The tributaries of the mainstream

Break out the linguistic life jackets, folks. We’re about to be inundated with the overuse and abuse of the word mainstream with regard to President Obama’s nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court.

Politics is at its heart a battle for control of language and symbols. Now that the president has nominated Judge Sotomayor, [insert name of political party or faction here] will seek to [support | undercut] that nominee through [messaging | framing | “truth”]. Ideological control of mainstream, a word signifying ownership of the core values of a majority of Americans, is at stake.
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Worst Week: Gonna be a big one for John McCain

This could be a Very Bad Week for Sen. John McCain.

Last week, McCain attempted a stunt for the ages, announcing that he was “suspending his campaign” so that he could rush back to Washington, where he was apparently desperately needed in order to pull together an economic bailout package. He called on Sen. Barack Obama to stop stomping the shizzle out of him on the campaign trail join him in pursuing a non-partisan solution that would ease the suffering of his cronies on Wall Street the American people.

Needless to say, the plan fizzled, and for a variety of reasons.

Meet Satan's towel boy, Ralph Nader, and other famous rabblerousers in a call for open debates

He’s the man who caused Sep. 11, war in the Gulf, a million Iraqi deaths and probably mad cow disease too, as you’ve no doubt heard from disgruntled Democrats. Of course I’m talking about Evil Incarnate, consumer advocate and political gadfly Ralph Nader.

As evidenced by the comments to my piece on him way back when, he’s still roundly feared and loathed by countless Dems for supposedly helping George W. Bush, no matter how indirectly, steal the 2000 election from Al Gore and allowing everything that followed to pass. Well, he’s running for president again, and his anti-bigwig rhetoric has grown more pointed and caustic, just as the general lefty revulsion for him and his supporters has. Continue reading

Nader reaction defines difference between Obama, Clinton

Here’s an illustrative difference between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. These were their reactions to Ralph Nader’s announcement of another quixotic—though potentially impacting—run for the White House:

Obama: “I think the job of the Democratic Party is to be so compelling that a few percentage [points] of the vote going to another candidate is not going to make any difference.”

Clinton: “Obviously it’s not helpful to whoever our Democratic nominee is, but it’s a free country. …I don’t know what party he’ll run on. Where did he run on last time? Does anybody remember? … Was it on the Green Party? Well, you know, his being on the Green Party prevented Al Gore from being the greenest president we could have had, and I think that’s really unfortunate. I think we paid a big price for it. … This time I hope it doesn’t hurt anyone.”

Guess which one gets it?

S&R Independent/3rd party straw poll results

We’ve completed our latest S&R election reader poll, and here are the results.

1: Sam “Dr. Slammy” Smith, Independent (14)
2: Cynthia McKinney, Green (10)
– Ralph Nader, Independent (10)
4: Cris Ericson, Marijuana (3)
– Gloria LaRiva, Peace & Freedom (3)
– Other independent or 3rd party candidate (3)
7: George Phillies, Libertarian (2)
8: Brian Moore, Socialist USA (1)
– Wayne Allyn Root, Libertarian (1)

Candidates receiving zero votes:

Gene Amondson, Prohibition
Orion Karl Daley, Balanced
Charles Jay, Personal Choice

Our new poll, up now in the column to the right, asks S&R readers to identify what they see as the most important issue of the 2008 presidential election cycle.

All I want for Christmas is for Democrats to stop making Ron Paul look good

Hey, what’s that in our stocking? It’s Ron Paul! Oh joy – we got The Truth® for Christmas!

Ahem. So those of you who thought Ron Paul was going to go away once the big boys got serious have probably been surprised by his staying power so far. He’s polling in the high single digits (something Ronald Reagan Fred Thompson can’t say) and one pollster thinks his actual numbers are in the double digits. He says he’s raised $19M this quarter. His supporters are insane courageously enthusiastic, and he seems to be showing strength among some groups that you wouldn’t expect – progressives, younger voters, etc.

And of course, he’s left the rest of the pack for dead in the highly scientific S&R reader poll, where at the moment of this writing he has over twice as many votes as the rest of the GOP candidates put together (unless you count “other”).

Election watchers in both parties are trying to better understand Paul’s appeal and what it means for their candidates’ chances. Continue reading

The future (of science fiction writing) ain’t what it used to be

By Martin Bosworth

Over the weekend there was an interesting flap in literary circles–the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA) went insane with copyright infringement notices against Scribd.com, an online document-hosting service, for hosting content that SFWA vice-president Andrew Burt insisted was violating the rights of the authors. Unfortunately, as is often the case in these blunderbuss copyright-takedown attacks, a lot of completely legitimate work got taken down under threat of violating the Digital Millenium Copyright Act–including the works of Cory Doctorow, who openly supports free downloading of his work. You can read Cory’s angry response here.

Science-fiction author Jerry Pournelle fired back at Doctorow in a series of responses that basically boiled down to “You’re taking food out of my baby mamma’s my mouth!” The SFWA has agreed to stop its e-piracy campaign and review the list of works posted on Scribd in light of the complaints from Doctorow and other authors who were inadvertently harmed by the move.

There are two things I want to address about this. Continue reading

How should we evaluate the job performance of Congress?

Most people who work usually get “evaluated” by a boss of some sort. Sometimes it’s formal (with official rubrics and goals and outcomes and such) and sometimes it’s informal (“Just keep doin’ what you’re doin’ and show up to work on time.”).

A good (and presumably fair) evaluation means, you hope, that you get that raise and you keep that job or you get promoted. But suppose you had a job in which the most common means of evaluation don’t seem to have much to do with assessing the job you were hired to do?

We elect 535 members of Congress (representatives every two years and senators every six years). But do we vote to keep them in their jobs based on a sensible, formal evaluation of what we hired them to do?
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Rudy Giuliani: Everything you hate about Bush, and worse

giuliani.jpg“I’m pro-choice, I’m pro-gay rights,” Giuliani said.By Martin Bosworth

CNN.com Inside Politics, May 2, 1999.

Giuliani has described himself as a backer of civil unions and is frequently described that way in news reports. But he began distancing himself from civil unions in late April, when his campaign told The New York Sun that New Hampshire’s new law goes too far because it is “the equivalent of marriage,” which he has always opposed for gays.
Boston Globe, August 13, 2007.

Rudy Giuliani is definitely the “Teflon Don” of the current presidential campaign, in that even as more and more evidence surfaces about how deeply right-wing his politics actually are–or worse, that he’s pandering to gain traction with the GOP base–I still run across a baffling number of people who insist that they’d vote for him because of his socially liberal positions, or because he “cut taxes and stopped crime in NYC,” or because he looked authoritative and in command on 9/11. Continue reading

Reframing the Republican lie about wealth in America

In America, the Republicans are seen as the party of money and wealth. This perception is certainly accurate in one sense – the GOP is the favored party of the wealthy elite. Unfortunately, the party is also supported in large numbers by those who have no wealth, and thanks to the policies of the Republican party, no hope of ever attaining any. But they continue to support the party for reasons that seem irrational to us. Why?

In a nutshell, I want to argue here that they do so because the GOP has, through a long-term and exceptionally effective messaging campaign, drawn around itself the ideology of hope. Forgive a brief over-generalization, but they’re the party that preaches wealth and that tells people they can join the club (never mind that the message is a lie, given our current economic policy structure). In the popular frame, the Republicans are often seen as being about getting and having money while the Democrats are about taking your hard-earned money and giving it to people who didn’t earn it. Continue reading

Scooter, voting, and fairness in Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri

LOTO fishing timesBy Robert Silvey

Because I like to think well of my countrymen, I prefer to believe that George Bush got into the White House by fooling them about his real intentions. If only they had known, if only they had understood a little more about his competence and his worldview and his intended policies, they would never have given him enough votes to slide by in 2000, and certainly not enough votes to win outright in 2004.

But many Americans didn’t know. Three years ago, when I was canvassing for John Kerry in the conservative western suburbs of St Louis, one angry woman stood on the steps of her mobile home and told me that she was voting for Bush because Teresa Kerry planned to force all states to make gay marriage legal. She knew it was true because she had read it in four different places on the internets, and Teresa had enough money that she would have been able to get if off the internets if it weren’t true. We did not have a productive conversation. Despite my best efforts, in that trailer park and elsewhere, Bush won the 11 electoral votes of Missouri.

But times change. Since 2004, the drip, drip, drip of information has opened many an eye to the administration’s mendacity and incompetence, and a few big-picture events have broken through the media camouflage protecting Bush. The abandonment of New Orleans, increasing chaos in Iraq, and now the unfair release of a criminal from prison because he is the president’s friend—each of these stories has awakened a few more oblivious voters from their slumber, and if Bush were running for office today, he would not find enough friends in Missouri to host a barbecue at any trailer park in the state. Continue reading

July 4, 2011: What will be different? Nothing.

On July 4, 2011, the United States will be led by President X of Party A or Party B. What will be different on that day?

Probably not much. American troops are likely to still be in Iraq. Nearly one out of every six Americans will still be without health insurance. Attempts at immigration reform (whatever that means) will still have been eroded by more objections by many more interests with particular beefs. No coherent, consistent, effective American policy that begins to undo climate change will exist. American school children will continue to lag far behind other nations in math and science — and still have decreasing abilities as critical thinkers. Spending by lobbyists to influence federal regulators and members of Congress will be on its way to passing $3 billion for 2011.

What will be different? Very little.
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Thoughts on Schaller’s two-humped moderate political beast

Tom Schaller has a fascinating take today on the evolution of the political center. To use his analogy, it’s evolved from a one-humped camel to a two-humped dromedary, statistically speaking.

The one thing media talking heads agree upon is that the center prevails. Turn on almost any of the nation’s political talk shows and pretty soon somebody will say how crucial it is for politicians to appeal to registered independents and self-described moderate voters. Continue reading