January 12, 2008

Matt Welch does a pretty effective job at puncturing whatever credibility Ron Paul had left, here. And as the editor of the nation's preeminent libertarian journal, it is a topic on which he speaks in thunder....

January 11, 2008

Kos has a splendid idea to make mischief in Tuesday's Michigan primary: with the Democratic race a non-starter, partisans should venture over to the Republican side and vote for Mitt Romney, who, at least according to the early polls, is the weakest possible candidate in the general election. A Romney victory would keep his candidacy alive, the thinking goes, and further protract the nomination battle, hurting GOP chances in November.

I like that idea, and were I a Michigan resident, would probably select that option, but I would like to correct one historical misunderstanding the blogger known as the Great Orange Satan has:
In 1972, Republican voters in Michigan decided to make a little mischief, crossing over to vote in the open Democratic primary and voting for segregationist Democrat George Wallace, seriously embarrassing the state's Democrats. In fact, a third of the voters (PDF) in the Democratic primary were Republican crossover votes. In 1988, Republican voters again crossed over, helping Jesse Jackson win the Democratic primary, helping rack up big margins for Jackson in Republican precincts. (Michigan Republicans can clearly be counted on to practice the worst of racial politics.)
In fact, both Wallace and Jackson would have won the Democratic contests in Michigan quite easily even without Republican support; Wallace was shot and nearly killed in the early morning of primary day, 1972, and received a large sympathy vote both there and in Maryland. His margin of victory was 23% over his next-closest rival, George McGovern, who also received significant Republican support that day. Jackson's triumph in the 1988 caucus was even more overwhelming, and while GOP mischief may have broadened the final margin, it was by no means the determining factor. If Romney is going to pull it out here, he's going to need more than liberals behind him.
Don't Play B-17: Google is a truly wonderful invention. Combined with our innate egotism as a species, its use has probably done more to shrink the world than any technological advance since the railroad.

Case in point: my first crush. When I was in fifth grade, I discovered that my life would be a drab, dreary affair if I could not win the affection of a beautiful red-headed girl named Sarah Cusk. Sarah was the best friend of my younger sister, Jennifer, and had the added distinction of being the smartest kid in school. That was a bit tough for me to take, since I was a) the smartest kid in my class; b) she was a year behind me; c) she was a girl, which also meant she was supposed to be yucky to my male classmates at St. Michael’s grammar school in North Hollywood; and d) she was a bit bigger than I was, even at that age, so I couldn't bully her the way I did my siblings.

She also had a bit of a “Veruca Salt” attitude that begged to be dropped down a peg. Most of my courtship of the lass consisted of me trying to prove how smart I was, and she shooting me down with some withering remark about what a stupid boy I was. So we became archenemies, my Newman to her Seinfeld, and whenever we were in the same room, we’d fight, with victory invariably going to the lady. She always had the knack of pulling the football away at the last second.

We had lots of opportunities to argue, too, since, as I heretofore mentioned, she was my sister’s best friend. In fact, her little sister, Rachel, was a friend of my other sister, Catherine (all of us attending the same tiny school). The Cusks were English, and together with another British family at my school, the Yarletts (their eldest daughter, Claire Yarlett, was Jenny’s other best friend), our families socialized together quite a bit.

At least a couple times each summer, and always during the pumpkin harvest before Halloween, our families would take trips together up to Santa Barbara, either in my mom’s station wagon, or in the vehicle that was popularly known as the “Cusk Bus.” The Cusk Bus was an early-70’s VW van, a precursor to the SUV, which you can still see on the roads today, although it’s usually in the context of it being impounded by the police from its meth lab or serial killer owners. Back then, though, if you owned one, you were definitely styling.

I was always a shy boy, so these outings, fraught with the tension of unrequited pre-adolescent love, always had the potential of unleashing my inner psycho. Even worse, Jenny, Sarah and Claire were all huge fans of Olivia Newton-John and Helen Reddy, whom I couldn’t stand, so these car trips usually featured some family sing-a-longs of “If You Love Me” or “Please Mister Please.” As I said, pure torture.

Finally, I graduated from grammar school in 1975, and around the same time, both the Cusks and the Yarletts returned to England, seemingly out of my life forever. The same social skills that I had honed to perfection with Sarah were put to use on other unfortunate women, and thirty years passed.

The other day, my sister Jennifer was at my house, and we decided to set up her Facebook page. Since one of the best uses for the online social network is to get in contact with old classmates, I thought I would use the search engine at the site to look for old friends of hers, and I discovered a “Sarah Cusk” living in Bristol, England. It turns out she’s about a quarter century too young to be the girl we went to school with, so I tried Google.

And lo and behold, I found her. Like many of the other women I’ve fallen for, she’s gone and had a pretty successful life, which I’ve always figured was simply the Tao of Smythe: if you can suffer my advances, and survive the clusterfuckery of my existence, good fortune beckons. One ex-crush from Cal ended up being a wealthy chiropractor in Avila Beach, California, while my great unrequited love from high school is now a much talked-about reporter for the New York Times. I have exquisite taste.

But Lady Sarah topped them. She ended up bouncing from elite school to elite school like an academic version of Randy Moss, no doubt attending some Oxbridge school Cambridge before getting a graduate degree at Harvard and a doctorate at Columbia. After that, she got married, taught at a university in Warwick, (or as they would say over there, “taught at university”), and now lives la vida loca with her husband and four children in Brussels. That seems like a nice life. Did I mention that I spend my days representing debtors in bankruptcy court?

Even more intriguing is the googlized story of her sister, Rachel Cusk. I seem to recall that little Rachel was dark-haired, unlike the others in her family, and was a sweet little girl who was inseparable from her sister, which included a shared Olivia Newton-John worship. Well, it turns out she’s gone and made herself into a major literary figure of the English language, a writer of Serious Fiction.

Incidentally, did you know there is an entire subculture of people who read Serious Fiction? Not merely “fiction,” in the sense of Grisham, Patterson, the Harry Potter stories, etc., or even in the sense of a Bush Administration press conference on the “surge,” but Serious Fiction. It’s a subculture that is disproportionately well-educated and wealthy, consisting of people who, for example, not only read the novel “Atonement” before the movie came out, but before “Atonement” had even been optioned.

Not only that, there’s a special supplement in most Sunday newspapers targeted at precisely this audience; in fact, there are even periodicals that are devoted to writers like Coetzee, Pynchon, DeLillo, and my ex-schoolmate. This subculture is almost as large as that of American fans of soccer, or tennis, and most of these people don't even have to read those books, having long since left college. They just read them because it's what they do. Who knew? And if reading John Updike or Martin Amis can get me laid more often, count me in.

In any event, Google only provides a superficial accounting of others, even public figures. With a little research, we can find out the notable accomplishments and failures of others, but not whether they are truly happy, or if they are a good friend to others. But it does mark out the location whenever our lives leave skid marks, insuring that neither time nor distance can totally erase each other from our existence. So wherever you are, Sarah, this is for you:

January 09, 2008

Some Thoughts:

Hee-hee: From Larry Johnson over at TPM Cafe:
...being the “Pentagon specialist on Islamic law and Islamist extremism” may be akin to being the Oral Roberts University expert on fellatio and anal sex. A terrific title for one with no genuine expertise.
And surprise, surprise, the Pentagon "Islamic Law and Extremism" expert in question does not speak either Arabic or Urdu. Heckuva job, Brownie !!!
Not surprisingly, Kos has an informed take on last night's unexpected result. Perceived persecution by the "MSM" has long been a potent serum to whatever ails ideologues on both sides of the political spectrum; before the Clintons, it was Dick Nixon who would rally the troops with plaints of maltreatment. And clearly, it does seem that much of the punditocracy has a personal animus against Hillary Clinton. If she can harness whatever latent rage that exists among women of a certain age (the "Gender Card," if you will) to a victory in November, I won't hold it against her.

January 08, 2008

L.S.U. 38, O.S.U. 24: Congrats to the Bayou Bengals for being the worst team ever to win the BCS. And can we all agree that no Big 10 team should ever again be allowed to play for the national title? I think that's something that people of all political persuasions can agree, from Barackolytes to Paultards...I'd rather watch that awful Hayden Christensen film that was constantly being previewed during the game in a continuous loop than see the Buckeyes play after January 1. Speaking of which, does it make any sense to hype a film that will mainly be of interest to teenage girls during a prime time college football telecast in which the overwhelming majority of viewers are adult men?