fair") between now and the election. I have a low opinion of her, but it isn't so low as to think she would consciously sell herself for money, at least not journalistically sell herself. But who knows what she will do unconsciously? Why should we be forced to hope Cox is a better person than she reveals herself to be pretty much every day she writes another of her teenager-as-serious-journalist posts?

Things falling apart

We're used to seeing civil wars down there, but national wars, not so much:

Nicaragua President Daniel Ortega said the nation is breaking diplomatic relations with Colombia.

The move comes after the Organization of American States passed a resolution Wednesday in hopes of easing tensions stemming from an attack by Colombian military on a rebel camp in neighboring Ecuador on Saturday.

Since that attack, Ecuador has broken off relations with Colombia, and Venezuela says it has moved troops to its border with Colombia.

Where is the U.S. in all this? Who is minding the Washington store? These countries are separated from us by what, a thousand miles?

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

No comment about the comments

Many of the comments in this thread are winceworthy. But I still don't believe the Bush people are so stupid and crazy as to attack Iran: we just don't have the capability to do it now. I have no idea what the game is but it can't be that.
I really don't care who wins between Obama and Hillary at this point. I like Obama because he's black -- at least I admit it -- and because there's a small chance he'll take a different tack on foreign policy. I dislike Obama because he's done his best to foul up chances for meaningful health care reform, and because I despise -- absolutely fucking hate -- the insane gang of yahoos who have made his campaign into a religious crusade. I hated them in Dean's campaign, I hated them in Brown's campaign, and I hate them now. Fuck those punks. I like Hillary because I admire her courage and ambition: many people would have fallen apart in the face of all the crap she's endured from the media for 16 years; she's managed not only to press on, but to make meaningful contributions to society. I also like her campaign for the opportunity to stick it to the press, particularly the loathsome creeps at MSNBC, and because a Hillary campaign in the general might -- might -- force the media people to engage in some desperately needed self-examination. I dislike Hillary because her presidency would probably be very tactical and reactive, and her foreign policy is guaranteed to be a cravenly surrender to the status quo. Both candidates are smart and will probably be efficient managers, although Hillary is probably more ready now, while Obama has better potential for growth. Of the two, Hillary is a more "sure thing," while Obama's presidency could turn out great, and could turn out to be a bomb -- he's a highly talented guy, but he's never been tested. Really, they are two fine candidates, and I don't understand how anyone could hate either one, but a lot of the yahoos have somehow managed to convince themselves Hillary deserves their hatred. When I look at her life I actually see a lot to admire, and nothing at all to hate, so I don't get it.

*Add: After reading around the usual media suspects just now, I get the sense Obama's rough ride with the press is over, that he's about to become a fair haired boy again, albeit nowhere near as fair-haired as McCain. And if Obama is having problems with Hillary over his lack of experience now, what in the world is he going to do against warhero20termsenatorsaintjohnmccain?

And since it's late and I need someplace to stick this so I can come back to it later,

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

If Hillary doesn't win the nomination, it will be yet another major Dem who is just a lousy campaigner. We had Gore, and then Kerry, and then Hillary, all "fatally flawed". Dems sure are a bunch of dumbasses for nominating, or even considering nominating, candidates like these. Republicans lose elections; Democrats reveal they are "fatally flawed," and run horrible campaigns.

And how the media people love that term! It must make them feel so superior, to think that they can look into the soul of an accomplished, talented person and be able to proclaim him or her "fatally flawed".

Monday, March 3, 2008

Is it me, or has stuff like this become more prevalent lately?

To Fenkel-

Typical jew response to monetary policy, I wonder what effect reckless monetary policy will have on his gold accounts.

The anti-Catholic stuff is being discussed now, which is a good thing, but the anti-Mormon stuff on Romney never really got properly addressed. There's been some Jew, black, and hispanic stuff going on in the Obama-Clinton race, anti-Arab and Muslim attitudes are so taken for granted that nobody even notices their own bigotry. In general, it just seems like fewer people are trying to hide their ugly sides, that as a nation we're pulling apart some, not just on the conservative-liberal axis, but along the lines of bad old-fashioned tribalism and bigotry.

*Add on: how could I possibly forget all the anti-women stuff over Hillary's campaign, much of it coming from women themselves?

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Hide the women! Cover the children's eyes!

The Wapo engages in social analysis. I wish I could say I'm surprised an editor waved it into print, but it's probably just a transcription of what they say to each other in the newsroom, so nobody was able to see anything wrong.

Of particular interest are the posters in the comments section trying to defend it as parody, when it very clearly is not. You don't support parody with the sort of extensive qualifications and attempts at "evenhandedness" ("Men are dumb, too!") that she does here. The other thing that interests me about the comments is how few people really get what's going on here. It's a slam on both Obama and Clinton, disguised as social commentary. She's throwing the script they follow -- Obama leads a cult! Hillary's a dumb bitch! -- out there for public consumption, and people don't seem to realize it's actually a script.

Saturday, March 1, 2008


The earth moves under Saint John's feet:

The issue itself is trivial, and will soon be forgotten by most voters. The relevant thing here is that McCain is being held to the same standard as the Democrats, and that will not do. The entirety of his electoral hopes rests on keeping Bush's tired voting bloc intact, while attracting enough independents to carry enough swing states to win the whole thing. In order to do that, with a stumbling economy and the burden of being from the two-term incumbent party, and a very unpopular party fronted by a very unpopular president, at that, he needs every break he can get. He's never been all that great a politician to begin with -- his unsure answer captured in the video is actually quite typical of the man when he isn't surrounded by fawning sycophants -- but the media have always been happy to prop him up. Without that propping he'd be in trouble anyway; with the other problems he has he's doomed. He needs a media double standard, and he isn't getting it so far. To be sure, Obama has a similar problem -- he's never been confronted with anything but a coddling press corps, and is going to have to learn to fight for himself. But Obama is smarter than McCain, a better, smoother public speaker, and the electoral winds are at his back. I think an Obama candidacy is still the Republicans' best hope to win this year, but it's starting to look like not much of a hope.