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.