Sunday, August 31, 2008

Not So Ready On Day One

Look, I'm having a lot of fun picking on the selection of Sarah Palin. Too much fun. But I actually don't dislike the poor lady. I sort of follow the James Fallows line that Palin was a wine that needed to ripen in the bottle before she was served up for national consumption. Ross Douthat clearly feels the same way, and so strongly as to sometimes appear a little grief-stricken at the spoilage she is about to endure.

However, the approach the McCain campaign appears to have taken to her selection was just all wrong. If I were a Republican I would be even more disturbed than I am now, as it indicates that the negative caricature of McCain as a grandstanding seat-of-the-pants flyboy may have some truth to it. Hilzoy has an almost unbelievable post as to the poor quality of her vetting, which she claims is only happening now.

If Hilzoy's article is accurate, and it sounds pretty credible to me, then one has to believe either a) that McCain is being very poorly served by his staff or b) that McCain is keeping them out of the loop here or just flat ignoring their advice. Actually, it occurs to me that these are not mutually exclusive alternatives. Either way it goes straight to the judgment question and inclines me to suspect that McCain is not good Oval Office material.

And the Swedish Bikini Team

Once again The Republican Party seems bent on proving to the world that they are tone-deaf morons. What genius decided that Governor Palin's experience commanding the Alaskan National Guard constitutes a good talking point? It just plain sounds funny, like the Jamaican Bobsled Team.
Rather than give up on this boneheaded line, they have decided to double-down on it, arguing that The Alaskan National Guard is so integral to our Nation's defense capability that it's a wonder Palin isn't regularly briefed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Summer's Almost Gone

Just in time for Labor Day, too. Fortunately, marinating brisket and drinking beer leave plenty of time for blogging.
Back in the day when I wore skinny neckties and only asked the name of a drug after I took it, one of the hot audio flavors went by the slightly embarassing moniker of "Power Pop". Actually, it was originally merely called Rock and Roll but in the Foghat oriented world of the 1970s and 80s that just wasn't moving the units. So Greg Shaw of Bomp Records, a man who couldn't market ice in the Gobi, got the bright idea of calling it "Power Pop" and thereby finishing off many a promising vocation.... Pezband, The Rubinoos and Big Star, to name just a few off the top of my head.

Of all of these guys, by far the best was a home-grown Tulsa product called the Dwight Twilley Band. Old Twilley, who I have sadly never met, was a songsmith on a level maybe just one step below Brian Wilson and Roy Orbison. Had he not suffered one of the most tragically fucked-up career trajectories in the entire history of Rock, Twilley would be a household name. No kidding. He was that good. So good, in fact, that he occasionally bucked the tide and had a bona-fide hit single in spite of everything. I wonder what a conversation between him and Eric Burdon would be like?

Anyway, don't take my word for his talent. In the spirit of the ebbing season, here he is in the early 1980s reprising his first hit from the summer of 1974. Notice the totally bizarre fretting of the bassist. Also notice the very hot girl singing harmony - that's Susan Cowsill. Yes that Susan Cowsill.

Our Allies In The War On Terror

"Burying women alive for honour is tribal tradition"

ISLAMABAD: The killing of women for honour is a demand of the tribal traditions, Balochistan Senator Israrullah Zehri informed the Senate on Friday.

Zehri was responding to Senator Yasmeen Shah’s statement in which she had drawn the House’s attention towards reports that five women had been buried alive in Balochistan in the name of honour. She called it a sheer violation of human rights.

Zehri asked the members not to politicise the issue, as it was a matter of safeguarding the tribal traditions.

Naturally this puts me in mind of the great apocryphal quote from the days of the British Raj.
You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: when men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours.

God Bless The Internets

It's Sarah Palin's blog.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Sarah Palin - A Bridge Too Far

Not even 24 hours....barely 12 hours, in fact..., and the grown-ups in the Republican room are beginning to notice the obvious problem. By choosing the neophyte Sarah Palin, McCain has blunted his most effective argument against Senator Obama and has seriously damaged his own claim to prudent judgment.
Here's Ramesh Ponnuru:

. Palin has been governor for about two minutes. Thanks to McCain’s decision, Palin could be commander-in-chief next year. That may strike people as a reckless choice; it strikes me that way. And McCain's age raised the stakes on this issue.

As a political matter, it undercuts the case against Obama. Conservatives are pointing out that it is tricky for the Obama campaign to raise the issue of her inexperience given his own, and note that the presidency matters more than the vice-presidency. But that gets things backward. To the extent the experience, qualifications, and national-security arguments are taken off the table, Obama wins.

And David Frum
....But maybe (and at least as likely) it will reinforce a theme that I'd be pounding home if I were the Obama campaign: that it's John McCain for all his white hair who represents the risky choice, while it is Barack Obama who offers cautious, steady, predictable governance.

And Frum again:
Should John McCain lose in November, Sarah Palin has just pole-vaulted into front-runner status for 2012. Should Mr. McCain win, her grip on the next Republican nomination will become a lock.

So this is the future of the Republican party you are looking at: a future in which national security has bumped down the list of priorities behind abortion politics, gender politics, and energy politics. Ms. Palin is a bold pick, and probably a shrewd one. It's not nearly so clear that she is a responsible pick, or a wise one.

Don't get me wrong. I think Governor Palin is charming. I applaud the sincerity of her anti-abortion stance and I wish more of our political class were former beauty queens. Nor do I believe that a lengthy political career is necessary or even desirable in order to achieve high office. But for Senator McCain to deride Obama's supposed callow naivete and then try to burn this ball back implies a certain contempt for the electorate, as well as for his Party and the Nation. We'll see if such contempt is deserved.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Colette Carr 1961 - 2004

"Always a delicate creature, whom a breath might have
withered," said the Ghost. "But she had a large heart."
"So she had!’" cried Scrooge. ‘You're right, I will not deny it!"
"She died a woman,’ said the Ghost, ‘and had, as I think, children."

Dear Colette,

I have just found out about your passing, and of the savage way you left us. You are mourned more than you, or even I, could have guessed.

I am mugged by a hundred memories of you. One, perhaps still more vivid and sweet than others, was on a warm spring day when you and I managed to sneak off to a carnival. Do you recall the Bottle Babies in the sideshow? Didn't have nothing to do that day. Nothing I wanted to do, anyway. Thank you for your time. We should have....But we had so much time left, it couldn't have mattered. A small crime of omission.

You were so pretty that evening, and so warm. So unexpectedly (always more than expected!) and so unrelievedly kind. Do you know that I remember the first time ever I saw you? I assure you that you and I will talk about these moments yet.

You remind me a little bit of the Rose in The Little Prince. The one that was so sure that her thorns would keep her safe. Honestly, you have never lacked for courage, Colette. I wish that I had been there at the end, when I could have helped. You would still be here with us, my dearest. Your thorns.

Einstein once said that the distinction between our past, our present and the future is nothing more than man's most "stubbornly persistant illusion". It is a comforting conceit to hope that, in some unknowable relativistic sense, you and I still circle on that carnival ferris wheel. To be rotating with you slowly, endlessly, happily, for one ancient moment in the eye of God - that might be The Ultimate E-Ticket Attraction. I'll buy you a popcorn when we get off.

Never dead to me, Dear.


I know that
I'd go anywhere
For your smile, anywhere --
For your smile, everywhere
I'd see

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Obama on Conservatism

This interview in Time deserves attention....and maybe a little praise:

It partly explains why, if you look at not just my politics, but also I think who I am as a person — in some ways, I'm pretty culturally conservative. I was always suspicious of dogma and the excesses of the left and the right. One of my greatest criticisms of the Republican Party over the last 20 years is that it's not particularly conservative. I can read conservatives from an earlier era — a George Will or a Peggy Noonan — and recognize wisdom, because it has much more to do with respect for tradition and the past, and I think skepticism about being able to just take apart a society and put it back together. Because I do think that communities and nations and families aren't subject to that kind of mechanical approach to change. But when I look at Tom DeLay or some of the commentators on Fox these days, there's nothing particularly conservative about them.

Bravo. One of the interesting things about the National Nightmare of the last eight years is how good the old guard Republicans look in the rear-view mirror. Jim Baker, Richard Lugar, Chuck Hagel....does anyone doubt that they are voting for Barack Obama this year?

Actually, there are several conservative writers that I like and sometimes agree with. Daniel Larison is the best , but Ross Douthat and his dancing partner Reihan Salam (at least I can still outdance Republicans) say some very reasonable things. Hell, I even enjoy that psycho uber-bigot John Derbyshire - gotta give props to a guy who worked with Bruce Lee. right? And David Frum writes well about my true love, the 19th century novel.

I reserve my contempt for Goldberg, Jpod, Kristol and the rest of the NRO and Weekly Standard types who seem to still dwell in the 1970's , back when they were in HS or College, when we were the only economic super-power. They probably won't live to get the memo, but their kids will.

Mozart Mutilated

Much as I hate to praise an NRO writer, this is a pretty good thrashing of the new Salzburg Don Giovanni.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Meet the New Boss. Same as the Old Boss.

Here is some characteristically disgusting crap from that bastion of freedom, McAlester, Oklahoma.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Puny Russian Girly-Man

As usual, Matt Yglesias takes counter-intuitive to a whole new level.

Secret Justice

Public 'left out' as Oklahoma court records sealed

This is quite pitiful.

There are good reasons to seal records, but normally (as with juvenile matters, mental health affairs, etc.) these are already defined by statute or by court rule.

Occasionally a Judge will seal a record as a matter of forbearance, taste, or mercy. However, forbearance, taste, or mercy, while not unknown downtown, are in extremely short supply.

Corruption, or it's cousin "good-old-boy-ism", is rather prevalent.

I will say more when I stop grinding my teeth.

Michael Bates and BatesLine

A lot of my liberal friends can't abide the Michael Bates column in Urban Tulsa, and to be honest I would say that I'm in vociferous disagreement with him on about 95% of his opinions (except that I like Bob Wills and The Texas Playboys almost as much as he does) but he is the go-to guy when it comes to issues surrounding land use and urban planning....if you want to dispute his points you had best have your ducks in a row because he has thought long and hard on these matters and his arguments are often deep and multi-layered. So I decided to add his BatesLine to my list of preferred blogs.

What makes Bates unusual is that he will actually get down into the his research, read the statutes and relevant codes, familiarize himself with the agenda of administrative boards that most Tulsans don't even know exist....and then he does a yeoman's job of explaining all of that to his readers,and usually without over-simplifying things. He is also without fear when he determines to pick a target. His nose for smelling out bullshit is remarkable. It's been a long time, if ever, since the Tulsa World did comparable work (I'll make an exception for Janet Pearson's reporting, but her best stuff is generally concerning social agencies and not the development industries that constitute the World's power base).

In short, he's not just an opinion hack, he works as a reporter - and he might be the best one in Oklahoma, either in-print or online.

Am I giving short shrift to anyone? Does anyone have an Oklahoma journalist that deserves a shout-out?

Monday, August 11, 2008

“When the house is on fire, it’s better to have a psychotic fireman than no fireman at all”

The much anticipated autopsy on the Hillary Clinton campaign is now up at The Atlantic's website and boy howdy it does not disappoint.

Our Man In Tblisi

A woman, actually. An American on the ground in Tblisi. This is pretty gripping stuff.

On A Lighter Note

Over the course of the last week I have rediscovered one of my childhood loves, namely newspaper comics of the 1930's and 1940's. The rediscovery commenced with locating on online trove of The old Terry And the Pirates strips by Milton Caniff here (registration required, but free). The above panels aren't actually from Terry, but from a spin-off armed sevices strip called Male Call. It was rather popular with the troops, though I can't imagine why.

I followed that up with reading a pile of great Phantom strips which, though not graced with the lovely art of Caniff, are charming in their own right.

The Same Dog

I had not intended to start this effort out by discussing anything as portentous as International Affairs, but the situation in Georgia is so tragic, so alarming, and was so avoidable that it demands a moment of my attention. By far the best, fairest and least sentimental commentary that I have seen has been that emanating from Daniel Larison.

I do not believe that any intervention on the part of the United States or NATO would be wise or even possible in any meaningful way. Bluntly, it seems to me to be a foreordained the Manifest Destiny sense....that Russia will continue to dominate Georgia and the Ukraine politically, just as they dominate them economically and militarily. For the West to dictate to them with respect to these Nations seems as foolish and as unproductive as bidding the seas to recede (with apologies to Senator Obama).

Should our State Department decline to follow my wise counsel, which is usually likely, they have an opportunity to try to draw a bright red line around Ukraine, Georgia already being a fait accompli. This would be dangerous enough, as I suspect Russia's designs on the Ukraine are non-negotiable. However, we might be able to delay Russia for a moment. American law has an unofficial canon of application called the "First Bite Rule"whereby a dog of no known vicious propensities need not be destroyed upon it's first attack. Well, Russia is not quite "a dog of no known vicious propensities" but we might follow this logic a bit and give them Georgia "on the house" as it were, while warning them that similar conduct respecting Ukraine would be regarded more seriously.

In this context, I note that Russia is already accusing the Ukrainians of providing materiel support to the Georgian armed forces....obviously, I have no idea whether this is true or not, but the allegation certainly provides a convenient plotline for Russia....the notion that they are only employing their Military power in response to armed aggression on the part of their former Republics. Our time to influence even a Ukrainian scenario may be very short.