Friday, August 27, 2004

Keyes out on his ear? 

The Illinois State Board of Elections (whose server seems a little, um, busy right now) has apparently refused to certify the November ballot as required by law before it can be printed and distributed. Apparently the sticking point is the candidacy of carpetbagging Marylander Alan Keyes for U.S. Senate.

I'll keep checking on this throughout the evening. The board is apparently still meeting, and things are up in the air right now. But as things now stand, Alan the Loon may not have to wait until November to go back to Maryland.

Update: He's back on the ballot. Again from Capitol Fax:

UPDATE 6:7:21 pm - "Lots of case law," thrown at them by the RNC lawyer reportedly convinced the recalcitrant Democrats on the Board of Elections to switch their votes. They are now printing the certification forms and then will reportedly adjourn for the evening.

That's it for tonight, barring more weirdness.

UPDATE 5: 7:15 pm - The State Board of Elections has reportedly unanimously voted to certify the entire ballot. Keyes' candidacy is saved. More later.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Not So Swift 

It's bothered me that groups like the Swift Boat Veterans that have been attacking John Kerry can get away with what they do. Not from a legal standpoint but rather from an intellectual standpoint. How can they float these ads, full of information that is, at best, disingenuous - with much of it being outright contradicted by official records - and the public nods their heads as though they were making a valid point to be considered and the media regurgitates the claims in the form of "analysis" that is void of anything resembling the word?

The message is largely aimed at the Republican "base" but is also meant to place a nagging doubt in the undecideds. Yet the majority of these people are not idiots; they are literate - by a strict definition of the word. But therein lies the problem, I believe. And this problem is not strictly confined to conservatives or the shrinking pool of undecided voters; liberals and progressives of all kinds are guilty as well.

Somehow, over the past decade, the respectability of rigorous thought has declined to the point where even admitting that nuance can exist is cause for derision. From the right there has arisen the disdain for the "intelligentsia" of the left. They even adopted a Russian word in order to conflate knowledge with the still-not-dead fear of Communism. From the left - although with much less toxicity - a dismissal of all thought that seems tainted by reactionary conservatism or religion. From the masses an all sides comes a general distaste for the efforts of thought required to process the richness of information available today. The result seems to be an equivalence of opinions, regardless of how informed they may be, and an equivalence of information regardless of veracity.

This has lead to the encroachment of "on the one handedness" in our professional media and to a lack of critical thought by the majority of the public on important issues. Those who are experts in a field of discussion are derided as "nerds" or "wonks." Anyone who talks about and bases their decisions on the nuance and the shades of grey of a particular point will earn the epithet of "flip-flopper." While those who are unchanging regardless of how the world shifts beneath their feet are hailed as "steady leadership in times of change." If you learn from history you are too "sensitive" to be an effective leader. Somehow, our current president's incuriousness is seen as charming and likeable.

So this lack of critical thought in so much of the citizenry and its leadership makes it possible for the Swift Boat Veterans to toss out unfounded accusations and outright lies into the public discourse without worry that they will be exposed before they have done their surrogate dirty work. It allows Bush to conflate the Swift Boat group with progressive groups like MoveOn.Org despite the differences in their membership, methodology and the veracity of their claims. This aversion to intelligence and rationality allows those of baser instincts to poison our political discourse to their own advantage without fear that their misdeeds will be discovered, or that if they are discovered they know that no rational dissection of them need be feared. The lack of trust in experts allows the EPA and FDA to suppress scientific findings and bases for policy and replace them with religious dogma.

If America is fortunate enough that John Kerry wins in November - if the world is lucky enough - we can only hope that a new administration will restore our faith and confidence in rational thought and in those who engage in it. We can hope that a Kerry/Edwards administration will reverese the trend of filling government posts with scientific oversight with party flacks. If not, I can see a new Dark Ages descending on us all.

Cross-posted from The Fulcrum.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

I've reported. You decide 

The Not-So-Swift Lying Scumbags for Character Assassination have made much ado about nothing about a paragraph in a speech John Kerry made on the Senate floor in March 1986, in which he claimed to have spent Christmas 1968 in Cambodia. It will hardly come as a surprise to anyone not actively drinking the Kool-Aid that they have cherry-picked the speech to find ammunition against the man they all apparently hate so much that they have waited 30 years to kick him in the 'nads (and despite the fact that many of the men now criticizing Senator Kerry have had very complimentary things to say about him in the past).

I'm a classicist, a librarian, and an historian in training. In all of those disciplines, we're taught to look at the whole story before we decide what it means. The Not-So-Swifties and the wingnut bloggers will only give you a paragraph or two from Senator Kerry's speech. If you want to read it in its entirety, here it is. Now you decide if the man who spoke those words is the kind of man you want running the country in a time of war.

I know I sure do.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Dowd Nails It 

Ah, Maureen, you have absolutely nailed it.

It's easy for the Bushes to stay gallant. They delegate the gutter.
There are always third-party political assassins, ostensibly independent, to do the dynasty wet work.
W.'s old pal and running partner, Lee Atwater, set up the Bush modus operandi: Lay in the weeds while craftily planting plausibly deniable surrogates to slice up your rival.
The New Yorker editor David Remnick, writing in Esquire in 1986, limned the 1980 Congressional race in South Carolina's Second District "between Atwater's man, Republican Floyd Spence, and a Faulknerian figure named Tom Turnipseed At one press briefing, Atwater planted a reporter who rose and said, 'We understand Turnipseed has had psychotic treatment.' Atwater played it cool and refused to comment, but later told the reporters off the record, 'In college I understand he got hooked up to jumper cables.'"
Karl Rove is Atwater's protégé on jumper cable politics.
The weird thing is, given how transparently the Bushes play the game of staying above the fray even as their creepy-crawly surrogates
do dishonorable and undignified things, their rivals always seem caught off guard when the third parties show up to rip their throats out.
John McCain should have known what was coming in South Carolina,
but he acted stunned and hurt when he was hit with the Atwater/Rove mud treatment by shadowy Bush supporters.
Just as the Bush campaign dragged out fringe veteran surrogates in South Carolina to slime the former P.O.W. for being antiveteran, now the stomach-turning Swift boat attackers are sliming a war hero
as a war criminal.