Gene Keyes Blog
Some current-affairs miscellany; latest on top, within category
This is not a formal blog with comments, but feedback can be e-mailed to me,
gene.keyes AT gmail.com.
2008-02-26 7) Obama's Afghanistan War
2006-08-18 6) Chester Bowles: A Liberal's Quotation on Prophecy
2006-06-08 4) Let the Veepstakes Begin
2006-06-07 3) Draft-Gore '08: A Front-Porch Campaign in Cyberspace?
2006-06-06 2) A Sherman Variant: "If nominated I won't run, but if elected I'll serve."
2006-05-30 1) Eugene McCarthy's 1960 Nomination Speech for Adlai Stevenson Presages Draft-Gore 2008
B) Commercial malpractice
2009-07-23 9) The Pornography of Broken Glass
2008-07-19 8) The Identity Theft of Breyers Ice Cream
2006-08-03 5) Call for Anchors' Revolt Against HeadOn Ads
The Pornography of Broken GlassA current TV commercial for Mercedes Benz ("Trip
to the Museum") shows it speeding (yeehaw!), then
crashing through a museum window in an orgasmic
shower of glass, with a 180-degree skid finale.
Hoo-ha! As well, there are recent news reports
about YouTubing pranksters who pretend to be hotel
personnel, telephoning sleepy guests to give them
false alarms about gas leaks, urging them to smash
their room windows. Har har.
Social psychology is one of my blind spots, but I
think there is something about breaking glass that
seems to excite baser instincts and prurient
enjoyment. For many years in the past, no western
movie seemed complete without a bar-room brawl and
broken glass everywhere. More recently, action
movies revel in any number of glass-smashing
stunts, with protagonists diving through
skylights, windows, or whatnot.
Real life is another story. I have long thought
that broken glass itself is one of the great
unsung forms of litter and pollution. Sidewalks,
streets, parks, woods, beaches: where has one not
been exposed to the nuisance or danger of bits of
glass? A friend once told me he was afraid to walk
his dog on a network of paths in his neighborhood,
due to the prevalence of broken glass there.
Environmentalists complained about the debut of
two-liter plastic soft drink bottles -- and they
are banned in Canada's Prince Edward Island -- but
I, also an environmentalist, was happy to see them
supplant the glass torpedoes which were a major
source of broken glass litter, and also known to
explode if dropped in supermarket or home. That
still leaves beer and wine bottles (or goblets) to
excite the glass debris of drunken rowdies.
So I not only decry movies and ads which revel in
fountains of broken glass. I not only decry the
easy vandalism of broken bottles and windows. I
think glass itself, like asbestos, is bad material
per se in many of its common uses.
I would not know where to start in reducing the
ubiquity of glass and its trash; I simply raise
the problem. How many decades did it take the auto
industry to make its window glass a little bit
safer? Public awareness should push design and
materials-science in a better direction away from
glass, where possible.
Roger Ebert has faulted movies which resort to the
cheap thrill of toppling fruit carts. Similar
fingers should be pointed at directors who abet
the pornography of broken glass. As in that museum
The hotel-alarm pranksters are obviously
low-lifes. But Mercedes Benz as well should be
denounced for pandering to the broken glass
8) The Identity Theft of Breyers Ice Cream
In April 2006, I sent this letter to Good Humor - Breyers Consumer Relations in Oakville, Ontario:
For many years I've occasionally bought and enjoyed Breyers vanilla ice cream (in both the US and Canada), especially because, as stated in its ads and ingredients, it contained cream, sugar, vanilla, and not much else.
I got the coupons, but Breyers is still fake. Later, I went to Google to see what "modified milk ingredients" are, and they are a lot yuckier than I thought. According to the CBC-TV program "Marketplace" in October 2007,
Under current law, only a limited amount of fluid milk and cream can be imported tariff-free into Canada. "Modified milk ingredients" are a different story. That name can mean just about any product that was initally part of milk, especially including the following:In view of the world food crisis, one should hardly be complaining about this sort of trivia at all. But it simply bugs me to see such a blatant counterfeit of a once-great brand.
7) Obama's Afghanistan War
I support Obama (and voted for him in the recent Democrats Abroad primary); but one thing I'm worried about is Obama's willingness to migrate the Iraq war to Afghanistan.
Here in Canada we're more familiar with it because the Canadian Forces have been doing a lot of the heavy lifting in the combat-plagued south, and Parliament is about to extend Canadian participation till 2011.
From what I've been hearing, the socio-political-military situation in Afghanistan is getting ever worse. Seeing that as the right war at the right place at the right time, Obama could wind up with an LBJ-type situation, in which a strong Administration start is ruined by another Vietnam. Those ever-lovin' Afghans have historically given the Brits and Russians an awful lot of grief. Is Obama next?
PS: It's those darn liberal-change Democrats that have gotten us into all the major wars: Wilson, FDR, Truman, LBJ. (While Hillary voted for Iraq, oddly enough Bill is the exception to the preceding list--and he should have done something about Rwanda, a la strong UN peacekeeping. Carter has a mixed record: Nobel Peace prize for Israel-Egypt; but he, with Obama-adviser Brzezinski, set the stage for the Afghanistan quagmire and all its blowback, right up to 9-11.)
Which is why I contributed to Dennis Kucinich: in this historical era, when has one ever heard a presidential candidate — Kucinich! — make a central campaign thesis about renouncing war as an instrument of policy?
(Well, MacArthur did it for Japan's Constitution, but successive US administrations have tried to reverse that ever since. As well, nowadays the US is trying to coax Germany to join the Afghanistan War big time.)
6) Chester Bowles: A Liberal's Quotation on Prophecy
Chester Bowles (1901-1986) was a prominent Democratic liberal. Connecticut Governor and later Congressman, plus Ambassador to India for both Truman and Kennedy. His 1959 book, The Coming Political Breakthrough, heralded a liberal-Democratic victory in 1960, and it was Bowles who engineered a remarkably liberal Democratic platform at the 1960 Convention.*
The book itself is a period piece of conventional-wisdom cold-war liberalism; but there is one passage in it which has always stood out in my mind: his description of prophecy:
It seeks the stern alternatives of the age and defines what they are. It brings the individual electrifyingly close to those alternatives. It tells him that if one alternative is embraced as a guide for action, the result will be this; while if it is rejected, the result will be that.Two words: global warming.
Two more words: Al Gore.
* As things turned out, Bowles was a tad too liberal for the Kennedys, they gave him a second-tier appointment as Undersecretary of State. After Bowles objected to the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961, he was chewed out by Bobby and shunted off to India again.
Quotation is from p. 116 of the 1960 Ballantine edition, which also has the platform text.
5) Call for Anchors' Revolt Against HeadOn Ads
OPEN LETTER TO WOLF BLITZER ET AL:
The wretched HeadOn commercials are the spam of the airwaves. They pollute CNN, and degrade you by association. I urge all CNN / MSNBC anchors to launch a revolt against HeadOn, by issuing a daily on-air apology until these ads and their ilk are eliminated.
(Consumer boycott would be ineffective; and cynical commentators laud those ads as so-bad-they-are-good. No matter. Responsible TV news anchors have a public duty not to be allied to such a ceaseless assault on common civility.)
Berwick, NS, Canada
More information about this current outbreak of air pollution:
The polluter itself:
Its email: firstname.lastname@example.org
4) Let the Veepstakes Begin
Earlier I reiterated the notion that the best presidential candidate would not "run" for the office, but be receptive to a draft, e.g., Gore. Now let me reverse that proposition in regard to the vice-presidency. Let the veepstakes begin.
Traditionally, candidates loudly shun any thought that they'd be #2. But once the top slot is filled, there is a brief scramble to be running mate, albeit totally at the whim of #1. The vice-presidency is demeaned because, (a) it is despised by the main runners, and (b) it is an undemocratic prerogative of the presidential candidate.
Some recent exceptions to this pattern could also be a trivia question: "Who has actually run for Vice President prior to selection?" At least five:
1956: Adlai Stevenson threw the choice over the Democratic Convention; John F. Kennedy Jr. and Estes Kefauver contested; Kefauver barely won.
1972: Alaska Democratic Senator Mike Gravel nominated himself for VP (and might have saved McGovern from the Eagleton fiasco...) (Gravel is now the first declared 2008 presidential candidate.)
1976: Before the Republican Convention, Ronald Reagan announced that moderate Pennsylvania Senator Richard Schweiker would be his running mate, and they did some joint campaigning.
1992: Former Massachusetts Governor Endicott Peabody, Democrat, ran a declared campaign for the vice presidency.
These instances suggest several possibilities:
1) That the national convention, not the presidential candidate, choose the VP;
or 2) That the presidential candidate propose several names for the Convention to choose among;
[Those two ideas might restore some interest to the convention--if indeed that is to be desired.]
or 3) That any presidential candidate not scorn the vice-presidency, but evince willingness to serve in either office;
or 4) That one or more teams offer themselves as a presidential / vice-presidential ticket in the pre-convention period;
[All these ideas are applicable to anyone running. In a Draft-Gore context, one could imagine, say, a Richardson or Murtha or Feingold or whoever, having some kind of nod from non-candidate Gore, would be Gore's principal champion, and already on the bumper-sticker.]
or 5) That the presidential candidate present his/her cabinet choices in advance of the convention and election. The team would already be in place, and further add to the campaign repertoire.
3) Draft-Gore '08: A Front-Porch Campaign in Cyberspace?In 1896 William Jennings Bryan set the modern presidential campaign style by traveling all over the country, while victor William McKinley ran a so-called "front-porch" campaign, remaining at his residence to receive delegations. I'd have preferred Bryan to win, but I think McKinley may have had it right in terms of how to run for president.
Nowadays there is so much frenetic racing from place to place (reaching its zenith when Nixon strove for all 50 states in 1960). Why couldn't a modern candidate remain in one central location (or perhaps four regional locales for 2-3 weeks each, E-W-N-S). And of course, in the Internet Age, there is plenty of opportunity for video conferencing, online events, publicized "front-porch" or "at home" meetings with citizenry (selected by lot, their travel paid for), calm discussions and roundtables with experts, interest groups, journalists, supporters, non-supporters, even opponents, etc.
One could still add the occasional photo-op at a melting glacier, a very few traditional huge rallies, even a whistle-stop train for old time's sake. But most of the road-show burden and trappings would be avoided. Much more of such a campaign's public face would be articulate advocates, and the volunteer corps.
I am speaking here of a "non-candidate" already somehow drafted and nominated, and now "non-running" for president. These notions could be adapted for a non-candidacy in the caucus and primary stages.
A "search committee" (and/or high-profile promoter team) would have to do the pre-nomination heavy lifting, with at least some winks & nods from the no-plans-to-run candidate. The theme would be: the job seeks the person. Or to put it another way: back by popular demand.
2) A Sherman Variant: "If nominated I won't run, but if elected I'll serve."
Could a Sherman statement be re-worked as above?
In that sense, a presidential campaign would be a bit akin to an election to the papacy. One does not strive to be pope, but "papabili" do make themselves available.
A "non-candidate" like Al Gore would carry on as usual--global warming, the occasional barn-burner against presidential excesses--but not be immersed in a campaign pressure cooker, nor subject to neutering by consultants.
There would still be a full-scale volunteer-&-professional apparatus doing the 50-state campaign intricacies, but pretty much at arms-length from the candidate. And even such a semi-Sherman statement would enable Gore to participate in candidate debates if he so chose, as one of the few signs of availability: dragged into the debate, so to speak.
In that sense, one would not "run", as in the hurly-burly of gladhanding and campaign travel, but would be assembling a publicly visible "government in waiting".
1) Eugene McCarthy's 1960 Nomination Speech for Adlai Stevenson
Presages Draft-Gore 2008
One of the greatest speeches I ever heard was by Senator Eugene McCarthy nominating Adlai Stevenson at the July 1960 Democratic National Convention. (I was an 18-year-old foot soldier in the draft-Stevenson campaign, because he was more the "peace" candidate as compared to saber-rattling JFK.)
The recent buzz about drafting Al Gore for president in 2008, as likened to Nixon's 1960 > 1968 comeback, brought to mind another 1960 comparison: Stevenson's reluctance to run that year after prior losses to Ike. And some of Gene McCarthy's 1960 themes now re-echo in my mind.
I could not find a Web version of McCarthy's oration, so I am posting a jpeg of the New York Times' text. (1960-07-14, p. 16.) I should have just re-typed it; doing a paste-up and scan of the clipping was quite a job.
Of course, the print version doesn't have 1/100th of the original's oomph; you'd have to have been hearing it real-time to know the thunderclap of McCarthy's challenge, "let this go to a second ballot"! And all his other punchlines.
While in retrospect a lot of the speech is but poetic rhetoric, a couple of passages remained with me from then till now:
"And I say to you that the time has come to raise again the cry of the ancient prophet. And what did he say? He said the prophets prophesy falsely. And the high priests, he said, rule by their words. And my people love to have it so. But what will be the end thereof?"(At the time, I had to look up just who that prophet was: it's Jeremiah.)
"I say to you the political prophets have prophesied falsely in these eight years. And the high priests of Government have ruled by that false prophecy. And the people seemed to have loved it so.(Fast forward to McCarthy himself, '68; or Gore '08...)
And then there was this, uttered in context of JFK's ruthless quest for the presidency and Adlai's reticence:
"power often comes to those who seek it. But history does not prove that power is always well used by those who seek it.I suspect that's more a poetic truth than a constant one, but it's worth keeping in mind. (When McCarthy himself was chided for his post-'68 presidential campaigns, he responded that he was "willing" to be president, not that he "wanted" to be.)
Now that Gore is no longer seeking power, he certainly merits a draft.
For a recent appraisal, see David Kusnet,"McCarthy's Brilliant, Prophetic, Problematic Speech", New Republic Online, 2005-12-12. (Google's link works, but not if copied to here.)