The US 2012 Election, or why did we stop reading Spy vs. Spy?

NYT opiner David Brooks has this analysis on a Paul Ryan political calculation he thinks will cost the GOP some credibility capital in the upcoming election. Included in the column in this quote:

‎"Ryan’s fantasy happens to be the No. 1 political fantasy in America today, which has inebriated both parties. It is the fantasy that the other party will not exist. It is the fantasy that you are about to win a 1932-style victory that will render your opponents powerless."

The idea isn't central to Brooks' point, but following it to its logical conclusion suggests an interesting take on the political rhetoric of each party. There is the alarmist Democrat view that the GOP has gone insane. If you take Brooks' observation in tow, it would seem the Dems frame the GOP's exile from mainstream political viability as something you could wish for and lament at the same time. It is a thoughtful fantasy, worthy of the man who inspired it. To see it come true, one merely has to negate with the immense and growing financial resources of the GOP's supporters.

Then there is the tooth-baring Republican view that Democrats should be destroyed, more or less, on principle, in the name of a vision most people could not, in their right minds, think is good for them. Rolling back reproductive rights on a population of women who are increasingly better educated and better wage earners? Gutting Medicare as more baby boomers will come to rely on it? It is a video game fantasy of making the world one invents a sole reality, one that has to get the population to embrace it as it pulls away.

In this article, I find Brooks is a bit too clever by half, asserting for Ryan a political miscalculation that, along with so many others like it on either side of the aisle, won't matter on election day. What will matter this time around to most people is what has mattered in most presidential elections I've observed: voting for the least unattractive choice, unless of course you're committed to the ticket your party puts in front of you.


Announcing the near-release of Java SE7 Programming Essentials

The drafting is done, the code examples checked again and again, the graphics mulled over and tables formatted. A bit of proof-reading the typeset material, waiting for the publishing/releasing/distributing process to do its thing, and we'll all have Java SE 7 Programming Essentials to pick apart and vilify on Amazon. Planned release date, November 13. With luck and good tailwinds, maybe the end of October.

It's been quite the experiment, this book, more in re-discovering the process of writing and editing for publication than covering the subject matter, which I have been teaching for years, albeit not at an introductory level. It's the literal cover-to-cover process of working out a book that gets you.

Speaking of covers, this one is one of a few elements I had no control over. Since this is a Java book, I'm going to call this guy "Not C" Paul Ryan. My worst fear is someone will think this is me.

Oh well, I did get to control the content. And it is my best effort at helping anyone who'd like to (or needs to) learn Java. If someone you know is taking a run at learning Java, or preparing for the Oracle Certified Associate Java Programmer exam, I am very happy to say we've done good here. Not just the people at Sybex-Wiley, but also my development editor, Kathryn Duggan, and my technical editor, Ernest Friedman-Hill. My name is on the cover, sure, but the dreadful image above would be the only thing worth talking about without their work. I won't be done thanking them for some time to come.


It's been an impressive run of diplomatic goofs for Mitt Romney during his London visit. At the risk of piling on, it has moved at least one reader of Romney's case for American Exceptionalism, a book titled No Apology, to raise this timely passage:

England is just a small island. Its roads and houses are small. With few exceptions, it doesn't make things that people in the rest of the world want to buy. And if it hadn't been separated from the continent by water, it almost certainly would have been lost to Hitler's ambitions.

Where to start, where to start...

The motivation for American Exceptionalism today is not so weird as the people who drive it. Ignorance of the term's origin seems a trifling matter to people who argue for and against it. To me it seems telling. The term was first used by American Communists, responding to Stalin's disapproval of their platform and their apparent idea that economic history, which for Marx leads to an inevitable conclusion, somehow didn't apply to them.

But somewhere in the fog of the Cold War, some primordial neocon ooze, issuing from the cracks of McCarthyism, started eating old history books, remembering nothing but two shiny words: "American," which it knew was the same as "good," and "exceptionalism," which reminded it of Superman. It wasn't a very bright ooze, but it had the primary traits most people will take for American leadership -- at least six feet tall, good hair, and good teeth. It knew America was the same thing as good, that being exceptional was the right thing to be, and that wagging its finger at the rest of the world from home base was the best way to spread the message.

Enter the intellectual powerhouse of Romney, trying to sound, of all things, like a social scientist instead of a businessman. England is a small island: that's a damning analysis. Doesn't make anything the rest of the world wants to buy, with few exceptions, such as beef, spirits, cheese, textiles, world-renowned universities, global financial trading markets, tourism, minor cultural exports like Shakespeare, capitalist theory, world-class theoretical physicists, pop music still playing 50 years later, all that. Sporting franchises, a few centuries-old industrial and consumer brands, and so on, yeah sure.

But! England's only real defensive capability is water, which is good luck for them. Also the proven discipline and will of their people in war. Also their Air Force, intelligence services, diplomatic corps, etc. And, yes, yes, the model of the English soldier that's been adopted by most countries in the world.

Oh! and the language, the dominance of its language in world commerce, right. And the extension of it so far past its proportions and borders that it serves even the most exceptional countries, like the United States of America.

Rolls Royce, Virgin this, Virgin that, Paul McCartney, Richard Branson, Stephen Hawking, aging and even wheel-chair bound, but still giving it that old college try.

But that's what American Exceptionalism does for a person. It turns tunnel-vision into a virtue. It allows a person with a Harvard education to speak in a way that betrays no evidence of having learned anything, least of all learning to think, and to be damn proud of it!

American Exceptionalism is to political philosophy what a foam we're-number-one! finger is to a commodities trading floor. Or a sidewalk craps game, take your pick. It's loud and disruptive. It won big a while ago and it's determined to reminisce. It has plenty of skin in the game to worry about, but it would rather offer commentary no one can use. It's there to remind you that some time, long ago, its Dad helped your Dad kick this other guy's Dad in the ass (and boy, did he have it coming) But somewhere along the way you all stopped thanking him, and that won't do. Here he is again to remind you, you still owe him.


Gohmert Pile

Sometimes my reaction to awful news gets the better of me. In my head, I don't want justice. I want the terror and the pain and the loss inflicted on these moviegoers in Colorado to be visited on their perpetrator. And if I get particularly angry about it, I'll imagine his family made to watch, made to think about it, made to suffer, because I don't want his pain to end. I want it magnified, turned to salt that is plowed into the earth where he grew up, topped by a basalt spike with the his name carved into it to endure for decades.

Good morning! So: there's good reason I don't consider myself a Christian. Part of it has to do with what I think is the outmoded expression of faith I see in organized religion, specifically the Catholic Church. Part of it has to do with many churches that take faith for granted and use it for a political base.

And part of it -- the part that's relevant here -- is I don't feel so very ready, in my weakest moments, to forgive or forget. Or, for that matter, to give any better than I get.

Then, fortunately for me, I snap out of it. I pull back, I tune in to look for voices of reason, empathy, outrage, grief to help me sort it through. I look for the voices in my community that will broaden my perspective and help me make sense of what we all feel when one person drives himself towards hell, determined to send as many others before him as he can. I take a breath, take another one, work out the futility of my own emotions to yet another pointless act I can do nothing about. My knee-jerk desire for some outlandish reprisal, I know, is really something about me. And I know, in that sense, that what my psyche puts itself through is an even more futile gesture. Fortunately, it's only me that has to deal with what my mind goes through before I come back to light.

So, Louie, on what you said out loud. One: I'll call you Mr. Gohmert when you come back to behaving like an adult man. Two: use your inside voice, please. Three, you just made a call for armed resistance to a lone gunman no one saw coming. Inside a movie theater. Can you tell me what you truly believe is the more pointed attack on Judeo-Christian beliefs?

This is an astonishingly weak moment, made public for what I can only imagine is a brief opportunity at political grandstanding. I hope you come to your senses soon.

Of course, I too am only so strong, and before I breathe all the way through your toxic addition to the national conversation, I have this to say. I think it's your horribly repressed homosexuality, sir. Get a grip on it. Get that blowjob from that dude in that Greyhound station that you're still thinking about, somehow, some way, and just. get. over it. The short-term outcomes won't be too pretty, I'm sure, but they'll be yours to own. Much better than spraying it all over the rest of us like you did today.