Monday, March 24, 2008

Conservative Hypocrisy

By now, we've all seen at least a few of the most egregious of Reverend Jeremiah Wright's statements, whether we cared to or not. And whether or not you believe that the US government created AIDS as a way to kill black people, whether or not you believe that the US has failed to live up to our own noble principles and should be held liable, and whether or not you believe that anyone in the World Trade Center, on those 4 planes, or who died in Iraq or Afghanistan deserved what happened, I think we can all reasonably agree that a church is an inappropriate place for this type of discussion to take place.

Reverend Wright received an unexpected boost from a strange quarter a few days ago, when Mike Huckabee took to Morning Joe on MSNBC and defended not Wright's words, but his anger, saying,

“And I think that you have to cut some slack — and I’m going to be probably the only conservative in America who’s going to say something like this, but I’m just telling you — we’ve got to cut some slack to people who grew up being called names, being told you have to sit in the balcony when you go to the movie, you have to go to the back door to go into the restaurant, you can’t sit out there with everyone else. There’s a separate waiting room in the doctor’s office. Here’s where you sit on the bus.

“And you know what? Sometimes people do have a chip on their shoulder and resentment, and you have to just say, ‘I probably would, too.’”

And the thing to look at as exceptional here is not that Huckabee came to Wright's defense and pointed out the honest truth about the source of Wright's anger, but that Huckabee, a Southern Baptist Pastor, was willing to buck the greatest conservative hypocrisy of the last 30 years.

That hypocrisy can be seen clearly in the one-sided hubbub of the last weeks, the shitstorm swirling around Wright and Barack. In His Op-Ed, "Let's Not, and Say We Did," William Kristol propagates this greatest political hypocrisy. He rightly condemns Reverend Jeremiah Wright's inflammatory rhetoric, but wrongly condemns Wright uniquely, and even more wrongly indicts Barack on charges of guilt by association.

So my question is this: Where was Kristol’s outrage when Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson told us that 9/11 was America's divine punishment for allowing a secular, pluralistic society? Just days after the towers came down, Falwell went on Pat Robertson's 700 Club and said, in front of a massive, nationwide TV audience,

"I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America. I point the finger in their face and say 'you helped this happen."

Did Pat Robertson condemn this? No, he nodded, and said, "I completely agree." And while some Republican politicians expressed mild regret for the comments, all of them continue to make marquee stops at Falwell's horribly misnamed Liberty University when running for office. And when the prodigal sons, those crazy Republicans like John McCain who possess the integrity to condemn Falwell and his kind, come home to beg for benediction and trade conviction for votes, Kristol and his kind invite them in with open arms.

And the conservative literati, the Bill Kristols and Bob Novaks, even the conservative illiterati like Rush and Anne Coulter, where was their dismay at Falwell's suggestions? Where is Kristol's dismay when conservative, white pastors across America advocate replacing the Constitution with the 10 Commandments, and spew hate speech from the pulpit? And where are Kristol and the conservative elites when Republican Candidates pander to these hate-mongers to earn the votes of their congregations?

I will restate, once more, that none of this has a place in the pulpit. Anecdotally, I was listening to NPR several years ago, and a story came on about Joel Osteen. Osteen, it said, was the feel-good Pastor of one of the country's largest Mega-Churches, a best selling author, and generally well known guy. The next morning, lying in bed, I stumbled across Osteen's telecast. I watched for almost an hour. I've watched him a half dozen times since. Osteen never speaks ill of anyone. Never blasts gays, or preaches anger or hate. His oratory seems to follow the ideals of the Sermon on the Mount, and represents, to my limited understanding, the best interpretation of the New Covenant brought on by the sacrifice of Christ, and also embodies the best of America's ideal that anyone can be anything, but that we're all in it together. Joel Osteen, I think, has a place in the pulpit. Wright, Falwell, Haggard, and any other who uses that position to breed hatred, fuel anger, or sew distrust, do not. I don't care how justified the chip on your shoulder, how literal you interpretation of Leviticus, how closeted (and therefore angry) your homosexuality - I simply don't believe that fear and hatred have a place in ANY "House of God."

But we never hear condemnation of the anti-American railings of conservative, white preachers from conservative commentators. And make no mistake, these sermons are more anti-American than anything Wright said. These preachers would have us replace the 10 Amendments of the Bill of Rights with the 10 Commandments handed to Moses on Sinai. They would have us throw the founding principles of this country out the window, decry the very pluralistic principles that allow them the soapbox on which they stand, and replace those freedoms with the carefully chosen parts of Leviticus they can exploit for political power. But instead of treating all unacceptable uses of the pulpit equally, Kristol and his ilk exploit only the distasteful statements of their political opponents, and, in so doing, cheapen the conversation and expose their own willingness to sacrifice principle for power.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Bunnies and So Forth

The first time I was in a Church proper was for a funeral for a friend who killed himself when I was 21. It was February, and I think Easter was late April that year. Not that the situation's relevant to the point. I guess the point I mean to make is that I went a long time without much formal education on religion, you know, in a religious setting. So, like many (even church goers) my understanding of Christmas was that you got presents under a tree and a fat old man brought candy and put it in your socks, and at Easter there was a rabbit that brought you eggs and chocolate. Eventually I found out that it had something to do with the bible (allegedly had something to do with the bible, anyway, and no doubt thanks in large part to St Augustine's doctrine of assimilating pagan traditions into the body of Catholic worship).

As it happens, I always loved Easter, although I think it was more to do with Spring than the bizarre pagan traditions that had been somehow subsumed body and soul into Christian pseudo-dogmatic practice. The chocolate and egg salad helped, yes, but Spring was the main attraction. Now, as an adult with an English degree, I make use of my schooling by grinning wryly at the paradox of Easter's most prevalent side-product (in the US anyway) - the Deviled Egg.

Again, rather irrelevant. But the point is that the Spring is now upon us, Jesus either did (if you believe) rise from the grave and ascend to Heaven, or did not (if you don't believe, duh). I reserve judgment, having yet to be convinced one way or the other. But regardless of your faith, and regardless of Eliot's theories on the relative cruelty of months, it is undeniably about to be Spring, and that should make us all happy. Spring is new beginnings, of course, and therefore, I offer you a prediction of a new vision. That pagan bunny that came to celebrate the resurrection of Christ and the salvation of our souls left this prediction in the form of an egg. Maybe it would be more accurate to call it a divination, what with it seemingly involving the occult. Whatever you call it, how can you argue with an egg left by a rabbit who reminds us of the salvation of our collective souls from the previously unredeemable damnation of Original Sin by hiding hard boiled eggs and marshmallows shaped like chicks in our yards?

Sunday, March 16, 2008

A Series of Vaguely Related Events and Thoughts

It turns out that I am not actually on staff with the campaign, but am, in fact, an independent contractor, or "political consultant." Which, of course, means that it is now time for me to make some sort of a) asinine and irrelevant statement that will be taken wildly out of context, b) say something genuinely inappropriate and offensive, c) make a statement that, while true, is unpalatable to the broader public, or d) all of the above. As we all know, the result of this action is that I will be skewered by Howard Wolfson on conference call upon conference call, learn that the candidate denounces, renounces, rejects, objects and vomits as a result of my comments, to be further lambasted constantly by Joe Scarborough, discussed incredulously by Chris Matthews, indefensibly defended by Bill O'Reilly (or, if what I say is un-American, tarred and feathered by the entire FoxNews Ministry of Information), tried and convicted by the PC or Patriot Police (depending on whether I say something racist/sexist, or something unpatriotic, or both), and, finally, I will resign from the campaign under a cloud of shame and infamy that will last until the next advisor says something that falls into one of the categories listed above.

At least, that's my understanding of the role of political consultants. This guy has something worth reading on the subjust, too:

It's interesting being one of two staff members in a state, and I'll certainly miss my job when someone desperate for a scoop mistakes me for someone who matters and catches me calling someone a bad word.

On a completely, or at least mostly, unrelated topic, check this shit out. It's good times.

I was setting up the office the other day for a phone bank. We haven't really used the office since the 20th of January. It was a complete disaster, until some of our volunteers decided to get it cleaned up about 3 weeks ago. It didn't really matter that it was a total disaster, since it was not in use, but we figured we were likely to need it. Now it's usable, but just barely. So I'm setting up for a phone bank, and these two guys walk in, one Ozzie and one Limey. And they're like,
"Hey mate, you got any gear we can get to take home with us?"
And so I'm like, "Um, not really. We don't really have any shirts or buttons or anything, but you can get 'em on the website."
And they started crying (well, not really crying, but they did look disappointed in that really polite, foreign way), so I was like, "but I've got, like, some yard signs, if you want...?"
And then they perked up, and they were like, "Cheerio (no, not kidding), yeah, that'd be brilliant."
So we went back, and they each took two yard signs (one from Iowa, one from Nevada). And then, as we're leaving, I saw a box of these weird posters we had with a painted portrait of Barack that we always called Jesus Barack because there're like sunrays coming out from behind his head and it's all a little religious-y, and I was like, "oh, we've got these posters..."
And they're like, "Oh, those are perfect, like." And they got all goofy and took a small ton of these posters, and went waltzing out the door with a, "thanks so much, mate, this is totally brilliant," and that was that.

Which just strikes me as great. And they also mentioned that if England and Europe got to vote, Barack would win handily. Which has already been polled, but it's always nice to hear.

Ok, dinner time. I hope you've enjoyed this, and somewhere in here I swear I said something that's really horribly inappropriate and not in the spirit of the race, and I'll soon be sheepishly leaving my post with a huge apology.

Friday, March 14, 2008

From the Obama Comms Dept

Something our communications department put together the other day, in response to a memo by HRC's people...

Sent: Wednesday, March 12, 2008 5:37 PM
To: Bill Burton
Subject: FW: The Clinton Memo... as annotated by the Obama communicationsdepartment

To: Interested Parties

From: Clinton Campaign

Date: Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Re: Keystone Test: Obama Losing Ground [Get ready for a good one.]

The path to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue goes through Pennsylvania so if Barack Obama can’t win there, how will he win the general election?

[Answer: I suppose by holding obviously Democratic states like California and New York, and beating McCain in swing states like Colorado, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Virginia and Wisconsin where Clinton lost to Obama by mostly crushing margins. But good question.]

After setbacks in Ohio and Texas, Barack Obama needs to demonstrate that he can win the state of Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania is the last state with more than 15 electoral votes on the primary calendar and Barack Obama has lost six of the seven other largest states so far – every state except his home state of Illinois.

[If you define “setback” as netting enough delegates out of our 20-plus-point wins in Mississippi and Wyoming to completely erase any delegate advantage the Clinton campaign earned out of March 4th, then yeah, we feel pretty setback.]

Pennsylvania is of particular importance, along with Ohio, Florida and Michigan, because it is dominated by the swing voters who are critical to a Democratic victory in November. No Democrat has won the presidency without winning Pennsylvania since 1948. And no candidate has won the Democratic nomination without winning Pennsylvania since 1972.

[What the Clinton campaign secretly means: PAY NO ATTENTION TO THE FACT THAT WE’VE LOST 14 OF THE LAST 17 CONTESTS AND SAID THAT MICHIGAN AND FLORIDA WOULDN’T COUNT FOR ANYTHING. Also, we’re still trying to wrap our minds around the amazing coincidence that the only “important” states in the nominating process are the ones that Clinton won.]

But the Obama campaign has just announced that it is turning its attention away from Pennsylvania.


This is not a strategy that can beat John McCain in November.

[I don’t think Clinton’s strategy of losing in state after state after promising more of the same politics is working all that well either.]

In the last two weeks, Barack Obama has lost ground among men, women, Democrats, independents and Republicans – all of which point to a candidacy past its prime.

[“A candidacy past its prime.” These guys kill me.]

For example, just a few weeks ago, Barack Obama won 68% of men in Virginia, 67% in Wisconsin and 62% in Maryland. He won 60% of Virginia women and 55% of Maryland women. He won 62% of independents in Maryland, 64% in Wisconsin and 69% in Virginia. Obama won 59% of Democrats in Maryland, 53% in Wisconsin and 62% in Virginia. And among Republicans, Obama won 72% in both Virginia and Wisconsin.

But now Obama’s support has dropped among all these groups.

[That’s true, if you don’t count all the winning we’ve been up to. As it turns out, it’s difficult to maintain 40-point demographic advantages, even over Clinton]

In Mississippi, he won only 25% of Republicans and barely half of independents. In Ohio, he won only 48% of men, 41% of women and 42% of Democrats. In Texas, he won only 49% of independents and 46% of Democrats. And in Rhode Island, Obama won just 33% of women and 37% of Democrats.

[I’m sympathetic to their attempt to parse crushing defeats. And I’m sure Rush Limbaugh’s full-throated endorsement of Clinton didn’t make any difference. Right]

Why are so many voters turning away from Barack Obama in state after state?

[You mean besides the fact that we’re ahead in votes, states won and delegates?]

In the last few weeks, questions have arisen about Obama’s readiness to be president. In Virginia, 56% of Democratic primary voters said Obama was most qualified to be commander-in-chief. That number fell to 37% in Ohio, 35% in Rhode Island and 39% in Texas.

[Only the Clinton campaign could cherry pick states like this. But in contrast to their logic, in the most recent contest of Mississippi, voters said that Obama was more qualified to be commander in chief than Clinton by a margin of 55-42.]

So the late deciders – those making up their minds in the last days before the election – have been shifting to Hillary Clinton. Among those who made their decision in the last three days, Obama won 55% in Virginia and 53% in Wisconsin, but only 43% in Mississippi, 40% in Ohio, 39% in Texas and 37% in Rhode Island.

[If only there were enough late deciders for the Clinton campaign to actually be ahead, they would really be on to something.]

If Barack Obama cannot reverse his downward spiral with a big win in Pennsylvania, he cannot possibly be competitive against John McCain in November.

[If they are defining downward spiral as a series of events in which the Clinton campaign has lost more votes, lost more contests and lost more delegates to us – I guess we will have to suffer this horribly painful slide all the way to the nomination and then on to the White House.]

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

On an unrelated tangent

My buddy just showed me this. It's pretty nutso.

I personally think the statistics are mindblowing in and of themselves. But the visual references are pretty incredible.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Wild Animals

When the guy approached the gate, I had a feeling about the puppy he had on a leash. It was unusually fluffy, and it walked with a slightly hunched, loping stride unusual to a dog.

When he came into the park, several of the dogs, as usual, ran across to sniff the new arrival. The pup, which couldn't have weighed more than 10 pounds, stood his ground and sniffed back, which gave me a moment's pause, but the reaction of the dogs was unmistakable.

There were four to greet him at the gate: a heavy and tall white and black pit, a large golden retriever, a lab-based mutt of some sort, and a 10 month old doberman. All four of them sniffed, and backed away deferentially.

The wolf pup's eyes had just turned yellow. "All wolves are born with blue eyes," the owner told a curious and clearly nervous woman, "but they never keep them."

The pup wandered around the park, sniffing the fence line, climbing into the rings of cinder blocks set up to protect the saplings, chewing on mysterious pieces of garbage. "He's the least skittish one I've ever had. I've been breeding wolves for 6 years, and I've never seen one like him."
"Are they not usually like that?"
"No, mostly they're quite skittish. If they don't know a person, they'll usually run and hide."
"What about the adults? I mean, once they're full grown. Do they have any value as a guard?"
"No, if a person comes around that they don't know, they'll just hide."

The pup's fur was puffy and looked like a ball of cotton fuzz, but it was coarse and rough to the touch. His ribs were just below the skin. As he wandered around the park, the other dogs mostly avoided him. One would sniff at him, and back away, sometimes following from a few feet for a minute. He took up residence in a small hole, and began tearing the exposed grass roots with his teeth. Other dogs sniffed at him nervously and backed away.

There's an old story, from a Lakota guy called Archie Fire Lame Deer, about a dog and a bear cub. It's in the early part of the 20th, when the frontier was mostly tame but the West wasn't quite won. Being as it's a Lakota story, it'd be in the Dakotas, or Montana, or Wyoming, Nebraska... The bar owner's got a bear cub on a chain, and it's sitting on the bar and doing tricks. The cub is playing with a ball, just sitting next to the bar, slapping a ball around. The rest of the guys are all prospectors and miners and the types who're busy putting the final touches on the once-wild West, and a few Indians busy taming themselves with whiskey. The Indians aren't paying the bear much mind, but the white guys are all looking at this little cub and laughing. And a guy comes in with a dog, a big, muscular bulldog. It sees the bear and snarles. And the guy with the dog kinda laughs and says, "that's a nice bear, but you'd better hope my dog doesn't get off the chain 'cause he'll tear that toy apart."

And then there's a round of yelling and in the end it's decided it'll be a fight to the death and no stopping. And the bartender puts down money on his bear, and the Indians all bet on the bear, but the miners and gamblers and such all bet the dog. And they put the bear down on the floor and he's just sitting there looking around. And the guy lets his dog off the leash, and it snarls and makes a racket, but it stays put until the owner kicks it in the ass. And then it launches itself across the circle. And the little bear just takes one lazy swipe with his claws out. The dog's dead. And the little bear gives his little battle cry "hrnnngggh" and goes back to playing with his ball.

The point is, the dogs at the park were the Indians of the story, or maybe the dog of the story. Even the big nasty pit that's always muzzled stayed away from this little 10 pound wolf pup. You gotta have the sense to know when something ain't quite right, and the dogs knew it.

"They're all born with blue eyes, but they never keep 'em." The pup's eyes were just turned yellow, kind of a dirty amber, really. But in a year he'll weigh 140 lbs, and his eye's'll be yellow as gold, and he'll run with the other 8 in the breeder's pack. The alpha's getting old, he said, 15 now and still strong, but I'd guess this little fellow'll be alpha before he turns a year. Most wolves are too wild, even if they're bred in captivity. They shy from people they don't know, shy from dogs, shy from noises. "He doesn't jump at anything," the guy said, "even gunfire."

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

But that Train Just Keeps a-Rollin...

And now that train just keeps a-rollin...

...On down to San An-Tone.

Ok, well, it's rolling past San Antone now, but whatevs.

So I've kinda been slacking on this whole thing, which is in no small part due to the lack of stimulus I'm currently experiencing. So I thought I'd put up this quick anecdote, something that occurred recently that I thought was amusing. Also, I figure I have to write something or my audience will shrink to nothing.

I was going shopping a couple days ago. Now let me tell those of you who live in other places, that you haven't shopped until you've gone shopping in Las Vegas. Grocery shopping, that is. First off, even Whole Foods here sucks. And once you've given up on finding anything worth buying at Whole Foods (first you have to have decided to hike ass across town to get there to decide that), the only options remaining are Smiths, Von's (AKA Safeway) and Albertson's. Now, this might not be SOOOOOO bad, except that all of those suck too. And I guess I didn't include Wal-Mart, but, unlike Hillary Clinton, I don't consider Wal-Mart an acceptable place to do business. Although considering my current finances, I might have to take a job if they asked me to join their board of directors. But I digress. Long story short, the grocery situation here, at least as compared to everywhere else I've ever lived, sucks. No local co-op. No Whole Foods worth it's salt. Not even a respectable crappy Mega-Chain branch. Nothing.

So, having resigned ourselves to the fate of a crappy trip to the store, Brie and I pull into the lot of Von's at Desert Inn and Durango, sometime around 4pm on a Monday afternoon. As I pull into the lot, I see a scrappy looking dude with a giant head of floppy orange hair walking towards us, and I turn to Brie and say, "Hey look, it's Carrot-Top!"
"Um, that is Carrot-Top."
And sure enough, it was. And boy, is he one odd looking fellow. But I digress. The important thing, aside from the fact that Carrot-Top was in the parking lot of Von's in the middle of the day, was that he had made no apparent purchase inside the store. And there was a teenage cart collector kid walking with him. And when they noticed that we had looked at them, they split apart. And they sort of circled each other between cars until we went inside.

Now, it could just be that Carrot-Top (B-list celebrity and headliner of his own comedy show at the Luxor) has a teenage friend who works as a bag boy at Von's. Or it could be that they were engaged in some sort of search for the pack of gum Carrot-Top perhaps purchased and promptly lost inside the store. But I know that when I was in High School, there was really only one reason you went to talk to the kid who collected carts in the Stop-and-Shop parking lot. I'm not saying, though. Just saying.

Since we're on the subject of funny stories...

I'm flipping through the TV the other day, and I encounter one of those CGI shows on Discovery or Animal Planet, something about Prehistoric Monsters or some such. The topic of this particular episode was Sabretooth Tigers. The CGI was actually quite impressive, and, but for the movement, would have been quite believable. Brie, meanwhile, is knitting, or reading Newsweek or something, and looks up at some point just as the Sabretooth-ess is stalking some sort of elephant-nosed deer creature. Not apparently noticing the deerephant, she stares for a minute, then says, "what is that?"
"A Sabretooth tiger."
A very long, very grinding pause, then, "they're still around?"

And of course, I couldn't possibly write a post without including some sort of political nonsense. I didn't bore everyone with my tales of the County Convention here in Las Vegas two weeks ago, partly because it wouldn't likely make any sense to anyone (I helped "organize" it, and it doesn't make much sense to me) and partly because it would take a really long time to explain just how large a boondoggle it became. I'll just mention that the Clark County Democratic Party screwed the pooch.

Just like NH, what we accomplished in Texas, and to a lesser degree Ohio, should likely have been considered victories. In all three, we closed 20 point gaps in short amounts of time, losing, at least in TX and NH, by very narrow margins. Normally, when one politician says "I've got a firewall," and the polls show a huge gap, if you get within 5 points it's a victory. But, because the media hates Hillary and is determined to sink her (hmmmm...), they artificially raised expectations on our performance, and now impressive achievements appear as letdowns. I'll admit, I am disappointed, but everyone would rather win than lose, right? The good news is that both Wyoming (caucus) and Mississippi (primary) vote in the next week, so the hoopleheads on cable and the internet will have something concrete to discuss. The bad news is that there will then be 6 weeks until the next primary, in Pennsylvania, on April 22. Just to put that in perspective, it's only been 8 weeks since the Iowa Caucus, and 4 since Super-Dooper-Pooper-Scooper-Tuesday. It'll be the longest, most excruciating 6 weeks of punditry-without-results anyone has ever seen.

And what could a washed up celebrity doing mysterious things in a supermarket lot and an extinct hunter with long, sharp, yet extremely fragile, fangs have to do with anything? I dunno. I reckon you can figure that one out. I'll just say, I'm hoping those fangs hit a shoulder blade or something and snap off.

I CAN tell you is that the longer this thing drags on, the more I want to shoot a man in Reno, just to watch him die...