Thursday, November 11, 2004

Iris Chang, Dead at 36
Chang, author of The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II, was found dead today. Suicide is the probable cause of death.

Mahler: Symphony No. 9, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra cond. Yoel Levi
Levi's cool approach didn't work well in this confessional symphony, particularly in the first movement which sounds dull and Mozartian. Not that Mozart is dull, but Mahler in a Mozartian manner does. Levi's interpretation didn't get warmer and more personal as the piece moved on, but the piece itself seemed to bear his interpretation better. The finale was wonderful, especially in its dying seconds where Levi's precision made the final, icy fragments sound with emptiness and utter resignation.

Now that the election is over, Mahler's ninth and tenth are going to spend a lot of time in my CD player with an occasional visit from Das Lied von der Erde.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Now that I'm moving away from shock and denial towards acceptance and hope, let me set down a few thoughts on the recent re-election of moronicus imbecilus. Now Kerry should not only have won, he should have won a landslide. It would have been disturbing enough if ten percent of the population had voted to continue rule by stupid, proto-fascist, dishonest, immature, feckless, thuggish goons. Yet a full 51 percent of the population voted for him. While the Bush administration has been driving this country like a reckless, drunken teenager, this 51 percent has been sleeping in the passenger seat. They will continue to sleep when we go over a cliff, and the economic crash that wakes them up is going to the same crash that maims the entire country.

And yet we shouldn't be surprised about this group being delusional considering many of them belong to the Christian right, which incidentally is both un-Christian and wrong. While every culture tolerates certain hypocrisies, the Christian Rightist culture positively encourages them. Bush embodies this hypocrisy as a Vietnam dodger who nevertheless talks about the bravery and patriotism. The Right largely admires him because they see in him a reflection of their do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do attitude. Kerry on the other hand puts them to shame because he actually practiced heroism in the Vietnam and then took a principled stand against the war at great cost to his reputation.

Then we have the tax-cut squad that thinks that Bush has passed three tax cuts when he has actually passed three tax deferrals. Never mind that taxes are low to begin with. Never mind that opportunities for tax avoidance, not to mention illegal tax evasion, are abundant. This group considers itself superior to the poor and believe that in a just world they would be taxed less than the poor. Hence the WSJ christened the poor (lucky duckies in its appalling 2003 editorial. Many in the tax-cut squad want a flat tax but none has yet specified how a flat amount can be set that will simultaneously be affordable to the poorest group of Americans and support the wide range of services that are essential (yes, essential) to government.

Of course we don't just have to thank Republicans for our defeat. The Democratic party had a stellar candidate this year. What he lacked in charm, he compensated for in courage. Kerry risked his life in Vietnam not simply by being in the death trap that was the war, but also in the very specific instance of his rescue of another soldier. And then he spent time and energy in war protests. And it didn't stop there, as Rudepundit noted so eloquently. In terms of courage and character, Kerry tops Clinton, Gore, Dukakis and Mondale put together. And yet Democrats seemed to forget that he was John Kerry and just thought of him as the guy who isn't Bush.

To be fair, Kerry did not have the charisma or the Southern accent of Bill Clinton. If the Democrats want to take the presidency in 2008 they must play it safe and start out by nominating a personable Southerner. Stuff the rest of the administration with Boston brahmins for all I care, but please give the nomination to John Edwards.

Furthermore political satire has become much worse in the last four years. Certainly the Republican party has deserved more ridicule than the Democratic party in the last twenty years, but I wasn't typically bothered by comedians who riffed on both parties. But in the past four years, Bush and the national Republican leadership have attempted, perhaps succesfully, for the title of worst administration ever. Bush isn't on the same plane as Kerry. He's not even in the same dimension. So it's infinitely irritating (not to mention morally questionable) when the Jibjab creators, Jon Stewart, and a host of hipper-than-thou literati, helped Bush's reputation by putting him on the same plane of ridicule as Kerry.

And why in God's name do Democrats have to apologize for accusations that aren't even true? Kerry was not a flip-flopper, especially not when he voted for the $87 billion to be paid by tax cuts before he voted against the $87 billion to be paid by future taxpayers. That he did vote that way shows that he stood for the principle of fiscal responsibility. And yet we had Dems in the media treat the flip-flop charge as though it had some truth to it. The same goes for the Dean scream. The scream was rousing, folks. Don't get on your knees and apologize for that, because if you do get on your knees you'll end up servicing the Republican propaganda machine at the same time. Remember what Will Rogers said? If the Republicans will stop telling lies about us, we'll stop telling the truth about them.

As Thomas Frank noted so astutely in his most recent book, What's the Matter With Kansas, the Republicans have used outrage to gather support among red-state voters. This outrage is a dependable factor year after year because it is directed at "liberal" targets such as secularism that Republicans can't or won't actually stop. Republicans also like to refer to liberal Democrats as the wealthy elite of this country. Since the facts are on our side, our first steps as Democrats should be to reverse this strategy. Red-state voters, regardless of their views on issues, should be outraged that Republicans are manipulating them by arousing their ire over non-solvable issues. And they should be even more outraged that the tax cuts that Republicans keep talking about are rock-solid proof that Republicans are the elite. We have two years to tilt this lever in the other direction. Let's start now.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Things are Bad
More reflections on the election will follow but for now here's something by Victor Frankl:
[I]n spite of our belief in the potential humanness of man we must not close our eyes to the fact that humane humans are, and probably will always remain, a minority. But it is precisely for this reason that each of us is challenged to join the minority. Things are bad. But unless we do out best to improve them, everything will become worse.