O bla de, o bla da

29 09 2012

And so my eldest niece (mid-twenties) said yes when J., her smart and funny boyfriend of 3 1/2 years, asked her to marry him. I am so very happy for her.

A funeral this week, a wedding next year.

Life goes on.





Mayan campaign mashup 2012: Stop me oh ho ho stop me

27 09 2012

Brutal:

I almost feel bad for him by the end.

Almost.

~~~~~

There’s a discussion over at Crooked Timber on the morality of leftists voting for Obama (here, here, and here), both in terms of the specific policies of Obama and the general policy approach of the Democrats.

I don’t necessarily disagree with either Henry or Daniel on the consequences of lesser-evilism, but it seems to me that you can’t just compare the lesser-evil to the not-evil, but to the greater-evil as well. They both get that, even if they do, ultimately reject it—largely by erasing the distinction between the greater and lesser evils, and leaving only that between evil and not-evil.

Which leads to one of my peeves regarding this debate: What the hell does morality have to do with politics, anyway?

It’s too late to get into a real discussion of the issue—and I have softened somewhat to the point that I allow the possibility that there just maybe might be some sort of connection—but I can at least ask: What role does one’s own moral stance have to play in voting? Are you meant somehow to be cleansed by voting? Not dirtied?

Shit, I got distracted by a misbehaving cat (Jasper!) and don’t have time properly to set up the issue, but is voting primarily about you, the voter—your complicity or contribution or whatever—or something else?

My gut reaction to all of this is a kind of contempt, but then again, I think guts are stupid. In other words, the issue of the morality of voting for a lesser evil isn’t something I should dismiss out of hand, even if I think that framing the issue as such is wrong.

Dammit, shoulda dealt with this earlier in the evening. . . .





Chris Unger Baetzold, 1966-2012

26 09 2012

She was a funny roommate.

Don’t be fooled: she was a Badger, through and through.

Yes, she had a sense of humor—four women crammed into an apartment originally meant for two, you had to be able to laugh—but more than that, she was one of those people who couldn’t hold a frown.

Chris would come home from classes or a stint working food service at Chadbourne and relay something terrible, glare a bit, then immediately burst into laughter.

She was always cracking herself up. Hell, one day someone crashed into her (parked) car and left the scene; Chris ran up the steps into our apartment, yelled Someone hit my car! And then started laughing.

About that car: she let us drive it, as well as her Honda Spree. We drove the shit out of that Spree.

This was not an unusual occurrence in our apartment.

B. had known Chris since the two of them were little. Their families went camping together, and while they weren’t (I think. . .) roommates in Chadbourne, they did both live in the hall, maybe even on the same floor.

In any case, while I knew her before Madison, we became friends there, and, of course, roommates. B. and I were bridesmaids in her wedding, and I gave a reference for her when she became a cop in Connecticut.

About Connecticut: She moved there with her then-boyfriend, now husband widower, John. John lived on the first floor of our apartment building on Breese Terrace and, unlike a previous boyfriend (who had also lived on the first floor of our apartment building on Breese Terrace), was a good guy. He got into the chemical engineering PhD program at UConn, so Chris moved out there with him and became a cop in the meantime.

They married, moved to Minneapolis for John’s job at 3M, and had three kids. Chris and I didn’t really keep in touch after her wedding, but B. kept me updated on her life.

Chris, me, and B. after our Polar Bear swim in Lake Michigan, January 1987.

It fell to B. to inform me of Chris’s death.

She’d apparently had difficulty walking on September 14, went into the hospital, and died this past Sunday. Chris, who was always close to her family, was surrounded by them in the last moments of her good, if too short, life.

May she rest in peace.





Mayan campaign mashup 2012: What the hell am I doing here?

24 09 2012

Mitt Romney does not know what he is doing, does not understand what electoral campaigns are, and is unable to comprehend that his opponent does know what he is doing and does understand what electoral campaigns are:

Asked why he was behind in the polls in most swing states, Mr. Romney accused the Obama campaign of distorting his record.

“I think that the president’s campaign has focused its advertising in many cases on very inaccurate portrayals of my positions,” he said. “They’ve been very aggressive in their attacks both on a personal basis and on a policy basis. I think as time goes on, people will realize that those attacks are not accurate and we’ll be able to have a choice which is based upon each other’s accurate views for the future of country.”

Mahhhhmmm! He’s hitting me!

Standing in the back of his plane, and pressed by reporters to explain his lagging position in many polls, Mr. Romney — whose campaign recently said that they would not allow fact-checkers to dictate their campaign — found himself calling for fact-checkers.

“I understand that politics is politics but in the past, when you’ve had an ad which has been roundly pointed out to be wrong, you take it out and you correct it and you put something back on,” Mr. Romney said.

“He keeps running these things even though he knows they’re wrong and saying them in rallies even though he knows they’re wrong.”

Make him stahhhhppp!

Asked if voters should expect to see Mr. Romney become more aggressive in coming days, he demurred: “You’ll see what you’re going to see,” he said. “I’m not going to lay out precisely the nature of our campaign strategy.” But he did say that he expected the upcoming debates to help crystallize his case to the voting public.

“The president describes my direction in a way that is simply inaccurate and I will describe my own direction,” he said. “I think as we have the debates we’ll get a chance for people to hear our distinctions quite clearly and they’ll make their choice as to what they think is the right course forward.”

I’ve been out here running all this time for president, and he just comes in here and tells everyone who I am and and and. . . no fair! Just wait ’til I get my chance! I’ll show you!

No, I do not think this election is in the bag—I will not believe that Obama will win until Obama has actually won—but JesusMary&Joseph is Romney a terrible candidate.

Not that he knows this:

And as for his trailing poll numbers in most battleground states, the former governor appeared relaxed and unworried.

“I’ll either go up or I’ll go down,” he said.

Normally I’d appreciate the Zen-ness of this, but lordy. . . .

h/t: Deeky at Shakesville





This is not a laughing matter

20 09 2012

I am not a fan of violence.

However.

I admit to, mmm, chortling over this report:

An Iranian cleric said he was beaten by a woman in the northern province of Semnan after giving her a warning for being “badly covered,” the state-run Mehr news agency reported.

Hojatoleslam Ali Beheshti said he encountered the woman in the street while on his way to the mosque in the town of Shahmirzad, and asked her to cover herself up, to which she replied “you, cover your eyes,” according to Mehr. The cleric repeated his warning, which he said prompted her to insult and push him.

“I fell on my back on the floor,” Beheshti said in the report. “I don’t know what happened after that, all I could feel was the kicks of this woman who was insulting me and attacking me.”

He was hospitalized for three days.

Terrible, terrible for me to, mmm, chortle.

h/t Deeky at Shakesville





We might as well try (or not. . .)

19 09 2012

Posts in my head, not on the page—so I bring you instead pics of This Absurd Household.

Back in May I decided to experiment with growing basil, so I bought a few wee plants and rigged up a box planter (I stuck a tension rod in the window track, stuck the box on the ledge, then secured it with a bungi cord hooked to the rod):

A week or so after I set ’em up

That window faces west-south-west, but as its set back a bit I wasn’t sure it would get enough sun.

Here’s how they looked in early August:

Those little buggers were water fiends, taking up a soaking every other day, and not minding if they got rained on some more.

I didn’t take any pictures in September before I harvested most of the leaves, but they got bigger and bushier and leaned over the lip of the box toward the sun. I bought extra basil from the Bowling Green green-market in order to make pesto, but next year I might just plant a few extra and see if I have enough for my, what, 5 or 6 double-batches.

The plants still have quite a few leaves: Since I bought basil I only took the larger leaves to supplement the purchase, and the smaller leaves have since filled out nicely. I think I’m going to harvest the rest in the next week or so and try to freeze ’em.

Now, on to the critters.

This is what I awoke to one morning:

Wonder how this happened. . .

The ottoman should, obviously, be parked against the chair, the footstool under the chair, and that rug should, well, should not be visible from this angle.

The cats do enjoy skiing on that rug, and Trickster likes to hide herself behind the little moguls she creates after bunching it all up.

Speaking of the Tricky Girl, she’s a pretty, pretty kitty:

Everything here is mine

She looks quite elegant there, doesn’t she? Well, she also has a habit of slunking down:

She leans her head forward down; it would look like a hunch, except that she extends rather than scrunches her neck.

Anyway, she’s a gorgeous weirdo.

And the Kitty-boy, the most beautiful black cat in the world? (You might think your black cat is the most beautiful black cat in the world, but you would be wrong.)

Well, Jasper also has the BEST PROFILE IN THE WORLD—but he refuses to let me take a picture of it:

This is as close as I could get, and you can’t really see it.

You can, however, see his impressive claws. . .

. . . which, yes, I should cut more often, but I like how they look. (I know, I know: stupid human.)

That desk, by the way, is 42 inches across. Yes, Jasper is a big, big cat.

And how do the cats get along?

At least in this instance they’re not doing this at 3 in the morning. On top of me.

Anyway, back to words tomorrow.





Mayan campaign mashup 2012: No sleep til Brooklyn

17 09 2012

Bad sleep last night, so early sleep tonight.

But before I lay me down, I did want to second this Paul Constant bit:

I always assumed that, since the Romney campaign has had four years to plan for this Romney/Obama matchup, they must’ve had a plan for the general election. I figured this plan would include some way for Romney to battle his unlikeability, and to frame the president as a failure while framing Mitt Romney as a competent businessman. But this news is proof that they didn’t have any kind of a plan at all, or that their plan was hopelessly naive. In this stretch in between the conventions and the debates, a presidential campaign is supposed to be running more or less smoothly, hammering home a solid message to voters.

I admit to some surprise at how lousy a campaign Romney has run. He’s smart, he’s disciplined, he’s been running for years, but he’s making consistently bad decisions and seems incapable of adapting to an adversary who is also smart and disciplined and, unlike his primary foes, unlikely either to implode or melt down.

Romney’s had his moments, running with the ‘you didn’t build it’ theme, but he hasn’t been able to build those moments into any real movement for his numbers. He excited some in the Republican base with his pick of Ryan, but not many others. And his focus, pfft, well, where is it?

Again again again, even though a bad week (mediocre GOP convention followed by disciplined Dem convention) or two (killings in Benghazi), two-and-a-half (GOPper insiders ripping the Romney campaign; vid release of speech writing off almost half of the country) weeks need not doom a campaign, the folks in the Romney camp have got to know that the latter half of September, with recovery time running short, is a bad time for the engines to cut out.

I mean, they should know that, right? They do understand that waiting for Obama to crash first ain’t to no kind of strategy. . . ?

Or not. It seems to me a terrible calculus, but near as I can tell from his behavior, Romney figured that he outlasted weak challengers to win the primary and to win the general need simply to outlast a weak incumbent. Only the primary isn’t the general, and Obama was not as weak as many pundits (grrr!) assumed.

Ah. Perhaps then I’m the one misreading the campaign and the dynamics of the entire election season: perhaps Romney is doing about as well as any challenger would to a relatively well-liked, if somewhat battered, incumbent, and his campaign seems lousy only because he’s not winning.

Still, hard to erase the impression that the campaign actually is lousy.





Mayan campaign mashup 2012: Equus asinus follow-up

12 09 2012

James Fallows said what I said, only better, and with less swearing.

I have a bit of a writer’s-crush on Fallows, I must admit. It’s most unexpected: I knew who he was before I started reading TNC (with whom he shares space in the “Voices” box at The Atlantic Monthly), but he hadn’t made much of an impression on me. At some point, however,  some header or another lead me to click on his name, and it’s been a one-sided love-affair ever since.

He’s smart, he’s measured, he’s reflective, he’s honest, and he really knows how—and when—to bring the hammer down. I’d call him an exemplary pundit if it weren’t such an insult to refer to him as a pundit.

A Wise Man, then.

Anyway, Jonathan Bernstein has another, more general take on Romney’s ill-considered response:

I said yesterday that Republicans don’t appear to read political scientists on the subject of the effect of the economy on elections. But I’ve always suspected that sometime in the 1990s Republicans did read Richard Brody’s classic article about the “rally effect” — in which he found that “rally around the flag” effects depend on the reaction of the out-party, not (for example) whether the event in question is successful or not. If the out-party immediately criticizes the president, then he doesn’t get a bump in his approval ratings; if they support him or stay quiet, then there’s a positive bounce.

. . .

But: why don’t out-party politicians simply always attack the president on everything? Ah, that’s a good question, and one that Team Romney might have asked itself before it jumped. The main reason is paradoxical, in a fun way. Out-party politicians often hesitate to attack during a foreign policy crisis because they’re afraid that they’ll be branded partisan during a time of national unity, for one thing. Those potential attacks might be unfair — as Democrats during the Bush years correctly said, it’s patriotic to dissent if you believe that the nation’s policy is wrong — but nevertheless, politicians must reckon with a national political culture that sometimes (and not entirely predictably) can turn against partisanship. The paradox part is that out-party politicians may refrain from attacking out of fear that the president’s handling of the event will prove wildly popular, when it’s the restraint from normal partisan attacks which actually signals to voters that the president did the correct thing and therefore makes the president’s actions wildly popular.

This snapped me back to my electoral-realist stance: Attacking the president over his administration’s  response(s) to the assaults on the Cairo embassy and the Benghazi consulate is not in and of itself wrong.

What was wrong about the attack was that it didn’t work.

It didn’t lead to a general condemnation of Obama, didn’t lead Republican politicians to rally around Romney, and didn’t burnish his credentials as would-be commander-in-chief. Romney committed one of the only real sins in electoral politics: He hurt himself and helped his opponent.

This doesn’t mean he can’t recover his mojo, but it’s never a good thing to have to recover one’s mojo—especially if the existence of said mojo is in doubt.





Mayan campaign mashup 2012: Jackass edition

12 09 2012

I am not shocked-SHOCKED that Romney would criticize the president over the killings in Libya, nor do I think that criticism in principle was out of bounds.

After all, I’ve long thought that the line that “partisanship stops at the water’s edge” was self-serving BS, and believe that the protection of embassy personnel and the defense of free speech are legitimate subjects of political debate.

But this is just a jackass move:

I’m outraged by the attacks on American diplomatic missions in Libya and Egypt and by the death of an American consulate worker in Benghazi. It’s disgraceful that the Obama Administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.

This was in response to the statement by the US Embassy in Cairo, released after the breach of the security at its embassy and prior to the death of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other employees at the consulate in Benghazi:

The Ambassador and staff of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo condemn the burning a copy of the Koran that occurred several days ago in the state of Florida by a small group of individuals who represent no one but themselves.  Since the founding of our nation, the United States has upheld the principles of tolerance and respect for religious freedom.  Millions of Muslim-Americans practice their faith freely throughout the United States and enjoy the full rights guaranteed to them by our laws and constitution.  Public condemnation of this event has come from a variety of organizations representing the diverse religious traditions that flourish in the United States.

The Obama administration distanced itself from that statement, and Secretary Clinton released a long statement on Stevens’s death, observing that

Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior, along with the protest that took place at our Embassy in Cairo yesterday, as a response to inflammatory material posted on the internet. America’s commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation. But let me be clear – there is no justification for this, none.

The president also spoke:

I strongly condemn the outrageous attack on our diplomatic facility in Benghazi, which took the lives of four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. Right now, the American people have the families of those we lost in our thoughts and prayers. They exemplified America’s commitment to freedom, justice, and partnership with nations and people around the globe, and stand in stark contrast to those who callously took their lives.

I have directed my Administration to provide all necessary resources to support the security of our personnel in Libya, and to increase security at our diplomatic posts around the globe. While the United States rejects efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others, we must all unequivocally oppose the kind of senseless violence that took the lives of these public servants.

Had the guv waited for Clinton’s and Obama’s official responses to the killing, he might have offered a more measured criticism of the administration; instead, he jumped to defend himself, issuing a longer statement, and holding a quick press conference:

I also believe the administration was wrong to stand by a statement sympathizing with those who had breached our embassy in Egypt, instead of condemning their actions. It’s never too early for the United States government to condemn attacks on Americans and to defend our values.

And to the question that he spoke too soon:

QUESTION: How specifically, Governor Romney, would President Romney have handled this situation differently than President Obama? You (ph) spoke out before midnight when all the facts were known. How would you have handled this differently than the president did?

ROMNEY: I spoke out when the key fact that I referred to was known, which was that the Embassy of the United States issued what appeared to be an apology for American principles. That was a mistake. And I believe that when a mistake is made of that significance, you speak out.

And thus, a jackass move: Pundits are rewarded (grrr) for their itchy fingers, pouncing on proclamations prior to the presentation of the particularities, but presidential candidates—who desire to become, y’know, the president—ought perhaps to pause and ponder rather than preen and pander.

In non-alliterative terms: treating the murder of an ambassador and three embassy employees merely as political fodder—that is, intentionally blurring the line between the Cairo embassy’s statement about its own situation with that of the death of Stevens in Benghazi—and leaping in front of the White House and State Department’s official responses is a shitty, shitty move.





Mayan campaign mashup 2012: Angry hamsters spinning in a cage

12 09 2012

Sad sad sad.

No, not that the Romney campaign can’t tell its ass from its elbow—good news, from the perspective of this Obama supporter—but that the Republican party refuses to recognize that there is, indeed, a difference between an ass an an elbow.

Which is to say, I’m of two minds regarding the GOPpers gobsmacking incompetence. . . well, wait, three.

Mind one: AHHHAAAAHAAAAAAAAAAAAAHAAAAAAAHAAAAAAAAAA!

Mind two: That one of the two major parties has gone around the bend so far that it doesn’t realize the teeth sunk its buttocks are its own.

Hm, perhaps that’s not the best metaphor. Rabid ferrets? Tasmanian devil feeding frenzy?

(Okay, I don’t really know how the taz metaphor would work: Are they fighting over the carcass that is the GOP? their souls? the spoils of power? Or maybe the hypothesis that all of that snapping at one another has led to the spread of a cancer which is endangering the species is applicable. . . ?)

Where was I?

Oh yeah, trying not to concern troll the GOP. I honestly and truly believe that the major parties in a democracy must also be responsible parties, and, at the federal level, at least, the Republicans are less major- than bush-league. While good, in the short term, for the Dems, this is not good if it persists over the . . . . oh, fuck it, never mind.

Yes, there is a serious point to be made about pluralism and reason and evidence but I’m about ten minutes away from slipping into my pjs and after I’ve posted a vid of howling Tasmanian devils, I can’t really hoist myself to the high ground to reach that point.

So, on to the third mind: Mssrs. Romney & Ryan have had a bad week (heee!). Bummer for them, but a bad week in September may just be a bad week in September. However much I might enjoy their for-medical-marijuana/nope-against-it, for-parts-of-Obamacare/nope-against-it-all, for-military-budget-cuts/nope-against-’em, acknowledgment-of-troops-fighting-in-Afghanistan-is-just-so-many-words acrobatics—and yes, I really do enjoy these contortions—they may not, come November, matter all that much.

Oh well. At least I got to post a vid of Tasmanian devils.