August 9th, 2008

alan's beach photo

Good Morning!

I am reading George Lakoff's book, The Political Mind, Why You Can't Understand 21st - Century American Politics with an 18th-Century Brain.

I must admit I am moving slowly through it.  I find it very depressing.  I want to believe in logic, believe that logic prevails, but we are mainly influenced by our unconscious and the GOP has set up "think tanks" and the Hoover Institution to study how to manipulate and as we see, they do an excellent job.  That Americans are being convinced that offshore drilling will save them and return them to life as it was and has been is unfathomable to me.  

Here is Paul Krugman on the subject.

Krugman: GOP Is the Party for Fools

By Paul Krugman, The New York Times. Posted August 9, 2008.

Partisan politics are unlikely to end any time soon -- not as long as the GOP believes that when it comes to politics, idiocy is the best policy.

So the G.O.P. has found its issue for the 2008 election. For the next three months the party plans to keep chanting: "Drill here! Drill now! Drill here! Drill now! Four legs good, two legs bad!" O.K., I added that last part.

And the debate on energy policy has helped me find the words for something I've been thinking about for a while. Republicans, once hailed as the "party of ideas," have become the party of stupid.

Now, I don't mean that G.O.P. politicians are, on average, any dumber than their Democratic counterparts. And I certainly don't mean to question the often frightening smarts of Republican political operatives.

What I mean, instead, is that know-nothingism -- the insistence that there are simple, brute-force, instant-gratification answers to every problem, and that there's something effeminate and weak about anyone who suggests otherwise -- has become the core of Republican policy and political strategy. The party's de facto slogan has become: "Real men don't think things through."

In the case of oil, this takes the form of pretending that more drilling would produce fast relief at the gas pump. In fact, earlier this week Republicans in Congress actually claimed credit for the recent fall in oil prices: "The market is responding to the fact that we are here talking," said Representative John Shadegg.

What about the experts at the Department of Energy who say that it would take years before offshore drilling would yield any oil at all, and that even then the effect on prices at the pump would be "insignificant"? Presumably they're just a bunch of wimps, probably Democrats. And the Democrats, as Representative Michele Bachmann assures us, "want Americans to move to the urban core, live in tenements, take light rail to their government jobs."

Is this political pitch too dumb to succeed? Don't count on it.

Remember how the Iraq war was sold. The stuff about aluminum tubes and mushroom clouds was just window dressing. The main political argument was, "They attacked us, and we're going to strike back" -- and anyone who tried to point out that Saddam and Osama weren't the same person was an effete snob who hated America, and probably looked French.

Let's also not forget that for years President Bush was the center of a cult of personality that lionized him as a real-world Forrest Gump, a simple man who prevails through his gut instincts and moral superiority. "Mr. Bush is the triumph of the seemingly average American man," declared Peggy Noonan, writing in The Wall Street Journal in 2004. "He's not an intellectual. Intellectuals start all the trouble in the world."

It wasn't until Hurricane Katrina -- when the heckuva job done by the man of whom Ms. Noonan said, "if there's a fire on the block, he'll run out and help" revealed the true costs of obliviousness -- that the cult began to fade.

What's more, the politics of stupidity didn't just appeal to the poorly informed. Bear in mind that members of the political and media elites were more pro-war than the public at large in the fall of 2002, even though the flimsiness of the case for invading Iraq should have been even more obvious to those paying close attention to the issue than it was to the average voter.

Why were the elite so hawkish? Well, I heard a number of people express privately the argument that some influential commentators made publicly -- that the war was a good idea, not because Iraq posed a real threat, but because beating up someone in the Middle East, never mind who, would show Muslims that we mean business. In other words, even alleged wise men bought into the idea of macho posturing as policy.

All this is in the past. But the state of the energy debate shows that Republicans, despite Mr. Bush's plunge into record unpopularity and their defeat in 2006, still think that know-nothing politics works. And they may be right.

Sad to say, the current drill-and-burn campaign is getting some political traction. According to one recent poll, 69 percent of Americans now favor expanded offshore drilling -- and 51 percent of them believe that removing restrictions on drilling would reduce gas prices within a year.

The headway Republicans are making on this issue won't prevent Democrats from expanding their majority in Congress, but it might limit their gains -- and could conceivably swing the presidential election, where the polls show a much closer race.

In any case, remember this the next time someone calls for an end to partisanship, for working together to solve the country's problems. It's not going to happen -- not as long as one of America's two great parties believes that when it comes to politics, stupidity is the best policy.

© 2008 The New York Times

alexander calder

Kindness -

"If you had a friend who talked to you like you sometimes talk to yourself, would you continue to hang around with that person?"

-- Rob Bremer

I am reminded of the Marianne Williamson quote.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

Book Cover

Voters see through the sludge -

Op-Ed Columnist

Finding the Upside

Published: August 8, 2008

Sometimes when you cover politics it helps to have a bottle of Pepto-Bismol handy.

Some of the tactics of the McCain campaign have given me agita recently. But the latest campaign to turn my stomach was that of Nikki Tinker, a black woman who challenged a Jewish congressman, Steve Cohen, in a Democratic primary in Memphis.

Ms. Tinker was a candidate with nothing substantive to offer. A corporate lawyer, she was not particularly knowledgeable about Iraq or the economy or other important issues of the day. The raison d’être of her campaign seemed to be that she was an African-American running in a district in which the majority of the voters were also African-American.

And so she turned to the lowest tactics imaginable. In essence: let’s smear the white guy and get rid of him.

Mr. Cohen is seeking a second term. He is a reliably progressive congressman and an opponent of the Iraq war, and he has had a consistently solid record on civil rights. He was described by Speaker Nancy Pelosi as “the conscience of the freshman class.”

So it was not just bizarre, but absolutely perverse of Ms. Tinker to try and link him in a television ad to the Ku Klux Klan. The ad, which ran this week, juxtaposed an image of Mr. Cohen with that of a hooded Klansman. The issue the ad was trying to make was completely spurious.

Mr. Cohen was criticized for a vote he cast in 2005 when he was on a development board in Memphis. The vote opposed the renaming of a park that was named for Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Confederate general who was a founder of the Klan. The measure he opposed would also have required that Forrest’s body and a statue of Forrest be removed from the park.

Mr. Cohen (and a number of black officials, as well) felt the matter was not worth the protracted community turmoil that could have resulted from the proposed changes.

Commenting on the absurdity of the attempted link to the Klan, Mr. Cohen wryly commented, “It’s not like Nathan Bedford Forrest was inviting Jews over to celebrate Seder.”

The egregious Ms. Tinker was hardly finished traveling the low road. The Ku Klux Klan ad was followed by the “prayer ad.” Having exploited race against a candidate who was white, it was time to exploit religion against a candidate who also happened to be Jewish.

In the ad that followed the Klan garbage, the image of Mr. Cohen was displayed while viewers listened to the voice of a child praying, “Now I lay me down to sleep ...” The prayer is interspersed with the voice of a woman (clearly intended to sound African-American) who says:

“Who is the real Steve Cohen anyway? While he’s in our churches, clapping his hands and tapping his feet ...”

The emphasis on the word “our” is in the ad, which goes on to say, again spuriously, that Mr. Cohen voted against school prayer. The message is sick. It’s saying, in essence: Here’s this Jewish guy coming into “our” churches, tapping his feet and clapping his hands, when in reality he’s got a problem with letting “our” children pray.

The truth: Mr. Cohen has never voted against school prayer. That’s a constitutional issue that has been decided by the Supreme Court. More than 10 years ago, as a state senator, Mr. Cohen voted against a grandstanding piece of meaningless legislation named by its pandering sponsor as the “religious student liberty act.”

The proposal would have had no effect whatever on whether children could pray in school.

The prayer ad came in an environment in which leaflets were being spread, apparently by an out-of-town minister, asking: “Why do Steve Cohen and the Jews hate Jesus?”

Talk about a sinkhole. Or cesspool. Choose your metaphor.

Now the good news.

The primary vote was Thursday. And in that Ninth Congressional District of Memphis, a district that is predominantly black in a city that has had its share of racial trouble — the city in which the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was shot and killed — Mr. Cohen won an astonishing 80 percent of the vote, sweeping all demographic categories and destroying the disgusting (yes, stomach-turning) campaign of Nikki Tinker.

For the moment, at least, we can put the Pepto-Bismol aside and raise a glass of Champagne.

The voters in Mr. Cohen’s district rejected the Tinker tactics overwhelmingly, refusing to succumb to the blandishments of racism or anti-Semitism. Instead of abandoning their congressman, they rallied around him when the filth started coming his way.



alan's flowers

Selling of the Olympic games -

Dave Zirin in his comment in The Nation begins with these words:

"Go Red for China!" was the slogan unveiled on the Chinese mainland by Pepsi-Cola, whose ubiquitous blue can will, "for a limited time," be red."

It boggles the mind.  
palomar observatory - alan

Compassion -

The moon is beautiful in the sky this evening.  

What a treat!!  I did some gardening today and then sat in the garden and enjoyed what I did.   Bella sat with me and it felt wonderful to enjoy happy plants and soil.

From the Dalai Lama:

We can reject everything else: religion, ideology, all received
wisdom. But we cannot escape the necessity of love and compassion....
This, then, is my true religion, my simple faith. In this sense, there is no need
for temple or church, for mosque or synagogue, no need for complicated
philosophy, doctrine or dogma. Our own heart, our own mind, is the temple.
The doctrine is compassion. Love for others and respect for their rights and
dignity, no matter who or what they are: ultimately these are all we need.
So long as we practice these in our daily lives, then no matter if we are
learned or unlearned, whether we believe in Buddha or God, or follow some
other religion or none at all, as long as we have compassion for others and
conduct ourselves with restraint out of a sense of responsibility, there is
no doubt we will be happy.

~ Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama ~