Friday, October 31, 2008

Joe the idiot.

Another voting early post

Sarah and I voted last week. It was during the period of so-called 'Early Voting' that started in Georgia about a month ago and ended last Friday. In Cherokee County, there was only one Early Voting location, and it was at the county seat in Canton. It's kind of out of the way, so while there was a steady stream of folks at around 10 in the morning, there wasn't a real wait of any kind.

Long waits had been reported throughout the Early Voting period in Cobb and Fulton, Cherokee's larger bordering counties which are closer to or contain the city of Atlanta. Like I said, Early Voting ended last week. This week, "Advanced Voting" began. Advanced Voting is essentially the same thing as Early Voting except for the fact that there are far more Advanced Voting locations than there were Early Voting locations.

As of this morning, more than 1.4 million voters had cast their ballots in the state of Georgia. That is nearly half the total that voted at all in 2004. Today is the final day of Advanced Voting. Sarah and I were at one of the local Cherokee libraries today and there was a line around the building. It was probably about an hour to an hour and a half wait. To vote early! I thought that seemed pretty amazing. Then I saw this. And this.

And this:

Holy fucking shit.


Sarah Palin is worried about losing her First Amendment rights. Who, you may ask, is infringing on her rights? You're gonna like this one: It's the free press! That's right, according to the potential (though not really) next vice president, the press, by being critical of the things she says are infringing on her right to free speech!

Just for the hell of it, here's the actual amendment:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." [Emphasis mine]

In other words, she is attempting to intimidate the press by claiming that in exercising its own first amendment right it is somehow muzzling her! Hop on, this logic goes round and round.

Even if her contention were true, and she felt intimidated into not exercising her right to free speech, that would not and could not even be construed as a violation of her First Amendment right.

The Bill of Rights outlines the ten fundamental protections of the people from the government. These are the fundamental freedoms granted to we the people, by the people, from the government. The government is therefore, the one and only entity who can infringe upon these freedoms.

Anyway, get out and vote. If you do, there's a chance this woman will fade away as quick as Joe the Plumber.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Rachel Maddow is a coward.

I like Barack Obama best when he's lecturing super liberal folks about how they don't have any business telling him his business. Watching this Rachel Maddow interview, she tries to get him to take up the gauntlet of defending the Democratic party and liberalism by trashing conservatism. He totally ignores the bait, as well he should. She's frustrated. Every time I see her on TV she's talking about how worried she is.

At some point, these Democrats and "progressives" are going to finally see what they've got: A winner. Someday they're going to wake up from the illusion of their electoral victimization and realize that for a group that's always bragging about their own intelligence they've lost not because they've been robbed, but because they've been dumb. And weak. And unpersuasive.

At some point, they're going to wake up to the fact that you don't win by acting like you're losing; or like you're winning. You win by first knowing that you can and then working hard to make it happen. When was the last time Democrats actually tried to win? 1992? I guess. But where would all of that work gotten them had Ross Perot not garnered 19% of the vote?

The last time Democrats earned 50% of the vote was 1976--when Carter beat a hapless Gerald Ford who, while he was technically the president, had never run for state-wide office, let alone been on a national ticket. Before then? 1964. I'm sure it was hard for LBJ to figure out a way to get over 50% a year after Kennedy was shot. I guess it's safe to say that Kennedy had to try hard to get elected; he was running against the vice president, after all, and it was a super close election.

I think I was trying to make a point about how Democrats only win by technicality (a plurality in a three-way race) or when it's inconceivable that they would lose (after Watergate or the Kennedy assassination). That's a half century of history.

Cry about 2000 all you want, but nobody would give a fuck about Florida if Al Gore had won his own home state. Ohio might have been meaningless had Kerry--who ended the 2004 election $3,000,000 in the black--decided to spend every dime that he had. I guess it's easier to blame somebody else.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

How's this for an affecting piece of propaganda?

Look away... look away... look away... Dixieland

I grew up in the south. I lived in NC and GA almost exclusively (there was a period of six months in MD when I was 15) from birth until I was 23. I have a fairly faint southern accent. It's there, it just takes a trained ear to spot it. When they first meet me, if they think about it at all, people tend to suspect I hail from someplace in the midwest, and are always pretty surprised when they learn the truth.

Inevitably, somebody will ask whether I made a conscientious effort to rid myself of the drawl. The answer to that is no. I don't know whether my accent changed that much, but if, in early childhood, I had a thicker accent than I have today, its fading was not the result of my efforts.

But my not having a thick accent--or an accompanying backwoods dialect--has made more than a few people in the south and elsewhere skeptical of my Dixieland bona fides. It's always seemed silly to me. In the end, and with a few clear exceptions, my childhood was more stereotypically white suburban than it was stereotypically white southern. But I've spent enough evenings watching laser beams bounce off Confederate Soldiers while Elvis Presley sang the American Trilogy to feel pretty comfortable in my southern roots.

That being said, sometimes I wonder about this place. I few days ago I posted a Saxby Chambliss clip that's running ad nauseum here in which the onscreen text seems to imply that Jim Martin, Chambliss's opponent, is a child killer. Today, I came across an ad that is just as classy from Elizabeth Dole--up for reelection in the state of my birth.

A name you can trust

A year ago yesterday, I moved back to New York City sans Sarah and Nate. A year ago today was my first day at the firm where I worked until August. Thirty-two years ago today, Raphael Sassi was born someplace near the Eastern Shore of Maryland. It was the happiest day of his life.

Happy Birthday Raph.

Update: Raph was apparently born in Pennsylvania not Maryland.

Monday, October 27, 2008

All things being equal, bullshit is still bullshit

So last week I found myself on line at the grocery and drug store a couple of times. It seems that for the life of me, I couldn't escape this cover of US Magazine. Jenny McCarthy, who's made something of a career out of motherhood (publishing books about pregnancy and early motherhood, as well as shilling for a weight loss giant), has spent the last couple of years becoming one of the more visible advocates of the widely discredited movement pushing the widely disproven link between a supposed surge of incidents of childhood autism over the past twenty years and the administration of vaccines containing thimerosal.

Not to dive too deeply into the whole thimerosal debate, but my personal belief is that there probably hasn't been so much a surge of incidents as there has been a surge in diagnoses predictably accompanying an broadened definition of the disorder. For instance, while it was in the 1940s that Hans Asperger first described a social disorder he referred to as autistic psychopathy exhibited by some of the children in his practice, it wasn't until the early 1990s that Asperger syndrome was a recognised diagnosis by the WHO and APA. Likewise, other forms of high-functioning autism (those with an average or above-average IQ) used to go completely undiagnosed. In fact, prior to the 1940s, there were no diagnosed cases of autism at all; if children exhibited symptoms we would now recognise as autism, they may have been diagnosed as schizophrenics, idiots, or not diagnosed at all. Such is the history of psychiatric disorders, I'm afraid (not to sound like a Scientologist or anything); the past is rife with misdiagnoses and missed diagnoses.

Today, though, autism treatment is a growth industry; there are considerably more cases being diagnosed as autism at present than in decades past. I honestly don't know what to think of that other than that it is to be expected for reasons I've already addressed. I don't know whether these children should be diagnosed as having the same disorder or not, but I do know that when you allow for a widening spectrum of diagnoses, you're going to have a widening occurrence of the disorder.

Clearly the parents of diagnosed children are dealing with a trauma--at the point of diagnosis and thereafter--so I don't mean to demean their experience. Still, I find it difficult to take the substance of the thimerasol hypothesis seriously. Once upon a time, maybe, but today, it's just a conspiracy theory concocted to help the grief-stricken to cope and to direct blame. Something that relies on the lack of evidence of what's apparent to confirm that which has already been disproven. At this point, there's very little that separates this theory from that of 9/11 truthers or Natural Design proponents. The science is simply not there; the preponderance of evidence suggests otherwise; Occam's razor, and so on.

As a matter of fact, it could be argued that while this dubious connection between vaccinations and the onset of autism is grounded in far more sympathetic origins--the suffering of parents and children--than that of either 9/11 Truthers (anarchic and excessive political distrust) or Natural Designers (the pitiful need to hold tight to archaic religious dogma), that it is still a far more nefarious and consequential theory because it actually puts children at risk. Today, many parents are so afraid of this fairy tale connection that they choose to not have their child immunized. Forget the fact that the trace levels of thimerasol have been removed from all major vaccinations, many parents are still not getting their children immunized. It's reckless. It's not reasonable. And it borders on abuse.

Now, with that off my chest, on to Jenny McCarthy.

Sarah actually read her pregnancy and early motherhood books while we waiting on Nate. Sarah will read anything--especially if it has something to do with babies, especially during that first pregnancy. Even if it was written by Jenny McCarthy, Sarah would read it. Alas, I did not read either of the books. I imagine that there was probably a lot of talk about feeling fat and farting. After Sarah finished, the books and their author left our collective consciousness only to reappear occasionally shilling for some Jenny Craig or Weight Watchers program.

Then, sometime last year, she showed up again. This time, she had a new story to tell. It was a touching story to be sure. Her son, whom she had written about fairly extensively, had been diagnosed with autism. Apparently his version of the disorder was characterized by seizures and by the child's tendency to arrange his toys in a line. While I found the story, or what I read of it, to be touching (if not all that insightful), I was left somewhat skeptical by her utter lack of skepticism. Clearly, her son had something wrong with him--he was having debilitating seizures--but from the way she describes the initial diagnosis, all it took was a couple observed quirks and the word autism to shake her very perception of who--or what--her child was.

Maybe it was an editorial choice, but there's no mention in this short piece of her seeking a second opinion, no frank discussion of the struggle involved in learning to communicate with her child, no talk at all about what it is to be a parent of an autistic kid. All she said was that she looked on the Internet and got help from UCLA (I imagine she means the medical facilities and not the university library) and a doctor, and abracadabra, three years later the kid is a quirky, but essentially normal kid. Not only that, but now she's CURED him! I'm sorry, I don't mean to be crass, but I'm just going to have to step back and call bullshit on this one.

I'm not even sure what part of this story is bullshit: the original diagnosis, her easy acceptance of it, the sensationalistic nature with which she's exploited the story, or the messianic one with which she claims to have solved the unsolvable. One thing I do know: There's bullshit in that story, and it's the kind that gets all mixed up in the works; now the whole thing stinks. And since I don't know who to be mad at, I'm going to choose to be mad at the one who's trying to make a buck selling the story.

What the fuck is this woman thinking? Does she actually believe she's cured her son of autism? Does she understand how stupid that makes her sound? How her insistence that such a cure can be found may do more harm than good? Where is her skepticism? Why state clearly that he's been cured? Why not ask yourself for a moment, did he have it in the first place?

When I was four or five, the doctors at Emory--the preeminent cancer treatment facility in the United States--thought I had leukemia. I had all the major symptoms, only I never tested positive for the disease, and when they took my marrow, they determined I must have had something else. It was like an episode of House, only I wasn't dying and no diagnosis ever came. I just got better. Most would argue that I had some kind of weird illness that mirrored the symptoms of leukemia, but was clearly not leukemia. There may even be a name for it, they just didn't know it at the time. My aunt, on the other hand, told me a few Christmases ago that to this day she believes I had leukemia and that contained within my blood is the necessary antibodies to defeat it! As cool as it would be, I'm skeptical. Occam's razor and all.

Maybe I'm a natural born skeptic, so this sort of thing comes easy to me, but I'm blown away by the ability of people to accept a dogma that requires a suspension of reason in order to sustain itself. This autism sensation is so rife with selective moments of self-delusion that if it weren't so painfully serious for so many people, it would be comical.

But this whole Jenny McCarthy thing seems especially farcical. How does one approach this story without skepticism? She's a former Playboy model and MTV personality whose been seeking a greater celebrity for herself since she peaked in the middle of the last decade. She's exploited her every opportunity to remain in the spotlight down to this weird decision to be at once a spokesperson for autistic parents while at the same time claiming she no longer is one. And since she never questioned any of this, she expects us to accept it all at face value. Personally, I don't know what the truth is. I have a good idea of what the truth isn't, though. Occam's razor and all.

Sunday, October 26, 2008


I'm on record as saying that I've stopped seeing the humor in the whole crazy race-baiting bitch cutting herself thing (did she beat herself up to?), but I do think this is kind of funny.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The McCain Mutiny

I'm guessing the ad wizards who came up with this one have never read Herman Wouk's Pulitzer Prize winning novel about a naval vessel helmed by an experienced, yet erratic, Lt. Commander Queeg. If you've never read it, you should, it's awesome.

Is Drudge going too far?

Five or six years ago, I would never find myself at the Drudge Report. Somewhere along the line, though, I gave in and started to look at the site. I was actually pretty surprised at what I found. It was a pretty good site. Sure, the links had a certain sensationalism to them, one that reflected an editorial bias, but as an online portal to various news sources, one that was being constantly refreshed, I found what a lot of people have found, that Drudge is unmatched.

Lately, though, I feel like he's pushing the sensationalism too far. He's been pushing these dubious stories of political violence in which Obama supporters supposedly victimize the weak, white McCain folk, and while he was burnt yesterday by the mutilation debacle, he's still at it.
This morning, with the news that the mother and brother of Jennifer Hudson (that American Idol girl who won an Oscar for Dreamgirls) were murdered in their Chicago home, at the top of the page, Drudge is running these banners:

In short, Drudge is exploiting the death of two people (and there's a missing child, too), so that he can continue to connect Barack Obama to violent crime.

It's been a while since I felt this way, but let me say today with no equivocation that Matt Drudge is terrible person. Fucking douche.

B is for "Bustin' up Chifferobe"

I don't know whether to laugh or cry. I've spent much of the last day or so getting as much humor as I can out of the story of the McCain worker and the phantom negro. This morning, it occurs to me that it's not all that funny.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

One last thing: The AP Poll

Once upon a time, the Associated Press was considered to be the most impartial of all news services. Since the wire service is where most newspapers get the bulk of their news content, it certainly would be a nice reality to live in.

Today, the AP released a national tracking poll of the presidential election that showed Obama leading McCain 44%-43% among "likely" voters. A statistical tie that Drudge--who's spent the last few weeks highlighting outlier polls (including a Nickelodeon online poll of children) showing McCain within five points--naturally jumped all over.

A statistical tie? you say. That's right, a statistical tie! But, you ask, don't most polls show Obama at or near 50%? Yes they do. So why does this one show him six points lower than that? That's exactly the question I asked the Internet, and somebody called AmericaBlog answered. Ready?

I'll summarize the biggest point: As with all polls of so-called "likely voters" (as opposed to registered voters) the AP is performing a little precognition to determine what the likely make-up of the electorate will be. There's all sorts of methodology, to figure out the general demographics, but "likely voters" generally reflect the make-up of the last election, making it, in my opinion and in this election, a bit of a problematic designation. Still, most polling agencies have some way of determining the what a likely voter is, and differences in methodology account for some differences in polling results.

Now, you say, this summary sure does seem to go on and on without saying much.

Keep your pantyhose on, I'm getting there. In this particular poll, 44% of the likely voter pool is comprised as self-identified evangelicals. If you think that seems like a big number, don't worry, history proves you right. As I said before, likely voter tabulations are determined, in part, by looking to the past (i.e. Exit polls from recent elections).

The problem with the 44% number is that it is nearly double the evangelical turnout from 2004, and nearly four times that of the 2000 election. In short, the AP is assuming evangelicals will make up nearly half of the over all electorate when the most they've ever amounted to is a little less than a quarter. If you consider that evangelicals voted Republican in 2004 by a ratio of 4:1, the AP, by doubling the evangelical proportional turnout from 2004, is essentially assuming that a group that gave Bush, a president they felt was one of their own, about 16% of the overall vote is going to give McCain, a candidate they generally mistrust, about 32% of the overall vote. Not 32% of his vote--one third of the entire electorate!

Anyhow, the point I'm trying to make, is that if you saw that AP Poll and felt a little worried. Forget about it. But still vote, okay? You know, just in case.

Update: Nate Silver, noted sports statistician and honcho at, discusses the discrepancy between likely voters and registered voters in a way that leaves little doubt as to whether or not some of these polls are a bit more suspect than they let on. Worth a read.

They do both start with PRE

Sarah Palin just told Brian Williams that she defines precondition as 'strategy'. In other words, when she says Obama will sit down with dictators without preconditions, she believes that what that means is that Obama will go to sit with dictators for the hell of it, and with no established plan or purpose for the talks.

Okay, if that were the definition of preconditions, I would finally understand why people have been so against this idea of meeting without them.

Of course, this is not the definition of precondition. That is much closer to the definition of the word preparation. A precondition is requirement established by a figure of authority that must be met by the subordinate prior to a reward. In this case, the president would be the figure of authority, the subordinate would be a dictator or whomever, the reward would be the meetings, and the precondition would be something akin to displaying a commitment to democracy or human rights. In other words, Barack Obama will not stipulate that Kim Jong-il or whomever renounce his evil ways as a condition for the two meeting.

What Sarah Palin thinks, apparently, is that Obama plans on meeting with dictators with no idea as to what the meeting is going to be about, no concept of what may be the desired result, and no strategy as to how to get that accomplished. In other words, she heard people call Obama's position naive, knew that was supposed to be her opinion, and then used her imagination to figure out what a naive person would forget to do when meeting with bad people...STRATEGY!

Of course, Obama has repeatedly asserted that he would not schedule meetings without necessary preparations. His critics have long considered this to be a case of Obama parsing language, and stepping away from his original position.

But it's not parsing to know the meaning of words, and to use them properly. It's not parsing to make note of the fact that your critics are misunderstanding or misrepresenting your position by imposing false definitions on the words you've used. It's called getting it right the first time, and standing up for yourself when you know you're right.

Not to sound too forgiving of Obama or anything, but throughout this campaign, he's taken simple and uncontroversial positions, but because his opponents so resented having to run against a rookie, they deemed any opportunity to condescend to be an opportunity they could not pass up. Intellectual honesty be damned.

On the bright side, this is not a case of Palin lacking in scruples, it's a case of her lacking the basic knowledge and skill set that should have been a prerequisite to her being selected for the position she's in today.


Marc Ambinder at the Atlantic makes a couple good points about the whole silly socialism card. The first, I'd been thinking about, but thought was too obvious to spend time writing about. The second, I hadn't spent enough time considering. Until now.

This socialism thing.
A, it would have been more convincing had McCain opposed the original bailout and not proposed austerity for everyone and then ruled out lots of programs and then proposed lots of new spending.
B - Palin is going on about Obama and wealth redistribution.
Palin taxed oil company profits and cut $1200 checks for every Alaskans.
That's spreading the wealth. Redistributing some money.
The McCain campaign talks about Palin's executive experience.
So Obama might have socialistic inclinations... Palin's gotten it done.

What took them so long?

Rudy Giuliani is up today calling Obama soft on crime. He has one of these charming robocalls I've been hearing so much about claiming that Obama opposes "mandatory prison sentences for sex offenders, drug dealers, and murderers.' Now, if we put aside the wildly misleading conflation of mandatory minimums with 'mandatory prison sentences' (implying Obama doesn't think rapists, drug dealers, or murderers should be sent to prison at all) my only question is, what took them so long with this line of attack?

I mean, it can't be that they were so afraid of being called racists that they held this one back. Can it?

And yes, this is a racist line of attack. It would be racist whether or not Obama were a black man. The fact that he is a black man makes this all the more overtly racist. It's no surprise, now that a number of Republican surrogates (Giuliani being one of them) are wanting to focus on Obama's teenage drug use, that they would decide to go the good old fashioned soft on crime (Read: Black People) argument.

Oh well. I've already voted. Couldn't take it back if I wanted to. Ho hum.

Is this ever a good idea?

So Terrence Howard is apparently out of the Iron Man sequel (I think it's going to be called Iron Man 2). I don't really know how it works beyond what I've seen in Entourage, but according to Howard, he was surprised to learn he'd been pushed out of the role of James Rhodes when the studio decided to go with Don Cheadle, the perennial black actor extraordinaire.

I would think there would have been some sort of sequel/pay or play clause written into Howard's contract (I mean, even Billy D. got paid when Schumacher cast Tommy Lee Jones as Harvey Dent), but I guess not. Personally, I think the decision to create a continuity problem by recasting important characters for movie sequels is always a bad idea--I can't think of a single time in movies or television where it's worked for me. Can you?

James Bond? Sorry, that doesn't count. While a few of the secondary actors played opposite numerous Bonds, since there's no continuous narrative in those movies, the need for continuity within the greater narrative is less impactful. One could also make the argument that James Bond as played by Connery, Moore, Dalton, and Lazenby are to an extent, different characters (It wouldn't be a great argument, but it could be made).

But if we forget about Bond, when has it worked? Dumbledore? Maybe, but that doesn't count either since A: Richard Harris died, and B: He was still better than Michael Gambon.
So what then? There were a few attempts this year, and none of them worked for me. While Katie Holmes was a total distraction in Batman Begins, recasting the role for The Dark Knight with Maggie Gyllenhaal made for an even bigger distraction--one that forced critically minded viewers to question the necessity of including the Rachel Dawes character in the sequel at all, since she was essentially nothing more than a prop designed to cut corners on character development and motivation. There was a period over the summer when I blamed that movie sucking on the decision to recast that character, but I came to my senses. It sucked for a lot more reasons than that--not the least of which was the decision to recast the role of Gotham City.

What else happened this summer? The third Mummy movie recast Maria Bello in the role originally played by Rachel Weisze. Didn't see it, but I can't imagine continuity was the worst thing that movie had going for it.

If there's anything I can say about Marvel's decision to recast the role of James Rhodes, is that at least they're trading up--Don Cheadle is a lot better than Terrence Howard. I still think it's a terrible idea, but if you're going to take the continuity hit, it's almost always better to trade up than trade down, which is what Marvel did for almost every aspect of The Incredible Hulk.

It's really a weird decision, if you ask me. In Iron Man, Terrence Howard teases the role of War Machine, and now they're going to Don Cheadle to play him? This is how the world works in this new Marvel (Movie) Universe? Isn't the whole idea behind creating a universe about creating an even greater continuity? Or is it just about increasing revenue and marketing tie-ins?

I've found that a walk down the toy aisles at Target answers that question for me.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

It's on.

Both Sarah and I were born in Greensboro, NC; with the exception of the last six years when we were spending our days and nights in New York, she's really never lived anywhere else, so it didn't really bother me when Governor Palin said that our small home town (whose city population of about 230,000 is more than one-third the population of Alaska; and whose metropolitan area population is twice the size of Alaska's) was among the really pro-American parts of the country*.

But now John McCain is saying Western Pennsylvania is more American than Greensboro?!? You've. Got. To. Be. Kidding. me. Western Pennsylvania? Really? I mean, this video (even if you put aside his hilarious garbling of his own message) seems to suggest he's addressing a Western PA crowd, still, has the man ever spent time there?

*Although she would go to Elon to say that sort of thing. There's about eight colleges in Greensboro, and she has to find the one whose main campus is really in Burlington. Fucking Elon. Elon???

New Kicks

Breaking these in. A bit to my chagrin, they're not quite the hansa yellow you see here. They're more of a cadmium yellow medium than a cadmium light, so they don't quite scream "YELLOW!" in the way I was sort of hoping.

Color Guide.

Sarah Palin lies to children!

I don't know which would be worse: If she believed this to be true or if she was lying. But the fact remains that she wants people to believe this to be true, a vote for John McCain is a vote to put Sarah Palin in charge of the senate!

Do with it what you will, but by all means, take that idea to the polls with you two weeks from today.

Me Vote Pretty One Day

I'm not always a big David Sedaris guy. He can be pretty funny, but he an also be a bit tiresome. This piece is neither all that funny, nor all that tiresome, but it did give me the chance to post what seemed like a funny heading at the time.

From the New Yorker.

Voting Early: Cont.

Two weeks until election day, and the election is already over for Sarah and me. We dropped Nate off for his first few hours of day care this morning, and drove into Canton to cast our votes. There was a steady flow of people, but no real wait. Cherokee County went for Bush by a count of about 4:1 in 2004, and judging from the demographics at the polls this morning (and the number of McCain/Palin signs around town) I don't see the country turning purple this year.

But we have cast our votes, and, assuming we can trust Diebold, our votes will be tabulated accurately, and there may be some chance that Georgia seems a little less red than it did four years ago.

On a side note: While Obama is unlikely to win the state, the senate race between Republican incumbent Saxby Chambliss and Democratic challenger Jim Martin seems to be creating some concern inside the GOP. Chambliss is the guy who found national attention when he defeated Max Cleland, triple amputee and Vietnam veteran, in 2002 after running an ad featuring both Cleland and Osama bin Laden in a split screen.

Clearly concerned, he's got an even classier ad up attacking Jim Martin. It's another one where the image of what is on screen is a lot more important than the words the announcer is being paid to say. See if you can spot the sensationalism in this one (Hint: You have to read it).

Monday, October 20, 2008


I haven't read but one or two real books from start to finish since Nate was born. I had been on a pretty steady pace there for about five years or so, but once that kid came around, it's been pretty much down hill on the literary front. Sarah was more of less than same way. She's been going to the library every week to get a couple of books for her and a few nighttime books for Nate. I don't read anywhere near as quickly as she does, so I tend to be more of a book collector than a book renter.

This weekend I picked a couple of books I'd been wanting to read for a while. The first was No Country for Old Men. It'll be the first Cormac McCarthy book I've read. While I haven't read more than the first page, the tone seems pretty close to the movie, which I thought was probably the best movie that I saw from last year. I'm actually not as well versed in Southern Gothic literature as I tend to think I should be--I've read the major works of Faulkner, a bunch of Flannery O'Connor short stories, and a Harry Crews book (shout-out HKW), but that's about it (I just looked at the Wikipedia page for the genre, and I've read some more supposedly notable works from the genre, but they don't meet my personal definition, so I exclude them).

The other book I bought was Dreams From My Father, despite what you may have heard, the one and only Barack Obama memoir. I've actually used Obama's use of language as a major reason for my initial--at least abstract--support of his candidacy. I've never been a huge fan of him as a speaker, but the text of his speeches have carried with them a certain lyricism and philosophical structure that I have long found to be fairly compelling. I've heard a lot of people, Christopher Buckley most recently, that when asked to justify their decision to vote for Obama, cite this book. This one, I've read the first chapter. It's actually quite elegant prose. More so than I expected.

I've seen that a number of conservative outlets are spreading rumors to the effect that Obama did not write the book. The proof they provide is some bad poetry Obama wrote as an early undergraduate something like 15 years before the book was published, and an uninspired legal article he wrote in the late 1980s. While I'm impressed by good writing, I'm hardly mystified by it. I don't know whether Obama wrote his memoir in the way I don't know if Armstrong walked on the moon, but I tend to believe both happened because the arguments against such things having happened are simply not plausible. I don't really grasp their logic, and I don't understand why people think it's true--other than their obvious desire for that to be the case.

Here's a couple facts: Teenage poetry sucks. Most people are miserable writers when they're teenagers. Many good writers are miserable poets no matter how old they are, and even if we ignore the relative age of the writer, comparing a poem or a legal paper to a memoir is absolutely ridiculous. Anyway, I don't think it's a big rumor, but it's out there.

I will probably find time to write about both of these books once I've read them. The election will probably be over by then. Weird.

The hunt

I went for my first interview today. I'm still not 100% clear on what the job is. Or the company for that matter. It's a government contractor. They develop 'turnkey' systems in the fields of engineering, energy, and construction. The bulk of their business right now seems to do with rebuilding the infrastructure of Iraq. Will that make me a war profiteer? I will not speak any further on this topic now.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

McCain on Palin

Watch him smile as if the words he's saying display qualities worthy of pride. Weird.


Having said a little about what I thought the Powell endorsement would lead to, that is to say, a reevaluation of Powell (for better or worse) more than anything, I thought I would say something about what I think it says.

While he went to great lengths to offer kind words for John McCain, whom he has known for decades, Powell essentially laid blamed for all of the worst moments of negativity throughout the entire campaign at the feet of his friend of thirty years. He said that John McCain could be a good president, but that the party he leads is becoming smaller, and has become trapped in the muck of nationalistic purity and religious zealotry; that John McCain was given an opportunity to be the conscience of the Republican party, to lead the party out of purgatory. But instead of being the party's conscience, McCain surrendered his own in the hope of winning an election.

I'm sure a parallel could be drawn to Colin Powell in 2002. He may have been the only man respected enough in that administration to convince the president to delay or forgo an invasion of Iraq; instead he sold the war to the American people and the UN. Whether either of these men see the parallel, McCain is likely about to enter a period of his life Powell entered years ago, one of deep regret and roads not taken.

In the end, there may not have been a road to victory for John McCain that would not have lead through the mud. I imagine that's a calculation his campaign made much earlier than their first mentioning of Obama's supposed friendship with terrorists. Indeed, McCain's slogan "Country First," unveiled at the end of the primaries, betrays a willingness (if not a readiness, at the time) to call into question his opponent's patriotism.

Put everything else aside, that decision, that jingoistic nonsense is what set the stage for everything that followed. The early ads, considered by the media to be entirely positive, spoke of an "American President Americans had been waiting for." These were the first dots the McCain campaign asked you to connect.

You know in a connect-the-dots puzzle, how it takes you a while to figure out what the picture's going to be, but how at some point the picture--maybe halfway through, maybe more, maybe less--becomes pretty clear? Once you've crossed that point of discovery, you don't have to look at the numbers anymore; you don't even have to complete the puzzle; finishing the picture is just a rote exercise.

This is how I felt at the beginning of the summer. I speak as somebody who came into this election year with a certain level of respect for John McCain. I actually thought the surge was a good idea, albeit for different reasons than John McCain. Still, I have to say that once they pulled that Country First and American President bullshit out of their hat, I felt like a fucking cartographer on already charted ground. I had this campaign mapped out from beginning to end. I knew exactly where we were going, and it wasn't to higher ground.

After that, none of the dots really mattered anymore. I didn't matter that Obama chose to lose a war over an election, or that he was a global celebrity, or that he was best friends with Bill Ayers, or even that the Governor of fucking Alaska was being nominated for the vice presidency. None of any of that mattered. Before any of those dots showed up, picture was already clear: It was Barack Obama wearing a fucking turban; It was Michelle Obama with an afro and a Kalashnikov; It was a couple of black Olympians standing on a podium, heads down, with their black-gloved fists in the air as the Star Spangled Banner played. This was the picture. And we are left to ask what became of John McCain's campaign? Where did it go wrong? We ask this now that even his friends say he should lose. But the answer is pretty clear.

Like I said, I don't know whether there was a righteous path to victory for John McCain, but if you're a man who values character and honor above all else, it's in those times that you choose to be righteous. In the end, John McCain chose another path; it was one Colin Powell knew from experience, and one that he clearly sees unworthy of reward.

I don't know if this endorsement is Colin Powell's attempt at redemption, if it's a dot that's gonna help map out an image of General Powell he hasn't quite resembled since he came to Midtown back in 2002. I don't know whether he seeks redemption at all, if he even considers himself or his image in need of redeeming. Still, the words he said today were strong, indeed, there were moments (speaking about the Muslim soldier buried at Arlington) where he was quite moving, and the image he struck was that of a man who was capable of showing a great deal more character and sensibility than maybe we've come to expect of a politician.

He was a military man who never became a politician. And while he was long considered to be a credible contender to be the first African American president, he never was a candidate. We will never know what kind of candidate he may have been, but today we were given a good idea of the campaign he would have run. And for the first time, I recognise the loss we incurred when he chose not to enter the primaries in 2000.

Dog Bites Man?

I was wondering how long it was going to take. Meet the Press runs here at 10AM. At about 9:30 Powell left the studio where the show is shot, and every cable news station carried a short press conference in which he gave a quick summary of his rationale for voting for Barack Obama. The reasoning was essentially the same that many have stated for why they Obama has shown himself to be more capable than McCain over the past weeks and months of the campaign: temperament, base negativity, Palin, etc.

After the press conference was over, I switched to Fox News to see how the folks at Fox and Friends Sunday were reacting. In short: They were pissed. They washed their hands of Powell, blamed him for the war, claimed half of his criticism of McCain campaign and the Republican party of late were simply not true, and could generally not be bothered to hide their contempt. Still, there was no reference (that I heard) to a Powell endorsement of Obama being a non story based around the issue of it being little more than a black guy endorsing the black candidate.

I knew it was coming. I just wondered how long it would take. Leave it to Drudge. Now this is a man who understands the power of an ironic banner. "Powell for Obama: It's Not About Race." Nice.

In case you missed the point, Matt links to a piece quoting Powell speaking to students that an African-American president would be electrifying. Nice. Alas, if you still miss the point, Drudge has removed the pic of Powell on stage with two hip-hop stars that he's been running for the past couple of days. Lame.

I don't know whether or not this is going to be a big endorsement. I don't even know what qualifies as a big endorsement anymore. If even such a thing exists. I tend to think a lot of people will consider this a Dog Bites Man story. He's another 73 year old black man voting for the black guy for president.

I remember all of those Hillary supporters claiming Oprah had sold out sisterhood for race. In the end, a lot of white people are going to respond to Powell as they've always responded to Powell, like he's a black guy. For decades, he's been the black guy they want all black guys to be: "well spoken," patriotic, Republican. Hell, his was the hypothetical face they'd imagine when telling pollsters that they would vote for a black man. He was for many Republicans what Barack Obama was for Democrats two years ago: the black guy who they said they'd vote for, but hoped to never have the chance. Today, for many of those same people, I think he's beginning to look like just another black guy.

Update: Limbaugh goes further than Drudge, but maintains some level of playful innuendo. Douche.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Voting Early

My parents just got back from voting. Good for them. It's not that they wouldn't have voted anyway, but if the general idea is to get more people to participate in the process, allowing for people to vote before election day is crucial to higher turnout. Not only does it ease the process for people for whom it would be difficult to make it to the polls on November 4, it also ensures that lines will be shorter on election day and fewer people will be scared away by an impossibly long wait.

They say the whole thing was kind of anti-climactic.

With her vote, my mother has determined herself to become more involved from this point onward. They took food to one of the local Obama headquarters, and now there's an Obama sign in the front lawn. This is a nice step forward for her. It sort of signals that she, a long time and avid supporter of John Edwards (who insisted two weeks after the sex scandal broke that Edwards was still the most electable Democrat), is beginning to come around in her support for Obama.

I guess this is what unity looks like.

A question.

Am I leaning too heavily on You Tube clips?

I like you better when you're funny

I was going to talk about the debate, but honestly, it's all been said before. It was actually the better debate of the three, but I think the result was essentially the same, and therefore unnecessary to speak about.

Twenty-four hours after the third and final debate, the two candidates were telling jokes in white ties and tails. For anybody who didn't see it, it was actually pretty funny. Both candidates were given good material to work with.

Humorous self deprication is generally an effective trope, and last night was one of those nights where America was treated to the reminder that this campaign could have been a lot more civil than it has been.

Since the whole thing was an illusion, I guess it's fitting that they were dressed as magicians. Still, here's the video.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


This ad apparently ran somewhere after the debate last night (which I'll probably get around to saying something about sooner or later). I honestly don't know what to think about it. I don't know how effective this sort of thing is. It's definitely more effective than anything MoveOn has ever done. Still, I don't know.


As far as I can tell, it has nothing to do with Jesus Christ or venereal disease. It does seem something like a love letter to the boyhood me, but I've been burned by that before. It is this trailer for which you can blame the Road House post.

A polar bear fell on me

Initially, this was going to be a long post about how my relationship with movies has been waning. What’s probably one of my best and worst habits when it comes to writing is my tendency to over-contextualize. Even as I write this, I feel myself falling into a hole. Basically, the end game to the whole piece was going to be that Rambo was awesome and that The Dark Knight sucked. I was going to tie that to something I saw the other day, but that was going to be the payoff to the whole piece.

Somewhere along the line, I decided that it was not going to be a terribly satisfying payoff, so I cut that one short. Still, in abandoning it, I cannot abandon the post’s message, so let me say it again for good measure: Rambo was awesome. The Dark Knight sucked.

Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, here’s something related, but different.


A couple years ago, I was at an art opening for a painter I know. In the interest of people’s feelings and in the faint possibility that this artist has been directed to this web log, I’m going to be a little vague with regard to this artist’s identity.

(Note: My use of the pronoun ‘he’ does not necessarily reflect the artist’s gender; it reflects my desire to not use the crude ‘s/he’ or the distractingly plural ‘they.’)

Anyway, I was at this gallery in the city. A painter I know sort of casually, had a solo show. I remember it being kind of hot, so it must have been either late spring or early fall (I guess that’s a clue for all of you painters out there, did you have a show in the late spring or early fall a few years back???). To put it mildly, I was underwhelmed. The work was well executed, but impressively and unintentionally superficial.

I guess it’s important to say that I don’t really like openings. They’re cramped; packed with people you don’t know or, a lot of times, wish you didn’t know. In the end, they’re parties that are less about art and more about networking. People blow a lot smoke up people’s asses. There’s usually free booze though, so…

Depending on the type of mood you’re in, they can be a pretty good time or they can be a claustrophobic nightmare. I remember it being hot, and I think it’s important that it was hot because it helps to explain my reaction to the whole event. I wasn’t there for long. The whole process took maybe ten minutes, and for most of that time, I was outside the gallery which (another hint!!!) was at street level.

It was crowded, and it was hot. I did a quick and quiet scan of the space. I did the respectful thing you do even when you know the work is terrible: I looked at every painting, and tried to think of some moment somewhere in one of the paintings to compliment when I talked to the artist. I couldn’t come up with anything, so I decided to do the next best thing: I listened to see if the people around me were saying anything that I could steal as my own.
A fool’s errand. While there was no mistaking their reaction to the work—they were spellbound—none of them offered the most remote or helpful reason to like the work. It was all “It looks just like a photo!” or “So beautiful!” or some other meaningless platitude that I wasn’t going to get caught stealing to save my life, let alone blow smoke up a person’s ass whom I barely knew and who was unlikely to help me in the future.

It’s important for me to say that I don’t like most art. I don’t go to shows expecting to like the work. Good art is a wonderful surprise, but I don’t let bad art piss me off or affect me in any visceral way. I’m genuinely happy for an artist when he is given the opportunity to show, and while I didn’t know this artist particularly well, I went into the show knowing exactly what to expect, and was absolutely prepared to be supportive of his lifeless art. But somewhere, somehow, and for some reason, something inside me changed.

I don’t know whether it was the heat, or the work, or the people’s reaction to the work, but I began to feel myself losing control. I was angry. I was angry at the work. I was angry at the people. I was angry at my friends for not being there to calm me down. I was angry at myself for not making marketable work, and for living in New York, and for coming to shows where I would be forced to talk to bad painters living off of their rich girlfriends, worse painters living off of their bad art.

I guess I was having an anxiety attack. I would see a friend of mine talking to somebody else, and would go up to them and sit, speechless. All the time thinking, “What the hell am I doing here? I hate these people. Why isn’t anybody asking me what’s wrong? What’s wrong with me? What’s wrong with them? Mother fuckers.”

Now, I’m not an angry drunk, but I wasn’t even drinking.

Anyway, the whole spectacle lasted no more than twenty minutes and I was gone. I was still in control enough that I knew when the evening was unsalvageable, and that no after-party was going to pull me back from the abyss. So I left. I breached etiquette and didn’t say hello to the artist, didn’t congratulate him on a job well done, didn’t sign the guestbook. I left.

But it didn’t end there. I walked to the subway; waited at the platform; took the train; transferred at 14th street; and headed back to Brooklyn, and the entire time, I was flipping out. Gone. Like I was Superman looking for some missile destruct device in a lead box full of Kryptonite; only I wasn’t looking for a missile destruct device. I was just looking for a free glass of wine.

When I got home, I wasn’t much better. Sarah was there. She had expected me to be gone until late, and it was barely dark yet. I still couldn’t bring myself to talk more than a few syllables. I walked past Sarah and into the bedroom. I expected to just fall asleep, but I turned on the television instead. Sometimes you make the best decisions when you’re not even trying.

The channel: TNT.

The Scene: A bar with rowdy clientele and a stage on which a rhythm and blues band plays behind a chain link fence. The singer, a white boy with the soul of a black man. He’s blind, but you get the feeling that he sees life a little clearer than anyone else. He plays a slide guitar, and sings Little Richard numbers while beer bottles break against the steel cage around the stage. The bouncer is Terry Funk! Keith David keeps the place stocked with whiskey. It’s a violent place to be sure, but the kind of place you feel could get cleaned up if they could only find somebody with the right attitude and experience (even if that experience involved ripping a man’s throat out in “self-defense.”)

The place is a powder keg ready to explode, and in he walks. “The name is Dalton.”

It was like coming up for air. No, it was like a polar bear fell on me, in a good way. Literally, everything I had been feeling fell away. Sometimes, in life, you’re going to feel a little pain, but in the end, pain don’t hurt. And Nobody ever wins a fight.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

An important distinction

Voter fraud takes place at the polls. It doesn't need to be widespread to be serious.

Voter registration fraud takes place long before the vote. It occurs when fictional or ineligible people attempt to register. In order for this to be a problem of any significance, Mickey Mouse would not only have to make it on the voter rolls, but also make it to the polls to vote. That would be voter fraud. Short of that occurring, voter registration fraud is something akin to a prank phone call.

Fox News and the McCain campaign are trying to say that wide-spread voter fraud is occurring exactly three weeks to the day before the wide-spread opening of the polls.

BTW: This is being brought up to justify voter suppression which is, because it is a direct violation of the civil rights of the individual, as great, if not a greater betrayal of the ideals of democracy than voter fraud.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Paul Krugman

Here's Paul Krugman's August 8, 2005 column on what he worried was a looming housing crisis: That Hissing Sound.

Here's a blog posting from the same day in 2005, written by John Hinderaker, a fellow at the Claremont Institute who writes for the National Review, in which he openly mocks Krugman's contention that there was a housing bubble and a crisis at the horizon: That Hissing Sound is Krugman.

Can you guess which one of the two of these guys just won the Nobel Prize for Economics?

The hunt.

Sarah doesn't think I'm looking hard enough for a job. Or, she's afraid that I'm not. Never one to give myself the benefit of the doubt, I think it's kind of a fair assumption. I mean, I am sending out a bunch of resumes on a daily basis. Monday is not a good day, generally speaking, but I make up for it by the end of the week.

I do have a bit of a motivational problem. I've discussed before how the hunt has been going, and there are no major shifts either positive or negative. I've gotten a bunch of responses, but all but one of them were for fake jobs. The outlier may or may not have involved a job, but it definitely involved a strap-on, so it was not without its own drawbacks.

In the end, I got here in mid-August. Two months is not that long when you think about it. As the hunt goes on, I will keep you all abreast of any new developments.

Christopher Hitchens

An endorsement.

William Kristol

A New Week; An Entirely New Campaign?

Is this sort of thing allowed? Not that I am displeased with the shift away from race baiting, but how many times can a candidate make top-to-bottom changes to his campaign and message before the entire country begins to consider him completely unsure about why or whether he wants to be president in the first place?

For a guy who spent all of last week asking who his opponent was, John McCain is up this morning with an entirely new explanation of who he is and why we should vote for him. It has something to do with comebacks and drapes.

BTW: The day after the debate last week, I was certain the new argument, when it came, would have something to do with divided government. Something akin to: "Remember how inept we were when we had control of the Congress and the White House? Do you really want the Democrats to have the same unchecked power we brilliantly misused? I didn't think so."

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Enough with all of that.

I don't know what that last post was all about. It was one of those grand ideas that seemed to get smaller with the execution. At any rate, I'm tired of talking about race and politics. Hopefully most of what's on my mind this week will have little to do with either.

I'll leave the last word on the matter to this guy.

Of Monkeys and Men

In the summer of 2006, Sarah was pregnant for the first time. Nate had a name and a face, but we only knew one of them. We wouldn't know his face or his voice until August. It seems like an impossibly long time ago.

It was a hot summer in New York. In the weeks before Nate would be born, the threat of brown outs loomed, and Sarah and I both somehow found a way to stop taking the subway during the morning rush while keeping our jobs. It wasn't just the crowd, it was the reasonable fear that the subway would lose power and that Sarah would find herself eight months pregnant and trapped on a crowded subway somewhere beneath the East River with temperatures underground exceeding 100 degrees.

It was a brutal time.

I'm reminded of that summer now and again. Sarah is 33 weeks into her second pregnancy. We know the name of the little girl in her belly, but her face (4d ultrasound notwithstanding) and voice are still a mystery. Today it feels more like autumn than it ever did during the summer of 2006, but this morning I saw something that brought me back to a specific day, two years and a few months ago.

It was early summer. The heatwave that began in late July and dragged throughout the month of August had not yet begun, but it was summer in New York, and it was hot, and it was unpleasant. Still, it wasn't unbearable, and Sarah and I were looking for memorable moments of that time somewhere between duet and trio. That day, we were at the Central Park Zoo.

The zoo, not that one in particular, but zoos in general have always played a role in our lives. We both like zoos. We have no qualms about liking zoos, and think people who hate zoos are of bad moral fiber. She actually worked at a zoo and interned at the Duke Primate Center (not exactly a zoo) while we were in college, and if she had her druthers, I think that's something she'd be pleased to spend the rest of her life doing. None of this is important except to drive home the point I've already stated, that we like zoos.

The Central Park Zoo is at the southeast corner of the park, it's small, and regardless of what you may have seen in the movies, there are no lions, giraffes, hippos, or zebras (though there are penguins). It's cute though, and it's an inexpensive and fine way to spend an afternoon.

The basic layout of the place is something like I imagine zoos being thirty or forty years ago. Like the zoo in Rocky II or the one in The Graduate: unapologetically artificial. It's all concrete and open. The enclosures are not cages like they definitely would have been decades ago, but there's nothing about them that seem designed to create the illusion of a natural environment.

Maybe I'm a sucker for primates, but the best exhibit in the entire place is the Macaques. It's the largest enclosure in the zoo: a big rocky tree hill in the center of a little pond on which a whole community of little macaques spend their days sleeping, grooming, and playing. It's clearly the centerpiece of the entire zoo, and I've rarely been there when the monkeys weren't doing something interesting. But again, I'm a sucker for primates, and I find friendly grooming to be fascinating.

On this day, with Sarah seven or eight months pregnant, what caught my attention was a child macaque playing near the water's edge. He grabbed (with his foot) a branch that grew out over the water, so that he could use both hands to reach for wood chips, or leaves, or whatever was floating near the drop off. He seemed neither confident nor cavalier. He was just being a kid, I guess, and as I watched him, I felt myself becoming a father. I knew he was going to fall in, and I had no way to stop it.

Now, I think macaques, Japanese Macaques anyway, may be the only species of primate (besides humans) that can swim. I may be wrong about that, but my mind is full of all sorts of images of Japanese Snow Macaques swimming in the hot springs, so I know some Macaques can swim. I don't know whether the behavior is learned or inherent. Nor do I know whether the African Macaque shares its cousin's ability to swim, so as I watched this monkey playing precariously at the drop off, I believed with some certainty that I might be about to witness a monkey drown.

But that didn't happen. What happened was the little monkey catching the eye of one of Central Park's ugly geese, a mammoth white bird with barnacled red face. A territorial dispute was in the making, and the little guy stretching over the water was apparently too much of an affront for the goose to bare.

The goose swam at steady pace directly at the little monkey, displaying his wings, baring his tongue and making a sound recognizeable to most small children who've thrown a little too much bread to the ducks and not quite enough to the geese: Hisssthsssss!

Keep in mind, the goose probably outweighs the monkey five or six to one; he's huge, and the monkey is tiny. Either out of instinct or force of habit, the little monkey retreats to solid ground, but the goose is unsatisfied. He speeds towards the shore, now flapping his wings wildly. And a moment after I had worried about seeing the child drown, I fairly confident that I was about to watch him be manhandled by a bird. Luckily for the little monkey, I wasn't the only one watching.

It happened so quickly that the visuals are something of a blur. But I remember the screaming. The island was not the home to one monkey, but many, and as the bird approached shore, two adolescent monkeys arrived, but the screams were bigger than them. They seemed to come from everywhere. One monkey became three, which became five, then eight, all jumping and screaming like australopithcines stumbling upon an obelisk. The goose continued to display, but stopped short of stepping on shore.

He should have stopped a little shorter than that.

Monkeys, I've always sort of known, but learned without a doubt that day, run a lot faster than a goose can swim. Another thing I learned, which I'd already known, was that you do not mess with the little monkey when his daddy is nearby. Alpha monkey, still probably outweighed by the goose two-to-one, tears to the front of the pack, gets his feet wet, in one hand he grabs the branch the little one had been using for support, with the other hand, he grabs the goose by the breast, and he began to pull.

That was when Sarah turned her head.

Nobody died that day. Nobody at that zoo anyway. The goose, the bully, was easily overpowered by the considerably smaller (but stringy) monkey, and had the monkey truly wanted to, he could've dispensed with that bird in seconds. But that didn't happen. The bird was pulled halfway onto the island before the monkey let go. The goose swam back to his mate at the far side of the pond, and a patch of white feathers drifted off in another direction.

And that was it. The single most wonderful and horrible thing I've ever witnessed at a zoo. A clash of cultures. A clash of continents. A real life version of Animal Face-Off that, while its outcome could never truly be in doubt, was exhilarating nonetheless because it was at once impossible yet happening before my eyes.

It brought Sarah to tears. It was too much for her. Not because she was pregnant, or not entirely; it was very nearly too much for me. Nearly, but not quite. I couldn't shake the feeling that I was lucky to be there. To have witnessed it. At any rate, it was a moment that will forever stay with me. For better or worse, it's one of a handful of memories from the Nate pregnancy that is forever burned into my psyche.


Nate was born on August 11, 2006.

Something else happened that day. George Allen who was, at the time, the junior United States Senator from the commonwealth of Virginia was having an outdoor rally in Breaks, near the Kentucky border. Allen's opponent, Democrat Jim Webb had a supporter in the crowd. The Webb supporter, an Indian American named S.R. Sidarth, was recording the rally for opposition purposes.

Allen recognised Sidarth, one of (if not the) only non-white face in an Appalachian Virginia crowd, as someone who worked for Webb. Given the choice between making note of his presence or ignoring it, Allen chose the former. It was without a doubt the beginning of the end of his senate career and what many considered a bright political future.

Here's what he said:

"This fellow here over here with the yellow shirt, Macaca, or whatever his name is. He's with my opponent... Let's give a welcome to Macaca, here. Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia."

You know what happened next. It's sort of a bellwether moment for YouTube and for the Internet as a political tool. Some people, journalists in particular, felt the need to give Allen the benefit of the doubt. That is to say that it's unclear whether he called the lone brown face in a sea of white a monkey. After all, a Macaque is a monkey. Macaca isn't really anything, right?

Actually, that's not right. "Macaca" is the genus to which all species of macaques belong. I actually didn't know that at the time, but I did know that he was calling him a monkey. There was part of me at the time, and part of me still that wonder whether he knew he was calling Mr. Sidarth a monkey. It could easily have been an inherited racial slur passed down from an older generation whose meaning was somewhat hazy for the good senator. What didn't cross my mind then and what seems inconceivable to me today is that he didn't recognize it as a slur or, more specifically, a racial slur. And that's important. He singled out a brown face in a crowd of white people and ridiculed him in a way he felt they would understand.

Did he mean to call him a monkey? Maybe not. Did he call him a monkey? You're god dammed right he did. And in the end, everybody knew it. Or if they didn't know that, they knew that he called him something he would not have called the sole white face in a sea of brown people. And really, that's all they needed to know.


I was reminded of both of these stories today when I saw this:

Earlier in the year, Rush Limbaugh got a call from a woman who thought it was hilarious that her daughter thought Barack Obama looked like Curious George. Limbaugh laughed initially, but apologized later, claiming he'd never heard of the beloved cartoon monkey whose been in print since the early 1940s. Limbaugh, racist or not, knows one thing for certain, you don't call a black person a monkey or laugh at another person making the characterization. Or, you may do those things, but not in mixed company.

I don't know whether George Allen is a racist. I do know that he peddles in racial slurs to ridicule people of color when he is among white folk. I know this because there's video of him doing it. I have no idea whether or not either John McCain or Sarah Palin are racists. My assumption is that at least one of them is not. Still, this is who they're attracting. These are not simply the votes they want, they are the votes they need to have any chance at being elected in November.

And some of these people are unapologetic racists. These are people who flaunt their racism. And they may be the only people still excited about a John McCain candidacy. As disappointed as I've been with the tone of the last few weeks, I can only imagine the shame John McCain must feel today. This is who he has left. It's most definitely a bed of his own making, but he clearly didn't mean for this to happen. Not in this way.

When Photo Ops Go Bad

The McCain campaign has spent the last week having to wrestle the storyline away from its own crowds. The problem seems to be spreading.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Amphibian DNA

This, from Nathan Thornburgh at Time, is pretty similar to my take away from this whole Troopergate thing. Two word synopsis: Amateur Hour.

Money quote:

"[T]he Branchflower report still makes for good reading, if only because it convincingly answers a question nobody had even thought to ask: Is the Palin administration shockingly amateurish? Yes, it is. Disturbingly so. The 263 pages of the report show a coordinated application of pressure on Monegan so transparent and ham-handed that it was almost certain to end in public embarrassment for the governor."

Putting aside for a moment the very real and serious questions this raises (or, rather answers) with regard to the nature of Sarah Palin's respect for ethics and honesty, it also displays a simple incompetence from an administrative perspective that seems to have been, to this point, somewhat overlooked.

The Democratic line for so long has been that John McCain was a third Bush term, that he was McSame as Bush and so on. Like he was, let's say, a clone of Bush made from the blood harvested from a prehistoric mosquito perfectly preserved in amber.

The only problem with cloning somebody using blood harvested from a mosquito frozen in amber is that you're going to have to overcome some degradation in the genetic code. In layman's terms, there are going to be some holes that need filling. This probably accounts for why a hypothetical McCain presidency has never really felt to me like a third term of George W. Bush. The code was simply incomplete, and if you're looking to patch some holes in an oil/baseball man's genetic code, where is a good place to start? That's right: A hockey mom from Alaska!

The rest is hardly Nucular Physics; it's basically cloning 101. Further explained here.

Things to do in Georgia

In the last two weeks, Sarah and I have taken Nate to a dairy,an apple orchard, and a pumpkin patch. We're quickly running out of places to go where we can be reasonably certain to find a petting zoo.

For a kid who's spent so much of his first two years living in New York City, Nate is making up for lost time in the country. I lived my first twenty-two years in Georgia and North Carolina, but he's quickly gaining on me in things that apparently qualify as southern living.

Pictures for your enjoyment. Notice that Nate is experimenting with a new fake smile. I challenge one and all, if you think yourself capable of making a kid half as cute as mine, give it a try. I dare you.

Friday, October 10, 2008

A Classless Society

On the day Barack Obama gave his speech at the Democratic National Convention a lot was being made of a secret advertisement John McCain had purchased time to run directly after the speech. The McCain campaign was describing it as the first of its kind. A lot of Democrats feared that it would be the announcement of John McCain's VP pick. I had a different idea.

My feeling was that announcing the vice presidential pick would be seen as a silly and disrespectful tactic. It was the 45th anniversary of the March on Washington, and the first African American in United States history was accepting the nomination of a major party for the presidency. What kind of a douche would try and step on the historical significance of that achievement on that night?

As I told Sarah that day, I thought it would be a brilliant idea to use the moment to congratulate Obama and to personally recognise the history of the moment. Such an announcement would signal an end to what had been a fairly small and trite summer campaign, and a beginning to the dignified campaign both candidates had promised in the primary.

I'm not telling this story to brag about my foresight. In the end, though, what I thought he should do is exactly what he did do. He put aside all of the celebrity taunts he and his campaign had been spewing for weeks, and offered a singular note of congratulations to his opponent.

I bring this up to make a single point: It was the last classy move that's come out of John McCain's campaign.

Since then:

  • The next day, he announced his selection for VP: A female governor of a tiny (population-wise) state, who'd been elected only 20 months before, whom he'd met for the first and only time this year, and with whom he'd only carried on one telephone conversation before offering her the job.
  • He spent much of the next week trying to figure out how to exploit for political purposes what could have been, but turned out not to be, the catastrophic hurricane in New Orleans on the third year anniversary of Katrina.
  • The day after devoting a night of his convention to national service, he allowed Giuliani and Palin to openly mock community service.
  • After Obama likened placing the change label on generic Republican policies to "putting lipstick on a pig," the McCain campaign insisted that Obama was openly calling Palin a pig.
  • When asked directly about whether McCain thought Obama was calling her a pig, McCain said no, but that he did imply it.
  • The campaign released an ad stating that, by supporting a piece of legislation calling for comprehensive sex education that included teaching kindergartners how to avoid sexual predators, Obama, the father of two young girls, wanted to teach children about sex before teaching them to read.
  • After speaking with Obama and agreeing to release a joint-statement regarding the economic crisis and bailout plan, John McCain sabotaged that effort, went on television by himself and made the dubious claim that he was suspending his campaign until a deal was reached (paid campaign surrogates continued to criticize Barack Obama on television while during the so-called suspension, also during that period, thousands of McCain ads ran, and no deal was reached by the time McCain returned to the trail).
  • John McCain spent an hour an a half standing on the same stage with Barack Obama without addressing him directly or so much as looking in his eye.
  • Twice in the last week, people introducing Sarah Palin have referred to Obama as Barack Hussein Obama. The fact that this has begun to happen again at the exact moment Palin's begun to refer to Obama as somebody who pals around with terrorists, we're supposed to accept as coincidence.
  • "That One."

That happened. It all began the day after John McCain recognised the nomination of Obama as a good day for America. To make a long story short (too late), he's not saying that anymore.

At the same time that the tenor of the McCain campaign has made it's most recent and most drastic turn into the muck, a nice companion story has begun to emerge. Much is being made, for good reason, of the crowds gathering at McCain/Palin events. They've quite rightly been referred to as angry mobs. They dutifully connect the dots of "Hussein" and "palling around with terrorists" and the picture they get is the one intended:

They call him a terrorist. And they don't mean it ironically. They actually believe he's a terrorist. They believe that's even a possibility. Hell, I have family who honestly believe he's the Anti-Christ.

People coming to these events believe that Obama wants to do this country harm! And what do we do, I ask, with somebody who wants to do our country harm? The answer.

John McCain cannot be blamed for every word uttered by the folks that show up to hear his running mate speak (and file for the exit when he's introduced). That being said, this shit is going on. He knows it's going on. And, to this point, he's remained silent.

I understand that he's given up on class. That's fine. But it's high time that the man who uses the word "honorable" at least as often as he uses the word "maverick" began to remind the American people that he was once a man who valued honor as something more than an empty form of self-aggrandizement.

That is, assuming, the McCain brand was ever something more than just effective branding.

Update 1: This could be a good start. Again, you can only hold the man responsible for what he and his campaign say or do. While I certainly believe McCain and his campaign are responsible for the tone they've established of the last week, it's also true that a lot of foolish people are going to support him. That may indeed, be all he has left. Still, at the very least, he has the responsibility to set an example. Be a leader, if you will.

Update 2: I'm a little less impressed with the above given the talking points they were working with just hours before the candidate's supporters forced him into walking back the entire past week.

Update 3: Also from earlier in the afternoon, the McCain campaign has begun to direct their innuendo at Michelle Obama. Something tells me the Ayers and terrorist references are not going away.