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Friday, August 29, 2008

Governor Sarah Palin: A Winning Choice for McCain?

Governor Palin is an undeniably risky choice for McCain. Given her relative inexperience (although she has far more real-world executive experience than Obama) and her youth, her gender and the fact that politicians from Alaska might be in for a bumpy ride over the next few months, she has some serious negatives to overcome. I hope she’s good on the stump, I hope she’s good in speeches, and I hope she knows how to prepare for and perform in debates.

But she’s a bold choice, and that excites me. McCain didn’t go for a safe pick, he went for a person who grabs attention, who has the power to help solidify the conservative base, and who appears to have the kind of personality and drive to succeed in this role.

I have no idea if it’s a winning choice--although in my bones I feel that it is--but it’s a choice that I like almost regardless of outcome. Let’s just say that I’m with Fred on this one:

“I am absolutely delighted by this selection. Once again, John McCain has shown that he is an independent thinker who paints in bold strokes. Sarah Palin is a conservative reformer with executive experience who will bring a breath of fresh air to Washington. She will be an ideal running mate for John McCain, and will make a major contribution to our country’s future.”

Good show. If I have an opportunity later in the day, I’ll explain why I like this pick from philosophical and political views.

Read the rest.

Update: Here’s what McGehee has to say on the subject. As for me, the more I see pictures like this one, the more happy I am that she’s the VP candidate. She seems like my people.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

DNC Night Three: The Polite Demonstrators Edition

Heard in passing on the way to the Pepsi Center: Obama’s presidential campaign is the biggest things since the Cosby Show to happen to black Americans.

To tell the truth, covering events like the convention--especially if you are focused on the speeches--would be easier from home. For interviews, for taking photos, and for true believers, the event is a blessing. For content, assuming you’re a blogger at least, the long walks, the wasted time in line to get through security, the high prices, and the chaotic crowds just get in the way of divining the message.

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The biggest challenge is finding a reasonably quiet place to sit down, organize thoughts, and write something meaningful without being overwhelmed by the echoing voices, pushy reporters, and crowded halls. And don’t get me started on the fact that every bar in the area--and in the Pepsi Center--has been carved up by one of the big media outlets and there are only a handful of places for the second-class citizens (me) to sit and work. It’s left many of us poor bastards precious little room to maneuver.

Not that I blame the media outlets. If I had the wherewithal, I would do precisely the same.

Walking down to the Pepsi Center tonight after leaving the air conditioned wonder of the Founding Bloggers Secret Lair (check out their site for some great shots of what’s been happening around Denver this week and for exclusive video), I enjoyed the fact that big events bring out two things in modern Americans: their inner capitalist and their willingness to jump in and protest even when the protest has so little to do with the actual event. Like the gentleman protesting the Catholic church and the handling of the pedophile scandals of a few years ago.

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While I admire the work that went into his outfit, I couldn’t tell you what Obama’s coronation event has to do with that particular problem. It was perversely fun to watch him spreading his message contra Catholic Nazi Piggy Back Rides. He stepped carefully through the crowd and spoke to anyone willing to listen while the vendors hawked Obama action-figures, t-shirts, and bottled water. Funny stuff.

Not all protesters are made equal, though.

During the lull in the convention action, a walk out to Checkpoint Charlie proved to be providential. Or at least vaguely interesting.

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I caught the tail end of a little protest. Cops in riot gear, the equestrian troops, and a scattering of curious members of the media all converged on one section of the temporary barricades and fences. Led by the red-shirted Vets Against the War, the crowd was changing “Fuck you, we won’t do what you tell us.” Apparently they were still under the spell of Rage Against Decent Music.

Amidst the usual anti-war slogans and signs was one that always makes me giggle. “US Off the Planet.”

I wonder how many of them actually mean it? How many of them actually think that the world would be better off without the United States of America? My guess is that quite a few of them spout things like that at parties and protests, but they wouldn’t give up their coddled existence and good life here in the US to go live in, say, any nation in Africa. But what do I know? It seems like Recreate68 was more of a pose than an actual attempt to change our government.

Shawn Macomber says something similar in his piece tonight.

The essence of the infamous 1968 Democratic convention to the Recreate68ers tourists, it seems, was not philosophical, but cultural. The protestors aren’t really here to shake up the system or tear down the edifice of a decaying society. None, not even those designated to speak to the press and police liaisons, exhibit the kind of charisma or ambition necessary for something as grand as all that. The Zapatistas in Chiapas would surely accept their aid if these twentysomethings and younger wanted to trade their hovel in the ‘rents basement and an X-Box for a jungle bunker and war against the man. No, it’s more akin to the conceit of Total Recall: they paid the price to come travel to a city where, for a week, they can live an artificial—but lurid—version of a dangerous—but celebrated—time in history. They came to rub elbows with a story, to gain that “imaginary possession of a past that is unreal”; to be able to say, like the vets of SDS and the Weathermen Underground, “Hey, we were there when the s*** went down.”

Problem is, there are a few misdemeanor arrests, but no s*** going down in Denver.

I met my two favorite protesters (sorry about the poor pic, guys--I should have taken a few more for safety’s sake). Seth and Kiko, University of Michigan students, both trekked out for the demonstrations, but also admitted that they would be voting for Obama. When I asked them whether he thought that demonstrations like those could actually hurt Obama in the election, Seth, who stated that he has worked for Obama for more than a year, was adamant that wasn’t the case. “No, I don’t think so at all. I think it calls attention to what needs to be happening...the problem with politics is that it’s left a lot of people on the sidelines and people feel neglected. And this is a very good way to galvenize the people through civil disobedience.”

And for a moment I felt a little hope for these kids. They drastically overestimate the effect that their demonstrations will have on the political conversation taking place around them, and I would say that they are simply wrong on many issues. I would say that they are misinformed, mislead, and confused about what things truly have value in America, but I would also say that as they grow older they may well grow out of those things and find in themselves a passion for politics that is transformative without being destructive of the things that have made America such a wealthy, powerful, and, yes, good country.

I don’t agree with them, but it was nice to meet a couple of protesters who were polite, happy, and not as confrontational as I might have expected.

In a way, I preferred them to some of the supposed grown-ups making speeches inside the convention. At least a little bit.

DNC Night Three: Blogging Elsewhere. For Now.

Once it gets past the editors, my blogging from the Pepsi Center will be happening over at Blogger News Network.

More, different content will appear here later in the evening. I do need to say a quick thanks to Steve Green and the entire crew at Founding Bloggers for their hospitality this afternoon. I was lucky enough to spend a few hours at their official headquarters this afternoon enjoying some of the nicest, smartest, and most talented folks on our side of the aisle. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

DNC Night Two: The Kind of Content-Free Content That Only I Can Try to Pass Off as Meaningful

Note: Photos and posting to other sites will come tomorrow. Right now I need to find my way to bed.

Taking Denver’s light rail line to a destination downtown imparts an interesting sense of journey that the short trip certainly can’t support. It’s the feeling of being on one of the airport people movers complete with ding-ding sounds and the whoosh of a train passing close to walls as I head into the city. For me, on a personal level, it lent an air of excitement to an already exciting moment.

In fact, I was almost as giddy today heading to my first taste of the DNC credentials as I was when I first heard the stirring refrain of “Rock Me, Sexy Jesus.”

What I can’t decide is whether the moment was cheapened or heightened by the well-dressed, nice looking, and ridiculously drunk forty-something getting on the train and hitting on the women heading down to pick up their own credentials. Like any good drunk, he interpreted a polite smile and an innocent query as sexual interest. The bright pink “Vote for Change” button on his lapel made the moment just a tiny bit better as he slyly winked at me and quietly mouthed, “Watch this. She’s gonna dig me.”

He approached his target at the front of the train, blearily introduced himself, and then wobbled off contentedly. His dignity may have taken a massive hit, but he’ll never notice. I found myself wondering if he had managed to debark at the right platform.

And then the cold slap of reality.

During the convention, light rail doesn’t quite make all its normal stops. Instead of dropping off across the lot from the Pepsi Center, it drops off at Invesco. Normally that might not seem like much of a walk, but with all the lots barricaded, entire streets shut down, and the Pepsi center surrounded by tall fences and cops, the walk becomes quite a bit longer. Normally that might not seem like much of an issue, but I was already running late--or, at least, later than I had intended to be. Which was already later than I wanted to be.

If you take my meaning.

The long walk around the parking lots lets me get a good look at the amazing profusion of concrete barricades--and to take a few trips down dead end detours. If I were a rat and that was a maze, I would have flunked the final exam.

Finally trekking down the right sidewalk, I realized that I was happy about the hordes of cops. Watching them keeping an eye on the handful of kids wandering through looking like extras from Recreate68 media events (or, at least, like members of the Anarchists’ Progressive Hair Club for Men), I actually feel secure. Not that there are enough of the kids to make them even remotely scary, nor are their squirt guns filled with urine in evidence. Whatever mayhem was promised or planned has mostly fizzled in a powerless display of some of the dumbest of America’s next generation.

I’m not complaining.

As I finally rounded the corner at the Tivoli (oh, how many drunken evenings have I spent at the Tivoli?), I saw Checkpoint Charlie, another gathering of Denver’s finest, and a couple anti-Obama protesters. Denver’s finest were posing in a group photo for some of the folks who seem to be treating the convention as a vacation opportunity. And there are a lot of them. Later, the trip down 16th Street Mall surprised me with just how energetic this little city can be when properly motivated. Apperently the proper motivation--minus the occasional world title in either football or hockey--is the influx of thousands of out-of-towners, a few million dollars, and the giddiness that only Obama can bring into our lives.

Sadly, these realizations come pretty far away from Pepsi Center. A call to my benefactor revealed two unhappy truths: I would be stuck at the checkpoint until he could manage to work his way over to me, and, no, he wouldn’t give me the hall pass for the night.

Damn. Still, the Perimeter Pass has to have some value, right? The cops I asked at Checkpoint Charlie weren’t sure. The first one wasn’t sure it would get me through the first barrier, but suggested I ask. Cop two, at the barrier, said that, yes, it would get me in but he wasn’t sure it would get me past the next checkpoint. What was striking, aside from the fact that they didn’t know where I could and couldn’t go when I finally got that Perimeter Pass, was just how jolly they were. Happy men.

None of which mattered since I had to wait for Robert. The waiting which wasn’t helped by either my poor directions or his inability to spot the big, freakin’ smokestack that said “Tivoli.”

Not that I blame him.

While I waited, one of the cops who probably noticed my artlessly disheveled hair and unshaven face, wandered over and asked what I was doing. Even while he gave me a quick questioning, his happy demeanor never wavered. “You know,” he explained, “we’re just here to make sure everyone has a chance to be heard. Everyone has the right to speak their minds whether we agree with them or not, and we’re going to do our best to make sure that they get that chance.”

“Yeah,” I answered, “but there are some folks down here right now who don’t really play that way.”

“True. Some of the anarchists and such. But it’s been pretty quiet and hopefully it will stay that way--a good night to me would be a boring night.”

He wandered off after deciding that, while ugly, I didn’t pose a threat to the world.

A few minutes later, Robert wandered over the Checkpoint Charlie’s fence. A brief moment gazing through the chain-link fence and an exchange of credentials brought a little hope back into my world. Finally working my way through CC led me down another street toward Pepsi Center and the holy grail of the political bloggers: bumming about with real media folks at a national convention. And there I came face-to-face with the unexpected.

Happily, I was told that my pass would get me through CC, Part 2, wasn’t sure if it would get me anything else, but that I had to get in line with the rest of the media folks to find out. Disneyworld has nothing on the line to get into the freakin’ perimeter of the Pepsi Center. Suddenly, hobnobbing with “real” media seemed less fun, especially given the nature of their conversation.

I’m sure not all of the members of the media are shallow, self-interested loudmouths. I’m sure aren’t all so bold in their open support of a political agenda. Im sure it was just the folks who surrounded me. But shallow, self-interested, and boldly supportive of Obama is what they were.

A woman--perhaps the loudest of the bunch--wearing a Reuters lanyard, talking to a handful of others, proudly proclaimed herself a true believer; she couldn’t understand how her mother, a die-hard feminist and Hillary supporter, could even consider withholding her vote from Obama. “ A vote for McCain doesn’t just hurt women, it hurts everyone.

It was a sentiment that I had heard earlier by a couple of black women who were waiting back at CC. When a man from Montreal (complete with heavy accent) approached them to tell them just how important this election was to folks up north, the older woman answered, “It’s important to us, too. It’s important to everyone. Those folks voting for McCain are just being silly and they don’t know what all this means--what it means for everyone.

There’s a part of me that wonders how Obama could possibly live up to the expectations of his biggest supporters? That’s not a critique of the man, nor is it a prediction of failure, it’s just that expectations of that size are often impossible to fulfill.

If there is a dissenting voice inside the first checkpoint, it’s probably embedded in the bloggers’ room or in one of just a handful of conservative reporters covering the event. It’s a see of liberalism. Again, that’s not a critique: this is, after all, the Democratic National Convention and filling the seats with true believers is part of the point of the show. You can’t rally the troops if the troops aren’t already predisposed to follow the leader. That doesn’t change the fact that, for a Republican, it’s eery to be surrounded by so many people who are openly hostile to my beliefs, who would call my beliefs silly.

Which is why I keep my mouth shut, keep as low a profile as I can, and hope that no one notices my innate conservativeness. Because, let’s be honest, if they suspected that I’m a thrall of Big Oil (or any of the other evil Big industries), they will probably openly scold me or something equally irritating.

But I endured the line, I endured the comments about Bush, and I endured the comments about McCain ("It was so cute when his little girl looked at him and said, ‘I really don’t like McCain.’"), and I endured the piercing voices--all to get inside The Perimeter.

Which was kind of useless, if you want to know the truth. After clearing the gates, walking through the metal detectors, I found that the outside of the Pepsi Center was fairly covered with Perimeter Pass folks like me either watching the CNN broadcast on the TVs at the CNN official bar or wandering somewhat aimlessly outside the facility and glancing longingly, wishing they were inside doing something useful.

Which is pretty much what I ended up doing until I got bored by eavesdropping on the half-baked policy ideas of reporters waiting for their rides. Hybrids, of course.

Leaving was much easier than getting in and, after managing to wind my way through more maze-like barricades and vendors selling everything from bottled water to Obama Frisbees (my current favorite gift idea for the Democrats on my Christmas list), I ended up at the light rail station by the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. A black gentleman was waiting there and he helped me figure out which line I needed to be boarding. He ended up giving me the moment that made the evening all worthwhile.

Living out in Aurora near where I live, he was biking into town daily to see the event. “This is great. I’m taking a bunch of pictures for a scrapbook for my grandchildren since I didn’t get mine in the sixties.”

It wasn’t an angry statement, it wasn’t even particularly racial in nature. It was a guy saying that he was happy to see another man, with his skin color, taking part in the race for the highest elected office in the land. A lot of conservatives will make a big story about the percentage of black folks who vote for Obama and how, if we are truly in a post-racial America race shouldn’t be the deciding factor in an election. There’s a lot to be said for that sentiment. But it ignores the reality: sometimes race matters and, right now, many black folks are feeling a sense of inclusion in American politics that they’ve never quite felt before.

That’s not a bad thing; in fact, if it brings us closer to the point where a black man or woman can fun for the office without it being a big deal, then it’s a damned good thing.

If You Haven’t, You Must…

Well, not really must, but I think it’s a good idea.

Steve Green, in his very first video piece for Pajama’s Media, comes up with a story quite different from the one he expected. Death threats, a minor bit of violence, and a Michelle Malkin showing far more poise than I could muster under similar circumstances.

While I have some big policy differences from Malkin, I still imagine that she would be a wonderful person to debate. She’s smart, she’s quick on her mental feet, and has a great personality. Having a few martinis and hashing out differences in viewpoints on everything from gay marriage to national security would be fun with someone like her. Any discussion with Alex Jones and his cartoonish, crackpot fellow travelers looks to be damned near impossible.

It’s also instructive of what happens when you disagree with the fringe left that claims to believe in free speech: you get threatened, shouted down, harassed, and at last one guy was assaulted (albeit in a minor way). And then these devotees of intellectual debate start shouting: “Fascist! Fascist!”

It would be funny if it weren’t so pathetic.

Monday, August 25, 2008

DNC Night One (Cross Posted Here and There)

A Little Programming Note: I have a share of credentials for the big show and I’ll be posting pictures, interviews, stories, and whatever else I can manage over the next few days here, at You2Gov, and BNN. Just so you know.

Instead of watching Senator Kennedy’s passing of the spiritual mantle to Barrack Obama I ended up watching Intervention with the story of an alcoholic, Philip, and his struggle to find sobriety. Under other circumstances there would be a good joke in there.

I miss other circumstances, but even I can’t take the easy shots at Kennedy anymore.

As a Republican living in Denver, watching the DNC brings a particular interest. It seems that there is a nervous energy on both sides of the aisle, and it’s an energy that is coming from the same source: will the Democrats throw away another opportunity at the Oval Office in a year where they should be the clear favorites? Make no mistake, 2008 should be the Year of the Donkey, but the political trends don’t seem to be supporting that idea.

Republicans are thrilled as the pain of 2006 is still fresh and the indicators even six months ago weren’t particularly hopeful. With a tiny sense of hope, the GOP is tentatively looking to take the initiative, but seems nervous to make any bold statement or move that might backfire and tip the balance back to Obama.

Nervous energy.

Democrats, for their part, are thrilled at the historic moment: a black man has a real, viable chance to be the next President of the United States. And it is exciting, even for someone who thinks that Obama isn’t the right guy for the job. The truth is that his candidacy changes the rules of presidential politics in the United States, and it is a change for the better.

But somewhere in all the excitement is a little nervousness: is Obama really the guy to defeat the evil minions of big oil?

Was Biden the right choice for VP? Ron Paul can manage to maintain his outsider image even with a long tenure in DC; Biden doesn’t quite have the same level of mild insanity to pull it off. Biden waters down Obama’s message of change, blunting the vision of an outsider storming the gates of power. Of course, he also provides foreign policy expertise, which is always important in the presidential election.

Can the left lose again even though the country has shown itself to be wildly disappointed with the reality of life in the United States today? While President Bush has had dismal job approval numbers, since 2006 the numbers have been even worse for a congress that is increasingly seen as given to useless grandstanding while America looks for leadership.

So, yeah, lots of nervous energy in a race that is far closer than most people expected.

Aside: Jim Leach really lost the message, didn’t he? That was one of the least inspirational speeches that I’ve seen in a long time. The Democrats have to be disappointed in their token Republican; the GOP has to be hoping that their token Dem, Lieberman, does a better job, no? The video introduction of Michelle Obama was much better stuff. While I haven’t heard a lot of kind words about her--and don’t make the mistake of believing that I run in conservative circles; my politics do little to define my friendships--this is the kind of thing that gives her a quick make-over. If America is watching, this will do much to polish her image.

The mood in Denver is a little surprising right now.

The convention is like a curiosity--a circus or a play. People are heading downtown to watch the show--not just the event itself, but the protests and counter-protests. The DNC threatens at times to seem more spectacle than meaningful political event. Watching protesters is far less about the political discourse, it’s about watching the show. You can blame the Recreate 68 folks (and similar groups) for that sense of ridiculous theater.

In all their outrage, they speak in terms that most people will never quite get. Whatever connection it is that they want to make, they generally fail. They are the clowns of the American political scene, providing outrage and hilarity in almost equal doses, but doing damned little to shine new light on the problems facing our country.

The biggest effect that these folks are having on me right now is to have rendered doing business with my usual printer downtown a near impossibility. Which, admittedly, leaves me even more closed

Weather permitting, tomorrow will bring photos and interviews from downtown Denver. For now I’ll content myself watching the speeches tonight and wondering whether the convention will bring the bounce that Obama expected from his European tour.

And, of course, enjoying the random shout outs to Hillary. Because that’s funny politics.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Avoid Flinging Poo During the DNC. So Sayeth Zomby.

I read any news of how to avoid arrest while wandering the streets of Denver during the Democratic National Convention because, specifically, I don’t want to get arrested. In an act of kindness (or intimidation, if such is your bent), the Denver police have given us a guide to avoiding “little Gitmo.”

Denver police are giving some advice to protesters about what they can and can’t do at the Democratic National Convention.

Police are distributing a pamphlet reminding protesters of where they have a right to demonstrate but also warning them they can be arrested if they refuse a lawful order to disperse, even if they aren’t breaking any laws.

Other grounds for arrest include blocking streets, sidewalks or parades and disrupting public assemblies, regardless of whether the disruptions are the result of civil disobedience or symbolic actions, the pamphlet says.

It was put together with the help of the city’s Agency for Human Rights and Community Relations and modeled after reminders issued by other previous convention cities, such as Los Angeles, said Lucia Guzman, the agency’s executive director. She said thousands of copies have been printed and they’ll also be available after the convention leaves town.

Glenn Spagnuolo, co-founder of protest group Recreate 68, said he thinks it’s the police, not protesters, who need a reminder about the First Amendment.

“We have a pamphlet called the Constitution. A lot of us have read it already,” he said

I haven’t read the document yet, but I’ll be strangely disappointed if, firstly, it isn’t written in the style of the Ten Commandments, and, secondly, if somewhere in there I don’t find the words, “Thou shalt not fling poo.”

Because, seriously, I’m going to beat the living crap out of anyone who douses me with excrement.

Just sayin’.

Read the story. Because, no matter what you think of the kindly guide/intimidation divide, the comments on this story are hilarious. Anyone who compares the relative freedoms of America to life under the old Soviet leadership or in the land of the Nazis is clearly firing mental blanks. Back to Thinking 101 for you, bonehead.

Just like the old Soviets and the Nazis. The only difference is we have lots of “stuff”.

Permanent link to this comment Michael A | 1:10 PM on Tuesday Aug 19

None of which explains why folks wouldn’t be watching the Summer Olympics. This edition of the Olympics has had genuine drama, incredibly tense competition, disappointments, rousing performances by surprising athletes, and, generally, a whole lot of fun. I might just have to put together a list of the Top 10 Moments of the 2008 Summer Olympics because, yes, it has been that freakin’ good.

Kidding aside, I understand the ideological issues that have kept some people from watching--an act that I imagine they would think might be akin to giving tacit approval to the Chinese government. Still, the athletes that we have sent to represent our nation in the competitions have been bold, strong, gracious, and amazing. Cheering them on (and, honestly, cheering for some of the amazing athletes from other nations) has been a thrill.

Perhaps He Forgot to Pay the Ferryman

Pity poor Chris de Burgh; fame in Tehran simply may not be in the cards.

Authorities in Iran have denied that singer Chris de Burgh is to play a live concert in Tehran, according to an Iranian news agency.

It had been reported in December that the Irish singer would perform with Iranian pop group Arian.

But IRNA reported that the Music Office of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance had not received a request for the show, nor issued a permit.

A spokeswoman for De Burgh said efforts to bring him to Iran were ongoing.

And, yes, I’m passing this important information on only because it gave me a chance to make a ridiculously bad joke. I’m remarkably stupid that way.

Read the story. Or just find some way to make a “Lady in Red” comment. Your choice, really.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Hard to Find Sympathy When You’re Being That Damned Stupid

One of the first rules of a con is this: it’s almost impossible to con an honest man. Almost every con is based on the idea that the mark will do something dumb--and often illegal--to make a lot of money off of a small investment. A man who doesn’t give in to greed, who doesn’t look to skirt laws, and who understands that a deal to good to be true probably isn’t true will almost never find themselves on the short end of something like the purchase of a faux big foot filled with dead animal bits.

Matthew Whitton and Rick Dyer, the Georgia men who claimed to have found a Bigfoot body, were being sought by Tom Biscardi, whose money they absconded with once the frozen “corpse” was revealed to be a hoax.

“We have a contract with these people,” Biscardi, a former Las Vegas promoter now based in Menlo Park, Calif., told Fox News Wednesday morning. “We paid them the money the night before [the press conference.] ... They didn’t figure I’d have a turbo heater on that thing to thaw it out before they left California.”

Biscardi wouldn’t confirm where the body was, but it apparently had been moved from Georgia to Indiana. An Indianapolis Fox affiliate was given a look at the “corpse” Monday by Biscardi’s investigator, Steve Kulls.

There’s a whole lot of stupid in giving a big chunk of change to a couple guys with a spare bigfoot in an icebox--and anyone who didn’t let their greed overtake their good sense would have done a bit more in the way of due dilligence before making such a stupid deal. Apparently, Tom Biscardi is either too dishonest, too stupid, or too greedy to have figured that out.

No sympathy.

Read the story.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

In Inconvenient Bottom Line

From the spectacular magazine, BBC Music, comes this news of the decline of modern opera. Well, that’s probably not the way they would put it, but it still seems a solid symbol of the decline to me.

Meanwhile, in Milan, La Scala has announced that it is to stage an opera based on An Inconvenient Truth, the hit documentary film in which Al Gore addresses the subject of global warming. In this instance, Italian composer Giorgio Battistelli has ben commissioned to turn the film’s hard-hitting message into operatic form for a production that will open in 2011.

Sadly, no link.

Anyway, the upshot, am betting, will be a failure both critically and financially. The most inconvenient bit will likely be the loss to the bottom line for the show’s investors. An opera based on a hectoring lecture from a self-important, pompous windbag like Al Gore will likely be remembered for its idiocy instead of its artistry.

Besides which, hasn’t anyone told these folks that global warming fear-mongering is so 2006?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

It Probably Wouldn’t be a Good Idea…

It probably wouldn’t be a good idea to test this on the Russian armor waddling through Georgia. But one can dream…

On the other hand, it seems a quiet test on the “battlewagons" here wouldn’t be out of bounds either ethically or politically.

Seriously, though: read through that first link and consider deeply. If that system works as advertised, as reliably as hoped, as accurately as predicted, and as quickly as that theoretical “strike” would indicate, the PASDEW is a game changer. From the moment the United States establishes air superiority in any region, regular flights could largely negate the effectiveness of enemy armor and even naval forces, completely disrupt supply lines, demoralize the enemy, and provide unprecedented support to advancing allied forces.

Of course, the energy use must be phenomenal and it’s far too early to judge anything like real world reliability. As a first step toward practical frickin’ laser beams, though, this looks like a hell of a thing.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Snot is Dead: Joe Kudla, Rest in Peace

Ren Fest aficionados from around the country will probably understand the reference almost immediately. Snot from the comedy duo Puke & Snot has passed away--which means a show that has been going on for longer than I can remember at Colorado’s Renaissance Festival will be forever changed.

I hadn’t attended the Fest in a number of years since, for me, it isn’t an every year thing. It’s something I have to work up a thirst for especially since the acts don’t change much from year to year. But the most popular act year after year was Puke & Snot’s and they were the only act that I noticed that had a strong merchandising push. Hilariously, a couple years ago one of my co-workers got in trouble for wearing a Puke & Snot hoodie to the office.

Next time I hit the festival, it will be strange to see someone trying to fill the role that so defined Joe Kudla’s career as an entertainer.

Read the rest.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Start Saving for Christmas

I figure if you guys all get together and really work for it, your generosity could result in me getting a brand new Aston Martin One-77 for Christmas. Which would be nice.

I’ll go ahead and start writing the thank you notes now.

Y’all are awesome.

Saturday Reading

Our buddy, Shawn, has a great article from yesterday’s American Spectator about the political theater surrounding Hugo Chavez’s offer of subsidized heating oil for poor Americans.

If anyone required more definitive proof that the formulation “Citizen of the World” is utterly meaningless, this Kennedy-Chavez Oil For Praise business should do it. The former Massachusetts representative demagogues “Big Oil” as “an island of bull-headedness and smugness” for not donating to Citizens Energy and failing to abide the limit on “unearned profits” Joe has nominated himself to arbitrarily arbitrate. (A $400,000 yearly salary to head a “nonprofit” is totally kosher, though.) Yet Venezuela, a nation in which nearly 40 percent of its population lives in abject poverty and has an oil industry nationalized ostensibly for the greater good, deserves praise for shipping off valuable resources to the richest nation in the world sans any remuneration? Aside, that is, from puffing up the already outsized ego of the preening, blustery megalomaniac leading the country, payment that will neither feed nor house anyone.

He does have a way with words, doesn’t he?

Check out “Stolen Oil: Hugo Chavez and Joe Kennedy deserve each other. But impoverished Venezuelans deserve better.”

Friday, August 08, 2008

Okay, I Thought it Was Funny

Question for women (especially those who have been pregnant): do you ever find yourself wishing that men had to go through pregnancy instead of women? If you saw an ad that conveyed that desire, would you laugh? Or just be offended?

Question for men (especially those who have lived with a pregnant woman): were you ever secretly happy that women were the ones who had to the heavy lifting of pregnancy? If you saw that same ad would you be offended? Would you laugh? Or would you secretly smile and be happy that fantasy-ville remained a complete impossibility?

Me, I laughed and I was glad I didn’t have to go through pregnancy (although I’ve met a few women that actually love being pregnant--one of which preferred the pregnancy to actually having the kids, if truth be told).

Others just get cranky. Which seems to be setting a mighty low bar for crankiness.

John Edwards Delivers Powerful Message: My Penis Strayed, but My Sperm (and My Love) Stayed Home

I’m sure Elizabeth Edwards will be happy to know that John Edwards isn’t the father of Rielle Hunter’s daughter, Frances Quinn, and that he didn’t love Hunter. Which makes the infidelity all okay, right.

In an interview for broadcast tonight on Nightline, Edwards told ABC News correspondent Bob Woodruff he did have an affair with 44-year old Rielle Hunter, but said that he did not love her.

Edwards also denied he was the father of Hunter’s baby girl, Frances Quinn, although the one-time Democratic Presidential candidate said he has not taken a paternity test.

Edwards said he knew he was not the father based on timing of the baby’s birth on February 27, 2008. He said his affair ended too soon for him to have been the father.

Apparently, he was just using her for her hair care products. And her vagina.

Read the rest of the pitiful story of John Edwards’ wayward penis.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Brett Favre will Play for the Jets. Green Bay Weeps.

It just ain’t right.

The Brett Favre era in Green Bay is now officially over. But Favre’s legendary career is not.

The month-long saga has finally come to an end, with the Packers agreeing to trade their future Hall-of-Fame quarterback to the New York Jets, FOXSports.com has learned.

The exact compensation was not immediately known, but it is believed to be a single draft pick that increases in value depending upon how the Jets perform during the 2008 season.

I understand it all from the Packers point of view. I understand it from Favre’s point of view. I certainly understand it from the Jets’ point of view.

But it still won’t be right seeing Brett Favre playing in another team’s uniform. He has been the face of the Pack for so long now that it’s hard to think of him without them and, for a time at least, impossible to think of him without them.

All I know is that I wouldn’t want to be in either Ted Thompson or Mike McCarthy’s shoes if this season goes pear shaped for the Pack. The fans will be unforgiving if Aaron Rodgers doesn’t turn out to be the kind of player that the GM and head coach believe he can be.

Darling girl said it pretty simply the other day. “I kind of wish he would have stayed retired. Sort of ruined the near-storybook ending, didn’t it?”

Read the story.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Nancy Pelosi Ducks the Issues Like a Pro

I meant to publish this a few days ago, but life intervened and time slipped by. Happens.

Anyway, imagine for a moment that you are the Speaker of the House. Your party has the majority of seats but you won’t let a vote happen on offshore drilling at a time when most Americans are feeling an energy pinch like they haven’t felt since the 70’s. In fact, since that timeframe far exceeds the short attention span of most of us, it would be safe to say that gas and oil prices spiking over the past few years has brought a sense of urgency that could overpower most every other issue in an election year--these new energy costs may not be unprecedented, but they certainly feel like something new.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Sunday ruled out a vote on new offshore oil drilling even as Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said he might be open to a compromise that included it.

The scramble over expanded drilling off America’s coasts — ammunition for a weekend of rat-a-tat-tat by the presidential campaigns — underscores the political power of $4-a-gallon gas. Though President Bush and other backers of new drilling acknowledge it wouldn’t directly affect gas prices for years, they have pounded Democrats for opposing the measure, which is now supported by most Americans.

Why do you not allow the vote?

There are only two good reasons that I can think of to duck the vote when your party is in the majority: first, you don’t feel that you have the support of enough of your party to win the vote, or, second, your party isn’t on the popular side of the issue and you don’t want votes going on record when they could change the way people will vote in just a few months. The Democrats have aligned themselves to an increasingly unpopular position--the systematic denial of use of U.S. natural resources--to push a strong alt.energy with no excuses agenda. That argument is a loser when citizens are more concerned about being able to drive to the grocery store (and, hopefully, still afford groceries) than they are about the ideology that undergirds the Democrat’s need to avoid almost any new proposal to drill or mine anything that could be used to maintain or expand our current energy infrastructure. Their opposition extends far beyond the practical--that is, while moving to renewable sources for energy production is admirable and a goal that I support, the practical mind realizes that we won’t get there by dismantling our economy.

Refusal to address energy production in a responsible manner--realizing that natural gas, oil, and coal aren’t actually tools of the devil might be a good place to start--is advocating the destruction of our economy and the punishment of low wage earners who have a harder time dealing with rising energy costs than those of us who actually have a little elasticity built in with higher incomes. Denying the use of our own natural resources is just foolish. Good leadership would understand that we need those resources to help shore up energy production issues and our economy while we come up with a good mixed strategy for energy production in the future.

Of course, I can’t deny that none of our elected leaders have shown much in the way of leadership on the subject over the last few decades and I wonder if either guy auditioning for the office of President will represent an improvement?

One thing the article mentions that deserves to be addressed is the assumption that new drilling wouldn’t affect gas prices today. While renewed offshore drilling wouldn’t directly change gas reserves today, it probably would affect gas prices today--or, at least, in the relatively near future. The price of oil and gas are changed by investor’s expectations of what is going to happen in the future and if they believe that production capacity exceeds demand (and projected growth in demand), then the price will drop. One of the arguments against tapping the strategic reserves (aside from the fact that they should only be released in the most extreme emergencies--and this ain’t that) is that it wouldn’t have much of an effect in the long term because it doesn’t represent new production capacity. It represents a relatively small and temporary influx of product that would do nothing to change future supply or demand issues. Tapping the reserves would probably result in a very short lived dip (albeit a significant one) in oil prices and a small change in gas prices.

Whatever the result to releasing a portion of the strategic reserves, though, it would be short lived. I’d rather have a long term solution to production questions coupled with an aggressive push to address long term demand questions--a push that is already underway thanks to consumers who were seriously spooked by the results of $140+ oil. I sort of doubt that, even if oil prices were to get back below $80/barrel, we will be seeing a return of the SUV as king of the American road.

Oil prices are already easing to below $120/bbl as I write this (you can see the current price here) and show signs of fluttering down even more as the travel season is starting to come to a close, bringing a sense of relief to folks at gas pumps everywhere. While we have this small respite--and a real need for more relief to help pump up the economy and ease the effects that energy costs are having on inflation--we need to address our long term energy needs. Solar cells, wind farms, and bags of wishful thinking aren’t enough right now to power the economy (and don’t get me started on the ridiculous opposition to nuclear power in the US).

Citizens are demanding solutions to our near term difficulties and I believe that they will respond to strong leadership on the longer term questions. Nancy Pelosi has showed, though, that her best strategy involves ducking the issue. At least until the election is over.

Read the story.

PS- While I generally prefer a Republican in the White House, I tend to like Republicans better when they are a minority in the House and Senate. The political theater is more entertaining and the party takes on a rebellious bent. As a majority, though, they simply failed to deliver on the promises made during those years in the minority.

Of course, since I’m largely a fan of gridlock in government--that state where they are so engrossed in their tug-of-war with the opposition that they forget to pass stupid ore even destructive laws under the supposed cover of my best interests--I might be letting my bias show.

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