Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christams, one and all! May the log in the fire burn bright, the wassail flow freely, may you sing and laugh and enjoy each others company, and may you be filled with the spirit of Christmas.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Rick Warren

As with a lot of people who voted for Obama, I feel betrayed by the choice of Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at the inauguration. But (a) I knew Obama's position on Gay Marriage when I voted for him and voted for him anyway, and (b) Barney Frank and Rachel Maddow and lots of other people have said everything I have wanted to with both more authority and more eloquence.

I still say Marriage should be a church ceremony only with no legal standing, and Civil Unions should be the legal union and be performed by a justice of the peace, and any church can then decide whom they want to marry.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Bowl Season

I know this is apolitical blog, but it wasn't always so. Once upon a time I wrote about football here, among other things. I’m on record as saying that I don’t care about the national championship, that I’m opposed to a playoff, and that I love the bowl system. Oh yeah: that that the only game that really matters is the Rose Bowl. Unfortunately, after the Rose Bowl, the two games I most want to see are on nights that I’m busy: the 27th (when I’m flying), when Cal takes on Miami, and New Years Eve, when the two non-Pac-Ten teams Im most interested in, LSU and Georgia Tech, actually play each other. But all that being said, there are thirty-four bowl games starting tomorrow night. That means that 17 teams will end their season with a win.

So here’s my take:

Eagle Bank Bowl, Dec. 20, Wake Forest vs. Navy: NAVY
New Mexico Bowl, Dec. 20, Colorado St. vs. Fresno St.: FRESNO STATE
St. Petersburg Bowl, Dec. 20, South Florida vs. Memphis: MEMPHIS
Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl, Dec. 20, BYU vs. Arizona: BYU
R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, Dec. 21, Troy vs. Southern Miss: SOUTHERN MISS
Poinsettia Bowl, Dec. 23, TCU vs. Boise State: TCU
Hawaii Bowl, Dec. 24, Hawaii vs Notre Dame: HAWAII
Motor City Bowl, Dec. 26, Central Mich. vs. Florida Atlantic: FLORIDA ATLANTIC
Meineke Car Care Bowl, Dec. 27, North Carolina vs. West Virginia: WEST VIRGINIA
Champs Sports Bowl, Dec 27, Florida State vs. Wisconsin: FLA ST.
Emerald Bowl, Dec 27, Cal vs. Miami: CAL
Independence Bowl, Dec 28, Louisiana Tech vs. Northern Ill: LA TECH bowl, Dec 29, Rutgers vs. NC State: RUTGERS
Alamo Bowl, Dec. 29, Northwestern vs. Missouri: MO
Humanitarian Bowl, Dec 30, Maryland vs. Virginia: MD
Texas Bowl, Dec 30, Rice vs. Western Michigan: RICE
Holiday, Dec 30, Oregon vs. Oklahoma St.: OK ST
Armed Forces Bowl, Dec 31, Air Force vs. Houston: HOUSTON
Brut Sun Bowl, Dec 31, Oregon St. vs. Pittsburgh: PITT
Music City Bowl, Dec 31, Vanderbilt vs. Boston College: BC
Insight Bowl, Dec 31, Kansas vs. Minnesota: MN
Chik-fil-A Bowl, Dec 31: LSU vs. Georgia Tech: GA TECH
Outback Bowl, Jan 1, Iowa vs. South Carolina: IOWA
Capital One Bowl, Jan 1, Georgia vs. Michigan State: GA
Gator Bowl, Jan 1, Nebraska vs. Clemson: CLEMSON
Rose Bowl, Jan 1: Penn State vs. USC: USC
Orange Bowl, Jan 1, Virginia Tech vs. Cincinnati: VA TECH
Cotton Bowl, Jan 2, Texas Tech vs. Ole Miss: Texas Tech
Liberty Bowl, Jan 2, East Carolina vs Kentucky: KENTUCK
Sugar Bowl, Jan 2, Utah vs. Alabama: AL
International Bowl, Jan 3, Connecticut vs. Buffalo: CT
Fiesta Bowl, Jan 5, Texas vs. Ohio State: TX
GMAC Bowl, Tulsa vs. Bal State: BALL ST.
BCS Championship, Oklahoma vs. Florida: OK

Just leave those rednecks alone

Bill Maher will have a field day with this one. So will John Stewart. Levi Johnston's mother Sherri, the future mother in law of Bristol Palin, was busted this week on drug charges: something called "misconduct involving a controlled substance." There will be lots of meth-head jokes (I hope it's actually grass, since Maher famously smokes himself). This is a woman three removes from Governor Palin, yet it will allow them to drag up the whole bag of jokes once again.

And I will laugh. They are funny. And I am certainly those "liberal media elites." And I know that all comedy comes at somebody's expense, that it is always offensive and cruel.

But please, can't we leave these rednecks in peace. The news just keeps showing how typical, normal (real) the extended Palin family is: so given that, is it really news? Every time Real Time or SNL or the Daily Show goes off on Sarah and Alaska they perpetuate the myth that those of us in the Media or those of us who live in NYC are a bunch of elitist snobs who like to mock and ridicule ordinary Americans. (Bill Maher likes to throw his hands up and say "what's wrong with being elite?" Nothing, Bill, but there is a difference between being elite and being elitist. Of course in your case the accusations are very true anyway).

I know, I know, this urban/rural conflict goes back at least to Ancient Greece, and we aren't going to end it now. But please, give it a rest!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Let's get real here

By now it is obvious to everyone that the Republican Party is playing politics with the economy. They are trying to use the current crisis to break the United Auto Workers Union, putting ideology over the good of the nation. No big surprise. Union busting is a favorite pastime of theirs, and has been since hero Ronald Regan busted the Air Traffic Controller's union. The destruction of the UAW, America's largest union, has long been a policy goal of the far right. The hypocrites court union voters by appealing to traditional social values, and then turn around and stab them in the back by attacking the values that matter most to union members--their paychecks, health care, and retirement. The Republicans have never tried to hide the fact that they think workers should have no rights, that they are little more than wage slave who should shut up and stop whining about fair pay and health care.

And at Christmas, no less. Forget the fact that the Union has made unheard of concessions, that they took over health care from the auto companies, and that they have reopened their existing contracts to help out in this time of crisis. The republicans don't want workers to be partners in the recovery of the auto industry. They want workers to shut up and get back in their places and be grateful they have a job at all.

Awhile back I wrote that their would be a stalemate because the right elephants would want a bankruptcy and the donkey would try to prevent it, and I have unfortunately been proven true. The republicans know that Nietzsche was right, and that out of chaos comes order. They know that the total disintegration of the auto industry will mean more than a million people out of work, thousands more foreclosed homes, huge spikes in violent crime, domestic crime, and drug crime in the Midwest, and absolute total economic meltdown for the rest of America. They also know that such destruction provides opportunity for the vultures and speculators to come in and pick over the carcass of the auto industry, only without the bothersome problem of paying fair wages or giving workers health care or pensions. The crash of the UAW, the right hopes, could be a death blow to organized labor in general. Nothing would make them happier than to finally undo the last remnants of the New Deal and kill the AFL-CIO: never mind the fact that it was Unions, along with the New Deal, that created the American Middle Class. Their ideal world is a small American upper class, a huge pool of cheap labor to draw from, and what opportunities that exist for people to move up the economic ladder are limited to highly risky entrepreneurial ventures. In other words, they want us to be a third world country. It will be disastrous for society but great for profits and the bottom line.

And those UAW Pensions! It's such a burden on business for them to help make sure their workers are taken care of when they retire. If they can manage it they ant to do away with pensions entirely. That has been another part of their goal, to replace pensions, which have a defined benefit, with 401K's, which have a defined contribution. 401Ks and IRAs give them and the hedge-fund managers more money to play with, driving up stock prices and enriching themselves. But as people who are retiring right now are finding out, they have no guaranteed payout, and if you retire in the middle of an economic downturn or recession, well, tough luck. It's dog food for you till your kids put you in a home that your social security payments will cover. But so long as the money mangers can continue to buy their yachts and hire Billy Joel to sing at their daughters sweet sixteen parties, who cares?

So the republicans are playing politics with the economy in order to destroy the UAW and, ideally for them, unions in general: driving profits up, enriching stock brokers, and kicking a lot of old people to the curb in the process.

Friday, December 12, 2008


A disaster of monumental proportions for those of us who study media and American culture: Bettie Page died yesterday. Born in 1923, Bettie Page led a troubled life. Perhaps the most famous of the 1950s pinup models, she specialized in fetish pictures. A movie about her life in 2005 starred Gretchen Mol. Later in life she converted to Christianity and did missionary work.

So why am I memorializing her in what is mostly a political blog? Well, there is a political angle: her bondage photos in the '50s led to a senate investigation. But that's not the reason. Long time readers will know that this blog isn't just about politics. It's about media and American culture, and Bettie Page was an important media icon. She was an early pinup model for Playboy, which named her "the model of the century." Her official website gets lots of hits. According to her obituary, a recent TV guide poll named her "the ultimate sex goddess" beating out Marilyn Monroe. Her pictures still sell well as posters, on t-shirts, and as images downloaded from the internet. All of this for a woman who stopped working fifty years ago. She had a certain spark that was both inviting and challenging, and which came through in her photographs. She was a true icon and it is worth noting that she has passed.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

It is here, and earlier than expected

It is the most depressing, infuriating thing I've read today, and today is has not been encouraging. And in my home town, no less.

My home town of Sacramento California is about to establish an honest to god official Shanty Town, following on the heels of my dad's home town of Portland Oregon. A lawsuit filed in Sacramento is seeking to have the City's policy of rousting campers and issuing them citations declared illegal and force them to set up official campsites or "dignity villages" as they are called in Portland, so that homeless people will have a place to stay. Everybody, including City Hall and the police, seem to be climbing on board.

Depressing. As in depression. Let's hope that Time cover superimposing Obama's face onto a picture of FDR was more than just hype.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Big Bill

No, not Clinton.

Today Barack Obama made official his choice of commerce secretary, nominating Bill Richardson. Richardson was my first choice for president, so of course I think highly of him. He is a strong voice for Main Street on economic issues, he is an experienced international negotiator. He has already held a cabinet post. Of all the people who ran for President this year he was the most qualified. He will raise the profile of the department of commerce considerably. He's a good choice.

And I don't know what it means to have a dedicated sportsman and avid hunter as commerce secretary, but it can only help.