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?

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?

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?

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?

19. Did he/she play sports in high school?

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...

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


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, 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.