Friday, December 26, 2008

A (Very) Belated Note to My Readers

As you've undoubtedly noticed, I haven't been posting much since the election. There was no point at which I made a conscious decision to cut back on my posting; rather, a combination of things (exhaustion at the end of a year of furious election-related activities, issues related to work and family, an utter lack of interest in the non-stop stream of "news" stories consisting of little more than idle speculation about the choices and implications of Obama administration nominees) combined to divert my attention elsewhere.

I'd like to make a brief statement about the last item in my parenthesized list above. I realize that there are business reasons for the continual production of stories purporting to read the tea leaves about what the future will presumably hold in the upcoming administration. Newspapers/magazines/TV news shows/blogs all want to hold the attention of their audiences. This is especially true of those media outlets dependent on advertising for their income. Eyeballs translate to advertising dollars, etc. That's simply how the game works & I accept that.

On the other hand, I don't pretend for a second to have the ability to read minds or see into the future. Nor do I believe that any of the prognosticators claiming predictive powers have those abilities, either. Predictions about future political events, it seems to me, imply a relatively simple teleology in which objectively observable criteria translate in a relatively straightforward way into concrete political results. I think that implication is grossly misleading because it completely overlooks such imponderables as unforeseen events and, at least as important, the interpersonal dynamics involved, both within a given administration and between that administration and its political constituencies and opponents, domestic as well as foreign.

By way of a quick illustration of what I mean, consider for a moment a few historical examples. Imagine for a moment the possible alternative paths that our political history might have taken had (a) Richard Nixon won the 1960 election rather than JFK; (b) the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King not been assassinated in 1968; (c) the GOP had not decided to cater to the far right with their tacit acceptance of Sen. Joseph McCarthy's witch hunt tactics in the 1950s, Nixon's southern strategy, and their appeals to the religious right from Reagan to the current infestation of the White House. Imagine, for that matter, the kinds of presidential candidates political parties would and would not have been willing to nominate were American culture not afflicted with a widespread attitude according to which hostility to elitism translates to a hostility toward education. Imagine further that the social arrangements into which we've all been socialized since birth were considered to be not merely an accepted natural order of things, but the cumulative results of a series of choices made by humans in response to changing events and contexts.

The point I'm trying to make is that history, culture and politics are the combination of social context, individual personalities and chance. I don't know how those things will shape our world. I feel confident in Obama's ability to make reasoned, principled, humane decisions in the interest of our country and this planet. I have no idea how things will happen. So I wait.

In the interim, as I find things of interest to mull over, I'll share them with you. You have been warned... ;-)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Another Reason I Support Obama

Today's New York Times profile of Cassandra Q. Butts, Barack Obama's nominee for the positions of White House counsel’s office, White House adviser, and assistant to the president for personnel includes this crucial detail:
Is linked to Mr. Obama by: ...She still has his constitutional law book, which she seized as hostage back in college when she lent him a Miles Davis/John Coltrane album [emphasis mine] that he has yet to return.

While I am certainly not an advocate of borrowing things and then not returning them, I'm greatly encouraged by the item involved.

Oh, by the way--Merry Christmas/Happy Hanukkah/Happy Kwanzaa to all. And a Happy New Year, while I'm at it.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Look—A Bird!

Now that the economy is tanking, free market absolutists and various GOP apologists are, predictably enough, twisting themselves into pretzels attempting to dodge responsibility for this latest and perhaps most spectacular of a seemingly endless series of Bush administration disasters. It’s all the fault of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, they claimed. No, it’s those nasty unions. When in doubt, blame Bill Clinton and racial minorities.

Before anyone forgets, here’s a Washington Post article outlining specific things the Bush administration did and did not do to help our economy crumble into the worst recession in years.