Tuesday, September 23, 2008

In Praise of Hypocrisy

First, a disclaimer: I fully realize hypocrisy is a human failing and is, like narcissism or addiction, not a state to aspire to. But in our modern world concepts like shame and morality are considered optional or unessential to daily life. In the political or business arena for example, having a moral compass can even be seen as a liability, limiting one's options. So hurray for the fact that hypocrisy at least presupposes a moral context. Of course, progressive pundits - the classic example is Jon Stewart - get to have it both ways, using charges of hypocrisy against supposedly "moral" public figures as a way to shut them down while insulating themselves from such charges with the defense that they don't adhere to the values in question to begin with.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Out of Step With the Lizardroid Army

As a consumer of conservative blogs, I would be remiss not to be well aware of Little Green Footballs. Charles Johnson's regular exposes of "fauxtography" and other MSM lies and half-truths serve as an invaluable fact-checking resource and epitomizes much of what is good about the blogosphere. But, like anyone who believes his good press and then becomes galvanized against his opponents, the site is also prone to a bit of smugness and a sneering tone towards people he despises (mostly the Kos Kids) and issues he finds especially pertinent. The principal "issue of the heart" on which LGF waxes strident is the defense of Israel and Zionism, a characteristic unfortunately shared by my personal hero James Taranto. Don't get me wrong: I am no defender of Palestinian thuggery and see Israel as a bulwark of (relative) freedom and democracy in a region short on both. But Johnson's arguments are almost comically one-sided. His favorite "issue of the head" which he enjoys pillorying is Intelligent Design. His arguments against ID are shrill and supercilious and show a mind completetly given over to materialism. Like an inversion of his coverage of Israel, Johnson never attributes a single cogent thought to the proponents of ID. Given his background as a Computer Scientist I guess I shouldn't be surprised. But the enjoyment he seems to derive from ridiculing an idea that he constantly demonstrates he knows nothing about is a bit unsettling.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Life and Elections Aren't Fair

It's pretty frustrating to see the mainstream media abandoning any sense of balance or fairness. Any news outlet outside of Fox News, the right-wing blogosphere or conservative talk radio (and that includes almost all traditional news sources) have, in their panic over the recent surge in McCain's popularity gone on a crusade to assure the election of Barack Obama. Whether selectively fact-checking McCain ads, or scurrying to sully Sarah Palin's image, the effect is almost comical. The left wing opinion writers are almost completely untethered. The lack of a moral center that charatcerizes much of the social Progressive movement means that many liberal commentators' worst instincts are going unchecked and the level of meanness is just appalling. The child in me sees the unfairness of the situation and wants to let everyone know, but fortuantely the country doesn't need me to save it. For even though the media and academia have undermined (and in some ways mortally wounded) many of the the core values that served as the foundations of American Democracy and Western Civilization, many Americans sense the bad faith and slander inherent in the left's message.

Addendum: I see Bill Whittle has just addressed the issue much more colorfully and thoroughly than I ever could here

The Richard Rich Army

I was opening the mail a few days ago when a piece of mail caught my eye. It was from NewYork and had no return address. A thick plain white envelope, it appeared to contain newspaper clippings. Upon opening it I found it was an entire page of newsprint advertising a government grant seminar. Affixed to it was a Post-It note with a simple scrawled note: "Ya gotta see this!" The signature was illegible. Most folks would have felt compelled to read the article; I went and Googled the web address provided and saw it featured prominently on RipoffReport and other scam notification sites. I resented having spent my time on it, but I also wondered about the folks who sent this out. I imagined a room full of poor souls scribbling notes and stuffing envelopes for minimum wage (or even worse, for less than minimum wage and a negligible commission based on the number of successful contacts). In what kind of armor, I wondered, does one have to encase one's soul to be able to perform that kind of work (or order others to perform that kind of work and reap most of the profits) day in and day out? Talk radio and late night TV are filled ads for these kinds of schemes. Like pornography, it is one of the uglier sides of an open society.

It made me think of John Hurt's portrayal of Richard Rich in A Man for All Seasons. When shame is banished, man is capable of truly horrible things.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Acura Wants You to Make Someone Very Special Happy


It's hardly a new phenomenon: advertisers co-opt a song to sell a product even though the song's lyrics or original meaning run counter to the product being sold. Heck, I got a chuckle last week when I was at Disney's California Adventure with the kids and heard Randy Newman's "I Love L.A." blaring over the speakers. On the surface it seems to be a snappy little tune extolling the virtues of California's largest city, but a closer listening reveals Newman's true intent as he rattles off a list of some of the ugliest places on planet Earth (that happen to be right here in the Southland).

But it is (to me at least) a sad thing to take a song with a lofty intent and warp it to fit a more "modern" view of existence. Jimmy Durante's 1965 cover of "Make Someone Happy" is a wonderful statement of the then universally understood Judeo-Christian sentiment that living for another is essential for a deeper understanding of life. By the time the agency responsible for creating a commercial for the Acura MDX acquired the tune, however, the song's meaning had been diluted by years of cultural self-absorption. It was then easy to invert its meaning, so that the person you really should do something special for is not some significant other but the more significant you.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Day-um!

I would have thought that the ink would have exploded like a beaker of alien blood in John Carpenter's The Thing before the Telegraph printed something like this:

Holy Cows: George W Bush - buffoon or great leader?

Here is just one of many surprising quotes about the differences between European Leaders and Mr. Bush:

Usually we wait and wait until the enemy starts attacking, then we let them win a bit, then we fight until we are tired, then we just call the US to come over to clean our mess.
That is what happened in WWI, WWII, and the Balkans.

Bush is just showing us what a bunch of dangerous ditherers we are and we hate him for it. Naturally.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Wall-E: A Minority View

(this was originally written as an email to Stephen Greydanus and his wonderful movie site decentfilms.com)

I'm not privy to advance screenings, so I only got a chance to see Pixar's latest film Wall-E today.

I have been a huge fan of Pixar over the years. To my mind, The Incredibles is perhaps one of the most perfect films made for any audience and on a par with Mary Poppins or It's a Wonderful Life (or even Apocalypse Now if you want to go there). Pixar's sheer output of good to excellent movies is staggering. But I have observed a kind of "Circle of Life" rule that operates in the movie business where any successful artistic enterprise eventually begins to believe its own hype, become more complacent or self-indulgent, and thus sow the seeds of its own demise. To my mind (and I was almost alone in my assessment), I saw sad confirmation of this in Finding Nemo, a film, admittedly gorgeous to look at - I mean we're still talking about Pixar - where comedy and high concepts were sacrificed for Berkeley-esque platitudes about "special needs" and inclusiveness. Ironically to me, Nemo was almost universally hailed as the studio's masterpiece and, I believe, is still its most profitable film. Even though Brad Bird has been a real shot in the arm, Pixar's track record has been spotty but above average ever since, and has I think reached a new low with WALL-E.

As a mere consumer of films I enjoy and judge a film for what it is saying up on the screen. Like Nemo, WALL-E is a beautiful film with nothing to say. Perhaps there were too many hands involved: it seems they were trying to make an environmental film but economic concerns forced them to hedge their bets (or perhaps "code their message" so that only the faithful would be in on it) until they were left with nothing but a Chaplinesque love story. Again, this film has been praised to the skies, though perhaps more praised than watched, and I can only wonder where the studio is headed. Redemption from the aforementioned rule and trend reversals are always possible (think of Disney's "The Little Mermaid" or even the Coen brother's "Fargo"), but I have seen no one even acknowledge this problem at Pixar.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

How Will Postmodernism Die?

Progressive postmodernist thought mortally wounded the culture of the "Silent Majority" forty years ago and, like some colossal John Stewart, shrugged its shoulders, muttered "it's not my responsibility" and walked away, failing to repair the damage or replace what it had destroyed with something better. The question now seems to be: can something so narcissistic be destroyed? The progressive movement is based on several truths (such as materialism and the primacy of feelings and desires) that can be repudiated only at great personal cost. The generation that brought all this on is dying but they cannily staked their claim to our universities and social institutions in the hopes of perpetuating their beliefs. The Boomers' influence will fade over time, but it will be hard to put the genie of narcissism back into the bottle.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Note to KRLA

The Hewitt/Medved/Prager/Dennis Miller lineup is so good and classy that it makes Laura Ingraham and Kevin James (on either end of that grouping) look even worse than they really are (which is mildly annoying and awful, respectively).

Please use Kevin James' latest faux pas on Hardball as the excuse to set him free.

In Politics, There's no Freude Like Schadenfreude

I think one of the least appealing aspects of modern politics is its unrelentingly negative starting point. Good news can only be simplistic or stupid; the only real good news is bad news about your enemy. The press takes the lead in this by avoiding almost all positive news, whether it be in Iraq, climate change, AIDS statistics or the economy. And any positive statement or acknowledgment of progress given by the governing party about the current state of things is immediately inverted by the opposing party. Unvarnished truths can never escape the gravitational pull of the press and political spin, and public apathy and skepticism is the result.

Prince Caspian

One of my favorite sites to read about movies is Steven D. Greydanus' decentfilms
, though his posting of late has been very sporadic. I think he nails prince Caspian in his review. The second movie in Disney's Narnia series is a better movie (based on a much weaker book, at least filmically) than the first in every way. Every way, that is, except its spiritual and intellectual core. Like the film of Eco's Name of the Rose, the ideological underpinnings of the book have been jettisoned and the result is a fairly standard adventure film. Lewis is a great theologian who is also a storyteller; his dramatic choices are perhaps debatable, but the religious foundations are rock solid. In making an admittedly fine film, a creative team woefully inadequate to the task have sliced and diced the theological landscape, substituting carefully crafted points about the nature of God with bland New Age platitudes.

Here's hoping for a third film that fires on all cylinders.

The story thus far

Obama marches toward what? Will Hillary be able to fight back her impulse to say "if I can't win, nobody can" and keep her finger off whatever Doomsday Bomb she has in her possession? Will American voters be able to untangle Obama's record (at once both ultra-liberal and scant) and their feelings about race and political idealism? Will McCain be able to conquer his own demons as a hothead and underwhelming speaker and rise to the occasion?

Tune in next month for another chilling installment.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

"Thank you for joining us from Vanity Fair"


Hugh Hewitt is (apart for being really gaga about Mitt Romney) a very smart guy. So is Christopher Hitchens, though I would much rather be a dinner guest at Hugh's. Check out the scary exchange on Hugh's show today.

YOW.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

You Can't Line A Birdcage With A Blog...

...and that's too bad. Unlike newspapers, I can make pronouncements and opinions here that, should anyone have the remotest interest in reading them, will still be wasting electrons for years after they've been proved wrong. And while I've made my own predictions they won't matter in a few weeks time. The nominees for each party will be chosen in a matter of months and by this time next year we will have a new sitting president.

The wisdom of the moment says Hillary is finished, and she may well be. But the barrage of nonstop, absolutist media pronouncements have been especially strident (and amusing) this election cycle. Like the scientific and medical communities who, on issues like good/bad foods or child care offer "definitive" judgments that flip 180 degrees every 5 years, the media is now telling us that Obama is as much of a "sure thing" as they proclaimed Hillary to be 3 months ago.

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Wisdom of President Nader


With his second term drawing to a close, president Nader held a press conference today to reflect on the achievements of the past eight years and reiterate his commitment to the principles that have shaped his presidency. "My administration is no lame duck. We have proactively dealt with the unenlightened and will continue to do so until our final day in office", Nader said. "We have boldly abandoned the failed policies of previous administrations and followed an uncompromising vision for a better, safer America - a vision that could only have been imagined under my leadership."

He then turned to what many consider the watershed moment of his tenure: his response the the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. "9-11 was, in every sense of the word, a wake-up call for America. It was a message sent not from Muslim extremists but from Nature herself, telling us that America had strayed from its core principles. And, unlike the career politicians who saw only a petty clash of cultures, I immediately grasped not only the severity of the problem but the stakes involved. From that day forward, I resolved that we would no longer live in a country where steel buildings caught fire and planes simply vaporized upon contact with fixed objects. My response, then as now, has been swift and certain and will soon bear fruit in the creation of the first flameproof skyscraper in history. The World Nader Center has passed most regulatory hurdles. Groundbreaking ceremonies for this testament to my unique vision, rising from the ashes of its deeply flawed predecessor will be held shortly before I leave office at the end of this year. In addition, my executive mandates for crumple zones and airbags on all domestic jets will come into full force next year, despite the vigorous lobbying efforts of myopic corporate interests and pro-business physicists who have attempted to deprive each and every American of their basic human rights."

President Nader then spent the remainder of his address savaging his critics in the private and public sector that had failed to understand his unique and intrinsically superior vision for the future of America. "Much progress has been made, but key pieces of legislation, such as my 'No Child Left Unencased In A Layer Of Protective Foam' and 'Domestic Surveillance of Those Who Would Question My Greatness' still languish at the hands of a gutless and unenlightened Congress. History will no doubt harshly judge these so-called 'legislators'".

In a widely expected move the Democratic/Republican Response, which was to be given by Senator Barack Obama (D-Ill.), was declared "rhetorically unsound" in an emergency move by the Department of Safety and subsequently failed to air.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Scriptorium Gets It Right Again

There is an archetype seen most often in the history of science of the great or near-great man whose enjoys a period of renown, but whose stature diminishes over time as his ideas become outdated, unfashionable or obsolete. Consider Cuvier and his promotion of geological catastrophism , Joseph Priestley and his defense of phlogiston theory, or Louis Agassiz, whose legacy as the foremost American scientist of his day was tarnished by his ideas about racial inequality. I always chuckle at the story (alas, probably apocryphal) about Agassiz' symbolic "fall from grace" at Stanford during the San Francisco earthquake:

During the 1906 temblor, the stone shelf supporting a marble statue of Swiss naturalist and geologist Louis Agassiz ... failed, causing the statue to plunge into the ground below. There are several accounts of the outcome. One student wrote, “A big marble statue of Agassiz was toppled off his perch on the outside of the quad and fell foremost into the ground (right through a cement walk) up to his shoulders, and still sticks there, legs in the air and his hand held out gracefully. People came running from the quad with such sober faces, but when they saw him they couldn’t help laughing, and one fellow went up and shook hands with him"... President David Starr Jordan wrote, “Somebody—Dr. Angell, perhaps—remarked that ‘Agassiz was great in the abstract but not in the concrete.’”

In the realm of politics ideas rise and fall in more subjective ways based on public perceptions, marketability and the like. Right now the man of the hour is of course Barack Obama. But my friend John Mark Reynolds (who has been blogging the campaign heavily and well at Scriptorium) presciently points out that it Obama's moment in the sun is destined to be short-lived. John Mark has been blogging thick and fast during this current election cycle and deserves yet another plug (I think once a year is not too excessive).

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

She's not Dead Yet

The Short Attention Span Theater that is the Mainstream Media are once again "guiding" the American public, this time to the realization that Obama will win the Democratic nomination. While that is an outcome I would welcome, I think it is still far from a foregone conclusion. And while I'd like to entertain a scenario where the infamous Hillary turns out on closer inspection to be just another pitiable, not-so-inevitable politician, I don't think that her bag of tricks has been emptied yet. The question is will she decide on some drastic nuclear option her strategists have held in reserve until now? I think so. Of course Hillary really is having some trouble but in this land of ours, where perception is reality, anything big and dramatic done to win hearts and minds can perhaps backfire. Even so, I bet there are probably a couple of banks of computers managed by Team Cinton in some dark basement running models of possible anti-Obama scenarios even as I write this.

Friday, February 8, 2008

If you need a glimpse into what an America dominated by progressives would look like

Look no further than the once-mighty Great Britain

A Class Act


Even though as a teetotaler he can not join me, I raise a glass to Mitt Romney. While I never fully embraced his candidacy (he was my third choice) I admire his character. It takes a big man to lose as gracefully as he did.

Now it's Huckabee's turn to rise to the occasion. I think it is sad but telling that this "evangelical" candidate has not only not stepped up like Mitt but has so willingly played the spoiler.

John McCain faces an uphill battle. He will need all our support - not just faint praise - to overcome the Democratic juggernaut. The blogosphere is abuzz with calls to put aside difference and to remember that an aging Supreme Court and the continuing war in Iraq could present huge social and geopolitical turning points for our nation, and they are right.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

SupayDupayFatFatTuesdayExpialidocious

Well, there will be a lot of hand-wringing and commentary the next few days as the media, having to find something to talk about for the next year, present Much Ado About Inevitability. The reality is that while Huckabee has thrust his rusty Bowie knife a little farther into the solar plexus of Mitt Romney than was anticipated and Hillary is going to have to up the ante even further to destroy Obama, there were no real surprises today. Rush, in what could only be described as an ill-timed and atypical miscalculation on his part, has formally joined the Anybody But McCain crowd and endorsed Romney. And in related news, Ann Coulter and Pat Buchanan's remarks about supporting Hilary should McCain win the nomination will hopefully continue to marginalize their appeal as conservative media figures, although Buchanan manages to be wrong about most everything without losing any prestige. I was also reminded today of the fact that McCain is almost as embarrassing a public speaker as George Bush, alternating between a child-like, hushed tone that sounds calculated to calm fears about his legendary temper and a shrill, mock-forceful tone used for more aggressive rhetoric. You know, maybe I'm getting old and paranoid but it really does seem like the MSM's touting of McCain as the best hope against a vulnerable Clinton or Obama is just sandbagging to make a Democratic White House even more inevitable in 2008.

Now don't get me wrong: I will be supporting McCain if, as is likely, he becomes the Republican nominee. And maybe, just maybe, the mystical appeal that has carried him this far will continue past the nomination, translate into crossover votes and culminate in victory in November. It could happen. Just be on the lookout for these guys:

I'm here all night, folks. And remember, there's a two drink minimum.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

The Masses are thinking, Whence comes the thought of the World!


I don't know if it's ironic or a case of schadenfreude or maybe a little of both, but we seem to be at a time in national politics where the idealogues of both parties find themselves frustrated and shut out by the majority of voters. The dyed-in-the-wool conservatives' call for "anybody but McCain" and the progressive/MoveOn.org support of Obama seem to have fallen on deaf ears. While it's true that Romney and/or Obama in the general would make for a much more engaging race (as both are in my opinion possessed of a sense of decency that their more favored opponents lack), that appears to be a very remote possibility. And while I'm not gonna go the Pauline Kael route and wonder who is actually voting for McCain, I do wonder what his appeal is beyond

A) feelings akin to "he's waited long enough - let's give him a shot",
B) vague appeals to patriotism pertaining to his Vietnam service,
C) confusion of political expediency with bipartisanship, or
D) dubious polling data.

Hillary on the other hand, has (aided by the media) produced a sort of nationalized Stockholm Syndrome, with everyone primed to love their captor and dutifully submit to her inevitable yoke.

I think the outcome is already a done deal (see below), but neither of the front runners inspires. And that's really the saddest thing, because this election cycle saw a unique opportunity for change, and a slate of contenders with real character and substance running for both parties' nomination.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Car Crashes and the Peception of Time

I didn't see it coming, but in a flash the next 10 months have been transformed from a messy but productive political cycle into a massive and inevitable car crash. Only a few weeks ago time and talent and debate seemed limitless. Then the diverse field of presidential hopefuls began one by one to pack up and go home like some reality TV show. Most of the best and brightest were shown the door, leaving only a couple of bland but cunning players (and a few spoilers and crazies) left standing.

And now it all falls into place. Romney and his last gasp of twice-removed idealism and hope will be snuffed out by Huckabee's very Southern passive-aggressive end game. Paul will stay on as a kind of crazy Kucinich-like figure. Hillary will continue to redefine (downward) what's allowable for political expediency as she rather messily crushes Barack Obama. Then it's on to the general, where McCain will lose his temper and mumble through debates just enough to negate Mrs. Clinton's very high negatives and assure her of an easy victory.

The one thing I hoped against hope would never come to pass is here. It has already played out. The players are all in motion. The media will continue to blather on about nothing in particular, like play by play at a one-sided football game.

It's just physics now.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

happiness


My son Zeke when he was a baby.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Plan C

Now that Plan A (Thompson) is dead and Plan B (Giuliani) is looking more and more remote it's time for Plan C:

Romney or McCain?

I'm leaning toward Romney but I really think both are unelectable in the general. As far as McCain goes, does no one see the parallels between him as the nominee and Bob Dole's disastrous candidacy? He seems (like I thought of Dole at the time) totally unelectable - old, gruff and scarred by years of political compromises in Congress. He's even shares the traits of a military background and a war-related disability with Bob Dole. The constant drumbeat from the MSM promoting him only confirms my sense of dread, and even though the polls say that he runs best against Hillary or Obama I still think he will get creamed. Of course Romney (like Hillary) has very high negatives, mostly because of his Mormonism. I don't know if he would do any better than McCain in the general.

I guess I'll keep hoping for a brokered convention for now.

Speaking of "Cloverfield"...

I've been following the growth of the community that have bought in to the Cloverfield viral marketing strategy, tracking down cryptic messages in fake MySpace pages and corporate websites. While it's all a lot of fun for folks with nothing better to do, I find it funny that the scientific investigative techniques on display have missed a couple of salient points:

1. Anything organic and ambulatory that was 500 feet tall would collapse and die of its own weight in a few seconds. As Steven Gould pointed out (and Intelligent Design confirmed), everything that we see on Earth is the "right size". Humans, for example, can't be a lot bigger or smaller than we are, as is evidenced by the health problems and short lifespans of very tall and very short people. In addition, all really large animals look the same because the options for possible body plans diminish with size, just as the ratio of a body's volume to surface area (which diminishes with size) rules out the possibility of huge insects (which respire through their skin).

2. Being large by itself doesn't give you invincibility from weaponry, and organic matter (meat) is not particularly blast-resistant. A blue whale (which can only live in the ocean because of the physical restrictions alluded to above) can get to be 100 feet, but one well-placed cruise missile would be more than enough to kill it.

There, I'm glad I got that off my chest. I know I'm a killjoy, but the "selective skepticism" on display in these kinds of social events is used in other arenas to pretty vile ends.

And don't even get me started about the Matrix. Humans as an efficient energy source? Grr....

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Heading Off Clinton Derangement Syndrome

First, a frank "post-mortem" of the Thompson campaign.

A Little Fable, by Franz Kafka

"Alas," said the mouse, "the whole world is growing smaller every day. At the beginning it was so big that I was afraid, I kept running and running, and I was glad when I saw walls far away to the right and left, but these long walls have narrowed so quickly that I am in the last chamber already, and there in the corner stands the trap that I must run into."

"You only need to change your direction," said the cat, and ate it up.

The inevitablility of a Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton succession looms over us like the Cloverfield monster, roaring and smashing things in a fury that will only end with it worrying us in its toothy maw and spitting us back out again. Seeing the same dirty tricks, media love fest, and conservative apoplexy once more is discouraging.

Of course, nothing in politics is inevitable, and the Clintons' lust for power and self-promotion may well do them in. But I believe it is important take precautionary measures to repudiate the grim, nihilistic view typified in Kafka's "Little Fable". We have seen how that plays out on the other side of the aisle as Bush Derangement Syndrome: the rage and despair that leads to a kind of societal psychotic break with reality. I will work and advocate for a presidential candidate that can make this country a better place, and support whoever is elected as my president. Partisanship in the service of concrete ideals and substantive moral battles is a God-given right, but it's time to re-evaluate Arthur Vandenberg's wise words:

'To me "bipartisan foreign policy" means a mutual effort, under our indispensable two-Party system, to unite our official voice at the water’s edge so that America speaks with maximum authority against those who would divide and conquer us and the free world.'

That's a much better quote to end with than Kafka.

Monday, January 21, 2008

"A last post, and a very last, and yet another..."

...about Fred. This post is frozen in time, but this time tomorrow we'll know if he's still in and, if he does pull out, who he will endorse. That will be a sticky wicket - it seems most of his supporters are drifting to Romney, but McCain is a close friend. I'm guessing Huckabee is not on the short list. He doesn't seem the type to jockey for a vice-presidential bid, but he would be a huge asset to a more moderate candidate like McCain or Giuliani.

Update: I guess we'll have to wait a little longer. It's a nice sentiment , but 'if you can't be Reagan, be Goldwater' misses the point that Goldwater actually got the nomination.

Update: It's happened, not with a bang but with a whimper and upstaged by the suspicious death of an actor and the cattiness of the Dem debate. I guess he's more open to a Veep spot than I first thought - he could really burnish the conservative credentials of McCain or Giuliani.

While idealism was a strong draw for me, Fred also appeals as a man with character who could run a presidential campaign without appearing to sell his soul. The press' portrayal of him as lazy (aided by his open contempt for much of the MSM) and his decision not to play by the rules were enough to do him in.

I think this get its just right.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Immanentizing the Mediocriton, or South Carolina on my Mind

I always said I had a dismal record predicting presidential politics. Fred is taking on water and Rudy has yet to get on the radar. Hilary is having to call in a lot more favors than she'd hoped, but is starting to close the deal. It's pretty obvious she would eviscerate Huck or Romney in the general even if they had the chance (I think Rudy stands the best chance against her, but I'm increasingly asking myself "What do I know?"). I can only hope there will be maneuvering room come February 6 and that things aren't nailed down by then, but after all the months of hand-wringing and speculation it is increasingly shaping up the way folks called it a year ago as a Hilary/McCain debacle - and I think we all know how that will turn out.



We'll see.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Idealism, continued


The South Carolina primary is tomorrow. While the pollsters have been spectacularly wrong these past few weeks, I don't think Fred Thompson is headed for a win. Barring that, it's going to be hardfor him to gather the money, press or momentum to pull off an upset in one of the Super Tuesday states. Of course anything can happen and the prospect of a convention without a clear nominee could be pretty interesting. What is surprising is the strong showing of safe, moderate candidates, namely McCain and Huckabee. I'm reminded of the interview with Derek Smalls, the bass player in the movie Spinal Tap:

"We're very lucky in the band in that we have two visionaries, David and Nigel, they're like poets, like Shelley and Byron. They're two distinct types of visionaries, it's like fire and ice, basically. I feel my role in the band is to be somewhere in the middle of that, kind of like lukewarm water."

It seems like America is getting in touch with its inner Smalls.

Pretty Low - Even for Them

The Clintons have delevoped a new strategy: playing the Postmodern Race Card. It's as bizarre as it is despicable. They're obliquely portaying Obama as the "black" candidate while simultaneously calling in favors and support from the Sharpton/Jackson/Johnson black political establishment - who are backing Hillary, because an Obama candidacy (a successful black candidate who is succeeding with a color-blind message) poses a direct threat to their power, which is predicated on extortion, victimhood and liberal guilt.

Ick.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Sorting out Partisanship, Ideology and Character

Hyperpartisanship. Moonbats. Republitards. The other side is "drinking the Kool-Aid", ignoring reality. The other side despises you and by extension, all mankind. We live in a dystopian police state where a monied elite all but owns the government. We live in a nanny state where corrupt Congressmen try to legislate behavior while having no moral center themselves.

Partisan rancor is at levels not seen since the turn of the last century. Progressives are enraged by the halt in the steady march of the progressive agenda that for the last fifty years seemed inevitable. Conservatives are angered by the erosion of values caused by years of liberal policies and are hunkering down in the trenches, unwilling to give up the any of the policy gains of the last decade.

For a guy who loves Howard Dean, LA Times writer Ronald Brownstein makes the point very eloquently in The Second Civil War: How Extreme Partisanship Has Paralyzed Washington and Polarized America. Except for a few "but they started it first" snipes, he explains how both parties have driven out moderates and created a climate where the goal is not a working bipartisan relationship but a "Fifty-One Percent Solution" so that as a majority they can legislate without the need for bipartisanship. Ideology has been sharpened and compromise denigrated.

In the current presidential race all the Democratic candidates are constantly harping on the word "Change". In the context of the current political climate it seems to be a code word for a return to the progressive ideals of the past and a break with the current partisan rancor. The implication is as long as Progressives get their way, partisanship will cease.

The Republican candidates are a less homogeneous lot. Huckabee, McCain and to a certain extent Romney are walking a fine line between honoring the conservative base and touting their coalition-building credentials to put Moderates, Independents and Democrats at ease. Thompson and Giuliani have seem to say "here I am, warts and all - take me or leave me". While their actual policy positions are considerably different, Giuliani's checkered, out-in-the-open past and Thompson's good-ol-boy, rags-to-riches stories recommend them to me as real people with real character.

And so, there are my biases. Of course I can be fooled, and my record at picking presidential winners is pretty abysmal. But I'll take character over specific policies any day.

Up to a point, that is.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

"Ach! der Menge gefällt, was auf den Marktplatz taugt"


I've tried listening to LA talk radio for the last few months. I thought it would be a chance to stay informed, instead I was introduced to the Right Wing version of Entertainment Tonight. Beside Rush (who I can listen to for about 30 minutes) and Dr. Laura (I max out on her at about 15) I enjoyed John Ziegler for the short time he was on air; he was as much a participant in the local lowbrow offerings as anyone else, but he seemed to have a good heart at times. Well, he seems to have tangled with a few of the huge egos there and gotten unceremoniously canned. Since this is talk radio, he's set up a website complete with soundbites to tell his sad story and air his grievances. There is not a white hat in sight.

I guess NPR can consistently win on quality because the bar everywhere else is set so low.

(Click the image for animated goodness).

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Hillary and Her Italian Suppositories

from Roger Kimball

heh heh

I Can't Be The Only One Who Thinks...

...that the MSM is pushing McCain as the GOP nominee to assure that a Democrat is elected. I am incredibly suspicious of the polls that all say McCain is the best bet for the Republicans against Hillary and Obama. It just doesn't feel right. Maybe it's a corollary to the "white guilt" the MSM posited for getting it so wrong in NH - people surveyed favoring Obama because they felt it was the right thing to do but then voting differently. Maybe people just can't admit to disliking a decorated war hero who by golly is still out there pressing flesh at 71 after what seems like 10 failed attempts at the nomination, but when the general comes they won't be able to pull the lever for that cranky old guy when Obama is so dreamy or Hillary is so...

Maybe I just need to get outside more.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Fred Finally Becomes a Player?

Fred Thompson has taken his sweet time, but seems finally to be catching fire. Of course, there's a whole lotta primaries left, and it looks we could have no clear nominee even by convention time. Heck, we could have 5 different winners for the first five major Republican primaries! For the first time in living memory we have a presidential election without a single incumbent (president or vice president) in the race. Of course, everybody on the left feels that the Democrats are poised for victory no matter who is nominated because of the huge anti-Bush sentiment in this country. But as many have pointed out, there will be no Bush on the ticket.

In any event, we have a horse race - on both sides. The Democrat side is currently a Battle Royale between two heavily-financed and fairly inexperienced candidates. With a finite amount of time and money and a large field, it looks as if all the GOP candidates are strategizing like crazy, looking for that the magic formula that will deliver the oh-so-elusive "momentum". The MSM is living up to its incredibly low standards, grasping at every twist and turn as definitive proof that the candidate of the moment is the inevitable nominee, but it looks as if the American public are becoming increasingly distrustful of their pronouncements. Well, if Fred can maintain the energy level he showed in the SC Debate and somehow end up with the nomination, I would look forward to seeing a dialed-in, no-bs Thompson debating the inspirational-but-content-free Obama or the Clinton-light Hillary. Of course, in that event Lyndon Johnson's infamous "Daisy" ad in 1964 is nothing compared to the kind of onslaught Thompson would face in the general. Prepare for MoveOn.org video of Fred eating babies.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The South Carolina Debate: A Dissenting View

It remains to be seen if it is too little, too late, but Fred Thompson's performance in tonight's debate was thoughtful, focused and assertive. He owns all the issues and is a solid guy, but his disdain for the less savory aspects of the political process and media-hostile style have perhaps been his undoing. I would be proud to have him as our president.

John McCain is the Bob Dole of the 2008 race - a respected war hero, battle-scarred, with years of campaigns and the baggage that only comes from decades of Congressional sausage-making. Like Dole he is dour, old and unelectable in the general - I only hope Republicans don't make the same mistake and nominate him.

It is easy to see Mike Huckabee as another Clinton - polished and eminently likable, spouting rhetoric that soothes but does not nourish. But he seems less self-aggrandizing and far less knowledgeable than his predecessor in the Governor's Mansion. He's not quite an empty suit, but behind those crafty verbal thrusts and parries lies a man that I feel is less than qualified for the job.

Mitt Romney is a kind of a political Rorschach test - his sense of destiny, political pedigree, Mormon uprightness and almost stereotypical good looks provoke in some a sort of reverence. I see a man driven for all the wrong reasons and trying too hard.

Ron Paul (say it like Matt Damon in "Team America"). Okay, I'm done with him.

Rudy Giuliani has been a bit of a revelation. If Fred can't catch fire in SC and elsewhere, his well-informed, upbeat message trumps whatever doubts I have about his conservative credentials. He's my solid second choice at this point.