Archive for March, 2008

A harsh judgment

Monday, March 31st, 2008

Excerpts from my Journals
[Dated July 16, 2003.]

If we find W.M.D. in Iraq, but lose Iraq, Mr. Bush will not only go down as a failed president, but one who made the world even more dangerous for Americans. If we find no W.M.D., but build a better Iraq – one that proves that a multiethnic, multireligious Arab state can rule itself in a decent way – Mr. Bush will survive his hyping of the W.M.D. issue, and the world will be a more hospitable and safer place for all Americans.

Thomas Friedman in the New York Times.

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A Guy Can Only Be Called “Annie” So Many Times…

Saturday, March 29th, 2008

The best tagline ever.

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Religion, sexuality, and mystery

Saturday, March 29th, 2008

A college class was told they had to write a short story in as few words as possible.  The instructions were:

The story had to contain the following three things:

  1. Religion.
  2. Sexuality.
  3. Mystery.

Only one of the stories in the entire class was given an A +…

“Good God,  I’m pregnant; I wonder who did it?”

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Favorite “Swear” Words

Saturday, March 29th, 2008

Including members of the casts of Scrubs, West Wing, Six Feet Under, The Sopranos, and Law & Order, and Jim Carrey!

Natalie Portman’s favorite curse word below…

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The Obama Girl Effect

Saturday, March 29th, 2008

When I first posted this video, I found a few elements of it cringe-worthy, but overall, I thought it was weirdly effective.

A female friend wrote to me about the video though: “What is wrong with [Obama girl]? Watching that video made me embarrassed to be female.”

Apparently, a lot of women feel that way. I’ve seen quite a few videos rated using this method before – and the female line for this video is the most negative trend I have seen on any of them.


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Duck-and-cover

Friday, March 28th, 2008

I think Abe Greenwald’s post over at the Contentions blog of Commentary magazine is fascinating – especially when coupled with the comments.

Mr. Greenwald is writing about Senator John McCain’s new ad and how damned effective it is. The supremely effective theme of the ad is summarized as follows: “What must a president believe about us? About America?”  Mr. Greenwald concludes:

Thanks to Jeremiah Wright and Michelle Obama. McCain will be able to stay on this point for as long as he wishes.

A commenter readies to parry the inevitable counter to the ad by asking the obvious question: “How long until the media brands this ad as unfairly questioning Obama’s patriotism?”  As Mr. Greenwald points out, if the ad is directed against Mr. Obama – which he believes it is – then this is clearly the point of the ad – to question whether Mr. Obama believes about America what he should.  A few comments below this one, someone called CK McLeod explains what the ad is doing:

Barack can swear up and down the street that he loves this country and all the people in it, but the issue joined here isn’t what he or McCain says he is, but who each really is.

Clearly, the people here believes that the ad is questioning Mr. Obama’s patriotism – and they also seem to be preparing to call “Foul!” when the media – or anyone else – point this out.

But my favorite line in this whole mish-mash is Mr. Greenwald’s conclusion:

With the Obama hysteria having been exposed for what it is (to a degree), it’s hard to imagine what kind of second wave the Illinois senator will be able to marshal against this McCain attack.

Reading that – and most of the comments – I realize that these “conservatives” have no idea what an Obama candidacy would mean.

There are many plausible scenarios in which Mr. McCain might win the election – but if it is “hard to imagine” how Mr. Obama would respond to this ad, Mr. Greenwald and his readers have not been paying attention.  It is precisely on this type of question, in response to this type of attack, that you will find Mr. Obama’s strength.

The problem with most politicians is that the public can sense a certain tension between their public persona and their inner selves.  Ms. Clinton, Mr. Kerry and Mr. Gore all have been skewered on this issue – as their stodgy, careful, parsing outward personality seemed inauthentic.  Mr. Obama seems comfortable with himself, and unashamed of what he believes.  He does not debate from an ideological defensive crouch, but in an open, unapologetic manner.

William Kristol made a similar argument to Mr. Greenwald in his New York Times column several weeks ago – arguing that Mr. Obama, by not apologizing for his wife’s comments (only saying she misspoke), by not apologizing for taking off his American flag pin, and by not being candid about his relationship with Reverend Wright and by choosing instead to explain why he acted as he did – was showing arrogance that was dangerous and would cost him the election.

I think perhaps that Mr. Kristol actually sees precisely what Mr. Greenwald misses – that Mr. Obama’s authenticity is a significant strength.  Mr. Kristol is attempting to undermine this strength by painting it as a tragic flaw.  While most politicians – when confronted over these issues – would try to apologize, minimize, and move on, hoping the public will forget, Mr. Obama has done the opposite because he believes he is in the right and he has seen, and felt as the rest of us have, how this duck-and-cover strategy has failed, allowing especially Democratic candidates to be painted as weak.

Mr. Greenwald – and quite a number of other conservatives – won’t be able to see what’s hit them come September and October.

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Uptight squares whose bag is money and world domination

Friday, March 28th, 2008

Excerpts from my Journals
[Jotted down in May 1999.]

No, man.  What we swingers were rebelling against is uptight squares like you whose bag was money and world domination.  We were innocent man!  If we had known the consequences of our sexual liberation, we would have done things differently, but the spirit would have remained the same.  It’s freedom, baby, yeah!”

Austin Powers to Dr. Evil.

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A man and a woman

Thursday, March 27th, 2008

Excerpts from my Journals
[From 1995, overheard on the street of my suburban neighborhood as I was trying to fall asleep.]

[In the distance, barely heard voices talking – arguing.  One is a man’s; the other a woman’s.   The man is doing most of the talking, and the only word that can be made out if “fuck” and only because of its repetition.  The woman’s tone is pleading.]

[The voices draw nearer and become clearer.]

Man: I don’t fuckin’ care what the fuck you want.  I’m fucking getting the hell out of here.

Woman: Please [almost whining], come one.  Talk to me.  Please!

Man: [shouting] I don’t fuckin’ care at all about you.  I’m fucking getting away at the first fucking chance I get.  I don’t give a fuck about you.

Woman: But we’re married…

Man: [shouting] I don’t fuckin’ care.

Woman: Wait, wait…I want to give you some money.

Man: I don’t want your fuckin’ money.

[The voices begin to fade as the woman’s pleading is now louder than the man’s curses.]

All these years later, coming across this torn out page pasted in another notebook, I feel the same tightening of my gut, feeling the desperation and the anger so raw that I felt that night as a thirteen year old kid hearing this from his window in the early hours of the morning.

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Rich dumb kids

Thursday, March 27th, 2008

Last week at a Council of Foreign Relations event on the “history maker” Lawrence Summers, former Treasury Secretary and former President of Harvard University, the main event, Mr. Summers himself said that:

It is really a tragedy that if you look in the United States today… rich dumb kids are much more likely to go to good universities than poor smart kids.

Mr. Summers appears to have been referring to the work of Peter Schmidt, deputy editor of the Chronicle of Higher Education who wrote the book Color and Money: How Rich White Kids Are Winning the War Over College Affirmative Action.

Mr. Summers identified this as the largest problem in higher education today. Part of the reason must be that he sees this as one of the root causes of the problem The Economist identified prominently in 2004 [subscription required] – that America is less socially mobile than it was a generation ago, and has fallen behind Europe in allowing social classes to become more stratified. The children of the rich are more likely to be rich, and the children of the poor and middle class are less likely to move beyond their class than those in Europe. The Economist posited that part of this effect might be due to the rise of meritocracy in America: as those with more talent were given greater opportunity (especially as a result of the institutionalization of standardized testing), their children have genetic as well as financial advantages, and so are more likely to maintain their social position in a society that rewards talent. Despite this possibility, The Economist still sees the trend as disturbing.

Mr. Summers seems to agree. He believes the top educational priority of the next president should be to even out the admissions process at the elite colleges.

Just as a matter of historical what-if: imagine a world where the rich and “legacy” admissions did not guarantee George W. Bush entrance into Yale, with his mediocre school records.

The elite colleges represent real advantages for those individuals who seek to attain the highest political and business positions. Our past three presidents have all been graduates of Ivy league institutions. (As a matter of fact, all three were products of the Yale university system.) Beyond the Ivy League, the United States has only elected one new president who was not a graduate of a top university or military academy since the 1920s – Ronald Reagan.

The stratification of American society is a big deal – and one that no candidate is talking about. Even John Edwards, the champion of the little guy, focused more on eliminating poverty – a worthy goal certainly – than on the growing gap between the rich and the rest of us.

N.B. I know from my experience – as a middle class kid at a top college – that a significant number of my peers seemed to have gotten into Holy Cross based on financial factors alone. Many of these people saw attendance at an elite college as something owed to them.  Tom Wolfe, an author of limited scope and insight, made the same point rather well in his I am Charlotte Simmons, which, though winning “Most Awkward Sex Scene(s) of 2005” was still George W. Bush’s favorite book of that year.

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Obamusic

Wednesday, March 26th, 2008

Great political campaigns – and successful political movements – inevitably inspire music. It’s not always great. It’s often cheesy and ages pathetically. In a few years, most of it will make you cringe, if it doesn’t already. Movements and politicians may be remembered well by history, but campaign music rarely is. But in the moment, it’s beautiful and inspiring.

Here’s a selection of Obama-inspired music. Vote on your favorite. You can add your own. I’ve avoided adding the already played out “Yes We Can!” video by will.i.am and the “I’ve Got a Crush on Obama” video by Barely Political’s Obama Girl.

{democracy:2}

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