Archive for November, 2006

something I wonder about the electoral map

Thursday, November 30th, 2006

The Southern strategy of the Republican Party, accelerated and radicalized under Bush, has finally created a more than equal reaction in the North. Ten years ago, 10 moderate Republican senators, all from the Northeast, met weekly for lunch. After the 2006 election, only three remain, in Pennsylvania and Maine. When they retire they are likely to be replaced by Democrats.

New England was once the bastion of rock-ribbed Republicanism, personified by Sen. Prescott Bush of Connecticut, grandfather of the current president. But now, from six New England states, there is only one Republican left standing in the entire House, Christopher Shays, who barely scraped by in a previously safe Republican district. (Republicans won eight other House seats across the country by less than 1 point, and 34 by less than 55 points. Many of these may be at risk in two years.)

The fatal environment for Republicans in New England is exemplified by New Hampshire, by far the most conservative of the New England states. There Democratic Gov. John Lynch won reelection with 74 percent. As Washington Post columnist David Broder wrote: “The Executive Council, which has the power to confirm appointees and approve state contracts, switched from 4-1 Republican to 3-2 Democratic. The state Senate, which Republicans controlled 16-8, is now Democratic by a 14-10 margin. The state House of Representatives, which is dwarfed in size only by the British House of Commons and the U.S. House of Representatives, went from 242-150 Republican, with eight vacancies, to 239-161 Democratic.” Both U.S. House seats in New Hampshire fell to the Democrats. In 2008, the Senate seat held by a Republican is suddenly exposed.

In Rhode Island, which has a long history of working-class deference to patrician politicians, Sen. Lincoln Chafee, a moderate, even liberal figure, whose father had been a popular U.S. senator and whose own popularity was above 60 percent on Election Day, was defeated by 6 points. His Republican label alone condemned him.

And on it goes.  I am a little bit sick of the electoral map for 2000 and 2004 as a defining nature of this nation, and it has long seemed as though we’ve settled into that rut of believing it to be a permanent fixture of our politics.  2006 may have shifted some things, though 2002 was supposed to have done the same in the other direction.  Indeed, I read through the National Review’s post-mortem issue of the 2006 election, and it was basically a direct flip of the reaction from the 2002 election.

I am looking forward to a new map.  This map, contrary to what we’ve settled ourselves into believing, is not permanent.  Forces are always there tearing it apart — you only need to go back to the Clinton elections to see a completely different map, and go back to Carter’s 1976 to see a map that could only exist in that election’s set of circumstances: West — East as opposed to South — North or Coastal — Inland (the South temporarily thumping back to solid Democratic to support an evangelical Christian, the North-East having switched to the Democrats over the past few decades — which continued on to the 2006 status of being as Solid as any Solid South can conceivably be these days, and the West being the burgeoning Republican Reagan land.

But here’s what I am wondering.  The 2000 map is basically a mirror image of the 1896 election map — parties switched — and to look at the contours of this is a startling experience.  In one of the upcoming three election, is there going to be as startling mirror image of a previous map — which signifies that the nation is electorally wandering around in circles.

Schumacher is closing and taking its furs with him

Wednesday, November 29th, 2006

Schumacher Furs & Outerwear, after 111 years of business and one solid year of fervent animal-rights protests, is hanging it up in Portland.Owner Gregg Schumacher, who depicts the city’s core as dangerous and not conducive to retailers, said Tuesday that he’s moving his shop to the suburbs, though he wouldn’t say where.

“We’re leaving downtown Portland because we feel that it’s losing its appeal for people to shop in” said Schumacher, 51, rattling off a list of what he called his customers’ complaints. “The panhandling, the musicians on the street, the urination in the parking garages. Yes, the protests. But the whole place is not conducive to running a retail operation.”

Officials from City Hall to the Portland Business Alliance, while making it clear they’re sad to see downtown lose any merchant, particularly such a longtime institution, called Schumacher’s claims, in effect, bunk. 

Good riddance.  It’s not even that I particularly care about the animals so much as I find the enterprise very WASPy and devoid of style.  It reminds me of the manner in which Dick Cheney hunts — stick a quail raised in captivitiy into a confined space and give the man a rifle to be used in between gulps of beer.  If you are going to wear the fur creatures, I would prefer that it come from something you yourself hunted, which fits a bit more in the frontier history that Schumacher is an anachronism from seeing as it sways the scale from the luxury item (though its status as a status symbol has dissipated to the point where I don’t know who out there is impressed, and there’s another good riddance to be thrown there).

As for the protesters, I’ve seen them assualt customers walking out to the point where the customer has to take sanctuary in the convenience store across the street.  It’s not exactly a case where I can sit comfortably in a “good guys versus bad guys” camp.  I don’t know where the proper limits of their guerrila tactics lie — the chalked slogans are a more permanent reminder of them anyways.

I think this is what Randy Leonard (city council member) is speaking of with the words “I honestly had never been involved in anything in which I felt like the folks I was trying to help did not want to be helped.”:

along with Schumacher’s plea to have the protesters prosecuted under a Bush signed quasi-anti-terrorism bill — the “Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act”.

The man should enjoy himself in whatever suburban denzien he gets his claims to, no doubt more hospitable toward wiping out the pesky protestors by any means necessary.  I myself have the dream of organizing a large and sustained picket of as  non-controversial a business as there is, just for dada-esque amusement… but that will continue to remain in the realm of my fevered imagination.

Kitten Tales

Tuesday, November 28th, 2006

It’s a minor version of the famed “eye of the storm”.  The sky directly above me is… well, probably a light gray.  I can’t quite tell, because we’re in a prolonged twilight.  In every direction, coming and going, are dark and forboding rain clouds.  There was a heavy downpour just an hour ago, and there will be a heavy downpour in a hour or so.

There is an eerie silence.  Traffic is logging past me, off to Thanksgiving Weekend.  It’s quite tranquil, and the only possible moment I’m going to be walking.

I veered into an area without much traffic, and into a bus stop.  Somebody had abandoned an umbrella.  I inspect it to see if is in working order.   It was not.  I hear a loud, shrill “Meerow”, and look down to see.  Only a kitten can be as shrill as this.  I had destroyed the kitten’s refuge, under an umbrella, under the roof of this bus stop where the rain does not disturb.

The kitten looked young enought that it may still be nursing from its mom.  It was possible it was lost in a quick shuffle and get-away the mom had to pull in an emergency.  If not, it was just barely past this stage.  At any rate, the kitten was as lost as could be.

I walked on.  The kitten followed me, galloping as quickly as it could, shouting its shrill “Mee-row!”  I was its best chance at the moment, nevermind I was not going to adopt a stray kitten.  Even if I wanted to, I’m not in a position to care for a pet kitten.

The kitten kept with me for about five blocks, a pretty good endurance.  At the sixth block, I looked back to see the kitten had stopped, and was now mee-rowing to somebody’s yard dog — a smallish muttish non-threatening creature.  The kitten had found its new best chance, as pathetic a chance as it may be.

If anybody is missing a kitten, and this is that kitten, I can’t help you.  It is the proverbial needle in a hay-stack.  The kitten is lost to the wilderness.

Dead Presidents Series

Monday, November 27th, 2006

Everything you need to know about Presidents John Quincy Adams and Martin Van Buren.  Their presidencies are fortetable enough, the imports of their careers taking place elsewhere, and thus I have nothing to say about them. 

John Quincy Adams is thought of as the Greatest Secretary of State in American history, being the author of the Monroe Doctrine. 

The Monroe Administration is known as the “Era of Good Feeling”, James Monroe’s re-election having been a near unanimous, one dissenting vote to preserve George Washington’s fame, affair.  Martin Van Buren believed his lowest common denominator of a Republican — Federalist fusionism fell too far toward the by now virtually dead Federalist party, and thus deigned to create out of various political machinery extent in the nation a more disciplined national political party than had existed before.  Historians, in their rankings of the presidents, place Van Buren right in the middle of the pack, and note that he coined the word “ok” — wryly noting that that’s an apt phrase for his presidency before describing him as a political hack.  To call him a political hack is to simply define him and not do justice to him, for Martin Van Buren is THE political hack, having hacked out the Democratic Party.

The details of his creation of the Democratic Party are a bit mysterious, but it was a bunch of behind the scenes manuevering and noted at the time more or less as “something fishy is going on here”.  The most notable and telling part of his dealings comes with a correspondance between him (the most powerful politician in New York state) and a powerful Virginia Senator that amounts to “you scratch my back; I’ll scratch yours”, an agreement to pull together their political clout and electoral weight in determining the national agenda and the next president.  The veiled agreement that was made in this new coalition, and which would unravel the Democratic Party soon and a century hence, as well as the nation, was that the issue of slavery would be ignored.  (The precursor for the next century being the issue of segregation, slavery’s bastard off-spring.)

In his post-presidency, with all due respect to Jimmy Carter fans probably the greatest post-presidency in American history, Congressman John Quincy Adams acted as a bomb thrower by holding forth against slavery, reading citizens’ petitions on the house floor.  This prompted a gag rule to shut him up, revealing the contradictions in the Democratic Party and exasperating the nation’s continuing crisis on the slavery line onto regional lines.  Adams continued on his path and evaded the gag rule through the use of parliamentary tricks, continuing to incense the southern contingent of politicos.

I mistakeningly thought that this was the part of John Quincy Adams’s career marked in John F Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage, but apparently Kennedy profiled something from Adams’s pre-presidential Senatorial career, a moment that served as a break for Adams from the Federalist Party to the Republican Party (or, if you will, the amalgrated one-party government of James Monroe.)  Adams would later go on to win his House seat under the temporal Anti-Mason Party label (a party which ceased to exist after it successfully made Mason membership a political liability), and then the Whig Party which came into existence to oppose the newly formed Democratic Party.

For his part, Martin Van Buren abandoned the Democratic Party and ran for president under the Free Soil banner.  He received 10 percent of the vote and played spoiler for the same Democratic Party he had hacked together.  The Free Soilers generally served as part of the base of the Republican Party that would emerge triumphant as the Democratic Party splintered apart as the Southern “Slave Power” demanded furthering the institution of slavery and the northern Democrats and Whigs remained forever wishy-washy on the subject.

Their presidencies were better than the presidencies of everyone leading up to Lincoln, Polk excepted, but nobody remembers a thing about it.

on Proust

Sunday, November 26th, 2006

I saw a license plate a little while ago.  “PROUST”.  Interestingly one can very easily figure out who the owner of this car is with that little bit of information, but it is safe to assume s/he’s a Marcel Proust fan.

The car is littered with bumper stickers, the only one I remember saying “I Read Banned Books”.  Which leads me to wonder about the censorship history for Proust.

I may or may or not read In Search of Lost Time and Rememberance of Things Past one of these days, or anything else Proust has written.  I am unlikely to read it in public, mostly lest strangers believe I’m trying to impress them, but also to avoid being forced to admit a less than total comprehension of what I’m reading, or pretend otherwise.

I also doubt I will ever get to a point where I’ll want a license plate that defines me in terms of Proust, but (1) To each their own, and (2) Life is full of surprises, and you never know where life will take you, so I can’t totally shut that door, can I?

considering Mark Levin

Friday, November 24th, 2006

I believe the radio host Mark Levin is on vacation and is airing best of programs for the holiday season, as the tedium that I heard seemed to come from just after the election.  I know why Americans hate politics, and I know it from listening to a selection of talk radio.

It’s this bullet point list of what conservatives believe and what liberals believe.  Apparently Conservatives believe in the Constitution, and Liberals believe we ought to burn the thing.  I was unaware of that.  Conservatives will win the day at the end and triumph because Americans are Conservative — God fearing and all that, and it is Liberalism that is dead, I suppose because they don’t have God on their side.

Mind you, I’m catching this in blips, as is typical of any radio listening.  So, I don’t know what comes between that and when a caller comes in, introduced with “Now, we have a liberal on hand!”  Politely, the caller says, “I just think you’ve skimmed over some of the great programs liberals have brought to this nation.”

Mark Levin’s response, and I quote, “Oh yeah?  Name ten!”

It is a curious response, I think, one designed to end any sensible interaction.  I think even the most bleeding heart unreconstructed liberal, without the benefit of preparation (take home test, if you will, as opposed to pop quiz), would stammer somewhere around number 5, in the meantime we’re stuck in the muckety muck of looking at number 2 and 3 of the list.  As it were, I neglected to mention, because I wasn’t thinking much about this, that the caller was clearly black.  So, when I jumped out of this show and rejoined a moment later, here’s what I heard as the end of the caller segment.

“It was DEMOCRAT governors you saw fighting against integration.”

I have heard this before, and it makes my head spin and my teeth hurt.  It is as though we cement the donkey and the elephant into a perma-frost, and take claim of the favoured one for all eternity, never mind that Roosevelt, Truman, and Johnson all had to battle the Dixiecrats — the Dixiecrats assigning the word “Conservative” in front of them.  I find it hard to believe that Mark Levin even believes his words.

But change the station and I hear the worst national talk show host on the radio — that being Randi Rhodes of Air America, there, a vaccuous depth-less entity.  Even the better sorts on Air America — Thom Hartmann — are flawed entities.  Thom Hartmann brings on arguments against conservatives activists of various sorts, and tends to rely on a bag of argumentative tricks that become old and would likely be indecipherable if you haven’t heard him explain a facet of his historical views on America.

Turn the radio off, don’t think of putting in a blog entry, and adjust.