Thursday, January 31, 2008

Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in California: Testament to America's Future

What a pleasure it was to see Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in the one-on-one Democratic debate in California on CNN tonight.

Who would have predicted even a few years ago that the final candidates for the Democratic Presidential nomination in 2008 would be an African American and a woman - two groups marginalized, discrimated against, and worse throughout America's history.

Seeing Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton up there on the stage, knowing that one of them will be the Democratic nominee for President, would have been inspiring enough in itself.

But the ensuing debate was a pleasure to watch, a rational discussion between two highly intelligent, compassionate, and articulate people.

Hillary, as always, had some superb lines - my favorite being that it took a Clinton to clean up after the first Bush, and it will take a Clinton to clean up after the second Bush.

Obama's wit shown through, too - my favorite of his jibes being that McCain's "straight talk express" somewhere lost some of its wheels.

The best moments of the debate, in other words - and there were many - came when Obama and Clinton attacked not each other, but the Republicans.

Not that this debate was a lovefest. I think Obama made some powerful arguments about being right, from the very beginning, about not going into Iraq.

In the end, I think it does come to Obama being more original and inspiring in his thinking and vision. But Hillary Clinton has brought a lot to this campaign, too.

Wolf Blitzer's last question was about the possibility of an Obama-Clinton and a Clinton-Obama ticket. Both candidates said it was too early (of course) to speak of such things, but neither seemed averse to the idea.

I could happily support either ticket, with Obama-Clinton my first choice.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Republican Debate in California: McCain v. Romney on Iraq, Ron Paul is Right

The high point - actually, the only really interesting exchange - in the generally boring Republican debate in California tonight came between McCain and Romney, over McCain's claim that Romney wanted "time tables" for withdrawal of our troops in Iraq, which claim Romney vehemently denied.

McCain offered the following quote from Romney back in April: "You don't want the enemy to understand how long they have to wait in the weeds until you're going to be gone."

Which McCain said proved that Romney was calling for a time table, and Romney said did not.

The reality, as this article from ABC News shows, is that Romney was calling for "unpublished" time tables, and his statement about waiting in the weeds was about not wanting the enemy to know about the time tables.

So, McCain was right.

Insofar as debate points, at least.

As to the right position on our war in Iraq, this once again belonged to Ron Paul, who again pointed out that the war is unconstitutional, and we should not be there at all.

Other highlights: Another piece of evidence that Mitt Romney might be a Cylon came after the debate, when Romney press secretary Kevin Madden - who looks like Romney - joked on a late edition of Hardball on MSNBC that he was a "spokesmodel" ... hmmm...

I'm looking forward to the Democratic debate tomorrow night, when Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton will go one on one.

Farewell John Edwards//And the Truth about Mano e Mano

John Edwards withdrew from the Democratic Presidential campaign today, saying the time had come for him to "step aside so that history can blaze its path".

His eloquence and sense of history is not surprising - it became clear when Edwards indicated, earlier this year, that his favorite book was I. F. Stone's The Trial of Socrates. The choice of such a book bespeaks a philosophic depth and appreciation of history that is all too rare in our politics.

Edwards' withdrawal now leaves the field to just Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. We should all see just how different this makes the Democratic debate, literally, when Obama and Clinton have the stage to themselves in the California debate on CNN tomorrow (Thursday) night. Just the two of them.

Not mano e mano, however. But not mano e mano for the reason noted by Democratic strategist Peter Fenn on CNN a few minutes ago. Fenn thought Obama v. Clinton would not be mano e mano because Hillary is a woman, and therefore their contest could not be "man to man".

But that was never the meaning of mano e mano - which means not man to man to but hand to hand (mano as in manual, by hand).

But Barack Obama v. Hillary Clinton will not be truly mano e mano - hand to hand - either.

It will be ideas to ideas - the ideas and presentation of Barack Obama v. Hillary Clinton. Although there is a lot to admire in the record of Hillary Clinton, and what it would mean to have a woman in the White House, I think Obama's ideas and his capacity to inspire will carry the debate on Thursday, the primaries on Super Tuesday, and the day we vote for President next November. When it comes to ideas and igniting the better angels of our nation, Obama has the upper hand.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Pixel Eye looking at Toronto

And, just to leaven all of this politics with a little science fiction-

My good friend, the dean of Canadian science fiction Rob Sawyer, just wrote to me that

The Merril Collection of Science Fiction,
Speculation and Fantasy is having a special display
called "What Dunnit?", featuring SF detective stories,
and THE PIXEL EYE was prominently displayed, as you
can see.

And he sent along the following photo-


Florida Primaries: McCain Wins, Giuliani Out, Hillary 'Wins' Non-Primary

Big news out of Florida tonight is not just that John McCain won the Republican primary, but that Rudy Giuliani came in third, and according to reports will formally withdraw from the race on the steps of the Reagan Library in California tomorrow.

I think that's good news for the country. As a New Yorker, I can testify to the autocratic way he ran this city. His contempt for everything from people in the street to art in the museums made his tenure as Mayor one of the most dangerous and unpleasant in our history.

Meanwhile, the Democrats held a non-primary in Florida tonight. As in Michigan, the Democratic high command ruled that these votes won't result in delegates being seated in the national convention. As I pointed out last month, that's about as counterproductive and undemocratic as you can get.

So, what was Hillary Clinton doing claiming "victory" in Florida tonight - after issuing a statement in Iowa that the results in Michigan and Florida, regrettably, wouldn't count?

The answer, obviously, is that she and her campaign are seeking to score some points against Obama, who did so well yesterday with Ted Kennedy's amazing endorsement.

To which I say: not a good move, at all, for the Clinton campaign. Rather than taking the high road, Hillary tonight on MSNBC spoke of "victories" in New Hampshire and Nevada (true) and Michigan and Florida (not true, since those "victories" are not supposed to count). Such political manipulation will only further put off Americans who are looking for the new type of politics that Barack Obama is attempting to build.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Extraordinary Moments: Ted Kennedy Endorses Barack Obama

I just saw Ted Kennedy's endorsement of Barack Obama at American University, followed by another powerful speech by Obama.

What an extraordinary pair of speeches. What extraordinary moments in American history.

Ted Kennedy did much more than offer platitudes. He presented specifics, such as the opposition of a previous Democratic President, Harry Truman, to JFK's candidacy in 1960 - and how Truman asked JFK to be "patient" and wait for another year to run for President. Ted Kennedy spoke of the hope that JFK stirred in the American people. A day never passes without my still feeling it. It's not a mirage or an unattainable ideal. It's real and can motivate America to do great things again. It's been waiting a long time. Ted Kennedy sees this power to elicit the best of America - our better angels - in Barack Obama.

And Obama gave one of his great speeches, too. Also composed of important specifics, personal and as well political. Obama noted that his father was able to come to the United States to study because of work by John F. Kennedy as a young Senator.

There is a connection between John F. Kennedy and Barack Obama that many have noticed. It's wit and style and the capacity to inspire. But more than that, it's the willingness to break out of the past, to ignore conventional wisdom, to appeal directly to the people rather than the pundits, and let the people decide.

That, it seems to me, is democracy at its best.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Wire Season 5 Episode 4: One Down

BuddyTV has a piece about the current, last season of The Wire showing a loss of viewers - all I can say is, those missing viewers don't know what they're missing! This season of The Wire is superb.

Take, for example, Episode 4, which will shown later tonight, and which I already saw On Demand.

SPOILERS FOLLOW ***************************************************************

We're treated to an almost totally unexpected execution at the end - but the best kind, dramatically, because it makes perfect sense in retrospect.

Marlo apparently has been cleaning up his act as per Prop Joe's encouragement - becoming more "civilized," was Proposition Joe's word - and this has involved working better with the Greeks on the docks, and reaching all to all sorts of people (including Avon Barksdale).

As Omar begins to loom again in the show, with a handful of likely targets, Prop Joe tells his nephew that he's going to take some time off - Prop Joe can feel the grim reaper too close for comfort.

McNulty and the press and the politicos are doing some fascinating stuff, too, but the real story in Episode 5 is Proposition Joe.

It all comes to a head in the last few minutes, in which Prop Joe warns his nephew to be careful about Omar, the nephew says Prop Joe needn't worry about that, the nephew leaves the room, and -

In walks Marlo, with Chris walking in behind Joe, and Prop Joe is killed in one of the most intense scenes in the series. Marlo almost expresses a tenderness as he instructs Chris, with a nod, to blow Prop Joe away...

And I couldn't help thinking: There are three short prequels which HBO has put up on its On Demand menu. One for Prop Joe. One for Omar. And one for McNulty and Bunk...

These prequels are great little gems. I sure hope they're not prequel epitaphs...

R.I.P. Prop Joe - played to a tee by Robert F. Chew

See also The Wire's Back! Review of Season 5 Episode 1 and Episode 2: The Great, Dangling Conversation ... 3. McNulty and Marlo ... 5. Media Chasing Their Own Tales and Tails ... 6. Superman Omar and Tall Stories ... 7. King of Diamonds ... 8. Two Down ... 9. Cold, Killer Sweetheart ... 10. The Wire Bows out Gracefully

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

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

Further Evidence That Mitt Romney May Be A Cylon

I present the following as a concerned citizen in addition to the 10 factors I reported to you here on 6 June 2007:

11. My wife just heard Romney refer to a "people who will always be the hope of Earth," in a speech he was delivering in Florida today.

12. Romney spoke about "three-dimensional chess" in the Republican debate in South Carolina on 11 January 2008.

13. Romney talked about a patient going in for "repairs" in the Republican debate in New Hampshire on 5 January 2008.

14. There is a least one high-level operative in Romney's campaign staff who looks and talks almost exactly like Romney, and is a not a member of his family. Trust me, you'll recognize this guy immediately next time you see him on television. (There's a photo of him in this post.)

15. Romney seems to have acquired a new facial expression, serious, slightly pained, in the Republican debate in Florida on January 24 - you can see it at the beginning of the YouTube clip below.

16. The now famous "he raised taxes" whisper in the January 24 debate - here's the YouTube clip

Here's a piece that was published in Rolling Stone about this "mystery". It's certainly received the most amount of attention of all the Cylon incidents I have chronicled...

I'll continue to keep you posted, for as long as I am able...

See also Romney's Press Secretary Admits to Being a 'Spokesmodel'

Psycho FCC Proposes Fining ABC 1.4 Million Dollars Over Naked Backside

Talk about the golden ass ...

Hard to believe - or maybe not, given Congress and the FCC's increasing trampling of our First Amendment - but now the FCC is proposing to fine ABC 1.4 million dollars for repeatedly showing a woman's "nude buttocks" on its NYPD Blue police-drama back in 2003.

All right, perhaps "psycho" is not the right word. "Treasonous" would be more like it, because our First Amendment clearly says "Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech," and, last time I checked, NYPD Blue was not silent television (and, even if it was, pictures are a kind of communication or "speech").

The FCC and Congress have been growing ever bolder in their flouting of the First Amendment since the Janet Jackson Superbowl incident of a few years ago (come to think of it, we're approaching its anniversary). I gave a keynote address about this at Fordham University in 2005 - here's a transcript - and am currently writing a book about it. (I'll also be giving another keynote address about this problem on April 30, at St. Peter's College in Jersey City - I'll post an announcement with details closer to the event.)

About the only possible remedy on the horizon is a new President who will (a) fire as many of the current batch of FCC commissioners as the law allows, and replace them with people who can read and understand the Constitution and (b) begin to appoint US Supreme Court justices who will similarly respect and enforce the supreme law of the land.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Obama's Classy Victory Speech

An inspiring speech, again, from Barack Obama - thanking South Carolina for the victory it gave him in today's primary.

An example of what struck me most about the speech: Obama saying we won't let "cynicism" get in the way of our dreams.

Now, when was the last time you heard a Presidential candidate talk to us about struggling with our own cynicism?

This concept - like Obama's ideas and delivery - captures what is so different and appealing about Obama. He is not afraid of ideas and concepts, of intellectual positions that challenge conventional wisdom.

When was the last time you heard a Presidential candidate address the nation with that kind of psychological acumen? The fact that we have one, now, may be reason to think we finally have a chance to move beyond political expediency and cynicism in our politicians and country.

Caroline Kennedy writes this in Sunday's New York Times, in a op-ed entitled A President Like My Father -

"Senator Obama is inspiring my children, my parents’ grandchildren ... I have never had a president who inspired me the way people tell me that my father inspired them. But for the first time, I believe I have found the man who could be that president — not just for me, but for a new generation of Americans."

Obama Trouces Clinton in South Carolina

AP called it a "routing" - whatever term you use, Barack Obama is on his way to a big victory over Hillary Clinton in South Carolina tonight, currently leading by more than 20% in the vote.

What does this tell us?

1. Bill Clinton's nasty attacks on Obama failed. My advice to the Clinton campaign: save Bill's attacks for the Republicans.

2. Obama scored 50% of the young white male vote, and did great, in general, in college-age voting. This was the same part of the population which propelled Obama to victory in Iowa, and which did not come out in expected numbers for John Kerry in 2004. If Obama gets the nomination, and continues to inspire younger voters, this may well be enough to get him to the White House.

The next big event for the Democrats is of course Super Tuesday on February 5. As I first said here back in late December, I will be voting for Obama in the Democratic primary in New York on that day.

And I'll make a prediction: I expect that on Super Tuesday, Obama will win enough delegates in the many states that vote on that day to make him close to unbeatable for the Democratic nomination for President.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Republicans Debate on MSNBC in Florida: Romney Unveils New Cylon Expression

A lumpy, uneven Republican debate on MSNBC in Florida tonight - with some really boring stretches on the economy, but each of the candidates having some good moments.

First, our Cylon watch - otherwise known as, Is Mitt Romney A Cylon? - a question first introduced here on Infinite Regress back in June. The Cylons, of course, are cyborgs from Battlestar Galactica who look just like humans, and, with The Sarah Connor Chronicles now on television, we might just as easily ask Is Mitt Romney a Terminator? - or, more precisely, one of the more recent, post-Arnold models.

The most Cylon-like behavior in Romney tonight was his new, non-smiling expression. Take a look at clips from the debate when you have a chance. See what I mean? Since the last debate, someone programmed in a new, serious, concerned expression on Romney's face - probably found in some poll to be more effective than his more typical smile.

As to the words tonight -

Romney was clear in his economics, and got in a fine Republican line about Bill Clinton (possibly taken from Obama).

McCain seemed Presidential, especially when he came to Giuliani's defense about The New York Times' endorsement of McCain and its attack on Giuliani. (The New York Times also endorsed Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination. It's not clear to me who, other than The New York Times, cares about its endorsements any more.)

Giuliani gave a principled answer about his support of the war not being based on polls (though I disagree with that support).

Huckabee was more humorous than usual tonight - explaining that he didn't disagree with Chuck Norris' attack on McCain, because Norris was standing right next to Huckabee when he made the attack, and Huckabee didn't dare disagree...

And Ron Paul, as always, made the most sensible points - explaining yet again why we should not get involved in unconstitutional wars.

I'm beginning to think that we've gotten about as much as we can expect out of these Republican debates. The Democrats, having winnowed the field, certainly put on a far more spirited debate in South Carolina a few nights ago. There will certainly be fewer Republican contenders after February 5, and possibly even after Florida next week.

Talking Science Fiction in Philadelphia on Friday!

Hey Philadelphia - Come See Me This Friday at 9PM!
January 25, 2008

Or by all means get yourself to Philadelphia and come by!

I'll be taking a night off from the politics, and talking to the Philadelphia Science Fiction Society this Friday, Jan 25, at 9PM ... about ...


The Sarah Connor Chronicles ... Journeyman ... Heroes ... LOST!

and much more ... what I think about what's on the screen and on the page...

Admission is free and wide open to the public!

Where: International House, 37th and Chestnut Streets

(Hey, I'll even be autographing copies of The Plot to Save Socrates, and revealing some nuggets from the sequel, which I'm currently writing.)

You can read what I've been writing about the above great television shows right here at Infinite Regress - look in the Index in the right-hand column for listings...

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

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

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Kudos to Dan Abrams on MSNBC

In the midst of this heat-up of the Democratic primaries, and the extraordinary - and justified - attention it's getting in the media, I want to take a minute to compliment Dan Abrams for the fine coverage he just gave these developments in his 9pm in his "Live With Dan Abrams" show on MSNBC.

I've been enjoying this latest incarnation of Abrams' show for a while (my wife has been a real fan since even some of his earlier shows). I like mixture of facts, humor, sarcasm - not overweening, just right - that Abrams gives to the news and the media.

Tonight he outdid himself, with a three person panel (Lawrence O'Donnell, Rachel Maddow, Patrick Buchanan) joining Abrams like ringside judges in deciding five rounds of Hillary v. Obama in last night's debate.

It didn't hurt that I agreed with most of Abrams' calls (in particular, awarding the "good" Republican and "present at vote" rounds to Obama). I just found the whole set-up just right - funny and informative and even passionate where it needed to be.

I predict that if Abrams is able to keep this show going, it will someday make it to the top.

Or, maybe not - but, hey, that hasn't stopped me from being a devoted Journeyman fan.

Bill Clinton's Statements About Obama Should Be Taken with a Big Grain of History

Bill Clinton is clearly playing a major role in Hillary Clinton's contest with Barack Obama and John Edwards for the Democratic nomination for President. He is certainly entitled to support his wife, and indeed speak for or against any candidate. But the media accord a lot attention to what he says, because he is a former President. And this means his record as President is germane to what he says about any candidate, and voters should keep Bill Clinton's record as President in mind when they evaluate his current statements.

With that as my guide, I would like to briefly recount an episode in the Clinton Presidency that did not receive too much attention at that time, and many Americans may be unaware of today.

Bill Clinton signed the Communications Decency Act into law in 1996. It was struck down as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court a year later, which probably accounts for why many Americans know little about it. But a brief examination of Bill Clinton's actions and explanations regarding the CDA reveals a lot about the former President who is now on the attack against Barack Obama.

The CDA was intended to protect children against Internet porn. But it was drafted in terms wider than necessary to do this job, and in fact sought to punish anyone who published any "indecent" or "offensive" words on the Internet, for whatever reason, if those words could possibly ever be read by children.

The Republican dominated Congress passed this Act handily. Many Democrats joined in. It was part of a larger act, which included opening up cable television providers to more competition.

The Communications Decency Act part of this package was clearly unconstitutional - in violation of the First Amendment. Bill Clinton signed it into law, anyway.

When questioned about why he signed such an act into law, Bill Clinton replied that he didn't like it, but figured the Supreme Court would strike it down. He could have stopped the Act in its tracks by simply vetoing the legislation. He could have sent it back to Congress and said, give me the part of the larger act that opens up cable, and leave out the unconstitutional attack on Internet free speech.

Had Congress overridden his veto, the country and the First Amendment would have been no worse off.

The Act carried powerful penalties for those convicted of its violation - hundreds of thousands in fines and two years in prison. Joe Shea, editor of the online American Reporter, soon published an open letter online denouncing Congress for passing this Act. He used some salty language in his letter. In other words, Shea's letter contained "offensive" language, but obviously was published in a political not a pornographic context.

Bill Clinton's Attorney General Janet Reno went after Shea, anyway. And a year later, the Supreme Court struck this law down.

But where was Bill Clinton's honor and courage? What if the Supreme Court had not found the CDA unconstitutional? (Its record on supporting the First Amendment in the 20th century is spotty, at best.) Joe Shea could have gone to prison for two years. Is not the President's job to stand up for what he believes is right, and not pander to Congress and trust in the Supreme Court to correct this error?

Or perhaps Bill Clinton agreed with the CDA, and didn't care about the First Amendment.

That's the problem with Bill Clinton - he frequently has trouble speaking and acting, politically, in ways which stand up to rational scrutiny.

So the Communications Decency Act goes down in history as a severe restriction on our political speech that Bill Clinton enabled, and which almost came to be. I wrote about this at some length in my 1998 The Soft Edge: A Natural History and Future of the Information Revolution. This got the issue some critical attention, but so much has happened since then that it's rarely discussed nowadays.

But voters would do well to bear this incident in mind when they consider what to make of Bill Clinton's attacks on Barack Obama. Does he really believe what he says, when he exaggerates and misrepresents what Barack Obama is saying? Unfortunately, in this situation, the Supreme Court has no authority to overturn Bill Clinton's actions or his statements.

As I've also indicated here many times, I think Hillary Clinton in the White House would be a very positive development. I'm supporting Barack Obama, but I would not be at all unhappy with either Hillary Clinton or John Edwards as President. My sincere recommendation to the Clinton campaign at this point, then, would be to get Bill out of the picture, off the circuit - if they can.

Obama's Record: Why Voting 'Present' Is Meaningful and Not the Same As Not Showing Up

Barack Obama's 136 "present" votes in the Illinois State Legislature - in which he voted "present" rather than "yes" or "no" about passage of bills - was a hot topic in last night's Democratic debate on CNN in South Carolina. Hillary Clinton and John Edwards both jumped on Obama for his "present" votes, and Edwards, in particular, spoke of the "present" votes as the same as Obama's just "not showing up" for the votes.

I have never served in government, but I've been an active participant in academic governance for more years than I care to remember (all faculty are, and I have also been Chair of the Department of Communication and Media Studies at Fordham University for the past six years). So perhaps I can shed some useful light on this issue.

In a sentence: in academic governance, abstaining (the equivalent of voting "present") is a highly meaningful type of vote, one which usually bespeaks considerable contemplation of the issues, and is therefore utterly different from not showing up for the vote.

To give further detail: In the academic world, personnel committee meetings - in which reappointment, promotion, and tenure matters are considered - are the most important issues upon which members of a faculty vote. So important is the participation of faculty in such issues, that faculty who do not attend can be reprimanded, and worse, by the administration.

In contrast, in any matter upon which faculty vote, the choices are "yes," "no," and "abstain". Why would someone vote "abstain"? The reasons usually stated are the abstaining voter is in favor of the matter proceeding, but has some problem with some part of it, large or small. These sorts of abstention votes are clearly often the result of intense deliberation and careful consideration by the voter - or, the complete opposite of just not coming by to vote.

This struck me as exactly what Obama was trying to explain last night, as he was being pounded by Hillary and Edwards on his "present" votes. He clearly said he was in favor of one of the bills for which he voted "present," but had a technical problem with its means of implementation.

I think it's important that the media and the American people understand this.

Obama's record certainly is not perfect. In the vote in the US Senate about labeling Iran a terrorist nation last year, Obama indeed did not show up to vote. I wish he had showed up and voted no. (But Hillary, who did show up, voted "yes," and John Edwards is no longer in the Senate.)

But, if voting in academic governance is at all similar to voting in the Illinois State Legislature - and democratic voting processes usually do have a lot in common - it is completely wrong to characterize Obama's "present" votes in Illinois as not showing up or evading responsibility.

The Sarah Connor Chronicles: 3

Episode 3 of The Sarah Connor Chronicles was excellent, and brought back most of the exciting complexity of the pilot.

First, to bring these reviews up to speed - because my intro review was non-spoiler - our trio of heroes used a time machine in the bank to travel to our present. Which opens up all sort of possibilities.

And the trio is Sarah, John, and beautiful Cameron Phillips (yes, homage to James), a new terminator model played fetchingly and cold-bloodedly, sweetly as in innocent and angel of death, as needed, by Summer Glau. Cameron is a fine addition to the Terminator crew, and even brings some continuing lines of humor to the story, as Sarah reminds Cameron in just about every episode to keep her clothes on when at home. (Sarah doesn't John want to get too attracted and who knows what else to Cameron. I say - go for it, John.)

But don't let the humor fool you. Episode 3 and The Sarah Connor Chronicles in general are deadly serious, and grapple with profound moral dilemmas much like Battlestar Galactica - which, come to think of it, bears a kinship to the Terminator universe, if only because of the flesh-and-blood and "toaster" model interplay that characterizes both series, in different ways. (And Bear McCreary also does the superb music for both series.)

The moral issue in tonight's Episode 3 of The Sarah Connor Chronicles is as wrenching as it gets: should Sarah kill a guy who is working on a life-like chess program, which could well be the basis of the killing machines. Of course, one of the conceits of all the Terminator movies is that, however much we humans and good Terminators try to prevent Skynet from arising, something always slips through someone's fingers in the past or present, and Skynet happens anyway. Still, it's fun to play this game, and when you add into the mix that stopping Skynet will likely erase Cameron (Phillips not James) from existence, and we wouldn't really want that - she's much more lovable than Arnold - we get a nice, complex story. (By the way, is it only me, or do you feel like you might be using something connected to Skynet every time you make a call or IM on Skype?)

And there are other dangerous things brewing in this series - including a really bad Terminator (maybe the bad Terminator from T2) who is trying to get some meat on him, and sort of reminds me a little of Darth Vader, another good movie resonance.

The Sarah Connor Chronicles is touching a lot of good bases, juggling a lot of flaming pins, and I'm very much looking forward to more.

See also: The Sarah Connor Chronicles 1 and 2 ... 4: A Robot Primer ... 5 ... 6 ... 7 ... 8-9: Terminate with Puzzles, Surprises, and Soul

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

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

Monday, January 21, 2008

Dems Rock Out on CNN in South Carolina: All Three Excellent, But Obama Scored Best

Well, all three of the Democratic candidates came out swinging in South Carolina on the CNN debate tonight, and it was a pleasure to see.

Especially for Barack Obama, who has needed to be more forceful in the debates. He took on Hillary about the attack on his statements that the Reagan Presidency was revolutionary - correctly pointing out that he didn't say he agreed with Reagan's ideas, but was pointing out that his Presidency had captured something in America which was "transformative". This is important for Democrats to understand, and Obama is right that he may be in the best position to do this. Obama also took on some of Bill Clinton's more outrageous attacks, saying he sometimes wasn't sure which Clinton he was running against.

But Hillary, for her part, gave another strong performance. Her finest moment came when she passionately said she wants all Americans to have health coverage. I actually agree with Obama's position on this more than Hillary's (Obama wants national-government health care to be voluntarily rather than mandatory on adults), but admire Hillary's passion on this issue.

And Edwards had one of his best nights, as well, pivoting from attacking Hillary to attacking Obama, and taking advantage of his not being party to their disagreements to appear the most statesmanlike.

So all three rose to the occasion tonight, and made me feel happy, once again, with the thought of any of the three in the White House.

But because a powerful debate from Obama was generally missing prior to tonight, and for the way he handled himself with grace and humor and style under attacks from both Clinton and Edwards, I'd give the debate tonight to Obama.

The Sarah Connor Chronicles: 1 and 2

Well, I wasn't going to watch and review it. I didn't want to disrupt my recollection and appreciation of Terminator 1 and 2, which I thought were superb, or even Terminator 3, which I also enjoyed. That, and I don't think movies shrink very well to the television screen. For every Stargate and Buffy, in which the television was far better than the movie, you have tens of Alien Nation, Blade, Animal House, Dirty Dancings.

On the other hand, the Terminator stories are about time travel. And that, as readers here know, is a pretty big hand, for me. And I heard some good things about The Chronicles...

So I saw the first two episodes on Fox's On Demand online website last night.

And I thought they were excellent. The pilot, in fact, is one of the best hours of television I've seen in the past few months - meaning, it's right up there with the best of Journeyman and The Wire. And the second episode was powerful and appealing, too.

The story in The Chronicles starts after T2. Sarah, played by Lena Headey (of 300 fame), is living quietly with her fiancé and son John in the midwest. One of the problems with any remake is new acting talent playing a character whose face and mannerisms belong to another. It's still hard to imagine anyone other than Linda Hamilton as Sarah, but Lena Headey's performance is strong and convincing.

The Sarah Connor Chronicles also has lots of nice attention to detail. Sarah's fiancé - Charley Dixon - is played by Dean Winters, who looks a lot like Kyle Reese/Michael Biehn. Makes sense that Sarah would be attracted to the same kind of man.

There are some fine jolts in the plot, which I won't give away in this review, except to say think more Terminator models and, of course, time travel - but done with surprise and panache.

And Lost fans - Penny (Sonya Walger) has a continuing role in the Chronicles! I hope she hasn't given up searching for Desmond, but she's certainly better off without that cold fish she was married to in Tell Me You Love Me.

I'll be watching The Sarah Connor Chronicles on Fox, reviewing them right here on Infinite Regress, and after giving you a chance to see the first two episodes (which play nicely on Fox's web site), I'll start discussing significant plot elements with spoilers in the reviews - that will be later tonight, after I see Episode 3 at 9pm.

It's good to have The Terminator story back on the screen. It always had a unique blend of mostly breathtaking action and a sprinkle of winning humor. The Chronicles has that, too.

In one telling scene, a bad Terminator is about to smash into a bank. He notices lots of police, bristling with weapons, out front. His screen quickly sizes them up, and we see a brief advisory - "no threat".

The police are no threat - that's the kind of thing I like to see in a story...

See also The Sarah Connor Chronicles 3 ... 4: A Robot Primer ... 5 ... 6 ... 7 ... 8-9: Terminate with Puzzles, Surprises, and Soul

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, January 20, 2008

Saturday Night at the Polls: Dems and Repubs in Nevada, Repubs in South Carolina

Some short takes on the results of today's three caucuses/primaries:

1. I'm less interested in Romney winning the Republican caucus in Nevada than I am in Ron Paul coming in second. Support him or not, that's a powerful, additional rebuke to Fox News, ABC News, and all other mass media that have derided and belittled the support for his candidacy. Still waiting on Fox News and ABC News, in particular, to apologize to the American people. (Fox News: you excluded Ron Paul from the debate in New Hampshire. He came in second in Nevada today. You still have nothing to say?)

2. Hillary won in Nevada, but she and Obama are still just about the same in delegates. One candidate who is not the same is John Edwards - coming in with 4 percent of the vote in Nevada. That's a remarkable drop for someone who came in second in Iowa. Although there is a lot that I like about John Edwards' candidacy, I think America would accomplish something truly revolutionary with either a woman or an African-American in the White House that we would not with John Edwards.

3. I'm glad McCain won in South Carolina, if only because his win was just desert for the disgraceful political campaign Bush's people ran against McCain in 2000. But there's more than that. I'm glad Huckabee lost. Sorry, he's very likable - but he doesn't believe in evolution. (Ron Paul doesn't believe in evolution, either, but that doesn't let the arrogant media off the hook.)

Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Wire Season 5 Episode 3: McNulty and Marlo

I saw the third episode of this final season of The Wire as soon as it went On Demand, on HBO. That was Monday. And, once again, I was going to wait until after the regular HBO showing this Sunday to talk about it .... But, hey, here am I, once again, unable to resist posting a review of this superb episode ... So,


I titled this review McNulty and Marlo - not because the two have anything to do with each other in this episode, but because they both play major, parallel roles...

McNulty has picked up the pro-active make-things-happen and damn-the-consequences approach he played so well in the very first season of The Wire. It's good to see McNulty really on top of his game again.

This time, he's trying to make his colleagues and bosses think there's a serial killer loose in Baltimore - the only way McNulty can think of to keep the cops focused on Marlo and the drug business. The only person wise to what McNulty is doing - because he was there when McNulty started hatching this plan - is Bunk, who is none too happy about it.

In fact, Bunk, as he often does, has one of the best lines in the show - right up there in the entire series - urging McNulty to "think his weak shit through"... (Wendell Pierce as Bunk is just perfect in his delivery.) This in addition to reminding McNulty that they both have families to support...

But McNulty, of course, is not to be stopped. He does manage to get the struggling Baltimore Sun to print a story about a possible serial killer - but it gets buried. (There's all kinds of good stuff about the newspaper in this episode, too, with Clark Johnson's Gus Haynes and other paper staff.) In a great last scene in this thread, Bunk's hoping the level-headed Lester Freamon (Clarke Peters) will get McNulty to see the light, and back off ... and ... Freamon loves McNulty's plan! He just thinks McNulty hasn't gone far enough in making the story big enough to grab some media attention ... Not such weak shit at all ...

Meanwhile, Marlo has much less screen time, but is undergoing a very significant evolution. As Proposition Joe (well played by Robert F. Chew) puts it, Marlo's not easy to "civilize". But Marlo's beginning to get there, as he goes to a tropical island to get money that Prop Joe has expensively cleaned for Marlo. All in the gradual way Marlo is moving not only into Avon's but Stringer's role.

Many other excellent threads in this show, with Michael, Carcetti, Daniels, and more, in what is shaping up to be a really satisfying concluding season, right up there with the very first...

See also The Wire's Back! Review of Season 5 Episode 1 and Episode 2: The Great, Dangling Conversation ... 4. One Down ... 5. Media Chasing Their Own Tales and Tails ... 6. Superman Omar and Tall Stories ... 7. King of Diamonds ... 8. Two Down ... 9. Cold, Killer Sweetheart ... 10. The Wire Bows out Gracefully

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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Thursday, January 17, 2008

In Honor of Mad Men: I Talk to Mark Molaro About Mad Men, Rich Sommer, and Blogging

In honor of AMC's Mad Men's winning the Golden Globe for Best TV drama (in addition to Jon Hamm getting a Golden Globe for best male dramatic performance as Don Draper in Mad Men), I'm putting up this one-minute clip from Mark Molaro's recent interview with me on The Alcove, in which I talk about the time that Mad Men's Harry Crane (aka Rich Sommer) posted a comment right here on about a review of Mad Men I had just posted...

Here's a link to my review of Mad Men (episode 12) with Rich Sommer's comment.

And here's my 20-minute podcast interview with Rich Sommer from the end of October:

And here's my complete 25-minute interview with Mark Molaro, in which we talk about many new media things...

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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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

High Point of Dem Debate in Las Vegas: Hillary Says Bush is Pathetic

A very satisfying debate among the Democratic big three - Clinton, Edwards, and Obama - on MSNBC in Las Vegas tonight, with the best line delivered by Clinton. She volunteered that Bush going to Saudi Arabia to see if the Saudis might help keep our gasoline prices down was "pathetic".

It's not that I like to see name calling. But sometimes a single word perfectly nails a feeling. It certainly is one that I and countless Americans now have. The President's management of our foreign and economic policies, both singly and together, has indeed been pathetic.

Obama and Edwards were good, too. But it's becoming increasingly clear that Hillary is the best Democratic debater. Obama's medium is the political speech, not the debate. And Edwards seems - I don't know, too one-dimensional in his debate tone.

This does not by any means indicate that Hillary will get the nomination. Performance in debates is just one of several important factors in winning nominations and general elections. Obama's inspiring speeches, and his resonance with JFK, will continue to be very significant assets in this election.

But it's gratifying to see Hillary Clinton command that stage. She may not only be the best Democratic debater, but better than any of the Republicans, as well.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Hope for this World: Wafa Sultan on Al-Jazeera

Check this out ... it's the kind of thing that gives you hope for this world ... Syrian-born American psychologist Wafa Sultan on Al-Jazeera, February 21, 2006... (Thanks to Neal Stapel for bringing this to my attention, over on MySpace.)

Why the Democrats Won't Be Voting in Michigan Tomorrow

That's right. The Republicans will, the Democrats won't. Be voting in the primary in Michigan tomorrow, that is.

How can that be?

Democrats punish Michigan for early primary
Leaders vote to strip state of all delegates for violating party rules

That Associated Press headline in December says it all. Michigan Democrats sought to hold their primary on January 15 - tomorrow. This violated Democratic Party national rules that only Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina could hold primaries or nominating caucuses (such as Iowa's) prior to February 5.

So ... the national Dems "punished" Michigan by saying, hey, we won't permit you to have a primary this year, period. Meaning, if Democratic voters go the polls in Michigan tomorrow, their votes won't count.

Excuse me?

Who is punished by this? Looks to me as if it's the voters of Michigan, and anyone who thinks a primary is a better way of selecting delegates than a smoke or whatever filled room.

To make matters worse, all of the major Democratic candidates with the exception of Hillary Clinton agreed not to campaign in Michigan, and withdrew their names from the ballot. Good for Hillary!

But what's the matter with Obama and Edwards?

They didn't want to antagonize Iowa and New Hampshire, who were unhappy about Michigan joining them as an early primary state.

Aw, what's the matter, Iowa and New Hampshire's feelings were hurt?

Of all the stupid things that beset our political process, depriving people of their vote ranks among the most inane.

Democracy is difficult enough, without party bosses making it even harder. Kudos to the Republicans for holding their primary in Michigan tomorrow. And Democrats - wake up!

PS - "The Democratic National Committee has yet to sanction Florida's primary on Jan. 29..." This from a comment yesterday in the Sun-Sentinel.

Only in America...

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Mad Men, Jon Hamm, David Duchovny, Atonement Win Golden Globes!

Well, Mad Men, Jon Hamm, David Duchovny, Atonement have won Golden Globes!

There are a lot of other winners, of course, but the above are the ones I'm cheering about.

Mad Men on AMC was the most original, powerful new series of the year - which is not taking anything away from Showtime's The Tudors (Henry VIII) and HBO's Big Love (polygamy today), which were also superb, also nominated, and I loved. Jon Hamm was magnificent as Don Draper in Mad Men - but I wouldn't have been unhappy, either, had nominee Michael C. Hall won it for Showtime's delightful serially killing Dexter. And nominees Jonathan Rhys Meyers in The Tudors, Bill Paxton in Big Love and Hugh Laurie in House gave powerhouse performances, too. It was a great year for riveting drama on television. That's why I call this the Platinum Age.

David Duchovny as Hank Moody in Showtime's Californication was fall-down-on-the-floor laughing - as hilarious a savvy, comedic performance as ever I've seen.

And Atonement - which my wife and I saw a few weeks ago - is an original masterpiece of a movie. I would have reviewed it here in Infinite Regress already, had not Presidential politics jumped in the way. I will review Atonement here in the next few weeks or months.

In the meantime, links to my reviews of Mad Men, The Tudors, Big Love, Dexter, and Californication follow. The link brings you to my review of the first episode, which contains links to my reviews of all the others...

reviews of Mad Men begin with Cigarette Companies and Nixon Coming
reviews of The Tudors begin with History So Colorful You Can Taste It
reviews of Big Love begin with Big Love Resumes
reviews of Dexter begin with Dexter's Back!
reviews of Californication begin with Californication Going On Mondays

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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Looking In on The L Word...

Long before women were being wittily, hilariously, so coolly bedded almost round the clock by Hank Moody in Californication, they were being wittily, hilariously, coolly bedded around the clock by ... women, in The L Word, on Showtime.

Californication and Weeds are often cited (by me and others) as the spear carriers of Showtime's sweep into first place as the most innovative story telling network on cable, but this leap forward really started with The L Word, which debuted its 5th Season last Sunday.

The series has been and still is in a class by itself. It is more daring than HBO's Big Love - lesbian sex is more radical than polygamy. It explores more nuances in sexual relationships than HBO's Tell Me You Love Me. And The L Word of course has more women in positions of power and not in power than Weeds.

But The L Word feels most like Californication. Both shows take place in California, and both are intimately intertwined with writing, movie-making, and their travails, as well as sex.

My favorite characters in The L Word, however, are not in the movie or publishing business. Bette is a museum director who becomes dean of a school of design. Maybe my being a professor makes me naturally relate to her, but Jennifer Beals' performance is a perfect mix of primness and passion. She has been a pleasure to see on screen since Flashdance, and is only getting better.

Katherine Moennig is also superb as Shane in The L Word. She's usually up for sleeping with just about any woman, but brings a refreshing understanding of - or at least, an attempt to understand - the subtleties of every relationship she's in or wants into. Shane is a hairdresser, not an academic or a writer. But she thinks more than any other character on the series.

I've seen the first four episodes of the new season, and it's lots of fun, with serious themes including life in prison and the military woven in, and lots of other top-notch acting talent including Cybill Shepherd and Pam Grier, a plus in any scene they may appear.

Highly entertaining, thought provoking, and recommended, and I'll be back here with more reviews as this bright new season of The L Word progresses.

See also The L Word Concludes This Season with Powerful Lessons

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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Friday, January 11, 2008

Spirited Republican Debate on Fox in South Carolina Tonight: Fred Thompson, Mike Huckabee, Ron Paul Come Out Best

A crisp, spirited Republican debate in South Carolina earlier tonight - one of the best so far, as good the Republican debate on ABC on Saturday - and Fox included Ron Paul, which it didn't do on Sunday.

Fred Thompson was the best he's been so far, responding with a sharp mix of passion, clarity, and humor. He took Mike Huckabee to task for being a Democrat in Republican clothing. Even though I agree with Huckabee's "Democratic" positions about education, etc., I had to admire Thompson's performance.

Huckabee, for his part, however, was also excellent. He came through again as likable and sincere, as well as vivid and saber-rattling in his response to the Iranian gunboat incident - warning Iranians and anyone that if they attack American boats, the next thing they'll be seeing are the gates of hell. (Thompson got in a good line about the Iranians being close to seeing the virgins they think await their heroes in the afterlife.) Again, I don't agree at all with this jingoism, but it was good Republican television.

As for what I do agree with, Ron Paul was incisive and right on target in his comparison of the Iranian gunboat incident with the Gulf on Tonkin incident off the coast of North Vietnam in the 1960s. Lyndon Johnson used it to push the US into an escalated (undeclared) war in Vietnam. But, as Ron Paul correctly alluded to, it turned out later that this incident had been set up and provoked by Johnson precisely for the purpose of increasing US military action in Vietnam - or, starting up a full-fledged (undeclared) war.

Ron Paul was also clear in disassociating himself and his candidacy from the 9/11 "truthers" - those who think that the U.S. brought down the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001.

Likely Ron Paul was so effective tonight because he was finally given some time to speak and make his points.

But the Southern weather agreed with all of the candidates. Guiliani was forceful in his defense of his immigration policy in NYC - how can you question the immigration status, he asked, of someone who is giving the police information a rape or a murder? You don't need a green card to commit those crimes, he added.

Romney sparred well, but once again came up with a science fictional, computational metaphor - making some point about three-dimensional chess (the first I ever saw of three-dimensional chess was when Spock was playing it on Star Trek). I don't know, it's a different series, but I'm still thinking Cylon...

And McCain was pretty good, too - though, in general, he seemed to assume the position as the most tired candidate, held until tonight by Fred Thompson.

After the debate: Ron Paul won the telephone poll, and of course Hannity didn't believe it. At least, this time, he knew better than to come up some story about Ron Paul's supporters voting multiple times.

A lot more debates in both parties coming up this month. It's good to see that they're getting sharper and more focused as the campaigns progress.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Problems with Polls: A Brief Primer

In view of the inaccuracy of the poll projections in the Democratic Presidential Primary in New Hampshire on Tuesday - the polls showed Obama winning by 10 or more percentage points, in contrast to his actually losing by three - I thought I'd don my hat as a professor (I just finished teaching a graduate course in Media Research Methods at Fordham University this Fall), and offer a little primer on why poll projections can and do go wrong.

To begin with, New Hampshire this Tuesday is hardly the first time that a poll's predictions have been wrong.

The most famous example is the Literary Digest Poll of 1936, which predicted Alf Landon beating President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 57 to 43 percent, a near landslide. In fact, FDR went on to win 62 percent of the vote.

What was wrong with the poll?

The people polled were drawn from lists of Americans who owned automobiles and had telephones in their homes - and, in 1936, cars and phones were much more likely to be in the hands of the rich than the poor or even the middle class. The sample, in other words, was biased towards upper income respondents, who had no love for Roosevelt.

That was the last time that kind of error was made in polling. But the prediction of human behavior, or attempts to measure it based on what people say they did, is still vulnerable to all kinds of errors.

Here are some perennials pitfalls of polling - with solutions or precautions, if possible:

1. People polled before voting can either be lying, or change their mind. Remedy: none.

2. People polled after voting can be lying (since they already voted, they can't change their mind). Remedy: none.

Strategies, however, which might or might not help with lying include interviewing people separately from their spouses. Of course, that creates a new problem of people not willing to participate, or answer questions:

3. People refuse to answer the pollster. Remedy: none.

Now a courteous pollster might have more success than an abrasive pollster, but no one can force an uncooperative person to participate in a poll. The best that surveyers can do is report the number of people who refuse to participate. If the percentage gets too high, this can invalidate the results. For example, if 10 people are polled, and 5 refuse to answer, 4 answer "a" and 1 answers "b" - what does this tell you? Not much, because who knows how the 5 who refused would have answered.

This problem can be aggravated by pollsters who under-report non-participants - because they think (perhaps correctly) that a high number of non-participants makes them (the pollsters) look bad.

And, to make matters even worse, in addition to the above problems, every poll faces the problem of getting a genuinely random sample to answer the questions. The 1936 poll wasn't random - it was biased towards the rich. We see that now. But what kind of biases are afoot that we are not aware of in our current poll?

In sum: polls do succeed, most of the time.

But the above problems are formidable and in principle intractable. Which means that, forever and anon, we are wise to take all poll results with a nice, big, sparkling grain of salt.

The Wire: Season 5 Episode 2: The Great, Dangling Conversation

Ok, enough politics and political parody for at least this hour. Let's get back to the heart and soul of Infinite Regress: television! As in series on TV! As in The Wire! It's good for you!

Now, I saw the second episode of this final season of The Wire as soon as it went On Demand, on HBO. That would be Monday. And I was going to wait until after the regular HBO showing this Sunday to talk about it .... But, hey, you only live once, it's too good for me to wait any longer to talk about, so, here it is, with a spoiler warning:


You'll be in for a treat. Avon Barksdale is back in the game! Ok, he's still in prison, but Marlo comes to talk to Avon, 'cause Marlo needs some help with some Greek or Russian (the crooks involved in the dock business from the 2nd Season), so Marlo comes to seek Avon's help.

Now, sure, I wished it was Stringer. He was the ultimate brains of the Barksdale crew, but Avon is no dummy, and, in fact, he always saw some things even more clearly than Stringer, since Avon was not complicated by the intellectual complexity that Stringer brought to every decision. It would have been great to have Idris Elba back on the screen as Stringer, but, hey, Wood Harris as Avon is fine, too.

I won't go over the details of the conversation - it was actually two conversations - but Marlo is certainly willing to pay Avon $100,000 for his help. And this is far from settled. I predict - easy prediction - that only one of them will be left standing by the end of this final season.

The other good thing about this episode is what McNulty is willing to do to get the cops focused again, after the budget-mandated cuts of last week. Let's just say maybe McNulty is watching Dexter....

No, he's not a serial killer, but ...

See ya next time!

See also The Wire's Back! Review of Season 5 Episode 1 and Episode 3: McNulty and Marlo ... 4. One Down ... 5. Media Chasing Their Own Tales and Tails ... 6. Superman Omar and Tall Stories ... 7. King of Diamonds ... 8. Two Down ... 9. Cold, Killer Sweetheart ... 10. The Wire Bows out Gracefully

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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Obama Girl's Back! And Batman, Too...

It might make a difference ...

Ben Relles and the gang at are getting back in the ring, with another deftly written, delightful political video. This one picks up on Rocky (and Rambo) ...

Among the best attractions -

.Obama Girl (Amber Lee Ettinger) looks at the ring, as two younger, not-quite-champion boxers are training .... One of them is Spitzer Girl...

.The clueless Hillary team, trying to bring down Obama Girl, laments that she denied their MySpace request... one of them also mentions "YouTunes"...

.The aged Truman Girl comes on as her trainer...

.Guiliani Girl lends a hand...

And much more...

With the race tightening up, this video can only help...

And holy spoof, check this vid from just the day before yesterday, and also Obama Girl's pithy response to New Hampshire...

See also The Barely Political Revolution

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

I'm Withdrawing My Support of Ron Paul's Candidacy

I am withdrawing my support for Ron Paul. I have been urging, since last March, that people should support the best candidate in each of the two parties, and Ron Paul was far and away my choice among the Republican contenders.

My reasons for that support remain. Ron Paul's respect for our Constitution, and his opposition to our undeclared war which follows from that, and his support of the First Amendment which also stems from his standing up for the Constitution, are still among the most crucial issues of our day. Ron Paul's positions on those issues are better than any other candidates' positions in either party (including the positions of Barack Obama, whom I am supporting for the Democratic nomination).

But I nonetheless can no longer support Ron Paul's candidacy. The reasons are presented in some detail, with citations, in this Wikipedia entry entitled the Ron Paul Report newsletter controversy. This newsletter, published under various, slightly different titles for decades, but always under Ron Paul's name, contained racist and homophobic remarks utterly repugnant to me. Here's a sample from The New Republic article:

The January 1991 edition of the Political Report refers to King as a "world-class philanderer who beat up his paramours" and a "flagrant plagiarist with a phony doctorate."

A February 1991 newsletter attacks "The X-Rated Martin Luther King."

An October 1990 edition of the Political Report ridicules black activists, led by Al Sharpton, for demonstrating at the Statue of Liberty in favor of renaming New York City after Martin Luther King. The newsletter suggests that "Welfaria," "Zooville," "Rapetown," "Dirtburg," and "Lazyopolis" would be better alternatives--and says, "Next time, hold that demonstration at a food stamp bureau or a crack house."


In the course of defending homophobic comments by Andy Rooney of CBS, a 1990 newsletter notes that a reporter for a gay magazine "certainly had an axe to grind, and that's not easy with a limp wrist."

The June 1990 issue of the Political Report says: "I miss the closet. Homosexuals, not to speak of the rest of society, were far better off when social pressure forced them to hide their activities."

Ron Paul, to his credit, has taken "moral responsibility" for such comments, explaining that they were written by ghostwriters and did not represent his views. Reuters yesterday carried an official statement by Ron Paul that further said he did not directly edit the offensive newsletters.

Nonetheless, he also has failed to identify said ghostwriters, let alone vociferously denounce them, and sue them for every penny.

What would you do if a newsletter under your name, authorized by you, published such comments - or any comments that you vehemently disagreed with?

Whatever Ron Paul did, however much he disagreed with those comments, his response was not enough. Not enough for a person who is seriously putting himself forth as a candidate for President.

To be clear, I will continue to hold arrogant media such as Fox News to account for abusing Ron Paul's candidacy and the democratic process by excluding him from debates. And the same to ABC News and other mainstream media for belittling his levels of support.

And I will think about whom I can now support as the best Republican.

But it can longer be Ron Paul. Much as I admire his clear thinking and courage in speaking up for the Constitution, he should have done more in speaking out about and denouncing the scurrilous, sickening comments in the newsletters published under his name.

See also this angry, understandable reaction from another Ron Paul supporter: Ron Paul's Betrayal of America

Digital, Tachyon Vids of the Future?

beginning of time travel in 2008?

See also Sierra Waters (time traveler) page ...

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, January 8, 2008

Hillary Edges Out Obama in NH: Why, As An Obama Supporter, I'm Not Too Unhappy

Well, Hillary Clinton edged out Barack Obama in the New Hampshire Democratic primary tonight. Although I'm an Obama supporter, I'm not really too unhappy about this, because:

1. I was moved by Hillary's emotional moment yesterday - I like seeing humanity in our Presidential candidates - and I was infuriated by the small-hearted, soulless response of some conservatives such as Bill Kristol on Fox News.

2. I think a woman in the White House would be almost as powerful a correction of an historic American injustice as an African-American President.

3. I like seeing pollsters and pundits proven wrong in their confident predictions - it shows that, in the end, the American people not the media decide who will serve in our public offices.

Meanwhile, Obama can hold his head up high. He won in Iowa and came in a close second in New Hampshire. He gave another great, inspiring speech tonight. I would be very happy with an Obama-Clinton ticket, and almost as happy with a Clinton-Obama combination.

As for the Republicans, I was disappointed that Ron Paul did not best Giuliani for 4th place, but Ron Paul did come close - which shows, once again, the dangerous folly of Fox News in excluding Ron Paul from Sunday's debate, and including Fred Thompson, who came a distant sixth in New Hampshire's Republican primary tonight.

Fox made this decision based on the national polls ....

Hmmm ... polls ... not worth all that much as valid measurements of voters, are they...

See also

Hillary's Tears

I'm Voting for Barack Obama

Monday, January 7, 2008

Bill O'Reilly and the Constitution

You've no doubt heard about and likely seen a video clip of Bill O'Reilly at an Obama rally in Nashua, NH on Sunday. O'Reilly took exception to an Obama staffer who was blocking O'Reilly's camerman's shot of the event. O'Reilly "gently" (O'Reilly's term) pushed the staffer out of the way. I just saw a clip of this on The Factor, and it will likely be all over YouTube soon.

There's no doubt that O'Reilly did put his hands on the staffer, and pushed him out of the way. It was certainly not overly violent, but it was physical.

What interests me most about this event was O'Reilly's justifcation of his actions. He pushed the Obama staffer out of the way, O'Reilly said on The Factor tonight, because he was standing up for "the Constitution".

What part of the Constitution would that be?

The First Amendment, and its insistence that Congress make no law abridging "freedom of speech or press"?

Well, let's allow that O'Reilly and his camerman were press, and their freedom to videotape Obama was being abridged by the Obama staffer. Was that staffer an agent of the government?

Not the last time I checked.

But he would have to be, in order for the Constitution to be invoked.

For there is nothing whatsoever in the Constitution that says people running for office have to permit cameras in their faces.

I have no sympathy for political staffers who get in the way of the press. But it would be nice if O'Reilly had a slightly better grasp of the First Amendment.

Or, if he had shown a little more sympathy for Andrew Meyer, whose First Amendment rights were indeed abridged when cops pulled him out of a John Kerry event in Florida last year. At that time, O'Reilly's appreciation of the Constitution only went as far as ridiculing Meyer for his "don't taze me, bro" plea to the police.


Full disclosure: I've been on the Factor several times (see my YouTube clips), and on O'Reilly's radio show, too, and in fact was told to "shut up" by O'Reilly last time I was on his radio show - this past October. But I actually consider that a badge of honor, and therefore don't hold it against O'Reilly...

Hillary's Tears

The above video shows Hillary Clinton near tears, talking today about her campaign in New Hampshire.

More than a few people have been snickering about this. In the comments attached to the above YouTube video, some graceless person said Hillary's tears are crocodile.

You know what? It must be exhausting beyond comprehension to put yourself out there and run for President.

And I want a President who is a human being, not a robot. Tears are human. There's nothing wrong in the slightest for either a woman or a man to cry. In fact, there's usually a lot right with it.

So, although I plan on voting for Barack Obama in the New York primary, I'm glad to see that Hillary Clinton is in this race, and fighting with all of her heart.

And for those of her enemies who take some solace or pleasure in Hillary's tears, because they're glad to see what they think is her weakness? Well, you people are not only not fit to be President, you're barely fit to be human.

The Surprising Secret of Obama's Success

I've been thinking about another contributing factor to Barack Obama's burgeoning popularity.

Barack Obama has served part of one US Senate term.

John Edwards served a single, full term in the US Senate, and was an unsuccessful candidate for Vice President.

Hillary Clinton is serving in her second term as US Senator, and was First Lady for Bill Clinton's two terms as President.


Barack Obama clearly has the least experience in national public office (less than Edwards and Clinton) and/or running for national public office (less than Edwards) and/or close proximity to national public office (Hillary Clinton).

And that is precisely why he is the logically best candidate to represent hope, and something new in politics and in the Presidency.

If this analysis is at all correct, it means that Bill Clinton is actually hurting Hillary by campaigning for her (because he reminds people of Hillary's lack of newness). It also means that there's not much that either Hillary Clinton or John Edwards can do to change things - to get ahead of Obama - since they cannot very well erase their past.

If this is correct, Obama will be unbeatable for the nomination, and will likely be our next President, unless the Republicans nominate a candidate radically as new as Obama, which seems unlikely.

Since I intend to vote for Obama in the New York primary - as indicated in a post here the day before Christmas - I welcome this.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

High Point of Fox Republican Debate Without Ron Paul: Ron Paul Supporters Carrying Signs Outside the Window

Well, I broke down and took a look at the Fox Rump Republican Presidential debate tonight - without Ron Paul, who got 10% of the Iowa vote - and I thought by far the most significant moment came when Ron Paul supporters walked by with nice big signs of protest outside the window, and Brit Hume and company analyzed what had happened during the 90-minute debate in New Hampshire.

I also kept an eye on the CNN replay of the excellent ABC debate from last night, so first a little comparison of the Republicans on the two nights:

1. The ABC (on CNN tonight) debate was obviously more fair and representative, since it included Ron Paul.

2. It was also far livelier, and therefore better in giving the American people a good idea of what the candidates think.

3. It also just looked better - the lightning, the seating, the general kinaesthetics of yesterday's debate was easier, more enjoyable and instructive, to look at.

As was the case last night, I thought Romney did the best in the Republican debate tonight. He was the most informative and on-point.

One interlude between Thompson and Huckabee struck me as worthy of a little attention. Thompson jumped on Huckabee for Huckabee's statement last week that Musharrif should not "continue" martial law. Huckabee has been attacked for this statement as showing ignorance that martial law had already been lifted in Pakistan.
Well, although it's true that "reinstated" might have been a better word than "continued," it's also the case that reinstatement is really a form of continuation, so Huckabee's statement is not as ignorant as Thompson and Huckabee's critics like to pretend.

Back to the replaying of yesterday's ABC debate on CNN tonight. I again want to congratulate ABC for that great moment in which candidates from both parties met on stage, and CNN for the daring move of rebroadcasting this debate.

Many commentators have pointed out that Obama may not have been feisty last night, but he was Presidential. Seeing some of Obama's responses again - such as his joke about watching the Redskins game along with the Republican debate - I would have to agree....

I predict that history will continue to be made on Tuesday in New Hampshire, with Obama amassing an even more impressive victory than in Iowa.

The Plot to Save Socrates

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