Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Goodbye, February 2008: Various Items Briefly Noted

A few items worth your consideration (i.e., links that will take you away from here to somewhere better):
  • An excellent and thoughtful essay on Kosovo's declaration of independence, and the Serbian reaction, by my friend the Tonic Blotter.

  • Fear and anxiety at the rise of the machines at another friend's site. The post highlights the rise of intelligent webbots that are beginning to "think" creatively to defeat various schemes Google and others rely upon to weed out humans from robots. Along those lines, another article I came across today raised the specter of autonomous military killing machines. The fear is that as we make our military robots more intelligent and more independent, we are setting them on the road to autonomy. (We've all seen this movie. Perhaps we'll soon live it.) It's worth noting here that our recent bombing in Pakistan that killed an Al Qaeda leader was carried out by a remote-control Predator drone.

  • Yesterday's debate: I've decided that the vast majority of the American people don't care about most of the issues, or Obama's and Clinton's respective voting records on various bankruptcy or energy bills, or the largely incomprehensible differences between their health care plans, etc. (Here, you can read "the vast majority of the American people" as me.) Instead, for better or worse, I think most voters are looking for simple things to latch onto. The differing positions of Clinton and Obama on whether we should have gone into Iraq offers one clear, simple difference, and this is ultimately Obama's trump card. Beyond that, some voters will care about NAFTA, and maybe a few other items, but not too much else.

    So, beyond Iraq, voters rely on the personalities and appearances of the candidates: how they look on TV, whether they seem genuine, fake, or trustworthy, whether they're annoying, who seems more balanced, etc. I've thought about this for a while, and I now feel comfortable saying that Hillary Clinton is simply less likable than Barack Obama, for reasons, I feel pretty sure, that have nothing to do with gender or race (hers or mine). I realize this statement is obviously open to the criticism that all personalities are shaped by the individual's gender and race, etc., but I'll leave that discussion for comments. Clinton is simply not funny (at least publicly -- we constantly hear that she's "funny in private"), her timing is atrocious, she seems tone deaf, she tends to raise her voice when trying to make points in a way that is totally off-putting, she's rarely self-deprecating in a human, genuine-seeming way, she often gives her opponents and questioners the evil eye, or her "withering look", her displays of "excitement" are painfully, transparently fake and simulated, and she is irredeemably secretive and paranoid. These things make her unlikable, and I don't think it is sexist to come to this conclusion based on these factors. A male candidate, a black candidate -- any candidate -- with these qualities would be unlikable.

    These were supposed to be brief notes.


Ranta said...

And the name of that black male presidential candidate was Alan Keyes. (Speaking from a purely public persona-based point of view, in any case).

Frankly, the only time Clinton shines is when she's talking straight policy. The moment she tries to be personable or folksy or whatever affectation she takes on to suit the moment, she radiates phonystank.

Kris said...

Apparently, factors as meaningless as being listed higher on the ballot can significantly affect outcomes.
It's interesting that we feel like we should like a candidate's personality, or that if a candidate is likable they'll do a better job. Maybe it's true.