If a song could be president

24 09 2008

As we near election time, it only seems appropriate to give a little air time to Linford Detweiler and Karen Bergquist (Over the Rhine) to provide a little vision.


St. Paul City Attorney drops charges against journalists

20 09 2008

The St. Paul City Attorney’s office has opted not to pursue the misdemeanor charges against Amy Goodman, Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar.

Experience and Prudence

20 09 2008

David Brooks is just a remarkable columnist. His recent piece on McCain’s selection of Sarah Palin is typically insightful and he avoids polemics. He suggests that Palin is not ready, and he compares Bush and Palin, as I have done elsewhere. However, he addresses the whole issue by commenting more on what good governance requires (experience and prudence) than on what Palin lacks.

Its also worth noting that in another life, Brooks could easily have been a social scientist.  He is that rare conservative who is fascinated with human behavior, and he is not afraid to follow the science where it leads and take it into consideration. Consequently, he’s prepared to offer comments like this:

David Brooks

David Brooks

“Geneticists have shown that our behavior is influenced by our ancestors and the exigencies of the past. Behavioral economists have shown the limits of the classical economic model, which assumes that individuals are efficient, rational, utility-maximizing creatures. Psychologists have shown that we are organized by our attachments. Sociologists have shown the power of social networks to affect individual behavior. What emerges is not a picture of self-creating individuals gloriously free from one another, but of autonomous creatures deeply interconnected with one another. Recent Republican Party doctrine has emphasized the power of the individual, but underestimates the importance of connections, relationships, institutions and social filaments that organize personal choices and make individuals what they are.”

The power of satire

14 09 2008

Saturday Night Live may have its ups and downs, but there are those magical moments when you are watching and you know you’ve seen a comedic moment that will go down in history.  Tina Fey and Amy Poehler’s opening sketch portraying a press conference by Sarah Palin and Hilary Clinton certainly qualified.

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler as Sarah Palin and Hilary Clinton

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler as Sarah Palin and Hilary Clinton

I also stumbled across this blog entry (with lots of pictures) about the large No Palin protest in Anchorage.

The Phelps formula

14 09 2008

(Note: This post was written on Friday, September 12 but published on Sunday, September 14 after Obama canceled his SNL appearance.)

Can I offer a few words of advice to Democrats that probably won’t be comforting?  Journalists have been attaching the word “fret” to Democrats, and frankly I’m hearing some of it among my Democratic friends.

My advice is: don’t panic! Stay focused, but don’t panic.  Watching the olympics this summer, I was fascinated not only by the amazing physical fitness and agility of these world class athletes, but the level of mental discipline that is required. It hardly mattered which sport you were watching. Each athlete was trying to get in and stay in his or her personal mental “zone.” It turns out that speed is a function of a fine balance of adrenaline and relaxation. Performing in front of millions of people supplies the adrenaline, but the athlete’s muscles also have to remain limber and loose before and during competition. In the heat of a tight race, the fight or flight response (either one) must be instructing muscles to tighten, but too much uncontrolled tension in the muscles cuts down on performance. I’m no sports psychologist, but I expect the champions are the ones with the mental discipline to stay loose and relaxed even as they are straining hard to catch up or win.

Democrats, sure, this should be an easy race, but we, the judges (to continue the Olympic metaphor), the American public, haven’t been at our best over the past decade.  So, you’re going to have to win this one in the home stretch, which is why Barack needs to have a little chat with Michael Phelps when they both appear on Saturday Night Live tomorrow night. Michael, remind him about how you stayed cool in that 100-meter butterfly event against Čavić and won by a fingernail.

This kind of advice is probably going to come as little comfort to Democrats, who have in recent years lost (in 2004, which was slightly different than the 2000 “selection”) when they were pitted against another under-prepared, over-confident, conservative evangelical, frontier-state governor (only that time the governor was running at the head of the ticket).

I don’t have a solution to the “Palin problem.” As long as we continue to select Presidents on the basis of their personality and our fears as opposed to candidates’ intelligence and expertise, it will always be possible to find ourselves in the same spot in which we find ourselves today.

Just remember, panic will just slow you down.

Name that country

6 09 2008
Amy Goodman on PBS Now

Amy Goodman on PBS' Now

In contrast to my last post, its worth noting that independent media have been covering Americans on the outside of the conventions. But, several of those accredited journalists have been attacked and arrested while working to report on a legitimate new story.

Amy Goodman, of Democracy Now, and two of her producers were arrested this week.  You can find coverage on today’s Democracy Now broadcast, but I would recommend tonight’s broadcast of Now on PBS, which contains an interview and footage of Goodman’s arrest.

What liberal media?

5 09 2008

I’ve been following the DNC and RNC conventions fairly closely, and Paul Krugman’s op-ed today about “The Resentment Strategy” is as astute an analysis as I’ve seen regarding the RNC convention.

Republicans spent a lot of time railing against the liberal media from their platform in the Excel Center in St. Paul this week, which seems a little odd if one examines today’s New York Times. The paper devotes over three full pages to covering the convention and practically ignores the repression of anti-war protests going on outside.  They only offer one picture with the subtitle:  “Herding Protestors: Officers wearing riot gear fired tear gas and flash grenades to try to control antiwar demonstrators on Thursday at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul. Some demonstrators were arrested after they refused to leave the area.” One would think that the use of preventive strikes and  flash grenades on U.S. citizens expressing their free speech rights would be worthy of coverage. It’s quite reminiscent of the way important stories were buried during the lead-up to the latest war in Iraq. What liberal media?