Rantophilia

Cincinnati & national politics -- movies -- music -- law

Monday, November 24, 2003

Why that "cute" Hummer ad stinks


The cutesy little Hummer ad where a kid builds a mini-Hummer out of wood in order to win some race down a hill has been bugging me for a long time now, but I haven't been able to put into words exactly why. Seth Stevenson of Slate also appears to have a problem with the ad. I hoped that his take would help me figure out my problem with it. Unfortunately, it doesn't. Or, more accurately, it does, but only in part.

Stevenson goes after the ad for its me-first, screw-everyone-else ethics. I guess I agree with that complaint. To me, the kid comes off as a smug jerk. Then again, all Hummer owners come off as smug jerks in my opinion. Well, jerks who use a Hummer to boost otherwise low self-esteem in order to become smug, at least.

But the ad also bugs me on its own merits. This kid builds a Hummer in order to win a race over a windy course down a hill. He wins by cutting straight down the hill instead. The course appears to have a number of switchbacks, which means that the length of the official course is undoubtedly significantly longer than the distance directly from the top to the bottom. Yet, the Hummer barely wins, barely making it across the finish line ahead of the pinewood-derby-mobiles of the other competitors! Not to mention that it apparently couldn't handle the turns all that well.

So, the ad's message isn't only, "Hummers are for cheaters"; the ad also says, "Hummers are slow and can't manuveur." Which might not matter when you're barrelling down a hill over rough terrain, but it sure would bother me if I were driving that massive, expensive, and admittedly slow and clumsy machine around Cincinnati.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Gay Marriage


Much to my chagrin, Greg L. Mann at Notes From Ground Level already blogged today's terrible Peter Bronson column on gay marriage. In fact, he seems to wish to pre-empt further blogging on the topic by noting, "I cannot bring myself to detail how breathtakingly idiotic Seitz's position, or this column by Peter Bronson, is. Anyone who is literate and has the reasoning skills of a third grader can figure that out." And I'm cowed into submission.

But there is one thing I'd like to see--an actual, logical argument against allowing gay marriage. One that involves facts, rather than meaningless (and unsupported) references to "the foundation of civilization." Also, I have no interest in a religious argument. No offense to religion or religious people, but I don't have the background to argue on the basis of religion, and religion is just another version of the historical arguments that I don't find persuasive. Got something that fits this bill, then e-mail me.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

War


In today's Enquirer, Michael Brodeur of Reading writes:

I agree with Jean Schroer ["Anti-war talk plays into hands of terrorists," Nov. 14] that we must stand united against tyranny and support our troops in Iraq. Politicians and Hollywood have to shut up about something they know nothing about. Certain facts are not made public because of national security. The lack of unity in this country during the Vietnam conflict is what made it drag out more than 10 years and cost more lives in the long run.

Having served in the military for 20 years, I know the public doesn't have all the facts. Intelligence data is kept top secret and only those who have a "need to know" have access to it. I no longer have access or a need to know and neither does the press or the networks. We just have to keep the faith and support our president and commander-in-chief.

That got me thinking: when has the country pulled together unanimously to support a war? Certainly not Vietnam. Korea? Maybe. World War II? To a certain extent, though even then there were non-interventionists. World War I? Same thing. Spanish-American war? Civil War? War of 1812? Ah yes, during that one we were invaded, so I imagine that support was pretty strong. But not even the Revolutionary War won unquestioning support from the public.

But let's say that things are different now, that the voices of dissent are louder. That begs the question: what's different now? Here are the differences I see: 1) we invaded a country that had not displayed aggression toward other countries (at least not since we last invaded them because they had displayed such aggression); and 2) neo-conservatives leaders have used the war as an excuse to forward their own economic agenda and to attack those with whom they disagree as traitors.

So, how can we be expected to show solidarity in a time of war when our commander-in-chief and his political party are using the war as an excuse to advance their agenda and tear the country apart along political lines?

Friday, November 14, 2003

The Racial Profiling Report


Apparently (if you believe the Enquirer--and why shouldn't you?), the long-awaited "racial profiling study" by UC professors John Eck and Lin Liu was released today. I predict that the study will present extensive evidence in the coming weeks to prove the maxim that statistics can be made to show anything.

A couple of comments:

1) I like John Eck. He's a good guy and seems very intellectually honest. I just had to say that.

2) I'm disappointed that the Enquirer failed to link to the actual report from the article. (If you're curious, it's here.)

3) The Enquirer article already shows how this is going to play out: Chief Streicher and FOP head Roger Webster will be quoted saying that the report proves nothing and any discrepancies are caused by higher crime rates in black neighborhoods. (Of course, they will shy away from stating the underlying assumption there: higher crimes rates among blacks.) Ken Lawson, I imagine, will argue that this report is evidence of racial profiling.

Personally, I'll just stick with a rather wise quote from Eck and Liu. Noting that the study showed some disparity indicating differential treatment between blacks and whites, Eck and Lie say, "There may be perfectly sound reasons for these outcomes that the vast majority of the public would endorse. However, in a democratic society it is incumbent upon the government to demonstrate why it is impinging upon the freedom of members of the public." I hope that Chief Streicher will take this to heart. I doubt he will.

Thursday, November 13, 2003

For the Record


Good critique in Slate today about Bush's "age of liberty" speech to the National Endowment for Democracy last week. I wish I could say, "I told you so," and point to a post from earlier this week on the exact same topic. But unfortunately, that post (which I swear, like totally, I wrote, but never finished editing) does not exist. The terrible toll of a law firm job. Plus, Michael Kinsley such much, if not all, of what I was going to say, and he says it better.

Monday, November 10, 2003

A Few Thoughts on Today's Enquirer


Reading the Enquirer on-line at work, I would like to register my annoyance with the fact that whenever I load the Enquirer homepage, I am greeted by the dulcet tones of Ken Blackwell, "Secretary of State, former Ohio Treasurer, and former Mayor of Cincinnati." Mr. Blackwell wants me to start a petition to make sure that the temporary 1% sales tax increase recently put into effect by the Ohio legislature does not become permanent. I'm all for lower sales taxes, if for no other reason than that the sales tax places a disproportionate tax burden on lower-income families. But what's with the audio?

Also pleased to read the informative Bible-study class that is the Enquirer editorial page. Today, we learn why "Jesus could not have been married." There's more I could say, but I'll just stick with "Come on! Is that news?"

Update on the annoying Blackwell ad. Apparently, there are two versions. Another begins, "I'm Ah-nuld from Ohio. No, really, I'm Ken Blackwell." No, really, I'm serious.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

"Guys with Confederate Flags in Their Pickup Trucks"


Did anyone else note last night how self-defeating the Democrats have become? First, they ganged up on Howard Dean at the Rock the Vote debate because he said in too-plain language what needs to be said about the Democratic party. Then, as a demonstration of how correct Dean is, Democrats managed to lose two more governorships in the South. Nice work.

Let's break down what Dean said: "I still want to be the candidate for guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks." Most of the attention has been placed on the end of this statement: "guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks." According to every other Democratic candidate, this language is code for "drooling, illiterate, racist Southern rednecks with mullets and no teeth who marry their sisters and never ever vote Democrat." Now, I'm willing to make a rather cagey proposition here--not all people with Confederate flags in their trucks are racist.

That's not to say that the Confederate flag is not a symbol of racism past and present or that it is not insensitive to be driving around with a Confederate flag in the window of your pickup or that the Confederate flag painted on the roof of that farmhouse on I-71 between Cincinnati and Columbus doesn't bug the crap out of me. But what I'm saying is that placing a Confederate flag in one's truck does not necessarily correlate with being a racist. More importantly, nor does it correlate with someone who will always vote Republican.

What else can the flag mean, then? It can be the symbol of someone who feels disenfranchised in America, that's what. It's a way for poor whites, who are no more empowered in the South than poor blacks, to feel powerful. It's a way for them to stand on something--their heritage--that they feel lifts them above other people. It says, "Dammit, I may be poor now, but I come from the South and the South used to be great." In short, in some cases it's a symbol of exactly who the Democratic party used to court, back when the party was about helping people who don't already have it all, not telling them how stupid they are.

So, the idea that Dean wants to reach out to these people is great. Because look at yesterday's results in the races for governor in Mississippi and Kentucky--Democrats lost. And while I'm not saying that the Democrats lost only because the Demcoratic party treats poor white southerners like they're idiots (there were unique circumstances in each instance), I think that's part of the reason. But all the other Democratic candidates are too busy falling all over themselves to appeal to their limited party base to grasp that fact.

And the other part of Dean's statement--"I still want to be the candidate for..." What does that mean? It means, "I want to get the following people to vote for me." It doesn't mean, "I agree with everything the following people believe in." At least, once upon a time, being a candidate didn't mean agreeing with everything your constituency says. In fact, candidates used to challenge people to better themselves; they didn't just pet them on the head and rub their bellies and tell them, "You're so right." But now, Democrats walk around telling educated liberals that they're right, and unions that they're right, and southern blacks that they're right, and movie stars that they're right, without standing up and saying, "This is what I believe in, and while we disagree about some things, I think we agree on more things, and if you elect me I'll fight for you in the best way I know how."

I believe that is what Dean meant when he said that he wants to appeal to people with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks. He said, "I'm a doctor from Vermont, and you're a blue-collar worker in Alabama, and while I don't agree with you hanging the Confederate flag in the window of your truck, we agree on more things than we disagree on, and I'm willing to fight to makes things better for you, and maybe you'll come to agree that you don't need that Confederate flag in your window." And while there may have been ways of saying it that were less likely to throw the Kerrys, Edwardses, and Liebermans into a tizzy, I'm glad Dean said just what he said. I respect him for it.

Monday, November 03, 2003

A New Look, A New Resolve


Well, it's been a while--almost three months. After a long time off, I've decided to come back with a new look that hopefully matches a renewed interest in blogging.

As I'm sure everyone who blogs or reads blogs knows, blogging is mostly an ego thing. It's about sharing an opinion, and I share my opinion only when I think others are listening. So, I lost interest for a while with the realization that my readership was, shall we say, slim and getting slimmer. But, things are changing.

I've changed the look of the blog. I think the new look is cleaner and easier to read. My job has changed, so I can show my hand, or at least tell my name. And, because I no longer worry that my views will be attributed to my employer, I can also publicize the existence of this blog and hopefully attract other readers. But that, of course, is dependent on whether I have anything interesting to say. I believe that I do, but that's the whole ego thing again, isn't it? See you around.