Thursday, October 23, 2008

Smallish Biden/McCain dust-up in America

There's been a mini dust-up in the US election as the McCain campaign desperately tries to spin an attack out of the following comments from Joe Biden:
"Mark my words, it will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy," Biden said. "The world is looking. We're about to elect a brilliant 47-year-old senator president of the United States of America.

"Watch, we're going to have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy," Biden went on to say.

McCain has portrayed the comment as evidence that electing Obama is dangerous, that electing Obama - Obama specifically, not just a new president generally - will invite threats and attacks from all the evil people living in the big bad world outside America's borders (no idea how he believes the evil people living inside America's borders would react, but after seeing the low-level violence already occurring against Obama's supporters in some parts of the country, I think I can guess).

It took a moment of examining this charge for me to realise that the thrust of it isn't that electing Obama invites attack, but that Obama won't be able to handle the danger he invites because he's too inexperienced. This is not a new meme from the right: we have here the same basic charge, with the "experience" component made explicit, in the writings of a conservative journalist from several months ago:
Experience especially in the area of foreign policy is increasingly important with the instability around the globe. Many rogue nations and world leaders would test the Senator [Obama] early on in his administration making a determination about his leadership, wisdom, and judgment.

I find it interesting that in response to Biden's comments, the Obama campaign is having none of the "experience" charge and focusing entirely on the "Joe didn't really say a specifically Obama presidency would invite attack" part. That's actually pretty clever: Obama's defusing the main thrust of the attack by getting McCain and the press hung up on the part that doesn't matter so much. Nice dodge.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Daily Show on Wasilla, Alaska

I think some of the recent comments from Republican spokesdroids about how "real America" supports them have pissed the Daily Show team off just a tad.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The conservative movement's mythology versus statistical evidence

One of the recurring themes of the McCain-Palin campaign has been that Obama is "out of touch", or "doesn't understand the problems of everyday Americans"

Well, check out this poll, and understand the difference between electioneering and observable reality.

By the by, I've settled on the phrase "conservative moment" to try and distinguish what I see as two conflicting versions of conservative ideology. The first is "classical conservatism", which values respect for tradition, opposes radical change and is, although not my preferred intellectual preference, a fairly useful philosophy to have around. The other, "movement conservatism", is little more than an angry mob railing against anything slightly different to them, and which is coming dangerously close to turning into a movement of brownshirts. Both currently exist in today's Republican party I think. But the number of non-movement conservatives in it appears to be dwindling rapidly.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

McCain: tragic figure

Tragic in the classical sense: a figure who is undone by himself.

McCain is now trying to walk back the Krystalnacht-style turn that his campaign has taken. But his Republican supporters are having none of it:
Said McCain, "I want to be president of the United States and I obviously I do not want Senator Obama to be. But I have to tell you, I have to tell you, he is a decent person. And a person that you do not have to be scared as president of the United States."

The crowd booed.

Bits and pieces of bad behaviour continue to leak out from McCain's campaign rallies. Here we have a McCain supporter who'd brought in a monkey with an Obama bumper sticker stuck on it. Here we have the official clergyman for the event give the following invocation at the start:
"I would also pray, Lord, that your reputation is involved in all that happens between now and November, because there are millions of people around this world praying to their god - whether it’s Hindu, Buddha, Allah - that his opponent wins, for a variety of reasons,” Conrad said.

“And Lord, I pray that you would guard your own reputation, because they’re going to think that their god is bigger than you, if that happens. So I pray that you will step forward and honor your own name with all that happens between now and Election Day"

"Buddah"? Praying to "their god?"

Sometimes the McCain campaign gives a lukewarm indication that McCain doesn't like this sort of thing, as with their official statement about that invocation:
While we understand the important role that faith plays in informing the votes of Iowans, questions about the religious background of the candidates only serve to distract from the real questions in this race about Barack Obama’s judgment, policies and readiness to lead as commander in chief.

But sometimes the campaign comes out with the claim that pointing out this bad behaviour is an unfair attack on Mccain's supporters:
Barack Obama’s attacks on Americans who support John McCain reveal far more about him than they do about John McCain. It is clear that Barack Obama just doesn’t understand regular people and the issues they care about. He dismisses hardworking middle class Americans as clinging to guns and religion, while at the same time attacking average Americans at McCain rallies who are angry at Washington, Wall Street and the status quo.

By the by, this post contains a poll comparing Independent voters' opinion about if they think Obama or McCain "understands your needs and problems". Obama blows McCain out of the water.

The difficulty McCain faces now is that the destructive social forces he unleashed are beyond his control, and are threatening to destroy not only him, but the social fabric of the country as well. Can you imagine what these people are going to do if Obama wins? Some commentors on American blogs I read are already discussing the best small arms to get for self-defense purposes should the Reichstag Right turn violent after "Barack Hussein Osama" becomes President.

Worse for Mccain, the Reichstag Right appears to exist within his own campaign apparatus, and even appears to include his own Vice Presidential nominee. That's my interpretation of this recent article from the Sunday Times, anyway: McCain tussles with Palin over whipping up a mob mentality. Read the whole thing, and be very afraid.

In classical tragedy, the tragic hero must sacrifice himself in order to right the larger wrong he helped create. It's certainly not necessary to go that far in this day and age of course, but I will say this: John McCain, the only way you can win is by feeding this mob. If you don't, they'll turn on you and demand you be replaced by someone who will, like your own running mate. If you do, you'll be responsible for everything that this mob does in the future to all the people that they merely demonise and threaten now.

You can either try to become president of the United States of America on the backs of those who do not believe that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are the right of anyone who is not exactly like them, or you can show that you truly believe in American values, ensure that the next President is not faced with a large segment of his own population wanting to kill him just for being who he is, and oppose this mob and everything it stands for, even though politically it will cost you everything.

It's either you or the country. Make your choice.

Friday, October 10, 2008

"He's got the bloodlines"

My opinion has been that the question of who wins the US presidential election is important for the world and for liberal democracy, but just as important is how they are perceived to have won it. That will tell us what values America really stands for - whether the American people genuinely want to stand up for their liberal democracy and what it has given them, or whether they're just going through the motions in a slow descent to...something else.

On that basis, here is a 4 and half minute Youtube of some McCain-Palin supporters from one of Palin's campaign events.

I'll transcribe what I think is by far the worst part, starting at about 1:00, when the cameraman asks two women about Obama:
Cameraman: He's a terrorist?
Woman #1: Definitely.
Woman #2: He's got the bloodlines.
Cameraman: What does that mean?
Woman #2: Well, just think about it. The name.
Cameraman: So you do think he's a terrorist.
Woman #2: I didn't say that, but, ah...
Woman #1: I think he is.
Cameran: You do? Why?
Woman #1: He's got the connections. Have a look at his name!

Democracy can tell you so much about a people. Oh yes, I'll know how John McCain won the election if he does.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Election year in October in the US; ugly time

And the Republican Party has discovered new lows amongst the party faithful. I think one commenter from here had the best response to any attempt to absolve Palin from responsibility for the near-violent rhetoric of the crowds at her gatherings:
she is not lynching him, but she's a hell of a rope salesman.

I've becoming addicted to watching Pollster's poll of polls from day to day. Near as I can tell, Obama's popularity hasn't taken much of a hit over the past few days after the McCain campaign went full negative. But the start of the Republican incitement to hatred seems to roughly coincide with McCain's popularity slowly but steadily going up after a long period of decline.

I'll see if the trend continues before I speculate on what it means. But I think people need to keep in mind that even though Obama's currently ahead, he has not secured more than 50% of the vote: there are enough undecided voters that it's still statistically possible for McCain to win the popular vote even if Obama doesn't lose any support from now until election day. It seems unlikely, but I find that worrying nevertheless.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Lawrence King's killer has a defense fund in his name

Well, Brandon McInerney is a 14-year-old who's being tried as an adult, and plenty of people, including several GLBT rights groups, think it important that a minor still be legally treated as a minor even in the case of murder. I could imagine any number of groups would cheerfully and openly fund McInerney's defense on that basis.

But I find it slightly odd that the people actually responsible for The Brandon Mcinerney Defense Fund are not identifiable. The Fund's own website says that the account is administered by Leiderman Devine LLP, a fairly mainstream lawyer group from what I can see, but they only administer the account, and have no actual involvement in the court case itself. One possible advantage of this arrangement is that the real identity of the Fund's owners is likely protected by attorney-client privilege. The domain name of the website is registered via Domains by Proxy, a service that offers itself as a way of keeping a domain name owner's details out of the public whois registry.

I try not to be distrustful of anonymity per se, since I think it's important as a way of making speech truly free. But this is about funding a court case rather than speech, and I'm concerned about why the identity of the fund maintainer is veiled. All the groups that I can think of who might have an interest here, including "pro-family" (ie, anti-gay) groups like the Alliance Defense Fund, would want their identity known. Who is this?

Document from inside an anti-gay organisation leaked.

The anti-gay group in question is called the Eagle Forum. Seems like someone accidentally attached the wrong document to an e-mail that they were sending to an openly gay radio host. The full text is currently here. I'm mirroring it in full here just in case.

Dear Jack,
Hello, I am so sorry, I just found out I'm going to have to participate in a meeting that continues after our conference ends on Sunday. That will preclude me from doing the interview. I apologize for telling you this now. (I hate to risk pulling a McCain! And I hope it doesn't create problems for you.) I just found out, myself, and am bummed. I was looking forward to talking with you. Any chance we could reschedule?


I was giving more thought to why people are hesitant to get involved in this issue, which led to trying to brainstorm ways to counter the “Will and Grace” effect. The other side has so effectively used rhetoric and emotionality to manipulate and flat-out bully many Americans away from taking any position indicating that homosexuality is wrong. It’s not surprising that politicians, media members and even military leaders are shying away from the topic, because Hollywood and other media outlets react so virulently at even the slightest hint of negativity toward homosexuality. There are so many examples. One that you’ll probably remember that really illustrated the hysteria to me happened when American Idol runner up Clay Aiken was co-hosting the morning talk show “Regis and Kelly.” While exchanging banter with host Kelly Ripa, Clay (then-rumored, now confirmed to be homosexual) put his hand over her mouth to stop her from talking because he disagreed with something she was saying. Legally, his actions constituted battery, in addition to
being a terrible violation of etiquette and civil conduct among adults. Ripa, understandably upset, moved his hand away and said something like, “That’s a no-no, I don’t know where that hand has been.” Ripa insisted that she was merely concerned about germs as a working mother with three young children. Rosie O’Donnell and other gay media advocates blasted Ripa – the actual wronged party in the situation - insisting that the comment was a homophobic slur. The issue has become such a tar baby, people don’t want to go anywhere near it, because the “homophobe” moniker is so dreaded and so liberally applied. It’s also very distracting, because the homosexual advocates are so strident and relentless in their attacks. Thus, people fear saying anything that might risk their ire, for fear that such attacks will detract from other issues or work the figure might want to focus on or accomplish.

One thing I thought that might be somewhat helpful in your efforts to recruit members of the military for your cause is to do what Pete or Peter, the gentleman seated to your left against the wall during the meeting indicated – use “horror stories” to illustrate that allowing homosexuals in the military is not simply a matter of respecting one person’s personal choice, but they actually threaten our national security and in some cases individual soldiers’ personal safety. I know the horror stories are very difficult to find as you explained. It sounded like you did have some that illustrate the very serious issues.

I saw this use of “horror stories” executed very well earlier this summer when I attended the Family Research Council’s Panel Discussion on Same Sex “Marriage.” (Which can be found online at:

Admittedly, that was a very friendly forum. In fact, it was about 6-1, with only Chai Feldblum defending the same sex marriage. Even though she was in the minority, she was treated very respectfully (I’m so sorry members of the U.S. Congress did not feel it was necessary to afford you the same respect.). There were many constitutional law and policy experts, but the most compelling arguments were the “horror stories” in
which children were being intimidated on playgrounds for being “homophobes” (synonymous with Christians) and one parent was actually arrested for peacefully dissenting against his child’s being forced to participate in a pro-homosexual “educational” presentation.

One presenter discussed some of these examples. Chai Feldblum scoffed at them and said essentially, “the other side will tell you the sky is falling. . . ,” but indicated those were extreme examples and there was no danger of those scenarios actually happening. Feldblum was followed by Ben Bull of the Alliance Defense Fund who had cases in hand to say that not only is the sky falling, he was holding pieces of it. This was so effective in not only illustrating the dangers same sex marriage presented, but it enabled the listener to overcome the intimidation and fear of being labeled a homophobe by having tangible examples to further legitimize their position.

I know all this is easier said than done, but these are just some ideas about the PR battle that it seems needs to be waged first against any hesitation military leaders who support the current law might have to taking a stand for it.

Again, just some ruminations for now, but I would love to continue the discussion and to see if there is any way we can help. Again, I appreciate what you’re doing so much and know that this is a very intense battle not just politically and interpersonally, but I really believe it is a spiritual battle.

Looking forward to talking to you more soon.

Many blessings,


Colleen Holmes
Executive Director
Eagle Forum