Thursday, May 28, 2009

Have You Seen Speedy, the Missing Turtle?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Why Star Trek and Politics Don't Mix

Exhibit A: Congressman David Wu (D-Oregon) on January 10, 2007...

Faux Klingons? Oh, come on, Congressman Wu! Every true fan of Star Trek knows that Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and Condoleeza Rice were actually Romulans!

(h/t: my wife)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Saving Terminator Salvation

Could they really manage to screw up this movie?

They could. And they did.

I wanted to love Terminator Salvation. And for the first 45 minutes or so, I almost did. Sure, the opening sequence with the death-row convict was a little slow and ponderous, but it was something new for a Terminator movie. Sure, the director was McG -- who apparently is so hot and happening that he doesn't even have time for a full last name, let alone a first one -- but the early-in-the-film raid on the Skynet research facility is one of the finest action sequences I've watched in years. And McG did things in single camera shots that were just pure movie-making. Throw in the Harvester raid at the ruined 7-11, and I was willing to forgive the man not only for both Charlie's Angels movies but even for that awful television show Fastlane.

Then it all just went to hell.

Bryce Dallas Howard, who practically carried The Village all by herself, is beyond wasted as Kate Connor. She gets to look worried. And concerned. And pregnant, which of course nobody in the film ever actually mentions. And that's about it.

Christian Bale, who has been so great as Batman, is like a placeholder as John Connor. He gets to look worried. And confused. He listen to tapes of his mother, and he make speeches to other survivors listening in on transistor radios that survived Judgment Day. And he gets beaten up. A lot. And that's about it.

And Skynet? Well, this version of Skynet operates with all the strategic sophistication of the AI during my last game of Space Empires 5, which gave me computer-controlled foes that built many epic, high-tech carriers yet, for some reason, never built any fighters to actually launch from those many epic, high-tech carriers. The Skynet in this movie is kind of like that. It creates several fiendish high-tech plots to throw against John Connor and the Resistance, yet somehow fails to listen in when John Connor and the Resistance discuss attack timing, offensive locations, and battle tactics on open radio channels that the rest of the Resistance hears on their transistor radios that survived Judgment Day.

I could go on (and on) about the many plot holes, and about the many events during the last half of the film that just make a reasonably intelligent person shake his head and mutter "Oh, please..." But the real flaw in this movie is that guy at the start of the clip embedded above.

That guy has better lines than John Connor.

He has better scenes than Jonn Connor.

He has a better story arc than John Connor.

Even worse, he's more interesting than John Connor.

He is, quite literally, the heart of this movie, but he is not John Connor. And when the movie is supposed to be about John Connor, yet you feel yourself getting angry each time the film shifts away from this guy so that it can focus on, say, John Connor, then you have one seriously flawed piece of film-making. Because not only did I care (a lot) about what happened to this guy, I found myself not really giving a damn (at all) about what might happen to John freakin' Connor. And in a movie about John freakin' Connor, you cannot let that happen. That's Movie Making 101.

Back in my own Hollywood days, I always regretted that my career never got moving in time for me to have a shot at rewriting Starship Troopers and The Postman. Now, I'll always regret that it ended before I had a shot at rewriting Terminator Salvation. Although I suspect too many writers, too many development notes, and too many executives and other assorted suits trying to "protect" the franchise had something to do with this disaster.

Or this half-disaster, because the first 45 minutes or so really are quite good. Which just makes everything that comes after seem even worse -- and that much sillier -- by comparison.

You'd think they could have at least thrown in an intentional laugh or two during that rather silly second half. Maybe like this...

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day 2009

(h/t: GayPatriot)

Sunday, May 24, 2009

"Obama Man"

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Saturday Artsy Photo

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Regrets of Karen Bass

Speaker of the California Assembly Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles) on the failure of Propositions 1A through 1E:

Poor Speaker Bass. If only she had had more time to speak with us, we voters might have understand that the cure for rising taxes, out-of-control spending, businesses fleeing our state, historic budget deficits, and smoke-and-mirrors accounting was, in fact, continuing to raise taxes during a recession, continuing to spend beyond our means, continuing to drive more businesses from our state, continuing to borrow more money, and continuing to practice smoke-and-mirrors accounting.

We voters are so silly. We just can't understand such complicated things without Speaker Bass being there to explain them to us.

Maybe Speaker Bass can explain why, in such a dire fiscal situation, "California law does not allow" that 18% cut in the salaries of the governor, state legislators, and other elected state officials to take effect until 2010.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

"Steam Trek: The Moving Picture"

For a movie soundtrack buff like me, half the fun is recognizing all the science-fiction and fantasy film scores they manage to work in...

(h/t: my amazing, geek-girl wife)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

California Gets an Appointment with Destiny... Or Something...

The voters of California -- or at least the "smattering" of us who bothered going to the polls yesterday -- have given our Golden State an appointment with destiny. Or something.

In other words, only Proposition 1F (preventing salary hikes for state officials in years that California is running a deficit) passed. This graphic from the Los Angeles Times (h/t: Power Line) shows the wide margins of the vote:

And an editorial in The Sacramento Bee sums up the "smart" reaction perfectly:

Good morning, California voters. Do you feel better, now that you've gotten that out of your system?
You can read the whole editorial here, because The Sacramento Bee has already sent it down the memory hole and replaced it on their website with another editorial taking the opposite slant (going after the Sacramento lawmakers instead of the California voters). The editors claim the original editorial was just a first draft posted in error. But that first draft was an enlightening window into the Sacramento mindset: That this was simply a case of childish voters throwing a tantrum, because they either could not or would not understand what the adults in Sacramento have been doing for their own good. Like Jerry Houseman says, these people just don't want to pay for police officers, firefighters, and teachers.

After all, it couldn't possibly be that these people actually have no problem paying for police officers, firefighters, and teachers -- but also want to be able to cover their rent or mortgage, their car payment, their grocery bills, the cost of raising their children, their federal and local taxes, and maybe, just maybe, still have something left over to put away for a child's college education or even save for their own retirement. Could it?

Maybe Jerry and the Bee should ask the readers who are commenting on that editorial. Like rosevillej:
That was quite probably one of the most ridiculous editorials I have ever read. . . . I would have expected a more professional response to encourage debate about where we go from here. Obviously the BEE is completely out of touch with their own readers. Maybe it is time for California to be forced to make some difficult decisions. Yes, in a few years we may decide that there are some programs we need to fund better, but just perhaps, California needs to spend a few years "living within it's means" just like the rest of us. I certainly won't be renewing my subscription to the BEE when they clearly think so little of me and my fellow voters.
You tell 'em, rosevillej.

Because the question (or the problem) isn't whether the voters acted like children yesterday. The question (or the problem) is whether any adults are left in the state government. Because after kicking the can down the road year after year, the can finally got kicked back to them. And kicked hard.

Will the California legislature and executive branch cut their own perks and benefits first, or will they cut money that puts police officers on the street?

Will they cut administrators and consultants first, or will they cut money that puts teachers in the classroom?

Will they lay off highly paid managers and aides first, or will they lay off the people who actually do the work?

Will they legalize marijuana in the hopes of gaining additional revenue, or will they open up at least some of our offshore oil and natural gas reserves in hopes of gaining more revenue?

Will they release from state prisons "up to 19,000 illegal immigrants, who would face deportation," or will they finally grapple with the question of why we're paying to incarcerate and care for up to 19,000 illegal immigrants in the first place?

None of this is going to be easy. Or enjoyable. But I've seen this situation, albeit on a smaller scale, when I lived in Philadelphia during the 1990s. Ever-increasing tax rates and spending. Businesses fleeing, and taking their jobs and tax revenues with them. Talk of bankruptcy for the city, and even of the National Guard having to pick up the garbage on the streets. It simply could not go on the way that it was, and painful choices had to be made -- if only to avoid even more painful choices down the road.

Philadelphia had a state fiscal oversight board overseeing that process, though, and giving then-mayor Ed Rendell the cover he needed to push those changes through the city council and the public employee unions. Quite literally, that fiscal oversight board allowed Ed Rendell to save Philadelphia.

The only level of government above California, unfortunately, is the federal government. And does anyone, anywhere, have any faith in the Obama administration when it comes to making painful budget choices? Or in its willingness to provide cover for California to push through the changes it will need? Especially when the Obama administrations says that "it will revoke nearly $7 billion in federal stimulus money unless the state restores [$74 million in] legislated wage cuts for unionized health-care workers"?

I don't.

Which brings us back to the question of whether we still have any adults left in Sacramento.

This is going to be hard. And it's going to be painful. But if we don't deal with this now, it'll be even worse when we finally do.

Yesterday, a "smattering" of adults came out to the polls. Let's hope there are still more than a "smattering" of adults left in Sacramento. Or that the people who are there can grow up fast.

Either way, I'll be looking forward to Jerry Houseman's next rant on YouTube. I'm sure it will be a real barn burner.

UPDATE: Jennifer Rubin at contentions:
Mainstream media coverage of the California tax propositions’ crushing defeat is predictable. You see, this is a rebuke of Arnold Schwarzenegger personally (who in defeat now has "Republican" affixed to every mention of his name). Or it’s the fault of the "fickle" voters somehow, who are too dense to see that the way out of an enormous deficit pit in a recession is to raise taxes — lots and lots.

They are loath to see what the votes really mean, which is an overwhelming rejection of five tax-hike measures.
UPDATE II: Tim Cavanaugh at Reason:
Don't believe post-election spin that argues California voters rejected the slate out of pique at having to vote so often. The sore-thumb victory of the salary cap Prop 1F indicates voters were sufficiently attentive to the import of these initiatives that they said yes to one and no to all the others. They may have resented the initiatives on the basis of fatigue (I've had to vote twice since the November presidential), but they rejected the measures on the basis of their content.
UPDATE III: Fox News Channel just reported the Obama administration has backed down on its threat to withhold the California stimulus money as a result of the $74 million in wage cuts.

UPDATE IV: George Will summarizes the problems with the six propositions:
The Orange County Register -- if but one newspaper survives today's leveling winds, may it be this one -- made the case for rejecting all six propositions: 1A would have created an illusory spending cap that could be "easily circumvented by raising taxes" -- and the ballot language did not mention that 1A would have meant a $16 billion two-year extension of some of February's huge tax increases. Proposition 1B promised the public school lobby $9 billion, effectively bribing them to support 1A, which the California Teachers Association did. Proposition 1C combined "two of the worst practices responsible for" the state's dysfunction, "rosy revenue projections and borrowing": It would have authorized borrowing from (hypothetical) increases in state lottery revenues. Proposition 1D, "one more hide-the-pea fiscal deception," would have transferred to the general fund -- and much of it on to public employees -- revenues raised for children's programs. Proposition 1E would have done the same for revenues raised for mental health services.
Will also points out an often-overlooked point of madness in the California fiscal situation: Our constant use of ballot initiatives to set mandatory spending levels in certain areas and float bonds to fund everything from stem-cell research to infrastructure projects:
[V]oters have promiscuously used their state's plebiscitary devices to control and fatten the budget. Last November, as the dark fiscal clouds lowered, they authorized $9.95 billion more in debt as a down payment on a perhaps $75 billion high-speed rail project linking San Francisco and Los Angeles -- a delight California cannot afford.
Maybe it's time to finally open the Pandora's Box of a state constitutional convention.

UPDATE V: Unlike The Sacramento Bee, an editorial in the Fresno Bee actually gets it:
We supported this budget package because we believed that it offered the best path out of this miserable budget situation. But angry California voters said they have had enough, and ordered the governor and legislative leaders back into budget negotiations. That voter sentiment cannot be ignored.

It's time that lawmakers pass a realistic budget that doesn't rely on gimmicks and borrowing to make it appear balanced. A bankrupt California is not an option, and that means deep and painful cuts to most spending programs, including education. It is time for a shared sacrifice, with no program being exempt from budget cuts.

The governor and legislative leaders created this crisis by not dealing with the state's fiscal problems when they were manageable. The politicians shouldn't be surprised at how voters reacted Tuesday.

Our state leaders are responsible for the intense cynicism that Californians feel toward their government. Part of Sacramento's mission must be restoring citizens' faith in their government. That means listening to the people, and not taking marching orders from the special interests who fund political campaigns.

This election was about more than the state's budget crisis. It was a referendum on California's political leadership. We hope the message gets through to the governor and legislative Democrats and Republicans that they've been found lacking.
UPDATE VI: Wouldn't you just love to know what's going through the mind of California State Senator Abel Maldonado today? Maybe, "It was all for nothing!"

UPDATE VII: The portion about The Sacramento Bee editorial has been altered to reflect that paper replacing the editorial in question with another editorial taking the opposite slant after a firestorm of bad reactions. As Doug Ross writes, "If ever an editorial board could execute a one-hundred-and-eighty-degree midair turn, that was it."

UDPATE VIII: Blogger Dr. Zaius has the true explanation for what happened:
Oops! Er ... um ... this is quite embarassing. I mean, yeah. We had the editorial up on our Web page for about 12 hours and didn't realize it. But this was a just a wacky mix-up. It's kinda funny, really. You see, our staff cat, Toonces — the cutest little thing you'd ever see — walked on the computer keyboard of our deputy assistant editorial writer (who is new around here) and accidentally sent to the Web guys the "draft" that the new guy fired off to help facilitate conversation. The Web guys, of course, didn't know that Toonces is not really on our editorial board (in fact, he's not even a paid staffer at The Bee) and not authorized to send "ready to publish" information to the Web. And, golly, we were so focused on figuring out good, workable solutions to this state's pressing problems that we didn't notice this mistake by Toonces (and the eager new guy) until around lunch time. And ...
Then, Dr. Zaius gets serious:
As many readers here know, Ben and I met and became friends as staffers on the editorial board of The Press-Enterprise in Riverside, California. Before that, Ben was an editorial writer for Investor's Business Daily just outside Los Angeles and I was an editorial writer for The Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Virginia. We know very well how editorial boards function. It is highly unusual for members of the board to write a full "draft" of an editorial before the board even meets to discuss how to craft the argument for the issue in question — even on a tight deadline for a morning-after-the-election editorial. It is even less likely that such a raging screed would be mistaken as the "real" editorial that is sent to the Web page staff to throw on the Internet. Then again, the Bee editorial board member went through the trouble of even writing a headline for his "draft." C'mon. I've never written a headline for a draft editorial. Not once. I doubt Ben has, either.

But, it seems, The Bee has less formal standards. And "after discussion, we decided that our initial editorial about the special election should take a different tack." So, the Bee editorial board contemplated using that screed "draft" in the paper. They didn't dismiss it out of hand, but, "after discussion" (I'd love to have heard that debate) thought better of it and took "a different tack." I'm guessing it was a close call. It would have been nice if [Editorial Page Editor David] Holwerk had addressed what was in that editorial — especially it's insulting and childish tone toward readers and voters — and apologized for it. That's what I would have done. But I guess insulting readers is not really a concern to The Bee.
And some people wonder why newspapers are going bankrupt.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

My State of Mind as I Head Out to Vote on California Propositions 1A Through 1F

Monday, May 18, 2009

Hollow Words at Notre Dame

President Obama, addressing the abortion issue during his commencement speech at Notre Dame:

Now, understand -- understand, Class of 2009, I do not suggest that the debate surrounding abortion can or should go away. Because no matter how much we may want to fudge it -- indeed, while we know that the views of most Americans on the subject are complex and even contradictory -- the fact is that at some level, the views of the two camps are irreconcilable.

Each side will continue to make its case to the public with passion and conviction. But surely we can do so without reducing those with differing views to caricature.

Open hearts. Open minds. Fair-minded words.
If I had heard this back in November, or December, or January, I would have taken this at face value. I would have given President Obama credit, and even the benefit of the doubt. Because even with this telling remark during the campaign about those who disagreed with his views clinging bitterly to their guns and their religion, he seemed to be making a real effort in the transition to live up to his promise of changing the tone, of being the president of all Americans.

Hearing this now, the words just ring hollow.

In the last few months, he's reduced to a caricature those in Congress who disagree with his stimulus package and economic policies. They're simply obstructionists, after all. They're nothing more than followers of Rush Limbaugh. They don't hold other ideas or support alternative policies with passion and conviction, they just want to do nothing.

In lifting the ban on government funding for embryonic stem cell research, he acknowledged this was a difficult moral and ethical issue with good people on both sides, then immediately caricatured all those good people on the other side as simply being opposed to "sound science."

The average citizens protesting his continuing bailouts and historic new levels of federal debt aren't expressing honestly held convictions and concern, either. They're just waving teabags around on that network that doesn't like him much. They're just not willing to have a "serious conversation," not like he is.

After finding out the hard way that issues like Guantanamo Bay, wiretapping, indefinite detentions, military tribunals, releasing photos of detainee abuse, withdrawing from Iraq, and what to do about Afghanistan and Pakistan are more complicated and murky than his campaign claims and grandstanding once in office would suggest, one might think he could have at least a word of understanding for those in the previous administration, who so often faced a choice between something bad and something worse. Instead, he opens the door to prosecuting lawyers for writing legal opinions he disagrees with -- even as he quietly retains FISA, indefinite detentions, the Patriot Act, military tribunals, and so many other Bush administration policies.

But then why should I be surprised by the Obama administration caricaturing its opponents, especially when Senior Advisor David Axelrod caricatures Miss California as being one of the final three choices for the Obama family dog. This may be the first time in my political junkie's memory that agreeing with a president's position -- in this case, gay marriage -- still gets you reduced to a caricature.

Open hearts. Open minds. Fair-minded words.

You know, the Wanda Sykes approach...

(h/t: DRJ at Patterico)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Because in These Rebooted Star Trek Days, the Browncoats Must Not Be Forgotten

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Obligatory Saturday Morning at the Dog Park Photo

Because no trip to the dog park is complete without the amazing red plastic Chuckit! You can use it to launch a ball far enough that your dog will need a solid minute to chase it down and bring it back (time may include "negotiations" with another dog that also wants the ball), and you can use it to ladle water onto your dog's nose. Like this.

Is there no end to the wonders of this product?

Friday, May 15, 2009

Pelosi Clarifies the Clarification of Her Previous Clarifications

"Madame Speaker! Madame Speaker!"

"Let me say this again. I was told about waterboarding. I was not briefed about waterboarding."

"Madame Speaker, whether you were told or briefed, doesn't that mean you did know that waterboarding was being used but made no protest at the time?"

"No protest, Scott? Jane Harmon wrote a letter. And unlike Senator Rockefeller, she actually sent hers."

"But you made no protest yourself, correct?"

"It would have been inappropriate, Jake, for me to criticize these abhorrent policies of the lying Bush administration as they shredded our beloved Constitution. Remember, I was extremely busy at the time fighting against the illegal War in Iraq and trying to get the unilateralist trampler of civil liberties George W. Bush replaced by a right-thinking Democrat in the White House."

"And you don't feel -- "

"Bottom line here, Tim. The CIA lied to me about this. George Bush lied to me about this. Everyone lied to me about this. I'm a victim here."

"And you only realized this today, Madame Speaker? Which would be why we've never heard this particular version of events from you before?"

"Don't be a neocon, Leslie. Who's side are you on here anyway?"

Thursday, May 14, 2009

"The Obama Card"

(h/t: GayPatriot)

Blog Headline of the Day

"Biggest Borrower in History Tells ASU Students Not to Live on Credit"

Why Cell Phone Cameras Rock

Star Trek in Three Words

Courtesy of James Lileks:

Best. Redshirt. Ever.
Full review here. And well worth the read.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Robert Gibbs Lives the Dream of Many

Credit Where Credit's Due

As dangerously misguided as I believe most of President Obama's decisions and policies are, I want to give him credit for reversing one of them:

In a dramatic, high-profile reversal for his young administration, President Barack Obama is seeking to block the release of 44 photographs depicting abuse of detainees in U.S. military custody in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“The publication of these photos would not add any additional benefit to our understanding of what was carried out in the past by small number of individuals,” the president told reporters Wednesday as he left the White House on a two-day trip to the Southwest.

“In fact,' he said, "the most direct consequence of releasing them, I believe, would be to further inflame anti-American opinion and to put our troops in greater danger.”
Predictably, the ACLU, which filed suit under the Freedom of Information Act to have these photographs released, is not happy. As Executive Director Anthony Romero says:

The Obama administration's adoption of the stonewalling tactics and opaque policies of the Bush administration flies in the face of the president's stated desire to restore the rule of law, to revive our moral standing in the world and to lead a transparent government. This decision is particularly disturbing given the Justice Department's failure to initiate a criminal investigation of torture crimes under the Bush administration.

It is true that these photos would be disturbing; the day we are no longer disturbed by such repugnant acts would be a sad one. In America, every fact and document gets known – whether now or years from now. And when these photos do see the light of day, the outrage will focus not only on the commission of torture by the Bush administration but on the Obama administration's complicity in covering them up. Any outrage related to these photos should be due not to their release but to the very crimes depicted in them. Only by looking squarely in the mirror, acknowledging the crimes of the past and achieving accountability can we move forward and ensure that these atrocities are not repeated.
In my younger days, I used to donate money to the ACLU. At least, I did until I came to realize just how badly this organization had lost its way. And Anthony Romero's statement does nothing to change my opinion.

It takes a very confused organization to equate the Obama administration going to court to argue against the release of these photographs with somehow failing to restore the "rule of law." But then, that's the too-subtle-for-me reasoning I've come to expect from the ACLU over the years. Much like their implication that releasing names, dates, testimony, and other written documentation of detainee abuse and the many investigations regarding that issue somehow fail to acknowledge the crimes of the past. That unless even more photographs are made public in addition to those already available, then "these atrocities" are somehow being covered up.

And of course, nowhere in Anthony Romero's statement is any mention made of the effect that another round of such photographs will have in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and elsewhere. The ACLU seems blissfully unaware that even a false report in Newsweek -- and one without photographs, no less -- of a Koran being flushed down the toilet in Guantanamo Bay triggered riots in several countries, leaving 14 or more people dead and even more injured. Or maybe they are aware, and that's what they mean by "these photos would be disturbing."

If I thought the ACLU was actually interested in the truth of this issue, I might give them the benefit of the doubt here. But I don't believe the ACLU is after the truth of who did what, and did it when, and did it where, and did it why. As ACLU lawyer Amrit Singh says:
These photographs provide visual proof that prisoner abuse by U.S. personnel was not aberrational but widespread, reaching far beyond the walls of Abu Ghraib. . . . Their disclosure is critical for helping the public understand the scope and scale of prisoner abuse as well as for holding senior officials accountable for authorizing or permitting such abuse.
That's a telling quote. The ACLU and its lawyers already have their narrative, and they want these photographs for their emotional impact. Because the American public might not buy their version of a U.S. military that actively promotes and encourages "widespread" abuse of detainees, compared with a U.S. military that has investigated and prosecuted its own for these abuses, without that additional visual club over the head. And if a few religious fundamentalists die in riots abroad or U.S. soldiers face increasing attacks from the very people in Iraq and Afghanistan they've spent the last few years winning the trust of, then so be it.

There is nothing to be gained from releasing these photographs from years ago beyond domestic political point-scoring, but there is much that could be lost. And I'm happy that President Obama has finally come to understand that.

UDPATE: From ian, a commenter over at contentions:
Photographs are often a propaganda tool. If you have tales of abuse, it doesn’t penetrate the public’s consciousness. But if you get a photo, the image overrides everything else, even the facts. Then the event documented in the image becomes all-encompassing and takes on a life and meaning of its own. For those mining the torture narrative, this is propaganda and public manipulation gold. It matters little if such images add nothing to what we already know or the conflicting balance of interests involved. Those committed to the revelation of such images are not interested in educating the public or preserving the historical record, but in obfuscating what occurred by the power of an image to influence and distort the general perception of events, knowing full well the harm the US will suffer in world opinion whether it is warranted or not and hoping for nothing less.

Pop Quiz: National Tea Party Edition

Which of the following has a better understanding of the motivations and grievances driving the nationwide Tea Party protests?

A) Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi:

B) New York City Tea Party organizer Kellan Giuda:

(Hint: What would Howard Beale say?)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Joe and Barack Go to Arlen Burger

"So tell me, Joe. Are things finally squared away again with Senator Specter?"

"Not quite, Mr. President."

"What is it this time, Joe?"

"Well, now Arlen says that Harry Reid also promised him a satisfying, thick, juicy burger but didn't follow through on that, either."

"Are you kidding me?"

"I kid you not, Mr. President."

"All right, then. Ray?"

"Yes, Mr. President!"

"Ray, can you throw another burger on the grill for Senator Specter?"

"Yes, Mr. President!"

"Only instead of cooking it medium-well, Ray, I want you to burn it."

"Burn it, Mr. President?"

"That's right, Ray. I want you to burn it. I want that burger to look like Rush Limbaugh's kidney after Wanda Sykes got through with it."

"Mr. President!"

"What? Too much?"

"Just a little, Mr. President!"

"All right, then. Cook Arlen's burger medium-well, too. But no fancy mustard for him."

"Ah, Mr. President? About that fancy mustard --"

"I don't want to hear it, Joe. And you, Ray, I know that look. Did I offend you again or something?"

"No, Mr. President. It's your credit card. It's been declined."

"Are you kidding me?"

"I kid you not, Mr. President."

"All right, then. Joe, you have any cash on you?"

"Mr. President, are you kidding me?"

Monday, May 11, 2009

When Robert Gibbs Has More Class Than the President

Wanda Sykes "wows" the White House Correspondent's Dinner -- and President Obama, from what the video shows -- with her special brand of tolerant, tasteful humor:

All of which prompts a moment of true class from White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs:

Good for you, Robert. I mean that.

If only your boss had had enough class (or good sense) not to be caught on camera so visibly enjoying the idea of kidney failure being wished on the "20th hijacker"...

UPDATE: From Powerline:
I guess that's Obama's "new era of civility" in action. I don't want to be too hard on Obama, but . . . he should have been prepared for this sort of incident and avoided joining in the "fun" of wishing a political opponent dead.

Speaker Pelosi Clarifies Her Denial

Ladies and gentlemen of the press, I understand you have some issues regarding my earlier statement that I was never told waterboarding or any enhanced interrogation technique had been or was being used. Especially since the information just released by CIA Director Panetta clearly indicates that I did know. Please allow me to clarify my previous denial.

Obviously, I was aware that waterboarding and other enhanced interrogation techniques had been used on Abu Zubaydah. Just as obviously, I was not aware that I was aware.

Any questions?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Why I'm Not Blogging Today, Either

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Why I'm Not Blogging Today

Friday, May 8, 2009

Has MSNBC Completely Lost Its Mind?

There are a lot of arguments against all-news cable networks and the 24-hour news cycle. But are any of those arguments as compelling an indictment as MSNBC devoting more than five solid minutes to President Obama and Vice President Biden going out to grab burgers for lunch?

With Iran continuing its race toward a nuclear weapon, the Taliban advancing toward Islamabad, unemployment continuing to rise, major banks failing their stress tests, Chrysler going into bankruptcy court even after billions in government aid, and Congress approving a budget that even Gandalf couldn't balance, I, for one, am glad that MSNBC understands my real concern is whether President Obama will be able to have a "satisfying, thick, juicy burger" for lunch.

This gives me new respect for Larry King on CNN. It really does.

God bless you, MSNBC. Don't stop speaking truth to power.

Arlen and Joe Talk Seniority

"Arlen, buddy, what's wrong?"

"It's my seniority, Joe."

"What seniority?"

"Exactly! You guys promised me that if I switched parties and became a Democrat, I could keep my seniority when it came to committee assignments."

"And you believed us? Buddy, what were you thinking?"

"Well... you know... honor among thieves, and all that..."

California Dreamin'

So symbolic, it hurts...

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Three Presidents, Three Equations

From Victor Davis Hanson:

Bush = lower taxes, more spending, and more debt;

Clinton = higher taxes, more spending, and less debt;

Obama = more taxes, more spending, and a lot more debt...

Pop Quiz: California Tea Party Edition

Which of the following has a better understanding of the motivations and grievances driving the Tea Party protesters here in California?

A) Jerry Houseman, member of the school board for the Sacramento City Unified School District:

B) Justin Tevis, California Tea Party protester:

(Hint: Anyone who lives in California and pays taxes should need no hint. Anyone who lives outside of California should find a Californian and ask. Which should be remarkably easy to do, considering how many Californians today either already have, are preparing to, or even just hope to move away from this state at the first opportunity.)

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Comment that Means the Most

If you ever want to have your life and routine turned upside down, trying being the writer of an obscure, low-traffic blog that suddenly gets two Instapundit links for two separate, controversial subjects in the space of about 48 hours. Especially when you were already swamped with your "real" job and had been planning to work straight through that weekend to meet a deadline.

I wish I could have responded to each and every comment, both at all the other blogs that linked to my posts over the last few days but especially here. Some, like Zack R, I plan to respond to with an actual post (assuming I can ever get my current draft to actually say what I want it to say in the way that I want it to be said!). And the others? I have to hope they understand that off-line work and family won't let this blog ever be a full-time commitment for me. (Sometimes, it's even hard to manage a part-time commitment!)

Reading the comments here and elsewhere was a real experience. That so many people, especially those who disagreed with me about gay marriage, responded so civilly gave me a lot of hope. That so many other people on both sides of the issue, but especially those who agreed with me about gay marriage, responded with such bile and venom just made me shake my head. It's been a long time since I've been called a "right-wing shill" and been lumped together with a certain Richard Dawkins-esque liberal who rejects any need for civility toward those who disagree with her politically, thinks that the "old bag" who had the cardboard cross slapped out of her hands by "No on Prop 8" protesters in Palm Springs deserved it, and whose fondest wish is that everyone embrace the utopia-making wonders of "sweet, sweet godlessness." (I don't care what your politics or religion -- or lack of religion -- might be. You don't push around an old woman who could be your grandmother. You just don't.)

In fairness, my own comment at that blog was written in a rush, and I could probably have been more clear in my wording. I also don't think the commenter over there who did the "lumping" had actually read my two posts on the subject, which were actually the subject of the post to which entire comment thread belonged. Or, if he had, I don't think he realized that I was the same Wesley M. (And besides, as a former Democrat who still feels like the party left me rather than the other way around, it actually felt kind of nice to have someone calling me a "liberal" again about something!)

One comment in particular really stood out for me, though:

As a gay man in the San Jose area, I have actually lost friends in "tolerant" liberal San Francisco for not sufficiently hating the "H8ers". It's taken a few months to find Gay Patriot and now Wes, but now I know I'm not alone. Thx, guys!
That was from a guy calling himself TwinOtter2. And it made up for every angry, name-calling comment I've read over the last few days.

In fact, out of all the comments this blog has ever gotten, that one means the most.

Thanks, TwinOtter2. And everyone.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Dr. Utopia's "Ism"

Monday, May 4, 2009

Open Audition: White House Press Secretary

In the White House Press Room, with Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, an aide, and several members of the White House press corps...

RAHM: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for accepting my invitation to participate in these auditions for a new White House Press Secretary. Let's face facts. You will never be fully trusted by the American public unless you're seen standing up to a worthy opponent. And the Obama administration needs a Democratic version of Tony Snow. Hopefully, we can find a suitable replacement for Robert Gibbs within the next few moments.

AIDE: The candidates are ready, Mr. Emanuel.

RAHM: Send the first one in.

RAHM: Your name?

JAYNE: Uh, Jayne Cobb.

RAHM: Nice play on gender. I like it. You would definitely help with our diversity goal.

JAYNE: Can't say I see the percentage in that.

RAHM: Not your job. What qualifications do you have for this office, Jayne?

JAYNE: I'm not much good with words. Never really use them much myself.

RAHM: Strong and direct. Quiet credibility. That would be a welcome change. But I have to ask, what's with the gun, Jayne?

JAYNE: Six men came to kill me one time. And the best of 'em carried this. It's a Callahan full-bore auto-lock. Customized trigger, double-cartridge through gauge. It is my very favorite gun.

RAHM: That'll play well in the Red States! Good thinking! Jake Tapper, ask your audition question.

TAPPER: Mr. Cobb, it's been reported that Steve Rattner, the leader of the Auto Industry Task Force, threatened an investment bank with using the White House press corps to destroy its reputation, because the bank was refusing to agree to the administration's bankruptcy plan for Chrysler.

JAYNE: This question gives me an uncomfortableness.

TAPPER: What was the administration thinking when they did this?

JAYNE: Let's be bad guys?

TAPPER: So you're confirming this occurred?

JAYNE: I'm sure that would seriously disturb the administration's calm, you guys writing "Dear Diary, today I was pompous and my sister was crazy. And today we were kidnapped by Auto Industry Task Force hillfolk, never to be seen again."

RAHM: Excellent use of gallows humor to defuse tension! We'll get back to you!

JAYNE: I'll be in my bunk.

RAHM: Next!

RAHM: Mr. Vice President, we've talked about this.

BIDEN: Come on, Rahm! "Nobody messes with Joe!"

RAHM: Mr. Vice President --

BIDEN: What about when I gave that great flu advice, Rahm? People loved that!

RAHM: Mr. Vice President --

BIDEN: And that last guy you had in here, you know I probably have a much higher IQ than he does!

RAHM: Mr. Vice President --

BIDEN: I can do this song and dance!

RAHM: Mr. Vice President --

BIDEN: Come on, Rahm! You know Cheney ruined this job for me! Nobody lets the Vice President do anything these days!

RAHM: Joe! Enough! Your job is keep Arlen Specter in line! Now go do it!

BIDEN: (grumbling) Hillary would've been much better for Vice President than me...

RAHM: Next!

RAHM: And your name is?

TERMINATOR: I'm a friend of Sarah Connor.

RAHM: Yes, I know. She wrote you a very interesting letter of recommendation.

TERMINATOR: Sarah Connor?

RAHM: Yes, Sarah Connor.

TERMINATOR: I'm a friend of Sarah Connor.

RAHM: I see where you're going with this. Nice ability to stay on message. I like that.

TERMINATOR: Sarah Connor?

RAHM: Repeat the talking point, and then repeat the talking point again. I like that! And another gun that will play well with the Red States, too! Chip Reid, Please ask your question.

CHIP: I'd really rather not.

TERMINATOR: Do you know Sarah Connor?

CHIP: I really don't.

TERMINATOR: I'm a friend of Sarah Connor.

RAHM: You're doing great, Big Guy. Now, Chip, ask your question.

CHIP: Okay... Um...

TERMINATOR: Do you know Sarah Connor?

CHIP: No! No! I do not know Sarah Connor!... Okay... Keep it together... Mr. Press Secretary, President Obama continues to receive criticism for his warm handshake with Hugo Chavez during the Summit of the Americas. Is the administration reconsidering its approach to these kinds of diplomatic overtures?

TERMINATOR: Talk to the hand.

RAHM: Brilliant! Totally defuses the question! You, sir, are a very funny guy!


RAHM: And you completely cowed a respected member of the White House press corps! Gibbs was never able to do that!

TERMINATOR: I'm a friend of Sarah Connor.

RAHM: I can see why! Jake Tapper, ask this guy a second question!

TAPPER: I'd really rather not.

RAHM: Ask him a second question!

TAPPER: Um... All right... Mr. Press Secretary, following up on my original question, what did Steve Rattner actually say to the secured Chrysler creditors?

TERMINATOR: Come with me if you want to live.

RAHM: Ooooooooooooooo, serious misstep, Big Guy. That's just a little too much potential honesty to have to ever walk back.

TERMINATOR: I'm a friend of Sarah Connor.

RAHM: And that alone will definitely keep you in the running.

TERMINATOR: I'll be back.

RAHM: Yes, you will. Next!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Pop Quiz: Dog Versus Non-Dog Edition

Which of the following is a real dog?

A) This one:

B) This one:

(Hint: If you really need a hint for this one, I don't even want to know you.)

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Pennies from Political Heaven

(h/t: Matthias Shapiro)

How We Lose, and How We Lose Again

As if letting Janeane Garofalo rant unchallenged about the Tea Party protesters being "racists" and the protests themselves being about nothing more than "hating a black man in the White House," Keith Olbermann actually achieves a new low:

Of course, I am shocked -- shocked! -- to find breast enhancement and cosmetic surgery taking place in the modeling and entertainment industry. I look forward to future bombshell exposes as Mr. Olbermann continues telling truth to power. Maybe he can also uncover the hypocrisy of Christians who donate money to fund pediatric surgeries to repair cleft palates and congenital heart defects, because, as "intellectual titan" and "civil rights leader" Perez Hilton would say, they "don't love the way Jesus made" those children, either.

The only thing dumber than MSNBC allowing a segment like this to even air on a news network is the idea that these two guys actually believe Perez Hilton's tirades -- and segments like this -- are "a real win for this cause." I've already written how tactics like this almost cost the pro-gay marriage side my own vote against Proposition 8, and I'm one of the last people they ever should have had to worry about losing:
I've lived in the gay ghetto of a major city. I've owned a small business with a gay partner. Part of the first date my wife and I had involved her taking me to a fabulous gay coffee shop in West Hollywood as a test of how tolerant I was. (I passed.) I've even kept my cool and gently talked down a drunken homosexual as his fingers tried to do the walking down my pants. (Sloppy drunks come in all sexual persuasions.) And two of the best parents I know are a lesbian couple, and raising a young son who is a joy to behold. So, I give no ground to anyone when it comes to my anti-homophobe street cred.
And still, they almost lost my vote. That takes real talent. Or something else that I'm not sure what to call.

We've reached the point where those of us on my side of the gay marriage issue, if we want to avoid a backlash of our own making, need a remedial primer on how we lose, and how we lose again. I've said most of this before, and so have others, but it obviously needs to be said again. So...

When we let a foul-mouthed caricature like Perez Hilton become the spokesman for our cause, we lose. And when we defend that foul-mouthed caricature for using rhetoric that we would call hate speech if it came from the other side, we lose again.

When we label Miss California Carrie Prejean as a bigot (and worse) for calmly answering a question about gay marriage rather than calmly saying that she's wrong, and here's why, we lose. And when we then say that President Barack Obama, by opposing gay marriage on religious grounds, is somehow actually being inclusive, we show a level of hypocrisy that those Americans we need to win over will see as far worse than any level of hypocrisy we're trying to point out on the part of Miss California. And we lose again.

When we tell the opponents of gay marriage that it won't be taught in schools and then San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom performs a lesbian wedding in front of a first-grade class on a field trip, we lose. When we don't even realize that what Gavin Newsom did was a self-defeating stunt, we lose again.

When we pretend that we're the majority view on this issue, we lose. When we start to believe that we actually are the majority view on this issue, we lose again.

When we tell the opponents of gay marriage that we're not trying to impose our views on their lives and then drive a woman from her job for donating $100 to the "Yes on 8" campaign, we lose. When we don't rebuke -- and rebuke hard -- those on our own side for this kind of harassment, we lose again.

When tell the opponents of gay marriage that they're stereotyping all gays and lesbians and then label everyone on their side, from someone who would beat a 19-year-old to death for looking effeminate to someone who supports civil unions but not marriage, as "haters," we lose. And when that stops being just a self-defeating political tactic and we actually start to believe that anyone who doesn't meet us 100% of the way on this issue really is a "hater," we lose again.

These should be simple things for our side to understand. They're just not as satisfying emotionally as what we need to do if we're actually going to win on this issue:
[D]on’t attack your adversaries. Just make a better case than they do. Respect them as individuals. Don’t mock (or otherwise belittle) their motives. Appreciate that they express their convictions with sincerity. Take the time to understand their arguments and then carefully, rationally refute them.
That was written by B. Daniel Blatt, from the excellent GayPatriot blog. If nothing else, he lets me know I'm not the only supporter of gay marriage who who feels this way:
I still believe I did the right thing in voting against Proposition 8. But when my fellow opponents behave as did Mr. Hilton this month and as did the protesters last fall, I feel less comfortable being associated with such prominent opponents of the initiative.

If such rhetoric alienates a gay man with lesbian friends who have sought state recognition of their marriages, how will it impact those lacking a personal connection to the issue?
I'm afraid those on our side of this issue are going to find out.

UPDATE: A related post over at GayPatriot sums up the situation perfectly:
The more they slur her, the more sympathetic they make her.
UPDATE II: Welcome back, Instapundit readers! Have a look around!

UPDATE III: Latest Copyright Thug, Perez Hilton. I have no great love for the National Organization for Marriage, or for the ad in question, but considering the videos Perez Hilton has on his own YouTube channel, the idea that he would try to have anything removed from that site leaves me speechless.

(h/t: Instapundit)

Friday, May 1, 2009

A Disturbing Realization, with Joe Biden

"Oh, man... These Al Franken MP3s are not funny..."

"Smiles for Smirks"

I love The Huffington Post. I really do. Where else can you find a writer like Tish Durkin, giving one of the most honest, heart-felt pieces about the Iraq War that I've ever read from either side of that issue, and also actor, director, reporter, activist, and all-around resume-padder Sean Penn, giving us... well... this:

Once again the simple-minded media and its pundits are confused about the nature of Americanism and language.
Somehow, I get the feeling he's not talking about media coverage of the Tea Party protests.
When President Obama today inferred consideration of holding former administration officials accountable to law, he was immediately accused of violating his belief that we should "look forward."
Sean seems to have missed that up until that point, President Obama and the others in his administration had been pretty consistent about keeping the door closed on any prosecution of anyone in the previous administration. And for good reason, too. But then President Obama "inferred consideration of" prosecuting government lawyers for writing a legal opinion that the current Attorney General, Eric Holder, happens to disagree with. When you go from reportedly saying "I banned all this. This chapter is over. What we don't need now is to become a sort of feeding frenzy where we go back and re-litigate all this" to opening the door to just that kind of feeding frenzy, you need some seriously non-Euclidean intellectual geometry to fit that shift into the directional category of "looking forward."
Had President Ford "looked forward" in his decision as to whether or not to hold Nixon accountable, he perhaps would have seen the Bush administration abuse of power coming and chosen to be genuinely tough on crime -- you know, "tough on crime" -- sending Nixon to jail and deterring this recent avalanche of abuse.
And had President Truman not decided to allow FDR to die before the end of World War II rather than be held accountable for putting tens of thousands of Japanese Americans into camps, maybe "Buck Stops Here" Harry would have foreseen Bill Clinton lying under oath and deterred that from happening, too. Isn't idiocy fun?
Further, the criticisms of President Obama's warm greeting toward President Chavez of Venezuela have been the posturing of our nation's most bitter and humanly impotent voices.
Well, Sean certainly has me pegged. But seriously, I wonder if Sean is also so forgiving about other warm, diplomatic greetings given by American officials to other dictators. Like this one:

Though it's hard to tell even in the video, I believe Donald Rumsfeld was smiling during this handshake as well. So maybe Sean does have a point about the power of smiles and warm relations to bring about positive change in bad regimes.
Why is anyone listening to former Vice President Cheney? He's the one person alive proven wrong on virtually every topic.

You're telling me! The Vice President voted against the Persian Gulf War back in 1991 and, if I recall correctly, predicted thousands upon thousands of American casualties that never occurred. More recently, he called for Iraq to be partitioned into three autonomous provinces "like our Articles of Confederation," which were so successful here in America that we rushed to replace them with the Constitution. He opposed the "tragic mistake" of the Surge in Iraq ("The president and others who support the surge have it exactly backwards."), which even President Obama now admits was successful. He throws out a gratuitous ethnic stereotype when the cameras are rolling, and he's been called "the most famous political plagiarist of our time." He said part of a what a leader does is to "demonstrate that he or she knows what they're talking about," then immediately gave the example of the stock market crash in 1929 -- you know, when FDR (who wasn't president at the time) went on television (which no amount of non-Euclidean intellectual geometry can show was in widespread use at the time) to calm the American people. He's also said that the problem with his gaffes is that "they're usually true." It really is like having Rainman as the Vice President. Or a Vice President who thinks he's the Surgeon General.

Oh, wait. I'm sorry. When Sean wrote "Vice President" and "the one person alive proven wrong on virtually every topic," I just assumed he was talking about Vice President Biden. My bad.

No one should listen to Vice President Cheney. Ever. Just like Sean Penn says.

They should listen to Vice President Biden instead.

Then there's Newt Gingrich, who commented on the Chavez greeting as being approached wrong.
My goodness, the bitterness of that criticism really oozes straight through the pixels of my monitor.
He suggested that the meeting itself may not be improper, but that it should have been handled with a cold demeanor. This is a pattern of bad acting advice from bad actors. (All wimps think playing a tough guy is done in one-note coldness.)
And Sean Penn knows about playing a "tough guy." Just ask Madonna.

Then again, I shouldn't be too hard on Sean, at least not here. I spent enough time in Tinseltown myself that I can actually see why he would believe this.

Sean Penn is a creature of Hollywood, after all. And Hollywood runs on personal relationships. Meetings and negotiations tend to involve a star -- say, Sean Penn -- meeting with high-powered execs about a potential new project. They shake hands. They smile. Sean tells them how much he respects their previous work. They tell him how much they want to be in "the Sean Penn business." Everybody gets along, and everybody plays happy, and Sean gets a new role and a payday or maybe even a new film to direct. (And I will happily say that I thought his portion of 11'9"01 was absolutely brilliant.) So no wonder Sean thinks that international diplomacy with rogue nations that fund terrorist groups can be handled in the same way as dealing with a Hollywood exec who would also stab you in the back at the first opportunity. Because at its core, Hollywood essentially is Washington, just with better-looking liars.

What Sean forgets, though, is that after he leaves, his predatory shark of an agent comes in and does the real negotiating. And there are fewer (if any) smiles then.

With a friend, or an enemy, our president will gain greater strategic position with a smile.
You know, "strategic position." Like we got with this guy under a previous administration:

And we all know how well that one worked out...
I know President Chavez well. Whether or not one agrees with all his policies, what is certainly true of Chavez is that he is a warm and friendly man with a robust sense of humor (who daily risks his own life for his country in ways Dick Cheney could never imagine).
True, Dick Cheney never served in the military, and Hugo Chavez did.

Then again, Dick Cheney also never led five army units in a warm and friendly coup d'etat against the elected government of his own nation. Or took an opposition television station off the air and replaced it with another whose programming would "better reflect the socialist revolution he has pledged to lead." Or taken such control of the economy that Venezuela has shortages of basic food items like bread and milk (though I can't say that our country is heading down the right track in this area, either). And I'll admit, having FARC terrrorists depending on you for at least part of their funding is probably much more dangerous for Hugo Chavez now that the price of oil has collapsed. I'd wager that's an even worse position to be in than telling Tony Soprano your envelope is going to be "a little light" this week.
To treat such a man coldly is akin to spitting on him. As a country we've done enough of that. Say what you will, but it has only resulted in the self-celebration of our smirking spitters, while costing us international respect, American lives, and left wounds in the hands of our children's future.
And how much more quickly would apartheid have ended if we had only treated the various presidents of South Africa with good humor and no spitting? Because when you smile, the world smiles with you. And you receive great things from the rest of the world in return. Like tens of thousands more NATO combat troops to share the common burden of the "good war" in Afghanistan, not just a few thousand temporary military trainers and police to provide security during the upcoming election. Or an immediate, unanimous UN Security Council resolution condemning that North Korean missile launch, not just a statement more than a week after the fact that not everyone agrees is legally binding.

Even better, you also get a free book.
The Cheneys, down to the O'Reillys and Hannitys and Limbaughs, effectively hate the principles upon which we were founded. They are among the greatest cowards in all of American history.
Because broadcasters like O'Reilly, Hannity, and Limbaugh, all of whom cowardly debate people they disagree with politically on a regular basis in front of millions of listeners and viewers, effectively hate the First Amendment. Isn't idiocy fun?
I applaud an American President who's tough smile.
Okay, Sean, it's Pop Quiz time. Question: Which of the following presidential smiles convinced Libyan strongman and lover of female bodyguards Muammer Khaddafi to give up his WMD programs?

A) This one:

B) This one:

(Hint: A smile works best when the person you're smiling at knows you're willing to back up your words with a big stick, if necessary. Even if that stick is nothing more than a "cold" handshake and a returned book.)