Tuesday, September 30, 2008


I have recently been reading Calvin and Hobbes to my daughters. Why couldn't Bill Watterson just come out with a book every now and then? Just write one strip a week and in a couple of years...


I want to restate my belief that Hobbes was real. And there is some circumstantial evidence, within the strips, to prove my belief - sort of like NDEs. I am a methodological naturalist - so I have an excuse.

Aaron, I will lose all respect for you if you agree with me.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

My Love Hate Relationship with Bill Oreilly

Occasionally Bill Oreilly lashes out at the right wing. It is always amusing to hear Limbaugh listeners call in to Oreilly's show with their rehearsed talking points only to be called a bunch-o- lunatics by Oreilly. This was extremely entertaining during the height of the gas price escalation when the Limbaugh talking point was that the government was responsible for the price increase, exonerating the actual white collar criminals and greed driven exploiters who were behind it, or even praising them for being great capitalists. I knew this was the Limbaugh talking point because my right wing buddy from school called and rehashed it all over the phone as if from a teleprompter, or as if he had somehow become an instant expert on the issue. 

These right wing ideologue shows are literally like a joke following the typical algorithm- you set the joke up with a mundane series of events and then the punch line is something you never expected because it is exactly opposite of the obvious reality of the situation, yet still seems to make sense to the logically impaired. Man walks into a bar, white collar criminals are stealing his money... It's the government's fault. Lol.  An italian, a Jew and a Mexican become governor's and decide to use right wing based deregulation of the financial markets to make the wealthy wealthier and it led to a collapse of the entire economic system... It's the democrats fault. Haha, get it? Wasn't that funny? 

If you need that unhealthy right wing radio fix like I do you will understand the absolute horseshit these nutcases have been spewing lately. Take Glenn Beck for instance, who railed on  about the initial bailing out of Fanny and Freddy only to see the entire system collapse within weeks, completely obliterating his entire belief system before his eyes and leaving him spitting and gesticulating, waving his hand randomly in search of someone else to blame, or perhaps for a bottle of vodka. I thought I would find it funny to see that chipmunk cheeked ass bag humiliated, but instead I found it sad. Then there's Hannity- the living freak show of television whose views are so startlingly false so startlingly often that you wonder how he continues to draw an audience, or take even himself seriously. then Limbaugh- whose opinions are as predictable as the sunrise. In case you haven't listened for awhile, it's all STILL Clinton's fault.

Oreilly finally snapped and called it for what it is. this clip doesn't capture the extent of it. One caller made a great point- why does the overtly biased Oreilly feel free to name names on the left, but not on the right? If Oreilly were fair he would "go after" Hannity, Beck, Limbaugh, Ingraham et al... and take cameras into their bathrooms while they are taking shits to ask them a few questions. Man up Bill'o, that'll be the day you live up to your self-described "independent" label.


This was barely worth watching. The only exciting factor was anticipating disaster if someone made a mistake. 

I learned nothing new here. Nothing happened at all as far as I am concerned.

I was only concerned about what the "folks" thought of the debate. What the "folks" think is based on body language and demeanor. McCain was condescending and grumpy, yielding a clear and obvious dislike of Obama.

 His obvious strategy was to portray Obama as naive and inexperienced on foreign policy. Fascinating contradiction considering his running mate, who doesn't have the experience and confidence to even be trusted to appear and provide post-debate spin when invited. When asked in an interview whether Palin was ready to take over the presidency, McCain unhesitatingly bellowed, "Absoluuuutely, Absoluuutely!". Yet Barrack Obama somehow is not, despite having clearly demonstrated his understanding of world affairs on the world stage for dozens of months now, having his every word and gesture scrutinized and evaluated by everyone in the world. I wonder how many "folks" caught this absurd contradiction, and thought "wait a minute now". Conveniently, Sarah Palin was MIA. Just the presence of her face on camera somewhere that night would have laughably undermined McCain's debate thesis.

 Even the mighty anti-intellectual placebo vitamin PhD Michael Savage Weener announced on his radio show that Palin was unqualified. This must have pissed off thousands of psychotic semi-literate drones who listen to him every day. 

I thought McCain won the debate. No, not literally. Not on substance. He won merely by being there and not screwing something up big time. He won by putting Obama on the defensive, making him react all night. It is something he has learned after being in many election processes. When your monologue is done and you are about to pass the hot potato to your opponent, you need to add an accusation every time. This forces your opponent to waste their time addressing your accusation (even if it is totally unfounded) instead of addressing what they want to say. This is how McCain has decided to run his entire campaign so far. 

Some people speculate that McCain's grumpiness and condescension were negatives. As far as substance, nothing really happened except that two people showed that they have the nerve to stand there and talk coherently for an hour and a half about positions we already knew they had. 

Friday, September 26, 2008

Another Honest Conservative Turns on Palin

After a couple of interviews it has become painfully clear, even to many of those who want to root for Sarah Palin, that she is not fit for high office.

If McCain doesn't do something to turn this thing around, we are looking at a possible landslide. Virginia is now leaning Obama on RealClearPolitics, which would spell certain disaster for McCain. Michigan, Pennsylvania and Colorado are solidly Obama. McCain is barely holding onto Florida and Ohio.

I think that McCain will do okay in the debate tonight, because it will be softball. He can basically give a prepared speech-like oratory and play safe. But nothing can protect Palin from ultimate exposure for what she is once everyone gets to see her go toe to toe with Biden.

Conservative writers are starting to lose their capacity for self deception. Conservative Wick Allison wrote the article I posted about recently supporting Obama.
Then George Will, archconservative, said that one of the candidates was acting like a rookie amidst the financial crisis and it was not Obama. Now conservative Kathleen Parker, originally rooting for Palin, says Aunt Sarah should step down outright.
At some point partisans must consider what is good for the country and vote based on their own instinct. Even listening to Bill Oreilly I get the impression (though he always sticks up for the conservative) that he is not beyond voting for Obama. Hannity? meh, not so much. That bungnut would vote for a hyena if it were on a republican ticket.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Hannity on the Economy

Sean Hannity for me is the most curious character on television. I have never been able to tell whether he actually believes the things he says or whether he is just paid to tongue and cheek his way as a republican talking points spokesperson. I think it's a bit of both. 

This clip was from 9/10. The economic disaster had not quite come to fruition as the primary point of debate. Hannity, as he has been doing for years now, insists that the economy is strong thanks to George Bush and that the guest is talking "garbage". Says Hannity, "Democrats are going to have to convince the American people that the economy is failed and that the surge did not work".- an impossible task he implies. 

Hmm. Sitting here a couple of weeks later, do you think it's a tall order to convince Americans that the economy is a wreck? Is the "surge" talking point really valid now that we have a report saying that it really had no quantifiable effect [,"Our findings suggest that the surge has had no observable effect, except insofar as it has helped to provide a seal of approval for a process of ethno-sectarian neighborhood homogenization that is now largely achieved," Agnew's team wrote in their report.] and that revolutionary predator surveillance equipment is responsible for routing insurgents? 

This clip typifies the fantasy world that Hannity and others like him live in from day to day. It is IMPOSSIBLE for me to believe that Hannity believes what he says. If he does, is he stupid or delusional? He is either acting, stupid, or merely delusional. His comments about the economy on 9/10 are infinitely more absurd now than they were then.

But you can rest assured that Hannity is blaming everything on someone else, as he always does. 

Monday, September 22, 2008

A Conservative for Obama

The new face of Conservatism

A Conservative for Obama

My party has slipped its moorings. It’s time for a true pragmatist to lead the country.

By Wick Allison, Editor In Chief

THE MORE I LISTEN TO AND READ ABOUT “the most liberal member of the U.S. Senate,” the more I like him. Barack Obama strikes a chord with me like no political figure since Ronald Reagan. To explain why, I need to explain why I am a conservative and what it means to me.

In 1964, at the age of 16, I organized the Dallas County Youth for Goldwater. My senior thesis at the University of Texas was on the conservative intellectual revival in America. Twenty years later, I was invited by William F. Buckley Jr. to join the board of National Review. I later became its publisher.

Conservatism to me is less a political philosophy than a stance, a recognition of the fallibility of man and of man’s institutions. Conservatives respect the past not for its antiquity but because it represents, as G.K. Chesterton said, the democracy of the dead; it gives the benefit of the doubt to customs and laws tried and tested in the crucible of time. Conservatives are skeptical of abstract theories and utopian schemes, doubtful that government is wiser than its citizens, and always ready to test any political program against actual results.
Liberalism always seemed to me to be a system of “oughts.” We ought to do this or that because it’s the right thing to do, regardless of whether it works or not. It is a doctrine based on intentions, not results, on feeling good rather than doing good.

But today it is so-called conservatives who are cemented to political programs when they clearly don’t work. The Bush tax cuts—a solution for which there was no real problem and which he refused to end even when the nation went to war—led to huge deficit spending and a $3 trillion growth in the federal debt. Facing this, John McCain pumps his “conservative” credentials by proposing even bigger tax cuts. Meanwhile, a movement that once fought for limited government has presided over the greatest growth of government in our history. That is not conservatism; it is profligacy using conservatism as a mask.

Today it is conservatives, not liberals, who talk with alarming bellicosity about making the world “safe for democracy.” It is John McCain who says America’s job is to “defeat evil,” a theological expansion of the nation’s mission that would make George Washington cough out his wooden teeth.
This kind of conservatism, which is not conservative at all, has produced financial mismanagement, the waste of human lives, the loss of moral authority, and the wreckage of our economy that McCain now threatens to make worse.

Barack Obama is not my ideal candidate for president. (In fact, I made the maximum donation to John McCain during the primaries, when there was still hope he might come to his senses.) But I now see that Obama is almost the ideal candidate for this moment in American history. I disagree with him on many issues. But those don’t matter as much as what Obama offers, which is a deeply conservative view of the world. Nobody can read Obama’s books (which, it is worth noting, he wrote himself) or listen to him speak without realizing that this is a thoughtful, pragmatic, and prudent man. It gives me comfort just to think that after eight years of George W. Bush we will have a president who has actually read the Federalist Papers.

Most important, Obama will be a realist. I doubt he will taunt Russia, as McCain has, at the very moment when our national interest requires it as an ally. The crucial distinction in my mind is that, unlike John McCain, I am convinced he will not impulsively take us into another war unless American national interests are directly threatened.

“Every great cause,” Eric Hoffer wrote, “begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.” As a cause, conservatism may be dead. But as a stance, as a way of making judgments in a complex and difficult world, I believe it is very much alive in the instincts and predispositions of a liberal named Barack Obama.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Sam Harris on Sarah Palin

I received notice of this article via E-Mail. Sam Harris wrote: Please forward this article as widely as you can. I ask this favor of you because I believe that the sudden proximity of Sarah Palin to the presidency is the most dangerous political development of my lifetime.

Let me confess that I was genuinely unnerved by Sarah Palin's performance at the Republican convention. Given her audience and the needs of the moment, I believe Governor Palin's speech was the most effective political communication I have ever witnessed. Here, finally, was a performer who—being maternal, wounded, righteous and sexy—could stride past the frontal cortex of every American and plant a three-inch heel directly on that limbic circuit that ceaselessly intones "God and country." If anyone could make Christian theocracy smell like apple pie, Sarah Palin could.

Then came Palin's first television interview with Charles Gibson. I was relieved to discover, as many were, that Palin's luster can be much diminished by the absence of a teleprompter. Still, the problem she poses to our political process is now much bigger than she is. Her fans seem inclined to forgive her any indiscretion short of cannibalism. However badly she may stumble during the remaining weeks of this campaign, her supporters will focus their outrage upon the journalist who caused her to break stride, upon the camera operator who happened to capture her fall, upon the television network that broadcast the good lady's misfortune—and, above all, upon the "liberal elites" with their highfalutin assumption that, in the 21st century, only a reasonably well-educated person should be given command of our nuclear arsenal.

The point to be lamented is not that Sarah Palin comes from outside Washington, or that she has glimpsed so little of the earth's surface (she didn't have a passport until last year), or that she's never met a foreign head of state. The point is that she comes to us, seeking the second most important job in the world, without any intellectual training relevant to the challenges and responsibilities that await her. There is nothing to suggest that she even sees a role for careful analysis or a deep understanding of world events when it comes to deciding the fate of a nation. In her interview with Gibson, Palin managed to turn a joke about seeing Russia from her window into a straight-faced claim that Alaska's geographical proximity to Russia gave her some essential foreign-policy experience. Palin may be a perfectly wonderful person, a loving mother and a great American success story—but she is a beauty queen/sports reporter who stumbled into small-town politics, and who is now on the verge of stumbling into, or upon, world history.

The problem, as far as our political process is concerned, is that half the electorate revels in Palin's lack of intellectual qualifications. When it comes to politics, there is a mad love of mediocrity in this country. "They think they're better than you!" is the refrain that (highly competent and cynical) Republican strategists have set loose among the crowd, and the crowd has grown drunk on it once again. "Sarah Palin is an ordinary person!" Yes, all too ordinary.

We have all now witnessed apparently sentient human beings, once provoked by a reporter's microphone, saying things like, "I'm voting for Sarah because she's a mom. She knows what it's like to be a mom." Such sentiments suggest an uncanny (and, one fears, especially American) detachment from the real problems of today. The next administration must immediately confront issues like nuclear proliferation, ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (and covert wars elsewhere), global climate change, a convulsing economy, Russian belligerence, the rise of China, emerging epidemics, Islamism on a hundred fronts, a defunct United Nations, the deterioration of American schools, failures of energy, infrastructure and Internet security … the list is long, and Sarah Palin does not seem competent even to rank these items in order of importance, much less address any one of them.

Palin's most conspicuous gaffe in her interview with Gibson has been widely discussed. The truth is, I didn't much care that she did not know the meaning of the phrase "Bush doctrine." And I am quite sure that her supporters didn't care, either. Most people view such an ambush as a journalistic gimmick. What I do care about are all the other things Palin is guaranteed not to know—or will be glossing only under the frenzied tutelage of John McCain's advisers. What doesn't she know about financial markets, Islam, the history of the Middle East, the cold war, modern weapons systems, medical research, environmental science or emerging technology? Her relative ignorance is guaranteed on these fronts and most others, not because she was put on the spot, or got nervous, or just happened to miss the newspaper on any given morning. Sarah Palin's ignorance is guaranteed because of how she has spent the past 44 years on earth.

I care even more about the many things Palin thinks she knows but doesn't: like her conviction that the Biblical God consciously directs world events. Needless to say, she shares this belief with mil-lions of Americans—but we shouldn't be eager to give these people our nuclear codes, either. There is no question that if President McCain chokes on a spare rib and Palin becomes the first woman president, she and her supporters will believe that God, in all his majesty and wisdom, has brought it to pass. Why would God give Sarah Palin a job she isn't ready for? He wouldn't. Everything happens for a reason. Palin seems perfectly willing to stake the welfare of our country—even the welfare of our species—as collateral in her own personal journey of faith. Of course, McCain has made the same unconscionable wager on his personal journey to the White House.

In speaking before her church about her son going to war in Iraq, Palin urged the congregation to pray "that our national leaders are sending them out on a task that is from God; that's what we have to make sure we are praying for, that there is a plan, and that plan is God's plan." When asked about these remarks in her interview with Gibson, Palin successfully dodged the issue of her religious beliefs by claiming that she had been merely echoing the words of Abraham Lincoln. The New York Times later dubbed her response "absurd." It was worse than absurd; it was a lie calculated to conceal the true character of her religious infatuations. Every detail that has emerged about Palin's life in Alaska suggests that she is as devout and literal-minded in her Christian dogmatism as any man or woman in the land. Given her long affiliation with the Assemblies of God church, Palin very likely believes that Biblical prophecy is an infallible guide to future events and that we are living in the "end times." Which is to say she very likely thinks that human history will soon unravel in a foreordained cataclysm of war and bad weather. Undoubtedly Palin believes that this will be a good thing—as all true Christians will be lifted bodily into the sky to make merry with Jesus, while all nonbelievers, Jews, Methodists and other rabble will be punished for eternity in a lake of fire. Like many Pentecostals, Palin may even imagine that she and her fellow parishioners enjoy the power of prophecy themselves. Otherwise, what could she have meant when declaring to her congregation that "God's going to tell you what is going on, and what is going to go on, and you guys are going to have that within you"?

You can learn something about a person by the company she keeps. In the churches where Palin has worshiped for decades, parishioners enjoy "baptism in the Holy Spirit," "miraculous healings" and "the gift of tongues." Invariably, they offer astonishingly irrational accounts of this behavior and of its significance for the entire cosmos. Palin's spiritual colleagues describe themselves as part of "the final generation," engaged in "spiritual warfare" to purge the earth of "demonic strongholds." Palin has spent her entire adult life immersed in this apocalyptic hysteria. Ask yourself: Is it a good idea to place the most powerful military on earth at her disposal? Do we actually want our leaders thinking about the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy when it comes time to say to the Iranians, or to the North Koreans, or to the Pakistanis, or to the Russians or to the Chinese: "All options remain on the table"?

It is easy to see what many people, women especially, admire about Sarah Palin. Here is a mother of five who can see the bright side of having a child with Down syndrome and still find the time and energy to govern the state of Alaska. But we cannot ignore the fact that Palin's impressive family further testifies to her dogmatic religious beliefs. Many writers have noted the many shades of conservative hypocrisy on view here: when Jamie Lynn Spears gets pregnant, it is considered a symptom of liberal decadence and the breakdown of family values; in the case of one of Palin's daughters, however, teen pregnancy gets reinterpreted as a sign of immaculate, small-town fecundity. And just imagine if, instead of the Palins, the Obama family had a pregnant, underage daughter on display at their convention, flanked by her black boyfriend who "intends" to marry her. Who among conservatives would have resisted the temptation to speak of "the dysfunction in the black community"?

Teen pregnancy is a misfortune, plain and simple. At best, it represents bad luck (both for the mother and for the child); at worst, as in the Palins' case, it is a symptom of religious dogmatism. Governor Palin opposes sex education in schools on religious grounds. She has also fought vigorously for a "parental consent law" in the state of Alaska, seeking full parental dominion over the reproductive decisions of minors. We know, therefore, that Palin believes that she should be the one to decide whether her daughter carries her baby to term. Based on her stated position, we know that she would deny her daughter an abortion even if she had been raped. One can be forgiven for doubting whether Bristol Palin had all the advantages of 21st-century family planning—or, indeed, of the 21st century.

We have endured eight years of an administration that seemed touched by religious ideology. Bush's claim to Bob Woodward that he consulted a "higher Father" before going to war in Iraq got many of us sitting upright, before our attention wandered again to less ethereal signs of his incompetence. For all my concern about Bush's religious beliefs, and about his merely average grasp of terrestrial reality, I have never once thought that he was an over-the-brink, Rapture-ready extremist. Palin seems as though she might be the real McCoy. With the McCain team leading her around like a pet pony between now and Election Day, she can be expected to conceal her religious extremism until it is too late to do anything about it. Her supporters know that while she cannot afford to "talk the talk" between now and Nov. 4, if elected, she can be trusted to "walk the walk" until the Day of Judgment.

What is so unnerving about the candidacy of Sarah Palin is the degree to which she represents—and her supporters celebrate—the joyful marriage of confidence and ignorance. Watching her deny to Gibson that she had ever harbored the slightest doubt about her readiness to take command of the world's only superpower, one got the feeling that Palin would gladly assume any responsibility on earth:

"Governor Palin, are you ready at this moment to perform surgery on this child's brain?"

"Of course, Charlie. I have several boys of my own, and I'm an avid hunter."

"But governor, this is neurosurgery, and you have no training as a surgeon of any kind."

"That's just the point, Charlie. The American people want change in how we make medical decisions in this country. And when faced with a challenge, you cannot blink."

The prospects of a Palin administration are far more frightening, in fact, than those of a Palin Institute for Pediatric Neurosurgery. Ask yourself: how has "elitism" become a bad word in American politics? There is simply no other walk of life in which extraordinary talent and rigorous training are denigrated. We want elite pilots to fly our planes, elite troops to undertake our most critical missions, elite athletes to represent us in competition and elite scientists to devote the most productive years of their lives to curing our diseases. And yet, when it comes time to vest people with even greater responsibilities, we consider it a virtue to shun any and all standards of excellence. When it comes to choosing the people whose thoughts and actions will decide the fates of millions, then we suddenly want someone just like us, someone fit to have a beer with, someone down-to-earth—in fact, almost anyone, provided that he or she doesn't seem too intelligent or well educated.

I believe that with the nomination of Sarah Palin for the vice presidency, the silliness of our politics has finally put our nation at risk. The world is growing more complex—and dangerous—with each passing hour, and our position within it growing more precarious. Should she become president, Palin seems capable of enacting policies so detached from the common interests of humanity, and from empirical reality, as to unite the entire world against us. When asked why she is qualified to shoulder more responsibility than any person has held in human history, Palin cites her refusal to hesitate. "You can't blink," she told Gibson repeatedly, as though this were a primordial truth of wise governance. Let us hope that a President Palin would blink, again and again, while more thoughtful people decide the fate of civilization.

Harris is a founder of The Reason Project and author of The New York Times best sellers “The End of Faith” and “Letter to a Christian Nation.” His Web site is samharris.org.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Time Capsule

I am sure you've seen this video by now. Is this not totally eerie? You have to think that Gore, Kerry, and Dukakis Are feeling a bit of vindication at this point. After years of analysing just what went wrong to make them lose the race, Obama is in exactly the same position 2 months from the finish line. "How do the republicans get away with their lies? Their false ads? their failure to do anything they say they will?" Democrats ask. "Why doesn't obama fight back?!" they ask with rage.

But Democrats just don't get it. There's nothing they can do, because the people deciding these elections are not concerned about analysing issues in the first place. The people breaking the tie are those who are motivated by irrational faith based factors. There is very little that can be done. Progressives are way outnumbered.

I repeat, there is nothing to be done. There is nothing the Democrats can do to get ahead. If they attack they look weak, if they do nothing they look weak. If they lie outrageously like the Republicans do they are called on it doubly because the Republicans are the tongue in cheek "morals and values" party, which provides infinite cover for the immorality of their dirty political campaigns. They use dirty politics to support typical religious positions which vindicate them fully in the eyes of their base. Democrats have no such cover. Democrats always lose elections unless the economy is really bad. the average middle class income grows under democratic presidents, yet Republicans have figured out how to use religion, guns, tribal nationalistic pride, gays and abortion to unite the poor and working class to vote for the well being of the wealthy, at the expense of themselves.

Nothing to be done. Even if Obama wins, it does nothing to solve this problem.

Little baby Jesus and the seven dwarves

Yet another election boils down to religion. "Family Values" is mere code for "Christian fundamentalist". It could very well be that these people spell the ruin of America. The stock exchange falls over 500 points today and McCain says the fundamentals of the economy are strong. You would think people would care that Alan Greenspan stated that McCain's tax plan is a bad idea. Nevermind that, the social conservatives say, we have a nation to save from the clutches of Satan, and she's a mommy just like me, so I like her. 

Sarah Palin's Churches and The Third Wave from Bruce Wilson on Vimeo.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Values, Morals, Ethics and Politics

In the graph below, your scores on each foundation are shown in green. The scores of all liberals who have taken it on our site are shown in blue, and the scores of all conservatives are shown in red.

This was my result on the "Moral Foundations Questionnaire" At Yourmorals.org

As can be seen, a little 2 minute questionnaire on what you believe about authority, purity, fairness and harm is all it takes to determine whether or not you believe global warming is manmade, and whether you believe the earth is 10,000 years old. 

The Short Bus Express

Never underestimate the power of the social conservatives to make obvious elections close. There are so many one issue values voters in  this country who feel intimidated, alienated and frankly threatened by intellectual people that no matter how the deck is stacked, someone like Dan Quayle or Sarah Palin can reach the highest step of the throne with fewer auditions than a semi-finalist on American Idol. 

Despite this, there are multiple reasons for great optimism for Obama supporters this morning, despite McCain's edge in the national polls. 

1.) Obama impressed Bill Oreilly in his "interview". If you can hold your own in a debate where the "interviewer" is not only a contestant but also the moderator and won't let you get a word in edgewise, you have been victorious. I love listening to Bill Oreilly, and despite his core audience being somewhere around 80% McCain supporters, they had no choice but to be impressed with Obama's performance. When they call in with claims that Obama sounds weak, Bill defends Obama. Bill was openly impressed by the Senator. Many of the callers admit they have newfound respect for Obama, and some independents have switched votes after this interview. Taking interviews in the enemy camp is risky, but what it does is instantly dispel all the bullshit the core audience hears day in and day out on right wing radio. They watch and say "Wow, he really isn't the devil incarnate after-all now that I listen to him".

2.) Sarah Palin's interview sucked ass- Judging from internet message board food fights I attend, which seem to be a 50-50 McCain/Obama split, the consensus on the interview looks about 70% negative on her performance. I thought it was a disaster myself. Palin revealed herself, and it will only get worse during the debates. She could not have chosen a worse person to debate than Biden. The territory is unfamiliar to her. Though she is clearly adept at avoiding questions, she was totally over-rehearsed and terrified of actually going into detail. 

3.) Obama is now running against Palin- and Palin is revealing herself to be a relative know nothing about world affairs. When the vp nomination is attracting huge crowds that the presidential nominee cannot, something will eventually give. I had no idea until I saw the Gibson interview how she would turn out. But she has proved herself to be just as staggeringly inappropriate for this office at this point in history as I suspected. What with being involved in two wars, tension with Pakistan to drop out of the war on terror (due to our over the border raids), and escalating reminiscences of the cold war stand off with Russia, the desperate irresponsibility of McCain to bring along an inexperienced woman who will attract one issue abortion voters, rapture ready anti-intellectuals, and sexist women who want a vagina in power never mind her politics, is transparent even to his supporters.

4.) McCain is lying- and the press is doing its job to reveal it. It amazes me every election year that the candidate the "biblical values" voters select is by far the most value-less perpetrator of slimy campaign tactics in the race. McCain's outright lies are being called for what they are. It might not phase those who think believing in Jesus is more important than actually having morals, but the independent voters who won't make up their mind until the end are affected. A question was asked on a public forum, can you give me an example where Obama has lied? Nothing. I guess try as they might, they couldn't come up with one. Sure he isn't perfectly clear about everything, but he has never outright lied. And not repeatedly like McCain has. 

5.) There is a growing sentiment in the press that Sarah Palin is totally inappropriate for the job. I have seen several major articles this morning addressing this theme. Despite the right wing media's attempts to vouch for her in every way possible and paint her as a poor victim of media assault, the wool can't be pulled that tight for that long. Her next interview is with Sean Hannity- a man who insists that the economy is going strong, and anyone who disagrees is an effete liberal elite that hates America. Hannity- a man who sits around and concocts known lies all day long, stretching the credulity of human imagination. A man whose death I would greet with the same glee I experienced when Falwell died.  I can guarantee that Palin has already been given a script of his questions to study. This will be mostly a Jesus values interview, and Sean may help her answer the questions. 

6.) Obama is impressive as hell on his toes- He will carry the day in the debates. There won't be any greater challenge than the one he had on Oreilly, and he has a good chance of being like that long distance runner who breaks free and wins easily in the last lap. On the other hand, Palin is a ticking time bomb. I cannot picture her outdoing anyone. The best she can do is tread water. She has clearly been coached to focus on the same small town issues of Jesus and family that the social conservatives want to hear, but everyone else wants to hear more. She won't be able to hide out in this territory forever, and look out when she is forced to swim with the sharks. If Palin is to be the heart of the McCain campaign, it is extremely vulnerable. 

WILD CARD- As I began, never underestimate the power of the social conservatives. They put Bush in the white house twice, they know how to rally, they know how to win elections. they turn the other cheek and bury their heads in the sand when their own candidates lie. They will vote with their heart, not with their head. These people truly believe that god will bless America if the president is right with the LORD. All other issues are meaningless in comparison. These sorts of people feel that competence is a form of disrespect to the common man, that knowing what you are talking about means that you are looking down your nose at others. To these people, it is always heads republicans win and tales Democrats lose. If you are quick on your toes, it means you are arrogant. If you trip and stumble it means you are weak. If you love Jesus, then you are always the right one for the job. Thus the Palin phenomenon. 

Obama has a better chance to win than Kerry or Gore. And if the Democrats don't win this election, they may never be able to win until Christianity goes away, or until the states shaped like squares secede from the Union. 

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Small Town Values


I guess this all just coincides with the Krugman article in a way. My take on small town values- believing that the bible is the word of God, feeling threatened by modernity, and threatened by science.

The Briefest Poems

I generally don't read translations of poetry.

No matter what language or country the poets come from, the poet's original voice, these days, is always lost to the flavorless soup of the current free verse aesthetic. While most readers, it seems, read poetry for its content and are satisfied with that, the beauty of the language matters to me. Frost's tone and sound must be impossible to translate into another language. Capturing Shakespeare's genius for manipulating Elizabethan English must be devilishly difficult in most languages and impossible in most. How does one translate Shakespeare's coinages?

Haiku surely present their own challenges. The rich cultural associations with which Japanese Haiku are laden must be impossible to translate. The forms very brevity constrains the translator's ability to alter, for example, word order and though progression for the sake of the adopted language. And yet the Haiku's self-same brevity is, to me, what makes it the most translatable. Whereas the translator of Ovid can't dote over the meaning of each and every line, (without quadrupling the size of the book & commensurately diminishing its readability) the translator of Haiku, because of the form's brevity, has much greater latitude for dotage. The Japanese themselves developed a rich tradition of Haiku (and poetic) commentary which deepen the original poems -- sometimes amounting to pages and pages of insight and conversation & all for the sake of a single line of poetry (Haiku, in Japanese, are written as a single line). Read "Basho and his Interpreters", by Makoto Ueda for a taste of this tradition.

That said, there are bad, good and transcendent translations. Reichhold's translations are some of the best I have ever read. I can't read Japanese but here's why I think so. The most famous Haiku by Basho is about the old pond and the frog. As many translations as I have read, I have never understood why this poem was so famous. As it turns out, very few translators understood the poem! To give an idea of just how few, visit the following website, a collection of thirty translations of the same Haiku. By my count, only four of the translators actually understood the poem. Most interestingly, Robert Aitken, whose commentary is featured at the end of this site, also gets it wrong!

Here is the poem is translated by Reichhold.

old pond
a frog jumps into
the sound of water.

Get it?

It's not that the frog is jumping into the pond.

The frog is jumping into "the sound of water". And it is with this understanding that the profundity of this poem finally makes sense. The Zen oneness that is so frequently mentioned (but apparently seldom understood even by those who describe it) becomes comprehensible & profound. The real genius of this Haiku can finally be appreciated.

Reichhold calls this technique "sense switching". She writes: "Here, the frog not only jumps into the water, but also into the sound of water. The mind-puzzle that this haiku creates is how to seperate the frog from the water, the sound of water from the water, the frog from the sound it will make entering water, and the sound from the old pond. It cannot be done because all these factors are one..."

This explanation is found in the breif but informative and useful appendix 1 - a list of Haiku techniques practiced by the various Japanese Hakuists.

This is a beautiful translation of all of Basho's known Haiku. For each Haiku, the original Japanese is provided along with a romanized reading and brief notes explaining what is untranslatable but relevent to an understanding of the poem. If you like Basho's Haiku, get this book. Hopefully, the translator will move on to Buson and, my favorite, Issa.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Another Brilliant Checkmate by Edward Current

The Resentment Strategy

This article by Paul Krugman really illustrated the feeling I had after watching the Republican 
Convention. It was a cognitive dissonance I just couldn't put my finger on verbally until I saw this article. I am sure you noticed it too as you looked upon an audience that resembled a cross between a rodeo, a prayer convention, a country music concert, and a retirement home. You were looking at a room full of millionaires who were bound and determined to pretend they were common tobacco spittin' shitkickers who are tired of being victimized by elitist liberals. 

This little optical illusion is getting really hard to buy into these days. Especially in a convention where economics- the single most important issue to the majority of Americans, was scarcely mentioned.

Paul Krugman writes:

 "Can the super-rich former governor of Massachusetts — the son of a Fortune 500 C.E.O. who made a vast fortune in the leveraged-buyout business — really keep a straight face while denouncing “Eastern elites”?

Can the former mayor of New York City, a man who, as USA Today put it, “marched in gay pride parades, dressed up in drag and lived temporarily with a gay couple and their Shih Tzu” — that was between his second and third marriages — really get away with saying that Barack Obama doesn’t think small towns are sufficiently “cosmopolitan”?

Can the vice-presidential candidate of a party that has controlled the White House, Congress or both for 26 of the past 28 years, a party that, Borg-like, assimilated much of the D.C. lobbying industry into itself — until Congress changed hands, high-paying lobbying jobs were reserved for loyal Republicans — really portray herself as running against the “Washington elite”?...............................

Yes, they can.

On Tuesday, He Who Must Not Be Named — Mitt Romney mentioned him just once, Rudy Giuliani and Sarah Palin not at all — gave a video address to the Republican National Convention. John McCain, promised President Bush, would stand up to the “angry left.” That’s no doubt true. But don’t be fooled either by Mr. McCain’s long-ago reputation as a maverick or by Ms. Palin’s appealing persona: the Republican Party, now more than ever, is firmly in the hands of the angry right, which has always been much bigger, much more influential and much angrier than its counterpart on the other side.

What’s the source of all that anger?

Some of it, of course, is driven by cultural and religious conflict: fundamentalist Christians are sincerely dismayed by Roe v. Wade and evolution in the curriculum. What struck me as I watched the convention speeches, however, is how much of the anger on the right is based not on the claim that Democrats have done bad things, but on the perception — generally based on no evidence whatsoever — that Democrats look down their noses at regular people.

Thus Mr. Giuliani asserted that Wasilla, Alaska, isn’t “flashy enough” for Mr. Obama, who never said any such thing. And Ms. Palin asserted that Democrats “look down” on small-town mayors — again, without any evidence.

What the G.O.P. is selling, in other words, is the pure politics of resentment; you’re supposed to vote Republican to stick it to an elite that thinks it’s better than you. Or to put it another way, the G.O.P. is still the party of Nixon.

Friday, September 05, 2008