Archive for the ‘politics’ Category

ok, one last Palin comment…

October 7, 2008

Finally someone in the media describes the debate the way it seemed to me, instead of soft-pedaling to avoid seeming sexist or biased. I guess only female writers in the foreign press, or independent bloggers, can really be critical without looking suspect.*

And it’s not as if the right denies that it’s “the politics of flirting” – it’s just they like it like that

I mean, Kathleen Parker said she should bow out after the Couric interviews… but somehow was supposedly won back by the debate (I have to believe it was some kind of back room, lookbitchyoubetterstop, or, I dunno… I mean, those starbursts can’t have got to her too)

*(e.g., notice how careful Hillary Clinton has been – every time she comments, she switches it to “the McCain-Palin ticket” and how it affects issues)

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John McCain

October 6, 2008

Having spent a leeetle too much time of late getting stuck on that Ms. Palin there, dontcha know, I have not been thinking much about the top of the ticket, and as someone in the comments noted recently, perhaps he’s really the most worrying part… Rolling Stone on John McCain sure makes it seem that way, anyway. Sure, biased liberal media, blah blah, but if this is even partly accurate, this is not someone we can afford to have in office.

Although, it is quite depressing to think how beloved he is by so many members of the senate, including Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden, and by most of the media, at least until recently… though that reminds me a bit of that article a while back by a liberal journalist who had a blast hanging out with G W Bush, and the importance of keeping in mind that in many situations, for many people, someone can be a lot of fun, a really nice guy, but not a good choice for an office of responsibility and power. Human beings do a lot of compartmentalizing.

economics

October 5, 2008

I’m not an economist. I have a dad who teaches economics, but who I don’t always agree with, a sister who studies economics, but who I usually disagree with, two half brothers who are in the private sector and have some practical familiarity with how economics works, but who I don’t talk to that often, and I’ve read stuff here or there that might count as economics, but nothing too technical. I am really trying to understand what is going on at the moment, but it seems as if very few people have much of a clue, to be honest.

This article actually seemed to hit the nail on the head, for me. The problem is we don’t really know what kind of economy we’re in anymore. It’s not really free market capitalism as we envisioned it ideally at some point in the past. But it’s not socialism or communism or the other end of that false dichotomy either. And it’s not fascism or something either.

The thing is that so-called “free market capitalism” has hardly really existed, at least not on a large scale; it was an ideal that didn’t actually play out in the real world – well, maybe Marx was kinda right about that at least; it -was- too turbulent, but that didn’t result in a revolution or a communist state, but just regulation and restructuring. We started printing money that was government-backed in the 30s; that isn’t the free-market capitalism that 19th century economists were talking about anymore, it’s already something else, although what exactly isn’t clear. And ever since then we’ve been reconfiguring the economy in a variety of ways.

So this market freeze up – not a market collapse, by the way, but a lack of liquidity – came about because of a series of decisions made over the last number of years that have resulted in a more homogenous market. According to a lecture I attended a couple weeks ago, the answer ought to have been fairly simple – transparency is a bad idea (it’s basically allowing banks to know how they’re being judged before they’re assessed, so they can sort of cheat the test, so to speak); we should always target leverage for regulation, equally in all markets; and we should have contra-cyclical provisions, since there will always be some natural cycles. This sounds a little different than the bill that got passed, so I dunno what the lecturer I heard would have said about the bail-out, and I would have loved to have heard debates over it.

Instead I just heard Obama / Biden make some bullet point lists and McCain say he was a hero for goin’ to Washington and Palin ??? …yeah anyway. Bill Clinton did talk a little bit when he did the talk show circuit but never with someone who understood what he was saying enough to have a real back and forth.. There were a few politicians on other news shows (like brian lehrer) who got into a little detail, including Hillary Clinton, who were a little more coherent, but usually to promote the passage of the bill, so about the consequences of doing nothing rather than about doing something different. I didn’t hear any economists argue for doing nothing, only people online who had a sense of righteousness but not necessarily a sense of rational understanding.

The idea that putting $700billion into the economy through wall street now is just a favor to wall street and we’re basically helping out rich folks and screwing decent regular people who have to pay for it seems to misunderstand the interconnectedness of everything. If the banking industry falls apart, then universities with endowments will have less money (since endowments are usually invested), so your school won’t be able to offer as much financial aid to you next year, or build that new science lab; and hospitals with endowments will have the same problem – fire some nurses or drop the MS research or the free clinic – something’s gotta give. These things will reverberate as people who would have been employed, educated or assisted aren’t any longer… While non-profits that rely on endowment funds usually invest very safely, looking to the long term, they will still feel the pain if things go south, and if the entire banking industry were to implode, it would implode on us…

Now, if that’s what you want – if you’re hoping for capitalism to fall apart to see what happens next, that’s one thing. But if you’re just hoping for some bankers to learn their lessons and for you to be fine, that’s another. I don’t know that capitalism would fall apart -it would probably just morph into some kind of plutocracy or new kind of capitalism, as it’s been doing for the last century, since, like I said, and that article linked above laid out, it hasn’t really been straightforward laissez-faire capitalism for a long time, if such a thing ever really existed. Even Wikipedia agrees that capitalism is “confined to theory” and only “mixed economies” really exist.

As for those who believe the market will just start itself up again because it’s the market and that’s what it does, perhaps it would eventually. But if everyone is in debt and left to be in debt, with no new money pumped in by an outside source (and the government, by the power of the people, is the creator of money – which is why taxes are important), what will get things moving again? Basically, I imagine things would get moving again when they get low enough that it will be a good enough deal for someone to feel as if they can afford to make an investment (if they still had the money). That means that the market will get moving again when things get bad enough for someone to make money off it… So is it fair to let real people suffer through all the pain of the difficult times if we could possibly do something to prevent or lessen it? That could be a long time, and very real to those whose lives it affects. Or I guess eventually China could buy us out or something…

palin culture

October 3, 2008

It seems like the afterglow of Sarah Palin’s performance wore off pretty quickly – the pundits may have liked it, but the bloggers didn’t; the polls were against her and the internet quickly pointed out her weaknesses – the Sarah Palin Debate Flow Chart started making the rounds right off the bat – I must have seen it in half a dozen places, including facebook, my mailbox and the comments section here. Sure, that doesn’t mean it reflects everyone’s opinion, but at least, plenty of people were Not Impressed.

The other thing I found weird, though, was the way she didn’t seem to be all that conservative. She was weak to me for being incompetent, but I wonder if she will still seem strong to the base, considering that she hasn’t fired up the god-talk or the pro-life talk or much else to really get them going, and it seems as if she’s given a few to the lefties. I mean, ok, she did a little “drill baby drill” talk, but it wasn’t all that convincing without a room full of followers to chant with her, especially when Biden had the numbers to back up why the whole idea was stupid. (speaking of, the Economist has a funny moment in this trying to parse that interchange in the debate..)

But she agreed with Obama/Biden on the rights of gay couples to have basic recognition as legitimate civil unions, even if not passing that religious barrier of “marriage” (but that just shows it’s a question of social evolution – who can imagine either party even mentioning gay rights so straightforwardly 20 years ago?).

And as I said below, in the Couric interview, she talked a lot about “choice” when it came to abortion, about the importance of “choosing life”: but not the legal necessity of barring people from having the option of murdering their unborn child or anything like that. She was pretty soft on abortion, it seemed to me, if it’s gonna be a one-issue thing. Maybe that’s what contemporary conservatives are like, but I wondered if she satisfied the base.

And on banking, she seemed to be pretty pro-regulation, and on global warming she seemed ok with stopping emissions, at least in theory, so where was the conservative base stuff? Just the same as McCain, it seemed – the differences were the war, taxes, energy policy, and budget stuff (education, health care)… not the social issues or religious stuff. Or perhaps it’s just having the fake smile and the wink, in the end – Reagan never did anything in particular for the base either, I guess… hmm. I still feel like he was better at dressing up his answers, but I was too young to be paying close attention so I’m just making assumptions.

ok, media, just stop predicting.

October 3, 2008

Apparently the first poll says Biden won the debate 51 to 36. They thought Palin was more likable (54 to 36), but Biden was more capable (87% thought Biden was qualified to be president, while only 42% thought so of Palin, after watching the debate). So maybe the public is less easily fooled than the pundits expect…

vapidity wins…

October 2, 2008

The after-debate talk essentially confirmed what I was worried they’d say, that Sarah Palin “nailed it” – although, the media mostly thought McCain had been more successful last week but it turned out ordinary people ended up giving it to Obama, so they may not be reliable. To me, she was just utterly empty of any real content. She was cute, but she didn’t seem to understand what she was talking about.

She contradicted herself several times (“we need oversight on wall street, stop that greed & corruption” vs “we can’t have government gettin’ in the way” or “we don’t know the causes of global warming” vs “the important thing is to stop it, so we should stop emissions”). It just seemed like her rational capacity was entirely lacking. Did she understand the arguments? Does she get what cause and effect are? I saw no glimmer of understanding in any of her answers. She seemed to have memorized a few stock positions but there was no depth of concern or interest that allowed her to expand or explore them further.

Biden was a bit too policy wonkish at times, and because the format was such that he hardly had time to go into depth, he occasionally seemed a little scattered, throwing out a couple sentences about one example, then mentioning another, and another – all connected, but not having time to get into detail about any of them. Unless you were already familiar with the legislation or the issue, it probably came off pretty unfocused. However, it seemed perfectly obvious he was much more grounded in his knowledge, that he had thought much more deeply about these things, that he was much more reliable. And even in personality, when he talked about his personal experience of having lost his wife and nearly lost his sons, he seemed much more genuine than Sarah Palin. She just comes across fake, with the bouncy winky, dontcha know..

But then, I always thought Ronald Reagan seemed fake, and America still loves him, so I am a terrible barometer there.

Palin’s pro-choice?

October 2, 2008

IN this video between around 6:30 and 6:50, she says she “would counsel” anyone who wanted to have an abortion to “choose life”, but that no one who had an abortion should ever end up in jail, “absolutely not” – it’s not a legal issue, just a personal belief. So in the end it’s not a political issue, just something she’d like to counsel people on. How is this relevant to politics? This is a non-profit organization, a foundation you can start, a newsletter or a support group. But it’s not a political position. If this is what people mean when they say “pro-life”, then we are talking on two different wave-lengths, and the whole debate is meaningless. We really need to start all over.

This issue gets in the way of so many much more important aspects of political discussions, and it’s completely meaningless. I guess it took a completely naive politician to actually say what she meant, rather than carefully step around the proper sound bites…

pre debate thoughts: Sarah Palin

October 2, 2008

This video about Sarah Palin claims that as a mayor she was hard-lined against LGBT rights, banning books, and supporting “reparation” therapy.

On the other hand, at the end of it, someone compares her to Dick Cheney, who has an openly lesbian daughter he’s on good terms with, so that makes me start to question the entire thing. I am frustrated that Cheney is a hypocrite about his private life and his public political stance on gay issues, but he isn’t making it an important aspect of any campaigns to snuff out gay rights or something either. So is the fear about Palin meant to be that she just won’t do anything to support gay rights legislation, or that she would actually attempt to implement an anti-gay agenda?

BBC provides a nice gaffe breakdown of both Biden and Palin – not exhaustive, of course – how could it be, really? – but gives you a sense of tone of their respective blunders if you haven’t been paying attention. But really, it seems as if in a live situation, Palin fares much worse (video compares Supreme Court knowledge)… even if Biden doesn’t always get his facts right, or says something dumb, he rolls along as if it made sense, whereas Palin has that Miss Teen USA problem of just running into words that just stopping fitting together at all at a certain point… She desperately tries to use broad generalities to overcome the fact that hasn’t got an answer, but not being able to get the generalities in place properly, they just get randomly dropped in as complete non-sequiturs.

Of course, she’s been practicing all week. It cannot possibly go as badly as it seems like it will. Which is what they’re both counting on… they’ll have a boring debate and no one will fuck up and we’ll all say, huh, she’s not that stupid / he’s not that offensive, and life will return to normal.

But just one slip on either side will look so much larger than it really is. Saying “what (whoever) doesn’t understand” would be inadmissable for Joe Biden, even though it was McCain’s favorite line. Mispronouncing “Ahmadinejad” would probably have been a whole scandal for Palin, but it was just a sort of silly moment for McCain (though now I have to get all conspiracyish and wonder if he did that on purpose so when she fucks up on some pronunciation thing he can act like the press is being all unfair…)

well. more later.

definitions

September 30, 2008

I wonder if there is anything the McCain campaign can do to pull Sarah Palin out of the “brainless twit” category at this point… This skit was hilarious, and I totally agree that she came off terribly in that interview, but I’ve seen other interviews with her, before she was in the national spotlight, where she had her act more together – usually about oil, where she knew her schtick better, I guess. Still, clearly she’s able to pull together the right sentences under some conditions, so her inability to get things right in the few occasions where she’s had a national interview seem like partly nervousness, partly inexperience, partly poor preparation, but perhaps overall placing so much importance on so few appearances… As The Daily Show pointed out the other day, Joe Biden has been making his standard blunders, but no one’s paid any attention to it recently… he’s off the front page ’cause there’s bigger fish to fry.

But once things are defined as a joke, it can be hard to change the meaning. That line about Alaska’s proximity to Russia has been completely defined in the media, for instance, and there’s no use in anyone in the Palin camp trying to defend it at this point; it’s marked out as a joke, and there really isn’t any hope for them of reclaiming it, I don’t think. That ship has sailed. And I’m not interested in defending her on it, myself. I don’t think Sarah Palin has foreign policy experience or would make a good president, as must be obvious from previous entries. But it’s not as if the claim were as silly as saying that her name begins with the same letter as Putin’s, or something.

Politics is based on geography, even in the 21st century. Europe is more tentative and concerned about the middle east because it’s right there, for them. America ignores much of what happens on the other side of the planet because it is physically distant. No matter how much we rely on virtual space and immediate contact through technology, physical proximity is still a primary component of our interactions, and nowhere more so than in the boundaries between nations.

Now, this doesn’t mean that someone dealing with the simple issues of border patrol between countries is going to know anything about complicated negotiations of heads of state. In this sense, it’s a little like a carpenter claiming that she does have training in geometry – in one sense, sure, there’s a basic understanding of lines and angles, and perhaps a stronger, more direct and material understanding at that, but in another, the complex logic and understanding of mathematical principles is not reached.

In the same sense that a carpenter is not a sophisticated geometer, so an executive of a state that shares borders with foreign nations is not a sophisticated foreign policy expert. They must be familiar with certain basics to do their job, but they needn’t be aware of deeper analyses. But Palin would occasionally have to deal with the borders of her state, and these were shared by foreign nations, so mocking the very idea that this had any meaning at all just sort of irks me. It reminds me a bit of when the Daily Show made fun of the line about the internet being “a series of tubes” as if it were just the silliest thing ever, and then some weeks later they had to run a cable between the daily show and colbert report, and they apparently saw the 3-block line themselves, and were sort of amazed how the connection between them was just this… tube…

Anyway. It will be interesting to see what happens in the debate on Thursday, if preconceptions are matched or altered at all.

debates

September 27, 2008

I don’t think anyone really won any votes with that debate. It seemed to me that the best anyone could have done was retain votes – swing voters who were considering switching sides might have been convinced to stay with the guy they were leaning toward, because both guys sort of did well enough if you were sort of inclined toward them to start with. But I don’t think either side did well enough to reach out to pull someone across from the opposing side, to swing voters who really didn’t know which side they were going for, or swing voters leaning one way to switch to the other way. So I think it was a wash, ultimately.

Basically, no one was inspiring. I thought Obama was marginally better, but I’m biased toward Obama’s views to begin with, so I can hardly count that as an objective perspective. His manner was still a bit too Gore-bot, and somehow he didn’t seem to really get into the material, excited or interested in explaining it, but rather just listed answers and told tired stories (that bracelet war was pathetic). McCain was meaner and generally more simplistic, which didn’t win any points with me, and his repetition of the “maverick” and “miss congeniality” stuff was stupid. His condescending attitude and refusal to even look at Obama bothered me, but could be a useful strategy among some voters, I suppose.

But it seems as if Obama could have responded a little more sharply and energetically at times – like, McCain used Madelaine Albright as an example of how we send the Secretary of State to negotiate with axis of evil states – that’s the Clinton administration, pre-no-tolerance position – the question is whether Colin or Condoleeza has met with these guys. Or on the economy and overspending, why did Obama not bring up how much the war has cost us, and how much bad strategy and poor military planning have cost us overall? He could have framed that in a way that wouldn’t just have been “liberal peacenik”, if that’s what he was trying to avoid. It seemed like he wasn’t in the moment, but just turning to parts of his speeches. I liked that Jim Lehrer tried to get them to go at it, but overall the whole thing felt tired… It got a little better toward the end, and it did seem as if they were sort of warming up, so maybe future debates will be more interesting, but I’m not impressed.

You want an energetic debate, by the way: check out NYPL: Zizek v Levy, e.g., reminds you of what it’s like when people who actually care about topics, and think deeply about them, talk to people they disagree with. What a completely different world that is from presidential debates…