Wednesday, October 15, 2008

oh, well that's okay then

Sarah Palin hasn't been negative. At least, according to Sarah Palin. Likewise, the troopergate investigation cleared her of any hint of unethical behavior. And up is down, and black is white.

On the debate: I thought Obama had substance, but McCain won on style points. He had several good zingers prepared ("Senator Obama, I'm not George W Bush; if you wanted to run against George Bush you should have run four years ago."), and appeared to be going for broke while Obama continued to project genteel politeness. He let McCain interrupt him constantly, and never seemed to rise to the bait or really go for the throat like he could have (eg, on the question of the VP candidates' qualifications, or on the way McCain dodged some of the questions and took off on tangents, or the question about the negativity of the campaigns.) Which I guess makes sense if you're ahead in the polls, but I would have liked to see Obama take off the gloves a bit. Or at least smirk back at McCain's barbs and say sarcastically "Good one, John."

I also thought that McCain looked scary and a bit corpse-like, with ghastly fake-looking smiles and constant grimacing and smirking while Obama talked. Almost like a robot that had been programmed to smile at a particular time, but didn't understand the real meaning of the act. But of course, we're all bound to be pretty hard on the opponent and easy on our own favorite candidate...

about censorship

Psychomamma made a good post about Sarah Palin and censorship. Her point, which was echoed in comments, is that even *considering* censorship is bad. Which I generally agree with.

But while i abhor censorship in general, and think that 99% of speech/writing must be protected in a free society, i've come to believe that a blanket no-censorship stance is too simplistic.

If someone wrote a book that included the addresses of local police officers and instructions on how to kidnap their children, for example, I find nothing wrong with refusing to publish it. If it were published, I would happily pull that book from my library shelf. Likewise kiddie porn.

And once you've appointed yourself guardian of the public good (ie, you lose your anti-censorship virginity, as it were), it's hard to stop. It's no stretch to also pull from the shelves the newsletter of White Aryan Resistance, on the grounds that it serves no legitimate social purpose, and contributes to social pathology.

IOW, as in everything else, there's no simple rule that covers every case; instead of simple black & white, the world continues to be frustratingly gray.

So on the censorship question, I've decided that the key question is not "whether" but "where do you stop?" and one measure of a free society is how wisely it balances freedom of expression vs the public good.

What do you think?

Thursday, October 09, 2008

this is a little disheartening...

Non-journalistic but nonetheless interesting video of ppl after a McCain/Palin rally.

And yes, you can find non-thinkers on either side.

But I'm struck by the tone of the rallies I've seen. Obama's people seem on average so much more positive, so much more about ideas and hope for better things. McCain's people seem less thoughtful, more negative, strident, aggressive, fearful (famously shouting "terrorist!" "kill him!" etc.)

Thinking takes effort. Analyzing both sides of an issue often takes us out of our comfort zone. We don't like thinking about new things when we've got something to believe already that makes us feel comfortable and safe. (What if I'm wrong? What if my friends & family are wrong? What if my familiar world gets shaken up and I have to face something scary about life or about myself?)

No one's immune to believing what we want to believe, but FWIW, here it is for me on this election:

Obama seems to be extremely intelligent & articulate, my positions align with his on most major issues, the rest of the world appears to be hoping desperately that he wins, he appears to know how to engage and enlist bright people, he is positive, and his presidency would be powerfully symbolic and (one hopes) healing.

McCain seems negative, militaristic, well past his prime mentally, much like GWB policy-wise, and is by many accounts a man with a serious temper.
His campaign focuses on making people scared of Obama rather than on what he would do to improve Americans' lives. His people mock good ideas in an anti-intellectual stance that is both scary and sad.
By virtue of his age alone, he stands a 1:3 chance of dying in office [citation needed]; I think his chances of croaking are even better if you consider how much being president ages everyone who has done it. And old men nearing the end of their run aren't famous for wielding their power in a reserved way -- humans with nothing left to lose tend to opt for being remembered rather than just fading away.
Even if Mr "there will be more wars" manages not to bomb Iran, his dying would leave us with the cute hockey mom who eschews nuance, can't pronounce "nuclear", subsitutes conviction for thought, and is dramatically out of her depth but appears not to be aware of it.

As far as I'm concerned, it's a no-brainer.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

so what do you think of this?

Sheer genius, or demeaning exploitation?