LET'S CALL IT "ELF GRASS"

Posted in Quick Hits on July 31st, 2008 by Ed

Ben Wattenberg put on a magnificent display of hackery on The Daily Show last night, pointing out (logically!) that the only problem with neoconservatism is that the name has a bad reputation. If we named it something else, 90% of Americans would sign up!

Brilliant, Ben. Watch it here.

SCENARIO #2 – OBAMA WINS

Posted in Election 2008 on July 31st, 2008 by Ed

Forget everything you think you know about Obama's appeal and focus on electoral geography. He may be wildly popular, but some of his visibly enthusiastic support is concentrated in a few areas (Illinois, California, etc) and amounts to little more than ensuring that he will win those states in a landslide as opposed to a mere 10-point margin. He is also very popular among certain voters in states he won't win (i.e., among black voters in Georgia or college kids in Texas). That does not mean he can't win. It means that the broader perception of his support isn't relevant in a presidential election. What matters is: in how many states can he cobble together enough supporters to constitute a plurality? Hitting 70% in Illinois or losing 52-48 (instead of 60-40) in Georgia doesn't really matter.

He can win. It won't be easy in this environment. One or more of the following will need to happen:

1. Black turnout rates approximate white turnout. In 2000, survey research indicates that 93% of black voters voted for Al Gore (what would it be for Obama, 99?) The problem is that black turnout severely lags other racial groups. John Kerry gave a yeoman's effort to turn out urban black voters in 2004, namely in Cleveland, and to some extent he succeeded. But without being crass, let's say Obama has some advantages over Kerry in motivating black turnout.

2. Young people vote. 18-to-24s are by far the worst at turning out. The demographic seems really excited about Obama but historically they talk a big game and fail to back it up. They could be determinative in tight states. I'd spend some serious money on registration and election day door-knocking on the Ohio State, Wright State, Akron, Oberlin, and Cleveland State campuses just to name a few.

3. McCain's comedy of errors continues, destroying his credibility among all but Republican diehards. This doesn't seem to be working so far, but there's a lot of time left and he's getting worse by the minute. There could be, but certainly doesn't have to be, a "Dukakis in Tank" or "There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe" moment that ends it.

4. Obama hits on an issue that speaks to the "all important" angry blue-collar white people demographic, keeping them from being enticed by McCain's promise of 186291 additional tax cuts. He has yet to do so. Come up with a better answer than "taxes" for the only question these people care about: Why am I broke?

5. Hold every state Kerry won in 2004. This is absolutely essential, although Obama can (and probably will) drop a small one like New Hampshire. Too many competitive states are too close for Obama to surrender anything Kerry won and figure "I'll make it up elsewhere." This means holding Pennsylvania, which was the closest state in 2004 (not Ohio. Really.)

6. Fuck Florida. It's gone. Hillary is popular among Floridians, so maybe she can help there. But mentally tabulate it as a loss and be pleasantly surprised if it comes through. Do not base a strategy on taking Florida.

7. Spread McCain thin. He is going to be outspent, the first time in….ever….that the Democrat will raise more money. Do not make the Kerry error of competing only in the 10 states that are in play. Spend money in places like Nebraska, Indiana, Alaska, or Georgia. Obama won't win any of those, but if he can get McCain paranoid it's worth it. This worked phenomenally well in 2006. Creating the impression that people like Scott Kleeb could win House seats in Nebraska A) panicked the GOP and B) created the image of Republicans In Trouble, i.e. "Gee, if they're losing Nebraska they must really be in the shitter." Kleeb lost, of course. Doesn't matter though. It made a point. Obama has already started doing this by claiming that Virginia is in play, which it probably isn't.

8. Win one of Wisconsin or Iowa. Even with Ohio, Obama will need one of these to win (assuming McCain takes NH and Obama takes New Mexico, both of which are likely). They are crucial. Turning out Madison and Milwaukee can seal the deal for Obama.

9. Prepare for losing Ohio. Don't put all of the eggs in the Ohio/Florida basket. If McCain takes OH and FL, Obama can still win with Iowa, Wisconsin, New Mexico (all reasonably likely), Colorado (depends on who turns out), and Montana (Democratic governor, state legislature, and Senators).

10. Thank God for the House majority. If Obama wins all the Kerry states (minus NH) and McCain wins all the Bush states except NM, CO, IA, and WI, the election is 269-269. This is the most plausible tie scenario we've seen in ages. If McCain holds Ohio somehow, the specter of a tie is real. The election could swing on a tiny state like Montana or New Hampshire. Why do we have an even number of electoral votes again? Oh yeah, because the EC is retarded.

This is a very hard race to gauge at this point, and it likely will remain that way until October. One gets the feeling that Obama could cross some tipping point where this becomes a laugher and he wins a Reaganesque 40 state blowout. But right now it feels more like 2004, where we're doing a lot of mental calculation of how a victory can be scraped out vote-by-vote.

SCENARIO #1 – McCAIN WINS

Posted in Election 2008 on July 30th, 2008 by Ed

Defying all conventional logic and proving a number of very important things about the ideology of the American public, this presidential race is essentially a coin flip at the moment. Polling is of limited value and the candidates will likely gain separation as the campaign season enters full swing. But there is little doubt that an election which should be a posterizing tomahawk dunk for the Democrats is, despite the GOP's best effort to tank it, a toss up. In response to Monday's comments, today and tomorrow will be dedicated to explaining the likely scenarios in the event of each candidate's victory.

It's important to note that the odds of either candidate hitting 300 Electoral votes is about 10% IMO. We're in for a lot of close elections until something about the geography of party support changes. So whoever wins this is basically going to sweat it out.

McCain wins by being Not Obama, Not a Liberal, and taking advantage of the fact that the American public is, in this political era, far more conservative than it is liberal. Since the collapse of the New Deal coalition in the 1970s every Democratic victory has been a brutal, bloody, Middle Ages siege of a fight. In other words, Democrats can win by being exceptional, doing everything right, and getting some luck. Republicans can win by showing up. That's what being the dominant coalition is all about.

It wouldn't be fair to be that vague. So here's how McCain actually wins:

1. The droves of "disaffected" Republicans and white working- and middle-class voters who have been loudly criticizing the war and President they elected. But when the chips are down they "vote with their pocketbook" (a phrase that makes me vomit blood) and pick the guy who they think will cut their taxes again. Never mind that Obama's tax proposal also cuts taxes for everyone making less than $200,000. When I recently pointed this out to a conservative, the response was "Yeah, but Obama's lying." Hard to compete with logic like that. White people in the suburbs – people who live balls-deep in debt – fall for the guy who offers Buy Now, Pay Later financing.

2. McCain successfully sells his "maverick" image, allowing voters to vote for "change" without actually changing anything. The suburban masses realize that a 72 year old white Republican who has disagreed with George W. Bush like twice is about the kind of "change" they're ready for.

3. Obama takes Ohio, a state in which the GOP fortunes have plummeted since half the state party got indicted in 2004, and Pennsylvania easily. Bad news for McCain, right? But Florida is becoming a Democratic lost cause – too many religious nutbars, too many panhandle hillbillies, and too many suburbanites. McCain wins Florida and New Hampshire (where he has always been popular). Assuming everything else from 2004 remains the same, New Mexico, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Missouri become the keys. New Mexico goes to Obama (thanks to Bill Richardson) but Missouri remains Republican, giving Obama 263 EV with Iowa (7) and Wisconsin (10) to go. McCain wins those thanks to a large rural turnout and he wins the election without having to lift a finger in Ohio or PA.

4. Alternatively, McCain keeps it simple and just wins Ohio. In that case Obama could win WI, IA, NH and NM and still lose 274-264 (calculator here). Given the preponderance of deindustrialized, angry white people in that state, it's going to be hard for Obama (an admitted black guy) to make up the 120,000 vote margin of Kerry's defeat in 2004. I could easily see McCain winning the whole taco just by squeaking out a 5,000-vote Ohio victory in the suburbs of Cleveland and Cincinnati or in blighted shitholes like Akron and Dayton. If McCain wins Ohio, Obama has to win everything Kerry won plus Iowa and New Mexico (plausible), and one of either Virginia, Arkansas, Colorado, or Florida (all longshots).

So that's how easy it is for McCain to win. The country might seem to be sick of Republicans and McCain might be a terrible candidate, but the magic of the Electoral College means that McCain can be really, really bad (he is) and still win without anything exceptional happening. I think Obama can hold Wisconsin (Madison, Milwaukee) and New Mexico is on balance a favorable Democratic state. But the GOP has an edge in the others. If Obama loses Ohio (or PA, which is essentially the same) because the "salt of the Earth" crowd can't pass up yet another tax cut (one they will be shocked to find out does not solve their economic woes) he is really in trouble. He will need to win states where Democratic candidates have not won a majority (although Clinton got pluralities) since 1976. And that was with a white southerner running.

MARCHING ORDERS

Posted in Quick Hits on July 29th, 2008 by Ed

If you're wondering why a violent waterhead who thinks exactly what talk radio tells him to think would shoot up a church because he hates "liberals," maybe he was simply doing what talk radio told him to do.

ANDREW BRIETBART GETS THE FJM TREATMENT

Posted in Rants on July 29th, 2008 by Ed

Andrew Brietbart, the man who took a reasonably well-regarded book about the idiocy of Hollywood celebrity culture and turned it into a career as a phenomenally stupid right-wing pundit, columnist, and stuff-linker for the Drudge Report, has some interesting ideas about how to get more right-leaning product out of Hollywood. Given your understanding of conservative ideology, try to guess his answer! Ready? Let's see if you got it.

While conservatives own an ironclad argument that Hollywood discriminates against our kind, we are certainly not blameless for the predicament.

"Ironclad"? Hollywood is a business. If studios thought they would make money off of "conservative" product they'd step over their mothers to sell it. I thought you right-wingers understood the market. Maybe – just maybe – Hollywood thinks that no one wants to watch the kind of movies that Breitbart's "kind" find interesting. I mean, think of the market for films about how Ollie North is a hero and George W. Bush was right and supply-side tax cuts rule.

Also, kudos for consistent application of right-wing victim-blaming ideology. You're being discriminated against, but it's kinda your fault. You deserve it, you whore. Look at how you were dressed.

The most frequent snipe thrown our way by industry stalwarts and Huffington Post bloggers (when presented with the overwhelming evidence that the entertainment industry tilts dangerously to the left) is to say that we sound whiny. The truth hurts.

Here's a better argument: Box office gross for Fahrenheit 9-11, $220,078,393. Box office gross for Michael Moore Hates America, $0. Box office gross for Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, $7,598,071.

Nielsen ratings for the Daily Show: 1.5 million (0.7). Nielsen ratings for Dennis Miller's shitfest: cancelled when they hit zero. Nielsen ratings for The Half-Hour News Hour: impossible to calculate since everyone involved with its production was shot in the face at point-blank range, cremated, and had their ashes fired into the sun aboard a Russian space probe investigating the interaction of solar wind and Mercury's atmosphere.

The victim card – liberalism's reliable ace in the hole – is not a winning ploy for conservatives who want to make inroads in Hollywood. David Geffen certainly owes it to no one to produce work that runs contrary to his point of view. Until artists and entrepreneurs work together to make a stream of successful products openly rebelling against the status quo, then the game isn't even on.

OK, you admit the problem is that what you've been pitching to Hollywood thus far has been complete and utter dreck. Where's the discrimination? You know, the discrimination you were just talking about five sentences ago?

When conservative icon Paul Weyrich wrote in 1999, "we probably have lost the culture war," he was grossly mistaken. We never fought it. What a terrible message Mr. Weyrich sent to young foot soldiers looking for a battle plan at the end of the subject-rich Clinton years. If Bill Clinton couldn't spawn a cultural revolution, then who can?

Yes, those years were subject-rich! What great source material there was for movies about how Clinton couldn't holster his dick. Or how Clinton was a tax-and-spend librul. Or how terrible the economy was under his administration. Shit, the box-office gold practically writes, films, and advertises itself!

Where are the young playwrights that romanticize freedom over servitude? Where are the brash Gen Y artists mocking baby boomer excesses? Where are the scholarships cultivating fresh talent? Where are the venture capitalists ready to fill the void? Where are the movie stars telling the press gaggle at Cannes that America is still beautiful?

I will answer your questions individually and sequentially.

1. In business school. Find me a young playwright who is conservative. Find me a single one.
2. Yeah, no one has ever made a film about that.
3. What?
4. Hollywood is laden with people who will financially back anything with the merest potential to break even, i.e. exactly what your Young Conservative Artists can't produce. The Adventures of Pluto Nash was greenlit. Starship Troopers 3 is coming out soon. These people are not picky.
5. This is roughly akin to asking "Why don't any actors have the balls to go to Cannes and talk about how tasty McDonald's is?"

While it's mostly true that the conservative experience in Hollywood is long on diagnosis and short on remedy, what sets us apart from our liberal counterparts is that we don't ask for a legislative fix.

Surely there's an affirmative-action program that can put Republicans to work in the entertainment industry at ratios similar to our numbers in the general population.

I swear I did not edit this. These sentences follow one another.

And…if you guessed that the conservative solution would be affirmative action, YOU WIN! Come on down to the ring-toss booth and collect your prize: a 13-foot stuffed Mallard Fillmore and a pink tambourine made from Phyllis Schlafly's surgically-removed excess labial skin!

Conservatives who allegedly embrace free markets need to take responsibility for allowing the left to become the dominant pop cultural force, and for granting homogenized radicals creative control over America's second-largest – and arguably most important – export.

I would like to reiterate that I am not presenting this out of sequence. This is actually how he wrote it – as a perplexing, whiplash-inducing exercise in alternating paragraphs about personal responsibility with pleas for affirmative action.

Today, the conservative movement is alive and well at the American university, though certainly not at the faculty level. The College Republicans, Young America's Foundation and the Leadership Institute, not to mention countless alternative campus newspapers, all exude a rebel spirit that greatly resembles the motivations and enthusiasms of the liberal counterculture of the '60s and '70s.

(chokes, spits up YooHoo)

He's not seriously going to propose that the solution to the lack of right-leaning entertainment media is to dip into the well of creative talent that is the average College Fucking Republicans meeting, is he? Is he?

Yet mistakenly, when they receive their degrees, they are directed to Washington, D.C., and their state capitals, thinking politics is how you win. Or they think the path to victory is becoming the next George Will or Rush Limbaugh.

Sounds like they understand A) how the market works and B) what they do well. Fools.

This has to change. Now!

Send your application packet, a money order for $7 made out to "cash", and two color photos of women urinating to:

Young Conservative Talent Search
c/o Andrew Brietbart
Abandonded Metal Shipping Container 3F
Bagram Air Force Base Sex Offender Detention Unit
Charikar, Afghanistan H3M P4J

There are enough talk-radio and opinion-journalist aspirants in the pipeline to last us through the Sasha Obama administration. AM radio harangues, books, speeches, seminars and campus affirmative-action bake sales may be wildly provocative and endlessly entertaining

The fact that you think this qualifies as "provocative and endlessly entertaining" says everything you need to know about why the situation that is the basis of this column exists.

Today, we have the resources to change things a lot. Perhaps we can wage a different kind of culture war – and not one directed by armchair generals from church pews in Virginia.

Andrew Brietbart, you are a horrendous writer. Just horrendous. Aside from the hacky reference to "armchair" anything, your War metaphor has "generals" who sit in church pews in Virginia. That does not even make sense. I must also come to the conclusion that, unlike me, you have never been to a College Republicans meeting. No one who has attended a College Republicans meeting would feel that the people in attendance could create televised programming that isn't immediately preceded by "Made possible by a grant from the John M. Olin Foundation."

We need to break out of this mind-set and send our best young minds to Hollywood. There are tons of low-level jobs that lead to greater opportunities for industrious young adults. Our armed forces coming home from Afghanistan and Iraq provide us with a source to replenish the Hollywood creative bloodstream, too.

Keys to winning culture-product war:

1. 19 year old buzzcuts who finished at the bottom of their high school classes
2. College Republicans

You have just identified the two most creative groups in society. By far.

Soldiers should vie for leading roles – especially with all those Laguna Beach swimming-trunk-laden shows.

I ask Andrew Brietbart, avowed expert in the talent potential of sweaty, shirtless men, why these Marines are more qualified than the tens of thousands of "hot bod" "actors" already staffing the Inland Empire's minimum wage sector.

Wouldn't a Marine who helped turn around the Anbar province make a better grip, runner or mail-room clerk at CAA than Maggie Gyllenhaal's yoga instructor's niece?

OK, this is how it ends. This is the end of the piece.

Andrew, I am going to offer you a free lesson in writing like you are not the world's biggest hack. The "comically obscure friend/relative" reference is only slightly less hacky than concluding with "Talk to the hand!" Spend 10 seconds doing research on Google to find a real example of an obscure – and perhaps even humorous – celebrity friend or relative working in such roles. I bet that wouldn't be too hard. And it would reassure the reader that you are a Pro Writer putting a little effort into your column. Try to convince us that you are not just some dragon-shirted asshole pounding this garbage into your iMac off the top of your head (20 minutes before deadline) like the overgrown fratboy you are.

To that end you might also consider explaining the "affirmative action" idea rather than orphaning the metaphor that was allegedly the main fucking idea of your column.

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BRING ON THE ROBOT MEDIA

Posted in Election 2008 on July 28th, 2008 by Ed

Just for shits and giggles, I'm going to (sort of) agree with Glenn Beck. A little.

With the exception of a few ill-advised and feeble attempts to defend McCain, Beck's write-up of the media's "embarrassing" coverage of Obama's Middle East trip is unusually readable. He mentions some facts worth mentioning. Unfortunately I can't tell what he expects anyone to do about it.

I think Beck is cherry-picking to note some of the ridiculous things the media report as "news" – the contents of Obama's iPod or workout routine. There was plenty of coverage about George Bush's iPod and love of mountain biking back in the day. This isn't Obama-specific, it's just the kind of vapid fluff that passes for news these days.

His second point – the vastly larger number of reporters vying for spots on Obama's foreign trip compared to McCain's – is valid. There is no way to ignore the numbers. So we agree on the basic facts. The conclusion is subjective, though. This doesn't prove that "bias" is the problem. Maybe – just maybe – McCain is the problem. He's a phenomenally boring person running a boring campaign utterly devoid of media savvy. He is essentially a walking blooper reel who shows complete disdain for the media (as do his followers). Since the media are in the business of selling newspapers and keeping viewers interested, McCain is poison. Of course they spend as little time with him as possible.

Why is there no story about John McCain's iPod? Well, he doesn't own one. Why are there no stories about his hobbies? Well, he doesn't have any. He's an ancient, surly, out-of-touch person. What is there to cover? How does one write sympathetically about a person who is "aware of the Internet" but never used it? Reporters don't make him sound like your doddering grandfather. He does that himself. So on the fluffy "human interest" stories, McCain is bound to get the short end of the stick. It's hard to do personality coverage of a man who doesn't have one aside from the occasional burst of anger.

What about the "hard news?" Arguably McCain does not get slighted as badly in this category, but the same basic problem exists. Beck says:

And while Obama was flying from country to country this week in a plane packed with celebrity reporters, McCain flew to an event in New Hampshire. After his Boeing 737 landed in Manchester, he stepped out onto the tarmac and glanced at the one reporter who'd bothered to show up. Yes, one.

But why would more than one reporter show up? Does Beck expect that a throng will attend something that has zero news value and even less commercial appeal? The event was a town hall meeting at the Rochester, NH Opera House. Can you think of anything that sounds more boring or less newsworthy? His campaign's media savvy is so bad it's comical. As Obama spoke to 200,000 in Berlin, McCain spoke to six people at "Schmidt's Sausage Haus und Restaurant" in Ohio. Are those two events supposed to get equal coverage? Maybe Glenn Beck should direct his anger at whatever asshat McCain has running his media team and setting him up in these ridiculous, humiliating, bush-league "appearances."

If the media are slighting McCain's "message", it's probably because there isn't a single part of it that is new, exciting, or original. Name one policy he has proposed that differs from George W. Bush. I dare you, name one. There is a reason that people do not show up to rallies to scream "WOOO! STATUS QUO! WOOOOO!" Campaigning for a third term of Bush's presidency is what it is. "McCain says: stay in Iraq, keep Bush's tax cuts" hardly makes an interesting headline. Who can even muster the energy to pretend like that's exciting? The media can't.

Reporters are people. They are not robots who can divorce themselves from the demands of their industry and their own sense of what is or isn't interesting. The media would cover McCain's wild rallies or speeches to 200,000 people if McCain had wild rallies or could get 200,000 people to watch him speak. They have less interest in McCain because, as Beck points out, he doesn't sell. But they also have less interest in him because the public has less interest in him. Not necessarily politically (he's polling decently and he'll probably win in the end) but as a Story. We'd sooner watch news stories about an old guy in a nursing home, and we might be hard-pressed to tell the difference.

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WEEKEND BONUS: STYLE POINTS

Posted in Uncategorized on July 27th, 2008 by Ed

Overwhelming Visual Awesomeness alert: the White Sox American Giants took on the Detroit Tigers Stars in historic duds for the 14th annual Negro League tribute night. Back in the day, the two cities took turns hosting the Negro Leagues East-West Classic, or all-star game.

Holy crap. Olde-timey awesome.

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COKE ZERO PRESENTS: NPF

Posted in No Politics Friday on July 25th, 2008 by Ed

In the interest of "preventing terrorism" security guards at Yankee Stadium are confiscating sunblock from paying customers as they enter. That's a questionable thing to do to people who are paying $50 to sit motionless in the searing July sun for three hours. But don't worry! Inside the stadium they will sell you 1 oz packets of SPF 15 for $5. At least it's Terrorist Proof Factor is off the charts.

Leave it to New Yorkers to take being a raging dick to a new level. But this is just part of a larger trend – extract revenue at all costs – and certainly par for the course in an industry that charges $8 for a Miller Lite. If I may speak candidly, I fucking hate being advertised to. I understand that advertisements are necessary to sustain businesses like print or broadcast media. In most industries, though, it's simple greed. We pay $9 per movie and have to sit through 5 minutes of Axe Body Spray / National Guard ads. We force kids to watch ChannelOne in schools, lest they miss a batch of Stridex commercials. And going to a live sporting event is little more than a three-hour exercise in being advertisted to these days.

I'm not so naive as to think that any for-profit enterprise run by rational people is going to turn down the chance to make a buck, but sometimes discretion is the better part of valor. As Tim Gunn might say, you have to edit. The theater might ask itself "Well, these folks are already paying $9 for a ticket and $10 more for some Diet Coke and popcorn. Do we really need to pile on the commercials?" The unblinking answer these days is Yes. Yes We Do.

It wasn't that long ago that I could go to a baseball game (at Comiskey Park or County Stadium or Tigers Stadium, now US Cellular Field, Miller Park, and Comerica Park) and enjoy the seventh inning stretch, not the Yahoo! Seventh Inning Stretch into Savings At Wal-Mart. Bringing in relief pitchers used to be a fun opportunity to mock the departing starter and perhaps catch a glimpse of that silly bullpen car. That has been replaced by the Verizon Wireless Call to the 'Pen. The jumbovision plays Chevy Truck commercials among the Doritos Home Run Replay (Doritos: The Official Triangular Pressed-Corn Leavings Chip of YOUR Kansas City Royals). Male fans get to take a leak with "urinal advertising" 8 inches from their faces. Can I please piss without being told of the wonders of 1-800-CASINO.com (Not a gambling site)?

Sadly our society bombards people with so many sponsorships, pitches, ads, and commercials that most people either barely notice or would feel naked without them. Yes, we are a free country and businesses may do whatever paying customers are willing to bear. The Yankees can confiscate their fans' sunblock and charge them $5 to replace it, but should they? We can slap a Geico ad on every flat surface on the planet, but should we? We can sell the naming rights to our National Parks (seriously, that is a real proposal) but should we? Alas, with all the hyper-free-market leg-humping of the past two decades, we see the idea of corporate sponsorship as the mark of quality.

EN MINIATURE

Posted in Rants on July 24th, 2008 by Ed

Typical undergraduates, the 18-to-22 kind, are at a crucial developmental stage. They are about to be told "no" for the first time in their lives in an academic setting. Someone is about to evaluate their work, say "This is shit," and demand better. This is a turning point. One of two things will happen. The student can say "I did something wrong. I need to figure out how to do it right." This student will, in all likelihood, go on to be successful in his or her endeavors. Conversely, the student can say "That professor hates me / is biased against me / doesn't recognize my brilliance." These students will go on to work as 6th-string bloggers for Powerline or Little Green Footballs.

That is college teaching in a nutshell – getting students to realize, in the age of David Horowitz, that I don't fucking care what you write about or what you believe. I care that you get the facts right, cite your research, employ half-decent reasoning, and separate fact from opinion. If I give you an F on your Ronald Reagan Was the Greatest Man Ever paper it is not because I don't like you or Ronald Reagan. It is because you can't write sentences in basic English, didn't do any research, and generally lack even a rudimentary grasp of a college-level research paper. It is not personal. It is not ideological. It is simply that you did something wrong. You can choose to learn how to do it correctly.

The editorial staff of the New York Times is learning what this feels like. The second they rejected John McCain's editorial submission, I shuddered. I knew what was coming.

The editorial response to McCain's submission is almost verbatim what a decent teacher would write on a bad high school or college paper. No one said "Your submission was shit and you should give up on writing editorials." No, like anyone dealing with a clueless student the editors practically re-wrote the editorial for McCain:

"The Obama piece worked for me because it offered new information (it appeared before his speech); while Senator Obama discussed Senator McCain, he also went into detail about his own plans … It would be terrific to have an article from Senator McCain that mirrors Senator Obama's piece. To that end, the article would have to articulate, in concrete terms, how Senator McCain defines victory in Iraq."

If they weren't so busy getting indignant and going apopleptic about the damn liberal media, the McCain and his wingnuts might realize that the editor practically wrote the goddamn revised editorial for them. Look at that. It is a road map. It is a sugar cookie recipe for kids. It is paint-by-numbers. DO THESE THREE THINGS AND I WILL GIVE YOU AN A PRINT YOUR EDITORIAL. They are practically screaming this at McCain. They are begging him to write something that meets the bare minimum standards for publication so they don't have to listen to Michelle Malkin.

The pedagogical tone is hard to miss; it's a tone one only adopts upon realizing that The Student does not get it and is unlikely to figure it out. Frankly, McCain is getting more mileage from milking the martyrdom angle than he would from the silly editorial. But the sad fact is that there's no point at which he (or his blogosphere cheerleaders) will sit back and think, "Gee, maybe I wrote a shitty Obama slam piece instead of an editorial." Their twisted take on "objectivity" boils down the issue like every other: they ran a liberal editorial, so now they have to run a conservative one.

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FANTASY SCENARIOS

Posted in Election 2008 on July 23rd, 2008 by Ed

Imagine this for a moment. Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki gives an interview with a well-respected news magazine and says:

"Look, there is absolutely no way the government of Iraq can support a timetable for American military withdrawl. It's the wrong plan, period. We need American troops here until the job is done and we don't know when that is."

In other words, imagine that he stated John McCain's position almost verbatim. Tell me what the reaction would look like among the American media and voters. I will save you the trouble: shit would not hit the fan, for no fan on Earth would be powerful enough to withstand the nor'easter of shit that would result. The fan would literally be buried under an Everest-sized mountain of rhetorical feces. And Obama's campaign would rapidly become an updated version of McGovern '72. McCain would do nothing but repeat this single talking point incessantly. Your email inbox would fill to bursting with forwarded emails of al-Maliki's quote and endless derision of Obama's contrarian position. We wouldn't have a campaign so much as we'd be having Obama's wake.

Of course, Mr. al-Maliki did not say that. He said the exact opposite. In effect, he offered Obama's position as his own opinion on withdrawl:

"That, we think, would be the right timeframe for a withdrawal, with the possibility of slight changes," al-Maliki was quoted as saying. "Those who operate on the premise of short time periods in Iraq today are being more realistic. Artificially prolonging the tenure of U.S. troops in Iraq would cause problems."

While one high-profile Republican strategist responded to this development succinctly ("We're fucked.") this will ultimately amount to a minor flap in the campaign. No eulogies will be sung for McCain. The man who thinks Pakistan and Iraq share a border or that Czechoslovakia is still a country or that he knows what Iraq needs more than the Iraqis do will continue to wear the Foreign Policy Expert crown. Obama will remain the guy your aunts and uncles very seriously intone about as "too inexperienced," lacking McCain's many years of experience in being white promising to cut taxes international affairs. No one will point out that McCain has repeatedly stated that when the elected government of Iraq wants us out, we'll leave.

No one will question the GOP's mind-boggling insistence that A) Iraq is so goddamn safe we can hardly believe it but B) we can't leave. They declare victory for democracy while simultaneously trying to convince people that Iraq will become Uncle Osama's Terrorism Fiesta if we leave. We've achieved victory – stable democratic government and peace – but without 150,000 troops on the ground it would quickly become the seventh circle of hell. That's a pretty curious interpretation of having achieved stability and peace.