Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Might as well admit it...

You speak eloquently and have seemingly read every
book ever published. You are a fountain of
endless (sometimes useless) knowledge, and
never fail to impress at a party.
What people love: You can answer almost any
question people ask, and have thus been
nicknamed Jeeves.
What people hate: You constantly correct their
grammar and insult their paperbacks.

What Kind of Elitist Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Modern political magic

Have you ever noticed that Democratic politicians have a new magical spell for erasing doubts about their competence on economic issues? It sometimes seems that no matter what outlandish ideas a Democrat believes, all it takes is a wave of the hand, a rolling back of the sleeve, and the magic word "Clinton" and the aura of economic omnicompetence is restored.

I stumbled across another example of modern political magic in the The New Republic Online's Democratic Convention Blog. We have the intoning of great name Clinton by the high priests of Clintonomics, the ritualistic reaffirmation of the Doctrine of Democratic Unity, and the mystical incarnation of Senator Kerry as one person with two natures: reliable restorer of prosperity and pragmatic "conservative" Democrat unified in one body. For an example of some extra smoke and mirrors to add to the effect, Andrew Sullivan's link to the same article contains the comment "Deficit reduction? Spending restraint? Well, at least you know they're not Bush Republicans."

It seems to me that there are some important facts being obscured by these types of comments. One is the certainty that Congress continually would attempt spending binges throughout the 90's and 00's regardless of who was elected president, simply because the fiscal conservatives have never had a voting majority in Congress. Another is the fact that any president who gained his position despite a shortage of 500,000 popular votes in the last election doesn't have the luxury of being able to launch a crusade for fiscal responsibility against his own party. A decisive 2004 election victory for President Bush might allow him to go a lot farther towards promoting fiscal responsibility in the federal government. Certainly it's going to take a lot more to curb government spending than trotting out the issue for an occasional Bush-bash.

As far as what a President Kerry would do in terms of government responsibility, maybe people should look up his voting record on "Hillary-care".

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Conspiracy theory of the day

Yahoo News had a recent item about peer teaching of sexual education in Britain. The thought that came to mind when I saw this was a quote about the brainwashing of prisoners from "Propaganda: The Formation of Men's Attitudes" by Jacques Ellul:
A man placed in the above circumstances [being cut off from eveything] is subjected to a bombardment of slogans by radio or by fellow-prisoners, who, though prisoners themselves, shower him with reproaches and slogans because they already are on the road to their own reconstruction.

Monday, July 19, 2004

The past monarch's game

Brad DeLong has an interesting post comparing President Bush to Shakespeare's Prince Hal from the plays "Henry IV, part 1" and "Henry IV, part 2". Regardless of your opinion of President Bush or his policies, you have to admit that this is a comparison that has intriguing permutations. Liberals will find the image of the usurping Lancastrian dynasty displacing the legitimate king in "Richard II" to have modern day relevance, while conservatives will latch onto quotes from "Henry V" such as:
And we understand him well,
How he comes o'er us with our wilder days,
Not measuring what use we made of them.
spoken by King Henry to the French ambassador. The quote spoken by King Henry from "Henry V" that is most relevant in this context comes right before the battle of Agincourt:
My ransom is this frail and worthless trunk,
My army but a weak and sickly guard;
Yet, God before, tell him we will come on,
Though France himself and such another neighbour
Stand in our way.
On another note, given Senator Kerry's ties to France as well as his ambitions to be President, perhaps Senator Kerry is the Richard, Earl of Cambridge to rival President Bush's King Henry.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

The Dumping

It's summer in a presidential election year and that means that ridiculously small news topics will get magnified into titanic stories on the slow weeks.  This week, the big news is gossip that President Bush is considering removing Vice-President Cheney from the Republican ticket.  It has already gone mainstream in Newsweek and The New York Times.  So far, the best conservative opinion I've seen has been Paul Weyrich, who obviously recognizes that this subject is only providing glee for Democrats.

The strange thought that occured to me today is that this type of buzz in the media might mean that it's really the Democrats who are desperate, not the Republicans. Right after the 2000 elections, the main Democratic media stories about President Bush were the disputed election result and the opinion that a Republican president with such a weak electoral majority will be forced to govern as a tepid moderate. Now it's more than three years later and the Democrats are back to suggesting that President Bush's only chance for reelection is to dump the Arch-Conservative and make a dash for the moderate middle again.  Doesn't the switch from the Fahrenheit 9/11 "stick" last week to the dump-Cheney-and-win "carrot" this week suggest a certain lack of winning confidence from the liberal media?

Alternatively, this could be a short term attack on a "target of opportunity": the assumed conservative/liberal split at the RNC convention.

Friday, July 09, 2004

The rewards of blogging

Good news: Vacuum Energy has achieved its first known blogback from somone who hasn't worked at Vacuum Energy headquarters (not counting the "Bloggers for Bush" blogroll).

Downside: The blogback was contained in a Mega-Google Bomb.

This must be God's way of telling me to stop ego-surfing and get back to work.

We're at war. Time for a nap.

The popular blogger Mickey Kaus recently announced that, at least as of July 5 when the post was blogged, that he planned to vote for John Kerry in the upcoming general election. The reasons he gave were:
a) we need a break* from Bush's strident public global terror war in order to prevent it from becoming a damaging, lifelong West vs. Islam clash--in order to "rebrand" America and digest the hard-won gains we've made in Iraq and Afghanistan (if they even remain gains by next January). Plus, b) it would be nice to make some progress on national health care, even if it's only dialectical "try a solution and find out it doesn't work" progress.
The asterisk refers to an amendment that clarified the original post. Item a was also foreshadowed by an earlier reference to Peggy Noonan's article Warren G. Kerry: Will the Democrat tempt Americans with promises of "normalcy"? in which she wrote:
The American people may come to feel that George W. Bush did the job history sent him to do. He handled 9/11, turned the economy around, went into Afghanistan, captured and removed Saddam Hussein. And now let's hire someone who'll just by his presence function as an emollient. A big greasy one but an emollient nonetheless.
She concludes by challenging her readers to tell her that she is wrong, or what Bush can do about this sentiment if she is right.

I believe that the error of omission that Ms. Noonan makes in her article, and the point that I would ask Mr. Kaus to reconsider, is that the Bush administration has identified democratization of the Middle East as a key foreign policy objective for the United States. The chronic political instability of the Middle East is a major source of large scale conflicts, rogue regimes driving a major regional nuclear proliferation problem, and a global terrorist insurgency. A more stable Middle Eastern political order could therefore be a major boon the the global community, although the suspicion that it could be a major boon to the country that governed the emergence of a new political order is certain to cause tensions as well.

In this light, the "return to normalcy" is little more than a combination of some of the worst foreign policy choices of the 20th century. The notion that American victories in Afghanistan and Iraq are largely sufficient to address State-sponsored terror is nothing more than the toothlessly symbolic "message sending" that always seems to end up in either failure or appeasement, while the notion that what America needs most after an amazing victory is a long, comfortable drift is nothing more than the concept of a "strategic pause" that imediately preceded 9/11. Despite America's long tradition of "isolationism", I don't view the combination of these two policies as an election-winning foreign policy position.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Some thoughts about John Edwards for Vice-President

As of this writing, Senator John Edwards is the Vice-Presidential running mate for Senator John Kerry's Presidential campaign. As a "Blogger for Bush", should I be worried that this single fact alone somehow dooms President Bush to am ignominious defeat in November? Some thoughts.
  • Shouldn't John Edwards' career as a trial lawyer count as suspiciously against the Kerry-Edwards ticket as Dick Cheney's stint at Haliburton seems to count against the Bush-Cheney ticket? If you think that big corporations staffed by crypto-fascists are secretly running the Republican party through Dick Cheney, why should we think that the poster child of the ATLA is somehow immune to influence from cynical, blood-sucking, big-spending trial lawyers?

  • What better way for a rich Northeastern liberal to deflect attention from his uber-liberal voting record than to pick a running mate who made class warfare the centerpiece of his aborted presidential campaign?

  • Edwards' "Two America's" does mesh up with Kerry's "Let America be America again", in the sense that they both assume that everything evil in the world is the fault of President Bush and his evil brainwashing hypno-ray transmitters. This should bump up Kerry's share of the "Fahrenheit 9/11" vote from 99.9% to 99.99%.
In other words, I'm not worried. Yet.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Is the New York Times terrified of strong women?

There is an article in the New York Times today, titled "Showing Candidates, as They Praise Themselves and Bury Others". The article is a review of a "The Living Room Candidate" exhibition of campaign commercials at The American Museum of Moving Image. One quotation from the article caught my attention:
It is the one with Nancy Reagan, in a demure red suit and navy ruffled collar, staring frostily into the camera in a 1980 ad against Jimmy Carter.

"I deeply, deeply resent and am offended by the attacks that President Carter has made on my husband," she said in a tight, reproachful voice. "I would like Mr. Carter to explain to me why the inflation is as high as it is; why unemployment is as high as it is; I would like to have him explain the vacillating, weak foreign policy so that our friends overseas don't know what we're going to do, whether we're going to stand up for them, or whether we're not going to stand up for them."

Even the harshest of President Bush's ads this year criticizing Senator John Kerry's voting record on defense are not as chilling.
The 1980's Democratic Party must have had some pretty devastating structural problems when the question "Why is unemployment so high?" is seen as a bone-chilling, horrifying, below-the-belt assault from a "Bob Dole-style attack dog".

Blogs gone wild

The New York Post Online Edition is reporting on a new DVD release: "Guys Gone Wild".

From a cultural point of view, it's hard to judge whether this is simply brand extension of "Girls Gone Wild" to a larger audience or the first wave of the inevitable cultural counter-attack against the "Girls Gone Wild" phenomenon. My guess is that the concept will only reach overexposure when you start seeing things like "Pets Gone Wild" or "Babies Gone Wild" hit the stores.

On the other hand, I'm not entirely sure if there is much of a market for "Guys Gone Wild" in the first place. I live in a college town, so if I really wanted to see something that is "like 'Jackass' but with naked frat boys", I could just walk home on a Friday night during the school year after the bars close.