Monday, October 20, 2008
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Jackson Browne Suing John McCain
The complaint alleges that McCain, the RNC and the ORP recently released a television commercial "in which McCain mocks the suggestion" of Obama "that the country can conserve gasoline by keeping their automobile tires inflated to the proper pressure," and that during the commercial Browne's song "Running On Empty" plays in the background.We'd better through in the outright wrong as well, given that low tire pressure can lead to a significant drop in gas mileage.
Browne's complaint goes on to allege that he "is not the first victim of McCain's creation of false endorsements and manifest lack of respect for the intellectual property rights accorded to musicians by the United States Constitution." As examples, the complaint then asserts that McCain and his agents have made unauthorized use of musical works by ABBA, John Mellencamp, and Frankie Valli.Oh, mamma mia, what is McCain going to say now?
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
McCain Showing True Stripes?
Wednesday, August 06, 2008
Obama Has Gas Problem
Also, how much did he really think that the price would drop? A nickle? Maybe the 18 cents that he said would be a useless nudge when McCain and Clinton were suggesting dropping the federal gas tax until labor day? I think he was right not to go along with an productive scheme to curry voter favor back then. Now that he's caving in, I'm guessing that we're seeing more of the real man, willing, as so many politicians are, to say anything at times to get elected.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Journalist Crowd Ambushes Bill O'Reilly Employee Trying to Ambush Bill Moyers
Tuesday, June 03, 2008
George Orwell: Chinese Prophet
This is how this Golden Shield will work: Chinese citizens will be watched around the clock through networked CCTV cameras and remote monitoring of computers. They will be listened to on their phone calls, monitored by digital voice-recognition technologies. Their Internet access will be aggressively limited through the country's notorious system of online controls known as the "Great Firewall." Their movements will be tracked through national ID cards with scannable computer chips and photos that are instantly uploaded to police databases and linked to their holder's personal data. This is the most important element of all: linking all these tools together in a massive, searchable database of names, photos, residency information, work history and biometric data. When Golden Shield is finished, there will be a photo in those databases for every person in China: 1.3 billion faces.However, the reason is as economic as political. There is a massive number of migrant workers that the Chinese themselves have created by destroying villages to make way for equally massive building projects. Migratory ranks could reach 350 million by 2025. As this has happened, the country has also created a division of citizenship, where those forced to be transitory, because their homes were destroyed, are denied full benefit of the growth in the economy because they aren't living in their homes.
It's a situation that, if fiction, would have done Joseph Heller proud. Keep in mind for a moment that there have been relatively widespread but largely unreported riots in China, especially over the cost of food. The idea is that you could identify potential troublemakers that have the greatest impetus to take some sort of action, because even the dispossessed have the national identification cards that tie all the disparate information together - one giant key search term for all personal data. This is an Orwellian state that came about because of the drive for profit, which is often synonymous with the drive for power.
Much of the technology that China uses is actually American in origin - at least some of which is probably being sold against clear U.S. prohibition. Now think about all the cameras that cities and states want to set up to "fight crime," even though there is a spectacular lack of data to suggest that the devices are actually cost-effective. Add in the FCC's floating the idea of a free censored version of the Internet. Include the incomprehensible amount of information that private industries have on consumers, and the historically demonstrated readiness of the American people to tolerate heavy restrictions on their rights to battle some amorphous enemy, and you have conditions ripe for a public-private partnership in a privatized police state.
Monday, May 05, 2008
Running on Fumes: Presidential Politics and Gasoline Prices
Both McCain and Clinton are on the "let's have a moratorium on Federal gasoline taxes" bandwagon. But what does it really mean? The tax is 18 cents a gallon. Say that you use a tank of gas a week, and let's further suppose that means 20 gallons. So your weekly savings would be $3.60, or $43.20 over the entire summer. I won't sneeze at having a extra pair of twenties in my wallet; however, if that is economic relief, then all my problems should be cured by giving up going out for coffee one day a week - oh, wait, I already brew my own.
At least Obama, for all his problems, isn't toeing the same path, and Clinton's bashing of him as not sympathetic to "regular folk" makes me want to take a shower after I hear her talk. I've found that if people are willing to bend words and thought completely out of shape on a regular basis to get something, they don't tend to stop after the acquisition. What's the next suggestion, end the federal deficit by having people donate empty bottles and cans so the government can get the deposit refunds?
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Pentagon Manipulates Press
Hidden behind that appearance of objectivity, though, is a Pentagon information apparatus that has used those analysts in a campaign to generate favorable news coverage of the administration’s wartime performance, an examination by The New York Times has found.Viewers and readers (because I refuse to believe that a lot of print journalists haven't also been taken in) don't get to hear about the business relationships that help drive the need to please the brass:
The effort, which began with the buildup to the Iraq war and continues to this day, has sought to exploit ideological and military allegiances, and also a powerful financial dynamic: Most of the analysts have ties to military contractors vested in the very war policies they are asked to assess on air.
But collectively, the men on the plane and several dozen other military analysts represent more than 150 military contractors either as lobbyists, senior executives, board members or consultants. The companies include defense heavyweights, but also scores of smaller companies, all part of a vast assemblage of contractors scrambling for hundreds of billions in military business generated by the administration’s war on terror. It is a furious competition, one in which inside information and easy access to senior officials are highly prized.In addition, the analysts would act as spies for the military, reporting back on planned stories as well as forwarding copies of their correspondence with the networks. A number of the analysts came out and admitted to the reporters of this story that they were duped. Nothing like keeping the lines of communication open, even if twisted, turned, and knotted.
Monday, April 21, 2008
Create Your Own Candidate
Wikicandidate is running for president in 2008, ready to lead the United States to a bright future in the 21st Century. Only, you've never seen WikiCandidate in a debate, read about Wikicandidate in the news, or gotten a promotional flyer in the mail, because WikiCandidate is not a real candidate, but an ideal one -- the product of your imagination, in conversation with everyone else.People have the candidate react to current events and people "haggle" (great underused word, I think, so the site gets automatic points) over issues and positions.
What if you didn't have to choose from the available candidates, who may or may not share all of your political beliefs, may or may not have done things in their lives that fit your image of the perfect candidate, may or may not be electable for a variety of reasons? In observing the actual presidential race many people become dissatisfied with the way candidates talk, act, or react to current events, an otherwise ideal candidate tarnished. What if you could create your perfect candidate from scratch -- their biography, their stance on the issues, even what the say and do on the campaign trail? By simply creating WikiCandidate's campaign site, you get to bring the perfect candidate into existence.
One potential problem I see off-hand is that the candidate was supposedly born in Madrid, Spain of one American parent, and it's unclear whether a person even born of two US citizens would be considered a "natural-born citizen," as required in the US Constitution.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Parsing Obama's Gaffe
You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them.And they fell through the Clinton Administration, and the Bush Administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.I've heard from some people I know that couldn't see how anyone could read Obama's statements, in context or out, as elitist. But I can.
Parse the statement (and consider the attitudes of many toward given issues) and you get the following chain of logical statements and emotional context:
- People are bitter.
- Only because they are bitter to they cling to certain attitudes.
- As they cling out of bitterness, these attitudes and espoused interests must be negative.
- Religion, guns, antipathy toward those who are different, sentiment against immigrants, and sentiment against open trade policy are all the same thing.
- Therefore, if you hold any of these positions or interests, it must be because you are bitter, and not because you believe in them for any other reason.
Of course people have been sold down the river and they're angry and it comes out in various ways. But to take these interests and positions and level them so that all people who have concerns about immigration, or who support gun ownership, or what have you, are exactly the same - to discount any nuance or recognize another potential motivation - is a problematic mindset. He could have talked about them being angry, or trying to cling to something they could hold on to. But that's not what Obama chose to do. Instead, he dismissed large groups of people based on the most gross generalization of their beliefs, without any acknowledgement that someone might honestly hold an opinion.
Perhaps that isn't what he meant, but then why choose those words? A friend pointed several people in an online discussion group to a Huffington Post piece that recalled similar words by Bill Clinton in 1991:
You know, he [Bush] wants to divide us over race. I'm from the South. I understand this. This quota deal they're gonna pull in the next election is the same old scam they've been pulling on us for decade after decade after decade. When their economic policies fail, when the country's coming apart rather than coming together, what do they do? They find the most economically insecure white men and scare the living daylights out of them. They know if they can keep us looking at each other across a racial divide, if I can look at Bobby Rush and think, Bobby wants my job, my promotion, then neither of us can look at George Bush and say, 'What happened to everybody's job? What happened to everybody's income? What ... have ... you ... done ... to ... our ... country?'Notice that Clinton's words addressed fear and economic disadvantage. They didn't take a number of often strongly-held positions and dismissed them as a reaction to being embittered. And to dismiss people as essentially being ignorant or immature or misguided because they don’t hold your particular set of beliefs sounds exactly like the claims I've heard from right wing parties that sends those on other parts of the political spectrum into a frenzy of anger. If people want reasoned discourse - and I don't think most actually do, no matter what they say, because they act as though that means agreeing with them - then they must do the difficult work of stepping into someone else's shoes and seeing how they'd feel under the same circumstances.
Friday, April 11, 2008
Progressive Radio Host Jumps Air America Ship
Air America bounced Rhodes after a stand-up political routine at an event sponsored by a network-affiliated station. Geraldine Ferraro was also a target for her remarks about Barak Obama - taken out of context, according to Ferraro:
“What did they do with Don Imus when he went after the young black team who was playing basketball with kind of the same language? Treat them both the same,” Ferraro told FOX News. “She’s coming at me and Hillary in a … sexist way”Excuse me? Since when are political figures, who place themselves willingly in the limelight, the same as a group of student athletes? Some of the language isn't what I'd use - though the line "Geraldine Ferraro turned out to be the David Duke in drag. Who knew?” is pretty funny, even if some see it as offensive - but since when do we start censoring political speech, particularly when it's not being broadcast? Is it acceptable to say what you will about a candidate if you don't use a swear word, no matter how calculated and even dishonest the language may be, but not when you do? All the democratic presidential hopefuls must be breathing a sigh of relief; there still might be life after office - if Air American can manage to stay in business that long.
Broadway Studios manager Francesca Valdez confirmed that video posted to YouTube was the show held at her venue, and that the booking had been contracted through Clear Channel Communications. She said that she sat in the audience for Rhodes’ 45-minute performance, which was chock full of “a lot of F-words.”Hold it, the venue booked an act without checking it out ahead of time? What kind of business idiots are they? Oh, wait, I've got it - they thought they were booking comedienne Kathy Griffin instead. (Ironically, I accidentally typed Kathy Gifford first. Now there's a scary genetic meld concept.)
“I was actually amazed that she used the F-word so many times,” said Valdez, reached by phone in San Francisco.
So, in the spirit of the First Amendment and political freedom, Air America bounced Rhodes. And the final irony, according to the New York Times, is that the station she's joining, KKGN, is an Air America affiliate in San Francisco. According to a New York Daily News article, Air America will have guest hosts while looking for a replacement:
"We will soon announce exciting new talent that will accelerate Air America's growth," said the statement from Kireker and Green.Oh, yes, anything to keep that raging trickle moving.
Wednesday, April 02, 2008
Friday, March 28, 2008
Clinton Embellishes Bosnian Trip
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
China Unblocks BBC Website
Beijing has never admitted to blocking access to BBC news stories - and there has been no official confirmation that the website has been unblocked.The Chinese government censor information and only make it available when it figured that such actions would be obvious during the Olympics? Pshaw. It was probably all a matter of inferior western technology.
But Chinese users trying to access pages on the site have almost always been redirected to an error message telling them: "The connection was reset."
It now appears that this is no longer the case, and access to the site is much easier.
Monday, March 24, 2008
Pro-Tibet Organizations Attacked Online
A handful of recent targeted attacks shared the same Internet resources and tactics in common with those used in a spate of digital assaults against number of major U.S. defense contractors, said Maarten Van Horenbeeck, an incident handler with the SANS Internet Storm Center, Bethesda, Md.-based organization that tracks online security trends.
The attacks on pro-Tibet organizations are not the first to be tied to computers in China. The Washington Post reported March 21 that the FBI is investigating whether hackers in China targeted a group working for human rights in Darfur, the war-torn province of Sudan. China has economic and strategic interests in the African nation's oil fields.
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
UK Statistics Watchdog Goes Out Fighting
Allegations about the politicisation of data have intensified throughout the years of New Labour rule – most recently with last week’s issue of national figures showing thousands of children had not won entry into their first-choice state school.The government set up the commission in 2000 "to improve trust in government figures." The question is whether it didn't do its job well enough or entirely too well. A new UK Statistics Authority replaces it next month.
Critics of Ed Balls, schools secretary, accused him of trying to deflect attention from the statistics by simultaneously reporting that “a significant minority” of schools were breaking new admissions rules.
The commission has written to Mr Balls’ department and stressed the release of official figures should be “seen to be independent from policy comment”.
A group devoted to making politicians come clean on their use of statistics. More than a full-time job, I'd bet.
Friday, March 14, 2008
How Presidential Candidates Answer the 3AM Call
- John McCain Nuke 'em.
- Barack Obama Maybe if we wait until breakfast, things will change.
- Hillary Clinton Bill, it's for you. (Pause.) Bill? Are you there, Bill?
Friday, March 07, 2008
Hillary Clinton Develops Drawl
Saturday, March 01, 2008
Bush Aide Resigns After Admitting Plagiarism
On its Web site Friday, the newspaper said 20 of 38 Goeglein columns between 2000 and 2008 contained "portions copied from other sources without attribution." News-Sentinel Editor Kerry Hubartt said Goeglein had written 80 or 90 columns for the newspaper in a relationship that began more than 20 years ago.What was finally noticed by blogger Nancy Nall was material he had lifted from former Dartmouth professor Jeffrey L. Hart. What gave him away to Nall was mentioning a Dartmouth professor, Eugene Rosenstock-Hussey, in a column about education:
On its Web site Friday, the newspaper said 20 of 38 Goeglein columns between 2000 and 2008 contained "portions copied from other sources without attribution." News-Sentinel Editor Kerry Hubartt said Goeglein had written 80 or 90 columns for the newspaper in a relationship that began more than 20 years ago.
Now, I’m sure Tim’s spare brain space isn’t cluttered, as mine is, with “American Idol,” the internet and what’s-for-dinner concerns. Certainly string quartets waft through his paneled study, where he reads and thinks under the mounted ibex head, far from the vulgar buzz of pop culture. Surely he can acquaint himself with notable professors of philosophy at Dartmouth while I watch the Oscars. But this name was so goofy, just for the hell of it, I Googled it. And look what I found.She shows the evidence. According to the Post story:
Peter Wehner, a former Bush aide, said Goeglein was regarded as "a person of sterling character" who was Bush's "eyes and ears" in the conservative world. "It is an important job, and he really developed a bond of trust with the conservative world," Wehner said.Ah, there's the problem - he focused on family values, not professional ethics.
Monday, February 25, 2008
St. Pete Times Campaign Truth-O-Meter
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Obama: I Borrowed
Friday, February 01, 2008
One More Thought About Political "Experience"
And then we have Mitt Romney criticizing Clinton on the same grounds. Here's most of the text from his new TV ad:
Hillary Clinton wants to run the largestenterprise in the world. She hasn't run a corner store. She hasn't run astate. She hasn't run a city.Let's take this in two parts. First, did he really have to use the term "internship," which in the context of the Clintons is a loaded word? No, he could have said apprenticeship, but he didn't. Given the sensitivity that political types have toward language, this could ony have been deliberate, so shame on him for trying to ineptly use emotional subtext, becasue I suspect this will only backfire on him.
She has never run anything. And the idea that she could learn to bePresident as an internship just doesn't make any sense.
I have spent my life running things. I've learned how to run a business. I've learned how to run a state. I ran the Olympics. In each case, I've brought change.
Second, let's look at how Romney has led. Did anyone else, like the Olympic committee, have a hand in the LA games? Of course, and if Romney were smart, he'd show how he could work with others. But I suspect he doesn't because he really does want to run things. And he has - into walls and ditches, at least in Massachusetts. His major business experience? He was at a venture capital firm, which is far different from running an ongoing concern. But experienced at working with people to really accomplish things? Nope, Romney appears to like giving orders, and that's about as far as effective in politics, even if you're president, as anything can be.
Friday, January 04, 2008
More Political Speak
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Candidates and the Internet
But the closest analogy that comes to mind is something I once heard about the Patty Duke Show from the 1960s. Because Ms. Duke spent so much time working in the insular world of television, producers had to bring in "real" teenagers to show her the latest dances, so that she'd seem credible on the screen. I think what we're seeing is that politicians spend so much time in their own land, they never join us in this one, which is why they need translation: they literally don't speak the same language as the common people do. I've seen the same thing happen among top business leaders, who no longer mingle with the hoi polloi, otherwise known as the customers. No wonder they are so out of touch. Instead of hearing what their fellow citizens say, they have to make do with representations known as polls. No wonder they like dealing with lobbyists; they don't have to take a crash Berlitz course to converse.
Friday, December 07, 2007
Ex-Bush Official On Dealing With Blogs
That’s what I mean by influential. I mean, talk about a direct IV into the vein of your support. It’s a very efficient way to communicate. They regurgitate exactly and put up on their blogs what you said to them. It is something that we’ve cultivated and have really tried to put quite a bit of focus on.In other words, he doesn't seem to consider the conservative blog machine as a critical part of the press. (If that's true, I would bet that the same thing could be said for liberal bloggers.) And as far as the reputation of Fox News being in bed with the White House, he said this:
I’ll tell you, I probably got more complaints from various Fox News programs about not getting the type of access they deserved. Now, there are exceptions to that. Vice President Cheney’s done a lot with them. But I think they were treated pretty equally across the board. If you look at the major newscasters, there were some, like [Dan] Rather, that we didn’t do. You’d be hard-pressed to say that we didn’t accommodate the others.Notice two things. One is that he talked about Fox not getting "the type of access they deserved," not that they wanted. To me, the words carry the message that either Fox was getting slighted (whether other networks were or not would be impossible to say), or that their coverage should have called for better treatment - not what you want to hear about a "fair and balanced" organization. And on Iraq? "We were wrong" on the intelligence about weapons of mass destruction. Now there's a word I haven't heard from the White House too often.
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
Hillary Clinton and Political Posturing
It is disturbing to see yet another example of a politician turning into a sophist and depending on petty linguistic parsing to bolster an empty position. The country needs leadership and instead gets a debating society, where talk becomes a substitute for the language of action.
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
Waterboarding, Torture, and Definitions
This may not be the height of deception, whether of voters or of the senators themselves, but it at least hits a plateau. Such a law will never surface with so many other things to do, and with probably enough resistance to make a veto override impossible. This is window dressing and playing with the meaning of such words as torture and assurance.
Anyone who has ever come close to drowning - and I speak from personal experience, here - can tell you that being forced to feel as though you are breathing your last is not mere intimidation nor strenuous questioning. It is a form of torture that dates back to the Spanish Inquisition. There may be times for scholarly debates over the meaning of words, or legal disagreements over how to construe a sentence. But this is not one of them. For a people to stand for something, it must actually stand for those principles, not twist definitions for expedience.
By accepting such a preposterous concept as needing a law for every single condition whose characteristics easily fit the broad premise, Feingold and Schumer are looking for an excuse of convenience. Perhaps they think Mukasey is the best candidate they might get. Pragmatism has an obvious place in life, but there are times you must put your support behind not what seems of practical advantage, but behind what you truly believe. To do any less is to abdicate responsibility, duty, and humanity.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Student Tasered for Asking a Question
University spokesman Steve Orlando said Meyer was asked to leave the microphone after his allotted time was up. Meyer can be seen refusing to walk away and getting upset that the microphone was cut off.However, Kerry apparently was saying during all this that he considered the question important and that he would answer the student. And, according to another ABC report, Kerry condemned the arrest. Has the taser now become a form of political speech at universities?
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Partisanship, Pay, and Politics
However, I'm not sure that the two are differentiated. There are "partisans" in capitalism, in the sense that different groups will have varying interests and will want to be the ones that get market rewards. Often they will compete for the same rewards. That is what happens in politics, I think. Political parties may think that they know what is best for the country, but more too often they seem to be more focused on what is good for the party. Each is responding to the market forces of incentive, only the incentive is paid for self-interest, and not for solving public problems. The difficulty is that the money and power as forms of payment come from controlling political offices, not from actually getting something done. Instead of working to get rid of that sort of payoff, we should redirect it - get the spoils of political war by actually achieving something positive. But then, we'd all need to agree on a definition of the public good, and that may be the most difficult part of all.
Monday, August 27, 2007
Gonzales Resignation and D.C. Prevarication Quotient
I just read that Alberto Gonzales is stepping down as Attorney General come mid-September. It shows to what level we've sunk when someone who was so clearly talking out of not only both sides of his mouth, but any other available orafice could withstand the pressure to leave for so long. No explanation - and, of course, that probably means some in power in the Republican Party finally convinced Bush that even avoiding Senate confirmation hearings wasn't worth the political damage the group was taking. Not that it matters, and not that things will get noticeably cleaner in the capital, but it is an amazing site when so many professional politicians across the spectrum effectively say, "Well, I understand spin control, but this is too much even for me."
Bush's statement on the topic was, unfortunately, what one might expect:
"It's sad that we live in a time when a talented and honorable person like Alberto Gonzales is impeded from doing important work because his good name was dragged through the mud for political reasons," Bush said.We could get into deconstructing this one sentence, though it would take too long. But let's note at least one partial truth: that his name was dragged through the mud for policital reasons. The question is, whose reasons?
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Eisenhower on Military Intervention
On page 144, Mr. Humes mentions talking to richard Nixon shortly after the Bay of Pigs fiasco. Although the Eisenhower quote is third hand, it's still worth repeating:
He told us that Kennedy seemed shaken by the incident. Nixon then reported former President Eisenhower's reaction. "Dick, for U.S. military intervention, you need four conditions: First, congressional support. Second, the occupation must be limited in time, or you will loose the support of public opinion. Third, there must be a viable leader with a broad popular backing to succeed the ousted dictator. And finally, whatever troops you need, take ten times more."I suspect he didn't think it necessary to add, "And under no conditions should you destroy the entire infrastructure of the country and not put it back into place rapidly."
Friday, July 27, 2007
A Picture of Political Word Influence
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Teenager Uses Language to Help Pass Midwifery Bill
Loudon told a reporter that a child of a midwifery advocate had uncovered the term in an ACT test prep guide.
However, according to the AWAD (A Word A Day) mailing list, a formerly home-schooled young woman named Sarah Greek, who just graduated from high school, receives the AWAD mailings of interesting words. On May 20, the list had mentioned the story. She came forward and said that she was the young woman who had remembered the term and informed the senator. With a vocabulary like that, clearly there will be no pregnant pauses in her discussions.
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
Tony Blair Dances with Words for Stop-and-Question Law
But at the heart of these new proposals will lie the same debate: the balance between protecting the safety of the public and the rights of the individual suspected of being involved with terrorism. ...But Mr. Blair isn't being accurate. The problem with a stop-and-question law is not protecting the civil liberties of an actual terrorism suspect, where there is a body of evidence suggesting a tie between the individual and such an activity, but protecting the rights of whomever the police decide to stop.
We have chosen as a society to put the civil liberties of the suspect, even if a foreign national, first.
I happen to believe this is misguided and wrong. If a foreign national comes here, and may be at risk in his own country, we should treat him well. But if he then abuses our hospitality and threatens us, I feel he should take his chance back in his own home country.
The reason British and US law has such regard for the rights of the suspect is the underlying concept of someone being innocent until proven guilty. Society regards the rights of the suspect because there is a good chance that the suspect is innocent, and if the innocent person can face such restraint of rights, then it could be only a matter of time before anyone else is in the position of being a suspect and of losing rights.
But there is also a meaning of suspect that isn't tied to that philosophical underpinning - one that is more simply a person who is the target of suspicion. Mr. Blair is essentially pulling a semantic bait-and-switch. He uses the single word used in both contexts and then uses the second meaning, pretending that the first doesn't exist. He then decries the "dangerous misjudgment" of prizing civil liberties above chasing terrorism. Ironically, his own act of linguistic deception - whether intentional or accidental - offers good reason for keeping the emphasis where it is.
Friday, May 04, 2007
What Does Winning Mean?
Americans look at the world through competition-tinted glasses all the time, which is to be expected. Not only does our species have millions of years of collective history of struggling just to survive, this country was borne of one conflict after another. Our mythos is that of the self-made person, sleeves rolled up, wanting only a fair fight.
However, not everything situation is a zero-sum game where one party is on top while the other loses. There is no winner when a farmer has a bad year. A concert pianist can give a great performance without taking the experience from someone or something else.
The national dialog on Iraq has employed the language of winning and losing. But what is success? Are we trying to find and eliminate weapons of mass destruction? Root out international terrorism? Give democracy to the people of Iraq? Ensure our continued access to oil? Overthrow a tyrant? Increase regional stability? Protect our soldiers? Patch up the results of our mistakes? All of these? Some of these? None of these?
Even as Congress and the President square off, there is too little discussion of what winning means. This is like a married couple riding in the car and arguing whether to turn right or left when neither one remembers their initial destination. (“Let’s go my way.” “No, we went your way before; I want to go my way.”) It no longer matters where the car heads because there is no place to go. Instead of discussing troop levels, budgets, and geopolitics, we’d do better considering more fundamental questions. Why are we in Iraq? What are we trying to accomplish? Who are we actually fighting? How will we know when we’ve achieved our objective? When can we know that our goals are obtainable or not? Until we can answer them, any decisions are navigation on a long drive to nowhere.
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Wolfowitz's Lawyer Stumbles Upon Defense
"He is not going to resign," Bennett said after meeting with Wolfowitz this weekend. "His mood is just fine. . . . He feels people are trying to interfere with his job to get at world poverty, and he wants to get this thing behind him so that he can concentrate 100 percent of his effort."Obviously he was arranging for a big pay bump for his girlfriend to keep her out of world poverty.
Now look a bit deeper into the words of this quote. People are trying to interfere with his job? No, they're questioning his propriety. And since when does the position become his job? I know this is a common usage, but I get the sense from many in power that they regard these positions as their property, not something with which they are entrusted. The attitude also shows an invisible poverty: one of the spirit, because if they had a stronger internal sense of themselves, they would probably have a lesser need to lean on the external ones. For those who think that there is no justice in this world, think of how terrible it is to feel that your existence consists solely of what others think and of the vagaries of your position in life. What would be a setback for a more psychologically and spiritually grounded person is shattering for one like this.
Monday, April 23, 2007
Tommy Thompson and Power of Words
"I just want to clarify something because I didn't in any means want to infer orNot only did he use an offensive racial stereotype, but then he followed it with something that makes you wonder whether he actually managed to stuff three feet into his mouth instead of the regulation two. What comes next: "Some of my best friends are Jews?" Oh, wait, apparently he has already.
imply anything about Jews and finances and things. What I was referring to,
ladies and gentlemen, is the accomplishments of the Jewish religion and the
Jewish people. You have been outstanding businesspeople and I compliment you for
that and if anybody took what I said wrong, I apologize. I may have
mischaracterized it. You are very successful. I applaud you for that."
And there's yet another aspect as noted in this editorial from a Gannett paper. He made $115,000 a year as governor and $180,000 annually as HSS Secretary, and neither of those salaries was money? Does he mean that people who make those trifling amounts don't really earn a living? Are the only people worth talking to in the real world those who make, oh, $500,000 a year and up? Will the rest of us be asked to stand quietly at the back of the room - or the line or the bus - while the "real" people get taken care of?
What astounds me is that some conservatives are still taking him seriously as a candidate. George Will calls him "the Republican presidential candidate with perhaps the most impressive resume." Yet he's even managed to make George W. Bush seem like an intelligent public speaker. Now there's a frightening thought.