Archive for May, 2008

Obama’s Horrible, Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Choice

May 31, 2008

C-SPAN is covering the DNC’s Rule and By-Laws Committee meeting, which will determine what to do with the troublesome FL and MI delegations.

On the facts, it couldn’t be clearer that the Clinton campaign and its supporters are engaging in what lawyers call “sharp pleading.” It’s clear that Sen. Clinton has, quite intentionally, dealt in bad faith on this issue from the get-go, starting all the way back last year, when this same DNC committee decided that FL and MI would get no delegates, and asked all the candidates to pledge not to participate in their elections; a pledge Sen. Clinton signed.

Watching the committee meeting, however, one can’t help but notice that Sen. Clinton made a much, MUCH, MUCH better choice of spokesman. Sen. Bill Nelson (FL), despite having all the facts against him, came across as calm, reasonable, and genuinely concerned for finding a way to both honor the votes from his state, and do so in a way that promoted party unity. He was, in a word, senatorial.

Obama chose Rep. Robert Wexler (FL), who shouted an abrasive, adversarial, stem-winder of a speech, and continued to be loud, abrasive, and adversarial during the Q&A period with the committee members. He managed, despite having all the facts on his side, to come off sounding like the unreasonable one; when asked sharp questions by Clinton supporters on the committee, rather than answering directly with the reasonable Obama position — that is, you don’t decide the winner of a contest under a different set of rules than the rules the contest was played under — he stuttered and became evasive. IOW, he spoke as if he were on the floor of the House of Representatives, not among friends.

However the committee vote comes out — and the smart money all seems to say it will not do what the Clinton campaign wants — choosing Wexler as his spokesman will have been a terrible decision by Obama. Wexler was a disaster. He hardened feelings among Clinton supporters, and managed to make it seem as if Obama were the one trying to pull a fast one. He made it seem it was Obama threatening to divide the party if he didn’t get his way, rather than Clinton.

One would have thought someone as rhetorically gifted and politically savvy as Obama would’ve known better. Even if you can’t find a better spokesman from FL than Wexler, how can you not have made it abundantly clear to the guy, on pain of death, what kind of tone he had to take?

My Man, Stan

May 29, 2008

Okay, quit begging. Here’s an excerpt from Hauerwas (and Willimon) in their book, Resident Aliens (which sports the lengthy subtitle, “A provocative Christian assessment of culture and ministry for people who know that something is wrong.” JU can correct me, but I think this short passage does a pretty good job of summing up his overall project, though I’m not completely finished with this specific book.


“The most interesting, creative, political solutions we Christians have to offer our troubled society are not new laws, advice to Congress, or increased funding for social programs – although we may find ourselves supporting such national efforts. The most creative social strategy we have to offer is the church. Here we show the world a manner of life the world can never achieve through social coercion or governmental action. We serve the world by showing it something it is not, namely, a place where God is forming a family out of strangers.”

Books I’m At Least Half-Heartedly Reading

May 28, 2008

This post, much like me, is all business.

Thirteen, by Philip K. Morgan. Besides just knowing it has to be good since the author’s name includes his middle initial….this is science fiction of some sort. They have special categories involving cool words such as steam and punk and post-steam and cyber. I haven’t the foggiest what any of those labels mean. I don’t care enough to wiki it to find out. This is of the murder mystery variety. Involving genetically altered humans with whom you absolutely do not mess. Except for some people do. And end up dead. I’m enjoying it thoroughly.

Killing Yourself to Live: 85% of a True Story, by Chuck Klosterman. Klosterman sets out on an epic journey to visit interesting (maybe even important) sites of death involving rock stars. Ostensibly — and this is a really cool idea for a book — he is going to try to understand why some rock stars seem to take on a greater cultural meaning only after their death. Fun to read. Klosterman is funny and smart. The book, a third of the way in, really has nothing to do with rock stars killing themselves. But the journey is sufficiently epic enough, and Klosterman is funny enough, that it doesn’t really matter.

Tree of Smoke, by Denis Johnson. Set during the Vietnam War. Only 100 pages into the book. Johnson’s characters are amazing. He creates military characters that are not the typical depiction of rough and tough characters. They are rough and tough, but they are also compassionate and intellectual. And the novel has way more dialogue than most novels. Dialogue is hard to pull off, I think, especially when writers depend on big chunks of the story being told strictly through dialogue. Johnson does this brilliantly.

Shakespeare: The World as Stage, by Bill Bryson. This is a history of the histories of Shakespeare. It’s short. It’s funny. Bryson is a wonderful story teller. I realize I’m a dork, but I’m having a hard time thinking of people who wouldn’t enjoy this book — including the majority of people I know, people who care nothing about Shakespeare or plays or English history. One of the few books I’ve read in a while that I’d recommend to just about anyone who asks me for a book recommendation.

The Amulet of Samarkand, by Jonathan Stroud. This is the first book in a trilogy. Think: Harry Potter. It’s children’s / young adult fiction. I’m a Harry Potter fan, so I kind of want to like this book. But it’s about a young magician. In London. Who outwits all the adult magicians and assorted ne’er-do-wells. I’m sure there are better young children’s / young adult books to be read.  

Vice President Mugabe?

May 22, 2008

So if you’ve been following the election news, you know that after the KY and OR primaries made it all but official that Obama would be the Democratic nominee, Sen. Clinton toned down her scorched-earth rhetoric. She also, according to reports, started privately assuring big donors and party officials that she would work to unite the party behind the nominee.

You’ll also know that something changed in the last couple of days. Suddenly, Sen. Clinton is scorching the earth again. Yesterday, I think, in Florida, she compared the disqualification of that state’s delegates to the election rigging and election ignoring of Pres. Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, a well known criminal regime.

One might reasonably be led to ask: wha’ happ’n’d?

Is it possibly this? Certainly seems plausible. On the other hand, maybe it’s just this, which seems equally plausible. On yet a third hand, maybe she really believes Obama can’t win the general because America is still that racist.

Or maybe it just doesn’t matter. Maybe all that really matters is that she’s damaging her own party and her party’s nominee in the pursuit of no meaningful goal, it being the case that she simply doesn’t have the votes to be the nominee and isn’t going to get the votes to be the nominee. That’s where I am, anyway. I simply do not care what’s in her head any more. She’s a political Katrina: powerful, unpredictable, and highly damaging, and all we can do until she blows herself out is watch the spectacle.

The main difference, of course, is that she’s doing this willfully, whereas Katrina was just a dumb, unguided, random storm.

Unless you ask John Hagee.

Edited to add:

“The race for the Democratic nomination—”race” is hardly the right word, is it?—now feels like a quantum physics problem: How long can a body exist in a state approximating motionlessness without actually stopping?” – John Dickerson, Slate (via Sullivan).

Which, unless I’m mistaken, would make Sen. Clinton a Bose-Einstein Condensate, which opens up a whole new set of possibilities: superfluid super-delegates who can escape Obama even when he thinks he has them bottled up, slowing the speed of light so that we can’t see who the nominee is until some point in the far distant future, etc.

Weep With Those Who Weep

May 21, 2008

If you guys would, go to my blog HERE and read the tragic news concerning one of my dear friends.

What has two R’s and isn’t a railroad?

May 20, 2008

For those interested in the reading or writing of literature (fiction or non-), there’s a new blog at Harper’s you may find interesting:

Six Flags Over Jesus

May 19, 2008

Thought this might be of interest to some. An interesting excerpt:

Don’t you think there’s an element of condescension in saying the congregants are using religion to escape from or cover up the problems in their own life? Don’t some of the members profoundly believe in God and find that religion serves a positive purpose in their lives?

In the introduction, I say that it’s a cliché for the snobbish, urbane writer to go hang around the rubes and pick on them for their primitive ideas. On some level, it’s kind of a villainous endeavor. But I tried to be aware of that the entire time and not be condescending in the way I treated these particular people. I tried to make them all out to be whole human beings. In these kind of mega-churches, what’s really striking is that there’s so little that’s like a genuine religious communion. They’re more like factories, like fast-food franchises, than they are like churches or communities.

So I’m Flipping Channels…

May 18, 2008

And I came across Book TV / CSPAN-2 (just to show you how excited I am about the NBA Playoffs… though the LeBron/Pierce show was quite good today – okay, I’m rambling), and I catch quite a bit of Chuck Hagel talking about his new book, America: The Next Chapter (or something like that).

Okay, so Hagel’s going to be the next Secretary of State or Secretary of Defense, but what I’m really wondering is if there’s any chance that he could be Obama’s VP.

I suddenly have a new favorite Republican.

Is Urbino still awake out there?

For Whom Eight Belles Tolls

May 14, 2008

I think the Hungry Hungry Hippos just came in second at the Kentucky Derby, and someone needs to shoot us to put us out of our misery.

I never did learn what a doldrum was.

Pop Culture Review

May 6, 2008

Best movie I saw: Iron Man! I know, I know, I have a thing for robotic super heroes, but really, it’s fantastic. Robert Downey was the perfect choice for Tony Stark, and he’s just so darn funny.  I always force my friends to sit through the end credits, and they thanked me on this one.

Looking forward to: I’ve had Into The Wild sitting on my coffee table for weeks now, but I promise I want to see it.

Best TV I watched: The Office was even funnier than usual this week. “If you propose to me during a Michael meeting, I will say no.” And though I’m not a regular viewer, I laughed myself silly during How I Met Your Mother.

Best Book I Read: Persepolis by Marjane Sartrapi. I mentioned it in an earlier post while I was still in the middle of the book. It’s an autobiographical graphic novel that tells the story of growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. Marjane grapples with wanting to protest alongside her parents, losing friends who flee the country, and learning of relatives imprisoned and tortured. All the while, she’s still a little girl “coming of age” and acting out in whatever way she can (listening to Billy Idol!). There’s a second book, and I can’t wait to read it.

Best Thing I Heard: The Young Guns medley of sorts at the Bon Jovi concert. Mmmhmmm. I am not ashamed. I’ve also been listening to Tristan Prettyman. She’s a cross between Regina Spektor, KT Tunstall, and just about every other female artist out there right now.