October 29, 2008
I just like this song . . . No, seriously, what?
And, for the record: Yes, comparing Sarah Palin to Evita is probably totally sexist.
October 16, 2008
October 13, 2008
With Grave Concerns
Something like 8 of my last 11 posts have been somehow related to the upcoming election. I continue to think that it has the potential to be one of the most important elections in a generation. I'm a little uncertain of employing that kind of rhetoric without qualifications. Many elections, even recent ones, have had that same potential, and this one may or may not live up to the possibilities. I posted a few months ago about what made this election so different, and that was even before McCain added Gov. Palin to his ticket.
I don't remember whether I ever mentioned this on my blog or not, but I was pretty happy with the state of the election back when McCain had won the Republican nomination and then Obama finally edged Clinton out of the Democratic ring. It seemed like a uniformly hopeful election to me. In light of the past two elections, and the ugliness of the pre-primary playing field, things seemed to have turned out rather well. In a country that has seemed increasingly polarized between red and blue, both candidates felt like relatively healthy shades of purple.
McCain was the moderate Republican, the one who avoided the Coulter-esque rhetoric of his party, unlike Giuliani or Romney or the current presidential administration. Obama wasn't Hillary (though I may be damning him with faint praise there), and, what's more, he was (and remains) an inspiring figure to an enormous segment of the population.
Then, somewhere between Hillary's defeat and the Republican National Convention, McCain lost his way. I don't really know when or how it happened, but at this point I think it is pretty undeniable that he has lost sight of the principles he started with as he felt the presidency slipping through his fingers. In those intervening months, McCain (and especially his slimy running mate) has turned increasingly to mudslinging tactics, extreme jingoistic rhetoric, and preying upon the emotional fragility of the voting public. And it's not all McCain's doing, either. Despicable e-mail forwards crowd my inbox, and the pile grows every day: a frightening smoke-screen of manipulative lies perpetrated by the conservative base. The election has turned ugly.
I don't really have enough experience to comment definitively on the precedent for the sort of things that are happening at McCain campaign rallies (as detailed in the above stories). However, I would venture to say that there is a level of fear and anger among conservative voters that has not been seen in a long time, perhaps even since the 1960s. If you're paying attention to the news, you're probably thinking now of the comments by John Lewis (which McCain has criticized so shrilly). McCain's outrage aside (and, really, how else can he respond?) I think Lewis has a valid observation.
I should pause for a moment and applaud McCain for standing up to his own constituency and counseling calm respect and sanity towards his opponent. That's a glimpse of the McCain that I liked a few months ago. Still, when his campaign, including his running mate, are so busily whipping up a frenzy with crap like this Ayers terrorism connection, what does he expect? If he can somehow calm the angry white vote during the next few weeks, that will be a real feat of leadership.
No matter who wins the election next month, there are going to be whole demographics of angry voters who will suddenly feel very marginalized and threatened, and I think we should be ready to see them lash out when that happens. If (and I am still tempted to say "when") Obama wins, those voters will largely be white, conservative, perhaps Christian Americans who have been fed a pack of possibly the most irresponsible falsehoods ever spread about a candidate. These are people who do not understand anyone who is different from themselves, and who are afraid that their president may be a terrorist and a foreigner who wants to take away their freedoms (in the form of things like guns and religion) and maybe even ultimately their lives.
Understand here that I am not necessarily speaking of anyone that I know, or know of, or have encountered. I'm talking about the people at these McCain rallies who read somewhere that Obama is an Arab, and who are shouting out things like "terrorist" and "kill him." What worries me, though, is that they are not as much on the fringe as they ought to be. After all, I am getting some of these e-mail forwards from people I know, even people who should know better. I am hearing some unwarranted fear and hatred in gatherings with Christian friends. Above all, there is a genuine (and misguided) shock that the Obama these people think they have pegged (a man who does not, in fact, exist) is days away from cinching the presidency.
I understand the source of a lot of these emotions, and some of the criticism I hear is not unfounded, certainly. But the irrational, baseless fear of Obama is strong, and it is undeniably a product of some combination of ignorance and blind prejudice of a sort that I have not seen directed at any presidential candidate in my lifetime . . . even Clinton at the height of the Lewinsky scandal.
Despite these strong, raw emotions, I believe that Obama will still win this election, possibly even by a margin larger than any we have seen in 10-20 years. However, if he doesn't, that, too, will prompt a reaction. I think that an Obama loss will prompt outrage among certain segments of the black community, and a dull disillusionment among the more idealistic liberals (like the reaction to Gore's loss in 2000, but stronger). Because a McCain win would resemble a punch to the gut for those on the left, while an Obama win might be characterized more as witnessing a sacrilege, it is possible that the response of Obama supporters might be more muted if they lose. However, it would be unwise (though, at this point, politically correct) to overlook the volatile role that race may still have to play in these proceedings. I'm just saying.
If I seem more concerned about behavior from the McCain camp, it is for three reasons: First, the possibility of a volatile reaction to an Obama loss has bee floating around for quite some time now, while I think anger and fear about an Obama win has only reached a fever pitch within the past few weeks. Second, as I keep saying, I really feel like a McCain loss is the overwhelming likelihood at this point. Third, until he cinched the nomination, McCain was not viewed with a great deal of sympathy by the right. There have got to be a lot of people, at this point, who are voting against Obama, and because that is the case, McCain may not have a lot of "pull" when he tries to allay the fear and prejudice of those voters. In any case, I hope both candidates will be working overtime, both in the days leading up to and the days following the election, to calm the voters down regardless of the outcome.
Also, I hope that nobody I know, at least, is voting for McCain because they are afraid of Obama, or because they are afraid of those who are. The former is foolish, and the latter is perfidious. Do what you think is right, certainly, but don't do it for the wrong reasons.
October 06, 2008
Gee Golly Gosh Darn It, Dontchaknow
After discussing my mode of discourse about Sarah Palin, I decided I really wanted to go back and take a closer look at her discourse. I'm sitting here, a few days later, feeling fairly calm and collected. I've got a debate transcript from CNN in front of me, and I've pulled a portion for examination, which I then tweaked for accuracy against the video of the debate on YouTube. There were lots of excerpts I could have selected, certainly, but I settled on this one. I have checked it several times, but if you want to see the excerpt yourself, I've included the video at the bottom of the post. The piece in question runs from about 1:10:05 to 1:11:36. I recommend watching, just so you can absorb the full effect of her vacuous, backwoodsy perkiness.
What I'd like to basically do is walk through the segment in its entirety. This portion (like most of what she had to say) is filled with fragments, run-ons, awkward phraseology, tangents and disconnected ideas. In it, she latches onto a single word spoken by Biden, and uses it to springboard into a totally irrelevant topic. She runs with it, but flounders twice into irrelevancies. Once she does get back on track, she still manages not to say anything. In short, it is the perfect demonstration, in miniature, of Sarah Palin's mental bankruptcy and the source of my disgust.
For context, the moderator had questioned the candidates about what their presidency might look like if anything were to happen to their running mates after the election. Biden answered first, and explained the Obama policies he would follow and why. Palin went next and ended her answer with a dig at Obama's economic policies (which was, at best, questionable). Biden quickly jumped back in with an indictment of the results of Bush administration policies, and drew the all-important link between Bush and McCain. The important quote, coming about halfway through his remarks, is this: "[...] ask them whether there's a single major initiative that John McCain differs with the president on. On taxes, on Iraq, on Afghanistan, on the whole question of how to help education, on the dealing with health care."
Aww, say it ain't so, Joe. There you go again pointing backwards again though. You prefaced your whole comment with the Bush administration. Now doggone it, let's look ahead and tell Americans what we have to plan to do for them in the future. You mentioned education and I'm glad that you did. I know that education you are passionate about and with your wife being a teacher for 30 years, and God bless her, her reward is in heaven, right? Um, I say, too, with education, America needs to be putting a lot more focus on that and our schools have got to be really ramped up in terms of the funding that they are deserving. Teachers needed to be paid more. I come from a house full of school teachers. My grandma was, my dad who is in the audience today, he's a schoolteacher, had been for many years. My brother, who I think is the best schoolteacher in the year, and here's a shout-out to all those third graders at Gladys Wood Elementary School, you get extra credit for watchin' this debate.
Education in American has been in some senses some of our states just accepted to be a little bit lax and we have got to increase the standards. No Child Left Behind was implemented. It's not doin' the job though. We need flexibility in No Child Left Behind. We need to put more of an emphasis on the profession of teaching. We need to make sure that education in either one of our agendas, I think, absolute top of the line. My kids as public school participants right now, it's near and dear to my heart. I'm very, very concerned about where we're goin' in education and we have got to ramp it up and put more attention in that arena.
She chuckles her way amiably through the first few sentences, prefacing a deflection that everyone can see coming a mile away. "Doggone it," she just wants us all to forget about what a mess the last eight years have created and how closely aligned her running mate is with the leader that brought us here. Well should she want to just laugh Biden's comments off and then ignore them. President Bush's approval rating last month was at 19%, a record low. That's lower than Truman's during the Korean War, lower than Carter's during the Iran Hostage Crisis, and even lower than Nixon's during Watergate. To honestly acknowledge the accuracy of Biden's observation (which you'll notice she does not deny) would be political death. Instead, Palin grabs ahold of the lifeline Biden has unwittingly tossed her: An in into a topic she actually thinks she knows something about.
You mentioned education and I'm glad that you did. I know that education you are passionate about and with your wife being a teacher for 30 years, and God bless her, her reward is in heaven, right?
Oh, I'll bet she's glad. I will forever wonder what she would have come up with if he hadn't mentioned it. Still, she derails herself almost immediately in an attempt to form a sentence that reminds me of watching a hamster scrabble at the walls of its aquarium without gaining any purchase. It tries to go in three directions at once, loses track of its syntax, and finally circles around into a rhetorical question.
Um, I say, too, with education, America needs to be putting a lot more focus on that and our schools have got to be really ramped up in terms of the funding that they are deserving.
She starts over again and takes another run at the topic, getting a bit further this time. We've got a crushingly obvious observation, phrased backwards (education, America should focus more on it) and followed by a run-on thought that totally fails to make any sense, leaving a sad trail of mutilated verbage in its wake. Does she mean that schools need to improve to justify the already-high level of funding? Does she mean that they deserve more funding and should get it? Does she mean anything at all? We may never know.
Teachers needed to be paid more.
But now they . . . don't? This is just the first in a string of nonsensical and disorienting tense changes: "My grandma was, my dad who is in the audience today, he's a schoolteacher, had been for many years." Ow, right? But that's nothing compared to what's coming.
My brother, who I think is the best schoolteacher in the year, and here's a shout-out to all those third graders at Gladys Wood Elementary School, you get extra credit for watchin' this debate.
This just shows that her mind isn't staying far enough ahead of her mouth to save her from dissolving into a lazy drift along the good old stream of consciousness. As one might eventually infer from that much-abused jumble of words, Palin's brother Chuck Heath teaches third grade at the above-mentioned school. Lord knows what she means by "best schoolteacher in the year," but it hardly matters. By the time she finishes leading herself down the garden path that is this whole paragraph, she has completely lost the thread of whatever it was she was trying to say (something about how teachers used to need more money, wasn't it?).
Education in American has been in some senses some of our states just accepted to be a little bit lax and we have got to increase the standards.
She limps gamely back into the fray in the next paragraph, but crashes and burns again without even leaving the tarmac. It's so outrageously stupid that it's almost clever; she seems to hint at a little apathy in American education without getting into potentially offensive specifics. Really, though, that's just one possible interpretation of a quasi-sentence-like mass that might keep a crack team of linguists and literary theorists occupied for years under different circumstances (i.e. if someone of importance who spoke with an ounce of credibility and intelligence had said it).
We need to put more of an emphasis on the profession of teaching.
After briefly navigating the treacherous, policy-filled waters of No Child Left Behind (and neglecting to mention the Bush/McCain backing of the program), Sarah "Captain Obvious" Palin sails the good ship "You Betcha" back into the more familiar territory of the blindingly self-evident. The success of this voyage emboldens her, and she decides it is safe to bring it on home.
We need to make sure that education in either one of our agendas, I think, absolute top of the line.
Whoops. Watch out for that grammatical sandbar. You might want to think about plugging that leak with a verb, or at least a complete thought.
My kids as public school participants right now, it's near and dear to my heart.
Sentence fragment ahoy! It's okay, dear. We know what you meant. Nevermind the dock, let's just get this sucker to the beach.
I'm very, very concerned about where we're goin' in education and we have got to ramp it up and put more attention in that arena.
A last, helpful swell from the direction of innocuous (but meaningless) statements that everyone can agree with brings the governor blessedly ashore and the lifeg- err, moderater hops to her aid with a quick joke. And you thought the guys on Wall Street were the only ones getting a bail-out . . .
In conclusion, I would like to reiterate my complete bafflement that anyone can listen to Palin "talk" for two minutes and not have immediate doubts about her qualifications as a mayor or governor, let alone a possible vice-president. She has charisma, certainly, but it's like a black hole behind her eyes that consumes all doubt and derision, leaving nothing but brash, unfounded confidence in its place.
I think the commentators and pundits who were waiting for her to burn out spectacularly during the debate were morons (despite her desperate flopping in the Couric interview). They are the ones who set the stage for her ghastly nonperformance to exceed expectations. Note to everyone: Just because the candidate does not suffer a nuclear meltdown in mid-sentence does not mean she performed well, or even adequately. You've got one month to realize that she needs to be sent packing. Now, go do the right thing.
October 02, 2008
Sarah Palin is a Yokel
She is a yokel, and a putz, and a schmuck. That may sound ridiculously harsh, but I've just watched her debate Joe Biden for an hour and a half, and experienced shooting pain stretching from my ears up into the rational portions of my brain every time she opened her mouth. Am I a Biden fan? Not particularly, but this woman is an idiot. Do we really want to vote for yet another ticket that features someone who cannot pronounce the word "nuclear?" Palin has taken folksy jargon in national politics to a whole new level.
As of now, I still have not been able to discern what ratio of Palin's rhetoric is sincere blue-collar arrogance (more on that in a moment) and how much of it is naked, cynical pandering, but I'm certain that all of it is some combination of the two. I simply do not understand the appeal to any voter of someone who refers to herself in every other sentence as "average," "middle-class," "Joe Six-pack," etc.
Why would I vote for someone who self-identifies with the typical knuckle-dragging xenophobe who spends his leisure time chugging beer on the couch? This goes back to something I've had cause to complain of before: growing American pride in the "redneck" label and all of the moronic bigotry that that label implies. When did it become uncool to be well-educated, well-spoken, and well-bred?
As to specific complaints about Palin in the debate, her statements throughout the evening only reinforced her status as a mindless McCain mouthpiece, a clueless, bumbling tool of a dying campaign. I very much doubt she could have shoe-horned in one more use of the word "maverick" if she were getting royalty payments for it. It seemed to magically morph into every part of speech at some point during her remarks: "The maverickish maverick mavericked maverickally."
With respect to the economy, she stated that the best barometer of how the economy is doing is to attend a kid's soccer game. When asked who was at fault for the sub-prime mortgage crisis, her response began, "You're darn right it was the predator lenders." I don't in any way want to downplay the complicity of pure capitalistic greed. However, starting off on that tack is offensive on two levels: On the one hand, it ignores the personal responsibility of the people who took on more debt than they could physically afford, and on the other hand it demeans their intelligence, painting them as hapless rubes who were suckered by the Wall Street snake-oil salesmen.
Throughout the debate, Palin's dialogue was littered with button-cute, country-fried buzzspeak and strangely devoid of meaningful content. So much so, in fact, that it leaves me with very little to talk about beyond a general distaste for her values, her style, and the lack of activity taking place between her ears.
In the words of a pre-debate commentator: "People making the mistake of trying to understand her unparseable constructions suffer greatly. Only by matching her smile and blank cheerfulness can one withstand the sucking black hole of unreason that is Palin attempting to communicate with words."
I despise her and her entire regular-American approach to politics with a flaming passion. It has been a blight on the nation since the days of Andrew Jackson. I'm still with Jon Stewart. I want my president to be an elitist. You don't know anything about leading the nation because you're just like the rest of us? Well, screw you. Get out of the race.
"Unknown" Candidate '08?!
As you've no doubt seen by now, the Internet is abuzz with the news of this "effort to elect an unknown random person as President" . . . and imagine my surprise to find that they're all talking about someone we know personally. Maybe I will vote 3rd party this year, after all.