Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Why They Fail

Lack of discipline and lack of composure have killed Dems the last couple of cycles, but now it seems to be doing in the McCain campaign. I'm not sure what to make of this catastrophic gaffe:

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

More of the Same

Everyday it is something new.

Monday, October 13, 2008

This is America

Not to beat a dead horse, but I fear that this is America.

Rebranding and Misdirection in the McCain Campaign

There are 22 days left until we vote for the next President of the United States. As the summer wore on, the leaves changed color and we transitioned into autumn, we have seen both campaigns wage at times ugly and misleading fight over the primary battleground in U.S. politics: the media narrative. This is where the Right Wing political machine has had the Left solidly beaten for quite some time. The Right has managed to define the discourse, while somehow creating a metadiscourse about how the media is an extension of Leftist ideology. While there is little evidence to support this, the term liberal media is so ubiquitous that it has become invisible; it is taken as a self-evident truth. The reality is that liberal or progressive ideology are not going to win this battleground. This not only because it is part of the American psyche that it is already been won by the Left, but also because progressives are diverse with variegated weltangschauung that makes having the kind of message discipline necessary to alter the media narrative difficult.

One small example is that the progressive attacks of Bush are that he is a bumbling, incompetent idiot whose speech is often malapropos and that he is part of an elite political dynasty with ties to corporate powerbrokers who control the machinery of our culture from the shadowy recesses of D.C. These two ideas, while not mutually exclusive, create cognitive dissonance that is (was) reconciled by taking Bush's gaffes and his image as Joe Sixpack on his "ranch" in Crawford, TX as the truth of the matter. There is a collective amnesia about Bush as the owner of an oil company or owner of a baseball team and a confirmation bias that reinforces the President as someone that a large number of Americans would like to have a beer with, as one of us, an unsophisticate who is one of the people. Maybe he would have been able to brand himself as the everyman if progressives could have stayed on message or maybe not, but it is a symptom of the problem that the left has.

This being said, now we have an inversion of this problem where Obama's campaign has managed to be rigorously disciplined in both message and its delivery. Obama has focused on the idea of change and hope, while at the same time having surrogates pursue lines of attack that would either muddle his message or dirty his hands. The McCain campaign, on the other hand, has seemed "erratic" and inconsistent vacillating from running a "maverick" campaign that would raise the level of political discourse to running a Rove-esque (thanks to his protege Steve Schmidt, who is McCain's campaign adviser and strategist) Swift-boat style attacks that inflame the collective fear of terrorism and play upon racial tensions that are largely invisible in Middle America. McCain's campaign has shown a lack of discipline that is coupled with the perception that it is disingenuous and desperate as it moves from one publicity stunt to another (Palin VP selection to the "suspension" of his campaign).

Here is where it gets interesting: McCain/Palin's polling numbers are terrible. Nate Silver and the guys at fivethirtyeight.com have Obama winning nearly 90% of the time. McCain has little to lose at this point, so playing the race card makes sense. It is an appeal to the working class, uneducated Clinton/Reagan "democrats" who are uncomfortable (which is being diplomatic...) with race, black men, Islam, or whatever The Other is. Now the thing is, the radicalization that is occurring at the rallies is reminiscent of what occurs when angry mobs of disenfranchised people are given license to express the devils of their basest nature. If McCain persisted in whipping the fears into a firestorm, then people would start explicitly drawing parallels to Nazi rallies, Klan rallies, or any of the many other examples that litter history. However, if he stops now and begins exhibiting message discipline as a "maverick" and straight talker who denounces the hate-mongering that his campaign has been perpetuating, he can position himself in a good place to win. By running an ugly campaign that reached a fevered pitch over the last couple of weeks, he has managed to embed in our collective psyches the potential that Obama is a terrorist, an unknown, a dangerous commodity with a middle name that elicits thoughts of Middle Eastern dictators.

If he starts campaigning "cleanly" and establishing himself as an agent of hope and optimism (taking a page from his opponents play book), then white voters can vote for him without guilt. He has reestablished Obama's race as part of the political narrative so that it reverberates around the media echo chamber. It has now been established that it is acceptable to be uncomfortable with Obama as an unknown, all that is left is for McCain to give the people a reason to vote for him. In the meantime, racial discourse (hell, all rational, civilized discourse) has been degraded as it has become acceptable to make billboards like the one above and for people to sell these at a conservative-sponsored summit:


Barack Obama, John McCain, Sarah Palin, Values Voters, conservative, waffles, Aunt Jemima, campaign 2008, politics, presidential election

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Palin and the Spectre of Feminism

First and foremost, Paglia1 et al2 have coronated Palin as the new avatar for feminism. This is complete and total nonsense. I do not want to get into the subject (again) of McKinney; I really just want to focus on the fact that, like Obama's race, people do not want to talk about Palin's gender. Really, though, we conspicuously avoid discourse about her sex. At this point, it is part and parcel of the mainstream narrative that Palin is both insufferably incompetent and insufferably corrupt. So, let's discuss her sex for a moment. I think this is a good place to start:

Or maybe here. See the thing is, if she looked like the other feminist that she quotes, Madeleine Albright:

Madeleine Albright

Or House Speaker Nancy Pelosi:

Nancy Pelosi

Or this one:

Hillary Rodham Clinton

We would not give this woman the time of day. Unfortunately, she is, to be both vulgar and frank, fuckable. She is a MILF. If she were not the fantasy of an "older" lady, rendered only hotter by the fact that she is a rabidly conservative nutjob3, then she would be merely another creationist, militia wingnut that alienates the middle of a country that is pretty wingnutty. Her saving grace is that we all imagine nailing her in the most irredeemable way possible, even if only in code. This might be a fake:


But, we can still dream, right?

1. I address her nonsense here.

2. McCainocrat. Priceless.

3. The crazy ones purportedly fuck like wildcats, or so the bromide goes...

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Why Obama will not win the election

I have long asserted that virtually every single white person in the U.S. is racist. Despite a strong ground game and a lot of money in the coffers, I have been betting friends for months that Barack Obama will not be elected President. I was originally going to write that "we are not ready for a black president." However, that is more code that obfuscates the issue: this is a racist country1. So, maybe more "civilized" people will address the issue differently:

Ok, so I did not hear anyone calling him a nigger, but is the insinuation or flat out assertion that he is a terrorist merely code for the same thing? Are those backwoods rednecks in the first video saying what all of these other people are wanting to say, but are constrained by normative behavior? I believe that instead of using racial epithets, they instead choose to emphasize his middle name, to try to draw parallels between Obama and a 60's radical (or domestic terrorist, if you prefer), and to propogate a whisper campaign that he is in fact a Muslim.

I worry deeply, not only for this election but generally, that there are dark currents that flow beneath the surface of our culture. One in three women report being physically or sexually assaulted in their lifetimes. We continue to discriminate against the LGBT community. Children growing up in poor communities lack the opportunities that are available to the affluent, to the White. All of this while we promote a culture of violence that desensitizes each generation to the abstract, unmanned warfare in impoverished countries that is required to sustain our lifestyle. I worry constantly about what we are doing to the planet. But right now I am worried about the Bradley effect. I am worried that these polls are a mirage (I just saw a clip on CNN where Gergen was saying that despite a commanding lead by Obama, the race was far from over because Obama is black. He went on to mention a study done by Stanford that stated Obama might take as much as a six point hit in the polls due to race. Sorry I cannot find the link - in a bit of a hurry. Edit: Here is a link to part of the Gergen quote and a correction about the Stanford survey. Thanks, K.) What happens if Obama loses? Moreover, what happens if he loses but appears to be leading in the polls? Or, if McCain is able to whittle down the impressive national lead through withering, scurrilous attacks? Best case scenario is that the young voters who were excited are irreparably disenfranchised. More to the point, the minority vote who already look upon the establishment with skepticism after the voter suppression in the last two elections decides that they want nothing to do with a system2.

But maybe this is not the worst case scenario. Our politicians (our politicians? Are these my politicians?) are in the pocket of corporations. They manufacture both foreign and domestic policy not with the interest of working people of the world (or the planet), but with the capitalists, i.e. those who hold the means of production. The bottom line for the corporations is profit; the corporations are beholden to their shareholders and not the communities they exploit. By proxy, politicians use money given to their campaigns to get elected (or re-elected), at which point the perpetuate the policies that are in the corporations best interest. So, not matter who wins, we lose. It is only a question of how much we lose. I am going to leave off with my favorite premises from Derrick Jensen's Endgame:

PREMISE ONE: Civilization is not and can never be sustainable. This is especially true for industrial civilization.

PREMISE THREE: Our way of living - industrial civilization - is based on, requires, and would collapse very quickly without persistent and widespread violence.

PREMISE FOUR: Civilization is based on a clearly defined and widely accepted yet often unarticulated hierarchy. Violence done by those higher on the hierarchy to those on the lower is nearly always invisible, that is, unnoticed. When it is noticed, it is fully rationalized. Violence done by those lower on the hierarchy to those higher on the hierarchy is unthinkable, and when it does occur is regarded with shock, horror, and the fetishization of the victims.

PREMISE FIVE: The property of those higher on the hierarchy is more valuable than the loves of those below.

PREMISE SIX: Civilization is not redeemable.

PREMISE TWELVE: There are no rich people in the world, and there are no poor people. There are just people.

PREMISE THIRTEEN: Those in power rule by force, and the sooner we break ourselves of the illusions to the contrary, the sooner we can at least begin to make reasonable decisions about whether, when, and how we are going to resist.

PREMISE EIGHTEEN: Our current sense of self is no more sustainable than our current use of energy or technology.

1. More than a racist country, it is a country where we marginalize and/or oppress the poor, chilldren, women, gays, and every ethnic background that is not Western European.
2. I originally meant to write "the system," but that typo seems to work just as well.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Etymythology of Maverick

The term maverick is from the 19th century American Southwest denoting unbranded cattle. The term came from the Texas pioneer Samuel A. Maverick who refused to brand his cattle, but the term quickly entered the lexicon as someone who was a recalcitrant independent. Neighboring ranchers suspected that Maverick avoided branding his cattle not because his stated reason of not wanting to hurt the animals, but instead because it allowed him to gather all unbranded cattle as his own. Why the term came to mean someone who is independent and stands against their associates as opposed to one who is a conniving opportunist is a mystery. What is ironic, however, is that John McCain has branded himself as a maverick when he is in fact the conniving opportunist who has made a career out of nepotism and cronyism. As we enter the home stretch of the 2008 Presidential campaign, we are going to see a barrage on untruth from both sides. For instance, while Phil Gramm is something of a douche and McCain's economic adviser, Clinton and congress have as much blood on their hands w/r/t the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act. McCain's long and sordid public history has enough to take him to task w/o specious linkages. As the Rolling Stone article does a good job of demonstrating, McCain is not only not a maverick in the traditional sense of the term, he is also not a straight talker or a good person. And while we are at it, this war hero mythology is utter nonsense. He was a terrible soldier and terrible pilot who was willfully engaged in an ideological conflict that pitted U.S. containment against the threat of Communist expansion. The war cost the lives of nearly 60,000 servicemen and and upwards of 5 million Vietnamese (1 million combatants and 4 million civilians, or 2/3 of the number of Jews killed in the Holocaust. More evidence that Jensen was right in that "every holocaust looks different depending on the class to which the observer belongs" [Jensen, Endgame Volume II, pg 865] ). This is a man who when he was shot down flying a combat mission where he was bombing Hanoi was willfully engaging in a conflict that killed millions.

I want people to stop and think about the scale of death involved in the war that this pampered, elitist, spoiled child was willfully engaging in. It would be the equivalent of over the course of 16 years of conflict every single man, and child was killed in the city of Los Angeles. Or Chicago. Or Houston. Or any other city in the United States other than New York City. Or how about this: Roughly more than less than half of the states in the U.S. have a population of under 4 million. So, imagine that over the course of 16 years (say from the waning days of Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign until today) every single human being was killed in Oregon or Iowa or Utah. Better yet, imagine that over the course of 16 years of napalm and gifts of dioxin from the likes of Dow Chemical and Monsanto along with more conventional munitions, every single human being was killed in Wyoming, Vermont, North Dakota, Alaska, South Dakota, and Delaware1.

Every single one of them.

And make no mistake, these people died horrifically as "heroes" like John McCain rained death down from above. This womanizer who publicly mocked a teenager girl (Chelsea Clinton) for being unattractive and called his wife a cunt for teasing him about going bald. This is not a good man. John McCain and Sarah Palin (who I will get to later) are not just bad politicians and indifferent to the plight of the working man, they are enemies of humanity and the planet in general. I cannot overstate my disdain for the Republican ticket and what their election might portend.

1. All population numbers are from here.

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The good is that Obama has gathered a sizable lead in the polls as we head down the home stretch. As we expectantly await the October Surprise, we begin to feel the perfidious specter of Hope that the lead is substantial enough to weather whatever comes next.

The bad? It could be anything from the McCain still being competitive after running an awful campaign and Palin being an absolute embarrassment to the media not handing these people their asses for being dishonest, inconsistent, and barely coherent. The latter is exemplified by the fact that in the famous satirization of Palin by Tina Fey, they use direct quotes from the transcripts. And as for the dishonesty, let us call it what it is: Sarah Palin and John McCain are liars. All politicians prevaricate, equivocate, or otherwise challenge or skirt the truth in ways that are unimaginable in everyday life. However, these two have managed drag political discourse into the mud by focusing on soundbites, deception, and innuendo.

This leads me to the ugly: the presidential campaign is about to shift from any semblance of issue driven discourse to personal attacks. Obama was ready for McCain to play the Ayers card with a short video demonstrating the relationships between McCain and Phil Gramm and Charles Keating. In turn, McCain is going to commit an act of ledgerdemain by representing Obama as "the Other." The necessary for preconditions for this narrative to function will be the public having the attention span of a gadfly and the persistance and ubiquitousness of doublethink. The Other that McCain is going represent Obama as is an angry black man who associates with terrorists; as an effete intellectual who is out of touch with middle America, which is actually how he is an uppity nigger; how he is a threat to your safety, which, in terms of him being a black man is mas o menos that his is going to steal your blonde girlfriend after carjacking you. Barack Obama is both a terrorist loving, angry, black Muslim man and a faggoty, prissy intellectual who, as Hillary Clinton said, will fold like a paper doll when attacked. Either way, he is a threat to your freedom and the safety of your women, cars, and VCRs. People do not care about Ayers or Rev. Wright or any of this other nonsense, what they care about is that all of these stories point to his Otherness, which leads back to his blackness. Now, this is where it gets really ugly: Obama cannot win the narrative by directly addressing the narrative of his Otherness. He cannot take a time out and discuss the metanarrative of race relations or how it is being leveraged against him, he cannot unpack or dismantle the individual claims w/r/t the implicit assumptions, and he cannot ignore them. I think (and I sincerely hope I am wrong) that his only viable tactic is to counterattack. He needs to relentlessly dismantle McCain's claims, exploit Palin's gaffes, and take apart the idea of the maverick. Finally, I think that he needs his surrogates to perform the bloodiest of the operations, which will entail painting McCain/Palin as racist, soulless liars. As much as possible, he needs to stay above the fray so as to not tarnish the ideas of hope and change that he has branded himself with. He needs to be seen and heard as much as possible so as to make it easier for the public to understand that he is not the Other, but instead a smooth talking liberal who wants what is best for this country. The next for weeks are going to get very ugly. We all need to be prepared.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Welcome to the Desert of the Real

I have been working this week for the first time in about half a year and yesterday the bar finally opened. I was there from 10:30 until 2 working most of the time, so this morning I'm a bit groggy and very tired. After checking my email, I saw this story here and the pictures here. It made me vomit in my mouth. Enjoy.