Monday, June 30, 2008

McCain vs. Obama: Who is the best essayist?

Both Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain are very accomplished authors. Obama has written two best-selling books, Dreams from my Father and the Jeremiah Wright inspired campaign book Audacity of Hope. McCain has written a plethora of books over his career, the most prominent one being Faith of my Fathers (which is eerily similar in its title to Obama's memoir) and the most recent being Hard Call: The Art of Great Decisions. McCain has had assistance when writing most of his books, which may mean that he has more stories than skills as a storyteller. Obama, on the other hand, is listed as the sole author of his books.

So who is the better essayist? Both candidates wrote essays on patriotism for this week's Time magazine's cover story, which is, you guessed it, on patriotism.

Let's start off with McCain's piece, "A Cause Greater Than Self," which seemed like a subtle reiteration of his national service agenda:

Patriotism means more than holding your hand over your heart during the national anthem. It means more than walking into a voting booth every two or four years and pulling a lever. Patriotism is a love and a duty, a love of country expressed in good citizenship.

Patriotism and the citizenship it requires should motivate the conduct of public officials, but it also thrives in the communal spaces where government is absent, anywhere Americans come together to govern their lives and their communities — in families, churches, synagogues, museums, symphonies, the Little League, the Boy Scouts, the Girl Scouts, the Salvation Army or the VFW. They are the habits and institutions that preserve democracy. They are the ways, small and large, we come together as one country, indivisible, with freedom and justice for all. They are the responsible exercise of freedom and are indispensable to the proper functioning of a democracy. Patriotism is countless acts of love, kindness and courage that have no witness or heraldry and are especially commendable because they are unrecorded.

The patriot must not just accept, but in his or her own way protect the ideals that gave birth to our country: to stand against injustice and for the rights of all and not just one's own interests. The patriot honors the duties, the loyalties, the inspirations and the habits of mind that bind us together as Americans.

We are the heirs and caretakers of freedom — a blessing preserved with the blood of heroes down through the ages. One cannot go to Arlington Cemetery and see name upon name, grave upon grave, row upon row, without being deeply moved by the sacrifice made by those young men and women.

And those of us who live in this time, who are the beneficiaries of their sacrifice, must do our smaller and less dangerous part to protect what they gave everything to defend, lest we lose our own love of liberty.

Love of country is another way of saying love of your fellow countrymen — a truth I learned a long time ago in a country very different from ours. Patriotism is another way of saying service to a cause greater than self-interest.

If you find faults with our country, make it a better one. If you are disappointed with the mistakes of government, join its ranks and work to correct them. I hope more Americans would consider enlisting in our armed forces. I hope more would consider running for public office or working in federal, state and local governments. But there are many public causes where your service can make our country a stronger, better one than we inherited.

The good citizen and patriot knows happiness is greater than comfort, more sublime than pleasure. The cynical and indifferent know not what they miss. For their mistake is an impediment not only to our progress as a civilization but to their happiness as individuals.

Wow, can you say "yawn?" Other than the creepy insinuation that "love of your fellow countrymen" is the highest echelon of patriotism without mentioning pulling yourself up from your bootstraps, the essay sounds a bit too much like it came from a 71-year-old. There's not a whole lot of substance, which contrasts with Barack Obama, who takes on the very timely issue of Zimbabwe's horror movie state in "A Faith in Simple Dreams:"

When I was a child, I lived overseas for a time with my mother. And one of my earliest memories is of her reading to me the first lines of the Declaration of Independence, explaining how its ideas applied to every American, black and white and brown alike. She taught me that those words, and the words of the United States Constitution, protected us from the brutal injustices we witnessed other people suffer during those years abroad.

I've been reminded of this recently as I've followed the brutal injustice surrounding Zimbabwe's so-called elections. For weeks, the opposition party and its supporters have been silently hunted, tortured and killed. They have been dragged from their homes in the middle of the night and strangled while their children watched. The wife of a newly elected mayor was so badly beaten that her own brother only recognized her by the skirt she wore on the day she was killed. Even voters suspected of disloyalty to the President have been herded together and thrashed for hours, all for the simple crime of casting their ballot.

We are a nation of strong and varied convictions and beliefs. We argue and debate our differences vigorously and often. But when all is said and done, we still come together as one people and pledge our allegiance not just to a place on a map or a certain leader but to the words my mother read to me years ago: "that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

That is the true genius of America — a faith in simple dreams, an insistence on small miracles. It's the idea that we can tuck in our children at night and know that they are fed and clothed and safe from harm; that we can say what we think, write what we think, without hearing a sudden knock on the door; that we can have an idea and start our own business without paying a bribe; that we can participate in the political process without fear of retribution; and that our votes will be counted.

For me, it is the love and defense of these ideals that constitutes the true meaning of patriotism. They are ideals that do not belong to any particular party or group of people but call each of us to service and sacrifice for the sake of our common good.

I write this knowing that if previous generations had not taken up this call, I would not be where I am today. As a young man of mixed race, without a firm anchor in any community, without even a father's steadying hand, this essential American ideal — that our destinies are not written before we are born — has defined my life. And it is the source of my profound love for this country: because with a mother from Kansas and a father from Kenya, I know that stories like mine could only happen in America.

This is a fantastic essay coming from a presidential candidate. Obama clearly illustrates the contrast between the freedoms and liberties of America and the terrorism of Zimbabwe. His use of the term "so-called elections" is something I really liked, as it is forthright and critical. Under the criticism of Zimbabwe does leave a lingering question about an Obama presidency: Would he do something about the tyranny of Zimbabwe? The last Democratic president, Bill Clinton, didn't shy away from military interventions. If he did, how would that be consistent with his constant opposition to the intervention in Iraq, a state that didn't relish in democracy under Saddam Hussein?
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McCain's wife loses track of condos

From Newsweek:

When you're poor, it can be hard to pay the bills. When you're rich, it's hard to keep track of all the bills that need paying. It's a lesson Cindy McCain learned the hard way when NEWSWEEK raised questions about an overdue property-tax bill on a La Jolla, Calif., property owned by a trust that she oversees. Mrs. McCain is a beer heiress with an estimated $100 million fortune and, along with her husband, she owns at least seven properties, including condos in California and Arizona.

San Diego County officials, it turns out, have been sending out tax notices on the La Jolla property, an oceanfront condo, for four years without receiving a response. County records show the bills, which were mailed to a Phoenix address associated with Mrs. McCain's trust, were returned by the post office. According to a McCain campaign aide, who requested anonymity when discussing a private matter, an elderly aunt of Mrs. McCain's lives in the condo, and the bank that manages the trust has not been receiving tax bills on the property. Shortly after NEWSWEEK inquired about the matter, the McCain aide e-mailed a receipt dated Friday, June 27, confirming payment by the trust to San Diego County in the amount of $6,744.42. County officials say the trust still owes an additional $1,742 for this year, an amount that is overdue and will go into default July 1. Told of the outstanding $1,742, the aide said: "The trust has paid all bills shown owing as of today and will pay all other bills due."

Dan McAllister, treasurer- tax collector for San Diego County, said that about 3 percent of San Diego's approximately 1 million property owners default on their property taxes each year. The county assesses a 1.5 percent penalty for each month that goes by unpaid and puts houses up for sale after five years. "We do hear an awful lot of excuses for why people don't pay," McAllister said. "Under the law, the property owner is responsible for keeping the address current. We're only as good as the information we are given."

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McCain on Gitmo

My friend Jeff sent me a link to the story of John McCain's comments in regard to Guantanamo detainees being able to challenge their detention in civilian courts:

"The United States Supreme Court yesterday rendered a decision which I think is one of the worst decisions in the history of this country," McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, said at a town hall meeting in this southern New Jersey town adjacent to McGuire Air Force Base.

While this doesn't address the eyesore of Guantanamo Bay Detention Center, it does make me wonder if he has become more hawkish and different on this issue than he was years ago when he was often saying that Gitmo should closed down. Right now we have prisoners being held indefinitely with a legal status that is largely unclear, in a facility that advertises the mess to the entire world. It's an embarrassment and strongly illustrates that when the Bush Administration decided to hold these people, they didn't have a long-term strategy of what will be done with them.

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Do Obama's cult of personality posters resemble those of Adolf Hitler?

Religious worship of leaders is never a good thing, and it is to me one of the most disturbing characteristics of this year's election campaign. Obama is nothing more than a good politician, and shouldn't be worshipped like a god.

A guest on NPR's Bryant Park Project pointed out that the "staring off into the distance" pose in several of Obama's posters resemble those of the Fuhrer. You decide if he's right:

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Sunday, June 29, 2008

Budweiser no longer American?

Over at Slate, Daniel Gross writes about the possible purchase of Anheuser-Busch by Brazillian-Belgian InBev, a "behemoth" created by the merger of the Brazillian AmBev and the Belgian Interbrew. What's largely a very commonplace sort of business deal in our globalized marketplace has been met with populist opposition on the part of politicians:

Anheuser-Busch's board and chief executive officer, August A. Busch IV, who represents the sixth generation of his family to run the brewer, dismissed the unwelcome offer as inadequate. Bud partisans, especially in and around St. Louis, have reacted with even more vigor. Both of Missouri's senators, Republican Kit Bond and Democrat Claire McCaskill, oppose the deal. McCaskill says it is "patriotic" to do so. In a letter to Anheuser-Busch's board, he writes: "[D]o not hesitate to contact me to discuss ways that I and community leaders can work with you to improve the company without changing its ownership."

There was similar backlash among some when Toyota topped GM as the world's top auto-maker and of course the 2006 Dubai ports deal, and Anheuser-Busch is unlikely to be the last American company to be affected by globalization.

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Michael Turner passes away

It's upsetting to hear that famed artist Michael Turner died yesterday. He had been struggling with cancer for several years, and had rebounded against it, creating his own characters and publishing comic books when he probably should have been in the hospital. His art was always very intricate, sexual and striking. The women that he drew weren't just the same old big breasts and ass that you see in most superhero books. He was actually able to draw beautiful women. If you want a good idea of who Michael Turner is, I recommend picking up his creator-owned series Fathom.

Comic Book Resources has an article up by writer and television producer Jeph Loeb, whose own son also died of cancer.
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Friday, June 27, 2008

"Put the "Independence" Back in Independence Day"

Michael Berliner at the Ayn Rand Institute has an article up about the most important part of the founding of America, "independence," as in independence from the collective, church, state, family and corporations in order to form your own person. People still are slaves to the group mentality, as we can see today with Obama's zombie-like support, and this message is as contemporary as ever.

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"Zimbabwe's 'independent' radio"

From Al Jazeera:

You can find their website by clicking here. I couldn't find a podcast, but archives of their shows were available to listen to.

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John McCain courts the youth vote

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Obama Immortalized

You knew it was coming. Go get your lunch money together, because the Barack Obama action figure is now available:

It was only a matter of time before somebody created the Obama Action Figure.

"Like countless others out there, we've been inspired by the meteoric rise of Barack Obama and his campaign," says an obviously impressed doll maker, Jailbreak Toys, which manufactures similar 6-inch-high dolls of world leaders ranging from Mahatma Gandhi to Vladimir Lenin.

"In a time when America so desperately needed a hero, along came a man to show us a brand new version of what America and the world could be in the 21st century. In many ways, Obama is the closest thing we've ever seen to a superhero, someone who has literally inspired millions of people simultaneously to step past fear, to be brave enough to hope and to go past cynicism and imagine what we could be if we were at our best. That's the stuff of legend! And we wanted to pitch in."

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On the D.C. gun ban

Washington, D.C. may be a testament to the fact that gun-control laws target the wrong people. A large amount of guns used in D.C. crimes have been obtained second-hand or from outside states but controlling laws such as the one struck down today are known for keeping guns out of the hands of law-abiders who obtained their guns through legitimate means for self-defense.

I wrote an article called "We must stem the flow of guns" last year after the Virginia Tech shooting. I still think we should go after the flow of guns and other weapons into psychotic, deranged people, drug dealers and criminals, but I edged a little close to sounding like a gun grabber. The article was more of an emotional response to the VT shooting that a well thought out position on policy. From my experience of being at the mercy of bullies in public school, I understand how important the right of defense is to a human being's dignity and the Second Amendment was put in place to protect that right.

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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Barack Obama's first general election ad

From Slate, this is John Dickerson presented and analyzing Sen. Obama's first presidential campaign ad.

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008's new ad is another exercise in emotional irrationality

If floods the election with ads like the following, many not already inclined that way will end up voting for John McCain. This is such a bunch of idiotic, emotional, anti-thought nonsense. The woman's child, as a grown man in a free country, will have the right to enlist in the military, not enlist in the military, become a teacher, become homeless, become a Democratic activist, become a Republican activist, climb Mt. Everest, skydive over Nevada or become a male stripper. We have an all-volunteer army. If this is Moveon's "most effective ad," it may turn out to be the most effective in getting conservatives behind McCain. Her child is more likely to be taken away in when he gets arrested and charged as a sex offender for touching a girl's butt.

Additional: This ad and the other "100 years" ad is the product of a mentality on the part of the of a total ruthlessness that claps and applauds for anything that will destroy their political opponents, whether or not it is honest or factually valid. This isn't a simply left-wing thing, obviously, but it is something that Moveon uses without any regret. I'm met alot of people with this mentality with regard to politics and I have no respect for it, as it shows a total lack of honesty, decency and honor.

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Imus in trouble AGAIN

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"Hellboy II: The Golden Army"

I thought the first Hellboy movie was a bit strange. The characters looked great, the casting was good but there was not nearly enough of a dark vibe, action and horror. At points, especially where they focussed on Hellboy wanting to get into Liz's pants (Does he even have the equipment for that?) it felt like a teenage soap opera. The animated movies that were released in 2006 and 2007 renewed my faith, and the trailer has made me pretty excited for Hellboy II: The Golden Army. Especially cool is that they play Rammstein's "Mein Hertz Brennt (My Heart Burns)" towards the end. I always used to listen to Rammstein while reading Hellboy and think it's the perfect soundtrack for it.

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Monday, June 23, 2008

"Burn After Reading" trailer

The Coen Brothers have a trailer out for their new film, and it's got one hell of an all-star cast. The trailer's pretty good too, as it doesn't give away very much at all in terms of story and only gets you wanting to see more.

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Getting political with the Madison Park Times

I got a print edition of my alma mater, the Madison Park Times, today and was pleasantly surprised by a heavy dose of political coverage in the paper. Staying fair and balanced as always, there was an article focussing on Kim Verde, who is running as a Republican for the State House of Representatives, and another focussing on United States Representative Jim McDermott.

On Verde, I'm confident that Seattleites would vote for a moderate, articulate Republican if they were presented with one, instead of the cooks and crazies that usually run as Republicans in the 43rd. It's good to see that we have one serious enough to warrant a cover story in a monthly newspaper.

As for McDermott, I respect congressmen like him alot more than senators because they are willing to speak their mind instead of trying to be all things to all people, as the two major presidential candidates are doing. I think McDermott is well-intentioned and he's right in what he wants. It's only the means I disagree with.
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Bush's "arrogance" will be missed

One year into this epic, two-year presidential election odyssey, there is one thing that is clear. Given all of his faults, the steadfast determination and conviction of George W. Bush will be absent in the White House.

By many (some would say most) on the political left, this quality of Bush has been derided as “arrogance,” “stubbornness” and “stupidity.” Given the leaps of logic we’ve seen Barack Obama try to make us swallow over his close, 20-year relationship with Rev. Jeremiah Wright and John McCain overnight conversions on matters such as tax cuts and immigration, this quality is going to be sorely missed as we inevitably end up with a president who has gotten where they are by being a chameleon. John McCain may not be the maverick we’ve been lead to believe he is, and Barack Obama is another politician who only seems different due to his good looks, interesting name and eloquently spoken but intellectually vacant rhetoric.

Whereas I often doubted much of what Bush said to be true, it was much rarer that I doubted he believed it. He genuinely believes that the establishment of democracy in the Middle East will lead to a renovation of the oppressive politics that have plagued it since the end of World War I. He has kept strong in his vision despite poor poll numbers and real world results that countered his words. With McCain and Obama, I actually doubt that they believe a good deal of what they say.

The Bush presidency will be very interesting in how it is treated by history. For every blunder, there was a success. For every tragedy like that of Iraq, he put more effort into combating disease and poverty in Africa than any president before him. For the continued diseased presence of Donald Rumsfeld at a critical position in government, there was eventually the presence of Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense. For every Harriet Myers, there was a Samuel Alito. For every failure to reform Social Security (something President Obama or President McCain had better take on and not ignore), there was the establishment of the most ethnically diverse presidential cabinet in history, an achievement that had an extremely positive effect on the political climate. I have no doubt that seeing and hearing the names of Condoleeza Rice, Colin Powell, Alberto Gonzales and Elaine Chao in roles as important as Secretary of State, Attorney General and Secretary of Labor has made Americans more comfortable with having minorities in high positions of government and more welcoming towards the idea of an African American president than they were ten years ago.

A president who had a vision for progress made these accomplishments. From what we have seen of them this election season, I’m not sure Obama or McCain really have a vision beyond their own success.

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Sunday, June 22, 2008

Conservatives for Animal Rights

I was raised a vegetarian, and have kept at it even after a brief period where I tried to eat meat but kept finding it absolutely gross and unappetizing. Given my politics, alot of people seem to be taken aback at my vegetarianism but I think it fits very well with conservatism and libertarianism. Like my opposition to the killing of unborn children, I find the merciless slaughter of animals with little to no feeling of thanks on the part of those that eat the animal flesh to be morally disgusting. One man who has made some of the best arguments for compassion towards animals is Matthew Scully, a former speechwriter for President Bush who coined the phrase "soft bigotry of low expectations." Unlike alot of animal rights activists, he has been very eloquent in his presentation of the argument against animal cruelty.

I found an interview with him from several years ago while he was promoting his book Dominion. You can read over at National Review Online. Please read it, you'll go away smarter.
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"The Danish Poet"

This was a nice little animated feature that gets you invested in the characters and wondering how things will work out. I hope you enjoy it.

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

The cure for racism is individualism

Due to the actions of the Seattle Public Schools in invoking its race-based bussing, I learned about race at a very young age. Going from a predominantly white school in North Seattle to a school in the Capitol Hill area, which was predominantly minorities, I was aggressively introduced to what race was by other students. As a result, I've thought about race relations far more than I believe most white people do. I've read Malcolm X's autobiography twice, seen the bulk of Spike Lee's films, and have immersed myself in black culture.

I didn't end up becoming a racist. Far from it. I was also bullied by white kids, and saw myself acting as a bully without realizing it immediately. Despite the conventional wisdom that we had progressed beyond racism for the most part, I kept seeing remnants of it in one of the most liberal cities in America. Over time, I came to the conclusion that race is about as relevant as someone's hair color or their shoe size when measuring someone's character.

This is said by Ron Paul:

Racism is simply an ugly form of collectivism, the mindset that views humans only as members of groups and never as individuals. Racists believe that all individual who share superficial physical characteristics are alike; as collectivists, racists think only in terms of groups. By encouraging Americans to adopt a group mentality, the advocates of so-called "diversity" actually perpetuate racism. Their intense focus on race is inherently racist, because it views individuals only as members of racial groups.

Conservatives and libertarians should fight back and challenge the myth that collectivist liberals care more about racism. Modern liberalism, however well intentioned, is a byproduct of the same collectivist thinking that characterizes racism. The continued insistence on group thinking only inflames racial tensions.

The ones who think they are combatting prejudice in the name of diversity have done a great deal of harm. Blacks have had the "victim" label permanently placed on them. Whereas black families were strong even in the face of segregation (the image of Malcolm X's mother, who was intimidating in the face of her husband's execution, the knowledge of her mother's rape and poverty comes to mind), they are now broken, as Barack Obama focussed on in his Father's Day speech.

Racism remains an elephant in the room in American politics. I believe that the issue of race must be wiped of its importance, so that people of all ethnic groups can move on with their lives without having the victimization of an entire group tied like a ball and chain to their person. The only way I see that happening is for people to focus less on racial groups and focus more on people as individuals.

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Sophia Nelson: GOP has "obsession" with "race-baiting"

Over at her blog former GOP activist and political pundit Sophia Nelson contends that it is a mistake for Republicans to "go after" Michelle Obama. She contends that to do so is to continue in "race baiting:"

If the GOP is so sorry as to have to go after a candidate's wife (wait, haven't we been here before--hmmm--Clinton. . .Hillary--ring a bell anyone???) in what will go down in history no matter what the outcome as the most historic Presidential candidate on record since we started electing Presidents in the 1780s, the Party is in more trouble than I even I had suspected.

The GOP's obsession with sticking with the tried and true of subtle race baiting is starting to annoy me. We saw the ugly specter of race baiting in the democratic primary play out over and over again and sadly, the Clinton's were at the epicenter of the racial storm. Can't the GOP (Grand Old Party) see that to win this election by scaring white voters about the prospect of having a black President and his equally intelligent ivy league educated wife as First Lady is pathetic?

This accusation of "race-baiting" is, in fact, a case of race-baiting itself. Michelle Obama has made politically charged speeches where she has said opinionated things, an act which in the world of American politics makes you open to criticism. Cindy McCain has dodged the kind of criticism that has been aimed at Obama because she has not thrown herself into politics. If she were to, I'm sure left wing bloggers would find her to be fair game.

To insinuate that people should not address the controversial statements that Michelle Obama says because she is a black woman (a fact that in a more sane world would be as relevant as the color of her hair) lest they be participating in "race-baiting" comes very close to classifying as "the soft bigotry of low expectations," as it argues that we should treat Obama differently because of her skin color. It also seems that Nelson is the one who is really obsessed with race-baiting.

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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Hitchens still thinks women (for the most part) aren't funny

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VIDEO: "Wolverine and the X-Men"

The trailer for "Wolverine and the X-Men" is excellent. The animation seems pretty good and the character voices are what you would expect. Marvel has done pretty well with animated series since becoming their own studio, with the Spider-Man series on Saturday mornings doing pretty well.

One problem I have with the trailer is the look of the main character. Nearly everyone looks great except for Wolverine, who has been drawn with arms that are two-thirds the size of his body. Were the animators going for the DC animated look of the elongated shoulders? For the most part, everyone else looks good and appears like they've leaped out of the comic books. Alot has happened since the X-Men appeared in the 90s cartoon, which didn't change too much about the characters unlike the "Evolution" series, and from the trailer it looks like they've brought in elements of the comic books such as Magneto's mutant country of Genosha. I wonder if Genosha will meet the same tragic fate in the cartoon as it did in the comics.

I got hooked on comic books in large part because of the Saturday morning X-Men cartoon of the early 90s, and I'm glad that the next generation will have the same opportunity to get hooked into the Marvel Universe.

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Have we been right or wrong about McCain?

I wrote a guide to the presidential candidates about a month ago, and I said at that time that given the issues John McCain seemed like the best candidate. I think alot of my warm feelings for him came from my days as a Democratic Party campaigner four years ago, when there briefly seemed to be a very good possibility that he might breach the partisan divide and run with John Kerry. For years McCain was the good conservative to alot of liberals, who was beyond petty bickering and division. I'm not the only one who has felt this way. Matt Welch, author of John McCain: The Myth of a Maverick, has expressed that he had a brief love affair with McCain when he became an antagonist towards the Religious Right back in 2000. Welch changed suit when he began reading McCain's books, and has actually contended that McCain was the neoconservative choice over George W. Bush in 2000.

Dan Carlin, host of the podcasts Common Sense and Hardcore History, picked out John McCain along with Ron Paul as candidates to support in the midst of all the liars and "weasels" that were running for the highest office. Carlin later repudiated that after McCain beat down Paul as being an isolationist of the strand that inadvertently kept Hitler in power. Like with myself and Welch, Carlin probably had developed warm feelings for McCain more due to his pragmatic personality and amazing and inspirational life story than real policy stances.

This presidential cycle should be enlightening as we will get an image of John McCain as a prospective president, and not simply as a man worthy of admiration. In an election where change is forefront, we may start to wonder if McCain is not as different from Bush as we had originally thought.
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"Campaign for Liberty"

Ron Paul has started a new organization called "Campaign for Liberty:"

Rep. Ron Paul ended his presidential campaign Thursday night, but the maverick Texas lawmaker who spurned a political movement vowed to continue his efforts through a new organization, the Campaign for Liberty.

Paul’s exit from the race was just a formality. He never had a shot at the nomination but his grassroots candidacy cultivated national interest and was fueled by an online fund-raising operation of small donors who saw promise in Paul’s political message. A video of his farewell speech Thursday night has been viewed nearly 600,000 times.

The Texas lawmaker is hoping that base will transfer to his new political effort, whose mission is to elect more libertarian-minded candidates, like Paul, to office. “We’ll make our presence felt at every level of government, where just a few people with our level of enthusiasm can make a world of difference. We’ll keep an eye on Congress and lobby against legislation that threatens us,” Paul writes on his new site. “We’ll identify and support political candidates who champion our great ideas against the empty suits the party establishments offer the public. We will be a permanent presence on the American political landscape. That I promise you.”

You can visit CFL by clicking here.
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Clayton Williams a new headache for McCain campaign

Apparently John McCain still has a fundraiser planned with Clayton Williams, the former governor who was bested by Democrat Ann Richards and infamous for a joke, which was in unbelievably bad taste, comparing weather and rape. The fundraiser has been postponed, but will nevertheless still be occurring.

WASHINGTON — An 18-year-old joke about rape told by 1990 Texas gubernatorial contender Clayton Williams has erupted as an issue in the 2008 presidential campaign, causing the man he is supporting for president, Republican John McCain, to scramble Saturday for damage control.

McCain's campaign late Friday said it had pulled the plug on a fundraising event scheduled for Monday at Williams' Midland home after reporters contacted the campaign asking about remarks made by the Texas Republican during his 1990 race against Democrat Ann Richards.

But Saturday afternoon, the McCain campaign told the Houston Chronicle that the Midland event had been postponed until this summer and would be held in a public venue.

Like a rainy day

McCain campaign officials changed plans after being contacted by reporters calling attention to Williams' comment 18 years ago seeming to liken bad weather to rape.
"As long as it's inevitable," Williams was reported as saying, "you might as well lie back and enjoy it."

Williams, 76, has made and lost fortunes in energy, ranching and other businesses over the past half-century, but is perhaps best known for his 1990 Republican race for governor. The Midland oilman's controversial campaign comments are widely known in Texas, but McCain aides told reporters they were surprised when they learned of them.

"These were obviously incredibly offensive remarks that the campaign was unaware of at the time this event was scheduled," said spokesman Brian Rogers. "It's positive that he did apologize at the time, but the comments are nonetheless offensive."

A representative for Williams declined to comment.

Starting with Rev. Wright and Bill Ayers for Barack Obama and then Pastor John Hagee and now Clayton Williams for John McCain, there has been way too much fuss over the people a candidate might know than the actual candidate themselves. There was some legitimacy to concerns over Wright's influence on Obama, since the senator had named a book after a quote from him and went to his church for two decades, but with Ayers, Hagee and now Williams it has quickly devolved into a tornado of media rumor-mongering. Are we going to get to the point where we start looking at what Obama did in elementary school? Oh, wait, we already have....
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Monday, June 16, 2008

The problem with editors

I just read a pretty good article on the overlooking of the concerns of the Iraqi people by American leaders over at Reason magazine. The article's overall thesis was thus:

In his own defense, Obama might remind us that he's accountable only to his countrymen, not to the Iraqis; that the "good government" he has talked about in his campaign applies to embittered Americans, not to Iraqis embittered by the prospect of a precipitous U.S. departure. He might even be elected on that basis. But this would show that Obama, who has sold himself as a man of vision at home, is selfishly unimaginative abroad. Worse, because it is unlikely he will be able to much alter U.S. policy in Iraq, since Iran will not cede much more to the next administration than it did to this one, Obama's promises are potentially deceitful.

For as long as American leaders don't treat Iraqis as important in their own right, the Iraqis will have no incentive to tie their long-term interests to America's wagon. Should that matter? Both realists and idealists would probably answer in the affirmative. But where does Barack Obama stand? It's hard to imagine that Iraqis see in him change they can believe in.

Somehow, however, the byline for the article became this:

America shouldn't give a damn about the Iraqis

Uh, what? I really don't think that was the argument that the writer was trying to make. How does arguing that "for as long as American leaders don't treat Iraqis as important in their own right, the Iraqis will have no incentive to tie their long-term interests to America's wagon" turn into "America shouldn't give a damn about the Iraqis?" Writers rarely get to choose their own headlines or bylines, but in this case it was a little too obvious.

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"Featured Posts"

I just added a new feature to my blog called "Featured Posts." It'll be a good place to find my best articles from this blog.

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Sunday, June 15, 2008

No more Vietnam, please...

The New York Times dug up John McCain's War College thesis, which argues that anti-war sentiments stateside contributed to P.O.W.s breaking under pressure. I really, really hope that this campaign doesn't end up becoming a Vietnamarama like in 2004.

One appeal of Barack Obama to me is his age. He's a statist, but at least he would be a step towards moving past the era of Baby Boomer Politics.

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Is Iraq progressing?

That's the cover story over at The Economist:

THOUGH still lacerated by the tragedy of the past five years, Iraq is at last getting better all round. The violence, albeit still ferocious in parts of the country, has subsided dramatically. The American military “surge” that began a year ago has worked better than even the optimists had hoped, helped by ceasefires with Shia militias, by accords with Sunni tribal leaders and by the fact that sectarian cleansing in many areas is sadly complete.

Politics is also beginning to stutter towards something approaching normality, with signs of an accommodation between the three main communities—Shia Arabs, Sunni Arabs and Kurds—and the prospect of a series of vital laws, on such matters as sharing the revenue from oil, being passed, though they are still subject to endless last-minute hiccups. Some key laws, for instance on pensions and the budget, have recently been enacted. A set of provincial elections towards the end of this year has a chance of empowering the aggrieved Sunni Arabs. Various Sunni ministers who walked out of the government a year ago in a huff may soon be back in.

The economy has begun to grow fast too, though its ripples have yet to be felt across the country. The soaring price of oil, along with a mild improvement in production to just above its pre-war peak, mean that the government has more cash to spend than it is has had since the first Gulf war of 1991.

Read the whole thing if you have the time.
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Unicorns are real

Forgive me, for this story is 3 days old, an eternity in this digital age. I don't know what to make of this story, so I'll leave it up to you:

ROME (AP) — The shy, young deer nicknamed "Unicorn" because of the rare, single horn in the center of his head is drawing hundreds of curious visitors, park officials said Thursday.

People are flocking to the nature preserve in Tuscany where the deer lives, hoping to see him and take his picture.

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Review: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

I went to see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull yesterday, several weeks after it came out in theaters, and I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed the original films as a kid, but I never had the dedication to them that I've had for Star Wars. I didn't come in with the high hopes of over-analyzing of the dedicated fanboy, but merely the interest of a summer moviegoer.

The Indiana Jones films have always suspended belief, exercising a little bit of "rubber-band reality," as Matt Groening summed up in the reality in The Simpsons, but it got a little bit too ridiculous in Crystal Skull. (SPOILER ALERT!) For one, Jones survives an atomic blast by hiding in a titanium-cased refrigerator in one of the fake houses laid out within weapons testing sites. I don't know if that's possible, but surely he would have a few bruises and would vomit once he came out of the fridge. That doesn't happen, though, and instead he comes out still his handsome 60-year-old self.

An interesting storyline is set-up of Jones being suspected of communist ties by the government, and is quickly dropped, never to be heard of again. With the resulting hour and a half or so of story taking place outside of the United States, I'm not sure how the writers could have worked that into the script, but it was an interesting plotline that would have been able to really remind watchers that they were watching a 1950s-era film, and not just another romp through the early 1930s, which is what it did at times feel like. Aiding to that time confusion was Cate Blanchett's character, Dr. Irina Spalko, who struck me in her mannerisms and outfit as much more German and Nazi-like than Russian.

Besides those objections, it was a pretty good film. When compared to the first return to the Star Wars universe, 1999's The Phantom Menace, this return to the world of Indiana Jones was leaps and bounds ahead.
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Would an Obama presidency mean less baggy pants?

So asks Mary Battiata at The Huffington Post:

Lately I've been wondering what an Obama White House might mean for the future of bling. For the fate of heavy gold, medallions, below-the-butt denim, the whole hip-hop gangsta fashion habit. What if January 20, 2009 turned out to be not just a cultural and clothing pivot point for adults -- a return to the minimalism of sleek, 60s-era sharkskin suits, the containment of golf-ball sized Barbara Bush costume pearls -- but a watershed fashion moment for teenaged boys? Picture it. On Inauguration Day next year, thousands and thousands of young men and boys from city street corners to suburbs, look up from their X-Boxes and catch a glimpse of the impeccable President Barack and First Lady Michelle Obama climbing the steps of the Capitol and suddenly feel... unfashionable. Out of it. Old. What if they are overcome by the same stunned, something's-happening-here feeling that teenagers in the early 60s, their closets full of sock hop regalia, felt when they first laid eyes on The Beatles in 1964, on the nationally televised Ed Sullivan Show. For adults, this kind of moment is, at most, something to take note of. To a teenager, it's a gale force warning of imminent social tsunami, an urgent prod from the eyeballs and the amygdala that to everything there is a season, and now is the time to change, change, change. Ask not what you can do for your closet, but what your closet, if ignored, can do to you.

For those that don't follow hip-hop, it won't be noticed that this change is already happening. As rock musicians no longer resemble the cardigan wearing hair-in-the-eyes manner of Kurt Cobain, neither do today's rappers resemble the fashions of Eminem or early 2000s era Jay-Z, who by the way dresses nearly completely different nowadays:

The "gangsta" style has already gone nearly out of fashion, with 50 Cent being the only mainstream rapper that comes to mind as still reveling in it. Kanye West, the Cool Kids, Lupe Fiasco and others are part of a healthy evolution of the genre.

As for Battiata's argument, it seems she has engaged in the very common act of 2008, which is using Barack Obama as a canvas for the change you want to see in America, even if it's change in fashion. Obama is only running to be in charge of the executive branch of the federal government for a four year term, not to be Sultan of the Ottoman Empire.

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VIDEO: Journalist explores Christian fundamentalism, discovers Bible Man and "Do The Jew" T-Shirts

This video from Reason is pretty enlightening and pretty funny too. I think the description of Christian pop culture being a subculture as opposed to a counterculture is very apt. When I have come across Christian television shows, websites or music videos while channel-surfing it's brought a similar reaction to watching Canadian media. It's like mainstream American culture, only eerily different.

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Ask the Iraqis: Should we stay or should we go?

Do the Iraqis want foreign troops out: Reason says yes, citing a poll from an unnamed source:

It's not the prevailing sentiment among the Shiites' main rivals, either. A February poll found that 73 percent of Iraqis oppose the presence of foreign troops in Iraq—including 77 percent of Shiites and 95 percent of Sunnis.

Whether or not that poll is true, I have a very simple proposition. Hold a referendum on whether foreign troops stay or leave, and follow the will of the voters, supporters or opponents of the war be damned.
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Saturday, June 14, 2008

McCain cancels fundraiser over supporter's 18-year-old rape joke

It's amazing how in politics, stuff from 18 years ago comes crawling out of the graveyard to haunt candidates:

ABC's Rick Klein reports: Sen. John McCain on Friday abruptly cancelled a Monday fundraiser that had been scheduled at the home of a Texas oilman, after ABC News contacted the campaign inquiring about a verbal blunder the Texan made during an unsuccessful 1990 campaign for governor.

Clayton Williams stirred controversy during his 1990 campaign for governor of Texas with a botched attempt at humor in which he compared rape to weather. Within earshot of a reporter, Williams said: “As long as it's inevitable, you might as well lie back and enjoy it.”

His Democratic opponent at the time, the late Ann Richards -- who, coincidentally, would lose the governor’s mansion to George W. Bush in 1994 -- highlighted the comments in a TV ad during that 1990 campaign.

Here's a flashback ad that'll help put a face with the story:

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