Sunday, August 31, 2008

Obama's Speeches and FDR's Fireside Chats

I was quoted as follows in the Baltimore Sun this morning -

"I think what we have been seeing on TV is very similar to what took place on radio during the Depression, in that both are about reassurance," says Paul Levinson, professor of popular culture and media studies at Fordham University. "Just as hearing Roosevelt's words reassured Americans that things were going to get better, so does seeing Barack Obama's nomination this week offer reassurance to many of us that the best hopes and aspirations of the 1960s have not been lost. What we have been seeing the past weeks reassures us that America has not been hopelessly diminished."


Obama's age, young family, and capacity to inspire clearly hit the same powerful chords in our culture as JFK. But if we're talking about galvanizing the nation with speech through the media, Obama may have even more in common with FDR. Kennedy's wonderful inaugural address was delivered on television at a time when the country was already hopeful. Franklin Delano Roosevelt's fireside chats were delivered on radio with the U.S. in the desperate days of the Great Depression in the 1930s. Which condition more aptly fits the U.S. now?

"We are the party of Roosevelt. We are the party of Kennedy," Obama said in his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention last Thursday. Three orators who spoke to our better angels. Two great Presidents and one, if fortune shines of this country, to becoming one.

=====

For more on the impact of FDR's fireside chats, see The Soft Edge: A Natural History and Future of the Information Revolution.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Is Sarah Palin Ready to be President?

Picking Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as VP running mate was the best thing John McCain could have done for his campaign. But I think it won't be enough. McCain is 72 years old, and not in perfect health. Can someone with Palin's complete lack of national experience - two years as Governor of Alaska, one of least populated in the nation (47th) - really know how to lead and protect our country as President? Will voters be ok with someone so far from the world stage just a heartbeat away from the President?

Palin was the best possible choice for the Republicans. It puts the Republicans on the right side of history and change - along with the Democrats and Obama. Some of Hillary Clinton's supporters, loyal more to her gender than her policies and positions, may well be tempted to vote for McCain and Palin. Joe Biden will likely find it a little more difficult to be tough with Palin than with Romney. But these may well be all secondary advantages, not enough to offset the glaring disadvantage of Sarah Palin: Americans do not know her, and what we do know gives us no confidence that she can take over the highest office in the land.

Capacity to take over as President has always been the single most important qualification of Vice President. We can't get away from that, especially with someone of John McCain's age.

When Americans go to the polls in the November, I'm betting that will be the decisive factor.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Obama Delivers New Kind of Speech: Calls McCain on "Temperament" to be President

Barack Obama delivered a new kind of acceptance speech at the Democratic Convention - one which I bet the Republicans will have a hard time responding to. Part soaring rhetoric, part specific details about how Obama would reduce taxes, develop and reward an intelligent energy policy, end the war - but also filled with specific punches at John McCain that we have not heard before in this campaign.

Some were directed at McCain's swaggering foreign policy - if McCain will pursue bin Laden to the gates of hell, how come he can't even get him these days in his cave? Others at McCain's years of service in the broken Washington government.

But my favorite - and the one which I think will serve Obama best in the next months - was a challenge to debate McCain on who had the better judgment and temperament. Challenging an opponent's judgment we've heard before. Calling an opponent on temperament - whether an opponent is fit to be President on the basis of emotional disposition and control - is something new. And it is something which should pay off well in comparisons with McCain, who has a notoriously thin skin. He's lost his cool more than a few times on television over the years - is this something Americans really want in their next President?

McCain will announce his running mate tomorrow, and the Republican convention will take place next week. Pundits have been saying that Republicans have the advantage in going second. But I'm thinking that the Democratic convention in general, and Obama's extraordinary speech in particular, have thrown so much truth at the Republicans that they may not have the time to catch up.

We'll see. And I'll be back here next week with more.



See also: Al Gore: The Two Lines of History Converge

Infinite Regress Democratic Convention Coverage from Day Three: America Moves Up - Obama Nominated! ... Biden Hits McCain on Everything from Afghanistan to Amtrak

Infinite Regress Democratic Convention Coverage from Day Two: Patrick Buchanan on MSNBC: Hillary Will Campaign Hard for Obama, But Won't Shed Tears If He Loses ... Hillary Speaks Powerfully at Democratic Convention, in a Scene for the Ages

Infinite Regress Democratic Convention Coverage from Day One: Olbermann to Scarborough on MSNBC: "Jesus, Joe, Get a Shovel!" ... Ted Kennedy at 2008 Democratic Convention: JFK Would Be Smiling ... Michelle Obama's Speech: Bringing Home America

Al Gore: The Two Lines of History Converge

Al Gore won the Presidency in 2000. He certainly won the popular vote, and likely would have won the electoral college vote, too, had the Republican dominated Supreme Court not stepped in - unconstitutionally - and stopped the recount in Florida.

A lesser man might have given up public service in the face of such public abuse. But Al Gore became a citizen of the world, championing an issue upon which the future of this planet depends. He never became President, but he galvanized a planet and won the Nobel Prize.

And tonight he spoke at Mile High Stadium at the Democratic Convention on behalf of Barack Obama. Talk about appealing to our better angels - no one could spoken more eloquently of the need not only of country but our globe for an American President not beholding to oil companies and the ways of the past. As Gore aptly pointed out, the same progressive policy that would free us from dependence on oil would not only help the climate but our economy and national security as well.

Had Al Gore been allowed to become President eight years ago, he might well have been on this same stage tonight, endorsing Barack Obama as his successor.

The two lines of history - Al Gore as rightful President, Al Gore not in office and eight years of Bush-Cheney - converged tonight in Denver. The result will be the same - Barack Obama as the next President. History is at last correcting itself.

And I'll be back later after Obama's acceptance speech.



See also Obama Delivers New Kind of Speech - Calls Out McCain on "Temperament"

Infinite Regress Democratic Convention Coverage from Day Three: America Moves Up - Obama Nominated! ... Biden Hits McCain on Everything from Afghanistan to Amtrak

Infinite Regress Democratic Convention Coverage from Day Two: Patrick Buchanan on MSNBC: Hillary Will Campaign Hard for Obama, But Won't Shed Tears If He Loses ... Hillary Speaks Powerfully at Democratic Convention, in a Scene for the Ages

Infinite Regress Democratic Convention Coverage from Day One: Olbermann to Scarborough on MSNBC: "Jesus, Joe, Get a Shovel!" ... Ted Kennedy at 2008 Democratic Convention: JFK Would Be Smiling ... Michelle Obama's Speech: Bringing Home America

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Biden Hits McCain on Everything from Afghanistan to Amtrak

Republican pundits have been "faulting" the Democratic Convention before tonight for not offering hard-hitting criticism of John McCain.

Joe Biden's powerhouse speech tonight amply gave them their wish.

Biden's attack on McCain's poor judgment on foreign policy, contrasted with the astute calls on world affairs made by Obama, will be the keystone of the Democratic campaign. And Biden was just as truthfully scathing about McCain's domestic policies, on everything from empowering the rich to wanting to derail Amtrak. That last is pushing an open train line for me, and I'm looking forward to an Obama administration with Joe Biden as VP as time for retrieval and expansion of train travel in America.

Barack Obama's appearance on stage at the conclusion of Biden's speech was also very satisfying. More than just waving to the crowd, Obama singled out Michelle, Hillary, and Bill's speeches for praise - as well as Biden's.

I've said that I would have rather seen Hillary Clinton as the VP. But Biden was always my next choice, and he showed brilliantly why he will be a great VP candidate and a great Vice President tonight.

He asked if we remember when America was respected in the world. Tonight and the past few days were important steps in turning those memories into life.

And I'll be back tomorrow night...




And here's a link to Biden's complete speech...

See also: America Moves Up - Obama Nominated! ... Superb Speeches by Bill Clinton and John Kerry - But Mindless Networks Carry Only Bill's

Infinite Regress Democratic Convention Coverage from Day Two: Patrick Buchanan on MSNBC: Hillary Will Campaign Hard for Obama, But Won't Shed Tears If He Loses ... Hillary Speaks Powerfully at Democratic Convention, in a Scene for the Ages

Infinite Regress Democratic Convention Coverage from Day One: Olbermann to Scarborough on MSNBC: "Jesus, Joe, Get a Shovel!" ... Ted Kennedy at 2008 Democratic Convention: JFK Would Be Smiling ... Michelle Obama's Speech: Bringing Home America

Superb Speeches by Bill Clinton and John Kerry - Mindless Networks Carry Only Clinton's

Bill Clinton and John Kerry just gave two outstanding speeches at the Democratic National Convention. The arrogant cable networks carried only Bill Clinton's. Once again, CSPAN comes through as the true American herald.

Bill Clinton received minute after minute of thunderous applause when he walked out on stage - he deserved every bit of it. His speech was masterfully on target, explaining what Americans have lost under Bush, and why Obama and Biden are what's needed to get it back and move forward. Clinton's praise of Biden was especially meaningful, given that, on the basis of Bill's irrefutable logic, Hillary might well have been chosen as VP candidate. It was pleasure to see Bill Clinton address a crowd again. As always, his intelligence and commitment shone brightly.

Cut to the talking heads on MSNBC, CNN, and Fox. But on the small inset screen on our TV, who do my wife and I see but John Kerry. He was never a mesmerizing speaker, but, hey, he gave it a close run four years ago, and we wanted to hear what he had to say.

John Kerry probably gave the best speech of his career tonight. I actually liked it even better than Bill's. Kerry took apart the Republicans and John McCain in a way no one at the convention has done so far, in a step-by-step presentation of logic and evidence. I'm looking forward to more of this from Joe Biden.

But kudos to John Kerry for stepping up and delivering a powerhouse punch. And boos to networks for ignoring him. Cable news, here's a clue: a Presidential candidate from just four years ago is always likely to be more of value than your best talking heads.

And I'll be back after Joe Biden's speech...





See also: America Moves Up - Obama Nominated!

Infinite Regress Democratic Convention Coverage from Day Two: Patrick Buchanan on MSNBC: Hillary Will Campaign Hard for Obama, But Won't Shed Tears If He Loses ... Hillary Speaks Powerfully at Democratic Convention, in a Scene for the Ages

Infinite Regress Democratic Convention Coverage from Day One: Olbermann to Scarborough on MSNBC: "Jesus, Joe, Get a Shovel!" ... Ted Kennedy at 2008 Democratic Convention: JFK Would Be Smiling ... Michelle Obama's Speech: Bringing Home America

America Moves Up: Barack Obama Nominated!

It was no surprise tonight, but it was something no one would have predicted a decade ago. One of our two major parties has nominated an African-American for President.

There was talk of Colin Powell running in the Republican primaries in 2000, but Powell pretty quickly put an end to that. Barack Obama was dazzling at the 2004 Democratic Convention in Boston - I and many others said, hey, he should run for President someday, soon as possible - but even then that seemed more a hope than an achievable reality.

But it all became real tonight. And in the best possible way. Hillary and the New York delegation marching quickly into their place on the convention floor and history. I don't think I've ever seen a delegation walk that quickly or purposely onto a convention floor. It was exhilarating and entirely appropriate to see: it was about time, more than about time, in American history.

As a New Yorker, I was especially glad to see the New York delegation perform this service. We're a rough and tough city and state, but we do the right thing.

And Hillary Clinton did the right thing. Her voice, more than any other at the convention, spoke unity in calling for the nomination by acclamation of Obama. She will play an important role in our future.

But next up in destiny: winning the election in November.

And next up at the convention: Bill Clinton's speech. I expect it to be pretty momentous itself.

And I'll be back with my thoughts after Bill Clinton's speech.






Infinite Regress Democratic Convention Coverage from Day Two: Patrick Buchanan on MSNBC: Hillary Will Campaign Hard for Obama, But Won't Shed Tears If He Loses ... Hillary Speaks Powerfully at Democratic Convention, in a Scene for the Ages

Infinite Regress Democratic Convention Coverage from Day One: Olbermann to Scarborough on MSNBC: "Jesus, Joe, Get a Shovel!" ... Ted Kennedy at 2008 Democratic Convention: JFK Would Be Smiling ... Michelle Obama's Speech: Bringing Home America

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Hillary Clinton Speaks Powerfully at the Democratic Convention, In a Scene for the History Books and the Ages

The best part of Hillary Clinton's speech tonight was when she asked her supporters whether they had voted for her in the primaries, or voted for the people who needed her, whom she championed in her campaign. If the answer was the latter, Hillary continued, then you must vote for Barack Obama.

Powerful on the level of logic as well as emotion - because, for those who voted for Hillary for her, and not for the causes and people she championed, then they, too, should now vote Obama, since that what was Hillary was urging them to do.

Of course, not everyone is logical, or even susceptible to emotion on this issue. There will be some supporters of Hillary Clinton who will not vote Obama, whatever Hillary now says. Either because they were always closet McCain supporters, or for whatever better reasons.

But Hillary's speech could not have been any better tonight. There was nothing more convincing that she could have said.

And it was a scene for the history books. Her husband, former President Bill Clinton, in the audience. Michelle Obama and Joe Biden giving her standing ovations.

In a more perfect world, in a more ideal political state, Hillary would have been the Vice Presidential candidate at this convention.

As it is, we'll have to settle for an appointment to the Supreme Court or another worthy position by Barack Obama, and perhaps becoming President after 2016.

See also Patrick Buchanan on MSNBC: Hillary Will Campaign Hard for Obama, But Won't Shed Tears If He Loses

Infinite Regress Democratic Convention Coverage from Day One: Olbermann to Scarborough on MSNBC: "Jesus, Joe, Get a Shovel!" ... Ted Kennedy at 2008 Democratic Convention: JFK Would Be Smiling ... Michelle Obama's Speech: Bringing Home America

Patrick Buchanan on MSNBC: Hillary Will Campaign Hard for Obama, But Not Shed Tears If He Loses

Patrick Buchanan on MSNBC just said that although he expects Hillary to campaign hard for Obama, she won't shed any tears if he loses. He recalled that Nixon campaigned "even harder than Goldwater" for Goldwater in 1964, but Nixon was not at all upset that Goldwater lost, because that loss opened up 1968 for Nixon. Buchanan thinks the same applies to now and 2012 for Hillary Clinton, and also offered that she's therefore not likely go for the jugular with McCain this year.

Keith Olbermann a few minutes later responded that Hillary cares too much about the issues to do anything other than all-out campaign for Obama.

Let's sketch out the various slightly but significantly different scenarios that could play out here:

1. Hillary campaigns hard for Obama, but does not go all-out, because she would not be unhappy if he loses.

2. Hillary campaigns all-out for Obama, but would not be unhappy if he loses.

3. Hillary campaigns all-out for Obama, and would be unhappy if he loses, because she cares so deeply about the issues he and she believe in.

Which strikes you as closest to the truth? The question is somewhat cynical, ultimately unanswerable (for who can know anyone's true motives), but nonetheless interesting...

See also: Hillary Speaks Powerfully at Democratic Convention, In a Scene for the Ages

Infinite Regress Democratic Convention Coverage from Day One: Olbermann to Scarborough on MSNBC: "Jesus, Joe, Get a Shovel!" ... Ted Kennedy at 2008 Democratic Convention: JFK Would Be Smiling ... Michelle Obama's Speech: Bringing Home America

Nancy Turns a Corner: Weeds 4.11

With only two more episodes to go in this bright, dark 4th season of Weeds, Nancy turned an important corner in last night's Episode 11.

Nancy has been close to the law before - even sleeping with and marrying drug enforcement agent Peter Scottson a few seasons ago - but she never went this far...

Lately she's been feeling terribly conflicted. Her sons are almost totally out of her control - Shane is acting like he did indeed sleep with the duo from school, and certainly doesn't intend to stop. A lot more than drugs are going through the tunnel in her store - guns and women.

Esteban indicates he's not about to stop or change anything.

So ... in a great twist of a last scene, which has been Weeds' stock and trade, Nancy meets with Till, the agent who had been playing Celia. (She calls him on the phone first. We don't fully see him at first when he and Nancy meet. I thought he was going to be... Conrad. And I have a feeling we may yet see Conrad in the next two episodes after Labor Day.)

How far will she go with this? Likely enough to get Guillermo arrested.

I can't see her giving up Esteban. But Guillermo could. Esteban is probably safe from the DEA in Mexico. But at very least, his relationship with Nancy is going to suffer...

See also: Showtime's Sassy Hour of Sin ... Weeds 4.3: Nancy by the Endless Sea ... Sitting Shiva on Weeds and Laughing: 4.4 ... Nancy Gets Spanked and Likes It: 4.8 ... Nancy Has Limits: 4.9 ... Shane and Two Girls: 4.10 ... The First Bitter Fruit of Telling Till: 4.12






The Plot to Save Socrates


"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book


more about The Plot to Save Socrates...

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Read the first chapter of The Plot to Save Socrates
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Monday, August 25, 2008

Michelle Obama's Speech: Bringing Home America

I never thought Michelle Obama owed her Republican critics or tone-deaf people of any political view an apology for her style and her concerns about America. There is indeed a lot that is mean about this country, a lot not to be proud of, and as Michelle Obama said tonight in her address to the Democratic National Convention, people who see this have an obligation to speak out about this and try to make it better.

But, as Keith Olbermann noted on MSNBC, Michelle Obama's tone and content were letter-perfect tonight. The Republicans likely won't want to hear or acknowledge it. Nor will, especially, the clearly Republican women who claim to be Hillary supporters but say they are now voting for McCain. (Chris Matthews interviewed a few of those in the street, prior to the start of the Convention.)

But I think the true Hillary Clinton supporters, who saw her as the best candidate for America, and therefore could certainly never think the same about McCain, were the most important audience for Michelle Obama's speech tonight. Michelle not only graciously praised what Hillary had accomplished. Michelle also made crystal and powerfully clear what Barack Obama's election to the Presidency would mean to all groups mistreated - blacks, gays, women, all in different ways.

I've always thought there were two overlapping reasons to vote for Barack Obama. One relates to his policies on the war, energy, and making America a better country. The other is about what the election of an African-American would also do to make America a better country. Michelle's speech brought both points home tonight.

More Infinite Regress Democratic Convention Coverage: Olbermann to Scarborough on MSNBC: "Jesus, Joe, Get a Shovel!" ... Ted Kennedy at 2008 Democratic Convention: JFK Would Be Smiling

Ted Kennedy at the 2008 Democratic Convention: JFK Would Be Smiling

I don't think our country has ever completely gotten over the assassination of John F. Kennedy. I know I haven't. But tonight's address at the Democratic Convention by Ted Kennedy, following Ken Burns' superb film tribute, sure came close to redeeming some of that lost spirit.

Barack Obama and JFK are in many ways not comparable - times have changed drastically since then. Just look at Mad Men.

But the two are indeed the same in the power they have to excite our kids and our better souls. Carolyn Kennedy was right when she made this point in her introduction of Ted, and Ted Kennedy was right when he said the same.

Nothing can ever bring back JFK. But Obama in the White House in January 2009, and Ted Kennedy in the Senate, and Carolyn in some cabinet position, too, would be a great start. JFK would be smiling.

More Infinite Regress Democratic Convention Coverage
: Olbermann to Scarborough on MSNBC: "Jesus, Joe, Get A Shovel" ... Michelle Obama's Speech: Bringing Home America

Olbermann to Scarborough on MSNBC: "Get a Shovel!"

I don't have a video of this yet, but, trust me, you'll see it soon on YouTube -

Live covering the Democratic Convention on MSNBC, Joe Scarborough was explaining that the McCain campaign is feeling much better than they were two weeks ago, now thinking they have a real chance to win, as McCain has pulled even with Obama in the polls-

And, in the background, off camera, you can hear Keith Olbermann say, "Jesus, Joe, get a shovel!"

Scarborough also hears it, is none to happy, and asks Olbermann what he meant. Olbermann responds with a poll that shows Obama's lead growing among likely voters.

The two anchors go back and forth. Scarborough keeps muttering about shovels, and I would say he was livid.

I was on Scarborough Country a few times, and found him genial, if not on the good side (i.e., my progressive views) on most issues. My guess is both he and Olbermann were right tonight.

But - whew - you just can't beat live TV!

And I'll be back with more on the Democratic Convention as it proceeds tonight...

More Infinite Regress Convention Coverage: Ted Kennedy at 2008 Democratic Convention: JFK Would Be Smiling ... Michelle Obama's Speech: Bringing Home America

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Mad Men 2.5: Best Montage Since Hitchcock

First, for devotees of montage - the film technique first developed by Sergei Eisentein, in which cuts between unconnected images tell a story that goes beyond each of the images individually:

Mad Men had a great example tonight. It's always been one of my favorite techniques in film (and television). Alfred Hitchcock's ending of North by Northwest (1959) does it masterfully. Cary Grant pulls Eve-Marie Saint up into the berth of a fast-moving train - cut to the train hurtling into a big, dark tunnel ... A brilliant way of showing the two making passionate love in prudish 1959 ... not to mention that Cary Grant was never too good in love scenes.

Cut to Mad Men, Episode 2.5. Pete has to give the doctor a sample of semen. He's in the bathroom with girlie magazines - cut to Roger whacking a paddle-ball in his office. Hey, you couldn't have shown any more in 1962, even though we are watching this in 2008. Hitchcock would have been proud.

Now to the rest of the story tonight. Don, drinking and driving out to Stony Brook with Bobbi, veers dangerously off the road when Bobbi distracts him a little too much. The two are shaken up and bruised, otherwise ok. But Don is fined $150 by the local Long Island police, which he doesn't have. He calls ... Peggy, to help bail him out.

Why Peggy? Bobbi wants to know that, too.

The answer reveals a little more of what happened to Peggy last season. She's in an institution, saying she has no memory of what got her there (her baby, that she denied having). Don comes to see her, and talks sense to her. The gist is how easy it is to forget a past you don't like. Don, of course, would know. Just as important, the scene shows Don's fundamental decency - in this case, caring for Peggy - which makes him such an appealing character.

Meanwhile, Bobbi stays at Peggy's overnight, and gives her some advice: if you want to succeed at Sterling Cooper, act like a woman. The next day in the office, Peggy calls Don ... Don.

I'm continuing to enjoy this year even more than last year. Much more than a copy off the xerox machine in the office (which Pete tells the doctor about when asked if he's been exposed to radiation) - this year goes into deeper territory, well below the surface.






See also: Mad Men Returns with a Xerox and a Call Girl ... 2.2: The Advertising Devil and the Deep Blue Sea ... 2.3 Double-Barreled Power ... 2.4: Betty and Don's Son ... 2.6 Jackie, Marilyn, and Liberty Valance ... 2.7: Double Dons ... 2.8: Did Don Get What He Deserved? ... 2.9: Don and Roger ... 2.10: Between Ray Bradbury and Telstar ... 2.11: Welcome to the Hotel California ... 2.12: The Day the Earth Stood Still on Mad Men




And listen to my fabulous 20-minute interview last Fall with Rich Sommer (Harry Crane) at Light On Light Through



The Plot to Save Socrates


"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book


more about The Plot to Save Socrates...

Get your own at Profile Pitstop.com



Read the first chapter of The Plot to Save Socrates
.... FREE!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Joe Biden Rides Amtrak

One of the things I find most persuasive about Joe Biden is that he rides Amtrak every day between Washington, DC and Wilmington, Delaware.

I've made that trip many times myself, on my way from New York to Washington and vice versa. I've never actually stopped in Wilmington, but the city on the Amtrak line has always appealed to me. I'm not kidding, I even put in the Wilmington, DE Amtrak station as a major place of action in my 2004 novel, The Pixel Eye.

Biden's taking trains shows he's not only in touch with the people, but the future. Trains are much more comfortable than planes in America for short distances. They would work as well for long distances, if only we constructed decent long distance rails like they have in many other parts of the world.

McCain wants to kill Amtrak
, and let private industry take over. That worked well up until about 50 years ago. Not surprising that McCain would have this position.

Obama wants to expand Amtrak's excellent high speed service in the Northeast corridor to the midwest, for starters. Much like Obama expanded and deepened his ticket with Joe Biden today in Illinois.

Hey, it's by no means the most important issue in this crucial election, but if Obama/Biden are elected, America will have the best chance it's had in years to finally put in convenient, energy-saving, fast intercity train service.

I'm looking forward to Biden taking the train down to Obama's inauguration in January 2009.

CNN Says Obama Picks Biden for VP

John King on CNN just reported that Barack Obama has chosen Delaware Senator Joe Biden as the Democratic VP candidate.

I would have preferred Hillary Clinton - both because of the votes she received in the primary, and the revolution a woman as VP would have represented - but Biden was my next favorite, and I think he is an excellent and powerful choice.

Biden has extensive foreign policy experience - far more than McCain. Biden, in fact, has extensive experience in just about every political issue of the past and present decades. He serves well on the Senate Judiciary Committee. He also is a sharp debater, and has a great sense of humor.

Paul Begala on CNN commented a little earlier that Putin put Biden in the VP nomination spot. The Russian invasion of Georgia hammered home the importance of U.S. foreign policy in all parts the world.

Biden is 65. In term of age, his VP to Obama's President would parallel Cheney to George W. Bush. In terms of everything else, Obama and Biden would be the best thing that has happened to America in years.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Shane and Two Girls: Weeds 4.10

Weeds continues to push the sexual envelope this summer season ... hot spankings, MILFs, and last night in Episode 4.10 we find young Shane in a possible menage-a-trois with two girls from his school. You gotta hand it to those Botwin boys. Silas gets a beautiful blond mother of a ten-year-old (even though that's now not working out so well), and Shane gets two girls, one of which has written Shane, the other Botwin, on their midriffs. They got Shane's attention last week by showing him his name, and this week we find them at the Botwin residence.

Shane (always a fine performance by Alexander Gould) has come a long way since last year, when he was having trouble distinguishing reality from fantasy. Last night his main concern was exactly what he should be doing - or, how he should it - with these two girls.

Silas gives him a little brotherly advice... And we find Shane and the two girls asleep the next morning, and who knows exactly what happened...

Meanwhile, Esteban is concerned about Nancy's migraines, and gives her some super hallucinogenic Native American drug. Nancy feels better the next day. Will this change her life?

Not likely. But something will have to give, sooner or later, because she's far too happy with Esteban for this hilariously dysfunctional family narrative.

See also: Showtime's Sassy Hour of Sin ... Weeds 4.3: Nancy by the Endless Sea ... Sitting Shiva on Weeds and Laughing: 4.4 ... Nancy Gets Spanked and Likes It: 4.8 ... Nancy Has Limits: 4.9 ... Nancy Turns a Corner: 4.11 ... The First Bitter Fruit of Telling Till: 4.12







The Plot to Save Socrates


"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book


more about The Plot to Save Socrates...

Get your own at Profile Pitstop.com



Read the first chapter of The Plot to Save Socrates
.... FREE!

Monday, August 18, 2008

McCain's Shifting Cone of Silence

I thought McCain did better than Obama in the twin interviews conducted by Rev. Rick Warren in California Saturday. McCain's answers were crisper, more decisive. I recall saying to my wife that McCain seemed ... better prepared.

Rick Warren assured viewers, twice, that McCain had been kept in "a cone of silence" during Obama's portion of the interview. McCain quipped that he had had his ear to the wall, trying to listen. Since the essence of the two interviews was that they contained the same questions - thus allowing an "apples to apples" comparison, as Rev. Warren noted - McCain's not hearing anything of Obama's interview was somewhat crucial.

Today the New York Times reported that McCain's ear was not against any wall, because McCain was not in a room at all. He was in his motorcade for at least half of Obama's interview. It would have been trivially easy for McCain to have gotten word of any or even many of the Reverend's questions.

There is no proof of this (yet). Republicans are claiming this is all Democratic sour grapes, an attempt to account for McCain's surprisingly superior performance.

At very least, the Rev. Warren owes Americans an explanation. If the "cone of silence" he said McCain was in was metaphorical, that certainly wasn't clear in what Rev. Warren said on Saturday. At very least, McCain in a car, in which cell phones easily could have conveyed the substance Warren's questions to Obama, raises questions.

I'm looking forward, more than ever, to the Presidential debates beginning next month, in which we'll know for a fact that both candidates will be hearing all questions at the same time.


Mad Men 2.4: Betty and Don's Son

At least three powerful story lines in tonight's episode (2.4) of Mad Men ... Peggy's relationship with her jealous sister and a young priest ... American Airlines of course falls through after Sterling Cooper pulls out all the stops for a pitch on Good Friday ... but the story that I found the most winning was Bobby's (Don and Betty's sweet, highly intelligent, little boy).

Betty's been on Bobby's case all season, growing increasingly intolerant of the little lies and things that little boys do. It comes to a head tonight, as Betty, in her least attractive moment (emotionally, she still looked beautiful) urges Don to spank Bobby and be a better disciplining father.

Don's relationship with his own father, and the beatings he endured, makes him averse to any kind of punishment for Bobby, let alone a spanking. In a superb scene with the two of them, Don explains this to Bobby, who notes that Don's father is dead, and Don could use a new one. Don hugs him. An outstanding performance by the two of them - but special kudos to seven-year old Aaron Hart, and a really classic, heart-warming rendition of little Bobby. I'd give Aaron an Emmy just for that.

Meanwhile - what's got into Betty? Why is she acting so, well, cruel to her son? The Freudian answer is that she's taking out the resentment she has for Don on Bobby ... Well, Freud's a little obvious, but more so now then back in 1962.

Children of course played a major role in The Sopranos, Matthew Wiener's other great work (in a supporting creative role with David Chase). And so did at least one priest, and his interaction with Carmela. The priest in tonight's Mad Men, and the hint of the romantic relationship he might have imagined with Peggy, resonated a little with The Sopranos.

That's a good thing. Both The Sopranos and Mad Men are among the best stories ever to be told on television.





See also: Mad Men Returns with a Xerox and a Call Girl ... 2.2: The Advertising Devil and the Deep Blue Sea ... 2.3 Double-Barreled Power ... 2.5: Best Montage Since Hitchcock ... 2.6 Jackie, Marilyn, and Liberty Valance ... 2.7: Double Dons ... 2.8: Did Don Get What He Deserved? ... 2.9: Don and Roger ... 2.10: Between Ray Bradbury and Telstar ... 2.11: Welcome to the Hotel California ... 2.12: The Day the Earth Stood Still on Mad Men




And listen to my fabulous 20-minute interview last Fall with Rich Sommer (Harry Crane) at Light On Light Through



The Plot to Save Socrates


"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book


more about The Plot to Save Socrates...

Get your own at Profile Pitstop.com



Read the first chapter of The Plot to Save Socrates
.... FREE!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

I'm a Progressive Libertarian

People often ask me how I would describe myself politically - actually, not so much people these days, as places such as Facebook, etc., when you're filling out their profiles. I don't like labels. But I've recently begun to list myself, when I can write in rather than a choose from a group of options, as a "progressive libertarian".

Here, for the blogospheric record, is why:

1. I'm a libertarian. I agree completely with Thomas Jefferson that the greatest threats to our freedom and well being come from government, democratically elected or not. Certainly Hitler and Stalin tragically proved that. I think the Constitution in general, and the Bill of Rights in particular, must be strictly adhered to. Of course, not all the Amendments are exactly the same in what their wording prohibits. The First Amendment's provision that "Congress shall make no law" abridging freedom of speech and press means just that - "no law," period - in contrast to the Second Amendment's provision that the right to bear arms "shall not be infringed," which I take as meaning laws regulating weapons are constitutional, as long as they do not "infringe" on lawful citizens who bear arms. The Fourteenth Amendment, and its provision that all limitations on the Federal government in the Constitution apply to the states, municipalities, etc., is also crucial.

So are other components of the Constitution. I believe it is ethically horrendous to send people to war without the Declaration of War required by the Constitution. The United States has gone to war that way in every war we have fought since World War II.

I also think that, in general, the government should keep its hands off commerce and business.* I disagreed with the anti-monopoly suits against Microsoft - why punish the organization most responsible for bring us the Web?

I want to see lower taxes for everyone, except millionaires and billionaires, whose taxes should be raised. Indeed, I'd recommend no income taxes at all for anyone or compay earning under a million dollars a year.

2. I'm a progressive. This means that I think some government activities are not only necessary but ethically mandated. I want the government to do all in its power to eradicate social injustice, and insure equal rights for women (including a woman's right to decide whether or not to become a mother), gays (including the right to marry), and all minorities and majorities. The government should also make sure that people have sufficient health care, and do not live in poverty. I also want the government to do what it can to support and stimulate science, research, and space exploration. Federal spending should be directed to all of these social, economic, and scientific imperatives.

Neither the Democratic nor the Republican Party has been too good on the libertarian issues in the 20th century. Neither is Barack Obama or John McCain.

But Obama is far more progressive than McCain. I voted for Obama in the New York primary, and will vote for him in November.

*Note added January 2, 2009: And what do I think is the best response of the government to the economic crisis that struck the United States in the Fall of 2008, and is getting worse at the beginning of 2009? Here is what I wrote in a comment, below, on December 29, 2008: "I see the government as an antibiotic: we're usually better off, when fighting infection, to let our body's immune system do the job. But if our lungs are filling with fluid from bacterial pneumonia, we'd better be taking antibiotics (=government intervention in the economy) soon." And I would emphasize that the antibiotic intervention should be as massive as possible, and the government should be ready to try a new course of antibiotics, as rapidly as possible, if the courses being administered do not work. And just as with any strong medication, once it has done its job, it should be withdrawn, in a careful, measured way, as soon as possible.

**Note added December 3, 2011:  See also A Progressive Libertarian in the Occupy Wall Street Age



13-minute podcast on this subject, which I recorded on January 2, 2009


Friday, August 15, 2008

Hey Philadelphia - I'll Be Reading "Unburning Alexandria" at Robin's Bookstore - Also Webcast

Hey everybody - I'll be reading from "Unburning Alexandria" - sequel to The Plot to Save Socrates next Friday night in Philadelphia! This will coincide with the publication of the first two chapters of the novel - as a standalone novelette - in the November issue of Analog Science Fiction and Fact Magazine, in mailboxes and bookstores next week.

Date: Friday, August 22, 2008
Time: 7:30pm - 9:00pm
Location: Robin's Bookstore
Street: 108 S 13th Street
City/Town: Philadelphia, PA

My reading will be live-streamed audio web cast - details are here

Because of the webcast, the reading will start promptly at 7:30pm (but fine with me if you want to sneak in late).

And, I'll have a special announcement, and will be interviewed by Oz Fontecchio, at the end of the reading. Sneak preview: this will be about The Genesis Virus.

All of this will also be taped for YouTube - a good chance for you to get on camera!


Presented by the fabulous Philadelphia Fantastic!


Here's a little clip from the interview ...



More about Unburning Alexandria

And ...




The Plot to Save Socrates


"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book


Get your own at Profile Pitstop.com


Read the first chapter of The Plot to Save Socrates
.... FREE!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Nancy Has Limits: Weeds 4.9

Well, we've finally come upon one of Nancy's limits - in the excellent 4.9 of Weeds.

Shane's been masturbating to those full frontal nudity pix of Nancy that Judah took of her years ago. That's too much even for Uncle Andy, who has had a good time with this picture over the years himself. Andy tells Nancy, who is also trying to deal with Silas' hot affair with MILF Lisa (played by Lost's Sarah - Julie Bowen). Nancy finally sits down with the two boys, and gives them her point of view. (Actually, though both involve boys and older women, Shane's is much more over the top. Possibly Nancy would not have reacted that much to Silas's doings, had she not been so understandably appalled by Shane.)

Meanwhile, Andy is El Andy in Mexico, a great coyote with great lines. Over the years, Andy, brilliant played by Justin Kirk, has had the best lines in the series.

Mary-Louise Parker's putting in an especially superb, saucy performance as Nancy this year herself. It's good to see her and Esteban together - I think they're an even better couple than Nancy and Conrad (Nancy certainly seems more happy). I hope Weeds doesn't break her heart by getting him killed...



See also: Showtime's Sassy Hour of Sin ... Weeds 4.3: Nancy by the Endless Sea ... Sitting Shiva on Weeds and Laughing: 4.4 ... Nancy Gets Spanked and Likes It: 4.8 ... Shane and Two Girls: 4.10 ... Nancy Turns a Corner: 4.11 ... The First Bitter Fruit of Telling Till: 4.12







The Plot to Save Socrates


"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book


more about The Plot to Save Socrates...

Get your own at Profile Pitstop.com



Read the first chapter of The Plot to Save Socrates
.... FREE!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Mad Men 2.3: Double-Barreled Power

A double-barreled Episode 2.3 of Mad Men last night, with two almost completely separate stories of power and insight.

First, Harry Crane - played inimitably by Rich Sommer - discovers that Ken is making a hundred dollars more per week than Harry. Ok, Ken did sell a story to the New Yorker last year - but a $300 to $200 a week advantage in salary is a lot for Harry to swallow, especially with a wife who is expecting (since I'm writing about the early 1960s, I'm trying to observe its euphemisms).

But apropos of appropriate language, Harry calls a friend at CBS - looking for a possible new place to work - and discovers that an episode of The Defenders (that great E. G. Marshall show) has been dropped by skittish sponsors who don't like the word "abortion" appearing so many times along with their commercials. Harry gets a copy of the tape, tries (unsuccessfully) to interest a Sterling Cooper client in buying some ads for the episode, but impresses Roger enough to create a new television division of the firm, and make Harry its chief. Typically, of course, Roger only gives Harry a $25 a week raise ... but Harry and wife are happy, and so was I with this story (though next time, Harry, schmuck, ask for $400 if you want $300 a week...)

Meanwhile, Don gets a classic problem dumped into his lap: a Jackie Mason/Don Rickles kind of comedian insults the client when taping an ad for television. Don needs an apology to the client from the comedian, but has to deal with the comic's wife, who comes on to Don .... He resists - but not too much. Fast forward to the dinner, with Don and Betty, the client (husband and wife), and the comic and his wife (also the comic's manager). Don shows his brutal side when he gets a little rough with the wife, after she indicates there will be no apology. And the apology happens, but the most interesting, instructive scene happens in the car, on the way home, when Betty, tearful, indicates how happy she is to be part of Don's business - we're a team, she says.

The lies have always been what has really made Mad Men tick - not just on the professional level (how could it be otherwise for ad-men) but on the personal level, too. So Don, after sleeping with the comic's wife, is appreciated by Betty, who, by the way, has a flirtation going with someone at her riding club (but she resisted getting ridden by the guy).... (Harry, by the way, is something of an exception, having told his wife the truth about his one-night stand last year.)

Potent show, and I'm liking this season even better than last year's...





See also: Mad Men Returns with a Xerox and a Call Girl ... 2.2: The Advertising Devil and the Deep Blue Sea ... 2.4: Betty and Don's Son ... 2.5: Best Montage Since Hitchcock ... 2.6 Jackie, Marilyn, and Liberty Valance ... 2.7: Double Dons ... 2.8: Did Don Get What He Deserved? ... 2.9: Don and Roger ... 2.10: Between Ray Bradbury and Telstar ... 2.11: Welcome to the Hotel California ... 2.12: The Day the Earth Stood Still on Mad Men





And listen to my fabulous 20-minute interview last Fall with Rich Sommer (Harry Crane) at Light On Light Through



The Plot to Save Socrates


"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book


more about The Plot to Save Socrates...

Get your own at Profile Pitstop.com



Read the first chapter of The Plot to Save Socrates
.... FREE!

Announcing Obama's VP Choice Through Email is Unnecessary Gimmick

You've no doubt heard about the Obama campaign's announcement that everyone in Obama's online community will be "first" to know about his choice for VP running mate, which will be communicated via email and texting to everyone on Obama's online mailing list, before being sent out to the usual mass media channels.

It's no big deal, but I have several problems with this.

1. How many seconds does anyone think will elapse between the emails going out, and mainstream and indeed all other media finding out about it? The offer to the online community of being "first," in other words, in meaningless.

2. Even more important, since the choice of VP running mate is indeed the most important decision that a Presidential candidate can make, it should not be packaged in a gimmick. All Americans, not just online supporters, are awaiting this choice, and deserve to be told at the same time.

3. Obama's online community has been burgeoning naturally - through word of mouth, social media such as Facebook, viral marketing. But the essence of viral marketing is that it appears to be happening spontaneously, not through some online Wizard of Oz (= David Plouffe, Obama's campaign manager) pulling the strings behind a curtain that everyone can see.

My advice, as an Obama supporter, to the Obama campaign: when the VP decision is made, it should be announced to and through all media, new and old, Digg and The New York Times, the DailyKos and NBC television, and everything in between, all at the same time.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Strummin The Best Part of John from Cincinnati One Year Out

Hey, remember John from Cincinnati, that wispy, maddening enigma of a series that was on HBO last summer? A year later, and I still can't quite figure what the show was about, but I don't mind it, and I think that's mostly because of the song under the opening credits - "Johnny Appleseed" by Joe Strummer (1952-2002) and The Mescaleros (once of The Clash, "London Calling," and one of my all-time favorites, "Rock the Casbah" ... Shareef don't like it...)

So here's the best of John from Cincinnati, that opening song, in Joe Strummer's original video ... and, hey, just for good measure, I'd put on Rock the Casbah, too ... the immortal soul of punk ... but embedding has been disabled (he thinks it's not kosher...)



My reviews of John from Cincinnati: Some Thoughts on John (from Cincinnati) ... Episode Two ... Episode Three ... Episode Four ... Episode 5 ... Episode 6 ... Episode 7 ... Episode 8 ... Episode 9 ... Episode 10

See also John from Cincinnati: The Meaning in a Sentence or Two and John from Cincinnati is ... Neo in the Matrix!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Mad Men 2.2: The Advertising Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

Mad Men's second episode of its second season was taut and tough, and stripped bare the wicked root of advertising that makes the entire series jump.

The action centers around an American Airlines plane that goes into the sea not far from Idlewild Airport (in 1962, not yet renamed Kennedy). The office is gathered around a radio, reporting news of the crash. It's a tragedy, and, unsurprisingly, there's a lot of black humor in the quips. That's about as good as it gets.

Mohawk Airlines is a client of Sterling Cooper. Don's thinking about what he can do to protect their image in the weeks ahead, with the public skittish about air travel. Duck, in contrast, sees a way to get the much bigger American Airlines as a Sterling Cooper client - the airline is desperate for the best advertising and publicity help it can get.

But there's a problem. Sterling Cooper can't represent two competing airlines. American is obviously a much better fish, but Don, providing whatever morality an advertising firm can muster, urges staying with Mohawk. Duck (of course) and Sterling oppose him. We're not sure about Cooper...

Meanwhile, Pete has learned that his father was on the plane. Vincent Kartheiser gives a prime performance, going through the various stages of denial and grief, complicated by the problematic relationship he had with his father. At the office, Don's reaction is the most humane (go home to your family) and Duck's the most vacuous (are you going to be working on the American acquisition? you're still upset? ok, sorry for your loss), but Pete's "finest" moment in all of this has yet to come.

Duck prevails with Cooper, Don gets the the news from Sterling that Mohawk must be dropped, and Don has to give Mohawk the bad news. But there's still no guarantee that American will go with Sterling Cooper, even though the way has now been cleared.

Pete lends a hand: He and Duck pitch to American, and Pete reveals that he is uniquely qualified to understand Anerican's situation, because he lost his father in the American Airlines crash.

This searing scene, more than any on the series so far, explains why Don never liked Pete. Don is no angel, but he struggles to do the right thing, has loyalty and other good qualities mixed in with the go-for-the-jugular and succeed at any price. Pete, who did try to see Don before the American meeting - perhaps to express doubts about what Pete was going to do (Don brushed him off - "not a good time") - sells another piece of his soul to the devil, offering the death of his own father as lure to get the client... Nothing succeeds like success in the ends justifying the means...

Who is more typical of the firm? Not Don, who is also starting to realize that Betty is not happy...

PS - The song that was played in the Japanese restaurant - "Sukiyaki" by Kyu Sakamoto- is one of my all-time favorites. First released in Japan in 1961, it became a #1 hit in the U.S. in June 1963 (so it works that a Japanese restaurant would be playing it in 1962). Its title in Japanese, by the way, translates to "I Look Up When I Walk" (so my tears won't fall) - very poetic - not "Sukiyaki". I talk about its cosmic significance in Realspace, my 2004 book.



See also: Mad Men Returns with a Xerox and a Call Girl ... 2.3: Double-Barreled Power ... 2.4: Betty and Don's Son ... 2.5: Best Montage Since Hitchcock ... 2.6 Jackie, Marilyn, and Liberty Valance ... 2.7: Double Dons ... 2.8: Did Don Get What He Deserved? ... 2.9: Don and Roger ... 2.10: Between Ray Bradbury and Telstar ... 2.11: Welcome to the Hotel California ... 2.12: The Day the Earth Stood Still on Mad Men







The Plot to Save Socrates


"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book


more about The Plot to Save Socrates...

Get your own at Profile Pitstop.com



Read the first chapter of The Plot to Save Socrates
.... FREE!

The Genesis Virus



Phil D'Amato's back ... grappling with his nemesis time travel ... in a struggle for the future of the world ... with old and new friends and enemies ...

a thinking-person's time travel story ... as Battlestar Galactica is to space opera, The Genesis Virus is to all prior time travel on television... stunning game-changers will take place in this series at the drop of a hat through time...

added September 12, 2008:
I revealed a little more about The Genesis Virus at my reading of "Unburning Alexandria" at Robin's Bookstore in Philadelphia Aug 22 ... a YouTube video of this interview is posted below ... Phil D'Amato is back, and time travel on television will never be the same ...





Phil D'Amato's three novels are above ... See also The Chronology Protection Case ... The Copyright Notice Case ... and The Mendelian Lamp Case for D'Amato's appearances in short fiction.

article about Phil D'Amato on Wikipedia

And here's Phil D'Amato in a trailer for The Chronology Protection Case short film by Jay Kensinger in 2002, from Paul Levinson's 1995 novelette in Analog Magazine...

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Secret Diary of a Call Girl: Last Page, First Season

I saw the remaining episodes of Showtime's Secret Diary of A Call Girl on a publicity copy a few days ago, and have been meaning to write about them.

As I said in my initial review, Billie Piper is appealing as Belle (the call-girl) as well as Hannah (her real-life identity). She not only looks the parts, but has a winning humorous touch and a good range of emotion. Her narrative technique of looking into the camera for deadpan effect works just fine.

The episodes are pretty good, but uneven in quality. My favorite was Belle being paid to spend all night with a client, being more than willing to sleep with him as often as he wanted, but not wanting to actually fall asleep in his arms or even in bed with him. That would have violated one of her cardinal policies (she has many, and they are in many ways the heart and soul of the show). Convinced that the guy is sound asleep, Belle goes down to the bar and can't resist another customer - hey, we live in a world of multitasking.

The final episode of Belle considering a move up from call girl to courtesan was good, too - but highlighted the one weakness of the series: not much of a continuing, overarching story to animate the episodes. I guess I've been spoiled by everything from Lost to The Wire, and even Curb Your Enthusiasm, but a TV series without an ongoing story seems lacking to me.

I think Belle/Hannah has more than enough going to carry a continuing story. If the sassy series comes back, I hope it goes in that direction.

See also: Showtime's Sassy Hour of Sin






The Plot to Save Socrates


"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book


more about The Plot to Save Socrates...

Get your own at Profile Pitstop.com



Read the first chapter of The Plot to Save Socrates
.... FREE!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Critics of Obama's Overseas Performance Have No Understanding of History or Rhetoric

Some responses to the criticism of Barack Obama that has followed his speech in Berlin last week. Summary: I think the criticisms all show a poor understanding of history, and the nature of politics, rhetoric, and fame.

1. Charles Krauthammer has been widely quoted as saying Obama didn't "earn" the right to speak in Berlin, as did JFK and Reagan.

My response: Speakers - whether Presidents or Presidential candidates, or anyone - don't "earn" the right to speak by their credentials beforehand. Rather, they are invited, if the host sees fit. And they may or may not attract a large audience. Obama attracted a huge audience of 200,000. By that measure, not to mention the audience's reaction, Obama eminently earned his right to speak in Berlin.

2. David Brooks is of the opinion that whereas JFK's and Reagan's speeches in Berlin consisted of rhetoric grounded in reality, Obama's was merely rhetoric.

My response: Really? How was JFK's "I am a Berliner" grounded in reality - last time I checked, JFK was an American, Washingtonian, New Englander, etc. In fact, that was classic rhetoric, taken from the ancient "I am a Roman." And Reagan's "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall" was real in what way? Was that a serious threat or proposal? In the end, the wall was torn down by the Germans, not Mr. Gorbachev. JFK, Reagan, and Obama all used soaring rhetoric not grounded in reality. For that matter, so did Thomas Jefferson, Lincoln, both Roosevelts, and most great political speakers and writers.

3. And then we get to the McCain campaign's attempt to paint Obama as pursuing fame - you've no doubt seen the ad with Britney Spears and Paris Hilton on television and YouTube.

My response: Fame has forever been and always will be inextricably linked to politics in a democratic society, in which candidates get elected to office by the people. Reagan got elected Governor of California because people knew him as an actor, and the same of course is the case with the Terminator. The decisive point in evaluating candidates is not whether they use fame in their campaigns, but what ideas and plans they have for their state or nation if elected.

Barack Obama's ideas are far more original and appealing than John McCain's - and if Obama gives speeches that inspire millions of people, which his opponent is also incapable of, then so much the better.
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