August 30, 2008


1.  Human waste used by 200 million farmers as fertillizer.  The number seems low to me - problematic but a huge opportunity that someone is hopefully working on.

2.  Obligatory political filter #1:  This is a good and, I think correct, observation from Peggy Noonan:
Another problem with the Michelle speech. In order to paint both her professional life and her husband's, and in order to communicate what she feels is his singular compassion, she had to paint an America that is darker, sadder, grimmer, than most Americans experience their country to be. And this of course is an incomplete picture, an incorrectly weighted picture. Sadness and struggle are part of life, but so are guts and verve and achievement and success and hardiness and…triumph. Democrats always get this wrong. Republicans get it wrong too, but in a different way.

Democrats in the end speak most of, and seem to hold the most sympathy for, the beset-upon single mother without medical coverage for her children, and the soldier back from the war who needs more help with post-traumatic stress disorder. They express the most sympathy for the needy, the yearning, the marginalized and unwell. For those, in short, who need more help from the government, meaning from the government's treasury, meaning the money got from taxpayers.

Who happen, also, to be a generally beset-upon group.

Democrats show little expressed sympathy for those who work to make the money the government taxes to help the beset-upon mother and the soldier and the kids. They express little sympathy for the middle-aged woman who owns a small dry cleaner and employs six people and is, actually, day to day, stressed and depressed from the burden of state, local and federal taxes, and regulations, and lawsuits, and meetings with the accountant, and complaints as to insufficient or incorrect efforts to meet guidelines regarding various employee/employer rules and regulations. At Republican conventions they express sympathy for this woman, as they do for those who are entrepreneurial, who start businesses and create jobs and build things. Republicans have, that is, sympathy for taxpayers. But they don't dwell all that much, or show much expressed sympathy for, the sick mother with the uninsured kids, and the soldier with the shot nerves.

Neither party ever gets it quite right, the balance between the taxed and the needy, the suffering of one sort and the suffering of another. You might say that in this both parties are equally cold and equally warm, only to two different classes of citizens.
3.  Obligatory political filter #2:  As I've said before I've got no dog in this fight, but McCain's choice of Palin . . . . wow.  I know nothing about her save what I've heard on NPR in the last 24 hours but am I right in reading this as a completely calculated political decision (and the jury is still very much out on whether or not it will prove to be a good one)?  I buy into the reasoning that says what the VP choice does best is tell us how a candidate makes important decisions and this one seems to say that McCain is shooting dice and not necessarily concerned about having someone in the wings to run the country if need be.  I'm not asking him to remove political calculations from the mix I just didn't expect it to be present to the apparent exclusion of every other mitigating factor.  Aside:  one of the first things I did this morning while listening to the news was try to find out if there are any precedents for VP nominees withdrawing from candidacy - Thomas Eagleton was the only one I could find, any others?

4.  I missed it in the busyness of moving but apparently the FDA approved irradiation of spinach and lettuce - here's some analysis


Anonymous said...

Don't you think that he's going with Palin because he knows he's a longshot and thus has to gamble? See this piece on more of that.

Anonymous said...

(that was me, pomeroy).

J said...

yeah, I absolutely think that is what he is doing (or at least part of it) and that is exactly what is so interesting to me, and I think problematic for those who support McCain, the fact that he seems to have reduced this incredibly important decision to a political one instead of a "presidential" one. The push back on that could be that if you think you are the best person to run the country (or you just really hate to lose) and that the alternative is, in your opinion, ruinous then whatever gets you in the position to lead is the right call . . . . or something like that. Admittedly, my complaints are a bit naive in that I want politicians to behave in ways that I know that they will not . . .

Anonymous said...

Well, it could be naive. This is a tournament, and it's a winner-take-all. If you are McCain, and you genuinely believe that the Democratic administration is truly, deeply bad, but you've got really low odds of winning this race, then you have to do something that puts you ahead. To win, he has to be strategic. All of politics requires this kind of calculation - even Obama is doing that in choosing Biden. If he wasn't ahead as strong as he was, he wouldn't have gone with such a safe person himself.

This is, fortunately or unfortunately, how incentives affect the kinds of decisions these political actors make. A dream-team republican ticket, whatever that would look like, simply can't carry these swing states, and McCain has so much ground to make up. This really is a hail mary pass, but it seems like the only real choice that he had left on the table given the momentum and the nearly flawless campaign that Obama has ran so far. With the recession, too, and the damage that recessions have to incumbent parties, I just don't see how McCain could've done anything else but take a real risk. It's not even because he's a maverick, either. I think this is kind of the best strategy, given the problems his party has right now.

But that is admittedly a different way of analysis than what you're saying. What a person "should" do depends on by what standard you measure that decision. To do the right thing that has no chance of winning is to basically hand the presidency to the opposing party. It's hard for me to immediately see how that is actually a good decision for a party that genuinely believes their policies are better, and their opponents deeply bad.


Anonymous said...

That opening sentence didn't sound right. I meant to say 'it may or may not be naive.' What I meant was, this resembles very common situations in which people are forced to make basically decisions which are good for them, but may be overall worse for everyone. The problem isn't with the people, though - it's with the incentives and the constraints they face. That's what I meant. I think I am inclined to believe, based on the futures markets having given Obama a 60% chance of winning for over a year now, that McCain has no chance. If you have no chance, or your chance is low, you have to take risks - it's optimal. You need the variance, in other words, to help. You need that random factor, because there's about nothing you can do yourself to win. That's the situation McCain is in, I think. That's why I feel like his pick seems to be very rational, very good, in that narrow sense.


J said...

hah! no, it's definitely naive, which is what I meant to be confessing to and why I should curtail what little political commentary I offer. I always have trouble buying in to the underlying political rationales that force such maneuvers, while simultaneously realizing that (as you just posted on your blog) the political game demands them of the players. which I think is probably the equivalent of stamping my feet on the ground.

a conversationalist said...

24 hours later this choice seems preposterous, and can only get more so. This paints McCain exactly as what he is trying to distance himself from, a politician who will put his career, legacy, interests above those of the country. Over the next few days Palin may shake out to be a really interesting veep choice, but this is not pandering to his base in the least. Last time I checked Christian conservatives had a pretty big problem with women in leadership positions, not to mention the strange political bedfellows this could make (is NOW going to support Palin?). Aside from a potentially good Hollywood plot (aged statesman dies in office to leave untested, quite photogenic, young female veep to tackle the rising threat of a new cold war....any takers?).

a conversationalist said...

Aside from a potentially good Hollywood plot (aged statesman dies in office to leave untested, quite photogenic, young female veep to tackle the rising threat of a new cold war....any takers?) this doesn't seem like it has much merit.

(forgot the last part of the sentence)

Pomeroy Kinsey said...

conversationalist - that's an entirely valid perspective, and I'm not trying to be belligerent, but I still think it's a slightly idealistic view of politics. I go back to what I was saying earlier - McCain is a longshot in this race, and the Republicans do not have a very deep bench. There's a recession, and McCain is weak with his base. All of the strategic elements in this race justify the kind of gamble he's taken. It's not even obvious to me that this is an irresponsible choice, given the perspectives of the parties.

Pomeroy Kinsey said...

So far, Christian conservatives have not recoiled at a female in a leadership position, btw. I'm hearing the exact opposite. The superficial package of Pilan has gotten a lot of evangelical leaders genuinely excited about the McCain ticket for the first time.

a conversationalist said...

Pomeroy, At this point I don't see this as a gamble, just not very bright idea. A gamble would have been picking Lieberman or even Ron Paul (how about that for a ticket). Someone who has something to offer other than shock value (again, I reiterate "at this point." We still don't have any idea of how she is going to hold up under the scrutiny and media and internet vetting that is sure to come from this). Who knows, maybe this is even just an elaborate ruse to pull the spotlight from the DNC, and she will later say that she still wants to be gov of AK. Anyway you slice that, it looks like Gustav might give both camps a little breather over the next few days to get their strategies wrapped around the new turn of events.
You also must know more rational Christian conservatives than I do. Just last week I had a conversation about whether a female elder in our congregation was considered a leader with a big "L" or a little
"l". Granted, there is a difference between church and secular leadership roles in alot of believing men's minds, but the fact remains that there are just as many misogynistic good old boys out there as there are bigoted ones. Yeah, maybe I am a little idealistic about politics (maybe it runs in the family), but when it comes to human nature, I think we vote against our fears, rational or no.

a conversationalist said...

This just in, our man on the ground in an undisclosed location reports that the conservatives among us are excited about Palin for the following stated reasons:

1. She owns a gun
2. She is cute

Not necessarily in that order.

Shoot Pomeroy, it looks like you are right.

J said...

while shooting pomeroy might galvanize the base i don't think it will help with swing voters.

Jennifer said...

As the so-called "man on the ground" I feel the need to chime in here. First of all, I think arguing about whether or not the far right will be happy about Palin is a non-issue; of course, they will, as she is vehemently anti-choice (both in her politics and in her personal life), a Creationist, and owns a gun. The fact that she's a woman, for them, means little (except that she's prettier than most of the other choices).

The voters I think the McCain camp has sorely, sorely underestimated are the Hillary supporters. I find it insulting that they would think folks who supported Clinton because they believed her policies would be good for them and their families -- particularly on issues that are important to many women, like health care and workplace conditions for mothers -- would suddenly embrace the McCain ticket just because he's running with someone who has a uterus. I think the choice is likely to have the opposite effect and push many of those voters firmly over to Obama's side.

I think Pomeroy's right -- he's in a position where he has to gamble, but I think it sucks (and says a lot) that the only time a Republican would think to put a woman on the ticket is when he's in such a desperate position.

Either way, even the question, "Will NOW support Palin?" still imagines that women will endorse a woman candidate just because she's a woman. Women are capable of understanding which candidates will best represent what they think is important, and to suggest that they'll throw all of that out because one of their kind shows up in the race is demeaning. And I'm afraid those are the kinds of assumptions that will be bandied about in the media from now until November. Sigh.