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


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.


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 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.