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Friday, October 31, 2008

Sincere Question for Conservatives: How Can You Vote for McCain?

I have recently heard more than one conservative say something along the lines of, "I'm going to hold my nose, and vote for McCain."

I'm seriously wondering about the reasoning. John McCain strongly supported the $700 billion bailout, which includes the government literally buying out and taking over banks. If this isn't a step on the road to socialism, I don't know what is.

Now, it certainly is not socialism - our free enterprise system is in no danger - and neither McCain nor Barack Obama, who also supported the bailout, are even remotely socialists. And I can well understand why a conservative would have problems with Obama's progressive view that the government should be a source of improvement in our society - a view I share, as a progressive libertarian -

But I don't see how any true, thoughtful, principled conservative could bring him or herself to vote for McCain. There were people in Congress, Republican as well as Democratic, who voted against the bailout - who held to their conservative or other principles. But not John McCain.

I'm enthusiastically voting for Obama. But I believe that, were I conservative, I would vote either for the Libertarian or the Constitution Party, or sit this one out.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Best Political Ad of the 2008 Presidential Campaign

This, in my opinion, is the best ad of the 2008 Presidential campaign, and I'd put in the top 10 best political ads of all time.

It says it all - John McCain's admitted lack of knowledge about the economy, and his VP choice Sarah Palin's lack of knowledge about just about everything.

And the ad says this without speaking a single word!

Charlie Chaplin and Alfred Hitchcock would have been proud.

Kudos to Shep Smith for Smacking Down Joe the Ersatz Plumber

I didn't get a chance say this night, with all the excitement of that great Obama-Clinton rally at midnight in Florida, but I wanted to give a shout-out to Shep Smith on Fox for the way he took on, smoked out, and smacked down Joe the Plumber on his ignorant statement about Obama and Israel yesterday.

Someone told Joe the Deadbeat Contractor - he's not a licensed plumber - that he was entitled to have a quotable opinion not only about rusty pipes and maybe making ends meet, but on foreign affairs! Actually, not someone, but John McCain, Sarah Palin, the RNC, and every Republican we've been seeing on television. But as we saw on Shep Smith's Studio B on Fox yesterday, Joe the Plumber probably knows less about foreign affairs than Sarah Palin.

At a campaign rally yesterday, Joe the Plumber was asked if a vote for Obama would mean "death to Israel". He plumbed his vast knowledge of world relations, and said, yes, that was a point that he had to agree with. The man in the crowd asked if he could shake the Plumber's hand.

Shortly after, Shep Smith asked Joe why he would endorse a statement like that. Smith pointed out that Obama has repeatedly said he would be Israel's unswerving defender as President. Joe's answers varied from Joe's opinion didn't matter, to we should look at Obama's actions not words about Israel. And what actions were that? Obama's willingness to talk with the President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. As Keith Olbermann later pointed out on Countdown - last time I checked, saying you would be willing to talk to someone is speaking ("saying") as distinct from "acting" (actually going to meet with someone).

But kudos to Shep Smith for taking on this blowhard would-be plumber. I've been saying for years that Fox News is not evil incarnate on television. They have a Republican, right-wing bias, which I strongly disagree with, just as MSNBC has a progressive bias which I endorse and enjoy. But not every anchor or commentator on Fox News is Sean Hannity. And last night, Shep Smith was (cue Keith Olbermann voice) one of the best persons in the world.

Added 28 October 2009: See also Shep Smith Speak Up and Does the Right Thing - Once Again

Obama at Midnight: "Power Concedes Nothing Without a Fight"

Obama saved the most important words of his rousing speech in Florida at midnight, with Bill Clinton at his side, for the end: "Power concedes nothing without a fight." In other words, don't rest confident in the polls. If you Obama to be President, make sure you vote, and encourage all of your friends to vote, too.

It was a high intensity day politically, especially in the evening -

1. Obama's 30-minute advertisement to the American people was excellent. It wouldn't have been necessary, had not the Republicans been constantly lying about Obama wanting to raise "your" taxes, repeating the idiocy of Obama being a "socialist," etc. Obama made his case to and for the American people. He looked Presidential, speaking, in part, from what looked like an Oval Office. I consider that not presumptive but appropriately predictive.

2. CNN made a show of taking some high road by refusing to air the commercial, and keeping to its (usually boring) political coverage. And what did CNN put on instead? John McCain, in a typically inarticulate interview by Larry King. So much for CNN's political coverage: what they did instead was give McCain free air time, opposite the time that Obama paid for, with money donated by the American people.

3. Obama also was on with John Stewart. Both were humorous and vibrant. Good thing for anyone who might have been falling asleep watching Larry King.

4. But I thought the best moment of the evening was Obama on the stage with Bill Clinton in Florida. It was good to see the previous Democratic President on stage with someone who so many hope will be the next one. (Obama quipped that Jimmy Smits - whom we saw with Obama and Clinton back stage before the speeches - was a Democratic President. Well, he did beat Alan Alda's Republican character-candidate for President on the West Wing. As long as Dexter wasn't there...)

But will Obama be elected? "Power concedes nothing without a fight" - an important update of Frederick Douglass' "Power concedes nothing without a demand." Obama will be elected only if everyone who supports him goes to the polls and votes.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Joan Baez Sings Dylan, Lennon, Earle, and Speaks Obama at NY Town Hall Concert

My wife and I just returned from Joan Baez's splendid concert at Town Hall in New York City, where she celebrated half a century of singing and campaigning for peace, justice, sanity, and the better angels of our life.

Her voice is as angelic as ever. She sang Dylan's "Love is a Four Letter Word," Lennon's "Imagine," a song by Steve Earle - "God is God" - from her new Day After Tomorrow album, as well as Earle's classic "Christmas in Washington," and some of her own great songs, too, including "Diamonds and Rust" (about Dylan). Her back-up people were superb - John Doyle on guitar, Dirk Powell on violin, banjo, mandolin, accordion, and who knows what else, and Todd Phillips on acoustic bass (not stand-up bass fiddle). And they all sang.

Powell has done a video for Obama. Joan Baez asked the audience to "give it up for Obama" and the crowd erupted in joyous applause.

Joan Baez has endured a lot. Disdained by Dylan after she helped light up his career at Newport, called "Joanie Phonie" by the Neanderthals in both Republican and Democratic Parties because she spoke and sang out against our unconstitutional, immoral war in Vietnam - with apologies to the prehistoric Neanderthals, I have no reason to think they were that bad - but Joan Baez has soldiered on, with grace and dignity and hope.

Dylan has seen the error of his ways - he apologized, in a manner of sorts, in Scorcese's No Direction Home. But the war mongers, those who want to step on other people, both here and abroad, and label anyone who doesn't "anti-American," or worse - well, they're obviously still with us.

But, maybe, at last, after lo these many years, not for much longer. No one would have predicted, or did predict, back in the rubble of the 1960s, that in 2008 we might elect someone who would galvanize the nation, call upon our better spirits, replenish the democratic spirit, as has Barack Obama.

There's less than a week left until the election. Joan Baez has held a public vigil on the right thing to do for so many years. I'm looking forward to toasting her through the virtual firmament next Tuesday night ... Make sure you vote!

And in the meantime, I don't have a video of tonight's concert, but here she is singing one of the very best of Dylan's songs - "With God On Our Side" - in 1966... Followed by Dirk Powell's "Oui, On Peut - Yes We Can!" for Obama...

Heroes 3: Superpowered Chess with Shifting Pieces

A lean, mean, superb episode of Heroes tonight, in which at least half a dozen characters and plot points are moved forward, in an interlocking, irresistible progression in which -

1. Claire and Elle draw closer together, as Claire discovers that Elle is losing control of her electrical powers, just as Claire may be beginning to lose control of hers (she's not feeling pain). Claire and Elle were always good and bad mirror images, in a series in which almost everyone seems to be someone's brother or father, biological or adoptive. But what's also happening this year is the good may be getting bad, and the bad good, even though they seem to be retaining at least a significant part of their original good or bad tendencies...

2. In that same vein, Sylar/Gabriel throws Peter out of the window - in front of their evil father Arthur Petrelli - but Peter doesn't die. And not because of his loss of powers - which Arthur has taken away from him (this is apparently at least one of Arthur's powers) - but because Sylar didn't really want to kill his brother, but enable him to escape. So Sylar in one episode goes from good to bad to ... at least a little good.

3. Parkman, I'm happy to say, is still apparently only good. He gets into Knox's head, and deludes him into thinking he killed Parkman and Daphne, who seems to be good ... yet, by the end of the episode, it seems she may not be.

4. And there's the two organizations - the apparently sorta good Primatech and the apparently bad Pinehearst ... Except, if these companies are anything like the interchangeable heroes and villains, there's no telling where this might end up...

All of which is to the good ... as far as Heroes is concerned. It's developed quite well, especially in this episode, into a complex story of checks and balances and superpowered chess with shifting pieces ...

I'm looking forward to more moves in two weeks and beyond.

See also Heroes 3 Begins: Best Yet, Riddled with Time Travel and Paradox ... Sylar's Redemption and other Heroes and Villains Mergers ... Costa Nuclear ... Hearts of Gold and the Debased ... Seeing the Future Trumps Time Travel

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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Sunday, October 26, 2008

The True Nature of Miguel on Dexter

I knew there was something else, something more, about Miguel on Dexter - something more than his being another brilliant guy in law enforcement who might come after Dexter.

If you think about it, there's been a deep vein underlying all three seasons of the series. In the first season, Dexter's brother, a lot like Dexter, just a slightly but much more evil version of Dexter, becomes his nemesis. In the second season, it's Lila who is the only one who truly understands him.

And now, in the third season, it turns out that Miguel, well played by Jimmy Smits, is not just a DA with a passion for getting bad guys - he's a DA with the same kind of passion as Dexter.

But this raises at least one big question: Dexter survived in the first two seasons by killing the two people who were so much like him. Will Dexter have to do the same with Miguel?

Not mention that Miguel has a reason to quickly turn from needing to hating Dexter - after all, Dexter killed Miguel's brother.

Though, for all we know, maybe for some twisted or logical reason that was just what Miguel wanted - maybe he couldn't bring himself to kill his brother himself. There's always a twisted logical irresistible insane reason in Dexter.

Meanwhile, Dexter's walking that line, coming always a bit closer to leading a normal life, even as he can never bring himself to leave the satisfaction of his righteous avenger work. He's accepted and is even happy about Rita and his baby. He's even agreed to move in with her. But that's ok. He still has his boat.

And I'll be sailing in here with reviews of every episode from now on.

See also Dexter 3: Sneak Preview Review

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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Saving the Best for Last on Mad Men

Well, Mad Men certainly saved its grand slam clear out of the park best episode of the season for last. Personal and professional crises resolved, new ones emerging, and all played perfectly against the real Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.

Here are the highlights -

1. I knew Betty was pregnant - I said so here last week. I had no advance knowledge of the script, no sneak previews. But Betty's being pregnant was absolutely necessary for her reconciliation with Don. Well, that and the life-and-death impact of the Cuban Missile Crisis - or, more precisely, bringing everyone so much closer to the precipice of death, and thereby making them appreciate sweet life a little more.

2. It certainly has that effect on Pete - with Vincent Kartheiser giving one of his all-time best performances on the series. Pete realizes he has no life ahead with Trudy. He tells Peggy he loves her and ... Well, Peggy still remains an enigma. I think she loves Pete. But, she tells Pete about their baby - in part, apparently, to keep them apart. And Pete, being Pete, doesn't know how to react. So their unfinished business will continue into the next season. Good.

3. Sterling Cooper's merger with that British firm which is acquiring them probably will continue, too - or, maybe not. What's clear is that Duck, who was the putative President of the new Sterling Cooper, either won't be around or will continue in a diminished capacity. He was hoping Don would leave, and assumed that Don's contract would prevent him from competing with Sterling Cooper. But, as Roger explains, they made Don a partner on a handshake ... which means that Sterling Cooper may not be able to let Don go. Don's on his way back home to Betty, and Duck is on his way out, as he blows up at the exec meeting and shows his British overlords how unfit he is to be head of any firm.

What an amazing mix of relationships with depths we still don't fully understand - not only Pete and Peggy, Don and Betty, but, in a different way, the competitive friendship of Don and Roger...

As we of course know, the Cuban Missile Crisis will be soon be over. But the delicious, maddening crises of Mad Men will continue next season.

A whirlpool of history and fiction, of then and now ... which makes me wonder, did Matthew Wiener know this episode would be aired so close to our Presidential election of 2008?

Of course he did. And, should something like that somehow happen again, I know I'd much rather have Barack Obama in the White House than that other candidate. (Hey, it's my blog, and one its pleasures for me is mixing in politics if I want to ...:)

And I'll be back next season with new reviews of Mad Men (I'm betting it will be back), and, in the interim, with reviews of Dexter, Brotherhood (starting next week), and lots of other great TV.

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 ... 2.5: 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
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Saturday, October 25, 2008

Making Sure Polls on Election Day = Polls Where Obama Is Today

As we move into the last 10 days before the most important election of our time, it is well to bear in mind the world of difference between two processes that have the same name: polls (as in surveys about how people will be voting) and polls (the places in which people actually cast their votes.

Surveys are useful tools, and have been generally accurate over the years. But they are not infallible, indeed have been wrong a few crucial times in our history, and in plain fact elect no one. The reasons poll-surveys have been in error almost don't matter. But they range from deliberately or accidentally biased samples - the people questioned are not representative of the general population - to people just not telling the truth when asked about their voting intentions. Infamous examples of polls being wrong range from the 1936 Literary Digest poll predicting Alf Landon's victory over FDR in that election to polls for the New Hampshire Democratic primary earlier this year which showed Obama winning comfortably. Pollsters learn from their mistakes. But there is no way to learn from a mistake you do not realize you are making - until the actual vote at the polls proves your poll-survey wrong.

Just to be clear - most polls, the vast majority of them, have been correct in their prediction. But the stakes are so high in this election, that those of us who support Obama can't gamble, even with the odds so heavily in our favor, that the current polls showing Obama leading in so many states are right.

Fortunately, we do not have to gamble. We can make sure we get to the polls - the place where we cast our votes - on Election Day. We can encourage, cajole, pressure our friends and family to go to the polls on Tuesday, November 4 - or, any day before the election, if your state has early voting. You can get an account on mybarackobama.com, and get a list of phone numbers of voters that you can start calling any time, when you have a few minutes, with encouragement to vote for Obama.

We shouldn't think for a minute that we're voting on an equal playing field. Not only is it possible that the current polls may not be accurate, that voters might change their minds between now and Election Day, but Republicans are doing their best to discourage and suppress Democratic voters. In Alabama, for example, citizens with parking tickets and no criminal record whatsoever were sent notices that they would not be able to vote. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Greg Palast have also written an important article in Rolling Stone about the Republican attempt to stifle democracy and freedom in this election.

We all have it in our power to not let this happen. It's as easy voting and getting everyone we know to polls. Let's prove the pollsters right this time, and make the current polls showing Obama handily winning to be in complete 100% agreement with what happens at the polls on Election Day.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Life on Mars Goes on in America 3: What Happens When a Time Traveler Runs Into His Younger Self?

I gotta say my single favorite moment in last night's episode 3 of Life on Mars in the mean streets of New York City was when The Marmalade's "Reflections of My Life" came on at the end. I haven't heard that song, maybe since 1973. "All my sorrows, sad tomorrow..." was just perfect for a man unwillingly, apparently stuck back in 1973 from 2008 ... Yeah, that music was perfect, just like about every clip of music I've heard thus far in the series.

Not perfect at all, though, is the purely cop part of the show. Michael Imperioli's Det. Ray Carling is annoying - that's the fault of the character and the writing, not the fine actor - and though I've warmed up a little to Harvey Keitel's Lieutenant Gene Hunt (he finally displayed a bit of a heart last night), he still has a way to go.

It almost feels if the series is a collaboration between a very cool and a tone-deaf writer, with the cool one writing the time travel parts, and the tone-dead writer the cop parts.

There were very good time travel touches last night - the best being when Sam sees his younger self at the end. A time traveler running into his or her younger self is one of the sweet, infinitely paradoxical moments of any time travel story ... does the older traveler instantly get a memory of that encounter? What happens when that look is exchanged between their eyes? "I'm changing, rearranging..." as The Marmalade sing.

I've played with that a lot in my Loose Ends and Plot to Save Socrates stories ... When you're writing a novel or a story, it's easy to explore and lay out some of those possibilities. But what was Sam, the older Sam, thinking we he saw his younger self, and his younger self saw Sam, last night?

I'm looking to find out...

See also Life on Mars Debuts in America ... Life on Mars 2nd Episode in America: Coma, Time Travel, Mars Rover ... Life on Mars #4: All in the Family ... Life on Mars #5 Meets the Wire ... Life on Mars #6 Meets Itself on Television ... Life on Mars #7: Is Annie Real, Or, Is Life on Mars a False Memory

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!

And, hey, like a short, savvy, funny book about time travel? Try Frank Borzellieri's The Physics of Dark Shadows...

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Republican - Party of "Family Values" - Strategist Is Derisive about Obama Visting "Grandma"

I saw this out of the corner of my eye on MSNBC earlier today, and couldn't believe my ears - a Republican speaking with dripping derision about "the outrage" of Obama "taking a 767 campaign plane to go visit Grandma." Keith Olbermann performed the important service of replaying and highlighting this on Countdown tonight - important, because it shows just what low level of humanity some Republicans occupy.

This is a party that regularly trumpets itself as the party of "family values". And its spokeman calls Barack Obama's visit to his gravely ill grandmother, on whatever the plane, an "outrage"?

Brad Blakeman, the Republican strategist who spoke this, did not even have the decency to refer to Barack Obama's grandmother as his "grandmother". What point was Blakeman trying to make - that Obama loves his grandmother so much, that she is someone Obama is so close to, that she is better termed his "grandma" than "grandmother".

It's impossible to get into the mind of someone who in any way would make light of anyone going back home to see his or her seriously ill grandmother.

But what Blakeman said is unfortunately consistent with what I've been seeing and hearing from a variety of Republican strategists and supporters in the past few weeks. As McCain's chances dwindle, these lowlifes lose all pretense of dignity and accuracy. Their opponents become "socialist" and "anti-American," and a man galvanizing the nation in his heroic run for President becomes a target of their abuse and contempt for the way he chooses to visit his 85-year old very ill grandmother.

As I've urged here before, I can only hope that Republicans who are decent human beings read Blakeman and his ilk out of the party.

The Sarah Connor Chronicles 2.6: Terminator Mom, Human Daughter, Questions

This week's episode gave most of the goods on Catherine Weaver - she's a Terminator, as we know, who apparently killed the human Catherine Weaver and took her place, and killed her husband as well. She did not kill her little daughter, whom Catherine is now trying to raise.

But it's not easy. The little girl realizes her new liquid mother is not affectionate. Catherine - seeing a child psychiatrist (Dr. Sherman, played by Dorian Harewood - always good to see him on the screen) - tries to improve her motherly performance, by summoning or feigning a little more affection for her daughter.

But this raises a question: Why did Catherine the Terminator spare the human Catherine's daughter? Among the possibilities -

1. Skynet wants to learn more about human beings - how to better mess with our minds, and therefore ultimately how to kill us more effectively. And studying a child growing up helps them learn more about us.

2. Some specific and special role is planned by Skynet for Catherine's daughter in the future - or, Catherine's daughter will play some sort of role helpful to Skynet.

3. Catherine is not just a stone-cold killer, and, like Cameron, may have some threads of human emotion entwined in her circuitry somewhere...

Which of the three makes the most sense to you?

Meanwhile, while all of this - including John and Sarah's visits to Dr. Sherman, because his name is on the Terminator target list - is going on, Derek hooks back up with Jesse, who has come back from the future. I don't know, I'm glad to see he's found a little happiness, but nothing good is likely to come of that...

See also 2.1 Cameron's Back ... 2.2 Firing on All Cylinders ... 2.3 Who, Truly, Is Agent Ellison? ... 2.4: Meet Allison ... 2.5: Unpacking the Future

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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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Heroes 3: Seeing the Future Trumps Time Travel

My favorite part of last night's Heroes was the little battle of strategy between time traveling Hiro and African future-painter Usutu (the new Mendez), in which the guy with visions of the future bests the time traveler. This makes perfect logical sense - what advantage is time travel to the past, if that travel to the past is in your future, and your opponent can see everything in the future you do?

once again gets creds for shrewdly coasting the paradoxical rapids of time travel - and for having another good match-up of super powers.

I was also glad to see Adam Monroe extinguished by Papa Arthur Petrelli, well played by Robert Forster, as I mentioned last week. I didn't much like Adam last year, even though it was good to see David Anders' Sark from Alias back in action.

And speaking of power match-ups, it was good seeing Claire getting the last laugh on the creepy puppet master. Indestructibility is hard to trump.

So we now have the heroes and villains pretty well set, with some powerful people in the middle. HRG, Hiro, Ando, and Claire on the good side (though we saw Claire turn bad in the future), Arthur Petrilli, Knox, and maybe Peter turning bad as the villains, with Mrs. Petrilli, Sylar, and Daphne somewhere in the middle, but closer to good, especially with the Daphne-Parkman alliance. And Nathan and Tracy good, though presently out of commission courtesy of Mohinder, who is scaly and bad - but they have to do something more interesting with his character.

Hey, talking about Mohinder just gave me an idea about Ando - maybe he can go see the doc who gave Nathan and Tracy their powers, and get some powers spliced into his genome ... On the other hand, it's not clear if the powers can be spliced in as adults, and I think part of the appeal of Heroes, and Hiro and Ando in particular, is the one of us, one of them theme of this season.

See also Heroes 3 Begins: Best Yet, Riddled with Time Travel and Paradox ... Sylar's Redemption and other Heroes and Villains Mergers ... Costa Nuclear ... Hearts of Gold and the Debased

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, October 20, 2008

Another Question for Republicans: Do You Agree with Rep. Bachman That Media Should Investigate "Anti-Americans" in Congress?

Michele Bachman - Congresswoman from Minnesota - told Chris Matthews on Hardball on Friday that she suspects Barack Obama may be "anti-American," and news media should vigorously investigate whether there are "anti-Americans" in Congress.

Colin Powell cited this in his endorsement of Obama on Meet the Press on Sunday as one of the things that disturbed him about the Republican Party and the McCain campaign.

Obama today spoke eloquently of there being no dichotomy between "real and fake Americans," no anti-Americans in this campaign.

So, another question for sensible Republicans: do you agree with Bachman, or with Powell and Obama? Are you concerned that a Congresswoman from your party is raising the spectre of Joe McCarthy and witch hunts against Americans that beset us in the 1950s?

Is this the kind of change you're after?

Question for Republicans: How Is Letting Americans Keep Their Money a "Give Away"?

I just heard John McCain say at a rally in Missouri that what Obama wants is "not a tax cut but another government give-away".

Can someone explain to me how the government having less of a hand in the pocket of all tax payers earning under $250,000 a year is a "give-away" or "hand-out"?

What it's doing is reducing the money that the government is already taking from us. By what logic is allowing 95% of Americans to keep their own money a "give-away"? How can we be "given" that which we already have?

The Republicans of course know the hypocrisy of their "give-away" claims, and the contempt they are showing for the American voter, the bet they are making on the lack of common sense of most Americans. I'm looking forward to Americans standing up and saying they're not going to fall for that kind of blatant misrepresentation and mangling of language, and voting the Republicans soundly out of office in record numbers in two weeks. That would be the true give away - giving Republicans a way to the door.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Day the Earth Stood Still on Mad Men 2.12

Tonight's Mad Men had a great shot of the 1951 Robert Wise science fiction classic, The Day the Earth Stood Still with Michael Rennie. And especially apt, because the remake will be opening this December 12, starring ... Jon Hamm. "Klaatu barada nikto."

Also appropriate because the Earth stood still through much of tonight's episode of Mad Men, as Don Draper/Dick Whitman jumps through time. We see him first meeting the original Draper's wife, Anna, out in San Pedro. She was the one he called last week, and gave his name as Dick Whitman. They've kept in touch over the years - Don/Dick promised to take care of her, at least financially, as the least he could do for taking over her husband's name. He certainly cares for her, likely not romantically. It's hard to say with Anna, but I'd say she flat out loves Don in all ways.

Meanwhile, back in New York in 1962, Cooper and Sterling and Cooper's sister agree to the merger. Peggy gets Freddy's vacant office. And Joan gets -

Well, hers is the most wrenching, tragic story of the night. Her fabulous doctor isn't interested in making love to her in bed at night, only to rape her in Don's office the next day. Whether or not this would have been called rape by early 1960s standards, Joan clearly said no. Christina Hendricks is always excellent in her portrayal of Joan, but never better than tonight.

And Jon Hamm gave one his best performances as well, portraying Don/Dick with just the right ratio of innocence and savvy as he moves through ten years. Don will have a lot more to deal with next week, out in California, because it may be, on the basis of the very last scene with Betty tonight, that she's pregnant.

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 ... 2.5: 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

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!

Powell's Endorsement of Obama Should Appeal to Every Sensible Republican

It was good to see Colin Powell endorse Barack Obama this morning on Meet the Press.

I've always liked Powell, not only because he was born in the Bronx and attended City College (two of my proudest accomplishments), but because he always has had a way of cutting through the hype and getting to the core of the issues at hand.

Powell said his reasons for not voting for McCain, a long time friend, were two-fold: McCain's response to the economic crisis has not consistent and clear. And Sarah Palin, McCain's choice for VP, is unfit for the office, in Powell's assessment.

Powell thinks Obama, on the other hand, has displayed good judgment and leadership capacities, especially in the economic crisis that still besets us.

Those are about as sensible reasons anyone could want for endorsing a candidate for President - sensible not only for a thoughtful Republican like Colin Powell, but for anyone. Indeed, Powell's complete 30-minute endorsement of Obama, with the detailed reasons he offered, was the best-reasoned endorsement I recall ever hearing of anyone.

Powell will have to live forever with going before the United Nations and assuring Americans and the world that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. He can't go back in history and change that, because he now regrets that he had been misinformed by the CIA.

But Colin Powell went a long way today in doing something very right and balancing his position for the good on that great cosmic scale.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Sarah Palin on SNL: She's Good as Tina Fey, and That's the Problem

I just saw Sarah Palin in the Saturday Night Live opener.

Palin's skit revolved around the indistinguishability of her and Tina Fey's impression of her. The highpoint was a bit in which Alec Baldwin - Fey's co-star on 30 Rock - mistakes Palin for Fey.

And Palin was excellent. And that's the problem.

Sarah Palin was able to play herself so well on SNL - so well and indistinguishable from Tina Fey - because Sarah Palin is, essentially, a comedienne, a joke.

I mean this, seriously. Palin knows how deliver lines and postures and poses. Whether she is intentionally funny, or just is that way, doesn't matter. Her candidacy and her performance is a joke - on all of America.

Do we really want a person with her shtick - a person whose whole program really has no more depth than Tina Fey's shtick - as our Vice President?

Tina Fey deserves our applause, because her routine as Sarah Palin is a performance by someone who is not running for such high office.

And Sarah Palin deserves what? Unfortunately, not our laughter, but our grave concern.

(Palin also was game for pretty funny Weekend Live skit, later on the show.)

Friday, October 17, 2008

New Republican Tic: "Spreading the Wealth"

The Republicans are making a big deal about Barack Obama's words to Joe the Plumber that he wants to "spread the wealth".

This looks like it may be on the verge of becoming a new Republican tic.

Let's look at what it really means: Obama's tax plan would increase taxes for all people and businesses earning more than $250,000 a year - less than 5% of the population. Those earning under $200,000 would see a reduction in their taxes - this reduction would be enjoyed by more than 90-percent of the population.

So what "wealth" would be spread?

1. Not any "wealth" earned by more than 95% of Americans.

2. For Americans earning more than $250,000, their tax rate would increase from 35% to 39%.

So, "spreading the wealth" is in fact spreading a tiny bit more of the wealth (39% instead of $35%) from a sliver of the population (less than 5%).

Are such small numbers really best described as "spreading"? Perhaps "shaving" or "tipping" would be better adjectives.

Now, admittedly, the phrase "spread the wealth" came from Obama. But he also said "it's good for everybody".

That's certainly true for more than 90% of the population. And it was true for everyone when Bill Clinton was President, and the tax rate for people earning more than $250,000 was - 39-percent.

Would you like to know what your tax will be under Obama's program? Check it out right here:

Life on Mars 2nd Episode in America: Coma, Time Travel, Mars Rover

The second episode last night of Life of Mars - American style - provided a few more clues as to what is really going.

Sam puts up a list of explanations about how he got from 2008 to 1973. Coma is at top of the list, ahead of time travel. The others - drugs, another planet, multidimensional travel (whatever that is) - I think we can safely rule out.

Why is coma at the top of the list? Because that's by far the most likely explanation. Time travel has going against it the fact that it's intriguingly, deliciously impossible.

But that's in our reality. So the question about Life on Mars can really be put as: is it a show about reality (as are most of the shows on television - cop shows, hospital shows, etc), or is it ... science fiction? Time travel, of course, is not only possible in science fiction, but is one of its staples.

On the actual evidence so far, coma looks the more likely explanation. Sam saw flashes in the first episodes - which could have been doctors shining light into his unconscious 2008 eyes. And last night he repeatedly saw a little futuristic gadget which didn't belong in 1973 - a Mars rover, which landed on the Red Planet in ... 1997. (The Soviets sent two rovers to Mars in 1971, but they didn't look like Sam's 1997 model.) Seeing things that don't belong in the past means that (a) you're dreaming from the future, not time traveling, or (b) objects in addition to what you may have carried with you are traveling to the past. (I'm doubting that somehow Sam is really on Mars...)

But come to think of it, even Sam's clothes were 1973 when he first arrived there. Another argument for coma.

But, I don't know, coma seems to easy and obvious an explanation.

At this point - and I haven't seen the BBC series, so this is truly just based on the first two American episodes - I'm thinking it's somehow coma as well as something else, maybe time travel... Hey, is that "multi-dimensional travel"?

See also Life on Mars Debuts in America ... Life on Mars Goes On in America: What Happens When a Time Traveler Runs Into His Earlier Self? ... Life on Mars #4: All in the Family ... Life on Mars #5 Meets the Wire ... Life on Mars #6 Meets Itself on Television ... Life on Mars #7: Is Annie Real, Or, Is Life on Mars a False Memory

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!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

106-year-old nun voting for Obama: "He's the Man"

My wife came across this story this morning on ABC. It was also reported a few days ago on CBS. Videos of both are at the end of this post.

Mother Cecelia Gaudette still puts in a few hours of work a day, at her typewriter, at her convent in Rome. She's not a very political person - she last voted for Eisenhower in 1952. But she's voting by absentee ballot this year.

Mother Cecelia is 106 years old. She may be the oldest person to vote in this year's election. "Voting is important," she says in the CBS interview, "because one vote may decide."

She's looking for a candidate who is "able to politically govern."

And she's voting for "Obama - I think he's the man."

Thank you, Mother Cecelia, for your ray of reason and sunshine.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Final Presidential Debate: Best of the Three, for Obama, Schieffer, But Not So Much McCain

The last Presidential debate of this election, which I just saw on CSPAN, televised from Hofstra University, where I once taught a few courses, was the best so far. Best for Barack Obama, best for the moderator, but mixed for John McCain.

Obama looked the most Presidential he's been so far. He looked into the camera and clearly explained his health policy, tax policy, and the distortions of McCain and the Republicans about everything ranging from Bill Ayers to Obama's positions on health care, taxes, and the rest.

Bob Schieffer was an excellent moderator - asking tough and important questions about all the domestic issues, including the choice of Vice Presidential candidates. Schieffer also asked some good follow-ups, and rarely interrupted or got in the way of Obama and McCain's answers.

McCain had a few good moments, as he had in the earlier debates. His best line was when he said to Obama that if he wanted to run against George Bush, Obama should have done that four years ago.

But Obama came back with a crisp response about McCain supporting Bush's policies. And, as in the first two debates, McCain often came across as twitchy and uncomfortable, and occasionally close to incomprehensible. He did manage more smiles than in the first debate, and he looked at Obama, but he still looked less than Presidential in his chair.

And McCain did himself no good by any standard on abortion, first saying he would not apply any "litmus" test to his Supreme Court appointments (this will win him no thanks from his right-to-life base) but later brushing aside, incredibly, a woman's health as a valid reason to have an abortion.

In contrast, Barack Obama appeared more reasonable, compassionate, and, frankly, intelligent, on this and every other issue. In his concluding remarks, Obama never looked more like a President.

I expect we'll be treated to many more Presidential addresses from Barack Obama in the years ahead.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A Sign of the Civilized Times: Christopher Buckley Endorses Obama and its Out at National Review

Amidst all the heat and abrasion of this Presidential campaign, and Sarah Palin bald-facedly lying yet again just today that Obama wants to "raise taxes," it was uplifting and conducive to civilization indeed to learn that author Christopher Buckley (son of William F. Buckley) had endorsed Obama, tendered his pro-forma resignation to the National Review (which his father had founded) in response to the outrage of some of its subscribers, and the National Review accepted...

I rarely agreed with William F. Buckley, but could not help but enjoy his quintessential wit and intellect. The same cannot be said for current National Review editor Richard Lowry who, as Keith Olbermann and others vividly pointed out, was reduced to an embarassing fanboy in the appreciation he expressed for Sarah Palin's performance in the VP debates.

Christopher Buckley is cut from much better cloth. When Chris Matthews asked him on Hardball tonight what he saw in Obama, Buckley said he sensed a fine mind and first-rate intellect in Obama, and that that might be more important than his particular political positions. That is an intelligent reason for supporting a candidate if ever there was one.

Buckley entitled his endorsement published in The Daily Beast Sorry, Dad, I'm Voting for Obama ... I think William F. would have been proud, not sorry, about his son's sense of reason and intellectual bravery.

PS - And I see Buckley has just put up a new piece on The Daily Beast - Sorry, Dad, I Was Fired ... :)

And here's Lori Harfenist's piece on Christopher Buckley on her Internet video show, The Residence, October 3, 2009.

A Postcard from Isaac Asimov to Me - From 1979

I posted my blog about Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman and Isaac Asimov in several other venues last night, including the Daily Kos, where a good discussion emerged about the impact of Asimov and his Foundation series. In the course of that discussion, a commentator - under the name of "thatvisionthing" - mentioned that he had written to Asimov with a question about the Foundation trilogy back in high school, and was thrilled to receive a reply.

This reminded me of the postcard I, too, had received from Isaac Asimov, back in 1979. I had sent him a copy of one of my first published scholarly articles - "Foundation and Dune: Science Fiction Rooted in Fundamental Concerns," published in Media and Methods, long since defunct. Asimov replied that-

Well, you can see for yourself below, in the scan of the postcard I just put on Daily Kos and here as well for my Infinite Regress readers. This exchange began an intermittent 12-year conversation with Asimov, mostly via phone and letters and postcards, with one brief meeting at an American Association for the Advancement of Science conference in New York. Probably the best-known result of this conversation was the Preface I asked Asimov to write for my first published book, In Pursuit of Truth: Essays on the Philosophy of Karl Popper in 1982, which he graciously agreed to do for the publisher's lofty payment of $100.

But this postcard has always meant the most to me. In later exchanges, which I'll get around to scanning and uploading sooner or later, Asimov referred to me as "Paul". But there is nothing like the first, and this "Dear Professor Levinson"...

More about Isaac Asimov and my philosophy-of-science fiction in the above interview


Because of that postcard, and because Asimov is to this day my all-time favorite author, I was especially pleased when Booklist gave my novel The Consciousness Plague the following review -

 photo THECONSCIOUSNESSPLAGUE5_zps8e1b18e3.jpg

See also my essay, Foundation, Dune, and LaPlace's Demon

Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman Cites Asimov's Foundation Series as Inspiration

A great moment on the PBS Newshour with Jim Lehrer tonight, when new Nobel Laureate in Economics Paul Krugman was asked by Lehrer what inspired him to become an economist. Krugman replied it was reading Isaac Asimov's Foundation series as a teenager, and seeing how social scientists saved galactic civilization.

That's the second reason I'm really happy that Krugman won the Nobel Prize - and even more important than the first, which was that Krugman is on the honor roll of guests insulted by Bill O'Reilly.

The Foundation series is much more important. Written as a series of short stories for Astounding Magazine in 1940s (later and presently Analog Magazine), expanded and published as the Foundation trilogy in the 1950s, this has easily been my favorite reading of all time - since the days I first read it at age 12, and ever since. I list the Foundation trilogy among my favorites on Facebook, MySpace, and all the online places I hang my hat and can list my favorite books (actually, I rarely wear a hat). I included Asimov among the four thinkers who most influenced my work in my 1997 The Soft Edge: A Natural History and Future of the Information Revolution - mostly because of the Foundation trilogy. It also inspired me to think and write science fiction.

And its story is: The galactic civilization looks good on the outside, but is already crumbling within. Hari Seldon develops "psychohistory," a way of mathematically mapping all trends in human behavior, and using the equations to predict the future. He sets up two Foundations, at opposite sides of the galaxy, to further refine and take advantage of psychohistory to shorten the galactical dark ages. Of course-

No, I won't tell you any more, in case you haven't read it. Suffice to say, I've read it at least three times. Asimov and others wrote sequels, and some of those novels were excellent. But none as riveting as the Foundation trilogy.

Congratulations Paul Krugman - on winning the Nobel Prize, and on your great taste in science fiction...

See also, for a little deeper reading, my The Invigoration of a Philosophic Issue in Science Fiction: How Pierre-Simon Laplace’s Demon Finds a Stage in the Foundation and Dune Trilogies.  It was first published as a  Google "knol" but was reprinted here after the knol system was shut down. It does have spoilers.

I've Seen the Future - Make Sure This Doesn't Happen to You

As some of you may know, I write time travel stories, I also write about time travel, and review my favorite time travel movies and television shows right here on Infinite Regress.

I also have a secret, invisible portal in my office, which I rarely talk about, for obvious reasons. But last night, after teaching an evening class, I went two weeks into the future...

I've returned from the future with this horrifying video from November 7, 2008 ... we all have the power of free will ... it need not turn out this way ... make sure this doesn't happen to you... More details here ...

Bush Speechwriter David Frum Chides Rachel Maddow for Her Tone

Did you see the Rachel Maddow Show tonight?

Talk about gall - and poor logic. Former Bush speechwriter David Frum, invited on the show to talk about his criticism of the McCain campaign for stirring up "fury" in the populace, took Maddow to task for contributing to the problem with her own sarcasm and ridicule of Republicans and their policies.

Now, I have no problem with a guest blindsiding a host or a producer - comes with the territory. But equating the sarcasm of a TV host with the vile rhetoric of a Presidential campaign is absurd. Surely, Frum doesn't think that Americans pay as much attention to a TV host as to a Presidential campaign?

Indeed, I think it's good for commentators to be sarcastic. Not that I agree with them, all or even most of the time. I certainly don't agree with most of what I hear and see on Fox. And, as I've pointed out here, I think Keith Olbermann on MSNBC has on more than one occasion been over the top (though he's been right on key the past few weeks). But sarcasm, satire, and other kinds of political lampooning have been and always will be an important part of the political process - they help keep us focused, and, on occasion, awake.

Totally unlike the vicious attacks on Obama - not just by rank and file, but by party leaders, including and in particular their VP candidate - which do nothing but divide us.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Heroes 3: Hearts of Gold and the Debased

It was great seeing Andre Royo on Heroes tonight, as the vortex-making man with a real heart of gold. Indeed, what Vortex Man did on Heroes tonight may have been the most heroic act in the entire series so far (killing himself rather than letting HRG force him into killing Sylar, who had not done anything wrong as far as Vortex knows). And who better to play this role with just the right sensitivity than "Bubs" from The Wire. Royo also had a brief role in The Sarah Connor Chronicles last year (which wasn't on Fox tonight because of baseball). We could use more of him in any series.

Speaking of The Wire, Jamie Hector was also back on Heroes as his villainous character - but he's mild compared to some of the monstrosities we saw tonight, including an ugly who can make anyone - including a beautiful woman - into his puppet.

We also learned that some Heroes - at very least, Nathan and Tracy - got their powers via genetic instillation of the code which arose naturally in others. This, of course, is the very code that Hiro is trying to recover.

We see Hiro run his sword through Ando tonight - but there most be something more to that - and Mohinder is, alas, now in the category of monstrosities rather than just villains.

But more interesting of all - we meet Papa Petrelli, played by Robert Forster of Jackie Brown and other great fame. We're getting more subtlety and plot twists than just heroes and villains this season...

See also Heroes 3 Begins: Best Yet, Riddled with Time Travel and Paradox ... Sylar's Redemption and other Heroes and Villains Mergers ... Costa Nuclear ... Seeing the Future Trump Time Travel

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!

Complete Premier Episode of Life on Mars in America - Here on Infinite Regress

In case you missed it, or want to see it again, ABC TV was good enough to provide Infinite Regress with this complete first episode of Life on Mars - in New York City... Enjoy...

And here's my review ... Life on Mars Debuts in America

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!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Welcome to the Hotel California on Mad Men 2.11

A mind-reeling Episode 2.11 of Mad Men tonight - I can't recall if I've said that about Mad Men before - in which-

Well, let's get to the most important development first:

1. Don's out in Los Angeles (with Pete). He gets picked up a 21-year old bright beauty, Joy - and skips out on a meeting with Pete and aerospace clients, jumps in a car with Joy, and goes to some pad she's staying in with some friends. He passes out - likely not from the heat, as some quack doctor tells him - but seems fine when he wakes up. He makes sweet love with Joy, swims with her in the pool. The next day he's on the phone, telling the person he's talking to that he wants to see him or her, and his name is ... Dick Whitman.

Welcome to the Hotel California, it's a lovely place ... Or maybe The Sopranos once more and Kevin Finnerty. In any case, Joy (appealingly played by Laura Ramsey) is indeed bright and fascinating and looks about 10 years closer to our time than Betty...

2. Now speaking of intelligent beauties, we have Jane - Roger loves and wants to marry her. She says yes. Roger's lawyer tells him it's going to cost him a fortune to get a divorce.

3. Which works well for Duck, who pieces together a plan to get his former employer make an offer to buy Sterling Cooper. Well, Cooper's certainly game, and Roger's not objecting ...

Meanwhile ...

4. One of the new young guys at office invites Peggy to a Dylan concert, and when the guys rib him about him and Betty, he tells them no, he likes men. Everyone except Salvatore is scandalized.

5. But back to Dylan - Peggy says she's heard him on the radio. In 1962, Dylan did have his first album out. Nothing from it was played on WABC or WMCA or any of the rock 'n' roll AM stations in New York. There was no FM as we now know it until 1966. Bob Fass and Radio Unnameable didn't get to WBAI until 1963 ... So where did Peggy hear Dylan on the radio? I can't think of any radio station, but I haven't had a chance to do any research, so I'm all ears...

6. And last but certainly not least - back in California, before Don flips out into Dick, he's at a presentation by an aerospace company talking about MIRVs - multi-warhead nuclear missiles. Those were frightening times, indeed. It reminded me that, as frightened as our present often feels, it's nowhere nearly as bad as it was back then...

I have a feeling that we're just at the beginning of a real magic carpet ride in the rest of this season of Mad Men...

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 ... 2.5: 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 ... 2.12: 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...

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

Biden, Bill and Hillary Speak to Better Instincts of Americans in Scranton, PA

I just saw Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, and Bill Clinton give inspiring speeches on CSPAN at a campaign rally for Obama in Scranton, PA.

Inspiring - literally - as in uplifting, appealing to our better instincts. Joe Biden ending his speech with a call for Americans to "get up" and reclaim the country. Hillary speaking about how well the economy was doing the last time a Democrat was in office. Bill Clinton agreeing with Jill Biden that this was the most important election of our lifetime.

Uplifting. Strong criticism of McCain and Republican economic and foreign policies, of course, but no personal attacks. The crowd even cheered McCain when Biden cited his service to the country. The crowed booed McCain when Biden accurately described McCain's "erratic" response to the economic crisis. But no one in the crowd called out vile things about McCain. No one shouted "kill him!" as someone at a Palin rally shouted out about Obama.

The difference between this Democratic rally and what we've seen at Republican rallies this past week should cause all independent Americans, and one hopes some Republicans, to think about the way the Republicans have been conducting this campaign. Rough and tumble politics, sharply worded attacks on policy, are a longstanding and important part of our political culture. Calling on the worst instincts of Americans may be a longstanding part, too - but can we afford to continue a party in office that appeals to these instincts, repeatedly, in this campaign?

The Democratic rally this afternoon in Scranton was not only inspiring in what Biden, Hillary, and Bill said, it was inspiring in its example of what politics should be.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Republican Suppression of Votes in Historical Context

America was founded amidst sharply different views of the democratic process. All of our Founding Fathers agreed with that we should be free of the British crown. But one group of Founding Fathers, led variously by John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, and George Washington, wanted to limit the people's power, in favor of a strong central government. In contrast, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe saw tyranny, even in the form of an elected government, as the worst danger to our country, and wanted to limit the government's powers in favor of the people's, wherever possible.

The result was a profoundly mixed bag of government, with a House of Representatives elected by the people, and a Senate of appointed Senators. People voted for the electors who in turn selected the President. And the Bill of Rights was what Jefferson and his colleagues insisted upon as their price for agreeing to a strong central government.

The battle has continued, unabated, these past 200+ years. Adams and the Federalists disregarded the First Amendment in the Sedition Act of 1798, which Jefferson and the Democrats allowed to lapse when he took office in 1801. Senators are now elected by the people, but we still have an Electoral College.

Although Democratic and Republican Parties have both championed eras of reform in our history, it is pretty clear today that the Democrats are by and large more in tune with Jefferson and the Republicans with Adams.

That's why it is not surprising, but distressing, to see the Republicans doing what they can to limit and disqualify new voter registration. It's the same fear of the people the Federalists had. The Democrats are accused by Republicans of just the opposite - of giving people the right to vote when they don't meet formal qualifications.

Let's say, for argument sake, that both kinds of abuses have occurred - Republican attempts to prevent qualified voters from voting, Democratic attempts to get unqualified voters in the voting booth. Which poses the greater threat to democracy, which is the more serious abuse?

My guess is Thomas Jefferson would have said, in a democracy, err of the side of the people - when in doubt, let the people vote. I hope Democrats vigorously pursue this ideal, and don't let Republicans get away with voter suppression. We've come a long, long way in democratizing our country since 1789. Poor people, African-Americans, and women now have the right to vote. The election of 2008 is not the time to stop or go backward.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Life On Mars Debuts in America

Fine start of Life on Mars on ABC tonight, and you know that I'm going to review this American version of the British series here on Infinite Regress, since I watch everything I can get my hands on regarding time travel, including Journeyman, relevant episodes of Lost and Heroes, and Deja Vu, too.

Here's the story: Det. Sam Tyler is after a kidnapping killer in 2008, who apparently has just grabbed his girlfiend and colleague crime fighter Maya. He steps out of his car with David Bowie's "Life of Mars" playing on his iPod- and gets hit straight on by a car. He wakes up with David Bowie still singing the same song, but now off cassette tape- because Sam is back, in the exact same place, in 1973. David Bowie has thus given this series a perfect acoustic segue along with a memorable name.

As is the case with Journeyman and Quantum Leap (3 series, featuring 2 Sams and a Dan), neither Tyler nor we can be sure at first if he is really in the past, or just dreaming in a coma. In Journeyman and Quantum Leap, that question is resolved by the end of the first episode - the time traveler is really time traveling. Further, we even pretty quickly learn why: to correct some bad event in the past. What we never learn in those two series is who is calling shots - who or what is making the time traveler travel?

Life on Mars provides even fewer resolutions in this first episode. There is a hint that maybe Sam's purpose in the past is to learn and/or do something that can help save Maya in 2008. Possibly, Sam has already done a little in that direction, by talking to the kidnapper as a boy in 1973 at the end of this episode.

But unlike Journeyman and Quantum Leap, Life on Mars will be one continuing, over-arching story, with Sam from 2008 back in 1973. I'm glad to see this, since I thought both Journeyman and Quantum Leap gave too much attention to specific episode story lines, and not enough to the backbone of the plot (Journeyman improved greatly in this respect near the end).

Most of the 1973 touches are authentic and excellent. The music is outstanding - in addition to Bowie, it was great hear the Stones "Out of Time". So was a bit with Cannon - the great Quinn Martin detective - on television in 1973. And the misunderstanding of Sam's saying "cell phone" as his wanting to "sell" something was nice.

The NYPD detectives in 1973, though, are a little bogus in their roughing up of suspects and disregard of their Miranda rights. Miranda v. Arizona was decided by the Supreme Court in 1966. I know, it's tough to get every little historical detail right, but Mad Men has set a pretty high standard, and the culture of 1973 cops is pretty central to this new series.

But Life on Mars gets credit for having the courage to use the Twin Towers as a 1973 backdrop. And the shout-out to Fordham University - Sam's likely romantic interest in 1973, Annie, got a degree at Fordham in psychology - certainly makes me and my students happy.

Looking forward to more time in the past- next week.

See also Life on Mars 2nd Episode in America: Coma, Time Travel, Mars Rover ... Life on Mars Goes On in America: What Happens When a Time Traveler Runs Into His Earlier Self? ... Life on Mars #4: All in the Family ... Life on Mars #5 Meets the Wire ... Life on Mars #6 Meets Itself on Television ... Life on Mars #7: Is Annie Real, Or, Is Life on Mars a False Memory

=== But I just came back - don't say I never give you anything - to post this great video of the Stones' "Out of Time" ... whew, "You're obsolete, my baby, my poor old-fashioned baby..." the original, ragged, Rolling Stone 1966 album performance...

And here, courtesy of ABC TV, is entire premier episode of Life on Mars, for your viewing pleasure...

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!