Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The times they are a changin'

On Amazon's list of top ten selling books on politics, only one is written by a conservative, and that's an autobiography by Bill O'Reilly. Everything else is written from a center-left perspective, or else is an attempt at "evenhanded" pop scholarship. It's the first time I can remember when at least one of those "Liberals are spineless fascist bully-cowards who want to raise your taxes, sodomize your children, turn your wives into lesbians, and socialize the country"-type books wasn't on the list. Could be just chance, but I suspect it reflects at least some disillusionment on the behalf of and with the Limbaughite faithful. That movement has had a deathgrip on the national discourse for almost twenty years; it's way more than time for a change.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The horror.

Short term treasury yields at .21%. That's negative 5.2% inflation adjusted. In other words, people distrust banks so much they are paying the federal government for the right to loan it money, as long as the government promises to keep it safe. With Congress fucking this bill up, it means The U.S. government, in effect, has decided to become the most profitable armoured car operation in history. Who said the government can't do anything right?

Saturday, September 27, 2008

1 1/2 weeks ago,

Obama was trailing in the polls. This week, he's nearing mortal lock territory to win, and now he's running the greatest campaign in history, is a once in a lifetime candidate, and all the rest of the 'bot chants. The reality is, of course, that Obama has run an at best mediocre campaign that was rescued by the financial collapse. I think he would have won anyway, much like Reagan did against Carter in '80 -- with a big break of independents for him near election day -- just in a race closer than that one. But this notion that he's run some kind of brilliant campaign -- the phrase I see again and again is "He's playing chess and everyone else is playing checkers" -- is absurd.

Chess is a closed system -- the rules, the pieces on the board and their properties, are known to both players and can't change. In response to any one move, there are a finite number of rational replies: you can calculate in chess with a large degree of certainty. Politics, now, is an open system: the rules can and do change overnight (could anyone have foreseen that McCain, after 10 years of press adulation, would suddenly become their demon?), and you can't calculate anything with certainty (Sarah Palin's selection as VP, for example). Playing a "game" like that, you have to do everything you can to grab the initiative, and maintain every bit of control you can get your grubby paws on, because the rules will change, your opponent will do things that surprise you, and it's much easier for things to get away from you the more tenuous grip on things you start out with (McCain, looking at the ruinous effects the financial meltdown had on his campaign, can attest to that).

Obama, starting from the day the primary was decided, was letting the initiative slip away. He was up by several points in the polls, but he behaved passively, allowing McCain to begin dictating the pace of things. He failed to see the importance of the women's vote, failed to see how key the economy was (this, after Clinton's "It's the economy, stupid" in '92), failed to have a plan to deal with the inevitable Republican attacks, failed to have some good anti-McCain ads in the can: he just wasn't on top of things, the way a professional campaign would have been. And McCain took advantage, narrowed Obama's lead, then took a lead of his own. Had a break gone the other way -- had there been a big terrorist attack, for example, or had the economy started a rebound a month or two ago -- Obama would be where McCain is now, and he started out with enough advantages that that shouldn't be. A "brilliant" campaign would not have been so dependent on circumstances. "Brilliant" campaigns dictate, as much as possible, circumstances, and build up cushion to help you out when those circumstances bounce against you, as they usually do, at least once or twice. Obama had no cushion.

It's possible that Obama's campaign this year will set some sort of standard, that people will see Obama's passivity as "quiet strength and confidence," and demand that Dems in the future behave the same way -- this after years spent angrily demanding Dem candidates who will be pugnacious and in-your-face (Obama has, amusingly enough, been the absolute antithesis of the "Fighting Dem" so beloved by the liberal internets). That probably won't work in the long run. Obama has had every break imaginable, and he's probably going to win a fairly close race -- a race that shouldn't be this close given the circumstances. I don't see how anyone could look at that and conclude his campaign style is the model for future campaigns, any more than someone playing a game of chess who starts out a piece ahead and barely eeks out a win should be considered a good player.

What can you say?

One by one, all the old legends are dying off. It's unfortunate that Hollywood people are demonized to the extent that they are, given that so many of them have done so much for society. Over and over again, Hollywood has been ahead of the curve, but because the well-known ones are wealthy and do something "superficial" like acting, they are convenient targets for the forces of regression. I'm not a huge fan of Newman's early work, but the stuff that he did as he aged was very nice; he brought an intelligence and wisdom to the parts he played, a humanity tempered by worldly realism, that not too many people ever know themselves, let alone have the ability to express onscreen. It was as if he needed age to strip away the pretty boyness of his image and let the man shine through, which it did -- brightly.

Who's left? Kirk Douglas, Sidney Portier, Redford is a tweener, but you can throw him in there, and I really can't think of anyone else. And then there's a big gap until you reach the present day, where guys like Clooney are doing some of the things that pretty much all of Hollywood's big stars did in Newman's glory days. Maybe the obscene money changed everything, or maybe the 70s - 90s just didn't need social activism. We sure need it now.

Quick study

I'm a "quick study." I can, working from a superficial base of knowledge, read through pages of new material, and go out and give a presentation on it the next day as if I were an expert, and fool pretty much everyone who isn't an expert. I've done this many times, and I think lots of people can do it, given the proper training, practice, and motivation. What I can't do is learn a bunch of new material on several different subjects, subjects which are largely alien to me, then go out and give a presentation on it and work my way through a hostile Q&A session, all while making sure my words conform to a worldview that I either don't understand, or disagree with. Nobody's that quick a study, at least not that I've ever seen. I imagine if I tried to do that, I would look pretty damn foolish as I tripped over talking points, repeated myself, and tried to think my way through questions that an expert, even a near-expert, would answer off the cuff.

Of course, that's exactly the point of all this, isn't it? That Palin either doesn't have the base of knowledge that anyone in her position should have, or lacks the intellectual juice to learn quickly enough to fake it (maybe it's both??) has got to be frightening to everyone at this point, or at least everyone who would put "country first."

Friday, September 26, 2008

Uh oh.

It looks like polls say Obama won the debate, and there's little chance the media will doctor the post-debate spin in McCain's favor, as they've done for Republicans in the past. It looks like McCain is trailing in the real polls already. It looks like Palin is unpopular with independents and the press corps. It looks like that same Palin is not ready for her debate with Biden next week; it's probably her last chance to turn her image around. It looks like there are less that 40 days until the votes are cast. It looks like there is going to be one hell of a lot of shit being thrown by the Rep creatures in the next few weeks.

More wingnuttery

My suspicion is even the wingnuts are afraid McCain isn't up to the job of fixing the economy, at least the ones I interact with. They have access to some of the same data I do, they know this shit is serious, and somehow chortling along with Rush to the strains of "Barack The Magic Negro" isn't as satisfying as it would have been a month ago. They've gone back to shutting up about politics, after a brief burst of enthusiasm, but the tone of their silence has changed. They used to shut up about politics with a look of annoyance; now it's with a look of fear and confusion. I showed clips of Palin's Couric interview to a select few, and got not one bit of feedback. They just watched it with this look of fearful despair. It's frightening that this -- an economic meltdown and candidates who are not up to the job of running the country -- is what it takes to get some people out of the mental gutter, and a sign of what we have waiting for us when the crisis passes. Because once that fear is gone, Rush, and "Barack The Magic Negro", will be waiting, like the streetcorner pusher for his junkies on payday.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Flagellum Dei

The financial crisis cements Bush's place in history. I would have argued against this notion even a couple of weeks ago, saying it's hard to accurately judge a presidency while it's still a presidency. But how, looking at all this, can you argue against the guy being the worst president in history? He destroyed our standing in the world, has come close to destroying our economy, ravaged the constitution -- there's just nothing left he can fuck up. When he came into office in 2001, this was the richest, most powerful, most confident country in the world, and people were talking about this as being "The American Century." Now, people are wondering if America will survive the century. Could anyone imagine, in 2000, we'd be where we are now? Could anyone imagine that one man could do this much damage this quickly? He's like Attila the Hun, but he plunders and pillages from within.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Slap in the face

The real "slap-in-the-face" has been the public discussion around this crisis. The atmosphere is palpably different now than it was just a week ago, when blind panic ruled. Blind panic is being replaced by reasoned fear -- "reasoned" being the operative word. You can put a price on reasoned fear; panic is priceless.

Oddly enough, I think Congress holding these hearings told people things weren't melting down right this instant, which was reassuring -- if things were going to collapse, even congress wouldn't be wasting time talking about it. It looked like some grownup people who were capable of having grownup discussions were actually interested in doing something for the public good, which has been a rare, rare thing these past eight years; in fact it's been rare since the Republicans took Congress in 1994 (quick: name one meaningful Congressional debate since 1994 that wasn't polluted by theatrics and grandstanding, that wasn't about theatrics and grandstanding). People see this and think "Government can work," and that is calming in itself.

Having all this stuff -- the genesis of the crisis, its nature -- explained has also helped. Somehow, it's way more frightening to know that there's a crisis out there and not know what it's about than to know there's a crisis out there, it was caused by a, b, and c, and we have options x, y, and z to try to do something about it. These hearings have been the best thing that could have happened, way, way better than this bailout could possibly have been on its own.


McCain's campaign has become so loathsome and gimmicky, such an extreme version of Republican electioneering, that the Republicans might not recover for years. He is forfeiting all respect of the political class, his campaign manager, once a bright star, is earning a reputation as a bullying asshole, and, worst of all, he's losing. Reporters remember stuff like that, and begin fashioning narratives around it. Such narratives die hard.

They did most things right. They focused on women, pulled McCain away from the reporters so his mouth couldn't doom them, did the usual character attacks, made an inspired roll of the dice in Palin, just when things were getting away from them, and for awhile that roll looked like a winner. But Palin herself turned out to be raw talent, and clearly not ready for prime time (it's also pretty clear that, given her beliefs and history, she never will be ready, regardless of her talent), and then came the economic crisis. And they've fallen apart. Lashing out at the press, "suspending the campaign for the good of the country," making a series of nonsensical statements, basically looking desperate and even amateurish. It's hard to run a campaign sailing into a headwind like this one is, but even as you struggle, you don't have to look bad. They're looking bad.

Palin is the fulcrum. She highlights their weakness (women voters), and their weakness (they are beholden to a base that has become demanding and has high expectations of influence), and their weakness (they have become so arrogant that they didn't feel a need to vet her until it was too late), and their weakness (little bench strength), and their weakness (their base passionately holds some crazy beliefs that a majority of Americans reject). Some of those weaknesses are structural (particularly with women voters), given traditional conservative beliefs, and just the reality of the way a political party should work. They can't, for example, just tell their base to fuck off the way the Dems do every four years -- their base is larger and more unified than the Dem base, and so more powerful. Some of their weaknesses are borne from strengths, strengths which have served them well in the past. That base, for example, pretty much guarantees they will never be blown out in an election, barring a massive disaster, and they "won" in 2000, and won in 2004 running a campaign based largely on hardcore base appeal. And their arrogance came because they have been very successful at shaping the discourse the way they wanted. So because of these things, and because McCain is a "maverick" (read intemperate fool), Palin ended up getting picked. She has not worked out the way they hoped she would, and the weaknesses -- and the strengths -- remain.

I'm curious to see how they retool in the future. Assuming McCain doesn't finish the job of destroying the Republican brand name, they have some things going for them. They still have their radio talkers, and Fox News, and their newspapers. Many more voters identify as "conservative" than as "liberal." Somewhere around 25% of the population has been trained to hate liberals and Democrats. They have the corporations, and huge sources of income, which allow them to fund hack writers to write hack books attacking liberals and liberalism; they can then continue using more of their money to buy the books, driving them up on the bestseller lists, creating "buzz" around fantastic nonsense. All this been working well for them since the time of Reagan. Has anything changed in the past year? Will anything change in the next four?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Magnificent Seven

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I like the original better, but what a remake. The terrible casting of the villagers hurts the film, but... Brynner, McQueen, Bronson, Coburn. Vaughn isn't bad, and Wallach is a good, if miscast here, character actor. All those guys except Vaughn and Wallach are dead, but the film captures everything they had that made them appealing -- those guys, or at least a part of them, will live forever, in a way that nobody born just 20 years before them will. There is something magical about that.

Monday, September 22, 2008


A bunch of guys are playing poker. They amass a huge pile of chips from the losing players, who drop out, but the losers are replaced by new players, bringing new chips, so everyone's stashes keep growing. They begin borrowing money against the value of their chips. Since the game seems like it will go on forever and the piles of chips can only grow, the house is willing to loan them lots and lots of money. Soon, they have borrowed much more money than they could have generated by playing. Some of that money spreads to other tables. Then, they discover that some of their chips are counterfeit -- they've mingled the chips together for so long and in so many ways, no one is sure how many. What do they do? If people find out some of the chips are counterfeit, new players will stop coming to the table. The house has loaned them so much money it no longer has the power to cut the game off -- it would go bankrupt, because lots of good chips would be thrown out with the bad, wiping it out, and taking all the other tables with it. So, everyone puts their heads together and comes up with a plan. They keep it quiet, try to get more new players in the game bringing new money. As long as the game goes on, everything will be OK. No one needs to know about the fake chips, and given time, they can build a stash so big the fake chips will be a tiny fraction of it. Except the new players they bring in bring a lot more counterfeit chips to the table, but the regulars are desperate now, and not very picky. Just keep the game going, and everything will work out, is what they tell themselves. Then the cops knock on the door.

It's almost like a game theory scenario, except it lacks the key element of game theory: choice. Because at the point when the knock on the door comes, they have no choice, except to wish the knock had come a lot sooner.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Our financial system broke down because our political system is broken.

Fixing one without fixing the other is asking for a second catastrophe, just like Ike followed Katrina.

Obama on the bailout:

As of now, the Bush Administration has only offered a concept with a staggering price tag, not a plan. Even if the U.S. Treasury recovers some or most of its investment over time, this initial outlay of up to $700 billion is sobering. And
in return for their support, the American people must be assured that the deal reflects the basic principles of transparency, fairness, and reform.

First, there must be no blank check when American taxpayers are on the hook for this much money.

Second, taxpayers shouldn’t be spending a dime to reward CEOs on Wall Street.

Third, taxpayers should be protected and should be able to recoup this investment.

Fourth, this plan has to help homeowners stay in their homes.

Fifth, this is a global crisis, and the United States must insist that other nations join us in helping secure the financial markets.

Sixth, we need to start putting in place the rules of the road I’ve been calling for for years to prevent this from ever happening again.

And finally, this plan can’t just be a plan for Wall Street, it has to be a plan for Main Street. We have to come together, as Democrats and Republicans, to pass a stimulus plan that will put money in the pockets of working families, save jobs, and prevent painful budget cuts and tax hikes in our states.

Now, will he stick to it? Will he campaign on it? Will he stop just talking and lead? The Bush plan, as is, really does offer nothing except "more of the same," in that everything is pointed at the top, with nothing for actual living, breathing, people, except -- hopefully -- a resolution to the crisis. It was that mentality that effectively led to all this, and allowing this bailout -- which will be the signature economic event in this country since FDR -- to proceed along the lines of trickle down economics -- everything for the top, and the rest of us hope for some crumbs -- will signal that nothing has changed. Obama, as the leader of the Democrats and a progressive movement whose time is now, can either try to seize the initiative here or continue playing the cautious, "post-partisan," unthreatening role he's been delighted to play all along. My ears are tuned, waiting to here those chicken sounds: "bock bock bock-bock boooooock!"


Someone poking around the liberal web today for the first time would quickly come to this conclusion: it's a bunch of people with a liberal arts education and a hatred of Republicans talking about subjects they know little to nothing about. For years, I have been frustrated by these people with their unfocused anger, their mistaken belief in their own moral and intellectual superiority, their lack of interaction with the "little people" they claim they want to help so badly, their perverse insistence on supporting candidates (Obama, Dean) they have to know, subconsciously, many common people are inclined to reject. But the last two days that anger is boiling over. The vast majority of them need to shut the fuck up about the financial crisis because they are entirely unqualified to talk about it, and the only thing that comes out when they do talk about it is their hatred of Bush and Republicans, which hatred those same "little people" will hear loud and clear, and not be too interested in when their jobs are on the line.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

I gotta admit...

Obama is right tracking his campaign some. He's going after women voters now (should have been doing it for months), hitting McCain in the right spots, generally doing a capable job. I'd give his campaign a D to date; if he keeps stepping it up he might get to C, although with all the wind at his back he ought to be farther ahead. The McCain campaign gets a B-. They have the right focus, know what it takes to win, but the mechanics of their campaigning aren't what they could be (it's tough to run a campaign into a headwind), and McCain is a pretty piss poor vehicle for their talents. I have little respect for Bush, but compared to McCain the man is the Michael Jordan of politics.

If this were almost any other year, Obama's poor campaigning until the last week or so would have doomed him. McCain's themes and narratives would have taken over, and Obama would be another Dukakis. But it's not any other year.

With all this bad news out there breaking Obama's way, I expect some kind of wild attempt at distraction, but it's going to have to be one hell of a trick to get the focus off the economic meltdown, plus McCain is pretty fixed in the media's mind as a desperate liar now, which makes his task much harder. Speaking of desperate liars, every time I hear someone talking about Palin in the rapturous tones the wingnuts use, I think of those shirts from the 80s that said "I'm with stupid" with an arrow pointing left or right. Except the arrow is pointing up, ie, at their own head. Palin isn't stupid, but she's a stupid person's politician, practicing a stupid person's politics, and she seems to do it sincerely, which is the real problem. The same could be said of Bush, except he really is stupid in many ways, especially morally, and he was never sincere about much of anything except his own ambition. Anyway, I got to thinking of Palin, and her unfortunate relations with the press corps, and I realized they think of her as a very, very poor man's Bill Clinton. To them, she's white trash, except she doesn't have the Rhodes pedigree. She's never going to have that Bush/McCain kind of thing with the press, because they despise her, despise her sincere, but stupid politics, despise (and fear) the people she represents. Bush could be counted on to pay lip service to those people while actually serving the big money interests he (and the press) cared about; the wannabe book burner Palin cannot be trusted to do that. A while ago some liberals were concerned she'd be the new Ronald Reagan, which, even then, struck me as absurd. Considering what we've seen since then, it strikes me as even more absurd. She's a flavor of the month, one of those really goofy flavors that you try once or twice, and then sort of forget about in favor of some old favorite.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Thirty years of the conservative agenda

"Trickle down" economics? Fail.

"Assertive," "tough" foreign policy? Fail.

Deregulation? Fail.

Everything they've been allowed to do since essentially taking control of the reins of government in 1994 has gone spectacularly, incredibly, depressingly, wrong. They opposed the things we got right, like Clinton's fight in the Balkans, and trying to head off the approaching crisis in what passes for our healthcare system. The only things they didn't fuck up much were the things they claim to care most about, like abortion, and that's because they never really tried to implement their agenda, because they, like everyone else, know the end result: political disaster. Here's a simple thought experiment: would we, as a society, be happier if abortion were made illegal? I think the vast majority of people would instinctively choose "No" as the answer to that question. Probably within a decade, their hostility to gays will seem about as cruel and senseless as the hostility many people had towards Jews, or Italians, or the Irish, or whatever group you'd like to name in the last century. It's an entire political movement based on an entirely discredited agenda, an agenda that has either been rejected by large numbers of Americans, or that has been implemented and gone horribly wrong in practice. They are a party trying to claim political power when they have no credible plan to make peoples' lives better if they are given that power. What, then, is the point of the Republican Party?

How can she be depended on to protect America,

when she can't protect her own e-mail? An E-mail account with which she conducted the business of the state of Alaska, I might add. If this had happened to a Democrat, it would be all over the news as an example of a Democrat "leaving him or herself open to" charges of fecklessness and dishonesty. Instead, it's the latest in a long line of examples of conservative victimhood, when it's discussed at all. The woman is a plain menace, not that it's possible to establish that as a fact in the public's mind: as soon as she's criticized half the Republican Party heads to the fainting couch, and the other half starts screaming "Sexism! Sexism! Sexism!"

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Blah blah blah

"Listen to this voice on this recorded hold tape. I can't believe they have a voice like this asking you to be patient while you hold. This woman sounds more pissed off than I am."

"It could be worse. It could be Hillary Clinton's voice. She yells all the time."

"Worse still, it could be Sarah Palin's voice. Then you couldn't believe a single word she said."

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Har har har

John McCain claimed he invented the Blackberry! Nothing underscores the complete foolishness that political coverage in this country has degraded to as much as this article. 15-odd paragraphs about nothing, with no point, no useful information, no clues to help people make a voting decision -- it's all a big nothing. At least Seinfeld, the TV show about nothing, was funny.

Monday, September 15, 2008


Watching the second Godfather movie, in which the Statue of Liberty makes a couple of important appearances. My favorite scene is where the young Vito Corleone is coming in to NY Harbor on a ship, and all the immigrants sort of hold their breaths as Lady Liberty goes by in the background. It meant something to them, hope and possibility and freedom and the future. There was a time when the SoL was the most enduring and recognized symbol of America, but it has been replaced by the Twin Towers, first in their opulence and gaudiness, then in their ruin and smoldering anger. The Twin Towers never meant much to anyone until they were destroyed, and something is deeply wrong about that. Until 9/11, they were just an expensive part of an expensive skyline, standing for nothing but commerce. That's since changed, and not, I think, for the better. Anyway, I much prefer the SoL to the Twin Towers, in either of their incarnations. Most people would say the same thing, but we are about as far away from "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free," etc etc etc as we have ever been.

This film, one of my three or four favorites, almost seems like it's taking ironic jabs at what America has become, and it was made, what, 35 years ago?

teh funny

A middle-aged woman walking in a shopping mall humming along to a jazzy, muzaked version of "Turn Out The Lights", a song which, in the Teddy Pendergrass rendition, has got to be one of the most unintentionally funny things I've ever heard. "Rub me down with some hot oils baby/and I'll do the same to you." I wonder if that woman knew what she was humming along to.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Escape velocity

Tristero is both absolutely correct

In case you missed this, a conservative actually spoke the truth:

McCain spokesman Brian Rogers said this to the Politico about the increased media scrutiny of the campaign's factual claims: "We're running a campaign to win. And we're not too concerned about what the media filter tries to say about it."

Only a pedant would interpret that as saying something other than, "We're gonna lie our heads off if we think it'll help us win 'cause that's all that matters. And you can't stop us."

and glossing over an important point: the conservatives seem to think they've reached a point where they no longer have to care about the "MSM." They can control it, and on those rare occasions when that fails, ignore it, and rely on their own media of Fox, hate radio, and the churches to get their message out. They can, at least for a time, create their own Orwellian reality, a reality where truth is what they say it is, where living in Alaska makes you a foreign policy expert, where questions about a lack of qualifications are sexism and evidence of liberal bias, where lying so often and badly that it's become the focus of the campaign is nothing more than the normal rough-and-tumble of politics. They only need 50% of the voters to either believe their version of reality, or not to care if they are lying, and they only need that on one day (Nov 4). Who cares what happens after that?

Saturday, September 13, 2008


Overheard at dinner:

"Did you see the way he looked at her?"

"You could tell."

"I know. His arms were crossed and he looked like he wanted her to shut up."

"He's jealous."

"He wishes he didn't pick her."

"I don't like him."

"If he wins, she'd better watch her back."

"He" was McCain, "she" was Palin.

Beyond teflon

Palin has told so many lies now I have to wonder if her name really is "Sarah Palin." Has anyone checked?

If she can get away with this many lies this early in the game with her lack of experience, then what she has is way, way beyond Teflon. There are non-stick pots and pans made out of titanium that you can run through the dishwasher, scrub out with brillo pads, anything you like and they still work good as new. That would be Sarah Palin, if her positives stay where they are after the sheer number of verified lies she's told in just two weeks: Ti-fucking-tanium. If the Rep creatures aren't at their high water mark right about now....

Thursday, September 11, 2008

"Politics is a tough business."

There are millions of unemployed, uninsured Americans worried about their future who would agree with McCain. Just not the same way he means it.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Obama continues to slide

50-50 on Intrade. Unemployment rate over 6%, gas $3.50/gallon, eight years of disastrous Republican rule, running against a 72 year old man who never met a position he wouldn't take and a woman who belonged to an extremist church, has no relevant experience, and is a habitual liar. Part of it is that Obama is an awful candidate, but more of it is the Dem brand name, even now, has latent negative appeal. And then there is the media situation. If the Republicans win, running this campaign in these circumstances, it will be a disaster, not just because the Republicans won, but because of what it would say about the state of the American people.

Update (9:26 EST) At 48% now; McCain at 50%. It's hard to look at this stuff and not remember that a few days ago I thought this thing was in the bag. I expected fluctuations in the polls, but this is absurd. It's an 8-10 point swing, and the facts on the ground have gotten worse for the Republicans. Bad unemployment data, a report that --Gasp!-- the Bush people have fouled up Afghanistan (Where was "foreign policy expert" McCain while this was happening?), the failure of two of the biggest financial institutions in America. But the voters shrug all that off, and stare, slack jawed, at Sarah Palin's tits while she piles lie upon lie upon lie. And Obama has been unable to do anything to seize the initiative.

McCain is running ads on daytime television now, shows aimed entirely at women. Obama is getting so out-campaigned, it's like watching a good high schooler go one-on-one against an NBA player. Sure, the high schooler gets a few points, has a few moments, but.... All this, and there's still plenty of time to turn this around. I just don't see the mechanism of it, the how. How do you run a campaign when voters are willing to behave this irrationally?

Monday, September 8, 2008

The Minnie Riperton effect

When you have a voice like this, people look for something to find fault with. Riperton was actually a fine singer, but I seldom see her name on those "best" lists, probably because people figure with a voice that good, she couldn't be a really excellent singer, too -- too much talent for one person (Whitney Houston gets this tag, too, which is annoying as hell to me). I think, in many ways, Aretha did her career and reputation a big favor by degrading her voice by smoking for all those years. She had a good voice, but didn't have the range of Riperton, which meant that people paid attention to her genius with the words, not her gift for making soaring noise. Riperton's voice was so brilliant it overwhelmed the quality of her singing, the bands she played with, the words she sang -- it overwhelmed everything. Nothing else in her songs matched that voice, or could match that voice, and so it all sounded ... not so good by comparison. Aretha, on the other hand, made a point of using her voice to complement the music when she chose, let her musicians add to the quality of the songs, instead of being mere accompanists. There's a campaign lesson in there somewhere, I think. Or maybe I'm just trying to be intellectual.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Like a stone.

Obama down to a 55.7% favorite at Intrade, from a high of over 65% at one point. A couple of bad polls, one of them a Zogby internet poll which I don't trust. I expect this to be temporary, and this bounce, which is entirely due to all the focus put on Palin, to evaporate once people get used to her and see some of her positions, but it's sobering to think a country with a 6+% unemployment rate and all the other problems we've suffered through over the past eight years would be willing to forget all that, even temporarily, for a pretty face and media attention. It's twilight in America.

Obligatory Obama slam: what a terrible, terrible candidate to run. You know your opponents fight dirty, you claim this is a must-win election, and what do you do? Run a first term senator, a black man with the name "Barack Hussein Obama," who in turn has run an above-it-all campaign that puts him in a straitjacket when it comes to fighting back. That's the Democratic Party, and that's the liberal movement. They really don't want to win, and everything they do shows that. Case in point two: Edwards (whom I supported), running for president while cheating on his cancer-stricken wife. That's the kind of shit that belongs in a movie or some bad novel -- not real life. Nothing screams out "I don't want to win" like the left's behavior in 2007-2008.


The McCain campaign, looking for an easy mark to "interview" Sarah Palin, chose Charles Gibson. They can talk about how lowering the tax rate increases revenue, or some other bit of wingnuttia. This is being presented ag a "get" for Gibson, but in fact it should be a source of great embarrassment for him -- or it would be if he thought of himself as something other than an entertainer, a box office draw, a clown-in-a-suit.

Friday, September 5, 2008

On the "liberals never learn" front

Everyone is excited about the prospect of Biden chewing up Palin in a debate, but first, it's a vice presidential debate, and nobody cares (Lloyd Bentsen's classic "You're no John Kennedy" in the '88 debate destroyed Dan Quayle's political career, but it didn't help Dukakis much), and second, Biden's policy knowledge and sharp mind can be offset by Palin's Northern Belle act and a bunch of scripted soundbites. The Reps will ferociously work to lower expectations, and as long as Palin doesn't faint before the debate is over, the media will be happy to call it a draw, on the grounds that Palin "exceeded expectations," and then the spin will be since Biden didn't chew her up, it wasn't a draw, but Palin won. This is how these debates are always spun: the dumbfuck-but-salt-of-the-earth Republican just has to show up, and then he or she automatically "exceeds expectations" against the brainy elitist egghead liberal pansy, and that's that. Biden probably won't get the pansy tag, but the overall narrative is so strongly embedded in the establishment journalist mindset that these stories write themselves.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


In his speech tonight Huckabee said "I'd like to thank the elite media for doing what I thought impossible: uniting the Republican Party." The "elite media" have been wiping their asses with Democrats for years, and not once, not one single time, has a Democrat said something similar. But one Republican gets negative media attention and the whole party unites around them. There are plenty of Democrats who hate Hillary, and dislike Gore and Kerry, and even Bill Clinton, in large part because of that "elite media," and whenever members of the media take aim at a Democrat, there is always some subset within the Democratic Party that is openly delighted by it.

Sometimes you see discussion on the internets about why the media are so subservient to Republicans. Can anyone look at the events of the past few days, then consider what happened when Hillary was getting battered around, when Gore was being openly lied about during a presidential campaign, and not figure it out now?

Trouble in River City.

The Republicans are reduced to whining about the "liberal media" and how people from a "small town" aren't good enough. That sort of thing sounds good to a certain percentage of the population, but all those people are voting Republican anyway. To the independents, it sounds like bitterness and whining and sour grapes, and it turns them off. Nobody wants to be a member of the group that is always saying "They're all out to get us" except the people who are already in that group.

The Reps are completely off message, have entirely lost control of the narrative, and are tactically lashing out at anyone and everyone in a fury which they think is controlled and calculated, but which obviously is not -- in fact, it looks desperate and deranged. And the more visible the bible-thumpers become in their worship of Palin, the more normal people they alienate.

Obama ran an ad today that was perfect under the circumstances: attacking McCain on abortion. Because when all the hubub about Palin the person dies down, Palin the candidate, who holds some pretty far-out positions which haven't even been explored yet, comes to the foreground. There's going to be abortion, and creationism, and Alaska succeeding from the Union, and her alleged area of "expertise", energy -- she is a one-person target-rich environment. And that's when the real pain will begin. Obama has not run a good campaign overall -- as someone for whom things have always just sort of worked out, he tends to be passive -- but his passivity and good political sense are serving him perfectly in this case. He really does just need to run the clock out now and this baby is over. I still have no idea what he's going to do in office, but that he will get there is almost beyond challenge.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Sexism! POW!! Sexism!! POW!! Sexism!! POW!!

What took them so long?.

“I am appalled by the Obama campaign’s attempts to belittle Governor Sarah Palin’s experience," said RNC Victory 2008 Chair and senior McCain adviser Carly Fiorina today in a statement. "The facts are that Sarah Palin has made more executive decisions as a Mayor and Governor than Barack Obama has made in his life. Because of Hillary Clinton’s historic run for the Presidency and the treatment she received, American women are more highly tuned than ever to recognize and decry sexism in all its forms. They will not tolerate sexist treatment of Governor Palin.”

If it's "sexism" to criticize Palin's lack of experience, what do you call it when the Republicans attack Obama's lack of experience?

If you criticize Palin it's sexism, and you can't criticize McCain because he was a POW. The whole campaign has been ugly, from the primaries on. And it's going to get worse.


...it's McCain part to make inroads among soft Republicans and those Hillary supporters -- male or female -- that can be gotten by somebody who's a gun-toting, hockey-playing woman."" -- Karl Rove on Palin's nomination

Karl Rove's fingerprints were all over this nomination from the start. First, he publicly let it be known that he called Lieberman and asked him to drop out of consideration for VP. That was pretty much a call to arms for the wingnut base, and told McCain that there was going to be a war if he nominated Lieberman, and McCain, who had all but decided on Lieberman, obediently backed down. Then there's the naked, poll driven cynicism of it. Palin has absolutely no qualifications for the job, but she was worth, according to Rove, "2-3 percentage points" in the polls, and that was enough. That she has also been a narrowly thought-out disaster is another Rove hallmark. I can see him writing a memo to Bush in 2002, saying something like, "A war against Iraq would be worth, at a minimum, 5 - 7% at the polls in 2004, having broad appeal among security-minded Democrats, anti-Muslim religious conservatives, and that segment of the electorate that likes the idea of living in a country not afraid to seek revenge for 9/11." Of course, Bush should have won in a near-landslide in 2004, according to most models I've seen, by about 9%. Instead, guided by Rove, he won by three. I've seen rumors that Rove was pushing hard for Romney, but I'm really starting to think they are false or disinformation, or at best, he presented, via his friends working for McCain, a list of candidates he thought would make the most impact, and Palin was either first or second. She's the perfect Rove pick: unqualified, but demographically sound (kind of like Bush), with lots of gimmicky bells and whistles ("A gun toting, hockey playing mother of five nicknamed 'The Barracuda!' What's not to like?") attached. There is no more overrated, partisan, and amoral figure in the world of politics today than Karl Rove, and there is no figure who is more revered by the Washington establishment.

Monday, September 1, 2008

When I'm wrong, I'm wrong

And it looks like I was big time wrong on Palin. This stuff is all over the regular media, to a degree where the talking head circuit will have to play it relatively straight. I'm really, really curious to see what the wingers will be saying about Palin tomorrow. It's kind of a litmus test for sanity: the more rational ones will either shut up about it, or admit she ... has issues. The real wackos will insist this is all part of a liberal media conspiracy to ruin a strong conservative. It's pretty clear at this point that, whatever happens from here on out Palin never should have been selected, and never should have accepted the nomination when called. With all the shit she has going on, accepting the nomination is the final bit of proof that she isn't fit for the office, that she lacks the "character" for the job.

This is not good for the McCain campaign -- they are already saddled with trying to bust Obama down, and now they have to deal with this stuff, with only two months until the actual votes are cast. I bet a whole lot of Reps are wishing they had some other candidate, any other candidate, running not just for vice president, but for president about now. McCain has cocked this thing all up, not that I think any of the rest of them could do better -- the playing field is just slanted against them this time around. Sometimes you have to take a chance, and sometimes taking a chance doesn't work out. That's why they call it "risk." I actually give McCain credit for taking this one, but damn did he ever roll snake eyes.

Maybe Drum was right for once

His take on Palin has proven correct, at least thus far. But he was wrong about one, major thing: Palin's choice isn't, in itself a debacle; rather, it was the result of a campaign that is in trouble and trying to dig its way out. If McCain doesn't improve his numbers with women voters, and fast, he's dead meat. Palin, or another pick like her, was his best shot, and losing the election with her is no worse than losing it with someone else. And picking her does throw a bone to the religious base of the party and keep them loyal to the Rep brand.

I'm curious to see what they try next. Palin isn't working out, at least not electorally, their "celebrity" attack isn't getting a lot of traction, the hurricane in the Gulf isn't likely to do much. What else is there? Everyone knows how nasty the Reps can get in an election, and they are running out of time. If they don't get a good bounce from their convention, I think we could see some of the ugliest campaigning in modern history over the course of the next several weeks. The alternative is to roll over and die a quiet but dignified death, and the Reps are too tough to do such a thing (just ask them). As for that bounce, I'm skeptical. McCain, a fixture on the talking head circuit for a decade, is a relatively known quantity, whereas a lot of people were seeing Obama for the first time at his convention. What does McCain have to say that hasn't already been said before, some of it said by people who are pretty unpopular nowadays?

And your momma dresses you funny

Bush looking presidential and in command, holding a classified folder and wearing a thrift store tie:

I really don't understand how anyone could let him go out looking like that, let alone allow a picture like this be circulated in public. I guess they figure he's in the "what the hell" phase of his presidency now, kind of like how people who have been married for awhile let themselves go once the romance is perceived to be at an end. With sub-30% approval ratings, it isn't like a bad suit and tie will hurt you much. The key, though, and the saving grace of any sartorial error, is that wonderful American flag lapel pin.

Palin's no problem pregnancy

So the news that Sarah Palin's 17 year old daughter is five months pregnant isn't going to hurt Palin's standing with the religious conservatives, because they are all about forgiving mistakes (unless you are a mentally retarded murderer, in which case you deserve to fry in the electric chair and burn in hell, but I digress). God knows, they've forgiven Bush plenty. In fact, they are willing to overlook any failing of someone who can credibly pretend to share their values. But independent, middle-of-the-road voters might see it a different way. We've had several years now of Republicans saying one thing and doing another with regards to sexual mores, particularly with their public anti-gay faces, and private, well, no need to go further with what they do with their faces in private. All that Larry Craig and Mark Foley and David Vitter stuff had to hurt the Republicans in '06 (if you want to shut a winger up on the subject of politics, just drop Larry Craig's name, and then listen to the crickets chirp). Here we have another one -- a socially conservative, "family values" Republican, who did such a fantastic job of parenting that her teenage daughter is knocked up, maybe not even for the first time. It just makes the Republicans look like hypocrites all over again.

I still think Palin was a good political gamble, but that's the problem: they vetted her from the standpoint of politics only; Palin the person hasn't been vetted at all, and she's looking worse and worse the more of her I see. She's probably going to be quite charming when she goes out on the campaign trail, but then, so was Mike Huckaby, a candidate with pretty much identical views who was rejected in a Republican primary. If Palin is given a fair public going-over, I think it's a good bet that the majority of the public will reject her, just as a majority of Republicans rejected Huckaby. With the media that we have, terrified of the "liberal" tag, and backpedaling after the savage, often sexist full frontal attack they made on Hillary, she almost certainly won't get a fair going over (she certainly hasn't thus far). That means her nutty, way-outside-the-mainstream views on a host of issues won't be discussed as they should, and so a little bit more wingnuttia becomes mainstreamed. And that was, almost certainly, one of the reasons they nominated Palin in the first place, knocked-up daughter and all.