Monday, December 29, 2008

The Fake Famous Girlfriends

I do believe Karen O has been replaced as my fake rock-star girlfriend by the glorious Victoria Hesketh, more commonly known as Little Boots. I say this in a non-stalkerish way, sort of. She's adorable, a fantastic singer and an inventive lyricist and composer. Then of course, she has a blog where she says things like this:

"what a difference a year makes.

when i think back to sitting freezing writing songs that are now going to be on my first album its almost incomprehensible.

thank you to any one who has listened, written, watched, come to a gig, told a friend, taken a picture, shared a link, downloaded a song be it legally or otherwise... everyone who has supported me in any way whatsoever this year, i wouldn't be making music without you so thank you from the bottom of blackpool tower to the furthest stars in the cosmos....

ok i'll stop being epic now.

go and get pissed, eat quality street and fall asleep watching love actually.

happy christmas,

victoria x"

I don't have the time at the moment to post her two blog hits "Meddle" and "Stuck on Repeat" but go find them. Now I'm off to work when I'm not supposed to.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Day One with the BlackBerry

The alarm is ungodly loud. I did wake up to an email from a friend I'm sweet on though, so it evens out. Apparently my comics are delayed and someone new is following me on Twitter. I found this out while in the bathroom getting ready for work. Still haven't put everyone's info in, then again I never have collected all of their information in one place before. I need to get a card adapter so I can pull all the business info off of my dad's old Palm. Beyond that, happy with it at the moment. The damn thing looks like an oversized version of my old phone.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Two Receivers in Deep Space

Urge to post...rising

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Reasons Why I Should Be Shot

There are many legitimate reasons for why someone would be in their rights to painfully torture me unto death. That I spent my money on clothes and new tech versus art like James Jean's is a primary one. I will have this painting one day.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

In a Coma

Work has obviously slowed what is already a spotty blog. But be assured that I will return to posting things only I care about soon. Or rather, be warned.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Taking a Page, Closing a Tab

I think this post will qualify as a genuine shotgun blast of information as I'm very tired.

First off is this excellent link provided by the near and dear Miss Information. It's along the lines of something I think college professors should do at the beginning of class or at least when the opportunity presents itself: pronounce the names of key figures in the class literature. I always have to spell out the name of a philosopher highly influential to me, Ludwig Wittgenstein (the 'w' is pronounced as a 'v') and I still don't know how to say Hegel's name properly yet. So finally there's a site that provides those pronunciations. About fucking time.

Next is a post from Ezra Klein linking to another blogger who makes a point about the raft of Obama appointees and their informal name as "Clinton staffers". The point is it seems the mainstream media and particularly the rightist punditry refer to "any Democrat under about fifty or fifty-five years of age who has had work experience in the executive branch of the federal government." This generally puts said Democrat in the Clinton administration but doesn't necessarily make them a Clinton appointee. Both Klein and Hertzberg think this isn't a problem in the first place but look to clarify the difference between President Clinton's appointments, President Bush's first term appointments and President-Elect Obama's appointments. The key differences are: a) President-Elect Obama has avoided the "no Carter people" or "no Johnson people" of the Clinton and Carter presidencies respectively based on his desire to collect the best people to do the jobs he wants done; and b) most of the Democrats with any executive experience naturally come from the Clinton administration since that was the last time the Democrats held that branch of government. So calling an appointee from the 90s a Clinton person does refer to someone but that reference is pretty meaningless since it doesn't really tell you anything about the person. More to the point, by calling on such people President-Elect Obama is looking to avoid the learning curve of White House staffing.

The final tab to close comes from Andrew Sullivan (naturally) who links to a review of Clay Shirky's book Here Comes Everybody that described both the advantages and drawbacks to distributed, or cloud, actions on the Interwibble. Where you have Flickr providing the first pictures of the 2005 London bus bombings that no news organization could have gotten you also have cloud organizations for Holocaust deniers (re: future lead pipe victims) or even terrorist cells. Shirky, through reviewer and tech security guru Bruce Schneier, speaks about the Interweb's ability to allow loose collections of people to form informal organizations with near zero financial costs and a wide latitude for collaboration and potential action. Personally, I think there's some over-stating of the matter. Loose collections of people don't necessarily evolve into informal structures and informal structures don't necessarily do anything.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Welcome Back Hack

Oh look! Krauthammer's back from his post-election rehab! And he's brought the neo-conservative word on the economy with him in the form of former AEI think-tanker Irwin Stelzer. Bad Krauthammer, you didn't cite your source. I had to go through all the trouble of googling Stelzer. I mean, when the guy you're about to use as the basis for an argument on the economy and how Capitol Hill is handling things once edited and wrote the introduction to The Neocon Reader, don't you think it's pertinent to mention that to your audience? No? Not even when the sitting president appears to have checked out and the president-elect gives all the appearance of already running the country? Not even when the appointees selected by the current president are the ones asking for the billions of dollars you mentioned (without regulation of course)? Oh, and you forgot to mention that Wall Street came running to D.C. first, not the other way around. Fuck all man, own up to your ideology's mistakes. Welcome back Krauthammer. When's your next vacation?

Capital Gains My Ass

David Kurtz mentions this item on Tuesday from Rep. John Boehner who argues that cutting capital gains taxes further would stimulate the economy more than new spending would. I'm about ready to carry around a flaming effigy of capital gains taxes if the GOP claims one more time that cutting capital gains taxes will solve the economic crisis. How the fuck would cutting taxes on investments do that? Right now there's little incentive for people to even start investing in the financial markets let alone make further investments. And investment money is not money that flows into the economic markets so there's no help for the middle class there. Yes the financial markets need help but cutting capital gains taxes isn't a real solution nor does it solve the problem of a flailing consumer market. It's a ruse of an argument allowing the GOP to give the appearence of offering a solution while not actually providing one. What's more, it's a poor ruse as most of the middle class would look at a capital gains cut as some benefiting the rich, well-invested types versus their small annuities and savings accounts that keep getting smaller. Why the GOP keeps running this argument I don't know, but it shows a lack of seriousness on the part of the House GOP to come up with real solutions to this crisis. It's almost as if the GOP has checked out for the rest of the year and left everything for the Democrats to do, which actually might not be a terrible idea at this point.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Eye Strain

Bleh, I'm done appraising things for the night. My eyes hurt from the strain of going back and forth from 10X to 2X to 3X to normal. And my head doesn't have the energy left to type the damn thing and come up with carat sizes and prices. Plus I have some music to listen to and comics to read. I really do hate appraising things.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Delays of the Final Crisis Sort

Too much reading right now. You have any idea how hard it is to figure out what's going on in Final Crisis when you spent nearly a year out of comics? Honestly, Morrison is kicking some bizarre ass on Batman but Final Crisis makes no sense right now. And Johns is building up the Lanterns for The Blackest Night event next year so no help there. Superman is tied up in the New Krypton series and I can't find the first issue of the Brainiac arc. Basically I'm lost but I won't let anyone tell me what's going on since I want to read it myself. I could type appraisals, read books on marketing, novels that are stacking up again or reading the blogs, but no, it's comics for me right now. Fucking DC and Grant Morrison.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Fundamentalist Trapped In Reality

It's a day of Sullivan posts, sans Gilbert and Sullivan music sadly. In this post obviously the topic is Gov. Palin, her fundamentalism and fundamentalist religion in general. Sullivan is responding to the comments of a reader arguing that you cannot understand the thinking of Gov. Palin without prefacing it with an understanding of her religious background. This, of course, is true but a subject Sullivan has dealt with in his year-old book The Conservative Soul.
For Sullivan, it's not so much that figures like Gov. Palin or President Bush willfully ignore reality but their fundamentalist beliefs (such as the inerrancy of the Bible) force contradictions within the Bible itself and emperical reality that doesn't jive with the divine text into a sort of non-existence within their psyche. The only problem is reality and contradictions have a habit of continuing to intrude in one's life (such as President Bush's perception of the Iraq War and the reality on the ground). Contrary to what you might think, the schizophrenic mentality it takes to maintain the convictions of fundamentalism are not necessarily overriden by reality. With the case of Gov. Palin one sees a woman so steeped within the fundamentalist psyche that, even if you pierce through her perceptions, whatever information is conveyed is ultimately an abberation devil-derived, or further evidence of their correctness. Either way, further discussion of the topic is no longer needed. Hence the "lalalalala" attitude comes so naturally to fundamentalists while appearing freakishly psychotic to everyone else.
Even when ultimately defeated, either by a superior ideology or obsolesence through time, fundamentalists not only refuse to recognize the defeat, they claim a faltering of the faith, a conspiracy of sinners or even a Job-like test they must endure. Reality has influence over the minds of fundamentalists; it serves as a reminder of why they must maintain their faith and a confirmation of their own righteousness. Trying to sway the fundamentalist psyche is akin to deprogramming Manchurian candidates or women lost in abusive relationships. It is possible, but the break from one perceptual reality to another is traumatizing in its own right. Better to ease the fundamentalist psyche out through marginalization and natural shifts in generational thinking. It took nearly four decades to reach this point in the culture war of America but I'm optimistic that moving away from it will happen quickly--say a decade or less. At least that's what I hope.

Where Is Home (Burial Remix)

Sullivan links to an article by Fareed Zakaria that argues for a movement toward the center by President Obama, but the center of what. Going by the title of Sullivan's post alone one would have to conclude that center lies not in America. But Sullivan lets Zakaria do most of the talking as he argues that the next decade will see the global GDP driven almost entirely by the Third World. This is the New World Sullivan refers to and on national security issues as well as economic ones the strong suggestion is that President Obama move to that center versus a center between liberalism and a failed Republican ideology. Sullivan uses Zakaria's article to further his argument that true conservative ideology needs to divorce itself from the Republican party if it is to survive. But more than that, the arguments of both men are that President Obama should become a global leader again. The implied suggestion is that President Obama should ditch the hoary old idea of American exceptionalism and take the reigns of the First World to pull it out of the deepening recession. Whether that's possible is a question left unasked and unanswered. Personally, I don't have an answer either, except to let the S1W take the lead on that. I bet you Chuck D has some spare time these days.

LOLcat Saves Morning

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Chuck Norris is Made of Douche-Baggery

So it seems that one Chuck Norris of interwibble fame and movie infamy has written an open letter to President-Elect Obama. Quite the read if you dare. I supposed all that masculinity Mr. Norris has built up shrank is brain. I mean, honestly, calling out a constitutional scholar to read the Constitution? That takes stupidity to a whole new level. Then again, Mr. Norris must have traveled to some far-away rock to live under since he missed the whole campaign slogan, "Yes We Can," and President-Elect Obama's contant refrain of saying that the struggles of the present and future are everyone's struggle. Norris really is coming from the Republican cocoon to make such blatentaly ignorant claims and arguments. That's all they have left? Will the real conservative party please stand up?

Saturday, November 08, 2008

What He Said...

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Best Obama Quote We Never Heard

From Newsweek, via Jason Zengerle at The Plank, comes what is probably the funniest thing I've heard President-Elect Obama say so far:

"So when Brian Williams is asking me about what's a personal thing that you've done [that's green], and I say, you know, 'Well, I planted a bunch of trees.' And he says, 'I'm talking about personal.' What I'm thinking in my head is, 'Well, the truth is, Brian, we can't solve global warming because I fucking changed light bulbs in my house. It's because of something collective'."
I think had P-E Obama actually said that he would have won an extra ten percent of the public.

November 5, 2008: The Presidential Hangover

Yesterday, across the pond, the English were celebrating Guy Fawkes Day, an annual holiday held for Guy Fawkes' failure to blow up Parliament. The plot was carried out during a time when the English were trying to maintain a sense of civility and social order after the debacle of religious extremism during the English civil wars some forty years earlier in the 17th century. On this side of the pond though, yesterday marked a different sort of celebration. Not one of streaming banners and fireworks, but of a collective sobering after nearly eight years of the Bush presidency and the bitterness of politics that flowed from the White House. America experienced a cultural hangover yesterday. Today though, we have washed up, taken a shave, combed our hair and put on the shoes we wear everyday to work. Nothing physical has changed, but psychologically, everything has. And that change derives from the simple changing of titles of one man--Sen. Barack Obama was and is now President-Elect Barack Obama. We all still have the same bills, the same concerns over the economy, our health and the war on terror. But now, instead of wondering when President Bush will wake up and start leading, we have a president-elect we know can lead. It's a brand new day, if I can borrow such a sullied phrase from Marvel's forced divorce of Spider-Man and Mary Jane. But now we have hope, even those who voted for Sen. McCain. We now know hope. Today is a beautiful day.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

City of the Future

What we have here is another example of the astounding architectural accomplishments, planned or nearing completion, that Dubai has brought to the world. It's part of their efforts to use the money supplied by their oil reserves to build a future economy based on tourism. And of course, any tourist destination needs iconic buildings to attract said tourist. Among the other reality defying towers planned are a skyscraper with an intention 18° tilt, a tower nearly 1/2 a mile in height and another mile tall marvel of modern architecture and engineering. Dubai is fast becoming a city of the future in the most literal sense.
For example, by 2012 the city plans to have the largest arch bridge built:

The bridge will cover a mile with twelve lanes of traffic and a metro line running through the center. Another building planned for completion next year will rotate slowly offering residents and office workers a daily view of the entire city:
The building offers communal gardens as well as a massive mall at the base. Think of it as a mixed-use building on steroids.
All of these plans defy belief but offer a glimpse of what future cities could look like. The technologies and engineering obstacles overcome during the construction of these concrete and steel wonders will make future projects in cities such as Tokyo, London and even New York all the easier. Still, one has to also marvel at the sheer insanity behind these structures. It is indeed a beautiful age to live in.

Monday, November 03, 2008

In Defense of the OC

First item of the evening is a short-form rant by myself on the biases within Dallas over which side of the Trinity River one lives on. See, originally the city was formed on the original course of the Trinity. Near the iconic Reunion tower (the shiny phallic ball on a stick) there is not only the place where Kennedy was shot but the cabin of the original settler. The river once ran closer to the cabin than it does today. However, flooding problems forced a course correction for the river, moving the Trinity about less than a mile west. Further flooding problems caused the building of massive earthen levees and any subsequent crossing of the river required a long bridge. Essentially the river and its levees divide the city in half with South Dallas and Oak Cliff existing on the western side while downtown, uptown and generally most things interesting lie on the eastern side.
Strangely though, I've noticed a certain bias against such places as South Dallas and Oak Cliff, with few people willing to escape from the bubble of East and North Dallas. Part of the stigma comes from the larger minority population on the west side of the river. That belief has tumbled into a larger belief that crime is more frequent on the other side of the bridge. Particularly within the bubble of the Park Cities there's a fear of those who come from any place west of the river. I still remember an elderly lady complaining about the new light rail line that ran from Oak Cliff to the swanky Northpark Mall and the subsequent arrival of "all those people from Oak Cliff".
So it's hard to claim that someone living on the eastern side of the river doesn't have a problem with Oak Cliff or South Dallas. While one may live among the many minorities who have spread across all of Dallas, there still exists a stigma against what lies to the west of downtown. It's too black, too Latino, too run down and...dangerous, if you didn't know. Of course, the person saying this will also claim they lack any racism or bias against Oak Cliff, latent or otherwise. I find such claims insulting in a deep sense. This is where I live, born and raised, as my parents before me and my grandparents before them.
My paternal grandfather came to Dallas in the mid '20s and settled in Oak Cliff. He took the tram to work in downtown every day, back when there was a tram, before the levees were built. Even though he is a native son of a Tennessee farm, the life blood of Oak Cliff runs deep within him. No matter how rich he became, the idea of moving out of Oak Cliff was always out of the question. It's a matter of pride, something passed down through the generations to me. I am proud of my heritage and despite the extra ten minutes living here tacks on to any drive I make to see my friends, I consider it the burden of continuing the Oak Cliff heritage.
Those who live east of the river have never dealt with the nuances of where they live. Certainly they believe in a community of East Dallas, Lakewood, the Park Cites or Uptown. Yet those communities are distinctly different from that of Oak Cliff specifically. Oak Cliff is more than a community, it's a state of mind, a way of life and a badge of honor. And the unwillingness of many on the 'proper' side of the river to venture into Oak Cliff is more than slightly irritating.
I worry about Oak Cliff becoming too insular, too self-satisfied with itself to make the effort to extend a hand of friendship across the bridges. At the same time, I see few reasons to do so as Oak Cliff has continually been ignored by the city government as well as the population at large. Oak Cliff is treated as a backwater when Dallas would not exist without it. While it will take those in Oak Cliff to make the first gestures of friendship, I still see a city divided by bias, racism and outright bigotry based on ignorance of their own communities and a belief that interest in Oak Cliff isn't worth the effort. And all of this, I believe, derives from an unwillingness of those on the east to travel into the unknown west. In other words, I believe the existence of a river that distinctly demarks one's travel from one Dallas to another keeps Dallas from becoming a whole and complete city.

The Case for Voting, or Death to the Lazy!

I'm just going to repost this in its entirety, because people are lazy and don't click through enough. Thanks to John Scalzi for making me blackout due to oxygen loss brought on by laughing too much. Fucker.

Election List X: Some of The Horrible Things That Will Happen To You If You Don’t Vote

1. Your penis will fall off. If you are a woman, you will grow a penis, which will then fall off.

2. Your peers will point and laugh at you more than they already do.

3. You will have to listen to smug voters say “if you didn’t vote, you can’t complain” for at least two years.

4. You will be consumed by pillbugs whilst you sleep. They will leave behind nothing but your penis, which as you’ll recall, has already fallen off.

5. You will smell of sour buttermilk until the next New Hampshire primary.

6. Uncontrolled flatulence.

7. Cars will swerve to hit you, even when you are inside your own home.

8. Your World of Warcraft party will turn on you and smite you mightily.

9. Impotence. And not just because your penis has fallen off.

10. Stairs will rise to trip you.

11. Boils. In Biblical plague amounts.

12. Static cling that no amount of Bounce sheets will ever cure.

13. Your cat will take a dump somewhere in the house that you will never find, and the smell will be carried through the air vents for months, all the while the cat will stare at you with that “you’re a real asshole” look they sometimes have. If you do not have a cat, one will be provided for you for the length of time required for it to crap in said undisclosed location.

14. Your credit card will be canceled and your creditors will send someone to repossess your penis. Which has fallen off.

15. Your favorite TV show will be canceled and every time you try to buy the last season on DVD, retailers will be out of stock.

16. Your children will disown you. If you have no children, you will be summarily adopted by a family, and when you attend Thanksgiving at their home, you will be told how disappointed they are in you. For six hours straight. After which they will disown you.

17. Your cabbies will henceforth always take the long route to any destination to which you travel.

18. Zombies, and you without a shotgun.

19. Everyone on your street will win the lottery. You will get a rock.

20. I swear to God, I will learn your address, come to your house, and when you open the door, I will totally kick you in the nads. Which will hurt even more because they’re the only reproductive organs you have left. Because your penis has fallen off.

I trust now you will be sufficiently motivated to vote.

The election lists are now completed. Thank you for your attention.

The Happy Opposition, The Conservative Obama

To start the morning off, via Andrew Sullivan and then Hendrik Hertzberg, we have a description of a member of the old conservative literati, Jeffrey Hart, who has become one of those loathsome Obamacons. Hart is an example of the conservative-mentor who bred the likes of Laura Ingram and Dinesh D'Souza. Despicable though those two luminaries of intellect may be, Hart is a true intellectual and seemingly recognizes the pragmatism of Sen. Obama, calling him the real conservative of this presidential campaign. More importantly, perhaps, is Hart's recognition of Sen. Obama's effectiveness as an orator, claiming that Edmund Burke would have "admired the cogency" of Sen. Obama's 2002 speech against the Iraq war. That Sen. Obama was able to effectively express his thoughts in a civil but terse way left an impression on Hart.
So now Professor Hart has come out in favor of Sen. Obama and announced that he intends to vote for the senator from Illinois. He bases his decision on the positions Sen. Obama has taken--his opposition to privitizing Social Security, the understanding of the social implications of denying women access to early abortions, and his desire to see greater stem-cell research--and the reasoning Sen. Obama has given for taking such positions.
The McCain campaign has done its best to argue that Sen. Obama is the most liberal senator there is, but what Hart sees is an individual who operates under the recognition of reality and how far one can push social change before breaking the society. Hart stands against the sacralization of conservative ideology that seeks such society-breaking change. Hart's agreement with Sen. Obama on the issues of stem-cell research and abortion is based entirely on emperical thinking, a core element of Andrew Sullivan's support for Sen. Obama. In other words, as many conservatives have come to see, Sen. Obama is no ideologue. Rather, Sen. Obama, while a progressive in his perspective, is not willing to let theory override reality, a thoroughly conservative notion.
Professor Hart is just another example of the distaste for how far conservativism has strayed from its origins under the pressures of political life. If anything, I believe Professor Hart would stand as the happy opposition to a President Obama--the opposition that challenges and improves ideas and legislation rather than aims to win political points and seats. It's policy rather than politics that drives Hart's support of Sen. Obama, a distinction few of the conservative punditry understand. It's also why Hart and his thoughts will remain relevant while those of the Laura Ingram mold will fade into obscurity.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Washington D.C. Gets Something Right (The City, Not The Feds)

The Washington Post has an article I noticed Sunday morning on the use of SMS messenging to broadcast timely crime information to local residents. I have to say, this is a great use of modern consumer technology to aide police forces in an urban environment. It's similar to the highway billboards that display traffic information most of the time and missing persons information when necessary.
I do have to admit some concerns over privacy and my big brother suspicisons. While no where near the level of social survelliance as seen in the latest Batman movie The Dark Knight, it does obviously bring to mind the idea. Even so, I think the survelliance concerns are small and something that a city can work out with opt-in registration, anonimity of informants, and police community efforts to allay resident fears as well as making actual, physical officers available for people to talk to. It's not too far of a stretch to see similar efforts enacted in other cities suffering an increase in crime, like Dallas or Detroit for instance, but don't have the available funds to increase the size of the police force. I really do like this idea.

When Matt Yglesias Contradicts Himself But Doesn't

I was about to take Mr. Yglesias behind the woodshed and show him a fine selection of leather whips for the original part of this post. Fortunately he wised up enough to make a smart addendum. Still, the gist of the post--that Sen. Obama's centrism on health-care policy has left other down ticket progressives in a lurch--is rather unlike Yglesias in putting progressive policy before the reality of politics. He even notes that pushing for a single-payer health reform isn't realistic under current and near-future Congressional conditions. His correction, saying that Democratic challenger Judy Feder isn't actually pushing the single-payer system, does mitigate the functional dismissal of political reality, but there's something deeper here that Yglesias is pointing to.
The original post had a point that Yglesias passes over too quickly; a point that had he expanded upon would have made the addendum secondary and almost not worth mentioning. Said point is the idea that the more progressives (or liberals to everyone else) there are in Congress the better the chances of passing a more progressive agenda. If this were a mid-term election then such considerations should play a heavier role. But, with the possible election of a distinctly liberal senator as president, I find it hard to make the case that the progressive platform as a whole benefits from a presidential candidate who campaigns more to help down ticket candidates than for the presidency itself. In other words, while Yglesias does have a good point about increasing the number of Congressional progressives, that point is blunted by presidential politics at the same time. So Yglesias 1, Yglesias 1. I suppose a black hole has to open up or something now.

Friday, October 31, 2008


Win, lose or draw, I think the blow-up over Rashid Khalidi will end up hurting papers like the National Review more than helping them. What it will show is the kind of bigotry and ignorance that a large portion of the American public has soured on and the intellectual dearth of of the neo-conservative right. The issue of Khalidi is a watershed moment, not just for its presidential politics aspect but for the wider shift in the punditry as to who gets attention by the actual players in foreign policy. If, as the polls tend to indicate, Sen. Obama does win the presidency then writers like Andrew McCarthy will find themselves locked out of any serious discussion on foreign policy. Not because of ideological reasons, but because everyone a President Obama would listen to and take their opinion into consideration would cite McCarthy at exactly the wrong kind of thinking needed to resolve any Middle Eastern crisis. The same goes for people like Rich Lowry and Bill Kristol.
That, perhaps, is the saddest thing about the way this election has been fought. Not only have so many of the rightist literati displayed an amazing inability for independent thought, but after the election is over how many of these gents will keep their cushy pundit jobs? I'm not saying that a win by Sen. Obama should obligate papers like The Weekly Standard or National Review to purge their ranks of blithering idiots, but that such a win will necessitate such a purge if those papers are to retain any credibility within Washington circles. A win by Sen. McCain, while emboldening those same pundits, I think would also embolden those opposed to such moronic ideas to the point that conservative intellectuals make a full and meaningful break with the party to form their own. And I think such a break would pull many members of Congress with them as it casts off the clearly broken ideology of neo-conservativism as well as the even more dogmatic social conservatives.
Perhaps such a third party would pull several members of the Blue Dog Democrats in as well, who find themselves more aligned in attitude with the break-away conservative intellectuals than with the Democratic party, which I actually won't mind. If the result of the actions by and on behalf of the McCain campaign force the creation of a third party with a genuine intellectual backbone and high profile support in both members of Congress and a donor base then American politics will benefit as much, if not more, than an Obama presidency. Leaving the remiants of the Republican party in shambles will force a rethink of their methods, but not their ideology. Instead you'll have a third party more in line with classical liberalism and libertarianism freed from the need to cater to the culture wars. You'll have a Democratic party free to push a more aggressive agenda while the old Republicans will have their own party to push their social and national security agenda.
I think a break-up of the Republican party is finally coming and will leave the social and neo-conservatives at the margins while the new party formed of moderates and intellectual conservatives will do battle and find compromise with the Democrats. It's all a matter of who is willing to take the chance at breaking away from the debunked platform of Republicanism and strike out in a new direction that focuses on business and liberty versus those willing to remain in their hybrid state as an old Republican. Either way, I like the idea of true conservatives returning to their ideological roots while letting the toxic parts of the party try and make it on their own. Not only will I have better blog posts to read, but we might actually get a government able to act and act in the interest of all Americans, not just those who swear fealty to the Republican leadership.

Know Hope

Oh, and here's some more from Ackerman via Digby via YouTube via the Obama campaign. This fellow sounds like my grandfather in a lot of ways. Couldn't the Obama campaign have just started buying up ad time and play this instead of the infomercial?

On Presidential Endorsements and Shooting Heroin

I have to say Spackerman makes a pretty convincing argument here that he's a far better American than Joe Perry. I mean, the whole not shooting heroin into your balls sells it for me, but there's always the fact that Spencer isn't Joe Perry. Just cause a guy's first name is Joe doesn't mean you need to take his endorsement. Has Sen. McCain ever listened to Aerosmith? Christ, at least the Black Crows haven't made an endorsement.

Diabolus Ex Machina

God, Ellis always seems to find a way to tack on an extra one percent to my brain power when he comes up with this stuff. Now I'm going to dream of angels rebelling against aliens.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Hayden Panettiere Ain't A Bamboo Banga's alright if I find this more than a little odd? Plus, where's Diplo when you need him? I mean, if you're gonna go with a Jamaican beat, you need a serious grime to it. Panettiere needs to take it to Brazil by way of South London and Sri Lanka, M.I.A. style.

The Digital Twilight

I'm a little conflicted over whether to really worry about a "digital dark-age". One of the predictions of cosmology is that the universe will slowly drift apart until atoms become as large as galaxies; the cold death versus the big crunch. Eventually every form of human media and information will disappear. At the same time, I'm a historian and the collection and preservation of data is first among priorities. So you see the conflict here.
Even so, there's a good reason for worrying about the ability to read data from even a decade ago. The Y2K problem was made worse by the problems in reading the coding of systems built back in the 70s. It's not as if you need to continually transfer your data to the latest medium, but expecting a long-term back-up solution for digital data isn't in the cards. What you'll see is the same problem researchers of ancient Egypt had until the Rosetta Stone was discovered. Unless you can read the data it is worthless for all intents and purposes.
What might result from a digital dark-age? That's something I'm going to ponder for a while. With all of the ways civilization might end up back in the pre-industrial ages it is a necessary question. Too sleepy to give an answer right now though.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

John McCain Wants the Poor to Pay

Let me see if I can get this straight: I'm supposed to pay a higher proportion of my income in taxes just so people who make more than me don't? Supposedly I don't work as hard as a lawyer or doctor or lobbyist? Supposedly, if I make less than 100k a year that means I'm lazy? Fuck That John McCain.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Lolcats are Gonna Save the Day Again

Sometimes all you need is Ninja Cat.

Of Ponies and Robocop

Now this is the way to tell an audience that posting isn't quite up to speed. I don't know which I would want more, Robocop or the unicorn because the Stig fears unicorns.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Government as Socialism, or How Obama Got His Law Groove On

The argument of the day seems to revolve around the ideas of what a government actually does and the conception of negative liberty, of which a lot of people misunderstand. Jonathan Chait at the New Republic's blog makes the point that the basic function of a government is to take money from people and give it to other people. To complicate things a little beyond the simplicity of Chait's statement, government uses taxes and tariffs to fund government infrastructure, national defense, the court system and a myriad of other things like social services (Social Security, Medicare/Medicade and the like).
Now the basic things like police forces, fire departments, and other emergency services have to try and apply their work to everyone equally, no matter how much they pay in taxes, or at least that's the idea. Dallas has a serious shortage of police officers and trying to raise the needed revenue is difficult without having to raise some form of taxes, usually property taxes. That those who live on properties with a higher value pay a higher tax is just a basic thing. And then the money is redistributed to the police department and applied in a somewhat equal way to everyone.
What has spurred the argument over 'wealth redistribution' today has been the pulling of an NPR interview of Sen. Obama in 2001, several years before his election to the U.S. Senate. In the interview, Sen. Obama expressed the view that if one wanted, one could make the argument that the judical branch (re: the courts) could work as an avenue for affirmative economic equality. But really, why would one want to do that? The conservative punditry (and I hate to pick on Shane Vander Hart at the Culture11 blog, but well, I needed a conservative example and I'd rather give them the traffic versus blowhards like Drudge) has decided to latch onto specific parts of this interview as a means of arguing that Sen. Obama favors the courts legislating economic equality and redistribution.
Of course this is bunk as Chait's collegue, Cass Sunstein, argues. Sen. Obama, while saying it was possible to make the court-oriented argument, it's not a very good one and, more to the point, shows where the civil rights movement has gone wrong in relying on the courts to resolve every civil rights issue. Specifically, as Marc Ambinder notes, Sen. Obama was referring to the case of San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez where the issue at stake was education funding.
It's here though that Sen. Obama makes a point about the Constitution that few people, particularly the screaming parts of the punditry, understand. The Constitution, Sen. Obama points out, is a document of negative liberties. It's a Lockean idea that the most liberty comes from the least amount of government interference in an individual's life. More than that, it also means that the Constitution only specifies the limits of government interference in concern to certain rights and is not an exhaustive list of every liberty an individual is born with. In other words, whether the Constitution says it or not, a liberty exists, like the right to privacy, and does not need an amendment to assure its existence, since such liberties remain in the hands of the states and individuals, unless otherwise specified.
Both Ambinder and Matt Yglesias argue that Sen. Obama not only expressed a view contrary to the liberal positivist view of the courts, but supported a view that many conservatives did during the 80s and 90s--that the courts are the wrong place to make serious changes to the economic inequality in the U.S. As Ambinder continues, he makes the point that the conservative response to the 2001 interview has now elevated the presidential race into a referendum on conservative ideology when Sen. Obama has steered clear of making that part of his campaign platform. Thus, if Sen. McCain does lose on Nov. 4th, along with many of his conservative collegues, conservative ideology will suffer a serious but self-inflicted blow.
Redistributing wealth is not an anti-American nor socialist viewpoint in and of itself. As I pointed out earlier, it's a basic function of government. What Sen. Obama has argued instead is for legislative and executive powers being brought to bear on economic inequality versus relying on the courts that Sen. Obama claims are unable to fully deal with the issue, nor it is their place to. Tempest in a teapot? Yes. But also a sign of how the Republicans are grasping at straws as quickly as they can. Desperation can lead to screwy arguments and this is one of them.

Garden Paths, Or Why Andrew Sullivan Needs Better Reading

I really don't get the point of these posts from Crash Landing. They're intended as thought experiments to point out potential flaws in a Obama presidency, which has it's place as the voting public makes their decision as to whom the next president is. But that's not the point of Bob Murphy's posts. The question asked--what would a President Obama have to do to make you regret your support for him--verges on the absurd of 'what ifs'. Yes, I suppose if a President Obama decided to nuke Iran that would make me regret my support for him. I would also regret buying a car with an engine that might explode two years later. Neither scenario is plausible under current known and expected conditions.
It's a mug's game since the whole point of the word 'regret' is that you expected one thing but were disappointed later on for some reason. Do I regret my expectation of a Bush presidency filled with smart advisers and an open-minded president? Yes, of course I do, but I went with what facts were available to me at the time. Is it possible for a President Obama to do the same? Yes, of course it is. And this brings me to my second problem with these two posts: the attitude that you have more than just two options in voting for president.
This is silly. If I want to vote in the current election then for all intents and purposes I only have the option of either Sen. Barak Obama or Sen. John McCain. One of these two men will become the next president. Realistically, there isn't another option, because we have a two-party system. Do I regret that? Yes, I do. I would like more options, but unless we get together and decide to put our efforts into creating a third, fourth or even fifth party then we're stuck with the system we have. Arguing otherwise is denying reality in hope that a magic pony will arrive with new political parties in tow.
What Murphy has done here is posit a couple of 'what if' questions that are meant to make the undecided even more undecided. If you want to push the issue, I'd say that this thought experiment is designed more for fear-mongering than serious thinking. Look, here's a site dedicated to listing all the possible disaster scenarios that could befall Earth. It's a great bit of fun reading, but even those disasters that have a fair to good chance of happening are so remote as to make worrying about them the same as worrying your nose might fall off your face. Should we question the capabilities of Sen. Obama as criteria for whether we give him our vote or not? Yes, do so, it's what you're supposed to do when voting for president. But asking what would it take for you to regret that decision before the election, before we see a President Obama in action, is a walk down the garden path. You will meet devils there, but only because that what you expect to see.

I'll Put a Black Fist Under Your Chin

The morning has brought not one, but two gems of posts from our dear Spencer Ackerman (who I plan to eliminate and replace with myself one day). They're loosely related as the first is a bit on Bill "Kristol Meth" Kristol reassuring neoconservatives that the nation will survive an Obama Presidency while the second item is on the CIA's continued sour relations with the neoconservatives and the agency's hope for a victory for Sen. Obama. Ackerman reads the Kristol piece as implying an Obama administration could possibly destroy the country. It's good for a giggle considering if George W. Bush hasn't been able to do it, then I doubt Sen. Obama could. But you have to push the fear-mongering somehow and suggesting that the U.S. might disappear if Sen. Obama wins is as good as it gets sometimes.
The latter piece on the CIA's strained relationship with neoconservative partisans is a little more insightful as to the damage and distrust neoconservativism has sown within the agency. Apparently, according to Ackerman's unnamed sources, many in the CIA look hopefully to an Obama administration where their opinions might received due attention again. I'm not exactly sure why neoconservatives dislike the CIA but they do and the Bush administration has given them free reign to dismantle, disrupt and generally just dis the CIA at every opportunity. Perhaps it's due to the agency's continued conclusions that run contrary to neoconservative ideology. For some reason, ideologues tend to get annoyed when reality doesn't conform as it should.
Still, lovely way to start the day. You might get the same news from other sources, but damnit man, I need me a bit of the snark to make it palitable.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Ellis Hears the Voice of Satan

For the counter-culture kids, the hipsters, the scenesters, the oh-so-cool of the world, Daniel Johnston is a name that comes with an almost mystical reverence. So it interesting to learn how someone like Warren Ellis came to know of his music as a gift of a tape from a friend in 94. I discovered Johnston about the same time through the Kids soundtrack and found my love for lo-fi music there. A compilation such as that soundtrack would turn most anyone on to the lo-fi scene as it ran through several Folk Implosion songs, one Sebadoh track (the producers must have had a fondness for Lou Barlow) and Slint's amazing "Good Morning Captain". But Johnston's tracks stood out for his childlike voice and simple melodies constructed from what sounded like just about anything he had on hand, including his hands. It resulted in the purchase of two of his albums that I listened to a lot throughout high school but generally pushed by the wayside as I got older. So it's nice to see him brought to wider attention again, particularly by a cultural genius like Ellis.

Making Light in Real Time

So it seems Bruce Schenier will do a running blog commentary on the election results as they come in on Nov. 4. Schenier is a name that get mentioned quite often when it comes to national security matters and technology on both the software and hardware side as well as the cultural implications of 21st century security issues. He's a brilliant thinker, but more than that, he's willing to go out on a limb and do what he can to prove his thought experiements. As I'm already hosting an election watching party, Schenier's commentary is a welcome addition to the in-coming flood of information.

Joseph Lieberman's Political Tar Pit

Oh this is so a mea culpa play for Sen. Lieberman. I can only imagine what he'll do after the election if Sen. Obama wins. I mean, after supporting Sen. McCain the way he has, there's a lot of bowing and scraping he'll have to do just to hold onto his committee seats, let alone chairmanships. Even if Sen. McCain wins, I think the rest of the Senate Democrats are ready to give him the boot and he knows it. Sad to see such a longtime member of the party sink so deeply and then realize the muck he's gotten into. He won't survive I'm afraid.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Issues: Al Qaeda

So Barak Obama made a comment last year that, to me at least, seemed like a smack in the forehead kind of common sense. The right and thus the press didn't see it that way though. To paraphrase, Sen. Obama said that if we received accurate intelligence to the exact whereabouts of one Osama bin Laden and the Pakistani government was either unable or unwilling to take action then we would, whether Pakistan gave us permission or not. Sen. McCain has railed against this idea (strange though he pushes for a war with Iran, a nation that dwarfs Iraq by a few orders of magnitude) and has called it dangerously naive of Sen. Obama to; a) telegraph our punches, and b) invade an allied nation. It's become a major sticking point for Sen. McCain as he continues to use it to show how supposedly unprepared Sen. Obama is for the responsibilities of the presidency.
Of course, that's horseshit. For many reasons, it's horseshit. And if John McCain can't see it's horseshit then obviously he didn't learn anything during those five years being aggressively interrogated. First off, the entire GWOT (global war on terror) was predicated on the 9/11 plans bin Laden laid out. We went to war in Afghanistan first to flush bin Laden out. Second, because the civilian leadership was quite frankly dumber than a bag of hammered dog shit, we pushed bin Laden into a corner and then just left him there. Third, contrary to what dear Sen. McCain says, attacking Al Qaeda position in Pakistan is not the same as invading the place. And finally, why the hell wouldn't we kill bin Laden if we had a prime opportunity to do so?
Al Qaeda in Iraq is an off-shoot of the main Al Qaeda terror group. They only arose as a natural response to the U.S. invasion of Iraq and have continued to move and act with relative impunity within Iraq. We won't defeat them conventionally and the greatest harm we can do is to kill, in a clear way, the leadership of Al Qaeda. That the Pakistani military is unwilling to go into those areas of their nation where Al Qaeda and the Taliban have regrouped is a pretty good indicator that we will have to take matters into our own hands.
Now Sen. Obama's comment was not a declaration of war against Pakistan but a clear statement on his position regarding Osama bin Laden. We aren't, nor would we, attack the Pakistani military unless they put themselves in-between us and our goal of killing bin Laden. So the only reasonable response is to say that we'll push through the Pakistani leadership to achieve our objective of killing a major terrorist leader. That Sen. Obama, a liberal, would make such a firm statement on the matter is telling of how prepared he is for the presidency. While following diplomatic channels is the first thing one should do, he acknowledges that such a path might end up going no where. Meanwhile bin Laden might sneak away again. So declaring that wherever bin Laden is, we will go and rain death down upon him not only shows some serious spine but reminds every other nation that we will not tolerate the harboring of terrorist groups. It serves a dual purpose of laying out a strategy without hemming us in on tactics. That, to me, is the sign of good leadership. It's allowing for adaptability without sacrificing our overall goal. As Billy Shaftoe of Cryptonomicon fame said, "Show some fucking adaptability."

New Ways to Epic Fail

Caught this story on the Inquirer this morning about the glaring disparity in sentencing between a white guy with child porn on his computer and a black guy with child porn on his computer. The white guy got caught because he crashed the servers at an engineering school in Pennsylvania. The black guy was nicked when he posted about fifteen of the photos online. One judge apparently presided over both cases and was shocked enough by the disparity between sentencing stances that he pulled both men, who had been convicted, and put them in front of the court alongside the Assistant U.S. Attorney who prosecuted both cases. The black man was set to received an 8 to 10 line while the white guy was only to serve three months on the hacking charges. The prosecutor tried to explain how cooperative the white guy was (even though said hacker/kiddie porn lover futzed with FBI computers while being so 'cooperative') but the judge noted the lack of criminal history and good working habits of the black man. Clearly something is very wrong here, as the white kid (22-year-old student at the University of Pennsylvania) wasn't even charged with possession of child pornography.
I'm very glad the judge did this as it exposes a clear bias by the prosecution. While both men are guilty, the glaring disparity in sentencing recommendations puts the spotlight on the prosecutor for trying to impose a harsher sentence on a black man versus a white one. I don't know who this prosecutor is but I do hope that he's sacked over the whole thing. Make both men serve the dime at the very least or make the white kid serve a longer sentence since his cooperation also resulted in the disruption of FBI work through his tinkering on FBI computers. To me, the white kid is more of a danger than the black man and his sentence should reflect that.

Monday, October 20, 2008

By Sextant and Daring-Do

Oh God, this is bloody brilliant. I'd like to see a Marco Polo version of this some time.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Of Things Remembered

Currently pumping some old tune into my noggin. Best form of therapy when recovering from an allergy attack that left me wasted for three days. And this finally shows up in the mail: Earphoria by the Smashing Pumpkins. Earphoria is an anomaly of Pumpkin releases. It isn't a best of, it was released just after Siamese Dream and before the same album made them Smashing Pumpkins. What is it then? Pieces Iscariot was their b-sides collection (albeit incomplete) so this isn't that either. I think Earphoria then was just a one-off, screwing around in the studio affair that came along with a video of the band.
For the longest time I had a bootleg copy with the expected messed up track listing, badly photocopied liner notes and mediocre sound quality. I suppose I should thank Billy Corgan for being so full of himself and greedy that he would allow Virgin Records to put out a new release. It's a fantastic record of the band at that moment right before fame when they didn't care about their image so much (or at least Corgan didn't) and drugs hadn't consumed the drummer Jimmy Chamberlain. It's mostly live recordings from various places across the globe (such as the only live recording of Slunk that I know of, made in Japan of course). There's also a smattering of strange songs like Bugg Superstar by lead guitarist James Iha that could have hearlded a new direction in music at the time. Along with that are random things like Pulsczar and French Movie Theme that seem to come from nowhere and Why Am I So Tired? that just goes nowhere. To top it off, there's probably the best live rendition of Silverfuck that I've heard including the opening riff of the never-completed Jackboot at the end.
Earphoria is an album that reminds you why the Pumpkins were so good, even if it also reminds you of what the Pumpkins became afterwards. Still, this is high school and college for me, starting fifteen years ago. It's wonderful warmth and exuberance for my soul. Even if you vowed never to buy a Pumpkins records, pick this up.

On Point, Off Guard

Here's one thing I don't get about last night's debate reactions: the whole "winning on points" part. This probably has to do with my complete lack of knowledge in formal debating but I find that argument kinda flimsy in a lot of ways. It's a bit of a mug's game since, to my eyes, it relies on how logical your arguments are and how coherently that logic is passed. To say someone has won a debate on points is like saying a F1 driver beat another, not because they came in first, but because the car had the fastest speed (which is also why I have problems with American muscle cars that are fantastic in a straight line but meet epic fail when trying to corner). A debate is won on more than just how logical your argument is. There's also the persuasiveness of your argument and logic, just like horsepower, alone do not make an argument persuasive.
To push the F1 analogy a little further, the driver who wins the last race isn't necessarily the driver who wins the championship. It's about how well a driver and car have done over the course of a number of races. It's about the long game. Winning the final debate doesn't change that unless you were just a little behind or already winning. Barring chucking it at 180mph into the wall, you'd have to have a series of amazing losses to fall behind. Once you're ahead just keeping the same pace should make taking the cup look easy. You won't have to win every race, although you will have to place well in most races. Other than that, winning on points doesn't matter if you're too far behind.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

To Do and Die

Well that's done and finally over. The reactions from around the blogosphere give Sen. Obama the win on visuals and a tie on points. Some of the more conservative bloggers pegged this debate as Sen. McCain's best, but I think it was by far his worst. No, he didn't blow up or give screwy answers. He did, however, let himself look like Sen. Clinton did during her last debate with Sen. Obama: nervous, edgy, and sullen. A terrible combination for an experienced debater but, much like Sen. Clinton, understandable. John McCain had to sit through what will probably end a long career in politics and have that ending handed to him by a freshman senator. For Sen. Clinton, it wasn't a career-ending moment, but for Sen. McCain I think it was. To put it bluntly, he's too old. After his experiences in Vietnam I think this campaign will haunt Sen. McCain for the rest of his days. It's sad, but Sen. McCain let his political ambitions become an anaconda, slowly wrapping around him and squeezing until he had nothing left to give but the few dusty coughs of an independant-cum-culture warrior. And thus ends the baby boomer's hold on national politics. Finally.

I like a funny car

It's raining here and my cat doesn't care. She's got her perch on the window sill where she can sprawl between the window and my diamond grading light. Home sick but on day two of that kick. Still got bits of nasty lung putting me in fits. I think tonight's debate drinking will consist of orange juice, sadly lacking vodka. The politicking blogs are all looking the same these days: poll numbers, commentary on campaigns, economic talk and then the mildly interesting train wrecks of meta talk on all three. The only fun comes from the posts on people who still think Sen. Obama is a Muslim/terrorist/Maoist sleeper agent bred by the Viet Cong to become the last torture of John McCain. The final debate is tonight and hilarity will ensue when Sen. McCain tries that line of attack and Sen. Obama turns into a hydra of Roosevelt, Kennedy, Lincoln and King then proceeds to eat Sen. McCain. Or maybe that's all the cold medicine talking. I should shut up now.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Londoners Came to Protest, Americans Came to Chant

I'm beginning to wonder what Londoners will do next to further antagonize city officials. An art instillation made from thousands of CCTV stills form an image of the current British PM Gordon Brown. It's all very V for Vendetta-like (only without the neo-nazi government chasing after the lone anarchist). But this is the kind of existential battle that Camus wrote about in The Rebel. There is always that tension between absolute freedom and absolute justice. Either extreme becomes the snake eating his own tail.
My question is, why haven't American artists started taking this route? I know most major cities haven't gone as far as London in employing CCTVs but some cities like New York and Boston have. Art instillations such at this one are the kind of protest art that I look for. It's not some sweet hippie-styled march, it's the real deal. Protest in America needs to see London's idea of protest and emulate it.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Senator John McCain: Coward

It seems both Sens. Obama and Biden have decided to make some none-too-subtle efforts to rile up Sen. McCain. Sen. Biden is quoted in a recent speech saying, "In my neighborhood, when you’ve got something to say to a guy, you look him in the eye and you say it to him." And Sen. Obama, in a Charlie Gibson interview for ABC, bitchslapped Sen. McCain for not leveling his accusations of Sen. Obama's character to his face. Both are apparently trying to coax the famous McCain temper out into the open on live TV. Essentially, both Sens. Biden and Obama have told Sen. McCain to either throw down or back off. And after the release of the well-made thirteen minute Keating Five documentary, Sen. McCain has backed off somewhat, but Gov. Palin has not.
With one more debate to go it's a wait-and-see approach as to whether Sen. Obama can bring out tht side of Sen. McCain. If so then it's game over for Sen. McCain. If not then Sen. McCain still has a lot of ground to make up. Either way, I can't see any reason why not to bitchslap the man by making him lose his temper.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Hedgerows and Nuance

Josh Marshall gives the typical immediate post-debate analysis here and wonders why Sen. McCain didn't go after Sen. Obama like he said he would. I've already given my answer to that question (hint: something about fear and being old). And Marshall does a decent job of running through the highlights of the debate with an ending pulled from Noam Schieber over a The Plank on Sen. Obama's response to the issue of attacking Al-Qaeda. Sen. McCain continues to argue that a presidential candidate doesn't say things like that. While I think Sen. McCain is wrong, I also think the way Sen. Obama responds is too nuanced to really hit back against the McCain position. The way Sen. Obama approaches the subject now is to hedge it against the Pakistani government's willingness and ability to confront the Taliban and Al-Qaeda directly. A better formulation, I think, is to say that American forces will strike at either enemy wherever they are, particularly if the supposed ruling body will not. If we find terrorist training camps in the Yukon then Canada better prepare itself for a little fire from the sky and men with U.S. flags on their sholders running around shooting at things. Instead of tying the issue up with our concerns over the stability of Pakistan, Sen. Obama should simply side-step it all together by saying, "We will not attack Pakistan. We will attack the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. That they are in Pakistan is beside the point since the aim is not to topple the government but do what the government can't or won't.

What Is John McCain Afraid Of?

Thank god for Obsidian Wings and hilzoy. At least someone can offer a sober analysis of the town hall debate that gives Sen. Obama the win without Sullivanesque hyperventilating. What I think hilzoy wants to know, as do a lot of other bloggers, pundits and media shills, is why Sen. McCain didn't go on the vitrolic offensive his campaign has adopted? Honestly, there's a simple answer to that--fear. Sen. McCain is afraid, physically and emotionally afraid, of Sen. Obama. In part it's an old alpha male lion fearing the arrival of the younger, faster, stronger alpha male who simply displaces the old lion by his mere presence. You saw it during the debate when Sen. McCain would stand and wander about, particularly when Sen. Obama was speaking. It was like the old lion being put to pasture but wanting back in the pride.
The other reason I think Sen. McCain fears Sen. Obama is based on the simple fact that Sen. Obama isn't afraid of John McCain. He won't let the old sailor bully him into silence. It's not arrogance on Sen. Obama's part, but the sense of humility that drives him zen-like calm. He's not easily dissuaded and equally persuasive without resorting to bellicose attacks as Sen. McCain is. There's an aura about Sen. Obama and it scares the hell out of Sen. McCain.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Town Halls and the Need to Burn Things

A) Worst...Debate...Ever.
B) I think Sullivan is the victim of a government conspiracy to get gays hooked on crack: Exhibit A

10.33 pm. This was, I think, a mauling: a devastating and possibly electorally fatal debate for McCain. Even on Russia, he sounded a little out of it. I've watched a lot of debates and participated in many. I love debate and was trained as a boy in the British system to be a debater. I debated dozens of times at Oxofrd. All I can say is that, simply on terms of substance, clarity, empathy, style and authority, this has not just been an Obama victory. It has been a wipe-out.It has been about as big a wipe-out as I can remember in a presidential debate. It reminds me of the 1992 Clinton-Perot-Bush debate. I don't really see how the McCain campaign survives this.
C) Tom Brokaw should never appear in front of a TV again.
D) "That One"
E) Time would have been better spent clipping my nails, which I will do now

Some Quick Tidying Up Business

I meant to post this the day I got the answer I was looking for, and offer my sincere apologies to everyone for not doing so. I posted what looked like a legitimate letter talking about Sen. McCain and his actions on holiday in Fiji some nine years ago. After e-mailing the cited writer--a professor at Cowell College in California--I found that not only had she not written the letter, she took offense to the use of her name to bolster the credibility of it. Here is Professor Gamel's response to me, reprinted in full:

I have received thousands of emails and phone calls about the Turtle Island account.

I did NOT write that account, forward it under my name, or ask for it to be widely distributed.

I have never been to Turtle Island (which costs $2000/day), have never met Senator McCain, was a classics major, not an English Literature major, and never eat pancakes.

I regret the misinformation which is circulating, but it is not my doing, and I protest the misuse of my name.

How I think this happened: on 16 September I received this account 3rd-hand and forwarded it, with full email trail information and the name of the purported author (whom I don't know), to several friends with whom I discuss politics. It was further forwarded, and at some point the trail was deleted and I was misidentified as the author. I suspect whoever did this thought that my name and contact information would make the story more credible. is investigating the account; current status "undetermined."

This is NOT an organized effort on the part of any political candidate.

I hope you will pass this information on to anyone interested in this story.

And finally, the story itself isn't necessarily false. But we'll never know unless the author herself comes forward.
So again, I offer my apologies to Professor Gamel and to anyone who took the Fiji story seriously. While I did get some answers I was not diligent enough to post them as soon as I had received them. To reiterate, the letter I posted on the McCain family's vacation in Fiji during 1999, while not proven factually incorrect, is nevertheless a prop to scare women away from Sen. McCain. Until the original writer steps up, we won't know if those events are true or not, but for me, I consider the story a fabrication.

How to Learn to Love Warren Ellis

Just a little something to start the day with, courtesy of our beloved futurist/comic writer god Warren Ellis.

Best Assessment of Rich Lowry

Ever since last Thursday's vice-presidential debate many bloggers have gotten a kick out of this graph from NRO writer Rich Lowry:

I'm sure I'm not the only male in America who, when Palin dropped her first wink, sat up a little straighter on the couch and said, "Hey, I think she just winked at me." And her smile. By the end, when she clearly knew she was doing well, it was so sparkling it was almost mesmerizing. It sent little starbursts through the screen and ricocheting around the living rooms of America. This is a quality that can't be learned; it's either something you have or you don't, and man, she's got it.
So far, the laughter over the "little starbursts" hasn't quite died down yet, but John Rogers over at Kung Fu Monkey actually manages to find something far more amusing in the Lowry graph: "Modern American Conservatives have sunk to the intellectual and emotional level of the guy who thinks the stripper really likes him" (his italics). When you have to whore yourself out the way Gov. Palin has you begin to wonder if this is all an enormous joke; that when you metaphorically pull the lever on election day balloons and confetti will magically appear in the sky along with the voice of Walter Cronkite saying, "Fooled You!" It all seems just that absurd when you look even in the general area of the McCain campaign these days. What scares me though is that it isn't a joke. This is for real my friends. When you have the family where the word 'maverick' was derived complaining about the McCain campaign's use of the term, you know something is rotten in the land. I'm not all that thrilled for the wild ride we're about to experience for the next few years, no matter who wins the presidency.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Let's Buy a Car!

Publius at Obsidian Wings makes a strong case against Sen. McCain's health-care policy on the grounds that individuals do not have the bargaining power with heath insurance companies as conservative believe they do. The McCain plan would tax employer-provided health care benefits while simultaneously giving a $5,000 tax credit to each individual. The expectation is that the individual would then be able to seek out the best, most appropriate health insurance thus spurring competition within the health insurance market. Horseshit.
The problem Publius notes with Sen. McCain's plan is how it restructures the health insurance market in a way that doesn't benefit the individual. Most people I know have precious little time to go comparison shopping or drag out a negotiation for a better price on coverage. With that in mind there's little incentive for health insurance companies to lower costs, provide wider benefits or relax their standards on pre-existing conditions. The consumer loses out because as an individual they have little force of their own to negotiate a fair rate. It's an issue of supply and demand. Since demand for health insurance is high, health insurance companies can increase the costs of what they supply. This isn't like buying a TV or a car because if the makers of said cars and TVs keep the price too high then consumer do have easily accessable alternatives.
Even the example of a car purchase has its own problems. I remember when I decided to buy my first new car. I spent six months figuring out interest rates, down payments, monthly payments and learning how to bargin for the best price. At that time, I did have the time to put that kind of effort into it. And the result was an affordable purchase of the car I wanted. But had I pushed for too low of a monthly payment or interest rate, the dealership could have simply told me to go elsewhere. Individual purchases such as this lack the power of a group purchase. If I were representing a company that wanted x number of cars for y cost then I would have greater bargaining power due to the backing of a corporation making a large number of purchases. It's volume discount and that does work.
Without said volume discount the individual is fucked. The market would not adjust to make health-care affordable because they have no need to. People will always need health coverage. Lacking any regulation that would keep health insurance costs affordable, the individual is left out. The problem isn't with how health insurance is paid for but with how health insurance prices are set. Until that changes then the McCain plan would essentially deny health insurance to working individuals. I don't think it would take much on the government's part to influence the health-care market to make it more consumer friendly, but what Sen. McCain proposes is exactly the opposite.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

The Tyrant Sun

I really don't see the point in the McCain campaign's strategic shift into ugly mode. It just paints Sen. McCain as an angry old man. At this point, when his campaign is pulling out of states like Michigan, going negative is a desperate attempt to pull Sen. Obama down without making the case for Sen. McCain himself. Plus, if Sen. McCain expects to rattle Sen. Obama in the remaining debates he's in for a surprise. Sen. Obama took on the Clinton machine, the smears and underhanded attacks on his character, the subtle use of race to instill fear, and the complaints of a biased media. He took those on and still won the primary.
This is another point where the establishment candidate tries a strategy that worked in the past but just slides off Sen. Obama. Again, Sen. Obama isn't running the typical campaign with a strategy based on making the opposition's ideology obsolete and the primary tactic of the rope-a-dope design to wear down opponents until they have nothing left. If Sen. McCain really believes that he can use the same attacks the Clintons did then clearly he hasn't paid attention for the last nine months of campaigning. Nearly every major media organization and dozens of Republican bloggers have dug into the senator's past and came up with nothing. The negative approach just hasn't worked.
What's more, while the McCain campaign throws more money into ad buys, the ground game Sen. Obama laid out during the summer will come to fruition. Personally, I don't know the reasons why Sen. Obama went in this direction, but he did decide to use his campaign's resources to go door to door and build a new base. I mean, when you have superstars like Jay-Z holding concerts for voter registration drives you know Sen. Obama has thought this out long in advance.
It's that ground game that will do more to nullify Sen. McCain's negative turn. Having Obama supporters going around, talking with people and explaining how and why the McCain ads are wrong is a strong defense. Moreover, the McCain campaign doesn't have the resources to counter such a ground game. To continue the use of football analogies, the McCain campaign relies on its quarterback to make the long passes while the Obama campaign constantly runs the ball, wearing down the defense and making the occasional short pass. It reminds me of the early 90s Dallas Cowboys who would have the opponent's defense exhausted by half-time.
The worse thing that can happen right now is Sen. McCain to go into a debate, trying to keep his contempt for Sen. Obama bottled up, and letting it loose. An unrestrained John McCain is a serious force, but I doubt if it will suddenly turn Sen. Obama into the angry black man the McCain campaign so desperately wants. Instead, I think you'll see a half-crazed Sen. McCain going up against an unnaturally calm Sen. Obama. Getting mad and showing it doesn't help support the argument that Sen. McCain has the right temperament for the presidency; it does just the opposite.
The whole strategic shift is short-sighted and true stupid. It means Sen. McCain is reacting to Sen. Obama, not the other way around. And a month before the election is not when you want to go on defense.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

The VP Debate

I missed the first half of the debate so all this talk about how manic Gov. Palin was comes after the fact. What I did see though was a pretty boring debate between a senator who knows his stuff and a governor reading from her cliff notes. The longer I watched, the more mangled Gov. Palin's responses became. There were a few times I wondered if my beer had been poisoned because what came out of Gov. Palin's mouth was a string of words that everyone has generously called a 'sentence'.
What really struck me though was the feeling I had heard all of this boilerplate before; not in this election, but in 2004 during the presidential debates. While there were a few references to present events, it was as if McCain's advisors had lifted President Bush's talking points directly from his campaign. Sen. Biden kept plugging away with his arguments while Gov. Palin could do nothing but recite talking points. And her faux-Minnesota charm didn't do much to cover her obvious lack of material at the end. With the bar set so low for Gov. Palin and the expectation of a typical Bidenism, of course a lot of people came away from this debate with a more favorable impression of her.
I thought she had this debate in the bag until she threw herself on a funeral pyre--she started talking about how hard it is to raise a family in today's America. Now I'm not one for seeing men cry or get choked up. My grandfather instilled a sense of stoicism in me that doesn't allow for such things. But then my step-grandmother died of cancer two years ago. My grandfather had been with this woman for 20 years; they married two years after the death of his first wife of 50 years, also due to cancer. There's a certain quality to such emotions provoked by those memories that no one, not even God, can deny a man. Sen. Biden had one of those moments of emotion and it's an emotion Gov. Palin has never experienced. And she glibly passed it by. That's going to stick I think, particularly when her running mate cheated on his first wife and then divorced her to marry the mistress.
The other point that I think stands out was Gov. Palin's line of attack that attempted to contrast Sen. Obama's message of change and future-thinking with his campaign's constant associations of Sen. McCain to President Bush. First, it made no sense. Why talk about change and future-thinking if the recent past was all grand and keen? Now you can talk about the need for change and future-thinking, but the evidence backing up that argument lies in the past. The Bush presidency and its attendant problems (Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebannon, the entire cabinet, the economy and tax policies) are the past.
Thus, the second part: Sen. McCain is a member of President Bush's party. He's gone on record supporting the president on many occasions over issues Sen. Obama thinks differently on. Sen. McCain's proposals if elected president are similar to those of President Bush, if not more so. If Sen. Obama is running on a platform of change from the policies of President Bush and Sen. McCain wants to continue many of those policies, then it only makes sense to connect the two. What's so hard about this? The logic is pretty easy to follow for Sen. Obama. And yet McCain's advisors decided that attacking Sen. Biden on talking about the past if he's the running mate to a change candidate made sense. Of course, when you try to articulate it, it doesn't make sense, but there's an example of the McCain campaign's logic for you.
Overall, I don't think this debate changes much. If Gov. Palin's crass attitude toward Sen. Biden's dead wife sticks then it does hurt the McCain campaign. And if the McCain campaign continues with the line of attack that a change candidate can't talk about the recent past then it only makes them look ridiculous to independent voters. I think it's a wash; neither VP pick screwed up seriously or in an obvious way. All the debate has done is assuage the decided voters.

Him? Really? Never...

I'm willing to go on a little faith here since the background checks out so far (doesn't mean I'm unwilling to retract if this turns rotten). It's a situation where the letter in question is provided by second-hand sources. So take this with a grain of salt, but it doesn't sound too far out of character for someone like Sen. McCain:


It was just before John McCain’s last run at the presidential nomination in 2000 that my husband and I vacationed in Turtle Island in Fiji with John McCain, Cindy, and their children, including Bridget (their adopted Bangladeshi child).
It was not our intention, but it was our misfortune to be in close quarters with John McCain for almost a week, since Turtle Island has a small number of bungalows and their focus on communal meals force all vacationers who are there at the same time to get to know each other intimately.
He arrived at our first group meal and started reading quotes from a pile of William Faulkner books with a forest of Post-Its sticking out of them. As an English Literature major myself, my first thought was “if he likes this so much, why hasn’t he memorized any of this yet?” I soon realized that McCain actually thought we had come on vacation to be a volunteer audience for his “readings” which then became a regular part of each meal. Out of politeness, none of the vacationers initially protested at this intrusion into their blissful holiday, but people’s buttons definitely got pushed as the readings continued day after day.
Unfortunately this was not his only contribution to our mealtime entertainment. He waxed on during one meal about how Indo-Chine women had the best figures and that our American corn-fed women just couldn’t meet up to this standard. He also made it a point that all of us should stop Cindy from having dessert as her weight was too high and made a few comments to Amy, the 25 year old wife of the honeymooning couple from Nebraska that she should eat less as she needed to lose weight.
McCain’s appreciation of the beauty of Asian women was so great that David the American economist had to move his Thai wife to the other side of the table from McCain as McCain kept aggressively flirting with and touching her.

Needless to say I was irritated at his large ego and his rude behavior towards his wife and other women, but decided he must have some redeeming qualities as he had adopted a handicapped child from Bangladesh. I asked him about this one day, and his response was shocking: “Oh, that was Cindy’s idea - I didn’t have anything to do with it. She just went and adopted this thing without even asking me. You can’t imagine how people stare when I wheel this ugly, black thing around in a shopping cart in Arizona . No, it wasn’t my idea at all.”

I actively avoided McCain after that, but unfortunately one day he engaged me in a political discussion which soon got us on the topic of the active US bombing of Iraq at that time. I was shocked when he said, “If I was in charge, I would nuke Iraq to teach them a lesson”. Given McCain’s personal experience with the horrors of war, I had expected a more balanced point of view. I commented on the tragic consequences of the nuclear attacks on Japan during WWII — but no, he was not to be dissuaded. He went on to say that if it was up to him he would have dropped many more nuclear bombs on Japan. I rapidly extricated myself from this conversation as I could tell that his experience being tortured as a POW didn’t seem to have mellowed out his perspective, but rather had made him more aggressive and vengeful towards the world.

My final encounter with McCain was on the morning that he was leaving Turtle Island. Amy and I were happily eating pancakes when McCain arrived and told Amy that she shouldn’t be having pancakes because she needed to lose weight. Amy burst into tears at this abusive comment. I felt fiercely protective of Amy and immediately turned to McCain and told him to leave her alone. He became very angry and abusive towards me, and said, “Don’t you know who I am.” I looked him in the face and said, “Yes, you are the biggest asshole I have ever met” and headed back to my cabin. I am happy to say that later that day when I arrived at lunch I was given a standing ovation by all the guests for having stood up to McCain’s bullying.

Although I have shared my McCain story informally with friends, this is the first time I am making this public. I almost did so in 2000, when McCain first announced his bid for the Republican nomination, but it soon became apparent that George Bush was the shoo-in candidate and so I did not act then. However, now that there is a very real possibility that McCain could be elected as our next president, I feel it is my duty as an American citizen to share this story. I can’t imagine a more scary outcome for America than that this abusive, aggressive man should lead our nation. I have observed him in intimate surroundings as he really is, not how the media portrays him to be. If his attitudes toward women and his treatment of his own family are even a small indicator of his real personality, then I shudder to think what will happen to America were he to be elected as our President.

Mary-Kay Gamel

Professor of Classics, Comparative Literature, and Theater Arts

Cowell College

University of California, Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz, California 95064

831-4*9-2**1 (office); 831-4*9-8**3 (home)

The email address is legit from what I can tell. So next time you hear someone talking about how wonderful Gov. Palin is and Sen. McCain's wisdom in picking her for the VP slot, just remember how one woman saw his attitude toward women.

An Apology

Sorry for the blip in blogging. My ear drum and allergies are collaborating against me.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Why Am I So Tired?

Once again I am confirmed in my culling of Megan McArdle from my blog reader. This time, Yglesias takes her to task for her political "analysis". Considering who brought the goods and who played the most partisan politics, I'd think one would hold the House Republicans to blame first. Of course, Rep. Pelosi's pre-vote speech was tasteless for that moment, even if it was true. And blaming Sen. Obama? Where the fuck does that come from? He didn't go flying back to Washington with the air of some knight in shining armor. Nor did he try to make the issue a critical part of his campaign message, aside from using the financial crisis to bolster his argument for tax reformation. McArdle's analysis is one based on the last couple of weeks of political history, not the last decade. For someone who claims to have knowledge of an economist, McArdle is showing some massive short-sightedness.