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July 11, 2008

Comments

But it is not a single conflict anymore -- it is becoming a regional war that is spreading to Pakistan, Central Asia and Iran.

Keep that sentence away from Dick Cheney's crotch.

I really don't want to write about all McCain gaffes all the time. I have lots of interesting ideas for other posts.

The evidence is pretty strongly against you on this one. ;-)

Still, I look forward to reading your interesting ideas that were not inspired by an action alert from the Obama campaign.

von: fwiw, I don't get action alerts for either campaign, and if I did, I'd probably treat them the way I treat those releases from the DCCC that are always clogging up the kitten's mailbox.

And I don't see how the evidence counts against my explanation of: I am thinking of writing other stuff when some astonishing new statement comes along. I mean, unless you think it's normal for a major Presidential candidate not to understand how Social Security works, or his own positions, or pretty basic facts about national security. I mean, as long as you think these quotes are genuinely jawdropping, I don't see how my response to them counts against my expanation.

But if you think it's just fine for candidates to be clueless about truly basic things, then I can certainly see how my response might seem excessive.

[Begin Off-Topic, Meta:]

von: fwiw, I don't get action alerts for either campaign, and if I did, I'd probably treat them the way I treat those releases from the DCCC that are always clogging up the kitten's mailbox.

My comment was tongue in cheek. Quite frankly, however, whether or not the Kitty gets action alert from the Obama campaign is pretty much beside the point. ObWi is beginning to read like it does.

[End Off-Topic, Meta.]

von: "Quite frankly, however, whether or not the Kitty gets action alert from the Obama campaign is pretty much beside the point. ObWi is beginning to read like it does."

One might ask: why is that? It is conceivable that it's because the Republicans are fielding a candidate who is wholly out of his depth, against one who isn't. In that case, someone like me, who would be a lot happier with a competent conservative than with a wholly clueless liberal, might be expected to take note.

Or it could just be bias.

So, again: do you think that not knowing what cap and trade is is OK, in someone who has previously co-sponsored the Lieberman-McCain cap and trade bill? Do you think that not knowing the most basic facts about how SS works is OK? Or that promising to balance the budget in 4 years without saying a single concrete thing about how you plan to do it, even though your own policies leave a nearly $7 trillion shortfall, is OK? Or that the kind of economic illiteracy indicated by statements like "the fact that historically when you raise people's taxes, guess what, revenue goes down" is OK?

Because if you don't, and if you also think that Obama as not said anything in the same universe of cluelessness during the past week, then you might wonder whether this is just reality's well-known liberal bias at work.

Sorry: not $7 trillion, $700 billion. (I have been reading about Fannie and Freddie, which has trillions in my head.)

Hilzoy: There has to be a 12 step program. McCain-Anon?

How’s this – write those interesting posts. At the bottom of each one, as a template, just say - BTW: McCain said something dumb today.

FWIW, I'm getting a kick out of the McCain gaffe posts. But then, I have a shallow mind easily entertained by schadenfreude.

isn't it interesting how the media's lack of interest in McCain's constant idiocy so nicely mirrors their lack of interest in Bush99's constant idiocy ?

in the words of Bob Somerby: they know not to notice.

Admittedly, I'm of two minds. I'm starting to suffer from McCain Stupidity Fatigue--that is, there's just so much stupid coming out of the campaign that it's hard to be that appalled anymore. It also rubs in the fact that the national media is almost entirely ignoring McCain's gaffes--which would have ended Obama's campaign if he'd done any one of them--and focusing laser-sharp on the slightest controversy, manufactured or not, that involves Obama.

On the other hand, people really need to understand just how awful a candidate McCain is, because they're sure as hell not getting the whole picture from any corporate media source.

"Still, I look forward to reading your interesting ideas that were not inspired by an action alert from the Obama campaign."

Von, this is an interesting accusation: do you have a cite demonstrating that this is the case, or are you taking to just making up slurs against your co-bloggers?

Should we follow your lead, and take to accusing you of posting by because you're alerted to by the McCain campaign, or some other third party; if not, why not, unless you have a cite indicating that your claim is fact-based, and not made up out of whole cloth.

And rather than tu quoque Hilzoy, if you do wish to defend McCain, how about actually explaining his statement?

And are you, in fact, just posting to defend McCain, or as an independent observer?

"My comment was tongue in cheek."

Oh, okay, mine too, then. If that's how we're playing it.

Nah, I'm not tongue in cheek: I'm as serious as you are, and not trying to pretend otherwise.

My own suggestion: respond on the substance.

One of my longstanding sidebar quotes from my blog:

"Before impugning an opponent's motives, even when they legitimately may be impugned, answer his arguments."
-- Sidney Hook

I have to agree with cleek on this one. Could OCsteve and the other "please don't mention the angry, incoherent, old guy we are running for president" please let us know when it will be ok to notice just how old, angry, incoherent and generally ill informed he is? Do we have to wait for a general signal, like after he wins the election, to notice that the would be emperor has no clothes? Because that is rather what happened with Bush and Cheney. We were told not to worry our pretty little heads about those two and look where it got us?

These gaffes aren't actually gaffes. I don't know of anyone who cares whether McCain wears plaid pants when golfing, or whether his wife wears white after labor day, or whether he chews with his mouth open. He doesn't seem to know stuff he actually needs to know to run for dogcatcher, let alone to run for president. I can well imagine that his supporters would rather we not notice that. But I'm not sure why the rest of us concerned citizens have to play this "we see no ships" game. To save his face? to save their face? You guys put him up as your standard bearer, and now you are stuck with him. But the rest of us are well within our rights to point, hoot, and make fun of him.

aimai

I have to agree with cleek on this one. Could OCsteve and the other "please don't mention the angry, incoherent, old guy we are running for president" please let us know when it will be ok to notice just how old, angry, incoherent and generally ill informed he is? Do we have to wait for a general signal, like after he wins the election, to notice that the would be emperor has no clothes? Because that is rather what happened with Bush and Cheney. We were told not to worry our pretty little heads about those two and look where it got us?

These gaffes aren't actually gaffes. I don't know of anyone who cares whether McCain wears plaid pants when golfing, or whether his wife wears white after labor day, or whether he chews with his mouth open. He doesn't seem to know stuff he actually needs to know to run for dogcatcher, let alone to run for president. I can well imagine that his supporters would rather we not notice that. But I'm not sure why the rest of us concerned citizens have to play this "we see no ships" game. To save his face? to save their face? You guys put him up as your standard bearer, and now you are stuck with him. But the rest of us are well within our rights to point, hoot, and make fun of him.

aimai

There are also McCain stories I have not pounced on, because I don't think they should play any role in anything. Like the one about how he was still married to his first wife when he applied for a marriage license to marry his second, but lied about it later; and was still living with his first wife for the first none months of his relationship with the future Cindy McCain. I don't think that should matter, whatever people used to say back in the day about sex and lies about sex and how they were impeachable offenses and the shocking decline of our national character and so forth.

Likewise, the one (from NRO) about how he had abandoned cap and trade. If true, it would have been a pretty significant move, but as best I can tell there was nothing to it.

Gary, forgive me (or not) for choosing not to respond to your 4:12 p.m. post.

Hilzoy, my short comment at 2:06 p.m. was an attempt to avoid derailing this discussion with a long, off-topic back-and-forth. This comment will also be short. It not try to respond in full to your comments on the subject.

I thought your initial aside funny, because my view is that that McCain's gaffes seriously tickle your blogger-bone. Your comments in defense reinforce rather than discredit that view. And that's fine. But, intentional or no, I am getting to the point in which I can predict both what ObWi will post on and the position that it will take. As I said -- and it was meant tongue in cheek -- ObWi reads at times like a series of talking points put out by the Obama campaign.

A certain percentage of the readership will, of course, eat that up.

[/End meta comment; no more coming from me on this thread.]

Oh, great. Von is now declaring that Hilzoy is suffering from McCain Derangement Syndrome, and that the blogging here is getting tiresome and predictable. It would all be so much simpler if we all learned to Stop Worrying And Love Teh Stupid.

I note, however, that Von has no actual relevant answer. Leaving aside pure 'gaffes' and disturbing or tasteless incidents like McCain's joking reference to dead Iranians and Gramm's Mental Recession, some of these issues aren't just real; they're huge.

Can anyone think of any substantive Obama slip as big as not understanding the basic principle in 'cap and trade' - a principle that's right there in the plain language of the proposal's catchphrase? A principle that would be written into law if the bill bearing McCain's own name were passed and signed? Or McCain's apparent failure to understand the way Social Security has been structured since it's inception? And I'd argue that McCain's "We Will Solve The Budget Deficit By Magical Pony Power" plan is a whopper on a sufficently substantive subject that the dishonesty or ignorance it reflects is also no mere 'gaffe'.

It's hardly Hilzoy's fault that McCain is revealing ignorance of basic federal policy on a level not seen since ... I don't know when. The real question is, why is the outrage restricted to well-meaning policy-interested people like Hilzoy?

Von, on the contrary, Hilzoy's posts on this issue are always based upon actual occurrences initiated by one of the candidates to be leader of the free world. Her points are substantive. Some have argued against her interpretation of his comments. That's fair.

You, on the other hand, seem to be content to argue about the quantity of her arguments. If you think she shouldn't post about our potential president not understanding Social Security at its most basic, then perhaps you should just read other blogs. That is an important issue for many of us.

If, on the other hand, you disagree that her argument about his Social Security gaffe is wrong, then argue that point. I'm tired of your complaints. I look forward to your arguments.

Shorter von:

Just because McCain is constantly demonstrating what a fool he is (and providing Obama with glowing talking points) does not justify OW posts pointing it out each and every time -- it makes OW sound too much like Obama.
______

Well, boo hoo hoo. As pointed out above, all that matters is the substance of the discussion concerning McCain's remarks.

Frankly, it is amazing what an oaf McCain is. And as pointed out above, these are not gaffes, but a direct window into a non-functioning mind.

Maybe he was always this way and I just did not notice -- I thought the guy admirable at one point in time. My own theory is that since 2003, he gave up independent thinking in favor of pandering to the Bush loving base, and to perform that stunt believably, he lobotimized his higher brain functions.

whether or not the Kitty gets action alert from the Obama campaign is pretty much beside the point. ObWi is beginning to read like it does

With all due respect, Von, you're blaming the messenger.

Hilzoy has pointed out a lot of ridiculous things McCain has said lately, but she hasn't handled them unfairly. The fact of the matter is, McCain has said a lot of ridiculous things lately.

If McCain is going to talk nonsense about major issues in the course of a presidential campaign, he has to expect to get called on it--and surely you won't dispute that he ought to get called on it.

I notice that you haven't attempted to defend McCain's statements on their merits

Could OCsteve and the other "please don't mention the angry, incoherent, old guy we are running for president" please let us know [...] I can well imagine that his supporters would rather we not notice that. [...] You guys put him up as your standard bearer
Um, what the heck are you talking about? Since when is OCSteve supporting McCain? Where on earth are you getting that untrue thing from? It's just totally out of the blue, with no cause whatever. And OCSteve has mentioned about a billion times that he's not supporting McCain, not that he should need to, in the face of absolutely no sign that he is.

Von, on the other hand, has endlessly stated that he's supporting McCain, but you don't even mention his name. Weird.

Von: "Gary, forgive me (or not) for choosing not to respond to your 4:12 p.m. post."

Up to you, natch. I repeat, however, my previous suggestion, which you also didn't respond to, that you take advantage of your ability to post a post, rather than a comment, to do an update post on why you think John McCain is someone we should all vote for, and why you are -- last I looked, anyway -- planning to vote for him.

Educate us, why don't you?

Well, it is necessary to keep people reminded of how impossibly awful a President McCain would be... since there's no longer any positive reason to vote for President Obama.

(Yes, yes, Obama has talked an excellent line in campaign promises: but the FISA vote demonstrated he'll break them all in order to bow down to what the Republicans want, so, well: the main reason left to support him is that McCain would unquestionably be worse.)

Gary, while reshelving books today, I figured it out. Credit for this insight must go to Greg Bear and Grant Morrison, among others; I am but its vessel.

One of the strangest discoveries in 20th century physics was that when you get right down to the fundamentals, things get...fuzzy. Heisenberg established, for instance, that the more precisely you measure a particle's speed, the less precise you can get about its position, and vice versa - it's as though there's a sum of "knowledge points" available, and if you use a bunch to be precise about one of those things, the less you can spend to be precise about the other. (Gary, I know you know this; I'm laying the context for the insight from my shelves.)

In addition, the universe itself appears to be kind of grainy, when you look at it closely enough. The concept is a little complicated in details, but for those who haven't dealt with Planck units, you can think of it as something like pixels on a monitor. Each pixel is either on or off, all the way across it, and if your computer is drawing a line, it turns on a pixel at a time, so that the line is drawn in discrete chunks. They're almost unimaginably small, of course - we never experience reality's chunkiness.

Well, there are modern practitioners of magic who see their art as the exertion of will over the external world via these aspects of the universe's fundamental strangeness. Chaos magic is about exploiting uncertainty and quantization, expanding the realm in which things aren't nailed down, willing them to be this way rather than that, and then letting normal operations resume.

It seems clear to me: McCain is a chaos magician of this sort. The reason we want a howlingly ignorant and confused leader, in the Reagan tradition but without the nuisance of knowledgeable advisors to get in the way, is to increase the scope of uncertainty. If we know nothing, then our ability to affect the surrounding world isn't constrained by the certainty of our observations. Basically, if the leader closes his eyes and wishes, and we all do the same, then we get what we want! It really is magic.

But perhaps I've given it away by saying that, since the knowledge that we are attempting mass magic itself imposes some burden of certainty. So forget I ever said anything, and we'll go back to pretending that there are good reasons for supporting McCain, so that the magic can work.

I didn't think it possible for the Republican Party to nominate someone for president who is even dumber than our dear lame(brain) duck incumbent. Now I'm not so sure.

On a marginally related note, Friday's New York Times has an interesting article on whether Senator McCain meets the "natural born citizen" requirement to serve as president if elected:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/11/us/politics/11mccain.html?ex=1373515200&en=eded579827e66fc1&ei=5124&partner=permalink&exprod=permalink

While it is unlikely that a court will address the question, it would be interesting if some of the Republicans (nativist/xenophobes, perhaps) who are less than enamored of McCain were to raise some sand at the Republican National Convention about his qualifications.

"...but the FISA vote demonstrated [Obama will] break them all in order to bow down to what the Republicans want...."

The FISA vote was a dreadful vote, it greatly disturbs me, but by what logic do you get to the above from that?

The FISA vote certainly demonstrates that Obama can break a campaign promise; how does it logically demonstrate that he will break them all? By what non-fallacious logic?

Bruce: "Gary, while reshelving books today, I figured it out."

So, Bruce, what you're saying is that the Republicans are the Lords of Chaos, and the Democrats are the Lords of Order?

Where's Dr. Fate?

Also, will "get the hell out of our galaxy" work?

Gary, feeling low on hit points

rea: and surely you won't dispute that he ought to get called on it.

Oh, come now. Von does dispute that McCain ought to get called on it. Von's a conservative, McCain's the Republican candidate, of course Von thinks that only Democratic partisans would ever do such a mean, mean thing as point out that the Republican candidate for President is dumber than the townsfolk of Rock Ridge, and they, as we know, were simple farmers, the people of the land, the common clay of the new West. You know... morans.

aimai: Could OCsteve and the other "please don't mention the angry, incoherent, old guy we are running for president" please let us know when it will be ok to notice just how old, angry, incoherent and generally ill informed he is?

Have at it. My comment was simply: Oh noes! NAMP! (Not Another McCain Post)

By my quick count, there were a full dozen front page posts on McCain in just this past week. That must be some kind of record. I wouldn’t presume to tell hilzoy what she should write on, but as she admitted she can’t resist it I was just poking fun at her.

By my quick count, there were a full dozen front page posts on McCain in just this past week. That must be some kind of record.

you'll agree he's a major part of a very big ongoing story, right ?

Well, let's see: here we have Obsidian Wings, which has a couple of conservative front-pagers who don't post, and a couple of otherly-inclined (I hesitate to use "left-leaning" or "liberal", because I'm not sure if either of those fit hilzoy at all) front-pagers who do post. Of course there's going to be some picking and choosing. hilzoy is, in my experience, just about as likely as anyone on the planet to give an issue a fair shake, but she's going to post that which she sees as more important before addressing issues or news items of lesser importance.

Bottom line is anyone's welcome to post negative material on Obama, but I think those are mostly going to fall below the collective radars of publius, hilzoy, and that other guy whose name currently escapes me. Oh yeah: Eric.

If there isn't anything you find disagreeable about Obama, you've probably lost that battle. I think a little bit of hay could be made of his slip on fissile materials, but none was. I don't think the world is a much worse place for that not having happened, though.

That last paragraph was a little confusing, possibly. Maybe I can translate it into English later, but imagine it directed at the conservative readership (including myself) as well as von and Sebastian.

Slarti: I'm definitely liberal. But it's one of the continuing frustrations of this campaign that while I would have had a lot more fun arguing liberalism v. conservatism (yes, government should be in the business of providing non-car means of transport, ensuring that people have access to health care, etc.!), it turns out that I have to go on about the incredibly important, but much less interesting, issue of basic competence.

Likewise, in Congress: political philosophy would be more fun than really really corrupt v. slightly corrupt, but you go to war with the Congress you have.

I would really, really love to have two parties in Congress who allowed me to get into a serious fight over ideology, rather than crooks and crazy people vs. basically sane people with a distressing tendency to wimp out. But oh well.

I think just one of our many basic problems is that the people who voluntarily gravitate toward participation in government aren't necessarily the people best suited to run the country.

Possibly a selective service approach would be better, but getting people to agree to implement such a thing, and then to agree on selection criteria, are probably showstoppers.

I think just one of our many basic problems is that the people who voluntarily gravitate toward participation in government aren't necessarily the people best suited to run the country.

Take the gravy train out of it and that problem might take care of itself. At least, head in the right direction.

"Federal office holders may not work as, or directly for, registered lobbyists after leaving office. Their immediate family members may not work as, or for, registered lobbyists while they hold office."

If that's too draconian, I'd find the Farber exclusion to be a perfectly fine alternative -- no employment as or by registered lobbyists for 10 years after leaving office.

That would help, I think.

Thanks -

Take the gravy train out of it and that problem might take care of itself. At least, head in the right direction.

That'd solve one particular aspect of the problem, maybe. Of course, one could always become a consultant to a paid lobbyist; you wouldn't be an employee, or a lobbyist, but a business consultant. Probably there are ways to cover this sort of thing, though.

I think another really cool thing to do would be to forbid employment of any immediate family member on campaign or official staff. It's not just one gravy train, it's a whole railroad yard full of them.

Probably there are ways to cover this sort of thing, though.

Much though I love the idea, I doubt it; there are too many grey areas for the bright-line-loving law to deal with.

...so, possibly, the law needs to err heavily on the side of not giving anyone the benefit of a doubt, eh? If you make it absolutely impossible to make a quick buck working for the government, assuming it's possible to legislate such a thing, the crooks will not come.

Eventually, I mean. Crooks are occasionally not all that smart.

"I think just one of our many basic problems is that the people who voluntarily gravitate toward participation in government aren't necessarily the people best suited to run the country."

I don't think that's necessarily it. I think government attracts, broadly speaking, and as a huge simplification and over-generalization, two types of people (with many people some mix of each, of course): 1) idealists, who wish to see their goals enacted, which sometimes includes structural reform of one type or another, but whom more often than not either have specific issues close to their heart, or a broader ideology, as part of their idealism; and 1) people who see it as a way to get onto a gravy train, or as a way to achieve power of a sort, or some combination of money and power, usually through taking advantage of connections made while on staff, or in office, and then through using those connections and knowledge and one's entrenched place as leverage for the rest of a decades long, or lifelong, career.

And I think that the real problems lie in the structures and incentives in Washington that tend to rapidly discourage and cause the true idealists to self-select out, through all manner of causing them to realize how unlikely it is that they'll achieve, or at least, many, of their goals, as well as the cynicism and disgust bred by watching the sausage be made, as well as causing so many to rapidly get to Burn-Out Stage, which, for instance, our own Katherine R. seems to have already reached the first iteration of.

But, then, I'm not very clear as to what you have in mind as regards who are "the people best suited to run the country," other than by negative definition.

Russell, not sure if you're aware of Al Franken's of the other day:

[...] Comedian, author, and Minnesota Democratic Senate candidate Al Franken released a new campaign ad in which he advocates a permanent ban on members of Congress becoming registered lobbyists.

“In Washington, they debate whether former members of Congress should wait one year or two years before they can become registered lobbyists—how about never?” Franken says in the ad, which began airing today. “Right now, hundreds of former senators and congressmen are lobbying for big oil and special interests. No wonder gas is at $4 gallon.”

He continues, “I’ll fight for a new law to prevent members of Congress from ever becoming lobbyists.”

There are time restrictions on how soon former members of Congress can lobby their former colleagues, but there are no restrictions on their ability to become lobbyists.

Another "glimmer of improving relationship between Karzai and the Pakistanis":

"At today's weekly cabinet meeting, the government of Afghanistan, chaired by President Hamid Karzai, formally endorsed a statement charging Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate with responsibility for most of the terrorism carried out in Afghanistan."

Well, it is necessary to keep people reminded of how impossibly awful a President McCain would be... since there's no longer any positive reason to vote for President Obama.

Because McCain and Obama are exactly the same. Gotcha! We'll make sure your non-vote goes to Nader this year.

===================

Bottom line is anyone's welcome to post negative material on Obama, but I think those are mostly going to fall below the collective radars of publius, hilzoy, and that other guy whose name currently escapes me.

I'm not sure what mean by "falling below the collective radar". It might get pushed down the front page, but it would still be available for anyone to see even a few days later (the last post today is from July 8th).

If there is the wealth of boneheaded comments coming from the Obama campaign, write a post. That there have been so few posts, and at least 2 from hilzoy (on Obama re FISA) makes me think there's not the outpouring like we've seen from McCain.

I'm not sure what mean by "falling below the collective radar". It might get pushed down the front page, but it would still be available for anyone to see even a few days later (the last post today is from July 8th).

If there is the wealth of boneheaded comments coming from the Obama campaign, write a post. That there have been so few posts, and at least 2 from hilzoy (on Obama re FISA) makes me think there's not the outpouring like we've seen from McCain.

It comes from that faux sense of "objectivity" that infests modern society. Let's be fair. Let's see both sides of the story. Let's be "objective."

It's easier to throw crap at both sides than to sit down and THINK about how bad and how good both sides ACTUALLY area (and it explains why biology really isn't being taught in high schools in a lot of places...)

"Because McCain and Obama are exactly the same."

McCain and Nader and Paul are the same; vote for the true alternative: Obama!

Makes as much or more sense as the other or older formulations.

"I'm not sure what mean by 'falling below the collective radar'."

It means words to the effective of "not crossing their attention span and striking anyone as so important as to be sufficient to move someone to bother to post."

Von is perfectly free to post on all the gaffes the Obama campaign is making (if he sees such), or to write long posts explaining what's great about John McCain. I wish he would, rather than sniping his fellow bloggers with little or no substance in his comments.

Why should we vote for McCain, Von? Don't be shy: speak up for your convictions, why don't you?

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