Friday, April 20, 2007

pacing and presidents

Yesterday was a particularly busy day, so no blog posts... and a desire to spend this morning more leisurely. Perhaps that is the nature of having a job that can be challenging intellectually--its easy to burn up the batteries when the problems you are working on are hard. Needless to say, I'm looking forward to a relaxed weekend.

Today is also something of a milestone for me--this is the first time I've donated money to more than one presidential campaign. I first donated to Barack Obama after the release of his first quarter numbers. Senator Obama is an inspiring figure with the power to inspire--but I'll be honest, I find some of his positions uninspired. Today I popped an equal amount of money to Bill Richardson who is by far the most qualified democratic candidate out there. What I most like about him is his proven ability to talk to people who don't want to do things and get them to do things they don't want to do (North Korea, as an example). He also has the clearest and most unambiguous stance on the Iraq quagmire.

As in 2004, the democratic party was blessed with a plethera of good candidates. But, this time around I think everyone understands the dynamic of front-loading (whoever wins Iowa and New Hampshire will sweep the field) and I think everyone is trying to figure out how best to capitalize on the successes of the 2004 Dean campaign (which I supported) while avoiding its pitfalls (the Edwards campaign has recently hired Joe Trippi, and the Edwards campaign has been more experimental and forward thinking in its web-roots outreach efforts).

My interpretation of the 2004 election is different from most people's. Most seem to blame Kerry for running an ineffective campaign, for relying on proven ineffective advisors, and for not hitting back fast enough on the swift boat campaign. But I feel that the problem was more psychological and more widespread. Going into the Iowa Caucus and into the New Hampshire primary Democratic voters were more concerned with defeating Bush than with picking the candidate who most appealed to them. So instead of picking the most appealing candidate (who should have been Clark, or Dean, or Edwards) they voted for the person they thought would be the most winnable. The election became an example of 'the prisoner's dillema' but on a large scale (do you pick the action that most appeals to your self-interest, or do you pick an action based on how you believe someone else will act... and how can you decide how that person will act when you don't know them?). The problem with this type of decision making is that it subverts one of the working mechanisms of democracy: you should always pick the candidate that most appeals to you in a primary, as it will inherently make them more electable and will shift the balance of politics in your overall favor (but then, the winner-takes-all outcomes of American-style politics are something of a subversion too). There is always a certain amount of this in any election, but hopefully the top democratic candidates will make an equally convincing case of their electability... so that when it comes time to make a vote, voters in these early races will actually pick the guy they really like. In my view, that person, be it Clinton, Edwards, Obama, or Richardson, will win the presidency in 2008.

Well... that's my politics post for the day. Go Obama! And Go Richardson! Woot!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Is Rap racist?

I found this roundtable of perspectives amazing.
Re Imus and rap: Ultimately Imus' professional mistake was in not being as media-savvy as your average hip-hop MCs, who only target each other by name for personal insults and, generally speaking, don't identify their bitches, hos and pussies by race or name and sometimes not even by feminine gender, since by inference we've come to understand that other men can be bitches, hos and pussies too.

Regardless of your wording, I know Salon means to ask, "Does the hip-hop industry promote sexism, racism and greed?" Absolutely. "Now just who owns the hip-hop industry?" would of course be Salon's follow-up question. Obviously, as we all know, the same captains of the American consumer products and media industries who decided Imus had to go -- and not because his decrepit comedic tongue flagrantly, unconsciously and unconscionably conflated racism and sexism in ways that hadn't been heard flowing so trippingly in public off a well-established and feared white man's tongue since Thomas Jefferson, but because he had suddenly become a very bad investment. Thank God for laissez-faire capitalism, the self-correcting invisible hand of the market, and all that other good doo-doo kaka.
The MSM BS that flew in the wake of the Imus affair has stopped flying in the wake of the VT affair--that is one advantage of a 24-hour media cycle, a permanent ADD syndrome. However, someone will resurrect Imus as an example of a rich white guy who was victimized by the system. Just watch. Just wait. It will happen.

Street Scene

The boulangerie was the best place to eat.
The second time we went there
we stole the corner table
     and I listened to the old ladies
          discuss bridge
               and the movies they had seen.
We drank wine and coffee.
     The pastries were good.
And we managed, after digging,
     to find change to leave on the table.

You wanted to read the paper.
I wanted to forget the paper,
to overhear the old ladies
     discuss bridge,
          and the movies they planned to see.

Profiles of the victims at VT.

Touching. (via Talking Points Memo)

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Back on the blog roll

Thanks to Mark Wood, who runs Wood S Lot, for updating his blog roll and giving me a place on it. I've been on his blogroll for many years in many guises. To celebrate, I'll repost a poem of mine that he so kindly linked to sometime ago...


We who live in this miserable time
     that our present is written
         out of past sorrows.
The black ink of our history —
   of avarice, war,
     and a poverty of compassion —
seeps into our newspapers, magazines, and teleprompters.
Yet, despite the continued repetition of the past
         our politicians manage to expect
          a different future.
Mistakes beget mistakes. Sorrows beget sorrows.

If only I could convince
    this ink
              to unform words
              to make bare the pages,
     or better yet,
       to emphasize solace over sorrow,
                 compassion over power and greed.
What future will I give my children,
   I ask this ink.
What future is there for me?

Joi Ito muses

I arrived at a Tai Chi lesson once and everyone was bustling and sort of in a hurry. My Tai Chi teacher explained that one definition of "the end" or "our goal" is when we die. He mused how much of a hurry we were all in to get to the next thing. He suggested that we spend too much time worrying about being more efficient and quick and that maybe the most "efficient" thing to do was just to die right now. In fact, most of us probably don't want to die just yet and all the stuff in between is can be viewed as an inefficient path to our death.
This is not a day for writing much I think.

Happy blogiversary...

or something like that: Atrios's first blog post, 5 years ago to the day.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Back to Pure Land Mountain

Now that I've lived this long, I can say one thing for certain: those who do not learn from history are doomed to hear that damned Santayana quote for the rest of their lives.

Rediscovering Pure Land Mountain, a blog I used to read regularly.

Nugent on Imus

The only truly intelligent thing I have read on the whole Imus affair. (via Political Animal)

Boy, can Nugent write... worth checking out his other items.

myself and I

In this internal conversation
     between myself and I
sitting at this table
     drinking tea,
too many sentences start with “I need”—
“I need to set up this project...”
“I need to do [this] today...”

A fog of weight
has settled down on me—
the weight of needs—
I need this... I need that...—
a weight of loneliness
that makes it difficult
to move, or breathe.

“I need to write a better poem”
I say to myself.
Myself does not reply.
The tea is cold.
And despite these needs
there is no desire.

Cruel Spring

Today is another day for staying indoors, huddled for warmth against the graying sky.

If only it could be.