Archive for the ‘Culture and Society’ Category

The First Serious Candidate of 2012?

April 26, 2011 1 comment

Unpublished update: I wrote part of this article on Friday, with Ron Paul still “thinking.” Then boom, Monday he gets in. So some of this should be taken with that in mind–I’ve edited it since, but in my mind Paul is just “getting” in, so I haven’t completely made the transition. So I must say something I would have never said in 2008: Paulistas, I apologize.

It’s official: Gary Johnson will be seeking the Republican nomination in the 2012 primaries.

Gary who?

Gary Johnson, the former Governor of New Mexico. It’s alright if you don’t remember him–his term ended in 2003. You may recall, though, a governor of a smaller western state being one of the highest ranking Republicans (and indeed, official of either party) to call for the decriminalization of marijuana. Yeah, that was him. So why am I getting excited over a candidate that would seem, at face value, to be little more than a historical footnote?

Well, for starters, I see Johnson as the first serious candidate to officially enter the race. Now now, I know what you’re thinking–don’t Tpaw, Mittens, even the Donald have a better chance at this point? Perhaps, but as you’ll hear me belabor over the next six months while I continue to write on the ebb and flow of the race, because, hey, even an unpaid blogger seeks good copy, things change. Nobody could beat George H.W. Bush in the early part of 1991. Nobody.

But when I say serious, I don’t mean an attitude of a candidate that’s “in it to win it.” What I mean is a candidate that is serious about their ideology and has put forth or presents real solutions to the problems facing America. Newt may have once stood on the edge of being that candidate, but nowadays, he’s more “anti” than anything else. Romney, well, we’ve already discussed Romney’s issues–in that there are really few he hasn’t flipped or flopped on. Huckabee, too, is largely a Tea Party cheerleader these days. And although I’ll admit that I’m anxiously awaiting Pawlenty’s alternative budget, right now, he seems more focused on shaking the perception that he’s just too dull to take on the One.

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Why Tweet?

December 8, 2009 Leave a comment

Two disparate but related posts led me to ask this question today. First, there was Fisherville Mike’s short post linking to an article about Sarah Palin’s use of Facebook. It was this line that got me thinking:

Politicians shouldn’t tweet like they’re teenage girls – Newt Gingrich talking about dinner with James Carville, or Nathan Daschle telling how he’s relaxing in the hot tub. Go ahead and have a life; we just don’t care to hear about it.

Mike hit the nail on the head. People are naturally social animals–indeed, there’s a whole category of mental illness used to describe behavior in which people have abnormal social patterns: personality disorders. The flip side of this coin, though, is that social networking tools like Twitter and to an even greater extent lead us to believe that everyone we care about (or have in our social network because we think they can help us (you do it–admit it) cares about everything that we do–the phenomena of people posting their every little move on Twitter and Facebook is really no different from the Salahi’s gatecrashing at the White House–the goal is relevance in an increasingly growing and shrinking world. Both Twitter and FB have their place. In particular, I think that Twitter is custom made for short posts from political events and to spread pithy thoughts about major news. I’ll admit that even I am guilty of an occasional vanity tweet, but the fact of the matter is that in the wrong hands these tools are just another way for drama makers and attention seekers to get an audience they don’t deserve.

The other post was from Krystle about a curious new device created by tech types at Hasselt University. It’s essentially a Fisher Price activity center with a board inside that sends tweets when toddlers press family member’s pictures.

Is it me or has this hit a new level of insanity? Can we just let kids be kids? Children can utilize technology without impacting their social skills towards addiction or even imposing the mantra of acronyms into their learning. It’s bad enough that children are growing up faster each day through the various influences in the media and on the internet. Twoddler is actually taking away from a child’s creativity by drawing them towards a technology addicted lifestyle. I guess this is the sign of the times and further distancing simplicity outside of childhood.

Again, the device is simply a prototype, but I would expect that it won’t be too long before social networking is integrated into new toys. I find this dangerous from two perspectives. First, despite its name, social media ceates a new wrinkle in interpresonal interaction by allowing people to connect from long distances. It does this, however, through a screen, a screen that cannot capture the depth of an individual’s true emotions. It is necessarily limited to text and sometimes graphics. It seems that as we move through phases of technology, we lose a certain depth of communication. The telephone eliminated facial expressions, text messaging made it very difficult for some turns of phrase and irony to be readily understood, and the invention of text messaging further garbled the mix. Children should be raised in a manner that allows them to use the whole of their social tools. While social media is here to stay and will become an increasingly part of our social interaction, it doesn’t mean that children need to have it pounded into them from three months of age. If we foist adult ideas upon children, we’ll end up with a generation with limited imagination and verbal abilities, thinking that they’ll always have the comfort of the screen to mediate awkward social interactions.

And another thing–why Twitter? I view twitter much the same way as I view XM radio–an intermediary technology. Twitter is a curious little thing–part social network, part micro-blogging tool. But these features are both being quickly supplanted by Facebook and the increasing integration of social media into smart phones, combined with the increasing use of data plans on said phones. Another reason not to barrage children with social media from an early age–it is a constantly shifting universe that requires discretion and understanding of the various pros and cons to each platform. I may sound like a hypocrite here, since my twitter use has actually increased with the purchase of a new phone–this is because I don’t have data service to use Facebook but I DO have a QWERTY keyboard. Again, it works for me. That will be the key to success for the next generation in using social media–careful selection for the individual.

The Cat’s Meow

November 28, 2009 2 comments

Friends and readers will know that I am a cat lover. Not to the point where I subscribe to Cat Fancy and tour the country from show to show with my constant companion Bella, but they are an important part of my life. Also, I can tell you the difference between a Maine Coon and a Norwegian Forest cat, so I suppose that counts as some degree of fanaticism.

Also, the fact that I am duly impressed by these pictures and this article about a house in Japan that has specifically been designed to facilitate the cohabitation of felines and their slaves masters:

Features include open air cat walks, climbing steps, nooks throughout the house for cat hide-outs, cat doors in every door, extra space in the bathroom designed especially for a litter box, an enclosed deck area, and special fences to prevent cats from escaping.

They have even gone so far as to use pet-friendly construction materials that resist scratching and are easy to clean.

Though the design may be a bit extreme for me, it appears to be a rather pleasing mix of aesthetics and functionality. Given that my cat Bella has taken to trying to literally climb up my walls, perhaps I could take some hints from this design.

Santorum, Dobbs in ’12? Good grief

November 27, 2009 4 comments

(I noticed this accidentally never got posted, but I’m throwing it up since it gives some background on my thoughts about a potential Dobbs run in 2012)

I’ve been spending the last few days thinking and writing a great deal about the future of the right and the GOP. Naturally, a great deal of this has crossed paths with speculation about who will emerge in 2012. Expect more of that: I find political parties, their formation, and the constant battles for control utterly fascinating. Even though I can’t do nearly as thorough a job as GOP 12 or Race for 2012, I’ll continuing writing about it as long as it piques my interest.

And of course with another day in the race for the White House (what? You really thought it ended last year? You cad, you) comes new faces. Sometimes alarming, sometimes bizarre. I think today’s conversation is a bit of both. First, there’s word that recently departed CNN anchorman and champion of anti-illegal immigration activist Lou Dobbs is perhaps mulling a run:

During an interview on WTOP radio in Washington, Dobbs fueled rumors he’s seeking a bid for public office, possibly the highest office in the land, when asked if speculation about an Oval Office bid is “crazy talk.”

“What’s so crazy about that?” Dobbs, 64, replied. “Golly!”

So, is it crazy talk or is it real, the radio station persisted.

“Well, I’ll tell you this much — it’s one of the discussions that we’re having,” he said. “For the first time, I’m actually listening to some people about politics.”

“I don’t think I’ve got the nature for it,” he added. “[But] we’ve got to do something in this country and I think that being in the public arena means you’ve got to be part of the solution.”

If Dobbs gets into this thing, I think he almost automatically starts as an indy. I think he just couldn’t pass the litmus test on abortion and LGBT issues and wouldn’t readily get corporate backing by any stretch of the imagination, since he both balks at immigration. The New Yorker had a great piece on him a few years back that examines his curious political positioning (which I would label as much more populist than Palin or even Huckabee) Crazy as it seems, though, I think there’s very real room for him in this race. If Democrats continue to overreach, Republicans twiddle their thumbs over what to do about the Tea Party momentum and illegal immigration becomes a hot button issue again (it polls very high in many regions, but enthusiasm ebbs and flows), Dobbs has a custom made base. He’s spoken highly of the movement and has his own degree of popularity (although he isn’t as “respected” a voice as Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh, his newly free status as another mic jockey and writer). His story of transforming from a Wall Street puppet to a populist firebrand would appeal to alot of disenfranchised voters. He’s Perot-esque without the Perot insanity. Given the overall climate and that both parties seem to be reaching their nadir, the time for candidate like Dobbs may very well be nigh. If someone like Lindsay Graham emerges as the establishment pick for 2012–well, he may very damn well have a shot. Whatever happens, the very fact that Dobbs is being brandied about indicates that even the huge field already emerging for 2012 doesn’t have “someone for everyone.”

Perhaps more shocking: the fact the Rick Santorum is starting to make moves towards a possible bid. From Hotline:

Santorum, who has already visited IA, will stop in Spartanburg, Greenville and Hilton Head to campaign for Rep. Gresham Barrett (R), who is locked in a tough GOP primary for GOV.

Santorum said he is “looking forward to visiting with South Carolina families to discuss the issues that matter to them and the future of this country. Too much is at stake to sit back and not participate in the critical discussion of how to address these issues,” according to a statement he released.

Santorum has been openly toying with a presidential run in ’12. He acknowledged that a trip to IA in late September was designed to gin up interest in his own political future.

“When you give a speech in either Iowa or New Hampshire, as a Republican or a Democrat, people pay attention,” Santorum said on a conference call the day before his trip. “This is an opportunity to speak and lend my voice to what I hope to be a conservative movement and a Republican movement to change the direction Barack Obama wants to take us.”

Lemme put this to bed right now: I CANNOT back Santorum for President. The man was thoroughly whomped in 2006, and he’s just a strange cat to begin with. Recall that his family took home a stillborn child and introduced it to the rest of its family. I’m sure that this scene repeats itself across our nation on a regular basis–indeed, it actually has some historical basis, given that photos of dead infants were once a very common mourning device. However, Santorum openly wrote about it in the book that many considered the starting point for his 2008 run that never came to pass. This would indicate that Santorum believes that this anectdote (probably best left to family) somehow underscores his conservative credentials without taking into consideration his already stellar legislative record on these issues. This gives him that special hint of nuttiness that has doomed many a candidate.  Additionally, the aforementioned campaign tome laid out a view of conservatism that gave bold powers to government to protect the family, which Santorum argued was central to political life. Santorum made little mention of the sort of fiscal and economic policies that have become central to our current political discourse. Santorum would certainly have his fans amongst the sort of conservative Catholics that have come to populate party nominating contests of late, but I believe that a Huckabee run leaves little room for Santorum to mobilize the hard right base towards a win, particularly given the fact that Huckabee appears to be determined to set himself up as Obama’s critic-in-chief on all issues, not just social issues.

Thanksgiving with the Hills

November 26, 2009 Leave a comment

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I know I have much to be thankful for on this, the most American (and therefore bipartisan) of holidays. I won’t bemoan my meager existence in the cosmos by going line by line over everything that I have to be extremely grateful for, but suffice it to say that this past year, from my maternal grandfather’s death last Thanksgiving to my sudden unemployment to my personal struggles on the campaign trail to finally my recent (and continuing) recovery over some of my personal demons has left me a changed person and very grateful to be able to rediscover at a young age just what I posess as individual that I must thank god every day for.

Today I wanted to take a moment to thank Adult Swim for their week-long retrospective of the King of the Hill’s past Thanksgiving shows. Many of you who know me personally know that I am a big fan of the show and of Adult Swim. I was quite happy when Adult Swim picked up the show, despite the fact that its straight ahead satire isn’t a perfect match for the more absurdist comedies the network features. For the uninitated, King of the Hill focuses on the daily life and travails of the Hill family in the fictitious town of Arlen, Texas. Though it is an animated sitcom, it has often been overlooked for its incisive satire (and loving embrace) of small town American life. The program is unique amongst other animated sitcoms (note how I avoid the use of the word cartoon) in that it generally follows the rules of physics and for not being overly reliant on slapstick comedy. However, it still takes great liberty in using its medium to its fullest potential to skewer both the troubling and joyous aspects of our society.

King of the Hill is brilliant in the way that it both embraces and pokes fun at the occasional ignorance of small town Americans of the world writ large while simultaneously skewering both high minded social engineers and profit driven corporations. At its core the show is more populist than conservative, though Hank Hill has many qualities that conservatives should embrace as their own: community spirit, a generous will, and a can-do-it attitude with a genuine love of hard work paying off for those willing to do it.

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Romney vs. Huck: Part Deux

November 24, 2009 Leave a comment

One of the great “B” stories of the 2008 Presidential campaign was the dog fight between Former Massachussets Governor Mitt Romney and Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. Both candidates had their own place in the race: Romney had a good fiscal and economic record, but his “Road to Des Moines” conversion on abortion issues and former peddling to LGBT interests was too much for many social conservatives to handle. Meanwhile, Huckabee has a poor record on fiscal issues, having supported a number of tax increases as Governor, but the former Baptist minister simply could not be questioned on values issues. The end result? An extended fight between the two for conservative voters in which Huckabee eventually prevailed but was left too wounded to make a serious challenge to McCain in the final primaries (in retrospect, Virginia was the Huckster’s last stand).

Now, both are back in the running for the nomination in 2012. Romney is already generating buzz amongst establishment types, and he continues to maintain a high media profile. However, right now it would appear that his reputation amongst Republicans is declining. From Hot Air comes a PPP poll showing Mitt below 50%. Their take:

He’s at 48 percent this month after having hit 63 percent in June, before the fade began. Even PPP doesn’t have any explanation for it. I’ll give you two possibilities. One: Huck and Palin are in the public eye these days much more than Mitt is, even if it is for the wrong reasons. Romney had better be careful that he doesn’t become an afterthought and end up being seen as a “minor candidate.” Two: With Huck and Palin natural rivals for the religious conservative vote, the perception may be building that Romney’s the RINO in the race by default. He’s always had that rep to some extent, of course, but being the odd man out among the big three only cements it.

As I’ve said many, many times here, it’s very early. Romney still has a chance in this thing. I see his roadmap to victory being becoming a solid voice on conservative issues in the media and then surviving the aformentioned Palin/Huck fight. His big place to shine? Venues like CPAC, and by cozying up to Fox News as their “legit” commentator over Huck’s more showbiz orientation.

However, the big problem with that strategy is that right now it would appear that it is the moment for the confrontational conservative. Huck is drawing big ratings, and Sarah is dominating pretty much every media outlet from the blogs to Fox News, from People to Newsweek (they say that no publicity is bad publicity). The Chicago Tribune has a great article up about Huck and Sarah’s tours and the draws they’re bringing in.

“Team Huck” rolls into the bookstore like a NASCAR pit crew, red uniform shirts adorned with the corporate logos of Mike Huckabee’s website, his speaker’s bureau, his publisher, and “Huck” emblazoned on their epaulets.

They strip the protective wrappings off a large, heavy object — a podium they install at all such appearances. Mike Huckabee doesn’t sit at tables. He stands, as a president would, even to sign books.

And sign he does. And sign and sign and sign. As many as 600 copies of “A Simple Christmas” an hour with sales to match, and no time lost to opening remarks.

The contrast between Huck and Palin (subtle but important) would indicate that their fight is where the action is. However, as I said, Romney’s slow but steady effort has merit–if he can stick to it. As Palin and Huckabee have found, celebrity can be intoxicating.

And we’re back in 3, 2…..

November 19, 2009 2 comments


That was pretty intense.

I’m speaking, of course, of campaign 2009. Many of you who read this blog know that my self-imposed exile from blogging over the last six months. The intensity came not just from the campaign itself (a back and forth affair that, thanks to the amazing job of the McDonnell campaign, low Democratic enthusiasm for their nominee, backlash against the Obama administration, a hungry Republican base and a generally poor effort by the Deeds campaign turned into a nearly 20% blowout for the McBolliNelli team), but also my own personal journey. There were many great experiences, but the general pace of the campaign and a major car accident on September 27th led me to re-examine my life (not just in politics, but overall).

I discovered that full-time political work is just not for me. My own personal shortcomings, the constitution of my body and spirit, and my strengths and weaknesses have led me to the conclusion that I’m not meant for a career in the helter-skelter, knock down drag out world of American politics in the 21st Century. However, what I did rediscover is my deep passion for history that I went astray from and my love of teaching others not just about the world around them but themselves. I won’t go into great detail here, but my personal experiences have led me on a new path. One this blog is a crucial part of. Politics remains a very strong interest of mine, but I discovered that teaching, more than anything else, causes my blood to race, my eyes to widen, a smile to return to my face, and my hands to move with my words. I feel, rightly or wrongly, that modern education could use a role model like me, so that’s where I’m headed.

Longtime readers will know that in the past I have taken a deep interest in local politics. This blog will shift away from that, focusing even more on who we (the GOP) are as a party, as well as the major policy and ideological battles facing our nation today. It will also, however, take more focus on my personal passion for American history. Look for posts on historic preservation, visits to historic sites, and general musings on the state of history in our national dialogue. You can also look for postings on the art of music and pop culture in general.

It will also focus on my new work and passion: Education. I have decided to pursue my teaching license, hopefully at Shenandoah University in Winchester, Virginia. In the meantime, I’ll be pursuing passions in writing and picking up opportunities working with education, both with high schoolers and adults. I’ve got a project in particular in the arena of high school debate and forensics that will hopefully come to fruition soon, so expect some blogging on that as well.

I don’t know exactly where all this will take me, but I’m very excited for where my life is headed. I hate to make any declarations about my posting schedule, as I’m also seeking part-time employment, but I’ll endeavor to post at least once a day. One thing that will not be returning: the Big O Show. It was a worthy endeavor, but the interest just did not seem to be there for my verbal (and often stream of consciousness) musings on politics and pop culture, and I was never able to expand beyond, well, just me (probably due to, what I’ll admit, was my own aggressive tone and “peculiar” targets). What you can expect more of: video. My little Flip Camera, although not of the best quality, will get quite a workout, as my videos seemed to be very popular on the trail.

So stay tuned, welcome back, and get ready. Your comments, questions, and encouragements are greatly appreciated.