Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Random non-politics thought of the day

When did Law and Order SVU become the most ridiculous show on television? The last few seasons have been a little far-fetched, but this season it's gone right off the rails. Did they get a new team of writers or something?

That about sums it up:

Fox News reporter: angry, rude, flustered.
Obama Spokesman: calm, on message, coherent.

'Nuff said.

Video via Sullivan.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Just a quick question

Do you think that people like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Hugh Hewitt, the zealots at the Corner, et al will actually wait until the election is over to claim that McCain's poor showing (and whether he wins or loses, this is indeed a poor showing) is because he was insufficiently wingnutty?

It's obvious to anyone with eyes to see and ears to hear that they will claim that McCain was too liberal and that if only Mitt Romney or someone more willing to be a fundamentalist/Minuteman sock puppet was the nominee, the race would have been over before the conventions. The only question is whether they will start up with that this week or actually wait until November 5th.

(Sorta) Defending Palin

John Cole has a post up at Balloon Juice where he outlines the beginning of the circular firing squad that will break out if Barack Obama wins the election. In short, old-school McCain staffers are beginning to blame the sorry state of their campaign on Palin.

Now, I'm not one to get in the way of someone throwing rhetorical brickbats at Governor Palin. However, I would like to point out that to whatever extent John McCain's problems are attributable to her, they are indeed his own fault. He chose her as his running mate (apparently) without vetting her at all. If members of his staff want to complain about her performance, they must remember that it never would have been an issue if she was still just the governor of Alaska.

To use a sports metaphor (at which I obviously excel): when an interception is run back for a touchdown, you can blame the guys who failed to tackle the runner all you want, but at bottom, the quarterback who threw the interception is the one most at fault.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Viva Red Hook is a no go!

I don't do this sort of thing that often, but I had a particularly memorable experience, so here I go:

The missus and I are incurable brunch machines. We don't eat dinner out that often, but we eat brunch out at least once a week. Often twice. We're not crazy, we just like eggs. And coffee. And the occasional flapjack.

So our neighbors tell us about this place called "Viva" in Red Hook (Brooklyn). It's tex-mex and apparently it's not half bad. Now we're both californios and have pretty much given up on good Mexican food in New York. But we still hold out hope for decent Mexican food.

So we head to Red Hook (a feat-but we are the rare New Yorkers with a car, so it's not so hard). We see that Viva has a sign up and from the looks of the sign, the place is gonna be alright.

But it ain't. We walk in and the joint's empty. The host/waiter looks astonished to see anyone in there. So be it. We order coffee. He informs us that they don't have coffee. I silence the obvious rejoinder "then you don't serve brunch, do you?" Instead we order our chilaquiles and I walk out the door and up the street to grab some coffee from Baked.

I get back and we eventually get our chilaquiles. When done right, chilaquiles is god's own dish. It's best described as breakfast nachos, but it's way better than nachos ever could be. It is nothing less than the perfect Mexican breakfast. And in the face of huevos rancheros and huevos a la mexicana, that's saying something. But these chilaquiles were not. done. right. Not even close. The soggy slop that was put in front of us would have caused a duel in less civilized times.

We ate as much as we could choke down, waited to see our waiter again (never did-I'm pretty sure he felt the appropriate amount of shame at laying that crap in front of us) and eventually left a little cash and booked.

Not cool. Let me put this as plainly as I can: IF YOU DO NOT SERVE COFFEE YOU DO NOT GET TO ADVERTISE YOURSELF AS A BRUNCH ESTABLISHMENT. And if you serve sloppy, floppy, nasty crap and call it chilaquiles, you should be ashamed of yourself.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


I saw the movie W. last night. It was sorta funny in parts. The people in the theater certainly guffawed. But I hated it.

It made me feel filthy. I laughed at some points. Josh Brolin did a magnificent job: he evoked George W. Bush without engaging in caricature. The acting was generally very good, in fact. Whoever it was who played Condoleeza Rice is the exception: she was an unbelievable farce and it was hard to watch her.

But the acting wasn't the problem. It was the movie itself: the writing, the directing, the whole awful conception.

I don't know when I became such a stick-in-the-mud killjoy, but I found the campy, farcical tone of the movie offensive. Understand, it takes a lot to offend me. And I certainly have no sentimental feelings about George W. Bush. But I was offended as hell.

When I think about the American soldiers who've died in Iraq, the people left to rot on their rooftops and in the Superdome after Katrina, I don't find the George W. Bush oedipal psychodrama funny. When I ponder the fact that my government tortures people, that it routinely eavesdrops on its on citizens' phone calls and internet communications without a warrant or the faintest whiff of probable cause, I don't feel like laughing.

I recognize that there's a time for laughing at tragedy. I understand that there's room for broad comedy in the face of tragedy. But this was all wrong. I don't even know exactly why. I have a black sense of humor. I love me some South Park and Monty Python and The Kids In the Hall. But the pitch of W. is just off. It's not serious enough to be a serious critique, like Oliver Stone's Nixon and it's not broad enough to be a total farce like Little Bush.

It was just...uncomfortable. And off. And wrong. I laughed at moments-and I was ashamed I had.

Maybe the movie does a service. It puts the deadly seriousness of the catastrophe that Bush has been in clear relief. I knew I was angry before I saw that movie. I knew I was indignant. I knew I was determined not to abet those that would repeat Bush's mistakes.

I guess I didn't know that I was also very, very sad.

And I am.

I have a great deal of hope for the next administration, but goddamn...what have we done?

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

From the assignment desk

Please, I beg of you. I implore you. You, the savvy photoshopper. You, the video wizard. Please, for the love of god and all that's holy, do something with the posters (above) and/or Ennio Morricone's theme song to the movie "Machine Gun McCain." The lyrics are just begging for it. And Morricone doesn't make songs that sound less than awsome. SERIOUSLY!!! I lack the skill and time, but you can do it! Nay, you MUST do it! Make me proud!

Reaction, schmeaction

I could say a lot, I guess. Instead, I'll just let the image above say what I thought. (h/t Sullivan).

Thursday, October 02, 2008

My own debate reaction

Let me just point out at the outset of this post that I am not entirely sober. I was following my own drinking game (see below), and while it wasn't exactly a liver-smasher, it was enough when combined with my own extracurricular sipping (I do love that Racer 5) to leave me unsafe to drive. But thankfully, there's no breathalizer test for blogging...

My own reaction is that the debate was a wash. I think Biden sounded better altogether, but I'm the choir he was preaching to. Palin didn't fall on her ass but she looked a little stiff. Biden didn't do anything stupid but he didn't deliver any knockout blows. The people I was watching with really wanted to see him lay the smack down. I kept saying that he simply needed to stay calm and static at the level where he ordinarily lives (high competence). As long as Biden didn't blow it, and Palin didn't dazzle, the night was good for the campaign surging in the polls.

and so it went. Biden humanized himself without pandering or looking like he was trying to do so. Palin talked in complete sentences without having to punt on any questions. That was all they had to do to keep things in stasis. And stasis is a good place for the Obama campaign.

One thing that Biden did well, that I would advise Obama-favoring pundits to do (myself included-yay for the internet, I'm a pundit!), was to keep the focus on John McCain. Palin's a distraction. She's only relevant insofar as her presence on the ticket reflects on McCain's ability to make good decisions in clutch situations. It's all about McCain, and Palin's performance tonight didn't do anything to erase the Couric-interview-based indications that McCain did a bad job on the first major presidential decision he was faced with.

In other words, I feel alright tonight. And I don't expect that good feeling to dissipate.

Biden and Palin are bad for your liver!

Two things I like: drinking beer and watching debates (and we're almost out of beer...).
So I've devised a drinking game for use with the VP debate tonight. I'll be sipping (or chugging depending on the breaks), Racer 5 IPA. Choose your weapon as your tastes dictate, belly up, flip on the tube, say a little prayer for the future of the nation, and play...

Uncle Jiminy's VP Debate Boozestravaganza!

1) If Biden mentions his son going to Iraq, take a drink.
2) If Palin mentions her son going to Iraq, take a drink.
3) If Palin says "thanks but no thanks" take a drink.
4) If Palin has a Marge Gunderson moment ("...I'll bring 'em to ya'"), take 2 drinks (this is obviously subjective and will lead to delightful arguments with your debate watching partners).
5) Any time anyone says "9/11" take a drink.
6) Any time Biden mentions the Violence Against Women Act, take a drink.
7) If Biden mentions McCain is a craps player, take two drinks.
8) Any time anyone says "Scranton," take a drink.
9) Any time anyone constructs a sentence around the Wall St. vs. Main St. dichotomy, take a drink.
10) If Palin punts on a question ("let me get back to you on that") drain your drink and pour another.
11) Any time Biden says "Sarah" or "Governor Palin," take 2 drinks.
12) If Biden walks from behind his podium and approaches Palin (a la Rick Lazio against Hillary Clinton in 2000), drain your drink, pour yourself another, drain that one, then pour yourself another.
13) If Gwen Ifill asks Palin why she hasn't had a press conference, everybody clinks glasses and shouts "huzzah!"
14) If Palin says "Barack Hussein Obama," drain your drink and pour another.

These rules should lead to a pleasant glow or alcohol poisoning depending on how things go and your hooch of choice. Enjoy, and be careful out there kids.

Just a speech

This speech by Barack Obama today is remarkable. He actually manages to coherently explain why the bail out package before Congress is important for everyday workers and employers. The credit market matters because it enables everything from car loans to lines of credit that businesses use to meet payroll every month.

I don't know enough about the world of finance to know if the bail out package is the best solution, so I'm ambivalent about it. I'm also very disheartened that after two Bush administration terms I cannot trust anything coming out of any politician's mouth. Even when terms like "catastrophe" and "meltdown" are used, I can't trust "leaders" in Washington on vital, super-complex issues because I've seen them lie and manipulate fear and hyperbole to sell stupid, dangerous courses of action.

It is in crises like these that we need to be able to trust our leaders at a basic level. I've never been one to blindly follow politicians' advice even when I generally like their points of view, but I am hopelessly unable to operate on a "trust but verify" basis, because I really have no means with which to verify what they are saying. In times like these, a baseline level of political legitimacy is vital. And we don't have it. So people are left with nothing but fear and suspicion. And we currently have a president who can't be trusted and can't coherently explain why he is proposing what he is proposing.

The first step to getting that legitimacy back is having someone in office who can string sentences together in a sensible way. In other words, sometimes speeches do matter. Barack Obama shows here how giving a good speech actually performs a vital function of governing.