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Archive for March, 2008

Run Center, Govern Partisan

[ 30 ] March 2, 2008 |

Chris Bowers, in the context of discussing whether or not Obama is a progressive:

Campaigning is often a sign of how someone will govern. In 2000, the Bush campaign ended up “winning,” basically by preventing many people from voting in Florida, and then stopping the recount there altogether. He won through a power grab, foreshadowing the many power grabs to come in his administration. In 2004, Bush won through a base strategy, and then preceded to govern directly to the base without any concern for broader public sentiment. In the 2008 campaign, Obama is winning by appealing to a huge wave of progressive activists, but also by appealing to beltway, center-right conventional wisdom.

Bush may have won by preventing votes in Florida being counted, but he got into position to win by running a campaign that stressed unity, bipartisanship, cooperation with Democrats, and even (believe it or not) hints that he would include Democrats in his cabinet. He then governed from the far right; even farther right than the national GOP of the 1990s. As such, his governing ran directly counter to the way that he campaigned. So I’d have to say that Bowers is actually wrong on this point; Bush is an outstanding example of candidate whose centrist direction (at least in 2000; I think Bowers is right about 2004) had no noticeable impact on governing strategy. And so to then draw the conclusion (as Bowers does) that centrist moves in the Obama campaign (or the Clinton campaign, for that matter) herald a centrist orientation is quite wrong, at least based on the evidence of the first Bush term.

What’s notable about 2000 wasn’t that Bush ran right in the general, but rather that he was able to run a centrist campaign while having such a clearly right wing record as governor of Texas. A better argument challenging the “Obama as progressive” stance would be to suggest that Obama’s relatively short record can be interpreted as stressing such things as unity, bipartisanship, etc., and that as such we can’t be certain that he’ll govern as a genuine progressive/liberal. But as for the campaign, it really doesn’t tell us much, other than that Obama believes he’ll need independent and Republican votes to win in November, and that he believes he essentially has the Democratic nomination sewn up. On the first I’m sure that he’s right, and on the second we’ll know more on Tuesday.


Headline of the Day

[ 1 ] March 2, 2008 |

Skywalkers in Korea Cross Han Solo

They came from all over the world, poles in hand, and feet ready to inch more than half a mile across a high wire strung over the Han River in a spine-tingling battle of balance, speed and high anxiety.

As part of its annual city festival, the South Korean capital staged Thursday what was billed as the world’s first high-wire championship, drawing 18 contestants from nine countries for three days of supreme feats of concentration.

Somebody’s been waiting a long time for the chance to write that headline.

"Of course you’d say that…you have the brainpan of a stagecoach tilter!"

[ 25 ] March 2, 2008 |

As Matt and spackerman note, this collection of bizarre anecdotes and phrenology from Charlotte Allen has to be the dumbest thing published in an American newspaper in many moons. So I guess I can see why she would want to blame it on her gender as a whole, but alas that won’t fly. The heart of the article consists of selective assertions (call me crazy, but it strikes me that the Oprah is conducted at a higher intellectual level than, say, the WWE, Elizabeth Gilbert has to be better written than Mitch Abloom Albom the guy who writes the treacle about meeting your high school volleyball coach in heaven, etc.), assumptions that intelligence consists largely of sharing Allen’s trivial aesthetic preferences and bourgeois romantic sensibilities, and so on.

Trying to make this about the Clinton campaign takes the silliness to a whole other level. Her assertion that “[a]s far as I’m concerned, she has proved that she can’t debate” runs into the obvious problem that debating is the one area where she’s clearly a better candidate than Obama, and even if she wasn’t her unquestionably greater extemporaneous command of policy details creates significant problems for the thesis that any alleged deficiencies in debating result from less intelligence. Then there’s this:

Then there’s Clinton’s nearly all-female staff, chosen for loyalty rather than, say, brains or political savvy. Clinton finally fired her daytime-soap-watching, self-styled “Latina queena” campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle, known for burning through campaign money and for her open contempt for the “white boys” in the Clinton camp. But stupidly, she did it just in time to alienate the Hispanic voters she now desperately needs to win in Texas or Ohio to have any shot at the Democratic nomination.

Yes, if only Hillary Clinton had paid millions of dollars for the sage advice of a good smart male union-buster, all of her problems would be over! Only a hysterical woman could believe otherwise!

Times as Propaganda Machine?

In today’s Times (in the Styles section, of course), Pamela Paul discusses Doulas. She is sure to document the problems that can arise when a doula is not a good fit for the woman or the situation in which the woman chooses to labor and deliver (hospital, home, birthing center — though the article acts as if hospital birth is the one and only option). But somehow, whoops!, Paul just darn forgot to include a single woman who was happy with her doula and who gave birth in any sort of alternate setting. And – whoops! – she “accidentally” only provides anecdotes of the stereotypically rigid, unyielding, irrational lactation consultants and doulas that any Joel Stein column on the topic would present. It’s the kind out out-dated one-sided garbage that the Times — yes, even the Styles section — should know and do better than to publish.

How to Succeed in Business

[ 24 ] March 2, 2008 |

Team building, Provo style:

A supervisor at a motivational coaching business in Provo is accused of waterboarding an employee in front of his sales team to demonstrate that they should work as hard on sales as the employee had worked to breathe.

In a lawsuit filed last month, former Prosper Inc. salesman Chad Hudgens alleges his managers also allowed the supervisor to draw mustaches on employees’ faces, take away their chairs and beat on their desks with a wooden paddle “because it resulted in increased revenues for the company.”

. . . . Christopherson led the sales team to the top of a hill near the office and told Hudgens to lie down with his head downhill, the suit claims. Christopherson then told the rest of the team to hold Hudgens by the arms and legs.

Christopherson poured water from a gallon jug over Hudgens’ mouth and nostrils – like the interrogation strategy known as waterboarding – and told the team members to hold Hudgens down as he struggled, the suit alleges.

“At the conclusion of his abusive demonstration, Christopherson told the team that he wanted them to work as hard on making sales as Chad had worked to breathe while he was being waterboarded,” the suit alleges.

The company disputes the allegations, of course; the president insists the sales manager was merely dramatizing an important lesson from the life of Socrates.

Curiously, this Socratic “lesson” appears in such recent, inspirational page-turners as 100 Ways to Build Self-Esteem and Teach Values, How to Make Your Dream Come Alive, and Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul.

What I can’t seem to find, however, is any source that suggests this story actually originates from the life of Socrates. I’m inclined to suspect that the anecdote is bullshit, but maybe that’s because I have no truck with anything that qualifies as “motivational” or “self-help” literature. Anyone know for sure?

Why are the letters "I-D-I-O-T" on the law professor’s shirt?

[ 0 ] March 2, 2008 |

Thers explains.

Good Read

[ 3 ] March 1, 2008 |

A Philosopher’s Blog deconstructs the Pew report on prisons in the U.S. Nothing groundbreaking, but a solid and detailed analysis. Check it out here.

Saturday Morning Yuck

I’m going along, enjoying my Saturday morning newspaper reading catch-up, when I stumble on this (via zuzu):

You know how ladies, when they don’t get what they want, can go a little crazy? Am I right, fellas? Right now, they’re pretty upset about losing their first chance at a female president. This would have empowered little girls, shattered sexist beliefs about female incompetence and forced men around the world to view a woman as an agent of power instead of a sex object — all of which, it turns out, are important to women even though they buy Star magazine. Ladies are complicated.

Because women do most of the voting, and the shopping and the TV watching and the book reading — porn really must take up a lot of men’s time — they need to be placated. Which shouldn’t be hard. You know how when your dog dies, your wife wants to get a puppy right away? That’s what America has to do. We need a replacement Hillary.

This drivel is courtesy of the LA Times’s Joel Stein. And it gets worse from there.

Will a female vice president really satisfy women? Of course not. But what does? The point is that we’ll be showing them we understand that their frustration is legitimate, and that we’re hearing them, and that we’re ready to listen. That stuff will totally buy us until November.

Oh Joel, you’re so funny. You figure out how to turn a valid point — that both John McCain and Obama (if he is the nominee) might do well to consider a woman veep candidate — into a pile of misogynistic, patronizing bunk. Kudos to you.

The Candidate For Civil Liberties

[ 27 ] March 1, 2008 |

I don’t agree with every particular of the argument — it’s a little problematic to tie Hillary Clinton too strongly with her husband’s administration (granting that much of the tying has been done by the Clinton itself), and it’s really time to stop citing Kathleen Willey as a credible witness — but overall Rosen convincingly makes the case that Obama has a significantly better record on civil liberties:

IF Barack Obama wins in November, we could have not only our first president who is an African-American, but also our first president who is a civil libertarian. Throughout his career, Mr. Obama has been more consistent than Hillary Clinton on issues from the Patriot Act to bans on flag burning. At the same time, he has reached out to Republicans and independents to build support for his views. Mrs. Clinton, by contrast, has embraced some of the instrumental tacking of Bill Clinton, whose presidency disappointed liberal and conservative civil libertarians on issue after issue.

Mr. Obama made his name in the Illinois Legislature by championing historic civil liberties reforms, like the mandatory recording of all interrogations and confessions in capital cases. Although prosecutors, the police, the Democratic governor and even some death penalty advocates were initially opposed to the bill, Mr. Obama won them over. The reform passed unanimously, and it has been adopted by four other states and the District of Columbia.

In the Senate, Mr. Obama distinguished himself by making civil liberties one of his legislative priorities. He co-sponsored a bipartisan reform bill that would have cured the worst excesses of the Patriot Act by meaningfully tightening the standards for warrantless surveillance. Once again, he helped encourage a coalition of civil-libertarian liberals and libertarian conservatives. The effort failed when Hillary Clinton joined 13 other Democrats in supporting a Republican motion to cut off debate on amendments to the Patriot Act.

That wasn’t the first time Mrs. Clinton tacked to the center in a civil-liberties debate. In 2005, she co-sponsored a bill that would have made it a federal crime to intimidate someone by burning a flag, even though the Supreme Court had struck down similar laws in the past. (Mr. Obama supported a narrower bill that would have satisfied the Constitution.) And Mrs. Clinton opposed a moderate proposal by the United States Sentencing Commission that would have retroactively reduced the draconian penalties for possession of crack cocaine — a proposal supported by Mr. Obama, and by liberal as well as conservative judges.

The expanded executive powers claimed by the Bush administration makes this issue important, and I don’t see a good argument that Clinton is better on civil liberties.

Damning Stuff

[ 0 ] March 1, 2008 |

Check out this mashup of Clinton’s red phone ad with GOP attack ads and Bill Clinton’s take on fear and hope:

Frankly, I think Hillary Clinton deserves a much better campaign than the one she’s getting.

(via Pam)

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