Politics


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

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

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

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

Ah, to dream that it could happen.

Cross posted at my own damn site.

The past few days I have found myself getting more and more enmeshed in the day to day crap that is the primary season. There’s nothing substantive to report, and there hasn’t been for over a week now. The media continues to ignore the actual issues on which these politicians are campaigning, and that leaves them with only the horserace, who bowled what stories. Seriously, there are segments of our news media that want the candidate’s bowling skills to play into the race. Do they think the next president is going to have to challenge Kim Jong-il to a bowling match over nuclear proliferation? It would be hard to find a skill or issue LESS relevant to a person’s ability to be commander and chief. We sure are hell aren’t going to give them time to get any bowling in when they get into office. Hell, John “Forever War” McCain would probably tear his bicep if he tried bowling. He’s pretty spry for his age, but the body takes a long time to heal at that age, and the trail can be pretty punishing.

In all of this, I have wasted a lot of time. I’m not proud of it, but I can come back from the experience with a little knowledge about how I will spend my time in the future. I will never again read a comment thread with more than twenty five replies. I will not just read the first few and move on, I will ignore the thing in its entirety. Twenty five is about the point at which one can with certainty expect the conversation to degenerate into sheer idiocy. I know that I will miss out on some things by doing this, and it seems to be a little at odds with the blog itself. We want people to post here, and have conversations, and spirited arguments. But something about the nature of blogs guarantees that somewhere around post twenty five, someone is going to stop actually making sense, and start spouting nonsense.

This is not a hard and fast rule. Idiocy can begin with the first reply, but you know it’s not worth the investment of time at twenty five. You have to think of information as risk reward in the great sea of data known as the internet.

Am I being too lenient? Should I cut off at twelve? Maybe you think it’s safe to wade as far as thirty replies into a thread. If you do, go check out the New York Times blog comments, pick something good, like a post on Obama in the politics blog, or Gore’s new ad campaign in the science blog. Feel free to come back and tell me what you think, just don’t be the twenty sixth reply.

I have a question for all you Rush listeners out there. I understand that you think global warming is a hoax. I also get some of the evidence against it. I’m even cynical enough to believe it possible. I am confused, however, about motive.

Suppose that there is no global warming, that left-wing politicians and scientists are making the whole thing up, from Al Gore to Greenpeace and every other green non-profit in the world. My question is this: Why? What do those thousands of politicians and scientists and NGO’s stand to gain from making up a global crisis and then attempting to change industry standards to ‘correct’ it? What do all those people have in common that puts them on the same side of what would be the best con in history, and what payoff is worth that much effort?

I hope you will all be going out and casting a vote in the primaries, providing you’re in a Super Tuesday state. I will be going to the bar. The Bryant Lake Bowl is my caucus location. Further proof that the Minnesota DFL loves me and wants me to be happy.
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Obama.

(What’s wrong with a fairy tale anyway?  I figured that I can’t be that cynical at 24.  What would that make me in thirty years? A Republican?)

About three weeks ago, I had a political discussion with Mary Kate to distract us from the interminable drive across Wisconsin. An analogy occurred to me that MK and I agreed was surprisingly–and somewhat disturbingly–fitting.

Here is the context, as per my understanding and our conversation:

America claims to be leading a War On Terror, a war with vague intentions and shifting enemies. So far, this war has been focused on the Middle east, while also holding an Afghan front and an aggressive posture toward North Korea. Our American “leaders” tell us that this war is waged to make the world a safer place, a claim which I have always assumed to include the aside “except those places in the world we are bombing the shit out of.”

There are some obvious religious similarities between the countries towards which we have recently been rattling our sabers (or swinging them viciously), but there seems to be a divide in American opinion as to the nature and relevance of this trend.

One view seems to be that the cultural and religious similarities between the targets of American cruise missles is merely coincidental; that America is not specifically targeting Muslims or vise versa, but it just so happens that many Muslim countries are currently unstable and are subject to strong-arm leaders and terrorist cells as a result.

The other American viewpoint, still largely regulated to quiet conversations in backrooms and the occasional rantings of some in the extreme right, is that there is something inherent to Islam that makes it fundamentally incompatible with democracy and Freedom (however that last word is defined). This view, while perhaps never saying so outright, implies that nations with Islamic governments will always harbor terrorist groups (aka jihadists) and human-rights infractions because those elements are integral to the Islamic legal and moral system. Within this worldview, it is to be expected that the War on Terror will focus on Islamic countries, and that it will continue to do so until some type of Islamic frameshift occurs.

My understanding (which is very limited, I admit) is that most of the Muslim world has picked up on this latter American stance, but for them it is largely deduction. Given our track record, it is no surprise that so many Muslims feel that they are being targeted in a cultural war, not just bystanders in a scattered attack on Terror.

When Ayatollah Khomeini called America “the Great Satan” in 1979, we had not yet begun our bombardment of the Middle East. Though he probably did have some very plausible worries about it, an American military invasion was not the Ayatollah’ s prime concern. As he saw it, Iran was already under invasion, not just from Western colonialism, but also from McDonald’s, Disney, Coca Cola, and Levi-Strauss. The real enemy of a fundamentalist Islamic government isn’t democracy, it’s free-market capitalism and the American social/moral codes that have gone with it since WWII.

In this way, the paranoid American pinheads are right: Islamic governments, especially if fundamentalist, will never be compatible with American Freedom because many of the social standards inherent in our idea of freedom are banned by Muslim law. Our free market says that men can drink alcohol and woman can dress like dancers in a rap video. The Koran says that this things are immoral and are not to be allowed.

When America brings Freedom to some ‘backward, intolerant’ country like Afghanistan, it is often overlooked that our brand of capitalism goes along for the ride. But even if we do see it, we can easily dismiss any damages by saying that we are just giving the people what they want. People want Desperate Housewives, Harry Potter, stylish jeans, Cinemax, and Marlboro Lights. This in the 21st century, man! If people want to wear revealing clothes, get drunk, and sleep around, that is their right. We’re just trying to bring modernity and basic human rights to the world, and these fundamentalist religious governments are resisting us; trying to hold their citizens in thrall, prevent them from moving forward.

The funny thing is that I remember when this happened once before; when a large, modernizing, secular country invaded and liberated a smaller, less technically advanced, state religion-run country. It was when Mao Zedong led a communist invasion into Tibet, overthrew the theocracy, and redistributed land to the serfs and peasants.

Now, the People’s Army also killed thousands of monks and destroyed most of the Buddhist temples in Tibet, which is something that we haven’t quite managed yet in our liberations, but the Chinese sentiment then was not so different from ours now: here is a country ruled by religious zealots, with obvious class lines based on the state religion, where cultural and technological modernization are being thwarted by the ‘holy men’ at the top of the heap. Mao just wanted to give basic freedoms and equality to his Tibetan brothers and sisters. Sound familiar?

Before I’m attacked with undue viciousness: I know that the Chinese invasion and subjugation of Tibet was far more brutal than any recent American military action, and that all religious practices were barred in Tibet (China, as it was fully integrated), a goal that we are not shooting for. But while the military strategy of the two wars may vary, the moral intents are remarkably similar. And yet, the Taliban leaders have not yet announced any speaking tours, authored now books on tolerance, and I have yet to see a single “Free Afghanistan” bumper-sticker.

No, I haven’t decided for whom I’m voting yet.  Yes, I know I have only a couple of months left to decide.  I’ll get there, okay?  In the meantime, let’s talk about this weekend’s big political move.  Oprah! (more…)

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