The Phony Campaign

2012-09-16 Update

[phony baloney]

All candidates received modest phony bumps this week, not enough to cause significant changes:

Query String Hit Count Change Since
"Barack Obama" phony 6,340,000 +70,000
"Mitt Romney" phony 1,590,000 +20,000
"Gary Johnson" phony 447,000 +7,000

And although there was plenty of phoniness this week, very little of it lends itself to the usual Pun Salad detached snark. Today, Pun Salad is more than a little pissed off.

  • As is Glenn Reynolds. An uncharacteristically lengthy post titled "Why Barack Obama Should Resign". He's right. Really: read the whole thing, if you haven't done so already.

  • Let's see if I have this right: we've been living under nearly four years of a delusional foreign policy based on stabbing our friends in the back, and appeasing our implacable foes. We're rewarded with murderous violence and dead Americans. Instead of taking responsibility, the Administration (as Glenn notes) is demonstrating contempt for our Constitutional values. But the real story is something about Mitt Romney's timing.

  • Let me dredge up a six-year-old quote from Bruce Schneier:

    The surest defense against terrorism is to refuse to be terrorized. Our job is to recognize that terrorism is just one of the risks we face, and not a particularly common one at that. And our job is to fight those politicians who use fear as an excuse to take away our liberties and promote security theater that wastes money and doesn't make us any safer.

    Schneier is a liberal, and wrote this back in the days of Dubya; it will be interesting if he can manage to recognize that things have not gotten better under Obama. Obama has utterly failed his "refuse to be terrorized" test.

  • And the delusion continues, with (for example) Presidential press secretary Jay Carney, saying, hey, it's nothing we did.

    We also need to understand that this is a fairly volatile situation and it is in response not to United States policy, and not to, obviously, the administration, or the American people, but it is in response to a video, a film that we have judged to be reprehensible and disgusting. That in no way justifies any violent reaction to it, but this is not a case of protests directed at the United States writ large or at U.S. policy, this is in response to a video that is offensive to Muslims.

    It's hard to say which is worse: whether Carney believes this nonsense, or if he doesn't.

    At the link, Victor Davis Hanson comments:

    Apparently no one in charge seems to grasp that this latest video pretext is simply yet another tool, in a long line of many, for premodern Islamists to manipulate and galvanize their fury against the United States, whose success and power obsess them no end -- no matter what we do or who happens to be in the White House, soaring Cairo speech and "leading from behind" or not.

    But for the mainstream media, the real story is about what Mitt said.

  • Your tax dollars at work: California has hired a PR firm, Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide, (with Federal money) to promote its Obamacare "exchange". And …

    Plans are being discussed to pitch a reality television show about "the trials and tribulations of families living without medical coverage," according to the Ogilvy plan. The exchange will also seek to have prime-time television shows, like "Modern Family," "Grey's Anatomy" and Univision telenovelas, weave the health care law into their plots.

    I'd call these folks whores, but whores are more honest, and aren't dependent on taxpayer funds.

  • Tim Carney took one last look at the phoniness of the Democratic Platform. Everyone was amused at the phoniness of the now-you-see-em-now-you-don't "God" and "Jerusalem" shenanigans. But, as Carney notes, other changes went mostly unnoticed:

    Four years ago, Obama ran on a platform declaring, "We support constitutional protections and judicial oversight on any surveillance program involving Americans." That platform added, "We reject illegal wire-tapping of American citizens."

    To borrow Biden's phrasing, those platform planks are dead, and illegal wire-tapping of Americans is alive.

    Citing one of President George W. Bush's more egregious blows to the Constitution, the 2008 platform stated, "We reject sweeping claims of 'inherent' presidential power." The new platform scraps that plank and proposes no limits on presidential power. The only mentions of executive power are positive.

    "We will revisit the Patriot Act," the 2008 platform promised, "and overturn unconstitutional executive decisions issued during the past eight years."

    In May 2011, Obama signed a bill reauthorizing the Patriot Act complete with the provisions that most disturbed civil libertarians, including roving wiretaps and surveillance of people with no known ties to terrorist organizations. The 2012 platform omitted any mention of the law.

    Democrats even stripped innocuous promises from the platform, such as "We will respect the time-honored tradition of habeas corpus."

    Who were more phony: the Democrats of 2008, who pretended to care about these things? Or Democrats of 2012, who pretend that that such things never existed? Or the mainstream media, who don't find such elisions worthy of comment? In any case, Orwell's memory hole is functioning well.

Last Modified 2014-12-01 2:59 PM EDT

Wild Target

[3.5 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

This 2010 movie worked its way to the top of the Netflix queue. Not bad: a screwball comedy set in the world of professional killing. You kind of have to turn off your moral sense to enjoy it.

The hero here is Victor Maynard, played by Bill Nighy. Victor is well-known inside the community as the best in the business, but he's actually just continuing the family trade with colorless, dispassionate efficiency. His mother, put away in an old-folks' home, approves of his profession, but why hasn't he gotten married? It's obvious to anyone who's watched over fifteen minutes of Dr. Phil: Victor is emotionally shut down.

But all that changes! Of course. It's brought on by Rose, a small-time free spirit, thief, and con artist. We like her too, because she's played by Emily Blunt, full of charm, good looks, and wit. She has hatched a big score, duping a customer into thinking he's buying a stolen Rembrandt; instead, Rose sticks him with a well-done forgery. Unfortunately for Rose, the trick is quickly discovered. Worse still, the customer is not the kind of guy to go to the cops; instead he calls up Victor to terminate Rose with extreme prejudice.

Which is initially OK with Victor, but a series of missed/bungled opportunities puts him into too-close familiarity with Rose, and he—literally—finds he can't pull the trigger. This puts a target on the back of both Rose and Victor. What will happen? I bet you can guess. But it's fun watching.

Rupert Grint, yes Ron Weasley himself, plays Tony, a stoner to whom Rose and Victor get attached in their travels. Also notable is Martin Freeman (who played Watson to Benedict Cumberbatch's Sherlock in the great BBC series) as the "bad" hitman who's hired to eliminate the good guys.

Last Modified 2019-01-01 7:31 AM EDT

Some Remarks

[Amazon Link] Here's a wonderful quote from a Freeman essay by Don Boudreaux:

I need not lament that I, personally, have no creative, productive ideas. I have the great good fortune to live in a society that encourages truly creative people to share the fruits of their creativity with me. My blessings are literally too great to count.

Don perfectly encapsulates the feeling I get whenever I read the works of Neal Stephenson. This recent book brings together some of his shorter stuff: essays, articles, some fiction, interviews, and a book forward. As a plus, I read the Kindle version, itself a bonus miracle blessing. (Also: significantly cheaper than the hardcover.)

Over a third of the book is Stephenson's 1996 Wired article "Mother Earth Mother Board", where he, as a self-described "hacker tourist" travels the world (Malaysia, Thailand, Great Britain, Hong Kong, Japan, Egypt, …), examining transoceanic cables. It's a wondrous blend of science, technology, history, economics, nitty-gritty construction, all tied together by Stephenson's sharp observations and keen wit. How did he not win a Pulitzer for this?

Generally speaking: maybe there needs to be a special Pulitzer category: "Excellence in Doing That Kind of Thing Neal Stephenson Does". And Stephenson would win it every year in which at least one of his things was published.

Also notable is Stephenson's introduction to Everything and More, David Foster Wallace's discussion of the mathematical concept of infinity, aimed at general readers. Stephenson reflects on his and Wallace's common upbringing as faculty kids a Midwestern American College Town (which he conveniently abbreviates: MACT). As an ex-Midwesterner (but not a college-affiliated one), and a fan of Wallace, it was insightful and moving.

But it's all good. I encourage you to check it out.

Last Modified 2012-09-18 3:44 PM EDT