We're desperately resisting the purchase or receipt of too many "kid's albums" as the Shmoog grows older. But one exception we've made is Rockabye Baby! Lullabye Renditions of Radiohead which, as you've guessed, is basically Radiohead songs done entirely in slow, lilting glockenspiel. Radiohead actually lends itself to this kind of treatment, so it's an album we don't really mind hearing -- maybe even enjoy -- as we rock him to sleep.
I went online this evening to see other albums in the series, and was amused to find AC/DC, Metallica and Tool among the offerings. Ah, Generation X. We're almost as bad as the Baby Boomers.
Anyway, since rock n' roll is frequently about juvenile -- but not kid-friendly -- attitudes toward the world, there's a whole host of songs that, in their original versions, we'll try to keep away from the Shmoog until he enters adolescence and then thinks he's making a statement by wearing a Led Zeppelin T-shirt. At which time I plan to show him this blog post.
Here, then, are the Top 10 completely inappropriate and/or humorously ironic songs from the "Rockabye Baby!" lullabye series:
1. "Closer," Nine Inch Nails.
2. "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap," AC/DC.
3. "Start Me Up," Rolling Stones.
4. "Rockabye Baby! Lullaby Renditions of The Eagles." Who the heck could tell the sleep-inducing version of the Eagles from the lullabyes? Why would you expose your kids to this?
5. "Longview," Green Day.
6. "Enter Sandman," Metallica. Heh.
7. "Mother," Pink Floyd.
8. "Brown Sugar," Rolling Stones.
9. "Rockabye Baby: Lullaby Renditions of Tool." I wouldn't want to give the kid nightmares.
10. "Gigantic," Pixies.
Eleven more days before President Obama is inaugurated -- I'm still testing out the sound of that: President Obama -- and it would appear that the honeymoon is already over. The chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee initially panned Obama's choice for CIA director. Senators are raising a ruckus over Obama's economic stimulus plan. A powerful congressman is objecting to the choice for surgeon general. And Harry Reid is kicking the vice president out of the clubhouse.
Those Republican obstructionists! Why can't they see that -- wait. You say it's Democrats who are mounting all this vigorous opposition? Well, uh...
I can't quite decide whether to be cranky or glad for this development. On the one hand, I voted for Barack Obama -- not, say, Harry Reid -- so I'd like to see Obama get a chance to put his proposals into practice.
On the other hand (the stronger one, really): Liberals like me have spent most of the last eight years complaining about the supine Republican Congress that marched in lockstep with President Bush, providing little oversight or resistance until Bush got unpopular and they saw a chance to break free. There were exceptions to this -- John McCain (yes) and Chuck Hagel, in particular -- but by-and-large we learned one thing during the Bush years: It's pretty easy to be a Republican president when you've got a Republican Congress. Your wishes magically come true!
(This, incidentally, is why it's easy to chuckle about all the Republicans who've tried to distance themselves from President Bush over the last year. A lot of them had their chances to object, but didn't, until Bush became really, really unpopular. They didn't mind him being wrong; they just didn't like him being a loser.)
But a Democratic president with a Democratic Congress doesn't have it quite as easy. It was ever thus. Jimmy Carter ran into problems. So did Bill Clinton in his first two years.
And that's the way it should be. Congress is set up as a counterbalance to the president, not as a rubber stamp. Republicans seem to take that concept seriously only when they're out of the White House.
There's not much I can add -- indeed, I think that with the advent of the Obama Administration, I'm going to go quiet on the topic of torture for awhile. (This assumes, of course, that the administration makes good on promises and public signals that the U.S. is getting out of the torture business.) There's not much new that I -- or anybody else, really -- can say about the topic. We have beaten it to death. So to speak.
But one last thought:
I know a few people who believe that waterboarding, stress positions and other "rough stuff" is absolutely the right way to go in order to protect America from further 9/11 attacks. And truthfully: I don't entirely blame them. Terrorism is, well, terrifying.
Here's the thing, though. I was brought up on the understanding that America was a country too good and too free to tolerate torture. Or imprisonment without due process. Or spying on people's private communications without showing cause. That was the kind of stuff the Russians did. And we knew that the Russians were bad.
Maybe we do need to use rough and occasionally extralegal methods to protect America. Maybe. But doing those things makes America a little less free and, yes, a little less good. (Goodness is not inherent, after all; we have to work at it and earn it.) So to my friends who favor torture -- even if that's not what you want to call it -- I say this:
You can have your American exceptionalism. Or you can have your waterboarding and other torture techniques. But you cannot have both.
Via Ezra Klein:
There are rumors that at one point in the meal, Obama required the people with more food on their plates to give a little to the people with less food. And that Jeremiah Wright popped up in the middle of the proceedings and shouted "God damn Dixie's fried chicken!" bringing inexplicable shame to Obama himself.
Andrew Breitbart, a Drudge-buddy, today launches Big Hollywood -- a group blog designed to begin the conservative takeover of the entertainment business. Or something like that. Breitbart explains the aim of the site is to return Hollywood to its "patriotic roots":
Big Hollywood’s modest objective: to change the entertainment industry. To make Hollywood something we can believe in - again. In order to give millions of Americans hope.
Until conservatives, libertarians and Republicans - who will be the lion’s share of Big Hollywood’s contributors - recognize that (pop) culture is the big prize and that politics is secondary, there will be no victory in this important battle.
And apparently Big Hollywood will help bend the industry to conservative wishes by utilizing the awesome powers of ... Orson Bean. Yes, he's a fine actor and, yes, he's also Andrew Breitbart's father-in-law, but he's also ... Orson Bean. And he's 80. There's nothing wrong with that, but he's not really the audience Hollywood is chasing.
(To be fair, Breitbart's stable also includes John Nolte, who was the guy behind Dirty Harry's Place, a conservative blog focusing on film. It was pretty interesting, most of the time.)
If Breitbart wants Hollywood to start churning out John Wayne movies again, he's probably not going to succeed. The movie business is pretty thoroughly globalized -- it's not just the American box office that counts anymore -- which is why villains in blockbusters tend to have their nationalities neutered (Quick: Name the country that provided the enemy fighters in Top Gun) or simply made up ("Mr. President: We've got a situation in Kablooeystan") or made the avatars of a faceless behind-the-scenes corporation that is the source of real villainy in the world, not those pesky nation-states. The intentional vagueness makes it possible for a movie to be popular -- and sell tickets -- everywhere. "America is No. 1," though, is a message that might not sell tickets in Luxembourg. And movie execs want to make money in Luxembourg.
Yes, Hollywood is reflexively liberal. Yes, that means you get crappy anti-war movies now and again. (Though you also get great anti-war movies, too.) But if flag-waving sold movie tickets, we'd be getting more of those John Wayne movies. Hollywood is a business, not a political action committee. Attempts to politicize it -- instead of letting it entertain us, while chuckling at the ham-handedness movies like Rendition -- are doomed to failure.
After a hiatus, Ben and I are attempting to podcast again. We are rusty, conversationally and technically, but please listen in and let us know what you want!
John Bolton, you will recall, became America's ambassador to the U.N. even though his nomination wasn't approved by the Senate -- President Bush, instead, bypassed Congress with a "recess appointment," saying the post was "too important" to leave vacant.
And torture justifier John Yoo, you'll similarly recall, became famous by saying there were no restraints that Congress could put on a president -- certainly no restraints against torture -- in a time of war.
So it's, uh, rich, that Bolton and Yoo write in today's NYT* that President Obama really, really needs to defer to the Senate's power to approve treaties when going about the business of foreign policy. That's just the Constitutional thing to do!
By insisting on the proper constitutional process for treaty-making, Republicans can join Mr. Obama in advancing a bipartisan foreign policy. They can also help strike the proper balance between the legislative and executive branches that so many have called for in recent years.
Now as it happens, I think they're right: American government functions best when Congress asserts its Constitutional prerogatives -- something that's been sorely missing most of the last eight years. But given their respective histories, it's likely Bolton and Yoo recognize that filibustering Republican Senators are their only hope to forestall the implementation of Democratic foreign policy initiatives. Their sudden rediscovery of Congress' importance, in other words, has everything to do with power and nothing to do with principle. What awful messengers for this particular message.
* Bolton also has an op-ed in today's Washington Post. Can't the mainstream media find anybody else to play the role of world-hating curmudgeon? And why is the Times giving op-ed space to John Yoo? Hasn't his approval of child testicle-crushing pretty much put him beyond the bounds of polite society? And if not, why not?
This is my last post here for 2008, barring amazing developments in the world.
In 2008, I:
• Started a new job.
• Lost it.
• Started another new job.
• Moved 1,000 miles.
• While my wife was eight months pregnant.
• To Philadelphia. (The previous biggest city I'd ever lived in -- all of them in Kansas -- was 80,000 people. Also: It's Philadelphia.)
• Became a father.
• Managed to find myself caught in two massive championship celebrations -- for the Jayhawks in April, and (somewhat more violently) for the Phillies in the fall. And I'm not even a sports fan.
2008 was, without a doubt, the most tumultuous year of my life. I worry constantly now, in a way I never did before. I'm less confident that things will always "work out for the best." And it has become clear to me that I've run out of time to have potential.
Which, I am sure, is more information than you want or need.
I share to make a point. One of the few points of stability during this year, post job-loss, has been this sparkly blog and my friends here. Ben -- my colleague and column-writing partner -- is the only person here I've ever met. His friendship and counsel have been particularly valuable. But I value and crave -- I check this site way too often during my work day -- the back-and-forth on this site, secure in the knowledge that I am the only person among the posters or audience who ever thinks I win an argument.
Thanks for accepting me into your circle, Monkeys. And have a happy new year.
Robb suggested offline that I re-post my blog about Dennis Prager's marital advice to women. Since I've already posted one long blog here today, I'll avoid being obnoxious and instead obnoxiously drive your eyeballs to my website.
The only thing I'll add here, for the purposes of discussion, is that Prager's missive reads like a liberal parody of conservative attitudes (I should say, the attitudes of some conservatives) towards women. As Robb notes: It's not really a surprise that Prager has recently divorced. I hope there aren't any Townhall.com readers seriously taking Prager's advice, but it really breaks my heart (and I'm being serious here) that K-Lo seems to approve.
I have in the last couple of months suggested that the "Big Three" automakers have only themselves to blame for their troubles: They've spent years fighting fuel efficiency standards that would've made their vehicles more palatable to American consumers once the price of gasoline topped $3 a gallon. My conservative friends have always had the same response: Imposing those standards would've forced the carmakers to build vehicles that consumers didn't want at the time.*
But it appears that there's a solution to oil consumption that's gaining conservative support: Raising taxes on gasoline. Charles Krauthammer makes the case in (gasp!) a cover essay for the very conservative Weekly Standard this week. The recent $4 spike in gasoline prices killed SUV sales, he notes, and sent consumers scurrying for fuel-efficient cars. Now that gasoline has fallen under $2 a gallon, he says, raising gasoline taxes can make sure there's not an accidental revival in the sales of Hummers.
And, Krauthammer says, there are conservative reasons for wanting to take this action:
A tax that suppresses U.S. gas consumption can have a major effect on reducing world oil prices. And the benefits of low world oil prices are obvious: They put tremendous pressure on OPEC, as evidenced by its disarray during the current collapse; they deal serious economic damage to energy-exporting geopolitical adversaries such as Russia, Venezuela, and Iran; and they reduce the enormous U.S. imbalance of oil trade which last year alone diverted a quarter of $1 trillion abroad. Furthermore, a reduction in U.S. demand alters the balance of power between producer and consumer, making us less dependent on oil exporters. It begins weaning us off foreign oil, and, if combined with nuclear power and renewed U.S. oil and gas drilling, puts us on the road to energy independence.
Krauthammer's a climate-change skeptic, but he acknowledges that such concerns might motivate liberals to sign onto the gas tax plan.
It's always weird to hear conservatives talk about raising taxes as a way to positively harness market forces. But there's some cautious openness to the proposal among the pillars of the right. This may be an opportunity for President Obama to take strong, bipartisan action that would serve our economic, security and climate interests.
So, my conservative friends: What do you think?
*(I always thought this was pre-9/11 thinking myself. Since we knew that our oil consumption was affecting our national security, wouldn't most Americans have been willing to make a sacrifice or two to lower the odds of another attack?)
Checking back in with the GOP, which is still going through its post-Obama soul-searching and asking itself what it wants to be when it grows up. In the L.A. Times today, Richard A. Viguerie says Republicans should recommit themselves to being the party of small government. But he makes a curious argument that previous "big government" GOP presidents were failures.
Dwight Eisenhower left the GOP so weak in Congress that Democrats were able to establish a seemingly permanent majority. President George H.W. Bush got less than 38% of the vote in his race for reelection. Richard Nixon and George W. Bush were party-smashing disasters comparable to Herbert Hoover (another Big Government Republican). Only Ronald Reagan succeeded as both president and party builder.
But there's not much reason to believe that the deficiencies of those presidents was related to their love of big gubmint:
• Dwight Eisenhower was, in one respect, the Bill Clinton of his era. (No, not that way.) Clinton was the Democratic exception in an era of Republican dominance; Ike was the Republican exception in an era of Democratic dominance -- the only Republican elected during a 36-year stretch of American history, and probably only then because of his status as a war hero. Dwight Eisenhower didn't undermine the GOP in Congress; the Democrats did.
• George H.W. Bush lost election because of, well, the economy, stupid. There was a recession going on at the time; that's hard for any incumbent president or incumbent party to overcome. Ask John McCain.
• Richard Nixon's problems had something more to do with his vast personal corruption -- Viguerie has heard of Watergate, right? -- and less to do with his policies. The man did win a landslide re-election in 1972, after all.
• And George W. Bush, sad to say, proved staggeringly bad at the job. His expansion of Medicare in 2004 helped him win re-election; it was his failures in Iraq and New Orleans that undermined his presidency.
As for Reagan: The man talked a good game. But let's not forget that he actually requested nearly $30 billion more in (deficit!) spending than Congress approved during the 1980s. That's not exactly the mark of a small government conservative.
There are probably good arguments against big government conservatism. But Viguerie's critique of past GOP presidents isn't one of them.
I don't much mind that Howard Stern seems to have disappeared from the front ranks for popular culture, thanks to his migration from the public airwaves to satellite radio. Today's article in the Times focuses mainly on satellite radio's difficulties in turning a profit, but also gets into Stern's lost cachet. The best observation comes from a blogger who obsessively follows Stern:
“Once you get used to hearing it on Sirius, it’s not as shocking as it was when you heard him on terrestrial radio and they’d be bleeping him out,” he says.
This doesn't surprise me at all. I feel the same way about South Park; I think it's far funnier on TV when the potty-mouthed kids are bleeped out than when I can hear every F-bomb watching them online.
Vulgarity is mainly funny when it's against the rules. Otherwise, it's just ... vulgar. So when Stern and South Park are transported into environments where cursing is no longer against the rules, their shtick gets tiresome quickly. Bleeping, oddly, helps them retain some comic freshness -- by signaling transgression that gives the characters some of their frisson.
Another example of this: It's A Wonderful Life. I'm serious. The movie contains a couple of sex jokes that mostly hold up today. Why? Because they sidle up to the issue instead of taking it head on -- direct discussion of sex, and even pregnancy, was pretty much verboten in 1946. Watching Frank Capra find his way around the strict standards of the time adds a little pleasure to a wonderful movie.
Hulu.com has made Howard the Duck -- one of the greatest cinematic disasters of the last 30 years -- available for free viewing online. And it's embeddable:
You're welcome. God, how I love the 21st century.
Blogging is likely to be slow this week, since it is traditionally one of the slowest news weeks in Christendom. That, of course, means that some people will try to make hay out of things like Barack Obama golfing, but I'm way, way too serious for that kind of stuff. Which is why I'll spend the week doing (hopefully) fun stuff around here.
Today: The books that I enjoyed in 2008. These are not necessarily books that were written in 2008, but they are books I read this year. The list is weighted toward nonfiction, since that's where I spent most of my reading energies this year, but I love a good novel -- and would welcome your recommendations.
Anyway, my favorite five books that I read this year:
FORESKIN'S LAMENT: A MEMOIR, by Shalom Auslander: Throughout his memoir, “Foreskin’s Lament,” Auslander and God bicker, taunt and argue with each other. Auslander is trying to escape the suffocating orthodox Judaism of his youth, but God is always around to remind him that punishments large and small will be the results of his faithlessness.
Auslander is an amazing writer, painting a vivid, funny and bravely self-revealing picture of his battles with God. There are times, though, when you want to throttle him – not every bad thing in life is the result of some malicious planning by the universe. Stuff happens. But stuff doesn’t merely happen to Auslander, and in that he seems not rebellious but narcissistic; he reminds me of a Christian friend of mine who tearfully renounced his faith, permanently, when a German woman he liked didn’t reciprocate his adoration.
INFIDEL, by Ayaan Hirsi Ali: Speaking of the renunciation of faith...
You may have heard of Ali, who left her native Somalia -- and, eventually, the Muslim faith she'd been born into -- and eventually became a member of the Dutch parliament, speaking out forcefully against Islamic fundamentalism. Her outspokeness led to threats against her life and, eventually, a gig with the American Enterprise Institute. But don't hold that against her.
The image that lingers with me is the instrument that started Ali on her path away from a culture that oppressed and mutilated her (and women generally): Smutty Western romance novels. "Most of all, I think it was the novels that saved me from submission," she writes. "I was young, but the first tiny, meek beginnings of my rebellion had already clicked into place."
THE LIMITS OF POWER: THE END OF AMERICAN EXCEPTIONALISM, by Andrew Bacevich: Bacevich argues that America's consumerist culture -- which equates "freedom" with material comfort -- has become unsustainable financially, politically and militarily. It's a nice riposte against the Bush years, except that Bacevich (a conservative historian and former soldier) doesn't expect that President Obama will challenge Americans to make the sacrifices necessary to get back on track. This is a sobering (but slim) book that deserves to be taken seriously.
DAYDREAM BELIEVERS: HOW A FEW GRAND IDEAS WRECKED AMERICAN POWER, by Fred Kaplan: Of course, even if America's consumerist culture is unsustainable, the Bush Administration has certainly helped hasten the country's decline. Kaplan, Slate's excellent military affairs columnist, epicts a Bush Administration filled with the most dangerous kind of dumb -- the kind that thinks it is smarter than everybody else, and that the rules of history somehow don't apply in the here and now.
His conclusion is devastating: "Bush and his aides and enablers set forth a new way of fighting battles -- but withheld the tools for winning wars. They aimed to topple rogue regimes -- with scant knowledge of the local culture and no plan for what to do after the tyrant fell. They dreamed of spreading democracy around the world -- but did nothing to help build the democratic institutions, without which mere elections were moot or worse. In their best-intentioned moments, they put forth ideas without strategies, policies without process, wishes without means."
TOWING JEHOVAH, by James Morrow: And coming back full circle to matters of faith is this decade-old novel about the death of God, and the Captain Joseph Hazelwoodish oil tanker captain sent to tow God's two-mile long body across the oceans to its final resting place in the Arctic. It's mix of satire and detailed observations about sailing place the book somewhere on the spectrum between Moby Dick and Slaughterhouse Five. Plus, there's plenty here to offend both the earnestly faithful and the earnestly secular. A good time was had by all.
Because it's quiet here -- and because I crave AnonyMonkey's mockery -- I'll go ahead and show you my latest professional endeavor: A series of cooking videos for Philadelphia Weekly. Here's the latest. Warning: Some salty language is used.
Not exactly where I expected my journalism career to go. But it pays the bills.
He arrived for the interview at the Mission Ranch restaurant here as if he owned the place, and it didn’t make any difference that, in this case, he does. He had his first legal drink in the bar while he was stationed at the nearby Army base in the late 1940s. In 1986 he bought the property and rebuilt it to his taste, with a piano bar, heart-stopping views of the ocean spray on Point Lobos and plenty of meat on the menu. Despite what you might have read on Wikipedia, Mr. Eastwood is not a vegan, and he looked slightly aghast when told exactly what a vegan is. “I never look at the Internet for just that reason,” he said.
I would not want to be the person who started that rumor. No doubt Eastwood would relish the irony of field-dressing and grilling a vegan.
I think I'm like a lot of people regarding the proposed bailout of automakers -- I find it distasteful that taxpayer money should be used to rescue giant companies that have resisted the types of changes that would have been good for our energy security and climate (and, incidentally, might've helped the companies survive). But I also think this particular moment may not be the right time to let such a huge industry crash and burn. Later maybe?
So I guess I'm relieved that the White House is trying to revive the bailout, which appeared dead last night. But it's hard to feel happy, exactly.
Update: It appears that Bush is stepping in because he doesn't have any choice. He could've been actually helpful if he'd supported the bailout sooner.
Facing the potential bankruptcy of iconic American firms, President Bush on Friday abandoned his longstanding objection to using using the Wall Street bailout fund to help save G.M. and Chrysler.
A frustrated Republican congressional official said: "If only they had said this last week, we could have saved ourselves a full week."
A Republican senator told Politico that Vice President Cheney had told senator Thursday that it could be "Herbert Hoover" time if the bailout failed, which it did several hours later.
To the very end, George W. Bush remains the president he always was: Waiting to the very precipice of disaster to do the right thing.
Remember when we used to blog here and argue with each other and even walk up to the edge of hurting each others' feelings once in awhile?
I miss that. Gay marriage forever!
I love the tagline: EIN ... ZWEI ... DIE! Seriously: This might be my favorite movie trailer evar.
I've kind of held back around here the last week or two, hoping to lower the temperature (both my own and collectively) on the Great Marriage Debate of 2008. But, oh heck.
Karl Rove says it's not George W. Bush's fault that nobody likes George W. Bush:
Lauer goes on to address Bush's low approval ratings and ask Bush's Brain, "What went wrong?"
Rove sighs and avoids the question, but when pressed Rove responds, "Look... at the end of eight years --Republicans or Democrats, when they've had the White House-- people tire of it."
There's something to that. But only a little bit. Rove kind of ignores that people got tired of President Bush years ago -- thanks to Hurricane Katrina and disastrous years-long mismanagement of the Iraq War. That's why the Congress turned Democratic in the 2006 elections.
Plus, it's worth noting that Bill Clinton left office with a 65 percent approval rating. Ronald Reagan, 64 percent. Both of those men endured scandal-plagued second terms, but people were still pretty happy with how the country was going. Heck, George H.W. Bush -- who was defeated for re-election by Bill Clinton -- left office with a 53 percent approval rating.
So, no, Karl, it's not that voters get tired of presidents generally after eight years. They're specifically tired of George W. Bush.
I've never heard of Carolyn Chute until this week's New York Times Book Review. But I want to run out and buy her novel -- or, at least, ask for it as a Christmas present -- based purely on the author photo that runs with the review.
I believe that's an AK-47 in her right hand. Turns out Chute -- oh, so Dickensian a name, no? -- is a militia member who has written a sympathetic novel about militia members. And it's apparently quite good.
And I thought I'd post this, because the picture alone would give Ben and Zaius a thrill.
...all I really want to do is Tweet my outrage that Twitter is down. Stupid 21st century.
Via half the blogging universe, the origins of "meh:"
The expression of indifference or boredom has gained a place in the Collins English Dictionary after generating a surprising amount of enthusiasm among lexicographers.
Publisher HarperCollins announced Monday the word had been chosen from terms suggested by the public for inclusion in the dictionary's 30th anniversary edition, to be published next year.
The origins of "meh" are murky, but the term grew in popularity after being used in a 2001 episode of "The Simpsons" in which Homer suggests a day trip to his children Bart and Lisa.
"They both just reply 'meh' and keep watching TV," said Cormac McKeown, head of content at Collins Dictionaries.
The dictionary defines "meh" as an expression of indifference or boredom, or an adjective meaning mediocre or boring. Examples given by the dictionary include "the Canadian election was so meh."
The silliest thing said in politics today comes from Abe Greenwald at Commentary:
As the red-and-blue posters start to fade, this bit of Big-Brotherism comes along:
US president-elect Barack Obama is to make the first YouTube address to the nation on Saturday, recording a talk not just on radio but also on video, a spokesman said Friday.
“President-elect Obama will record the Weekly Democratic Radio Address on video and radio,” spokesman Nick Shapiro said.
“The address will be turned into a YouTube video which we will post on www.change.gov,” the official website of the Obama transition team, he said.
“No president-elect or president has ever turned the radio address into a multi-media opportunity before,” Shapiro added.
An opportunity for whom? And for what? For President Obama to recreate himself on every last surface and sound wave that hasn’t yet been “changed” in his image? Or an opportunity for the rest of us to marvel at the planet’s last, best hope?
So Greenwald's argument -- and he drops Orwell references a couple more times in the post -- is that because Barack Obama isn't restricting himself to technology from the 1930s, we can expect him to be America's Stalin? I believe "Obama Derangement Syndrome" has officially set in.
Hey, I know this is off topic, but I had a question to ask. Does anyone here think that Obama should appoint 3rd party members to his cabinet? Libertarians, Green, Constitution Party, ect. I personally think it would be a good plan and provide for a diverse cabinet. Plus, it would indicate that he truly is interested in change, because what would be a bigger change than allowing new viewpoints in the White House rather than having a staff composed of Democrats and Republicans who have pushed the same tired policies on us for the past 40 years?
As an abstract notion, this is an interesting idea. As a political reality, I don't think it flies all that well -- even though a lot of people would agree with the notion that it might be nice to get away from "Democrats and Republicans who have pushed the same tired policies on us for the past 40 years?"
The reality is that even though people might be tired of those policies, their votes haven't translated into real support for third parties on a national level. If people really wanted to see Libertarian, Green or Constitutional Law party policies put into action, wouldn't we have Ralph Nader, Bob Barr or Cynthia McKinney getting ready to take over the presidency?
I'm open to a counterargument. But I think the third-party folks need a little more electoral muscle before they can expect a seat at the table.
From Spencer Ackerman, on his reconciliation with Eli Lake:
Politics is important. But so is friendship, and to take that a step further, you should want to have friends who disagree with you, and sometimes disagree with you deeply. Check each other's excesses, fill each other's blindspots, strengthen your own arguments and then light the peace pipe and make Steely Dan references. It's a better way to live.
Among the many reasons the original Star Wars trilogy was vastly preferable to the more recent prequel, one stands out for me this week: Rebellion is awesome.
Who doesn't love the story of a small-but-courageous band of heroes standing up to and knocking over a powerful empire? It's the kind of story that's built into our national DNA, with George Washington and his Army prevailing over the British, and carrying forth into a modern pop-culture that glorifies Catcher in the Rye, James Dean, Braveheart and, yes, Han Solo. (Note to self: Must update pop cultural references.) We love rebels, outsiders and antiheroes. And we fancy that we're on their side.
And sometimes that carries over into our politics. Embarrasingly, I am no exception.
In 2000, I had liberal leanings, but I don't think I ever would've identified as a liberal. Had John McCain beaten George W. Bush and advanced to the general election, I might've voted for him -- he seemed more authentically a "maverick" then -- over the stiffly establishmentarian Al Gore. As it happened, I ended up voting for Ralph Nader. Way to stick it to the man, huh?
Bush's ascension to the presidency didn't bother me all that much, initially. Center-left versus center-right seemed barely more consequential than po-tay-to versus po-tah-to. But the administration's post-9/11 outrages -- the invasion of Iraq, its embrace of torture, the illegal warrantless wiretapping program -- changed everything for me. I was a liberal, dammit, and I was angry.
And let me confess: The anger felt good. There's no bliss quite like the bliss of self-righteousness.
Now my guys (the good guys, right?) are going to be in charge. And I'm wondering what's going to become of my political identity.
Don't get me wrong: My liberalism was never purely about opposition. I believe health care is a right, that government should help the poorest as much as it helps the richest, that torture and pre-emptive war are wrong, that gay individuals deserve the same rights that I do, and so on. From what I can tell, the new administration largely agrees with me.
Which is the problem: If my liberalism was never about opposition, it was still fueled by a sense of anger and rebellion that are going to be difficult -- if not impossible -- to sustain under a Barack Obama administration.
So what's next?
I'm not interested in putting myself in a position where I defend every proposal or action coming out of an Obama Administration. That will be the temptation, since he's the guy I wanted, but that way lies hackery. And I'd like to avoid hackery.
On the other hand, I'm not interested in permanent and unending opposition, either, since pure contrarianism is another form of hackery, when you get down to it.
What I'd like to be, as best as I can, is an honest broker. (Not that I'm brokering anything, really.) To defend Obama when he deserves, to criticize when necessary, and to acknowledge tough choices and ambiguity where they exist. Without, hopefully, being wishy-washy. It's a tough line to walk; it's almost enough to make a liberal feel wistful about the waning days of George W. Bush's presidency.
But not quite.
Today's Silliest Thing Said In Politics award goes to National Review's John Derbyshire, who reacts to word of Obama's community service proposals with a blog posting under this headline:
Arbeit Macht Frei
Did I say "silliest"? How about "misguidedly offensive"? Or "repugnant"?
In case you don't catch the reference, the German translates roughly to "Work will make you free." And it was the sign that greeted Jews and other victims of the Nazis as they entered concentration camps. Because Obama's plan, obviously, is to kill 6 million Jews.
Obama's service plan is just as troubling. He wants to mandate 50 hours of community service per year for middle and high school students. And he's offering a $4,000 federal-funded tuition credit in exchange for 100 hours per year from college students. For most students, the latter will become a mandatory part of getting a degree, as colleges will merely raise their tuition to compensate for the vouchers.
So who gets to decide what constitutes "community service"? Who gets to decide which causes and organizations will be credit-worthy, and which ones won't?
Good questions. And all except the most ardent progressives might be troubled by the idea of "mandated" government service. Except... follow the link in Balko's argument to the Obama-Biden website, where it says this:
Obama and Biden will set a goal that all middle and high school students do 50 hours of community service a year, and will establish a new tax credit that is worth $4,000 a year in exchange for 100 hours of public service a year.
I'm not seeing mandates here, frankly. Sure, if you want the tax credit for college tuition, you do the service. And if you're a school receiving federal assistance -- as most are -- then you set up service programs for your students. Personally, I don't have a problem with that: College students don't have to take the tax credit, so they don't have to do the service. And I don't mind schools creating service programs: There was a time when we understood that schools created citizens -- not just future workers -- and programs that instill a sense of civic duty can (and perhaps should) be part of that.
But just to bring all this full circle: Asking college kids to work in exchange for federal help with college amounts -- in Derbyshire's world -- to the Holocaust. I know that Derbyshire is a provocateur, and his cheerfulness in the task sometimes makes it hard to dislike him. But really.
A commenter, on my blog entry about how Obama might not be all that:
Obama on the other hand will help us get out of the defecate
I think he meant deficit. But I could be wrong.