Thursday, April 17, 2014

A Few Observations About Jason Ravnsborg

Observation 1: I don't get out much, but I know a few people. Some of the people I know actually do know rather important folk. I have yet to meet any local who claims to know Ravnsborg. Heck,I even asked the nice woman who cuts my hair about him. She was able to tell me about the blood moon theory long before I read about it on Howie's blog, but she had heard nothing about Ravnsborg. It seems curious that a person would run for statewide office if he's relatively unknown locally.

Observation 2: With "borg" as part of his name, he's probably not going to get the totally unimportant Star Trek: The Next Generation fan boy vote. (I never said that all of these observations would be serious.)

Observation 3: He probably never planned to win this race. He likely views this race as an opportunity to introduce voters to his boyish good looks, his military service, and his ability to mimic Paul Ryan's pseudo seriousness.

Observation 4: This Pat Powers paraphrase indicates that he has watched and learned from Bull Durham:
As he was sending it over, I had a nice chat with the candidate, and Jason noted that he didn’t get into the race to chase big money, but to bring forth ideas.As he was sending it over, I had a nice chat with the candidate, and Jason noted that he didn’t get into the race to chase big money, but to bring forth ideas.



Mouthing phrases about the power of ideas has to be one the earliest and biggest political cliches. Has a candidate ever admitted he or she was in it for the money?

Observation 5: Ravnsborg is a cautious and disciplined sort. In a race that features Stace Nelson's bombast, the Annette Bosworth debacle, and Mike Rounds exhibiting an Teflon sports coat that gives him an air of inevitability, Ravnsborg had the chance to take few political risks and, if they failed, have them be forgiven as rookie mistakes. He seems content, however, to play it safe.

A Minor Musing About Annette Bosworth, Tragedy, and Pathos

This morning started out well. I slept a bit later than usual, made a pot of coffee, fried some eggs, wrote a blog post, called my mother, and corrected a few quizzes, but then it all went to hell. I watched the Annette Bosworth video posted on the Madville Times.

In the video, which I won't post because it is the internet equivalent of a Sunday outing at Bedlam, Bosworth casts herself as an underdog hero embarking on an epic quest to fight the forces of darkness on the downtrodden's behalf. One hopes that most find the fact that she uses the suffering she and her husband have caused her son as a reason to vote for her pathetic, in the contemporary definition of the word.

The video, however, reaches the deeper level of pathos that Arthur Miller discusses in his classic essay "Tragedy and the Common Man." (Were he writing today, I have every confidence that Miller would have titled the essay "Tragedy and the Common Person.") Miller writes,
For, if it is true to say that in essence the tragic hero is intent upon claiming his whole due as a personality, and if this struggle must be total and without reservation, then it automatically demonstrates the indestructible will of man to achieve his humanity. The possibility of victory must be there in tragedy. Where pathos rules, where pathos is finally derived, a character has fought a battle he could not possibly have won. The pathetic is achieved when the protagonist is, by virtue of his witlessness, his insensitivity or the very air he gives off, incapable of grappling with a much superior force. Pathos truly is the mode for the pessimist. But tragedy requires a nicer balance between what is possible and what is impossible. And it is curious, although edifying, that the plays we revere, century after century, are the tragedies. In them, and in them alone, lies the belief--optimistic, if you will, in the perfectibility of man. It is time, I think, that we who are without kings, took up this bright thread of our history and followed it to the only place it can possible lead in our time--the heart and spirit of the average man [emphasis mine].
The video does not reveals a woman engaging in total effort to achieve her due as a human being. The fact that she uses suffering she caused her child as a reason to consider her fit for office reveals a rather inhumane sadism. More importantly, video illustrates that Bosworth is insensitive to the fact that she has engaged in a foolhardy effort that she has no chance of winning. Further, she is insensitive to her flaws and her inability to overcome those flaws.

I have used Miller's essay as a discussion starter when I teach his play Death of a Salesman, and I have always been skeptical that tragedy can be optimistic. Tragedy illustrates a character brought down by a situation that he or she should have prevented. Preventable suffering has never struck me as optimistic. Watching Bosworth implode, however, illustrates the wisdom in Miller's observation. Bosworth lacks to wit to know that she is flawed and that she lacks the ability to deal with the chaos she has caused. Watching a destructive situation unfold, one that the protagonist has no chance of preventing, is depressingly pathetic.

If We Can't Have Barabbas, Give Us Cliven Bundy . . .

. . . or a few Occupy Wall Street folk.
6 Now it was the custom at the festival to release a prisoner whom the people requested. 7 A man called Barabbas was in prison with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in the uprising. 8 The crowd came up and asked Pilate to do for them what he usually did.
9 “Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate, 10 knowing it was out of self-interest that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him. 11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have Pilate release Barabbas instead. (Mark 15:5-11 NIV)
It may be a more a sign of my cynicism than it is an accurate theological observation, but I doubt the chief priests had a difficult time persuading the crowd to demand Barabbas' release. The assembled throng likely found it easier to side with a man who said something like "Let's kill a few of these Roman S.O.Bs before pushing them back into the ocean" instead of a person who enjoined carrying the Roman soldier's pack an extra mile.

My cynicism colors my view of the Cliven Bundy affair. The gist of his non-Fox News supporters seem to be he's a crackpot without a legal leg to stand on. The Fox clips I've seen seem to cast him in the role of martyr standing up to the federal government otherwise known as the evil of evils.

I have little sympathy for Bundy. He's a millionaire rancher who grazes cattle on land he doesn't own or pay rent on. It would take a large number of the apocryphal food stamp recipients buying champagne and lobster to match Bundy's free ride.

On the other hand, if a group of Occupy folks squatted in every Koch brothers' office across the country, I'd take more than a little joy in any discomfort the billionaires were caused. Even though they would not have a legal leg to stand on, I might even complain about how the force the police would use to remove the occupiers.

The disconcerting thing about the Bundy affair is both sides will take the wrong lesson. The fringe right will likely grow in their certainty that one must face the federal government with force never thinking about the fact that federal government has more people under arms and far better weapons. The left will likely push for new regulations and policy solutions forgetting that difficult situations make bad law. Perhaps both sides should see Cliven Budy as a mirror that reveals their indefensible political biases.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The South Dakota Senate Candidates As Characters From Greek Mythology

Recently, David Montgomery mused about which Game of Thrones family each of the South Dakota Senate candidates would belong to. It's an exercise worthy of a minor meme, so I'll play along. Instead of Game of Thrones, I'll match them to characters from Greek mythology. So, in alphabetical order, here are the candidates and the mythological characters I believe they or their campaigns resemble.

Annette Bosworth: Medusa

Until last week, I would have matched Bosworth with Aphrodite, attractive but vapid. Bosworth's over-the-top response to the challenge to her nominating petitions revealed a core that has tusks for teeth, snakes for hair, and the desire to turn opposition to stone, so she seems to have more in common with the only mortal Gorgon than with the goddess of love, lust, and beauty.

Stace Nelson: Ares

Ares and Nelson both bluster a lot. The fact that Nelson served as a Marine seems to be a key component of his campaign, so the god of war fits.

Larry Pressler: Cronus

Cronus ruled the Titans and the universe until Zeus and Olympians took over. Pressler used to be a force, but time seems to have passed him by.

Jason Ravnsborg: Heracles

Heracles was a mortal performed a dozen great labors and then became a god upon his death. This campaign seems to be a labor Ravnsborg is undertaking with the hope of turning himself into an Olympian politician in the future.

Larry Rhoden: Pan

As a West River rancher, Rhoden seems a natural fit with the god of herds and flocks. Pan was noted for his scream which caused stampedes. Rhoden's supporters seem to waiting for him to find his voice and hope that he might cause a little panic.

Mike Rounds: Hades

Hades was the powerful god of the underworld and wealth. Rounds is the odds on favorite to win. Most of the his campaign seems focused on how much money he has raised or will raise. Hades was associated with death so some of the other Olympians avoided him because they thought he carried the smell of death with him. Rounds has some baggage from his term as governor that some contend has the taint of corruption.

Rick Weiland: Cassandra

Cassandra spoke the truth but was cursed so no one would believe her. Weildand speaks the truth as Democrats see it, but no one seems to believe him

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Web Comic Of The Day: Othello In Three Panels Edition

Via this IO9.com post, I discover Mya Gosling who, among other things, boils Shakespeare's plays down to their most basic essence. PNR might be interested to not she has a Miscellany section on her blog. I have spent weeks teaching a single play whether it be Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, Othello, Hamlet, and Julius Caesar. I wanted the young'uns to appreciate symbolism, irony, and beautiful language. Imagine my chagrin.




Don Knopp, Preppers, And Madonna: Another Belated Minor Musing

I often skim posts at Lifehacker.com; some of their tech stuff like rooting phones goes a bit beyond what I feel comfortable doing, but their posts help me understand what the young'uns are talking about. One of my favorite features is their weekly "what's in your go bag" show and tell. Lifehacker uses the term "go bag" in its broadest sense to indicate items necessary to get you through the day not necessarily items that you would need to survive an evacuation. They have also had an Every Day Carry (EDC) thread filled with shiny objects for the nerd in all of us.

A couple of weeks ago Lifehacker featured Scott Kelley's traditional go bag/bug out bag. I followed Kelley's  EDC link and a few links on his site and found discussions about carrying pocket knives tip up or tip down, AA flashlights with 300 lumen bulbs, and nuanced debate about urban prepping vs wilderness prepping. (Please don't tell Mrs. Plainsman that I've maxed out a credit card buying folding knives, flashlights, and tactical pens.)

Most of the preppers use military style acronyms BOB for bug out bag, INCH for I'm not coming home, and SHTF for fecal matter coming in contact with blades that spin to circulate the air. Those acronyms were running through my head when I read State Representative Don Knopp's treatise on blood moons and his belief that this phenomenon signals Christ's imminent return.

I'm not unsympathetic to preppers; I carry a "mom pouch" with assorted necessities to help me and young'uns deal with unexpected occurrences during debate trips. More importantly,  I'm fairly certain the economy is going to go south in major way in the next few years. I am concerned that young people in the United States carry $1 trillion in student debt. Combining financially stressed young folks with a depressed economy seems a recipe for major trouble, but I don't believe that I need to cache supplies in an undisclosed location to survive. In fact if I packed a bug out bag with all of the prepper recommended equipment, I'd probably die of a heart attack before I hiked three miles into the wilderness.

Likewise, I am not totally unsympathetic to Knopp's eschatology. As young'uns, my peers and I spent countless hours arguing--there wasn't enough warranting of our claims to consider the activity debating--whether there would be a pre-Tribulation, mid-Tribulation, and post-Tribulation rapture. We were astute enough to know the word rapture is not found in the Bible. We didn't know and didn't have the internet to do a quick search to discover the doctrine that is less than 200 years old.

I do have significant concerns when Knopp's theology is based in part on Kaduri, a Jewish mystic who practiced Kabbalah, the faith cultural icon Madonna may or may not still practice. I also have problems with Knopp's confusing correlation with causation when he lists the SHTF events allegedly associated with blood moons. If Knopp's goal was to make me think about the need to deepen my faith, he failed. All he made me want to do is search Amazon to price highly recommended EDC knives and watch Madonna's "Like a Prayer" video.

Madonna - Like a Prayer (Music Video) from Mary Lambert, Director on Vimeo.

Scripture And Song Of The Week: 1 Samuel 24 Edition

I Samuel 24
16 When David finished saying this, Saul asked, “Is that your voice, David my son?” And he wept aloud. 17 “You are more righteous than I,” he said. “You have treated me well, but I have treated you badly. 18 You have just now told me about the good you did to me; the Lord delivered me into your hands, but you did not kill me. 19 When a man finds his enemy, does he let him get away unharmed? May the Lord reward you well for the way you treated me today. 20 I know that you will surely be king and that the kingdom of Israel will be established in your hands. 21 Now swear to me by the Lord that you will not kill off my descendants or wipe out my name from my father’s family.”