Thursday, January 31, 2008

Tracking My Frontrunners

It's overload time for fans of sports and politics, with the Patriots preparing for their rendezvous with history in Glendale on Sunday and the leading presidential candidates facing their own meeting with fate on Tuesday. A couple of stories involving my choices in the latter, more prosaic, competition caught my eye today.

At the New York Daily News historian Robert Dallek takes on the issue of Obama's experience:

As one who has spent many years studying JFK, let me make this much clear: When it comes to experience, Obama is no John Kennedy. (Indeed, when distilled into the crudest terms, Obama is no Dan Quayle - who was famously branded "no Jack Kennedy"; as of 1988, Quayle had spent more than a decade on the national stage.)

But here's the much bigger question: What does it matter? An examination of Kennedy's own record - and of the broader sweep of history - leads us to this critical conclusion: Obama's lack of experience shouldn't be considered a liability. Many of our most experienced Presidents have made disastrous choices. In the long life of the republic, judgment trumps experience, almost every time.
This pretty well dovetails with my take. And in any case, in a race against Hillary, I still am unclear what this vaunted experience that she keeps touting vis a vis Obama amounts to.

At The Washington Post Robert Novak picks up on the question of whether John McCain is conservative enough. Novak equivocates, but seems skeptical. Toward the end of his piece, he writes the following: "McCain as the Republican nominee would need those 'very conservative' voters." I disagree with the implications of this argument. In this political climate of hardened partisan division, the stalwarts on both sides of the aisle are not going to stay home. They may not love their party's choice of candidate, but true devotees of politics, true believers in one or the other party, are not going to sit home on election day. Even if they are not enthusiastic for a candidate, they will show up to make plain their distaste for his (or her, perhaps especially her in this case) candidacy. These "very conservative" voters and their "very liberal" counterparts are not going to allow a fit of pique to keep them home. Swing voters, not the tried and true loyalists, will be the difference makers come November.

(By the way -- self indulgence alert!! -- this story in the Midland Reporter-Telegram on the events in Florida early in the week contains a few of my observations.)

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

On Vince Lombardi

The Super Bowl week buildup continues unabated. My team is involved and I find most of it to be practically unbearable. It must be awful for those of you who are still paying attention or have been unable to convert all of the blather into soothing white noise. Ralph Whitehead, Jr. had a nice piece on Vince Lombardi in The Boston Globe that might remind you of, as others say in a different context for a very different purpose, the reason for the season, or at least one of them. Here is the introduction:
BECAUSE THE Super Bowl trophy bears the name of Vince Lombardi, yearly media countdowns to the game often revisit his triumphant years as coach of the Green Bay Packers. But too often these portraits of him are skewed. They depict him as a severe taskmaster - but play down his achievements as an innovator.

In such portraits, he is a George Patton. In fact, however, he was a Steve Jobs.

The whole thing, as we blogger types are wont to say, is worth reading.

Monday, January 28, 2008


Want to do something about global hunger? Don't want to get up from your computer screen? Know a lot about words? Dumb as a post and know little about words but willing to sit there for a long time? Go to FreeRice and play the game that lets your knowledge of vocabulary (or that tenacity of yours) feed the hungry. For every one you get right, 20 grains of rice go to the UN's World Food Program courtesy of your big brain and the site's advertisers. Read more about the game and its origins in this article from USA Today. Bookmark FreeRice, go in every so often, spend ten minutes, and all of those grains of rice will add up fast. Then come and lie about your scores.

RoJo on the State of the Union

My buttons are bursting with Armitage Shanks pride (that's an inside joke for my Oxford contingent). RoJo has published a fine piece in New Statesman on the State of the Union address and its evolution over the course of the country's history. It's concise, smart, well written, and you'll learn a few things over the course of reading it. He's also been posting up a storm at Amiable Dunce, with witty and insightful commentary on The Wire (which is the greatest show in television history) and the primaries.

On Literary Agents

If in the world of writing you are a relative nobody, as I am, you are familiar with the pas de deux of dealing with agents. It's a frustrating game, because the agent holds all the cards despite the fact that it is your work that is at the center of discussion. When I was shopping Bleeding Red I had an agent for a while. At first she was enthusiastic and supportive. And then she discovered that some very big names were also publishing books on the Red Sox, and she became distant and silent. Before long, the relationship ended -- she called it off, but only after I had threatened to do so. My view is that what seemed like an easy sell and thus quick profit turned into work for her. Since then I have had tentative forays with agents, but it has usually gone nowhere, or where it has gone somewhere it has been with someone who seemed little more clued in to the world of publishing than I am. I anticipate flying solo for a while, as I'm not important enough to need an agent even if I'm self-important enough to want one.

All of these thoughts crossed my mind when I read Gina Barreca's fabulous post on literary agents at The Chronicle Review's blog Brainstorm. A generous excerpt:

Maybe it’s not impossible to get an agent who is responsive, responsible, intelligent, well-read, witty, and competent, even if you’re not selling a book that will immediately be made into a blockbuster Hollywood film. And maybe it’s not impossible for me to flap my arms and circle the moon.

Ask any writers — working authors, especially those known as “midlist,” meaning that they’ve sold books but have not had action-figures based on their characters — about their search for the perfect literary representative, and they will clutch you by the collar and, as their eyes narrow into gimlets, they’ll launch into a saga that makes the “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” sound positively catchy.

You’ll hear versions of “Although I sent my manuscript to an agent recommended by a colleague and haven’t heard back from her in 27 months, I’m afraid to send a follow-up e-mail because I’ll sound too pushy”; “My agent said even though he’s never actually read anything I’ve sent him, he’s sure he can place something as soon as he gets around to it and that I’m a valuable member of his circle of authors”; “My agent told me she loved my book, just loved it, and that I shouldn’t take another contract for a different manuscript because this one was a sure-fire-winner until, oops, two months later she read the rest of my book and decided she wouldn’t be able to sell it after all and, umm, terribly sorry about that whole not-taking-the-other-contract thing.”

My favorite illustration of the relationship between writers and agents is as follows: After a difficult day a struggling writer returns to his neighborhood and is shocked to find a cadre of police and fire trucks surrounding the smoldering remains of his house. Explaining who he was he asks, “What happened?” “Well,” one of the officer’s says, “It seems that your agent came by your house earlier today and while he was here he attacked your wife, assaulted your children, beat your dog and burned your house to the ground.” The writer is struck speechless, his jaw hanging open in disbelief…. “My agent came to my house?”

Read the whole thing. Including the comments, where there are a couple of almost-but-not-quite plausible defenses of agents.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Greatest of All Time?

At The Boston Globe Jim McCabe, using the current Patriots as a springboard, explores the futility of figuring out which team is the "greatest of all time" but also acknowledges that the very futility of it may be what makes such arguments so enduring and alluring.

The next week is destined to pass slowly. The NFL does itself, and more importantly its fans, a disservice by having the off week between the conference championships and the Super Bowl. There is no real reason why this game should not be going on today, though if Tom Brady's ankle really is injured, pats fans are thankful for the respite. Nonetheless, it feels as if the league has killed some of its own carefully cultivated momentum.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

They Like Me, They Really Like Me!: Self Indulgence Alert

The editor of Cape Town's Cape Argus saw my latest Foreign Policy Association think piece and asked for permission to republish it. The Argus is one of South Africa's largest daily newspapers, so naturally I was thrilled to see it appear very prominently on the op-ed page on Wednesday.

Friday, January 25, 2008

John Rambo is Back

Admit it. You're considering seeing the latest installment of the Rambo movies. Oh, you might do it "ironically," or out of a sense of nostalgia. But you're actually looking forward to it, even if you use it as an excuse for going to the movies drunk. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the review in The New York Times was actually quite fair. One quotation from AO Scott's assessment probably sums it up best: "[T]he movie does have its own kind of blockheaded poetry."

Amen to that, brother.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

In The Changer: I've Fallen Desperately Behind, H-J Edition

Well, the idea was a good one. I love music and love to write about music and I wanted to document my current music tastes. So I decided to spend some time reviewing things that I've been listening to in order to share, criticize, and maybe make some sense of a small slice of the frankly overwhelming mass of listening options that are out there. But the problem is that as I've been doing this, I've also accumulated more and more cd's or downloads. So basically, I'm going to plough through the rest of the alphabet as best as I can even though most of these albums are more than a year old and I am as frequently listening to newer stuff as this. Oh well. As I've said all along: As soon as the labels start sending me these things to review for free, I'll be more timely. Until then, you're stuck with my methodology and timelag.

Hot Hot Heat, Elevator: This album sounds like it could be the soundtrack to the greatest '80s movie never made. Judd Nelson, Andrew McCarthy, Emilio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall, Mare Winningham, Molly Ringwald, and Allie Sheedy deal with life, love, loss and growing up in a trenchant dramedy while Hot Hot Heat, probably wearing skinny ties, produce infectious pop music, including what has to be the song for the opening credits, over which the tableau will be set, "Middle of Nowhere." I'd definitely see that movie. But at least we can buy the soundtrack. Grade: B+

Michael Jackson, The Essential Michael Jackson: Michael Jackson may be crazier than a syphilitic hobo, but there is no doubting that at one point he also was as talented a performer as ever walked the face of the earth. The crazy appears to have taken over the talented, much as Norman' Bates' mother took over Norman Bates, but this two-disc collection is a reminder of why from the heyday of the Jackson Five to the early 90s Jackson was the world's most popular entertainer. That said, this could probably be even better as one long disc that cut a little from both the earlier stuff (I'm not certain Michael Jackson as a boy singing romantic ballads to women is any less creepy than his late life shenanigans) and the later stuff (the era of the alleged shenenigans). Thirty songs, say, rather than thirty eight, and less would be more. Still pretty damned good, even if he's not the ideal babysitter. A-

Robert Johnson, King of the Delta Blues Singers: I like the blues. But I hate most blues fans. You know the ones I'm talking about. He's white. He dresses "bohemian," even though everything he's wearing is only affordable by someone comfortably ensconsed in the upper-middle class. He laughs too loud at the bluesman's jokes at a live show. Basically, he's a pretentious douche. Nonetheless, Robert Johnson is at the top of the pantheon. You can hear his influence throughout the canon of what we now call "classic rock," including the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, and Aerosmith. It's even more remarkable to listen to this compilation and consider that Johnson was dead at twenty-one years of age, poisoned, apropos of his genre, perhaps, by his girlfriend. Most of you probably know the legend of Johnson -- he allegedly sold his soul to the devil in exchange for his sublime gifts at a crossroads in Mississippi. Crank the album, avoid the dude in the Birks and socks (he's almost assuredly the one with the ponytail) and imagine what might have been had Johnson only made it to thirty. A

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Reckoning With Reagan

Over at The New York Times on Monday Paul Krugman engaged in a pretty significant evisceration of what he deems as the false narrative as a decade of economic boom. Money quotation:
The Reagan economy was a one-hit wonder. Yes, there was a boom in the mid-1980s, as the economy recovered from a severe recession. But while the rich got much richer, there was little sustained economic improvement for most Americans. By the late 1980s, middle-class incomes were barely higher than they had been a decade before — and the poverty rate had actually risen.

My own views on Reagan are complex. In the wake of his passing I wrote a perhaps too charitable assessment here, though I stand by most of the general conclusions. Reagan did have his successes, and his character and personality towered over the decade that historians will always associate him with. At the same time, his failings are manifest, and at times embarrassing. Iran Contra (which really ought to go down in the annals as worse than either Watergate or whatever Clinton was guilty of), Vetoing the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act, Bitburg and Neshoba, Opposing renewal of the Voting Rights Act and MLK Day (until faced with the prospect of an overwhelming veto): These and many more failings will always loom over his presidency in my mind. Still, the shadow he casts over contemporary conservatism, and thus on modern American society is huge, and for that reason alone, independent of the quality of his presidency, which will be the source of decades of debate, the importance of the Reagan years seems almost incontrovertible.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Bring the Hype

I'm back from Colorado and our great weekend with Tom and his better half, so while I try to get back to the grind, let's get going with the Super Bowl XLII hype: In the pre-Patriot era, the New York Giants were actually New England's football team, which explains why Dan Shaughnessy was rooting for Eli Manning and company on Sunday.

My comments on the Chargers game: First, let's keep in mind that the only reason the Pats did not score on the drive that closed out the game was because they chose not to. The game was reasonably close, but virtually never in doubt. As for San Diego's injuries, all I'll say is that injuries are a part of the game, and as a result the Pats did not have one of their best defensive players, Roosevelt Colvin, or the guy who was leading the Pats in rushing when he went down for the season, Sammy Morris. On the whole, the Pats got it done with defense and a brutally efficient running game. Brady did not have his best game, but my guess is that the weather and turf in Glendale will see a return of the Patriots who can put up 50 in ruthless fashion.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Travel Advisory

Mrs. dcat and I are off to Colorado to meet with a fellow named Tom (and his lovely better half) who is familiar to at least some of you. Posting may be light as we weather the snow, cold, and from the vantage point of a couple of adopted West Texans accustomed to the tortilla-flat desert anyway, odd stuff like "mountains" and "trees." The living will be good but the posting will be light.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

On Zim at the South Africa Blog (Self-Indulgence Alert)

Zimbabwe has been occupying my attention over at the South Africa Blog. Today I take Great Britain to task for coming up short on providing Zimbabwean refugees with asylum despite th3e condemnation of Mugabe rightfully coming from London in recent years. I also have two posts of reportage froma friend who just returned to Zim from South Africa to visit his famnily over the holidays. It's well worth checking out if you have a few minutes.

Monday, January 14, 2008

James McGregor Burns and the Supremes

The historian and political scientist (and Williams College professor emeritus) James McGregor Burns is turning his attentions toward the Supreme Court. I suspect that this book will make an important contribution as most of Burns' works have.

FDR Watch

This promises to be a gift from the history Gods: dcat friend and mentor Alonzo Hamby is working on an FDR biography, and over at POTUS he will be writing "a series of occasional columns on the issues an FDR biographer faces." His first such piece looks at lingering questions about the state of FDR's health during his presidency.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

NFL Playoffs: The Divisional Round

Here are my quick assessments of the NFL playoffs this weekend, with my always-entertaining predictions. (Unless I'm betting Holmes, in which case I always win, I'm pretty mediocre at this sort of thing.):

Seattle at Green Bay: Green Bay is at home and is by most measures the better team. Bret Favre's magical run continues for at least another week as Seattle on the road is not a great team. This is a nice JV game before the varsity takes the field in Foxborough. Green Bay 34-Seattle 17

Jacksonville at New England: Lots of folks love the Jags because they can run and stop the run and thus are a good bet in a cold weather stadium against a team predicated on passing. This is, to put it bluntly, nonsense. The Jags are also not a great pass D, and the Pats not only have the best passing offense in the league, but arguably the best passing offense in the history of the NFL. Meanwhile the Pats have had two weeks off, Belichick has been able to game plan for the Jags, the game is at home, and the weather is supposed to be conducive to a passing offense. I have a pretty demonstrable history of getting insanely nervous before these games. But I am confident that the Pats are going to maul the Jags. The Pats may lose before completing the run to perfection. But not today and not against this team. New England 44-Jacksonville 23

San Diego at Indianapolis: My guess is that Tony Dungy, Peyton Manning, and the rest of the Colts love flying this low below the radar. No one is talking about them. Meanwhile the Chargers won their playoff game last week, but in far from compelling fashion. There has been lots of talk about Marvin Harrison this week, but his return won't be as much of a factor as the inevitable implosion that the Chargers will engage in sometime around the third quarter. maybe this would be a game in San Diego. It won't be in Indy. Indianapolis 38-San Diego 27

New York at Dallas: This will likely be the closest game of the weekend, and in that sense the most entertaining, but for some reason I see this being a typically ugly NFC east slugfest in which the team that turns the ball over last watches their playoff hopes fade. Given that a Cowboys-Pack, Pats-Colts weekend might be the greatest pair of games in the history of the NFL, and given that I don't think Eli can get it done again, even if they are on a roll and this is the dreaded third matchup this season after two Cowboy wins, I think Dallas will win. Dallas 21-New York 17

Enjoy the games, and Go Pats!!!

What's Next in The Race?

It seems clear that the key to being a successful pundit is to focus less on what's new or what's now and to place all of one's energies on what's next. With that in mind, here are two "what's next" sort of pieces on the primary campaigns, one from Michael Barone at Real Clear Politics, the other from Ronald Brownstein at National Journal.

Spam as Felony

As I kill time before today's games, a thought that often comes to me crossed my mind again. In all of the talk about Spam email and its various annoyances, why isn't the issue of fraud a part of this discussion. Spam is an annoyance, but it is often more than that. If you send me an email claiming that there is a problem with my bank account, and you are not actually a representative from my bank, how have you not committed about a dozen fairly serious crimes? Some try to couch spam discussions as matters of free speech, but there is no protection for attempting to defraud someone.

Obviously most of these emails fall into the category of petty irritants. If I don't have an account at the community federal credit union that is in the dire straits that you claim it is, that simply clutters my inbox. Such phishing expeditions still ought to be patently illegal, but their odds of doing me harm are minimal. However, more and more, likely based purely on the sheer amount of email I receive and the probability that comes with it, I receive emails allegedly from banks and other institutions (Amazon being a common example) with which I do business. I know that my bank does not contact me by email, but Amazon does, as do others. At this point, the risk of fraud increases substantially and such spam crosses from being a bother to being potentially devastating. Ho are attempts to defraud thousands, maybe millions, of people in one fell swoop not considered significant threats?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Ron Paul's Loonie Brigade Unleashed?

So, is Ron Paul a racist, homophobe, and all-around bigot? An examination of some of his old newsletters implies as much, as this Jamie Kirchick story indicates.

I'm usually wary of Kirchick who too often is so agenda-driven that his work can be shoddy, his conclusions knee-jerk. Nonetheless, the evidence in this case seems compelling enough to raise questions. But the most interesting element of all of this is the way in which Kirchick's piece really smoked out Paul's wingnut brigade of supporters. The typical New Republic article or blog post might elicit a handful of posts if it is interesting or provocative, a few dozen if it is truly controversial or hits a nerve. Kirchick's article has inspired nearly 1400 comments, the huge majority from an obviously mobilized and organized online brigade of Paul groupies. Whatever Kirchick's flaws, he seems to have hit a rich vein. And while it is unfair to taint a candidate by his or her craziest fringe, when that fringe establishes a critical mass, (and when it inspires David Duke to start giving campaign advice) it does raise some serious concerns about the candidate.

More on Politics

Sorry the posting has been so light -- it's been a crazy break and in the last couple of days I've been catching up on piles of work while at the same time trying to cobble together my first slovenly time of the break right before the new term kicks in next week.

The last issue of The New Yorker has two worthwhile articles about the GOP race. In "Talk of the Town," Hendrick Hertzberg has a great little piece taking a skeptical approach to the use of religion in campaigns, especially the religiosity of Huckabee and Romney. Elizabeth Kolbert profiles Rudy Giuliani in a way unlikely to change many minds among his detractors (among whom I clearly rank).

I do not have a whole lot to add to the noise about New Hampshire. Both races are fascinating and have been made moreso by the results in the Granite State. I am happy for McCain and hope that he can get redemption for what happened to him at the hands of the Rove-Bush machine in 2000. On the Democratic side we've already heard more than we need to about the Comeback Kid redux but the most important aspect to me is that there is still a race, and that we'll have some time for an actual primary contest as opposed to a coronation for one side or the other. South Carolina ande Nevada represent shifts in geography and demographics, so soon enough we may have a clearer picture. I, for one, would welcome having this nomination process use more of the calendar than recent election cycles have. There is no reason why we need to have our candidates set before Valentine's Day. And maybe continued close competitions will prevent the media from establishing narratives that become self-fulfilling.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Self Indulgence Alert: South Africa's Magnificent Catastrophe

My latest article for the Foreign Policy Association, South Africa's Magnificent Catastrophe, was published last week. In it, I tentatively compare current South African politics to the situation America faced in 1800. Let me know if you think that it works.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

The dcat Pre-Iowa/New Hampshire Assessment

OK, here are my capsule assessments of the candidates. My views on the candidates for the two parties comes with the obvious caveat that I am not a nonpartisan observer. I am a Democrat. On domestic issues I am quite liberal, on foreign policy I believe in a sort of muscular humanitarian approach that makes me more hawkish than many in my party but that hawkishness fits within parameters of what I feel that liberal foreign policy once represented, before so many left-of-center foreign policy views became little more than reflexive opposition to President Bush’s ham-handed incompetence.

The following rankings are not based on my predictions of what will happen in Iowa or New Hampshire, or what will happen between now and the nominating conventions, although I take plausibility into account. On the Democratic side I thus consider both my own views and general electability issues. My take on the GOP is a bit different – consider my rankings something of a tolerability index for a number of candidates whose views I oppose and who in many cases I simply dislike.


Barack Obama: In a campaign in which the candidates’ views are not separated by all that much, my support for Obama comes down to issues of character and personality and integrity and intelligence and vision. My response to Obama is frankly a visceral one borne of his intelligence and competence and my estimation of his capacity. Race features so much in my work that one might wonder if that plays a role as well. Sure it does. And I have no idea why, other things being equal (or in my estimation stacked in Obama’s favor) that would be a problem. In light of this country’s racial history, the idea of a black president seems to me to be something that would reveal just how far we have come, no matter if we have not come far enough. Obama is a brilliant, at times mesmerizing speaker who seems to carry with him the promise of a new politics. The contemporary dialogue is so ugly that a candidate that truly seems to want to rise above divisiveness as more than merely a rhetorical ploy is especially welcome. I like Obama. And when conservatives try to change the rules of the game to somehow make the politics of hope and optimism seem shallow, I have a name for them: Ronald Reagan.

John Edwards: Edwards seems to be peaking at just the right time. Like Obama, he preaches a message largely of hope. I like his populist approach but have the feeling that in a general election Republicans would accuse him of trying to wage class warfare. Of course some might argue that he is merely firing back in a war already being waged against the poorest Americans. Edwards has to win, because he is not primed to be the VP nominee again. If Edwards gathers momentum I’d be proud to see him as the party standard bearer.

Al Gore (Not Actually Running): There are those who hope that some how, some way, things will work out so that Al Gore comes in as the shining knight to take the nomination and win the office that many believe was rightfully his in 2000. This is implausible. I like the post-2000 Gore and frankly cannot really fathom why the GOP built up such hatred for him, except for the fact that such treatment is likely to be the lot of any Democrat who wins the Democratic nomination. If something were to happen so that Gore did end up as a compromise candidate or a late entry, he would be a powerhouse. But the way that the nomination process is set up, and the amount of money involved, would make such a scenario nearly impossible. Consider my inclusion of him here as a statement of my admiration for the man.

Joe Biden: If experience, gravitas, and foreign policy knowledge and capability were the only issues at hand in this election Biden would be the strongest candidate for the democrats (and maybe of either party) hands-down. But Biden is too far back. My hope is that he would seriously consider the Vice Presidential post, or better yet, that he would consider a spot in the cabinet, preferably as Secretary of State or National Security Advisor.

Hillary Clinton: I think Hillary actually gets a pretty bad deal. At the same time, too often in this campaign she has revealed a too-patently-Machiavellian side that have led so many to distrust her. She is incredibly polarizing and my guess is that in their hearts the GOP contenders want her to win the nomination. I’m willing to grant that the GOP may want to be careful what they wish for. Hillary is formidable. She just is not very likeable.

Bill Richardson: Cannot win. Will not win. Guy you’d probably most want to have a beer with. Probably my favorite candidate on the issue of immigration. Cannot win and will not win, though.

Christopher Dodd: See above under Richardson. Except I’m not certain I’d care to have a beer with the guy. I actually support most of his policies. But again, can’t win, won’t win. Tomorrow I might rate him ahead of Richardson. It’s not really a distinction worth parsing.

Dennis Kucinich: Kucinich really ought to be the Democrats’ equivalent to Ron Paul – the wacky, somewhat endearing candidate with a lot of integrity and the ability to be a burr under the saddle of the party stalwarts. Instead he has a better chance of earning a starring nod in The Hobbit. Politics ain’t fair.

Mike Gravel: Positions are fine. In comparison, Richardson and Dodd are juggernauts. I’d actually be more than likely to vote for him before I’d actually cast a vote for Kucinich. But my hobbit line is better than anything I have for Gravel. Again – politics? Not fair.


John McCain: I have tremendous respect and admiration for John McCain now that he is rounding back into his 2000 form rather than his waffling, decidedly un-straight talk 2006 persona. And he is beginning to hit his stride again. He needs a couple of good showings in the next week, he needs that to get the money rolling in, and he needs to exercise his South Carolina demons from when Bush and his minions planted their campaign in the gutter in 2000. If all goes well for the Democrats, wouldn’t McCain make for a hell of a Secretary of Defense?

Ron Paul: My guess is that his momentum will come to a halt and that he’ll be the GOP’s equivalent to Howard Dean in 2004, except that he’ll never end up as head of the party. I admire Paul for his integrity and for his unwavering libertarian politics. I think he’s nuttier than toddler poo and his fixation on things like the Gold standard are endearingly batty. But he does not seem inclined to play the usual political games, and he certainly is speaking truth to power within his party, which I admire.

Mitt Romney: After Paul the candidates go seriously down hill for me on the GOP side. Romney is a blow dried smarm-meister who changes positions on a dime to improve his electability. I’m glad he made his compelling statement about his religion a while back, because while we are supposed to value all religions and all that, given that they can’t all be right I’m just going to say that Mormons are wronger than most when it comes to concocting shit that isn’t even vaguely fucking plausible. He had better do decently in Iowa and win New Hampshire. If a former GOP Governor cannot win his neighboring state, he’s pretty much screwed. Wants to “double Guantanamo” which doesn’t actually mean anything, but shows that the guy can pander like nothing you’ve ever seen.

Mike Huckabee: Huckabee’s public persona is really likable. I’ve seen him on a bunch of talk shows, including the late night Comedy Central gantlet and he has done really well. I’m frankly turned off by the religious right aspect of his candidacy. We’ve had enough of Christian warriors in the executive branch, and on that front Huckabee makes Bush look like a piker.

Fred Thompson: I, for one, think the cornpone New York DA would make for a hell of a folksy president who’d tell it like it is with fun metaphors. Oh. That’s just a character? The real Fred Thompson is a lazy social gadfly? Wasn’t there a point when some pegged this guy as a savior? He is like a GOP version of Wes Clark in 2004. Except impossible to take seriously.

Alan Keyes: He’s witty, I’ll give him that. And he seems to believe the things he says.

Duncan Hunter: Name a policy and he’s pretty much got the right wing stand down. Opposes gay marriage, and I’d bet gays too. Supports torture. Opposes stem cell research. Standard right-wing pap. I still like him more than . . .

Rudolph Giuliani I think Giuliani is legitimately dangerous. Cult of personality dangerous. The guy’s foreign policy thoughts are so thin anorexics fear for his well being. I still have no goddamned idea why the guy gets all that anti-terrorism credit based on 9/11. No one has successfully explained to me Giuliani’s appeal. He believes in overweening executive power and I have no doubt he’d exercise it to the fullest. Some of the rest of these guys I see as clowns and amiable dunces. Not Giuliani. I have no idea how he got to be a front-runner and am not only happy but palpably relieved to see him fading, though we’ll see if his strategy to withdraw to Florida and the big-delegate primary days in February is a sign of tactical genius or mere desperation.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Self Indulgence Miscelleny

Over at the South Africa Blog I've been busy addressing the Kenyan election crisis (and excoriating the egregious coverage of the New York Times), looking at various reviews of 2007 and previews of 2008, and more. Enjoy.

I'm off to San Antonio today and then DC tomorrow for the AHA and so blogging may eb light, but I do hope to provide a post on my views of the candidates. I have not been coering the race much, and that's been intentional -- there is plenty of noise out there, but now that the games have begun, or will on Thursday, it's time to start taking it all seriously here at dcat.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Leading the Way

Good for my home state. New England is leading the way on civil unions and gay marriage, and New Hampshire joined with little hoopla.

Iowa and New Hampshire

The Washington Post has a feature on the political cultures of New Hampshire and Iowa. I'm a native of the Granite State, and so I'm clearly biased, but I think that New Hampshire comes across better than Iowa, where the most notable aspects that stand out in the story are the idea of "Iowa Nice" and the fact that Iowa is "family oriented." As for the first element, Minnesotans probably more famously claim something called "Minnesota Nice," which and this brings us to Midwestern stereotypes that in the end aren't very useful. The second assertion is actually quite bothersome. Iowans are "family oriented" relative to whom, precisely? The northeast (and Blue States generally), after all, tends to have lower divorce rates. (And if this chart is to be believed, those nice Iowans commit almost every significant crime at a higher rate than people in New Hampshire. I'm sure they do it nicely. But I'm just sayin' is all.)

Ultimately I'm wary of trying to provide these kinds of generalizations about entire states or regions. Iowa has lots of nice people who love their families, I'm sure. But almost certainly no more so than Massachusetts or New Hampshire or Texas. Claiming to love families is a bit like saying one supports human rights or education. It's the low hanging fruit because no one actually opposes those things. In any case, if the purpose of the article is either to confirm or deny the vaunted status of Iowa or New Hampshire, I doubt this article will shift the terrain of the debate.