Friday, October 31, 2008

Who's Scariest this Halloween?

Have a Happy Halloween! Don't let the Republicans scare you into voting for another incompetent ticket!

Ever see McCain blow his top? Not a pretty sight! Nor is it as cool looking as this "angry tiki god pumpkin."

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Voting for Obama

I finally filled out my ballot (all the ballot initiatives held me up) to turn in today at one of the drop boxes downtown. I didn't think I would ever enjoy Oregon's unique vote by mail system that is ten years old. I loved going to the polls on election day and voting. It's exciting to wait in line, meet people, talk politics, take part in the process, and hoping to be selected for an exit poll (in 1998, I volunteered to be one of the people conducting an exit poll just to experience it, but I've never voted at a precinct where exit pollsters waited for every fifth voter to get polling data). However, this is my third election (2006 midterm election, the May primary, and 2008 general election) voting in Oregon and I really love the ease of filling out the ballot at my own convenience. I've never done it all in one sitting. For lesser known candidates in local races and the referendums, I like to read the voter guides and read some of the pro and con statements for the initiatives before I mark my ballot.

With this ballot, I filled out the oval for Charles Lewis first. Yes, I specifically voted for him first, before filling the oval for Obama/Biden, which was next. I voted strictly Democratic, even though I thought about voting for the Pacific Green Party candidate for Congress (I'm not too excited by Congressman Wu. I wish I lived in Congressman Blumenauer's district). There's little chance I'll ever vote for a Republican candidate in the near future. I've always been a Democrat for as long as I remember (1980 was the first election I paid attention to) and the only time I voted Republican was because I hated the Democratic candidates (that would be Cynthia McKinney when she ran to be my district's representative in Congress in 1996. Now she's the Pacific Green Party's candidate for President!). But while I thought the elder President George H.W. Bush was a reasonable Republican president and I admire Republicans such as Chuck Hagel, Steve Largent, and John Kasich...the steady strain of corruption (Gingrich, Hastert, Starr, Ashcroft, Delay, Armey, Foley, Craig, Bush, Cheney, Lott, and Stevens) has only made me despise the Republican party and everything it represents. I hope Republicans will disappear like the Whigs and the Federalists.

Before I drop off my ballot, I will photocopy it for posterity's sake. I want to frame it and hang it up in my apartment. Its always funny to me when people take the whole "secret ballot" thing too seriously. Two ladies I work with are mum on who they vote for and won't even discuss it. I've never understood why some people are so secretive about it, almost to the point of nastiness. Everyone I've met who's into politics is more open about who they voted for and why. I guess it's just an indication about who's truly into politics versus those who are merely amateurs. I can understand elected officials keeping a secret who they voted for, because you don't want to alienate potential supporters / endorsements. However, in thinking about those who are insistent on maintaining their secrecy, I think it's because they are fence sitters. I read awhile ago that more people admit to voting for Kennedy in 1960 than is possible, considering how close that election was. In a few years or so, you'll be hard pressed to find anyone admitting to voting for Bush. It's the people who are adamant about their secrecy that most likely "change their vote" when it's most convenient for their memories.

I'll have none of that. I'm not shy about letting anyone know that I voted for Clinton in 1992 and 1996, Gore in 2000, Kerry in 2004, and Obama in 2008. I have no shame in my vote. I'm a hardcore Democrat and proud of it. I did get grief for my vocal support of Clinton in 1992 when I was in the Navy. For years afterward, a few people would occasionally ask me, "do you regret your vote yet?" with each new fabricated Clinton scandal. I was especially glad that I was in college when the Monica Lewinsky scandal hit so I didn't have to get the ribbing from the folks I knew in the Navy (though one person I kept in touch with loved to rub it in). But, despite the scandal...if we had an election of Bill Clinton versus George W. Bush for a third term, I would vote for Clinton without any reservation.

However, with this election, I am especially thrilled to have the chance to vote for the first African American President in our history. I hope he wins a landslide election and get his 60-seat Senate so he can initiate bold initiatives (universal health care, renewable energy, and establishing a Truth Commission so the ugly history of the Bush presidency will be exposed for the sake of history). Anyone who comes to my apartment after next week will be able to see a framed copy of my marked up ballot. And I can't wait to read the world's reaction on November 5th. I suspect that people around the world are going to celebrate like the final scene in "Star Wars: Return of the Jedi" or the 2000 Millennium celebrations.

Last night, I watched Obama's 30-minute "infomercial." Some criticize it as a bit of propaganda theatrics, but the sniping is pure jealousy...especially from the McCain camp. It's funny to hear Republicans condemn it...this from a party that gave us Bush's "Mission Accomplished" speech in a flight suit on an aircraft carrier, or his bullhorn moment at Ground Zero three days after 9/11, or his speech in front of St. Charles Cathedral in New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina.

Perot gave thirty minute infomercials in 1992, which forced Bush and Clinton to focus on the economy as well. This isn't an aberration, and it's far preferrable to the shallowness of the 30-second ad. In Obama's thirty minute show, he featured average Americans struggling in the Bush economy. He interspersed it with biographical elements. It looked like he was speaking from the Oval Office and even the music added a soft, emotional touch. The whole thing was designed to get Americans to see him as American, and what is wrong with that? With the level of nastiness waged against him by desperate Republicans, this thirty minute commercial was a great idea. I was even impressed with the final cutaway to a live segment of a speech he was giving in Florida. And the final image was very classy (featuring a sunrise which quickly forms his well known logo). You can definitely see the Reagan influence in this advertisement ("morning in America" anyone?).

In other news, Obama quipped that McCain will be calling him a communist by the end of the week just because he shared his toys in Kindergarten. This is reminiscent of another joke he made recently, when he said that contrary to popular belief, he wasn't born in a manger. The truth is, he was from the planet Krypton and his father, Jor-El, had sent him on a mission to save the planet. You gotta love it!

In an interview with Charles Gibson, Obama said that he would appoint Republicans to his cabinet and that it was about time that we got back to the way foreign policy used to be in this country. It's time to de-politicize it. I wholeheartedly agree and I believe Obama will keep that promise. He has run an impressively honourable campaign with no personal attacks (McCain, for some odd reason thinks that criticizing one's policies or record is "negative", but calling an opponent a "terrorist" is fair game!). I really believe that Obama is serious about changing the tone in Washington and ending the cultural wars. He's going to do what Bush should have done in 2000-2001, by reaching out to opponents instead of marginalizing them.

I can't forgive Bush for the nastiness he showed to the majority who voted for Gore instead of him. He should've managed his administration from the center instead of running to the far right and alienating the majority who didn't vote for him. I have a feeling that Obama will be more effective in lessening the divisiveness, even though Republicans will most likely try to undo him the same why they tripped up Clinton. We'll have faux scandals to distract Americans from the substance, but it's the risk to take for a president who could become the next FDR if he has a bold plan to transform our country into a "more perfect union."

I'm excited, what can I say? Five more days.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Charles Lewis Introduction

Desperately Seeking an October Surprise

The month is nearly over and still no appearance of the Republican's favourite boogey man: Osama Bin Ladin. In the "delicious irony" category, there was a news report recently that an Al Qaeda website had a statement that a President McCain would be better for terrorist recruiting efforts than a President Obama. You hear that "9/11 Security Moms"? (I'm talking to you Elisabeth Hasselback of "The View"! I wish you'd go back to eating worms on "Survivor" because you don't know shit about politics). The CIA knew this four years ago when a last minute Osama video helped Bush beat Kerry. If you don't understand this aspect of foreign relations, you truly have no business voting.

Let me explain it nice and simple: a President McCain would be every bit as despised as Bush among unemployed young men in the Middle East who have little employment prospects, too much time on their hands, and mullahs promising a bountiful afterlife existence where they'll get laid for the first time in their lives to seventy-seven virgin women catering to their every carnal desires...all for a price of strapping on a bomb and going on a suicide mission to kill us.

On the other hand, a President Obama would stun the world, and many people on this planet (MANY...we're talking billions of people here) will truly be "shocked and awed" by our peculiar country where we don't have violent revolutions to change direction, and where a member of a minority race can lead a majority white nation. You know how powerful that simple gesture will be for the eyes of the world? Isn't it better to be admired than hated? I lived in Europe during the Reagan years and during the Clinton years, and I can tell you from first hand experience that it was a lot more fun talking with Europeans when we had a president that they admired than one they hated.

Many of these unemployed young men in the Middle East, all they know is violence and dictatorships so think about how they might view a nation where a black man is elected to lead a majority white nation. It's the kind of "only in America" phenomenon that many around the world admire about our country, even when we often disappoint them with our xenophobic, insular, and ignorant foreign policy that is unbecoming a nation of our stature. If elected, Obama will pick up where Mandela left off when he retired in 1999. Mandela was the most popular leader in the world during his five year term as the first black president of South Africa. Wouldn't it be nice to have a leader that the majority of the planet would admire?

The only people who fear an Obama Administration are members of Al Qaeda because they know that he might inspire unemployed young men in the Middle East with the best of American ideals. I'm telling you, it is hard for Al Qaeda to compete with a nation where a minority race is elected to lead the world's most powerful nation. It might be enough to convince would-be terrorists to demand democracy in their own countries (Egypt, Algeria, Lebanon, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Iran all have despotic governments).

If that weren't enough, the media is digging up a news story that McCain supposedly got into a car accident in 1964 where someone was killed and his Admiral father helped to cover it up. Shades of Bush and his own DUI and coverup. So, McCain has his own Chappaquiddick as Republicans always like to bring up anytime Ted Kennedy is mentioned. While I think this kind of revelation is suspect (after all, McCain has been in the spotlight for the better part of a decade, so why are we hearing about it ONE WEEK before the election?), I also find it amusing that the media seems to be doing everything in its power to destroy McCain, perhaps to atone for the light treatment they gave Bush in 2000.

The news bomb was rather ho-hum. What I find more interesting is the constant leaks from the McCain campaign where people are divided on Sarah Palin. McCain loyalists are claiming that she has "gone rogue" by speaking off script to save her hide for a potential presidential run (2012). Someone in the campaign said that Palin knew nothing about national or international politics. Well, duh! A fifteen minute conversation McCain supposedly had with her in their first meeting should've quickly deteremined that fact. Apparently, though, what set Palin off was the news report of the RNC spending $150,000 on clothing and accessories for her and her family. Her complaint is about how she was "handled" in the initial "roll-out", being kept away from the media at first, drilled talking points and handed a script to follow, and finally...the revelations of the amount of money spent on clothing made her seem like someone she believes she is not.

Having seen before and after photos, I have to agree that she had no fashion sense before she emerged into the national spotlight in late August. Republicans are good at packaging shit as shiny attractive objects. Poor Sarah Palin. Now her natural constituency (trailer park residents who shop at Walmart, attend NASCAR races, and have a tendency to show up as guests on the Jerry Springer Show) thinks she's Marie Antoinette and she'll have none of that. In a few speeches, she claimed that she didn't own the expensive outfits, that it was like everything else the Republicans put out. She basically revealed the shallowness of the Republican Party and its tendency towards packaging instead of substance. All I have to say about that is..."you go, girl!" Don't be used by the Republican Party apparatus.

One sweet news item I read was that the main newspaper in Anchorage, Alaska endorsed Barack Obama for president! In their assessment of Sarah Palin, they basically admitted that she was no where near ready to assume the presidency if tragedy befalls McCain. Alaska, the red state, endorses Obama over the Republican ticket with an Alaskan politician on it! Talk about smackdown. That one had to hurt.

Even sweeter was the recent indictments and guilty verdict of Senator Stevens, one of the most corrupt politicians in Congress. He's up for reelection and won't step down to let the Republican party run another candidate. But, with a week left, there's probably no time to find a suitable replacement. Looks like the Democratic candidate should win, contributing to the dream of a filibuster-proof Senate.

I love this photo of the Republican ticket. McCain as a creepy old man chasing after a woman young enough to be his daughter and a woman who looks very uncomfortable to be anywhere near him. After the election, I hope she writes a very candid book about what it was like to be his running mate. How many times did he attempt (like the late Senator Strom Thurmond did throughout his years on Capitol Hill) to pinch her ass during the fall campaign?

I also love this photo of Palin because she looks near tears. I bet if she had the foresight to realize that she wasn't ready for the national spotlight, she would've passed on McCain's offer of the Vice Presidency. Now, her own presidential aspirations might be in jeopardy. I read somewhere that VP candidates on a losing ticket generally has zero chance of winning the nomination. Looking back on recent history, let's see how true this is: John Edwards (2004); Joseph Lieberman (2000); Jack Kemp (1996); Dan Quayle (1992); and Geraldine Ferraro (1984). Not a single nominee among them. Seems like being the VP on a losing ticket is the kiss of death. After this election, Palin will most likely be the most scrutinized governor in the country. The media will not want to let her go. Scandals will pour out of Alaska faster than crude oil out of the Exxon-Valdez.

The desperation of the Republican Party has gone to pathetic measures.

Included among them is Dr. James Dobson and his "Focus on the Family" organization. He sent out a letter to his membership that a President Obama will bring us closer to the Apocalypse in 2012 and that a certain conservative organization that serves boys in outdoor programs will no longer exist because Obama will make gay adults lead these boys and sleep in the same tents! It's absurd that people actually eat that shit up (and I know a few good people who are big time Dobson followers, which always baffles me...but I'm smug in the knowledge that someday in heaven, they will learn how deceived they were and I feel sorry for people who allow themselves to be deceived and used in that manner). The irony is that this is the same Dobson who threatened to run a Christian candidate in this election because there wasn't a chance he'd support McCain for president. I guess he, too, fell for the charms of Palin (she has a Viagra-like effect on Republican men!).

There has also been a report that a couple neo-Nazis were arrested in a plot to unleash a terrorist act on a majority black school by killing 88 children, beheading 14, and ultimately assassinating Obama. Holy crap! The loonies on the right are back! The Clinton years brought out the paranoid, rightwing racist nuts and it's about time Americans got reaquainted with our own brand of terrorism. For years, I've been of the belief that America was far more threatened by gun totin', rightwing racists and anti-government radicals than we are by dark-skinned foreigners from the Middle East. But, if that's the price we pay for a President Obama, I don't care. I will donate money to the Southern Poverty Law Center to help combat rightwing terrorist groups.

The topper in this crazy week of desperate news to "change the game" in the final week of the longest presidential election in our history is that a supposed Hillary supporter has lost a court battle to demand that Obama produce evidence that he was born in Hawaii. This instigator supposedly claims that Obama was born in Kenya, not Hawaii; and that he is actually a citizen of Indonesia. I'm just shocked at the desperation of some people. Why now? Ever since Obama came into national consciousness four years ago, most people knew he would run for president eventually. If it is true that he was born in Kenya, why wasn't this info dug up sooner? Why wait for the month of October to drop the bombshell? I, personally, don't trust last minute bombshells because they reek of desperation and seem to have a high possibility of fraud (because you don't have enough time to research the claim or refute it).

Here's why I don't believe this "Obama was born in Kenya" b.s. His mother was a college student in 1961 when she was pregnant. Her parents were middle class, not rich. I simply find it hard to believe that Obama's mother would travel all the way to Kenya (which must have cost a lot of money back in the 1960s, and it's not even a cheap destination today) when she was pregnant to meet the family of her husband. Another problem with this bombshell is that she's not alive to refute this allegation. And Obama's grandmother's health is deteriorating, so who knows if she's of sound mind to discuss where Obama was born.

However, for argument's sake...let's say this allegation is true. The response would be, "so what?" If Obama was born in Kenya, I don't see that as a game changing disqualification. John McCain was born in the Panama Canal Zone. Even more, Obama's mother is an American citizen. His father abandoned them for Harvard, then later to return to Kenya to practice polygamy. Obama was pretty much raised by his white grandparents in Hawaii. Granted, Hawaii is our most exotic state. Some people might accuse it of being "foreign." However, as one who has been to both Puerto Rico and Hawaii, I noticed the differences between a U.S. state and a U.S. territory. There's no mistaking that Hawaii is an American state, while Puerto Rico feels like a foreign country.

This bombshell revelation is a non-issue. Who can doubt Obama's commitment and love for America? He went to our finest colleges (Columbia and Harvard). He found a success that his own father never found in life. He has a beautiful American wife and two young daughters. In his speech to the Democratic Convention in 2004, he expressed what we all feel...that there is no "red state or blue state", just "the UNITED States of America." He also said in that speech that "only in America is my story even possible: a skinny guy with a funny name can run for the Senate."

And there's the rub. These divisive conservatives want America to be very afraid of being led by a black president. They want to continue the corrosive cultural war that keeps Americans divided by fluff issues that politicians have no interest in changing, while Obama wants to unite the country before we collapse (Lincoln's famous quote is "a house divided against itself cannot stand."). Despite the fear mongering of the right (with the help of McCain and Palin), Obama endures and his election will send a message to the world that America repudiates the Bush years. In this historic election, only one candidate will redeem America in the eyes of a world weary of ruinous economic and military policies by a rogue regime in the most powerful nation on earth. We have to vote for our hopes, not our fears. If people would read their Bibles, they would see that Jesus was never the fear-monger that current religious leaders of America are. Jesus told us not to be afraid, so I wish conservative Americans would stop being afraid of a fellow American.

Most of all, October has been a month of small surprises, but not the kind I feared. It has pretty much been a rough month for McCain, so that might be the biggest surprise of all. Seeing his campaign implode has been one of the greatest thrills of the year. He's going down in flames like the airplane he crashed in Hanoi. He was a Prisoner of War for five years in Vietnam. For the past eight years, he has been a Prisoner of W. Poetic justice or tragedy?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Only Charles Lewis Has the Experience Portland Needs Now

With one week until ballots are due for the election day vote count, people who are still undecided, uncertain, or even thinking about not casting a vote for the only City Commissioner position, I hope will look at the record of both candidates closely. If they do, there's only one real choice in these uncertain economic times.

The choice is Charles Lewis, whom the Oregonian calls "impressive in his own right" and "has the potential to shine in any leadership endeavor he undertakes" (Friday, October 10, 2008). They got that right! Here's a basic rundown on his background:

Lewis has a Political Science degree from the University of Portland; served two years in the Peace Corps in Congo (not the one formerly known as Zaire); and received a Master's in Public Policy from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, where he was elected class president as well as awarded the prestigious Robert F. Kennedy Award for Public Service. With that kind of leadership resume (after all, his classmates included many over-achievers and those who got in on legacy), he could've pursued a great paying career in Boston, New York, or Washington, D.C. What does he do? Return to Portland to start a non-profit music education center for low income children. Schools facing budget restraints and new priorities to raise math and reading scores cut music programs, which is one of those "extras" in school that might make all the difference in the world (for me, it was art and creative writing that I enjoyed more than the math and science we're meant to learn). Charles saw a need that wasn't being met and started his Ethos Music Center on a credit card.

Ten years later, he has overseen the growth of Ethos into a visible building on North Killingsworth with 78 employees and an annual operating budget of nearly a million dollars, serving over 2,000 children. If that weren't enough, two years ago, he started a tour company (Portland Duck Tours) featuring a bio-diesel amphibious bus and operated it for two years before selling it as he focused more time on his campaign for City Council.

He was the first candidate to announce his campaign to run (back on June 6, 2007) for City Commissioner #1 so he could qualify for public financing. To realize how bold and visionary this decision was, neither Mayor Tom Potter nor Commissioner Sam Adams had indicated their intentions regarding the upcoming election until months later. Once Mayor Potter announced that he would not seek a second term and Commissioner Adams indicated his desire to be the next Mayor, other candidates jumped into the race for his City Council seat. Lewis revealed the kind of leader he is by not waiting to see what other people were going to do. He saw an opportunity and he put his experience on the line. Because the requirements for public financing involve collecting signatures and $5 donations by a certain deadline, it was inconsiderate of both Potter and Adams to wait to reveal their intentions as late as possible. Lewis, however, was bold and fearless in announcing first, undeterred that he might face an incumbent Adams for the Commissioner seat. It's that kind of boldness to make decisions while others hesitate or wait for someone else to make a decision that is the mark of a true leader.

After qualifying for $150,000 in public finances for the primary, Lewis used part of that money to fill in potholes that the City of Portland is slow to fix in eastern neighbourhoods that still have gravel roads. If you look at his biography, I think it's significant that he grew up in poverty, served in an impoverished African nation, founded his own organization rather than find a great paying job after a Master's degree, and currently earns a modest salary. You can tell a lot about a person who is conservative with other people's money, and no money is more important than how our tax dollars are allocated.

The Oregonian said in the same article that Lewis "should run again for political office." However, why wait? America is facing a major financial crisis. Portland will face challenges in creating livable wage jobs and keeping housing prices affordable in the next few years. As Sam Adams said in his campaign earlier this year, Portland will soon be making the kind of visionary planning that will determine the future of this great city for the next 25 years. We don't have another election to wait for an open seat on City Hall. When a candidate with the right leadership qualities is on the ballot now, it would be foolish to pass him up. He invested in Portland ten years ago, giving low income students a place to go after school and learn the art of creating music. He's ready for the next step in helping to lead Portland in the challenges of creating livable wage jobs and keeping the city affordable for anyone who desires to live here.

I hope Portlanders will cast their vote for City Commissioner #1 to Charles Lewis. His life, his experiences, his leadership show that actions do matter more than talking. Where others get bogged down in minutaie and deferring to others, Lewis is not afraid to do what it takes to get the job done. We need that determination now in city hall. Portland cannot afford to wait until another election for a candidate of his calibre to "run again." Vote for Charles Lewis today!

One thing I should mention...I've only volunteered on a few campaigns (Comer Yates in a Congressional race in Georgia in 1996; Howard Dean in 2004; and Sam Adams for Mayor earlier this year). My problem has always been finding a candidate that I wholeheartedly believe in. This year was especially difficult as I had wanted to volunteer on Barack Obama's historic campaign, but when I met Charles Lewis in May, I knew he was the real thing. Genuine, honest, sincere, ethical, bold, and lacking pretension. As an intern on Capitol Hill in 2000, I saw many people who were phony, dishonest, selfish, and ambitious in a resume-padding way. Thus, it was refreshing to finally meet a candidate who is running for the right reasons (because he has the necessary background and experience with the desire to serve the needs of Portland residents who struggle with wages and cost of living in a faltering economy). Someday, if anyone asks me why I didn't volunteer on Obama's historic campaign, I'll tell them that I only had enough time to devote to a great candidate for City Council. I wouldn't be canvassing for Lewis if I didn't believe he was genuine, experienced, or the best person for the job. I don't give up volunteering for Obama for just anyone!

With all the attention focused on the top of the ticket, it's easy to ignore or not vote for a local race. However, we who live in Portland will be affected by the people we elect to serve as City Commissioner. Its not glamorous or historic. The media has basically ignored the race and already proclaimed a winner based on a primary vote count that had a large number who didn't vote in that particular race. If you haven't voted, you can make a difference in this election and for the future of Portland. We are a city of young people struggling with the challenges of finding a career, starting a family, buying our first home and who better to represent us on City Hall than one who knows this experience first hand?

Cast your vote for a bold leader who has the only executive experience in this race. Charles Lewis for City Commissioner #1.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Music Video Monday: Bananarama

I know, I know...laugh at me if you want, but "I can't help it." As a teenager, I loved Bananarama. No ladies could rouse my passion like the three Banana ladies (well...except for Samantha Fox). I first heard of them in my seventh grade year with their hit song "Cruel Summer." Their debut music video shows them wearing coveralls, which was actually quite fashionable at the time for both teen boys and girls. Two years later, they released "True Confessions" (the same year as Madonna's "True Blue" and Cyndi Lauper's "True Colors"), featuring the remake "Venus", which guaranteed that they wouldn't be a "one hit wonder." I remember thinking that most of the songs on that album all sounded alike so I liked their sound. Between 1986 and 1988, they had plenty of hit singles on the European music charts featuring the songwriting team that also wrote hits for Rick Astley and Kylie Minogue.

The reason why I selected the music video for "I Can't Help It" is because I really love how all three ladies look in this video. If I could date any of the would be hard to choose, but I think Keren (the one with black hair and no hat) would win out. I have an inexplicable thing for women with that hairstyle. Its because of the way these British ladies look that probably contributed a lot to my lifelong attraction towards European ladies. They have a certain vibe I haven't been able to find in American women. Occasionally, though, I'll see a lady in Portland with the kind of European hair and clothing styles that will cause me to turn my head. I guess Europe spoiled me. Women of the continent so have it goin' on! I wish more American women had that mix of quality, style, and vibe I find so irresistable in European women.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Sinking McCain Campaign

The more I read about the election, the more confident I am that Barack Obama will become our 44th president. There are continual reports of disarray in the McCain campaign, the most telling include that several businesses and lobbying groups have already received resumes from high profile campaign staff. Bush's former press secretary Scott McClellan has endorsed Obama. A former campaign staff member of McCain has also endorsed Obama. Republicans are divided into two camps: those who blame Palin for hurting McCain's chance to become president versus those who view her as the future of the Republican party.

In other news, a McCain campaign worker claimed she was assaulted by a black Obama supporter when he saw a McCain sticker on her car and then carved a "B" (that was oddly backwards) into her cheek. The rightwing media had a field day with this before verifying the story, which the police ruled a hoax (her story kept changing and why would someone carve a backwards B into someone's flesh--it was a sign of self-mutilation). Though she probably took her own initiative without the McCain campaign's knowledge, the story spread like wildfire as the McCain campaign tried to use it as proof of Obama inspiring "scary black men" to strike fear into the hearts of white women everywhere. The same old Southern conservative tactic: black men disrespect our white women! It's so formulaic and predictable. That it backfired (reminding people of recent hoaxes such as the Bigfoot discovery in Georgia and the guy who claimed to have killed JonBenet Ramsey) only hurts the credibility of rightwing media and the McCain campaign...because whatever happened to verifying a newstory before you run with it?

The closer we get to election day, the more desperate McCain appears to be. Here's why I think McCain will ultimately lose on election day...

Photos of him from the last debate reveal a crazed-looking, unstable person who should be wearing a straitjacket, not having the access codes to our nuclear weapons in his jacket. By contrast, Obama looks steely cool, able to face down terrorists and dictators with the kind of tough resolve that doesn't break a sweat Americans are looking for.

Also in the final debate, McCain looked lost on stage at the end, not knowing where to go next and pictures captured him in an unflattering pose. Could anyone look more reptilian/lizard like than Dick Cheney?!? McCain managed to do it. Is that the poise we expect of a president?

Ultimately though, I believe that the reason why McCain is going to lose is because of the lack of conservative enthusiasm for him in the first place. They face a tough for a candidate that they are lukewarm about and 2012 will lack the open race both parties saw this year. I can understand this predicament because in 2004, even though I voted for Kerry, I wasn't truly sad about his losing because I knew 2008 would mean more choice among candidates rather than a Kerry reelection campaign. If Republicans aren't excited about a McCain presidency, I can see them voting for Bob Barr of the Libertarian Party as a protest to drain votes away from McCain in the hopes of seeing him lose. If he loses, you can bet that 2012 will feature a Republican primary lineup of Huckabee, Romney, Palin, Crist of Florida, Pawlenty, perhaps Jindal of Louisiana, and even Jeb Bush promising to fix the family name with competent leadership.

Also, by helping to defeat McCain from within, Republicans know that Obama and the Democratic congress will inherit all of Bush's problems and if they are unable to turn things around in four years (a good possibility, as it took Clinton 6 years to turn around 12 years of Reagan/Bush economics), Democrats will have to face the accountability of voters. If McCain inherits Bush's mess and fails to make changes, then things might be even worse for the Republican party.

I think the writing is on the wall. Too many Republicans are throwing support to Obama, endorsing Obama, or reporting on the internal troubles in the McCain campaign that I see a strategy at play. Like Dole in 1996, McCain was given his presidential campaign dream despite a lack of party enthusiasm, and they will be glad to be rid of him after November as they search for "the next Reagan." A President Obama will be good for the haters in the party, fundraising, and rightwing talkshows. They will no longer have to keep on spinning obviously failed policies and are free to criticize the Democrats for everything that goes wrong in the next four years.

An interesting development is that Sarah Palin is admitting publically that the Republicans have it tough this year because of Bush's unpopularity. Are Republicans ready to honestly look at the Bush presidency through the lens of logic and realize just how bad he has been for our country? That would be an amazing wake-up call...not that Palin would be any better than Bush, but I think it's another sign that Republicans are giving up on a McCain victory and eyeing 2012.

I'll be very interested to see who makes the first trip to New Hampshire shortly after November 4th. I'm willing to bet money that it will be Sarah Palin.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Showing Stupid on Saturday Night Live

Who's the real Sarah Palin and who's the parody?

Last Saturday, Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin made a much touted appearance on "Saturday Night Live", despite some protests. I was one of those who thought it was a bad idea until I actually watched the show. As I watched, I kept waiting for the funny...only to be shocked by how out of place Palin looked. Why was she even on? She looked like a spectator with her "moose in the headlights" look as she tried to crack a joke with Lorne Michaels as they watched the video monitor of Tina Fey's opening skit as Sarah Palin. The real Sarah Palin cracked a lame joke about why Lorne wouldn't let her write a script for Fey's "30 Rock." Suddenly, Alec Baldwin showed up. He hardly looked at Palin and only said to her, "you look hotter in person!" She thanked him and said that his brother Stephen was her favourite Baldwin brother (no surprise...Stephen got religious and conservative sometime around 9/11).

When Palin finally went out on stage, Tina Fey hardly looked at her and they didn't even speak to each other. The Real Palin delivered the "Live from New York, it's Saturday Night!" line and that was it...until the Weekend Update. With Alec Baldwin making a cameo, and given his history of abusive tirades against his ex-wife Kim Basinger and that infamous phonecall where he called his own daughter a pig, I was hoping to see some sparks between Baldwin and Palin. He could've totally went off on the whole "pig with lipstick" schtick and see what her reaction was. But I got the impression that the staff was probably warned: "be's her first time." Palin looked intimidated to be on "Saturday Night Live", so what was the whole point of her being there?

The Weekend Update segment was lame as well. She didn't really crack any jokes and declined to sing the rap that they claimed she had practiced in rehearsal (don't believe it). Amy Poehler did the honors and I was shocked that Palin was bopping like a hip hop artist (waving her hands in the air like she just don't care, uh-oh, uh-oh!) as Poehler's rap ripped on McCain, Palin and the Republicans. The impression that I got...from opening skit (when Tina Fey as Palin basically gave reasons why people should vote for Obama) to the Weekend Update...was that Sarah Palin had just been "Punk'd!" in the worst way possible. She was played for a fool and didn't even realize it. She thought she was being cool by showing up on a hip show in the hopes that it would win fans and votes, but the reality is, she was the guest of honour to her own public ridicule. It was brilliant, but I felt kind of bad for her. It reminded me of that Asian dude on "American Idol" (William Hung) who really believed he could sing and even released two albums, which you know people bought only for laughs to play at parties. It's hard to watch when a person sincerely believes that they are popular and well liked while in reality, they are the joke people are laughing at (not with).

I read some diaries on the Daily Kos and the speculation seems to be that Palin wasn't as interested in being the Vice President as much as she is in being famous. There's also speculation that she's actually working to ensure McCain's defeat so she won't have to serve as Vice President. This election made her famous and she knows she'll have some kind of high profile future after the election is over. One could easily see her with a show on FOX, though I'd prefer a reality show about her dysfunctional family a la "the Osbournes" than a political talk show.

In one interesting aside, there is an eyeglasses shop in Portland that advertised "Palin glasses" on the store display window. The owner said that she was only highlighting the designer (some Japanese brand) not making a political statement. However, it did not go over well in liberal Portland and she received a lot of complaints and a few threats. Crazy! People need to chill. Her eyeglasses are pretty cool looking. Nothing wrong with her fashion sense. It's her politics and lack of experience that are the problem. I have nothing against her as a person and wouldn't mind meeting her. I feel bad about the way she was set up to be the butt of jokes on "Saturday Night Live". All I wish for her is that she will disappear back to her dark hole in Alaska to keep watch on those invading Russians from Siberia. And if she does have a reality show featuring her family, I will most definitely watch. Learning about Palin has been the "best show on television" this fall season. I simply cannot avert my eyes from the trainwreck her candidacy and party has become. It's just too delicious to resist after the still-bitter defeats of 2000 and 2004.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Flashback Friday: Al Gore

The Gorester is back in Portland!

For today's Flashback Friday post, I decided to write about Al Gore because he's once again in Portland...this time to stump for Jeff Merkley, who hopes to replace Senator Gordon Smith in the world's most exclusive club. One interesting aspect about this election is the whole irony of it all. Back in 2002, I was living in Georgia, so I saw the horrible ads in which Democratic Senator Max Cleland was compared to Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. I don't know if Gordon Smith's ads six years ago were pro-Bush, but this year, his ads feature his "friendships" with Democrats Ron Wyden (Oregon's Democratic Senator), Barack Obama, and Ted Kennedy. He wants us to forget his own 90% pro-Bush voting record. Accountability sucks, right? I hope Oregon voters make him pay for his allegiance to Bush all these years and turn him out of the Senate (though that might mean he'll run for governor in 2010).

Anyhow, a week or so ago, I received a teaser email from the Merkley campaign saying that I could meet the former Vice President. When I clicked for details, I learned that it costs $50 just to get into the Rose Garden Arena, but for a donation of $5,000, I'll be in a group to get a photo and to meet him. Yikes! If I had that much, I'd pay off some debt. I'd love to meet Gore again, since the last time I did was the "high point of my life" (April 22, 2000). There are a few things I'd like to say, as well as possibly get his advice since he's found success despite his loss, while I'm still trying to find my way after badly calculating that he'd be the first president of the 21st century and that I'd be a political aide in his administration. But, that's the past and I'm focused on future possibilities.

I think it's interesting that he's back in Portland on October 24th, which is my brother's birthday. Two years ago, he was in Portland on October 24th for the live show of his "Inconvenient Truth" multi-media slideshow presentation (which is even better live than on DVD!). I felt guilty because I chose that over celebrating my brother's birthday, but I don't regret it because that was a once in a lifetime experience. What made that evening awesome was the Q & A session that followed. I remember one young man standing up and saying that he had an online petition with a lot of names for him to run for president. He even told Gore that he was "morally obligated" to run. Gore, channeling his new-age buddha, responded with the touching gesture he often does now, which is the "wai" (palms pressed together in front of him, which is an expression of gratitude in Buddhist/Asian countries). He thanked the young man for his support but politely said that he was focused on his new role, which is to bring planetary awareness to the critical climate change emergency.

I was torn because I feel that he would've won hands down if he had run again. Americans would overwhelmingly vote for him in 2008 to make up for 2000. However, I had a feeling that the reason why he didn't run was because he knew Hillary planned to and he didn't want to compete with her (he is a pretty loyal guy, so despite friction with the Clintons, in his heart, he just wouldn't run against Hillary out of a sense of loyalty and respect). Then there was Barack Obama, as well. I think Gore wisely stayed out of it, as he realized his moment had passed and he has a greater task at hand. The reason why I was torn was a little more selfish. I had just moved to Portland and want to settle here in a career and start a family someday (once I land a liveable wage job in a career that matches my interest). If Gore had run, I would've sent him my resume requesting a campaign staff position. Like Gore, I'm also loyal. He's the one president I wanted to work for since the early 1990s. I wouldn't pass that chance up. I would've given up Portland for a chance at that. So, I'm grateful that he passed on another campaign, allowing us to have the most exciting primary season of our lives.

It's remarkable that he's in Portland two years to the day. The year between his two Portland appearances, he received the Nobel Peace Prize. Who knows what the future holds for him? For me, I'm just grateful that my being selected to be one of his 15 interns for Spring Semester 2000 remains as one of the highlights of my life. It was an incredible experience. As much as I would love to attend the Merkley / Gore event, I decided that spending time with my brother on his birthday is more important. Besides, our parents are in town visiting, so I'll have to respectfully decline the invitation to the event, as much as I wanted to go.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

No More Guy for Madonna

Last week, the news revealed that Madonna and Guy Ritchie are getting a divorce after all. They denied rumours for months and kept up with appearances, particularly when Guy Ritchie was seen in New York after news broke that Madonna was being visited by the A-Rod, and again for Madonna's 50th Birthday bash in London.

This news story caused a spike in hits on my blog for a post I had written about Madonna in August 2007 for her 49th Birthday. For some strange reason, that blog post has been consistently at the top of the most viewed post. Why? I have no idea. Who knew she would be so popular? The post I wrote in honour of her 50th birthday or the album review for "Hard Candy" hasn't been viewed as much.

Anyhow, it's hard to say that news of the divorce is a surprise. This past spring, Madonna hinted at marital trouble in the song "Miles Away" on her latest CD, "Hard Candy." The lyrics spell it out for listeners:

I just woke up from a fuzzy dream
You never would believe the things that I have seen
I looked in the mirror and I saw your face
You looked right through me, you were miles away

All my dreams, they fade away
I'll never be the same
If you could see me the way you see yourself
I can't pretend to be someone else

Always love me more, miles away
I hear it in your voice, miles away
You're not afraid to tell me, miles away
I guess we're at our best when we're miles away

So far away, so far away, so far away, so far away
So far away, so far away, so far away, so far away

When no one is around then I have you here
I begin to see the picture, it becomes so clear
You always have the biggest heart
When we're 6,000 miles apart

Too much of no sound
Uncomfortable silence can be so loud
Those three words are never enough
When it's long distance love

Always love me more, miles away
I hear it in your voice, miles away
You're not afraid to tell me, miles away
I guess we're at our best, miles away

So far away, so far away, so far away, so far away
So far away, so far away, so far away, so far away

I'm alright
Don't be sorry, but it's true
When I'm gone, you realize
That I'm the best thing that happened to you

You always love me more, miles away
I hear it in your voice, miles away
You're not afraid to tell me, miles away
I guess we're at our best when we're miles away

You always love me more, miles away
I hear it in your voice, miles away
You're not afraid to tell me, miles away
I guess we're at our best when we're miles away

So far away, so far away, so far away, so far away
So far away, so far away, so far away, so far away
So far away, so far away, so far away, so far away
So far away, so far away, so far away, so far away
So far away, so far away, so far away, so far away

According to divorce papers, Madonna is claiming to be a "victim" to Guy's "insensitivity" for once saying that she looked like "a granny" on stage and for saying that she couldn't act! Um, I hate to break it to you Madonna, and I speak as a really cannot act. I present Exhibits A through E: "Who's that Girl?", "Shanghai Surprise", "Body of Evidence", "The Next Best Thing", and "Swept Away." While your best roles were in "Desperately Seeking Susan", "Dick Tracy", "A League of Their Own", and "Evita", it has more to do with either being a small role, or that you mostly sing, or that you basically play yourself...but you can't carry a film to save your life. When Guy Ritchie...a DIRECTOR...says you can't act, he's being honest, not a sycophant. Shouldn't loved ones be honest with you?

What's truly shocking about her claim that Guy's comments made her insecure, is that Madonna's whole persona is of a strong woman who won't take crap from anyone. I find it very hard to believe that she's as insecure as her divorce papers claim to be. If she's insecure, what does that say about the hugely successful "brand" she created for herself? Where is the woman who put out a cigarette on the back of some Latino stud as a way to introduce herself to him? Where is the woman who made the male dancers in her Blonde Ambition Tour wear cone-shaped bras and crawl around in subservience to her whims? She claims to have married Guy because he was the rare male who wasn't intimidated by her. Now it sounds like his confidence and honesty made her the insecure one! That's quite the accomplishment. Guy's cool factor just shot up to Obama/Kennedy/Rat Pack levels!

However, I am a little sad to see that they are getting a divorce. It seemed like Guy was a good influence on Madonna and that she took married life well. But, I suppose she's going through her own "mid-life crisis" (which you don't often hear women going through as much as you do about men). She's been sexually provocative for so long, maybe her age is getting to her. She doesn't want to give up her place in public consciousness to the likes of Britney Spears. Despite a second failed marriage (hey...I think her first husband Sean Penn is still single...maybe they might try for a second chance at love at midlife?), I don't think it would be a good idea for Madonna to marry again. From all that I read about her, she seems like she would be extremely hard to live with. She exhibits fascist tendencies in the particular food she eats, the ban on TV / magazines / newspapers in her homes, and strict schedules in an endlessly self-promoting career. Plus, the whole Kabbalah thing. It's a bit too much for any guy to put up with. So, I don't fault Guy for bailing. After eight years with her Madgesty, he's throwing in the towel. Who will she end up with next? Maybe she should give Michael Jackson a call...

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Must Be Nice to Spend Other People's Money...

Another day, another Palin controversy. This time, the Republican National Committee has spent $150,000 to furnish Palin and her family in designer clothing bought during shopping sprees at Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue. So, despite her claims about being for Joe Six Pack and dividing America into "real" and "un", she has no problem spending other people's money to do such elitist things as buying designer outfits that make her look stylish (which she certainly is) in a time when Americans are losing their homes, 401k, and jobs; when gas prices are high (though they have conveniently dropped in time for the election); when Congress is talking about another stimulus package, and when financial markets are in meltdown. This is very Marie Antoinette-ish of her. Let them wear Prada!

Are there still Americans who are falling for the "Republicans are for the working class; Democrats are the elitists" con? I've never understood how people could fall for that. Republicans have always been about the wealthy class...ever since it's founding in the mid 1800s. All of its presidents have been corporate whores who did the bidding of Wall Street to disastrous effect time and time again. Conservative and money seem to go hand in hand. They own the mainstream media, so there is no true "liberal bias." The problem is, wealthy people are a small minority. They can't win any election because of it. Thus why they have to constantly lie in every election, pretending to be for the common man even as they screw as many people as they can. That's what capitalists do. They want money and wealth in as few hands as possible. People who don't make anywhere near $100,000 but vote for Republicans in election after election are the dumbest idiots on the planet. Why would you vote against your own interest? It defies logic.

So, look at this fashionista and her sexy go-go boots and the nice figure she presents in her red outfit. She looks like she could walk a runway in Milano, Paris, or New York while Vogue's Anna Wintour gazes at her in judgment. $150,000 on clothing! That's more than the governor of Alaska's salary. It would take me six years to earn that much in my current job. In fact, if the RNC gave me $150,000...I would quit my job, pay off all my debts, take a month long vacation in Australia, buy my dream car (a $15,000 Scion tC), AND go to Grad School to get a Master's in Public Policy. And I'd still have money left over to put a big down payment on a home!!! It is deeply offensive to me that wealthy elites have no problem dropping huge amounts of money on clothing and accessories. Not to mention that I also believe its a sin. There's no reason to spend so much money on clothing and accessories, especially when half the world lives on less than $1 a day. I have no problem buying my clothes at Ross, Marshalls, or TJ Maxx. My biggest indulgence, however, are books...but even then, I generally buy them used or marked down at Powells Bookstore.

Even little Piper Palin was outfitted in her own Louis Vuitton purse. Granted, candidate's children should be off limits...but this is ridiculous! Aren't Republicans outraged?!? Their party is using money that Republicans have donated to the campaign to send the Palin family on shopping sprees at high-end retail stores to buy designer clothes while America is in the biggest financial crisis of our lifetime.

I want to see revolt, people. R E V O L T! Republican voters who make less than six figures a year, the time is NOW to get your heads out of your asses and realize the fraud you've allowed yourself to be conned by all these years. The Republican Party does not give a damn about you and your low wage salary, your foreclosure-endangered home, your family budget squeeze between gasoline and food prices, and your health care costs. They will keep on conning you if you are stupid enough to vote for them again and again.

If you prefer to see your money keep the likes of Palin in Prada, then be my guest. Vote for the Fashionistas. But I don't want to hear you complain about how you can't afford to even shop at Walmart any more. Grow up and vote your economic interest. Send McCain back to one of his 7 homes in one of his 11 cars. Send the Palins back to their half a million dollar home in Wasilla in their designer clothes. Demand that the Republicans give money back to their donors.

I told a friend a few years back that I can tell a lot about a person in how they spend other people's money. I'm actually more conservative with other people's money than with my own. When I kept my division's budget on my last ship in the Navy, I nixed requests from shipmates wanting a hookup on personal planners and other supplies for personal use. I have little respect for people who have no internal sense of ethics when it comes to spending money that is not theirs. The more I learn about Palin, the more disturbing the picture becomes. It is obvious to me now that she has no internal code of ethics. She's all about fame, wealth, social climbing, and personal aggrandizement. She has no humility, no ethics, no moderation, no sense of being out of her depth. She would make a great Eva Peron or even the infamous wife of the late dictator of Zaire Mobutu. Mrs. Mobutu, despite the chronic and desperate poverty of most citizens of Zaire, often flew to Paris for shopping sprees in which she filled 747s full of personal clothing and accessories. Her extravagent tastes for the finer things in life made Imelda Marcos and her 400 pairs of shoes look as impoverished as Mother Teresa.

I truly hope Palin's spending habits will be made an issue, as it should. Some might call it fluff, but it gets to the heart of who she is. Only a person so out of tune with the current problems our country is facing would do such a thing. It reminds me of Condoleezza Rice, who was seen shopping for Manolo Blahniks in Manhattan while New Orleans was being ravaged by Hurricane Katrina. It brings to mind emails that Michael "Heckuva job" Brown had sent to a staffmember about how good he looked on T.V. when interviewed about his incompetent handling of Katrina. This insensitivity is most famously remembered in the French Revolution, when French people were rioting over the rising costs of bread while Marie Antoinette was stuffing her face with cake in her extravagant palace.

America doesn't need another politician who is completely clueless to the current climate of economic turmoil. Republicans who criticized John Edwards for his $400 haircut (and I was one of those who also criticized him for that), yet turn a blind eye towards Queen Palin's shopping spree at Republican donor's expense are being hypocritical.

Atoning for "the Blot"?

This past weekend, former Secretary of State and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Colin Powell has endorsed Barack Obama for president. It wasn't a surprise, as the story was leaked early last week on "the Huffington Post." However, despite John McCain's attempt to downplay the endorsement as well as Republicans playing spin doctors once again, this is just one more nail on the coffin of McCain's presidential aspirations. Could this endorsement be the October surprise, or will another one come?

While I'm pleased to hear that Colin Powell has come around, a part of me is skeptical. Skeptical because of the role he played in helping the Bush Administration gain some measure of "credibility" in its push to war. Powell played the patsy role by presenting the Administration's case to the United Nations, which was naturally skeptical about Bush's claims regarding Saddam's nuclear program. Since Powell is a widely respected statesman lacking in ideology and with an impeccable and distinquished military career, his words carried the kind of weight that a Donald Rumsfeld or a Paul Wolfowitz would not. If Powell had doubts about Bush's claim regarding Saddam attempting to buy yellowcake uranium from Niger, he should have refused to be used by the Administration. In an interview regarding that U.N. presentation, he called it "a blot" on his record. A blot?

Does he not realize how much power he had at the time? Had he resigned instead of playing the good soldier, he would have sank the credibility of Bush before the entire world. He might have spared the U.S. from a costly and deadly war in Iraq. He might have even cost Bush a "reelection" victory in 2004. In his one chance to uphold the interest of the American people and the U.S. Constitution, he failed when he allowed the Bush Administration to use his good name to make the case for war against Iraq.

Perhaps he thinks that endorsing Obama might help to rectify that. Or maybe he feels a solidarity with another member of his race. Or maybe he realizes that McCain is too much the loose cannon to be trusted with national security. Or perhaps it's McCain's choice of Sarah Palin that made Powell realize how far off the deep end the Republican Party has gone. Perhaps it offended his sense of honour and duty. Whatever reason behind his decision to endorse Obama for President, I am pleased that he has done so. However, as some pundit correctly said on T.V., this endorsement would've had a bigger impact a month ago. Now, it's just one more "defector" from McCain to Obama, as though he's jumping on a bandwagon with the most momentum.

In a clip from the Sunday morning talkshows, I was impressed by what Colin Powell said. He was offended by his party falsely claiming that Obama is a Muslim. But he went even further than that. He actually defended Muslim Americans and asked what this controversy says to a Muslim child in America who might dream of becoming president someday. He said that even if Obama was a Muslim, that shouldn't even be an issue for Americans. I've been waiting to hear a politician say that. Colin Powell is probably the only one who could say that without being attacked by the rightwing smear machine. Or maybe it doesn't matter at this point for him. Perhaps he hopes for a chance to redeem his good name after the horrible way the Bush Administration used him to make their case for war.

In case you're interested...the Colin Powell in "W." has some good digs at Dick Cheney, which made the audience roar its approval (laughter, cheers, and applause). I wonder how he really was in those war cabinet meetings. Did he and Condoleezza Rice agree on anything? Did he and Dick Cheney get along? I hope he'll write a book about his life since his last book (published in 1995), giving us all the good details about what happened in the Bush push for war.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Noah Webster 250 Years Later

Last week, there was an interesting newspaper article on the 250th birthday of Noah Webster, who created the most famous of Dictionaries. Not only that, he is the most famous of my ancestors (my grandmother's maiden name was Margaret Mae Webster and I'm not sure how far it goes back to Noah, as I haven't done the genealogy on it). If I ever become a published novelist, I think it would be cool that the creator of the most widely used dictionary has a writer descendant.

However, I know very little about Noah Webster beyond the dictionary, so the newspaper article was interesting, revealing tidbits that I wish I stll remained ignorant of. But then again, no one's perfect.

He was born on October 16, 1758 in what is now West Hartford, CT. He had six daughters and two sons with his wife and once lived in a house that belonged to Benedict Arnold. He was friends with Benjamin Franklin, got a glimpse of George Washington as a Yale student, and considered Thomas Jefferson an adversary (boo!). He helped found Amherst College, successfully advocated for the first copyright laws in our country, fought for a strong federal government and opposed the Bill of Rights (double boo!). Even more astonishing, he proposed that no one younger than 45 be allowed to vote. If that was the law, McCain would be our next president, hands down and I wouldn't be able to vote in the most historic election of our lifetime. He also wrote: "a Republican government in the hands of females is preposterous." My, what would he think of America in 2008 with Hillary Clinton's historic campaign for the presidential nomination and Sarah Palin seeking to become the first female Vice President?

What Webster did was change the spelling of words like "colour" to "color" and "centre" to "center". In fact, he dropped the "u" wherever they were unnecessary (his descendent adds them back in as I prefer the British spelling of some words like colour, favourite, and neighbour).

So, here's to my famous ancestor. Happy 250th birthday! May your dictionary continue to be the standard people use for another 200 years (he had spent 28 years on his 70,000-word dictionary that was published in 1828). I wish I could know what he would think of our politics in 2008. It's funny about genealogy though. Even though he's my ancestor, after reading the article, I feel no real connection to him like I do to someone like Nelson Mandela or Robert F. Kennedy or Thomas Jefferson. It just proves to me that bloodlines are not as relevant as the bonds of affection. But he can count on me to use only Webster's Dictionary (even though it's now called "Merriam-Webster Dictionary") as I work on my next novel starting in January.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Pitbull Apocalypstick

Instead of a music video for today's post, I've decided that this ten minute video about Sarah Palin's religious views is a must see before you cast your ballot. I think a person's religious views matters if they are seeking an office as important as Vice President or President, if only because of the fact that they will have the nuclear codes that could end life as we know it. And if they believe in "End Times Prophecies", that alone should disqualify them from holding such an important office. Especially when someone like Sarah Palin is on record for saying that she wouldn't hesitate to go to war against Russia over Georgia.

I don't believe in "End Times Prophecies" because the logic is faulty. Besides, I was always shocked to hear such End Times believers as being absolutely giddy about the idea of being Raptured while their "enemies" (people who don't believe as they do) are left behind to face "the Tribulation" and the ultimate genocide by a returning Christ. Believing that death is the only option available for "evil" people is juvenile. I believe transformation is better. The idea that one can come to the reality that his or her actions are wrong and change ways. That's powerful. We've all heard about people who have had what is often called "the road to Damascus experience" (taken from the New Testament when the anti-Christian Saul is blinded by God and changes ways as well has his name to Paul).

If you think about God spending billions of years developing our planet to be able to sustain life, and the history of humans (far longer than 6,000 years), it doesn't make sense that God would want to see this place destroyed by crazy humans who are obsessed with End Times and seek ways of speeding it up so that they can be raptured while everyone else has to deal with the aftermath of their reckless behaviour. That's a very George W. Bush thing to do! (Leaving a mess for other people to deal with while you're not held accountable). We are called to be caretakers of our planet. We are to be responsible for all life on this planet, from the animals to the plants. It's just bizarre that this group of religious extremists hate our planet so much that they seek to bring about its ruin for future generations, all in some twisted effort to "prove Biblical prophecy true."

When I worked for a year in the same cubicle as a fundamentalist Christian woman of the Assemblies of God faith, it was a year in hell as I was constantly shocked by her ignorance about the world. She was obsessed with End Times Prophecies and told me that events in the world prove the prophecy true. To her, it's all about proving to non-believers that her religious views are "the absolute truth." For me, I don't care if people believe my spiritual beliefs or not. But there's one thing I am absolutely against...self-fulfilling prophecy (you believe in doomsday scenario so you act to speed up the process of doom). My own spiritual experience "proves" a different scenario for me. From my experience, what Buddhists advocate through meditation, awareness, and non-attachment leading to "enlightenment" is absolutely true. It has nothing to do with bringing hell to planet earth in some juvenile desire to prove ancient cryptic prophecies true for your own ego's gratification. It's about becoming a better person, more understanding, more spiritual, more enlightened, more blissed out.

So, watch the video and learn. Do we really want this religious extremist with access to nuclear codes? We criticize Iran for electing crazies to lead them, but would we be any better if this woman becomes Vice President (and President)? The best thing Americans of reason can do is send this extremist back to Alaska to cool off. Let her watch the Russians from her house (because, as she said...Putin could fly over the Bering Strait any day!) and get indicted for ethics violations and corruption. We need sober politicians to lead us in this dangerous time, who have a more mainstream religious view.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

W (Dubya) No Flubya

Friday evening, I went to the theater downtown to see "W." I didn't expect to see so many people lined up for this movie, since Bush is extremely unpopular in Portland. However, I am living in a city that is politically aware, so perhaps many people are like me...curious about Oliver Stone's take on our president.

What can I say about this film? It is what it is, which is to say, quite impressive. First, the acting is phenomenal. When Josh Brolin was selected to play the lead / title role, I didn't think he looked much like Bush. However, he nails the voice and mannerisms in such a way that there were plenty of moments where he actually looked like the president. He channeled the president brilliantly. By film's end, I believed that he was Bush while the real Bush seems the imposter. Other standout performances include Richard Dreyfuss as Cheney (he nails him perfectly, down to the way Cheney tilts his head and the sinister way he speaks) and Thandie Newton as Condoleeza Rice. She got the voice and mannerisms down pat that I'll never be able to look at Rice the same way again. Because I've seen Thandie in several other films (she is one of my favourite actresses after all), I thought this might be hard for her to pull off, so I was pleasantly surprised when I watched, believing that she was actually the National Security Advisor. I wish there were more scenes with her.

However, this movie is about George W. Bush. Because he is the star of the film, you truly do see events from his point of view and actually root for the guy! This is not some spoofing "Saturday Night Live" version of Bush or the one seen in that short-lived comedy "That's My Bush!" that aired on cable in 2001. This is a film that even Bush supporters would appreciate. As I watched, I wondered what it might be like for members of the Bush family to watch it. It would be interesting to know what it might be like if Dubya himself watched the movie, what thoughts go through his head. It's like a mini mid-life that is less painful than the actual one he will get at the end of life when he faces God. How lucky, I thought, that he gets a movie about his life! I'm completely in awe of this film. And yes, Oliver Stone's Bush is a likeable guy that you can't help but root for.

The timeline for this film is set during a two year span (2002-2003) and focuses on Bush's push for war against Iraq. To break up the flow of presidency in action, scenes from his life are seen in various flashbacks. We see pledge week in college, work on an oil rig, clashes with father, meeting Laura, running and losing his first race for Congress, getting sober and finding Jesus, introducing the Willie Horton ad to his father, seeing the pain of his father's reelection defeat, running for governor, and telling his spiritual counselor that he had a vision that God wanted him to become president.

The clashes with his father are the real meat of the film. Though James Cromwell doesn't look much like the elder George Bush, he does a great job through his patrician air that he resembles the old man. In one telling scene, he scolds the younger Bush by saying something like: "200 years of building the Bush name and you manage to wreck it!" He also tells him that he ruined Jeb's chance to become president. This is key. Though we only see Jeb in an earlier scene when he prevents Dubya from fighting his father in a drunken rage after celebrating his acceptance to Harvard Business School, later on it appears that Bush was angry that his parents tried to talk him out of running for Governor of Texas in 1994. They wanted him to wait until 1998. As we know, both Bushes ran for governors races in Texas and Florida. Jeb was expected to win Florida while George was expected to lose Texas because he faced a popular Ann Richards. When the opposite happened, it was a shock, especially to his family. I get the impression that the elder Bush wanted Jeb to win in 1994 so that he would be the one to run for president in 2000. But, don't count him out. I fully expect him to run in 2012 or 2016, promising to redeem the family name and hoping American's notorious short-term memory after four or eight years will prove correct once again.

What I found most interesting about this film is that many of the famous quotes we've heard and read about are sprinkled about in various scenes with key figures. In reality, these quotes were said in entirely different circumstances, but due to the creative license of filmmaking, they found their way into crucial scenes. Purists might object, but I thought it was quite interesting. For one example, at a press conference, he's asked by the White House press corps what his legacy will be, in which his famous response was "Who knows? We'll all be dead." If I remember correctly, he made this comment in a sitdown interview with some famous journalist (Brian Williams, perhaps?). Another question about mistakes he made as president, I remember was asked at one of the debates in 2004.

There are quite a few scenes showing Bush's love of baseball and his early dream of becoming the Commissioner of Baseball, which some people think might be his post-presidency career. However, I don't see that happening. He is far too toxic that I think he will spend the rest of his life trying to redeem his name and reputation. His legacy will be Iraq and this film drives home the point that Bush's motives seems to be as I suspected: to finish the job his father didn't have the guts to do in 1991. Even I agree that the elder Bush made a huge mistake leaving Saddam in office after liberating Kuwait. However, I thought the rationale for war in 2003 was weak.

In one war cabinet meeting, we see intense debate between Colin Powell's cautious and diplomatic approach versus Cheney's realism. They (Bush, Cheney, Powell, Rice, Tenet, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, and Rove) stare at a map of the Middle East. Cheney makes the point that I learned in several political science classes in 1997-1999: that America is 5% of the world's population, yet consumes 25% of the world's energy supply. The world isn't going to tolerate that much longer, especially the Chinese and Russians, whose energy needs are growing. Cheney wants a permanent U.S. presence in the Middle East. When Powell asks Cheney about the "exit strategy" in Iraq, Cheney says something to the effect of: "there is no exit strategy. We're there permanently." A chill ran down my spine at that moment because it's so dead-on accurate. All talk in the public that we'll leave Iraq is futile. Until America transforms itself in energy usage and establishing alternative energy sources, we'll always have permanent bases in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Oliver Stone has the reputation of being a liberal with a "conspiracy" view due in part to 1991's "JFK", which tries to uncover the plots to kill Kennedy and who the real culprits behind the assassination might be. His "Nixon" showed an awkward and paranoid man who carried a large chip on his shoulder, especially in regards to Kennedy. I thought that film ran too long. With "W", he has made a film that even Bush lovers will enjoy. I have no idea why he would think this film might sway voters, because it presents such a favourable view of Bush that people who see this might vote for McCain, just to see Bush's policies carried through into the next Administration. Not that I think Obama will be able to get troops out of Iraq (I believe that once president, shadowy figures in government will tell Obama that if he attempts to remove all troops from Iraq, he will end up like JFK).

I remember a debate months ago on the CyberCommunity webboard when I wrote about my excitement for this film. One Bush hater said that she didn't want to see a likeable version of Bush on film. She didn't think there were any likeable qualities. I disagree, of course. I always found him to be a likeable oaf with a personal history of incompetence who wasn't prepared to be president in 2000. He defeated two better and more qualified men (McCain and Gore) for the job. However, we don't see much incompetence and incuriosity in this film. The Bush we see is a fair version of the guy, and I can see liberals like that lady on the CyberCommunity not liking this film because of it.

I know that I criticize Bush a lot on my blog...but I don't hate him at all. He's not the villain of the past seven years. I believe Cheney and Rove are the true evil forces behind the scenes. Bush is basically a likeable frat boy who was in over his head. He still remains as someone I'd love to have a private conversation with, especially regarding religion and the choices he made to go to war against Iraq.

The only problem I have with this film is that it lacks an ending. This is not Stone's fault...well, maybe, since he decided to make this film now for release in Bush's last 95 days in office. There's no closure to be found. It simply ends where it began...with Bush fantasizing about catching a baseball in an empty stadium. This is a film that I hope will have an alternate ending in the DVD version next year.

Overall, however, I love "W." In fact, it is the best film I've seen all year. We get to the root of Bush in his conflict with his father. It's everything we've read about Bush and what we suspect: he's an underachiever who had a difficult time finding his way in life, made more difficult by having such an accomplished father and sharing the same name (sans "Herbert"). There's also the brotherly conflict with the smarter Jeb. Had he not been named after his father, he might have been more like Neil and Marvin. We don't hear much about them, thank God!

After seeing this film, I have a new wish. I would love to watch this movie with George W. Bush and see what he thinks. The Bush family is well known for their dislike of psychoanalysis, but you have to wonder what the president might think about a movie that probably comes as close to the truth about our 43rd president than we'll ever get. He's not the demon liberals think he is, nor is he the great man conservatives think he is. He's simply trying to prove himself to an emotionally distant father who has too-high expectations for a namesake son.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Flashback Friday: Primary Colors

Today, Oliver Stone's "W" finally opens in theaters. This is the most anticipated film of the year for me, the one I've been most excited to see. Yes, even more than "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull", "The Dark Knight", and "Emma Smith: My Story." So, after work, I will be heading to the theater to sit back and watch everything I've read about Bush come to life in the way only Hollywood could interpret.

I find it fascinating that this film comes out ten years after the roman a clef "Primary Colors." While "W" has the distinction of being the first film about a president that is released in theaters while the president is still in office (that's the claim, but two years ago was the film "The Assassination of the President" which is guessed it...the assassination of George W. Bush, done in a faux documentary style like "Bob Roberts"), "Primary Colors" takes creative license, with the fake names (Governor Jack Stanton of a small Southern state that looks a lot like Louisiana but has a capital called "Mammoth Falls") and vaguely reminiscent events. When the novel came out in 1996, it became a favourite parlour game among the chattering class. Which character was based on which real person in the Clinton campaign? The biggest question, though, was who wrote the book? I was in the camp that believed it was George Stephanopoulos. The writer was exposed when he bought a nice house in D.C. and speculation occurred about where he got the money to afford such a place. The writer was Joe Klein, a reporter assigned to the 1992 Clinton campaign. He published the novel under the pseudonym "Anonymous." It was a gimmick designed to create buzz about who might have written it and to sell many copies. In 2000, his follow-up, "The Running Mate" bombed. His name was attached to that one.

When the film came out two years later, I was really excited to see it. I don't remember if it was considered a hit or not, just that it had the misfortune of being upstaged by Clinton's scandal. That's right, this film was released in the spring of 1998. I was in college and needed a break from my studies and my obsession with every little detail in the Monica scandal. When I saw this film, I was reminded why I liked and voted for Clinton twice (1992 and 1996). John Travolta does such a fantastic job of embodying Bill Clinton, right down to the voice.

The film is pretty loyal to the novel. It's a story about a small Southern state governor who runs for president. The point of view is from the young political aide who is recruited by the governor for the campaign. The aide has his doubts and only comes aboard reluctantly. Emma Thompson plays the candidates wife, Susan Stanton. She's the more disciplined of the two, even throwing a set of keys at the back of her husband's head when he acts up. She's also in denial when a scandal erupts regarding her hairdresser's (Cashmere McCleod) claim to have an affair with the governor. This prompts an internal strategy to bring on board an old friend of the Stantons to investigate and squash any further rumours that might derail the Stanton's quest for the White House.

This "dustbuster" is played brilliantly by Kathy Bates, who OWNS the movie in every scene she's in. She was the only cast member to be nominated for an Oscar for this film (though she didn't win). I love every scene she's in because she is so witty, tough, and loyal. She's blunt and not afraid to butt heads with people to get her way. I love a line she says early on: "our boy has poked his pecker in some sorry trash bins." One of my favourite scenes in the film is when Henry, the idealistic young political aide, complains about how unfair it was that the Stanton's opponent might get away with a dirty trick. She snaps back with a comment about how privileged he was to say something like that because he's a black man who doesn't seem to realize that African Americans have been subjected to far worse for most of American history.

When she threatens the editor of a trash tabloid to retract the story, she puts a gun to his crotch and says, "I'm a proud lesbian woman who does not mythologize the male sexual organ." She's just crazy enough to convince anyone that she might pull the trigger and "turn him from a rooster to a hen in one shot" (a line Dolly Parton used on her boss in the film "9 to 5"). After further sleuthing, she discovers a fatal secret on an opponent that could seal the Stanton's nomination if made public. She decides to put the Stantons to the test of the ideals they once shared as young campaign volunteers on the 1972 McGovern campaign. Would they be honourable or play like Nixon in a quest to win? She goes into a sobbing monologue that is the heart of the movie.

If you've never seen this film, I recommend it, especially if you're political as I am. It's about campaigning and the choices a candidate and his staff must make about the fine line between focusing on relevant issues versus character attacks, and what it takes to win. Most of all, it's how far you're willing to go to win political office and if you can live with yourself if you take the low road.

Many of the events in this film were lifted directly from scandals of the Clinton campaign in 1992. We see in one scene that Stanton takes special interest in a clutzy librarian. When Stanton raves about her to his wife, Susan wants Henry's honest opinion. Instead of sharing Jack's enthusiasm, he calls the librarian a typical bureaucrat. When you watch this film, part of you will wonder what is really true and what might be made up. It's an interesting experience to watch a film that parallels the 1992 Clinton campaign, with the actors capturing their real-life counterparts in surprising ways (such as Stanton/Clinton's various handshakes and what each one means).

In 2004, one Bush-supporter I worked with refused to see "Fahrenheit 9/11." I thought it was cowardice. I told her that I supported Bill Clinton and voted for him twice, but I still read "The Ken Starr Report" in its salacious entirety, I watched and loved "Primary Colors" and "Wag the Dog", and I read Monica Lewinsky's book. For me, I'm loyal, but not blindly so. I want to know the truth and I can appreciate satire as well as seeing films or reading books inspired by or resembling real life events in Clinton's life. I wonder if the Bush-supporter I once worked with will be seeing "W." If not, what's to be afraid of? If you love politics, these kind of films should be on your must-see list. Anything that increases one's understanding about another person. I guess that's why I love bio-pics the best out of all genres. It allows me to see famous historical figures on the big screen.

Tomorrow's post will be my review of "W", so stay tuned!