Friday, April 27, 2007
Sure he might have supported the war in 2002, and he might have paid $400 for a haircut, and he might have already lost a primary and a general election, but John Edwards delivered my favorite quote of the night last night at the Democratic debates.
He said that the President has to ask Americans to be patriotic about something besides war.
I think this was in reference to cutting our pollution or emmissions or something, but it doesn't really matter. The point is that Bush has turned patriotism into an issue about Iraq and the troops, when we as a nation are capable of doing so many different things (not to detract from the troops or the war, but just to say there are other ways in which America can do things), and we need to embrace and be patriotic about those other things too. Part of the problem is that our President has been pretty lacking in inspiration or rallying us around any causes except for supporting his policies, of which there are very, very few.
Edwards is right, the next President has to raise patriotism in terms of many different things that we want to accomplish, and we need to be patriotic about our capabilities to pursue different coals and our resolve and commitment to pursue them. Kennedy did it with the space race, we need to do it, I think most urgently, with education. There needs to be a national call to action that considers teachers and principals and guidance counselors, etc, the noblest of all professions. Of course paying them more wouldn't hurt either. The point is that there is no reason why we shouldn't have the best schools, and if we admit that we are capable and that we want them, this goal is within our reach (it's not rocket science or moonwalking after all). Another obvious one is the environment and alternative energy, and another one is America's role as a leader by example, and a country that influences other countries to imitate its policies not because they have been bullied or forced upon them by the US, but by people observing the US doing things that that result in success.
This is very inspirational and I have always found Edwards to be so. I also wouldn't count the guy out just because he had the guts to run in 2004 back when W wasn't doing so badly in the polls and Iraq wasn't such an obvious disaster and other candidates like Biden and Hillary waited on the sidelines for 2008.
The Democrats began what I assume will be a long series of debates last night, and got off to a gradual but good start. Not too much disagreement so far but as a first look I think there are several good Presidential and VP candidates among them.
The most interesting thing, though, was the presence of former Senator Mike Gravel. No one has heard of this guy and he has absolutely no chance of winning, which allowed him to be honest and say what he actually felt. A lot of journalists are dismissing him as the "comic relief," but that seems pretty unfair, they are just saying that because the honesty coming from Gravel is so foreign and unheard of among politicians that people didn't know how to react other than nervous laughter. There is something wrong with people laughing at Presidential candidates when they are not joking. He is definitely not in touch with the majority of American voters, but that by no means makes him wrong. I don't know if I agree totally with everything he said (if not I am close), but I think a lot of the things he said are dismissed because he is the only person saying them, he questions things that nobody questions so we assume are correct without ever thinking about it, but he has a point in everything he says and we should be grateful that someone like him is up there forcing us to confront certain outlooks on certain positions, precisely because his outlook has not been fashionable and all of the other candidates are espousing a more fashionable outlook, and rhetoric, and conceptualization of national and world events.
For those who missed it here is the video. You will hear some things you haven't heard before, most importantly you will hear a politician saying exactly what he thinks without any fear of political repercussions. Gravel might not be right on everything (although he kind of is if you think about it) but he makes good points on many things. We can only learn by considering his views and views like his, and only rejecting them once we have profoundly considered them, conversely we can only become dumber by immediately dismissing his views just becasue they are not mainstream and make us nervous.
Thursday, April 26, 2007
Amidst the 24 hour mainstream media coverage of Rosie O'Donnel and other completely insignificant topics, I seem to have, until today, missed the fact that the Democratic candidates for president are debating tonight.
It appears that the Democrats will be debating starting at 7pm ET and it can be seen on MSNBC.
This should be our first chance to get a good look at the candidates side by side, to hide their numbers.
Since I have given up on liking any of the Republicans, hopefully I will get a chance to catch the debates and figure out who I like from the Democrats, and hopefully the rest of you will do the same so we can discuss.
Here are my grossly underinformed gut feeling rankings going into the debate, just to compare to what they are afterwards:
Recently, Republican presidential candidates that I would consider voting for are disappearing like Capetown would have us believe that bees are disappearing. I remember saying a few weeks ago that I hadn't ruled some of them out, but let's be honest, I can't vote for any of these guys! Now I'm sure they have good policies and share a lot of ideas with a lot of the Democrats but I just don't like these guys' attitudes. I need a president who stands behind the Presidential seal, addresses the nation, and doesn't offend me with his rhetoric. This is why I pretty much crossed McCain off the list for myself with two posts I wrote last week, and this is why it's time to do the same for Rudy Giuliani.
I have to admit, when I first heard he was running I was pretty psyched. No longer would would the President of the United States come on stage to the tired old "Hail to the Chief," but rather, Rudy could take to the stage to the tune of "It's Peanut Butter Jelly Time," of course with the words changed to "It's Rudy Giuliani Time." For those of you unfamiliar with the song, it was originally brought to my attention by Brian Griffin from Family Guy:
By the way someone also found where the Manatees who write for Family Guy originally got this reference:
So there I was looking forward to this and Rudy basically had to go and ruin it the other night by bringing back the politics of fear that have been part of oratory and mobilization of the angry mob for their support ever since ancient times. Basically Giuliani said to America: hey, America, are you scared of terrorists? I know what'll cheer you up...It's Rudy Giuliani time! If you haven't seen the story about what Giuliani actually said, he basically said there would be more casualties from terrorist attacks if a Democrat was elected than if it was a Republican. Well, it's a good thing I recently learned how to spell ridiculous.
Giuliani's reasoning for this outlandish claim was that the Republicans would go on offense and the Democrats would go on defense. Clearly Rudy still things he is sitting on the bench for Notre Dame. Of course he doesn't say what he means by offense and defense because these words really have no meaning. When you leave the realm of sports, pretty much any strategy is part defense and part offense, and can be described as either or both. Having a military, nuclear weapons, surveillance, etc, all of these play both defensive and offensive roles. He mentioned the Patriot Act, but much of that seems more like defense - the USA PATRIOT ACT literally means "Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act," so all this talk about Protecting seems defensive, which I have nothing wrong with, defense wins championships, it's just interesting that instead of saying something like preemptive war which is clearly offensive, he brings up the Patriot Act, which just doens't seem so offensive (except to civil rights and to the Constitution, maybe that was what he meant!).
As as far as I'm concerned these comments make no sense at all except to use the oldest most base tactic of political mobilization which is to say something like "these people, the terrorists, they are going to get us if we don't get them, and by the way if you vote for the Democrats, we're not going to get them, and they're going to get us." This is basically the same speech that got Slobodan Milosevic elected to office, and has also brought political power to countless others.
Fortunately, seeing through, exposing, and condemning Giuliani's scare tactics proved all too easy as we saw yesterday. Barack Obama responded with comments that I think America had been waiting to hear for a long time.
Lastly Kieth Olbermann responded with a long and detailed critique of his own. If you have time to watch this video it is extremely thoughtful and passionate, although most of his remarks should be obvious to everyone at this point, but still it is great that, although I'm not sure how many people watch MSNBC, it is still great that the mainstream media have taken a time out from their 24-hour covereage of Rosie O'Donnell to talk about this more important issue. Here's the video:
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Woody Allen has made some good movies. I guess my favorite is Crimes and Misdemeanors, but for this post I want to talk about another one of the greats, Annie Hall.
The movie opens with the main character, played by Woody Allen, delivering a monologue to the camera where he tells two jokes, which kind of serve as the two main themes of the movie.
The character connects the first joke to life and the second to love, but I think that both quotes apply to both. Here are the quotes as transcribed by IMDB:
"There's an old joke - um... two elderly women are at a Catskill mountain resort, and one of 'em says, "Boy, the food at this place is really terrible." The other one says, "Yeah, I know; and such small portions." Well, that's essentially how I feel about life - full of loneliness, and misery, and suffering, and unhappiness, and it's all over much too quickly.
The... the other important joke, for me, is one that's usually attributed to Groucho Marx; but, I think it appears originally in Freud's "Wit and Its Relation to the Unconscious," and it goes like this - I'm paraphrasing - um, "I would never want to belong to any club that would have someone like me for a member." That's the key joke of my adult life, in terms of my relationships with women."
This monologue is so genius!
So the first quote, to me, is a great summary of life as well as love. One's life and lovelife features no shortage of suffering and unsatisfied desires, yet there is still something in our nature that says we are going to keep trying, keep striving to find true love, or to find happiness, or to improve the world. Even though we face suffering and disappointment and often do not fully achieve our goals, there is something that pleases us about the process of believing and trying. I love the inspiration and the optimism in the thought that even though it seems like those are impossible goals, we, in general, for some reason, choose to affirm life.
The second quote is a bit more complicated, hence the mention of Freud (I don't know if it's true or a joke, by the way). To me, not wanting to be a member of any club that would have someone like yourself as a member is an expression of the equal and universal originality of every human and the rejection of various "labels" such as nationality, socioeconomic class, age, religion and ethnicity. Various philosophers -- perhaps most notably Hegel and more contemporarily Roberto Unger -- have written about the human's natural desire to be "recognized" by other humans. This recognition can take the form of, for example, respect, agreement or understanding, friendship, or love, in all situations being a mutual relationship. Because we desire to be recognized for our originality, we strive for recognition outside of the confines of these "labels," thus being unsatisfied with being accepted by groups that would accept someone like us, and seeking recognition and acceptance among those who, according to society's labels, are different from us, thus invalidating these labels and affirming our originality.
To connect the two ideas, then, perhaps the meaning of life lies in us realizing that it might be impossible but nonetheless is worthwhile and fulfilling to strive for a society in which any person can be a member of any club, not just the ones that they are born into because of social status or nationality or ethnicity, etc (the clubs that would have someone like them as a member), but ones that accept people not for their social labels but rather as an original human being.
Thirty-six hours of travel in the last three days has afforded me some mental house-keeping, or at least a quick Spring once-over, and so I thought I’d give my first-blush impressions of this whole business. Like most things, I’m afraid, it (the impression) has more to do with me than anything else.
I took a little time in the last three days to review the media’s coverage of the Tech shooting. The rest of the time, as I said, was spent traveling, which was in turn split equally between sleeping, reflecting, and sipping bloody marys. To get right to the point, my impression of the Tech shooting and the subsequent national reaction to it is that we are getting way too good at crisis.
The lead, the live aerial footage, the news graphics. Oh, jeez, here we go again. What was it this time? Unconfirmed reports of a single shooter. A loner. Oh Christ, he’s not a foreigner, is he? A brief, likely psychological sketch from a terrorist expert. An announcement from local police officials. On going investigation. Can’t be certain at this time. Not ready to release that information. Twenty-four hour coverage. Then a message from the killer. We have our guy. Yep, definitely a loner. Weren’t there any signs? Ah, then the finger-pointing. His teachers missed it. His family missed it. Oh no, there was a prior incident! More psychological sketches. Alienated from his peers. Trouble adjusting. Oh come on, video games? Then the response. Gun control. Tighter security. This never would have happened if…Time to grieve. Message from the president. Our hearts go out. Help with the process. Classes to resume.
Another crisis on the books.
Over the years we've been told that ours is a nation divided. People ask whether Barack can unite the nation, which implies that it is now divided. John Edwards told us in 2004 that there's two America's (which I think he's right about, but nobody wants to hear that, so I don't think he'll use that again, and anyway that has nothing to do with this post).
Ever since 2000 and 2004 they've told us about red states and blue states. I think in 2000 it was something like half the nation was republican and the other half was democrat, and Florida was half and half. Here's the map they used to explain it to us:
So as we saw in 2000, American states were either burning hot or freezing cold. 2004 looked even more divided:
Now this one really freaked me out, man. At least in 2000 we were kind of integrated, with New Mexico a blue among reds, and New Hampshire a red among blues. At least back then red states and blue states could get along with one another and live among one another. In 2004 it was pretty clearly geographically divided, as if we're divided into two countries. I considered secession for a moment but then I remembered that George Clooney was from Kentucky, and him being my fellow countryman was always one of the things that kept me going in this world. I was still freaked out though. I don't want America to be two countries, what the crap? In the last year I have been to Florida, North and South Carolina, Louisiana, Texas, and Arizona, and all of those places are freaking awesome. But it's these freaky maps that make me fear that I'm venturing into a foreign country when I go down south, and not just any foreign country but one of those hostile, anti-American foreign countries where they'll hear my Yankee accent and see my Yankee black t-shirts and think I'm some kind of Yankee douchebag. By the way it's a good thing I'm not a Red Sox fan because then I would really be offended by this. Now if the red and blue electoral maps weren't enough to spread this "divided America" theme around, along came this:
So there you have it. Red states and blue states, democrats and republicans. Or at least this is what the politicians would have us believe as they try to energize their base, and this is what the media and the pundits would have us believe as they try to get people interested in their drivel. The problem is that we see these electoral maps and most of us are like "geez, we're pretty divided," without thinking about it much more. The media and the politicians do the same. I guess it's more interesting that way, but to me it is dangerous, counterproductive, and just plain stupid to act like every single person in the red states vote republican and every single person in the blue states vote democrat.
First of all, in 2004, only 55% of eligible voters even voted! So much for this coloring scheme that's only based on half of the country. Furthermore, the winner-take all voting style completely distorts the picture, which colors in an entire state either red or blue. Of those that actually voted, 37 of our 50 states were split between 50-60% for one candidate, and 50-40% for the other. Only 13 states plus DC were real landslide contests in which such a large majority (of half of the eligible voters) voted for one of the parties.
The low voter turnout and the relatively even 60-50% - 50-40 split% suggest that there are 37 swing states, and that our country is not as divided as everyone says. In fact, some are even saying that America is not red and blue, but purple.
Here is a map that portrays things more accurately, showing % of vote by county:
And here is one of the 2006 elections:
Now of course we have our differences, and we should recognize them and celebrate them. But we shouldn't necessarily exaggerate them and think that people from the north can't get along with people from the south, or republicans can't get along with democrats, because the north and south is full of both, and we do live together and we do get along.
Monday, April 23, 2007
First off, as a follow-up to the previous post about Mike Huckabee, apparently he has lost a lot of weight recently. No mayo.
Anyway, now that it's 3:00pm on a Monday where I live, I thought some people could use a pick-me up.
Not really sure if anyone who works in an office checks this blog, but I have always thought that the hour from 3pm to 4pm is the longest, slowest, most painful hour of work. All of the renewed vigor that lunch brought has worn off, and 5pm is an epic 2 hours away.
So for those of you in the office here is a good clip, bear with it (or just fast forward) through the first 20 or so seconds of boring title credits, it gets good afterwards.
I have just learned there is a former Arkansas Governor named Mike Huckabee who is considering a presidential bid. I know nothing of this man's policies or character, but he has my full support because he clearly has the most obvious campaign slogan. You like Ike? Well I heart Huckabee.
Sunday, April 22, 2007
Apparently today is earth day. So before the day is over and human year resumes, we should maybe take a moment to remember that there is more to life than ourselves and our personal lives and our toys and our internets.
If you want an inspiring example of the wonders of nature, I would refer you to this clip of Lionel Messi playing soccer in the video in my previous post.
But of course there is so much more to nature than humans, so here are two examples of cool things on earth that I hope to one day see in person. Watching these videos on the internet is probably not exactly what was in mind for celebrating the earth on earth day, but hopefully these videos can inspire us to perhaps one day get up from our computers and go outside and maybe even visit these places. These two in particular are in South America.
And since I probably won't be going to either of those places anytime soon, I can always watch nature shows like Blue Planet. If you are unfamiliar, here is a commercial (CAUTION: This commercial is not suitable for children and those who don't like profanity) for Blue Planet: