Archive for June, 2008

Getting It Wrong

June 27, 2008

I’ve been saying for quite a while that it looked to me like Barack Obama was trying to be the Ronald Reagan of liberalism. Back on Jan. 6 of this year, I said:

if I’m reading him right, he may have the biggest agenda of any candidate since Ronald Reagan. I think his goal, like Reagan’s, is to use the presidency to shift the entire debate in America; to change the nature of the discourse; to give us a different conception of ourselves as a nation than the one we’ve had for the past 20 years or so. How? By doing literally that — shifting the debate, changing the discourse, offering a different conception. The catchphrase for analysts of Reagan was “the medium is the message.” The catchphrase for Obama may be “the message is the agenda.” That is, his agenda isn’t primarily a legislative one, but a rhetorical/psychological/cultural one, in that order. From what I can tell, he figures that if he changes the way we think of ourselves and the way we talk, the legislation will follow.

Not so much. Perhaps this is the right sentiment, after all.

The general election has not even begun yet, and already Obama has stopped making liberalism’s case as the strong case that it is, and begun retreating by adopting conservatism’s position on the rule of law. (The dominant coterie of contemporary conservatives are against it.)

This is sad in many ways. It’s sad because it’s the wrong position on an issue whose right position is obvious and has been since Magna Carta. It’s sad because it’s bad for the country. It’s sad because it’s misguided; that is, Obama and his campaign apparently think this makes him look stronger, when in fact it abandons a position of strength, courage, and patriotic constitutionalism (the liberal position) for one that reeks of fear, weakness, and expediency (the conservative position).

Maybe it’s the triangulating influence of the Clinton advisers he hired after Hillary suspended her campaign, or maybe it’s his own doing, but one thing is clear: if I was ever right about Obama, if he ever intended to be the Reagan of liberalism, he has abandoned that hope. During a rough time in our nation’s history, Reagan stood up and said, “America is strong. Far too strong to be brought down by the present troubles. Follow me on the conservative path, and we’ll make it morning in America, again.”

With his position on FISA, Obama demonstrates that he isn’t going to deliver the liberal version of that message. Instead, he’s joining conservatism in abandoning Reagan’s message. Obama, McCain, Bush, Cheney, and the rest now speak together: “America is weak. Far too weak to survive the present troubles. We must refashion it in the image of a single leader standing above all others, above the law, if we are to survive.”

Sad.

The Future’s All Yours, You Lousy Bicycle

June 25, 2008

Our faithful editor seems to have sent us into a funk, what with his talk of what the doctors were going to do and the where-they-were-going-to-do-it. Chances are he isn’t in a hurry to hop in a bike at this very moment. JU, of course, well…I dare any of you to shut the guy up about bikes. He bikes to work, bikes to the store, bikes just for, ummmm, fun. Me, I’m with Butch Cassidy. The future is all yours, bikes. I only ride if Burt Bacharach serenades me while Katharine Ross rides shotgun.

But some people…well, they try to come up with new variations on an old theme. I mean, how can you improve a bike? It has two wheels. Pedals of some sort. Possibly a chain. But, no, some people aren’t satisfied. They want to make bikes out of cardboard or with square wheels, of all things.

So here’s a post that will interest, like, one person (JU). Because it’s about bicycles. (Although, the linked article is worth reading just so you can learn the phrase “inverted catenaries.” Which I can’t imagine not being useful at your next cocktail party.)

Just wanted to post something because I was tired of people coming to our blog because of Al’s colon.

Too Much Information

June 17, 2008

This weekend I plan to reenact a Dave Barry column. Specifically, THIS ONE. (And no, I’m not over 50. Yet.)

Please, No Pictures. I’m Just Here To Go To School.

June 12, 2008

Check out THIS ARTICLE.

I know Mikey has to fight this all the time, and in 52 days I’ll join the circus. Maybe they’ll leave me alone, but since I now look like the lead singer for Midnight Oil, probably not.

Pop Culture Round-up

June 9, 2008

Best Thing I Read: I just finished the India section of Eat, Pray, Love, and now I’m in the last section that takes place in Indonesia. It’s been an easy read but a challenging one as well. You don’t always find those two things together.

Looking forward to: When You Are Engulfed in Flames, the new collection of short stories by David Sedaris. They had signed copies at Davis-Kidd, and I’m a sucker for signed copies. And I’m sucker for David Sedaris, so it was a pretty good day!

Best Thing I Heard: My old roomie introduced me to the Austin band Alpha Rev, and I’m loving their sound. They have a very Keane quality, and that’s always good. I’m also enjoying The Avett Brothers, a seemingly impossible blend of bluegrass and punk.

Best Movie I Watched: Kung Fu Panda. It’s slim pickin’s these days. Although I did enjoy the Sex and the City movie far more than I expected. I’m not a huge fan of the show, but the movie was dramatic, hilarious, and pretty great over all. And, daaang, it make a fat wad of cash.

What I did NOT enjoy: Then She Found Me. Oh, how I wanted to like this movie. It’s the love-child of Helen Hunt who co-wrote, directed, and stars in the film. It has moments of greatness but is just too disjointed to work. While trying to be a drama, dark comedy, and romance, it never excels at any of them. And, as much as I hate to say it, Helen Hunt looked distractingly old. It also stars Matthew Broderick and the lovely Colin Firth.

Best TV I Watched: I honestly don’t think I watched a moment of TV this week except for some Gilmore Girls DVDs.

Best Pop Culture Moment: Yesterday at Schnucks I saw Robin from Cycle 1 of America’s Next Top Model. I almost stopped in my tracks 6 inches from her face (well, maybe not that close). Alas, I was there with my friend Jeremy who didn’t exactly share my elation. But, come on, it was Robin! She’s legendary in Top Model World!

Paging John Yoo

June 8, 2008

The WSJ reports this tidbit from the military tribunal trying Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in Guantanamo Bay:

At his arraignment here Thursday, the alleged 9/11 mastermind said he would not accept any attorney, even a fellow Muslim, “who is sworn to your American constitution.”

Unfortunately for Mr. Mohammed, nearly all the attorneys who don’t believe in upholding the American constitution work for the administration trying to convict him.

Mysteries of the Universe

June 7, 2008

Some people around the internets are puzzled as to why a rightwing blogger would post these pages from the bulletin of Trinity United Church of Christ. It’s been suggested, and may even be true, that I am rather too hard on churches, generally, but I have to say that even a down-on-churches guy like me can’t think of a church where bulletin content like this wouldn’t be welcome.

Any ideas on what a rightwing blogger would find offensive about this, or how/why a church would object to it?

World’s Slowest Performance Artists

June 4, 2008

Ha! (h/t Sullivan)

And Now…

June 4, 2008

The following is from Reuters today – would love to hear some thoughts on the choices…

Here is a list of some possible Democratic vice presidential candidates, in alphabetical order:

* Joseph Biden, 65 – The senator from Delaware, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is a respected foreign policy expert who would give Obama authority on the issue. But Obama might not want to add a second senator to the ticket, and could be looking for a fresher face to reinforce his message that this election is about change and the future.

* Wesley Clark, 63 – A retired Army general and former NATO commander who ran unsuccessfully for the presidential nomination in 2004, Clark is a supporter of Hillary Clinton who could help rally the party and provide a boost on national security issues. But he did not run a strong campaign in 2004 and he would be unlikely to generate much enthusiasm among party activists.

* Hillary Clinton, 60 – Polls have shown strong Democratic support for a “dream team” ticket of Obama and Clinton, his top rival for the nomination. Obama has not ruled out the option, which would help unify the party after a grueling nominating battle. But Clinton also would bring complications, including the return of former President Bill Clinton to the White House. A joint ticket could help attract some of Clinton’s supporters — including women and white working-class Democrats — who have been reluctant to support Obama.

* Chris Dodd, 64 – The Connecticut senator, a fluent Spanish speaker and expert in Latin American issues, is the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee and a former foe for the presidential nomination who quickly endorsed Obama after dropping out. He would help bolster Obama’s foreign policy and economic credentials, but presents many of the same drawbacks as Biden.

* Chuck Hagel, 61 – The Republican senator from Nebraska, a conservative Vietnam veteran but outspoken critic of the Iraq war, would help Obama reach out to independents and Republicans and reinforce his promise to bridge partisan divides.

* Tim Kaine, 50 – The Virginia governor was one of Obama’s earliest and strongest supporters and could help him in a state that traditionally has been Republican in presidential elections but has been turning Democratic in recent years.

* Sam Nunn, 69 – The former Armed Services Committee chairman from Georgia is a respected foreign and military policy voice, but his age and conservative view on some social issues might make him an awkward fit with Obama.

* Ed Rendell, 64 – The Pennsylvania governor has been one of Clinton’s strongest campaigners and he could help woo her supporters and help deliver a key state. A former district attorney and the mayor of Philadelphia, Rendell has executive experience that could help Obama.

* Bill Richardson, 60 – New Mexico governor, a Hispanic, could help with Latino vote — the fastest-growing segment of the electorate and a potentially vital voting bloc. A seasoned negotiator, the former energy secretary and U.N. ambassador would also bring foreign policy experience to the ticket as well as inside knowledge of how Washington works.

* Kathleen Sebelius, 60 – Two-term governor of Kansas could bring some vital elements to the ticket: she’s a woman and as the leader of a mostly Republican state has shown she can work across party lines. But she is largely untested on the national stage.

* Ted Strickland, 66 – The governor of Ohio is another strong Clinton supporter who comes from a battleground state. A former U.S. congressman, the first-term governor is not well-known nationally.

* Jim Webb, 62 – The first-term Virginia senator, Vietnam veteran and former secretary of the Navy has written seven novels, including “Fields of Fire,” considered one of the best novels about the Vietnam War. Webb could help Obama in a state that has turned more Democratic in recent years.

(Reporting by Deborah Charles and John Whitesides, editing by David Wiessler)

Heckuva Job, Johnny!

June 4, 2008

So, all during the GOP nomination race, I was congratulating John McCain for taking a sane approach to the constitutional limits on the presidency, something he’s done pretty consistently in the Senate, and continued to do during the nomination fight.

Oops.

Turns out John’s not so much a maverick from the GOP as a toady to the worst in it.  Turns out he’s not so much a straight-talker as a flip-flopper — a man who was for the Constitution before he was against it.  It’s not so much that he knows his principles and sticks to them as that he desperately, desperately wants to be president.