Friday, October 31, 2008

Studs Terkel Dies

It's kind of a shame, because I think Studs would have been tickled to wake up next Wednesday and find the nation had elected not only a fella named Barack Obama, but a Chicagoan as well.

I guess that he, and we, will never know.

Chicago Tribune - Chicago Sun-Times - New York Times - Los Angeles Times - Washington Post - Roger Ebert

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Colin Powell Endorses Barack Obama

I thought that the Chicago Tribune's endorsement of Barack Obama was a big deal. The first Democrat endorsed by the newspaper in its 160+ year history.

But then there was a hubbub of anticipation over Colin Powell's appearance on "Meet the Press" this morning. I didn't think that he'd do anything either way. He'd hint and suggest, but not do or say anything outright. He's always been a good soldier, a company man, doing his duty and taking his lumps in the way his superiors expected him to. He's a Republican, though, and I thought that he would once again stifle his opinion and thoughts in favor of a larger organization.

But then he actually endorsed Barack Obama for president, in clear and unambiguous terms:

I think I know how the ideologues on the right will counter this. They will do everything they can to remind people that Colin Powell, as Secretary of State, was the one who gave the speech at the United Nations that laid out the Bush administration's case for war with Iraq. He was the one who said that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. And he did. But he didn't do it alone and without the encouragement of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld's DOD, and the CIA.

I find this all interesting because I wonder what the future of the Republican party will be. Is anyone ideologically pure any more?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

I Don't Understand Why the G.O.P. Doesn't Get More of the Black Vote

Why am I not surprised?

A Republican women's club in San Bernardino County sent out a recent newsletter with a photo of Barack Obama surrounded by fried chicken, watermelon and ribs, sparking widespread outrage and rebuke from GOP leaders and Democrats.

The illustration shows the Democratic presidential candidate's head atop a donkey's body on a bogus $10 bill referred to as "Obama Bucks." Inscribed on the money are the words "United States Food Stamps" surrounded by stereotypical African American food.

I think this may be my most favorite line of rationalization today:

[Club president Diane] Fedele said the mailer merely parodied the statements Obama made during a debate last summer and wasn't racist.

"If I was racist, I would have looked at it through racist eyes," she said. "I am not racist, which is why it probably didn't register."

Club member Kristina Sandoval agreed.

"None of us are racists," she said.

The use of watermelon, ribs and fried chicken was innocent, she said.

"Everyone eats those foods, it's not a racial thing."

Jesus, why not just throw a noose in there?

I guess Mrs. Fedele would like to be complimented on the fact that she didn't put a noose in there, showing great restraint and therefore proving that she is most definitely not a racist, despite what the Jew-owned media would have you believe.

Saturday, October 11, 2008


Two articles of interest:

David "The Stupidest Man Writing A Column for the New York Times" Brooks writes in "The Class War Before Palin" about the anti-intellectualism-as-faux-populism strain in the modern Republican campaign and wonders if it hasn't gone too far:

"[O]ver the past few decades, the Republican Party has driven away people who live in cities, in highly educated regions and on the coasts. This expulsion has had many causes. But the big one is this: Republican political tacticians decided to mobilize their coalition with a form of social class warfare. Democrats kept nominating coastal pointy-heads like Michael Dukakis so Republicans attacked coastal pointy-heads.

Over the past 15 years, the same argument has been heard from a thousand politicians and a hundred television and talk-radio jocks. The nation is divided between the wholesome Joe Sixpacks in the heartland and the oversophisticated, overeducated, oversecularized denizens of the coasts.

What had been a disdain for liberal intellectuals slipped into a disdain for the educated class as a whole. The liberals had coastal condescension, so the conservatives developed their own anti-elitism, with mirror-image categories and mirror-image resentments, but with the same corrosive effect.

* * *

This year could have changed things. The G.O.P. had three urbane presidential candidates. But the class-warfare clichés took control. Rudy Giuliani disdained cosmopolitans at the Republican convention. Mitt Romney gave a speech attacking “eastern elites.” (Mitt Romney!) John McCain picked Sarah Palin.

* * *

Once conservatives admired Churchill and Lincoln above all — men from wildly different backgrounds who prepared for leadership through constant reading, historical understanding and sophisticated thinking. Now those attributes bow down before the common touch.

And so, politically, the G.O.P. is squeezed at both ends. The party is losing the working class by sins of omission — because it has not developed policies to address economic anxiety. It has lost the educated class by sins of commission — by telling members of that class to go away.

And in the New Yorker, James Wood writes "Verbage: The Republican war on words":

In recent elections, the Republican hate word has been “liberal,” or “Massachusetts,” or “Gore.” In this election, it has increasingly been “words.” Barack Obama has been denounced again and again as a privileged wordsmith, a man of mere words who has “authored” two books (to use Sarah Palin’s verb), and done little else. The leathery extremist Phyllis Schlafly had this to say, at the Republican Convention, about Palin: “I like her because she’s a woman who’s worked with her hands, which Barack Obama never did, he was just an élitist who worked with words.” The fresher-faced extremist Rick Santorum, a former Republican senator, called Obama “just a person of words,” adding, “Words are everything to him.” The once bipartisan campaign adviser Dick Morris and his wife and co-writer, Eileen McGann, argue that the McCain camp, in true Rovian fashion, is “using the Democrat’s articulateness against him” (along with his education, his popularity, his intelligence, his wife—pretty much everything but his height, though it may come to that). John McCain’s threatened cancellation of the first Presidential debate was the ultimate defiance, by action, of words; sure enough, afterward conservatives manfully disdained Barack Obama’s “book knowledge.” To have seen the mountains of Waziristan with one’s own eyes—that is everything.

Doesn’t this reflect a deep suspicion of language itself? It’s as if Republican practitioners saw words the way Captain Ahab saw “all visible objects”—as “pasteboard masks,” concealing acts and deeds and things—and, like Ahab, were bent on striking through those masks.

* * *

But we all need words, and both campaigns wrestle every day over them. Words are up for grabs: just follow the lipstick traces. For days, the McCain camp accused Obama of likening Governor Palin to a pig, because he likened a retooled political message to a pig with lipstick. Eventually, McCain (who had previously described Senator Hillary Clinton’s health-care plan as a pig with lipstick) was forced to fudge. No, he conceded, Senator Obama had not called Governor Palin a pig, “but I know he chooses his words carefully, and it was the wrong thing to say.” This was instructive, not least because it sounded like implicit praise: maybe I don’t choose my words very carefully, but he does, so he should have chosen them more carefully.

Meanwhile, the campaign that claims to loathe “just words” has proved expert at their manipulation, from reversals of policy to the outright lies of some of its attack ads (“comprehensive sex education”) and the subtle racial innuendo of a phrase like “how disrespectful” (used to accuse Obama of making uppity attacks on Palin). Karl Rove—along with predecessors like Lee Atwater and protégés like Steve Schmidt—long ago showed the Republicans that language is slippery, fluid, a river into which you can dump anything at all as long as your opponent is the one downstream. And, to be fair, those who affect to despise words have been more skillful than their opponents not just at amoral manipulation but at the creation of what Orwell called “a fresh, vivid, home-made turn of speech.” Pit bulls and lipstick stuck for good reason.

* * *

If Obama is the letter (words, fancy diplomas, “authored” books), then the latest representative of the spirit is Sarah Palin. Literary theorists used to say that their most abstruse prose was “writing the difficulty”—that the sentences were tortuous because there was no briskly commonsensical way of representing a complex issue. Sarah Palin, alas, talks the difficulty. She may claim, as she did in last Thursday’s Vice-Presidential debate, that “Americans are cravin’ that straight talk,” but they are sure not going to get it from the Governor—not with her peculiar habit of speaking only half a sentence and then moving on to another for spoliation, that strange, ghostly drifting through the haziest phrases, as if she were cruelly condemned to search endlessly for her linguistic home.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Vice-Presidential Candidates Debate Predictions

I probably won't get a chance to watch or listen to the debate tonight between Joe Biden and Sarah Palin, but here is my prediction, if not of the substance, of the collective media reaction afterwards.

The expectations for Palin are so low at this point, that her ability to stand upright and speak English will be praised and lead to comparisons with Ronald Reagan.* She won't make any major mistakes, but she won't say anything beyond the scripted talking points, either. I've read descriptions of her as having the same presence as a local TV personality, in that she'll hit her mark, smile at the camera, and say the words that someone else has written for her, but that's about it. She can't write the words, she can't fully comprehend the concepts behind them, but she can smile and work a crowd, which she will do in abundance.

Biden will probably make some gaffe, state some small "fact" that is isn't, and will be immediately pounced upon by the right-wing noise machine. He'll make some point a little too forcefully, going for a "You're no Jack Kennedy" moment, but be excoriated for being "mean" to "poor Sarah."**

Above all else, this will be called a "game changer". No one covering the election wants this to be over five weeks before the candidates reach the finish line, so look for high praise for Palin and questions of whether Biden is a drag on the Obama campaign to be raised among the punditry. Obama pulled ahead of McCain in the polls after their first debate, and now the people telling the story want that gap to close, so that there is something to write about. (As soon as that gap closes, and especially if McCain-Palin takes the lead, look for a new tack to keep Obama-Biden in play. Everyone keep watching! You don't know what twist is coming next!)


* The comparison may be apt, but the people who will make it are the ones who like Reagan and believe that he single-handedly ended the Cold War. He said, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall," after all. That every president before him since the Berlin Wall went up said some variation of those words, you wouldn't think it meant that much, but...

** Remember: Hillary Clinton tearing up in an unguarded moment during a rough primary season was a sign that she wasn't capable of playing hardball in the international arena, but anyone asking anything difficult of Palin is just being mean. Maybe Senator Clinton can take Governor Palin at some point and share with her the names she was called for daring to run for high office while possessing lady parts. Of course, most of the people who said that they would never vote for a woman are now calling Palin "inspiring."