Friday, October 3, 2008

Comfort Food

Okay, I admit I wimped out. For mental health reasons, I decided watching the VP debate had too much downside: my brains already feel like they're ready to leak out of my ears. So my wife and I went out for Chinese during the broadcast.

By now I've read several online reviews, seen a few clips, looked at some insta-polls. Sounds like Sarah did well enough to satisfy those who wanted to like her, delivered her memorized lines adequately, did cute. She even announced (for obvious reasons) that she'd not be answering questions as asked, if she didn't feel like it. Gotta love it. Biden, by many accounts, was much more substantive and on that score, even according to some Republicans, won on points. Undecideds (how can they still exist???!!!) had higher opinions of J than S, numerically, but 70% still remain non-committal. (Really? Who are these people, and what the heck are they waiting for? Ferchrissake the world is coming apart before our eyes!! They need more information?? Maybe it's so they can still get on TV.)

So. Probably not a game-changer. Certain of my readers who are so inclined will find reason to love Sarah. Those of us who prefer substance that goes beyond memorized talking-points, will continue to love Joe. And the process continues.

I'm not sure I'll survive it.

[Update: well, numbed a bit by the above-described desensitization, I watched some re-runs. She winked, she smiled. When not talking, she boned up on her talking points. She proved she's trainable, if not educable. Roger Ebert had a great phrase: "In university terms, she was being asked to defend her doctoral thesis without having written it."

What's most pathetic, really, is that her side managed to force rules that allowed her nonsense and distortions and subject-changing to stand, unrebutted; nor to have had followups that would have required digging below the 3 x 5's. It is, once again, a clear indicator of the failure of our politics: that "cute" and "likable" and willingness to spend days learning someone else's points of view passes as some sort of discourse, as reasons to vote for someone. Beyond sad.]


  1. Dr. Schwab:

    Agreed on all points. But I don't know that this blog venue will be good for your mental health unless you put in place substantive commenting criteria.

    To respond to continued nonsensical and blatantly ignorant comments surely can't be helpful. And other thoughtful and insightful commenters' voices are stifled as they recognize what's occurring and decline to get caught up in the perpetraters' comment land mines.

    When others refuse to use logic, reason, evidence and critical thinking, there is no civil discourse. They have simply usurped that and have instead inserted their ignorant, uninformed and empty commentary. They hijack, destroy and shut down civil discourse.

    They win by shutting down real analysis, discussion and discourse.

    In a classroom, they would receive failing marks, and the instructor would stop them.

    But in other venues, they take advantage of generosity, tolerance, kindness and forbearance of others, and they manipulate, take over the conversation and shut it down.

    They will wear you out. They always have the last word.

    The internet hasn't yet figured out how to have "free debate" with these thought terrorists planting IEDs in discussions.

    But I think that heavy moderation is what must be done in order to preserve some degree of rational discussion. If they refuse to recognize the boorishness and refuse to take responsibility for poisoning discussion then they should be stopped. They have fouled out, so to speak.

    This applies to political discourse, as well. The problem is there that journalists and commenters vie for market share instead of for informed public, and so the fare which is presented to us poor dumb clucks is empty calorie fast food - Big Mac sound bites, personality and personal stories about candidates, no substantive issues reportage, no meaningful debate, no discussion of qualifications that are meaningful for the position.

    Etc., etc., ad nauseum.

    I have yet to find a single blog which discusses the presidential and vice presidential candidates in a professional manner.

    I read through many policy analyses and do a heck of a lot of independent reading in the academic literature to find anything of substance.

    To that end, I offer you the website sponsored by the KaiserNetwork. It presents most of the candidates' stances and platforms around health policy, has a rich primary source listing, and it reports in a neutral, analytical way.

    I've had my fill of watching this catastrophe-in-progress. Coupled with stealing several generations' worth of assets and sending them to the pockets of the robbers while destroying the living Constitution, I don't think there is much country left to save.

    The end timers really did bring it on. They have left us all behind.

  2. Makes me wish I had gone out for Chinese rather than watch the debate last night.
    Lets forget about the substantive interviews where Palin floundered, well, like a flounder out of water, and lets remember the memorized scripts she recited so well during the debate.
    If we all set our expectations this low we would never be disappointed.

  3. annie: on my other blog, I deleted a few comments over the years; namely, ones that were horribly insulting to me or another commenter. (Ironically, a couple of times it was comments directed at person who comments here.)

    The fact is, after only a few weeks, I'm already beginning to realize that this blog serves no real purpose other than a way to decrease the pressure in my own head. (Well, it's not like I didn't know that going in.) I did get linked once, from Crooks and Liars, and that was nice.

    There have been, on a couple of my posts, very thoughtful and informative comments, from which I learned something (yours included.) In general I see it as enough reason to keep comments open, and/or not to do much in the way of censoring. Like, you know, the "media" have been "censoring" Sarah. Either way, no one is changing any opinions here; it's only a question of if or when I find myself embarrassed by the whole thing. For now, it's therapeutic. In order to keep blood flowing through my coronaries, I need more release than just yelling with my wife.

  4. Sid, I fear I may be part of what you and Annie had in mind in your comments. I've been a pretty regular follower of your other blog for months and now this one too; and although my politics are somewhere to the right of Genghis Khan's (and I think *none* of the current candidates are any good), I've enjoyed your perspective and often agree with you.

    But if I keep reading your blog, I'll want to comment and argue, and I don't want to cause this kind of offense. So a genuine thank you, Sid, for some excellent reading (and I did love your book too!) and for engaging me graciously in past arguments, and I wish you and Annie and your other regulars the best. I'd buy you all a round if I could. :)


  5. Wes: When I said this, I was referring, among others, to you:

    There have been, on a couple of my posts, very thoughtful and informative comments, from which I learned something.

    I don't think my response to annie was of the same tone of her comment, but was, rather, an explanation of why I welcome comments, even though I understand I'm not affecting any change.

  6. Well, crud.

    I didn't make myself clear at all.

    I don't object to argument. In fact I welcome it. When it's founded on logic, reason, evidence and seasoned with passion.

    But the argument made which is done by denying and rejecting those elements out of hand is what I do believe is subverting discussion.

    Taunting others, using ad hominem attacks and ridiculing other points of view without providing anything worth considering is not conducive to civil discourse.

    I've done harm here and apparently caused the opposite of what is intended. I'm very sorry.

  7. One site, that I read for intelligent commentary on this circus of an election, is 538 (e.g. This particular article is one in a series in which which they talk about the ground effort in battleground states. I have given up on the TV (for any number of reasons)--even PBS and find blogs too biased. 538, albeit Obama-supporting, does such a good job of meta-reporting that even *Republicans* read it. Such is the state of our country these days.

    I have been a long time reader of both of your blogs, although not a poster due to too many thumbs and not enough courage. Please don't stop. If we don't stand up now, who will?


  8. Dear Dr S. -as you know I have been following you in Surgeonsblog since October 2006 and enjoyed it every time. As I have previously stated...I so very much enjoy your writing and as I also said On Dr Anonymous' radio helped me tremendously during the winter of 2007 when I was so afraid to have that surgery. I love that you have dialogued back and forth with your commenters.

    I would never intentionally mean to cause you any problems in any way and while you may not agree with me in many things.. ok most things... I think you know my heart is in the right place. I have also never once in two years insulted any of your other visitors or or you.

    And over here... like joking about voting for Sarah because she wears earrings or that she wasn't drooling last night...I was teasing you. But maybe that was just too serious a topic. So I apologize for that.

    I don't for a second apologize for my political views nor will I even dignify Annie's comments with any kind of a rebuttal.

    I do apologize for aggravating you with my views.

    I thought I was going to lose my mother today and I don't know the outcome because even though labs good she seems to be so tired and weak. I wrote about it ever so briefly. the last thing I need is to have insults hurled in my direction. Of course no one would know that.

    Wes...I assume it was directed at me since it was the last word was given to me a few posts back.

    I will NOT be back in here again.

    I do very much look forward to you writing in Surgeonsblog.

    I suspect I am the mental midget in the bunch over here anyway...But I am a kind one.

    take care Dr S.

    Sorry for not capitalizing, etc... just exhausted... and now I will go vent about more important feelings elsewhere.

  9. seaspray: it's weird how this all came about over a comment by someone else. I tried, unsuccessfully evidently, to mollify.

    My comment about deleting comments on my other blog was not referring to your comments, but was, in fact, about some offensive comments directed at you, which I assume you never saw.

    This blog, which was just a way for me to vent some steam and to purify my other blog, has become something weird which I didn't intend.

  10. Sid:

    Knowing and loving you as I do, I am astounded with the depth of your apparent hate for Ms. Palin and anyone with a (R) behind their name. To imply that Joe wasn't coached prior to the debate and was given "talking points". The hate is effecting your common sense.

  11. L. Lynn: don't hate her, don't know her. Think it's evident she's entirely unqualified and is willing to say whatever she's told. I hate the idea that someone like her could be chosen as veep for such cynical reasons. I hate that she's presenting herself as something she's not: ie, against the bridge, against pork, against lobbyists, etc, when the opposite was true until she was picked. I hate that she got up at the convention and became a derisive and devisive voice: what, exactly, is wrong with being a community organizer? I hate the politics that, when we are facing crises so vast that we need the best we can find, we instead choose people because they're like Joe Sixpack, and proud of it. Got no problem with Joe Sixpack. Just don't want her as president.

    Of course Biden was coached. Difference: he knows what he's talking about. She talks what she was told to talk.

  12. Sid:

    I could easily change the gender in your response and have it apply to Senator Obama.

    "what, exactly, is wrong with being a community organizer?"-- It seems there is a plethora of definitions for what, exactly a "community organizer" is. The last one I heard is: one who gathers up the homeless and destitute from the mission home and transports them to the polls to vote after a free dinner and a talk. What qualifications does a "community organizer" bring to the Presidency of the United States? Many Presidents have been Governors of States in the union, but few, if any "community organizers".

    I too hate politics. But both sides are looking for fresh, new faces. Obama, who shares many of the flaws of Sarah, are the chosen answers to that point.

    On this I am sure we will have similar views. Just as you don't believe in "trickle down economics": I don't believe in the liberal, socialists views of your party. Otherwise we mostly agree.

    Local Lynn

  13. One more question: Last year at this time you posted something I felt the need to respond to. I remember because it was just before I was heading off to hunting camp and had to terminate the discussion because I would be gone. I'm wondering: do you suffer from SADS ???

    Love ya man!!!

    Local Lynn

  14. When you said"(Ironically, a couple of times it was comments directed at person who comments here.)"...I figured you were referring to me.

    No I did not see them. They must've been pretty bad for you to have deleted them.

    Thank you for being considerate of my feelings.

    I wouldn't tolerate anyone insulting my other commenters either.

    Attack the issues NOT the people by insulting them.

    Talk about "there is no civil discourse. They have simply usurped that and have instead inserted their ignorant, uninformed and empty commentary. They hijack, destroy and shut down civil discourse."

    It is most interesting how we humans are often unable to appreciate another person's views or the possibility that perhaps they themselves are doing the very things they accuse another of.

  15. seaspray: I agree. Naturally, I have to politicize it: John McCain has, in this election, elevated to high art (low road) "doing the very things they accuse another of. In his case, it's quite possible he forgot what he said two minutes earlier, but it's really quite remarkable.

    More generally, it's a fascinating thing that two (and many more) humans can observe the same situation and come to entirely opposite conclusions. I don't understand it at all, but I assume it'll always be with us. I suppose it's good in the sense of diverse views providing lots of options. Problem is, it seems nowadays to mean there's no middle ground, no way to give credence to the other's ideas. When Obama did it in the first debate, McCain came out with an ad ridiculing it. Maybe the most amazing ad of all: did he mean it's wrong to find value in the other side, or that his own (McCain's) ideas are so bad that anyone who'd agree with him isn't fit to lead? Because that was the final line of the ad. Laughable except for how pitiful it is. But there I go again. In this case, however, I'm undeniably right. Right?

  16. What is bothersome is that it seems to allow middle ground...they seem to feel it is an opening to take a hit from or or be taken advantage of by the rival party.

    I understand that our politicians want to keep their jobs at all cost and in so doing they seem to work for themselves and not together for the good of the people and the country.

    I wonder...if they actually were focused on a joint effort for the good of all...would this financial crisis still have happened? It's like no one was at the helm...for over a decade.

    I am not familiar with the add or what Obama said in his convention. I only saw parts of it.

    I think it is important to have diverse ideas and then settle on the best ones.

    I imagine that if ideas dominated one side of the ship over the other, that it would eventually lean and capsize without some balance.

    The problem is that sometimes people believe "My way - the right way".

    But you know...they are both going to be in attack mode. They can't coddle the other side because then why run against them?.. Just unite as one party.

    Do you remember when politics weren't as divisive? I don't.

    But if you do...what was it like and what is the difference now?

  17. There's always been negative campaigning, from the very beginning. But there was I time, which I do remember, when in Congress there were people of moderation on both sides, who counted as actual friends (as opposed to the "my friends" sort of friends) people of both sides. Everett Dirksen, Jacob Javits, Richard Neuberger, Tip O'Neill, Lyndon Johnson. The scorched earth approach, our way or the highway, screw the other guys is the prime directive began, I think, with Nixon, and was perfected by Newt Gingrich. Tom Delay and Dick Army took it to heights even Newt had to admire. And here we are.

  18. Intersting. I've heard the name but don't know who Dick Army is.

    Did you see the SNL political skit this week about the debate?

    Younger son showed it 2 me on YouTube last night. HILARIOUS! About 11 minutes. Funny with both characters and the moderator.

    They had Biden doing just what you said. say how much he loves John, etc...and then SLAM him and always flashed a big friendly smile afterwords. And you'd love the Palin routine. That woman was born to play her. :)

    I hope Scranton people have a sense of humor though. :)

    A sincere question: Do you think any candidate on the left has added to that?

    How about James Carville?

  19. DickArmey was, as recently as 2005, House Majority Leader.

    James Carville is neither a candidate nor a Congressperson. Nor, for that matter, is Karl Rove.


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