Friday, February 29, 2008

I passed



Or, if you are so inclined:



Or, if you so choose:

funny pictures
Enter the ICHC

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Barack Obama is not all about the benjamins

Given the idiocy of most American media, Barack Obama must distance himself from the odious statements of every black person, whereas there's no such litmus test for whites. Not only did Tim Russert attempt to connect Obama to Louis Farrakhan (which led to Hillary Clinton's ever-important parsing of "reject" and "denounce"), he's also questioned Obama about comments made by Harry Belafonte. Though Obama has no association with either man other than his skin color, he must explain that he's not like the dark-skinned guys who have said horrible things. (Thankfully, John McCain's getting some scrutiny for his associations.)

And, of course, when Obama mentioned that he likes rap--he singles out Jay-Z and Kanye West, pretty safe choices--he also had to say, "I don’t always love the message of Hip-Hop." With that in mind, I did some research and dug up the messages of hip-hop and rap that Obama disagrees with.
  • "Pimpin' ain't easy." Obama has argued--and pretty convincingly, I think--that a lot of the difficulties of pimpin' can be eased.
  • "I like big butts and I cannot lie." Obama doesn't exactly disagree with this, but he thinks men should be open to butts of all shapes and sizes: "Can we appreciate a flatter, tighter derriere?" Obama asked a crowd in Des Moines. "Yes we can."
  • "The jury has found you guilty of being a redneck, white bread, chickenshit mother fucker," Dr. Dre says at the end of "Fuck tha Police. Obama believes Dre should not have stopped short of calling the police officer in the song a "cracker-ass cracker."
  • Obama believes that LL Cool J's return was, in fact, a comeback.
  • Snoop Dogg is short-sighted, Obama believes, in claiming that "ain't nuthin' but a g thang." The circumstances, Obama has repeatedly said, are more nuanced than that.
It should be noted that Obama does like a lot of rap. In fact, to show white people he's not a scary black man, he often begins speeches by quoting Vanilla Ice: "Stop, collaborate and listen."

A small footnote: Obama isn't crazy about Harry Belafonte's "Matilda," in part because she did not, in fact, sell he cat and horse.

Tee hee


Go give Dick Gregory some love

Watch the video at Crooks and Liars. He's incredible.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Why I will not vote for Hillary Clinton in the Ohio Primary

[Ed. note: given my blog's enormous readership--it almost extends into the tens--I felt it important to make clear my endorsement for the Democratic presidential primary. My state votes on Tuesday. I endorse Barack Obama, and I'm taking two posts to do so. Today's installment: Why I'm not voting for Hillary Clinton in the primary. Within a few days, why I am voting for Obama.]

This has been a very difficult post to write, for reasons I'm not entirely sure of. But here are some of my failed opening ideas:
  • How often do people vote for a candidate as much as they are voting against a candidate?
  • How well does a campaign suggest what a candidate would actually do in office?
  • I spent one semester in junior high school with Chelsea Clinton and was in A Christmas Carol with her, but I don't know her very well. But I remember the Secret Service operative who was backstage during rehearsals and performances; he was nice.
  • I have a hard time understanding people who feel emphatically positive about Hillary Clinton as a candidate or a potential leader.
Somehow, each of these failed to get my post going, which surprised me since I've been thinking about this post (and its eventual counterpart) for several days. The upshot: though I will probably vote for Hillary Clinton if she is the Democratic nominee for President, I will not vote for her in next week's Democratic primary.

So why not Hillary? Criticizing her outside the context of why I'm voting for Barack Obama might seem a little odd, but I don't want to break the Internets with a too-long post. Plus, I don't necessarily think she'd make a bad president; honestly, though, I'm hard-pressed to say what makes a good president. I'm ambivalent, at best, about Bill Clinton, I actively dislike both Bushes and Reagan, and I only lived through a year of Carter's presidency. And I don't trust the idolatry-based view of American history, where putting faces on coins and hillsides serves as a shorthand for greatness.

But here, in no particular order, are what I see as the major strikes against her:
  • She campaigns badly. Her state-by-state organization has failed, in large part, because she didn't expect a serious primary challenger. She assumed for a long time that she would be the nominee, even saying so to Katie Couric in November. Also, her higher-ups make spurious claims against Obama, she and her staff disparage voters on a regular basis, and she overreacts to criticism of her or her campaign (though I admit that, given her history with the media, I understand why she overreacts). All these campaign problems stem from what I see as another strike against her:
  • She's been a candidate for president because of who she was married to. That may seem crass; it's a long, disparaging way of saying she has acted entitled to the nomination. Obama's opponents criticize him for his lack of experience, but few people mention that she's not had much legislative experience, either. Early on, her high polling numbers had more to do with name recognition than anything else.
  • She blatantly lies, and badly. In last night's debate, she claimed that Obama said he would bomb Pakistan. Two days after calling his campaign's tactics Rovian, she completely divorced something Obama said in response to a hypothetical question last year, and she only did so (as has McCain) to attempt to discredit Obama on foreign policy. She probably wouldn't have done so if she weren't behind in the polls.
  • Her health-care plan has no chance. I admire the legislative work she's done in making health care more widely available, but she simply hasn't shown that she can sell her plan to Congress, whether it's led by Democrats or Republicans. As she showed with her first attempt at universal health care in the nineties, she's very reluctant to compromise on the issue; her critiques of Obama's health-care plan and her insistence that this is no time to be bi-partisan suggest that she won't be able to persuade initial opponents of her plan. She's simply not savvy enough. Also, if she were to take office, massive government debt, driven by the war in Iraq, would stand in her way. Her plan requires tax increases (which, as long as they focus on the wealthy, I support) and major spending increases. Ironically, she claims that Obama wouldn't be able to lead as she could on Day One, but her plan assumes fiscal conditions that don't bear out.
  • She voted for the Kyl-Lieberman Amendment, which suggests she hasn't learned from her mistakes. That amendment was a thinly veiled attempt by the Bush administration to move closer to war with Iran. If not for the National Intelligence Estimate stating that Iran stopped its weapons program in 2003, we would likely be close to war with Iran right now.
Those are the main reasons. As I said above, if she wins the nomination, I will probably vote for her in the general election. I support universal health care, and I think the dramatic historical change of a female president of the United States is absolutely necessary. But against Obama, who I'll write about soon, she has too many strikes against her.

American culture needs a do-over

Go over to Gawker and watch the video. Just know ahead of time that you're going to cringe more times than you think. And get a big bucket full of hand sanitizer to dip yourself in.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Come have a wee celebratory drink

Hey friendly Funkytowners, take note: I'm doing my oral defense on Friday afternoon. Whether I pass or not (keeping all appendages crossed right now), I'll be at the Comet in Northside at 5:30 to raise a glass or drown my sorrows. Come on out. Chicky, Wanda, Coral, Oar, all the rest, I'm looking at you.

After the writtens

So yesterday, I completed my written exams, and I immediately had my picture taken. Somehow, I looked like the lovechild of Malcolm Gladwell and Don Rickles. Let's never speak of this again.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

A few good points

Go read Frank Rich's column on why Hillary Clinton's campaign has lost so much ground over time to Obama. His point toward the end about Bill Clinton seems off to me--it's awfully reductive, for one thing--but otherwise he makes a lot of apt points.

Hillary Clinton's Bush desperation

A thought experiment: If you were to compare Barack Obama to famous American politicians, who would appear in the top ten? Or to approach this another way: How far down the list would George W. Bush appear?

I ask because, as the Ohio and Texas primaries move closer, Hillary Clinton has begun comparing Obama to, of all people, the current president. In a speech yesterday criticizing fliers Obama has been sending out for a little while, Clinton said, "Let's have a real campaign. Enough with the speeches and big rallies and then using tactics that are right out of Karl Rove's playbook." She went on to say that Bush campaigned on a platform of change--she specifically cited his "compassionate conservatism" and said, "He promised change, didn't he? The American people got shafted and we're going to have to make up for it."

While the fliers she's referring to fall somewhere between accurate and misleading, the fliers come nowhere close to Rovian, and she surely knows that. Politically, Obama leans no closer to Bush than Clinton herself, and in some instances, he's further left (to my mind, an absolute plus). But I think it's worth noting the desperation of this comparison, Obama as Bush.

As any sane person has, I've opposed Bush from the beginning, but I've also noticed over time how the mere mention of his name has become an easy in for speakers with left-leaning audiences. Cheap Bush jokes serve as ice breakers, no matter how weak the joke. After a while, that's gotten boring. (NB: I'm not against Bush jokes; I think he should be impeached. To borrow a line from Jerry Seinfeld, I'm offended as a comedian.)

Throughout the campaign, Clinton has referenced Bush and his misdeeds both because she's right that he's been a destructive force, possibly the worst president in history, and because criticizing Bush gets easy applause. So it's sad to hear Clinton trying to compare Obama to Bush. Paul Krugman, who I usually agree with, did the same thing in an embarrassing column a couple of weeks ago, writing, "I’m not the first to point out that the Obama campaign seems dangerously close to becoming a cult of personality. We’ve already had that from the Bush administration — remember Operation Flight Suit? We really don’t want to go there again." The utter ridiculousness of that comparison is reason enough for Krugman to be kept from writing about the campaign until after the primary.

For all of Obama's faults (full disclosure: I'll probably vote for him when my primary comes up), he's no Bush; he's no Rove. Clinton's dire need for primary victories has somehow led her to rhetoric that seems wildly desperate, nothing more than the shallowest attempt to pull in voters who may not know any better.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Affirming America's fictional heritage

A quick note from Examland:

You may recall that late last year, the House of Representatives passed a resolution to acknowledge how important Christmas is. If you think that was a silly waste of taxpayer resources and time, now there's House Resolution 888. The title?

"Affirming the rich spiritual and religious history of our Nation's founding and subsequent history and expressing support for designation of the first week in May as "American Religious History Week" for the appreciation of and education on America's history of religious faith. "

Guess which religion gets all the attention? Would you like some time? I'll give you a hint: it's not Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Gnosticism, Agnosticism, Pan-Agnosticism, or Pan-American Agnosticism.

That's right, it's the vaguest, most meaningless kind of Christianity, with examples quote-mined from speeches and, in several cases, completely fictionalized. Chris Rodda at Talk to Action has detailed most of the falsehoods; both his posts are long but worthwhile reads.

Disturbingly, the resolution continues to add co-sponsors; as of this posting, seventy two members of the House have signed on to co-sponsor the resolution. Right now, it's sitting in the house Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Go call or email Committee Chair Henry Waxman, and call your representative. (Note: my representative is one of the co-sponsors; when I called her office, the man who answered the phone had never heard of the resolution. Yikes.)

I just want to add that I find the bill personally offensive. I live in a poly-faith household. I'm an atheist, my wife is a Christian, and my dog worships the both of us, at least when we're about to take her on a walk.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The cow says. . .

Yaaargh!

(Hint: for a few days, I'm the cow.)

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Friday, February 15, 2008

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Philosophy and Food

In reading for my comprehensive exams, I've come across a surprising number of philosophical texts that deal with food. Indeed, exploring the material world proved fruitful for philosophical investigations from the Sophists through Wittgenstein. Below are just some of my faves.
  • Plato (published as Plate), Gorge Us
  • Augustine, Confections
  • John Locke, An Essay Concerning Cumin Understanding
  • Bishop Berkeley, A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Gnawledge
  • Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Raisin
  • Soren Kierkegaard, Fudge and Trembling
  • George Santayana, The Last PurĂ©etan
  • Ayn Rand (though she hardly counts), The Fonduehead
  • William James, The Varieties of Delicious Experience
  • Hannah Arendt, The Oranges of Totalitarianism
  • Jean-Paul Sartre, Bean and Nothingness and No Eggs
  • Friedrich Nietzche, The Genealogy of Morels, in which he first espouses his idea of the Ă¼berlunch.
Did I miss any?

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Countdown

And we're back! I haven't posted since August, but with my comprehensive exams just over a week away, I thought I'd rear my digital head. Some general silliness coming, as well as updates on my exam-related mental health.