Plots and Thoughts

The Politico has a Crush on Thune

Posted in Analysis, Observations by Captain Optimistic on January 13, 2010

Awwwww.  Johnathan Martin thinks Thune is ever so dashing.  He’s written the sort of soft-journalistic intro piece one often sees gently ushering conservative hopefuls onto the national stage.  Remember the reader’s digest article that praised George W. Bush as a bipartisan guys-guy who got stuff done?

John Thune is presented as someone Democrats and Republicans can agree upon:

“At a time when we’re burning taxpayer money like coal in a 19th-century steam engine, Thune’s message of focused fiscal restraint, coupled with aggressive small-business incentives to drive growth, will resonate extremely well with the GOP base and independents as well as Democrats,” said Jeff Kimbell, a Republican lobbyist and Thune enthusiast.

Wow, he sounds great!

But McKinnon sees a third possibility: “He could be the 2012 federal version of Bob McDonnell,” said the GOP adman of the Virginia governor-elect. “He’s unquestionably conservative but not in an ideological way — more in a Midwestern, rural, country, small-town way. So he’s acceptable to all factions.”

Not in an idealogical way huh?  Check out this interview with Christianity Today:

Having a Christian worldview shapes my decision-making with respect to all aspects of my life. I always respect people in public life who are principled, and those principles have to be connected to something. And my faith is what serves as the anchor and directs my actions.

Ladies and gentleman we have ourselves another theocrat being groomed as mainstream.  He’ll be a reliable force for anti-gay, anti-women values.  You know, family values.

As the Politico article briefly mentions:

Though he doesn’t promote it, and it wasn’t listed on his 2004 campaign website, Thune is a graduate of a California Bible college. And on cultural issues such as gay marriage and abortion, he’s pure to the party base.

It also mentions that the the former lobbyist … is liked by lobbyists:

Though he doesn’t have the infrastructure of Romney or even Pawlenty, Thune has many fans among operatives and lobbyists, and he’s surrounded by savvy strategists, including the well-regarded Brasell and longtime GOP adman Scott Howell.

Great.  A slick “Republican Obama – minus the brains” lobbyist theocrat.  He’s already getting promotional press.  He should do well in a crowded GOP field.  2012 is looking ever more interesting.

Obama’s Nobel Prize

Posted in Observations by Captain Optimistic on December 10, 2009

Despite his speech, I feel the prize was inappropriate, to say the least.

Linda Feldman leads off the media reaction with a misleadingly headlined story: Left and Right, Pundits Applaud Obama Nobel Peace Prize Speech.  From her own article:

Progressives upset by Obama’s decision to escalate US involvement in Afghanistan may not have given the president the A grades that some conservatives and others offered. But at the, a reliable gauge of liberal thought, the reaction was not wholly negative — a sign, perhaps, that Obama still enjoys a reserve of goodwill among his base.

In what crazy world does “not wholly negative” equal “applause”?

It seems like conservatives like his acknowledgement of evil and the utility of killing people.  Liberals like that he sees the goal of not killing people as desirable.  Golly, sounds like he hit a home run.

Stories the Politico Just Made Up

Posted in Analysis, Observations by Captain Optimistic on December 2, 2009

John F. Harris @ the Politico writes:

Presidential politics is about storytelling.

And so, apparently, is journalism.  John the concern troll continues:

But they all are serious threats to Obama, if they gain enough currency to become the dominant frame through which people interpret the president’s actions and motives.

Here are seven storylines Obama needs to worry about:

Let’s explore these one by one:

He thinks he’s playing with Monopoly money

Oppose or support the stimulus, it is beyond ridiculous to suppose that Obama doesn’t understand the amount of money at play or the gravity of the situation.

Too much Leonard Nimoy

Might Johnny have something here?

Obama, a legislator and law professor, is fluent in describing the nuances of problems. But his intellectuality has contributed to a growing critique that decisions are detached from rock-bottom principles.

His intellectuality isn’t the problem for anyone but Sarah Palin fans.  There is a concern his decisions are detached from the rock-solid principles he espoused during his campaign though.  But that makes him less a spock and more a run of the mill politician.  Aka totally an agent of change we can believe in.  Really.  4 Serious.

Both Maureen Dowd in The New York Times and Joel Achenbach of The Washington Post have likened him to Star Trek’s Mr. Spock.

Right and we should take them seriously?

That’s the Chicago Way

This is a storyline that’s likely taken root more firmly in Washington than around the country. The rap is that his West Wing is dominated by brass-knuckled pols.

Heh.  Well this sounds true.  Also?  Fine by me.

He’s a pushover

If you are going to be known as a fighter, you might as well reap the benefits. But some of the same insider circles that are starting to view Obama as a bully are also starting to whisper that he’s a patsy.

It seems a bit contradictory, to be sure.

Only when applied to his entire administration.  When viewed issue by issue, position by position – it becomes clear.  Brass knuckles on some issues, patsy on others.  Patsy on single payer health care.  Brass knuckles on pre-existing conditions.  What this actually indicates is that his administration doesn’t place the same value on all issues and positions.  Which is fine, except that elected Obama’s values differ from campaigning Obama’s values.  What may seem like weakness might instead by willful disregard.

He sees America as another pleasant country on the U.N. roll call, somewhere between Albania andZimbabwe

That line belonged to George H.W. Bush, excoriating Democrat Michael Dukakis in 1988. But it highlights a continuing reality: In presidential politics the safe ground has always been to be an American exceptionalist.

Bull.  There are plenty of Americans who do not conflate working towards respect of international law (not that Obama is doing this fully) with giving up our sovereignty.  It also doesn’t reflect Obama.  What it does reflect is Fox-News fueled anxiety about Obama giving speeches in countries where there are too many Muslims in the audience for the liking of reactionary and racist Americans.

Politicians of both parties have embraced the idea that this country — because of its power and/or the hand of Providence — should be a singular force in the world.

The hand of Providence?  Way to slip some theocratic goodness in there John.

President Pelosi

The great hazard for Obama is if Republicans or journalists conclude — as some already have — that Pelosi’s achievements are more impressive than Obama’s or come at his expense.

Johnny might be onto something here, only in that we expect far more of Obama than he’s delivered.

He’s in love with the man in the mirror

No one becomes president without a fair share of what the French call amour propre. Does Obama have more than his share of self-regard?

Who the hell cares?  When did the Politico turn into People magazine or Slate?  We don’t need witty little insight’s into Obama’s quirks.  What we could really use is investigative journalism.  Uncovering secret negotiations over intellectual property and internet censorship.  Tackling similarities in legal arguments between the Bush and Obama administrations.  Explorations of the impact of the decisions Obama has made, such as finally gutting the global gag rule.  Failing that, let’s at least have journalism.  Address serious political points.  Avoid cutesy little articles masquerading as rhetorical advice.

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Evolution, Religion and Bullshit

Posted in Analysis, Observations, Strategy by Captain Optimistic on November 19, 2009

Gather round for a lesson in poor reporting.  The NYTimes has an article on the relationship between evolution and religion, and wow do they make a zinger of a mistake (I’ve gone ahead and highlighted the stupid for your convenience):

This and other research is pointing to a new perspective on religion, one that seeks to explain why religious behavior has occurred in societies at every stage of development and in every region of the world. Religion has the hallmarks of an evolved behavior, meaning that it exists because it was favored by natural selection. It is universal because it was wired into our neural circuitry before the ancestral human population dispersed from its African homeland.

For atheists, it is not a particularly welcome thought that religion evolved because it conferred essential benefits on early human societies and their successors. If religion is a lifebelt, it is hard to portray it as useless.

Let’s look at the fallacies:

  • Failure to consider co-evolved vs evolved traits
  • Failure to consider vestigial traits

If the traits necessary to support religion did evolve for a purpose, what proof do we have that purpose still persists to this day?  Or that those traits are the best solution?

It is easier to see from hunter-gatherer societies how religion may have conferred compelling advantages in the struggle for survival. Their rituals emphasize not theology but intense communal dancing that may last through the night. The sustained rhythmic movement induces strong feelings of exaltation and emotional commitment to the group. Rituals also resolve quarrels and patch up the social fabric.

What effects do rituals have today?  How does this kind of tribalism and tendency to follow the leader play out in today’s global society?  Looking at religion through the lens of an evolved trait lends it an additional appearance of usefulness and legitimacy.

All this allows that the traits which support religion evolved directly, and didn’t co-evolve with other directly beneficial evolutionary traits.  Following the logic present in Nicholas Wade’s article, one might consider anything from red hair to armed conflict to be “evolved”.  They too have “occurred in societies at every stage of development”.

This article is one in a long line of “gee golly” articles meant to lend religion the legitimacy of science.  They let faith put on a labcoat and call itself doctor.

Could the evolutionary perspective on religion become the basis for some kind of detente between religion and science? Biologists and many atheists have a lot of respect for evolution and its workings, and if they regarded religious behavior as an evolved instinct they might see religion more favorably, or at least recognize its constructive roles

Religion can be viewed, and judged, within the context of its impact on society today and historically.  The addition of pseudo-scientific hypothesis about religion as an evolved trait will not clarify the debate over the role of religion in society.  It can only muddy the water.  And at some point we must question why so many of religion’s proponents feel the need to dip into trickery and dishonesty to prop up their cosmology. And we must re-evaluate our own responses keeping that tendency in mind.  Especially when responding to apologists who hide under a guise of science.


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What Would Happen if Fox Fired Glenn Beck?

Posted in Analysis, Observations by Captain Optimistic on November 18, 2009

As Glenn Beck gets crazier and crazier, I found myself asking this question.  Just look at his latest bit of extra-crispy sanity at play.  David Neiwert has a point:

There’s a reason the ADL officially dubbed Beck our national “Fearmonger in Chief” this week. And there’s a reason militias are springing up like mushrooms everywhere.

And the reason is that Glenn Beck has a national TV network show on which he is not only permitted but encouraged to promote complete wingnuttery whose sole purpose is to make Americans fearful, paranoid and angry.

I don’t see Glenn getting any milder as 2012 draws closer.  So what if at some point Fox News responds to the pressure and decides he is enough of a liability to fire him?  Or what if, in the more likely scenerio, Fox realizes what a coup it would be to fire Glenn Beck?

Fox is, at this point, utterly committed to fostering fear and hatred of the current government.  Firing Glenn Beck would allow them and Beck to play the victim (of the liberal elites), drive viewers and listeners for Glenn’s radio program and Fox’s news shows as everyone capitalizes on the self-referential publicity.  It would also position Beck to become even more of a voice for those who feel alienated and targeted in the utter absence of evidence since they would now have an event – “Liberals Censor Our Beck!!!” – to unite around.  Meanwhile Fox could use the firing to simultaneously seek to appear more responsible while, in their commentary, directly appealing to Beck’s audience by painting the decision as regrettable and forced.

At the moment it looks like Glenn Beck could directly incite a riot and Fox wouldn’t bat an eye.  But in the event they respond as CNN recently did with regards to Lou Dobbs, it will be important to maintain an awareness of their motivation and the actual impact of the decision.


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