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Palin Jerky

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Every once in a while I mention my frequent correspondent. He recently sent me an e-mail talking about how offended he was and how he hated Palin now because of how dismissive she was towards community organizers. He also sent out a long letter written by a resident of Wasilla who has detailed knowledge of Palin and her record. I of course responded in my inimitable way.

Hush now, don't get fussy :P.

I'm sorry, I'm not trying to belittle your reactions - I'm really not. What does strike me though is that your reaction is at least part of why Republicans win. Joe Scarborough (he of Morning Joe on MSNBC) helped me understand this. Every 4 years the democrats think they're going to win. More than that, they think they're Right so they Should win. When they don't win, they raise holy hell and claim the election was stolen from them by dirty tricks. When writing about it online I compared it to an Alzheimer's patient in a whorehouse (obviously a line from 2.5 men) - Dems are constantly getting screwed, and they don't want to pay for it.

Of course the Republicans are going to be mean spirited and cut at the very heart of what Democrats hold dear. Of course they're going to demean things that Democrats think are holy. Because whenever they do that, the Left gets all puffed up and anal, go off on one and claim the Republicans have shit all over everything that's Right. Why do the Reps do this? Because they know that Dems take this stuff way too seriously - take themselves too seriously. And whenever that uptight self-righteous streak comes out in the Left, the right just doubles over laughing.

Unfortunately this is what Ann Coulter thinks she's doing, she just manages to do it incredibly badly. Palin was pitch perfect. Land enough punches to be tough and look like a fighter, but make sure that the backlash from the other side makes them look worse than you did landing the punch. And if they don't respond, you just got in a free hit.

In the end, sticks and stones can do some harm, but slander is just fun. The Republicans, if nothing else, aren't too self-righteous to win - and want to win. That said, do you imagine John McCain will be able to do anything except meet the Dems in the middle when he's faced with a Dem congress and senate?

I've said it before and I'll say it again - my bet is that he'll be the best Democratic president the country has ever known. On policy, he's right where most of the country is. He's going to be good on immigration, he's going to be clear-eyed about the labour market and helping people retrain, which is all/the best you can do when you have a globally competitive market for labour (one of the best parts of his speech, I thought), he's going to move on health care in some form or other, he's not a bigot, he'll be good for the environment, he'll finally do something about social security and medicare (private accounts are a fantastic thing, really - it's something Singapore has proved with great conviction) - what more could you ask for? He is right down the middle, and in terms of foreign policy, he has nothing to prove (unlike Barack Obama) - people talk a lot about JFK and the Cuban missile crisis, rightfully so; but before that was the fiasco of the Bay of Pigs. It's the tough guys who most are able to be peacemakers - look at Ariel Sharon, or any other right wing Israeli PM. There's a reason why they say - "Only Nixon could go to China."

As for the woman from Wasilla, whose letter you forwarded - some of her accusations I think come from a little too personal of a place, and for better or worse, I don't think they are big enough issues anyway to stick (not listening to disparate views etc.).

My sticking point with Palin is with her stance on social issues, since obsession with reproductive issues (Economist-speak) is just silly. But if she's going to talk about it but not actually do anything about it (like GWB on abortion) then more power to her. In terms of gay rights, she's just too young to be too bigoted. McCain is the same way. For all his talk, I'd be shocked if he didn't end up nominating someone like Souter to the bench - someone who looked conservative but ended up being liberal. In the end for me it matters less how it happens then what happens. Palin did turf out and call out people who were corrupt - is there anyone who's going to say "I wish my public officials were more corrupt?"

As for banning library books, that was stupid. But it sounds like really what suburban moms do yes/no? If it taught her than implementing social norms on people who don't want them is more trouble than it's worth, all the better. I'm more pissed off about her not being for sex education, especially when her daughter gets knocked up. I know most people don't want to go there, but it's not a small thing, and if you have to hand out condoms in school, so be it.

Experience to me only matters inasmuch as it gives you a record for how they're going to act vis-à-vis their own party. Obama has never never never proved he can stand up and shove it in the face of the one who brung him to the dance. McCain - again and again and again, was a thorn in Bush's side, fighting him on issue after issue even if he was the only Republican doing it. This is someone who because of his left leaning stances on immigration, his right (and Right) choice on the Surge, left on campaign finance etc. had made himself politically radioactive for so long.

For so long he was talked about as the Left's favorite republican (just as Lieberman is/was every Republican's favorite Democrat), and now (as Rush Limbaugh predicted) the left has turned on him. Because the left is as entrenched by their ideology as the right ever was, and is unwilling or unable to leave fairy-idea-land and come back down to the pragmatism of reality where stuff needs to get done. McCain has actually delivered, actually gotten stuff done. By necessity that meant he was in the sticky middle, and he hasn't gotten near enough credit for it from the people who claim to want moderates but can't let go of being self-righteous.

I hope you didn't expect me to get upset - who are these ultra-right-wingers you're secretly friends with who would be offended by you hating Palin?

Why I am a Centrist

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I've ever had people ask me "what does centrist mean anyway - I don't know what that means" - and certainly the way it's looked at in American politics, centrism can seem to be nowhere. That's because of the party primary system, where you have to run to the extremes of your party in the primary and then move back to the center in the general. But centrism is not simply the compromise you make to win elections, the watering down of pure principles to pander to voters in the murky middle.

Reality is the death of purity. Remember all the talk about Bush being an ideologue? Someone who was uncompromising in his arrogant insistence on a particular world view? The left has that problem just as easily as the right. We could have unions run companies and teachers run schools and government run healthcare, but none of that sounds like a particularly good idea unless you're a politburo member. Entrepreneurs who are willing to participate in risk in order to acheive rewards are who you want running a company, you want an education to be the clear indication that someone has a particular level of aptitude or achievement, and goverment intervention has only helped skyrocket the cost of healthcare. That does not mean unions should not have a say regarding harsh or dangerous working conditions, teachers should not be given autonomy to find inventive ways of achieving standardised goals, and government shouldn't take catastrophic healthcare cases out of the market.

When it comes to specific issues, it's good to have people perpetually on opposite sides arguing - it ensures that minority opinions get heard. This is not just good if the minority opinion turns out to be the right one, it is good just to have people participate in a process where they are included. In the best case, people are persuaded, but if not, at least they are still participating in a social discourse rather than dismissing that means of compromise altogether. But all arguments need to end in getting things done.

In many ways that's what centrism is - it's about ensuring that the extreme ideas that can exist in people's abstract ideas of things becomes moderated by their understanding the realities of a given situation. In fact, recognising the reality of what's going on is the first step towards a solution. "When the facts change, I change my mind" to be sure, but once we are clear on the facts in a given case, the way forward becomes much clearer. When the experts tell you that free trade is good and necessary and that is borne out by the evidence, that is when you aggressively pursue liberalisation. That fact has not changed, in spite of demagoguery on the Democrat side.

One of the ways in which Obama can still win me over - in fact wow me and completely bowl me over, is to put forward some real centrist policy that runs entirely counter to the orthdoxy of his own party. Only Nixon could go to China - and in that way, only Bush and McCain could really stick their necks out on immigration. Often it takes people on the left to pass right wing policies (welfare reform and NAFTA under Clinton) and people on the right to pass left wing policies (immigration etc.). What Obama is most well placed to do is to say this: that under his administration, affirmative action will no longer be applied on the basis of race, but on the basis of economic need. It is the right thing to do, but it's something a white president could never (in certain ways should never) get done.

I think John McCain will make a fantastic Democratic president. As it is, he is almost certain to inherit a Democratic House and Senate - perhaps both with filibuster and veto proof majorities. It will be his chance to address every left wing issue the congress will want to consider, and temper their response to it in a way a Democratic president never would. That way you would get a much more sensible reform of so many things it almost boggles the mind. Social Security, Medicare, Comprehensive Healthcare. All fixed in a way that might not please everyone, but in a way that is the best judgement of both sides. On the way they might even sort out Immigration with McCain again sticking his neck out and bringing some of his own party with him. Him pushing every right wing policy and having it tempered by the left.

We all saw what happened with the Republicans in control of both Congress and the Presidency. Sure Bush got some things done, but in fact got surprisingly little done. The one big thing he did get was a war funded. But in order to do so, he had to dole out pork like nobody's business (something that Hastert probably has to answer for), exploding the budget. Because when it's people of your own party, you find it a lot more difficult to play hardball with them. John McCain can more easily veto, or threaten to veto, anything a Democrat Congress sends him. But Bush found it difficult to use his veto even once to minimise the pork from his own party.

It's not like I'm someone who fundamentally believes that "gridlock" is a good thing, but the legislature and the executive need to act as checks on one another, and that is easier when they are not controlled by the same party. Ever since Bush was rebuked by the electorate sending him a Democratic Congress, he's done a significantly better job - turning things around with the surge, losing Rumsfeld, being more conciliatory in his foreign policy. I'm not saying he wouldn't have done those things anyway, but when you have someone looking over your shoulder, sometimes you find it easier to do the right thing.

Call Your Parents

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I know in the grand scheme of things, my unhappiness isn't really that desperate, but it's still not a happy feeling. I will say that the intensity of it coming on during periods of sudden instability can make it particularly annoying.

So let's see. The ongoing thing is applying for jobs and having none of them reply to you except the one that turns out to be a pyramid scheme. Having the activation on monkey's computer act up was particularly aggravating in that it meant I was on there for hours (till 6am in the morning) installing cracks and rebooting. It's almost enough to make me want to pay for Windows, but let's not get crazy or anything. I now have another 30 days to figure things out, so at least it's less imminent, though having it hovering there isn't exactly fun.

Things were really coming to a head as I found out more and more about my visa status and the limits of OPT. I'd talk about it more but I'm still finding out more, and I want to do a proper post about it.

It's having things build up like that that can make watching an otherwise lovely piece of filmaking (Easy Living by Preston Sturges) be most memorable for the ache of hunger the main female character feels in the middle of film. Watching Stella Does Tricks at the same time didn't help. What does all UK independent cinema have to be so determinedly gritty?

I got a poem accepted by an online magazine. And since they pay for publications, I'm now a professional writer. One of the small presses that The Elbow Within will have the best chance with of any I've known, Chiasmus (most annoying website ever), is finally having a book competition





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