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September 28, 2008

Blancs Bonnets et Bonnets Blancs

By: Bernard Chazelle

That's what the French Communists used to call the other parties, which for them were indistinguishable.

I don't mean to rehash the obvious, but couldn't Obama at least pretend?

What struck me most about Friday's debate is how McCain and Obama agreed on virtually everything and made no bones about it. The only drink in town is cola, so let's debate whether it should be Pepsi or Coke.

About Russia, Obama said

I think Senator McCain and I agree for the most part on these issues.

Democracy in action. In case we didn't get the point, Obama added:

And to countries like Georgia and the Ukraine, I think we have to insist that they are free to join NATO.

Perhaps Obama could have pointed out that the large majority of Ukrainians do not want to join NATO. Or maybe he could explain to Americans why some day their sons and daughters may have to die, contractually, to save Tbilisi.

We have seen Afghanistan worsen, deteriorate. We need more troops there.

We wind down in Iraq so we can double down in Afghanistan, the ultimate unwinnable war.

Obama called Venezuela a "rogue state." A rogue state???

Then he called the Republican Guard of Iran a terrorist organization. Too bad Iran has no such thing. Hint: it's revolutionary. (I only imagine the reaction if Sarah Palin had made that blunder.) Of course McCain has been making the same mistake but he has the excuse of being senile. Anyway, Kyl-Lieberman is just another time the US shot itself in the foot, and it's sweet to know that Obama approves.

Obama as Reagan:

I actually believe that we need missile defense, because of Iran and North Korea

On torture:

I give Senator McCain great credit on the torture issue

Ah yes the "torture issue"... like early this year when McCain voted to make sure the CIA could engage in "beatings, electric or temperature shocks, forced nudity, mock executions, and the use of dogs."

Just today Obama told us he is fine with the $700 billion handout to the Masters of the Universe.

And so I wait, with bated breath, to see if Pepsi shall triumph over Coke.

— Bernard Chazelle

Posted at September 28, 2008 02:47 PM

This isn't even Pepsi v. Coke, it's Pepsi v. New Coke. They could bring back Coke Classic and we'd actually be relieved.

Posted by: john at September 28, 2008 03:12 PM

Well, okay, what are you suggesting? That we elect McPalin? Or just not vote? I know it isn't fasionable to say so, but Obama is, at least the lesser of two evils, isn't he?

Posted by: Rosemary Molloy at September 28, 2008 03:53 PM

Rosemary: The "lesser of two evils" argument is invalid in nonswing states. Whether it's valid in swing states is a debate one can have. But that's not what my post was about.

On the other hand, I wonder what it is you are suggesting? Shout from the rooftops that no matter how much he insults us, Obama will always have our vote?

There's also the argument that if you keep voting for turkeys, don't be surprised if they keep sending you turkeys.

Posted by: Bernard Chazelle at September 28, 2008 05:22 PM

Not voting is an excellent option. If more and more Americans said "No" to the electoral shell game, a new game might have to be invented. It could be better, it could be worse, but what have we got to lose but our "Cheeseburger, Pepsi" diet, no substitutions permitted.
Anyhow, the greater of the two evils, from a liberal point of view, seems to be the choice of the people most of the time, from Nixon to Reagan to Bush. You like your Koolaid with 98% poison or "only" with 96%? Some lesser evil.

Posted by: donescobar at September 28, 2008 06:12 PM

"they don't mind imperialism; they just want a more efficiently and rationally managed one."

This is of course absolutely right. And I largely share Bernard's sentiment here. As someone who still plans on voting despite the obvious spitting right back in my face, I won't posture any lame apologetics about triangulation or the needs of being elected. To be honest I'm utterly disenchanted at this point. But my personal defense of "lesser evilism" is simply this.

Things are so perilous right now, that the degree of difference between a competent imperial manager vs. the potentially senile and/or categorically oblivious, at this moment in time, is something I'm absolutely terrified of. It's just that bad. Obama's policy advisors render within me a wholly degrading feeling of Establishment melancholy. McCain's Neocon all-star team makes me feel like I'm about to lose control of my bowels. I guess that means I'm voting with my gut?

Posted by: BenP at September 28, 2008 06:57 PM

No viable third party choice--too bad.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at September 28, 2008 07:27 PM

It's taken me eight years to hate the American Left. And I don't mean the DLC centrist "sell your children to move a little bit more to the right" Left, I mean the actual Left. The one that organizes protests, chooses nationalization over bailouts, and is unafraid of terms like Anarchist, Socialist, Communist, Social Democrat.

Not voting is the absolute worst option you could pick. It's the type of option the petulant child picks because Mommy doesn't have any choice but to pay attention to them.

You do not have a right to be paid attention to. You throwing a temper-tantrum and not voting does not rob sleep from Biden, Obama, McCain, Palin, or any of the others in our rogues gallery. If anything, they are glad you aren't voting. The less involved in politics people like you are, more likely it is you'll confine yourself to more useless protesting and "direct action", like hanging banners off of bridges. Yeah, people honk their horns in support.

And then the politicians in their offices vote to keep things exactly as they are---if not a little worse.

I used to believe in the efficacy of all that useless bullshit too. Then I left college and got a job. After a year, I was thoroughly cured about the efficacy of the symbolic gesture to a brick wall as a means of change.

Posted by: James Cape at September 28, 2008 08:33 PM

Bernard, I couldn't agree more, but have one cavil. Obama and McCain calling the al-Quds forces of the Guard a terrorist organization, which is probably what the meant, is in fact correct, IF one goes by official policy stance of the US government, both in its Congressional and Presidential branches, which have declared the Guard to be terrorist.

Hey, there were no WMD either, but that didn't effect US policy.

Posted by: Rojo at September 28, 2008 08:40 PM

The first thing to keep in mind is that your individual vote doesn't matter, except as an aggregate tally to give the "way the wind is blowing" to politicians.

The next thing to keep in mind is that your vote will never matter more than that. That's a fundamental tenet of democracy - votes don't matter, movements do.

The conservatives have taken over this country by systematically and carefully building coalitions and shifting public opinion to the right over the last 30 years. The two parties that we have reflect that work. No election is ever going to change anything because elections are not transformative. Elections are a trailing indicator of public opinion, not a leading indicator. By the time someone gets voted into office on a platform of, say, being able to drop troops anywhere in the world on a moments notice to "protect American interests", there's already a sizeable percentage of the population who agrees with that platform and another sizeable group who just don't give enough of a damn for it to effect their vote.

Liberals and conservatives alike in this country like to keep the fantasy in their heads that their fellow citizens agree to policies they don't like because those citizens are "ignorant of reality" or "if the media would stop lying about this, people would come around." In almost all cases that's bunk. The majority of the population either wants these policies or just doesn't give a damn about them - that's why the two parties are so close together in these things, because taking a radically different stance on such things nets you very little in the way of votes.

For these types of questions elections do not matter. It's the time between elections that matter. Movements are what's needed, not political parties. Political parties dance to the strings of powerful movements - conservatives know this and that's why people like Richard Viguerie (on the Republican side) and the DLC (on the Dem side) work the way they do.

If liberals want to do the same thing they should get started. The conservatives started laying their groundwork for the world we live in now during FDR's era. So if liberals start trying to put together a functioning movement now - because the ones they have frankly do not function and are just about useless - then they should be ready to shift public opinion sometime around 2070. Whee.

Posted by: NonyNony at September 28, 2008 08:40 PM

YEAH, progressives have NO power here THAT'S WHY WE have a Blackman AND 2 women (Hill and Sarah) running for the WH this cycle. SO there's absolutely no use in trying is there? SOME DAY WE will get to see 2 white guys running the country but until then, there's NO need to put out ANY effort. Maybe in 2070. Glasses and exlax for the blind AND constipated.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at September 28, 2008 09:31 PM

Rojo: You're right that it's official US policy. But why is Obama approving it? He was not offering a statement but support. That amendment would be like if Russia declared the US Marines a terrorist organization. This is the height of irresponsibility. It means that if any Revolutionary Guard caught a US soldier then they would have to treat him like a terrorist.

It's all very well to have 10 year old like Kyl and Lieberman have fun, but they're not doing the dying, are they?

Plus that very amendment talks about Republican Guards, too! Even the Congress can't get the terminology right. What a pathetic bunch.

Posted by: Bernard Chazelle at September 28, 2008 09:58 PM

Not voting is an excellent option.

If you're attempting to discipline the party such that it moves left you would need to make it clear the party's move to the right is the reason they have lost or aren't getting your vote. Which would mean you'd still have to schlepp your way to the polling station and then vote for a party - any party - demonstrably to the left of the Democrats, making it clear. The leadership may still fail to get the message - confirmation bias being what it is - and a' course it would produce the usual thanksralphism from the Dembots. (They already cheerfully ignore the more than one third of the US voting population that see no point in voting, preferring to pursue the crumbs in the "centre".) But voting for a party that doesn't represent your interests or viewpoint - and, I repeat for the hundredth time, Democratic policies are a negation of Left principles not a compromise of them - and expect that to somehow dissuade them from the rightward course they're already taking, and which you've just registered your approval of by voting for them, makes no freakin' sense whatsoever.

People who make that argument prefer to vote Democratic simply because they approve of the party's right-wing policies, being right-wingers themselves. Their bitching about leftists turning them backs on the DPUSA is simply a result of their peculiar - and peculiarly American - confusion that liberals are leftists.

Posted by: RobWeaver at September 28, 2008 10:44 PM

Incidentally, I've been ranting about this Unity crap from Obama since his ludicrously over-praised turn at the 2004 convention. Talking about what you and your opponent have in common during an election is fundamentally irrelevant. Democracy is about choice; choice means having alternatives; having alternatives means there is a discernible difference between your options; and the only information that can inform the making of your democratic choice is what those discernible differences are. Anything else is a waste of your time.

If you went to a car-dealer and asked him, why should I buy the brand you're selling rather than, say, a Ford, and he went "well, both have four wheels, an' both have an engine, an' both have headlights, an' both need fuel, an' ... etc..." wouldn't you want to slap him silly?

I mean, unless they really were the same sodding car.

Posted by: RobWeaver at September 28, 2008 11:09 PM

James Cape--You forgot to tell us why voting in a non-swing state matters as opposed to not voting, or voting third party, or whatever. In fact, you forgot to do anything except type a useless non-informative temper tantrum of the sort that you say you oppose. Is Obama going to change what he does because he gets my vote in a state that is dead certain to go for him? This is supposed to be better than hanging a banner? I don't really care about banner hanging either, but that might influence more people than the solitary act of voting in a non-swing state. My own thinking is along the lines of BenP, and I'll vote Obama, but it really doesn't make a bit of difference who I vote for, or whether I vote at all.

Your hatred is pretty useless too, for that matter. Who cares what you think, other than me? Obama doesn't, I can tell you that.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at September 28, 2008 11:25 PM

Mr. Chazelle


"That amendment would be like if Russia declared the US Marines a terrorist organization."

My uneducated guess is that Russia (The Soviet Union) at some point did declare the US Marines a terrorist organization. It is also my uneducated guess that the United States is calling the Iranian group a terrorist organization for the exact same reasons.

Posted by: Benjamin A. Schwab at September 28, 2008 11:28 PM

@ James Cape.

brother chill. i can understand your rage at bein sold 2 different varieties of dead-horse-shit-with-lipstick, but in the end that's all there is. if one stinks less, it may be preferable in some cases. but the fact remains that you're being served horseshit.

Posted by: almostinfamous at September 29, 2008 01:43 AM

I'd be easier to just brand the ones that AIN'T terrorist organizations anymore.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at September 29, 2008 01:46 AM

People, people! The reason they pay no attention to you is not because no one cares about the policies. People do care about policies. Policies can be vote getters.

So? So nothing.

Because there are easier ways to get votes.

In fact, votes are Easy to get!

What's harder, much harder, is to get Money. Lots and lots of money. (Everyone wants a policy -- it's just that some folks can Pay for them!)

Advocating some policies, I'll go so far as to say most 'good' policies, is going to lose you Money.
Which is much much more important than votes -- so every savvy politician is going to chase the money & lose the policy.

Money first, votes later.
Money first, votes later.

Posted by: The Dead Bodies at September 29, 2008 05:05 AM

Donald Johnson:

Voting is not the be-all and end-all of involvement in the political process. It is the first step of involvement. If you are unwilling to even take the bare minimum of political involvement -- showing up to a polling place once or twice a year -- then you aren't even able to do more.

Beyond that is writing your legislators and executives. Alongside those two is letters to the editor. Beyond that is lit-drops, door-knocking, fundraisers, signage. You know, all the trappings of an actual political organization. If you aren't even voting, chances are fairly good that you aren't doing anything else to make the government behave like you want it to.

Meanwhile, the kooky conservatives, who don't argue the efficacy of Square Zero, make huge gains. For example, take Sen. Rod Graham of MN: Nutbag. There was no Republican Party in his district 20 years ago. It's like the Green Party today: two old codgers content to get pissed and moan about the state of the world (insufficiently pro-business). Ten committed anti-choicers spent ten years building that particular local organization, got Mr. Nutbag into State Rep. Nutbag, then State Sen. Nutbag, U.S. Rep Nutbag, and finally U.S. Sen. Nutbag.

Again: there was no functioning Republican Party in his district 20 years ago; now he is in a position to disgrace himself nationally.

Why? Because the people behind him didn't waste time arguing with themselves about the efficacy of voting in Minnesota, famous for being the only other state besides Massachusetts to go to Mondale in 1984.

Posted by: James Cape at September 29, 2008 06:59 AM

Well, thanks for the ideas and suggestions--I think.

Posted by: Rosemary Molloy at September 29, 2008 08:27 AM

A third party vote is regarded as a non-vote. I'd say it is a non-vote. You get attention by voting for a pol. Why should they care about someone who doesn't affect their numbers? You get influence by having the attention of the pol who wins. By you, I mean an collectively. Individuals are members of equivalence classes, and should assess their actions by the consideration of all members of that class not in terms of the consequences of individual action. Why do you think the commercials' intellectuals, e.g. Walter Lippman, pushed neo-Freudian individualism? I think existentialism and post-modernism have the same roots.

Posted by: me at September 29, 2008 08:38 AM

Why should they care about someone who doesn't affect their numbers?

If that's true, why'd you get four years of hysterical screaming thanksralphing after 2000?

Dude, a vote for anyone else is a vote they don't get. Voting third party affects their vote downwards just the same as voting for the other major party does, the difference is it doesn't send the message "next time be more Republican".

You get influence by having the attention of the pol who wins. By you, I mean an collectively . .. snarf gurgle snarf ... have the same roots.


Posted by: RobWeaver at September 29, 2008 09:57 AM

Mr. Me:


"Individuals are members of equivalence classes, and should assess their actions by the consideration of all members of that class not in terms of the consequences of individual action."

I am confused. What is the relation satisfied by members of the same equivalence class? Is it if two people voted for the same person in a particular race then they are in the same class? If that's the definition and you are arguing that one always vote with your equivalency class, that's circular reasoning and destructive of democracy. This leads me to believe that this is not the definition and it isn't clear what else it could be. Please help me to understand.

Posted by: Benjamin A. Schwab at September 29, 2008 12:33 PM

You're missing an important element in the Christian Right's takeover of the Republican Party: What happens to Senator Nutbag if he doesn't toe the line on their issues? No votes for him, and his seat goes to a Democrat (the Christian Right doesn't mind losing the occasional election as a means of enforcing discipline over the politicians they control). That's how you keep politicians in line - it's not about how many votes you can deliver, it's about how many votes you're willing to withhold.

Liberals/progressives have no power within the Dem party because they're never willing to NOT vote for the Dems. It's always astonishing to me how few liberal Dems seem to understand this.

Posted by: SteveB at September 29, 2008 02:47 PM


No, the Christian Right is willing to compromise and get *some* of their nuttery, because they recognize it's more than the *none* they would have otherwise had.

Posted by: James Cape at September 29, 2008 08:30 PM

James-- I have no disagreement with most of that, and I haven't seen too many people on the far left arguing against doing the things you favor.

As for voting, I think there's a difference between people who don't vote out of apathy and people who are politically engaged, writing letters or making banners or protesting, but who might decide not to vote or (alternatively) to vote for a third party candidate who has no chance of winning or even getting enough votes for public funding. I might disagree with them, but I don't feel contempt for that viewpoint.

And actually, the biggest reason I vote for President is to avoid the criticism I'd hear if I didn't--"If you don't vote you have no right to complain." To the extent that I do anything worthwhile it's when I write letters to politicians and newspapers--my votes for President have been a waste of time, except that it gains me credibility with the vote fetishists. I've also been voting for the lesser of two evils (Democrats) for a similar reason. I think I've got more credibility as a basher of Democrats with other Democrats if I vote for the creeps--Naderites, are, you know, narcissists or egomaniacs or people who think that voting is self-expression rather than a serious civic obligation. Since my single vote has precisely zero significance in the real world, I can vote for Kerry and now Obama and not be dismissed so easily.

Now if my vote really did have the power to sway elections, I'd have to think long and hard about what to do with the thing.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at September 29, 2008 08:31 PM

Naderites, are, you know, narcissists or egomaniacs or people who think that voting is self-expression rather than a serious civic obligation.

The cognitive dissonance in this place is amaaazing.

Posted by: RobWeaver at September 29, 2008 08:41 PM

I was being sarcastic, RobWeaver.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at September 29, 2008 08:46 PM

But thanks for the nasty insult. It's probably good for me--no point in typing a long post which is in my own mind highly critical of the Democrats and the sort of people who think you're crazy if you don't vote for the Democrat if my writing skills are so poor it's taken to mean the exact opposite.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at September 29, 2008 08:52 PM

Memo to self: don't comment before breakfast.

Posted by: RobWeaver at September 29, 2008 10:41 PM



A rabbi, a priest and a minister walked into a bar in a small Iowa town -- but nothing funny happened.

"When I saw the three of them walk in," bartender Joe Blobonski says, "I thought to myself, 'This is gonna be good.

I mean, this is the setup for thousands of jokes, so I figured something hilarious is about to happen."

But the results were disappointing.

"They sat down at a table, and didn't say much."

Blobonski says he expected to burst out laughing when he took their order.

"The priest said, 'I'll have a Virgin Mary.' Then the minister said, 'I'll have a Bloody Mary,' Blobonski says. "I could barely contain myself, waiting for the rabbi's punch line.

"But then he says, 'I'd like a Diet Coke,' A Diet Coke?

THAT'S not funny. I couldn't believe it."

At another point the rabbi asked, "Do you get many rabbis in here?"

Blobonski says, "I said 'No,' waiting for the rabbi's hysterical comeback.

"But all he said was 'too bad.' "

The three clergymen quietly drank up, paid the bill, and left.

"It was really pretty boring, to be honest," Blobonski added.

Published on: 09/05/2004

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at September 30, 2008 01:45 PM

U GUYZ are jealous cause Palin's a woman, thinks like a woman instead of like a man and is yet able to aquire political power.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at September 30, 2008 06:40 PM