Bourgeois Deviant

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Clinton is the new Humphrey

Hillary Clinton was 20 years old in 1968 when the Democratic National Convention took place in Chicago Illinois. Barring amnesia or dementia, she should have some distinct, clear memories of the scar that event left on the American political psyche. I have no idea where she physically was at the time. My guess is that she was attending university and, as most young people were then, intensely aware of current events and the stark choices at hand.

For those whose history is a bit fuzzy, the Democratic Party was to nominate its candidate for the Presidency that would run against the Republican’s nominee, Richard Nixon, and determine how the United States would conduct itself in the Vietnam War. The Democrats’ options were Lyndon Johnson's Vice President, Hubert Humphrey, and Eugene McCarthy. Mr. Humphrey did not participate in any primaries but controlled enough delegates to secure the nomination. The popular vote, however, belonged to McCarthy. From what I glean in speaking with the boomer generation, he was the anti-war candidate and the young person's favorite for those inclined to vote for a Democrat.

Vice President Humphrey sought to continue President Johnson's policies regarding the war. Mr. McCarthy campaigned for immediate withdrawal from Vietnam. History tells us that relations between the two sides of the argument were not rosy. Humphrey, through despotic maneuvering, got the nomination. Rioting followed that got very ugly. Moreover, it fractured and more or less ruined the Democratic Party for years to follow. If the nomination had gone the other way, no one can say for sure what would have happened or where we would be today. What is certain is that Communism in Asia was a red herring that cost too much American blood and treasure.

The cyclical nature of history is awesome. Once again, our nation is involved in an unpopular war abroad and a majority of Americans want to withdraw our forces from the Iraqi theatre. Once again, we have two Democratic candidates who are on either side of this issue. While Hillary Clinton, unlike Humphrey, is running a competitive primary campaign to win the Party's nomination, it is very much like 1968 in that as of this writing, she has, arguably, enough super delegates to take the nomination despite not controlling a majority of elected delegates. She falls well short of an appreciable majority in the popular vote as well. May history write that when you’ve said “Wisconsin, you’ve said it all.”

Barack Obama probably has more momentum than Eugene McCarthy did in '68. We can certainly hope so. Polls and general observation suggest that he is the young people's candidate for change and ending the war. The Clintons embody the Boomer generation’s last, definitive grasp on power. While the contest is far from over, the political weather vein is suggesting that Hillary’s campaign is gradually spiraling into failure. Still, there is a lingering fear that she may attempt to clinch the party’s nomination through the use of super delegates. It would be her first step on an imperiously laden road to hell paved with “good” intentions.

It is surely a common human quality to, once invested in something, be reluctant to let it go. This is certainly the case when a presidential candidate such as Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. Call it the fog of war or not seeing the forest through the trees. The bigger picture here is that the Clinton campaign sits on the cusp of both history and hubris. From here to the Convention will show which she will follow more truly.

What is clear is that if Hillary attempts to grab the nomination without the support of the popular vote, there will almost certainly be riots again. Obama is clearly the youth candidate and that is the future of the Democratic Party. Be Obama the right or wrong choice, Hillary Clinton must abide by that choice or whatever ill comes down the road for the Democrats rests completely and solely on her shoulders. Until the Convention, progressives can only hope for a well situated, nearly altruistic moment of clarity for Senator Clinton or a total avalanche victory for Obama in the upcoming primary contests. Fingers crossed.

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Friday, February 15, 2008

Office humor

Office humor in a financial institution. Asked to provide summary points on this.
Theory of Gambling & Statistical Logic
Epstein, Richard A. 1977

“Gambling being one of the few constants of the human condition…”
Here, the author subtly equates gambling and all of its related areas (i.e. money, profit, commodities, loss, etc…) to prostitution.

  • Step 1. Get money or like valued commodity.
  • Step2. Crack nut on colloquial system of probability based games of chance.
  • Step 3. With cracked nut, enter aforementioned arena and crush all competitors with mathematical precision.
  • Step 4. Evaluate lessons derived from success and seek out comparable arenas/markets.
  • Step 5. Compile debt as currency and use said capital to found small island empire where prostitution of any sort is legal because Richard Epstein said so.
  • Other themes:
    • Words
    • Numbers
    • Stuff[i]: As relates to things Epstein alludes to which, as sub-textual Freudian analysis will reveal, all center around his mother and feelings of inadequacy. Inadequacy leads to mastery of numbers and delusional notions of grandeur fostering aspirations of empire and despotic rule.

[i] Inferences made while hallucinating on overdose of Novocain. Given assurances of Novocain’s lack of psychotropic qualities, figured it was “for real” and warranted mention given potential merit to understanding of author’s work.

All apologies for this sophomoric attempt at humor at Mr. Epstein’s expense which, I am sure is a subject of significant value to you who are, indirectly but chiefly responsible for my continued employment.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

That's Entertainment

h/t QueerVisalia, Happy Darwin Day, C&L.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Over the weekend 2

Electric hoobajoob.

Well, not really.

Catching the train back from having beers my betrothed buddy, I found the train car unusually full for the late hour. All the same, I found a three seater to myself and settled in for the ride. Just as the conductor gave the last call for all aboard, a middle aged fellow stumbles in and pops down in the aisle seat after politely asking and me granting permission for him to take the seat. He appeared exhausted and a little disheveled. He didn't smell of alcohol (but I might have), so I wasn't too bothered one way or the other.

The guy opens his canvas briefcase and pulls out a bunch of news papers. He rifles through a couple of the local rags. I don't pay much attention. A New Yorker article is holding my interest and almost keeping me awake and then I notice that my fellow traveler is reading the Washington Post. Its not that someone reading the Post in and of itself is strange. Seeing the paper on the NJT is like seeing a Clinton poster at an Obama rally.

Being post beer buzz but still relaxed, I had to ask why he was reading the Post. He replied that he was a newspaper guy. Brevity being the soul of wit, I'll just try and re-create the dialogue.

Traveler: I'm a newspaper guy.
BD: Oh yeah? What rag?
News Paper Guy (NPG): The Times.
BD: The New York Times?
NPG: Yeah.
BD: What do you do?
NPG: I'm an editor for the sports section.
BD: Really? Nice! Good section. Never short of material.
NPG: Right.
NPG: What news paper do you read.
BD: I read the Times. Online mostly. Love it.
NPG: Oh good! Sports?
BD: Not so much. Though, when I do feel the need to know, the Times sorts me out.
NPG: Well, good. I guess. [half giggle]
BD: Not to offend, but in the spirit of constructive criticism... I have a friend of the family who is a big Browns and Indians fan. When she visits us, she insists on getting USA Today. Says your section stinks.
NPG: Well, you can't please everyone. [beat] And its the Browns and Indians. C'mon!
BD: Right? [forced giggle]
NPG: Uh, pardon me, but I kinda have to read the paper now.
BD: No problem. No problem at all. You're nice to talk to me. Enjoy.

-about five minutes pass-

NPG: Say, what did you think of our endorsements?
BD: Uh, not surprising? I didn't really agree with them, but they weren't offensive either.
NPG: Just curious.
BD: Sure.
BD: Did you agree with them? Hillary and McCain?
NPG: No. No. There was a lot of back and forth before the endorsement came out. I mean, it makes sense since she's our state senator and all. But, if you were to take a vote of all the staff for the paper, I think Obama would win. Hands down.
BD: Really! So, it sounds like it was sort of a top down kind of decision?
NPG: Yeah. You could say that. People support her, but the guys at the top made a political decision. It was theirs to make, I guess.
BD: So, a lot of people don't agree with Krugman?
NPG: Not really. I wouldn't say he's popular in the office right now.
BD: Sure.
NPG: And McCain... I rode in an elevator with him a few months back. The guy just looks old. Old! And, you know, he can't raise his arms past here [raises left elbow approximately 90 degrees from his hip]
BD: Really? I've noticed his arms seem kind of, well, restricted.
NPG: Yeah. I know he looks different on TV, but in person... Wow.
BD: So, is it the kind of thing that we might see a picture in the paper one day like the one taken of Dole when he fell?
NPG: [nodding] I wouldn't be surprised.
BD: Neither would I. I guess. But at least he pisses the majority of the Republican establishment off. That, at least, will keep the race interesting.
NPG: [nodding] Yeah. We can hope.
NPG: Gonna read. [motions to paper]
BD: No problem.

-another two minutes pass-

Train Conductor over the loudspeaker: Now arriving at Bay Street. Bay Street. This is Bay Street. Bay Street.

- train begins to move-

BD: Next stop's mine.
NPG: Yeah? You live in College Suburbville?
BD: Not quite. Suburbia. So practically.
NPG: Right. How long?
BD: Just moved over from Brooklyn in September. How long have you been doing this commute?
NPG: A while. We have twin ten-year-old girls. Moved from the City for them.
BD: Wow! I bet you've got your hands full. Identical?
NPG: Yeah. But they're good kids. Fraternal. Really smart, but in very different ways. One's organized and methodical. The other's sort of scattered but picks stuff up really quickly. They balance each other out. How 'bout you?
BD: Just one. For now. Maybe. 18 months old. A handfull. We kinda moved out here for him too. Now he's running all over creation, making as much noise as possible. Trying to talk.

Train Conductor over the loudspeaker: Now arriving at Walnut Street. Walnut Street. This is Walnut Street. Walnut Street.

BD: Ok. Have a good night. Good luck with everything.
NPG: Yeah. Thanks. You too.
BD: Thanks. And thanks for talking to me. I know how busy you guys are, so that was nice of you. Have a good night. See you around. Maybe.
NPG: Yeah. See you around.


Moral of the story: Don't proffer constructive criticism to anyone after you've been drinking.

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Monday, February 11, 2008

Over the weekend

The weekend wasn't too eventful, although I had some illuminating conversations. The first was with a friend in Manhattan. We meet up every few weeks for drinks and discussion of what's happening with us and the world. The chat was of its usual excellent, disparate caliber, but one thing came up that stuck with me for the rest of the weekend into today. Oddly enough, it was a minuscule footnote of the discussion and not very substantive to the topic at hand. It was more a matter of semantics briefly noted.

Really nothing profound, it boils down to making a word plural. The word in question is "god." And this originates from a fairly benign and almost silly source. Battlestar Galactica is the Deviant's favorite show at present. We only just started watching it last year and we've been catching up on Netflix. We are about to begin season 2.5 having originally started with, we think, season 4. So, we've some serious gaps. They will be filled all in good time. And time well spent, I might add.

So, what my good friend and I were discussing is one of the central conflicts of the series; (no spoiler worries here) the division between monotheism and polytheism. A simple and prime example is humanity blasphemes by saying "Gods damn it!" The cylons (the bad guys) don't really blaspheme, but they constantly harp on there being only one god. The series is rife with this type of linguistic subtlety and it is poignant and consistent throughout. If the story were to ever drag, which it doesn't, these quirks would smooth over any attention deficit. Well, it would smooth over my attention deficit if it were ever an issue. But its not.

I mentioned to my friend that I was adopting the plural form because it struck me as making a great deal of sense. We live in a pluralistic society that claims tolerance for all faiths. That level of tolerance is, obviously, relative and conditional on your geography within the U.S. of A. Still, that is what the nation idealistically projects regardless of the conditional micro-realities. I am a tolerant deviant. Although I was brought up with Judeo-Christian values, in my adult life I don't consider myself much of anything denominationally speaking. Having reached maturity (again, a highly subjective state) in the height of political correctness, I will often err on the side of pc.

The humanity depicted on Galactica believes, essentially, in the old Greek pantheon of deities. Few people take it seriously, but it is deeply entrenched in their culture almost to the degree of folk mythology. When desperate measures arise, they look to their faith for some salvation of deliverance. The deliverance they seek is from the monotheistic cylons who man created to serve them and fight for them. The children of mankind rebel and embrace one "true" god. This god, they believe, empowers them to unleash genocidal devastation upon humanity. Not exactly a new story and certainly familiar to the human experience.

So as a small gesture, while I am not particularly inclined towards deism, I am making the small choice to pluralize my blasphemies and blessings. Call it a half-hearted hedge against the unknown or a shallow token gesture, but I prefer to think of it as a linguistic embrace of the pluralism our nation espouses. As the adage goes; Religion is like sex. The more you talk about it in public, the more embarrassing it gets for everyone. By doing this, I keep my beliefs private while simply including all denominations and faith traditions on the same plane of consideration. Hooked on phonics has clearly worked for me.

In closing, it is amazing what you can glean from a good conversation with someone. And I can only speak for myself in this case, but the issue of embracing my inner-nerd has already been dealt with. I hug it daily as you may be able to tell. The second conversation alluded to is to follow shortly.

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Thursday, February 07, 2008

Master Debaters

OMFG! How many more Democratic debates can we have? There has been a challenge issued from the Clinton camp to have a debate hosted by Fox. Given the biases of the host, you can well imagine how substantive the discourse of the conversation will be relative to informing the electorate's decision for a Democratic nominee, let alone President. While I am all for thorough vetting of candidates, out-of-the-box thinking needs to be applied post-haste in this field if debates are to continue to catch our attention. Allow me to posit the following...

I have read other bloggers who have, quite reasonably, advocated (or demanded) debates moderated not by journalists but bonafied conservative or progressive thinkers, pundits and the like. To wit, having a Democratic and/or Republican debate hosted by Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert would be brilliant. Other moderator/hosts who come to mind are: William F. Buckley and Gore Vidal, Noam Chomsky, Al Gore, Pat Buchanan, John McLaughlin, Ann Coulter and Tina Fey, Wynton Marsalis, Bill Cosby, Bill Maher, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, any prominent poli-blogger (Kos, Atrios, Sullivan, etc...) ... The list could go on for pages. Oh, and me. I want to have a debate too.

When Ralph Nader ran for President in 2000, he rationalized a Bush victory due to Nader leeching of votes away from Gore by stating that it would reinvigorate progressive voters and call attention to the important issues that the Republicans are, from the progressive perspective, so wrong on. Sadly, I don't think his prediction was the case. By some accounts, the Republican Party is now imploding thanks in large part to the unconstitutional and, arguably, criminal behavior of the Bush Administration. But a exponential short term loss for a long term gain does not a justification make for Mr. Nader.

Record turnouts in the primaries and caucuses thus far have shown that people are paying attention. The electorate is invested, motivated and participating like the nation has not seen in, perhaps, a generation. Still, having yet another debate hosted by yet another news entity (albeit decidedly "other" relative to their piers) is dulling the effect of the political process. Sadly, policy and personal convictions are not enough to hold an audience over time. The institution that is American Democracy would do well to take up a bit more self deprecation beyond the White House Correspondents' Dinner and individuals' appearances on various late night talk shows.

There is everything to gain in being informing and entertaining (by incongruity of context or genre) at the same time. The popularity of The Daily Show, et. al., bolstered by analysis showing that a significant percentage of people get their news content from it and the actual facts presented are approximately equal to those of the regular network news programs validates the concept. Its an innovation we need, would welcome and would work.

Oh, and dig this:
Breaking News 12:19 PM ET: Romney Is Suspending Run, According to Campaign Sources. (NYT)
Suck it Romney.

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Tuesday, February 05, 2008

In case you have not voted yet

Must read. On Hillary Clinton's "35 years of change."

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