Thoughts on the 2008 vice presidential race

I don't think I've said anything about it up to now, and there's only (as of today) 9 1/2 weeks left.

I just read Mudflats' "What is McCain Thinking? One Alaskan's Perspective." In it, she says:

[…] Listen to John McCain and you'll hear
about a maverick reformer who took on big oil, took on corrupt Alaska
politicians, and whose ethics are unquestioned.

Alaskans really want to like Sarah
Palin.  In a state where corruption is the rule, and the same faces
keep recycling over and over and over again like a bad dream, a new
face, with a promise of reform seemed like a breath of fresh air. 
Palin defeated incumbent governor Frank Murkowski (father of Alaska
Senator Lisa Murkowski who he appointed to his own Senate seat when he
was elected governor) because he was such an obnoxious, bloviating,
downright BAD politician.  This staunchly republican state voted with
relief, not having to cross over and vote Democratic, but still able to
get Murkowski the hell out of office.  In the general election Palin
swept into office running against a former Democratic governor, Tony
Knowles, who was capable but came with baggage.  And he represented to
Alaskans more of the same, tired old-style politics, and special
interests that we have come to loathe.

So, if McCain had made his selection six
months ago, the squeaky-clean governor meme would have made a little
more sense.  But, Sarah Palin is currently under an ethics
investigation by the Alaska state legislature. […]

See, six months ago, it was pretty hard to tell the lineup of Republican presidential candidates apart — even with a scorecard. So when I tweeted a friend a Publius Pundit vice-presidential poll, he said he was rooting for someone he thought could govern: Christopher Cox, for his conservative bonafides, relative youth and ability to shore up McCain's economic flank.

He asked me who I thought had a shot, and I told him I thought the nod would be more about campaigning than governing: "Whitman, Hutchison, Rice,
Watts, Jindal, Powell, Palin, Blackburn, [Elizabeth] Dole, Steele." Of those, my friend said he thought only Watts had enough experience but lacked the desire.

I didn't give the issue any more serious thought until this morning. I'd assumed McCain wouldn't give in to his long-shot leanings. I was wrong.

Today, my friend asked me what I thought of Joe Biden. I said "Meh. I'd hoped he'd double-down on change (Bayh/Kaine) or pick
Hagel or Powell or Richardson, but I'm pleased he didn't pick Clinton." I think we can all see pretty clearly what not-picking Clinton yielded.

Indianapolis, when he was 9 years old

[…] He wants to tell us things: It is not the fittest who survive – it is
merely those who happen to survive who survive. The earth is a
''fragile habitat'' that our big brains have failed to take care of. We
must hope for flippers and beaks – or nothing at all. We are all,
finally, being too mean to one another. ''I'll tell you what the human
soul is,'' a character in ''Galapagos'' says. ''It's the part of you that knows when your brain isn't working right.'' […]

[…] No matter how
corrupt, greedy, and heartless our government, our corporations, our
media, and our religious and charitable institutions may become, the
music will still be wonderful.

If I should ever die, God forbid, let this be my epitaph:

THE ONLY PROOF HE NEEDED
FOR THE EXISTENCE OF GOD
WAS MUSIC

Now,
during our catastrophically idiotic war in Vietnam, the music kept
getting better and better and better. We lost that war, by the way.
Order couldn’t be restored in Indochina until the people kicked us out.

That
war only made billionaires out of millionaires. Today’s war is making
trillionaires out of billionaires. Now I call that progress.

And
how come the people in countries we invade can’t fight like ladies and
gentlemen, in uniform and with tanks and helicopter gunships?

Back
to music. It makes practically everybody fonder of life than he or she
would be without it. Even military bands, although I am a pacifist,
always cheer me up. And I really like Strauss and Mozart and all that,
but the priceless gift that African Americans gave the whole world when
they were still in slavery was a gift so great that it is now almost
the only reason many foreigners still like us at least a little bit.
That specific remedy for the worldwide epidemic of depression is a gift
called the blues. All pop music today – jazz, swing, be-bop, Elvis
Presley, the Beatles, the Stones, rock-and-roll, hip-hop, and on and on
– is derived from the blues.

A
gift to the world? One of the best rhythm-and-blues combos I ever heard
was three guys and a girl from Finland playing in a club in Krakow,
Poland.

The
wonderful writer Albert Murray, who is a jazz historian and a friend of
mine among other things, told me that during the era of slavery in this
country – an atrocity from which we can never fully recover – the
suicide rate per capita among slave owners was much higher than the
suicide rate among slaves.

Murray
says he thinks this was because slaves had a way of dealing with
depression, which their white owners did not: They could shoo away Old
Man Suicide by playing and singing the Blues. He says something else
which also sounds right to me. He says the blues can’t drive depression
clear out of a house, but can drive it into the corners of any room
where it’s being played. So please remember that.

Foreigners
love us for our jazz. And they don’t hate us for our purported liberty
and justice for all. They hate us now for our arrogance. […]

[…] I
went to an overachiever’s high school in Indianapolis, which no longer
exists. It was called Shortridge High School, and since 1906 had a
daily paper. I was an editor of the Shortridge Daily Echo, and
I learned to write. It was beneficial, really, because it made me aware
immediately of the response of readers. You publish something people
don’t like and you hear about it right away.

I knew how to
paste up a front page and write headlines. At the City News Bureau, we
phoned in our stories and we phoned in leads. The first thing you’d say
is who, what, when, where and why. In writing fiction, that’s what I
always did. I made sure the reader knew at once where he was, too.
Fiction is a game for two. You have to make it possible for a reader to
play along.

[…] DAVID BRANCACCIO:
Well, I want to ask you about this. You ask in the book a question that actually you don't answer so I want to –

KURT VONNEGUT:
I'm old.

DAVID BRANCACCIO:
But I want to– think about answering this one. You write "what can be
said to our young people now that psychopathic personalities — which is
to say persons without consciences, without senses of pity or shame —
have taken all the money in the treasuries of our government and
corporations and made it their own?" What can we say to younger people
who have their whole lives ahead of them?

KURT VONNEGUT:
Well, you are human beings. Resourceful. Form a little society of your own. And, hang out with them. Get a gang.

DAVID BRANCACCIO:
You're preaching getting into gangs?

KURT VONNEGUT:
Yes. Well, look, it's–

DAVID BRANCACCIO:
A good gang.

KURT VONNEGUT:
Look, I don't mean to intimidate you, but I have a master's degree in anthropology.

DAVID BRANCACCIO:
I'm intimidated.

KURT VONNEGUT:
From the University of Chicago– as did Saul Bellow, incidentally. But
anyway, one thing I found out was that we need extended families. We
need gangs. And, of course, if they're tribes and clans and so forth
have been dispersed by the industrial revolution by people looking for
work wherever they can find it. And a nuclear family, a man, a woman
and kids and a dog and cat is no survival scheme at all. Horribly
vulnerable.

So yes, I tell people to formulate a little gang. And, you know, you love each other. […]

[…] Newspaper reporters and technical writers are trained to
reveal almost nothing about themselves in their writings. This
makes them freaks in the world of writers, since almost all of
the other ink-stained wretches in that world reveal a lot about
themselves to readers. We call these revelations, accidental and
intentional, elements of style. […]

[…] One thing which has not changed is that none of us, no matter what
continent or island or ice cap, asked to be born in the first place,
and that even somebody as old as I am, which is 80, only just got here.
There were already all these games going on when I got here. … An apt
motto for any polity anywhere, to put on its state seal or currency or
whatever, might be this quotation from the late baseball manager Casey
Stengel, who was addressing a team of losing professional athletes:
“Can’t anybody here play this game?” […]

[…] What painters and sculptors and writers do, incidentally, is put
very small properties indeed into good order, as best they can.

A painter thinks, "I can't fix the whole planet, but I can at least
make this square of canvas what it ought to be." And a sculptor thinks
the same thing about a lump of clay or marble. A writer thinks the same
about a piece of paper, conventionally eleven inches long and
eight-and-a-half inches wide. […]

[…] I put my big question about life to my biological son Mark. Mark is a pediatrician, and author of a memoir, The Eden Express.
It is about his crackup, straightjacket and padded cell stuff, from
which he recovered sufficiently to graduate from Harvard Medical School.

Dr. Vonnegut said this to his doddering old dad: “Father, we are
here to help each other get through this thing, whatever it is.” So I
pass that on to you. Write it down, and put it in your computer, so you
can forget it. […]


Pigmentation itself, ethnicity itself, is not a factor that is going to sway people

[…] "In my district, people are going with Hillary," said state Sen. Robert
Ford, a Democrat from Charleston. "I am sure there will be some young
blacks who will be behind Obama, but elderly blacks are going with
Hillary because they love Bill and they love Hillary for standing
behind him for eight years." […]

[…] "People down here don't know him, and South Carolinians in many ways
are a difficult lot," said Cole Blease Graham, a political scientist at
the University of South Carolina. "They like to see their politicians
up close in the flesh, shake their hand and look them in the eye. "Blacks will determine the winner in South Carolina, and if it came
down to it right now, it would be Clinton because of the lack of
exposure Obama has here," said Graham. "If Obama can win some
attraction from whites and overwhelming support from black voters, he
can beat Clinton." […]

[…] "South Carolina is one of the most racially polarized places in the
country, and black people in South Carolina have never elected a black
candidate statewide," said David Bositis, senior political analyst for
the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies in Washington.
"There are places in the South where people don't think anybody black
can be elected to anything. So when they think about the presidential
election, they don't think of Obama as someone with very good
prospects."
[…]

Quotes from Dahleen Glanton's Chicago Tribune article "Obama's Southern support not a cinch"

[…] "He has to campaign. Like any other candidate, he will have to prove
a viability, prove that he’s going to articulate the issues and do so
in a way that proves that he is an authentic Democrat and not a closet
Republican." […]

Rev. Joe Darby,
pastor of Morris Brown AME Church in Charleston, one of the largest
black churches in the state, quoted in Aaron Gould Sheinin's The State article "Obama campaigning in S.C. today"

[…] "There are some things you can't run away from. He's going to have
to raise between $US50 million ($64 million) and $US100 million,
and that money's not coming from black people. So black people are
going to have to engage with that reality. He gives the impression
that he dances on both sides, but when he gets into the goldfish
bowl of an election campaign, he will be forced to define himself
more concretely." […]

Ron
Walters, the director of the African American Leadership Institute
and an expert on black presidential politics, in Gary Younge's Guardian UK (via Sydney Morning Herald) column "The real deal"

"If you're a black man in America today, you're treated
like a black man, every day. […] Toni Morrison called Bill
Clinton our first black president. He was very
comfortable around black people, played the saxophone, went to black
churches. I don't see where Hillary inherits that. She's a whole
different deal."

"If blackness is not consecrated by slavery and
childhood poverty, you're not black enough? That idea is nonsense. Nothing in Obama's
background justifies seeing him as a white guy's black guy. He has
addressed black concerns as a community organizer in Chicago and a
state senator in Springfield. […] Bill went out of his way to make black appointments, court black
voters, and she was at his side when he did it. And
blacks are loyal to people who they think have produced for them."

Quotes from Georgetown law professor Patricia King and her husband, civil rights activist Roger Wilkins, in Ken Bode's Indianapolis Star op-ed "Who will get blacks' votes?"

In other words, black is whatever we say it is

[…] Consider this: Just 40 years ago, one could make certain
assumptions about the average Negro, or black American. She
was probably no more than one generation removed from the
South; whether a Northerner or Southerner, he had first-hand
knowledge of Jim Crow, or segregation; when it came to
religion, he or she was most likely Protestant.
But scholars like Vernellia Randal, a law professor at the
University of Dayton, point out that those assumptions have
fallen in the face of urbanization, migration and
integration. […]

Afi-Odelia Scruggs' Cleveland Plain Dealer op-ed "Obama's identity crisis"

[…] "I think it could very well be generational—that people like myself,
who are older and more established and have these relationships, will
stay with the people that we know. Whereas younger people, who don’t
have these relationships, will say that this fellow seems to be an
outsider too—and so, therefore, they are attracted to him." […]

Ex-New York State Comptroller Carl McCall, quoted in Jason Horowitz's New York Observer article "Clinton, Obama Vying for Black Power-Brokers"

Update:

[…] According to Census Bureau figures, in 2004, African-Americans cast
14 million votes nationwide. Now comes this stunner: Because
African-American men not only are fewer in number but also register and
vote at much lower rates, black women cast almost three of every five
of these votes – 59 percent, to be precise. White women also outnumber,
out-register and outvote white men, but the disparity is smaller (53
percent to 47 percent). […]

[…] Senator Obama's allure may be perceived as more
generationally prospective, whereas the appeal of Senator Clinton – the
former first lady married to the man novelist Toni Morrison once called
the "first black president" – is deemed more historically
retrospective. "He brings a lot to our heritage and culture, especially
to our youth," said Victoria Haynes, a 47-year-old Denver native who
worked on the campaign of newly elected Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter Jr.
"She brings a lot of strength as a woman who came from behind her
husband to lead as a woman." […]

Thomas F. Schaller's Baltimore Sun op-ed "Black women face dilemma in Democratic primary"


Vox Hunt: A Favorite Song from ’06

Audio:  Share one of your favorite songs from 2006.

Pitchfork: There was a track written about on Pitchfork recently, "Something Isn't Right", the first track on Scale,
and the writer, Mark Pytlik, said that you could tell in a few moments
it was a Herbert track. And I think that's true; despite how different
your records sound from each other, there is something there, a thread
through them. I know that at various times you've talked about music as
a way of getting away from ego, but I do feel like there is something
you can't get away from. I'm not sure exactly what it is; to me it
seems like a rhythmic sensibility that informs your work, a swing that
sound like Herbert. Are you aware that a part of yourself is in there,
regardless of the materials you're working with?


MH: I'm not. I'm really not. I know I have patterns and I've always
tried hard to avoid them. There are definitely certain things in my
music, if I'm looking back, "Well, that was a period where I was
experimenting with a certain kind of chord structure or a certain kind
of sound." I've tried really hard, but I'd be hard pressed to tell you
what that sound, what that tangible sound of "me" is. I think rhythm
is, when you talk about rhythmic sensibility, quite perceptive in that
I like to have at least one thing that is at least common or familiar
to the audience. Other than rhythm, the only thing I could say is that
I take a great deal of pride in every single sound I use. I'm always
making sure that I'm not using a pre-set or something that everyone
else has done. I try to be original in every piece of music I do, and
of course I probably fail every time.

Pitchfork: Let me ask you– that moment in "Something Isn't
Right" where he sings, "Do you re-mem-ber?" First time I heard that it
reminded me of "September" by Earth Wind & Fire. I was sitting with
my wife and I asked her, Do you think that's a direct reference to that
song, or is it just a few notes that sound similar?

MH: There is a very slight reference there. It's a reference to the
11th of September because that's what the Earth Wind & Fire tune
was called. I almost had it "Do you remember? The 11th of September?"
But there was no way I could possibly put that in.

Pitchfork: So that's the kind of reference you're talking about, where you embed those kinds of things in the music.


MH:
Exactly. And the record's full of them in different places. It's
kind of like, trying to use every weapon in your arsenal to point
people in a certain direction.

Make your strength the issue

"The agenda-setting effect is what we are talking about. The ability of a candidate not to tell people how to feel about an issue, but which issue they should focus on — that is the struggle of most modern campaign managers. Campaigns have been much more successful at shifting people's attentions to different issues rather than shifting people's positions."

A quote from University of Michigan at Ann Arbor political psychologist Nicholas A. Valentino in Shankar Vedantam's Washington Post article "In Politics, Aim for the Heart, Not the Head"