Monday, September 29, 2008

Thinking ahead: After Palin, who?

A few people have posited that Sarah Palin may be too great a liability for the McCain presidential campaign to sustain; even some strong conservative loyalists are suggesting that she step down for the good of the party/country/etc. While the McCain campaign is not, at the moment, noted for its flexibility or listening skills, it is within the realm of possibility that Palin could withdraw (for personal or professional reasons) or that McCain could dump her (to demonstrate his willingness to learn or general command of news cycles or just to be different, whatever). I don't know how I feel about the odds -- I would have dumped her by now, but then I wouldn't have picked her in the first place -- especially since she goes into the Thursday debate with such low expectations that she could be declared the winner if she manages to avoid frothing or drooling.

Still, it raises the question: who'd be her replacement? I'm assuming, at this point, that the former shortlist is out, having been passed over publicly and embarassingly once, and most of the leading primary challengers are probably not viable: Huckabee, Romney, Jindal, etc., are all out of the running, I think. Would McCain feel obligated to continue to pander to the evangelical fundamentalist religious wing? Would he shift gears and go for moderate, reassuring competence? Would he stick to female candidates? Or would he do another full-bore "shake-up" and go another direction entirely?

I still don't understand why Jeb Bush wasn't mentioned. Sure, he's a Bush, but he's got loads of experience and credentials which his barely tolerated brother lacked, while still attracting much the same broad Republican respect -- religious, business, neo-con. He puts Florida pretty solidly in McCain's column, which makes the electoral math competitive again.

Anyway, I think we should be thinking about who the potential picks are, because we're not going to have a lot of time to parse the selection and integrate the new biographical and political landscape. That's what makes me worried.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Thursday Lyric: Going, Going, Gone

John McCutcheon's live version of this is infectiously joyous, not bitter.

Going, Going, Gone
by Si Kahn (1986)

Oh, the scene was so familiar with farmers all around
The auctioneer was standing there, he brought his hammer down
But when they started bidding the crowd let out a roar
For they heard something on that day they'd never heard before
What am I bid for the White House? Come on, boys, don't be slow
They've overspent their credit so they'll just have to go
If they can't learn to manage it's time they're moving on
The leaders of this country are going, going gone!
Come on, let's start the bidding with that Congress on the hill
They're awful fond of spending, they just don't pay the bills
But with a little honest work we'll make them good as new
I hear they're handy on the farm if you show 'em what to do
Then the crowd grew silent you could hear a needle drop
They motioned up the White House and put it on the block
But no one bid a nickel, they just stared so hard and cold
'Cause you can't bid on something that's already bought and sold
And when the sale was over I sure did thank my luck
I paid for both my senators and loaded 'em on the truck
Now one has gone to milking and the other's gone to seed
By wintertime they'll understand just what the farmers need
Sold American!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Comments elsewhere: WTF?

I've been posting variations on this all over:
We’ve had presidential campaigns in wartime before (Civil, WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam), in the midst of the original Great Depression (wasn’t there a wave of bank failures in ‘32?), but we can’t have a campaign when Wall Street sneezes?

I realize the financial meltdown is serious — we’ve been living in a house of cards for at least a decade — but so’s the election.
As so often happens, Eric Rauchway had a similar thought at about the same time.

addendum: The Dow Ate My Homework.

Also, I wrote here
Oh, come on: you've had complicated financial issues before. Are you going to tell me you never said to yourself "All I need is two more senators, and I'll have it licked!"?

For a brief, dark moment I was afraid McCain had really pulled a sweet move, forcing Obama to be reactive and reinforcing his maverick-non-partisan-country-first narrative. Then he asked to move the debate so as to preempt the VP debate, and it turned into a whimper.
Then I had an idea
I was watching the Letterman bit posted over at Eschaton and a bright idea just popped into my 'ead: Obama should counter McCain's suggestion to move the first presidential debate to the date of the VP debate by suggesting that the VP debate should take place on Friday. Just switch 'em and let the VP candidates do what VP's should do: stand in for their bosses.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

An email to my Congressional Representative

Dear Rep. -----,

I am not shocked that the Bush administration has proposed a policy (I won't say "solution") to the financial services crisis which involves a huge amount of money, no clear plan and no oversight: that's exactly in line with Bush Administration policy in every other area.

What I am shocked and dismayed about is that anyone in Congress is taking this proposal seriously. It deserves no better than amused rejection -- "There you go again," in Reagan's words -- and a serious discussion with real economists, financial experts, lawyers, and people with some sense of history and decency. That might result in a Resolution Trust-style solution, or a Japanese-style attempt to bolster bank's capital lines, but it won't result in a blank check and a hope that Republican loyalists won't use that money against Democrats and the rest of America.

Please refuse to consider the administration's proposal, because it is unworthy of consideration. There are dozens of better ideas out there that don't involve imbalancing the Constitution, wasting a trillion dollars and bolstering a failed party.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Privilege Test: 20/34

From What Privileges Do You Have?, based on an exercise about class and privilege developed by Will Barratt, Meagan Cahill, Angie Carlen, Minnette Huck, Drew Lurker, Stacy Ploskonka at Illinois State University. If you participate in this blog game, they ask that you PLEASE acknowledge their copyright.

1. Father went to college
2. Father finished college
3. Mother went to college
4. Mother finished college
5. Have any relative who is an attorney, physician, or professor
6. Were the same or higher class than your high school teachers.
7. Had more than 50 books in your childhood home.
8. Had more than 500 books in your childhood home.
9. Were read children's books by a parent.
10. Had lessons of any kind before you turned 18 (swim)
11. Had more than two kinds of lessons before you turned 18
12. The people in the media who dress and talk like me are portrayed positively.
13. Had a credit card with your name on it before you turned 18.
14. Your parents (or a trust) paid for the majority of your college costs.
15. Your parents (or a trust) paid for all of your college costs
16. Went to a private high school
17. Went to summer camp (once)
18. Had a private tutor before you turned 18
19. Family vacations involved staying at hotels (rarely)
20. Your clothing was all bought new before you turned 18

21. Your parents bought you a car that was not a hand-me-down from them
22. There was original art in your house when you were a child
23. You and your family lived in a single-family house
24. Your parent(s) owned their own house or apartment before you left home,
25. You had your own room as a child
26. You had a phone in your room before you turned 18
27. Participated in a SAT/ACT prep course
28. Had your own TV in your room in high school
29. Owned a mutual fund or IRA in high school or college
30. Flew anywhere on a commercial airline before you turned 16 (But I was 2)
31. Went on a cruise with your family.
32. Went on more than one cruise with your family
33. Your parents took you to museums and art galleries as you grew up.
34. You were unaware of how much heating bills were for your family.

Exploding Head Alert

I will admit: I have long considered the POW/MIA Flag a somewhat morbid and borderline pathological symbol, evidence of our inability to accept any loss or ambiguity, and odd desire to redeem an extremely unpleasant national historical episode by shifting the focus to a narrative of personal honor and sacrifice bereft of strategic or ethical implications. I have sneered privately (I don't sneer publicly, if I can help it) at the repeated cinematic recapitulation of this theme as bad history, misplaced patriotism and hyperviolent wish-fullfilment.

Now, though, comes the reporting of Sydney H. Schanberg which marshals considerable evidence that
  • a substantial number of POWs -- hundreds -- were not returned by the Vietnamese and their allies after the signing of the 1973 Paris Accords
  • Nixon's administration, and subsequent ones, were aware that these soldiers, sailors and airmen were in Vietnamese hands, but felt they lacked the leverage to get them free
  • Every administration since Nixon has hewed to the line that no US POWs existed, suppressing and distorting evidence, or simply refusing to look for it
  • John McCain was an active participant in the process of marginalizing those families and investigators who believed in the existence of these abandoned POWs
OK, I admit, I love the fact that McCain is implicated: his hypocrisy on this issue goes to the core of his personal narrative. But the article also implicates Sen. John Kerry and other Democratic figures, and twelve of the last thirty-five years have been under Democratic presidents who seem to have willingly participated in this historical deception.

I'm disgusted. In order to appear strong, the US abandoned its own code of military honor, the willingness to search for truth, democratic process. In order to gain some financial leverage, the Vietnamese government held -- and ultimately executed, most likely -- hundreds of men who had every right to be returned to their homeland. It's a violation of international law, and I know that holds little water for some, but I take it seriously: it's the bare minimum code of ethics which is supposed to keep atrocities like this at bay.

So, I'm officially revising my view of the world: the POW/MIA Flag is a memorial to a real, legitimate atrocity, an international shame.

But my worldview revision is relatively minor compared to the stripped mental gears which are going to come from those who consider McCain a "hero" for his time served and believe that he has the best interests of Americans -- civilians or military -- at heart.


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Thursday Lyrics: I'm Changing My Name to Chrysler

I know it's not quite Thursday yet, but I've been having flashbacks to this all week. Can't imagine why....

I've just reproduced the last verse and chorus here, but you can read the whole thing here and hear Arlo Guthrie's version:

I'm Changing My Name to Chrysler
by Tom Paxton
©1980 Accabonac Music (ASCAP)

Since the first amphibians crawled out of the slime
We've been struggling in an unrelenting clime
We were hardly up and walking before money started talking
And it said that failure is an awful crime
Well it's been that way for a millenium or two
But now it seems that there's a different point of view
If you're a corporate titanic and your failure is gigantic
Down in Congress there's a safety net for you

I am changing my name to Chrysler
I am going down to Washington D.C.
I will tell some power broker
What they did for Iacocca
Will be perfectly acceptable to me
I am changing my name to Chrysler
I am headed for that great receiving line
So when they hand a million grand out
I'll be standing with my hand out
Yes sir, I'll get mine

Quotations: FDR's Economic Bill of Rights

I can't believe I'd never heard of this before, but there it is. This is from January, 1944, the State of the Union address in the heart of WWII.
We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. “Necessitous men are not free men.” People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.

In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all—regardless of station, race, or creed.

Among these are:

The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation;

The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;

The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;

The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;

The right of every family to a decent home;

The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;

The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;

The right to a good education.

All of these rights spell security. And after this war is won we must be prepared to move forward, in the implementation of these rights, to new goals of human happiness and well-being.

America’s own rightful place in the world depends in large part upon how fully these and similar rights have been carried into practice for our citizens.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Palin can't even tell the truth about her own faith

Republican VP candidate Sarah Palin interviewed by Charles Gibson (11 Sep 08):

"I would never presume to know God's will or to speak God's words."
Republican Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, on the birth of her youngest son (22 Apr 08):

In a letter she e-mailed to relatives and close friends Friday after giving birth, Palin wrote, "Many people will express sympathy, but you don't want or need that, because Trig will be a joy. You will have to trust me on this." She wrote it in the voice of and signed it as "Trig's Creator, Your Heavenly Father."

"Children are the most precious and promising ingredient in this mixed-up world you live in down there on Earth. Trig is no different, except he has one extra chromosome," Palin wrote.

Update: Welcome, Avedon readers!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Quotations from Tosh #13: Arthur Marwick

"History is the study of the human past, through the systematic analysis of the primary sources, and the bodies of knowledge arising from that study, and, therefore, is the human past as it is known from the work of historians. The human past enfolds so many periods and cultures that history can no more form one unified body of knowledge than can the natural sciences. The search for universal meaning or universal explanations is, therefore, a futile one. History is about finding things out, and solving problems, rather than about spinning narratives or telling stories." -- Arthur Marwick, "Two Approaches to Historical Study: the Metaphysical (including 'Postmodernism') and the Historical" (1995), cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 300.

"The insistence that language determines ideas, and is itself a system arising from the existing power structure in society, is as grandiose a piece of speculative thought as ever dreamed up by Hegel or Nietzche." -- Arthur Marwick, "Two Approaches to Historical Study: the Metaphysical (including 'Postmodernism') and the Historical" (1995), cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 301.

"Primary sources did not come into existence to satisfy the curiosity of historians. They derive 'natural', 'organically', as it were, or, more straightforwardly, 'in the ordinary course of events', from human beings and groups of human beings, in the past society being studied, living their lives, worshipping, decision-making, adjudicating, fornicating, going about their business or fulfilling their vocations, recording, noting, communicating, as they go, very occasionally, perhaps, with an eye on the future, but generally in accordance with immediate needs and purposes. The technical skills of the historian lie in sorting these matters out, in understanding how and why a particular source came into existence, how relevant it is to the topic under investigation and, obviously, the particular codes or language in accordance with which the particular source comes into being as a concrete artefact." -- Arthur Marwick, "Two Approaches to Historical Study: the Metaphysical (including 'Postmodernism') and the Historical" (1995), cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 302.

"If the historian finds himself resorting to metaphor or cliché, that may well be a warning that things have not been sufficiently worked out, and substantiated, to be conveyed in plain simple prose." -- Arthur Marwick, "Two Approaches to Historical Study: the Metaphysical (including 'Postmodernism') and the Historical" (1995), cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 303.

"Society has a right to demand from historians accounts which can, if so desired, be used in trying to understand the evolution of political ideas or institutions, or the origins of the many conflicts throughout the world, or to gain the necessary contextual information for enjoying more fully a painting or a poem or some favourite tourist attraction. Those seeking such understandings will not be helped by some speculative theory about the need to replace humanism with radical ideology, or of the inescapability of their situation within language, but will want to feel that the explanations, interpretations, and information they are provided with are based on serious study of the evidence; and it will do them no harm at all if they are also made aware that all sources are fallible, that all study of them must be carried out in accordance with the strictest principles, and that there are always things which we do not know with any certainty."-- Arthur Marwick, "Two Approaches to Historical Study: the Metaphysical (including 'Postmodernism') and the Historical" (1995), cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 304-5.