Saturday, October 16, 2004

Everybody's workin' for the weekend

Fine - it's just me who's working at the office all weekend. Actually, I shouldn't complain since I'm getting paid OT and getting a comp day next week, but...I'd rather have slept in this morning, or gone out last night, or done just about anything else today. I've only been here for 90 minutes and I'm already bored. Oh...I have plenty to get done while I'm doing support for this conference that's going on this weekend - but much of it is sitting and waiting while tasks complete. Not particularly fun stuff. At least I can listen to music as loud as I want. ;)

A few little thoughts and links for the weekend since I didn't get around to posting much during the week.

We're now just 17 days from the election. Following his sweep of the debates, Kerry has surged back into the race, taking the lead in some polls and narrowing his disadvantage in others - some states (like Arkansas, for example) that were permanently etched in the firm Bush camp have begun to drift back in Kerry's direction. The Dems are, of course, worried about dirty tricks from Karl Rove and the nets have been filled this week with stories of GOP-sponsored voter registration fraud all over the place. I'm less worried about Rove's dirty tricks this time - I think the Dems are more ready than they ever were in the past. Losing 2000 and the debacle of 2002 have tought the party some lessons (though not all of the ones I would have liked them to learn) in organization and effort that are paying big dividends. Moreover, there's the juicy news that Rove testified before the Plame investigation grand jury yesterday. Could we be closer to seeing him "walked out hogtied in cuffs?"

Kerry's performance in the debates has not only helped win back some support he lost during the bloody August weeks of Bush-campaign sponsored attack ads, it has done wonders in bouying the spirits of the base, energizing Dems across the country into a last mad dash for the finish line. Should be an interesting finish. I'll confess to not knowing how this thing is going to turn out. At this point...either man could win. *shrug*

On the topic of liberalism, Michael Thompson has an interesting article over at Logos (Beyond the Vote: The Crisis of American Liberalism) on the Dems struggles to identify themselves:
The problem is that the ideas that dominated American liberalism during the Progressive and New Deal eras—and which were decisively defeated by Ronald Reagan in 1980—have been abandoned by the Democratic Party. This has led to a kind of ideological and political paralysis: Democrats have found themselves courting not merely the middle class, but a five to ten percent sliver of undecided voters.
Thompson even quotes the Thomas Franks book I read/reviewed earlier this year (What's the Matter with Kansas?) in an attempt to show how the party has failed to put forward its best ideas out of a desire to court an increasingly small sliver of the populace (the so-called "undecideds"). Thompson argues for a more "ideological" stance from the Dems, which reminds me of something I remarked after the debacle in 2002 - if given a choice between a party that stands for "something" (even if that something isn't a great idea) and a party of no ideas other than that the other party's ideas are wrong, voters will always choose to vote for "something" over "nothing. Comedian Lewis Black said it in his comedy special on HBO earlier this year:
In America we have two parties - the Democrats, who are the party of no ideas and the Democrats, who are the party of bad ideas. So the Republican says: "I have a really bad idea!" And the Democrat says: "And I can make sh*ttier!"

One other interesting link this morning...this weekend's NYT Sunday Book Review contains an essay by Michael Massing about Hannah Arendt's still controversial account of the Adolf Eichmann trial of 1961, "Eichmann in Jerusalem" and its import considering the coming circus that will be the trial of Saddam Hussein. Arendt's book, first published as a series of articles in The New Yorker in 1963, was highly controversial at the time, and is perhaps best known for inventing the phrase "the banality of evil." Her description of Eichmann - as a hard working civil servant who was simply carrying out orders of superiors to the best of his abilities in an effort to advance politically within the party - does not hold much water, sadly. It has been highly criticized by scholars both of that time and later, who have identified Eichmann as a committed anti-semite and essential in Hitler's scheme to eliminate the Jews of Europe.

Having read the book long ago (during college), I must admit that I found Arendt's tone towards her subjects odd. It was almost as if she had begun to buy into what Eichmann was saying. Moreover, the book positively drips with hatred towards Jewish leaders in Europe at the time and her anger at what she feels is their complicity in Hitler's scheme. Anyway, I think Massing is onto something in his essay in describing the importance of the concept of the "banality of evil," which we see so much more often now in places like Bosnia, Rwanda, the Congo, and elsewhere. Even if Arendt's book is a muddled mess, it is still important for that one concept.


Go Sox.


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