I started out at dusk on my first bike ride around the island. The island is 8.2 miles around and the moon was bright on the lake and on the trees. On the northeast corner I surprised an owl resting on a branch. Its back was to me when it took off. With one slow wingbeat it flew over the path and then disappeared in a knot of trees to the right.
I described the owl to some friends. It was, at two or three feet high, the largest I had ever seen. They told me it was the Great Gray Owl. After reading descriptions, I think this was the one I saw. Probably a male.]]>
The Persistence of Memory
The current political season reminds me of the 2000 Republican primaries. Bush’s infamous whispering campaign against McCain in South Carolina, specifically, comes to mind. I think of how the Bush people attacked McCain, not for the unspeakable transgression against tradition, in allowing a non-white into his family, but with regard to how they said he wasn’t quite right. The whispering campaign had it that when he came back from Vietnam, that something had happened to him there, and now McCain was not ok, that he was unfit to be President. I would like to suggest that, whatever the genesis of the political commodity we have come to know as John McCain may be, the bare fact that the man is running for office on the promise of war and death and suffering ad infinitum is more than adequate evidence that he is unfit for office.
At this point I invite you to look at the clip below.
McCain’s most valuable asset, apparently, is his his ability to describe the horrors of perpetual war with out setting off alarm bells in the public mind. The delivery is self-consciously Reaganesque. His candidacy is, in effect, McCain and Company marketing a man who can deliver the worst possible news to the public - that your son or daughter may be killed or maimed or permanently traumatized - in such a way as to make it sound not only inevitable but pleasant. McCain seeks to make perpetual war seem honorable. With McCain as our President, for example, we may rest easy knowing the U.S. will be doing a lot more killing, but not so much torturing.
McCain’s placating delivery is reminiscent of Bill Clinton, whose tone also betrays little to nothing of what, in fact, his words portend. In Clinton’s case, the example which is getting the most television airplay is his comparison of the Obama campaign to the Jesse Jackson campaigns. The Clinton signature delivery is present in full form, i.e. a nice guy who is stating another banality. Factually, yes, they both won South Carolina. However, upon careful examination, the implication he is making is that neither Jesse Jackson nor Barack Obama, for no other reason than they both happen to be black, would or could ever represent the interests of (white) America.
Taken out of context, the Clinton remarks are a banality. They appear to be no more incendiary than, say, a claim that the sky is blue. When taken in the full context of the primary race, the off-the-cuff and casual-statement-of-fact nature of the delivery only distract and delude the viewer from the full implication, namely, that the Clintons are together seeking to play upon and reinforce the American tradition of white supremacy, which has carried many a politician into office.
The product that the McCain camp is marketing is a narcoleptic. The idea is that somehow horrors, however horrific you know them to be, will lose their horrific quality if you listen to McCain. The candidate is suggesting, ‘Accept these horrors as a part of life. You will soon come to take them for granted’. As a candidate, McCain has been selling us the War on Terror. He seeks, however, to change the political life of the war, from a direct attack on the American psyche, to a remote fact whose impact can be somehow mitigated. McCain is seeking public support for an endless war by turning it into a banality. With McCain as President, he tells us, there will always be war and PTSD and mass death and so on, and we will simply come to accept it as normal. Or so his financiers hope.
In the Blues Brothers movie, Jake and Elwood look out the window of their prospective new digs and the Chicago elevated train passes by. The noise of it is impossibly loud and the train itself is only inches away from the window. The entire building shakes. McCain is the realtor, in my analogy, who tells America, “It goes by so often you won’t even notice it.”
It’s funny when it happens in the movie. When McCain tells us, after blowing his nose, “You know that Beach Boys song: bomb bomb bomb, bomb Iran…” it’s macabre.
Obama versus McCain
In contrast to McCain’s efforts to cultivate a passive America, we have Barack Obama. Where McCain is telling us that the good Americans are those who do nothing but follow orders and applaud the government, Obama is enervating Americans to take responsibility and to take action. Significantly, Obama has a very modest voting record. He is barely discernable from the remainder of politicians in Washington, if viewed from the point of view of his record. For that reason I prefer to see the primaries, at least for the moment, in terms of the rhetoric.
The Obama campaign is challenging America to participate. The campaign rhetoric is a counterpoint to McCain’s languid and dull-witted repetition of the phrase, “my friends.” Obama’s speeches can have an uplifting and inspirational quality. Frankly, I can’t believe I’m writing that.
I can’t believe it, in part, because I notice that Obama’s rhetoric is also constrained by a strong appeal to a corporate white protestant America, which tolerates only a narrow latitude of emotional display. And there is a detectable level of self-restraint in Obama’s public personage.
I sensed in Obama’s best moments, an uncommon drive to give the public the feeling that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. In contrast to the present occupants of the White House, both Obama and McCain are trying make their bid on sincerity. Where McCain’s definition of sincerity is, namely, a menu of barbarity and human sacrifice, Obama’s message is rather more abstract, more positive, and, for those reasons, I would argue, more effective.
Lest you think I have gone off my rocker here, and you may if you haven’t seen this, I provide a link to his speech at Ebenezer Baptist Church:
To clarify the function of the constraints I mentioned before, they are an obeisance to the shareholders and executives. These constraints remind me that charismatic politicians exist for the purpose of motivating labor to answer the demands of shareholders and executives. In other words, in the wildly unlikely event that Obama is elected President and lives to take office, history tells us, for example, that we can look forward to having the budget balanced once again on the backs of the working and middle classes. This means you and me, brother.
Even under the best circumstances, having a President who happens to be a good salesman is clearly not a panacea. And we are certainly in nothing like the best circumstances.
I agree with Obama insofar as his message of public participation and public responsibility is concerned, but not to the extent that I believe that each member of the public has an equal responsibility to repay the government the money that the present paranoid and criminal regime is stealing, for example.
Obama threatens the American public, like McCain, with the feeling of comfort in a deteriorating economy, in a deteriorating democracy, in a failing empire. If, as a result of this election, we look at the White House and feel less driven to fight for our own interests, a friendly salesman in the oval office threatens to do us more harm than good.
after watching the tv coverage last night, i have been browsing the internet for an explanation as to hillary clinton’s victory over barack obama in new hampshire.
and i havent found anything satisfactory.
id like to first describe my reaction to the television coverage. msnbc and cnn announced through the day that a very high voter turnout was expected. poll stations were running out of ballots. younger people were voting. independents were going to decide the vote.
so went the story.
in other words, television, insofar as msnbc and cnn were concerned, expected another iowa.
The Independent expresses doubt in the polling that supported these conclusions.
Even if we agree that polling is flawed, we are still left without an explanation for the victory.
To re-phrase the question - what happened in new hampshire that was so different than what happened in iowa?
so far as television coverage was concerned, i was unable to tell the difference until the votes began to be counted.
Harvey doubts clinton’s sincerity. doesn’t everyone?
after the tallies began to come in, msnbc began to guess that women found clinton newly appealing, in a way they hadnt in iowa, as a result of her ‘tearing up’ during her explanation of the rigors of campaigning. tearing up. while she was holding a microphone, and before a dozen cameras. hillary clinton.
first, i have to say that she is the first whose tone becomes shrill and punishing at the debates. in other words, i wouldnt call her cool or countenanced or casually confident - really any of the things which bill clintons enemies could recognize as his strongest assets as a public speaker she aint got.
the hillary clinton that we have come to know is the one who was keeping her husband up at night telling him all what he could do to push his career forward and chastening him for what he hadnt done already.
the hillary clinton we know as senator has voted just as opportunistically as her husband might have, but with none of the slip-and-slide panache.
for example: she voted for the war and could not get anti-war america to believe she was always on their side, as her husband could have done.
hillary clinton has never been enough of a salesman to be able to have her cake and eat it too.
i find her to be a woman whose actions are more defined by ambition than either her ability or principle, as i have yet to detect either in her.
so how is it that a woman who is normally so controlling and self-controlled could have ‘broken down’ before the cameras?
i dont believe that anything that has happened so far, this early in the primaries, could possibly have cut her to deeply enough that she would lose self-control at such a inopportune moment.
inopportune meaning: since when have tears equaled presidential material?
obama and the other candidates, in the rare occasions that they have made any criticism of her, have made a point of soft-pedaling their remarks.
unless i am mistaken, there have not been any dirty personal attacks on her so far.
from all appearances, all the other democratic contenders are doing what they can to compete with her while keeping the race from going sour, lest they lose their chance at a cabinet position or even a vice-presidency.
insofar as this last example is concerned, i tend to agree with the television version of events.
from the other camp: knowing that the republicans have been ruthless with her in the past - im thinking of when they burned her in effigy - the present republican scraping before clinton is hardly cause for her to publicly weep. (the implications of this may bear fruit later, however.)
and to stick with the topic she was addressing, the idea that a softball question about getting her hair done in the morning would press her buttons like that seems pretty far-fetched.
Is this when poll data becomes suspicious?
so when i was watching tv last night, cnn and msnbc put up exit poll stats showing that women came out for clinton in droves - a reversal of iowa where women preferred obama.
apparently it was clinton’s ‘breakdown’ or ‘tearing up’ - the choice expression varied, but the explanation remained the same.
i have alot of trouble believing that women - or anyone - would watch that boring, emotionally vacuous scene as it was replayed on television for some 36+ hours before the polls closed and decide that this makes clinton a more desirable candidate.
according to television, however, this was the story of new hampshire.
i want a better explanation.
i was sent several stories which you can find over on delicious, there on the right.
on that list are several stories which claim that this is a victory for the status quo against the voter.
…that the diebold electronic vote problems raised their ugly head again:
this one and this one compare machine (diebold) count to hand count.
look here for some excellent posters which graphically represent indignation for diebold and their role in election fraud.
this one comes from the ron paul camp.
…that implicate the democratic party (once again):
to wit, the AP informs us that
In the overall race for the nomination, Clinton leads with 187 delegates, including separately chosen party and elected officials known as superdelegates. She is followed by Obama with 89 delegates and Edwards with 50.
i am skeptical that a candidate with clintons charisma problems could have taken new hampshire with a pair of watery eyes.
if so, the implications for democracy are dire indeed.
do you know anyone who has decided they like the idea of clinton as president more since the iowa vote?
could, in other words, the television story of how it happened be true?
if not, what is a better explanation for the clinton victory in NH?
ok, ill stop asking because really what id like to do is find out what you think.
thanks for all your ideas.
all the best.
according to the AP last week
The [new jersey] state Senate voted Thursday to approve delivering the state’s 15 electoral votes for president to the winner of the national popular vote. The Assembly approved the measure in December and needs Gov. Jon S. Corzine’s signature to become law.
“The bill is subject to a thorough review, but Gov. Corzine has long been a supporter of this concept,” Corzine spokesman Jim Gardner said.]]>
welcome to your pal harvey’s web log.
here, I’ll tell you what i think.
and even more importantly, i invite you to tell me what you think.
if you have been keeping up with all the cut-and-paste material I’ve posted elsewhere (ie on the now abandoned http://youpalharvey.over-blog.com/), the subject matter will be more of the same.
For those of you who haven’t, ‘more of the same’ means a variety of public issues.
this site is intended to be a forum for progressive activists and people watchers. plus i try to promote creative work, so look for more music and visual work.
a big part of my motivation to move to this site was that i wanted to cultivate a forum for discussion.
i liked disseminating news articles and fotos and still do. you can find loads of such material in either of the columns to the right —>
yes im still a news-hound and i love it when people send me articles or fotos or links to websites. if what you send me is mind-blowing, ill light a candle for you and post a link for public consumption.
as opposed to delicious and flickr to the right, this particular column is for yours and my commentary.
harvey invites you to add comments! (see below)
hopefully ill come up with something interesting or entertaining, and maybe ill be able to elevate the existing public discussion.
ill try to keep my tone as humble and anonymous as i can.
ya, so don’t look for harvey’s vacation fotos or baby pictures here.
yourpalharvey.com is intended not as my page, but ours.
therefore, as much as i can, ill keep the focus on factors common to us all.
i like the word “relevant.”
if you think there’s some topic that’s widely relevant, let us know.
especially if you feel the topic is not getting just attention elsewhere.
and tell us what you think.
if i get my facts wrong, or you think my analysis is skewed, lay it on me.
the door’s wide open.
thanks for coming.
ps huge thanks to todd and ari for all the work they put into design and realization of this page.]]>