Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Blagojevich Exploits the Audacity of "Nope"

It's actually kind of hilarious that Blagojevich just goes right on and appoints Roland Burris as the new Illinois Senator and no one seems to be able to do anything to stop him.

My question is, will any reporter have the audacity to ask Burris how much he paid for it?

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

In the "Enemy of my Enemy is My Friend" Department

According to Jeffrey Goldberg, Fatah is rooting for Israel to take out Hamas, and is even helping them with intelligence.

If that doesn't illuminate the problem Israel has in finding a singular Palestinian government to negotiate with, I don't know what does.

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Latest Little Palin

Looks like Bristol finally had her baby.

If you recall, McCain was planning a big Levi Johnston-Bristol Palin wedding to distract the voting populous. Now it seems they're planning a "summer wedding." Though my vote is still on Levi Johnson to sign some kind of PR agent and get out of town before the bill comes due.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Frank Rich Fisks the Obama/Warren Controversy

And gets it right, I believe.

Quoting Barney Frank: "I think he [Obama] overestimates his ability to get people to put aside fundamental differences." That’s a polite way of describing the Obama cockiness, says Rich.

As I've been saying, the key disillusionment with Obama's tone-deaf choice of Warren is that it calls into question how Obama will triangulate not only domestic disputes, but international ones as well. Does Obama seriously believe he can just will away long-standing, historical resentments without actually doing the hard work of creating any change of heart? That's not change: it's the same old, same old, only wrapped up prettier, and more all the more cynically for being described as change. My worry, too, is that when Obama starts doing this with other issues, we're going to see public disillusionment on a massive scale. Unless he's able to learn something from this. He's a quick learner. We shall see.

My only disagreement with Rich is his criticism of Clinton. At least when Clinton threw us under the bus, he stopped to explain why. That at least gave us the opportunity to discuss it with him. Obama's approach seems to be to throw one side under the bus and smile and deny it, which is much more infuriating.

Of course, as many have argued, symbols aren't policy. But they are still symbols, and carry weight. We're all waiting with baited breath for what's going to happen with policy. If we're to believe what Biden has told us, we're going to have to wait at least another year or more.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Is the Rick Warren Protest Working?

Nate Silver at points out that Obama has now posted some explicit gay rights issue endorsements on the website.

Of course, just because it's endorsed doesn't mean it'll be delivered. But at least, according to Nate, it's a step further than the public statements on the Obama campaign site. Seems the pressure to respond may have actually generated some public positioning.

It's a start.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Rick Warren's Christmas Revelation: He Loves Himself Some Gays After All

Yes, it's true: Rick Warren has been spotted in West Hollywood with his arm around an actual gay man. Apparently trying to rehabilitate his reputation before the inauguration.

Let's hope pastor Rick isn't following the Ted Haggard school of theology.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Top 10 Conspiracies of 2008: Do Lizard People Run the Plunge Protection Team?

It's that time of year - time for the top ten conspiracies of 2008.

For those of you new to CommonMistakes, here are the rules of this annual review of the most delicious conspiracies of the year:

Conspiracies must be primarily associated with news events of 2008, not the kinds of things we hear year after year (i.e., aliens in area 51).

They shouldn't be ACTUAL events (a "conspiracy" to elect Obama) but should be the kind of wild-eyed accusation that has some small air of credibility, and some very large entertainment value.

Rankings are determined by a combination of newsworthiness, salaciousness, and popularity.

And this year, no doubt, the recent election is top of mind, particularly the paranoid mind.

Here then, without further ado, are this year's top ten.

10. There were many weird and wild accusation about Obama this year as part of the attempt to Swift-Boat him with the public before the election. But perhaps the most bizarre was the accusation that a thirteen-year-old Obama had had a gay affair with a pedophile uncle. Weirdest thing about the story - the attempt to insinuate that it was Obama who was the smarmy one for the "affair."

9. Of course, let's not forget the drama of the primaries, and those who thought Obama's ascendancy to be a conspiracy by Democratic party...or the drive out Hillary from her rightful place of honor. I know - some of you may still be arguing this one to be true.

8. More recently, we have the death of Bush IT guru Mike Connell. Here's a story just breaking: while Bush claims that critical emails are missing, the head of his IT consulting company - the person who actually may know what happened to them - dies in a plane crash. Shall we call this Three Days of the Cheney?

7. And by the way, why is the government refusing to release details of the TARP 700 billion dollar bailout program? Some conspiracy theorists have the answer: it's called The Plunge Protection Team, a shadowy group of government agencies and actors. Instead of shoring up banks, this theory holds that the government is really only using the money to buy up stocks - acting as a kind of massive bull on the market artificially keeping it from collapsing completely. The theory has the benefit of being deeply scary as well as plausible.

6. When it comes to shadowy government actors, however, it's hard to beat the drama created by the idea that the seizure of Fannie and Freddie was part of the Global "Fed" Conspiracy (backed by Illuminati, Trilateral Commission, etc.) to control the world.

5. And speaking of the economy, perhaps the most talked about conspiracy of the year is what's "really" behind the Market Crash. According to Rush Limbaugh, it was secretly engineered by liberals to elect Obama. According to others, it was engineered by Jews to make money. And then there's my personal favorite: that it was caused by Legatus, a shadowy Christian religious sect, as part of it's long-term plot to control the world.

4. However, if you follow the tech world, then maybe the biggest conspiracy of the year is what's become known as the Digg "Bury Brigade," or the attempt of this well-known bookmarking site that helps people "discover and share content" to deliberately bury stories it disagrees with politically.

3. But now that we get to the top three, we get to some really influential conspiracies. For instance, the conspiracy that Obama isn't a US Citizen made it all the way to the Supreme Court!

2. Then again, some people have this idea that some people can turn into Lizard people. That seemed a pretty obscure idea until just recently, when we found out that a Lizard person was on the ballot in Minnesota along with Norm Coleman and Al Franken. Next thing you know, they'll be protesting Obama's plans to serve frog legs at the inaugural.

1. But most definitely, the number one conspiracy of 2008 has to be: Sarah Palin's Down Syndrome baby Trig was really the baby of Palin's daughter Bristol. This conspiracy just wouldn't go away, no matter how many press conferences Palin refused to give.

So there you have it. The top conspiracies for 2008. And as we head into a new year of hope and change, let's hope that most of them don't turn out to be true, and that our paranoid worries get a chance to change.

The Other Rick Warren Problem

Many pixels have been typed about Rick Warren's homophobic comments, but few have discussed the other reason Warren seems a very inappropriate choice for the Obama inaugural.

As I was walking down the street this afternoon I saw volumes of Warren's latest Christmas book all set out and packaged for the holiday shoppers. It's wrapped in a bright red wrapper like some kind of perfume or Christmas video game.

So what about Warren's crass commercialization of religion, of turning Christianity into some kind of Dr. Phil therapy book? It seems to me that this is an equally compelling reason to think that Obama's choice here is a bit inappropriate. Sure, Obama appreciates marketing stars...but is that sort of approach appropriate from a religious leader? Is this the "change" we're looking for?

Just asking.

(image from New York Times)

Ostertag Goes Off

Bob Ostertag in Huffington post goes off with an anit-marriage rant.

I was waiting for something like this: it's a blast from the sexual past, a luxurious rant against marriage and commitment in favor of sexual freedom etc.

Problem is, Ostertag is out of step with the times.

Message to Ostertag: not everyone in the gay community wants to experiment with leftist dreams of anti-family sexual freedom forever. Some people have grown up. And they want to be treated like adults. Or as Woody Allen might say: they want the right to get married and be as miserable as everyone else.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Obama: Time's Person of the Year

Sometimes the obvious choice is the right choice.

Obama not only won the election, he created a new political movement based on a grassroots campaign that was able to defeat two of the most established names in politics.

He was able to overcome racial prejudice, religious stereotype and a consistently liberal voting record to win the Presidency with the first a decisive mandate in a generation.

He ushers in a new generation in political office, a generation that brings with it the technology, the world-view, and the experiences that make the old discussions seem even more stale, and the new discussions seem even more urgent.

And perhaps most importantly, his election has drastically changed the world's view of America, and even our view of ourselves.

No other person has been so influential on world events - not only this year, but in many years. This choice was a no-brainer.

Andrew Sullivan: Wrong, Wrong, Wrong

I respect Sullivan and agree with him on many things, but on today's post about Warren and gay rights, Andrew is simply, as John McLaughlin might say, "wrong, wrong, wrong."

Andrew: "And so the notion of the president stigmatizing someone because of his religious views, and the gay movement pressuring to ban such a person from a civic ceremony, strikes me as coming from precisely the wrong place."

Wrong: we aren't trying to "stigmatize" Warren for his views or even "ban" him from the ceremony. Au contraire: most of us would be more than happy to have him at the ceremony. It's that he's GIVING THE CONVOCATION. What is the convocation? It is the role where the *religious leader* of our country invokes the good will of the almighty upon the administration. It is just very hard to imagine that any distancing Obama does from Warren's view could possibly compensate for the validity that putting him in this role gives to them. Could there not be some other role that would be a "reach out" to Warren? There very well could be a hundred other ways to reach out. Why this, which is so insulting?

Andrew: "With Obama's election, power has shifted. Gay people helped win this election. We will be part of this administration in ways that we would never be under a McCain or a Bush."

WRONG: Gay people are so far not much included in Obama's administration. Not that there's a problem, but really, what power is Andrew talking about? Biden is telling people already that gay issues will take a back seat to the economy, we should expect anything in the first year, etc. How is this any different from eight years of the Clinton administration, or what we would have expected under Hillary? At least Hillary told us up front exactly how she would triangulate the issues, and we believed her explanations. Obama, on the other hand, was much more cagey, getting us to think he understood not only the substance but the symbology of the problem, and I believe that Andrew has fallen hard for the sales pitch. It's possible Obama may yet represent something different. But not so far, and that's precisely why the Warren affair is so upsetting.

Prop 8: If we take this issue fairly to the ballot box next time instead of using power to enforce a premature settlement, our victory will have a durability and a legitimacy that will count for generations. So thanks, Jerry Brown, but no thanks. We already have marriage in two states.

WRONG: There is never any guarantee at the ballot box. Prop 8 was losing by big margins till the Mormon money and distortion ad campaign swung opinion. And if these rights can be given at the ballot box, they can be later taken away. Andrew seems to think the courts are somehow inimical to the democratic process, but the courts are an ESSENTIAL COMPONENT to the democratic process. The courts are there precisely to protect the minority against tyranny from the majority. This battle NEEDS to be won in the courts before the long struggle of swaying public opinion can take effect (in fact we wouldn't be here if we hadn't won a battle in the Hawaii courts fifteen years ago to begin with). And besides, having marriage in Massachusetts does little good to gay families in California. There are very real lives at stake here, and asking them to wait ten, four, or even two more years for their inalienable rights causes REAL HARM to REAL FAMILIES. If Andrew wants to make tactical decisions about political fights, fine - but meanwhile, California couples need court relief now. This kind of insensitivity not only to real families but to the role that the courts play in our society, coming from Andrew, specifically drives me bonkers.

What I have appreciated in the past about both Andrew and Obama have been a kind of intellectual honesty and moral courage. But to attempt to justify the Warren pick as anything other than a political calculation at the expense of gay people is just so intellectually dishonest that I really can't keep my respect for people trying to put this stuff out there.

The more that people like Andrew and the Obama try to justify this this way, the more and more suspicious and disillusioned with them I become. And the more I appreciate Hillary Clinton's approach, and wisdom. It really is one thing to be triangulated against and told, "yes, I realize I'm triangulating, but I think this is all that I can accomplish right now, and I believe it will be the best way to take one step forward without having to later take two steps back." That's Clinton's approach to these issues, and I really do appreciate being treated like an adult and told exactly what a politician expects to be able to accomplish.

But it's quite another to go on and on about what a great friend you are and all the great things you'll be doing in some mythical future while at the same time undermining right now what we're trying to achieve. It's really really hard to keep having faith in that kind of pandering when you have nothing to base that faith on, and years and years of history that proves the opposite. It's like Obama just expects everyone to believe in him like Santa Clause. And Andrew is his greatest apostle. Just be good, and you'll get your presents. But he's not Santa Clause, he's a politician. It'd be nice if he would treat us as adults.

In Every Administration's Last Days: A Silver Lining

It seems that in the last few months of every administration, when they know they are going soon, when all campaign promises and obligations have been either fulfilled or thwarted, when there's no more use for spin or even party ideology, when there's nothing left but to think about their legacy and how they will be remembered, one actual altruistic policy is attempted.

With Clinton, it was a real effort to broker an Israeli / Palestinian peace agreement.

With Bush, it may just be his lifeline to save the American auto industry.

Nice gesture. Too bad, however, it doesn't make up for this.

Mysterious Plane Crash of Bush Technology Consultant

Ok, all you conspiracy theorists, here's something to mull over.

Seems innocent enough, until you combine it with this.

Sounds like the premise for a good thriller.....

Friday, December 19, 2008

Rich Warren Satire Flies Over Heads

Huffington Post gives brilliant satire of Rick Warren convocation...though from responses it seems like many won't even get that this is satire.

So how can we "dialogue" when so many of us don't even understand what we're saying to each other?

Just askin'

Rick Warren Blowback

Could the ultimate blowback from the Rick Warren inaugural pick be that the California Supreme Court overturns Prop 8?

If so, it would be pretty delicious.

THEN what would Obama say.....

Caroline Kennedy versus Sarah Palin

I realize that people are going to be endlessly comparing everyone to Sarah Palin, but in this matchup between Kennedy and Palin, people who are saying Palin is "more experienced" conveniently forget that Palin was running for Vice President of America - to essentially stand in at a moment's notice as President and represent all of America - not for a Senate seat from a notoriously liberal state.

I'd certainly have been aghast had Obama picked Caroline Kennedy as his running mate.

But that's not the situation here. So I fail to see why there's even a comparison being made at all.

Why Obama's Rick Warren Pick Is Such a Shock

I understand what Obama's doing in picking Warren for his inaugural - part of his "building dialogue," and Obama made no bones about his interest in Christianist outreach.

And I've been thrilled with Obama's centrist administration so far.

Still, I think he's starting to overdo it on the outreach. Couldn't he have given the liberals at least one cabinet member? Salazar, for instance, seemed like a bit of a slap in the face to environmentalists. Why go there, when he's already built a solid centrist cabinet on the economy and defense?

Now, we have Warren, a solid supporter of Prop 8.

What's upsetting is that Christianists have just had eight years of outreach from Bush. And gays and lesbians have had eight years of being pushed to the back of the bus. Given that when we're not at the back of the bus, it's because we're being thrown under it, this initial gesture from Obama I think stretches the faith in him past most people's tolerance.

It's not just that Warren getting the plumb spot is insulting (and, if truth be known, also turns me off to the idea of even wanting to watch the inaugural now). It's that there were many other ways Obama could have considered outreach to the homophobic far right for his inaugural. And where's his outreach to us (and no, the gay marching band bringing up the back of the bus doesn't count)? Where is that great inclusion of the gay and lesbian American into Obama's rainbow? Does Obama not get it? Does he not see this as the equivalent of Lyndon Johnson inviting George Wallace to give a major speech at his inauguration, while the black marching core gets to do a baton number at the back of the parade? Is he that politically tone deaf? Or still that naive? Is this is "gays in the military" moment, where he makes his first momentus symbolic blunder?

Or is Obama really all just rhetoric, as his fiercest critics claim? I never would have believed it...but now....maybe Obama's critics have a point.

Color me disillusioned. It's a dangerous thing, having your Obama-faith dashed like this. Now, you might believe anything about him, even the worst. At the very least, after this, expectations of getting any kind of joy from the Obama administration just got dashed. After the passage of Prop 8 - and after all the hope we put into him - that's particularly depressing.

No doubt, Obama could still end up surprising us. But with this sort of shocking initial foot forward, I'm kind of wondering...we could have gotten this exact same economic and security team from Hillary. And Hillary may have triangulated the gay issues...but at least you knew where she was going to stand...and you knew that whether it came to mullahs at home or mullahs abroad, she wasn't going to blithely reward intolerance.

So why was it again that I didn't vote for her?

Until now, I'd been having high hopes for the "era of hope." Now, I'm surprised that I'm already starting to wonder about my vote... and what else Obama's slick sales pitch might have sold me on...and he hasn't even taken office yet.

Scales, dropped. It's like that commercial. I want to slap my head and say, "damn, I could have had Hillary."

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Fed Fund Rate at Zeo: Now Enter Stage Left, The Democrats

Our patient, the economy, is lying flat on the table, and the Fed just gave it the last shock to the system that it had in its battery.

So now that the Fed Funds rate is officially 0, there's nothing left for the Fed to do to fight this deflationary spiral. Enter stage left: the Democrats.

Now it will be up to Obama to spend our way out of the Depression/Recession. Fortunately, with debt interest so low, we can spend to our heart's content, and this is a task that Democrats are well suited for.

Only two questions remain.

1.) Was today's jolt enough to keep our economy alive until January 20th?

2). And once the economy does recover, what are we going to do when we find out that every man, woman, and child in America is in debt to the government to the tune of $350,000?

Who's going to bail out the U.S. Government?

I suppose this would be a good time for the space aliens hoarding intergalactic technology to make themselves known to us. We might just be ready to ask them for a loan.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Joe the Cobbler

One of the most interesting things about the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at Bush over the weekend is that he's become a kind of overnight media celebrity on Arab television.

Apparently, a Palestinian shoe company is even turning it into a new marketing campaign, offering the guy "shoes for life."

Just wondering when he's going to get his press agent and book deal.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Bush Dodges Shoes, Hit By The Obvious

Imagine if Krushchev had thrown his shoes, instead of banging them. The result might have been a little like this.

The best part is that afterwards, Bush gives that classic shrug and chuckle. "It's a little like being at a political rally," Bush says. "It's obviously some sort of protest."

Something of which W. knows a little bit about.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Obama Attack Dogs Are Unleashed

I was wondering how long it would take until the right-wing would start going after Obama - apparently, just as Obama's had the fastest transition team in history, the right wing has assembled the fastest attack machinery in history and are already calling for impeachment before he takes office.

The supposed "smoking gun"? Apparently, Rahm Emanuel gave Blagojevich a list of people who would be "acceptable" as a replacement for Obama's vacated Senate seat, even though Obama said he hadn't "personally spoken" to Blago about it, and would find out what contacts his staff might have had.

This is supposedly evidence that...well, I'm not quite sure what. That Obama was trying to sell his own Senate seat and dispatched Emanuel to broker a deal (BEFORE Emanuel was ever even tapped as part of his administration), and then lied about it? But if Obama said he would reveal the staff contacts, how is revealing Emanuel's contact a lie? And how could Obama sell the seat if Blago was doing that? And if there was anything sinister about Emanuel's calls to Blagojovich, the FBI would have something incriminating on tape - which they say they don't.

It's unfortunate that this Blagojevich seems to be the Democratic equivalent of Jack Abramov. But if Abramov had been the biggest scandal of the Bush administration, we'd be calling W. a saint. And while it's a black eye on the Democratic party in Illinois, other than it being Obama's Senate seat, it still mystifies me how this has anything to do with him.

But then - given that there's still a conspiracy contingent believing that Obama is a secret Manchurian terrorist, this sort of thing must be absolute PROOF that if they just keep digging, at some point they'll reveal that Obama is really Satan, Rasputin, Boss Tweed, Stalin, Nurse Ratchet, bin Laden, and Malcolm X, all rolled into one.

Then again, maybe all the right-wing moonbattery is due to the full moon.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Globe TV Nominations

Now, on to the TV nominations.

I'm glad to see Mad Men dominating the nominations again. There's nothing else on TV that compares with that show.

I hated the first few episodes of True Blood, but by the end of the season, I was totally really is a delightfully sexy, bloody, nasty concoction that plays well on cultural hot buttons. A real guilty pleasure. Glad to see it recognized.

I'm a little sorry "Life on Mars" didn't get any nods. The show is a little rocky, but it's starting to come together, and could really end up having quite a brilliant concept. Guess it just didn't come together as fast as True Blood. Maybe next season.

Betty continues to dominate comedy nominations, as it should.

John Adams dominates the miniseries category, as it should.

Golden Globes Sleight Milk

Sean Penn is nominated for best actor in Milk, but there's no nomination for best picture, screenplay, or director.

Since most of the nominated films haven't been released, it's hard to compare. Still, having seen Milk, I find it difficult to imagine that all five of those films could possibly be that much better. They would all have to be pretty amazing films - a group of the best movies of all time, ever (in the Best Comedy nominations, for instance, I've seen 3 of the films, and I can tell you some of them are pretty mediocre).

The movie "Milk" is a pretty amazing film, authentically depicting an era as well as movingly portraying the arch of a person's life as it intersects with a greater social movement. A kind of "Ghandi" meets "Brokeback" tinged with a bit of Fincher's "Zodiac."

While Penn's performance is great, how come I get the feeling that the Globes are basically awarding Penn the nomination for "playing gay" - while dismissing the movie itself? This wasn't the reception that Brokeback received...and while Brokeback was beautiful and tragic, Milk is inspiring, lovely, deep, and - in my mind - much more authentic. Yet Brokeback received a much better reception.

Do the Globes have a rule that only straight performers, writers, and directors can be nominated for gay movies?

Congressional Republicans - Once Again - Force the Worse of All Choices

Lovely. Republicans scuttle a deal that would force the car companies to restructure and provide strict oversight - because they argue that it wasn't strict ENOUGH - and so the government has to step in and provide the money with no restructuring and no oversight.

Could we somehow pass legislation that would provide politicians with at least a minimum of fore-sight?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

700 Billion for Banks. Nothing for Jobs

It's not immediately clear which of the following the Republican's scuttling of the auto bailout deal falls under:

A) Rank self-interest in giving an advantage to their foreign-owned auto industry in Southern states.

B) Pure political obstructionism and a long-term strategy to destroy the economy, and with it, plan a political resurgence for 2010.

C) An attempt to break the unions (while opening up the wallets for Wall Street managers parachuting out with taxpayer billions).

D) A genuine "enough-is-enough" feeling of capitulation for any more bailouts (since Wall Street is coming back for more, this one seems highly unlikely).

E) Hard-ball negotiating from a genuinely commonsensical business equation that unless the credit burdens of the companies are better relieved, the bailout is a waste of money.

F) An attempt to structure a deal that is closer to a government managed bankruptcy, that effectively restructures company obligations and allows a working corporation to emerge.

G) All of the above.

While E and F are commendable, D is laughable, A is typical political corruption, C is detestable, and B is...dare I say...borderline treasonous.

If it's G, all of the above - well, all I can say is, I hope this gambit works: because if the economy gets much worse, I wouldn't want to be them.

Newsweek Precipitates The Gay Rights Tipping Point

One result of the passage of Proposition 8 in California and the subsequent backlash (coinciding with Obama's election on a platform of inclusion) is that we may be reaching a kind of gay rights tipping point in the culture at large: the point at which the majority begins to start thinking of gay issues in civil rights terms, begins to actual embrace gay equality and take a moral stand against discrimination.

It is much the same today for gays, I think, as the mid-seventies for women, the late sixties for blacks. It is no longer just gay people advocating for our broader inclusion in society; saying the "gay" word is no longer immediately toxic for politicians; a significant vocal minority of straight allies have opened their eyes to the inequality, and are now willing to speak up about it. And those who would hide behind religion or other zealotry to promote discrimination are starting to find themselves - for the first time - on the defensive.

I open with all this to introduce this article on the religious case for gay marriage in Newsweek - which provides a framework for a religious understanding of gay equality - and this article in Power Line, summarizing the far right-wing backlash.

The argument has shifted, subtly, but dramatically. It is no longer about whether gays should be "tolerated." It is no longer considered "balanced" journalism to have to "balance" any discussion of gays and their issues with those who would question whether gays themselves are moral or legitimate.

Instead, the argument is about what "mainstream" means. Newsweek is attempting to frame a discussion about religious acceptance of gays as being, just by itself, mainstream - as would be a discussion about the black middle class or woman's roles in the workplace. Those who would stigmatize gays suddenly find it is THEIR anti-gay viewpoint that's the excluded minority, the questioned viewpoint, that OUTSIDE viewpoint that's considered as odious as racism or sexism.

This is what they have feared, all along: that the day would come when it would be considered "bigoted" to object to gay people. That they would no longer be able to hide behind their Bible and cry for tolerance for their bigotry. That they would no longer be on the offensive in society, but find themselves suddenly in the minority of opinion, and increasingly on the defensive.

Their reaction has been swift and fierce
. Because they cannot let this tide turn - because they have finally been cornered on their bigotry. They have finally run out of arguments to justify their opinions as anything other than "troglodytish," to quote one of their own phrases. They have found that their one and last reaction, to say "because the Bible tells me so," is now longer enough - no longer cows the mainstream into abject silence - and that's a development they can't countenance, not without attempting to totally discredit the messenger as "in the tank." In the way that anyone who doesn't buy into their viewpoint is "in the tank."

But it's a story we've heard before. The same phenomenon happened with women. And Blacks. And Asians. And anyone who fought for their full equality in this society, and had to slowly but surely argue for their equality against the fierce backlash of those who's positions and power were most threatened by change in status of a despised minority: whether those people be white slaveowners, businessmen exploiting cheap Asian labor, men satisfied with their wives keeping a silent and subservient place in the home, or religious fakes and self-aggrandizing fanatics who make millions of dollars and build vast empires by stigmatizing gay people.

It's interesting - when you point out to the religious zeolots the passages in the Bible that were used thirty years ago to justify that women stay in the home, the passages used fifty years ago to justify that black people were inferior and interracial marriage shouldn't be allowed, the passages that were used a hundred and fifty years ago to justify owning slaves - when you point these passages out, people say, "oh, well, those passages are parables...they aren't meant to be taken literally." But when it comes to the few English interpretations of the Bible (which aren't the original meaning, by the way) where it supposedly condemns gay people, then suddenly it's not a parable meant for interpretation, it's suddenly literal. But it's a real question: which is it? Literal? Or a parable? It can't be both - you can't just pick and choose when it suits you.

And these right-wing profiteers know that no one would take them seriously if they tried to argue that people should take everything in the Bible literally. Why, they'd be...Al Qaeda. No, that's just not a very tenable tact for them to take. So all they can do, really, is attempt to rant and obscure, as the public wakes up, and turns against them.

Face it, my right-wing friends. The day when the mainstream takes away your gay whipping boys has come. The day you can hide behind your Bibles is quickly going to end. Bible or not, look forward to hearing yourselves being described as bigots. And not just by gay people, but by the "mainstream" press.

It's a shoe whose measurements have been assiduously taken over the past thirty years...and I fear it will be very easy...and very slip you into it.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

FuckedCompany 2.0

Back in the days of the dot-com bubble and bust, there was a great site, FuckedCompany, run by Pud, that allowed employees to send in anonymous tips about which hot tech companies were going to lay off people next or go belly up. It was filled with juicy insider stories etc. and became the kind of hot insider website where people would go looking for shorting tips and just plain gossip.

With Yahoo handing out a managers guide to laying people off (hot tip: don't say "I'll probably be next"), looks like we're ready for a second generation FuckedCompany, this time about the whole economy. Call it FuckedEconomy.

Favreau and Hillary, Sittin' in a Tree

K - I - S - S - I - Dee - Dee.

Dee Dee Myers' (former Clinton speechwriter) take on the Favreau groping Hillary picture here.

Money quote:

If he’s old enough and wise enough and mature enough to write for the president of the United States—and not just any president but one who seems poised to take words more seriously than any since Abraham Lincoln—than he’s clearly old enough and wise enough and mature enough to avoid getting his picture taken behaving in a way that is embarrassing to him.

Two points about this. As I understand it, the picture was taken before the election. So Favreau wasn't "writing for the president" - he was writing for a candidate. A small distinction, perhaps, but in an article where Dee Dee Myers is carefully parsing the distinctions of this photograph, why make this mistake? It seems to undermine her argument.

As to the point as to whether a brilliant 27-year-old speechwriter is capable of behaving like an ordinary frat-jock boob and get his picture shot in a drunken compromising pose that he probably hadn't given two seconds thought to, I'd have to say, definitely yes: I have no cognitive dissonance with that notion.

Interesting that Obama will have two staffers who've had similar sexist lapses, with Summers on his cabinet.

Interesting question: which is worse, Favreau making rude sexual gestures to a poster of (then) political opponent, or Summers suggesting there are innate differences in male and female math capability?

While I'd like to be outraged by both (and in a way, I am), I'm also, in a way, oddly sanguine.

Is the gesture meant to demean? Of course, in the way that all politicians wish to demean their opponents in a heated campaign. Is it sexism? Sure, and there's no doubt Hillary had to suffer sexism from the press as well as many others. Though it seems to me valid to ask where there is a possible psychological wall between the drunken party hemisphere of Favreau's brain and the part the creates brilliant words for Obama, and if that wall may, I don't know, preserve the integrity of what's on the other side.

Perhaps not. Perhaps I simply disagree with Myers that Favreau's gesture is the equivalent of a campaign staffer brandishing a hood over an Obama poster. I think it may be more equivalent to Lisa Lampenelli making a crude joke about Obama's schlong. Tasteless and out of place in the White House. But possibly excusable in the heat of a campaign....I, for one, would have loved to have seen a Hillary staffer making a similar gesture, and would have found it equally creepy and...possibly...forgivable.

Blagojevich Mania

You know, I haven't said much about this because it seems hard to find anything to say that hasn't already been.

There's also this and this. Scandal and recession, scandal and recession. I think we'll hear this theme music for a while.

I don't know if it's true that Rahm Emanuel tipped off the FBI, and this suggests an Obama administration that won't tolerate Bush-era corruption. Or whether the scandal will come back to haunt Obama.

It's just a little peak into the sausage making that is Illinois (and New Jersey) politics. So none of it really surprises me.

Obamanomics: Most Laughable Scare-Mail Marketing

Here's something in my in box today:

Subject: Obama Stock Market Crash Coming?

You need to read Newsmax Magazine's Special Report...

Beneath Obama's flowery rhetoric lies a dangerous economic plan that will wreak havoc on the American economy.

Obama plans to return to the failed policies of high taxation coupled with an expansion of government spending.

Worse, Obama says he is absolutely committed to almost doubling the capital gains rate — something he will easily accomplish with a Democrat Congress.


Aren't these guys about one year too late? Didn't we just experience the Bush Market Crash and failed economy?

These people, I swear. It's a little like, "no I didn't, you did, nyah, nyah....."

People, please...if your going to spam me, at least offer me something that has some basis in reality, like a million dollars free for transferring some King's ransom from Nigeria, or impossibly long-lasting erections. At least those offers aren't quite so ironically laughable.

Friday, December 05, 2008

How Bad Will The Economy Get?

Well, that's anyone's guess, but the blogger Live Grenades gives a pretty informative run-down of where we are right now.

Despite all the pain, I've been feeling, so far, that this isn't as bad (yet) as 2001. 2001 - 2002 was a terrible business year. Then again, I was in New York, where business stopped cold after 9/11 and didn't really start again until 2003.

This time, business hasn't stopped cold. But the mood out there is that it's continuing to worsen. According to the analysis at Live Grenades, job losses so far have been on par with the 1990/91 recession. Having just entered the job market during that recession I can say, yeah, right now, this feels just like that.

However, my sense is that things are going to get worse before they get better. NOTHING HAS BEEN DONE YET TO STIMULATE THE ECONOMY. It's egregious they're going to let this go on another two months like this, but there it is. Bush's final parting gift to America.

So it's impossible to think that December or January will bring any joy. If Detroit is bailed out and money gets released to states immediately after Obama takes office, February may slow the trend, but don't bet on a decreasing trend in losses (let alone job GAINS) until March 09.

That's three more months of big loss numbers to look forward to, or another million and a half jobs lost before things start to turn around. Given that, it's likely this recession will still end up topping the biggest post-Depression recession of 80/81.

I was in college then. Made money in summers selling door-to-door encyclopedias. Now, selling old books on e-bay may be how we pay the bills....

Now It's Save OR Create Jobs

Now even Obama is saying “we need an economic recovery plan that will save or create at least 2.5 million more jobs over two years....”

Before he had said "save and create." Save and create is a plus.

Save OR create is a dodge.

So what, pray tell, does he mean?

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Obama to Create or Save Jobs...Which Is It?

Again, the Times reports, "Mr. Obama has said that his goal is to create or save 2.5 million jobs in the next two years."

But which is it, create....or save? There's a big difference. Save implies no growth. Create implies growth.

But from what I've read, what Obama actually said was, "create and save" [emphasis mine].

Create AND save seems to imply doing both: saving jobs that are going away AND creating new ones.

But the way the reporters phrase it, however, it's like Obama has the choice: he could decide to create some jobs. Or he could decide to just save them, and keep things from getting worse.

But those aren't the same thing. And it's not what Obama said.

Recession Pain and More Pain: For How Long?

Predicting a recession is a fools game, but its safe to say that the sick economy was run over in September and is now, as everyone warned, bleeding profusely.

But the hemorrhaging of jobs and wages is always the last (and most painful) domino to fall in the recession line. And it may signal we are gathering steam toward the bottom.

On another front, long-term interest rates may be starting to fall. And with the Fed set to lower the prime rate yet again (and if on January 20th the Democrats can start opening up loans to prevent foreclosures), we may finally be about to put a salve on the biggest wound in our economy: the housing market. And by the indications of the success of Cyber Monday, consumer spending may be holding up its bit even despite the Great Depression.

It's too bad we didn't start applying this salve in March of 2008, when Hillary Clinton first suggested it. That might have lessened the pain of this crisis.

Now, it looks like we're going to have to wait until February 2009, at the earliest, till we start to get some relief.

That will still take a few months to work its way through the system.

So by all indications, things are going to get worse - likely in a slow, seeping fashion - till May of 2009. Being a lagging indicator, then, the job market is likely to stay bad well into 2010.

But you'd better put your money back into stocks well before then.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Fun With Hate

Proposition 8, the musical, staring Jack Black.

See more Jack Black videos at Funny or Die

Disco Dancing Elf Dog

Really, I had to research one of these "put yourself in an elf" gizmos at work so, thinking our dog Zoey looks kind of like the Grinch's dog, I reduced her to a dancing dog in an elf costume.

It's pretty goofy.

Send your own ElfYourself eCards

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Banning Gay Marriage Causes Recession

Yes, it's true!

California votes to overturn gay marriage, and look what happens: they suddenly face a huge and scary budget crisis!

Meanwhile, Connecticut and Massachusetts allow gay marriage, and start creating jobs and bringing in millions of dollars.

Come on, New Jersey - don't you want to gay marriage your way out of recession too?

Monday, December 01, 2008

Obama's Foreign Policy: Change Is In the Process, Not Necessarily the Policy

As everyone tries to read the tea-leaves of the Obama foreign policy team, people are naturally wondering if Obama has changed his views and become a hawk, or whether he'll convince people like Clinton to change hers.

But I would argue that Obama's views aren't changing so much as evolving. And in a good way.

His earliest positions - on Iraq, for instance - were clearly one dimensional. Iraq was a mistake, he said in his first major speech on the subject (and he even said then that war was still a good policy tool, in the last resort). But claiming Iraq as a mistake is not foreign policy. In 2002, it was prescient and courageous; by 2004, it was obvious.

So Obama next tried to lay out a principal that would contrast with the Bush doctrine: we should talk to our enemies.

But clearly the initial formulation of that struck some people as naive. What "we" did Obama mean? He responded by clarifying his position to the point where in the end, it was hardly much different from Bush's own (which had also evolved over the same period): send low-level people to do talks, save Presidential visits for rewards.

It seems that both Obama from the left and Bush from the right have evolved into this centrist, "realistic" foreign policy assessment.

The difference is that Obama evolved swiftly, over a matter of months, and before he could actually take office and mess things up with a naive policy. He clearly listened to people who knew something about these things, and he even more clearly changed his mind. Yes, he had to weave his changing position and thread a pretty unconvincing semantic needle between "preconditions" and "preparation." Obama had realized he needed to modulate his position, and it was hard to do that while drawing a line back to earlier statements without effecting some awfully awkward Clintonian distinctions.

Bush, on the other hand, got to be naive for six years, and did a hell of a lot of damage, before his administration wised up and tried the same modulation.

So here's the thing. When Obama speaks of change, he doesn't mean that there won't be politics to the way he characterizes his approach, and he doesn't means that everything he does will be the policy opposite of Bush. People who draw these distinctions do so at their peril, and without much close reading of Obama himself. His approach to this - like the economy - has been pretty consistent: He means that the process of government will change. It will be smart, open-minded, bipartisan, and nimble, not slow, obstinate, ideological and naive.

If that was your biggest complaint about the last eight years - and it was mine - then that's change we can still believe in.

It also should be noted, however, that there will apparently be a very clear difference between Obama's emphasis on an array of foreign policy tools, and Bush's "attack first, ask questions later" approach - which even if he finally abandoned when he installed people like Gates - who agree with Obama - he never clearly corrected into a coherent policy.