Lessons Learned: Election 2008

Steven Dutch, Natural and Applied Sciences, Universityof Wisconsin - Green Bay
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All You Need to Know (Chapter 1)

In the first ever Spanish-language Presidential debate held on September 9, 2007, remarks by candidates were translated into Spanish. The ground rules for the debate were that candidates had to answer in English even though two of them spoke fluent Spanish. The stated reason was "to make sure that no candidate had an advantage in appealing to the Spanish-speaking audience." The two Spanish speaking candidates were New Mexico governor Bill Richardson, a Hispanic and Senator Chris Dodd, who learned his Spanish in the Peace Corps. (Former Senator Mike Gravel of Alaska pointed out that he speaks French.)

This incident shows one of the biggest problems ailing the United States, and I am not referring to broadcasting a debate in Spanish. The big problem here the idea is that it's unfair to use skills to your advantage, that if you have skills, it's not because you worked hard or took advantage of opportunities, it's because you were lucky or got special treatment. Whyshouldn't candidates who speak Spanish have an advantage in such a debate? Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are smart people who have had access to the best educations money can buy. They, and for that matter, French-speaker Gravel, have had every opportunity to learn Spanish and chose to invest their time in other ways. Those may have been perfectly legitimate alternative investments in time and energy, but that's no reason to penalize candidates who took advantage of their opportunities to learn Spanish. (In Bill Richardson's case, there are plenty of people who grow up in bilingual homes and forget their other language. He chose not to.)

All You Need to Know (Chapter 2)

On Super Tuesday, February 5, 2008, voters went to the polls in primary elections in many states to do their sacred civic duty. They went in Illinois, California, Utah, New York, Georgia....

And they went in Wisconsin, which scheduled its primary two weeks later, on February 19. And they went in Virginia, which scheduled its primary a week after Super Tuesday. And they went in Florida, which held its primary a week before Super Tuesday. The Florida voters were particularly indignant about being turned away. These may be the same people who demanded another election in 2000 because they couldn't follow an arrow from the candidate's name to the proper hole in the card. (As Dave Barry pointed out, the problem was not the ballot, it was expecting people who drive in Florida to understand what arrows mean. I can vouch personally for the fact that absolutely everything Dave Barry says about Florida drivers is true. "Oh, wow, man. The light is so green! What do we do now?")

In Illinois, twenty voters whose ballot marking pens had dried out were told the pens had "invisible ink" and the machines would still read the ballots. (The voters were contacted and told to come back and cast ballots with working pens.)

Some of these people will vote in November 2008. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Bad Barack. No Oval Office for You

Barack Obama ran into some flak (if you spell it "flack" you're too illiterate to be reading this [1]) over some racially incendiary comments made by his pastor. If the worst anyone can pin on him is comments made by somebody else, he's in pretty good shape.

What's so breathtaking about all this is the sheer hypocrisy of it all. First of all, the stuff Obama's pastor said was no worse than what Malcolm X and a million other people said back in the 1960's, so any aging radicals who once cheered Malcolm X are automatically disqualified.

But even worse are the conservative Religious Right types. When the Baptist Church expels Fred Phelps and his congregation for cheering U.S. combat deaths as punishments from God, then they can say something. Until then, Baptists have no credibility. And all the James Dobsons and David Wilkersons and Pat Robertsons and Bryan Fischers out there who warn that America is doomed for pornography and homosexuality? It's okay to hope that God punishes America for sexual sins but not for racism? To his great credit, Mike Huckabee, of all people, came to the pastor's defense, but then again Huckabee comes out of a background where nutjob pastors are considered normal.

As of late May, Barack Obama has been zinged for saying his grandfather helped liberate Auschwitz (it was actually Buchenwald) and for praising "our fallen heroes, many of whom are in the audience...." The sheer triviality of the criticisms is striking.

Clinton For President!

Not Hillary, not Bill.

Chelsea Clinton is taking flak from the media because she told interviewers that how she felt about her father's affair with Monica Lewinski was "none of their business."

Imagine if every public figure did things like that. Soon you'd have gaunt journalists begging on street corners with tape recorders in tin cups and placards reading "Help! I'm starving. I haven't had a sound bite in days." Then you give them a kick and snarl "Get a job, you bum!" Wouldn't that be great?

Okay, de plane is here to take us home from Fantasy Island. Wipe the saliva off your keyboard and get back to work.

Seriously, a great start to creating a more informed society would be for every public figure to demand to know how any question will serve to inform the public, and answer "none of your business" to any questions that can't be proven relevant. Yea, Chelsea! You go, girl.

The hot news in July 2008 is that DNA evidence cleared Jon Benet Ramsay's parents of complicity in their daughter's death. Who, outside of the citizens of Boulder, Colorado, ever had a reason to care about this case?

Web Pages I Wish I'd Thought Of

A Web page at VoteFromAbroad.Org, titled "How Good Are Experienced Presidents?" (http://www.electoral-vote.com/evp2008/info/experience.html) cites data collected by David A. Levine and plots the historical ranking of Presidents against their years of political experience. There is no correlation whatsoever.

In the high ranking, high-experience corner we find Washington. His nearest rivals are LBJ and Madison. In the high ranking but low experience corner we find Lincoln, both Roosevelts, and Woodrow Wilson. In the low rank, low experience corner we find that eminently forgettable gaggle of post-Jackson presidents, with Hoover, Carter and Harding representing the Twentieth Century.

In the high experience, low ranking corner we find James Buchanan far removed from anyone else. If this guy had died or lost the election in 1856 he would be remembered as a great public servant: Pennsylvania state legislature, U.S. House of Representatives, ambassador to Russia, Senate, Secretary of State, and Ambassador to England. Everything but the Supreme Court and saving humanity from giant killer robots from the future. But it was Buchanan, not Lincoln, who failed to avert the Civil War. Seven of the Confederate States seceded before Lincoln ever took office, and Buchanan tried to wait it out. The first shots fired at Fort Sumter were fired in January, 1861 when a resupply ship sent by Buchanan was driven off. Buchanan merely hunkered down and waited for his term to run out. Buchanan was incompetent and a coward.

The most average Presidents, the ones nearest the center of the plot of ranking versus experience, are John Quincy Adams and William McKinley.

The Emperors Have No Clothes


Congressman Ron Paul of Texas has raked in campaign funds hand over fist and has kept his campaign afloat after far better known candidates folded. He managed to do so through Internet activists. Yet all his Internet support failed to translate into large numbers of votes in the primaries.

There could be no clearer illustration of the lack of connection between campaign money and outcome. While it's guaranteed that a candidate with little money won't get very far, large amounts of money don't guarantee success. Steve Forbes, a Presidential aspirant with far more money and better ideas than Ron Paul, failed to gain much traction in 2004. John Kerry raised more money than George Bush in 2004 but still lost.

Paul's supporters complain about being excluded from media coverage and debates. The reality is that Paul is marginalized because he's marginal. A man who may be a constructive force as a gadfly in a group may not be such a good idea for a leader. That's how a lot of people viewed Barry Goldwater in 1964, and Goldwater was a far more mainstream politician than Paul. Goldwater went back to Congress and served worthily for many more years (among other things, leading the group that finally convinced Nixon to resign), and Paul may do the same. But who can take a candidate seriously that puts things like this on his campaign Web site?

The Religious Right

The 2008 Republican race came down to Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani, John McCain and Mike Huckabee. Huckabee was a Baptist minister and a proponent of Intelligent Design. When he dropped from front-runner status, the Religious Right was left with nobody even remotely acceptable to them.

The reason the Religious Right never overturned Roe vs. Wade, never legalized prayer in school, and never decisively banned gay marriage is simple. They weren't players. They were played. Candidates gave lip service to the Religious Right agenda without having the slightest intention of enacting it. Why should they? As long as Roe vs. Wade remained in force,  prayer was banned in school, and gay marriage remained a force to be reckoned with, Religious Right voters could be counted on to remain inflamed and turn out in force to vote for right-sounding candidates. Abolish Roe vs. Wade, legalize prayer in school, and ban gay marriage, and the Religious Right no longer has an incentive to vote. Worse yet, they may decide that corporate corruption, job security or health care are important moral issues and vote for a liberal. And then there are those pesky green evangelicals and who can tell what they might get up to?

We have various far-right pundits announcing pompously that they will switch sides (Ann Coulter) or sit out the election (James Dobson). We haven't seen this level of large scale political hallucination since the late 1960's when the Woodstock generation thought they were really capable of mounting a revolution. A year or so later, when they suffered four fatalities in a confrontation with the military, these revolutionaries couldn't believe that anyone would actually shoot at them. (True story: Following Kent state, we had riots at Columbia University - who didn't? One night a speaker was haranguing a crowd and shouted "Let's liberate Low Library," the administration building. As he turned up the steps, there was a loud "clompclompclomp" and a phalanx of NYPD cops lined up shoulder to shoulder at the top of the steps. The activist took a couple of steps further, turned to the crowd, and yelled "Well, what are you waiting for?" The crowd drifted off to the far end of the quad and began smashing windows. One plastic pane took several heavy hits before someone yelled "Let it live!" At that point I decided the Revolution was probably not going to happen. Another true story: when I was interviewed for a security clearance in the Army in 1970 I was asked if I knew anyone who advocated the violent overthrow of the government. Four years at Berkeley and a year at Columbia. Duh. I asked if they wanted a complete list or just the first thousand. The security interviewer said "We know that's all just talk." My estimation of the overall health of American society rose sharply that instant.)

What we are seeing now on the Right is the equivalent of what the Left has been doing for a long time: shrieking impotent rage that American society simply doesn't take them seriously. What the Religious Right is terrified of beyond anything else is precisely that Republicans will win without them. Then they will be well and truly marginalized.

Over at American Thinker, Delusion Reigns

On February 2, 2008, Vasko Kohlmayer wrote Why American Evangelicals are the West's Last Hope

The fact that the United States has now a president who is willing to confront west-hating jihadists is decisively due to American evangelicals. They are the reason why America is the only western country willing to take the necessary steps to protect itself (and its allies) in the face of the Islamic threat. It is they that keep up America's fighting spirit and provide Bush with the support he needs to carry on the fight.

Were it not for American evangelicals, the free world would be presently without a leader. Without them America's policy would be in the hands of John Kerry and John Edwards who would likely by now have dismissed the whole idea of the War on Terror.

Not quite. It is thanks in no small part to evangelicals that the free worlddoesn't have a leader, that it is permissible everywhere else in the world to disregard American ideas simply because they are American. It's largely thanks to evangelicals that American scientific literacy is a global joke.

An Over At Ron Paul, Delusion Really Reigns

News item, September 10, 2008:

Instead, Paul will give his seal of approval to four candidates: Green Party nominee Cynthia McKinney, Libertarian Party nominee Bob Barr, independent candidate Ralph Nader and Constitution Party candidate Chuck Baldwin.

Paul said he's supporting the third-party candidates because the two major parties and media had "colluded" to avoid discussing issues and falsely presenting the difference between McCain and Obama as real.

"I've come to the conclusion, after having spent many years in politics, is that our presidential elections turn out to be more of a charade than anything else, and I think that is true today. It is a charade,"he said.

Paul offered an open endorsement to the four candidates because each signed onto a policy statement that calls for "balancing budgets, bring troops home, personal liberties and investigating the Federal Reserve," an aide to the congressman said.

Anyone who thinks those four candidates have anything in common is too delusional to run for dog catcher, much less President. How loopy do you have to be to think Ralph Nader, the guy who doesn't trust you to leave your lawn mower running when you let go of the handle, will work to preserve "personal liberties?" And Cynthia McKinney, who backs every benefit program ever conceived of, will "balance budgets?" I gotta go lie down.

Change or Die?

So lots of Republicans are saying “Change or Die” but like liberal denialists, most are looking only at the most superficial cosmetic changes. Try some real reform.

First, admit to being wrong about evolution.

Second, admit to being wrong on the environment. All of it. Every single major issue. Peak oil, endangered species, climate change, and especially the voodoo economics used to justify opposition to environmentalism. Trillions of dollars to implement Kyoto? Terrible. Trillions of dollars to bail out the architects of crackpot investment schemes? Meh. We can do that.

Until Republicans make those two pivotal reforms, conservatism will be a joke in academia. Who cares? Conservatives had better. That’s where future voters get indoctrinated. Liberals espousing crackpot sociology or economics are bad, but it takes a very special kind of stupid to deny physical reality. You don’t have a snowball’s chance of cracking the liberal academic monoculture until you stop spouting crap science.

Then there’s the masterful job Republicans have done of alienating every computer literate individual in America by trying to give away the Internet to the telecoms, the RIAA and the MPAA. Orrin Hatch is elected by the voters in one state but he’s won the Democrats votes in every state by his moonbat intellectual property efforts. Nice work, there. Repeal the DMCA, rescind the Bono copyright extensions, and stop prostituting Congress to the entertainment industry. As the Writers Guild strike plainly showed, the worst intellectual property thieves in America are the MPAA and the RIAA.

Making these reforms will entail alienating religious cultists and corporate interests, but in return you might just have a shot at selling the core issue of conservatism: individual responsibility. And that will be a hard sell because even many people who style themselves "conservatives" have given up on individual responsibility. "I defaulted on my mortgage because I owe more than the house is worth." Really? When exactly did that have anything to do with your obligation to pay your debts? You borrowed X dollars; you owe X dollars. If what you spent the X dollars on isn't worth X dollars any more, so what? As soon as you drive a new car off the lot, it's worth less than you owe on it. So what?

My remarks on evolution and the environment are “elitist” and “undemocratic?” Hey, I’m an elitist and proud of it. So you’re telling me I’m IN THE ZONE. Facts are not democratic. You don’t get to vote on how far you can get on a tank of gas and you don’t get to vote on how long the world’s oil will last. You don’t get to vote on the age of the earth or climate change. They are true or false and your vote doesn't count.

So you just go ahead and tell me all about Ben Stein and Michael Behe and the latest on your favorite climate change denial blog. Keep telling yourself none of this matters. Keep telling yourself that for the next four, or eight, or twelve years.

Scary Thoughts

Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves; and, under a just God, can not long retain it. - Abraham Lincoln, 1859

What's been on my mind recently is not whether McCain, Obama or Clinton will be elected so much as the tone of the debate. Both the left and right wing commentators have been reduced to screaming hysteria. Have you ever tried to wipe spittle off the inside of a computer screen?

The really bothersome thing is that on both sides we have factions demanding rights for their own side while simultaneously demanding the power to impose new restrictions on the other. This can only end in two ways.

The first is that we will live in a progressively less free society. Every time power changes hands, the incoming party will impose new restrictions of its own. Meanwhile the losing party will mostly be able to block repeal of its own pet restrictions. Neither will concede anything. It will be like a python: every time we exhale, the coils get tighter.

Once upon a time white people insisted on the right to restrict blacks. They couldn't sit in the front of the bus, go to the same schools, stay in the same hotels. Finally enough people got angry enough to demand an end to that freedom. But it didn't stop there. Soon there were restrictions on all sorts of other decisions, then even on forms of speech. The coils tighten. Lincoln's prophecy fulfilled.

The other end state is to accept that maximum freedom for ourselves demands that we allow maximum freedom to others. This means we will have to accept things we disapprove of vehemently in order to have the freedom to do things the other side disapproves of equally vehemently. For example the Religious Right regularly circulates the bogus rumor that the FCC is planning to ban religious broadcasting, but at the same time they demand that the FCC crack down on content they deem objectionable. Maybe the way to secure freedom for religious broadcasting is to strip the FCC of the power to regulate content? Conservatives value property rights. Liberals value behavioral rights. If conservatives want freedom to use their property without restrictions, they're going to have to allow liberals minimal restrictions on behavior. And if liberals want behavioral freedom, they're going to have to allow conservatives to have maximum freedom with their property. If liberals want the right to burn the flag, they're going to have to tolerate expression they find offensive, like so called "hate speech." And if conservatives want the right to express things that come under the rubric of hate speech, they're going to have to allow liberals the right to express unpatriotic things. What part of "no law" in the First Amendment is hard to figure out? If liberals want to liberalize drug laws, they'll need to accept that they don't have the right to tax conservatives to pay for the consequences.

Maybe we could decide that every time a piece of legislation signed into law, its opponents get to have a law of their choice repealed. Attach the repeal to the bill so both are signed simultaneously.

I have come to conclude that the Supreme Court was right in Lawrence versus Texas 2003, the ruling that struck down most restrictions on private sexual conduct. Not that I like the Court playing fast and loose with the law, and not that I endorse the conduct in question. But it's clear that no government can be trusted with that kind of invasive authority. Even if the people who pass the law have the requisite wisdom, they will surely be succeeded eventually by people who do not. The fact that Ann Coulter threw a screaming hissy fit about it basically reinforces my conclusion.

It may even mean that conservatives will have to tolerate abortion as a necessary evil in order to prevent the state from invading other freedoms. Not accept it morally, but recognize that it may be too dangerous to allow any government to control behavior to that degree. Liberals, in turn, may have to tolerate some kinds of discrimination. The logical end point of increasing liberty is to declare that the government has no authority to restrict any liberty unless it can demonstrate a pressing need to do so. (This, by the way,is not Libertarianism - Libertarians, many of them, oppose restrictions on liberty and don't care if there's a pressing need or not.) As someone once pointed out, the most revolutionary slogan ever is "Mind your own business."

I don't see much prospect of this happening. Right now both camps seem far more interested in suppressing the rights of the opposition than in securing more freedom for themselves. They'd dearly love total freedom for themselves and total control over the opposition, but they won't get that. Not, as Lincoln noted, if God is just. That's the scary part.

Media Bias

We have the rightist blogosphere lambasting liberal bias in the media. We have the left wing blogosphere ranting about bias from the "corporate media." Therefore I conclude the media are about on target.

Daily Kos and Ann Coulter were cloned from the same batch of goo, except that whoever or whatever programmed them flipped the pluses and minuses on one of them. The blogosphere is the pulse of the lunatic fringe. One clear lesson is that the Internet is utterly worthless as a source of information on controversial issues. A good rule of thumb is that any outrageous story on line should be allowed to simmer for 72 hours before giving it credence.

"This is CBS News, a subsidiary of OmniMaxiMegaGlobalCorp, and we're evil. Mwahahahahaha. Are the babies done in the microwave yet?" Maybe closing out that way would satisfy the critics of "corporate media?"

Lessons Not Learned

He's Ba-a-a-ack

Not being satisfied with giving the election to George Bush in 2000, Ralph Nader is running again. Nader at his finest on The Raw Story, July 28, 2008:

"What is your answer to people, including myself, who believe that the votes you get will take away from the Democratic party and ensure McCain wins?" asked the woman during Nader's Q&A with the press. "People who say that a vote for you is a vote for McCain."

Nader grew tense, and his response to the woman was abrupt. "Madam, do you think I'm a second-class citizen?" he asked.

"I'd like for you to answer my question," said the woman.

"No, because that question implies that somehow I am less equal in running for election than two crooked politicians in Washington," he said. "You are a political bigot, wittingly or unwittingly."

Okay, I'll bite. Nader is less equal than either John McCain or Barack Obama, maybe not under the law but certainly in terms of qualifications. He may not be a "second class citizen" but he is a third rate candidate. This is the guy who helped make it necessary for me to restart my lawn mower every time I let go of the handle because some nitwits put their hands under a running lawn mower. Nader's reputation is solely the product of his own hype machine.

Reforming the Electoral College

A number of states are passing laws mandating that their electors vote either proportionally with the state popular vote, or even according to the national popular vote. Maine and Nebraska apportion their electoral votes by district, though so far neither has had split electoral votes. This is, by the way, 100% constitutional, since the Constitution specifies that electors are selected as State legislatures decide.

If you want to marginalize your small state, this is the ideal way to do it. Most elections are not that far apart in popular vote totals, so if I'm virtually guaranteed to get one of Montana's three electoral votes, and unlikely to get more than two, why bother going to Montana at all? And tying the electoral vote to the national vote is even worse. If I can get 10,000 votes in North Dakota or 100,000 votes in California with the same number of speaking engagements, why bother with North Dakota?

B-b-but the way it is  now, candidates focus on the "swing states" and ignore the others. And that will change how? What's the chance of a Republican swinging enough votes in Massachusetts, or a Democrat in Utah, to make campaigning there worth the effort?

If you're really all that concerned about popular representation, how about a nationwide initiative and referendum system? Or limiting the power of the courts in overturning referendum votes? Or electing Supreme Court justices?

And just wait until some state decides to cast its electoral votes in accordance with the national vote total, then the state goes heavily Democratic while the national tally goes Republican. If you thought the tantrums about Florida in 2000 were bad...

Somewhere Tricky Dick is Smiling

A movement called Recreate 68 is mobilizing to demonstrate (disrupt) the Democratic National Convention in Denver. They're upset that Hillary Clinton didn't get the nomination. If anything can deliver a miracle to the Republicans, this ought to do it.

I remember the 1968 convention riots in Chicago well because I heard about them in a most unusual way. We were camped 15 miles from the nearest road in the Sierra Nevada, listening on the radio. The commentators were all but hyperventilating, describing the way the police were gunning people down in the streets, impaling babies on swords, grinding puppies beneath their jackboots, pushing old ladies in front of buses, etc.

The convention pitted Hubert Humphrey, sitting Vice President and long time senator from Minnesota, and Eugene McCarthy, Congressman from Minnesota. These were possibly two of the most decent men ever to run for the Presidency. Humphrey was the favorite but he was associated with Lyndon Johnson's hated Vietnam War. McCarthy was running an underdog anti-war campaign and was a huge favorite on college campuses. The roll call was close - Humphrey finally won the majority when Wisconsin cast its votes (the tally published in many sources doesn't reflect that because of the ridiculous practice of delegates changing their votes after a candidate is selected). The rioters were basically protesting Humphrey and his ties to the Establishment, plus the fact that Humphrey had not run in any primaries, but still controlled enough delegates to win.

After I got home, I learned that events hadn't played out quite the way we'd heard on the radio. People watching on television, who had the benefit of seeing things with their own eyes rather than relying solely on the audio commentary, felt very little sympathy for the rioters. Because despite the Federal Government issuing a report that called the police response "a police riot," many viewers at home thought the police response was completely justified. Once you got off college campuses, the public antipathy for the demonstrators was deep and intense.

The bad taste almost certainly played a major role in giving the election to Richard Nixon. The following year, seven leading anti-war radicals were charged with conspiring to commit riot. After a circus-like trial, they were acquitted on the conspiracy charges - a demented verdict if there ever was one - but five of the seven were convicted of incitement as individuals. The defendants and their attorneys also received multiple sentences for contempt of court. In 1970, the contempt sentences and the convictions were thrown out. Unquestionably, the reversal is one of the worst miscarriages of justice in American history and seriously weakened public respect for the courts. In 1972, in a virtual national referendum on the Sixties, Richard Nixon hammered Democrat George McGovern 520 electoral votes to 17. And with the exception of Jimmy Carter (1976-80), Republicans owned the White House until 1992. But hey, there was no conservative backlash.

It is impossible to overstate the antipathy the 1968 riots raised among the American public. So, forty years later, let's do it all over again. (They didn't - they fizzled like a wet firecracker.)

Why Politicians Don't Speak Plainly

Here we see it in action: Max Bergmann in the Huffington Post, July 10, 2008:

This is the week that should have effectively ended John McCain's efforts to become the next president of the United States. But you wouldn't know it if you watched any of the mainstream media outlets or followed political reporting in the major newspapers.

During this past week: McCain called the most important entitlement program in the U.S. a disgrace, his top economic adviser called the American people whiners ....

McCain is dead right on both counts: Social Security is a disgrace. Not the concept, but the fact that it's not properly funded. If the program were pay-as-you-go, that is, if the trust fund wasn't constantly being plundered for other purposes, we wouldn't be worried about the program going bankrupt and current payers wouldn't be worried about whether or not they will ever see benefits.

As for whiners: waaaah. Your wind farm is going to drag my property values down. I took out an outrageous mortgage on an overpriced house and I want my debt canceled. I can't afford to fill my SUV, even though I had 35 years advance warning that oil price spikes could happen and cheap oil would come to an end. I'm retired and I don't see why I should have to pay to put other peoples' kids through school but I still want them to treat me for free after they graduate from medical school.. Baby Boomers (and I am one)are the whiniest, most self-centered generation in American history.

The latest outrage is people walking away from mortgages because the house is worth less than the mortgage. There's a word for these people. Thieves.

Tell the truth, and get bashed for it. By a blog site that otherwise complains about dishonesty in politics. What an incentive.

Hopeful Signs

The best indications that the 2008 election has presented two worthy candidates are first, that the lunatic fringe on both sides is positively livid with rage. On the right, we have Ann Coulter and Real Clear Politics seething that John McCain hasn't proposed legalizing the shooting of abortionists and gays for sport. On the left, Daily Kos and Crooks & Liars are furious that Barack Obama is wooing moderates. Some people have actually used the phrase "selling out to the center."

The other is the utter triviality of the attacks on each candidate. Let's see...

And then there's Barack Obama:

Meanwhile, John Edwards, who isn't even running for President any more, is being hounded by the National Enquirer for having a mistress and a love child. Because Presidential campaigns are just so boring when all you have are issues. The blogosphere is enraged that the MSM (mainstream media) aren't covering this story. In this case the MSM have it right. The story is as irrelevant as the Jon Benet Ramsey story.

All You Need to Know (Chapter 3)

A Slate article on August 1, 2008 suggested that Republicans were trying to project Barack Obama as a reincarnation of Thomas E. Dewey, who was widely perceived as stuffy and elitist, and who unexpectedly lost to Harry Truman in 1948:

But Dewey's snobbishness went far beyond looks. Indeed, a single display of it may well have cost him the White House. On Oct. 13, 1948, in Beaucoup, Ill., Dewey was speaking on the rear platform of a train -- part of a response to President Truman's 30,000-mile whistle-stop campaign -- when the engineer mistakenly backed the train up a short distance. Dewey snapped that "this is the first lunatic I've had as an engineer. He probably ought to be shot at sunrise, but I guess we can let him off because nobody was hurt." Dewey may not have realized it, but to the hundreds of thousands who worked on railroads, their families, and the millions of others in blue-collar jobs, this smacked of something less than respect for the working folks.

Nope, can't criticize incompetence. Might offend all the incompetent folks out there. The folks who took offense at Dewey's remark are the ones who let their unions be taken over and their pensions stolen by organized crime, who made "American workmanship" a global joke, who fought tooth and nail against firing any worker no matter how lazy or useless, who tolerated labor tactics that led unions into such disrepute that union membership is now around 10 per cent, and whose children and grandchildren respond to ten second sound bite ads telling them that gasoline and medical care should be free.

Dewey was a progressive Republican. As governor of New York, he signed one of the first pieces of legislation outlawing racial discrimination. Truman well and truly earned his place in history, but we could have done far worse than elect Dewey.

All You Need to Know (Chapter 4)

Rasmussen Reports, September 9, 2008.

While 82% of voters who support McCain believe the justices should rule on what is in the Constitution, just 29% of Barack Obama’s supporters agree. Just 11% of McCain supporters say judges should rule based on the judge’s sense of fairness, while nearly half (49%) of Obama supporters agree.

Inflate Your Tires

Barack Obama made some perfectly sensible remarks about the way proper vehicle maintenance would save as much oil as we might bring in by drilling offshore of the continental United States, and the Republicans are heaping ridicule on him for it. John McCain handed out tire gauges at one rally. Why the ridicule?

Because, sensible as they may be, these remarks smack of the worst Federal nanny-state, micromanagement mentality. It is not hard to imagine a Federal program with mandated tire inspections. Lest anyone think this is hyperbole, as this is being written (August, 2008), the Department of Justice is considering new regulations under the Americans With Disabilities Act that would, among other things, regulate miniature golf courses. And can we ever forget the infamous regulation of toilet tanks? Amazingly, people who take umbrage at bans on drug use or abortion don't seem to have the foggiest clue how demeaning it is to be micromanaged this way.

Rain Man

Evangelist Stuart Shepard has urged Christians to pray for rain the afternoon Barack Obama delivers his acceptance speech at Invesco Stadium. Frankly, this is an idea everyone should encourage. Because if Shepard's followers pray mightily and it doesn't rain, that will be clear evidence God has repudiated them, right? (In the summer, afternoon thundershowers are quite possible, prayers or not.)

Barack had perfect weather for the anointing. God obviously hates Stuart Shepard and his followers. Right? Well, what would Stuart be saying if it had rained?

Doubtless Shepard and James Dobson and Fred Phelps all prayed mightily for that not to happen. But it happened. Does that mean that God has rejected them? Don't hold your breath waiting for them to admit it. People who pretend to revere the Word of God have a remarkable ability to rationalize when the Word of God is "no."

Olympic Musings

The Olympic opening ceremonies are on as I write this. While conservatives are catering to people who deny that oil can ever run out, and people who believe the earth is 10,000 years old, and liberals are still fondling the idea that self esteem is more important than learning, and that academic standards are elitist, the Chinese made an LED screen the size of a football field. If even a tiny percentage of those 1.3 billion people gain real scientific literacy - and they can already build manned spacecraft and thousand-foot skyscrapers - they will mop the floor with us, economically, militarily, you name it. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

A hundred years ago the West looked condescendingly on China as mired in ignorance, superstition and stagnation while the West surged ahead in science and technology. Now China is surging ahead in science and technology while we sink into ignorance, superstition and stagnation.

Forget about Spanish. You won't even have to worry about Chinese. Unlike Americans, the Chinese aren't too lazy or stuck up to learn foreign languages. They will take us down in perfect English.

Perils of Palin and Lessons Learned, 1972

Sarah Palin of Alaska is going through the loony left rumor mill after being chosen as John McCain's running mate.

Unless she clubs a baby seal on network television, skins and eats it alive, McCain had better keep her on the ticket. Two words: Thomas Eagleton. Eagleton, George McGovern's running mate, was dropped from the ticket after it was revealed he had undergone psychological counseling. Now to me, knowing when you're about to go off the rails and having enough sense to seek help is reason to vote for a candidate. McGovern dropped him, thereby looking scientifically illiterate as well as disloyal and cowardly. (To my thinking, McGovern's last-minute attempt to pose as an alternative to Gene McCarthy in 1968, after McCarthy had fought a hard and honorable uphill campaign, forever disqualified him from office.)

Meanwhile, In Austria

Extreme right emerges as strong force in Austria (Headline from September 29, 2008)

Gee, tell me again how great it would be for minority parties to have real clout in elections.

Voting Machines

Leftist moonbats were all a-flutter over touch-screen machines that flipped votes from Obama to McCain. If you're going to believe in a conspiracy theory, at least believe in one that makes sense. If I were going to steal votes, I'd have the screen register the choice accurately and quietly change the vote total internally. I wouldn't change the screen display to say "Ha Ha, all your vote are belong to us."

A high school kid using GW BASIC could write better software than the voting machines use, and it's crap because the vendors know they can write crap and not be held accountable.

[1] "Flak" is a contraction of "Flugzeugabwehrkannone," or anti-aircraft cannon, and by analogy, any intense hostile response. A "flack" is a publicist.

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Created 30 November 2006, Last Update 11 January 2020

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