Posts Tagged ‘John McCain’

Postmodern Politics

September 14, 2008

I’ve been thinking about straight-talking John McCain’s somewhat flexible relationship with “truth.” He (and the Sarracuda) seem to be even more blatantly ignoring reality than the master liars in the Bush administration—they generally seem to give up and at least change their stories when called on sufficiently blatant fibs, and I think even Rove acknowledges the existence of some sort of objective reality. I’m not so sure about McCain. He seems to let reality trouble him not at all. Could it be that for him and his campaign there is no objective reality? That the signification of words is a mere social construct? That “Il n’y a pas hors-texte?”1

Humpty_Dumpty_Tenniel Nah, probably not. Maybe this is better…

I don’t know what you mean by “glory,”‘ Alice said.

Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. ‘Of course you don’t– till I tell you. I meant “there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!”‘

‘But “glory” doesn’t mean “a nice knock-down argument,”‘ Alice objected.

‘When _I_ use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean–neither more nor less.’

‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you CAN make words mean so many different things.’

‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master– that’s all.’


1 “There is nothing outside the text.” Or maybe, “There is no outside-text.” I French isn’t much better than my grasp of deconstruction.


McCain Plays the Martingale

September 8, 2008

There’s really not much point in my writing about John McCain’s compulsive-gambler nature, both with dice and with his campaign. Plenty of others have done that much better than I will. But I’ll do it anyway, so that I can make a strained analogy and then stretch it even thinner. To wit, McCain seems to be using a vaguely martingale-like strategy with his campaign.

Actually, McCain prefers craps For those who are neither gamblers nor mathematicians (who talk about martingales in the context of probability theory), a martingale is a classic betting strategy that has the important property of sounding foolproof, while (like all betting strategies) eventually ruining those who use it. Suppose you’re playing roulette. Bet a dollar on “red.” If you win, you’re up a dollar; repeat as desired. If you lose, bet two dollars on red. If you win that second bet, you’re now up a dollar; if you lose double your bet again. Eventually you’ll win and be up dollar. You can’t lose!

Except of course you do lose. You can only double your bet and lose so many times before you go bankrupt. If you use the strategy repeatedly that will happen.

To make the strained analogy explicit with regard to recent events, McCain decided during the Democratic Convention that he was in trouble. So he gambled on his VP choice—I really do believe that he genuinely liked Sarah Palin and saw her as a kindred spirit and so on, but I also really do believe that he didn’t plan much in advance and did a lousy job with the vetting, and that he had very little rational reason to believe the choice would work out well. And at first it looked like a disaster, especially after the wild rumors and speculation that first weekend, culminating in the Bristol’s-pregnancy announcement.1 So, double down! Embrace Bristol’s Choice of Life! Blame the media! Let the Democrats underestimate Palin and lower expectations! And sure enough it seems to have worked.

I assume that McCain will continue his betting strategy for the rest of the campaign; he’ll certainly have more opportunities for desperate gambling before long. I really really hope he hits his limit before the election, because if he wins he’ll raise his stakes to the welfare of the entire country.

1. Sane reaction to which was expressed most succinctly at The Superficial (highly recommended for both celebrity gossip and bikini pictures):

The 17-year-old daughter of John McCain’s running mate Sarah Palin (a.k.a. Governor MILFalicious) is reportedly five months pregnant. The McCain campaign revealed the news to rebut rampant rumors that Governor Palin’s infant son is actually her grandson and she faked her pregnancy to protect her daughter Bristol. You seriously just read all that, and I’m now 90% positive John McCain’s research involved picking this woman’s name out of of a hat.

In which I pick on John McCain for Sloppy Web Content

September 7, 2008

In a rare and inexplicable moment of responsible citizenship I decided to look a little into what Barack Obama and John McCain had to say about an actual issue or two. Specifically—and I’m at as much of a loss to explain this as you are—I looked at what they, or rather their websites, had to say about reducing greenhouse gas emissions through the magic of Cap-n-Trade. What I learned is that Obama’s standards for web content (and design, and aesthetics) are rather higher than McCain’s.1

Specifically, McCain’s position statements are full of awkward phrasing and funny capitalization. Here are a couple of sample paragraphs:

To Support The Cap And Trade System, John McCain Will Promote The Innovation, Development And Deployment Of Advanced Technologies. John McCain will reform federal government research funding and infrastructure to support the cap and trade emissions reduction goals and emphasize the commercialization of low-carbon technologies. Under John McCain’s plan:

Emissions Permits Will Eventually Be Auctioned To Support The Development Of Advanced Technologies. A portion of the process of these auctions will be used to support a diversified portfolio of research and commercialization challenges, ranging from carbon capture and sequestration, to nuclear power, to battery development. Funds will also be used to provide financial backing for a Green Innovation Financing and Transfer (GIFT) to facilitate commercialization.

OK, I suppose I’m just being snarky, but that really looks like they copy-pasted from a press release (like this one), removed some formatting, and didn’t bother to check the results. On top of that, there’s a typo (maybe a “Cupertino?”): “process” for “proceeds.” I also think that the constant use of “John McCain” sounds stilted (Obama’s equivalent page refers simply to “Obama”). Maybe “stilted and awkward” is on purpose, to reinforce his public speaking style?

Obama also has longer and better-written descriptions of pretty much all the issues. But rather than talk too much about substance, I’ll mention that not only is Obama’s website uniformly more attractive than McCain’s, even the very URLs are more humanely designed than McCain’s. Mouse over this and this (links to the two emissions-reduction pages) to see what I mean.

By the way, the two of them say pretty much the same thing about cap and trade. Obama makes it clearer that he wants permits auctioned off; McCain says only “Emissions Permits Will Eventually Be Auctioned To Support The Development Of Advanced Technologies.” They seem to have different priorities for what to do with the auction receipts, but that’s hard to tell. Since whatever either might actually try to do would really be done in Congress, I see no effective difference between what they say. The real distinction is that, unlike McCain, Obama probably actually knows what his position is.


1. It is probably unwise of me to criticize anyone for sloppiness. “Let one who is without sin cast the first stone” and all.


September 5, 2008

Really, I was planning to watch Sarah Palin’s speech the other night. But I made the mistake of tuning in a bit early, and Linda Lingle put me right to sleep—my stars, what an awful speaker; did they put her on just to make the others look good? I woke up somewhere in the middle of Rudy vowing to annex the Sudetenland or whatever he was ranting about. I couldn’t bear that, so I gave up and went to bed. I’ve seen only snippets; maybe I’ll watch the whole thing eventually. Or not.

Last night the Terror Porn disgusted me so thoroughly—why isn’t that getting more attention? Am I really that sensitive?—that I didn’t even try to watch McCain; although again I’ve seen snippets (including, fortunately, what sounded like the Football Hooligan section drowning out an idiot protester with drunken chants of “U S A! U S A!”) (and hey, it turns out McCain was a POW!).

Which is probably all just as well. Political speeches and speakers in our era pretty much suck1. From what I saw of Palin she’s not a super-great orator (unless you’re comparing her to poor Linda Lingle). She did seem to be enjoying herself, which I suppose is enough. McCain just seems uncomfortable. Oh, there are some who aren’t bad: Huckabee has a certain folksy appeal, for example, not that he ever has anything to say. But even Barack Obama, by far the best of the current lot, leaves me (heresy!) a little cold.

The only political speech I’ve ever heard that genuinely moved me2 was one from before I was even born: JFK’s inaugural, which I happened to hear on the radio one day. Hearing that I was ready to join the Peace Corps. It’s probably just as well it was a Sunday morning.


1. Ack, I sound like an old codger bitching about the world going to hell in a handbasket. Maybe I should be a Republican.

2. Not counting MLK. He was a Prophet, in the truest sense of the word, not a politician.

Sarah Palin Funnies

September 4, 2008

The PalinDrome, Sarah Palin’s blog.

VP l00sers’ IMs.

How McCain really picked Palin.

Vetting Sarah Palin

September 2, 2008

I had planned to leave Sarah Palin alone until she at least made a speech or something, but… holy cow. I’ve got nothing to say about the story itself other than “all my best to Bristol and Levi.”

I had been dismissing most of the lousy-vetting stories—it doesn’t surprise me that McCain’s campaign wouldn’t talk to Palin’s political enemies; “what does a vice president do all day?” is really a pretty reasonable question; and so on—but, OK, I give. No matter how this turns out—and I for one am going to stop even trying to guess what might happen next—McCain and his people didn’t do their jobs.

Meanwhile, McCain continues to prove that he’s as unprincipled as he is incompetent, now by hiring Tucker Eskew, who smeared him in SC in 2000.


August 30, 2008

Sarah Palin I’ve been saying for months (sadly, not in writing) that I thought the Republicans ought to pick Sarah Palin for VP.1 I never thought for a second they’d actually do it.

So here’s my thoughts. As usual, none of them are particularly original:

  • McCain is desperate for attention (the real subtext of that “Celebrity” ad was that McCain was jealous–he thinks he should be the world’s biggest celebrity, not just the oldest). He needed an interesting VP pick, and there weren’t a whole lot of possibilities. McCain and Mitt despise each other, and anyway Mitt owns too many houses (although he can probably count them). McCain might have liked to pick Lieberman, but he would energize both Republicans and Democrats against him. Tim Pawlenty and Tom Ridge are major snoozers.
  •   Miss Wasilla 1984She’s a social conservative, which the base will like; and being a woman she won’t annoy moderates as much as the typical White Male Phallocrat would.
  • Yes, she should appeal greatly to the lunatic Hillaristas. But I don’t know what to make of that. It is beyond my comprehension how anyone could support Hillary but prefer McCain to Obama, no matter how ticked off. Estrogen poisoning? Anyway, the Hillaryites are loud and entertaining, which means their numbers are probably vastly overstated.
  • This really does undercut the “experience” argument. Ordinarily wouldn’t be a big deal: lots of things trump experience. But in this case Experience is McCain’s only quasi-concrete anti-Obama argument.
  • It was There’s an excellent possibility she will compare well to Biden, despite his decades of experience blovating in the Senate. She did after all take on Frank Murkowski and Ted Stevens and win.
  • Shouldn’t “Track” and “Trig” be Romney children?
  • It seems awfully risky to pick someone currently under investigation for a scandal (being under investigation for a scandal is de rigueur for Alaska politicians). Mind you, I think it’s a pretty minor scandal–her state trooper ex-brother-in-law sounds like a real scuzbag who ought to have been fired, if not beaten up.

1 Remember, I’m a Democrat.

The Purpose-Driven Candidates

August 16, 2008

Just watched (more or less) Rick Warren’s forum with Barack Obama and John McCain, and I thought I’d get my impressions down quickly before I’m polluted by pundits.

Though it pains and surprises me to say it, I thought McCain won the evening. He was both genial and decisive, in that folksy way of his. He seemed much more comfortable than Obama, who seemed unsure just how much to pander to Warren’s crowd—McCain had no doubts there. Obama suffered from the curse of the intellectual liberal, wanting to eschew easy and popular but fundamentally silly soundbites, and trying to give reasonably nuanced answers. Alas, the American People do not seem particularly interested in nuance.

And nuance not something with which McCain is noticably burdened. Asked whether they believed in Evil and what they would do about it (multiple choice, something like “understand it, contain it, defeat it”), Obama rambled for a bit, while McCain answered “defeat it” without having to think. Then he said something about going to the gates of hell to capture Osama bin Laden. Seriously. Not a terribly realistic or useful answer, but I fear it’s what people like to hear.

I also remain annoyed with Obama for being against same-sex marriage. Mere political posturing? Don’t know, I think he’s been pretty consistent about it. Interestingly, he and McCain’s stated positions on that tonight were pretty similar—they’re both against it personally, both think it should be left to the states, both oppose a constitutional amendment (with McCain adding a proviso about whether states should have to recognize marriages from other states)—although again I think McCain sounded decisive and Obama waffly.

The pandering question is sort of an interesting one—the setting was obviously evangelical, but I presume this had a much wider audience watching on TV (e.g. me). How did all the God talk go over in America’s living rooms? Probably pretty well, actually.

The One, Continued

August 9, 2008

Re the preceding, I should note that the more prominent self-proclaimed Millennium Experts—the likes of Left Behind‘s Timothy LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, and old favorite Hal Lindsey of Late Great Planet Earth fame—pooh-pooh the notion of Obama as Antichrist. Obviously he is merely a precursor! As far as I can tell that’s because the antichrist won’t be an American. It’s perfectly clear from Daniel 7:24

And the ten horns out of this kingdom are ten kings that shall arise: and another shall rise after them; and he shall be diverse from the first, and he shall subdue three kings.

—that the antichrist will be the leader of the Revived Roman Empire, embodied in the ten-nation Common Market—erm, excuse me, Western European Union.

Jeez, you can’t make this stuff up. I should be clear that I really do think there’s a large and scary market for Rapture-related propaganda, I just don’t think McCain’s ad guys meant to tap into it. Or rather, I think it’s more likely that anything antichristy is there by accident.

Scott McLemee does make an excellent point, assuming (as he does) that the AC thing was on purpose:

On second thought, this might not help the campaign very much. If you are waiting for the Rapture, it’s not like preventing the rise of the beast with seven horns and ten crowns etc. is a huge priority. (You sort of want to get it all over with, ASAP.)

The RNC panders to these folks, but it doesn’t actually consist of them. The ad’s makers know their audience but not quite well enough to grasp how it really thinks.

Absolutely right (about what the Rapturites want, I mean, but also about the Republican elite pandering to them without totally grokking them). That’s why, for example, John Hagee is so pro-Israel—he wants the Israelis to get on with rebuilding the temple already, so that we can go ahead with the end of the world (or rather, with the end of the current Dispensation).

One more point. If I may psychoanalyze McCain and his campaign for a moment—and I may, because it’s my blog!—what “The One” and “Celebrity” are really about is McCain’s pique and jealousy. He thinks he’s The One, dammit, and he should be the world’s biggest (not just oldest) celebrity. He doesn’t understand why so many of his journalist pals have dumped him for Obama—they should still be fawning over him and talking about what a straight-talking maverick he is. Gosh, it’s kind of sad when you think about it like that… [Not an original thought with me, but I forget where I saw something similar.]

The One

August 9, 2008

I’m loving the brouhaha about whether John McCain’s ad “The One” (best watched at his website) is in fact a coded message to America’s Dispensationalists that Barack Obama is the Antichrist. I think it’s hooey, but entertaining hooey.

Before I go into details, let me maintain my loony-left moonbat cred by saying that I absolutely think the McCain campaign is fully capable of suggesting that Obama is the Beast. Weird coded messages are nothing new to politics, certainly not to modern Republicans—remember W’s apparent non-sequitur about Dred Scott? And certainly McCain and his sinister minions have shown themselves to be no more impaired by Honor and Truth than were Bush and Rove (fortunately, they seem to be considerably less competent). I just don’t think that’s what’s happening here. I wonder if they now wish they had thought of it themselves, so they could have done a better job. But I don’t think they’re that good; the ad looks to me just like what they say it is.

Now to business. Something called “The Eleison Group” has a handy memo detailing the ad’s alleged antichristiness. The gist is that the ad’s imagery and text are so similar to those of the Left Behind books—featuring, of course, an antichrist politician—that the ad must be meant to refer to the books:

Viewers will notice how similar these very odd pictures that appear in the middle of the McCain ad are to the cover art and fonts of the Left Behind series, especially to the image, font, and colors of the final book in the series that would be most recent in reader’s memories.  The hidden images in the clouds and sun in the ad, which took a great deal of editing and are so strange that they had to be intentionally chosen and placed there by the McCain camp for their symbolic value, are of screaming, frantic crowds.

Mere coincidence? They think not!

I’ll be super-nerdy and start with the fonts (see the cover of the last Left Behind book here, and the ad at the link above). Yes, they look kinda similar. But then, all serif fonts look pretty much the same to most people. These do have one obvious superficial similarity—the serifless top vertices on the Ns and Ms—and they were both designed the same year (1989), but that’s about it.

The book jacket looks to me like it uses ITC Giovanni, designed by Robert Slimbach, who (quoting that description from Adobe) “based his design on classic oldstyle typefaces such as Garamond and Bembo.”

The ad uses Trajan, based not on oldstyle fonts but on Roman inscriptions. The differences are especially pronounced (I think) in the construction of the serifs, and in the spur and the  on the G, but lots of the proportions are pretty different too. Check ’em out (that’s the book title on the left, Trajan on the right):

lb-giovanni-sample lb-trajan-sample

OK, maybe they look the same to you, but they don’t to a proper type geek, and any proper conspiracy theory is going to have to assume McCain’s ad guys know their type. Perhaps more to the point is that Trajan is used a lot—it’s probably the typeface a designer would be most likely to use for a political ad if s/he just couldn’t be bothered to think about it. Using Trajan needs no explanation. Actually, if you want to connect it to the Left Behind books, you’d have to explain why they didn’t just use ITC Giovanni.

So that’s a bit of a digression, but I think it applies to the imagery as well. I just don’t see anything particularly odd in those “hidden images” that “took a great deal of editing.” They just don’t look that odd to me.


Again, if the McCain camp was really trying for some heavenly image here or allusion to God shining his light on Obama or to Obama shining his own light on the people, they would have used a different image. The classic and obvious image most viewers would recognize as divine would be of the white beam of light shining down from heaven (e.g., Monty Python or Simpsons spoofs). But this is an odd orange light surrounded by darkness. So why would they not go with the classic divine light imagery?

…and another has a stair leading to heaven.

Hm, a stairway… to heaven… Nope, no non-rapture-related cultural resonance there: that imagery could only have come from Left Behind! Seriously, I don’t think that picture (and the rest) are outside the mainstream of Messiah imagery. McCain and the Left Behind designers were drawing from the same image pool.

One more. Quoting from Amy Sullivan in Time:

Perhaps the most puzzling scene in the ad is an altered segment from The 10 Commandments that appears near the end. A Moses-playing Charlton Heston parts the animated waters of the Red Sea, out of which rises the quasi-presidential seal the Obama campaign used for a brief time earlier this summer before being mocked into retiring it. The seal, which features an eagle with wings spread, is not recognizable like the campaign’s red-white-and-blue “O” logo. That confused Democratic consultant Eric Sapp until he went to his Bible and remembered that in the apocalyptic Book of Daniel, the Antichrist is described as rising from the sea as a creature with wings like an eagle.

That idiot seal was one of the Obama campaign’s silliest goofs, and the McCainiacs would certainly want to take every opportunity to remind us of it. I don’t know how many people will get the joke—I did—but even if they don’t, it does say “Obama” right on it, so it works in context anyway.

UPDATE: Had I looked even cursorily at McCain’s website I would have noticed that he (or his lackeys) use Trajan in lots of places. Definitely not Left Behind-specific.

UPDATE 2: Read the comments for more incoherently evolving thoughts.