Friday, February 29, 2008

Stephen Colbert Will Never Forgive Me

A friend sent this to me. Will Ferrel as Jackie Moon in his new flick "Semi-Pro" (we're embedding Youtube now; pretty sweet):

(hat tip: Jeremy)

Hitching Your Posts

It was recently brought to my attention that people couldn't post comments without having a gmail account. The settings have been changed and now anyone may post their thoughts. My apologies. (The picture above is of the Intihuatana -"Hitching Post of the Sun" in Machu Picchu, Peru).

Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Same "Mess"opotamia

It appears that the war in Iraq will be one of the central issues of the upcoming presidential campaign again. Can you believe it's been 4 years since we reelected that chimp and we're still stuck in this morass? The cartoon above is from The London Daily Express from Dec. 1922. The British were stuck there for over 40 years trying to establish some kind of sectarian peace and national unity between 2 sets of people who have been fighting each other for 1300 years about whether Mohammed's cousin or someone better qualified for the job should have been his successor after he supposedly flew to heaven on a winged horse. Something tells me that rational calls for peace and unity aren't going to persuade these people.

By the way, the British had a force ten times the size of ours per capita and they still lost the country after 4 decades. We're in a protracted war of more than five years with no end in sight that's costing us $2 billion a week against a faceless, amorphous enemy hiding within a population that would rather not have us in their country. Oh right, and we have a relatively recent historical precedent of failure at exactly what we're now doing. But I keep forgetting, the surge is working.

I'm Counting On You

Just a quick shout out for the new counter to the right. My apologies to anyone who has visited already and wasn't included in the current total (though I'm sure I could count all of you on one hand at this point). These little technical details will take a while to implement as I'm short on time and even shorter on tech knowledge. So we learn.

On a similar topic, I haven't really told many people about this site yet as I wanted to just get my feet wet and practice a bit before going live. Plus I just needed to see if I could keep this up for more than a week. All of the previous posts were obviously written as if I have a large readership but I can assure you that as of now this is not the case. But since I'm starting to get a feel for things I'd like to encourage all of you to spread the word if you see anything you think others might like and please ask them to do the same. I'll make a real effort to respond to all comments when I can. So there you go; Brain Rage is officially online to the public. How wide is the web again?

[Update: Decided to go with Sitemeter. Some of my favorite blogs use it and there are a lot of great features.]

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Debate #20

Watched the Big 2-0 last night. All in all it seemed to me to be one of the better discussions as far as specific policy went. Both candidates turned in solid performances but I'd say the consensus is that Obama won this one. They each had a few rough patches but he never really looked like he was worried and for the most part he was as cool as the other side of the pillow.

The first 15 minutes was just back and forth about health care reform and I have to admit that I think both of their proposals are good ones but after that Clinton started to flail a bit more while Obama continued to appear confident and relaxed. She sucked the air out of the room with her Saturday Night Live reference about the media coddling Obama and then tried to out-McCain McCain by repeating the obvious distortion that Obama threatened to bomb Pakistan which he was able to parry and clarify expertly.

As for Obama, he started to stumble a bit when Tim Russert pressed him on the Farrakhan endorsement but his declaration to both "reject" and "denounce" Farrakhan and his pronouncements made it seem like Clinton was playing word games. He also seemed to hedge a bit on his promise to run a publicly funded campaign during the general election but I don't think that he or anybody else could foresee that he would have over one million donors during the primary. McCain has called him out on this but there seem to be some questions about his campaign financing as well.

This was basically the 15th round and Clinton needed a knock out punch she never even came close to landing. All Obama had to do was keep his gloves up and dance around her, landing small jabs and running out the clock. So with any luck this should be the final primary debate and we'll all wake up on March 5th with a definitive Democratic nominee. I'll refrain from commenting on what happens next until we're actually there except to say that I truly believe that we're watching something historic happen.

Forget The iPhone, I Want This

Apparently it's still about 7 years away but Nokia's concept Morph cell phone will use nanotechnology to stretch, wrap around your wrist and even self-clean. Just a heads up to whomever draws my name in the 2015 Christmas gift exchange.

[Update: Just found this animated video illustrating (yes, pun intended) the technology:

I know this is just a fictional concept but it's still really cool.]

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Did I Say "Shameless"? Shameless!

In a previous post I commented upon this photo that was released to the Drudge Report by Clinton aides in an effort to "smear" him as a closet Muslim. Of course the campaign says it was a rogue staffer and that they would never approve of these sorts of tactics. On Morning Joe this morning, Clinton supporter and adviser Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-OH) had this to say about Obama's clothing:

"His native clothing"? "The clothing of his country"?! HE'S AMERICAN!!! He was born in Hawaii! He couldn't run for president if he wasn't! Sorry about that but I just can't believe the obvious disdain for the intelligence of the American people by the Clinton campaign. Sadly though, these kinds of tactics usually work; if you throw enough slime against the wall something will eventually stick.

But if you thought that Clinton was the only one with allies pulling dirty tricks using talking points then you haven't seen this video of John McCain supporter and local conservative talk radio host Bill Cunningham introducing McCain at an Ohio town hall meeting today:

One could look past the obvious and overplayed right wing talk radio tactic of using his middle name (one of the most common in the Muslim world) when talking about him if this wasn't an official McCain rally but they knew what they were getting when they asked this idiot to be there. Aside from calling Obama a "hack, Chicago-style politician", in the past Cunningham has also referred to him as "Barack Mohammed Hussein Obama", has falsely claimed that Obama "was raised in madrassas in Indonesia" and falsely accused Obama's church of being "black separatist" and "black racist".

To his credit, McCain issued an apology before reporters could ask him about it but I just don't know. As I've said, this guy Cunningham has a history of this kind of thing and it's not like McCain didn't know exactly who he was; he campaigned for McCain in 2000 and 2004. I do think that an Obama-McCain race will be one of the more clean and honorable contests in my lifetime but in order for that to happen they're going to have to make sure to keep a good distance from these types of contemptible individuals.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Where Everything's Bigger

The Texas primary is coming up on March 4th and things are looking better and better for Obama. A few months ago Clinton had this state locked by 20 points; now CNN's latest numbers have Obama up by 4. Even Bill Clinton has said that if she doesn't win Texas and Ohio (that primary is on the same day along with Rhode Island and Vermont) she won't win the nomination. I have confidence that Obama can take Texas and here's why:

  1. Of Texas' 193 delegates, only 126 are in play during the primary. The other 67 are caucus delegates and will be allocated at the Texas Democratic Party Convention in June (the state has a lot of weird rules like this and I really get the impression that the Clinton people thought it was such a lock that they didn't do their homework). In the past, Obama has done very well in caucus contests and a good majority of these delegates will likely go to him.
  2. There are 6 districts in South Texas where a large amount of the state's Latino population reside (Clinton does very well with Latinos) but 4 of these have only 4 delegates apiece. Again, because of Texas' unique primary rules, Clinton needs to win over 62.5% of the vote in these districts to get more than 2 delegates while Obama just has to get over 37.5% to get the other 2 delegates. This means that even if Clinton beats him by 20 points in these areas he can still take half of the delegates.

  3. Austin is the biggest district in the state with 8 delegates. The University of Texas will deliver Obama a huge amount of college votes. He'll easily take 5 delegates there, 6 is a real possibility. In Houston, which has 7 delegates up for grabs, all of the local elected officials (most of whom are black) have endorsed Obama. He'll take at least 4 delegates there, probably 5. Dallas is similar to Houston and Obama should get 4 of the 6 delegates there.

  4. Latinos in Texas historically don't come out to vote in the kind of numbers that helped Clinton win California. On top of that, Obama's appeal to younger voters should help him here as well: 75% of Latino Texans are under the age of 30.

I have to admit that I knew very little about Texas' voting procedures when I lived there and from what I've learned thus far they could really use some reforming. I can just imagine the incredibly cliched smoke-filled room full of fat, old white guys twisting the election rules around to fit their agenda.

Now I know that Clinton is still leading in Ohio and the 161 delegates there are nothing to sneeze at but consider this: Clinton was up over 20 points a few weeks ago; that lead has now shrunk to 7. She'll probably win Rhode Island while Obama already has Vermont in the bag but the two significantly larger states are not only must wins for her, she must win big; I'm talking 10-15 points big. Anything less will effectively be the death knell for her campaign.

If you want an idea of how desperate the Clinton camp is getting, check out this photo. It's Obama wearing a Somali robe and turban during a 5 nation tour he took of Africa in 2006. It was sent to the Drudge Report today by some of Clinton's aides as an obvious attempt to capitalize on the right wing talking point/lie that Obama is some kind of radical, closet Muslim. Shameless.

Who's Fucking Whom?

I don't watch Jimmy Kimmel's show so these videos flew under my radar at the time they were broadcast. Say what you want about Affleck but he seems to have a great sense of humor. Unfortunately dancing doesn't seem to be Damon's strong suit. Here's Sarah Silverman's confession first:

And Kimmel's response:

They say the best revenge is living well but I'm just not sure if putting it in Ben Affleck's ass really qualifies.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Don't Be Nader Hatin'

I don't hate Ralph Nader but he seems to be going out of his way lately to make it hard not to. If you haven't heard, he just announced that he's going to enter the presidential race for the fourth time in a row. Full disclosure: I voted for the man in 2000 when nobody else inspired me. Now just relax, I was already living in California at the time and the Electoral College system turned my vote into one of mere protest and that was my goal. Of course if I had been living in a swing state at the time I would certainly have done things differently. And those are the people I blame for Gore's 2000 loss: Nader supporters living in swing states that voted in a presidential election without taking the time or initiative to find out how their vote would be counted. Yes I know, I also blame poorly designed ballots, Republican operatives, Katherine Harris and Daddy Bush's friends on the Supreme Court as well but those crucial Gore votes that were wasted on Nader opened the door to the last seven years.

As I said above, I really don't hate the guy and I'm really thankful for the seat belts and the airbags and all the clean food and water but what have you done for me lately? I don't hear a peep from this guy during years that aren't divisible by four and now he's just going to jump in during one of the most exciting primary seasons in decades. I agree Ralph, we need more political parties; choice is great. I just think that if the man really wanted to meet those kinds of goals that he would spend time organizing coalitions, forming citizen groups and networks and laying the framework for what could eventually be viable options for future elections. His actions of late make it seem like he just misses the spotlight and the notoriety he receives as a spoiler candidate.

The other story bothering me today is this whole meme on the right questioning Obama's patriotism because he doesn't wear a flag pin and has been spotted singing the national anthem without *gasp* putting his hand over his heart! This is standard jingoistic pandering to ignorant Americans that think putting a magnetic flag/ribbon on your bumper is a short cut to patriotism. These people need to realize that the American flag is merely a symbol. It's the ideals and freedoms that it represents and our willingness to fight for these things that make us truly patriotic. At least that's what I believe.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

You Knew This Was Coming

I've had a few too many Cabernets and was just reading a speech by Barack Obama that made me feel compelled to donate to his campaign once again, and that inexorably led me here. I can't describe what I feel when I hear this man speak. As a cynic, I have to be honest with myself and say that it feels just like what I assume hope feels like. I really think that these last few generations of Americans have grown up in times that make these feelings about our leaders seem completely alien to us.

Now I'm sure that I'll hear from many of you about how naive I am. I understand why you would say that; I've said the exact same thing myself, about many other subjects, to many other people. I really don't know if this is what having some kind of religious "faith" feels like but if it is, I can definitely see the appeal. It feels really good to believe in something again as an adult. Here's a taste if you're interested:

I honestly have no idea what I'm going to do if this guy turns out to be just another political charlatan. But for now I have hope...

Blast From The Past

Just my first attempt to add some video flavor to the blog. I'd never even heard of an 11 string bass guitar before I saw this. Pretty cool though.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Oscar Fever...Catch It!

The 80th Academy Awards are coming up this Sunday and I could not care less. So many of my favorite flicks have never won Oscar's and so many that have won I consider to be worthless crapfests. When it looked like the writer's strike was going to put the keibosh on the entire thing I wasn't the least bit fazed. So the only thing I'm looking forward to this year is watching Jon Stewart's hosting outtakes on The Daily Show.

That said, I now present my Oscar predictions for 2008! But James, you're saying, why make predictions when you just admitted that you don't give a damn? Two reasons: 1) wine makes me think that I'm smarter than I am and 2) in a pool at work last year I shot the moon, going 8 for 8 and netting myself a cool $100. Full disclosure: I've been pretty busy lately and with Netflix and a DVR keeping me stocked with movies I haven't seen a single film in the eight catagories I'm selecting from. Now my methodology, while finely honed, is less than scientific:

  • Best Actor: Daniel Day Lewis in "There Will Be Blood"-this guy makes a movie about every 5 years but he always delivers a monster perfomance.
  • Best Actress: Cate Blanchett in "Elizabeth: The Golden Years"-playing Elizabeth I is always a good way to win an Oscar (plus the only other name I recognized was the little chick in "Juno").
  • Best Supporting Actor: Philip Seymore Hoffman in "Charlie Wilson's War"-in my opinion one of the best actors of his generation.
  • Best Supporting Actress: Tilda Swinton in "Michael Clayton"-I hear she's due, so what the hell.
  • Best Foreign Language Film: "Mongol"-Kazakhstan scores after "Borat" made them look like a country full of Eastern European rubes.
  • Best Animated Film: "Ratatouille"-I saw a lot of commercials for this one, plus it's fun to say.
  • Best Director: The Coen Brothers for "No Country For Old Men"-I like a lot of their stuff and I always pull for sibling directing teams because I just imagine them fighting all the time.
  • Best Film: "No Country For Old Men"-I've heard this film kicks ass, all the buzz says it's virtually a lock and Javier Bardem totally looks like Nick Cage wearing a fake nose.

So there they are, chosen absent one shred of expertise or credibility. I don't know if I'll be in a pool again this year but if I get more than six of these right I'm going to Vegas for the 2009 awards. Enjoy the show.

[Update: So I only went 5 for 8 this year. One of my sisters tells me that if I had seen "No Country For Old Men" that I would definitely have chosen Javier Bardem as Best Supporting Actor. The other 2 were really just shots in the dark. I guess I'll take the money I was going to take to Vegas to actually see some of these flicks instead.]

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Debate #19

So Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton had yet another debate tonight in Austin and I'll admit right up front: I didn't watch this one. I was at work but I chose not to DVR it either. Honestly, I'm just plain tired of these things. Looking past the fact that both candidates are virtually identical on almost all of their policy stances, you don't have to be a politics junkie like myself to see the differences. Yes, they differ somewhat on the economy, health care, foreign policy, etc. but I'd say that the main difference is that Obama is the person who can bring this country together while Clinton is the person who can tear the Democratic party apart. Excusing her ham-handed attempt to accuse him of plagiarism again, I'm sure that Clinton realizes this and I have hope (yes, I know I identify myself as a cynic at the top of this page) after seeing her consiliatory gesture at the end of this debate that she has made a conscious decision not to hurt her party by fighting things out to the bitter end.

That said, I have to admit that with all of the non-stop coverage of this race for the last year that if after 19 debates you still haven't figured out who you're going to support then I'm not sure if I want you voting at all. Seriously. One thing I can't stand more than anything else are these people who claim not to have made up their mind yet AS THEY'RE ENTERING THE VOTING BOOTH! Really? Why, can't hold more than one thought in your head at the same time? Please, you're either lying or you're an idiot and neither of those are traits I admire in the voting populace.

I've also heard talk that Clinton is trying to tone down her attacks as her campaign seems to be coming to an end so that she can position herself as Obama's potential running mate. I think that would be a big mistake on his part. Aside from the negatives she brings I just think that there are better alternatives in the Democratic party, Joe Biden being one but I'm speaking of Bill Richardson specifically. Richardson has executive experience running a state (a southern border state no less), can help deliver the Latino vote and has outstanding foreign policy experience (one of Obama's supposed weaknesses). Say what you will about the electability of two different minorities on one ticket but I heard all of that about Obama months ago from many people and now I really do believe that we're standing on the threshold of an Obama presidency, and I couldn't be happier that all those folks were dead wrong. As one of my blogging heroes says, "Know hope".

Blood Moon

I hope you all got to see the total eclipse of the moon tonight. Even though the moon is completely blocked from the sun by the Earth's shadow it still has a red tint because our atmosphere scatters the sunlight, allowing only the longer wavelengths of light on the infrared end of the spectrum to pass through. It's been overcast and rainy in the Bay Area lately but here's a shot of it I found online. Beautiful.

Supposedly Christopher Columbus used the lack of celestial knowledge by the natives of Jamaica in 1504 to scare them into thinking he had stolen the moon from the sky. His men had been treating the natives pretty badly so they in turn cut off the food supply to the ships. Apparently Columbus then consulted his handy almanac, scheduled a meeting with their leaders and SNAP!, made it disappear right before their eyes. And of course when he gave it back they were all too willing to once again get with the program.

I would assume that this story or another like it was part of the inspiration for the actions of Mark Twain's Connecticut Yankee. Oh, and if you missed the eclipse today there is another one coming up on December 21, 2010. Mark your calendars.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Inaugural Post

My thanks in advance to the people who will actually read this blog. In lieu of starting things off by writing about myself I'd like to post an email that was recently forwarded to me by a friend and my subsequent response. Not because either are particularly earth-shattering or relevent; I was feeling politically boisterous and just had a little time on my hands. I'm posting it because I was in the midst of creating this blog when said friend sent me back what I can only describe as an extremely complimentary email on my insights accompanied by an outright threat of physical violence if I didn't start my own blog right away. So here we go with the post that started it all (please excuse the shameless plug for Barack Obama at the end):

WOULDN'T IT BE GREAT TO TURN ON THE TV AND HEAR ANY U.S. PRESIDENT, DEMOCRAT OR REPUBLICAN GIVE THE FOLLOWING SPEECH? My Fellow Americans: As you all know, the defeat of the Iraq regime has been completed.

Since congress does not want to spend any more money on this war, our mission in Iraq is complete.

This morning I gave the order for a complete removal of all American forces from Iraq This action will be complete within 30 days. It is now time to begin the reckoning.

Before me, I have two lists. One list contains the names of countries which have stood by our side during the Iraq conflict. This list is short. The United Kingdom , Spain , Bulgaria , Australia , and Poland are some of the countries listed there.

The other list contains everyone not on the first list. Most of the world's nations are on that list. My press secretary will be distributing copies of both lists later this evening.

Let me start by saying that effective immediately, foreign aid to those nations on List 2 ceases immediately and indefinitely. The money saved during the first year alone will pretty much pay for the costs of the Iraqi war. THEN EVERY YEAR THERE AFTER IT GO TO OUR SOCIAL SECURITY SYSTEM SO IT WONT GO BROKE IN 20 YEARS.

The American people are no longer going to pour money into third world Hellholes and watch those government leaders grow fat on corruption.

Need help with a famine ? Wrestling with an epidemic? Call France .

In the future, together with Congress, I will work to redirect this money toward solving the vexing social problems we still have at home . On that note, a word to terrorist organizations. Screw with us and we will hunt you down and eliminate you and all your friends from the face of the earth.

Thirsting for a gutsy country to terrorize? Try France , or maybe China .

I am ordering the immediate severing of diplomatic relations with France , Germany , and Russia . Thanks for all your help, comrades. We are retiring from NATO as well. Bon chance, mess amiss.

I have instructed the Mayor of New York City to begin towing the many UN diplomatic vehicles located in Manhattan with more than two unpaid parking tickets to sites where those vehicles will be stripped, shredded and crushed. I don't care about whatever treaty pertains to this. You creeps have tens of thousands of unpaid tickets. Pay those tickets tomorrow or watch your precious Benzes, Beamers and limos be turned over to some of the finest chop shops in the world. I love New York

A special note to our neighbors. Canada is on List 2. Since we are likely to be seeing a lot more of each other, you folks might want to try not pissing us off for a change.

Mexico is also on List 2 President Felipe Calderon and his entire corrupt government really need an attitude adjustment. I will have a couple extra tank and infantry divisions sitting around. Guess where I am going to put 'em? Yep, border security.

Oh, by the way, the United States is abrogating the NAFTA treaty - starting now.

We are tired of the one-way highway. Immediately, we'll be drilling for oil in Alaska - which will take care of this country's oil needs for decades to come. If you're an environmentalist who opposes this decision, I refer you to List 2 above: pick a country and move there. They care.

It is time for America to focus on its own welfare and its own citizens. Some will accuse us of isolationism. I answer them by saying, "darn too-tin."

Nearly a century of trying to help folks live a decent life around the world has only earned us the undying enmity of just about everyone on the planet. It is time to eliminate hunger in America It is time to eliminate homelessness in America . To the nations on List 1, a final thought. Thank you guys. We owe you and we won't forget.

To the nations on List 2, a final thought: You might want to learn to speak Arabic.

God bless America . Thank you and good night. If you can read this, thank a teacher. If you are reading it in English, thank a soldier.

(Please forward this to at least ten friends and see what happens! Let's get this to every USA computer!)

The response:

Since this email was absent a subject line or any comment from you I can't tell if you forwarded it because you liked it's content or if you are making fun of it. I personally would find it horrifying if any American president, Democrat or Republican, gave a speech like this. The entire thing smacks of the "Cowboy Diplomacy" that George W. Bush has practiced for the last 7 years. This arrogant "You're either with us or against us" attitude is one of the reasons the rest of the world dislikes us so much.

Now I do agree with many of the sentiments expressed: we need to end this war and bring our troops home as soon as possible, we need to allocate more funding for Social Security, we need to secure our borders (and our ports), we need to get out of NAFTA, we need to end homelessness and hunger in America, we need to protect ourselves from terrorists and yes, we need to start making foreign diplomats pay their parking tickets.

That said, the rest of these proposals run the gamut from the irrational to the absurd. Severing diplomatic relations with some of the world's largest democracies and pulling out of NATO being one of the absurd ones. Again, we've spent the last seven years not talking to our enemies, now we're going to stop talking to our friends? Also, drilling for oil in ANWAR only puts off the inevitable and destroys one of the last untouched natural spots America has left. We need to institute a several dollar a gallon gas tax to put pressure on private industry and spur innovation of new technologies with the goal of eventually weaning ourselves off of oil-based transportation.

My favorite part though was the call to end all foreign aid to every country on his so called 2nd list. Ignoring the irony of his praise for teachers at the end of a screed riddled with spelling and grammatical errors, his math is a little fuzzy as well. The rabid, America-first isolationist crowd is always decrying how much foreign aid we "pour into Third-World hellholes" but here are the real numbers: last November Congress's Joint Economic Committee estimated the cost of the war from 2002-2008 to be around $1.3 trillion (other estimates have the final cost around $2 trillion depending on when we withdraw but let's use the former figure). The Foreign Aid Spending Bill Congress passed for 2007 was $21.3 billion. Some quick math shows that it would take approximately 61 years to pay for this war if we ended it immediately and used only our foreign aid budget. And of course that's not counting any aid we would still be sending the 20 countries besides ourselves with troops still in Iraq or the nineteen countries that once had troops there but have since withdrawn them (I'm assuming this particular president would tell the other countries from the "Coalition of the Willing" that didn't even send one measly troop to shove off).

Sorry to go off on a rant like that but I've been watching politics all day and Bill O'Reilly just said something that really ticked me off. I think the American people are tired of the arrogant chest-thumping and prideful go it alone-ism exemplified in this speech. What this country needs right now is someone who can unite us as a nation and bring the other countries of the world back into our corner, someone who can redevelop the international good will we received after 9/11 that has subsequently been squandered, and I think we all know that there's only one brother who can do that. Obama '08!