Wednesday, October 31

:: Halloween Scrooge

I'm sorry, but I just can't get into it. I admit it to you now in our secret space: I hate Halloween. Not for others, mind you. Just for me. It brings back years of feelings of inadequacy; I could never come up with a decent costume, and while I had friends whose mothers were hand making their lovely frog costume, with fins and sequins and felt and chicken wire, my mom was rushing home from work to dig through her closet in the desperate hope of finding something that we could cobble together a costume with. Or we were to late to get our costumes from People's drug store, so there I was wearing a Wonder Woman suit with a Super Man mask. Or she was late home from work to take us tricker treating so we missed the crowds of kids on the street.

Not that it's entirely my mother's fault. Ok, maybe this is. Mostly. She has many many fine qualities and I love her dearly. She is one of the nicest people you will ever ever meet. And she throws a great party. But Halloween (like braiding hair) was not one of her fortes.

So there. Now you know. I'm going to throw on a little outrageous makeup and go over to a friend's house and drink champagne. Because really, isn't that how you should mark all holidays? Read more!

Sunday, October 28

:: The Galileo Fallacy in Democratic Politics, Pt. I

Part I. Hero Worship and Persistent Hillaryphobia
Support for Obama in 2007 is like support for W in 1999: dependent on character judgment tied to a caricature of the opponent.

I was browsing Salon the other day and came across a column called “Clinton Goes After Obama on Iraq,” which I read as a prelude to getting at the comments. Throughout the pre-season season I’ve found the blog comments of Obama supporters fascinating.

I came to believe a while ago that there is a parallel between the language Obama supporters use to praise their candidate and the language used by Bush supporters in 1999 – language that we Democrats have derided ever since.

I’m talking about the “good man,” “our values,” "likable," “honest / principled / independent” tropes that dominate Obama praise and were widely used regarding W both before and long after he was elected. Looking back, we refer to this in shorthand as the “candidate I'd like to have a beer with” thing, but its more or less the same. This is a good man. I like him. I agree with what he is saying. I don’t just believe him, I believe in him. I know in my heart/gut that he's not like the other, "typical" politicians. And this is more important than any promise, or track record or any portfolio of experience.

I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with this approach. I also think that Obama most likely is a good man, whereas W is not. But I do marvel that people don’t see the parallel – and all the more so because the characterization of Obama’s main opponent, Clinton, so closely mirrors that of Gore circa 1999.

Forget the real Gore we know now – the good, honest man; the principled leader; the uber-rationalist and Nobel prize winner. Back then we “knew” he was cold, dry, boring. Programmed like a computer to spit out facts without feeling. A typical corrupt, greedy politician – remember the Buddhist temple “scandal"? A man without a genuine personality – remember the earth tones? A liar – remember love story? Inventing the internet? A consummate insider expecting to glide into office on the nepotism of the Clinton administration and his political family. A DLC “new Democrat” who would be as bad for the left as any Republican. Back then progressive Dems thought Bill Bradley was the authentic, good man whose support was based not in any extraordinary accomplishments but by dint of his virtuous personality.

This all sounds a hell of a lot like what Obama supporters (and the Edwards crowd, and a fair number of reporters too) say about Clinton now. She has no authentic self and will say anything to get elected. She is a corrupt moneygrubber. She is a DLC centrist who will be worse for the left than any Republican. She is a liar who can’t be trusted.

I find these claims inexplicable. To me she seems like the idealistic yet profoundly practical woman she appeared to be as a Wellesley grad. Certain she has “evolved” in style and nuance but in the rational world we call that aging (a fairly common phenomenon, I’m told). You can see in her speeches and her work that she has always been committed to certain principles (Constitutional rule of law, civil liberties). On economic issues, she has always been centrist (she does not appear to have an intrinsic distrust of corporations). She engages in fundraising practices well within the mainstream of campaigning. Far from being a liar or panderer, Clinton is a candidate who confounds by her unwillingness to conform to certain issue positions -lobbyists are evil, business is evil - positions held dear by important constituencies within the Democratic party.

Interestingly, now that Obama is on the ropes – poll numbers, staff leaks, etc. – some pro-Obama commenters have adopted an accusatory, angry tone, directed first and foremost the media (for never reporting anything positive) and Clinton (whose evil campaign machine has hijacked the Democratic process).

Never mind countless glowing puff stories about Obama’s intelligence, good looks and charm vs. the endless Hillary-can’t-win analysis of the past year. And never mind that until recently, Obama was the top money-raising campaign. An analysis of the press coverage of the candidates during the first five months of 2007 conducted by the Project for Excellence in Journalism / Shorenstein Center at Harvard bears this out. Howard Kurtz puts it thusly in the WaPo: "...17 percent of the stories were about Clinton, followed by Barack Obama (14 percent), Rudy Giuliani (9 percent), John McCain (7 percent) and Mitt Romney (5 percent). Everyone else was a relative blip... Overall, though, the Democratic candidates drew more positive stories (35 percent) than the Republicans (26 percent)... almost entirely due to the friendly coverage accorded Obama (47 percent positive) and the heavily negative treatment of McCain (12 percent positive)." This contrasts to 27 percent positive vs. 37 percent negative during the same time period for Clinton.

Even now, press criticism of Obama strikes me as very light; a good portion of the negativity is of his own (staff’s) making. Take the latest – the homophobe minister the campaign invited to participate in events designed to enhance outreach to black southern voters. Not vetting him properly is the campaign’s own fault. Trying to remedy the situation by adding a counterweight minister to speak in favor of tolerance – a very insulting gesture – is their own fault. Choosing a white rather than African-American minister to be that counterweight is also their fault (see Pam Spaulding here). But according to certain supporters, the whole mess is a big set-up organized by Hillary and promoted by the mainstream media she has in her thrall. The paradigm must persist: its just another skirmish in the virtuous Jedi Obama's underdog crusade against the Clinton Death Star.

Okay, that analogy is a bit goofy, but my underlying point is this: a sizable number of the Democratic faithful crave a certain kind of candidate, and, to paraphrase Dostoyevsky (I think), if the fellow doesn't exist we will have to invent him. Some of us need a Jack Kerouac, James Dean, Jim Morrison, Che Guevara, Bruce Springsteen -esque outsider-rebel. The principled man of the people, hero to the luckless and oppressed, ascetic, pure, beyond corruption. The loner who becomes a leader, fights the good fight, takes it right to the Man, and ultimately (usually) dies for our sins.

Frankly I've never bought into this paradigm - it has more to do with unresolved Oedipal crises than true liberation. Rather than upending the aesthetic, economic or political "system," all too often these figures really just want to take the Man's place. It is significant that no female icons fit this paradigm - a woman outsider/loner is an unlikable, non-nurturing oddity. Nevertheless this figure is as essential to Democratic mythology as the "strong leader" is to that of the Republicans.

Next in Part II: Persistent Hillaryphobia and the Galileo Fallacy. Read more!

:: The One-Month Gap

I have not posted anything for roughly a month for a very good reason. Her name is Coco, the Foster Dog.

Coco entered my life about 45 days ago, fresh from the Baltimore dog pound. She is a lovely beast and a classic bull terrier. She is perfect in every way save one: incredibly bad manners.

Coco is not yet spayed, is a bit of a biter, and likes to play rough. Not being spayed precludes her from doggy daycare, and being a menace precludes her from dog parks and sidewalk interactions. As a result, she bays to go out and get at her peers as though she has the rabies. Keeping her settled down, especially when Dr. Boyfriend, Scientist-at-Large is not home, is near impossible. And the biting... the biting. She loves to play bite. A play-biting bull terrier is a major hazard. Also she has eaten $300 worth of Camper shoes. (Dr. Boyfriend’s butt-ugly sandals she leaves alone. Too ugly to eat, I presume).

Being home with her is like taking care of a fanged, hairy three year old with a talent for the high jump. She needs constant supervision. But she is a good dog and I have high (almost desperate) hopes that she’ll find, in the parlance of Rescue organizations, her “forever home” soon.

Today, though, Coco and I have worked out an arrangement that is allowing me to write. The arrangement is enforced by means of a rolled-up copy of the latest New Yorker. Don’t judge, ladies, until you yourself have experienced a bull terrier springing over the back of your chair on to the top of your head in order to bite your hair. I mean it.

While I don’t know why her original owners surrendered her to the pound, I believe this sort of behavior might have had something to do with it. Read more!

Monday, October 1

:: The Canary Has a Friend

Ladies, we have achieved our first blogroll listing. The website for DC Drinking Liberally now lists us as one of its member's blogs. We are just that much more closer to achieving respectability. And having respectability makes burning your bridges so much more impressive (read: fun).

Amazingly, I managed to get them to list us using my Canary email account, anonymously. It took a long and tortured email explaining that I really was a member, even though I couldn't say who I was, not that they would know anyway, and not that I care that much, but the other bloggers do, so they would have to take my word for it, etc. I'm sure it was a treat for them.

Yay Drinking Liberally! Read more!

:: Sending my donation today!

Mondays are hard. Getting out of bed at an ungodly hour after a lovely weekend. Dashing your recycling to the curb before the truck goes by. And then there is just no decent news in the newspaper.

But this morning, buried in the front section of the Times, I found this tidbit:

Alarmed at the possibility that the Republican Party might pick Rudolph W. Giuliani as its presidential nominee despite his support for abortion rights, a coalition of influential Christian conservatives is threatening to back a third-party candidate.
Oh, please don't tease me! Really? You Promise?? I will send Rudy my $20 today if it will help split that vote! It's as if the Wingnuts were truly trying to prove that they are out of touch and out of step with the real world. Even yahoo Gary L Bauer thinks this is stupid:
“I can’t think of a bigger disaster for social conservatives, defense conservatives and economic conservatives than Hillary Clinton in the White House,” Mr. Bauer said.
Please, my sisters, send your donation to Giuliani today! It will piss off Dobson and Perkins (frankly, worth it in its own right) and you could help split the GOP! Read more!