Posted tagged ‘John McCain’

Flash: Red Sox Nation Skipper to Save the American Nation: Evil Empire Gnashes/Rays Bedeviled

October 18, 2008

From the always reliable George Packer comes this update on Boston Red Sox Manager Terry Francona’s shockingly unexpected new job(s). (h/t Avi Zenilmann)

No word yet on whether he plans to walk on water to his new office.

(It should be noted that while soon to be ex-Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling (R-bloody sock) is a vocal if dunderheaded McCain supporter (“the true beauty (sic) of Senator McCain, in my opinion, lies in his accountability.”  That would be the accountability that leads him to hire the firm that slandered him in 2000 to make attacks he lacks the guts to make himself ), top Red Sox management is led by a stalwart Democratic Party supporter.)

Image:  Thomas Eakins, “Baseball Players Practicing,” 1875.  Source:  Wikimedia Commons.

Who’s Johnny? Brain Bubbles, John McCain/Julie Brown edition

September 25, 2008

This election remains absolutely vital.  I’ll post next on some of the background to the now mostly forgotten science debate that illustrates how significant the choice we face has become.  But as John McCain’s campaign has veered from strangeness to absurdity, I can’t resist the pull of the pure entertainment value of what has become a sustained exercise in dada politics.

Which is why the events of yesterday and this morning drew me back to the last time in pop culture someone asked the now vital question:  Who’s Johnny?


David Brooks, again

September 5, 2008

There is one truly mortal sin in all of science:  to create data that do not exist, to make stuff up.  It’s called fraud, and, when uncovered, it marks the end of at least one career — and often, as collateral damage, of those connected, often only very loosely with the original deceit.

In journalism simple fraud also gets you a ticket out the door; Jason Blair is now planning to work in human resources, I hear.

But more subtle frauds do not merely survive; when committed by the right person, in defense of a crucial narrative, they actually persist, and worse, gain prominence and traction to influence the most important political decision the victims of such frauds can make.

Exhibit A:  David Brooks’ latest.

Andrew Sullivan calls today’s column “poignant.”  I guess that’s right, if you, like Andrew have had a long history of friendship with Mr. Brooks.  I am unburdened by such ties of affection, so I’m free to be a little more harsh.

In this column, Brooks is trying to argue that, in fact, a toaster is rabbit — or that the McCain Palin pair are who they say they are.

Now, where I sit, that’s the job of the candidates, to present a claim for themselves that others — first responders being the press — can then test against hard ground of reality.

This role Brooks has abandoned, with a retreat so thorough it’s hard to remember when he actually did give a damn.

E.g, he writes of Palin

Millions declared themselves qualified to judge her a bad mother.

Yeah?  Who?  Remember it was the McCain campaign that released the news of Bristol Palin’s pregnancy, and Barack Obama who told his supporters and all of America that kids were off limits.

The notion that somehow the evil liberals leapt to judge Palin is not supported by any fact that Brooks has (or I reckon, can) cite; it is simply part of the fundamentalist projection machine, as documented by someone whose reporting has consistently outshined Brooks’ the comedian — yup, the funny guy — Jon Stewart.

The tactic here:  If the facts on the ground don’t suit, Brooks appears to have concluded, make up a just vaporous enough claim to avoid close scrutiny.

And then there’s this.

And what was most impressive was her speech’s freshness. Her words flowed directly from her life experience,

What — well maybe, except that Governor Palin’s teleprompter skills were put to work on a speech retooled from one originally written for the expected male nominee.  Again, you can’t quite nail Brooks with the same pure charges of fraud for the word “freshness” — except to note that it is a false claim on the face of it, an opinion that could not be held by a rational observer in possession of facts commonly known.

But worst of all is the claim Brooks made near the top of his column:

Her career in Alaska has been nibbled on the edges, but the key fact is this: When the testing time came, she quit her government job, put her career on the line and took on the corrupt establishment of her own party.

Not a single clause of that is true.  She took on an unpopular governor in alliance with a now indicted Senator at the beating heart of her party’s corrupt establishment.  And as for her career:  her troubles are increasingly well documented — from regressive sales tax increases and reckless accumulation of debt in her tenure as Mayor to the abuse of power investigation she now faces.  To Brooks that may be nibbling around the edges — but for someone whose claim to power rests on experience and ethics, those are issues that strike to the core of who she is.

I could go on — it’s my habit, after all, and Brooks has a seemingly inexhaustible font of hackery — but the real key fact is this:  Brooks’ column today repeats, in near lockstep, the McCain/Palin campaign’s narrative of the last few days.

As he sees it, or rather repurposes someone else’s carefully tested themes, it is not the new man from the party out of power, but an old reformer joined by a young reformer who offer the true possibility of change in a Washington that has, in Brooks’ words aroused McCain’s  “burning indignation at the way Washington has operated over the last 12 years.”

Nowhere does Brooks address the question raised by the opposition:  what change can be expected from a man whose voting record suggests near perfect lockstep with his GOP colleagues over the last eight years?  Maybe he has an argument to counter that Democratic Party attack, but rather than deploy it, he’d rather repeat the McCain campaign’s official fantasy of a freewheelin, freethinking man — and that’s not reporting, nor even punditry.  Brooks’s column could have been “written” by a stenographer.

Is this fraud?  No, in the end, I guess not.  Making facts up, creating characters, putting words never spoken or thoughts never conceived into print is what counts as journalistic fraud, just as actually faking data, reporting on experiments never done, or done with different outcomes, is what truly constitutes scientific fraud. You dont’ get fired for misinterpreting real data. (usually)

But it’s a species of deceit nonetheless.  It repeats other people’s claims uncritically.  It verges on unequivocal dishonesty with the nasty jabs at unnamed critics; it is merely credulous, the work of a hired hand pushing a message that his working brain, were it ever to fire again, couldn’t swallow whole.

Image:  Kobi, “Two Rabbits,” 19th century.  Museum of Fine Arts, San Francisco.  Source:  Wikimedia Commons.

Mental Health Break: The Palin McCain Should Have Picked.

September 5, 2008

Another (real) Public Service Announcement: Compare and Contrast dept.

September 5, 2008

Well, that’s over.  And that.

Seven days of two conventions, stuff and nonesense in abundance, some great speeches, some…’tis kinder to pass over them in silence, don’t you think?

But there is this left:  Two men, Barack Obama and John McCain, got up on their hind legs (h/t Brian Schweitzer) and told us who they were, what they thought America needed, and asked us for our support.  They did so a week apart, and now as citizens we are tasked to weigh their claims on our votes

What with the speed of news and just daily life (the start of my kid’s third grade school year has blown a lot of the memory of last week straight out of my head) I — and my guess is others — find it hard to keep that necessary juxtaposition firmly in mind.

So here, without further snark or comment are the videos of both Barack Obama’s and John McCain’s nomination acceptance speeches.  Make of them what you will.

(And btw–consider this a shout out to any and all fellow bloggers to post these two videos together — these are, after all, the fullest statements of the kinds of people they are and the Presidents they could be that either man will make in any form unmediated by debate rules or what have you).



A public service annoucement: The Future of Measurement under President McCain

September 4, 2008

Just remember:  under President McCain, the future of American precision measurement will be safe. (h/t John Cole):

On to the substance of the Palin pick

August 30, 2008

Update 9/1/08:  Ta-Nehisi Coates puts a spin on the same idea developed below shorter and stronger:  We aren’t saying that Palin is dumb, but that she’s either ignorant or playing on the ignorance of the rest of us.  Either way, not good.

I realize that there is probably something of Palin fatigue already weighing  in; my tours of the blogosphere and the MSM have been all Sarah, all the time for the last thirty hours or so.

So this is something of a placeholder for a longer, more considered post sometime next week.  But the topline I want to put out onto the intertubes is that the Republican ticket is now the most anti-science put out there by any national party since William Jennings Bryan headlined the Dems more than century ago.  (And, for all kinds of reasons, I fear I being unfair to the old bi-metallist, but that’s a post for a very different day.)

The troubles for science begin at the top.  I wrote about McCain as a hazard to the national science enterprise a few months ago in this post.  Short form:  after eight years of a range of assaults on science from the Bush led GOP — attacks in which McCain either acquiesced or participated — McCain’s budget priorities as laid out in his speeches and his issue statements would hit the American science in the gut, with its funding at great risk.

At the same time, this danger comes in the context of McCain himself appearing to be much more disinterested in than actively hostile to the actual content of science.  That is, he has a disdain for expertise — just see his repeatedly willed ignorance on such technically informed subjects as the gas tax holiday and energy policy.  But beyond that  “don’t bug me with the facts” reflex, McCain himself has not said anything that suggests he thinks the law of gravity was passed in the 81st Congress or anything like that

So the prognosis as I saw it in May was that a GOP win in November was for an ongoing cash decline of a thousand cuts, and neither rhetorical support or attack on the underlying ideas of science.

Then came Palin.  My first reaction was like that of a lot of people:  whaaat?  And then — this is an embarassment to the idea or brand of John McCain.  After a week in which Democrats rag on his judgment  he confirms his loose cannon label with this?

But the risk of such reactions is the Dan Quayle problem.  We’ve seen some very unlikey people get within a flat EKG of the Oval Office.  Palin is not just a reflection on McCain; she’s a suddenly potentially very powerful person whose own views, beliefs, and judgment matter.

There will be a lot of folks concentrating on filling in the Palin blank state, and early reports on the conventional political fronts are not promising — from her abuse of power scandal/investigation to stories of managerial incompetence as mayor of a small town; to the shock and dismay of those who politically know her best at the thought of her in the White House.

I’ll leave all that to the kind of folks linked to above.  Here, I just want to remind folks that her creationism and her global warming denialism are not just isolated oddball beliefs.  They are windows into the qualities of her mind, how she thinks and reasons.

And in the shortest form, what it tells me is that she is not someone who eagerly confronts harder truths.  It is certainly possible to have deep faith and understand the overwhelming explanatory (and useful) power of modern evolutionary biology and all its related fields.  But doing so requires hard thinking, and a willingness to sacrifice the simple comfort of Biblical literalism.  Simply saying saying that a creator did it is not the answer.

It is equally possible to have all kinds of doubts about the actual risks involved in global climate change, the scale of probable changes, and the appropriate policy response to the problem. But all but the flat-earth rump of the scientific community agree that anthropogenic emission of greenhouse gases does/will produce some impact on the global climate system — even so well known a skeptic as my  MIT colleague Dick Lindzen says so, while dismissing the problem as both too uncertain and too minor to merit a policy response.  (I disagree — and have for a long time — but that’s not the point here.)

By contrast, Palin’s bald denial of the role of human actions in climate change just gives her an easy way out of confronting the complex and hard arguments about the scale, dangers, and responses to global warming.

And yet, the fact that a President Palin wouldn’t take global warming seriously  doesn’t bother me as much as the thought that the easy way out would be her preferred route on all the issues the occupant of the Oval Office has to confront.

This is tooth fairy thinking — if I want something to be true badly enough; if it is convenient or useful or comfortable for something to be true, then true it must be.

That is:  lots in the blogosphere and the mainstream media have questioned Palin as a candidate because her experience does not make her a plausible President on day one.  But on day two of the Palin era, what scares me much more is not the fact that she hasn’t done very much, nor even that she doesn’t know very much, but that the handful of data on the record that gives insight to her thinking about science tells us that her capacity for judgment is poor.

Which is, of course, exactly the same argument the Democratic National Convention made against her much more experienced, fully formally qualified running mate, John McCain.  McCain/Palin:  the Tooth Fairy ticket.

Oy.  More to come on this theme as the shock wears off.

Image:  August Malmström, “Dancing Fairies” 1861.  Source:  Wikimedia Commons.