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« Catholic to Orthodox | Main | Ever-Expanding, Ever-Contracting »

October 13, 2006

Elsewhere

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

* Tyler Cowen recommends his favorite books by new Nobelist Orhan Pamuk. I seem to remember that Tatyana read Pamuk's "Snow" not too long ago and enjoyed it.

* Dr. Feelgood provides an anthology of opinion columnists in the form of one-sentence summaries.

* Steven Heller and Charles Hively discuss "The Rise and Fall of Illustration." Here's the website of the beautiful magazine Hively edits and publishes.

* Scott fixes the Mexico problem and the mideast problem with one masterstroke.

* Tasha lets the mood of the music get to her.

* Is it really wise for the Dems to be running this weirdo for Congressman from Minnesota?

* I'm nominating Neil for L.A. Design Czar.

* Thanks to Brian, who points out this mouth-watering collection of MP3 files and video clips at the Mises Institute on the theme of the economics of culture. I haven't sampled the fare yet, but Brian tells me that much of it is based on Tyler Cowen's wonderful "In Praise of Commercial Culture."

* Boomers are once again joining communes.

* Brian James makes documentaries about the San Francisco porn world. He talks to Film Threat about what he has witnessed and learned.

* MD is in the running!

* The Patriarch sums up 38 years of hard-won wisdom in two short life-lessons.

Best,

MIchael

posted by Michael at October 13, 2006




Comments

I' AM flattred, Michael, but that is not me in the YouTube video you linked to my name. Although it could be, about...25 yrs and 25 pounds ago.

Posted by: Tat on October 13, 2006 12:29 PM



That's my best mis-link ever. Now fixed.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on October 13, 2006 1:01 PM



We. Are. The. Champions!

Posted by: Tat on October 13, 2006 3:22 PM



Gee Michael, that Keith Ellison sure looks weird -- about 1/1000ths as weird as the GOP's Katherine "Mission from God" Harris in Florida or Rick Santorum in Pennsylvania or Majority Leader Bill "Video Diagnosis of Brain Death" Frist or about a dozen other nutjobs I could name.

And I'm talking GOP Senators -- don't even get me started on Representatives. (The recently imploded Mark Foley and Duke Cunningham, anyone?)

Posted by: Steve on October 13, 2006 4:15 PM



Steve -- Let's mock 'em all! Somewhat more seriously, though ... The Repubs have recently been winning. (May not be for long!) The Dems have been losing. The Repubs have no reason to wonder what they're doing wrong. They may be whacky, but they're winning. The Dems on the other hand haven't had a winning formula -- their whackiness hasn't been putting them on top, it's been making them lose. Given that, does it make sense for them to put up for election someone who's almost a one-man anthology of Why the Dems Have Been Losing? I mean, why not just throw some more red meat to Bill O'Reilly?

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on October 13, 2006 5:03 PM



While in general I agree that the Dems should avoid wackiness, do you really think it's their wackiness relative to the Republicans that's been making them lose? I'm pretty sure there are other factors at play. Howard Dean is not particularly wacky, yet the O'Reilly's of the Right did a pretty effective job of demonizing him.

I guess my point is that with any large, loosely-knit organization like a major political party, a few nutjobs are going to slip through the cracks. Ellison may be a left-wing nutjob or not (I'd want some verification beyond the Weekly Standard). There are many more right-wing nutjobs and in far greater positions of power in the Republican ranks than there are leftwing nutjobs among the Dems. And if moderates like Bill Clinton and Dean can be demonized as left-wing loonies, my personal feeling is that it is less important for the Dems to try to cull every last loony from their party than it is for them to aggressively expose the bigger loonies (and liars and crooks) on the other side.

Posted by: Steve on October 13, 2006 6:07 PM



Seems like a sensible p-o-v, though I think it may fall prey just a little bit to the usual Dem whine. Dems too often (IMHO, of course) prefer to say that the problem isn't that they aren't offering up appealing political products, the problem is that the Republicans are bad and they cheat. True though that may be, wouldn't it be far cooler if the Dems, instead of whining, did a re-think of what they're peddling and came up with something that America liked better?

They keep losing to low-quality Repubicans, then running around saying "They cheated, they cheated." Clinton showed how it can be done -- he reined the Dems in and won convincingly. Why can't the current Dems pull it together in a similar way?

But given how the Repubs are currently stabbing themselves in the back and shooting themselves in the foot, the Dems may need to do nothing other than hold on in order to come out on top. Still, wouldn't it be nice for all of us if they improved their game and won instead of just waiting for the other guy to lose?

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on October 13, 2006 6:37 PM



Well, I think the Dems have enormous room for improvement, and lords knows I don't want to whine or make excuses. But, if we want to really understand what's happened to them in the past few years, I really do that focusing on the Ellisons of the party is less imporant than looking closely at what happened to leaders like Clinton and Dean and Gore and even (unappealing in many respects as he was) Kerry.

For example, it's worth going back and looking at some key Dem speeches at the start of the Iraq war. Howard Dean gave one at Drake University in 2003 that was terrifically hardnosed about foreign policy and almost scarily prescient about Iraq. Read it (http://www.gwu.edu/~action/2004/dean/dean021703sp.html), and then ask yourself how did this guy get painted as a nutjob, when he so obviously wasn't? That's a huge story, and it's not whining to ask that question.

Posted by: Steve on October 13, 2006 7:00 PM



I think in politics that as soon as you start talking in terms of "what happened to us?" in public, you're at least in danger of being perceived to be whining. It's a passive construction, and a passive way of looking at things, and the electorate doesn't like passive political people. People talking about "what happened to us" look like victims, and they look like they're a little too comfy playing the victim role.

Whoops -- victims! Dems! And that's part of the Dem p-r problem, no? Always identifying with and catering to the victim crowd?

Going off and licking wounds and griping seems to be allowed for a bit after a bad loss. It's certainly understandable. But the Dems seem to be stretching the "golly mommy, they cheated and were mean and picked on me" phase out a little longer than necessary, no? I think the time has come for them to reorder their game plan, re-prioritize their offerings (enough with foregrounding gay marriage already), and come out fighting.

All IMHO, of course. And as we're both seeing, the Repubs seem to be doing a swell job of self-destructing anyway ...

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on October 13, 2006 7:48 PM



Well, I'm only asking "what happened to the Dems?" rhetorically--I know what happened to them, and it wasn't Keith Ellison. Ditching him is a reactive prescription--hoping against hope that O'Reilly et al won't attack them if they aren't too leftist. (The defensive crouch that you so correctly deride.)

But of course they will be attacked, whether they're truly left-wing or not, which is why I'm in favor of hitting back hard, as I said a couple of posts back. Exposing the Denny Hastert's and Rick Santorum's, instead of cowering in fear of their right-wing lunacy. Asking why the hell these charlatans and fools are at the head of the Republican party.

Fortunately, there are signs that that is happening. It's not just that Republicans are imploding. Dean has done yeoman's work in building up the party, aggressively going into Red states, facing the beast of talk radio. Gore has given a number of terrific speeches, and won converts with the seriousness of his movie documentary. Of course they've been vilified and mocked for it. So what? They're plugging along, and, even without the megaphone of a major branch of government behind them, they're gaining traction.

As for gay marriage, both parties have unpopular fringe issues that their true believers cling to. A healthy subsection of Republicans want to abolish Social Security, and many Dems want gay marriage. Repubs let the power go their head and they grabbed that third rail, and it's part of what's costing them now. The Dems obviously shouldn't do the same with their pet issues. And they aren't. Gay marriage is an issue that surfaced in one state legislature and mainly in the courts. The right wing has been very canny in amplifying these isolated cases, making it seem like it's a nationwide push. But Andrew Sullivan is a bigger megaphone for gay marriage than any Democrat I can think of.

Posted by: Steve on October 13, 2006 8:31 PM



We move among different Democrats! But I agree with you -- time to come out fighting. It'd be nice to see them not be quite so relentlessly anti-Repub, too. They gotta stand for something, after all, and I think they've lost whatever standing-for-something cred they may have once had. The Repubs get cut a lot of slack by a lot of the public -- they're pro-America. The Dems don't get that automatic pass. So they've got to create a bit more of a positive identity. Do you see that happening?

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on October 13, 2006 8:48 PM



You live in solid blue Manhattan and I live in bright red San Diego county, so I think that partially colors what we see. (I don't know about you, but I tend to react against my immediate environment; when I was at a university back in the early 90s, I was practically a Republican.) I agree with you about standing for something, which is why I enjoyed the Social Security debate. Here was an issue that the Dems could stand on the principle of continued economic security for all in retirement (I know you're sympathetic to the privatization argument--I'm not). There's also energy conservation, global warming, aid to New Orleans, universal health care, stem cell research, getting the hell out of Iraq, working with allies in the war on terror. Can you really say that the Dems don't have stands on all those issues? And what's more, those are popular stands on non-fringe issues which draw a bright line between them and the Repubs.

But then there's the "larger principles" argument. That is, that Dems talks specific issues and Repubs talk broad, sweeping values. There's truth to that, and that's where I think the Dems really have been falling down. It doesn't seem to come naturally to them, the broad, sweeping values thing. And they they missed a huge opportunity with their pathetic silence during the recent torture/civil rights debate in Congress.

Fortunately, I do see signs that that key people in the party recognize the problem, and are pushing Dems to define their macro-image in the public mind.

Posted by: Steve on October 14, 2006 12:42 PM



Hard not to be influenced by the surroundings, isn't it? If I were living in a small town I'd probably be kicking against my neighbors there. But also not a bad thing. I'm instantly suspicious of people who claim to have a lock on some Larger Truth independent of their actual circumstances ...

What I'm mostly concerned about (and marveling over) isn't what the Dems say they stand for, it's how they're perceived and taken, and why they haven't done a better job of projecting a winning image. I think in many people's minds they've looked like the pre-Clinton Dems recently -- a squabbling mess of childish special-interest groups. And they've also been looking more anti-Bush (not that this is a bad thing!) than pro-anything. Even where Soc. Sec. is concerned ... They seemed unwilling to admit that the program might be worth worrying about in any way. Instead they just made New Deal/Great Society noises. They stopped the Bushies, but they let themselves look like panicky obstructionists.

It'll be fun to see if they pull themselves together a bit into something a little more appealing and positive, or if they just hang on and let the Repubs commit suicide. I'm hoping it's the first.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on October 14, 2006 12:56 PM



Hey thanks for the link...the normblog contest ended awhile back and I'll link the winner. I love normblog, especially the interviews with writers. Love it.

My thoughts on politics: is everyone crazy these days? Or incompetent? Or just plain stupid? Ugh. I usually vote R, but not this time...I mean, cut some spending, build a fence, don't give that stupid Kim Jong Il any extortion money for his weapons of doom and everyone knows that Iraq gets a year or two more tops. There just isn't the will or taste for anything else. Duh!

Of course I live in Mass so I might as well write in my name every time. Hey, maybe I'll do that. One vote for me!

Posted by: MD on October 14, 2006 2:32 PM



We have a very different take on the Social Security debate. The Dems didn't seem panicky at all to me; they looked united and forceful, and turned Bush's SS "roadshow" into a progressively more embarrassing spectacle in which public opinion turned increasingly against him the more he pushed his case. Their message was simple and direct--the SS system is essential, it isn't substantially broken, and in any case we shouldn't trust the Bushies to tinker with it. That resonated, and it had the virtue of being true.

Where on earth do you get the idea that they were panicky? They're still using the SS cudgel against key Repub incumbents today. It was a key line-in-the-sand moment for the Dems . Too bad it didn't come earlier on Iraq.

Posted by: Steve on October 14, 2006 3:06 PM



MD -- You've got my vote.

Steve -- I'm not sure we disagree about much. We just keep talking at slight cross-purposes. You're talking about what the Dems are, I'm talking about how they look. I think you're mistaken about how the Dems came across in the Soc. Security battles. I live among Dems, and even *they* were rolling their eyes in a "all they're doing is blockading things! can't they come out with anything positive?" kind of way. But I could well be wrong about how it played in the rest of the country.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on October 14, 2006 3:32 PM






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