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Sure, they’re going for subtext, but most of them aren’t that good at it.

It would be nice if Huntsman won. He’d have a hard time getting my vote, but I’d rather have someone who I trust to just run the government in a way I dislike. The rest seem like they would burn the nation to the ground if they could only get to be president of the smoldering wreckage.

Proxies for Thinking

December 16th, 2010

I am often dismayed by the willingness of political writers to use the lives of individual legislators as proxies for the state of the nation, thus saving themselves from having to think too hard. Witness today’s article about Patrick Kennedy cleaning out his office, used, by several of the commentators in the article to connote the decline of liberalism in America.

Here are the two quotes I’m thinking of:

“This is a family that once had the presidency and two Senate seats, and they’re now down to the mayor of Santa Monica,” said Darrell M. West, a Brookings Institution scholar. “It’s a pretty dramatic fall, and it’s symbolic of the decline of liberalism.”

Norman J. Ornstein, a political scientist at the American Enterprise Institute, said that while Mr. Kennedy’s departure was minor in the scheme of things, that he and his father were being replaced as the only father-son team in Congress by Representative Ron Paul of Texas and Senator-elect Rand Paul of Kentucky, who hail from the libertarian Tea Party wing of the Republican Party, was indicative of “the kind of sea change we’re going through” on Capitol Hill.

The first one attempts to hide the absurdity of his sentiment by calling it symbolism. But even as symbolism it’s hollow. To be sure, the far left has taken a drubbing. But the presence of blood relations in Congress has nothing to do with it.

Try phrasing it like this: “The power of a political ideology can been seen in the number of blood relations that semi-dynastic families supporting that ideology manage to get elected.”

It really reveals how colossally stupid the idea is. Yet that sentiment is essentially what these two quotes try to accomplish. Sadly, the strong personalities that the Kennedys, Bushes, and Pauls of the world represent are too much for many commentators and reporters to ignore. All too often political ideologies are conceived of by the commentariat as simply the manifestations of these powerful personalities. If they’re blood relations? So much the better. You just wave your hands around and call it symbolism. I don’t think many of Rand Paul’s votes came from people who wanted to symbolically endorse Ron Paul’s viewpoints by electing his son.

As an aside, the first quote calls the lack of Kennedys in national elected positions a “dramatic fall,” but really, it’s only a fall if you think later generations not choosing to go into politics is in some way a failing of those younger generations. Maybe Joseph P. Kennedy would have thought of it that way. But I doubt Edward M. Kennedy Jr., who founded his own company and to the best of my knowledge never ran for any elected office, loses much sleep over it.

Now if you’ll excuse me. I’m going to go back to studying for my federal courts exam…

Missing Minnesota

July 7th, 2009

It was with some sense of pride that I got to see Franken win. It wasn’t that I loved Franken as a candidate, I wanted one of his primary opponents to win, but he was there to unseat Coleman and he did it. Last week there was a nice little article on Minnesota politics that managed to not be condescending, much to my surprise, given that this was the NY Times.

On Pots and Kettles

December 28th, 2008

Politico reports on Obama getting irked by the ridiculous media exposure that presidents are exposed to, and the consequent loss of the next four years of his daughter’s childhoods that might come with it, and manages to have exactly the sort of over intrusive overly detailed reporting that they are writing about. In what world do I need to know that the future president ordered a tuna sandwich on twelve grain bread? Other, lesser, men might have settled on a mere eight grains. I know that’s what I just bought at the market today. Obama is bringing the kind of change that means and extra four grains? I honestly don’t even need to hear what he ordered, or that he ordered. He’s at a restaurant, I can infer that he ordered food. Hell, I can infer that he eats, he’s human after all. I don’t really need any information at all about him taking his kids anywhere. But I appear to be in the minority in thinking that his ability to deal with a bunch of guys who long ago gave up on real investigative journalism has nothing do do with future duties as chief administrator and commander in chief.

Unless someone wants to write an article claiming that it was irresponsible of him to get tuna, because the increased popularity of the fish after he eats it will put further strain on already depleted stocks of tuna, teetering on the brink of extinction. If we’re going to invade the poor man’s privacy to this degree, let’s at least pointlessly saddle him with the blame for the extinction of the blue fin. I prefer my political reporting with a side of impotent rage.

Politics and Consumption

November 10th, 2008

It’s amazing how much more efficiently a man can work when the fear of failure finally kicks in. I just wish it had kicked in a few weeks ago. Right now I’m going full tilt, or as full tilt as a man making a blog post can go, to get the outline all ship shape and start working on memorization and drilling problems.

It is interesting to me that after watching just about everything I could have hoped for in the election come true, (baring Coleman and Bachman getting unseated) I have drastically curtailed my news reading habits. To be sure, some of this is the impending rush of finals as I enter the end of the first semester, but the itch has gone too. I want to see an Onion article, “Obama Leaves Nation’s Liberals Feeling Shriven, Absolved.” It’s probably not a good thing to feel more relaxed about things with all the crap going on and Obama not even in office, but just knowing that in a few months Bush is out of the house is tremendously relieving.

Belief that I would be able to concentrate on my studies without distraction today was shattered when I found myself reading a few NY Times stories.

As Shea said in the comments, sports metaphors are often obnoxious, and yet I cannot help that when I was reading the paper today, I found myself thinking of one. The article mentioned the possibility of terror attacks during the transition, because God knows we can’t go a day in the media without raising that specter. And I started thinking that with our forced so over committed, how could a president express that we needed to pay less and not more attention to the perpetrators of a terror attack, so that we could get to the business of governing that they had hoped to interrupt. The first thing that came to mind? Shaking the tackle. It’s inescapable. I don’t even really watch football.


October 16th, 2008

When people talk about the discourse of the nation, how everyone always thinks things are too negative, people just rush in to suggest reasons as to why this is. Allow me to be one more person throwing in one more reason/complaint. What is with all the damned boxing metaphors. It’s two people sitting at a table talking. Yes, there is conflict, yes the candidates are trying to score “blows” against each other. But do we really want to put things in the context of two people (who probably got into the sport for economic reasons as much as anything) slowly giving each other brain damage with a sequence of blows to the skull? Is that really the best way to think about presidential politics? Isn’t it… a little too accurate for how candidates tend to work through a campaign? They sure aren’t getting enlightened out there and neither are we.

I saw what you did there!

September 1st, 2008

Political content of the article aside, when I see something like this in a NY Times Article, it raises some questions:

“The fact is, John McCain had a thorough search and made the decision to add Sarah Palin to the ticket because he believes” that she “will change America,” Mr. Schmidt said.

What was it that they had to replace with ‘that she’ in the middle of the quote? Was it just a bit of bad phrasing? If so why did they bail Mr. Schmidt out? I mean, it’s not likely to be something to make political hay out of. I just wonder. Did he say ‘Sarah Palin, divine goddess, my hope and inspiration’ and they just didn’t think it scanned? I want to know these things when they correct their source’s phrasing.

More Raid Reporting

August 31st, 2008

Well, to my surprise, the raids in the Twin Cities have actually gottensomeattention. Bonus points if you bother to read the comments on the Star Tribune article, in which most of the people clearly cannot grasp that whatever was found in the house, it had not been used yet, and only a tenuous case could be made that they would use it. I guess they found buckets of piss in one of the houses they raided. This leads the people in the comment thread to say that basically you don’t have a constitutional right to throw piss, which I suppose is not outlined in the constitution. Of course, they still haven’t thrown a bucket of piss, so…

Also, it’s good to see the the ‘vegan’ infiltrators thing come back. Seeing those signs up around town was just too funny.

26th and Lyndale

August 30th, 2008

I don’t like to think that I’m so locked into my political views that I can’t switch parties if the Republican’s field someone compelling. In my eyes, that hasn’t happened this cycle. But just for fun, I found myself thinking, what would the man have to do to earn my vote?

The Republican National Convention is causing all sorts of havoc for friends of mine in the Twin Cities right now, and that means McCain will be in the Twin Cities too. In order to get my vote, I’ve decided he will need to do the following:

He must go to the C.C. Club, with minimal escort, and order a Premium Grainbelt. Beer in hand he must then go to the jukebox and select “Time” by Tom Waits. When the song comes up, he will then have the secret service clear out the two mobile tables near the jukebox, where he shall proceed to dance a sad little shuffle as the song plays. That will earn my vote. If he manages to mumble the lyrics in a plaintive and half heard sort of way, I’ll even like doing it. Also, as long as he’s there, he should get the jalapeno cheese burger, because it’s damned tasty.

If he were to go to The Bulldog kiddy corner to the C.C., I’ll donate another $50 to Obama. If he goes to Common Roots across the corner, and gets the organic bagel? Well, then we’ll know the end times are upon us.

Ah, to dream that it could happen.

Cross posted at

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So, I was working on the big project, and realized that I’ve been so focused on it, I haven’t really gotten a lot done on the short stories that I had planned to finish up. Well, that’s no good. I’m rapidly running out of time. I went back and didn’t like much of what I had planned, which probably means that several of those ideas weren’t very good to begin with. Ah well. So where does one find inspiration? Perhaps this absurd list of people who Barack Obama has supposedly had killed, much of which reads like synopses of D grade political thrillers?

No. But it was tempting… Change a few names, give it a little plot… It was tempting…

I would love to hear one day that the right had farmed out one of these bullshit conspiracies to a ghost writing John Grisham. At least then we’d get a couple of really creative deaths.

Why I Never Go to Walmart

March 31st, 2007

I have a strict “do not so much as enter” policy with Walmart. Finding reasons for this is not hard. For a long time I have been of the opinion that the place basically manufactures poverty. Of course that isn’t what they claim. Why would they? They act like they’re Robin Hood.

Jeffrey Goldberg has this article in The New Yorker. It covers some of Walmart’s campaign to improve their image. A beautiful moment occurs when an employee brags about eating at Subway, but clams up when it is pointed out that he makes millions of dollars. There is also a great bit where a former Democratic campaign aide trails off halfway through admitting he sold out his principals for cash.

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