Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘Michael Moore

Spriiiiiiiing Breaaaaaaaaak! Links

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* Don’t miss the CFP for my upcoming Paradoxa special issue on “Global Weirding”!

* Of course you haven’t read Canavan until you’ve read him in the original French.

Black Study, Black Struggle.

* Today in the end of our lives’ work. Delaware State cuts more than a quarter of its majors. But don’t worry, we’ve finally got the solution.

Chairing a humanities department at the end of the world.

* Trying to put a number on adjunct justice.

* In the chit-chat of the checkup, as I lay back in the chair with the suction tube in my mouth, he asked: “What are you majoring in at college?” When I replied that I was majoring in philosophy, he said: “What are you going to do with that?” “Think,” I replied.

* Course evaluation forms ‘not read properly by students’: Undergraduates endorsed patently false statements in US experiment.

* Can a Marxist Read Tolkien?

Cli-Fi Comes to YA.

* I think you’ll find every possible jaundiced, post-academic riff on this story has already been made: French woman aged 91 gets PhD after 30 years.

* Cuomo bares fangs at CUNY.

A new United Nations report on racism as a human rights issue speaks to challenges people are facing right here in Milwaukee.

* All about the SF sensation of SXSW, Dead Slow Ahead. And more!

* Great moments in unenforceable contracts.

* Ten Years after the Duke Lacrosse Scandal. A prison interview with the accuser.

* A previously unnoticed property of prime numbers seems to violate a longstanding assumption about how they behave.

Reminder: NCAA Amateurism Is a Corrupt Sham, We Are All Complicit. March Madness means money – it’s time to talk about who’s getting paid. And here’s how to gamble on it.

* The trouble with people who lived in the past.

Inside the Protest That Stopped the Trump Rally.

* How to steal a nomination from Donald Trump. The Pre-Convention. There is no point in even having a party apparatus, no point in all those chairmen and state conventions and delegate rosters, if they cannot be mobilized to prevent 35 percent of the Republican primary electorate from imposing a Trump nomination on the party. I can’t be contrarian about Donald Trump anymore: he’s terrifying.

* Inside a Trump rally.

Meet the Academics Who Want Donald Trump to Be President.

* I do agree that presidential term limits make little sense, though my solution would be to abolish the office entirely.

The oldest man in the world survived Auschwitz.

* What if Daylight Saving Time never ended?

* Twilight of the Metro.

* Twilight of Sea World.

* Teach the controversy: Richard Simmons May or May Not Be Currently Held Hostage by His Maid.

As temperatures soar, new doubts arise about holding warming to 2 degrees C.

* The Sadness and Beauty of Watching Google’s AI Play Go. Game Two. Game Three. Game Five. But we got one!

How The TV Show of Octavia Butler’s Dawn Will Stay True to Her Incredible Vision.

Surprise! NSA data will soon routinely be used for domestic policing that has nothing to do with terrorism.

* Take your Baby-Sitters’ Club cosplay / fanfic blog to the next level.

Screen Shot 2016-03-16 at 8.55.03 PM* Photoshopping men out of political photos.

* Scenes from Iconic Films Hastily Rewritten So They Pass the Bechdel Test.

* Another ultimate TedX talk.

Identical twins Bridgette and Paula Powers think of themselves as a single person.

Paul Nungesser has lost his Title IX lawsuit against Columbia.

* The Really Last Crusade.

* Chris Claremont visits Jay and Miles X-plain the X-Men.

* Despair fatigue.

* Paging Lt. Barclay: Science proves the transporter is a suicide box.

The Untold Tragedy of Camden, NJ.

* At least he denied it!

J.K. Rowling’s History of Magic in North America Was a Travesty From Start to Finish.

Scientists discover ‘genderfluid’ lioness who looks, acts and roars like a male.

* Always a good sign: Star Trek Beyond Is Reshooting and Adding an Entirely New Cast Member. Meanwhile: Paramount lawyers call Star Trek fan film’s bluff in nerdiest lawsuit ever.

* Jacobin reviews Michael’s Moore Where to Invade Next. Jacob Brogan reviews Daniel Clowes’s Patience.

* From our family to yours, happy St. Patrick’s Day.

Bonobos Just Want Everyone to Get Along.

* And because you demanded it: What if James Bond Was a Chimpanzee?

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March 17, 2016 at 9:00 am

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‘The Life behind the Walls Should Be as Much Like Life outside the Walls as Possible’

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Written by gerrycanavan

May 19, 2012 at 9:18 am

Even More Links for Wednesday

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“With the lame duck, the 111th Congress may even surpass the 89th [of President Lyndon Johnson] in terms of accomplishments,” said Norman Ornstein, a congressional expert at the American Enterprise Institute. Obama’s spin on this (naturally) is that his approach works; my sense is that the 111th Congress was successful despite his efforts at compromise, not because of them, and that it could have done even more had he proved more willing to get bloody. One of the big disappointments from the lame duck, the failure of DREAM Act, is still a clear win in political terms; it hurts Republicans badly, perhaps permanently, with America’s fastest-growing demographic. I believe the technical term for this is “making them eat shit”; it’s the next best thing to actually achieving your policy goals.

* Is this Obama’s second act? It feels like it. Maybe it’s just the rosy afterglow of the Spider-Man shout-out.

* Of course, every time I start feeling better about Obama, he goes and does something like this.

* Another way to fight climate change without Republican interference: use the executive branch’s purchasing power.

* 100% of returning Democratic Senators want to fix the filibuster at the start of the next Congress. That’s great news. I can’t wait to hear the excuse when they don’t.

* Rachel Maddow and #mooreandme.

* On the science tip, it turns out placebos work even when you know they’re fake.

* And austerity is your word of the year. Second place: pragmatic. Third place: moratorium. 2010 really hasn’t been great.

Monday Links

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* Nightfall: Tonight is the darkest night in 500 years.

* Is it me or has Obama kind of got his mojo back? Republican senators say privately they expect the Senate to ratify the New START treaty this week, which would hand President Obama his third major victory of the lame-duck session.

* But don’t get cocky: ‘Conservatives Threaten Government Shutdown Over Debt Limit Vote.’ ‘Republicans In The House As A Whole Want To Get Rid Of The EPA.’

* Power and morality: It is shown that high power increases the use of rule-based (deontological) moral thinking styles, whereas low power increases reliance on outcome-based (consequentialist) moral thinking. Stated differently, in determining whether an act is right or wrong, the powerful focus on whether rules and principles are violated, whereas the powerless focus on the consequences. For this reason, the powerful are also more inclined to stick to the rules, irrespective of whether this has positive or negative effects, whereas the powerless are more inclined to make exceptions.

* Jessica Valenti has your concise readers’ guide to the #mooreandme debacle. Ryan sends along the Naomi Wolf vs. Jaclyn Friedman argument from Democracy Now!, which is pretty astounding. The second part (via Student Activism) is even more astounding:

Friedman: If someone asks me twenty times, do I want to have sex with them, or do I want to have sex without a condom, or whatever sexual act we’re negotiating, and I say no twenty times, and the twenty-first time I say yes because I am worn down, and because I’m being pressured and coerced and I’m afraid, and because I woke up to him already raping me, and I’m freaked out, that is not real consent. That is not a chance to have actual consent. That’s not legitimate consent.

Wolf: Well, I guess you and I will have to part ways.

* Inside Paris’s secret Metro.

* The CDC has found that a majority of Americans had troubled childhoods. As a friend recently said on Twitter: Please stop fetishizing childhood. You are misremembering your life.

* More from the minimalism meme: minimalist superheroes.

* And The Day Comedy Won: How 30 Rock Beat Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. I may be one of the few people in America who liked both shows.

Two Brushes with Greatness

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* The 100th episode of the Poli-Sci-Fi Radio podcast is now online, with visits from Rachel Maddow, Matt Yglesias, Brian Wood, and Casey MacKinnon as well as yours truly. The Rachel Maddow interview (beginning at 42:50) is in particular extremely cool, with Rachel talking not just about her favorite comics but also why she doesn’t wear her awesome glasses on MSNBC and even (yes) what sort of tree she would be if she could be any tree. Her answer to this, like everything else about her, is awesome.

* Another brush with greatness: I saw a screening of The Yes Men Fix the World at Duke tonight with the actual Yes Men themselves in attendance. As promised by The House Next Door’s review from a few months ago, the film is indeed everything Capitalism: A Love Story should have been but wasn’t. (These were, in fact, the first words Jaimee said to me as we left the theater. She is wise.)


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100 things that defined the naughty noughties. You’ll discover from the list that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows edged out The Da Vinci Code and Dreams from My Father as the top literary achievement of the decade and Fahrenheit 9/11 is your surprise winner in film, while five songs I’ve never heard take top honors in music.

Written by gerrycanavan

November 18, 2009 at 10:53 am

Wednesday Catchup 2

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Wednesday catchup 2.

* Duke University researchers have proven that Barack Obama kills Republican boners.

* Also in Republican news: only 1 in 5 Americans now identify as a Republican. These numbers are terrible. It’s hard to believe, but could we really be seeing the end of the GOP?

* An interview with the prop master for Mad Men.

* Chasing down the earliest common ancestor and the secret of abiogenesis. More at MeFi.

* From universal literacy to universal authorship?

* The House Next Door reviews The Yes Men Fix the World, saying it’s everything Capitalism: A Love Story wasn’t.

With delightful wit, the Yes Men are saying, “Yes, we can!” to the making of a better world, doing what’s right on behalf of the corporations that do so much wrong. Instead of the Moore strategy of passively shaming, they actively participate in change, as when Bichlbaum, in the guise of a Dow Chemical spokesman, goes on the BBC in front of 300 million viewers to announce that the Bhopal catastrophe, the largest industrial accident in history, will finally be cleaned up by his employer. This simple act is a million times more radical and risk-taking than Moore’s noisily wielding a bullhorn in front of AIG headquarters. Moore may be responsible for the highest grossing documentary of all time, but not one of his films ever led to a two billion dollar drop in share prices in 23 minutes as this Yes Men stunt did!

* Lionel Shriver: “I sold my family for a novel.” I had no idea this market existed! Obviously this is why my novel has stalled.

Moore v. Hannity

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Watching the video of Sean Hannity’s interview with Michael Moore makes me rethink a bit my criticism of the appeals to Catholicism in Capitalism: A Love Story. At both the beginning and end of the interview Hannity is put on his back foot by Moore’s citation of Christian teachings, and by the end Hannity is essentially forced to admit his politics are anti-Christian. I don’t find appeals to religion to be generally useful or advisable from the left—aside from the central political importance I attach to (methodological) atheism, I tend to think religion is territory the right just owns and there’s nothing we can do about it—but that’s not to say they don’t sometimes have their uses.

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October 7, 2009 at 10:02 pm

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‘Capitalism: A Love Story’

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We saw Capitalism: A Love Story last night and had some heated discussion in the car afterward. While all the parties involved operate from a shared position that “Yes, capitalism is very bad,” I found myself significantly disappointed in Moore’s take on the problem. This is a topic that needs to be approached systematically, from a structural perspective, or you wind up doing more harm than good; it doesn’t really lend itself to the anecdotal style of more reform-minded documentaries like Roger & Me and Sicko. In short Moore bit off much more than he could chew.

Politically I found the film both ahistorical and largely incoherent. To begin, the film opens with completely uncritical nostalgia for the 1950s before pretending that the economic collapses of the 1970s never happened, blaming Reagan alone for both post-Fordism and the financialization of capital. (Reagan and Reaganonomics certainly did a lot of harm to the country, and accelerated the crisis dramatically, but the dismantling of the country’s manufacturing base and the explosion in private debt began about a decade before he took office.) Likewise, aside from a few scenes late in the film, Clinton is essentially let off the hook entirely, while Obama’s participation in the ongoing transfer of wealth to Wall Street is also barely acknowledged. Neither the Global South nor generational American poverty nor systemic racism nor ecological crisis warrant any mention; in short the film is wrapped up so entirely in nostalgia for a particular version of middle-class American life that, despite its name, it’s barely about “capitalism” at all.

Moore also weirdly conflates left and right populism in a way that, I think, is extremely pernicious. To take the example he focuses his climax on: most of the opposition to bailouts as such last year was coming from the right, and was located less in long-held principle than in a rhetorical attempt to regain control of the electoral debate—but Moore pretends that populism, like all populism, was somehow of the left. In fact, the progressive critique of the bailout was generally about its size—Krugman, remember, wanted it to be bigger—and the sorts of strings that should be attached to the funds—not whether or not it should happen at all.

Obama’s election is likewise recast as the culmination of a “people’s revolt” that somehow began with the bailouts, a revisionist history of the last year which just doesn’t make any sense. The two things, in fact, had little to do with one another, and to the extent that they were related it was Obama’s strong support for the bailouts that drove his poll numbers upward against McCain’s. Indeed, that Obama supported the bailouts, and McCain quasi-opposed them, is never explicitly acknowledged by the film at all.

And don’t get me started on the repeated reference to the Catholic Church as Moore’s (sole) exemplar for anti-capitalist morality. There are a lot of things that might be said about the Church, and undoubtedly a lot of good people working through it, but its corporate structure and massive financial holdings don’t exactly map for us a vision of a world beyond capital.

Moore’s argumentive style in Capitalism, more so than even his other films, is almost always emotive and anecdotal. A long section on so-called “dead peasant insurance”—the practice of companies taking out insurance policies on rank-and-file workers—never connects the practice to larger injustices, and tragedies like Hurricane Katrina or the death of a young mother are evoked for cheap pathos that stands in for actual critique. Small, isolated victories against boilerplate villains like foreclosing banks are taken as exemplary of a mass movement that, I’m sorry to report, doesn’t seem to actually exist. And as is increasingly the case with Moore, the film’s primary mode is unrepentant self-congratulation, incoherently casting failures as victories in much the same way as Slacker Uprising; Moore figures more and more in his films as the hero of a revolution that never came, that only happened in his dreams.

Even the visual style of the film is significantly inferior to recent offerings like Bowling, Fahrenheit, and Sicko; the film feels thrown together, even phoned in.

It should be said that Jaimee, Tim, Alex, and Julie all seemed to like the film rather more than I did, and their replies to these arguments generally fell along two lines:

1) It’s a Michael Moore movie. What did you expect?
2) Okay, but [Sequence X] was actually quite good.

Taking these in reverse order: it’s true that the film does have some rather nice individual sequences. One that springs to mind is an investigation into corruption surrounding a privatized juvenile-detention prison in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, in which two judges were recently indicted on racketeering charges for funneling children into the prison in exchange for kickbacks. But as terrible as this story is, like most of the film’s examples this is still local and anecdotal, suggestive of reform and “bad apples” and not total system failure. It is too rarely that the film rises above the level of mere anecdote to the level of system, though it does here and there, as in its discussion of an unexpectedly forthright internal Citibank memo that declares America a “plutonomy” (for my money the film’s best sequence).

(EDIT: Just a quick after-the-post interjection that while talking to Jaimee I was reminded about the striking footage of FDR and his proposed “Second Bill of Rights,” which is actually the film’s best sequence, as well as an approach to reform/revolution that could have structured a better version of this film.)

And yes, it’s just a Michael Moore film and not Capital, and yes, rigor must sometimes be compromised in exchange for mass appeal. But we shouldn’t mistake spectacle for revolution, either; Paramount’s release of this film is much less the capitalist selling you a rope with which to hang him than the capitalist selling you a picture of a rope. At times the film can barely keep up the pretense of being about anything more than fluffing Michael Moore’s ego, with scene after scene of him shouting impotently in front of buildings in precisely the same way he has for the last 20 years. (The film depicts these moments not as futile but as, of course, heroic, including impotently-shouting-outside-buildings footage from Roger & Me without any apparent sense of irony.) The film ends with Michael Moore threatening not to make any more movies for us at all unless we get off our asses and revolt—but the film, primarily a love song to his own career, provides absolutely no roadmap for collective action. Even An Inconvenient Truth, flawed as its call for action was, at least told us to change our lightbulbs; beyond a visit to Moore has no apparent thoughts whatsoever as to how a successful anti-capitalist political coalition might be forged in America today.

I’ll go out on a limb and bet it doesn’t begin with a film like Capitalism. If I’m wrong, I owe Michael Moore a Coke.


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Oh, Thursday.

* Water discovered on Moon.

It’s not a lot of water. If you took a two-liter soda bottle of lunar dirt, there would probably be a medicine dropperful of water in it, said University of Maryland astronomer Jessica Sunshine, one of the scientists who discovered the water. Another way to think of it is if you want a drink of water, it would take a baseball diamond’s worth of dirt, said team leader Carle Pieters of Brown University.

I can’t wait to drink bottled moon water. Delicious.

* NeilAlien has some good links about the Kirby heirs’ attempt to reclaim their Marvel copyrights in the wake of the Siegel heirs’ successful lawsuit against DC.

* Naomi Klein interviews Michael Moore about who hates America more.

* For every newly converted vegetarian, four poor humans start earning enough money to put beef on the table. In the past three decades, the earth’s dominant carnivores have tripled our average per capita consumption; in the next four decades global meat production will double to 465 million tons.

* Salon on the end of oil and the era of extreme energy.

* Moammar Gadhafi vs. the World Cup.

Sunday Links

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As promised, some Sunday links.

* Jon Stewart had odious liar Betsy McCaughey on his show Thursday night, and you should watch it; video at Crooks & Liars. Kevin Drum says Stewart shouldn’t have had her on at all; I think the video made McCaughey look terrible and in that sense was an important public service.

* Atlas Obscura: A Compendium of the World’s Wonders, Curiosities, and Esoterica.

* Mandatory pre-Mad-Men reading: Pandagon’s defense of Betty Draper.

* Have we reached Peak Crazy? Fox forces Glenn Beck to take a vacation.

* Responding to Krugman, Glenn Greenwald considers whether Obama has lost the trust of progressives. More on the latest polls showing progressives’ loss of faith from Steve Benen, while Matt Yglesias ponders the meaning of GOP approval numbers that “appear to be stuck near some kind of theoretical minimum” and TPM reports Sarah Palin winning the all-important Birther primary.

* Margaret Atwood blogs her book tour.

* Cynical-C has the trailer for Michael Moore’s next film, Capitalism: A Love Story.

* Lt. William Calley has apologized for the My Lai massacre, though the MetaFilter thread suggests there may be significantly less here than meets the eye.

“In October 2007, Calley agreed to be interviewed by the UK newspaper the Daily Mail to discuss the massacre, saying, “Meet me in the lobby of the nearest bank at opening time tomorrow, and give me a certified cheque for $25,000, then I’ll talk to you for precisely one hour.” When the journalist “showed up at the appointed hour, armed not with a cheque but a list of pertinent questions”, Calley left.”

* Also at MetaFilter: SIGG admits to misleading the public about its water bottles and BPA.

* Inglourious Basterds as alternate history.

* Game of the night: Max Damage.

* And the Smart Set looks at The Martian Chronicles in the context of 1960s optimism and the New Frontier. My Writing 20 for the spring (“Writing the Future”) begins there as well (though with Star Trek instead of Bradbury) before veering off into The Dispossessed and, later, Dollhouse.

Great Moments in Presidential Inaugurations – 2

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The Bush inauguration, 2001, from Fahrenheit 9/11.

Written by gerrycanavan

January 20, 2009 at 4:54 am

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He’s Not Just a Surgeon, He’s Also a General

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The world is abuzz today with rumors that Obama is going to tap CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta as Surgeon General. Ezra Klein thinks it’s a great idea because Gupta’s media presence will elevate health issues in the public eye (and Steve Benen agrees)—but I must confess that my gut reaction was much closer to Ana Marie Cox’s Twitter:

I know he’s the real deal and all but otherwise making Dr. Gupta Surgeon General is sort of like putting Mr. Rogers on Supreme Court.

It’s as if he named Dr. Nick Surgeon General. It just feels silly.

PZ Meyers has the same feeling:

He seems a bit of a lightweight, to me — he’s mainly known as a congenial talking head on television news. He’s also an apologist for US health care, which does not give me any confidence that we can expect the slightest effort towards health care reform. I suspect Obama has just picked a pleasant smiling face to act as a placeholder, and that disappoints me.

Krugman, too:

I don’t have a problem with Gupta’s qualifications. But I do remember his mugging of Michael Moore over Sicko. You don’t have to like Moore or his film; but Gupta specifically claimed that Moore “fudged his facts”, when the truth was that on every one of the allegedly fudged facts, Moore was actually right and CNN was wrong.

What bothered me about the incident was that it was what Digby would call Village behavior: Moore is an outsider, he’s uncouth, so he gets smeared as unreliable even though he actually got it right. It’s sort of a minor-league version of the way people who pointed out in real time that Bush was misleading us into war are to this day considered less “serious” than people who waited until it was fashionable to reach that conclusion. And appointing Gupta now, although it’s a small thing, is just another example of the lack of accountability that always seems to be the rule when you get things wrong in a socially acceptable way.

All in all, the worst pick yet, I think.

Written by gerrycanavan

January 6, 2009 at 11:17 pm

Culture Links

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My unhealthy obsession with the presidential race has been crowding out the literature and pop culture blogging I normally do. Here’s a linkdump to try and correct that balance:

* The Washington Post visits the Manhattan of Mad Men, c. 1962.

* How to land a 747.

* Don DeLillo (fake) blogs politics at the Onion, while the incredible José Saramago—whose excellent Blindess is both the best book I’ve read in months and a new motion picture out this Friday despite the fact that it is quite literally unfilmable—(real) blogs in Portuguese and Spanish. Via MeFi and Alex Greenberg.

* Salon looks at David Foster Wallace’s sad last days, while has a map of Infinite Jest.

* Survive the Outbreak: a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure zombie movie. Via MeFi. More zombie fun here.

* Grave sites of famous science fiction authors.

* Concept art from the upcoming Green Lantern movie. More at MeFi.

* Michael Moore’s latest movie, Slacker Uprising, is available for free online. “This film, really isn’t for anybody other than the choir,” said Moore. “But that’s because I believe the choir needs a song to sing every now and then.” So the film’s not very good, is that it? Via MeFi.

* The Evil League of Evil is hiring.

* Stephen Colbert is about to team up with Spider-Man.

* And Neanderthals loved sushi. Who doesn’t?

Midnight Links

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Midnight links.

* A mandatory evacuation has been ordered in New Orleans—and Gustav is looking very ugly.

* Somebody shut up Michael Moore. This guy, too.

* Apparently you can now arrest people for intent to protest. Good to know.

* Flowers for Algernon: The Blog. Via MeFi. See it now before the DMCA takedown.

* Steve Benen has a good roundup of shocked reactions to the Palin pick from both Alaskans and Republicans. (Apparently Romney and Pawlenty are not happy either.) Or take this from an off-the-record Bushite:

If it said something admirable about President Bush that he chose a running mate who would be more helpful in governing than in campaigning, what does it say about Senator McCain that he did the opposite? One of the most loyal Bushies calls the selection “disrespectful to the office of the presidency.”

And this, from the Politico:

Whatever you think of the pick, here are six things it tells us about McCain:

1. He’s desperate.
2. He’s willing to gamble — bigtime.
3. He’s worried about the political implications of his age.
4. He’s not worried about the actuarial implications of his age.
5. He’s worried about his conservative base.
6. At the end of the day, McCain is still McCain.

Written by gerrycanavan

August 31, 2008 at 3:43 am