Saturday, December 20, 2008

No We Can't

Turns out Jeannine and I will not be attending the presidential inauguration. We didn't get the inaugural tickets as we hoped, finances are pretty tight, and Jeannine was scared off by the size of the crowds and the weather. So no D.C. vacation for us, although it does free me up to attend the January Mini-Con at Endgame. Woo-hoo.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Survivors

The BBC has a new (kinda) mini-series about average people surviving a global pandemic that leaves them virtually alone in a depopulated Britain, forced to recreate society in the face of their own human foibles. I say kinda because Survivors is a remake of a 1970's BBC series, created by Terry Nation (who created many of the best bits of Doctor Who). I only saw the first episode of the original series, but I did read Terry Nation's novelization of the first season (his only season with the show) completely by accident, and didn't realize that it was based on a TV show until well after watching that sole episode. The novelization was as good (if not better) than The Stand, The Day of the Triffids, and similar post-apocalyptic treatments, with its violent and downbeat climax (which diverges sharply from the TV series) remaining particularly haunting. The TV series also seemed like good stuff, but, having missed the second episode in the days before DVRs, Hulu, and Netflix, I didn't bother to keep up. So I am really comparing this modern remake to Nation's novel, if anything.

And, after watching the first two episodes, it doesn't really measure up. Having decided to avoid the "dreary" pessimism of the original series, the producers of today's Survivors plan to focus on the hope and triumph of plucky Brits retaining their values and humanity in the face of civilization's collapse. A noble thought, but the truth is that half the "fun" of post-apocalyptic fiction is watching average folks survive through grim efficiency, often requiring them to compromise those modern values to live through the day. Case in point is the second episode, where the survivors are kept from foraging the local supermarket by a tiny gang because their leader is armed with a double-barreled shotgun. Now my first thought would be to find the nearest TA depot or an abandoned Armed Response Vehicle and get something like this or this and take out the wannabe warlord with his Elmer Fudd gun. But then I'm an American, and I can't help but think that the Brit creators of this show would see that resolution as some kind of horrifying failure rather than the upliftingly human "solution" where the survivors flee the scene back to their cozy cottage in the woods, leaving the yobs in charge of the town and the threat unresolved. When much of the attraction is to see how characters use their intelligence to survive, Survivors knee-caps itself by forcing the characters to behave by the same moral sensibilities they owned before the collapse.

It also doesn't help that the lead character has been turned from the "hausfrau turned coldly-efficient tribal leader" of the original series and novel into a shrill soccer mom obsessed with finding her lost child. The original character had the same goal, but the creators there had the good sense to see that it was dramatically uninteresting to have her do this same act every damn episode, and gave her the larger motivation of creating a community in which to raise her child when the kid was found. That said, the other characters of the new series - an escaped convict who is either sociopathic or grimly realistic about the situation (or maybe both); an Arabic playboy forced into caring for a Muslim fundie kid; a lesbian (maybe?) doctor; and the next Doctor Who - are all improvements on the otherwise vanilla characters of the original series.

All in all, Survivors feels a lot like Jericho, another show where the creators thought it should be about something (the strength and spirit of hometown America) when the viewers wanted something else (radioactive zombies snacking on Kansan brains). It's not awful, but it's already so veered itself off the path of "reasonable response to this situation" that I'm strictly hanging on because it'll be over soon (there's only six episodes in this season) and because I'm a sucker for anything with a British accent.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Quantum of Solace

It was good. Not as great as Casino Royale, but only in the sense that it isn't as full-fledged a film in its own right as its predecessor. You'll probably be completely lost in Quantum without having seen Casino Royale, and will surely be missing whatever emotional power the film tugs at with its constant references to Bond's ill-fated love for Vesper Lynd. It exists mostly as the epilogue to Casino Royale, but I still found it fun, exciting, and deep enough (in a rather disposable pop culture sort of way) to sustain itself.

While I very much liked Casino Royale, I remained concerned that this reboot of the Bond franchise had yet to deal with the central problem afflicting most spy thrillers these days: the Cold War is over and ignorant religious nutjobs in caves don't make nearly as interesting devious masterminds as our mythical versions of the KGB did back when Bond had a Scottish accent. So, taking its cues from Jason Bourne, Quantum pits Bond as much against the Americans and his own government as it does against a not-too-original alliance of a tinpot dictator and an omnipotent secret cabal, finally making a Bond film whose subtext doesn't play as an anti-Communist screed but as something matching modern-day concerns. Indeed, if Quantum is anti- anything, it's anti-globalization, with the real villain being the influence of amoral corporate interests on government intelligence policy.

Yet Quantum of Solace is still a Bond film, and is really about an ultra-cool badass playing the "kiss-kiss, bang-bang" game. Lacking a new Vesper for James, there is less "kiss-kiss" than in Casino Royale, but the more "realistic" subtext saves the film from being less human because of it. The film is also tighter (though just slightly) than Casino Royale, with nary a breathless moment between it's numerous fight scenes, yet more than enough plot (it starts to feel like Syriana at times) that it doesn't feel like one damn battle after another (i.e. The Matrix sequels).

If there is any real criticism, it's that Quantum ends too abruptly. Having set up so many plotlines, many are left to be tied up unsatisfactorily in dialogue exposition after all the explosions have burned themselves out. While it makes a nice coda to Casino Royale, it's nothing more than that, but it does a very good job of laying the groundwork for where this new Bond is headed.

Friday, November 7, 2008

"Some Kind of Special Mustache?"

Get Your War On by way of Wonkette:

Get the latest news satire and funny videos at 236.com.

Some Final Thoughts on Prop 8

I've spent way too much time today reading through various progressive blogs gauging the reaction to the passage of Proposition 8, and the postmortem that is developing leaves me cold. My thoughts:

Blacks are not to blame for Prop 8 passing: It's disturbing that 70% of African-Americans would vote Yes on 8, while whites and Hispanics averaged out to around 50-55%. This does not change the fact that the vast majority of voters who voted for 8 were the same majority of voters who vote in anything in California: whites. It would be just as easy (and equally fruitless) to blame the over-65 voters for the proposition. This sentiment that it was the blacks that sold out the gays in California seems based more on hurt feelings over the huge positive outcry forthe Obama win in the midst of the hurt over Prop 8 passing. I can understand that sentiment, but it serves no purpose.

Mormons and their out-of-state money are not to blame for Prop 8 passing: The Mormon money that poured into California from Utah was sickening, not simply because the church has a long history of institutionalized bigotry against minorities but also due to their own history of discrimination based on "traditional marriage". Nevertheless, at the end of the day, the No on 8 group had more money in its coffers than Yes on 8, and more of that money came from out-of-state as well. To claim that it was Utah that caused Prop 8 is simply hypocritical.

Californians are to blame for Prop 8 passing: Prop 8 ultimately had majority support (albeit marginal) among a wide variety of ethnic, religious, and economic backgrounds. Claiming it was Blacks or Mormons or some other small portion of the state population is both ill-reasoned and serves no purpose in future action for gay rights. We needed a widespread, grassroots movement, backed by solid canvassing action at the field level to sway undecided voters, rather than fruitless visibility efforts in solidly liberal areas and wasting gobs of money on television commercials that never defined the issue in anything other than a reactive manner. We had the volunteers, we had the money, we simply lacked the leadership.

And ultimately, it was that lack of leadership that resulted in failing to get out the vote, to making certain that progressive voters understand the magnitude of the proposition and remained at the polls even when Obama's victory was certain. Only 49% of San Francisco came out to vote on Tuesday, which is simply inexcusable when the No on 8 leadership was already myopically focusing on GOTV efforts in liberal bastions like SF. If their best effort at GOTV garners only 49% of voters in San Francisco County, then something really stinks at the top of this movement.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Why Prop 8 Lost

There's a really good article on Calitics on why Proposition 8 lost this morning, and I gotta agree with most of its conclusions. While I don't fault those progressives who concentrated on the Obama campaign rather than work for No on Prop 8 (I think it's wrong to assume that the Obama supporters were necessarily No on 8'rs, much less that they were enthusiastic enough to work for the cause), I definitely agree that the movement's emphasis on preaching to the choir in liberal areas and failing to define the argument before the Yes on 8 folks could bring in the "What about the children?!!" shit was a significant mistake.

There should have been no money and effort put into preventing Prop 8 from getting on the ballot, as it's far too easy to get anything on the ballot in California through the referendum process and this issue has too much support on both sides to really hope that it could be marginalized into non-existence. Though Prop 8 may get struck down by the California Supreme Court, we need to get a "repeal Prop 8" proposition out there for 2010, despite fears that it could turn the gubernatorial election for the Republican candidate, and get out the vote in what should be a simpler message to voters than it was this election cycle.

Big Fat Change Day: A Long Way Left To Go

According to the LA Time's nifty gadget, Proposition 8 now sits at 52.4% Yes vs. 47.6% No, with 62.8% of the precincts reporting. There's no true comfort in believing that most of the No on 8 leaning precincts have votes left to report, as the real hope there was LA County, which, at halfway reported, is actually trending towards Yes. My county in Contra Costa, where I put in the work this morning, is admirably trending No and is only half reported; still, my gut tells me that this won't be enough and the writing is on the wall: Prop 8 is going to pass.

This is shameful, but it would've been so much worse if not for Obama's victory tonight. There is some relief now that, if and when the issue of gay marriage does make its inevitable way to the Supreme Court, there will be Obama-appointed justices to see that this kind of hate legislation is overturned and expunged in the manner of Loving v. Virginia. And there is a deeper resolve, engendered by the Speech, that, though this is a setback, we can and will overcome it simply by the consistency of our effort.

This is not over. There will be a day when all Americans will share the same freedoms, the same rights, and bear the same respect. There will come a day when America will live up to its own ideals.

Yes we can.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Big Fat Change Day: Yes We Can

It's not yet up on the Barack Obama Youtube channel or I'd embed the Speech. There is nothing that I could say that could anyway express what I'm feeling after I heard Obama's first speech as the President-Elect of the United States of America. I just wish I could embed it here and simply post "Listen".

Jeannine and I donated, we pamphleteered, we phonebanked, we wrote postcards, and we voted for him. We didn't always do these things together - sometimes it was me on the cellphone and Jeannine writing the postcard - but I couldn't have done any of that without her and she without me. We did this together.

And we did not do this alone. Obama is a good man, and I believe he will be a great President, but this movement was always more than one man, more than one party, more than one color, maybe even more than one nation. I trust that Obama will lead us to a more perfect union, to the America that we have so long been promised but never deserved, not because I believe him to be better than us, but because I believe him to be one of us. We did this, and my heart sings for what we might do tomorrow.

Big Fat Change Day: Much Ado About Nothing

So all my worries about Yes on 8 ugliness turned out to be unfounded. My day working the polls for No on 8 turned out to be remarkably civil, rather hopeful, but ultimately sedate. I got up way too fucking early this morning, and me and my poll partner headed out to Antioch, the ass-end of Pittsburg, the ass-end of Concord. This place is seriously gangsta, and I expected a heavy turnout of religiously-oriented minorities backed by the occasional Central Valley redneck. There was more than a little of that, but in truth, it felt like more than 50-50 between the No vs Yes on 8 supporters. And as for those Yes on 8 supporters, when the banner-wavers figured out what we were doing, they quickly brought some folks over to wave their signs beside us and not do to much else. While I often left my perch to approach folks, hand out pamphlets, and engage them in conversation on Prop 8, the Yes'rs were very docile, doing nothing more than waving their signs and not really stepping forward to hand out materials to voters (we suspected they didn't have enough literature on them to share it). We had conversations together, mostly on non-Prop 8 stuff because whenever they tried to convince us that disallowing gay marriage was somehow not discrimination, I only had to bring up all the joy and love I witnessed in City Hall, and how Prop 8 would ruin that for people, to render them dumbfounded.

About the only bit of ugliness was a man, driving out of the polling place, yelled out to Yes on 8'rs that what they were doing was bigotry and that it paralleled the hateful legislation that banned interracial marriage before activist judges struck those laws down with Loving v. Virginia. I agreed with the man, but there was no reason to scream it from a moving truck to people that were behaving civilly up to that point.

There was an early morning rush, but by the time my shift ended at 2pm, the polling site was virtually deserted. So, with my legs utterly ruined from standing for so long (these legs of mine are meant to sit on an ottoman, not stand), I bowed out for the day. Due to the heavy number of people that confirmed they were voting No on 8 in what should be a relatively conservative part of the Bay Area, I felt optimistic if not convinced that we might win the day.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Big Fat Change Day: Yes on 8 Invades My Home

On Sunday, I underwent training to work the polls for the No on Prop 8 effort, which will have me and others handing out pamphlets and offering quick information to voters as they head to the polls. I was feeling comfortable with this until this evening, when Jeannine and I headed out for our usual Monday restaurant dinner with her family, and saw, amidst a very cold and soggy evening here in Concord, a horde - literally dozens - of Yes on Prop 8 supporters crowding the streets, waving signs and jeering at passer-bys.

This is going to be ugly.

I know an awful lot of the Yes on 8 folks are actually out-of-staters. Most of the money funding Yes on 8 has come from non-Californian conservatives and religious groups, and more than one church has bussed their faithful to the Golden State. The presence of so many of these folks in my city does not fill me with dread: the fight on Prop 8 is tight, both sides are strongly-motivated, and while many Obama supporters are voting Yes on 8, his impending victory is more likely to suppress Republican turnout (certainly enough to offset those Democrats shunning the polls under the false assumption that their man has it in the bag) which make up the core support for Prop 8. Nor do I think this turnout of Yes on 8'rs on Concord's streets is troubling for the state on the whole: Concord is not nearly the paragon of liberalism that exists west of the Caldecott Tunnel, and for every hatemonger on my city's streets tonight there are many more lovemongers that will turn out tomorrow in San Francisco and Berkeley.

No, what is troubling is that these people are likely going to be my problem. The prevailing mood during my training session Sunday was that No on 8 would be focusing their efforts on getting out the vote in areas where they expect heavy support, California precints so blue they look black. Most folks are going to preach to the choir in the progressive heartlands beyond the Caldecott and in the limousine liberal suburbs in my county. I however will be in Concord - heavily Hispanic (and thus Catholic), utterly blue-collar, gloomily regressive Concord. There's always been a part of me that's hated this place, and I think I may hate it no more than I do tomorrow.

Those Yes on 8 bigots I saw tonight are likely to stay here, to work the same polling locations I will. Not only might they outnumber us, but, while my fellows seem well-organized and disciplined, these folks are very much a rabble, and will likely have little respect for common decency. I expect us to be manhandled, our pamphlets taken out of our hands, epithets screamed into our faces, and so on. This won't hurt the No on 8 effort, and might in fact turn some voters, having seen the hate blatantly up close, to vote against Prop 8. And I am not concerned for myself: I was raised by an ex-Marine who believed in corporal punishment and a law enforcement officer whose toughness garnered her the nickname "Sergeant" amongst her fellow feds. This will be a cakewalk compared to coming home to those folks with a report card marked up with D-minuses.

That said, I am worried about what will happen to my fellow No on 8'rs, who, from that training session, seem like a bunch of kind, emotionally-stable, well-raised and well-educated, plain-old-decent people who are absolutely unprepared to be screamed at for hours by a bunch of hate-filled rednecks. So yeah... it may end up getting ugly in my neck of the woods.

We'll see what happens...

Big Fat Change Day: Phonebanking for Obama

You're wasting your time, brother. You can't tell me nothing that'll make me vote for that son-of-a-bitch.
That quote, from an old angry Iowa man, and the one Pennsylvannia woman who, when I called for her much younger son, stated with quiet desperation that "no one in this house is voting for Obama," amounts to the full amount of NObama response I received when I phonebanked for Obama this morning. I went through many sheets of phone numbers from Iowa and Pennsylvannia, and while I mostly talked to answering machines, a surprising percentage of the human beings I did connect with happily passed on that they had either already voted for Obama or were planning to do so tomorrow.

What brought on this last-minute scramble to do something for Obama was a poll I read on FiveThirtyEight.com on Sunday evening, which, for the first time in weeks, gave McCain more than 200 electoral votes in their projection. This ended up being an outlier, as Monday's polls have pushed those projections back down, and once I learned that most of the polls that give Obama only slight leads in the battleground states don't use voters with cellular lines, it's become certain to me that the only question for Tuesday is whether Obama will enjoy a landslide or just a simple victory. Nevertheless, by then I had already signed up for a full 8 hours of phonebanking on Monday.

It wasn't fun, although it was so very encouraging. In the middle of a workday in Walnut Creek - rich, white, and as close to Republican as it gets in the Bay Area - the phonebanking room was filled wall-to-wall with folks of all ages, ethnicities, and backgrounds, so many that people ended up being forced outside to phone under tarps in the rain. If re-evaluating the polls had not encouraged me, that turnout finished the job. That said, it was really tiring work, and when my fully-charged phone finally died out, I was kind of relieved. I can't say I feel satisfied that I did everything I could in this election cycle - either for Obama or for No on Prop 8 - but it was nice to get in a little more activism before this all ends on Tuesday.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The End of Cynicism?

There's a great article this morning by Joe Klein (he of Primary Colors infamy) on Time's Swampland blog. First he discusses how Obama's early days might parallel the rookie mess of the Kennedy Administration (probably wrongly*), but he then goes into how, as it did with JFK, such calamities might not change the national mood, which will brighten and become less cynical about its institutions:
Why? Because Kennedy changed the American zeitgeist. He was a rebirth of American youth and vigor--or, as he pronounced, vigah--after a very hard midcentury slog. His arrival announced the coming of age of a new America: where most people owned their own homes, where a much larger number of people went to college, where the prejudices of the past regarding race and sex--and eventually sexual orientation--had no future. He embodied the return of prosperity, optimism and idealism (a bit too idealistic and optimistic, in fact--in Vietnam). He changed the way the world looked at America, and changed the way we looked at ourselves. He inspired my generation to join the Peace Corps, march for civil rights, get involved in politics. The nation became more adventurous, bolder, sexier, more prosperous and more powerful.
Klein expects Obama will engender much the same cultural changes as JFK, and I agree. My generation has been defined by a cynicism that has been toxic, both culturally and politically. We expect our politicians to be frauds, and thereby wallow in an apathy that self-confirms our worst fears. As for our postmodern culture, irony has replaced insight, leaving us satisfyingly hollow but with little human feeling. When was the last time you saw a film or read a book that presented a vision of the world that was neither depressingly cynical nor some by-the-numbers manufactured pablum? When was the last time we had a political campaign that was any different?

I realize that hope and change might be too ephemeral to truly put a stake in the cynicism that has marked my generation. We have been indoctrinated that all politicians are used-car salesmen, that nothing really changes except to get worse, that everything exists in shades of gray and that "good" and "evil" only exist for the blind fanatics of intolerance and ignorance. Now we accept these cynical tenets as facts, as "common sense", without realizing that they are as much based on faith as hope and change are.

Obama might not live up to the faith people like me are putting in him, but that's not entirely the point: that I have hope for the future gives me peace in the present. On Friday, for the first time in the six presidential elections I've been allowed to vote, I (early) voted for a candidate that wasn't the lesser of two evils, wasn't the one I felt the least cynical about, but for someone that I truly believe in, both out Faith and Reason. Win or lose, succeed or fail, Obama and the rest of us who have created this movement gave me that moment, and that is the kind of change that I believe in.

* History is not cyclical - historians are, because comparative analysis is always the easiest available tool. It's a common but lazy effort to equate our current leaders with those of the past, one that I am definitely guilty of, but the truth is that Obama will be, like those before him, something completely different. I don't expect him to be as radical as FDR, though I expect he will supercede JFK in many substantive ways (LBJ was responsible for much more policy action - both good and bad). We are heading into dark times full of peril but thereby offering much opportunity, and no one can really say how Obama will react, except, IMHO, with significantly greater competence and ethics than anything we've seen in the past 16 years. He is his own man, and will be his own President.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Dead Set

I just finished watching the first episode of Dead Set, a British TV mini-series that is basically Big Brother meets 28 Days Later, and it is very good. I love 28 Days Later, and the American version of Big Brother used to be a guilty addiction of mine, so this should be right up my alley, but I think it would work for any zombie-horror fans.

The premise is that a zombie outbreak takes place outside of the Big Brother set, so that the contestants inside end up surrounded by zombies with no knowledge (until the end of the first episode) of what has occurred. The camera style is cinema-verite, and the grainy, washed-out look and British setting makes it all look very 28 Days Later-ish. There are to be five episodes, leading up to the finale on Halloween; and, as they were written by Charlie Brooker (who is known for surreal satire), it should end up with some biting commentary on the way reality television deadens culture. That said, this first episode had little of that, and was just spot-on effective horror. So watch it if you're in Britain and get the E4 channel, or torrent it like those of us who aren't and don't.

The Obama Ad

I think it was a waste of money. It sounded like a great idea, a way for Obama to control the narrative heading into the homestretch, and, considering how little traction McCain/Palin are getting with their latest fearmongering, maybe that's how it's actually working out. The media is trying to keep the tension up (and their ratings) by making much of the slight tightening going on in the polls, but the outcome doesn't really seem in doubt: Barack Obama will be the next president, and the $3 million spent to run the ad would probably have been better spent helping the DNC with Congressional races to push a 60-senator mandate for Obama. The actual ad was too vague, too simplistic, and ultimately too short to maximize its emotional appeals to have any significant effect on undecided voters.



That said, in its final moments (when it hits 26:42 on the clock), Obama's parting words perfectly encapsulate why I have faith in the man. It's not simply that he's a Democrat, not just that he represents change from the baby boomer incompetence of the past 16 years, nor that he embodies racial transcendence: it's that I believe him when he says that he will listen to the American people, and I trust that his judgment to act upon what he hears from us.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Obama is 44

Ever since I heard a panelist on The McLaughlin Group pass on that Lawrence Summers is all-but-assured to become Treasury Secretary under the new Obama Administration, I've been doing more reading and thinking about what the Obama Cabinet will look like. If it were anyone else (i.e. Hillary), I'd be a lot more worried: Summers is an acolyte of Robert Rubin, Treasury Secretary under the Clinton Administration who bears no small role in engineering the current financial crisis. Furthermore, Summers, while President of Harvard, made some remarkably sexist statements, implying that innate genetic differences between men and women play a role (but not the only role, or even the most important role) are responsible for the gender imbalance in science and math careers.

Now there is an article in The New Yorker that supports the hypothesis of Summers as Treasury Secretary, as well as details other possible members of the future Obama Cabinet. The article reveals (to me, at least) the place of Rahm Emmanuel within the Obama think-tank, placing him almost as close to Obama as his confidante David Axelrod. Emmanuel is a leading figure in the DLC, tried to torpedo Howard Dean as chairman of the DNC, and then tried to frame the 2006 resurgence of the Democrats in Congress (which Dean's 50-state strategy deserves significant credit) as a triumph of conservative "blue-dog" Democrats rather than the netroots and new progressive-derived supporters of the party flexing their muscles.

Essentially, the article paints a portrait of the Obama Cabinet as riven with Clintonites and blue-dogs, and, like I said, if this was any other man, I would be very unenthusiastic. Not worried, because even these are the worst sort of Democrats, they are still Democrats and are unlikely to lead this country down a sequel to the eight years of hell that Bush and the Republicans who've supported/rolled over for him have brought us. But this is Obama, a man from a deeply progressive and liberal background who has consistently been willing to put pragmatism before dogma without betraying his core ideals: whether it was getting elected president of the Harvard Law Review (achieving the central goal of becoming the first African-American to do so) while disinviting controversy by allowing conservative Federalist Society members onto his masthead, to treating the American public like adults in his "A More Perfect Union" speech but finally repudiating Jeremiah Wright when he couldn't act like one. If Obama is surrounding himself with Clintonites, it makes the most sense for his Presidency as it will have to start running at day one (honestly, he's going to have start running the country from a shadow government on day minus 75), seeing as how they are the last Democratic advisors to hold these positions, and they (hopefully) have learned from their mistakes of Bill Clinton's disastrous early Presidency. As the New Yorker article quotes about Summers, he "knows the building" when it comes to Treasury, and won't need to be brought up to speed before he can start putting the new policies into effect.

Emmanuel's presence remains disquieting, but I can't argue that the priorities he lays out for the Obama Administration - "financial-regulatory reform, tax reform, health-care reform, and energy" - are among the most pressing issues on the docket, moreso than any kind of social reforms (which would define the Obama Administration as the kind of "out of control liberalism" that the Republicans were able to tar the Clintons with that ultimately lead to their taking control of the Congress) or ambitious issues requiring long-term development and full support (i.e. education reform) better dealt after the 2010 Congressional elections (assuming the Dems hold power). While I am getting the sense that Obama, at least until 2010, is going to come off a lot more conservative and measured in his agenda than progressives would care for, and that the netroots that are singing his praises now may start to turn on him starting January 20th, it can't be argued that this is the most responsible thing to do. And that, moreso than "hope" or "change" (or "socialist" or"Muslim" or "terrorist" for that matter) is what has defined the calm and measured Barack Obama up to this moment: responsible.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Even McCain Knows It's Over

Rather than appear before a crowd of his supporters inside his election night watch party at the Biltmore Hotel in Phoenix, John McCain will instead speak before "a small group of reporters and guests" on the hotel lawn. Nobody who believes that McCain can still win could possibly think that he might win by more than the thinnest of margins: his path to victory requires that he win every single battleground state, most of which lean Obama, some by nearly double digits. So if he did win, he'd be facing a very divided nation, and giving his acceptance speech before a large crowd of his fiercest supporters would be mandatory (rather like what Obama is preparing for himself in Chicago) to cement his new position. There's no way that McCain will be giving anything other than perfunctory concession speech before a "a small press pool", so this has got to be the strongest indication yet that McCain realizes that the fat lady is well into her opening act.

I pretty much felt there was nothing that McCain could do to change the course of the election
after the second debate. He could still win, but it would take either an act of fate or some blunder on Obama's part to give him the victory. After the third and final debate, it was obvious that McCain was likely going to lose and that the RNC should redirect their resources into shoring up their shakier Congressional elections (to provide some hope of reacquiring a majority in 2010); and, John McCain would best serve his party in some Goldwateresque fashion that, while it wouldn't win him the election, might change its suicidal focus on the far-right Christian extremism of Palin towards the economic and social libertarianism that might give it some appeal to the future of the electorate (i.e. not old people). Now he is left with nothing, except to share his loss with a group of reporters that have lost most of their respect for him over the Ayers/media elite/pals-with-terrorists strategy, and probably end up bearing the (only partially deserved) blame for the loss as his party unites behind Palin for her 2012 run.

I firmly support Obama, and I am well-aware that McCain's "maverick" image is mostly smoke-&-mirrors. Still, I could've voted for John McCain* and there is a part of me that is saddened by how this turning out.

* It would've taken more than simply Clinton getting the nomination - a lot more - in fact, but I recognize the possibility.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Significant Other Meme

1. They are watching TV. What are they watching? House, or a Food Network show

2. You're out to eat. What kind of dressing do they get on their salad?
Ranch

3. What's one food this person doesn't like?
Captain Crunch milkshakes (at least I couldn't get her to try it) What's one food this person could not live without? Chocolate

4. You go out to the bar. He/she orders...
She doesn't drink alcohol, but if pressed, she'd probably have a beer

5. Where did he/she go to high school? Mount Diablo H.S. in Concord, California

6. What size shoe do they wear?
I have no idea.

7. If this person were to collect anything, it would be...
Trade paperback collections of comic books is her latest love.

8. What is their favorite type of sandwich?
BLT's, I think.

9. This person could eat ______ everyday.
Shake & Bake Chicken and baked potato, which I know because we practically did for a couple of years. Although I think she'd prefer something like veal picatta instead.

10. Favorite cereal?
Cocoa Pebbles. Like Rico Suave, she eats them raw like sushi.

11. This person wouldn't be caught dead wearing?
This would cause her to burst into flames.

12. Favorite sports team?
The Oakland Raiders, but she cheats on them with the Pittsburgh Steelers. "Ben is dreeeeeeamy..."

13. Who will he/she vote for?
Obama. She was a diagnosed Obamatard even before I was.

14. What is their sign?
Aries

15. What is something you do that he/she wishes you didn't?
Be an anger ball. Grrr...

16. How many states has this person lived in?
One

17. What is his/her heritage?
Her mother is Welsh/Mexican, her father was Dutch.

18. You bake them a cake for their birthday. What kind do you bake?
Cheesecake

19. Did he/she play sports in high school?
No

20. This person could spend hours...
playing isometric POV hack & slash button-mashing video games involving mounds of dead kobolds.

21. He/She wants a new...
home.

22. The CD I would probably find in their vehicle is...
CD? What is this, the Middle Ages? She has an Ipod. It's filled with stuff.

23. What can you do that will guarantee a laugh from him/her?
Just be me. That's why it works.

24. Does he/she get along well with their family?
Oh yes, maybe too well. See question #21.

25. If money wasn't an option, I would buy him/her... a
copper-colored '66 Ford Mustang with automatic transmission and all original equipment except for ABS brakes and air bags (despite her objections).

Friday, October 17, 2008

W.

After W. abruptly ended and Jeannine and I walked out of the theater, I turned to her and said, "Well, that was deeply disappointing and way too long... kind of like the Bush presidency itself." That pretty much sums up my thoughts on Oliver Stone's Nixon-like treatment of Bush 43, but keep reading if you want the full spoiler-filled review.

If you believe that the inadequacies of George W. Bush can be defined entirely as an epic case of "daddy issues", then this the film for you. If you have other explanations for the incredibly dramatic failures that have marked the Bush Administration (i.e. Bush is a blind, pampered, wannabe-cowboy bully backed by powerful but incompetent business and religious conservatives who have successfully used the fear-induced prejudices of Walmart America to preserve and expand their power until now), then this will be one long bore. The theme of the film is established within the trailer - Dubya is a mildly-retarded redneck who only craves the approval of his distant father - but the film goes on for over two hours, most of which is filled with Josh Brolin's Bush drinking and carousing, interrupted with James Crowell's inaccurately-virile Bush 41 looking on disapprovingly. As Jeannine pointed out to me afterwards, there isn't a single scene devoted to 9/11, nor on on either of Bush's presidential campaigns, Hurricane Katrina, the economic collapse (the first one he inherited in 2001, I can't expect that the film could be that up-to-date), the Republican Congressional loss in 2006, Terry Schiavo, or Bush's questionable stint in the Air National Guard. We do get a long scene about some Texas bimbo Bush may have knocked up after college, at least a couple of drunk driving scenes, dream sequences of him in the Texas Rangers stadium that never pan out effectively, and lots of scenes of him watching ESPN (even when he's not choking to death on a pretzel).

Most of the performances are far too good for the film. Brolin is spot-on, Thandie Newton is even better as Condi Rice, and the dude from Capote does a good job as Karl Rove; but, George Dreyfus can't really pull off Dick Cheney (why not just get Danny DeVito to reprise his Penguin role from Batman Returns?), Jeffrey Wright is forced to play Colin Powell as an uninterestingly earnest voice-of-reason (rather than as the speed-bump of a pussy he was in reality), and Scott Glenn is badly-miscast as Rumsfeld. Ultimately, what really sinks the film is that Stone has nothing interesting to say about Bush, and this is a damn shame. Dubya is the most interesting President in history since FDR, have been in office during (and often directly responsible for) the worst crisises I've known in my lifetime, yet all Stone can muster is that his daddy never gave him enough attention. This inadequacy is brought home by the final scene, another dream sequence where Dubya is in the stadium trying to catch a baseball that never comes, alone in an interminable emptiness. While that might be a powerful statement in the personal drama of Bush's life, it would've been a much more powerful statement to instead have Bush surrounded by the dead soldiers, bombed civilians, and drowned citizens, all the lives he has wrecked in the historical drama that has been the Bush Presidency. I expected politics and instead got psychodrama, and quite frankly, I don't think there's enough to Bush's psychosis to make a good film, especially one this long. He's just an asshole, and what's really interesting (and funny) is why this asshole was able to get away with what he did for so long.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

McCain Becomes Human (For A Moment)

Was watching The Rachel Maddow Show this evening when they broke off to cover both John McCain and Barack Obama at the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Dinner. McCain is charming and funny (which is what most folks are picking up on), but what really struck me was when he started describing Obama plainly in terms of the man as President(around 3 minutes in the video):



McCain doesn't just acknowledge the historical importance of Obama's nomination and approaching presidency, but seems (to me) to tip his hat to Obama, not simply as a skillful politician, but as a statesman in whose hands the country need not fear. He didn't need to do this (and I'll admit that I was a bit disappointed that Obama didn't follow suit, although he has always been respectful of McCain), and I am sure there those in his camp that would have rather he didn't. John McCain should not be President: his vision for America is ill-defined and he has no new policies that will change the direction set by Bush, I do not trust his judgment both for the Palin nomination and due to his ill-sighted insistence that the Surge has succeeded when it has not completed its course, and his "maverick" nature can and will result in a possibly even worse form of governance than Bush's incompetent model... but, there is something in him that makes for a good man, and this is the perfect evidence.

I had hoped that we would have seen this McCain in this election, not because he is funny and charming, but because this McCain would've made this race about the issues affecting Americans, and about the differences between each party's plans for dealing with those issues. Perhaps Ayers, ACORN, "class warfare", and "health of the mother" is all that the Republican ideology stands for anymore. If that is true, then this election should not be seen as the failure of John McCain, but as a failure of the party itself.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Cause You're Never Too Young For Watersports

So you know how I just said that the libs had won the culture war and all... well, I'll gladly concede surrender if it means nothing like this would exist in McPalin's America:



Something tells me there's a bulk order already shipping out to Dubai addressed for "M. JACKSON".

Friday, October 10, 2008

What Is Wrong With This Picture?

Picked up the story off PTI that Romeo Crennell has suspended any political talk from his players, due to Willie McGinest attending an Obama voter registration drive while Brady Quinn introduced McCain and Palin at a rally. Here's Quinn in all his rugged manliness impersonating a Village Person:


That's former Notre Dame (that bastion of liberalism) QB Brady Quinn, who, when you type his name in Google, the first thing that pops up is "brady quinn gay". These are the young celebrities who personify the future of tomorrow's Republican Party. When the most metrosexual player in the NFL, that holiest of symbols of American masculinity, becomes the icon of young Republicanism, it is obvious that the culture war is over. Now it's simply about waiting for the paleoconservatives to die off.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Passion versus Plastic

Succintly, Biden beat the tar out of Palin, but that was expected. What was unexpected was how comfortable Biden has made me as Obama's choice for VP. He would do more than be a caretaker for Obama's movement should something horrible happen, and he is certainly more than just a choice to fill out certain lines in the campaign resume (experience, old white guy). He is a man deeply in touch with the needs and thoughts of middle-class America.

But beyond all that, there was this one moment in the debate where everything about this election was made crystal clear:



I suspect this clip will get a lot of airplay over the next few days, but what should get equal attention is Palin's follow-on response, that being nothing. Biden connects his own personal tragedy with the struggles of middle-class Americans, and her response is to ignore it, keep to her notes, and rattle off some soulless sound-bites about "mavericks". Her response was completely plastic, and that is what McCain-Palin has in store for America: empty rhetoric that doesn't even acknowledge how badly this country has been shafted over the past 8 years.

As for Palin, she was god-freaking awful, but expectations have been brought so low that talking heads will be able to say she did okay until the polls start going even farther south in the next few days. There were few Miss Teen USA moments, although there was a hell of winner when she responded to the question of whether the VP was a member of the legislative or executive branch by talking up her experience as a business executive.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Grumpy Old Men

My Post-Post Debate Analysis

Evidently, I am the one that needs to go down to the garden supply store, buy some plant food, pour it over my heart, and grow a little faith...

Courtesy of FiveThirtyEight.com, the best place for polls available.

It's obvious that Obama played the debates with much greater skill than I gave him credit for. By not going for the quick kill as I'd hoped, he instead presented himself as calm, thoughtful, and most importantly, presidential. That may not have enthused his base but it also didn't fire up the competition by antagonizing them, and seems to have convinced independents that he can do the job. Now they see that he should do the job through the double-whammy of the economy going into the toilet this week and McCain's ludicrous stunts.

There is a lot of daylight left before the books close on this election, but it is looking extremely dire for McCain. The Obama road to victory was always to win the states Kerry won in '04 plus one extra - not only has he accomplished that, Obama is on track here for as close as a Democrat has had to a landslide in decades. McCain has no option to stop the Obama strategy by taking away his "plus one" state in Pennsylvannia or Michigan; instead, he's got to play catch-up and simply try to preserve traditional red states like Virginia, all the while watching deep red states like North Carolina possibly make the jump to blue. And the Obamamentum may not be over yet: Georgia could also go to him before this all said and done.

McCain doesn't have a lot of chances left to turn this around. The Palin-Biden debate will more likely be a case of damage control than any opportunity for them. The next two debates give McCain some options, but unlike this first debate, they won't be concentrating on his supposed strength in foreign policy. And what McCain really needed to do - break off from the conservative base and appeal to the moderate roots he has become famed for (albeit without reason) - is pretty much lost as he's too long abandoned the maverick McCain of 2000 to ever regain that edge. All he has left is an October Surprise, and there really aren't any on the table that could help him. Any serious scandal would've already been brought out against Obama by now, after all the mudslinging, first by the Clintons and now by the Republicans. Another 9/11-style terrorist attack would only show how ineffective the McBush strategy on the War on Terror has been in protecting the country, and would more likely result in an Obama landslide. Invading Iran would do the same, as it would further expose the overstretched American military and bring the issue of re-establishing the draft to the fore. About the only thing that might swing things in McCain's favor is the capture of bin Laden, but we all know where the bastard is (Waziristan) and the only way to get him is to do what Obama has long counseled which McCain has lambasted him for - unilateral military action into Pakistan without that government's consent when the intel is credible.

I don't want to jinx it by saying it's over, as polls can change and Obama's lead is not insurmountable; but, if the fat lady isn't singing yet, she surely is warming up in the wings of the stage.

Friday, September 26, 2008

My Post-Debate Analysis

I just donated $25 at www.barackobama.com. Hopefully he can use that money to go down to his local garden supply store, buy some plant food, pour it on his crotch, and GROW A FUCKIN' PAIR OF BALLS!!!!!!!!!

For fuck's sake, he's supposed to be the next John F. Kennedy. I'm hoping he'll actually end up the next Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Tonight, he's playing like he's going to be the next Adlai Stevenson. Fuck being deferential to the old war hero, take that gimpy bitch out at the knees, and finish this damn thing already.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Adventures in "Fag Enabling"




I am running on fumes so this might not be very coherent. Jeannine and I just got back from the first same-sex marriage to be officiated in California since our state's Supreme Court had the courage to do what all but one of our politicians failed to do and gave the right to marriage to all of this state's citizens. My original plan was to stand outside the San Francisco City Hall with other supporters, to run against the professional hatemongers of the Westboro Baptist Church, who invaded our state to peddle their bigotry. Instead, we ended up inside City Hall, smack-dab in the middle of the cake-cutting ceremony for that historic marriage.

Jeannine and I met up in front of the City Hall around 3:30pm, when the only ones there were a few (and I mean very few) anti-gay protestors carrying signs and a bunch of SFPD and County Sheriff personnel. A Westboro van full of placards - which I dubbed the Hatemobile - was running a circuit around the park in front of City Hall, followed by a similar van but this one run by pro-Islam protestors ordering people to convert to Muslims. Irrational hatred makes for strange bedfellows.

The scene was pretty dead, so we went ahead into City Hall, so I could at least figure out where I'd be going tomorrow when I start my volunteer work. Once inside, we noticed a bunch of cameras on a second-story balcony overlooking the main hall, and we tentatively made our way over to see what was what. That's where we found ourselves right outside the Mayor's office, with a white wedding cake surrounded by more television and photo cameras than I've ever seen. Obviously this was going to be where Mayor Newsom would meeting the press and the lovely couple would be cutting their cake after Newsom officiated the marriage in his office.

At first, I really wanted to get out of there. The hallway was filled with about 70% press, 25% friends of the couple, and 5% lookie-loos like us. I felt like I was intruding on what should be a private affair, even if the hallway was filled with so much press. But, as long as we kept ourselves edged back on the periphery of the crowd, I felt we were not imposing. So we positioned ourselves against the wall, where pillars (and people) blocked any view of the cake ceremony.

By about a half-hour before the ceremony, the place got ridiculously packed, and security had to clear a path for the guests to get out once the ceremony ended. Jeannine got tangled up sitting on one of the hallway benches, and she nearly fell onto Tom Ammiano when she tried to get untangled. There was much clapping as the lucky couple and Newsom came out to cut the cake, give some speeches, and take a few questions from the media.

Now, up until today, I've hated Newsom. He's not really delivered on straightening out San Francisco's corrupt and inefficient way of government, but that would take a miracle worker so I can't really blame him for that. What turned me off to Slick Gavin was the unsubstantiated smear he made on Obama the day of the California primary, followed by the craven way he handled the Olympic torch run debacle. But in that hall, seeing the faces of all those people who waited so long and fought so hard for this day, the joy in the eyes of the invited, I suddenly realized that I had been wrong. What Newsom did in 2004 may have simply been a political maneuver that benefited him in progressive San Francisco, but it could just have easily gone the other way and destroyed his career beyond local politics. The Democratic Party elite were almost calling for his head in 2004, and few thought he then had any chance of progressing on to gubernatorial or even presidential politics. It was an act of bravery, the kind of thing we should expect from our politicians, to stand as a statesman for what is right and not simply what is popular.

So in that hallway amid all that excitement, I got a little caught up in things. After Newsom ended his speech and the applause was going, I yelled out "GAVIN FOR GOVERNOR!". That went over well, there were a few laughs, but then someone replied "Why not President?" and I, like a complete retard, yelled out "PRESIDENT!" And that got some shooshes. It was a yell too far.

We stayed through the ceremony, clapping and hooting frequently, and then made our way outside. We already knew there'd be a much larger crowd, as we heard them yelling, even from the other side of the building, when 5:01pm struck and same-sex marriage became legal in California; but we had no idea of the size:


The crowd stretched out into the park across the street of City Hall. As we came out, there was a Westboro nut screaming about how God hates this and God hates that, so I yelled at him to stop telling God what to do. One of the Westboro signs stated "Fag Enablers Doom Nation", but I didn't get the chance to get a decent picture of myself with it. We hung out for awhile and enjoyed the chaos, but once it became obvious that no other local luminaries would be coming out, the crowd dispersed and we came home.

I cannot describe how giddy I am, as I was literally a witness to history. When I was a kid, I remember reading about the Civil Rights Movement, and counted myself lucky to be of a generation of Americans who would not need to bear the kind of stains that previous Americans did for allowing the institutionalized mistreatment of racial minorities. Everyone was equal under the law now, I naively thought, but it wouldn't be till I got older that I realized that this didn't apply to homosexual citizens in my country. My generation will have to bear the stain of that, but after days like today, my hope grows that the next generation of Americans will be able to state the following words without some bigoted qualification:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
Starting tonight, all Californians will be free to pursue their happiness through the covenant of marriage. That I was there to witness this freedom born was both a privilege and a joy.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

I Would Totally Pay To See This...


Number 11 of 20 Superhero Movies We Hope They Never Make, courtesy of Cracked. Number 2 is also frighteningly dead-on accurate.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

June is for weddings...

... and I'll be playing my part. I just confirmed that I'll be manning a welcome desk at San Francisco City Hall from 12:30 to 5pm this coming Tuesday, helping to shepherd couples of all gender as they arrive to get married. In fact, I ended up volunteering to run that shift for the whole period, from Tuesday to Friday the 27th. Utterly excited.

Monday, June 9, 2008

God is Algae, or Theology According to Bad Rap Artists Turned Underwear Models

Behold, the reason I have not, and undoubtably will not, watch an M. Night Shyamalanadingdong movie in the theater since The Sixth Sense: The Happening is all about how God is real and science is dumb...
But asked what specific religious faith inspired The Happening, Shyamalan went super vague. He said he drew on "the Native American culture and relationship with nature, the relationship with the sky, the earth, the rock the bear." He also claimed that cast he Mark Wahlberg because of his strong faith in Jesus. But Wahlberg's religious faith ended up causing a ton of reshoots. Whenever Shyamalan would ask Wahlberg what he was thinking about, and Wahlberg replied, "Jesus," Shyamalan would make him reshoot the scene in question. (Until he was no longer thinking about Jesus?)
Self-sodomizing Jeebus on a pogo stick, will the stupid never end. There have been many very well-thought out and deeply-researched arguments why logically, reason leads to religious faith. I may not buy any of them, mainly because none of them fully complete that bridge on logic alone, but I can at least admire those philosophers who refused to submit to some ill-thought out, touchy-feely bullshit to prove that, as Shyamalanadingdong would claim "There are limits to rational thought." I can even respect those who still hold to their irrational, unreasoned emotional feeling in religious faith, as long as they don't try to sugar-coat it as anything more substantial or valid than that. But to spew this kind of nonsense that neurotoxin-releasing algae somehow lead to evidence of God and thus proves a limit to reason is absurd. There are no known limits to rational thought itself, there are simply limits to currently available human reason. That we tool-using hairless monkeys may not have (yet) developed far enough to fully comprehend all the wonders of our universe does not mean that there is some anthropomorphized bearded thunderer up in the heavens that we can understand in our imaginations with all the answers to our questions.

And to use Albert Einstein to buttress this kid of shit, because he saw "the hand of God", is just insulting:
It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal good and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it. - Einstein
Personally, I blame Spielberg. His Capra-esque approach, where deep social issues are drowned in a thick syrup of feel-good agnosticism rather than faced with any kind of honest intellectual bravery, was mimicked by most of the new Hollywood intelligentsia, and no one drunk so deep of this attitude as Shyamalanadingdon. Honestly, I would have no problem with this kind of semi-Christian anti-science agnostic attitude if it weren't just so prevalent now in recent genre fiction. Lost, Battlestar Galactica (maybe), The X-Files, anything not created by Joss Whedon, and countless movies (The Lord of the Rings and Prince Caspian most eggregiously) are all prime examples of this kind of anti-reason subtext. Although to be fair, it's not like there isn't a long track record of anti-faith science fiction where religion is public enemy number one.

Anyways, watching Marky-Mark look confused into a camera for two hours was never my idea of good time to begin with, but this kind of crap is enough to make me write off The Happening even as a Netflix rental. I'm betting it's going to do a moderately-well opening weekend followed by disastrous 50%+ drops leading to more questions as to Shlamalanadingdong's box office viability; but, once he comes out with his adaptation of Avatar the Last Airbender, enough of the anime freaks are going to buy tickets and refuel his place as Spielberg's heir in Hollywood. Bah.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

The battle is joined...


My front yard, as of today.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

The Case For Hillary as Veep

Let me be clear: I despise the Clintons. I can excuse the race-baiting strategy of Hillary's '08 campaign as part of a legitimate effort to win at all costs, and while I find her incompetent - from the health-care and fundraising debacles during Bill's administration to the blindly overconfident manner in which ran her campaign (whose pig-headed "stay-the-course" strategy brings uncomfortable comparisons with our current President's leadership style) - my distaste for the Clintons focuses almost entirely on Bill. I don't hate Bill Clinton because of the right-wing mudslinging on his sexual mores or his own sleazy relationship with the truth, but because of what he failed to do while in office: this was a President with the cowardice to ignore genocide in Bosnia, to actively attempt to hide even worse genocide in Rwanda, who forced our military to engage in lies with "don't ask-don't tell" rather than have the bravery to end that bigotry outright, and then institutionalized that bigotry with the Defense of Marriage Act, who back-stabbed the industrial middle class with NAFTA, and worst of all, became the leading example of the DLC philosophy (pro-corporate, anti-progressive) that betrayed everything the Democratic Party has stood for since FDR brought us a New Deal. While Clinton-lovers deify him for leading the party out of the wilderness of losers like Dukakis, Mondale, and Carter, Clinton the DINO did much more to harm the party in the past few decades than anything else, damage that can only now be healed by the truly progressive values and populist strategy of Barack Obama.

That said, I think there is a very strong case for Obama to take Hillary as his running mate. It has nothing to do with what I think Hillary adds to an Obama Administration, nor what she could do to bring her supporters in-line with Obama's presidential bid. The current polls as they stand show that Obama can beat McCain, narrowly but at a time when the Clinton backlash is at its strongest. Those numbers can only get better for Obama as he nears the convention, so I don't find a lot of legitimacy in the idea that Obama somehow needs Hillary to win this. However, Hillary can do a great deal of damage to torpedo Obama's chances in November, and indeed, considering her age and better chance to win in 2012 than in 2016, it may be in her interests to see Obama lose. That is the most compelling reason for Obama to make her his nominee: Hillary as Veep would mean that if Obama loses so does Hillary, in such an open and irrevocable manner that even Hillary (and Bill) would understand that she can't safely torpedo Obama without sinking her own chances to win at a later date. Keeping her within the campaign would also mean keeping an eye on her and Bill, so that they can be kept on message. It follows the basic philosophy of keeping your friends close but your enemies closer.

My only concern is how much this might alienate some Obama supporters, particularly among Independents and Republicans. The charge that Hillary will dilute Obama's "change" message by allying him with such Washington old guard as the Clintons has little weight when we look at the alternatives: with the exceptions of Kathleen Sebelius, Janet Napolitano, and Claire McCaskill, every other potential Obama Veep is an old white male whose going to dilute the "change" image just as much (if not more) than Hillary. As for those three, Napolitano is probably a lesbian (I dearly wish my bigoted country were ready for that, but I'm afraid they aren't... yet), McCaskill would be fantastic but she's a serving Senator in a seat the Democrats can't yet afford to lose, and Sebelius would be nearly 68 when she runs for her own presidential seat in 2016 following a successful two-term Obama administration. Honestly, I would still be very happy with Sebelius, but I don't think her advantages outweigh the opportunity to keep the Clintons in the fold and unable to make as much mischief.

And there is still this: if Obama takes Hillary as his veep and wins the Presidency, she is most likely to want to spearhead the administration's universal health care proposal. Hillary's current plan has zero chance of getting through even a Democratic-controlled Congress, and all evidence points to her inability to create bipartisan compromise. So I believe that if Obama gave her enough rope to hang herself with this, she'd do so, her health-care proposal would go up in flames, laying the groundwork for Obama to step in and get his more reasonable plan passed. This would also give Obama the excuse to ask her to step aside in 2012, allowing him to almost bloodlessly replace Clinton with a second Veep during his second term, perhaps Sebelius or (my hope) someone from his same generation that could maintain the youthful vigor and progressive values he is bringing back into the party.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Inauguration Day: January 20, 2009

I just put down the reservation on the hotel for a trip to see Barack Obama sworn in as the 44th President of the United States of America on January 20th of next year. Yeah, I'm that confident, and watching the speeches tonight makes me only more so. By the most accurate polls, Obama is narrowly beating McCain by slightly less than ten electoral votes and has been doing so consistently for weeks now. This is when his support among Clinton Democrats has been at its nadir, and as it begins to sink in that Obama is the undisputed nominee and that McCain only offers to ensure all the policies that Hillary Clinton has worked against, those numbers can only get better. Obama may suffer some wear-&-tear in the debates and there may be some hiccups if he poorly chooses his Vice-Presidential nominee, but after seeing this guy weather the Clinton machine, Revered Wright, and Bittergate only to come out stronger, I have faith in the man.

Only problem is, that because so many hotels around Dulles Airport are already booked up, we had to settle for a place all the way out in Prince Frederick, Maryland. That'll mean a couple of hours of driving from the airport to the hotel, and then nearly an hour of driving back into Washington, D.C. Still, the die is cast and Jeannine and I are set: we're going to watch history made as what I believe may be the best president this country has seen since FDR begins his own first Hundred Days in office.

Elmer Fudd Gets His DolchstoƟ

An interesting article out of something called S.W.A.T. Magazine today shows that gun owners are not very enthused about the Bush Administration's legal defense on the Washington D.C. gun ban. It seems they would've much preferred they use D.C. vs Heller to set precedent that would overturn most if not all legal restrictions on gun ownership, but when the opportunity came, the Republicans punted:
So much for the old saw that Republican leaders, if only they could, would get rid of all those unconstitutional federal gun laws, but we just need to be patient until they are in a position to do so. Now that they had their chance, they did the exact opposite. You need to dispense with the notion that your rights are somehow safe just because the men in power have an "R" after their names.
What makes this interesting is how this plays out over all the other wedge issues Republicans have been running on to remain politically viable with an increasingly progressive American electorate: abortion, gay rights, affirmative action, even illegal immigration, all lead to same result: Republicans win using them as wedge issues, but immediately face defeat once they are in a national position of power to actually change them at the federal level. They are left damned if they do (pissing off the moderate swing voters that put them into office for which ever part of the wedge issue pie - usually economic reform - they voted them in on) or damned if they don't (pissing off their extremist base that demand action once action is possible). And that lack of action will eventually erode even that extremist base: I know anti-abortion Christian conservatives and libertarian laissez-faire capitalists that are voting Obama this election not because they expect him to cede to their values, but because, as long as the other guy is never going to do anything, might as well set these particular issues aside to vote on those that will get attention (Iraq, health care, basic mental competence, etc).

The solution for the Republicans is to stop giving lip-service to their libertarian roots, squash all calls for activism on these wedge issues (both for and against) at the federal level, and drop it to the state and local level as part of their "state rights" propaganda. This would mean ignoring the wedge issues where they are unlikely to gain play (i.e. urban areas) and driving regional legislation in those areas where the electorate are still willing to get behind them (i.e. rural Bittersville). Of course, this is only putting a finger in the leaking dike (that sounds so dirty), as even the most gun-loving, gay-hating, life-pro'ing region full o' bitter is being opened to progressive values due to netroots and the growing penetration of popular culture through new media channels. The Republican Party will have to change or die, and while I once thought (and feared) that McCain would be leading that change, his McBush third-term campaign makes it obvious that they have chosen to die, albeit in such an incompetent manner that they'll maintain just enough weak allegiance to these wedge issues to piss off their base while also alienating moderates.

As for this particular issue, I'm modestly for gun rights without being a gun owner myself (my finances can only support so many hobbies, and I'll always want to drop more dough on fantasy miniatures than on a new reloading press). I don't believe that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to bear arms, but I've done enough research to know that gun restrictions do little to alleviate violent crime (and paper over the true underlying causes, poverty - which legislation can help solve - and culture - which society must take responsibility for itself). Whether or not Elmer can have a bayonet lug on his shotgun will do nothing to end inner-city gang violence or domestic abuse that leads to murder-suicide. Unlike gay rights and reproductive privacy, gun legislation does not involve basic civil rights and should entirely be a "states rights" matter, as anyone that's spent time in either knows that that gun laws that make sense in an urban center have little relevance to a rural community. That's why gun owners need to start working hard at the local rather than federal level, electing regional candidates who support their values, and phase out the massive lobbying efforts of the NRA, who are facing obsolence as the netroots-style fundraising of the Obama campaign becomes the norm.

Monday, June 2, 2008

June 17th

This is the email I just sent the San Francisco Office of the County Clerk:

Hello,

I would like volunteer my help to the Office of the County Clerk on Tuesday, June 17th. I am assuming that this day will be very busy for your office as it will be the first day same-sex marriages will be allowed in the state, and would very much like to support your office in this task. If necessary, I would be happy to carry out the One-Day Deputization to assist in officiating the actual marriages; but, if not, I would be more than willing to assist in any other tasks on that day, for the entirety of the day.

I could not find any information on your website that directly addressed this matter. Considering the high number of marriages and the need for volunteers during the previous event when same-sex marriages were available, it might be useful to have some mention of your need (or non-need) of volunteers on June 17.

Thank you for time and I look forward to your response.

I don't really expect a response, as I'm betting they've received a ton of these kinds of emails. Still, I do plan to at least be there on Tuesday morning, dressed in my Sunday best, carrying about $100 worth of flowers to hand out to all the happy grooms and the blushing brides (and vice-versa). It is to my eternal regret that I wasn't there the first time San Francisco offered this most basic of civil rights to all of its inhabitants, and I won't let history pass me by yet again.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Baracky

So this is why nobody seriously tries to build a time machine. It's not because of causality paradoxes or the lack of traversable wormholes. No, it's because why would anyone bother when stuff like this clearly proves that everything before Al Gore invented the Intertubes sucked balls:

Catching Up

So it's been a very hectic last couple of weeks...
  • My sister Renee came out to stay with Jeannine and I. We tried (and failed) to see the Olympic torch run (I might post with pics later), took her to the usual tourist haunts (Coit Tower, Golden Gate, etc.), ate vomit-flavored candy and drank absurdly strong blueberry lager during factory tours of the Budweiser and Jelly Belly plants in Fairfield, and ate a lot of very good (and quite expensive) food. She also had us watch WWE wrestling, something I haven't done in years. The matches are just as boring as I remember, although the womens' coverage has gotten remarkably sleazier.
  • Didn't pick up comics while Renee was here, which is why I haven't done a Weekly Pull.
  • Ran Trail of Cthulhu for my monthly gaming group in San Francisco. We all had fun, but we also all agreed that the system sucks. This makes me very sad, as I really want the game to be successful, but it's just so mechanical.
  • Played Combat Commander tonight. Tons o' fun. It is a continual shock to my friends that I don't play war games and only played my first one a couple of years ago.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Barry O'Bomber

So Obama did an interview on HBO's Real Sports, discussing his love of basketball, and said:

No, but I do think you can tell something about people from how they play basketball. For example, people who keep on shooting even though they have no jump shot. You can tell that there's a certain self-delusional aspect to their game. Right? That says something about who they are.

Another reason why Obama is my horse in this race: not only does he come off as human and likeable, but he also finds the most subtle ways to get in digs at his opponents.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Jim Butcher Book Signing

So, on Friday, Jeannine and I went into San Francisco to attend Jim Butcher's book signing for Small Favor. Jeannine has been a big fan of his Dresden Files series ever since watching the now-cancelled television show based on those books. I enjoyed the series too, but I can't say I'm really a fan. I've only ever been to one other book signing, that one with George R.R. Martin. Whereas Martin seemed tired and perfunctory, Butcher was lively and conversed candidly with the fans. There were a surprising number of questions about upcoming The Dresden Files role-playing game, and I was a little shocked to hear that it won't be coming out until sometime next year. This is odd as I'll be playing in an alpha-stage playtest later this month, so I thought it'd be closer to release. I wanted to know how close the game would hew to other Evit Hat games like Spirit of the Century, but didn't ask figuring I'd find out in a couple weeks time anyways. A recent post from Fred Hicks' livejournal implies that it'll be Fate-based, so the SotC Aspects and Stunts system may see play in Dresden as well.

Jeannine seemed to have a great time, which means that I had a good time. I'll be reading the Dresden Files books before I run the game, so maybe I'll then find out for myself if he's a good writer and the books are worthwhile. If the books are anything like the author himself, they should be very geeky and very fun.

Monday, March 31, 2008

For Want of a Nail... and a Brain Cell

So Ed "We don't vote for blacks here" Rendell decides to play Utau (if the Watcher was a whiny white male) and gives us an issue of What-If... Obama Was the Poor Loser:

"Just flip it for a second," Mr. Rendell said. "Let’s say Senator Clinton was ahead by about 110 delegates and ahead by less than 1 percent of the vote cast, and she and her supporters started to call on Senator Obama to get out. Just picture what the media would be saying. They’d be saying you’re being racist, you’re being everything in the world. It’s nuts! It’s nuts!"

Forget the fact that the mainstream media, in all their racial sensitivity, has been using the Wright controversy to hammer Obama as a dangerous black man come to roost his chickens because whitey gave us all the AIDs. That alone makes me suspect they'd be less likely to call an Obama a consumate survivor and scared to declare his chances over, even if the math makes it so - which has been the MSM line on Clinton even in this late hour.

No, the most salient point here is that the right course for alt-Obama is the same one for the Clinton in our timeline: quit. Alt-Obama would be in the same position, whose only hope is that alt-Clinton stumbles into a scandal big enough to wreck their inevitable victory. And, presuming that alt-Michelle Obama doesn't engage in gender-baiting after their upset loss in South Carolina and alt-Samantha Power doesn't spew bigotry about how the only way alt-Clinton got her position was because she was a woman, alt-Obama would actually be in an even better position than actual-Clinton, because he'd still have enough goodwill to negotiate a vice-presidency.

Clinton is quickly waning as a threat to Obama, so whether she stays in or quits really only hurts her at this point. And it is hurting her - dirty politics has manuevered her out of the vice-president position on Obama's ticket (unless he seriously swallows his pride and offers it to shore up the base); she is quickly destroying her goodwill in Congress through hard-selling the superdelegates, which creates enemies that block her chances of eventually becoming Senate Majority Leader; and if Obama does go on to lose in November, she will be painted as the Democratic Nader, whose political ambition caused her to tear the party apart, so that she has no chance of coming back to win it in 2012. She might still salvage her career by going after the governorship in New York, but does a state that has now had one governor fall and another one tarnished by sex scandals really want to invite Slick Willie to Albany?