November 2008

What’s your take on the point that’s come up in blogs and on TV about the Democrats potentially “kicking Sen. Joe Liberman (I-CT) out”of their congressional caucus?

 My initial reaction is posted here (, so if you’d like to respond to that I’d be grateful— but this is about asking you, not asking me, so most of all I’d like to know what you think the Democrats should do.

I’d better reply before events take over…  There’s some justifiable anger at Lieberman’s consorting with McCain and running as an independent; but I think it’d be foolish to kick him out.  It’s not merely prudent to have one extra vote; it’s a certainty that it’ll be needed one day and probably many days.
There’s a profile in this week’s New Yorker of Chuck Hagel, a Republican who’s been increasingly critical of his party, especially on Iraq.  (He accompanied Obama to Iraq this summer.)  Frustrating as they are to ideologues, we need this sort of people—the rather small group of politicians who inhabit the middle ground between the two parties.

I like the sprays that my friend Leth came up with, especially the TF2 ones:

It’s been clear for weeks which way the election was trending, but I don’t trust near-sure things.  But the results make me very happy.  Obama fought a very smart and tough campaign, taking on— and winning— red states that McCain couldn’t afford to lose.  In a sense all he had to do besides that was to stay cool and let McCain shoot himself in the foot, and McCain obliged.

Years ago Richard Nixon observed that the way to become a Republican president was to move as far right as possible in the spring, and as far back as possible in the fall.  For a time Karl Rove revised this by eliminating the leftward half of the trek: the Republicans would become a permanent majority by going all hard right all the time. Sadly, McCain followed this nasty and divisive method, and I hope his loss drives an iron spike through its heart.  

A better candidate, or the old McCain, might have done better, but I think the election was in large part an overdue reprimand to George Bush’s incompetence— and the important point is, Bush was not mere bad luck.  He was the clear choice of the GOP, “Our Leader”, and the conservative movement closed ranks till very recently, throwing out even their own when they dared to dissent.  None of Bush’s mistakes were an accident.  The disasters of Katrina and the financial industry are a direct result of anti-government ideology: if you put people in charge who pooh-pooh the very idea of government, you’ll get bad government just when you need it.  The disaster of Iraq (and increasingly Afghanistan) was a direct consequence of Republican xenophobia: if you put people in charge who hate half their country and the whole of the rest of the world, you’ll be hated by the world.  And the disasters of bill signing statements, government torture chambers, and other assaults on constitutionality come from putting authoritarians in charge.

I have sympathy for actual conservatives— at least, those who recognize that the Republicans have nearly destroyed real conservativism.  Conservativism isn’t supposed to be about increasing government spending, lies and bullshit, an imperial presidency, and endless war.  The younger generation of conservatives realizes that their own movement needs to be reformed.

The election was also what Obama insisted it was: a vote for change and hope.  He never overplayed his blackness, and the whole point is that we needn’t either.  The thing to celebrate is that we can now elect the best person for the job, white or black.  (And, male or female.  Despite bruised feelings, it’s obvious that both parties are now ready to seriously consider a female president.)  But everything that Obama is sends a strong and overdue message to the world— that the better elements of the American dream are back on top, opportunity and inclusiveness rather than fear and disdain.

My condolences to gays and lesbians for their losses in California and elsewhere.  The consolation, though, is that victory is so close we can taste it.  It won’t take another generation; it’ll be five or ten years.  Look at the margin in California: 48-52.  Or Arkansas of all places: 43-57.  The right will count these as tactical victories, but they’ve lost the war.  To be a cultural value, something (say, homophobia) has to be accepted by ultra-majorities— 80% or more.  When it’s in the 50s, it’s just politics, and given current trends it will change very soon.

Every time I see a geographical map showing polling results, I’m annoyed, because it makes the US look so much redder than it is.  Cartograms, which scale state sizes by population, are much better for grasping the political situation.  I created one for the 2006 election here, and highlighted one from the 2004 election here

Here, courtesy of Krugman, is a map showing likely electoral votes this year.  It’s quite a contrast to a geographical map

Cartogram of likely electoral votes

Cartogram of likely electoral votes

Don’t forget to vote.  Not only can you help restore the rule of law, restore hope, and reprimand fear, hate, and irresponsibility, but (at least around here) you can get a free coffee at Starbucks.  Mmm, coffee.

There is such a thing as an intelligent conservative; Andrew Sullivan is one.  And like many intelligent conservatives, he’s voting for Obama.  His bottom-line reasons are to restore the rule of law after what he calls Bush & Cheney’s “de facto coup against the constitution”.  But he also finds Obama something we haven’t seen for a long time: someone who can inspire.

Obama, moreover, seems to bring out the best in people, and the calmest, and the sanest. He seems to me to have a blend of Midwestern good sense, an intuitive understanding of the developing world that is as much our future now as theirs’, an analyst’s mind and a poet’s tongue. He is human. He is flawed. He will make mistakes. His passivity and ambiguity are sometimes weaknesses as well as strengths.

But there is something about his rise that is also supremely American, a reminder of why so many of us love this country so passionately and are filled with such grief at what has been done to it and in its name. I endorse Barack Obama because I will not give up on America, because I believe in America, and in her constitution and decency and character and strength.

 Go and vote, and don’t watch the news until the evening.

Most annoying thing: I finally have the time to travel, but– no income to do it with.  Oh well.  I think I’ll write a book instead.

Best thing: my bug list, that stack of notes on things to do, my MBOs, all the support stuff from the last few years of coding– all gone, somebody else’s problem now.

I picked up Fallout 3, and so far it’s a winner.  Companies seem to have a house style, and this is recognizably a kin– a dirtier cousin– of Oblivion.  The general mechanics and the wide-openness are similar.  But it’s also way better in graphics, voice acting, character appearance, and quest quality.

Here’s my character, in a relatively safe spot in the post-nuclear wasteland:

Fallout 3 screenshot

Just look at that gorgeous rendering

It’s good enough that I’m willing to put up with the game freezing up at unpredictable intervals.  (Sometimes it’s a few minutes, sometimes a few hours.)

So far it also feels harder than Oblivion.  It’s a constant struggle to keep up your health and find ammo.  I was proud of myself for clearing out a nest of giant fire ants, using virtually every weapon I had except for the BB gun and the police baton.

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