Star Wars and Madelines

When I came in, I sat down to buy tickets to the new Star Wars movie; I think we’ll all go see Revenge of the Sith Sunday night when Biggest Guy is back from Virginia.

And I was hit by a kind of Proustian wave of remembrance and melancholy for an old friend.

I saw the first Star Wars movie at a sneak preview, at the Coronet Theater in San Francisco. I was in grad school in Berkeley, and went with my housemate, Howard Gong, and my college friend Jan. We drove Jan’s Rabbit across the Bay Bridge against weekday traffic, as I tried to convince them that the trip was worth it, that a science-fiction movie by the guy who’d done THX1138 and American Graffiti had to be worth seeing.

We got to the theatre early, the line wasn’t too bad, and soon we were seated.

And shortly after that, we were blown away. I remember the crowd booing when Darth Vader made his appearance, striding through the clouds of steam, and the movie had us all from that point on.We started to drive back and the throttle cable on Jan’s car broke. I set the idle to 3,000 rpms and drove back slipping the clutch.

Howard died a few years ago; he needed a marrow transplant, and as an Asian, had no luck finding a donor for two years. He finally had a transplant, and got another year – besweatered, slippering around his house and children – before graft v. host killed him.

I miss him terribly, and I’ll think about him in the theater this weekend.

Life balances the good and the bad; I lost Howard, but kept Jan as a dear friend. And then she came to my wedding

Because I can’t help myself, I’ll ask all my readers – particularly if you are Asian or another racial minority – to please go get registered in the bone marrow database. There are more Howards out there, and they have husbands, wives, children, and friends who will miss them if you don’t help.

Think of it as an additional wedding gift for Joe and Jan.

The Void

MyDD is one of the smartest Democratic political blogs around; I often disagree with specific points he makes, but if you want to understand what the folks near the seat of power at 430 South Capitol Street Southeast are thinking, you should read his blog.

Chris Bowers has a post up that I read while bleeding the brakes on TG’s motorcycle, and I was so immediately depressed that I had to put down my tools, leave the garage, and go back into the house. He criticizes Ruy Texiera’s latest on what the Democrats need to do. After taking apart framing, inoculation, unity, and mobilization as answers to what ails Democrats, Ruy says:

Sorry, Democrats, there’s just no substitute for good ideas and fresh approaches. It’s time to jettison these myths and buckle down to the real work of change–serious change–in what Democrats say to voters.

Right f**king on. I’ve bashed Ruy’s (to me, naive) belief that demographics will somehow rescue the Democratic Party in the past; but here he is speaking for me.

Sadly, Chris is speaking for the Democratic apparatchniks.

He starts with this:

Overall, however, I actually do not believe that Ruy’s solution, changing what we tell voters, is enough. I believe that our problems are even more fundamental than our message, and in a post-national consensus era are directly tied to the ideological gap between conservatism and liberalism. We can talk about message and framing and mobilization and unity and reform and elect ability until the cows come home, but quite frankly I believe that Democrats are losing elections before they begin because of the general ideological composition of the electorate and of the nation.

In other words, we’re losing because most of the country doesn’t agree with us. His plan?

As far as I can tell, the main problem facing Democrats is that conservatives, when compared to liberals, have superior organizational control and power over what Louis Althusser famously called Ideological State Apparatuses and what on this blog I have taken to calling ideological conversion machines. To put this another way, I believe that conservatives are largely in control of those mechanisms that determine an individual’s ideological outlook, which these days is largely determinative of how an individual ends up voting. I believe that our problems are growing particularly severe when it comes to four specific ideological machines:





So, basically, if we can gain control of these four tactical objectives, we can change the imprinting that individuals get and thus how they vote.

What deterministic horseshit.

If you want to know why David Gelernter’s “We’re Smart, You’re Dumb” article in the LA Times was so dead-on, read this. Chris and his ilk know better then voters do what they should believe, and plan to change the social frameworks that determine their beliefs so that voters will then believe as they should.

It’s not enough to make me a conservative, but it’s sure close.

Let’s go back to school, and John Schaar, and “The Case for Patriotism”:

“Finally, if political education is to effective it must grow from a spirit of humility on the part of the teachers, and they must overcome the tendencies toward self-righteousness and self-pity which set the tone of youth and student politics in the 1960’s. The teachers must acknowledge common origins and common burdens with the taught, stressing connection and membership, rather than distance and superiority. Only from these roots can trust and hopeful common action grow.”

Chris, go read that and come back to us, will you?

Social Security

Got an email from my Congresswoman, Jane Harman (who, by the way, voted for the horrible bankruptcy bill). One of the links is to the results of her constituent survey about Social Security.

Question #2 asks “Right now income over $90,000 is exempt from Social Security taxes. Do you think people should or should not have to pay Social Security taxes on income over $90,000?”

71% say “yes.”

Sign me up…oh, I already did.

What’s Liberalism For?

TAPPED ran a contest for the best “elevator pitch” for liberalism, and just put up the winning entry:

Liberals believe our common humanity endows each of us, individually, with the right to freedom, self-government, and opportunity; and binds all of us, together, in responsibility for securing those rights.

Can someone can tell me why that wouldn’t work as a motto for the AEI??

This falls into the category of “what were they thinking?”

Look. Liberalism is about using the power of government to make sure that the powerless get a fair deal. There’s obviously a useful and important set of arguments to make over what “fair” looks like. But if this – combined with laughable Lakoff-ian attempts at rhetorical devices – are what the Democrats plan on running under, I’m wondering exactly how old I’ll be before Democrats start winning national races again.

The Compleat NCTC

OK, reader TM Lutas was kind enough to use his mad OCR skillZ to provide a text version of the NCTC doc. I ran it through a fast parsing, and pulled the # of incidents by country out.

Not much changed from the limited sample I did earlier.

|Iraq | 30.8%|
|Afghanistan | 2.8%|
|subtotal =| 33.6%|
|India | 45.9%|
|Israel/ Palestine| 8.4%|
|TOTAL |87.9%|
If we’re asking ourselves if terrorism is a worldwide or localized phenomenon, this certainly suggests that it’s highly localized. Two countries that are being pacified post-invasion; one country in a territorial/religious dispute with a neighbor; and Israel/Palestine which is also in a kind of territorial dispute.

The interesting note would be to localize the attacks within India and come to a conclusion about how concerned all the folks doing offshoring ought to be. Amusingly, my wife was v. upset when I got invited to go to Iraq last year; but I don’t doubt that she would have let me go to India without a thought.

Two things to follow up with; I’ll add casualties and am probably going to do a piece on the role of attention and perception in evaluating these numbers.

Full list by country:

|Democratic Republic of the Congo|1|0.2%|
|Saudi Arabia|12|1.8%|
|Sri Lanka|1|0.2%|
|United Kingdom|1|0.2%|