Saturday, August 9, 2008

Obama vs McCain: The Movie

An article from the LA Times looks at the two presidential candidates and what each of them represents.

Obama is a star in this sense too. As he reiterates endlessly, Obama brings idealism at a time when many Americans are despairing of making any headway against the problems the nation faces. Drawing on his own personal story of disadvantage that led to Columbia University, Harvard Law School and now to the Democratic nomination, Obama in his every gesture and utterance suggests that "Yes We Can." This idealism isn't inspiring adulation because Obama is already a star. Obama is a star precisely because he is inspiring. He is the anti-Bush, and what he's selling is hope.

It is axiomatic that the more powerful the theme a star embodies, the more powerful his or her stardom. Obama's theme is a potent one. Whether one buys into it or not, he promises to cross divides -- political, ideological, racial, geographic -- and to transcend the old politics of fear and hate that has commandeered recent elections. He believes that America can -- and should -- be the moral beacon for the world by returning to its core values. In analyzing his own appeal, Obama says he has become a symbol -- which, again, is exactly what all stars are. He is providing a really good, uplifting movie.
Of course McCain is a hero in his own right, but his narrative is familiar -- it's a war movie after all -- and his feat is that of having survived, which in a Hollywood film is not the same thing as having led the rescue. He hardly embodies the new-style heroism that Mailer saw in John Kennedy, which allowed the late president to extend the bounds of politics not only into stardom but into imagination as stars do. With Kennedy, anything seemed possible.

I think this is precisely the reason that Obama will win the White House in November. He is tapping into the current American zeitgeist in a powerful way, in a way that raises people's spirits. And those that try to label him as empty rhetoric are ignoring his record, his rising through Chicago politics, and the detailed policy proposals he has put forth. McCain is standing in the path of destiny and he is going to get bowled over.

Fight Fire With Fire

A couple of weeks ago, I happened to be camping right near the start of the Cascade Fire which broke out near Red Lodge. I had gone camping with my daughters as well as my friend, Jeromy, and his wife and two kids. We camped across from Timberline the previous night and that morning drove up to the start of the Quinnebaugh Meadows trail. We ended up cutting our hike a little short because the kids were tired. When we got back to our vehicles, we decided to refill our water bottles from the river. While we were doing that I noticed this...

That was our cue to leave. Now. Racing down the road, the fire was within fifty yards of the road. Once we were clear, though, I had to stop and take a few more pictures.

It was an incredible experience. Jeromy said he heard we were one of the last to get out on our own. Everyone else hiking the trail had to be evacuated by helicopter. Isn't it amazing how quickly things like this can happen? I'm grateful that we all got out okay, but also excited to have been so close. It was beautiful even as it was terrifying.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

John Yoo Smacked Down

John Yoo, architect of much of the Bush policy on torture and executive power, has tried to use Thomas Jefferson to justify his thoughts and Bush's power grab. Unfortunately for him, some people out there seem to have a better grasp of Jefferson's thoughts than he does.

Jefferson did not claim plenary, exclusive, independent, or inherent presidential authority. He never argued, as did the Bush administration after 9/11, that presidential powers under Article II enabled him to violate any statute or treaty that stood in his way. I think it is false for Yoo to write: "Contrary to popular belief,Jefferson believed in an independent Presidency with inherent powers." Jefferson believed in the Lockean prerogative, subject to the conditions described above.

In reading this article, I wondered if John Yoo decided to look to earlier Presidents to determine whether their concept of the office might justify what President George W. Bush did after 9/11. Perhaps my suspicions are groundless, but the quote above did not help, nor the following: "Madison's low performance is attributable in part to his narrow view of his constitutional powers as President." Nothing in Jefferson's presidency lends support to the view widely circulated in the Bush administration that the President is endowed with inherent powers in national security that trump statutes, treaties, judicial decisions, and the Constitution.

There has been a definite strain of intellectual dishonesty on the right, especially in those slavishly devoted to Bush and his policies. You'd think that these people might remember that there are smart people out there who disagree with them and can easily pick apart the flimsy arguments they make. Of course, they were able to convince America to put Bush back in office, so maybe their tactics work.

Like a Zombie That...Just...Won't...Die

Clinton supporters are preparing to make a big splash at the Democratic Convention in Denver in order to...well, uh...uhm...who knows? I don't know what the hell they are trying to prove, but this is getting ridiculous. Of course, Hillary is not doing much to quash this and Bill is still whining about how he was treated during the primaries.

Can someone please figure out a way to make the Clintons just go away. Anyone out there with some alien contacts? Perhaps an abduction could be arranged? Something. Please.

Communal Yards

An idea that seems to be gaining some traction here in America is that of sharing back yards. (Articles here and here. I think it is a fantastic idea. Obviously it will not be for everyone, and it is quite a break from the traditional American lifestyle, but if it can be more eco-friendly and bring people closer together, then I think it is worth pursuing.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Star Wars Humor

Here is one of the best clips from Robot Chicken Star Wars.


Love Vader as the whiny cry-baby. Of course, it's exactly what it felt like in the stupid prequels, so...

UPDATE: It appears the video was yanked from YouTube, so I found it somewhere else. Muahaha! I can't be stopped!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Baucus Update

So, I was unable to meet with Senator Baucus yesterday. Kyle (an occasional commenter here) and I went to the Senator's local office, and instead of getting a meeting, we got lots of confusion.

"Who are you?"
"Who were you meeting with?"
"Who set this up?"

Needless to say, we did not get to meet with anyone. The staff who was there informed us that August was a very busy month, but if we wanted to leave our contact information, they might be able to set up something in September. "Don't call us; we'll call you," was how it came across. That's okay. We'll keep bugging 'em until we get a meeting. I suppose it is only appropriate that my first attempt at getting into the political game (more than just writing here or to my representatives) ended this way. I'm just a nobody. For now.

Kyle called me a short time later to say he was supposed to meet with someone from Denny Rehberg's office later in the day. I couldn't make it to that and I haven't heard how it went. We're also supposed to meet with someone from Jon Tester's office next week.

Contraception Is Not Abortion

But, sadly, the White House is trying to paint it as such.

In a spectacular act of complicity with the religious right, the Department of Health and Human Services Monday released a proposal that allows any federal grant recipient to obstruct a woman's access to contraception. In order to do this, the Department is attempting to redefine many forms of contraception, the birth control 40 percent of Americans use, as abortion. Doing so protects extremists under the Weldon and Church amendments. Those laws prohibit federal grant recipients from requiring employees to help provide or refer for abortion services.

Sometimes I wonder if the religious right is serious about ending abortions. Because if they were, they would strongly support contraceptives. People are going to have sex whether or not they can get birth control of some sort. It's human freakin' nature! More people using protection or contraceptives or whatever means fewer pregnancies means fewer chances for abortion. Only someone who has abandoned logic (such as many of the religious right) could not see the good in this.

Monday, August 4, 2008

The Earth is Flat

Let's have a big round of applause for human intelligence. Truly, it knows no boundaries.

"People are definitely prejudiced against flat-earthers," says John Davis, a flat earth theorist based in Tennessee, reacting to the new Microsoft commercial.

"Many use the term 'flat-earther' as a term of abuse, and with connotations that imply blind faith, ignorance or even anti-intellectualism."

Mr Davis, a 25-year-old computer scientist originally from Canada, first became interested in flat earth theory after "coming across some literature from the Flat Earth Society a few years ago".

"I came to realise how much we take at face value," he says. "We humans seem to be pleased with just accepting what we are told, no matter how much it goes against our senses."

Mr Davis now believes "the Earth is flat and horizontally infinite - it stretches horizontally forever".

"And it is at least 9,000 kilometres deep", he adds.

Oh, it gets better.

What about all the photos from space that show, beyond a shadow of doubt, that the Earth is round? "The space agencies of the world are involved in an international conspiracy to dupe the public for vast profit," says Mr McIntyre.

John Davis also says "these photos are fake".

And what about the fact that no one has ever fallen off the edge of our supposedly disc-shaped world?

Mr McIntyre laughs. "This is perhaps one of the most commonly asked questions," he says. "A cursory examination of a flat earth map fairly well explains the reason - the North Pole is central, and Antarctica comprises the entire circumference of the Earth. Circumnavigation is a case of travelling in a very broad circle across the surface of the Earth."

If ever there was evidence that Darwin may not have been correct, it would be found in people like these clowns.

McCain at a Loss for Words

I guess questions that aren't about war are tough to answer.

This was in no way a "gotcha" question and McCain should be better prepared for these sorts of questions. Presidential is not quite the adjective I would use for McCain after viewing something like this.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Senator Baucus, Tear Down That Base

I am meeting with Senator Baucus tomorrow as part of Amnesty International effort to close the base at Guantanamo Bay. I'm very excited about this and nervous, too. I've never done anything like this before so it should prove to be very interesting. And, with any luck, some good will come out of it and Gitmo will be shut down.

McCain Honorable?

Yeah, right. The hoopla the McCain camp raised against Obama for not visiting wounded troops? That was only one possible position he would have taken based on Obama's actions.

What the McCain campaign doesn’t want people to know, according to one GOP strategist I spoke with over the weekend, is that they had an ad script ready to go if Obama had visited the wounded troops saying that Obama was...wait for it...using wounded troops as campaign props. So, no matter which way Obama turned, McCain had an Obama bashing ad ready to launch. I guess that’s political hardball. But another word for it is the one word that most politicians are loathe to use about their opponents—a lie.

McCain pledged to run a civil campaign way back when. I guess he's decided that Rovian politics are the better path for him. Well, he has no hope of winning in the fall. Like him or not, Obama is riding a crest of American sentiment at the moment that will carry him right into the White House.

Hat tip to Andrew Sullivan.

Church of Jediism

Having trouble finding a church for you? You could try joining the Church of Jediism. They take their inspiration from the Jedi of the Star Wars films and the UK has just officially recognized them. You can take lessons in lightsaber use and Jedi mind-control (seriously). I might have to sign-up if only for these lessons which would no doubt be of critical value in the world.

Me (waving hand): I'm the best employee you have. I need a large raise while working fewer hours.
Boss: You are the best employee I have. You need a large raise while working fewer hours.

That would really come in handy.

Weekly Music Video

A classic 80's hit.

Taco - "Puttin' on the Ritz"

This is a cover of a very old song that was first released in 1929 and made famous by Fred Astaire in 1946 who performed it for the movie Blue Skies. I can't hear this song anymore without thinking about a time about ten years ago when I was working at Target. I was in the backroom, putting merchandise away. The radio was blasting, of course, and this song came on. Another employee was also in the back and she asked me, "Who's Gary Cooper?"

What? You don't know who Gary Cooper is? Are you not American? So, I gave her a brief overview and mentioned some of the movies he had been in. She was about my age, but I'm pretty sure anything before the 70s was ancient and she had no interest in any of it. Dang kids these days. No respect! Now, get off my lawn!

"Liberal Bias" in the Media

Liberal bias is a hot topic amongst conservatives (and a fact, of course), but a new study calls that assumption into question.

Haters of the mainstream media reheated a bit of conventional wisdom last week.

Barack Obama, they said, was getting a free ride from those insufferable liberals.

Such pronouncements, sorry to say, tend to be wrong since they describe a monolithic media that no longer exists. Information today cascades from countless outlets and channels, from the Huffington Post to to CBS News and beyond.

But now there's additional evidence that casts doubt on the bias claims aimed -- with particular venom -- at three broadcast networks.

The Center for Media and Public Affairs at George Mason University, where researchers have tracked network news content for two decades, found that ABC, NBC and CBS were tougher on Obama than on Republican John McCain during the first six weeks of the general-election campaign.

You read it right: tougher on the Democrat.

The whole thing is very interesting, even if there are some flaws with the methodology. Crying about liberal bias, real or not, is not conducive to problem solving anyway. People need to learn to be more discerning of information no matter its source. The fact is that a truly non-biased perspective is impossible. We are human beings, not robots. We are always going to have baggage from the mere fact that we exist, we think, we have emotions. Media outlets should work to minimize overt bias, but it will always be there.

Of course, those that cry about liberal bias in the mainstream news media never seem to complain that talk radio is overwhelmingly conservative. I wonder why that is?

Weekly Secret